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Chatter: Obama joins Myanmar on its 'remarkable journey'

Barack Obama becomes the first serving US president to visit Myanmar, it's day six of the conflict in Gaza, and French party politics get feisty.
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Need to know:
"This remarkable journey has just begun, and has much further to go." So says President Barack Obama of Myanmar, where he arrived today on a truly historic visit.

He was talking, of course, about the slew of reforms that have seen the Southeast Asian country go from military rule to something approaching democracy in the space of two years. But Obama's journey there, too, is somewhat remarkable: he is the first serving American president to visit Myanmar, like, ever.

Some say it's still too soon. Political prisoners remain, well, prisoners, the army stands accused of horrors, and thousands have been killed or displaced in inter-ethnic violence in Rakhine state. But then again, says Obama the pragmatist, "if we waited to engage until they achieved perfect democracy, my suspicion is we'd be waiting an awful long time."

And there are others who certainly won't wait. For decades, China has been the only major power to do business with Myanmar, which means that the US has a lot of catching up to do in the "soft power" stakes. Myanmar is on a remarkable journey – it's a race now to see who will accompany it.

Want to know:
It's day six of the conflict in Gaza, and Ban Ki-moon says "this must stop."

The UN secretary general presumably means the deaths, of which there have been almost 100, the majority Palestinian, since Israel began its Operation Pillar of Defense on Wednesday.

That number is rising, fast. More than 20 people were killed in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip yesterday, making Sunday the deadliest day yet; Monday looks like it could overtake it, with 18 people reported dead in overnight and early morning hits. Meanwhile Israel says it's once more under fire from Hamas' long-range rockets.

Ban is calling for an immediate ceasefire, and is expected shortly at mediation talks in Egypt. Follow the latest developments, including reports from GlobalPost correspondents in Gaza and Israel, on our live blog.

Dull but important:
The contest to become France's next opposition leader just got a lot more entertaining.

A vote to elect the new head of the UMP, the conservative party that lost power to the Socialists earlier this year, ended in farce last night with both candidates claiming victory. Just hundreds of ballots separate former prime minister François Fillon and former budget minister Jean-François Copé, and both men have made allegations of vote-rigging.

Other UMP members are pleading for a speedy resolution of the dispute, which can hardly do the party any favors as it struggles to recover from losing both the presidency and its majority in the lower house of parliament. Party officials are due to announce the (actual) result later today.

Just because:
A South African man has been found guilty of the murder of Swedish bride Anni Dewani in 2010.

Xolile Mngeni, 25, was convicted of shooting Dewani dead in an apparent carjacking as she and her British husband celebrated their honeymoon in Cape Town. He is the third South African to be found guilty of involvement in the case; a taxi driver and second gunman are already in prison.

The alleged mastermind, however, is Anni's husband Shrien Dewani. South African police accuse him of hiring the men who killed his wife and want to try him for conspiracy to commit murder. He denies the charges and is currently in the UK, where a court has ruled that he is mentally unfit to be extradited. 

Until he faces trial we won't know whether the so-called "honeymoon murder" is, as media coverage first made out, yet another South African crime story, or something altogether stranger.

Strange but true:
Two weeks after Donald Trump's post-election Twitter meltdown comes further proof that irate old rich men should have their smart-phone-whatchamas quietly confiscated, in the form of Rupert Murdoch.

Rupes, evidently confident that 140 characters was ample room for his views on the conflict in Gaza, weighed in this weekend with a tweet about the "Jewish-owned press" being "anti-Israel." Cue backlash. The media mogul eventually backtracked, tweeting: "'Jewish owned press' have [sic] been sternly criticised, suggesting link to Jewish reporters. Don't see this, but apologise unreservedly." Most reserved unreserved apology ever?

If such forays into global affairs are anything to go by, it's the Murdoch-owned press we should be worried about.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/chatter/chatter-obama-joins-myanmar-its-remarkable-journey