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Jihad Group Sweeping Through Iraq, More Cities Fall

ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham), the jihadist group wreaking havoc in Syria for more than a year, has gained control of the Nineveh province in its country of birth - post-US invasion Iraq. Reports late Wednesday said the extremists had taken control of the city of Tikrit.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki had asked parliament Tuesday to declare a state of emergency after jihadists overran further swathes of the country, including half of Nineveh’s capital city of Mosul, the second largest Iraqi city after Baghdad, sending more than 500,000 people fleeing.

On Wednesday morning, Al Jazeera reported in its headline story that ISIS fighters had taken control of an oil refinery in the city of Baiji and was on the move towards the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

Twitter was alive with graphic pictures and videos as well as predictions for how ISIS's growing influence might be curbed.

An ISIS sympathizer in Qatar tweeted an image of Iraq, with ISIS controlled territory in black. “The banner (there is no god but God and Muhammad is His prophet) of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham is spreading thanks to God.”

تتمدد ب�ضل الله راية لا اله الا الله محمدا رسول الله الدولة الاسلامية �ي العراق و الشام pic.twitter.com/839AnZGLDA

— جليبيب  باقية (@joulaybib_dawla) June 11, 2014

In the meantime, jihadi expert Aaron Zelin tweeted pessimistically about the possibilities of stopping ISIS’s march.

The only local power that can take on ISIS in Iraq is Iran & it's proxies. There will be consequences for that when it becomes more overt.

— Aaron Y. Zelin (@azelin) June 11, 2014

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Migrant Lives

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

An orchid rehabilitation project is turning a small Mexican community into a tourist magnet — and attracting far-flung locals back to their hometown.

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

Marcos Aguilar Pérez takes care of orchids rescued from the rainforest in his backyard in Santa Rita Las Flores, Mapastepec, Chiapas, Mexico.

Adriana Alcázar González/GPJ Mexico
Adriana Alcázar González

MAPASTEPEC — Sweat cascades down Candelaria Salas Gómez’s forehead as she separates the bulbs of one of the orchids she and the other members of the Santa Rita Las Flores Community Ecotourism group have rescued from the rainforest. The group houses and protects over 1,000 orchids recovered from El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, after powerful storms.

“When the storms and heavy rains end, we climb to the vicinity of the mountains and collect the orchids that have fallen from the trees. We bring them to Santa Rita, care for them, and build their strength to reintegrate them into the reserve later,” says Salas Gómez, 32, as she attaches an orchid to a clay base to help it recover.

Like magnets, the orchids of Santa Rita have exerted a pull on those who have migrated from the area due to lack of opportunity. After years away from home, Salas Gómez was one of those who returned, attracted by the community venture to rescue these flowers and exhibit them as a tourist attraction, which provides residents with an adequate income.

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