ISIS has a new hand sign — and it means far more than ‘We’re #1’

ISIS hand gesture

The Islamic State militants, known as ISIS, are now using a single, raised index finger as the symbol of their cause. It’s a well-known sign of power and victory around the world, but for ISIS, it has a more sinister meaning. 

Nathaniel Zelinsky writes in Foreign Affairs that the gesture refers to the tawhid, "the belief in the oneness of God and a key component of the Muslim religion." More specifically, though, it refers to their fundamentalist interpretation of the tawhid, which rejects any other view, including other Islamic interpretations, as idolatry. Zelinsky writes that when ISIS uses the gesture, it is affirming an ideology that demands the destruction of the West, as well as any form of pluralism. For potential recruits around the globe, it also shows their belief that they will dominate the world.

ISIS also chose its black-and-white flag carefully to symbolize its link to the Prophet Muhammad, as PRI's The World explains.

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NATO's meeting opens in Newport — one of Britain's most mocked cities

Sixty world leaders are gathering to deal with a possible new Cold War with Russia and a response to the brutality and ambition of ISIS militants. So where are they gathering? Newport, Wales — a city with something of a reputation problem.

It is the third largest city in Wales and considered by many Brits as one of the uglier and more boring places in their country. Some London-based newspapers have confused it with its arch-rival city, Cardiff. One thing Newport doesn’t lack is a sense of (ironic) pride. A local Newport rapper called Eggsy had a viral hit a few years ago with his video "Newport State of Mind" — a parody of Jay Z’s "Empire State of Mind."

Sex, drugs and free thinkers — in Iran

Many people in Tehran, Iran's capital, lead double lives. They show public faces to please authorities, but live private lives that are far different. Iranian writer Ramita Navai is one of them and exposes the other face of Tehran in a new novel, City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death and the Search For Truth in Tehran.

Navai says journalists rarely see or report on the more liberal side of the country, partly because the regime wants to hide its social problems. Tehran, for example, has crystal meth drug rehab centers, needle exchange centers, methadone centers, and allows condoms to be given to prostitutes. 

In an interview with PRI's The World, Navai says society is opening in the capital, thanks to the youth culture. She sees a sexual awakening that spans all social classes and finds some are blogging their thoughts openly. Iranians have a deep desire to live honestly, she says, without having to lead a life of lies.

'Air rage' breaks out in economy class as cramped passengers rebel

At least three airline flights were grounded this summer because of passengers fighting over whether someone should be allowed to recline their seats into someone else's increasingly tight space. As airlines make seats lighter — to save on fuel — and tighter — to pack more people in — some travelers have had enough.

A gadget called "Knee Defender" is becoming popular with some frequent fliers. It stops the passenger in front from reclining. The device was at the center of the latest in-flight reclining incident, and that's apparently helped boost its popularity. PRI's The Takeaway reports that designers are considering creative ways to ease the traveler tensions — from seats that don't recline at all, but are more comfortable to "herringbone" seat layouts where some passengers face backwards.

Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company ditches Shakespeare for another old playwright

Shakespeare wasn't the only playwright of his era roughly 400 years ago. But he has eclipsed the others so much that few of their plays are ever performed. So the Royal Shakespeare Company has decided to bring one play back from obscurity.

The group asked four academics to each propose obscure plays that would delight modern audiences and the performers. The company members then voted on the four finalists and chose "Love's Sacrifice," published in 1633 by John Ford. Britian's The Independent says it's a tragedy of revenge "based on the true story of musician Carlo Gesualdo, who murdered his wife and her lover." Ford did like spicy stories and wrote another play that didn't slip into obscurity — "Tis Pity She’s a Whore." 

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Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano started erupting again this weekend and is now shooting jets of red-hot lava up to 50 meters into the air. Authorities are monitoring it to detect a more violent eruption that could disrupt air travel and cause flooding. But the danger didn't stop a UK tour operator from offering flights over it yesterday. The Guardian has some stunning photos of the latest activity.

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