Chatter: Syria says it has Russian missiles




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Arms and the man. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claims his forces have already taken delivery of a first shipment of Russian missiles and expect to receive the rest shortly.

Russia pledged to meet Syria's order for its S-300 anti-aircraft rockets despite fierce objections from other countries — notably Israel, which says the missiles are capable of hitting deep inside its territory and will be treated as a threat. "If, God forbid, they do reach Syria," Israel's defense minister warned earlier this week, "we will know what to do."

Iraq under attack. At least 11 people are dead in the latest violence to hit Iraqi cities, today the capital, Baghdad, and the northern town of Mosul. 

Bombings and suicide attacks have become a daily danger in Iraq, with casualties at some of their highest rates since the slaughter of 2006 and 2007. Just yesterday, 28 people were killed. Almost 600 people died in May alone, and more than 700 in April. So far the government has proved incapable of stemming, let alone stopping, the bloodshed.  


There's only one thing worse than not escaping from North Korea: escaping. At least if you go to Laos, that is. Previously considered a relatively safe stop on the "underground railroad" out of North Korea, Laos has just obliged nine young escapees to go back from whence they came, where, it's feared, they'll face Pyongyang's retribution for daring to flee.

Better-fated defectors have slammed the governments of Laos, China (which also participated in the return) and South Korea (which didn't stop it) for collectively enabling the repatriation. The US has expressed "concern" and urged North Korea's neighbors to be more helpful next time. As for the unlucky nine, their fate remains unknown.

Whose life comes first, a woman's or her unborn child's? Neither, according to judges in El Salvador, who have made a ruling that means both might be lost. Against medical advice, the country's Supreme Court decided that a gravely ill woman should not be allowed to end her pregnancy, despite the fact that her baby is not expected to survive beyond birth. 

El Salvador is one of the few countries to outlaw abortion even in cases when it would save the mother's life, an uncompromising stance that rights groups say constitutes a form of torture. This woman's appeal was denied; but more than ever, her plight has intensified activists' calls for El Salvador to terminate its abortion law.


Jurassic Park, the Ice Age edition. Scientists believe they're one elephant-sized step closer to seeing woolly mammoths roam the earth once more, after they managed to retrieve fresh blood and preserved muscle tissue from one of the ancient beast's carcasses. The samples, it's hoped, could one day allow the extinct species to be cloned.

The surprise is that anyone was able to gather them in such prime condition: the Russian research team prodded the mammoth's belly with a pick, apparently, to find liquid blood come running out. The muscle tissue was also startlingly intact. "The meat looks pretty fresh, reddish in color in several places," said one scientist. "I can't say that the smell was very fresh, though."