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Afghani Interpreters Begin Arriving

First group of evacuated Afghan interpreters arrives in US

from BBC News

(This morning, Adventureman’s heart is lighter. He is a Vietnam vet, and for many years has carried the guilt of our country having left behind so many people who worked with our forces so loyally, and suffered terribly when we pulled out. While we believe Afghanistan was not a winnable war (just look at history), he had anxiety that once again we would leave our allies behind.

We have a soft spot for Afghanistan. While we worked with the Department of State, way back before the Taliban, Afghanistan was considered by many to be a great post. The Afghani people were educated, and had a long and fascinating history. Afghani food is delicious. Day trips around Afghanistan opened people’s eyes to new ways of thinking and doing things. Even the Afghan clothing was comfortable and loose, perfect for the great heat of the summers. Friends who had served in Afghanistan shared wonderful stories and memories, and would gather for “Afghan Night” where they would prepare food for 100 of their best friends, of which we were honored to be included.

So to read that the first flight of interpreters and their families have arrived gave us great hope. Hope for a new group of citizens in our country who will work hard and share the gifts of their heritage, hope for their wives and daughters who we know to be amazing women, and hopes that one day there might be an Afghani restaurant in Pensacola!)

An Afghan interpreter with the U.S. Army's 4th squadron 2d Cavalry Regiment helps to question a villager
image captionAn Afghan interpreter with the US Army seen speaking with a villager

About 200 Afghan interpreters and their families have arrived in the US – the first of a group of 2,500 Afghans being evacuated as the Taliban advances.

The interpreters are being resettled under a visa programme for those who worked with the US during the recently ended 20-year war with the Taliban.

They arrived in the early hours of Friday morning and were taken to Fort Lee military base in Virginia.

They are expected to stay there for around a week while they are processed.

In a statement, US President Joe Biden called the arrivals “a milestone” and “the first of many” as US authorities work to relocate eligible Afghans out of harm’s way.

Afghans eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) will be transported either to the US, American facilities abroad or to third countries while they finish their applications. The most recent arrivals have already completed an extensive vetting process.

On Thursday, the US Senate approved more than $1bn (£719m) to pay for the evacuations, including housing and transportation.

The bill would also loosen applicant requirements and allow for 8,000 more visas in addition to the ones already allocated for.

The Taliban have been advancing Afghanistan following a decision by Mr Biden to withdraw the remaining American troops from the country.

With those advances have come danger to those who worked alongside US troops during the two-decade conflict.

Since 2008, approximately 70,000 Afghans have been resettled in the US on an SIV .

Last week, a senior state department official said that the total number of visa applicants now stands just over 20,000. About half have yet to complete the first steps of the process.

Those yet to go through the process face potential threats in attempting to secure a visa. Mike Jason, a former US Army battalion commander who was deployed to Afghanistan, told the BBC that travelling across Taliban-controlled areas with the documentation needed for SIVs puts interpreters in “mortal danger”.

“That’s basically an entire confession that you’re an interpreter working for the Americans. We’re asking them to travel with the evidence,” he said.

Not-for-profit group No One Left Behind estimates that at least 300 Afghans or their family members have been killed for working with the US.

The Taliban were removed from power by the US-led invasion in 2001, following the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York.

Fighting between the insurgent Taliban and Afghan government forces has increased over the past two months as international troops pull out of the country.

July 31, 2021 Posted by | Afghanistan, Character, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Leadership, Political Issues, Values, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King

I love that Google does these special doodles to honor men and women who make a difference. This is their doodle for today, to honor a man who knew how to incite for all the right reasons, and to keep it peaceful. He had a vision. He had the patience to watch his vision unfold. I wish he could be here long enough to see Joe Biden’s cabinet. We’re not there, but we are learning to practice what we say we believe.

January 18, 2021 Posted by | Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, Heritage, Leadership, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Values | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Day Like No Other

I headed for the Y this morning, surprised I was awake and eager – I’d been up late the night before following the senatorial elections in Georgia, finally giving up when I couldn’t stay awake any longer. When I got to the Y, I found all the lanes filled, more than filled, and people waiting. In a state with one of the highest COVID rates in the nation and one of the highest death rates, and a state rated #50 in all 50 states in the health care for the elderly (aaack, I choke even to write this word, which seems to apply to me, but I do not feel “elderly”) I cannot stay in a place where a lot of unmasked people are breathing heavily as they exercise. I came home and walked a mile, then went on with my day.

I fell in love with a beautiful heron.

And his friends:

What a day it was. Two Democrats elected in Georgia, swinging the Senate to a 50-50 split, with Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker. As I see it, it is a challenge and a win-win. If this country is going to heal, we have to work together. We have to try to see things from the other’s point of view, and we have to find ways to compromise to achieve the greater good. We have so much work to do just to remedy the great slough of the last four years, work in the fields of justice, environment, health care, infrastructure, diplomatic relations, oh my, so much work to do in so many areas. It’s going to take all of us working together.

So as we are eating lunch and Mitch McConnell is on CNN making an astonishing speech supporting accepting the electoral college votes for Joe Biden, so astonishing it caught our full attention, and then all hell broke loose. There was a rallying speech by our Fearless Leader, who assured his followers once again that the election had been stolen and he was going to march with them (he didn’t) to the Capital where the senators and congresspeople were meeting, and they were to show how strong they were, and not be weak.

We watched in horror as this mob headed to the Capitol and knocked over the barriers and FOUGHT WITH THE POLICE. these followers of the Fearless one who calls himself the Law and Order President. Oh the shame of it! We watched as they broke windows, and lookie-lou’d, phone cameras in every hand documenting their invasion. We watched a sole policeman trying to staunch the mob as they headed for the law-makers chambers. The horror. The shame. I think all America was watching these hooligans with utter horror.

Not the brightest bulbs in the chandeliers; the US government offices are littered with cameras and state-of-the art facial recognition sortware. For the rest of their lives they will be instantly recognized as yahoos and insurrectionists in their FBI files accessible to every sheriff’s office and police department in America. What utter fools.

What did they think they were going to be able to accomplish? I suspect it was not a question of thinking; they were part of a mob and just sort of mindlessly participated not even realizing what they were doing. The last thing they would accomplish was overturning the will of the people, those voters who defeated the sitting president by more than 7 million votes.

As I write this, the Senate and House are meeting again to verify the electoral college votes and probably will agree to research better, more efficient ways to secure the vote in the future, maybe find more standardized ways to provide equal access to voting to all Americans, and to think of ways to more efficiently tally the vote. Joe Biden is safe. He will be inaugurated January 20th. And Kamala Harris will be one of the most important Vice-Presidents in history, providing the tie breaking vote when Democrats and Republicans fail to agree, but even better, working in the background to find ways to get lawmakers to craft legislation that will serve the people of both parties. I believe this.

At the end of this extraordinary day, I looked out and saw this:

Is that not beautiful?

I believe that out of the most horrendous circumstances, great good can come. I have seen this in my own life. People can change. Lives can change. We have choices, and sometimes it takes a good shaking up to show us how we can make better choices. I have hope that today has opened eyes, and opened hearts, and that it has opened a possibility that we can find a way to work together to accomplish great things.

Nancy Pelosi is talking about today being a day of Epiphany, a time of change and healing. My Moslem friends would say “insh’allah.” God willing.

January 6, 2021 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Cultural, Events, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Political Issues, Social Issues, Sunsets | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be Still My Heart

The Dow Jones Industrial average just went over 30,000 for the first time, ever, skyrocketing on the prospect of a peaceful transition, some predictability taking place of our four years of chaos, and some civility.

I am watching Joe Biden intruduce his new cabinet nomineees. Everyone is masked, and between each speaker an aide is wiping down the surfaces on th podium.

The words they speak thrill my heart:

Service

Diplomacy

Foreign Policy/ National Security / Allies

Respect

Opportunity

Telling Truth to Power

Unite America; Belief in America’s Ideals – Democracy, Rule of Law

Commitment

Reflecting the best of our nation

Truth, Facts, Science

There are women at the table. There are brown people at the table. There are humble, talented white men at the table. My heart sings. They are warriors, looking realistically at the challenges ahead and ready to do whatever they need to do to rebuild the American dream for ALL citizens.

These are people who work quietly, persistently and modestly in service to their country, and are willing to put in the hard work to achieve hard-gained successes.

I’m excited. I dream of a better tomorrow.

November 24, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Character, Cultural, Financial Issues, History, Interconnected, Leadership, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | , , | 1 Comment

Wooo HOOOO Biden / Harris!

After more than three long depressing years, slogging through a presidency of a man I find totally unworthy to be the leader of the USA and the free world, finally, a breath of hope, a breath of fresh air.

 

I applaud Joe Biden, a decent man, with the stones to choose Kamala Harris, his sole genuine challenger in the Democratic race for the nomination, who challenged his position on race, and said it hurt her personally. I applaud him for listening. I applaud him for choosing a warrior woman, an unafraid woman, whom he can trust to tell it as she sees it. My position is that a leader needs to be surrounded by people who will tell the truth as they see it, and help him / her see different perspectives.

 

And Wooo HOOOO, Kamala Harris, WARRIOR WOMAN! Tell it! I may not aways agree with you, but I trust you. I trust your integrity, I trust your work ethic, and I trust your love for the United States of America and your compassion for our peoples.

 

Go team go! Fight, team, fight! WIN, TEAM, WIN!

August 12, 2020 Posted by | Character, Cultural, Leadership, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Transparency, Values | Leave a comment

Florida Breaks All Records for COVID Cases

First, to those of you who know me and are far away, we are well.

My Mother died of COVID in Seattle, in April. It was a shock. Although she was 96, she was mentally fit, very sharp, and her mother lived to 104. We all expected Mom to break her Mom’s record.

We don’t live in the biggest hot-spot, the Miami/Dade County area far to the south and east of Pensacola. No, we are in the eighth worst hit part of Florida, and part of the 18 greatest concerns for COVID according to the study out yesterday.

No one I know here has gotten sick. Almost everyone I know has the luxury of staying home, working from home, not needing to interface with the public unnecessarily. It is stunning, however, to think that one person in ten in this area has or  has had the virus.

These graphs are not from the Florida Department of Health website. The person hired to design that website designed a great, comprehensive website to transparently share information. She was fired. She says she was fired for not agreeing to manipulate the information to make things look not so bad in Florida. Our governor is a total toady to President Trump, who is doing nothing to provide leadership to our country in fighting this pandemic, not providing comfort to those who suffer from it.

 

 

These snapshots are from her new website, which has much more accurate presentations of the situation in Florida than the official site. She, and others, gather information which may be obscure, but is available to the public, and publishes it. Her website is Florida Covid Action. She is a hero.

I live in a county where I have friends who support Trump and believe that the Democrats are over-hyping the problems for political reasons, so that Trump will lose his bid for re-election. They also believe masks are unnecessary. They don’t see any reason to socially distance. They perceive restrictions on their behavior as violations of their First Amendment rights.

So Trump has mandated our schools to open as normal – that means in August. The schools must offer an in-school option, which has many teachers frightened and/or furious. They also offer a remote school-day option, 6 hours in front of a computer, and an independent option, where a student completes a curriculum on his or her own. Those who attend school will not be required to mask or to social distance.

My grandchildren are 7 and 10. Their parents face having to choose the least bad of the three proposals. Parents all around the state are debating what to do. Many parents work, and child care is almost impossible to find and very costly. Many parents will have to send their children to school or leave them unattended and unsupervised at home.

The pediatric cases are for my county, Escambia County. The highest rate of transmission is among those 15 – 24. They’ve closed the bars, but the rate remains high, and rising. The rate of transmission among children is also rising.

I am outraged. We have handled this contagion worse that a third world country. We know masks work. We know social distancing, plus masks, plus conscientious hand-washing can flatten this curve, bring the number of cases down, and expect a rational re-opening. Nothing we have done, especially in Florida, has been rational. God help us. Lord, have mercy on us.

July 18, 2020 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Civility, Community, Cultural, Florida, Health Issues, Hygiene, Interconnected, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Safety, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Transparency, Values | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pensacola Smashes Record Corona Virus Rate

Pensacola has had a full week of record breaking cases of Corona Virus, way up from where it was when we all began to shelter in place.

With news that the leadership has decided that testing is the problem, and that the government is beginning to withdraw support for testing, the cars are lining up at the local drive-through testing station, concerned people trying to get tested before testing goes away.

So what looks worse for re-election? Dealing with the problem, or pretending the problem doesn’t exist, not dealing the the problem, and pulling funding from studying the problem?

June 26, 2020 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Community, Health Issues, Leadership, Political Issues, Social Issues | , | Leave a comment

Forty-Seven Years

“Happy Anniversary!” smiled AdventureMan as he headed for the daybed in my office. He sets his alarm, gets up and comes into the office, curls up, pulls a quilt over him and goes back to sleep. Ragnar and Uhtred, who love a warm body, trail him in, and as soon as they hear him purring (as we call it) they snuggle right up.

Tropical Storm Cristobal is on our doorstop and with the bands of the storm come periods of light rain, occasional medium rain, and from time to time, lengthy showers of intense rain, sometimes sideways rain if the winds are blowing hard.

We still aren’t eating in restaurants, but I think when he wakes up I will suggest we talk with our son and his wife to see if they might like pizzas today, with us, from Ozone Pizza. While there are a couple expensive restaurants I like, my preference for celebration is always reliably good food, tasty food, and Ozone is tasty, reliably good, and has something to make every one of the six of us happy. On a rainy Sunday, this seems like a relaxed, family option.

The actual move is still stalled. We live our normal lives, waiting for the log jam to break. First, our son and his wife have to be able to close on their house, which is tied up in a legal glitch we expect to be soon solved. They move. We have the bedrooms and hallway painted, then we move. Sigh. These things just take time.

Meanwhile, I want to share something special with you – this was done by 8 downtown Pensacola religious leaders who years ago committed to meeting regularly for breakfast, getting to know and support one another. Their established relationship enabled them to come together to share their commitment to making Pensacola a better place for all races:

June 7, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Character, Civility, Cultural, Eating Out, Family Issues, Interconnected, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Spiritual | , , | 2 Comments

Amazing Women Visiting Pensacola

When I first came to Pensacola, a woman at our church who is very welcoming and kind to newcomers told me she “wanted to find just the right place for me to plug in.” A couple of her suggestions were not exactly what I wanted, but then she introduced me to Jena Melancon, the founder and director of the Gulf Coast Citizens Diplomacy Council, and I found my niche.

Jena is an amazing woman. She has created this organization. She has a data base of resources that allow her to tailor visits for foreign delegates so that they can meet the needs of their missions – Election Transparency, Entrepreneurship, Environmental Protection, Leading an NGO, Military and Civilian Community Cooperation, Domestic Violence, Creating Fair Policies, Programs for Enriching Disadvantaged Children – you name it, Jena can create a program that will enrich their understanding from an American perspective.

At the same time, Pensacolians who come into contact with the delegates sent by the Department of State find that their lives are also enriched. Many times they, too, learn something new and unexpected. Both groups benefit.

Jena also has a group in GCCDC that studies Great Decisions, and creates events throughout the year for membership participation. Members of the Gulf Coast Citizens Diplomacy Council can volunteer in Jena’s office, can host dinners for delegates and have some one-on-one time learning about customs in another part of the world, can sponsor a Pensacola child in an international exchange, can host teenagers here on an international exchange, or attend the famous Mint Julep party in Spring. Many in the GCCDC are also resources; the exchange of ideas bringing inspiration to both sides.

This week, I was honored to be able to work with a group of Women in Leadership, women from Chad, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Sudan. Each and every one of the women was a hero in her own right, making life better in their communities by stepping into leadership roles. Rehab, above, from the Sudan, works to empower women and to make the laws show greater equality in the treatment of men and women.

 

CPT Aseel is a police chief in Iraq.

Maki, from Chad, works to prohibit child marriages and female genital mutilation.

Mariam, from Saudi Arabia, is a high level journalist in the Saudi media industry, accepting honorary citizenship from the City of Pensacola city council chair Sherri Myers.

Wasfiya is a minister of parliament in Iraq.

Ola is the delegate from Jordan.

I was honored to spend three days of my life with these women, and with Jena, and with other inspirational women of Pensacola at the Women in Leadership conference at UWF.

Here is most of the group with Judy Bense, President Emeritus of UWF, at the closing of the Women in Leadership conference, 2020. Life can be amazing when so many women of talent and confidence gather together to inspire one another.

March 3, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Leadership, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Thought from A Word A Day

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:

If ever the time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.

Samuel Adams, revolutionary (27 Sep 1722-1803)

 

I love A Word a Day, and it was one of the first websites I would recommend for my students aspiring to speak English well. I also recommend it for English speaking students who will be taking college entrance exams – vocabulary is a BIG part of succeeding on those tests.

 

He also includes a pertinent thought, which I often find provokes reflection, as does today’s.

September 27, 2019 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Leadership, Lies, Political Issues, Values, Words | Leave a comment