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'Muscovite code' tells foreigners to blend in

As foreign moles in suburban America, the "Murphy's" of Montclair -- two of the recently exposed Russian "illegals" (read: spies with boring long-term assignments) -- were charged with the difficult task of acting less Russian. Meanwhile, back in Moscow, migrant workers have been forced to take on precisely the opposite challenge: acting more Russian.

Ire toward foreign arrivals in Moscow is nothing new (double-digit murders of foreigners are standard each year in the capital city), but the recent proposal of a "Muscovite Code," a set of measures designed to encourage cultural assimilation, highlights just how intense the pressure to conform truly is. The rules, to be developed by city officials with input from local residents, would outline the "dos and don'ts" of traditional Russian culture; everything from speaking Russian-only in public (a do) to turnstile-hopping "like goats" (a don't). Supporters of the new measure note that these rules would not be mandatory, but would instead serve as a helpful resource for foreigners unfamiliar with the city's unspoken code of conduct. As Mikhail Solomentsev, head of the Moscow city government's Department for Inter-Regional Communications and Regional Policies explained:

"At the moment, there are unwritten rules that residents of our city have to adhere to... For instance, people shouldn't slaughter sheep in a courtyard, make shashlyk on their balcony or walk around the city in their national dress - and they should speak Russian."

Many, however, don't consider the proposal quite so benign. The new rules, they say, are simply one more way to reinforce Moscow's already entrenched culture of xenophobia. Of course, after Monday's revelations, Moscow officials might be wise to consider another (unintended) use of the Code: a how-to guide for "illegals" doing their best to blend in...

DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images

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Is al Qaeda's new English-language magazine any good?

Answer: no. It is terrible. But perhaps there are some idiots out there who will find it appealing.

According to the Daily Beast's Lloyd Grove, the U.S. government is apparently "deeply concerned" that the magazine, called Inspire, will spread al Qaeda's message to susceptible audiences in the West. Grove quotes an anonymous counterterrorism official saying, "The packaging of this magazine may be slick, but the contents are as vile as the authors."

Actually, no -- the packaging is not slick at all. It's very "I played around with Microsoft Publisher for a few hours."

Marc Ambinder gots his paws on a copy of the first issue, and it's as ridiculous as you might imagine. One article, by someone named "the AQ chef," is called "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom." There's an essay by Yahya Ibrahim, a radical Canadian-born  preacher, entitled "The West Should Ban the Niqab Covering Its Real Face." There's a "message to the people of Yemen" from al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri, a column by Yemeni-American sheikh Anwar al-Awlaki, an interview with the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Abu Basir al Wahishi, and various practical lessons on such topics as sending encrypted messages and what you can expect when you join the jihad. It also has a page for "contact us," which is intriguing -- how does that work?

Granted, I'm not the target audience for this rag, and Brookings analyst Bruce Riedel makes a good point here: "From the standpoint of al Qaeda, it’s not intended to be a bestseller. They’re just looking for one guy who will be inspired by this to bomb Times Square, and this time maybe he will put together the bomb correctly.”

Still, I'd wager that the folks who are producing Inspire are going to get killed or captured before they inspire any such attacks. I also don't think we'll be seeing an al Qaeda iPad app anytime soon.

UPDATE:  You can download the full pdf file here at your own risk (it's about 5 MB).

This post has been updated. Thanks to readers for pointing out my mistakes.