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Bird watchers of the West Bank navigate a fraught political climate

first_imgIn the challenging climate of the West Bank, one regionally prominent conservationist named Anton Khalilieh says there is a general lack of conservation knowledge among residents about birds in the area.In an effort to change that, in 2017 Khalilieh founded a non-profit conservation organization called Nature Palestine.Khalilieh is also working to build a comprehensive database of the birds who specifically live in the West Bank. RAMALLAH — Anton Khalilieh is the premier Palestinian birdwatcher in the West Bank. The 37-year-old from Bethlehem has all the traits of a great birder: an encyclopedic knowledge of bird qualities and calls, insight into the ins-and-outs of the best birding sites — and the reflex to suddenly stop in his tracks and identify a speck flying in the sky.Khalilieh is well-schooled in the splendors of the birds found in the West Bank’s four distinct bio-geographical regions, which range from leafy mountains and coastal plains, to the rocky slopes of the Jordan Rift Valley, to the dry Dead Sea, and cultivated fields along the way.Arabian babbler (Turdoides squamiceps). Photo courtesy Anton Khalilieh.There are at least 370 bird species to see in the West Bank, a wide array despite the small space, ranging from the eagle owl, among the largest owls in the world, to the Palestine sunbird, a nectar-eating songbird whose males have glossy blue and green feathers that shimmer in the sun.But amid a fraught political climate, Khalilieh says opportunities for Palestinian birders are fewer than those for Israelis.“Bird watching is a luxurious hobby,” Khalilieh said. “But because of the political situation and the lack of funds and money and experience, we don’t [bird watch].”The West Bank is sandwiched between Jordan and Israel. Israel captured the West Bank in the Six-Day War of June 1967; Palestinians claim the land is theirs, and the U.N. International Court of Justice maintains that the area is an occupied territory. Peace agreements in the 1990s slated the West Bank as a part of a future Palestinian state and created an interim, semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority in part of the territory. But in the conflict-ridden years since, a final-status peace agreement hasn’t happened. Israeli settlements in the West Bank, considered illegal under international law, have in the meantime continued to grow. Today, the Israeli military guards these Jewish communities where many nature reserves and the best birding sites are located.Woodchat shrike (Lanius senator). Photo courtesy Anton Khalilieh.Khalilieh says there’s a general lack of conservation knowledge among Palestinians about the birds in the area. He says more people should be trained as birdwatchers to systematically track things like nesting habits. It’s something he says Palestinians can and should be leading in, and he’s trying to change that, one bird at a time.Since founding his own non-profit in 2017, Nature Palestine, Khalilieh has worked as a consultant for the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Nature Museum on bird and conservation issues. He’s also working to build a comprehensive database of the distribution of birds specifically in the West Bank. To do so, he’s drawing on Israeli data and research on birds throughout the region, as well as other resources like “The Birds of Israel,” the most comprehensive book on the subject to date. And, most importantly, he’s going out into the field to bird and document as much as he can.“Birds of the Middle East,” another bible of birders here, recently came out with a mobile app for Android that includes Arabic content. “So Arabs will be more interested in bird watching, hopefully,” Khalilieh said.Desert finch (Rhodospiza obsoleta). Photo courtesy Anton Khalilieh.In the last 15 years, he’s learned about the migratory and resident birds to look for, and where and when. His favorite periods are the twice-yearly migrations in the spring and autumn, when 500 million birds pass through from Europe to Africa and back again. It is the world’s second-most important flyway.Birdwatchers here can stay busy all year long. One of the West Bank’s iconic landscapes is classified as Mediterranean mountain region, exemplified by hills covered in vegetation or rocky slopes and cliffs. These areas are a haven for songbirds. Then there are the deep valleys famed for being where some desert species breed.Khalilieh says protecting birds is a hard sell for Palestinians struggling and working hard just to make ends meet. About one-third of Palestinians in the West Bank are unemployed, according to the World Bank. Many more are underemployed and just getting by, so have little time or money for a hobby like birding.Palestine sunbird (Cinnyris osea). Photo courtesy Anton Khalilieh.For Khalilieh and other Palestinians, access to the nearest post-secondary ornithology education requires a special permit to enter Israel. After earning his bachelor’s degree at Bethlehem University, in the West Bank, Khalilieh went on to get a doctorate in ornithology and ecological physiology from Ben Gurion University in southern Israel. He also studied at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel, which brings together Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians to work on shared conservation issues.Scientific studies on birds of the West Bank are included in Israeli bird databases, says Jonathan Meriav at the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI). Meirav is director of birding tours for the SPNI’s International Ornithological Center.The SPNI is the largest environmental non-profit in Israel, but the center doesn’t organize birding events in the West Bank. That’s in part because of complicated logistics, given the territory’s disputed status, Meirav said. Overall, the center facilitates birding tourism and birding fund-raisers and festivals, including a yearly international race in the south, called Champions of the Flyway.Through several birding and conservation projects, though, Meirav has connected with Palestinian colleagues like Ikram Quttainh, 31, an ecotourism expert from Jerusalem. Quttainh became interested in learning about ecotourism and then birding in the West Bank as part of her master’s degree studies. She’s now participated twice in a joint Israeli-Palestinian team at the Champions of the Flyway race.“As a Jerusalemite, I didn’t know anything about what was happening [elsewhere] in the West Bank,” Quttainh said. “We would always go to shopping areas, but never to the nature areas.”Now Quttainh is a project coordinator at the Hanns Seidel Foundation, a German outfit, where she helps to organize West Bank ecotourism trips, including for birding. The foundation, in coordination with the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, has put together the first online database of Palestinian nature reserves. In addition to ecotourism and education, the foundation has funded signs for nature reserves under Palestinian control that urge people not to shoot the wildlife and explain what birds they can see.In places like the Wadi Qana Nature Reserve, a beautiful expanse of natural caves and springs in the West Bank, both Khalilieh and Quttainh said they love to bird watch but feel they have to tread carefully as Palestinians so as not to raise suspicions about what they are doing or veer into the settlements by accident.White-throated kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis). Photo courtesy Anton Khalilieh.A spokesperson for the Israeli Civil Administration, the governing body for the West Bank, said Israelis and Palestinians have the same right to access nature reserves and national parks, which they said were open to all people. They also denied that military zones or nature reserves were in any way connected to political plans to expand and sustain Israeli settlements.But nature reserves in the West Bank’s Area C, which constitutes 61 percent of the region’s territory, are “part of a patchwork of corridors of controlled areas that Palestinians can’t use,” according to Adam Aloni, a researcher with B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization.Khalilieh, meanwhile, is still working to map out how all of the politics impacts his birding and conservation efforts. As part of his research, he’s tracking what’s happening with birds in the West Bank that are on Israel’s “red list” of conservation concern. He also has dreams of one day organizing birding festivals and institutions in the West Bank, like the ones already happening in Israel.In the meantime, he can be found forging ahead in his jeep down the bumpy roads of nature reserves, stopping suddenly to raise his binoculars and record the lives and ecosystems that most others overlook.Banner image: Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus). Photo courtesy Anton Khalilieh.Miriam Berger is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. You can find her on Twitter at @MiriamABerger.FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page. Article published by Genevieve Belmaker Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsoredcenter_img Archive, Birding, Birds, Birds Of Prey, Community-based Conservation, Conservation and Religion, Happy-upbeat Environmental last_img read more

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Donegal woman bags €52,000 on Winning Streak

first_imgA Donegal-based businesswoman got the chance of a lifetime to spin the wheel on RTE’s Winning Streak last Saturday– to win a whopping  €52,000!Getting to spin the famous wheel on the Winning Streak game show never came into the mind of Annmarie Doherty, who lives in Greencastle, Co. Donegal – it was enough for her to just appear on the show.  But the Derry native won a massive €30,000 on the wheel to add to the €22,000 in cash she won earlier in the show.Annmarie plans to buy a new car with her winnings as her old one recently failed the NCT. She said she will also treat her husband, Michael, who will soon be turning 50, and their twin boys Finn and Loughlin (14). Annmarie Doherty from Greencastle, Co. Donegal, pictured at the presentation of the Winning Streak winners’ cheques with Marty Whelan, Winning Streak game show co-host; Annmarie Doherty, the winning player; Niall Andrews, Head of Sales and Operations at the National Lottery and Sinead Kennedy, Winning Streak game show co-host. Pic: Mac Innes Photography.Leading up to the programme, Annmarie was a mixed bag of nerves and excitement. Annmarie picked up her winning ticket from GALA Express, Drung, Quigley’s Point, Co. Donegal.She said she was overwhelmed by the many well-wishers in her community and the number of texts and messages from far and wide wishing her luck.Annmarie told hosts Marty Whelan and Sinead Kennedy how she and Michael were childhood sweethearts who lost touch. But they reconnected in their twenties when they were living and studying in Trinity College in Dublin where Michael was studying Computer Science and Annmarie Business and Economics. Annmarie also has a Master’s Degree in Woman Studies from UCD.The couple, now married for 25 years, have pooled their expertise and run their own business a   Motarme –  a business-to-business technology marketing firm. Before that Annemarie worked for a range of Chambers of Commerce and also in marketing and public relations for Local Enterprise Boards. She was also the former President of the Donegal Women in Business Network. A grand total of €184,000 was won on this week’s episode of the Winning Streak National Lottery game show.Donegal woman bags €52,000 on Winning Streak was last modified: January 14th, 2019 by Rachel McLaughlinShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)last_img read more

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GroupSwim: SaaS-Style Collaboration

first_imgKnowledge is everywhere – be it within individuals, in Salesforce, via Google, in emails etcSearch sucks – it’s hard, it’s not semantic and everyone has different ideas how to use itKnowledge is locked in people heads, so an individual doesn’t know who is an expert on any one particular subjectOther offerings are difficult to use and expensive So what does GroupSwim offer? Their solution has:A nice Web 2.0 interfaceAn open architecture that allows it to grow, adapt and morph at willThe benefit of leveraging community intelligenceA robust enterprise grade architecture How does it work?Once a user creates an account, they can create multiple communities within their account. This has two benefits – it means a business can have different communities for different parts of the business, but it also means that an individual user, with one single sign on, can access all of the groups they are subscribed to. This is all nice but not unique, GroupSwim’s main benefit comes from its semantic approach and its qualitative differentiation techniques which together improve functionality and user experience. Semantic ApproachContent entered into a discussion is automatically analysed and tagged with keywords. This allows better classification, better searching and a more relevant and proactive customer experience to be offered to the user. Of course users can edit, change and add to the automatically generated tags but it speeds up the process no end. My experience with other collaborative platforms is that the search tends to be a little clunky – often giving poor results, Groupswim’s semantic search improves the search and therefore overall usability of the service. Qualitative DifferentiationGroupSwim keeps a running tally on both explicit and implicit rating of material. Explicit rating comes from user ratings as per other solutions, implicit rating comes from a host of automatically assessed criteria – how often an item is read, how many times it is on-forwarded, how long it remains open etc. In this way users get a true assessment of the quality of any piece of content. Groupswim have done a nice job of capturing the two streams of rating – together the overall rating gives an improved experience – this coupled with the semantic search really sped things up in my trial.ConclusionGroupSwim provides a compelling offering – I can see it providing real value for organisational community building both internally and externally. Check out their elevator pitch video below. A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… guest author 1 A guest post by Ben Kepes of diversity.net.nz, a blog that focuses on SaaS, cloud-computing and Web 2.0 for the real world.GroupSwim is an innovative company which has created an intelligent community building and collaboration SaaS solution. It was mentioned here on RWW previously as one of the finalists in the Enterprise 2.0 launch pad. GroupSwim aims to connect individuals and build knowledge utilising social based methodologies. Their method of working comes from four observations of  current offerings and methods of working: 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Marketcenter_img Tags:#Product Reviews#web Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting Related Posts Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic…last_img read more

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Chinese clubs spend more than double on international transfers

first_imgChinese soccer clubs spent over $450 million on international transfers last year, around 2-1/2 times more than the year before, according to a FIFA subsidiary report released on Friday.The spending spree, which has seen a series of big-money moves involving high profile players such as Chelsea and Brazil attacking midfielder Oscar and Argentina’s Carlos Tevez, has raised eyebrows around the world and created unease. (Also read: Carlos Tevez agrees to join Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua)It has also led to fierce criticism from officials and local media, prompting China to tighten rules over thenumber of overseas players able to appear in domestic games. (Also read: Chelsea confirm Oscar move to Shanghai SIPG)The report by Transfer Matching System (TMS) said Chinese clubs signed 159 players in international transfers in 2016.The total of $451.3 million spent compared to $168.3 million in 2015 and was a seven-fold increase on 2013, the report said. It was also around 344 percent more than the rest of Asia combined, it said.China is now fifth in terms of spending on international transfers behind England, Germany, Spain and Italy and has moved ahead of France, Portugal and Russia, the report added.”The rapid nature of this growth is unprecedented,” it said adding that the spending was “almost exclusively” on players coming from European clubs.Overall, the report said that a total of $4.79 billion was spent on international transfers around the world last year, an increase of 14.3 percent over the year before.The number of international transfers completed was 14,591, compared to 13,601 in 2015.advertisementEnglish clubs splashed out $1.37 billion, more than twice the next big spenders Germany with $576.4 million.At the other extreme, clubs from the Oceania region signed only eight players from abroad between them, none of which involved a transfer fee.last_img read more

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a month agoMan Utd striker Mason Greenwood new record holder

first_imgAbout the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your say Man Utd striker Mason Greenwood new record holderby Paul Vegasa month agoSend to a friendShare the loveManchester United striker Mason Greenwood is a new record holder.Greenwood is now a United record-holder. In scoring against Astana, the attacker became United’s youngster-ever goalscorer in Europe. Marcus Rashford had previously set the record – when also playing in the Europa League, in 2016 – but it’s an accolade that now belongs to Greenwood, aged 17 years, 11 months and 353 days.As well as netting his first goal for the Reds, Greenwood was also selected as the Man of the Match. last_img read more

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8 days agoLeicester boss Rodgers hits back at Maddison critics: Pure lies!

first_imgLeicester boss Rodgers hits back at Maddison critics: Pure lies!by Freddie Taylor8 days agoSend to a friendShare the loveLeicester City manager Brendan Rodgers has defended James Maddison for playing poker after leaving the England camp with illness.Maddison was spotted on Friday evening in a casino during England’s Euro 2020 qualifier in the Czech Republic on Friday after illness ruled him out of the match.But Rodgers says Maddison has been portrayed in an unfair and false light by the press.”It was a difficult period for him, there is no doubt, because obviously what was portrayed in an article in the press was wasn’t quite how it was, which is not a big surprise,” Rodgers told a news conference.”The kid went away with the international team, he took ill whilst he was away. He wanted to stay, and hopefully be ready for the second game, but the England medical staff – and you can understand it, he’s got flu – they don’t want it to spread his team-mates. They decide that it’s best for him to to to leave the camp.”So he leaves. He gets some tablets with our guys here at the club. He feels better. He watches the game at home on his own on the Friday.”And he then goes out at half-time. Probably he’ll make better decisions in his life, but he went to a casino on his own, to sit and watch the second half by a poker table.”Now the suggestions are he left England purposely and then goes to casino – it’s totally not the case at all”But his eyes have been opened to the wider world now in terms of what he did. He knows in hindsight that he’s made a mistake.”But I want to reiterate, because this is a player I have seen (of) in the last few months various stories around his arrogance, around his mentality. They’re totally false.”I’m not sure where the stories are coming from, but it’s not what this boy’s about. He’s a very talented player, he has a belief in his ability. He is a wonderful personality on the field and he’s actually a really, really good boy off it.” About the authorFreddie TaylorShare the loveHave your saylast_img read more

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3 days agoNeville: The type of striker Man Utd will buy

first_imgTagsTransfersAbout the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your say Neville: The type of striker Man Utd will buyby Paul Vegas3 days agoSend to a friendShare the loveManchester United legend Gary Neville says manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will seek to buy a mobile striker in January.Neville reckons Solskjaer will target a “striker like Roberto Firmino or Son Heung-min” in the New Year.He told Sky Sports: “I look at Firmino when he first came to England, I look at [Mohamed] Salah when he was first at Chelsea, I look at [Sadio] Mane. Sometimes players have to develop into what they are going to become.”I think United want a striker like Firmino, like Son at Tottenham . I think [Solskjaer] wants that type of player.”I don’t think he wants a typical striker who is basically going to be a Lukaku or a Costa.”I don’t think he’s looking for that type. I think he’s looking for a more mobile type in a front three or a front two.”I think this club has always had strikers who can play in pairs, who contribute off the ball.”I’ll make a point about Ruud van Nistelrooy. We won less championships with him at centre-forward than when we brought Louis Saha in to partner Wayne Rooney.”He was nowhere near as good a finisher as Ruud or as good a striker as Ruud, but the team became better. “And that’s my point, I don’t think Ole wants a striker like that; I think he wants a mobile striker.” last_img read more

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Tim Cook Trolled Tar Heels By Using Saturday’s Duke vs. UNC Score For The Apple Watch

first_imgApple watch trolls UNC after Duke loss.Twitter/AppleApple CEO Tim Cook, a noted sports fan, did his undergrad at Auburn before getting his business degree at Duke six years later. As such, he’s a big supporter of both Tigers football and Blue Devils basketball. Monday, during his company’s unveiling of the brand new Apple Watch, Cook apparently decided to take a little jab at Duke’s biggest competitor. Cook, when showing how an ESPN score would look on the watch, decided to use the result of this past Saturday’s game between the two as the example. When a few Blue Devils fans in the crowd cheered, he mentioned that he, too, supports the team. Enjoy, Dukies:last_img read more

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Vikings Sign Wide Receiver Greg Jennings

The Minnesota Vikings signed free-agent wide receiver Greg Jennings to a five-year contract Friday, after he spent the last seven years with the Green Bay Packers.The contract has a maximum value of $47.5 million, with $18 million guaranteed. Over the first three years of Jennings contract he is scheduled to make a minimum of $27 million, but could make as much as $28.5 million if he goes to the Pro Bowl, according to ESPN’s Josina Anderson.“I definitely wanted to know that they wanted me,” Jennings told ESPN.com. “I wanted to feel that they wanted me to be a part of what they are doing and a part of the future. And I got that feeling early and I got that feeling quite often.”The 29-year-old Jennings was hindered by injuries during the 2012 season with the Packers, only allowing him to play in eight games because of a torn lower abdominal muscle. He finished the season with a career-low 366 yards receiving. In 2011, he missed three games with a sprained left knee.But Jennings, who will turn 30 on Sept. 21, is confident that he can still be the same explosive and exciting player that he was earlier in his career.Jennings will be an intricate part of the Vikings offense since the team traded Percy Harvin earlier in the week to the Seattle Seahawks, after the two sides were unable to come to an agreement about a long-term contract extension. There had been speculation that Harvin would sit out until an extension was reached.“You can just get a sense that he [Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder] needed a little more around him to give him some help,” Jennings said. “Hopefully, I can help him a little bit.”The two-time Pro Bowl pick will be the No.1 receiver for the Vikings and will be expected to provide leadership to current receivers Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright.However, Jennings must make a big transition between quarterbacks, leaving Aaron Rodgers for Ponder. Rodgers is one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the league, while Ponder has been inconsistent at times.“I had to watch Christian,” Jennings said. “I had to see what I was [getting] myself into. Very athletic quarterback, obviously his upside, his future is bright. I saw a young guy that was maturing.”Ponder said earlier this week that he was excited to have Jennings as a teammate and has admired his work ethic and leadership in Green Bay.In Jennings’ eight seasons with the Packers, he had 425 receptions for 6,537 yards and 53 touchdowns. From 2008-10 he had over 1,000 yards receiving each year, which the Vikings are hopeful he can recreate in Minnesota. read more

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Dominique Wilkins New Statue In Atlanta Represents His Role

Dominique Wilkins speaking today after the unveiling of his statue at Philips Arena.Atlanta was not always a place of opportunity and social extravagance—real or imagined—for Black people. It evolved into it, gradually, with the mid-1980s an integral part of that emergence. That’s what the Hawks’ first-class unveiling of a statue of Dominique Wilkins today represents—a time when Atlanta blossomed into the capital of the new South.Wilkins—with his exhilarating play on the court and his goodwill nature off of it—was a part of the city’s burgeoning reputation as a place African-Americans could come and prosper, and have a good time doing it.As he crafted a Hall of Fame career, Wilkins earned an unofficial title as ambassador of the city. He was unique more than for his mesmerizing slam dunks and dexterous scoring ability at the old Omni. He was a superstar about town. He was touchable, likable, a man of the city. His city.From his nightclub, Dominique’s, in downtown Atlanta to one he co-owned with Deion Sanders in Marietta called 21, Wilkins lived the city. He didn’t just play there.“And that’s what made him special,” Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed said in renaming a part of Centennial Boulevard by Philips Arena “Dominique Wilkins Lane,” as part of a ceremony the Hawks’ organization can be proud of.It honored Wilkins in a deserving, majestic way at Philips Arena, with a luncheon, video presentations, dignitaries and attendees like Julius Erving, Bernard King, Charles Oakley, Chris Tucker, Judge Glenda Hatchette, Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, Karl (Mailman) Malone, former mayor Bill Campbell and many others.Even NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who lives in New York, expressed how invaluable Wilkins has been to Atlanta in general, the Black community in particular.“Dominique is a part of the fabric of the community,” Silver said.Some who did not experience what Atlanta was like in the ‘80s, during Wilkins’ reign, may not understand how a basketball player could galvanize a community. He did.“In the beginning, I wasn’t trying to do that,” Wilkins said to Atlanta Blackstar. “But I went out in the city everyday, to Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza and the clubs and restaurants, and everywhere I went I met people who said they felt like I represented them. They enjoyed seeing me and I always embraced them.“I realized pretty quickly that what we were doing as a team and what I was doing as an individual, socializing with the people, meant a lot. And it became important to me that I truly become a part of the city, the growth of the city.”He did. Wilkins was omnipresent in Atlanta, long before it became the place for celebrities it is now. He was a one-man visitor’s bureau highlight—if you visited Atlanta and went out, you were bound to see Dominique.“And that meant something to a lot of people and to the image of the city,” Wilkins’ younger brother, former NBA player Gerald Wilkins told Atlanta Blackstar at the ceremony. “That’s what this is about, this ceremony. More than basketball.“Guess what? My brother wasn’t named one of the 50 greatest players when they named that team years ago. We know it was crazy, but he was left off. He never won a championship. He wasn’t really given the credit he was as a true superstar, despite his numbers. But he still got a statue. And you know why? For the person he is. For what he has been to the city. For what he represents to Atlanta.”In his first moments after the unveiling of the beautiful statue, which depicts Wilkins in the process of throwing down one of his signature dunks, Wilkins went nostalgic.“This moment takes me back to a lady who raised eight kids in the projects of Baltimore and taught us honor and respect and dignity,” he said of his mother, Gertrude.Those characteristics were embedded in Wilkins. He lost money during his playing days because he took care of his extensive family and he believed people were as trustworthy as he. But he plowed on, always with a welcoming smile and with his head up.Many who spoke today spoke of the man more than the player who scored more that 26,000 points in his career and was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.“In seven years with Dominique,” former coach Mike Fratello said, “I never saw him turn down an autograph.”Those kinds of recollections went on for a long time. They defined the man more than his freakish athleticism.“This moment means more than you know,” Wilkins said. “This statue stands for change, change of the city.”The change in Atlanta from then to now is vast, and Wilkins had a hand in it more than most. He helped Atlanta become Atlanta. And now, rightfully, there’s a monument outside the arena he used as a platform to remind us all of that. read more

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