Hong Kong protesters
Hong Kong protesters
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ISIS CLOSING ON BAGHDAD
ISIS fighters are close to entering the Iraqi capital of Baghdad despite U.S. airstrikes in the area, with the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East saying that they are “less than two kilometers away,” The Independent reports. The newspaper also notes that ISIS and the al-Nusra front are working together in “a loose coalition” to fight attacks from the U.S.-led operation.

In an interview with CBS, President Barack Obama said that Washington had both underestimated the strength of ISIS and overestimated the capacity of the U.S.-trained Iraqi army to fight the terrorist group.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and its allies have continued targeting ISIS positions in northern and eastern Syria, including the country’s largest gas plant, The Washington Post reports. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the strikes also hit grain silos, killing civilians. Read more from Reuters.

HONG KONG PROTESTS SPREAD
Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong are still occupying the streets after yesterday’s intervention by riot police, who arrested many demonstrators but failed to disperse the crowds despite firing tear gas. To protect themselves, the thousands of protesters, most of them students, are wielding umbrellas, leading some to describe the expanding rallies against China’s decision to limit democratic reform in Hong Kong the “Umbrella revolution.”

“We’ve never seen anything like this, never imagined it,” said protester Kevin Chan, a 48-year-old factory manager said.

For more, check out this Worldcrunch piece, The View From Instagram: Hong Kong's Democracy Protests.

NEW FIGHTING IN UKRAINE
Despite a ceasefire, three civilians were killed and another five wounded in the rebel-held city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, as city authorities described a “tense” situation with artillery fire throughout the night, AFP reports. A military spokesman told Reuters that a shell fired by pro-Russians killed seven Ukrainian soldiers near the Donetsk airport, where fighting has scarcely stopped since the ceasefire was signed. This comes after rebel forces uncovered a fourth mass grave this weekend in areas previously controlled by the Ukrainian army.

280 MILLION
After two weeks of grounded flights, Air France pilots finally called off their strike yesterday, but not before costing the airline more than 280 million euros ($355 million) in revenue, or about 20 million euros for each day of deadlock.

AFGHANISTAN’S GHANI SWORN IN
Ashraf Ghani has been sworn is as the new president of Afghanistan in the country’s first democratic transition. The ceremony was preceded by a suicide bomb explosion near the Kabul airport, which Reuters reports left many dead and wounded. Ghani vowed to work for peace and to put an end to corruption, but the BBC explains that his government’s first task will be to sign a deal allowing U.S. troops to remain in the country after the end of the year, a move that Ghani’s predecessor Hamid Karzai opposed.

SEARCH HALTED AT JAPANESE VOLCANO
The estimated death toll of a massive volcanic eruption in Japan Saturday reached 36 this morning after five more bodies were found on the slopes of Mount Ontake, The Japan Times reports. Twenty-four bodies still remain on the mountain where the eruption continues, but toxic gases and ash have forced authorities to suspend the recovery operation. But a government spokesman said that the eruption would not affect the restart of a nuclear power plant in a different volcanically active area.

EU PREPARES RECORD APPLE FINE
The European Union is expected to impose a “record fine of as much as several billions of euros” against Apple, the world’s richest company, for taking illegal aid from the Irish state for more than two decades. The company struck a deal with authorities to pay less than 2% in taxes in exchange for jobs, according to the Financial Times.

POTATO SALAD PARTY
The man behind the $55,000 Kickstarter campaign for a potato salad threw a huge public party over the weekend — with 3,000 pounds of potatoes. The rest of the money will be used to support charities fighting hunger and homelessness.

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Geopolitics

Taliban Redux, Cleaned-Up Image Can't Mask Their Cruel Reality

Twenty years later the Islamist group is back in power in Afghanistan, but trying this time to win international support. Now that several months have passed, experts on the ground can offer a clear assessment if the group has genuinely transformed on such issues as women's rights and free speech.

The Taliban have now been in power for almost five months

Atal Ahmadzai and Faten Ghosn

The international community is closely monitoring the Taliban, after the group re-seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021.

There is legitimate reason for concern. The Taliban are again ruling through fear and draconian rules.

The Taliban’s last regime, in the mid-1990s, was marked by human rights violations, including massacres, mass detentions and rape. The regime collapsed on Nov. 14, 2001, shortly after the U.S. launched its global war on terrorism.

Even after the Taliban officially fell from power, their subsequent two decades of insurgency produced various gross human rights violations, an encompassing term under international human rights law.

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