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Vox Sentences: A tropical cyclone is fueling wildfires in Europe

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Iraqi military forces move into Kurdistan after independence referendum; a tropical storm fans the flames of deadly European wildfires; Somalia is reeling after one of its worst terrorist attacks.

Iraq and Kurdistan are fighting

Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images
  • Three weeks after a contentious Kurdish independence referendum, Iraqi forces have entered the region and begun a military confrontation, shooting at Kurdish fighters in the city of Kirkuk. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • Iraq is trying to stop the Kurds from splitting off and forming their own country, after warning the autonomous region for weeks not to hold a vote on independence. [NYT / David Zucchino]
  • Now the Iraqi military is following up threats with actual violence; they are targeting key infrastructure including a military base and an oil field in the northern city of Kirkuk. [Washington Post / Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim]
  • There’s a reason Kirkuk is the setting of the latest fighting: It’s disputed territory between the Iraqi government and the Kurds, who captured the city in 2014 after the Iraqis abandoned it as part of the fight against ISIS. The two sides were busy fighting the radical Islamist terrorist group in recent years, but with ISIS out of northern Iraq, their attention has now turned to each other. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • There’s no official number of deaths or injuries yet, but Kurdish officials have said there have been “lots of casualties” and civilians are fleeing Kirkuk, heading for the capital of Erbil. [CBS]
  • For their part, Kurdish leaders are showing no signs of backing off after the vote for independence went through. The US had opposed the referendum because it was worried it would fuel violence. [BBC]
  • This puts the United States in a tricky spot, because it’s allied itself with both the Iraqi government and the Kurds in the past. The Kurdish peshmerga were key US allies in the fight against ISIS in Iraq. [PBS Newshour / Christopher Livesay]
  • It could cause tensions between the US and Iraq; Sen. John McCain, chair of the Armed Services Committee, has already said Iraq should stop its fighting with the Kurds, and that it should not use American equipment for the battle. [NPR / Bill Chappell]

Feeling the heat

Francisco Leong/AFP/Getty Images
  • Firefighters in Spain and Portugal are battling dozens of blazes in both countries, which have so far killed 35 people and injured dozens more. [NYT / Raphael Minder]
  • There are more than 100 fires spread across the two countries, and authorities say they believe some of those were set intentionally. [Associated Press]
  • And it’s not even the first spate of deadly fires in Portugal, which saw 62 fatalities in a separate fire earlier this year. Conditions in Europe have been very hot and dry this summer, which have not helped quell the blazes. [CNN / Julia Jones, Nicole Chavez, and Chandrika Narayan]
  • While some of the fires may have been started by humans, they’re being fueled by an unlikely culprit: a rare cyclone named Hurricane Ophelia, which is still churning off the coast of Ireland and the United Kingdom. [Vox / Umair Irfan]
  • Ophelia is unleashing some of its worst weather in the UK, but its winds are also fanning the flames of the Spain and Portugal wildfires, making it difficult for firefighters to get a handle on the blazes. [Guardian / Sam Jones]
  • Over the past five decades, Europe has seen its fire season gradually get longer. Fires used to be worse from July through August; now the continent’s fire season regularly goes into October. And Ophelia’s rains aren’t expected to provide relief to Spain and Portugal anytime soon. [Vox / Umair Irfan]

Somalis are calling this weekend’s deadly bombing their 9/11

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  • Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, was struck with the worst violence it has seen in decades on Saturday, with two truck bombs exploding in a busy city intersection, killing more than 300 people. [NPR / Colin Dwyer]
  • Government officials have called it “the deadliest single attack” in the country and are blaming the attack on the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda. [Guardian / Jason Burke]
  • Only a third of the people who died have been able to be identified so far, as some of the bodies were burned so badly that they were not able to be recognized. [BBC]
  • Al-Shabaab has been battling with Somalia’s government for years, and shootings and explosions are nothing new in the capital. But the terrorist group has also been promising worse violence recently, as the government’s military has promised to crack down on them. [The Guardian / Jason Burke]
  • The government itself is also coming under scrutiny for the lack of security in the area, especially after vowing to weaken a group that carried out such a deadly attack. Somalia's government is unstable and being propped up with international help, but it is supposed to start functioning on its own next year. [NYT / Hussein Mohamed and Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura]
  • The US military has been active in the fight against al-Shabaab in the past year, carrying out 15 airstrikes. The US promised to double down on the fight against the organization, but some questioned whether the US strategy is working, given this most recent bombing. [Atlantic Council / Rachel Ansley]


  • Apparently, it takes a lot of time and effort to hand-sew the ornate, floor-length vestments priests wear. Just ask Sister Clare, a nun in California who worked four days to make one robe. [Racked / Nadra Nittle]
  • One of President Trump’s sexual assault accusers just subpoenaed documents pertaining to every single woman who has accused Trump of sexual assault and harassment in the past. It remains to be seen whether she’s able to get them. [BuzzFeed / Kendall Taggart and Jessica Garrison]
  • Cuts to federal funding for public universities have wide-reaching implications in the Midwest, where research is a big economic boon to towns and cities where the universities are. [The Atlantic / Jon Marcus]
  • States across the country are passing laws to crack down on fake service dogs — an elaborate ruse people craft in order to bring their pups everywhere. [PBS Newshour / Michael Ollove]
  • There’s now a third gender option for California residents: Rather than checking off male or female, people can choose to be nonbinary. [BuzzFeed / Jessica Testa]


“I don’t mingle ... down South, gossiping and meddling is like breathing.” [Transgender musician Jackie Shane to NYT / Reggie Ugwu]

“When you worked in the coal mine, you knew what you were walking into. When you were working in that place, you didn’t know what [chemicals were] following you around.” [Retired railroad worker Doug Thomson to the Huffington Post and Montana Quarterly / Chris D’Angelo and Scott McMillion]

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