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.


Oil trader's booze-induced trading rampage set off global panic

The New York Times reports that one Steven Perkins, a former oil trader based in London, set off a minor panic in global markets last June when he traded more than half a billion dollars in Brent crude oil after a night of heavy drinking.

According to British regulators, Perkins said he had been boozing it up at a company golf outing, fired up the old laptop when he got home -- and that's when he made the rogue trades.

Here's the regulators' account:

As a direct result of Perkins' trading, the price of Brent increased significantly. Perkins' trading manipulated the market in Brent by giving a false and misleading impression as to the supply, demand and price of Brent and caused the price of Brent to increase to an abnormal and artificial level.

In sanctioning Perkins, the FSA has also taken into account the fact that Perkins initially lied repeatedly to his employer in order to try and cover up his unauthorised trading.

In the full writeup explaining his $108,000 fine, we learn:

Mr Perkins’ explanation for his trading on 29 and 30 June is that he was drunk. He says that he drank heavily throughout the weekend and continued drinking from around mid-day on Monday 29 June. He claims to have limited recollection of events on Monday and claims to have been in an alcohol induced blackout at the time he traded in the early hours of 30 June.

Apparently Perkins has gone to rehab and is no longer drinking.