Must-Reads from Around the World

Syria's refugee crisis worsens, the Thai government agrees to hold peace talks with southern Muslim rebels and Shell Oil pauses drilling in Arctic seas

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Abdullah al-Yassin / AP

A Syrian man carries his sister who was wounded in a government airstrike that hit the neighborhood of Ansari, in Aleppo, Syria, on Feb. 3.

Syrian Refugees — The U.N. warns that the number of Syrian refugees could surpass one million by next month and overwhelm relief efforts, reports the New York Times. “The humanitarian situation [in Syria] is dramatic beyond description. The refugee crisis is accelerating at a staggering pace,” António Guterres, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, told the Security Council. Syria’s nearly two-year-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad has claimed more than 70,000 lives.

Thailand’s Muslim Rebels — The Thai government has agreed to start talks with southern Muslim rebels in an attempt to end a conflict that has claimed over 5,000 lives since 2004, notes Reuters. Officials did not announce when the first formal peace talks with the Barisan Revolusi Nasional group would be held. Until now, the Thai government relied on military action to deal with Muslim rebels seeking autonomy or secession in the south.

Drug Bust — Australia has made its largest-ever seizure of the drug methamphetamine that was concealed in a shipment from southern China, reports the BBC. Three men from Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia have been arrested for smuggling a total of 1,290 pounds (585 kg) of meth worth approximately $440 million. Police said more arrests in Australia and overseas are possible. If the three known suspects are found guilty they face a maximum life sentence.

Shell Arctic Drilling – Shell Oil has “paused” its drilling season in the Arctic waters off Alaska following mechanical failures, writes the Guardian. Having spent eight years and $5bn to secure permits for drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, the company experienced an expensive first season for hunting oil in 2012. Shell’s president, Marvin Odum, said in a statement that the organization is still committed to drilling in the Arctic but that it wanted to “ensure the readiness” of all the equipment. Environmental groups have praised Shell’s decision to halt drilling in the Arctic waters, calling it one of their “smartest moves.”

Chinese Hackings – A Chinese Ministry spokesperson has alleged that two major Chinese websites, the Defense Ministry and China Military Online, have suffered serious hacking attacks from the U.S. in recent months, reports Reuters. In 2012 the websites were hacked on average 144,000 times a month from overseas hackers. Geng Yansheng explained at a news conference, which foreign reporters were not allowed to attend, that the U.S. accounted for 62.9% of these hackings. Yansheng also said that the U.S. has been unhelpful in creating an international cooperation focused on fighting hacking.

Blair Defends Rwanda – Former U.K. Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has defended Rwanda over its role in the conflict in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, notes the BBC. He also said it’s wrong to withhold aid to Rwanda. Blair is a personal advisor to the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, and one of his charities, the Africa Governance Initiative, employs some workers in the Rwandan government. While the U.N. has accused Rwanda of backing the Congolese M23 rebel group, Blair argues that he’s not “disputing the need to make sure that everybody abides by the right international principles,” but believes it unjust to place such blame on Rwanda.