ISIS STRIKES BACK, BUT FAILS
More than 300 ISIS fighters launched a vast attack against Kurdish forces in several locations near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, but their assault was repelled by the Kurdish fighters backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, The Washington Post reports. At least 180 jihadist fighters are reported to have been killed in what's described as "the most intense fighting that northern Iraq has seen this year." The attack, which the newspaper says shows the "resilience" of ISIS, also highlights the difficulties lying ahead for the recapture of Mosul.
ISRAEL, TURKEY RESTORE TIES
Israel and Turkey have begun normalizing their relations, five years after the Israeli navy attacked a Turkish flotilla carrying activists to Gaza and killed 10 of them, Haaretz reports. Under a preliminary agreement, Israel will pay Turkey $20 million in compensation and Turkey will drop all claims against Israel. The Financial Times notes that the deal paves the way for cooperation on natural gas, with talks of an undersea pipeline to export Israeli gas to Turkey. This comes amid high tensions between Turkey and its main gas supplier, Russia.
Photo: Tao Zhang/NurPhoto/ZUMA
A worker carves a large snow sculpture in preparation for the 28th International Snow Sculpture Art Expo in Harbin, northern China, which opens on Dec. 20.
MIRACLE CONFIRMED FOR MOTHER TERESA
Pope Francis has officially recognized a second miracle attributed to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mother Teresa, paving the way for her sainthood, Catholic newspaper Avvenire reports. The canonization of the iconic Albanian-born nun will likely take place next year, in September, according to the Italian newspaper. Mother Teresa was beatified in 2003 by Pope John Paul II, six years after her death.
ON THIS DAY
From ballet theatres to outer space, here's Dec. 18 in 57 seconds.
SECOND SMOG RED ALERT IN BEIJING
Chinese authorities in Beijing have issued their highest pollution warning for a second time in the past eight days. They are forecasting at least four days of thick smog and the pollution index is expected to exceed 500 in some parts of the city, well above the 25 considered as the maximum safe level by the World Health Organization. Read more from Reuters.
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
Martin Shkreli, the young CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals and KaloBios Pharmaceuticals whose name became synonymous with ever-rising drug prices, was released on a $5-million bond after he pleaded not guilty to various charges of security fraud. Prosecutors believe he ran his businesses like "a Ponzi scheme."
BOOST FOR BRAZIL'S DILMA IN IMPEACHMENT SAGA
The Brazilian Supreme Court ordered a complete overhaul of impeachment procedures, in a move that could potentially throw a lifeline to besieged president Dilma Rousseff, Folha de S. Paulo reports. The decision to scrap a lower house commission set up to deal with the impeachment procedure and instead give that power to the Senate, where Rousseff enjoys greater support, is a blow to her opponents, and especially her main rival, the lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha.
Bicycles with electric motors are becoming more popular and controversial at the same time. Environmentalists wonder if cyclists are losing their carbon neutrality in pursuit of an extra boost, Süddeutsche Zeitung's Marco Völklein reports: "This is the so-called S-Pedelec, a bicycle fitted with an electrical motor that can reach speeds of up to 27 mph. An insurance registration number is marked underneath the saddle, and a bulky battery is attached to the down tube which in turn powers the motor situated within the chain rings. For those who ride actual racing bikes without electrical help, such as Köhler, this bicycle is a sacrilege. â€˜It's not sports equipment,' he says."
Read the full article, The E-Cycle, Pedaling That Fine Line Of Ecology And Utility.
VW'S EX-BOSS STILL ON PAYROLL
Despite officially resigning in September at the height of Volkswagen's emissions scandal, former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn is still on the company's payroll and could earn millions until his contract terminates at the end of 2016, an investigation by Germany's business daily Handelsblatt and TV network ZDF reveals. Read more here.
This expand=1] young Irishman thought he'd surprise his parents by Skype-calling them while â€¦ skydiving. (Warning: Contains profanity. And awesomeness.)