Al-Shihri Redux (With apologies to Trollope)

Most people will probably find the confirmation that another former Guantanamo detainee, Yusif al-Shihri, has rejoined al-Qaeda the most interesting part of this story, but for me the most fascinating part is what the travel of Said al-Shihri's wife to Yemen tells us about the current situation in Yemen as well as Saudi's counter-terrorism strategy. Both men are on Saudi's list of 85 suspects.

The story (here in English, I haven't had a chance to find the original Arabic from 'Ukaz, but I'll look when I have a chance) revolves around one man's attempt to get his 10-year-old son back after he traveled to Yemen with his mother, who is also Said al-Shihri's wife.

The last issue of Sada al-Malahim told us that al-Shihri's wife and children had joined him in Yemen, this story confirms that (although I had never really doubted it). Combined with the statement about al-'Awfi, I think this tells us two things.

First, Saudi's counter-terrorism strategy at least when it comes to recidivism is much more draconian than many in the US think. I believe that if what Saudi Arabia did to convince al-'Awfi to turn himself in ever came to light, US policy makers would be forced to back away from all talk of sending more prisoners to Saudi - the public outcry would just be too great. I attempted to get a few editors and reporters interested in this story, but I seemed to have failed to convince them exactly how revolutionary al-'Awfi's surrender was and the sort of changes in Saudi tactics it represented. Apparently, I'm not as convincing as I sometime imagine myself to be.

Second, I think this is an indication of how much space and comfort al-Qaeda in Yemen has - the fact that al-Shihri would bring his wife and kids to Yemen rather than leave them in Saudi Arabia, regardless of the threats of collective punishment. Inevitably, some will see this as evidence that AQ is in cahoots with Yemen's security services, which I do not believe to be the case. Rather, I think this shows us that AQ does not feel itself directly threatened in Yemen and that is has a significant amount of freedom of movement, largely because the Yemeni government is distracted with other crises, as I have argued elsewhere.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.

Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)

In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.

Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less