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2006-01-03 The Brimstone Chronicles

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|   | ! The Brimstone Chronicles
Updates from Sodom

Dear Friends and Partners,I left early Sunday morning, January 1st for the Middle East. I will first be conducting museum business with the Israelis for two days and then I'm off to Jordan, Tall el Hammim to be precise. Tall el Hammim is the proposed ancient site of Sodom which, our team will be excavating. As part of a series of updates I thought I'd begin by giving you a little information about the country of Jordan itself.In the next Focal Point E-missions Update I will give you general information about Tall el Hammim.I would like for you to pray for: 1.      Safe traveling, 2.      As little border crossing hassles as possible, 3.      Physical stamina for the rigors of excavation, 4.      Success for the team in this crucial first probe of the mound, and 5.      The final money to cover all the expenses of this expedition. Brief history of JordanThe land that became present-day Jordan forms part of the history-rich Fertile Crescent region. Its known history began around 2000 B.C., when Semitic Amorites settled around the Jordan River in the area called Canaan. Subsequent invaders and settlers included Hittites, Egyptians, Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arab Muslims, Christian Crusaders, Mameluks, Ottoman Turks, and, finally, the British. At the end of World War I, the territory now comprising Israel, Jordan, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem was awarded to the United Kingdom by the League of Nations as the mandate for Palestine. In 1922, in an attempt to assuage Arab anger resulting from the Balfour Declaration, with the approval of the League of Nations, the British created the semi-autonomous, Arab Emirate of Transjordan in all Palestinian territory east of the Jordan River. The British installed the Hashemite Prince Abdullah, while continuing the administration of Palestine and Transjordan under a single British High Commissioner. The mandate over Transjordan ended on May 22, 1946; on May 25th, the country became the independent Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan.Politics of JordanJordan is a constitutional monarchy based on the constitution promulgated on January 8, 1952. Executive authority is vested in the king and his council of ministers. The king signs and executes all laws. His veto power may be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the National Assembly. He appoints and may dismiss all judges by decree, approves amendments to the constitution, declares war, and commands the armed forces. Cabinet decisions, court judgments, and the national currency are issued in his name. The council of ministers, led by a prime minister, is appointed by the king, who may dismiss other cabinet members at the prime minister's request. The cabinet is responsible to the Chamber of Deputies on matters of general policy and can be forced to resign by a two-thirds vote of "no confidence" by that body.Legislative power rests in the bicameral National Assembly. The 110-member Chamber of Deputies, elected by universal suffrage to a 4-year term, is subject to dissolution by the king. Nine seats are reserved for Christians, 6 for women, and three for Circassians and Chechens. The 40-member Senate is appointed by the king for an 8-year term.The constitution provides for three categories of courts – civil, religious, and special. Administratively, Jordan is divided into eight governorates, each headed by a governor appointed by the king. They are the sole authorities for all government departments and development projects in their respective areas.King Hussein ruled Jordan from 1953 to 1999, surviving a number of challenges to his rule, drawing on the loyalty of his military, and serving as a symbol of unity and stability for both the East Bank and Palestinian communities in Jordan. King Hussein ended martial law in 1991 and legalized political parties in 1992. In 1989 and 1993, Jordan held free and fair parliamentary elections. Controversial changes in the election law led Islamist parties to boycott the 1997 elections.King Abdullah II succeeded his father Hussein following the latter's death in February 1999. Abdullah moved quickly to reaffirm Jordan's peace treaty with Israel and its relations with the United States. Abdullah, during the first year in power, refocused the government's agenda on economic reform.Jordan's continuing structural economic difficulties, burgeoning population, and more open political environment led to the emergence of a variety of political parties. Moving toward greater independence, Jordan's parliament has investigated corruption charges against several regime figures and has become the major forum in which differing political views, including those of political Islamists, are expressed. While King Abdullah remains the ultimate authority in Jordan, the parliament plays an important role.Geography of JordanJordan is a Middle Eastern country, bordered by Syria to the north, Iraq to the northeast, Saudi Arabia to the east and south and Israel and West Bank to the west. All these border lines add up to 1619 km. The Gulf of Aqaba and the Dead Sea also touch the country, and thus Jordan has a coastline of 26 km.Jordan consists mostly of arid desert plateau in the east, with Highland area in the west. The Great Rift Valley of the Jordan River separates Jordan and Israel. The highest point in the country is Jabal Ram, while the lowest is the Dead Sea. Jordan is considered to be part of the "cradle of humanity".Major cities include the capital Amman in the northwest, Irbid and Az Zarqa, both in the north.The climate in Jordan is dry and hot, since the country is mainly desert. However, the western part of the country receives greater precipitation during the rainy season from November to April.Demographics of JordanJordanians are Semitic Levantines , except for a few small communities of Chechens, Circassians, Armenians, and Kurds which have adapted to Arabic culture. The official language is Arabic, but English is used widely in commerce and government. About 70% of Jordan's population is urban; less than 6% of the rural population is nomadic or semi-nomadic. Most people live where the rainfall supports agriculture. About 2.6 million persons registered as Palestinian refugees and displaced persons reside in Jordan, most as citizens.  |   |

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