Chatter: Earthquake rocks northwest China




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China trembles. At least 54 people are dead after a powerful earthquake shook northwest China this morning, bringing with it hundreds of aftershocks. A 6.6-magnitude quake in northwest Gansu province was swiftly followed by another measuring 5.6, as well as some 400 smaller tremors. 

Over 300 people have been found injured so far. Rescue teams are still searching; many more victims may still be buried under landslides and collapsed buildings.

Hezbollah blacklisted, again. The Lebanese group's armed wing has made it onto another terror blacklist, this time the European Union's. All 28 member states have agreed to declare the militant Shia movement a terrorist organization, ruling out any official meetings with its leaders or individual money transfers to its members. 

The UK and the Netherlands had already taken the step, as have the US, Canada and Australia. But the Europe-wide decision excludes any dialogue between the bloc and what Lebanon's government calls an "essential component of Lebanese society," at a time when that society looks increasingly unstable.


Royally laborious. For nine months, they've been watching, hoping, preparing for the precious new arrival that will turn their daily lives upside down — and that's just the world's paparazzi. Today they learned their big day was finally here: Kate Middleton has gone into labor with the long-awaited, much-debated royal baby.

A spokesperson says things are "progressing as normal," which presumably means slowly. There's nothing to do now but wait, speculate, and live-tweet.

Rape victim "pardoned." Dubai has let go a Norwegian woman who complained to police that she'd been raped — only to find herself convicted of having "illicit sex." 

Marte Deborah Dalelv was sentenced to 16 months' jail time in a case that provoked outrage in Norway and beyond. Now Dubai authorities have returned her passport and said she's free to go. Good of them.


Washington stinks. But it's not the stench of dodgy politicians: for 48 hours at least, the US capital can blame its pong on the amorphophallus titanum, an enormous tropical plant more commonly known by its evocative nickname, the "corpse flower."

Yep, the thing reeks like rotting remains. And currently it can be, er, enjoyed at the US Botanic Gardens in DC. But get down there quick: the flower blooms rarely and unpredictably, which means this could be the last time fans get to observe it in all its rotten glory for years. Alternatively you could just sniff a rose, or something.