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Archive for October, 2008

Sometimes Untraditional, Counter-Intuitive Career Goals Are Best

This week I was in Detroit for the Public Relations Society of America 2008 International Conference where there was a lot of talk about social networking, blogging and the changing landscape of communications in America. So I thought I’d share with you some of the career advice offered by the speakers. Penelope Trunk, a career columnist for the Boston Globe, and author of “Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success” offered these tips for navigating today’s workplace. Warning: some of her untraditional, counter-intuitive ideas that may shock you.

1. Money doesn’t equal happiness. We all know that, just look at the divorce rate in Hollywood, but a decent pay check sure makes it a whole lot easier to pay the bills and get a good night’s sleep.

2. Focus on optimism. “Anybody can switch their optimism around by changing daily things that they do,” she said. That’s a better route than saying, “My life sucks, so I need a new job.” She continued: “The key thing about increasing your happiness is your sex life. It has nothing to do with your job. As long as your job is OK, then you should focus on your sex life.”

3. Mentoring is the new currency. Keep your learning curve steep. One way to do that is find a mentor. Everyone needs one no matter where they are in their career. Even those of you who are about to embark on a Second Act need the guidance of someone who has made the transition before.

4. Job Hop. No, it’s not a misprint and I don’t agree. Trunk advocates changing jobs as soon as your learning curve flattens. She says young people get that and are not afraid to make the leap. She cited statistics that workers ages 18-30 last in a job an average of 18 months. “This means they’re building their skill set really fast. They’re more engaged. They’re building their networking faster.” That may sound good to an audience of 25 year olds, but the fact of the matter is many companies still frown on job hopping. I am working with a client right now that wants to set a limit for the number of job changes they will accept from prospective candidates.

5. Breaks are good. “The people who have no breaks in their resume are the people who don’t take any time to think about what they are doing,” Trunk said. “So everybody should cultivate some breaks in their career. It makes you look more thoughtful.” I think that depends on how long the break last. As a recruiter, I need to explain a gap in a resume. My advice: find some consulting work while you are contemplating your next career move.

6. Think about writing a blog. Blogs are a tool for career stability. They allow you to take control of your personal brand. People who are willing to put out their ideas are engaging. Blogs are also a hunting ground for thought leaders in various professions.

7. Office politics are nice. They are an inescapable part of work life. Putting your head down and doing your work is a good way to ensure that you don’t connect with anyone, Trunk said. “People who do office politics best are the people who sit back and look around to see who needs help…and what their own skill set is to help them.” I like this idea. We all have to play the game. If you think that just doing good work will result in a promotion, guess again. Connect with the stakeholders in your organization, find out what matters to them and figure out how you can contribute to their end goal.

8. Everyone is in PR. “You can’t associate yourself with your corporate brand all the time. You have to associate yourself with what you stand for, what you believe in, and how you generate ideas. You have to define your brand for people, so they know how to connect with you.”


Son Of Ex-Liberian Leader Convicted Of Torture And Atrocities Overseas

Like father, like son.

MIAMI (AP) — A federal jury on Thursday convicted the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor in the first case brought under a 1994 U.S. law allowing prosecution for torture and atrocities committed overseas.
Charles McArthur Emmanuel, also known as Charles ”Chuckie” Taylor Jr., was convicted of torture, firearms and conspiracy charges on the second day of jury deliberations. He faces life in prison, with sentencing set for Jan. 9.
Prosecutors said the 31-year-old Emmanuel was involved in killings and torture as head of an elite Antiterrorist Unit in his father’s government also known as the ”Demon Forces.” From 1999 to 2002, Emmanuel’s job was to use his paramilitary soldiers to silence opposition to Taylor and train soldiers for conflict in neighboring African countries, according to trial testimony.
Charles Taylor is on trial before a United Nations tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for allegedly overseeing the murder, rape and mutilation of thousands of people during Sierra Leone’s bloody 10-year civil war.
For Full Story

‘Black Mafia Family’ Drug Gang Members Sentenced In Atlanta

The vicious drug gang that started in Detroit and spread its tentacles around the country, peddled drugs and violence.

By Rhonda Cook
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
ATLANTA — Nine members of the Black Mafia Family were sentenced to prison Wednesday. They were some of the last remaining members of an organization that controlled or had a hand in the cocaine and crack sold in Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles and places in between.
One more person is to be sentenced Thursday, Franklin Nash.
One by one, for almost nine hours Wednesday, some of the lower-ranking members of the Atlanta branch of the Black Mafia Family stood before U.S. District Judge Orinda Evans to hear their punishment.
All got prison time – ranging from four years to more than 16 1/2 years for drug conspiracy. They also got probation once they are released. Each asked the judge to recommend them for an intensive drug program in prison, which could reduce their sentences.
The Black Mafia Family began with two brothers – Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory and Terry “Southwest T” Flenory – selling crack cocaine in Detroit high schools in the mid-1980s. Within a few years, their Black Mafia Family had moved into 11 states, making money through distribution rather than direct street sales.Their “tentacles reached all over the country,” said defense attorney John Lovell, who represented Deron Hall.
For Full Story

Despite Indictment Or Conviction, The Campaign Goes On

Sen. Stevens
Sen. Stevens
Rep. Jefferson
Rep. Jefferson
By Allan Lengel
State Sen. Wilkerson
State Sen. Wilkerson
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — Federal conviction. Federal indictment.
Heck.
These days those things don’t seem to be stopping Joe Politician from campaigning for re-election.
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) was convicted of public corruption charges on Monday. But instead of waving the white flag, he chastised the government and vowed to campaign on.
“I am innocent,” Stevens said in a statement. “This verdict is the result of the unconscionable manner in which the Justice Department lawyers conducted this trial. I ask that Alaskans and my Senate colleagues stand with me as I pursue my rights. I remain a candidate for the United States Senate.”
In Massachusetts,  State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson who was arrested Tuesday in an FBI sting for allegedly accepting bribes, also vowed to stay the course with her write-in campaign she launched after losing in the Democratic primary.
“I would like voters of the 2nd Suffolk Senate District to know that I am staying the course of my campaign for re-election on Nov. 4,” Wilkerson said in a statement. “Not only does this represent the biggest challenge in my personal and political life, but it will test to the limit the notion of innocent until proven guilty.”
And then there’s Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.), who is running for re-election well over a year after he was indicted on public corruption charges. He has yet to go to trial.
These days, he isn’t saying much about the indictment or the $90,000 in the freezer.
But  his longtime pastor, Bishop Paul Morton Sr., summed it all up in a quote in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
“I’ve seen too many congressmen who have been indicted who have won their cases. And we’re not going to let a Congressman go down because of an indictment. Anybody can be indicted. You got to do more than that.”
Also Read: Sen. Stevens Asks Atty. Gen. To Investigate Prosecutors’ Conduct (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner)

FBI Report Says Drug Gangs Encouraging Attacks On U.S. Law Enforcement In Texas

The bottom line: Never underestimate the drug trade.

Jeremy Roebuck
The Monitor
McALLEN, Tex.— Recent U.S. efforts to disrupt drug smuggling routes through the Rio Grande Valley have prompted threats of retaliation against authorities on this side of the river, according to an FBI intelligence report.
Vowing to maintain control over valuable trafficking corridors such as those in Reynosa, Matamoros and Miguel Alemán, the Gulf Cartel and its paramilitary enforcement wing, Los Zetas, have begun stockpiling weapons, reaching out to Texas gangs and issuing orders to “confront U.S. law enforcement agencies to zealously protect their criminal interests,” the report states.
The organizations’ encroachment north of the border marks a troubling shift in strategies, federal and local authorities say.
Prior to now, smugglers largely maintained a non-engagement policy with law enforcement here, even as they carried out hundreds of assassinations and violent attacks on authorities in Mexico.
For Full Story

Sixty-Something Man Arrested In Bogus Anthrax Mailings

Some people need to get a hobby.

By Sudhin Thanawala
Associated Press Writer
San FRANCISCO – A California man was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of sending hoax letters labeled “anthrax” to scores of media outlets, the FBI said Wednesday, warning that many of the threats may still be in the mail.
Marc M. Keyser, 66, sent more than 120 envelopes containing a compact disc that had a packet of sugar labeled “Anthrax Sample” along with a biohazard symbol, the FBI said in a news release. The CD was titled “Anthrax: Shock & Awe Terror.”
Keyser was taken into custody without incident at his home in Sacramento on three counts of sending a hoax letter, the FBI said. At least some of the packages had Keyser’s return address on them, said FBI agent Steve Dupre.
For Full Story

Forty One Indicted In Mexican Drug Cartel

By Marcus Garner
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
ATLANTA — Federal and local law enforcement seized a record amount of illegal drugs and drug money during a two-year, multi-state investigation of a Mexican drug cartel, authorities said Wednesday.
U.S. Attorney David Nahmias announced three federal indictments naming 41 people who reportedly ran an illegal drug operation that funneled cocaine and marijuana from Mexico through south Texas to the Atlanta area, and then sent cash back to Mexico.
During what’s being called “Operation Pay Cut,” federal agents and local police confiscated $22 million in cash. Nahmias said that’s a record.
“This is by far the largest ever seizure of [drug] proceeds in the Atlanta area,” he said. “This is another case of a major cartel-related Mexican organization that processed huge amounts of illegal drugs and money through metro Atlanta to many other parts of the country.”
For Full Story

Hate Groups And The Obama Factor

Daniel Cowart/suspect in alleged Obama plot

Daniel Cowart/suspect in alleged Obama plot

By Tomás Dinges
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — In the past couple months, from Idaho to Maryland, there were at least eight reports of swastikas or racist language scrawled on Barack Obama presidential signs.

In Oregon, on Sept. 23, at a Christian university, four students hung a life-sized cardboard cutout of Obama from a tree on campus.

And on Oct. 27 in Tennessee a criminal complaint was unsealed charging two young men with a plot – albeit a far-fetched, improbable one — to assassinate Obama and kill other blacks. On Nov. 5, a grand jury took the next step and indicted them.

This wasn’t a normal election season.

Federal law enforcement knows it.

In fact, several  days before the election, James Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for Eastern Tennessee and Alabama, who was involved in the investigation into the Obama assassination plot, said: “We are paying attention because it could be the first black president and it’s historic.

The day after the election, he echoed similar sentiments: “This is a large change for the country in a positive way, but it requires law enforcement to pay attention to what’s going on. We’ve got to keep our ear to the ground.”

Ed Donovan, a U.S. Secret Service spokesman won’t go into much detail about specific threats or what’s being done to prevent them and protect Sen. Obama. His  words are similar to those of  ATF.

“We’re aware of the historical significance of his candidacy,” and the agency “takes any threats on our protectees very seriously, and investigates any credible threats reported to us.”

The Associated Press, quoting unnamed officials,  reported Nov. 14 “that since the Nov. 4 election, law enforcement officials have seen more potentially threatening writings, Internet postings and other activity directed at Obama than has been seen with any past president-elect.”

During the course of the campaign, threats popped up everywhere.

In the final stretch, with increasing intensity, Acorn, which found itself immersed in a controversy over fraudulent voter registration signatures, received hundreds of hateful messages and anonymous calls, many of which included racial slurs and threats of violence against Obama.

Acorn spokesman Charles Jackson, who said the Justice Department was notified, remarked shortly before the election: “It’s pretty scary sometimes.”

Common sense tells us that the scariness isn’t likely to vanish anytime soon as  President-elect Barack Obama prepares to become the 44th president of the United States.

Obama received his Secret Service protection on May 3rd of this year, the earliest of any presidential candidate in history. Not until the assassination of Robert Kennedy did the Secret Service even provide protection for candidates.

In many ways, Obama’s presence on the national stage has put some oomph into a hate-based movement that seemed somewhat lethargic. The signs of intensified interest were everywhere from the Internet to peoples’ driveways.

In October KKK pamphlets were wrapped into the Ada Evening News in Missouri. In late September, neatly packaged fliers left on driveways in New Jersey greeted residents asking:

“Why should we seal our fate by allowing a Black ruler to destroy us?” It linked nations run by Black presidents to instability and violence. A New Jersey white supremacist group formed in March, was the source of the materials, according to local news reports.

Rhetoric on hate group and white supremacist websites has experienced an upsurge, according to a Sept. 23 report by the Anti-Defamation League, a group which uses investigative researchers to track hate group activity throughout the country.

Page views have hit records on websites like Stormfront.org, a discussion site run by a former national grand wizard of the Klu Klux Klan based in West Palm Beach, Fla. Web site visits to Stormfront spiked radically with Obama’s June 3rd primary win, according to the web information company Alexa.com.

“Whites felt they would not see a day when an African-American would have a real chance to become president.” said Marilyn Mayo, the co-director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. “This is driving a lot of angry sentiments communicated in web site discussion groups.”

As interest grows, some groups have tried to moderate their online message to attract a wider audience by doing away with traditional white supremacist symbols and inflammatory words like “nigger”, the swastika, and the 88 number, the latter being a reference to Hitler, according to Mark Potok, director of Intelligence at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

But some are doing it the old fashion way.

More violent posts on racist blogs and online discussion forums like Stormfront have openly called for the assassination of Sen. Obama. One poster, named Mr.Widowmaker said, “I also think that if Obongo is elected he’ll be taken out by one of the true patriots in our country.”

Other hate-mongering warns of Sen. Obama’s, “agenda to destroy the White race” while others associate him with Black radicals, Communists and Jews.

Also in September, white supremacist magazine known for its provocative content, was titled “Kill this N—er?.” It featured Sen. Obama pictured through a rifle scope with a swastika surrounding it. The subtitle was “Negro Deification and the “Obama Assassination” Myth”.

Law enforcement officials and others who track the movement generally feel that a threat on the Obama’s life or any other candidate or institution is more likely to come from a “lone wolf” than an organization.

That may be the case with the two men, Daniel Cowart, 20, and Paul Schlesselman, 18, who were charged in Tennessee in the suspected plot to kill Obama.

The Southern Poverty Law Center noted on its website that Cowart was a member of the Supreme White Alliance (SWA). It took note that the organization was denying it in a message on its website.

On its site, the SWA wrote: “The Southern Poverty Law Center has lied yet again stating on their website that the two young men arrested yesterday on charges accusing them of plotting to assassinate the presidential candidate Barack Oboma and go on some sort of killing spree are tied to the SWA. One of the young men was in fact a probate earlier this year but was ousted by the SWA before the SWA held an actual presidential election. Since this time none of the SWA members have had any contact with the accused. So before you get your story wrong, (SPLC) get the facts.”
The white supremacist movement experienced a splintering after the deaths of important leaders of Aryan Nations and the National Alliance in 2004 and 2002. This led to multiple smaller groups throughout the country, but also more white supremacists acting independently, said the ADL’s Mayo.

“In the last five years the neo-Nazi movement has turned into a lot of little factions, with no one group,” dominating. A lack of leadership has also resulted in, “a lot of unaffiliated people,” she said.

Mark Potok says aggressive law enforcement surveillance of hate groups has also weakened them, but made them more cautious.

“The likelihood of these groups getting infiltrated is extremely high.”

It has also has increased the possibility of disgruntled members with more radical agendas splitting off, according to Potok.

“The likelihood of an assassination by a group is infinitesimal,” said Potok. “I would not say the same thing about lone wolves.” This would be their “day to make the world whole again.”

There is no shortage of hate groups in the country.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization which tracks hate groups and collaborates with law enforcement in different ways, says that there are 888 active hate groups in the nation, of which 750 are white nationalist groups with between 100,000 -200,000 people involved in a direct way.

The number of these groups has increased 48 percent between 2000 and 2007, he said. While the South has been a traditional focal point of these sorts of organizations they are spread throughout the country.

The movement has ebbed and flowed over the years.

“There was also a big build up prior to Oklahoma City,” said ATF’s Cavanaugh with activity at Waco, Ruby Ridge as well as states like Arizona and Michigan. “They were fomenting each other on the Internet,” he said.

“It’s where like-minded lunatics find each other. They electrify each other. So they were in sort of this maniacal state prior to Oklahoma City.”

Things changed after the 1995 bombing. Law enforcement and surveillance increased and membership in these groups began to be reduced to the core members most willing to engage in violent activities.

“Oklahoma City came and there was this big shake out. ” said Cavanaugh. “When real violence takes place it gets down to the core believers.” Of 100 participants, five, said Cavanaugh, are willing to take violent action for their beliefs.

The hate groups and anti-government groups in the 1990s also espoused the concept of leaderless resistance, in which both hate groups and anti-government groups encouraged individuals not to wait for “your orders from the top, just get your cell and go do it,” according to Cavanaugh.

The bombings of the World Trade Center in 2001 also had an impact on the movement.

“It shot these guys with adrenalin,” said ATF’s Cavanaugh. 9/11 reflected the burst in activity and the ability of hate groups to adapt to the times to increase membership.

It was generally a rallying cry for anti-immigration, be it Muslims or Latinos, and it was used as a recruiting tool.

“Now what we are seeing is the immigration issue,” said Cavanaugh. “This is a real live issue and a cause for concern.”

The Obama candidacy has brought to fore some of the old names like former politician and ex-KKK leader David Duke.

On his website, Duke almost went so far as to endorse Sen. Obama in an article on June 4th, as did others, reasoning that Obama’s nomination will herald a new era of racial politics, one in which race consciousness will be dominated by a white agenda.

“My bet is that whether Obama wins or loses come November,” writes Duke on his website, “millions of European Americans will inevitably react with a new awareness of their heritage and the need to defend and advance it.”

In the end, with all the chatter and all the threats, law enforcement has the daunting task of figuring out who poses a real danger and who does not.

“Out of a hundred, there are maybe five that are going to go all the way,” said ATF’s Cavanaugh. “We have to root through the other 95. You are free to be a bigot, a bozo, a wolf in hyena’s clothing and that is all in the name of free speech, but you are not free to plot an assassination.”