Wednesday, December 31, 2014
- Activists: Syrian strikes kill 60 in IS-held city Associated Press
- Islamic State Reshaped Political Landscape of Middle East in 2014 The Wall Street Journal
- Mosul residents: IS group cuts phones in Iraq city Associated Press
- Iraq official: Arrested woman not IS leader's wife Associated Press
- Islamic State group support grows in Jordan town Associated Press
BAGHDAD (AP) — Backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, Kurdish Iraqi forces said they launched a large-scale offensive Wednesday to push Islamic State group extremists from an area outside the militant-held northern city of Mosul.
The targeted area covers about 120 square kilometers (46 square miles) and is located between the towns of Gwer and Makhmour, Kurdish forces said in a statement. The two towns, both recaptured by peshmerga forces in August, are located northeast of Mosul and near the Kurdish capital of Irbil.
"The objective is to push the enemy farther away from both areas," the statement said.
The U.S. Central Command said Wednesday that the international coalition it leads had conducted seven airstrikes against militants' positions in Syria and three in Iraq, using fighter jets and drones.
Earlier this month, peshmerga fighters retook small villages around the militant-held Sinjar town, opening a corridor to help hundreds of Yazidi families atop nearby Mount Sinjar.
The Islamic State group, which has declared a self-styled caliphate, holds about a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria. Kurdish peshmerga fighters from Iraq also have deployed in small numbers to help Syrian Kurds battle Islamic State group fighters in the Syrian border town of Kobani.
Welcome to The Michael Savage Newsletter, your daily insider report on all things "Savage."
In today's issue: A caller asked Dr. Savage what he thought about the growing movement to legalize marijuana.
Savage opposes it, and not for "ethical or moral reasons," but for scientific ones. He cited study after study proving that marijuana is far more toxic than tobacco, despite what its supporters say.
"Legalizing marijuana is a terrible idea for America," Savage said.
- This will increase the number of abusers of this dangerous gateway drug.
Yes, I know it is less addictive than alcohol.
But that doesn't mean it's good for you.
Marijuana has dangerous side effects that the government is hiding from you.
If you're using marijuana for medicinal purposes, you probably have a poorly functioning immune system to begin with.
The last thing you should do is introduce additional toxins into your body.
Marijuana has higher levels of toxins than tobacco.
But aside from those considerations, I can tell you that smoking marijuana is a disaster.
The worst thing is: You think you're brilliant when you're smoking dope, but you aren't.
It will lead you astray, and you'll lose many years of your life to it.
Having said that, I don't want people in jail for using it, either.
By: María Weslau
VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — When Antanas Zubavicius turns the light on in his run-down house, it's the only light for miles. He is the last man in Dumbliuneliai, a once busy farmers' village in Lithuania that has gradually been abandoned as its residents emigrated in search of better jobs.
"I'm not going anywhere. This is my land," the 60-year-old says, waving at the abandoned, shuttered houses around him. "When I am gone this village is gone too."
As Lithuania prepares to adopt the euro on Jan. 1, it is hoping that membership in the European Union's official currency will bring a rise in investment and trade. But the Baltic country's increasing integration with richer European countries is also having a pernicious side-effect: a wave of emigration that is emptying towns and causing worker shortages.
Emigration has been on the rise since 2004, when this country of 3 million people joined the EU, whose membership guarantees freedom of movement.
During the 2008-2011 financial crisis, more than 80,000 people — almost 3 percent of the population — left every year, mainly to Germany, Britain and other richer economies to earn salaries many times higher. Experts forecast that trend to continue, or even increase.
In the field of construction, business owners complain it is impossible to keep hold of workers, even with massive annual wage increases of 10 to 20 percent. The problem is not confined to rural villages. Most shopping malls, restaurants and businesses in once busy urban areas are increasingly short of labor.
"There's simply no more skilled people left here," says Arvydas Avulis, CEO of Hanner, a leading real estate investor and developer that specializes in high-rise construction.
A quick look at wage figures shows why. A manual worker in Lithuania can expect to earn 1.80 euros ($2.20) an hour compared with 4.30 euros ($5.24) in Spain and 8.60 euros ($10.50) in Ireland, according to the EU statistics agency.
In the more skilled sectors like computing, medicine or the services industry, where Lithuania's educational system produces highly qualified graduates, wage differences are even greater.
Euro membership is expected to help Lithuania's economy, even though the currency bloc is struggling to grow. Having the same currency as 18 other richer economies will facilitate commerce and reduce investment risks for foreigners. The central bank estimates the government's borrowing rate would drop by almost 1 percentage point, which would filter down to the private sector.
The problem is that Lithuania is the bloc's poorest member and even though its economy is growing at a stronger pace than most EU countries, it has a long way to develop before it can hope to offer wages on a par with other EU states.
Unsurprisingly, most Lithuanians are in favor of joining the euro, as it will cement the country's ties with the West and keep those richer labor markets open to them.
In a Nov. 26 survey by Berent Research Baltic, 53 percent of respondents said they back euro membership, up from 47 percent in September. Some 39 were opposed, down from 49 percent. A total of 1,002 people were interviewed for the poll, which had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.
Skeptics worry about the euro's recent problems with government debt and economic stagnation.
Pranciskus Sliuzas, a journalist and anti-euro activist, describes joining the euro as "one of the most stupid things of all time." He laments the fact that Lithuania is giving up some national powers, such as the ability to determine its interest rates or budget deficit.
For others, such economic arguments are of secondary concern to issues like national security — in particular the fear of an increasingly aggressive Russia. Along with neighbors Latvia and Estonia, Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union for almost five decades.
"I think it would be a good thing to get closer to the rest of Europe as the only other option is to become friends with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin," said Janina Gailiene, a retired primary school teacher in Vilnius.
For all the potential economic and security benefits, that means business leaders like Avulis will continue to struggle with a shortage of workers as Lithuania's economy integrates further with the West.
One solution businesses are lobbying for is to facilitate immigration from countries that have even lower wages — Ukraine, Belarus and even China. There has been little progress by the government on that front, however.
Sarmite Mikulioniene, sociology professor at Mykolas Romeris University, warns that in time, worker shortages will hurt the economy, threatening the gains made in the first place by joining the EU and euro.
"There will simply be no one left to do simple jobs here in 10 or 15 years," she said.