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Chatter: Russia says rebels might win Syria

Russia admits Bashar al-Assad is losing Syria, Japan and China's island spat is air-bound, and some people really, really don't like Justin Bieber.
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Need to know:
Rebels might just win Syria
. Don't take their word or their supporters' word for it: take Russia's.

Moscow has, for the first time, publicly acknowledged that President Bashar al-Assad's forces are losing more and more ground. And unlike the US, Turkey, the Gulf states or European nations, Russia can't be accused of wishful thinking. It can no longer rule out the Syrian opposition's victory, "unfortunately," deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov said today.

The Russian government still maintains that overthrowing Assad, its longstanding ally, would only make things worse. It is calling for dialogue to end the fighting, and has condemned other countries for formally recognizing the opposition and thereby – it says – giving up on the hope of a peaceful resolution.

You'd have to be hopeful indeed to believe that's still possible. US sources have said that Assad's forces are now using ballistic Scud missiles and even "napalm-like" bombs in a bid to wipe out their rebel opponents, and seemingly, anyone else in the way.

Want to know:
China and Japan's territorial dispute
started off in the sea. Now, it's spread to the air.

Japan today accused China of violating its airspace over that island chain in the East China Sea. According to Tokyo, it's the first Chinese intrusion into Japanese airspace since at least 1958, when the military first began keeping track.

Japan promptly scrambled its fighter jets, but the Chinese aircraft was already gone. The government has since made a formal complaint to Beijing. China, meanwhile, maintains that the provocative flight path was "completely normal" – since, it says, they're China's islands, China's waters and China's airspace anyhow.

Dull but important:
There is, it seems, one thing Europe can agree on: banks need closer supervision.

EU finance ministers have reached a deal to centralize financial watchdoggery, giving the European Central Bank new powers to police the euro zone's firms. From March 2014, the ECB will take over from national supervisors and directly oversee some 200 of the single-currency area's biggest banks, with the authority to intervene in smaller ones at the first whiff of trouble.

It's meant to ensure that all major banks are subject to equal, prudent regulation that should, in theory, prevent any more failures – you know, the sort that triggered the financial crash, left governments bailing out struggling lenders, and sent the euro into a tailspin. Speaking of which: the euro group has also just approved the release of tens more billions of euros' worth of aid to Greece. Make that two things they can agree on.

Just because:
Bahrain. A tiny island nation, the home to a key US naval base, and, for two years now, a country gripped by an uprising to which there's still no end in sight.

In a new series, GlobalPost checks in on Bahrain's often overlooked revolt. In February 2011, inspired by the Arab Spring, tens of thousands of Bahrainis poured into the streets. The protests initially included the political opposition, labor unions, both Shiites and Sunnis, men, women, teenagers, united in their calls for democratic reform.

But now, two years, several brutal crackdowns, an inquiry and some supposed reforms later, the movement is divided. Frustrated by a lack of progress, a younger, more militant faction is threatening the moderates. What does that mean for the battle for Bahrain?

Strange but true:
What price one of Justin Bieber's testicles? A cool $2,500, according to the gang who planned to have the teenybopper kidnapped, killed and castrated.

It seems a deranged fan and convicted murderer, Dana Martin, hatched a plot from jail to have two hit men nab Bieber in between concerts in New York last month. They were to strangle and mutilate him, police said, with each goon due to receive a bounty per Bieber ball.

Now, we find Justin as annoying as the next non-pubescent, but that is really too much. Thankfully, the plot was foiled before any harm could come to Bieber. Any part of Beiber.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/chatter/chatter-russia-says-rebels-might-win-syria