Greg Myre | WGLT

Greg Myre

Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that the United States has determined that the Islamic State is carrying out genocide against Christians and other religious groups in the Middle East.

It was not immediately clear whether the declaration would result in any change in U.S. policy, including the American bombing campaign against the radical Islamist group.

"In my judgment, [ISIS] is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shiite Muslims," Kerry said at the State Department.

Russian President Vladimir Putin just made another shrewd and decisive move with his surprising decision to start withdrawing forces from Syria. Or, the Russian leader was overextended abroad and short of cash at home and was looking for a quick exit.

Putin wants everyone to believe the former, claiming the Russian airstrikes and the Syrian government army have achieved a "fundamental turnaround in the fight against international terrorism."

The U.S. has ramped up oil production so dramatically that it's joined Saudi Arabia and Russia as one of the world's largest producers. Just glance at the chart below.

Since this surge began in 2008, American production rocketed from 5 million barrels a day to nearly 10 million barrels a day at the high point last year.

More importantly, oil analysts confidently predicted that a tide of benefits would flow as freely as the oil now coming out of the ground.

A handwritten will by Osama bin Laden said he had a fortune of "about 29 million dollars" and that most of it should be spent "on Jihad," according to documents released by the U.S. government on Tuesday.

Less than two weeks after international sanctions were lifted, Iran is already cutting megadeals with Europe. The French automaker Peugeot-Citroen said Thursday it will return to Iran, while Iran appeared poised to buy at least 100 planes from Airbus.

Thursday's developments came during a visit to France by Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, and follows his stop in Italy earlier this week, where he announced business agreements valued at around $18 billion.

Pope Francis met Tuesday with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, the latest sign of Iran's improving ties in the West as years of sanctions fall away.

The two said they discussed the problems in the region, a reference to the wars in Iraq and Syria. The pope has made pleas for peace in both conflicts, while Iran is deeply involved in supporting the embattled governments in both countries.

With financial sanctions against Iran falling away, President Hassan Rouhani is wasting no time in seeking new business opportunities for a country that's long been isolated.

The Iranian leader was in Italy on Monday, a stopover that may also include a meeting with Pope Francis, according to media reports. Rouhani also planned to visit France as part of the first European tour by an Iranian president since 1999.

Britain says the circumstantial evidence points to Russian President Vladimir Putin's involvement in the poisoning death of an ex-Russian security agent who died after drinking polonium-laced tea at a London hotel.

So what's Britain going to do about it?

Not very much. And that's largely in keeping with the West's response to Putin's many controversial actions throughout his 16 years in power.

In a Middle East already aflame, a fresh feud between Saudi Arabia and Iran threatens to complicate almost every major issue from the Iranian nuclear deal to the Syrian civil war to global oil markets.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said his country wants the U.S. to provide more airstrikes, weapons and intelligence in their joint battle against the Islamic State. But he stressed his opposition to ground troops from the U.S. or other outside nations, fearing Iraq could be turned into a major regional war.

Depending on whom you ask, there have been 353 mass shootings in the United States this year, or four. Or some other number in between.

How can the figures be so far apart?

A mass shooting would seem to be self-evident. But with the highly politicized debate over gun control, and no fixed standard, there's an ongoing battle over the definition. Some say mass shootings are soaring, while others point to numbers suggesting they have been at roughly the same level for years.

The shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., was the 355th mass shooting in the U.S. so far this year — or more than one per day on average so far in 2015 — according to groups monitoring such attacks in recent years.

Let's start with one thing that's clear and simple in Syria's messy war: Many foreign powers are engaged in the battle, and all share the goal of beating back the Islamic State.

This very loose grouping includes Turkey and Russia, who aren't best friends, but at least have this common interest in Syria that would seem to override any inclination to confront one another.

Editor's Note: This story was originally published on Nov. 21, 2015, and has been updated to reflect the attack in Nice, France.

Many Americans have seen France as a country that wasn't supportive, bordering on antagonistic, as the U.S. waged wars against radical Islamists on several fronts following the Sept. 11 attacks.

China's President Xi Jinping has condemned the Islamic State for killing a Chinese man held hostage by the extremist group. But in keeping with China's long-standing policy of not intervening in distant conflicts, he did not specify what action, if any, China might take.

The Islamic State attacks in Paris last Friday added to the growing list of deadly attacks the extremist group has claimed outside its core territory of Syria and Iraq.

ISIS has been linked to dozens of attacks in multiple countries over the past year. Here's a look at some of the key figures in the Paris attack, as well as other numbers related to ISIS.

Extremist Islamist groups often choose between two options: controlling territory locally or carrying out terrorist attacks abroad. In claiming responsibility for the Paris attacks, the Islamic State has made clear it thinks it can do both.

Since emerging as a powerful force two years ago, the Islamic State had focused its energies on building its self-proclaimed caliphate in the Middle East. The carnage in Paris, for which the group has claimed responsibility, demonstrated it can unleash a ferocious, coordinated assault far from its home turf.

Russia's military intervention in Syria is intended as a lifeline for Syria's beleaguered President Bashar Assad. Yet the Kremlin's track record on bailing out floundering leaders is largely a litany of failure.

Over the past quarter-century, Moscow's proteges, clients and allies have often lost power, and sometimes their lives, despite Russia's military and political patronage.

President Obama entered the White House with a pledge to bring home U.S. troops from two major wars. Now it looks almost certain he will leave office with U.S. forces engaged in three ongoing conflicts: Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Throughout his tenure, Obama's impulse has been to shrink the U.S. military footprint in the Middle East. He's called for a greater emphasis on diplomacy, and taking the broader view, he wants the U.S. to shift more resources to Asia and the Pacific.

U.S. troops in Afghanistan lowered the flag and boxed up their gear at the end of last year as President Obama declared the formal end to 13 years of U.S. combat operations.

The migrant crisis in Europe and the Middle East lurches from one drama to the next by the day. First it's a rickety boat floundering in the Mediterranean. Next it's a new surge of migrants landing on European shores. Suddenly it's thousands of refugees stranded in an unwelcoming Hungary.

The numbers are also changing by the day. Here's a snapshot of the best and most recent figures as this unfolds:

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