Monday, April 22, 2019

As a New Week Dawns....

It was quite a weekend that began with celebrating Earth Day at the Niguel Botannical Preseve:



I joined the Orange County Boy Scouts as work was done on the Trail To Eagle--it is always a joy to be witness to such selfless commitment to service.     I also worked on projects for the Daily Outsider which I hope all visitors enjoy that will be available throughout the week.     Easter Sunday began, though, with attending Easter Mass and thereafter joining the family for an Easter Brunch.    It was quite a tragic weekend, too, as the bombing in Sri Lanka left over 200 dead--I remain optimistic and upbeat in spite of it all as I say Onward!!!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

On the Eve of Easter Week-End: Some #RandomThoughts

It is Easter Week-End.  For me, it begin with an evening of Service Thursday Night at Aliso Niguel High School as I assisted with staffing the Traffic Safety Workshop and continued on Friday with a morning of service at St. Timothy's Parish before getting back to work working on Projects in support of the Daily Outsider.   I decided to go dark for Easter Week-End as Earth Day 2019 is also celebrated in Laguna Niguel as I close out with these Random Thoughts: 





Happy Easter, Happy Passover and Happy Earth Day!!!


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Out & About w/Brief Mid-Week #RandomThoughts


I have been seeing the reports out of Iran regarding the floods and the numbers are just absolutely horrific--for instance, the headline (although in farsi) reflects as of this clip I picked up some 12,000 Kil (almost 25 thousand miles)--which corresponds to almost 70 percent of the roads in the Country.   What was emblematic was how the Governor of Khuzestan in Southern Iran told off a victim of the floods--and although the Interior Minister ordered the victim to be "consoled", it underscores the total lack of regard shown in the aftermath of this horrific disaster.      

Beyond the horrors of Iran, there are the horrors of the future.   I picked this up from Fortune--and what is so unfortunate and sad is how such is not the focus in the United States as the World is marching on--if only America had a President that understood the magnitutde of the challenge instead of claiming "the Country is full":

Eye on A.I.
Eye on A.I.

APRIL 9, 2019
Chinese tech giants Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent are rapidly improving their artificial intelligence, challenging current U.S. tech leaders like Google and Amazon.
China’s so-called BAT companies, as New York University business professor and futurist Amy Webb calls them in her latest book, The Big Nine, get a big boost from their government’s funding and tech-friendly policies. Government support has helped embed the BAT companies’ technologies across China, in everything from mobile messaging and e-commerce, to digital payments and health care.
In an interview with Fortune, Webb contrasted the relationship between China’s government and that country’s A.I. titans with their U.S counterparts and the Trump Administration. In short, the gap is huge—and it could have profound implications for the U.S. economy.
The White House and Pentagon have “very little understanding of what A.I. actually is and how it actually works,” Webb says, mincing few words. This hamstrings the U.S. government from implementing A.I. policies similar to China’s that are aimed at creating a skilled workforce.
In China, some grade school children are taught A.I.’s fundamentals. In the U.S., well, not so much.
Meanwhile, some U.S. tech workers are at war with their government, exemplified by Google’s employees protesting the search giant’s military contracts that involve A.I. The tensions, Webb says, make it more difficult for the U.S. government to harness the best A.I. technology.
Her remedy is for U.S. tech companies to be more transparent about their government work. The more secretive they are the more they breed distrust.
At the same time, U.S. political leaders like Sen. Elizabeth Warren increasingly criticize the tech industry while accusing them of potential anti-trust violations. It’s a sharp contrast to China, where corporations and government work together, including on luring back U.S. educated Chinese techies to work for Chinese companies.
In China, “nobody is going to be using their political campaigns to point fingers to garner votes,” Webb says.
Eventually, she expects China to ingrain itself more into the economies of other countries, giving its BAT companies greater business access. Italy’s recent decision to participate in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, intended to spread Chinese infrastructure and products worldwide, foreshadows things to come.
For example, China could encourage developing countries to adopt aspects of its A.I.-powered social credit system, a controversial approach to giving individual citizens the equivalent of Yelp scores that factor into everything from getting loans to being able to travel. It may not be this year or the next year, Webb says, but perhaps 10 years from now, eventually weakening the U.S. government and the influence of U.S. tech companies worldwide.
“I think democracy is at stake—I’m not joking,” Webb says. “I think our way of living is at stake and the future of how we do business globally is at stake.”
Jonathan Vanian
@JonathanVanianjonathan.vanian@fortune.com


Sunday, April 7, 2019

#RandomThoughts While out & about.....

I was witness to Democracy once again as I had the pleasure to serve in the Special Elections.   This update I got was quite exciting about how Voters continue to be empowered through the innovative thinking by our local Registrar of Voters:


It is this along with the continued opportunity stay engaged that sustains my sense of hope--up and including the opportunity I had to serve as Principal for the Day at the John Malcolm School in Laguna Niguel to understand the challenges of our public schools.   But such hope has been tempered by the biblical storms in Iran--that continues right now and how Government continues to fail and fail miserably--the news is just tragic and distressing as Water continues to makes its' way down south.  Some 400,000 people are in the path of the floods and the reporting from the VOA's Radio Farda has been tough to listen to. 

As  I was pleased to see how the International Committee of the Red Cross Red Crescent Society underscored how there was no prohibition against helping.     I released this courtesy of Tavana--sometimes images are worth trillions of tweets and words:


Remaining Hopeful especially as I caught these on how selfless souls are stepping up everywhere throughout the drought areas:

An Army Colonel on his knees deep in Water helping the Elderly get on the Truck to Evacuate 

A Pediatrician Who Volunteered to Serve in the drought stricken area and serve in the Field Hospital




Thursday, April 4, 2019

Out & About w/Brief Thoughts re #IranFloods & Other Thoughts

It is not easy to be really upbeat as I captured scenes from my forays over the Social Grid over the past two weeks as Iran grappled with the floods of biblical Proportions--a danger that still persists: 



Add caption



  I was also so glad to see how the lies by Regime officials was dispelled forcefully by the Red Cross/Red Crescent Society and the State Department in spite of my reservations about their recent pronouncements on the effect of the Sanctions.  One of the leading opposition figures in the United States, Mohsen Sazegara, advised on his daily broadcast that he had paid a personal visit to the State Department and was assured there was on prohibition in this regard.

Iranian Civil Organizations are spearheading a fundraiser--which I had the pleasure to contribute to--as I note this from my Facebook Page--as my son beautifully noted, every little bit helps:

I would just note: #WeWillReClaimIran!!!  

PS-This update is also worth noting from the Center For  Human Rights in Iran that underscores the critical nature of the continued challenge faced in Iran right now:


US, Iran and EU Must All Take Steps to Ensure International Aid Reaches Iran Floods Victims​

US Sanctions and Iranian Mismanagement Preventing Critically Needed Aid
April 4, 2019 –The US and EU should immediately take steps to ensure that Iran receives humanitarian aid to assist disaster relief efforts in the wake of devastating floods that have killed dozens and caused millions of dollars of damage to homes and infrastructure, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said in a statement today.
Further, the Iranian government must ensure that the aid is effectively and evenly distributed, with full financial transparency.
“While the Iranian people are dealing with the devastation caused by more than two weeks of flash flooding, the authorities in Iran cast blame, the US issues empty declarations of support, and the EU has so far been unable to deliver tangible humanitarian support,” said CHRI’s Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi.
“Lives are being lost; it is urgent for all parties to ensure that political disputes do not impede Iranians’ access to full and effective disaster relief,” Ghaemi added.
On April 3, 2019, Ahmad Shojaei, the head of Iran’s state-funded Medical Forensic Organization, reported that 62 people had died so far as a result of flooding that began in Iran on March 19 and has since affected 23 of the country’s 31 provinces.
The hardest-hit provinces are in south and central Iran, including Fars, Isfahan and Lorestan, though provinces in the north including Golestan and Mazandaran were also affected. The governor of Khuzestan Province had declared a state of emergency after flooding swallowed buildings and bridges in his region on March 31.
Disaster relief efforts in the wake of the floods have been hindered on many fronts. While humanitarian trade is permitted under US sanctions, US secondary sanctions affecting international banking transactions have made many banks reluctant to handle even permissible trade with Iran.
On April 2, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “The United States stands ready to assist and contribute to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which would then direct the money through the Iranian Red Crescent for relief.”
But Iranian officials have stated that Iran has been unable to receive aid due to US sanctions.
Yet sanctions are not the only issue affecting Iran. The country’s refusal to comply with international banking standards has resulted in many international banks refusing to handle allowable financial transactions related to Iran.
“For banks, it’s not just about being sanctioned for dealing with Iran,” said Erich Ferrari, an expert on US economic sanctions and export controls. “By working with Iran, they open themselves up to a host of issues and scrutiny. For example, they could be penalized or scrutinized by their regulators for not having sufficient anti-money laundering controls in place.”
The EU set up the Special Purpose Vehicle after the US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal and reinstatement of US sanctions specifically to enable financial transactions for permissible humanitarian trade with Iran. But so far the mechanism has been beset with logistical problems and has not yet become operational.
Meanwhile, the Iranian government has been harshly criticized inside Iran for its mismanagement, in terms of preventative flood measures that should have been instituted, early warnings and notifications as the floods began to hit, and continued disaster relief efforts.
Iran’s refusal so far to adhere to international banking standards has only added to the country’s difficulties and financial isolation.
Call to the US Government:
The US Treasury should publicly and explicitly issue a statement that addresses ambiguities regarding sanctions compliance and fears regarding US penalties. It should emphasize that trade with Iran in humanitarian and essential goods such as foods, medicines and supplies are exempt from sanctions and permissible, and state which unsanctioned banks are permitted to handle such trade.
Call to the Iranian Government:
The authorities in Iran should designate a financial channel to handle transactions that complies with international banking standards, ensure humanitarian aid is distributed effectively and transparently beginning with the regions hardest-hit by the floods, and implement mechanisms to ensure human rights are not violated during relief efforts.
Call to the European Union:
The EU should urgently accelerate the process of implementing its Special Purpose Vehicle, allowing it to assume the role it was designed for, namely, to enable financial transactions for permissible humanitarian trade with Iran.
The quandary facing the Iranian people, who have played no role in Iran’s ongoing political disputes, is reflected in a statement by the head of the International Red Cross: “In many places across the world, the space for impartial humanitarian action is under threat. Human dignity is disregarded, the applicability of the law is questioned, and humanitarian aid is politicized and deliberately hijacked for political gain or the control of populations.”