Iraqi forces launch large-scale push to retake western Mosul from ISIS

FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2016 file photo, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq.

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces launched a large-scale military operation on Sunday to retake the western half of Mosul and dislodge Islamic State militants. It is the latest phase in a 4-month-old offensive to retake Iraq’s second largest city.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of the operation on state TV, saying government forces were moving to “liberate the people of Mosul from Daesh oppression and terrorism forever,” using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. He called on security forces to deal with civilians properly and to respect human rights.

Iraqi forces declared eastern Mosul “fully liberated” last month, however ISIS militants continued to launch attacks there. Hours after the latest operation was announced, suicide bombers struck troops and pro-government Sunni militiamen in eastern Mosul.

“ISIS’s cruelty, brutality and reach show they are not just a threat in Iraq and Syria, but to the region and the entire world,” said Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, in a statement.

Plumes of smoke were seen rising into the sky early Sunday morning as U.S.-led coalition jets struck militant positions southwest of Mosul and militarized Iraqi police fired artillery toward the city. Heavily armed police units were getting ready to move north with their armored vehicles from a base just southwest of the city.

“This is zero hour and we are going to end this war, God willing,” said Mahmoud Mansour, a police officer, as he prepared to move out.

The battle for western Mosul promises to be the most daunting yet, as the half of the city west of the Tigris River has older, narrower streets and is still home to hundreds of thousands of civilians, who have been told to shelter in place.

“Mosul would be a tough fight for any army in the world, and the Iraqi forces have risen to the challenge,” said Townsend. “They have taken the fight to the enemy and sacrificed their blood for the people of Iraq and the rest of the world.”

The immediate objective was to take the villages on the southern outskirts of Mosul airport, a police spokesman told The Associated Press. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.

Police units quickly moved into the village of Athba, about 3 miles (5 kilometers) southwest of the airport, encountering only light resistance, according to an AP reporter traveling with them. Separately, the army’s 9th Division moved into the village of Bakhira, also southwest of the city, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense said.

The United Nations meanwhile warned that hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped inside their houses “are at extreme risk,” with dwindling fuel and food supplies and scare drinking water and electricity.

“The situation is distressing. People, right now, are in trouble,” Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, said in a statement. “We are hearing reports of parents struggling to feed their children and to heat their homes,” Grande said.

Citing witnesses in western Mosul, the U.N. said nearly half of all food shops were closed and bakeries had shut down due to a lack of fuel and an inability to purchase costly flour. Prices of kerosene and cooking gas have skyrocketed, and many of the most destitute families are burning wood, furniture, plastic or garbage for cooking and heating.

“Three out of five people now depend on untreated water from wells for cooking and drinking as water systems and treatment plants have been damaged by fighting or run out of chlorine,” said Peter Hawkins, of the U.N. agency for children.

The humanitarian agencies were gearing up to aid 250,000 to 400,000 civilians who may flee due to fighting, the statement said. The U.N. estimates that about 750,000 civilians may be left in western Mosul.

Iraqi forces spent three months driving ISIS from eastern Mosul, but the militants appear to have left sleeper cells to carry out attacks behind the front lines.

Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, an Iraqi military spokesman, said a suicide bomber set off struck a patrol of Sunni tribal fighters in Zihoor neighborhood, while another targeted Iraqi troops in Nabi Younis.

Rasool declined to provide casualty figures. Two policemen said one Sunni fighter was killed and nine wounded in the first attack, while the second attack wounded five soldiers. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

Iraqi special operations forces, regular army and federal police units are taking part in the offensive along with government-approved paramilitary forces, mainly consisting of Shiite militias, which are operating on the city’s outskirts.

Mosul fell to ISIS in the summer of 2014, along with large swaths of northern and western Iraq. It is the extremist group’s last major urban bastion in Iraq.

[Source:-Fox news]

Here’s what the new Allo chat themes are going to look like when they launch [Gallery]

We told you in our quick teardown of Google Allo 2.0 just a couple days ago that we found evidence that Google is preparing to add chat themes to its Allo messenger. Now we have actually managed to enable these themes on a rooted device and we’ve screenshotted them for you to check out before the app actually gets them…

If you have the latest version of Allo, you may have noticed that Google added a “Monochrome” theme option in the “General settings” menu. That option doesn’t make sense in the current version, because the monochrome mode isn’t really all that much different than the mostly-monochrome default theme. But that’s about to change, because you’re soon going to be able to pick from a variety of colorful themes for each of your chats.

As you can see below, these match up pretty well with the many theme names we discovered the other day. They range from “Moon” to “Sorbet” to “Clouds”. Please ignore my terribly hideous Allo selfie.

It seems that the app is going to suggest that you pick a theme every time you start a new conversation, and then you’ll be able to change it at any time from the same menu that houses other chat details like notifications and seeing a gallery of shared media.

Here’s what the theme picker and the chat settings menus look like:

The Google Allo 2.0 update is a pretty substantial one, but this is one of those features that look to be waiting for a Google server-side switch. Other than this, Allo 2.0 has app shortcuts that let you create a conversation by tapping and holding the icon from the home screen, Quick Reply for replying from an Allo notification, multi-window mode for using the app alongside another one in Android Nougat, and a new accessibility mode.

We still don’t know when chat themes will roll out in Allo, but stay tuned as we learn more.

[Source:-9 to 5 ,mac]

Iraqi forces launch military push to drive IS from Mosul

Peshmerga forces advance in the east of Mosul to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq on Monday.

Iraqi government and Kurdish forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition air and ground support, launched coordinated military operations early on Monday as the long-awaited fight to wrest the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State fighters got underway.

Convoys of Iraqi, Kurdish and U.S. forces could be seen moving east of Mosul into the early hours of the day. Along the front line, U.S.-led coalition airstrikes sent plumes of smokes into the air and heavy artillery rounds could be heard.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of the operations on state television, launching the country on its toughest battle since American troops left nearly five years ago.

Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, has been under IS rule for more than two years and is still home to more than a million civilians according to U.N. estimates.

“These forces that are liberating you today, they have one goal in Mosul which is to get rid of Daesh and to secure your dignity. They are there for your sake,” al-Abadi said, addressing the city’s residents and using the Arabic language acronym for the Islamic State group.

“God willing, we shall win,” he added, dressed in the uniform of the elite counterterrorism forces and flanked by military commanders.

The push to retake Mosul will be the biggest military operation in Iraq since American troops left in 2011 and, if successful, the strongest blow yet to the Islamic State. A statement on Al—Abadi’s website pledged the fight for the city would lead to the liberation of all Iraqi territory from the militants this year.

In Washington, Defense Secretary Ash Carter called the launch of the operation to liberate Mosul “a decisive moment in the campaign” to deliver a lasting defeat to IS. He said the U.S. and other members of the international coalition stand ready to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

Iraqi forces have been massing around the city in recent days, including elite special forces that are expected to lead the charge into the city, as well as Kurdish forces, Sunni tribal fighters, federal police and Shiite militia forces.

South of Mosul, Iraqi military units are based at the sprawling Qayara air base, but to the city’s east, men are camped out in abandoned homes as the tens of thousands of troops massed around the city have overwhelmed the few military bases in the area.

Kurdish forces are stationed to the north and east of Mosul, a mostly Sunni city that has long been a center of insurgent activity and anti-central government sentiment after the U.S.—led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Iraqi officials have warned that the Mosul operation has been rushed before a political agreement has been set for how the city will be governed after IS.

Lt. Col. Amozhgar Taher with Iraq’s Kurdish forces, also known as the peshmerga, said his men would only move to retake a cluster of mostly Christian and Shabak villages east of Mosul and would not enter the city itself due to their concern for “sectarian sensitivities.”

“To eliminate the threat we must eliminate (IS) from Mosul,” Taher said at a makeshift base in an abandoned house along the frontline some 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of Mosul.

The city fell to IS fighters during the militants’ June 2014 blitz that left nearly a third of Iraq in the extremists’ hands and plunged the country into its most severe crisis since the U.S-led invasion. After seizing Mosul, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi visited the city to declare an Islamic caliphate that at one point covered nearly a third of Iraq and Syria.

But since late last year, the militants have suffered battlefield losses in Iraq and their power in the country has largely shrunk to Mosul and small towns in the country’s north and west. Mosul is about 360 kilometers northwest of the capital, Baghdad.

The operation to retake Mosul is expected to be the most complex yet for Iraq’s military, which has been rebuilding from its humiliating 2014 defeat.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, said in a statement that the operation to regain control of Mosul could take “weeks, possibly longer.”

Earlier, Iraqi Brig. Gen Haider Fadhil told The Associated Press in an interview that more than 25,000 troops, including paramilitary forces made up of Sunni tribal fighters and Shiite militias, will take part in the offensive that will be launched from five directions around the city.

The role of the Shiite militias has been particularly sensitive, as Nineveh, where Mosul is located, is a majority Sunni province and Shiite militia forces have been accused of carrying out abuses against civilians in other operations in majority Sunni parts of Iraq.

Fadhil voiced concern about potential action from Turkish troops based in the region of Bashiqa, northeast of Mosul. Turkey sent troops to the area late last year to train anti—IS fighters there. But Baghdad has seen the Turkish presence as a “blatant violation” of Iraqi sovereignty and has demanded the Turkish troops withdraw, a call Ankara has ignored.

Military operations are also predicted to displace 200,000 to a million people, according to the United Nations. Just a few kilometers from the eastern front line, rows of empty camps for displaced civilians line the road, but aid groups say they only have enough space for some 100,000 people.

“It is the future of Iraq at stake,” said Aleksandar Milutinovic, the Iraq country director for the International Rescue Committee. He stressed that the population of Mosul is not all supporters of IS, “they’re just people who had no other opportunity or a place to go” and urged Iraqi forces to “show will and a very serious commitment to protecting civilians and ensuring their wellbeing.”

In the midst of a deep financial crisis, the Iraqi government says it lacks the funds to adequately prepare for the humanitarian fallout of the Mosul fight. In some cases commanders say they are encouraging civilians to stay in their homes rather than flee.

“While we may be celebrating a military victory (after the Mosul operation is complete),” said Falah Mustafa, the foreign minister for Iraq’s Kurdish region, “we don’t want to have also created a humanitarian catastrophe.”

[Source:-The Hindu]

What Could Happen if You Launch a Podcast in the Next 30 Days?

imagine your future in podcasting

Let’s start with a question you know the answer to:

What do you need to build a successful online business today?

Well, you start with a growing, loyal audience who views you as an authority. Content Marketing 101.

Now another question you probably can answer:

How do you stand out from the crowd, cut through the noise, and build anauthentic connection with an audience when there is already so much content out there and more coming every day?

Isn’t it too … late?

No, it’s not too late.

But the reality of the content abundance all around us does mean that wecannot blend in and expect to stand out.

We must attract attention, be useful, and build trust.

In other words, we need to be remarkable.

And there is no better way to create an authentic connection with an audience than through a remarkable podcast.

Now I’ve got a question I bet you don’t know the answer to … yet.

If you launched a podcast today about your favorite topic in the entire world, where could you be five years from now?

Think about it for a minute. Let your mind wander.

While you’re thinking, I’ll quickly share my story.

Five years ago, I did launch a podcast about my favorite topic in the entire world: Indiana Hoosiers basketball.

I didn’t really know what I was doing — I was nervous and a little afraid — but I launched it anyway. And somehow I convinced a couple of guys I’d never met to co-host with me.

Five years later, The Assembly Call gets hundreds of live viewers, thousands more on the podcast, and is simulcast live on terrestrial radio.

Yeah, I host a radio show now. Who’da thunk? (That was fun to type.)

We also have an official internship program with the IU Sports Media school, and we are entirely listener supported.

Imagine if I hadn’t made that choice to launch the show five years ago, well before I was ready.

Actually, I’d rather not. I’m quite fond of what has transpired since.

So … did you come up with an answer?

Where could you be in five years if you launched your podcast in the next 30 days?

You know, come to think of it, five years is a long time to wait.

Let me rephrase that question.

If you launched a podcast today, about a topic strategically chosen to help you build an audience that could build a business, where could you be 18 months from now?

Think about it for a minute. Let your mind wander.

While you’re thinking, I’ll quickly share my friend Jonny Nastor’s story.

Eighteen months ago, he did launch a podcast about a topic strategically chosen to help him build an audience that would build his business: the entrepreneurial mindset.

He didn’t really know what he was doing — he was nervous and a little afraid — but he launched it anyway. And somehow he convinced a sponsor to support him before he’d even published an episode.

Eighteen months later, Hack the Entrepreneur is one of the top business podcasts in the world, gets tens of thousands of downloads every episode, and Jonny was able to repurpose material from the podcast into a book that became an Amazon bestseller.

Yeah, he went from unknown podcaster to bestselling author in 18 months. (I bet that was fun for him to read.)

Jonny also recently launched a paid membership community and has now interviewed more of his business heroes than he can probably count.

Imagine if he hadn’t made that choice to launch the show 18 months ago, well before he was ready.

Actually, I bet he’d rather not, as I know he’s quite fond of what has transpired since.

So … did you come up with an answer?

Where could you be in 18 months if you launched your podcast in the next 30 days?

You know, 18 months is a lot less than five years, but it’s still a while to wait.

Let me rephrase that question.

If you launched a podcast today, about a topic you are passionate about and that was chosen strategically to build an audience that could build an online training business, where could you be six weeks from now?

Think about it for a minute. Let your mind wander.

While you’re thinking, I’ll quickly share my story of working with Jonny.

On April 1, 2015, we launched a podcast about a topic that we are passionate about, and that was chosen strategically to build an audience that could build an online training business: podcasting.

At this point, after our individual podcasting successes on our own, we had a much better idea of what we were doing, but neither of us had ever built a course before. So, we were still nervous and a little afraid. But we launched anyway.

Less than six weeks later, on May 8, 2015, The Showrunner was one of the most popular Management & Marketing podcasts in the world, and our course, The Showrunner Podcasting Course, had grossed more than $75,000.

Yes, we had gone from nervous, sweaty-palmed novices to respected podcast instructors. (It wasn’t easy, but it was incredibly rewarding.)

And both the podcast and course kept growing. The Showrunner Podcasting Course would gross nearly $175,000 by August 20, when we closed new registrations for 2015.

Imagine if we hadn’t made that choice to launch the podcast on April 1 and launch the course just a few weeks later.

Actually, we’d rather not. We’re both quite fond of what has transpired since.

So … did you come up with an answer?

Where could you be in six weeks if you launched your podcast in the next 30 days?

That’s not a long time to wait.

What will your story be?

Those are just three podcasting stories. My story, Jonny’s story, and our story together.

But the subtle secret about this post is that it’s not about us — it’s aboutyou.

I told you those stories because I want you to understand the podcasting paths that Jonny and I have walked, while also realizing that there isn’t much separating you from me or you from Jonny.

And if launching a podcast can have that big of an impact on our lives, creating relationships and business opportunities we never thought we’d have, then it can do the same for you.

  • Yes, you’ll probably have to be willing to overcome some nerves.
  • Yes, you’ll likely have to face a few fears.
  • Yes, you’ll have to learn as you go.
  • And yes, you’ll surely make a few mistakes along the way.

But so did we.

The difference is that we did it mostly on our own, especially in the beginning, so it took longer for us to succeed than necessary.

We don’t want you to go through that.

  • We’ve developed processes and templates to help you be more efficient.
  • We’ve recorded lessons and interviews with experts to teach you the skills and knowledge you need to succeed.
  • We’ve uncovered tips and tricks to help you be more confident and natural behind the mic.
  • We’ve committed to hosting regular online get-togethers where we can answer your questions and provide specific, tailored feedback toyou about your show.
  • And we’ve gathered an incredible group of Showrunners into one community to offer feedback, answer questions, and provide support when you need it most.

Which you will. :-) And it’s okay.

Podcasting is fairly simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Nor will we sugarcoat it and tell you it is.

But you know that. Nothing truly rewarding is easy. Anything worth having requires plenty of blood, sweat, and tears. And maybe even a little delayed gratification.

That’s what it will take to build the podcast audience that can build your business.

But boy is it worth it.

And you’re less than 30 days from getting started, if you choose to be.

Take the first step right now — but don’t take it alone. Join us in The Showrunner Podcasting Course.

Jonny and I relaunched it this week, and we’d love to have you join us.

 

[SOURCE :-copyblogger]