We hear from veteran Charles Diamond who served in Mosul, Jane Arraf compares Mosul today to before ISIS, and former Obama administration official Andrew Exum talks about the U.S. military’s role.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2017/07/23/538825527/the-call-in-iraq-then-and-now?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

As the drought has extended into yet another rainy season, some herders walk for hours to get to this dam.

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As the drought has extended into yet another rainy season, some herders walk for hours to get to this dam.

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Out here, in West Pokot County, Kenya, the landscape looks like Mars — red clay, rocks, and in the distance, a mountain so bare, it looks like a giant boulder.

Stephen Long’uriareng, 80, has walked two hours to bring her two cows and goats to this watering hole. It’s really just a dam carved out the earth, where the rain water mixes with mud and turns into a dark brown color.

This is not the place Long’uriareng remembers from her youth.

“This whole place used to be green with a lot of pasture. There was nothing being experienced like drought,” she said.

In fact, nomadic herders have lived off the vast expanses of grass in the Rift Valley for centuries. For years, nothing much changed around here. All the progress of an industrialized Kenya has mostly skipped people here. Only about 3 percent have electricity and more than half the population is not formally educated. That means that to a lot of people here, herding is the only way they know how to survive. But recently, as the climate has changed, the grass here has died and a way of life that has existed for centuries is in danger.

James Tukay stands just over the dam and points to the mountain range in the distance. He is only 45, but he has seen drought after drought.

“I can’t explain what is going on. I don’t understand why the climate is changing,” he said.

He points to the dark clouds slung on top of the mountains. He can see the rain and he can feel it, he said, but it never falls here.

“It’s heartbreaking,” he said. “But we have no option. We have nothing to do but survive.”

Climate change compounded

Caroline Mwongera, a scientist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Nairobi, who specializes on how climate affects agriculture, studies northern Kenya. She has found that in the region, temperatures have risen by about half a centigrade, rain fall has decreased and there is now a drought once every three years.

Mwongera said her analysis covers decades worth of data.

“So we see that this is a trend, that is not one single event,” she said. “It’s just not about the weather. It’s really a climate change event.”

Mwongera said one of the reasons the effects of climate change are so visible around here is because this was a tough environment to begin with.

“So if you compound the effects of climate change on that, then you have higher impact and people can feel that more strongly than in other regions,” she said.

William Okira, the county’s minister for agriculture and livestock, said people’s reaction to climate change has also made the situation worse. The rise in temperature coincided with a time when herders had many animals. That led to overgrazing, which stressed the land further. And when the animals started to die of hunger, herders turned to cutting down trees to make and sell charcoal.

Without trees, there was more erosion and thorny bushes began to grow instead of pasture. It meant the place turned from a typical African savanna into an arid brush land.

The bottom line, Okira said, is that traditional nomadic grazing, what people here have been doing for centuries, will not work anymore.

“Now we are trying to see how we change this environment to able to sustain this livestock,” he said.

The government is starting programs to teach herders how to grow exotic pasture and how to keep a smaller number of cows alive using stored grain. They are also encouraging herders to shift to more resilient animals.

“We are not telling them to go into camel keeping instead,” Okira said.

A matter of survival

In the past, this land was covered in lush pasture. But climate change, overgrazing and deforestation have turned this part of Kenya in an arid brush land.

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In the past, this land was covered in lush pasture. But climate change, overgrazing and deforestation have turned this part of Kenya in an arid brush land.

Eyder Peralta/NPR

The change around here is very easy to see. At the top of the mountains, it’s still green and fertile, but as you descend into the lowlands, the landscape changes.

The ground turns bright red and the wind begins to whip up dust. Deeper into the county, the only way herders are getting water is at wells dug hundreds of feet deep by the government or aid groups.

Rael Korkapel had brought her animals to one of those wells. She has about five cows, but she herds mostly goats now, because they’ll eat brush and leaves that the cows don’t like or can’t get to.

But as the drought has extended into yet another rainy season, she said, even her goats are going hungry.

At 65, she said, she has never seen anything like this. She always thought her children and grandchildren would grow up herding. But now, she’s ready to give it up. If she has to fence in her cows, she’ll do it. If she has to turn to farming, she’ll do it. To her, it’s a matter of survival.

Jane Lotulia is just across the way. Her cows have died and she’s left only with goats that hardly produce milk.

“We are not meteorologists or God, but we’re sure that this place will remain completely dry, because the times have changed,” she said.

Her friend, Pauline Korkapel said that if it wasn’t for government food aid, she’s not sure how they would survive. Pauline looks around. This place looks forsaken. She said she can’t imagine that any kind of exotic grass will take here and she can’t imagine becoming a farmer.

“Many of us, we don’t focus so much in business,” Korkapel said. “We are only cattle keepers and we were born to be cattle keepers so we cannot change.”

As she talks, there is some commotion. Word has filtered that another cow has died just along the way, so everyone starts walking along a dusty path, up a hill and across a ditch.

The cows in West Pokot County, Kenya, get so hungry they feast on thatched roofs. That makes them sick and many of them end up dead.

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The cows in West Pokot County, Kenya, get so hungry they feast on thatched roofs. That makes them sick and many of them end up dead.

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They stop in front of a hut. The roof is gone and half of the mud wall is toppled. Inside lies the corpse of a rotting cow.

Lotulia stares at the dead cow silently. This is a common occurrence, she said. The cows are so hungry that at night when nobody is watching, they feast on thatched roofs. The dry grass makes them sick and they find the cows dead and covered with flies the next day.

“In a place like this, it’s a tragedy,” she said. “Because a cow like that means survival.”

Her friend, Pauline, sighs. She says if they keep living the same life they’ve been living, they might end up just like that cow.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2017/07/23/538373985/as-the-climate-changes-kenyan-herders-find-centuries-old-way-of-life-in-danger?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Britain’s Chris Froome is expected to seal his third consecutive Tour de France win in Paris on Sunday.

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Britain’s Chris Froome is expected to seal his third consecutive Tour de France win in Paris on Sunday.

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Chris Froome enjoyed a celebratory ride into Paris — complete with the traditional Champagne toast — in the Tour de France’s 21st and final stage Sunday. The British rider won after avoiding crashes that took out some of cycling’s big names, including his teammate Geraint Thomas.

It’s the third straight Tour de France victory for Froome, and his fourth overall.

Froome’s opponents saw Saturday’s time trial in Marseilles as the last chance to take the yellow jersey from him, but they were unable to gain time on the reigning champion, who took third place. He finished with a 54-second lead over Colombia’s Rigoberto Urán — who banged into a barricade during his time trial.

Ahead of Sunday’s 64-mile ride into Paris, the final spot on the podium was something of an open question, as third-place Romain Bardet of France had only a one-second edge over Spain’s Mikel Landa — a teammate of Froome’s on Team Sky. But that margin didn’t change on Sunday.

Putting Froome’s win in historical perspective, NPR’s Tom Goldman reports that he is now one title away from “an exclusive club of five-time winners that includes legendary riders Jacque Anquetil, Eddie Merckx, Bernard Hinaut and Miguel Indurain.”

Tom adds, “American Lance Armstrong had his record seven tour victories stripped and stricken from the record books after he admitted doping.”

Froome took up the challenge of winning this Tour without one of the best riders on his Sky team after Thomas was lost to a crash in the race’s wild ninth stage. On the same day, Froome’s rival (and former teammate) Richie Porte was also forced to withdraw due to a horrendous crash. At the time, Porte was in fifth place.

Froome lost the leader’s yellow jersey in the Pyrenees midway through this year’s Tour, but he reclaimed it on stage 14, using strong team tactics and a final sprint that took advantage of a splintered peloton.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/07/23/538867146/chris-froome-set-to-win-his-fourth-tour-de-france-title-sunday?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Fires are burning in British Columbia. Scott Simon talks to Alan Goodwin of the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council, a program that shares firefighters with other countries.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2017/07/22/538705455/sharing-resources-across-countries-to-fight-wildfires?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

NPR’s Scott Simon talks with David Miliband, CEO of the International Rescue Committee about near-famine conditions in Africa and the Middle East, and what Americans know about the crises.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2017/07/22/538705469/millions-at-risk-of-starvation-and-most-americans-dont-know?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

An Afghan policeman holds a rocket-propelled grenade during an ongoing battle with Taliban militants in the Gereshk district of Helmand province Saturday. A U.S. airstrike killed 16 policemen in the area on Friday, local officials said.

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An Afghan policeman holds a rocket-propelled grenade during an ongoing battle with Taliban militants in the Gereshk district of Helmand province Saturday. A U.S. airstrike killed 16 policemen in the area on Friday, local officials said.

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Afghan officials say 16 members of the Afghan National Security Forces died in a U.S. airstrike Friday, during operations against Taliban fighters in southern Helmand province. The U.S. says it is investigating the circumstances that led to the mistake.

Afghan media report that 16 members of the security force died, citing local government officials. Although a U.S. statement acknowledging the strike did not specify the number of casualties, a Pentagon spokesman later put the figure at from 12-15 deaths.

The strike hit Afghans who were in a compound that local media describe as a security outpost in a village that had come under attack by the Taliban in the Gereshk district.

From Islamabad, NPR’s Diaa Hadid reports, “The position had just been hit by airstrikes to repel Taliban fighters. An Afghan journalist in Kabul who covered the incident says local forces then rushed in and were hit by another NATO strike.”

“The U.S. Marines guiding the strike Friday afternoon in Gereshk district, thought the men gathered in the compound were Taliban, not police,” Jennifer Glasse reports from Kabul for NPR’s Newscast unit. “The checkpoint they were inspecting had changed hands a number of times during days of fighting in the south. The son of the Taliban’s leader Abdul Rahman Khalid helped launch the Taliban offensive Thursday, blowing himself up in a car bomb.”

In a statement about the strike, U.S. Forces Afghanistan said, “We would like to express our deepest condolences to the families affected by this unfortunate incident.”

Local media outlet Pajhwok News reports that two commanders were among the policemen killed.

“The strike comes during a period of already poor morale among Afghan forces fighting for the government,” Diaa says. “But U.S. airpower is key to helping the Afghan government stay its ground. Afghan forces are struggling to hold areas that U.S.-led troops helped take from the Taliban.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/07/22/538725504/u-s-airstrike-kills-afghan-police-members-local-officials-say-16-died?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

The U.S. is planning to ban American citizens from traveling to North Korea, tourism companies say. Earlier this week, Korean People’s Army soldiers walked past portraits of late North Korean leaders Kim Il-Sung (left) and Kim Jong-Il at the Korean Revolutionary Museum in Pyongyang.

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The U.S. is planning to ban American citizens from traveling to North Korea, tourism companies say. Earlier this week, Korean People’s Army soldiers walked past portraits of late North Korean leaders Kim Il-Sung (left) and Kim Jong-Il at the Korean Revolutionary Museum in Pyongyang.

Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

Young Pioneer Tours, which organized Otto Warmbier’s fateful visit to North Korea, says it has been told the U.S. government is preparing to ban American citizens from traveling to the pariah nation.

“It is expected that the ban will come into force within 30 days of July 27,” the China-based company said in a statement posted to its website.

According to Young Pioneer Tours, the new policy will include the threat of canceling the passport of any American who violates the ban, following a 30-day grace period.

We’ve asked the State Department about the news and will update this story when the agency sends an official response.

Another travel company that operates in North Korea, Lupine Travel, tells NPR that while it hasn’t yet been contacted directly, “all we’ve heard is that apparently the Swedish Embassy have told a couple of other agencies that the ban is imminent.”

The Swedish Embassy operates as a conduit between the U.S. and North Korea, which do not maintain diplomatic relations.

Up to now, the U.S. policy has been that it “strongly recommends against all travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea.”

News of the ban comes on the heels of North Korea launching a new website that seeks to promote tourism to the country that’s been at odds with much of the international community over its nuclear and missile programs.

As NPR’s Colin Dwyer reported, “At least 16 Americans have been arrested by North Korean authorities in the past decade, according to the State Department — and that includes ‘those who traveled independently and those who were part of organized tours.’ “

Details of the travel ban that were provided by Young Pioneers match those supplied by Koryo Tours, another group that organizes visits to North Korea.

“This news has been expected but nevertheless is something of a shock,” Koryo Tours said in a statement about the news, “and we’re sorry for anyone who had planned a trip or who had hoped to visit and who now will not be permitted to do so.”

News of the pending ban comes one month after Warmbier, 22, died shortly after his return to the U.S. from a North Korean prison.

The college student had been sentenced to 15 years in prison and hard labor for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda poster. He was arrested during a trip that was organized by Young Pioneer Tours — which said in June that it will no longer take Americans to North Korea.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/07/21/538501350/u-s-is-preparing-to-ban-citizens-from-visiting-north-korea-tour-group-says?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Ruins are all that remain of the 13th century Great Mosque of al-Nuri, where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared three years ago that an Islamic state was rising again. ISIS blew the mosque up as Iraqi forces advanced.

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Ruins are all that remain of the 13th century Great Mosque of al-Nuri, where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared three years ago that an Islamic state was rising again. ISIS blew the mosque up as Iraqi forces advanced.

Jane Arraf/NPR

Manal Idrees looks out the car window in shock at the streets of her neighborhood in the oldest part of Mosul, reduced to chunks of concrete and tangled metal.

She fled when ISIS moved in three years ago. Although she’s seen images of the destruction after Iraqi forces retook Mosul two weeks ago, experiencing it in person is staggering.

“It’s ruined — all ruined,” she says as we drive by streets where not a single building is left standing. “Mosul is gone. Iraq is gone.”

And then she starts to sob for the son she lost: “All the beautiful young men are gone.”

Idrees has come back on a unimaginably painful mission — to try to find the body of her 26-year-old son Wissam. He was beheaded by ISIS 2 1/2 months ago.

Idrees says they killed him because his uncles were policemen. A neighbor recovered his body and buried him in the garden, she says, in a tone that indicates that’s a normal course of events.

Idrees is a widow. Her husband, a taxi driver, was shot dead seven years ago on the highway between Baghdad and Mosul. Idrees left Mosul along with Wissam and a younger son after ISIS entered the city in 2014 and they settled in a camp for displaced people.

Manal Idrees, a former resident of west Mosul, returns to the Old City on a grim mission to try to find the body of her son. She says he was beheaded by ISIS because his uncles were policemen.

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Manal Idrees, a former resident of west Mosul, returns to the Old City on a grim mission to try to find the body of her son. She says he was beheaded by ISIS because his uncles were policemen.

Jane Arraf/NPR

Wissam went back to west Mosul in May, when the battle for that part of the city began. He wanted to try to rescue his grandparents. That’s when he was murdered.

“Tell everyone to come and see what has happened,” Idrees says as we make our way through alleys blocked by chunks of concrete. “This used to be a place where people would come and visit because it was so beautiful.”

We reach a garden where there are four bodies hurriedly buried under concrete blocks. None of them are Idrees’ son. A week later, she is still searching for his grave.

‘The buildings I knew are all gone’

The old section of Mosul, west of the Tigris River, with its winding alleys lined with houses dating back centuries, was considered an essential part of Iraqi heritage. This city built along the ancient trade routes was a microcosm of Iraq — a mosaic of ancient religious and ethnic minorities. Residents still refer to some of its neighborhoods as “the Jewish district,” even half a century after Iraqi Jews were forced to emigrate.

That part of the city is now almost unrecognizable. It will take years, perhaps decades, to rebuild. Once-vibrant neighborhoods filled with shops, restaurants, mosques, schools and homes have turned monochromatic: charred buildings with black scorch marks next to the dull gray of twisted metal. Almost everything is covered in the white dust of collapsed concrete buildings.

The few civilians look shell-shocked. For the most part, security forces aren’t letting people back in until they clear the neighborhoods of explosives. Those who are here, like Idrees, are searching for the bodies of loved ones.

A week after the city’s liberation, the noise of fighter jets, gunfire and the shouts of security forces are the only sounds that break the eerie silence.

The main hospital in western Mosul – the scene of some of the fiercest fighting – is destroyed. Parts of the university are demolished. All of the bridges spanning the Tigris need repair. The United Nations estimates that more than 5,000 homes in the Old City were badly damaged or destroyed in the last three weeks of fighting.

“I wouldn’t be able to find my way home from here. The buildings I knew are all gone,” says a civil defense worker, among several wending their way through rubble to retrieve bodies — women and children, mostly — buried beneath collapsed buildings.

Near one house, an unexploded grenade lies in trash next to a wall. Streets are littered with unexploded mortars. There is no electricity or running water in the west side of the city.

Satellite images show the 12th century Great Mosque of al-Nuri in November 2015 (left) and July 2017.

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In the rubble of the 12th century Great Mosque of al-Nuri — where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared three years ago that an Islamic state was rising again — a pile of pages from a ripped Quran is stacked near the broken pulpit. A white-painted metal chandelier dangles crookedly from the ceiling, its teardrop-shaped pendants scattered among the broken tiles.

All that remains of the mosque are the base and a stub of a bent minaret known as al-Hadba, the “hunchback” — Mosul’s most famous monument. ISIS blew it up as Iraqi security forces closed in last month and it became clear the group was losing its grip on the city.

‘Is this your liberation?’

In the last two weeks, civil defense workers have recovered more than 1,000 bodies of civilians in western Mosul. They are still finding dozens every day. In basements, extended families of 30 or 40 people would huddle together to try to survive the air strikes and mortar attacks. When the buildings collapsed, many people were trapped under the rubble and died there.

“Is this your liberation?” asks a woman who wants to be identified as Um Firas, the mother of Firas. Her face is contorted in grief as she sobs while a worker unzips a body bag. She identifies her daughter and a 1 1/2 year old grandson – his tiny arm visible under the body of his mother.

Um Firas has lost four children and two grandchildren.

“Was my grandson carrying a weapon?” she asks. “Was he a threat to the Iraqis or the Americans?”

Nearby, workers carefully remove the gold jewelry from the decomposed corpse of another woman to give to her relatives who have just identified her.

Most of the bodies are covered in concrete dust from the buildings that collapsed around them. In the parking lot of the civil defense base, there are more than a dozen people waiting for workers to unzip the black and bright-blue body bags.

The old section of Mosul with its winding alleys lined with houses dating back centuries, was considered an essential part of Iraqi heritage. Now that part of the city is almost unrecognizable.

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The women sob; the men, mostly, are stoic. Two teenagers kneel on the concrete together to peer into the top of one of the body bags to identify their parents. There are dozens of bodies recovered every day.

The military plan to retake Mosul, agreed between Iraq and the U.S., involved encircling ISIS, leaving the fighters no escape route once they were surrounded in the Old City. It also left no escape for civilians trapped between ISIS gunmen and Iraqi and U.S. airstrikes.

Although the U.S. curtailed air strikes in the crowded Old City after more than 100 civilians were killed in a March strike on a neighborhood called Jadida, Iraqi air strikes continued. Mosul residents say dozens of civilians were killed along with each ISIS fighter.

“When it came to the Old City, the Americans pulled their hands out, but then Iraqi planes started hitting us,” said Ghassan Luheibi.

He had come to see if defense workers could retrieve the body of his nephew and his nephew’s children.

“Before,” said Yasser, a university student who wanted only his first name used, “if there was an ISIS fighter on a motorcycle, they would fire one rocket and no one else would be hurt. Why didn’t they use this technology in the Old City?”

A bittersweet victory

The Iraqi military does not release casualty figures, but in a speech last week, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the numbers of security forces killed or injured exceeded the number of civilian casualties.

Graffiti on a wall in Mosul lists security forces who took back the city. The military plan to retake Mosul, agreed between Iraq and the U.S., involved encircling ISIS, leaving the fighters no escape route once they were surrounded in the Old City. It also left no escape for civilians trapped between ISIS gunmen and Iraqi and U.S. airstrikes.

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Graffiti on a wall in Mosul lists security forces who took back the city. The military plan to retake Mosul, agreed between Iraq and the U.S., involved encircling ISIS, leaving the fighters no escape route once they were surrounded in the Old City. It also left no escape for civilians trapped between ISIS gunmen and Iraqi and U.S. airstrikes.

Jane Arraf/NPR

Estimates for the total number of civilians killed during the three-month battle for Mosul range as high as 38,000, the number put forth by some Kurdish leaders, but most Iraqi officials believe the likely figure is 3,000 to 4,000 civilian casualties. More than 1,400 bodies have been recovered so far by civil defense forces.

On the east side of the river, where ISIS put up less resistance than expected and Iraqi forces were able to establish control in January, shops and restaurants have reopened and life is returning. But across the river in the heavily damaged west, the mood is much more somber.

One Iraqi army officer said in his battalion of 800 men, 400 had been killed or wounded. Special forces who have been leading the fight against ISIS for three years are estimated to have lost 40 percent of their troops.

Even after liberation was declared July 9, counter-terrorism forces were still fighting ISIS in a neighborhood near the river.

“The fighters are in tunnels underneath buildings and they have civilians around them — that’s why it’s taking a little bit longer,” says Maj. Gen. Maan al-Saadi at a temporary special forces base in western Mosul.

He stops to greet local politicians who have come to congratulate him. A soldier passes around a tray of sweets.

With so many losses, it’s a bittersweet victory.

One of the older non-commissioned officers embraces Saadi and bursts into tears.

“He is crying tears of joy,” Saadi makes sure to tell me, “and not tears of sadness.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2017/07/21/537121266/in-mosul-grim-homecomings-and-a-struggle-to-survive-in-a-city-now-free-from-isis?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

A man walks near a damaged building after an earthquake struck near the Greek island of Kos early Friday.

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A man walks near a damaged building after an earthquake struck near the Greek island of Kos early Friday.

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At least two people were killed by a strong earthquake that struck Greece and Turkey in the early morning hours Friday, sending thousands of panicked vacationers and locals streaming outside.

Hundreds of people were wounded across the region as buildings rattled and shook. Some people leapt from balconies and many others sustained light injuries while fleeing their homes, reports the Associated Press.

The two men who died were on the Greek island of Kos, when the bar they were in collapsed on top of them. It is peak tourist season on the resort island, and the men were visiting from Sweden and Turkey, reports Reuters, citing local police.

On Kos alone, more than a hundred people were injured, a dozen seriously, including a Swedish tourist who lost a leg.

Passengers gather outside the airport on the Greek island of Kos. Many flights were cancelled in the aftermath of a magnitude 6.7 earthquake.

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Passengers gather outside the airport on the Greek island of Kos. Many flights were cancelled in the aftermath of a magnitude 6.7 earthquake.

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“All of a sudden it felt like a train was going right through the room,” Vernon Hausman, a German tourist told Reuters.

The magnitude 6.7 quake struck about six miles from Bodrum, Turkey, near the southwestern tip of the country and close to the famed Greek Isles beloved by tourists, according to the United States Geological Survey. It hit around 1:30 a.m. local time and was followed by several aftershocks .

Many people spent the night trying to sleep outdoors. Some travelers rushed to the airport on Kos, only to find flights had been cancelled Friday.

The USGS puts the depth of the quake at 10 kilometers — or about six miles — a relatively shallow level that contributed to the widespread damage, says AP. A small tsunami also struck, scattering cars and boats across the Aegean Sea coastline, says Reuters.

The region is prone to earthquakes, owing to its location between shifting plates, reports The Telegraph.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/07/21/538506192/deadly-earthquake-strikes-greece-and-turkey?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Steve Inskeep asks Mark Perry of The American Conservative about his article that says some in the Trump administration want to use more contractors in Afghanistan.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2017/07/20/538251461/report-trump-administration-wants-to-outsource-afghanistan-to-mercenaries?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world