Amid the rubble of Mosul, bitter memories and the stench of death

MOSUL, Iraq — Bodies of dead Islamic State fighters still lay in the streets of west Mosul. Severed limbs from corpses were burnt, charred and strewn among the rubble of destroyed houses. The stench of death, a mixture of bodily waste and rotting flesh, mingled with the smell of garbage that hung in the air. The only way to cope with the nausea was to avoid deep breaths and take small sips of flavored sodium water from a plastic bottle that was melting in the broiling sun. But the stench was not the only thing the dead ISIS fighters left behind.

As Iraqi forces extend their control over the city, killing or chasing away remaining ISIS fighters, they encounter reminders of the regime imposed by the militant cleric Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who declared a new Islamic caliphate at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri. Meant to be a new era and empire, it has fallen in just three years. Al-Baghdadi himself has been reported killed, although his death has not been confirmed.

The ISIS fighters have continued to resist even after the battle was lost, rocking the city with explosions that shattered ancient structures and sent debris flying to land in heaps on the streets.

Iraqi forces listening in on ISIS radio transmissions heard signs of dissent and chaos in the ranks. The militants argued over which brigade had more men, who was most badly injured and whom they should leave behind. Their injuries went largely unattended and open to infection. They were weak, their morale low, and Iraqi forces knew they could take advantage of their weaknesses.

Wahlid, an Iraqi special-forces soldier, told me, “They’re fighting their hardest,” then he added, “but among themselves they have disputes.”

Radio used by Iraqi special forces to listen to ISISRadio used by Iraqi special forces to listen to ISIS

In a dimly lit room in a house near the front lines used as a base by Iraqi special forces, Wahlid told stories about listening to ISIS. The air conditioning was on full blast inside the house. He sat on a couch, drinking energy drinks and smoking cigarettes. An old walkie-talkie on an end table next to him crackled with voices chattering back and forth. An Iraqi commander shouted, “Get the Humvees out; find a safe place.” ISIS had coordinates for Iraqi soldiers in another neighborhood, and he was telling them to move before ISIS attacked.

Related slideshow: In Mosul, the war is never over, even when the shooting stops >>>

Wahlid laughed and with a smirk told what he considered a humorous story about an ISIS suicide bomber stranded in his explosive-filled car in the middle of the road. “The [Iraqi] soldiers shot at him,” Wahlid said. “His car broke down, he pressed the button and it didn’t work. So the militant who was in the car called on the radio back to the other [ISIS] militants, telling them, ‘The infidels broke down my car, but I can’t make it explode, I cannot blow it up because the button does not work. If you have any other way, brothers, blow it up, I want to blow up the car on the infidels.’”

Iraqi forces called for an airstrike. The car blew up.

ISIS fighters left behind a legacy of self-inflicted martyrdom, expecting rewards in heaven if they died fighting their alleged enemies. They saw themselves as heroes. The world did not agree.

Many came from other countries, tens of thousands of them who left behind a life they knew for a desert they didn’t know. Perhaps some of them left their homes for money, or a chance to be part of history. But the history they created is still desperate to leave them behind.

Many times, soldiers on the front lines admitted they couldn’t understand the ISIS fighters. They spoke different languages. Troops reported chatter in what they thought was Russian, Turkish and an Eastern language they couldn’t identify. One of the soldiers from the Najaf battalion, Rami, said that he was ethnically Turkmen and that sometimes he could understand the Turkish ISIS fighters.

The fighters also left behind their identities and documents. An Iraqi soldier said that while fighting at the front line, he noticed a woman in a black robe and hijab, a scarf around her head. He caught her eye. “I waved for her to run toward me,” he said.

He thought she was a civilian trying to escape. But when she moved along the wall in front of her house, he realized she was hiding an M-16 beneath her clothes. She realized she was exposed and fled. The soldier said she got away. He never said why he didn’t shoot.

But when he approached the house later, he found her identification. She had a German name on a German ID card. He also found a marriage certificate, issued by ISIS. She was married to a Russian fighter. What they left behind was a marriage that would never be recognized anywhere else. ISIS created its own system, its own contracts, records that are meaningless to a world that would never recognize the Islamic State.

ISIS had its own religious police, too, and “punishment officers,” who would correct or even arrest civilians who didn’t follow their rules and laws. One member of ISIS left his officer’s vest in the streets.

And when they fled, ISIS fighters left behind their weapons. Iraqi soldiers picked up weapons throughout the fight, some made in ISIS bomb factories, including mortars and rockets, and old Soviet-era rocket-propelled grenades that ISIS modified and improved. If the weapons were functional, Iraqis repurposed them and killed ISIS fighters with their own weapons. Wahlid demonstrated an RPG-7. “They have made some updates to it,” he said. “They’ve mixed the powder, and the wings [they added] will make it fly.”

Mortars left by ISISMortars left by ISIS

Some ISIS rebels weren’t killed by Iraqi forces or their own weapons but instead were caught and arrested. They were sent to intelligence battalions to be interrogated. At a small base on the outskirts of Mosul’s Old City, Iraqi intelligence officers allowed foreign journalists limited access to several suspects in custody. Bearded, with zip ties around their hands, the captured fighters were ushered back and forth between rooms. Some of the men’s eyes looked young, some old, but all seemed worn out and solemn. An intelligence officer pointed to one man and said he “knew” the man was ISIS because he had “confessed.”

But of all that ISIS left behind, most of all the armed group left Iraqi citizens grieving, even those who sympathized with the Sunni-linked fighters as a way to resist what they saw as an oppressive Shia-majority government. Even they had turned against ISIS, after three years of living under its governance.

The civilians who fled left behind everything they owned. They left behind loved ones whom they will never get to bury. They left photos of their mothers and fathers, taken in the days before the war and occupation.

Photos left behind in the Old City of Mosul, IraqPhotos left behind in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq

Shoes, scarves, T-shirts and dresses littered the streets. White flags still hung on the doors. Families believed that if they hung white cloth on their doors they might be safe. The Iraqi soldiers assured the people of Mosul that the white flags would signal they were on the government side and against ISIS. The civilians didn’t want to be arrested or questioned; they wanted to escape. But as the city grew more dangerous, the white flags were not enough to save them. A new order came down from the Iraqi forces: run.

So they ran. And they left their flags behind, hung from the ruins of their devastated city, once a thriving metropolis in the very cradle of civilization.

Ash Gallagher is a journalist covering the Mideast for Yahoo News.


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State Kidnaps Man’s Children, Condemn Him to Death, For Having THC in His Urine

[7/16/17  CLAIRE BERNISH]  As a father suffering from hepatitis C, Michael Brooks exhausted every pharmaceutical option available to treat the disease and extend his time on Earth with loved ones, before ultimately turning to medical cannabis — a move which, indeed, changed everything.

“It saved my life,” Brooks declared to the State of Tennessee of the THC-intensive oil responsible for vastly improved health, in a hearing discussed at a later point in this article.

As definitive as his statement seemed, not everything came up roses for the devoted dad — despite medical cannabis having facilitated the best health of Brooks’ more than four decades alive.

In fact, two years after his impassioned plea to his state of residence, Brooks languishes on the brink of death, gaunt, pale — and without his kids to treasure the precious remaining last moments of his existence — because government.

Yes, literally.

Twenty-five years after Michael Brooks contracted hepatitis C — a disease affecting the liver, often without any noticeable symptoms, which can cause serious damage, cirrhosis, cancer, and even death — and, now married, the infection began wreaking havoc with his health.

A multitude of pharmaceuticals having proffered no benefit — instead, adding adverse effects — Brooks and his wife, whom High Times’ Russ Belville did not name and who also suffers from hep C, turned frantically to medical cannabis oil, in the haven known for an explosion in the population of medical refugees: Colorado.

And it worked. Belville explains,

“Within a few heavy treatments of the oil, his viral load was undetectable. Not only had he beaten back hepatitis C, he was in the best health of his life. He had never known how ill he had always been, because he had always been ill. For the first time, he told me, he felt healthy — he felt like what most people take for granted.

“Then, from the highest high of relief and gratitude for his discovery of medical marijuana, he was plunged within a few months into the lowest depths of depression and despair.

“Michael couldn’t stay in Colorado. He returned to Tennessee to raise his family. Having recovered so well with the use of medical marijuana, he and his wife had a second little boy, making him a new father at the age of 48, to go along with their first son who was closing in his second birthday.”

Everything went along swimmingly, it seemed, until the couple decided to seek health assistance from the State of Tennessee for their two boys’ developmental disabilities — acquired through lead poisoning.

That request would be conditional to a urine test — which Michael agreed to — and failed with flying colors, stunning medical staff, who balked when recording highest concentration of THC in a person’s blood they’d ever seen.

‘How did he manage this feat?’ they wondered, their trained, non-legal-state suspicions piqued.

“It’s my medicine,” Brooks plainly told officials two years ago. “That’s why I’m even able to be before you today. It saved my life.”

Although Belville doesn’t elucidate on whether the motivation for Brooks’ candor lay beyond any legal obligation for it, that the desperate father pled with a truth backed by a plethora of government and independent studies — and which undoubtedly improved quality and time spent with his boys — should have been a watershed moment for Tennessee officials.

Embarrassingly for them, it wasn’t.

“Within 24 hours, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) had been contacted. They showed up at Michael’s house and took away his two little boys,” High Times reports.

Let that sink in. Father in ill health discovers the only medicine yet to veritably cure his grave predicament, improving symptoms and ability to parent — and the State rewards him by forcefully fracturing the family and traumatizing two kids, too new to life to comprehend anything other than, ‘Why isn’t daddy here?’

Because Michael’s medicine came from nature — not a pill bottle.

Visits with his own kids required he pass obligatory drug screenings — so, the despondent father quit the cannabis regimen. It took less than five months for an onslaught of symptoms to destroy all progress and leave Michael even worse off than before cannabis treatment.

“Michael could visit his boys for a couple of hours every two weeks, but Tennessee has canceled those visitations for the last three months,” Belville continues. “Michael says DCS told him it was for the good of the children, because every time their visitation with Michael and his wife ends, the boys become distraught and traumatized when they are returned to their foster parents.”

He quite eloquently adds, “Yeah, no shit.”

In no place but Dante’s treacherous 9th Circle of Hell does this sequence of arduously authoritarian events even make sense — much less, display sterile compassion — particularly when weighed against any possible negative aspects of Michael’s use of cannabis purely for medicinal reasons.

This writer, and undoubtedly countless others, summarily concur with Belville’s redux of this real-life totalitarian Greek tragedy permitted to have happened in this supposedly freedom-cherishing ‘exceptional’ nation in modern times,

“What Tennessee is doing is evil.”

You agree — and want to do something? Contact Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and, considerately, express your feelings or assessment of the situation concerning Tennessean Michael Brooks and his beloved children, through the contact form, here.

Additionally, “Send one with all the love and kindness you can spare to Let him know there are people out there who care and are fighting every day to end this vicious war on people who use marijuana.”

RELATED: How to Fix Neural Imbalances and Cure Insomnia

This is what happens when the cure for your disease isn’t approved in the individual Police State of your residence.

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Penn State Fraternity Death: Prosecutors Reveal Frat Members’ Texts

Texts that were revealed in court Monday show that fraternity brothers knew almost immediately the gravity of the situation, prosecutors said.

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Heartburn drugs (Proton Pump Inhibitors) linked to sudden death risk

Image: Heartburn drugs (Proton Pump Inhibitors) linked to sudden death risk

(Natural News)
Extended use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), a popular type of heartburn drug, dramatically increases the risk of death. This was the conclusion of a team of researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine after analyzing medical data of some 300,000 people. Authors of the study say that their findings indicate the need for improved vigilance in prescribing the drugs and exercising better information sharing between patients and physicians.

PPIs, which are readily available over the counter under brand names such as Prevacid, Prilosec, and Nexium, are generally considered safe because of their availability. Studies conducted over the last few years have already indicated that using these heartburn drugs are linked to an increased risk of kidney damage, bone fractures, and dementia. However, this new research published in BMJ Open, revealed that PPI-use can have far greater consequences. (Related: Proton-pump inhibitor drugs for heartburn linked to heart attacks.)

For the purposes of this study, researchers used data collected by the U.S. Veterans Affairs system, which has tracked more than six million people since 2013. Within this pool, 275,000 people were discovered to be regular PPI users while another 75,000 took histamine-2 (H2) blockers, another class of drugs used to treat stomach acid. The H2 blockers group was used as a basis of comparison. Researchers then compared the groups and noted how many died within five years. It must be noted that the database did not include information on the cause of death.

Senior author Ziyad Al-Aly, M.D. told that “no matter how we sliced and diced the data from this large set, we saw the same thing: There’s an increased risk of death among PPI users. For example, when we compared patients taking H2 blockers with those taking PPIs for one to two years, we found those on PPIs had a 50 percent increased risk of dying over the next five years.” Translated into more understandable numbers, this calculated to one unnecessary death for every 500 people taking PPIs. Given that there are currently millions of PPI users in America alone, this could mean potentially thousands of people dying from using a supposedly “safe” drug.

These are dire findings, considering PPI-use and prescription has been seen to be increasing since the start of the 21st century.

“People have the idea that PPIs are very safe because they are readily available, but there are real risks to taking these drugs, particularly for long periods of time,” Al-Aly cautioned.

The team also saw that the risk strengthened the longer patients took the drug. The risk of death in both the PPI and H2 blocker group were negligible within the first 30 days of intake. As intake was prolonged, risk of death increased — especially if the person took PPIs for one to two years.

The recommended treatment for many PPIs is relatively short, about two to eight weeks depending on the type and severity of the condition. Most patients though end up continuing this medical regimen for months or years. This could be attributed to the disturbing phenomenon of doctors hesitating to discontinue the treatment simply because the patient showed no discernible negative side-effects.

“A lot of times people get prescribed PPIs for a good medical reason, but then doctors don’t stop it and patients just keep getting refill after refill after refill. There needs to be periodic re-assessments as to whether people need to be on these. Most of the time, people aren’t going to need to be on PPIs for a year or two or three,” said Al-Aly.

Researchers of the study noted that while PPI users tended to be sicker than those who took H2 blockers (typically, PPI users were older, and had higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease), the increased risk of death remained even when controlling for age and illness.

In conclusion, the team said that while PPIs are medically effective, their continued use should be heavily regulated. This is done by having open and informative discussions with one’s physician.

Al-Aly ended his interview on the Science Daily article with, “PPIs save lives. If I needed a PPI, I absolutely would take it. But I wouldn’t be willy-nilly if I didn’t need it. And I would want my doctor to be monitoring me carefully and take me off it the moment it was no longer needed.”

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Re: Israel refuses to compensate Palestinian family burned to death by settlers

Israel will not pay compensation to the family of Ahmad Dawabsha, the Palestinian toddler whose family were killed in an arson attack by Israeli settlers in 2015, Israeli Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has told a Knesset member in an official letter.

Yousef Jabareen, an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset, had demanded Lieberman to recognise the Dawabsha family as victims of a terrorist act and to pay financial compensation after settlers raided and torched the family home in Duma village.

Palestinian baby burned to death in West Bank attack by Israeli settlers 

“Compensation should be a right, not a gift,” he said, stressing that “the state needs to give him full compensation due to the severity of the incident and the loss he has suffered.”

Jabareen said that the family would now “turn to the courts” to seek redress and compensation for the young boy.

He accused Lieberman of implementing a racist policy towards the Palestinians. “The defense minister’s position is based on racial discrimination,” the Knesset member said in a statement, “If we were talking about Jewish settlers hurt by Palestinians, the victims would automatically receive compensation,” he added.

Ya’alon: Insufficient evidence to prosecute settlers in Dawabsha arson attack

Responding to Jabareen’s accusations, the Israeli defence minister said that the six-year-old boy, who was badly injured in the attack, does not qualify as a “terror victim” and does not hold Israeli citizenship and therefore not entitled to compensation, the Israeli minister said.

The Israeli law stipulates that Israel must compensate Israelis affected by acts of terrorism, however, the law does not apply to Palestinians “who are not citizens or residents of Israel,” according to Lieberman’s letter.

In 2016, the Israeli attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, rejected a request by Jabareen to recognise the Dawabsha family as “terror victims.”

Asa Winstanley: Israel’s fanatical settlers can get away with murder – literally

In January 2016, a 21-year-old Israeli settler—Amiram Ben-Uliel—and an unnamed 16-year-old minor were indicted for carrying out the Duma arson attack, during which two homes in Duma, south of Nablus, were raided. Ali Dawabsha, 18 months old, father Saad Dawabsha, his wife Riham, were burnt to death in the attack. Their toddler son, Ahmad, who was four at the time, was the only surviving member of the family after receiving medical treatment for severe burns.

The attack caused outrage in the occupied Palestinian territories and around the world.

Dawabsheh living with emotional scars following arson attack

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Japan floods: Death toll rises to 16 as further deluge expected (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

Search and rescue crews took advantage of a break in the extreme weather conditions to recover victims and rescue survivors Saturday. However, further downpours are expected over the weekend.

READ MORE: Heavy rains cause floods in China, 260,000 people displaced

More than 60cm (24 inches) of rain fell in the Fukuoka Prefecture in just 24 hours Saturday, according to Japan’s weather agency. A further 15cm of rain is forecast to fall in Northern Kyushu Sunday.

The unseasonably heavy rain is more than some areas experience in the whole month of July.

READ MORE: Torrential rain leads to intense flooding in Berlin

The downpour has devastated entire neighborhoods in the city of Asakura where heavy quantities of mud and debris are making it even more difficult for rescuers and clean-up crews.

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Plant your loved one in this egg and turn them into a tree after death

The Capsula Mundi burial urn is finally available for purchase.

When it comes to stories about green burial options, the piece I wrote on the Capsula Mundi concept last year seemed to strike a chord with readers (other than the typical comments about how useless and ridiculous some people thought it was), but even so, the crowdfunding campaign for the project didn’t really catch on. However, regardless of the failure of the Kickstarter campaign, it hasn’t stopped the creators from following their mission of helping people plant trees, not tombstones.

Capsula Mundi burial urn© Capsula Mundi

Although a body-sized Capsula Mundi pod isn’t yet ready for burying your loved ones in, designers Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel have brought a decidedly smaller version of the concept to life, which is now available for purchase. The product is the Capsula Mundi Urn, which is designed to accept the cremation ashes from the deceased, and to then be buried next to an existing tree, or in a hole over which a tree will be planted. The Urn is made from a biodegradable polymer (bioplastic) that will essentially be turned into soil and nutrients for the tree in “a few months to few years” depending on the local soil and climate conditions.

The Capsula Mundi Urn measures 29 cm (11.4″) tall and 22 cm (8.7″) wide, with an inner volume of some 4.5 liters, and it weighs about 1.4 kg (3 lb). Two different versions are available, a beige one coated with sand particles for a more organic look and feel, and a shiny white satin model, both of which can be ordered from the company with free shipping through September of 2017.

Capsula Mundi burial urn instructions© Capsula Mundi

These biodegradable burial urns aren’t cheap, at €420 for the Sand version and €380 for the White version, and while you can certainly come up with a DIY version (shoe box, anyone?), these will look a heckuva lot better at a memorial service or on display at home. Learn more at Capsula Mundi.

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Civilian death toll rises to over 600 in US-led coalition airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria


A new Operation Inherent Resolve report has confirmed a total of 603 civilian deaths in the US-led air campaign in Iraq and Syria, while the UN warns of a new spike in casualties as the assault on Islamic State-held Raqqa in Syria unfolds.

“To date, based on information available, CJTF-OIR [Combined Joint Task Force] assesses that, it is more likely than not, at least 603 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve,” the statement issued on Friday reads.

The new data has upped the total civilian death toll by more than 100, after a report last month acknowledged 484 civilian deaths.

“Although the Coalition takes extraordinary efforts to strike military targets in a manner that minimizes the risk of civilian casualties, in some incidents casualties are unavoidable. Twenty-seven reports were assessed to be credible resulting in the unintentional death of 119 civilians,” the report reads.

“To date, based on data between August 2014 and May 2017, the Coalition conducted a total of 21,910 strikes that included 46,534 separate engagements. During this period, the total number of reports of possible civilian casualties was 727.”

The data released this month indicated a drastic increase in the number of reports of possible civilian casualties, which was 440 last month, as the coalition has begun the assessments of 222 “historical reports” received from Airwars, a UK-based group that monitors airstrikes and civilian casualties in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

The US-led coalition has already analyzed 80 reports from Airwars this month, dismissing 70 of them and labeling the rest as credible. One hundred and forty-two reports from the NGO are still pending investigation by the coalition.

Airwars has conducted its own detailed reviews of strike reports, giving a minimum estimated figure of 4,354 civilians killed in the US-led coalition’s aerial bombing campaign. Infographics released by Airwars indicate a sharp increase in civilian deaths in Mosul since October 2016, corresponding with the intensified US-led operation to recapture the western part of the city.

The new surge in civilian casualties was reported in June as US-backed forces carry out an assault on the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) stronghold in the Syrian city of Raqqa. Since June 1, at least 173 civilians have been killed in the city by air and ground strikes, according to the UN commissioner for human rights, who added that the figure was “likely a conservative estimate and the real death toll may be much higher.”

“The intense bombardment of Al-Raqqa over the past three weeks has reportedly left civilians terrified and confused about where they can seek refuge as they are caught between ISIL’s monstrosities and the fierce battle to defeat it,” High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said. “The large number of civilian casualties indicates that much more needs to be done by the parties to ensure protection of the civilian population.”

The coalition, however, dismissed such reports, promising to “challenge” the UN official.

“I think we are being as careful as we need to be and as we can be, and I would challenge the individual from the UN who made this hyperbolic statement that civilian casualties are staggering. Show me some evidence of that,” coalition commander General Stephen Townsend told the BBC.

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