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June 4, 2009

President Obama in Cairo, Egypt: Time For A “New beginning between the United States and Muslims”

Egypt Obama

This morning at 6:10 am EST President Obama made brilliant history yet again and Americans should be proud because we made progress with Muslims worldwide today.

After years of American and Middle East tension where we mutually viewed each other in a not so friendly manner, today the Egypt state broadcasting service was beaming uplifting scenes of the American and Egyptian flags flying side by side and Obama’s smiling face superimposed over graphics of the Pyramids and local landmarks. An image of the Egyptian and American flags woven together in a yin and yang fashion was kept on the screen of Egypt State TV throughout the morning.  That by itself is absolutely incredible!

Speaking in the ancient seat of Islamic learning and culture and quoting from the Quran for emphasis, President Obama called for a ‘new beginning between the United States and Muslims’, and said together, we can confront violent extremism across the globe and advance the timeless search for peace in the Middle East. ‘This cycle of suspicion and discord must end,’ Obama said

By President Obama making his much anticipated speech in the Grand Hall of Cairo University in downtown Cairo instead of heading to the Sinai beach resorts where diplomatic gatherings are often held, he told the people of Egypt that he was serious about connecting on a personal level. And when he peppered his speech with words from the Koran, and balanced support for Israel but with a strong call for a Palestinian state, the deal was closed. Home run!!!

American European Activists Demostrate for Peace in Gaza

President Obama was blunt about the United States “unbreakable bonds” with Israel but promptly stated that Palestinian was “suffering” since Israel’s founding in 1948 and that there was a real and immediate need to curb Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and establish a secure Palestinian state.

President Obama acknowledged the negative stereotypes of Islam that took root in America after the 9/11 terrorist attacks but also said that Muslim nations need to fix their own exaggerated views of the United States as a country bent on dominating them.

The history of the relationship between America and Muslim communities is deep and complex. 

Thomas Jefferson taught himself Arabic using his own Quran kept in his personal library, and had the first known presidential Iftaar (the evening meal for breaking the daily fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan) by breaking fast with the Tunisian Ambassador at sunset.   

President Dwight Eisenhower attended the dedication ceremony of the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. on June 28, 1957. 

President Bill Clinton issued the first presidential greeting for Ramadan.  Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting in which participating Muslims do not eat or drink anything from true dawn until sunset. Fasting is meant to teach patience, sacrifice and humility. President Clinton appointed the first Muslim American ambassador, M. Osman Siddique, to Fiji, and sent the first presidential Eid al-Adha greeting to Muslims.  Eid al-Adha or the “Festival of Sacrifice” is a religious festival celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God. 

One year after President George W. Bush placed the Holy Quran in the White House library in 2005, Representative Keith Ellison took the oath of office on the same Quran owned by Thomas Jefferson two hundred years before.

With his speech in Cairo, President Obama laid another marker, addressing America’s relationship with the Muslims around the world right in the heart of the Middle East.  Past years and decades have deepened the rift in our relationship with Muslims worldwide but particularly in the Middle East and our President have now created a new start by opening up a serious, honest dialogue hoping to find areas of common interest and new ways of communication in areas where we don’t agree. 

By continuing unprecedented outreach to Muslim communities, the President is strengthening national security and opening up new opportunities to address some of the problems that have been problematic over recent years.

Well done President Obama!

President Obama’s Cairo speech:

Cairo Palestinian boys in Gaza Strip Rafah watch President Obama Cairo U  Palestinian boys in Gaza Strip town of Rafah watch President Obama speak at Cairo University.

May 7, 2009

The Middle East Goes To Cuba: Qatar To Build Luxury Hotel In Cuba

cuba 

Well, if America wants to be a major player in the redevelopment of Cuba then we better start talking with Cuba in a meaningful way real soon before the rest of the industrial world beats us to it.  Do American businesses want to do business with Cuba?  Of course they do, they don’t want to miss out on all the opportunities to bring Cuba into the 21st century and all the money to be made doing so.

Here in America we have been conditioned to believe that Castro’s Cuba is all bad and that Cuba is automatically our enemy without knowing why Castro’s Cuba look at America as a fiend – it’s not just about communism.

Before the Cuban Revolution that led to the overthrow of U.S. backed Dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959, Havana was the original Sin City.  Havana was Las Vegas, before there was a Las Vegas.

Because gambling, liquor, prostitution, etc were all illegal in the United States, rich and famous Americans were looking for a place where they could revel and paint the town red without going to jail. They discovered Havana and since it is a tropical paradise and only 90 miles from Florida it became wealthy Americans’ winter destination and airlines and cruise lines offered grand tour packages to Havana.

American mob bosses benefited from Cuba’s President Fulgencio Batista’s corrupt regime and bribed them and created a glamorous playground for the rich. They created a prohibition haven, a place of safety from prosecution overflowing with dazzling nightclubs and mojitos flowing all day, outrageous cabarets, dancing girls, all-night bars, backstreet brothels, fancy hotels and resorts, gambling, music, drugs, sex and scandal.  Affluent Americans and movie stars did not disappoint the mob investors; they went to Havana in droves to whoop it up!

Many Cubans were outraged by the reveling and debauchery and Castro who was a young revolutionist became popular and his philosophy became widely accepted. When Castro overthrew Batista he had a new vision for Cuba and Americans were banned from travel to his tropical paradise.

Relations between the U.S. and Cuba quickly deteriorated when Castro nationalized many of the U.S. owned industries in Cuba. Each time the Cuban government nationalized American properties, the American government took countermeasures, resulting in the prohibition of all exports to Cuba on October 19, 1960.

In March 1960 President Eisenhower had quietly authorized the CIA to organize, train, and equip Cuban refugees as a guerrilla force to overthrow Castro. Consequently, Cuba began to consolidate trade relations with the communist Soviet Union which lead to the United States breaking off all remaining official diplomatic relations.

On January 3, 1961 the US withdrew diplomatic recognition of the Cuban government and closed our embassy in Havana.

So here we are 48 years later and Cuba and Qatar have signed an agreement to build a $75 million, 450-room resort on a cay south of the island.

Cuba and Qatar will spend 14 months negotiating financing details for the five-star “Gran Paraiso” or “Great Paradise,” said Ghanim Bin Saad al-Saad, president of state-owned Qatar Diar Real Estate Investment Company, construction will take another year and a half with a goal to open in 2015.

The resort is planned for Cayo Largo Sur, a strip of white sand, coral reefs and warm, calm waters 105 miles south of Havana that is already home to a cluster of high-rise hotels. The Gran Paraiso will also include 60 retreat villas that could be expanded in the future.

Tourism is Cuba’s second-largest moneymaker behind nickel exports.

A record 2.35 million foreigners visited last year, mostly from Canada and Europe. That was a 9.3 percent increase over 2007.  Foreign arrivals are up another 2 percent so far this year despite the global economic slowdown.

America should not continue to snub Cuba.  Even though we’ve not been friendly neighbors, Cuba really hasn’t done anything harmful to America. Cuba is very close to us geographically and we should have a respectable relationship with them. Sending the CIA to Cuba to overthrow Castro was not an endearing thing to do. 

If we continue our relationship with Cuba as is, out of necessity Cuba might befriend nations that are adversarial towards America.  We don’t have to be their BFF but we should be cordial and reopen trade with them.  Why not?

Will America come out and play with Cuba?

February 23, 2009

Jobs in Dubai Desert Dries Up And Foreign Workers Flee!

palm-island-dubai 

If it can happen in Dubai, it can happen anywhere.  It’s a confirmation that international finances are horrendous when Dubai’s economy dries up!  

Dubai is one of the seven emirates and the most populous city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is located along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula.

Ian, a foreign worker, is a 38-year-old Englishman who moved to Dubai 2 years ago to take a job as an engineer. He lived in Dubai and became very confident that Dubai’s fast-growing economy would continue for at least a decade so he purchased a condominium for almost $300,000 with a 15-year mortgage.

90 percent of the Dubai population is made up of foreign workers.  Management teams were recruited with big salaries and with promises of an extraordinary financial future and guaranteed jobs.  Ian was laid off 2 weeks ago and is desperately searching for a job since he doesn’t know what else to do because he owns property there. If he can’t pay off his mortgage he could end up in debtors’ prison.

With Dubai’s economy in free fall, newspapers have reported that more than 3,000 cars sit abandoned in the parking lot at the Dubai Airport, left by fleeing, debt-ridden foreigners (who could in fact be imprisoned if they failed to pay their bills). Some are said to have left maxed-out credit cards inside the cars with notes of apology taped to the windshield.

The main problem is that the jobless in Dubai lose their work visas and then must leave the country within a month. That in turn reduces spending, creates housing vacancies and lowers real estate prices – a downward spiral that has left parts of Dubai once hailed as the economic superpower of the Middle East looking like a ghost town. Tens of thousands have left, real estate prices have crashed and scores of Dubai’s major construction projects have been suspended or canceled.

Last month local newspapers reported that Dubai was canceling 1,500 work visas every day. Real estate prices, which rose dramatically during Dubai’s six-year boom, have dropped 30 percent or more over the past two or three months in some parts of the city. Many used luxury cars are for sale, sometimes being sold for 40 percent less than the asking price two months ago according to car dealers. Dubai’s roads, usually congested with traffic this time of year are now mostly traffic free.

Dubai at first seemed to be a refuge, relatively insulated from the panic that began hitting the rest of the world last fall. The Gulf is cushioned by vast oil and gas wealth so some who lost jobs in New York and London began applying and accepting jobs there.

But Dubai, unlike Abu Dhabi or nearby Qatar and Saudi Arabia does not have its own oil.  Dubai built its reputation on real estate, finance and tourism. Now many expatriates are talking about Dubai as though it has been a con game all along. Sensational rumors have been spreading that Palm Jumeira (Palm Island) – the artificial island that is one of this city’s trademark developments is sinking.

Ian says he doesn’t know what to believe anymore and he is becoming a little panicked as he continues looking for a job, hoping that he finds one before his 30 days runs out.

It was reported earlier today by the Dubai Department of Finance that The Central Bank has pledge the first US$10 billion of what will eventually be a US$20 billion bond program to help Dubai meet its financial obligations so that the government can continue with its development plans. This will provide the Dubai Government with the necessary liquidity to substitute the funds that have dried up globally in the last 12 months and help them to meet all their upcoming financial obligations.

Dubai’s government and government-owned corporations have an estimated US $80 billion in combined bonds and other outstanding loans to help finance the breakneck growth and economic diversification that have made it a developmental model for the Middle East.

 

 

July 15, 2008

Obama To Deliver Speech On National Security – A New Strategy For A New World

   As he prepares to head to the Middle East and Europe Senator Barack Obama will deliver a speech on Iraq and national security at the Reagan Building today, where he will outline his goals to make the United States safer. According to excerpts released by the campaign, the goals include ending the war in Iraq, wrapping up the fight against al Qaeda, securing nuclear weapons from rogue states, achieving energy security and rebuilding alliances.

“As President, I will pursue a tough, smart and principled national security strategy – one that recognizes that we have interests not just in Baghdad, but in Kandahar and Karachi, in Tokyo and London, in Beijing and Berlin,” Obama is expected to say.

Obama’s speech will largely focus on the need to redeploy troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, where nine U.S. soldiers were killed on Sunday. While emphasizing that the Taliban is in control of parts of Afghanistan and Al Qaeda is expanding in to Pakistan, Obama will say, “If another attack on our homeland comes, it will likely come from the same region where 9/11 was planned. And yet today, we have five times more troops in Iraq than Afghanistan.”

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