Chatter: Bomb strikes central Damascus near UN hotel




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Need to know:

A bomb exploded this morning in the Syrian capital, Damascus, near a military compound and a hotel used by the UN's faltering observer mission. The target of the attack, which injured three people, was not immediately clear.

With violence in Syria continuing to worsen, the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation is expected to suspend Syria's membership during a meeting today in Saudi Arabia.

The Syrian conflict has become increasingly weaponized: the Pentagon is now accusing Iran of training militia to help Bashar al-Assad's regime. GlobalPost's Erin Cunningham writes that what began 17 months ago as a democratic uprising has turned into a transnational war on Syrian turf.

Want to know:

Australia's highest court has upheld what is described as the world's toughest law on cigarette promotion.

This means that instead of brand names and logos on cigarette packs, as of December all tobacco packaging must show the disgusting health effects of smoking: graphic photos of cancer-riddled mouths, blinded eyeballs and sick children, against a uniform olive green backdrop.

"For anyone who has lost someone to smoking — this one's for you," Australia's health minister told reporters.

The High Court rejected a challenge by tobacco giants who argued the value of their trademarks will be destroyed if they can no longer use branding on cigarette packs. 

Dull but important:

Standard Chartered has averted a showdown with New York’s top banking regulator by agreeing to pay a $340 million fine to settle charges it conspired with Iran to launder hundreds of billions of dollars.

The British banking giant struck the deal with the Department of Financial Services, headed by Benjamin Lawsky, on the eve of a hearing scheduled for today in the watchdog’s office, according to reports. As part of the settlement, Standard Chartered has agreed to strengthen supervision of overseas transactions.

Standard Chartered shares rallied on news of the deal, opening 4.3 percent higher in London trade before easing slightly.

Just because:

Call it the ultimate home brew. 

A White House spokesman has admitted that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is home to a small brewery that makes craft beer specifically for President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle.

The beer, called White House Honey Ale, comes in both a light and dark variety, and is made with honey from Michelle Obama's garden beehive.

But distribution is strictly limited. News of the beer's existence came out only after the president gave a bottle to a patron at a coffee shop he was visiting in Iowa. Journalists traveling with Obama were immediately hot on the trail.

Strange but true: 

Sexting. Man cave. F-bomb. Bucket list.

These are among the newest words in the English language, at least according to the folks at Merriam-Webster. This year the company added 100 new words to its 114-year-old collegiate dictionary. An editor told GlobalPost that the process of picking new words isn't taken lightly: editors track words for years before deciding if they make the dictionary cut.

So, tell us: what's your new favorite (or least favorite) word?