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More U.S. troops in Iraq, Putin in Milan, Drunk chimps

U.S. STEPS UP ISIS FIGHT WITH MORE TROOPS TO IRAQ

The White House is readying to send 500 more troops to Iraq to train and support the Iraqi army in the counteroffensive against ISIS, The Wall Street Journal reports. The additional troops will be sent to a new military base in the Anbar province. This comes weeks after the terrorist group’s capture of the strategic town of Ramadi and marks a strategy shift on Washington’s part. Some 3,000 American troops are already on the ground. Read more from The New York Times.

TERRORISTS TARGET EGYPT’S TOURIST SPOT

A suicide bomber struck this morning in the Egyptian city of Luxor, near the ancient Karnak temple, the country’s second most visited site, Al Jazeera reports. Unnamed officials also said the police foiled two other suicide attacks on the site. No tourists were reported injured.


BILDERBERG MEETING

The Bilderberg group and its guests are gathering in Austria for their annual conference, which begins on Thursday. More influential than the G7, this is “where the big guns go” according to The Guardian, with political leaders discussing behind locked doors with CEOs from banks, oil groups and arms manufacturers, among others. But don’t expect to hear about what is said.

VERBATIM

“There were no light drugs and there were no hard drugs, there were no prostitutes and no pimping. Have you gone crazy?” Oren Hazan, the Knesset deputy speaker, told Israeli media after having been suspended over allegations that he “arranged” prostitutes for gamblers and used hard drugs back when he was managing a casino in Bulgaria.

PUTIN PLAYS NICE IN ITALY

After the Russia-less G7 meeting in Germany, Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived Wednesday in Milan, where he toured the Expo 2015 with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Putin tried to ease tensions with the West in an interview with the Milan daily Corrierre della Sera.

BURMA’S AUNG SAN SUU KYI VISITS CHINA

Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi begins her first visit to China, where she’ll meet with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. According to Xinhua, her trip “underscores a common wish of the two nations to improve ties” with bilateral relations between Beijing and the military-backed Burmese government having largely cooled amid border violence. Although she’s technically barred from running for Presidency, Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party are expected to play an important role in the November presidential elections.


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AFRICAN LEADERS TO SIGN FREE TRADE DEAL

After five years of negotiations, the leaders of 26 African countries are gathered in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, to sign an agreement creating a common market bloc of 625 million people and gross domestic product of more than $1 trillion, the Cameroon Tribune reports. As Le Monde notes however, it might be months before the Tripartite Free Trade Area becomes a reality and removes customs barriers between these countries. The 26 Parliaments have a maximum of 2 years to ratify the treaty.

TRADE VOTE DELAYED IN BRUSSELS

The European Parliament has cancelled today’s planned vote on the controversial and highly secretive free-trade deal with the U.S. over fears that the deal might be defeated, France’s business daily Les Echos reports. Members of the Strasbourg-based legislature  have registered more than 200 complaints and amendments to the resolution in an attempt to establish clear “red lines” on areas ranging from food safety and environmental laws to national sovereignty. More than two million citizens opposed to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership have signed a European-wide petition.

GERMANWINGS CRASH VICTIM REMAINS GO HOME

The remains of the 44 German passengers travelling on the Germanwings flight that was deliberately crashed by the co-pilot in March have finally returned to their homeland to be buried, Deutsche Welle reports. The bodies of passengers from Spain, Australia, Argentina and Japan will be returned to their families in the coming weeks.

DRUNK CHIMPANZEES

After learning last week that chimpanzees possessed the cognitive skills required to cook, scientists published a new study revealing that a group of chimpanzees in southeastern Guinea have been enjoying quite a lot of alcohol.

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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.

[*Danish]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• 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.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"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.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

98

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.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

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

📣 VERBATIM

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.

🇮🇷🎓  IN OTHER NEWS

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

Thoughts on Facebook's new name? Zuckerverse? Tell us how the news look in your corner of the world: Drop us a note at info@worldcrunch.com!

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