Chatter: Syrian jet downed, cause remains disputed




Antler Agency

Need to know:

A Syrian jet was downed yesterday but the circumstances surrounding the crash remain hazy. The government said that the Russian-built MiG malfunctioned in-flight and that search-and-rescue teams had been deployed to find the pilot.

Rebels have said that they downed the jet using an anti-aircraft missile. A video of the event shows the plane flying over the town of Muhasen before catching fire and exploding in air. It is unclear from the video whether a rocket hit the plane or it simply caught fire. The rebels have also released a video showing a man they claim is the pilot of the aircraft.

If the rebels are to be believed, this would be the first Syrian government aircraft shot down by the fighters, marking a turning point in the war. Air power has been heavily used by the Assad regime, allowing it a massive tactical advantage over the lightly-armed rebels. Anti-aircraft weapons may have the power to change that equation.

Want to know:

The bloodbath is Mexico continued this week. In the latest brutal violence, Matehuala mayor-elect Edgar Morales Perez and his aide Francisco Hernandez Colunga were gunned down while returning back from a party. Hernandez Colunga's wife survived the attack, which occurred in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi. The comparatively tranquil state also witnessed a grim discovery by police last Thursday of 12 bodies stuffed into the trunk of a car.

The violence did not end there. A family of seven, including women and children, were found decomposing in their home by police in the town of Manlio Fabio Altamirano in Veracruz. Organized crime is also believed to be behind another murder of an entire family in Acapulco on August 8.

More than 55,000 gangland murders and executions have occurred in Mexico since Felipe Calderon became president in December 2006.

Dull but important:

A Somali pirate who acted as a ransom negotiator was given 12 life sentences in US court Monday. Mohammad Shibin was convicted by the US federal court last spring on 15 charges including piracy, hostage-taking, and kidnapping. He was said to be the negotiator in the case of an American yacht hijacked off the coast of Somalia in which all four hostages were killed. He also participated in the hijacking of a German vessel, in which 22 hostages were held for seven months by pirates

It is estimated that Somali pirates cost the world economy about $7 billion per year. “(Shibin’s) multiple life sentences should put all pirates on notice that the Justice Department will hold you accountable in a U.S. courtroom for crimes on the high seas,” said US Attorney Neil MacBride.

Just because:

Thousands of residents and tourists were evacuated from the Canary Islands due to massive wildfires. Two firefighters have died fighting the massive forest fires concentrated on the islands of Tenerife and La Gomera, where many have camped out near the ferry port in case the blaze spreads further.

A heat wave combined with strong winds have made the fires difficult to control. It is believed the wildfires are the worst to hit the Spanish island chain since 2002. The Canary islands are about 850 miles from the Spanish mainland. 

Strange but true:

Nuclear fallout from the Fukushima disaster in Japan has created mutant butterflies. Scientists in the country said they've detected an increase in mutations in leg, antennae and wing shape in local butterflies.

A study by Japanese researchers in the journal Nature found that 10 percent of the butterfly samples they collected had the abnormalities. Butterflies are often used to test the long-term impact of radiation given their resistance to it. Further research into the after-effects of radiation from Fukushima on other species is expected.