WORLD Channel Programming Celebrates Native American Heritage Month in …








BOSTON, Oct. 30, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – In honor of Native American Heritage Month this November, WORLD Channel will premiere six new films as it presents a rich collection of documentaries spotlighting the achievements, stories, and lives of Native Americans (check local listings).

“We’re pleased to offer programming that honors the rich and vibrant history and culture of Native Americans in November,” says Chris Hastings, executive producer, WORLD Channel. “The diverse perspectives provided through WORLD’s Native American Heritage Month programming demonstrates the challenges overcome, contributions made, and those issues Native Americans still face in today’s world to help inspire and drive action for social justice.”

Air date information for six new Native American films are found below. For full listing information on WORLD Channel’s Native American programming, visit www.worldchannel.org.

Thursday, November 6
Navajo veterans of Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, have served as Code Talkers in WWII, Army Rangers in Vietnam, and, most recently, fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, their dedication and courage in battle has not protected them from the formidable challenges facing them when they return home. In Warriors Return, viewers will see how strong women, traditional healing, and “western talk therapy” are helping these warriors return home.

Monday, November 17
LaDonna Harris: Indian 101 profiles Comanche political and social activist, LaDonna Harris. During his Presidency, Lyndon Johnson requested her assistance to educate the executive and legislative branches on the unique role of American Indian tribes and their relationship to the U.S. government. The course, called “Indian 101,” was taught to members of Congress and other agencies for more than 35 years. In addition to her work in civil rights, world peace, the environment, and women’s rights, Harris is best known for introducing landmark legislation.

Our Fires Still Burn: The Native American Experience invites viewers into the lives of contemporary Native American role models living in the U.S. Midwest. It dispels the myth that American Indians have disappeared from the American horizon, and reveals how they continue to persist, heal from the past, confront the challenges of today, keep their culture alive, and make great contributions to society.

Tuesday, November 18
In Across the Creek, join a conversation among members of the Lakota, who are seeking ways to restore their culture after a legacy of colonialism. Offering a fresh perspective into the lives of the Sioux on the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations, the film looks at how these Sioux communities struggle to maintain tradition, while confronting the challenges of broken families, abuse and poverty. By sharing their stories across generations, they hope to build a vision for the future.

Wednesday, November 19
Legendary as one of America’s greatest horse tribes, the 21st century Nez Perce decided to bring horses back to their land and lives with the unlikely help of a charismatic Navajo horseman, Rudy Shebala. His mentorship guides at-risk teenagers toward the strong medicine of horses, and his equine skills bring historic Nez Perce horse culture to modern renown. However, his personal demons imperil both accomplishments. Horse Tribe tells the story about the connection of human to animal, history to life, individuals to community, grief to resolve, and values to action.

Friday, November 21
Spirit in Glass: Plateau Native Beadwork celebrates the spectacular beadwork of the Northwest Plateau People. The film provides a rare opportunity to experience Plateau culture through the eyes and hearts of artists, who share their history, motivation, and the beadwork that plays an important role in binding their culture together. Native Plateau beadwork is part of the rich tapestry of American culture. Plateau culture is unique and its story of survival a quintessentially American story.

Expand your views and perspectives on important social issues in November and year-round. Check your local listings and get more info about WORLD Channel programs at www.worldchannel.org. Viewers can also join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter

About WORLD Channel:
The WORLD Channel is a 24/7, multicast channel dedicated to delivering the best of public television’s nonfiction, news and documentary programming as well as a growing schedule of original content from independent producers and communities of difference. The complementary website, www.WORLDchannel.org, expands on broadcast topics and fuels content across social media, providing opportunities for broad and diverse audience interaction. WORLD Channel is produced by WGBH/Boston, in partnership with American Public Television and WNET/New York, and in association with the Public Broadcasting Service and the National Educational Telecommunications Association. Funding for WORLD Channel is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Ford Foundation. Additional funding for “America ReFramed” is provided by the MacArthur Foundation.

About Vision Maker Media:
Vision Maker Media shares Native stories with the world that represent the cultures, experiences, and values of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Founded in 1977, Vision Maker Media, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) which receives major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, nurtures creativity for development of new projects, partnerships, and funding. Vision Maker Media is the premier source for quality Native American and Pacific Islander educational and home videos. All aspects of our programs encourage the involvement of young people to learn more about careers in the media—to be the next generation of storytellers. Located at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, we offer student employment and internships. For more information, visit www.visionmakermedia.org.

Contact:   
Mandy Miller 
National Marketing, WGBH
617-300-5334
mandy_miller@wgbh.org 

SOURCE WORLD Channel

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Article source: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/world-channel-programming-celebrates-native-american-heritage-month-in-november-280949872.html

The Very Civil War of the World Series

SAN FRANCISCO – After Madison Bumgarner completed his dominant complete game shutout to win Game Five of the World Series and send the Giants back to Kansas City just a game away from their third championship in six years, ATT Park screamed in unison for him to make one last wave from the dugout, a collective thank-you from a single, joyous mind. It was similar to the scene four days earlier, when Royals fans—a cheerful mob that makes a shockingly loud noise rarely heard in the world of baseball—roared for second baseman Omar Infante after he hit a two-run home run off an unnecessarily angry Hunter Strickland to secure the team’s first win in a World Series game in 29 years. The communal adoration and mania of a World Series crowd is infectious, and it is infectious everywhere.

But while that amazing sound is essentially the same in every ballpark, it’s one of the few things—along with the game itself—that’s the same from park to park. I’ve attended every World Series Game this year, and for all the similarity of noise, Northern California and Western Missouri are as far apart in baseball terms as they are politically.

Baseball is at its core a regional sport. It’s why its television ratings are so much smaller than the NFL’s—though still higher than just about anything else on television, thanks to the power of live, un-DVR-able sports—and why those ratings don’t really matter. The NFL makes its money by its games being events; MLB makes its money by being played, all the time, every day, for six months in 30 major North American markets. Contrary to the constant droning claims that baseball has is somehow dying—an argument nicely vivisected here, and an argument people have been making about baseball for nearly 100 years—more people are currently watching baseball than at any other time in human history. (The only thing TV ratings tell you is that they’re not all doing it at the same time on the same channel, which is to say they tell you basically nothing.)

Thus, if you are a fan of the NFL, you are a fan of The National Football League, a monolithic entity of faceless, monomaniacal corporate warriors. (Most likely, your second-favorite NFL team—if they’re not your first-favorite team—is your fantasy team, or the one you wagered on.) But if you are a fan of baseball, what kind of fan you are often depends on where you are. Every baseball fan community is its own unique universe, in large part shaped by the same geographic and cultural schisms that exist in the larger culture. To be a fan of the New York Yankees is a very different thing than being a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals than being a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers than being a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers than being a member of Red Sox nation.

Baseball thrives on local cultures in a way no other sport does, and that’s as clear as ever in this year’s World Series. Because it is a daily activity, it ingrains itself in a community, becoming part of the day-to-day routine. Other sports are more sporadic, more in-and-out-of-town; you gather around for one of their games, but then everyone, including the team, scatters. But baseball is a squatting sport. It is there, all the time; you get used to the teams, like family members, and people are more inherently themselves around them. Baseball not only becomes part of the community, it ends up reflecting it.

In San Francisco, ATT Park positions itself the inclusionary, pseudo-hipster idealist place you imagine it being. Even though San Francisco has become as gentrified as any city in America, the perception of the city is multicultural, a place where everyone can be themselves, perpetually on the vanguard. This is a stadium with Uber cars constantly circling outside, with more phone-charging stations than any other, with Carlos Santana playing the national anthem with his son. It’s young, it’s inclusive, it’s The Future. The stadium and the marketing minds of the Giants reflect this. On the 2014 Special Events calendar: Korean, Filipino, Irish, Chinese, Japanese, Native American, Italian, Jewish and African-American Heritage Nights; LGBT Night; Jerry Garcia Tribute Night; Yoga Day.

 You can grab essentially any food item, from sushi to garlic fries to corn dogs to tacos to chicken parm. You can even bring in your own food, which isn’t the case at any other MLB ballpark. ATT Park is located in the city proper, within easy walking distance of the Embarcadero.

There are dozens of bars within a five-minute postgame walk, and you’re not far from public transportation, either. This has led to a giddy postgame environment, even after losses: Rather than hopping in your car and fighting traffic, you can wander and tipple for hours (particularly with the games ending around 8:45 local time). After the Giants’ Game Four victory, a Royals fan and his son played catch in front of the stadium for an hour as fans drinking at the Public House (which is located within ATT Park) cheered them on and ESPN filmed its postgame show live from just out front. It was a collective civic experience.

In Kansas City, they celebrate something different. As someone who grew up in farm-country Illinois, you’ll never catch me using the word “flyover,” but there’s an inherent modesty that grows in a place where most of the country doesn’t care enough to pay much attention, a place where you have some room to stretch. Kauffman Stadium is now the sixth-oldest stadium in Major League Baseball, and even after a recent renovation, it holds the dated charm of a building built in 1973. It seems somehow sturdier than other parks, with the warm feel of an overgrown minor league stadium. In fact, a large percentage of the renovations was devoted to making the place more family-friendly; there’s a surprisingly large kids’ park in center field that Royals fans rave about it, at least during the regular season when you’re not paying World Series prices and the game doesn’t have to be paid as close attention to. There’s a lot of space, in and around the park. Everybody has room to move around.

Kansas City isn’t exclusionary as much as lacking in diversity to include in the first place. The Royals promotions this year included camouflage jerseys, “Zubazapalooza,”  and a Faith and Family Night

Other than an Irish Heritage Night—at which they gave away a green Royals beer cup—there were no special cultural celebrations. (In St. Louis, the nearest baseball team to Kansas City, they had a Duck Dynasty Day last year. Their food selections don’t get much more adventurous than a “pepperjack sausage,” though there’s of course lots of BBQ.

But the experience is most pronouncedly different postgame. Kauffman Stadium, like Arrowhead Stadium (where the NFL Chiefs play), is located 10 miles from downtown and right off of the interstate. (Standing at home plate, a hitter can watch cars streaming by beyond the outfield.) There’s no way to get to Kauffman Stadium except by car, which has led to a massive tailgating atmosphere this postseason, modeled after the Chiefs’ notorious tailgate scene. But after the game, the place is quickly abandoned: Everybody goes and sits in traffic for an hour or so, leaving this little concrete oasis and going back to wherever they live. (Royals fans come from states all over—Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, even Arkansas and Tennessee.) There is no life around the park because there is nothing there. If that kid and his dad tried to play catch two hours after the game outside Kauffman Stadium, they’d likely be run off by security.

When you get back to Kansas City proper—which, other than a Holiday Inn across the freeway from Kauffman, is the only place really to stay—it is notable that the city has completely remodeled itself with the World Series visiting, gleeful for its rare spot in the national spotlight. Everything in town, particularly in the new Power Light District, is smacked with a Royals logo, and the fountains downtown have all been dyed blue. In San Francisco, like other major American cities, if you weren’t near the ballpark you might not even know there was a World Series happening. (New York actually ate the Super Bowl last year.) This is actually a point in Kansas City’s favor: It makes you feel like baseball is bigger there, which is probably is. Or maybe just everything else is smaller.

Baseball stays relevant because it sometimes holds onto these differences, while defusing them. It’s a sane way of working out way our regional conflicts—certainly saner than what takes place in Congress.

Though it is worth noting that there’s one way these stadium experiences have felt entirely similar, and it’s a way that Major League Baseball should probably be concerned about moving forward: The people in the stands, at both stadiums, are overwhelmingly white.

 

Article source: http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/features/2014-10-28/the-very-civil-war-of-the-world-series

Two Natural Sites in Martinique Could Make UNESCO World Heritage List

SAN JUAN – UNESCO experts traveled to Martinique this week to evaluate the possible inclusion of two natural attractions of that French overseas territory, Mount Pelee and the Diamond Rock basalt island, on the agency’s list of World Heritage Sites.

A delegation from the French World Heritage Sites Association, affiliated with UNESCO, is visiting the island with representatives of France’s Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Ministry, to gather information on both natural monuments, according to local media reports published Wednesday.

In 2011, the Regional Council of Martinique – a Caribbean island with a population of roughly 433,000 inhabitants – expressed its interest in having those natural attractions included on the list, and on Feb. 27 the Council officially submitted their nominations.

Mount Pelee, which formed around 300,000 years ago, is known as one of the world’s oldest and most active volcanoes. Its most recent eruption occurred in 1932.

Saint-Pierre, the nearest town to Mount Pelee, is home to about 5,000 people, down from 30,000 residents at the start of the 20th century, before it was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1902.

Diamond Rock is located southeast of Martinique and is considered a symbol of Franco-British colonial rivalry. The geological monument is so-named because of the sunlight that reflects off its sides.

UNESCO’s Web site says that 197 of its 1,007 World Heritage Sites are natural attractions.

The Caribbean has 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, five of them natural attractions: the Central Suriname Nature Reserve, Dominica’s Morne Trois Pitons National Park, St. Lucia’s Pitons Management Area, and Cuba’s Desembarco del Granma National Park and Alejandro de Humboldt National Park.

Article source: http://www.laht.com/article.asp?CategoryId=14092&ArticleId=2353651

Yodelaywoohoo: Yodeling Could Be Designated a World Heritage ‘Site’

So you have your typical—or well, your atypical—World Heritage Sites: your Taj Mahals, your Great Pyramids, your Stonehenges. There are more than 1,000 of those in the world, designated as such by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. They are sites in the traditional sense of the term: physical places that you can visit and touch.

In 2003, however, UNESCO identified a more theoretical interpretation of “site”—as an activity, a ceremony, a situation. And also, you might say, a state of mind. Here is a list—an extremely truncated list—of some of the things that UNESCO has thus far enshrined under the broad rubric of humanity’s “intangible heritage”:

  • The Mediterranean diet
  • The Argentine tango
  • The Marimba
  • The Flamenco
  • The Royal Ballet of Cambodia
  • The Beijing Opera
  • Vedic chanting
  • Viennese coffee house culture
  • Turkish coffee culture
  • Engraved block printing
  • Calligraphy
  • Paper-cutting
  • Falconry
  • Oxherding
  • Winemaking
  • Mexican food

There has been a glaring omission from that list, however—a list that also, I didn’t mention above, includes the practice of shrimp-fishing-on-horseback in Belgium—and Switzerland is now hoping to correct it. The Swiss government, according to Agence France-Presse, will soon be asking UNESCO to include more of its own cultural traditions as a matter of humanity’s “intangible heritage.” One of them—putting the yay in yodelay—is yodeling.

Yodeling is not, of course, a uniquely Swiss thing. The practice—it is any singing, technically, that involves “repeated changes of pitch during a single note“—also graces music from Africa and North America (and from, obviously, Austria). But it is most commonly associated with Switzerland, and the country is now trying to claim it as its own. It’s got other requests for inclusion, too, among them mechanical watchmaking, graphic design and typography, Alpine livestock season, Holy Week processions in Mendrisio, the Winemakers’ Festival held every 20 years in Vevey, the Basel carnival, and processes to manage the risk of avalanches.

Since countries are allowed to submit only one “intangible heritage” a year, it will take a while before each submission makes it onto the UNESCO list … but here’s hoping the first one will involve singing. Yodelaywoohoo.

Article source: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/10/yodeling-switzerland-world-heritage-site/381840/

Is Southern Food America’s Most Important Cuisine?

During Yahoo Y’All week, we’re celebrating the food culture of the American South. Expect profiles of cooks, makers, and bartenders, plus recipes showcasing the classics (and twists on those classics) you love.

John T. Edge, happy at his desk. Photograph by Tamara Reynolds

John T. Edge eats and breathes the South. He is the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, where he “studies and celebrates the food culture of the American South,” he told us. “We think about southern food culture as the taproot of American food culture.” He is a contributing editor at Garden Gun, a magazine based in Charleston, South Carolina. He is writing The Potlikker Papers, a history of the modern South told from the lunch counter sit-ins of 1960 forward (it will be published by Penguin Press in 2017). And right now, he’s gearing up for this weekend’s 17th annual Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium, a four-day exploration of Southern food, this year focusing on ethnicity, sexuality, diet, class, gender, and race. We talked to Edge about that and about what “Southern food” means today.

How did you come up with the conference theme this year?
It’s the 50th anniversary of Civil Rights Act of 1964, which desegregated restaurants. An anniversary offers people time to reflect. We’re not just going to mark that anniversary and celebrate it, we’re going to ask questions about inclusion and exclusion today. Racism is what divided us in ’64, what are the issues that divide us today?

Do you have thoughts on what, specifically, those issues are?
Of late, we’ve come to terms with natural resources and we’ve focused a lot of attention on where our food comes from. The dialogue is shifting now and should shift to a conversation about human resources and people: farm workers, waiters who have worked their lives on the restaurant floor, line cooks who have worked their lives in the bowels of the kitchen. We want to tell those stories. By telling them, we can address issues of class, of ethnicity—of race, too. The whole of it is to say: The notion of natural resources has been the defining approach for a long time. Exploring human resources is important now.

When you think of classic Southern food, what do you think of?
Country ham. It’s dependent on age and expertise and things long associated with the rural South—the South of farmers, working the land, having hogs and slaughtering them. It’s the traditional food that many associate with the south. We’ll serve country ham and beaten biscuits on Friday afternoon this year.

The next morning we’ll wake up, though, and we’ll serve Venezuelan arepas from an immigrant who grew up in Caracas, Lis Hernandez of Arepa Mia in Atlanta. The ones she serving are 12-hour roasted pork. Think about it: It’s a corn cake stuffed with pork. Sounds really Southern, right? It’s very much reflective of this new Southern moment. Food of Venezuelan origin is as totemic in this time for the South as is that country ham on a beaten biscuit. There’s this connectivity between two foods and two peoples.

Meat-and-threes at Johnny’s. Photo credit: Courtesy of Johnny’s Restaurant

Where is Southern food today?
There’s a rediscovery of working-class food more broadly in the South. There’s been a boom in barbecue across the country—it’s not just Southerners rediscovering wood-fired barbecue, but a boom in barbecue in Brooklyn, even. There’s also the next step along from that, the rediscovery of the meat-and-three recipes in the South. That’s the traditional midday farmer meal of meat and three vegetables. Smothered pork chops, collard greens, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy—the food that sustains you and would have sustained workers when plowing the back forty or working a steel mill.

There’s a new guard, though. For example, there’s a new place called Johnny’s in Birmingham, Alabama, that’s doing white tablecloth-worthy meat and three-style food that is exceptional. More often now it’s a meat-and-two. There’s some measure of restraint. This year at the symposium we’re doing an “and six” all-vegetable meat-and-three meal. The dishes are coming from two places that I think are exceptional: One is Arnold’s Country Kitchen in Nashville and the other is Silver Sands in Nashville; one is in the black tradition and one in white tradition. And what’s remarkable is what’s in common, not what’s different. Food knows no color or segregation, it’s working-class food the South over.

What’s something people outside of the South might not know about but should?
The American South is comparable in size to Western Europe, so to talk about Southern food doesn’t really get you very far. You have to talk about sub-regions of the South. The Tidewater region of Virginia, where I’m talking to you from now, is very different from the deeper South where I live, and the foods are really varied, too. There’s this great small fish I love to eat when I’m here called Sugar Toads. It looks like a goldfish that somebody took a bicycle pump to—it’s engorged. You eat the sides and pull the meat off the bone. If you live along the eastern shore of Virginia you know that, but you can’t get them in Mississippi.

People tend to lump Southern food together. It’s that New Yorker map vision of the US, that the South is this little boutique of fried chicken joints. But the South is this sprawling place. And yet, it all has something in common: that peculiar and at times tragic history and hopeful future.

In Sean’s Brock’s new book, Heritage, he writes that Southern food is one of the most important cuisines in the world.
Certainly it is! If you think of cuisine as am emblem of people and place, which is what I think is, our foods reflect people of African descent, of Western European descent, and of Native American descent. The narratives that we tell through our food are deeply important and are resonant not just in the South but all across the country.

The South is a place that inspires a reaction. You either fall deeply in love with it, or are repulsed on some level by it, or are seduced by it. It evinces a reaction, the South does, and Southern food does, too. The music and the literature and the food, the story of the Civil Rights movement… Those are really important American narratives. They compel a reaction from people.

Will there ever be the day that you’ll be able to find Southern food everywhere, like you can Italian food or Chinese food?
I think we’ve already gotten to that day. There’s a kind of new normal wherein Southern food has achieved respect and pride of place on menus that will endure. We’re in a moment when everyone seems to have fallen hard for Southern food. That will ebb but what will carry forward is this new normal way of seeing the region, in which the South earns the respect it deserves.

What’s your favorite dish from the South? We’d love to hear your comments.

Article source: https://www.yahoo.com/food/is-southern-food-americas-most-important-cuisine-100590303626.html

Birthplace of Little League nominated for National Registry of Historic Places – The Patriot

WILLIAMSPORT – The birthplace of Little League Baseball could be added to the National Registry of Historic Places.

The Pennsylvania State Preservation Board has approved Lycoming County’s nomination of the Original League field and it will be forwarded to the Department of Interior for possible inclusion on the National Register.

The board’s approval means the field, in the city’s Memorial Park, has been added to the list of state historical sites.

Little League founder Carl Stotz in 1938 experimented with the size of a baseball diamond for youngsters where the current left field is.

The first Little League games were placed elsewhere in the park in 1939 and at another nearby location in 1940 and 1941 before the Original Field in 1942.

The annual Little League World Series was played there from its beginning in 1947 through 1958 before it was moved to its present location in South Williamsport.

The legacy of the world series began at that field, Lance Van Auken, executive director of the World of Little League Museum, told the preservation board in explaining why Little League unconditionally supports efforts to place it on the National Register.

Without the foresight of those who built the Original Field, Mo’Ne Davis in August would not have become the first girl to win a game in the world series, he said.

The league that plays there no longer is affiliated with Little League because it has remained independent since Stotz split with the organization in 1955.

“This site is the field of my youth…,” Stotz’s daughter, Karen Stotz Myers, told the board. “I recall getting the center-field flag and being carried with it in my arms back to home plate. This is a field built by families for the youth of America.”

“The historical heritage of this entire area starts with our city hall and proceeds west through Millionaire’s Row to Memorial Park and the Original League field,” said John Grado, the city’s community development director.

In support of the nomination, the Lycoming County planning and community development department over the past years has conducted hundreds of hours of research with the help of the Stotz family, Little League, Original League, Lycoming County Historical Society and others.

“For me, personally and professionally, working on this nomination package has been a labor of love,” said Bill Kelly, planning department deputy director.

“It was very gratifying to bring a long-overdue recognition to this historical site. Harrisburg is now on board – next stop is Washington, D.C.”

Article source: http://www.pennlive.com/little-league-world-series/2014/10/birthplace_of_little_league_no.html

The Black Market Battleground

When Islamic State fighters capture an archaeological site, they’re faced with a series of choices. Do they destroy it or sell its artifacts? If they decide it’s idolatrous, do they extort protection money for it from the Shiite, Sufi, Yazidi, or other religious minority group that values it? Or do they demolish it right away and feature the demolition in their propaganda? If they loot it, do they ransack the place themselves or do they hire others to do it? Or do they tax the opportunistic looters who show up?

Actually, all of the above is going on. How the self-proclaimed Islamic State militant group approaches each site depends on a range of factors, including the area’s land ownership system and the payoff of plundering the site, says Michael Danti, one of the archaeologists leading a U.S. government-funded effort to document the destruction and looting of the cultural heritage of Iraq and Syria.

At a time when the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, and other groups are killing, enslaving, and displacing thousands of people across Syria and Iraq, what happens to ancient artifacts may seem like a sideshow. But according to Danti, who is also a professor at Boston University, ISIS’s profits from looting are second only to the revenue the group derives from illicit oil sales. So understanding the Islamic State’s approach to the fate of ancient artifacts actually could be key to stopping its advance.

“What we have from the satellite imagery is that there is industrial-scale looting all over Syria,” said Danti, a leader of an American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) project that in August received U.S. State Department funding to document cultural heritage threats in Syria. During the U.N. General Assembly meeting in September, Secretary of State John Kerry personally thanked Danti in a speech at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the project expanded into Iraq.

It’s often difficult to definitively determine who is responsible for an instance of looting. Both the Syrian government and rebel groups have taken part, as have locals in both Syria and Iraq whose livelihoods have been disrupted by the conflict. Satellite images and informants on the ground often can’t keep up with the pace of looting and of the exchange of territory between various groups.

Nonetheless, it’s clear that the scale of the Islamic State’s destruction, looting, and profits from antiquities trafficking is “unprecedented,” Danti said.

ASOR’s Syrian Heritage Initiative uses satellite images such as these, taken at a site in Syria on January 2012 and March 2014, to understand where and on what scale looting is taking place. Click on each photo to see a larger version.











Amr Al-Azm, an archaeologist at Shawnee State University in Ohio who is also leading efforts to document looting in the region, agreed. At first, the Islamic State simply asked anyone who chose to loot areas it controlled for khums, a tax on the spoils of war paid in Islamic tradition to the government. But by this summer, Al-Azm said, ISIS started taking a more deliberate approach, actively employing contractors to do the excavation. These contractors take some of the profits, and the rest goes to the Islamic State. “It’s part of a growing escalation,” he said.

It’s essentially impossible to estimate the total profits the group is making off of antiquities. Looting appears, though, to be not only the second-most profitable source of ISIS income, but also the second-most common form of employment the group offers in the war-torn areas it controls, Danti said, citing local sources whose identities he couldn’t reveal because he fears for their safety.

“The most recent reports I’m getting is that ISIS is actually engaging itself: They’re hiring their own people, they’re using a lot of earth-moving equipment — bulldozers, et cetera,” Al-Azm said. “So what I can tell you is they’re making enough to make it worth their while.” Although Al-Azm and Danti were very hesitant to give any estimates, others have reported that the group’s earnings from antiquities are surely worth millions, helping make the Islamic State the world’s richest terror group. One lion sculpture from the region eventually sold for more than $50 million in New York in 2007. Most items looted by ISIS haven’t yet appeared on public, international markets, but they may well eventually sell for comparable prices.

At the same time, ISIS is apparently plundering strategically, Danti said. In this, it has probably learned from al Qaeda’s experience in Iraq’s Anbar province around 2006, when local Sunni tribal leaders became fed up with al Qaeda’s rapaciousness and turned against the group, he said. Islamic State leaders “don’t want to be seen as disenfranchising or upsetting powerful Sunni tribal leaders who are frequently the large landowners,” and they try to base their division of the spoils on Islamic law.

When it comes to non-Sunni artifacts, Danti recently heard that there is disagreement within the Islamic State’s sharia courts as to how much they should destroy and how much they should sell and profit from. The group is more likely to destroy Shiite, Yazidi, and Sufi artifacts and sell pre-Islamic ones, but overall, “They’re probably selling most of it,” he said.

The looting itself usually happens in a matter of days. Much of the digging is probably done by local people who are “just trying to feed their families,” Danti said. The Islamic State profits nearly immediately, selling the goods to middlemen who then smuggle them into neighboring countries such as Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon.

But fencing the antiquities takes much longer, and that means that once they leave Syria and Iraq it becomes more difficult to determine their fate. Some middlemen belong to organized crime syndicates that smuggle a range of things — electronics, people, antiquities — and have done so since long before the rise of the Islamic State. That traffic, along with the illegal arms flowing in the opposite direction, is a large part of why control of border locales such as Kobani is so strategically important, Danti said.

In some ways, it’s easier for the international community to intervene once artifacts leave ISIS-controlled areas. Concerned observers can try to raise awareness and exert moral pressure on collectors not to buy likely trafficked items. Those efforts can help bring down the market value of trafficked artifacts, eventually making them less attractive to loot in the first place.

A U.N. resolution in 2003 banning trade in Iraqi antiquities somewhat dampened looting during the Iraq War, and cultural heritage experts and activists are now urging the U.N. to pass a similar measure banning trade in antiquities from Syria. James Sadri of the Syria Campaign, one of the groups involved in the effort, told Foreign Policy that nearly 18,000 people had signed the petition, which will be delivered to U.N. missions in New York this week.

“With well over 200 of the world’s foremost experts in the field calling on the U.N. to ban this trade, it’s getting increasingly difficult for politicians to ignore the campaign,” Sadri stated. “It’s not just about protecting world heritage, it’s also about protecting life — we know that the sale of these antiquities is funding weapons that are fueling the violence in Syria.”

International lawyer and Georgetown professor Mark Vlasic, meanwhile, is calling for not just governments but also private collectors, auction houses, and others involved in the antiquities trade to meet and agree to practices to impede further looting.

But the murkiness around what happens to artifacts once they leave Syria or Iraq makes these international agreements harder to implement. In the short term, they may cause middlemen to hold onto the artifacts until the furor has died down — which generally takes several years. Most of what was plundered from Iraq between 2003 and 2005 is only now appearing in aboveground international markets, the main exception being when a particular collector has a request out for a specific kind of artifact, according to Danti.

“The material is gradually, incrementally laundered in the world-antiquities market, and it becomes very difficult to establish when, where, who, what, why at that point in time,” Danti said. “So we’ve got to chronicle everything we can now so we can try to determine what was stolen by whom and even try to get the slightest inclination as to where they’re going.”

According to cultural heritage attorney Rick St. Hilaire, however, it looks like at least some recently looted items are making their way to the United States. “American imports of art, collections, and collectors’ pieces, and antiques from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey increased sharply between 2011 and 2013, prompting questions about whether trafficked heritage has piggybacked onto the mainstream marketplace,” St. Hilaire wrote last week.

St. Hilaire found that the aggregate value of art, collections, and collectors’ pieces imported from those countries rose 86 percent from 2011 to 2013, with a nearly 500 percent increase in the value of imports from Iraq between 2012 and 2013. Of those imports, 93 percent “were declared to be antiques over 100 years old, begging the question of whether nearly $18 million worth of great grandmothers’ rocking chairs and similar items were shipped to America or whether the imports may have been ancient archaeological artifacts misclassified as ‘antiques,’” St. Hilaire wrote. “Commodities declared by importers to be antiques from Iraq and Syria rocketed skyward by 672 percent and 133 percent, respectively, from 2012 to 2013.”

As during the earlier Iraq conflict, many of these apparently looted items are fakes — but some are probably real. Traffickers have been known to slip antiquities imports under the radar of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in the past, St. Hilaire notes, “surreptitiously labeling Hindu idols as ‘handicrafts,’ or “affixing ‘Made in Thailand’ stickers on ancient Ban Chiang pots to make them appear modern.”

Brandon Montgomery, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an email that ICE’s investigatory arm is “aware that Syrian and Iraqi cultural heritage treasures may surface, but ICE will not confirm or deny any possible ongoing investigation.” The U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Others in the U.S. government are concerned that current efforts aren’t enough. Rep. William Keating, a Massachusetts Democrat and the ranking member on the Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called evidence of Syrian and Iraqi antiquities increasingly showing up in the United States a “disconcerting development” and said it “implies not only an uptick in the illicit trade of these items, but links the destruction, plundering, and looting of cultural heritage sites to potential buyers in the United States who may be funding terrorist activities in the Middle East.” Keating is working on proposals to strengthen cooperation between government bodies to combat antiquities trafficking.

As international efforts move slowly forward, leaders of the government-backed ASOR project are trying to make it easier and safer for people within Syria and Iraq to report looting. Andy Vaughn, ASOR’s executive director, said the project is developing a web app through which people can file incident reports. But before the app goes live, it needs more work to ensure that it can’t be hacked, endangering the people notifying authorities.

It’s likely that for a long time, obtaining and sharing this information will continue to be a very risky business. “The real heroes of the story are those people on the ground,” Al-Azm said.

ASOR’s Syrian Heritage Initiative/Directorate-General of Antiquities Museums, Syria

Article source: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/10/17/the_black_market_battleground_syria_iraq_isis