Posts Tagged ‘Israel grossman attorney Profile’

ISIS’s ‘Jihadi John’ Revealed As Londoner Born In Kuwait

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Feb 27 2015

NPR’s Kelly McEvers speaks with Washington Post contributor Souad Mekhennet. The Post broke the news about the identity of “Jihadi John,” the masked man with a British accent who has beheaded several hostages held by the Islamic State and who speaks directly to the camera in ISIS videos. The identity was revealed as Mohammed Emwazi, a Briton from a well-to-do family who grew up in West London and graduated college with a degree in computer programming.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2015/02/26/389321611/isiss-jihadi-john-revealed-as-londoner-born-in-kuwait?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Ahead Of Netanyahu’s Speech To Congress, Hints Of A Thaw

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Feb 27 2015

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will reportedly meet with Sens. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, and Harry Reid, D-Nev., the chamber’s top Democrat, after his March 3 speech to Congress.

The announcement, which was reported by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which cited a senior Israeli official, came after the American Israel Public Affairs Committee announced that Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser, and Samantha Power, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, will address the organization’s annual conference in Washington. Netanyahu will also address the AIPAC conference.

The news could mark the first de-escalation of rising tensions between the U.S. and Israel.

As we have been reporting, Netanyahu’s speech to Congress has been controversial from almost the moment it was announced by House Speaker John Boehner. Netanyahu says he wants to highlight the dangers posed by Iran, which Israel views as an existential threat. He is opposed to the talks involving the U.S. and its allies and Iran over the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.

The Obama administration called the invitation to the Israeli leader, made without consulting the White House or the State Department, a departure from protocol. Obama, citing the proximity of the Israeli elections, said he won’t meet Netanyahu during his visit to Washington; neither will Vice President Joe Biden or Secretary of State John Kerry, who will both be traveling at that time.

As criticism of the announced speech mounted, Netanyahu said he was determined to speak to Congress over what he sees as the threat posed by Iran.

On Wednesday, Kerry intensified the criticism of the Israeli leader, saying his judgment on the issue “may not be correct here.” That followed Rice, the national security adviser, telling PBS’ Charlie Rose that Boehner’s invitation to Israel’s prime minister — and Netanyahu‘s acceptance of it — have “injected a degree of partisanship” that is “destructive to the fabric of the relationship” between Israel and the U.S.

Boehner rejected that assertion Thursday.

“The American people, and both parties in Congress, have always stood with Israel. Nothing and no one should get in the way of that,” he said. “And that’s why it’s so important for the American people to hear what Prime Minister Netanyahu has to say about the grave threats that they’re facing.”

Netanyahu’s speech to Congress would coincide with the final stretch of negotiations the U.S. and its allies are engaged in with Iran. Many members of Congress want to impose further sanctions on the Islamic republic, a move that would likely doom the talks.

But Netanyahu’s speech has also created a divide in Congress, where Democrats, including some of Israel’s strongest allies, have expressed displeasure. Some Democrats have said they will boycott the speech.

The Associated Press reports that sending Rice and Power to AIPAC may ease — or worsen — tensions with Israel. The news agency adds:

“U.S. officials had floated the idea of sending a non-Cabinet level official to the event to show the administration’s deep displeasure with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress next week, in which he will argue against an Iran deal.

“In their as-yet unscheduled appearances at the AIPAC conference that runs from Sunday to Tuesday, Rice and Power will stress the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship and the administration’s commitment to Israel’s security, according to American officials.

“But, they will also make the administration’s case for the ongoing negotiations with Iran before an audience of more than 16,000 pro-Israel activists that is likely to be hostile to the talks and deeply concerned by growing animosity between Obama and Netanyahu and their top aides over the prime minister’s speech and his opposition to one of the president’s signature foreign policy goals.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/02/26/389328692/ahead-of-netanyahus-speech-to-congress-hints-of-a-thaw?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

For One Parliamentarian, A Stronger Jordan Is Key To Fighting ISIS

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Feb 27 2015

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Jordan’s election laws make it impossible for any one political party to build a strong bloc in Parliament. Observers say that’s one reason for the country’s weakness — and for the growing appeal of the messages used by militants of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

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Jordan's election laws make it impossible for any one political party to build a strong bloc in Parliament. Observers say that's one reason for the country's weakness  and for the growing appeal of the messages used by militants of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

Jordan’s election laws make it impossible for any one political party to build a strong bloc in Parliament. Observers say that’s one reason for the country’s weakness — and for the growing appeal of the messages used by militants of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images

There’s a election law implemented in 2010 in Jordan known as “one person, one vote” that advocates of reform and democratization there regard, surprisingly, as a big step backward.

That’s because of the strong ties Jordanians feel to family, clan and tribe, says Omar Razzaz, an economist and banker in Amman, the Jordanian capital.

“In 1989 elections, you voted for five candidates. And one of them was your uncle, because you had to, socially, to do it. But then you had four to pick from, who you picked based on meritocracy, based on their ability to represent you, their level of education,” he says. “So when you bring it down to one, you know that the outcome is going to be uncles and grandparents.”

On the positive side, if you have a problem, your relative in the Parliament, like any good American ward heeler of old, can help you fix it.

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Rula Alhroob’s Stronger Jordan party hopes to improve economic opportunities and social benefits for Jordan’s disaffected youth — to counter the allure of ISIS.

Courtesy of Rula Alhroob


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Rula Alhroob's Stronger Jordan party hopes to improve economic opportunities and social benefits for Jordan's disaffected youth  to counter the allure of ISIS.

Rula Alhroob’s Stronger Jordan party hopes to improve economic opportunities and social benefits for Jordan’s disaffected youth — to counter the allure of ISIS.

Courtesy of Rula Alhroob

On the negative side, between the one vote system and other provisions of election law, Jordan’s 150-seat Parliament has no party with more than two seats (the vast majority of members are elected as independents). That makes actual legislation difficult, says Rula Alhroob, who has been in Parliament for two years.

“We want the Parliament to be efficient,” she says, “but the Parliament will not be efficient unless we have political parties in the Parliament who could work and function as groups.”

Alhroob is a self-described social democrat; her Stronger Jordan political party has two seats.

“We have formed parliamentarian blocs, yet those blocs were a big failure. I joined one of those blocs earlier, and then I found out that we’re not doing anything that is recognizable — I’m just wasting my time — so I withdrew from the bloc,” she says during an interview in her office in the Parliament building.

Alhroob, 47, has a doctorate in educational psychology and a background in journalism. She has been a columnist and has a talk show. Getting into politics, she says, has been a tough transition.

“This is a big jump, from being a seeker of the truth to a field that is not really what could be called as ‘truth-defined,’ ” she says with a laugh. “Politicians are trying to hide the truth from the public.”

Her party aims to make Jordan stronger, through economic development and strong social benefits.

The country’s weaknesses play a key role in the radicalization of young people and the attraction of the militant group that calls itself the Islamic State, she says, citing research she did at the University of Jordan.

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She found that 20 percent of students identify with the past — the early, glory days of Islam — and about another 20 percent, typically those from wealthier backgrounds, identify with the future.

Between those two groups, she says, are the majority of students, who are unsure whether they would prefer the past or the future.

The message of ISIS, she says, is alluring to many young Jordanians because it expresses the powerful pull of the past.

That message, she says, is “we are here and we are expanding and we are going to revive the dreams of the Islamic State, all over the world … restoring the caliphate.”

Alhroob says these disaffected Jordanians have many problems connecting with the present.

“They want to go back in history, 1,400 years,” she says. “They are living this crisis of identity. They don’t find answers in this society.

“They realize that Arab states are weak states. And they realize that the Palestinian territories are occupied by the Israelis, supported by the Americans, the British, the French … the Western world. They realize that they are incapable of being strong. And they look at the past and they find us very strong in the past and this is why they want to revive the past, because it makes them feel prouder.”

Alhroob says the violence of ISIS appeals to young people, in general. And to young Arabs, she says, the appeal is multiplied by unemployment.

“They graduate from universities … there’s no chance of getting a job … and they get frustrated from the system,” she says. “The system is corrupt in most of the Arab countries. The system lacks freedoms, lacks human rights culture. People are not treated as full humans — rather than as slaves — in lots of the Arab countries, and put together, they cause the frustration of young people. And that is why you find among ISIS doctors, engineers, schoolteachers, university teachers. You find very educated people going and joining ISIS.”

Alhroob’s prescription for Jordan includes an economy that’s strong enough that it doesn’t need foreign aid, social benefits — including free college education — and an end to government corruption.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2015/02/26/389269550/for-one-parliamentarian-a-stronger-jordan-key-to-fighting-isis?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

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.

Muhammad Hamed/Reuters/Landov


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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