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NEED TO KNOW:
Two explosions Thursday in Beirut killed 43 people and injured hundreds more. They were suicide bombings, and the Islamic State took immediate credit.
GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Richard Hall, who lives in Beirut, writes that the explosions tore through crowds on a busy street in the neighborhood of Bourj el-Barajneh. The area is mostly Shiite and has been targeted before by Sunni extremist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
Hezbollah, a Shiite group prominent in southern Lebanon that has a military wing and a political wing, supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. While the Islamic State’s bombing was indiscriminate and probably killed all kinds of people, the presence of Hezbollah and its supporters makes the neighborhood a potential target. One local resident told Hall, “We expected this to happen.”
In Syria and Iraq — on the front lines of the war against the Islamic State — Kurdish forces are claiming to have taken back Sinjar, a region of northwestern Iraq that the Islamic State has largely controlled for more than a year. Kurds, backed by US airstrikes, only began the offensive yesterday. But today, it seems the far-outnumbered Islamic State is on the run.
US officials are also making claims of success in the fight against the Islamic State. The Pentagon has confirmed that a drone strike targeted “Jihadi John” in Raqqa, Syria — the de facto Islamic State capital. His real name is Mohammed Emwazi. He’s the guy featured in many of the Islamic State’s sadistic execution videos. He’s also a British citizen who speaks with a British accent.
A counterterrorism official told ABC News on Thursday night that Emwazi “evaporated” in the explosion, though there is still no official confirmation that it was indeed Emwazi. "He walked out of a building and got in the car. We struck it right after with zero collateral damage," he said. "The vehicle was on fire. It was a 100 percent flawless, direct hit."
It is sort of telling that the official felt the need to point out that there was no “collateral damage” and that the strike was “flawless.”
WANT TO KNOW:
The National League for Democracy, the Myanmar opposition party led by Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, won a landslide victory in last weekend’s elections. Election officials have confirmed what everyone expected: the NLD now holds a majority in Myanmar’s parliament.
That means, for the first in some 25 years, Myanmar’s military won’t be running the country. It’s a massive shift for a country that not too long ago was as isolated as North Korea.
Suu Kyi is expected to meet with the current military rulers next week. And the NLD will choose a new president in January. But first, the current parliament will have one last session, and it’s going to be really interesting to see what happens. Most of the lawmakers were voted out of office. So they have nothing to lose as they work to pass new laws in the coming months. As the BBC puts it, in its BBC way: “… this could be an opportunity for all manner of consequence-free political skulduggery.”
Under Myanmar’s current constitution, the military gets a quarter of the seats in parliament no matter what. So it will remain influential. It’ll be interesting to see if this change has any effect on the giant military-backed trade in methamphetamine that is causing chaos across much of Asia.
STRANGE BUT TRUE:
Dubai, that great and fabricated city in the desert of the United Arab Emirates, has become a vast demonstration of the wealth oil can bring. But the latest exploit by the city, while only possible with a lot of money, actually could have a really practical and positive impact: jet packs.
The city is going to start issuing jet packs to firefighting units that specialize in high-rise fires. Dubai has just placed an order for 20 or so Martin twin-engine jetpacks. Each one is $35,000. While the getup is extravagant, this new army of "Rocketeer" firefighters might actually save some lives.