Palestine/Gaza & the “Arab Spring”

September 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Tri-City Area (California)–San Francisco Bay Area–This is a continuation of my coverage of Lauren Booth and the AMP (American Muslims for Palestine’s) dinner.  Your journalist sees this as a part of his examination of the geo-political situation as Ramallah prepares herself for self-agency by marching forward to the UN in New York this month demanding statehood.

I have already presented a short report on Libya printed here on these pages with a good deal of my own research.  Except for Paul Laudree (below), your reporter has refrained from using names to protect any relations who may still be left behind in their native lands, but because Paul is well known for his opposition to Israeli policy against Palestine – and especially toward Gaza – and the Israelis have already threatened him with dire consequences if he is ever caught in the Occupied Territories again, I have decided to name him.

Your reporter has written on Paul twice before.  Definitely, he is one of your writer’s heroes, and, he is a brave man, too, and we suffer through the same maladies of aging!  Paul is one of the co-founders of the Free Gaza Movement, the American contingent of the greater international humanitarian movement to relieve Gaza by sea.
Dr. Laudree is the son of American and Iranian parents.  He was born in Iran during the first year of the “baby boomers”.  His career was spent at the American University in Beirut.  Therefore, he is wll aquainted with the Middle East and speaks Arabic fluently and probably Farsi, too.

Paul came close to losing his life after his capture during the last running through Tel Aviv’ Navy’s blockade into the Gaza Strip.   Fortunately, he did survive a severe beating, and was deported to Turkey with a warning never to enter the (Occupied) Territories again — or else!

In the most recent attempt to relieve Gaza, most of the boats were from the Mediterranean littoral, but yet your scribe does not fully subscribe to Paul’s analyst that it was Israel’s big brother, the United States, who held the majority of their ships in Athens’s harbor.  Boat and land convoys have pierced the isolated Palestinian nation on the coastal Strip in the past.  Your correspondent suspects it had more to do with the recent European Union (EU’s) financial bailout of the Hellenes.

When Paul Laudree had stopped by Greece’s capital, Athens, two years ago, her current Prime Minister, then out of power, and while Israel then was anathema over the Hellenic landscape and the same George Papandreou of the Panhellenic Socialist Party wished, at that time, to have photo ops with our orator.  The Prime Minister still rules-over a basically anti-Israeli/America populace; thus, your author believes that it may have been more the EU who influenced their domestically unpopular foreign policy behavior.  

(Emeritus) Professor Paul Laudree muses, for the present we have been forced to desist, but we still have plenty of vessels to deploy. 

The planning for the million-person march to Jerusalem has commenced!  He is involved in a global movement of over a thousand souls trek to the Abrahamic Holy City.  There will, also, even be a contingent from the U.S. 

“Look at the bordering republics, yet none will help her.”  Ultimately, from “Where is the defenders of our [their] rights,” coming?

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Tri-City Area (California)

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Between Oakland & San Jose–Your commentator has been in the habit of putting this concrete political science phenomenon over the Arabic-sphere( above) surrounded by parenthesis, for it is more of a poetic than a political description of the sea-change that has(more than likely)impacted the region.

This is a continuation of yours-truly coverage of Lauren Booth and the AMP (American Muslims for Palestine’s) dinner.  Further, your journalist sees this as a part of his examination of the geo-political situation as Ramallah prepares herself for self-agency by marching forward to the U.N. (United Nations) in New York City (N.Y.C.) this month and demanding full Statehood.

I have already presented a short report on Libya based on the comments of a female graduate student  in Northern California previously printed here on these pages with a good deal of my own research.  Except for Paul Laudree (below), your reporter has refrained from using names to protect any relations who may still be left behind in their native lands, but because Paul is well known for his opposition to Israeli policy against Palestine – and especially toward Gaza – and the Hebrews have already threatened him with dire consequences if he is ever caught in the Occupied Territories again, I have decided to name him.

Your reporter has written on Paul twice before.  Definitely, he is one of your writer’s heroes, and, he is a brave man, too, and we suffer through the same maladies of aging!  Paul is one of the co-founders of the Free Gaza Movement, the American contingent of the greater international humanitarian movement to relieve Gaza by sea.

Dr. Laudree is the son of American and Iranian parents.  He was born in Iran during the first year of the “baby boomers” as your journalist was (but in North America).  Paul’s career was spent at the American University in Beirut.  Therefore, he is well aquainted with the Middle East and speaks Arabic fluently and probably Farsi, too.

Paul came close to losing his life after his capture during the last running through Tel Aviv’ Navy’s blockade into the Gaza Strip.   Fortunately, he did survive a severe beating, and was deported to Turkey with a warning never to enter the (Occupied) Territories again — or else!

In the most recent attempt to relieve Gaza, most of the boats were from the Mediterranean littoral, but yet your scribe does not fully subscribe to Paul’s analyst that it was Israel’s big brother, the United States, who held the majority of their ships in Athens’s harbor.  Boat and land convoys have pierced the isolated Palestinian nation on the coastal Strip in the past.  Your correspondent suspects it had more to do with the recent European Union (EU’s) financial bailout of the Hellenes.

When Paul Laudree had stopped by Greece’s capital, Athens, two years ago, her current Prime Minister, then out of power, and while Israel then was anathema over the Hellenic landscape and the same George Papandreou of the Panhellenic Socialist Party wished, at that time, to have photo ops with our orator.  The Prime Minister still rules-over a basically anti-Israeli/America populace; thus, your author believes that it may have been more the EU who influenced their domestically unpopular foreign policy behavior.  

(Emeritus) Professor Paul Laudree muses, for the present we have been forced to desist, but we still have plenty of vessels to deploy. 

The planning for the million-person march to Jerusalem has commenced!  He is involved in a global movement of over a thousand souls trek to the Abrahamic Holy City.  There will, also, even be a contingent from the U.S. 

“Look at the bordering republics, yet none will help her.”  Ultimately, from “Where is the defenders of our [their] rights,” coming?

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Michigan Senate Attempts to Protect Michigan Elders

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil Daudi, Esq.

eldabus1On June 15, 2011, the Michigan Senate publicly announced a fifteen-bill package concerning elder abuse. The purpose of the legislation is to help strengthen penalties against perpetrators of elder abuse while also preventing future exploitation, according to the Senate.

The abuse issues facing the elderly have recently risen to new heights.  Those fortunate enough to live long are forced to guard against the growing crime since their age makes them especially susceptible to financial victimization. Although the pending Senate package covers physical, emotional, and financial abuse, financial abuse of the elderly can be prevented with the help of attorneys.

The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), reports that approximately 80,000 Michigan residents are affected by elder abuse.  With the United States on the verge of its largest senior citizen population due to baby-boomers reaching retirement age, the problem is only going to be exacerbated. 

New Legislation Against Elder Abuse

In mid-June, Senate Bills 454-468 were introduced, and referred to the Senate Committee on Families, Seniors and Human Services, by Michigan State Senators Tonya Schuitmaker, Goeff Hansen, Mike Nofs, Rick Jones, and Steve Bieda.

Senate Bills Directly Related to Financial Exploitation

Senate Bill 455 was introduced by Sen. Tory Rocca, which establishes sentencing guidelines for penalties imposed by Senate Bill 459 for crimes of financial exploitation or embezzlement of a vulnerable adult’s assets.  Specifically, Senate Bill 455 states that the sentence maximums for a person who embezzles from a vulnerable adult are: 5 years for embezzlement of $1,000 to $20,000; 10 years for embezzlement of $20,000 to $50,000; 15 years for embezzlement of $50,000 to $100,000; or 20 years for embezzlement of $100,000 or more.  Serious violations as defined in Senate Bill 459, would be subject to civil fines of up to the greater of $15,000, or triple the value of the targeted assets.  Additionally, the sentencing guidelines for financial exploitation of vulnerable adults were revised, and penalties increased, for perpetrators in Senate Bill 465, introduced by Sen. Dave Hildenbrand. 

Senate Bill 463 introduced by Sen. Coleman Young expands the current law to require employees of banks and financial institutions to report financial exploitation of an incapacitated vulnerable adult. 

“There are tens of thousands of Michigan seniors who have been criminally abused yet their pain and suffering is rarely reported and has largely gone unnoticed,” stated Schuitmaker.  The Michigan Senator sponsored Senate Bills 461, 464, and 466.  Senate Bill 461 protects the elderly from exploitation while also prescribing a detailed list of rights retained by the appointed guardian or conservator.  And, if passed, Senate Bills 464 and 466 will increase coordination between state and local authorities and develop protocols for interviewing and investigating elder abuse.

Nofs stated that he experienced first-hand the impact of elder exploitation as a state police trooper, according to the State News Service.  Nofs sponsored bill 454, which allows victims of elder abuse to give testimony through a multimedia format.  However, due to constitutional issues, this evidence would be limited to criminal cases where circumstances meet those required by the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to Elder Law of Michigan, although adults 60 and older comprise only 15% of the population, they account for nearly 30% of fraud victims.  Consumer fraud robs people of $50 billion per year, and between 1 and 2 million Americans age 65 or older have been injured, exploited, or otherwise mistreated by someone on whom they depended on for care or protection. In 1996, the NCEA reported that almost 90% of elder abuse cases come from family members of the victim, and two-thirds of the perpetrators were adult children or spouses of the victim.

Furthermore, according to the NCEA, there are signs family members can look for to help identify a possible scenario where an elder family member is being financially exploited:

Abrupt changes to estate planning documents;

Sudden appearances of previously distant, uninvolved relatives, who are claiming their rights to an elder’s possessions and assets;

Unexplained sudden transfer of assets to a family member or someone outside the family.

As Mary Alban, the executive director of the Area Agencies on Aging Association of Michigan said, “This is the year to end the abuse.”

Adil Daudi is an Attorney at Joseph, Kroll & Yagalla, P.C., focusing primarily on Asset Protection for Physicians, Physician Contracts, Estate Planning, Business Litigation, Corporate Formations, and Family Law. He can be contacted for any questions related to this article or other areas of law at adil@josephlaw.net or (517) 381-2663.

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Financial Problems in America

June 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Justin Webb

Is America in denial about the extent of its financial problems, and therefore incapable of dealing with the gravest crisis the country has ever faced?

This is a story of debt, delusion and – potentially – disaster. For America and, if you happen to think that American influence is broadly a good thing, for the world.

The debt and the delusion are both all-American: $14 trillion (£8.75tn) of debt has been amassed and there is no cogent plan to reduce it.

The figure is impossible to comprehend: easier to focus on the fact that it grows at $40,000 (£25,000) a second. Getting out of Afghanistan will help but actually only at the margins. The problem is much bigger than any one area of expenditure.

The economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, is no rabid fiscal conservative but on the debt he is a hawk:

“I’m worried. The debt is large. It should be brought under control.

The longer we wait, the longer we suffer this kind of paralysis; the more America boxes itself into a corner and the more America’s constructive leadership in the world diminishes.”

The author and economist Diane Coyle agrees. And she makes the rather alarming point that the acknowledged deficit is not the whole story.

The current $14tn debt is bad enough, she argues, but the future commitments to the baby boomers, commitments for health care and for pensions, suggest that the debt burden is part of the fabric of society:

“You have promises implicit in the structure of welfare states and aging populations that mean there is an unacknowledged debt that will have to be paid for by future taxpayers, and that could double the published figures.”

Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations acknowledges that this structural commitment to future debt is not unique to the United States. All advanced democracies have more or less the same problem, he says, “but in the case of the States the figures are absolutely enormous”.

Mr Haass, a former senior US diplomat, is leading an academic push for America’s debt to be taken seriously by Americans and noticed as well by the rest of the world.
He uses the analogy of Suez and the pressure that was put on the UK by the US to withdraw from that adventure. The pressure was not, of course, military. It was economic.

Britain needed US economic help. In the future, if China chooses to flex its muscles abroad, it may not be Chinese admirals who pose the real threat, Mr Haass tells us. “Chinese bankers could do the job.”

Because of course Chinese bankers, if they withdrew their support for the US economy and their willingness to finance America’s spending, could have an almost overnight impact on every American life, forcing interest rates to sky high levels and torpedoing the world’s largest economy.

Not everyone accepts the debt-as-disaster thesis.

David Frum is a Republican intellectual and a former speech writer to President George W Bush.

He told me the problem, and the solution, were actually rather simple:

“If I tell you you have a disease that will absolutely prostrate you and it could be prevented by taking a couple of aspirin and going for a walk, well I guess the situation isn’t apocalyptic is it?

“The things that America has to do to put its fiscal house in order are not anywhere near as extreme as what Europe has to do. The debt is not a financial problem, it is a political problem.”

Mr Frum believes that a future agreement to cut spending – he thinks America spends much too big a proportion of its GDP on health – and raise taxes, could very quickly bring the debt problem down to the level of quotidian normality.

‘Organised hypocrisy’

I am not so sure. What is the root cause of America’s failure to get to grips with its debt? It can be argued that the problem is not really economic or even political; it is a cultural inability to face up to hard choices, even to acknowledge that the choices are there.

I should make it clear that my reporting of the United States, in the years I was based there for the BBC, was governed by a sense that too much foreign media coverage of America is negative and jaundiced.

The nation is staggeringly successful and gloriously attractive. But it is also deeply dysfunctional in some respects.

Take Alaska. The author and serious student of America, Anne Applebaum makes the point that, as she puts it, “Alaska is a myth!”

People who live in Alaska – and people who aspire to live in Alaska – imagine it is the last frontier, she says, “the place where rugged individuals go out and dig for oil and shoot caribou, and make money the way people did 100 years ago”.

But in reality, Alaska is the most heavily subsidised state in the union. There is more social spending in Alaska than anywhere else.

To make it a place where decent lives can be lived, there is a huge transfer of money to Alaska from the US federal government which means of course from taxpayers in New York and Los Angeles and other places where less rugged folk live. Alaska is an organised hypocrisy.

Too many Americans behave like the Alaskans: they think of themselves as rugged individualists in no need of state help, but they take the money anyway in health care and pensions and all the other areas of American life where the federal government spends its cash.

The Tea Party movement talks of cuts in spending but when it comes to it, Americans always seem to be talking about cuts in spending that affect someone else, not them – and taxes that are levied on others too.

And nobody talks about raising taxes. Jeffrey Sachs has a theory about why this is.

America’s two main political parties are so desperate to raise money for the nation’s constant elections – remember the House of Representatives is elected every two years – that they can do nothing that upsets wealthy people and wealthy companies.

So they cannot touch taxes.

In all honesty, I am torn about the conclusions to be drawn. I find it difficult to believe that a nation historically so nimble and clever and open could succumb to disaster in this way.

But America, as well as being a place of hard work and ingenuity, is also no stranger to eating competitions in which gluttony is celebrated, and wilful ignorance, for instance regarding (as many Americans do) evolution as controversial.

The debt crisis is a fascinating crisis because it is about so much more than money. It is a test of a culture.

It is about waking up, as the Americans say, and smelling the coffee.

And – I am thinking Texas here – saddling up too, and riding out with purpose.

BBC News

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