Minority Religions in the Middle East Under Threat, Need Protection   no comments

Posted at 5:40 am in the places I would like to go

In August, our television screens were filled with biblical images as tens of thousands of Yazidis, an ancient Kurdish minority, fled into the largely barren Sinjar Mountains of northern Iraq to escape Islamic State militants, who regard them as devil worshippers.

The Yazidis are one of many minority religious groups that have survived in the Middle East for thousands of years. Others include the Copts, the Samaritans, and the Zoroastrians. But with the increasing radicalization of Islam and other political pressures, these groups face an uncertain future.

For his book, Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms, former British and UN diplomat Gerard Russell spent several years traveling to remote corners of the Middle East where these faiths hang on. Speaking from his home in London, he explains what George Clooney can expect from his new wife, why Detroit is one of the best places to hear ancient Aramaic, and why it’s important for us all that these minority religions survive.

Your book is about forgotten religions in the Middle East. Why is it important we remember them?

Book Talk

For several reasons. One, as we saw when the Islamic State [IS, also called ISIS and ISIL] attacked the Yazidis in northern Iraq in August, these religions are still persecuted, and from a humanitarian point of view we need to think about them. We also need to understand them because religion in the Middle East affects us wherever we are in the world. Islam is a global religion. To learn from its history of tolerance, as well as persecution, because both can be found, is important for understanding the future.

George Clooney recently married a British barrister of Lebanese Druze descent. What’s he gotten into?

First, he has married a very lovely woman. I know Amal Alamuddin’s mother a bit; she’s a very talented journalist. Her dad is from a Druze aristocratic family. They’re a really fascinating people. I don’t know if Amal herself is very into the religion. Only 10 percent of the Druze are initiated. Most of them don’t know, for sure, what their religion teaches. Those who know about it have chosen to consecrate themselves to the religion.

As a Druze you can be untouched by any obligations of the religion, though they do pretty much insist on marrying within the religion. In that sense Amal is an exception. The Druze are also exclusive in the sense that they believe they’re reincarnated as each other. So if you’re Druze, you can be reincarnated as Druze. But you’re not going to be reincarnated as Druze if you’re not one.

They’re a select group who believe they have a special mission to discover truth and bring mankind to a revelation. They believe in the imminence of God, that the world emanates from God, like light from the sun. They don’t believe in a creation as such. It’s very much rooted in Greek philosophy, so to understand them you need to go back to Plato and Aristotle. Those are the sorts of traditions they have kept alive.

Some of these faiths date back to the Egyptian pharaohs and the Babylonians. How has geography shaped their survival?

Most obviously, in Iraq, which is a fertile place for religion, there are marshes covering hundreds of square miles in the south. The marshes were a great place in the second and third century A.D. to live a back-to-nature kind of existence, cut off from the outside world. It was very popular for what we would call cults, which, in those days, drew on Jewish and Christian ideas. That’s where the Manicheans emerged, and where the Mandaeans survive to the modern day.

Are you a religious person? Or was this a quest for a religion you could believe in?

I am religious, and this book began when I lived in Egypt. I found religion to be a great source of inspiration and a way for me to identify with a community of some Egyptians. I could go to a Coptic church and find that the service, the nature of the belief, was part of the same community as back home, but with massive differences in language and culture. I found that very comforting.

If you’re in a foreign country, and you really want to be part of it and get alongside the people, it can be quite difficult. There may not be easy common points, particularly with poorer people, who live in more remote places. Religion can give you that leap into the other culture, that crossing point.

You traveled all over the region, often to very remote places. Tell us about some of the highs—and lows—of your journey.

I love the Middle East, and have many friends there of all different religions. Going out to this mountain in Israel and discovering that the Samaritans aren’t just people in the Bible, but exist today and still practice their faith and have their own distinctive script, was quite remarkable.

The hardest part was going to northern Iraq in August and witnessing the great distress in the Yazidi community and hearing terrible stories of suffering. I compare it to the time when Sir Leonard Woolley, the excavator of the ancient city of Ur, one of the great cities of southern Iraq, discovered a small fragment of fabric with a beautiful pattern. It had survived 5,000 years in the sand. All of a sudden it began to rain, and the fabric disintegrated in his hands. He felt such a sense of loss, because it had survived to the modern day, and there in front of his eyes, it had been destroyed. I had that feeling as I looked at these religions that had survived millennia and were now dying, almost in front of my eyes.

One of the most remote places you visited was the temple of Lalish, in Iraq. Give us a virtual tour.

It’s about two hours north of Erbil, in the middle of rolling hills. In the summer, when I was there, [the hills] are quite bare. Then you descend into this wooded valley with stone buildings about a thousand years old. It’s a wonderful contrast. On the day I was there, families were having picnics under the trees. The buildings, some of which are closed to outsiders, have conical, spiral roofs, which represent the rays of the sun. Once a year a bull is chased around the forecourt of Lalish. A priest whispers in its ear before sacrificing it. It’s a ritual that was performed for the sun god 5,000 years ago, as we know from the Epic of Gilgamesh.

The Yazidis face a vicious new threat in the Islamic State. How do you explain their rise? And do they pose an existential threat to the minority faiths of the Middle East?

The IS is a thing of ugliness that has been born in a very ugly place: the civil wars in Syria and Iraq, which came after the 2003 war. Some of the people who fight in the IS probably endured and saw terrible things before they began to fight themselves. You’ve got a whole generation who’ve been brought up in conditions of terrible suffering and bloodshed. That’s the first thing to say.

The second is that it comes in the wake of a wider ideological shift in the Middle East. People have begun to identify by religion much more clearly than they did 50 years ago. And it’s often a very militant and ugly form of religion, sponsored by people who take a very narrow-minded view of what religion should be and harbor a deep hostility toward those who they think are undermining the true religion.

Take the hostility between Sunni and Shiite, which is not totally unlike the Catholic- Protestant struggles of Europe’s Middle Ages. Sadly, there are people out there, quite a number actually, who, if they’re Shiite, very much dislike Sunnis—and if they’re Sunni, the Shiites. In Egypt, a Gallup poll showed that a very small minority of Egyptians actually believe that Shiites are even Muslims.

The phenomenon of killing people is a very specific, limited problem. The much broader problem is that there is a de-legitimizing of people based on their religious beliefs. This is very dangerous. And very widespread.

Why did Europe lose its pagan faiths—yet they survived in the Middle East? Why aren’t there Druids running around London?

Europe had states that were ultimately more effective. If you look at France or Germany or Britain, the state was, at quite an early stage, pretty effective at imposing itself. Think of the Domesday Book. The Middle East was quite a bit more lawless for quite a lot of time, and that’s partly how these groups survived. Some of it is also topography. Where these groups survived was often the most remote places.

Another reason—and I know this is going to be a controversial thing to say—is that when Christianity arrived, the pagan religions in Europe were not very intellectually sophisticated. In the Middle East, you had a long history in which these religions had become deeply philosophized, with a deep understanding of how to think about their religion in terms of ideas brought by the Greek philosophers. They also had quite strict moral codes.

So when Islam came, it wasn’t entirely sure that it wanted to get rid of people like the Harranians, who were quite useful. They knew a lot of Greek philosophy; they were very good scientists. So a lot of these heterodox religions were allowed to carry on. Some Islamic rulers even made good use of them.

Some readers may be offended by your contention that Middle Eastern cultures fight more over religion because it’s more precious to them than to Americans or Europeans. Is that statement really justified?

The comparison was not meant to denigrate Western religion. I’m a religious Westerner myself. But from the first day I arrived in the Middle East, I found there’s an extraordinary willingness to go the extra mile for religion. Not all of it is for good reasons. So I don’t mean to say that people in America aren’t religious.

But the growth of democracy in the Western world often came at the same time as people began to question religion. Could America have been founded as a nation that separated church from state in the 16th century? Or did it take the Enlightenment before that could be done?

It took a lessening of the passion that people felt about religion before it was possible to say: I’m a Catholic, you’re a Protestant, and I don’t mind. In the Middle East, we haven’t reached that point, where people are willing to say: I’m a Muslim, you’re a Christian, and I don’t mind.

Religion seems to be one of the central causes of turmoil and death in our world today. How would you counter that assertion?

I would say that religion is the most powerful binding agent that humanity knows. For a brief time, in the Middle East, ideologies could do that. Communism, to some extent, did it. So did nationalism. But in the modern day, it’s religion. That’s true of the West too. It’s only at church that I will encounter the full range of people from different races and social classes. It has a power no other force has.

Inevitably there are going to be people who exploit that to abuse people or cause violence. It’s very often used by governments as a means to militate against another government. Iran and Iraq had this terrible war in the 1980s, and religion was used by both sides to motivate their followers. But that doesn’t make religion bad. That just means it’s powerful. The question is all about how it’s used, not what it is.

To a Western observer, some of the beliefs and taboos in these religions are bizarre in the extreme. Tell us why it’s forbidden to eat lettuce, why cats are avoided by Zoroastrians, and why mustaches are imperative for some men.

The Yazidi prohibition on lettuce no one could explain. But there used to be a lot of dietary laws in ancient religion. The Pythagoreans had a rule against eating beans. No one knows why because they refused to explain. It was a sacred secret.

The Alawites in Syria believe you can be reincarnated as a plant. So some plants are taboo because they might be the reincarnations of the souls of people you know.

As for the Yazidi obsession with mustaches, some people say that the long, drooping mustache is a symbol of secrecy, and therefore it’s treasured as a sign that you’re worthy of being entrusted with sacred secrets.

The Zoroastrians had a thing about cats. They liked dogs very much. A house dog in Zoroastrian custom would be “buried” essentially as a human is buried-though they don’t actually bury their dead. They would dress their dog ceremonially, in religious garb, and put it out for the birds to eat, which is what they do for humans. So it was a highly treasured animal, and still is. Cats, on the other hand—and I’m a cat lover myself—were regarded in the same way as ants and flies and other things that are seen as creatures endowed with an evil spirit.

Many people from these embattled religions are choosing to go into exile in the West. Why is it important that they stay in their homelands?

These religions are a part of human heritage, like the pyramids or the leaning tower of Pisa. This is important for us because it’s a survival from our own past, and it helps to explain things about ourselves.

The handshake of the Yazidis, for instance, is part of the reason why we shake hands today. It’s connected to the handshake of the worshippers of Mithras, which was brought to Rome in the second century and then spread across the Roman Empire. The handshake is the way we show friendship. For the Yazidis it’s still a mystical symbol of unity. I give that as an example because so many of these religions connect with us in ways we might not realize.

Understandably, more and more of these minorities are deciding to leave the Middle East and come and live in the West, in Australia, Sweden, or America. The danger is that they’ll lose their identity because their religions aren’t designed to weather the storm of public debate and freedom. They’ll need to change if they wish to survive.

One of the things we can do is help them be a bit prouder of themselves. Most of those who’ve left the Middle East have not emigrated by choice. They’re refugees. Many are poor and have suffered terrible traumas. Showing them that their traditions and culture are valued is a great step to helping them integrate into their new homes.

One of the most poignant moments in your book comes in a supermarket in Michigan, where you hear Aramaic—the language of Christ—spoken by a girl stacking shelves. Tell us about that moment and the religious communities in Detroit most Americans don’t even know exist.

Detroit is one of the few places in the world where Aramaic survives, which is a historical irony on a very large scale. Rewind: The Iraqi Christians were once one of the greatest Christian churches in the world. Ten percent perhaps of all Christians at one point belonged to it. And it had monasteries as far east as Beijing. Today its leader is in Chicago, and an increasing number of its followers are in America too.

There’s a sad side to that. But there’s also a wonderful epiphany, which is, of course, that these religions do survive and exist in our own midst.

I was feeling rather despondent in Detroit one day, walking round a supermarket, thinking, It looks just like every other supermarket; I don’t see anything here that reminds me of Iraq. Then I heard this lady, and I thought, Gosh, that language sounds familiar, yet different. I’d learned a few words of Aramaic from my teacher in Baghdad. And I thought, Golly, that’s it, it’s here! And that’s what it turned out to be. She was having a conversation with her coworker in fluent Aramaic.

Simon Worrall curates Book Talk. Follow him on Twitter or at simonworrallauthor.com.

Article source: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/10/141026-yazidis-middle-east-iraq-islamic-state-religion-world-ngbooktalk/

Written by enfoquec on October 27th, 2014

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A Lebanese Battle With Syrian Overtones   no comments

Posted at 5:40 am in the places I would like to go

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Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/27/world/middleeast/a-lebanese-battle-with-syrian-overtones.html

Written by enfoquec on October 27th, 2014

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Unearthing Arabia: The Archaeological Adventures of Wendell Phillips   no comments

Posted at 5:29 am in the places I would like to go

As I pointed out last month, the Smithsonian Museum’s Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C. is home to an excellent variety of Asian and Middle Eastern themed exhibitions, with new and unique features almost every other month. This month, the museum began the display of a new exhibition called Unearthing Arabia: The Archaeological Adventures of Wendell Phillips.

Wendell Philips was an American archaeologist who explored the ancient cities of South Arabia (mostly in today’s Yemen) and has often been called the American “Lawrence of Arabia.” The exhibit focused on his archaeological work between 1949-1951 in the ruined cities of Timna and Marib and later work done by his sister at Marib that began in 1998 but has been discontinued due to recent conflict. The story of Wendell Philips is an interesting one in and of itself.

In the early 1950s, Phillips and his team fled Marib due to political unrest. At that time, Yemen consisted of the northern Kingdom of Yemen, also known as North Yemen and the southern British-run Aden Protectorate, the precursor of South Yemen (the two Yemens united in 1990). The Kingdom of Yemen was especially notorious for its lawlessness and tribal feuds. Philips excavated Timna in South Yemen first before crossing over into North Yemen to excavate Marib. However, he soon had to flee due to tribal harassment and was never able to return. During his time in Yemen, he had numerous adventures and became the only American to be made a Bedouin Sheikh. Later on, after he had left Yemen, Phillips used his Middle Eastern connections to get into the oil business. At the time of his death in 1975, he had more oil concessions than any other individual holder in the world, valued at $120 million.

Although Phillips was initially interested in uncovering more information about the fabled Queen of Sheba, his work did a lot to shed light on Pre-Islamic South Arabia and the incense routes that made the region wealthy in ancient times. South Arabia grew prosperous around the time of the Roman Empire, and was at the height of its civilization from the eight century BCE to the second century CE. Its prosperity was due to its location midway along the spice route between India and the Mediterranean as well as from its near monopoly over the incense trade. Additionally, South Arabia is mountainous and can support a large, agricultural population unlike the rest of the Arabia Peninsula, which is mostly desert. As a result, South Arabia developed the oldest and most advanced Arab civilizations of the ancient world. Today, modern Yemen has almost the same population as Saudi Arabia, which is many times larger than it.

The main incenses of the ancient world were frankincense and myrrh, both derived from tree barks mainly found in South Arabia. Incense was extremely important in ancient times where it served essential religious and secular purposes. It was used extensively in the worship of various Near Eastern, Greek and Roman gods. Additionally, incense had an important practical purpose. According to Phillips, “today we can scarcely appreciate the role of incense in the ancient world because, for one thing, it is difficult to imagine the odors of that world, requiring clouds of sweet-smelling smoke to cover them.”

There were several ancient South Arabian kingdoms which grew rich off of the incense and spice trades. These included Qataban, of which Timna was the capital and Saba, also known as the Sabaean kingdom. This kingdom is the likely location of Sheba and its capital was Marib. There were five kingdoms in total during this period, the other three being Ma’in, Himyar, and Hadhramaut. At Timna, Phillips discovered a temple to Athtar, the local love goddess. Outside of Timna, Phillips discovered a small oasis customs town that brought further wealth to Timna called Hajar bin Humeid. Qataban was said to have monopolized cinnamon routes in addition to trading in incense, the wealth of which was used to build 65 temples. At Marib, Phillips’ team began to unearth the largest temple found in the Arabian Peninsula, the Awam Temple, also known as Mahram Bilqis. Inscriptions from the temple tell us that it is the temple of Almaqah, the mood god who was the principle deity of Marib. The temple contained a “large hall lined with monumental pillars, stairways, impressive bronze and alabaster sculptures, and numerous inscriptions.” Although the architecture of all the buildings discovered in both sites was typically Arabian, there were Persian and Greco-Roman influences and many of the artifacts found at both sites were clearly inspired by Greco-Roman art.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Eventually, however, the South Arabian kingdoms declined and fell due to economic and political upheavals, both in their vicinity and further away. Cultural shifts in regards to incense and new trade routes also contributed to its decline. The region never became as important was it was during ancient times, though it partially reinvented itself as the hub of the coffee trade during the late Medieval period. The work of Phillips helped lay the groundwork for future work by his sister whose team generated maps and diagrams that will help in the future excavation of sites like Marib or other sites in the region. Unfortunately, many sites in the Middle East cannot be currently excavated or are in grave danger due to continuing violence in the region. It is important that governments and organizations continue to emphasize the importance of archaeology, including the possibility of commercial tourism, so that there is incentive to continue excavations with support and protection. The Middle East is extremely rich in ancient sites and heritage and it would be a pity if its antiquities and ruins are neglected or lost.

Article source: http://thediplomat.com/2014/10/unearthing-arabia-the-archaeological-adventures-of-wendell-phillips/

Written by enfoquec on October 25th, 2014

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Israeli Troops Kill Palestinian Teenager in the West Bank, the 2nd in 8 Days   no comments

Posted at 5:29 am in the places I would like to go

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Written by enfoquec on October 25th, 2014

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Five Lebanon troops wounded in Tripoli clash   no comments

Posted at 5:28 am in the places I would like to go

Five Lebanese army troops and six gunmen were wounded in a clash late Friday in a historic area of the northern city of Tripoli, a security official said.

“The number of wounded soldiers has risen to five,” said the official, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

“Six gunmen were injured and six others were arrested.”

The clash that initially erupted in the souks (traditional markets) area of Lebanon’s second city also extended to other areas.

Tripoli’s historic heart is listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site.

Ever since the war in neighbouring Syria broke out in 2011, Tripoli has been the scene of regular fighting between Sunni militants and members of Lebanon’s Alawite minority.

Gunmen have also turned on the Lebanese army, accusing it of targeting Sunnis and of cooperating with the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah.

Hezbollah has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad.

Friday’s clashes were the first since the outbreak of Syria’s war to break out in the souks area, which is traditionally a touristic site.

Article source: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/five-lebanon-troops-wounded-tripoli-clash-92223835

Written by enfoquec on October 25th, 2014

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Marshall Adame takes his campaign to voters in 3rd District effort   no comments

Posted at 5:15 am in the places I would like to go

By JIMMY WILLIAMS

Tideland News Writer

It has been a long time – if ever – since an Onslow County resident has been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. But if Marshall Adame has his way, that drought will end in the November election.

Adame, a Jacksonville resident and Democrat, is challenging Republican incumbent Walter Jones Jr. for the 3rd District U.S. House seat Jones has held since 1995. And he is doing it face-to-face.

“I am working very hard to win this office,” he said.

In an age when $100 million will be spent to elect a U.S. Senator from North Carolina, Adame is running a House campaign in which he relies on spreading his message and listening to his constituents on a one-to-one basis. It’s not unusual for him to spend quality time in an apartment complex, discussing with the residents the issues about which he feels passionate.

And he feels his message is getting across.

“I don’t have a lot of money, but I have an army of volunteers,” he said. “I go to places and people know who I am. They believe that change can come in North Carolina. People are waking up and realizing their own interests are at stake.

“It’s very humbling.”

Adame accepts every invitation for an interview or a forum.

“When you look at my schedule, you see me every day all over the district,” he noted. “I don’t have an open date.”

Twice so far in this campaign he has arrived at a League of Women Voters forum and was not permitted to speak because Jones failed to show. And yet Adame continues to say “yes” when invited.

His openness, not unusual for a challenger, lands him in friendly and not-so-friendly interviews. But it allows Adame to get his message out. And that can help him develop support. He said that Phil Knight, a New Bern radio talk show host with a conservative bent, came to be a supporter following an interview with Adame.

He claims this, his second run for the office, will be his last if he is unsuccessful. Adame lost to Craig Weber – who has since switched to the Republican Party – in the 2008 Democratic Primary. He has had to give up a “lucrative” government job to campaign. He and his wife, Becky, have been fully focused on the effort.

“I don’t think it’s likely I will do this again,” he said. “I have a family. I have 14 grandchildren that depend on me … we have paid a price.”

Adame said the decision to seek office came while he was working in Saudi Arabia, serving as senior program investigator for a U.S. government aviation program.

“I had been in Saudi Arabia for 17 months,” he explained. Reading the news from home “troubled” him. “I had been very concerned.” It convinced Adame to give up the job and toss his hat in the ring, again. “Service to this country … trumps everything else. It is the most honorable thing a man can do.”

If elected, there are issues – dear to Adame – on which he will focus.

At the top of the list is the environment and how important it is to the economy of the 3rd District that hugs the North Carolina coast. Adame makes no secret that the GOP-led state legislature has drawn his ire.

“We are standing by while (the state lawmakers) denigrate the levels of environmental protection,” he said. The price the state will pay will come out of the $3 billion generated annually by tourism. “They are willing to risk that for what they say is ‘smaller government.’”

Of particular concern is the potential for offshore drilling. North Carolina, he reasons, has nothing to gain and everything to lose. Why? Locating the wells 20 miles offshore means they are out of state jurisdiction or control. Because the Tar Heel state is unprepared to package and ship the product, the oil will go to ports in South Carolina and Virginia.

What North Carolina will get, is potential devastation.

“North Carolina will get the first oil spill,” Adame said. “Nowhere in the world has there been an oil operation that has not had an oil spill.

“We get to witness the destruction of our Outer Banks.” Along with devastating a $3 billion industry, a spill will result in “the death of a culture that has lasted 200 years.

“How do you clean that up? You don’t. It’s gone.”

During the interview, Adame pointed out that when he decided to run for the 3rd District seat, he made it a point to become familiar with the state’s coastal heritage. To do that, he spent hours talking with Dr. Louis N. Daniel III, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.

Daniel told him he was the first politician that ever met with him in that fashion.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which is a method of extracting natural gas by pumping large volumes of chemically treated water into the earth, is another high-risk, low-return proposition for the state, according to Adame.

He said he has learned that there are “at least 15 carcinogens in the water” that is used in fracking. Furthermore, huge amounts of water – 14 to 20 million gallons – are needed to drill a single well. And that is water that could eventually find its way into an aquifer.

Of particular concern to Adame is where the fracking waste will be dumped. There have been suggestions that the coastal plain would be the ideal site.

Beneficiaries, other than the oil and gas companies, would be the property owners, according to Adame. The hires, expected to be in the hundreds – at best – would likely come from outside the state, since that’s largely where the experienced workers live.

When it’s all done, “They will leave North Carolina holding the bag,” he said. “I hope the people of North Carolina are willing to rise up (against those who say), ‘We value money more than we value your culture, your environment.’”

As a retired U.S. Marine with 23 years of active duty, a Vietnam veteran, Adame has a special passion for issues relating to the military.

It galls him to hear the nation’s lawmakers say, “‘it costs too much to take care of our veterans.’ We didn’t talk about that when we sent them to war.”

Adame said that Jones has done little to support the military and their families. “He voted against allowing young military families being able to receive food stamps,” Adame said.

The alternative to food stamps for some families dealing with deployment is bankruptcy, according to Adame.

Again, he refers to the situation about which he is most familiar, North Carolina’s.

“Two years ago, North Carolina ranked 22nd in the nation in education,” Adame said, referring to a recent report by WalletHub.com. “Today, we are 51st. People should be outraged.”

North Carolina’s excellence in education took decades to build, according to Adame. “It took two years to destroy.”

He wants to stop the push to privatize public education through vouchers and other means. The result of that effort is that schools in poor districts will be poorer and affluent schools and students will benefit.

“It’s an effort to return us to segregated schools,” Adame believes. He called it a “race to the bottom,” a plan to create “a large, cheap labor pool” in the state.

Adame finds Republican efforts to make government smaller disingenuous.

“What we need to talk about is good government, whatever size it takes.”

For example, he asks, “Who is trying to stop Ebola? Government.”

He referred to President George W. Bush and the fact that he funded efforts to rein in AIDS. “That’s government,” Adame said. It worked, he added. And it will probably stand as Bush’s most lasting positive legacy.

On the other hand, he said that efforts to “shrink government” by privatizing Social Security could have disastrous results.

“If that had been done in 2007, we would have lost the entire Social Security Trust Fund in the 2008 crash,” Adame said.

He would like to see the U.S. Postal Service fully restored. “The U.S. Postal Service is being unfairly targeted by the Republican Congress,” Adame said.

“Government does some things well.”

Adame said there seems to be a conscious effort to instill fear in Americans.

“We’ve been gripped by fear in America,” he said.

It is a phenomenon that took hold following 9/11 and has been fomented by the media. When faced with fear, Americans are more likely to give up their rights or condone torture.

Adame has particular disdain for the Patriot Act, which has allowed government to gather information on private citizens through eavesdropping on emails and phone calls.

“I will work to dismantle the Patriot Act,” he said.

As for our country employing tactics such as water boarding, Adame said that disgusts him. It flies in the face of the Constitution.

“‘Unalienable’ rights are the rights of all men, not just Americans,” he said.

One does not need to leave the 3rd District to see the GOP’s restrictive voter laws, according to Adame.

“I am outraged at the Republican effort to decide who gets to elect them,” he said of the state’s new laws. “What we’ve done, in essence, is create a new poll tax.

“This clearly targets certain groups – the elderly, minorities, students.”

Having spent 14 years living in the Middle East, Adame brings a unique perspective to recurring conflicts, most recently ISIS, which has beheaded captives and wants to establish a Muslim caliphate.

“We need to help … advise, provide expertise,” he said. But he stopped short of committing troops. “If American blood and American treasure were going to solve the problem, it would have already been solved.

“We need Saudi boots … Turkish boots … Jordanian boots on the ground. But if the neighbors are not willing to pony up, why are they asking the U.S. to do it? They are used to us fighting for them.”

Adame has an opinion on those who support sending Americans into battle against ISIS: In many cases, they are not invested.

“When you have an all-volunteer fighting force, you have the poorest among us fighting our wars,” he explained.

A solution is possible, according to Adame.

“There is always hope,” he said. The solution will require “all the neighboring countries to drop their differences” and join the fight against ISIS. But that will be difficult, he said, as “they hate each other more than they love their own countries.”

The Middle East countries must come to the understanding that they can work together and that the United States can’t be expected to fight in their place.

“They’ve got to come to that belief,” Adame said. “Then, when they cross the border … we support them … we give them all the help they need, but only when they put their boots on the ground.”

Much of this, he said, is the result of President Bush “opening Pandora’s Box” with the Iraq War.

Although Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator and often mistreated his own people if they voiced opposition to his rule, Adame said, he was a secular leader and many people in Iraq today actually long for those pre-invasion days. Before the invasion, a large Christian population in the country was not persecuted, and many Shiite and Sunni Muslims lived and worked together.

After the invasion and the subsequent election of a Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, sectarian divisions heightened and eventually helped create the conditions that have allowed ISIS to grow and flourish.

And, he said, although Jones, his opponent, eventually came to oppose the Iraq War, at the time he “mocked” and “denigrated the French, “who were the only ones who tried to tell us” that intelligence about the Iraqis preparing weapons of mass destruction to use against the U.S. and others was wrong.

Jones’ change of heart led Adame to note that conscience is not just about regret, “We have a conscience to warn us,” he said.

Editor’s Note: For more on this story, log into the Tideland News e-Edition today or pick up your copy of Tideland News on newsstands.

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Article source: http://www.carolinacoastonline.com/tideland_news/news/article_97ebfe72-59ee-11e4-b3b5-abf666b4035b.html

Written by enfoquec on October 23rd, 2014

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Lebanon’s bartenders aim for Bacardi Prize   no comments

Posted at 5:15 am in the places I would like to go

BEIRUT: Four of Lebanon’s top bartenders made it to the country final of the Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition, beating eight other opponents with their own specialty cocktails. “I feel great. I’m looking forward to the final!” Jad Ballout, one of the four finalists, said while celebrating his victory.

The Bacardi Legacy Global Cocktail Competition gives bartenders the chance to showcase a cocktail of their own creation around the world.

The top 12 bartenders from Lebanon competed against each other in Ashrafieh Monday night. Each bartender created a cocktail using Bacardi rum as the main ingredient. Each cocktail has its own backstory, which the bartender had to present.

The three judges graded the bartenders on their skill and on the presentation and taste of their cocktails.

At the end of the night, four were selected: Ayman Zayour, Elie Germanos, Issam Jebrayel and Ballout. These four will now be given a budget by Bacardi to promote their creations however they choose over four months, and one will go on to represent Lebanon in the global final in Sydney, Australia, in 2015.

“The competition is about creating a legacy,” said Richard Neil Irwin, the Middle East and Africa brand ambassador for the Bacardi Martini Group, explaining that drinks like the martini and daiquiri became popular by word of mouth.

Zayour, a bartender at Xio Ciao bar on Uruguay Street, was ecstatic that his cocktail, Smooth Criminal, had been selected. While he looked calm on stage, he said that his nerves had almost gotten the better of him.

“You have no idea how tense I was,” Zayour recalled. “One thing messes up and you’re done.”

Smooth Criminal was inspired by the Pina Colada, and contains Bacardi Superior with butter and egg white to give a “creamy texture,” and Cherry Herring and Becherovka to give a fruity and “earthy tingling taste.”

Each bartender had their own style, and the way they chose to shake was a pivotal part of the performance. Each shake was met with raucous applause.

Michel Khairallah, owner of the Happening bar in Mar Mikhael, chose an unconventional performance style in which he took shots throughout his performance and tried his best to engage the judges. He’d actually been drinking all day in order to stay relaxed.

“I heard the universe smells like rum and raspberries,” he joked with the judges, but they were not moved.

His cocktail named the Hotspot was inspired by the Falafel sandwich, which, in his opinion, people only eat for the chili.

He tried to end his performance by taking a shot with Irwin, who oversaw all the proceedings, but Irwin declined.

According to Irwin, Lebanon is a rapidly growing market and bartenders here are in touch with the trends that are happening in Europe and the U.S.

“This is the first semifinal in Beirut,” Irwin said. “There’s been a really big interest. Beirut has sped up a lot.”

Tom Walker, last year’s global champion, was one of the judges at the event. Having Moroccan heritage, Walker had always wanted to come to the Middle East.

“I’d heard amazing things about Beirut and some friends came out here and said they couldn’t get enough of the city,” he said. “To actually come out here has been a great privilege.”

Walker insinuated that the bartending talent in Lebanon may still be in its infancy, but was confident for the future.

“Some of the contestants really brought it,” he said. “It’s the first time for this competition in this market. First time that some people have competed full stop, and that showed but that’s good because it shows that people aren’t afraid. People are fearless. The country’s got a lot of potential and I’m excited to see what happens.”

Article source: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Life/Lubnan/2014/Oct-23/274997-lebanons-bartenders-aim-for-bacardi-prize.ashx

Written by enfoquec on October 23rd, 2014

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