Marines drink cobra blood in US-Thai war drills

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A US Marine drinks the blood of a cobra during a jungle survival exercise as part of the "Cobra Gold 2018" (CG18) joint military exercise, at a military base in Chonburi province, Thailand, on Monday. (REUTERS)
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A US Marine drinks the blood of a cobra during a jungle survival exercise as part of the "Cobra Gold 2018" (CG18) joint military exercise, at a military base in Chonburi province, Thailand, on Monday. (REUTERS)
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A US Marine eats a geko during a jungle survival exercise as part of the "Cobra Gold 2018" (CG18) joint military exercise, at a military base in Chonburi province, Thailand, on Monday. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 February 2018
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Marines drink cobra blood in US-Thai war drills

CHON BURI, Thailand: US and Thai marines slurped snake blood and ate scorpions in a jungle survival program on Monday as part of the two nations’ annual Cobra Gold war games.
Now in its 37th year, Cobra Gold is one of the largest military exercises in Asia, bringing thousands of troops from the United States, Thailand and other countries for 10 days of field training on Thai shores.
On Monday, several dozen US and Thai marines took park in an annual jungle survival drill on a Thai navy base in Chonburi province, where troops took turns drinking blood from a severed cobra before grilling and eating the snakes.
Thai military trainers also taught the group — which included South Korean troops — how to remove venom from scorpions and tarantulas before eating them, find water in jungle vines and identity edible plants.
“The key to survival is knowing what to eat,” said Thai Sergeant Major Chaiwat Ladsin, who led the drill that also saw the marines take bites of a raw gecko.
“Definitely my first time drinking snake blood... It’s not something we do too often in America,” US Sergeant Christopher Fiffie told AFP after the training.
“I think I’ll be able to hold my own out there,” he added. “The biggest take was how exactly they get their water as well as the vegetation that you can eat.”
This year’s Cobra Gold exercise drew some 6,800 US personnel to the war games — nearly double last year’s attendance, in the latest sign of warming relations between the two allies.
A 2014 army coup in Thailand tested ties with Washington, which urged a return to democracy and scaled back military aid.
But the two countries have upped their engagement under US President Donald Trump, who has taken a softer stance on human rights issues and even embraced Thai junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha in the White House.
The US is also keen to flex its military muscle in Asia amid tensions with North Korea over the pariah state’s nuclear missile program.
“The (attendance) numbers are reflective of the US commitment in the region,” US embassy spokesman Stephane Castonguay told AFP at the start of the exercise.
“The focus of this exercise still remains humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, in addition to community relations projects.”
Troops from Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Singapore also participated in this year’s drills.


After shedding Daesh, Mosul embraces makeovers

An Iraqi woman gets a lip injection at an aesthetic clinic in the northern city of Mosul on November 19, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 19 December 2018
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After shedding Daesh, Mosul embraces makeovers

  • Mosul, and Iraq more broadly, have been shaken by waves of conflict since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and paved the way for a sectarian war
  • The city’s medical services were hit hard by Daesh’s three-year reign and the months-long battle to oust it

MOSUL, Iraq: For three years, Mosul’s women were covered in black from head to toe and its men had to keep their beards long. Salons were shut, and plastic surgery considered a crime.
But more than a year after the Daesh group’s ouster, the Iraqi city is flaunting its more fabulous side.
Need to zap away a scar or a burn? Cover up a bald spot with implants? Whiten teeth for a dazzling smile? Mosul’s plastic surgeons and beauticians are at your service.
Raji Najib, a Syrian living in Mosul, recently made use of the city’s aesthetic offerings.
The 40-year-old had long been self-conscious of his bald spots, until his Iraqi friends told him what had worked for them — hair implants at a new clinic in their hometown.
“They told me the equipment was modern, the nurses competent and the prices good,” Najib said.
In Mosul, the average hair implant procedure costs around $800, including the follow-up after the operation.
Nearly 90 kilometers (50 miles) to the east in Iraq’s Irbil, or even further north in Turkey, the same operation costs at least $1,200.
Plasma injections to prevent hair loss cost around $63 in Mosul, but at least $20 more in Irbil.
In addition to the difference in price, Najib would have had to put up money and time for travel.
“Going to a clinic in Mosul is much easier, as I don’t have time to travel outside Mosul,” he told AFP.

Decades ago, only one department in Mosul’s hospitals offered plastic surgery, and only to those who had a severe accident or were trying to eliminate a physical handicap from birth.
Mosul, and Iraq more broadly, have been shaken by waves of conflict since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and paved the way for a sectarian war.
Religious hard-liners forced women to cover up or stay at home, and extremists in particular targeted hairdressers, many of whom closed their shops in fear.
Another shock came in 2014 when the Daesh group swept across much of Iraq’s north, with the militants making Mosul their de facto capital.
The religious police of Daesh enforced ultra-strict rules on dress for all residents, making sure women showed no skin and men wore ankle-length capris and long beards, with no moustache.
The city has since gotten a makeover.
Five beauty clinics have opened since Mosul was recaptured last summer by Iraqi security forces, and they can hardly keep up with the flow of customers, most of them men.
Muhannad Kazem told AFP he was the first to relaunch his city’s beauty business with his clinic, Razan, which offers teeth whitening services and other dental care.
His secret? “The employees came from Lebanon, and the treatments and machines were imported,” said Kazem, 40.

The city’s medical services were hit hard by Daesh’s three-year reign and the months-long battle to oust it.
The available hospital beds in Mosul dropped from 3,657 before 2014 to just 1,622 last year, according to the local human rights commission.
But the city is rebuilding, and one new commercial center houses the Diamond Dental Clinic in the bottom floor, with the Shahrazad beauty center upstairs.
A poster at the entrance advertises what’s on offer: injections of botox and other fillers, slimming surgeries, dermatological operations, and more.
Inside the glossy interior are men and women alike, an unthinkable sight under the iron-fisted rule of Daesh.
A female employee carefully injected serums to prevent hair loss into the scalp of a woman gritting her teeth, one of the dozen customers streaming in per day.
Beautician Alia Adnan said the physical and mental impact of the militants on people in Mosul has been long-lasting.
“They have hair or skin problems because of the stress and the pollution that Mosul’s residents were exposed to, both under Daesh and during the clashes,” she told AFP.