Perilous plight for Syrian refugees in Lebanon

first_imgNearly 1 million Syrian refugees living in temporary conditions in Lebanon are approaching catastrophe and in desperate need of additional aid, according to a report from Harvard’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights.“Running Out of Time: Survival of Syrian Refugee Children in Lebanon,” based on a 10-day “rapid assessment” conducted in Lebanon in November, calls for increased funding from the international community and stronger support from the Lebanese government to combat malnutrition, disease, hypothermia, and exploitation such as sex trafficking, early marriage, and child labor.The well-being of children, who make up half the refugee population, is tied to that of their families, said Susan Bartels, an FXB fellow, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. That means overall improvement in living conditions for refugee families must be the goal.The refugees in Lebanon are among an estimated 2 million who have fled Syria’s civil war, which will be three years old in March. An estimated 6.5 million Syrians have been displaced internally.Bartels and Kathleen Hamill, an FXB fellow and adjunct assistant professor at Tufts University, wrote the report after traveling to Lebanon. The two conducted 67 interviews with refugee families, Lebanese government officials, and representatives of nongovernmental aid agencies over their 10-day stay. The 34 refugees they interviewed were staying in the Bekaa Valley, the port city of Tripoli, or the greater Beirut area.Living conditions varied widely. In Beirut and Tripoli, families tended to be sheltered in existing housing, some faring relatively well in rented apartments, others crowded into marginal settings such as basements, storefronts, and apartments under construction. In the Bekaa Valley, many lived in tent settlements.For their report, Kathleen Hamill, an FXB Center fellow, and Bartels conducted 67 interviews with refugee families. “People wanted somebody to document and maybe witness the conditions they were living in,” Hamill said.Bartels recalled visiting one woman in her tent and sitting on a rug covering the bare ground during the interview. The tent provided some shelter from rain, but it had no heat and provided little protection from the sometimes sub-freezing temperatures. The woman’s clothing, like that of many refugees, was inadequate for the season. The two researchers saw children going barefoot or wearing just sandals, and few warm coats.“It was already cold at the end of November,” Bartels said. “We were wearing our warmest travel clothes as well as jackets. The Syrians didn’t have many clothes, no jackets. … It was remarkable to be there, for it to already be so cold in November, and to know how much more severe the weather was going to get.”Both Hamill and Bartels described a warm welcome, despite the refugees’ difficult situation.“People wanted somebody to document and maybe witness the conditions they were living in,” Hamill said.Bartels said she was struck by the feeling of isolation expressed by many of those interviewed. The report notes a feeling of abandonment among the refugees and an “unsettled, almost volatile mood.”Health care and food were in short supply. Food assistance was unequal to the needs of many families, the interviewers found. Cases of malnutrition have not been common among refugee children, but are beginning to be observed as families run out of resources.The report highlights several concerns specific to those under age 18. As families’ resources are depleted, children beg on the streets or go to work. In addition, early marriage of young girls is cited. While refugees believe these unions will provide the brides with protection and access to the husband’s resources, early marriage can lead to an unequal relationship and may even be a front for sex-trafficking operations, the report says. Girls desperate for resources are not only vulnerable to sex trafficking, but can engage in what the report terms “survival sex” for money.Even children who avoid the more pernicious forms of exploitation are in danger of losing years of education, as some 80 percent of refugee children are not attending schools, the report says. Because parents are concerned about the safety of their children, they often keep them inside. This exacerbates the family’s profound social isolation, not just from the surrounding Lebanese community, but also from other Syrian refugee families.Though Lebanon has maintained an open border and new refugees get an initial aid package after registering, many of the difficulties faced by refugee families stem from the Lebanese government’s decision not to allow the construction of refugee camps, Bartels and Hamill said.A result of the nation’s experience with Palestinian camps, which became permanent settlements, the decision means that Syrian refugees are dispersed to some 1,500 locations around the country. Bartels said the lack of camps has made it extremely difficult for aid agencies to provide assistance and services, such as education and health care. In addition, most refugees are paying rent for even marginal housing and face eviction if they cannot pay.Bartels and Hamill acknowledged that Lebanon, with a population 4.2 million, has been enormously stressed by the refugee crisis. Syrian refugees represent close to one in four residents in the country, and, at current rates of increase, the refugee population is expected to rise from about 1 million to 1.5 million this year.The effects within Lebanese communities have included rising rents, steeper competition for jobs, an increase in begging, and a strain on infrastructure such as education and sewage systems.“It has … placed a large burden on Lebanese communities,” Bartels said. “You have to keep in mind the infrastructure in Lebanon was not great to begin with.”Recommendations in the report focus on providing basic needs, guarding against exploitation, increasing access to education, and decreasing social isolation. The fulfillment of financial commitments by the international donor community will be key in providing the resources for those actions, the authors note. At a Jan. 15 conference in Kuwait, donor nations pledged some $2.4 billion to help Syrian refugees in all countries. But $6.5 billion is needed this year alone, said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.The establishment of formal camps would be a major step toward meeting needs, the authors say. Absent such action, they say, durable materials should be provided to reinforce shelters, families should be relocated from dangerous proximity to ravines and stream beds where flooding can occur, and more aid should be directed at meeting food, water, sanitation, and health care needs.The report suggests encouraging Syrian children to attend local schools by lowering educational expenses and fees, and leveraging the skills of refugee teachers to lead classes, since the influx of Syrian children would necessitate a doubling of the current Lebanese school system.The report recommends lifting restrictions on employing Syrians, which would allow more adults to work; raising the legal working age to 15; and giving labor inspectors additional power to police violations.Other recommendations would set a minimum legal age for marriage, implement and enforce laws against sexual exploitation and human trafficking, and ensure that victims are not viewed as criminals.For the international community, the report urges efforts dedicated to finding a resolution to the Syrian civil war and opening nations outside of Lebanon, including the United States, to refugees.“There’s got to be an even more intense effort to sort this out,” Hamill said.last_img read more

Art Museums appoint Joachim Homann as curator of drawings

first_imgThe Harvard Art Museums are pleased to announce the appointment of Joachim Homann as the new Maida and George Abrams Curator of Drawings, effective Aug. 19, 2019.Homann is currently curator of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, Maine, the repository of one of the oldest collections of historic European drawings in this country. During his tenure, European and American drawings and works on paper have been a particular focus of collecting and exhibitions.Homann’s work on Bowdoin’s collection of drawings culminated in 2017 with the publication of the first catalogue that featured highlights of this unique resource. “Why Draw? 500 Years of Drawings and Watercolors” introduced works from the studios of Raphael and Peter Paul Rubens to drawings by Eva Hesse and Titus Kaphar. Since arriving at Bowdoin in 2010, he has organized many exhibitions, which, in addition to “Why Draw?” include “Modernism for All: The Bauhaus at 100”; “Richard Pousette-Dart: Painting|Light|Space;” “Night Vision: Nocturnes in American Art, 1860–1960;” and “Hendrick Goltzius: Mythology and Truth.”Prior to his position at Bowdoin, Homann was curator at the Picker Art Gallery at Colgate University (2007–10) and curator of exhibitions and lecturer in art history at the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts at the University of Texas at El Paso (2005–07). Homann returns to Harvard, having served as a graduate curatorial fellow in the Busch-Reisinger Museum from 2001 to 2003.“It is extremely gratifying to welcome Joachim back to the Harvard Art Museums. Both in his own career trajectory, and in his devotion to nurturing the next generation, he exemplifies the very essence of our museum teaching and training program and its long legacy of preparing drawings scholars with the skills and experience necessary to succeed in their curatorial pursuits,” said Martha Tedeschi, the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director. “Joachim prospered after completing his fellowship here, and his subsequent contributions to the field have been both broad and deep. We are thrilled to have him join our curatorial team at a very exciting time for the study of drawings at Harvard.”In his role at the Harvard Art Museums, Homann will oversee the extensive drawings collection — one of the most significant areas within the museums’ broader collections. The drawings collection was greatly enhanced by the recent transformative gift of more than 300 Dutch, Flemish, and Netherlandish drawings from collector and longtime supporter George S. Abrams. That gift further established the Harvard Art Museums as the major North American site for the appreciation, research, and study of works on paper from the Dutch Golden Age.“I am thrilled to join director Martha Tedeschi and the magnificent team of the Harvard Art Museums as curator of drawings,” said Homann. “Drawings have long been essential to learning, as they require intent looking and exemplify the visualization of complex information. I am greatly looking forward to mining Harvard’s exceptional collection of drawings with students and faculty and to engaging public audiences, to explore together the ongoing relevance of drawing as an artistic and intellectual pursuit.” Read Full Storylast_img read more

(Not) feeling the burn

first_img Exercise is something humans never evolved to do (but is healthy nonetheless) Protein, fat, or carbs? Findings from the Nurses’ Health Study, one of the longest running studies of women’s health, show that five diet and lifestyle factors, including regular exercise, can make a significant impact on gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) or heartburn symptoms.GERD is a common condition, affecting about a third of the U.S. population; the main symptom is heartburn and it is often managed with medications. This new study suggests, however, that following diet and lifestyle guidelines may reduce symptoms substantially and could make medication unnecessary for some patients. It was published as a letter in JAMA Internal Medicine.The five factors include: normal weight, never smoking, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for at least 30 minutes daily, restricting coffee, tea and sodas to two cups daily, and a prudent diet.“This study provides evidence that common and debilitating gastrointestinal symptoms could be well controlled in many cases with diet and lifestyle modifications alone,” said Andrew T. Chan, the study’s senior author. “Given that there are long-term health effects of GERD and lingering concerns about the side effects of medications used to treat it, lifestyle should be considered the best option for controlling symptoms.” Chan is a gastroenterologist, chief of the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS). The lead author of the research letter is Raaj S. Mehta, gastroenterology fellow at MGH and HMS.The Nurses’ Health Study II is a nationwide study established in 1989 whose participants return a detailed health questionnaire twice a year. It began with 116,671 participants and has had follow-up that exceeds 90 percent. This study included data from almost 43,000 women aged 42 to 62 who were questioned about GERD or heartburn symptoms from 2005 to 2017 — which represents approximately 390,000 person-years. Can lead to uptick in circulating metabolites, which govern insulin resistance, stress, inflammation, longevity Related Researchers show how several diets can improve heart health 12-minute exercise bursts offer big benefits Why run unless something is chasing you? The researchers created a statistical model that allowed them to calculate the “population-attributable risk” for GERD symptoms associated with each of the five anti-reflux lifestyle factors — in other words, they estimated how likely it was that each lifestyle factor lowered risk of experiencing symptoms. They found that following all these guidelines could reduce GERD symptoms overall by 37 percent. The more of the specific guidelines a woman followed, the lower her risk of symptoms. Among women using common heartburn treatments (proton pump inhibitors and H2 receptor antagonists), adhering to the guidelines also reduced symptoms.“We were particularly interested in the effectiveness of physical activity,” said Chan. “This is one of the first studies that has demonstrated its effectiveness in controlling GERD.” This effect, he suggests, could be due in part to exercise’s effect on the motility of the digestive tract. “Being physically active may help with the clearance of stomach acid which causes heartburn symptoms,” he said.In addition the HMS and MGH, the study has included researchers from the Channing Laboratory (of Brigham and Women’s Hospital), Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, along with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Dana–Farber Cancer Institute, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.This study was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health.last_img read more

Daily Dirt: Conservation Land Grab and GSMNP Campgrounds Closed

first_imgYour outdoor news bulletin for June 24, the day the U.S. Air Force released it’s definitive report in 1997 that nothing happened in Roswell, N.M. that day a UFO landed there in 1947, or maybe didn’t, but probably did:Conservation Land Grab in N.C.Nearly 6,000 more acres of land in the Southern Appalachians is going to be preserved for future generations to enjoy. A deal was struck with former N.C. congressman Charles Taylor’s family and will encompass land in Transylvania County. The Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy has purchased 2,100 acres of the planned 8,000 acres that will eventually become Headwaters State Forest. The CMLC is raising funds and applying for grants to help fund the purchase of the rest of the acreage, which could take up to four years. The Nature Conservancy has also purchased 4,000 acres in Tennessee to be added to Cherokee National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. That project is called “Bridging the Smokies.” Every little bit counts!Natural Bridge to be National Park?Speaking of conservation land grabs, there appears to be a movement pushing for Virginia’s Natural Bridge to become a national park. Despite it’s natural uniqueness, the property is privately owned but is up for sale for the third time in 25 years. Although the bridge is designated as both a Virginia and national historic site, this changing of hands has understandably made the public nervous about its future. As it stands, Natural Bridge is something of a tourist trap, with a hefty entry fee and the usual gift shop tawdriness – there is also an inn, conference center and 1,600 acres of undeveloped property. So Rep. Bob Goodlatte has asked the National Park Service to take a look at the property to determine if the site is suitable for a national park. This is only a study, and the first step in a long process, but it seems to be a step in the right direction for the state of Virginia and the country.Great Smokies National Park Campgrounds ClosedSix Great Smokies National Park Backcountry Campgrounds have been closed until further notice due to bear activity in the area. Lower Walnut Bottom campsite 37, Mount Sterling campsite 38, Upper Walnut Bottom campsite 36, Beard Cane campsite 11, Ottercreek campsite 29, and Sugar Cove campsite 34 are all closed until further notice. On a side note, viewing the list of developed campgrounds that are “closed due to budgetary shortages” is fairly depressing, and include some of the most popular spots in GSMNP. Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain, and Look Rock campgrounds are all closed, with no reopen dates, due to monetary contraints. That being said, still plenty of places to sleep in the park, so don’t hesitate to get out there, just call ahead as usual.last_img read more

Let the Fly Fishing Season Begin

first_imgThe trees have shaken off their snowy mantles. The early spring flowers have begun to poke their heads up through the hard ground. The robin puts in an appearance after his long absence. And fly anglers up and down the East Coast dust off their gear and check to ensure that their waders still fit. Yes, it’s that blessed time of year again—that time when every fly angler asks himself the same question: Where shall I fish?South Holston River, Tenn.The South Holston River is one of the best fisheries on the entire East Coast. Bold words, you say? Yes, they are—and they’re words I’ll stand by. I have fished the SoHo a number of times myself and was here just last year with Jon Hooper, general manager of the famed South Holston River Lodge, and author Tom Gilmore, who was doing research for an upcoming book on tailwater fisheries (rivers below dams). I tagged along to take supporting photos. “Believe it or not, there are still lots of folks who don’t know about this river,” Hooper told us. “The thing is that once folks come here, they generally come back because the fishing is so darn good.”The water released from the Holston Dam is clean and cold and supports roughly 4,000 trout per mile. The trout here are primarily rainbows and browns; on a good day SoHo anglers can land several fish over 14 inches, though that certainly won’t be everyone’s experience. But one thing is certain: The SoHo’s trout are very strong and fight like crazy—especially the browns. The generation schedule on the SoHo changes often, which means the fish change their feeding locations and habits accordingly. Anglers should consider casting streamer patterns when power is being generated, or when fishing after a rainstorm when the water is murky.Wading anglers can access the river below the dam at several locations. Alternatively, consider tackling the SoHo by drift boat with a guide. Check in with local experts before you embark; they know the ins and outs of every bend of the river. South Holston River Fly Shop (southholstonriverflyshop.com) in Bristol, Tennessee, and Mountain Sports Ltd (mountainsportsltd.com) in Bristol, Virginia, are two hotspots. They carry countless local patterns like Kraft’s Kreelex, a great baitfish imitation that works wonders on trout.Should you wish to stay in the area to fish the Holston for several days, check into the South Holston River Lodge, which provides excellent accommodations and superb guides. For more information, contact Jon Hooper at South Holston River Lodge (southholstonriverlodge.com). To check the river’s generation schedule, go to tva.gov/sites/sholston.htm.Davidson River, N.C.Looking for quiet pools, rock walls, and rhododendron-covered banks? Look no further than North Carolina’s Davidson River, which is about as close to trout heaven as you can get. The Big D draws thousands of visitors each year but is mercifully protected from overdevelopment by the surrounding Pisgah National Forest.The lower reaches of the Davidson from the French Broad to Avery Creek are quite deep and hold most of the river’s water—and that’s good news: The state stocks heavily here, and general tackle rules apply. The bad news is that occasionally you’ll have to contend with tubers and spin anglers. In this area, anglers might want to try throwing big streamers early in the morning, especially if the water is off-color or high from recent rains.Most fly anglers fish the catch-and-release section from Avery Creek upstream to the headwaters of the river. The fish hatchery that operates on the Davidson has abundant parking, but don’t go looking for solitude. The browns that call this section of the river home look like miniature submarines and prefer to lie along the banks, occasionally surfacing to take in a midge.The upper reaches of the Davidson are quite small; anglers can actually hike up to the point at which the river is nearly small enough to jump across, though they’ll have to do some bushwhacking. You’ll find tight cover up here; prepare to roll cast. The good news is that this part of the river sees much less pressure. If quarters are too tight, then move back downstream. The river will widen as it picks up more water, and the canopy cover will begin to abate. Numerous access points exist along Route 475 for those whose eyes are peeled. And don’t be afraid to check out Looking Glass and Avery Creeks.The Davidson in Pisgah National Forest is open to the public. For a few bucks, however, excellent private access is available through Kevin Howell, owner of Davidson River Outfitters. “You need to make your first cast count on the Davidson, because these are not forgiving fish,” says Howell. “I also recommend that you pay strict attention to your wading. Poor wading on the Davidson has saved more trout than catch-and-release ever has,” he jokes.Davidson River Outfitters carries all the flies you’ll need to fish here—but one of my all-time favorites remains Howell’s Big Nasty, an exceptional crayfish pattern Kevin Howell developed for North Carolina’s finicky trout. (Pssst: I’ve often used it for smallmouth bass.) For more information, stop by Davidson River Outfitters (davidsonflyfishing.com).Duke’s Creek, Ga.The Peach State acquired Smithgall Woods State Park in 1994 from Charles Smithgall, a local businessman and conservationist. Smithgall agreed to sell his family’s private retreat—over 5,500 acres of pristine wooded landscape—to Georgia with the understanding that the state would preserve the area. State officials wisely agreed and today, in addition to the great fishing, visitors will find plenty of hiking trails, picnic areas, and spots to camp.Duke’s Creek delivers what you might expect from a mountain trout stream, complete with moderate canopy cover and spooky trout. This fishery is only four miles long and in most places less than 20 feet wide, but don’t let its small size fool you into thinking that this is an easy fishery. Overhanging branches make casting a challenge. You’ll have to navigate large boulders while you wade (though you can use them as cover). Wary trout use the logs embedded in the creek’s banks (to improve shore stability) as cover—and to break you off once they’re hooked.Yes, that was a 20-inch fish that just surfaced and smugly refused your fly—but no, it was a rainbow and not a steelhead. Broad shoulder browns also call this fishery home, and they delight in breaking you off not long after you set the hook.Jake Darling works as a guide for Unicoi Outfitters (unicoioutfitters.com) in Helen and offers some advice for rookies: “You have to fish deep here because these fish are large and aren’t likely to come up easily for a dry fly in the early spring.” Good patterns for Duke’s Creek include stone flies in various colors with a WD40 or black zebra midge as a trailer.Nestled in northeastern Georgia, Duke’s Creek is easily accessed by anglers in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Fishing here is catch-and-release only and is restricted to Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday unless you have reservations to stay on site at one of the six lovely cottages that are open to the public at reasonable rates. A $5 parking pass is required. You’ll need to make reservations to fish. For more information on Duke’s Creek and Smithgall Woods State Park, go to gastateparks.org/SmithgallWoods.Gunpowder Falls River, Md.If you’re at the Gunpowder looking for falls, prepare for disappointment. The river has no falls at all and most likely got its name from a nearby foundry that produced guns during the Revolutionary War. The river was also the site of a copper foundry; in fact, the copper used on the Capitol dome after the War of 1812 was extracted from here. Though no one is extracting copper now, anglers do come from miles around to try their hand at extracting the local trout.The Gunpowder boasts an unbelievable population of wild trout ranging from 3,500-5,000 trout per mile, rivaling even the best Western rivers for fish per foot. Although the typical trout here is 9 to 10 inches, 18-inchers are not unheard of. Though you may catch rainbows and brookies, the overwhelming majority (about 95 percent) of the Gunpowder’s fish are browns.  This river is filled with wild fish that don’t suffer rookie anglers lightly. Consider hiring a local guide to show you the ropes.The Gunpowder is nearly 53 miles long, but most fly anglers concentrate on three sections covering about 17 miles. The first section, stretching from Prettyboy Dam to Falls Road, is entirely catch-and-release and may be fished by traditional anglers as well as fly rodders. Blowdowns are plentiful here, and pocket water is abundant. Anglers need to pay strict attention to their patterns, as strikes will not only come fast, but the trout seem to know that running below the limbs of submerged trees provides a sure release from careless anglers.The second section of the river runs from Falls Road to York Road. This is classic trout water with runs, riffles, and the occasional long pool. The third frequently fished section of the river is deeper and much slower than the other two. This area stretches from York Road to Bluemont Road and is well worth your time. A word of warning: The fern cover is so thick along this river that in some places you can’t see your own wading shoes while standing on the bank. Proceed with caution. Gelsoe’s Little Black Stone Fly is a superior local pattern; you’ll find it and anything else you’ll need at Backwater Angler (backwaterangler.com) or at Great Feathers (greatfeathers.com), both full-service fly shops very close to the Gunpowder.Rappahannock River, Va.Virginia’s Rapp has a long and colorful history. The Algonquian Indians named the river Rappahannock, which means “rapidly rising and falling waters,” no doubt referring to its daily tidal fluctuations as it empties into the Chesapeake Bay. George Washington grew up along the banks of the Rappahannock River on his sister’s plantation, Ferry Farm, where he undoubtedly spent many youthful days fishing.The Rapp begins in the Blue Ridge Mountains and tumbles past the famed Rapidan River to its final destination. Because the Rappahannock empties into the bay, it hosts hundreds of thousands of migrating shad each spring. From the last week in March through the first week in May, anglers flock to the Rapp in search of these hard-fighting fish. Striped bass also migrate here, pushing the shad toward their own spawning grounds. They feed heavily on the shad as they migrate upstream, and they have been known to slam the fly of inattentive shad anglers.Spin fishermen favor the Rapp, particularly during shad season; fly anglers should also expect to share water with all varieties of paddlers. Most of the time, though, there is plenty of water for everyone; anglers should keep their eyes open for small watercraft and expect to be flexible in their positioning. If you see a kayak, simply hold your cast. Unlike skittish trout, shad appear oblivious to kayaks and other watercraft. Shad tend to stay deep in the water column and generally don’t rise to flies, but they do aggressively strike at bright subsurface patterns.One of the prime locations anglers visit when fishing the Rapp is just below and above the Route 3 bridge in Fredericksburg, Virginia. In the spring it’s not uncommon to look from the bridge and see schools of shad so thick that they black out the bottom of the river. You can park your vehicle along River Road or in Old Mill Park and then wade up or downstream.A word of caution: Wade safely. The Rappahannock is dangerous, fast-moving water. Remember, too, that more than one angler has walked out onto rocks to reach a prime spot in the river only to find those same rocks submerged by tidal flows when he tried to exit the river. Anglers who are interested in the Rapp but are a bit intimidated by its size and power might prefer to hedge their bets and take a beginner trip with the Falmouth Flats Fly Fishers (ffflyfishers.org). These guys and gals are truly the experts of this river and are eager to help anyone who wants to learn.You have your pick of flies suitable for spring shad fishing, but for many years my go-to pattern has been Tommy’s Torpedo, created by fishing guide Tommy Mattioli. Tommy created several shad patterns, available at all Orvis locations throughout Virginia and at Green Top Sporting Goods (greentophuntfish.com) near Richmond.New River, W.Va. / Va.In his book Follow the River, James Alexander Thom relates the incredible true story of Mary Draper Ingels who, in the summer of 1775 at the age of 23 and already eight months pregnant, was kidnapped by a Shawnee raiding party. Draper later fled from her captors and traveled for 43 days, covering nearly 1,000 miles in rough country with nothing but the clothes on her back. She survived on berries and roots she dug from the ground by hand. When asked how she had managed to find her way home, she said simply, “I followed the river”—Virginia’s New River, that is.If there’s one river in Virginia that is under-utilized by anglers, it’s the New River. Beginning in North Carolina, the New River meanders back and forth across much of Virginia. The river consistently flows northwest and eventually meets the Gauley River to form the Kanawha in West Virginia. Ironically named, the New River is actually quite old. Some have speculated that the only the Nile in Egypt is older than the New. For many folks the New River is a place for rafting, kayaking, and swimming before a shoreline lunch. It’s also a must-fish location for smallies, blue gills, stripers, and of course musky.There are several good guides who call this river their home waters, including Britt Stoudenmire, owner of New River Outdoors Company, in Pembroke, Virginia. Stoudenmire fishes the river hundreds of days a year and knows the section that flows through southwest Virginia like the back of his hand.“This river is awesome, and landing 50-75 smallmouth bass in a single day is very doable in the later part of the summer,” Stoudenmire says.Early season fishing for beefy smallies in late March is also doable, but that style of fishing is generally done in deep water with conventional fishing gear. Stoudenmire should know, as his clients come from all over the country and stay for multiple days at a time in family-friendly cabins which he rents out to visiting anglers.Fly anglers who take on the New River can score big-time with a variety of patterns and differing methods of fly fishing. Musky anglers will need to cast big streamers with hooks as large as 6/0, and nearly as large as a small squirrel. Musky easily reach 15 pounds here and really aren’t considered big fish until well past the 30 inch mark. Be prepared, however, to do a lot of casting and not necessarily a lot of catching. Smallie anglers can score big time as well with top water patterns like Walt’s Poppers in sizes #6 to 1/0. These poppers aren’t easy to find but if you do, try Walt’s Carolina Blue Popper and his Tan-Bellied Frog in #6 and up.Streamers work very well on the New River, and no one knows that better than guide Mike Smith, owner of New River Fly Fishing and co-owner of Flymen Fish Company. Smith has helped develop an entire line of flies tailored for the New River. These patterns also work well in other rivers, and even have applications in saltwater as well. To get a closer look at the patterns Smith helped create, check out Flymen’s website. For more information on lodging options and fishing the New River for multiple species of fish, contact Britt Stoudenmire at New River Outdoor Company.Beau Beasley (beaubeasley.com) is an award-winning conservation writer and the author of Fly Fishing Virginia, and Fly Fishing the Mid-Atlantic. He writes for Blue Ridge Outdoors when he isn’t chasing fish with a fly rod.last_img read more

Hiking South Carolina’s Blue Wall

first_imgPhoto courtesy BRENDA WILEYMy pace picked up to a brisk trudge when I started to hear the roar of Carrick Creek Falls, at the eastern end of the Foothills Trail in South Carolina’s Table Rock State Park. More, even, than the usual post-trek treats—beer, real meal, real bed—I wanted a good soak in that chilly water. I’d underestimated the Foothills. I’d figured a thru-hike would be no problem for a recently transplanted Floridian because, after all, it’s just the foothills—not really the mountains, mostly in reputedly tame South Carolina. But by the end I was footsore and battered. I was exhausted. I was done.And yet, even before slipping into the swimming hole beneath the falls, I realized that I wasn’t. Done, that is. Not if I wanted to walk all of the foothills. Why stop at Table Rock when it’s practically neighbors with Caesar’s Head and Jones Gap state parks, which together form the 13,000-acre Mountain Bridge Wilderness, home of some of the best trails in the state? The forests there are just as lush, the hills just as steep, the creeks and rivers just as clear and tumbling. And then there’s the name, Foothills, which fails to capture the drama and difficulty of the landscape, fails to give fair warning to hikers. The better, alternate term for the southern escarpment of the Appalachian Mountains is the one reportedly favored by Cherokees, the Blue Wall. That’s what it looks like from the flatlands, where it’s also clear that Table Rock is closer to the midpoint than the end. Nothing against the existing, 77-mile trail, which, according to the Foothills Trail Conference website, Backpacker has ranked as “one of the best long trails in the country.” It’s just that it could so easily be a little better, a little longer—about 90 miles. I can almost picture the thru-hike patch, because I already have the name: The Blue Wall Trek.That wall defines the region’s climate, which defines everything else about it. Moist air cools with the sudden rise in elevation, releasing about 80 inches of rain per year. The resulting temperate rainforest supports a vast variety and abundance of plant and animal life, including the rare Oconee Bell wildflower and one of the densest black bear populations in the East. Rain, of course, also means rivers. The Foothills crosses and/or follows five of them and passes several spectacular waterfalls, including the 411-foot Upper Whitewater Falls. Four of these rivers flow into the famously clear and sparsely developed Lake Jocassee.South Carolina’s Lake Jocassee is situated along the Blue Ridge escarpment. Just Askew Photography.Despite all these attractions and Foothills’ stellar reputation, it’s hardly overrun. On a 20-mile day on my June thru-hike—a day walking among the column-straight trunks of tulip poplars and red oaks, crossing rapids on discrete but well-engineered bridges and regularly catching shimmering views of Jocassee—I encountered two parties of boaters and precisely zero other hikers.The trail climbs several ridges between river basins but only one real peak, 3,563-foot Sassafras Mountain, the highest point in South Carolina. The standard Foothills route heads southeast from there to Table Rock, a 10-mile stretch that on a clear day offers a spectacular view from a clearing below the summit of Pinnacle Mountain. But the day I crossed this bald was not clear and, in the mist, the fire-scarred landscape with its eroded trench of a trail reminded me of nothing more than a World War I battlefield. This stretch is being rerouted and the forest will quickly recover and ultimately benefit from last fall’s forest fires, said Heyward Douglass, executive director of the Foothills Trail Conservancy.Courtesy Foothills Trail Conservancy.And I have to admit that the route I followed from Sassafras to complete the Blue Wall Trek, tracing the state line and therefore blazed alternately with Clemson University orange and University of North Carolina blue, is initially short on scenery and also shows the effects of the fires—wide swaths of charred understory and mazes of fire breaks. I must also admit that this stretch has already been designated as part of a Foothills spur that leads 14.2 miles to a trailhead on U.S. 276 in Caesar’s Head State Park.But, unaccountably, the spur bypasses one of the park’s main attractions, 420-foot Raven Cliff Falls. About 12 miles from Sassafras, I turned right on the Naturaland Trust Trail and followed its Pepto-Bismol-colored blazes to the dizzying, deafening crossing on a suspension bridge over one of the fall’s main drops. From there, the attractions come along as fast as fence posts on a highway: the 120-foot-high cliff face known as The Cathedral, a deep valley shaded by mature hardwoods and speckled with wild hydrangeas, sparkling Mathews Creek. I pitched my tarp near the creek crossing—at a campsite reserved in advance because it lies within a state park—and in the morning was greeted by a Foothills-worthy, 1,300-foot climb on the Dismal Trail. A short spur at the top leads to the Raven Cliff Falls observation deck.The Foothills Trail as it crosses Matthews Creek. Photo courtesy BRENDA WILEYI walked on to the trailhead at U.S. 276 and crossed the road into Jones Gap State Park, which offers several good options for the hike’s last leg. I chose the 5.3-mile route that includes Coldspring Branch Trail, partly because it starts with a gentle climb over a hillside carpeted with ferns. Also, the Blue Ridge escarpment is all about water and the Coldspring trail—following its namesake creek and crossing tributaries—gives hikers a closeup, start-to-finish view of a mountain stream as it grows and gathers momentum before flowing into the Middle Saluda River. This brings the hike’s total inventory of landmark rivers to an even half-dozen. And though the competition is fierce, the Middle Saluda’s massive boulders, impressive drops, and inviting pools, might make it the most spectacular of the lot.The final stretch along the river follows the historic path of the Jones Gap Road through the mountains. As I neared the park’s log-and-stone visitor’s center, I noticed the river widening and the gap’s walls sloping downward. I felt as if I had reached the natural end of not just of my hike but of a region of high, wild, and watery landscape, the end of the Blue Wall. I felt as if I deserved a patch.last_img read more

Colombia, Guatemala and U.S., Collaborate During Civil Affairs SMEE

first_img Elements of this exchange included discussions on doctrine, organization, education, materiel and equipment, experiences and lessons learned. Ideas from these discussions culminated in working groups where solutions were presented to the entire group on the final day of the SMEE. The end product would then be presented to the Guatemalan Ministry of Defense for solutions and/or recommendations on the way ahead. “One of the outcomes we would like to see from this is SMEE is that Colombia and Guatemala have some type of civil affairs instructor exchange between the two countries,” said Army Capt. Roger Garcia, Civil Affairs Team leader in Guatemala. “This way they can actually share and learn from each other on a more permanent basis.” “This has been a very good venue to share experiences between the militaries of Colombia and Guatemala,” said Juan Correa, a defense information officer from Colombia. “We both have practices that are helpful to each other, and this is a great opportunity to strengthen our civil affairs capabilities.” “Both Guatemala and Colombia talked about their current situations, their strengths, their weaknesses, their successes, what they need to improve on, and of course, how to apply them here in Guatemala,” said Army Maj. Steve Caceres, the Theater Civil Affairs Engagement Program executive officer at SOCSOUTH. “Obviously the threats are not exactly the same in both countries, but they’re similar, and it’s extremely valuable to have them share their experiences.” The SMEE was designed to provide the Civil Affairs representatives with a forum for sharing best practices in Civil Military Operations (CMO) and Civil Affairs Operations (CAO), and to discuss future CA focused engagement opportunities to complement U.S. Southern Command efforts in countering transnational organized crime (CTOC). Civil Affairs officers from U.S. Southern Command and Special Operations Command South facilitated a Colombian-led Civil Affairs Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) with Guatemalan Civil Affairs (CA) counterparts in Guatemala, from April 23-25 to develop a strategy to increase Guatemala’s Civil Affairs capacity to disrupt transnational organized criminal activities in minimally governed areas. This SMEE, along with future exchanges, was conducted in order to equip participants with the tools and skills needed to assess communities, prioritize needs, and coordinate resources and efforts with the critical objective of improving the quality of life of Guatemalan citizens. Exchanges like these provide an opportunity for the two countries to learn from each other and to share best practices in working within the areas of CMO and CAO. By Dialogo May 08, 2013 Representatives from all participating nations said they anticipate continuing to strengthen their relationships and improve interoperability with the Civil Affairs knowledge they gained during the SMEE. Guatemalan participants will be able to go back to their commands and educate their units on what they learned and said they are looking forward to other events like this with their Colombian counterparts.last_img read more

Specialized Brazilian Army Troops Undergo Sniper Training

first_imgBy Andréa Barretto/Diálogo September 27, 2017 Hitting targets and collecting information about the battlefield are the main objectives of military snipers. This was the scenario under which 20 men from the Western Military Command (CMO, per its Portuguese acronym) underwent two weeks of Sniper Training at the 58th Mechanized Infantry Battalion (58º BI Mtz, per its Portuguese acronym), in the city of Aragarças, state of Goiás. “Snipers are an integral part of a combat operation, so they need to be well versed in the entire operational strategy,” says Brazilian Army Captain Maicon Douglas Machado, the coordinator of the training program, with regard to the role of snipers. “As situations arise, snipers need to make the correct decisions and pass on the right information to their superiors. Accordingly, our strategy was to give the trainees the tools they need to complete their assigned missions satisfactorily,” he added. These tools pertain to infiltration, movement around the battlefield, and marksmanship, as well as observation, memorization, and description of the landscape. This type of exercise is performed by the different regional commands of the Brazilian Army (EB, per its Portuguese acronym). This was the fifth edition of the program at CMO. EB Colonel Gilva Augusto de Farias Junior, the commander of the 58º BI Mtz, said that preparations for this activity began in 2016, based on prior experience and training references developed by institutions such as the Army Special Operations Instruction Center and the Agulhas Negras Military Academy. Theory and practice The Sniper Training at the 58º BI Mtz was held between July 14th and 28th, starting with the preparation of the activities and culminating in a simulated mission. Theoretical classes began on the 18th and were interspersed with practical exercises. Distance assessments, shooting at moving targets, techniques of observation, memorization and description, camouflage and progress on the battlefield were among the topics covered. Capt. Maicon Douglas explained that a good assessment of the distance by snipers is necessary so they can properly calibrate their weapons. The trainees tried shooting from different distances, from 100 to 600 meters. But distance is only one of the parameters to be considered by the military snipers. “If the target is moving, they have to perform another range of calculations to be able to successfully hit a target. This is associated with ballistics,” he said. Snipers also need to know how to infiltrate the area of operations and occupy a suitable position without being seen by the opposing forces. They also need to know about advancing around the battlefield and camouflage. One of the concepts of camouflage is to break up hard edges, in other words, to disguise human forms. During training, personnel learned to make their own clothing by sewing and tying different accessories onto their uniforms to help them blend into their surroundings. Marksman and observer In the role of sniper, military personnel can operate either as marksmen or observers. The purpose of the latter is to penetrate enemy territory and collect information about the operational environment. This information is transmitted further up the chain of command and it is strategically important for mission planning. Accordingly, the training program also included instructions on observation, memorization, and description. “The marksman takes the shot and the other man observes the battlefield, helping to calculate wind measurements, distance to target, etc., and he makes any corrections to the shot, if necessary,” explained Capt. Maicon Douglas. He added that observers are also armed in order to protect the team. Thus, the equipment used by marksman and observer is different. While the former carries a sniper rifle, the latter is equipped with a standard-issue rifle, “with greater firepower, in order to provide protection for both of them,” he said. EB battalions have two sniper teams, each comprising one marksman and one observer. This model was replicated in the simulated task that concluded the training program. This was the first time that EB Second Lieutenant Yago Brito Almada Ramos had participated in sniper training. During the program conclusion task, he had the role of observer. On the afternoon of July 27th, each team received its mission. The exercise started with mission planning by the trainees, who then infiltrated the battlefield and fired against targets, initially with blanks. The teams spent the night on the mission and then, the next morning, they had to fire against enemy targets, this time with live ammunition. According to 2nd Lt. Almada Ramos, the greatest challenge for a sniper is to overcome his own limits. “Often, a sniper team is on its own on the battlefield, and reinforcements are not always immediately forthcoming. This means that the team has to make decisions for itself, wherein it has to assess the best line of action to complete the mission,” he said. He also emphasized the responsibility assumed by snipers. “These service members have a great responsibility, considering their missions are never trivial. Accordingly, they have an increased responsibility for perfection in all their actions.”last_img read more

Colombian Army Rescues Minors from Armed Conflict

first_imgBy Yolima Dussán/Diálogo July 03, 2018 The recruitment of minors declined following the execution of the peace accords between the Colombian government the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in Spanish). The 2018 report of the Colombian National Center for Historical Memory, “A War with No Age,” identified the areas with the greatest number of recruitment of minors. According to the document, “The recruitment went from being a primarily rural phenomenon to one that included the country’s major cities, such as Medellín, Montería, Bogotá, Villavicencio, and Barrancabermeja.” General Ricardo Gómez Nieto, commander of the Colombian Army, will never forget the image of the young girl, barely 14 years old, whom he rescued from the ranks of the guerrillas one morning during a 1999 operation he led in Urabá. “The guerrillas had taken her four years earlier, when she was barely 10. She was terrified,” he told Diálogo. “It’s an issue we pay great attention to and monitor closely.” Rescuing and reestablishing rights Law 742, passed in 2002, prohibits the recruitment of children under 15 years old into armed forces or their participation in hostilities in Colombia. The practice is classified as a war crime. Nonetheless, as of 2015, there were 16,879 cases of recruitment and use of children and adolescents in armed conflict. According to data from the Center for Historical Memory on armed groups’ recruitment of minors, FARC accounts for 54 percent of the total, paramilitary groups for 26 percent, and the National Liberation Army (ELN, in Spanish) for 10 percent. The remaining 10 percent may be related to drug trafficking groups, although hard numbers are not available, the report indicates. “The Army is under permanent orders to rescue our minors from the hands of organized armed groups. Since 2010, 3,169 minors, consisting of 2,618 boys and 551 girls between the ages of 10 and 17, have been rescued,” Gen. Gómez said. “The number has great significance for the Army, which provides special care to the minors and even places them in a government assistance program to return them to their families, if they have one, and to society.” When a minor is rescued, the service members follow the protocol to turn them over to the Ministry of Defense’s Humanitarian Assistance Group for Demobilized Persons. The child is registered, then moved to the Colombian Family Wellness Institute, which is in charge of reestablishing the minors’ rights, in coordination with the Colombian Reintegration Agency. Minors are rescued under a variety of conditions. Some are rescued from combat situations, in which case, troops are to protect the minors. Children captured in battle are treated as rescues, not captures. The rights of minors are respected, even when armed. In some cases, children escape from guerrillas and demobilize by turning themselves over to the armed forces. At times, service members find minors within gangs during raids for the arrest of gang leaders. War crimes In 2000, the United Nations (UN) adopted the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflicts. “Among the fundamental rights of the child unlawfully recruited by armed groups are the rights to proper treatment, family, health, and education. As a result, the recruitment of minors is classified as a war crime pursuant to International Criminal Court Law,” the UN states on its website. “Despite the legal implications, [the recruitment of minors] is a [common] practice among illegal groups, which use it not only to enlist children, but also to subjugate families,” Gen. Gómez told Diálogo. “ELN hasn’t stopped recruiting minors. They even bring children from the Venezuelan border, but they are returned to Venezuela after we rescue them. We also find children in drug trafficking groups such as Los Pelusos, the Gulf Clan, and Los Puntilleros, where they are used as messengers and lookouts.” The Colombian public force develops preventive strategies in conjunction with the National Police, since the law prohibits the Army, as a military force, from entering schools. Instead, service members perform Military Information Support Operations, such as distributing material advising families to maintain strong ties and protect their children. Protective environments The issue of recruitment of minors is a priority on the Colombian agenda. The Presidential Office for Human Rights seeks to strengthen the protection of children’s environments, so that people do not view a life of violence as an option. “Rescued minors suffer tremendous physical and emotional trauma. They were taught violence; they had to see and participate in awful events. They arrive in a bad state and great efforts are made for their recovery. Some of them have literally been knocked down and abused or, particularly in the case of girls, raped and battered, these are lifelong traumas,” Gen. Gómez said. “It’s a crime against humanity. Terrorists face charges for which they will never be freed or pardoned.”last_img read more

Strong Winds Knock out Power to 31K LIPA Customers

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York This weather can’t get any stranger.All of Long Island is under a wind advisory until 6 p.m. Thursday after howling winds brought on by a strong cold front rolled through the Island overnight, knocking out power to thousands of Long Island Power Authority customers.As of 9:30 a.m., more than 31,000 homes and business were without power, according to LIPA’s outage map. More than 10,000 customers in the Town of Huntington woke up with no power and more than 7,000 customers in the Town of Oyster Bay were also powerless. Scattered outages were recorded throughout Long Island.LIPA’s crews were still assessing the conditions in most areas affected by outages, according to the utility’s website. A LIPA spokesperson wasn’t immediately available to address restoration times.The National Weather Service in Upton reported downed trees due to the storm, and Nassau County police said South Broadway in Hicksville is closed in both directions at Engineers Drive due to a leaning telephone pole with hanging wires.Lauren Nash, meteorologists at the National Weather Service, said temperatures will drop throughout the day until this evening when temperature are expected to hit the high 20s.She noted that the cold front has moved east but said, “there’s still going to be some gusty winds [left] behind.”Wind gusts reached 60 mph in Merrick, 70 mph in Centre Island and 59 mph in Shirley and Islip, Nash said.last_img read more