Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Thread on what it’s like to be a freelance foreign correspondent in 2018

I recently pitched a story to a prominent magazine about refugee returns to Syria. The editor I was speaking with said they were very interested but needed more pre-reporting before they could commit.

I recently pitched a story to a prominent magazine about refugee returns to Syria. The editor I was speaking with said they were very interested but needed more pre-reporting before they could commit.
Also important in this context to note that until last August, Arsal was overrun by ISIS and kidnapping is still very much a threat there. I was reporting without any security & with this editor's encouragement. She kept telling me they needed more info before they could commit.

Over the course of two entire days spent at the camps, I spoke with many people who said they were essentially being forced back into Syria because of horrific humanitarian conditions as well as persecution and harassment by local residents.

I was told that some local men recently doused a 15-year-old mentally retarded Syrian boy with gasoline and electrocuted him to death. Lebanon prohibits the establishment of permanent refugee settlements and private landlords have recently been carrying out many mass evictions.

The recent returns from Arsal were negotiated with certain vague, rather disturbing terms. The regime has demanded that refugees coming back into the country be questioned and processed by Syrian intelligence. I've been told that many returnees are being imprisoned and tortured.

Upon arriving in Syria, the refugees are to be greeted by the regime army, which takes them to their local municipalities to pay fees for all utilities they would have paid during the years they were gone. Keep in mind, most of these people are struggling to feed themselves.

Then they must try to claim and register their homes, if they're still standing. In April, the Syrian government passed a law that demanded all displaced Syrians claim their homes by early May or risk forfeiting them, so the regime can confiscate any of their properties at will.

Upon arriving, the refugees are to be strictly monitored by the regime and confined to their municipalities for six months without being allowed through checkpoints. To further complicate matters, Hezbollah just announced that it will also be processing prospective returnees.

According to the refugees I'm speaking with who are still in touch with those who have been returned to Syria, it's very difficult to get accurate information from the returnees because they're terrified of Syrian intelligence monitoring their calls. That fear is likely valid.

From what the people I've spoken with have heard, some returnees managed to find relatives to stay with and are settling in, while others have simply disappeared into Syrian prisons or are being terrorized by the shabiha, notorious pro-Assad militias renowned for sexual violence.

One 36-year-old man in an Arsal camp has 3 daughters. He put his family on the waiting list for the next group of returns despite knowing that he will be immediately conscripted into the regime army. That would leave his wife and daughters to brave dangers like the shabiha alone.

"We are very desperate," this man told me with tears in his eyes. "Because we fled our country, [the regime] will probably put us right at the front of the battle. But I would prefer war to living here in Lebanon. I'd willingly die to keep what's left of my pride."

Because I spent hours in the camps gaining people’s trust, refugees told me things I haven't seen in any other news coverage. I had over 5 hours of interviews and was planning to write a story that explores how the return process really plays out, something I have yet to see.

After all this work and the emotional toll it takes to report on such horrific human suffering, the editor tells me she’s sorry but they can’t take the piece. I was not compensated for any of my work and when I tried to sell the piece elsewhere, I got crickets from other editors.

I’m tired of fighting so hard to do an important job I love and know I’m good at. This was the last straw. I now intend to give up being a freelance foreign correspondent, move back to the States and focus completely on writing my second book, which is on radicalism in America.

I’m one of many journalists i know who have made the same decision in recent years. It has become completely unsustainable for my mental health to continue doing this job. The end result is that countless important, life-or-death stories like this will go untold. End.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Αγορά κατοικίας στο Λονδίνο - Μιλώντας με τους ειδικούς - Feta Report 42

Μπορώ να μιλήσω για την προσωπική μου εμπειρία όσων αφορά το property crowdfunding. Παρόλες τις φανφάρες και τα μεγάλα λόγια ουσιαστικά δεν αγοράζεις ένα σπίτι ή έστω ένα μέρος ενός σπιτιού όπως ας πούμε στο shared ownership. Αυτό που "άγοράζεις" είναι μετοχές μιας εταιρείας που διαχειρίζεται τα ακίνητα και που τα έσοδά της προκύπτουν απο τα ενοίκια πωλήσεις κτλ ακινήτων. Οπότε και τα δικά σου κέρδη προέρχονται απο τα ενοίκια. Είναι σαν να λέμε οτι έχεις έσοδα απο την παραγωγή ζαρζαβατικών επειδή έχεις μετοχές του Σκλαβενίτη ένα πράγμα. Εαν επιθυμείς να αποχωρήσεις και να πάρεις τα χρήματά σου πίσω, δεν μπλέκεσαι με αλυσίδες και άλλα τέτοια σαδομαζωχιστικά, απλά πουλάς τις μετοχές σου που μπορεί να έχουν πάρει αξία, οπότε κερδίζεις ή μπορεί να έχουν πέσει, οπότε χάνεις.

Επειδή το property market είναι πιο σταθερό απο το Χρηματιστήριο, ώς επένδυση είναι πιο λίγο πιο σίγουρη. Επίσης έχει καλύτερη απόδοση απο το μέσο cash ISA. Επιπλέον υπάρχει και το απίστευτο δέλεαρ του 'get your feet on the property ladder' με 500 λύρες μόνο! Που δεν είναι τελείως λάθος αλλά δεν είναι και σωστό.

Το site https://bricklane.com/ δίνει τη δυνατότητα να δημιουργήσεις και ISA account που στην ουσία είναι stock and bonds ISA οπότε τα έσοδά σου είναι αφορολόγητα (καλά όποιος δεν ζει Αγγλία νομίζει οτι έπαθα παράκρουση).

Δεν είναι άσκημο ώς ιδέα, ειδικά για άτομα που θέλουν λίγο καλύτερη απόδοση για τα χρήματά τους απο ότι δίνουν οι τράπεζες αλλά σπιτονοικοκύρης δεν γίνεσαι με 500 λύρες μόνο.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Environmentalist art before there was an “environment”

Thomas Cole sought to warn America not to do to nature what industrial England had done

TWO centuries ago Thomas Cole arrived on American shores, bringing with him from England a new landscape painting tradition perfect for the wild expanses of the new world. Cole also brought a zeal for warning about the perils that unchecked industry posed to the natural world, establishing one of painting’s first environmental critiques. “Atlantic Crossings”, an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York that will travel to the National Gallery in London in June, celebrates the bicentennial of Cole’s American arrival and newly explores his transatlantic career—how both old world and new influenced his visual and intellectual rendering of the natural environment.

Born in Bolton in 1801 at the height of the industrial revolution, Cole entered a polluted and overcrowded world of factories belching smoke into sooty skies. Most artists at the time continued to paint bucolic country scenes, with just a few finding inspiration in this new infernal backdrop to modern life, including J.M.W. Turner and Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg. Some of their large canvasses bring the viewer into urban streets framed by fiery furnaces that seemed to define the modern city.

But Cole brought these early impressions of a ravaged landscape to the new world, where his family had come in 1818 seeking economic opportunity. Eventually making his way to New York’s Hudson Valley, he helped propel landscape painting to the prestige accorded historical and religious themes, a momentum that eventually led to the founding of the Hudson River School.

The scale and promise of the New World seemed to demand a new monumental art-form. Cole was deeply immersed in the new scientific treatises of the day, reflected in the detail and verisimilitude of the plants, clouds and other natural phenomena of his painted world. But his landscapes almost always strove for the Arcadian, rather than the real. In one of his most famous paintings, “View of the Round-Top in the Catskill Mountains” (1827), he depicts an escarpment overlooking the mountains of the Hudson River valley. Though this area was already a popular tourist destination, he eliminated signs of human presence. Only untouched wilderness stands before the viewer.

He also integrated the era’s literature—another of his famous Catskills landscapes is a scene inspired by James Fenimore Cooper’s “The Last of the Mohicans”. These cross-pollinations reflected Cole’s and other contemporaries’ increasing investigations into the natural and man-made world as symbiotic. In 1836 Cole wrote an essay on the American landscape, the same year that Ralph Waldo Emerson’s seminal essay “Nature” was published.

Cole always sought to enshrine unspoiled nature as an endangered Eden. But his return trip across the Atlantic cemented his ambition to caution Americans about the potential for nature’s demise. After his visit to London and the National Gallery, where he first saw Turners and Constables—some of which are included in the exhibition—and an artist’s grand tour of Italy, he came back with renewed purpose to sound a warning of nature’s destruction by the greed of industry. He felt a special urgency when returning to Jacksonian America in 1832, where manifest destiny and the race west seemed to strip the land at a pace that portended the darkness of industrial Bolton.

While in London and Rome, Cole developed his perhaps most famous and accomplished series, the “Course of Empire”. Along with Turner’s “Hannibal Crossing the Alps”, this series is the highlight of the exhibit. It is also the clearest and most didactic warning of the downfall that Cole was confident that America would experience if the young country did not heed the lessons of the old world. To Cole, the greed that precipitated the American land grab heralded not only environmental ruin, but a cultural and moral one as well.

The five allegorical paintings of “The Course of Empire” (pictured) depict the same imaginary landscape, each representing a different stage of civilisation, in sequence of the times of day. “The Savage State” (top) presents the landscape at its most wild, with hunter-gatherers the only human intrusion into the landscape. The “Arcadian or Pastoral State”, the second, depicts the emergence of music and dance, still an idyll, but with industry and agriculture beginning to take hold. The third painting, “The Consummation of Empire”, shows the city as imposing and imperial, sowing the seeds of the downfall depicted in the next canvas, “Destruction”. In the final scene, the natural landscape is ready to reclaim civilisation’s ruins. It remains unclear whether Cole’s wealthy American patrons recognised this series as a direct warning to them, rather than a flattering, contrasting view of what had happened to old Europe.

Cole was not a conservationist, a movement yet to take root. He seemed resigned to the role of doomsday prophet. Subsequent landscape artists, especially those of the Hudson School, actually rejected most of his proto-environmentalism and instead embraced manifest destiny and American might in their work. The visual world would take many generations to catch up to his urgency about the consequences of industrial progress and what man loses when the land can no longer play its natural role.

Copied from 'The Economist'
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