June 24, 2015

ISIS (in a nutshell), an ode to US visa system, the Cold War and Putin’s very own roller coaster

 
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IN A NUTSHELL: MUST READS ISIS Losing Ground: The Kurds Fighting Back Kurdish militias captured a second town from ISIS in two weeks, posing the biggest threat to ISIS’ capital Raqqa. The capture of Ain Eissa comes on the back of the liberation of the Tal Abyad border crossing from ISIS last week and gives the Kurds a clear line of sight to Raqqa, only 50 km form the front line. The Kurdish victories are much needed positive news in a war that has been plagued by poor policy, a refugee disaster and routine John McCain visits…  LONG READ (E-BOOK): Patrick Cockburn’s “The Rise of ISIS”
Up Close & Personal: US Visa System Down
We have to be honest. We aren’t writing this story because it’s of the utmost importance, but rather because it’s affecting us on a very personal level. The US visa system has been down for all US consulates and embassies around the world for over two weeks. That means that the US hasn’t issued any visas (aside from humanitarian and agricultural visas) to anyone for two weeks. The breakdown is affecting 50,000 people a day, meaning that almost half a million people are now in backlog to receive a visa (including two members of the Pnut team). The US State Department said that “100 people” (unspecified who they are or what they are doing) are working on fixing it and that it may not be up until next week (code for “we have no idea when this will be resolved,” or English for InshAllah). 
TOUGH NUT: STILL IN THE NEWS The Cold War: It’s Back
US/EU-Russia relations have been deteriorating ever since the ousting of former Ukrainian president Yanukovych in January 2014. Tensions reached a new high yesterday when US Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that the US and NATO would be deploying 250 tanks and other heavy military equipment in former Eastern Bloc nations. Last week, German daily, Der Spiegel, reported that US nukes could soon return to Europe, heightening fears of a new Cold War. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are particularly antsy about Russia as they all share borders with Russia and have sizable Russian minorities. Russia has used the pretext of “protecting the human rights” of ethnic Russians to intervene in Georgia and Ukraine, which is ironic since we all know how much Russia cares about human rights… 
IN OTHER NEWS

Ride Putin’s Roller Coaster 
Vladimir Putin announced a new theme park in Russia called Patriot Park. The park has been described as a “military disneyland” that also has a conference and exhibition venue… we presume for gun shows. The park takes Russia’s recent hyper-nationalist militarism to a whole new level. Visitors will be able to shoot guns, play with grenade launchers and buy Putin memorabilia, which we hope will include postcard box sets of Putin memes like these. And to wrap up the Pnut we leave you with this segment from John Oliver: 
 
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