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The Mezzeh area of Damascus in July 2013
The Mezzeh area of Damascus in July 2013

SYRIA ACCUSED OF RAZING NEIGHBORHOODS
The Syrian government is alleged to have unlawfully demolished entire neighborhoods in parts of Damascus and Hama to punish civilians in areas where the regular army had been fighting with the opposition, NGO Human Rights Watch said in a report published this morning. The study is based on satellite pictures that show the destruction of residential and commercial buildings.

MILITANTS TAKE HOSTAGES IN IRAQ GOVERNMENT BUILDING
A group of eight gunmen stormed a government building in northeast Baghdad and took civil servants hostage, AFP reports, quoting official sources. Although nobody has yet claimed responsibility, al-Qaeda-linked group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant are thought to be behind the attack, which was preceded by several explosions in the Iraqi capital. Since the beginning of the month, at least 909 people have been killed in Iraq.

U.S. ACCUSES RUSSIA OF MISSILE TREATY VIOLATION
The United States notified NATO earlier this month that it believes Russia has been testing a new missile, in violation of a 1987 agreement signed by then-presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, The New York Times reports officials as saying.

VOLGOGRAD SUICIDE BOMBERS IDENTIFIED
Russia’s counter-terrorism agency announced this morning it had identified the suicide bombers responsible for the terrorist attacks that killed 34 people in Volgograd in late December. Suspected accomplices have also been arrested, news agency ITAR-TASS reports. Earlier this month, Russia’s main security agency said Saudi Arabia was directly involved in the attack.

UKRAINE PRESIDENT ON SICK LEAVE
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has taken a sick leave, due to “acute respiratory illness combined with a high fever,” Interfax reports. Yanukovych has been under pressure from the opposition to resign since the Kiev protests started two months ago. This comes after the opposition rejected a proposed amnesty bill for the protesters on condition that they leave the occupied government buildings.

Writing in The Guardian, columnist Seumas Milne sheds new light on the protesters, explaining that contrary to what Western media report, “far-right nationalists and fascists have been at the heart of the protests,” including “hard-right antisemitic Svoboda” party.

DANISH COALITION GOVERNMENT COLLAPSES
Denmark’s government is on the brink of losing power after one of the parties that formed the minority coalition, the Socialist People's Party, announced it was leaving government over its refusal of sale of a state-controlled energy group Dong to Goldman Sachs. Read the full story from the Financial Times.

VERBATIM
British historian Niall Ferguson says Britain should have stayed out of World War I.

BY THE NUMBERS
A recent study shows that at least 20% of the Neanderthal genome can be found in modern-day humans.

CRIME INT’L
A Dutch drug trafficker arrested with a kilogram of meth and other drugs walked free because the Belgian police wrote the warrant in French instead of Dutch.

INTRODUCING MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD

We bring you 50 years of travel, 80 countries, and the spoils of 20,000 slides in a new Worldcrunch feature, My Grand-Père's World. Above, The building in the background is Copenhagen's 17th century Borsen, the oldest stock exchange in Denmark. With its intriguing spire made of four dragon tails twined together, I wondered if Danish bankers appreciated the architect's twisted sense of humor...

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Geopolitics

It's Not About Mussolini, Searching For The Real Giorgia Meloni

As the right-wing coalition tops Italian elections, far-right leader of the Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, is set to become Italy's next prime minister. Both her autobiography and the just concluded campaign help fill in the holes in someone whose roots are in Italy's post-fascist political parties.

Giorgia Meloni at a political rally in Palermo on Sept. 20.

Alessandro Calvi

-Analysis-

ROME — After Sunday’s national election results, Italy is set to have its first ever woman prime minister. But Giorgia Meloni has been drawing extra attention both inside and outside of the country because of her ideology, not her gender.

Her far-right pedigree in a country that invented fascism a century ago has had commentators rummaging through the past of Meloni and her colleagues in the Brothers of Italy party in search of references to Benito Mussolini.

But even as her victory speech spoke of uniting the country, it is far more useful to listen to what she herself has said since entering politics to understand the vision the 45-year-old lifelong politician has for Italy’s future.

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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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