Trump flip-flops on Afghanistan, opts for Years-long Quagmire

August 22, 2017 by  
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By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The 16-years-long Afghanistan War has bedeviled Washington decision-makers since the US invasion of fall, 2001, which came in response to the attacks of September 11.

In his speech on Monday night, Trump was primarily attempting to manipulate American domestic politics. He was trying to look presidential and play the patriotism card after he called Neo-Nazis and KKK members in Charlottesville very fine people. Almost nothing he said about Afghanistan and South Asia made any sense, and of course Trump does not know anything about any of those subjects. His military advisers only know these subjects through the lens of military action, which isn’t very helpful if the problems are cultural.

It is a low-risk strategy. I don’t find the American public interested in AFghanistan in the least. The US media does not much cover that war and announcements of US troop deaths are carried on page 17 of the newspapers. So Trump can shift the focus to foreign policy without risking a backlash.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis once said it is fun to shoot Taliban. He is in for a lot of fun.

Trump depicted the radical groups in Afghanistan as dangerous to the United States. This assertion is probably incorrect. It is true that, as Trump said, the 9/11 attacks were planned out by Usama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Khalid Shaikh Mohammad and other al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan. But they were also planned out in Hamburg, where al-Qaeda had the good fortune to recruit some high-powered engineers. They were not planned out by the Taliban, whose leaders probably did not even know about the plans to attack the United States. In the aftermath Taliban angrily denounced Bin Laden as having provoked a foreign occupation of their country.

That al-Qaeda had training bases in Afghanistan was important to their movement, but those bases wouldn’t have been much use if the American airlines did not have shoddy security precautions against hijackings. Jet planes are enormous bombs and it was only a matter of time before someone figured out how to use them as such. Likewise, mistrust between the CIA and the FBI caused two of the hijackers, who had been under surveillance at an al-Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur but then entered the US and settled in San Diego, to fall between the cracks.

And, of course, al-Qaeda would not have existed at all if Ronald Reagan had not encouraged a private army of Muslim fundamentalists and tribal forces to attack the Communist government of Afghanistan in the 1980s. And that government wouldn’t have been there, in all likelihood, if Leonid Brezhnev of the Soviet Union had not invaded and occupied the country, which began its long-term destabilization.

In short, the US probably does not need to stay in Afghanistan to ensure that America is not attacked from that country again. The obverse is that being in Afghanistan does not protect the US from attacks hatched elsewhere, including possibly in Europe itself. The main point is that the US needed better security at point of use in dangerous systems such as the airline industry.

Still, for ISIL or al-Qaeda to reestablish training camps in Afghanistan would be a highly negative development. Such camps would be difficult to discover and bomb from the air, if the US withdrew, since it would need to fly missions against them from aircraft carrier battle groups in the Gulf, and would need overflight permission from Pakistan or Iran.

As for why the Taliban in particular have made a comeback and may control a third of the country, there are some basic reasons for this, some of them explained by Sarah Chayes, who knows more about the real Afghanistan than the entire US government.

First, Afghanistan is desperately poor. It is one of the 25 poorest countries in the world. Despite the fake news sometimes put out from DC think tanks, it has virtually no natural resources of any value. Its population is still largely agricultural but much of the country is arid. This poverty contributes to a weak government that does not raise enough in taxes to mount a proper government. If it weren’t for foreign aid, Afghanistan could not afford to pay its tens of thousands of troops and police. Low salaries and salary arrears encourage corruption. Dire poverty does not necessarily turn a country into a failed state. Senegal does better than Afghanistan. But it is a strike against the country and hard to overcome.

Second, its high rates of population growth often outstrip economic growth, so that per capita income is actually declining.

Trump’s determination not to do nation-building differs little from the actual US policy of the past 16 years, which is to put much more money into bombs than into the country’s economic development. Since lack of development is a big driver of the failed state and of guerrilla violence, giving it up won’t be helpful.

Third, as noted above, its government is extremely corrupt. Officials prey on people, steal land and other resources from them, and generally act like a plague on the land. Warlord rule is common, i.e. rule by what are essentially violent mobsters. This extreme corruption drives some of the population into the arms of the Taliban, who are fanatical puritans and who do lay levies on people, but are for the most part not personally corrupt.

Fourth, Afghanistan has some deep ethnic divides. Some 40% of the population is Pushtun. They speak Pashto and practice a relatively strict form of Sunni Islam. They are the potential constituency for the Taliban. Another 22% or so is Hazara Shiites, who speak Dari Persian and have the same form of Islam as neighboring Iran. Ten percent are Uzbeks, who speak a Turkic language and practice Sunni Islam, though many of them are secular-minded as a result of the influence of neighboring Uzbekistan. Most of the rest are some form of Tajik, Sunni Muslims who speak Dari Persian. Tajiks are disproportionately urban and literate and often fill government offices, to the annoyance of the rural and tribal Pushtuns.

As Sarah Chayes has pointed out, deep ethnic divides and hatred exacerbate public reaction against corruption. If a Tajik governor of a province is stealing from Pushtuns, the latter may well turn to the Taliban for protection.

The Western Pushtuns have never bought into the US-established government in Kabul, which has all along had a strong element of the Northern Alliance (Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks) who had fought the Taliban in the 1990s. Last I knew, 2% of the army is from Helmand and Qandahar provinces, Pushtun strongholds.

Sixth, outside powers also play on the ethnic divides. Many Tajik politicians have strong relationships with India. Most Pushtun are pro-Pakistani. Pakistan is regularly accused of promoting the Taliban and Muslim fundamentalism as a way of asserting Pakistani influence and countering Indian inroads. Pakistani generals consider Afghanistan their “strategic depth” with regard to India. (I don’t think they understand the concept properly; you want your strategic depth between you and the enemy, not behind you.) Hazaras have not been as close to Iran as you might imagine, but some of their leaders do have links to Tehran.

The ordinary troops of the army are reluctant to risk their lives fighting for a corrupt government. There are high desertion rates and high rates of drug use in the army. While in some battles some units have fought bravely, despite its training, size and equipment it is regularly successfully challenged by smaller bands of Taliban.

If Trump had pulled the US out of Afghanistan, as he threatened to during the campaign, my guess is that Kabul would have fallen to the Taliban within a year. The US no longer does much active war-fighting in this country, but special forces and US fighter jets can intervene to stop a Taliban offensive.

The country, in short, is in a stalemate, and the best the US can likely do is to be like the little boy who stuck his finger in the dike to stop a flood. You kind of have to keep your finger in the dike forever.

Trump’s demand that India invest in Afghanistan was overly dramatic. India already invests in Afghanistan. But I don’t know what he expects. It is a desperately poor country with few natural resources. Although the Indian middle class has greatly expanded, much of India is still mired in rural poverty and those villagers are a much bigger constituency for the BJP government than are the villagers of Afghanistan.

Trump’s slam of Pakistan as giving safe haven to terrorists and extremists is the sort of thing it is better to say privately. You say it publicly, Pakistan’s urban elites are likely to tell Washington to jump in a lake. They consider Afghan fundamentalists as a vector of their soft power in a neighboring country. Already, Pakistan is being deeply embedded in China’s economic expansion westward, and Islamabad could easily turn to Beijing as its major foreign patron. And, by the way, the Pakistani military has fought some hard campaigns against extremists inside the country, and lost many troops to these battles.

In the end, Trump just kicked the can down the road. The fawning over him by some tele-journalists for doing so (and seeming decisive and “presidential”) was truly disgusting. If Afghanistan’s curses are corruption, fanatical identity politics and a hatred of globalization, its more problematic organizations resemble most of all . . . Trump’s base.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Donald Trump Takes Ownership Of Afghanistan War With New Announcement | Rachel Maddow | MSNBC

It’s Not About ‘White Culture’

August 21, 2017 by  
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By Jill Richardson | (Otherwords.org) | – –

There’s no way to march with KKK members and Nazi flags in a non-hateful way.

“I came to this march for the message that white European culture has a right to be here just like every other culture,” a white nationalist protester in Charlottesville told Newsweek. But, he claimed, he’s “not an angry racist.”

White nationalists often use this messaging. They claim they aren’t racists; they just want to celebrate white European culture and heritage.

What’s unreasonable about that, they say? Shouldn’t every group of people be allowed to celebrate their own culture?

There are two problems here.

One is historical baggage. History doesn’t have many examples of people innocently “celebrating white European culture,” but it does have an awful lot of examples of ugly and sometimes violent racism perpetrated by white people of European descent. Slavery. Jim Crow. Lynchings. Hitler.

That isn’t to say that Americans of European heritage don’t have a culture to celebrate. Not at all.

They just generally celebrate it based on national traditions and not in a generic, pan-white-people sort of way. You might celebrate Irish culture on St. Patrick’s Day, for example. Or you could celebrate French culture on Bastille Day with French wine and food.

In America, we celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks and Thanksgiving with turkey. But these holidays are for all Americans, not just the white ones.

America has never been a white country. It was once entirely populated with Native Americans. Then the first Europeans arrived, and they soon brought the first enslaved Africans. All of those groups, as well as all of the people who followed later, contributed to making our country and our culture what it is today.

Second, the goal of “celebrating white European culture” is a thinly veiled lie.

It’s a lie because the marchers were carrying Nazi flags, flags associated with the genocide of 6 million Jews and countless others the Nazis wanted to remove from humanity’s gene pool.

It’s a lie because the marchers were carrying Confederate battle flags, the flag of a people willing to fight to the death for their right to enslave other human beings.

It’s a lie because the marchers were marching alongside KKK members, whose organization have terrorized and murdered people in the name of white supremacy for over a century.

And it’s a lie because the people who are supposedly simply celebrating their own lily white skin and its culture frequently and routinely make disgusting racist remarks about people of color.

And it doesn’t matter what the attendees or the organizers of the event claim they’re doing if the reality is an ugly outpouring of vile racism.

If your event looks like a Klan rally in which white pointy hoods were replaced with tiki torches, it’s no innocent cultural celebration. Period.

As a more general rule, if you have to work hard to tell others you aren’t a racist — you’re probably a racist. And if you’re marching behind the same flag as others who are spewing hate, your presence there is an endorsement of their hate, even if you aren’t saying those things yourself.

Don’t believe the lies of white nationalists who say they simply want to celebrate white culture. There’s no way to march with KKK members and Nazi flags in a non-hateful way.

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson writes about food, agriculture, the environment, health, tolerance, and well-being. Currently pursuing a PhD in Sociology at University of Wisconsin-Madison, she’s the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.

Via Otherwords.org

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Newsy: “University of Texas removes Confederate statues”

Can Iraq save Tal Afar from ISIL without Destroying the City?

August 21, 2017 by  
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By Mustafa Habib | (Niqash.org) | – –

[N.B. The offensive against ISIL (Daesh) in Tal Afar began on Sunday. – JC]

Intensive air raids, secret political talks and military forces gathering on the outskirts of the city: Everything points to the battle of Tal Afar – almost the extremists’ last stand in Iraq . . .

Over the past two weeks, Iraqi army captain, Mohammed al-Saedi, a senior officer in the 92nd Brigade, and his men have been watching columns of smoke rising from the centre of Tal Afar. The northern Iraqi city is one of the very last strongholds of the extremist group known as the Islamic State in Iraq.

“Preparations for the battle in Tal Afar are being completed and there are many battalions coming to the outskirts of the city,” al-Saedi told NIQASH. “This includes the Iraqi army, the federal police, counter terrorism forces and the Shiite Muslim militias.”

The columns of smoke coming out of Tal Afar are caused by bombing by the international coalition fighting the Islamic State, or IS, group as well as Iraqi planes. They are bombing the city to weaken the IS group’s defences there.

There are serious concerns that we will see destruction as bad as that which happened in western Mosul.

The fight for Tal Afar has started but so far land forces have not advanced and officials are reluctant to give away the exact timing as to when this will happen. However al-Saedi says he expects a relatively uncomplicated fight. More senior officers than al-Saedi, such as Najim al-Jibouri, the commander of the Ninawa theatre of operations, have also expressed this opinion even though some US commanders have differed.

The location of Tal Afar city is of strategic importance. It sits around 70 kilometres away from Mosul and is around 60 kilometres away from the Turkish and Syrian borders. There are three small towns in the Tal Afar district, with the towns of Rabia and Ayadiyah controlled by the IS group and Zamar under the control of Iraqi Kurdish troops.

Before the security crisis sparked by the IS group began, an estimated 300,000 people lived in Tal Afar, mostly Shiite and Sunni Muslims of the Turkmen ethnic group. There were also Arabs and Kurds there. After the IS group took over the area, all the Shiite Muslims left, as did the Iraqi military, fearing death or punishment. Several thousand of the Sunni Muslim population remained.

The main challenges facing pro-government forces in Tal Afar include the size of the district – it is double the area of Mosul city – and the fact that some neighbourhoods in Tal Afar city are similar to those on the western side of Mosul: That is, the houses are older and densely packed in small alleyways.

“The centre of Tal Afar is full of narrow, overlapping neighbourhoods, with lots of old houses abandoned by residents,” confirms Kamal al-Ajmali, one of the community leaders from Tal Afar. “All those houses are bound to be booby trapped with explosives. There are serious concerns that we will see destruction as bad as that which happened in western Mosul.”

“The IS group has been preparing for this battle for a long time and Tal Afar is the extremists’ last stronghold,” al-Ajmali added. “They may well fight to the bitter end here. I believe the government should have started operations to push the IS group out of Tal Afar at the same time as they started fighting for Mosul. Because they did not, large numbers of IS extremists were allowed to escape from Mosul, together with their families, and to get to Tal Afar.”

Tal Afar is now under siege. The Iraqi military is deployed to the east in the Badush area, Shiite Muslim militias are in the south and the west around Tal Abta and Sinjar city, and Iraqi Kurdish forces are in the north.

Another major problem for the pro-government forces though is the loss of fighters they have had to deal with over the past months fighting in and around Mosul, in the longest stretch of fighting against the IS group. In comparison, fighting in Fallujah took just three weeks and in Tikrit it was around four. In Mosul, it was nine months.

During this time, the crack counter-terrorism troops, lauded as heroes by many Iraqis, suffered many casualties. Yet Iraqi commanders have decided that these units will spearhead the attack in Tal Afar, just as they did at first in Mosul.

According to government sources, fighters participating in the fighting for Tal Afar will include a number of the counter-terrorism units, the 9th and the 6th armoured divisions, the 3rd brigade of the quick response troops, the federal police and four factions of the Shiite Muslim militias.

The last component is the one that is causing some problems between Turkey and Iran. During the fighting in Mosul, only one Shiite Muslim group took part, the Al Abbas brigade. Turkish officials have been warning against the participation of more Shiite Muslim militias for months, fearing illegal acts and revenge killings against the Sunni Muslims who remained in the area. Turkey cares about these because they are mostly of Turkmen ethnicity. Shiite Turkmen believe that their neighbours who stayed all support the IS group.

Turkish troops remain in Iraq, in a camp that is about 50 kilometres away from the battlefield. Despite the fact that their presence has ignited a diplomatic spat between Iraq and Turkey, the Turkish soldiers have remained there, to threaten Iran should Shiite Muslim militias get too close to the Turkmen of Tal Afar.

However Turkey’s fears have apparently been eased recently, an Iraqi MP told NIQASH on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the press. Secret talks were held and “Iraq made pledges that there would be no sectarian violence,” the politician told NIQASH.

In order to ensure this, the Iraqi government had decided upon four Shiite Muslim militias to fight at Tal Afar. Three of them were militias that were known to be more loyal to the Iraqi government, associated directly with the senior cleric, Ali al-Sistani, as opposed to those militias that openly pledge loyalty to the neighbouring Iranian government. The fourth faction would be the group known as the Hussein Brigade; most of the fighters are Shiites originally from Tal Afar who will know the city’s geography better than most.

Other Shiite Muslim militias, including those who have expressed loyalty to Iran – such as the Badr organization and the League of the Righteous – will secure the outskirts of the city, ensuring the extremists cannot escape, as well as take charge of security in Tal Afar’s smaller towns.

A final problem will be the waves of displaced locals that the authorities are expecting. As signs of an impending battle mount, locals from inside Tal Afar have already started trying to leave, says Ahmad al-Jibouri, an MP for Mosul. “The number of displaced families isn’t that high yet,” al-Jibouri said. “But it will increase when fighting starts. The government needs to take measures to shelter those people.”

“We estimate there will be around 35,000 people coming from the city,” Husam al-Abbar, a member of the Ninawa provincial council, notes. “But we are well prepared to receive them,” he added, pointing out that there were 2,890 tents erected at Salamiyah camp and 3,600 more at the Bartala camp, both near Mosul. Additionally, there were also empty tents left by displaced people who had returned to Mosul.

Via Niqash.org

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

France 24: “Iraq: Army forces retake villages surrounding IS-held Tal Afar”

ISIL in Afghanistan Resilient despite Kabul Offensive

August 21, 2017 by  
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By Frud Bezhan. | ( RFE/RL) | – –

A relentless air-and-ground campaign against the [so-called] Islamic State [group] (IS) affiliate in Afghanistan does not appear to have radically diminished that militant group’s ability to inflict deadly attacks or prevented it from expanding its geographical reach in the war-torn country, analysts asked to assess progress against such radicals’ fighting capacity in Afghanistan told RFE/RL.

U.S. and Afghan forces have waged a relentless campaign to destroy IS in Khorasan (ISIS-K) since that IS offshoot emerged in 2015, with Washington and Kabul claiming their campaign has killed hundreds of militants and commanders, including its leaders.

But speculation at the group’s demise has proved premature as it has expanded to at least five provinces, from Nangarhar, Kunar, and Nuristan in the east to Jawzjan in the north and Ghor in the west. ISIS-K has also continued to carry out a series of high-profile attacks seemingly targeting members of the mainly Shi’ite Hazara community.

U.S. military officials have maintained the group is on the retreat, although reports this week claimed an exasperated U.S. President Donald Trump recently told his top officials that “we aren’t winning…we are losing” the war in Afghanistan to militant groups like the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and ISIS-K.

Analysts say ISIS-K is neither a monolithic group nor a direct extension of the extremist group in Iraq and Syria — representing more of an alliance of splinter groups from the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban with elements of regional militant groups such as Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e Jhangvi.

These kindred groups have simply rebranded themselves to attract funding and replicate the success of IS militants in the Middle East, say analysts.

‘Remarkably Resilient’

“The group is proving remarkably resilient in Afghanistan because it hails from the region and has operated there for a long time,” says Ahmad K. Majidyar, a South Asia and Middle East expert. “It is not an alien group that has relocated from the Middle East to South Asia.”

Majidyar says it is also no coincidence that the ISIS-K emerged in the wake of the Pakistani Army’s military offensive starting in 2014 that drove myriad militant groups from Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas into eastern Afghanistan, where ISIS-K has set up its headquarters.

NATO’s spokesman in Afghanistan, U.S. Navy Captain William K. Salvin, told RFE/RL that ISIS-K was “on the run in Afghanistan.” He added that the number of ISIS-K militants is down to around 1,000 from a high of 3,000, although he acknowledged the group had expanded its activities to western and northern Afghanistan.

In April, the U.S. military in Afghanistan dropped a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), dubbed “the mother of all bombs,” in an effort to destroy IS hideouts in a complex of tunnels and bunkers in eastern Nangarhar Province. U.S. officials said the bomb killed over 90 militants, though fighting in the area has continued.

Tapping Into Sectarianism

Instead of being a death blow to the group, ISIS-K has continued to carry out a series of attacks targeting the Hazara minority.

In the latest attack, ISIS-K carried out a suicide bombing at a Shi’ite mosque in the western city of Herat, killing at least 32 people. In its deadliest attack to date, the militants killed over 80 people in twin suicide bombings targeting a protest staged by members of the Hazara minority in July 2016. At the time it was the deadliest attack to hit the Afghan capital since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, says ISIS-K has managed to tap into growing sectarianism that has been metastasizing in Afghanistan.

“Former Taliban leader Mullah Akhar Mansur was trying to avoid playing the sectarian card and blatantly ethnic discrimination and got rid of local commanders for that — and they joined ISIS-K,” she says.

Fighters Relocating From Middle East

The resilience of ISIS-K fighters in Afghanistan has fueled concerns of a possible spillover into Afghanistan from the fighting in Syria and Iraq.

There is little evidence yet of fighters relocating from Iraq and Syria, although Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman General Dawlat Waziri said this week that the government had observed an increase in numbers of foreign fighters and weapons entering the country.

Michael Kugelman, South Asia associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, says there is good reason to believe that some IS fighters are coming to Afghanistan from the Middle East as their strongholds and safe havens are destroyed there.

IS militants have lost large swaths of the so-called caliphate they declared in 2014. Iraqi government forces last month recaptured the northern city of Mosul, IS’s last remaining stronghold in Iraq. Meanwhile, U.S.-backed Syrian Kurd and Arab fighters are fighting to recapture the city of Raqqa, the group’s stronghold in Syria.

“They may see Afghanistan as an attractive destination because of its large lawless spaces and rampant instability,” says Kugelman. “Those conditions work to any terror group’s advantage.”

There are also fears about Afghans who have fought alongside IS militants in Syria and Iraq returning to their homeland.

“They are destined to return in the near future — if they have not already,” says analyst Majidyar. “Those fighters are battle-hardened and poisoned with sectarian beliefs, which could pose serious challenge to Afghanistan’s sectarian harmony and fragile stability.”

Frud Bezhan covers Afghanistan and the broader South Asia and Middle East region. Send story tips to bezhanf@rferl.org

RFE/RL

Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

WION: “US service member killed in eastern Afghanistan”

Ravenous-Chapter22

August 21, 2017 by  
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I’m really loving Dorian Zane’s mad skills. Originally when I imagined him, he wasn’t that great of a guy, but his secret talent and just penchant to be selfish is kinda sexy. LOL Let me know what you think of Dorian Zane? If you’re just joining us, start the story at www.sylviahubbard.com/ravenous Now enjoy… Chapter … Continue reading Ravenous-Chapter22

The Coolest Abandoned Places In Michigan

August 21, 2017 by  
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There’s something eerily magnetic about an abandoned place. Questions begging to be asked about what the destination used to be like in its prime, and what led to its current dismal state. Scattered throughout Michigan are creepy and fascinating abandoned places, providing a look into the mitten’s varied past. Most of these destinations are now […]

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Ravenous-Chapter21

August 21, 2017 by  
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Wow! And that is all… If you’re just joining us, start the story at www.sylviahubbard.com/ravenous Now enjoy… Chapter 21    By the time he reached her feet, Chon didn’t know if she was coming or going. Why was he torturing her?    The answer was obvious. This was Dorian Zane. He needed frustration, anxiety, and torture to … Continue reading Ravenous-Chapter21

Rockin’ on the Riverfront with Chevrolet and Everclear

August 21, 2017 by  
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  This year marks the 12th year of the Chevrolet Rockin’ on the Riverfront concert series and I was invited to experience the last concert of the season for a fun date night with my husband...

Please visit Detroit Mommies to read more!

Get ##Beautiful! Read the first five chapters FREE #suspense #AuthorRT, #bookworm #mobi #epub

August 21, 2017 by  
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https://www.instafreebie.com/free/ZYbQa If you’re ready to buy the book, review the book, help promote the book, click here and Get Beautiful!   Subscribe for Blog Alerts ONLY  Receive Offers, News & Discounts 1st by Signing up to our Monthly Newsletter Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: #authorpreneuer, #blackfriday, #bookpromotion, #bookreader, #CyberMonday, #fire #books, #giftofreading, #holidaygifts, #indieauthor, #newauthor, #promoadvice, … Continue reading Get ##Beautiful! Read the first five chapters FREE #suspense #AuthorRT, #bookworm #mobi #epub

5 Toning Exercises

August 21, 2017 by  
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Exercise is an important part of our lives or at least it should be. In fact staying in shape can increase your life expectancy and overall improve your mood and help you feel better. For me it means I sleep better and have more energy during the day. With my travel season on the horizon for work I know it will become even more crucial I exercise regularly, which is why I wanted to share with you five easy toning exercises I use when traveling because these can be done anywhere with no special equipment needed.  You can do these low weight bearing exercises whenever you have time, at home, at the office, on a vacation or whenever and they are effective and exercises.

  1. Squats – Squats work the butt, the hamstring muscles and the quadriceps.  If you aren’t sure of proper form, you can use a chair.  Stand with feet shoulder width apart and feet firmly planted.  Push your butt back as if you were preparing to sit in a chair.  Keep your abs tight and your upper body straight.  Once you reach chair level stop and hold the position for a count of two to five and release.  At the lowest point, place all of your weight on your heels for balance and maximum toning.
  2. The Bridge Butt Lift – Sounds like a plastic surgery technique but it is an easy way to tone your buttocks.  Lay down with feet flat on the floor, legs shoulder width apart.  Place your hands, palm side down, on either side of your body.  Pushing with your feet, squeeze your gluteal muscles and lift your butt off the floor.  Hold the position for a count of five to ten and release down to the floor.
  3. Pushups – This is a classic toning exercise that works all areas of the arms plus the chest muscles.  If you aren’t comfortable or strong enough to perform a pushup on your toes, lower your body to your knees.  Be sure your a
  4. Reverse Lunges – Lunges work the quadriceps muscles.  They can be hard for people with knee problems.  A reverse lunge still tones the right muscle groups but with less pressure on the knee.  Stand with feet together and arms at your sides.  Take one leg and move it backwards until you are in lunge position: front leg bent at a 90 degree angle and back leg extended until you are on the ball of your foot.  From this position lower yourself down until the back knee almost touches the floor.  Hold for a count of two and return to starting position.
  5. Crunches – Abdominal muscles can be worked every day to build strength and muscle tone.  Lying on the floor in sit up position, lace your fingers behind your head.  Squeezing your abdominal muscles, lift your upper body until your lower back is about to come off the floor.  Hold for two to five counts and return to starting position.

These five exercise moves can be done whenever you have time.  The best thing about exercise is that its effects are cumulative.  Even five or ten minutes at a time will work to your advantage. Of course I’m not a doctor or personal trainer so check with your physician first before trying any new exercises.


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