Ancient city of Palmyra swings back to syrian government control

Palmyra, the storied ancient city that was among prewar Syria’s leading tourist attractions, swung back under government control on Thursday, state media reported, as soldiers and their allies evicted Islamic State militants who had made a sport out of pilfering the city’s antiquities.

This was the fourth time in the past two years that control of Palmyra, a Unesco World Heritage Site, changed hands between government forces and Islamic State fighters, who vandalized the city’s historic sites and used its famed Roman stone amphitheater for public executions.

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Accelerating Yemen campaign, US conducts flurry of strikes targeting al-Qaeda

The United States conducted a series of air strikes on al-Qaeda targets in Yemen on Thursday, the Pentagon said, in another sign of the Trump administration’s expanding counterterrorism campaign there.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement that the air attacks targeted “militants, equipment and infrastructure” associated with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in three Yemeni governorates: Abyan, Bayda and Shabwah.

A defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss information that has not officially been made public, said there was a total of 25 strikes by manned and unmanned aircraft, far more attacks in a single night than the U.S. has conducted in recent history.

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European countries have carried out 8% of promised refugee relocations

European countries have accepted less than 10% of the 160,000 refugees they promised to move to safety from unsanitary and cramped camps in Italy and Greece, leading the European commission to warn it will “accept no more excuses”.

Only 13,546 relocations have been carried out so far – 3,936 from Italy and 9,610 from Greece – amounting to just 8% of the total the EU committed to relocate in 2015.

Just two member states, Malta and Finland, have met their resettling obligations under the relocation scheme that will close in September.

During a press conference in Brussels, the commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, warned that infringement proceedings against member states, including huge daily fines, could soon be levied.

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Sweden military service reintroduced “to face threats”

Sweden has announced that it will reintroduce compulsory military service starting this summer to respond to global security challenges including from Russia.

“The government wants a more stable staff supply system and to boost its military capability because the security situation has changed,” Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist told TT news agency on Thursday.

The Scandinavian nation, which has not seen armed conflict on its territory in two centuries, ended conscription in 2010 after it was deemed an unsatisfactory way of meeting the needs of a modern army.

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Trump administration has found only $20 million in existing funds for wall

President Donald Trump’s promise to use existing funds to begin immediate construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border has hit a financial roadblock, according to a document seen by Reuters.

The rapid start of construction, promised throughout Trump’s campaign and in an executive order issued in January on border security, was to be financed, according to the White House, with “existing funds and resources” of the Department of Homeland Security.

But so far, the DHS has identified only $20 million that can be re-directed to the multi-billion-dollar project, according to a document prepared by the agency and distributed to congressional budget staff last week.

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Sudan’s first PM since 1989 coup sworn in

A former army general and top aide to President Omar al-Bashir was sworn in Thursday as Sudan’s first prime minister since the post was scrapped in a 1989 Islamist-backed coup.

Bakri Hassan Saleh, a military officer involved in the bloodless coup that brought Bashir to power three decades ago, was named prime minister on Wednesday by the executive bureau of the president’s National Congress Party (NCP).

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Calais mayor bans distribution of food to migrants

The mayor of Calais has banned the distribution of food to migrants as part of a campaign to prevent the establishment of a new refugee camp as hundreds of people return to the port three months after the original one was demolished.

Natacha Bouchart, from the centre-right Les Républicains party, said she would implement policies “to prevent the distribution of meals to migrants”, and legal documents setting out the restrictions were put up in the vicinity of the camp on Thursday. Officials have already obstructed attempts by local charities to open showers for teenage migrants in the town.

Food distribution volunteers said they had been forced to do so in secret because of a heightened police presence. Refugee charities said they would ignore the ban but were taking legal advice.

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Catalans prepare vote for independence from Spain

Catalonia is organizing the logistics for a referendum on independence from Spain it plans to hold by the end of September, even if it goes against the wishes of the national government, the Catalan government’s foreign policy chief said.

“We are now preparing the referendum because … either in an agreed way or not, we need to be ready,” Raul Romeva said on Thursday at the Catalan regional government’s representative office in London.

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Facebook turns to artificial intelligence to tackle suicides

Facebook plans to use artificial intelligence and update its tools and services to help prevent suicides among its users.

The world’s largest social media network said it plans to integrate its existing suicide prevention tools for Facebook posts into its live-streaming feature, Facebook Live, and its Messenger service.

Artificial intelligence will be used to help spot users with suicidal tendencies, the company said in a blogpost on Wednesday.

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Snap is said to have worked on a drone

Snap has long been known as the maker of Snapchat, an app that sends disappearing messages, photographs and videos. But over the past few years, the company has repositioned itself as a modern-day camera company.

One of the products that Snap has worked on to bolster that direction is a drone, according to three people briefed on the project who asked to remain anonymous because the details are confidential. A drone could help Snap’s users take overhead videos and photographs, and then feed that visual data to the company.

It is unclear when or if Snap’s drone would become available to consumers. Like many technology companies, Snap often works on experiments, many of which are killed or repurposed into other projects. A Snap spokeswoman declined to comment.

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