Classical Music Trying to Gain Foothold in Saudi Cultural Scene
35 Years since US Tried to Round
Up Arab/Muslim Americans in Concentration Camps
A Weekly Political News Magazine
A Weekly Political News Magazine
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How to Rescue Libya from Backsliding into War ? www.majal a.com
Editorial A Weekly Political News Magazine
Last month, the Berlin 2 Conference came out with main announcements and demands to secure stability and smooth transition in Libya, most important of which were the withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries from the country, and the support of the transitional process represented in the elections scheduled in December 2021. However, the Libyan situation seems unstable as withdrawal of Turkish and Russian forces was not put into effect, in addition to actions by Haftar’s forces in eastern Libya against the interim Government of National Unity. In this week’s Cover Story, Dalia Ziada discusses the prospects of Libya’s sliding back into civil war, and the ways to end these divisions, which can ultimately help in driving out mercenaries and pursuing the transitional process as scheduled. In an exclusive interview with Majalla, Mohamed Ali Saleh speaks with Michel Shehadeh, one of the eight Arabs in California who were forcefully arrested as a group in 1987 and charged with being communists because they were defending Palestinian rights and opposed to the US-supported Israeli occupation of Palestinian and other Arab lands. As the Tokyo Olympics kicked off this week, Sarah Gamal wrote about the youngest player in the games. Syria›s star in table tennis, Hend Zaza, who qualified for the Olympics in Tokyo at the age of only 11 years. Bitcoin also continued to plunge this week as the EU proposed changes to the law to force companies that transfer Bitcoin or other crypto-assets to collect details on the recipient and sender. In an article in this week’s edition, Hala Nasrallah writes about Robert Breedlove or «The Philosopher « who announced the opening of an account on the “Bitclout” platform, which allows the user to create a currency in his name to speculate on it. As always, we welcome and value our readers’ feedback and we invite you to take the opportunity to leave your comments on our website.
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A Weekly Political News Magazine
A Weekly Political News Magazine
Bitcoin Poisoning: The Ideology
30 of Sovereign Individual
Issue 1862- July- 23/07/2021
Gaza Struggles with Reconstruction
20 Gaps as Israel Preps for New Battle
Factory Fire Reveals Bangladesh’s
34 Child Labor Problem
50 Will Consumer Packaged Goods Industry
Own Responsibility for Plastic Pollution ?
5 Important Blood Tests
54 Beyond the Basics
Meet the Youngest Athlete at the Tokyo Olympics 5
Chicago Ride-share Driver Shares Epic Real-Life Stories
Palestinians Celebrations Eid al Adha A man tosses his son playfully as Palestinians and their children celebrate alongside Muslims worldwide the first day of the al-Adha feast, at the al-Aqsa Mosque complex in Jerusalem’s old city, on July 20, 2021 )EPA Photos(
Eid al Adha celebrations in New York A girl looks on as people participate during the Muslim festival of sacrifice Eid alAdha in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., July 20, 2021 )Reuters Photos(
How to Rescue Libya from Backsliding into War? Division between Eastern and Western Libya Feeds Foreign Intervention
By Dalia Ziada
gional, and international actors, has diminished. Tensions between almost all political factions in The smell of war is all over Libya. The euphoria Libya, their military troops, and foreign backers, generated by electing a new interim government, are escalating and intensifying, since June. The in January, under the endorsement of local, re- minor disagreements over specific political deci-
sions, that needed to be taken or dismissed by the interim government, are now turning into a tug-of-war between Benghazi and Tripoli that is hindering the continuity of the political solution process and, thus, threatening to drag the country into another round of civil war. The urgent question is: what are the specific actions that the international community needs to take to put a brake on the growing internal political tensions in Libya before they escalate to an actual war, which will be awfully difficult to control this time? The answer to this question is to discover the catalyst element of conflicts and cut it out of the Libyan equation, in a swift but smart way. The latest round of meetings on the situation in Libya at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), held on July 15th, was surrounded by much pessimism. The meeting, in New York, was attended by foreign ministers of UNSC member states; Jan Kubis, the UN Special Envoy for Libya and also the Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL); and Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh, the Prime Minister of the Libyan interim Government of National Unity (GNU). Libyan Interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah, waves as he stands atop an excavator on June 20, 2021, in the town of Buwairat al-Hassoun, during a ceremony to mark the reopening of 300-kilometre road between the cities of Misrata and Sirte. (Getty Images)
In a pessimistic tone, Kubis warned the gathering officials at UNSC against what he described as “the growing confrontational situation in Libya.” Kubis noted that some “status quo forces” use diverse tactics to obstruct the conduct of necessary preparatory procedures for holding the general elections in December. “The constitutional basis for elections should have been clarified by now. Regrettably, the House of Representatives, the mandated body to do so in consultation with the High Council of State, has not delivered yet;” said Kubis affirming the inability of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) to decide on the issue. Although Kubis did not name the ‘status quo forces,’ it is easy to guess that he is referring to the Libyan National Army (LNA), which operates from Benghazi under the command of Marshall Khalifa Haftar. LNA controls the majority of eastern and southern territories of Libya. Haftar is backed by Russia, France, and the United Arab
Despite Haftar’s initial endorsement to GNU, after being elected in January and his continued confirmation on the necessity of holding elections in December, his LNA fails to coordinate operations with the GNU’s armed forces. Emirates (UAE). He commands military personnel from the old and dissolved Libyan military forces of Gaddafi, as well as African mercenaries and about two-thousand mercenaries affiliated to the Russian Wagner Group. At the UNSC ministerial meeting, Russia’s Ambassador to the UN claimed that the existence of Russia-affiliated armed groups in Libya is necessary for “making sure that the current balance of forces on the ground not be disrupted, because it is thanks to this balance that the situation in Libya remains calm and no threats of armed escalation emerge.” Clearly, the Russian Ambassador is hinting at the rival Turkish troops and mercenaries, who support the GNU’s small army, by noting “the balance of forces on the ground.” The GNU-commanded military is currently the official national armed forces in Libya. It is a relatively new military, formed from middle-age officers who belong to families in western Libya, and some Libyan militia, who were operating under the command of the previous Government of National Accord (GNA). The Turkish armed forces helped GNA form this military, based on a military agreement signed in December 2019. Since then, the Turkish military has been providing the Libyan military with training, consultancy, and equipment. GNU military forces work side by side with the Turkish military troops, of about 1900 military personnel, deployed in Tripoli, since 2019. Both Turkish and Libyan troops, in
Tripoli, are operating under the direct supervision of the Turkish Minister of Defense, Hulusi Akar. In addition, Turkey owns about fifteen thousand mercenaries inside Libya. On June 13th, Hulusi Akar visited his troops in Tripoli and made strong statements against LNA and Haftar. Akar said that Haftar is the main problem for Libya, and accused LNA of the mass killing of Libyans in Tarhuna and other eastern and southern cities. As expected, the LNA and other politicians in Benghazi got offended by Akar’s
Some local observers claim that Haftar and Saleh are planning to form a parallel interim government in Benghazi, that will act independent from the GNU in Tripoli.
visit and statements. In a video statement, LNA spokesperson accused Akar of bringing illegal weapons with him, on his private plane, during this surprise visit. He also accused Turkey of disturbing Libya’s stability and halting the scheduled elections, in December. On the same week of Akar’s visit, on the 20th of June, LNA moved troops to block the border crossing between Libya and Algeria and declared the area a military zone. GNU responded immediately by an official statement prohibiting the movement of military troops, whatever their affiliation is, without direct instructions from the central military command in Tripoli. LNA’s surprise move happened on the same hour the GNU Prime Minister announced the re-opening of the coastal road, as a sign on Libya’s success in achieving unity between eastern and western conflicting factions. LNA has always opposed the opening of the coastal road because it means submitting to the GNU military and consequently kicking the Russian mercenaries out of the country. Unfortunately, the next day the GNU had to close the coastal road, once again, to avoid clashing with Haftar troops.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) attends a meeting with Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh (R) at the Marriott Hotel in Berlin, Germany, on June 24, 2021. (Getty Images)
President of Libya›s interim government Mohammad Younes Menfi (L) meets warlord Khalifa Haftar (R) in Benghazi, Libya on February 11, 2021. (Getty Images)
Two days later, on June 23rd, at the conclusion of the Berlin II Summit on Libya, GNU’s Foreign Minister mentioned that the foreign troops and mercenaries, either affiliated to Russia or Turkey, will start to gradually depart from Libya, in the following days. Yet, a whole month has passed since then, and no one has left. On the contrary, the security situation is getting worse. On June 26th, clashes erupted between two tribes in Benghazi, leaving at least five people killed. The militia elements and the weapons used in these clashes brought to mind the notorious battle of Benghazi that erupted in 2014 and continued throughout the first three years of the Libyan Civil War II (2014 – 2019). Despite Haftar’s initial endorsement to GNU, after being elected in January and his continued confirmation on the necessity of holding elections in December, his LNA fails to coordinate operations with the GNU’s armed forces. Haftar’s move to block the border between Algeria and Libya was meant to send a warning to the GNU, Turkey, and other regional and international interlocutors that he and his LNA should not be ignored or marginalized in any future plans regarding the political leadership of Libya. After the elections of
The only beneficiary of the current situation in Libya are the foreign backers of each of the disputed parties in eastern and western territories. the GNU, in January, Haftar expected to be hired as the Minister of Defense and thus become the commander of both the LNA and GNU’s military. This was going to be a big victory for him, and his foreign backers, especially UAE and France, against their long-time rival – Turkey. Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, GNU’s Prime Minister, mentioned, in March, that he could not name a minister of defense for his government because of extreme foreign pressures. During the UNSC ministerial meeting in June, Dbeibeh reiterated that it is difficult to unite the armed forces in Libya under the umbrella of one national army due to the continued presence of “foreign fight-
ers who pose a serious threat to the current political process and also threaten the efforts to keep the ceasefire.» In an interview with Reuters, on the same day, Dbeibeh mentioned that his government is finding a difficulty collaborating with Haftar. “Of course, we are communicating with Haftar. He is a difficult military person, but we communicate with him. But things are not easy;» said Dbeibeh. In the past two weeks, Haftar succeeded in aligning the Parliament, based in Benghazi, to support him. The Speaker of the Parliament, Aguila Saleh, said in a meeting with Haftar on July 16th, that the Parliament will not approve the government budget for GNU unless they allocate a budget for LNA. Some local observers claim that Haftar and Saleh are planning to form a parallel interim government in Benghazi, that will act independent from the GNU in Tripoli. This claim is supported by Haftar’s decision, on July 21st, to deploy intense troops at the southern territories. If true, this will be a knockout to the entire political process. The only beneficiary of the current situation in Libya are the foreign backers of each of the disputed parties in eastern and western territories.
Respective players in the international community need to reassess their vision towards the political solution in Libya. They should focus on solving the underlying causes of the conflict rather than being obsessed with healing the symptoms.
The United Nations and the international community are exerting tremendous efforts to help Libya stand on its feet as a sovereign state. However, most of those efforts are directed at the wrong, or not so useful, spots. For example, everyone is pressuring for holding the general elections in December; that is in less than five months from now. However, no one is discussing how to guarantee that the prospected elections will be free and fair, so the voters will not be manipulated and the elections will not be rigged. Likewise, everyone is calling for the removal of foreign troops and mercenaries from
A photo shows Turkish and Libyan soldiers clear the mines, handmade explosives and ammunitions trapped by warlord Khalifa Haftar›s forces in Tripoli, Libya on May 11, 2021. (Getty Images)
Libya. There is no question that this is a crucial first step for Libya’s recovery from a decade of internal armed conflicts. However, everyone needs to understand that it is impossible for the foreign troops to leave Libya as long as the armed forces, which they are backing either in western and eastern Libya, are unable to unite into one army. In that sense, respective players in the international community need to reassess their vision towards the political solution in Libya. They should focus on solving the underlying causes of the conflict rather than being obsessed with healing the symptoms. The underlying reason for dispute is
marginalizing Haftar and his LNA. Whether we like it or not, there must be a way to contain Haftar by integrating his armed forces and resources of political power into the formal government of GNU. Otherwise, Libya will continue to suffer from foreign interventions facilitated by the division between eastern and western Libya, forever. Dalia Ziada is an Egyptian author and Director of the Liberal Democracy Institute. Her work covers military affairs, political Islamism, and geopolitics in the Middle East and North Africa. Tweets at @daliaziada.
Gaza Struggles with Reconstruction Gaps as Israel Preps for New Battle Shattered Infrastructure a Result of Israrl , s «Operation Guardian of the Walls»
By Amal Shahada With the end of Operation Guardian of the Walls in Gaza, humanitarian agencies have put the cost of the reconstruction process in the Gaza Strip at
about $500 million. The process has sparked off an internal Israeli debate along with American, European and Arab pressure to ensure continued calm, provided that the reconstruction of the Strip is a first and quick step to put an end to the
tragedy of the people of Gaza. The Israelis have announced that Assistant Secretary of State for Palestinian Affairs, Hadi Amr, is due to arrive in Israel to discuss various issues, including the new government’s policy towards Palestinians in general and the reconstruction of Gaza, in particular, as well as the new mechanism for introducing the Qatari grant into the sector through the United Nations. The Qatari grant to Gaza is considered an important aspect of the current issue regarding Gaza, whether it is reconstruction or improving the lives of the population. In view of the ongoing Israeli debate on the transfer of funds from Qatar to Gaza and the claim that funds were spent on strengthening Hamas’s military capabilities and were not for infrastructure, Qatar called for the formation of a new mechanism for the transfer of funds to Gaza involving the United States, with a view to obtaining international recognition of the credibility of the transfer of funds. According to Israeli authorities, the Qatari demand followed what they called Israel’s “betrayal” of the Qataris. For two years, while Israel has been asking Qatar for financial support to Gaza, it claims that the funds are being used to support Hamas. Gaza Strip map .Source: “World reference atlas (Getty Images)
Qatar had introduced funds into Gaza with the collaboration of Israeli delegates, but when the security situation escalated and Operation Guardian of the Walls was carried out, some Israeli officials claimed that there was a mistake in Israel’s approval of the transfer of funds. Accordingly, there was a call for a quartet meeting to be held by Israel, Qatar, the United States and the United Nations, to establish a new mechanism for bringing funds into the Gaza Strip “so that, in the event of another confrontation, no party would cast an allegation against Qatar. The Qataris, for their part, insist on the formation of this mechanism, but Israel has yet to say its word, but internal and external pressures are continuing to rebuild Gaza and help the population in the Strip emerge from the stifling economic crisis. Meanwhile, the Israeli debate on dealing with the Gaza Strip continues to see disagreements even
Because of Israeli policy towards Gaza two months ago, the Gazans cannot solve the sewage problem, which, according to Palestinian reports, constitutes about fifty thousand liters per day. within the government coalition. The Minister of Public Security, Omer Bar-Lev, ignored the Qatari request about the new mechanism for transferring funds and declared that Israel wanted to distribute foreign aid to Gaza through a voucher system, “to ensure that the donations were not used to support the Hamas movement that runs the Strip and strengthen its military arsenal”. Also, the Minister of Public Security spoke of the means proposed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for the transfer of funds so that “most of the (aid would be in the form of) food vouchers or vouchers for humanitarian assistance/aid, through the United Nations and not cash, that could be obtained for the development of weapons to be used against Israel,” according to what was reported by the Minister of Public Security on behalf of Bennett. As for Minister of Defense Benjamin Gantz, he set a condition for the reconstruction of Gaza and the provision of assistance/aid in returning the bodies of Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin and civilians, Abra Mengitsu and Hisham al-Sayed. In view of the proposals made by Omer Bar-Lev and Benjamin Gantz, which would impede the process of reconstructing Gaza and helping the residents, a different voice emerged from the security establishment. It warned against the continuation of the current situation in Gaza and called on The State Security Cabinet (SSC) to take immediate steps to alleviate the suffering of
the Gaza Strip and not to link the reconstruction to the case of the Israeli prisoners held by Hamas, as Benjamin Gantz stipulated, emphasizing that solving the case of the bodies of the two missing soldiers will only take place through the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons.
ereignty and its citizens.” He continued his threats, ignoring all the research conducted by the various relevant Israeli institutions on dealing with Gaza and the need to maintain the calm and reconstruct it. He said: “We have all the means and capabilities to confront the enemy. We continue to follow up on all those who work against us and maintain vigilance and readiness to deal with all scenarios. This also applies to Gaza, as we operate a “carrot and stick” (reward and punishment) policy toward the Strip, and we will not allow any threat to us from there.”
This call came during the State Security Cabinet (SSC) meeting that discussed a comprehensive plan to deal with the Gaza Strip, without taking any decision, but an Israeli delegation will head to Cairo to complete the negotiations for the prisoners and the reconstruction of Gaza. In addition to the security establishment’s call, political parties warned against taking immediate steps to reconstruct Gaza to prevent a new, unprecedented The Gravity of The Situation in Gaza confrontation, as described. The decision to close the crossings and prevent Bennett, who remained silent after warnings that the transfer of aid to Gaza, since the end of the Israel will not take quick steps to improve the last military operation, has caused great damsituation in Gaza, opted for a threatening tactic. age in addition to what Operation Guardian of During his participation, Wednesday evening, in the Walls did. The infrastructure of the drinking a graduation ceremony for a new batch of Na- water and sewage network has been destroyed, tional Security College students, he touched on and so far maintenance work has not been carried Gaza by talking about Lebanon, on the 15th an- out, especially for water desalination plants and niversary of the Second Lebanon War. Bennett sewage treatment facilities. threatened, “The security threats around us are changing, and they are becoming more complex According to Palestinian reports, water conand less predictable. For our part, we are work- sumption per capita in the Gaza Strip decreased ing against them whenever and when necessary. from 80 liters per day (before Operation GuardWe will not allow any country and any terrorist ian of the Walls) to 50 liters per day. They also organization to threaten Israel’s security, its sov- noted that the minimum quantity per day recommended by the World Health Organization is 100 liters. The water quality has also been damaged, as the chlorine concentration has increased dramatically, causing health damage to citizens. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the correct level is 250 milligrams per liter, while the level in the Gaza Strip increased from 400-600 milligrams per liter before the military operation to 800-1,000 milligrams per liter now (the level of chlorine in water in Israel is 600 milligrams per liter).
In light of the Israeli dispute over dealing with Gaza and between threats of a new strike and warnings of the danger of continuing the status quo, some considered the situation on the brink of confrontation.
Because of Israeli policy towards Gaza two months ago, the Gazans cannot solve the sewage problem, which, according to Palestinian reports,
Reconstruction in Gaza -The Shijaiyah neighborhood of Gaza City, on 25th August 2015, destroyed in last summer’s war in the coastal strip. (Photo by Momen Faiz/NurPhoto) (Photo by NurPhoto/ NurPhoto via Getty Images)
constitutes about fifty thousand liters per day. Part of the water is collected in shallow pools near residential neighborhoods, which seeps into the groundwater and some of it is discharged to the sea. The demand and urgent need in Gaza is to increase the amount of desalinated sea water, as, due to the current situation, an excess of groundwater is withdrawn, which leads to seawater intrusion into the groundwater and consequently leads to the collapse of parts of the soil inward, which may pose a risk of flooding and collapse of residential buildings during the winter, and this is what the Palestinians fear and warn of. As for drinking water, more than 95 per cent of the water in the Gaza Strip is not safe to drink, according to Palestinian reports. It is mixed with
desalinated seawater, without going through a purification process, which is carried out in about 100 facilities. The current situation, after the military operation, led to the suspension of the operation of wells and desalination and refining plants, as there was a significant shortage of spare parts and materials for routine treatment of pipes, water, pumps, control panels, electricity, and others. After the military operation, it was found that the concussive bombs dropped by Israeli Air Force aircraft had penetrated the ground and led to sand entering the water wells, and thus the towed water would be mixed with the sand. As for electricity, owing to the closure of the crossing points and the denial of the transfer of funds and aid, two months ago, solar units were
not purchased to run generators that run daily between 8-12 hours, a period during which electricity is not supplied to Gaza by Israel. It is noted here, and according to Palestinian estimates, that the process of improving the situation requires a long time, despite the facilities announced by Israel, early last week. As the bidding process to purchase the required materials and obtain Israeli permission to bring them in is a long process, the Palestinians cannot make improvements to the water and wastewater infrastructure within a short period.
International Pressure is Fruitful in the Return of Crossings Two months ago, after the end of Operation Guardian of the Walls, Israel prevented financial aid from entering Gaza, where there are talk of 100,000 Gazan families needing this assistance. Israel also closed the crossings and completely banned fishing in the Gaza Sea, until it succumbed to international pressures and, at the beginning of the week, opened the crossings and expanded the fishing area in the Gaza Strip from nine to 12 nautical miles, as well as allowing the import of medical materials and the export of agricultural products. These steps, which were implemented after the new government’s approval, are conditional on maintaining security stability, according to the Israeli army. In light of the Israeli dispute over dealing with
Currently, a new operation is being planned, with the invasion of Gaza at its center. The question is what will prevail?
Gaza, and between threats of a new strike and warnings of the danger of continuing the status quo, some considered the situation on the brink of confrontation. Tal Lev-Ram, who held several positions during his military service in the army in command of military units as well as the position of spokesman for the Southern Command in the army, considered Gaza today to be a complex problem, and the Operation Guardian of the Walls is just a small sentence. He also believed that the possibilities of escalation are increasing, and the military establishment should prepare for that. Tal Lev-Ram also added: “After the last military campaign, the army was asked to draw up new
Aftermath of Palestine Israel conflict Palestinian workers collect the rubble of Al-Jalaa tower, levelled by an Israeli air strike during the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas, to recycle its rubble in Gaza City on July 2021 ,13. (Photo by Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
All of this has now stopped, and after the Operation Guardian of the Walls, Israel is directly putting forward new and old conditions for progress on these issues in resolving the issue of prisoners and missing persons, an issue that at this stage is not making any progress. He also added: “As long as Israel insists on the conditions it set after ‘The Guardian of the Walls’, the possibility of escalation increases, but this is exactly the issue that must be prepared for in order to change the situation.”. In the context of the army’s preparation for the possibility of an imminent escalation, the Southern Command sought to learn lessons from Operation Guardian of the Walls, and a report was presented to the Southern Command, Eliezer Toledano. The report focused on the issue of dealing with the issue of rockets in the possession of Hamas and the rest of the organizations in the Gaza Strip, which is an aspect that formed a weak point for the Israeli army in Operation Guardian of the Walls.
plans, and in the meantime, the targets in Gaza were being collected and updating of the combat systems, (in readiness for) the Southern Command announces its readiness for Class A, which is practically the highest level of the recent campaign and also includes plans for ground operations for maneuvering battalions. According to Tal Lev-Ram, Israel has maneuvered all the time between preparing for war, attempts to reduce the build-up of Hamas’ military forces and stabilizing the economic situation in the Gaza Strip through broad economic steps. Also, in the past year, major projects such as fish tanks on the shores of Gaza have been on the agenda and the rebuilding of the Karni Industrial area.
The report, which went over 200 pages, contained criticism of the army, but senior officials commented that in a short period of time “under intelligence and technological advances, the Israeli army will be in a much better place than in the Operation Guardian of the Walls,” the official was quoted. The report also includes the issue of the activation of instruments of war in a limited battle in Gaza, and if the army acts properly. Currently, a new operation is being planned, with the invasion of Gaza at its center. The question is what will prevail? Will it be the demand of the American and international parties and that of some Israeli groups, for the need to maintain calm and the reconstruction of Gaza? Or will it be the call for war which will ignore the current situation in Gaza and the demand for the need to improve the situation? In any event, the talks in Cairo between Israeli and Egyptian representatives will resolve the situation, at least in the months to come.
35 Years since US Tried to Round Up Arab/Muslim Americans in Concentration Camps
Michel Shehadeh Speaks to Majalla on Traumatizing Experience By Mohammad Ali Salih - Washington Thirty-five years have passed since the discovery of an extraordinary plan by the US government to round up and detain Arab and Muslim Americans in concentration camps as it did to Japanese Americans 35 years earlier. In 1942, during World War II, about 120,000 Japanese Americans were interned in concentration camps by President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration after Japan’s attack on the American naval base in Pearl Harbor. (Two years later, Roosevelt reversed his order after the Supreme Court, reluctantly, ruled the order was unconstitutional). In 1987, during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, a similar plan to detain and intern Arab and Muslim Americans was leaked to the media. It proposed that in case of war with an Arab country, the Arab-American community might pose a great danger to national security as a fifth column. This came on the heel of the 1986 Reagan bombardment of Libya in retaliation for killing American soldiers in Berlin, in addition to Arab opposition to American pro-Israeli policies. The 1987 plan, entitled “Alien Terrorists and Undesirables: A Contingency Plan,” targeted people from seven
Arab countries: Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, Morocco, as well as non-Arab Iran. Emergency legal measures would be deployed, such as rescinding the right to bond, invoking the privilege of classified evidence, and excluding the public from deportation hearings. The site of the concentration camp was planned for Oakdale, Louisiana, ready with tents and fencing materials, cot measurements, plumbing requirements, blankets, and gas hookups. The plan also called for a legal test case to be put as a legal precedent. In reality, the plan was followed to the letter during the trial of the “Los Angeles Eight”. These were eight Arabs in California who were forcefully arrested as a group in 1987 and charged with being “Communists” because they were defending Palestinian rights and opposed to the US-supported Israeli occupation of Palestinian and other Arab lands. This is an interview with one of them, Michel Shehadeh. Shehadeh is a Palestinian born in 1956 in Jordan, and lived and graduated from high schools in Palestine. He emigrated to the US in 1975 for his higher education, obtaining a BA in Journalism and a MA in Public Administration from California State University, Long
These were eight Arabs in California who were forcefully arrested as a group in 1987 and charged with being “Communists” because they were defending Palestinian rights and opposed to the US-supported Israeli occupation of Palestinian and other Arab lands. Communist hysteria then. Remember, Ronald Reagan, who was president at that time, had won with the slogan of facing-up to the Soviet Union and to Communism. In reality, we were targeted because of our pro-Palestinian activism. We were engaging the American people and were effectively organizing around Palestinian rights. We were changing opinions and changing minds, and they wanted to get rid of us. Michel Shehadeh
Beach, California. During his university studies he was active in advocating for Palestinian and Arab causes, and was a senior official with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), and the Arab Film Festival. He is now the general coordinator for the Free Democratic Palestine Movement. -----------------------Q: You were one of “The Los Angeles Eight”, who were the others, and what did you all do? A: There were Khader Hamide, Julie Mungai, the Kenyan wife of Khader, Bashar Amer, Aiad Barakat, Amjad Obeid, Ayman Obeid, Naim Sharif, and myself. Hamide and I were the only members of the group with permanent resident status. The rest had temporary student visas. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Justice (DOJ), separated us according to our legal situations. They dropped the political charges on the six who did not have green cards, so as to accuse them with visa violations, and deport them on technicalities, they thought. Q: You were accused of being Communists? A: That was an easy charge at that time with the anti-
Q: You were distributing “Al-Hadaf” (The Target) magazine, which they said was a Communist publication? A: Actually, “Al-Hadaf” was, at that time, available at Arab stores, college campuses, libraries, and even at the Library of Congress. “Al-Hadaf” was the organ of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which was led by George Habash at the time. There were all sorts of magazines speaking on behalf of Palestinian organizations, such as “Al-Huriyeh”, “Falasteen Althowra” and others. “Al Hadaf” was chosen because it was a progressive magazine and fit the charges they were planning against us. Q: When the Eight were arrested in 1987 in California, there were big media and government reactions. There were newspaper headlines like “War on Terrorism Hits Los Angeles” and, in Washington, the Department of Justice held a press conference about the arrest, to give the impression that you were dangerous terrorists. What was your personal experience of the arrest? A: At that time, I was living in Long Beach, California,
in an apartment with my three-year-old son and wife. It was early in the morning when I woke up suddenly by the loud pounding at the door. There were about 10 or 15 police agents who barged into house, guns drawn, shouting “Where are the weapons? Where are the weapons?” They handcuffed me, and dragged me outside the apartment. Outside, there was more horror, police cars were surrounding the place, policemen with their weapons aimed at me, and a helicopter was hovering over us. They took me to a prison where, with more horror, I found that seven other Arabs, whom I knew, were arrested and were brought to the jail. We ended up in a maximum security state prison in San Pedro, California. Q: But eventually you were freed?
“Al-Hadaf” was the organ of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which was led by George Habash at the time. There were all sorts of magazines speaking on behalf of Palestinian organizations, such as “Al-Huriyeh”, “Falasteen Althowra” and others.
A: Yes, we were vindicated after 20 years of legal battles. We spent the best productive years of our lives battling the government. They tried various laws against us that were designed to deny immigrants their basic civil liberties as a result of their opinions. But every charge they brought against us was defeated in court because they couldn’t offer a shred of evidence that we did anything wrong. The charges were political, and none of us was charged with any wrongdoing. Then-FBI Director, William Webster, said that if we had been citizens, there would have been no basis for arresting us in the first place. Q: What was the personal toll of waiting for justice for 20 years? A: The toll on our lives was horrendous – our lives were put in limbo. We couldn’t plan anything for the long term, because we could have been deported at any moment. We could see the opportunities that we lost, because we couldn’t get employment, because our names and photos were in newspapers and on TV. Our marriages were put under stress and our kids were living under the pressure of their dads being accused of being terrorists. Q: And that was when you discovered the “Alien Terrorists and Undesirables: A Contingency Plan”? A: It was leaked to the media when our court proceedings started. It was horrible. The Arab-American community was in real fear because of the media reports about their being sent to concentration camps. But we persevered and decided to fight for our rights and the rights of our community and all the immigrant
Five of the Eight recently
Seven of the Eight in 1980’s
communities. They used many laws against us, and tried many scenarios. They used the 1952 McCarranWalter Act, the 1990 Immigration Act, the 1996 Antiterrorism Act, and the 2001 Patriot Act, which was issued after the 9/11 attacks, but all their charges against us failed because we were innocent. Q: It was interesting, and encouraging, that your case received support from Japanese-Americans? A: Yes, the Japanese American Citizens League came to our defense. The organization’s members didn’t forget the memory of the internment camps during the 1940’s. So, they organized press conferences and distributed literature in our defense. In addition, there was a broad coalition with various political immigrant organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the National Lawyers Guild. Q: Looking back at those years, and particularly in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, how do you see that your initial campaign for the Palestinian and Arab causes has developed? A: First, we have become American citizens and have felt that we, as Americans, have more civic responsibility and more moral duty to keep the fight going to protect immigrant and civil rights, but mostly the rights of the Arab and Palestinian communities. Our strong believe in the issues of freedom and fairness, the cornerstones of the American system, led us to apply these principles to American foreign policy, especially towards the Palestinian cause and the Arab and Muslim countries.
In reality, we were targeted because of our pro-Palestinian activism. We were engaging the American people and were effectively organizing around Palestinian rights. Q: And then came Donald Trump? A: Yes, and with him came the fearful memory of the “Alien Terrorists and Undesirables: A Contingency Plan” of the 1980’s. Trump’s Muslim Ban came after his call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what’s going on”. That is why I repeatedly say that our struggle is about Palestine and also, about the US government’s foreign policy -- pressured by the Zionist lobby -- not only against Arabs and the Muslims inside the US, but also overseas, as has clearly been proven by the recent US invasions, occupations, economic embargos, and bombardments of Arab and Muslim countries. We are no longer the “Los Angeles Eight” of the 1980’s, we have become coalitions of organizations and communities, generation after generation -- that’s the wave of the future.
Bitcoin Poisoning: The Ideology of Sovereign Individual
Robert Breedlove Raises Controversy with Bitclout Platform By Hala Nasrallah Last month, Robert Breedlove - nicknamed «The Philosopher «- stood alone against the Bitcoin community. The battle was very fierce against him, while he was subjected to insults and sharp criticism from his comrades in cryptocurrencies, just because he announced the opening of an account on the “Bitclout” platform as it allows the user to create a currency in his name to speculate on it. Meanwhile, an old friend asked him to grab a samurai sword and stab himself to atone for his betrayal. Another person replied with a Tweet of a woman holding a knife
behind her back and calling out «Robert, I›m waiting for you.» The atmosphere that Robert faced alone was like a person who chirped out of flock and had to be stoned. The young man in his thirties was single-handedly fighting all opponents. Opponents of Bitcoin also mocked Robert, telling him that he was a victim of Bitcoin domestication for which he was one of its promoters. Many phrases surfaced after Robert›s move, such as poisoning, domestication and closed ideology. But first, what you need to know about Robert Breedlove is that he is a person with libertarian capitalist tendencies. He is known to belong to Bitcoin
maximalists or ‹maxis›, who supports free markets, and is trying hard to crystallize his belief in Bitcoin within practical frameworks, such as getting rid of “FIAT” and using Bitcoin as a financial intermediary in his daily life. Robert also owns a YouTube channel in which he argues issues related to currency in a philosophical framework such as value, time, history, the sovereign human being, dictatorship, democracy, capitalism and communism, and he always makes episodes that address one question: What is Money? Robert Breedlove is a milestone in the history of Bitcoin. He was whipped by big Bitcoin fans, but after two weeks of the raging campaign against him, the latter wrote an article in which he responded to those who attacked him and described them as mobs. His article was entitled «Freedom from Bitcoin Maximalism». In it, he discussed the stages of his development in the Bitcoin community, how he was introduced to the currency community for the first time, and how he turned into a high-class conservative bitcoiner, in addition to his criticism of Bitcoin maximalists or ‹maxis›. Bitcoin cryptocurrency coins and a PC motherboard are pictured in Kyiv on 19 July, 2021. (Photo by STR/ NurPhoto via Getty Images)
WHAT IS BITCOIN POISONING ? As a temple surrounded by priests who perform difficult vital rituals, here we find Bitcoin maximalists or ‹maxis›. They are armed with a burdensome moral/ethics system, but it is elegant and needs an intelligent mind to criticize or attack it. This moral/ethics system aims to protect Bitcoin›s fortress from misinformation or attempt to promote any alternative currency to Bitcoin. The Bitcoin poison is a strict ethical model that aims to defend Bitcoin only. Scientifically, everything that is toxic is dangerous to health, but toxic Bitcoin, which advocates of currency boast about, is something beneficial for its continuity. Something like a fierce fight against the classic financial systems and consumer lifestyles that over time have crushed the middle class around the world. Bitcoin poisoning represents a case of seeking to inject human minds with Bitcoin, so the bee symbol is often placed next to the word “Bitcoin poison”, because the bee sting is beneficial to health despite the violent sting it causes. Through a poisoning philosophy, Bitcoin maximalists or ‹maxis› aim to reveal how the financial system based on banks and central Governments steals human effort and energy, while the poisoner, by contrast, promotes the culture of Bitcoin as a savior from the rampant consumer behavior in the world and as an objection to
“He also talked in depth about the necessity of liberation from the right-wing current that dominates the currency, based on Bitcoin as a school based on the sovereignty of the individual and fierce intellectual criticism” the corruption of cash, which inflates with time under the weight of the decomposition of value against Bitcoin as a shrinking economy based on tax-free savings and interest. Twitter is the ultimate Maxis resort, they prefer it to Facebook, and they see it as a much better model than the intellectual flatness Facebook is trying to do. Therefore, we find that most of Bitcoin›s Maxis, the most influential on global public opinion, are active on the Jack Dorsey platform.
DEATH ON THE HILL In their Twitter bios, these preachers introduce themselves in a crude, stern and blunt manner with a pulse of sarcasm at anyone who holds any cryptocurrency other than Bitcoin. For example, they write in bios things like this: Bitcoin is the Natural Poison, Bitcoin is the call of nature, Meat Eaters, the supreme individual, I will die on this hill, etc. Death on the Hill is a tough mantra within Bitcoin to glorify newcomers who have not soiled their hands with cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin, or even to vilify people who use non-Bitcoin or support banks. So Robert Breedlove was branded a traitor. Self-sacrifice on a hill means one›s willingness to fight to the death in order to protect Bitcoin Castle at any cost. Unfortunately, Robert Breedlove had written in his Twitter profile the phrase «Death on the Hill» so his friends asked him sarcastically, Is this the hill you want to die on. Death here was like a bellwether raised in Breedlove›s face to indicate that he had tarnished his reputation with the “Bitclout” platform.
MEAT-BASED LIFESTYLE Bitcoin maximalists or ‹maxis› eat a lot of meat; we find them celebrating by grilling red meat. Some of Bitcoin thinkers have dedicated episodes, lectures, and articles on the importance of eating red meat for everyone who embraces the Bitcoin philosophy, as it provides a huge amount of energy. Seif El-Din Amos, the author of «Bitcoin Standard», is one of the most important supporters of the meat-eating culture. He has a huge bundle of mature ideas to justify his attitude that human food should be based on meat only. Amos is not the only one who advocates the importance of the meat trend. A dozen preachers of this food culture can easily be picked up with a very clever rhetorical mixture in which they refute the relationship of traditional money with consumer food systems such as “junkie foods.”
ROBERT BREEDLOVE’S ”THE SOVEREIGN INDIVIDUAL“ Robert Breedlove›s «The Sovereign Individual,» in which he responded to his critics of Bitcoin›s Maxis, is a double-edged sword. In his article, he was addressing his comrades in their language, but from across the river. He declared his freedom from Bitcoin›s Maxis,
“Through a poisoning philosophy, Bitcoin maximalists or ‹maxis› aim to reveal how the financial system based on banks and central Governments steals human effort and energy, while the poisoner, by contrast, promotes the culture of Bitcoin as a savior from the rampant consumer behavior”
the article was as if it were standing up to Bitcoin›s orthodoxy as a closed ideology. He described some people as the herd and named them by name. He said about them that they closed their minds to any dialogue or exchange of ideas. He also talked in depth about the necessity of liberation from the right-wing current that dominates the currency, based on Bitcoin as a school based on the sovereignty of the individual and fierce intellectual criticism in the face of every attempt to confine it within the castle. In Breedlove›s opinion, Bitcoin does not need its supporters because it protects itself with a high-quality cryptographic system, since the currency has turned into an official financial asset in Salvador, but rather work must be done to free Bitcoin from the weight of Bitcoin poisoning as a phenomenon and noise that refuses even to question and talking with people and educate them about the dangers of storing the value of money in currencies other than Bitcoin. He saw that Bitcoin poisoning is a sign of disease, not even health and collective maturity.
Factory Fire Reveals Bangladesh’s Child Labor Problem One of World’s Largest Garment Industries Employs Children Under Hazardous Conditions By Samaya Anjum On the afternoon of Thursday, July 8, a fire broke out on the ground floor of the Hashem Food & Beverages factory at Rupganj, an industrial district lying at the outskirts of Bangladesh’s capital
Dhaka. Experts have pointed to the illegal storage of chemicals and plastics on the ground floor of the building as the reason behind the fire’s rapid spread. In the aftermath of the inferno, which engulfed the six-story building, more than 50 people are known to have been killed, and many
Bangladeshi Child laborer carrying a giant bundle of pants in Dhaka, as Bangladesh’s authorities ordered a new strict lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus in Dhaka on July 05, 2021. (Photo by Mehedi Hasan/ NurPhoto via Getty Images)
others left injured or unaccounted for. The extent of the victims’ burns, in many cases, had been so grave that rescue teams were able to recover only the bones and teeth of those who were trapped inside. Soon after the fire, the lobby outside the Dhaka Medical College morgue began to gradually crowd with rows of stained body bags lined up on the floor. In between the larger bags lay the uncomfortably smaller ones. The weight of the hours that flew by added to the grimness of the space. Families and friends of the victims gathered at the site of the accident, or lined up outside nearby hospitals to give their samples for DNA testing, in order to identify and collect information, or take home the bodies of their loved ones. In the midst of this sea of people, a middle-aged woman named Sheema Akter roamed about haphazardly, hoping to find traces of her daughter, 12-year-old Shanto Moni, who had gone to work at the factory that morning. “I did not want her to work here but as schools were closed, she wanted to utilize the time by working,” Akter told TBS News. Shanto Moni, who worked at the Shezan juice processing unit, was just one among dozens of children who had signed up for work at the factory to earn a little extra money, in order to contribute to their families who have struggled to stay afloat since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of them were below the age of 18. According to another report published by the national daily Prothom Alo, the names and age of some of these children were: Shanto (12), Takiya (14), Munna (14), Nazmul (15), Mahmud (15), Kompa (16), Himu (16), Ripon (17), and Taslima (17), in addition to many more. Speaking of her 11-year-old nephew who had gone to work the same day as the fire and is now missing, Laizu Begum recalled, “We heard that the door of the floor where my nephew worked was padlocked. Then we realized, after seeing how big the fire was, that he is probably dead.” It took firefighters and rescue teams more than 24 hours to put out the blaze. Not long after, Abul Hashem, the owner of Hashem Foods, and his four sons were among the eight people arrested in connection with the Shezan factory fire, including managers and su-
Missing Shanto Moni, 12, was just one among dozens of children who had signed up for work at the factory to earn a little extra money, in order to contribute to their families. pervisors who were in charge of looking after the factory premises. Alarmed by the presence of children on the list of missing persons, an inquiry into child labor at the factory had been launched, as confirmed by Bangladesh’s Labor Minister Monnujan Sufian. “If child labor is proved, we will take action against the owner and the inspectors,” she said. In the meantime, social media users on Facebook and elsewhere began to condemn the practice of child labor at factories across the nation. Child labor in Bangladesh is widespread and commonplace. One of the largest investigations on the subject, conducted by the Overseas Development Institute in 2016, collected surveys of approximately 2,700 slum households, which revealed that child workers dwelling in slums participate in nearly 64 hours of strenuous work per week. “Our survey raises serious concerns over the issue of child labor in the supply of garments from factories in Bangladesh to consumers in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere,” reported the London-based think tank. Bangladesh’s garment industry, one of the largest in the world, has connections with some of the world’s most popular brands, such as H&M, Primark, and Zara. It is also infamous for employing young and underage workers, some on full-time hours, to manufacture their goods. The collapse of Rana Plaza in 2016 marked one of the worst tragedies in the country’s developmental history, claiming the lives of more than 1,100 workers and injuring hundreds of others. That disaster was the first time that evidence of the involvement of child laborers in the global apparel industry in Bangladesh was revealed on such a large scale.
According to recent accounts, nearly 13.5 percent of the total number of persons between the ages of 5 and 17 were employed in the workforce in Bangladesh as of 2019. That percentage, however, is believed to have gone up significantly in the past two years, with the rapid transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic and the severe economic consequences left in its wake. Bangladesh’s legal framework sets out several minimum ages of employment for different sec-
Bangladesh’s garment industry, one of the largest in the world, has connections with some of the world’s most popular brands, such as H&M and Zara. It is also infamous for employing young and underage workers.
tors of work. For example, Section 76 of the Factories Rules establishes that children above the age of 14 are allowed to be legally employed at factories. However, the section does not specify a minimum age difference for either light or hazardous forms of work, thereby not taking into consideration the physical and emotional dangers involved. The International Labor Organization (ILO) defines child labor as work that “is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and/or interferes with their schooling” (emphases in the original). Full-time factory work would fit both definitions – but is technically legal in Bangladesh for children aged 14 and above. International bodies such as the ILO and UNICEF have long encouraged the responsible authorities to take measures to ensure a gradual decline in the number of children in the workforce, and grassroots non-governmental organizations such as Sohay have been involved in the initiation of educational programs for former child laborers. Regardless, stressing the eradication of child labor in countries like Bangladesh without preparing a back-up plan may turn out to be relatively
A woman displays a picture of her missing daughter on a phone after a fire broke out at a factory of Hashem Foods Limited in Rupganj, Narayanganj district on the outskirts of Dhaka. (Photo by Zabed Hasnain Chowdhury/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Firefighters extinguish a fire at the ground floor of a burnt Hashem Foods Limited factory in Rupganj, Narayanganj district on the outskirts of Dhaka. (Photo by Zabed Hasnain Chowdhury/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
ineffective. More and more families are reliant on the monetary contributions brought in by their working children, especially during times of political or economic crises and natural disasters. The same afternoon that the chemical-induced fire swallowed one floor after another of the Rupganj factory, three young girls – Shamima, Lisa, and Faria, aged 15, 16, and 18, respectively – were spotted standing together outside the gates of the now-torched building. When asked about their presence, they anxiously answered that they were waiting there so they would receive their share of their monthly wages. “We need the money. My father and mother both work. My sister works too, but rent is high and living in this area is expensive,” Shamima told TBS News. “We joined work to support our families. Most of our co-workers were children,” added Lisa. The workers at the Rupganj factory were paid 5,300 Bangladeshi taka a month, reports say, which is equivalent to $62.51. Complaints regarding not being paid wages on time – or at all – also surfaced upon further questioning. Faria informed a reporter, “Our bonus from last Eid has not yet been paid. We are still owed some
According to recent accounts, nearly 13.5 percent of the total number of persons between the ages of 5 and 17 were employed in the workforce in Bangladesh as of 2019. over time.” After receiving information about the employment of underage children at the factory and their probable exploitation, TBS News contacted K.M. Abdus Salam, the secretary of the Ministry of Labor and Employment, according to a recent report. In response, Salam replied that officials from the ministry had inspected factory many times in the past, but that he was not aware of any child labor violations. This article was originally published by The Diplomat.
A Weekly Political News Magazine
Issue 1862- July- 23/07/2021
Jeff Bezos: A Billionaire’s Journey to Space www.majalla.com
Classical Music Trying to Gain Foothold in Saudi Cultural Scene Majalla Speaks to Two Saudi Musicians on Changing Values By Motasem Al Felou - Jeddah
express themselves. Music is at the heart of the local Saudi culture and every culture in The Kingdom is witnessing a major shakeup the world. With growing interest in boosting in the cultural scene, where talents are em- the music industry in Saudi Arabia, the clasbraced and nurtured to grow, flourish and sical music genre is no exception. However,
the interest comes with barriers related to music taste and trends. Al-Halimoon (meaning dreamers in Arabic), a culture-based entrepreneurship incubator, recently hosted in its premises, a couple of Saudi musicians, Noori Al-Khalaf, a pianist, and Ghassan Raffa, a violinist, in a 19th-century classical music soiree in Jeddah, West of Saudi Arabia. Let us explore how people perceive classical music, the difficulties and horizons for this “elitist” art as described by the classical music concert attendees.
OBSTACLES TO LIKING CLASSICAL MUSIC Noori Al Khalaf’s passion for music started when he got a piano as a birthday present. He had an interest in IT, which he employed to improve his music career path. He later became a music trainer at the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Art in Riyadh.
Saudi singer Dalia and US dj Steve Aoki perform on stage during the Jeddah World music Festival on July 18, 2019, at the King Abdullah Sports City in the coastal city of Jeddah. - US Pop icon Janet Jackson and US rapper 50 Cent are among musicians set to perform in Saudi Arabia, organisers said, after US rapper Nicki Minaj pulled out in a show of support for women’s rights. (Getty Images)
During an open discussion preceding the music show, Majalla English asked Al Khalaf the reasons behind the difficulties facing the spread of the classical music and he replied,
“Unfortunately, there is a global deterioration of musical taste; it is evaporating. People focus more on the melody of songs, not music alone. Pop music is leading the scene”… Noori Al Khalaf Said. ee living and working in Jeddah, said, “It is a Western art in the first place. Classical music was born in Europe and flourished during the Renaissance period. Unlike the 5-minute-long songs of today, you need at least a couple of hours or a little more to attend or listen to a full symphony”. Rawan came to event to explore pure classical music. She told me she wanted to try a new genre of music just to get exposed and learn more about this elitist music. She believes it could be hard for her to be a fan.
“Unfortunately, there is a global deterioration of musical taste; it is evaporating. People focus more on the melody of songs, not music alone. Pop music is leading the scene”.
Despite all the obstacles, Al Khalaf believes that classical music lovers will always have the passion to go ahead and introduce this art to others.
Another attendee, a middle-aged woman, intervened to participate in the discussion by saying, “Western classical music is regarded as an extremely difficult music genre. New generations believe that classical musicians make their pieces difficult to understand, and that it is dedicated to the few. It is elitist; the art of the elite”.
When asked about the experience of Oman, Syria and Egypt that have national symphony orchestras, he said:” The Saudi Ministry of Culture is working on establishing something similar. My colleague, Ghassan Raffa, the violinist, will be a part of this new entity, which is supposed to play classical music for the public”.
Majalla English asked some of the classical music concert attendees to define the problems related to classical music. Mohammed, a Saudi private sector employ-
The answer highlights the fact that for classical music to flourish and gain more ground, it should be backed by governmentsponsored and other private or non-profit
Pianist Noori Al Khalaf (right) and Violinist Ghassan Raffa (left) (Supplied)
sector initiatives to advance.
tive feedback on classical music is listed below:
There were a group of ladies recording the concert. The break was a perfect opportu- 1- It is deep with endless interpretations. It nity to speak to them. Some of the posi- can be immersing and indulging. 2- It is transcendental and clears the mind. 3- The experience is good.
“With more music schools being licensed by the Ministry of Culture these days, and with the advancement of the plan to introduce music to the Saudi curriculum, the Kingdom is paving the way for music talents to create an independent music industry in the long run”
MORE TO EXPLORE With more music schools being licensed by the Ministry of Culture these days, and with the advancement of the plan to introduce music to the Saudi curriculum, the Kingdom is paving the way for music talents to create an independent music industry in the long run. If a national symphony orchestra is launched any time soon, it will give a boost to classical music and enrich the Saudi music scene, and make Saudi Arabia a regional, and maybe an international, hub for the music industry.
This picture taken on January 4, 2019 shows a view of a musical performance by French solo violinist Renaud Capucon during the first «Winter at Tantora» music carnival, at the purpose-built Maraya (Arabic for «Mirror») concert hall in the ruins of Al-Ula, a UNESCO World Heritage site in northwestern Saudi Arabia. (Getty Images)
Fans with raised arms at music Festival (Getty Images(
Egyptology in Arabic The Latest Series of the Place and the People Initiative By Amira Noshokaty The story of a relic, the workers who helped unearth historical gems, the charms on doors in Upper Egypt and the intangible heritage they unfold, and many more interesting topics are discussed in the initiative titled The Place and the People founded by Dr. Fatma Keshk Egyptian Heritage outreach expert. “The idea behind my initiative is to explain lots of material from heritage and history in a sim-
ple way and also in Arabic, colloquial Arabic to reach a vaster audience from all age groups and cultural backgrounds,” explained Dr. Fatma Keshk. “During the course of the 17 years, that I have studied Egyptology, there were very limited if any resources on the topic in Arabic. As for children, there would be either over simplified books for children that lacks real information or none at all. “There were other books that are translations of
foreign books about Egyptology, for children. So I figured we might as well start to cover these big gaps,” noted Keshk. Hence came the idea of the workshops that Keshk implemented on several excavation sites that she has worked upon. Targeting local children, Keshk’s initiative connected the young generations with their heritage especially in the coastal city of Rashid as well as the village of Shutb, in Assuit. However, due to the restrictions of Covid 19, Keshk decided to resume her workshops online, a thing that enlarged her target audience. On may 2019, The Place and the People initiative was launched online, where Keshk would depict a monthly topic to discuss among the general audience. “I started out in may 2019 with a seminar on traces of the arts of Ancient Egyptians, followed by the Essence of the religion of ancient Egyptians, and the Humans remains of the pre dynastic era,” she remembered. But what makes Keshk’s initiative very interesting is the fact that she weaves the intangible heritage with the tangible one and hence puts the subject of discussion into a fresh new light. Photo shows a workshop that was held as part of an initiative titled The Place and the People founded by Dr. Fatma Keshk Egyptian Heritage outreach expert.
“For example we discussed the concept of Ma3et and what it represented. Ma3et is the ancient Egyptian concept of balance of the universe, and the morals of the human being. They believed in balance, and the philosophy it represented, they depicted the deity ma3et to represent such topic.” To Keshk the intangible heritage has a very great value. “While studying antiquities, at college, we were very much focused on the tangible aspects of the buildings, the tools that were used, but we would never learn about the relationship of the Egyptians and these buildings they built. How they have created a meaning a special meaning and how that meaning is rooted to the local culture form which this person belonged,” she explained. “After the development of research and specially during the past ten years, they have come to realize that we cannot teach the tangible without the intangible because by studying both we will study the relationship between the tangible and
The idea behind my initiative is to explain lots of material from heritage and history in a simple way and also in Arabic, colloquial Arabic to reach a vaster audience from all age groups and cultural backgrounds. intangible hence rediscover the relic altogether,” said Keshk. Throughout her work in various excavation sites from 2006 till now, be it in Rashid, Shutb, Tanis , Sinai, or Aswan, she has come to realize that they are usually very focused on the ancient villages on site but no so much interested to discuss it with the people living there, who are probably the grandchildren of the people who lived on the ancient site. Drawing on the relationship between the place and its people was what the initiative started out through conducting interactive workshops with the locals on excavation sites. And in 2019, Keshk published her first story on the village of Shutb, a very rich heritage village in Assuit, upper Egypt. The book that was published by the British Council was a unique book that addressed children of shutb and explored in a nice informative way, the intangible and tangible heritage of such rich village through Nadia, the young villager from Shutb who started to notice the excavations in her home village and explored all of the tangible and intangible heritage of her village throughout the story. The book was launched and distributed among the children of Shutb in Assuit. On asking her about her greatest learning in this journey, Keshk simply answered: “If I have learnt anything, it’s to listen, not to impose knowledge, for inspiration must come from the people themselves,” she concluded.
Jeff Bezos: A Billionaire’s Journey to Space
Majalla Illustration by Ali Mandalawi
Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, has succeeded in realizing his dream of going into space, aboard his company’s first manned flight, Blue Origin, giving an extra boost to the fledgling space tourism industry. The “New Shepard” missile, carrying a capsule with the four passengers, was launched minutes later than the original launch date, from an isolated location in the West Texas desert, 40 kilometers from the city of Van Horn. Along with Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark, 82-yearold aviation pioneer Wally Funk, and Blue Origin’s first customer, 18-year-old Dutchman Oliver Damon, made the latter two of the oldest and youngest astronauts ever. The rocket ship “New Shepard” was launched into space at a speed exceeding three times the speed of sound, using an engine running on liquid hydrogen and oxygen, that is, without carbon emissions. Then the capsule separated from the missile. The new astronauts spent a few minutes at an altitude of 107 km, beyond the Karman Line (100 km altitude), which is internationally recognized as the boundary between the Earth and space spheres. The space capsule was designed with large windows which occupy a third of the cabin space allowing the astronauts to see stunning views of Earth. The astronauts were able to contemplate the planet from space through these large windows. After the capsule reached its maximum altitude of about 106 kilometers (350,000 feet), it began descending on its return journey. The capsule descended in free fall before deploying three huge parachutes to land smoothly in the desert after a flight
of about ten minutes. Jeffrey Preston Bezos is an American business magnate, media proprietor, investor, and commercial astronaut. Bezos is the founder and executive chairman of Amazon, having previously served as chairman, president and CEO of the company. With a net worth of more than $200 billion as of June 2021, he is the richest person in the world according to both Forbes and Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index. Jeff Bezos was born on January 12, 1964 to his mother, Jacklyn Gise and his father, Ted Jorgensen, and his family had an extensive property in Texas that they inherited from his maternal grandparents. His mother later married a Cuban immigrant named Miguel Bezos who was studying at the University of Albuquerque and who adopted Jeff. The family moved to Houston, Texas where the father worked as an engineer for Exxon while Jeff studied at River Oaks Elementary School from fourth to sixth grades. When he was in high school, he started his first work experience through the Dream Institute, an educational summer camp for young students in grades four to six, during which time he graduated from high school with top grades. Bezos graduated from Princeton University in 1986. He holds a degree in electrical engineering and computer science. He worked on Wall Street in a variety of related fields from 1986 to early 1994. Jeff Bezos married MacKenzie Tuttle in 1993, whom he met while working at D.E. Shaw. In January 2019, he the couple divorced after 25 years of marriage. Bezos lives with his four children in Seattle and is involved in many charitable causes. Bezos founded Amazon in late 1994, on a crosscountry road trip from New York City to Seattle. The company began as an online bookstore and has since expanded to a wide variety of other e-com-
merce products and services, including video and audio streaming, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence. It is currently the world’s largest online sales company, the largest Internet Company by revenue, and the world’s largest provider of virtual assistants and cloud infrastructure services through its Amazon Web Services branch. In 1999, Jeff Bezos was chosen as “Person of the Year” by Time magazine, a title that defines the year and recognizes a person who has shaped the world. In 2010, Amazon signed an agreement with Wylie to give it digital rights to the works of many authors, which greatly increased the site’s profits, sales, and thus the authors’ profits, despite the objection of some traditional publishing houses. On August 5, 2013, Jeff Bezos bought the prestigious Washington Post and all of its organizations for Amazon for $250 million, ending the Graham family’s control of the organization after more than four decades. In December 2013, Jeff revealed an Amazon Prime Air pilot initiative that would use small drones to carry goods to customers no more than ten miles from the company’s branches. According to 2016 statistics in The Richest, Jeff Bezos’ fortune is about $63.6 billion, and Amazon is one of the most popular e-commerce sites in the world and number one when it comes to buying books online. In November 2017, Jeff Bezos’ fortune reached $100 billion, surpassing his friend Bill Gates and he was ranked by Harvard Business Review as the second best CEO in the world. It is expected that he will be one of the first to hold the title of “Trillionaire” in the world in 2040. One of His Famous Quotes is: “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”
Meet the Youngest at the Tokyo Olympics At Games, Table Tennis Genius Hend Zaza Set to Represent Syria By Sarah Gamal Yes, what you›re going to read in the next lines is true, not a joke. Syria›s star in table tennis, Hend Zaza, qualified for the Olympics in Tokyo at the age of only 11 years. Hend Abdul Rauf Zaza has qualified to play in the 2020 Summer Olympics in 2021 in Tokyo, through the West Asia Olympic qualifying tournament held in Jordan in 2020, and became the first Syrian to qualify for the finals of an Olympic tournament in table tennis. She is also the youngest player in the history of Arab participation in the Olympics, where she will compete at the age of twelve of her age, and the fifth-youngest person ever to compete in the modern Olympics.
tennis to get a direct qualification for the Olympics. Moreover, she will be the youngest competitor at the 2020 games, and the youngest Olympic competitor since Beatrice Huștiu, a Romanian figure-skater who competed in 1968. Zaza was born in 2009 in Hama, Syria, and started to play table tennis in 2014. In 2016 she attended an International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) «Hopes Week and Challenge» event in Qatar with her older brother, and her potential was noticed. She plays for the Al-Muhafaza Table Tennis Club in Damascus and has won national titles at all levels.
Syrias table tennis player Hind Zaza poses for a picture during the local clubs championship in the Syrian capital Damascus on March 2020 ,13. - Zaza, 11, qualified to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after gaining the gold medal in the Asian championships in her category and was expected to be the youngest participant. Getty Images)
Zaza managed to win the gold medal after defeating the -42year-old Lebanese veteran, Mariana Sahakian, in the final with four sets to three to become the youngest Arab player to qualify for the Olympics, and the first player in the history of Syrian table
«If I don’t get to go to the Olympics this year because of the coronavirus, I will go in 2024.» 48
Syrias table tennis player Hind Zaza (L) plays during the local clubs championship in the Syrian capital Damascus on March 2020 ,13. - Zaza, 11, qualified to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after gaining the gold medal in the Asian championships in her category and was expected to be the youngest participant. Getty Images)
The Syrian girl will break the records held by Jordanian swimmer Mira Ghoneim, who participated in the Atlanta Games in 1996 at the age of 13, as well as the Egyptian swimmer Rania Alwani, who competed in Barcelona in 1992 when she was 14 years old. Thus, Zaza got the third qualification card for Syria to the Olympics after the qualification of Syrian national athletics team member, Majd Al-Din Ghazal, by coming in sixth place according to the world rankings late last year, in which he garnered 1,312 points in the world classification issued by the International Association of Athletics Federations. Despite the instability of the political situation in Syria, Hend has broken all the rules and participated in her first contest at the age of seven to be called a «Table Tennis Genius» by Arabs, after becoming Syria›s champion of the game in four age categories. «If I don›t get to go to the Olympics this year because of the coronavirus, I will go in 2024,» Zaza had said immediately after qualifying for the Games to the ITTF website. HER ROLE MODEL Hend takes the former Olympic athlete and swimmer
“The Syrian girl will break the records held by Jordanian swimmer Mira Ghoneim, who participated in the Atlanta Games in 1996 at the age of 13” Firas Mualla as her role model. Firas Mualla is the only person to swim between the continents of Europe and Asia, and was able to cross the sea between Cyprus and Syria after covering a distance of 110 km and swimming for 46 hours continuously in 2007. Hend is indebted to her older brother, Obaida, who was the constant motivator for her to play table tennis, so she fell in love with the game which became her first passion thanks to him. It was not new for Syria - the Land of Champions - which is blessed with many names of sports champions who excelled throughout their participation in the Olympic Games, led by the star of athletics Ghada Shuaa, who won the Gold Medal in the Atlanta Games in 1996.
Bunch of crumpled plastic bottles placed near metal reusable container on yellow background. (Getty Images)
Will Consumer Packaged Goods Industry Own Responsibility for Plastic Pollution? Planet S.O.S. Against Plastic Stranglehold By Stuart Landesberg We didn’t always know that plastic is bad. There was a time when we could see only the revolutionary nature of the material. We didn’t see it as the “forever garbage”; we are depositing on literally every corner of the Earth. Back then we didn’t understand the dangers of microplastics (fragments less than 5 millimeters in length), now impacting our drinking water and our marine life. We
could not imagine that there would be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. We did not even grasp that the petroleum-laden supply chain would impact our climate. And we believed the lie that recycling could solve the plastic problem.
WE KNOW BETTER NOW. BUT HOW DID WE GET HERE? Plastic comes from oil. Since chemical com-
Pile of plastic bottle seen collected by garbage dump site area in Dhaka.(Getty Images)
panies began to turn petrochemicals into plastic in the 1950s (and through the 1960s and 1970s, when the petrochemical industry figured out plastic would create environmental disaster) plastic has made its way into every part of modern life. In just 70 short years, plastic has become as commonplace in daily life as, well, food, water, and medicine.
The products that keep your laundry clean, your hair shiny, and your cupboard stocked do not have to come in plastic to do their jobs.
One of the many miraculous things about plastic - durable, colorful, infinitely malleable - is that it’s cheap. In the U.S., a plastic water bottle costs just 2 cents to make. A brand-new, made-in-America bottle that will last thousands of years for less than the price of a single McDonald’s french fry. So what’s the problem?
do something with the nearly 20 trillion (yes, trillion!) pounds of plastic we have already created, plus the trillion or so pounds we add every year. If it worked, we could continue enjoying our single-use plastic yogurts, takeout containers, and, yes, dish soaps (that’s my business).
While the cost of plastic production is low, the cost of disposal is enormous. Recycling is a seductive solution, but it is a siren song. Plastic recycling, if it worked, would solve one of society’s biggest problems: the need to
But plastic recycling doesn’t work. Only 9% of plastic waste is recycled, no matter how much we put in our bins. About 12% gets incinerated, more than 70% ends up in landfills, and up to 12 million tons go into our oceans each year. We don’t have the infra-
structure to recycle our way out of the plastic crisis. And even with more recycling infrastructure, plastic can be recycled only two to three times before it degrades to landfill status. Still, most consumers believe in the fairy tale of plastic recycling. That is no accident. Consumers understand that it is beyond
Only %9 of plastic waste is recycled, no matter how much we put in our bins. About %12 gets incinerated, more than %70 ends up in landfills, and up to 12 million tons go into our oceans each year.
wasteful to make single-use bottles, bags, and hangtags from a material that lasts, effectively, forever. So to keep the plastic-use party going, the plastics industry lobbied governments to get the recycling triangle on the bottom of nearly every plastic item (feasibly recyclable or not). And it worked. We dutifully flip our purchases over, see that reassuring triangle, and move on with our lives, guilt assuaged. Despite all of this, the story of plastic doesn’t have to end badly! The consumer packaged goods (or CPG for short) industry, the industry I work in, has been complicit in creating a society addicted to single-use forever garbage. But we don’t have to stay that way. Plastic packaging is the leading contributor to plastic waste (about 42%) and CPG is a major player with the power to change the future. The products that keep your laundry clean,
Plastic pollution in ocean problem. (Getty Images)
Woman and man workers with protective face masks on landfill, waste management and environmental concept. (Getty Images)
your hair shiny, and your cupboard stocked do not have to come in plastic to do their jobs. The products we design and market are effective because of what’s in the bottle, not because of the plastic bottle itself. We, the CPG industry, can take action on plastic and still deliver the grease-lifting clean that you understandably demand from your dish soap. New brands, new business models, and an authentic commitment to creating a better future can change the path forward. The corporations that sell us billions of plastic bottles each year are driven by a simple desire to make more profit. Right now, it’s profitable to sell plastic, so the incentive is for the status quo to continue until, tragically, the commons is completely filled with trash. CPG companies, including Grove Collaborative, the company I founded, need to move boldly to prevent the ever-worsening environmental disaster by moving away from plastic, and doing it fast.
We can change the material that we use to package your favorite laundry detergent, dish soap, and, yes, even your favorite bottled water. We can choose materials like aluminum, which, unlike plastic, is infinitely recyclable, and find zero-waste formats that don’t require plastic packaging. As a consumer, you can help by seeking out brands with these values and with zero-waste and zero-plastic formats. And you can demand accountability on plastic from all companies. It might not seem like it, but I am an optimist. I believe that consumers understand the dangers of single-use plastic and are demanding action. The CPG industry can move away from plastic waste through innovation and bold action. We can lead. Will we? I sure hope so. This article is originally published by Fast Company.
5 Important Blood Tests Beyond the Basics They May Be Worth Pursuing in Certain Situations
By: Heidi Godman Bring this article to your next doctor appointment to ask if these tests are right for you. Your next general check-up will probably include
basic blood tests for levels of red blood cells, various types of white blood cells, fats (like cholesterol), and chemicals that indicate how your liver and kidneys are functioning. Some tests beyond the basics can also reveal important
aspects of health, but your doctor might not offer them routinely. The following five tests may be worth pursuing in certain situations.
1. VITAMIN B12 B12 (cobalamin) is an essential vitamin we need for keeping our brain and nerves healthy, for producing DNA and red blood cells, and for lowering levels of homocysteine (an amino acid linked to chronic diseases such as dementia and heart disease). Our B12 comes from food, including beef, eggs, poultry, and dairy foods (milk, yogurt). To absorb the vitamin, we need stomach acid to shake it loose from food. Then a protein called intrinsic factor (made in the stomach lining) binds to B12 so it can be absorbed by the small intestine and passed into the blood. Some people have low B12 levels. There are several common reasons for this: They are vegetarians and don’t eat B-12rich foods. They produce less stomach acid than they used to. They use medications that reduce stomach acid, such as antacids for heartburn. They have a rare autoimmune disease (pernicious anemia) that leads to severe B12 deficiency. (TNS)
Should you get the test? “I think everybody should get at least one B12 test after age 65, and then get tested every few years. Low B12 levels can lead to anemia, memory problems, and walking difficulty,” says Dr. Suzanne Salamon, associate chief of gerontology at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Normal B12 test results range from 160 to 950 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL). A low-normal test result in the range of 200 to 300 pg/mL may warrant a vitamin B12 supplement.
2. VITAMIN D We get a little vitamin D in our diet (from foods like fish, fortified milk, or yogurt), but most of it is manufactured by our bodies when the sun’s ultraviolet B rays shine on our skin. That’s why D is known as the “sunshine vitamin.” Still, many older adults are deficient in vitamin D, no matter
Vitamin D is important for healthy bones, calcium absorption, inflammation reduction, immune function, and other body processes, and it may play a role in keeping cancer in check. how sunny their environment. “It doesn’t matter if you live in Florida or California because, as you get older, your skin doesn’t absorb sunlight as well,” Dr. Salamon says. You don’t want to let vitamin D levels drop. Vitamin D is important for healthy bones, calcium absorption, inflammation reduction, immune function, and other body processes, and it may play a role in keeping cancer in check. As we reported in June 2021, recent Harvard evidence suggests that taking a daily vitamin D supplement is associated with a reduced risk for advanced cancer in healthy-weight midlife or older-age people. Should you get the test? Dr. Salamon recommends a baseline test at least once in your life, especially if you have brittle bones or a stomach condition that affects your ability to absorb vitamin D. But she points out that screening is hotly debated. What if you have a high risk for cancer? “While you may feel better knowing what your vitamin D levels are, an alternative is to skip the test and just start taking a supplement of 1,000 to 2,000 international units per day. If adding another pill to your regimen would overwhelm you, talk to your doctor about it first,” says Dr. JoAnn Manson, Harvard’s leading vitamin D researcher and chief of the Division of Preventive Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. A normal result for a vitamin D test measuring a form of the vitamin (-25hydroxyvitamin D) is
debated, but should be at least 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL).
3. HEPATITIS C Hepatitis C is a viral infection that can lead to cirrhosis, liver damage, liver cancer, or liver failure. It’s spread when a person comes in contact with the blood of an infected person, which can happen with intravenous drug use; having sex with an infected partner; getting a tattoo or body piercing with unsterile equipment; sharing razors, nail clippers, or toothbrushes; or having had a blood transfusion before 1992 (when the blood test for hepatitis C first became available). Baby boomers (born between 1945 and 1964), who are five times more likely to have the virus than other adults, may have become infected in the 1960s through the 1980s. Yet only about %13 of baby boomers had been tested by 2015. “It could be due to the stigma, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of doctors don’t offer the test. They may think their patients aren’t at risk for hepatitis C,” Dr. Salamon says. Should you get the test? All U.S. adults should be tested at least once, and more often if they take part in risky behavior. The good news: “There’s a cure for hepatitis C if you catch the infection 4. HIV early,” Dr. Salamon says.
The CDC advises everyone ages 13 to 64 get tested at least once, and warns that older adults are less likely to be screened because they (or their doctors) don’t think they’re at risk for HIV.
Since HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (the late-stage phase of HIV infection) first appeared decades ago, we’ve developed powerful antiviral medications to keep the infection from progressing. But like hepatitis C testing, HIV testing also has a stigma. HIV is transmitted when someone is exposed to certain body fluids of an infected person. That can happen during vaginal or anal sex or the sharing of drug equipment such as needles. Should you get the test? The CDC advises everyone ages 13 to 64 get tested at least once, and warns that older adults are less likely to be screened because they (or their doctors) don’t
Blood research, Scientist hand holding test tube with blood in laboratory. (Getty Images)
think they’re at risk for HIV. Yet one in six people diagnosed with HIV in 2018 was age 50 or older. “Get this test if you’ve never had it before or if you’re sexually active,” Dr. Salamon advises.
5. BLOOD SUGAR People with diabetes or prediabetes have elevated levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. A blood sugar measurement taken after fasting may be ordered during a check-up and is covered by Medicare. But Dr. Salamon says primary care physicians don’t always check your levels each year. Should you get the test? If your blood sugar is normal, a test every few years is fine, but it still
might be a good idea to get annual testing. “Some people are ‘silent’ diabetics who don’t have symptoms, and you wouldn’t pick this up unless you ordered the test,” Dr. Salamon says. People at high risk for diabetes, such as those who are overweight or have diabetes in their family, may need more frequent tests. A normal fasting blood sugar measurement is less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) of blood; 126 or more can indicate diabetes. “But normal levels change with age and can be slightly higher. Your doctor must interpret the results,” Dr. Salamon says. This article was published by Harvard Health Letter.
Chicago Ride-share Driver Shares Epic Real-Life Stories ‘Your Driver Has Arrived’: Ridesharing Stories by Nestor Gomez By Rick Kogan Ever being redefined, the American Dream seems to have become more elusive and remote than ever. But then you talk to Nestor Gomez, and you realize that for many, it is alive and well. “I hope, and I really believe, that the American Dream is about more than just buying a house and having a lot of money.” Gomez is a storyteller, which is not the easiest way to earn a living, but it satisfies Gomez on many levels. It has enabled him to express himself at various storytelling events here and nationally, making him an important force of that scene, especially as the curator, producer and host of a powerful traveling storytelling show. His “80 Minutes Around the World” is dedicated to immigrant stories from “immigrants, the descendants of immigrants, the friends and allies of immigrants.” Created in response to the previous presidential administration’s anti-immigrant policies, it premiered in 2017 at Lifeline Theatre in Chicago and subsequently was performed on stages in Kentucky, New York and local spots. It has played at the Steppenwolf Theatre. As Gomez told me then, “It is a way to build bridges rather than walls.” His own immigrant story is a compelling one. He was born in Guatemala 50-some years ago into a family that was in the business of making small, colorful dolls that they sold to tourists. But civil wars stopped the flow of tourists and the sales of dolls and forced his parents to come to the U.S. They sent money home to their kids. Undocumented, Gomez at age 15 came here with two broth-
ers and a sister. None of them spoke English and Nestor had it tougher. So bad was his stutter, his parents lacking money for speech therapy, that he did not speak at all. He taught himself English at first by watching television, as the family lived in various neighborhoods. He graduated from Roberto Clemente Community Academy, married immediately afterward and began working in a restaurant. Soon two children arrived. “I worked hard and was working my way up to better positions but when they found out I was undocumented, they had to let me go. I wound up as a garbage man and a bus boy. I was just trying to put food on the table and pay the rent.” He did have a secret life: “It was the only way I could express myself. I would write poems and I would write stories. I only let a few people read them. I buried them under clothes in a drawer.” One night he felt brave enough read in public, going to the Green Mill. He was, he thought, ready to participate in Marc Smith’s Poetry Slam. He “chickened out.” His girlfriend at the time, and the woman who is currently his third wife, Melissa Pavlik, convinced him to compete at an upcoming Moth storytelling event. “She gave me the courage,” he says. “I told my story, and I changed my life.” He won first place that night and he has over the ensuing years become the winningest Moth storyteller in Chicago history. He has told more than 100 stories on stages, and they range from relatively humorous tales to a haunting and chilling story of his father’s alcoholism, wrenching but easier for him to present since his dad has been dead for two decades.
He did have a secret life: “It was the only way I could express myself. I would write poems and I would write stories. I only let a few people read them. I buried them under clothes in a drawer.”
The Moth is a prominent part of the vibrant competitive storytelling scene here and elsewhere with dozens of chapters across the country producer and the weekly “The Moth Radio Hour,” which airs on hundreds of radio stations (here on WBEZ-91.5FM). In Moth events, people tell true stories onstage to live audiences, with a five-minute time limit and without using notes. Many of these events are in the form of competitions, with a panel of audience members selecting winners. For the last COVID-shadowed months, Gomez has missed the shows, “the opportunity to get out of my bubble and meet other people with other ideas.” He became a U.S. citizen a few years ago and has long worked for years in the quality control department of S&C Electric Company, a more-than-century-old Chicago firm that develops and manufactures products for the electric power industry. He lives in the Edgewater neighborhood with his wife; his adult children, Miriam and Geovanni live elsewhere in the city. Before COVID came and clamped down on life, Gomez was excited. He was planning to spend much of 2020 talking
to school children and other groups about his new and first book. “Your Driver Has Arrived” (Tortoise Books) is a gathering of some of the stories Gomez has told about his years as a ride-share driver some years ago. “I was working other jobs at the time, trying to get myself out of debt,” he says. “I was planning to marry Mel and was tired of being broke.” The book is small, “so it can fit in the back pocket,” but wonderfully entertaining and potent. “I didn’t have to change very much the stories from what they were like when performed them on stages,” Gomez says. On stage, Gomez is a powerful performer, a 5-foot dynamo, and you feel that in print. He writes: “You never know what the rides have in store for you. Things happen so suddenly that you unsuspectedly become part of your riders’ lives.” After an encounter with some passengers spouting racist invective, he writes: “In the end I was able to realize that although there are some haters out there, for each of them there are three, or maybe even 10, or maybe even more openminded people that are trying to make not only America, but the whole world, a better place.” He is ever hopeful, writing: “As a nation we are taking a ride into the unknown. It’s a ride that will probably be more of a roller coaster than anything else. Perhaps more, uncertain, dangerous or scary than we had imagined. It’s a ride that might not be safe for all of us, but it’s a ride that we must try and survive together.” He hopes the book, the stories, can help empower others to write and perform, especially young people. “I think they will like the book,” he says. Others have. As NPR’s Jenn White says on the book’s back cover, this book “goes far beyond adventures. Nestor’s stories put you behind the wheel and immerse you in the experience of finding your place in a new city while navigating the mythology of the American Dream.” This article was published by Chicago Tribune.