It has finally begun. More than two years since ISIS conquered Iraqâ€™s third-biggest city, a coalition of local ground forces, supported by U.S. air power, has launched a coordinated attack to recapture Mosul. â€œThe time of victory has come and operations to liberate Mosul have started,â€ Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a televised address early today. But the battle for Mosul, dubbed by some â€œthe mother of all battles,â€ 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 ISISâ€™ 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 â€œso densely that they resemble minefields.â€
- 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 itâ€™s safe to say that neither Turkey â€" which is staunchly opposed to any Kurdish reinforcement â€" 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
- Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte travels to China for a four-day visit.
- U.S. lifts restrictions on Cuban rum and cigars.
- International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
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 â€œattack on our democracy,â€ The Charlotte Observer reports. With 21 days to go until Nov. 8, and ahead of Wednesdayâ€™s final presidential debate, Trump said the election was â€œabsolutely being rigged,â€ blaming â€œthe dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary.â€ 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 Clintonâ€™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 continentâ€™s economically crucial coasts, in a bid to tackle piracy and smuggling, AFP reports.
â€" ON THIS DAY
For both the Chopin and Eminem aficionados, hereâ€™s your 57-second shot of history.
New research suggests the observable Universe has 2 trillion galaxies. Thatâ€™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: â€œâ€˜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,â€™ says journalist Don Campbell.
Matthew Bergbower, a young researcher at the Indiana University, says he's â€˜totally confidentâ€™ that Hillary Clinton will win the national election. â€˜I'm less confident about her winning in Terre Haute,â€™ he says.â€
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 â€œunexpected by most,â€ needed a few more days to be â€œrefined,â€ according to the inventor.
â€" MY GRAND-PEREâ€™S WORLD
Flying Blind â€" 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 countryâ€™s space program.
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BREAKING A SWEAT
Scientists in Japan have built a robot that can sweat like your Uncle Bill. The â€œpassive cooling systemâ€ 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.
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.
🌎 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
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
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
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