Chatter: Syrian rebels accused of war crimes over 'execution' video




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Need to know:
The United Nations has accused fighters in Syria of possible war crimes – not the government's forces, but the rebels.

The allegations center on a video posted online, which purports to show rebels summarily executing around a dozen of the regime's soldiers. The graphic footage apparently captures the rebels beating their prisoners and calling them "Assad's dogs." Then they shoot them repeatedly.

The UN cautions that the video has not been verified – but nonetheless, "at this point it looks very likely that this is a war crime," says human rights spokesman Rupert Colville. He promised the UN would "examine this carefully."

If the footage is genuine and the rebels can be traced, the video could be used to prosecute those in it. Even so, activists say, the incident is only one of scores of summary executions carried out in Syria every day.

Want to know:
The final US jobs report to land before next week's election has shown that the American economy added 171,000 new jobs in October.

That figure was better than expected, and continues the trend established over recent months. Even though unemployment rose to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in September, it reflects a growing work force as people resume their search for jobs.

That's good news, surely, though President Barack Obama's Republican rivals will no doubt argue it should have been better. Or that he made it up. Again.

Dull but important:
The World Bank has agreed to send aid to Myanmar for the first time in 25 years.

Saying it has been "heartened" by Myanmar's economic and political reforms, the bank has approved an immediate $80-million grant and pledged to make another $165 million available as credit, as soon as the country has paid off the huge arrears it already owes. The money will be directed toward the country's "most urgent development needs," the bank said, including rural infrastructure projects, education and health.

Myanmar will nonetheless have to pay back its standing $400-million debt. The World Bank says it is working on a solution with Japan and the Asian Development Bank, and expects the arrears to be cleared by early 2013.

Just because:
Two men have been arrested in Northern Ireland over the murder of a prison officer who police suspect was killed by the IRA.

David Black was shot dead in his car yesterday morning as he drove to work in County Armagh. Police today detained two men, one of them well-known dissident republican Colin Duffy, who has previously been charged, though cleared, of murdering soldiers and police officers.

Black was the first prison officer to be murdered in Northern Ireland in almost 20 years, and his death brought back painful memories of the country's past. The murder has been roundly condemned by leaders in Northern Ireland, the UK and the Republic of Ireland, where Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore vowed, on behalf of "every decent man woman and child on this island," that there would be "no return to the dark and violent days of the past."

Strange but true:
We began the week with the world's worst airline, and we close it with the world's most scarily named hotel.

It should surprise no one that the thing which unites both ventures is North Korea. Yes, days after Air Koryo launched its online booking service, Pyongyang's Ryugyong Hotel – better known as the "Hotel of Doom" – announced it would be opening its doors in 2013.

The pyramid-shaped hotel, which can also add "Worst Building in the History of Mankind" to its clutch of unflattering titles, has been 26 years in the making. Work on its 105 floors started in 1987 and was assumed by many to be a Sisyphean task.

But now Ryogyong's operators say it will "partially, probably" be open for business next year. We know what we'll be doing in summer 2013.