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Chatter: French troops gear up for ground combat in Mali

French troops prepare for their first ground assault in Mali, a helicopter crashes over central London, and Scrabble is - allegedly - getting easier.
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Graphic. (Antler Agency/GlobalPost)
           

                      

   

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NEED TO KNOW

French troops are preparing to fight Mali's rebels on the ground, for the first time since they entered the country at the end of last week. Military officials say soldiers are headed for rebel strongholds in armored vehicles, and should launch a ground assault within hours.

The first reinforcements from Mali's West African allies are due to arrive today, joining an operation that France has admitted is proving difficult. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian first talked about "a matter of weeks"; now, he's warning that the war will be "long."

Boeing's woes just got a lot worse. Japan's two biggest airlines have grounded their entire fleets of Boeing 787 Dreamliners after one was forced to make an emergency landing early this morning. A "battery error" triggered the alarm on an All Nippon Airways domestic flight, and proved worrying enough for ANA and Japan Airlines to put the 24 Dreamliners they operate back in the hangar.

The vote of no confidence from the Dreamliner's biggest buyers comes after a string of recent safety incidents. US aviation authorities have launched an investigation; Boeing engineers maintain the troubles are merely "teething pains."

More scary news from the skies. A helicopter crashed over central London this morning, leaving at least two people dead and several injured. It's believed the aircraft hit a construction crane after flying low in heavy mist, showering burning wreckage onto a busy road below.

Firefighters have the flames under control, but the entire area remains gridlocked. Just when you thought rush hour couldn't get anymore terrifying.

WANT TO KNOW

Tightening America's gun laws was never going to be easy. President Barack Obama better be braced for resistance when he unveils his plan for stricter weapons controls later today. In addition to proposed new legislation, the White House has identified 19 steps the president can take without the approval of Congress – which, as you can imagine, isn't popular in certain quarters. At least one Republican representative has already threatened to file for impeachment.

Good luck with all that, Mr President.

It's the child who makes the man – sometimes tragically. It has now been more than 20 years since the world first saw images of tens of thousands of abandoned children living in cramped, filthy institutions across Romania, the legacy of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's reckless birth policies.

Many of those orphans didn't survive. But those who did are now young adults, many of them still bearing the scars of their early childhood despite their new families' best efforts to erase them. In a new series, GlobalPost follows two young men who lead very different lives as they navigate society on the outside today.

Could you tell the Oscars judges a thing or two? Yeah, us too. GlobalPost asked its global network of correspondents what they'd put on the list for Best Foreign Film. Upside-down Asian crime noir? South African race comedy? Brazilian clowns? We got 'em all. Take a look at what the Academy missed.

STRANGE BUT TRUE

We've all done it. Played "qi" on a triple-word-score slot because you're short of vowels and you'll get 30 points for the Q alone. Well, Scrabble fiends, one researcher says your exotic vocabulary means the game has changed. Specifically, the relative value of tricky letters like X and Z, which are apparently now much easier to place than when Scrabble was invented in the 1930s. Letter cruncher Joshua Lewis recommends that their points be lowered to reflect their new frequency.

Thankfully, the bods at the North American Scrabble Players Association say there are no plans for new tiles – recognizing, rightly, that such a move would cause "catastrophic outrage." Double ouzos (and 26 points) all round!

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/chatter/chatter-french-troops-gear-ground-combat-mali