U.S. Shuts Down 21 Embassies Amid Al Qaeda Threat

U.S. Shuts Down 21 Embassies Amid Al Qaeda ThreatA global travel alert issued Friday by the State Department warned al Qaeda may launch attacks in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond in coming weeks, a threat that prompted Sunday’s closure of 21 embassies and consulates.

‘Muslim holy month’

One of the sources said that such preparations appeared to have increased in recent days with the approaching end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In particular, Sunday is Laylet al-Qadr, or the Night of Power, which is one of the holiest moments on the Muslim calendar.

Based on intelligence, U.S. officials said, there was particular concern about the U.S. Embassy in Yemen between Saturday and Tuesday.  Still, it’s unclear whether the apparent plot targets that Arabian nation or one elsewhere — which is why the travel alert applies so broadly, and why embassies from Bangladesh to Libya are being closed. The expected time of an attack also isn’t known, with the U.S. travel alert noting the threat extends through the end of August.


‘Shut down’

The 17 affected U.S. embassies are in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Mauritania, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Yemen. The U.S. embassy in Israel will be closed as normal Sunday. Consulates in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are also being shut down for the day. Embassies and consulates in the region typically close their doors or operate with minimal staff on Fridays and Saturdays.

Where do you think is the main target of this Al Qaeda threat? And for how long will this alert last?

Source: Chris Lawrence. Barbara Starr and Tom Cohen | CNN

Image: Al Arabiya

Ugandan Teen Rises From ‘Ultimate Underdog’ To Chess Star

Ugandan Teen Rises From 'Ultimate Underdog' To Chess StarShe grew up in one of the poorest spots on earth. She couldn’t read or write. But a chance encounter with a chess coach turned her into a rising international chess star, the subject of a book — and the protagonist in a future Disney movie.

‘First titled female Ugandan player’

Ugandan teenager Phiona Mutesi is “the ultimate underdog,” her biographer, Tim Crother, says. Robert Katende, a missionary and refugee of Uganda’s civil war, had started a chess program in Katwe. He offered a bowl of porridge to any child who would show up and learn. Mutesi liked chess, and started training and practicing regularly. She walked about four miles a day to practice — and to get that precious food. Soon she found herself beating the older girls and boys in the program.

Eventually, she became her country’s champion — and represented Uganda at international tournaments. In 2009, she traveled to Sudan. Then, in 2010, she boarded an airplane to Siberia. Mutesi is not one of the world’s top chess players. But she is the first titled female Ugandan player. Crothers’ book about her, “The Queen of Katwe,” was published this fall.


‘Ticket out of a hard life’

“That she’s from Africa makes her an underdog in the world. The fact that she’s from Uganda makes her sort of an underdog in Africa, because it’s one of the poorer countries in Africa. The fact that she’s in Katwe makes her an underdog in Uganda because it’s the most impoverished slum in the entire country. And then to be a girl in Katwe — girls are not treated as equals to the boys,” said Crothers.

Chess could prove to be Mutesi’s ticket out of a hard life — particularly through a project that lies ahead. Disney has optioned the rights to “The Queen of Katwe,” and is starting work on a movie, Crothers said. Mutesi told CNN:

“I’m excited. I didn’t have hope that one time, one day, I would be like someone who can encourage people, and they start playing chess.”

Were you inspired by Phiona Mutesi’s success story? Do you know of other “underdogs” who have gone through the same experience as Mutesi?

Source: CNN

Image: The Guardian