Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Books · Staying safe abroad
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Staying safe abroad

Robert Downes - August 25th, 2008
Ed Lee has lived a life of adventure, working in some of the most dangerous countries in the world as a security consultant. Riots, bombs, bullets and kidnappings -- he’s dealt with it all -- and he’s used his wits to keep himself and others out of harm’s way.
But today, Lee, 64, is relying on more than 30 years of experience as an international security consultant to help keep readers out of trouble overseas with his new book: “Staying Safe Abroad -- Traveling, Working and Living in a Post-9/11 World.”
The 327-page book, published by his own Sleeping Bear Risk Solutions press, is packed with hair-raising stories, timely statistics and common-sense tips that will rate as valuable cargo on your next foreign vacation. In fact, if there’s any fault to the book, it’s that you may not want to venture much farther than your back porch after reading its cautionary tales, much less across the U.S. border.

But it’s not Lee’s intention to scare Americans away from traveling, because he himself loves to go abroad. In fact, he’s spent much of his life in foreign lands and has visited 60-70 countries.
What he does stress, however, is common sense, caution, and a sense of preparedness to ensure your safety in foreign lands.
“The point I make in the book is that traveling abroad is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had and that most people will ever have,” Lee says. “But the world has changed dramatically since 9/11 -- crime is up, desperation is up, and the recession has had a ripple effect on foreign economies. All I’m saying is to be cautious, be prudent, don’t act like an American, and blend into the woodwork as best you can to enjoy your trip.”
Lee’s own trip through life began as a 17-year-old Marine from Saginaw who went to Vietnam twice. He took part in the historic landing on the beach at Danang in 1965 and returned to the country for another tour of duty in 1966.
“When I got out of the military, I was a sergeant, and at one juncture I got really interested in foreign affairs,” he recalls. He enrolled in the American University in Washington, D.C., and majored in law enforcement, moving on to a degree in forensic science.
“I ended up at the State Department and became a special agent, pretty much involved in protecting ambassadors and diplomats,” he says.

As a regional security officer, Lee traveled the world for years on end.
“I loved it -- it was interesting and very active work,” he says of his work overseas. “I picked up a number of languages along the way, studying Greek, Korean, Thai and Spanish.”
Those languages dovetailed with tough assignments.
For instance, Lee was on the Mediterranean isle of Cyprus during the conflict between Greece and Turkey which split the island in half.
“The U.S. ambassador was assassinated and it was a very dangerous place,” he says. “There were days when the Marines and I would dispense 200 to 300 cannisters of tear gas at the mobs outside the embassy.”
Other hot spot postings included Panama, El Salvador, Korea, Guatemala, Colombia and the “Dirty War” of Argentina.
“During the turbulent ‘80s, American officials were being assassinated and car bombs were becoming more popular,” Lee says.
It was his job as a security expert to head off such disasters, and sometimes, getting roughed-up went along with the gig.
“We’d get attacked at the demonstrations at the embassies and I’ve been robbed at gunpoint,” he notes. “Sometimes you’d get in a situation where you’d know you were going to take your lumps and the only thing you could do was cover your head. One thing I tell people is that if someone pulls a gun, a knife or a machete on you, do not resist. Getting robbed is not the time to get angry -- you need to be complacent and compliant.”
Along those lines, Lee has the look of a security consultant: he blends in, rather than trying to look like Rambo. He’s got a pleasant, laid-back demeanor with a touch of reserve, and to see him on the street, you might imagine that he’s an office worker instead of a former special agent in charge of keeping violence under control.
So, was he ever afraid, back in the day?
“I’ve been doing this for so long that I’ve been religious about following my own advice,” he says with a smile. “I’ve worked in Colombia and Pakistan and the highest-risk countries. A lot of being safe is knowing the country and knowing what criminals are looking for.
“And a lot of problems arise when Americans don’t know much about the country they’re visiting or haven’t thought through what they’d do in a dangerous situation.”

Lee retired from the Foreign Service in the late ‘80s and became a lecturer with the U.S. Foreign Service Institute, teaching more than 8,000 U.S. diplomats and their families how to stay safe overseas. He also became a private security consultant, based in Los Angeles.
On one memorable case, he was advising a French company which had a manufacturing plant in Medellin, Colombia during the height of that country’s drug cartel problems.
“They asked me to do a security assessment for their top executive, who was driving around in an unarmored Peugot,” he says. “I strongly recommended an armored car, and it took months to convince him to get a fully-armored vehicle.”
But a couple of months later, as the exec’s car pulled into the plant, a woman standing outside the gates pulled out a machine pistol and started spraying the car with bullets. “His car raced into the plant and the next day he called and thanked me for pushing so hard for an armored car,” Lee says.
Lee thought he was done with the State Department, but when Osama bin Laden’s suicide hijackers crashed into the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001, he got a call from the government, asking him to set up a new program in Washington. “I threw my laptop and printer in the back seat of my car and left home,” he says. “I figured I’d be gone a year, but four-and-a-half years later, I was still there.”

A medical event brought him home to Acme in April, 2006, and although Lee retired as a security consultant, he began a new life as an author.
“I started this book shortly after I came back to Michigan, thinking I’d bang it out in two or three months, but it took two years to complete,” he says.
And no wonder, because “Staying Safe Abroad” is filled with facts on everything from protecting your laptop to the mindset of criminals abroad. There are special sections on anti-Americanism, women traveling abroad, kidnapping, scams, terrorists, and why you’re generally on your own in a foreign country.
There are also stories of Americans who were beaten, raped and robbed because of their nationality, along with tales of other Western travelers who were victims of muggings, murder and vehicle accidents.
One such case was that of an American backpacker who got drunk at a bar in Honduras and was jumped by a gang of thugs who sliced his wrist nearly clean off. The local hospital refused to treat him unless he could come up with the cash on the spot. In another incident, a young American woman was raped on a mountain trail at 14,000 feet by attackers who said it was payback for a U.S. drug-eradification program.
You’ll also find nuggets of information scattered through the book, such as the fact that 6,000 Americans die abroad each year; and that 21 nations have higher homicide rates than the U.S., including South Africa, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Mexico, Russia, Thailand and Poland.
The book is invaluable for showing how to keep a low profile overseas; how to avoid risky situations; and what to do if you get into a jam, ranging from losing your passport to being in an armed robbery. Even small tips, like carrying a rubber doorjamb in your luggage to prevent hotel-break-ins.
“You’re not going to have a 9-11 number you can call in most countries where the police will respond quickly,” Lee notes. “You’re really on your own -- in fact, the cops may even rob you.”

Lee self-published “Stay Safe Abroad” through his own company. He’s already published a prior version of the book for business travelers and diplomats which sold well, and he has plans for two more books in 2009.
He also enjoys hitting the lecture circuit and speaking on the topic of travel safety. Book signings have gone well, and some people buy two or three copies.
“The appeal of the book is that it covers the whole gamete of travelers, from tourists to aid workers, business travelers and diplomats,” Lee says.
“There’s also a special section on cruise ships, which have seen a huge increase in crime,” he adds. “A lot of people in Northern Michigan take cruises, but you have to pick your boat carefully because there are countless accounts of people being raped, robbed and disappearing from cruise ships.”
So, with all of the above taken into account, should you just stay home?
Lee isn’t: he still takes two or three trips each year and has traveled abroad with his daughters Vicki and Jennifer.
So don’t be afraid to travel -- just be prepared. “The point of the book is educating travelers so they can make the right decisions.”

“Staying Safe Abroad” is available at Horizon Books, Amazon.com, and through www.sbrisksolutions.com.
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