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.

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less

Adam Gopnik on the rhinoceros of liberalism vs. the unicorns of everything else

Torn between absolutism on the left and the right, classical liberalism—with its core values of compassion and incremental progress whereby the once-radical becomes the mainstream—is in need of a good defense. And Adam Gopnik is its lawyer.

Think Again Podcasts
  • Liberalism as "radical pragmatism"
  • Intersectionality and civic discourse
  • How "a thousand small sanities" tackled drunk driving, normalized gay marriage, and could control gun violence
Keep reading Show less

Why the south of Westeros is the north of Ireland

As Game of Thrones ends, a revealing resolution to its perplexing geography.

Image: YouTube / Doosh
Strange Maps
  • The fantasy world of Game of Thrones was inspired by real places and events.
  • But the map of Westeros is a good example of the perplexing relation between fantasy and reality.
  • Like Britain, it has a Wall in the North, but the map only really clicks into place if you add Ireland.
Keep reading Show less

Fascism and conspiracy theories: The symptoms of broken communication

The lost practice of face-to-face communication has made the world a more extreme place.

Videos
  • The world was saner when we spoke face-to-face, argues John Cameron Mitchell. Not looking someone in the eye when you talk to them raises the potential for miscommunication and conflict.
  • Social media has been an incredible force for activism and human rights, but it's also negatively affected our relationship with the media. We are now bombarded 24/7 with news that either drives us to anger or apathy.
  • Sitting behind a screen makes polarization worse, and polarization is fertile ground for conspiracy theories and fascism, which Cameron describes as irrationally blaming someone else for your problems.
Keep reading Show less