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NEED TO KNOW:
Vice President Joe Biden confused a lot of people yesterday when he said that the US and Turkey are prepared for a military solution against the Islamic State in Syria.
Some people were confused because they thought this was already happening. The US has fired off more than 20,000 missiles and bombs against the Islamic State since its bombing campaign began more than a year ago. The US has also sent dozens of special forces to Syria — though they are theoretically not meant for front line combat.
Other people were confused because they thought Biden's remarks signaled a change in US policy. The White House was quick to say this was not the case. Biden was referring to military action against the Islamic State and not Syria as a whole, officials clarified. John Kerry said the Obama administration is still on track for a diplomatic solution.
But Syrian peace talks scheduled for Monday are almost certain to be delayed — in no small part because of disagreement on who will represent the opposition. Even if talks do get started this week, what can be accomplished remains to be seen.
Syrian pro-government forces recaptured a key rebel-held town of Rabiya in the coastal Latakia province on Sunday, and a senior official said the Syrian government won't make any new concessions at a time when the Syrian army is making progress.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State has intensified attacks on the city of Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria, and the opposition has blamed the government and Russia for failed peace talks before they've even begun. That's the spirit.
WANT TO KNOW:
Refugees fleeing the Middle East and other troubled regions already face daunting challenges when they reach the EU. But if they choose to stay in Switzerland, Denmark, or Germany, that decision could cost them even more.
Critics have been up in arms lately against regulations that allow officials in those countries to confiscate assets from asylum-seekers to help finance their stay.
The cut-off for when authorities start taking cash and valuables varies from country to country, ranging from $400 to $1,500, reports GlobalPost's senior correspondent Dan Peleschuk.
It’s one of many measures European officials have taken in recent months to help cope with the continent’s largest migration crisis since World War II.
STRANGE BUT TRUE:
It was sad when Cu Rua died for many reasons.
The Yangtze giant softshell was perhaps Vietnam's most admired animal. It was magnificently huge and heavier than a black bear. It lived through French occupation, American bombing and the violent convulsions of communist revolution.
Moreover, its death at 120 years old on Jan. 19 brought its species down to just three living turtles.
But, as GlobalPost's Patrick Winn points out, none of those reasons were why government censors didn't want the death reported. That had to do with the fact that the turtle died just as a Communist Party congress was getting going.
Even if you're not superstitious, you've got to admit that's pretty funny timing...