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Syria’s Aleppo bears scars of five-week battle

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ALEPPO, Syria — The blast of a tank shell smashing into a mosque sends Abu Fadi running for cover into a building used by fighters bent on taking over Aleppo in their campaign to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“Bashar is willing to waste 1,000 shells just to hit one person,” said the shaken resident of Seif al-Dawla, Abu Fadi, an elderly man who had picked out a corner near the mosque in the belief that it was beyond the line of fire.

The shell that scared Abu Fadi hit the Al-Nasar mosque and raised a massive cloud of dust, correspondents at the scene said.

Tank and mortar fire unleashed by Assad’s army on Wednesday also rocked the adjacent neighbourhood of Salaheddin.

Mosques and buildings across Aleppo carry the scars of five weeks of bombing and shelling.

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The offensive has shown no mercy to the historic city in northern Syria that once drew thousands of tourists to its commanding Citadel and lively souks.

The commander of the Rasul Allah brigade in Aleppo, who gave his name as Abu Abdullah, said his men had “taken out one tank” which Assad’s soldiers then hastily retrieved using a bulldozer.

At least six rebels were wounded in Wednesday’s shelling, according to an AFP tally based on reports from activists and rebel commanders in the city.

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Medics at two separate hospitals refused to share records of opposition fighter casualties but one volunteer indicated they were low compared to the civilian toll.

Doctors at Al-Shifa hospital said two women and a child were killed in Wednesday’s shelling and that they treated more than 32 wounded people.

The hospital also received the corpses of four men.

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Three were identified as rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters who had rope burns ringing their wrists. Blood encrusted the face of a man who had an eye socket blown open.

All four bodies were dumped on a street with notes indicating their respective names and neighbourhoods, a nurse said.

“Their names and addresses were written on a sheet of paper,” she told AFP.

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Meanwhile, scenes of almost normal daily life unfolded in other areas.

In neighbourhoods where the FSA flag flew over checkpoints — including Fardoss, Al-Shaar, Qadi Askar and Sakhur — commerce and traffic had partially resumed with families flocking to bakeries and fruit stalls.

The battle for Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, has been raging since July 20, with the army unable to dislodge the rebels. But civilians have been the hardest hit by the fighting.

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The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 74 people were killed in violence countrywide, including 50 civilians.

Fierce fighting on Wednesday also pitted the Syrian army against rebels in and around Taftanaz military airport, which lies between Aleppo and Idlib in northwest Syria, it added.

Syrian rebels said they destroyed five helicopters, while state television said an attack was repelled with no damage to the facility.


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Iceland tries to bring back trees razed by the Vikings

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Before being colonised by the Vikings, Iceland was lush with forests but the fearsome warriors razed everything to the ground and the nation is now struggling to reforest the island.

The country is considered the least forested in Europe; indeed, forests in Iceland are so rare, or their trees so young, that people often joke that those lost in the woods only need to stand up to find their way.

However, it wasn't always that way.

When seafaring Vikings set off from Norway and conquered the uninhabited North Atlantic island at the end of the ninth century, forests, made up mostly of birch trees, covered more than a quarter of the island.

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With plant closures looming, GM, Fiat Chrysler warn workers auto industry facing tough future

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With plant closures hanging over the start of contract negotiations, General Motors chief Mary Barra on Tuesday warned the United Auto Workers union that the industry is facing a difficult road ahead.

Barra opened talks with labor at the traditional handshake ceremony, emphasizing that the company must be prepared to change to be better positioned for the future.

"In a transforming industry, if we want our company to grow -- and grow jobs -- we can't keep doing things the same way," she said.

GM has drawn the wrath of the UAW and President Donald Trump over plans to halt production at four US plants including a major one in Lordstown, Ohio, a state that could be key to Trump’s re-election bid in 2020.

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‘White Identity Politics’ and white backlash: How we wound up with a racist in the White House

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Today's Republican Party is the largest, most powerful and most dangerous white racist organization in the United States -- if not the world. Donald Trump, the president of the United States, is its leader. These are plain if not understated facts. No embellishment is needed. The examples are many.  Over the last few days Donald Trump has repeatedly dug into his bucket of racist political scatology, saying on Twitter and elsewhere that four nonwhite members of Congress ("Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen," as he mockingly put it) should leave America and go back to their own "crime infested" and "totally broken" countries.

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