Washington, DC; 28 April 2016: Providing aid and bolstering development in a region that has been a perennial conflict zone since 1948 is both demanding and rewarding. United Palestinian Appeal (UPA) has managed to do just that with a small dedicated staff and supporters since their founding in 1978 by a group of successful Palestinian-American professionals in New York. Focus Washington’s Chuck Conconi sat down with UPA’s Executive Director Saleem Zaru to learn more about the organization and its operations.

It is estimated that one in three Palestinian households don't have a secure food source. UPA's Food Security program provides basic nutrition for many of these families.

It is estimated that one in three Palestinian households don’t have a secure food source. UPA’s Food Security program provides basic nutrition for many of these families. (Photo credit: UPA)

Zaru discussed the challenges of working under the constant state of emergency, noting that providing relief often consumes a great deal of time and funding, as opposed to being able to focus on development. One of the founding principles of UPA was to contribute to socioeconomic and cultural development in Palestine, but immediate needs to provide food aid, medical care (including psychological care for trauma victims) and basic needs like clothing and hygiene products sometimes take precedence.

Micro-Finance programs like this one allow entrepreneurs establish small business start ups. (Photo credit: UPA)

Micro-Finance programs like this one allow entrepreneurs establish small business start ups. (Photo credit: UPA)

In spite of the ongoing violence and emergency situations, UPA has made remarkable inroads in anticipating and instituting programs that help Palestinians become more independent so their situations do not perpetuate reliance on charity. Whether through micro-finance programs that launch small entrepreneurial start-ups, scholarships that advance education to better position Palestinians for employment, or partnerships programs like the Embracing Life campaign which is bringing Cleft Lip and Palate surgical and nursing training to West Bank and Gaza in conjunction with the Craniofacial Center at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

When asked about how programs like UPA can address extremism, Zaru stated that giving someone the opportunity to put food on their table and support their family creates hope, and hope is the best way to fight the lure of extremism.

Zaru’s dream for UPA is that they would go out of business because there is no more need and Palestinians live under normal conditions. Until that time comes, UPA will continue delivering hope to the people in Palestine and the refuge camps.

To learn more about United Palestinian Appeal, visit their website at: http://helpupa.org/

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The 2016 Presidential Election According to the Oddsmakers

By: Josh Appelbaum

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At Sports Insights, we have been tracking the 2016 election for some time now. However, we do not focus on the polls or what the pundits are saying, we focus exclusively on how the oddsmakers are assessing the race. Our goal is to highlight to our members which candidates are providing value so that they can make the smartest “futures” bet possible.
 
(A futures bet is a wager on a game or event that will not take place until several months or years in the future. For example, right now the Patriots are +600 to win next year’s Super Bowl (odds via Bovada). So if you put a $100 futures bet on the Patriots right now, you would win $600 if the Patriots win the Super Bowl).
 
At the time, Hillary Clinton was a +105 favorite to win the presidency (odds via Sportsbook). This means that a $100 futures bet on Clinton would pay out $105 if she is elected president.
 
Jeb Bush was the runner-up at +850, followed by Marco Rubio (+1200), Scott Walker (+1500), John Kasich (+3000) and Paul Ryan (+3500). Ben Carson, Chris Christie and Ted Cruz were all listed at +4000.
 
Interestingly, Bernie Sanders wasn’t even considered a legitimate candidate at the time. He opened at +6500, well-behind fellow Democrats Elizabeth Warren (+5000) and Joe Biden (+5000).
 
Even more mind-blowing is the fact that Donald Trump wasn’t even listed at all. Simply put, the idea that Trump could become president was so unimaginable back in May of 2015 that the oddsmakers didn’t even provide him as a betting option.
 
Much has changed over the course of the past 12 months.
 
After her big win in New York, Clinton is now a -1500 favorite to win the Democratic nomination and a -275 favorite to win the White House (odds via Bovada). That means if you want to bet Clinton to be the Democratic nominee, you would have to risk $1500 to win $100. If you want to bet Clinton to win the presidency, you would have to risk $275 to win $100.
 
On the Republican side, Trump is the clear-cut favorite. Back in June of 2015, Trump debuted at +4000 to become the next president (odds via Sportsbook). Now, following his blowout victory in New York, Trump is down to +350, best odds of any Republican and second-best odds overall behind Clinton. (Trump is a -225 favorite to win the Republican nomination).
 
In other words, the oddsmakers are predicting a Clinton vs Trump showdown in November. 
 
Beyond Clinton and Trump, only three other candidates remain in the 2016 conversation.
 
The first is Sanders. 
 
While the media ignores him and the establishment does everything they can to defeat him, Sanders has succeeded in energizing the liberal base and creating a political revolution. After debuting at +6500 to win the presidency, Sanders is now down to +1200, tied for the 3rd-best odds overall behind Clinton and Trump. He is +700 to win the Democratic nomination.
 
The second is Cruz. 
 
Like Sanders, Cruz is +1200 to win the White House. Despite Trump’s massive win in New York, he still may not receive the 1237 delegates needed to win the nomination. This leaves a (small) opening for Cruz, who has become the de-facto alternative to Trump. Cruz is +225 to win the Republican nomination.
 
The third is Kasich. He is currently listed at +3300 to win the White House and +1000 to win the nomination, which means he is a considerable longshot in the eyes of the oddsmakers. Simply put, Kasich is hanging by a thread, but he is still in the conversation.
 
Overall, Democrats are listed as a -280 favorite to win the White House, regardless of who the candidate is. Republicans are a +240 underdog (odds via BetOnline).
 
A couple variables to keep in mind: Clinton is currently being investigated by the FBI over her unprotected email server. Rumors are swirling that a decision whether or not to indict Clinton will be coming down in May. If Clinton is cleared of wrongdoing, her path to the White House is close to a done-deal.
 
However, if she is indicted, it changes everything. Clinton would be forced to exit the race, thus handing the nomination (and likely the presidency) to Sanders. If you view this is a legitimate possibility, you may want to place a futures bet on Sanders now. At +700 to win the nomination and +1200 to win the White House, Sanders backers would receive a huge payout if he can pull off the upset.
 
A similar wild-card scenario exists on the Republican side.
 
Ryan, the current Speaker of the House, is being listed at +15,000 to win the presidency and +5000 to win the Republican nomination (odds via BetOnline). Although his odds of winning are minuscule (he hasn’t even entered the race), the fact that Ryan is being listed as an option shows that oddsmakers are bracing for the possibility of a brokered convention in June.
 
 
[Josh Appelbaum is the Customer Service Manager, Affiliate Manager and Political Expert for Sports Insights, a sports betting analytics web-site based in Boston, MA. For over a decade, intelligent sports bettors have relied on Sports Insights’ innovative software to make smarter bets. Learn more at www.sportsinsights.com or follow Sports Insights on Twitter: @SportsInsights]
 
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Felipe Massa (BRA) Williams FW38 and Daniil Kvyat (RUS) Red Bull Racing RB12 battle at Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Bahrain Grand Prix Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday 3 April 2016. © Sutton Motorsport Images

Felipe Massa (BRA) Williams FW38 and Daniil Kvyat (RUS) Red Bull Racing RB12 battle at Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Bahrain Grand Prix Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Sunday 3 April 2016. (Photo: Sutton Motorsport Images)

April 5, 2016: In the second race of the season, the German racer Nico Rosberg took a comfortable win in the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday April 3rd. Meanwhile, his Mercedes team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, climbed to third following a first-lap collision. The event attracted a peak of 3.2 million viewers. Around a hundred of them were watching from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain in Washington, DC.

Majlis for viewing F1 at Bahrain Embassy (April 3, 2016)

Majlis for viewing F1 at Bahrain Embassy (April 3, 2016)

 

The viewing party drew an eclectic crowd of friends of the embassy, as well as fans of the event. Attendees tended to wear red and/or white – in support of Bahrain – or wore apparel that identified their favorite team. Employees of the embassy mingled and socialized with the rest of the crowd, but were readily identified by their matching red and white Bahrain International Circuit shirts.

BBQ Buffet for F1 Event at Bahrain Embassy (April 3, 2016)

BBQ Buffet for F1 Event at Bahrain Embassy (April 3, 2016)

The main room functioned as a majlis (a room for gatherings in Arab homes) where people could watch the race and socialize. With large windows that flooded the space with natural light, the space was decorated from flags from all over the world and had multiple large screens to carry the broadcast from Manama. Outside a long buffet had been set up that served American and Arab Barbecue fare — with everything from hot dogs and kofta (similar to grilled “sausage” made from minced lamb and beef with spices) to hummus and pita. Arabic sweets were provided for dessert.

F1 Raffle at Bahrain Embassy (April 3, 2016)

F1 Raffle at Bahrain Embassy (April 3, 2016)

In comparison to the event in Bahrain — which is held as a night race set off by shooting sparks resulting from car modifications that have welded titanium plates to the undercarriage of the low, sleek automotive beasts — the viewing party at the embassy was casual and provided a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy the afternoon. After the excitement of Rosberg crossing the finish line, the embassy raffle brought its own cheers as several winners took home first class tickets to Florida, and others won pearls from Bahrain.

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In 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected, progressive liberals looked forward to a leader who could move a progressive agenda along. On this week’s episode of Focus Washington with Chuck Conconi, liberal political commentator Bill Press addresses his disappointment in Obama’s pursuit of progressive legislation and change; Press’s recent book, Buyer’s Remorse: How Obama Let Progressives Down, makes a case for each missed opportunity.

According to Press, who is the former chairman of the Democratic Party in California, Obama fell short of progressive expectations on issues such as gun control, health care and immigration. Nevertheless,  Press praises Obama for several accomplishments during his eight years in the White House, “I give him credit for all the good things…brought the economy from the brink of ruin, saved the American auto industry… the [recent] Iran nuclear deal, re-opening relations with Cuba, so long overdue…”

Press criticizes the philosophical underpinnings of Obamacare’s in particular. “[Obama] said single-payer option was not under consideration–mistake number one,” says Press.  “Then a public-plan option was offered, giving people the option: instead of buying private insurance they can set up for Medicare, he sold that public plan action, dropped it without a vote or fight.” Current Obamacare requires every single American to buy insurance from a private insurance company… pharmaceutical companies can charge anything they want for prescription drugs.”

Press says that where the President walked away from Congress, he should have stepped forward. Both gun control and immigration reform present similar scenarios: Democrats had the majority in Congress for the first two years, and the Obama administration failed to act decisively.

“Obama should have fought the fight…. there are people that know how to work Congress. President Obama didn’t develop any strong relations when he was there and certainly didn’t as president.”

A progressive will work with Congress, says Press, engage in conservation, and “fight the fight.” To the extent that Obama didn’t use the power of the presidency with Congress, he let down the progressive liberals like Bill Press down.

 

It’s a fundamental issue addressed in media outlets all over the country: what happened to the conservative party?

Vic Gold states, “The breakdown of the republican party starts with Newt Gingrich and the 104th congress in 1994.” This, according to the long time conservative consultant, writer and journalist is where the polarization begins.

Gold elaborates, “Newt introduced a personal venom; the congress spent time impeaching [Bill Clinton], stopping the government…” (Once in 1994 and 1995 due to budget talks with the Clinton Administration.)

A seasoned politico who has lived through 24 elections, Gold knows that current GOP nominees are not descendants of the Goldwater rebellion; Vic served as the press secretary for Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election and co-wrote George H.W. Bush’s 1987 autobiography. “These people are not conservatives…they are practically anarchists.” Gold agrees with Marco Rubio’s sentiments regarding Donald Trump: he is a third-world dictator.

It’s important to note the distinction between conservatives and anti-liberal in 2016. “[Anti-liberals] hated the Clintons and hate Obama… that’s all that matters.”

A reflection of the republican party’s state is particularly jarring, “Barry Goldwater would not run today, Ronald Reagan would not and could run today, let alone be elected.”

The unraveling is not exclusive to the republican party, it’s the whole political fiber.

“Why is Bernie Sanders the only guy that gets in the race? The political system, the money system we have…it has something to do with it. Joe Biden doesn’t get in the race because he doesn’t have the money. This is what Sanders has…he doesn’t have the money but he gets into it… we used to have that.”

While each party is responsible for its own weakness, it is “a “confluence of things that are working towards [Trump] a psychopathic megalomaniac. The republican party is broken down but the democratic party, which is a great party, how is it after twenty years with all the democrats, we come up with Hillary Clinton and the only other person is [Bernie Sanders]?  Where are the democratic leaders today? Why? That’s what I want to know. That concerns me.”

With too few democratic leaders entering the arena and too many anti-liberals campaigning as republicans, the integrity of the republican establishment has disintegrated and held hostage by the likes of Donald Trump and others.

 

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Why Bernie Sanders Matters

On March 11, 2016, in 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, DCView, by Focus Washington

Why does Bernie Sanders matter?  Washington D.C. reporter and author Harry Jaffe answers that very question and shares insight he gained for his book, Why Bernie Sanders Matters in an interview on Focus Washington. He addresses a vital principle that is absent in many presidential candidates: Bernie wants to lead and govern where others want the power that comes with being a president.

Jaffe elaborates, “[Bernie’s] message is more than ‘I want to be president’, he wants to start a political revolution and he is on a mission.” Sander’s mission concerns the working class, a demographic that has no doubt suffered from stability in recent years. He looks through a lens that views the historical context of working class as the backbone of the American economy that is inconsistent with its state today. This is why, Jaffe says, he is not surprised about Bernie’s success, in Michigan or otherwise.

Working class voters are angry that their jobs are increasingly being sent overseas and their paychecks decreasing as a result. Opportunities for the working class are diminishing, rendering parents unable to provide a quality of life for their families that was once standard.  To that point, Sanders has always lobbied on behalf of the working class and never supported a fair trade agreement. Jaffe explains that Sanders measures every agreement not as to whether it helps the corporate class, but whether it is going to help the working class. Given that Ohio and Illinois are industrial states, Bernie has a favorable chance of winning in those primaries (contrary to projections of other commentators).

The Vermont senator carries momentum in the support of young voters. According to Jaffe, he has the “effable ability to be sincere, believable and trustworthy.” A perennial insider, Hillary Clinton is conditioned in the conventional political rhetoric; answers are rehearsed and produced according to polls and advisors, a strategy the Sanders campaign defies. When asked, “Bernie Sanders will respond in a direct way because that’s the way he has been speaking for 40 or 50 years, he doesn’t have to think about it” because everything boils down to what he thinks and believes. That’s refreshing and unusual.

Jaffe points out that Sanders as a Populist does have something in common with Trump in that he is not part of the establishment. But, the comparison ends there as the author viewsTrump as a “populist fascist” to Sanders as a “populist socialist”.

Bernie Sanders champions voters who are apathetic or distressed with Washington. He answers their call for change and relief; he hears them and shows them they matter. And because he lets them know that they matter, Bernie matters.

 

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The Republican establishment is drafting a movement to defeat Trump– but will it stick? If it’s anything similar to the public controversies inundating the businessman’s campaign, it won’t. Donald Trump as Bob Cusack, says, is “the Teflon candidate”.

His divisive statements regarding Muslims and tolerance of his KKK connections only seem to ameliorate his numbers.

Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority leader Mitch McConnell denounce his positions; however, as Cusack points out, both have gone on record to say they will support the nominee.

Anemic in delegates, “unless the establishment coalesces against [him], he will no doubt be the nominee,” Cusack suggests. With two senate endorsements to Ted Cruz’s zero, Marco Rubio’s deflating momentum (victorious in only Minnesota and more recently, Puerto Rico) and John Kasich’s waning campaign– “there is no good alternative”.

Unconventional republican rhetoric drives Trump’s broad appeal: he has openly blamed George W. Bush for 9/11, attacked pharmaceutical companies and even Wall St. This works, in part, because, “the republican electorate is rebelling against the establishment and there’s nothing they can do to stop it…. you’ll never see anything like this in politics ever again.”

Republicans on the Hill have balked at the intransigent candidate, going so far as to promise to vote for Hillary Clinton over Trump. In a scenario where Donald Trump doesn’t get the delegates, “it will be a nightmare for the establishment”.

Simply: Trump’s numbers will slide and he will, ultimately fall to Hillary Clinton.

 

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MSLGroup/Qorvis gave a polish to its 2016 campaign tracker, Influencer16.com. Launched in 2015, the digital platform is a visual guidebook to each candidate’s campaign structure for the 2016 presidential election.

President of Qorvis/ MSLGroup president Michael Petruzzello remarks, “Nothing like Influencer2016 has ever existed before.” Influencer16’s innovative approach is a resource that is fit for any political novice or expert. “Our digital and campaign teams joined together to build an extraordinary digital map that offers a special look inside and behind the scene of the campaign apparatus,” Petruzzello explains.

Seasoned politicians establish a plethora of relationships with trusted advisors  who help anchor his or her presidential bid. Influencer16 places the individual campaigns in context of the bigger picture and elucidates voters of presidential campaign nuances. MSLGroup/Qorvis is proud of Infleuncer16 and its continuation of producing unique strategies/tools in the public affairs arena. 

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Ukraine’s National Bank Makes the Federal Reserve Seem Saintly

On February 22, 2016, in DCView, by Focus Washington

Many members of the U.S. House and Senate have complained long and hard about what they say is an out-of-control Federal Reserve Bank. They protested when the Fed took what they considered to be unprecedented measures during the recession, railed against someone other than an elected official making critical decisions about the U.S. economy and complained about what they claim is the Fed’s overbearing regulatory stance…

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Link to full article:

http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/263750-ukraines-national-bank-makes-the-federal-reserve-seem

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Stan Collender Talks Shutdown, the Future, and More

On October 5, 2015, in DCView, by Focus Washington

Chuck Conconi is back this week with a new episode of Focus Washington! His guest is budget expert Stan Collender, lending his insights into the continuing resolution, the effects of a shutdown, and giving his predictions for the upcoming elections. 

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