Week Ahead: Syria regime steps up bloody crackdown

BOSTON — This is the week when the world will continue to be gripped by Syria's bloody uprising, Europe sees more street demonstrations as its financial crisis continues and the very best of English literature will be celebrated.

Syria's bloody government crackdown continues

More killings are expected in Syria this week, as the failure of the United Nations this weekend to censure President Bashar al-Assad has emboldened the regime to continue with its brutal crackdown on the popular uprising.

More: Syrian army launches dawn attack on Homs

Already the Assad regime is accused of massacres of civilians. Now stepped up army campaigns in Damascus, Aleppo and Homs have been witnessed Sunday. Syria is now widely seen as the most deadly of the Arab Spring revolts, with the UN counting more than 5,400 deaths. There is increasing talk of Syria descending into a civil war.

More: Mass killings uncovered near Damascus

Friction between Iran and Israel

Tensions will remain high this week in the Middle East, where the rhetoric between Iran and Israel has reached such a fever pitch that even the most staunch skeptics in Jerusalem are beginning to wonder if Israel might actually go ahead and launch a unilateral attack on Iran.

Meir Javedanfar, a top Israeli expert on Iran and a professor at the Inter Disciplinary Center in Herzliya, told GlobalPost that his view of almost total doubt about the possibility of such a strike has shifted in light of recent official statements.

No answer for Europe's financial crisis

Greece and Portugal will see more street demonstrations this week, as European governments continue to seek a resolution to the euro zone crisis.

More from GlobalPost: Greece talks on EU bailout terms resume Monday

Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos held an emergency meeting Sunday to try to win support for a proposed $171 billion EU bailout package but the five-hour meeting ended without a deal. Talks will resume Monday.

Papademos is trying to avert a Greek default on $19 billion due to private lenders on March 20. Greece must have the money by mid-March to be able to pay back its debts, and Papademos needs party leaders’ backing for tough IMF and EU reforms demanded as a condition of the rescue package.

The euro debt crisis will be discussed when US President Barack Obama meets Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti at the White House on Thursday, Feb. 9. 

Charles Dickens to be celebrated around the world

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." That's perhaps the best first line of any novel, ever. It started off "A Tale of Two Cities," which is a pretty good title, too.

 "Please sir, can I have some more?" is a memorable line from "Oliver Twist." And then there are unforgettable characters like Tiny Tim, Pip, Nicholas Nickleby, the Artful Dodger, Ebenezer Scrooge, Fagin, Mr Micawber, Miss Havisham.

These are all the creations of Charles Dickens, who was born 200 years ago on Feb. 7. The boy who labored in a factory while his father languished in debtors prison, grew up to be the author of enduring fame.

Long before JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series, Dickens entranced readers around the world with his stories. He wrote his chapters in installments, printing them in serial papers that sold out each week. More than a best-selling author, he was a social critic whose works helped to forge a more equitable social order in Victorian Britain by describing the bleak lives of orphans, pickpockets, debtors and lowly clerks.

On Tuesday, Feb. 7, the bicentenary of Dickens birth, Britain's heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles will visit the Charles Dickens Museum in London where the author lived between 1837 and 1839 and wrote "Oliver Twist" and "Nicholas Nickleby." The prince will go on to Westminster Abbey to lay a wreath on Dickens' grave. There will be a reception in honor of Dickens at Buckingham Palace.

The celebrations of Dickens will span the globe including a global "read-a-thon" with 24 readings from 24 Dickens texts in 24 hours, starting in Australia and taking in countries including Iraq, China and Pakistan.

There are calls to honor Dickens by boosting social justice such as this statement from John Hall, the Dean of Westminster: "This bicentenary should help renew our commitment to improving the lot of the disadvantaged of our own day."

Queen Elizabeth marks 60 years on the throne

Another famous Briton, Queen Elizabeth, will celebrate her 60th year on the throne on Monday, Feb. 6. Big festivities are planned for the date of her formal coronation in June.

More Republican primaries in the US

Mitt Romney continues his run in the Republican primaries but Newt Gingrich may still throw up a surprise or two. On Tuesday, Feb. 7 Colorado and Minnesota will hold caucuses and there will be a primary vote in Missouri, but due to some technicality the actual delegates will be decided at a caucus later in March.

Grammy awards will rock

The Grammys will be awarded on Sunday, Feb. 12 in Los Angeles. On the same night in London the glamorous British Academy Film Awards (Bafta) will be announced.

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