Mali is home to a free-for-all struggle for power between a would-be president, the army, the Tuareg (Saharan nomads who want a breakaway state), and, most important to Western interests, various Islamist groups that come together under the acronym AQIM, or al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Taking over tracts of the country, Islamists introduced sharia law, complete with public floggings and executions. The French, former colonial rulers, have huge interests in nearby Mauritania, Niger, Chad, and Senegal. The famous Foreign Legion went in to sort out AQIM in a replay of Beau Geste. Whereupon an AQIM offshoot known as the Signed-in-Blood Battalion and about 40 strong attacked the huge natural-gas plant at In Amenas, a few miles on the Algerian side of the border with Libya. The leader of the AQIM Battalion, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, long wanted and under sentence of death for common crime as well as terrorism, praised the attack as “this blessed operation.” A high number of the 700 or so employees recruited from a dozen countries were held hostage. In the 1990s, the Algerian government fought a civil war with Islamists that cost as many as 200,000 lives, and at In Amenas it did not hesitate to deploy maximum force and ask questions later. By the time the shooting was over, the terrorists were all either dead or captured, but about 80 hostages had also been killed. The search is on for Belmokhtar, who left the fighting to his lieutenants. The French concede that they are at the start of a long war. They would welcome help from the United States and Britain, but will get only soft words.
To be an orphan in Russia under the rule of Vladimir Putin is about as bad a start in life as it was to be an orphan in Communist days. Too many orphans, not enough families willing to adopt — that’s a constant. There were never many Americans offering to adopt, but quite a number of them took disabled children. Recent Russian legislation, though not actually ruling out adoption of Russian children by Americans, uses the bureaucracy and courts to make it nearly impossible. The U.S. Agency for International Development was suddenly kicked out. Radio Liberty in Moscow is no longer allowed to broadcast. Many of these moves are a protest against the Magnitsky Act, passed by the U.S. to fight Russian corruption. The Russian government is making a show of its fearsome power, or at least deploying it against orphans.
Liu Yi, an artist in Beijing, could paint any number of subjects: flowers, landscapes, buildings. None of them would land him in trouble. But he has chosen to paint portraits of the 100 or so Tibetans who have immolated themselves in protest of China’s death grip on that nation. Liu says he can do no other: It is his way of bearing witness to this injustice. Such courage — a reckless courage, given what the Chinese Communist Party does to dissenters — may be hard to understand, but it’s admirable all the same. “When I’m painting them, I always feel that I am receiving blessings,” says Liu. “These people are not attacking other people, they are completely sacrificing themselves.”
Bob (not his real name) was, by all accounts, a model computer programmer. But Bob was both more enterprising and less diligent than his employers imagined, as they discovered when an investigation last year into what they assumed was a security breach revealed that Bob was in fact outsourcing his job to someone in China for a fifth of his six-figure salary. His browsing history, posted online by the Verizon security team that conducted the investigation, revealed a typical day at the office: “9:00 a.m. Arrive and surf Reddit for a couple of hours. Watch cat videos. 11:30 a.m. Take lunch. 1:00 p.m. Ebay time. 2:00 p.m. Facebook updates/LinkedIn. 4:30 p.m. End of day update e-mail to management. 5:00 p.m. Go home.” Though he had received several excellent performance reviews for his clean, timely, and well-written code, Bob’s employment was terminated.