Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

News Fatigue

I had a group of women delegates from a variety of countries, some were elected officials, all were active in their countries. It was a fast-paced visit, with many meetings at colleges, with groups and with activists, and by the third day, we knew each other well.

At lunch, as I often do, I asked them what surprised them most about their time in this country.

“The news!” the representative from Australia said, without hesitation. “Your news is so exciting! In our country we have news, but nothing so exciting as in your country. Sometimes we don’t even pay any attention, because nothing that exciting is happening. Here, something is happening all the time, and you get glued to your television.”

The others chimed in, stating similar opinions. They talked about how the election had affected women in their own countries, how the shock resonated still.

AdventureMan and I just got back from two weeks visiting a wonderful part of our country, the four corners, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Much of the time, we had no service on our phones and woeful wifi in our rooms. We were unconnected. It was, frankly, wonderful.

This current president likes attention. He creates drama. Other presidents get down to the hard work of leading and working their agenda through congress, he attempts to unite a diverse population behind him. This president does what he pleases, and says what he will, with no regard for his position. He claims to be a very smart man, and yet he has a pattern of saying very stupid things, and behaving in a disorderly manner. It’s like watching a disaster about to happen. It’s riveting, but you reach a point where you say “enough!” We were relieved to be disconnected.

And now we are back for the busiest and most event-filled news week so far. Arrgh.

(I will write up the trip as soon as I can upload my photos. My computer says I don’t have enough space to store all the photos I took, so we are working a solution . . . )

Yesterday, we saw this bumper sticker:  Elect a clown, expect a circus.

This is America. I am legally allowed to say these things about our leader. 🙂

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May 19, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Cross Cultural, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Leadership, Living Conditions, News, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Rants, Road Trips, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Women's Issues | , | Leave a comment

Please Call 646-781-7061

This morning we got another phone call from the “IRS” saying it was our final notice that they were filing a suit against us.  We are actually in pretty good contact with the IRS ourselves, and this scam phone call doesn’t even give our hearts a tiny flutter.

 

But it does make me angry, thinking of the vulnerable people who may panic, who may fall for this and call them back, who may even, in all good faith, believe that this is the way the IRS operates and end up sending them money.

 

Those of you who have time on your hands might want to call the number and tell them what you think. If you are an IRS official, even better. People who prey on other people for their livelihood need to find another way to earn a living.

February 1, 2017 Posted by | Communication, Crime, Lies, Money Management, Rants, Scams | | 1 Comment

Palais Medina and Spa in Fes, Morocco

We were delighted to get to our hotel in Fes, the Palais Medina and Spa Hotel. Our room was very comfortable, but my shoes were muddy from Volubilis, and I forgot to take a photo of the room because I really, really needed to wash my shoes off and hope they would dry by the next day as we hike around Fes.  It was very large, very beautiful, had a seating area and a huge bathroom. The bed was marvelous.

 

The Hotel had some quirks. As we were about to board the elevator, others from our ship were getting off and saying “We are NOT going to stay here!” and we wondered what that was all about. On our floor, the hallway was so dimly lit that we struggled to figure out where the card went into the door. But the room was lovely, comfortable, quiet, and it had a wonderful view.

 

We hurried down to dinner, seeing a sign that said “group dining” we knew where to go.

 

(I didn’t take this photo; I lifted it from the hotel website, but it looks like the room we stayed in)

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From the elevator area into the lobby area:

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View at night from our balcony looking left

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View early in morning looking out

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More view. It really was a lovely room.

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This has to be one of the worst experiences of the tour, tied with trying to get through Charles DeGualle to catch our Atlanta flight. The dining room was chaos.

“Grab a place, quickly; they are already starting to take the food away!” one fellow passenger urged us. We found places with friends, then went to search the inevitable buffet. There were still plenty of salad-y things, but entree pickings were slim. People in this hotel were elbowing one another out of the way, as if they had never seen food before, and this food was not worth elbowing anyone out of the way. It was buffet food, and the message it sent me was “this hotel takes groups because we have to in order to stay afloat, but we hate groups.” Dinner was purely awful. I can’t even remember what we found to eat, but except for a pumpkin soup, it was not good and not memorable food except for being not-good.

You’d think it would be hard to screw up breakfast, but breakfast was worse. They had those two little coffee maker things, and long lines waiting for both tea and coffee. Worse – there were no coffee cups! Not one! After a while a few showed up, and what happened when fewer coffee cups than coffee drinkers were available showed us just how very thin the veneer of civilization is. This was our experience at this ultra-first-class hotel. Horrors!

Lesson learned: I did spot a restaurant separate from the group dining restaurant. Knowing now what I know, I would choose to pay for a good Moroccan meal at the private-dining restaurant. Morocco just isn’t that expensive, and Moroccan cuisine is delicious, worth paying for! I would never settle for a mediocre meal, paid for as part of our tour, just because it was paid for. Life is too short!

 

On the other hand, it was late, we had a long day, I still needed to make sure my shoes were cleaned, and we just wanted to grab a bite and go. This was a nice hotel, but not a stellar experience.

December 27, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Quality of Life Issues, Rants, Restaurant, Travel, Values | , , | Leave a comment

The Hunting Ground: Campus Rape Victims Speak Out in New Movie

 

From AOL News via Sports Illustrated

When I lived in Kuwait and Qatar, I was appalled by the way rapes were treated, it was like this huge wave of abductions and violations, and nothing was done. As it turns out, things are changing a lot slower in my own country than I thought. This new film, The Hunting Ground, is by the same person who documented violence and rape in the US military, spurring then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, a truly decent man, to put the fear of God into the military leaders who were covering up the many rapes and blaming the victims. We have the same problem on college campuses.

 

There is only one cure. We have to raise our sons to respect women. We have to continue raising the bar for equality in our country until women have equal access to jobs, health treatment, legal proceedings, etc. Films like The Hunting Ground are painful, and at the same time, help us to face, and to overcome our societal short comings.

I love it that this film is “giving voice to those who have no voices;” that these courageous women speaking out have bravely named their rapists and described their circumstances. It can’t be comfortable, but it is their right. I am proud that they are not intimidated by fear of the ‘blame the victim’ mentality they have endured on their college campuses. When did colleges and universities begin placing money-making and winning teams before the well-being of their students?

New film gives chilling account of sexual assault on college campuses

 

BY JEFF BENEDICT

Sexual assaults on college campuses have reached alarming levels and the issue has drawn the attention of Congress and even President Obama himself. The latest research indicates that one in five college women will be sexually assaulted and as many as 90% of reported assaults are acquaintance rapes. It is believed that more than 100,000 college students will be sexually assaulted during the current school year. Nowhere is the deck stacked more against sexual assault victims than in college athletics. In just the last few years alone there have been cases at Florida StateMichiganOregonVanderbilt andMissouri.

All of this is a backdrop to a harrowing new film that premiers in theaters on Friday in New York City and Los Angeles. The Hunting Ground is a jarring exposé that shines a bright light on the epidemic number of sexual assaults taking place on college campuses each year.

The Hunting Ground features a group of survivors who faced harsh retaliation and harassment for reporting that they had been raped. The film focuses on institutional cover-ups and the brutal backlash against survivors at campuses such as HarvardYale,Dartmouth, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USC and the University ofCalifornia-Berkeley, among others. 

Some of the most vexing stories featured in the film involve women who were assaulted by athletes. While The Hunting Ground isn’t all about sports, the most dramatic moment in the film occurs two-thirds of the way through when the woman who accused former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston—who after a strong showing in last week’s Combine is projected by many to be the No. 1 pick in this spring’s NFL draft—appears and tells her story publicly for the first time. The woman, who is named in the film but SI.com has chosen to protect her identity, is shown on camera and gives her life-changing account of what she says happened the night in December 2012 she left a Tallahassee bar with Winston.

Photo: Getty Images

A high school honor student who planned to attend medical school, the woman is articulate and attractive. She looks like the girl next door, a person you would trust to babysit your children. It is uncomfortable to watch—yet impossible to look away—when she describes being beneath Winston on his bathroom floor, repeatedly telling him “no” before being physically overpowered. 

“We’re grateful it’s the first time people will get to hear [her] story,” said The Hunting Ground director Kirby Dick. “It’s her first-hand testimony. Up to this point it hasn’t been in a public space.”

The woman’s parents also appear in the film. Her father talks about driving to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital with his wife to be with their daughter hours after the incident.

There is nothing easy about retelling these stories for the world to see. But the attorney for the woman who says she was raped by Winston, John Clune, said his client decided to break her silence in the film because she felt it was the right venue to tell her story.

“The film was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Clune said. “The work by these filmmakers is nothing less than groundbreaking. It took tremendous courage, but our client and all of the incredibly brave women in the film have advanced the cause of rape survivors everywhere.” 

The Hunting Ground also examines a sexual assault accusation against a Notre Damefootball player in 2010. Tom Seeberg, whose daughter committed suicide after she says she was sexually assaulted by a Fighting Irish starter, tells a heartbreaking account of school officials thwarting the investigation into his daughter’s complaint. A former Notre Dame police officer reveals that he and his colleagues were not allowed to approach or question an athlete on athletic properties. 

The film also mentions rape cases involving football players at Missouri and Vanderbilt, as well as basketball players at Oregon.

The testimonials of rape survivors are wrapped between raw footage that is both gut-wrenching and disturbing. A small mob of unruly fraternity pledges at Yale are captured on film outside a freshman dorm for women, chanting: “No means yes. Yes means anal.” All the while a guy with a bullhorn is shouting: “Louder.” 

In another scene we see drunken frat boys spilling out of a house where there is a sign out front that says: “THANKS FOR YOUR DAUGHTERS.” It’s enough to outrage any parent with a daughter heading off to college. 

The film is directed by Dick and produced by Amy Ziering, the team behind the Oscar-nominated film The Invisible War, which revealed systemic sexual assaults and cover-ups within the U.S. military. That movie prompted Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to announce significant policy changes and inspired the passage of the Military Justice Improvement Act. 

Dick and Ziering started looking into the situation on college campuses shortly after the release of The Invisible War. “We were astonished that the problem was as serious in higher education as it was in the military,” Dick said. 

Full disclosure: I appear in The Hunting Ground as an expert. Two of the cases in the film—Lizzy Seeberg’s alleged assault at Notre Dame and running back Derrick Washington’s sexual assault of a student at the University of Missouri—are featured in my book The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football, which I wrote with 60 Minutes correspondent Armen Keteyian. 

Some of my research is also featured in the film, including the statistic that student-athletes are responsible for 19% of the reported sexual assaults on campus, despite the fact that they comprise just 3.3% of the male student population. Those figures arose from a first-of-its-kind study I conducted with researchers at the University of Massachusetts in the mid-90s when we were granted access to judicial affairs records and police reports at colleges across the country. 

Photo: Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Over the past 20 years I have researched hundreds of cases of sexual assault involving athletes. During that time I’ve interviewed countless sexual assault victims. The thing I found most telling was what prosecutor Willie Meggs did not say in the film. Meggs was asked if he thought a rape took place in Winston’s apartment. It was a perfect opportunity for the man who chose not to prosecute Winston to say no.  Instead, he said something “bad” happened in that apartment that night. He just didn’t have sufficient evidence to prove it. 

That’s not unusual. That’s typical. Only about 20% of rapes reported to the police in the U.S. are prosecuted. Yet at least 92% of reported sexual assault claims are found to be true. The problem is that date rape cases are very difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, especially when alcohol is involved and the incident occurs in the perpetrator’s apartment, dorm or hotel room. The doubts raised by those factors are amplified when the accused is a star athlete.

The greatest achievement of The Hunting Ground is that it empowers rape victims to team up with each other and come forward. It’s fair to say that for the first time in many years, women like Jameis Winston’s alleged victim have powerful allies. 

By the time the NFL draft takes place in May, the film will be in theaters around the country, the name of Winston’s accuser will be everywhere and more details about the night in question will likely come out. All of this brings to mind the legal maxim caveat emptor, which essentially is a warning that means let the buyer beware. 

Jason Licht, the general manager for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ultimately has to decide whether to use the first pick on Winston. He’s on record saying: “This is the most important pick, potentially, in the history of the franchise.” 

Memo to Licht: Watch The Hunting Ground.

The ramifications in this instance are equally big for the NFL, whose image took a beating over the last year after Ray Rice was caught on tape knocking out his then-fiancé in an elevator. The controversy erupted after Commissioner Roger Goodell imposed a two-game suspension without bothering to obtain and watch the video.

Memo to the Commissioner: Watch The Hunting Ground. 

No matter what happens with Winston, the film succeeds in its main goal: to shine a light on sexual assault on college campuses. It’s an important issue that isn’t going away, and if something drastic isn’t done immediately, it will only get worse.

Jeff Benedict is a lawyer and has written five books on athletes and violence against women, including Public Heroes, Private Felons: Athletes and Violence Against Women, and Out of Bounds: Inside the NBA’s Culture of Rape, Violence and Crime.

 

February 26, 2015 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Crime, Cultural, Health Issues, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Lies, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Rants, Relationships, Values | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

219 Girls Remain Missing; Nigerian Villages Beset by Boko Haram

Today, on AOL News, a report on the ravaging of two villages in Nigeria by Boko Haram, with satellite images showing the carnage and destruction as survivors tally more than 2,000 dead. The craven Nigerian Army claims the losses are more like 200.

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Meanwhile, of the almost 300 girls kidnapped a year ago by Boko Haram, 219 are still missing. Those who returned, returned by escaping. No one rescued them. The remainder are likely “married” to their captors, slaves to the household and many of them are probably pregnant. To be pregnant by a Boko Haram soldier creates a severe social problem if they are ever freed or rescued – the family cannot marry off an impure daughter. The children of these unions face a desolate future, wherever they are.

The world watches when terrorists wreak havoc in Paris, thousands crush the cretins who kill in the name of God, but no-one lifts a finger to help these small villages in Northeast Nigeria, beset by destructive vermin.

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Large areas of Nigerian towns attacked by Islamic extremists were razed to the ground in a widespread campaign of destruction, according to satellite images released Thursday by Amnesty International.
Amnesty International said the detailed images of Baga and Doron Baga, taken before and after the attack earlier this month, show that more than 3,700 structures were damaged or completely destroyed.

The images were taken Jan. 2 and Jan. 7, Amnesty International said. Boko Haram fighters seized a military base in Baga on Jan. 3 and, according to witnesses, killed hundreds of civilians in the ensuing days.

Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for the human rights group, said in a statement that the assault on the two towns was the largest and most destructive of all the Boko Haram assaults analyzed by Amnesty International.

The group said interviews with witnesses as well as local government officials and human rights activists suggest hundreds of civilians were shot; last week, the human rights group noted reports of as many as 2,000 dead. The Nigerian military has cited a figure of 150 dead, including slain militants.
Nigeria’s home-grown Boko Haram group drew international condemnation when its fighters kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a boarding school in northeast Chibok town last year. Dozens escaped but 219 remain missing.

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You can find much more information in this article on BBC News/Africa.

January 15, 2015 Posted by | Africa, Bureaucracy, Community, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Nigeria, Political Issues, Rants, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Pensacola Parking Hall of Shame

I won’t even disguise the license plate on this one. In a very busy parking lot, this hog took up FOUR spaces.

 

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September 4, 2014 Posted by | Living Conditions, Pensacola, Pet Peeves, Rants | Leave a comment

Blinded by the Light . . .

Yesterday I had my annual eye exam. This is the South. I could hear them all talking in the back, talking about personal things, and OTHER PEOPLE! I used to run a library, and one of the very very first things I would tell my library workers was NO PERSONAL CONVERSATIONS when we had the library open. Keep your private life private! I’m not all about the library being quiet, but I am about it being not-annoying. Hearing gossip, hearing details of your last medical procedure, hearing about Maizie, bless her heart, who just lost another husband – these things are not my business, nor the library customer and are not appropriate for a discussion where the public may be listening in, even when they don’t want to be.

OK, OK, I know these are dated professional standards, but I can’t help it. Please. Do not burden me with overhearing your latest disaster unless we are friends and sitting down together over a cup of coffee.

At 30 minutes past my appointment time, I went back to see if my paperwork had been misplaced only to be told they were just a little behind and I would be taken soon. Fifteen minutes later I was in the office.

Now, when they dilate your eyes, you can still drive yourself home. It was a little bright, but I managed. Things are a little blurry.

Fast forward to last night, driving home, WOW. Every streetlight, every headlight, even the beautiful thin crescent moon had a spiky halo. It was like I had that sparkle lens you can put on your camera, only this was on my eyes.

starry-night

This morning when I got up, I thought it would be all over, but my eyes are still dilated, and still sensitive. They must have given me a wallop of a dose.

But for the drive home, it was all Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds . . . it was so incredibly beautiful, it felt sort of surreal.

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April 4, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Bureaucracy, Cultural, Customer Service, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Privacy, Rants | , | Leave a comment

“I Make Three Times What She Makes and She Wants To Talk About Chore Charts?!”

The man in the next booth was pushing all my buttons. The truth is, we don’t want to hear about his personal life. I don’t want to hear about anyone’s personal lives unless it is me and one of my oldest bestest friends, and we keep our voices down. Private lives are PRIVATE!

He is talking with someone, maybe his co-worker, and his entire monologue is about his failing relationship with his wife. I really don’t want to hear this.

And then he says “I make three times what she makes, and she wants to talk about chore charts???” and please, I need a pat on the back, I didn’t say anything, I didn’t get up and clock him, I didn’t even blink. AdventureMan laughed, he knew I was choking mad on the inside.

It doesn’t matter what you make, big man. If you are both working, you share the household chores. You both live there. You clean up your own mess, you pick up your own dirty clothes and put them in the laundry basket. You rinse your own dishes. You change the baby, you drive your son to his soccer game. It’s called teamwork.

Sure, I totally get division of labor. What I don’t get is this attitude of entitlement; like the fifties are long gone and we all work and we all share the duties of home and children and making it all work out at the end of the day. It’s never giving 50% – 50% – It’s always giving at least 75% – 75%.

We call it the Well of Good Will. If we were perfect people we wouldn’t need it, but we are people who screw up. We need mercy. We need forgiveness. So you give a little extra every day and hope that on a day when you fall short, there is enough on deposit in the well of good will that you can get a pass on your shortcomings for today.

If you are having a problem with your primary relationship, have a straight talk with that person. It doesn’t do any good to bad-mouth your spouse to a co-worker, and it certainly is not amusing to those of us forced to overhear. Ugh.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Family Issues, Marriage, Pet Peeves, Privacy, Rants, Relationships, Women's Issues | 2 Comments

ARCO Gas Station: Something Doesn’t Feel Right

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Just before leaving Seattle for the airport, I filled my gas tank. I went to an ARCO station, opened my tank lid and went to swipe my card when I saw a sign saying everyone must pay inside.

Annoying. It’s so convenient when you can just swipe your card at the point of service. I go inside and the Ethiopian woman at the counter asks me how many gallons I want.

I said “I need to fill the tank; I don’t know how many gallons. Swipe my card and then I will come in and sign the charge receipt when we know how much it is.”

She said that’s not how it works, they need to charge me and then they will give me back change. My bad. At that point I should have walked. I should have gone to the next gas station. I didn’t.

So I guessed 15 gallons, and she charged me $60. My car didn’t even take nine gallons. When I went inside, she gave me back $26.81 in cash, not refunded to my credit card. That is just such a strange way to do business.

It bothered me. What bothered me more was that when I got home and looked at my receipt, I had been charged $61.00. It’s only a dollar more, but the cost of my gas ($33.19) and my change back (26.81) add up to $60. Why was I charged $61?

Here is my dirty suspicion – she thought for $1. no one will bother complaining. If you read my previous entry, you can see why – my life is busy in its own way, but other people’s lives are busy in their ways. Who is going to made a big deal over $1.00 overcharge?

I don’t have time to deal with it right now and I will hold on to the receipts to see if I want to spend my precious time later trying to make it right. Or will I just figure my time is more precious than arguing over $1. in which case the scam works every time?

If this was a $1. charge for something, I don’t see it anywhere on the receipts. Do you? Why would they charge me for the inconvenience of buying gas in such a convoluted way?

I will NEVER go to that gas station again.

Second thought: Maybe I should just think of it as a charitable contribution?

August 15, 2013 Posted by | Customer Service, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Rants, Scams, Seattle, Travel | 4 Comments

Air Rage and the Boeing 767

As soon as I got on the plane, I could see the dramatic potential. The planes charge for baggage, unless you have elite status. More and more people are using carry-ons, and there is an exact size. The flight attendants are quick to tell people to put the bags in the ovehead compartment wheels first, and most passengers are already trained to put them in that way. So what happens when you board your flight and your optimal sized bag does NOT fit?

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What I saw happen is that the first passengers to board put their suitcases in sideways. Then, as people board for whom there is no room in the overhead containers, they have to move their bags to places where there is room. Chaos, as people try to pass one another going opposite directions in the aisles, carrying luggage too big for the overhead cabinet.

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Boeing is a Seattle company, and I’ve always had a lot of loyalty to Boeing. I cannot understand, not for a heartbeat, taking away that extra two or three inches that allowed bags to go in wheels first. It’s dumb, it makes passengers angry and resentful. It makes you hate the airlines.

August 10, 2013 Posted by | ExPat Life, Rants, Technical Issue, Travel | , , | Leave a comment