Letter To Russian Government: The Soviet Union Ended. Stop Trying To Take Ukraine

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Dear President Putin and The Russian Government:

Your actions are inexcusable. They will not be tolerated.

You are violating the sovereignty of a nation. Ukraine left the Soviet Union when it dissolved back in 1991. It is its own country, and yes it is in turmoil, but it is not your job to settle it. You have plenty of your own issues to take care of.

We in the West will not allow this. While you can, you need to call your troops out of the Crimean and stay out of Ukraine. Sovereignty cannot be violated without consequence, as you like to tell the world often. Your troops, or the ones you deny as yours, have seized a council building, airport, and a part of Crimea. Ukraine may have been together with you before, but that was 23 years ago. The West does not matter if it was your “crown jewel”, it is not part of Russia anymore!

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Moscow cannot become the new rulers of Crimea. You are starting one of the biggest crises for us in the West since the Cold War. I know this is exactly what you want. Your coup will not work, though. The revolution in Kiev was by ordinary citizens, people fed up with Yanukovych and his corruption. They were guided only by the principles of democracy, not “fascists” as you have called them. Your coup will be guided by Moscow, from the top, and many in Crimea will not stand for this.

Yanukovych, I am speaking to you too. You will not be permitted to govern Crimea, no matter what the Kremlin tells you. You were overthrown because you were corrupt, and even if you are placed in power, Russia cannot hide you forever. Do, though, say hello to Edward Snowden for us.

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Moscow: Stop trying to take Crimea. The Soviet Union fell 23 years ago. You must respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, and back down when the rest of the world tells you to. There is a reason we have international laws. I know you are ready to bring back the old East, but it will not, and cannot, happen.

Credit For Photos Goes Here.

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An Interview With Khanh Ha, About His Writing, Stories, and Senses

I wrote a review of Flesh a few days ago, and now have conducted an interview with the author, Mr. Khanh Ha. He is a very good person, one who has been very kind to me, and I am so excited that he agreed for me to interview him. Enjoy!

Hello Mr. Ha. Thank you for agreeing to this interview with me. How are you doing?

I’m fine, Nassem. And yourself?

N. Comments: I am very glad to have you here at Seize The Moment!

Flesh is your debut novel, but is written as if you are a very seasoned writer. When did you really start to write?

I wrote and had my first short stories in Vietnamese published when I was fourteen. But I was in love with the written words when I was much younger, perhaps between eight and nine, making up stories in chapbooks along the way.

Flesh is written from first-person, and is like a tale from ages ago. Do you have a personal connection that allowed you to write like this, or did it come naturally?

There was a personal connection in the beheading scene in Flesh. Before that I read a book written by a French military doctor, “War and Peace in Hanoi and Tonkin.” The decapitation scene in it became an inspiration for a personal reason—my maternal grandfather, one of the last mandarins of the Nguyễn Dynasty, was beheaded by the communists. But, at the onset, I wrote Flesh in the third-person point of view (POV) and it didn’t click. I had then a hundred pages when I stopped and switched to first-person POV. I needed an intimate voice, a voice I could trust, an old man’s voice recounting his life story and that voice gradually became the boy’s voice. So the diction throughout the book subtly changes accordingly.

N. Comments: That is interesting, and at the same time very sad, about your grandfather. I agree that Flesh is better in first-person.

As I stated in my review of Flesh, your writing is very much like my favorite fiction writer Khaled Hosseini. What authors have influenced your writing?

I began studying English when I was a high school junior. I read Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, William Saroyan, Cormac McCarthy, and wrote with their blended styles in my early stories. But then my writerly voice matures, and I no longer write like them; yet I owe much to them for their early influences.

Flesh wonderfully captures the senses of Tonkin (northern Vietnam), highlighting the sight, smells, and sounds. Do you personally pick up on senses very heavily? What sense did you hope to stimulate the most in Flesh?

Ambiance is the sheer force in a novel. Without it, the novel feels barren. The mood brings a novel to life, and what flame the mood are tastes, touches, smells, sights, and sounds. All five. They build the moods in Flesh. I was honored to be reviewed by Paula Tohline Calhoun whose article The Scents of Memory on Flesh captivated me.

How much research did you conduct for Flesh? Did you travel for it?

I did much research for Flesh on and off for a year until I felt dead sure that I could write it. The research resulted in hundreds of handwritten pages of notes and photographs. The rest came from a novelist’s imagination, and this is where you must separate your journalist’s self from your novelist’s self: you research to write fiction—not non-fiction.

N. Comments: You went to Ohio U. for journalism, and I know you were trained well to research and turn facts into readable text.

From what I have read of yours, and as a friend, you come off to me as a very pure hearted person. Did you create Tai based somewhat on yourself, in personality?

Thank you, Nassem, for your kind words. It seems like a protagonist usually bears the author’s traits, but that’s not always so. I believe that we see ourselves in others as much as they see themselves in us. And you will discover this during the writing. You might care for one character more than others. But undeniably, to all of them you are omniscient. You exist in all of them. Conversely, they all exist in you. Being the Maker. Being everything and then back to being yourself.

Are you married or single? Where does your greatest support come from?

I’m a husband and a father of two sons. My wife and my sons are my truest joy. Without them—the foundation of my family—I exist in a vacuum.

What famous person that has influenced you most would you like to meet?

J. Krishnamurti. He passed away nearly 20 years ago; but it was one of his books titled “The First and Last Freedom” that helped mold my spiritual makeup over the years.

Your next book, The Demon Who Peddled Longing, is also set in Vietnam. Can you tell us a little about it? Also, I read your short story Love Is A Souvenir. Could you talk some about those too?

“Demon” is a very dark, moody and sensuous novel. Like Flesh, “Demon” thrives on moods. Set in post-war Vietnam, it tells a terrible journey of a twenty-year-old boy in search of  the two brothers who are drifters and who raped and killed his cousin also his girl. “Demon” brings together the damned, the unfit, the brave, who succumb by their own doing to the call of fate. Yet their desire to survive and to face life again never dies. Now, the short story “Love Is a Souvenir” is about the haunting ugliness of the Vietnam War, a collection of voices of love, loneliness and barbarity lived and felt by a multitude of people from all walks of life. Man’s inhumanity to man reached its climax in Vietnam when a human life is cheaper than a Zippo.

Thank you so much Mr. Ha. I greatly appreciate the kindness you have shown me, and I wish you, and your family, well. Thank you.

Thank you, Nassem, for this interview. You are kind and sensitive in the way you reviewed and asked questions about Flesh. I respect that.

Khanh Ha-

Khanh Ha is the author of Flesh (2012, Black Heron Press) and The Demon Who Peddled Longing (November 2014,  Underground Voices). The winner of 2014 ROBERT WATSON LITERARY PRIZE IN FICTION, a finalist of the Tethered by Letters Journal’s 2013 FALL LITERARY AWARD, a three-time Pushcart nominee and a two-time Best of the Net Award nominee, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Waccamaw Journal, storySouth, Greensboro Review, Permafrost Magazine, Saint Ann’s Review, Poydras Review, The Underground Voices,  Moon City Review, The Long Story, Red Savina Review, DUCTS, ARDOR, Lunch Ticket, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Sugar Mule, Yellow Medicine Review, Tethered by Letters Journal, Verdad, Drunk Monkeys, and other fine journals.

An Original Short Story By Nassem Al-Mehairi Set In Modern Ukraine

This is a short story inspired by the current events in Ukraine. It was written by the author of this blog, Nassem Al-Mehairi.

Kapma

All I ever was, was a doctor.

At least, that is what I had always thought.

My childhood was one of pain, suffering, and poverty. I was born in 1990, in Kherson. My father, forced to fight in the Red Army against his will, was there when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. My mother always told me my father died bravely, taking fire while saving his fellow soldiers, but, for some reason, I always doubted her.

My mother, born in Krakow, Poland, in 1965. She is a Pole to the bone, hating the Soviets, wanting to smash my father’s head in when he died for them. Her father, Andrzej, was in the Polish Army. He survived the German Invasion in 1939, only to be sent to a German prison camp.

My grandfather was Jewish. He worked at a grocery, handling produce, in Krakow. When the Germans seized Poland, he had to become a card-carrying member of the Nazi Party to protect his family. When it got so bad, where people were being lined up against the fences and shot, crimson blood flowing down the street wherever you went, he sent his child, a son, to Kiev. In 1944, a betrayer gave up Andrzej to the filth Gestapo, and he was sent to Bergen-Belsen. He told me stories of his time there, of the suffering, he having to see women be stripped and raped at the will of young Nazis from Berlin. When the British liberated the camp, you could see his ribs, the obvious oppression these, these dirt, caused on my grandfather. A few weeks before the camp was liberated, Andrzej, he told me once, met a young girl who wrote a diary of her hiding in a “secret annex” in Amsterdam. She died only a few weeks before the freeing of the inmates. After the war the only option left to him was to become a poor farmer in Ukraine, and had his daughter, my mother. His life was taken in 1969, when he was brutally run over by a tractor by his own wife. My grandmother, distraught over her killing her husband, shot herself the year after. The destruction, she set fire to her house before it, and when the flames reached her room, she put the barrel to her temple and pulled the trigger.

My mother was an orphan at the age of 5, and her only option was… Wait, I must be boring you with all this bland family history. Well, I am so sorry. I’ll just get to the part that sells.

I was born on May 4th, 1990. I lived for but 2 years in the Soviet Union, and do not remember any of it, but it would affect my life until the end.

I remember, for all of you looking for only the hardship, to laugh at my pain and mock it, the first event that led to my fate was on my computer in November of 2013. The President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, was in power, and I had always known he was corrupt, but never truly knew until I visited a secret chat forum. My friend Yuri had told me about it, about how those who opposed Yanukovych could connect with each other to take him down. I was sitting in my living room, in Kiev. As my computer started up, I took out a lighter and flicked it 3 times to light my cigarette. As I inhaled and exhaled the smoke, I typed in the URL Yuri had given me, along with the password. As I scrolled through the sight, I was amazed by what I read. One said,

“The Kremlin is ruling our country. We are Ukrainians, not Russians! We must exterminate the President now!”

One, cooler head, said,

“We must unite together to protest Yanukovych siding with the Russians. We are going to protest in Kiev, and die if we must.”

I was a doctor, working in a Kiev hospital. I knew that, because of the President’s brutality, he would kill anyone who rioted against him.

Until February 19th, there were no real riots in Kiev. But on that day, one that will live in infamy, the city of Kiev turned into a battleground. Molotovs were thrown, and as their blasts woke me in the darkness of night, I ran to the hospital. I knew the day of reckoning was upon us, and as I ran through shotgun fire raining down, I rushed in through the front door of the hospital.

I ran over to the secretary, and said, “Any injuries yet?”

She responded, “Yes, Maksym, but they are outside still. We cannot get them inside.”

I knew what I needed to do. I walked back up to the front door. I looked out, with the night sky illuminated by the fires raging through our historic city. I saw a man, clutching his chest, laying on the ground. I looked to my left, then right, and ran out. I crouched down next to the man groaning, and took his arms. I dragged him into the hospital, and yelled, “Get me a cot!”

As I picked him up, the secretary had set the cot down next to me. I laid the man down on it, and ripped open his Western-made shirt. I took a piece of gauze, and held it to his wound, gushing blood all over my hands. He said, very quietly, “What… what is your name?”

I said, “My name is Maksym Nowak.”

He, spitting up bile, said, “Nowak…What was your grandfather’s name?”

Confused, I said, “Andrzej Nowak. Why?”

Devastated-looking, he said, “My…my grandfather, was your grandfather’s friend. He was the one who gave him up to the Germans. I…I am…sorry for the disrespect my family inflicted upon yours.”

I always knew this would happen. The Soviet Union repaying its sins on this night in Ukraine, and the family who betrayed my grandfather doing the same. I could do nothing but continue, silently, to try to save his life. He died there, with me never knowing his name.

All I could do, was collapse. Karma truly always happened. Even on a dark night as a revolution to change the world was occurring. I went out, my mind occupied on that. As I looked for my next person to save, I felt a bullet hit my throat and throw me to the ground.

I thought, this was karma too. A sin took the man in the hospital, and my father’s sins against the Afghanis killed me. Or was it my mother lying about him? It didn’t matter. I was dead no matter which.

Unthinkable By Kenneth Pollack Is A Fair, Fresh Take At American Options Regarding Iran

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The Iranian Nuclear Crisis has always interested me. I have written an article about it before on here, and will write more in the future. Unthinkable by Kenneth Pollack discusses that topic, and talks about our strategy toward facing it.

Unthinkable begins with a short history of modern Iran. It describes Iran, why it wants a nuclear bomb, and the reason why it is so fanatical about it. Pollack talks about the Shah, the West’s involvement with his government, and then how our relations splintered when the Iranian Revolution occurred and American hostages were taken.

The book then delves into our possible solutions to prevent Iran from getting “the bomb”. It discusses the pros and cons of diplomacy, regime change, Israeli air strikes, and proliferation. It accurately gives each solution in a good and bad light, and gives all the possible ramifications of each.

Finally, it ends with the 2 options if we do nothing now: Containment or War. It talks about how, if it gets to the point when Iran gets a nuclear bomb(s), we only have these 2 choices, and how we have to pick the lesser of the evils. Pollack says that containment keeps us out of conflict, but costs a great deal of money, and may upset other Arab nations, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. He also says that, while war would end an oppressive regime quickly without nuclear conflict, it is proven, by our war in Iraq, that it would cost American lives and money and may not accomplish its goal. He argues that we need to end the Iranian Nuclear Program through diplomacy NOW, before we have to pick one of these options.

One of the best nonfictions I have read in a long time, Unthinkable by Kenneth Pollack opened my eyes to many new things regarding the Iranian Nuclear Program. Written from an unbiased place, it analyses all options fairly and allows the reader to pick which option would weigh best on their consciences and pocketbook.

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Kenneth Pollack- Author

Kenneth M. Pollack is an expert on Middle Eastern political-military affairs, with particular emphasis on Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the other nations of the Persian Gulf region. He is currently a senior fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He served as the director of the Saban Center from 2009 to 2012, and its director of research from 2002 to 2009.

For More Info On Dr. Kenneth Pollack

The Path Forward For The New Ukraine

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Ukraine in Europe. Credit Here.

On Saturday, February 22nd, the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, was impeached. This move comes after extreme turmoil erupted earlier last week in opposition of the President’s actions. Over 100 people have been killed in Ukraine, and these protests started because the former President sided with Russia over Europe.

Parliament:

Parliament still exists in Kiev, and it will be the sole place for power in the nation right now. It is democratically elected, and opposed Yanukovych’s corruption. Parliament impeached the President, and placed an acting President in place. The people need to trust in Parliament, and Parliament needs to unify the people.

Prosecution:

Former President Yanukovych and the cabinet members responsible for the protestor’s deaths need to be turned in to the International Criminal Court. Rather than be killed by Ukrainian rebels, they need to be put on trial, and, if possible, be charged with war crimes. The former cabinet and former President have fled Kiev, and their whereabouts are not known. Yanukovych may still be in Ukraine, but also may be in the United Arab Emirates.

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Jubilant Ukrainians During Revolution. Credit Here.

Russia:

The uprising is inspired by the fact that Yanukovych took a $15 billion USD bailout from Russia rather than an integration deal with the European Union. The new government will need to ally itself with Europe, and leave behind the past. Ukraine is a former Soviet state, and because of that needs to end it’s relationship with Russia. Europe offers new possibilities and will successfully help the Ukraine end its very deep economic problems.

Democracy:

Ukraine needs to end the corruption that has plagued it for many years. Yanukovych is accused of poisoning one of his predecessors, and imprisoned another. The people need to unite and work together to solve the problems the country faces. The people were the ones leading the revolution, and must all pitch in and keep government officials accountable. Fair elections are the only path forward that will lead to a new, better, more successful Ukraine.

The Turmoil In Ukraine Does Affect The West And US Foreign Policy

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A Scene From Kiev. Credit Here.

In the last few months, many citizens of Ukraine have been protesting decisions made by the Ukrainian President Yanukovych. The President of Ukraine refused a deal with the European Union that would have integrated them, but took a bailout from Russia worth $15 billion USD.

President Yanukovych is seen to many as ruthless. He is accused of poisoning his predecessor and has imprisoned some other political figures.

This act by Yanukovych is so controversial to the Ukrainian people because it moves the Ukraine closer to the Kremlin. Ukraine is trying to decide if it should move back with its historical neighbors in Europe or to Russia, who it was in the Soviet Union with. Many of the people, understandably, do not want to ally the country with Putin and the Russians, but do not have much political say. In recent moves, Yanukovych has outlawed the right to assemble and has ushered in an, according to opposition, dictatorship.

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Credit Here.

Protests have been taking place since November. In the last week, however, extreme violence has erupted in Kiev. Destruction has ravaged the capital for days now. Snipers, automatic weapons, and Molotov cocktails have all been used by both sides. Overhead photos from building show fire raging through Kiev against the night sky, and it looks like a scene from the initial Iraq invasion.

Doctors have confirmed that police forces are shooting to kill, hitting the heart, brain, and neck of protestors. The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said that he is “appalled by the use of firearms by both the police and protesters” but wants the authorities to exercise restraint. Sanctions and harsh criticism have been coming from the United States, Britain, Germany, and other Western nations.

This affects the West because it is another residual conflict stemming from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Ukrainian government is siding with Russia, who is seen around the world as currently still very much like what the political situation was in the USSR. We need the Ukraine to ally themselves with the West, and the government needs to stop the dictatorial draconian laws outlawing freedoms like assembly. The USSR is a thing of the past, and the Ukraine must decide now if it is going to move forward or be stuck in history.

5 Things I Am Hoping For In Adele’s Next Album

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Adele. Credit Here.

It is hard to believe that it has been 6 years since Adele’s “19”, and 3 since “21”. This year has been confirmed as the year for her next album, and I am really excited. I love Adele, and look forward to some new songs. I am so excited, I decided to write an article about what I am going to be looking for in it. 4 of the following are personal hopes, and one is a rumor that would make me probably faint if it comes true.

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21. Credit Here.

1. Keep The Album Title Adele’s Age

I believe that this technique of naming the CD is spot-on. It allows the artist to show how much they have developed as they grow. Adele’s first album, “19”, was very Brit-as it was what she was forged from. “21” was a lot more historical, the power of Mahalia Jackson meshed with the soul of Nina Simone. I don’t think the age thing is an insult, but an encourager. No matter what anyone says, Adele ages like a fine wine.

2. Singing About Herself

Adele has a son now, thought to be named Angelo, and has had time to develop many new experiences. We can assume these are more happy, and I think that will be the theme of the next CD. Maybe a song like “Blue”, by my other favorite artist Beyonce, will be seen about her son. I would also like to see a song a little more personal, maybe one about her and her husband Simon Konecki that is not too intimate, but shows their love.

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Skyfall, By Adele. Credit Here.

3. More Songs Like “Skyfall”

I loved “Skyfall”, the song and movie. I am a HUGE James Bond fan, and the greatest opening credit Bond theme was Skyfall by Adele. I would like to see songs like this, of perseverance and tradition. It was an awesome song, with swag that I really want to see more of from Adele. I would like to have the feeling that Adele is singing to me, which she does so well for all, and encouraging me on to overcome.

4. The Art

Adele has had some pretty cool art done to accompany her songs before. This album will most definitely be about the little things in everyday life, so I would like to see the cover be something like Adele chasing her little son in the park. Her video for “Someone Like You” is one of the most iconic done ever, and more black-and-white with bits of color would be nice.

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Adele and Beyonce. Credit Here.

5. The Rumor: Adele And Beyonce Together!

I read a reputable rumor that Adele and Beyonce are collaborating together for a song on Adele’s next album. Oy! I would literally buy up all the copies of this song available! Imagine the pure awesomeness that could come from this collaboration. These are my 2 favorite artists, and I really hope this rumor is true.

Well, there you go. I would like 25 to be autobiographical, inspired by the little things in life. I want more songs like “Skyfall”, and for there to be a lot of promotional photos with Adele and her family. I also cannot wait for the Adele-Bey collaboration. I will be listening to Adele’s CD when it comes out this summer from the first day available.

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Adele: The Artist Of Our Generation. Credit Here.