23
Aug

The heritage festival is being organised to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Channel Islands

The first Channel Islands heritage festival has been announced by VisitGuernsey and Jersey Tourism.

The event will last five weeks and will mark the 70th anniversary of Channel Island liberation from Nazi occupation.

This is the first time the two islands have organised a joint tourism festival.

Organisers hope the £150,000 event will encourage tourists from the UK and Europe as well as people travelling between the Channel Islands.

The event will see coastal castles brought to life, doors opened on wartime bunkers and historic towers and the islands will put the flags out for Liberation Day.

Organisers say plans for the 70th anniversary of Liberation Day are already being worked on, and they hope it will be the biggest to date

There will be special events including Liberation Celebrations at the Jersey War Tunnels and a re-enactment of what life was like in wartime Guernsey at St Peter Port’s Castle Cornet.

Director of Jersey Tourism, David de Carteret said: “The interest in the 70 years anniversary of the Liberation is enormous among potential UK and European visitors and these events provide an opportunity for us to work together on a regional tourism project to support all of the Channel Islands and hopefully get summer 2015 off to a great start”.

The festival will take place between 3 April and 11 May 2015.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-guernsey-28901231

23
Aug

A trio of Highlands Middle School students spent part of their summer as members of an international peace delegation.

The students were participating in the summer peace camp and exchange trips as members of the Cincinnati chapter of the CISV (Children’s International Summer Village) program.

Taylor Hosea, 12, spent 28 days in Askoy, Norway, with children from 11 other countries in a CISV “Village” camp at a local school.

And twins Claire and Jack Tinkler, 13, traveled to Paris, France, for two weeks as part of a CISV exchange between residences program.

Isaac Bassett, 11, of Fort Thomas and group leader Kate Calhoun of Florence will travel as part of a Cincinnati group delegation to meet with children from 12 other countries in a CISV Village program in Lucknow, India, from Dec. 28 through Jan. 22, 2015, said Kay Freyberger of Fort Thomas.

Hosea enjoys making friends worldwide

Hosea said she now regularly texts and talks with friends she made including Nanuela of Costa Rica, Cata from Germany and Jenny of Norway.

“My favorite person is from Finland,” Hosea said. “Her name is Nora.”

During the camp, children from each nation played trivia games about each country and did cultural presentations about their dances, foods and other customs, she said. One of the U.S. presentations was to play a game of baseball with children from the other 11 countries.

“It’s basically if you make friends around the world you learn about their cultures and way of life you can make peace,” Hosea said.

Most of the children from the other countries spoke English fluently or very well, and that was surprising, she said. The differences between the children were only in their cultural heritage, Hosea said.

“I thought they’re just like us,” she said. “They do things just like us. They like to be treated like us We all just don’t do the same things.”

Christie Hosea, Taylor’s mother, said she grew up traveling to places, including Machu Picchu in Peru, with her family.

“Even with all my travels, I had never experienced what she has because she’s with kids her age,” she said.

Parents and their children have to apply for admission to the CISV programs, and Taylor is hoping to be part of the Interchange two-week exchange program next year.

“She is already looking forward to the next summer,” said her mother.

Christie said she followed a blog detailing the daily activities of the group each day in Norway. One of the outings was a beach tour on the North Sea.

“She was the only one out of 80 kids that actually got in because it was freezing,” Christie said of her daughter.

Tinkler twins find smiles go a long way

Jack Tinkler said he plans to travel in a CISV program again if he can raise enough money on his own. In Paris, Tinkler learned some things are universal with the children he met including enjoying music, movies and having fun.

Claire Tinkler said she had never traveled outside of the U.S. before this summer.

“I learned that lots of things are universal, and you don’t need to be from the same country or speak the same language to become close to people,” she said. “Little things, like good food, dancing, music or the rush of adrenaline on a roller coaster all bring people together because you don’t need to speak to share them.”

Upon meeting Luna, a girl in the Paris home she stayed in, Claire was nervous about the language barrier they had although she did speak some English, she said. They ended up becoming friends after communicating mostly using their eyes and gestures in the car, she said.

“We would make eye contact and smile,” Tinkler said. “It made me feel more hopeful about being friends, and it made her feel more safe and comfortable with being in a foreign country.”

Tinkler said she plans to stay involved with CISV events including annual reunion events and a cookie-a-thon to raise funds. Attending Junior Branch of the Cincinnati CISV monthly meetings, where most of the leaders of the group are age 17, is another goal, she said.

“I also want to try to go to more programs next summer,” Tinkler said.

CISV information nights:

Information nights have been scheduled for parents and children to learn more about ongoing CISV programs and trips planned for 2015. Meetings will be at Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian Church, 5950 Montgomery Road, Cincinnati, OH 45213, on the following three nights:

• Monday, Oct. 6 from 7-8:30 p.m.

• Monday, Nov. 3 from 7-8:30 p.m.

• Monday, Dec. 2 from 7-8:30 p.m.

For information about CISV visit cincinnati.cisvusa.org.

Article source: http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/local/ft-thomas/2014/08/22/teens-travel-peace/14451611/

23
Aug

The same thing will happen when tides are abnormally high in the coming month. By next summer, Mont Saint-Michel, a spectacular rock, 1,300-year-old abbey and medieval village two kilometres off the French coast, will be a true island once again at all high tides.

An ugly causeway built in the 19th century will be dismantled this winter. In future, the only access to the Mont, the most-visited tourist site in France outside Paris, will be an elegant, low, curving bridge which opened to pedestrians this summer. An ambitious, ecologically friendly project to restore the “maritime character” and spiritual dignity of Mont Saint-Michel is nearing completion. The car parks which once sprawled around its sheer rock faces like a besieging army have been banished to the “continent”. The sand and mud flats which threatened permanently to ensnare the Mont are being dispersed by a cheap and unintrusive solution to the problem set by Lewis Carroll in Alice Through the Looking-Glass: “They wept like anything to see/Such quantities of sand:/‘If this were only cleared away,’/They said, it would be grand!”

 The solution is not “seven maids with seven mops” but a small dam at the mouth of the nearby River Couesnon. The dam, opened in 2009, captures river and tidal sea water and expels it twice a day, like a giant toilet cistern. After five years of this “flushing” action, the Mont already looks more like an island than it has since the late 19th century.

If it had not been for the remaining causeway, the high tides this month would have succeeded in encircling the rock for the first time in living memory. When the causeway is gone next summer, the Mont will be truly separate from “le continent” once again for half the year.


After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

So far so good. Few dispute the success of the €180m (£144m) project to restore the natural and spiritual beauty of what the French call la merveille – the marvel. However, Mont Saint-Michel – which has a permanent population of 43, half of them monks – is also a commercial gold mine. On a summer’s day, the population of the small outcrop of rock can rise to 9,000. The single narrow, medieval street of tourist shops and restaurants (reminiscent of fictitious micro-state Vulgaria in the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) can become as densely packed as a pop festival.

Over the past four years, the “maritime restoration” project, especially the banishing of the car parks, has generated civil lawsuits, criminal proceedings, strikes by the abbey staff, allegations of mistreatment of animals, criticism by the French government’s financial watchdog and formal protests to the United Nations cultural organisation, Unesco.

The former mayor, Eric Vannier, who also owns half of the businesses on the island, was found guilty last year of illegally using political influence to have new shuttle buses for tourists start 800m from the new mainland car parks but beside two of his hotels. His appeal will be heard this November.

François-Xavier de Beaulaincourt, the man who administered the project from the beginning, mostly with great success, was fired last year for no especially good reason. Henry Decaëns, a historian and president of the Friends of Mont Saint-Michel, told The Independent: “Everyone knows that his dismissal was unjust. All the problems were caused by decisions made by politicians, not by him. But that, unfortunately, is the way that things work here.”

Mont Saint-Michel has become, in other words, a tiny offshore microcosm of France. Both have extraordinary natural beauty and a wonderful history. Any attempt to introduce change to ensure their wellbeing, or survival, generates a storm of conflicting protests by special interests.

Two years ago, De Beaulaincourt, since unfairly dismissed, told The Independent: “There are so many different interests to satisfy and so many antagonisms to resolve. People see the quarrels but they don’t look at the enormous amount that we have achieved. It is very frustrating.”

Since then, there have been two strikes by the staff of the 8th-century abbey which provides the Mont with its man-made pinnacle. They complained, successfully, that they had to queue for tourist shuttle buses to get to work. Then they complained that their own special buses were not frequent enough. Staff buses now run to and fro, almost empty, while the tourist shuttles are as overcrowded as buses in Mumbai.

There are also horse-drawn shuttles. The man who leases the horses to the management company started a legal case earlier this year complaining that his animals were being mistreated. This was angrily denied. The case continues.

The bizarre decision to make tourists walk 800m from their new car parks to travel 2,000m on the shuttle buses has been reversed. The buses now start beside the car parks, but the price of parking has risen by 50 per cent. The shuttles make two stops beside the ugly jumble of hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops (known locally as “Las Vegas”) which exist on the mainland opposite the Mont. Nonetheless, business in “Las Vegas” has collapsed.

Another dispute remains unresolved. The government has insisted on bolting on to the project “for safety” reasons a new “emergency” access to Mont Saint-Michel.  A concrete esplanade will be built this winter at the foot of the island; a tunnel will be torn through the rock.

“It is a sacrilege and quite unnecessary,” said Mr Decaëns. “The rock itself is sacred. The wider project is wonderfully light-handed and respectful. The government’s idea is clumsy and intrusive. We complained to Unesco [which made the Mont one of its first world heritage sites in 1979]. But Unesco was useless and did nothing.”

Mr Decaëns has a point. Other complaints rage. The commercial quarrels continue. A lawsuit and a criminal action are unresolved. The main thrust of the project – using the power of nature to restore the natural beauty of the site – is an all-but-forgotten triumph.

At a glance: Mont St-Michel’s history

In times gone by

Mont Saint-Michel was once a “rocky needle” in a forest which, according to some accounts, was swallowed by a tidal wave. Tides can still  vary greatly, with almost 50ft between high and low-water marks. It was nicknamed “St Michael in peril of the sea” by medieval pilgrims.

What it means to the French

Its Benedictine abbey was built between the 11th and 16th centuries and used as a jail in the French Revolution. Victor Hugo is said to have remarked that the Mont was to France what the Great Pyramids are to Egypt.

What it means to the world

In 1874, the abbey was declared a historic monument by the French, and in 1979, it was added to Unesco’s list of World Heritage Sites – one of the first to be granted the coveted status.

Article source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/after-1300-years-theres-a-bridge-to-mont-saintmichel-9686650.html

21
Aug

Somewhere in the afterlife, Mullah Mustafa Barzani, the eagle of the Zagros Mountains, is smiling. His pleas for the United States to provide arms directly to his Kurdish warriors to repel Arab invaders are finally being answered.

The arms deliveries are late — Barzani first made his appeals in the The Washington Post four decades ago — and they are minimal, considering the Kurds’ needs. But they mark a change for the Middle East that may be more significant than realized even by the Obama administration and its European allies.

In 1972, Barzani, as gruff and commanding a tribal chieftain as Hollywood could have ever created, foresaw the genocidal assaults by Saddam Hussein’s forces soon to come on the Kurds’ mountain redoubt in northern Iraq. But Washington did not respond to his pleas for direct arms shipments. Saddam’s troops smashed the Kurds’ defenses in 1975, Barzani fled into bitter and lonely exile in a CIA-monitored safe house in northern Virginia (where he died in 1979), and Iraq’s long night of terror under Saddam began in earnest.

Much has changed since then. Indirectly empowered by the U.S. military interventions of 1991 and 2003, the Kurds regained control of their homeland. Barzani’s son, Massoud, led Kurdistan into an era of relative prosperity and stability by pursuing solid economic cooperation with Turkey to the west while deftly handling Iran to the east.

But this has not changed: The Kurds are still a non-Arab minority who refuse to be absorbed culturally and politically into an Arab-dominated society. They are relatively tolerant Sunni Muslims who speak an Indo-European language and protect their heritage with a fierce pride.

Their resistance to assimilation and rule by Baghdad helped spark Saddam’s ethnic cleansing and resettlement of large Arab populations into Kurdish areas. Today, the Kurds’ continuing yearning for self-determination helps drive a hatred of them by the Sunni extremists and chauvinists of the Islamic State movement who have seized Mosul and surrounding areas.

The Islamic State’s barbaric advance has undermined an unavowed but strong tenet of Western policy in the Middle East. Until now, the United States and Europe have been extremely reluctant — fearful may not be too strong a word — to be seen to support minority ethnic and religious groups in any Arab state. That could provoke the wrath of all of the Arab states, including important (Sunni-run) oil producers.

Such timidity played a role over the past half-century in the suffocation or dislocation of vibrant populations of religious and ethnic minorities that once made the Middle East a fascinating mosaic of Greeks in Egypt, Armenians in Lebanon, Circassians in Jordan and many others.

Even more important to the societal pressures that have squeezed the freedoms and space of minorities in national life throughout the region has been the Sunni-Shiite civil war that has raged in various forms within Islam since the founding of Iran’s Islamic Republic in 1979. The Islamic State and other armed factions wage war to achieve a social monolith of Arabness, as well as a monotheistic caliphate.

The demand by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi that the Yazidi sect and Christians of Iraq convert to his brand of Islam or die is a particularly brutal example of coercive conformism. But it differs in degree rather than kind from Salafist and Wahhabist intolerance toward other religions and cultures.

By promising to protect the Yazidi sect from “genocide” and providing the Kurds with arms and ammunition previously denied them by Baghdad, President Barack Obama has — knowingly or otherwise — stepped away from traditional U.S. caution about openly siding with such non-Arab minorities. (The Kurds’ recent successes are welcome but unintended side effects of U.S. actions in Iraq.)

The president is right to have done this and should persist. But U.S. policymakers also need to evaluate the deep, civilizational roots of the conflicts in Iraq and elsewhere. Conservative, male-dominated societies in the region feel they are under mortal attack by the intrusion of the outside world and particularly by outside views on gender equality and the nature of their religion. They lash back.

What is at stake here is not simply whether Nouri al-Maliki or Haider al-Abadi should be prime minister of Iraq. It is even larger than the hopes of freedom that my friends the Kurds harbor. This is a struggle to fit the modern world into Arab society, and vice versa. A success in that undertaking would be the best protection minorities there could have — and a fit monument to the tribal leader I remember fondly as the eagle he was in Kurdistan, not the caged bird Washington let him become.

Jim Hoagland is a contributing editor for The Washington Post.

Article source: http://www.commercialappeal.com/opinion/national-and-world-commentary/jim-hoagland-will-the-us-fight-for-a-mideast-where-minorities-can-thrive_27596575

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21
Aug

An estimated 70,000 coins and pieces of jewellery will need to be separated from the binding mud

Archaeologists are aiming to remove and clean up to 500 coins a week for the next three years from a hoard found encased in mud, Jersey Heritage says.

The collection of coins and jewellery pieces was found by two metal detector enthusiasts in 2012.

For the past two years experts have been documenting the hoard that dates back about 2,000 years.

Those involved will finally begin pulling it apart, one coin at a time, from Friday, Jersey Heritage said.

The hoard, found in a Grouville field, is thought to be worth about £10m.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-jersey-28874022

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21
Aug

Interior of synagogue in Orla, Poland. Photo: W. Wejman/Shtetl Routes

This post also appears on my Jewish Heritage Travel blog

The latest edition — August — of the Jewish Heritage Europe monthly Newsletter is out, and up online.

It features a selection of items that were posted on JHE’s regular Newsfeed over the past month.

Top story is the series of “field notes” from the ambitious Shtetl Routes project, a Jewish heritage tourism project in Poland, Belarus and Ukraine that is under way with a more than $400,000 grant from the European Union.

Other stories range from the completed restoration of the synagogue in Tulcea, Romania to archaeology at Krakow’s Old Synagogue.

Take a look!

It’s easy to subscribe — you’ll get the Newsletter automatically in your email inbox.

Also subscribe to the regular Newsfeed for more frequent updates about what’s happening in the Jewish heritage world.

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Article source: http://www.jewishjournal.com/enroute/item/jewish_heritage_europes_august_newsletter_is_out

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19
Aug

As Russia’s standoff with the West over Ukraine unfolded, with mutually detrimental sanctions flying back and forth further darkening the country’s already dim economic outlook, many people couldn’t get their money out fast enough.

In the first six months of 2014, the Russian government reported that $75 billion was moved out of the country — more than in all of 2013. Other estimates put that number, which captures not only investments but also Russians moving their money out of the ruble, even higher. The European Central Bank said in May that about $220 billion in capital had flowed out of Russia so far in 2014 and President Barack Obama said Aug. 6 that between $100 billion and $200 billion had shifted out of Russia since the conflict began. In July, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, deepening the conflict and raising fears about the unpredictable ways it could affect the global economy. At the end of July, the United States and Europe responded with the toughest sanctions yet targeting Russia’s energy, defense, and banking sectors. Investor concern over Russia was running so high by that point that index provider MSCI Inc. created a separate emerging markets investment benchmark without Russia for investors who wanted nothing to do with the country.

But that kind of pessimism smells like opportunity to some investors.

Investment from U.S. funds fell from $42 billion at the end of last year to $37 billion at the end of March, according to data provider eVestment. By the end of June it was back up to almost $41 billion. That number could climb even higher as more funds report.

Alexander Branis, director of Prosperity Capital Management (RF) Ltd., one of the largest hedge funds focused on Russia, says investors have pulled out about 5 percent to 7 percent of the $3.4 billion fund recently. A much smaller group, though, is putting more money in. Russia, he says, is cheap now.

“We have clients that have added to their portfolios: one U.S. university endowment, one large pension fund from Northern Europe,” Branis told Foreign Policy from Moscow.

“If you focus on the long term, you have potential to make a lot of money.”

Started in 1996, Prosperity has always focused on Russia, with only 10 percent to 15 percent of its assets in Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Branis says this latest kerfuffle over Ukraine isn’t changing their strategy; in fact, they’ve weathered far worse economic times in Russia. Nonetheless, the firm has suffered. At the end of July, the company’s flagship Russian Prosperity Fund was down 7.3 percent from the beginning of the year, though Branis noted that is a better return than funds based on the broadly used MSCI Russia index produce.

The firm could see even harder times if the United States and Europe expand sanctions in response to Russia’s support of separatists in eastern Ukraine. Branis said his firm owns some Sberbank stock, which is already sanctioned. The bank was barred from issuing new debt or equity in Western markets at the end of July. But Branis doesn’t expect that the bank’s existing debt and equity will be targeted because it would hurt shareholders more than Moscow. That’s not his only reason for brushing off sanctions — Russia is not as blameworthy for the conflict as officials in Kiev and Washington suggest, he proffered.

“I don’t think there is a lot of credible evidence that implicates Russia,” Branis said. “I don’t think there is something so credible that you could base the next round of sanctions on it.”

The Russia-based funds are not alone in their bullishness. Kopernik Global Investors, a Tampa-based firm started just last year, is also betting on Russia. Founder Dave Iben told Bloomberg he was buying Russian stocks he saw as trading at half of what they’re worth. The firm’s flagship $890 million mutual fund has 15 percent of its assets in Russian companies, including 4 percent in Russian energy giant Gazprom and 3 percent in Sberbank. Iben spelled out his philosophy on Russia in a recent conference call.

“I believe that when people get really, really, really negative on something it almost always proves to be overblown,” he said, according to a transcript of the July 23 call. “And now there’s a lot of emotion in Russia. I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’m saying I suspect time will show that it’s overdone.”

Wade O’Brien, senior investment director with U.S.-based Cambridge Associates, said it makes sense that value investors with long-time horizons are scooping up Russian assets while everyone else is selling them.

“When something that was already fairly inexpensive on a relative basis sells off sharply on the basis of macroeconomic concerns, it’s not unusual that value funds will go in and buy stocks,” O’Brien said.

Other money managers aren’t pulling out of Russian investments entirely, but are shrinking their stakes. The head of a smaller fund based in London, who didn’t want to be named, said he reduced Russia investments from 15 percent to 5 percent of the portfolio. However, he will continue investing in Russia, unless Europe slaps more restrictions on Russia or Moscow limits how much money can leave its borders.

“We’re always reassessing things, but as long as they don’t do anything that precludes our ability to operate, we would do it,” he said.

Still, most investors are focusing on the overall economic picture in Russia, which is bleak. Economists worry that President Vladimir Putin’s retaliatory sanctions are driving a faltering economy closer to recession. On Aug. 7, the Kremlin banned some U.S. and EU agricultural products, heightening fears that the country, which imports 40 percent of its food, could see prices spike. On Aug. 11, the Russian government reported that the economy had its worst quarter in over a year, as growth continues to slow. Russian GDP expanded only 0.8 in the second quarter of 2014 compared to the same time last year, Bloomberg reported Aug. 12. The Russian Micex stock index is down 6 percent from the beginning of the year.

Although some investors are making contrarian bets, said Tim Ash, head of emerging-markets research at Standard Bank Group, buying into Russia long term is not a common strategy.

“I think other investors are just seeing this as a paradigm shift in the Russian story — negative,” Ash said. “The relationship with the West has been significantly damaged, and will be difficult to rebuild.”

The result will be a less friendly environment for foreign businesses and declining investment and growth, Ash said.

Money managers are also constantly changing strategies as the Ukrainian crisis unfolds. Therefore, its full effect on foreign investment in Russia might not be clear for months. Investment research firm Morningstar estimates that U.S. funds allocated just 1 percent of their assets to Russia at 2013′s end; that amount fell only slightly by the end of June.

Some money managers who earlier this year saw opportunity are now shifting gears. Luz Padilla, head of the emerging-markets group at DoubleLine, oversees about $3.6 billion. Her emerging-markets bond fund grew 11.2 percent between Aug. 1, 2013, and Aug. 1, 2014, beating returns posted by 96 percent of her peers, according to a Bloomberg analysis.

At the end of March, she saw potential as Russian assets’ prices fell after Putin annexed Crimea. She told Fortune magazine that she boosted the funds’ holdings of Russian bonds by a full percentage point after the West first sanctioned Russia in March. But then DoubleLine analysts attended IMF meetings in mid-April and conferred with Russian experts, leading her to reverse course. Mark Christensen, who helps manage the firm’s emerging-markets portfolio, said the Russian banks and economists he spoke to changed his mind.

“Despite the rebound in the market, they still anticipated that the crisis was going to last longer than people were expecting,” he told Foreign Policy. “We just came to the conclusion that the Russia/Ukraine crisis and the price volatility wasn’t going to go away anytime soon.”

By the end of June, Christensen and his team had reduced the funds’ exposure to Russia drastically, to less than 2 percent from more than 13 percent at the end of last year.

DANIEL ROLAND/AFP/Getty Images

Article source: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/08/18/real_green_devil_australia_abbott_climate_disaster

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