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Chatter: Spain's train tragedy

Dozens of people are left dead by a rail disaster in Spain, China charges its former disgraced darling, Bo Xilai, the US Congress is fine with the NSA surveilling everyone, and George H.W. Bush finds a good reason to go bald.
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NEED TO KNOW

The train in Spain. At least 77 people are dead and more than 100 injured after one of Europe's worst rail accidents in living memory. A high-speed train derailed as it sped round a curve near the city of Santiago de Compostela in northeast Spain, sending all eight carriages — and the 218 people inside them — hurtling off the tracks.

Rescue teams have been working through the night to free anyone still trapped. Witnesses say the scene is "Dante-esque." Today was supposed to be a day of celebrations, the start of the city's huge annual festival for its patron saint; instead, it's been declared the first of seven days of mourning throughout the region.

Bo Xilai charged. Remember him? The disgraced ex-politician, once a rising star in the Chinese Communist Party, was last year at the center of the biggest scandal in modern China. His Lady Macbeth-styled wife, Gu Kailai, is already languishing in prison for the murder of a British businessman; now, Bo himself has finally been charged.

Chinese prosecutors want to try him for bribery, corruption and abuse of power. He's expected to appear in court within weeks, for a trial whose outcome, many suspect, was decided long ago.

WANT TO KNOW

Gathering confidential data on millions of Americans, are you? OK, carry on. The United States Congress has voted — narrowly — to allow the National Security Agency to continue monitoring the phone records of pretty much anyone it chooses, regardless of whether they're under investigation or not.

By a margin of just 12 votes, representatives sided with the White House in judging that the so-called Amash amendment would harm US counterterrorism efforts. But the fight to protect privacy is barely missing a beat: later today, a New York court will hear the preliminary arguments in a civil liberties lawsuit that seeks to have the NSA's "snoop now, suspect later" approach declared unconstitutional.

Julian Assange for senate. The man who's made a profession out of riling governments now wants to be part of one: specifically, Assange has announced his plan to run for a seat in the Australian Senate. He and seven other candidates fielded by the newly founded WikiLeaks Party will bid to become senators in general elections later this year.

Assange says their platform will consist of applying the same principles of "transparency, accountability and justice" that underpin his whistleblowing organization to issues including climate change, asylum seekers and tax reform. And before you quibble that a man holed up in an Ecuadorean embassy in London can't possibly run an election campaign in Australia, stop: Assange insists it'll be just like running WikiLeaks. Let's hope the Senate has Skype.

STRANGE BUT TRUE

George H.W. Bush is bald. But before Bush Jr. starts reaching for the hair plugs (it's hereditary, you know), he can rest assured that his dad's shiny head got that way deliberately: the 41st US president shaved his 'til then well-preserved locks in solidarity with a young leukemia patient.

Bush and his entire Secret Service detail went under the clippers for the sake of 2-year-old Patrick, one of the agent's sons. Never has a Bush's bonce been put to better use.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/chatter/chatter-spains-train-tragedy

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