Syrian Factions Meet, Trump’s “New Furor,” U2 Lifts Paris

Syrian Factions Meet, Trump’s “New Furor,” U2 Lifts Paris


Syrian armed and political opposition groups are set to meet in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh today as part of a three-day conference aimed at finding a common position ahead of potential peace talks with President Bashar al-Assad’s government, Al Jazeera reports.

  • The talks will include a dozen Free Syrian Army groups as well as the powerful Jaish al-Islam group that controls most of the Eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus.
  • According to the BBC, the Ahrar al-Sham group, which has fought alongside the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, has also been invited to the talks but has not yet said if it will attend.
  • The Kurdish group Democratic Union Party, its armed wing the YPG and their allies the Syrian Democratic Forces weren’t invited, which could undermine the talks. Instead, they are set to hold a separate meeting in Syria’s northeastern province of Hasakah.
  • The al-Nusra Front and ISIS will not attend the talks.
  • The conference comes amid international efforts to restart peace talks in Syria, which could include negotiating with Assad’s government, The Guardian reports.
  • Amnesty International called today for an embargo on arming all forces fighting in Syria in order to stop weapon proliferation.


“I am hereby barring Donald Trump from entering St. Petersburg until we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps,” Rick Kriseman, the Democratic mayor of St. Petersburg, Fla., joked in a tweet today, joining a wave of reactions to Donald Trump’s call to “ban” all Muslims from entering the U.S. Other Republican figures were quick to react, with Jeb Bush describing Trump as “unhinged,” Dick Cheney saying this “goes against everything we believe in,” and the Philadelphia Daily News even comparing Trump to Hitler on its front page.


Photo: Shen Bohan/Xinhua/ZUMA

Chinese authorities issued the first-ever pollution “red alert” in Beijing late yesterday as the intensity of tiny particles reached record levels, China Daily reports. It has brought the Chinese capital to a partial halt, as half of the city’s cars have been ordered off the streets, schools have been closed and many factories have been forced to stop operations until midday Thursday. According to the U.S. embassy’s air pollution monitor in Beijing, the air pollution levels that are more than 12 times the maximum exposure recommended by the World Health Organization. This is the first time China has declared a red alert under the four-tier alert system it adopted in October 2013. But the BBC reports that these record pollution levels are far from being the city’s worst.


As many as 43,000 homes were still without electricity in northern England last night after storm Desmond left severe flooding in the region over the weekend, the BBC reports. More rain is expected this week, and about 100 flood warnings have been issued across Great Britain.


Yemen President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi confirmed Monday that he asked the Saudi-led coalition carrying out airstrikes in the country to begin a week-long ceasefire beginning Dec. 15 to coincide with U.N.-sponsored peace talks that will aim to end months of deadly conflict, Al Jazeera reports. This comes after the United Nations said Yemen’s warring parties could meet for talks in Switzerland.


John Lennon was assassinated in New York 35 years ago today. That, and more, in today’s 57-second shot of history.


South African athlete Oscar Pistorius will remain under house arrest with electronic monitoring while he awaits sentencing for the 2013 murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, the high court in Pretoria ruled this morning, News24 reports. His manslaughter conviction was changed to murder last week, and he now faces a 15-year sentence for the crime. The verdict is set to be delivered on April 18, 2016.


Europe is increasingly turning to the so-called attachment parenting approach to child rearing, which sees kids and adults as equals. It may have unforeseen effects on children, as Die Welt reports, but even more so on parents. “Children aren't the only one with needs. Parents have them too, and it is these needs that children have to accept as they get older, critics say. The demands placed on parents, and especially mothers, are burdensome with attachment parenting. Always being present imposes restrictions on women and forces them back into traditional female roles.”

Read the full article, Hidden Perils Of The Attachment Parenting Movement.



U2 invited the Eagles Of Death Metal onto the stage at their Paris concert last night. It’s the first time the U.S. band played in the French capital since terrorists killed 90 people at their Nov. 13 concert at the Bataclan, NME reports. The two bands performed a cover of Patti Smith’s “People Have The Power” together, before Eagles Of Death Metal closed the show with their own track “I Love You All The Time.”

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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.



• 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.


"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.



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.


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.

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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.


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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