The NULL Solution = Episode 90

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The NULL Solution = Episode 90

…’The money we spend on space could be better spent at home…’

…But remember, when you mess with NASA, you’re messing with the future…

“Nobody has seen Deke McKinney lately,” states President Harper Lea Bassett.

“I heard he is on location in Morocco shooting a movie.”

“He’s old enough to run for president right damn now; we ought to check into his political ambitions.”

Only his hairdresser knows for sure.

“I want my own “dawg” down there at NASA, someone who will give me all the credit. It’s an election year you know.”

“Would that person be a “Bassett hound”?” Chief-of-Staff Shriver jokes. “It isn’t just the McKinneys who are loyal to Roy; from the sanitary engineers to the Saturn XIV rocket scientists, I swear that they would die for him.”

“I need an issue that will resonate with our Democratic constituency, like, ‘The money we spend on space could be better spent at home.’

“Over half of our constituency cannot speak English.”

“That’s my point exactly! Unless they can eat it, wear it or spend it, they don’t care. The speed-of-light doesn’t mean squat to the person on the government dime.”

“Those are our people for sure.” Privately, Dane Shriver would consider himself as Republican-leaning, if he did not happen to have the cushiest job in the country.

“Make me up a list of possible NASA directors.  Doesn’t {former California governor} Patrick Schwarzenegger need something to do?”

“Other than screwing every B-list actress under the age of majority?”

“That’s kind of harsh Dane. He is one of my biggest donors, be nice.”

“A new director would need to know something about space.”

“Didn’t Patrick play an astronaut in a movie about Jupiter once?”

“No, that was Channing Tatum. He {Patrick} runs a movie studio now; I believe it is Warner Brothers.” It is hard to keep her focused. “I will shoot a list over to you in a couple of days, but I’m telling you, if not Roy, one of his staffers would be best. Remember, when you mess with NASA, you’re messing with the future… the future of all the people who do speak English and actually have a clue.”


The NULL Solution =

Messing with the Future

Episode 90


page 91

The NULL Solution = Episode 69

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The NULL Solution = Episode 69

…“You know what, who knows what, what do you say, Jose?” Gibberish always messes with potential government eavesdropping…

— What would have the planet shaking in its mutual boots, would be the intercepted SETI {SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is an exploratory science that seeks evidence of life in the universe by looking for some signature of its technology. Our current understanding of life’s origin on Earth suggests that given a suitable environment and sufficient time, life will develop on other planets} message that has been conveniently squelched.

Utilizing a fractured combination of the four dominant languages of Earth, the long-ears of the dishes hear a warning from a distant civilization. In a nutshell, they were coming to get us.

As swell as cutting-edge technology is, the memo was not signed.

Neither Harper Lea Bassett nor any other world leader will ever know of the threat. The “need-to-know” axiom… well, that falls into the DoesNotApply column of interdepartmental dealings. And the Freedom of Information Act {FOIA} will not be prying it loose either. Some things are better left unsaid or The War of the Worlds will go down in 2nd place when it comes to global panic. –

“You know what, who knows what, what do you say, Jose?” Gibberish always messes with potential government eavesdropping.

“Si!” Gus plays the game.

“I trust Francine, she knows what’s at stake as well as I do. That rover on Nine is looking for more than unexplainable scattered space dust you know!”

“You promised!” Mindy catches Gus in the act. She does a silent ten count. “Give Grandpa Roy a thumbs-up for me.”

He does not bother asking how she knew he was cheating on his fatherly focus. What she doesn’t know is the same as the rest of the world doesn’t, though she might be in on the secret soon.

“I haven’t budged Mindy, really, look she’s almost asleep.”

“I give up,” she towel-dries her hair out of frustration. She willingly married into the Space Family McKinney, thereby legally signing away her rights to a normal life. “How bad is it?”

“As you may have guessed, we’re not alone. And somehow, we managed to pick up an enemy from a galaxy Hubble 2 can barely see! Other than that, things are peachy keen.”

“It makes me wonder what kind of world our daughter will grow up on.”

“Look on the bright side Dumplin’, we did survive WWIII. God would not have prevented Korea from committing planetary suicide, only to allow us to be wiped out by an alien invasion a year or two later. The world has never been more peaceful. Hey, even the radical Muslim terrorists have been scared into practicality.”

He is trying his damnedest to put a positive spin on Marscie’s prospects for a secure future.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 69


page 71

The NULL Solution = Episode 34

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The NULL Solution = Episode 34

…Are the Koreans crazy?…

Gone Crazy by Terrance Prysiazniuk

Lorgan hasn’t moved so much as a foot for forty hours, son of Sampson {McKinney},” Fitch reveres the last-name of the man he was too late to save 20+ years ago, when as a Image result for ants gifyoung ideologically inclined scientist he first learned of Korea’s wicked plans.

“Yeah, I bet they are getting antsy, wondering who is breathing down their cutthroats.”

“Word from Washington is that the Koreans are accusing us as being responsible. Frankly, I wish we were,” Roy Crippen hardly ever harbors a deep abiding abhorrence for anyone or anything. He has made an exception in this case.

This trio, the holders of “the secret”, continues to ruminate over the facts at hand. A weightless object that stretches from Seoul and Pyongyang, unmoved by a ferocious northern Pacific tropical cyclone, seems to pop about wherever it pleases. Conventional wisdom is cast out like space-waste from a pressurized hatch.

Any skeptics of UFO sightings have been silenced.

Unless they blame the U.S., the usual suspect.

“President Bassett has dispatched a Lockheed U-21, I guess to take a closer look at Lorgan.” Roy has access to sensitive government information. “I don’t think that is a good idea.”

“If we warn her to abort the mission, we’ll have to tell her what we know,” Gus cautions.

“… which is next to nothing. But we cannot let on like we know anything. She’s already Image result for tick tock gifcalled us 4 times looking for answers.”

— After another hour:

“I don’t think the recon is going to get there in time, they have launched a surface-to-air nuke from one of their subs!”

Lorgan is only ten thousand meters up! Are they crazy? That is the very definition of a non sequitur.

Covering one’s ears, expecting something loud, is unique to man and ape.

And so they do.

But there is no boom. The missile did not miss its target… it went right through it. Instead of ridding their skies of a looming menace, their ballistic projectile went directly straight up, 90 degrees perpendicular, only to make a U-turn into the very depths occupied by the Romeo-class submarine that launched it.

당신 을 저주! dangsin eul jeoju! {Curse you!}

Boom!

There it is.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 34


page 38 (end ch. 3)

The NULL Solution = Episode 32

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The NULL Solution = Episode 32

…the United Korean Peninsula has been and continues to be blight upon the family of nations that makes up the rest of Earth…

The foreboding posture of the United Korean Peninsula is a troubling stain on the world at large.

The planet Earth is cut in half by an imaginary, yet quantifiable, line called the equator. In geography, latitude (φ) is a geographic coordinate that specifies the north-south position of a point on the Earth’s surface. Latitude is an angle which ranges from 0° at the Equator to 90° (North or South) at the poles. Lines of constant latitude, or parallels, run east-west, circles the run parallel to the equator.

The Korean Peninsula is a peninsula in East Asia. It extends southwards for about 684 miles (1,100 km) from continental Asia into the Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by the Sea of Japan to the east, and the Yellow Sea to the west, the Korea Strait connecting the first two bodies of water. It is situated between the 34th and 40th degree of parallel longitude in the northern hemisphere.

Once Upon a Time in Joseon (A Korean Tale)

In a happier age, back when Baby Boomers roamed the Earth, there were two kingdoms, each named Korea (or the peninsula titled by its neighbors: Joseon). The country to the South was a friendly kingdom, a land where its people were free to prosper and participate in the beautiful planet called Earth. The country to the North was a belligerent kingdom, where its people were purposely forbidden to know the truth about their beautiful planet. The two kingdoms had to be separated by a barrier, manned by great warriors to keep the peace. But the peace was fragile and the kingdom to the North did not keep the same rules as the rest of the world and they dared to use a mighty weapon to subdue their neighbors to the South. The other kingdoms of the world could not put things back the way it was before. And so it was that the United Korean Peninsula came to be and it was bad. 

THE END

To this day, the United Korean Peninsula has been and continues to be blight upon the family of nations that makes up the rest of Earth. With undeserved impunity, they have managed to spoil some of the most progressive projects in the world’s history. Space Colony 1, the prime example, was permanently sabotaged, resulting in the stranding of Sampson & Celeste McKinney, as well as squelching any sustained appetite to replace it.

Even worse than that, they were the first nation, since the signing of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in the year 1968, to use offensive nuclear weapons. To label them as “rogue” is a gross understatement.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 32


page 36

The NULL Solution = Episode 22

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The NULL Solution = Episode 22

…Roy Crippen makes the Secret Service crazy, by being intentionally illusive…

Illusive Man by BloodyDragon117 deviantart.com

President Bassett {#51} is indeed on her way back to Washington, unaware that she has been duped. She has bathed herself in the glory of someone else’s accomplishment. That is enough space-stuff for one day. She has a reception dinner for the East Timorese Ambassador to preside over tonight. The U.S. Ambassador to the former Portuguese outpost is a shirttail relative from her mother’s side of the family. Both of  the Ambassadors and East Timorese cuisine give her indigestion.

“Gus is back on our screens!  Someone let President Roy know… he must be going crazy.”

Roy Crippen makes the Secret Service crazy. The former President is intentionally illusive, like keeping track of an apparition. He believes that security provided to him, or the four odd others of his ilk still alive and kicking, is a waste of precious tax dollars, when they could be given to… say the space program.

Providential is the Word of the Day. Pure dumb luck is the more likely term. But the man is so mercurial; locating him is like finding a ghost impersonating the man-in-the-moon. The USSS does its job.

Today they pinpoint their illusive target, too weak to gather himself, barely strong enough to breathe on his own. How much longer he would have lasted is difficult to say. In the 2:25 it takes for the GLF medical staff to reach him, the USSS agents at the scene resuscitate him twice. The last time he regained consciousness long enough for him to hear the good news, “Gus McKinney is on his way back, Sir,” agent #1 reports. Inspired by the news Prez Roy pushes agent #2, who was performing CPR, off of him in rude fashion. He eschews the gathering and well-meaning med-throng stating, “What in Sam Hill is going on? Where is he?”

{There is no malice intended toward Sam Hill, who used such foul language that his name became a euphemism for swear words.}

“I don’t know Mr. President. Someone told me to tell you when we found you.” Agent #1 should not be apologizing.

“How did you find me?” Roy speaks from behind an oxygen mask, like he was expecting a rescue.

“Francine, I mean the First Lady told us where you like to hide out.”

“Can’t a man die in peace?” He doesn’t mean that, but he does mean this, “Please tell me that Harper Lea Bassett is none the wiser. That’s all we need, more meddling from Washington.”

“You need to settle down, Sir. You just had a serious heart episode.”


The NULL Solution =

Episode 22


page 26 (end ch. 2)

Your John Hancock – Declaration of Independence Signers

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Forgotten Signers

of the

Declaration of

Independence

What elementary school student in America couldn’t tell you about Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, two of the most famous signers of one of the three most momentous documents of American history? Most middle school students could go a little further and tell you about second president John Adams or John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, if only because of his most prominent signature.

That leaves 52 people who risked execution by making it official that the colonies were, and of right ought to have been, free, independent states whom most people probably couldn’t name. That doesn’t mean they weren’t themselves fascinating figures who are owed more prominent positions in posterity than history has provided them. Let’s do our small part to correct this.

10. James Wilson

A successful lawyer and esteemed judge by the time he became a congressional delegate for Pennsylvania, James Wilson had lent a practical sensibility to the revolution with his 1774 pamphlet “Considerations of the Nature and Extent of Legislative Authority in British Parliament” which argued that parliament had no authority to write laws for the colonies. It had been particularly popular reading among the congressional delegates in the meetings leading up to the Declaration.

Why He’s Forgotten:

In no small part is because of how badly he disgraced himself from 1777 on with gambling, speculation, and profiteering. The fledgling nation didn’t want to draw extra attention to someone like that after he’d served his purpose. He also was accused in 1779 of raising food prices in Philadelphia so high it led to riots that nearly cost him his life. These were the sorts of things that could overshadow a career that had never really become iconic with the public anyway.

Curiously, in the stage musical 1776, possibly his best opportunity to become a household name again, James Wilson is portrayed as voting in favor of declaring independence only as a means of remaining historically anonymous because doing so would be going with the crowd. This is quite ridiculous, as Wilson had clearly been a vocal advocate of separation before votes for independence were even being discussed, but the fact the authors of 1776 got away with it showed how far his star had fallen.

9. William Whipple

A former sailor who’d taken part in the

slave trade in the West Indies, William Whipple at least partially redeemed himself from a modern perspective by being one of the few members of Continental Congress who freed his slaves during his lifetime. During the Revolution he took the rank of brigadier general, distinguished himself at the vital American victory at Saratoga, and lost a leg from a cannon ball in 1778.

Why He’s Forgotten:

One of the contributions to his late life unpopularity was that he took a job in 1782 as the New Hampshire Superintendent of Finance, which unfortunately brought with it collecting taxes. It made him something of a pariah for doing a vital job, but also the fact it was an extremely difficult job (not aided by health problems his lost leg brought on) meant he did not collect enough money to please his colleagues either. Even a Founding Father sometimes cannot escape public scorn just for taking an unpopular but necessary job.

8. Elbridge Gerry

A Harvard graduate who became a merchant, and then was elected to Massachusetts Legislature in 1774, Elbridge Gerry’s main duties during his time in the Continental Congress (aside from signing the most important document) was in the naval and commercial departments. After the Revolution, he was part of the the Constitutional Convention, and came out of it hating the Constitution too much to sign it.

Why He’s Forgotten:

While the man himself is not remembered, he has a sort of unflattering legacy. Following his 1811 election as governor of Massachusetts, it was observed that the districts in his state were drawn to unfairly favor the Democratic-Republicans, which was dubbed “the salamander” by a cartoon in the Boston Globe. Perhaps you’ve heard the portmanteau “Gerrymander” lately in this politically charged climate. It’s the sort of thing that can easily overshadow the rest of a career, however distinguished it might have been.

7. Edward Rutledge

During his time in the Continental Congress as a delegate from South Carolina, former law student Edward Rutledge stood out in two ways according to the National Park Service. For one, he proposed a delay when the motion for independence was first made on June 7. Ostensibly it was to allow the colonies to arm themselves and reach out to foreign powers for alliances. The other way was that he was a mere 26 years old at the time, making him the youngest signatory. Indeed, today he’d be four years too young to even be a member of the Senate.

During the Revolutionary War he joined the army as a militia captain. While he was initially successful at the Battle of Port Royal, during the Battle of Charleston in 1780 he and thousands of other American soldiers were captured. He spent the rest of the war in irons.

Why He’s Forgotten:

Rutledge’s position as a political moderate left him initially opposed to the movement for independence. This has led a number of dramas, such as HBO’s John Adams to paint him as being completely opposed to revolution. It’s really quite unfair, as by the time of the vote he was the one who persuaded the rest of the divided South Carolinian delegates to vote for independence. Still, history found it harder to view the cool-headed, initially incorrect moderate as one of the inspirational founders of the nation, even though he was a military hero.

6. Richard Stockton

This delegate from New Jersey was such a successful lawyer before the revolution that King George III himself expressed a favorable opinion of him. Nevertheless, taxes such as the infamous Stamp Act had left Richard Stockton deeply in favor of independence, and in fact he became a delegate after New Jersey voters learned in 1776 that their original delegates intended to vote to stay with Great Britain, so he was one of two swapped in.

Why He’s Forgotten:

 Stockton was by far the least lucky signatory. In 1776 he was attempting to save his family after the British army invaded New Jersey and was captured. He held out in prison for five cold, agonizing weeks with the threat of execution for treason hanging over him before being offered a pardon in exchange for swearing to not take part in the rest of the war. Stockton accepted and resigned from  Congress, which was viewed as a general renouncement of the Revolution. He went back to teaching law, but tragically he was afflicted with cancer of the lip and lived only two more years, in pain to the end and widely held to be the Benedict Arnold of the Continental Congress.

5. Joseph Hewes

Before he became a delegate from North Carolina, Joseph Hewes was a highly successful sea merchant with a fleet of ships. So while in congress, he was basically one of the resident experts on maritime issues for the colonies. This might sound minor relative to the issues of the fate of nations, but it was actually a much-disputed issue during the debates. During the war itself, he offered his ships to be used for the Continental Navy.

Why He’s Forgotten:

Hewes didn’t survive the war. In 1779, he attended his final session of congress twelve days before his death on November 10. Thusly he was not able to continue distinguishing himself in the eyes of the new nation. His wife had also died in 1766 and he never remarried or had any children, so there was less of a family line to keep his name in the public consciousness.

4. Francis Lewis

Francis Lewis was born in Britain, went to America to found successful businesses around Philadelphia and New York, and became a military contractor. When the Seven Years War was started by George Washington, Lewis volunteered to join the army as an aide to General Hugh Mercer. Despite the relatively safe position he was taken prisoner. At the end of the war he was awarded 5,000 acres of land by the government of New York. Thus when he became one of the New York delegates, he was one of the greatest success stories among the distinguished traitors.

Why He’s Forgotten:

It turned out that the war would cost him almost everything. Long Island was lost to the colonials almost immediately during the war and with it his wife Elizabeth and their estate. His estate was destroyed and his wife treated abominably, the record stating that she had to sleep on the ground for months. Washington himself had to literally threaten to abuse the wife of a British official who’d been taken prisoner, though the long abusive treatment had left Elizabeth Lewis traumatized and she died shortly after. Though Lewis long survived the war, dying in 1803 at age 90, he lost his fortune and fell into obscurity.

3. Caesar Rodney

A former sheriff and delegate from Delaware, Caesar Rodney certainly seems like he should have been one of the most remembered figures to sign the Declaration. He was credited with casting the deciding vote for independence by providing one of two votes among the Delaware delegates for it. On the night before the vote he had ridden 80 miles through a storm to be present. And he also had the best name on this list, if we’re being honest.

Why He’s Forgotten:

Rodney’s vote actually went against the will of his constituents. Even as he made the most important vote of his life, his base turned against him and he was subsequently voted out of office. Public opinion had swung back in his favor by 1782 sufficiently for him to be elected back to national congress but he wasn’t healthy enough to take the office.

On the subject of his health, at the time Caesar Rodney signed the Declaration he was suffering from the cancer that would kill him eight years later. When he made that historic signature it had eaten away roughly half his face. He is thusly not included in John Trumbull’s famous painting of the vote and fits oddly with the way Americanhistorical propaganda tried to deify the Founding Fathers. Even the Delaware state quarter, which features him, does so with him at some distance on a horse. Some people just have to put up with ten times as much to receive one tenth the acknowledgement they deserve.

2. John Hart

John Hart came from such a simple, rustic farm background that the exact date he was born was not recorded except that it was around 1715. From that simple background he still became enough of a success that he spent ten years in the New Jersey state assembly. After that he went from committee to committee on his way to the Continental Congress.

Why He’s Forgotten:

The ink on the Declaration was scarcely dry before extreme hardship befell Hart. Most of all, just months after that momentous event, his wife died on October 8, 1776. He had scarce time to mourn before the British army invaded New Jersey and he became a particularly highly valued target. He had to resort to hiding in caves to avoid capture. Eventually the British gave up the chase and he was able to safely return home. He’d lost none of his patriotism, and in 1778, allowed Washington to camp the Continental Army – all 12,000 of them – on his estate for two days while Washington planned new strategies. Perhaps because of the strain all these horrible events and efforts for his country had placed on him, Hart fell ill and died in 1779. Much too early to take a direct part in shaping the new nation.

1. Robert Morris

Merchants were hardly unique among the members of the Continental Congress. This delegate from Pennsylvania took it a bit further than his peers. During the war, Robert Morris managed the financing and equipping of the Continental Army, but stood to profit immensely because he had all supplies go through his company, and thus the new nation was indebted to him in a more monetary sense than most.

On the other, more benevolent hand, during one of the low points of the revolution in 1776, he loaned $10,000 to the Continental Army to allow it to resupply itself in time to attack for the famous Delaware River Crossing and Battle of Trenton. He later provided credit that allowed the victory at the Battle of Yorktown. He even was one of the original architects of the National Bank.

Why He’s Forgotten:

All of his profiteering caught up with him quickly and alienated many, and in 1779 he was under investigation. Even though he was cleared of charges, criticisms from such iconic figures as Thomas Paine blotted his political and financial career. After the war his bullish financial practices would land him in debtor’s prison for three and a half years, dying in poverty.


Your John Hancock

 

– Declaration of Independence Signers

No Go Zone – Countries to Avoid

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10 Countries

You Should

Never Visit

Travel is a wonderful thing. It broadens your mind, it allows you to explore new horizons, and it can totally end up with you getting super-killed in the nastiest way possible. Yep, despite all you might hear about the awesome benefits you’ll get from going off the tourist track, the truth is that the tourist track is there for a reason: to stop starry-eyed dopes from getting killed. While it’s definitely possible for a seasoned traveler, war correspondent, or international super spy to visit all the following, we strongly suggest that you stay away.

 (Just some a quick note before we start. All these countries are places that would suck for a regular guy or gal to visit at the time of writing in 2017. They might be totally awesome ten years from now, so please don’t take our choices as a lifelong prohibition from visiting. Understood? Great! Then let’s begin with…)

10. Venezuela

If there was a competition for country most-likely to tip into civil war in the near future, the winner would probably be Venezuela. The Latin American socialist state boasts some of the most-spectacular natural wonders on Earth, more history than you can shake a proverbial stick at… and a president who seems hell-bent on driving his nation into the ground.

Soaring inflation has left essentials like medicine, toilet roll and food all but unaffordable. The average Venezuelan lost 19 pounds due to food shortages last year. There are rolling blackouts, paralyzing strikes, and pitched street battles in the capital, Caracas, between protestors and security forces that have killed nearly 40 in 2017 alone. And did we mention the violence? The murder rate is off the charts. As many as 28,875 people may have been homicide victims in 2015, from a population of 31.1 million. That would put modern Venezuela on a footing with Colombia at the height of its drug-fueled civil war.

The list goes on. The US State Department has a hair-raising account of mass-kidnappings, robbery with assault rifles, grenade attacks, and murderous criminal gangs targeting tourists. Despite all this, though, Venezuela’s crisis may yet be solved. If or when it is, one of the most-beautiful nations on Earth will once again be free for the rest of us to visit.

9. North Korea

Perhaps the most-isolated state, North Korea (DPRK) is also the one most-likely to disappear in a cloud of burning ash and nuclear fallout. Since coming to power after his father’s death, rogue dictator Kim Jong Un has tested 3 nuclear devices aimed at freaking out the international community. It has certainly worked. At time of writing, a war of words with the US seems in danger of spiraling into an actual war. One that could get very, very messy.

But let’s ignore all that for a second. Even if no devastating war comes, visiting the DPRK still isn’t one of the greatest ideas. The Kim regime directly profits from all outside visitors. That profit goes towards keeping a network of concentration camps in operation that the UN has called similar to Nazi Germany. Others have said they’re even worse. Crimes by one member of a family can result in everyone being interred, and for their descendants and their descendants’ descendants being worked to death. Tourism helps keep this decadent world ticking over.

Then there’s the issue of personal safety. The DPRK has a habit of arresting US citizensduring politically convenient times (editor’s note: this was written even before a US citizen was detained just this weekend), even when they haven’t committed any crimes. Given what we know about North Korean prisons, maybe it’s better to stay away altogether.

8. El Salvador

Since it overtook Honduras in 2015, El Salvador has had the highest murder rate in the entire world. The pint-sized Central American nation – roughly the size of Wales – has been a killer’s paradise for years. The murder rate in 2016 was 91 killings per 100,000, higher even than in Venezuela. The capital, San Salvador, recorded 137 homicides per 100,000. This was down from a staggering 190 in 2015. By way of comparison, the global average homicide rate is a mere 6.2. In 2015, you were over 200 times more likely to be murdered in El Salvador than you were in somewhere like Great Britain.

Interestingly, as a foreigner, you’re less likely to be targeted than a native. Most violence occurs between street gangs, and kidnappers tend to focus on snatching wealthy Salvadorians rather than gringo backpackers. Hence why we’ve put it way up here at number 8, above countries with demonstrably lower murder rates.

However, don’t let its ranking lull you into a false sense of security. Notorious street gangs like MS-13 have been known to target random buses and brutally slaughter everyone onboard, simply because the vehicle’s owner refused to pay an extortion fee.

7. Afghanistan

Afghanistan has been a basket case for so long now, it’s almost hard to believe it was once a laidback highlight of the “Hippy Trail” between London and Melbourne. Since then, it has become synonymous with bad times and brutality. Even today, 15 years after the fall of the Taliban, this Texas-sized nation of 32.5 million is still the sort of place where you don’t wanna travel without making prior funeral arrangements.

The causes are as familiar as they are depressing. Radical Islamist insurgents and mad warlords are running rampant over huge swathes of the country. The Taliban are experiencing a resurgence. Petty kidnappers are still addicted to the idea of whisking careless visitors away for ransom. In a show of strength, militants recently managed tostorm an Afghan army hospital, slaughtering nearly 40. There are suicide bombings, homicides, and general nastiness galore. Many governments advise against staying in hotels or visiting restaurants in case you end you evening messily splattered across an area the size of a football pitch.

At times, it can seem like peace will never return to Afghanistan. While we’ve no doubt things will one day settle down, that one day could be very far away indeed. Until it arrives, you’ll just have to content yourself with pictures of this tragically beautiful nation.

6. Iraq

Huge swathes of Iraq are still under the control of ISIS’s monstrous caliphate. Even in areas under Iraqi government control, they’ve got a grim track record of attacking and killing hundreds. And you better believe they target foreigners. According to the UK government, non-Iraqis living or working in Baghdad are considered “high value targets.” That means heightened risk of death, kidnapping, or even worse.

To be perfectly frank, traveling to Iraq at this time is more-or-less equivalent to just lying down in a coffin and shouting at people to bury you now. Even the stable, autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan infrequently suffers car bombings and attacks that would be massive news in almost every other country in the world, but barely raise a flicker of an eyebrow there.

 What’s especially heartbreaking about all this is that Iraq was once a paradise. The fertile marshlands between the ancient Euphrates and Tigris rivers are believed to have even been the location of the Biblical Garden of Eden. To see it now is to see a region that has fallen a long, long way.

5. Central African Republic (CAR)

OK, this is the point where we move away from ‘the countries you probably shouldn’t visit’, and move onto ‘the countries you should definitely stay away from under any circumstances’. These countries all have no consular assistance for visiting Westerners, and most government websites warn against visiting them even if you absolutely have to. The reason? Extreme violence, or the threat of extreme violence accompanied by a breakdown of the social fabric so total it’d make Iraq look like a tourist’s paradise. First on this list of terror? Central African Republic (CAR).

A nation nearly the size of Texas, CAR is home to a mere 4.9 million people, all of whom are desperate to kill one another. The population is divided between Christian and Muslim communities, both of whom take turns seizing power and trying to eliminate the other. In 2013, it was the Muslims’ turn to persecute (read: kill) the Christians. In response, the Christians formed heavily-armed ‘anti-bakala’ militias and now they’re the ones doing the persecuting. The whole situation is as volatile as a washing machine full of homebrewed nitroglycerin, and just as likely to explode at any moment.

On top of all this, CAR is an extremely-poor, nearly undeveloped country, where getting around is next to impossible and most of the country is covered in impenetrable jungle. So, if everything does ignite while you’re there, getting away is gonna be very difficult indeed.

4. South Sudan

Another country that’s helpfully close-enough in size to Texas to allow easy comparisons, South Sudan is also the world’s newest nation. In 2011, the Christian country split from Muslim Sudan, declared independence and set up a capital in Juba. The wave of optimism this generated barely lasted 24 hours. The new government quickly fractured along ethnic and tribal lines and spiraled into a civil war that killed tens of thousands. Although the war is now over, South Sudan’s peace remains so fragile that traveling there is like wrapping your body in bacon, jumping in a piranha tank, and inviting them to chew.

Militias continue to terrify the country, with rival tribes using rape as a weapon to subdue their enemies. There are natural disasters to contend with, too. A miserable famine has gripped the country since the start of the year, and tens of thousands are at risk of starvation. Things are so bad that the UN has called the famine (along with similar famines in Yemen, Somalia and Nigeria) “the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945.” Oh, and if you were to visit, there’s no guarantee you’d be able to leave. Last time a political crisis erupted, the borders were effectively sealed and the Juba airport closed, trapping visitors inside an exploding warzone.

3. Libya

Right, so we’ve now gone beyond the ‘countries you should definitely stay away from under any circumstances’ and entered a section of the list we’re gonna call ‘Jesus, you gotta be kidding me!’ Without exception, these three countries are in the grip of wars that have left no region untouched. Libya is merely the first of them. Once a sweltering north African country known for its stunning Roman ruins, Libya deposed its mad dictator in 2011 and tried to make it as a democracy. Instead, everything went to Hell.

There are at least two rival governments currently operating in the country, backed by different superpowers. An uncountable number of militias and rebel groups roam the countryside. ISIS have carved out a niche for themselves, despite heavy airstrikes against their camps. Terror attacks, skirmishes, and deadly fighting are all just facts of daily life. At least 6,000 have died in the continued fighting since 2014, on top of all those who died in the initial 2011 uprising and its aftermath. Westerners have been kidnapped or killed with impunity. Famously, this included US ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the first American ambassador killed in the line of duty in 33 years.

Luckily, though, there are signs that things may be changing in Libya for the better. On May 3, 2017, a diplomatic breakthrough was reached between the rival governments. Hopefully, things in this beleaguered nation will soon be returning to something like normalcy.

2. Yemen

To look at pictures of Yemen’s capital of old Sana’a these days is like looking at a lost tale from the Arabian Nights. Yemen has always been poor, but it used to be justifiably recognized as one of the most picturesque, dream-like places on the planet. It was a land of history, of great, jagged mountains, ancient clifftop ruins, rocky deserts and fertile valleys. Today, though, Yemen is a land of violent rebel groups, uncontrollable disorder, and Saudi airstrikes that have left thousands dead and tens of thousands hideously wounded.

A strip of land below Saudi Arabia, roughly the size of metropolitan France, Yemen has been the focus of an intense bombing campaign by its bigger neighbor since late 2015. Rather than de-escalate the civil war and bring the Islamist rebels to justice, it sent the conflict into overdrive. January 2017 saw the 10,000th victim die, and large tracts of Sana’a’s hypnotic old city reduced to dust amid heavy shelling. With no end to the conflict in sight, Yemen will likely remain off everyone’s travel list for some time to come, which may be for the best. To see the wreck this once-wonderful country has become would be enough to make any visitor’s blood boil.

1. Syria

What other country could it possibly be?

Right now, Syria is the most-dangerous place in the world. If you can go, don’t. If you need to go, don’t. If you’re already there, get out as quickly and as safely as you can. That’s the sort of place we’re talking about here. A country where basic humanity has broken down, and demons now run amok in human form, doing things too terrible for us to even write about. If Hell has a physical manifestation, then it’s probably the frontlines of Syria’s awful conflict.

Since 2011, rebels, regime forces, militias, terror groups, and insane jihadists like ISIS have been murdering one another in a humanitarian black hole that has left between 320,000 and 500,000 dead. Torture, chemical weapons, genocide… you name it, if it exists and it is awful, it can currently be found in Syria.

Perhaps the worst part is there doesn’t seem to be any easy way out. So many international actors are meddling in the Syrian conflict that an easy solution seems impossible. Russia is bombing rebel territory. Turkey is bombing Kurdish positions. France, the US and Britain are bombing ISIS, and the US recently bombed a regime airbase too. Iran and Saudi Arabia are meddling. Hezbollah and al-Qaeda are involved. Maybe one day this intractable mess will be solved, but don’t count on it happening any time soon.


No Go Zone

– Countries to Avoid