Survey shows little divide in what the US should do about ISIS

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Troops prepare for an invasion of ISIS-held lands.

To gauge people’s attitudes about what the US should do about ISIS, I created a new survey. So now I’m going to share the results, and I’ll see what I can try and find from the information.

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So most people support being involved somehow in the destruction of ISIS. Only a small percentage of 18% support not getting involved at all, although many want to show more caution, rather than invade ISIS immediately, probably due to the aftermath of the Iraq war.

The survey matches closely with a Pew Research Center poll which showed 76% of Americans support limited military intervention against the Islamic State. About 82% of people support some kind of intervention in the survey I conducted.

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Surprisingly, despite most people thinking that military intervention against ISIS is fine, the amount of people that think drone strikes are justified and constitutional drops off. This is probably due to many thinking that drones strikes are not constitutional, and due to the high rate of civilian casualties occasionally caused by drone strikes.

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Many people are conflicted on this issue, and it looks like a few that support military action against ISIS would prefer not to be involved in messy world politics. Not surprising, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Iran attempts hack of Saudi government computers – again

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Countries that are victims of cyber-espionage, 2013

A computer virus, designed by Iranian cyber-espionage firms and hackers, has struck Saudi computers for a second time.

The virus is called Shamoon, and was first unleashed on Aramco, a Saudi oil company, in 2012. The virus targets the hard drives of computers, and completely wipes them of all data. The virus leaves behind pictures on the computers affected, and in recent attacks, the computers were found with the famous picture of the drowned 3 year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi.

The cyber-attack was done on several Saudi government computers, and the strike was timed so that employees would be on their weekend break, in order to inflict maximum damage.

So why didn’t the Saudi government prepare for a strike like this when they’d already been hit before by the same virus? Well, it’s a new version of the same virus, so it may have been that Iranian hackers found new ways around Saudi cyber-defenses.

Syrian goverment advance in Aleppo causes 16,000 to flee in 48 hours

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Citizens of Aleppo are leaving due to a lack of rations and encroaching violence as troops push forward.

As the Syrian army has continued its offensive on Aleppo, it has seemed more and more like the rebels are going to lose the vital city. Ever since Russia teamed up with President Bashar Al-Assad to retake lost land in Syria, Russia’s funding and much more professional military has made the momentum the rebels previously had disappear.

The Red Cross reported the mass exodus after pro-Syrian forces pushed ahead in the 73 mile-long city, which before the war had a population of more than 2 million people. Aleppo has been under siege for four months, and has had a serious lack of supplies coming in since then. Rations ran out a few weeks ago, according to UN sources, and the situation has gotten more desperate because of the Syrian government’s policy of humanitarian aide obstruction.

The citizens fleeing are going in several different directions, with some of them retreating further to the East of Aleppo, which is under rebel control, and others going to shelters provided by the regime in the West.

Will the rebels hold Aleppo? So far, it doesn’t seem like they have the means to push the Syrian regime out again, so it seems unlikely. But things may change as the conflict drags on.

Turkish bill would legalize statutory rape – as long as you marry the victim

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The Turkish Parliament in session.

A new bill has appeared in the Turkish Parliament that could legalize statutory rape, or the act of sexual intercourse with a minor, as long as the offender is found to have not used ‘force or threat’ to coerce the victim in to sex, and if the two marry.

Turkey’s current administration stands on the border between Islamism and democracy – especially with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in power, so it’s not the most surprising thing that a bill like this would come about. The prophet Muhammad had a nine year old wife named Aisha, and is viewed as an ideal role model to many Muslims, so oftentimes barbaric and backwards ideas are legitimized because he participated in them.

I shouldn’t need to tell you why this bill is a horrendous idea, but here we go. The bill would incentive child marriage, by allowing child rapists to get away with their crimes just by paying off the parents for marriage. There are currently around 3,000 men who are accused of assaulting minors in Turkey, and many of them will have their convictions overturned if the law is passed.

To make things worse, the treatment of women in Turkey has gotten shockingly bad over the last few decades: 40% of women report sexual physical abuse, and the murder rate of women has gone up 14x between 2003 and 2010.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Erdogan and his conservative AKP party has raised furor with their unequal treatment of women, however: Erdogan two years ago said that women were not equal to men because “it is against nature”, and there were mass protests one year ago after a rape victim was killed after trying to resist her rapist.

If this law is passed, it will be another step down for the formerly secular state of Turkey – and something tells me it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Want more? Read my interview with Turkish professor Sena Karasipahi about the coup – and Turkey’s declining state of politics here.

Kosovo police stop Islamic State attack on Israeli soccer team

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The Israeli soccer team practices ahead of a game.

Kosovan police announced yesterday that they had foiled a plot by the Islamic State to attack the Israeli soccer team in Kosovo. The Israeli team had gone to Kosovo for a World Cup qualifying match with the Albanian team.

Eighteen of the suspects arrested for the planned terrorist attack were citizens of the Republic of Kosovo, and one was a Macedonian. The suspects were found with two different types of explosives, a drone, multiple guns, and religious literature with an ‘extremist ideology’.

You can read the full press release from the Kosovo police here.

Egypt reusing syringes because of shortages

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As the Egyptian economy continues its slow collapse, Egypt has seen shortages of sugar, food, and other necessary commodities. But now, it looks like Egypt’s healthcare system is also being hit by shortages.

The news was broken by a doctor’s union leader, Mona Mina, who called into a talk show to talk about the shortages. She called on the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to resolve the crisis, and explained that a medical staff at a government hospital had been ordered to use half the amount of medical supplies they normally do.

According the CDC, healthcare providers should never use syringes on more than one patient, because of the risk of transmitting a disease. It is standard medical practice in most countries around the world to immediately dispose of syringes after they are used because of this risk. Using a syringe on multiple different people puts patients in danger of contracting sexually-transmitted diseases like Hepatitis and HIV.

After the show aired on television, the Egyptian Ministry of Health announced that they were going to sue Mina for her statements, and Assistant Health Minister Ahmed Mohie al-Qased asserted she was telling “lies”. He also claimed that the government had a stockpile of medical supplies that would last for at least two years.

So is Mina telling the truth? Probably. Egypt’s economic crisis may have left Egyptian officials worrying about the availability of supplies, leading lower-ranked officials to tell hospitals to make do with less supplies. But with strongman President al-Sisi in charge of Egypt, if he wants her in prison, she will be.

Ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud found destroyed by Iraqi troops

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Ancient ruins in the city of Nimrud.

The death throes of ISIS?

As part of the Mosul offensive, the Iraqi army recently retook the archaeological excavation site and historical ruin of Nimrud from Islamic State control. Nimrud is an ancient Assyrian city, near the city of Nineveh (Mostly known for its mention in the Old Testament).

The Assyrian Empire at its height was made up of many different countries, stretching from Egypt to modern-day Iran. It was later defeated in around 600 BC, by a coalition of peoples that had previously been its subjects.

ISIS has destroyed much of the surviving artifacts and buildings, as is per their tendency to damage anything they deem ‘blasphemous’. A once massive ziggurat, that was one of the largest surviving buildings of the ancient world, has become a small pile of rubble. Statues, temples, paintings, and even things that it would be hard to describe as blasphemous like brick walls, have been smashed and left as piles of rocks.

Luckily, many of the destroyed relics are preserved in pictures, but it is a real shame that many of these interesting and valuable symbols of antiquity will never be able to visited or studied in greater detail.