Every day, GlobalPost delivers written reports, video and photography that inform and entertain, taking people to far flung places around the globe most will never visit but where events are shaping all of our lives.

"It is a particularly useful time for America to reflect on those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom – for you are the first class to graduate since 9/11 who may not be sent into combat in Iraq or Afghanistan."


NEED TO KNOW

The drums of war. As Western intervention in Syria looms, the question has become one of when? And how?

Washington is weighing its options. The UK meanwhile has drafted a resolution to go before the UN Security Council today "authorizing necessary measures to protect civilians."

Amid the rising tensions, GlobalPost senior correspondent Tracey Shelton spoke with Syrians in Lebanon about the suspected chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds, and now threatens to spark a wider war.

Bombings in Baghdad. A series of bombings and attacks during morning rush hour in the Iraqi capital have killed at least 50 people and wounded dozens more.

The attacks, which included a car bomb that killed at least seven people in Jisr Diyala in southeastern Baghdad, targeted mainly Shia neighborhoods.

Violence has increased in Iraq in recent months, with heightened tensions between Sunni and Shia Muslims. More than 1,000 Iraqis were killed in July, the highest monthly death toll in five years, according to UN figures.

WANT TO KNOW

"I Have a Dream." Exactly 50 years after civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. gave his iconic speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the first black US president will speak in the same spot as an example of the racial progress King had hoped to see.

Barack Obama’s address this afternoon, marking the anniversary of King’s historic address and the March on Washington, is expected to focus on how far the country has come  and how far it still has to go.

Elsewhere, the bells of 100 churches, schools and historical monuments will ring in honor of a particular line in King’s speech, which he repeated to powerful effect on this day in 1963, standing before a crowd of hundreds of thousands: “Let freedom ring.”

STRANGE BUT TRUE

To twerk (verb). So, we thought we could get away without discussing a certain former child star turned jiggly, tongue thrusting awards show performer in latex shorts the color of raw poultry.

But Oxford Dictionaries has gone and legitimized it all by creating an official entry for the phrase “twerking.”

"Twerk, verb," the dictionary entry begins, defining this scourge of modern language as follows: "dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance."

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. Now that we’ve defined it, can we please move on?


"Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago."

— President Barack Obama made an unexpected speech on the Zimmerman trial’s verdict and implications. 

NEED TO KNOW

Egypt unled. Leaders are in short supply in Egypt today, as the interim president and prime minister struggle to form a cabinet and prosecutors order the arrest of the powerful head of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mohamed Badie, the Islamist movement’s supreme guide, is under a warrant for supposedly inciting the violence in Cairo this week that left 51 people, mostly Brotherhood supporters, dead. If the Brotherhood wasn’t keen before on joining interim prime minister Hazem al-Biblawi in a transition government, it’ll be even less so now. And sometimes the only thing more dangerous than a bad leader is no leader at all.

Syria according to Russia. Russian investigators have looked into the allegations of chemical weapons in Syria and concluded that yes, sarin was “clearly” used — not by the people known to have a large stash of the gas, government forces, but by rebels who’d apparently made their own.

That’s not quite the version told by the United States, Britain, France or any of the other countries who accuse President Bashar al-Assad’s army of poisoning its opponents. Russia has handed over the samples it collected from the scene of one of the alleged attacks to the United Nations — whose own investigators, by the way, are unable to carry out a full analysis because Assad’s government refuses to let them in. Funny, that.

WANT TO KNOW

Buried in China. As many as 40 people are feared trapped in China’s Sichuan province after a landslide smothered the town of Zhongxing. Rescue teams are hunting for survivors under the mud they know is covering at least 11 families’ homes.

The landslide follows days of torrential rain that has already caused a Sichuan road bridges to collapse. Twelve people are still missing in the river beneath. In total, officials say more than 500,000 people in two provinces have been affected by the downpours.

Going off the rails. Canadian police have opened an investigation into the deadly derailment of a train in the small Quebec town of Lac-Megantic, suspecting that what caused the engine to plough off the tracks and into downtown was not a malfunction but a crime.

Investigators say they’re trying to determine whether the oil train’s brakes had been tampered with, possibly while firefighters were putting out a blaze that broke out aboard earlier in the day. If foul play is proved, whoever carried it out will have to bear reponsibility for the deaths of at least 15 people killed in the crash and resulting fireball

Boston bomb suspect in court. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the teenager accused of bombing the Boston marathon, is due in court today for the first time since his arrest. Tsarnaev hasn’t been seen in public since the dramatic police chase in April that left him with multiple gunshot wounds and his older brother dead.

The 19-year-old will thus be charged alone for his alleged role in the attack and the three deaths it caused. Alone, and face to face with people who survived the bomb. 

STRANGE BUT TRUE

Together in perfect broccoli. President Barack Obama has made a sweet — if not entirely convincing —attempt to do America’s parents a solid by telling kids that his favorite food is, ahem, broccoli.

Now, don’t get us wrong. We love us a floret or five. But when a president who until recently claimed to love nothing more than “chili, French fries and pork chops” suddenly develops a love of the green stuff, you can’t blame us for being suspicious. Can it be coincidence that Obama loves the very vegetable that George H.W. Bush declared he’d never eat again? Um, probably. 


July 10th — and with 10 notes

US President Barack Obama spoke in Berlin for the first time in his presidency Wednesday, after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel following the G8 summit in Ireland.

Obama’s visit honors the 50th anniversary of former President John F. Kennedy’s June 1963 speech in the capital, when he endeared himself to Germans with one line: “Ich bin ein Berliner” — “I am a Berliner.” 

"It is an honor and a deep pleasure to welcome you to this place that is so symbolic to our country," Merkel said in front of the Brandenburg Gate, an 18th century monument of German unity and European peace where both former US presidents Kennedy and Ronald Reagan delivered key addresses. 

Obama gave a much lauded speech in 2008 at the base of the Victory Column in the Tiergarten in Berlin to a starstruck crowd of 200,000 while he was still campaigning for the presidency, but this is his first return to Germany since his inauguration.

Five years later, a dimmer reception for Obama in Germany (VIDEO)

Photo by AFP/Getty Images


BRUSSELS, Belgium — Europe’s love affair with Barack Obama is under strain.

Polls showed up to 90 percent of Europeans would have voted for him in November’s election, but their faith has been rocked by revelations of global cyber-snooping by US agencies under Obama’s watch.

"How can we speak about an EU-US special relationship, when President Obama explicitly says that they only spy on foreigners? That means us," Sophie in ‘t Veld, a Dutch member of the European Parliament, said during an emergency debate on the scandal Tuesday.

Europe’s outrage has cut across borders and political affiliations.

Will PRISM be the end of the EU-Obama love affair?

Photo by AFP/Getty Images


NEED TO KNOW

Prism. 1) A transparent body used to refract a beam of light. 2) A medium that distorts whatever is viewed through it. 3) The US government’s secret program to mine Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Skype and other tech giants for users’ “private” data. 

It’s a definition we learned within 24 hours of finding out that the National Security Agency had gained wholesale access to Verizon customers’ phone records, and like that discovery, came courtesy of leaked confidential documents. Washington’s top intelligence official has since confirmed that PRISM exists – and berated the media for exposing it to the public. But anyone who, like the snoops, has been watching closely will know that the government surveilling its citizens and others is nothing new. Welcome to the Bush-Obama era, where Big Brother is most definitely watching.

WANT TO KNOW

Protesters, go home. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, protesting Turks’ least favorite person, has urged them to get off the streets. Arriving in Istanbul late last night, the PM told his supporters (he has some) that the protests against his government “bordered on illegality” and “must come to an end as of now.”

Sure, that’ll do it. Especially when Erdogan has insisted that the plan to build over Istanbul’s Gezi Park — the move that roused the public’s anger in the first place — will go ahead. To no one’s surprise, protesters don’t seem to have taken his advice.

Peace on the Korean peninsula? The governments of North and South Korea have already set a date for their upcoming summit, a day after they agreed to hold their first high-level talks in years. It seems North Korean negotiators can’t wait to see their Southern counterparts, proposing June 9 — this Sunday — for a preliminary “working-level” meeting.

The only detail yet to be thrashed out is the venue: North Korea wants the talks to take place at the Kaesong industrial complex it shares with South Korea and which, crucially, lies north of the border; South Korea has suggested the Panmunjom border zone where, symbolically enough, the Korean War armistice was signed.

When Barack met Xi. The heads of the world’s two largest economies are set to begintheir first presidential summit today, at California’s excitingly named Rancho Mirage. 

Concerns about Chinese hacking, trade battles, tension between the two nations’ militaries and the thorny issue of North Korea are all on the agenda — but aside from the heavy stuff, the supposedly informal meeting is a chance for Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping to kick back, admire the view, and get along. After all, it’ll make the next three-and-a-half years a lot easier if they do.

STRANGE BUT TRUE

Plastering over the Troubles. Talk about putting a Band-Aid on a bigger problem: Northern Ireland, host to this year’s G8 Summit later this month, has been busy giving derelict buildings a face-lift before the world’s leaders fly in. Not by actually, y’know, fixing anything, but by putting stickers on empty store fronts. An abandoned butcher’s? With one handy, window-sized sticker you can turn it into a gleaming, well-stocked meat counter. 

Locals, not surprisingly, haven’t taken the government’s skin-deep solution too kindly.  ”In six months’ time how are these shops going to look?” asked one. “They’ll just be pieces of paper blowing around the ground.”


"Obama took a big swing at the central dilemma in our national security debate since 9/11 — how to go after terrorists that would do us harm without compromising our most important ethical and moral values that are at the heart of our democratic tradition.

In doing so, Obama launched the first round of an ongoing national conversation on whether it is time to end the nonstop, fever-pitch war on terror that has dominated our politics and international strategy since 9/11.

"

Nicholas Burns, GlobalPost senior foreign affairs columnist, writes in "Another take on Obama’s big speech"

NEED TO KNOW

It was like a bomb going off, witnesses said. fertilizer plant exploded last night in the small town of West, Texas, sending a massive fireball into the sky, destroying dozens of homes, and leaving the area “like a war zone.”

It’s not yet known how many were killed; authorities say it’s at least five and probably more. Rescue teams are going door to door to search for those who survived – and those who didn’t. Hospitals have been treating scores of wounded people throughout the night.

The explosion seems to have been caused by chemicals stored at the plant, though the details remain unclear. Another tank is feared to be at risk of exploding or leaking toxic gas, and any remaining residents are being warned to get out while they can.

WANT TO KNOW

Pakistan’s former president is on the run. General Pervez Musharraf, who ruled the country between 2001 and 2008 after seizing power in a coup, dramatically fled an Islamabad courtroom today moments after judges ordered his arrest.

He’s wanted for alleged treason committed six years ago, when he opted to impose emergency rule and place judges under house arrest. While the judiciary appears determined to pursue him, it’s thought unlikely the still powerful military will allow one of its own to be detained. Nonetheless, this latest legal gauntlet is liable to scupper Musharraf’s last remaining chances of making a comeback in general elections next month.

These are tense times in the US. Three days after the Boston Marathon was bombed, and one day after a man was arrested on suspicion of mailing ricin to the president and other public figures, Barack Obama is expected in Boston to show the city’s victims he’s with them, and tell the nation the city’s attackers will be caught.

No arrests have yet been made, despite the media’s hurry to report otherwise. Investigators say they have their biggest lead yet, however, in the form of a surveillance video that appears to show at least one suspect planting a backpack near the marathon finish line. The FBI cancelled a scheduled press conference on the investigation last night; further developments, we hope, will be announced today.

What North Korea wants. Pyongyang has laid out its terms for entering negotiations, and they’re no small order. The North says it will agree to speak to its “enemies” so long as the UN withdraws its sanctions, and South Korea and the US permanently call off their joint military drills.

South Korea’s government, which has seen its own conditional offer of talks rejected by the North as a “crafty trick,” dismissed these latest demands as “incomprehensible” and “absurd.” But they’re a significant change from threatening to unleash nuclear war, at least, and some are optimistic that they could be a start.

STRANGE BUT TRUE

The horse started it. ”Animal lover” of the week is one Barry Rogerson, a man from northern England who – ahem – punched a horse. Even more audaciously, he did it while a policeman was sitting atop the animal, in the midst of a soccer riot.

Barry, to no one’s surprise, was arrested over the incident. He maintains it was self-defense, since the horse, spooked by the surrounding street violence, appeared to charge him. It was still “stupid,” our Barry tearfully admits, claiming he “loves animals.” Bud the horse, meanwhile, is said to be fine.


NEED TO KNOW

India remains on high alert, after yesterday’s serial bombings in Hyderabad that killed 16 people and wounded more than 100. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, but police revealed today that they had received warnings that Islamist militants the Indian Mujahideen were preparing to strike in Hyderabad and other cities.

Whoever the guilty are, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says, they “will not go unpunished.”

Home, but not dry. Venezuela’s government says President Hugo Chavez still requires hospital care after returning from his cancer treatment in Cuba. The surgery he had there was followed by a respiratory infection that left him with trouble breathing, an official statement said, “and the tendency has not been favourable, so it is still being treated.”

It’s the first news Caracas has given of the president’s health since he made his surprise return on Monday. In this case, no news isn’t good news and a little news is worse. Is El Comandante still fit to command? And what happens if he’s not? Here are our best guesses.

WANT TO KNOW

To bail or not to bail? That’s what a South African magistrate will decide today in the tangled case of the state versus Oscar Pistorius. It’s been a long four days of hearings, each one more sensational than the last, but the prosecution and defense have finally finished making their cases for why the sprinter should, or shouldn’t, be freed to await trial.

The judge’s decision is due at 2.30pm Pretoria time.

Konnichiwa, Obama-san. The US president will today host Japan’s new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, for their first one-on-one meeting since Abe came to power. The talks are expected to focus on regional security and threats to it; namely, Japan’s territorial beef with China, and North Korea’s nuclear beef with, well, everyone.

Abe will no doubt seek to show his neighbors that Japan has the United States’ full support – and if necessary, muscle. But Obama will be careful about picking sides: China has already hit out at some of Abe’s less-than-diplomatic comments ahead of today’s meet.

Immunity or impunity? The United Nations has announced that it won’t pay compensation to cholera victims in Haiti, despite evidence that leaky pipes at a UN peacekeeper base spread the devastating disease. The UN maintains that it is immune from compensation claims under its founding convention.

Lawyers representing the victims, meanwhile, say they’ll continue to pursue the case in a national court.

STRANGE BUT TRUE

How many nuns does it take to break the law? Approximately 51. That’s how many were found at an illegal after-hours lock-in at a pub in Ireland, whose owner was fined €700 for the unholy congregation. We should clarify that the “nuns” weren’t actually nuns, but people wearing habits for an attempt to break the world record for “most people dressed as nuns.” (Who knew?)

Event organizer Christy Walsh did indeed break the record – and raised thousands of euros for charity – but was subsequently prosecuted for allowing the nun-alikes to drink in his bar well into the wee hours. His lawyer contemplated pleading that no good Catholic could turn away a thirsty sister but, probably wisely, decided to accept the fine.


JERUSALEM — A month before US President Barack Obama’s scheduled state visit, Israeli officials are already working overtime.

In a bit of mutual one-upmanship on Monday, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled an official name for the logistical arrangements surrounding the presidential visit and the office of the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, announced Obama will be the first sitting American president to be awarded Israel’s Presidential Medal of Distinction.

Netanyahu, who designated the visit “Operation Unbreakable Alliance” (or, in slightly less breathy Hebrew, Covenant of Peoples), and who used his Facebook page to urge cyber citizens to vote on an official logo for the visit, was perceived to be engaging in a bit of clumsy overkill, betraying a hint of nervousness before the trip.

In Israel, nervous energy ahead of Obama visit

Photo by AFP/Getty Images


NEED TO KNOW

North Korea nuked it. After weeks of ominous rumblings and some last-minute double bluffing, the secretive kingdom has carried out its third nuclear test. The latest device was a “miniaturized” version of the ones tested in 2006 and 2009, Pyongyang said, though now with added blast power – so much power, in fact, that it caused a 4.9-magnitude earthquake.

The reaction from the rest of the world has been, to say the least, snappy. President Barack Obama called the test a “threat to US national security,” the UN Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting, heck, even China condemned its ally. But does anyone else get the feeling that North Korea’s just not listening?

The pope is retired, long live the pope. While the world reels from Pope Benedict XVI’s surprise resignation, the Vatican has just over two weeks until it’s left pontiff-less. The Pope has made clear that he won’t be involved in choosing his successor, which he’ll leave to the hundred or so cardinals that get to vote on their favorites at a papal conclave. (Here’s our guide to the whole process, if that’s all Latin to you.)

There are already murmurings that this time things might be different. Could the world see its first South American pope? Its first Asian pope? How about its first African pope? Faster than you can say a Hail Mary, the bets are already on.

WANT TO KNOW

How’re you doing, America? President Obama is due to inform you, when he delivers his fifth State of the Nation address later today.

The White House has indicated that the economy will once more be the watchword, but you can expect the terms “guns,” “violence” and “control” in close succession too. Not least because Michelle Obama will be watching with the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old schoolgirl shot dead just days after performing at Obama’s second inauguration. And not least because Ted Nugent will be there and will, no doubt, be mad.

Magic is turning thousands of Nigerian women into sex workers – and keeping them that way. Authorities say tens of thousands of Nigerian women have been trafficked to Europe and bonded to sexual servitude: not with chains, but via juju, an ancient form of West African magic.

The women typically travel willingly, after being promised lucrative jobs. But before they depart, each woman has to swear an oath administered by a traditional priest, vowing to repay a large sum for their passage, or face death. In a new three-part series, GlobalPost’s Heather Murdock investigates what happens to the women who break that oath.

STRANGE BUT TRUE

Pluto’s moons need your help. Space scanners spotted two tiny moons orbiting everyone’s favorite former planet back in 2011 and 2012, but no one’s yet got round to naming them. Now, the SETI Institute is looking to the public to come up with some catchier titles than “P4” and “P5.”

Answers on a long-range space rocket care of Pluto Rocks, please.


JERUSALEM — President Barack Obama won’t be bringing a peace initiative with him on his first presidential visit to Israel scheduled for the spring, the White House said on Wednesday.

He will visit for three days in March, when he’ll also spend a few hours in the Palestinian Authority.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the trip was not connected with restarting the Middle East peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, Haaretz reported

US Ambassador Dan Shapiro told Israel’s Channel 2 News, “These are two leaders starting out on new terms. To some degree they have to chart out how to work together.”

Obama won’t take peace initiative to Israel

Photo by AFP/Getty Images


newsweek:

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Malia Obama greets her mom with some sweet dance moves.

The Inaugural Shuffle.


January 21stvia and source with 8,268 notes

Stashed among the 84 photos released by the White House yesterday is one of a grim-faced President Obama in the exact moment that he learned of the Sandy Hook shooting.

Obama is shown leaning against the back of a couch, his arms folded and his legs crossed as security advisor John Brennan tells him of the tragedy on December 14, 2012.

“The President reacts as John Brennan briefs him on the details of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.,” White House photographer Pete Souza writes in the caption. 

MORE: Obama photo shows exact moment he learned of Sandy Hook shooting

PHOTOS: White House 2012: Pete Souza offers a peek behind the curtain








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