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Economic crisis looms as the Syrian pound plummets to an all-time low

An employee of the Central Bank of Syria packages banknotes at its headquarters in Damascus, 25/8/2011 (AFP).

 

By Rohan Advani, Walid Al Nofal

 

November 26, 2019
المقال باللغة العربية

AMMAN — Since the outbreak of the revolution in 2011, the value of the Syrian pound (SYP) has plummeted, weakening confidence in the country’s economy. The Syrian pound, which traded at 47 SYP to the dollar at the beginning of 2011 has now exceeded 700 SYP on the black market.

The pound’s collapse has resulted in rising import costs for basic commodities, widespread currency speculation and hoarding of dollars, a foreign exchange crisis at the Syrian Central Bank, and most concerning, a deterioration in the living conditions for the country’s poorest sections of society.

At a parliamentary session in September, members of the Syrian People’s Assembly explicitly criticized the government for not doing enough to boost the economy, counter corruption and improve living conditions for Syria’s poorest. MP Bassim al-Naaemeh directed his criticism at Syrian Prime Minister, Imad Khamis, saying that the performance of the government has been weak and that economic confusion has led to an unstable exchange rate. Similarly, MP Muhammad Khair al-Akkam said the government was doing little to ensure proper tax collection in the country.

In contrast, the governor of the Central Bank of Syria, Hazem Qarfoul, described the fall in the value of the Syrian pound as part of a “systematic campaign to weaken the lira [pound] and the economy, undermine confidence in the Central Bank, and incite fear among citizens to abandon their national currency.” In a telephone conversation with the state-run Syrian News Channel, he regarded the recent depreciation of the Syrian pound as “illusory,” adding that it has “no economic rationale and basis on the ground.”

This justification, however, was roundly criticized by parliamentary members. Al-Naameh, for example, characterized the governor’s response as “inconsistent with reality.”

What’s behind the recent depreciation of the Syrian pound?

Although the value of the Syrian pound has undergone a steady decrease since 2011, the black market exchange rate plummeted this year in particular, such that government attempts to remedy the situation have largely failed.
According to David Butter, a political and economic analyst at London-based Chatham House institute, the recent depreciation in the Syria pound may have been triggered by “problems in meeting fuel imports earlier in the year,” which forced “government and private traders to look around for dollars.”

In April 2019, fuel shortages in government areas paralyzed economic activity; donkeys and horse-drawn carriages roamed the streets of Damascus while people formed day-long lines outside gas stations. This prompted private and government importers to finance fuel imports through other methods, putting further pressure on the Syrian pound.
The inability to meet fuel demand is intimately linked to Iran’s dwindling capacity to provide energy to Syria. Earlier this year, Iran stopped selling oil to the Syrian government on its “credit line” – a form of financial aid provided by Iran to Syria to purchase basic commodities – and the weight of US sanctions on Iranian oil exports has aggravated the situation. Moreover, following US pressure on countries delivering oil to Syria, importers have had to rely on more expensive smuggling routes.

Another possible explanation behind the recent depreciation of the Syrian pound is the Turkish invasion of northeast Syria in October. Dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” the Syrian National Army (SNA) with the support of Turkish forces moved into largely Kurdish-held areas in northeast Syria, east of the Euphrates. Though not as significant as fuel shortages, Butter added that the changes in the black market exchange rate “is some kind of indication that maybe the Turkish incursion is having an effect.” However, the US decision to retain Syrian oil fields – even as the Syrian government reasserts control in certain areas – has undercut hopes of generating hard currency from future oil sales.

Another important reason for the rapid decline in the value of the Syrian pound may lie outside Syria’s borders. In neighboring Lebanon, a financial crisis is continuing to unfold, with drastic pressure mounting on the country’s currency peg with the US dollar. Following the outbreak of popular protests in mid-October in response to decades of corruption and financial plunder, Lebanese banks closed for almost two weeks with many fearing a potential run on the banks.

After opening and then closing again for a week, banks reopened on November 19 to large lines of customers seeking withdrawals. However, to avoid capital flight, the Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) announced that cash withdrawals would be limited to $1,000 a week.

For Syrian importers, this spells disaster. Beirut continues to be the main dollar market for Syrian importers who use the Lebanese banking system. As Lebanon’s financial health deteriorates and confronts a nation-wide dollar shortage, Syrian importers are finding it increasingly more expensive to buy dollars to finance their imports. As Butter noted, “the fact that you have foreign currency shortages in Lebanon is likely to have a knock-on effect in Syrian markets.”

read full article here

Health Benefits of Za’atar

Za’atar has some truly impressive health benefits, including its ability to improve the immune system, boost skin health, build strong bones, increase circulation, clear out the respiratory tracts, soothe inflammation, boost energy, improve mood, aid memory, and potential to treat chronic diseases.
Za’atar

While many spices are delicious and beneficial for your overall health by themselves, powerful flavor and health conditions can sometimes be maximized when combined. Za’atar is one of the best examples, and this Middle Eastern mix consists of thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, and salt. There are a number of different varieties, occasionally including marjoram or oregano, rather than thyme. These herbs and spices contain a wealth of powerful nutrients and organic compounds, including thymol, gallic acid, carvacrol, and quercetin. By taking in the best of numerous healthy herbs, this spice mix has been popularized throughout the Middle East and is beginning to spread to other parts of the world.

While zaatar is another name for thyme in some cultures, the spice blend with a slightly different name is used in a number of other ways. It is a popular addition to salads, as well as seasonings for meat and vegetables. The flavor, depending on the particular combination, is often described as toasty, tangy, or nutty. You particularly see it with olive oil and bread, and in dips for vegetables. By combining flavonoids, minerals, and other key nutrients, this spicy seed mixture can do wonders for your overall health. Let’s take a closer look at some of the many health benefits of za’atar.

 

Health benefits of za’atar include:
Relief from Symptoms of Chronic Diseases

Sumac, with its healthy supply of quercetin, acts as an antioxidant protecting the body against free radicals that cause various health issues. Numerous studies have shown this benefit of sumac’s organic components, and as a key ingredient in za’atar, this spice mix can significantly boost your protection from chronic diseases caused by free radicals (Mehmet Hakki Alma et al., 2003).
Clear Respiratory Tracts

There are certain expectorant properties of thyme, particularly when it is brewed in a tea. Thyme can help to clear out the respiratory tracts, causing you to expectorate (a cough) out phlegm and mucus, so this potent spice mix can be added to food when you’re feeling a cold coming on. The immune-boosting abilities of the herbs involved also help to ward off illnesses.
Boost Cognition

There are strong traditional beliefs about the cognitive impact of za’atar, including its possibility of improving memory. People used to sleep with za’atar beneath their pillow, but in reality, it could be due to the circulation-boosting powers of za’atar, as well as the rich mineral content that can boost brain power and stimulate neural activity.
Soothe Inflammation

You can make za’atar into a paste or a salve, much as you would to spread on bread, but instead put it on inflamed areas of the skin, such as bug bites and aching joints. When the spice is consumed, it can have a similar anti-inflammatory effect on other parts of the body, particularly if you suffer from arthritis, gout, or other inflammatory conditions in the stomach or respiratory system.
Increase Energy

The high concentration of polyphenols and flavonoids found in this spice mix make it a powerful energy booster that can get your metabolism moving. Furthermore, it can help you get more restful sleep, due to the magnesium found in the mix, helping you feel more energized and ready to face your day each morning.
Improve Mood

Studies and traditional evidence have linked za’atar with improved mood and decreased rates of depression. This use has been popular for generations in the Middle East. The phenol that comes from thyme and oregano may have direct mood-boosting effects by impacting the hormones being released and regulated throughout the body. Carvacrol has been directly linked to increased energy and cognitive function as well.
Strengthen Bones

One thing that these herbs all have in common is minerals, and between the high concentration of iron, calcium, copper, and magnesium, za’atar can have a major impact on bone mineral density. Adding this spice mix to your regular diet can help you ward off osteoporosis and other degenerative bone conditions as you age.
Circulatory Effects

As mentioned earlier, za’atar can help improve the circulation of oxygenated blood throughout the body thanks to its impressive iron content. Iron is a key component of hemoglobin, which transports red blood cells throughout the body, ensuring that all organ systems get the oxygen they need.
Immune System Aid

Certain organic compounds found in za’atar spice mix have anti-fungal, anti-microbial, and antiseptic properties, making this an all-around powerhouse for your immune system. This includes internal and external applications, keeping your gut, skin, respiratory, and nervous systems functioning at a high, healthy level.

source

Apocalyptic Scenario Beginning In Syria

With with 77 Killed; Over 150K Displaced
REPORTfrom Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations Published on 04 May 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Geneva, Switzerland – In the past 72 hours there has been a surge in airstrikes, barrel bomb attacks and artillery strikes in Idlib and Hama, Syria. At least 77 civilians have been killed and over 150,000 IDPs displaced in the past seven days. Most cities in Northern Hama are almost completely evacuated. The areas are already over populated and lack in camps and housing for the newly displaced, leaving large numbers with no shelter, exposed to the elements. Five medical facilities and five schools were also bombed and put out of service this week. Many hospitals and schools have suspended operations. There are over 3.5 million people in Northwestern Syria including 350,000 people living in refugee camps. The region already suffers from severe shortages in healthcare, food, shelter and sanitation and cannot withstand further destabilization.

The five medical facilities that were targeted and put out of service include: Al Latamna Hospital, Qalaat Al-Madiq Hospital, Al Habeet Primary Health Care Center, Qastoon Primary Health Care Center, and the Surgical Unit in Kafr Naboodha. No casualties were reported from these attacks and one nurse was injured in the Kafr Naboodha attack. Earlier today a Syrian Civil Defense Worker (White Helmet) was killed as he was rescuing people in an attack. The former administration officer of Sham Hospital, a prominent actor in the Hama Health Directorate, and current accountant at the Al-Madiq Hospital, was killed as a missile struck his car near Al Madiq hospital.

“If these attacks are allowed to continue, we will witness the apocalypse in Syria. It will be like nothing we have seen in the past 7 years of war. Specifically, the genocide of thousands of civilians and the displacement of millions to surrounding countries. The battle of Idlib and the refugee crisis it will create will threaten global peace and security. The UN Security council, mandated with upholding global peace and security, along with world at large, must take proactive steps to ensure the battle of Idlib is deescalated and resolved peacefully immediately. Right now, hundreds of thousands of people are being pushed into smaller and smaller areas and will inevitably be slaughtered. We know how this story plays out; the bombing of schools and hospital, indiscriminate barrel bomb attacks, chemical weapon attacks and scores of children brutally disfigured and killed. WE CANNOT LET IT HAPPEN AGAIN!” Said Dr. Hussam Al Fakir, Chairman of UOSSM International

In the strongest terms, UOSSM urges all parties to the conflict to find a peaceful resolution. We urge the UN Security Council and the international community to implement UNSC resolution 2286 for the protection of medical facilities and aid workers. We urge the international community to release emergency humanitarian funding for medical aid, shelter, food, water and sanitation.

Media inquiries and interviews please contact :

Name: Avi D’Souza
Director Of Communications, UOSSM Intl.
Phone: (647) 528-5029
Email: press@uossm.org

About UOSSM :
UOSSM (Union des Organisations de Secours et Soins Médicaux) provides free medical aid to the people of Syria regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender, religion or political affiliation. UOSSM international, founded by Syrian Doctors around the world, started in 2012 and operates 12 major hospitals and supports 120 clinics inside Syria. UOSSM has performed over 1,000,000 medical treatments inside Syria since inception.

source

Steve Bannon

Opinion

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon speaks during a press conference at the Foreign Press Club in Rome, Tuesday, March 26, 2019 Domenico Stinellis,AP

Steve Bannon‘s Fascist Far Right Christian Army Is Marching on Liberal Europe – and on the Pope
Bannon thinks he’s Europe’s savior. He’s also a narcissist, spinmeister and provocateur. But we shouldn’t dismiss his coalition-building efforts to radicalize Europe, empower the far right and declare holy war on the Vatican

see article here

Democracy Now

Daily Show Mon, Mar 04, 2019

 

https://www.democracynow.org/shows/2019/3/4

What Gaza Wants

Israel/Palestine Haidar Eid on November 9, 2018 6 Comments

Palestinian protesters react to tear gas during clashes with Israeli forces during the Great March of Return in the southern Gaza Strip on May 15, 2018. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)



Four years after the Israeli Occupation Forces perpetrated a massacre upon the population of Gaza, the third in 5 years, Apartheid Israel insists on committing more crimes by targeting civilians protesting peacefully every Friday demanding their internationally-sanctioned right of return to the towns and villages from which they were ethnically cleansed back in 1948. The latest round of Israeli war crimes has resulted in a new massacre ; since March 30th, when the first of a series of marches took place at the eastern fence of the Gaza Strip, more than 220 innocent civilians, including 34 children and 5 women, have been murdered brutally as they demonstrated non-violently. More than 2000 have been injured, some very critically. (Statistics taken from Gaza Ministry if Health)

As we, Palestinians of Gaza, embark on our long walk to freedom, we have come to the conclusion that we can no longer rely on governments; instead, we request that the citizens of the world oppose these ongoing deadly crimes. The failure of the United Nations and its numerous organizations to condemn such crimes proves their complicity. We have also come to the conclusion that only civil society is able to mobilize to demand the implementation of international law and put an end to Israel’s unprecedented impunity. Our inspiration is the anti-apartheid movement. The intervention of civil society was effective in the late 1980s against the apartheid regime of White South Africa. Nelson Mandela, before his eminent death, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, amongst other anti-apartheid activists, did not not only describe Israel’s oppressive and violent control of Palestinians as Apartheid, they also joined this call for the world’s civil society to intervene again.

In fact, we expect people of conscience and civil society organizations to put pressure on their governments until Israel is forced to abide by international law and international humanitarian law. It did work last century; without the intervention of the international community which was effective against apartheid in South Africa, Israel will continue its war crimes and crimes against humanity.

We need to be more specific about our demands. We want civil society organizations worldwide to intensify the anti-Israel sanctions campaign to compel Israel to end to its aggression.

It has become crystal clear that the international conspiracy of silence towards the incremental genocide taking place against the 2 million civilians in Gaza indicates complicity in these war crimes.

It is high-time that the international community demand that the rogue State of Israel, a state that has violated every single international law one can think of, end its medieval siege of Gaza and compensate for the destruction of life and infrastructure that it has visited upon the Palestinian people. But this should also come within a package of demands to be made by all Palestine solidarity groups and all international civil society organizations that still believe in the rule of law and basic human rights:

An end to the siege that has been imposed on the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip since 2006 for voting against the fictional two-state solution and the Oslo Accords;
The protection of civilian lives and property, as stipulated in International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law such as The Fourth Geneva Convention;
That Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip be provided with material support to cope with the immense hardship that they are experiencing at the hands of Israeli Occupation Forces;
Immediate reparations and compensation for all destruction carried out by the IOF in the Gaza Strip;
Holding Israeli generals and leaders accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the civilians of Gaza;
And

An end to occupation, Apartheid, and other war crimes committed by Israel.
Why is that too much to ask? Were the anti-apartheid and Civil Rights movements too demanding for calling for an end to all forms of racism, institutional and otherwise ? And was the international community wrong to heed their calls?

source

President Trump is unfit for office. Bob Woodward’s ‘Fear’ confirms it.

Exclusive: Listen to Trump’s conversation with Bob Woodward
President Trump and Bob Woodward discuss Woodward’s new book, “Fear,” before its publication. (The Washington Post)

By Max Boot
Columnist
September 4 at 3:09 PM
If you take seriously the revelations in Bob Woodward’s book “Fear” — and how can you not, given Woodward’s nearly half-century of scoops about Washington’s elite? — then it’s time for President Trump to be removed from office via the 25th Amendment because he is clearly “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” That will never happen, because the Cabinet is packed with Trump toadies who compete with each other to deliver the most fawning praise of their supreme leader. But on the merits, it should happen.

Of course, it doesn’t take Woodward’s revelations to demonstrate Trump’s unfitness for office. Trump demonstrates it on a daily basis with his campaign-rally rants and Twitter tirades. Just in the past day, the president has demanded that the Justice Department drop criminal investigations against his supporters because it could cost Republicans House seats, and suggested that NBC lose its broadcast license because, in essence, he objects to the criticism he receives on MSNBC. A senior Justice Department official told Axios: “It shows how POTUS thinks DOJ should be used: As a weapon against enemies and a tool to win elections.” In a normal world — a world where Congress was not controlled by blind Republican partisans — the fact that Trump continues to make demands so at odds with the rule of law would be cause for his impeachment and removal.

read on here

Sam and Ammar.. Special episode in the Holocaust Museum

Define the Holocaust, explain why it happened.
Why focus on Jews?
The most important events of the Holocaust
The importance of the event and the reaction of the Arabs
What we learned from the Holocaust.

“WHY DID YOU COME TO THE UNITED STATES?” CENTRAL AMERICAN CHILDREN TRY TO CONVINCE COURTS THEY NEED PROTECTION

IN 2014, the Mexican author Valeria Luiselli, waiting for her green card application to be resolved, took her family on a road trip through the American southwest. As she and her husband and young children drove to Roswell, New Mexico, they joked about their own status as “resident aliens” and informed Border Patrol officers at checkpoints that they are “just writers and just on vacation. … We are writing a Western, sir.”

As they drove, the family followed the news of tens of thousands of Central American children crossing the border just hours south of them, most of them alone. They listened to radio reports describing the children being warehoused, overcrowded and underfed, in detention centers known as as hieleras, or iceboxes, for ICE, but mostly for their frigid temperatures. They saw photos of protesters in Arizona with signs saying “return to sender” and “illegal is a crime.” They overheard patrons at a diner trading rumors about a millionaire offering his private plane to personally deport the children.

Luiselli_Cover-1491497460

Luiselli’s new Book “Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay In Forty Questions,” is about the author’s experience working with children in immigration court.

Photo: Coffee House Press

Ultimately, between April 2014 and August 2015, more than 102,000 unaccompanied children were detained at the border, and their fates haunted Luiselli to such an extent that on her return to New York, she started volunteering as an interpreter for children facing deportation in federal immigration court. She has written a new book about her experience, “Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay In Forty Questions,” and it couldn’t be more timely.

President Trump’s capricious and xenophobic actions on immigration have elevated the issue to national attention and sparked protest, but Luiselli’s book is a reminder that not all of this started with the 45thpresident. Luiselli’s book is a slim, readable primer on what ought to be considered one of the most unsettling episodes of Obama’s presidency, capably explaining how his administration did exactly the opposite of what was needed in response to the arrival of the children.

It’s also a potent meditation on questions the Trump administration has brought to the fore: Who is, and most determinedly, who isn’t, a citizen? Who should enjoy the freedom to travel, not to carry documents everywhere, to go to school, to go to the doctor, to make mistakes, to be happy, to be unhappy? What indignities should no one have to suffer, regardless of legal status? What do people deserve, as citizens or non-citizens?

The book opens with the first question Luiselli has to ask each kid she helped in immigration court — “Why did you come to the United States?” — and the book returns again and again to that question throughout. The answer is never simple.

Full article here

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