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Chatter: Syria's civil war gets even more poisonous

Syrian activists say hundreds of people are dead in a chemical weapons attack, Japan's nuclear watchdog raises the alarm about leaks from Fukushima, Hosni Mubarak could be free within hours, and a pant-less intruder brings the party to Angela Merkel's plane.
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Graphic. (Antler Agency/GlobalPost)
           

                      

   

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NEED TO KNOW

Syria's toxic war. Activists say hundreds of people are dead after what they claim was a poison gas attack by President Bashar al-Assad's forces. Rockets loaded with nerve gas landed on rebel strongholds in Ghouta, east of Damascus, anti-government groups report, where — if graphic witness accounts are to be believed — they left scores of people, many just young children, injured or dead.

Syrian state media, meanwhile, says the reports are "completely baseless." As so often in Syria, it's a war of words as well as weapons; this time, though, there is someone who could potentially sort the real from the rabble-rousing, in the form of United Nations inspectors. They're in the country to investigate allegations of three earlier chemical weapons attacks — but given how hard they had to battle for even the restricted access they've been granted, there's little chance Assad's government will allow them to search out what could be the deeply damaging facts. 

Polluting like it's 2011. Japan's nuclear watchdog has issued its first "serious incident" alert since the earthquake and tsunami two years ago that left the Fukushima Daiichi plant in such a mess. The Nuclear Regulation Authority has classified the latest radioactive leaks from the crippled plant as a level-three incident on the seven-point international warning scale.

Some 300 tons of highly contaminated water have seeped from a storage tank and into the ground since Monday — and that's in addition to the hundreds of tons that have already flowed all the way to the Pacific Ocean in recent weeks. The latest leak is said to be so toxic that standing within half a meter of it will put you five times over the recommended radition limit for the entire year. We're no scientists, but "serious incident"? Yeah, we'd say so.

WANT TO KNOW

It's a Mubara-comeback. Egypt's jailed former president, Hosni Mubarak, could be a free man by the end of today. A court in Cairo is due to deliver its verdict shortly on the one final corruption charge still outstanding against the ex-military strongman. If the case is dismissed, as so many others have been before it, Mubarak will be released into the chaos that is Egypt right now. Goody.

If he is freed, however, it'll only be on bail; he's still embroiled in a retrial for his role in the deaths of protesters who helped oust him back in 2011. Not that current authorities appear to be in any hurry to prosecute him: that retrial has been adjourned again, again and — oh look — again since it began in May.

The sinister side of special. In the disturbing light of the past few days' revelations, the much vaunted relationship between the US and UK is looking decidedly less wholesome. When British police can detain a journalist's partner for nine hours under counterterrorism laws and demand files related to a US whistleblower — and when Downing Street calls to tell the White House about it — the two allies' famously obliging friendship is making many uncomfortable.

You scratch my back, I'll spy on your citizens for you? When it comes to national security, GlobalPost ponders how close is too close.

STRANGE BUT TRUE

They call him "Volkan the Invader." Though it's unlikely he'll be invading much in the near future: German police are investigating Herr Volkan for trespassing and other offenses after he boarded the private plane reserved for Chancellor Angela Merkel — let's just call it Air Force Eins — and threw a one-man, four-hour, off-his-gourd party. And he did it all wearing nothing but his underwear.

While Volkan — now said to be in psychiatric care — wasn't the least bit embarrassed to be discovered, nearly naked, covered in fire extinguisher foam and dancing on the plane's wing, the incident has left those responsible for Die Merkel's security more than a little red-faced. We'd recommend more strip searches, but perhaps that was how all the trouble started.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/chatter/chatter-syrias-civil-war-gets-even-more-poisonous

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