Movement Against Wall Street Grows

October 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Alexander Reed Kelly

NEW YORK—Thousands of people of all ages, races and creeds gathered beneath the jumbo-size screens and billboards in Times Square on Saturday night to demand a participatory role in American democracy, while similar protests occurred in cities throughout the world.

The demonstration was set to begin at 5 p.m., but protesters began filing in long before then. Police officers on foot, bike and horseback and in vehicles were waiting with billy clubs and zip ties and had cordoned off pedestrian walkways in the middle of the streets. Marchers from elsewhere in the city, including Liberty Plaza, which protesters have occupied since Sept. 17, seemed to arrive in waves. It was unclear what would happen as the crowd grew, and there were moments when some demonstrators called for others to gather elsewhere, including in front of Rockefeller Center, where the Fox News Channel is headquartered.

Via the human microphone—a vocal call-and-response technique used by crowds to amplify a single voice—protesters said: “We are here to celebrate the birth of a new world, a world of and by and for the 99 percent.” Others chanted in unison: “What do you do when you’re under attack? Stand up! Fight back!” A parade of “zombies” holding signs condemning “corporate cannibalism” of the American public wandered up and down 7th Avenue, with arms stretched forward, incanting the word “Brains” in a monotonous tone. Some tourists and shoppers seemed amused by the spectacle, while others fled in disgust and fear. At one moment, a well-dressed couple stepped out of a taxicab and were allowed through a police barricade. A policeman, when asked how the demonstration compared with Times Square’s annual New Year’s Eve party, where hundreds of thousands assemble to celebrate the arrival of another year, said the crowd at the yearly party was much more unruly.

Later on in the bar of the Algonquin Hotel on 44th Street, just blocks away from the lively protest, a middle-aged, self-described capitalist male spoke to a number of people—who mostly called themselves “free-market conservatives” and state-level lobbyists—about the virtues of the Occupy Wall Street movement. “This is a movement for everyone,” he said. “Everyone knows something’s wrong. You’re upset, you’ve lost your job or you’re worried about losing your job. … Who can work when they’re always worried about losing their job?”

Elsewhere, daring protesters attempted to spread the occupation of Wall Street to other parks in New York City—an effort that from the start was unlikely to succeed, given that the encampment in Zuccotti Park is possible because that property is privately owned. Many were met with police, which bewildered some of the participants because the plan to occupy those parks was supposed to have been spread among friends and confidants, rather than announced in a way that would alert authorities. —ARK

13-43

Omar Hassan Still a Star Skateboarder

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, TMO, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

skateboarding mag may 2010-4Omar Hassan remains one of the world’s best professional skateboarders, even at the ripe old age of 37. His specialty is the Park competition, and it was there that he was competitive once again this summer. In the recently completed X-Games Seventeen, in Los Angeles, California, he finished 4th in the Park competition. He also finished 4th in the Park in 2008 and 2009. The versatile skater has competed in six X Games disciplines since 1995.

Hassan hails from Costa Mesa, California. He has, interestingly, never held a job outside of the world of professional skateboarding. He still retains multiple sponsorships, including: Black Label, Independent Trucks, Vans, Quiksilver, Ford, and Black Flys. So, clearly, people are still willing to put money on his talent.

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Debt Talks Reveal Republican Apocalyptic War on Government

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Harold Meyerson

As Default-on-Our-Debt Day creeps ever closer, America’s two major political parties have embarked on a round of ideological redefinition.

Republicans have subordinated even the appearance of concern for many of their historic priorities — reducing deficits and the debt, maintaining a passable system of roads, even reducing Medicare and Social Security payouts — to the single goal of blocking any tax increase on anyone ever again. Taking the adage that “that government is best that governs least” to an extreme, at least some seem to view a government shutdown as a consummation devoutly to be wished. GOP presidential candidate and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty is running ads hailing the shutdown of his state’s government, the result of the same kind of political impasse that threatens to shutter the feds’ doors.

If it was possible to give libertarianism a bad name, today’s Republicans would be doing just that.

On the Democratic side, President Obama has moved so far to the right that he has picked up many of the ideals the Republicans have jettisoned and embraced them as his own. It’s Obama who’s now the deficit-and-debt hawk and who has proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Congressional Democrats oppose the president’s proposed entitlement cuts, but in fact they’ve already voted to reduce Medicare spending (though not benefits) by passing health-care reform, and, as part of the current budget negotiations, have agreed to major cuts in domestic as well as military spending.
In Obama’s defense, the Republicans he has to deal with have moved so far right that they make even the Gingrich-era GOP with which Bill Clinton grappled look like the Berkeley City Council. The fiscal constraints on his presidency far exceed those Clinton confronted, too.

But if the factors that have pushed Obama rightward are at least intelligible, those that have prompted the Republicans to winnow their agenda to one-note opposition to taxes and spending are nowhere so obvious.

For one thing, federal tax revenue as a percentage of the gross domestic product is at its lowest level since 1950. The correlation between low federal taxes and job creation looks more inverse than direct. The economy generated far more net new jobs during the ’90s (approximately 22 million during Clinton’s presidency alone), before the Bush tax cuts, than it has since (approximately zero). Yet in opposing any tax increases on the rich as part of a debt-reduction deal, House Speaker John Boehner vowed Monday that “the House cannot pass a bill that raises taxes on job creators.”

Job creators? What job creators? Over the past two months, according to employment statistics, we seem to have completely run out of job creators, though American multinational corporations are having no trouble creating jobs in the cheap-labor nations of Asia. Small businesses, however, cannot expand until American consumers start buying more, and American consumers can’t start buying more until they work their way out of the debt they incurred during the recent decades of pervasive income stagnation.

The Republicans, that is, have embraced market libertarianism at the very moment that America’s market capitalism is functioning worse than at any time since the Great Depression. Their timing is so perverse that we have to seek explanations for their radicalism that go beyond those of economic philosophy.

Republicans, to be sure, have long waged a war on government, but only now has it become an apocalyptic and total war. At its root, I suspect, is the fear and loathing that rank-and-file right-wingers feel toward what their government, and their nation, is inexorably becoming:

multiracial, multicultural, cosmopolitan and now headed by a president who personifies those qualities. That America is also downwardly mobile is a challenge for us all, but for the right, the anxiety our economy understandably evokes is augmented by the politics of racial resentment and the fury that the country is no longer only theirs. That’s not a country whose government they want to pay for — and if the apocalypse befalls us, they seem to have concluded, so much the better.

Most Americans, thankfully, don’t share the right’s romance with cataclysm — something then-Senate Republican leader Bob Dole realized when he called off the shutdown of 1996, something that current Senate GOP chief Mitch McConnell realized Tuesday when he unveiled a cynical and circuitous plan to back off from the impending smash-up. Dole persuaded his fellow Republicans to stand down. It’s not clear, given the furies that possess today’s Republicans, that McConnell can do the same.

meyersonh@washpost.com

13-29

Be Yourself

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

A friend is someone who gives you strength. A friend is someone who makes you feel better after you see them or talk to them. A friend is happy because you are happy and a friend is upset when you are upset. So why is it so hard to find a friend in this world? Why is it so hard to give and receive love?

I have been communicating with a large number of women who are in despair because they feel like they invested so much – or gave up so much – for their marriage relationship: dropped out of college, quit their job, had X amount of kids, cleaned the house, cooked the food, did the bookkeeping… You would think that the least her husband could do would be to love her back!!! Flow some love, man!

Why does the dream of love appear so unattainable, even though it is as vital to our survival as food? It seems like the harder we work to please someone, the more sacrifices we make for someone, the less they love us. We get stuck in this situation where we are trying to be with someone, while they are judging us about whether they think we are good enough to merit their affection. This type of unhealthy dynamic is not limited to marriage. It can happen at work, at school, and in our social lives.

Some people start to think that it’s not even worth trying to love anyone anymore because no one ever loves you back – even those who are way too young to give up hope. Many of us at the prime our lives waste our youth and middle age in despair. Reality check: Either try something new that you haven’t thought of before, or else just give up for now and be patient. Be yourself. “Let them come to you,” said a very wise Iranian woman on Facebook.

If someone stresses you out to the point where you are becoming overwhelmed, just stay away. If you can’t avoid them, try to dwell on other thoughts. Make them a small part of your life. You can’t let other people “get to you.” If someone is upsetting you to the point where you cannot eat or sleep or concentrate because you are so upset, this is a sign that this is not a healthy relationship.

The Prophet Mohammed (s) advised that we should go towards a situation that gives us inner peace, and stay away from a situation that creates huge fluctuations in mood. When we become emotionally attached to someone that repeatedly causes us to have great hopes, and then totally disappoints us, this is a huge emotional drain that will affect not only our mood, but our ability to provide for everyone who depends on us. If we are clinging to such a person, we will become completely debilitated and useless.

When we try our best to be what someone else needs, we become less of ourselves. Less of a person to love. Sometimes we even become resentful. Ultimately, we become less lovable. We are not being the best we can be for the sake of God.

You can only be truly loved if you are totally being yourself. You can never truly love someone else unless you look at the other person as a unique person within their own unique situation.

A lot of people have a list of criteria for their potential mate. But our neediness gets in the way of true love. This list of wants gets in the way of viewing the Other as a human being. Because guess what. There is no human being out there that was specifically created to fulfill your needs. Human beings are not commercial products or drugs you can buy in order to solve your problems. Every person has their own Path they need to walk. God gives us what we need. No single person or situation can ever do that for us.

Choosing a mate or friend is not the same as looking for an apartment. If you look at someone else as a means to need-fulfillment, they will feel exploited. Likewise, if someone came up to you and said, “This is what I need. This and this and this. Can you do it?” – you would hardly fall in love with them.

We have to be ourselves, and let other people be themselves, and observe. Does it make sense for us to spend more or less time together? Do we enhance each others’ strengths or exacerbate each others’ weaknesses?

We can never have a true friendship or find true love unless we go beyond the question of “Do you meet my needs?” On the other hand, if we are getting nothing out of a friendship or marriage other than anguish, it may be time to detach. It must be a matter of the balance of respect for each other. It takes two people making an effort to have a relationship.

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Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) 2011 Spring Reception and Conversation

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

Immigrants and Urban America

Dearborn–May 14–The ISPU’s event this past Saturday really amounted to a celebration of Arab culture.  The venue for the event, the food, the main speakers (Fatima Shama and Rashida Tlaib) all tended to create the impression of a family reunion of Arabs more than an Islamic event or an intellectual event.

About 100 people attended this ISPU event in Dearborn on Saturday at the Arab American museum.  The evening’s speeches were preceded by a guided tour of the museum–the tour guide described many of the exhibits at the museum–having a tour guide did add another dimension to the exhibits, even to me although I have toured the museum more than once.

Following the guided tour there was a buffet table filled with Arabic food and then there were speeches in the museum’s auditorium basement.

The two people present with the most political clout were Michigan state Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-12-MI), one of the most prominent Muslim women in the nation as the first Muslim woman elected to the Michigan legislature, and the keynote speaker Fatima Shama, New York City’s Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

The rise of Fatima Shama was attributable to her outspokenness and firm convictions, which was shown by the story she told the ISPU audience Saturday.

After 9/11, seeing the need to attenuate the hatred of non-Muslims for Muslims and Arabs, Shama quit her job in order to reach out full time to people she didn’t know (helping to form a group called Muslims Against Terrorism), trying to give a face to a religion caricatured by the actions of 9/11–to the very people most scarred by those horrific events, New Yorkers.  She had served in community service organizations (New York’s Arab American Family Support Center, similar to ACCESS), and like Ms. Tlaib had become a lawyer. 

After MAT, she began working for Mayor Bloomberg, and spoke out in favor of Palestinians and Arabs in ways she thought would cost her her job.  But her outspokenness earned Bloomberg’s respect and she rose in prominence to her present position. Ms. Shama has since argued in favor of allowing Muslim holidays in New York schools, has served as Mayor Bloomberg’s liaison with immigrant communities of Muslims, granting him a level of sensitivity to Arab concerns over, for example, Israel and Palestine.  She speaks very respectfully of Bloomberg’s own commitment to his ideals, for example his support for Park51.

13-21

Post-Mothers’ Day Musings

May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

Spring comes with it the exorcism of demons. Singing out loud. Dancing in the kitchen. Cleaning out the house from dirt. Digging ourselves out from under the mess. Yes, it is important. If we don’t do it, nobody else will. Going for long walks. I love the community that has a spring festival. Let’s all put flowers in our hair and wave at our neighbors. Let the Dandelions Live! At least until my toddler gets to them. The young leaves are tasty, nutritious, and help with ailments such as arthritis. If you go to Europe they will serve you dandelion salad at the restaurant. Anyway, we all know that spring is a time to enjoy the sun, the rain, and the wind with those you love.

All I ever wanted for Mothers Day was for my children to clean their rooms and by God they did it. They even mopped the kitchen too. My daughter gave me a lipstick for a gift. I totally needed this, since my younger ones had destroyed any cosmetic item I had before their birth. Hallelujah! There is nothing better than children. I always wanted a houseful of them. They are baking brownies right now. Can I hear another Hallelujah? Well, let’s hope they clean up after themselves.

Given the amount of work that the younger generation requires, it seems to be a miracle that the human race survives. It is amazing, how women take this burden upon themselves, with or without the help of a husband. I mean, it’s wonderful if a man can come home from work and read his children a story, but we are talking about a half hour of teeth brushing, prayers, and water refills. What about the other 23 ½ hours? Either these children have a mother at home, or she paid for child care.

Caring for children is a full time job. A 24 hour a day job. Those of us who work day jobs realize that after we come home, at least 50% of that remaining time belongs to our children. There isn’t anyone else around to pick up our slack. We cannot call in sick just because we have the flu. If our child has a bad dream, throws up, or feels cold in the night, we wake up and we deal with it. Even after the child has long gone back to sleep, sometimes we lay awake, wondering about all the problems and uncertainties of life. Even the worrying is part of being a parent.

Mothers Day is a beautiful day, but we must also give strength to all who give strength to the Mother. Do these people even exist? What will it take for us to will them into existence? Ultimately, we are all talking about loyalty to Our Mother, the Earth. Can we make things right by her? Can we help each other not to harm others? Can we stop trying to define and control other people?

There are so many beautiful women raising families in our community. Some of them have emotional support; some don’t. Some of us are enjoying life, yet some of us are merely surviving. Within our circle of influence, is there more that we can do to help children feel welcome in the community? It is impossible to separate women from children. You cannot insult the mother, yet praise the child, without putting the child in an ethical dilemma. If there are shortcomings in the mother, usually she needs help. We have to find ways of strengthening women’s participation in the community while allowing her children to tag along. So many political causes require adult participation without children.

Except in rare cases, women are the primary caretakers of children, and in fact, of the entire family. How can we make this job easier for them? Because our communities need these giving people to contribute their creativity, not just their daily survival abilities. Can we create a world where these people with so much life experience can still contribute to the community? Can we create a forum where these people’s opinions are welcome and their advice is heeded?

Some of the women in our communities are so intelligent, so empathetic, so clearly able to see the future. We need to listen to them. We need to find a way to make them feel like their contribution is valuable. We need to care about how they feel. We need to take their advice.

The most important thing you can do to validate a woman is to respect her opinion. When you do that, she becomes energized. Once a woman becomes energized, there is no stopping her. She will lead the way. This spring, let us validate the women in our lives and give them the energy to continue the struggle.

13-20

The Reality of Life in Greece

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Christopher Humphrys, Daily Mail

athens-greece A dream job? I thought so. I had left the grey skies of London and the big black hole in my bank account for the sunny skies of Greece. My salary as a cellist playing in a small Greek orchestra was relatively modest, but I could still afford to eat out every night, rent a nice apartment and spend long summer holidays on the Greek islands.

By the time I met my beautiful future wife, Penelope, my mind was made up. I could see no reason for ever wanting to live anywhere else but Greece.

That was 20 years ago. This week, as Greece woke up to the reality that it was effectively a bankrupt nation, I could see many reasons.

Civil unrest: Protesters clash with riot police over Greek ‘austerity measures’

Here’s a snapshot of everyday life in a nation on the brink of civil catastrophe.

Before I set out for work on my motorbike yesterday morning, I first had to plan a route that would avoid the latest demonstration and the inevitable tear-gas that would accompany it.

As I passed the debris of the previous night’s riots, I heard the police helicopters buzzing overhead and tried to avoid eye contact with the nervous policemen on almost every street corner, fingering their carbines.

The vibrant but essentially law-abiding city of Athens has become a tense and slightly threatening place to live. It’s all happening because of the Greek economy, which this week collapsed even further as global credit agencies downgraded the rating of Greek government bonds to ‘junk’ status.

But in truth, the rot set in long ago. For decades, Greece has been living a lie. To say the nation has been living beyond its means is the understatement of the century. We have been indulging in an orgy of over- spending and over-borrowing beyond the wildest imagination.

Let me introduce you to my oldest friend, John, the man I went to school with in Britain and the man who first persuaded me to try for a job in Athens. He was already living here. In the years since then, he has become as Greek as the Elgin Marbles. He has a Greek wife, Greek children and a deep love of the country he thinks of as his own.

greece But today he is desperately looking for a job back in Britain. And that’s because five years ago he managed to do something we all hankered after: he got a job with the state orchestra.

The important part of that sentence is the word ‘state’. It’s not a very good orchestra, but when you work for it you are on the state’s payroll, and that’s the gravy train that just about everyone in Greece wanted to board. It meant a job for life. The pension was eye-watering by British standards and so were the benefits.

Try this for size: a full year’s maternity leave; a year’s sabbatical if it took your fancy; and no matter how badly you played your music, you were utterly secure in the knowledge that you would never be sacked. These rules applied to every single state job in the land.

Now, in the spending cuts that are surely going to have to be made, John is terrified that his gold-star state job could vanish overnight — a bleak prospect with unemployment spiralling, but one that looks increasingly likely.

Unrealistic: Greeks may protest, but for too long they have relied on EU cash

Take another friend of mine, whose father died when she was only 25 years old. She inherited his state pension even though she was a well-to-do lawyer in her own right.

I have plenty of other friends who work for the state. I use the word ‘work’ loosely. Some of them are conscientious and do their nine-tofive hours with a degree of enthusiasm. But the fact is that some didn’t even bother turning up for work at all; they do other jobs instead, but still collect their state salaries.

I think of them as ‘ghost workers’ — and every Greek knows at least one of them. These ghosts have been milking the taxpayer for every penny they could take.

Now, let’s look at that word ‘ taxpayer’. In Greece, tax has long been something regarded by most people as entirely optional. You may choose to pay it, or you may not. There are a hundred ways of finding loopholes — some of them legal, many of them not.

The state has always acknowledged as much. And so, rather than pursuing the tax cheats with all the might of the law, they offered an amnesty: instead of being investigated for tax evasion, people were able to volunteer a one-off payment to make the problem go away.

How much? Just e2,000. And that’s it. No questions asked, even if you had been avoiding a tax liability of tens of thousands.

Greece 5400 But then, why on earth would the politicians seek to end this blatant corruption when they have been at [the receiving end].

One government minister was found to have built an enormous villa on the side of a mountain in a highly desirable location just outside Athens. Not only did he have no planning permission, but he built it with cheap labour supplied by illegal immigrants. His penalty, when the papers made a big fuss about it, was to be demoted — but his house still stands.

It’s impossible to calculate how many houses in Athens have been built illegally. What is certain is that somebody, somewhere, has been making a huge amount of money in bribes from the owners.

The standard way of doing business in this country is to resort to a ‘little brown envelope’. It’s not only corruption, such dishonesty denies the state income that should be paying for the schools, the hospitals and every other public service.

And here’s the strange thing. Those public services are, by most standards, very good. I have always found the health service here to be at least as good as Britain’s, probably better. And it’s entirely free.

So how can they afford it when people don’t pay their taxes? The answer, of course, is: Greece can’t. It’s bankrupt.

Nor can the country afford those staggeringly generous state pensions (my father-in-law’s pension is rather higher than my salary), nor the ghost jobs nor — God forbid — the Olympics that they staged with such fanfare in 2004. They cost more than e10 billion, and the long-term benefits from them have been effectively zero.

Yes, there’s a shiny new Metro underground train system and whole areas of the city have been tarted up — but it was done with borrowed money that has yet to be paid back. And those magnificent new stadiums are decaying before our eyes — a sad reminder of why hubris is a Greek word.

Perhaps the greatest corruption of all was the way Greece managed to join the euro. There was no way in the world the government could have met the strict financial criteria, so they took another route: they lied.

With the help of foreign bankers they simply misled Brussels and everyone else as to the true degree to which the state was in hock to the lenders.

They imagined that being members of the euro would cement Greece’s position as a modern, successful European country. Now, as we know all too well, the opposite has been the case.

Certainly, Greece has benefited enormously from being a member of the European Union. This is a fiercely patriotic country and you will see the Greek flag flying everywhere you go.

But here’s a sobering thought: almost every significant building, road, even park has been financed at least in part by you, dear reader. It’s your taxes — routed through payments to the EU — that have helped Greece look the way it does today. But now, of course, the gravy train has careered off the track and is causing carnage.

Yes, the Greek government is now embarking on what is called an austerity program. But it still doesn’t look anything like austere enough.

Here’s an example. It decided that if you own a swimming pool, you must, by definition, be pretty well-off and therefore you should be paying a certain amount in tax. If not, you’re in trouble.

And, of course, it’s easy for officialdom to spot the pool owners: they just look at the pictures conveniently provided on the website Google Earth. So what do the owners do? They cover their pools with green covers so that it looks as though they have nice, big lawns. Old habits die hard.

My own fear is that corruption and tax evasion and borrowing are so deeply ingrained in the Greek culture that even the austerity measures taken, and the combined bail-outs from other EU nations and the International Monetary Fund, will simply not work. Too little, and much too late.

And what then? Well, maybe we will be forced out of the euro — and maybe that will be good for us.

Many of us who live here will not be sorry to see the back of the euro, because one catastrophic sideeffect of joining the single market has been that the cost of living has pretty much doubled.

Meanwhile, the country must learn to live within its means. It must recognise that the state is not some sort of Santa Claus who can always pull another surprise goodie out of his bottomless sack.

For the past couple of years the Greek tourist authority has been selling the delights of this glorious country with the slogan ‘Live your myth in Greece’.

How appropriate that sounds today. We have been living a myth in Greece for far too long. It is now disintegrating, and all of us are deeply worried about what will take its place.

What a sobering lesson for Britain, as you slowly face up to the enormity of your own economic crisis.

12-19

Skilled Labor?

October 22, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service Middle East correspondent (MMNS)

hand-holding-diploma The economic boom and unprecedented growth of the Middle East over the past several years has made it a lucrative venue for employment seekers. Barely scathed by the global economic turndown, that has brought the rest of the world to its’ knees, most Middle Eastern countries continue to ride a wave of economic independence and expansion.

As a result of the sheer speed of growth, an increased demand for skilled workers has evolved. Doctors, nurses, teachers, IT professionals, architects and engineers are just a few of the careers that are in high demand in the Middle East region. However, not everyone seeking a job has the proper credentials and, unfortunately, many people who have already acquired high paying jobs in specialized fields have done so with fake university degrees.

Within the past few months, the extensive reliance of unqualified persons utilizing the services of fake degree mills has come to light. The Spokesman newspaper in Washington State recently published a list of more than 10,000 names of people who have already purchased fake university degrees or were in the process of doing so. The majority of persons on the list were Arab Americans who now face possible criminal charges from the US Department of Justice.

What is most surprising is that the majority of the wealthier Middle Eastern countries like Kuwait, the UAE and Bahrain offer free university education for their nationals. So, it is not necessarily a matter of someone being denied access to higher education but actually it is often about someone lacking the initiative to attend university for the required number of years to earn full accreditation.

With the problem in the international spotlight, some Middle Eastern countries are taking swift action to punish anyone attempting to utilize a bogus university degree to get employment. The United Arab Emirates has launched a stellar campaign to crackdown on anyone currently employed or seeking employment by presenting a fake university degree. Violators face a lifetime ban from working or even entering the UAE and face up to 24 years in prison. In the State of Kuwait, the Public prosecution has received several complaints from employers regarding job seekers presenting phony academic certificates. Most recently, this past week, 19 potential teachers were ordered held for prosecution as their educational certification was proven to be counterfeit by the Ministry of Education.

Obtaining a fake university degree is not difficult. A short trip to Southeast Asia or even Hungary can help someone achieve a PHD or CPA without spending a lot of time or money in school and for a fraction of the cost of a long stint in college. However, the odds are against such persons once they are on the job and cannot fulfill the work that their forged certification claims that they can do. Such was the case recently in Kuwait when a man went to the Ministry of Education seeking a job as a teacher. His forged university degree came from Hungary. However, he could not speak Hungarian or even English and simply claimed that he studied with the aid of a translator.

Unscrupulous degree dealers can be found all over the Gulf region offering a variety of degrees for under $1000 and in less than a month. A local reporter in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently exposed one such degree dealer. The dealer advertised on the Internet and communicated exclusively by email or mobile phones to elude detection from Saudi authorities. He promised the reporter “you name it and we provide it”. The degrees for sale bore the name of “Buxton University” in the UK and could be made to order immediately.

The real losers in this scam are the people who hold authentic university certification and now find themselves having to prove that their degree is worth the paper that it is printed on. Degree cheaters have forced most Mideast governments to cast out an overly wide net to root degree violators out, unfortunately authentic degree holders are getting caught up in it as well.

11-44

Plastic Fantastic!

February 26, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS Middle East Correspondent

surgeon-putting-on-mask There’s a revolution in Iran that, for once, has nothing to do with politics, religion or the nuclear arms race. In fact, it has more to do with vanity than anything else. The number of Iranians, both men and women, seeking to alter their appearances with the help of a scalpel has increased exponentially over the years. Blame it on satellite television and the Internet, which bombards the average Iranian with images of western beauty around the clock. The influence of the West on the Iranian culture is evident, and proudly worn, in the form of designer clothes, extravagant make-up and so much bling that even the Ayatollah might do a double take.

One of the biggest beauty trends to hit the country is plastic surgery. A veritable bevy of surgeries are available for the Iranian elite from facelifts to tattooed make-up to glittering rhinestones surgically implanted in the gums. However, the most popular surgical procedure is rhinoplasty, or the common nose job.  The procedure is so in demand that Iran has become the nose job capital of the world. There are an estimated 3,000 licensed plastic surgeons in Tehran alone. And the majority of Iranian plastic surgeons have performed tens of thousands of procedures, which is much more than their western counterparts often perform in a single year.

The cost of a nose job in Iran ranges from between $3,000-$5,000 a pop and is something that only the wealthy can afford. Rich Iranians who have the procedure often wear their bandages for weeks longer than they are supposed to in an obvious attempt to show off their ‘red badge of courage’. And even those who cannot afford the luxury of a nose job still try to increase their social status by donning fake bandages in a bid to create the illusion that they had the surgery.

Notably, Iranian men are just as likely to opt for plastic surgery as their female compatriots are. Years ago, it would have been a bit taboo for men to even consider going under the knife for the sake of their looks. However, times have changed with some Iranian men choosing to have plastic surgery so that they will be more pleasing for women to look at and have a better chance of marrying a beautiful woman.

 nose_iranian Iranian experts in the field of plastic surgery, explain away the plastic surgery trend on one of two reasons. Either the candidate simply wants to look more beautiful or they have deeply rooted psychological problems.  In the case of the latter, some Iranians are rejected with a refusal by the surgeon to conduct the operation. As a result, an enormous black market for plastic surgery procedures has emerged in Iran’s underground where unlicensed surgeons perform risky operations in unclean conditions. The consequences are already beginning to bubble to the top in the form of facial disfigurement lawsuits that have flooded the Iranian court system.

It just goes to show that no matter where the locale, seeking perfection has become a marketable fashion trend that fuels the fires of an industry that feeds off of the insecurities of man.

For many, plastic is absolutely fantastic. 

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