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The death of entrepreneurship in Bahrain

The death of entrepreneurship in Bahrain

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a truckful of unread, undistributed entrepreneurship magazines

I arrived at my office this morning at my regular time to be faced with this truck parked just outside. I suspect that the truck’s destination is a recycling plant.

What struck me wasn’t the industry of the workers or that paper recycling is a bona fide operation in Bahrain, what did was the picture I was faced with. I thought it was an indication of the state we are in on multi-facetted levels.

Consider this: the magazine bundles are clearly just as they have been received from a printer, unopened, undistributed and unread. The inference here is that we as a community do not read.

Second: the magazine in question is targeted toward entrepreneurs. Its website describes it as follows: “Rowad magazine aims at being not only a magazine, but a reference tool for entrepreneurs locally and regionally with a vision to reach international platforms. The magazine offers insight on entrepreneurship across all industries which include ; ICT, Arts, Health & Fitness, Film Industry just to name a few.” It is abundantly clear that it’s not benefiting any of its promised targets. It is simply destined to a recycling plant – one hopes – and thus doing more good for the environment than the minds it was hoping to enrich. I can’t help but think if this yet another indication of the death of entrepreneurship in Bahrain.

Third: Print is dead. I honestly don’t know why anyone bothers to print anything any more, especially papers and magazines. We need trees more than useless paper that’s ultimately going to be tossed out. Most information is better provided electronically for obvious reasons, the least of which is searchability and protection and sustainability of the environment.

This was a quite interesting start of my day. One that clearly exposed several elephants in the room, particularly in Bahrain:

  1. Reading is not high on our priority list,
  2. Entrepreneurship here is in dire straights. The majority of “schemes” thrown at it won’t bring it back to life. Tamkeen, in particular, is not working and needs to be shut down. I have come to realise now that Tamkeen is the worst thing that has happened to business and entrepreneurship in Bahrain. It is superficial at best and a Darwinian culling of businesses large and small is the best for the future of this country.
  3. Thirdly, businesses here need to divorce themselves from print media. The utter crap that is being printed in this country is mind-boggling. When magazines exist simply to sell ads and not provide real and valuable content, when magazines’ main contribution is society pictures and pages, it is best to shut them down. Even the Internet doesn’t deserve this crap. Invest your advertising dollars in proper digital marketing and CSR schemes that benefits the community, rather than continue to prop up a dying and completely unnecessary industry.

Good morning and make it a great day!

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Gratitudes and the Duraz Siege

Gratitudes and the Duraz Siege

Every day, I endeavor to be grateful for at least five things.  I write them down as early as I can every morning to remind me to stay humble and be thankful for what I have. This practice has allowed me to stay positive in the face of difficulties and reminded me to see things in context and put them into perspective. Today is my 105th day of doing this, thanks to the Facebook Group 90 Days of Gratitude.

Today, I choose to reflect on our village Duraz’s siege from my own perspective. We are having to suffer long queues of cars to report to a police checkpoint – one of only two for a village and an area that hosts over 20,000 residents – to get home. Every other entrance into the village has been closed off by police. And I mean this literally. The ancient village of Duraz has many routes in and out of it, as you might imagine for a very old habitat, but every single one of them has been closed and is being guarded by police. The word inconvenience doesn’t even start to describe what residents are going through. Every day. At least twice a day. For the last two and a half months.

The situation as I personally see it is better described as collective punishment. This of course has to stop. It is the decent thing to do.

Backgrounder:

Picture courtesy of Alwasat newspaper. Checkpoint at Duraz entrance on the Budaiya highway
Picture courtesy of Alwasat newspaper. Checkpoint at the Budaiya highway entrance to Duraz.

On 20 June, Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior revoked the nationality of Sheikh Isa Qassim, the spiritual leader of Bahrain’s Shia community, rendering him stateless. In response, hundreds of demonstrators began a peaceful sit-in around Sheikh Qassim’s home in the village of Duraz, where he also preaches. Since then, the authorities have subjected Duraz to an unprecedented lockdown, in what is a form of collective punishment against the entire village. The government’s action violates the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, assembly, and movement for all the residents of Duraz and their families.

Duraz is located in the north west of the main island. To its west is Budaiya and to its east is Barbar. Its south side faces onto the major Budaiya Highway, and on the other side are the villages of Bani Jamra and Saar. Duraz has an estimated population of 20-30,000 people.

…more at ECDHR

Here are my gratitudes of this morning, for the 105th day.

I am grateful for:

  1. The internet for keeping me entertained, inspired and informed for the calculated delays at the Duraz checkpoint to get home. Twice a day at least. Every day. For the last two and a half months.
  2. The inconsiderate dimwits who choose to ignore the patience of everyone at the Duraz checkpoint. Although they are many, my trust in humanity, patience and respect of others is strengthened by noting that those patiently queueing are considerably more than the inconsiderate unmannered uncultured dimwits. I’m reminded of this at least twice a day. Every day. For the last two and a half months.
  3. For my fervent belief that security measures are never a final solution, but a tool wisely used to get opposing sides to the dialogue and peace table. Sieges are so 12th century not the 21st. I’m reminded of this at least twice a day. Every day. For the last two and a half months.
  4. The comfort that my car provides. Makes waiting to go through the checkpoint at Duraz actually a tolerable experience. Other than my and thousands of others daily loss of at least two hours having to tolerate this siege every day. At least twice a day. For the last two and half months.
  5. The realization that dialogue, compromise and outcomes that respect international human rights codes are the intelligent solutions going forward. The Duraz siege manifests the failure of the realization of these certain facts. Every day. All day. For the last 2,025 days.

Regardless of the reason why the government has imposed this siege, this is collective punishment for a population through no fault of its own.

160829: Thank you Alwasat Newspaper for featuring this post.

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Muhammad Ali. Thank you.

Muhammad Ali. Thank you.

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Who hasn’t been inspired in one way or another by Mohammed Ali? From his famous “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” to the defence of his titles as well as his human rights activities.

I’m going to miss him, and though I’m not an avid boxing fan, I am so grateful to have witnessed some of his most memorable fights in my lifetime.

Here’s a compilation of some of his quotes, courtesy of pix11:

  1. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see.”
  2. “I’m not the greatest, I’m the double greatest.”
  3. “Don’t count the days; make the days count.”
  4. “A man who has no imagination has no wings.”
  5. “If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it—then I can achieve it.”
  6. “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”
  7. “I’m young; I’m handsome; I’m fast. I can’t possibly be beat.”
  8. “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.”
  9. “A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
  10. “If you even dream of beating me you’d better wake up and apologize.”
  11. “Braggin’ is when a person says something and can’t do it. I do what I say.”
  12. “I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.”
  13. “I should be a postage stamp. That’s the only way I’ll ever get licked.”
  14. “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
  15. “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
  16. “If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can sure make something out of you.”
  17. “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”
  18. “At home I am a nice guy: but I don’t want the world to know. Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.”
  19. “Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.”
  20. “Live everyday as if it were your last because someday you’re going to be right.”

Rest in peace Mohammed Ali.

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Untangling from Drama

Untangling from Drama

This week’s #TryThisThursday will resonate with a lot of us. This week’s assignment is to “Untangle from drama. No one can ruin your day without your permission.

no-drama

Who hasn’t had to deal with drama and came out the worst for wear? Who haven’t felt their energy almost completely drained after such a situation. Who hasn’t felt the depression setting in and the self doubt rising?

After such a draining situation, I usually tend to feel so low that it takes me days to recover from those ugly experiences. Not the last time I was dragged into drama; though. I was actually able to recover within minutes. I’ll tell you why.

The market in Bahrain is quite challenging. We continuously have to re-invent ourselves in order for us to create new opportunities that actually create new markets. Or we have to heavily invest in upgrading our skills and knowledge in order for us to maintain our edge and deliver a better product and service to our clients.

Few clients appreciate that, unfortunately, but those who do, we hang on to with all that we’ve got. They’re the ones who allow us to grow together. The clients that don’t are those who believe that in order for them to win, they have to ensure that we lose. Those we tend to let go of quite happily.

Both situations are clear cut and I’ve been in business long enough not to let those negative situations affect me much. In fact, we celebrate when we fire a customer just as hard as when we win a good one.

The issue I was faced with recently was with neither; however. Though someone connected. It was with someone who is neither but finds himself in a position of influence. And he would rather use that position to bad-mouth us – me personally – rather than do the responsible thing of at least bothering to find the facts and base his position on knowledge rather than conjecture.

I have come across his negative “influence” twice before. The first with a project that we took on as part of our CSR initiative at deep discount and has become delinquent due to customer inaction. The other was him raising doubts in the mind of a customer that our pricing was unreasonably high by conveniently neglecting to factor in the level of expertise, skill and intellectual property required to bring such a project to life. His thinking was that if a bolt cost $0.50, why should the installation of an aircraft wing, which the bolt is part of, cost so much more?

How would you deal with such a situation?

I talked to him; and he came out as sweet as honey and as understanding as a best friend. But immediately I turned my back, I felt the dagger dig even deeper in my back.

After the last interaction, I felt myself going into that depressed state once again. I do take things personally in these situations. How I deal with them is that I tend to try to get people to understand the situation more fully by sharing all relevant information and also share methodologies and pricing structure. I suppose this is me going on the defensive in an attempt to justify myself.

This time; however, as I was sliding into that ugly state, I actually stopped myself with a simple but poignant question: what was the silver lining in this situation? I was looking for a thing to be grateful for from this experience. It was the 11th day of my 90 Days of Gratitude commitment and thinking of things to be grateful for was becoming a habit. The answer was nothing short of a watershed moment for me.

My realisation was that his negativity was his persona and his method of living. Not mine. Negativity was engrained in his character. It was not my flaw. I would never be able to change that person’s negativity.

This is the deep realisation that allowed me to immediately move on!

The sense of wonder and peace I felt then were tremendous. I chose to be positive which immediately opened up a horizon that was bigger than myself and allowed me to look into the situation from a macro perspective, and arrive at a conclusion.

I did not give him permission to ruin my day. Rather, I would rather like to thank him for the opportunity he has given me to discover this new way of looking at things. A path that is more grounded and more worthy of treading, than the unconstructive, unwarranted, unneeded and destructive self blame and doubt.

That is how I was able to untangle from drama.

To celebrate that discovery, I recorded this on the 11th day of my 90 Days of Gratitude journey:

grateful for the realisation that rather than justify myself to a perennially negative person, I recognised the fact that their negativity is their inherent trait rather than my character flaw. This allowed me to move on.

I’d love to know your experiences in how you untangled yourself from drama. Please share your experience here.

Wishing you a completely drama-free life!

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#TryThisThursday

#TryThisThursday

Mahmood and the dogs at Duraz beach

#TryThisThursday is an opportunity for people to try something different, to expand their horizons and take them out of their own boxes. It is to get people to stretch beyond their comfort zones and move away from their usual routines, and to have a bit of fun too!

Every Thursday, Frances urges her Meditation classes at Serenity Meditation, Yoga and Reiki Centre to try something new. She is expanding that now and inviting members of this group to participate too.

The idea behind this initiative is to get people to stretch beyond their comfort zones and do something different and away from their usual routines. She has been assigning this “homework” for a few years now and the response is overwhelmingly positive.

One that people seemed to have had real fun with was to create something out of clay. The art pieces that some people created were stunning! More recent #TryThisThursday assignments included “Praise someone for a job well done”, “Spend time going around an art gallery” and “Just be you”.

It appears that an incredibly challenging assignment was an instruction to walk around a mall and not buy anything! Some people had an almost allergic reaction to that one. Some failed and succumbed and bought little things; while others resisted the urge and came back feeling like champions. This particular assignment resulted in lightbulb moments for a lot of the participants as it changed the way they shopped. Their realisation that they can enjoy the mall atmosphere without having to actually buy anything was their watershed moment as it resulted in them breaking the habit of shopping.

Putting on loud music and dancing for five minutes a day was a fun assignment that a lot of people enjoyed. Reporting back, some felt freed and liberated by this assignment not just for those five short minutes, but for the whole day afterwards.

The power of positivity is truly miraculous.

I personally experienced this when I joined the “90 Days of Gratitude” Facebook Group. In that Group, members are encouraged to post five things they are grateful for every day for 90 days. If one misses a single day, the 90-day count must be reset and you will have to restart the experience all over again.

Let me tell you that being consciously grateful allowed me to remain calmer throughout the day as it helped me put things into perspective. It allowed me to concentrate on the important rather than continuously react to the urgent. I believe that this is becoming one of my good habits. I highly recommend you join that group. As you can see, I found it very worthwhile.

This most recent #TryThisThursday assignment is “Untangle from Drama. No one can ruin your day without your permission.” Who of us can’t relate to this one? I encourage you to relate your experiences for this assignment on the Facebook TryThisThursday Group, or if you wish, you may add your experiences in a comment here too.

This invitation is open to all of you to share your experiences and insights on a weekly basis once an assignment is posted, until the next one is published on next Thursday. Your experiences will inspire more people to lead a fuller life.

Please spread the word and invite your friends and trusted acquaintances to join this group. The more members there are the better.

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It’s the little things..

It’s the little things..

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A few days ago, the Internet lit up with laughter with the Chewbaka lady. And who could resist laughing out loud with this one:

seriously? This reminds me that it’s the little things in life that makes me happy. I’m grateful for those moments.

But the internet also went hysterically sad too because of this one:

But then, resilience of the human spirit came through and people actually changed the tears of sadness with those of happiness and laughter.

hodor

Brilliant. You just can’t beat life.

Have a good one!

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Life in my garden

Life in my garden

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I love my little pond. It’s always full of life and the sound of the water calms me. I visit as often as I can, even if I just pass by when I arrive home and have a quick look. There’s always life in my garden.

Passing by yesterday at lunch, I noticed a couple of dragonflies at the pond. I stood still and put my finger up in the hope that one of them would land. I had done that before. This time; however, none would take the bate. My wife arrived soon thereafter and she came over to say hello. Seeing what I was doing, she nonchalantly put up her finger and within seconds a dragonfly landed on her finger tip! I cursed the dragonflies, of course, to my wife’s hearty laughter.

After she had gone inside, I thought I’d give it another go. Fortunately I was second time lucky, as you can see, and I enjoyed their company for a few minutes before heading inside for lunch.

I’m so grateful for my home and lovely little garden. And for being able to share it with family and friends too.

Have wonderful morning.

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Gratitude as Culture

Gratitude as Culture

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One of the now long-standing traditions at Gulf Broadcast is the Morning Huddle. It’s a mandatory short meeting that lasts for not more than 7 minutes and starts at 08:37 every morning. The first thing we do at the Huddle is to share Good News where every member of the team shares a good thought or deed she or he has participated in, come across or witnessed. That always puts a smile on everyone’s face.

Thinking of this custom another way, it gives us all a chance to be grateful. It grounds us and reminds us to own our own experience and look at situations through a positive lens. We’ve found that this makes a lot of difference to the way we do business and allows us to start the day with a positive attitude.

This is not a flippant custom. It is one that I have come to look forward to because no matter how hard times are, thinking of a single thing that I am grateful for, eases that negative sense which sometimes might seem to have grown to be intolerable or overwhelming.

I can’t remember exactly why, but one day I was exploring the various groups on Facebook and came across a “90 Days of Gratitude” group. This group’s members are challenged to be thankful for five things each day for 90 days. The rules of this group are quite interesting:

  • Every day you have to make a post with 5 things you’re thankful for
  • No repeating anything from your previous lists (okay to repeat someone else’s)
  • Post the consecutive day count
  • If you miss a day, you have to start over from 1
  • When you get to 90 days, you go on “the victory board”
  • If you do it multiple times, you get a star after your name for each additional

As I know the positive effects that the Good News segment of the Daily Huddle had on me, I was quite convinced that multiplying that by five will result in even more benefits. What’s there to lose? At the very least, I will have contributed to happy and good news that might in some minute way offset the bad and sad news we’re inundated with. This is not escapism and I’m not belittling the heinous suffering people around the world are enduring; however, I believe we do need to delve in good news once in a while for our mental health and vitality.

With these thoughts in mind, I accepted the 90 Days of Gratitude challenge and started sharing my list of five things I’m grateful for every morning. I’d be grateful if you would do me the honour of following me on Facebook if you wish to read my daily lists. I hope they will inspire good thoughts in your own world.

For posterity’s sake, here are my entries over the last five days. Please do share yours, at least try it for a few days and see how you get along.

Day 1 – 14 May 2016

  • The Japanese hibiscus is flowering in my garden
  • The tweets of the graceful prinia is a constant pleasure as they nest in various bushes and trees in my garden
  • The rose-ringed parakeets have made a home in the eaves again, it’s a pleasure to see the parents at the water dish from time to time
  • The wild bees are all over the flowering cacti in the xeriscape border
  • Good coffee!

Here’s a short one minute movie I did for the inaugural day.

Day 2 – 15 May 2016

  • Wonderful relaxing and reconnecting weekend
  • Hung out with my eldest daughter and had coffee
  • Met a good friend, even though it was very brief but good to run into him
  • Spend a good part of the afternoon yesterday chilling in the garden
  • Had a good night’s sleep… bring on the day!

Day 3 – 16 May 2016

  • I’m on fire today and it’s only 08:28 -> 2 quotes submitted and 2 copyright infringement claims submitted too!
  • The new direction I have set for my company is solidifying with good orders
  • My daughter is progressing with her job search and starting a paid internship to bridge the gap
  • Re-imagining parts of my garden; improving the Buddha patch and converting the Banana patch into a zen space
  • Grateful that our Serenity Meditation, Yoga and Reiki Centre [website] is doing better than expected. Nice helping people with their lives and for my wife to expand her purpose.

Day 4 – 17 May 2016

  • Free medicines and medical checkups in Bahrain for citizens
  • My family and friends
  • My health
  • Gmelina phillipensis I’m gonna get you!
  • My son for cooking good lunches!

Day 5 – 18 May 2016

  • The Adeniums are flowering again. Love these “Desert Flowers”.
  • A good night’s rest
  • Really good workout at the gym
  • Completed a website redesign on time
  • Enabling a stellar employee to progress even further

pink-adenium

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The adverse effects of impunity on humanity

The adverse effects of impunity on humanity

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I happened across a couple of posts on Facebook which clearly demonstrated to me the adverse effects of impunity on humanity.

In the first instance, we witness a member of the Israeli forces physically tipping over a handicapped Palestinian in a wheelchair and then physically assaults him. The situation around that crime quickly descends in to chaos and becomes an unsafe place to be.

The question that came into my mind as I watched the following film was:

“What do these people get fed intellectually to get them to act with such impunity? How much are they given freedoms to picture the Palestinians as devoid of humanity to get them to justify their actions in their minds to be this inhuman toward them? This is simply despicable and inexcusable. Impunity should be rescinded and these people of the Israeli forces or any other forces for that matter should be held accountable for their actions, and their systems should be dismantled so this situation would never happen again.”

On the other hand, another video shows what can happen if a safe environment presents itself as a given, if the rule of law is applied equally without discrimination. My thoughts when I watched this second video were:

“On the other hand, when rule of law is applied, and impunity is punished and people are held accountable for their own actions, a safe platform presents itself for peace seeking people to utilise.”

Isn’t it more conducive to a better quality of life for the second situation to be the norm rather than the first?

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The Mecca Pilgrims Deaths. Yet another stampede

The Mecca Pilgrims Deaths. Yet another stampede

A lot has been written and debated about the tragic and inexcusable events in Mecca which has claimed close to one thousand souls with many more injured. We don’t know what the final tally is, because currently the Saudi official sources have stopped reporting the numbers. Hajj, of course is one of the five pillars of Islam and is demanded of every Muslim to perform once in their lifetime if they are capable to do so.

SAUDI-HAJJ-ISLAM
GRAPHIC CONTENT
Saudi emergency personnel stand near bodies of Hajj pilgrims at the site where at least 717 were killed and hundreds wounded in a stampede in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, at the annual hajj in Saudi Arabia on September 24, 2015. The stampede, the second deadly accident to strike the pilgrims this year, broke out during the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual, the Saudi civil defence service said. AFP PHOTO / STR / Getty Images

The reactions to the most recent Mecca pilgrims deaths I’ve come across generally are either apologists trying to shift the blame to the pilgrims themselves, their nationality – thus being completely racist – as well as blaming their countries of origin whom they say are responsible for educating their citizens before they embark on the pilgrimage; through to those who squarely blame the Saudi regime labelling it as incompetent and fatalistic and should never be allowed to run this holy event in the Muslim calendar.

mecca-deaths-bbc-historyThe number of tragedies in recent history certainly gives the latter thoughts some credibility as the cycle of deaths and more importantly their cause isn’t stopping giving rise to the fact that the Saudis aren’t learning from experiences, or if they are, they’re not adapting their ways to ensure that more tragedies won’t occur in the future.

Another opinion goes further and touches upon the Hajj itself is a business and a major source of revenue for Saudi and almost state that the pilgrims themselves and the event itself is a side consideration. There is no doubt that these opinions are harsh and I can understand the anger surrounding the issue. People’s lives are precious, and if they seem to have gone in vain, the pain is even harder to come to terms with.

munich-octoberfest-hajj-comparison
“Munich’s Octoberfest is an event attended by seven million drunks annually and we didn’t hear of any deaths due to stampedes although all are drunk”

There are other comparisons. People ask, how is it that Octoberfest in Munich attracts seven million drunks and we never hear of stampedes and deaths? There are other large gatherings around the world that do not suffer such a fate either. According to ARC (pdf), 30
 million 
pilgrims attend
 Ayyappan
 Saranam,
 India
, 20 million pilgrims in Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Karbala in Iraq welcomes 10 million worshippers annually for the Arba’een Commemoration and the event passes generally peacefully and without much regular incidents save for some terrorist attacks and even those have been mitigated, yet in Mecca with just two million, tragedies are the norm, and so is blaming the pilgrims rather than the system.

A safe and secure pilgrimage is a must and it’s high time that it becomes a reality. This holy Muslim right has been going on for over 1,400 years, one would think that a system to safely run it would have been absolutely perfected by now. Yet the evident truth is that it hasn’t. As Saudi Arabia has taken it upon itself to be the custodian of the two holy mosques and the Hajj, it is incumbent upon them to ensure that this event is regularised as clock-work and be safe for everyone who wants to perform it. It is only through an acceptance of accountability, criticism – regardless of how harsh it may seem – and clear definitions of responsibilities can these issues be resolved for the short as well as the long term. It will also help to refuse to ascribe these issues to fate in any way, but work though them with logic and a transparent evaluation of the facts to clearly identify and repair what has gone wrong.

My thoughts are with the families and friends of those who perished.

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