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Post-Obama Visit, What’s Next for Peace between Palestine, Israel? PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Wednesday, 10 April 2013 08:51
3 Obama Accomplishments and 3 Ways Israel Can Jumpstart the
Peace Process, Noted by Jewish Peace Activist

Given how low expectations were prior to President Obama’s recent visit to Israel, it may not be saying much to declare that he exceeded expectations. But he did, says Israeli-Palestinian peace advocate Michael Cooper, and the centerpiece was his speech  to the Israeli people.

“His speech carried broad historical perspectives, a fair and moral worldview and showed warmth and friendship toward Israel, allaying fears that he was somehow anti-Israeli,” says Cooper, the  author of “Foxes in the Vineyard,” (, an Indie Publishing grand prize-winning novel that explores Israel’s birth through historical fiction.

The Jewish-American pediatric cardiologist, who regularly visits Israeli-occupied territories to provide medical care for the underserved children there, reviews the accomplishments of the president’s trip to Israel:

• The president’s first accomplishment was successfully resuscitating the two-state solution — a democratic and Jewish state of Israel living alongside a viable and independent state of Palestine. He emphasized the possibility and necessity of peace, and the justice and hope it provides for Israelis and Palestinians. He humanized those who aspire to live in peace with each other. At the same time, he marginalized the uncompromising extremists on both sides who promise only conflict. In promoting this vision of peace to the people of Israel, Obama was preaching to the choir. A recent poll in The Times of Israel reported that 67 percent of Israelis support a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders with land swaps, a demilitarized Palestine, and the Old City of Jerusalem jointly administered by Israel, Palestine, and the U.S.

• President Obama convinced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call his counterpart in Turkey and to apologize for the killing of nine Turkish activists during the Gaza flotilla fiasco. Now, Israel and Turkey are moving to restore diplomatic relations and Israel can look forward to resuming her strong military and economic ties with Turkey.

• A third positive development took place two days after the visit; Netanyahu released frozen Palestinian tax funds, transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars to the desperately cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.

Building on these positive steps, Cooper points to three things Israel might do to immediately ignite the peace process, “without waiting for outside pressure from the ‘Quartet on the Middle East’ (the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations), Israel can seize the initiative,” he says.

• Stop expansion and apply the rule of law: Stop the expansion of all settlements in disputed territory and begin to dismantle illegal settler outposts. The latter involves nothing more than applying Israel’s own laws to outposts that are illegal according to the Israeli Supreme Court.

• Quell violent Jewish settler groups: An EU report found that settler violence had more than tripled in the three years up to 2011. Israeli police and military personnel should identify and arrest violent Jewish settlers and prosecute them in a court of law. Many prominent Jewish religious figures and high-ranking government officials have already condemned the brutal acts perpretrated by extremist settlers.

• Implement good will: Establish a cabinet level Ministry of Reconciliation to oversee the establishment of good-will cultural and economic missions between Israelis and Palestinians.

“The democratic state of Israel is strong enough to defend itself against internal enemies who undermine the rule of law. Israel’s future as a secure and democratic homeland for the Jewish People demands no less,” Cooper says.

“If Israel were to implement positive initiatives tomorrow – peace talks could start the day after tomorrow.”

About Michael Cooper

Michael J. Cooper emigrated to Israel after graduating high school in Oakland, Calif. Living in Israel for more than a decade, he studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and graduated from Tel Aviv University Medical School. Now a clinical professor at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center and a practicing pediatric cardiologist in Northern California, he returns to Israel several times a year, volunteering on medical missions under the auspices of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. Cooper’s novel, “Foxes in the Vineyard,” historical fiction set in 1948 Israel, was the 2011 grand prize winner of the Indie Publishing Contest. A second novel, The Rabbi’s Knight, is due out soon.

Mastering Life Balance: Achieving Greatness at Home and at Work PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Monday, 08 April 2013 10:37
5 Tips from Former Businessman of the Year

People are overwhelmed with the complexities of their own lives and are desperately seeking a way to maximize happiness in their home and work lives, says Gary Kunath, an entrepreneur, speaker and former CEO who works with some of the world’s top corporations and business schools.

“I used to be caught up in the spin cycle of thinking that net worth automatically afforded me life worth,” says Kunath, a speaker at top business schools and author of “Life ... Don't Miss It. I Almost Did: How I Learned To Live Life To The Fullest,” (

“I sacrificed time with my family with the justification that I was providing necessary material things, but at a certain point you realize that money doesn’t make you rich, it just allows you to buy more stuff.”

Priorities for professionals have shifted; now, U.S. workers seek family wellbeing above all else, he says. Companies need to recognize that it’s imperative to positively affect their employees’ lives, both inside and outside working quarters, he says.

“We need to bring humanity back to business,” Kunath says. “Leading corporations are aware that most professionals today – 70 percent – would trade a pay raise for an increase in personal wellness.”

But employers are struggling with that, he says, citing a new American Psychological Association survey released in March in which 48 percent of employees say their employers don’t value a good work-life balance.

More professionals are trying to find a path to life worth, rather than centering their behavior on net worth, Kunath says. He offers five ways career-minded individuals can achieve both:

• Look for signs you’re falling into the net-worth trap: For Kunath, those signs were clear. One day, he says, “it was like someone had smacked me on the head,” when his son, then 12, walked away in dismay after Kunath said he couldn’t play baseball with him because he was too busy working on a business proposal. “The look of disappointment on my son’s face was something I will never forget,” he says. Kunath dropped everything and spent the day with his son. “I promised that would NEVER happen again”. The next occurrence included a mental and physical breakdown after Kunath pushed himself to make an unnecessary business trip while sick.  After a 19-hour ordeal in a delayed flight to Spain, “…I knew in my bones that if I did not draw the line right there … I would ruin every part of my life that mattered to me.”

• Don’t be an employee, be employable: Unless you are self-employed, you are always vulnerable to someone else controlling your professional destiny, and therefore, your life worth. But employees can empower themselves by diversifying their skills so that they can have more choices about where and for whom to work.

• Bad things happen to good people: Adversity finds us all. No one enjoys the worst, most painful moments of their lives. Nonetheless, life events like loss of a loved one, financial ruin, divorce, addictions or illness tend to define us. We need adversity in our lives. Anyone can be a rock star when life is perfect. But when adversity strikes, then the “real” you is revealed. How you face adversity can either extinguish you or distinguish you.

• Believe in something bigger than you: There will be times when you are utterly helpless, with no control over an outcome. All the money in the bank and all the authority at work will do no good when it comes to, for instance, the death of a loved one. Believing in something bigger than you is an important part of having life worth; it helps you maintain your emotional health when you face life’s biggest challenges.

• Don’t Major in the Minors: As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” For every evening spent late in the office there are moments professionals miss out on – and can never get back. Many of us spend time on things that ultimately don’t matter. “The three greatest gifts you can give to your family are: Time, Memories and Tradition,” he says. “These are things in life that matter.”

About Gary Kunath

Gary Kunath is the founder of The Summit Group, which is ranked among the top sales-training companies in the world by Selling Power magazine. His value-creation approach received the “Innovative Practice of the Year Award” by 3M worldwide. He was named Businessman of the Year for the United States and was recognized a dinner hosted by the president of the United States. He has lectured extensively at several prominent business schools, and he is currently an adjunct professor at The Citadel’s Sports Marketing graduate program. Kunath is as an owner of several professional minor league baseball teams along with his partners, Bill Murray, Jimmy Buffet and Mike Veeck. The group is famous for managing its teams around the “Fun is Good” approach.

Statement from Governor Pat Quinn on the Passing of U.S. Diplomat Anne Smedinghoff PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Leslie Wertheimer   
Monday, 08 April 2013 10:24

CHICAGO - Governor Pat Quinn gave the following statement today on the passing of Anne Smedinghoff. A young U.S. State Department diplomat from River Forest who like the governor attended Fenwick High School, Anne tragically lost her life in an explosion in Afghanistan while delivering books to children.

“Illinois is proud to call Anne Smedinghoff one of our own.

“Only 25 years old, this brave young woman knew social justice was her calling, and selflessly lost her life while serving others in a war-torn country. She was devoted to protecting America and improving the lives of others.

“We thank God for Anne's purposeful life. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.”


Governor Quinn’s Trade Mission to Mexico Strengthens Illinois Water Technology Firms PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Erin Wilson   
Friday, 05 April 2013 10:06

Illinois Businesses Global Leaders in Water Tech; Helping Mexico City Face Tremendous Clean Water Challenges

MEXICO CITY – Governor Pat Quinn today held a meeting with key leaders to promote water technology firms from Illinois, businesses that are uniquely qualified to assist Mexico with its clean water challenges. The governor is currently on a trade mission to Mexico – part of his agenda to drive Illinois’ economy forward and create jobs.

“Illinois is striving to lead the nation and world in clean technology and environmental innovation, especially when it comes to clean water,” Governor Quinn said. “There are currently more than 100 water technology companies in Illinois, and these firms are positioned to offer expertise on a global scale and sell their products and services abroad. Illinois will take full advantage of opportunities for water technology growth in Mexico while helping the neighboring nation deal with its clean water challenges.”

Governor Quinn today met Mexico City Mayor Miguel Mancera, two governors and representatives of the Mexican National Water Commission (CONAGUA) to specifically discuss water treatment and how Illinois can help. One of the world’s largest metropolitan areas, Mexico City faces tremendous challenges accessing clean water. These challenges include decreased groundwater, overexploitation, land subsidence, risk of major flooding, poor water quality, inefficient water use, wastewater treatment and the reuse of wastewater in agriculture. The security of the city’s water supply and stormwater drainage in the metropolitan area are major concerns for all levels of government.

The Mexican market for water technologies is estimated to grow three percent during 2013. United States exports in this area are also expected to increase three percent this year. Illinois firms that can take advantage of this heightened Mexican demand include: In-Pipe Technology Company of Wood Dale, which provides engineered wastewater treatment technology and services that meet the challenges facing today's municipalities; Elan Technologies of New Lenox, an innovator in open channel flow measurement and monitoring; Grundfos of Aurora, a global leader in advanced pump solutions and a trendsetter in water technology; and Nalco of Springfield, which develops technologies that either prolong water’s usability in closed systems, prepare water for reuse rather than discharge or redirect the water into an application with different requirements.

Known by its Spanish acronym, CONAGUA is the federal agency responsible for the maintenance of the country’s potable and municipal wastewater infrastructure. Mexico contains a total of 2,400 municipal water utilities, 713 potable water treatment plants and 102,548 miles of pipeline to distribute potable water to urban and rural areas. CONAGUA estimates that 90 percent of the total Mexican population of 108 million has access to running water. As in most countries, the Mexican water business remains somewhat localized, but is opening up to global competition.

In response to Mexico City’s water challenges, Mexico initiated a $2.8 billion Water Sustainability Program which includes water conservation as an important element. Investments envisioned under the plan include an increase in wastewater treatment, the importation of groundwater from irrigated areas north of the city, the construction of a major new stormwater drainage tunnel, increased water imports from an expansion of the energy-intensive Cutzamala system and better water allocation methods.

Last year Governor Quinn launched the $1 billion Illinois Clean Water Initiative to help local governments overhaul aging drinking water and wastewater treatment plants and pipes while creating more than 28,000 jobs. The initiative will help ensure that residents will have access to safe drinking water and that our environment will remain protected.

The Mexico trade mission is the latest by Governor Quinn as he seeks to promote Illinois to an international audience. Past missions include China and Japan in 2011, and Canada and Brazil in 2012.


How to Turn Chaos into Control After the Death of a Loved One PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 05 April 2013 10:05
Expert Offers 4 Tips for Getting Your Affairs
in Order in the Immediate Aftermath

Serial entrepreneur Susan Alpert captured the good life with her husband of 46 years, Larry. She had a great family and a successful career, including running several multimillion dollar companies.

“After a fairy-tale wedding, we lived ‘happily ever after’ – as happy as real-life gets –except, of course, that’s not really the end of the story,” says Alpert, author of “Driving Solo,” ( “Ten months after my husband was diagnosed with leukemia, I lost him – along with my passion and ability to focus on a purpose for living.”

She was overwhelmed with the amount of financial, legal, civic and personal paper work necessary for settling the present and for planning the future. For two years, Alpert says, she was a shell of the happy person she used to be. Despite her business savvy, she had initially experienced major difficulty in navigating her personal finances.

“I sat with a cosmic void in me which I had no idea how to fill; then, it suddenly came to me,” she says. “What does one do to handle the practical aspects of settling the estate after the loss of a loved one? Who do you notify and when? What papers do you need to file, and which documents do you need to amend? How do you untangle the pieces, and what do you do with them once there’s some order? How do you tend to business when you’re in a fog of grief?”

Each year, approximately 1.2 million Americans lose their spouses. Alpert decided she would help these survivors. She offers these tips for handling the immediate aftermath of a spouse’s death.

• Define your workspace. Establish a workplace where you will deal with the paperwork, phone calls, etc. If you have an office or guest room, either is a good choice. Do not use your living room, kitchen or bedroom – the places where you live. Your work space will be focused on the past, and your living space should be devoted to the present. Supply your workspace with stamps and envelopes, stapler, paper clips, file cabinet, etc.

• Keep a contact binder near your telephone to record the dates, names, numbers, and relevant notes regarding all phone conversations. This contact book is an essential resource that you will use often, and a great time-saver. This chronological listing makes it easy to identify at a glance with whom you spoke and when. Dedicate this binder to matters pertaining solely to the business aspects of your loss.

•  Non-family notifications to make immediately: You will need to notify your lawyer, accountant, financial advisor, banking institutions and the Social Security Administration to advise them of the situation. Keep records of your calls in your contact binder. Make certain you ask what you must do to follow through. Have them repeat it. When possible, get it in writing. An e-mail or fax is as good as a hard copy.

• Keep your receipts!: While it may be the farthest thing from your mind now, many of the expenses associated with this process can be reimbursed via the estate or itemized and deducted on your tax return. These include costs associated with documentation (e.g., photocopying, postage, and mileage) as well as records and receipts relating to funeral expenses. Later, you can check with your legal and tax advisors for current rules and regulations, and to discuss whether you qualify for these write-offs.

About Susan Alpert

Susan Alpert is the creator of Chaos to Control, a program through which she coaches the bereaved on business aspects of death and other major life changes. Alpert – a successful businesswoman, educator and serial entrepreneur who has run several multimillion dollar companies – created the program after losing her husband of 46 years. Alpert is the founder of several companies, numerous focus groups and most recently her own consulting firm. Alpert holds master’s degrees in psychology and education, and has extensive experience in the fields of negotiation, finance, international services and business.

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