NEED TO KNOW
Speak softly and carry a big UN resolution. The US, UK and France have called for a "strong" commitment from the UN Security Council to ensure that Syria respects its promise to surrender its chemical weapons. At joint talks today in Paris, the three allies said there must be a credible threat of "serious consequences" to back up the deal agreed between US and Russian diplomats this weekend.
The draft plan — which the Syrian government has enthusiastically hailed as a "victory" — supposedly binds Damascus to declare its full chemical arsenal within a week and destroy it entirely by mid-2014, a timetable that most agree is ambitious at best and at worst, impossible. (And even if it works, Syrians can look forward to going back to being killed by conventional weapons. Yay?) Nor is it clear whether anyone will face consequences for the poison gas attack near Damascus that killed hundreds of men, women and children last month; the UN is due to release its report on the incident today, but it's not clear where or even whether it'll assign the blame.
Whoever the Fed's next chair is, it won't be Larry Summers. The former US treasury secretary has withdrawn from the race to head the Federal Reserve after weeks of mounting opposition to his expected nomination. The announcement came as a shock to most and a blow to President Barack Obama, who was widely thought to favor his former economic adviser to replace outgoing chairman Ben Bernanke.
Not so the markets. News that Summers — who remains synonymous in many minds with the laissez-faire policies that preceded the 2008 financial crash — won't be heading the world's most closely watched central bank is already causing stocks to rally in Asia and in Europe.
WANT TO KNOW
Word of the day: parbuckle. It's what's happening to the Costa Concordia right now in waters off western Italy, as engineers attempt to heave the wrecked cruise ship back upright. If they succeed — and we understand they have to do a lot of complicated things with pulleys and counterweights — it'll be the first time the doomed vessel has stood right way up since it crashed in January 2012.
It's an unprecedented salvage operation for an unprecedented wreck. Thirty-two people died when the Concordia sank; five people were convicted of manslaughter; one is still on trial. Two of the bodies were never found. They may be the Concordia's last, grim revelation before she's patched up, refloated, towed and finally, destroyed.
The world's worst place to be a policewoman. We're hereby awarding the unofficial title to Helmand province, Afghanistan, where the second female police officer in three months has been shot and killed. Negara, Helmand's highest-ranking policewoman, died in hospital this morning, a day after unknown gunmen opened fire on her as she made her way to work.
Her predecessor, a high-profile lieutenant named Islam Bibi, was similarly murdered in July. Neither woman's killers have yet been caught. They could have been Taliban; they could equally have been pea-brained male relatives. Either way, it's clear that the women who make up 1 percent of Afghanistan's police force have a lot more to face in the line of duty than most.
Eating, poorly. For all the talk of an emerging middle class, more than 45 percent of Mexico's 118 million or so are mired in poverty. Though Mexico this year officially became the fattest of the world's most populous countries, millions still don't get enough to eat.
GlobalPost reports on what makes Mexico obese and hungry at the same time — and how the government is trying to level out the extremes.
STRANGE BUT TRUE
Under the influence. Inebriated. Tight. Plastered. Sloshed. We assume that teenage drinkers know plenty of ways to say they've had a few, since new research has shown that it's kids with the best language skills who take up boozing soonest. A study that followed thousands of sets of twins in Finland found that those who developed verbal abilities earlier – correlated with higher cognitive abilities — were almost twice as likely to drink as their less brainy sibling.
Researchers suggest it may be because intelligent people are more likely to seek out new sensations. How many mojitos deep you have be before your mad word skills shrink to the extent of mumbling "I love you, man" is a question they have yet to answer.