A Lifeline for Millions in Somalia, Money Remittance Industry Seeks More Support

Every month, Fatma Ahmed sends $200 of the earnings she makes in London to her family in Somalia.

“It’s for daily life. For rent, for buying grocery things, to live over there. Because actually in Somalia, that much we do not have,” she said.

Remittances from overseas diaspora constitute a vital part of the economy of many developing nations, none more so than Somalia, where the inflows add up to more than foreign aid and investment combined. However, analysts warn that the industry is poorly understood by regulators and banks, putting the welfare of millions of people at risk.

The two million Somalis living overseas send an estimated $1.3 billion back home every year. With no formal banking system in Somalia, most of the diaspora use remittance services.

Technology makes that possible, says Abdirashid Duale, CEO of Dahabshiil, one of Africa’s biggest remittance services.

“Now, it is so instant, where we have the latest technology, with the internet, secure channels that we can use to send money back home,” Duale said. “Or we use mobiles … smartphones, technology where it will help us to deliver money quickly, but less costly. Technology is supporting us also with the compliance issue.”

Remittance companies rely on global banks to route the money, and those banks must comply with regulations on money laundering and the financing of crime and terrorism.

Citing those concerns, many banks have chosen to withdraw from the market. Such a move is unnecessary, says remittance industry expert Laura Hammond of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

“Very often, it is not based on any kind of empirical evidence that shows that money is going into the wrong hands,” Hammond said. “The fear is just there is a conflict in Somalia, there’s the al-Shabab movement. And so there is a problem in a sense, a real precarious nature of the Somali remittance industry.”

The industry received a high-profile boost last month as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated $1 million using the remittance firm Dahabshiil, along with mobile phone companies Somtel and eDahab, with the money transferred “live” to 1,000 families suffering the drought in Somalia.

The technology is moving fast. However, the cooperation of the global banking system remains key, and the remittance industry wants regulators to do more to support this lifeline. 

Ai Weiwei’s ‘Human Flow’ Highlights Refugee Plight Around the World

Human Flow by internationally acclaimed artist and activist Ai Weiwei, highlights the plight of refugees around the world. The Chinese dissident is not the first to make a documentary about the displaced, but his film captures the flow of humanity on a planetary scale. 

Ai filmed in 23 different countries in 40 different refugee camps where people fleeing war, environmental crises and religious persecution were staying. His goal is to show that the flood of refugees has global repercussions.

“You are forcibly robbing this human being of all aspects that would make human life not just tolerable but meaningful in many ways,” says a voice in the documentary.

According to the film, over 65 million people in the world today have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Using cameras attached to drones, Ai Weiwei records humanity’s movement from up high. 

Ai, a renowned artist known for his massive art installations with social and political connotations around the world, is an unassuming, soft- spoken man with a thoughtful expression. Sitting opposite me in one of the studios of the Voice of America, he snaps my picture on his iPhone along with many others he has taken that day of people and exhibits on VOA’s hallways. I feel like an art installation. I ask him what prompted him to make a film about human flow.

“It was serendipitous,” he responds.  

An unexpected opportunity

While vacationing on the Greek island of Lesbos with his family, Ai saw a boat full of refugees approaching. He started filming immediately on his phone.

Known for his political activism against communist China, his imprisonment, torture and subsequent exile, he lives in Berlin now and one would hardly believe that anything could take the Chinese dissident by surprise. But as he relates, filming and living with refugees in makeshift camps was unlike anything he had experienced before. 

“We have been hearing about the refugees all the time in the news. But to see a real group of people come down is very different. You see the children, the women, and you see those elderly people and they are tired, they are frightened, they basically risk their lives, give up everything, to come to just try to find safe conditions. Even though I grew up in a communist society we didn’t see these kinds of things happen. So, for me it is a shock, and I think it’s an opportunity to learn about what really happened. “

Human Flow shows masses fleeing wars, religious persecution, and environmental disasters.  At times his film feels like another one of his enormous art installations, with humanity playing a dual lead, both as a massive organism and as single individuals staring into a camera. The effect is more visceral than intellectual and that is exactly what Ai Weiwei wants to convey.

“We wanted to build an understanding about human flow. Human flow as always happens in human history. In many cases, it is part of our humanity and our civilization,” he says.

Stemming the flow

But the social anomaly of our times, says the filmmaker, is the effort by countries to stem that flow by preventing refugees from crossing borders and integrating into new societies.  After a harrowing sea voyage and days of walking, many refugees from the Middle East make their way to northern Greece, only to be stopped on its border with Macedonia. 

“Over seventy borders have built up their fences and walls and have forbidden any refugee to pass through. So, by doing that, they are really not only stopping  the life line of those refugees to try to find a safe place, even just temporarily across the border and go to another location, but are also putting them in extremely dangerous conditions.”

Ai talks about human smuggling and sex trafficking of a very vulnerable population, mostly of women and children.

At a refugee camp in Turkey, he films an exasperated doctor trying to take care of the young. He points to a baby: “two months old, and born here but he didn’t have any vaccinations.” The deplorable health conditions are one of the many problems plaguing the stateless. A man stands knee high in mud, looking at a cemetery filled with drowned refugees, relatives and friends. He hides his head in his hands and sobs.

A warning for the future

Ai Weiwei warns if we don’t save those people from displacement, entire generations — born without identity, prospects for a better life or a country — will be vulnerable to extremism and radicalization.

“I think, if you see so many children growing up under these conditions, in this 65 million people, now it’s getting much bigger, with 420,000 refugees added from Myanmar, how will these children behave, when they grow up, after they have seen how their parents have been badly treated, unfairly treated, the world watching but doing nothing. What kind of image would remain in their minds?”

Ai Weiwei is very critical of Europe and the United States for lacking empathy, leadership and vision about the refugee issue. He sees the elections of ultra-right governments in Europe and of Donald Trump in the US as dire for refugees worldwide.

“It certainly requires global leaders and also every citizen to be involved to solve the problem,“ he says, warning, if this does not change, no one’s future is safe.

A Lifeline for Millions in Somalia, Money Remittance Industry Seeks Support

Remittances from overseas diaspora constitute a vital part of the economy of many developing nations, none more so than Somalia, where the inflows add up to more than foreign aid and investment combined. But analysts warn the industry is poorly understood by regulators and banks — and its precarious nature puts the welfare of millions of people at risk. Henry Ridgwell reports.

Elvis House, Marilyn Dresses, JFK Radio Up for Auction

Years before Elvis Presley became the King of Rock and Roll, the story goes, he lived in a small house up a hill from his elementary school in northeastern Mississippi and played with other kids in a nearby field. Fans now have a chance to buy that old home and land.

The white, wood-frame house and more than 16 acres (6 hectares) of adjoining property are part of an upcoming celebrity auction that includes everything from actress Marilyn Monroe’s dresses to Michael Jackson’s dark fedora.

Want the Army uniform that Tom Hanks wore while filming “Forrest Gump?” It’s in the sale. What about Whitney Houston’s see-through, acrylic piano or the umbrella with a parrot-shaped handle that Julie Andrews carried in “Mary Poppins?” Or Hugh Hefner’s 1973 BMW, purchased with Playboy profits, presumably?

The house, land and other memorabilia are part of an online auction set for November 11 by GWS Auctions, a Southern California company which specializes in the sale of items including estates, fine art and celebrity collectibles.

More than 150 items will be auctioned in all, including other items linked to Presley — his private jet, a 1957 pink Cadillac, a boat named “Hound Dog,” a television he shot up at Graceland and a two-bedroom mobile home from his Circle G ranch.

There’s also a radio once owned by President John F. Kennedy; a dress, nightgown and jumpsuit owned by his late widow, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; Reese Witherspoon clothing from the movie “Legally Blonde;” and a 1993 Jaguar owned by the late model Anna Nicole Smith.

GWS Auctions owner Brigitte Kruse said all the celebrities’ items have been authenticated in various ways.

“Their possessions are rare, but beyond any monetary value, fans place an emotional value on owning something that came in contact with their idols,” she said.

In the case of the Presley house, Charlene Presley, a relative by marriage, said the structure was initially built by the singer’s father, Vernon Presley, and uncle next to the small home where Presley was born in 1935. That birthplace is the focal point of a park and museum that draw thousands of visitors annually to Tupelo.

The newer house was moved to higher ground about a half-mile away from Elvis’ birthplace around 1942, and the singer and his mother, Gladys Presley, lived there for a time, Presley said.

 

“This house is a house that Elvis and Gladys lived in and he went to school at Lawhon School in the third grade,” she said. “She would walk him to school down this street and around to Lawhon.”

The adjoining property was a playground for Presley, who swam in the creek, played and hunted on the land, according to Presley.

The executive director of the Elvis Presley Birthplace Foundation, Dick Guyton, said five shotgun-style homes — named for their long, narrow design — once stood in the area where Presley’s birth home is still located. But Guyton said he doesn’t know what happened to any of the four other structures, meaning he can’t vouch for the house that’s coming up for sale.

“We don’t have any way to authenticate it,” Guyton said. “We don’t know that that particular house is one that sat here by the birthplace.”

Kruse said members of the Presley family and a longtime employee of Graceland and Elvis Presley Enterprises have certified all the Presley-related sale pieces.

How much might someone pay for a little house that would normally be worth a few thousand dollars at most? Who knows? But the Presley jet sold for nearly $500,000 in May before it was cleaned up and anyone had located its engines, the auction company said.

Located within a short walk of Presley’s birthplace, the land includes a tract that was going to be developed into a cemetery for Elvis fans more than a decade ago. The project never panned out, and no one has lived in the house for years.

“There’s never really been anything like this,” Kruse said. “It will be interesting to see what this one does.”

Diana Ross to Perform, be Honored at American Music Awards

Diana Ross will receive a lifetime achievement honor at next month’s American Music Awards and will celebrate with a performance on the broadcast next month.

ABC and Dick Clark Productions announced the honor Wednesday. It’s the first time the AMAs have given out the award since 2006, when it was presented to Sting. Previous winners include Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Michael Jackson.

 

The 73-year-old Ross tells The Associated Press of the honor: “It took a lifetime to get here, I’m not going anywhere … It’s been a wonderful journey for me of joy and much appreciation.”

 

The Motown legend and former Supremes singer has performed at the AMAs several times and hosted the show twice.

 

The AMAs will air live on ABC from Los Angeles on Sunday, Nov. 19.

10 WTO Members Air Concerns About Trump ‘Buy American’ Order

A Geneva trade official says China and Taiwan have joined many U.S. allies including Israel at the World Trade Organization to express concerns over a Trump administration executive order that seeks to maximize use of American-made goods, products and materials in government procurement. 

The 10 WTO members, also including the European Union, Canada and Japan, urged Washington to continue honoring the trade body’s “Government Procurement Agreement” adopted by Washington and 45 other countries — mostly EU states — that aims to promote fairer, freer access to government contracts. 

The official said the countries took issue Wednesday with the “Buy American and Hire American” executive order signed in April that lays out a policy aimed to “maximize” use of U.S.-made items in government procurement and assistance awards.

Ділянку Порошенка на Печерську обгородили колючим дротом і взяли під охорону

Земельну ділянку президента України Петра Порошенка на вулиці Радіальній, 5 на Печерську у центрі Києва взяли під охорону невідомі, повідомляють журналісти програми «Схеми» (спільний проект Радіо Свобода і телеканалу «UA:Перший»).

Журналісти «Схем» зафіксували, що над парканом ділянки президента Порошенка розтягнули колючий дріт, зрізали дерева по периметру. На території перебувають невідомі чоловіки у цивільному одязі та у камуфляжі без розпізнавальних знаків.

На запитання, що вони тут роблять, чоловіки відповіли, що здійснюють охорону, відмовившись називати структуру, яку представляють.

Навпроти ділянки Порошенка розташований маєток Ігоря Кононенка – заступника голови фракції Блоку Петра Порошенка «Солідарність».

Прохання про коментар редакція надіслала до прес-служби президента Порошенка.

У лютому 2015 року «Схеми» з’ясували, що Петро Порошенко та Ігор Кононенко отримали сусідні ділянки у Царському селі за сумнівних обставин. Через ланцюжок із кількох юридичних операцій з ознаками фіктивності гектар безкоштовної землі в самому центрі Києва в поселенні Царське село перейшов у їхню власність.

У квітні 2017 року незабудовану ділянку Петра Порошенка виставляли на продаж. Однак, за даними кадастрової карти, власник землі наразі не змінювався.

 

Депутати розглянули майже всі поправки до медреформи, засідання Ради закрили

Парламент у середу розглядав поправки до законопроекту №6327 про державні фінансові гарантії надання медичних послуг і лікарських засобів

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