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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘iraq

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • blogTO notes the refusal of Bombardier to explain to the TTC, even in the context of an impending lawsuit, why streetcar production is so delayed.
  • At the Broadside Blog, Caitlin Kelly recommends the movie Spotlight for its insights into the importance of journalism.
  • Crooked Timber considers protests at Princeton about racial representation.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting possibilities for direct imaging of the Alpha Centauri system.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes plans to close down the last coal-powered power plant in Britain.
  • Far Outliers looks at Russian and German encounters with Papuans in the late 19th century.
  • Language Hat starts a discussion on marginalized languages.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the defense of the mayor of Roanoke that his defense of the Japanese-American internment was not racist.
  • Marginal Revolution notes the importance of the Iran-Iraq War in the Middle East’s downward spiral.
  • pollotenchegg notes language use in Ukraine.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes how the Kirchner governments in Argentina subsidized energy companies.
  • Torontoist notes a Bloordale artist’s efforts to start a fact box in her neighbourhood.
  • Towleroad notes the belated recognition of a trans widow’s marriage.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the complications of the cut-off of electricity supply from Ukraine to Crimea.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alexander Harrowell is critical of certain plans for devolution that risk creating party fiefdoms.

[LINK] “Why Iraqi women are turning to the Internet to buy books”

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Al Monitor‘s Omar Al-Jaffal writes about how book markets and their female buyers have adapted to the trying situations in Iraq. On the one hand, it’s great that books can achieve their liberatory potential anywhere, and that markets have adapted to even the trying conditions in Iraq. On the other, it’s a terrible shame that this adaptation was necessary.

The deteriorating security situation in the Iraqi capital has prevented Noor Jamal Abdul Hamid from going to Mutanabbi Street to shop for books and stationery. Abdul Hamid is a young woman who found herself crippled by risky roads and social restrictions that prevent her from leaving her house. Despite all this, she manages to read plenty of books and hosts discussions of what she reads over Twitter.

Abdul Hamid, who was born in Baghdad in 1991, is a graduate of Alrafidain College. She is currently unemployed and reads to pass the time. In order to understand what is going on in her society and the mysterious Iraqi political life, she opted for “finding the truth in books,” as she told Al-Monitor, and so created her own library.

But how did she manage to collect 300 books, including novels, poetry and philosophy, when she had no access to a bookstore? “I found a bookstore on Facebook that delivers books to my doorstep,” she said.

This trend has emerged as a result of the security situation, giving housebound women access to books, and has also created a successful venue of commerce.

Abdul Hamid taught her friend Saja Imad how to order books over the phone or through Facebook, and Saja began to collect a set of books of her own.

“Reading is fun. It is like you are talking to someone else in another world,” Imad told Al-Monitor. She offered the following advice: “Whenever you feel like talking to someone, do not hesitate to grab a book and read.”

Written by Randy McDonald

November 9, 2015 at 6:44 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • The Boston Globe‘s Big Picture reports on Olympics evictions in Brazil, compares school life in Boston and Haiti, and follows an elderly man climbing Mount Washington.
  • blogTO suggests jets will not be coming to the Toronto Island airport and argues the city is unlikely to legalize Uber.
  • The Broadside Blog examines the staggering level of income inequality in the United States.
  • Centauri Dreams considers, in real-life and science fiction, the problems with maintaining artificial economies and notes the complexities of the Pluto system.
  • Crooked Timber notes the problems of organized labour and Labour in the United Kingdom.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes how atmospheric oxygen may not automatically point to the sign of life.
  • The Dragon’s Tales maps volcanic heat flow on Io and wonders if that world has a subsurface magna ocean
  • Far Outliers notes a popular thief in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan and looks at the politicization of the German military after the 1944 coup.
  • Geocurrents calls for recognizing the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan and Somaliland and looks at the geography of American poverty.
  • Language Log notes Sinified Japanese.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money examines the complexities of race and history in New Mexico.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that India unlike China cannot sustain global growth, approves of Snyder’s Black Earth, and notes poor economic outcomes for graduates of some American universities.
  • Otto Pohl is not optimistic about Ghana’s economic future.
  • The Planetary Society Blog evaluates the latest images from Mars.
  • pollotenchegg evaluates the 1931 Polish census in what is now western Ukraine.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks at why Syrian refugees will not be resettled in South America and observes that Mexico has birthright citizenship.
  • Cheri Lucas Rowlands describes the negative relationship for her between blogging and writing.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog examines rising mortality in Ukraine and notes changing ethnic compositions of Tajikistan’s populations.
  • Savage Minds talks about the importance of teaching climate change in anthropology.
  • Transit Toronto notes Toronto now has nine new streetcars.
  • Whatever’s John Scalzi considers the situation of poor people who go to good schools.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the lack of Russian nationalism in the Donbas, observes the scale of the refugee problem in Ukraine, and looks at Russian alienation of Moldova.

[LINK] “Proposed mosque in Detroit suburb draws sharp opposition”

Al Jazeera America’s Steve Friess reports on conflict between Middle Eastern Christians and Muslims in the Detroit area on the location of a mosque in a Christian neighbourhood, a conflict rooted in past conflicts.

The nation’s largest concentration of Iraqi Christians, many driven from their homeland by persecution at the hands of Muslim groups, is mounting an intensive campaign to block a proposed mosque in Sterling Heights, Michigan — sometimes by deploying public anti-Islam invective unusual in its bluntness even in this post-9/11 era.

The 20,500-square-foot mosque, to be built on four acres by the American Islamic Community Center (AICC), is to stand 60 feet tall along a major thoroughfare in a middle-class neighborhood if the Sterling Heights Planning Commission approves the plan at its meeting this Thursday. Opponents have dubbed it a “mega-mosque,” while Muslim leaders say it is of average size for houses of worship, including some nearby churches.

American leaders of the Chaldeans, an ancient Christian sect also known historically as ethnic Assyrians and originating from Iraq, have insisted in recent days that their opposition is based on concerns about traffic and property values, not religious enmity.

Yet a parade of speakers at a four-hour Sterling Heights City Council meeting on Aug. 13 offered vicious accusations that the group behind the mosque planned to use it to plot terrorist attacks and store weaponry, and attacked women who wear headscarves as scary to children. More of that sort of ire is being spewed on popular Chaldean group pages on Facebook and in signage and comments to local reporters at recent street-side protests near the proposed mosque site.

“This mosque is going to bring people like this. I do not want to be near people like this,” one resident, Saad Antoun, said at the City Council meeting as he held up a photo of women in burkas. “This is not humanity. … It is not right to live with people like this. This is not acceptable at all because these people are scaring the public. And they don’t care. … Can we prohibit this kind of public thing? We see them at the mall every day. We see them at shopping. Can we prohibit this? Can we make law against this? It’s scary and disgusting.”

Written by Randy McDonald

September 9, 2015 at 5:25 pm

[LINK] “Prospects for a future Kurdistan”

Open Democracy’s Gary Kent writes about the issues likely to face a separatist Kurdistan.

Baghdad’s obstinacy is also driving independence but Kurdistan is landlocked and many are wary of putting all their eggs in the Turkish basket, which once prompted former KRG Prime Minister Barham Salih to argue for three export routes through Iraq, Turkey and Iran (and, conceivably, Syria one day.) A unilateral declaration of independence could cut off imports, exports, passports, and airports. Independence would have to be negotiated with Baghdad through complex agreements on assets and liabilities, water, energy and security. Crucially, the KRG’s southern boundaries including Kirkuk must to be finalised to avoid the province becoming a flashpoint for Arab revanchism for decades to come.

The commonsense view is that ISIS should first be defeated before independence but given, as a senior security adviser told me, “Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall and definitely won’t be put back together,” maybe the way to defeat ISIS is to recognise that Sunnis and Kurds will never again accept unalloyed Baghdad rule.

Before ISIS, Sunni provinces neighbouring Kurdistan had begun to think that the dynamic Kurds could assist their economic salvation, especially in reliable electricity supplies. Shia Basra in the south, about the same size, population and economic weight as Kurdistan but with much more oil, had been champing at the bit for greater decentralisation. A much looser arrangement, perhaps one day a confederation, could be a bigger incentive for Sunnis to overthrow ISIS in Sunnistan than centralised and sectarian Shia rule from Baghdad. Every day that ISIS keeps Mosul makes it harder to reinstate the old Iraq.

Kurdistan has to be match fit for any possibility including independence and escape the sovietesque legacy of the old Iraq. The state employs most people, which suffocates the private sector and also undermines citizenship because, as one senior party official told me, “people who are employed by the state have to listen to the state.”

The rentier economy is almost wholly dependent on energy although the Kurdistan parliament has just passed a law allowing the KRG to borrow on international markets and is establishing a sovereign wealth fund for when energy revenues dry up. A mineral extraction law is also before Parliament and minerals could become a major money-spinner. Once the bread basket of Iraq, Kurdistan could achieve food self-sufficiency and export surplus wheat, apples and pomegranates.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 30, 2015 at 10:41 pm

[LINK] “Intra-Arab discrimination in Dearborn”

I’ve been sitting on Banen Al-Sheemary’s Open Democracy essay from March, talking about conflict and prejudice in the very diverse Arab community in the Michigan city of Dearborn, for some time. Conflicts between different groups, like the Lebanese who have accumulated the most social capital and various refugee groups which fare poorly, are sad but also sadly predictable.

There is a complete and intentional disregard for the power dynamics at play between Arab communities. The dominant narrative on Iraqi refugees makes no mention of the unequal power structure framing this unbalanced conversation. We fall into the same culture and religion blaming that we see on major news outlets.

The process of acculturation for Iraqis and building a home in Southeast Michigan is ongoing. This is difficult enough if you are deemed a problem by the majority of white America; it is made even more difficult when members of your own community accuse you of tainting the image of middle-class respectability that the Lebanese have worked so hard to cultivate, and undermining their progress in assimilating into the larger white American community.

Lebanese immigration starkly contrasts to that of other Arab groups, particularly Iraqis that have populated and rewritten the history of Michigan. Irai refugees didn’t come here for economic stability or to find a home of their own free will. They were violently uprooted and forced from their homes. They lived within refugee camps for years, have suffered extreme psychological trauma, and were left to try and piece their lives back together. Many of these refugees actually came from economically stable homes and positions of status in Iraq.

This article was written six months ago, but my experiences lead back to my first day in Michigan. It is with hesitation, and some tactful warnings from my friends and academic colleagues, that I share this piece. This is a humble attempt to express views and experiences forged from a system that we as a community have partially created and perpetuated.

It is a conversation that must happen because of the incoming Syrian refugees into Southeast Michigan and the problem of politicized sectarianism and nationalism that they will be facing, due to the polarizing conversation regarding the uprising in Syria. One can foresee the parallels between the experiences of incoming Iraqi and Syrian refugees, due to this selfsame hierarchy.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 5, 2015 at 10:56 pm

[LINK] Two notes on migration into Detroit

An interesting discussion on Facebook was started when someone shared a New York Times op-ed, “Let Syrians Settle Detroit” by David D. Laitin and Marc Jahrmay. The idea is provocative, but–I think–sound.

Detroit, a once great city, has become an urban vacuum. Its population has fallen to around 700,000 from nearly 1.9 million in 1950. The city is estimated to have more than 70,000 abandoned buildings and 90,000 vacant lots. Meanwhile, desperate Syrians, victims of an unfathomable civil war, are fleeing to neighboring countries, with some 1.8 million in Turkey and 600,000 in Jordan.

[. . .]

Syrian refugees would be an ideal community to realize this goal [of repopulation], as Arab-Americans are already a vibrant and successful presence in the Detroit metropolitan area. A 2003 survey by the University of Michigan of 1,016 members of this community (58 percent of whom were Christian, and 42 percent Muslim) found that 19 percent were entrepreneurs and that the median household income was $50,000 to $75,000 per year.

What confidence can we have that traumatized war refugees can be transformed into budding American entrepreneurs? We cannot know for sure. But recent evidence of recaptured children from the clutches of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and victims of violent crime across five continents reveals that they become more active citizens than similar compatriots who have not suffered from these traumatic events. In the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, Syrians, despite psychological scars and limited resources, have set up 3,500 shops, stores and other businesses.

Refugees resettled from a single war zone have helped revitalize several American communities, notably Hmong in previously neglected neighborhoods in Minneapolis, Bosnians in Utica, N.Y., and Somalis in Lewiston, Me.

Resettling Syrians in Detroit would require commitment and cooperation across different branches and levels of our government, but it is eminently feasible. President Obama and Congress would have to agree to lift this year’s refugee ceiling by 50,000. The State Department, which handles overseas processing of refugees, would need to open offices at the camps in Jordan and Turkey, determine eligibility and administer a lottery for resettlement. Homeland Security, which controls the borders, would have to carry out accelerated security checks, as has been done in the past for Vietnamese and for Iranian religious minorities. Health and Human Services would need an expansion in the $1.5 billion it budgets for refugee resettlement.

Someone in the comments linked to a Detroit Free Press article noting that rents are starting to rise substantially in that city.

Rental rates in downtown Detroit-area buildings have risen so high, some young professionals who breathed new life into the city core just a few years ago are now being priced out of the market and forced to move — a type of middle-class gentrification that has some developers eager to build new residential projects.

Development experts say demand far exceeds existing rental units in choice areas, such as Midtown, Corktown and the Detroit riverfront, where influxes of mostly young, well-paid professionals drove rental rates to new heights in new, existing and soon-to-open apartment buildings.

In many cases, landlords are asking $200 to $400 more a month for apartment leases than they were just a year or two ago because of the high demand and almost nonexistent new supply.

The phenomenon cannot be captured by the traditional definition of “gentrification,” when low-income households are displaced by the yuppie class. Rather, renters already in the middle class and enjoying professional careers now are being displaced by those even farther up the income scale who can afford the higher rents.

“Our office routinely turns down probably two people a day, letting them know we just can’t help them find something to rent,” said Ryan Cooley, owner of O’Connor Real Estate and Development in Corktown. “There’s just a lot of 20-year-olds wanting to live in the city.”

Written by Randy McDonald

May 15, 2015 at 11:37 pm


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