Links to Start Your Week 11/23/14

Links are very extensive this week, since I was more proactive in compiling them all throughout the whole week.

Middle East

A U.N. panel is urging all countries to seize trucks carrying oil in and out of areas controlled by jihadists in Iraq and Syria to cut into the militants’ finances.

ISIL militants are also making money by selling antiquities on the black market.

Building on their tradition of collective punishment for individual actions, Israel bulldozed the family home of a man who drove his car into a crowd of Israel pedestrians last month. To be clear: that guy was a dick for doing that. He killed two people, so he was also a murderer. Those are bad. So is punishing his family for his crimes.

Democracy Now has a segment on the recent Palestinian attacks on Israeli settlers and the expanding settlements into Palestinian territory.

ISIL control of parts of Iraq threatens the country’s water supply.

The UN is hoping local ceasefires in towns across Syria could stem the violence there.


The U.S. will most likely leave 1,000 security personnel in Kabul after the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

As the U.S. prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan, it is becoming increasingly clear that large portions of the country’s territory will remain under Taliban control. As a result, NGOs and UN bodies are beginning to acknowledge what has been going on privately for some time: they are negotiating with the group.

But women will be able and in fact encouraged to take on important roles in those negotiations, which is pretty fucking cool.


After Kenyan security forces raided several mosques they claim were linked to extremist groups, groups of youths carried out knife attacks in the city of Mombasa.

Aid workers urge continued attention to fighting the spread of Ebola in West Africa and to improving public health infrastructure globally to prevent outbreaks of disease.

Africa is a Country has an excellent takedown of the whole BandAid30 thing.

A number of African countries are significantly stepping up their military spending, including Nigeria, where the militant Islamist group Boko Haram has been really screwing over the security situation. One thing I think The Economist misses, however, is the question of whether much of this spending is also a result of military partnerships and agreements with the U.S. Another important detail is the fact that, for the past 15 years, military spending across most of the continent had been pretty stagnant. Many nations are also beginning to contribute more to international peacekeeping operations.

Thieves in Guinea have stolen a cooler full of Ebola-tainted blood.

National Security/Civil Liberties

More than 40 government agencies are now running undercover operations, from the FDA to the IRS. “Ultimately it is government deceitfulness and participation in criminal activity, which is only justifiable when it is used to resolve the most serious crimes,” said a former FBI undercover agent.

This is an amazing piece on the U.S. use of drones in Pakistan.

Speaking of drones, the U.S. has officially committed its 500th drone strike (or at least, the 500th officially recorded one.) According to the State Department’s numbers, these strikes have not actually diminished the size of the groups we’re targeting.

A bill that would have somewhat restricted NSA data collection was blocked from consideration in the Senate by Republicans.

The Army has selected 31 women to serve as advisors and observers at the Army Ranger School, a move that many believe indicates that next year women will be allowed to attempt the course next year. This is all part of the process to eventually integrate women in more combat roles in the armed forces.

The Navy has declined to formally court-martial a nurse who refused to participate in force-feeding procedures at Guantanamo Bay, but is still considering other disciplinary action. The nurse’s legal representation is arguing that forcing him or her to carry out unethical procedures is unlawful.

The Senate did not pass NSA surveillance reform, but on the bright side, three different federal appeals courts are considering challenges to the NSA’s call records program, and Congress and the President will have to consider reform again before Section 215 of FISA sunsets. So maybe we can still have reform? Fingers crossed?

Also, if you are interested in surveillance (or finance shenanigans) check out the exciting new podcast Humorless Queers.


The Senate narrowly defeated a vote on the Keystone XL pipeline. Native American activists in the chamber who began singing after the vote tally was announced were arrested for “disrupting Congress.” The Rosebud Sioux tribe had previously stated that the House’s approval of the pipeline was in essence a declaration of war against the tribe.

There’s been another oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. One worker was killed, three others were injured.

Human Rights

The International Committee of the Red Cross and the American Society of International Law hosted an event looking at how video games can promote understanding of international humanitarian law.

13 women died as a result of India’s super-classy forced sterilization campaign. It turns out they were given antibiotics contaminated with rat poison.

Meanwhile, Indonesia is forcing women who apply to serve as police officers to undergo virginity tests. Because that is relevant to the job and also the government’s business.


Development aid should focus less on finding one big idea to solve problems around the world and more on understanding local conditions to help implement real, lasting, effective change. This is one of the better articles I’ve seen about development and how we view aid.


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