Kalashnikov

Editor’s Note: We’ll be running the article recommendations of our friends at TNR Reader each afternoon on The Plank, just in time to print out or save for your commute home. Enjoy! In a post-Palin world, vetting the Veep has become the most invasive process in politics. GQ | 19 min (4,863 words) Looking for an AK-47 or a Bushmaster M4 assault rifle? Welcome to the web’s darkest black market.

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An Idaho man who was reported missing last month has been arrested for shooting the White House with a semiautomatic rifle. The suspect is 21-year-old Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, who has criminal records in three states and a history of drug and alcohol problems. He is believed to have fired an AK-47 at the White House last Friday night. At least one round hit the building, but it was stopped by bulletproof glass.

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I remember the first time an Afghan told me that the United States and the Taliban were working together. It was February 2010, and I was in Zormat, an old trading town in the lap of snow-covered mountains, between Kabul and the Pakistani border.

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Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan—It’s all so familiar. The chafing of seven pounds of steel and wood of a Kalashnikov against Khoda Qul’s bony right hip. The blanched desert that unfurls through the gunsight. And the enemy: Taliban forces advancing across a country so parched its desiccated alluvium has sun-baked into pottery. Fourteen years ago, Khoda Qul picked up a gun and joined a band of sandaled irregulars that, eventually, in 2001, helped drive the Taliban out of Shahraq, his village of oblique mud-slapped homes in northern Afghanistan’s Balkh province.

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MOSCOW—Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, has been in court for so long that only the hardy, like the wall-eyed man haunting the courthouse in a Che Guevara-style Khodorkovsky t-shirt and the “Free Khodorkovsky” plastic shopping bag, have dared to follow his case. “I’ve spent seven years this way,” says Marina Khodorkovsky, the ex-tycoon’s mother, a bright-eyed former metals engineer. First, there was the year and a half of legal proceedings after her son’s dramatic October 2003 arrest, when special forces stormed his private jet in Siberia.

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Venezuela is another one of those socialist nightmare/dream fantasies. While the tyranny may be Latin-lackadaisical, the slow but certain shutdown of centers of dissent goes on--and soon there will be nothing else to close. Except for the fact that there is a certain popular resilience to the tricks the dictator learned from Comrade Castro.

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The Dostum Chronicles

Shiberghan, Afghanistan (one day before the election)—There was no mistaking the general’s “castle.” Its pastel-colored two-storey walls and lapis cupolas shocking amidst the drabness of the surrounding neighborhood. Somewhere inside the compound was General Abdul Rashid Dostum, the most notorious of Afghanistan’s warlords. In almost three decades as a militia leader, Dostum has earned a reputation for ruthless brutality towards enemies, as well as an opportunist’s disregard for alliances, which have shifted without notice.

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Muzzled

Michael Crowley explains why the Democratic Party has failed to push for responsible national gun control.

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Slumlords

A few days after American troops entered Baghdad, I went to Saddam City, a sprawling slum inhabited almost exclusively by Shia Muslims. But, by the time I got there, Saddam City was gone. Yes, the people were still there, as was the poverty—the kids playing barefoot soccer on dirt lots and the young men carrying AK-47 assault rifles. But it was Saddam City no longer. THIS IS SADR CITY, announced a spray-painted sign as I drove into the slum, renamed for Sheik Mohammed Sadek Al Sadr, who was killed along with two of his sons in 1999 for speaking out against Saddam Hussein.

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