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Chatter: Algeria hostage crisis threatens to send Mali conflict global

It looks like the conflict in Mali has spread to Algeria, President Obama enters the fight for tougher gun control, and almost everyone is jumping ship on Boeing's Dreamliner.
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NEED TO KNOW

Has the war in Mali gone global? To listen to the gunmen holding as many as 41 foreign nationals hostage in Algeria, it has. A group calling itself the "Battalion of Blood" kidnapped their captives – who include US, Japanese, British, French and Norwegian citizens – yesterday from the In Amenas gas field in southeast Algeria. In return for their release, the militants are demanding that France call off its campaign against Islamist rebels in Mali.

The Algerian government has made it clear there will be no negotiations with terrorists. Algerian troops have surrounded the gas field; governments around the world are holding crisis meetings; and talks are reportedly underway about the possibility of sending in international forces. This just got huge.

No assault weapons. No high-capacity magazines. Better background checks. These are the changes President Barack Obama wants to see in US law to begin reducing the thousands of gun-related deaths and injuries that occur in the US each year.

He knows he's got a battle on his hands. So, announcing his proposals yesterday, Obama came out strong: surrounded by children who asked him to improve gun control after the shooting at Sandy Hook, he signed 23 executive actions aimed at facilitating background checks, improve mental health resources and appoint a new head of the federal bureau of firearms, among other measures.

The NRA has promised Obama "the fight of the century." Reform will be "difficult," he acknowledges. Difficult, but worth fighting for.

WANT TO KNOW

There's hardly a Dreamliner in the sky today, as regulator after regulator orders the Boeing 787 passenger jet grounded over safety concerns. Yesterday it was Japan's two top airlines, then the US Federal Aviation Authority; today, airlines in India, Chile and Qatar, and flight authorities for the whole of Europe, have followed suit.

Boeing still maintains the plane is safe. But, as the list of faults lengthens, many are wondering when – if ever – the Dreamliner will fly again.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité – but not if you're gay? The French government's plans to extend marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples has revived a bitter debate over gay rights. Last weekend, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators converged in Paris to demand that the so-called "marriage for all" bill be scrapped. They frame their opposition in terms of defending family values; rights advocates say it's homophobia, pure and simple.

GlobalPost's Paul Ames examines the deep rifts in French society the issue has exposed.

STRANGE BUT TRUE

There's a new victim of the flu in New York: team spirit. One kids' soccer club in Manhattan has put the kibosh on high-fives, hand shaking, fist bumps or any other congratulatory touching of digits to avoid spreading the rampaging virus.

In an email to parents, the club suggested "the safest thing to do is to touch elbows." You've got to take what you can get, kids.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/chatter/chatter-algeria-hostage-crisis-threatens-send-mali-conflict-glob

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