5 Tips to Travel Safely With Money

One of the biggest challenges of traveling today is
traveling safely. The simple act of travel puts your finances
at risk, whether from direct theft, identity theft, pickpocketing or other
nefarious strategies. You need to be
smart, and you need to be careful.

I have traveled throughout the U.S. and to a
number of foreign nations on both personal and professional trips. Along the way, I’ve come to rely on a handful
of strategies to keep money safe.  Here are five things to do whenever you travel
far from home.

Inform your bank and
credit card companies before you leave. 
When
you go far away from home, it’s always a good idea to inform your bank and your
credit card companies.

Why? Your bank may
notice that your card is being used for transactions internationally and shut
down your card without notice or with minimal notice, leaving you without a
card in another part of the country or in a foreign nation. That can be a big problem.

A simple phone call
to your banks
and credit card companies before you travel can go a long way
toward preventing a headache if your cards get canceled due to an unexpected
charge from an unusual location.

Carry a minimal and smart wallet. There’s no reason for
you to be strolling about in unfamiliar territory with all your credit cards
and all your money in your wallet. It’s
just a bad idea. A simple pickpocket or
thief can put you in a seriously compromised position.

A solution to this problem is to only carry one credit card when
out and about. Leave a second card –
from another issuer – in a safe place back at the hotel, ideally in a safe if
one is available. If you’re not driving,
leave your drivers license in a secure place, too. That way, if one item gets stolen, you have backups. 

Separate your money
and keep some of it secure. 
Another
strategy is to separate your cash and not keep all of it in the same place.

While traveling, I leave some of my cash in a few different
places in my room, vehicle and hotel safe. That way, if I were to get pickpocketed or be the victim of some other kind
of theft, I’m not in an immediate disastrous situation. I also often keep a small amount of cash wadded up in the
toe of my shoe (like a single $50 bill) in case I need it in an absolute
pinch. (It has come in handy before.)

Use a money belt. Still, none of these strategies actually keep
your pockets safe from prospective thieves. 
The solution to that is to use a money belt.

A money belt is a pouch that wraps around your torso
underneath your shirt, keeping your key belongings in a safe place that’s
difficult for anyone to get to.  A thief can’t touch a well-placed money belt.

I personally use the Eagle
Creek money belt
. If I’m going to need a credit card, I’ll excuse myself to
a restroom before a purchase, remove the card from the money belt, use the
card, then return to the restroom to restore it. I also keep most of my cash in there, extracting any shortly before a purchase might occur.

Use a credit card for
purchases, not a debit card. 
A
credit card offers many financial
advantages for purchases over a debit card in any situation, but that’s
never quite so true as when traveling.

For starters, a credit card is not linked to your savings or
checking account, so a fraudster couldn’t gain any direct access to your
personal banking accounts. Credit cards also
offer a number of consumer protections
against fraud
that often do not extend to debit cards, even ones with a
Visa or a MasterCard logo on them.  This
includes things like fraudulent charge protection, which can really help if
your bank can’t contact you when you’re traveling.

When you return home, don’t forget to pay off the balance in
full. That way, you won’t pay interest
and you can accrue credit rewards if you have a rewards program.

A little bit of planning ahead can make an enormous
difference when it comes to traveling with money. It can keep you safe and secure in even the
most challenging circumstances.

Article source: http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2015/03/31/5-tips-to-travel-safely-with-money

LGBT lawmakers call on Cuomo to ban state-funded travel to Indiana

ALBANY—Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of the state Legislature are calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to issue an executive order banning state-funded travel to Indiana, in protest of the state’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” which has drawn widespread criticism from groups who say the law discriminates against gays and lesbians.

“We write to you as the only openly LGBT members of the New York State Legislature to urge you to immediately sign an Executive Order barring state-funded travel to the state of Indiana, in light of its discriminatory new law, the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA), signed into law last week by Governor Mike Pence,” the letter said.

The letter was signed by the state’s openly gay lawmakers, including State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymembers Deborah Glick, Matthew Titone, Danny O’Donnell and Harry Bronson, as well as Roberta Kaplan, the attorney who successfully argued the plaintiffs’ case against the Defense of Marriage Act before the Supreme Court.

“In passing its marriage equality law in 2011, New York demonstrated that it is was a trailblazer among the states in terms of LGBT equality,” Kaplan wrote in support of the lawmakers’ letter. “Governor Cuomo should show that leadership once again by making it clear that any law that permits businesses to post ‘no gays allowed’ signs in their establishments is abhorrent to everything that New Yorkers believe in.”

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If Cuomo were to sign such an order, he would be the third governor to do so: On Monday, Washington governor Jay Inslee and Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy issued orders banning employee travel to Indiana.

Read the full text of the letter here:

“We write to you as the only openly LGBT members of the New York State Legislature to urge you to immediately sign an Executive Order barring state-funded travel to the state of Indiana, in light of its discriminatory new law, the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA), signed into law last week by Governor Mike Pence.

Indiana’s new law is uniquely abhorrent and alarming. The RFRA allows businesses to assert a right to “the free exercise of religion” – essentially giving corporations the same “free exercise” rights traditionally reserved for individuals, as well as a defense against lawsuits by an individual. These troubling provisions open the door for state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT people cloaked in the guise of “religious freedom.”

Together, these provisions make clear that Indiana businesses are permitted by law to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression in matters including housing, employment, and access to public accommodations.

Employees of the State of New York should not be placed in a situation where they are required to travel to a state where they face legalized discrimination. Likewise, New York State taxpayers should not be footing the bill for such travel.

We urge you to bar state-funded travel to the state of Indiana, thereby sending a strong message that New York will not stand for legalized discrimination and injustice against LGBT people.

Thank you for your consideration of our request and your ongoing leadership on LGBT issues.”

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Article source: http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/03/8565204/lgbt-lawmakers-call-cuomo-ban-state-funded-travel-indiana

Connecticut gov imposes travel ban over Indiana’s religious freedom law …

Connecticut Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy may have found himself in a pot-meets-kettle situation after issuing an order that could ban state-funded travel to Indiana over its religious freedom law — despite Connecticut having a similar law on the books. 

Malloy, with his statement on Monday, joined the Washington governor and Seattle mayor in issuing official travel bans in response to Indiana’s law, which critics say could give businesses a license to discriminate based on sexual orientation. 

“We cannot sit idly by and do nothing while laws are enacted that will turn back the clock,” Malloy said in a statement. He issued an order barring most state-funded travel to states “that create the grounds” for discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

Left unsaid in Malloy’s statement, however, was that Connecticut is one of 20 states with a similar religious freedom law. 

The Connecticut statute says the state “shall not burden a person’s exercise of religion.” 

Still, there are distinctions between Indiana’s situation and Connecticut’s — namely, that Indiana’s law explicitly allows businesses to assert a right to the “free exercise of religion,” and that Indiana does not already have a law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

Connecticut does have such a law, and Malloy stressed that difference in his statement on Monday. 

“Nearly two decades ago, Connecticut was among the first states that passed a comprehensive anti-discrimination law concerning sexual orientation, and three years ago I enthusiastically signed a law adding gender identity and expression to those statutes,” he said, calling for the travel ban on states that have a religious freedom law but do not also bar discrimination for certain classes of citizens. 

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, meanwhile, told Fox News on Tuesday that he would work to clarify the law to make sure it does not give a “license to discriminate.” He said that was never the intent.

Article source: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/03/31/connecticut-gov-imposes-travel-ban-over-indianas-religious-freedom-law-despite/

Gov. Jay Inslee Bans State-Funded Travel to Indiana After Controversial …

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee followed the lead of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and others today, banning any state administrators from spending state money to travel to Indiana after that state passed a controversial “religious freedom” law that could make it easier for businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers.

I find Indiana’s new law disturbing, particularly at a time when more and more states and people in America are embracing civil rights for everyone,” Inslee said in a statement today. “Washington will join other states and cities in opposing this law and I will impose an administration-wide ban on state funded travel to Indiana. … We in Washington stand for equality. I applaud those companies and organizations that have spoken out against the law and said they would not locate or expand operations in Indiana. I want to invite all those organizations, and anyone interested in a state that promotes equality and opportunity, to come visit Washington. We are open for business, and open to all people.”

Indiana isn’t the only state with such a “religious freedom” law, but there are some important differences that make this one particularly troubling. Republican leaders in Indiana’s state legislature say they’re thinking about clarifying that the law isn’t meant to allow discrimination, but, as the Indianapolis Star reports, “after several hours of private meetings with their fellow Republican lawmakers Monday afternoon, there seemed to be little consensus about how to proceed.”

Article source: http://www.thestranger.com/blogs/slog/2015/03/30/21982083/gov-jay-inslee-bans-state-funded-travel-to-indiana-after-controversial-religious-freedom-bill

DC councilmember calls for ban on official travel to Indiana

D.C. Councilmember David Grosso has called for a ban on official District travel to Indiana. (Courtesy DavidGrosso.com)

WASHINGTON – In the wake of the so-called religious freedom law recently passed and signed in Indiana, a D.C. councilmember is calling for the District to avoid official travel to the state.

David Grosso, I-At Large, said in a statement on Monday that “Discrimination has no place in the District of Columbia, and our public employees should not be forced to travel to a place that prides itself on fueling anti-LGBTQ animosity. The blatant bigotry on display by Governor [Mike} Pence and the legislature leads me to believe that Indiana is not a safe place for our public employees to travel.”

Grosso added that the Indiana law signed by Gov. Mike Pence last week “legalizes discrimination based on religious beliefs,” and calls for D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to “ban all publicly financed travel to Indiana and stand firmly with our LGBTQ public servants and residents.”

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© 2015 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

Article source: http://wtop.com/dc/2015/03/d-c-councilmember-calls-ban-official-travel-indiana/

For a More Creative Brain, Travel


Kenneth Lu/Flickr

There are plenty of things to be gained from going abroad: new friends, new experiences, new stories.

But living in another country may come with a less noticeable benefit, too: Some scientists say it can also make you more creative.

Writers and thinkers have long felt the creative benefits of international travel. Ernest Hemingway, for example, drew inspiration for much of his work from his time in Spain and France. Aldous Huxley, the author of Brave New World, moved from the U.K. to the U.S. in his 40s to branch out into screenwriting. Mark Twain, who sailed around the coast of the Mediterranean in 1869, wrote in his travelogue Innocents Abroad that travel is “fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

In recent years, psychologists and neuroscientists have begun examining more closely what many people have already learned anecdotally: that spending time abroad may have the potential to affect mental change. In general, creativity is related to neuroplasticity, or how the brain is wired. Neural pathways are influenced by environment and habit, meaning they’re also sensitive to change: New sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights spark different synapses in the brain and may have the potential to revitalize the mind.

“Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms,” says Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School and the author of numerous studies on the connection between creativity and international travel. Cognitive flexibility is the mind’s ability to jump between different ideas, a key component of creativity. But it’s not just about being abroad, Galinsky says: “The key, critical process is multicultural engagement, immersion, and adaptation. Someone who lives abroad and doesn’t engage with the local culture will likely get less of a creative boost than someone who travels abroad and really engages in the local environment.” In other words, going to Cancun for a week on spring break probably won’t make a person any more creative. But going to Cancun and living with local fishermen might.

In Galinsky’s latest study, published last month in the Academy of Management Journal, he and three other researchers examined the experiences of the creative directors of 270 high-end fashion houses. Combing through 11 years’ worth of fashion lines, Galinsky and his team searched for links between the creative directors’ experience working abroad and the fashion houses’ “creative innovations,” or the degree “to which final, implemented products or services are novel and useful from the standpoint of external audiences.” The level of creativity of a given product was rated by a pool of trade journalists and independent buyers. Sure enough, the researchers found a clear correlation between time spent abroad and creative output: The brands whose creative directors had lived and worked in other countries produced more consistently creative fashion lines than those whose directors had not.

The researchers also found that the more countries the executives had lived in, the more creative the lines tended to be—but only up to a point. Those who had lived and worked in more than three countries, the study found, still tended to show higher levels of creativity that those who hadn’t worked abroad at all, but less creativity that their peers who had worked in a smaller number of foreign countries. The authors hypothesized that those who had lived in too many countries hadn’t been able to properly immerse themselves culturally; they were bouncing around too much. “It gets back to this idea of a deeper level of learning that’s necessary for these effects to occur,” Galinsky says.

Cultural distance, or how different a foreign culture is from one’s own, may also play a role: Surprisingly, Galinsky and his colleagues found that living someplace with a larger cultural distance was often associated with lower creativity than living in a more familiar culture. The reason for that, they hypothesized, was that an especially different culture might come with a bigger intimidation factor, which may discourage people from immersing themselves in it—and no immersion, they explained, could mean none of the cognitive changes associated with living in another country.

Traveling may have other brain benefits, too. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, an associate professor of education and psychology at the University of Southern California, says that cross-cultural experiences have the potential to strengthen a person’s sense of self. “What a lot of psychological research has shown now is that the ability to engage with people from different backgrounds than yourself, and the ability to get out of your own social comfort zone, is helping you to build a strong and acculturated sense of your own self,” she says. “Our ability to differentiate our own beliefs and values … is tied up in the richness of the cultural experiences that we have had.”

Cross-cultural experiences have the potential to pull people out of their cultural bubbles, and in doing so, can increase their sense of connection with people from backgrounds different than their own. “We found that when people had experiences traveling to other countries it increased what’s called generalized trust, or their general faith in humanity,” Galinsky says. “When we engage in other cultures, we start to have experience with different people and recognize that most people treat you in similar ways. That produces an increase in trust.”

This trust may play an important role in enhancing creative function. In a 2012 study out of Tel Aviv University, researchers found that people who “believe that racial groups have fixed underlying essences”—beliefs the authors termed “essentialist views”—performed significantly worse in creative tests than those who saw cultural and racial divisions as arbitrary and malleable. “This categorical mindset induces a habitual closed-mindedness that transcends the social domain and hampers creativity,” the study authors wrote. In other words, those who put people in boxes had trouble thinking outside the box.

Of course, although a new country is an easy way to leave a “social comfort zone,” the cultural engagement associated with cognitive change doesn’t have to happen abroad. If a plane ticket isn’t an option, maybe try taking the subway to a new neighborhood. Sometimes, the research suggests, all that’s needed for a creative boost is a fresh cultural scene.

Article source: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/03/for-a-more-creative-brain-travel/388135/

The 10 Best Free Apps for Travel Junkies

Stephen Simpson—Getty Images

These apps could make your next journey a little faster, cheaper and smarter

Odds are you use no more than two travel apps to get from point A to point B, and that’s fine — surveys show you’re not alone.

But consider for a moment these 10 travel apps, which can shave time and money off your next journey and help you sniff out a few hidden gems to boot. They’re all free and just one download away from making your next trip smooth sailing.

Hopper

Hopper predicts the optimal time to snag a flight deal by analyzing billions of airfares daily and picking out those brief moments when a price drops below its historic average. Travelers with flexible dates can use Hopper’s color-coded calendar to spot the cheapest dates in a month. Hopper’s handiest feature, “Watch a Flight,” sends a push notification when the price of a given route tends to bottom out.

Options Away

Of course, no forecast is perfect. Options Away essentially gives flyers insurance for missed deals. For a small fee, users can lock in an airfare two days to three weeks ahead of the purchase. If the airfare drops, they automatically get the cheaper ticket. If not, they pay the original price and swallow the fee ($5 to more than $50, depending on the hold time). Perfect for flyers who suffer from frequent bouts of buyer’s remorse.

TripAdvisor

Millions of travelers use TripAdvisor to rank restaurants, bars, hotels and sights on a five star system. Collectively, they’ve enabled TripAdvisor to create a handy, crowdsourced list of the city’s must see attractions. Think of it as a Cliffs Notes version of the travel guide, perfect for anyone who doesn’t have the time or patience to plod through 300 pages of advice. For more curated travel tips, TripAdvisor also offers a standalone Offline City Guides app to more than 80 destinations you can download and access later without a mobile data connection.

Localeur

Maybe you’d rather steer clear of the well-trodden sights and slip into the local scene. Localeur solicits advice from, you guessed it, locals, whose travel tips range from the eclectic — “Miami’s awesomely authentic taqueria’s” — to the bizzarre — “Portland’s 4 best photo booth bars.” For now, the quirky advice is limited to 14 major U.S. cities. But what Localeur lacks in coverage, it makes up for in personality.

Airbnb

No hotel booking site can match the sheer diversity of Airbnb‘s 1,000,000 listings and counting. Rental options range from castles to vans, yurts to watchtowers, and an ever-growing supply of apartments, rooms and sofas to accommodate just about anyone’s budget. Using the app requires a little more administrative work than the typical hotel booking — you’ll need to authenticate your identity and work out the logistics of the key hand-off with the host. On the other hand, yurts!

Postagram

For a more personal postcard, upload a vacation picture to Postagram, type in a greeting, and Postagram will print out the card and send it through snail mail for 99 cents in the U.S. and $1.99 worldwide.

Google Translate

The Google Translate team recently launched a killer feature for international travelers: “Conversation mode.” Simply open the app, hold the mobile device between two people speaking a different language, and listen as it translates a conversation live. The speakers may struggle to adjust to the lag time and a fair amount of mistranslations, but it certainly beats trying to get messages across through frantic hand waving.

TripIt

Confirmation emails for flights, hotels and rental cars can pile up fast and easily get lost in the shuffle of inbox. TripIt automatically converts those emails into a single, easy-to-read travel itinerary. The app scans the body of emails for reservation times, automatically adds events to your calendar, sorts them in chronological order and pulls in maps to help with navigation.

Skype

Cell phone carriers tend to make off like bandits when it comes to international charges. Bypass the fees with Skype, which routes calls over a Wi-Fi network for $.02 a minute. Calls placed to other Skype accounts, a user base of more than 250 million people, are free of charge.

Gas Buddy

Gas Buddy keeps a running tab of the cheapest gas stations in your area. Tap on a gas station to pull up driving directions on Google Maps. The prices are reported by users, who are incentivized to keep prices up to date by racking up points, which they can later redeem for free prizes.

Article source: http://time.com/3759952/travel-apps/

Gov. Malloy issues executive order banning state-funded travel to Indiana


HARTFORD – Gov. Dan Malloy has signed an executive order banning state-sponsored and state-funded travel to Indiana due to new legislation signed into law there last week that could potentially be used to discriminate against gay people.

“The idea that somebody from CT who complies with the law here can go to another state and be discriminated against is abhorrent, cannot be tolerated, and quite frankly, we can’t witness it without raising our voice,” said Governor Malloy.

You can read the executive order here.

However, Malloy didn’t share that sentiment. “When you see a wrong being perpetrated on your constituents, then it’s time to stick up.”

The Indiana law, called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” was signed by Gov. Mike Pence last Thursday. The law prohibits state and local governments from impeding a person or business’ ability to exercise their religious beliefs. Opponents of the law argue it could be abused discriminate against members of the LGBT community.

Connecticut has a  law on the books protecting the state from imposing an undue burden on a person’s exercise of religion. In addition, the Connecticut has a number of laws protecting individuals from discrimination based on a variety of characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

Indiana state law does not include sexual orientation in its non discrimination statutes.

“We have a law that respects religious freedom and then we have many laws that very firmly spell out that religious freedom does not allow you to discriminate against people in your restaurant, in your business, in any way.  So I think Connecticut has it right,” Malloy said.

“I’m so grateful for [the governor], not as a state senator but as a resident of Connecticut. I do not want my dollars going somewhere where discrimination has just been legalized, basically,” said state Sen. Beth Bye (D-West Hartford).

The mayors of San Francisco and Seattle have also issued statements announcing bans on the spending of public funds for employees to travel to Indiana. San Francisco makes an exception for travel “essential to the public health and safety.”

Seattle will also inspect city contracts to see if any are with businesses located in Indiana.

Warde Manuel, UConn’s athletic director, said he hopes either Indiana changes its law or that the NCAA moves the Final Four out of Indianapolis before next year’s NCAA Tournament. If nothing has changed, Manuel says the school would consider boycotting the event. UConn’s women’s basketball team has won the past two NCAA Tournaments and will play on Monday night for a chance to go to another Final Four.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence says concerns that his state’s new “religious freedom” law will allow businesses to turn away LGBT customers is the result of a “tremendous amount of misinformation and misunderstanding.”

Pence’s decision last week to sign into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that allows Indiana businesses to cite their religious freedom as a legal defense has triggered an intense backlash against his state.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest blasted Pence during a segment on ABC’s “This Week,” saying that the Indiana Republican “is in damage control mode this morning, and he’s got damage to fix.”

“It should be easy for leaders in this country to stand up and say that it is wrong to discriminate against people just because of who they love,” Earnest said.

Tech companies have also taken aim at Indiana. Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted that “Apple is open for everyone. We are deeply disappointed in Indiana’s new law.”

The mayor of Indiana’s capital Indianapolis condemned the new law as well.

“I had hoped the statehouse wouldn’t move in this direction on RFRA, but it seems as if the bill was a fait accompli from the beginning,” said Mayor Greg Ballard. “We are a diverse city, and I want everyone who visits and lives in Indy to feel comfortable here. RFRA sends the wrong signal.”

The NCAA, which is headquartered in Indianapolis and is set to host the men’s basketball Final Four in the city this week, said the law could lead it to move events elsewhere in future years. The NBA, WNBA and NFL also issued critical statements, and groups like the gamer convention GenCon and the Disciples of Christ, which holds a meeting in Indianapolis each year, have said they could move their events, too.

Information from CNN was included in this story.

Article source: http://foxct.com/2015/03/30/malloy-bans-state-employee-travel-to-indiana-due-to-new-law/

Iraqi Militiamen Plan To Travel To Yemen To Battle U.S.-Backed Coalition

BAGHDAD — Iran-backed Shiite militiamen in Iraq say they’re ready to take up arms in a country most of them have never been to: Yemen.

“We defeated ISIS in Syria, we’re defeating ISIS in Iraq, and we’ll defeat them in Yemen,” Abu Kumael, a volunteer fighter with the powerful Iran-supported Shiite militia known as the Peace Brigades, told The WorldPost Monday. “We’re not just talking. We’re physically ready to go and fight.”

In Iraq, the militias are working on the same side as U.S. forces against the self-declared Islamic State. But once the militiamen get to Yemen, they’ll be fighting not for the U.S., but against the Americans — which means that the U.S. will be battling the same forces, and in some cases the very same men, that ISIS is taking on in Iraq.

A young member of the Iran-backed Shiite militia known as the Badr Organization looks up at a drone in the sky over Tikrit on March 26.

Last week, a Saudi-led alliance began bombing Yemen’s Houthi rebels — airstrikes that were supported with U.S. logistics and intelligence. The rebels have largely driven Yemen’s government from power. The government had been backed by the U.S. because of its willingness to battle militant extremists, and to allow the U.S. to do the same within its borders. It also had the strong backing of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations that see Shiite Iran as their true enemy.

The Shiite Iraqis see the unfolding events in the Arabian Peninsula as an extension of their own fight in Iraq and Syria. It’s a sectarian war, they say, in which they see no choice but to defend the Houthis, adherents of the Zaidi branch of Shiite Islam.

The Yemen conflict complicates U.S. policy in the region because the Houthis have the support of Iran. That means the U.S. is fighting alongside Iran in two countries and against it in at least one other. “We finally figured out a way to fight a proxy war against ourselves,” is how comedian Jon Stewart put it. “Now we’re just punching ourselves in the dick.”

But the previously unreported intention of the Iraqi militias to travel to Iraq and battle the U.S.-backed coalition takes the contradiction to new heights. Shiite paramilitary forces keen on fighting in Yemen say innocent Shiites are being slaughtered there by Saudi Arabia, which makes their war one and the same. On Monday, Arab coalition airstrikes killed dozens of people in a camp for those displaced in the country’s north, according to the International Organization for Migration.

The White House declined to comment on the development.

A member of the Iran-backed Shiite militia known as the Badr Organization eyes a large hole in the ground caused by an IED in Tikrit on March 26.

Abu Ahmed, 33, who fights with the Iranian proxy militia Kata’ib Sayyed al-Shuhada near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, where ISIS still vies for control, said men from his fighting force have already begun signing up to fight. One of the group’s leaders told the fighters that there would be a chance, very soon, to go to Yemen, according to Ahmed. He said his brother immediately added his name to the growing list.

“We’re ready, 100 percent, to go and defend the Houthis,” said 35-year-old Wissam, a militiaman with the Peace Brigades. “The battle is against the Shia. It’s a sectarian war. We’ll never forget our brothers in Yemen.”

Wissam, currently in Baghdad, said he was one of many who had already spoken to their leaders about heading to Yemen. He added that he might be able to somehow coordinate with people in Lebanon, where Iran also has a strong influence.

“We have armies waiting for the call,” said Abu Kumael. “We’re getting ready in the next few days to prepare to defend our brothers in Yemen.”

Tens of thousands of Iraqi Shiites joined forces last summer when the country’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani issued a call to arms to fight off the extremist group closing in on the capital and other major Iraqi cities. Now, Kumael said he expects the Marjaya — Iraq’s leading religious authority — to soon call on Iraqi Shiites to join the fight in Yemen.

While many Iraqi Shiites view the militias as heroes for taking security into their own hands when the state could not, thousands of Sunnis who insist they are being pushed out of their homes, detained and killed, say the fighters are nothing but sectarian bullies.

The U.S. has an uneasy relationship with the Shiite militias. They are one of the few solid fighting forces capable of taking on ISIS, whose reach extends close to Baghdad. But they also have until relatively recently been openly battling U.S. forces and shelling the Green Zone, home to U.S. diplomats and advisers in Baghdad. They are under varying degrees of control by the Iranian government, which also has broad sway over the Iraqi government.

Last week, U.S. officials pushed for the militias to take a backseat in operations against ISIS, while the militias claimed to be stepping aside to protest U.S. entrance into the battle.

Iran’s sway is obvious in Baghdad, where posters for Iranian-advised, paid, and armed militias adorn the city. The face of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen plastered to checkpoints and billboards everywhere.

Meanwhile Iran, the U.S., and its five negotiating partners are approaching Tuesday’s deadline for the political framework of an agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program. Saudi Arabia has been skeptical of the negotiations, fearful of the geopolitical implications of U.S. rapprochement with Iran. Its government and other Arab nations over the weekend announced they would create a joint military force in the Middle East.

Sophia Jones and an Iraqi journalist reported from Baghdad. Ryan Grim and Jessica Schulberg contributed reporting from Washington.

Article source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/30/iraq-militias-yemen_n_6973846.html

Seattle mayor to ban city-funded travel to Indiana

Celebrities, CEOs and athletes are expressing outrage over Indiana’s new religious freedom law. They say it opens the door to discrimination against the LGBT community.
VPC

Article source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2015/03/30/seattle-mayor-bans-city-funded-travel-to-indiana/70656164/