Chatter: US embassies under threat




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Embassies staying shut. Diplomatic staff across Africa and the Middle East are getting some uneasy vacation time as the United States and other countries warn their missions to close for the rest of the week due to threats against their safety. A total of 21 US embassies followed orders not to open yesterday and 19 of them will keep the shutters down until at least Saturday. Meanwhile the UK, France and Germany have temporarily closed their embassies in Yemen.

The reasons for all this caution haven't been revealed, other than that it's possibly Al Qaeda-related. But to listen to US lawmakers briefed on the situation, alarm bells are ringing the loudest they have in years, with intelligence agents reporting a level of terrorist chatter "very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11." And, so the same lawmakers took the opportunity to remind us, aren't we lucky that the National Security Agency is there to pick it all up.


The plot thins. A court in Turkey has cleared at least 21 of the nearly 300 people accused of plotting to overthrow the government in a long-running and controversial case.

The authorities say hundreds of army officers, academics, journalists and lawyers belonged to a shadowy terrorist movement named Ergenekon that conspired to sow violence and trigger a military coup. Skeptics say the five-year trial has become a witch hunt aimed at eliminating the ruling Justice and Development Party's critics. Amid tight security and behind closed doors, the remainder of the verdicts are still coming in.

Got milk? You might not want it, at least if where you got it from was New Zealand: Fonterra, the world's biggest dairy exporter, has apologized after some of its products were found to be contaminated with bacteria that can lead to a potentially fatal form of food poisoning. The company says a dirty pipe at one of its processing plants allowed botulism-causing bacteria to enter batches of whey protein that were later exported to China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia and more countries for use in baby formula and other products.

So far no one has been reported ill, but China, Vietnam and Russia — which didn't even receive any of the contaminated products — have banned Fonterra's imports as a precaution. And New Zealand's government is asking questions about how one of its biggest economic powerhouses could let something like this happen.

"We're seeing war on these kids." As civil war continues to displace, kill and wound Syrians, Israel is patching up some of the youngest victims. In ways no one wants to talk about, more than 100 Syrians have been extricated from the combat zone and transported to Israeli emergency rooms.

The Israeli army locates critically wounded victims, carries them to Israeli hospitals — and, at the end of treatment, takes them back. GlobalPost reports from one intensive care unit, half-hour south of Israel's northern border, where children bear the scars of Syria's battlefield.


From lab to fork. In London, scientists are preparing to unveil — and eat — the world's first test-tube hamburger, produced entirely from synthetically grown meat. Let's get one thing clear: this ain't your grandma's Quorn. This is stem cells extracted from cows, grown into muscle tissue, mixed with beetroot juice and breadcrumbs, and soon, fried up as a history-making lunch.

The team that has spent months, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, developing the Frankenburger hopes lab-grown meat will one day help feed the world's hungry and reduce our carbon footprint — provided they can get it tasting right. Bon appetit.