Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Review by Irv Rikon: The Comfort of Darkness at the Caldwell Theatre

Vienna, Austria, 1777. We meet Dr. Anton Mesmer as he attempts with his newly developed technique of "Animal Magnetism" to restore the sight of Maria-Theresa von Paradis, blind from the time she was three years old. From that flows the plot of Joel Gross' play, The Comfort of Darkness, being given its World Premiere production at THE CALDWELL THEATRE in Boca Raton.

The word "mesmerize" derives from Dr. Mesmer. Defined by my dictionary as "hypnotize" or "enthrall," in Mr. Gross' drama, the doctor does both. He hypnotizes the beautiful concert pianist, his patient, and she sees. She becomes so enthralled that she falls in loves with him, and he with her. But Dr. Mesmer has two big problems: His medical technique is controversial and unaccepted by the establishment of his day. His romantic technique is also controversial, for it has greater success. The doctor, it seems, is something of a womanizer.

The playwright follows these two paths somewhat unevenly. The professional aspect of Mesmer's life is emphasized in Act One. The consequences of his love life become the main subject of Act Two. Hypnotism and affecting a cure for a medical condition by that means are interesting and unusual theater subjects. The love affair is more conventional and unfortunately ultimately dominates the work. Also, a viewer at first likes the doctor for his bold theories but grows rather more to dislike him as the play moves along. Maria-Theresa is probably just as complicated a character as he; she is a professional pianist, a contemporary of Mozart, who is soon to perform in public. But Mesmer alternately blindfolds her and removes the blindfold -- She finds comfort in "The power of darkness" -- and we don't really know what motivates her to perform. Isn't she "driven" to do her thing the same way as Mesmer is driven to do his? Surely, there's much more substance to her being than the playwright reveals.

Onstage, we don't see Mesmer hypnotizing. We do see him waving his arms (animal magnetism) at her head prior to removing the blindfold. I think that the production misses something in not showing the act of hypnotizing, which certainly must have startled 18th-century people. Even today, if you've ever watched hypnotists at work, somehow putting people to sleep or in a dreamlike state and following his commands as he might give them, it's a fascinating sight. The drama of that is lost here. As part of my personal background, I was an eye doctor and happily helped people to gain better vision. But if vision is really poor and then suddenly corrected, the patient is thoroughly startled: a whole new experience is opening up for the individual. Some are very pleased by the change. Some are terribly, terribly fearful: The world of the imagination was safer than the real world. Again, that sense of challenge and Maria-Theresa's reaction to it is so understated as to be almost non-existent.

This is a good play about an interesting time and some of the people in it. But I'm positive it will be somewhat revised and improved, and my sneaking suspicion is it will make an even better shot-on-location movie. The four-person cast is sound. Stevie Ray Dallimore as Dr. Mesmer is believable. Kenneth Kay as Dr. Otto von Stoerk, Mesmer's close friend but also his severest critic, is ideal. Jessalyn Maguire as Maria-Theresa is effective, but alas for her, the role does not allow her to rise to dramatic heights. That largely holds true for Jane Courtney's Franzi, a rival love for Dr. Mesmer's affections.

Tim Bennett's set design is impeccable as always. The costumes designed by Alberto Arroyo are models of their kind. They should be award-winning. Clive Cholerton's direction is well constructed.

As noted, the production closes September 5. For tickets and additional information, telephone 877-245-7432 or online at

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ask - Before Purchasing a Condo

10 Questions You Must Ask Before Purchasing a Condominium Unit

To borrow from a famous phrase, not all condominiums are created equally. Some condominiums are very well run; some are quite poorly run and underfunded. Buyers interested in purchasing a condominium unit must do their homework: not only about the condition of the individual unit they are interested in purchasing, but on the financial health and governance of the condominium as a whole. Remember, you are buying into the entire project as much as you are the unit, and your decision will impact your daily living and your ability to re-sell.
Here are the 10 questions buyers should ask when deciding to purchase a condominium unit:
1. What is the monthly condominium fee and what does it pay for? The monthly condominium fee can range quite dramatically from condominium to condominium. The fee is a by-product of the number of units, the annual expenses to maintain the common area, whether the condo is professionally managed or self-managed, the age and condition of the project, and other variables such as litigation. For budgeting and financing you need to know the monthly fee and exactly what you are getting for it.
2. What are the condominium rules & regulations? Condominium rules can prohibit pets, your ability to rent out the unit, and perform renovations. Make sure you carefully review the rules and regulations before buying. Needless to say, the buyer's attorney should review and approval all condominium documents, including the master deed, declaration of trust/by-laws, covenants, unit deed and floor plans to ensure compliance with state condominium laws as well as Fannie Mae and FHA guidelines, as necessary.
3. How much money is in the capital reserve account and how much is funded annually? The capital reserve fund is like an insurance policy for the inevitable capital repairs every building requires. As a general rule, the fund should contain at least 10% of the annual revenue budget, and in the case of older projects, even more. If the capital reserve account is poorly funded, there is a higher risk of a special assessment. Get a copy of the last 2 years budget, the current reserve account funding level and any capital reserve study.
4. Are there any contemplated or pending special assessments? Special assessments are one time fees for capital improvements payable by every unit owner. You need to be aware if you are buying a special assessment along with your unit. It's a good idea to ask for the last 2 years of condominium meeting minutes to check what's been going on with the condominium.
5. Is there a professional management company or is the association self-managed? A professional management company, while an added cost, can add great value to a condominium with well run governance and management of common areas.
6. Is the condominium involved in any pending legal actions? Legal disputes between owners, with developers or with the association can signal trouble and a poorly run organization. Legal action equals attorneys’ fees which are payable out of the condominium budget and could result in a special assessment. In most states, you can run a search of the condominium association in the court database to check if they've been involved in recent lawsuits.
7. How many units are owner occupied? A large percentage of renters can create unwanted noise and neighbor issues. It can also raise re-sale and financing issues with the new Fannie Mae and FHA condominium regulations which limit owner-occupancy rates. If your buyer is using conventional financing, check if it is a Fannie Mae approved condo. If FHA financing, check if it's an FHA approved condo. (Thanks Lou Corcoran for the links)
8. What is the condominium fee delinquency rate? Again, a signal of financial trouble, and Fannie Mae and FHA want to see the rate at 15% or less.
9. Do unit owners have exclusive easements or right to use certain common areas such as porches, decks, storage spaces and parking spaces? Condominiums differ as to how they structure the “ownership” of certain amenities such as roof decks, porches, storage spaces and parking spaces. Sometimes, they are truly “deeded” with the unit, so the unit owner has sole responsibility for maintenance and repairs. Sometimes, they are common areas in which the unit owner has the exclusive right to use, but the maintenance and repair is left with the association. Review the Master Deed and Unit Deed on this one.
10. What Does The Master Insurance Policy Cover? The condominium should have up to $1M or more in coverage under their master condominium policy. For buyer's own protection, they should always buy an individual policy covering the interior and contents of the unit, because the master policy and condo by-laws may not cover all damage to their personal possessions and interior damage in case of a roof leak, water pipe burst or other problem arising from a common area element. Ask for a copy of the master insurance policy and don't forget to check the fine print of the by-laws. Sometimes, there's language that would hurt a unit owner in case of a common area casualty.
Often a standard condominium questionnaire will answer all or most of these questions. If not, be prepared to generate this list and incorporate it into your Offer to Purchase or Purchase and Sale Agreement, as the case may be in your home state.
Either way, do not put earnest money down until satisfactory answers are received. Good luck and happy condo hunting to you!
by Rich Vetstein 3/27/2010 · Condominium Law, Vetstein Law

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010




10/03 Sun 1:45PM VALENTINES DAY – Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Patrick Dempsey, Jamie Foxx
PG-13 125 Min

A love story, more or less. Intertwining couples and singles in Los Angeles break-up and make-up based on the pressures and expectations of Valentine's Day.

(continued from last month)

10/04 Mon 6:45PM TEMPLE GRANDIN – Claire Danes. Catherine O’Hara
10/05 Tue 1:45PM PG 108 Min

10/07 Thu 6:45PM What made her different made her exceptional. A biopic of Temple Grandin, 10/10 Sun 1:45PM an autistic woman who has become one of top scientists in humane livestock 10/11 Mon 6:45PM handling.

10/12 Tue 1:45PM CELINE: THROUGH THE EYES OF THE WORLD – Céline Dion, René Angelil, René-Charles

10/14 Thu 6:45PM PG 120 Min

10/17 Sun 1:45PM Go beyond the music. A documentary on Céline Dion's 2008-2009 Taking Chances

10/18 Mon 6:45PM world tour. This event gives Dion fans who attended the extremely popular tour – which

10/19 Tue 1:45PM placed Dion second only to Madonna in ticket sales in 2008 - another chance to experience

the magical event, this time from a vantage point unparalleled by any ticket.

10/21 Thu 6:45PM THE LAST SONG – Miley Cyrus, Greg Kinnear

10/24 Sun 1:45PM PG 107 Min

10/25 Mon 6:45PM Do you ever really forget your first heartbreak? A drama centered on a rebellious girl who

10/26 Tue 1:45PM is sent to a Southern beach town for the summer to stay with her father. Through their

10/28 Thu 6:45PM mutual love of music, the estranged duo learn to reconnect.

10/31 Sun 1:45PM KILLERS – Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Tom Selleck
PG-13 93 Min

One day is enough for you! A vacationing woman meets her ideal man, leading to a swift marriage. Back at home, however, their idyllic life is upset when they discover their

neighbors could be assassins who have been contracted to kill the couple.

(continued next month)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


UCO Open Meetings - Sept. 2010
Subject to change.

Sept. 01      Advisory       UCO       10:00am
Wednesday Sept. 08     Operations; W/O WPRF     UCO     9:30am
Dave Israel

Monday, August 9, 2010



Delegate Assembly, August 6, 2010.

Thanks to the Channel 63 Team for the Video.

Dave Israel

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Irv Rikon: Terrorists: What We Don't Understand About Them

Mohammed (571-632) to his followers was a merchant, statesman, warrior, social reformer and, above all, the Prophet to whom God spoke through the angel Gabriel the words that would become The Koran, the holy book of the Islamic religion founded by Mohammed himself.

The Prophet, however, did not designate a successor. When he died, the question arose, who will lead? Who will become the caliph of Islam? Mohammed had no sons, but his daughter Fatima had married a cousin of Mohammed, a man named Ali. Some said that he, the Prophet's son-in-law, should be caliph with all successors deriving from Mohammed's bloodline. Others disagreed: The caliph should be elected. The two groups almost at once split apart, those favoring Ali becoming Shiite Muslims, the others becoming Sunnis. Theological differences have over the years deepened the divisions, with co-religionists fighting each other, killing each other in the name of God.

Estimates hold that today roughly 75%-80% of Muslims are Sunni with perhaps 12%-15% being Shiite. There exist other minority and splinter groups. With regard to The Koran, its pages are often contradictory. One can find within it words of peace and conciliation, words of war and retribution. Similar contradictions are to be found in Jewish and Christian texts.

Once established in seventh century Arabia, the new religion spread quickly, Muslims converting both by conquest and the sword but also because countless people found God and comfort in Islam.

Damascus, Syria, formerly an Imperial Roman city, became the first great Islamic capital. (Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock is the earliest still-standing Islamic monument.) Baghdad, the next important capital and first major city built entirely by Muslims, was established in what is today Iraq. Arab armies moved on: Persia (Iran), Egypt and north Africa fell to them. They crossed the Mediterranean Sea, subduing parts of Spain.

But while Islam's fortunes were ascending, The West was descending. Europe had entered into "The Dark Ages." The Roman Empire, which included much of Europe and north Africa, at its zenith stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Caspian Sea. The Mediterranean Sea was a "Roman lake." What Rome didn't control in Europe it influenced. Yet in 476, the Empire fell to invading "barbarians," Europe then becoming a collection of tribes, large, small and bellicose, their origins mainly eastern. (Hence the term "Caucasians.") The continent's only unifying force was Christianity.

Christendom, however, was divided. The Roman Emperor Constantine in the 4th century had moved his capital from Rome to Constantinople (present-day Istanbul, in Turkey), Western Europe consequently developed a Roman culture, eastern Europe a Greek culture. Rome grew weaker, one reason being that Constantine had taken with him "the best and the brightest" to "the new Rome," which prospered and grew into the Byzantine Empire. Within Christianity, theological differences arose and became acute, reaching a climax in 1054, when the Roman (Catholic) Pope excommunicated the Greek (Orthodox) prelate.

Meanwhile, Arabic Muslims, formerly desert-dwellers now living in sophisticated cities, were rapidly absorbing the cultures and writings of the peoples under their rule. Their scholars (and Jewish scholars) translated into Arabic works written by Persians, Indians and Greeks. (The Roman Church had banned Greek learning, fearing it would lead Christians back to the deities of ancient Greece.) Medicine and science, primarily mathematics and astronomy, advanced. The arts: literature, painting and architecture flourished. It was a "Golden Age." Yet Islam and Christianity were on a collision course.

The year 1000 was a millennium year. Christians expected their Messiah to return, sparking a religious revival which grew throughout the eleventh century. Pilgrims in increasing numbers embarked upon a journey to "The Holy Land," Jerusalem and its environs. Sometimes they were attacked by Muslims. In 1095, Catholic Pope Urban II received an appeal from Byzantium. Its essence: "Muslim armies are threatening us. Help!" Byzantium and several Arab states had been mid-east rivals for some time, but Urban II seized the moment to declare a "Holy War" against Islam, its ultimate purpose to wrest The Holy Land from the "infidel" Muslim. Urban II did not use the word, but this was in fact history's first "Jihad."

An estimated 150,000 persons heeded the Papal call to join in the crusade. They came from all classes: clergy; royalty; aristocrats and knights; townspeople; feudal lords; peasants; serfs. They came with various motivations: to serve God; to gain glory or riches; to escape, to leave the land, its drudgery and pain inflicted by a society still living in an age of feudalism. Many were told that if they killed a Muslim in Jerusalem and died, they would go straight to heaven, an idea echoed today by Islamic suicide bombers.

In some places, the Crusaders evolved into ugly, uncontrollable rabble. Even before leaving Europe, in Germany and France (not yet countries), they slaughtered thousands of Jews, the first pogroms in history. They murdered fellow-Christians whom they regarded as heretics. But the worst was yet to come.

Joined by Byzantines in Constantinople, the Crusaders worked their way down the Mediterranean seacoast. In July 1099, they entered Jerusalem and took the city. They killed all Muslims they could find, including innocent men, women and children. They burned people alive, torturing many before putting them to death, including cutting off their limbs and heads, which were displayed on spikes to terrorize and intimidate others. Christian eyewitness accounts say that in two days 40,000 victims were slaughtered. Historians today regard this as the most horrific massacre ever. While Westerners have forgotten this episode, if even they knew it, Muslims still talk about it in schoolrooms. When Osama bin-Laden created Al-Qaeda, it was for the purpose, he said, of killing "Crusaders and Jews." To him, "Crusaders" was another word for "Christians," but whereas Mohammed had spoken of Christians and Jews as "People of the Book," to be treated respectfully, bin-Laden's history begins at the dawn of the twelfth century.

The First Crusade met with little resistance. Muslims from outside Jerusalem eventually came in large numbers to drive out the Christians and recover the ancient city. There would be many Crusades. In all, they lasted over 250 years, culminating in 1453 when the Seljuk Turks conquered Byzantium and made its capital of Constantinople their own. Muslims controlled "The Holy Land" until the end of World One, the League of Nations in 1918 giving to Great Britain and France a "Mandate" over much of the Near East, which had become part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

Although Christians failed in their quest to occupy Jerusalem for all time, it cannot be said that they lost The Crusades. They defeated Muslim armies in Spain ("The Western Crusade"), ended what they perceived to be Christian heresy in France ("The Albigensian Crusade"), and converted "pagans" in northeast Europe ("The Northern Crusades"). All were bloody military affairs. Yet their main victories were not won on European battlefields.

By mid-fifteenth century, much of Europe had begun to climb out of feudalism. Markets had been established outside churches and castle walls. Small market towns were growing into larger cities.

There was urban development and, even, capitalism. Some Crusader expeditions, especially those undertaken on the Mediterranean Sea, had been financed by private contributors. The Bavarian banking and coal-mining Fugger family is usually cited as example. Europe was fast becoming mercantile. Its merchants and bankers would in time compete with and often surpass churches and monarchs in wealth, prestige and power.

Much of Europe's revival was due to the Crusaders and to The Renaissance (fourteenth through seventeenth centuries) that followed. When they had been east, Crusaders were struck by what they encountered there. So many writings, including Greek learning, their rightful heritage as Westerners, had long been denied them even as these works had been translated into Arabic! They were struck by the beauty and vitality of some of the cities and, even, by things sold in the marketplace: fruits previously unknown to them, silks and, particularly, the spices which had been imported from further east, distant India and Indonesia. They brought home what they could, in their arms, in their heads. What they couldn't bring in quantity, mainly those spices, they coveted.

The Protestant Reformation, scientific development and the great European voyages of discovery were all components of the Renaissance. The ancient Greeks had prized individuality. That attitude now surfaced among religious reformers, Martin Luther among them. Denouncing certain Catholic Church abuses, Luther told his followers to read The Bible (Guttenberg's printing press appeared the same time as he) and to interpret Biblical meaning for themselves. (Protestant versus Catholic is not the issue here. Erasmus led a counter-Reformation effectively stating the case for Catholicism.) But consider Luther's actions. He challenged the Church and some who served it. Consider his words: If you can read Holy Writ for yourself and are free to interpret it, you can challenge God's servants on earth and in essence even challenge God. If you can do that, you can question any human authority, not just submit and do as you are told. Islam has historically not undergone a Reformation.

Compare contemporary American thinking with today's Taliban. Americans believe in universal education. Its colleges and universities have more female than male students taking courses in the professions. Most American men treat women respectfully and regard them as peers. The Taliban torture and kill girls who wish to learn. What they do not realize is that at some point Taliban men will cohabit with women. Their children will grow up to be half a person because the mothers who nurture and raise them are denied access to schools that would help to make them and their families whole. Educated women contribute to the enhancement and advancement of civilization.

The great voyages of discovery grew out of European desire to reach the far east, where the spices were. Travel overland was not easy: Desert Muslims could attack. What if they went by sea? What if the world wasn't flat and people didn't fall off the edge when they reached it? What if, as Columbus insisted, the world was round? The Portuguese and the Spanish decided to find out. So they built sturdy cargo ships, invented scientific instruments to help them navigate in uncharted waters and produced powerful cannon to fight potential enemies. The voyagers found out. Columbus, de Gama and others, especially Magellan, who lost four ships and his own life in the world's oceans, but whose one remaining vessel circumvented the globe and limped back to port, proved that the world was round, discovered that the east could be reached by sailing west.

Muslims had long sailed the Indian Ocean to trade with India, even, China. (Think "Sinbad the Sailor.") They tried to stop the Westerners, who soon included the Dutch, French and British. But the Westerners continued to build better ships and cannon. They were also better organized and fired with the Greek spirit of adventure and exploration: Homer's seafaring heroes of The Odyssey and The Iliad were again their heritage. Yet events went beyond mere adventure. The Europeans defeated Muslims in battles fought overseas and eventually became the colonialists and imperialists of much of the earth. Directly controlling or just trading with the east, Westerners effectively marginalized the Arabs, whose own lands came to be ruled by a Muslim Empire, that of the Ottoman Turks.

In 1683, the Turks, their Empire extending into the Balkans, made a bold effort to conquer central Europe and laid siege to the city of Vienna for 58 days. They finally retreated after facing a Polish-German counter-attack and torrential rains which mired their heavy cannons in the mud.

Arabs/Muslims have long speculated as to why Europeans came to dominate the globe and they did not. During the Crusades and after, the West wanted to do business with the East, but Muslims blocked the land routes and largely monopolized trade. Had they offered to act as middle-man between east and west, transporting goods at low prices, Europeans might possibly have accepted a deal. They feared the oceans, not only falling off the flat earth, but in their own limited sailings down the African coast, knew it got hotter the farther south they went. Surely they were headed for hell?! Insofar as is known, no offer was made. Europeans finally sailed to the southern tip of Africa and well beyond. An echo of this tale is to be seen today. Arabs sit on most of the world's oil reserves. They have kept prices high when they might have lowered them and become an integral part of the international community. Now the West is turning "green" (if belatedly) and will discover alternate sources of energy.

In 1859, the same year oil was discovered in Pennsylvania, construction was begun on the Suez Canal, bringing Europeans in large numbers back to the Near East. Americans had preceded them, having come to Syria/Lebanon some three decades earlier. These arrivals were missionaries, Catholic and Protestant, who at first competed for converts. They found a neglected society, its people poorly educated, not very fluent in their own Arabic language. Religion aside, they had compassion and took it upon themselves to teach the populace all manner of subjects. In time, the American University in Beirut would open to become for more than a century the premier institution of higher learning in the Near East. All this spurred what Arabs refer to as "The Arab Awakening," a realization of their heritage and of possibilities open to them. It marked the beginnings of Arab nationalism.

World War One (1914-1918) accelerated the process. Arabs/Muslims had no prior history of fighting for freedom, liberty, self-rule. The Israelite Exodus from ancient Egypt appears to be the first such recorded event and is repeated in the Apocrypha story of the Maccabees (celebrated as Chanukah). Rebellions against the Roman Empire had occurred among Jews, the English, the Germans and in Rome itself (Spartacus). All became a part of Western tradition. Now, encouraged by the West to throw off the Turkish yoke, Arabs fought against the Ottoman Empire. But to their dismay, they were betrayed by the British and French who, granted a "Mandate" to rule over most of The Near East by the League of Nations, maintained effective control until the end of World War Two (1939-1945), when the Empires lacked the strength and/or the will to go on. (The Soviet Empire, the last empire, would collapse several decades later.)

In 1948, the new United Nations established a Jewish State of Israel, which many Muslims viewed as an act of neo-colonialism. Since then, Israel has been used a scapegoat for many Arab ills. (Israel's population and land area are too small to pose a threat to Muslims.)

In 2008, my partner and I journeyed to the lands of the Near East (Iran, Syria, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Oman) to see for ourselves what life was like in the Muslim heartland. What we gleaned is that today's Islam is not monolithic. No two of these societies are the same nor do they practice their faith in the same way. Nor are they necessarily the same people. Most are Arabs, but Iranians are Indo-Europeans coming out of the Persian tradition; Turks are racially Turkomans, but western Turkey's origins are Greek and, before that, Hittite; Kurds (living in Iran, Turkey and Iraq) are racially Indo-Europeans.

Dubai is particularly interesting. Instead of blocking trade and visitors, Dubai's leaders realized that their little country stood roughly midway between Europe and India. They decided to make their nation a kind of grand bazaar, with huge modern malls selling goods from all over the world and, in addition, to turn the land into a tourist paradise. This is of course a complete reversal of Islamic history, but it's worked so well for Dubai that other Arab Emirates and even Saudi Arabia are emulating it. Abu Dhabi is striving to be a general world culture center. Its Cultural District will house a branch of Paris's Louvre Museum in 2012. The Guggenheim Museum will follow a year later. A major concert hall is likewise due. All the Emirates are liberalizing their educational systems.

As for Al Qaeda and the Taliban, both must be perceived as Islamic splinter groups whose interpretation of Islam is far removed from the mainstream. But they are violent and pose very real threats to Western and other civilizations. Their ranks will continue to swell as long as they are persuaded that Westerners kill Muslims. It just isn't so. (See my earlier article, Terrorists, Part One: What They Don't Understand About Us.)

A few final words on the Prophet Mohammed: After his beloved wife Khadija died, he married multiple times. One of his wives was Jewish. One was Christian.

Irv Rikon: Terrorists: What They Don't Understand About Us

One day in 1970, I was in Kandahar, Afghanistan, playing a game of chess with a Kuwaiti gentleman as several onlookers watched. I had come overland by bus from Peshawar, Pakistan, across the Khyber Pass to Kabul, Afghanistan's capital city, then driven on to Kandahar and later would cross the Afghan border into Iran. The bus was full and remained so throughout my journey. All the passengers but myself were Near Eastern Muslims: Afghans, Iranians, Jordanians, Palestinians. Only two spoke English, the aforementioned Kuwaiti and an Afghan university student, who sat beside me and translated for me as I was peppered by people whose natural curiosity impelled them to ask who I was, where I was going, what my country was like, and so on. In general, all these people took me under wing, mostly treating me as a guest, insisting that I stay with them in their hotel of choice and eating with them where they ate. Our chess game was played in the restaurant kitchen of the hotel in which we stayed in Kandahar.

One observer was a restaurant waiter, who spoke English and clearly did not like me, probably because I was an American. During the game, as he and I were politely speaking, he turned to his Swedish-made refrigerator-freezer. "This is brand new. We just got it." He sneered: "Does your country have anything like this?" "Yes, we do," I told him, but I was not sure he believed me. And I thought to myself, he doesn't understand us, anything about us.

The subject in the kitchen changed, but another incident aboard the bus reinforced my thought. Americans had just made their first moon landing. It was a hot topic on the bus, but all who spoke about it expressed doubt that it had ever happened. The consensus: We had sent an airplane aloft and photographed the landing as it took place somewhere in the American desert. How could I convince them the story our government was telling the world was fact?

A light-bulb went off in my head. "Isn't it true," I asked, "that the Prophet Mohammed was illiterate?" "Yes," came the answer. "Isn't it true that he wrote the Koran?" "Yes." "Isn't it also true that he ascended into Heaven and returned to earth." "Yes!" "So," I continued, "it's also true that a very well educated, highly disciplined and motivated group of Americans flew to the moon and returned!" "I won't translate that last part," the university student said. "They'll kill you!"

I wasn't trying to be irreverent or disrespectful of the Prophet, whom I actually do respect and admire for the many things he said and accomplished. Mohammed wasn't — isn't — worshiped as God by his followers in the manner Christians worship Jesus Christ. Rather, Mohammed is perceived as the last of the great Prophets, but a man. The point I was hoping to make to this busload of believers was that in America there were likewise believers, men who, working harmoniously together and greatly motivated, had produced a miracle even as Mohammed had done. We are all human. Many are believers. With God's help, we are all capable of performing miracles. Yet that never got translated, and until now I've told this story only to two or three people.

Exactly forty years have passed since my time in Kandahar which, ironically as I write this, our government has announced to the world our armed forces are planning to invade for the reason it's regarded as an Al-Qaeda-Taliban stronghold, the place where the Taliban began.

But the invasion won't turn the tide. Even if we capture the city with a minimum loss of lives on both sides, the terrorists still won't understand us except as their enemy. We can try to rebuild Kandahar and all of Afghanistan, but the Taliban will claim that we are neo-colonialists attempting to re-make the world in our image. They will do this with considerable effect, thanks to the technologies of the modern era, the internet, the cell phone and such. They can easily communicate across the globe and persuade others who incline anyway to feel as they do that we are an occupying army, because to them, we are.

What has failed us is not our military forces, who are doing exactly that which we ask of them under horrific circumstances. Rather, we have failed ourselves for not showing the world the best of what we are, probably because we've largely taken it for granted, forgotten it or not informed our new immigrants of the beauties, wonders and, yes, the truths of this great land we call America.

We do believe in people, as well as in God. We're not a theocracy or a dictatorship. The Preamble to our Constitution begins with the words, "We, the People." Our Declaration of Independence declares, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights — that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

By contrast, the word "Islam" means "submit." A Muslim is one who submits. It's all right to submit to God: I've no objection to that. But in practice, following World War Two, when Muslim masses gained independence from foreign colonialists, they submitted to dictatorships, oligarchs, charismatic military and theocratic leaders: strong-men all. But then they turned around and blamed us — the West, especially the United States — for their problems. We became their scapegoats.

And even when they see something of what we are, they don't understand it. Laura and I just recently were in Sydney, Australia, which at the present time, I regard as the world's most beautiful big city. On the waterfront is a huge park and botanical garden, and the same sign is posted throughout the park: "Please walk on the grass, smell the flowers, hug the trees, talk to the birds." We did all of that, but how lovely, how democratic, how people-oriented!

Yet the Sunday edition of Sydney's main newspaper carried the story of a terrorist, born in Australia, the son of Lebanese immigrants, who was planning to blow up an important Sydney building. He was a "home-grown" terrorist, that is to say, one who had been radicalized in Australia. When the authorities, who luckily apprehended him in time to prevent damage, tried to determine the reason behind his thinking, they found that his religious leader had said, "They're killing Muslims." Such thinking and such influences are also behind the would-be American Times Square bomber. "They're killing Muslims."

What they haven't been given to understand by us is that we don't kill Muslims. We seek to destroy evil when and where we perceive it. We fought evil-doers in World War Two, most of whom were Christian in fact. Going back in time, even though some of us we were holders of slaves, others came to see that this was morally wrong, and eventually a civil war was fought — Christian against Christian — over this very issue, a war that resulted in the elimination of slave-trading and slavery, at least in our own country. We invaded Muslim territory only after we were attacked on 9/11/01, a new "Day of Infamy." It's evil that we fight, and not innocent people who are, despite our sincerest wishes and fervent prayers, caught in harm's way, but we've got to make them understand that. Are we perfect? No, definitely not. But most of us strive to be good. And that should be understood.

Coming Next: Terrorists, Part Two: What We Don't Understand About Them.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

SCAMS of 2010 - Ken Burr - PBSO

Elderly Crime and

Fraud Prevention

By: Detective Ken Burr - PBSO

SCAMS of 2010

These include scams which can go under the name of genuine lotteries like the UK National Lottery and the El Gordo Spanish lottery. Unsolicited email or telephone calls tell people they are being entered or have already been entered into a prize draw.
Later, they receive a call congratulating them on winning a substantial prize in a national lottery. But before they can claim their prize, they are told they must send money to pay for administration fees and taxes. The prize, of course, does not exist. No genuine lottery asks for money to pay fees or notifies it's winners via email.

2. INTERNET AUCTION FRAUDS - Auction frauds (commonly called Ebay or PayPal scams, after the two largest venues) is a misrepresentation of a product advertised for sale through an Internet auction site or the failure to deliver products purchased through an Internet auction site.


These frauds take the form of an offer, via letter, e-mail or fax, to share a huge sum of money in return for using the recipient's bank account to transfer of the money out of the country. The perpetrators will often then use the bank account details to empty their victim's bank account. Often, they convince the victim that money is needed up front, to pay fees or is needed to bribe officials.


The victim receives an email that appears to be from a credible, real bank or credit card company, with links to a website and a request to update account information. But the website and email are fakes, made to look like the real website.


Get rich scheme and scam websites - Make $$$ in your spare time! It so EASY once you get their free book or cd and learn their secrets! Sure ... These websites are themselves scams; claiming to offer you a good deal, when at best, their products are worthless, they have no real secrets, and worse, some are identity thieves!


You receive a check in the mail - either from a lottery you "won" (without buying a ticket) or from an EBay buyer or other source. It looks real. .. but after you try to cash it, you find out it is a fake; and you're arrested for passing a counterfeit check! Read more about scam checks on this page and here about the EBay check scam.


What a scam this one is! The name of the website is, but you'll only get a credit report when you sign up for their paid service. And worst of all there IS a government mandated website where you CAN get a free credit report!

The Federal Trade Commission, the nation's consumer protection agency, will tell you that there is only one authorized website where you can request a free credit report under U.S. federal law. This is due to a recent amendment to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requiring each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion - to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. AnnualCreditReport. com


Work-at-home and business opportunity scams are often advertised as paid work from home. After the would-be worker applies, they are asked for money up-front to pay for materials and, after paying, they hear nothing back.


"MAKE MONEY NOW!" scream their websites! And do it in your spare time! Earn big bucks for almost no work. If that isn't enough to tell you it is a scam, let us explain why it is. These schemes are promoted through websites offering expensive electronic gadgets as free gifts in return for spending about $25 on an inexpensive product, such as a mobile phone signal booster.,

Consumers who buy the product then join a waiting list to receive their free gift. The person at the top of the list receives his/her gift only after a prescribed number of new members join up. The majority of those on the list will never receive the item.

Pyramid schemes offer a return on a financial investment based on the number of new recruits to the scheme. Investors are misled about the likely returns.


Investors attend a free presentation, which aims to persuade them to hand over large amounts of money to enroll on a course promising to make them a successful property dealer, usually involving "no money down".

Schemes can involve the offer of buying yet-to-be built properties at a discount. Other variations include a buy-to-lease scheme where companies offer to source, renovate and manage properties, claiming good returns from rental income. The properties are generally near-derelict and the tenants non-existent.


Postal notification of a win in a sweepstake or a holiday offer in this scam include instructions to ring a premium rate number. This is generally an 900 toll number. Calls to the number incur significant charges, the recorded message is lengthy, and the prize often does not exist.


Dave Israel

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