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Record-breaking South Dakota snowfall
Record-breaking South Dakota snowfall

Sept. 12, 2014

SYRIA AND ALLIES OPPOSE U.S. ISIS PLAN
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and its allies Russia and Iran reacted negatively to U.S. President Barack Obama’s plans to launch airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, warning that such a move would violate international law if done outside the UN or without Assad’s approval, The Guardian reports. Rebel groups fighting against Assad support the Washington-led coalition, which includes Saudi Arabia and other opponents of the Syrian regime. Meanwhile, the CIA explained that ISIS has between 20,000 to 31,500 fighters, three times more than it previously estimated.

Former French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, remembered for his UN speech opposing the 2003 war in Iraq, made strong comments in an interview with French news network BFM TV. “A third war in Iraq is absurd and dangerous,” he said, adding that past military interventions had “multiplied” the number of terrorist hubs.

Writing in The Washington Post, David Ignatius expressed his belief that Obama’s “innate cautiousness is now actually a reassurance that he’ll fight this war sensibly … in a way that doesn’t needlessly exacerbate the United States’ problems with the Muslim world.”

Sami Ramadani, a Iraqi lecturer, takes the opposite view in The Guardian, denouncing Western backing of rebel groups in Syria and Iraq and accusing the U.S. of “using the ISIS savagery to further their strategic aims of dominating the region and its resources.”

RECORD U.S. SNOWFALL
Parts of Wyoming have reported getting over a foot of snowfall, while parts of South Dakota, in its earliest measure of snow on record, has been covered with eight inches, just 10 days after Labor Day and with 12 days of summer still remaining.

NEW RUSSIAN SANCTIONS FROM EU
The European Union published a new list of sanctions this morning that bar Russia’s primary oil companies from raising capital or borrowing money on European markets. Brussels is also curbing its business with Russian oil and defense companies. But this new round of sanctions could be lifted next month if the fragile ceasefire in Ukraine holds, Reuters reports. Washington is also expected to announce new sanctions. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced the country’s parliament would ratify the pact he signed with the EU before the summer and said he hoped to secure a “special status” with NATO.

VERBATIM
“The accused had the intention to shoot at the person behind the door, not to kill," South African Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled this morning, rendering a verdict of "culpable homicide" for paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius, who was accused of murdering his girlfriend last year. Pistorius, who could face 15 years in prison when he sentenced in a couple of weeks, managed to escape premeditated and even second-degree murder verdicts because the judge said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that. Though she did say that Pistorius "acted too hastily and used too much force. It is clear his conduct is negligent." Read more from the BBC.

BOKO HARAM SURROUND NIGERIAN CITY
The Borno Elder Forum, a group of influential people from the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno, warned yesterday that Islamist group Boko Haram had “completely surrounded” the state capital Maiduguri and called for the military to “fortify” the city of two million people, the BBC reports. According to Nigerian newspaper Vanguard, the defense forces are ready for battle, although the Nigerian armed forces dismissed the reports published in the foreign media as “clearly intended to cause panic in the city and the nation.”

58,820
Japan's population of centenarians has hit a record high for the 44th year in a row, the government announced Friday.

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD

U.S. THREATENED YAHOO FINE
The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day back in 2008 if it refused to hand over user data to the National Security Agency as part of the agency’s PRISM program, according to court documents unsealed yesterday. In a blog post, the company explains that the information contained in the 1,500 pages of documents illustrate “how we had to fight every step of the way to challenge the U.S. government’s surveillance efforts.” Read more from The Washington Post.

DON’T STOP THE MUSIC
Star Wars without the music really isn’t that great.

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Russian conscripts departing for their military service with the Russian Army

Anna Akage, Chloé Touchard, Meike Eijsberg and Bertrand Hauger

Russian President Vladimir Putin officially addressed the nation early Tuesday to announce the “partial mobilization” of Russian forces that will see military reservists sent to Ukraine to defend “the territorial integrity of our motherland.”

The decision marks a major escalation of the war Putin launched seven months ago, which until now he has tried to downplay domestically as a “special military operation.” The mobilization comes as Ukraine troops have made major advances this month, and follows Tuesday’s announcement of referendums in occupied parts of Ukraine that are expected to lead to their annexation as part of Russia.

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In the highly anticipated speech, Putin restated his claim that Russia is fighting against “neo-Nazis” who have seized power in Ukraine, and made allusion to Moscow’s nuclear arsenal. “We will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people,” the Russian president said, adding: "This is not a bluff."

In terms of the impact inside Russia, Putin again tried to quell possible public opposition. "I repeat, we are talking about partial mobilization, i.e., only citizens who are currently in the reserve will be called up for military service, especially those who have served in the Armed Forces and have certain military professions and relevant experience," Putin said in his address.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

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