World

American ISIS Hostage Kayla Mueller Confirmed Dead

By on 2.10.15 | 12:52PM

Sad news from Kayla Mueller's family: the 26 year old aid worker who was snatched by ISIS a year ago on her way out of Syria and held for over a year is dead.

We are heartbroken to share that we’ve received confirmation that Kayla Jean Mueller, has lost her life,” Mueller’s parents said in a statement. “Kayla was a compassionate and devoted humanitarian. She dedicated the whole of her young life to helping those in need of freedom, justice, and peace.”

The statement did not elaborate on how it had learned of Mueller’s death or the circumstances of her death.

ISIS claimed last week that Kayla had been killed in Jordanian airstrikes, undertaken after ISIS killed a Jordanian pilot it had held hostage, but ISIS isn't the world's most reliable narrator, to say the least. ISIS notified her parents of Kayla's death this week, apparently, including, because they're barbarians, pictures of her body. 

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White House Not Super Sure Who the Taliban Works For

By on 1.28.15 | 4:11PM

There's lots of news circulating this week about Bowe Bergdahl, the American solider we traded five high-ranking Taliban officials for, who may (or may not, depending on who you ask) face a court martial over his alleged desertion. It seems that, while senior Army officials are keen to tell news organizations, off the record, that Bergdahl will be brought up on charges, the White House is avoiding the question like it was Lindsay Lohan at court ordered community service. 

But that's not to say that the White House's dance around the Bergdahl question hasn't, itself, produced a few gems. Like this one, from today's press conference with rookie comms guy Eric Schultz, who has never heard of the Taliban, why do you ask?

In Wednesday’s White House Press Briefing, John Karl asked press briefing rookie Eric Schultz whether the Jordanians’ trading a prisoner for one of the hostages held by the Islamic State was similar to the United States’ trading five high-ranking Taliban members for Bowe Bergdahl.

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The Obama Watch

Mr. Obama, Meet General de Gaulle

By 1.12.15

“I am France.”

So spoke General Charles de Gaulle to British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax in1941. At the time France was under the control of the treacherous Vichy French, the puppets of the Nazis, the latter having invaded France in May of 1940. With Adolf Hitler himself personally appearing in Paris to inspect his new conquest. de Gaulle had refused to bow to Hitler, instead going across the Channel to Britain and presenting himself to the British government and anybody else who cared to listen (there weren’t many) not just as the legitimate head of what was quickly known as “Free France.” For de Gaulle that was not even close to the reality of what he represented. As he made plain to Halifax, de Gaulle saw himself — then and always — as France.

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Next Week’s Charlie Hebdo Cover Revealed? UPDATE: Tribute, Not Official

By on 1.9.15 | 12:59PM

The French artist Les Guignols posted his design for the cover of next week's Charlie Hebdo magazine on Twitter. Although the magazine's remaining staff members have confirmed that there will be an issue released next week, they have not independently confirmed that this is the image that will run. It simply comes via Reuters European bureau editors, and while it is emotionally evocative, it's also incredibly powerful.

The translation reads: "Urgent: Hiring six new cartoonists."

[via Mediaite]

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Shockingly, Cuba Not Interested in Releasing Political Prisoners

By on 1.8.15 | 1:00PM

Now that we're friends with Cuba and the entire Western Hemisphere is one giant hippie hug of happiness, you would expect that our administration would be following up on its request to have 53 political prisoners released. After all, that's the deal we made: we'll start buying your cigars and staying in your hotels and enriching your proletariat, if you let us have all of those Americans you've been holding all these years in Cuban jails.

You, of course, would be making assumptions far beyond your pay grade. You see, the White House assumed that once a deal was announced, Cuba, being the civilized nation that it is, would simply honor the plan. After all, now that the US had made a decision so lauded by global forces, it certainly wasn't going back on it. Cuba, of course, doesn't see it that way. Although the State Department is still laboring under the notion that all 53 prisoners have already boarded planes bound for Miami, it seems Congress has heard a different story. And now everyone's confused.

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Freedom Watch

Bill Maher Was Right

By 1.8.15

Bill Maher was right. And where is Ben Affleck now? But first: here we go again. This time with ten journalists and two policemen killed in Paris by Islamic gunmen shrieking "Allahu akbar!” And, but of course, this is the fault of the twelve scribblers — not the Islamic gunmen.

The editorialists at the Financial Times wrote yesterday (via Mediaite):

This is not in the slightest to condone the murderers, who must be caught and punished, or to suggest that freedom of expression should not extend to satirical portrayals of religion. It is merely to say that some common sense would be useful at publications such as Charlie Hebdo, and Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten, which purport to strike a blow for freedom when they provoke Muslims, but are actually just being stupid.

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Night Falls in Paris

By on 1.7.15 | 4:53PM

As the day draws to a close in France, thousands upon thousands have gathered in the Place de la Republique to show outrage and solidarity in the face of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack. The crowds are carrying signs, chanting "Liberte," and are projecting the words, "Not Afraid" alongside Charlie Hebdo covers onto Republique's famous center monument. The protests have now gone on for five hours.

These photos are all from Sam Schechner's Twitter feed. Schechner is a tech correspondent for the Wall Street Journal currently stationed in Paris. 

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The Charlie Hebdo Murders and Freedom of the Press

By on 1.7.15 | 11:27AM

Aaron wrote this morning about the horrific murder of twelve people at the headquarters of the French satire magazine, Charlie Hebdo, but I can't get it off my mind. It's bothering me in a way very few things really do: in a Columbia-law-students-refuse-to-take-their-finals-because-of-emotional-distress sort of way. Every day of my life, for almost ten years now, I've said something rude and uncouth on the Internet. My generation, of course, views this as practically a human right. And my audience, confrontational as it can be at times, has always been civil. Like yesterday, I can literally spend days of my life making fun of our elected leadership and the people who put them into power, and while I might get a nasty email every once in a while criticizing my grammar or my irrational hatred of Mike Huckabee, the biggest risk of my writing career is supposed to be carpal tunnel, not the potential to be gunned down by a cadre of Islamic fundamentalist lunatics.

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The Internet is Out in North Korea

By on 12.22.14 | 3:57PM

Apparently, they actually do have Internet. Or...erm...they did.

According to the New York Times, North Korea is now suffering a complete Internet blackout. What appears to be a Denial of Service Attack (or DDOS attack) is targeting North Korean routers, and all of North Koreas 1200 IP addresses have gone dark. 

North Korea’s already tenuous links to the Internet went completely dark on Monday after days of instability, in what Internet monitors described as one of the worst North Korean network failures in years.

The loss of service came just days after President Obama pledged that the United States would launch a “proportional response” to the recent attacks on Sony Pictures, which government officials have linked to North Korea. While an attack on North Korea’s networks was suspected, there was no definitive evidence of it.

Doug Madory, the director of Internet analysis at Dyn Research, an Internet performance management company, said that North Korean Internet access first became unstable late Friday. The situation worsened over the weekend, and by Monday, North Korea’s Internet was completely offline.

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Sydney Terrorist is “Self-Styled” Iranian Sheik Out on Bail

By on 12.15.14 | 12:04PM

There was some consternation on Twitter yesterday about the validity of the Sydney "lone wolf" terrorist's allegiances. Twitter could not figure out whether he was holding hostages in a chocolate shop because he was "legitimately" part of ISIS, or whether he just happend to get bad service and was merely fed up with the holiday season and taking it out on corporate chocolate hegemony. After all, social media couldn't tell if he had a real ISIS flag of just the slightly-less-threatening "Shahada flag," an "expression of Islamic faith." Considering he was taking hostages, that argument was basically splitting hairs, but it takes a lot for the media to speak with authority on religions these days. Or something. 

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