Chatter: Egyptian PM visits Gaza but ceasefire fails




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Need to know:

The Egyptian prime minister visited Gaza this morning but hopes for a ceasefire collapsed soon after.

Hisham Qandil toured a hospital and met with Palestinian politicians during his three-hour visit, and said Israeli "aggression" must stop.

Overnight Israel had mounted a huge attack, striking at more than 130 targets, while Hamas militants fired 11 rockets from Gaza. Israeli troops are continuing to mass in readiness for a ground assault.

Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi after his prime minister's visit condemned the Israeli attacks as "a blatant aggression against humanity," vowing that Egypt "would not leave Gaza on its own."

Twenty Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed since Wednesday. For the latest news on this escalating conflict, follow GlobalPost's live blog.

Want to know:

A war crimes court in The Hague has overturned the conviction of the most senior Croatian military officer charged with atrocities against Serbs in the 1990s.

General Ante Gotovina was released following an appeal at the UN tribunal, in a decision Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said would re-open old wounds in the Balkans.

Gotovina, along with General Mladen Markac who was also freed, had been convicted in 2011 over the killing of ethnic Serbs in an offensive to retake Croatia's Krajina region.

This acquittals come just eight months before the former Yugoslavia country joins the European Union.

Dull but important:

As you recover from the exhausting US election, spare a thought for Japan.

The country's prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, has dissolved parliament ahead of a general election next month. If Noda's center-left party loses, Japan will get its seventh leader in six and a half years.

Seriously. It is getting hard to keep track.

Japan is facing a range of problems, including its struggling economy, aging population and the Fukushima crisis aftermath.

Support ratings are low for both the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and opposition Liberal Democratic Party — not surprising, given the level of election fatigue Japanese voters must be feeling.

Political analysts say the likely scenario in the December 16 polls is a weak coalition government. 

Just because:

Poor little planet CFBDSIR2149.

Not only does it have a particularly unflattering name, but it is also homeless — well, without a star to orbit, to be precise.

The discovery by astronomers of the "orphan" planet some 100 light years from Earth suggests that starless planets and even worlds may be more common than once thought.

Planet CFBDSIR2149 is believed to be seven times larger than Jupiter, cruising through space without a care or pull from gravitational forces. It is relatively close to Earth, and may have accidentally been released from our very own solar system.

"If this little object is a planet that has been ejected from its native system, it conjures up the striking image of orphaned worlds, drifting in the emptiness of space," said study author Philippe Delorme, of the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics of Grenoble in France.

Strange but true:

Fresh appreciation for rapper Eminem and his freestyle rhymes: researchers have linked freestyle rap with increased brain activity both in the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

In a study, 12 male rappers from Baltimore and Washington DC were hooked up to fMRI machines to test how their brains worked while improvising rhymes with a beat.

The researchers saw activity switching from the left to right hemisphere depending on where they were in the song, possibly representing creativity versus the constraints of rhyming.

Hence the unusually nerd-cool title of a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports: "Neural Correlates of Lyrical Improvisation: An fMRI Study of Freestyle Rap."