Archive for the ‘the places I would like to go’ Category

Iran adopts low profile on Scottish independence   no comments

Posted at 12:51 am in the places I would like to go

As the future of the United Kingdom hangs in the balance, one country that could be expected to champion the cause of Scottish independence has remained surprisingly quiet on the issue.

Unlike other major countries, the Islamic Republic of Iran has resisted declaring a position or even an official opinion on the issue of Scottish independence. In view of the centuries old volatile Anglo-Iranian relations and the Iranian establishment’s deep-rooted Anglophobia, it is indeed surprising that the Islamic Republic hasn’t publicly relished the prospect of constitutional chaos on the British Isles.

This position (or lack thereof) can be partly explained by the pragmatism of the Iranian foreign policy establishment. As an opponent of British foreign policy, Iran desires a weaker United Kingdom on the global stage, but Iranian leaders are likely not entirely convinced that Scottish independence will necessarily deliver that outcome.

Moreover, as a multi-national state, Iran is not naturally well-disposed toward separatist movements for fear they may set an inspirational or rebellious example to Iran’s own separatist groups.

Beyond foreign policy and strategic issues, Iranian policy makers are also likely concerned by the potential repercussions of Scottish independence within the polity and society of the remaining UK. There is a fear that a rising tide of English nationalism, or even at best a retreat into “little England” mentality, may adversely affect the UK’s Iranian and broader Muslim communities.

Striking back at the UK

The official silence hasn’t stopped Iranian online news and analysis sites, especially those linked to hardliners, and associated social media platforms from vocally and at times provocatively supporting the cause of Scottish independence.

The opinions expressed on social media depict the referendum in simple terms by reducing the independence cause to a revolt against English “colonialism.” Anti-British Iranian bloggers often depict Scotland as England’s “first” colony and paint the three hundred year union of England and Scotland as an act of subjugation, which in spirit, if not substance, is consistent with the UK’s broader colonial heritage.

These expressions of acrimony are rooted in Iranian perceptions of the UK’s interventionist role in Iranian affairs beginning in the early 19th century and culminating in the early 1950s. Iranian Anglophobia is unique both by its depth and by its endurance.

Public opinion coincides with establishment views and aspirations on the perceived opportunities resulting from a potentially weakened United Kingdom. Some Iranian social media posts have expressed a belief that Scottish secession will automatically weaken the remaining UK in all spheres thereby eroding Britain’s influence on the world stage. 

Notwithstanding the fact that the Iranian establishment does not disagree with the historical foundations of popular Anglophobia, but more relevant to the establishment is the UK’s contemporary policy toward Iran and her allies. For example, there is widespread anger at the UK’s perceived interference in internal Iranian affairs, specifically at the broadcasting content of the BBC Persian service and UK support for selected dissidents. 

There is undoubtedly a privately expressed hope in some quarters of the establishment to the effect that constitutional chaos on the British Isles will lead to a significant erosion of remaining UK political, strategic, diplomatic and even economic capacity, thereby blunting the effect of established UK positions on major global issues and trends.

In so far as the Iranian establishment views the UK as an important enabler of American policies on the global stage, some Iranian leaders and officials may be privately hoping that a weakened UK will in the long run blunt US resolve. This would therefore make it easier for Iran to achieve its core strategic objective, namely the expulsion of the United States from the Middle East.

Pragmatism Prevails

Privately expressed hopes and aspirations – even at the highest levels of government – do not of course necessarily translate to official positions. It is to some extent a credit to Iran’s dense policy making apparatus that it can resist considerable popular and establishment prejudices and pressure to arrive at a position that is most in line with the national interest. On this issue, that position appears to be neutrality on the question of Scottish independence.

Although purely speculative, what is likely to have taken place over the course of the past 24 months is a careful study of the issue of Scottish independence and its ramifications by the Iranian foreign policy establishment. The experts are likely to have arrived at the conclusion that Scottish secession is unlikely to weaken or modify British positions on issues that impact Iranian national security and interests.

The Islamic Republic does not fear the UK’s military and associated capability. On the contrary, it has every confidence it can defeat the UK in any Middle Eastern arena, most recently in southern Iraq where Iranian support for Shiite militias (2003-2008) was crucial in scuppering British plans in the area.

What Iran fears most is the UK acting as a force multiplier for US diplomatic and other soft power capabilities in the region. From the Iranian point of view at least, this unique British role and capability is unlikely to be affected or modified in the event of Scottish secession.

Beyond these core issues, Iran like other countries with restive minorities, does not view the extended referendum debate and campaign (much of which was conducted in good spirits) in favourable terms. If Scotland walks away from the United Kingdom in a legal, considered, and civilised manner, then that may well set a precedent for other separatist causes around the world. Countries like Iran and Spain will not appreciate this precedent.

Finally, the Islamic Republic will be worried about a tide of Islamophobia and racism sweeping across the remaining UK, particularly in England where there is considerable potential for ugly nationalism. There is a sizeable Iranian community across the UK and there is a well -founded fear in Tehran that even relatively mild forms of English nationalism and expressions of “little” England mentality will adversely affect the economic, cultural and even possibly physical well-being of this community.  

 Mahan Abedin is an analyst of Iranian politics. He is the director of the research group Dysart Consulting.  

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh on 18 September, 2014 (AFP)         

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Written by enfoquec on September 19th, 2014

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The secret world of the Dunkin’ Donuts franchise kings   no comments

Posted at 12:51 am in the places I would like to go

This article is featured in the Sept. 21 issue of the Magazine.

FOR EVIDENCE THAT Fitzgerald was right about the very rich being different from you and me, pull your car up to the swanky Boston Harbor Hotel. Be sure to stop at the main entrance rather than trying to save a few bucks by descending into the concrete underworld of self-parking. As you hand the valet your keys, glance over your shoulder to see how the 1 percenters do it. Driving their six-figure rides right onto the brick pavement outside the front door, they toss the valet their keys, although they know that’s probably unnecessary. Their Bentleys and Benzes will remain exactly where they left them in line. It’s a shining emblem of affluence that simultaneously buffs the hotel’s exclusive image and protects the showpieces from the paint-scratching menaces underground.

On a Wednesday afternoon in August, the row of luxury cars includes a Range Rover, a tricked-out Cadillac Escalade, and a $250,000 Bentley. And there are clues that reveal their owners’ surprising source of wealth. The black Bentley’s plates read DD 2222, and the cream-colored Escalade has two thin racing stripes in orange and pink, accented by a tiny icon of a foam cup labeled DD. Making it even clearer is the lead vehicle in the row, the comparatively low-rent Chevy Tahoe SUV (whose owner had chosen on this day to leave his Ferrari at home). The Tahoe’s plates spell it out: DUNKIN. Capitalism, it seems, runs on it.

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For 60 years, owning a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise or two has been the elevator that legions of hard-working strivers have used to lift themselves up out of the ranks of factory workers and into the realm of, if not the rich, at least the pretty comfortable. But even if most regular Joes waiting in drive-through lines have no idea, the Dunkin’ franchisee landscape has been shifting dramatically. As New England’s beloved brand aggressively expands and the price of admission for franchising continues to climb, ever-growing franchisee networks are crowding out the moms and pops. More and more, the elevator is traveling only to the penthouse.

One of the most important shapers of this new landscape is sitting inside the hotel, plotting his next conquest over a detailed map of Florida. Mark Cafua, owner of the Tahoe, is a 40-year-old with light, bright eyes and dark, thinning hair. He pinches a few inches from his stomach to demonstrate his affection for the product. “I like to eat too much,” he says.

Most of Dunkin’s 7,800 US shops look alike, but they’re owned by about 1,000 franchisees who pay fees each month to their franchisor, Canton-based Dunkin’ Brands. Cafua’s Portuguese parents bought their first shop when he was 5, standing him atop two milk crates so he could reach the cash register. Today, the family’s empire encompasses nearly 300 stores, with another 50-plus in development or under agreement, making it the nation’s largest privately held Dunkin’ franchisee network. (Roughly 500 Dunkin’ outlets in gas stations are owned and operated by Hess, a publicly traded corporation.)

After some cajoling, Cafua reports that his family’s private firm, Methuen-based Cafua Management Co., grosses more than $250 million a year. Yet every day he wakes up hungry for more expansion. Now the king of Dunkin’ franchisees has shifted his focus to Florida. He’s completing a 30-store buy there, with plans to double that collection over the next couple of years.

The man who is helping him make these acquisitions is the owner of the Range Rover parked outside. Gary Joyal, who also keeps a $300,000-plus Rolls-Royce at home in Plymouth, is a tall, blond 49-year-old, with a strong chin and a physique crafted by two hours a day of cardio and weights. He allows himself four hours for sleep, then works basically the rest of the time, using his Bluetooth earpiece to convert even his strides through hotel lobbies into productivity. I had earlier seen him trade a fist bump with Cafua after he ended a Bluetooth call with the announcement that he had just persuaded a reluctant owner to sell Cafua five more Florida stores.

Joyal started his climb immediately after graduating from high school in Plymouth, taking a job as a life insurance salesman that found him knocking on doors to collect $1.40 premiums. But three decades later, he has become a Zelig of the Dunkin’ world, one with a fondness for custom Astor Black suits and mint tea, which Boston Harbor Hotel employees make sure to have waiting when he arrives. Even though Joyal has no affiliation with the corporate brand, he uses his encyclopedic knowledge of franchisees — and often their family situations, income portfolios, and estate plans — to make himself an indispensable player for buyers and sellers alike. By his tally, he’s helped broker half a billion dollars’ worth of Dunkin’ deals.

On this day, at the same time one of Joyal’s deputies is working a deal in the hotel restaurant with a franchisee from Tennessee, Joyal is orchestrating a sit-down between Cafua and a new, deep-pocketed entrant into the Dunkin’ world, Dan Fireman. The private equity firm run by Fireman and his father, Paul — the billionaire founder of Reebok International — earlier this year bought 38 Dunkin’ shops in southern Florida, in territory bordering Cafua’s new stores. For a sneaker guy like Dan Fireman, the previous six months have been an initiation into the pennies-matter world of Dunkin’. For instance, cups cost the operation about 7 cents, so when clerks double them up to protect a customer’s fingertips rather than use a 3-cent protective sleeve, that 4-cent differential quickly turns into serious waste. Joyal had met Fireman just once before, but now he greets him with the familiarity of an old high school teammate. Squeezing Fireman’s biceps, he says, “You’re looking fit! You working your tri’s? Your bi’s?”

Fireman smiles, noting that he’s lost 20 pounds on a new diet where he has liquid meals until dinner.

With that, Joyal gets down to the day’s business. “We have a sandbox we’ve got to divide up.”

Ken Richardson

Gary Joyal, a wildly successful franchise broker, and Mark Cafua, whose family owns the largest privately held network of Dunkin’s in the United States.

LEADING ME AROUND his Methuen headquarters, Mark Cafua ushers me into a small, first-floor room with a coded lock on the door. The room is dark, offering only a dim blue light that reflects off his face. “This,” he announces, “is the money room.” It doesn’t look like much — just several stacks of computer servers, some blue and gray wires, and tiny flashing lights. But those servers are what he uses to connect his sprawling network of stores and central baking facilities.

Cafua is well known among franchisees, even if he tries in other ways to keep a low profile. His headquarters is housed in a tan office building offering no mention of either the Cafua or Dunkin’ name. But for those who know what to look for, there are hints about what happens here. On the plaza’s shared sign, there are entries for two construction and site work companies, called St. Miguel and Azores. The island of Sao Miguel in the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores is the ancestral home of the Cafuas. Because the Cafuas also own these two companies, they are able to build their own stores, saving them time and money.

Cafua leads me into another locked room, this one designed for loss prevention. Soon, he says, they’ll have technology allowing staff to zoom in the security cameras at any one of their shops. Sixty percent of sales at Cafua’s stores are cash, a setup ripe for employee theft. Cafua doesn’t accept that as a cost of doing business.

Among the data points that his accounting department pores over is the number of no-sales rung up on the registers, a signal that the counter help may be reaching into the cash drawer for reasons unrelated to a sale. Also available are algorithms that identify troubling patterns, such as employees who ring up lots of single-munchkin purchases, which can be cross-checked against surveillance camera footage to see if the customer is actually buying — and being charged for — a dozen and the staff is pocketing the difference. “This is a pennies business, so we take theft very seriously,” Cafua says.

On the second floor, I sit down with Cafua’s CFO, Chris Kennedy. When Kennedy joined the operation five years ago, it wholly owned 130 Dunkin’ franchises. That number has spiked to 215 (around 300 when stores that Cafua owns with partners are included). Cafua is not about to stop there. He expects his buying and building spree to result in dozens more Dunkin’ shops in coming months.

Kennedy’s job, in part, is to integrate all the new franchises into the family and, at times, make sure they don’t chase growth recklessly. Right now, they’ve got slightly more than 4,000 employees, with about 20 more added every time they buy or open a store. When Obamacare’s employer mandate takes effect next year, Kennedy will have to find a way to help fund health insurance for a whole lot more of them.

On his oversized computer monitor, Kennedy calls up a spreadsheet that displays a blizzard of data for every one of the Cafua shops. The network’s best-performing stores rake in more than $40,000 a week, the lowest about $4,000. In the previous week, the stores had collectively rung up $4.1 million, a big number that is the sum of a lot of little numbers — the average sale was $4.39. In this business, Kennedy says, “you have to make four million bucks on four-dollar tickets.” When he worked in the front office at Legal Sea Foods, the average check was about five times larger.

Kennedy’s spreadsheet also tracks waste. Since its founding, Dunkin’ has boasted that its coffee is made fresh at least every 18 minutes, even if that requires full pots to be poured down the drain. Although I’ve noticed that policy is unevenly enforced at Dunkin’ stores, Cafua says his shops abide by it. But like his mother before him, he takes it personally when his staffers make pots too liberally. “It’s a sin to waste coffee,” he says. That’s especially true this year, after a drought in Brazil drove up wholesale prices for coffee by some 20 percent.

Cafua runs the business with his brothers, 37-year-old twins David and Gregory. When their parents retired to Florida seven years ago, Mark took over as CEO. To avoid the troubles that can divide family businesses when they pass to the next generation, however, their father created a structure where the sons do not report to one another. Gregory focuses more on the financial side and David on operations, which had been a specialty of their mother, Gilda, before her retirement. Kennedy says the arrangement works well even though, in many ways, hard-charging Mark, who often sends him e-mails at 2 in the morning, “functions as CEO, CFO, and COO.”

Passing by David’s office, Cafua asks about the status of their latest new store, scheduled to open that day in Windham, New Hampshire. That’s the town where Cafua, who is the divorced father of 18-year-old triplets, lives. (He is now engaged to a woman who works in his human resources department.) He was particularly piqued when officials in his hometown denied his request to have a drive-through, a decision that he says will clip sales by about 25 percent from day one. He vows to keep pressing the drive-through issue until he gets his way. “We’ll eventually get it,” he says. “It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when.”

Ken Richardson

By his tally, Gary Joyal has helped broker half a billion dollars’ worth of Dunkin’ deals.

The report comes back that the building inspector is taking his time to give them their occupancy permit, so the opening will probably have to wait a few more days. “This part drives me crazy,” Cafua says as we continue into his corner office. He may own the biggest collection of Dunkin’s in the nation, but the price of expansion often involves enduring grinding small-town bureaucracy. In Stoneham and Burlington, he says, cracking open a can of diet Sunkist, “it took me eight years to get stores permitted.” A delay like that could bankrupt a smaller franchisee, but Cafua can afford to cool his heels, buying up stores elsewhere as he waits for a particular planning or zoning board to blink or an election to broom away a vocal critic.

Occasionally, his voracious appetite for new outlets in unusual places has gotten him into trouble. In South Portland, Maine, his purchase of a Catholic church with plans to raze it for a new shop caused a ruckus with residents that is still simmering. He has similar plans for a church in Pittsfield. The joke about Dunkin’ being considered a religion in New England, critics suggest, wasn’t meant to be taken literally.

And in Laconia, New Hampshire, his plans to raze the historic Hathaway House, a stately but sagging structure built in 1872, set off a bitter fight that has raged for 14 years, even spurring the creation of the town’s Heritage Commission. Dorothy Duffy, a 79-year-old lifelong Laconia resident and a member of that commission, accuses officials with Cafua’s company of being “deceitful.” She says they reneged on earlier promises not to demolish the building and then let it fall into further disrepair, making its fate all but inevitable. “We call it planned deterioration,” she says.

Cafua rejects Duffy’s accusation with a roll of his eyes. At one point, he says, a different activist argued that the building couldn’t be torn down because a ghost believed to be living in it would have nowhere to go. The ghost will have to find alternate accommodations, though. The town finally granted him a demolition permit in August. (As of press time, the Hathaway House and the churches were still standing.)

Cafua has several reasons for shifting his focus to Florida, not the least of which is the fact that historic preservation in that state pretty much means picking the proper hue of blue when repainting the spires on Cinderella’s castle. It’s also a far less saturated market than southern New England, with just one Dunkin’ for every 27,000 people, compared with this region, where that figure is closer to 1 for every 5,000.

Another important reason: Cafua’s father, Fernando, doesn’t golf. Since retiring with his wife to Palm Beach Gardens, the man who started the Cafua empire has kept busy doing what he did before retirement — driving around to identify ideal Dunkin’ locations. Every month, Cafua hops a flight to Florida, and he and his dad go on their version of a hunting trip. They’re in the car by 7 a.m., their laps covered with marked-up maps, real estate listings, and traffic studies. They’ll keep going until 9 at night, compiling a development prospect sheet that Mark Cafua will then turn over to his managers.

The biggest fish, like the Cafuas, know that the real money doesn’t come from selling donuts or even coffee. It comes from owning the land under those orange-and-pink signs.

Mario Anzuoni/REUTERS

The undercaffeinated masses line up outside Dunkin’s new Santa Monica, California, shop on September 2.

THE MAN WHOSE family originally brought Cafua’s father into the Dunkin’ business and who also was responsible for opening the DD door for Gary Joyal is now retired. But you’d never know it from the way his eyes perpetually patrol the Braintree shop where I meet him for coffee. Tony Andrade, who is 71, arrives in his white golf vest, fresh from a round he had played at the private club in Sandwich he co-owns with, among others, Bobby Orr. He doesn’t own this store anymore, but old habits die hard. During a break in our conversation, he summons a worker to chide him for not wiping down a nearby table.

Andrade once owned 36 Dunkin’s and a long inventory of real estate holdings that gave him a net worth that he says was “way more than $50 million.” That was before he started selling off stores so he could turn over a more manageable portfolio to his son and daughter. He knew they had little interest in having Dunkin’ consume their lives the way it had his.

He ended up turning over 11 stores to his kids, one in Abington and 10 in Braintree. Why had he opened so many in just one town? Partly, it was a function of different traffic patterns — the Dunkin’ formula is all about making it easy for customers to get to several shops in the course of their day. And part of it was defensive, to keep competitors off his turf. If you’re going to have a store cut into your business, Andrade tells me, it’s better if it’s yours.

Any cut in his business, though, couldn’t have been much. “This store here,” he tells me, pronouncing the word like stow-ah, “does $2.5 million in business a year.” When he bought it, he could fit only a short drive-through lane that was forever backing a line of cars out into the street. So he bought the house behind the store and redrew the drive-through lane around it. The new line accommodates up to 30 cars — the kind of ample “stack” that is critical to keeping a drive-through running efficiently. “People are lazy,” he says. “They don’t want to get out of their cars.”

Although Andrade sold off the bulk of his stores, he kept the real estate. A few lessons in Dunkinomics and it becomes clear why. Lots of Dunkin’ leases are structured as “triple net.” That means the tenant (in this case, the franchisee) pays for everything — utilities, snowplowing, replacing the roof, even real estate taxes. If the tenant doesn’t do a good job with upkeep of the property, the Dunkin’ brand — not the landlord — is the one that plays the heavy. (As part of their agreement with the Dunkin’ brand, franchisees are required to keep up the condition of their stores.) All the landlord has to do is sit back and collect, usually 10 percent of that store’s gross sales for the month. When this Braintree store rakes in $2.5 million a year, Andrade collects $250,000 without having to lift a finger. “Real estate and Dunkin’ Donuts,” he says, “is a perfect match.”

Pros like the Cafuas mastered the real estate side of the business early on, following a path blazed decades earlier by the Andrades. In 1960, at the age of 17, Tony Andrade left his village of Vila Franca on Sao Miguel in the Azores and came to Boston, taking a job at a furniture factory. His older brother Manny was already here. Manny worked in Rhode Island for Dunkin’, which had been founded in Quincy in 1950 and within a few years had adopted the franchise approach being pioneered by McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken. By the end of the 1960s, Manny bought his first Dunkin’ store and, in 1975, Tony followed suit with a shop in Holbrook. Before long, they each owned multiple stores and had brought other various brothers, brothers-in-law, and cousins into the business.

Then, when they ran out of relatives, the Andrades brought in others from their native village of Vila Franca. Tony would pick one of his hardworking employees and sell him a franchise, loaning him the money through a 10-year mortgage. He’d work out the math so the former worker could make a decent salary in addition to covering all his costs, including making his note payments with interest to Andrade. After busting his butt for 10 years, the former employee would own an investment that today is worth $1 million or more.

At one point, the number of stores owned by the Andrades or people they had brought into the business topped 400 (though they never functioned as a single entity). And almost all of these owners could trace their roots back to Vila Franca. That includes Mark Cafua’s father, who was a baker for Tony Andrade’s brother-in-law (though the two families no longer have any business relationships). Cafua says by his count more than half of the nation’s 10 largest Dunkin’ franchisees are Portuguese families with Azorean roots.

In the early 1990s, as Tony Andrade continued to grow his Dunkin’ and real estate empire, he found himself getting nonstop calls from a man selling life insurance. Gary Joyal had heard about Andrade and had sensed he would be a good client, though he had no idea how good.

One day, Joyal got directly through to Andrade. He asked if he could meet with him to review his life insurance policies. Andrade was tempted to hang up, but he knew that this was an area of his life he had neglected. And he knew if he didn’t meet with Joyal, the guy would never stop calling.

The two men made for an unlikely pair. Andrade is short, with an Old World sensibility that borders on a kids-these-days crankiness. Joyal, who comes from French Canadian stock, is tall, flashy, and sunny enough to refer to strangers as “my friend.” Yet both, as it turned out, shared a searing drive to be successful. Both were motivated by the slights they suffered from people who didn’t take them seriously. (Each separately recounted for me in exquisite detail the embarrassment and anger he felt when he applied for his first mortgage and the bank denied him. Granted, Joyal made his mortgage application to build a house while he was a senior in high school.)

And both had come from nothing. Andrade, who splits his time between Osterville and Florida, first arrived from the Azores with only the hundred dollars his father had given him. Joyal, who owns trophy homes on a golf course in Boca Raton and on the water in Plymouth, grew up in a family of limited means, led by an exceedingly frugal father.

He and his older siblings were required to pay room and board, to use the outdoor shower right up until winter, and to shovel out the septic tank when it got full. “We were allowed to go out to eat once a month,” he says, for breakfast at a local diner after church. And there were rules, including no ordering of bacon or drinks. The family of six brought along a jug of orange juice, which they had made from frozen concentrate at home. “That stays with you,” Joyal says.

Andrade saw something of a kindred spirit in Joyal. Before long, Andrade wasn’t just letting the younger man handle his estate planning. He was opening the door for him to meet lots of the people Andrade had brought into the Dunkin’ world. Joyal then used his hustle and savvy to convert those introductions into new clients, building his business brick by brick, medium regular by medium regular.

The Dunkin’ Diaspora

A state-by-state breakdown of the number of Dunkin’ Donuts shops across the United States, as of December 2013.

DATA: Dunkin’ Brands Group, noting these are the most recent state-by-state figures available

Chiqui Esteban / Globe Staff

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Written by enfoquec on September 19th, 2014

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City joins world day of peace   no comments

Posted at 12:51 am in the places I would like to go
FLASHBACK: John Maihi performs a blessing at the Handspan sculpture on the International Day of Peace in 2009.

United Nations International Day of Peace will be celebrated in Wanganui and around the world on Sunday, September 21.
This year’s theme is “Right of Peoples to Peace”.
As in previous years Peace Through Unity (OPTU) and the Wanganui branch of United Nations Australia and New Zealand (UNANZ) have worked together with other local groups and individuals to make the day a meaningful and memorable event.
Midday, at the Handspan sculpture: Rain or shine, leaders of different faiths and members of the community will meet at Handspan, in Queen’s Park, to link – in prayers, chants, song and in silence – with people throughout the world, who are also meeting at midday (local time) pledging to work together across all borders for peace and non-violence for the children of the world.
4.30-7pm, at The Alexander Heritage and Research Library: Members of the Whanganui community will come together to discuss what “right to peace” could mean, to our own community as well as to our global neighbourhood.
After the karakia by kaumatua John Maihi and prayer by Jonathan Hartfield, the Mayor, Annette Main, will open the meeting, which will mention all UN member nations, including Palestine, asking that peace will prevail in each and all.
The three panel speakers are David James (training and practice in Treaty of Waitangi issues, conflict management and mediation), Jenny Saywood (restorative practices) and Justin Frewen (UN consultant with long experience in working on a wide range of development and humanitarian projects in many countries, including the Middle East, Africa, and US).
The panel will explore:
¦How does the “right of peoples to peace” relate to right-issues within their particular area of expertise?
¦How can we co-operate better as a community to practise this right to peace in all relationships?
Facilitator Jillian Wychel will help formulate some outcome proposals from the discussion.
Members of the Wanganui Youth Council will kick-start the general discussion with thoughts and suggestions specifically important to them.
There will be musical interludes which will include the Richdale Esemble, and Meg Hartfield will read her poetry, written especially for this year’s International Day of Peace.
Light refreshments (organised by Ailsa Stewart and Diane Paterson) will be served at the end of the meeting.
Designer of the programme for this year is Tim Morrell.


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Written by enfoquec on September 19th, 2014

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I am a Palestinian, I am gay   no comments

Posted at 12:41 am in the places I would like to go

Written by enfoquec on September 17th, 2014

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Australian troops leave for the Middle East   no comments

Posted at 12:40 am in the places I would like to go

The first Australian troops have reportedly left for the Middle East as part of the deployment to combat Islamic state terrorists.

A contingent of special forces soldiers reportedly flew out in secret yesterday from the Richmond RAAF base, according to the Daily Telegraph.

But Australia’s presence in the Middle East is fuelling concerns it may make Australians a target while holidaying abroad.

Bali police say they know of no plan to attack the holiday island but they are increasing vigilance as Islamic State (IS) ideology creeps into Indonesia.

Bali police spokesman Hery Wiyanto says there is no information that terrorists are planning another bombing like those that killed 88 Australians in 2002 and four in 2005.

‘So far, there’s no plan we’ve heard of, whether through intelligence or from (Indonesia’s counter-terror squad) Detachment 88,’ he said.

‘Nevertheless, we’re being cautious.’

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has reportedly ordered authorities to keep a closer eye on foreign nationals in Indonesia after Detachment 88 on Saturday arrested four foreigners suspected of having IS links in a known terror hotspot in central Sulawesi.

The four were first thought to be Turkish but are reportedly Uighurs from China’s restive Xinjiang region who were using forged passports.

Mr Hery says so many foreigners enter Bali daily, ‘it’s impossible to observe them one by one’.

‘It’s difficult, but we have co-ordinated with immigration to check documents more thoroughly, and in hotels we are also doing the same.’

Meanwhile, police in Central Java have tightened security measures at the world famous Borobudur Temple after a threat, apparently inspired by IS, was found on Facebook last month.

The Buddhist monument, a UNESCO world heritage site, was targeted by radicals in 1985.

Meanwhile, concerns are growing that Australia may be inadvertently helping to arm a group it has labelled as terrorists in the fight against Islamic State extremists in Iraq.

The group, known as the PKK or Kurdistan Workers Party, has been designated a terrorist group by Australia since December 2005.

However Fairfax Media reports the PKK is now working closely with Kurdish Peshmerga forces, who are being armed by Australia and other nations working to defeat the IS extremist group.

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Written by enfoquec on September 17th, 2014

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5 overlooked world treasures   no comments

Posted at 12:40 am in the places I would like to go

What a veteran traveler you are.

You’ve already hiked up to Machu Picchu and climbed up and down the thousands of stairs of the Great Wall of China. We bet you’ve also stood awestruck before the Hagia Sofia and the Taj Majal.

You’re a regular Tony Wheeler, who co-founded Lonely Planet travel company more than 40 years ago. Like you, he’s visited most of the world’s major wonders of the world and almost everything else worth seeing.

Wheeler and fellow world explorer Vince Michael, head of the Global Heritage Fund, are always looking for hidden places to discover. By all means, they say, visit Angkor Wat and the Hagia Sophia. Go there and check them off your bucket list.

But don’t you want to explore places everyone hasn’t already seen? That’s why CNN asked Michael and Wheeler, a Global Heritage Fund board member, to pick some hidden gems to explore. These are spots where we hope you won’t always share your trip with thousands of other travelers.

“Who hasn’t seen pictures and read about Angkor Wat in Cambodia?” Wheeler told CNN. “But Banteay Chhmar? It’s an unknown, and discovering an unknown is always a delight.

“Ditto for the Taj Mahal in India. Nobody’s disappointed when they see the Taj for the first time, but they’ve seen pictures of it. It’s popped up in TV programs and movies so often, that actually seeing it is no surprise. Hampi, however, is going to be totally unexpected.”

Let the crowds swarm the world’s best-known marvels. The lesser-known Global Heritage Fund sites below can be found in the same countries — without the crowds. And two spots are still on Wheeler’s bucket list.

That’s right: Even the co-founder of Lonely Planet hasn’t yet been to these picks in India and Peru. Maybe you can beat him there.

Some of the more undiscovered spots require long and bumpy bus rides through the mountains, while others are located near luxury hotels. No matter which you choose, they will knock your (hiking) boots off.

Pingyao Ancient City, China

Called the “Long Wall of Ten Thousand Li” in China, the more than 20,000-kilometer Great Wall was built from the third century B.C. to the 17th century A.D. on China’s northern border and is the world’s largest military structure.

Prefer to see a more complete picture of ancient Chinese life? Book a high-speed rail train ticket and take the 700-kilometer (435-mile) journey southwest from Beijing to Pingyao in just four hours. (The regular train trip can take anywhere from 10 to 14 hours.)

Pingyao Ancient City is a stunning Han Chinese city from the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911). Nearly 400 of the 4,000 existing Ming- and Qing-era courtyard buildings are still intact, as is a 6-kilometer city wall. The city was a center for China’s banking industry in the 19th and 20th centuries, and some of the imposing buildings are evidence of the city’s wealth.

“Pingyao is such a magical place given the incredible urbanization in Beijing and Shanghai and the fact that every other Chinese city has lost its wall,” says Michael. “You really feel like you have stepped into the past.”

Chavin de Huantar, Peru

Many visitors to Peru fly into Lima and hop on a quick flight to Cuzco to explore the 15th century Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, perhaps the most stunning structure standing from the Inca empire.

How about a site a few centuries older? One of the oldest cultures in Peru, Chavin de Huantar was a pan-Andean culture that thrived in the location of the same name between 1500 B.C. and 400 B.C. some 3,180 meters above sea level.

The Chavin archaeological site, located about 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Lima, seems to have been a religious and ceremonial pilgrimage center for the pre-Columbian Andean religious world.

“It is distinguished by a highly organized platform-mound-and-plaza architecture that includes precocious use of finely cut and worked stone facades as well as an intricate, graphic, baroque and instantly recognizable ‘art’ style executed in stone, pottery, bone, shell and gold,” says Michael. “It also represents one of the earliest manifestations of Shamanism, where power was legitimized through a belief in the small elite having a divine connection.”

“The monumental center of Chavin itself was clearly a very significant place, and its elaborate architecture places it among the most impressive temples of its time, anywhere in the world.”

Take an eight-hour bus ride from Lima to the northern town of Huaraz, and it’s another bumpy three-to-four hour bus ride from Huaraz to Chavin.

Catalhoyuk, Turkey

Part of Istanbul’s distinct skyline, the Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) cathedral currently standing opened in the 6th century A.D. and is where rulers of the East Roman Empire were crowned.

We prefer to explore Catalhoyuk, a 700-kilometer drive south from Istanbul, where lovers of ancient civilizations can find one of the earliest known towns in the world.

Catalhoyuk is a nearly 10,000-year-old example of a well-preserved Neolithic town, showing how humans moved into sedentary life, organized themselves and developed a culture. It contains some of the world’s earliest known mural art and is considered central to the origin of civilization in the Middle East.

It’s an ancient agricultural community rather than a big site of temples, palaces and streets lined with columns, “plus hardly any visitors,” says Wheeler. “Unlike the better known Greek and Roman sites of Turkey, this place is a bit of a mystery.”

While the houses have evidence of lovely art and sculpture, the homes themselves are made of unfired mud brick and present a challenge for conservationists.

Hampi, India

One of the most well-known and admired structures and examples of Indo-Islamic architecture in the world, the Taj Mahal is a marble mausoleum built in the 17th century by the Mughal emperor in memory of a beloved wife.

A site of equal interest lies in the south of India at Hampi, the last capital of the last Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagar. A six-hour drive from Goa or Bangalore, Hampi was conquered by the Deccan Muslim confederacy in 1565 and plundered before it was abandoned.

Still standing are several temples, including the Krishna temple complex, the Chandramauleshwar Temple and the temples of Ramachandra and Hazara Rama. There are also hundreds of other remains on the site, including stables, water structures, shrines and royal complexes.

“Hampi is a stunning complex of magnificent temples and other structures set along a dramatic riverine site,” says Michael, calling it “a dramatic testament to one of the earth’s oldest civilizations.”

Banteay Chhmar, Cambodia

The temple of Angkor Wat is the best-known site at Cambodia’s Angkor archaeological site, which also has the remains of several different capitals of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 15th centuries.

Lesser known but rich in archaeological ruins, the temple complex of Banteay Chhmar (the Citadel of the Cats) in the northeast corner of Cambodia was commissioned by Khmer King Jayavarman VII (1181 A.D. -1219 A.D.).

A three-hour drive from Angkor Wat, it’s well-known for bas reliefs documenting the period’s history. Looters got to many bas reliefs and other art in the 1990s, and the Global Heritage Fund wants to preserve the remaining art and the central temple complex and aid the local community in developing tourism.

This is really “a ‘wow’ site,” says Wheeler. It has “all the attractions from huge stone faces to intricately carved bas reliefs that you find at the crowded Angkor sites and no crowds at all.”

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Written by enfoquec on September 17th, 2014

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Kingdom’s diversification aims to increase intra-regional trade   no comments

Posted at 12:11 am in the places I would like to go

Although Saudi Arabia is the Middle East’s largest goods exporter, accounting for a third of total goods exported in 2013, only 5.3 percent of these were destined for other nations within the region, according to a new report by ICAEW.
According to Economic Insight: Middle East Q3, 2014, the GCC nations are leading the region’s current rail and aviation investment boom as they race to encourage more cross-border trade and address increasing congestion issues in the face of rampant population growth and rapidly-developing tourism markets.
Saudi Arabia is leading the charge with investment plans worth $45 billion in a bid to boost freight and passenger capacity, followed by Qatar and the UAE with investment plans worth $37 billion and $22 billion respectively.
The planned GCC Railway, a 2,177 km project, which will link the networks of the six GCC countries, represents the most ambitious aspect of the region’s railway infrastructure plans. With the Middle East set to become one of the world’s most important aviation centers, expansion of airports in all the major GCC cities has also become a priority.
Saudi Arabia’s plans include the North South Railway linking the capital with mining centers near the Jordanian border and ports on the Gulf, and the Landbridge freight link connecting the Kingdom’s east and west coasts and enabling fast cargo shipments between the Gulf and the Red Sea.
The GCC’s huge infrastructure pipeline is expected to see transport and logistics sectors play an increasingly important role in the region’s economies. They should start to generate significant value from these fixed assets in the form of efficient supply chains, delivery of goods and personnel across borders and supporting the activities of the travel and tourism industries. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman will likely net the biggest windfalls, with logistics forecast to contribute 13.6 percent, 12.1 percent, 11.7 percent and 11.7 percent to their respective economies by 2018.
“While Saudi Arabia currently has some of the lowest levels of intra-regional trade of all the GCC nations, exporting marginally more than Kuwait and Qatar, this situation is expected to change significantly when the Kingdom’s rail and airport projects come online. This diversification will provide a necessary boost to the Kingdom’s nonoil sectors and reduce its dependency on hydrocarbons,” said Michael Armstrong FCA, ICAEW regional director for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA).
While the GCC’s goods trade integration lags behind other regions in the world, free trade policies, continued minimization of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade and transport infrastructure will help foster deeper intra-regional trade links. Currently, Saudi Arabia is the least open trade market in the GCC, scoring 74 percent on the Heritage Foundation’s Trade Freedom Index.
“With global oil prices forecast to fall over the medium-term as global supply increases, the need for economic diversification is becoming more pressing for the GCC countries. Saudi’s huge investment in regional transport and logistics networks should pay off and contribute to stronger growth. However, attention is also needed on trade reforms that will enable greater integration with regional and international markets,” said Charles Davis, director, Centre for Economics and Business Research.
With extensive infrastructure investment and fiscal expansion set to continue in Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom’s GDP is expected to grow 4.3 percent in 2014 and rising to 4.4 percent next year, according to the report.
Real GDP in the UAE is expected to increase by 4.7 percent, with the pace of growth set to decelerate marginally in 2015-2016. This is due to nonoil activities driving job creation and growth.

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Written by enfoquec on September 15th, 2014

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