Demining Bosnia

From Roads and Kingdoms:

few months ago, 62-year-old Todor Jankovic was gathering wood when he accidentally activated a land mine. Designed to explode two feet above the ground, the device miraculously failed and fell at his feet. He still can’t believe his luck.

Jankovic and his wife have been living in Skipovac Donji, a small village in northeast Bosnia and Herzegovina, for nearly ten years. A few steps behind their house, red banners marked with white skulls designate mine-infested areas. Almost two decades after the end of the war, the country remains under the threat of more than 120,000 land mines buried in the ground along former front lines. A total of 1732 people have been involved in land mine accidents since the war’s end. Six hundred have died.

The Christian ISIS Bride

Via Buzzfeed:

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee — On July 17, the city of Chattanooga woke to the sober reality that the events of the past 24 hours had not been some sort of nightmare — a young man named Mohammad Abdulazeez had attacked a military recruiting center and military base, killing four Marines and bringing fears of Islamist terrorism to the place known as one of the most “Most Bible-Minded” cities in America.

Halfway around the world, however, one woman saw the news on Twitter and posted her joy: “Gifted this morning not only with Eid but w/ the news of a brother puttin fear n the heart of kufar [non-believers] n the city of my birth. Alhamdullilah [thanks be to God].”

BuzzFeed News has confirmed that this woman, who calls herself “Emarah bint Aljon” or “Umm Aminah,” is Ariel Bradley, a 29-year-old American from the Chattanooga suburb of Hixson — where shooter Abdulazeez also lived — who has been living in ISIS-controlled territory in Syria for more than a year, with her Iraqi-born husband and their two children. The couple’s first child, a daughter, was born in Chattanooga in 2012. Their son was born in Syria late last year.

Greece is Being Hit


John Perkins is no stranger to making confessions. His well-known book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, revealed how international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, while publicly professing to “save” suffering countries and economies, instead pull a bait-and-switch on their governments: promising startling growth, gleaming new infrastructure projects and a future of economic prosperity – all of which would occur if those countries borrow huge loans from those organizations. Far from achieving runaway economic growth and success, however, these countries instead fall victim to a crippling and unsustainable debt burden.

That’s where the “economic hit men” come in: seemingly ordinary men, with ordinary backgrounds, who travel to these countries and impose the harsh austerity policies prescribed by the IMF and World Bank as “solutions” to the economic hardship they are now experiencing. Men like Perkins were trained to squeeze every last drop of wealth and resources from these sputtering economies, and continue to do so to this day. In this interview, which aired on Dialogos Radio, Perkins talks about how Greece and the eurozone have become the new victims of such “economic hit men.

ISIS and the Lonely Americans

From the NYT:

Alex, a 23-year-old Sunday school teacher and babysitter, was trembling with excitement the day she told her Twitter followers that she had converted to Islam.

For months, she had been growing closer to a new group of friends online — the most attentive she had ever had — who were teaching her what it meant to be a Muslim. Increasingly, they were telling her about the Islamic State and how the group was building a homeland in Syria and Iraq where the holy could live according to God’s law.

One in particular, Faisal, had become her nearly constant companion, spending hours each day with her on Twitter, Skype and email, painstakingly guiding her through the fundamentals of the faith.

But when she excitedly told him that she had found a mosque just five miles from the home she shared with her grandparents in rural Washington State, he suddenly became cold.

The only Muslims she knew were those she had met online, and he encouraged her to keep it that way, arguing that Muslims are persecuted in the United States. She could be labeled a terrorist, he warned, and for now it was best for her to keep her conversion secret, even from her family.

So on his guidance, Alex began leading a double life. She kept teaching at her church, but her truck’s radio was no longer tuned to the Christian hits on K-LOVE. Instead, she hummed along with the ISIS anthems blasting out of her turquoise iPhone, and began daydreaming about what life with the militants might be like.

World War III Will be Low-Tech

From Vice:

Last year, the Naval Academy made two distinct changes in how it operates—one that’s a natural progression in cyberwarfare, the other a clear response to how thoroughly we rely on that technology.

“First, they’ve created a cyberwarfare center and created the first class of midshipmen who will be cybersecurity majors,” cybersecurity and military expert Peter W. Singer recently told me. “Second, they required that every midshipman learn how to do celestial navigation like they did back in the 1700s. We’re preparing both for a world of cyberwarfare and, ‘oh my goodness, what if I have to go back to navigating by the stars?’”

Singer and his coauthor August Cole explore that curious dichotomy in Ghost Fleet, a novel that rings as a startlingly plausible look at what would happen if the United States and China truly went to war.

When we talk about future wars now, we talk about drones and robots, enhanced soldiers, hacking and space capabilities, terrorism and insurgency. And all of those aspects of war are in Ghost Fleet, but unless you’ve thought deeply about how these complicated parts would play together, you’re probably imagining something totally different than what these authors came up with. I know I was.

The Necromancer Fighting ISIS

From the Daily Beast:

DAQUQ, Iraq — Of the American volunteers who have joined Kurdish Peshmerga forces battling against ISIS in Iraq, Mickey stands out. The blond hair combed back on his head comes to a point on his chin in a goatee, like the kind he might have worn when he was still riding with his motorcycle club in Colorado. Mickey is not his real name but it’s what he’s called by his fellow Americans and their Kurdish comrades. The name tape on his military uniform reads “necromancer.”

“The Peshmerga officer was dying next to me, but there was nowhere to go. He died there. I couldn’t move him because of all the machinegun fire,” Mickey tells me, describing a recent battle against ISIS.

Three weeks ago, 45 kilometers south of Kirkuk, near the city of Daquq, American soldiers were once again locked in deadly combat with Islamic extremists. This time though it was not the U.S. military or private security contractors. These were American volunteers fighting alongside the Peshmerga and wearing Kurdish flags.

The Loneliness of Small Places in Japan

A sad read from the WaPo:

In the historic wooden schoolhouse here, decked out in the kind of bright artwork done by kids the world over, there are two classrooms, each containing three desks that sit marooned in the middle of a space made for many more. At break time, a boy kicks a soccer ball around the yard by himself.

“It’s a little bit lonely,” said Taiki Kato, 11, who said he was looking forward to going to middle school next year. “It’s a bit bigger, and there might be kids from other elementary schools.”

The middle school has eight students. The elementary school, where Kato started sixth grade this month, has six. And two of them, the only girls, are from the same family.

That meant Yukari Sudo could easily master everyone’s names in her first week as principal of the elementary school in this small village, nestled in mountains 50 miles but a world away from the tightly packed metropolis of Tokyo.

“When I was greeting 900 kids in the morning, I could recognize them, but I might not be able to remember their name,” said Sudo, who recently moved to Aone after being vice principal at a much bigger school.

Russia’s Next Majority

It’s Muslim:

Because of demographic trends, Muslims are on their way to becoming the dominant group in Russian life sometime within the next generation or so, and they need to begin to think about what that will mean and how they should act in anticipation of that, according to Abdulla Rinat Mukhametov, a Muslim analyst in Moscow.

Mukhametov, an expert advisor at the Council of Muftis of Russia and the editor of several leading Muslim portals, lays out his concerns and his ideas about this development in an article on entitled “Quantity into Quality: The Muslims of Russia Face the Challenges of Demography and Migration.”

His article is important because it is a rare example of something that is likely to become more common in the future, Muslim self-confidence about where the Muslims of Russia are heading and a belief that they must think about how best to use their growing share of the population to promote their interests as Muslims and as Russians.

Greece’s Plan to Manage Its Debt

This is… devious:

In 1941, Axis forces from Italy and Germany moved into Greece and seized control of the country. The wartime occupation lasted four years, during which some 250,000 Greeks perished. Many died slow and tortuous deaths — around 40,000 people starved to death in Athens alone.

To add insult to injury, Nazi forces removed valuable archaeological artefacts and forced the Bank of Greece to loan it money, totalling billions, in today’s terms, which Berlin never paid back.

On Monday, Athens formally requested wartime reparations from Germany and, for the first time, named its desired price: 279 billion euros ($303 billion), as calculated by Greece’s central accounting offices.

Perhaps coincidentally, that figure is rather similar to the total value of Greece’s existing state debt, at over 320 billon euros.

When American-Style “Debate” Comes to Britain

I feel like we need to send an “I’m sorry” note to UK voters:

What happens when no-one can win an election? That’s the question Britain’s political leaders seem likely to have to answer when voters deliver their verdict on David Cameron’s coalition government next month. Few people believe Cameron can win an overall majority in the House of Commons; even fewer think his Labour opponent, Ed Miliband, can do so either.

Which means that this British general election is simultaneously desperately predictable and fundamentally unknowable. For months now, the opinion polls have suggested that neither the Conservatives nor Labour are capable of winning much more than 35 percent of the vote. That makes a hung parliament more likely than not and in such circumstances few things are certain save, perhaps, this: Britain’s traditional two party system is broken.

Recognizing this, voters were treated to a remarkable seven-way debate on Thursday night as the leaders of the traditional Westminster powers shared a platform with a host of fringe and regional parties never previously invited onto the national stage in this fashion. It was, in this sense, more like an American-style primary debate than a Presidential confrontation. And like most of those contests, it delivered more heat than clarity.

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