Chatter: G8 divided over Syria




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The Gr8 debate. A Russian, an American and a Brit walk into a summit. Hilarity doesn't ensue, but some awkward conversations might. The heads of eight of the world's most powerful countries have descended on Northern Ireland for this year's G8 conference, where the word on everyone's lips will be "Syria."

Barack Obama is squaring up for a face-off with Russia's Vladimir Putin, who, to put it mildly, does not share the US president's belief that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons and therefore rebels should receive Western military aid. UK Prime Minister David Cameron is playing the peacemaker and pushing for internationally brokered talks — though his fellow leaders might have difficulty trusting their host amid allegations that the last time the UK laid on a summit, its spooks spied on all the guests. What we wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall when that comes up! You can bet someone else will be.


Turkey goes on strike. As many as 800,000 workers will down tools today, after two of Turkey's trade union federations called a nationwide strike in protest at a police crackdown on demonstrators occupying Istanbul's Gezi Park. Doctors, engineers and dentists have said they'll join the strike too.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan can consider himself defied, having announced last night that protests against his government were "nothing more than the minority's attempt to dominate the majority," and could not and would not be allowed. More than two weeks of tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets has so far failed to stop them.

North Korea will have to try harder than that. The US is playing it cool in response to an overture from the secretive regime, calling for something a little more concrete than "nice words" before it agrees to sit at a negotiating table.

North Korea's offer of talks with the US came days after it failed to pull off a high-level meeting with South Korea due to a spat over which delegates should attend. If Pyongyang can't agree on a guest list with its nearest neighbor, it's unlikely to satisfy Washington's conditions: US officials say North Korea must take steps toward scrapping its nuclear program before any "credible" negotiations can take place.

Monsoon too soon. The rains have come early to India this year, promising a bumper crop for farmers and devastation for others. The summer monsoon hit this weekend, at least two weeks before it usually arrives. 

The downpour has already caused floods and landslides in northern states, where more than 20 people are reported dead, scores more missing and thousands stranded by the sudden torrents. Meteorologists warn the rains will continue for another three days at least.


Help! Vladimir Putin stole my Super Bowl ring. So claimed the owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, who recently told an audience that the Russian president pocketed his NFL trophy after a 2005 meet-and-greet in St. Petersburg. The empty-handed Kraft was forced to cover by telling people he'd given the $25,000 diamond ring to Putin, he said, after the George W. Bush administration refused to intervene.

A Kremlin spokesman has since denied the story and offered to send Kraft some replacement jewelry, "if" — and here's the sinister part – "the gentleman is really experiencing such excruciating pain from his loss." Better watch your back, Bob.