ISIS TAKES FULL CONTROL OF SYRIA-IRAQ BORDER CROSSINGS
Terrorist group ISIS continues to gain territory, and its latest victory against the Syrian army on the Syria-Iraq border puts its militants in complete control of the border crossings between the two countries, and more than half of Syrian territory, The Independent reports, citing The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The news is yet another blow for Bashar al-Assad as well as for the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, and it comes just hours after the fall of UNESCO World Heritage Site Palmyra in central Syria.
- In a lengthy interview with The Atlantic, U.S. President Barack Obama commented on the ISIS’ conquest of the Iraqi city of Ramadi, acknowledging that there was “no doubt there was a tactical setback.” Obama added, however, that he doesn’t “think we’re losing.”
- The U.S. military has admitted that two innocent children were killed in drone strikes in Syria last fall. Read more from NBC News.
GAZA ON THE VERGE OF ECONOMIC COLLAPSE
“Blockades, war and poor governance” have put the Gaza economy on the verge of collapse the World Bank warned on Thursday. “The status quo in Gaza is unsustainable,” the organization said. The enclave’s GDP is only a couple of percentage points higher than it was 20 years, while the population grew by 230%. According to the report, its GDP would be four times higher if it weren’t for the conflicts with Israel and the many restrictions. Gaza has the highest unemployment rate in the world with 43% of the population without a job.
ON THIS DAY
Exactly 202 years ago, German composer Richard Wagner was born. Time for your 57-second shot of history here.
“This land is ours. All of it is ours,” Israel’s new Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said of internationally-recognized Palestinian territories occupied by Israel during an inaugural address to diplomats. An Orthodox Jew, Hotovely cited religious texts to back her claim and said it was time for Israel to stop trying to appease the world and stand up for itself, AP reports. Hotovely is not the only young hardliner in Netanyahu’s new Cabinet, and for our Israeli source partner Calcalist, the new Netanyahu government is the worst in Israeli History.
CAMERON BEGINS EU MEMBERSHIP NEGOTIATIONS
Freshly reelected Prime Minister David Cameron will use an EU summit in Latvia today to begin discussions with its European partners on new terms for Britain’s membership, The Daily Telegraph reports. High on Cameron’s agenda is an end to “benefit tourism” and the repatriation of key powers from Brussels back to Westminster. The Conservative leader has promised to hold a referendum on EU membership in 2017.
Abu Ghraib is the first city reached when driving west from Baghdad into the province of Anbar. ISIS has attacked the town several times — its notorious prison always the goal, Birgit Svensson writes for Die Welt: “This city's streets are deserted. It would seem certain that the residents of Abu Ghraib fear the Da’ish, the Arabic word for ISIS, as fear has been the dominant emotion since the terrorists began conquering territory in Iraq. And now, the terror organization is defending their gains with brute force. A uniformed officer at a checkpoint assures us that ‘it is not because of Da’ish’ that no one is out and about. Instead, by way of explanation, he points towards the sky where the sun is at its zenith. It's nearly 40 °C (104 °F) in the shade, and he seems to be saying people aren't out because they are trying to keep cool.”
Read the full article, On The Iraqi Front Line, As ISIS Aims For Abu Ghraib.
CHINA SLAMS U.S. ACTIONS IN SOUTH CHINA SEA
Beijing has accused the U.S. of “irresponsible and dangerous” action that’s “detrimental to regional peace and stability” after a U.S. military plane on a surveillance mission flew over part of the South China Sea where the government is building artificial islands, Reuters reports. The oil-rich South China Sea is a thorny issue between China and its neighbors with Beijing’s territorial claims clashing with those of Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines.
Photo: Eric Lalmand/Belga/ZUMA
Belgium commemorated Thursday the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo, during which the French army under the command of Napoleon was defeated.
SAUDI ARABIA GOES SOLAR
Saudi Arabia could soon move on from the fossil fuels on which it built its financial might to export solar and wind energy instead, the kingdom’s oil minister Ali al-Naimi suggested yesterday during a conference in Paris. “We recognize that eventually, one of these days, we are not going to need fossil fuels. I don't know when, in 2040, 2050 or thereafter,” the Financial Times quotes him as saying.
IRELAND VOTES ON GAY MARRIAGE
Irish voters will decide today whether the country’s constitution should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry, with the youth vote expected to decide the outcome, according to the Irish Independent. In case of a “Yes” vote victory, Ireland would become the world’s first country to adopt gay marriage through a popular vote, though same-sex marriage has been made legal in all or parts of nearly 20 nations: Take a quick video tour around the world, courtesy of Worldcrunch.
FRANCE BANS FOOD WASTE
France’s Assemblée Nationale voted yesterday to ban supermarkets from destroying unsold food products, in a bid to reduce food waste, L’Express reports. Instead, supermarkets will be encouraged to donate unsold but still edible food to charity organizations or to farms where it can be used as animal feed or compost. On average, the French throw out between 20 and 30 kilos of food per year and per person.
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
If there’s one food item that definitely shouldn’t be wasted, it’s Japanese melon. Not at that price of $12,400 for two. Still, it’s a bargain compared to what this luxury fruit cost last year.