Week in my Life (Week 4) — June 29, 2015

Week in my Life (Week 4)

Hi,
This has been a week full of travel and adventures. The adventures range from navigating Canadian roads, highways are often one lane going each direction until you are near a major city, to seeing the majestic Niagara Falls.
This week began in Edmonton, seeing Columbia play the United States in a 2-0 victory for the United States. There were nearly as many Columbian fans as American, it was great to hear the chants echo back and forth as each country tried to out cheer their rivals. It was a tense game due to a missed penalty kick by Abby Wambach in the beginning of the second half; however, the USA’s skill shown through in the end. Friday the USA played China to a 1-0 USA victory in Ottawa. There were many Chinese fans and it was an exciting and tense game. It will be great to see the match-up between the number 1 ranked German side and number 2 ranked USA team in Women’s National Soccer on Tuesday night in Montreal.
This afternoon , June 28, we went to Niagara Falls and got to view the majestic natural beauty and power of the immense falls. There are a couple of main sections where the water comes crashing down, each showing their unique dominance of the landscape and their utter vastness. Experiencing this was like nothing I have ever done in my life and I hope you enjoy the glimplses of the Earth’s beauty. 

   
           
Your friend,

James    

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Photos from China vs USA — June 28, 2015
USA VS Columbia, Canadian National Parks, and West Edmonton Mall — June 25, 2015
Charlestown, South Carolina —

Charlestown, South Carolina

 We are all familiar with the horrific act of terror recently occurring in Charlestown, South Carolina. First, we must face the sorrow over the loss of life and show astonishment by the forgiveness offered from the people of Charlestown so quickly after the fact. This act is something that ought to cause pause for evaluation on how the USA dialogues and diminishes racism in the future. The reason this act merits evaluation on racial issues is because the perpetrator wants a race war to start and a dialogue about race is a good place to start for the likelihood of a race war to decrease.
 Racism is ingrained in the history and has not yet been overcome within the United States. A large portion of the United States was built not only on the ideals of freedom and liberty, but also on the backs of wrongly whipped, emotionally abused, and personhood denied people. The civil war was fought over a multitude of factors; however, there is not the ability to say that human rights for slaves did not play a large role. Recently, we have been reminded that the roots of racism remain engrained in sections of America. I do not want to comment cause by cause on each police shooting or other act of supposed self-defense because I feel far from certain on my ability to determine accurately if each case was a result of racism. Some acts seem beyond a reasonable doubt others maybe not. However, there is no denying that this was an act of terror with race at the forefront. 
 The current time for dialogue on the problem of racism in America must be taken advantage of so we do not face the tragedy of death to this belief ever again. We are used to a media news cycle where something is nearly constantly talked about on news networks for three to four days then forgotten. For example, a couple weeks ago FIFA corruption was the topic of discussion for everyone and now it is no longer discussed on network news. A topic like racism must not sit on the back-burner until another event where it enters the media because the events almost always revolve around an assault or murder. There must be a forum for sustained dialogue on race throughout America until racism is no more.We ought to have opportunities for people of various ethnicities and religions to dialogue about what life is like for that demographic and how racism surfaces against them. We can all learn a lot from the unique experiences and cultures around us, let us find a sustained way of learning from the beauty and wisdom of each other. Not just hearing about hate crimes the people face. A way to do this would be to have Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day not just be a day but a week where each night a different demographic is given the opportunity to share about their unique culture and challenges, either in local schools or town-hall meetings, or simply over the media, either social media or the traditional radio/television.  
 This issue has a substantial amount of overlapping with the Middle East. I have had the pleasure of traveling to Istanbul and meeting people from the Middle East throughout my travels. Muslims have been some of the kindest people I have ever encountered. Middle Easterners have often faced the sorrows of racism and the challenges of religious persecution. Many Muslims face religious persecution after the acts of terror from the Boston Marathon bombing or the acts on September 11. These acts of terror are not supported as righteous acts of religion but as horrific events, according to all but 7% of Muslims interviewed on the acts of 9/11 according to research by Dalia Mogahed and John Esposito (http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/2008/03/02/who-speaks-for-islam/) We must remember that racism has many unfortunate faces throughout the Middle East and they all ought to be addressed. 
 Racism is both sad and still existent throughout the America. We must find a way to sustain dialogue on the issue of race in America that lasts, instead of being forgotten in a few more days. The quality of life and life itself is at stake for those who face racist actions. I know I do not have all, or in all honestly any substantial, answer to how to end racism in America. I do know that this issue is not simply solving itself on the current trajectory and that we are each responsible on finding a way to ensure that life is not ended on our watch. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke) 
If you have any thoughts on ways to work against racism or religious persecution I would love to read your comment. Additionally, I would be happy to publish any stories where you personally encountered the horrors of racism or religious persecution. Thank you.
Your friend,

James
              

A Week in My Life (Week 3) — June 22, 2015

A Week in My Life (Week 3)

This week I have had a combination of visiting both modern technological centers and beautiful natural parks. When traveling it is always interesting to see how the people determine the best use of their land. People must evaluate different scenarios; such as if it is better to have an expansive mall that will bring in people to spend their money or preserving the history or nature around them.

I have discovered the value of having space that is maintained and enjoyed. That can be in sustaining historic sights or ensuring that forests and wild lands do not get encroached upon. I enjoyed my time at Elk Island National Park and Prince Albert National Park. I look forward to visiting other beautiful parks as I go throughout my life, to have time to experience nature as the land has always been seen. The ability to relax and interact in nature is a blessing and helps when trying to focus on the important things in life.

Additionally, I enjoyed the fun time of visiting Edmonton’s West Edmonton Mall. An infrastructure with a pirate ship, water park, 2 mini golf courses, 2 roller coasters in their theme park, ice rink, a sea lion show, a miniature replica of a Ugandan village, gun range, and loads of restaurants and shops. It was fun to walk around and see all the variety of international stores and restaurants in the mall. To be able to visit such an amazing place as this should encourage us to use the abilities we have to continue to care for the world around us. This great skill and technology could take the format of shopping centers or as constructing areas to ensure that people are well cared for after natural disasters.

It has been a great week of travel throughout Canada. I am looking forward to watching the USA play Columbia tomorrow in Edmonton. I am planning on posting pictures of my time in the two national parks, the West Edmonton Mall, and the USA round of 16 game tomorrow (if I can make time to go to an internet cafe after the game because the hotel’s internet is iffy).

Running:

I have only gone jogging a couple of times this week, with all the moving around city to city. The weather has been great so I regret not going more often. Hopefully I will be able to find time during the mornings or evenings next week as I head towards Ottawa on Tuesday for the quarterfinals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Your friend,

James

Women’s World Cup Group Game Photos in Winnipeg — June 20, 2015
Ramadan — June 19, 2015

Ramadan

With Ramadan having started yesterday I thought it would be helpful to post this link to a helpful description of the fast. 
Your friend,

James
P.S. This weekend I will try to upload photos from the FIFA Women’s World Cup and post my week in review blog. Have a great day! 

3 Thoughts on Baghdad, Iraq —

3 Thoughts on Baghdad, Iraq

Introduction:

I am going to discuss the recent history and reconstruction of the city of Baghdad, Iraq. This is continuing in the series where I write about cities’ issues and successes throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Before I go into this subject I want to make a brief note/ introduction about economics and poverty. In the majority of the world, we have accepted the concept that the market corrects itself for economic disparities (problems or injustices). I would venture that this is not  always true to the effort and sacrifices made in the minority or economically deprived world. In all honesty, I am not sure that it is fair in the rest of the world though as of now I know of no better solution to recommend. The reason I state this disparity and the importance in the minority world is that the skilled labor of the minority world tends to leave (which is well within their right to do) but this can yield a cycle of no locally founded prosperous ventures or centers of shared experiences, this equates to the higher earning trade workers not equipping their compatriots with a skill or sharing their academic wisdom. This results in people not being guaranteed a fair wage for the work they do, because locals are not in charge, I am not saying this is always the case but that there is this likelihood. When the best of a nation leave and they are not replaced with a similar talent the country can face devastating long-term economic repercussions for the population left behind. A proposed solution to this problem would be having a centralized agency (like the UN or World Bank) that pays off debt or pays a higher wage to those who are willing to work and instruct locals in a valuable industry in an economically depressed area. The definition of a valuable industry in the previous sentence being something that is deemed valuable by the world’s free market, not necessarily what is truly valuable e.g.. a parent providing care, an education, and hope for a future to a child in my opinion is more valuable than an accountant (my undergrad degree) yet one makes $35,000-$40,000 as a starting salary and the other makes nothing.

Baghdad, Iraq:

When Building/Re-building a City:

  1. The people who live who there must be able to connect the city with their past and the city must be able to connect with a beneficial future.

Baghdad had many governments and international organizations attempting to rebuild the city after international forces bombed and invaded the city in an attempt to find weapons of mass destruction and capture Saddam Hussein. When outside groups try to grow or rebuild a city it is important to remember the history and religion of that area. When infrastructure building and government setup do not take into consideration religious and ethnic disputes the city is doomed for tension if not flat out failure in the near future. We are currently seeing how these basic ideas are thwarting Iraq’s development because of Daesh (aka ISIS/ IS/ ISIL) . I am not saying this is the only or primary reason Iraq is facing issues, just a potential reason.

2. The city must have a way to grow intellectually and in technical skills.

People should not be forced to stay in a country in the midst of uncertainty or wide sweeping economic poverty. However, when the best and brightest, who often have the easiest time leaving in times of tragedy, flee the consequences are immense. “According to a report released by the Brookings Institution, about 40 percent of Iraq’s professionals fled the country between 2003 and 2006.” (quoted from Ten Years in Baghdad) This results in a future where the brightest are likely not sharing their ideas with their compatriots to overcome economic poverty but are in another country pursing their desires.

3. The city must become equipped with the essentials for human life (safe food, clean water, basic shelter, and fundamental freedoms).

I have been to areas of Guatemala that are somewhat lacking in safe food and clean water. It is hard to grow as a society when the main concerns revolve around how can I find safe food for my family or clean water to drink. I cannot even imagine what it is like in areas where those essentials are substantially more lacking. The IB Times article, Ten Years in Baghdad, quotes U.N. research that “about 60 percent of Iraqi households are suffering from the lack of at least one of the following: access to improved drinking water source, access to improved sanitation facility, a minimum of 12 hours of electricity from the public network a day, or food security.” There is an international need to ensure that the entire world does not have to struggle with these essentials for human life, especially when trying to rebuild a city after the tragedy of extended wars.

Conclusion:

I realize that several of my proposals are extremely expensive. This is something that will need to be overcome and I have honestly not thought of a way to solve these issues. I simply know that for a city to thrive it ought to be in the best prepared ground so that the city has a fighting chance to break beyond the surface and bloom into a thriving metropolis. I hope that there will be a time soon where even mentioning the importance of all people having access to the basic needs of human is not needed. Until then, lets try to find ways of ensuring that will happen in our generation and not the next.

Your friend,

James

(Citations/ works whose thoughts heavily influenced this article are: TED’s City 2.0, Edward Glaeser’s The Triumph of the City; and IB Times’ and Jacey Fortin’s Ten Years in Baghdad: How Iraq Has Changed Since Saddam (http://www.ibtimes.com/ten-years-baghdad-how-iraq-has-changed-saddam-1138161) )

US Advisors Being Sent to Iraq — June 16, 2015

US Advisors Being Sent to Iraq

War. War is always a delicate subject, intensely emotional, and devastating word. The destruction from one word so little is tragic. Yet the prevalence of conflicts persists. Today I am going to briefly discuss American forces starting to return to Iraq in larger numbers, in an advisory role of the American troops to the Iraqi security forces. I would like to start with a brief caveat, that I have not been following the news as closely as I typically do while in Canada for the Women’s World Cup so there could easily be further developments I am neglecting to take into account.

The tragedy of death should never be glossed over. In America, it has become commonplace to hear of vast number of beheadings by Daesh (also known as ISIS/IS/ ISIL). These news stories have started to slowly desensitize us, or at least me, against these acts of terror. If there is anything that can be done to slow down these acts of terror it should be done. I recognize that there are few to no perfect solutions in how to overcome Daesh; however, I place a high value on protecting the lives of the people in Daesh’s path of destruction. With that preface, I think that it is helpful and wise of President Obama to send American troops in an advisory role.

America is not currently, and likely will never be, in the position to solve political, economic, religious, or territorial conflicts in the greater MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. We simply do not understand the complexities of the MENA area, as seen by our role in dividing up the MENA region after the World Wars and more currently in how we fail to see the religious and cultural complexities in the wars in War(s) Against Terror following the atrocities on September 11, 2001. We have not gained a right to speak into the cultural and religious settings of the MENA region, but America does have significant military power and wisdom. This comes from America maintaining a vast group of well-trained and brave men and women who are equipped with the latest military technology. America is in the right in attempting to ensure that life is sustained against the tyranny of Daeash and America providing advisement to international forces is helpful in that goal. However, as America finds itself more and more involved in the Middle East America must ensure that it is not acting unwisely, like it has so often done in the past, and America must consult other international players, especially those in the Middle East, about what the best plans are and who are the groups that America is wise to advise. It is easy to see the enemy of my enemy as my friend, but the long-term consequences must be considered. This lack of consideration has repeatedly brought America into issues with having to deploy soldiers in never ending or reoccurring conflicts in the same area.

Life is valuable and war is terrible. These two facets can cause a great tension, especially for a country like America that does not fully understand the religious and cultural intricacies of a region, like the Middle East. I believe America is right in sending well-trained soldiers to advise in fighting against Daeash, in the confines of getting recommendations from other key players in the Middle East and the international community as a whole. There are means of ensuring cultural and religious intricacies are considered in war assessments (the United Nations seems like a good place to start a discussion on how to protect life and minimize negative repercussions). This will take substantial effort and foresight on the behalf of American military leadership; however, in no circumstance war should be a quick response to the loss of human life because in that moment you are taking human lives to protect others. In other words, the costs of war are high enough that it is worth intensely deliberating the costs.

I would be grateful to know your thought on the positives and negatives of American service members returning to the Middle East in larger numbers as they serve in an advisory role.

Your friend,

James

A Week in My Life (Week 2) — June 15, 2015

A Week in My Life (Week 2)

This week has been a week full of learning and soccer. I have ventured up into Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Winnipeg is where the United States have played their first two Women’s World Cup games. Winnipeg has hosted several nations and it has been exciting to interact with several cultures, from Nigeria to Australia, each with their own way of supporting their country. Additionally, I have learned more about the Manitoba area through various museums.

The Women’s World Cup contains the excitement of soccer, various cultures, and travel. The soccer games have been thrilling, from watching a three to three draw between Nigeria and Sweden on Monday. Friday was nerve-racking with watching the USA and Sweden play out a zero to zero draw where there were many near goals, including a Swedish player hitting the ball off of the crossbar in the final minutes. The Nigerian supporters have brought various instruments and play loudly throughout the match compared to the Australian contingency bringing inflatable kangaroos and chanting to motivate the Socceroos. Winnipeg’s stadium has a variety of international foods to sample; including Filipino, Mediterranean, Mexican, Canadian, barbeque, and standard stadium fare.

The museums in Winnipeg are extremely well done and worth visiting, if you are ever in the area. One of the best museums I have ever been to is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The museum begins by showing the history of human rights and how different religions have applied human rights. Next, they discuss Canada’s history in human rights, which is notably different than America with many of the rights guaranteed in the US Bill of Rights being provided in the 1800-1900’s. Additionally, Saturday we went to the Museum of Winnipeg that shows how the area of Winnipeg has changed throughout history. Finally, we went to the Museum and Cathedral of Saint Boniface, where the history of European settlement in Manitoba is described. The cathedral is located in the beautiful French section of Winnipeg.

I have appreciated the opportunity to visit Winnipeg and interact with all the different cultures because of the unifying sport the world knows as soccer/football. I would recommend any sporting fan try to come to a FIFA World Cup to experience the different cultures, the variety of methods supporters use to cheer on their nation, and enjoy the high quality of soccer/ football. You get the opportunity to interact with the World on top of visiting a country that is new to you.

This week in running:

This week has possibly been the most exciting week of my running career. Last Sunday I ran 8 miles and during the run in Fargo, North Dakota I had the experience of running fast enough to get my speed registered near a construction area alongside the rode I was running on. During that same run I got to run by two lakes and three state-of-the-art schools. On Tuesday night, in Winnipeg, I was running 3 miles and during the middle of my third mile a little girl, probably 6 years old, ran with me for about a tenth of a mile. We high-fived as I departed for the rest of my run and she returned to her house. On Wednesday evening I ran 5 miles, during which I got to see a beautiful golf course and a family enjoying a picnic while their children running around as they enjoyed the excellent weather.

Your friend,

James