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Chatter: Mali's rebels are losing ground

Malian and French troops have taken Timbuktu airport from the rebels, Egypt declares a partial state of emergency, and Brazil mourns its fire dead.
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NEED TO KNOW

Mali's rebels are losing ground. French and Malian troops have taken control of the airport in Timbuktu, the fabled desert city that Islamist militants have held for more than six months. Now, it seems, the rebels have abandoned it. The joint force controls all access routes and is preparing to secure the key town itself.

When it succeeds, Timbuktu will be the second rebel stronghold to fall in three days. Gao, Mali's most populous northern city, was taken on Saturday. That leaves just Kidal, near the eastern border with Algeria. And then an even harder task begins: pursuing the rebels deep into the Sahara desert, which they know better than any soldier.

It's a (partial) emergency in Egypt. President Mohamed Morsi has declared a state of emergency in the Suez Canal cities of Port Said, Ismailiya and Suez after days of clashes that have left more than 50 people dead.

The death sentences handed out for last year's Port Said football riots triggered some of the worst of the violence, but wider discontent with Morsi's rule is also fuelling the unrest. The president has invited members of the opposition to national unity talks later today; it's unclear who, if anyone, will turn up.

WANT TO KNOW

Brazil is grieving. The country is beginning three days of national mourning for the victims of this weekend's devastating Santa Maria nightclub fire. At the last count, 231 people were dead and more than 100 in hospital. Most of the victims were students; some were as young as 16.

President Dilma Rousseff has called it "a tragedy for all of us." And once the tragedy has sunk in, all of us will want to know how it was allowed to happen.

After the fires, the floods. Hundreds of people in the Australian state of Queensland have been trapped by record flooding, after a tropical cyclone dumped torrential rain over the country's northeast.

Local officials are now warning that the floods will be worse than those in 2011 that left 35 people dead. Anyone who can still get out is being told to do so, now.

In China, trolling is a full-time job. Social media have exploded in recent years, and with them criticism of corruption and the Communist Party. Now the government has decided that censorship isn't enough: in addition, millions of propagandists will be deployed to drown out the negativity with their own pro-party posts.

GlobalPost's Benjamin Carlson tunes in to China's Twitter, which is starting to sound a lot like 1984.

STRANGE BUT TRUE

Soldiers' latest sacrifice? Growing man boobs. In Germany, members of an elite military battalion have reported unusual growths on their chest – though only on one side. Researchers say it's to do with a ceremonial drill that requires soldiers to thump a rifle into their left side, which can apparently stimulate production of the hormones that cause breast growth.

Putting up with moobs (or a moob) is apparently too much to ask of the nation's defenders: officers say they're considering changing the dangerous drill.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/chatter/chatter-mali-rebels-are-losing-ground

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