Why Stories of TCU Minority Students Should Invoke Change

I came to Texas Christian University from a relatively small town between San Antonio and Austin called Seguin, Texas. The majority of Seguin's population is Hispanic or Latino, as was the high school that I attended, and most of my friends back home are Hispanic. Now contrast that with our student body at TCU, which is approximately 75% Caucasian- it would be an understatement to say that was a bit of a culture shock to me. In fact, I clearly remember touring the campus for the first time and saying to my dad, "Man, this place is really white."

Now, I am by no means implying that there is anything inherently wrong with a student body that is primarily white, just as I had no problem living in a hometown that was mostly Hispanic/Latino. But think about it this way: I am white, and I went through a bit of a culture shock when I arrived at TCU. I am not part of any minority, but rather part of the overwhelming majority, and the transition was still strange for me. So if it was difficult for me, then for many of the students of color here on campus, dealing with this setting must be infinitely more difficult.

The recent email sent out by our chancellor and the subsequent articles posted by TCU360 discuss potential steps the administration is considering to make TCU a better place to live and work for students of color. These steps have garnered criticism from other students who think that they're unnecessary. Here's my problem with that- the implication in disagreeing with the steps specified by the chancellor is that you think everything is fine, and that we should just leave things the way they are. I've heard things like, "If they [they being students of color at TCU] aren't happy with the way things are, they should just leave." Hearing a quote like this should a blatantly obvious warning sign that everything is not, in fact, fine.

If you dig into the hashtag #BeingMinorityatTCU, which was trending the night after all this information came out, you will quickly realize that we have deep-rooted problems here on campus that need attention. The fact that students of color are being questioned by others who can't believe they got accepted here solely on their academics? That's a problem. The fact that students of color have cried or fallen into depression because they feel like they scare or intimidate those around them? That's a problem. The fact that any time students of color complain or protest against these injustices, they're told to stop acting like victims and appreciate their very presence here? That's a problem. All of the stories coming out as a result of this hashtag, and more, illustrate the need for action on our campus; yet there is serious pushback from students who either don't support making life better for students of color or don't believe doing so is necessary.

I think the negative reactions surrounding our chancellor's attempts to hear the opinions of students of color and to make life better for them goes back to a fundamental misunderstanding that has been illustrated on a broader scale by opponents of the Black Lives Matter movement. This is by no means implying that I am equating Black Lives Matter and their actions to what students of color at TCU are trying to accomplish, but there are some obvious parallels in the negative responses both groups have received. Opponents of BLM argue that all lives matter, and that we should focus on making life better for everyone. However, this argument is based on a fundamental untruth- that the lives of minorities are equally as good as the lives of the majority, or more specifically to Black Lives Matter, that African-Americans are already treated the same as Caucasians. But are they? If Terence Crutcher or Tamir Rice were still alive today, I feel confident that they would disagree. If Michael Brown or Keith Lamont Scott were still with us, I doubt they would think they received fair treatment. And on the TCU campus, I doubt any of the students of color being vocal about the injustices and judgement they've suffered feel they're given an equal footing.

And that's really all the students who met with the chancellor about these issues are trying to accomplish- fair and equal treatment for themselves and any other students of color that live, work or study on campus. I don't see anything that leads me to believe they want to vault themselves ahead of the majority of the campus, or use their status as a crutch to get what they want. They simply want to be treated the same as I am, and I think that's something that we should all strive to achieve. I support every effort aimed at promoting equality both at Texas Christian University and worldwide, and I think that is something that we all have a moral and ethical obligation to do.

Nicholas P. Stephens

TCU Class of 2019

How Prepared Are We?

The Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared! How often have we heard this phrase. Yet there are those lingering questions about the preparedness of this country in the event that some calamity will strike this country. Is the United States prepared for any natural disaster, energy grid collapse, worsening economic conditions, a pandemic, terrorist attack, or famine? These are just some of the contingencies that can unfold onto the United States in just a matter of days that will make America look like the aftermath of what Hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans. All it would take is just one of these disasters to occur. The fragile economy and infrastructure of the United States would slide into an Abyss that this country might not ever climb back out of. Remember the aftermath of 9-11? Just a few days after that terrorist attack massive layoffs began triggering an economic crisis that many feel was the initial start of the current financial and economic catastrophe the United States is faced with today.

There is renewed data from the Journal of Scientific American indicates that coronal mass ejection pulses are being emitted form the Sun more frequently and the likely hood of one blast would send the United States back into the stone age. This along with the increased threat of a rouge nation or organization detonating a nuclear warhead in the atmosphere will produce electromagnetic pulses that would destroy all electrical components rendering not only the United States helpless but other countries would fall victim to their hideous plan. This is one of the biggest reasons to reinforce our energy grid. Our energy grid is so fragile, hasn't been updated or reinforced since it was put in place, and our lack of a concise energy policy have all contributed to the vulnerability of the United States.

The US strategic grain reserves necessary for the population to remain free from starvation is at the lowest level in over 50 years. Instead of focusing on the future likely hood of starvation the policies of our own government put the lives and safety of Americans at grave risk by exporting our grain reserves instead of shoring up our own supplies. There is only enough grain in reserve to make just a half a loaf of bread for each person in the entire United States; about 300 million people. If this isn't bad enough today even without a natural disaster happening 16 million children continue to face hunger and starvation right now in the United States. This figure will only increase as long as the current economic picture remains.

There are many areas that need to be addressed today if the United States expects to be fully prepared for any eventual disaster. It is not a question of if any disaster occurring it is the 100% probability a disaster will occur and is the United States actually prepared in all matters ready to act to secure the safety, stability, and the economy? Right now, the United States is not even remotely ready nationally to respond effectively in the event that a major catastrophe happens. In fact since 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina the United States is actually worse off than we were before.

The first element in getting this nation ready is to recognize the facts. In denying the severity of any eventuality is putting millions of Americans at risk and jeopardizes the future to this country. This is so apparent in the States along the Gulf Coast where Hurricane shelters are so inadequate that only a hand full have back up generators, alternate water sources and proper sanitation. There is no excuse to jeopardize the lives and safety of United States Citizens where monetary constraints are the prime criteria. A national priority must prevail to equip every state with the necessary funds necessary for explicit purpose of ensuring the safety of all it's citizens.

One of the first steps to actually have this nation be able to follow through with the necessary preparations for any catastrophic event the economy of the United States has to drastically improve and that starts with reducing the unemployment figures to a national level of under 4%. This can only be accomplished with governmental intervention with corporate America. Their again use history as a guide in what worked under FDR in the 1930's. A New-New Deal, a National Economic Reform Agenda is now warranted to spring board the jobless rate toward that 4% unemployment rate. Putting people back to work through governmental programs like the WPA of the 1930's is necessary to jump start our sluggish economy. Once we start reducing the unemployment figures through government sponsored programs with living wages consumer spending will increase pushing demand for more goods and services. This will encourage more of our businesses to hire more people just to keep up with the now increased demand. We have to remember two very sound economic principles. " Give the people what they need and want at a price they can afford business will continue to grow." The other basic principle " The more people with more disposable income to spend and pay down debt is the greatest economic stimulus that any society can have."

Utilizing these basic economic concepts along with implementing statutes that would require financial institutions who complied with the United States Government in repayment of their initial bailout funding easing of the credit scores criteria when it comes to granting any type of loan. Financial institutions currently have raised the criteria for granting, say a loan for re modification of their mortgage to stave off foreclosure so high that the homeowner can't qualify by the banks standards for any of the government sponsored programs to lower their monthly payment. They are consequently stuck trying to make mortgage payments they can no longer afford. This in turn leads to banks foreclosing on the property and every one looses. The easing of credit scores for home owners as well as business owners is paramount to economic recovery.

One of the biggest hurdles in improving the overall economic outlook is for Institutional Investors like financial institutions have to realize that providing more capital is essential for business expansion. Whether it is for small business startups of major business expansion the criteria for granting any type of financial assistance is now predicated on the credit score if you are a small business owner. Lager companies criteria are based not only on their credit standing with their current creditors but are contingent on other factors such as company assets, accounts receivable and accounts payable. Their again credit scores have to be lowered so that these business and individuals can be granted the financial capital needed to carry out the long term economic expansion that is so crucial for continued long term economic growth.

When the United States implements National Economic Reform with following through on these initiatives the future, economic outlook and the security of this nation will finally become a reality. The preparedness of the United States to react and provide for the safety, economic stability, and our national security in the event that a catastrophic disaster occurs will be assured.

The Trump Economic Asteroid

One of my favorite political philosophers was a Frenchman who had a long career as an artist, filmmaker and political activist. He was an odd fellow and hung around with a bunch of other odd thinkers, all of whom were involved in both art and politics.

Now, French philosophers can be daunting at the best of times, but this chap got through to me. His money quote: "All of [modern] life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation."

That sounds about right to me... and I've made it my mission to expose this "spectacle" for what it is: a drain on our wallets.

Fake News = Fake Reality

In plain English, my French philosopher meant this: The modern economy is so complex that people can no longer perceive the true forces that shape their lives. In this vacuum, the media portrays bad things as desirable and freedom as slavery. It's profitable to do so - after all, who wants to hear bad news all the time? People have become so mesmerized by the buzz of misinformation around them that they no longer know truth from falsehood.

Anyone who has watched "headline news" will recognize this. There could be an asteroid headed right for us, and Robin Meade would still be running stories about rescued kittens.

There are asteroids headed for us right now, in fact... hidden by the incessant prattle about the president-elect's latest tweets. A big one is the likely merger of AT&T and Time Warner Communications, which will entrench monopoly conditions in the U.S. telecom sector and maintain our status as the most expensive, worst-served broadband market in the developed world.

They Got the Power... and the Money

During his campaign, Donald Trump said:

In an example of the power structure I'm fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN - a deal we will not approve in my administration because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.

Quite right, sir! When a broadband provider owns the programming it transmits, it can favor that content and penalize others. In fact, AT&T already does this. AT&T doesn't count the content on its DirecTV network toward its customers' monthly data caps. But anything viewed on a competing network, such as Comcast, Cox or Charter, counts toward the cap. That's known as "zero-rating."

Zero-rating creates a powerful incentive for AT&T customers to choose things to watch from AT&T's proprietary offerings. That in turn allows AT&T to raise the price of that content and to charge advertisers more to appear on it.

That's called "economic rent": the excess profits a company gets by making the market less competitive. That extra profit doesn't reflect the cost of production or any added economic value by AT&T... instead, it's a pure transfer of wealth from you, the subscriber, to AT&T.

Did I Say That?

In reality, Trump wanted to block the Time Warner deal because he was mad at how CNN, a subsidiary, conducted the first presidential debate. After all, that's how he rolls: Don't get mad, get even. That didn't get reported, though, and millions of voters - at least those who pay attention to such things - took it as evidence of his commitment to "drain the swamp" of our distorted, monopolistic telecom markets.

In the meantime, Trump's transition team will reportedly appoint Jeffrey Eisenach to run the Federal Communication Commission, which will oversee the AT&T/Time Warner merger. Eisenach is a staunch supporter of zero-rating and an outspoken advocate of telecom industry interests. Much of his own research on telecom has been funded by companies like Verizon. All of Trump's telecom advisers are solidly pro-zero-rating.

It seems very unlikely that the Trump administration will oppose the AT&T/Time Warner merger after all. The market thinks so too: AT&T's stock price has risen 12% since the election.

Seeing Through the Trump Spectacle

The number of policy flips in Trump's transition are so numerous by now that hardly anyone pays attention. Some media outlets are covering them, but they mainly preach to the converted. By contrast, a search for "Trump AT&T merger" on Fox News produces zero results.

This is true of many critical things that affect the contents of your wallet these days. A combination of fear of lost ad revenue, laziness and the never-ending search for the least challenging content ensures that millions of people will go about their lives thinking the new administration is going to look after their interests... when the opposite is true.

That's not a unique criticism of the new administration. I felt exactly the same way about the Obama administration and said so often. That's why you can expect me to continue to cover rampant "economic rent"... and to offer practical alternatives that will keep your hard-earned money in your wallet where it belongs.

Ted joined The Sovereign Investor Daily in 2013. As an expat who lived in South Africa for 25 years, Ted specializes in asset protection and international migration. Read more of what he has to say about offshore living here.

The Cell Phone Controversy

Ever since the advent of the cell phone many believe that cancer in it's many forms increases with each new user. Now, the medical community as well as International Association For Research On Cancer have definitive findings that the cell phones and mobile phone towers themselves all have had a hand in the increase of cancer rates all over the world. In order to understand the risks involved in contracting any form of cancer from cell phones one has to know just how these phones today operate. All cell phones emit radio frequency energy that much we know or should know. But it is this form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, which is absorbed by tissues closest to where the phone is held is the main factor that puts light on the fact that cancer can be developed. A focal point of cancer research. The amount of radio frequency energy a mobile phone user is exposed to depends on the technology of the phone, the distance between the phone's antenna and the user, the extent and type of use, and the user's distance from mobile phone towers.

The questions that need direct answers to are many. One of the most concerning is, how does the impact of continued cell phone use cause cancer and other health related problems? There are many reasons why people should be wary of the over use of cell phones. First of all these types of phones really do emit radio frequency energy, commonly known as radio waves. They really are a form of non-ionizing radiation. When tissues nearest to where the phone is held they will absorb this type of energy. As it stands today the number of cell phone users continues to rise. Just as recently as two years ago where more than 303 million people subscribed to any number of cell phone services in the United States. Today, we have added another 100 million users. According to the International Telecommunications Union world wide usage tops 5 billion. With so may people using cell phones, the number of calls per day, the length of each call, and the amount of time people use their cell phones have all increased dramatically over the last few years. Cancer rates too have only increased. A connection? Something to think about.

Secondly, we have to understand just how radio frequency energy works and how it affects the human body. It is this radio frequency energy that is actually a form of electromagnetic radiation. Electromagnetic radiation are either ionizing, like X-rays, or non-ionizing, which are extremely low level frequency radio waves. The problems begin with the exposure to ionizing radiation which is known to increase the risks of getting cancer. Many studies over the past few years have had inconclusive evidence that non-ionizing radiation causes cancer. Inconclusive, but just more recently after evaluating several studies on the possibility of a connection between cellphones and glioma and a noncancerous brain tumor known as acoustic neuroma, members of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, agreed that there's limited evidence that cellphone radiation is a cancer-causing agent, a carcinogenic. As a result, the group classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to people. This finding was based on the evidence from human studies, from studies of radio frequency energy and cancer in rodents along with studies from genotoxicity. Together with the effects on the immune system, gene and protein expression, cell signaling, oxidative stress and apoptosis, with the studies of the possible effects of radio frequency energy on the blood brain barrier all resulted in the fact that cancer was more prone to develop than not with continued mobile phone usage.

With so many people subscribing to cell and smart phones today our youth, one of the largest segments of the population with mobile phones, have the potential to be at a greater risk than adults for developing brain cancer, especially with so many now relying on their cell phones. What makes this so disturbing is the fact that their nervous systems are still developing and therefore more vulnerable to factors that increases the probability they will contract cancer. Their heads are smaller than those of adults and therefore have a greater proportional exposure to the field of radio frequency radiation that is emitted by cell phones. And, children have the potential of accumulating more years of mobile phone exposure than adults do. It should also be noted that the rise of breast cancer can also be linked to the fact that so many women store their mobile phones in their bras. Again, something to be concerned about.

Another fact to contend with the rising rates of cancer and cell phone usage are the cell phone towers themselves. Researchers from the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Spain are conducting another international study, called Mobil Kids. This study is to evaluate the risks associated with new communications technologies including cell phones and other environmental factors in young people newly diagnosed with brain tumors at ages 10 to 24 years. From this study there has been strong evidence that support the findings that cell phone usage and the proximity of cell phone towers contribute to the rising rates of cancer especially in children and young adults.

Could exposure to radiation from cell phone towers really be responsible for over 7,000 cancer deaths? According to research findings from Brazil, the facts speak for themselves. There was just recently a report that established a direct link between cancer deaths in Belo Horizonte, Brazil's third largest city, with the cell phone network. Over 80 percent of those who succumbed to certain types of cancer resided approximately a third of a mile away from one of the hundreds of cell phone antennae that spread all over the city. These cancers, primarily found in the prostate, breasts, lungs, kidneys, liver, are the ones associated with exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs). This is a real concern for cell phone users and even land line phone users alike. Those who shun mobile phone technology still will suffer the consequences of cell phone tower radiation.

There have been cell phone tower studies which examined the relationship between radiation exposure and cancer rates were conducted in the cities of San Francisco, Austria, Germany, and Israel, dating as far back as the 1970s. All of these studies shared similar findings that living within a certain proximity to a mobile phone tower increased the risk of cancer anywhere from two to 121 times depending on what type of cancer was detected.

Adilza Condessa Dode, PhD, one of the engineering researchers as well as the coordinator of a Brazilian study, addresses the fact that the levels of EMF's emitting from cell phone towers are already too high and that the closer one lives to one of these towers the greater the contact with the electromagnetic field.

The citizens of the of United States are just as vulnerable too. America is home to hundreds of thousands of these radiation emitting towers. In the U.S., with the proliferation of cell phones and the growing needs of cell phone users in recent years, there has been an explosion in cell towers. A growing number of organizations and many more studies support the conclusions of the Brazilian study. The International Association for Research on Cancer (IARC), based upon findings from research conducted by an international think tank, came to the conclusion that radio frequency radiation, including the radiation spewing from cell towers, is a possible carcinogen. The BioInitiative 2012 Report written by a group of leading independent international scientists has put out an unequivocal health warning against exposure to EMFs. This includes exposures from cell phone towers.

Why are cell phone towers so instrumental in increasing the risks of cancer? The threat comes from the constant nature of the activity of the towers; they emit pulsed radio frequency radiation. This radiation has been shown in thousands of studies to cause biological damage to the body and to be a precursor to disease. the dangers resulting form these towers are:

• Genetic mutations
• Memory disruptions
• Hindered learning
• Insomnia
• Brain disorders
• Hormonal imbalances
• Infertility
• Dementia
• Heart complications

These dangers clearly make it imperative to take action.

What we can say though is that cell towers and their implantation needs effective regulation in terms of location and radiation levels. The 1996 Telecommunications Act (TCA), does not qualify the public's right to protest cell tower locations based on health hazards. This act has been instrumental in why cancer rates continue to rise. Profit and money continues to be the motivation of where cell phone towers are put. The public has a right to know and decide when and where Cell towers should be located. And that includes locating them away from residential areas and far away from schools and day care centers. Only then will we see a reduction in mobile and smart phone related cancers.
By Dr. Tim G Williams

No Guarantee

In solitude I hunger for the days of long ago. Where a gentle summer breeze carries me away to a world much different than now. A world filled with peace and tranquility though unrecognizable today. A world that has morphed into a harshness where many troubled souls continue to languish in quiet desperation hoping and praying for better times ahead. They too hunger and thirst for those days of so long ago. What should be a joyous coming holiday season millions the world over are caught in a whirlwind of despair. Then there are those so fortunate indeed who are too often caught up in selfish motivation that don't even realize how blessed their lives actually are. For they can't seem to fathom the realities so many face. Self embellishment, not the lest bit concerned of how others fare. Why they should concern themselves for the troubles others face. Shielded behind the wall of apathy where money plays it's part. They have taken for granted all that they have so why give the many thanks for their blessings so far? It always seem to be that the more materialistic people become the more they want. The many apathetic attitudes have carried over to this time of year.

The commercialism of today has set the tone for more selfish whims to be displayed. It is no more apparent than what se see today that many can't wait to rush through Thanksgiving only to run out the door in hopes of beating the growing crowds besieging so many stores. The avalanche of humanity stampeding to get the latest gadget is not a wonder to behold. Lost in translation of the holiday season is the fact that today society has been corrupted by what really doesn't matter. Lost is the reverence of this time of year now replaced by commercialism glorifying materialistic majesty in practically every facet of genre.

It is around this time of year that it never ceases to amaze the display of gluttony by so many has only gotten worse while millions the world over lay impoverished where just having shoes on their feet would be celebration enough. But, there still no guarantee for those many souls who wait so desperately hoping this time of year their days of suffering, woe and despair will finally disappear.

The clock is ticking, no time to spare, are days may be numbered no joy to renew. After years of disingenuous policies by the powers that be have squandered the hopes and dreams of much of humanity. The hopes and dreams have all died on those vines of so many lost opportunities. They have taken away the avenues to success and in the process have intensified the tempests of torment around the world today. The struggle for survival continues to mount. To think the troubles are a world away as many a politician continues to say is a plain distortion of reality today.

What should be a festive time of year is clouded over by doubt and fear. But, for many are oblivious, don't seem to care for the commercialism they see has been overwhelming displacing the realities. No benevolence they share, where selfish motivation is all that they care. Even many of the powers that be continue to assault the impoverished multitudes who continue to grow in numbers with each stroke of the pen. The reversal Robin Hood mentality has already taken hold. Just look at the numbers of late for they underscore the real dangers we face. But, then again leave it to our most prestigious members of state where already have common core curriculums in place in every state. Where 3 X 5 = not 15 but some unknown figure that remains to be seen. It is not any wonder now why we can't get it right.

Without that helping hand that so many need those financial wizards of Washington have stopped extending that helping hand. They can't seem to understand what they have done. In short sighted thinking have exasperated an already feeble economy. Unfazed, they continue to cease to amaze the acumen to which they famously ignore the very public that they are supposed of serve. It is no more evident with this coming year for millions of Seniors their plight only worsens. When our dubious legislators passed legislation concerning Social Security where cost of living increases make it possible for seniors to stay in their homes, buy food, pay utilities, and keep paying those Medicare Part B premiums that have increased this year will get no cost of living adjustment. A cost of living adjustment that still won't keep pace with all the other rising costs of today just because gas prices per gallon we pay at the pump today are not as costly as they once were. It really is a perverted sense of equation when it comes to cost of living adjustments for our seniors.

To add salt to the wound as they say over 600,000 seniors already are in reverse mortgage foreclosures. And, without a cost of living increase the prognosis is that thousands more will be faced with foreclosure. All those TV adds that we see more frequently today when either Fred Thompson or Henry Winkler push reverse mortgages as a useful financial tool are really beguiling the public into thinking that it is free money when in reality all reverse mortgages are nothing more than a home line of credit that has to be paid back with compounding interest. Leave it to Einstein who visualized compounding interest as the eighth wonder.

Now when government has almost come to an impasse the points of contention have always been placed on the backs of our citizens who can least afford the luxuries that many of our powers that be take for granted. No shame or remorse from the powers that control. But, for us depending on safety nets in place there is actually no guarantee. One day for certain just when we can't say if policies are not changed those guarantees that we have depended upon for life's basic necessities will be ripped away.

There is still time to thwart impending catastrophe but only through collective participation can a democratic republic survive. It takes a united effort to wield the sword of equality in this time of need. To get back to a semblance of those wondrous days of yesteryear would be so refreshing for many this time of year. Where peace and understanding held us together. The guarantees we had then were honored and not take for granted. When there was not just Social Security but pensions were taken, and one could actually put some of their paychecks in savings where there was an actual interest rate that rewarded savers. Many a baby boomers parents could be assured of these three guarantees. The effort is needed now to guarantee that the future is there for all to share.

The torch will pass this next November so that a new generation should be guaranteed that the avenues of success will not be blocked and the safety nets for all those in need will be their lending that helping hand to overcome life's adversities. To secure the future of this nation requires the knowledge to use the tools that are available is up to each and everyone of us. No longer can we lie in apathy. A collective caring contributing to ending the quagmire that has squandered too many avenues of economic growth and stability for far too many Americans has to be the choice we make. Dr. Tim G Williams

The Year Of The Saber

In this the year of the saber as some would prefer to call it where the drums of war are already beating the clamor for supremacy has already begun. As so often in the past when sabers rattle has only inhibited the forward progress of humanity. There are many of the powers that be whose self serving ideologies have already intensified what is now a network of global terror. It is known that power struggles whether it is in the animal kingdom or by man have been going on since the beginning of time. It really seems to be as though we are no better than the predators of nature where dominance is always determined by violent confrontation. And, if history is any indication makes us really think about the trajectory of where mankind is actually headed.

As cries of desperation swell where hopes and dreams continue wither and die the chances of a ending the quagmire that is in the Mid-East gets slimmer every time sabers are drawn. With violence mounting in Israel where the latest clash between Jews and Arabs is so reminiscent when the Catholics and Protestants in Ireland broke out in violent reprisals. As tensions mount all around the region the Mid-East is a powder keg already poised to set the whole region in more flames of terror and death. As warring factions continue to grow perpetuating the onslaught that has multiplied the flow of humanity escaping the stench of war. Already with ISIS, the Taliban, and Al-Qaeda along with many Arabs seeking dominance have already secured their footing. The sanctity of life means to nothing to them. Collateral damage as some would say brings little comfort to the multitudes of faceless individuals trying to escape the mayhem, death and destruction.

As for the thousands if not millions that are caught in this web of the constant struggle between life and death it is not reassuring for the rest of us. The storm clouds continue to blow seeds of destruction that will defiantly grow. The constant misery that it brings spreads more death and woe. The plight that so many face is just a reminder of how far mankind really has to go before the light of peace and harmony will take it's place. Today, it seems that the world is in darkness where factions have found a way to shield out the light of hope and reason. Perplexed are some of our leaders today who continue to fiddle away is apparent in everything that they say. Without a global resolve those seeds of destruction will only bring more sabers into play.

Rouge nations like North Korea and fanatic factions all over the globe have already amassed the resources for more mayhem and destruction. We have to realize that a more unified effort is needed from every country affected by the surge of hostilities in the Mid-East and all those who have opened their boarders for the influx of refugees to dispel the notion that the world as we now know it will soon disappear. To reach that secure future that lies ahead has always been within our grasp. But, we have to first realize that it was the United States through inept foreign policies from the past hat has opened up the flood gates releasing torrential rains of terror that has flooded the entire Middle East. In denial are some of our dubious officials but the fact remains the entire world now is a hot bed of tension ready to explode where the year of the saber has taken hold.

Amidst the horrific carnage in Syria that has gone on for far too long now Russia is in the mix. With the United States sabers at the ready leading the charge. Questions now are beginning to surface in the aftermath of so much grotesque savagery where thousands have perished in a brutal civil war. It is known that Russia who is aligned with Assad and now the United States is fueling more aggression by sending arms and munitions to help another cause puts the world on notice that maybe the United States just can't get it right. We have to remind ourselves that not since the end of World War II has the United States been victorious or totally successful when we have sent troops in harms way. The Korean war ended in appeasement where no clear victor stood over the vanquished foe. Vietnam was yet another futile attempt where thousands of American lives were lost. The first Gulf War was a exercise in global response to securing a region that had fallen into the hands of another tyrannical ruler, only to ignite the flames that exploded on 9/11. What has occurred since, we have become the gun slinger whose quick draw topples regimes. It is no wonder that so many countries perceive America as the fastest gun in the West. We have become what we thought we never be, the War Monger in the eyes of so many.

And, the carnage only continues. When the Arab spring exploded on the world's stage just couple of years ago it actually was a prelude of things to come. The violent overthrow of government in Egypt and US backing overthrow in Libya coinciding with the continuing savagery in Syria has once again drawn ire and condemnation from most of the rest of the world. And, yet we have only continued to put more Americans in harms way, wasted billions if not trillions of dollars in a quagmire that seems to never end and set the stage for more unrest in Europe with all the humanitarian needs from the mass influx of refugees. The year of the saber has already taken it's place.

But, it is not only half a world away where the US continues to display an arrogance so typical of late. It is the main stream media and our tough touting politicians who are either too blind to see, to consumed with party loyalties, too interested in gaining more campaign cash, or just oblivious to the continued harsh realities millions of Americans face each and every day that continue to rave how good our economy is. When in reality it has been trade agreement after trade agreement form the past 30 years that made it more lucrative for companies to eliminate untold millions of middle class jobs. In doing so the US has secured the largest income disparity gap in history, put this nation deeper in debt and in essence gravely jeopardized our national security while destabilizing our national economy. When just recently Nabisco closed what was the largest bakery in the world in Chicago, laying off over 1400 workers just in time for the holiday season, and moving operations to Mexico. This is just one of thousands of outcomes of inept US policies that have been implemented that has made this year of the saber more devastating for Americans.

For senior citizens in this the year of the saber are going to feel a most difficult financial pinch. When our dubious legislators passed legislation concerning Social Security where cost of living increases make it possible for seniors to stay in their homes, buy food, pay utilities, and keep paying those Medicare Part B premiums that have increased this year will get no cost of living adjustment. A cost of living adjustment that still won't keep pace with all the other rising costs of today just because gas prices per gallon we pay at the pump today are not as costly as they once were. It really is a perverted sense of equation when it comes to cost of living adjustments for our seniors. To add salt to the wound as they say over 600,000 seniors already are in reverse mortgage foreclosures. And, without a cost of living increase the prognosis is that thousands more will be faced with foreclosure. All those TV adds that we see more frequently today when either Fred Thompson or Henry Winkler push reverse mortgages as a useful financial tool are really beguiling the public into thinking that it is free money when in reality all reverse mortgages are nothing more than a home line of credit that has to be paid back with compounding interest. Leave it to Einstein who visualized compounding interest as the eighth wonder.

With political rhetoric heating up many of today's Presidential contenders are not in tune with the realities of our times. A more brutal harsh world too many face is the reality now. As the harshness of winter fast approaches millions the world over still will be faced with the realities that their world has been turned upside down. For millions of refugees on unfamiliar ground too many dreams have already died. The squalor that many face even here as well as abroad is more apparent with each passing day.

In putting the conflict especially in Syria in perspective we have to truly understand the history of Syria and what actually is the driving force behind one of the worlds most violent civil war. Modern Syria was established after the First World War as a French mandate. After the First World War Syria represented the largest Arab state to emerge from the formerly Ottoman-ruled Arab Levant but didn't become an independent nation until 1946 after World War II. In 1946 the government of Syria was of a parliamentary republic. But, soon afterward began a series of military coups that began a reign instability that lasted over 20 years. It was in between one military coup that Syria had a brief union with Egypt from 1958 to 1961. It was too short lived and another military coup took effect where the whole country was and still is under Emergency Law. This Emergency Law effectively suspended most of the constitutional protections that were established when Syria first gained independence. Today, Syria is probably best describe as a country whose government is that of a non democratic where Bashar al-Assad has ruled since he took over from his farther in 2000. It was Assad's father who took control of the nation in the last military coup of 1970.

The aftermath of the United States led Libyan overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi and the subsequent violent overthrow in Egypt set off a tempest of unrest. That unrest spilled over into Syria. As a result ignited protest after protest against an entrenched leader who has done very little to combat the hellish living conditions that have existed in Syria for far too long. When Assad retaliated against anti government protests where tensions turned violent members of the Arab states issued a mandate to stop the violence or be suspended from the Arab League entirely. Since the violence has only escalated Syria 's membership in the Arab League has been revoked sending more shock waves through-out the Mid-East.

For the past couple of years the Syrian National Coalition has been the voice of an alternative government. This government was formed to gain entry into the Arab league and has since been recognized as the sole representative of the Syrian people completely cutting off Assad's own governmental rule. Recognized by the United States, Great Britain and even France all have made the case against Assad's regime almost to convincing to turn back now. A little over a year ago the Syrian national coalition elected a Moderate Islamist preacher, Moaz al-Khatib as the group's leader. Its vice-presidents are a dissident industrialist Riad Seif and Suheir al-Attasi, an anti-regime activist from a prominent Syrian family. Now with a semblance of a form of government, an Islamic one, that has already prepared to topple an existing entrenched leader have found out that to do just that requires more resources than are currently available to the Syrian National Coalition.

As in every situation there are two sides to tell. One is the Syrian National Coalition's account of atrocities committed by Syrian governmental forces and the other side of more reports of atrocities committed by Syrian rebel forces that could very well be under the guise of Assad's own troops. In either case the continued violence has ruined all creditability of Assad's government and just maybe the Syrian National Coalitions too. The latest attempt by almost all accounts has resulted in the use of weapons that have been outlawed by the International community. Whether or not biological or chemical weapons were used on unsuspecting inhabitants in and around Syria still has to be documented. But, what is being found out is that some sort of outlawed means of destruction was used. But, whether or not Assad authorized it's deployment or did some faction within the Syrian National Coalition purposely set out to deceive the International community by using these weapons against themselves and is trying to convince the rest of the world that Assad was responsible still remains an unanswered question. One that has to be answered before any further involvement by the West is undertaken. That question has never been answered and yet the United States continues to make foreign policy decisions that have only exasperated the on going crisis in the Mid-East.

When the United States has in the past responded like we did in the aftermath of 9/11 we have done so with sabers rattling only to end up creating more of a tinderbox waiting to catch fire. To further add fuel to this tinderbox it is a well known fact that Russia who has a military base located in Syria has remained steadfast and supportive with the Assad's government pitting the US against Russia. This quandary was just the beginning of many situations that pose a greater threat to the stability of the Mid-East. Today, with ISIS in the thick has only upped the ante for Russia to keep Assad in power. When you throw in what the US is undertaking by arming known aggressors to Assad and not creating an open dialogue with Russia by indirectly opposing Putin the quagmire will not only continue but get worse.

With the economic conditions that remain here in the United States where more financial woes continue to mount for thousands of Americans and our foreign policy that has jeopardized the stability of the entire world is not any wonder then as to why the United States still can't get it's house in order. Just maybe if the world isn't engulfed in flames of more terror and just maybe someone will come up with policy decisions that would actually evoke a resolve just like the Good Friday agreement that ended much of the violence in Ireland back in 1990's. Sad to say though like today in Israel where the Jewish population is still very wary of the Arab population where tensions have now turned to violent reprisals the same is happening all over again in Northern Ireland. Why can't we all just get along.? The year of the Saber has already begun.

By Dr. Tim G Williams

Turkey: A Rising Economic Power

The Middle East is sometimes viewed as an economic failure story. But at the Western fringe of that region, a new global economic powerhouse is rising - Turkey, the transcontinental country positioned strategically between Asia and Europe. With a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of USD786 billion for 2014, the nation opens its doors to investment across multiple sectors. Will Turkey continue to be a safe haven for investment and can it be a springboard into Europe and the Middle East?

Turkey's steady progression

The 1980's marked a turning point in Turkey's history. The liberalizing reforms by visionary Prime Minister, Turgut Ozal opened up the economy. Even though the latter years were marred by economic disruption, the Kurdish conflict and a banking crisis, Turkey's economy consolidated its gains after 2002 when the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came into government. The AKP have since made concerted efforts to institute structural reforms, new fiscal policies and macroeconomic strategies to attract foreign investment.

Turkey's steady GDP growth - an average of 13 per cent (year-on-year) from 2002 to 2012 - is proof of its progress. As of June 2014, Turkey is the 17th largest economy in the world and the sixth largest compared to the countries in the European Union (EU), which Turkey still does not belong to, but which it would like to join.

Growth potential

Global investors have every reason to explore this burgeoning economy for business opportunities. Some pull factors that make Turkey an attractive destination for diversified Foreign Direct Investment FDI include:

Strategic location

Turkey's strategic location - at the intersection of Europe, Central Asia and the Levant - provides access to major markets and 1.5 billion customers across Europe, Eurasia, Middle East, and North Africa. This makes Turkey a springboard for accessing a market worth approximately USD25 trillion. The country also plans to further develop three key hub ports to position itself as a leading regional shipping logistics center. The largest port project underway - the Candarli Port - is estimated to provide 11.4 million twenty-foot equivalent units upon full completion, at a cost of €910 million.

Turks: a young and skilled labor force

Turkey has a population of 77.7 million (for 2014), with 50 per cent of the population under the age of 31 - which makes it home to the largest youth population among all European nations. 610,000 students graduate from its universities and around 700,000 students graduate from its high schools every year. Around 50 per cent of these students are from vocational and technical high schools, positioning Turkey well for high-tech and R&D investment.

Robust infrastructure

Turkey's infrastructure plays a key role in maintaining strong growth. It continues to upkeep new and highly developed infrastructure in transportation, telecommunications and energy.

North of Istanbul, a new airport is under construction at an estimated cost of €22 billion. A bridge is under construction at a cost of €2.6 billion across the Bosphorus strait that separates Europe from Asia. Moreover, Turkey's extensive transportation system facilitates sea and land communication with other European countries.

At the same time, Turkey plays an important role as an energy transit partner. Geographically, the nation is located in close proximity to more than 70 per cent of the world's proven oil and gas reserves. Some projects undertaken to increase connectivity include the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline (2006) and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum (BTE) Natural Gas Pipeline (2007) projects - aimed to ease transit for energy imports across European nations. Turkey is located close to more than 70 per cent of the world's proven oil and gas reserves.

Renewable energy as a resource for Turkey

Turkey does not own any significant energy resources but its strategic location gives it access to more than 70 per cent of the world's energy reserves. Although 60 per cent of the country's energy consumption depends on imported energy, Turkey has the capability to reduce its dependency by using renewable resources to target 30 per cent of its total energy needs. In 2013, the World Bank Group provided USD1 billion to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in Turkey.

Progressive investment climate

Turkey's reformist and pro-growth political culture keeps investors coming to Turkey. The country promises equal treatment for all investors. As of 2014, it took only six days to set up a company while it takes more than 11 days, on average, to do the same in the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Tax benefits along with incentives for strategic and large-scale investments have succeeded in pulling in FDI. For instance, the Corporate Income Tax was reduced from 33 per cent in 2000 to 20 per cent in 2006.

EU Customs Union

Turkey is a member of the Customs Union with the EU since 31st December, 1995 which covers all industrial goods (except agriculture, public or services procurement). Turkey also has Free Trade Agreements with 20 countries. More Free Trade Agreements are in the pipeline. Most exciting of all, the country is pursuing accession negotiations with the EU. Turkish entry into the EU would create ample business opportunities for local and foreign enterprises within the nation.

Sizable domestic market

With a population of 77.7 million in 2014 and the GDP per capita of a middle-income country (USD 10,500 in 2010-2014), Turkey's domestic market is not to be sniffed at. The country is becoming more and more middle-class. Sectors such as telecommunications and banking have registered strong growth in both user base and revenues.

Broadband internet subscribers have increased from 0.1 million in 2002 to 39.9 million in 2014 and mobile phone subscribers increased from 23 million in 2002 to 71.9 million in 2014. Moreover, there were 57 million credit card users in 2014 when compared to 16 million in 2002.

Istanbul catches the eye of global investors

The city of Istanbul is particularly favored by investors due to its strategic location, well-established infrastructure and educated workforce. Istanbul received more than half of the total FDI projects directed to the country between 2007 and 2012.

As costs in Istanbul reflect the influx of FDI, investors have started exploring other cities such as Izmir, Ankara, and Bursa.

Borsa Istanbul (the Istanbul Stock Exchange) has ascended 30 places on the index of global financial centers since 2012. This improvement highlights Istanbul's potential to become one of the top 10 financial centers in the world.

As costs in Istanbul reflect the influx of FDI, investors have started exploring other cities such as Izmir, Ankara, and Bursa.

Measuring investment Risk

To some degree, Turkey still struggles with corruption allegations and occasional political turmoil, which raises investment risk. What factors should investors watch for?

Low domestic saving rate

In 2014, Turkey had the lowest savings rate among 14 large developing countries - currently equivalent to 12.6 per cent of its GDP. The reason is its huge current account deficit (CAD) which stood at USD70 billion in 2013. Turkey needs to ease overdependence on imports of investment goods to improve this.

Furthermore, the nation is highly dependent on international borrowing - any increase in borrowing rates is likely to have adverse effects on the country's economy. For instance, Turkish bank lenders suffered a substantial loss in May 2015 due to new reforms introduced by the government.

Inadequate Research and Development resources

Investors seeking to buy into innovation will have to look elsewhere, as Research and Development (R&D) capacity in Turkey is not very strong. The government has limited policies in place for research and development capacity building.

Political unrest

The political situation in Turkey has improved tremendously since the moderately Islamic AKP party came to power in 2002. The AKP government introduced several reforms such as the abolition of civilian-military courts, changes to the anti-terrorism law and greater empowerment of labor unions. However, the political instability in Turkey's direct neighbors still poses a threat to the stability of the economy. Turkey is right next door to civil-war-wracked Syria and Iraq. Within Turkey, tensions periodically flare up between the more religious supporters of the current Turkish government and secular Turks who are skeptical of the AKP.

Future outlook

Turkey's GDP growth rate is projected to remain steady at 3.6 per cent through 2016 - a far cry from the heady growth in its heyday, but still respectable for a middle-income country. Its liberal and attractive investment climate will continue to help Turkey to invest in sectors such as infrastructure, telecommunications and energy.

The government has set a goal of generating over USD250 billion in GDP by 2023 through investments in energy, transportation and information technology. Such projects are intended to attract big players to invest in the Turkish economy.

There is no doubt that Turkey is a large and important country that holds a great deal of promise as a market as well as an investment location. Its geographic location and skills base make it an excellent hub to export to the Middle East and Europe - and one that is deeply under-appreciated among the international business community. Turkey is an oasis of stability and development in a turbulent region of the world.

However to realize its full potential, Turkish policy makers need to put in place effective long-term institutions to protect its gains in attracting foreign investment. It also needs to address the problems of corruption and potential political divisions in the society between religious and secular Turks. Such divisions, if not addressed through strong, independent and fair institutions that command respect from all Turks, can lead to political instability of the sort that has plagued another middle-income country in the past decade, Thailand.
By Nidhi S Kumar

Why Do We Consume Luxury Goods, But Spend Little Time Enjoying Them?

It can be perceived that day by day, the number of populace investing in Luxury Goods/Services is cumulative. For example, if one was to observe posts on Instagram or Facebook, there would be an increasing number of designer handbags, luxurious meals and luxury cars to be seen. At the same time, it can also be observed that the usage of these products is significantly lower than depicted on social networks. So are people investing in luxury goods and services only for conspicuous consumption?

Conspicuous consumption is a term used to describe investment into luxury goods and services in order to display wealth, or economic power. Veblen (1899) came up with this term when introducing his concept of Veblen goods, which Luxury goods and services fall into. Veblen goods contradict the law of demand. The law of demand states that an increase in price leads to a decrease in quantity demanded. However the price and quantity demanded of Veblen Goods are directly proportional; an increase in price leads to an increase in quantity demanded, and a decrease in price leads to a decrease in quantity demanded.

The reason behind this links once again to the concept of conspicuous consumption. Individuals wish to be seen purchasing expensive goods, in order to appear as wealthier, or stand out by being able to access goods which are not simply accessible for everyone. The use of social media enables individuals to do this as they simply take a photograph of themselves and/or the luxury Veblen good, and display it on Instagram or Facebook for everyone to see. This provides them with the economic power they desire. Social Media has also been a cause of this emerging trend, as it has allowed people to create ideas on how certain goods can give individuals a certain image, and so people can be investing in goods simply to post images of them on social networks, and obtain a certain image within society.

The concept of Veblen Goods and Conspicuous Consumption can therefore be used to explain why individuals spend a prodigious amount of money on luxury goods and services, but spend diminutive time utilising them. It indicates that individuals are more interested in portraying their economic power publicly rather than for their own use. This phenomenon also reveals why an increase in price leads to an increase in demand for these goods, individuals who are able to invest in Veblen Goods are an exception to the general law of demand, in a way that they are more economically powerful, so as a result, achieve their desire of Conspicuous Consumption. By Kainat Ali

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