Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“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

ISIS in Mosul Unable to Sustain Economy

From AP via Kuwait Times:

 

High prices, shortages pressure IS – Black markets abound – Strict social laws bad for business

iraqBAGHDAD: Saadi Abdul-Rahman was recently forced to pull his three children out of school in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where Islamic State militants have ruled with an iron fist since June. The cost of living has soared there, and the family is barely able to make ends meet, even after putting the kids to work. “We are not able to pay for cooking gas, kerosene and food,” laments the 56-year-old retired government worker. “The situation in Mosul is miserable.”

The economy in the self-styled “caliphate” declared by the Islamic State group bridging Iraq and Syria is starting to show signs of strain. Prices of most staples have more than doubled as coalition airstrikes make it difficult for products to move in and out of militant strongholds, leading to shortages, price-gouging and the creation of black markets.

Resentment has grown among residents under the rule of the extremists, who initially won support with their ability to deliver services. In the early days of its rule, the Islamic State group subsidized food and gas prices through the wealth it accumulated from oil smuggling, extortion and ransom demands. They sold their smuggled oil at a discount – $25 to $60 a barrel for oil that normally cost $100 a barrel or more, according to analysts and government officials.

But in recent weeks, prices have soared in militant-held cities. Items like kerosene, used for heating and cooking, are in short supply, while others, such as alcohol and cigarettes, strictly banned by the group, are making a comeback at higher prices on the black market. Smoking is a punishable offense in militant-held Mosul. But at a warehouse on the outskirts of the city, cigarettes, as well as hard-to-come-by essentials like kerosene, can be found at hugely inflated prices on a black market run by the extremists. There, a pack of cigarettes sells for 30,000 dinars – the equivalent of $26 – more than double the pre-caliphate price, according to residents who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

‘Unsustainable Economy’
The militants “are developing an unsustainable economy,” said Paul Sullivan, an expert on Middle East economies at the National Defense University in Washington. “Eventually the costs of keeping the subsidies and price controls going will overpower their smuggling funds, which are also used for offensive and defensive actions. They can collect taxes, extort money, and so forth,” he said. “But that will likely not be enough in the long run to keep such an unbalanced economic system going.”

In the Syrian city of Raqqa, the extremists’ so-called capital, the breakdown of security along the border with Iraq in areas under Islamic State control has led to flourishing trade with Mosul. Trucks are also able to access the city from Turkey, allowing for a steady supply of fruit and vegetables, wheat and textiles. However, the cost of living has surged since US-led airstrikes began in September, and power and water cuts grew more frequent, residents said.

In addition, the strict social laws imposed by the group have been very bad for business, said Bari Abdelatif, an activist in the Islamic State-controlled town of al-Bab in Syria’s northern Aleppo province. But, he said, foreign fighters were bringing with them lots of hard currency, making up somewhat for the shortfall. Last month, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State group, decreed the minting of gold, silver and copper coins for the militants’ own currency the Islamic dinar – to “change the tyrannical monetary system” modelled on Western economies. But trade in most militant-held cities continues to be in Iraqi dinars and US dollars.

The start of winter has led to serious shortages of gasoline and kerosene. The official price for a liter of gas in government-controlled areas of Iraq is 450 dinars (40 cents) – but in Mosul, it sells for four times that. Two hundred-liter barrels of kerosene are now sold in Mosul for 250,000 dinars ($220), versus the official price of 30,000 dinars. In the western Iraqi city of Fallujah, under militant control for almost a year, residents have started cutting trees for firewood because kerosene is in such short supply. The city is surrounded by government troops and near-daily shelling often make parts of town too dangerous to visit.

Food and fuel prices have risen sharply as a result – a 50-kilo sack of rice costs 75,000 dinars ($65), up from 10,000 ($9) three months ago. A cylinder of cooking gas goes for 140,000 dinars ($115). That has put many staples out of reach for Abdul-Rahman and his family in Mosul, even with the additional money brought in by his sons, who left school to drive a taxi and work in a restaurant.

Decline in Business
A number of factors are driving the shortages and price hikes, according to residents in Mosul and Fallujah, the group’s biggest Iraqi strongholds. The militants have imposed a tax on vehicles entering their territory, leading to a decline in business. Deliveries are also subject to militant theft, and coalition airstrikes and military operations make many roads impassable. As a result, the trip from the Turkish border to Mosul took four hours prior to the militant takeover. Now, a delivery truck can spend as much as a week traveling the same road, and will pay a tax of as much as $300 for entry into Mosul, residents said.

According to Luay Al-Khateeb, director of the Iraqi Energy Institute and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, the population of the areas under Islamic State control in Iraq and Syria is 6.5 million to 8 million people. “They need 150,000 barrels (of crude) a day just to meet local consumption,” he said. “And that is the bare minimum to meet the demands for transportation, bakeries, power generation. That doesn’t mean they have access to such supply,” he added.

Last month, the militants shut down cell phone service in Mosul, claiming that residents were tipping off US-led airstrikes to their whereabouts. Cell signals have not been restored, causing the city to come to a virtual standstill. Workshops, factories and markets are closed and bitterness is growing among business owners. “Most money-transfer operations are done by mobile calls,” said Osama Abdul-Aziz, the owner of a money-transfer office in Mosul. “We have the option of using the Internet, but this method is very slow and sometimes the Internet does not work at all, which causes big delays to our work.” At Mohammed Abdullah’s shop in Mosul, the pile of cell phone scratch cards is growing higher by the day. “Our business and means for living are in ruins now,” he said. – AP

 

December 14, 2014 Posted by | Civility, Community, Cultural, Faith, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Shopping, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Confuse, Confound, Devastate and Dissipate ISIS

When I was a kid, I did not like reading the Old Testament, all those old-timey people, and it all seemed very confusing to me. As I grew older, I find I like the Old Testament part of our readings very much, the people come alive in all their faults and bad decisions, and God’s mercy shines through as we continue to rebel against him and follow too much our own devices and desires of our hearts.

I love Genesis 11, where mankind, in all our pride, decides to build a tower, and it must have been pretty good because it got God’s attention and he didn’t like it. He didn’t like it so much that he created confusion among all the languages spoken, but I bet it was also confusion and dissension among the decision makers, too, to scatter the mighty population.

Confusion_of_Tongues

As the wandering descendants of Abraham began to settle, they often went up against armies and peoples much larger than they were, and God always told them not to worry, he would confuse the armies. He put fear in their hearts, in the confusion, mighty armies collapsed and scattered.

And why am I bringing this up, you might wonder?

This ISIS Army, it seems to me, is already cobbled together. I hear people people talking, people who know, they say ISIS is smart, fights smart. I believe they have some smart leaders, but I am willing to bet that they have some fatal flaws, also. They have overstretched. They are trying to enforce their will by violence and killing off the opposition, which might encourage the appearance of cooperation, but in reality breeds legions of those who will turn on them in a heartbeat.

Yes, we mistakenly dropped weapons which they were able to access. Mistakes happen in war zones all the time, with modern communication we just hear about it a lot sooner, not like 40 years from now when it is declassified and someone writes a book about it. Frankly, it’s not that big a deal.

What I believe is a big deal is their lack of cohesion. Lacking any strategic direct line to important decision makers, I am praying, and what I am praying is this, words from Psalms:

Confuse, O Lord, confound their speech

Disintegrate ISIS from the inside.

Create, Great and Merciful Father, miscommunications, misunderstandings, competing agendas and internal strife among the ISIS force.

All Mighty, All Powerful God, create a massive collapse, let their foot-soldiers drift away, drift home to their mothers and fathers and their families, and leave the Iraqi villages and the Syrian villages in peace.

Dry up the wealth of the Gulf, funneled through corrupt money changers in Kuwait, let it be mishandled, go missing, be stolen, be diverted and find its way to true charitable organizations providing a means of survival to those thousands of refugees who have been displaced.

Oh God! Collapse this abomination, the Islamic State of the Levant and Syria, collapse it utterly from within, strip it of all its power, devastate it like a virulent plague from within!

Oh God, bring good out of this downfall. Teach the remnants who return to their homes to live together in peace, to form peaceful and stable communities and then nations whose lives honor you!

All this is possible for the God who can do all things. Confound their speech, Lord, confuse them utterly, devastate and collapse them utterly from within. You are the one true God, there is no other God.

We are not without resources. We have the mighty fist of prayer.

November 2, 2014 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Charity, Civility, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Doha, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Spiritual, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | , , , , , | 1 Comment

FIFA Executive Says He Doesn’t Think 2022 World Cup Will Be In Qatar

FIFA Executive Says He Doesn’t Think 2022 World Cup Will Be In Qatar

* Zwanziger is member of FIFA Executive Committee

* Plans under way to shift World Cup to European winter (Updates with FIFA reaction)

BERLIN, Sept 22 (Reuters) – The 2022 World Cup will not be held in Qatar because of the scorching temperatures in the Middle East country, FIFA Executive Committee member Theo Zwanziger said on Monday.

“I personally think that in the end the 2022 World Cup will not take place in Qatar,” the German told Sport Bild on Monday.

“Medics say that they cannot accept responsibility with a World Cup taking place under these conditions,” the former German football (DFB) chief, who is now a member of the world soccer’s governing body FIFA that awarded the tournament to Qatar in 2010.

Although wealthy Qatar has insisted that a summer World Cup is viable thanks to cooling technologies it is developing for stadiums, training areas and fan zones, there is still widespread concern over the health of the players and visiting supporters.

“They may be able to cool the stadiums but a World Cup does not take place only there,” Zwanziger said.

“Fans from around the world will be coming and traveling in this heat and the first life-threatening case will trigger an investigation by a state prosecutor.

“That is not something that FIFA Exco members want to answer for.”

FIFA officials, contacted by Reuters, said Zwanziger was not giving the view of the all powerful Executive Committee.

“He is expressing a personal opinion and he explicitly says so,” FIFA spokewoman Delia Fischer said. “We will not comment on a personal opinion.”

FIFA President Sepp Blatter said in May that awarding the World Cup to Qatar was a ‘mistake’ and the tournament would probably have to be held in the European winter.

“Of course, it was a mistake. You know, one comes across a lot of mistakes in life,” he told Swiss television station RTS in an interview at the time.

“The Qatar technical report indicated clearly that it is too hot in summer, but the executive committee with quite a big majority decided all the same that the tournament would be in Qatar,” he added.

FIFA is now looking to shift the tournament to a European winter date to avoid the scorching summer where temperatures routinely rise over 40 Celsius.

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheik Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa chaired a meeting to discuss the matter earlier this month with the options of January/February 2022 and November/December 2022 offered as alternatives to June/July.

However, talk of a potential change away from the usual dates has resulted in plenty of opposition from domestic leagues around the world, worried the schedule switch would severely disrupt them.

Both FIFA and Qatar World Cup organizers have also been fending off questions of corruption ever since they were awarded the tournament back in 2010, while Qatar has also been criticized for the conditions provided for migrant workers’ in the tiny Gulf state. (Reporting by Karolos Grohmann. Editing by Patrick Johnston)

 

September 22, 2014 Posted by | Middle East, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Weather, Work Related Issues | | Leave a comment