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The epic true tale of the vigilante librarian who saved thousands of books from jihadists.

Under the dark cover of night, a team of clandestine agents smuggled contraband on mule carts past the heavily armed militants who policed the ancient streets of Timbuktu...

But this undertaking was a little less "Ocean's Eleven," a little more "Indiana Jones" with an Islamic bent — because the traffickers were librarians, and their black market swag was a vast collection of hundreds of thousands of historical manuscripts dating as far back as the 11th century.


Photo by Francois Xavier Marit/AFP/Getty Images.

The mastermind behind this grand scheme? A middle-aged book collector named Abdel Kader Haidara.

Haidara spent most of his life searching his native Mali and other parts of Western Africa for lost relics from the region's rich history. Over the years, he had amassed thousands of rare and valuable manuscripts, which he preserved, restored, and digitized for future generations.

Haidara's collection included historical chronicles of the rise and fall of Saharan and Sudanese monarchs; ethical quandaries by Islamic philosophers debating everything from polygamy to smoking tobacco; medical volumes full of treatments derived from birds, lizards, or plants; codices hand-bound in lavish materials such as goatskin or fish scale and adorned with glittering gold calligraphy; rare illustrated copies of the Quran itself; and ancient secular writings on astronomy, poetry, and math.

"A lot of people were surprised because they had been told — even at school — that there were no written African historical records," Haidara said in 2014. "But we have hundreds of thousands of these documents in Arabic and in African languages."

Photo by Fred DuFour/AFP/Getty Images.

When the Mali crisis began in May 2012, Haidara quickly realized that Timbuktu's incredible archives were in danger.

An alliance of militant Tuareg rebels and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI) seized a number of northern Malian territories, including Timbuktu. They overthrew the country's president, Amadou Toumani Touré, and imposed Sharia in the now-independent territory of Azawad, banishing anything that fell outside their narrow interpretation of the Quran.

Soon they were demolishing Sufi mausoleums and other Islamic traditions that opposed their own zealotry. Haidara knew it was only a matter of time before they came for the book collections, too.

"The manuscripts show that Islam is a religion of tolerance," he told National Geographic. Haidara believed that the archives could not only change Western perceptions of Islam, but could also refute jihadist dogma — something which the extremists would never allow.

Photo by Fred DuFour/AFP/Getty Images.

Days after the invasion, Haidara called together his colleagues from the Timbuktu library association, who represented 45 different Malian libraries and about 400,000 rare volumes.

As he recalled in the Wall Street Journal, he told the assembled group: “I think we need to take out the manuscripts from the big buildings and disperse them around the city to family houses. We don’t want them finding the collections of manuscripts and stealing them or destroying them.”

With help from family, tour guides, and other archivists, Haidara and his team began buying all of the metal and wooden trunks they could find without arising suspicion. Once they'd bought up all the stock in Timbuktu, they sent their buyers to other markets south of the city, or purchased unused oil drums and barrels to convert for their purposes.

Photo by Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images.

They stored the crates at Mamma Haidara and other libraries throughout the city, where small groups of volunteers would gather at night to carefully pack the delicate manuscripts inside. They worked entirely by flashlight, since the jihadists had cut their access to electricity.

Once the books were packed, they were smuggled by mule carts at night to hiding places under the homes of volunteers across the city.

Photo by Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images.

Within a few months, there were nearly 2,500 footlockers full of manuscripts hidden throughout the city. But moving them out of al-Qaeda territory wouldn't be easy.

Donations began to pour in from Indiegogo and private foundations to help fund strategic smuggling trips by river and by road, moving manuscripts incrementally in order to cut down on potential losses.

But they still had to contend with both extremist border patrols and the Malian army, which was on the lookout for smuggled weapons en route to or from al-Qaeda. Even the French military, which had arrived to help liberate Timbuktu, formed another inadvertent obstacle when it almost fired on a boat full of books, acting under the assumption that they were trafficking firearms.

Photo by Kenzo Tribouillard/AFp/Getty Images.

The operation lasted for nine harrowing months, during which the radicals managed to destroy only 4,000 manuscripts.

Of course, there were plenty of close calls along the way.

Early in the campaign, militant leaders stopped Haidara's nephew, Mohammed Touré, as he was leaving the library late one night with a trunkful of manuscripts. They arrested him for stealing and threatened to cut off his hands. But Haidara swung into action and told the Islamist police that Touré was a legal employee of the museum who was doing his job by taking the books to be repaired.

On another occasion, a fleet of boats carrying 300 footlockers full of books was held hostage by opportunistic hijackers until Haidara could pay the ransom they demanded.

“If we hadn’t acted, I’m almost 100% certain that many, many others would have been burned," Haidara told the Wall Street Journal.


Photo by Evan Schneider/Stringer/Getty Images.

The remaining manuscripts are now safe in climate-controlled storage in Bamako. But they can't stay there forever.

Between the humidity in the Malian capital and the creaking weight of tall stacks of boxes upon boxes threatening to crush the books beneath them, it's only a temporary haven. The Malian government has estimated that it would cost nearly $11 million to build new archives in the capital to properly preserve and restore the codices.

As for Haidara, he received the 2014 Africa Prize from Germany and is the subject of a new book called (appropriately) "The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu." But he's still more concerned about the collection.

"I'm all the time surrounded by worry, by responsibility, sometimes I even forget my family," he told National Geographic."My only ambition is to rehabilitate all these libraries in Timbuktu, so that I can bring all the manuscripts back to each family that entrusted them to me. That will give me a little bit of peace."

Pop Culture

Here’s a paycheck for a McDonald’s worker. And here's my jaw dropping to the floor.

So we've all heard the numbers, but what does that mean in reality? Here's one year's wages — yes, *full-time* wages. Woo.

Making a little over 10,000 for a yearly salary.


I've written tons of things about minimum wage, backed up by fact-checkers and economists and scholarly studies. All of them point to raising the minimum wage as a solution to lifting people out of poverty and getting folks off of public assistance. It's slowly happening, and there's much more to be done.

But when it comes right down to it, where the rubber meets the road is what it means for everyday workers who have to live with those wages. I honestly don't know how they do it.


Ask yourself: Could I live on this small of a full-time paycheck? I know what my answer is.

(And note that the minimum wage in many parts of the county is STILL $7.25, so it would be even less than this).

paychecks, McDonalds, corporate power, broken system

One year of work at McDonalds grossed this worker $13,811.18.

assets.rebelmouse.io

This story was written by Brandon Weber and was originally appeared on 02.26.15

Pop Culture

What is 'Generation Jones'? The unique qualities of the not-quite-Gen-X-baby-boomers.

This "microgeneration" had a different upbringing than their fellow boomers.

Generation Jones includes Michelle Obama, George Clooney, Kamala Harris, Keanu Reeves and more.

We hear a lot about the major generation categories—boomers, Gen X, millennials, Gen Z and the up-and-coming Gen Alpha. But there are folks who don't quite fit into those boxes. These in-betweeners, sometimes called "cuspers," are members of microgenerations that straddle two of the biggies.

"Xennial" is the nickname for those who fall on the cusp of Gen X and millennial, but there's also a lesser-known microgeneration that straddles Gen X and baby boomers. The folks born from 1954 to 1965 are known as Generation Jones, and they've been thrust into the spotlight as people try to figure out what generation to consider 59-year-old Vice President Kamala Harris.

Like President Obama before her, Harris is a Gen Jonesernot exactly a classic baby boomer but not quite Gen X. Born in October 1964, Harris falls just a few months shy of official Gen X territory. But what exactly differentiates Gen Jones from the boomers and Gen Xers that flank it?


"Generation Jones" was coined by writer, television producer and social commentator Jonathan Pontell to describe the decade of Americans who grew up in the '60s and '70s. As Pontell wrote of Gen Jonesers in Politico:

"We fill the space between Woodstock and Lollapalooza, between the Paris student riots and the anti-globalisation protests, and between Dylan going electric and Nirvana going unplugged. Jonesers have a unique identity separate from Boomers and GenXers. An avalanche of attitudinal and behavioural data corroborates this distinction."

Pontell describes Jonesers as "practical idealists" who were "forged in the fires of social upheaval while too young to play a part." They are the younger siblings of the boomer civil rights and anti-war activists who grew up witnessing and being moved by the passion of those movements but being met with a fatigued culture by the time they themselves came of age. Sometimes, they're described as the cool older siblings of Gen X. Unlike their older boomer counterparts, most Jonesers were not raised by WWII veteran fathers and were too young to be drafted into Vietnam, leaving them in between on military experience.

Gen Jones gets its name from the competitive "keeping up with the Joneses" spirit that spawned during their populous birth years, but also from the term "jonesin'," meaning an intense craving, that they coined—a drug reference but also a reflection of the yearning to make a difference that their "unrequited idealism" left them with. According to Pontell, their competitiveness and identity as a "generation aching to act" may make Jonesers particularly effective leaders:

"What makes us Jonesers also makes us uniquely positioned to bring about a new era in international affairs. Our practical idealism was created by witnessing the often unrealistic idealism of the 1960s. And we weren’t engaged in that era’s ideological battles; we were children playing with toys while boomers argued over issues. Our non-ideological pragmatism allows us to resolve intra-boomer skirmishes and to bridge that volatile Boomer-GenXer divide. We can lead."

Time will tell whether the United States will end up with another Generation Jones leader, but with President Biden withdrawing his candidacy, it has now become a distinct possibility.

Of note in discussions over Kamala Harris's generational status is the fact that generations aren't just calculated by birth year but by a person's cultural reality. Some have made the argument that Harris is culturally more Gen X than boomer, though there doesn't seem to be any record of her claiming any particular generation as her own. However, a swath of Gen Z has staked their own claim on her as "brat"—a term singer Charli XCX thrust into the political arena with a post on X that read "kamala IS brat." That may be nonsensical to most older folks, but for Gen Z, it's a glowing endorsement from one of the top Gen Z musicians of the moment.

Democracy

This Map Reveals The True Value Of $100 In Each State

Your purchasing power can swing by 30% from state to state.

Image by Tax Foundation.

Map represents the value of 100 dollars.


As the cost of living in large cities continues to rise, more and more people are realizing that the value of a dollar in the United States is a very relative concept. For decades, cost of living indices have sought to address and benchmark the inconsistencies in what money will buy, but they are often so specific as to prevent a holistic picture or the ability to "browse" the data based on geographic location.

The Tax Foundation addressed many of these shortcomings using the most recent (2015) Bureau of Economic Analysis data to provide a familiar map of the United States overlaid with the relative value of what $100 is "worth" in each state. Granted, going state-by-state still introduces a fair amount of "smoothing" into the process — $100 will go farther in Los Angeles than in Fresno, for instance — but it does provide insight into where the value lies.


The map may not subvert one's intuitive assumptions, but it nonetheless quantities and presents the cost of living by geography in a brilliantly simple way. For instance, if you're looking for a beach lifestyle but don't want to pay California prices, try Florida, which is about as close to "average" — in terms of purchasing power, anyway — as any state in the Union. If you happen to find yourself in a "Brewster's Millions"-type situation, head to Hawaii, D.C., or New York. You'll burn through your money in no time.

income, money, economics, national average

The Relative Value of $100 in a state.

Image by Tax Foundation.

If you're quite fond of your cash and would prefer to keep it, get to Mississippi, which boasts a 16.1% premium on your cash from the national average.

The Tax Foundation notes that if you're using this map for a practical purpose, bear in mind that incomes also tend to rise in similar fashion, so one could safely assume that wages in these states are roughly inverse to the purchasing power $100 represents.


This article originally appeared on 08.17.17

Representative photos by Canva and Evelyn Giggles|Flickr

Mom hilariously demands to know secret to clean kids' rooms.

Kids' bedrooms can be a source of contention in some households. Some kids are just naturally more tidy than others while some are more like little tornados leaving debris wherever they go refusing to clean it up. Parents can be on different wavelengths when it comes to how clean a child's room should be.

You've got the parents who are huge proponents of simply closing the door. If you can't see the mess, then the mess doesn't exist. You've got some parents that do a weekly or monthly clean themselves in an attempt to save their sanity. Then you've got the ones that have daily room cleans as part of their child's routine, but not everyone can or wants to be at that level.

Ariel B. recently posted a video asking parents to explain how they get their children to clean their rooms as she pans to her daughters' rooms that are in complete disarray.


The exhausted mom starts off by explaining that motherhood is ghetto. In fact she surmises that the "hood" people are talking about when they say the hood is ghetto is indeed motherhood before asking how other parents are doing it.

"My daughters' rooms are so nasty, everything you are ever looking for in your house is in them rooms," Ariel says.

This frustration started when her kids couldn't find their field trip shirts for summer camp, which prompted her to go in their rooms to investigate. She then shows everyone the room where the shirt was lost, exclaiming, "You couldn't find Jesus in this room. You couldn't find common sense, humility, any decent soul in this room."


The room was strewn with clothes, toys and other things. Commenters not only pointed out the mannequin head looking distressed under the bed but related hard to what the mom was saying and supported her rant.

"The mannequin head laying under table looking stressed. Her face looks like it’s saying 'help me,'" one person laughs.

"I'm closing the door. I have an almost 3 & 6 year old and I'm 37 weeks today…I close the door. It’s no way y'all messed the room up like this and expect me to clean it. So, when they get back from Florida, they can clean it themselves," another says.

"You're cracking me up! I can definitely relate to finding wrappers. I said 23 times don't eat in your room. I'm not cleaning it," another writes.

"That last part gets me crackin up every time I watch this. I watch this on the daily to remind myself it’s not just my kid," one mom admits.

But if you watch closely as Ariel pans the messy bedrooms you'll notice there's something important missing from the bed frames...a mattress. One person inquired about the important missing item and the response is not only comical but makes so much sense.

"I flipped the mattress looking for the orange shirt after I stepped on a Barbie jeep and almost broke my neck," Ariel explains before following up in another comment saying the mattress is in the hallway—it likely made it much easier to clean under the bed. And while the mom did receive some advice in the comments, it's unclear if she will heed any.

Bill Gates in conversation with The Times of India

Bill Gates sure is strict on how his children use the very technology he helped bring to the masses.

In a recent interview with the Mirror, the tech mogul said his children were not allowed to own their own cellphone until the age of 14. "We often set a time after which there is no screen time, and in their case that helps them get to sleep at a reasonable hour," he said. Gates added that the children are not allowed to have cellphones at the table, but are allowed to use them for homework or studying.


The Gates children, now 20, 17 and 14, are all above the minimum age requirement to own a phone, but they are still banned from having any Apple products in the house—thanks to Gates' longtime rivalry with Apple founder Steve Jobs.

smartphones, families, responsible parenting, social media

Bill Gates tasting recycled water.

Image from media.giphy.com.

While the parenting choice may seem harsh, the Gates may be onto something with delaying childhood smartphone ownership. According to the 2016 "Kids & Tech: The Evolution of Today's Digital Natives"report, the average age that a child gets their first smartphone is now 10.3 years.

"I think that age is going to trend even younger, because parents are getting tired of handing their smartphones to their kids," Stacy DeBroff, chief executive of Influence Central, told The New York Times.

James P. Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that reviews content and products for families, additionally told the Times that he too has one strict rule for his children when it comes to cellphones: They get one when they start high school and only when they've proven they have restraint. "No two kids are the same, and there's no magic number," he said. "A kid's age is not as important as his or her own responsibility or maturity level."

PBS Parents also provided a list of questions parents should answer before giving their child their first phone. Check out the entire list below:

  • How independent are your kids?
  • Do your children "need" to be in touch for safety reasons—or social ones?
  • How responsible are they?
  • Can they get behind the concept of limits for minutes talked and apps downloaded?
  • Can they be trusted not to text during class, disturb others with their conversations, and to use the text, photo, and video functions responsibly (and not to embarrass or harass others)?
  • Do they really need a smartphone that is also their music device, a portable movie and game player, and portal to the internet?
  • Do they need something that gives their location information to their friends—and maybe some strangers, too—as some of the new apps allow?
  • And do you want to add all the expenses of new data plans? (Try keeping your temper when they announce that their new smartphone got dropped in the toilet...)


This article originally appeared on 05.01.17