Israel: Vast, developed 9,000-year-old settlement found near Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

A ‘game changer’: Vast, developed 9,000-year-old settlement found near Jerusalem

Remains of Neolithic site near Motza, the largest ever discovered in Israel, show mix of agriculture, hunting, animal husbandry — a society at its peak, say archaeologists

  • The huge settlement from the Neolithic Period that was discovered in the archaeological excavations at the Motza intersection near Jerusalem by the Antiquities Authority. (Eyal Marco, Antiquities Authority)
    The huge settlement from the Neolithic Period that was discovered in the archaeological excavations at the Motza intersection near Jerusalem by the Antiquities Authority. (Eyal Marco, Antiquities Authority)
  • 9,000-year-old figurine of an ox, discovered during archaeological excavations at Motza near Jerusalem. (Clara Amit, Antiquities Authority)
    9,000-year-old figurine of an ox, discovered during archaeological excavations at Motza near Jerusalem. (Clara Amit, Antiquities Authority)
  • Dr. Jacob Vardi, Antiquities Authority, Director of the excavations at the ancient site at Motza near Jerusalem. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)
    Dr. Jacob Vardi, Antiquities Authority, Director of the excavations at the ancient site at Motza near Jerusalem. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)
  • Beads discovered at the Motza archaeological site near Jerusalem. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)
    Beads discovered at the Motza archaeological site near Jerusalem. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)
  • Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily, Antiquities Authority Excavation director at the Motza site, holding a bowl from the Neolithic Period. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)
    Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily, Antiquities Authority Excavation director at the Motza site, holding a bowl from the Neolithic Period. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)

An unprecedentedly vast Neolithic settlement — the largest ever discovered in Israel and the Levant, say archaeologists — is currently being excavated ahead of highway construction five kilometers from Jerusalem, it was announced on Tuesday.

The 9,000-year-old site, located near the town of Motza, is the “Big Bang” for prehistory settlement research due to its size and the preservation of its material culture, said Jacob Vardi, co-director of the excavations at Motza on behalf of the Antiquities Authority,

“It’s a game changer, a site that will drastically shift what we know about the Neolithic era,” said Vardi. Already some international scholars are beginning to realize the existence of the site may necessitate revisions to their work, he said.

“So far, it was believed that the Judea area was empty, and that sites of that size existed only on the other bank of the Jordan river, or in the Northern Levant. Instead of an uninhabited area from that period, we have found a complex site, where varied economic means of subsistence existed, and all this only several dozens of centimeters below the surface,” according to Vardi and co-director Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily in an IAA press release.

Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily (left) and Dr. Jacob Vardi, directors of the excavations at Motza on behalf of the Antiquities Authority. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Roughly half a kilometer from point to point, the site would have housed an expected population of some 3,000 residents. In today’s terms, said Vardi, prehistoric Motza would be comparable to the stature of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv — “a real metropolis.”

According to an IAA press release, the project was initiated and financed by the Netivei Israel Company (the National Transport Infrastructure company) as part of the Route 16 Project, which includes building a new entrance road to Jerusalem from the west running from the Route 1 highway at the Motza Interchange to the capital.

According to co-director Khalaily, the people who lived in this town had trade and cultural connections to widespread populations, including Anatolia, which is the origin for obsidian artifacts discovered at the site. Other excavated material indicate intensive hunting, animal husbandry, and agriculture.

Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily, Antiquities Authority Excavation director at the Motza site, holding a bowl from the Neolithic Period. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)

“The society was at its peak” and appeared to increasingly specialize in raising sheep, said Khalaily.

In addition to prehistoric tools such as thousands of arrowheads, axes, sickle blades, and knives, storage sheds containing large stores of legumes, especially lentils, were uncovered. “The fact that the seeds were preserved is astonishing in the light of the site’s age,” said the archaeologists.

Alongside utilitarian tools, a number of small statues were unearthed, including a clay figurine of an ox and a stone face, which Khalaily joked was either a human representation “or aliens, even.”

9,000-year-old figurine depicting a human face, discovered during archaeological excavations at Motza near Jerusalem. (Clara Amit, Antiquities Authority)

In the ancient, unrecorded past as well as today, the site is situated on the banks of Nahal Sorek and other water sources. The fertile valley is on an ancient path connecting the Shefela (foothills) region to Jerusalem, said the IAA. “These optimal conditions are a central reason for long-term settlement on this site, from the Epipaleolithic Period, around 20,000 years ago, to the present day,” according to the press release.

“Thousands of years before the construction of the pyramids, what we see in the neolithic period is that more and more populations turn to live in a permanent settlement,” said Vardi. “They migrate less and they deal more and more in agriculture.”

Among the architecture uncovered in the excavation are large buildings that show signs of habitation, as well as what the archaeologists identify as public halls and spaces used for worship. In a brief video published by the IAA, archaeologist Lauren Davis walks a narrow path between remains of buildings — a prehistoric alleyway. “Very much like we see in buildings today, separated by alleys between,” said Davis.

Excavation works on the Motza Neolithic site. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)

According to the archaeologists, this alleyway is “evidence of the settlement’s advanced level of planning.” Likewise, the archaeologists discovered that plaster was sometimes used for creating floors and sealing various facilities during the construction of the residents’ domiciles and buildings.

In addition to signs of life, the archaeologists uncovered several graves. According to Davis, in the midst of a layer dating to 10,000 years ago, archaeologists found a tomb from 4,000 years ago. “In this tomb are two individuals — warriors — who were buried together with a dagger and a spear head,” she said.

Dr. Jacob Vardi, Antiquities Authority, Director of the excavations at the ancient site at Motza near Jerusalem. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)

“There’s also an amazing find,” said Davis, “which is a whole donkey, domesticated, that was buried in front of the tomb probably when they sealed it.” Added Vardi, the donkey was apparently meant to serve the warriors in the world to come.

According to Amit Re’em, the IAA’s Jerusalem District archaeologist, despite the roadworks, a significant percentage of the prehistoric site around the excavation is being preserved and all of it is being documented.

Many bracelets were found at the Motza excavation site. Their size shows that they were probably given to children. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Each architectural structure is being documented through 3-D modeling. “When we finish the excavation here,” said Vardi, “we will be able to continue to research the site in the laboratory,” adding that this is unprecedented use of technology.

“In addition, the IAA plans to tell the story of the site at the site by means of a display and illustration. At Tel Motza, adjacent to this excavation, archaeological remains are being preserved for the public at large, and conservation and accessibility activities are being carried out in Tel Bet Shemesh and Tel Yarmut,” announced the IAA release.

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COMMENTS

Trump: Democrat congresswomen ‘love’ al-Qaeda, use ‘anti-Semitic’ language

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Trump: Democrat congresswomen ‘love’ al-Qaeda, use ‘anti-Semitic’ language

US president says ‘many people agree with me’ that lawmakers Tlaib, Omar, Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley should ‘leave the country’ if they hate it

US President Donald Trump speaks during a Made in America showcase event on the South Lawn of the White House, July 15, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

US President Donald Trump speaks during a Made in America showcase event on the South Lawn of the White House, July 15, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Unbowed by searing criticism, US President Donald Trump on Monday emphatically defended his tweet calling on four Democratic congresswomen of color to go back to their “broken and crime infested” countries. Condemnation of his comments “doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” Trump declared, adding that the lawmakers employ “anti-Semitic” language and have “love” for terror group al-Qaeda.

Trump responded to questions at the White House after his Sunday tweet assailing the lawmakers, all of whom are US citizens and three of whom were born in the country. He has been roundly criticized by Democrats, who labeled his remarks racist and divisive, and a smattering of Republicans, who also have objected. Most leading Republicans have been silent.

“When I hear the way they talk about our country, when I hear the anti-Semitic language they use, when I hear the hatred they have for Israel, and the love they have for enemies like al-Qaeda, then you know what, I will tell you I do not believe this is good for the Democrat party,” Trump said.

Resurrecting language not prevalent in the US for decades, he added that if the lawmakers “hate our country,” they “can leave” it.

“If you’re not happy in the US, if you’re complaining all the time, you can leave, you can leave right now,” he said.

The lawmakers’ criticism has been aimed at Trump and his administration’s policies and actions.

Earlier Monday, Trump made clear he had no intention of backing down, asking on Twitter when “the Radical Left Congresswomen” would “apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said.”

“So many people are angry at them & their horrible & disgusting actions!” he wrote.

It was yet another sign that Trump, who won the presidency in 2016, in part by energizing disaffected voters with incendiary racial rhetoric, has no intention of backing away from that strategy going in 2020. Trump has faced few consequences for such attacks, which typically earn him cycles of front-page media attention.

Asked whether Trump’s comments were racist, Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, defended Trump, telling reporters he had been responding to “very specific” comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who was born in Somalia, and was not making a “universal statement.”

But Trump did not make that distinction in his tweets. He cited “Congresswomen” — an almost-certain reference to a group of women known as “the Squad” that includes Omar, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

This combination image shows, from left, US Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib, July 10, 2019; Ilhan Omar, March 12, 2019; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, July 12, 2019; and Ayanna Pressley, July 10, 2019, all in Washington. (AP Photo)

“I don’t think that the president’s intent any way is racist,” said Short, pointing to Trump’s decision to choose Elaine Chao, who was born outside the US, as his transportation secretary.

Chao is one of the few minorities working among the largely white and male aides in high-profile roles in Trump’s administration. She is the wife of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who had made no comment on Trump’s attacks as of midday Monday.

Omar ignited a bipartisan uproar in Washington several months ago, when she suggested that some members of Congress support Israel because of money, while Tlaib, who is of Palestinian origin, riled up a supportive crowd by calling the president a profane name and predicting he would be removed from office.

Tlaib and Omar are fierce critics of Israel and have voiced support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against the Jewish state. Ocasio-Cortez has also criticized Israel on multiple occasions. Pressley, on the other hand, has said she opposes BDS and supports the two-state solution.

Tlaib is organizing a congressional visit to the West Bank in August, to compete with Israel trips organized by the American Israel Education Foundation, an affiliate of AIPAC.

Following a familiar script, Republicans remained largely silent after Trump’s Sunday morning broadsides that caused Democrats to set aside their internal rifts to rise up in a united chorus against him.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, on June 13, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump wants to “make America white again,” while Ocasio-Cortez said Trump “can’t conceive of an America that includes us.”

“Mr. President, the country I ‘come from,’ & the country we all swear to, is the United States,” she tweeted, adding that, “You rely on a frightened America for your plunder.”

Omar also addressed herself directly to Trump in a tweet, writing: “You are stoking white nationalism (because) you are angry that people like us are serving in Congress and fighting against your hate-filled agenda.”

Pelosi announced Monday that the House would be holding a vote on a resolution condemning Trump’s comments.

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close ally of the president who golfed with him over the weekend, advised him to “aim higher” during an appearance on “Fox and Friends,” even as he accused the members in question of being “anti-Semitic” and “anti-American.”

US Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 1, 2019, on the Mueller Report. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

“Don’t get personal. Don’t take the bait,” said Graham. He said Ocasio-Cortez and her colleagues “are American citizens” who were “duly elected,” while adding: “We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists. They hate Israel. They hate our own country.”

Trump’s words may have been meant to widen the divides within the Democrat caucus, which has been riven by internal debate over how far left to go in countering him, and over whether to proceed with impeachment proceedings against the president. Instead, the president’s tweets, which evoked the trope of telling black people to go back to Africa, brought Democrats together.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential front-runner, tweeted Sunday that Trump “continues to spew hateful rhetoric, sow division, and stoke racial tensions for his own political gain.”

“Let’s be clear about what this vile comment is: A racist and xenophobic attack on Democratic congresswomen,” tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate.

Among the few GOP lawmakers commenting, Rep. Pete Olson of Texas said Trump’s Sunday tweet was “not reflective of the values of the 1,000,000+ people” in his district. “We are proud to be the most diverse Congressional district in America. I urge our President immediately disavow his comments,” he wrote.

It was far from the first time that Trump has been accused of holding racist views.

In his campaign kickoff in June 2015, Trump deemed many Mexican immigrants “rapists.” In 2017, he said there good people on “both sides” of the clash in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white supremacists and anti-racist demonstrators that left one counter-protester dead. Last year, during a private White House meeting on immigration, Trump wondered why the United States was admitting so many immigrants from “shithole countries” like African nations.

Repeatedly, Trump has painted arriving immigrants as an “infestation” and he has been slow in condemning acts of violence committed by white supremacists. And he launched his political career with false claims that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

Fearful of his Twitter account and sweeping popularity among many Republican voters, GOP lawmakers have largely tried to ignore the provocative statements.

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Kamala Harris, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez And Donald Trump, All Racist Bitches?

Kamala Harris, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez And Donald Trump, All Racist Bitches?

 

If you have been paying any attention at all lately to the U.S. news then you have heard a lot about ‘race’ or racism in the conversations within the news programs. First I would like to talk with you about Senator Kamala Harris who is now considered to be one of the front runners (top 5) in the Democratic Presidential debates. Ms. Harris up until the first debate was nothing much more than a ‘also ran’ but it was this debate that has propelled her upward on the ladder. Mainly there was just one question, one moment that did this for her. She was able to slam the front runner Joe Biden on his record about bussing fifty years ago. I am not a fan of Mr. Biden but when a person has been in politics for the past 50 years there are going to be plenty of areas to be critical of a person’s record, it’s just reality, in 50 years a person is going to change their opinions on different issues sometimes. Ms. Harris is a first term Senator from the state of California, her political record is much shorter.

 

This one question was a trap for Mr. Biden for someone to use as being a race issue whether race had anything to do do with his vote back then or not. Ms. Harris was able to use this as a race issue and the media, correct or not, jumped onto the side of Ms. Harris. I had heard of Ms. Harris ever since she became a member of the U.S Senate, but, basically everything that I had heard from or about her has had to do with race. It seems to me via the things that I had heard from Ms. Harris is that she is like a one trick pony and that the pony she is riding is race. I consider myself a moderate, sort of like an old southern conservative Democrat mixed with a liberal Republican. In other words I don’t like either political party at all, this is why I have been a registered independent for decades now. I had always taken Ms. Harris to be a Black person, just a lightly skinned person but evidently I was wrong on this issue. I can’t stand the Trump family but Don Jr. posted a tweet about her race so I started to check out her linage a little bit. Turns out her Mom is from India and her Dad is from Jamaica, so, if this is the truth, she isn’t Back at all. Yet she does seem to cater to the base of the Black voters. Yes she is a ‘person of color’ as is every human on the planet, even White is a color you know. But I do understand where that term came from as racists Whites used to call Black folks ‘colored’. Stupid of them then and now as is reversing the term. Personally I do not care what paint job a person has on their bones, I only care about what is between their ears and if any racism is there, I do not want them to hold any political position, especially not the Presidency. To me, I believe that Ms. Harris is a blatant racists so I would never vote for her.

 

Now I am going to gripe abit about the Bronx’s new Congresswoman Ms. Cortez or ‘AOC’ for short. She and a few of her Freshmen Congress ladies ‘of color’ have been playing the race issue to the hilt it seems, especially Ms. Cortez. She is in a running feud with the Democratic head of the Congress Ms. Pelosi who happens to be a White lady. I very much do not like Ms. Pelosi either but by all accounts I have ever heard including from other Congressmen and women of color, Ms. Pelosi is not a racist person. Yet as soon as AOC started getting shut down on some of her ideas she then went straight to calling Ms. Pelosi a racists because she wasn’t jumping on AOC’s ‘progressive’ bandwagon. To me, this is like the folks who talk about how much they hate haters, in other words, if you don’t agree with me, then you are a hater. Or, if you don’t follow me and my ideas, then you are a racists. Ms. AOC to me seems to be one of these people. To me, it appears that Ms. Harris and Ms. AOC have no other ideas or agenda accept race which to me is the bottom of the basement of human ignorance. Have you noticed during your life that the people who scream the loudest about racism are almost always extremely racist themselves?

 

Now, concerning our “racists, cowardly President”, Mr. Trump. First, I do believe that he is nothing more than a piece of trash as a person. I do believe that he is blatantly racists as well as a cereal rapists and a habitual liar and about as wise as a dead dog in the street. He always plays to the very lowest IQs he can find, it seems that they flock to this cowardly habitual liar. That the so called ‘Christian’ right support him or ‘Tea Party’ support him I find quite disgusting as he is anything but Christian. I call him a coward because of his Daddy getting him six deferrals from military service during the Vietnam war. He could have gone into a reserve unit like George W. Bush did, at least George W. didn’t seem to be ashamed to put on our Nations Uniform. Mr. Trump appears to not only have used his daddy’s money and influence to keep out of combat he didn’t even have enough guts to join the Reserve and with his College credits he could have gone in as an Officer like George W. did. Or is it possible that he simply loathed the U.S. military, or maybe it was just that the Uniform wasn’t “his color”?

 

Now in case you are wondering why I used the title that I did here are the reasons. One I guess was to get your attention, whether for or against my thoughts. Two, I do believe that all three of these people are blatant racists that everyone should totally discard as being credible. Three, from a Christian moral standpoint I believe that anyone who is racist has lowered themselves to the level of dead rabid dog. Also you may be wondering why I used the term ‘bitches’ for these three people is simple, in our U.S. slang it is common to call a hate filled woman a bitch, not meaning that they are actually a dog. Then why did I call Mr. Trump a bitch? That is simple also, in our U.S. slang it is also common to call a man who is considered to be a total coward a Pus-y, and that is exactly what I believe Mr. Trump is, a loud mouthed, racist, coward. Like it or hate it, this is my comment letter to you today. I know that some will hate what I wrote, some because they think I am to critical and some because they think I am not being critical enough. Either way, when I write these letters to you what I am mainly trying to get you to do is to think about the issues listed within the letter.

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood is Source of World’s Extremist Organizations

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood is Source of World’s Extremist Organizations

Tuesday, 16 July, 2019 – 11:45
A general view of Cairo, September 13, 2018. (Reuters)
Cairo – Walid Abul Rahman
Egypt said all takfiri groups stem from the same extremist ideological source established by the Muslim Brotherhood organization, stressing the need to continue efforts to address terrorism in all its forms.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez made this stance at a meeting of the liaison strategy group of the Global Coalition against ISIS in Washington.

He said victories over ISIS should not be considered a final goal, adding that the only way to eliminate terrorism lies in adopting a unified international approach on an all-out confrontation of terrorist groups, their ideology and activities.

Hafez cited the initiative launched by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to renew religious discourse, praising the role played by the al-Azhar and Dar al-Iftaa to counter terrorism.

He stressed that Egypt will continue to support the liaison strategy group based on its experience in combating terrorism, highlighting the role played by its religious institutions in correcting misconceptions about religion and promoting moderate Islam.

An international study by Center on Religion and Geopolitics in Britain noted that 50 percent of extremists have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood or related organizations.

Meanwhile, Advisor to Egypt’s Mufti, Ibrahim Najm stated that the Brotherhood is the root of extremism in the world, accusing it of adopting destructive rhetoric and inciting violence.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that organizations like the Brotherhood make false interpretations of the holy Quran to justify their actions and legitimize their crimes.

4 Newest U.S. National Parks

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

Newest National Parks

The National Park System dates back to 1872. Since Yellowstone became the first national park, dozens of locations have been recognized as well (61 total, as of 2019, though there are 419 NPS-operated units like national monuments and historic sites). However, new parks are few and far between. The most recent four were established between 2004 and 2019 (yes, a new national park was added to the list this year!) Every now and again, the United States sees a reason to add to the list. Be sure to grab a park pass and go visit. Here are the four newest national parks.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Credit: Kris Wiktor/Shutterstock

Established as a national park in September 2004, the Great Sand Dunes preserve is located in Colorado. The large sand dunes tower at up to 750 feet on the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley. The park has the tallest sand dunes in North America, spanning an area of about 30 square miles. Evidence of human habitation in the sandy park and its surrounding valleys dates back about 11,000 years. The first people known to inhabit the area were the Southern Ute Tribe. Apaches and Navajo also have cultural connections to the dunes area.

Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park

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With the most national parks in the nation (and some of the oldest and best), you may have overlooked California’s most recent addition to the National Park Service inventory: Pinnacles National Park. Located mid-state toward the coast, Pinnacles protects the mountainous area east of the Salinas Valley, a prominent farming community. The national park is divided by rock formations, which are only connected by foot trails. Pinnacles has a long history as public land, despite being established as a national park by President Barack Obama in 2013. It was originally established as a national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. The most developed areas of the park are on its East side, but Pinnacles still offers mostly pristine wilderness.

Gateway Arch National Park

Gateway Arch National Park

Credit: Paul Brady Photography/Shutterstock

You may have missed it in the news, but the St. Louis Gateway Arch was designated as a national park after many years as a national memorial in 2018. The city-defining Gateway Arch is a 630-foot monument that was completed in 1965 and is known as The Gateway to the West. The memorial was initially established to commemorate the Louisiana Purchase and subsequent westward movement of American explorers and pioneers, as well as the first civil government west of the Mississippi. Today, there is a museum on the 91-acre property as well.

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Indiana Dunes National Park

Indiana Dunes National Park

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On the shores of Lake Michigan is the newest national park in the U.S., the Indiana Dunes, authorized by Congress as a national lakeshore in 1966 and upgraded to national park status on Feb. 15, 2019. Containing approximately 15,000 acres of land, the park runs for nearly 25 miles along the lake’s southern shore. It’s Indiana’s first national park, and contains a surprising amount of rare plants and animals, some of which are on the federal list of threatened and endangered species (Mead’s milkweed and Pitcher’s thistle among them). The park is more than just sand dunes, too. You’ll find wetland, prairie, river and forest ecosystems.

5 Fastest Growing U.S. Cities

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

Fastest Growing U.S. Cities

For jobs, lifestyle choices, weather, cost of living, retirement — you name it — we’re moving a lot. Using census data, trends surveys rely on myriad criteria and methodology to determine the fastest growing areas, often breaking down information based on small, medium and large cities. Not to mention use of precise definitions for metropolitan statistical areas, metropolitan divisions and so on. Confused yet? Not to worry. The overall trends are driven by a few easy to understand factors.

People are still moving to take jobs in coastal tech hubs. Then there are inland cities growing due to “tech dislocation,” places with rapid tech sector growth due to the exodus of workforces from more expensive cities. Another huge factor is retirement (think Florida and Arizona). Note that the cities on this list are all large, and made the top five based on pure volume of growth. Meanwhile, many small and medium cities had a higher percentage of growth. Based solely on overall growth numbers released in May by the United States Census Bureau, the five fastest growing cities in the country are highlighted below.

Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles, California

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Perhaps the poster child for urban sprawl, Los Angeles grew by 18,643 people since the last annual count, for a total 2017 population of 3,999,759. That’s just over 50 people per day. With a mild year-round climate of near-perpetual sun, weather has to be one of the biggest enticements for new residents. The Southern California mega-city has long been a draw for free spirits, artists and aspiring actors, along with being a domestic melting pot with large Hispanic and Asian populations. Hollywood, the center of the television and film industry in the U.S., accounts for much of the city’s industry, along with the music biz.

Fort Worth, Texas

Fort Worth, Texas

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With its recent growth, Fort Worth has overtaken Indianapolis, Indiana, to become the 15th largest city in the country. For a city that started as a trading post for cowboys at the end of the Chisholm Trail, Fort Worth has come a long way. The city in North Central Texas grew by 18,644 for a total population of 874,168. Cowboy heritage is retained here, where the Fort Worth Stockyards are still home to some of the nation’s largest rodeo events, and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame honors early pioneers. It’s not all about country culture, however, as this metropolitan city is home to international art institutes like the Kimbell Art  Museum. Considering a move or visit to Fort Worth? A great resource is the city’s website, fortworthtexas.gov.

Dallas, Texas

Dallas, Texas

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Long the commercial and cultural hub of north Texas, Dallas is a modern metropolis sprouted from western roots. After all, the city’s NFL franchise is called the Cowboys. The culture and charm of Dallas — which grew by 18,935 to an overall population of 1,341,075 — are highlighted by the Lake and Garden district in East Dallas (parks, lakes, an arboretum and gardens), Deep Ellum (a former warehouse district turned nightlife hotspot), the Arts District (largest urban arts district in the nation, in the core of downtown) and Highland Park (high-end shopping and dining in North Dallas). Potential Dallas transplants and visitors will find great information at the visitdallas.com.

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Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona

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The capital of Arizona, Phoenix grew by 24,036 residents to reach a population of 1,626,078. Retirement and the resort lifestyle are keys to the area’s growth, with aging baby boomers flocking for year-round sun and warmth. Ritzy resort spas and world-class golf courses, among them a Jack Nicklaus design, are attractive to a crowd with plenty of expendable income and leisure time. Beyond the country club gates, Phoenix offers everyone cultural pursuits, with a vibrant nightlife fueled by glitzy nightclubs and dive bars alike, along with a cosmopolitan culinary scene. Spring training baseball and abundant outdoor recreation are additional draws, while the city’s Desert Botanical Garden showcases the abundance of life that flourishes amidst harsh growing conditions, with displays of hearty cacti and native plant species.

San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio, Texas

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Whether or not they “remember the Alamo,” folks are flocking to San Antonio, which grew by 24,208 to reach a population of 1,511,946. The major city in south-central Texas is steeped in colonial history, including the Alamo, the 18th-century Spanish mission preserved as a museum to commemorate the infamous 1836 battle for Texan independence from Mexico. Tracing the contours of the San Antonio River for miles through the heart of the city, San Antonio’s River Walk is its most prominent modern landmark, an alluring pedestrian promenade of shops, restaurants and bars. Future residents and vacationers can grab a great perspective on the city atop the 750-foot tall Tower of the Americas, which overlooks the entire city from its location in HemisFair Park.

9 Beautiful European Cities By The Sea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE DISCOVERER BLOG)

 

Europe’s long and varied coastline is dotted with settlements whose inhabitants have, for centuries, made their living from the sea. Today, many feature historic mansions, charming historic squares and quaint harbors that draw as many tourists as fishermen. Though some have grown into cities, others are constrained by the physical landscape to remain impossibly beautiful coastal towns.

Rovinj, Croatia

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The gem of Istria covers a tiny headland, huddled around a harbor full of fishing boats. For centuries, the steeple of St Euphemia has risen like a beacon from the mass of terracotta roofs which surround it. On the ground, explore cobbled streets and narrow alleyways to discover a liberal scattering of gift shops, cafés and bijou apartments.

Portree, Scotland

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The largest town on Scotland’s Isle of Skye welcomes visitors with the sight of rows of brightly-painted cottages. Life centers around the busy harbor, but those with time on their hands are advised to take a hike. The Scorrybreac trail and the path up the headland known locally as The Lump are two of the best local walks.

Oia, Greece

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Few Greek towns have made such an impact as Santorini’s Oia, and you only have to set eyes on the place to understand why. The town’s whitewashed homes and businesses cling to the rocky flanks of the dormant volcano overlooking the azure lake that fills its caldera. Its intense beauty has drawn artists and photographers for years, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Vernazza, Italy

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Though visitors would not be disappointed with any of the Cinque Terre settlements, there’s something about Vernazza that’s especially compelling. The cupola-topped bell tower of Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church stands tight against the waterfront but for the best views, climb the steps to the tower of the ruined Castello Doria and look out over the glittering sea.

Tavira, Portugal

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There are many contenders for stunning coastal towns along Portugal’s beautiful Algarve, but Tavira is a stand out. The town itself is located inland of a long sandy beach and the salt pans are home to a wide variety of seabirds including waders, spoonbills and flamingos. In the heart of the medieval town, you’ll find a castle built in the 13th century on the site of a mosque and Santa María do Castelo Church, which houses the tombs of seven knights allegedly ambushed by the Moors.

Visby, Sweden

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Located on the Baltic coast, the Hanseatic port of Visby lies on the island of Gotland. Its 13th-century ramparts, historic warehouses and the former homes of wealthy merchants make this one of the most delightful towns in Sweden. Pull up a chair at one of the pavement cafés that grace Stora Torget, the main square, and people watch over a cup of coffee. But when you can drag yourself away, the Gotland Museum provides a fascinating glimpse into the town’s Viking past.

Cadiz, Spain

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In their rush to tick off the sights of Seville, Cordoba and Granada, visitors sometimes overlook Cadiz, but to do so would be a shame. In the 17th and 18th centuries, merchants built watchtowers to ensure they knew their ships had returned to port. Today, 126 of the 160 remain. Get a bird’s-eye view from the Camera Obscura at the top of Torre Tavira before taking a stroll at ground level to gaze up at these interesting structures.

Aeroskobing, Denmark

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Nicknamed “the fairytale town of Denmark,” Aeroskobing, or Ærøskøbing as it’s written in Danish, is a stunner of a coastal town. Cobbled streets, winding alleyways and historic houses give the place bags of character. Don’t miss the Priors House, which dates from 1690, the town’s cook house – built to reduce the risk of fire breaking out on the wooden boats that docked in port – and Ærøskøbing Church in the market square, the third to grace this spot.

Fowey, England

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Pronounced “Foy,” well-heeled Fowey made its money on the export of china clay, which these days manifests itself in the pastel-colored houses and cosy pubs that jostle for position around this characterful Cornish harbor. The town that inspired Daphne du Maurier to write Rebecca makes a handy base for sampling the famous local mussels and for exploring the rest of the Polperro heritage coastline.

Enthusiastic advocate for independent travel and passionate geographer, Julia considers herself privileged to earn a living doing something she loves. When not roaming the globe, you’ll find her windswept but smiling, chatting away to her two dogs as they wander the Essex marshes.

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Four decades later, did the Iranian revolution fulfill its promises?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS BRIEF)

 

Four decades later, did the Iranian revolution fulfill its promises?

Ali Fathollah-Nejad

If Iran were to hold a referendum on the Islamic Republic today, over 70% would clearly oppose it—among them the wealthy, academics, clerics, village, and city-dwellers. This remarkable hypothetical was not declared by an exiled Iranian dissident, but by the well-known Tehran political science professor, Sadegh Zibakalam, in an interview during the upheaval that took place in late 2017 and early 2018.

But how is it that even a formerly enthusiastic supporter of the Islamic Revolution has delivered such a devastating verdict? To understand this radical shift and the frustration behind it, we must revisit the promises that the revolution made four decades ago. The 1979 Iranian revolution promised three goals: social justice, freedom and democracy, and independence from great power tutelage.

IRAN’S PARADOXICAL QUEST FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

Framed in a Marxist–Islamist mindset, the revolution was made on behalf of the mostazafin—the downtrodden—who were left behind by the monarchy’s uneven development model. In the following four decades, intense controversy has erupted over the Islamic Republic’s socio-economic performance. While some claim that under the Islamist regime remarkable progress has been made, others depict an entire country mired in misery. More nuance and contextualization is needed.

Iran has indeed experienced progress over the last 40 years. Whether these successes have been a result of post-revolutionary policies, societal pressures, or the foundations laid by the shah remains hotly debated.

The shift from the shah’s pro-urban, elite-centered policies to a pro-rural and pro-poor (populist) approach under the Islamic Republic included expanding infrastructure and basic services—such as electricity and clean water—from cities to the countryside. In short, the revolution sought to eliminate the rural-urban divide. In rural Iran, the expansion of health and education led to a clear reduction in poverty: The 1970s poverty rate of 25% dropped to less than 10% in 2014. These social policies, biased in favor of the poor, help explain why Iran’s Human Development Index (HDI) has been relatively positive.

Unlike before the revolution, most Iranians today enjoy access to basic services and infrastructure, while the population has almost doubled and most of the country is urbanized. Other measures of social development have similarly improved. Literacy has more than doubled, especially among women, and now encompasses almost all the population. Meanwhile, female students have outnumbered their male counterparts at universities for more than a decade.

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However, while statistics indicate that absolute poverty has declined sharply, a majority of Iranians continue to suffer from socio-economic precarity. Official sources state that 12 million live below the absolute poverty line and 25 to 30 million below the poverty line. Estimates suggest that one-third of Iranians, as well as 50 to 70% of workers, are in danger of falling into poverty. Fourteen percent of Iranians live in tents, according to the Statistical Center of Iran, and one-third of the urban population lives in slums. The living conditions of what anthropologist Shahram Khosravi calls Iran’s “other half,” or working-class poor, are striking: a 17-fold increase in the number of Iranians living in slums; 50% of the workforce have only irregular employment; approximately 10 to 13 million Iranians “entirely excluded from health, work or unemployment insurance.”

And Iran’s socio-economic challenges cannot be separated from its political economy that favors regime loyalists and is marked by mismanagement, cronyism, nepotism, corruption, and the absence of much-needed structural reforms. Although U.S. sanctions have undoubtedly had negative repercussions, their overall impact on Iran’s economic situation is often overstated. For instance, in the summer of 2018, Hossein Raghfar, an economist at Tehran’s Allameh Tabataba’i University, has suggested that as little as 15% of Iran’s economic problems can be attributed to sanctions. The “illiberal neoliberalization” in various Iranian economic policies since the 1990s, featuring client alistic privatizations and de-regulated labor market, has helped form nouveaux riches on one hand and precarious social strata on the other.

A chief failure of the Islamic Republic has been the lack of job creation, with jobless growth even increasing during oil booms. Unemployment rates remain high, especially among the youth, university graduates, and women. Officially, every eighth Iranian is unemployed. According to the Iranian parliament’s research center, the unemployment rate will reach 16% by 2021 in an optimistic scenario, 26% if conditions are less auspicious. Among the youth, one in four is unemployed (but some estimates go as high as 40%). These figures rank Iran’s youth unemployment rate as among the highest worldwide.

Iran’s Gini index of income inequality has remained consistently high at above 0.40, pointing to the lack of inclusive economic growth. Studying levels of inequality in pre- and post-revolutionary Iran, Djavad Salehi-Isfahani found that inequality in 2002 was about the same as in 1972, adding:

The findings on inequality raise important questions about the nature of the Islamic Revolution. Did it significantly affect the power structure as a social revolution of its magnitude should have? This is particularly relevant in the case of Iran because, in addition to changes in the distribution of productivity, the distribution of access to oil rents also affects inequality. Since access is directly related to political power, inequality may reflect the distribution of power. Thus, the finding that inequality in 2002 was about the same as in 1972 raises questions about the significance of the Islamic Revolution as a social and political revolution.

In other words, the class character of Iranian society has remained unchanged, with one ruling class replaced by another only with another social composition. In political cartoons, this was reflected in pictures of the shah’s crown merely being replaced by the mullahs’ turban. Such continuity led some scholars to interpret the 1979 revolution as merely a “passive revolution, a revolution without change” in class relations. Today, there is a strong public perception of high income inequality, given the ostentatious display of wealth and nepotism by the offspring of regime affiliates, the so-called âghâzâdeh, that Iranians observe on the streets of Tehran or on their smartphones through Instagram accounts like “Rich Kids of Tehran.”

The Islamic Republic’s relative achievements in the fields of rural infrastructure, education, and literacy, along with its failure to create jobs, have produced a socio-economic paradox that is politically explosive. Iran’s job market can simply not absorb the hundreds of thousands of university graduates. This paradox has produced a stratum of “middle-class poor,” as described by sociologist Asef Bayat. Defined as those with middle-class qualifications and aspirations but suffering from socio-economic precarity, this group was considered the social base of the 2017-18 uprising and is widely expected to continue to voice its anger and frustration.

On the situation of Iran’s youth under the Islamic Republic, Bayat explained in a 2016 interview:

The youth not only want a secure future—that is reasonable jobs, a place to live, get married, and form a family in the future—they also want to reclaim their “youthfulness,” a desire to live the life of youth, to pursue their interests, their individuality, free from the watchful eyes of their elders, from moral and political authority. This dimension of young people’s lives adds to the existing social tensions in Iran.

As alluded to before, Iranians face another structural impediment to socio-economic opportunities. Regime “insiders” (khodi) or those with access to state resources and privileges also enjoy privileged access to jobs. These frustrations have led many young Iranians to vote with their feet. Even under the Rouhani administration, Iran has continued to experience world record-breaking levels of brain drain, losing an estimated $150 billion per year.

Republicans give Trump a rare rebuke over racist comments

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Republicans give Trump a rare rebuke over racist comments

(CNN)For many Republicans in Congress, President Donald Trump’s call for some Democratic congresswomen to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” was worthy of a rare rebuke.

As she entered Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office in the Capitol on Monday evening, GOP Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa said that Trump’s latest attacks were not only “not constructive” but racist.
“They’re American citizens,” she said.
On Sunday, Trump attacked unnamed “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen,” saying they “originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world.”
Usually Trump’s attacks on Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts are uniformly greeted with cheers by all Republicans (of these four first-term women members of Congress, only Omar, a Somalian refugee, was born outside the United States).
But for many Republicans, his racist comments on Sunday were, as Sen. Susan Collins of Maine put it, “way over the line.” Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said the comments were “spiteful” and urged a “higher standard of decorum and decency.” Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio called them “divisive, unnecessary and wrong.”
“We should defeat their ideas on the merits, not on the basis of their ancestry,” said Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
“While we can vary on what policies we support, singling out people whose opinions differ from our own is bad for discourse and public civility,” added Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas.
Still, Ernst was in an unusual position in calling Trump’s racist remark racist. Trump’s strongest supporters said his comment was not while many of his begrudging bedfellows did not make that particular charge.
Many Republicans did not directly respond to questions regarding whether the President’s comments were “racist.” Instead, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, called the comments a “mistake,” and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, called them “unproductive.”
McConnell declined to comment Monday on Trump’s tweets. He said he’d be “happy” to respond later in the week at his regularly scheduled news conference.
For years, Trump has made racist and anti-immigrant comments. He questioned the birthplace of the first African American president, Barack Obama. He called Mexicans “rapists” in his campaign kickoff speech in 2015. He then called for a complete ban on Muslims.
He said a federal judge could not be impartial because of his race. He expressed a preference for immigrants coming from Norway rather than Haiti. He blamed “both sides” for the violence emanating from a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
But while Trump is historically unpopular at this point in his presidency, he still maintains a great deal of support within the Republican Party. Over the past two years, the small crew of Republicans in Congress who have criticized him has gotten smaller; some have retired, left the party or lost.
So it was no surprise that some Republicans still rallied to the President. Sen. Steve Daines of Montana tweeted that he “stood with” Trump, adding an American flag emoji.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said, “The President is not a racist.”
“I think this is really coming down to a battle about ideology,” he added. “It’s really kind of a socialist battle versus a thing that we believe within America.”
Trump himself denied that what he said was racist.
When asked if he was concerned that many did, Trump replied, “It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me.”
Democrats roundly denounced the President. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump’s comments “drip with racism.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the chamber would vote on a resolution to condemn the President’s “xenophobic” comments. Rep. Al Green of Texas said he would bring an impeachment resolution to the floor in July, tweeting the hashtag #RacistPresident.
At a news conference with Ocasio-Cortez, Omar and Tlaib, Pressley referred to Trump’s Twitter attacks on the four progressive Democratic congresswomen as a “disruptive distraction” and said that she would encourage the American people “to not take the bait.”
“This is simply a disruption and a distraction from the callous, chaotic and corrupt culture of this administration all the way down,” she said.

The farthest-away manmade objects in space

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

The farthest-away manmade objects in space

Right now, somewhere in the world, children stand at the edge of a lake counting the hops of stones skidding across the surface of the water. It’s hard to explain the tranquil pleasure of watching the ripples emanate farther and farther till nearly out of sight, but it’s even more of a challenge to fathom the distances to which we’ve launched objects into the dark ocean of space. As of February 2018, the Voyager 1 drifts 13 billion miles away from the surface of the earth, 42 years since its launch. It is one of five man made objects that has ever left our solar system.

Pioneer 10

Credit: NASA.gov

Five years before the launch of the Voyager probes, on March 2, 1972, NASA launched the Pioneer 10 to investigate the surface of Jupiter. Weighing 569 pounds, the Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to cross the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and, eventually, escape our solar system by nature of its velocity. It was also the first spacecraft to launch from the three-stage Atlas-Centaur launch vehicle to achieve its launch speed of 32,400 mph. It took the Pioneer 10 twelve weeks to cross the orbit of Mars. On December 3, 1973, the Pioneer 10 passed by the cloud tops of Jupiter to obtain the first close-up images of the planet.

Following its flyby of Jupiter, Pioneer 10 continued to gather data for NASA of the outer solar system until the end of its mission in March 31, 1977. The last faint signal from Pioneer 10 was received on January 23, 2003, as its radioisotope power source had decayed to the point of being unable to send further signals.

Pioneer 11

Credit: NASA.gov

The launch of Pioneer 10 was succeeded just a year later on April 5, 1973. The launch this time was accelerated by an additional 210 ft/sec and aimed to pass Jupiter at a point closer to its surface. The closer proximity to Jupiter caused the spacecraft to accelerate by gravitational pull to the muzzle velocity of a rifle (110,000 mph), allowing it to obtain the velocity and direction necessary to approach Saturn.

On September 1, 1979, Pioneer 11 flew to within 13,000 miles of Saturn to obtain the first close-up images of the planet and discover two previously-unobserved moons. By September of 1995, the spacecraft could no longer make observations and by November, the last communication with the spacecraft was made.

Voyager 1 & 2

Credit: NASA.gov

The Voyager spacecrafts were initially tasked with observing the properties and magnetospheres of our neighboring planets using their onboard instrumentation. Target planets included Jupiter, Saturn, and Saturn’s moon Titan. Data from the Pioneer 10 mission was used to create more robust spacecraft to tolerate the intense radiation around Jupiter. Voyager 1 started its observation of Saturn, the final phase of its initial mission, on August 22, 1980, whereas the Voyager 2 was sent on a longer trajectory to observe Uranus and Neptune, reaching Neptune on August 25, 1989.

In addition to their planetary observations, both Voyager spacecrafts were also tasked with interstellar missions. They were designed to continue scientific observations and signal transmission after escaping the heliosphere and exiting our solar system. They are both still active, with a projected lifetime of about five more years.

New Horizons

Credit: NASA.gov

In 2006, NASA launched the New Horizons spacecraft with a primary mission of observing the dwarf planet Pluto. New Horizons was launched as the fastest man-made object ever launched from Earth with a speed of 36,400 mph. New Horizons started its flyby of Pluto on July 14, 2015. Three years later, in August of 2018, it confirmed the existence of a hydrogen wall previously observed by the Voyager launch.