Chatter: Was Yasser Arafat poisoned?




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Need to know:
Was Yasser Arafat murdered? It's a question that's been asked for years, and forensic scientists have begun carrying out the tests on his remains that could finally answer it.

The Palestinian leader's remains were exhumed this morning from the mausoleum in the West Bank in which they were sealed eight years ago, sans autopsy. Experts from France, Switzerland and Russia have been given samples from Arafat's body and the concrete of his tomb, which they will test independently for any evidence of foul play.

They'll have a tough job to find it, even if it's there. What they're looking for is polonium 210 – the radioactive isotope, beloved of murderous Russians, that an investigation by Al Jazeera said was present on Arafat's clothes; and that, crucially, has a half-life of less than five months, meaning that any traces in his body would be virtually undetectable by now. Israel denies they were ever there, and has blamed Arafat's death – not especially helpfully – on a substance even more elusive: "Palestinium," which it says he overdosed on.

Results are expected sometime next year.

Want to know:
Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo have apparently agreed to withdraw their forces from the eastern towns they captured last week.

After crisis talks in neighboring Uganda, the commanders of the M23 rebel group promised to pull out of the regional capital, Goma, as well as nearby Sake – and to stop their threatened march southward, toward Kinshasa. But witnesses say there is no sign of a withdrawal yet, and have reported fresh fighting north of Goma and across the border in Rwanda.

Both Rwanda and Uganda are accused of fuelling the rebellion, though they deny it and insist they're leading efforts to broker peace. The DRC's government, meanwhile, is seen as too inept, its army too corrupt, to resolve the crisis. As GlobalPost's Tristan McConnell reports from Goma, in this conflict, there are no good guys – just an ever-growing number of victims.

Dull but important:
After almost 12 hours of talks for the third time in two weeks, the euro group and International Monetary Fund finally caved, excuse us, agreed on a new deal for Greece.

Greece's creditors agreed to cut around $51 billion off its debts, which will go down to "just" 124 percent of gross domestic product by 2020. (It would otherwise have been 144 percent.) The euro-zone finance ministers also pledged to sign off on releasing the next installment of Greece's bailout – some $57 billion – in just over two weeks.

The deal is being hailed as a breakthrough for the whole of Europe, and has already boosted European stocks and the euro. As for Athens, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras promised: "A new day begins for all Greeks."

Just because:
Fatima Qortoum was just 9 years old when she saw the her 7-year-old brother's brains fall out of his head. He was struck with shrapnel after an Israeli airstrike. That was 2008. Last week, another one of Fatima's younger brothers was critically injured when an Israeli attack knocked him to the ground.

So it comes as little surprise that Fatima, like thousands of other children in the Gaza Strip, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. She and the other survivors of Israel's week-long assault on Gaza will long be haunted by the noise and force of the strikes, the sight of the dead and injured, and the fear in the eyes of their parents.

GlobalPost's Erin Cunningham reports on the children growing up under siege and under attack, as well as the adults trying to help them overcome their trauma – before it breeds a new generation of enemies.

Strange but true:
Look at this image of one of Saturn's moons. Remind you of anything? Yep, all that thermal data is a dead ringer for Pac-Man.

What's more, it's not a fluke: scientists say this picture is the second to remind them of the iconic yellow eater. Both Saturn's Thethys and Mimas moons show the same distribution of heat and cold.

Scientists now believe that there must be a pattern at work, but they're still not sure why the heat signals take this shape.

"The Saturn system – and even the Jupiter system – could turn out to be a veritable arcade of these characters," one researcher (and, we imagine, very excited video-game nerd) said.