Chatter: The Syrian split




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A summit divided. Oh, to be a fly on the wall at the G20 meet in St. Petersburg. All 20 world leaders there spent last night discussing the Syrian crisis at a working dinner that was, by all accounts, an awkward affair. "The divisions about Syria were confirmed," Italy's PM summarized delicately. You don't say.

Less diplomatic were the comments by American, er, diplomat Samantha Power, who accused Russia of holding the United Nations hostage with its insistence on vetoing even the mildest of sanctions against the Syrian government. Any hope of uniting the UN Security Council on military intervention in Syria, Power says, you can forget.

The entire G20 is "split down the middle," according to Russian officials, though observers say the balance is tipping in favor of Moscow, Beijing and the other governments that have argued against military action. Even the UK, which yesterday said it had fresh evidence of sarin gas being used to poison Syrian civilians, has already voted no. As the US Congress prepares to reconvene on Monday, and approaches the crucial vote that will decide whether the US — and with it, France — will proceed with proposed air strikes, President Barack Obama is looking increasingly alone


Just when you thought it was safe to email. HTTPS? Pshaw! SSL? Schmes-SL! That little padlock that tells you you're using an encrypted connection? The NSA spits on that padlock. According to the latest leaks from Edward Snowden, the US intelligence agency and its UK equivalent, GCHQ, have cracked most encryption systems commonly used to protect data online.

Not only have their agents hacked internet companies' security systems, secret documents reveal, they've secretly inserted "back doors" into corporate software: deliberate vulnerabilities that allow them to sneak behind the supposed defenses. That means that medical records, bank details, emails and all sorts of other things you wouldn't want shared are accessible to government spooks. Big Brother is hacking you.

Are the Muslim Brotherhood's days numbered? In legal terms, they could be: Egyptian state media reports that the interim government has decided to dissolve the Islamist movement as a non-governmental organization, the status it registered under after being told it had no legal standing. The move will reportedly be officially announced next week; though cabinet sources denied that any decision had yet been taken.

But one decree does not a movement destroy, as the Brotherhood knows better than anyone: it was formally dissolved by Egypt's military government way back in 1954. In any case, the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, wouldn't be affected by the ruling; the imprisonment of its leaders and killing of its supporters, however, might be a different matter.

Navalny's last stand. When Russia's best-known opposition leader, the blogger — and convicted embezzler — Alexei Navalny, runs for Moscow mayor this weekend, he almost certainly won't win. But he'll have damn well tried. Though he appears poised to lose Sunday's high-profile election by a landslide, observers say his hard-fought race to the finish won't be all for naught.

Despite his being mired by mudslinging and a looming prison sentence, Navalny's doomed bid appears to have infused politics in the Russian capital with a renewed sense of vigor. GlobalPost reports on why, even if he won't become mayor, Navalny's campaign may just leave a lasting legacy.


Politics can be a cat fight. And the mayor of the small Alaskan town of Talkeetna knows it better than most: the elected official was left with organ damage and a fractured sternum after a vicious street attack. Oh, and there's one more thing we should mention: Mayor Stubbs is a cat.

His assailant — need we even say? — was a dog. (Further proof, if proof were needed, that a dog could never be mayor. Oh no, that would be ridicu- What's that, Kentucky? Oh.) Aside from their natural sympathies toward something so small and freaking cute, the good people of Talkeetna are sorry to see their mayor temporarily out of his office because, you know what, he's pretty good. "He's the mayor, it's not a joke," says one resident. "I know it's ridiculous, but the town is run really well." For the sake of Talkeetnans, Mayor Stubbs, please do get well soon.