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Inside Daily Brief (Mar 9th, 2017)

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The US has sent several hundred Marines to Syria to support an allied local force aiming to capture the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa. The troops arrived earlier this week to establish an outpost from which they will be able to fire artillery at ISIS positions some 20 miles away. The troops are there to set up an artillery battery that could fire powerful 155mm shells from M777 howitzers, according to officials. US special forces are already on the ground, advising the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance.  A separate force of elite US army Rangers was also deployed near a town north-west of Raqqa in heavily armored vehicles last week, in an attempt to end clashes between SDF fighters and a Turkish-backed rebel force. - BBC

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says his group will work with technology companies to help defend against the Central Intelligence Agency's hacking tools. Assange acknowledged that companies had asked for more details about the CIA cyber espionage toolkit, the existence of which was revealed in a trove of documents published Tuesday. Assange told journalists: "We have decided to work with them, to give them some exclusive access to some of the technical details we have, so that fixes can be pushed out." - TIME

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ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has fled the besieged Iraqi city of Mosul and is believed to have delegated tactical control of the battle to local commanders, according to a US defense official. The official said that the leader, who last appeared in public in Mosul in July 2014 to proclaim a "caliphate," fled the former ISIS bastion some time before Iraqi security forces surrounded the city. "He was in Mosul at some point before the offensive. We know he's been there," the official told reporters. "He left before we isolated Mosul and Tal Afar," a town to the west of the city. Baghdadi is not believed to be exercising any kind of tactical influence on how the Mosul battle will play out, the official said. "He probably gave broad strategic guidance and has left it to battlefield commanders." - F24

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Hawaii has become the first state to file a lawsuit against President Donald Trump's revised travel ban amid claims that the order will harm its Muslim population, tourism and foreign students.  Attorneys for the state have filed the lawsuit against the U.S. government at the federal court in Honolulu. The state had previously sued over Trump's initial travel ban, but that lawsuit was put on hold while other cases played out across the country. "Hawaii is special in that it has always been non-discriminatory in both its history and constitution," Attorney General Douglas Chin said. "Twenty percent of the people are foreign-born, 100,000 are non-citizens and 20 percent of the labor force is foreign-born." - AP

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A man who allegedly posed as singer Justin Bieber online has been charged with more than 900 child sex offenses. The 42-year-old man allegedly used multiple platforms, including Facebook and Skype, to communicate with his victims, Australian police said in a statement earlier today. "The breadth of offenses committed in this instance are frankly horrendous," Queensland Detective Inspector Jon Rouse said. The man allegedly posed as Bieber in order to solicit explicit images from children under 16. "This investigation demonstrates both the vulnerability of children that are utilizing social media and communication applications and the global reach and skill that child sex offenders have to groom and seduce victims," Rouse added. - CNN

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European leaders re-elected Donald Tusk as European Council president at a Brussels summit today despite threats from his native Poland that it would block his appointment. The vote was 27 in favor to one, according to a French diplomatic source. The government in Warsaw had argued that the decision should be delayed because of its displeasure with Tusk, a bitter political rival of the leader of Poland's current governing party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski. His government has argued that Tusk supports the domestic opposition in Poland and has failed to protect the country's interests in the EU. - F24

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Republicans scored a pre-dawn triumph earlier today in their effort to scuttle former President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. Following almost 18 hours of debate, Republicans pushed legislation through the Ways and Means Committee abolishing the tax penalty Obama's statute imposes on people who don't purchase insurance and reshaping how millions of Americans buy medical care. However, the White House and Republican leaders still face a country badly divided over the bid to scrap the Affordable Care Act. - AP

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One of the original “Schindler’s lists,” the documents used by the German industrialist Oskar Schindler to save more than 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust, has been put up for sale. The document was among those drawn up to protect Jewish workers from deportation and death. It is expected to sell for more than $2.4m at auction. The document is for sale through the Moments in Time dealer, which specializes in rare documents. The dealer’s website describes the document as an “exceedingly rare original” and the only one to have come on to the market. - GUARDIAN

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Archeologists claim they have unearthed a 600BC palace underneath a holy shrine in Iraq destroyed by ISIS. The researchers say there is an extra network of chambers beneath the Nebi Yunus shrine in eastern Mosul. The site contains what Muslims and Christians believe is the tomb of the Prophet Jonah. ISIS first started digging tunnels down to the palace after blowing up the shrine in 2014 as part of searches for ancient artifacts to plunder. The tunnels are home to a marble cuneiform inscription of King Esarhaddon thought to date back to the Assyrian empire in 627BC. “The objects don’t match descriptions of what we thought was down there, so the destruction of Isis has actually led us to a fantastic find,” said Professor Eleanor Robson, chair of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq. - INDEPENDENT

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Republicans in Congress have begun the process of rolling back the FCC's broadband privacy rules which prevent excessive surveillance. Arizona Republican Jeff Flake introduced a resolution to scrap the rules, using Congress' powers to invalidate recently-approved federal regulations. It is thought that the move has broad support, with 34 other names throwing their weight behind the resolution. The current rules require broadband providers to secure their customers' consent before they can sell their private data to marketing agencies. In addition, the rules forbade ISPs from storing your web browsing, app usage and contents of your text messages automatically. The American Civil Liberties Union said: "Congress is essentially allowing companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to sell consumers' private information to the highest bidder." - ENGADGET

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South Sudan leaders are failing their people at a time that the country is facing famine, according to a UN representative. David Shearer said the politicians seemed more interested in their own intrigues rather than ensuring food and medical care reached the population that is dying from famine and civil war. Shearer admitted that there was localized fighting between ethnic groups but no signs yet of a genocide yet, in the world’s youngest nation. Last month, the United Nations declared that parts of the country are experiencing famine, the first time the world has faced such a catastrophe in six years. - AFRICA NEWS

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Researchers in Japan have successfully used a tiny drone to pollinate a flower, a task usually accomplished by insects and animals. The remote-controlled drone was equipped with horsehairs coated with a special gel, which the researchers say was crucial to the process."This is the world's first demonstration of pollination by an artificial robotic pollinator," said Eijiro Miyako of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan, one of the authors of the study. - CNN

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