Chatter: Syrian army takes Qusayr




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Qusayr has fallen. The Syrian army says it has recaptured the strategic western town from rebels after a fierce, three-week battle for control.

A massive overnight assault, led by Hezbollah fighters dispatched from bordering Lebanon to bolster the Syrian government's forces, was the final push that forced rebels to flee. The loss is being hailed as a heavy blow to the opposition, and a potential breakthrough for President Bashar al-Assad.

Game of drones. Pakistan's new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, has used his first speech in office to call for an end to US drone strikes on Pakistani terrority. "These drone strikes that rain in every day have to stop," Sharif told lawmakers today, shortly after they approved his return for a third term as premier.

But it takes two to, er, not send robot planes to drop bombs, as Sharif acknowledged: he said that Pakistan would have to "learn others' concerns about us" before it could hope to resolve the issue, suggesting that the new PM knows he has to at least make noises about tackling Pakistan's militant problem.


Good protester, bad protester. Demonstrations in Turkey continued into the night despite a partial apology from the deputy prime minister, who acknowledged the excessive use of police force on some protesters but maintained that others deserved nothing less. It was these others, presumably, on the streets of Istanbul last night, since police fired tear gas, water cannon and smoke bombs when Deputy PM Bulent Arinc had said that they had been ordered not to do so except in self-defense.

Even the people who are protesting against what they say is the government's authoritarianism have been surprised by security forces' rough tactics. It won't put them off, they insist; but it might encourage still more disaffected Turks to join them.

Another army sex scandal. Except this time it's not the Pentagon wringing its hands — it's South Korea's top brass, who have been forced to confront allegations of sexual assault at one of their top officer training schools. A junior female cadet claims she was attacked by one of her male seniors after a heavy afternoon's drinking with officers during a sports event.

The suspect has been arrested, the head of the academy has been sacked and 11 officers face disciplinary action. But activists say the incident speaks to South Korea's male-dominated, hierarchical work culture, in which sexual harassment is common and often, unpunished.


Kim Jong Un assassinated. Sure we're only telling you about it now, because it hasn't (yet?) happened: it is in fact the central plot point of an upcoming movie starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. The goofy pair play journalists sent to interview the North Korean supremo, who then end up killing him off. (No, we don't understand either.)

Oscar fodder? Not so much. But the flick is sure to irritate North Korea's readily irritated rulers. Luckily for them, they don't need to fear art becoming life: the film makers' stand-in for Pyongyang is set to be... Vancouver, Canada.