SYRIA PEACE TALKS IN GENEVA
Syrian opposition negotiator Mohamad Alloush said during the Geneva Syria peace talks Saturday that Syria's political transition could only start once Bashar al-Assad was no longer president. "We consider that the transitional period starts with the fall of Bashar al-Assad or his death," The Jerusalem Post quoted him as saying. The UN-led peace talks talks represent the first serious diplomatic intervention in Syria since Russia began airstrikes in September. The fate of Assad had been one of the main stumbling blocks in previous talks. On Saturday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem ruled out any discussion on Assad's future. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry responded by accusing the Assad regime of "trying to disrupt the process," the BBC reports.
- A ceasefire agreed by most participants in the conflict — excluding ISIS and al-Qaeda's branch in Syria — began late last month. The purpose of the partial, temporary truce was to enable the warring sides and their foreign backers to launch a fresh attempt to end the five-year conflict.
- Al-Qaeda militants stormed a rebel-held town in northern Syria yesterday, arresting U.S.-backed fighters and seizing weapons belonging to the Free Syrian Army, AP reports. Fighters for the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front have been making advancements to exert authority over rebel-held areas since the partial ceasefire began two weeks ago.
- More than 250,000 Syrians have been killed in the civil war, which began with an anti-Assad uprising five years ago this week. Almost half of the country's pre-war population of 23 million has been displaced — 6.5 million within Syria and 4.8 million outside Syria, The Chicago Tribune reports.
MERKEL'S PARTY SUFFERS IN REGIONALS
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's already battered Christian Democratic Union party was dealt another blow yesterday as voters cast their ballots for regional assemblies, Deutsche Welle reports. The anti-refugee Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party made dramatic advancements, winning state parliament seats for the first time in three regions. Merkel's party also suffered painful defeats at the hands of the Greens and the Social Democratic Party.
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TURKEY STRIKES KURDISH MILITANTS
Turkey conducted airstrikes against Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq this morning in retaliation for an Ankara car bomb attack that killed at least 37 people and injured 122 others Sunday, CBS News reports. Fighter jets raided Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) positions, including the Qandil mountains, where the group's leadership is based. The car bomb attack was the second deadly assault blamed on Kurdish militants in the capital in the past month. Speaking after the attack, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would bring terrorism "to its knees," and that the Turkish state would "never give up using its right of self-defense."
AL-QAEDA CLAIMS HOTEL ATTACK
Al-Qaeda has claimed an attack on a popular beach hotel in the city of Grand-Bassam in Ivory Coast on Sunday that left at least 16 people dead including four Europeans, reports The Telegraph. Ivory Coast's interior minister Hamed Bakayoko stated that foreign citizens from France, Germany, Burkina Faso, Mali and Cameroon were among the victims. At least two of the six attackers — armed with Kalashnikovs and grenade belts — are said to have been encircled by the police around 6:30pm local time. Al-Qaeda has pledged to continue attacking allies of France and the shooting in Ivory coast is the third assault on a West African hotel since November.
New Delhi, India, ranks among the worst cities in the world for air quality. Automobiles share much of the blame, with some 1,400 cars a day joining the estimated 8.5 million vehicles already circulating there. But there are other factors too, Marjorie Cessac reports for Les Echos. "â€˜In India, for the majority of the population it's about having something to eat, a roof and not necessarily fresh air,' says Piyush Srivastava, director of ElectroGreen India, a group that is about to launch a magazine on environmental issues. â€˜At any rate, people don't have a choice. They must live with pollution.' In the meantime, slowly but surely, air pollution continues to take its toll. It's believed to be responsible for 30,000 early deaths every year in Delhi alone, a catastrophe until now ignored by political leaders."
Read the full article, New Delhi Pollution, A Roadmap To Disaster.
ON THIS DAY
Celebrating 85 years of Bollywood in today's 57-second shot of history.
EIGHT DIE IN THAI CHEMICAL ACCIDENT
Officials at Thailand's Siam Commercial Bank said today that eight people have died and seven have been hospitalized after an apparent chemical accident, Reuters reports. It happened yesterday amid restoration of the building's fire fighting system. "Gas pyrogens intended to extinguish fires opened and leaked oxygen, resulting in injuries and death," a statement from the bank reads.
BRAZILIAN PROTESTERS WANT DILMA OUT
Angered by a worsening recession and corruption scandals, an estimated 3.6 million Brazilians protested yesterday, calling for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. Read more about it and see daily O Globo's front page in our Extra! feature here.
CHICAGO-BOUND TRAIN DERAILS
An Amtrak train carrying 128 passengers from Los Angeles to Chicago derailed early this morning about 20 miles west of Dodge City, Kansas, injuring dozens of people, Kansas news site KMBC reports. The train company reports that no one suffered life-threatening injuries. Amtrak is currently working with the BNSF railroad network to investigate the cause of the accident.
"HISTORICAL" FLOOD IN U.S. SOUTH
Rescue work continuous after the federal government declared a major disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi yesterday, Louisiana daily The Advocate reports. At least three people died and many have been rendered homeless in what authorities describe as an "historical" flood in the two Southern states over the weekend. Thunderstorms brought up to two feet of rain in certain areas. Louisiana's emergency management office warned that "the crisis is not over," saying that 5,000 homes have been damaged and that the National Guard had so far rescued some 3,300 citizens, Reuters reports. The National Weather Service warned last night that portions of the lower Mississippi Valley were at risk for additional severe thunderstorms today.
MY GRAND-PERE'S WORLD