Anti-ISIS Strikes, Cameron's Plea, Daredevil Grandma

U.S. STEPS UP ANTI-ISIS STRIKES
Washington opened a new phase in its anti-ISIS campaign by launching airstrikes near Baghdad to help the Iraqi government regain territories it lost to the terrorist group, The New York Times reports. The newspaper also reported that ISIS is recruiting heavily in the poor neighborhoods of Turkey’s capital Ankara, from which it then smuggles its fighters to Syria. Meanwhile, according to The Independent, even al-Qaeda is calling on the terrorist organization to release Alan Henning, the British aid worker who is being held hostage and who was threatened at the end of the group’s last video.

UK PLEDGES MORE POWER TO SCOTLAND
In a rare show of unity, the leaders of Britain’s three main political parties have signed a pledge to transfer more power to the Scottish Parliament if voters choose to remain part of the United Kingdom in Thursday’s referendum, a proposal made last week by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The “historic joint statement,” published by newspaper Daily Record, comes after British Prime Minister David Cameron offered an impassioned plea Monday for Scotland to reject independence.

“If you don’t like me, I won’t be here forever,” a teary-eyed Cameron said during a speech in Scotland ahead of Thursday's historic vote in which he pleaded with voters to remain part of the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, The Independent reports that British banks are sending millions of pound notes to their branches in Scotland, anticipating a possible run on ATMs if the Scots vote “yes” to independence.

TRAGIC SHIPWRECK POSSIBLY INTENTIONAL
Last week’s shipwreck of yet another migrant boat between Egypt and Malta and believed to have killed some 500 people was apparently deliberate, the International Organization for Migration said yesterday. The report, which is being investigated by the police, is based on the accounts of two Palestinians who were on the boat. They claim that their traffickers deliberately rammed the boat after the passengers refused to be transferred onto another ship they considered “not seaworthy,” The Wall Street Journal writes. If true, “it would be the worst shipwreck in years — not an accident but a mass murder,” the IOM said in a statement.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
As Le Temps’ reports, Switzerland is home to Google's largest research center outside of the United States, the first of which were in Mountain View, California, and in New York City. “Here, Google doesn't just occupy a building, but more like an entire neighborhood,” journalist Anouch Seydtaghia writes. “So far, the company leases three buildings and is in the process of acquiring a fourth across the street. ‘When I arrived in 2007, we had 100 employees in Zurich,’ says Eric Tholomé, one of the three directors of the Zurich site. ‘Now we have 1,300 and are still hiring.’"
Read the full article, Inside Google's Largest Non-U.S. Office -— In Zurich.

UKRAINE OFFERS AUTONOMY TO REBELS
The Ukrainian parliament has approved a bill submitted by President Petro Poroshenko that offers limited autonomy to the mostly rebel-held regions of Donetsk and Luhansk for the next three years, and amnesty for those taking part in the fights. The government also called for local elections in these regions on Dec. 7. The parliament has ratified an EU Association agreement to create a free-trade zone with the European Union. Poroshenko announced, however, that the agreement, which Moscow opposes, would not come into force until the end of 2015. Read more from AFP.

OBAMA'S NEW EBOLA PLANS
U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to announce today new and more significant efforts to tackle the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has already killed more than 2,400 people. According to senior administration officials quoted in The Washington Post, up to 3,000 military personnel will be dispatched to the region in a plan that could cost up to $750 million over the next six months.
For more on the deadly virus, we offer this Le Monde/Worldcrunch report from “hell,” the Liberian capital of Monrovia: Coalition Of Inaction: Outrage On The Ebola Front Line In Liberia.

$10
Biotechnology company Gilead Sciences has reached a deal with several generic drug makers to produce a version of its $1,000-per-pill hepatitis C drug Sovaldi for about $10 for use in developing countries.

THREE NATO TROOPS KILLED IN KABUL
At least three NATO soldiers were killed and some 20 civilians wounded after a Taliban attacker detonated his car bomb next to an international military convoy in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul early this morning. According to AP, the attack took place not far from the U.S. embassy and takes the number of international troops killed in Afghanistan this year to 59, among those at least 42 Americans.

DAREDEVIL GRANDMA
Watch how an 87-year-old great-grandmother jumped out of a plane from an incredible 12,000 feet to raise money for the hospice that cared for her husband. "When I'm 90, I'm going to jump again," she said afterward.

Crunched by Marc Alves


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Geopolitics

The New Iraq, Signs Of Hope Amid The Rubble And Reconstruction

How do you rebuild a country decimated by four decades of war and embargoes? Following the withdrawal of the U.S. military, Iraq faces many challenges, from oil revenues captured by the militias and endemic corruption to religious segregation. However, there are glimmers of hope for the country's future.

Street scene in Erbil, Iraq

Théophile Simon

BAGHDAD — With a vast office located at the top of a tower fiercely guarded by the army and a bell to call the staff, Khalid Hamza Abbas is obviously a powerful character, decked out in an impeccable suit. Abbas runs the Basra Oil Company (BOC), the national company responsible for the exploitation of the oil fields in the province of Basra, in the very south of Iraq, from which four million barrels of crude oil flow daily. It’s the equivalent of 4% of world demand and 65% of central government revenue concentrated in a region of only four million inhabitants.

As he explains the profit-sharing scheme between the world’s major oil companies and his public enterprise, the 50-year-old with thin glasses is suddenly stopped dead in his tracks by the ringing of his telephone. He tries a joke to mask his suddenly worried face: "I'm going to ask you to leave my office for a few moments. If I haven't called you back in 10 minutes, call the police."

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