Monday, August 25, 2014
ISIS SEIZES SYRIAN ARMY BASE
The terrorist group ISIS has gained control of a Syrian army air base near Raqqa, in the country’s north, after days of intense fighting during which at least 346 ISIS fighters and more than 170 Syrian troops were killed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The air base was the province’s last stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad’s government forces, but Syrian media said the army was “regrouping.” Read more from Reuters.
The al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group, freed American freelance journalist Peter Theo Curtis, who was abducted in Syria nearly two years ago. No ransom was paid, The New York Times reports. Meanwhile, the British ambassador the the U.S. told CNN that investigators were “close” to identifying the alleged British ISIS fighter who was filmed beheading journalist James Foley last week. According to The Independent, the young man could be a former London rapper who left the country to fight alongside Syria rebels.
EARTHQUAKE ROCKS CALIFORNIA
A 6.0 magnitude earthquake hit the northern California Bay Area between Napa and Vallejo at 3:20 a.m. local time, causing extensive damage to buildings in the two cities and leaving more than 100 injured, SF Gate reports. In Napa, what is now considered the strongest earthquake to hit the area since 1989 also ruptured water mains and gas lines, causing many gas leaks while firefighters were battling against at least six fires. The quake is also bad news for the renowned regional wine industry, which according to The Wall Street Journal represents $13 billion a year in Napa County and employs 46,000 people. California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency. This comes as a wildfire is threatening 650 homes near the town of Weaverville in Northern California. Read more from AP.
Britain's Richard Attenborough, an actor and Oscar-winning director, died Sunday, five days before his 91st birthday.
POSSIBLE NEW GAZA CEASEFIRE
Egypt, acting as mediator, could be hours away from announcing a one-month ceasefire agreement in Gaza, according to both Israeli military sources and Palestinian sources quoted by Ma’an news agency. The Islamic Jihad movement has agreed to the deal, but there are conflicting reports about the response from Hamas. Israel is said to have agreed.
The agreement proposes open border crossings between the Gaza Strip, Israel and Egypt, as well as new negotiations within a month. Airstrikes, meanwhile, continued over the weekend amid rocket fire, with 16 killed yesterday and the total Palestinian death toll standing at 2,120.
Tehran announced it would “accelerate the arming of the West Bank” after allegations that the Iranian army had shot down an Israeli drone above one of their uranium enrichment sites.
At an age when his friends are just learning basic reading and writing, 6-year-old Kautilya Pandit can answer complicated questions about world geography, per capita income, gross domestic product and global politics. And as KBR reports, “His analytical powers and incredible ability to remember facts have left everyone so spellbound that the local media has nicknamed this child prodigy living in northern India's Kohand village ‘Google boy.’”
Read the full article, India's Child Prodigy, Also Known As "Google Boy."
Afghanistan Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal says the country's ongoing deadlock over the presidential election has already cost the economy an estimated $5 billion.
KIEV TRIES TO HOLD OFF RUSSIAN TANKS
Ukraine’s security spokesman Leonid Matyukhin told AFP that government forces were engaged in a battle against “a convoy of several dozen tanks and armored vehicles,” which he said had entered Ukraine from Russia. These claims come after the Ukrainian authorities celebrated Independence Day yesterday with a military march in Kiev that was “intended to send a message of defiance to Russia,” Reutersreports. Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko announced that $3 billion would be spent by 2017 to re-equip the army. The rebels replied by parading captured soldiers in Donetsk.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was in Kiev Saturday, said a planned meeting tomorrow in Minsk with presidents Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko "certainly won't result in a breakthrough" in the ongoing crisis.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced Moscow’s intention to send a second humanitarian convoy to eastern Ukraine within the next few days, news agency Ria Novosti reports.
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
CONGO EBOLA OUTBREAK
Ebola is spreading from West Africa, as the Democratic Republic of Congo confirmed an outbreak of the deadly virus in northern parts of the country. Speaking to the BBC, Congolese Health Minister Felix Numbi explained that 13 people had already died. But he noted that it was a different strain than what has plagued West Africa. At least 1,427 people have died from Ebola since the first outbreak this year. The Japanese government said it was prepared to provide an experimental drug if the World Health Organization requests it.
HEMINGWAY AND THE RITZ
Seventy years ago today, Ernest Hemingway liberated the Ritz Hotel bar in Paris while Allied forces retook the French capital from the Nazis. And the American writer celebrated victory in due form, running up a tab for 51 dry Martinis. Read more about this story from AFP.