NEED TO KNOW
A cease-fire in Syria — but not the one you think. Two of the many disparate rebel factions fighting to overthrow the Syrian government — one of them with ties to Al Qaeda — have agreed a truce in the northern town of Azaz. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, an umbrella group allied with the international jihadist network, seized control of the town from the Free Syrian Army on Wednesday; today, it seems to have reached a cease-fire with the much larger, and Western-backed, FSA.
That goes some way toward allaying fears of "a war within a war" — but what of, well, the war? It seemed a breakthrough could be nigh when Syria's deputy prime minister said in an exclusive interview with The Guardian that the government was as sick of fighting as everyone else, and planned to ask for help negotiating a cease-fire. His party, however, has since insisted he was misquoted. Hope, dashed.
Still there, still dangerous. More than 30 Yemeni troops are dead after what are thought to have been coordinated Al Qaeda attacks on military bases. Early this morning, under cover of heavy fog, attackers suspected to belong to the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula branch detonated two car bombs and launched a shooting assault on two army targets in Yemen's south.
This, weeks after AQAP was said to have lost key members to US drone strikes. If the group was indeed able to attack closely guarded bases even without its former leaders, it's a sign that its classification as one of the world's most dangerous terrorist networks still holds.
WANT TO KNOW
What is it these days with politicians and the press? After Vladimir Putin's New York Times op-ed and John McCain's less than illustrious riposte, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is the latest political animal to pick up his pen. You'll catch his byline in today's Washington Post, where the much-hyped moderate has a cheery editorial calling for "constructive engagement" and "win-win outcomes."
The sunshine jargon comes just days before the UN General Assembly in New York, where, the White House has hinted, Rouhani might be the first Iranian leader to meet a US president since 1979. He'll be accompanied by Iran's sole Jewish member of parliament, in what looks to be the most intensive phase yet of the new president's charm offensive. Should be interesting. Now if you'll excuse us, we have to go see whether Kim Jong Un doesn't fancy giving us 600 words on non-proliferation.
An unnatural disaster. The death toll from Mexico's two torrential storms this week is now hovering around 100. Aside from the human cost, Tropical Storm Manuel and Hurricane Ingrid have destroyed many millions of dollars' worth of property and left key infrastructure in ruins. And forecasters say another cyclone is on its way.
As a tropical country, Mexico is fated to endure such disasters each year. But there's little natural in the extent of the damage they do. Though these latest storms were far from the worst of their kind, years of environmental mismanagement have left Mexico vulnerable to even the weakest of extreme weather. GlobalPost looks at why Mexico's latest disaster is at least partly man-made.
STRANGE BUT TRUE
Fuzzy duck, fuzzy duck, does he... change your brain? Yes, according to the man behind the world's at least sixth most important duck (come on, it's up against Daffy, Daisy and the entire DuckTales crowd): the giant rubber ducky that's floated everywhere from Hong Kong to Sydney, Auckland to San Paolo and now, Taiwan.
Florentijn Hofman, the Dutch artist who created the avian installation, says the duck "changes" whichever harbor it docks in — "and it changes also your fantasy and your brain." Well, we've been following the fowl fellow since the off. Well in that case, we're well and truly... ducked.