Syria's Bloody Civil War Spreads to Beirut
1 | LEBANON
General Wissam al-Hassan, a senior anti-Syrian intelligence official, was assassinated in a daytime car bombing Oct. 19 in a predominantly Christian neighborhood of Beirut. The attack killed several others and left dozens wounded and homeless. Two days later, the general was laid to rest in central Beirut. The grave site was historic: he was buried next to another victim of assassination--his former boss, ex--Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who died in a massive daytime car bombing in 2005 that left more than 20 people dead and hundreds wounded. Many of the mourners say the same people were behind both bombings, as well as a slew of assassinations of other anti-Syrian figures in recent years: the embattled regime of Bashar Assad in Damascus and its Lebanese allies. The latest assassination spurred a new round of commentary about whether Lebanon was being sucked into the deteriorating Syrian crisis. It's certainly at risk; Lebanon has often been caught up in events in Syria and has always been a hostage to political machinations in Damascus as well as those in Israel.
Naturally, in Lebanon, with its 18 official religious sects, the pro- and anti-Syrian split has a sectarian dimension. After Hariri's murder in 2005, Sunnis, Druze and a fair smattering of Christians were in the anti-Syrian camp, while other Christians and Shi'ites were considered pro-Syrian. Many Lebanese recoil at the assumption that their religious identity is a marker of their political affiliation. But as with so many stereotypes, there is a grain of truth to it. Tensions are always simmering just below the surface, where they can easily be tapped into by rival politicians. The resentment is further stoked by high unemployment.
Perhaps it is Lebanon's fate to experience cycles of spasmodic violence every few years, like a movie stuck playing the same scenes over and over, never revealing the ending. Given the neighborhood--with Syria on one side and Israel on the other--it's no wonder that Lebanon is so fragile.
Estimated cost ($649,000) of the wedding of Luxembourg's Crown Prince Guillaume to Belgian Countess Stephanie de Lannoy; at least 120 media outlets requested accreditation to cover the event
Castro the Immortal
2 | CUBA
After a Venezuelan doctor in Miami told news outlets that Fidel Castro was clinging to life in the wake of a serious stroke, the former dictator released a recent photo of himself (below) to refute the claims. Of course, this isn't the first time the 86-year-old Castro--whose passing might herald the end of the Cuban communist regime--has grappled with death rumors.
The Twitterverse erupted with unconfirmed death reports, partly spurred by the anniversary of Castro's overthrow of dictator Fulgencio Batista on Jan. 1, 1959
An e-mail with the subject line "Fidel is dead" went pseudoviral online. In reality, though, it was just a scam to get users to click on a harmful link