Chatter: EU ends arms ban on Syrian rebels




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An end to the arms ban. After a strong push by France and Britain, European Union foreign ministers have said they will not renew a weapons embargo on Syrian rebels that is due to expire May 31. 

There is no immediate plan to send arms to rebels, and all other sanctions remain in force. But Russia isn't happy, warning that the EU decision would "directly harm" the prospects of holding an international peace conference on the crisis.

Meanwhile fighting in Syria continues. Battles are raging around the strategic town of Qusair, a few miles from the Lebanese border, and further reports have surfaced of chemical weapons attacks by President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

Enter John McCain. The Republican Senator and former presidential candidate has made a secret visit to Syria, sneaking across the border from Turkey for discussions with rebel leaders. McCain has been one of Assad's most vocal critics, and an outspoken advocate of US military aid for the Syrian opposition. 


Baby rescue. A newborn baby boy has been found in a sewage pipe after being flushed down a toilet in Jinhua, a city in China's eastern province of Zhejiang.

Neighbors called firefighters after hearing the two-day-old baby crying in the fourth-floor squat lavatory of an apartment building, Chinese state media reported. Rescuers sawed away a section of the four-inch diameter pipe with the baby still inside, and brought him to hospital where it took nearly an hour to extract the five-pound boy. Amazingly, he is in stable condition.

Chinese hackers Down Under? The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has claimed that Chinese hackers stole plans for Australia's new intelligence hub. 

The building's cable layouts and security systems had been illegally accessed by a server in China, an ABC investigative program reported. Australian foreign minister Bob Carr said that while his government was "very alive" to cyber security threats, the claims won't affect ties with Beijing.

The Pentagon recently accused the Chinese government and military of targeting US government computers in a cyber espionage campaign. China called the reports "groundless," but the issue will likely be on the agenda when President Barack Obama meets with new Chinese President Xi Jinping in California next month.


Scratch and sniff currency? Wishful thinking, Canadians. The Bank of Canada has denied that its new plastic bank notes smell like maple syrup after being deluged with rather polite queries about the strange scent.

Canadian journalists recently acquired correspondence from citizens to government asking whether it was true that the Bank of Canada had added a secret maple scratch and sniff feature to the new bills.

Some Canadians were so convinced that they actually complained about the lack of smell. "The note... lost its maple smell," one letter said. "I strongly suggest the Bank increase the strength of the... maple smell." You crazy Canucks.