Chatter: Syria's rebels and the US, just good friends?




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You know what they say about friends in need. America's new secretary of state, John Kerry, is about to make his allegiances clear at a meeting of the Friends of Syria group in Rome. Kerry is expected to announce a significant increase in what the US is prepared to give the Syrian rebels, which is now thought to extend to "non-lethal" aid.

Such aid would not include weapons, but might stretch to body armor, armored vehicles and other combat equipment that Washington had previously considered to look too much like military aid. Kerry says the priority is to "accelerate the prospects of a political solution" – even, it seems, if that means another kind of solution first.

An eye for an eye – even 40 years later? A war crimes tribunal in Bangladesh has sentenced a top Islamist leader to death for abuses committed during the country's war of independence in 1971. Delwar Hossan Sayedee was found guilty of orchestrating the mass murder, torture, rape and religious persecution of separatists battling for autonomy from Pakistan.

Now the vice-president of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, Sayedee is the most senior figure to be convicted by the court so far. His supporters say the charges against him and other Islamist leaders are politically motivated; others say they deserve everything they get. The trials have already triggered weeks of sometimes deadly clashes, and they show no sign of dying down.


Not with a bang, but a whimper. After yesterday's emotional goodbye speech to a packed-out St. Peter's Square, Benedict XVI is spending his final day as pope in far quieter fashion. First, a farewell meeting with his cardinals, at which he vowed "unconditional obedience" to whoever succeeds him. Then, a helicopter ride to his temporary retreat, Castel Gandolfo; finally, one last blessing, waved from an upper-floor window.

At 8 p.m. local time, the Swiss Guards will return to the Vatican – signalling that the world has gained a pope emeritus, and lost a pope.

Who's winning Mexico's drug war? With an estimated 60,000 dead and narcotics still flowing across the border, many say it's not the government: it's the mighty Sinaloa cartel.

Mexico's most powerful criminal syndicate, Sinaloa has made substantial territorial advances and amassed extravagant wealth even despite the onslaught from government forces. Here's how the cartel prevailed.


It's a manta mystery in Gaza. Gazans have been left stumped by a sudden influx of dead manta rays to their city's shores. More than 200 of the creatures have washed up on Gaza beach in recent days, most of them pretty bashed up.

If that sounds, well, gross, fret not: for the locals, it's actually a boon. Anyone who fancied ray for supper used to have to smuggle it through underground tunnels from Egypt; now, the fish are almost literally landing in their laps. Like mantas from heaven, you might say.