Monday, March 23, 2015

Lone vet returns to Iraq to fight ISIS

A few weeks ago, a 60 Minutes team traveling through Iraq stumbled on a 28-year-old American man in Bakufa, an abandoned Christian village north of Mosul. The man was dressed like a soldier, but he wasn't with the U.S. military. He was there to help, but not as part of any aid organization. He had come to Iraq on his own -- to fight ISIS.

Driven by his Christian faith, Brett Felton of Troy, Michigan, made his way to Iraq as a "soldier of Christ," to help defend the Iraqi Christians under threat from the Islamic State. When 60 Minutes producer Jeff Newton met him in February, Felton was engaged in training local Christians to defend their villages. (Watch Felton in action in the video player above.)
"If you look at him, he's literally all tattooed out like a biker," Newton told 60 Minutes Overtime. "But if you look really closely at his tattoos, they're like Jesus Christ crying blood tears out of his eyes and stuff like that --so he's kind of a hardcore Christian."

It wasn't Felton's first time in Iraq. In 2006, Felton was deployed to Iraq with the 10th Mountain Division, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment. Discharged in 2007, Felton told Newton that his experience in Iraq had a "lasting impact" on him. Like many veterans, Felton says he wanted to return to Iraq as soon as he arrived home. A few months ago, he managed to slip back into the country from Lebanon, where he was studying abroad.

Newton stumbled across Felton while traveling with a 60 Minutes crew, including correspondent Lara Logan, for a story about Iraq's Christians on this week's 60 Minutes broadcast. They were there to check on the small Christian villages north of Mosul, and what the 60 Minutes team found was disheartening. Some Christians in the region were forced to convert to Islam by ISIS attackers. Many had fled. But a few Christian men decided to stay behind and form fledgling militias to save their villages. Few of these men are professional soldiers, say Logan and Newton.

"They're under-funded. They don't have good weapons. They're completely outgunned by the Islamic State," says Lara Logan. "When you're with them, you have this terrible feeling that many of them would be massacred if the Islamic State really turned its attention to taking back those those villages."
But help has begun to arrive from a handful of Christians, like Felton, who are traveling to Iraq from abroad. On the day Newton was in Bakufa, Felton was training the men in urban warfare -- how to enter and clear a room, how to check for suicide vests, and how to drag your wounded to safety.
The dangers to the Christian fighters -- and to Felton -- were close at hand. ISIS fighters were only miles away from the village.

"People say, 'You're crazy for doin' this,'" Felton told Newton. "I think people are crazy for not doing their part, to be honest with you." "To me, for the Christians here, it would be an honor to give my life helping these people."

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Gone are the days when people used to think cycling is not cool

Gone are the days when people used to think cycling is ‘uncool’, boring or just a bunch of guys in lycra. The turn of the century saw a small yet significant shift in the way cycling was viewed by the wider public. Is this a permanent cultural shift or a phase that many individual sports and recreations experience in this country?

In the 80s and 90s, Australians categorized cyclists as lunatics racing in tortuous conditions throughout France, putting their bodies on the line through the Alps and Pyrenees. Yet people didn’t see cycling or the Tour de France as an engaging social pedal with their mates, it was purely known as a sport for freaks. Let’s face it, it has largely been seen as the sport that was fuelled by drugs, further alienating the sporting community within Australia.

Yet in Europe, cycling is a way life. Whether it’s the grandmother going to meet her friends, city workers suited up, kids rolling to school, or the daily bunch heading out into the mountains. The raw purpose of cycling from A to B is encouraged, the romanticism of the bicycle ingrained, and for those individuals seeking higher performance, they are simply worshipped.

The culture of cycling is far from this mentality here in Australia. However, we are thankfully becoming more in tune with what the sport provides on a personal level, and the benefits it can provide on a social level.  The growth in Australian cycling is happening exponentially. Cycling is becoming something people are not just engaging in, it’s becoming something people are living for. Cycling is becoming a culture.

This new Australian cycling culture has created never seen demand for bikes and the obvious basics. This culture has also seen people embracing our insatiable appetite to look good. We know for a fact that more people than ever want to look good whilst riding. At Black Sheep, that is our aim. No longer should there be a gap between what you wear on your bike and what you wear off it. We want you to ride bikes but look good doing it. We want you to hurt. We want you to give out hurt. But win or lose, we want you there, looking like you were made to be there. 

So why the change? Is it because of the success of Australians like Evans and Gerrans? Is this a testimate to our multicultural values? Or is this simply a phase where the stereotypes and the ‘un-cool’ factor return. For now, cycling is the new golf and we're doing our best to make this sport into something we only ever dreamt of.