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DENIS CHARLET/AFP/Getty Images(CALAIS, France) -- A migrant camp known as "The Jungle" near Calais, northern France, is set to be demolished starting Monday.

Authorities are preparing for some of the estimated 7,000 migrants to refuse to leave as they are forced to decide between seeking asylum in France, or returning to their country of origin.

Many of the migrants do not want to stay in France and dream of getting to the U.K. The U.K. has already started to accept some of the migrant camp's 1,300 unaccompanied children, BBC reports.

On Saturday, a small group of migrants reportedly threw bottles and stones in protest at French officers at the camp, and police retaliated with smoke grenades, according to BBC.

Authorities in France said they did not want to use force against those who refuse to leave the camp, according to BBC, but may intervene if necessary.

Thousands of leaflets were handed out by French authorities at the camp this weekend explaining the plans for the evacuation, and where to report for some 60 buses that will take them away, BBC reports.

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iStock/Thinkstock(MOSUL, Iraq) -- Intense fighting is underway near Mosul as Iraqi and Kurdish forces continue to liberate more villages from ISIS in an operation expected to last months.

The 30,000 fighters are closing in on ISIS's largest stronghold, with the help of airpower, artillery and ground troops from the U.S., but more than 1 million civilians remain under the terror group's control in Mosul.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Sunday the mission was dangerous, but vital.

"Make no mistake, whether they're flying airplanes overhead or whether they're advising units on the ground, even behind the front lines they are at risk," he said.

Carter said it was important for everyone to understand that the mission had to be done.

The Iraqi and Kurdish forces have faced fierce resistance from ISIS, which is why the operation will take months, a senior U.S. official told ABC News. The official added that Iraq would be broken for "50-100 years" with "tremendous problems every single day."

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  The massive battle to liberate Iraq’s second largest city from ISIS entered its sixth day amid reports that the terrorist group had taken hundreds of civilians captive to use as human shields.

As Iraqi-led forces advance toward Mosul, the last major stronghold of ISIS in Iraq, the United Nations said it is “gravely worried” about reports that the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is holding some 550 families for use as human shields.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also said his office will be investigating reports of ISIS executing at least 40 civilians in one of the villages outside Mosul.

“There is a grave danger that ISIL fighters will not only use such vulnerable people as human shields but may opt to kill them rather than see them liberated,” he said in a statement. “We know ISIL has no regard for human life, which is why it is incumbent upon the Iraqi Government to do its utmost to protect civilians.”

The Iraqi-led coalition moving toward Mosul have encountered booby traps, roadside bombs and trenches filled with oil that ISIS set ablaze to provide smoke cover for its fighters. Dramatic images from the area show thick black smoke rising from torched oil fields and billowing into the sky over Mosul and surrounding towns.

 ISIS has also torched sulfur stocks at an industrial plant south of Mosul, sending plumes of toxic smoke into the air and over a base where U.S. military advisers are stationed. There have been no reports of hospitalizations so far, though some military oops have donned gas masks as a precaution. Iraqi officials estimate it will take at least two to three days to contain the burning sulfur fire, according to the U.S. military official.

By Saturday, the Iraqi army had pushed into Qaraqosh, also known as Hamdaniyah and Bakhdida, and raised its flag over the northern town some 20 miles southeast Mosul. Fewer than 200 ISIS fighters in the town, the official said.Further south, some skirmishes continued a day after ISIS fighters launched a massive attack in and around the city of Kirkuk.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made an unannounced stop in the capital of Baghdad on Saturday for an update on the offensive to retake Mosul, which the United States is supporting with airstrikes and about 100 to 200 military advisers on the ground.

A U.S. military official in Baghdad confirmed that Iraqi special forces had isolated the town of Qaraqosh and launched an assault there on Saturday.

Further north, the official said, Iraqi Kurdish forces known as peshmerga had pushed forward, enabling the Iraqi army to move along their axis of advance.

The operation began Monday with about 18,000 Iraqi forces, 10,000 Kurdish forces known as peshmerga and a few thousand Iraqi federal police leading the effort to free the strategic city of Mosul from more than two years of ISIS rule. American advisers are also involved in the mission that is operating on two fronts -- one west of the Great Zab River and the other just north of Qayyarah.

An American service member was killed by a roadside bomb northeast of Mosul on Thursday, marking the first U.S. casualty in the region since the operation began. The U.S. Defense Department has identified the fallen service member as Navy Chief Petty Officer Jason C. Finan, 34, of Anaheim, California. Finan, who belonged to an explosive-ordnance disposal unit, was serving alongside Iraqi troops as an adviser.

Finan was traveling with members of Iraq's special forces in an armored vehicle when it struck an improvised explosive device and the vehicle rolled over. Finan was flown to the Kurdish capital of Erbil for treatment where he died from his injuries, according to a defense official.

 Iraqi special forces joined the fight for Mosul on the fourth day of the operation. Iraqi army Maj. Gen. Maan al-Saadi said Thursday the elite troops, also known as counterterrorism forces, advanced on the town of Bartella, some 13 miles east of Mosul, with the aid of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and heavy artillery. By Saturday, a U.S. military official said the Iraqi special forces were working to clear out Bartella.

The Iraqi counterterrorism unit is expected to lead the way into Mosul. Although officials have said the fight to take back the strategic city could take weeks or months, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Alabadi said Thursday the operation was advancing “more quickly” than expected.

As the fighting intensifies, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that an “unprecedented humanitarian crisis” looms as up to a million civilians are expected to flee Mosul in the coming days and weeks.

“The challenges in this scenario are unprecedented. We don’t often have up to one million people potentially on the move; it’s very rare in scale and size,” said UNICEF regional emergency adviser Bastien Vigneau.

At least 200,000 people are expected to be displaced in the first two weeks of the operation to free Mosul and as many as 1.5 million civilians are estimated to remain in the city. Of the 1 million who could become displaced, approximately half are children.

According to a U.S. military official, there were at least 2,500 people in displacement camps as of Saturday.

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STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images(ESEKA, Cameroon) -- Officials in Cameroon now say at least 70 people were killed in a train crash Friday, with another 600 people injured.

The train was overcrowded when it derailed while traveling between Douala and Yaounde, according to BBC.

Cameroon President Paul Biya offered his condolences to families of the victims in a Facebook post and said the government would "provide full assistance to the survivors."

There will be an investigation into the cause of the derailment, according to the Cameroon president.

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Zoonar/Thinkstock(ISTANBUL) -- U.S. officials have issued an unprecedented warning to Americans living in Istanbul, Turkey.

The U.S. consulate general in Istanbul advised Americans in a security message Saturday that extremist groups were targeting U.S. citizens for armed attack, attempted kidnapping, bombing and other violent acts. The statement said the attacks could be pre-planned or happen with little or no warning.

"The Consulate General advises U.S. citizens residing in or visiting Istanbul to review and update their personal security practices when traveling to locations where westerners are known to frequent or reside," the statement said. "U.S. citizens should also exercise increased vigilance and caution in areas easily accessible to the general public."

The State Department continues to warn Americans to avoid traveling to southeastern Turkey and to stay away from large crowds, particularly at popular tourist destinations.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  Patients with serious wounds and diseases that can’t be treated in the besieged part of Aleppo, Syria, were not able to leave the city Friday as planned.

Medical evacuations were supposed to begin Friday after Russia said it extended a “humanitarian pause” to allow patients, other civilians and rebels to leave the besieged city through corridors. Russian and Syrian officials have suggested that after the cease-fire, the Russian and Syrian armies will launch a new offensive on Aleppo to clear the area of the rebels fighting the Syrian government, which is besieging the eastern part of Aleppo. But the United Nations and medical sources in Aleppo said that the evacuations could not be carried out Friday because of lack of security assurances.

“We are in desperate need to evacuate injured and sick children, women and elderly, but there is no guarantee for their safety,” Mohamed Abu Rajab, a radiologist in the besieged part of Aleppo, told ABC News. “We don’t trust the Syrian government. How can people who are killing us guarantee our safety? We don’t want to cooperate with them. We want to cooperate with the world community and humanitarian organizations, but how can we cooperate with our killers?”

 After a U.S.-Russia brokered cease-fire collapsed on Sept. 19, the Syrian government launched an offensive on east Aleppo, which has killed at least 500 people and injured 2,000, with more than a quarter of all deaths being children, according to the U.N. Humanitarian organizations have criticized Russia and the Syrian government for using cluster bombs, chemical weapons and bunker-buster bombs, targeting civilians sheltering underground in the past month.

Among the patients who are in need of urgent evacuation out of east Aleppo are people who suffer from nerve injuries, renal fractures, eye wounds and heart diseases, as well as people in comas and malnourished children, said Abu Rajab. The besieged part of Aleppo has not received any aid since early July, according to the U.N., which means that the estimated 275,000 people who live there are in need of food, clean water, gas and health care.

“Unfortunately, medical evacuations were not able to commence in eastern Aleppo this morning as planned because the conditions to ensure a safe, secure and voluntary evacuation of those in need and their families were not in place. All parties to the conflict and those with influence over them need to ensure that all conditions are in place so we can proceed with this urgently needed medical evacuation as soon as possible,” David Swanson, a spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told ABC News.

Swanson and the U.N.’s spokesperson for the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria declined to comment on what security assurances it is waiting for before evacuations can take place, but they said that the U.N. and its partners are present and ready in west Aleppo to carry out a detailed operational plan as soon as conditions allow. If evacuations take place, the U.N. would start with evacuating a small number of urgent cases and their families from east Aleppo to either west Aleppo or to the Bab al-Hawa hospital in Idlib on Day 1. “That will allow us to test the safety and effectiveness of the operation,” said Swanson.

According to Physicians for Human Rights, 95 percent of medical personnel who were in Aleppo before the war have fled, been detained or were killed. Several health facilities have been bombed leaving only around five hospitals left functioning to service thousands of people, according to the U.N., which estimates that about 30 doctors are left in Aleppo.

Abu Rajab used to be the manager at one of the largest hospitals in Aleppo, which is now out of service after being bombed multiple times. At the hospital, Abu Rajab helped treat Omran Daqneesh, the boy whose photo of him sitting in an ambulance was seen by millions of people. A video showing Omran touching his wounded head and wiping away the blood without shedding a tear has come to symbolize the humanitarian suffering in Aleppo. In a recent interview with Swiss TV SRF1, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called the image of Omran fake. To Abu Rajab that is an example of why he doesn’t trust that the Syrian government will guarantee the safety of civilians leaving through the corridors, as Syria claims.

“You saw a Swiss journalist with the head of the government," Abu Rajab said. "When he saw the photo of Omran what did he say? He lied. Omran was at our hospital. We treated him. And he says 'this is fabricated.' How can we trust him when he doesn’t tell the truth?”

Thursday, medical sources in Aleppo said they treated 12 civilians who were wounded by gunfire as they tried to leave Aleppo through one of the corridors. Aleppo residents said that they heard the sound of clashes near a corridor in the Bustan al-Qasr area.

During an emergency session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva today, the U.N.’s humanitarian chief said that Aleppo has become a “slaughterhouse.”

“The ancient city of Aleppo, a place of millennial civility and beauty, is today a slaughterhouse -- a gruesome locus of pain and fear, where the lifeless bodies of small children are trapped under streets of rubble and pregnant women deliberately bombed,” the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a speech to the council.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House has responded to requests from Russian officials to observe U.S. polling stations on Election Day.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday it was “unclear what their intent [was]," and it was fair to be suspicious of Russia's intent.

"It’s appropriate that people might be suspicious of their motives, or at least their motives might be different from what they have publically stated, given the nefarious activities they have engaged in in cyber space," he said Friday.

At least three states-- including Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana-- have denied requests from the Russian consulate general in Houston to have a Russian officer view a polling station.

In a letter obtained by ABC News, consul general Alexander Zakharov asked Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos if a Russian officer could be "present (for a short period of time, when convenient) at one of the ballot station of Texas with the goal of studying the US experience in organization of voting process during the United States Presidential Elections on November 8th, 2016."

Cascos said in a response that the state was "unable to accommodate [his] request" and noted that "only persons authorized by law may be inside of a polling location during voting."

The U.S. has criticized Russia for trying to interfere with the country's election after Russian hackers were believed to have infiltrated emails of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign manager John Podesta, according to security officials. Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied the claims. This week, the White House said President Obama was considering a "proportional" response to Russia for the hacking.

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DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- London City Airport was evacuated Friday after a suspected "chemical incident."

The east London airport said it was "believed to be a CS gas spray" that caused about 500 people to be evacuated. The airport said officials were "investigating whether it was the result of an accidental discharge."

At least 26 patients were treated for difficulty breathing at the scene and two people were taken to the hospital, according to a statement from the London Fire Brigade (LFB).

London City Airport has since been declared safe and reopened after a security sweep. LFB said there were no elevated readings found and the building was ventilated.

“We apologise to passengers for inconvenience caused today,” the airport said Friday.

Metropolitan Police said the incident was not being treated as "terrorist related."

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Schiaparelli probe that was supposed to land on Mars Wednesday may have exploded prior to reaching the planet's surface, the European Space Agency said Friday.

Photos taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveal two new black spots on the surface of the red planet near the designated landing site for the European-Russian module.

The ESA lost contact with the Schiaparelli probe shortly after it entered Mars' atmosphere. The ESA said it is still analyzing data in order to understand what went wrong. The Trace Gas Orbiter that the ESA sent along with the Schiaparelli probe, however, has successfully entered orbit around the red planet.

NASA's MRO snapped the photos Thursday of the site where the Schiaparelli probe was supposed to land and released the images Friday. The photos feature two new markings on the surface of the planet when compared to an image of the same area taken in May.

NASA said in a statement on its website accompanying the photos that one of the spots is likely the lander's parachute, which was deployed and released during the probe's descent, and the larger black spot was likely the lander itself.

The ESA said in a statement that the markings indicate that the lander most likely hit the surface of the planet "at a considerable speed."

"It is also possible that the lander exploded on impact, as its thruster propellant tanks were likely still full. These preliminary interpretations will be refined following further analysis," the ESA added.

The lander and orbiter were a part of ExoMars, a joint mission between the European Space Agency and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, that has the main goal of exploring "whether life has ever existed on Mars," according to the ESA.

The lander was intended to "test key technologies" in preparation for future Mars missions. Meanwhile, the orbiter's mission is to search for evidence of methane and other atmospheric gases that could indicate whether there was ever -- or is -- life on Mars, according to the ESA.

Settling in well to my new home in #Mars orbit! #ExoMars https://t.co/L61XqNXBGw

— ExoMars orbiter (@ESA_TGO) October 21, 2016

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  The U.S. Defense Department has identified the service member killed by a roadside bomb north of Mosul on Thursday as Navy Chief Petty Officer Jason C. Finan, 34, of Anaheim, California. Finan, who belonged to an explosive-ordnance disposal unit, was serving alongside Iraqi troops as an adviser.

According to a defense official, Finan was killed Thursday when the armored vehicle he was traveling in struck an improvised explosive device and the vehicle rolled over.

Finan was traveling at the time with members of Iraq's elite counterterrorism unit northeast of Mosul. He was flown to the Kurdish capital of Erbil for treatment where he died of his injuries.

Finan was assigned to Navy explosive ordnance disposal mobile unit based in Coronado, California.

"The entire Navy expeditionary combat command family offers our deepest condolences and sympathies to the family and loved ones of the sailor we lost," said Rear Adm. Brian Brakke, commander of the expeditionary force.

Finan was the first American military fatality in Iraq since the start of the Mosul operation earlier this week. He is the fourth U.S. service member to die in combat in the fight against ISIS.

According to U.S. defense officials, more than 100 American military advisers are accompanying Iraq's elite counterterrorism force and Kurdish peshmerga fighters pressing toward Mosul. The advisers help the Iraqi and Kurdish forces with planning and battlefield assistance.

The U.S. advisers serve at the headquarters level and are not supposed to be on the front lines. But given the reality of how the fighting units operate on the battlefield, the American advisers may get closer to a combat environment.

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Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  The United Nations is facing backlash after appointing the fictional superhero Wonder Woman as its new Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls.

A petition started by “concerned” U.N. staff members asks the intergovernmental organization to reconsider the choice, arguing that Wonder Woman’s “current iteration is that of a large breasted, white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit with an American flag motif and knee high boots -– the epitome of a 'pin-up' girl.”

The petition adds that it was “disappointing” that the U.N. “was unable to find a real-life woman that would be able to champion the rights of ALL women on the issue of gender equality and the fight for their empowerment.”

Critics also say that they would be more than happy to come up with a list “of incredible extraordinary women that would formidably carry out this role.”

Appointing Wonder Woman as an Honorary Ambassador is part of a U.N. campaign meant to "highlight what we can collectively achieve if women and girls are empowered," according to a statement on the U.N.'s website on sustainable development goals, which states that Wonder Woman will be used in support of Sustainable Development Goal 5, "to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls."

The petition to reconsider Wonder Woman as the ambassador goes on to say, "at a time when issues such as gender parity in senior roles and the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse of women and girls is at the top of the United Nations' agenda, including the 'He for She' campaign, this appointment is more than surprising."

 Life-size cutouts of the superhero have already appeared at the U.N. headquarters in New York, according to the petition.

The decision felt especially insensitive to some because of the recent U.N. decision to not appoint a female chief to replace Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon when he steps down at the end of this year. The U.N. has never had a woman as secretary-general.

Anne Marie Goetz, an NYU professor and former U.N. adviser, called the move "disgusting" on Twitter, saying that it substituted a "sexualized fake" for a "real woman leader."

Disgusting that the UN substitutes sexualized fake for real woman leader. Hope Wonder Woman's lasso of truth reveals hypocrisy @riotwomennn https://t.co/h1V68jmMNB

— anne marie goetz (@amgoetz) October 15, 2016

Stéphane Dujarric, a U.N. spokesman for the secretary-general, defended the choice at a press briefing on Monday, saying "in order to reach young people, in order to reach audiences outside of this building, we need to be creative and have creative partnerships."

Dujarric continued: "I think this is a new and creative way for us to reach a different audience with critical messages about women's empowerment. ... The aim of using cartoon characters, whether it's Angry Birds, whether it's Wonder Woman, is not to reach people like you and I, or at least not to reach people like me."

Dujarric added that the vote on the next secretary-general and the launch of the Wonder Woman campaign are "clearly not related," and said that the aim of the Wonder Woman campaign is to "think of all the wonders" that "we can collectively achieve if women and girls are empowered."

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ABC News(NEW YORK) --   Donald Trump's suggestion that the U.S. economy is "stagnant" because it is growing more slowly than the economies in India and China tells half a truth, economists said.

The Republican nominee said at Wednesday night’s debate that India's economy is “growing at 8 percent, China is growing at 7 percent, and that for them is a catastrophically low number.”

He said of the U.S. economy, “We are growing, our last report came out, and it’s right around the 1 percent level. And I think it's going down ... Our country is stagnant.”

Trump is right that the U.S. economy is expanding at a slower clip than India's, whose gross domestic product increased by 7.6 percent in 2015, or China's, which grew by 6.9 percent, according to World Bank figures. The U.S. economy by contrast expanded at a rate of 1.4 percent in the second quarter of this year, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis says.

Taken at face value, the comparatively low rate of growth in the U.S. compared to that in India and China could shock.

 The Republican candidate's concern about U.S. growth has some legitimacy.

In the first quarter of this year, the economy expanded at an anemic 0.8 percent though the rate increased in the second quarter.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

But several economists told ABC News that comparing an advanced economy like the United States' to developing economies doesn't paint a true picture.

“It's really not a fair comparison," Matthew Oxenford, a researcher at Chatham House, an independent policy institute in London, told ABC News. "Developing economies such as India generally grow significantly faster than developed countries such as the U.S.”

The reason is that generating growth in advanced economies is relatively difficult.

“Poor countries like India and China have massive catch-up growth to do, what economists call convergence,” William Cline, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, told ABC News.

 One economist gave the example of all the work that went into inventing the first airplane in the U.S.

“When America got its first aeroplane, it took real imagination, ingenuity, bravery and risk-taking entrepreneurship, and a lot of failures before the Wright brothers got it right," said John Nugée, a colleague of Oxenford’s at Chatham House.

In contrast, “when India got its first aeroplane, all it had to do was trot along to a manufacturer and say, ‘We would like one of those, please’.” Nugée said.

“That’s why it is easier for a poor country to catch up and converge than for a rich country to continue to progress, to push the envelope, to grow from being successful to even more successful,” he said.

Oxenford agreed that it's easier for economies in countries such as India and China to grow quickly.

“Basically, there's a lot of 'low-hanging fruit' in developing economies, such as moving people off farms and into cities, developing institutions of good governance, and adopting technological innovations that have already been adopted in advanced economies,” he said.

In the U.S. about 82 percent of the population already lives in urban areas, compared to just 33 percent in India and 56 percent in China.

A United Nations report in 2014 found that, India and China had the world's largest rural populations.

But they are moving off the farm and into the city at a rate of 2.38 percent in India and 3.05 percent in China, according to the CIA World Factbook.

The rate of people in the United States leaving rural settings for cities is l.02 percent.

When workers move "from the low-productivity traditional agricultural sector to the ‘modern’ sector in the cities, there is a big jump in productivity” in the economy, Cline said. “That is why India and China can grow for long periods of time at 6 to 8 percent, but advanced economies ‘at the technological frontier’ only grow at about 2 to 3 percent.”

 Another key factor in growth is the ability for business to operate in a stable political environment.

The U.S. enjoys less corrupt governance than China or India, placing it in the 89.9 percentile in the World Bank’s “control of corruption” indicator compared to 50 for China and 44.2 for India.

The United States also rates higher on political stability and the absence of violence and terrorism, placing in the 69.5 percentile compared to 27.1 for China and 16.7 for China.

Historical Perspective

Trump also said China and India's current growth is “catastrophically low” for them, and economic data shows their rates of expansion are a bit down but the situation is far from ‘catastrophic’.

China’s 6.9 percent growth in gross domestic product is down from an average expansion rate of 9.7 percent between 1990 and 2015, according to ABC News calculations of World Bank figures.

India's growth rate last year of 7.6 percent is lower than the rate of 6.5 percent over the same 15-year period.

The U.S. over the same period had a growth rate of 2.4.

Looking Ahead

 The good news is economists at Barclay’s Bank are projecting GDP in the U.S. to increase 2.5 percent in the third quarter, a solid figure for an advanced economy.

We’ll know if the predictions prove true when the new numbers come out Oct. 28.

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iStock/Thinkstock(KIRKUK, Iraq) — ISIS suicide bombers and gunmen attacked several key targets in and around the city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq on Friday, in a daring pre-dawn assault that is testing the Iraqi security forces' ability to respond on multiple fronts as the government concentrates its efforts on seizing the city of Mosul.

The ISIS militants struck three police stations, the headquarters of a Kurdish political party, and a power plant. Security forces continued to battle the attackers late into the morning.

Kirkuk sits about 100 miles southeast of Mosul, were 28,000 Iraqi troops are battling to take control of the city more that two years after it was overrun by ISIS.

ISIS said it was behind the attack in Kirkuk, claiming its fighters had broken into the headquarters of the PUK, a Kurdish political party, and taken control of a hotel. A curfew has been imposed in Kirkuk "until further notice," Iraqi media said. A local TV channel showed footage of black smoke rising over the Kirkuk, with automatic gunfire audible.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Security Forces continued to press closer to Mosul on Friday, taking control of the village of Nanaah, south of the city.

ISIS fighters were reported to have set fire to a chemical plant south of Mosul as they were retreating on Thursday. Sources say they started the fire at the sulfur plant in al-Mishraq deliberately when they were being pushed out of the area by the Iraqi security services during the ongoing offensive.

On Thursday, a U.S. service member was killed when the armored vehicle he was traveling in was struck by an IED and rolled over. He was traveling with Iraqi special forces northeast of Mosul. He was sent to Erbil for treatment and died of his injuries. The service member's name and branch of service has not yet been released as family is being notified.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  After weeks of controversial comments about President Obama, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced Thursday that his country would separate itself from the United States and turn toward China and possibly Russia instead, sparking puzzlement from U.S. officials.

Duterte criticized the U.S.'s economy, military and general “discourteous” behavior in a meeting Thursday.

“Both in military, not maybe social, but economics also, America has lost,” he said to the crowd of over 200, later adding, “There are three of us against the world -- China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.”

"I will not go to America anymore. We will just be insulted there. So time to say goodbye my friend," he declared.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. was “baffled” by Duterte's declaration: “It’s not clear what [the separation] means in all its ramifications.”

He later backtracked, explaining, “I wasn’t trying to say we were surprised by these comments.”

Kirby said Daniel Russel, a U.S. diplomat for East Asian and Pacific affairs, will move ahead with long-scheduled plans to travel to Manila this weekend and meet with government officials.

The State Department isn’t panicking yet, Kirby said, adding that the alliance between the U.S. and the Philippines is "some 70 years old [and] has weathered all kinds of storms.”

"We remain rock solid in our commitment in the mutual defense treaty that we have with the Philippines,” he said.

The White House has taken a similar stance. “We have not received any official requests from Filipino officials to alter any of our many issues where we bilaterally cooperate," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Thursday.

Duterte has been a subject of criticism in recent weeks for calling President Obama "son of a b----" and telling him to "go to hell." Most recently, he's the subject of criticisms about possible human rights violations in his war on drugs via extrajudicial killings of Filipino drug addicts and dealers. Last week, the International Crime Court in The Hague announced that it would be closely monitoring the Philippines and that it was considering launching a full investigation.

What Does This Mean for U.S. Foreign Policy?

A prominent marker of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy has been the “Asia Pivot” – a shift from a focus on Middle Eastern and European foreign policy to one on East Asian and Southeast Asian policy. The Philippines, particularly Manila, has been key in this strategy.

In the struggle over the South China Sea, Manila’s proximity has made it an ideal hub for U.S. military operations. The U.S. has constantly used it for this reason in times of conflict, as in the Vietnam War, and in 2013 when it asked to base drone operations there in air strikes against Syria (and was denied).

"No other country in the region is willing to allow the basing rights the administration spent years negotiating," according to Steve Ganyard, a former deputy assistant secretary of state and ABC News consultant.

Ganyard also highlights the critical implications the move could have for the next presidential administration.

"Clinton will likely use the Philippines as an impetus to quickly set out her own differentiated Asia-Pacific policy early in her term," he said. "It will be much tougher than Obama's and include confronting China's aggressive and illegal regional behavior."

For China, a New Brotherhood

China and the Philippines seem firmly pleased with the decision.

Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomed the Philippine leader today with a marching band and an elaborate ceremony, calling Duterte his “brother.”

In the business forum that was the focus of Duterte’s visit, China agreed to loan $9 billion to the Philippines, and 13 pacts were signed between the two nations, marking partnerships on maritime cooperation, financing, transport, drug-busting and more. Jinping has previously said that he admires Duterte's drug-fighting tactics.

In contrast, Jinping’s meetings with Obama are markedly less cordial. Obama was denied his usual red carpet arrival when Air Force One touched down in Beijing for the G20 Summit last month after Chinese and U.S. officials argued over which stairs the president would descend from. Obama ended up having to use a smaller door in the belly of Air Force One, while most other leaders arriving for the G20 Summit did not share the experience.

While there, White House press corps members were roped off and blocked from recording Obama’s arrival. The U.S. called the affair an accident and denied notions that it was a "snub," while the Chinese media declared that U.S. media had dramatized the interaction.

Despite subtle terseness and tension between the U.S. and China, U.S. officials “welcome a closer relationship between the Philippines and China,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said Thursday.

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cnrn/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- An American service member died Thursday from wounds sustained in an IED explosion in northern Iraq, the U.S. military said. Further information was not immediately available.

Thursday marked the fourth day of the operation to liberate Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, from the Islamic State group's control. About 18,000 Iraqi forces, 10,000 Kurdish forces known as peshmerga and a few thousand Iraqi federal police launched the massive military offensive on Monday. Roughly 100 American advisers are also involved in the mission, which is divided into two fronts -- one west of the Great Zab River and the other just north of Qayyarah.

Only a "small number" of the nearly 5,000 American troops stationed in Iraq could find themselves in what a Pentagon spokesman called "a combat environment" while they advise the Iraqi and Kurdish forces involved in the operation.

"Early indications are that Iraqi forces have met their objectives so far and that they are ahead of schedule for this first day,” said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook at a briefing Monday. “This is going according to the Iraqi plan, but again, it's early and the enemy gets a vote here. We will see whether ISIL stands and fights."

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the operation is advancing “more quickly” than expected, as an Iraqi-led coalition of forces captured several more villages around Mosul today.

According to Kurdish peshmerga commanders, their forces have so far taken the towns of Barima, North Smaqa, South Smaqa, Fazilya, Nawaran, Imam Razil and the village of Dere. The troops are working to clear booby traps and IEDs from all the settlements under ISIS rule.

The peshmerga commanders told ABC News that Thursday morning’s operation aimed to clear more of the outlying villages around Mosul and to tighten the noose around the Islamic State's last major stronghold in Iraq.

Meanwhile, to the south of Mosul, the Iraqi army is carefully pushing forward today while encountering booby-trapped explosives and fierce resistance from ISIS militants in some villages on the outskirts.

Iraqi special forces joined the fight for Mosul this morning. Iraqi Army Maj. Gen. Maan al-Saadi said the elite troops, also known as counterterrorism forces, advanced on the town of Bartella with the aid of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and heavy artillery. The special forces are expected to carefully lead the way into Mosul.

"God willing, we will take this town today," he said of Bartella, which ISIS seized in 2014.

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