First, God bless America, where every and any citizen is free to criticize our President. Second, this man is not the “real face of America.” He became president by a statistical sleight-of-hand, winning the electoral college, but losing the popular vote by THREE MILLION votes.
Many people who voted for him have voters remorse – the Americans happy with his performance is 36%.
(CNN)President Donald Trump enters office facing low job approval ratings and skepticism from voters, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.
“This is a place I would love to retire,” I once told AdventureMan, as we wandered the streets. “It has all the things I love. Beautiful architecture and a rich history. It’s on a river. It gets cold in the winter. You can walk to local stores.”
Today, with great sadness, I read that Damascus is now rated the #1 Most Unlivable City in the World, beating out Douala, Cameroon; Harare, Zimbabwe; Karachi, Pakistan; Algiers, Algeria; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Lagos, Nigeria; and Tripoli, Libya. This is what the report summarized about Damascus:
Damascus has forgotten more than your city will likely ever know-and it has been a battleground for almost its entire existence. The City of Jasmine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit, the least livable city in the world-for good reason. More than 13 million Syrians require humanitarian aid, 6.5 million have been displaced, and almost half a million have been killed on all sides of the conflict there-government soldiers, opposition soldiers, and civilians. It’s scores are predictably abysmal, with a 15 (out of 100) for stability at the bottom end and a mere 43.3 for culture and environment at the top end.
This is a city which has been at the crossroads of civilization about as long as civilization has been around. This is a city which was refined, and tolerant, a city which was once full of caravans carrying spices, silks and riches to the West.
We were last there in 2007, and we are so glad we went when we did. Damascus was revitalizing, building up a tourism business with grand hotels, and lovely, intimate boutique hotels.
We stayed at the Talisman. We grieve for the fine people we met there, and for all the losses they have suffered.
AdventureMan said “why don’t you do a photo-share, like you did with Doha?” At first, I didn’t want to, but then, I looked at the photos – and once again, I was smitten. I pray for a miracle for Syria, for new, enlightened, tolerant leadership and opportunities for the good Syrian people. For renewed vigor in churches and mosques and synagogues there. (The Talisman is in the old Jewish quarter, where the Greek Orthodox also have their headquarters.)
This is the majlis – sitting area – at the Talisman.
A restaurant nearby the Talisman:
Breakfast at the Talisman:
The historical nearby Bab, or gate:
A nearby Tabak and the friendly operator:
A courtyard restaurant, with lovely dishes. And note the Christmas tree; Christmas decorations and greenery everywhere!
A Christian Shop near Bab Thoma:
Interior at Umayyad Mosque, all are welcome and abayas provided. You leave your shoes at the door. This is the rear of the Tomb of John the Baptist:
Naranj, our favorite restaurant. I understand branches of Naranj have opened in Gulf Countries, Qatar, Kuwait, as wealthier Syrians take their money out of Syria and wait for more peaceful times. I am betting they will return to Syria as soon as they can.
A merchant in the Souk al Hamidiyya
A courtyard restaurant set up for Christmas dinners:
I’ve never met a Syrian who wasn’t educated and working hard to make a good life for his/her family. We wonder if we will ever be able to visit Syria again in our lifetime?
I belong to a group that I can only describe as “thoughtful” Christians; it’s a church-related study group, and as everywhere else in the US of A, people are discussing recent events in Paris, and the related issue of resettling Syrian (and not only Syrian) refugees in the United States.
The same discussions are taking place on FaceBook. I’m inclined to think that those who are thinking lime me are measured, and thoughtful, and that those who disagree with me are overly emotional, even rabid, and that their attitudes might be Un-Christian as well as Un-American.
I am not so blind as to not see that they may see the exact same thing, in reverse. It’s the times, and the issues.
One very smart woman communicated something I haven’t heard anywhere else, that investigators believe these Paris murderers might have been communicating by creating a Play Station group, so you can message your group members, and your message disappears seconds later.
One neuron sparks, synapses connect and the outline of a picture emerges. Of course. This plot was not that complex. My major focus would be on how they got the weapons, but other friends tell me that now weaponry can be had very inexpensively on the dark market in Europe.
But what has puzzled me, until now, was the kind of thinking that would put this scenario together, and I have concluded that we did. By our entertainment technology, we have taught them to strategize. We have trained them to think through scenarios, and to have branching options. We have taught them to join forces. We have taught them to work in teams. Some may have had some training to operate the weapons so accurately, but this was the equivalent of a canned hunt, shooting fish in a barrel. They had rapid fire weapons, and rooms full of people expecting no more than a pleasant night out. Before they knew what was happening, the event had come and gone.
They are young. The so called “master-mind” (I really don’t like that label; I don’t think this took masterful planning, and they did not accomplish their major goal, which was terrorizing the soccer game) escaped, but not for long. They calculatedly and callously used expendables to accomplish their mission. There was no escape planned for most; give them suicide belts. Give them death. Did they know that the one pulling the strings had no intention of dying with them? So why on earth didn’t they question this plan?
When you are playing games on a Play Station, and you lose, you get another life. Hey, just like jihad! They are young, death means little, and they are easily manipulated. A glorious death, if you don’t look too closely. As I was in water aerobics this morning, we danced along to an old ditty called “Just Like Romeo and Juliet” and I thought how appropriate it was to these times and circumstances – a tradition of hatred between two groups, two young people who cross the lines, and then, their death rather than the hard work of trying to make changes in the real world.
Death isn’t romantic, and the God we share, the God of Father Abraham, hates the shedding of innocent blood, no matter by what name you call him. He tells us that only he knows the intentions of the human heart. When he chooses someone to do his work, it tends to be leaving this country and walking to another, leading a people out of slavery, bearing a child, or memorizing the words of an angel, not bombing, or shooting, or forcing others to worship in the way you believe everyone must worship.
The one true God also tells us, all of us, that we are to love our neighbor, and that our neighbor is that naked, helpless, beaten man lying by the side of the road that the fastidious religious men crossed the street to avoid helping. We are to take him in, pay for his care at the inn, tend to his wounds, not for any hope of gain, but because it is the right thing to do, the decent thing to do, for our fellow human being, our neighbor.
One final note, when we use the Statue of Liberty coming to the rescue of France, showing the colors of France, noting her origins in France to honor our own “Liberte” we most not fail to take note of the words at her base: Give me your tired, your poor; The huddled masses yearning to breathe free; The wretched refuse of your teeming shores; send these – the homeless, tempest tossed to me! I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
I have to take a break from my trip stories to express an opinion.
We are The People of the Book. Suicide is not an option. The most precious gift we are given, of the many gifts, is the gift of life. One of the most heinous crimes against God / Allah is to shed innocent blood.
A callous theocracy sends “inspired” martyrs, testosterone-hopped-up jihadists to kill themselves, and to take as many victims as they can with them.
By what stretch can they claim to do God’s will? Where is the submission to the word of God? Where is the peaceful Islam of the Prophet Mohammed?
Not only did Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al Thani rent this house before he fled the USA fearing arrest for reckless driving, but now Saudi Prince Majed Abdelaziz Al-Saud rents the same house and is arrested after forcing some young woman to have oral sex. She was seen escaping the house and crawling over the wall to get away. Sorry guys. You may get away with these things in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, but not in the USA. And it’s just embarrassing to claim diplomatic immunity when it’s so easy to prove you have none. We have to play by your rules when we live in your country. It’s called being a good guest. Please pay us the same courtesy. It’s our country.
From today’s AOL News/Fox News:
A Saudi prince was arrested Wednesday at a compound near Beverly Hills in connection with an alleged sex crime after a bleeding woman was seen trying to flee the grounds.
Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud, 28, was arrested on suspicion of forced oral copulation of an adult, according to the Los Angeles Times. Police were called to the gated compound after a caretaker at the home reported the disturbance. The Times, citing jail records, reports Al-Saud was freed on $300,000 bail Thursday afternoon. LAPD officer Drake Madison told the newspaper the suspect was booked after 4 p.m.
Capt. Tina Nieto said the police department has a consul liaison that checks with foreign nations’ consulates regarding a certain person’s diplomatic immunity. Nieto said Al-Saud doesn’t have immunity in this case.
Tennyson Collins, a neighbor, told the Times he saw a bleeding woman trying to scale the property’s 8-foot wall on Wednesday. When Collins returned home from work, police followed his car through the gates and then onto the property. He said officers escorted about 20 people out of the compound, most of them staff members.
Police said Al-Saud was renting the home, which Zillow values at $37 million. Collins said different foreign nationals have been renting out the home for weeks at a time over the past year.
Earlier this month, a Qatari prince, Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al Thani, was videotaped racing a yellow Ferrari through Beverly Hills at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour, blowing through stop signs and frightening residents. Al Thani later denied driving recklessly and claimed he had diplomatic immunity, Beverly Hills police said. Authorities consulted with the State Department and the Qatar consulate and determined he did not have diplomatic immunity, police Chief Dominick Rivetti said during a Sept. 17 news conference.
Al Thani reportedly flew back to Qatar before he could be arrested.
Sorry, Sheikh Khalid, you do not have diplomatic immunity and you are not above the law. This is from AOL AutoBlog:
A prominent Qatari national has reportedly fled the United States after a video ostensibly showing his Ferrari racing through the streets of Beverly Hills went viral. Although the exact identity of the driver remains unclear, it is believed that the yellow LaFerrari was owned by Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al-Thani, a member of the ruling family of Qatar, the country’s former interior minister and a well-known racing enthusiast.
The video below, which has already attracted some 1.5 million views (but contains language that may not be safe for the workplace), shows the yellow hybrid hypercar racing with reckless abandon against a white Porsche 991 GT3 through the swanky Los Angeles neighborhood. The Ferrari is shown scraping its chin spoiler on the road before pulling back into the driveway (alongside a black Bugatti Veyron) with smoke billowing out its engine bay. Neither of the European exotics appear to show much regard for traffic laws, running stop signs as they speed through a residential area. The Ferrari appears to be wearing Qatari plates, while the Porsche does not appear to be carrying plates at all – just some racing decals on the doors and hood.
According to reports, the Ferrari belongs to Sheikh Khalid, but the identities of the drivers behind the wheel of either car has not been ascertained. The Al-Thanis are known for their supercar collection, which is shipped around the world for the enjoyment of royal family members. Their signature teal and black exotics are a regular site around London.
The Beverly Hills Police Department confirmed that, when approach by officials, the driver claimed diplomatic immunity – which the driver may not actually have. “It is against a federal law for someone to claim diplomatic immunity when they don’t have it,” said police chief Dominick Rivetti. The Ferrari was not, according to reports, registered with the State Department as belonging to a credentialed diplomat. Al-Thani has since reportedly fled the country, and taken his cars with him.
“Shisha, what’s all this Fourth of July stuff? What is the Fourth of July?”
“It’s a birthday! It’s the birthday of the United States of America!”
Have you ever read the Declaration of Independence? It is an extraordinary document.
Happy Birthday, United States of America!
The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.