Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

USA: Democracy in Decline

On Sunday, the organist played “America the Beautiful” in a minor key. It reflected what many of us are experiencing. We love our country. We hate what we are seeing.

An excerpt from an article from the Washington Post about declining democracies in the world, this part focused on the USA, land that I love:

 

Democracy declined precipitously in the United States

The United States fell 24 places in the country ranking on liberal democracy over the past two years, from seventh in 2015 to 31st in 2017. When we compare the United States’ score in 2017 with its average score over the past 10 years, the drop is precipitous and unprecedented.


Liberal democracy in the United States: changes from the 10-year average.

Experts lowered their estimates of democracy in the United States because they began to be skeptical that the U.S. Congress will rein in executive overreach. Similarly, experts lost faith that the opposition party can contribute to overseeing, investigating or otherwise checking the majority party. The U.S. executive branch was assessed as showing less respect for the Constitution and compliance with the judiciary, two indicators that the judicial branch can restrain the executive.

For all four indicators, the score for the United States declined. The downward trend in the United States is much worse than in other countries. In terms of government compliance with decisions of the Supreme Court, the United States used to rank among the top countries of the world — but has now declined to No. 48.

I remember living in Kuwait, self-censoring my blog entries so I wouldn’t be expelled from the country, even blogging under a pseudonym. I think of the ICE officer who resigned, and was visited by law enforcement as he gave an interview to national news explaining why he (and others) were quitting ICE, disgusted and disheartened by the un-American practices they were being forced to engage in to export “illegals.” Yes, we still have freedom of speech, but we also look over our shoulders, now, never sure what new low will strike next.

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July 5, 2018 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | | Leave a comment

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum

“She shows us the same things,” you might complain, and again I say “I write this blog for myself and for the love of writing about the things I love. You are welcome, all are welcome, and if you are not happy, you are welcome to go elsewhere!”

I’ve lived an odd life, a life I would’t trade with anyone. I grew up in Alaska, on an island with a lot of native Americans as my fellow students in my little elementary school. I grew up with Alaskan art, Indian artifacts, masks, baskets, and the hand made costumes, red and black images, sparked with trimming of white shirt buttons. I went to high school in Germany, traveling far and wide with my family or with friends through that continent, visiting more than a few churches and museums, even making special trips to see an exhibit or two.

Then a big change, life in the Middle East and Africa, where I learned to see things through a very different set of eyes and experiences, but something strange started happening, as I noted the differences, I could also see amazing similarities.

I love women’s handwork. I love the nomadic textiles, often made on very narrow looms that could be mostly a couple sticks and yarn from sheep or goats you’ve raised and slaughtered, died with whatever you could get your hands on. And, oddly, the weavings and patterns from Native American baskets and weavings have a lot in common with weavings from the Middle East, West Asia (the ‘Stans) and Africa. There is a love of working with black, white and red, for example, and a similarity to the structure of the animals, even when the animals themselves differ.

If you are interested in the work women do with their hands, you never lack for conversation wherever you go. There are always groups where women are teaching one another new techniques. I’ve met wonderful, creative women in Germany and in Kuwait and in Tunisia, all finding new and innovative ways to create, and also exploring preservation of early and ancient techniques.

So this Museum, the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum was richly rewarding for both AdventureMan and myself; it was rich in history, in interviews and movies showing early salmon runs, for example, and interviews with early Native Oregonians. It was also rich in exploring the techniques of early basket making and cooking techniques, preservation of salmon by drying and salting, etc. We spent hours in this museum, and we heartily recommend that you do, too 🙂 It is also a very gorgeous museum, rich in sensory impact, unforgettable.

I will show you pictures, and every now and then I will put in a little explanation.

Below is a dugout canoe, created from one very large cedar tree trunk, carved out by hand

There were really Direwolfs? GOT didn’t make them up?

Look at the motifs on these baskets! African? Azerbaijani? Kazakh? Kuwaiti?

For grinding chestnuts into paste, then the paste is cooked into a kind of meal like oatmeal. The morter and pestle is the same in so many places.

The round cooking stones, heated in fires, dropped into the meal, fished out once they start losing their heat, washed, reheated and put in again until the meal reaches a boil, all in this tightly woven basket.


Activity in the Children’s exploration area

We love the creativity and persistence of humans who preserve our heritage and traditions for future generations. It is particularly delightful when the preservation is in a museum conceived and manifested with beautiful elements and natural materials.

June 4, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Afghanistan, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Character, Cultural, Education, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel, Values, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

You Gotta Love the Mormons

I am not Mormon. Yes, I say good things about the Mormons, and that is because the Mormon people I know are smart, savvy, and hard working. They make time in their life in a structured way, to take care of those around them. They feed the poor, they welcome the stranger, they clothe the naked, they visit the prisoner, they take care of the widow and the orphans – all the things we are told are important to do in order to show the world our love for God and our love for one another. The Mormons have made a science of it, including teaching and learning foreign languages, and sending their young out into the world to spread the word, but also giving them an opportunity to develop a broader perspective, another point of view, living in a foreign country.

AdventureMan and I have a food-truck-turned-settled restaurant we have recently found and love, Taqueria El Asador, on North Davis in a Shell station. You’ll know it by the cars parked all around it as people get to know just how good the food is. My favorite is a burrito Campechano, and AdventureMan loves the Pollo Platter.

It’s outdoors. Mostly we take out. While I was waiting for our order, I saw this among all the ads looking for people to frame, do masonry, or to clean:

We are surrounded by immigrants. Many of the workers are in paint stained clothing, many are in overalls, many in scrubs from the nearby hospital and clinics. The prices are reasonable, and it’s lunchtime. This “ad” is in Spanish, offering free English lessons to those who want to learn English, and how else are you going to get ahead, to fit into your new home, get a better job? The Mormon church is giving exactly the kind of hand-up that will help them find the better life for themselves and their families, and it is offering this tool for free.

Someone more cynical might think they are just trying to convert more Mormons, but anyone who is in the helping business knows that helping doesn’t mean you will get an anticipated response. I would be willing to bet, however, that the kindness doesn’t end there, that the Mormon church has structures in place to help the English learners with clothing, maybe with better jobs, maybe with people who can explain customs, take them to interviews, explain benefits, etc. I would be willing to bet that it isn’t the services offered, but the pure kindness behind those offers that can change hearts. I may not be Mormon, but I can admire the way they do God’s work.

December 30, 2017 Posted by | Charity, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Faith, Food, Interconnected, Language, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Work Related Issues | , | 2 Comments

“They’ve Got a Bit of Swagger Now”

I am sitting and drinking coffee with my friend who comes in and helps me keep my house clean, and we are sipping silently, still stunned by the unexpected win of Donald Trump.

 

“We have more police rolling through my neighborhood now,” she begins, and then takes it in a direction I never anticipated, “They have their windows half down, so we can see them, see their faces, and they look at us and they don’t smile.”

I take that in.

 

“Sort of like ‘I’ve got my eye on you?’ ” I ask.

 

“Sort of like ‘We OWN you now’ ‘, she responded. “They’ve got a bit of swagger now.”

 

She owns her own house. She works several jobs to keep her youngest son in a good Christian private school. Her children, some grown, are solid members of their communities, good sons, good daughters. It’s up to her to put food on the table, pay the property taxes, and keep up with all of life’s normal expenses. She works really hard.

 

“What do you worry about the most?” I ask her.

 

“I’m trying to figure our what I am going to do about health care,” she responds. “You know that’s the first thing that is going to go away.”

 

Health care. One of the most basic needs for all people. Blood pressure medication. Emergency care. I remember. I saw it all when I worked with the homeless and working poor; medical care was often sacrificed in the interest of more immediate needs, like keeping the car running so you could get to your job.

 

I wanted to ask if she worried about her son, 6 feet tall and 12 years old – and African American. I didn’t ask. She really told me that when she started talking about the police rolling through her neighborhood, staring. Yes, she worries. He’s a good boy, and if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, it doesn’t matter.

 

We are comfortable in our silences, but she breaks the silence, as if she read my mind, and says “You know who I worry about? I worry about all the gays and trans-gender people, now. Will they roll back the gay marriage laws? Will the transgender people not be protected?”

 

I think of the celebration, just over a year ago, when gay rights were guaranteed. I think of Roe v Wade, when our reproductive rights became our own private concern. I think of the movement towards enhanced training for police forces, so that the innocent won’t be killed in a moment of fear perceived confrontation. I think of all we have to lose. There are no answers; we are going to have a tough time ahead.

November 11, 2016 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Health Issues, Interconnected, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu

I saw this today on the NPR Books section, and as one great admirer of librarians, I wanted to share it with you. These librarians are my kind of badass! They are providing a service to humanity.

Timbuktu’s ‘Badass Librarians’: Checking Out Books Under Al-Qaida’s Nose

 
Handout picture dated 1997 and released in 2012 by the UN shows ancient manuscripts displayed at the library in the city of Timbuktu. Al-Qaeda has destroyed ancient texts it considers idolatrous.

Handout picture dated 1997 and released in 2012 by the UN shows ancient manuscripts displayed at the library in the city of Timbuktu. Al-Qaeda has destroyed ancient texts it considers idolatrous.

Evan Schneider/AFP/Getty Images

For hundreds of years, Timbuktu has had a place in the world’s imagination. Located on the southern edge of the Sahara desert, the city flourished as a center of Islamic culture and scholarship in the 13th through 16th centuries. It was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988, recognized for the University of Sankore, which had as many as 25,000 students who studied the Quran, as well as the historic Djingareyber and Sidi Yahia mosques.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu
The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu

And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts

by Joshua Hammer

Timbuktu was a center of the manuscript trade, with traders bringing Islamic texts from all over the Muslim world. Despite occupations and invasions of all kinds since then, scholars managed to preserve and even restore hundreds of thousands of manuscripts dating from the 13th century.

But that changed when militant Islamists backed by al-Qaida arrived in 2012. The hardline Islamists didn’t see these texts as part of their Islamic heritage, but as idolatry, contradicting their interpretation of Islam. They set about destroying important cultural icons, including 15th-century mausoleums of Sufi Muslim saints. Librarians feared the city’s prized medieval collections of manuscripts would be next.

Librarian Abdel Kader Haidara organized and oversaw a secret plot to smuggle 350,000 medieval manuscripts out of Timbuktu. Joshua Hammer chronicled Haidara’s story in the book The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu. Hammer spoke with NPR’s Michel Martin about how a librarian became an “operator.”

 


Interview Highlights

Why these manuscripts were so important

These volumes — and we’re talking hundreds of thousands of them — at the point at which al-Qaida invaded Timbuktu, there were something like 370,000 manuscripts amassed in libraries in Timbuktu. And they portrayed Islam as practiced in this corner of the world as a blend of the secular and the religious — or they showed that the two could coexist beautifully. And they did in this city.

So it was tremendously important for Haidara and those who supported him to protect and preserve these manuscripts as evidence of both Mali’s former greatness and the tolerance that that form of Islam encouraged.

On Abdel Kader Haidara’s background

Abdel Kader Haidara was a son of a scholar and he grew up in an intellectual environment in Timbuktu. He was not a wealthy person. After his father’s death in the early 1980s he inherited the family’s centuries-old manuscript collection.

So in 1984 the head of the Ahmed Baba Institute, the government-owned library in Timbuktu, called on Haidara and said, “Hey, we’re having trouble getting off the ground, we need to find manuscripts. We know they’re out there, they’re hidden away in the desert, in river towns. Can you undertake this job of traveling around northern Mali, tracking down these manuscripts that have been lost — buried, disappeared — over generations? Gather them up, we’ll give you money. And we want this library to be splendid. We want this to be something that people from all around the world will come to visit. So go out, do your best, find books for us.”

He was reluctant at first, but the call of duty and the curator’s constant pressure prevailed. And in 1984 he began this what turned into a 12-year really amazing quest to ferret out these manuscripts all across Mali.

How Libya changed Mali

In 2011, the Arab Spring breaks out. Gadhafi’s downfall, the arsenals of Libya — in the chaos of Gadhafi’s murder and the disintegration of the Libyan state — are opened for the taking. Then you’ve got these various rebel groups in Mali. You’ve got Islamic radicals all descending on Libya — on these arsenals. Walking in, loading up their pickup trucks with heavy weaponry, driving through the dust across the desert back to Mali. And so these heavily armed rebels sweep across the desert and in three months have captured two-thirds of the country.

Why he decided to do what he did

The first thing that Abdel Kader was worried about, frankly, was looting. In the first few days after the rebels took over Timbuktu and the army and the police had fled, there was total disorder. That’s when he kind of began to scheme — “Hey, the great treasures of Timbuktu are being held in these very ostentatious libraries.” He said, “These are going to be targets.”

The looting subsided pretty quickly. But as it subsided, you had this growing radicalism, you had Islamic police roaring through the streets, stopping people, throwing them in jail, grabbing cigarettes out of their mouths, whipping them in public. He just foresaw that this was going to get worse, and that the manuscripts, which as we already said expressed values that were anathema to fundamentalist Islam — to Wahhabi Islam — were in danger. That sooner or later, these manuscripts are going to be held hostage. They’re going to become political tools, they could be destroyed in an act of vengeance, caught up in military action. We’ve got to protect them.

So that’s when Abdel Kader and a small group of his supporters, friends, relatives got together and began what ended up being a three-stage effort to protect, and essentially smuggle to safety, all of these manuscripts.

Becoming a ‘badass’

Let’s remember that Abdel Kader was more than a librarian, this guy had spent 12 years as a badass explorer, as an adventurer. He was traveling on camels across the Sahara, on riverboats, going to small villages, finding these manuscripts. So he was an operator. So when the time came, he just knew what to do.

He said, “The first thing we’re going to do is get them out of these big libraries. We’re going to take trunks, we’re going to pack them into trunks at night when the rebels are asleep. And then we’re going to move them in the dead of night by mule cart to these various houses — safe houses, scattered around the city. We’re going to stick them in there and hopefully they’ll be safe for the duration of this occupation.” Which of course, nobody knew when that was going to end.

Why it’s important

One of the things that I think is important to draw from it is to realize that there is this whole strain of Islam that is moderate, that celebrates intellectuality, that celebrates culture, that celebrates diversity, secular ideas, poetry, love, human beauty. I think that is lost in this debate that’s going on. We tend to really kind of turn against Islam because of the actions of this particularly violent group.

But I think in fact that the Islam represented by those in Timbuktu and the badass librarians is in fact more representative of what Islam is. And these people [who] were the real victims of extremism in this part of the world are fellow Muslims. They were the ones who really suffered. They were the ones who had their hands and feet chopped off, who had to live through the horror of daily occupation.

For the most part, we see this from afar, but these people are on the front lines and they are living through the horror of radicalism every day and every minute.

Where the manuscripts are now

He hopes that he’ll be able to return them to Timbuktu. They are in about a dozen climate-controlled storage rooms in Bamako, the capital of Mali. And as far as moving them back, he’s waiting. I mean, these are very hard people to root out. But Timbuktu is a ghost town — tourists aren’t going there, flights aren’t going there. It’s very sad. And I don’t know and he doesn’t know if those glory days can ever be recaptured, given the strength of the Islamists — the terrorists in that area, in that part of the world.

April 28, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Education, ExPat Life, Faith, Free Speech, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Work Related Issues | , , | Leave a comment

“You Shall Love the Alien as Yourself”

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One of the disciplines available to those of the Episcopal faith is the reading of the Lectionary. Every day of the year are short readings from the Psalms, Old Testament, New Testament and Gospels. Every three year the cycle repeats itself. There are also additional readings on the “Saints” or remarkable people who have served God and his church.

Leviticus is not my favorite chapter, but today, I love Leviticus. As if the words were freshly spoken, I read Leviticus 19: 33-34:

33 When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. 34The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

There are many references to the alien in the Bible, one of the earliest being Father Abraham, who is told to leave (what is now the current Iraq) and head for Canaan. When he arrives, peacefully, the local tribes are kind to him. They are good neighbors. Later, when Moses kills an Egyptian and flees to the desert tribes, he describes himself as “a stranger in a strange land.”

It’s who we are. It’s what our book tells us. We are to welcome the stranger. We are to leave wheat in the edges of our fields (yesterday’s reading) that he might not starve. We are not to oppress the alien, nor put up walls to fence them out. We are all aliens on this earth; waiting for the glory of the heavenly kingdom where we belong.

April 28, 2016 Posted by | Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Work Related Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Monday is Homework Day

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This is not the life we expected – it is so much better. Before we retired, my husband asked me what we would do, and I said I knew what I would do, but I didn’t know what he would do; he would have to figure out what he wanted to do. But I was wrong. I didn’t know what I would be doing.

Life evolves. One decision leads to another, down paths you can’t foresee.

I had no idea I would love my grandchildren so much. I had no idea how much joy being close to our adult son and his wife would be, watching them mature, seeing them parent so lovingly and patiently. The other day, he spotted a photo of a time we were on our way to a German Military Ball; he said “How old were you in this photo?” and as we figured it out, we were almost exactly the age he is now. That was a moment of wonder to all of us. It helps us to remind ourselves that he no longer needs parenting, no more than we did at his age. He needs respect, and the support of a loving family that can mind their own business unless asked for input.

Doing kindergarten homework is mind-numbing. Q, who is a smart little boy, looked at me and said “when you do the same thing over and over, it is really boring.” He loves new words, so I said “when you do the same thing over and over again, that is called ‘repetitious’,” and he said “Yes, so it is repetitious and BORING.” We both laughed.

While it IS boring, what he is doing now is also crucial, mastering his numbers and how they work together, and his letters, and distinguishing “b”s from “d”s, and “g”s from “q”s and a lot of learning just requires that repetition to engrave it in your mind. He is learning to write, and he is adept at reading books above his level – but it all takes work.

We have some break activities. He can run laps around my first floor, running a circle which I make him change direction every now and then. He can jump on my running trampoline. He can play hide and seek with his Baba. We are working on jig-saw puzzles, and for fun, he gets to play one of Baba’s computer games requiring strategic thinking skills.

We still do our volunteering, our church activities, our house things. We have lunch out almost every day; we are free until after school.

While the homework is for the whole week, we have discovered that dragging it out is just that – a drag. Get it done! Just do it! We are learning to focus, and the work is not that hard. When we finish the homework, we have the rest of the week to play!

Today I was exploring online, looking for an old African recipe I have for African Gingerbread. This is a really old recipe; what I liked about it is that when you add the baking soda and molasses, it fizzes and bubbles. I looked in all my books, but in my never-ending quest to get rid of, get rid of, get rid of, not to burden myself with too many THINGS, I must have given away that particular book. But as I was looking for the recipe online, the only place I found it . . . was here. On my own blog! Old Fashioned Gingerbread. It makes me grin, thinking of how thrilled this five year old will be when we make old fashioned African gingerbread and it all starts fizzing. Woo HOOOO!

When the homework is done, the fun begins!

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Cooking, Cultural, Education, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Language, Living Conditions, Parenting, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Recipes, Relationships, Work Related Issues | 5 Comments

FitBit Survives Washer

Today was the last day of our very long journey, and as I was quickly dressing, I forgot to move my FitBit from my nightdress to my daytime clothing.

Ever efficient, as we got home we dumped all our dirty clothing directly in the laundry, and I sorted it and put the first load in.

Unpacked, put suitcases away, hung up clothes, put away travel kits, etc.

Turned on computer, which to my great regret I had not taken with me. While taking care of a few other chores, thought I would put my FitBit near to sync, first time in a long time, we’ve been gone, gone, gone.

Oops! No FitBit! There is only one place it might be, on my nightdress, which is now swirling around in the washing machine.

Thank God for front loading washing machines; mine turns off and lets me look. My nightdress is close to the front, and there is my FitBit, safe and well.

Took it back upstairs, and it worked as well as ever, uploading all my fitness information from our long trek, including today.

LOL, it gave me credit where none was due, including 47 minutes of “very active” time as it went through the wash cycles.

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As soon as I get on track, sort through all the photos, I will share our long journey with you. 🙂

April 7, 2015 Posted by | Blogging, Exercise, Fitness / FitBit, Road Trips, Travel, Work Related Issues | , | Leave a comment

Best Birthday Ever!

Who knew that growing older could have so many joys? I sure didn’t. I dreaded growing old, leaving a life of adventures behind. I had NO idea.

photo-16

I recently had a birthday. On my birthday, I had a new group in town, and I was taking them around to their appointments. It’s always hard, the first day, connecting with a group who has been together for a while, but the structure carries it, and the day went smoothly.

When my itinerary and biographies were delivered, I also got a birthday gift from the best boss, ever. I’ve been with them as a volunteer for almost five years now, and they gave me a silver name tag – beautiful! with a magnetic back, so it doesn’t ruin my silk blouses. They also gave me a box of my own business cards, even though I am “just” a volunteer.

The biggest gift, though, was the gift of their trust.

In my innermost mind, I sometimes hear voices. These voices are harsh. They say things like this:

“What do YOU know about government and politics and how they work?”

“Who do you think you are?”

“What makes you think you’re so special?”

These are the malicious voices that will make me cower in fear, will make me turn down opportunities, voices that make me doubt myself.

My boss asked me in December to take this particular group. I’ve taken several groups before, often enough that it’s not a big deal, but this time had a twist – she would be out of town, so would her deputy; I would be “it.”

I heard the voices. I hesitated, but only briefly. They trust me to do a good job, in their eyes, I can do it. In my most rational mind, I know better than to listen to those voices that would tear me down and undermine my confidence, and it really helps to have the trust of those with whom I work on a regular basis to counter those voices who would have me keep my head down, stay in my place. I am in my place. I am doing what I was created to do.

So it was more than the beautiful silver name-tag and the cards, it was the expression of trust that I would handle any problems that came up (I did) and that trust was a wonderful confirmation of who I am and of what I am capable.

We had a very good day, this group and I. When I got home, there was a huge bouquet of white roses waiting for me; my sweet husband knows what I love. I was over the moon, and he said “I really really wanted to throw in a red rose or two because I love them, but I know YOU love white roses” and that was the second wonderful gift of the day, that he would buy me beautiful roses, the kind I like, not the kind he though I should like. 🙂

He also took me out for Chinese take-out, not his favorite thing, but one of my favorite comfort food kind of things, and it turned out to be surprisingly good, especially for Pensacola where we all bemoan the lack of really really good Chinese food. Every dish was really good, exceeding our expectations.

Then, we got a call from our son and his family, off on their own grand adventure, and my little just-five-year-old grandson sang to me “Happy Birthday to you,” and totally made my day.

The next night we went to Seville Quarter and had this wonderful steak they serve, on top of a crusted mashed potato-garlic-cheese combination, with a fabulous sauce that reminded us of France, and grilled asparagus. Still my birthday 🙂

BDSeville

There are things that matter, and things that don’t. I suspect I will hear those harsh voices as long as I live, and I thank God for all the countering experiences and voices which have shown those demeaning voices to be false – and meaningless. Living my life in the best way I know – that is a gift. Being surrounded by those who value me and encourage me and love me and who lift me when I stumble and say “You CAN do it!” That’s a gift. Having a sweet family who love me genuinely, and value me – that is a gift. Having work to do that is worth doing – that is a gift. Having a husband who cares what I like, who encourages and supports me and makes me laugh – I am so blessed.

February 10, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Marriage, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Work Related Issues | | 5 Comments

Turning the Tables on ISIS

From today’s AOL News via Associated Press comes this analysis of the production of the recent horror video posted by ISIS of the death of the Jordanian pilot. They also published names of targeted Jordanian pilots.

 

Go after them. Go after those producing these slick, disgusting, violent videos. A truly religious person wouldn’t kill a dog by burning him in a cage.

 

When a person produces a product, they leave a signature, they can’t help it. If I blogged under a different name, someone reading the other blog would find phrases and words that would help them recognize me from this blog. We can’t help it, we are who we are, and we leave signatures. Figure out who the tech geeks are who have been producing these videos, who scripted these repugnant beheadings and burnings, and get them. First, though, publish their names and their photos. Let them feel the target on their backs before  you take them out.

BEIRUT (AP) – A video of a Jordanian pilot being burned to death was exceptional in its brutality, even for the Islamic State group, and also was a sign that the militants intend to raise the stakes in their propaganda efforts, experts say.

It also offered confirmation to the belief that the airman was killed days or weeks before its release.

The 22-minute clip that appeared on websites Tuesday was a complex, extravagant work that would have taken a significant amount of time and organization to script, stage, produce and distribute, they said.

It also suggested that the demands last week for a prisoner swap for the pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kasaesbeh, were a cynical charade to increase the drama around his killing, because he most likely was already dead.

Jordanian state TV had said al-Kasaesbeh, who was flying missions for the U.S.-led campaign of airstrikes, was killed as long ago as Jan. 3, shortly after his F-16 came down in Islamic State-controlled territory in December.

“The more gruesome the executions are, the more attention they get,” said Brigitte Nacos, a professor of political science at Columbia University.

“When President Obama responds to each of their killing videos … that gives them the feeling of being a powerful political actor that legitimate actors have to deal with,” she said.

The video featured production techniques used in other clips from the militants. But unlike those that showed beheadings in which the hostages or their killer delivered a message before being killed, the pilot video is longer and involves a story-telling narrative and at least four cameras, along with advanced editing techniques.

It bore the logo of the Islamic State group’s al-Furqan media service and included footage of Jordan’s king committing to the fight against IS and meeting with U.S. officials. The pilot was shown explaining his mission on the day his jet crashed. Finally, he was seen in an outdoor cage as a masked militant ignited a line of fuel leading to it. It also included a list of purported Jordanian pilots wanted by the group.

“This is simply the most horrific, disgusting thing I have seen from Islamic State in the last two years. It is shocking,” said Shiraz Maher, senior fellow at the International Center for Study of Radicalization at King’s College in London.

Nacos said the video is “cleverly shot with different camera angles.”

“They’re basically rejecting everything that is Western, yet they’re borrowing – in their media management, staging, directing, choreography – everything that you can learn from Western filmmakers and media people,” she said.

Nacos said the video’s brutality risks turning public opinion and potential recruits away from the Islamic State group; al-Kasaesbeh’s killing already has been denounced by Muslim clerics across the region, including some jihadi ideologues.

Christopher Davidson, an academic at Durham University, said the video was not perfectly produced, but had “very powerful political messages which clearly resonate with impressionable youth.”

Hassan Hassan, an analyst at the Abu Dhabi-based Delma center, said having a captive pilot from the U.S.-led coalition bombing campaign was a rare opportunity for the extremists to deliver a strong message.

“It was a chance to humiliate not only Jordan but the international community fighting against it,” he said.

Aymenn al-Tamimi, an expert on rebel and Islamic extremist groups, said the video suggested the group’s violence would only become more gruesome as its fighters – and supporters – became increasingly desensitized to human suffering.

“The beheadings that have been happening so frequently – it’s no longer surprising to any audience,” al-Tamimi said. “They upped the ante.”

Al-Tamimi said the group also had to keep offering something new to its members, supporters and those under its rule – if only to keep them in a perpetual state of terror.

Maher agreed.

“Every time you think they cannot commit anything worse – they open up another trapdoor,” he said.

 

February 6, 2015 Posted by | Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Work Related Issues | , , , , , | 1 Comment