US military intelligence officials revealed this week that Iran is building what looks to be a scaled-down, simplified model of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier — complete with its fleet number, 68.
According to a report in Israel's Haaretz newspaper, the ship is more of a barge than a carrier, not really capable of carrying or launching aircraft. Experts suspect Iran is building it for propaganda purposes. Iran might, for example, create a video of its forces sinking the replica and try to pass it off to its citizens as a great military victory. Is this a sign that Iran thinks its recently warmer relations with the US might sour again?
Al-Qaeda's accidental spokesman is on trial
“If you would kindly spare me that mission, it will be better,” Suleiman Abu Ghayth remembers telling his leader. “No, I insist that you speak,” bin Laden told him. And that's how Imam Abu Ghayth became bin Laden's official spokesman after Sept. 11. He went before a camera, just hours after the World Trade Center attack, and laid out the rationale for al-Qaeda's attack on America.
Now Ghayth is on trial in the US for his role. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in an American prison. The Atlantic has been following his trial.
Rock the Vote meets Rap the Vote in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is about to embark on historic elections determining the country's future. So instead of a holding an annual music festival, the government supported a music competition with the aim of getting out the youth vote. Afghans were invited on TV, the web and social networks to write songs that encourage civic pariticpation and voting.
Organizers were surprised by the number of submissions they received — and how many were in the hip hop or rap genre. But Afghanistan is a country with a strong tradition of oral storytelling, as PRI's The World reports.
The pope takes on the Italian mafia
Historically, the Vatican has had a close relationship with the largely Catholic mafia. They didn't necessarily cooperate, but the Vatican didn't exactly criticize the mob, either. That changed on Friday when Pope Francis, who has become known for challenging tradition, urged the mafia to repent — or face going to hell.
According to Al Jazeera, Francis made his comments during a memorial for more than 800 victims of mafia violence at a church in Rome. "There's still time to not end up in hell, which is what awaits you if you continue on this path," he said.
Ethnic cleansing is real in the Central African Republic
Tim Whewell of the BBC just returned from the Central African Republic, where the situation is grim. Officials have been clamoring for more peacekeepers and warning that religiously-motivated ethnic cleansing will be unstoppable without added troops. Whewell saw that reality first hand.
Whewell told PRI's The World how he met a local priest who has given refuge to about a thousand Muslims in his church compound. The refugees were forced to flee their homes as Christian Anti-Balaka militias killed any Muslims they found. Militiamen have demanded that the priest, Father Justin Nary, turn over the Muslims. He refused and paid them off to buy time — but the milita hasn't gone away. The only thing keeping the situation stable now is a contingent of African Union peacekeepers.
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Weather around the world
The hottest place in the northern hemisphere in February, according to this blog from Weather Underground, was Abu Na’Ama, Sudan, which hit a blistering 107.6 degrees on Feb. 28. Well, the temperature keeps climbing. It was 111 degrees in Abu Na'Ama on Thursday.