It’s oil or nothing. Hours after Iraqi forces and Shia militias launched an operation to recapture oil fields and a military base near Kirkuk from Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, they reportedly seized the key city. Last month, an independence referendum passed by an overwhelming margin in northern Iraq, raising fears in Baghdad that Kurdistan’s secession is imminent. The new country would include Kirkuk, which has a mixed Arab and Kurdish population, and valuable nearby oil fields. Meanwhile, thousands of people have fled the disputed city — controlled since 2014 by Peshmerga forces — amid the Iraqi advance.
The Presidential Daily Brief
His parents must be proud. Early results indicate that Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, 31, is set to become the world’s youngest national leader. His conservative People’s Party took more than 31 percent of Sunday’s votes, putting Kurz in the chancellor’s seat. The millennial has hardened his party’s stance on immigration, which may have contributed to its seven-point gain since the last parliamentary election in 2013. Kurz is expected to move rightward and form a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party, which hasn’t been in government since 2005.
If at first you don’t secede … what happens? That’s the question in Catalonia today, after Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont missed a morning deadline set by Madrid to clarify whether or not the region would be seeking independence from Spain. Puigdemont has instead called for “dialogue,” refusing to either declare or rule out secession. Spanish stocks lagged behind the rest of Europe today as it looked increasingly likely that Madrid would use Article 155 of the Constitution to take control of Catalonia’s autonomous government, an unprecedented move.
Back to the drawing board. After President Donald Trump last week unilaterally ended government subsidies on health insurance for low-income Americans, Senate Republicans are hoping to reach a deal on an Obamacare replacement, despite multiple failed attempts. Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy called the president’s action “the equivalent of health care arson,” and multiple lawmakers are expected to float new proposals this week. Republicans, with their razor-thin Senate margin, have been unable to reach a compromise that satisfies hard-line conservatives without turning off moderates and jeopardizing the coverage of millions.
Know This: In an uncharacteristic move, Attorney General Jeff Sessions dispatched Justice Department personnel to aid with prosecution in the murder of a transgender teenager. Hurricane Ophelia, now weakened to a tropical cyclone, is expected to hit Ireland today. And Venezuela’s ruling party has claimed a crushing victory in governorship elections, while the opposition says it suspects fraud.
Remember This Number: 276. That’s how many people were killed by a truck bomb in Mogadishu this weekend, prompting three days of mourning across Somalia. So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
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Hops spring eternal. The Nutmeg State’s more than tripled its supply of breweries in the last six years, and a new law should brew up even more: The state’s farmers are now authorized to produce 75,000 gallons of beer per year — as long as their bottles are labeled “Connecticut Craft Beer.” The state’s indie beer scene has fermented into a $569 million business, creating 4,600 jobs that fill part of an economic hole left by declining industry — and even repurposing abandoned manufacturing facilities for beermaking.
They’re closing up shop. Due to high maintenance costs — and a waning supply of monks willing to hunker down in the rural religious fortress — the Cistercian Himmerod Abbey is closing its doors after an impressive 883 years of service. Its six monks will be transferred to other monasteries of their choice, but the rest of the staff may not be so lucky. The monastery’s head, Abbot Johannes, hopes Himmerod’s bookshop, plant nursery and fishery will continue to operate, noting, “There is no way to destroy this spiritual place.”
This style’s going viral. A new infectious disease study demonstrated how pathogens can be carried on the sleeves of doctors’ traditional white coats. Though study participants wore gloves and washed their hands between examining mannequin “patients,” their wrists were contaminated a quarter of the time while wearing long sleeves, and in 5 percent of examinations they even transferred a virus between patients. No contamination occurred while wearing short sleeves, suggesting the “bare below the elbow” look, already policy in British hospitals, might be the hot new trend for American doctors.
The future is here. Iraq + 100, a speculative fiction anthology of Iraqi writers imagining their country a century after the 2003 U.S. invasion, is now available in America. The collection introduces U.S. readers to authors like Hassan Blasim, Khalid Kaki and Zhraa Alhaboby, some of whom were jailed or fled Iraq over their work’s depictions of theocratic dystopias and lingering effects of chemical warfare. The anthologists hope to encourage sci-fi writers from the region — and give American readers insight into Iraq’s storied history and difficult present.
Fans’ hopes were shattered too. The Packers quarterback took a devastating hit Sunday, landing on his throwing arm and breaking his collarbone. Rodgers is likely to be out for the rest of the season. He had a similar injury in 2013 and was able to return to put Green Bay in the playoffs, though that break wasn’t on his throwing side. Speculation abounds over potential replacements, including Tony Romo and Colin Kaepernick, who’s just filed a grievance against NFL owners for allegedly colluding to punish him for kneeling during the national anthem.