Need To Know

After a couple days of “calm” (everything's relative), Islamic State fighters have again stepped up attacks in Kobani, Syria, launching another offensive against Kurdish forces. It's been about a month since the United States began bombing Kobani to support the Kurdish fighters on the ground. The front lines, however, just continue to shift back and forth, with little significant change.

Meanwhile, the United Nations warned that military action alone would only fuel extremism and make everything worse. This could be literally true. The Islamic State released a video Tuesday apparently showing off a cache of American weapons that was intended for Kurdish fighters but ended up with the wrong side. The Pentagon is analyzing the video but assured everyone that most of the weapons get to the right people.

The United Nations also reminded everyone that the Islamic State is just one threat for civilians in Syria, and called for a political solution to the ongoing civil war between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and various rebel forces. The UN says some 3.2 million Syrian civilians have fled the conflict, which has so far killed more than 200,000 people.

Want To Know

This headline pretty much says it all: “The US waged a $7.6 billion drug war in Afghanistan, and now the problem is worse than ever.”

If anyone's unclear, that's the opposite of what was supposed to happen. Instead, according to a new report by SIGAR, an independent US government watchdog monitoring Afghanistan's reconstruction, poppy cultivation has now reached unprecedented levels and in provinces where once there was no poppy fields, there are now poppy fields. It's now a $3 billion-a-year business, up from $2 billion the year before. Perhaps worst of all is that much of this money fuels the insurgency.

Here's a map that gives you an idea of how bad it is.

The US says it's not to blame, of course. The Afghan government says it too is not to blame. Afghanistan’s new president Ashraf Ghani, meanwhile, is enjoying some mild popularity in his early days. This is partly because people are more optimistic about the economy.

Strange But True

So the heavily armed demilitarized zone (or DMZ, for short) between North and South Korea, a typically scary place, is being rebranded as a wildlife sanctuary. This isn't the first time South Korea has tried to create a nicer image for the buffer area between the two countries. The previous South Korean government tried to make a "Peace and Life Zone" happen (PLZ, for short). It didn't, of course.

The wildlife sanctuary idea actually makes some sense though, unlike the peace and life zone idea, which made no sense. Because the line has been virtually barren of human activity since the 1950s, when the two sides fought a civil war that's never really ended, it's become a haven for animals that are otherwise under threat everywhere else. Black bears, Siberian tigers and all kinds of endangered birds and other wonderful living creatures are now thriving in the DMZ.