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Betty Ford Dies at 93

July 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Betty Ford dead at 93Betty Ford, the widow of late President Gerald Ford and a co-founder of an eponymous addiction center in California, has died at the age of 93, the director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum has announced.

In public, Betty Ford was one of the most visible and outspoken first ladies in history. In private, she triumphed over serious personal adversity.

She was married to Gerald Ford for 58 years. Shortly after becoming president in 1974, Ford said, “I am indebted to no man and to only one woman, my dear wife.”

She was born Elizabeth Bloomer in 1918 in Chicago and grew up in Michigan.

From a young age, she had a passion for dancing. She studied dance under Martha Graham in New York, working as a fashion model to finance her studies. She joined Graham’s auxiliary troupe and eventually performed with the company at Carnegie Hall.

Tunisia Demands Saudi Arabia Hand over Ben Ali to Face Trial

January 26, 2011 Leave a comment

The political turmoil in Tunisia continues to spread as the new government formally requested Interpol to help arrest ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, his wife Leila Trabelsi and other members of the family who fled the country during an uprising, the justice minister said on Wednesday.

Lazhar Karoui Chebbi told a news conference that Tunisia wanted to try Ben Ali and his clan for “possessing of (expropriated) property and transferring foreign currency abroad”. He said they are also asking Saudi Arabia to extradite the former president.

He named seven members of Ben Ali’s family in Tunisian custody but said that Imed Trabelsi, a nephew of Leila Trabelsi, and Sakher al-Materi, Ben Ali’s son-in-law, had fled abroad. He said the name of Leila’s brother Belhassan Trabelsi had also been presented to Interpol. Chebbi said six members of Ben Ali’s presidential guard in custody, including Ali Seriati, would be tried for “conspiring against state security and inciting people against each other with weapons”.

He said no legal action was in the works so far against Ben Ali’s Interior Minister Rafik Belhaj Kacem who led efforts to crush the uprising when it broke in late December. Ben Ali fired him a few days before he fled.

Arab Leaders Worried As Fruit Seller Sets off Revolution in Tunisia

January 17, 2011 Leave a comment

On January 14, 2011, the world, especially the Arabs, witnessed an unexpected development in Tunisia, as the 23 years of iron-fisted rule of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia was toppled by violent mass protests because of the increasing rates of unemployment and corruption in the North African country.

According to reports, the protests were supposedly sparked when Mohamed Bouazizi, a university graduate but jobless 26-year old Tunisian who was trying to make a living out of selling vegetables, set himself on fire last December 17 because the police arrested him and confiscated his stock due to a lack of permit to sell vegetables. He died last January 4 due to burns he had acquired during his protest.

His death had awakened the anger of the Tunisian people, leading to many mass protests which rocked the region both in the streets and in the social networking sites of Facebook and Twitter. They mourned the death of the fruit seller but at the root of it all, the Tunisian people sent a message to their leaders: that they were already sick of a soaring unemployment rate for the youth, rising prices of commodities, and long-standing corruption perpetuated by their leaders.

It is however early to say whether The Jasmine Revolution will go beyond Tunisia borders although there are reports of several copy-cat suicide attempts across the borders in Egypt, Algeria and Mauritania. In Egypt, one protester has already died from wounds suffered after he set himself on fire protesting against the price of food.

This is not the first time a small incident has set off a chain of events that has had global ramifications.

This was especially true for the First World War. History records that it was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, on June 28, 1914 that had triggered off a chain of events that eventually led to First World War.

Of course, there were long-term causes to the war, but this small event catalyzed the conflict. The assassination by a Yugoslav nationalist resulted in a Habsburg ultimatum against the Kingdom of Serbia. With the several alliances already forged over the past decade, the major powers were at war within weeks; and through their respective colonies and allies, the conflict spread fast around the world.

In these modern times, the historic turn of events in Tunisia has sent shockwaves throughout the Arab world. The Middle East had not been a witness to such an event ever since Iran’s ousting of a US-backed Shah in 1979. Now, Arab leaders are worried over what has happened in Tunisia and they have a reason to do so.

The Tunisia ‘revolution’ has broken a psychological barrier in other countries marked with the same conditions as Tunisia: Years of authoritarian regimes, political repression, and lack of jobs and opportunities, even for the well-educated. The Tunisians has shown the whole Arab world that the youth in the region are restless and angry.

They have definitely high-lighted the fact that they are not afraid of the bullets of the government anymore if only to change their country. Whether it is for the better is yet to be seen.

There have been reports that an apparent imitation of the self-immolation by Bouazizi had occurred in Algeria due to the same reasons as in Bouazizi case. And in Jordan there have been food protests albeit on a smaller scale. A restaurant owner and father of four from the city of Ismailia, east of the Egyptian capital, Cairo set himself on fire outside the parliament building.
He shouted anti-government slogans before pouring fuel on his clothes and setting himself alight, witnesses said.

Policemen nearby managed to put out the flames, and the man is now in a stable health condition in hospital, officials said. The action echoes that of the Tunisian whose self-immolation sparked a wave of protest in the country that brought down the government.

The man in Cairo has been identified as Abdu Abdel-Monaim Kamal, a 50-year-old. The website of Egypt’s leading Al-Ahram daily said he had repeatedly held heated arguments with local officials over the price of bread and other food commodities.
An Egyptian health ministry spokesman said the man Mr Abdel-Monaim would most likely be released within 48 hours, after being treated for superficial burns, mostly to his chest, neck, hands and legs.

For most of the Arab countries, the fuel for public unrest had been there for the longest time. But no one dared create a spark until recently. Now, the fire is already raging. The question remains: What will this mean for the region and their leaders?

Ageing China offers opportunity for investors

January 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Businesses in China are just starting to tap the rapidly expanding senior citizens’ market – the country’s new silver industry.

Retired professor Chen Chongyu and his wife Liu Zhenjuan dreamed of coming back to China from their daughter’s home in France, but until last year the couple had nowhere to go.

That changed when they found Cherish-Yearn, an upscale retirement community on the fringes of Shanghai and a pioneer in catering to China’s prosperous elderly.

“Every year we would come back to China, and we would visit retirement homes. But we couldn’t find anything,” said 79-year-old Chen, a history professor who specialized in the French revolution.

“When we finally found this place we felt we could return.”

China’s traditional model of children living with their elderly parents is under siege, thanks to 30 years of the one-child policy and rapid urban migration.

Leaving their daughter’s home in France, Liu, 74, and Chong paid 690,000 yuan (US$104,545) to move into a three-room apartment on Cherish-Yearn’s beautifully sculpted

China had 169 million people over 60 by the end of 2009, or 12 percent of the population. That number will jump to 250 million people by 2025.

And their spending power is rising. Chinese senior citizens command about 300 billion to 400 billion yuan in annual disposable income, according to Kunal Sinha, chief knowledge officer at marketing firm Ogilvy & Mather in Shanghai.

That will rise to 5 trillion yuan over the next three decades.

“The whole marketing world is obsessed with young people. The reality for China, the demographic change, is that in 15 years’ time, the number of young people is going to halve, it’s going to be 50 percent of what it is today,” Sinha told Reuters.

“The number of senior people is only going to double.”

HYPERMARKETS AT THE FOREFRONT

Hypermarkets in China’s megacities have caught on to the fact that senior citizens are the main grocery shoppers in the family, sending morning buses and offering discounts to lure them in.

But apart from health supplement makers, few other industries in China are working to earn their silver dollars.

Still, in recent years there’s been a sudden pick up in investment in senior homes and so-called “silver towns”.

Yoko Marikawa, a Japanese consultant specializing in the seniors’ industry, says nearly 50 of her Chinese clients have launched or are planning to launch retirement communities across China with total investments expected to be between 15-25 billion yuan.

French catering and hotel firm Sodexo is in talks with the Chinese government for similar services, an executive said.

But most foreign firms and funds are still waiting for the government to issue standards on facilities and services.

“Investors still don’t know which standards are good. If they invest in the facility now and later the government announces some other standard, they’re all out. They would have to rebuild or change some facilities,” Marikawa said.

Cherish-Yearn chairman Xi Zhiyong is ready to take on that risk as he bets on the future of the industry. He invested 600 million yuan in Cherish-Yearn, which opened in 2008.

His new business even helped him deal with personal problems.

“I started this because I personally felt the need. One year my mother was hospitalized 11 times. Each time I was on a business trip and would receive a call from her and would have to come back,” he said. Now, his parents, his in-laws, and his brother and sister’s in-laws all live in the new compound.

So far 300 of the 500 finished units are occupied, and interest is high, said Xi. Revenue in 2010 rose to 150 million yuan from 110 million yuan in 2009, and the final project will include more than 800 apartments.

“The main risk is that we are still a little early. The parents of the first children of the one child policy will reach 70 in about five years,” says Xi, adding that the international average age for people in retirement homes is 71.5 years.

A steady inflow of cash from these homes for the elderly is a much more attractive business model than straight out property development deals, especially as new restrictions make land and funding harder to find, said Xi, who started out in traditional real estate.

 

US accuses Chinese companies of breaking Iran sanctions

October 19, 2010 Leave a comment

A senior US official has said that Washington had provided Beijing with a list of firms it believed had been operating in violation of UN sanctions against Iran.

Beijing promised it was committed to implementing the sanctions and that it would investigate, the official added.

The US believes Iran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb. Iran denies this.

In June, the UN Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment activities.

The technology used to enrich uranium for use as fuel for nuclear power can also be used to enrich the uranium to the higher level needed to produce a nuclear explosion. Tehran says its intentions are peaceful.

US commander orders probe into UK Afghan aid worker’s death

October 11, 2010 Leave a comment

General David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, has directed that a probe into the death of a British aid worker killed during a rescue bid by U.S. forces be held, the U.S. military said on Monday.

“Initial reports indicated the explosion was caused by a detonation triggered by one of the captors who was in close proximity to Linda Norgrove. Subsequent review of surveillance footage and discussions with members of the rescue team do not conclusively determine the cause of her death,” it said.

The statement comes shortly after British Prime Minister David Cameron told a news conference Norgrove may have been killed by a grenade from foreign forces during thes rescue operation.

The Roots of Obama’s Rage

October 11, 2010 Leave a comment

President Barack Obama is secretly imposing his Kenyan father’s socialist, anti-colonialist views on US society, claims a newly published book that has rocketed to the top of online best-seller lists.

Mr Dinesh D’Souza, a right-wing polemicist, maintains in “The Roots of Obama’s Rage” that the president covertly aims to weaken the United States by, for example, confiscating the wealth of the richest Americans and enabling Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

The book claims that Mr Obama inherited from his father a profound hatred for the country he now leads. Kenyan economist Barack Obama Snr, who died in 1982, was, in Mr D’Souza’s view, a “philandering, inebriated African socialist.”

The younger Obama is said to have committed himself to carrying on his father’s anti-colonialist cause in what the book suggests was a graveside séance that took place when the future US president visited his Kenyan family in 1988.

Obama Snr’s spirit fully inhabits his son’s political consciousness, Mr D’Souza contends — to the point where, he writes, “the US is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s.”

In addition to presenting a thesis that many reviewers regard as laughably outlandish, Mr D’Souza’s book has been shown to contain several factual errors.

“One of the worst things about politics today is how some people are willing to say just about anything to score points,” observes one review, headlined “Dinesh D’Souza and the Rise of the Irrational Right.”

Books seething with hatred for Mr Obama can make their authors rich. A significant minority of Americans has shown itself willing to support almost any allegation against the first African-American president — including the disproven charge that he was born in Kenya and is thus ineligible to serve as US president.

Some analysts see racism as a key catalyst for this anger, which is felt almost exclusively by white Americans.

Mainstream US Republican Party politicians sometimes hint clearly at such sentiments, thereby helping lend legitimacy to diatribes like “The Roots of Obama’s Rage.”

Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the US House and a probable candidate for president in 2012, has praised Mr D’Souza’s book.

Mr Gingrich recently stated in an interview with a right-wing magazine, “What if (Obama) is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behaviour, can you begin to piece together (his actions)?”

A commentator for The Atlantic magazine suggests that Mr D’Souza’s work “is part of a strange, but not surprising, effort to make the Obama agenda seem exotic and ulterior, wrapped in occult Kenyan ideology.”

In late 2008, Mr D’Souza had sought to use Mr Obama’s Kenya connection to inflict political damage by launching an insincere fundraising drive on behalf of Mr Obama’s half-brother, George, who was then living in modest circumstances in Huruma.