The Deadly Global War for Sand
THE KILLERS ROLLED slowly down the narrow alley, three men jammed onto a single motorcycle. It was a little after 11 am on July 31, 2013, the sun beating down on the low, modest residential buildings lining a back street in the Indian farming village of Raipur. Faint smells of cooking spices, dust, and sewage seasoned the air. The men stopped the bike in front of the orange door of a two-story brick-and-plaster house. Two of them dismounted, eased open the unlocked door, and slipped into the darkened bedroom on the other side. White kerchiefs covered their lower faces. One of them carried a pistol.
Inside the bedroom Paleram Chauhan, a 52-year-old farmer, was napping after an early lunch. In the next room, his wife and daughter-in-law were cleaning up while Paleram’s son played with his own 3-year-old boy.
Gunshots thundered through the house. Preeti Chauhan, Paleram’s daughter-in-law, rushed into Paleram’s room, her husband, Ravindra, right behind her. Through the open door, they saw the killers jump back on their bike and roar away.
Paleram lay on his bed, blood bubbling out of his stomach, neck, and head. “He was trying to speak, but he couldn’t,” Preeti says, her voice breaking with tears. Ravindra borrowed a neighbor’s car and rushed his father to a hospital, but it was too late. Paleram was dead on arrival.
Despite the masks, the family had no doubts about who was behind the killing. For 10 years Paleram had been campaigning to get local authorities to shut down a powerful gang of criminals headquartered in Raipur. The “mafia,” as people called them, had for years been robbing the village of a coveted natural resource, one of the most sought-after commodities of the 21st century: sand.
That’s right. Paleram Chauhan was killed over sand. And he wasn’t the first, or the last.
Read about this HERE.
The Sunni-Shia Divide
Sectarian conflict is becoming entrenched in a growing number of Muslim countries and is threatening to fracture Iraq and Syria. Tensions between Sunnis and Shias, exploited by regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, could reshape the future Middle East.
An ancient religious divide is helping fuel a resurgence of conflicts in the Middle East and Muslim countries. Struggles between Sunni and Shia forces have fed a Syrian civil war that threatens to transform the map of the Middle East, spurred violence that is fracturing Iraq, and widened fissures in a number of tense Gulf countries. Growing sectarian clashes have also sparked a revival of transnational jihadi networks that poses a threat beyond the region.
Islam’s schism, simmering for fourteen centuries, doesn’t explain all the political, economic, and geostrategic factors involved in these conflicts, but it has become one prism by which to understand the underlying tensions. Two countries that compete for the leadership of Islam, Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, have used the sectarian divide to further their ambitions. How their rivalry is settled will likely shape the political balance between Sunnis and Shias and the future of the region, especially in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Bahrain.
Alongside the proxy battle is the renewed fervor of armed militants, motivated by the goals of cleansing the faith or preparing the way for the return of the messiah. Today there are tens of thousands of organized sectarian militants throughout the region capable of triggering a broader conflict. And despite the efforts of many Sunni and Shia clerics to reduce tensions through dialogue and counterviolence measures, many experts express concern that Islam’s divide will lead to escalating violence and a growing threat to international peace and security.
Sunni and Shia Muslims have lived peacefully together for centuries. In many countries it has become common for members of the two sects to intermarry and pray at the same mosques. They share faith in the Quran and the Prophet Mohammed’s sayings and perform similar prayers, although they differ in rituals and interpretation of Islamic law.
Shia identity is rooted in victimhood over the killing of Husayn, the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, in the seventh century, and a long history of marginalization by the Sunni majority. Islam’s dominant sect, which roughly 85 percent of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims follow, viewed Shia Islam with suspicion, and extremist Sunnis have portrayed Shias as heretics and apostates.
Much more found HERE.
Why Country Rules the Airwaves: Chronicling the Genre’s Continuing Moment
THE BRIEF WALK from dressing room 9 to the stage of Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry takes about 20 seconds, but passes decades of country music’s most prized heritage. There’s the photo of Dolly Parton with Paul McCartney, next to the piano Richard Nixon played and just down the hall from the “duets” room inspired by Johnny and June. On this autumn evening, you might bump into bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, or the Riders in the Sky, decked out in Stetsons and fringed western shirts. It’s a walk down memory lane here in country music’s home church, a study in nostalgia and past glory.
But the spunky, kinetic Hunter Hayes brings a new energy to the scene, and as he takes the stage at 9 PM, a gaggle of young fans – perhaps oblivious to the musical history infusing this space, perhaps not – reflexively unsheathe their iPhones. Hayes’s performance is in many ways emblematic of country’s new wave, a movement that has seen the genre rise to a new level of national popularity while attempting to navigate the tension between a rapidly changing demographic – of performers, songwriters, and fans – and a longstanding embrace of tradition.
It wasn’t inevitable that country music would thrive in the globalized world of perpetual Facebook updates, a world whose frenetic pace can be felt in electronica, or whose nouveau riche aspirations are extolled in hip-hop. In fact, the co-occurrence of spiraling technological advances and the continued rise of the country genre – which traditionally has valued more off-the-grid sensibilities – seems almost paradoxical. In what is an increasingly impressive balancing act, the country music industry has straddled the line between tradition and novelty, avoiding Luddite instincts while preserving the social structure and sense of comfort that has resonated in the heartland for decades.
To understand the industry’s challenging bargain with technology – a force that can spread the genre further than ever and exert the cultural pressure to leave it behind – I spent a fast-paced Nashville night with some of the city’s most influential talents.
But first, there was a more immediate problem: some sign-wielding teenage girls were standing in the middle of the road.
More to read HERE.
10-FOOT LONG BOBBIT WORM: THE MOST TERRIFYING CREATURE WE’VE SEEN
This creature is probably the most terrifying thing we’ve ever seen. It’s called a Bobbit Worm, and it hides in the ocean floor waiting to catch its prey. It’s ‘a mix between the Mongolian death worm,the Graboids from Tremors, the Bugs from Starship Troopers, and a rainbow’.
It can grow up to 10-ft. long, and it’s one of the most mysterious scientific discoveries currently being researched. It’s name is derived from the story of John and Lorena Bobbit, which we’re not exactly comfortable discussing. If you know the story, you’ll get the reference.