The Overflow for July 28th

International News

Notebooks, Laptops, and Textbooks

US-backed forces fighting to drive Islamic State out of northern Syria have gathered a massive trove of documents and data belonging to the group, potentially shedding more light on its operations. The material, gathered as fighters moved from village to village surrounding the town of Manbij, includes notebooks, laptops, USB drives, and even advanced math and science textbooks rewritten with pro-Islamic State word problems, Colonel Chris Garver, the US military spokesman in Iraq, said in a news briefing on Wednesday.

The US-backed fighters - an alliance of Kurdish and Arab forces - have gathered more than 4 terabytes of digital information, and the material, most of it in Arabic, is now being analysed by the coalition fighting Islamic State.

"It is a lot of material, it is going to take a lot to go through, then start connecting the dots and trying to figure where we can start dismantling ISIS," Garver said.

The information gathered around Manbij has so far shed light on how Islamic State processes foreign fighters once they enter Syria, Garver said. Manbij served as a key receiving area for foreign fighters on their arrival. "As a foreign fighter would enter, they would screen them, figure out what languages they speak, assign them a job and then send them down into wherever they were going to go, be it into Syria or Iraq," Garver said.

Fighters from the alliance have in recent weeks made incremental advances as they try to flush out the remaining Islamic State fighters in Manbij.

 

Humanitarian Pause

The United Nations called for a humanitarian truce in the Yemeni province of Taiz after government forces captured a town from Iran-allied Houthi militia in heavy fighting that has spurred new allegations of war crimes. The fighting has complicated peace talks, as envoys for the Houthis have delayed responding to UN proposals calling for Houthi pullouts from cities they control, including the capital Sanaa, and the creation of an inclusive government.

James McGoldrick, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, voiced alarm at increasing bloodshed in the southwestern region of Taiz. He urged all warring parties to agree immediately to a "humanitarian pause" to protect civilians and cooperate with humanitarian agencies to help treat and evacuate war-wounded and deliver urgently needed medicine into the embattled zone. McGoldrick also warned both parties that holding civilian populations hostage and depriving them of humanitarian assistance was illegal under international humanitarian law.

Hadi supporters control most of Taiz, Yemen's third largest city, but it is sealed off by Houthi forces on three sides. There were conflicting reports on the fighting in al-Sarari, a Houthi stronghold southeast of Taiz captured by troops loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi earlier this week.

A Houthi envoy on a ceasefire committee assigned to oversee a shaky truce in Taiz wrote to the U.N. that Sarari residents had been subjected to "war crimes" including house burnings and the detention of 49 civilians including women and children.

A ceasefire accord between the Houthis and Hadi loyalists has repeatedly been violated since it took effect in April. Peace talks in Kuwait since then have done little to end fighting that has killed more than 6,200 people and displaced more than 2.5 million in the Arabian Peninsula state.

 

The World Is At War

Pope Francis said on Wednesday that a string of recent attacks, including the murder of a priest in France, was proof that the "world is at war". However, speaking to reporters aboard a plane taking him to Poland, the pope said he was not talking about a war of religion, but rather one of domination of peoples and economic interests.

"The word that is being repeated often is insecurity, but the real word is war," he said in brief comments to reporters while flying to southern Poland for a five-day visit.

"Let's recognise it. The world is in a state of war in bits and pieces," he said, adding that the attacks could be seen as another world war, specifically mentioning World War One and Two. "Now there is this one (war). It is perhaps not organic but it is organised and it is war," he said. "We should not be afraid to speak this truth. The world is at war because it has lost peace."

"Not a war of religion. There is a war of interests. There is a war for money. There is a war for natural resources. There is a war for domination of peoples. This is the war," he said. "All religions want peace. Others want war. Do you understand?" he said.

He called Jacques Hamel, the priest forced to his knees by Islamist militants on Tuesday who then slit his throat, "a saintly priest", but said he was just one of many innocent victims. He thanked the many people around the world who have sent their condolences over the killing of Father Hamel, particularly French President Francois Hollande, who spoke to the Pope on Tuesday.


UK News

Consumer confidence

Shockwaves from Britain's vote to leave the European Union are reverberating through the economy with surveys published today showing a sharp dive in consumer confidence and a slowdown in the construction sector. A month after the Brexit vote, the latest signals of a sharp economic slowdown are likely to add to expectations of action from the Bank of England on August 4th when most economists say it will cut interest rates and might start buying bonds again.

An index of consumer confidence plunged nearly five points to 106.6 in July - matching a fall seen in October 2014 - to touch its lowest level in a monthly survey in three years, polling firm YouGov and the Centre for Economics and Business Research said.

"The public are still absorbing the EU referendum result but it is clear that consumer confidence has taken a significant and clear dive in the month after the Brexit vote," Stephen Harmston, Head of YouGov Reports, said.

 

The Irish Job Offer

Irish recruiters are already filling jobs for financial services firms which are shifting some operations from the United Kingdom, with Dublin moving fast to steal a march on rivals just a month after Britons voted to leave the European Union. While France has begun courting bankers with new tax breaks for expatriates and Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Luxembourg are also making pitches, Ireland is presenting itself as the only English-speaking country that offers a base in the euro zone and a future in the EU.

Before the referendum, the government warned that a departure of Ireland's nearest and biggest trade partner from the EU would pose "a major strategic risk", with exporters to Britain particularly worried, but Brexit also presents opportunities for Ireland, which has decades of experience in attracting multinational investment, and it is determined to seize them.

Ireland is already one of the world's largest centres for "back office" banking functions such as settling transactions, many of them farmed out from London - Europe's financial capital but whose future outside the EU is beset by uncertainty. On top of that, Ireland hosts a growing financial technology industry.

Some headhunters say it's too early to spot any definite trend. Nevertheless, Dublin-based Sigmar Recruitment is more than doubling its own workforce, hiring 150 extra staff over the next two years to handle foreign demand that was already increasing before the referendum and has accelerated since.


Long Read

So often seen as one united religion, Islam is as divided as Christianity has become. As Faisal Devji outlines, perhaps we shouldn't view it in such a way - where the faith varies so drastically between countries and cultures.

A nation that can’t control its energy sources can’t control its future.
— Barack Obama