Community News (V13-I25)

June 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

United Stationers Appoints Khan as Next CFO

DEERFIELD, IL–United Stationers Inc. said Tuesday that Fareed Khan will become its chief financial officer on July 18.

The office and business products distributor said its board elected Khan, 45, to replace Victoria Reich. Reich said in November that she planned to leave the company by the end of 2011. She cited personal reasons for her departure.

Khan has worked at USG Corp., a producer of building materials, for the last 12 years, and was most recently in charge of its finance and strategy.

Other senior level management positions held by Mr. Khan at USG included a variety of strategy, business development, marketing, supply chain management, and general management roles. Before joining USG in 1999, Mr. Khan was a consultant with McKinsey & Company, where he served global clients on a variety of projects including acquisition analysis, supply chain optimization, and organization redesign.

Mr. Khan received his bachelor of science degree in engineering from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario and earned a MBA from the University of Chicago.

Abdullah-Muhammad wins state gold in Murfreesboro

MURFEESBORO,TN–Cleveland High freshman Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad soared to a state title in the girls long jump competition Thursday at the Middle Tennessee State University track.
Flying a distance of 18-feet, 9-inches on her third attempt, the three-sport Lady Raider standout left the competition in the dust by at least 8 1/2 inches.

Abdullah-Muhammad went past the 18-foot mark five times in her half dozen passes. After a 17-06.25 on her first pass, the 5-foot-10 ninth-grader leapt 18-01.75, 18-09, 18-02.25, 18-00.75 and 18-06.

Dr. Saleem Bajwa to receive rights award

BOSTON, MA–The National Conference for Community and Justice of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts, Inc., founded in 1927 as the National Conference of Christians and Jews, will present its annual Human Relations Award  to Dr. Saleem Bajwa, president of the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts.

Dr. Bajwa, a physician board certified in internal and pulmonary medicine, practice in Holyoke, and is affiliated with the Holyoke Medical Center.

He is a founding member of the Islamic Society.

For the past 18 years, he has been the executive director of the Islamic Council of New England, an umbrella organization of Islamic centers and societies of New England, actively hosting inter-faith programs to build alliances and learn from one another.

In addition, for more than a decade, Bajwa has served on the Interfaith Council of Western Massachusetts.

Mayfield School District Names Student of the Month

CLEVELAND, OH–Fakhra Saleem, Mayfield City School District’s most recent Student of the Month, is enrolled in the Cleveland Clinic Internship Program at the Cuyahoga East Vocational Education Consortium.

Superintendent Dr. Phillip Price said Saleem was identified at one of the most responsible members of the surgical processing department at the Cleveland Clinic Main Campus.
Price said she is 100 percent accurate when pulling surgical kits to be delivered in preparation for surgeries. She also volunteered to learn decontamination – a task not typically required of CEVEC interns.

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Peter Bergen on Pakistan and Afghanistan After the Death of Osama bin-Laden

May 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

New York City–May 5th–Although your columnist regards the subject of his article herein to be worn out, (he had contemplated placing it next to his Op-Ed of last week on the death of Osama when the event was au courant,) but instead your essayist has decided to concluded his material on this important incident by this report he has garnered during his recent wanderings.

The Asia Society chapter in (N.Y.C.‘s borough of) Manhattan, the very City of 9-11 presented Peter Bergen, the author of the popular Holy War, Inc. and the equally acclaimed The Osama bin Laden I Know with the authoritative the  Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda which has only recently been released.  That journalist relayed his subject honestly with great insight that night.

His discourse there concerned itself on how the death of the commander of Al-Qaeda, the infamous Osama bin-Laden, might change the strategy of global terrorism and the counter-insurgency that it generates — especially within Afghanistan and the chief worldwide counterterrorist, the United States’ relationship with its second most dependable ally since the Second World War (after Great Britain, of course), Pakistan. There is a sense here in the West that their Pakistani ally’s bilateral commitment to the United States has become problematic with bin-Laden’s discovery by U.S. intelligence living comfortably and openly within the Islamic Republic.  American commandos (the U.S.’ Navy’s Seals), then, moved in for the “kill.”  (The American public has always shown a prejudice against Islamabad due to Indian propaganda while the regime(s) in Washington has (have) strongly relied upon this Islamic country to defend their mutual interests.  Osama’s domicile in the Punjab Province was due to rogue elements [possibly with connections to that Government whose seat is only down the road from Osama‘s home], but it was not the South Asian nation’s Administration’s policy [or knowledge] to have him there as a “guest!”)

Bergen’s background includes the Directorship of the National Security Studies Program at the New American Foundation.  He is, also, CNN’s (the Cable News Network‘s) national security analyst and a fellow at New York University’s Center on Law & Security, too.

Peter Bergen has reported extensively on al-Qaeda, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and counterterrorism in the past.  In fact, he was of the few news commentators to have actually have interviewed bin-Laden himself.

As your author here has written on these pages in the past, and now Bergen has confirmed to this impressive and imposing assemblage that “Al-Qaeda’s ideology had already [started] to be slashed by the blossoming Arab ‘Spring.”

The Arab “Spring” has become a problem for Al-Qaeda in that it has invalidated their violent techniques to most of their “fellow-travelers,” and their “True Believers” that the “Base’s” methodology is redundant; and, therefore, its support has dwindled as Arab democracy has asserted itself!

Egypt had always been troublesome and hostile to the (violent) Jihads.  Now, with the reforms, hopefully, democratic change, if it is a finely-tuned, will discourage, the necessity for violently overthrowing the State.  So far, the Arab “Spring” — in the areas of its success — has largely chased gratuitous aggression from those  regions of the Middle East.  

Al-Qaeda was formed at a meeting during September of 1988.  A sub-national (not even that, but an organization that advocated bloodshed to those who did not believe as they — in essence, Takfrs.  Their odium  was strongly against the majority of Muslims whom they considered heretics while the majority of Islam considers their movement as heterodox.)  “bin-Laden was the commander of the violent Jihadi cluster”.  Bergen concludes that there is no one to replace him.  Something that your reporter is not so sure, but Peter Bergen, who had conversed with Osama before his death, conjectures that currently “After the commander‘s demise…[Al-Qaeda will] never [be able] to unite as a popular resistance!” 

Further, “bin-Laden orders and strategy [for post-his-extinction] are well-known.”  Al-Qaeda is immigrating towards the African country of Somalia.  Bergen felt, alas, his death would be “…a positive [change in the chance] for Israel’s survival…The longest War just got shorter!”

United States intelligence from Quetta and Karachi expose a robust anti-Americanism a over the expanse of the Pakistani State, but “The Obama Administration has handled the state of affairs well.”  His indictment of the Bush Regime was as an appalling aberration.  “They refused to look at dispute as it actually was.”  W.’s” Bush assertion of WMDs within Iraq was based on his willful imagination.  “The District of Columbia became a self-correction agency [i.e., state]!  Obama, now, is trying to make changes in foreign policy.  Peter Bergen deems that he has Afghanistan and Libya correct since, as he believes that “Khadafy is the worse mass  murderer in the Middle East!”

In the Hindu Kush where the Taliban thinks more in national terms whereas Qaeda looks into an international vista, it is a rural, therefore a more effective, insurgency where the fighting season is demarked between the end of the poppy and the beginning of the marijuana harvest.

The Afghan (National) Army is a reconfiguration of the old Northern Alliance.  Military service has become more economically attractive, and, thus, a more credible fighting service.

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Green Shoots?

June 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Bob Wood, MMNS

If you’ve spent any time listening to the financial drones recite the rationale for buying stocks now, you might be just about as sick as I am of hearing about so-called “green shoots.” To me, this is just one more disingenuous way to sell you things you shouldn’t be buying.

Every market cycle brings with it a new trend, a strategy devised by Wall Street in order to keep you invested when you should get out or convince you to buy when you should not. The “green shoots” concept is the latest strategy following the demise of the now discredited “Goldilocks” nonsense pounded into our heads by those encouraging us to remain invested as the Dow ascended to its all-time high in late 2007. Once Goldilocks’ obituary had been written, promoters needed to find another angle, another trend for investors to follow. Of course, Goldilocks had only served as a replacement strategy once “the only risk in tech stocks is not owning them” premise failed in the late 1990’s. So “green shoots” it is, at least for now.

Although perennial optimists may find reasons for hope, they should remember that some green shoots wither and die before blossoming into something beautiful. Some have even been known to sprout in barren wastelands. I am about as sure as I can be that these tiny signs of life will soon die out just as investors begin hoping for another meager inch or two of growth.

There are just too many obstacles in the way of an impending economic recovery. The notion that positive signs abound seems like wishful thinking, like placing a higher value on hope than fact in the push to keep investors interested in high-priced stocks that should be avoided.

I have been filling this space for the past 6 ½ years with my beliefs in secular trends, and the idea that domestic markets are squarely in the throes of a long-term bear market. Today, I think my point has been resoundingly made. I’ve explained how few investors ever make money in stocks, regardless of whether we’re in a secular bull or bear market. I think I’ve made my point there, too.

I’m convinced that many investors fail in the long run due not only to the nature of secular bear markets, but also the rampant corruption that appears to permeate even the highest levels of Wall Street and Washington, D.C.

From the ‘’dotcom boom’’ and the ensuing meltdown that wiped out many thousands of investors, to the housing boom that imploded and took many more to the cleaners, domestic markets have simply not rewarded traditional “buy and hold” investors. Many have seen their retirement dreams dashed, even if they truly tried to do all of the right things. Millions of them saved, invested, diversified, and perhaps even hired a professional or two to manage their savings.

And virtually all for naught, and isn’t that how it always seems to happen? This latest round of economic disappointment brings with it invaluable lessons on why the deck is stacked against investors in ways not likely to end any time soon.

In his financial blog, market strategist Barry Ritholtz (www.ritholtz.com/blog) included this excerpt from his new book, Bailout Nation, (http://bailoutnation.net/) about how we got to this point and what triggered catastrophic losses throughout our financial system:

“We’ve come a long way from the days when the man atop the organizational chart   made 40 times what the person on the lowest rung earned. Over the past few    decades, executive compensation has exploded, with some CEOs taking 200, 300, even 400 times the base pay at the company.

With so much of this compensation made via options-based incentives, the bosses     had every reason to swing for the fences. The upside was all theirs, and the downside was   the shareholders’—and taxpayers’.

But don’t for a moment think their terrible track record had a negative impact on their compensation. Despite their performance, these CEOs were paid as if they were enormous successes. The compensation figures that follow are enormous; that they were   paid for such abject failure is a national embarrassment.
It is also an indictment of three major corporate governance issues that have not been discussed widely enough. The first is the crony capitalism that was rife in boardrooms across the United States. The cronyism of major corporate boards, especially those in the finance area, has become legendary. Rubber-stamp directors who rarely buck the chairman or challenge the CEO are unfortunately all too common. These boards did not serve either their companies or their shareholders well.

Also enabling this festival of greed are the large institutions that held the companies’ stock, most especially the big mutual funds that have been AWOL when it comes to policing the senior management. They have the time, expertise, and incentives to do so; it is beyond the capability of individual shareholders. Besides, it makes no economic sense for someone who owns 100 or 1,000 shares of stock to act as overseer and scold to corporate boards. But it was squarely in   the interest of owners of 10 million shares and up to do so. Why the mutual fund complexes failed to protect their shareholders is hard to fathom. Perhaps when it comes to the finance sector, they feared missing out on syndicate deals and hot IPOs if they asked too many questions.

Then there are the so-called compensation consultants. They did a horrific disservice to the shareholders as well as the companies. The role of these primarily ethicless weasels was to give cover for these ridiculous compensation packages. I would love to see a review of the packages as written back then. If the compensation experts were members of an actual profession with standards and ethics, they would be drummed out of that profession. Instead, these people were merely tools used by the C-level execs to transfer vast sums of wealth from the shareholders to themselves.’’

I couldn’t have said it better myself, which has everything to do with why I chose to quote Mr. Ritholtz instead. Unfortunately, this type of scenario is nothing new in America’s business environment, nor has our government done much to prevent the type of shareholder abuse we’ve witnessed over the past two decades. Most regulations were either ignored or watered down so business (at least for the top echelon) could continue as usual, with business and government leaders getting what they wanted all along.

Talk of “green shoots” ignores the fact that very little has changed, and greed, corruption, and meaningful lack of oversight is just one more obstacle for investors to maneuver. How can investors possibly hope to gain from working with a financial system so completely rigged against them?

And why should they even bother trying? I feel great about being out of the domestic markets on both the long and short sides. If the game is rigged, I say why play in it? There are plenty of options to consider, and by now you may have grown tired of hearing about my devotion to investing in international and emerging markets.

But again, results matter, and again, those markets are strongly outperforming our domestic market. Many are higher today than they were at the dawn of this decade. And that’s a strong signal that they’re in the throes of secular bull markets.

I am often asked how I know that foreign markets are more honest and fair than our home markets. My response? “How can they be any less honest than what we’ve seen here, time and time again?”

I’ll take my chances there, but of course, given the structural challenges here and how a resumption of the bear market will affect all equity markets, I prefer to tread softly. I am heavier in cash than I have ever been before, with cash positions representing well over 50% of all capital managed here. Of course, rising commodity prices will slow growth all over the world, but even more so in the U.S.

And given the enormous debt loads to be managed here, a bankrupt government, and a complete failure of leadership, everywhere else still looks better.

Have a great week.

Bob

Bob Wood ChFC, CLU Yusuf Kadiwala. Registered Investment Advisors, KMA, Inc., invest@muslimobserver.com.

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