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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.


WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY



GOP HEADQUARTERS TORCHED

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.


DEADLY PRISON RIOT IN BRAZIL

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.


AFRICAN LEADERS SIGN MAJOR DEAL TO FIGHT PIRACY

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.


— ON THIS DAY

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


2 TRILLION

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


— WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

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 PRODUCT EVENT DELAYED

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.


— MY GRAND-PERE'S WORLD

Flying Blind — Ghardaïa, 1970


CHINA LAUNCHES MANNED SPACE MISSION

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.


MORE STORIES, BROUGHT TO YOU BY WORLDCRUNCH

BREAKING A SWEAT

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

Along The "New Border" Of Ukraine, Annexation Has Just Doubled The Danger

Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of Ukrainian territories in a ceremony in the Kremlin. In a village just a few kilometers away from what is now the Ukraine-Russia "border" in Putin's eyes, life continues amid constant shelling and the fear of what comes next.

Ukrainian soldiers are stationed in the village of Inhulka, near Kherson.

Stefan Schocher

INHULKA — The trail leads over a gravel road, a rickety pontoon bridge past a checkpoint. Here in the remote village of Inhulka near Kherson in southern Ukraine, soldiers sit in front of the village shop. Inside, two women run back and forth behind the counter, making coffee, selling sausages, weighing tomatoes. "Natalochka, where are the cookies," calls a dark-haired lady across the room.

But Natalochka, her colleague, is about to lose her nerve. "What kind of life is that?" she says, finally reaching up to grab the cookies from the top of a shelf. What kind of life can it be, she asks, when something is constantly exploding next to you and you don't know if you'll wake up in the morning.

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Inhulka is the center of a rural community. 1,587 inhabitants, as the village chief says, one school, one kindergarten, one doctor, two stores. Since March, nothing here is as it used to be. That was when the Russian army came to the village.

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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.

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