Has anybody noticed that Malaysia is at war?

So, this happened: "For three weeks," the Financial Times reported on Monday, "Malaysian forces have been facing off against 180 followers of the self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu, from a remote island in the southwest Philippines. More than 20 people have been reported killed in clashes over the past few days, in the worst violence on Malaysian territory for decades."

The three Southeast Asian island nations of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia (which doesn't figure into the violence), who collectively have a population of more than 350 million people, are arguably the countries most ignored by Americans relative to their importance. They're all just poor and stable and democratic enough to slide mostly under the radar, unless they're quarreling with China or hosting Obama. To their credit, most major media outlets have picked up on the violence. But I can't imagine a water-cooler conversation, even in Washington, D.C., about "the situation in Malaysia." Let me know in the comments section if you disagree.

As an aside: I assume I'm not the only who thinks this story reads like a bad fantasy novel: "The group's leader in Manila, Jamalul Kiram III, one of several claimants to the title of sultan of Sulu, remained defiant," the New York Times reported on Tuesday. He added that "Filipino fighters in Borneo, including his son, whom he identified as the prince of Sulu, would continue the fight." 



Israelis will read Playboy for the political coverage and core values

On Wednesday, Playboy will launch the first issue of its Hebrew language edition, at last granting Israelis access to the magazine's "time-honoured blend of soft-porn and literary gravitas," as the Telegraph put it.

So what will this blend entail? For the magazine's famous in-depth interview -- which in the United States has featured such notables as Jimmy Carter -- Playboy talks to Avi Dichter, a former director of the Shin Bet, Israel's domestic intelligency agency. The flagship issue will also include articles about Steve Jobs and Kobe Bryant, and a photo spread of Israeli model and reality TV star Natalie Dadon.

What's been particularly entertaining is how Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and Playboy Israel owner and publisher Daniel Pomerantz have described their expansion into the Israeli market. As Pomerantz explained to the Associated Press:

People will see just from the words Playboy Israel that we are a normal country, fashionable, modern, people who work every day with a passion and if you read Playboy magazine you see that it's not just beauty and fashion but it's also depth and politics and issues, people who care and think about the world they live in. 

Hefner, meanwhile, has extolled the partnership, pointing out that "so many of the core values of the magazine are also the core values of the country."

With the launch, Israel joins a long list of countries that have special editions of Playboy, including Brazil, South Africa, and Russia. Turkey even made headlines in 1985 when it became the first Muslim country to publish a regional version of the magazine. But the expansion didn't work out so well. The edition has since gone out of print.