Will Brexit Help the Palestinian Cause in the EU?

June 28, 2016 by  
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By Ramzy Baroud | (Ma’an News Agency) | – –

After months of anticipation, the United Kingdom has decided to leave the European Union (EU). Although, the results were fairly close — 51.9 percent voted to ‘Leave’ vs. 48.1 percent elected to ‘Remain’ — the consequences of the decision will be far-reaching. Not only will the Brits negotiate their exit from the EU (thus, the term ‘Brexit’) within the next two years, but the decision is likely to usher in an upheaval unwitnessed before in EU history.

But is it good for Palestine?

In the shadow of the so-called Brexit debate, a whole different discussion has been taking place: ‘is Brexit good for Israel,’ or as an Israeli commentator, Carlo Strenger, phrased it in Israeli daily Haaretz: “What does (Brexit) mean for the Jews?”

In a last minute pandering for votes, British Prime Minister, David Cameron — who, to his credit, had the dignity to resign after the vote — made a passionate appeal before a Jewish audience on Monday, June 20. He told the Israel supporters in the charity Jewish Care that staying in the EU is actually good for Israel.

He presented his country as the safeguard of Israeli interests at the Union. The gist of his message was: Britain has kept a watchful eye on Brussels and has thwarted any discussion that may be seen as hostile towards the Jewish state.

“When Europe is discussing its attitude towards Israel, do you want Britain — Israel’s greatest friend — in there opposing boycotts, opposing the campaign for divestment and sanctions, or do you want us outside the room, powerless to affect the discussion that takes place?” he told the largely Jewish audience.

Predictably, Cameron brought Iran into his reasoning, vowing that, if Britain remained in the EU, his country would be in a stronger position to “stop Iran (from) getting nuclear weapons.”

While the ‘Leave’ campaign was strongly censured for unethically using fear-mongering to dissuade voters, Cameron’s comments before Jewish Care — which were an extreme and barefaced example of fear-mongering and manipulation of Israel’s so-called ‘existentialist threats’ — received little coverage in the media.

Indeed, Britain has played that dreadful role for decades, muting any serious discussion on Israel and Palestine, and ensuring more courageous voices like that of Sweden, for example, are offset by the ardently and unconditionally pro-Israel sentiment constantly radiating from Westminster. Who can forget Cameron’s impassionate defense of Israel’s last war on Gaza in 2014, which killed over 2,200 mostly Palestinian civilians?

Unequivocally, Cameron, along with his Conservative Party, has been a “staunch ally of (Israeli) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” as described by Israeli commentator Raphael Ahren, writing in the Times of Israel. His love for Israel can also be more appreciated when compared to, also according to Ahren, “current head of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn — who is a harsh critic of Israel and has called Israel’s arch-foes Hamas and Hezbollah ‘our friends.’”

Since Corbyn was elected to the helm of the Labour Party with a landslide victory in September of last year, an apparently manufactured controversy alleging rampant anti-Semitism within Labour has taken away from the party’s attempt to refocus its energies on challenging the Conservative’s neoliberal policies and slowing down the momentum of the ultra-right Independence Party of Nigel Farage.

That contrived ‘crisis’ was largely the work of the Israel lobby in the UK, per the assessment of investigative journalist Asa Winstanley. It was a ‘witch-hunt’ that reached an unprecedented degree of incongruity. “It has reached such an absurd volume that any usage of the word ‘Zionist’ is deemed to be anti-Semitic,” he wrote, “although, tellingly, not when used by self-described Zionists.”

Indeed, many members of Labour were either themselves involved in that ‘witch-hunt’ or succumbed to its pressure, taking outrageous steps to defend against the unwarranted accusations. As a result, the embattled and disorganized Labour, too, urged its supporters to stay in the EU and they, too, lost the vote.

As for Israel, Brexit meant uncertainty and also opportunity.

The EU is Israel’s largest trade partner, and an economically weaker Union is destined to translate to less trade with Israel, thus financial losses. But Israel has also been sharply critical of the EU, with Israeli leaders making all sorts of accusations against supposed European anti-Semitism, and with Netanyahu himself calling for mass emigration of European Jewry to Israel.

Part of the reason why Tel Aviv has been fuming at the EU is the nuclear agreement with Iran, in which the EU is a co-signatory. The other reason is a decision last November by the EU to impose new regulations on products made in Jewish settlements built illegally on Palestinian land. According to the new guidelines, goods produced in these settlements must be labeled “made in settlements,” a decision that further strengthened calls throughout Europe for boycotting Israel altogether.

That decision, and others, increasingly made the EU appear as an untrustworthy ally to Israel; and precisely because of that, David Cameron desperately tried to sell himself at the last minute before the vote as the vanguard against other allegedly unruly EU members who refuse to play by the well-established rules.

Yet, interestingly, one of the loudest, and also fear-mongering groups that campaigned for Britain to exit the EU is ‘Regavim,’ a right-wing NGO that advocates on behalf of the illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Unsurprisingly, ‘Regavim’ used scare tactics by pushing a Palestinian bogeyman into the midst of Britain’s historical debate. Its campaign included a mock video of a masked Palestinian fighter “purportedly from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, urging UK citizens to remain in the European Union because it supports the Palestinians,” reported Al-Monitor.

According to Regavim’s Meir Deutsch, the organization’s aim was to “harm the EU over ‘its intervention in the internal conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.’”

Now that, according to Deutsch’s ruthless logic, the EU is duly ‘harmed,’ Israel is seeking another bulwark in the European Union to defend its interests.

Israeli analyst Sharon Pardo while regretting the loss of a ‘friend’ in the Union, asserted that such a loss is not a ‘catastrophe,’ for the likes of Germany and the Czech Republic are even friendlier than Britain.

Israel is particularly concerned about its status within the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council, now that the UK is leaving. “Germany has good chances of taking the lead here and the fact that Germany is a close ally of Israel will clearly have implications,” according to Pardo, who added, “Germany is the responsible adult here.”

While Israel is likely to move fast to ensure its interests, both financial and political, are protected following Brexit, the Palestinian Authority is likely to move much slower and without a decisive, centralized strategy.

The UK’s departure from the EU might not have an immediate impact on the conflict in Palestine, especially during the coming months of projected upheaval, negotiations and transition; however, it could still offer Palestinians an opportunity for the future.

While pressure must continue to be applied on Westminster to end its unconditional backing of Israel, a possibly friendlier EU without the staunchly pro-Israel Britain, may emerge. The UK’s support for Israel in the Union, and the backing of all American steps in the same direction, has seriously hampered the EU’s chances of being anything but a rubberstamp to US-UK policies not only in Palestine but also throughout the Middle East.

While it is too early to make any significant political forecast following Brexit, one can only hope that the efforts of pro-peace countries such as Ireland and Sweden will be strengthened, and that more such friendly nations will join to rein in Israel for its military occupation and demand justice for Palestine.

Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, author and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect Ma’an News Agency’s editorial policy.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect Informed Comment’s editorial policy.

Via Ma’an News Agency

——

Related video added by Juan Cole:

AFP: ” Mahmud Abbas inaugurates new Palestinian mission in Brussels

Is the Mideast disintegrating or just being Auctioned Off?

June 28, 2016 by  
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By Patrick Cockburn | ( Tomdispatch.com) | – –

We live in an age of disintegration. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Greater Middle East and Africa. Across the vast swath of territory between Pakistan and Nigeria, there are at least seven ongoing wars — in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and South Sudan. These conflicts are extraordinarily destructive. They are tearing apart the countries in which they are taking place in ways that make it doubtful they will ever recover. Cities like Aleppo in Syria, Ramadi in Iraq, Taiz in Yemen, and Benghazi in Libya have been partly or entirely reduced to ruins. There are also at least three other serious insurgencies: in southeast Turkey, where Kurdish guerrillas are fighting the Turkish army, in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula where a little-reported but ferocious guerrilla conflict is underway, and in northeast Nigeria and neighboring countries where Boko Haram continues to launch murderous attacks.

All of these have a number of things in common: they are endless and seem never to produce definitive winners or losers. (Afghanistan has effectively been at war since 1979, Somalia since 1991.) They involve the destruction or dismemberment of unified nations, their de facto partition amid mass population movements and upheavals — well publicized in the case of Syria and Iraq, less so in places like South Sudan where more than 2.4 million people have been displaced in recent years.

Add in one more similarity, no less crucial for being obvious: in most of these countries, where Islam is the dominant religion, extreme Salafi-Jihadi movements, including the Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda, and the Taliban are essentially the only available vehicles for protest and rebellion. By now, they have completely replaced the socialist and nationalist movements that predominated in the twentieth century; these years have, that is, seen a remarkable reversion to religious, ethnic, and tribal identity, to movements that seek to establish their own exclusive territory by the persecution and expulsion of minorities.

In the process and under the pressure of outside military intervention, a vast region of the planet seems to be cracking open. Yet there is very little understanding of these processes in Washington. This was recently well illustrated by the protest of 51 State Department diplomats against President Obama’s Syrian policy and their suggestion that air strikes be launched targeting Syrian regime forces in the belief that President Bashar al-Assad would then abide by a ceasefire. The diplomats’ approach remains typically simpleminded in this most complex of conflicts, assuming as it does that the Syrian government’s barrel-bombing of civilians and other grim acts are the “root cause of the instability that continues to grip Syria and the broader region.”

It is as if the minds of these diplomats were still in the Cold War era, as if they were still fighting the Soviet Union and its allies. Against all the evidence of the last five years, there is an assumption that a barely extant moderate Syrian opposition would benefit from the fall of Assad, and a lack of understanding that the armed opposition in Syria is entirely dominated by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda clones.

Though the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is now widely admitted to have been a mistake (even by those who supported it at the time), no real lessons have been learned about why direct or indirect military interventions by the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East over the last quarter century have all only exacerbated violence and accelerated state failure.

A Mass Extinction of Independent States

The Islamic State, just celebrating its second anniversary, is the grotesque outcome of this era of chaos and conflict. That such a monstrous cult exists at all is a symptom of the deep dislocation societies throughout that region, ruled by corrupt and discredited elites, have suffered. Its rise — and that of various Taliban and al-Qaeda-style clones — is a measure of the weakness of its opponents.

The Iraqi army and security forces, for example, had 350,000 soldiers and 660,000 police on the books in June 2014 when a few thousand Islamic State fighters captured Mosul, the country’s second largest city, which they still hold. Today the Iraqi army, security services, and about 20,000 Shia paramilitaries backed by the massive firepower of the United States and allied air forces have fought their way into the city of Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, against the resistance of IS fighters who may have numbered as few as 900. In Afghanistan, the resurgence of the Taliban, supposedly decisively defeated in 2001, came about less because of the popularity of that movement than the contempt with which Afghans came to regard their corrupt government in Kabul.

Everywhere nation states are enfeebled or collapsing, as authoritarian leaders battle for survival in the face of mounting external and internal pressures. This is hardly the way the region was expected to develop. Countries that had escaped from colonial rule in the second half of the twentieth century were supposed to become more, not less, unified as time passed.

Between 1950 and 1975, nationalist leaders came to power in much of the previously colonized world. They promised to achieve national self-determination by creating powerful independent states through the concentration of whatever political, military, and economic resources were at hand. Instead, over the decades, many of these regimes transmuted into police states controlled by small numbers of staggeringly wealthy families and a coterie of businessmen dependent on their connections to such leaders as Hosni Mubarak in Egypt or Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

In recent years, such countries were also opened up to the economic whirlwind of neoliberalism, which destroyed any crude social contract that existed between rulers and ruled. Take Syria. There, rural towns and villages that had once supported the Baathist regime of the al-Assad family because it provided jobs and kept the prices of necessities low were, after 2000, abandoned to market forces skewed in favor of those in power. These places would become the backbone of the post-2011 uprising. At the same time, institutions like the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that had done so much to enhance the wealth and power of regional oil producers in the 1970s have lost their capacity for united action.

The question for our moment: Why is a “mass extinction” of independent states taking place in the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond? Western politicians and media often refer to such countries as “failed states.” The implication embedded in that term is that the process is a self-destructive one. But several of the states now labeled “failed” like Libya only became so after Western-backed opposition movements seized power with the support and military intervention of Washington and NATO, and proved too weak to impose their own central governments and so a monopoly of violence within the national territory.

In many ways, this process began with the intervention of a U.S.-led coalition in Iraq in 2003 leading to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the shutting down of his Baathist Party, and the disbanding of his military. Whatever their faults, Saddam and Libya’s autocratic ruler Muammar Gaddafi were clearly demonized and blamed for all ethnic, sectarian, and regional differences in the countries they ruled, forces that were, in fact, set loose in grim ways upon their deaths.

A question remains, however: Why did the opposition to autocracy and to Western intervention take on an Islamic form and why were the Islamic movements that came to dominate the armed resistance in Iraq and Syria in particular so violent, regressive, and sectarian? Put another way, how could such groups find so many people willing to die for their causes, while their opponents found so few? When IS battle groups were sweeping through northern Iraq in the summer of 2014, soldiers who had thrown aside their uniforms and weapons and deserted that country’s northern cities would justify their flight by saying derisively: “Die for [then-Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki? Never!”

A common explanation for the rise of Islamic resistance movements is that the socialist, secularist, and nationalist opposition had been crushed by the old regimes’ security forces, while the Islamists were not. In countries like Libya and Syria, however, Islamists were savagely persecuted, too, and they still came to dominate the opposition. And yet, while these religious movements were strong enough to oppose governments, they generally have not proven strong enough to replace them.

Too Weak to Win, But Too Strong to Lose

Though there are clearly many reasons for the present disintegration of states and they differ somewhat from place to place, one thing is beyond question: the phenomenon itself is becoming the norm across vast reaches of the planet.

If you’re looking for the causes of state failure in our time, the place to start is undoubtedly with the end of the Cold War a quarter-century ago. Once it was over, neither the U.S. nor the new Russia that emerged from the Soviet Union’s implosion had a significant interest in continuing to prop up “failed states,” as each had for so long, fearing that the rival superpower and its local proxies would otherwise take over. Previously, national leaders in places like the Greater Middle East had been able to maintain a degree of independence for their countries by balancing between Moscow and Washington. With the break-up of the Soviet Union, this was no longer feasible.

In addition, the triumph of neoliberal free-market economics in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse added a critical element to the mix. It would prove far more destabilizing than it looked at the time.

Again, consider Syria. The expansion of the free market in a country where there was neither democratic accountability nor the rule of law meant one thing above all: plutocrats linked to the nation’s ruling family took anything that seemed potentially profitable. In the process, they grew staggeringly wealthy, while the denizens of Syria’s impoverished villages, country towns, and city slums, who had once looked to the state for jobs and cheap food, suffered. It should have surprised no one that those places became the strongholds of the Syrian uprising after 2011. In the capital, Damascus, as the reign of neoliberalism spread, even the lesser members of the mukhabarat, or secret police, found themselves living on only $200 to $300 a month, while the state became a machine for thievery.

This sort of thievery and the auctioning off of the nation’s patrimony spread across the region in these years. The new Egyptian ruler, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, merciless toward any sign of domestic dissent, was typical. In a country that once had been a standard bearer for nationalist regimes the world over, he didn’t hesitate this April to try to hand over two islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia on whose funding and aid his regime is dependent. (To the surprise of everyone, an Egyptian court recently overruled Sisi’s decision.)

That gesture, deeply unpopular among increasingly impoverished Egyptians, was symbolic of a larger change in the balance of power in the Middle East: once the most powerful states in the region — Egypt, Syria, and Iraq — had been secular nationalists and a genuine counterbalance to Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf monarchies. As those secular autocracies weakened, however, the power and influence of the Sunni fundamentalist monarchies only increased. If 2011 saw rebellion and revolution spread across the Greater Middle East as the Arab Spring briefly blossomed, it also saw counterrevolution spread, funded by those oil-rich absolute Gulf monarchies, which were never going to tolerate democratic secular regime change in Syria or Libya.

Add in one more process at work making such states ever more fragile: the production and sale of natural resources — oil, gas, and minerals — and the kleptomania that goes with it. Such countries often suffer from what has become known as “the resources curse”: states increasingly dependent for revenues on the sale of their natural resources — enough to theoretically provide the whole population with a reasonably decent standard of living — turn instead into grotesquely corrupt dictatorships. In them, the yachts of local billionaires with crucial connections to the regime of the moment bob in harbors surrounded by slums running with raw sewage. In such nations, politics tends to focus on elites battling and maneuvering to steal state revenues and transfer them as rapidly as possible out of the country.

This has been the pattern of economic and political life in much of sub-Saharan Africa from Angola to Nigeria. In the Middle East and North Africa, however, a somewhat different system exists, one usually misunderstood by the outside world. There is similarly great inequality in Iraq or Saudi Arabia with similarly kleptocratic elites. They have, however, ruled over patronage states in which a significant part of the population is offered jobs in the public sector in return for political passivity or support for the kleptocrats.

In Iraq with a population of 33 million people, for instance, no less than seven million of them are on the government payroll, thanks to salaries or pensions that cost the government $4 billion a month. This crude way of distributing oil revenues to the people has often been denounced by Western commentators and economists as corruption. They, in turn, generally recommend cutting the number of these jobs, but this would mean that all, rather than just part, of the state’s resource revenues would be stolen by the elite. This, in fact, is increasingly the case in such lands as oil prices bottom out and even the Saudi royals begin to cut back on state support for the populace.

Neoliberalism was once believed to be the path to secular democracy and free-market economies. In practice, it has been anything but. Instead, in conjunction with the resource curse, as well as repeated military interventions by Washington and its allies, free-market economics has profoundly destabilized the Greater Middle East. Encouraged by Washington and Brussels, twenty-first-century neoliberalism has made unequal societies ever more unequal and helped transform already corrupt regimes into looting machines. This is also, of course, a formula for the success of the Islamic State or any other radical alternative to the status quo. Such movements are bound to find support in impoverished or neglected regions like eastern Syria or eastern Libya.

Note, however, that this process of destabilization is by no means confined to the Greater Middle East and North Africa. We are indeed in the age of destabilization, a phenomenon that is on the rise globally and at present spreading into the Balkans and Eastern Europe (with the European Union ever less able to influence events there). People no longer speak of European integration, but of how to prevent the complete break-up of the European Union in the wake of the British vote to leave.

The reasons why a narrow majority of Britons voted for Brexit have parallels with the Middle East: the free-market economic policies pursued by governments since Margaret Thatcher was prime minister have widened the gap between rich and poor and between wealthy cities and much of the rest of the country. Britain might be doing well, but millions of Britons did not share in the prosperity. The referendum about continued membership in the European Union, the option almost universally advocated by the British establishment, became the catalyst for protest against the status quo. The anger of the “Leave” voters has much in common with that of Donald Trump supporters in the United States.

The U.S. remains a superpower, but is no longer as powerful as it once was. It, too, is feeling the strains of this global moment, in which it and its local allies are powerful enough to imagine they can get rid of regimes they do not like, but either they do not quite succeed, as in Syria, or succeed but cannot replace what they have destroyed, as in Libya. An Iraqi politician once said that the problem in his country was that parties and movements were “too weak to win, but too strong to lose.” This is increasingly the pattern for the whole region and is spreading elsewhere. It carries with it the possibility of an endless cycle of indecisive wars and an era of instability that has already begun.

Patrick Cockburn is a Middle East correspondent for the Independent of London and the author of five books on the Middle East, the latest of which is Chaos and Caliphate: Jihadis and the West in the Struggle for the Middle East (OR Books).

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2016 Patrick Cockburn

[Note to TomDispatch Readers: Patrick Cockburn has arguably been our premier journalist of the Middle East in these last years. For the Independent, he’s produced a body of journalism about our wars in the Greater Middle East and their consequences that is simply superb. His latest book (just out in paperback), Chaos & Caliphate: Jihadis and the West in the Struggle for the Middle East, offers a panoramic look at his on-the-ground reportage from the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to Iraq in 2015. I recommend it highly. You can buy it directly from his publisher, OR Books, by clicking here.

In addition, let me remind all of you that, in return for a donation to this website of $100 or more ($125 if you live outside the United States), you can get a signed, personalized copy of any one of 14 books, from an impressive range of authors, including Nick Turse and me, at the TomDispatch donation page and help keep this operation rolling. Tom]

Via Tomdispatch.com

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

RT: “‘Battle finally over’: Iraqi city of Fallujah liberated from ISIS – senior commander”

CIA Arms For Syria Sold by Jordan Spies on Black Market For Terrorists

June 28, 2016 by  
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Jo Ankier, Elliot Hill and Mark Sovel | (TheLipTV) | – –

“Weapons sent by the CIA to Jordan for Syrian rebels were stolen by Jordanian intelligence operatives and sold to arms merchants on the black market, a joint investigation by The New York Times and Al Jazeera has revealed, citing American and Jordanian officials. Some of the stolen weapons were reportedly used in a terror attack in November that killed two Americans and three others in Jordan. We look at the report on the Lip News with Jo Ankier, Elliot Hill and Mark Sovel.”

TheLipTV: ” CIA Arms For Syria Sold on Black Market For Terrorists”

ISIL Terrorism Strikes at Turkish Economy; & Someone tell Trump the Victims are Muslim

June 28, 2016 by  
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By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The terrorist attack on Ataturk Airport in Istanbul Tuesday immediately drew a crass barb from Donald Trump implying that it supported his notion of banning Muslims from the US. Trump probably doesn’t know that the Turks are mostly Muslim, so he is threatening reprisals against the victims .

Cenk Uygur hits the nail on the head:

The Young Turks: “Trump: Istanbul Bombing Proves Me Right About Muslim Ban”

If it was Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) that attacked Istanbul Airport on Tuesday, killing 36 and wounding many others, the question is, why?

Despite the frequent allegations at conspiracy sites that Turkey is somehow involved with Daesh, in actual fact the Turkish government has repeatedly attacked it and is in a low intensity war against it. Turkey may back some militant groups in Syria, such as the Freemen of Syria, but the Freemen (Ahrar al-Sham) are themselves deadly enemies of Daesh.

Here are some recent news items about Turkish government clashes with Daesh:

On June 15, Yeni Safak reported that the Turkish military had shelled Daesh targets in northern Syria and had killed 10 of the radicals. It said that Turkish army howitzers had demolished 17 Daesh weapons caches, hiding places and missile emplacements that had been planning to hit Turkey with missiles. The shelling came in response to Daesh rocket attacks on Turkey’s Kilis province since January, which has killed 28 and wounded some 70 other Turks.

The same source on the same day noted that a Turkish court had handed down multiple life sentences to 3 convicted Daesh terrorists. They had stolen a truck and wounded Turkish security forces in the central province of Nigde in 2014.

The report claimed that Turkey has killed 2000 Daesh militants in the past year.

On June 20, Yeni Safak reported that the Turkish army deployed cross-border artillery fire against Daesh positions across the border in Turkey and, in conjunction with coalition air strikes, killed 23 Daesh terrorists. Some 33 targets were destroyed such as weapons caches, etc.

On June 28, Hurriyet reported that 10 alleged Daesh members arrested after last year’s deadly bombing in Ankara, and 26 others still at large, were facing an indictment that could lead to 100 aggravated life sentences. The trial is expected to open in Ankara in the next few days. The bombing, on October 10 of last fall, killed 103 persons near the capital’s principal train station.

Terrorist groups often lash out when members are captured, held in prison, and sentenced, and Turkey has several ongoing trials against Daesh operatives. Likewise, terrorist groups hit back if they are hit, as with Turkey’s shelling of Daesh position in northern Syria near the Turkish border.

Hitting Istanbul’s Ataturk airport is classic terrorism, aimed at harming the Turkish economy. The airport accommodates 50 million passengers a year, between tourists and transit passengers.

In 2014, 37 million foreign visitors came to Turkey, accounting for nearly 5% of the country’s GDP.

But in 2015 and the first half of this year, tourism is way off. Turkey’s decision to shoot down a Russian plane last fall to protect militant Salafi Turkmen in Syria’s north led to the end of the 4 million annual visits from Russian tourists. A string of Daesh attacks, as at Istiqlal St. in Istanbul, has also had tourists cancelling their bookings. Japanese tourism was off 40% in 2015, and Italian visits were down 27%.

The attacks by semi-automatic weapons and suicide vest belts on Tuesday is certain to further harm the Turkish tourism industry, which is the aim of Daesh. These terrorist groups believe that if they can harm the local economy and create discontent, they might be able to take over.

Despite the low-intensity conflicts Turkey is fighting against Daesh and the PKK, its economy has so far escaped the worst effects of them. That period of being teflon may be coming to an end.

UPCOMING (Sunday, July 3): Battlecross BBQ Beach Bash at the Token Lounge in Westland

June 28, 2016 by  
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Join local metal superstars Battlecross for some fun filled summer time debauchery this Sunday 
(July 3) as they hold their annual BBQ Bash at the Token Lounge in Westland.
 
Showtimes:
10:15pm - Battlecross
09:30pm - Carnis Immortalis
08:45pm - Imminent Sonic Destruction
08:00pm - Dead in 5
07:15pm - Hate Unbound
06:30pm - Voyag3r
 
Doors open at 6pm 
18+ w/proper ID & All Ages w/parent
Advance tickets $15 and $20 day of show
 
The Token Lounge is located at 28949 Joy Rd, Westland, MI 48185  


How They Read Now: The ’96 National Book Award Winners

June 28, 2016 by  
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National Book Award

Over the past month, I have been busy reading five books that I normally would not have picked up on my own. This year marks twenty years of the National Book Award and this winter I joined a group of colleagues and book lovers to go back and read those award-winning YA books. There are twenty of us participating–each taking a year of winners. Each year has five novels. Each reader is tasked with choosing the one book from their year to move on to the next bracket, with the idea that we choose ONE book from the past twenty years that we all feel is the BEST of all the National Book Award Winners.  I chose 1996 for a few reasons.

I am at that age where YA novels were sub par when I was the target audience for YA literature. My mom would make a weekly trip to the library in the summer and come home with stacks of books from their tiny section with young people as the protagonist. I read a lot of terribly written books over those summers. The YA scene didn’t vastly improve until after I had gotten my job teaching high school English. Coming of age with shoddy writing about gender stereotypes and predictable plots made me want to revisit what judges deemed exceptional back then.

The books I read:

Parrot in The Oven: Mi Vida by Victor Martinez

I read this one in grad school for an adolescent lit class circa 2004. I remember being blown away that this sort of literature existed for young people since everything we read was extremely different than the tales of summer romances and back-stabbing best friends that I had access to. Since it had been more than a decade, I re-read the book for this project. I was sure this would be my pick for the best.

Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida is told from the point of view of 14-year-old Manny Hernandez who lives with his sisters, his brother, and his parents the barrio in California. The writing was beautiful. Martinez creates lovely vignettes for each chapter painting each scene with similes like when he describes the pepper plants he and his older brother are going to pick from to earn extra money: “…gesturing down at some limp branches leaning away from the road, as if trying to lift their roots and hustle away from the passing traffic” (10). The way he describes what the sky looks like above the pepper field, “clouds boiling like water on the horizon” not only appeal to the reader’s visual sense, but also reminds us that it is so blisteringly hot that even the clouds feel it (13).

While the writing was lovely, the plot was underwhelming. Manny’s family has issues and he is deciding whether or not to join a gang. At the time of publication, the race wars in California had tensions across the entire country running high. Not many authors had so eloquently written about the Latino experience from the eyes of a Latino youth, so it is not surprising that the plot coupled with poetic prose, won an award twenty-years ago. However if I were to hand this book to my middle school students now, I don’t think they would be as blown away after reading the works of authors like Benjamin Alire Saenz and Margarita Engle.

What Jamie Saw by Carolyn Coman

After reading reviews of this one, I was looking forward to something ground-breaking. What Jamie Saw read more like what I remember 90’s YA lit reading like: potential that is just not realized. The plot is that Jamie witnesses his mom’s boyfriend do something mean to his younger sister. Mom and Jamie and the baby leave. They are afraid of the ex-boyfriend. The problem is that the plot falls short. Other than mentioning something–domestic abuse–that probably wasn’t mentioned much then, it really stops there with just mentioning it. Since Jamie is just a little kid, the language is simplistic and we are left to infer what conversations his mother is having when she asks him to play outside or tend to his baby sister.

In the end, the book felt like an after school special, but with even less drama. Definitely did not seem award-winning to me.

Send Me Down a Miracle by Han Nolan

This may have been my least favorite of all five books. At least with What Jamie Saw I was interested in the plot even if it did turn out to be too simple for my taste. Send Me Down a Miracle had better writing, but the plot was pretty terrible, as was the characterization.

Charity is supposedly a 14-year old who lives with her younger sister, her dad, who is the preacher in a super small Southern town. Her mom is gone to a birdcage convention and later we find out she may or may not be coming back. A stranger–an artist from New York–comes to town one day to work on her art. She announces she will be living closed from society for a month. When she comes out she claims to have seen Jesus sitting on a chair in her house.

First of all, Charity seems way younger and naive than any 14-year old I have ever met. In fact, she is somewhat unbelievable as a 14-year old. Her father reminds me of the dad in Footloose, but less of a fully developed character. The most interesting characters to me where Adrienne (the artist) and Charity’s mom, both of whom are flat and undeveloped. In the beginning I thought Adrienne was going to be the star of the book when Charity describes her entrance: “Then in walked Adrienne into our tidy home, looking like some wild jungle woman with fat, frizzed-out hair, rings on her toes, and this long, brightly colored skirt that was practically see-through.” But no.

The entire plot of the town going crazy for a “Jesus Chair” was just poorly executed, in my opinion.

The Long Season of Rain by Helen Kim

This was the last book I had to read and it was hard to find. When it showed up to my house I took one look at the book cover and groaned. I thought for sure I would be bored to tears. I was pleasantly surprised.

The Long Season of Rain takes place in South Korea in the 1960’s. It starts during the rainy season, Changma, while school is out for recess. The story is told from 11-year-old Junehee’s point of view. She is the second of four daughters and lives with her parents and her paternal grandmother. One day her grandmother brings home a boy her age who was orphaned in a mudslide. His presence brings out family secrets and tensions between her mother and father.

I will admit that historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and I hadn’t read any historical YA lit about Korea before, so even though I thought the book would bore me, I was wrong. The writing was lovely and wove Korean words easily with English in a way that was not confusing to the reader, but brought a richer sense of tradition and culture. Kim also does a good job of weaving the traditions of a conservative Korean family into the plot. They do not stand out, but rather enhance the story and push the motives of the characters.

I would classify this as a fairly typical bildungsroman because Junehee “comes of age” as she loses her innocence of her parents’ relationship and family workings. This was my runner-up pick.

A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer

As you may have already guessed, A Girl Named Disaster is my pick for the best of the 1996 National Book Award Winners. Like The Long Season of Rain, it falls under the historical YA fiction heading. At first, I wasn’t so sure about it since I have recently read two other YA books set in Africa, but this one blows both of those away too.

Nhamo is 11-years old living in a traditional village in Mozambique where she doesn’t fit in. Her mother was killed by a leopard when she was a baby, and her father took off before she was born. Culture places daughters with their father’s family, but Nhamo is brought up by her maternal side. After sickness plagues her village, it is decided that she should be married off to a terrible man to bring health and luck back to the village. Nhamo decides it’s time to find her father’s family who are supposedly in Zimbabwe.

Her year-long adventure is like a cross between the hero’s journey and a bildungsroman. She definitely “comes of age” during her travels, but it almost exactly follows the typical “hero’s journey” elements as well. Of all the books this is the one that not only stuck with me after I was done reading, but I found myself thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it. It was a book I stayed up late to finish because I needed to know what would happen. That alone makes it the clear front-runner.

The writing was beautifully descriptive as well. One of the qualities of a truly good book–especially world literature–is when the author can make the cultures and traditions come alive and make sense and weave them into the plot of the book. Farmer does that impeccably in A Girl Named Disaster.

I look forward to reading the winners from the 2012, 2008, 2004, and 2000 groups so we can decide on one to push through to the final brackets! I’ll keep you posted!

Midwest Living Covers The 1,000ish Mille Mitten Road Trip

June 28, 2016 by  
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Photographer: Mike Gilger In 3 days and 10 cars (and a few boats and bathing suits), 30 friends cover 1,100 Michigan miles in a new take on classic road rallies. Michigan-born friends Ben Bator and Matt Ferrel grew up taking a certain sort of vacation. “You take 75 north to your exit, go to your cottage and then you don’t leave that area. You just get to your destination and stay,” Ben says.

2017 4* WR Jeremiah Holloman plans to visit Michigan

June 28, 2016 by  
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Class of 2017 four-star wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman has told Maize n Brew that he plans to visit Michigan before he commits to a program.

"Michigan still holds value to me because I understand what they are capable of doing due to their past and the recruiting classes they are bringing in," Holloman said. "I plan on trying to work out a visit."

Holloman has offers to play for Georgia, Tennessee, Auburn, Mississippi State, Alabama, Cincinnati, Colorado, East Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Iowa State, LSU, Marshall, Maryland, Miami (OH), Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, South Carolina, Tulane, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Troy, UAB, and UNLV.

Regarding the ability to play for Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound wideout said, "It would be big especially due to the fact that he played there himself."

Holloman is ranked as the 220th overall player in the Class of 2017 by 247Sports. He is in the 28th best at his position and 24th highest rated player in the state of Georgia.

"I do not have a top anything nor do I have a leader," the wide receiver mentioned. "I will commit whenever I feel the time is right."

2017 4* PG Brad Davison gets Michigan offer

June 28, 2016 by  
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After his unofficial visit to Ann Arbor, Michigan offered 2017 four-star point guard Brad Davison from Maple Grove High School in Osseo, Minnesota. The news was reported by Ryan James of Rivals.

Davison is the 89th ranked player from the Class of 2017, according to 247Sports. He is the 20th overall point guard and the third-best player from the state of Minnesota.

Along with Michigan, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound guard has offers from Stanford, Wisconsin, Buffalo, Dayton, Elon, Furman, Georgia Tech, N.C. State, Nebraska, Northern Iowa, Northwestern, Pacific, South Dakota, South Dakota State and Wofford.

The point guard has taken an official visit to Stanford and unofficial visits to Michigan, Northern Iowa, Butler, Dayton, and Northwestern. He will visit Wisconsin on June 29th.

Davison is averaging 17.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game on the Nike EYBL circuit this spring. In 16 games, he shot 44 percent from downtown and 51 percent from the entire field, including 87 percent from the free throw line. Davison averages just 1.4 turnovers per game on the circuit.

PBS’ ‘This Old House’ To Help Restore Home In Northwest Detroit

June 28, 2016 by  
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Photo: Kevin O'Connor  "This Old House" will head to Detroit for the first time to help a retired firefighter and his family renovate their home in the Russell Woods neighborhood in the northwest area of the city. The renovation project in Detroit will span 10 episodes that are scheduled to air in March. The Public Broadcasting Service television show has plans to renovate additional homes

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