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Mosul, Mother Of All Battles?

It has finally begun. More than two years since ISIS conquered Iraq's third-biggest city, a coalition of local ground forces, supported by U.S. air power, has launched a coordinated attack to recapture Mosul. "The time of victory has come and operations to liberate Mosul have started," Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a televised address early today. But the battle for Mosul, dubbed by some "the mother of all battles," and the most crucial so far in defeating ISIS, will in all likelihood be a long and difficult one.

  • A coalition of more than 30,000 troops from the Iraqi army, Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Shia militias are approaching the city from the north, east and southern side in a first stage that aims to surround the city. Airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition have started to hit ISIS targets.
  • Estimates on the number of jihadist fighters in Mosul vary from 4,000 to 8,000. The Guardian reports that many have already moved into residential areas to use the civilian population as a human shield against airstrikes. More than one million people still live in the city. Many global organization, including the UN, have warned of a humanitarian crisis as civilians will flee the city.
  • The New York Times explains that this first stage of the battle aims to cut off ISIS' supply route through Turkey and isolate what has been an important and strategic stronghold for the terrorists. But it also says that militants have prepared for a tough urban battle, with a network of tunnels and explosives planted "so densely that they resemble minefields."
  • Disputes among different groups involved in the fight against ISIS have already erupted over the future of Mosul, according to Middle East Eye. One scenario is that the city will become part of the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, with some hoping to see it become an independent Kurdish state. But it's safe to say that neither Turkey — which is staunchly opposed to any Kurdish reinforcement — nor the Iraqi government would accept such an outcome.
  • Beyond control of the city itself, what would a defeat mean for ISIS? Losing Mosul will be a considerable blow to its territorial ambitions, finances, and image. The terrorist organization, however, still controls a vast chunk of eastern Syria, where many of its Mosul-based leaders and fighters are believed to have already fled.



The Republican party headquarters in North Carolina's Orange County was torched over the weekend in a firebomb attack that Gov. Pat McCrory characterized as an "attack on our democracy," The Charlotte Observer reports. With 21 days to go until Nov. 8, and ahead of Wednesday's final presidential debate, Trump said the election was "absolutely being rigged," blaming "the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary." He also said both candidates should submit to a drug test before the next debate. WikiLeaks, meanwhile, published another embarrassing batch of emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta.


At least 25 inmates were killed in violent fights between rival factions yesterday in a prison in northern Brazil, with some of the convicts beheaded and others burned to death, G1 reports. The fights broke out during visiting hours when a group of inmates escaped from their wing. More than 100 visitors were taken hostage, but were later freed after a police assault.


Leaders of African Union nations gathered in Lomé, Togo, signed a deal Saturday to significantly increase security off the continent's economically crucial coasts, in a bid to tackle piracy and smuggling, AFP reports.


For both the Chopin and Eminem aficionados, here's your 57-second shot of history.


New research suggests the observable Universe has 2 trillion galaxies. That's more than 10 times more than previously thought.


The town of Terre Haute, Indiana, is a mix of organized labor and university students, traditional values and growing immigrant communities. Oh, and, it has picked the president the last 15 elections. From the bellwether town, Lucie Robequain writes for Les Echos: "‘Democrats have little confidence in a Clinton victory in Terre Haute. "People have only two words in mind, trust and sincerity. That's what makes Hillary Clinton so unpopular around here. Nobody trusts her,' says journalist Don Campbell.

Matthew Bergbower, a young researcher at the Indiana University, says he's ‘totally confident' that Hillary Clinton will win the national election. ‘I'm less confident about her winning in Terre Haute,' he says."

Read the full article, Welcome To The Town That Always Votes For White House Winner.


Tesla CEO Elon Musk delayed a mystery product announcement initially planned for today until Wednesday. The new product, which Musk said was "unexpected by most," needed a few more days to be "refined," according to the inventor.


Flying Blind — Ghardaïa, 1970


China successfully launched its Shenzhou-11 spacecraft today, with two astronauts aboard who will dock at the experimental Tiangong-2 space lab, Xinhua reports. The two astronauts will stay in space for 33 days, making this manned mission the longest yet in the country's space program.



Scientists in Japan have built a robot that can sweat like your Uncle Bill. The "passive cooling system" mimics the human perspiration function to allow the machines to keep working without overheating. Now they just need to work on advancements in artificial deodorant.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

And If It Had Been Zelensky? How The War Became Bigger Than Any One Person

Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs Denys Monastyrsky was killed Wednesday in a helicopter crash. The cause is still unknown, but the high-profile victim could just have well been President Zelensky instead. It raises the question of whether there are indispensable figures on either side in a war of this nature?

Photo of ​Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looking down in a cemetery in Lviv on Jan. 11

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Lviv on Jan. 11

Anna Akage


The news came at 8 a.m., local time: a helicopter had crashed in Brovary, near Kyiv, with all the top management of Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs on board, including Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky. There were no survivors.

Having come just days after a Russian missile killed dozens in a Dnipro apartment, the first thought of most Ukrainians was about the senseless loss of innocent life in this brutal war inflicted on Ukraine. Indeed, it occurred near a kindergarten and at least one of the dozens killed was a small child.

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But there was also another kind of reaction to this tragedy, since the victims this time included the country's top official for domestic security. For Ukrainians (and others) have been wondering — regardless of whether or not the crash was an accident — if instead of Interior Minister Monastyrsky, it had been President Volodymyr Zelensky in that helicopter. What then?

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