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Chatter: Syrian army steps up assault on Damascus suburbs

Syrian government forces widen a campaign of violence in Damascus, South Africa mourns its dead, and a UK ban on dog dancing. Sorry, twinkletoes Fido.
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Graphic. (Antler Agency/GlobalPost)
                           
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Need to know:

Syrian government forces have widened a campaign of violence in Damascus suburbs, in an attempt to root out rebel fighters and create fear in areas where the rebels have strong support, opposition activists said. 

Residents of Damascus have described heavy shelling in several areas of the capital. The push by Syrian forces follows the departure of UN monitors after a failed mission to help halt the violence.

With the crisis escalating and talk of an intervention looming, GlobalPost's Middle East editor Peter Gelling in this video decodes the situation in Syria and region. Also see our Inside Syria series for more detailed coverage.

Want to know:

South Africa is mourning 44 people killed in recent violence at the Lonmin-owned Marikana platinum mine, including the 34 striking miners killed in a mass shooting by police. 

Memorials across South Africa today include a hymn-filled service at the mine attended by politicians, church leaders and thousands of mourners. Family members cried and collapsed, and the country's health minister, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, pitched in to help treat them.

London-based Lonmin earlier this week dropped its threat to fire workers if they failed to show up for work. 

Dull but important:

Australia says it will increase its intake of refugees to 20,000 annually — a whopping 40 percent rise — following recommendations by an expert panel.

The increase is aimed at encouraging people to seek asylum through official channels, and is "targeted to those in most need: those vulnerable people offshore, not those getting on boats," Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.

Asylum seekers often head for Christmas Island, off Australia's northwest coast, to get into the country. They make the dangerous journey in overloaded, rickety boats. Australia is considered one of the harshest countries for immrants.

Just because:

For Prince Harry, what happened in Vegas didn't stay there (to borrow from this great headline).

The playboy prince's naked Las Vegas photos have taken the internet by storm. But Prince Harry is hardly the only member of Britain's royal family to get into embarrassing trouble.

GlobalPost chronicles other incidents of royal misbehavior that probably had the Queen feeling less than amused.

Strange but true:

We have a bumper crop of weird stories today.

First up is news that the UK Kennel Club has banned dog dancing following the sport's meteoric rise of to popularity. Too bad, twinkletoes Fido: the Moonwalk and the Twist are out.

The ban also limits owners' use of silly costumes on dogs, with dressing a dog up as a cat deemed particularly unacceptable.  

Across the pond, a Kentucky ranch has started feeding its cows candy instead of corn to save money. This has got us wondering about how candy-fed beef might taste — the new wagyu, perhaps? 

Want more weirdness? See GlobalPost's roundup of the strangest stuff on the web, including our new contest where you can spot the fake story and win.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/chatter/chatter-syrian-army-steps-assault-damascus-suburbs