Need to know:
It turns out we have the "underwear bomber" to thank for the fact that a plot to blow up an airplane around the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death was foiled.
The person supposed to wear and detonate the bomb was, according to US and Yemeni officials, a double agent. An informant for Saudi Arabia's intelligence agency, the operative managed, remarkably, to infiltrate Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen and get assigned the suicide mission; once given the bomb, the informant delivered it to the CIA and Saudi agents.
The informant, about whom we may never learn more, is said to be safe and no longer in Yemen.
Want to know:
North Carolina has voted to ban gay marriage, despite the state governor's warning that the move is "bad for business."
Around 61 percent of voters yesterday approved Amendment One, which will alter the state's constitution to say that marriage between a man and a woman is the only legally recognized union.
The results came in on the same day that a new Gallup poll said that half of all Americans – including the vice president – are in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. Just not the Americans that live in North Carolina or any of the 28 other states that voted to outlaw gay marriage in their constitutions, then.
Dull but important:
A huge explosion hit vehicles accompanying United Nations cease-fire monitors in Syria this morning, according to witnesses.
The blast took place outside the southern city of Deraa, leaving truck windows shattered and several Syrian soldiers injured. The UN convoy was only 100 meters away at the time, but none of the monitors is reported hurt.
They are in Syria to oversee the joint UN-Arab League peace plan, the same that special envoy Kofi Annan yesterday described to the Security Council as the "last chance to avoid civil war."
A high court in South Africa has ruled that the country must investigate charges of state torture in neighboring Zimbabwe.
The ruling relates to allegations that Zimbabwean officials subjected their political opponents' supporters to waterboarding, mock executions and electric shocks in the run-up to the 2008 elections.
South African prosecutors had refused to investigate, for "political considerations." But yesterday, a judge ruled that South Africa has a duty to probe alleged crimes against humanity – a decision that activists hope will discrouage new abuses by President Robert Mugabe's regime.
Strange but true:
Advertising 101, lesson the first: sex sells. Even bank accounts.
That, we must assume, is the rationale behind this banking commercial from the Czech Republic, which compares opening a student account to... well, opening something else.
Kind of gives a whole new meaning to "dirty banking," doesn't it?