Baghdadi, Making It Personal In Mosul


Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, is back on your screen. After almost a year of public silence, and amid rumors that the self-proclaimed “caliph” might be dead, ISIS released what it claims is a 31-minute audio recording of its leader. In his message â€" which was recorded in the last 10 days according to an expert quoted by Al Jazeera â€" Baghdadi urges ISIS fighters not to “retreat” as a coalition of Iraqi troops, Kurdish fighters and Shia militias advance on its Iraqi stronghold of Mosul. He declared that “this raging battle and total war” was “a prelude to victory.”

To many ISIS enemies, this will sound like a desperate call from a fanatical leader who knows he’s losing. In a little over two weeks, anti-ISIS forces have boasted of their impressive gains as Iraqi troops have even entered the city for the first time since Baghdadi’s army captured it two-and-a-half years ago.

No doubt, beyond the battlefield, a propaganda war is in full force aimed in part at motivating the respective forces. Baghdadi’s audio urges his followers to strike the “enemies of God,” including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and to “turn the nights of the unbelievers into days, to wreak havoc in their land and make their blood flow as rivers.”

For the anti-ISIS coalition, the goal of eliminating Baghdadi himself may now become just as important as liberating Mosul. Still, as the West has seen in Iraq alone â€" from Saddam Hussein to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi â€" eliminating a leader is no guarantee of final victory.



Britain’s high court ruled this morning that the two-year process to leave the European Union cannot begin without the Parliament’s approval, something that could delay London’s triggering of Article 50, The Guardian reports. A majority of British MPs notoriously oppose Brexit, which was decided by 52% of voters on June 23. The government is expected to appeal the decision.


Syrian rebels have rejected a Russian and Syrian offer to leave eastern Aleppo unharmed and with their weapons by Friday evening, the BBC reports. One rebel leader was quoted as saying: “We will not give up the city of Aleppo to the Russians and we won't surrender.”


Who knew Anna Wintour and Godzilla had something in common? That, and more, in your 57-second shot of history.


As damaging WikiLeaks revelations keep pouring in, Fox News reports that an indictment in the FBI investigations of Hillary Clinton’s emails and the Clinton Foundation is “likely,” citing two sources inside the FBI. President Obama meanwhile criticized FBI director James Comey, without mentioning him, renewed his support for the Democratic candidate and told a crowd in North Carolina that “the fate of the republic rests on your shoulders.”


Australia’s counter-terrorism police arrested two men in Sydney, aged 24 and 17, over alleged links to terrorist groups in Syria, ABC reports. German media meanwhile report the arrest in Berlin of a Syrian man believed to have links with ISIS.


Near the French capital's Gare du Nord train station, migrants have expanded yet another shantytown just days after the controversial Calais "Jungle" was dismantled by the state. And as Delphine de Mallevoüe reports for Paris-based daily Le Figaro, locals are not pleased: “Paris already had its own fair share of undocumented migrants, but the situation has gotten worse over the last week in the capital, say shopkeepers and residents along the Avenue de Flandres. Paris city officials says some 2,000-2,500 migrants, mostly Sudanese, Eritreans, Afghans and Libyans, are in this encampment. ... Faisal, a Pakistani who owns a clothes shop on the Avenue de Flandres, says the situation deteriorated in the past week: ‘Business in the neighborhood is dead. People lock themselves up at home and don't even want to go out to buy bread,’ he says. ‘A few more weeks like this and I'll have to close down.’”

Read the full article, Calais To Paris, The Grim Mobility Of Migrant "Jungles".


China’s middle-class is growing, and the world’s second biggest economy will become a middle-class society by 2030, a new report suggests. By then, about 35% of the population will have in excess of $10,000 of annual disposable income, while the proportion of high-income individuals will grow from 2.6% to 14.5%. Read more from the South China Morning Post.


The earth shook again overnight in central Italy, with a seismic event of magnitude 4.8, Corriere Della Sera reports. No casualties have been reported so far.


Need A Bigger Boat â€" Caraquet, 1994


It took them 108 years, but the Chicago Cubs finally won the World Series after what reporters are describing as “the greatest World Series Game 7 ever.” See how the Chicago Tribune featured the historic win on its front page today.



American action movie actor Steven Seagal has been granted Russian citizenship. So, what should we call him now: the patriot or the foreigner?

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Queen Elizabeth II with UK PM Boris Johnson at a reception at Windsor Castle yesterday

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.



• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.

• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.

• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.

• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."

• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.


"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.



For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.


Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.

🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.

😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.

— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.


Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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