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Rotary Members Hear Good News from Iraq

October 20, 2007
By Wayne Sheets, Contributing Business Writer
Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia Sherry Muncy addressed members of the Rotary Club of Elkins on Monday regarding her tour in Iraq as a legal advisor to the Iraqi government. Muncy spent a year in Iraq as an adviser to the Iraqi judiciary with project “Rule of Law” in the country’s continuing efforts to establish a working judicial system in the wake of the destruction of its judicial infrastructure with the dissolution of the Baath Party when Saddam Hussein and his government was toppled.

Muncy said, “When I heard of the opportunity to go and serve as an adviser, I called my husband and told him that I was going. In April of 2006, I deployed to Iraq and it was one the most enjoyable experiences of my life. I was there for a year.”

According to Muncy she helped establish the tribunal that tried Hussein and served as adviser to the committee that carried out the execution of the erstwhile tyrant. While she was there, she also helped the court system begin a major building program, which is now building five courthouses at a cost of $12.5 million each.

“As all things go in Iraq,” she said, “it is slowing going, but progress is being made.”

Muncy’s enthusiasm for her work with the Iraqi people in their efforts to reestablish civility in the country was evidenced by her comments regarding the good things that are happening in the country. Without being specific, she said, “There are a lot of good things happening in the country. The problem, though, is that we, and the world, do not have the same craving for good news as we do the bad. It seems that everyone is interested in hearing about the violence and destruction that’s going on and not about the good things that are happening over there.”

Muncy said that one of the real tragedies is how the people who work with the Americans are targeted by factions that don’t want Americans in the country. She said, “One high-ranking Iraqi judge lost his son as a result of working with us. Had it been me, the lost family member under those circumstances would have prompted me to move the remainder of my family to another country where they would be safe. But he loves his country so much that he is willing to put his life, and the lives of his family, on the line in an effort to see his country become a stabilized nation.”

When asked how she was accepted as a female she said, “There are actually three recognized genders in Iraq — men (of all nationalities), Iraqi women, and then women of other nationalities. There are some places where all women, including foreigners, are forbidden to go, but Iraqi women are “kept in the kitchen” and out of sight while foreign women are granted a great deal more latitude in the work place.”

Muncy said that she plans to deploy to Afghanistan in the near future with the same mission in mind.

— The “Business after Hours” at the Davis Trust Co. was, as has become the norm, a huge success on Monday evening. Organized by the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce and Davis Trust Co., the event gave approximately 60 or 70 people a unique opportunity to see the bank’s remodeled main lobby and enjoy networking with fellow employees and those of other banks and businesses.

A nearly endless variety of tasty finger foods, sandwiches and beverages were served by the catering service of Davis & Elkins College. The After Hours gatherings are just one of the many social functions enjoyed by chamber members. If you or you company is not a member, you should seriously investigate joining. All you have to do is call the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce office at 636-2717.

— In last week’s “Open for Business” report, Gov. Joe Manchin reported that West Virginia tourism is up by 6.1 percent. Two studies commissioned by the West Virginia Division of Tourism show that visitors to the Mountain State contribute billions of dollars to the state’s travel and tourism industry. Travel spending generated more than $3.9 billion in 2006, up 6.1 percent from 2005.

Day travelers spent $1.9 billion, or nearly half of the state’s total travel spending, on gaming and entertainment. Overnight visitors spent about $1.2 billion on their trips in 2006. About 17 percent of overnight visitors were from West Virginia. Another 53 percent hailed from Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

During 2006, visitor spending in the state directly supported 44,000 jobs with earnings of $854 million. Travel spending generated the greatest number of jobs in accommodations and food services, arts and entertainment, and recreation.

I tried to find statistics regarding the tourist industry in Randolph County in an effort to bring this information down to our level, but RCCVB’s Executive Director Brenda Pritt was out of her office this week. Maybe in the next week or two I can get some info that’s indicative of the tourism industry closer home.

I did talk to Ed Griesel at the Elkins Depot Welcome Center and he said that over 11,000 people have come through the Welcome Center since April 30. It’s very obvious that tourism has picked up substantially in our hometown by the number of vehicles we’re seeing around the depot and the American Mountain Theatre this summer.

— Let me pass along a letter written to the editor of “Time” magazine recently. At first it may seem that this is out of place in a business column, but if you think about it for a moment you’ll realize that it is very apropos because everything we do now days boils down to just one thing — money. Dan Mick of Los Angles, Calif., said in his letter: Peter Beinart’s essay (Oct. 1) about the New England Patriots’ cheating coach Bill Belichick illustrates a larger point about our society. It is despicable that fans don’t care how their team wins as long as it does. Even worse, this same attitude has allowed the Bush administration to commit crimes against the Constitution and the world. It’s the reason that members of Congress behave like children instead of statesmen. It’s the reason our media are no longer a part of the democratic process, but the means of its downfall. My country, right or wrong is the least patriotic aphorism ever uttered. Humans can be better and bigger than that, but they choose not to, and that’s the ultimate crime.

How sad. How true.

— The downtown merchants have selected Friday as Downtown Trick or Treat Night from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., the YMCA will host a carnival with face painting, games and treats, and a costume party beginning at 7 p.m. The Randolph County Family Resource Network will be creating a haunted house at the “Y.” Plan to bring the children to town to share the fun and treats of this fun filled evening.



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