Earthquake Unleashes Avalanche Over Glacier   no comments

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An earthquake that rattled remote parts of Alaska and northwestern Canada in July triggered an avalanche that spilled mounds of snow down a steep mountainside. NASA scientists flying over the region captured dramatic photos of the quake-induced landslide just days after the event.

A 6.0-magnitude earthquake shook sections of Alaska and Canada’s Yukon Territory on July 17. The quake struck Seward Glacier, which is located 62 miles (100 kilometers) from the Alaskan city of Yakutat, reported the Alaska Earthquake Information Center.

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NASA scientists based in Fairbanks, Alaska, flew near Seward Glacier one day before the quake, on July 16, and observed that an earlier landslide had strewn rocks and other debris across the icy slopes. Four days after the earthquake, on July 21, the scientists revisited the site and discovered that a quake-induced avalanche had blanketed the mountainside in snow, covering much of the previous landslide’s rocky trail. [On Ice: Stunning Images of Canadian Arctic]

“It’s obvious that many big debris and snow slides happened in this short time window,” NASA glaciologist Kelly Brunt said in a statement. “This is a super steep area, so you get a lot of activity here. The bulk of the activity in this case is probably associated with the July 17 quake.”

Brunt and her colleagues snapped photos of the earthquake’s aftermath using a digital camera mounted inside the nose cone of NASA’s high-altitude ER-2 aircraft. The researchers flew within 1.2 miles (2 km) of the earthquake’s epicenter.

The scientists were already scheduled to conduct flights over Alaska, near Seward Glacier, to test an instrument called the Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar (MABEL), which is designed to detect changes in Earth’s landscape — particularly Arctic sea ice — using lasers and photon detectors.

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MABEL sends out pulses of laser light and measures how long it takes photons to bounce off Earth’s surface and return to the detectors. The pattern of photons can help scientists determine elevation changes and characteristics of the landscape, including areas where ice is thinning, or the location of melt pools during Arctic summers.

MABEL is being used to help scientists develop ways to interpret data for the upcoming ICESat-2 mission, scheduled to launch in 2017. The ICESat-2 mission will collect data on elevation changes of ice sheets in the Arctic, which could help researchers determine how sea-ice thickness is fluctuating over time.

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Written by enfoquec on September 15th, 2014

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Lessons of Libya cast shadow on Syria strategy   no comments

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Almost three years after the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi, oil-rich Libya is in utter chaos, as militias fight for control of the country and its elected government has fled along with tens of thousands of citizens.

The turmoil in Libya is a cautionary tale as the United States enlists the help of moderate Syrian rebels to defeat the radical Islamic State and oust Syrian President Bashar Assad.

As occurred in Libya, U.S. intervention to remove an anti-U.S. regime could lead to another failed state and more instability in the Middle East.

President Obama’s plan involves partnering with pro-Western elements of the Syrian opposition. They would provide ground troops, bolstered by U.S. training and air power, to defeat the Islamic State. The opposition’s main goal, however, is to defeat Assad, who Obama has said must go.

The strategy is similar to the one used in Libya in 2011, when a U.S.-led bombing campaign with NATO and Qatar saved anti-government militias from being overrun in the city of Benghazi and helped them overthrow an erratic dictator who ruled for 42 years. That effort also relied on partnering with supposed moderates so U.S. ground forces would not be needed.

In the end, radical elements wound up being empowered, as security in Libya deteriorated dramatically.

A year after Gadhafi’s overthrow, an al-Qaeda terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi killed four U.S. citizens, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Last month Islamist militias whose political leaders lost this summer’s elections to a secular coalition ejected government forces from the country’s capital, Tripoli. The radical militias have since announced their own government, while warring with one another for control.

Meanwhile, the elected parliament is convening in a converted car ferry in the port city of Tobruk near the Egyptian border, and Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have sent fighter jets to bomb the militants. More than 250,000 people have fled the fighting, according to the United Nations.

The Benghazi attack left “an ugly scar,” and taught Obama “to be even more incremental” in future conflicts, says James Carafano, vice president for foreign policy at the Heritage Foundation. Since then, “he’s doubled down on the formula of doing just enough to not get criticized for doing nothing.”

Marina Ottaway, a Middle East analyst at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for scholars, says the Libya lesson is “not so much that the United States should be more engaged, but that it’s much easier to tear down a regime than to build up a new one.”

A State Department official sought to put U.S. Libya policy in the best light before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs this past week but acknowledged the administration worries that Libyan radicals with ties to al-Qaeda could spread to neighboring countries and across the Middle East.

“We have concerns about the potential of Libyan militias Ansar al Shariah and others to continue to metastasize and spread to Algeria, Egypt … and spread to Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and other nations and become a serious security issue to the rest of the world,” said Gerald Feierstein, deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs.

Libya, which has a population of only 6 million and oil reserves that rank ninth in the world, “offers enormous opportunities,” Feierstein said.

The United States is helping train about 5,000 border guards to help stem the flow of fighters and weapons into the country, and is working with civil society, functioning institutions and the recently elected government of Libya to develop an inclusive coalition that represents all of Libyan society, he said.

But the central government is weak. And Sudan, which shares a border with Libya, and Qatar are sending weapons and money to Islamist militias against U.S. wishes, he said.

Democratic and Republican committee members said U.S. efforts to mediate between warring parties that have rejected the election results seem divorced from reality.

“What civil society, what functioning institutions?” said Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va.

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., called training a few thousand border guards to counter many more thousands of well-armed militiamen “absurd.”

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., countered that a hands-off strategy in Libya and elsewhere is better than the alternative: sending American personnel into harm’s way. “If we wanted real control on the ground it would require hundreds of casualties a year,” he said.

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Written by enfoquec on September 15th, 2014

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California high school drops controversial ‘Arab’ mascot   no comments

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From the very beginning, the ADC conceded that any offense was likely accidental, but said that steps still needed to be taken to remedy the situation.

“The old logo and the old imagery was very stereotypical, it was very offensive to many in the [Arab-American] community, but at the same time, the school district and the high school and those involved did not mean to offend the community,” ADC’s Ayoub said. “So this was not done with malice and was not done with bad intent.”

Darryl Adams, the school district’s superintendent, echoed Ayoub in saying educators need to “forever keep our eyes, ears and hearts open to the feelings of others even when no disrespect or harm is intended.”

“The realization that the Coachella Valley High School mascot and name was offensive to fellow citizens or any group is one that we cannot ignore,” Adams said. “As educators we are beacons of hope and light in helping students understand their place in society and that place does not include stereotypical images that offend.”

School officials and the ADC said Friday that phasing out the offensive imagery would take place over the coming months. The previous mascot’s image has already been removed from CHVS’ basketball court and it no longer makes appearances at football games. The school has also ceased its tradition of belly dancer half-time shows.

What’s more, school officials plan to redesign campus murals that stereotype Arab culture — including one in which a man and woman in tiny vests and harem pants sit atop a textbook-turned-magic-carpet. In the long term, the school is working toward offering Arabic language courses and even a cultural-exchange program with schools in the Middle East, Ayoub said.

School officials estimate that the redesign will cost between $15,000 to $25,000 — all of which they plan to raise from private donations, not taxpayer money.

“This process has been a learning experience for everyone involved,” said ADC President Samer Khalaf. “ We have had an opportunity to teach those in Coachella Valley about Arab culture and heritage. At the same time, we have had the opportunity to learn about the history of Coachella Valley and its strong connection to the Arab world.”

“The past 10 months have shown that almost any problem can be resolved through dialogue and cooperation,” Khalaf added.

“It is our hope that similar matters, including that involving the Washington [Redskins] professional football team, can reach a resolution that respects the culture and history of specific communities.”

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Written by enfoquec on September 12th, 2014

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Artist Tina Randolph makes dining spaces unique   no comments

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WHAT’S ON the table at a restaurant is what’s most important, but at Mamnoon, the tables themselves demand your attention.

If you’ve been to Racha and Wassef Haroun’s Middle Eastern restaurant on Capitol Hill, you have surely noticed the colorful communal tables up front, across from the bread-baking kitchen. At a glance, the tabletops resemble mosaic, but they are a seamless design made with plaster integrally tinted with pigment and sealed in resin. The muted colors are echoed in the pendant lights suspended above. “I wanted something inviting,” says Racha, to soften the room’s industrial look.

The tables are the work of Capitol Hill artist Tina Randolph, who specializes in architectural finishes using vintage patterns and timeworn colors. If you’ve spent any time pondering the spiral graphic at Top Pot Doughnuts downtown, or the map of the world on the wall at Sun Liquor Bar and Restaurant, or the murals inspired by 1930s-era Chinese firecracker packaging at Sun Liquor Lounge, you’ve seen Randolph’s work. “We design spaces with Tina in mind,” says Mark Klebeck, who started both companies with his brother, Michael.

Her work survives even when the business doesn’t. When Linda Derschang built Bait Shop, she erased all traces of the previous tenant, the Asian restaurant Bako, except for a mural by Randolph in the back hallway, inspired by a 1962 Chinese cigarette ad.

“Although the mural doesn’t have a nautical look, which is the Bait Shop vibe, it’s so amazing we absolutely had to keep it,” says the restaurateur behind such arty Capitol Hill venues as Oddfellows and Tallulah’s. “Art in restaurants and bars makes an enormous difference to the atmosphere, whether it is found at a thrift store, a gallery or created with a particular space in mind.”

Art is important to the Harouns, as well. They were collectors long before they became restaurateurs. Both are of Syrian heritage for many generations. They wanted Mamnoon’s art to show the depth of Middle Eastern culture and also to reflect the restaurant’s East-meets-West ethos.

Pictures by contemporary Middle Eastern and African artists hang in the lounge. To partition the lounge from the dining room, the design firm Graypants created laser-cut screens made of poplar inspired by mashrabiya, the latticework window coverings prevalent in traditional Arabic architecture.

Before this project, the designer didn’t know what a mashrabiya was, say the Harouns. The pixelated pattern of eight-point stars, a symbol widely used in Islamic art, suggests the play of light and shadow in a Northwest woods.

Like the screens, Randolph’s tables mix ancient and modern, East and West.

“I don’t think any Middle Eastern artist could have done what Tina has done,” says Wassef. “We gave her some designs, colors, patterns, ideas. A traditional Middle Eastern artist would likely have reverted to the usual. Tina brought an outsider’s perspective.”

The Mamnoon project pushed Randolph’s boundaries quite a bit. She had been working with pattern for years but in a static way, had never done a functional piece and had never used resin. Her layered plaster method is ancient but computer graphics and adhesive stenciling give it a modern edge.

Using stencils to create the pattern work, she layers in tinted Venetian plaster with a small Italian trowel. When the stencil mask is pulled up, the plaster holds a crisp, raised color detail. “It most closely resembles Italian secco painting techniques,” Randolph says. “It is my modern take on it. I break all the rules by adding a resin coat.”

The resin protects from stains and prevents the sort of wear and tear happening to some of Mamnoon’s grey-lacquered dining tables. As they become chipped and worn, Randolph is touching them up with her custom finishes. “Our tables are slowly getting infected with art,” says Wassef. “Over time, every table will be special.”

Providence Cicero is The Seattle Times restaurant critic. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW magazine staff photographer.

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Written by enfoquec on September 12th, 2014

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Three Sides of Ecuador   no comments

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Written by enfoquec on September 12th, 2014

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Arabic under threat   no comments

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When Dr. Mas’ad Barhum was appointed as director of Nahariya hospital in northern Israel some seven years ago, thus becoming the first Israeli-Arab to occupy such a post, his nomination was hailed as an important step towards the integration of the Arab minority in Israel, proof that Israel is a democracy, where everyone – whether Arab or Jew – is equal.

Not exactly. An instruction distributed by the same Dr. Barhum some weeks ago and made public only yesterday, stipulated that the only language allowed in the hospital is Hebrew. The staff should use only Hebrew with the patients and among itself. It should be remembered that more than 50 percent of the population in the northern district to which Nahariya hospital belongs are Arabs, and among the hospital’s patients, the percentage is even higher. Many of the doctors and medical staff are also Arabs. So an Arab doctor will be forced to speak Hebrew with an Arab patient in order “to respect his colleagues,” according to Barhum’s instruction.

Barhum is not alone. While he is forcing his Arab colleagues not to speak Arabic in public, a group of right-wing Knesset members is going down the same path. Led by MK Shimon Ohayon (Likud) they demand to abolish the status of Arabic as an official language, a heritage from the times of the British Mandate. Currently, all laws, regulations and official forms must be published in Arabic as well as Hebrew, and every citizen is entitled to use Arabic while dealing with government institutions.

Ohayon, himself born in Morocco, claims that canceling Arabic’s unique status “will help social cohesion and build a collective identity needed to create mutual trust” within Israeli society. Quite similar are the justifications used by Dr. Barhum in Nahariya. Interestingly enough, just a few months ago, Israel’s education minister, Shai Piron, exempted high-school students from the long-time obligation to study Arabic, a language spoken by more than 20 percent of Israelis; as if there is a concerted effort to wipe out the Arab cultural presence from the Israeli public sphere.

“It is part of a policy of threats aimed at Palestinians in Israel,” comments Jaafar Farah, head of Moasawa Center for the Rights of the Arab Minority in Israel. “The racist settler elite, which controls much of Israeli establishment, is trying to build a Jewish ghetto with walls around it. These ghettos suit them. What they don’t realize is that despite them, Israel is turning into a multi-lingual society. In Haifa [Mosawa is based in this northern city], apart from Arabic, a third of the population speaks Russian.”

Farah claims that even without abolishing its official status, the Arabic language is in continuous decline in Israel. “Once not only legislation, but all Knesset hearings were published in Arabic. Now, no more. On the homepage of government internet sites you have Arabic, but if you go in and try to fill a form, it’s in Hebrew.” His center decided to write all their bank cheques  in Arabic, and every week they get telephone calls from angry bank clerks, asking them to explain what is written upon them. “We are reminding them that this is an official language and they have to deal with it themselves.”

During the height of Operation Protective Edge, when Israeli Palestinians were attacked on a daily basis, Ron Gerliz, co-director of Sikuy (Chance), an association working with the Arab minority, wrote an article in which he claimed that this violence is also a reaction to the advancement of Arabs in Israeli society.  When he was young, wrote Gerliz, in the Jewish cities you would meet Arabs only as laborers. Today it has completely changed: “A Jewish citizen coming into a pharmacy will almost always see there an Arab pharmacist, and if he will reach an emergency room, it is very  probable that he will treated by an Arab doctor.” The Jewish extremists see these changes, are afraid to lose their hegemonic position, and are turning against the Israeli Arabs, wrote Gerliz.

Farah rejects this explanation. “The Israeli Palestinians are a weakened community and they remain such,” he said. “We spend 40 billion shekels per year on consumption, but the advertisers ignore our community. The Arab media in Israel is getting weaker, even in Arab cities all billboards are in Hebrew.” This doesn’t say that the language itself is disappearing. On the contrary, more and more Israeli Arabs are watching international Arab channels like al-Jazeera or al-Mayadeen. “The younger generation knows literary Arab (fosha) better than I knew at my age,” added Farah.

Although it is clear that the aim of the proposed law is to reduce Arab presence in Israel, the result maybe the opposite. “We are not afraid,” said Farah. If this law will be passed and the official status of Arabic will be canceled, it will act as a boomerang, he predicts. A few years ago, Israel passed a law forbidding to commemorate the Nakba, the plight of the Arabs in 1948. Today, noted Farah, the number of Israeli Palestinians participating in Nakba memorials has risen from 10,000 to 30,000 each year.

Farah estimates that the same thing will happen after a law downgrading the status of Arabic passes; The Israeli Palestinians will strengthen their attachment to their language, and Israel’s isolation in the world will deepen. The newly elected president Rubi Rivlin might understand it and condemn Ohayon’s initiative. But then Rivlin has personal stakes in the Arabic language. His father, Professor Yossef Yoel Rivlin,was the first to translate the Koran into modern Hebrew. The memories of a Jewish-Arabic co-existence haven’t faded away completely. 

Meron Rapoport is an Israeli journalist and writer, winner of the Napoli International Prize for Journalism for a inquiry about the stealing of olive trees from their Palestinian owners. He is ex-head of the News Department in Haaertz, and now an independent journalist.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo credit: Israeli right wing activists and Israeli Arabs during protest in northern Israeli city of Haifa on 19 July (AFP).


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Written by enfoquec on September 10th, 2014

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The message ISIS wants to send to America, the world   no comments

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The grisly propaganda videos released by Islamist terrorists of the executions of innocent American hostages are coldly calculated to intimidate the terrorist group’s enemies, inspire its followers and incite further attacks against the United States and our allies.

The Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS) considers the videos a means of retaliating against the United States for supporting Iraqis who are resisting the group’s barbaric advances. The videos also are meant to inflate others’ perceptions of ISIS’s strength and to plant the idea that the United States is incapable of halting the slaughter of its own citizens, much less the slaughter of Iraqis and Syrians that ISIS deems to be obstacles to its self-proclaimed jihad (holy war).

In the most recent video depicting the decapitation of the American reporter Steven Sotloff, the masked terrorist sought to humiliate President Obama personally.”I’m back, Obama,” he crowed, “and I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State.” The gruesome video then shows Sotloff’s severed head lying next to his body.

ISIS aims to horrify Americans to discourage increased U.S. military involvement in combatting the Islamic State. But there also was another target audience: supporters and potential recruits for that terrorist movement.

The slickly-packaged jihadist propaganda seeks to stimulate and galvanize members of the movement, spur potential recruits to join in the carnage and incite additional terrorist attacks against the United States.

The spectacle of ritual killing is meant to dramatize the power of the movement and the helplessness of its victims, thereby encouraging fanaticism among its followers. As Eric Hoffer observed in his seminal book, “The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements”:

“The practice of terror serves the true believer not only to cow and crush his opponents but also to invigorate and intensify his own faith.”

The videos also are an important recruiting tool.By displaying a young Muslim militant boldly taunting a superpower, it advertises an intoxicating blend of religious fanaticism and revolutionary violence that attracts impressionable young males.

Unfortunately, in the Middle East, the ruthless employment of violence often is taken as a sign of strength that should be emulated. As Usama bin Laden proclaimed, “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.”

The Islamic State, an offshoot of bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network, shares his revolutionary Islamist ideology.It sees itself as the vanguard in a never-ending struggle between Islam and non-believers.

Today, the Islamic State is primarily focused on carving a revolutionary Islamic stronghold out of the failed states of Iraq and Syria. But ultimately it seeks to overthrow every government in the region, drive Western influence out of the Middle East, destroy Israel and become the nucleus of a global Islamic empire.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, its ambitious leader, represents a new generation of Al Qaeda leadership that has bristled at criticism of its extreme brutality from old guard leaders such as Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s successor.

Baghdadi recently proclaimed the establishment of a caliphate and renamed himself Caliph Ibrahim.This signals his determination to become recognized not only as the true successor of Usama bin Laden, but more importantly as the successor to the prophet Muhammad.

This claim has been ridiculed by Islamic scholars and rejected by many rival Islamist extremist groups.But it adds a dangerous new dimension to the appeal of the Islamic State that is being amplified by a sophisticated propaganda apparatus that spews high quality media content on a variety of social media that appeal to young Muslims.

Get ready to see more chilling videos from fanatical terrorists seeking to cloak their atrocities with religious justifications.

 - James Phillips is the Senior Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs in The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies.

Originally appeared in Fox News

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James Phillips

Senior Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs

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Written by enfoquec on September 10th, 2014

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