Strange Times

It has been so long since I blogged that I couldn't even remember my username or password. I'm not sure what that means, but it must mean something.

Anyway, I'm breaking my self-enforced silence, which incidentally has allowed me to get loads of other, more important work done only because over the past couple of days a couple of things have crossed my desk (loosely used in this context) that have forced me to sit up and take notice.

First, was an audiotape that AQAP released a couple of days ago entitled "Between the Islamists and the Liberals," and given by Ibrahim al-Rubaysh, the former Guantanamo Bay detainee, who has delivered a number of audio tapes. The only problem is that AQAP had already announced, in a recent video, that Ibrahim al-Rubaysh was dead, and further complicating this matter is that both the written and the oral introductions use the phrase "hafazu allah," which is only used for the living. Hmm.

The second issue that has given me pause is today's statement from AQAP, #24, which claims that it has the assistant director of security in Sa'dah, Ali Muhammad Salih al-Husam, and it is holding him in exchange for two individuals: Husayn al-Tays and Mashur al-Ahdal. The statement claims that both men were captured by the Huthis and then turned over to the government. The statement gives the Yemeni government 48 hours from the posting this morning in the Middle East to release the two.

Complicated and strange, but making the situation even more murky is the tone that AQAP speaks about the institute in Dammaj, claiming that al-Hasum has run spying operations against "Muslims" for 20 years. Most long-time observers of Yemen will remember the very public disputes between Muqbil al-Wadi'i (the founder and head of Dar al-Hadith in Dammaj, until his death in 2001) and Osama bin Laden. I have long suggested that the type of Islamism practiced and taught in Dammaj is much different from the type al-Qaeda espouse, often suggesting that people think of an "Islamist spectrum" in Yemen.

But there are now signs that the Islamists in Dammaj are bleeding into al-Qaeda. Today's statement is only the most recent of these signs. There is also the book, "Why I Chose al-Qaeda," which was recently released by a member of the al-Awaliq tribe. (I still haven't finished the 70-plus pages - remember the other, more important work - but one of the things that has struck me so far is the author's bio, which discusses his time as a student at Dammaj.) Things have certainly changed since the death of al-Wadi'i and none of this is good for security in Yemen.

Ok, much longer than the four sentence blog-posting I had envisioned. Now it is back to sweet, sweet silence.

Being a father to a school-age girl makes men less sexist, study suggests

The findings are based on a phenomenon known as the "Mighty Girl Effect."

Culture & Religion
  • The study tracked the responses of more than 5,000 men over the course of a decade.
  • The results showed that men who lived with daughters were less likely to hold traditional views on gender relations and roles.
  • This effect seemed to be strongest as the daughters entered secondary-school age.
Keep reading Show less

Scientist's accidental discovery makes coral grow 40x faster

There might be hope for our oceans, thanks to one clumsy moment in a coral tank.

Photo by Preet Gor on Unsplash.
Surprising Science
  • David Vaughan at the Mote Laboratory is growing coral 40 times faster than in the wild.
  • It typically takes coral 25 to 75 years to reach sexual maturity. With a new coral fragmentation method, it takes just 3.
  • Scientists and conservationists plan to plant 100,000 pieces of coral around the Florida Reef Tract by 2019 and millions more around the world in the years to come.
Keep reading Show less

Technology will kill the 9-to-5 work week, says Richard Branson

The billionaire entrepreneur predicts the rise of technology will soon force society to rethink the modern work week.

(Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)
Technology & Innovation
  • Branson made the argument in a recent blog post published on the Virgin website.
  • The 40-hour work week stems from labor laws created in the early 20th century, and many have said this model is becoming increasingly obsolete.
  • The average American currently works 47 hours per week, on average.
Keep reading Show less