Monday, September 29, 2014

Waikiki's gathering place of seniors offers music as man's ultimate human gift

Seniors entertain tourists and residents alike in Waikiki
If you are aiming for a Waikiki experience that will take you back in time to those good old days, stop on the beach side of Kalakaua Avenue on Oahu in Hawaii, sit down on a bench under a covered umbrella and become part of a local community who brings the best of Hawaii to visitors no matter who they are.  Travel back in time with the seniors who will take you on a magic journey of paradise as it was and still is in the songs that light up the islands with their bright melodies.

In Hawaii the seniors have traditions they share with tourists. You can never predict for sure when a gathering of these special people will arrive and entertain, who bring their ukeleles, music and traditions to this place in Waikiki. The weekends bring the folks in for the authentic play of paradise you just don't want to miss on any visit to the Oahu beaches of Waikiki.

Having lived in Hawaii for many years, I have learned how meaningful these gatherings are to local folk and those who return for the visits after they have left. It is here where through the songs and stories on these benches in the sun that people learn about Hawaii from these elders while they reminisce.

Sit down at a table, as people make room for friends and strangers alike, and share Hawaiian aloha in that old-fashioned way. It begins with a man with a ukelele singing a Don Ho song. The strains of Pearly Shells brings a chorus of voices, along with a band of ukeles. This is the place where people can perform for others and enjoy the applause just like those good old days. Folks retired now spontaneously entertain each other and the tourists that gather round and applaud the talents of the old folks, whose energy often can outpace the very young entertainers who play in the bars and restaurants of Waikiki.

The gathering place for these wonderful occasions take place are on Kalakaua Avenue, a short walk from any direction from the main tourist hotels. A large sheltered area sits apart from all the rest. You recognize the older people with their gaily floral clothes. The old-timers dress the way you would expect them to on a sunny day in Hawaii, especially since it's a time they entertain each other and entertain you too.

They come from every ethnic group, these elders of Hawaii. They will swap stories with you, teach you a song or two or just ask you to sit down and listen and enjoy the moment as part of a crowd that gathers there in Waikiki on almost any afternoon.

These elders sing of old Hawaii, but mostly songs that are referred to as hapa-Haole, that is Hawaiian music with English words so you will know the words. You'll almost always hear a famous song of Kui Lee, who died too young but contributed many songs that tourists often know. Elvis Presley performed some of Kui Lee's songs in that string of movies made in Hawaii. One of them is I'll Remember You, a perennial favorite of the group that gathers at these tables, reminiscing as they sing the song and tell you about this famous musician many remember well. That musician, Kui Lee, is the one who helped catapult Don Ho to fame.

Some of the elders are the beach boys, many who still sit on the beaches as they have done for decades, and who come and join the group. Their numbers are dwindling now, as the old-timers have died, aged too much or moved away over the years. But the ones who still come to these magic moments on the beach bring all those stories of Hawaii, of the days of sprawling beaches before all the hotels were built and of cruise ships that brought people from afar.

This simple way of enjoying the aloha spirit is an authentic way to meet Hawaii in all its special ways. Here is the famous Waikiki beach where swimming and sunning takes place. Here is where the surfers take their boards and vanish into waves to the rhythm of the sea and winds that only they seem to hear. The palm trees, sand, and sunshine mix with the old music, hulas, and 
brightly dressed elders of every race.  That vision of the best in relationships is the best of a tourist experience, that local folks enjoy as well, and an ongoing symbol of why Hawaii is called the Gathering Place, as it is the place that symbolizes man's ultimate human gifts

Sunday, September 28, 2014

High rate of poverty among US children is an international concern

Poor children in mining community
Recent statistics indicate the United States has the highest rate of child poverty in the developed world. 1 in 5 children are poor, a condition that will impact not just America but the entire world.

While new research tells us of the relatively high rate of child poverty in a country that has long been considered the richest in the world, the fact so many of the nation's young people lack proper nutrition, health services and opportunities reflects a future where disparities of income, education and overall well being may actually increase. As corporation executives gain in income, and the rich grow richer, a growing segment of the population will find it more difficult to climb the ladder out of poverty Horatio Alger style. Yet the philosophical overview that prevails in the upper classes that the poor are poor because of their own lack of will is likely to remain, as it has for decades, thereby presenting an ongoing barrier for the impoverished to participate equally in the future growth and economy of the country.

Researchers remind us that with poverty comes higher rates of depression and aggression, creating consequences of social problems extending to increased rates of crime and mental health problems 

And because union membership is dwindling, the pressure on the upper economic echelon for equitable distribution of wealth through reasonable wages has lessened. This means opportunities for adequate income relative to the cost of living is shrinking as well, meaning many in the middle class are drifting closer and closer to poverty themselves.

Globalization also has an effect on the future of everyone, which can add to the rates of poverty  experienced in the US. In order to attract investment to a country, businesses and organizations race to reduce wages and buy resources cheaply, which has increased poverty and inequality for most people. For the United States to attract investment means it too must meet the demands of a world looking for the best at the cheapest rates. This will serve to increase poverty, as it is the poor who cannot pay to educate their children and whose children lack the nutritional safeguards that underpin learning who will reach for those jobs that pay less and less for more and more work.

The growing poverty in America is not just confined to US borders but will impact other countries also. A vast network of communication systems and transportation capabilities has connected much of the world materially and socially. The decisions made by a dominant country can create consequences for other countries in the network of nations that interrelate economically and politically. Pressures from within create social problems that lessen a nation's will for fighting wars abroad. So while security needs increase, the will of the people to maintain security outside of its own national borders lessens. The poor, having less access to education and health care, will increasingly lack the interest and sophisticated knowledge to interact with others or appreciate their needs as well. Politicians can pander to the fears aggravated by poverty and loss.

Poverty is a problem throughout the world, and surely poor children are a concern for everyone. Many people outside the US may not worry about the poor children of America; but as America loses its will, its interest and its capacity for helping others, the numbers of poor children in every country will increase. We are no longer a world where the problems in one country do not affect others, so the news about the relatively high rate of poverty in the United States is important for everyone.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Economic chaos created by credit card holds related to fraud

 Credit cards are a convenience but using them is sometimes a problem when a hold is put on them to prevent fraud.[/caption]

They had just returned from a nearby city when they learned that a credit card transaction had been declined.  After making inquiries, it was learned that the company had put the card on hold because the amount being charged was an "unusual amount" which required it be flagged for potential fraud.  The hold had prevented an urgent bill from being paid, holding up a major shipment of personal goods.  It is another way the fraudsters have created problems for the general public.

According to a businessman associated with a major moving company, this type of action occurs frequently, about one-third of the time when dealing with a customer.  A credit card is declined because the amount is too large or unusual, out of the ordinary for a particular customer.  This means it is likely other companies and private citizens experience the same issue, while the use of a credit card becomes increasingly difficult during special times or emergencies.

Credit card organizations, including banks and credit unions, have learned that unusual amounts of money might mean credit card theft.  If Joe Smith ordinarily uses his card to buy gasoline, take his family out to dinner and buy the occasional bouquet of flowers for his wife on a special occasion, a thousand dollar charge might trigger suspicion that his card has been stolen.  So if Joe were to be stranded in a city far away from his home and had an emergency, needing to use his credit card might be difficult because of the geographical differences as well as any significant amount different from his usual spending habits.

Hotels typically put a hold on a credit card of an amount that is anticipated for a room charge.  This only impacts individuals nearing their credit limit, however.  With debit cards, the problems can be multiple.  For example, if the card is stolen, then it is possible for the thief to liquidate much of an account before being caught.  Furthermore, if the amount of the hold is close to the balance in a checking account used for the debit card, that might disallow additional transactions following the original charge.

As fraud and identity theft continue to expand, and large organizations find themselves as victims of hackers, more and more people are experiencing problems using credit cards.  The protection is often to put a hold on the card for those unusual amounts, and whereas it is an inconvenience, it is a protection as well.   It is when the customer is not advised and finds a credit card purchase denied that the need for emergency use can override the feelings about protection.  Finding that balance continues to be a problem for both the bank and its customers until some way is found that allows flexible use of credit while at the same time the safeguards that keep people from being victims.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ugly American haunts U.S. foreign relations

The Ugly American film portrayed the arrogance of Americans that Kennedy attempted to end with the Peace Corps ideas.[/caption]

Carol Forsloff---"I'm an American.  I drink beer, eat meat, and speak English!"printed on a tee shirt worn by a gray-haired man watching Fox News at a motel on a Saturday morning is a reminder of that ugly American image so often considered by people around the world as representing U.S. opinions about others.  A tee shirt slogan tells anyone who reads it of an arrogant attitude that continues to foster suspicion and distrust that haunts American relations internationally.

The man sat in the middle of the motel breakfast room where everyone entering could see his shirt and recognize a negative attitude about anyone perceived as different.  It was reinforced by a message on Fox News that repeatedly focused on Obamacare and the shortcomings of the current President, Barack Obama in putting diplomacy ahead of force against those who differ with American ideas.  Surrounding the man were a group of people traveling from the United Kingdom, visiting the United States.  The message on a shirt is surely one they might remember when they travel back to Europe, underlining once again how what Americans think and say in casual circumstances becomes a permanent image for others about attitude and prejudices that can influence foreign policy.

On another occasion, in Bali, the couple at the hotel desk, shouting about "those people here" giving bad service echoed through the lobby, as people stood and stared while they listened to rude remarks by an American in a public arena.  International travelers paused to grimace slightly, shrug and turn away.  Americans traveling in another country, represented by the loud and boorish statements, communicate to other travelers, and to the Balinese service personnel, once again the ugly side of American behavior and beliefs.

The film, "The Ugly American" made in 1963 offered a glimpse of that American attitude in the personality of the conservatives who debated the appointment of Harrison MacWhite, played by Marlon Brando, as Ambassador to an Asian country named Sarkan, a newly developed nation.  In the course of the film, MacWhite tangles with the local leadership over the building of Freedom Road, a U.S. sponsored highway considered to be an example of American imperialism.  When MacWhite is unable to complete his assignment and returns to the US mainland, this summary is provided in a critic's overview of the film, "He explains in an interview with the press that to help the countries of Southeast Asia, Americans must understand their internal problems before inflicting a way of life upon them. As his words are carried to the United States by television, an uninterested viewer switches off his set."The statement becomes the core realization of how an American diplomat makes wrong choices and ends up bungling his job, as the example of that ugly American, with the uninterested viewer reflecting the attitude that it really does not matter.

In the 1960's President John F. Kennedy hoped to establish a different image of America as a country that provided service to underdeveloped countries, through an organization called the Peace Corps.  The idea was to send Americans to live and work with residents in countries that needed support in education, industrial development, agriculture and other areas.  The concept had been the brainchild of Hubert Humphrey, then U.S. Senator from Minnesota, who had opposed Kennedy in the Presidential primaries,  but the implementation of the program began under the Kennedy administration.  The hope was to change that image of the ugly American so that foreign relations might also improve.

Despite the Peace Corps, foreign aid, and Americans devoting time, money and effort to help people around the world, especially during disasters, what many people see is that boorish individual who wears a shirt that declares he represents what the United States truly believes.  So efforts to reach out to others are seen as manipulative as opposed to caring and concerned.  Perhaps it is the reason why folks take the help, then turn their backs on reciprocity in international relations, especially when significant differences arise and the United States needs help in persuading people to take action in some special way.  That action might be global immunization programs or difficulties created by global warming, as two examples of areas where universal support is critical for many.  With the ugly American image, portrayed by the media, repeated on tee shirt slogans and bumper stickers and reinforced by the behavior of folks traveling to other countries, it becomes increasingly difficult for the United States to sustain leadership when global action is needed.

As foreign diplomats grapple with international problems, climate change, the potential of Russia's encroachment into East European countries and other issues, the value of American leadership is important in managing crises in a way that might avert global conflict.  A message on a tee shirt can be a monumental assertion to those who watch and listen and wonder if Americans care about anything or anyone but themselves.

While Kennedy's pronouncements and programs are often cited as representing the best of America's leadership and stature, the undermining of the message of caring and inclusion continues to stress diplomacy.  The ugly American is a reminder to many that the country that says "I care" and offers tangentially leadership and hope for a free world for everyone continues to struggle with itself and its mission.

A message on a tee shirt for some might simply be incidental on a day when many things occur, however it represents to others a much larger issue, and that is how we relate and think about our neighbors can offer a far better protection against aggression than the big stick or the gun can do.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Multilevel marketing in American consumerism may offer hype instead ofhope

Hawaiian Noni juice is among those products that have been sold through multilevel marketing.

Carol Forsloff----Most people have been approached by a friend or relative to purchase a product or join a community based upon recruiting others to purchase and to become a member as well.  Many companies have flourished with multilevel marketing as the method of advancing sales, yet at the same time many have failed to meet the expectations of those entrepreneurs and others, offering instead more hype than hope.

Amway is one of the long-standing brands of the grand companies who have brought people together to sell goods across wide sectors of the population.  The offer to become one's own boss is an appealing one, as folks flocked to make it big on the bet they could sell products and recruit friends and relatives to become members of the Amway family.  The business has flourished, as many people have come and go, hopeful folks made happy at times with the income that could be made.  But still others found after awhile people lost interest, and the pyramid business began to dissolve or break apart for some individuals, even as the company prospered overall.

The old saying of "Be Your Own Boss" continues to be the motto for Amway, as the company maintains the market is not saturated; and there are plenty of opportunities to make money by working from home and offering a product line that folks have found now have real value.  Amway products are seen in factories, hospitals and in offices around the country, where its cleaning products have proven worth.

Some of these eager entrepreneurs have this to say about being an Amway distributor: "If you want to use the other 8 hours to make more money, but aren't sure where to start, I strongly suggest you look at Amway or even another network marketing company. Why? It is the easiest and quickest way to start your own business. You can read all you want about starting a business, but it's different when you actually have your own business."

Since Amway has been around since the 1950's, it has its fans and followers, even as it has expanded markets in other places outside the United States, like China, for example.  It took patience to gain a foothold in China, where the business model seemed suspicious at first to China's leaders.  In 2006, however, after China had dismissed the company's methods and business model, it has now allowed Amway to develop a distributor network that is making money for its members.  In fact, China is now its largest market with 237 shops and 160,000 distributors contributing to the annual income of the company in the country which Bloomberg reports at $3 billion.

But Amway has its detractors as well.  One of them had this to say: "Truth: You need to do your own price study to determine this for yourself. Whether it is termed "buying at retail" or "buying at wholesale" it doesn't really matter. What matters is the price you get for the quality and level of service you expect. My price study showed I would spend up to 43% more using the Amway network than by shopping at local Charleston, SC discount stores. "

Xango is another multilevel marketing group that is a bit late to the party for those interested in the concept of selling directly and becoming a distributor.  It has, however, been assertive in its efforts to entice customers, with some of its distributors describing mangosteen's anti-cancer benefits and others health benefits so strongly that the compay was sent a warning about making health claims that could not be substantiated.  It is often those health claims, and similar ones made by other companies touting vitamins, special juices and other products that the medical community has been concerned about.  In addition, there is usually a strong emphasis made by those selling these products that those benefits have been proven by users, as at meetings their stories of health problems and disabling conditions being turned around are the enticements for new members.

Xango's official response to the FDA warnings has been to remind people of its website statements: "Research shows xanthones possess potent antioxidant properties that may help maintain intestinal health, strengthen the immune system, neutralize free radicals, help support cartilage and joint function, and promote a healthy seasonal respiratory system," states XanGo Juice's web site.

This footnote is added: "These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."

Problems related to multilevel marketing have caused some states to issue their own cautionary guidelines, to prevent distributors from making oral claims about benefits that supplement written material that overstate the benefits of particular products.  The Illinois Attorney General offers the following advice for anyone seeking to join a multilevel marketing organization:

  • Obtain the names of at least ten other investors and discuss with these investors their experience with the plan and the promoter.

  • Obtain specific proof of income representations.

  • Obtain specific proof that you will have a good market. Get all verbal promises in writing.

  • Ask for copies of the company's business and financial statements.

  • Determine all costs you must pay. Do start-up fees pay for such things as training, sample products, literature, or display materials?

  • Find out if the company will buy back your inventory if you decide to quit.

  • Talk to local business people who are familiar with the product and the market before you decide to invest.

  • Always consult with a private attorney or certified accountant regarding the specifics of the plan or concerns about the contract.

Given this guidance, and the experience of others, good business sense means to do the investigation of a company in advance, so when nephew Johnny tells you of the miracles of the product he is asking you to buy, then to join and sell yourself, you will be aware of the benefits as well as the pitfalls of the business and decide for yourself it is hopeful or simply hype instead.