I’d been living in Afghanistan three weeks when my guide, a young Afghan named Sharif Sahak, showed me a photograph of the country’s only known female warlord, Bibi Ayisha, nom de guerre: Commander Pigeon. It was late 2013, the Americans were preparing to leave, and Sharif had heard that the commander was training a new militia of female jihadists to fight the Taliban. In the photograph, she looked to be about 200 pounds and 60 years old. A large woman with black eyes made small by folds of skin. A beaked nose protruded from a wide flat face. She held her machine gun against her bosom like a bouquet of roses. A few girls dressed in bright loose tunics holding AK-47s stood at her side, with ammo wound like gold pythons about their necks. “Hot chicks with AKs,” Sharif remarked.
Everybody in Kabul knew about Commander Pigeon, but no one agreed on a narrative. The Afghans accused her of robbery and murder. A few suspected she worked with Taliban commander Mullah Dad-e Khuda, who escaped from Bagram prison in 2008, and a local warlord called the Green Imam. Together they supposedly controlled all the drug-trafficking routes in the north. One person told me, “She has many houses in Kabul but prefers to live in the mountains among the animals.” She didn’t have any of the usual warlord stories. No acid throwing or biting off chicken heads, or leaving prisoners in vats to die. She was not like Commander Zardad who kept a human dog on a chain to maul and sometimes eat people. She was a woman and she killed men—while wearing a flowery dress.
[Source: Warren Ellis]
To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.
Perttu Saksa’s photo series of monkeys in masks who are trained and dressed to act human-like in order to beg for money from by-passers on the busy streets of Jakarta, Indonesia.
There has been a tradition in Indonesia of street performers teaching their pet monkeys tricks and dressing them in traditional masks. This custom has subsequently put down roots in the cities, where stressed-out monkeys, harnessed to help beggars, are dragged in chains from one owner to another. The monkeys walk clumsily, but are made to go through the streets ‘disguised’ in heads cut off Barbies and baby dolls.
A couple of years ago, the Indonesian state tightened up the law and made macaque monkey species protected. There were no longer performances in the street, like before. I did a lot of groundwork with the aid of a local journalist before we found a few people known as “monkey masters” in the slums of Jakarta. They trained and rented out monkeys to beggars. I photographed the series over a few weeks in the autumn of 2012. Since the beginning of this year, the legislation has been made even stricter, and owning monkeys is now punishable by a prison sentence.
John Kane was on a hell of a winning streak. On July 3, 2009, he walked alone into the high-limit room at the Silverton Casino in Las Vegas and sat down at a video poker machine called the Game King. Six minutes later the purple light on the top of the machine flashed, signaling a $4,300 jackpot. Kane waited while the slot attendant verified the win and presented the IRS paperwork—a procedure required for any win of $1,200 or greater—then, 11 minutes later, ding ding ding!, a $2,800 win. A $4,150 jackpot rolled in a few minutes after that.
All the while, the casino’s director of surveillance, Charles Williams, was peering down at Kane through a camera hidden in a ceiling dome.
Williams could see that Kane was wielding none of the array of cheating devices that casinos had confiscated from grifters over the years. He wasn’t jamming a light wand in the machine’s hopper or zapping the Game King with an electromagnetic pulse. He was simply pressing the buttons. But he was winning far too much, too fast, to be relying on luck alone.
At 12:34 pm, the Game King lit up with its seventh jackpot in an hour and a half, a $10,400 payout. Now Williams knew something was wrong: The cards dealt on the screen were the exact same four deuces and four of clubs that yielded Kane’s previous jackpot. The odds against that were astronomical. Williams called over the executive in charge of the Silverton’s slots, and they reviewed the surveillance tape together.
The evidence was mounting that Kane had found something unthinkable: the kind of thing gamblers dream of, casinos dread, and Nevada regulators have an entire auditing regime to prevent. He’d found a bug in the most popular video slot in Las Vegas.
Back in 1981, the cult movie “Mad Max II: The Road Warrior” turned Australia into a post-apocalyptic wasteland where bandits fought in beefed-up trucks with huge battering rams and gun turrets. Fast-forward three decades to Mexico’s drug war, and vigilantes and gangsters have made such techno-barbaric road wars a reality.