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Chatter: Mali rebels lose last stronghold

French troops take control of the Mali rebels' final stronghold, South Korea launches its first space rocket, and it's lucky the Pope's peace dove is no pacifist.
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Graphic. (Antler Agency/GlobalPost)
           

                      

   

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NEED TO KNOW

Mali's rebels have lost their final stronghold. French troops have entered Kidal, the only major town that remained under the insurgents' control. The rebels themselves appear to have vanished, fled into the desert or possibly further afield.

The first phase of Mali's war may be over but there's still plenty to be done, starting with tracking down the still-dangerous militants. Then what could be an even harder task: holding credible, transparent elections, which Mali's interim president has said he wants before August.

"Unprecedented levels of horror." That's how UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has described the conflict in Syria, which, in case you were in any doubt, is still here and still worsening. Just yesterday more than 60 bodies were found in Aleppo, hands bound, head shot. It bears all the signs of a mass execution, and it could have been either side that carried it out.

The UN has called an international donor conference today to raise funding for its humanitarian efforts in Syria. How much does it cost to mitigate horror?

WANT TO KNOW

South Korea is playing catch-up. Embarrassingly for Seoul, the country was behind North Korea in its efforts to send a satellite into orbit – until now. South Korea successfully launched its first ever long-range rocket today and took a satellite into space, where it will collect climate data.

Seems like something North Korea will take well. Probably.

Surprise, Australia! It's time to vote... in eight months from now. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has unexpectedly set the date for the next general election: Sept. 14, 2013.

What makes the announcement surprising isn't that it's sudden, but that it's so far in advance: Australia's leaders traditionally give their opponents much less warning in order to keep the upper hand. Is this fairness, or shrewd maneuvering by Gillard and her minority government?

Think soccer, think Argentina. The South American nation exports pros to clubs of all levels around the world, and it has proved a lucrative business. But now, Argentina's taxman is taking aim at the seamier side of the industry — shadowy investors seeking to make a fast buck out of young players, by buying stakes in promising pros in hopes of picking up a share of multimillion dollar transfer fees if the youngsters make good.

GlobalPost's Simeon Tegel investigates the trade in "soccer slaves."

STRANGE BUT TRUE

Welcome to Vatican City, where birds have a finely tuned sense of irony. Pope Benedict XVI traditionally releases two white doves after his annual "Caravan of Peace" youth event, to symbolize world harmony. The latest pair flew out as planned last Sunday – only for one of them to be attacked by a seagull under the pontiff's holy nose.

Fortunately for the dove, it was no pacifist: it managed to fight off the much larger seagull and fly away. Peace on earth, but not in the air.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/chatter/chatter-mali-rebels-lose-last-stronghold