Deadly Storms Batters Fire Ravaged East Tennessee Tourists Towns

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE)

Search-and-rescue teams continued Wednesday to scour the charred hills and ridges around the mountain resort town of Gatlinburg, Tenn., after wildfires fueled by severe winds roared through eastern Tennessee.

As the death toll climbed to seven Wednesday, according to the Associated Press, hot spots continued to blaze around the quaint Appalachian tourism center that attracts 11 million people a year. Residents and visitors remained under a mandatory evacuation order after more than 250 homes, vacation cabins, motels and businesses were reduced to rubble.

While overnight storms dropped long-awaited rain early Wednesday, helping to douse the parched, fire-ravaged landscape, they also brought a risk of flooding. On Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service issued an urban and small stream flood advisory for Gatlinburg and surrounding Sevier County.

The storms also wreaked havoc on tiny, rural communities across the Southeast, killing five people and injuring dozens in Alabama and Tennessee.

Three people perished when a tornado demolished a mobile home in the small town of Rosalie, in northeastern Alabama. Five miles east, a daycare center in Ider, Ala., was destroyed, leaving four children in critical condition. A married couple was also killed in Polk County in southern Tennessee, the state Department of Health said.

“We don’t usually get tornadoes this time of year,” said Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen of Jackson County, Ala., where 50 buildings were damaged or destroyed. “But this has not been a normal weather year.”

Wildfires have been spreading for weeks in the Southeast, where severe drought persists. As many as 20 large fires are currently blazing across 142,000 acres, according to Adam Rondeau, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service, who described the unusually parched conditions as creating the “perfect storm” for active wildfires.

On Monday night, high winds swept eastern Tennessee, blowing burning embers from a wildfire on Chimney Tops mountain into Gatlinburg, the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Local officials and residents in the town were taken aback by how swiftly the fires spread as winds ignited new fire spots and knocked live power lines down onto dry autumn leaves. In a span of just 15 minutes, the fire chief said, emergency workers were alerted to almost 20 burning buildings.

“You know, it happened so fast, it was staggering,” said Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner, who lost his two-story home as well as the condominium business he has managed for 31 years. “When you’ve got winds of up to 87 mph pushing fire, people were basically running for their lives.”

Michael Luciano, who lives in Chalet Village, west of downtown Gatlinburg, recorded on cellphone video his harrowing journey down a narrow mountain road in a pickup truck, past flaming orange trees and cabins. (Warning, video contains profanity.)

“Hit the gas,” he screamed at his brother, Anthony Fulton, as red flames engulfed both sides of the road and embers bounced off the windshield. Their frightened dog can be heard panting in the background

Smoke filled their truck as they hurtled past blazing, burnt-out structures. “No warning, nothing…” Luciano exclaimed. “Almost every cabin in Chalet Village is burning to the freakin’ ground!”

Dozens of guests and staff found themselves trapped inside the Park Vista, a modern, high-rise hotel perched on a ridge above downtown Gatlinburg. Some fled outside with their luggage, only to find the sole road to safety blocked by fallen trees and flames.

“Then the flames came up into the parking lot,” Logan Baker, a hotel guest, told WBIR-TV.

As Baker and his aunt frantically tried to help guests get back inside, he said, embers started flying through the doors and into the hotel. Firefighters barricaded the hotel and urged guests to huddle in the center of the smoke-filled lobby as they worked to beat the fire back from the building.

Across Gatlinburg and surrounding Sevier County, hundreds of structures were damaged and destroyed – from the Sleepy Bear Motel to Cupid’s Chapel of Love, a tiny wedding venue.

State Highway 441 into Gatlinburg remained closed, and more than 14,000 residents and tourists have been evacuated. At least 45 people were taken to the hospital.

“This is a fire for the history books,” Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller said at a news conference Tuesday.

“A lot of us have heavy hearts about what’s happened here,” Gov. Bill Haslam said at another news press conference Tuesday evening, noting that it was “a little numbing” to take in the extent of the devastation. “This is the largest fire in the last 100 years in the state of Tennessee.”

Still, much of downtown and some major tourist attractions appeared to have been spared. More than 10,000 animals at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg remained safe, even though staff had been forced to evacuate Monday. In nearby Pigeon Forge, some cabins at the Dollywood theme park — co-owned by country singer Dolly Parton, who is from the area — were damaged or destroyed, yet the park remained unscathed after firefighters dug a fire line.

With more than 10,000 people without power, emergency workers cleared debris Wednesday morning and went door to door checking on residents.

“We have not been able to get in all of the areas,” Miller said. “We pray that we don’t experience any more fatalities.”

Jarvie is a special Los Angeles Times correspondent. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2016, Chicago Tribune

Can The $12bn Loan From The IMF Help Save Egypt’s Economy And Their People?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CAIRO EGYPT DAILY NEWS)

IMF approves $12bn loan: what’s next for Egypt’s economic reform programme?

These reforms aren’t easy but they will unleash the potential of Egypt’s economy and serve its people, says IMF managing director

Egypt successfully secured the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) approval for the three-year, $12bn loan agreement on Friday. The first instalment of $2.75m has already been received following the IMF executive board’s approval.

The loan payment will be over a 10-year period with an interest rate of 1-1.5%.

Egypt’s economy has been suffering post-2011 revolution; political instability in addition to regional security concerns have had a negative effect, especially on the tourism sector. These factors intensified Egypt’s already existing structural problems, which can be summarised into three main issues.

First, the fixed exchange rates. The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) policy of controlling the Egyptian pound exchange rate against the US dollar had a very negative impact on the economy, leading to lower external competitiveness, depletion of foreign reserves, and foreign exchange crisis, which in turn has affected investments, and led to food shortages.

Second, the sky high budget deficit and public debts as a result of various factors, such as weak revenues, large subsidy bills that are mismanaged and not reaching eligible recipients, combined with a huge public sector wages bill. The current level of deficit and public debt is almost 100% of Egypt’s total GDP.

Finally, low growth achieved in the years following the 25 January Revolution 2011 due to structural issues which have constrained growth and job creation, in addition to declining tourism following the Russian Metrojet incident in October 2015. Egypt has failed to produce enough job opportunities to absorb the several hundreds of thousands of young people joining the workforce annually.

Egypt’s GDP growth peaked in the fiscal year (FY) of 2007/2008 reaching 7.152%, decreasing to 5.139% by FY 2010. It then fell sharply marking a record low of 1.817% in FY 2011, and started to recover in FY 2015, reaching 4.2%. The IMF projects a 4% growth in FY 2017, according to their World Economic Outlook report for October.

 

IMFReforms plan to revive Egypt’s growth prospects, unleash economy’s potential

Egypt’s economic reform programme supported by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is, according to managing director Christine Lagarde, “designed to revive growth and make sure it produces lasting changes and inclusive growth”.

The main objective of the reform programme is to restore investors’ confidence in Egypt’s economy. The five pillars of the programme are as follows:

Liberalising the exchange rate system

The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) has already floated the currency, moving it from EGP 8.83 to the US dollar to about EGP 16 on Friday. This decision will not only lead to improved competitiveness, increased attractiveness to foreign direct investments, as well as helping exports and tourism, it will also give the CBE the chance to rebuild Egypt’s international reserves.

Reducing energy subsidies

The fuel subsidy bill for the fiscal year (FY) of 2016/2017 stands at EGP 35bn. Energy subsides are mismanaged and do not benefit the poor as much as intended. These subsides also shift production and investments towards high-energy intensive industries, rather than to labour-intensive industries.

Reducing these subsidies will free up resources that can be allocated to high-priority areas such as education, health, and social safety nets.

Reviving the economy by boosting growth

Egypt aims to improve its business climate by implementing reforms to eliminate bureaucracy, ease the required procedures to obtain licences for projects, and make finances accessible to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME). This comes as an effort to increase job creation so as to reduce Egypt’s currently high unemployment rates.

Tax reforms to increase revenues

The value-added tax (VAT), considered the cornerstone of Egypt’s economic reform programme, was approved by parliament in August, in addition to the tax disputes law, and tax administration and development plans to integrate the informal economy and broaden Egypt’s tax base. This aims to fix existing imbalances in the business community, and increase government revenues without negatively affecting the low- and middle-income brackets. The VAT includes exemptions for most staple foods consumed by low-income citizens.

Strengthening social safety nets and social protection

One of the most important aspects of the programme is to increase spending on food subsidies, as well as cash transfers to the elderly and the poor through the Takaful and Karama programmes. About 1% of the GDP from fiscal savings will be allocated to fund these initiatives, in addition to keeping the existing school meals, infant formula subsidies, and children’s medicine subsidies.

 

11-3-page-001Egypt’s prospects for the future

With an efficient and effective implementation of the government’s reform programme, Egypt’s GDP growth can increase significantly to reach 6% by 2021, similar to levels during 2005-2010.

Egypt aims to achieve this result by attracting $10bn in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the fiscal year (FY) of 2016/2017, in order to achieve the government’s targeted GDP growth of 5.2% in the same fiscal year.

Egypt has immense potential owing to a young dynamic population, a large market size, a favourable geographic location, access to important foreign markets, the government’s large investments in the energy sector, in addition to the newly discovered Zohr gas field, all act in favour of Egypt’s growth potential.

On the other hand, high levels of inflation will prove to be a challenge for the government. Egypt’s core inflation rate reached 15.57% in October according to the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE). The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects that inflation will increase to 18.2% in FY 2016/17; however, it is expected to decline sharply to 7.1% in FY 2020/21.

Egypt’s economic crisis has affected almost every social class, not only the poor. Further, the flotation of the currency lead to an almost 50% drop in its value, which, in turn, has resulted in an increase in the prices of all goods and services. But the government is keen to continue the programme, saying that Egypt can no longer afford any delays.

“These reforms aren’t easy; they will take time to generate gains and benefits. But it’s really worth the journey: implementing them will unleash the economy’s potential and will serve its people” said IMF managing director Christine Lagarde.

Lagarde emphasised that the IMF and the international community’s full support to the Egyptian authorities and the Egyptian people, through every step of the journey of reforms.

 

Governor of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), Tarek Amer
Governor of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), Tarek Amer

Foreign currency flows into Egypt, making reserve’s target of $25-30bn possible

 

Throughout last week, the government along with the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) specified several confirmed resources for foreign currency, which would help reach the targeted foreign currency reserves of $25-30bn by the end of 2016 previously affirmed by CBE governor Tarek Amer.

Egypt’s foreign reserves stood at $19.041bn at the end of October, according to the CBE.

Egypt has already received the first tranche of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan worth $2.75bn, and is expected to receive another $2.7bn from China after the currency swap agreement between the two countries. Additionally, another $1.5bn will be received from the World Bank and the African Development Bank by the end of 2016.

Moreover, Egypt offered international bonds worth $2bn in the Ireland Stock Exchange through a private placement in favour of the CBE, and will offer bonds worth $2.5bn in international markets, for which it expects to receive revenues before the end of this year.

Around 50% of the total $4.5bn gained through the bonds sale will be added to the CBE’s foreign currency reserves, while the remaining amount will be used by the CBE to repurchase international bonds worth $2bn issued by the Ministry of Finance, according to government sources.

The repurchasing of bonds is a guarantee to investors who bought bonds in the international private placement. Hence, if the Finance Ministry would not be able to repay the value of its issued bonds once they mature, the CBE will waive its repurchased bonds and repay the matured bonds to investors.

 

Previously, the ministry had announced that the government issued bonds worth $1.36bn with an annual interest rate of 4.62% to mature on 10 December 2017. Additionally, the ministry issued a $1.32bn bond with an interest rate of 6.75% to mature on 10 November 2024, and a bond worth $1.32bn with a 7% interest rate to mature on 10 November 2028.

 

Minister of Finance Amr El-Garhy said that this step assures the ministry’s commitment to diversify the financing sources specified for the budget deficit, and to ease pressure on domestic funding sources, as well as reduce the cost of public debt.

In September, the Ministry of International Cooperation had said in a statement that Egypt will receive $500m  from the African Development Bank by the end of 2016. The ministry also noted that Egypt would receive $1bn from the World Bank before the end of the year which represents the second tranche of a loan worth $3bn.

Egypt Is The Safest Country For Tourists In The Middle-East: U.S. Government Reports

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE EGYPT INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER OF CAIRO)

Egypt safest country in Middle East: US government report
Wed, 23/11/2016 – 16:38

Giza pyramids and Sphinx

Egypt has topped a list of Middle East (ME) countries that are safe for tourism and vacations, according to the US government. Other ME countries deemed safe include Jordan, Oman, UAE and Qatar.

In a supplement issued by the Independent ‘Indy 100’, the US government has advised citizens to review the information on the levels of safety for countries around the world, available through US embassies and consulates.
Currently, the regions of lowest safety due to terrorism by the “Islamic State” (IS) group are located in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Whereas the US government urges citizens to be cautious while traveling anywhere in Europe due to fears of suicide attacks by the IS group.
The report comes just in time, as Egypt seeks to attract tourists from Russia and Western Europe in December, one year after the Russian airplane crash that took place in central Sinai in October 2015.
Starting last November, Russia suspended all incoming flights to Egypt. England then suspended flights going to Sharm El-Sheikh.
Russian and British flights represent around 40 percent of inbound tourism to Egypt annually.
The Egyptian government expects improvement in the tourism sector starting the new year, which will positively reflect on providing much-needed foreign currency in the wake of a decision by the Central Bank of Egypt to float the Egyptian pound against the US dollar earlier this month.
While the total capacity of hotels in Egypt is upwards of 225,000 hotel rooms, 65 percent of those are located in the Red Sea and South Sinai regions, attracting seaside tourism from around the world.

The French Riviera, And A Challenge For Chuck Norris

(THIS ARTICLE WAS NOT WRITTEN BY ME, I HAVE SEARCHED THROUGH MY NOTES AND I CAN NOT FIND THE NAME OF THE LADY WHO WROTE IT, IF I REMEMBER CORRECTLY THE LADY WAS FROM FRANCE. I JUST DO NOT WANT TO TAKE CREDIT FOR AN ARTICLE THAT I DID NOT WRITE. I THINK IT IS A GOOD ARTICLE, THIS IS WHY I AM REBLOGGING IT FOR YOU TO GET A CHANCE TO READ AND A CHANCE TO SEE THE BEAUTIFUL PICTURES THAT SHE POSTED.)

What to do on the French Riviera: A challenge for Chuck Norris

A week to discover the French Riviera, it says you directly we were struck by the diversity of attractions tourist offer. The offer is so wide and varied that the most difficult to choose remains. Impossible for us to make a choice … So today, to write to you, it relies on the power of Chuck Norris to help us choose. But who is this famous Chuck Norris and just do it in our article on the French Riviera?

Chuck Norris is the one who can do everything, even the impossible. This is for example the kind of guy who scored twice until infinity (yes) or is one who has gained power part 4 in 3 moves. You see a few levels! In short, the US giant, actor and martial artist, seven times world champion in karate and hero of the inevitable TV series Walker, Texas store marked the spirits of a generation. And also our  😉One therefore wonders what would have made Chuck😉

So beware, the humor of this article is a real bias, it does not guarantee anything. If you find that it takes too much to … Potache, nullos or even pathos … please signify and participate in a fundraiser to fund our “humor” training. Thank you in advance😉

The landscapes between land and sea

This is the picture, we found ourselves facing a great difficulty. You know, we love the big and beautiful landscapes, both “Earth” that “Sea” and there, on the French Riviera … Dilemma! In fact, you can hike for hours in the woods of the Natural Park of the Azure Alps and was tested. It was accompanied by Christiane Ray Anezin , in an accompanying incredible mountain. Information and scientific anecdotes, she knows everything about everything and she is adorable.

 

But you can also walk around the Esterel and its red rocks and eventually dominate the seascape and beautiful shades of blue. We like both but the time is sometimes counted … What would have made Chuck Norris? While this is indisputable, it seems that if Chuck Norris is late, time had better slow down. So we decided to go back but this time accompanied by Chuck on the Coast 😉

 

The relaxation and sports activities

We were very “activity”. Could spend hours doing nothing in front of the TV (except for watching Walker Texas Ranger) and again we saw the splits of the offer in the territory.

On one side you can do the Paddle to Pampelonne  of Via Souterrata  or electric bike in Caille in the Park Moulière .

And on the other, you can also make you a spa at Antibes in the Baie des Anges hotel  with views of sick sea or even a spa in the bathroom Berthemont . And again, for sick but this time on the mountain. Little more, you pay only 18 € / person to spend the afternoon on the site and believe us, ca throws!

 

Balance sheet, it is possible to do everything but matter can block ca finances. We therefore relies on Chuck. What would he do? Resolved! More money problem if you travel with Chuck! Indeed, Monopoly Chuck Norris can buy square and jail space.Imagine then, no money problem for him 😉

The observation of animals

Side animals, it is similar. It is exhausting to have to décarcasser as to predict his vacation (pfff strongly the job;).

 

We were seduced by the Alpha Park that offers of observing wolf packs . We liked the project because, if we are profoundly against the captivity of wild animals, the origin of the idea is noble in our view. Yes the park has a covered teaching . Created to reconcile man and the wolf at a time when it was decimated by shepherds in particular, is a captive granting of space for animals (2 to 8 hectares per pack). We will advise you to go during the time of feeding to observe because, otherwise, you can not see them. A 12 € / person, it’s worth it in our opinion.

 

Another possibility not least, the Reserve Monts d’Azur . On the plebiscite thousand times. The project is crazy and brilliant at the same time. This is the story of a man, a passionate veterinarian, who hoped that the animals spend life in semi freedom to freedom. He created a reserve in Thorenc (one hour from Cannes) where you can walk you in the middle of European Bison , the deer , the wild horses accompanied.

 

You can book a safari around 20 € / person or even sleeping next to the beasts that you can see from your bedroom window. And it is even very accessible because you pay € 120 / pers for the night and it includes a safari 1:30, dinner, breakfast each morning and night in a lovely room. We did not know that such an experience was.It’s just amazing. A few days we will return to go there for sure. And this time it happens to Chuck Norris because there we had nothing to choose and we would not want misfortune happens to animals 😉

 

Hotels: From the charming delusional

  • Hotel Windsor Nice  : Really liked the place. Good location and original. Each room is decorated in a special way and the leg of the famous artist Ben is found throughout the property. We arrived after dark but it seems that there is a beautiful garden in the hotel’s center.

 

  • Berries Hotel des Anges in Antibes  : We also really enjoyed the place and for different reasons. The hotel is new, the decor is refined and the welcome is warm but the real advantage is in our view the free and unlimited access to the balneo space for hotel guests (rooms from 100 € / night). We took the opportunity! And between the hammam , the sauna , the hot tubs and heated pool , there truly means to relax. In any case we were eased … Whatever may not be enough, surely we will return. We must not neglect its good psychic being right? Say yes! say yes😉

 

The refined restaurants of the traditional

  • Chez Huguette in Caille (The Station Audibergue). Traditional mountain restaurant , it was a long time we had not both (and as) ate in a restaurant. It should also go for the atmosphere, the servers are fun archi 😉
  • The Angelus in Hotel Baie des Anges in Antibes. Here we are on a rather elaborate and refined cuisine . It’s just excellent and again, the service is great.
  • The restaurant of the hotel Pascal Allos. Returning in the traditional and it does not hurt. We love that. Beautiful plates in perspective 😉

Well now it is time to part and in conclusion, we suggest you either go with Chuck Norris to make your stay as calm as possible and then if you do not know him, invites us and we will do all we can so that your stay is at the top. It’s a good idea right?

TEENS VISIT CRAZY HORSE MEMORIAL AND BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK WITH CHEYENNE RIVER YOUTH PROJECT

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NATIVE NEWS ON LINE)

TEENS VISIT CRAZY HORSE MEMORIAL AND BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK WITH CHEYENNE RIVER YOUTH PROJECT

 

Youth Visits Were Made Possible Through the National Park Service “Visiting Our Past” Transportation Grant

Published November 15, 2016

EAGLE BUTTE, SOUTH DAKOTA — This year, teens from South Dakota’s Cheyenne River reservation have had the opportunity to visit sites of major significance to the Lakota Nation with the Cheyenne River Youth Project®. In August, they visited Bear Butte (Mahto Paha) State Park and Devil’s Tower (Mahto Tipila) National Monument, and more recently, they traveled to the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills and Badlands National Park.

The trips were made possible with funding from the National Park Service “Visiting Our Past” Transportation Grant. The grant was made available to native nonprofit youth organizations so they could pursue initiatives that would connect young people to the places of their ancestors and introduce them to the work of the National Park Service, and NPS staff worked closely with CRYP to plan the youth visits.

According to Tammy Eagle Hunter, the trips had both educational and recreational purposes. Not only were the teens able to learn more about the cultural significance of each site, they were able to do some hiking as well.

 

“At Crazy Horse, we visited the Indian Museum of North America and took a bus ride to the base of the monument, where we learned more about Crazy Horse himself, the history of the monument and the minerals inside the rock,” Eagle Hunter said. “Then we went on to Badlands National Park, where we met up with Jesse Short Bull.”

 

Jesse Antoine Short Bull, a member of the Oglala Lakota Oyate, is a passionate storyteller, particularly where it concerns is Dakota homeland. He participated in the prestigious Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) Disney/ABC Screenwriters program in Santa Fe, New Mexico, co-wrote a short film titled “Istinma: To Rest,” and remains involved with both writing and film. Short Bull also co-founded and continues to work with the Native Youth Leadership Alliance, which provides young tribal college students with a safe place to promote culturally based change.

 

Short Bull talked to the Cheyenne River teens about the Badlands’ Lakota history and cultural connections, and he led the group on an off-trail hike that involved some fossil-finding.

 

“The kids loved that,” Eagle Hunter said. “Not only did they have the opportunity to hear the stories, and see the beautiful natural and sacred places in those stories, they could actually get out there and engage with the environment. That gave them a level of understanding they would not be able to achieve any other way.”

Cheyenne River’s teens also were able to learn more about NPS management of the sites. And, they discovered ways to build their own outdoor leadership skills in preservation, recreation and education.

 

“It was a great privilege to share these experiences with our teens, and to help them strengthen their connections as Lakota people to the power of place,” Eagle Hunter said. “Visits like this give them greater understanding of the stories in their oral tradition, and more deeply appreciate the sacrifices of their ancestors. It’s so important to us that our young people feel proud of who they are and realize that, like their ancestors, they are both resilient and powerful beyond measure.”

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Two Undisturbed Tombs Of Mayan ‘Snake Kings’ Unearthed in Guatemala

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GOOGLE + HISTORY)

Remarkable Secret Tombs of Maya Snake Kings Reveal Fascinating Story

Remarkable Secret Tombs of Maya Snake Kings Reveal Fascinating Story

(Read the article on one page)

Archeologists have unearthed two un-looted Maya tombs in the Holmul ruins of Guatemala. The discoveries within the tombs connect with previous artifacts, and shed light on the famous story of influential Maya kings, whose symbol was a snake head.

The tombs were discovered 300 miles (482 km) north of Guatemala City at the archaeological site and ancient Maya city of Holmul. Both tombs date to between 650 – 700 AD, when the Pre-Columbian civilization dominated these lands, and just before it fell. Guatemala played a very important part of Maya history, however, there remain many mysteries, such as why the civilization collapsed. Researchers believe excavations of the many Maya ruins may be the key to unlocking the hidden history.

According to The Guardian , the tombs “miraculously escaped” looters’ tunnels underneath two Maya pyramids. Moreover, at the site they discovered jade-inlaid teeth, an inscribed human tibia and a puzzling, sun-god pendant.

Inside one of the tombs was found a puzzling artifact of a Maya dynasty called ‘The Snake Kings’ due to their emblem. The snake head was a symbol of the family that ruled for several generations about 100 miles (161 km) to north from the tombs in Holmul. This family of ‘snake kings’ warred with another rival family.

Tombs Filled with Rare Finds

One of the tombs was built into a pyramid, which was constructed to cover and surround the building from the fifth century AD. It contained the preserved skeleton of a middle-aged person with teeth inlays made of jade. Archaeologists were surprised to also discover what they believe is a human tibia bone with inscriptions carved into it.

Archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli of Boston University told the Guardian that the inscribed bone is ‘a very, very rare find” and the skeleton “could be from and ancestor or captive of war”. Tooth inlays suggest that the tomb may have belonged to someone from an elite family, as such tooth adornment was custom among Maya royalty, reports ScienceAlert.com

Estrada-Belli believes that epigraphical analysis on the bone will bring even more information.

Pyramid Temple E in Nakum, Petén, Guatemala; Representational image only.

Pyramid Temple E in Nakum, Petén, Guatemala; Representational image only. ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

The second tomb, which was discovered in a separate pyramid, also contained the skeletal remains of a middle-aged person. This tomb was decorated with jade artifacts and various vessels. What was most significant was the discovery of a ‘war trophy’ — a jade pendant with an inscription stating that it belongs to a far-away king.

The impressive jade artifact contains the name of a snake king, making it the first discovery of this kind. The inscription reads “Yuknoom Ti’ Chan, Holy king of Kaanul.” It is known that this king was a member of the mysterious dynasty, and its presence in a tomb so far from their region suggests their influence stretched farther than previously thought.

A jade Serpent Head Pendant; representational image only. Mexico, Chiapas or Guatemala, Maya, A.D. 200-900

A jade Serpent Head Pendant; representational image only. Mexico, Chiapas or Guatemala, Maya, A.D. 200-900 (LACMA/ Public Domain )

The tombs also contained also a conch shell that had been made into a scribal ink pot and artifacts made of obsidian, ceramics, shells, and jade.

The discoveries can be partly compared to the ones made on another site in Guatemala – Tikal, where the researchers found a similar carved bone that bore inscriptions of the name of a captured warrior. Rosemary Joyce, an anthropologist at UC Berkeley, who was not involved in the excavation, claimed the bones should be examined by anthropologists before confirming it is human or an animal bone.

Discovery of a Maya Mountain Spirit

The ancient site in Holmul, in the Petén Basin is one of the most fascinating places, and excavations have delighted researchers with many rich discoveries over the years. April Holloway from Ancient Origins reported in 2013 on the discovery of a massive Maya frieze at the same site:

“Archaeologists have discovered a giant Maya frieze in the buried city of Holmul in the Peten Basin region of Guatemala. It depicts a mythological setting with a ruler sitting atop the head of a Maya mountain spirit.

The frieze, which measures 8 meters by 2 meters (26 feet by 6.5 feet), is one of the best preserved examples of its kind. There are even traces of red, blue, green, and yellow paints still visible, and there are no missing parts to it, only a small faded corner which is close to the surface.”

The Maya frieze in excellent condition.

The Maya frieze in excellent condition. (Francisco Estrada-Belli photo/Nola.com)

22 Die, 3 Rescued In MI-8 Helicopter Crash Landing In Russia’s Siberia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

22 die, 3 rescued in MI-8 helicopter crash landing in Russia’s Siberia

TWENTY-TWO people died and three others were rescued after an MI-8 helicopter crash-landed in Russian Siberia’s Yamal Peninsula due to poor weather conditions.

The two black boxes of the ill-fated helicopter have been found by rescue teams in Russia’s northwestern Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region in Siberia.

The injured have been taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

“Both black boxes have been found – a flight data recorder and a voice recorder. After investigative procedures, they will be sent for decryption,” Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency quoted a source from Russia’s Federal Agency for Air Transport (Rosaviatsia) as saying.

The source also said there were 22 passengers and three crew members aboard when the helicopter made the crash landing. One of the three injured survivors called the emergency department with a mobile phone.

Local emergency department has dispatched the first search and rescue team of 140 people to the site of the accident.

U.S. Ladies Chess Champion Has More Class/Guts Than The American Government

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CREEPING SHARIA)

US chess champ boycotts Iran: “I will NOT wear a hijab and support women’s oppression”

Source: “I will NOT wear a hijab and support women’s oppression”: US chess champion boycotts world championship in Iran – The Rebel

The reigning US Chess Champion has decided not to attend the world championship in Iran because she’d be forced to wear a hijab.

“I will NOT wear a hijab and support women’s oppression. Even if it means missing one of the most important competitions of my career,” Nazi Paikidze said in an interview with the founder of My Stealthy Freedom.

Susan Polgar, who chairs the women’s committee of the international chess governing body has tried to silence Paikidze by telling her to keep her opinions off Twitter and to take it up with FIDE and WOM.

Paikdze responded by saying, “I already did. Thanks to Twitter this issue got a lot of attention as well.”

“Not the right position to insult me and members of @WOMChess when we are trying to help you,” Polgar shot back.

“Nothing of what I said was a personal insult/attack to anyone but FIDE’s decision,” the young chess champion responded, showing no fear.

In an Instagram post, Paikdze made her decision very clear. “This is a post for those who don’t understand why I am boycotting FIDE’s decision. I think it’s unacceptable to host a WOMEN’S World Championship in a place where women do not have basic fundamental rights and are treated as second-class citizens. For those saying that I don’t know anything about Iran: I have received the most support and gratitude from the people of Iran, who are facing this situation every day. Thank you My Stealthy Freedom for sharing my interview.”

Nazi Paikidze-Barnes @NaziPaiki

An Aussie Intern in Israel – Part One: The Personal Experience

 

An Aussie Intern in Israel – Part One: The Personal Experience

I once thought that I fell for a young man, a love completely against my will and every subjective, objective, emotional thought I had and yet there he was plaguing my mind despite me. The facts are that he certainly has a ridiculous personality, divided between his willful submission to societal norms caused by a desperate need for approval and his frustrated anxiety to be who he wants to be. In fact, he claims to be a determinate as a way to escape his own will and freedom due to the intensity of his self-doubt and yet plays deceitful games, lies and tricks the people around him to satisfy his ego and covert the misery he feels for being such a coward. His life is an image creation and though he despises such mediocrity, he tames the desire for freedom by creating fictional characters and stealing the experiences from others. This, and finding happiness in other peoples’ misery. I desired nothing more than to see him embrace his freedom as I could sense a purity or goodness within him beyond what I had ever seen before but time and time again, despite every comment made, every lesson thrown in his direction, he always withered back into his shell, hiding himself behind the shadows. In all the bad he did to me – all of which I knew as I knew what he was – I realized I fell in love with the belief in his potential to break out of this repetitive stupidity, to become honest to himself which is the only way to obtain what genuine morality provides; everlasting peace. But last Christmas, seeing him only worsen I realized to my immediate disappointment that his refusal to better himself was much stronger than I could impress and being profoundly saddened at his failure to a point of making myself seriously sick, to save myself from the heartache I decided to search elsewhere for what I had hoped to find in him.

And I think I found him. His name is Israel.

From the soundless alarm made from the gentle, orange sunrise piercing through the giant tree outside my bedroom window that form shapes on the wall to the random crazy man shouting for no apparent reason on the side of the street. The impolite service, the politics, history, feeling lost in the maze of an unknown language as I stand in shock as people ride hand-made motorized bicycles in the middle of a busy, disorganized road. The combination of young, perfectly tanned girls wearing short dresses that expose their tattoos to women dressed modestly in long skirts and shirts with a scarf over their heads. The dilapidated buildings and infrastructure that is nevertheless functional and the sudden silence during shabbat. On one end I see an overweight, bearded man wearing a payos and hat with a gun strapped around his thigh and on the other I see young, attractive men sipping beers in their board shorts. I am lost in the chaos, overwhelmed by the constant honking of the horns, the failure to understand where to go or what bus to catch. And I love every minute of it.

It goes against every rational, subjective, emotional understanding I have of a place to call home, living in Melbourne – the most livable city in the world – and having an attitude of refined simplicity and quality. Such is the appeal of this country, with the ridiculous personality divided between a strong, almost mad ego and a genuine goodness. There is so much to learn, so much to change for the better and I want to play my part, to flow in the chaotic tide of its beauty and terror even if multiple barriers causes him to reject me, trick me or hurt me. I have fallen in love with the endless possibilities that Israel has to offer.

 

Desert Queen

At the onset of my Masters degree in Human Rights Law, I was told that there would be opportunities to pursue international internships funded by Monash University and noticed several availabilities in Israel. Though I had yet to apply, something told me that I was going and I could only go if I was offered the funds to do so since financial constraints would prevent me from visiting independently. You could imagine how overwhelmed I felt the moment I received the ‘congratulations’ letter, but certainly not as accomplished and confident the moment I stood on the balcony at my Tel Aviv apartment knowing that throughout October I will be in the most complex, beautiful place in the world. Since completing my studies in Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies several years back at the Australian National University, I have always wanted to come and experience everything that I had learnt about the Arab/Israeli conflict and about Middle Eastern politics in general, of Islam and Judaism and the legal and social issues – something I shall write more about in Part Two: The Political Experience of this blog post. But my love of history and of biblical history in particular was the source of what really compelled me to this region.

Interestingly, however, I though it would be in Jerusalem that I would find a sense of belonging but – as I had experienced in Rome – it was certainly not what I had anticipated, on the contrary. I unwittingly found a love of the rustic and almost cruel Negev region and also in restricted and abandoned streets of Bethlehem. Perhaps it was simply just a string of bad luck, yet I was hoodwinked on several occasions in Jerusalem, losing a substantial amount of money to a taxi driver who intentionally dropped me off at the wrong place, from staying in a terrible apartment though the images showed it otherwise, to be given incorrect directions from a mini-market employee when all I needed to do was walk less than thirty seconds away from the location, I became confused and a little disgruntled. The attitude to Tel Aviv – where I am primarily based – is a liberal city, left-wing and youthful and yet here I have felt welcomed, the vibe being that of kind solicitation, a warmth and eagerness. When I was in Rome, a similar and overwhelming experience had occurred just the same and I felt a strong desire to leave the city and return back to Tuscany where I felt at home in the hills with its peaceful culture, music, art and the medieval architecture. Perhaps, as I said, it was just bad luck and I will endeavor to try Jerusalem once more in anticipation of a better experience.

It was nevertheless unexpected that traversing the Judean Desert, from the Dead Sea to Ein Gedi, from Eilat and even to Jordan where experiencing Wadi Rum since watching Laurence of Arabia would have been as appealing as it has to me. Like most adventurers, some find it appealing to climb mountains, others hiking forests or out at sea, for me it would seem that there is a desert appeal, the richness of archaeological and historical artifacts and stories, the cruelty and beauty.

Mar Saba Monestary
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Staying in Israel until the end of October, I also find myself being a part of the most celebratory month of the year. Though I have rented an apartment near the beach and so locally there appears to be options to buy groceries or visit a cafe despite the public holiday, I still want to get myself involved and learn more about the customs and traditions. At the moment, the celebration of Rosh Hashanah is underway or the Jewish New Year and Jews all over the world traditionally eat apples dipped in honey to promote a sweet new year. I wish for nothing more than the sweetest New Year and being an avid – perhaps way too avid – fruit lover, I spent a portion of my funds on apples, pears, plums, honey and pomegranates for the two-day holiday. Oh, how I love fruit so I thank Rosh Hashanah for the excuse to eat it all! In the Book of Leviticus, Rosh Hashanah or the Feast of the Trumpets is traditionally a way of reflecting over the past year, to be penitent and to ask God for forgiveness for any wrongdoing made in addition to celebrating the beginning of the harvest. Challah bread – which is circular – is also traditionally served to symbolize the cycle of the year. Shanah tovah u’metukah

Following Rosh Hashanah will be the celebration of Yom Kippur, considered the holiest of holidays for the Jewish community all around the world. Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement require fasting and prayer over the day and night, asking for forgiveness and atoning for any sin or wrongdoing. This is followed by Sukkot or the Feast of the Tabernacles and is a celebration of the exodus through the wilderness as signified in the Book of Leviticus as well as marking the agricultural year from the Book of Exodus. It ends over a period of seven days on Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. To be a part of a country celebrating these festivities, I feel honored to be present during October.

A Personal Journey of Recovery

I went through the worst year of my life last year. I found myself being bullied and harassed, I lost all my savings and ultimately my dreams, I had a car accident, I was seriously threatened, physically injured and ill with rapid weight loss, amenorrhea and severe angina, twice hospitalized where I nearly died. All this while I was alone. It felt like the whole world hated me and all I really wanted was one person, a friend, to say that I was going to be okay, only it was the contrary. There were days that I spent hours in physical agony from the angina that I never left the house and to avoid the severity of the situation, I would utilize social networking sites as a way to pretend that I was not as incredibly vulnerable, confused or afraid as I was. It was only when the angina suddenly disappeared to the dismay of my doctor and myself that I was able to slowly stand from the distress and work my way out of the sense of emptiness and hurt. Though I permanently injured my left leg and without a car, despite the pain I forced myself to walk and get groceries, to catch two trains to my new job and back. Slowly but surely and now with an income and employment that gave me purpose, I moved into my own unit and took control of my life once more. I started a master’s degree and began writing my own blog, making a pact with myself that 2016 will be a New Year that will never repeat what I had experienced previously. Step by step, struggle-by-struggle, I gained the strength and did so with independence, hard work, a strong will and my faith in the loving-kindness of God.

In saying all that, the terrible experiences awakened a part of me that I had long kept hidden. I never realized how much my family had hurt me until the recent events because – being alone for so long – the severity of the experience made me realize that I did not want to be alone anymore, which made me question why I was. After a childhood spent being rejected from my parents and relentlessly told by my siblings that I was ugly and stupid, unawares, I believed it and pushed all men away as I kept myself hidden from the fear of being hurt just the same as I never had ambition professionally since I thought I was never good enough. Though no one would know of my inherent isolation, year after year was lost in the acceptance that I was less worthy than everyone else. All these experiences has in a cyclic fashion encapsulated everything that I have decidedly become. Though it was incredibly difficult for me, a photo in my swimsuit at Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea was an effort to express in symbolic format that I will no longer believe that I am ugly and that beauty is the confidence to have self-respect, to commit to a life of moral worthiness, to be genuinely kind and to love with all my heart and though I have not yet been in a relationship, I am no longer embarrassed or afraid neither do I nor will I ever believe in other people’ viciousness. I have conquered hate. My passion now lies in children and my philosophy will remain that every child deserves a childhood. My mother, being a victim of severe domestic violence, failed to adequately care and I know that a childhood can only develop correctly with a mother who is of right mind. Thus, by extension, women’s rights is fundamental to the rights of children. Though I myself can never have children, my fierce maternal instincts, genuine sense of love for all of humankind, honor in my person and respect for myself has led me to commit myself to this purpose. I am also learning to appreciate beauty both physically and subjectively.

Which is why my purpose was found on the day I decided to travel into Bethlehem, the West Bank. Encountering the Palestinian/Israeli conflict directly, it was quite overwhelming to hear stories of Palestinian children being shot dead, something that reaches deep into my soul as completely and unequivocally unacceptable. The restrictions particularly with movement and self-determination, the poverty and lack of opportunity will certainly impact on the well-being of mothers. To change the conditions of society, to prevent the growth or maturation of a negative culture, children need to experience love, happiness, freedom. It was in Bethlehem that I met the founder of the organisation Alrowwad For Culture and Arts, a wonderful organisation in the UNRWA managed refugee camp Aida that provides both women and children with hope through creativity and education.

BanksySpraying on the wall West Bank Wall Aida Camp GraffitiMe with Palestinian Children

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Aida Camp is managed by UNRWA and with more than 3000 inhabitants covering a mere 0.070 square kilometers, it is one of many camps in the region that is susceptible to violence being in a vulnerable location and overcrowded. Dr. Abdelfattah Abusrour gave me a plethora of information regarding the work of the organisation and I was so moved by its validity that I have decided to establish Australian Friends of Alrowwad when I get back home to Melbourne as a way of supporting the organisation and the children in the camp. I am apolitical and will ensure that it remains so, my only concern being the rights of women and children despite Israel and Palestine being divided withe a long and intricate history of violence and fear among other delicate issues. My personal experience with hardship and my current state of subjective peace was only possible when I stopped focusing on the evils of the past but took the necessary steps to develop change for the better. It is unfruitful and unproductive otherwise as all experiences should never be forgotten but it is essential to overcome.

I want to end with a quote that I believe stands at the heart of this personal post of mine.

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China And Canada Reach Deportation Agreement

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News)

Agreement to result in faster deportations from Canada

AN agreement signed between Canada’s border agency and China will result in the faster deportation of Chinese citizens deemed inadmissible by Canadian authorities, a government spokesman said on Sunday.

The deal will allow Chinese officials to travel to Canada to interview Chinese citizens considered inadmissible, with the aim of verifying their identities and documents, said Scott Bardsley, press secretary to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. Bardsley said the verification process could otherwise take a long time and had often delayed deportations.

According to Canada’s immigration department, those deemed inadmissible include people with criminal records, serious health or financial issues or who have lied on their visa applications.

The agreement, a one-year pilot program, is part of law enforcement accords signed during Premier Li Keqiang’s Canadian visit last week.

The border agency agreement, which will not be in place immediately, is similar to one China has with the European Union, and officials from both countries will revisit the matter in November, Bardsley said.

The Chinese Embassy in Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Both countries are also talking about an extradition treaty, which China has long wanted so it can press for the return of corrupt officials.

Canada’s Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, elected last year, is trying to improve ties and increase trade with China after a decade of rocky relations under his Conservative predecessor.

Last week the countries settled a trade dispute and said they would start exploratory talks on a free trade pact.

The countries also signed a memorandum of understanding under which the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Ministry of Public Security of China will cooperate to combat a broad range of crimes.

Bardsley said that the memorandum was a renewal of a similar one signed in 2010 that called for broad cooperation.