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Among the many memorable lines from Rodrigo Duterte's run for the presidency was this colorful threat to Chinese leaders: If elected, he would personally ride a jet ski across the South China Sea to plant the Philippine flag on the Spratly Islands that are claimed by both countries as their own. Just past 100 days into his controversial reign, Duterte headed north this morning instead, arriving in Beijing — by airplane.


Indeed, much has changed in these few short months. Though he has garnered the most attention for the violent anti-drug countdown at home that has left more than 2,300 dead, Duterte has also made waves internationally. Not only has he had shockingly harsh words for both President Obama and Pope Francis, Duterte seems intent on overturning a half-century of foreign policy built around tight relations with U.S.


This helps to explain today's soft landing in China to meet President Xi Jinping. Playing world powers off of each other is a favorite tactic of ambitious leaders of smaller regional players. But there may also be reasons closer to home for Duterte, who himself is of Chinese descent. At a forum last week Duterte had this message for Filipino businessmen: "Study the Chinese style. It's an innate thing in them, the art of doing business," he said.


Yesterday, on the eve of his visit, which would include some 400 Filipino business leaders, Duterte spoke with the state Chinese news agency Xinhua: "Some other countries know we are short of money, but instead of helping us, all they had to do was just to criticize. China never criticizes," he said. "They help us quietly. It's part of the sincerity of the people." Duterte's is yet another immigrant story, and his state visit to China is one more foreign business trip.



WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY

  • Barack Obama to welcome Italian PM Matteo Renzi, for the last state dinner of Obama's presidency.
  • Super Typhoon Haima aims for the Philippines .
  • Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to announce its 2017 inductees.


BATTLE FOR MOSUL CONTINUES

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said that Iraqi forces were "ahead of schedule," retaking a number of villages as they begin the second day of the battle to recapture the northern city of Mosul from ISIS fighters. According to Al Jazeera, the joint operation carried out by Iraqi forces and Kurdish peshmerga troops has already "liberated" a 200 square-kilometer area around Iraq's third-biggest city.


ALEPPO TEMPORARY TRUCE

Russian and Syrian armed forces agreed to pause attacks on the Syrian city of Aleppo for eight hours today, to allow civilians and rebels to leave the city. The decision, announced by the Russian Defense Ministry, was deemed "too little too late" by the U.S. State Department, Reuters reports.


YEMEN CEASEFIRE

The UN announced yesterday that a 72-hour ceasefire will go into effect on Wednesday night in Yemen, in a bid to end the more than 18 months of confrontation between the country's Houthis and the government.


— ON THIS DAY

Happy 56 to Belgian actor, martial artist and would-be "philosopher" Jean-Claude Van Damme! He's in your 57-second shot of history.


VERBATIM

"They're lies," Melania Trump said yesterday of allegations of sexual misconduct targeting Republican nominee Donald Trump, breaking her silence about her husband's behavior in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper.


CLINTON/FBI QUID PRO QUO?

Both the FBI and the State Department denied yesterday that a "quid pro quo" arrangement took place over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's emails, according to USA Today. Documents that were recently made public, belonging to the FBI's now-closed investigation into Clinton's handling of classified information when she was secretary of State, suggest that top Clinton aide Patrick Kennedy pressed the FBI for a change in the classification of an email related to the 2012 Benghazi attack.


— WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

By promoting the use of open-source software, French group Framasoft offers alternatives to the Google behemoth's products, Elsa Trujillo writes for French daily Le Figaro. Bonus: Framasoft's tools come with added digital privacy. "The ‘De-Google-ify internet' initiative, which was launched two years ago, has so far offered about 20 tools that allow you to bypass centralized web services. Framasoft added new solutions to its offerings since the start of October. Framalistes, for instance, sees itself as an alternative to Google Groups that lets users choose his or her subscription options, access archives and manage lists."

Read the full article, The Open-Source Group Trying To "De-Google" The Internet.


HOSPITAL FIRE IN INDIA

At least 23 people have died after a fire broke out in a private hospital in Bhubaneswar, eastern India, the BBC reports.


— MY GRAND-PERE'S WORLD

Touch Stonehenge — Wiltshire, 1976


10,000 FROGS

Peruvian authorities are investigating the death of an estimated 10,000 Titicaca water frogs, whose bodies were found in a river in the south of the country, Peruvian daily La Republica reports.


MORE STORIES, BROUGHT TO YOU BY WORLDCRUNCH

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN, MY BLUE-EYED SON?

The Nobel committee has said it is giving up on trying to contact Bob Dylan, five days after awarding the American singer-songwriter the 2016 Literature prize. A close Dylan representative has spoken with the Stockholm committee, but given no word on whether he will come to accept the award in December. What'll you do now, my blue-eyed son?

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Geopolitics

One By One, The Former Soviet Republics Are Abandoning Putin

From Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Tajikistan, countries in Russia's orbit have refused to help him turn the tide in the Ukraine war. All (maybe even Belarus?) is coming to understand that his next step would be a complete restoration of the Soviet empire.

Leaders of Armenia, Russia, Tajikistan, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan attend a summit marking the 30th anniversary of signing the Collective Security Treaty in Moscow on May 16.

Oleksandr Demchenko

-Analysis-

KYIV — Virtually all of Vladimir Putin's last remaining partner countries in the region are gone from his grip. Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan have refused to help him turn the tide in the Ukraine war, because they've all come to understand that his next step would be a complete restoration of the empire, where their own sovereignty is lost.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Before zooming in on the current state of relations in the region, and what it means for Ukraine's destiny, it's worth briefly reviewing the last 30 years of post-Soviet history.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) was first created in 1992 by the Kremlin to keep former republics from fully seceding from the former Soviet sphere of influence. The plan was simple: to destroy the local Communist elite, to replace them with "their" people in the former colonies, and then return these territories — never truly considered as independent states by any Russian leadership — into its orbit.

In a word - to restore the USSR.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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