Posts Tagged ‘Israel grossman attorney’

Terrorism Fears Complicate Money Transfers For Somali-Americans

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Feb 26 2015

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Customers wait to collect money at the Juba Express money transfer company in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Feb. 12.

Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images


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Customers wait to collect money at the Juba Express money transfer company in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Feb. 12.

Customers wait to collect money at the Juba Express money transfer company in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Feb. 12.

Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images

Regulations intended to block money from getting into the hands of terrorist groups has led the last bank that handles most money transfers from the United States to Somalia to pull out of the business.

Somali refugees in the U.S. say their families back home need the money they send each month to survive, and they’re counting on lawmakers and Obama administration officials, who are meeting in Washington on Thursday, to try to find a solution.

Like tens of thousands of Somali Americans, Omar Shekhey, who lives in Georgia, pulls together a couple of hundred dollars every month and sends the money to his two sisters back in Somalia.

“This is like their paycheck,” Shekhey says. “It’s money that they need to survive. There are no jobs; nothing. They will starve. If they don’t get this money they will starve.”

And right now, he’s extremely worried. This month, Merchants Bank of California — the last U.S. bank to handle most of these transactions — pulled out of the business. It cited concerns about meeting federal banking requirements, which are intended to stop the flow of funds to criminals and terrorists.

“And I don’t know where to go, and I don’t know where to send that money,” Shekhey says. “This is facing not only me, but the whole community.”

Nasir Warsama is regional manager for Amal USA, a money transfer business that until last week operated outside Atlanta.

“Well, the business basically it’s closed,” Warsama says.

He says his firm would collect small amounts of cash from people like Shekhey, bundle it together and work through a U.S. bank to transfer the funds overseas, where the money would be distributed. He says there are few other options in Somalia because the war-torn nation has no central banking system.

“There’s no functioning financial institutions,” Warsama says. “So the only way they can get support from outside is either through the [United Nations] or the NGOs or the support from their family members.”

That support has been huge: An estimated $1.3 billion a year from relatives around the world, including more than $200 million from the U.S.

But U.S. authorities worry that some of the money could end up in the wrong hands — like those of al-Shabab, the Somalia-based terrorist group that just released a video calling for attacks on Western shopping malls.

Strict tracking rules have been imposed on such money transfers, but Rob Rowe, a vice president at the American Bankers Association, says it’s all but impossible for banks to comply in a country like Somalia.

“It’s very chaotic because of all the civil unrest,” Rowe says. “And so when a bank from the United States sends the money, they don’t have the information or the transparency that they’re required to have.”

Like knowing exactly where the money goes.

“Bankers are looking at all this and they know that they’re under the microscope and if they don’t do the right thing, they’re going to be held accountable,” Rowe says.

Government regulators say they’re trying to find a reasonable solution. They say they recognize the hardship for Somalis and that the end of regulated transfers could cause more serious problems. That’s why a group of lawmakers has asked for an emergency meeting on Thursday with representatives from the Treasury and State departments and other agencies.

Minnesota Democratic congressman Keith Ellison says he fears more economic disruption in Somalia will only help al-Shabab.

“The last thing that we want to do is push Somalis into the hands of these homicidal maniacs,” Ellison says.

He says people have been talking about the issue for years, but maybe now, with the crisis at hand, something will get done.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2015/02/25/389037099/terrorism-fears-complicate-money-transfers-for-somali-americans?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Controversial Austrian Law Encourages Teaching Islam In German

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Feb 26 2015

Robert Siegel talks to Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs, about revising a 1912 law giving Muslims the same rights as Christians and Jews. The new law would restrict foreign financing of mosques and Imams and encourage teaching Islam in German.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2015/02/25/389041409/controversial-austrian-law-encourages-teaching-islam-in-german?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Global Rules Of Greeting Vary, But Biden And Travolta Get No Support

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Feb 26 2015

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Vice President Joe Biden was criticized for coming up from behind and getting too close to Stephanie Carter at her husband’s swearing-in ceremony as secretary of defense.

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Vice President Joe Biden was criticized for coming up from behind and getting too close to Stephanie Carter at her husband's swearing-in ceremony as secretary of defense.

Vice President Joe Biden was criticized for coming up from behind and getting too close to Stephanie Carter at her husband’s swearing-in ceremony as secretary of defense.

Evan Vucci/AP

Joe Biden and John Travolta don’t seem to know when they’re getting too close for comfort.

Last week, the vice president went up to Stephanie Carter, the wife of the newly named secretary of defense, and put his hands on her shoulders and whispered in her ear. She did not look at all amused.

At the Oscars, Travolta did a double no-no. Before the ceremony he put his hand on Scarlett Johansson’s waist and leaned in for a smooch. She had a deer-in-the-headlights look. During the show, he touched the chin of co-presenter Idina Menzel. It’s unclear if that was scripted or spontaneous. To judge by the flustered look on her face, I’d vote for the latter.

Joe Navarro, a former FBI agent who’s written about body language in , who’s the author of What Every Body Is Saying, says “9 inches” is as close as you’d want to go in a social setting in the U.S. (Unless you know the person very very well.)

That made me wonder: What about other countries? What are the rules of personal space?

When Navarro’s family emigrated from Cuba to the U.S., he remembers his American teacher telling him, “You have to stand back a little bit.” In social settings in the U.S., he has found, people keep a 3 to 4 feet distance. “But in Latin America,” says Navarro, “that’s just frigid, that’s like an icicle.”

Our global health correspondent Jason Beaubien recalls meeting a local minister of health in Mexico. It was their first encounter. He leaned in to give her an air kiss, which is customary in Latin America. She took him to task for not actually planting his lips on her cheek.

Nurith Aizenman, NPR’s international development correspondent, remembers a totally different experience as a woman covering Afghanistan for The Washington Post. She had to train herself not to offer a handshake when interviewing men. Any contact between unrelated men and women is taboo. So she’d stand face-to-face, place her hand on her heart and give a slight bow.

She got so good at the no-handshake posture that when she shifted to covering Central America, she was momentarily stunned the first time a man she was interviewing went for the standard Latin kiss on the cheek.

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A scene in Mexico city affirms that Latin America is a land of openly expressed affection.

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A scene in Mexico city affirms that Latin America is a land of openly expressed affection.

A scene in Mexico city affirms that Latin America is a land of openly expressed affection.

Esteban Felix/AP

So yes, different strokes, for different parts of the world. And you really do have to tune into the local culture.

There are also different rules about touching.

“In Senegal, which is deeply conservative, majority Muslim and openly very friendly to foreigners, people don’t even hold hands in public,” reports NPR’s West Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. “It always struck me as quite unusual when I moved here. Now I’m quite used to it. Even young people are not given to public displays of even hand-holding!

In fact, in different African countries there are many ways to greet that do not involve physical touching: clasp your hands together, touch your heart, nod, genuflect, curtsy, clap your hands.

In Ghana, however, men are comfortable holding hands — or little fingers – “and there’s nothing unusual or no-no about it,” Quist-Arcton says.

Respect for the person you approach, she says, is critical all over Africa.

But she adds that you have to be flexible and adapt, wherever you find yourself on the continent. From country to country, customs may vary: from air kiss, to cheek kiss to hand shaking. Even how long to shake can vary.

However you greet someone in Africa, you need to show respect, Quist-Arcton says. So Travolta and Biden wouldn’t get a thumbs up for their behavior. “You’re definitely not going to see a man taking a woman’s head in his hands,” Quist-Arcton says.

Nor is it a good idea to come up from behind, as Biden did. Quist-Arcton wonders: “Is that a good thing anywhere?” I think the answer is self-evident!

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2015/02/25/389020850/global-rules-of-greeting-vary-but-biden-and-travolta-get-no-support?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

FIFA Considers Proposal To Move 2022 Qatar World Cup To Winter

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Feb 25 2015

FIFA is considering a proposal to move the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to winter, but the change would would cause major disruption to the Premiere Leagues schedule.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2015/02/24/388796098/fifa-considers-proposal-to-move-2022-qatar-world-cup-to-winter?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Jordan’s King Balances Threats Abroad And Critics At Home

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Feb 25 2015

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Jordan’s King Abdullah prepares to meet U.S. senators in Washington on Feb. 3. A close U.S. ally, the monarch faces critics at home, both religious and secular, who are pressing for greater political rights.

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Jordan's King Abdullah prepares to meet U.S. senators in Washington on Feb. 3. A close U.S. ally, the monarch faces critics at home, both religious and secular, who are pressing for greater political rights.

Jordan’s King Abdullah prepares to meet U.S. senators in Washington on Feb. 3. A close U.S. ally, the monarch faces critics at home, both religious and secular, who are pressing for greater political rights.

Allison Shelley/Getty Images

Jordan’s King Abdullah has faced a delicate balancing act ever since he ascended the throne in 1999 following his father’s death. His country shares borders with Iraq, Syria and Israel among others, and there always seems to be trouble in the neighborhood.

His latest challenge has been to convince Jordanians that it’s in the country’s interest to play a prominent role in the U.S.-led coalition against the self-declared Islamic State.

Many Jordanians were skeptical if not outright opposed. But when they saw their pilot Moaz Kassasbeh killed on video by ISIS, they rallied behind the king.

The monarch even found support from critics like Dima Tahboub, the spokeswoman for the Islamic Action Front, a political party allied with Jordan’s wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. The brotherhood, an Islamic social and political movement, is big and legal in Jordan.

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“This is the phase where we should unite our efforts with the government and with the regime because we thought that our country is threatened, our Islam is threatened, so we should stand united in the face of that,” says Tahboub, who was educated at the University of Manchester in England.

The phase she spoke of lasted less than a month.

Last week, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood was sentenced for remarks he posted on Facebook attacking the United Arab Emirates. He was convicted of insulting a friendly government and received 18 months in prison.

“Our king speaks well, he promotes Jordan very good in Western communities,” Tahboub says.

But for domestic opposition groups like her party, she says, things are not so good.

For example, the electoral system makes it impossible for a party to win many seats in Parliament. In a more representative system, the Islamic Action Front could have real political power.

Some defenders of the status quo fear that if the front won power, Tahboub’s party would reverse Jordan’s pro-Western alignment.

So what does the party stand for?

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Dima Tahboub is the spokesperson for the Islamic Action Front, a group aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood. The front is legal, but Jordan’s political system limits its clout and the king has the final say on important matters.

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Dima Tahboub is the spokesperson for the Islamic Action Front, a group aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood. The front is legal, but Jordan's political system limits its clout and the king has the final say on important matters.

Dima Tahboub is the spokesperson for the Islamic Action Front, a group aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood. The front is legal, but Jordan’s political system limits its clout and the king has the final say on important matters.

Art Silverman/NPR

“Our belief is not that radical. We believe in moderate Islam. There has to be a social contract between people. Making a woman wear the headscarf or preventing people from drinking liquor is not going to be our priority at that time,” she says.

“Our priorities will be educating people, empowering people to rule themselves, to be free in their own countries,” she adds.

She acknowledges that the party would like to see social measures, like a ban on alcohol, put on the ballot.

“If people agree to that, if we put that to the vote, and the majority of the Jordanian people say, ‘OK, we want to prevent liquor in the country,’ then that’s democracy, that’s their decision,” she says. “Why does democracy [here] have to be different than democracy in the United States? If people agree and there’s a consensus, well, let it be.”

Asked about polygamy, a policy sanctioned by the Quran and practiced by some traditional Muslims, she says: “Polygamy is like other issues. They’re not our priority to handle now. We should be interested more in human rights. We’re suffering from all kinds of injustices.”

“The West should appreciate that the Arab countries and the Muslim countries have their uniqueness,” she adds. “If we meet, we meet as equals, but we have our differences.”

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Jordanians marched in the streets of the capital Amman on Feb. 6 to show solidarity with the family of a pilot killed by the Islamic State in Syria. Jordanians also expressed support for the king’s decision to take part in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS.

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Jordanians marched in the streets of the capital Amman on Feb. 6 to show solidarity with the family of a pilot killed by the Islamic State in Syria. Jordanians also expressed support for the king's decision to take part in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS.

Jordanians marched in the streets of the capital Amman on Feb. 6 to show solidarity with the family of a pilot killed by the Islamic State in Syria. Jordanians also expressed support for the king’s decision to take part in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS.

Muhammad Hamed/Reuters/Landov

As for the battle against ISIS in Syria, Tahboub’s party supports retaliatory airstrikes against ISIS, provided they don’t kill innocent civilians. But when it comes to Jordanian troops entering Syria, the party is against that, as are most Jordanians.

“We have to face the ideology of ISIS in Jordan to protect the minds of our youth from what ISIS presents,” she says. “They are hijacking Islam to us.”

She compares ISIS to fanaticism in Christianity.

“Should we blame Christianity for that; should we blame the churches for that? Each church has its problems. Each church has its alien offspring,” she argues.

In her view, Westerners as well as Arab rulers need to distinguish between Islamic political parties and extremists. Arabs in many countries are, she says, “being handcuffed by our governments, by our regimes. They are treating us as an equal problem to these radical fanatics.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2015/02/24/388719052/jordans-king-balances-threats-aboard-and-critics-at-home?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

A Stolen iPhone, A New Connection And Minor Celebrity In China

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Feb 25 2015

Months after Buzzfeed writer Matt Stopera’s phone was stolen, new pictures from China started uploading to his photo stream. He wrote about it and Chinese twitter, Weibo, picked it up. Kelly McEvers talks to Stopera about his stolen iPhone and newfound fame in China.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2015/02/24/388796173/a-stolen-iphone-a-new-connection-and-minor-celebrity-in-china?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

In Battered Ukraine, Spirit Of Defiance Lives On In Maidan Square

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Feb 24 2015

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The Maidan — or Independence Square — lies at the heart of Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev. The name has become synonymous with the protests that ousted Ukraine’s pro-Russian president last year.

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The Maidan  or Independence Square  lies at the heart of Ukraine's capital city, Kiev. The name has become synonymous with the protests that ousted Ukraine's pro-Russian president last year.

The Maidan — or Independence Square — lies at the heart of Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev. The name has become synonymous with the protests that ousted Ukraine’s pro-Russian president last year.

Courtesy Diana Derby

A year ago, clashes killed scores of anti-government protesters in Ukraine and the pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, fled the country.

Over the weekend, thousands of people turned out in Kiev’s central square, known as the Maidan, to mark the anniversary.

But even when Maidan isn’t being used for giant demonstrations, the central square has become an everyday gathering place for free speech of all kinds, including that which criticizes the current government.

People visit the Maidan at all hours. Some leave flowers and light candles at makeshift memorials for protesters who died last year.

Some come to lodge new protests and calls for help in a country that’s beset by war and a ceasefire that won’t take hold.

Ukraine is on the tipping edge of financial collapse; on Monday the currency lost another 10 percent of its value.

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On Sunday, thousands of people gathered in Maidan to mark the first anniversary of anti-government demonstrations that left scores of protesters dead.

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On Sunday, thousands of people gathered in Maidan to mark the first anniversary of anti-government demonstrations that left scores of protesters dead.

On Sunday, thousands of people gathered in Maidan to mark the first anniversary of anti-government demonstrations that left scores of protesters dead.

Geovien So/Barcroft Media/Landov

On a typical weekend day, several hundred people gather around the foot of the monument to Ukrainian independence. It’s a soaring column, topped with a statue of a Slavic goddess, her arms outspread.

Below, the square is lined with recruiting posters for the Ukrainian army, and festooned with rows of blue and yellow Ukrainian flags strung together.

A long-haired folksinger in army fatigues warms up the crowd with a traditional melody.

It might have been a festive atmosphere, except that many people have come to voice anxieties and discontents.

Diana Katyenko is here with her mother and godmother.

“We really [do] not agree with some actions that our president and our prime minister do,” she says. “So, we really ask them to change their politics because they are wrong with lots of actions, actually.”

All three women say they were here a year ago, during the clashes when more than 100 people were killed, many by snipers who have never been brought to justice. The dead included 17 police officers.

Crowds gather in Maidan at the foot of Kiev’s monument to Ukrainian independence.

Courtesy Diana Derby


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Courtesy Diana Derby

Katyenko and her companions think current Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has compromised too much in his negotiations with Russia over the war in eastern Ukraine.

“If America hears us, please help us,” Katyenko adds, “because our country is dying, and we don’t want it to be like this.”

Katyenko says she means American military help “because we have nothing to protect ourselves.”

“Our army has nothing except people, but people can’t make war with their naked hands,” she says.

Judging from the signs people carry, many of them want different things: jobs, protection for their savings. A few are even promoting their own new designs for Ukraine’s flag.

But most of them join in when the national anthem is played.

Somehow all the different messages blend together for a few minutes — the voices of people who are just stopping by and those who look as if they can’t bring themselves to leave.

The Ukrainian national anthem is a stately song that builds in power as it goes along. When it ends, a woman shouts “Maidan zili!” “Maidan lives!”

The people pick it up, and it becomes a chant: “Maidan lives! Maidan lives!”

That’s one thing on which people here seem absolutely determined.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2015/02/23/388477084/in-battered-ukraine-spirit-of-defiance-lives-on-in-maidan-square?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Jordan’s Army Preps For A Bigger Role Against ISIS

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Feb 24 2015

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Jordanians march in the capital, Amman, on Feb. 6. Many Jordanians had expressed skepticism, if not outright opposition to the country’s military role in the coalition against the Islamic State. But as this march showed, support swelled after a Jordanian pilot was captured and killed by ISIS.

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Jordanians march in the capital, Amman, on Feb. 6. Many Jordanians had expressed skepticism, if not outright opposition to the country's military role in the coalition against the Islamic State. But as this march showed, support swelled after a Jordanian pilot was captured and killed by ISIS.

Jordanians march in the capital, Amman, on Feb. 6. Many Jordanians had expressed skepticism, if not outright opposition to the country’s military role in the coalition against the Islamic State. But as this march showed, support swelled after a Jordanian pilot was captured and killed by ISIS.

Raad Adayleh/AP

Jordan’s King Abdullah was way out ahead of the people in his support of the war against the self-declared Islamic State, or ISIS. Many Jordanians used to say it was someone else’s war even though it’s only a 90-minute drive from the capital, Amman, north to the Syrian border.

But Jordanian opinions changed dramatically after the horrific video in which ISIS immolated a Jordanian pilot, Moaz Kassasbeh, who was captured back in December.

Jordan ramped up its airstrikes. Videos of the attacks were cheered when they appeared on Jordanian television. Photos of the king in military dress won him applause both at home and in the West.

This has produced a great moment of national consensus. But where does Jordan go from here?

The country appears set to play a larger role in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, but the war looks to be long and difficult. Jordan, a country of just 6.6 million people, is already hosting more than 600,000 Syrian refugees. This has placed great strain on a country with limited resources and a fragile economy.

Government critics, meanwhile, are calling for political reform and democratization in a country where the king still has the final say on all important matters.

Jordan’s military is a key player in all this, and NPR got to see it up close at the King Abdullah Special Operations Training Center, which is just outside Amman.

The Jordanian armed forces are closely aligned with the West, and the commander at the training center, Brig. Gen. Aref al-Zaben, is no exception. He has been trained at Fort Bragg, N.C., and also studied at the National Defense University in Washington.

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Jordan’s Brig. Gen. Aref al-Zaben runs a special operations training center outside Amman. He believes it’s inevitable that Jordan and other countries in the anti-ISIS coalition will send in special forces at some point to fight the extremist group.

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Jordan's Brig. Gen. Aref al-Zaben runs a special operations training center outside Amman. He believes it's inevitable that Jordan and other countries in the anti-ISIS coalition will send in special forces at some point to fight the extremist group.

Jordan’s Brig. Gen. Aref al-Zaben runs a special operations training center outside Amman. He believes it’s inevitable that Jordan and other countries in the anti-ISIS coalition will send in special forces at some point to fight the extremist group.

Art Silverman/NPR

A Package Of Tools

Zaben, who has also served in Afghanistan and Yemen, stressed the ideological dimension of special operations: spreading the message of moderate Islam that Jordanians, and he would say most Muslims, practice.

“From my experience in Afghanistan, we found that there is another tool that we can fight with when we go for the root cause of the terror in the world. The voice of moderate Islam,” he says.

In Afghanistan, Zaben took an imam with him to villages threatened by the Taliban. An imam who preached moderation. Back in Jordan, it’s become part of the curriculum at the training center.

“You need to fight the ideology with the ideology,” he says. He adds that the training involves both “kinetic,” or traditional military action, as well as “nonkinetic” elements.

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Jordanian soldiers stand guard at the Iraq-Jordan border last year. Jordan also shares a border with Syria and has had to deal with a flood of refugees from both its neighbors over the past decade.

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Jordanian soldiers stand guard at the Iraq-Jordan border last year. Jordan also shares a border with Syria and has had to deal with a flood of refugees from both its neighbors over the past decade.

Jordanian soldiers stand guard at the Iraq-Jordan border last year. Jordan also shares a border with Syria and has had to deal with a flood of refugees from both its neighbors over the past decade.

Jamal Nasrallah/EPA/Landov

“When we’re talking about the nonkinetic, we’re talking about the lectures, the ideology and how to counter the ideology,” he said. “It’s a package.”

It’s a training package not just for Jordanian special forces but for soldiers, counterterrorism units and SWAT teams from neighboring countries including Iraq and the Palestinian Authority.

I asked about Jordan’s role in Syria. Support for airstrikes is strong, though a ground invasion is not on the table. But what about special forces?

“The fight against ISIS will [include] special forces, special operations on the ground, in the future,” he said. “That’s going to be a coalition initiative.”

Asked if that meant that other regional countries, not only Jordan, were likely to send in special forces, he answered definitively.

“Must be,” he says. “I think we all have to stand together.”

Defining Moderate Islam

King Abdullah is part of the Hashemite royal family that claims descent from the Prophet Muhammad, and the family often describes its own practice of the faith as “moderate.” The king is seen as an appropriate spokesman for that cause.

But, talking with Jordanians, you hear a lot more about what moderate Islam is not, rather than what it is.

Omar Raziz, a thoughtful, American-trained economist who’s now a banker, said soul-searching is harder when the region is full of war and sectarian strife.

“A community that is sort of safe and contained can go on searching and asking questions about their beliefs and have they gone wrong,” he says. “When you perceive yourself as being under attack from the outside somehow, that ability to soul-search becomes much more limited. …

“People become more defensive and we’re stuck in that place where we are on the defensive, but we also need to carry out that conversation about what do we actually stand for,” he says.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2015/02/23/388456448/jordans-army-preps-for-a-bigger-role-against-isis?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Good News: More Crops! Bad News: More Plague!

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Feb 24 2015

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The maize stored outside this farmer’s house is a magnet for rodents that could host plague-carrying fleas.

Courtesy of Douglas McCauley


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The maize stored outside this farmer's house is a magnet for rodents that could host plague-carrying fleas.

The maize stored outside this farmer’s house is a magnet for rodents that could host plague-carrying fleas.

Courtesy of Douglas McCauley

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The woodland dormouse is one of several species of rodent found in Tanzanian forests and farms.

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The woodland dormouse is one of several species of rodent found in Tanzanian forests and farms.

The woodland dormouse is one of several species of rodent found in Tanzanian forests and farms.

Courtesy of Lauren Helgen

Africa needs more food.

And to get more food, you need more farmland.

There’s a relatively simple solution — it’s called “land conversion,” and it can mean creating new fields to grow crops next to fragments of forest.

Only there’s a catch. The rats of the forest are drawn to the crops of the farmland — and to the grains that farmers often store outside their homes. And those rats can carry the bacteria that causes plague — the very same plague responsible for claiming millions of lives during the Middle Ages.

“Throughout East Africa there’s been a lot of push toward land conversion,” says Hillary Young, a community ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Young is particularly interested in some of the pests on this farmland: specifically, the rats that come to poach harvested crops. Recently, she completed a study showing that rats on farmland are more likely to carry the bacteria that cause plague than rats in the forest.

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In Africa, land that borders forests is increasingly used for farming.

Courtesy of Douglas McCauley


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In Africa, land that borders forests is increasingly used for farming.

In Africa, land that borders forests is increasingly used for farming.

Courtesy of Douglas McCauley

When fleas carrying Yersinia pestis bacteria jump from a rat to a human, the human gets the plague. More than 1,000 plague cases are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year, many of them in rural Africa. With antibiotic treatment, many people survive the plague. But without treatment, an infected person can die.

“In these particular communities there are recurring outbreaks of plague,” says Young. She and her coauthors trapped rats on farmland and in forests, and then tested the rats’ blood for plague bacteria and combed the rats’ fur for plague-carrying fleas. They found more rats on the farmland than in the forest and that the farmland rats more frequently tested positive for plague.

Farm rats pose a greater threat to human health. A flea has to jump from rat to human before a person can catch the plague. But some fleas are picky; they’ll bite only rats. “There are only a few fleas that will jump from rodent to human,” Young explains. And on farmland, “rodents tended to carry fleas that were better at jumping from rodent to human,” she says.

Given what she saw in the rats, Young says she is surprised that more people aren’t getting the plague. Local farmers pile harvested crops right outside their houses or sometimes bring the bags inside. Lured by the sweet scent of grain, the rats come right up close to the people.

“They bring all of these diseases right into their home,” Young says. What’s more, rodents and other pests eat 15 to 30 percent of the harvest. “A crop storage solution would really help both problems here.”

One of the best solutions? An airtight bag, says Jacob Ricker-Gilbert, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University. Purdue researchers developed a triple-layer bag for airtight storage of cowpeas, a popular legume in West Africa. The lack of air means any insects harvested with the grain will suffocate. Plus, the scent of the grain doesn’t leave the bag, so the harvest attracts fewer rodents.

“One of the nice things with the bag is that you can keep it inside the house,” Ricker-Gilbert tells Goats and Soda. Since most of the farms are small, it doesn’t make sense to invest in a silo. And even if farmers have access to a community silo, many worry the silo is a target for theft.

Still, rodents are persistent. Coauthor Doug McCauley, a biologist at UC Santa Barbara, worries that rats might chew through the bags.

And even if the rats aren’t biting, the farmers may need to be persuaded to use the bags. After all, Young says, farmers are “much more concerned about feeding their children than getting plague.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2015/02/23/387772236/good-news-more-crops-bad-news-more-plague?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Bomb Blast Kills 2 At Pro-Kiev Rally In Eastern Ukraine

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Feb 23 2015

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A man holds a Ukrainian flag as he cover the body of a victim of an explosion in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sunday.

Andriy Marienko/AP


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Andriy Marienko/AP

A man holds a Ukrainian flag as he cover the body of a victim of an explosion in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sunday.

A man holds a Ukrainian flag as he cover the body of a victim of an explosion in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sunday.

Andriy Marienko/AP

A bomb blast at a rally in eastern Ukraine has killed two people on the first anniversary of the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych, an event that helped trigger Russia’s annexation of Crimea and a separatist uprising.

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry described the blast at a pro-Kiev rally in Kharkiv as an act of terrorism and said it had been caused by a bomb. It said a police officer was among the dead and that about a dozen other people were wounded.

The Associated Press quotes a spokesman for the national security service as saying that four suspects were arrested in connection with the bombing.

The BBC says the rally in Kharkhiv was one of several being held to mark to mark the ouster of Moscow-leaning Yanukovych.

The AP writes:

“The violence in Kharkiv comes as Ukraine continues to be riven by tension and bloodshed stemming from Yanukovych’s fall.

“A peace plan envisioning a cease-fire and pullback of heavy weapons was signed Feb. 12.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/02/22/388258104/bomb-blast-kills-2-at-pro-kiev-rally-in-eastern-ukraine?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world