Chatter: Militants attack Pakistan air base



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Need to know:

Islamist militants stormed one of Pakistan's biggest air bases early today, sparking a fierce gun battle that raged for hours.

Security forces managed to repel the attack on the Minhas air base at Kamra, near Islamabad, in which eight militants and one soldier were killed.

An air force spokesman said the base did not house nuclear weapons. But the attack by the Pakistan-based Taliban group raises questions about military security, and casts doubts on official assertions that militant forces in the country have been weakened.

Want to know:

Ecuador has accused the UK of threatening to enter its embassy in London to arrest Julian Assange unless he is handed over. 

This latest twist in the Assange saga comes as Ecuador prepares to decide on the WikiLeaks founder's claim for political asylum. Assange took refuge at the embassy two months ago to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning over accusations of assault and rape.

The UK Foreign Office says it can lift the embassy's diplomatic status, with a week's notice, to fulfill a "legal obligation."

Ecuador's foreign minister Ricardo Patino said such an action would be considered a "hostile and intolerable act," and "an attempt against our sovereignty."

"We want to be very clear, we're not a British colony," an irate Patino said.

Dull but important:

Meanwhile another diplomatic row is escalating, this one between Japan and China over long-disputed islands.

Japanese police are to question a group of activists who sailed from Hong Kong to the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, and managed to plant a Chinese flag before being arrested. China has called for the activists to be immediately and unconditionally released.

Taiwan also claims the islands, which are close to important shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds and are thought to contain oil deposits.

This is not the region's only island dispute: the Spratlys, in the South China Sea, are the most hotly contested islands on Earth, claimed by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and possibly even Taiwan, writes HDS Greenway for GlobalPost.

Just because:

The trial of Major Nidal Hasan, the US army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people in a shooting spree at the Fort Hood army base, has ground to a halt. At issue? Whether Hasan's beard should be forcibly shaved.

US army regulations state that soldiers must be clean shaven, and it is argued the facial hair makes it hard for witnesses to identify him, but Hasan's lawyers have said the beard is an expression of his Muslim faith.

Military appeal court judges must now decide on his beard before the trial can continue.

Hasan is is accused of opening fire at the army base in Texas in 2009 in what was the worst shooting of its kind at a US military base. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Strange but true:

A mother and her three little bears broke into a cabin in northern Norway.

But contrary to the fairy tale, it wasn't porridge they were after. The bears downed 100 cans of beer and proceeded to trash the place, according to rather amusing reports.

While on a bender, the bear family tore through the cabin's supply of marshmallows, chocolate sauce and — of course — honey.

"They had a hell of a party in there," said Borthen Nilsen, one of the cabin's Norwegian owners, who described the incident as similar to the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, "but worse."