Chatter: Iran says it captured a US drone, again




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Need to know:
Iran claims to have captured a US drone. Again.

The Revolutionary Guards say they took down the unmanned aircraft in "the past few days," without specifying how or where. The ScanEagle drone – a relatively small, basic model – was reportedly on a reconnaissance flight over the Persian Gulf. Yet the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, based in nearby Bahrain, says all of its drones are accounted for and there's no record of any ScanEagles going astray.

This is becoming an awkward annual tradition: it's a year to the day since Iran last announced it had downed a US spy plane, which it proceeded to parade through the streets in triumph, turn into a commemorative toy and, it claimed, strip of valuable drone technology. The US said the aircraft had got lost and asked for it back. Embarrassingly but unsurprisingly, Tehran said no.

While we await confirmation of what, if anything, the Iranian military has got its hands on this time, excuse us this spot of Oscar Wilde misquotation: to lose one drone may be considered a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.

Want to know:
NATO will shortly say yes to Turkey's request for missile interceptors to defend its border with Syria.

NATO foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels today to discuss the deployment of its Patriot anti-missile batteries, which Turkey says it needs to protect itself from the stray – and not so stray – shells that find their way across the border from its embattled neighbor. The organization has already indicated it will approve the request, though stresses that Patriots will only be used for defensive measures.

Fears are growing, however, that the real danger in the region may be the Syrian government's rumored stockpile of chemical weapons. NATO's secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, warned today that any use of them would be "completely unacceptable." As US President Barack Obama said yesterday, unleashing chemical warfare will have "consequences" – for Syria, for its neighbors, and for the whole world.

Dull but important:
America's fiscal cliff negotiations are like the worst game of poker ever: slow, clumsy, and potentially ending in a severe US recession.

Yesterday Republicans made their counter-bid to the White House's cliff-defying plan, which the GOP rejected out of hand last week. Their alternative proposal would see $1.4 trillion cut from spending, including on federal health programs, and $800 billion added in tax revenue over a decade.

The White House said no thanks, claiming the plan would maintain tax cuts for top earners and "stick the middle class with the bill." Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says he's confident the Republicans will come round to the Democrats' view on raising taxes, oh, soon.

Countdown to cliff continues. Distract yourself by telling us whose fault you think it all is in our poll.

Just because:
If Japan's leading pundits admit they don’t know what kind of government will emerge from the upcoming general election, imagine how confused the country's electorate must be.

Yet as the official campaign kicks off this week, one central theme is emerging: Japan is drifting to the right. Amid territorial rivalry with China and threats of another rocket launch from North Korea, Japan's hawks say the time is ripe for a more engaged military and less "pacificist" constitution.

That would be welcome in the US, where officials have been calling on Japan to shoulder more of its own defense burden. But the price of a more robust Japan could be increased tensions with China – and even, in the worst-case scenario, a conflict in which the US would almost certainly have to get involved. GlobalPost's Justin McCurry looks at why what happens next in Japanese politics could be felt far beyond the country's shores.

Strange but true:
Kate Middleton isn't the only one feeling queasy today: no sooner was it announced that she's pregnant than a tide of cooing creepiness engulfed the world and all who comment on it (there's a metaphor somewhere about waters breaking but we're better than that, naturally).

Sure, the squeals are one thing. But then there's the territory into which only cheery gynecologists and tipsy-but-well-loved grandmas should ever venture. We're looking at you, o starters of fake Twitter accounts such as "RoyalFetus" (and the at least more authentically spelt "RoyalFoetus"), "TheRoyalBaby" and "HRHBaby."

It begins. Nine-ish more months, people, nine-ish more months.