Introducing Anna Badkhen's 'Afghanistan By Donkey'

It's been another week of heartbreakingly grim violence in Afghanistan. On Monday, the so-called "spring fighting season" began with a coordinated 18-hour Taliban attack on Kabul. Today, the violence got -- if possible -- even more senseless, with reports of the poisoning of 150 schoolgirls in the northern Takhar province and an explosion at a maternity hospital in Khost.

The scale and cruelty of the violence can often feel incomprehensible, which makes incisive reporting like Anna Badkhen's all the more valuable. Her new e-book is now available for download.   

Badkhen, a courageous war correspondent, decided to embed not with American troops but with the Afghan people in 2011. Throughout the year, she returns again and again to the country, traveling by foot, by taxi - and even by donkey - to the remote villages and hamlets of the Afghan North, reporting as the Taliban take over large swaths of territory and also on the unimaginable daily hardships of life in a place where even such basics as water, electricity, a doctor, and a working school are impossible luxuries. 

It's a place so remote that even the death of Osama bin Laden barely registers, where war is taken as a fact of life, along with the rituals of mourning and celebration that Badkhen is allowed to witness up close.  As bestselling author Peter Bergen says in the special accompanying introduction, it is "a bleak tale told by an expert storyteller."


Maldives, Malvinas, one of those.

The president appeared to be having some difficulty with his archipelagos in this clip from a press conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. At 20:30, he means to say "Malvinas," the Spanish name for the Falkland Islands, but instead says "Maldives," an Indian-ocean nation:

Some right-wing bloggers are making the case that the real issue here is that Obama was favoring the Argentinean position on the disputed island chain by using, or at least attempting to use, the Spanish name -- yet another anti-British slight. But if you watch the whole video, Obama was responding to a question from a Spanish-speaking reporter who used the word "Malvinas" and his answer was strenuously neutral: 

"And in terms of the Maldives or the Falklands, whatever your preferred term, our position on this is that we are going to remain neutral. We have good relations with both Argentina and Great Britain, and we are looking forward to them being able to continue to dialogue on this issue. But this is not something that we typically intervene in."

That's not good enough for some British observers, who want the U.S. to vocally support the British position on the islands, but the administration has made it pretty clear it's not interested in going near this dispute -- a hot-button issue in Latin American politics.

But in any case, it's definitely not the Maldives.