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538em;”>Extended World Cup coverageMatch reports, profiles and more at The World Game 

It was Croatia that scored the first goal of the match, with Marcelo setting it up in the 11th minute.

Members of the Croatian community in Australia turned over the furniture in their excitement and the roar of the cheers were deafening.

But Brazil did not stay stunned for long.

Neymar equalised and then put the Brazilians ahead, after a controversial penalty in the second half when Fred fell in the area.

The decision angered Croatians, with coach Niko Kovac calling the decision shameful.

Hopes for a draw for Croatia fans watching in Sydney fading. @SBSNews pic.twitter南宁桑拿网,/e1hjlzv6y0

— Greg Navarro (@greg_navarro) June 12, 2014

Oscar then rounded off the scoring in injury time with a brilliant solo goal.

For Brazilian football fans in Australia, watching the game was a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

“Everytime there is goal we’re going to be hitting the drums,” one fan told SBS ahead of the match.

“But if Croatia hits the goal we’re going to be standing like this,” he said standing with his arms crossed in stoic silence.

@SBSNews #SBSWorldCup Happy Brazil fans dance away a win pic.twitter南宁桑拿网,/OiW27OGleR

— Julia Calixto (@julescalixto) June 12, 2014

Dead silence did descend over the Brazilian fans watching the game after Croatia scored its first and only goal.

But all was forgiven after the Brazilian team went on to achieve a 3-1 victory.

“I’m happy, Brazil is going to win the Cup you know,” another fan told SBS, while dancing a jig.

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ASADA issues show-cause notices to Essendon

News Corp Australia is reporting ASADA served the notices on players on Thursday following a 16-month probe into the club’s 2012 supplements program.


Any players or officials found guilty of doping offences face suspension from all sport.

But the process of deciding whether anyone is guilty could take years, with legal action a certainty.

Essendon announced on February 5 last year that they were to be investigation under a joint AFL and ASADA inquiry.

In August last year, the AFL heavily penalised Essendon, kicking them out of the finals and suspending coach James Hird for 12 months among other punishments.

But the ASADA investigation has been ongoing.

Also last year, Essendon had their own investigation into the supplements program.

Investigator Ziggy Switkowski reported “a disturbing picture of a pharmacologically experimental environment never adequately controlled or challenged or documented within the club”.

Earlier on Thursday, Essendon chairman Paul Little addressed the ASADA issue in a letter to members.

“Unfortunately there has not been any significant developments or relevant information made available to the Club in recent weeks,” he said.

“Our players are still carrying the heavy burden of continued speculation in the media with no concrete timetable for the ASADA process to conclude – this has been incredibly frustrating for us all.

“However, I can confirm we are exploring all legal options for our players in the unlikely event they receive show cause letters from ASADA.

“We make no apologies for that.”

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Chicago mayor, Trump clash over sign

The installation of six-metre-tall (20-foot) letters spelling out T-R-U-M-P on the side of the billionaire’s gleaming Chicago skyscraper has triggered a war of words between Donald Trump and Rahm Emanuel.


The city’s mayor says he’s looking for a way to undo the “architecturally tasteless” sign, and the developer is in no mood to take anything down.

The spat pits the abrasive billionaire and relentless self-promoter who turned the words “You’re Fired!” into a personal motto against a mayor who did not get nicknames like “Rahmbo” and “The Rahminator” because he shies away from a fight.

The backdrop is a city that takes its architectural history seriously, where adorning some of the tallest and largest buildings on the planet with the owner’s name is seen as poor form.

“If this sign was in Atlantic City or Las Vegas, nobody would care – but it is in Chicago, and in a part of Chicago full of great buildings from the 1920s to the 1960s and onward,” said Blair Kamin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning architectural critic for the Chicago Tribune, who became part of the scuffle with his withering criticism of the Trump sign.

“None of the other towers have signs on them.”

In fact, many of the city’s tallest buildings have large signs near or at ground level, but not even landmarks like the John Hancock Center and the Willis Tower have the kind of banner – high above street level – that the Trump International Hotel & Tower does.

For his part, Trump blames Kamin, whom he calls a “third-rate architecture critic”, for stirring up trouble when the letters recently began to appear on the side of the building.

Trump also stressed that he got city permission to put up exactly the sign that ultimately was emblazoned on the building. Not only did the city zoning administrator sign off on it, he said, but the City Council did as well.

“We got full approval,” Trump said, a preview of an argument that will certainly come up if the city tries to bring his name down.

But perhaps more important than any legal argument he might make, Trump said he’s baffled that anyone would object to the sight of his name on the side of the building, going so far as to suggest that they should be thanking him.

Emanuel, clearly, disagrees.

“Mayor Emanuel believes this is an architecturally tasteful building scarred by an architecturally tasteless sign,” his spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said in a statement, a day after Kamin reported that McCaffrey used the word “awful” to describe Emanuel’s opinion of the sign.

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Palmer hires Elvis for constituents

Eccentric federal MP Clive Palmer is hiring an Elvis impersonator to entertain his constituents at his resort on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.


The Palmer Coolum Resort, in the mining tycoon’s seat of Fairfax, will be open to the public during the last weekend of June, with free live entertainment from Dean Vegas.

Vegas describes himself as “Australia’s only official Elvis marriage celebrant”.

Mr Palmer describes the resort open days, from June 27 to 29, as the Fairfax Festival Weekend.

Palmer United Party politicians are also part of the program, along with family entertainment and a “jobs hub”.

Mr Palmer is holding a media conference on Friday morning, as his bitter feud with Queensland’s Liberal National government drags on.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney this month handed documents about the government’s dealings with Mr Palmer to the state’s corruption watchdog.

Mr Seeney has accused Mr Palmer of seeking preferential treatment for his coal projects in 2012, but the federal MP has rejected the claims.

The deputy premier has admitted he does not have a copy of draft legislation Mr Palmer allegedly prepared that would have given him exclusive access to rail and port facilities for the coal-rich Galilee basin.

Asked about his weekend open days, Mr Palmer denied it was a bribe for voters in his seat.

“I may never stand for parliament next time, who knows,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

“Getting re-elected is not my prime criteria.”

Three rebel Northern Territory MPs, who quit the ruling Country Liberals and later joined the Palmer United Party, will attend the weekend event.

Queensland independent MP Peter Wellington and his parliamentary PUP colleagues Alex Douglas and Carl Judge will also be there, along with the party’s senators-elect Glenn Lazarus, Dio Wang and Jacqui Lambie.

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Romanian charged with hacking Bush emails

A Romanian using the online moniker “Guccifer” has been indicted on US charges of hacking into email accounts of high-profile people, including the family of former presidents George H.


W. and George W. Bush.

Marcel Lehel Lazar, 42, is accused of wire fraud, unauthorised access to a protected computer, aggravated identity theft, cyberstalking and obstruction of justice. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in Virginia on Thursday.

Lazar is already serving a seven-year prison term in Romania, where he was arrested in January and charged with hacking the email accounts of many Romanian officials, including the head of the national intelligence service.

The US indictment comes a year after a probe was launched over the breach of email accounts belonging to the former American presidents as well as other members of their family.

The investigative website The Smoking Gun reported at the time that hackers had accessed several email accounts and then published personal photos and private correspondence belonging to the Bushes and their loved ones.

The hacker apparently intercepted photos that former president George W. Bush emailed to his sister showing paintings that he was working on, including self-portraits of him showering and in a bathtub, the report said.

Another picture showed the elder Bush in a hospital bed, a snapshot purportedly taken by his daughter, Dorothy Bush Koch, whose AOL account was among those apparently hacked.

The Justice Department said the incidents occurred from December 2012 to January 2014.

“Lazar hacked into the email and social media accounts of high-profile victims, including a family member of two former US presidents, a former US cabinet member, a former member of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former presidential adviser,” the statement said.

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Humans and chimpanzees: How we differ and why

By Darren Curnoe

One of the most important questions we can ask – and one that continues to take up much of the time of scientists, philosophers and the religious minded alike – is why are humans so different to the rest of the living world?

Philosophers and physicists have even celebrated the appearance of humans 200,000 years ago on the African savannah as marking the arrival of consciousness or self-awareness for the universe.


But despite the remarkable promise and advances of science and technology over the past 155 years since Charles Darwin published his paradigm shifting book, On the Origin of Species, I find myself increasingly pessimistic about whether this riddle to end all riddles will ever be solved.

Mind the gap

In our quest to disentangle it, our scientific gaze usually turns to examining the differences between our close living relative, the chimpanzee, and ourselves.

The behaviour of chimpanzees can appear so human. Flickr/Tambako The Jaguar, CC BY-NC-ND

The physical and behavioural distinctions between us are obvious to all: pointedly, it is we who are destroying their habitat and threatening their very existence.

We share a common evolutionary ancestor with them some 7 or 8 million years ago – a mere ripple in the stream of time of Earth’s history – and more than reason enough to ensure their survival as a species.

Our genetic blueprint, our genome, is different by a mere 1-2% – barely enough to explain the “gap” between us.

Surprisingly, comparisons of our genomes have shown that chimpanzees have undergone more positive genetic change in their evolution than we have, undermining the widely held view that humans are dramatically different to other apes.

This also means that, despite its promise, our DNA now seems unlikely to provide a clear answer to this most important of questions.

Bubble-headed apes

One of the most obvious physical differences is our massive brain. A typical chimp brain is close to 400 grams in weight while a human one, on average, weighs almost 1.5 kilograms.

Geneticists have identified 15 genes differing between us that physiologically control our brain and nervous system.

Some of them probably underpin the profound changes in brain growth, size and function that set humans apart, but this remains unclear.

Fifteen genes is a very small number, bearing in mind the 21,000 genes present in our genome – most of which have no known function – and that seemingly ordinary differences between people such as stature are influenced by hundreds of genes.

Brawn over brain

Another major difference between us resides in our brawn. It is a well known fact among zoo keepers and conservationists of chimpanzees that these animals have been known from time to time to rip a persons’s shoulder out of its socket when angry.

Chimpanzees display a range of emotions. Flickr/Afrika Force, CC BY

While the number, structure and function of their muscles is overall very similar to ours, there are a few important exceptions such as muscles involved in walking upright, chewing our food and the expression of emotions with facial gestures.

Our limb muscles are mostly are lot smaller and weaker than a chimp’s and their joints are adapted for much greater agility and more rapid and complex movements than ours.

In short, human limbs have evolved for terrestrial running, while chimpanzees’ are adapted for arboreal climbing.

The differences in our chewing muscles obviously reflect our diets, with humans preparing our food using techniques such as cooking, a practice that may have begun a couple of million years ago among our Stone Age ancestors.

Another really interesting and long understood difference is in our muscles for facial expression, crucially used for non-verbal communication in both species. Charles Darwin, in his 1872 book The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, wrote about how important facial gestures were in distinguishing humans from other animals.


The human face is capable of a range of emotions – so too is a chimpanzee. Flickr/Paolo Neoz, CC BY-NC-SA

Yet, recent research comparing these muscles has shown that earlier scientists exaggerated the differences between humans and chimpanzees. Our facial muscles are very similar in number and function – although not identical.

Chimpanzees do possess a very wide repertoire of facial expressions and gestures, but they are not as varied as ours. It seems that only humans express emotions such as disgust with our faces.

Facing the question with new energy

The seeming failure of genetics to explain “the gap” seems to be inspiring some rather novel ways to address the problem.

Fascinating new research by Katarzyna Bozek and co-workers published in PLOS Biology has compared the so-called “metabolome” of humans and chimpanzees with some surprising results.

The metabolome is the totality of small molecules produced in the body during metabolism (normal processes that occur within the cells).

They include amino acids, sugars, fats, vitamins, pigments, odorants, hormones and other signalling chemicals, enzymes and many others.

There are almost 42,000 such chemicals known for the human body and Bozek and colleagues compared 10,000 of them from five body tissues from the brain, kidney and muscle.

Importantly, they found that changes in these chemicals between species track evolution and reflect the amount of time and change between organisms since they shared a common ancestor.

Reassuringly, they found that the human metabolome for the brain, especially our frontal cortex, had changed four times more rapidly than in chimpanzees, reflecting major differences in brain size and function between us.

Takes brains to walk upright

But the big surprise in their research was that human muscle metabolome had changed more than eight times as much in humans than in chimpanzees, hinting at major differences in the way our muscles work on the molecular level.

They very reasonably speculate that metabolism in the human brain and muscles could have evolved in tandem in such a way that the energy demands of our muscles reduced to allow our metabolically expensive brains to grow larger in evolution: shifting our body’s energy balance.

Alternatively, the shift in our ancestors to endurance running at much the same time that their brains began to enlarge may have forced a change in the major source(s) of energy used by the body as cellular fuel: perhaps relying much more on energy stored in body fat.

Undoubtedly, we still face a major chasm in knowledge about how we evolved to be so different to other apes, in the way we think and behave.

But new approaches like those comparing our metabolomes, made possible with recent development in fields like as biochemistry, offer powerful new insights that will add much to more traditional approaches such as anatomy, paleontology and genetics.

This is an edited version of an original post on Walking on Two Feet.

Darren Curnoe receives funding from the Australian Research Council.

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Natural born killers: brain shape and the history of phrenology

By James Bradley, University of Melbourne

Long before neuroscience, phrenology claimed to have the power to determine who was afflicted with badness and who was suffering from madness.


In the second-last article in our series Biology and Blame, James Bradley details some interesting facts about this pseudo-science.

At 8am on Monday October 24, 1853, Patrick O’Connor and Henry Bradley were hanged together outside the Melbourne Gaol in front of a large crowd.

Bradley and O’Connor were responsible for one of the lesser known, but more spectacular outbreaks of bushranging in the early period of the Gold Rushes, and paid the ultimate penalty for their violent crimes.

Having murdered a man in cold blood, they piratically seized a boat in northern Tasmania, and crossed the Bass Strait, landing somewhere near Western Port. They then stole horses, held up travellers, and shot anyone who got in their way.

No one died, but that was through luck rather than judgement.

A different judgement


A phrenology chart. Heida Maria via Wikimedia Commons

After the execution, medical men descended on the corpses. They paid particular attention to the malefactors’ skulls, and the following day’s The Argus explained how “cerebral physiology” had revealed that both were, in effect, natural born killers.

O’Connor’s skull revealed that:

even if blessed by the controlling influence of a most powerful intellect instead of a very weak one, this would still have been a violent, murderous man.

Bradley’s case was worse:

Here … we have a person with all the passions and appetites of full-grown man, and controlling intellect of an average child — in fact a criminal idiot.

The newspaper concluded that the “pirate bushrangers”, as they had become known, “had not powers of self-control.” They were, in fact, “not so much criminals as state patients.”

“Their destination should have been the asylum not the gallows.”

In other words, they should have been treated rather than punished.

Phrenology’s heart

“Cerebral physiology” was a euphemism for phrenology, a now-discredited pseudo-science. But make no mistake: in its day, phrenology was on the cutting edge of brain science.

During the first half of the 19th century, and arguably beyond, it offered a clear-cut explanation for why people behaved the way they did. And it was hailed by many as an extraordinarily effective explanatory tool.

Two ideas lay at the heart of phrenology’s seductive power. First, different areas of the brain were associated with different mental capacities or faculties. And, as the brain developed, it shaped the skull.

An illustration and definition of ‘phrenology’ from Webster’s Dictionary circa 1900. Quasipalm via Wikimedia Commons

An underdeveloped faculty might result in a depression of the skull then, while an overdeveloped faculty would result in a bump or protuberance.

A skilled (usually medical) observer could detect either.

But what phrenology also offered was the potential to sort the wheat from the chaff — most phrenologists agreed that some criminals were born bad, while others were made bad by life circumstances.

Some scepticism

This was the position of the doyen of British phrenology, George Combe, who, in his The Constitution of Man in Relation to External Objects (1828), wrote that “certain individuals were unfortunate at birth”.

This line was reiterated by Scottish geologist George S. Mackenzie in 1836 when he petitioned the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Spurred by “recent atrocities that have occurred in New South Wales”, Mackenzie argued the selection of convicts to be transported to that colony was too haphazard.

Instead, their “individual history and characters should be inquired into”, and only the redeemable sent. And, of course, the best way to achieve this was by using phrenology, which would be “an engine of unlimited power” in shaping the reform of criminals.

Mackenzie’s petition was accompanied by a plethora of supporting testimonials provided by eminent scientists and medical men.

But the Secretary of State was unmoved by phrenology’s claims. And so too was the legal profession as a whole.

Impact in the colonies

Indeed, the legal profession would soon seek to purge the courts of the insanity plea in favour of whether the criminal, sane or not, knew that he or she was committing a crime.

With this most phrenologists concurred: however underdeveloped a mental organ was, the criminal still possessed the ability to make a moral decision.

But just because phrenology failed to make an impact on the courts, doesn’t mean it had no impact upon penal policy in general. Alexander Maconochie, who, for a short time, was the progressive governor of the Norfolk Island penal colony, was deeply influenced by the discipline.

So too were the medical men who dissected the bodies of executed criminals. Like Bradley and O’Connor’s, dissections involved a minute examination of the internal structures of the brain, combined with a more general analysis of the bumps and depressions of the skull; all as part of the search to establish brain-based criminality.

Phrenology cast an extraordinarily long shadow over the 19th and early 20th centuries. Its public face may have become a tool for mesmerists and other quacks. But the project to locate criminal culpability in the brains and bodies of criminals continued apace.

Criminal tattoos

We see its inheritance in psychiatrist and anthropologist Cesare Lombroso’s 1876 L’Uomo Delinquente (Criminal Man), although by now there was no talk of specific faculties or organs.


Lombroso’s work was deeply influential. ivan losi/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

For Lombroso, the criminal was the product of a vitiated nervous system. Both the brains and skulls of criminals demonstrated evidence of atavism; in other words, criminals were evolutionary throwbacks, no less, and their skulls and faces bore the signs of degeneration.

It was for this reason that Lombroso made tattoos a dominant symptom of the pathological criminal (the striking illustrations in L’Uomo Delinquente are an abundant resource for the historian of tattooing). Only a person with a degenerated brain and nervous system would be able to subject him or herself to the pain of the tattooist’s needle!

But this notion of the biologically hard-wired criminal was one view among many. To be sure, it was deeply influential, particularly within the emergent discourse of eugenics. But it also vied with other ideas.

The celebrated French criminologist Alexandre Lacassagne, for instance, had a different take to Lombroso on the matter of tattoos. For him, they were “speaking scars” that talked of the life and culture of the tattooed individual. In the same way, the criminal was made by social circumstances rather than biological inheritance.

Echoes of the past

Neuro-culpability: the modern-day phrenology? Jon Olav Eikenes/Flickr (resized), CC BY-SA

However alien phrenology looks, and however much it appears to modern eyes as a pseudo-science, we would do well to remember that, like contemporary neuroscience, it was once believed to possess the power to determine who was afflicted with badness and who was suffering from madness.

Indeed, this gives us reason to exercise some scepticism about contemporary neuroscience’s claims. The eminent historian of forensic psychiatry Joel Eigen has noted that neuroscience is “the latest but not the final chapter” in the story of identifying the pathological criminal.

Phrenology, which once spoke so loudly about the human condition, has gone the way of all things. Is it possible that the same fate awaits our contemporary understanding of neuro-culpability?

It is not impossible that today’s neuroscience will end up looking like yesterday’s phrenology. And only time will reveal the next instalment of the fraught dialogue between criminology and biological determinism.

This is the fifth article in our series Biology and Blame. Click on the links below to read other pieces:

Part one – Genes made me do it: genetics, responsibility and criminal law

Part two – Irresponsible brains? The role of consciousness in guilt

Part three – Psychiatry’s fight for a place in defining criminal responsibility

Part four – Looking for psychopaths in all the wrong places: fMRI in court

James Bradley does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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Link hopes Hooper’s magic rubs off

All eyes will be on Michael Hooper, the youngest Wallabies skipper in 53 years, when he leads Australia for the first time on Saturday night.


But the 22-year-old will particularly feel the glare of coach Ewen McKenzie before kick-off against France at Etihad Stadium.

McKenzie is an ardent admirer of Hooper, who he’s never seen play a bad game in his 29 Tests.

He marvels at the indestructible flanker’s self-management, but to a point – especially when it comes to respecting the national anthem.

“He has trouble standing still,” McKenzie told AAP. “He gets very involved in the psyche of the game.

“I’ve said to him ‘Mate you just have to wiggle your toes, you can’t be jumping up and down during the anthems’.

“There’s no disrespect, he’s just self-motivated.

“He knows I’m watching. Now we’re watching each other at the anthems.”

But that focus Hooper has in his preparations is something McKenzie hopes will rub off on his teammates as they build towards next year’s World Cup in England.

“The thing that stands out for me is just his ability to self-manage and self-organise so he can deliver so consistently,” he said. “I can’t think of a quiet game he’s had.

“If he can spread some of that sort of fairydust among the rest of the team then that will be fantastic.”

McKenzie, who played against Hooper’s English-born father David in Sydney club rugby, had no hesitation elevating him to the captaincy when Stephen Moore was injured in the 50-23 first Test win.

Although he’s the second youngest player in the Wallabies’ 32-man squad, and fourth youngest Australian skipper of all time, Hooper’s whole-hearted game garners immense respect from his elder teammates.

“He’s mature beyond his years,” said hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau. “For a kid to not only step up and show leadership qualities is a credit to him.

“Even being the old blobhead I still get motivated by him.

“He doesn’t say much but when he does it speaks volumes, and he leads by his actions. You want to play for him.”

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Don’t blame the Iraq fiasco on Obama

WASHINGTON — The collapse of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, has little to do with the withdrawal of American troops and everything to do with the political failure of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.


As the U.S. pullout began under the terms of a treaty signed in 2008 by then-President George W. Bush, Maliki, the leader of a Shiite political party, promised to run a more inclusive government — to bring more Sunnis into the ministries, to bring more Sunnis from the Sons of Iraq militia into the national army, to settle property disputes in Kirkuk, to negotiate a formula on sharing oil revenue with Sunni districts, and much more.

Maliki has since backpedaled on all of these commitments and has pursued policies designed to strengthen Shiites and marginalize Sunnis. That has led to the resurgence of sectarian violence in the past few years. The Sunnis, finding themselves excluded from the political process, have taken up arms as the route to power. In the process, they have formed alliances with Sunni jihadist groups — such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, which has seized not just Mosul but much of northern Iraq — on the principle that the enemy of their enemy is their friend.

Something like this has happened before. Between 2005 and 2006, jihadists who called themselves Al-Qaida in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, took control of Anbar province, in the western part of the country, by playing on the population’s fear of the anti-Sunni ethnic-cleansing campaigns launched by Maliki’s army. ISIS, an offshoot of Zarqawi’s organization, is following the same handbook, picking up support from one of northern Iraq’s leading Sunni militias, Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqah al-Naqshbandia, or JRTN. That is a risky move for a group like JRTN, which shares neither the millenarian goals nor the extremely violent tactics of ISIS (which, it’s worth noting, was expelled from al-Qaida because even current al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri considered the group too violent). But JRTN’s leaders have accepted the risk for now to advance their own goal of overthrowing Maliki.

The fall of Mosul is particularly poignant because that was the city where peace and prosperity seemed most likely in the early days of the American occupation. David Petraeus, then the three-star general who commanded the 101st Airborne Division, applied his theory of counterinsurgency to all of Nineveh province, of which Mosul was the capital. And, for a while anyway, it worked.

While most U.S. commanders in post-Saddam Iraq were ordering their soldiers to bust down doors and arrest or shoot all men who seemed to be insurgents, Petraeus and his team took steps to create a government. Using funds pilfered from Saddam Hussein’s coffers, they vetted candidates for a citywide election (selecting leaders from all factions and tribes), started up newspapers and TV stations, coordinated fuel shipments from Turkey, and reopened businesses, communication lines and the university. This game plan was classic “nation-building,” a phrase anathema to most Army generals and the secretary of defense at the time, Donald Rumsfeld. The idea was not to make the people of Mosul love America, but rather to make them feel invested in the future of the new Iraq.

Petraeus’ campaign wasn’t entirely about civil affairs. Mosul was home to many of Saddam’s top officers and, in the wake of his downfall, a hotbed of emerging Sunni militias, who would wage a war of resistance against both the Shiite government and the American occupiers. Petraeus made remarkable progress in turning Mosul around, but toward the end of his yearlong tour of duty, protesters began to riot, Petraeus responded by setting up a counterterrorist operation, and the conflict turned more violent. Then he and 101st Airborne (along with all 120,000 of the American troops who’d taken part in the invasion) were ordered home. In Mosul, his division was replaced by a single brigade, with one-third the number of troops and a commander who had no interest in what Petraeus had been doing and instead reverted to what most commanders were doing — raiding, arresting, and shooting men that they thought might be bad guys — thus fueling the insurgency.

A year later another commander came in and, having studied Petraeus’ playbook, restored order to some extent. Similar operations were undertaken in other areas of Iraq, most notably Tal Afar and Anbar province. (I describe this effort more fully in my book “The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War.”)

But here’s the point: To the extent that these campaigns worked, it wasn’t just because of the military presence. It was, more, because specific commanders understood that war, as Clausewitz famously wrote, is “politics by other means,” and that in post-Saddam Iraq this meant setting up structures of local government that included (or co-opted) all factions and tribes willing to reconcile with the new order.

One problem always was, and still is, that Maliki had no interest in conciliatory politics on a national level. And that’s why he’s now facing a monumental, even terrifying armed insurgency. His troops in Nineveh province simply folded when they came under attack, not because they weren’t equipped or trained to fight back but because, in many cases, they felt no allegiance to Maliki’s government; they had no desire to risk their lives for the sake of its survival.

Meanwhile, the ISIS commanders have picked up the hundreds of weapons and dozens of vehicles that Maliki’s army has left behind. They’ve also looted the banks and taken over communication centers. Some of them have returned to Syria to resupply their comrades fighting there. (The ultimate goal of ISIS, as its name suggests, is to create an Islamic state in Iraq and Syria.) Others have used the resources to march southward.

These jihadists are very competent fighters. They reportedly seized Tikrit (Saddam Hussein’s hometown) from the north, east, and west. Maliki has rallied his remaining troops to Taji, just north of Baghdad, to prevent or deter an assault on the capital. Some U.S. officials are optimistic that he’ll succeed. Given the ongoing fighting in Syria, ISIS might not want to waste its soldiers and ammunition on a protracted battle in Iraq. (Its triumphs so far have been, by and large, uncontested.) Still, no one claims much confidence in this prediction. In any case, unless Maliki can rally a counteroffensive, the northern half of Iraq seems to have been ceded to Islamists.

Meanwhile, Maliki has his own political problems. His party won a plurality of votes in the recent election, but not enough to declare victory. He’s spending much of his time these days trying to form coalitions with other, smaller parties, in order to stay in power. The threat from ISIS — and it’s now a dire threat — might move some factions to strengthen the nation’s leader, or it might move more to abandon all confidence in Maliki and turn to someone else. But whom? (Another blast from the past: Ahmed Chalabi, the George W. Bush-era charlatan, is telling one and all that he’s available.)

One hope for Iraq is that ISIS might have gone one rampage too far. While stomping through Mosul, some of their militiamen stormed the Turkish consulate and kidnapped Turkish diplomats. Under international law, that amounts to an attack on Turkey, and it’s unlikely that the Turks will simply shrug. Iran, which has emerged as Maliki’s main ally, has no interest in seeing Sunnis — much less millenarian Sunnis — regain power in Baghdad. A strange alliance among all three may come to life to beat back this equally strange insurgency.

In one sense, this is a hopeful sign. The countries in the region have to form indigenous alliances to stave off these radical threats. The United States can help, but there is no way any American politician is sending back tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of troops: They didn’t compel or convince Maliki to adopt a smart policy before, and they wouldn’t be able to do so now.

But this could be yet another sign of a breakdown in the entire Middle East. The war in Syria, which can be seen as a proxy war between the region’s Sunnis and Shiites, is now expanding into Iraq. The violence will intensify, and the neighboring countries will be flooded with refugees (half a million have already fled Mosul), with few resources to house or feed them.

Depending on what happens in the next few weeks, or maybe even days, we may be witnessing the beginning of either a new political order in the region or a drastic surge in the geostrategic swamp and humanitarian disaster that have all too palpably come to define it.

Kaplan is the author of “The Insurgents” and the Edward R. Murrow press fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

(c) 2014, Slate.

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Compassion for Essendon players: Jones

Melbourne captain Nathan Jones says the entire AFL system has compassion for players under a cloud from the anti-doping investigation.


After a 16-month investigation into supplement use at Essendon in 2012, 34 players were reportedly issued “show cause” notices on Thursday afternoon.

A protracted assessment process, and potentially legal action, awaits, with the prospect of two-year playing bans now a clear possibility.

Jones said he had put himself in the shoes of the affected players, and had sympathy.

“You feel for the position they’re in,” he said.

“I don’t think any player envies them, there’s a lot of compassion amongst the entire playing group across the AFL for the Essendon players.

“Hopefully they can come to a resolution pretty soon and we can all move on from it.”

Jones said the way that the Bombers playing group had stuck together had earned his respect.

“They’ve found themselves in a really awkward position,” he said.

“One thing I’ve really admired from the outset is how strong they’ve been and how united they’ve been as a footy club.

“That’s the only way they’re going to get through that.”

Jones said he had second guessed situations which could have had a similar repercussions for himself.

“From what I know (Essendon players) put a lot of faith in the club and players have found themselves trusting the footy club,” he said.

“You probably backtrack to similar positions that you’ve been in with medical staff, and check whether you’d ask questions.

“The responsibility lays with the individual … it’s made the whole footy competition stand up.”

He dismissed the notion the Demons, who play Essendon at the MCG on Sunday, had run into the Bombers at the right time.

“Their track record in being able to put hardships behind them … and perform, we really respect them for that,” he said

“We expect them to come out this weekend with that same resilience and that same fight and make an important stand.”

“We’ll be prepared for that.”

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