Boris Nemtsov Was More Than Just a Man

Russia is a scary place for people who disagree with President Vladimir Putin and his allies. As Russia continues to isolate itself through actions in Ukraine and the constant testing of the defense response times of various NATO and Baltic states, those who speak out in favor of reconciliation and a calming of tensions face anger, threats of arrest, and sometimes violence that can lead to death. Putin’s reign has allowed a new and toxic strain of fascism and nationalism (ironically he claims to be fighting against fascism) to envelop Russian politics and everyday life as his supporters feel as though they have impunity to threaten and attack members of the opposition. This became even clearer after the murder of opposition figure, Boris Nemtsov.marilyn_gardner_milton_boris_nemtsov

Nemtsov was more than just an opposition figure who wanted to change the way Russia was being run. He started off as a politician and had a successful career under former president Boris Yeltsin and once Putin came into power, became a leading opposition figure who spoke out against the Kremlin. But Boris was also more than just an opposition figure striving to change the way Russian politics work. He was able to speak to people of all backgrounds and political beliefs and bring them together under a cohesive narrative that spoke to each one in a different way. Nemtsov had the ability to draw nationalists, communists, liberals, and all sorts of people from the fractious Russian opposition together under one banner aimed at forcing change in the Russian government.

While his death is going to be mourned for a number of reasons (all of which are fully deserved), it is this ability to speak across boundaries that is going to be the biggest blow to the Russian opposition movement. While the opposition movement will eventually recover from the death of Nemtsov and while this murder might force the Kremlin to tone down the anti-opposition rhetoric it has been spewing recently (it has called them traitors and is now doubt spurring the violence opposition members face), his death will most likely never be solved and will force all of those in the opposition to live in fear. The toxic political climate that Putin has created in Russia seems like it’s going to continue to get worse and I can only hope that no more people in the opposition get targeted and assassinated like Boris Nemtsov was. He has left a giant whole and the need to unify all of those against the Kremlin is now going to be that much more difficult.

If you’d like to read more, the link is here.

IS Burns Jordanian Pilot Alive in Video

Ever since it’s swift and brutal rise to power in both Syria and Iraq, ISIS has consistently been able to both shock and horrify the world through the use of social media and the filmed execution of hostages. While people were already in horror about how and what the terrorist organization have been doing, the latest video that they released has taken that horror to new levels and shown the world just how callous and barbaric the terrorist organization truly is. On Tuesday the terrorist group released a new video showing the fate of captured Jordanian fighter pilot, Muath al-Kaseasbeh, whose plane crashed in ISIS territory and was captured alive by ISIS fighters. The video shows al-Kaseasbeh locked in a cage and covered in petroleum before a masked ISIS fighter lights a trail of gasoline that engulfs the pilot, burning him to death while alive.

(Photo: Nasser Nasser, AP)

(Photo: Nasser Nasser, AP)

Lt. al-Kaseasbeh’s fighter jet either crashed in enemy territory or was shot down by ISIS militants in December and had been a captive since then. ISIS then tried to use him as a bargaining chip to secure the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman who was part of the triple bombing of Jordanian hotels in 2005. While the Jordanian government seemed open to the trade, ISIS would only give proof of live that al-Kaseasbeh was alive in return for al-Rishawi and wouldn’t agree to an actual trade. When the deadline for the trade passed with no side budging on their demands, ISIS released the video showing the execution of al-Kaseasbeh to the general public.

What ISIS was planning to accomplish with this video is unknown, other than the obvious desire to shock the west with examples of their brutality. The burning seems to have infuriated the country of Jordan and is going to lead to them taking a much more active part in the battle against the terrorist organization. The murder of al-Kaseasbeh followed the murder of two Japanese hostages as well, showing that ISIS is willing make enemies of countries who had previously had no part in fighting the group. Unfortunately, the video will also probably lead to more recruits signing up for to fight with the terrorists and that might’ve been the purpose for it the entire time.

If you’d like to read more, the link is here.

12 Dead in Attack of French Satire Magazine

Today the world woke up to a tragedy in Paris, France as news reports began trickling in about a massacre at one of France’s most esteemed and beloved satire magazines, Charlie Hebdo. It turns out that two or three masked gunmen armed with AK-47s and using what seems to be military training and discipline stormed the office of the magazine and began firing before engaging in a shootout with police, hijacking a car, and making a successful getaway. While we don’t know who was behind the attack, the attackers were heard yelling about how they had avenged the prophet as well as “Allahu akbar”, an arabic phrase meaning “God is great”. It is believed that the offices of Charlie Hebdo were attacked due to the magazine continuously poking fun at Mohammed and illustration cartoons of him, something that is forbidden in Islam.

Among the dead were a number of higher-ups in the magazine and possibly some of the policemen who initially responded to the attack and engaged the much-heavier armed terrorists before they managed to escape. It seems as though the attackers were looking to kill as many as they could as well as a certain group of cartoonists and editors at the magazine. Reports say that the attackers asked for editor and cartoonist Stephane Charbonnier (also known as Charb) and well-known cartoonists Jean Cabut (aka Cabu), Bernard Verlhac (aka Tingous), and Georges Wolinski to make sure that they were amongst the dead before fleeing the building. While Charlie Hebdo has faced attacks in the past (it had previously been firebombed in 2011), this is the first time people have died. There is no other way to look at this attack than one on freedom of speech and democracy. While Islam is the only religion major to forbid the creation of human form in art, both Christianity and Judaism frown upon that sort of thing too.

With reports also claiming that one of the gunmen told a civilian that Al-Qaeda in Yemen was responsible for this, it seems as though it was an ideologically motivated attack. However until someone gets caught or takes credit publically, we won’t know the true reasons behind the attack and can only speculate. Our hearts go out to France and those who lost loved ones and we hope that those who did it will be caught soon and brought to the fullest extent of the law.

If you’d like to read more, the link is here.

GOP Staffer Resigns After Trashing Obama’s Children

There are two constants that have proven themselves to be true throughout history. The first is that politics is a dirty game and that most things are open targets when it comes to scrutiny. The second is that teenagers are difficult people to deal with at their best and when they’re at their worst, they can be little monsters. While these two might always be true, there is usually an unwritten rule when it comes to attacking and smearing the children of politicians; as in don’t do it because it shows how awful a person you are and how desperate you are to make political waves. Sadly, this rule was broken by one Elizabeth Lauten, a GOP staffer who is now out of a job due to the massive backlash that her comments over Thanksgiving caused.

With comments ranging from calling them classless to slut-shaming them, Elizabeth Lauten truly unleashed her pent-up and misguided anger at the presidency and all liberals upon Sasha and Malia. If you read the rant in whole, you realize that the reason for it doesn’t really make all that much sense. Sasha and Malia were acting like teenagers at the yearly Thanksgiving pardoning of the turkey. Everyone admits that it’s a strange and silly ritual and no one, from either political side, took offense at how the two Obama girls were acting like what they were; bored teenagers who didn’t want to be there and who were unamused by their dad’s lame dad-jokes. Yet, for some reason, Elizabeth Lauten felt the need to bombard the girls in a vicious attack that also took swings at both their father and their mother (what a surprise).

Now it seems as though this miserable woman has gotten her comeuppance for her vile and out-of-the-blue attack on two teen girls acting like teen girls. Along with resigning (0r being fired), Elizabeth Lauten has also earned the ire and hatred of the internet as a community. People, regardless of political affiliation, have been trashing her public pages and they have clearly been heard. Not only is she out of a job, but Lauten’s title of media manager is clearly something she never learned about and it seems like she won’t be getting hired any time soon.

If you’d like to read more, the link is here.

Peshmerga Fighters are Headed to Turkey

As the battle for Kobane continues to hold the future of the Middle East as we know it in it’s hands, the fight rages on between the local Kurdish defense forces and the ISIS extremist attackers. With Kurdish Peshmerga fighters facing an overwhelming onslaught in terms of both numbers and equipment, they have been hard pressed to not lose the city and give ISIS completely unfettered access to an unbroken border between Turkey and Syria that they could use to ferry in money, weapons, and more fighters. Recently a coalition campaign of airstrikes, lead by the United States air force and composed of both other western countries as well as local Arab and Middle Eastern countries, has allowed the Peshmerga forces to push back against the terrorists and take back most of the city. While the fight is going well and Kurdish soldiers are now being delivered air supplies by US forces, more troops and weapons are needed due to the number ISIS fighters remaining.

Up until recently, Turkey had steadfastly refused to allow Turkish Kurds to enter Kobane due to fears that they might come back to Turkey and reignite the conflict between Kurds and the Turkish government. Now, due to international pressure, Turkey has agreed to allow Kurds from all of the world to use its borders to get to Kobane so that they can help their fellows in defending the city and their lives. The first group of Iraqi Kurds, totalling in 150 fighters, are now traveling from Irbil to Kobane so that they can join the fight. Their light and heavy weapons are being transported by land as well, making sure that they show up both ready to fight and armed to the teeth. While these 150 fighters might not be enough to change the course of the battle, they will help bolster existing forces and improve morale. Hopefully more Kurds will arrive so that the fight for Kobane will be won and ISIS will be defeated.

If you’d like to read more, the link is here.

Iran Postpones Execution of Woman Charged With Murder

Iranian women have to deal with more than their fair share of repression and stress while living in their home country under sharia law. Between forced marriages and avoiding the scrutiny of the Basij, Iran’s morality police/civilian paramilitary force, Iranian women have found ways to shine bright even though there are obstacles in the way. However the law is still one of the places where the backwardness of the country’s opinions towards human rights truly shows; a woman had been sentenced to death for killing a man who tried to rape her. The woman’s execution has actually been postponed in the minutes leading up to it and it’s a potential sign of a shift in Iranian legal tradition and, possibly, a liberalizing of a very conservative system.

The news that Iran was going to go through with the execution of Rayhaneh Jabbari came at a time when Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran who won with the seeming intention to liberalize and modernize Iran, was at the UN General Assembly and attempting to paint his regime as more moderate and forgiving than previous ones. It took both the humiliation of the president as well as an international petition of over 200,000 signatures for Iranian officials to postpone the execution which hasn’t been called off and might happen anyways. When you look at the evidence that’s available from the trial, it further proves that this is a cover up of sorts and that justice isn’t truly happening. The man was a former member of Iranian intelligence and police found evidence of a date rape drug in the glass that he gave Jabbari. Jabbari has been tortured in prison and is still facing a possible death sentence by hanging. Even though Rouhani is trying to show the regime in a more moderate way, this case along with the fact that executions and human rights violations have increased under his leadership point a very different picture.

If you’d like to read more, the link is here.