willwaddell's Articles, Page 6 of 27
They’re coming to North America and Europe. According to a videotape obtained by ABC News al Qaeda is sending large groups of suicide bombers to the U.S., as well as to Canada, Great Britain and Germany. A Pakistani journalist invited to see these recruits at their "graduation" from an al Qaeda training camp took pictures of about 300, some as young as 12, who were preparing to set off on their suicide missions. Mansoor Dadullah, a leader of the Taliban military whose brother was killed recently by the U.S., is shown in the tape congratulating the recruits and remarks "why shouldn’t we go after them?" Is the threat a credible or merely Taliban propaganda? At least some experts take it seriously, arguing that it only takes a few bombers to get through to have a catastrophic effect.
With a staggering inflation rate of 3,714%, people in Zimbabwe are stocking food and other essentials in preparation for what experts are calling an impending "economic collapse; Businesses are closing at an alarming rate and many of those that remain in operation have taken to paying their employees weekly or in food, as monthly salaries are too hard-pressed by the rampant inflation. Water and power utilities are also reportedly near the breaking point. If the worst happens and Zimbabwe plunges into a state of emergency, analysts fully expect "increased crime and possible civil disturbances." Zimbabwe’s economy, largely agriculturally based, began its serious decline in 2000 when a program of violent land redistribution evicted over 4000 white farmers and caused the economy to contract by approximately 30%.
Possessed of "real ultimate power; as some have described it, ninjas have been feared since they appeared in 15th century Japan. Renowned for their stealth, they were the perfect agents of espionage and assassination. With only a few exceptions, the ninja vanished from history. Now, however, he has returned to spread terror in the Italian countryside. A ninja robber, dressed in black and armed as his medieval forbears, victimized several farmers, robbing them at arrow point. Efforts to catch the masked assailant all failed, until an intrepid retiree thwarted the ninja by falling down his stairs and accidentally firing his rifle, which subsequently startled the ninja into flight.
France may be in for some big changes. Nicolas Sarkozy, the man the French electorate swept into power earlier this year, is set to have his conservative UMP party win big in the on-going parliamentary elections. Although voter turn-out has been low, pollsters in France believe the UMP, which currently holds a majority at 359 seats of 577, could increase its hold to anywhere between 383 to 501 seats. Meanwhile some analysts speculate that the rival Socialist party may lose up to half of its 149 seats, thus creating a strong mandate for Sarkozy to push ahead with many of his planned reforms. If given the power, Sarkozy plans initially to create stricter immigration measures, cease government taxation of overtime pay and abolish the inheritance tax. Leaders from the French Left have called on their supporters to get out and vote as the specter of an enormous loss looms in their future.
Besides its bombing campaigns and kidnappings launched against Muslims, Al Qaeda hasn’t let Iraq’s small, but ancient Christian community go unnoticed. New reports indicate that Al Qaeda has given the Christians of Baghdad a narrow set of options: 1) convert to Islam; 2) have your daughters marry Islamic fighters; 3) pay the Islamic tax levied on non-believers (jizya); or 4) leave. Although Iraqi Christians are reluctant to discuss these threats for fear of reprisals, refugees in nearby Syria say the persecution is very real. The UN refugee agency in Damascus says 19,000 Iraqi Christians have registered with them, while an Iraqi legislator estimates that nearly 500,000 have fled the country. The American military says it has just become aware of the widespread campaign to oust Iraqi Christians and has taken measures to build protective barriers around their quarter in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad. Most Iraqi Christians are Assyrians or Chaldean Catholics. Some believe that most Baghdad Christian churches have closed and thousands of former Iraqi Christians now live in an industrial region southeast of Damascus, being unable to pay the tax or unwilling to cede to Al Qaeda’s demands.
Police in Kenya aren’t sparing the rod in their quest to root out the banned Mungiki gang. One neighborhood in the capital of Nairobi has seen approximately 30 deaths as police attempt to clear the Mungiki from the slum. The Mungiki are believed to be inspired by the Mau Mau Uprising of the 1950s and are connected to a rash of beheadings and attacks on police. The sect was banned in 2002, though it claims to have two million members, many of which are said to have infiltrated the government and military.
Within Shia Islam there is a culturally taboo but legitimate practice called temporary marriage or sigheh. Though rejected by Sunni Muslims, this doctrine allows for two people to become married for a set length of time, during which time sexual relations become morally permissible. This marriage is being touted by Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi as a way to meet the needs of young people looking for sex. This proposition has brought on much criticism from female activists and, of course, re-inflames the dispute between Sunni and Shia versions of Islamic jurisprudence. Because the marriage may go on for as long or as short (e.g. a few hours) as the couple would like and involves an exchange of money or "bride price," some Sunni scholars say it is merely prostitution. Although Sunni and Shia camps agree that temporary marriage was once acceptable, the Sunni insist that Mohammed later banned it, while the Shia say he did not.
eHarmony, the selective online marriage-oriented matchmaking website founded by Dr. Neil Clark Warren, has come under fire for its refusal to offer matchmaking services to homosexuals. Linda Carlson, a lesbian from the San Francisco area, brought suit against the company based on her Feb 2007 attempt to use the website. Her lawyers posit that more will join the lawsuit making it into a class action matter. Todd Schneider, Carlson’s lawyer, argues that homosexuals "have the right and desire to meet other people with whom they can fall in love." eHarmony’s has always had a strong link to the Christian community and many have attributed its success to its promotion through James Dobson’s Focus on the Family organization.
Al Qaeda, Shia militias, refugees, political stalemate – the situation in Iraq is certainly not in need of more complication. Still, recent activity on the Iraqi border with Turkey may add to the violence and intrigue. The Turkish military is currently building up forces on the border, perhaps with a view to launching a punitive expedition against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Turkey believes is responsible for a recent bomb attack in Ankara. Although the US has urged Turkey to remain on its side of the international divide, the Turkish prime minister has said he "cannot make any concessions to this end" and expressed interest in a cooperative US/Turkish operation against the PKK. Analysts suspect that thousands of PKK members use the Kurdish-controlled north of Iraq as a base for operations against Turkey.
Who’s the coolest person you know? Think hard. If you’re being honest with yourself, you’ll have to admit he or she is probably an historian. Don’t feel strange. America is with you. The sale of history books rose 6.6% last year for some 14.6 million copies. Entire channels devoted to historical material enrapture U.S. audiences on a daily basis. And if that’s not enough, people have taken to paying top dollar to spend time with their favorite historical thinker. A recent fundraiser for the New York Historical Society saw people give a minimum of $5,000 to be seated near Andrew Carnegie biographer David Nasaw. While the experts can’t agree as to the cause of the past’s reinvigorated allure in American culture, it remains certain that historians are eating up the present. Take that, computer science.
Is Iran’s President Ahmadinejad serious or playing to a crowd? While that answer may elude the world at present, his extremely inflammatory rhetoric continues and Israel remains under fire from multiple directions. On Thursday at a rally in Isfahan, the extremely controversial leader promised that "the ocean of nations of the region will get angry and will uproot the Zionist regime" if Israel again attacks Lebanon. Lebanon, of course, is currently engaged in a rather large-scale fight against Islamic militants who have taken control of a refugee camp in the northern part of that country. The fighting has claimed dozens of lives and while the government has offered some degree of clemency to the militants if they surrender, the Islamic faction has declared that it will not give up. To further complicate the situation, the Israeli government also must decide how it will deal with Hamas in Gaza. Rocket fire from that area killed an Israeli man just recently, prompting the embattled Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, to authorize more armed reprisals against Hamas.
Australia has introduced a new citizenship test and it has garnered the acrimony of that country’s chief Islamic body, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC). The Muslim advocacy group says it is "unfair" to expect migrants to study "Anglo-celtic and Judeo-Christian values," labeling such a test as fundamentally "un-Australian." The test will require immigrants to learn select elements of Australia’s culture and history, as well, according to Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, acknowledge the Judeo-Christian roots of the country’s values. The president of the AFIC has said the test is "openly antagonistic" and pledged to push for a value-neutral exam. The debate, of course, begs the question: what does it mean to be Australian?
It’s been called a "bloody shame." London’s famous tea clipper, the Cutty Sark suffered an extensive fire, reducing the 1869 vessel to a charred wreck. Luckily, however, much of the ship had already been removed for a restoration project, saving at least the mast and coach house from destruction. Naturally, the cost of the restoration project is expected to mount significantly. The Cutty Sark was one of the last clippers ever built and participated in the highly competitive tea trade, which stretched from Britain out to China. She was named after a witch in the Robert Burns’ poem Tam o’ Shanter.
As previously reported, al-Qaeda headman Ayman al-Zawahiri has issued a video statement in which he urges African-Americans, among others, to rise up against their country. Having examined this message, FBI analysts have determined that al-Qaeda is actively recruiting black Americans to engage in suicide attacks. Fearing that al-Qaeda may be looking to glide under a security radar long-accustomed to watch for Arabs, a new Homeland Security report stresses to law enforcement that "al-Qaida terrorists may not appear Arab" and that "non-Arab operatives could find it easier to avoid unwanted scrutiny …" Zawahiri, in his latest diatribe, uses clearly provocative language when he calls African-Americans "house slaves" if they do not fight with al-Qaeda. It remains to be seen whether this appeal presages a strategic shift for al-Qaeda.