Chatter: Taliban beheads 17 civilians in Afghanistan




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Need to know:

Seventeen people were found beheaded in a small town in southern Afghanistan following a party attended by both men and women.

The beheaded corpses of 15 men and two women were found in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province.

Local officials told Reuters the victims were killed by Taliban insurgents as punishment for attending the mixed-sex party, where there was music and dancing.

Meanwhile, 10 Afghan army soldiers were killed in a Taliban attack at a checkpoint in the same province. In eastern Afghanistan, two US soldiers were shot dead by a rogue Afghan soldier, the latest in a series of insider attacks.

Want to know:

A Syrian helicopter crashed in the capital Damascus today, with rebels claiming they shot it down.

On Sunday opposition activists accused President Bashar al-Assad's army of massacring hundreds of people in Daraya, a town near the capital that government forces recaptured from rebels.

The four-day assault in Daraya appears to be the single worst atrocity of the 17-month Syrian uprising: the killing of between 300 and 600 people, most of them civilians.

GlobalPost reports that for its latest brutal assault, the Assad regime brought its own TV cameras to document the horror, lest any Syrians or their supporters abroad doubt the lengths it will go to stay in power.

Dull but important:

Having lashed the Florida Keys, Tropical Storm Isaac is heading northwest.

Isaac is expected to strengthen as it moves out over the Gulf of Mexico, and is on course to land somewhere between New Orleans and the Florida Panhandle on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. 

The hurricane warning has caused panic in New Orleans, a city still recovering from Katrina in 2005. The mayor of New Orleans has declared a state of emergency, following the lead of the Louisiana state governor.

Just because:

This may be a case of poetic justice gone way too far: a man pinched a phone from an Ebola patient at a Uganda hospital, only to become infected with Ebola himself.

The patient died from the hemorrhagic fever, one of numerous cases in a recent outbreak in western Uganda. But before dying, he reported the theft of his phone to hospital security.

Uganda's Daily Monitor reported that as policed zeroed in on the suspected thief, he developed symptoms similar to those of Ebola and sought treatment at the hospital. The Ebola virus, which causes Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is terrifying: victims tend to die bloody and painful deaths, bleeding from every orifice.

The Ugandan president had warned citizens to refrain from physical contact like shaking hands, casual sex and do-it-yourself burials to reduce the chance of contracting Ebola. And from stealing cell phones, evidently.

Strange but true:

A lion is on the loose in Essex, near London. Maybe.

One resident said he heard a "loud roar," and another took a photo of what authorities believe may be the king of the jungle. The only problem is that search teams have found no lion, and the nearby zoo reported no lions missing. 

So is there a lion, and if so, where is he and how did he get to Essex? Local residents have been told to stay inside until the mystery is solved.  

While we don't mean to be flippant (in case this turns out to be true, and someone gets eaten), we are getting a bit of deja vu.

Remember last year when police in southern England went on major alert over reports of an escaped tiger? A helicopter team with thermal imaging cameras was dispatched to track the "tiger" from the air.

Officers on the ground thought the beast was real — but then realized it wasn’t moving. The “wild animal” then blew over in the helicopter’s down draft. Turns out it was a stuffed toy.

Oh right. That happened.