‘Islamic State’ held city of Raqqa Liberated

RAQQA, Syria — U.S.-backed Syrian forces said Tuesday that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters had been completely defeated in the city of Raqqa, which the Islamic extremist group had held and ruled over brutally as a de-facto capital for more than three years.

Earlier on Tuesday the ISIS holdouts had been corralled into the city’s sports stadium after losing their only other position in Raqqa, the hospital.

CBS News’ Holly Williams, one of the few foreign television correspondents to make it into the former ISIS stronghold with the militia known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said Tuesday that there were still thought to be ISIS fighters holed up in buildings and tunnels in the sprawling city.

A spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition battling ISIS said later Tuesday that were were an estimated 100 militants in the city.


In addition to the holdouts, Williams notes, it could take months before Raqqa is finally cleared of all the explosives laid by the militants.

Then, Syrians will somehow have to find a way to rebuild the shattered city, where there is hardly a building left unscathed.

Williams reported Tuesday morning from al-Naim Circle, in the very heart of Raqqa. It used to be an ordinary traffic circle, but ISIS turned it into a place notorious for public executions, and then posted evidence of those horrific killings on the internet as propaganda.

Al-Naim Circle was taken back by the SDF forces on Monday night, and Williams watched them on the streets of Raqqa celebrating; they were in a victorious mood after a brutal four-month battle for the city.

Williams said it was a bizarre feeling to stand in al-Naim, as during the three-plus years that ISIS held Raqqa, she would almost certainly have been taken captive and killed.

Some buildings have been pulverized by the fighting, others flattened by U.S. airstrikes. Nearly all citizens of Raqqa, perhaps all of them, have fled the city.

It is a terribly irony, notes Williams, that in order to retake Raqqa from ISIS, it had to be all but destroyed.

Raqqa is in really bad shape.




This is an incredibly horrific war.



I guess the destruction of Raqqa was necessary in order to corner those ISIS rats and put them out of their misery.

Trump goes postal against media critics

President Trump hurls unbelievable new insults at ‘Morning Joe’ hosts


This guy is too thin skinned to be president. Any criticism hurts him so deeply that his temper explodes and he attacks like a rabid wolverine.



Bully. Oh yes, he was a notorious bully in elementary school according to his own admission.



Unexploded Bombs Find Everyday Use in Laos’ Villages

The Vietnam War ended 40 years ago, but left a deadly legacy, especially in Laos. The US military dropped more than 2 million tons of bombs on the country during the war between 1964 and 1973, making Laos the most heavily bombed country in the world on a per capita basis. There were more than 580,000 bombing missions on Laos, equivalent to one bombing mission every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years. Not all of those bombs did what they were supposed to do. An estimated 30 percent of ordnance failed to explode, remaining live in the ground years after the war. They continue to detonate at unexpected places and at unexpected times, such as when children are playing.


Boats made out of fuel tanks that were ejected from U.S. bombers.

A major cause of casualties, however, is villagers attempting to open the big bombs to sell the metal and the explosives inside to scrap dealers. A high quality bomb casing weighing up to 2,000 pounds can fetch more than $100. Empty bomb casings that once contained deadly explosives are visible all across the country in new forms — from hollowed out canoes and containers, to props holding houses above flood.

When photographer Mark Watson took a bicycle trip across the country, he was surprised to see these lethal devices being reused in extraordinary ways. “Scrap from such widespread bombing has been utilized in people’s homes and villages,” Watson said, “for everything from house foundations to planter boxes to buckets, cups and cowbells.”

Gathering bomb scraps is a deadly occupation, but the people were forced into the trade by poverty.

“Lots of agricultural land is denied to people because of the presence of UXO (unexploded ordnance), and this is the main problem. It prolongs poverty because people can’t do what they need to do. If they know that UXO is present, they will not plow deeply enough to get a good quality crop,” said David Hayter, of Mines Advisory Group (MAG), an NGO working to detect and remove mines and bombs.

But progress is slow and their budget limited. Meanwhile, people continue to get killed and injured by accidental detonation of live ordnance. As of 2012, at least 29,000 people have died from such accidents.


Children pose near unexploded bombs recovered from around the village.


A house in village uses a bomb casing as a garden decoration.


Bomb casing used as a planter.


Casings used as support stilts for a house.


Metal recovered from bomb casing shaped into cow bells.


A bomb casing turned into a boat.

Cratered rice field.

Phonsavanh, Laos.




The prospect of catastrophic nuclear war has an interesting effect on the human psyche. My dad used to work for a man named Herman Kahn, who became famous in the early 1960s for writing a book called Thinking About the Unthinkable, which sought to analyze outcomes in which some portion of humanity survived the conflict more or less normally. Kahn’s reward for this was being savagely caricatured in the form of the Groeteschele character played by Walter Matthau in Sidney Lumet’s 1964 drama Fail-Safe. (Just a few months earlier, Kahn, along with Wernher von Braun, John von Neumann, and Edward Teller, became one of the quartet of people that went into the creation of Peter Sellers’ delirious eponym in Stanely Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.)

The Reagan years were an interesting time to be terrified of a war between the Russians and the Americans. For whatever reason the year 1983 was the, er, “ground zero” for the trope in pop culture. You had the absolute non plus ultra of “event TV” in ABC’s televised movie The Day After, which on November 20, 1983, imagined a nuclear warhead taking out Lawrence, Kansas. The same year saw the release of the grim Jane Alexander movie Testament and the sprightly hacker fantasy WarGames, both of which drew narrative oomph from the prospect of mushroom clouds over America. And of course the Wolverines of Red Dawn would beat the Russians guerrilla style a year later.

In 1982, however, a delicious and peculiar bit of black comedy hit the bookshelves, a parody of a children’s activity book that was executed almost too well—squint, and you just might mistake it for an earnest and actual fun book for the Armageddon to come. Which might be a backhanded way of saying the book isn’t really all that funny. But it sure is interesting.

The book was written by Victor Langer and Walter Thomas. You have to give them credit, they really nailed the tone they were going after, from the earnest assurance that some “prewar” activities have been included so that kids don’t have to wait until nuclear disaster strikes to begin having fun, to the bleak and vivid prospect of a “paper doll nuclear wardrobe,” which enables you to dress up mom and dad in a bodybag.

I don’t know much about the two authors, except that parodies such as this was Langer’s stock in trade for a while there—other titles included The IRS Coloring Book, Surviving Your Baby and Child, and a parody of The Whole Earth Catalog under the title The Whole Whog Catalog that somehow featured an introduction by none other than Chevy Chase.