The man tells me that the severed head is Kyrgyz. The video, relayed to me on the small screen of his mobile phone, is blurry and the sound quality is poor. But I can nonetheless decipher what is happening. A group of men are playing a macabre combination of soccer and field hockey with the detached cranium, shouting excitedly throughout as they kick and smack it with sticks. The clip lasts no more than 20 seconds. We’re standing in an alleyway off a major thoroughfare in Osh, a 3,000-year-old city located in southern Kyrgyzstan, the hustle of a bazaar only steps away.
Has the United States stopped playing the Great Game in Central Asia? In the wake of the destabilizing violence that occurred in Kyrgyzstan this summer, that seems to be the case. The Obama administration reacted slowly when at least 300 people were killed in inter-ethnic fighting in June and Kyrgyzstan seemed on the verge of spiraling out of control.
A friend of mine is an investigative reporter with a national Mexican newspaper. He has been covering crime and corruption for decades. But the last time I saw him, he was not at ease. We met recently for coffee at a busy Mexico City restaurant, and while we talked his eyes darted to the next table, where a man with a military crew cut sat alone in a puffy black jacket, conspicuously not eating. Was the guy scoping out my friend, who had covered the December 2009 marine operation that killed Arturo Beltrán Leyva, one of Mexico’s most powerful drug kingpins?
[Guest post by Noam Scheiber:] Yesterday I wrote about the second anniversary of the Wall Street bailout. I figured I'd stick with the anniversary motif, but of an altogether different kind. It turns out today is the 80th anniversary of the disaster involving the British airship R101, which preceded the Hindenburg explosion by several years and actually claimed more lives.
Khartoum—Amira* is the attractive 16-year-old daughter of an Iraqi mother and Sudanese father. She spent the first ten years of her life in Iraq, where her family lived in an apartment in a multi-story house in Baghdad, just around the corner from her grandmother.
On election day, a pack of bone-thin, restless dogs wandered into the main polling center in Sheikhabad, a town in Afghanistan’s Wardak Province. A pair of Afghan policemen tried to chase them away, but the determined bunch kept returning, looking for a shady redoubt from the morning sun. Eventually the police relented, and the dogs settled down for a nap. The canines were the only visitors there for hours—not a single person had come to vote.
Tired of the famous Churchillian formula about how hard it is to understand what goes on in the Kremlin (it’s a riddle, a mystery, an enigma, etc.), the American diplomat Chip Bohlen reportedly once joked, “No, it’s not—it’s a secret.” A crucial distinction, confirmed by President Medvedev’s dramatic firing of Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov on Tuesday. It would be nice, of course, to know whether the decision really put Medvedev at odds with his predecessor and patron, When Putin said in August that those who demonstrate without a permit deserve a good beating, he was explicitly backing Luzhkov.
On Wednesday, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett hosted a dinner for China’s billionaires. The pair, fresh off successful efforts to persuade Americans to leave their fortunes to charity, hoped to start a wave of philanthropy in China, which now has the second largest number of billionaires. Gates and Buffett described the event as “a private gathering to discuss philanthropy development.” Xinhua, Beijing’s official news agency, earlier this month reported that only two of the approximately 50 invitees had accepted.
Sunday's parliamentary election in Venezuela saw Chávez's governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela slump to a landslide.
With the fatuousness that has marked his administration from the outset, the U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki Moon, has now issued a document called “Keeping the Promise,” timed to coincide with the 2010 meeting of the U.N. General Assembly and the summit on the organization’s so-called Millennium Development Goals that is taking place simultaneously.