Posts Tagged ‘Israel grossman Blog’

While New England Gets Snow, West Africa Gets Sand

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Mar 01 2015

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The Harmattan haze can become so dense in Dakar, Senegal, it dims the sun and grounds flights.

Joe Penney/Reuters /Landov


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The Harmattan haze can become so dense in Dakar, Senegal, it dims the sun and grounds flights.

The Harmattan haze can become so dense in Dakar, Senegal, it dims the sun and grounds flights.

Joe Penney/Reuters /Landov

Would you kindly bear with me a little while I have a good old moan, please? I’m feeling rather wretched. No, not because I’ve finally kicked a lingering lurgy that turned out to be bronchitis and stole my voice. But because one of the reasons I blame for the illness is back: the Harmattan.

You know that saying about an ill wind? Well, that ill wind is the Harmattan. Seasonal sandy, dust-filled, hot trade winds blow in from the Sahara Desert and sweep across West Africa, including the coastal curve, and directly down my throat and into my lungs and increasingly constricted chest.

OK, ok. That may not be a scientific assessment, but that’s how it feels, so please indulge me.

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The view from the house where the author stays in Accra, Ghana. The buildings in the background are typically bright green and red, but a blanket of Harmattan haze has dulled their colors.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton/NPR


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The view from the house where the author stays in Accra, Ghana. The buildings in the background are typically bright green and red, but a blanket of Harmattan haze has dulled their colors.

The view from the house where the author stays in Accra, Ghana. The buildings in the background are typically bright green and red, but a blanket of Harmattan haze has dulled their colors.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton/NPR

The Harmattan — a land wind — blows from the northeast and often starts in January (the cool season). It sometimes continues through to March, though winds come and go without much notice.

There’s a Harmattan haze hovering over downtown Dakar that looks all too familiar. The malevolent mantle of dust and sand, that’s threatening to settle, comes after gusty, dusty weather, with winds whistling through the streets of the city center.

It usually carries large amounts of dust, which it transports hundreds of miles out over the Atlantic Ocean. The dust often interferes with aircraft operations and settles on the decks of ships.

The same dust-laden winds that blanketed Accra when I was back home in Ghana last month — and where I fell ill — seem to have followed me across West Africa to Senegal, where majestic and mighty baobab trees and palm trees are sprinkled with a layer of dust.

Pedestrians are covering their mouths and noses with scarves and shawls for protection. And fast food motorbike delivery riders are wearing mouth masks.

Some days, visibility was limited to about 150 yards in Accra, and then the haze would lift and, psychologically, you would feel a little better.

When I was a child, I remember being told “children get sick during the Harmattan season,” so take care and don’t be ill.

This year it’s not only children. On plane journeys, on the street, just about everywhere, I seem to hear adults and kids coughing, like the relentless cough I just couldn’t shake. I’m so sure this lingering seasonal Harmattan, which descends on us, then disappears, is one of the causes of these lurgies.

A Dakar-based pulmonologist told me asthma sufferers get worse during the Harmattan; wheezing, whistling and rattling even more than usual. Keep that pump handy.

And surely it can’t be a coincidence that chest and throat infections seem to be on the rise? Must be all that germ-filled dust we’re gobbling up.

But the Harmattan winds are not only a risk to humans and health. Agriculture is also feeling the effect; regional cocoa trees are suffering. (Yes, the cocoa that produces the chocolate you crave.).

The cocoa crop in Africa’s two top exporters, Ivory Coast and Ghana, has been hit by the Harmattan, we’re told.

Farmers and analysts warn that the worst Harmattan winds in several years may lower output and cut production. As the seasonal gusts blow down from the Sahara, they blanket the cocoa-growing regions in dust, which lowers temperatures and blocks out sunlight.

In Ivory Coast, blossoms and small pods that were visible this time last year are apparently missing from the cocoa trees this season.

And here in Dakar, usually bright blue skies have turned horrid and hazy, with an almost yellowy tinge.

So that’s why I’m feeling rather miffed, because I was hoping we were finished with the Harmattan this year. But the ill-wind looks as if it wants to pester us a little longer.

I read somewhere that the rather lyrical name “Harmattan” originates from the Akan-Twi word haramata, which could possibly come from the Arabic haram, meaning “evil thing.” Evil works for me. Begone!

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2015/02/28/389565935/while-new-england-gets-snow-west-africa-gets-sand-clouds?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Iraq’s National Museum To Open For First Time Since 2003 Invasion

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Mar 01 2015

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A man looks at ancient Assyrian human-headed winged bull statues at the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad on Saturday.

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A man looks at ancient Assyrian human-headed winged bull statues at the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad on Saturday.

A man looks at ancient Assyrian human-headed winged bull statues at the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad on Saturday.

Reuters/Landov

Days after video emerged showing self-declared Islamic State extremists taking sledge hammers to pre-Islamic antiquities inside the Mosul museum, the Iraqi government has reopened the country’s national museum, shuttered since the 2003 U.S. invasion of the country that toppled Saddam Hussein.

The National Museum’s reopening was moved up as a retort to the move by ISIS in Mosul, which has been almost universally condemned as a most uncivilized act in a part of the world widely considered the cradle of civilization.

“The events in Mosul led us to speed up our work and we wanted to open it today as a response to what the gangs of Daesh did,” Iraq’s Deputy Tourism Minister Qais Hussein Rashid said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.

The National Museum, which displays artifacts from the Mesopotamian era, was looted and then closed after the U.S. invasion. Agence France-Presse quotes Rashid as saying that around 4,300 of the roughly 15,000 looted pieces have been recovered in the past 12 years. Authorities are still tracking down more than 10,000 items in markets and auctions.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/02/28/389779293/iraqs-national-museum-to-open-for-first-time-since-2003-invasion?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Remembering The Relics And Rich History Of Mosul, Before ISIS

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Mar 01 2015

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Then-U.S. ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill (right) tours the Mosul Museum of History in May 2009. This week the self-declared Islamic State posted a video online that showed militants going through the museum, pushing over statues and smashing artifacts with sledgehammers.

Mujahed Mohammed/AFP/Getty Images


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Then-U.S. ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill (right) tours the Mosul Museum of History in May 2009. This week the self-declared Islamic State posted a video online that showed militants going through the museum, pushing over statues and smashing artifacts with sledgehammers.

Then-U.S. ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill (right) tours the Mosul Museum of History in May 2009. This week the self-declared Islamic State posted a video online that showed militants going through the museum, pushing over statues and smashing artifacts with sledgehammers.

Mujahed Mohammed/AFP/Getty Images

When I visited the Mosul museum in 2010, it was as cool and damp as any tomb. It was winter; the power was out and the lights were off.

But as a State Department visit, escorted by U.S. soldiers, made its way around the gloomy rooms, the enthusiasm of the staff lit up the treasures that gradually became apparent.

The Nineveh plain in northern Iraq, where Mosul is, saw mighty civilizations rise and fall, but their relics endured for millennia. In the museum were depictions of the great winged Assyrian beasts called lamassu. There was a stone tablet that might be the world’s oldest menu: a record of a banquet given by King Ashurbanipal II of Assyria.

I was dwarfed by friezes of giant Assyrian warriors, with vast, muscular bodies and finely sculpted details: the petals of the chamomile flowers, the curls of the beards.

Little, it seems, has been spared. The latest video by the militants of the self-proclaimed Islamic State — though not footage of human slaughter — is also painful to watch. Bearded men take sledgehammers to the artifacts of the museum and go to archaeological sites nearby.

When I visited the remnants of the cities and palaces at Hatra and Nimrud, they were guarded only by a few men living in trailers. They were in rural places, and the main concern was that rain and pigeon droppings were erasing carvings — not that fanatics with power tools would come and wreak destruction.

Despite claims to the contrary, the statues and friezes they destroy are all originals, thousands of years old, said one expert who worked at the museum for 10 years but didn’t want to be identified for fear of ISIS.

“We expected this,” says the former museum worker. “Nobody can do anything … they did what they want.”

When ISIS arrived last summer, the worker says, some of the museum staff — the men — tried to negotiate. They tried to strike a bargain, for example, that ISIS destroy only the tomb said to be that of Jonah, but not the ancient church-turned-mosque built on top. It didn’t work.

In this latest video, an unidentified man says Islam calls for the destruction of all idols. The museum worker was dismissive of this piety, saying the militants “don’t care about the statues” but rather are trying to “send a message to all the world.”

As we walked around the ruins of Hatra five years ago — as the American soldiers snapped photos of themselves next to statues — the museum director, Hicket al-Aswad, told me that most of the city still was unexcavated.

At the time, he wished they could get funding and peace so they could begin exploring the history. As things stand, maybe it’s better it remained underground.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2015/02/28/389582652/remembering-the-relics-and-rich-history-of-mosul-before-isis?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Mexican Attorney General Who Handled Case Of Vanished Students Will Step Down

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Feb 28 2015

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Mexico’s Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam is leaving his post to take a new Cabinet-level job as head of urban and rural development.

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Mexico's Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam is leaving his post to take a new Cabinet-level job as head of urban and rural development.

Mexico’s Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam is leaving his post to take a new Cabinet-level job as head of urban and rural development.

Marco Ugarte/AP

Embattled Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam will be stepping down. The announcement came Friday after Murillo Karam weathered months of criticism over the way he handled the investigation into the disappearance of 43 college students.

NPR’s Carrie Kahn has reported extensively about the student disappearances, which took place on Sept. 26 of last year, sparked massive protests in Mexico and dealt a blow to the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

The investigation, which was widely criticized for missteps and insensitivity toward family members, uncovered a complex network of collusion among local government officials, police and drug cartels. The government says the students, who were en route to a protest in the state of Guerrero, were abducted by corrupt police officers and handed over to drug traffickers, who then burned the students’ bodies and threw their remains into a river.

Carrie reported about one notorious news conference in which Murillo Karam announced that the students had been killed and, after fielding dozens of reporters’ questions, said “that’s enough, I’m tired.” Murillo Karam later said he’d meant to say that the questions where getting repetitive and he was sleep deprived from working the case. But the statement outraged Mexicans and led to a social media campaign called “ya me canse” (“I’m tired”) in which Mexicans expressed their exhaustion over government impunity.

Murillo Karam will move to the Ministry of Agrarian and Urban Development. Senator Arely Gomez, a longtime member the ruling Institutional Party, or PRI, is said to be his replacement.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/02/27/389530564/mexican-attorney-general-who-handled-case-of-vanished-students-to-step-down?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Putin Critic Boris Nemtsov Shot Dead In Moscow

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Feb 28 2015

On Friday, gunmen shot to death the prominent Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov. Nemtsov was a longtime Russian opposition leader and a sharp critic of President Vladimir Putin.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2015/02/27/389605219/putin-critic-boris-nemtsov-shot-dead-in-moscow?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

After Second Round Of Talks, Cubans, Americans Emerge Upbeat

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Feb 28 2015

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Josefina Vidal, director general of the U.S. division at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, smiles at the start of the Cuba talks at the State Department in Washington, on Friday.

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Josefina Vidal, director general of the U.S. division at Cuba's Foreign Ministry, smiles at the start of the Cuba talks at the State Department in Washington, on Friday.

Josefina Vidal, director general of the U.S. division at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, smiles at the start of the Cuba talks at the State Department in Washington, on Friday.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

After a second round of talks, Cuban and American diplomats emerged upbeat about the potential to reestablish diplomatic ties between the long-estranged neighbors.

In a press conference following the talks, Roberta Jacobson, the diplomat leading the talks for the Americans, said: “Today we saw the kind of constructive exchange that advances us toward a more productive diplomatic relationship.”

Her counterpart, Josefina Vidal, who is leading the talks for the Cubans said: “We are confident that there can be civilized relations and coexistence between Cuba and the United States and that we would be able to recognize and respect our difference so that as neighbors we can identify areas of mutual interest to cooperate for the benefit of our two countries, the region and world.”

In diplomatic speak, those are some pretty positive words.

Coming into the meeting, two issues loomed large: Cuba’s demand that the U.S. remove it from the State Department’s State Sponsor of Terrorism list. And the U.S. demand that its diplomats in Havana have complete freedom of mobility, meeting whoever they want, whenever they want.

Vidal said that the U.S. had assured them they were working on reviewing the country’s spot on the terrorism list.

“For Cuba it is a matter of sheer justice,” she said. “Cuba strongly believes that it should have never been included in these limited list of countries and today there is no ground to justify the inclusion of our country on that list.”

But, leaving an opening, she added that the removal of Cuba from the list is a “priority” but not a “precondition” for reopening embassies.

Jacobson said talks took on a “very cooperative spirit” and the two sides made “progress on a number” of issues.

Jacobson said one sign of how well the talks have gone is that right now there are about six other dialogues that are planned or happening. One of those talks, she said, involves opening up telecommunications on the island and the other, which Jacobson called the “most challenging but most important,” is about human rights.

Jacobson added that she thought the U.S. embassy in Havana could be open as early as April, as the Summit of the Americas gets going in Panama.

“I certainly think that with the kind of cooperation that we had today I certainly leave those conversations today optimistic but committed and recognizing the work that still has to be done, but certainly not daunted by the idea that there is a desire to move forward as quickly as we can,” Jacobson said.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/02/27/389617790/after-second-round-of-talks-cubans-americans-emerge-upbeat?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

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.

Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images


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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