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Chatter: The Syria ultimatum

The White House gives the Syrian government a week to hand over its chemical weapons or else, the ICC prepares to put Kenya's deputy president on trial, Russia's most popular opposition leader remains defiant even after losing the race for Moscow mayor, and Kim Jong Un is reproducing.
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NEED TO KNOW

The end of the long red line. The United States has given Syria one week to hand over its entire arsenal of chemical weapons, or else. Speaking in London this morning, Secretary of State John Kerry said the Syrian government could avoid an attack on its territory if it surrendered "every single bit" of its poisonous stockpile within days — an ultimatum that no one, least of all Kerry, expects the regime to obey.

There's another "if" in play, though, and that's whether Congress will approve the strike that Kerry's happy to threaten. US lawmakers return from recess today and are expected to vote on the proposal for military action as soon as Wednesday. If they say no, will Kerry's warning still hold? 

Kenya vs. the ICC. It's been a week of firsts for the Kenyan government and the International Criminal Court: on Thursday, Kenya became the only country ever to quit the ICC; and today, Deputy President William Ruto set off for The Hague, where he'll be the first high-ranking Kenyan to face trial for the 2007-2008 post-election violence that left more than 1,000 dead.

It's one of the ICC's biggest cases to date, and is due to be followed in November by the trial of President Uhuru Kenyatta, also for alleged crimes against humanity. The ICC says it's a crucial step toward justice; Ruto and Kenyatta say the charges are false and the court unfair. The first hearings are due to begin tomorrow. 

WANT TO KNOW

Not a win, but not quite a loss. In perhaps the least surprising election result since Zimbabwe's, Russian opposition leader and professional thorn in the Kremlin's side Alexei Navalny has lost the race to be Moscow mayor. That honor goes to Sergei Sobyanin, former chief of staff to President Vladimir Putin, whom the election commission has declared the winner of yesterday's first-round vote.

Less foreseeable, however, was the 27 percent of the vote that Navalny nonetheless managed to win (and that's according to the official count; he claims the true figure is more like 35 percent.) His gutsy campaign is proof that a loser can still be a winner — and, defiant to the end, he has vowed to challenge the results of a vote he alleges was rigged. We'll see how many will join him when he holds a post-election rally in Moscow, tonight. 

Merk it. Speaking of election outcomes you can see coming a mile off, Germany is entering the final two weeks of campaigning before its general election on September 22 — and only the wildest of gamblers would bet on anyone other than Angela Merkel taking the chancellor's job. Again.

As Germans prepare to vote, GlobalPost's senior correspondent Paul Ames made a 900-mile roadtrip across all 16 German states to take the measure of Europe’s most influential country. In the first of a four-part series, he goes to the chancellor's hometown to find out why 'Mutti' Merkel is set to stay in charge.

STRANGE BUT TRUE

Kims and Kims and Kims. North Korea's ruling dynasty continues — at least according to, er, Dennis Rodman. (How did someone called 'The Worm' become our most reliable source of information on this, anyway?) The former baller is just back from a visit to the world's weirdest family, and he says the latest addition to the clan is a baby girl by the name of Ju-Ae

The rumors of a lil' Kim have been circulating for months, but this is the first time anyone has claimed to have actually met Kim Jong Un's progeny — and certainly the first time anyone has called the Supreme Leader a "good dad." This is North Korea, though, so the chances of little Ju-Ae one day taking on the solemn duties that her father, grandfather and great-grandfather carried out before her — looking at things, imprisoning foreigners, threatening nuclear war, and so forth — are slim to none. Luckily for her.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/chatter/chatter-the-syria-ultimatum