Three months ago, thousands of Iraqi and Kurdish troops, supported by the United States, France, Britain, and other western nations, began a massive operation to retake Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul from ISIS militants. At this stage, Iraqi government troops have announced that they have gained control of the eastern half of Mosul. Advancing into Mosul has been a slow and costly effort, as ISIS militants fortified and defended each neighborhood. As soldiers solidify their gains in the east, and some refugees return to their homes, Iraqi forces are gearing up to cross the Tigris River to push ISIS out of western Mosul as well. Also, see previous stories on the battle for Mosul here and here.
Svalbard is a Norwegian group of islands located in the Arctic Ocean north of continental Norway, about 650 miles (1,050 kilometers) from the North Pole. It is the northernmost year-round settlement on Earth, with a population of about 2,200. Recently, Svalbard has been trying to move its economy more toward tourism and scientific research, and away from coal mining, which supported much of the economy since the early 20th century. Tourist visits to Svalbard have been steadily rising, with amazing views and abundant wildlife—especially the polar bears—drawing visitors from around the world.