Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Please: ‘Condescend’ to Me With Equal Pay

It happened to me. I was working in the best job I ever had, working harder than I had ever worked and loving the work I was doing. Then raise time came, and I got a raise, but I knew it was not as much as the young guy who had started after I started. I liked the young guy; we worked together a lot and we worked together well. Sometimes he disappeared, sometimes for a long time. As it turned out, he suffered from depression, and I ended up doing a lot of his work.


So I confronted my boss, and said it was unfair that he had gotten the larger raise and I the smaller. My boss said “Intlxpatr, you have a husband who makes a lot of money and this young man is just getting started.” It had nothing to do with merit, quality of work, productiveness – it had to do with me being a woman who had a husband who provides for me. I know that to some of you reading this, that makes sense, but to me, even from the time I was a young girl, it makes no sense at all. You pay what the work is worth, regardless of sex. Regardless of nationality. Regardless of marital status.  That’s FAIR.

I didn’t quit. The boss moved on and the next boss gave me a giant raise to stay. I loved that job :-)


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WASHINGTON — Democrats’ push for pay equity between men and women is “condescending,” one of the top women in the House Republican leadership argued Tuesday, suggesting that the campaign for equal pay for equal work reflects a lack of understanding of women’s contributions to the workforce.

Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), the GOP conference’s vice chair, made her comments flanked by her fellow leaders in the House at their weekly news conference, and suggested that the campaign for equal pay for equal work reflects a lack of understanding of women’s contributions to the workforce.

“Please allow me to set the record straight. We strongly support equal pay for equal work, and I’m proud that I live in a country where it’s illegal to discriminate in the workplace thanks to the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” said Jenkins. “Some folks don’t understand that women have become an extremely valuable part of the workforce today on their own merit, not because the government mandated it.”

Jenkins went on to belittle Democratic efforts on the issue.

“Many ladies I know feel like they are being used as pawns, and find it condescending [that] Democrats are trying to use this issue as a political distraction from the failures of their economic policy,” Jenkins said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, appeared to slam the Democrats’ push as cheap political showmanship and accuse Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who had just addressed the issue, of playing games.

“Yesterday, here in the Senate, Republicans were hoping the Democrat Majority Leader would finally work with us to pass a job creation package that contains ideas from many of our members — legislation with provisions several key Democrats support too,” McConnell said. “But that’s not what the Majority Leader chose to do. Instead of focusing on jobs, he launched into another confusing attack on the Left’s latest bizarre obsession. Democrats chose to ignore serious job-creation ideas so they could blow a few kisses to their powerful pals on the left.”

However, shortly after this story was posted, McConnell’s office said his remarks were being misconstrued. Spokesmen pointed to his use of the word “yesterday,” and said that he had been referencing Reid’s Monday speech targeting the billionaire Koch brothers, rather than his procedural motion, also on Monday, to begin work on the Democrats’ Fair Pay Act.

According to many independent assessments, women who do the same job as a man are often paid significantly less, on average earning just 77 cents to a man’s dollar. Even when many of the factors that lead women to make different job choices are controlled for, significant gaps remain.

Jenkins did not address the issue of women getting paid less for the same job, but suggested that women simply tend to choose different jobs.

“When it comes to employment, the fact is many women seek jobs that provide more flexibility for their family over more money, which is the choice that I made as a young working mom,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins’ and McConnell’s opinions notwithstanding, women overwhelmingly backed the Democratic ticket in the last election, running up the largest gender gap in the history of Gallup polling. Women supported President Barack Obama over GOP nominee Mitt Romney by a 12-point margin.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) chose his words more carefully than his colleagues at the press event when asked whether there was anything in terms of legislation that Republicans would consider doing to address the gap.

Though Cantor demurred from offering new ideas, he did tweak the White House, noting reports that women working there get paid about 88 cents on the dollar, compared to men.

He said a better idea than passing new laws was trying to enforce the old ones.

“I point to the White House, and say what it is that they’re doing? They’ve got a problem in the White House,” said Cantor. “Let’s put the politics aside.”

He suggested that repealing part of Obamacare would help, and pointed to a bill the House GOP passed last week that would change the definition of full-time work in the law from 30 hours a week to 40.

“If you look to see those most impacted, it’s women. Sixty-three percent of those impacted by the 30-hour workweek rule are women,” Cantor said. “If the Senate Democrats would pick [the bill] up, we could help women right now.”

Under the Affordable Care Act, employers must provide health insurance for full-time workers, currently defined as people employed more than 30 hours per week. Republicans argue that because of that, employers are pushing people — in this case, mostly women — into part-time work, although independent fact-checkers havefound that claim to be false.

This article was updated after a spokesman for McConnell clarified the intended meaning of his remarks.

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. 


April 8, 2014 Posted by | Family Issues, Financial Issues, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | 2 Comments


I’m working with a group, one of whose goals is empowerment. They are all from the same country, but not the same parts of the country, nor the same ethnicities, but they all get along well with one another and the group does fine. I admire each of them, and even better, I like these women.


Here’s the LOL, empowered people have ideas and opinions. We have a format to adhere to, and empowered people come up with other ideas and alternatives. Here’s the problem: other ideas and alternatives, especially good ones, mean a lot of extra focus, it creates more work for facilitators and program managers. Sometimes you need permissions, sometimes you need transportation arrangements, and always, you need to assure a delegate’s safety. All this on top of the changes that will have to be made because of this unusual weather.

First, yesterday as I met the group, I had to apologize for the weather – usually mild, sunny Pensacola was having a howling storm; sheets of water being blown by a raging wind, tree limbs falling, the sky grim and dark and grey the entire day. In the midst of this, I was with one delegate on a tour of the Port of Pensacola, where it was like being in the middle of a huge storm at sea, with squalls. The man giving the tour carried on, they had a great discussion while the wind howled around us and at times the rain fell so hard on the tin roof that we couldn’t hear one another.

00DelegateWindstorm (Those lines you see coming in through the door are wind blown rain. The drops on the camera lens – ditto)

Here is what I truly admire about this group, all their empowerment is for the good, their suggestions are making this visit even more productive and helping them exceed their goals. Their alternatives were doable, and will be accomplished. I can also tell you that at the end of a day dealing with a lot of good ideas and changes, my brain is happily fried. Guess the LOL is on me.

March 29, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Afghanistan, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Leadership, Pensacola, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Iraqis Draft Law Allowing 9 Year Old “Women” to Marry

From AOL News:


BAGHDAD (AP) — A contentious draft law being considered in Iraq could open the door to girls as young as nine getting married and would require wives to submit to sex on their husband’s whim, provoking outrage from rights activists and many Iraqis who see it as a step backward for women’s rights.

The measure, aimed at creating different laws for Iraq’s majority Shiite population, could further fray the country’s divisions amid some of the worst bloodshed since the sectarian fighting that nearly ripped the country apart after the U.S.-led invasion. It also comes as more and more children under 18 get married in the country.

“That law represents a crime against humanity and childhood,” prominent Iraqi human rights activist Hana Adwar told The Associated Press. “Married underage girls are subjected to physical and psychological suffering.
Iraqi law now sets the legal age for marriage at 18 without parental approval. Girls as young as 15 can be married only with a guardian’s approval.

The proposed new measure, known as the Jaafari Personal Status Law, is based on the principles of a Shiite school of religious law founded by Jaafar al-Sadiq, the sixth Shiite imam. Iraq’s Justice Ministry late last year introduced the draft measure to the Cabinet, which approved it last month despite strong opposition by rights groups and activists.

The draft law does not set a minimum age for marriage. Instead, it mentions an age in a section on divorce, setting rules for divorces of girls who have reached the age of 9 years in the lunar Islamic calendar. It also says that’s the age girls reach puberty. Since the Islamic calendar year is 10 or 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, that would be the equivalent of 8 years and 8 months old. The bill makes the father the only parent with the right to accept or refuse the marriage proposal.

Critics of the bill believe that its authors slipped the age into the divorce section as a backhanded way to allow marriages of girls that young. Already, government statistics show that nearly 25 percent of marriages in Iraq involved someone under the age of 18 in 2011, up from 21 percent in 2001 and 15 percent in 1997. Planning Ministry spokesman Abdul-Zahra Hendawi said the practice of underage marriage is particularly prevalent in rural areas and some provinces where illiteracy is high.

Also under the proposed measure, a husband can have sex with his wife regardless of her consent. The bill also prevents women from leaving the house without their husband’s permission, would restrict women’s rights in matters of parental custody after divorce and make it easier for men to take multiple wives.

Parliament must still ratify the bill before it becomes law. That is unlikely to happen before parliamentary elections scheduled for April 30, though the Cabinet support suggests it remains a priority for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s administration. Al-Maliki is widely expected to seek a third term.

Baghdad-based analyst Hadi Jalo suggested that election campaigning might be behind the proposal.

“Some influential Shiite politicians have the impression that they should do their best to make any achievement that would end the injustice that had been done against the Shiites in the past,” Jalo said.

The formerly repressed Shiite majority came to power after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-led regime. Since then, Shiite religious and political leaders have encouraged followers to pour in millions into streets for religious rituals, a show of their strength.

Iraqi Justice Minister Hassan al-Shimmari, a Shiite, has brushed off the criticism of the bill. His office introduced a companion bill that calls for the establishment of special Shiite courts that would be tied to the sect’s religious leadership.

Al-Shimmari insists that the bill is designed to end injustices faced by Iraqi women in past decades, and that it could help prevent illicit child marriage outside established legal systems.

“By introducing this draft law, we want to limit or prevent such practices,” al-Shimmari said.

But Sunni female lawmaker Likaa Wardi believes it violates women’s and children’s rights and creates divisions in society.

“The Jaffari law will pave the way to the establishments of courts for Shiites only, and this will force others sects to form their own courts. This move will widen the rift among the Iraqi people,” Wardi said.

New York-based Human Rights Watch also strongly criticized the law this week.
“Passage of the Jaafari law would be a disastrous and discriminatory step backward for Iraq’s women and girls,” deputy Middle East director Joe Stork said in a statement. “This personal status law would only entrench Iraq’s divisions while the government claims to support equal rights for all.”
It is unclear how much support the bill enjoys among Iraqi Shiites, but Jalo, the analyst, believes that it would face opposition from secular members of the sect.

Qais Raheem, a Shiite government employee living in eastern Baghdad, said the draft bill contradicts the principles of a modern society.

“The government officials have come up with this backward law instead of combating corruption and terrorism,” said Raheem who has four children, including two teenage girls. “This law legalizes the rape and we should all reject it.”

March 14, 2014 Posted by | Civility, Community, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Marriage | , , , | Leave a comment

Promises, Promises (Lies, Lies!)

West Virginia is one of the poorest – and most beautiful – of the 50 United States, green with forests and uninhabited spaces. It also has pockets of some of the poorest people in the United States. It is a state which accepts that which other states might find unacceptable. And when the chemical spill poisoned the water of thousands of people, Freedom Industries, the responsible company, declared bankruptcy.

Even today, while their water has been declared OK, people say it tastes funny, and chemists have found unacceptable traces of chemicals that other tests were not even measuring. Today, we have this report that the spill was much worse that the company originally reported.

Its sad, and it is disheartening.

In Florida, there are constant proposals for land use restrictions being lifted. The military, the companies – they all promise that this (whatever) will have no impact on the environment. Why, no one could be more environmentally responsible than (_______) fill in the blank with whatever the requestor is.

Yeh. Right.

My guess is that if the true cost of the BP oil spill in the Gulf were known, it would bankrupt BP.

Water Supply Threaten In Charleston Community Of Over 300,000 After Chemical Leak

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued an update on Monday evening indicating that the Elk River spill in West Virginia earlier this month involved more gallons of chemicals than previously reported.

Freedom Industries, which owned the tank that leaked into a river supplying water in the state, now says that approximately 10,000 gallons of the chemicals 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (also known as MCHM) and PPH were released. The company initially said 7,500 gallons spilled, and failed to disclose the presence of the second chemical until last week. The leak, first reported on Jan. 9, left hundreds of thousands in the capital region without access to tap water for days. Though the formal advisory on the water has been lifted, some in the region say they are still concerned about the safety of their water.

The DEP’s press release provides Freedom Industries’ newest estimate, but notes, “It is not known how much material spilled into the Elk River and shut down the drinking water supply for citizens across nine West Virginia counties.”

“We are not making any judgment about its accuracy,” DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said in a statement, referring to the company’s latest spill figure. “We felt it was important to provide to the public what the company has provided the WVDEP in writing. We are still reviewing the calculation, and this is something that will be researched further during the course of this investigation.”

“This is the first calculation that has been provided concerning the amount of materials that spilled on Jan. 9,” Huffman said. “This new calculation does not change any of our protocols in dealing with this spill, nor does it affect the ongoing remediation efforts. Our actions have never been dependent on what Freedom has reported to us. From the start, we have acted aggressively to contain the spill and remediate the site.”

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) has called for the storage facility to be torn down, and for a full remediation of the site.

January 28, 2014 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Crime, Environment, Financial Issues, Florida, Leadership, Lies, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

Kuwait Posts New Speed Limits Effective NOW

From the Kuwait Times:

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January 2, 2014 Posted by | Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions | , , | 4 Comments

Killing the Golden Goose in Pensacola

Every place we have ever lived in has it’s own politics, and the politics in Pensacola are opaque, and to me, bizarre. We have a very pretty mayor – great for photo ops – but WHAT IS HE THINKING???? He displays some of the very worst traits of the old-boy way of doing business. What are those traits? How about telling one of the top grossing restaurants in Pensacola that they now owe $5M because they haven’t been paying a percentage of their revenue to the City of Pensacola? How about voting a Dollar Store into an upper level residential neighborhood? Singlehandedly re-naming a small airport without a single international flight Pensacola “International” airport? How about allocating all the food services at our “International” airport to bland chains, rather than some of our really good local vendors?


Lots of behind the scenes machinations, not putting items on the agenda – countering the spirit of the Sunshine Laws and making the deals in public – giving those who will be impacted some input on the measures.


It’s killing the golden goose. When something is working – and the Fish House restaurant is a go-to place in Pensacola, a place you meet up with friends and a place you take your out-of-town visitors to show off the city – LEAVE IT ALONE!  When good people like the Studers and Collier Merrill are investing in downtown Pensacola, and building downtown up as a destination, let them make a buck or two – they are breathing life into the city! Do not kill the golden goose!




“The Emperor Has No Clothes!”

In contrast to some of the places we have lived, Pensacola has an outspoken paper – Our favorite newspaper, Rick Outzen’s Independent News has several wonderful articles this week. It’s where you find out what is really going on in Pensacola. His paper will bravely call out when the emperor has no clothes. I have shamelessly copied and pasted from his website at the Independent News:


How Not To Do Business

City vs. The Fish House
By Rick Outzen

The title of the Pensacola News Journal’s (PNJ) article on Tuesday, Nov. 26 could have easily been “Mayor Accuses Fish House of Cheating City Out of Millions.” It wasn’t, but that is how some interpreted the article about the default notice sent on behalf of Mayor Ashton Hayward to Collier Merrill, co-owner of the restaurant.

But PNJ readers didn’t know what Merrill knew—that the notice was a negotiation ploy by the city, unsupported factually or legally, according to his attorney. They also didn’t know that the notice itself was leaked, Merrill believed, to the media to hurt his business.

The notice demanded that Seville Harbour, Inc. (owned by Ray Russenberger) and Merrill Land LLC (owned by Burney, Collier and Will Merrill) pay as additional rent payments five percent of The Fish House and Atlas Oyster House’s gross sales since April 2000, plus interest—an amount that could total well over $5 million.

Seville Harbour, Inc. has the ground lease for Pitt Slip, the name given to the three parcels owned by the city that include the anchorage between the Port of Pensacola and Bartram Park. Merrill Land LLC bought in April 2000 the building on the property from Seville Harbour for $1.3 million and subleased the parcel upon which it was built.

The default notice stated that the two companies had 90 days to pay up or the city would terminate the master lease, which would shut down the two restaurants on Feb. 13, 2014.

The impact of the article on The Fish House was immediate. Merrill tried to prepare his staff for any questions from customers.

“I had a meeting with the managers the next morning at 9:30 after the written article came out,” he said. “As much as you can say everything is fine, a few were a little hesitant. They were getting calls from other restaurants; one guy was offered a job.”

Jean Pierre N’Dione, the general manager of the two restaurants, said that the holiday business has been slower than prior years. He’s also dealt with questions from customers.

“The day of the article, a couple came in and said they were here to get a meal before the restaurant closed,” said N’Dione. “They were thinking we were going to be shut down in a few days. It was difficult to say if they were jokingly saying that or if they really believed it.”

The restaurant’s party and catering businesses have also been hurt by the city’s threat.

“We’ve definitely lost business,” said Merrill. “Over Thanksgiving weekend, there were brides in town booking their parties for next October. They didn’t want to take the chance that we might not be in business next year. People are now hesitant to book their Christmas parties with us.”

Why would the mayor’s office resort to such strong-arm tactics? Many would expect a default notice to be sent by Mayor Hayward only after his negotiations with Seville Harbour and Merrill Land had hit an impasse, especially when the notice is a public record that could hurt two landmark restaurants.

However, there had been no negotiations with the city, though Russenberger’s attorney asked for the leases to be combined in 2009. The leases were properly renewed in July 2011, and the mayor had never sent them any written proposals for the properties.

Merrill told the IN that he had only two meetings with the Hayward administration on the lease—one in 2011 with City Attorney Jim Messer and then Chief of Staff John Asmar, the other this past September with City Administrator Colleen Castille. Neither time did the city officials bring up anything about the restaurants owing millions in back rent. Never did the city ask for five percent of his restaurants’ sales.

“We have been waiting for the city to get back to us,” said Merrill. “We had no idea this was an issue or the mayor’s position on the leases.”

Pensacola Landmark

For many, The Fish House is an iconic Pensacola landmark.

The restaurant has hosted presidents, governors, senators, congressmen and other celebrities. During the 2008 presidential election, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson held campaign fundraisers there. This past election cycle, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, with McCain, actor Jon Voight and Mayor Hayward, held a rally on The Fish House deck, pictures of which appeared in the Washington Post and New York Times.

Chef and co-owner Jim Shirley has served his famous Grits a Ya Ya for dignitaries in Washington, D.C. and New York City. Pensacola native, former congressman and author Joe Scarborough has hosted his MSNBC show “Morning Joe” several times from the restaurant.

Three reality shows have been filmed there.  The Travel Channel aired an episode of “Bizarre Foods” that featured The Fish House’s grouper throats. “American Pickers” also filmed an episode from The Fish House, which featured the Merrill brothers trading some of their memorabilia for a model of the USS Atlanta. This past August, Chef Emeril Lagasse showcased The Fish House as part of his show “Emeril’s Florida” on the Food Network.

The Fish House and Atlas Oyster House have made Pitt Slip a destination for many visiting our area, serving an estimated 500,000 customers a year. They also are part of what was one of the city’s first public-private development projects.

In the 1980s, the Pensacola City Council wanted a marina built on Pitt Slip, the inlet across from the town’s historic district and outside the gates of the Port of Pensacola. Three parcels were combined—the water area for the docks (Parcel 1), the area along Barracks Street that the city leased from the state (Parcel 1A) and the lot south of the marina (Parcel III).

The intent was to lease to a developer the parcels for 30 years with a renewal option for an additional 30 years. When the original lease was executed in 1985, the city learned that its lease for Parcel 1A with the state only had 27 years remaining. The city had to amend the original lease to adjust its end date. The state required that it be renewed for five successive five-year periods.

The history of the development was filled with ownership changes and business failures. The project never was as successful as the council had hoped until Russenberger and the Merrills got involved.

In January 1998, Chef Jim Shirley rented the space formerly used by the closed Beef & Ale House in the Seville Harbour building on Parcel 1A. He opened the Fish House with Brian Spencer and Dr. Roger Orth as his investors. By the spring, Merrill brothers stepped in as investors in The Fish House, forming Great Southern Restaurant Group of Pensacola, Inc. that put about $2 million into the restaurant, according to Merrill. Spencer and Orth focused on Jackson’s, a restaurant they were opening on Palafox.

“At the time, my brothers and I had invested in several businesses downtown,” said Merrill. “We bought the Bass building on the corner of Palafox and Gregory and were the landlord to Jim Shirley and the Screaming Coyote. We bought Seville Tower on the corner of Palafox and Government streets, which is where my grandfather had his offices in the 1940s.”

He said, “We wanted to move downtown. At the time, our offices were near the mall at Madison Park. Though not a lot was going on downtown, we loved it and saw the potential.”

In 2000, Merrill learned Russenberger was looking to sell the Seville Harbour building. Merrill Land LLC, the brothers’ real estate development company, bought it for $1.3 million and agreed to sublease the ground lease for parcel 1A upon which it was built at the same terms of the master lease. The purchase and sublease were both recorded with the clerk of courts.

Great Southern Restaurant Group went from renting from Seville Harbour, Inc. to renting from Merrill Land LLC.

“Merrill Land got a loan to buy the building, on which it is still making payments,” said Merrill. “It’s like any business. It rents out spaces. We charge rent and hope that those collections are enough to cover our mortgage, lease payment to Russenberger for the ground lease, utilities, repairs and maintenance. At the end of the day, we hope to make a profit like any landlord does.”

Merrill admitted he has been surprised by how much he has come to like the restaurant business. He enjoys the positive feedback he receives from customers and is proud of the role The Fish House plays in the community.

“Maria Goldberg, our marketing director, and I get together once a week,” said Merrill. “We go over all the requests for donations from charities, and there’s always a stack of them. We try to help every one of them, from the high school booster clubs to the NICU at Sacred Heart.”

The Fish House caters events for charities, hosts parties and donates appetizers and the services of its chefs for other fundraising events.  He said, “We’ve tried to be good citizens by giving back to the community, trying to get downtown going and helping to promote Pensacola.”

Legal Battle

The default notification from the city asserted that it was entitled to five percent of the gross sales of the restaurants because Merrill Land had been partially assigned the master lease when it bought the Seville Harbour building. The city claimed Great Southern Restaurant Group was a subsidiary or business combination of Merrill Land and therefore should have paid rent based on its gross sales.

Attorney Bruce Partington responded on Nov. 27 on behalf of Seville Harbour and Merrill Land LLC.

First, he made it clear that the leases had been properly renewed. According to Partington, the renewals required nothing more than delivery of a written notice. The letter exercising the renewals was sent July 21, 2011 by Leo Cyr on the behalf of Seville Harbour.

Seville Harbour never partially assigned its lease to Merrill Land.

“Seville Harbour retains multiple rights and duties with respect to the property sub-leased to Merrill Land,” said Partington. “The fundamental concept of an assignment is that the assignor’s entire interest is transferred to the assignee which did not occur here.”

He pointed out that the city had refused in 2000 to approve any assignment to Merrill Land, which is why the transaction was done as a sublease. He asserted that the city’s new position of the relationship between the two companies being an assignment was “irreconcilable and fundamentally inconsistent” with its position 13 years ago.

He pointed out the two restaurants are not owned by Merrill Land. The owner, Great Southern Restaurant Group, “is not, and has never been, a ‘subsidiary or business combination’ of Merrill Land.”

“Merrill Land has no ownership or other interest in Great Southern Restaurant Group, nor does Merrill Land receive any portion of the revenues from the operation of the restaurants on the property.”

Partington believed that the city’s position is without merit and based on “two dubious propositions which are unsupported factually or legally.”

He expressed Merrill’s concerns about how the daily newspaper got wind of the letter one day after the certified letter was received.

“It is extremely troubling that Seville Harbour’s multiple attempts over several years to meet with representatives of the city to discuss the lease were ignored,” wrote Partington, “and then, after years without a response, receive a notice of default, which was then leaked by the city to the media for dramatic effect.”

He put the city on notice that it was responsible for any damage that the leak may have caused Great Southern Restaurant Group.

The Leak

Merrill admitted that when he first received the letter from Daniel he was not that concerned. He was surprised the attorney brought up gross sales, but believed that the restaurants were on solid legal ground.

He said, “I wasn’t really worried about it. I don’t even think I told my brothers about it because I knew it was baseless.”

He sent the letter to Stephen Moorhead, Russenberger’s attorney, to review. Then on the afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 21, Merrill received a call from the PNJ saying that they had heard about a letter sent to him saying The Fish House owed the city millions of dollars. The reporter would not tell him how they got that information, but he admitted they had not yet seen the letter.

Merrill called City Administrator Colleen Castille, who denied any responsibility for the leak. “Colleen, I don’t think you understand the severity of this. This is going to be a front-page story and I’m going to lose business immediately.”

A meeting was set up for the following morning between the daily newspaper, Castille and Merrill. He hoped that the City Administrator, whom he had given the details of the leases in September, would say the letter was wrong. That did not happen.

According to Merrill, she said the letter was a negotiating tool.

“I said that’s fine if you want to sit down at the negotiation table. We’ve been wanting to do it for years,” Merrill recalls what he told Castille at the meeting.

“But to say something that bad about my business is just wrong. I told the City Administrator that to send out a totally baseless letter with inaccurate facts to hurt my business is almost criminal.”

The IN asked the city for an interview with Castille for this article. The city’s communications director, Tamara Fountain, replied the following week, “Colleen has decided not to do any further interviews.”

The city did not offer for anyone else to explain the mayor’s decision to send the default notice or talk about the negotiations and did not give the paper permission to talk to its attorney Nix Daniel.

Who does Merrill think leaked the letter?

“Obviously it had to come from the city. It was either someone with the city or they gave the information to someone who then leaked it to the News Journal,” he said. “The last thing I wanted was this inaccurate letter to come out, because it’s hard to get that genie back in the bottle. I knew people were going to think The Fish House owes the city millions and the city was going to shut us down.”

Merrill said that the city knows the letter is totally inaccurate. “We’ve paid every bit of rent we owe. We’ve shared our financial information. I’m shocked that the mayor’s office would use this tactic. We sat down with Colleen, explained all the details of the leases and we thought it was all good—until we got the default notice.”

He said for the city to send out a default notice demanding millions of dollars without any discussion is unconscionable. “We properly and legally renewed our leases in July 2011. We got a letter from the city attorney that our attorney responded to almost immediately. We received nothing in writing until two years later and it’s a baseless default notification about something that the city has never mentioned to us was even an issue.”

Merrill asked, “What kind of message does this to send to businesses looking to invest in Pensacola and possibly partner with the city?”

Editor’s notes:  •Collier Merrill owns a five percent interest in the Independent News. Ray Russenberger owns 2.5 percent of the paper. Neither has, or has ever had, any control over the paper’s editorial coverage.

•At the time of print, the mayor and his attorneys had scheduled a meeting for Monday Dec. 9 to discuss Pitt Slip with Ray Russenberger, Collier Merrill and their attorneys.



Don’t Forget The Airport

Mayor Hayward has been in a dispute with The Fish House over the food services contract at the Pensacola International Airport.

Hayward recommended to the city council at its Sept. 26 regular meeting the 10-year concession contract should be awarded to OHM Concessions—which included Chick-fil-A, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Surf City Squeeze and Corona Beach House. Collier Merrill’s The Fish House had joined forces with Bagelheads, Varona’s, and Pensacola Bay Brewery to offer a more local option that had placed second to OHM during the selection process.

The issue was tabled at the meeting when Merrill, the other local business owners, their employees and citizens spoke out in favor of their proposal. Since then, Mayor Hayward has pulled the item off the council’s agenda twice.

Those familiar with council politics say the mayor simply doesn’t have the votes to win approval for OHM. Did the mayor’s office leak the default notice to the daily newspaper to tarnish the image of Merrill and The Fish House to gain the one or two votes needed to bring Chick-fil-A to the airport?

“I certainly hope not,” said Merrill, “because I would hate to see them use those tactics (the notification of default and subsequent leak to the media) to win on a completely separate issue and to punish my 250 employees and my family.”

The next week in his “Upwords” newsletter Hayward criticized Merrill and the others who spoke out at the council meeting claiming they “ambushed” the council.

“It is a terrible idea to disregard our objective business processes in response to a few influential people politically strong-arming our elected officials,” said the mayor.

Merrill was dumbfounded by the mayor’s comments.

“I spoke before the city council because City Administrator Colleen Castille said that was what I should do,” he said. “She said she was going to let the Airport Director, Greg Donovan, stand on his own. We could make our argument and then we let the council make the decision.”

After the newsletter, he met with Castille and City Attorney Jim Messer and asked for explanation of the mayor’s comments.

“I asked Colleen, didn’t I do what you told me do?” he told the IN. “Basically she told me that she didn’t think we would be that organized.”

On Tuesday, Oct. 15 at his first “Mornings with the Mayor” session, Hayward bristled when asked about his “ambush” comment.

“That’s what I called it,” said Hayward, “It was an ambush.”

The IN asked how so, especially since Merrill had been instructed by the City Administrator to make his case at the council meeting.

“They did, but in my opinion I said it was an ambush,” said the mayor.

Mayor Hayward said of the upcoming council vote on the issue, “We will see what happens. They might win. If they do, we will move on. We’re going to support them and we’re going to say let’s make Pensacola a better place. I’m a big boy. Sometimes you win ’em; sometimes you lose ’em.”

When the council agenda for its Oct. 24 meeting was released, the food services contract was on it. The following Sunday, Hayward supporter Bob Kerrigan wrote a viewpoint in favor of OHM getting the contract. Ads appeared in the daily newspaper supporting the mayor’s proposal. A website was set up for Hayward supporters to send emails to council members.

Then at the council’s agenda review meeting, City Administrator Castille, on the mayor’s behalf, unexpectedly pulled it off the agenda. The mayor appeared no longer willing to lose on the issue.

The airport food services recommendation was not on any of the council’s agenda. On Dec. 2, Merrill received an email from the city that stated the issue would not come up in December either.

“Please be advised that the Airport Director will not be bringing the Food and Beverage concession lease agreement to the Pensacola City Council during its December, 2013 meeting,” wrote Airport Administration & Contracts Manager Michael Laven. “Both the Director and the Mayor will be out of the country on business. We believe that the scheduling of this concession will take place in January or February of 2014.”

Stay tuned.

December 7, 2013 Posted by | Blogging, Bureaucracy, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Leadership, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues, Restaurant, Social Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

Your Emotional Intelligence

AOL News has this fascinating article on successful people and emotional intelligence:

How Emotionally Intelligent Are You? Here’s How To Tell

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 12/05/2013 8:39 am EST  |  Updated: 12/05/2013 2:22 pm EST

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Social Brain

What makes some people more successful in work and life than others? IQ and work ethic are important, but they don’t tell the whole story. Our emotional intelligence — the way we manage emotions, both our own and those of others — can play a critical role in determining our happiness and success.

Plato said that all learning has some emotional basis, and he may be right. The way we interact with and regulate our emotions has repercussions in nearly every aspect of our lives. To put it in colloquial terms, emotional intelligence (EQ) is like “street smarts,” as opposed to “book smarts,” and it’s what accounts for a great deal of one’s ability to navigate life effectively.

“What having emotional intelligence looks like is that you’re confident, good at working towards your goals, adaptable and flexible. You recover quickly from stress and you’re resilient,” Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, tells The Huffington Post. “Life goes much more smoothly if you have good emotional intelligence.”

The five components of emotional intelligence, as defined by Goleman, are self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, social skills and empathy. We can be strong in some of these areas and deficient in others, but we all have the power to improve any of them.

Not sure how emotionally intelligent you are? Here are 14 signs you have a high EQ.

1. You’re curious about people you don’t know.

friendly conversation

Do you love meeting new people, and naturally tend to ask lots of questions after you’ve been introduced to someone? If so, you have a certain degree of empathy, one of the main components of emotional intelligence. Highly Empathetic People (HEPs) — those who are extremely attuned to the needs and feelings of others, and act in a way that is sensitive to those needs — have one important thing in common: They’re very curious about strangers and genuinely interested in learning more about others.

Being curious about others is also a way to cultivate empathy. “Curiosity expands our empathy when we talk to people outside our usual social circle, encountering lives and worldviews very different from our own,” Roman Krznaric, author of the forthcoming Empathy: A Handbook For Revolution, wrote in a Greater Good blog post.

2. You’re a great leader.

work leader

Exceptional leaders often have one thing in common, according to Goleman. In addition to the traditional requirements for success — talent, a strong work ethic and ambition, for instance — they possess a high degree of emotional intelligence. In his research comparing those who excelled in senior leadership roles with those who were merely average, he found that close to 90 percent of the difference in their profiles was due to emotional intelligence, rather than cognitive ability.

“The higher the rank of a person considered to be a star performer, the more emotional intelligence capabilities showed up as the reason for his or her effectiveness,” Goleman wrote in Harvard Business Review.

3. You know your strengths and weaknesses.

A big part of having self-awareness is being honest with yourself about who you are — knowing where you excel, and where you struggle, and accepting these things about yourself. An emotionally intelligent person learns to identify their areas of strength and weakness, and analyze how to work most effectively within this framework. This awareness breeds the strong self-confidence that’s a main factor of emotional intelligence, according to Goleman.

“If you know what you’re truly effective at, then you can operate from that with confidence,” he says.

4. You know how to pay attention.


Do you get distracted by every tweet, text and passing thought? If so, it could be keeping you from functioning on your most emotionally intelligent level. But the ability to withstand distractions and focus on the task at hand is a great secret to emotional intelligence, Goleman says. Without being present with ourselves and others, it’s difficult to develop self-awareness and strong relationships.

“Your ability to concentrate on the work you’re doing or your schoolwork, and to put off looking at that text or playing that video game until after you’re done … how good you are at that in childhood turns out to be a stronger predictor of your financial success in adulthood than either your IQ or the wealth of the family you grew up in,” Goleman says. “And we can teach kids how to do that.”

5. When you’re upset, you know exactly why.

grief management

We all experience a number of emotional fluctuations throughout the day, and often we don’t even understand what’s causing a wave of anger or sadness. But an important aspect of self-awareness is the ability to recognize where your emotions are coming from and to know why you feel upset.

Self-awareness is also about recognizing emotions when they arise, rather than misidentifying or ignoring them. Emotionally intelligent people take a step back from their emotions, look at what they’re feeling, and examine the effect that the emotion has on them.

6. You can get along with most people.


“Having fulfilling, effective relationships — that’s a sign [of emotional intelligence],” says Goleman.

7. You care deeply about being a good, moral person.


One aspect of emotional intelligence is our “moral identity,” which has to do with the extent to which we want to see ourselves as ethical, caring people. If you’re someone who cares about building up this side of yourself (regardless of how you’ve acted in past moral situations), you might have a high EQ.

8. You take time to slow down and help others.

good samaritan

If you make a habit of slowing down to pay attention to others, whether by going slightly out your way to say hello to someone or helping an older woman onto the subway, you’re exhibiting emotional intelligence. Many of us, a good portion of the time, are completely focused on ourselves. And it’s often because we’re so busy running around in a stressed-out state trying to get things done that we simply don’t take the time to notice (much less help) others.

“[There’s a] spectrum that goes from complete self-absorption to noticing to empathy and to compassion,” Goleman said in a TED talk on compassion. “The simple fact is that if we are focused on ourselves, if we’re preoccupied — which we so often are throughout the day — we don’t really fully notice the other.”

Being more mindful, in contrast to being absorbed in your own little world, plants the seeds of compassion — a crucial component of EQ.

9. You’re good at reading people’s facial expressions.

grumpy cat

Being able to sense how others are feeling is an important part of having a good EQ. Take this quiz from UC Berkeley to find out just how skilled you are at reading others’ emotions.

10. After you fall, you get right back up.


How you deal with mistakes and setbacks says a lot about who you are. High EQ individuals know that if there’s one thing we all must do in life, it’s to keep on going. When an emotionally intelligent person experiences a failure or setback, he or she is able to bounce back quickly. This is in part because of the ability to mindfully experience negative emotions without letting them get out of control, which provides a higher degree of resilience.

“The resilient person isn’t papering over the negative emotions, but instead letting them sit side by side with other feelings,” Positivity author Barbara Fredrickson told Experience Life. “So at the same time they’re feeling ‘I’m sad about that,’ they’re also prone to thinking, ‘but I’m grateful about this.’”

11. You’re a good judge of character.

eye contact

You’ve always been able to get a sense for who someone is pretty much right off the bat — and your intuitions are rarely wrong.

12. You trust your gut.


An emotionally intelligent person is someone who feels comfortable following their intuition, says Goleman. If you’re able to trust in yourself and your emotions, there’s no reason not to listen to that quiet voice inside (or that feeling in your stomach) telling you which way to go.

13. You’ve always been self-motivated.

Were you always ambitious and hard-working as a kid, even when you weren’t rewarded for it? If you’re a motivated self-starter — and you can focus your attention and energy towards the pursuit of your goals — you likely have a high EQ.

14. You know when to say “no.”

hand cookie jar

Self-regulation, one of the five components of emotional intelligence, means being able to discipline yourself and avoid unhealthy habits. Emotionally intelligent people are generally well equipped to tolerate stress (a bad-habit trigger for many of us) and to control their impulses, according to Goleman.

December 7, 2013 Posted by | Character, Civility, Communication, Leadership, Relationships | 3 Comments

“if You Can’t Prevent Rape, You Enjoy It”: Ranjit Sinha

The Chief of India’s Central Bureau of Investigation said this! Was he snorting cocaine in a drunken stupor? Of course he is apologizing, but his careless remark demonstrates the sentiments buried deep in his culture’s heart – it’s only women. Not worth much, not like us men.  Outrageous.


Ranjit Sinha


NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s top police official apologized Wednesday for saying, “If you can’t prevent rape, you enjoy it,” a remark that has outraged women across the country.

Central Bureau of Investigation chief Ranjit Sinha made the remark Tuesday during a conference about illegal sports betting and the need to legalize gambling. The CBI, the country’s premier investigative agency, is India’s equivalent of the FBI.

Sinha said at the conference that if the state could not stop gambling, it could at least make some revenue by legalizing it.

“If you cannot enforce the ban on betting, it is like saying, ‘If you can’t prevent rape, you enjoy it,'” he said.

The remarks have caused outrage across India, which in the past year has been roiled by widespread protests following the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in New Delhi.

On Wednesday, Sinha said that his comments had been taken out of context and misinterpreted, and that he was sorry if he had caused hurt.

Angry activists, however, called for his resignation.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat said Sinha’s comments were offensive to women everywhere.

“It is sickening that a man who is in charge of several rape investigations should use such an analogy,” Karat told reporters. “He should be prosecuted for degrading and insulting women.”

The New Delhi attack on the young woman last December caused nationwide outrage and forced the government to change rape laws and create fast-track courts for rape cases. New laws introduced after the attack make stalking, voyeurism and sexual harassment a crime. They also provide for the death penalty for repeat offenders or for rape attacks that lead to the victim’s death.

November 13, 2013 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, India, Interconnected, Language, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Social Issues, Work Related Issues | 3 Comments

Qatar MOI States Employers Will Be forced to Abide by the Rules

It doesn’t matter how enlightened the legislation – if the law is not enforced, the rules on the book are laughable. It gives the illusion of a lawful society, but if citizens know that they will not be penalized for breaking the law, they will scoff at the law and do as they please. People who came to the country expecting to make a fair wage and be treated decently and with dignity find themselves without proper paperwork due to the corruption of their employer or recruiter.

If the MOI in Qatar enforces this law, a terrible situation will be slightly better. This, from The Qatar Gulf Times:


By Ramesh Mathew/Staff Reporter


With the Ministry of Interior (MoI) taking a firm stand on ID cards, residents believe that this will safeguard the interests of workers as their employers will now be forced to abide by the rules.

A report in the Tuesday edition of Gulf Times had quoted a senior official as saying that residents should always carry their residence permit ID cards and produce the same whenever asked by the authorities concerned. Those failing to do so would be fined up to QR10,000, the report had said, adding that the MoI could also transfer the sponsorship of expatriates if they proved that they were abused by sponsors under Law No 4/2009.

Welcoming the MoI’s decision, legal expert and rights activist Nizar Kochery said this would make employers more accountable as any long delay or failure on their part to stamp the visas of their staff would invite a hefty fine.

“There have been cases of companies refusing to stamp visas for long periods and workers being picked up by the law-enforcing agencies for failing to produce valid residence proof,” said Kochery, adding that the ministerial reaffirmation would force employers to stamp visas promptly.

Reacting to the report, an Asian diplomat said his country’s mission frequently received complaints from people alleging that their employers had not stamped their visas even months after their arrival in Qatar.

“The embassy receives such complaints from expatriates every week though there has been a drastic fall in their numbers in recent times due to strict enforcement of the rules by the local authorities,” he added.

Kochery said there should also be stringent implementation of the rules pertaining to expatriates’ passports. “Though the ministry issued guidelines more than three years ago on the issue of custody of passports, complaints of violation of this norm continue,” the legal expert said.

The ministry had instructed employers to hand over the passports of employees after the completion of formalities. However, there have been cases of some employers retaining the passports in violation of the local rules.

“A similar fine (like the one for not carrying IDs) should be imposed on erring employers for illegally keeping their workers’ passports,” he said.

A few years ago, this newspaper had reported about a theft in a manpower company’s office in Musheireb. More than 150 passports of workers, which the firm had kept in its custody in violation of rules, went missing in the incident. Meanwhile,  residents have also said similar penalties were required to curb violations regarding exit permits as well. A social activist in the Indian community said there have been complaints of employers failing to arrange exit permits for their workers on time even during emergencies.

There have also been reports of residents, mainly drivers, lodging complaints with embassies, alleging that their sponsors take away their licences when they go on vacation.

“The MoI should consider imposing hefty fines on such employers as well. Like a passport, a driving licence is not only the property of an individual, but is also a proof of identification under the local rules,” said Kochery.

July 11, 2013 Posted by | Bureaucracy, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Kuwait, Law and Order, Leadership, Lies, Living Conditions, Pet Peeves, Qatar, Relationships, Scams, Social Issues, Transparency, Work Related Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

“Heavyweight Saudi Arabia” Influence Counters “Over-Stepping” Qatar?

From the Kuwait Times, a fascinating comparative analysis of the influence of Saudi Arabia and Qatar on Islamic countries in transitions:


Qatar losing ground to Saudi diplomacy



DUBAI: Qatar, a key supporter of Islamists who rose to power in Arab Spring countries, is losing ground in regional politics to Saudi Arabia which appears to have seized the reins on key issues, notably Egypt and Syria. The decline in Qatar’s regional diplomacy comes as its powerful emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani unexpectedly abdicated in favor of his son Tamim last month.

The wealthy Gulf state had transformed itself into a key regional player but began to retreat as heavyweight Saudi Arabia re-entered the political arena after lagging behind in the immediate period following the eruption of the Arab Spring uprisings in December 2010. The ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last week by the army and the election by the Syrian opposition of Saudi-linked Ahmad Assi Jarba as new leader stripped Qatar of strong influence in both countries.

“Qatar had tried to take a leading role in the region but overstepped its limits by openly backing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria, and other Arab Spring states,” said Kuwaiti political analyst Ayed Al-Manna. Jonathan Eyal, head of international relations at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, argued that Qatar’s regional politics have failed.

“Qatar’s Middle Eastern diplomacy now lies in ruins: it failed to produce dividends in Libya, backfired in Syria and has now collapsed in Egypt,” local Emirati daily The National quoted him on Tuesday as saying. Realizing the damaging effects of their policies, Manna noted, “the Qataris sought to cut down on their commitments” which were already affected by the emir’s abdication and the sidelining of the influential prime minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jabr Al-Thani.

As a result, “Saudi Arabia, a historical regional US ally, regained its role” in coordination with other oil-rich Gulf monarchies, said Manna. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah was the first foreign head of state to congratulate Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour, hours after he was named to replace Morsi. And on Tuesday, the kingdom pledged $5 billion in assistance to Egypt. The United Arab Emirates, which has cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood in the past few months, offered Egypt an aid package of $3 billion.

“Saudi Arabia wants to ensure stability in Arab Spring countries, regardless of its ideological interests,” said analyst Abdel Aziz Al-Sagr, head of the Gulf Research Centre. “It had supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt but reconsidered this support after the Brotherhood failed to run the country wisely,” he argued. But the Saudi researcher downplayed the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both of which have been looking to expand their influence during the Arab Spring uprisings and prevent any potential revolt against their own autocratic regimes.

“The Saudi-Qatari harmony still exists and there is no battle for influence between the two countries,” said Sager. And as proof, “Riyadh was the first to be informed of the political change in Qatar, six months before it took place. And it welcomed it.” But the two countries, whose relations have been historically tense or at least marked by mistrust, support two different approaches of political Islam that emerged strongly in the wake of the Arab Spring.

Qatar sides with political parties linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose experience was cut short despite the strong media support they enjoyed from the influential Doha-based Al-Jazeera news channel. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia promotes Salafist groups that focus less on politics and more on implementing Shariah Islamic law on daily life matters such as forcing women to wear a veil and prohibiting the mixing between sexes. Saudi King Abdullah has reiterated his country’s stance against using Islam for political purposes.

“Islam rejects divisions in the name of one party or another,” he said in a statement marking the start Wednesday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The kingdom will never accept” the presence of political parties, that “only lead to conflict and failure.” But regardless of the political agendas of Saudi Arabia or Qatar, the people who rose up during the Arab Spring revolts will have the final word on their own political futures, argued former Bahraini cabinet minister Ali Fakhro. “It is the Arab people, not Qatar nor Saudi Arabia, who will determine the political future of the region.” – AFP

July 11, 2013 Posted by | Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Kuwait, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Saudi Arabia, Women's Issues | , , , , , | Leave a comment


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