December 19, 2014
KURDS BEAT ISIS ON MOUNT SINJAR
Kurdish forces have broken a months-long ISIS siege on Mount Sinjar after a two-day offensive backed by U.S. airstrikes. The BBC describes it as the Kurds’ “biggest victory yet” against the terrorist group. Thousands of displaced people had been trapped on the mountain in northwestern Iraq since August. Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced that three ISIS military leaders had been killed in airstrikes over the past few weeks.
FOUR ARRESTED FOR PESHAWAR MASSACRE
Pakistan authorities have intensified their crackdown on Taliban insurgents after Wednesday’s Peshawar school massacre that killed 141 people, most of them children. At least four suspects, including a woman, were arrested this morning over their possible complicity in planning the attack, Dawn reports. Meanwhile, a military campaign near the border with Afghanistan continues, with at least 67 Taliban fighters killed since late yesterday.
CIA REPORT: DRONE STRIKES COUNTERPRODUCTIVE
Drone strikes and others means used in the U.S. “high-value targeting” campaign could actually “increase support for the insurgents” and terrorist groups, according to a secret 2009 CIA report published by WikiLeaks. An article in The Sydney Morning Herald notes that the report acknowledges the campaign’s mixed results in Afghanistan and Iraq. But figures from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism show that drone killings nevertheless increased dramatically the year after the report was written. Also reporting on the leak, Süddeutsche Zeitung observes that the language used in the report dehumanizes the people, referring to them only as “targets.” Wikileaks announced this was the first in a new series of leaked secret documents from the CIA.
As Les Echos’ Anais Moutot writes, the French may never abandon the notion of mealtime as sacred, but it seems they love their crumpets and chips. France is now the second-largest importer for British food products. “It mostly the snack products for which the English have a real savoir-faire that have found their place in supermarkets, says John Gleave, head of the UK Trade and Investment's French food department. Tyrrells chips, for instance, are massively popular. Launched in 2002 by a farmer in Herefordshire, a county that borders Wales, the brand has been exporting to France for two years, and it hasn't changed its packaging at all. The inscriptions are in English and the packaging, with retro photos, are humorous. David Milner, the company's general manager, says it's thanks to this ‘100% British positioning’ that the chips are successful. Their sales in France are growing on average 25% a year, he says.”
Read the full article, Bon Appetit, And Pass The Crumpets! British Food Invasion In France.
EU SANCTIONS AGAINST CRIMEA
The EU should adopt a long-term strategy on Russia if it wants to challenge “Russia's approach not only to Ukraine but also to Europe,” Donald Tusk, the new president of the European Council, said yesterday. This came as the European bloc announced new sanctions, this time targeting Crimea by barring European and EU-based companies from making any investment there. European cruise ships are also banned from Crimean ports. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the sanctions were “unacceptable.”
In an Orwellian-like move, Ukraine has established a new “Ministry of Truth” whose goal is to win the information war against Russia. Read more from The Guardian.
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
NETANYAHU FACES DISQUALIFICATION
Ahead of the March general election, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be disqualified for the upcoming leadership race of his party Likud over allegations that he illegally used party resources for his campaign, The Jerusalem Post reports. The party’s comptroller summoned him to a hearing this morning.
NASA EMAILS WRENCH TO ASTRONAUTS
As it turns out, 3D printing is even possible in space. Astronauts on the International Space Station were able to 3D-print a wrench from a CAD drawing that NASA sent digitally, achieving in minutes what would otherwise have taken months and thousands of dollars, Venture Beat reports.
XI VISITS MACAU, UMBRELLAS BANNED
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Macau this morning for a two-day visit to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the enclave’s return to Chinese rule. But there are telling signs that he has something else on his mind. According to AFP, reporters on the airport tarmac were not allowed to use umbrellas, ostensibly for security reasons, though real reason probably has more to do with symbolism. Umbrellas, of course, were the emblem of the recent Hong Kong pro-democracy protests. Hundreds of protesters are reportedly planning a march tomorrow in the city center. As Beijing tries to force Macau to diversify its economy, which relies on casinos, Reuters reports that the former Portuguese colony is becoming increasingly restive, though it remains “more controllable” than Hong Kong.
For more on Macau, we offer this La Stampa/Worldcrunch piece, How China's Corrupt Are Making Macau Rich.
AN OFFER SONY CAN’T REFUSE?
In yet another twist in the Sony hacking affair, Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho has offered the company $100,000 for the cancelled comedy film The Interview. “I will post it free on my blog,” he tweeted. “You recover 0.01% of the budget, and I can say NO to terrorist threats.”