NEARBY MAKEUP SITES
"District Literacy Breakfast"
August 16, 2007
"Coming Collapse of Europe?"
Avi Davis, Executive Director of the American Freedom Alliance
August 17, 7am
District Literacy Breakfast at Lawry's, 100 N. LaCienega Blvd., Beverly Hills
August 19, 6pm
Hollywood Bowl - JVC Jazz Night
Contact Guin Lyster for more information
Kansas City Barbeque and Branson, Missouri - Contact Sharon Bradford
Iraq - Up Front and Personal at WVRC on August 9th
BILL EDWARDS led the Pledge. LENNY combined with PP JIM for You’re a Grand Old Flag, and we sounded almost grand Well Done, you two! GEORGE COX gave the Invocation. It centered on Seeking, and Finding if you seek peace, if you seek life, if you seek wealth, if you seek adventure, if you seek joy, and finally, if you seek love, you will despair in loneliness. If you seek God, you will find God. You will have peace that surpasses understanding, you will gain eternal life, find true wealth, be fulfilled, worship in joy, and revel in God’s love. Good words, GEORGE!
We had several guests plus Visiting Rotarians. SUNNY came with LENNY, and MARJORIE accompanied RAY. Rotary Auxiliary Co-Chair ELOISE SISKEL was with us. PAT ANDERSON was there with PDG ANDY. I introduced David Hawkins, who has been with us before. CURT SMITH felt compelled to introduce his brother, Doug, who is to be our Speaker today. PP JIM COLLINS had his Special Guest, Steve Pettice. Rotarians who were with us included Jim Hoyt, from LA 5 he is in business services. Barbara Miller belongs to the Peterborough NH Club, where she is President. Her category is Human Resources, and she exchanged flags with CEO CHRIS.
Everyone who attended had fun at the Rotary Auxiliary Party last week, and co-chairs Joy Bennett-Wolfe and Judy Wessling were applauded for a job well done. At the scene, the home of DEBBIE and STEVE SCHERER was the perfect location for a night in Tuscany. This provided the intro to a Story, as related by JACK HARRIS. This guy had a blind date. He takes her to a nice restaurant, and before they order, he says, “I don’t know what you drink. Do you prefer Champagne or Beer?? She replies, “When I drink champagne, I feel myself lost in a desert island. I see myself lying nude in the soft, warm sand. As I gaze toward the water, I see a handsome, blond Adonis, gliding up the beach toward me, completely nude. He lies down beside me, and places his strong, bronzed hand on my soft, yielding shoulder. My whole body is shaking with passion for this man. And when I drink beer, I burp.” This was well received, with several touching comments.
CEO CHRIS then asked, “How much do you know about Rotary? I need a couple of volunteers”. There was no immediate response, so I finally raised my hand. CHRIS then settled on PP CHRIS GAYNOR as his second pigeon. Once we came forward, it was explained that we were to answer several questions, with the winner being awarded a genuine, original, limited edition WVRC coffee mug. The loser would suffer a fifty-buck fine - and money does seem to bring a touch of alertness to these activities. Let the contest begin!
1. How many Rotary Clubs are there worldwide? I said more than 40K, and Chris, though temped by answer #4 (I don’t care) guessed between 20 and 30K. Answer, 32,000, so we both missed.
2. How many Rotary Clubs are in District 5280? Choices were 35, 45, 49 and 59. Naturally, I answered 49, which was correct and I should add, gaining an advantage which I never lost (So There!)
3. There are about 1.2 million Rotarians. How many are Paul Harris Fellows? I answered 500K, and CHRIS liked 750K both wrong, the answer being 1,069K
4. On what date was Rotary Founded? (All 1905, except for 4 July 1776), Feb 23, which Chris got (making a mockery of my previous claim to always being ahead, by the way)
5. 1st non-English speaking Club (including London, somehow). I chose Paris, and Chris elected Havana he won. With Chicago being 1st, where was the 2nd Rotary Club? I chose SFO, and Chris missed.
6. The Rotary 4-Way Test was written by Herbert Taylor, in 1932.
7. Name of the current 520 District Governor? David Moyers.
8. In the 1950s WVRC met at Truman’s Drive In, in Westwood. Who owned Truman’s? Truman Fairless, and I had some small advantage over Chris in that I was a member when we were still there.
And 9, Who was the first President of WVRC? Several early members were named, along with ERIC LOBERG, but the answer was ANGUS CAVANAUGH. Thus I was the clear winner by a huge margin of one, but while it cost Chris the fifty bucks, I got the damn mug PLUS a fifty buck fine! But be warned, such results may discourage scholarship down the line.
CURT SMITH introduced his brother, Doug, as our Speaker. Doug replaced three different LA Times reporters when they took their 4th month off in Iraq. There were a couple of shots of the brothers growing up their Dad, Jack Smith, besides being a much-honored columnist, was also an excellent photographer. The last of the ‘family’ photos showed Doug as a 16-year old muleskinner. Doug has been with the Times for 37 years, starting as a desk assistant in sports, then to general assignments. During this time he did the rewrite of the Hollywood Shootout story, which won the Pulitzer Prize. He also was part of the team that won two other Pulitzers it really is a team effort. Doug moved to Metro in 1997 to cover the LA City Schools. He specializes in database reporting, which can identify patterns and trends.
Doug began by suggesting that this might be more fun if he were reporting on what he described as “the circus” going on at the LA Times today. Iraq is a painful subject, and he used several photos to identify and describe what he talked about. He pointed out that he didn’t intend to try to answer the major questions of this war where is it going, what will happen, etc? since he doesn’t know the answers there any better than anyone else. He is often asked, What is it like over there? And that will be his subject today.
The LA Times is spending one hundred thousand dollars a month to maintain its coverage in Iraq! He showed a picture of a group of about fifteen people, taken in their newsroom in Baghdad. It is in a hotel called the Al Hamra Hotel, outside the heavily fortified Green Zone. Their hotel has combined with two other nearby hotels, having decided to provide accommodations for the news media. They have surrounded the hotels and some nearby apartment buildings with a concrete block wall, taller than the ceiling where we are meeting today. There are three or four openings, which provide zigzag roads in. You must first be identified as a media person, and then you enter the road.
They stop your vehicle, pop your trunk and your hood, and examine under the car with mirrors. (Some of you may recall this being done when you entered East Berlin, before the Wall came down). When you pass the test, you can then proceed that’s the exterior protection. The protection provided by locals, means they earn perhaps three times the normal local wage, which is the price paid for their loyalty.
He then began to individually identify the assembled crew. As he named them, each would be identified by their job title driver, translator, bodyguard (who carry AK-47s), cooks, or photographer, plus the office manager. Each reporter is accompanied by a driver, of course, plus a translator, and usually two bodyguards. They drive in two cars, in convoy. This is the staff required to allow three reporters to function. Most of the personnel are fairly devout Muslims. Some are Shiites, some are Sunnis and they get along well. They sometimes have loud arguments, but that is the way they communicate.
The reporters live in the hotel, and work on the same floor. There is always a guard in the hall, with his AK-47. He noted that the in-house bodyguards were not in the photo, since they were at their posts. They all come in, in the morning. His first trip was in April of 2005, and he was astonished at the great spirit that these people had it was like the ideal Iraqi society that the Administration hoped to create. He can’t explain why this small enclave works so well, while the rest of the country is completely destroying itself.
Doug has known all of these people for almost three years, and he feels very close to them. He often wonders what is in the future for them. Among the reporters, there is a growing feeling of tragedy and doom surrounding these people. He noted Suheil, a translator who had some previous journalistic experience. His son, who was a translator for the army, was killed by a bomb two years ago. Suheil is presently in Amman (Jordan) trying to get the rest of his family out of Iraq. Raheim, another translator, lost his 17-year old son when he was killed as a bystander in a firefight that erupted after a car bombing. He is a Shiite, wants to move to the south, and build a new house. For some of these, there is some hope. However, the drivers and bodyguards cast their lot with the U.S.- they really believed that this would be a revolution that would bring democracy to their country, and there is no turning back for them. Whenever all this ends, the prospect for all of them even surviving are not great. They have now been identified in their neighborhoods as working for the western news media everyone knows everything that is going on in their neighborhoods, so you cannot hide your affiliation.
Doug’s intent upon arriving is to be embedded with U.S. troops. He showed a photo of a group of our soldiers, from Alaska. who were sent to pacify a neighborhood. They drive around the area in their big vehicles, and eventually dismount get out, that is. Kids are everywhere, and they were fascinated (in this photo) by one of our soldiers a 21-year old woman from Whittier, Calif. They had never seen a woman in uniform before, and her very body carriage denoted that she was important- they followed her around everywhere. Her job was to gather intelligence. Every infantry unit in Iraq tries to get a woman on staff, because it is very difficult for a man to approach and talk to a woman on the street. In particular, if they need to detain or search a woman, it is almost impossible.
The unit to which Doug was attached was investigating the mass kidnapping of about twenty employees at a local meatpacking plant. The Shiites were first beaten, for cover, and then the seven Sunnis were executed by a shot to the head. In the five days Doug was with this investigative unit, they went door to door looking for witnesses. In this time, they pulled in two witnesses who had seen the kidnapping and were willing to try to identify the kidnappers. They had yet to make any arrests in this case.
Q&A and it was hard to hear, sometimes, for which I apologize. How do you tell the difference between Sunnis and Shiites? That’s a real problem. Names should help, but with intermarriage, this gets murky. There are habits of dress and speech, but even the ID cards do not clearly identify who is which. Are there bombs just in the city, or everywhere? We hear bombs going off all the time. They tried to bomb our compound, with two trucks. The debris from the first bomb was so heavy that the second truck could not get any closer, so it blew up in the same place. Did the bomb that went off during the Soccer Team celebration put a damper on things? Yes, but the critical bombing was the Golden Mosque at Samarra in February ‘06 - this really started the violent conflict, and it was just a signal waiting to happen. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani had been able to restrain the Shiites, and the Sunni Insurgency was directed mainly at the Americans. - but that one bombing set the Shiite death squads into widespread action. He was asked if the Holy places in Iraq were similar to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, but he didn’t feel he could answer that question. The last question was by our visitor from New Hampshire Barbara Miller. Is the infrastructure that is being built being useful? No, the Times stopped reporting on infrastructure a year and a half ago. It is all being wasted, and destroyed, period. Not a hopeful way to end Doug’s report, but he’s been there. Thanks, Doug, for your on-the-spot report on the biggest problem in our world today.
Words of Wisdom from Chris:
If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.
WESTWOOD VILLAGE ROTARY CLUB 2007 - 2008
Community Service Chair
International Service Chair
Vocational Service Chair
Youth Service Chair
Wilfrid J. Wilkinson
DISTRICT 5280 GOVERNOR:
Palos Verdes Sunset Rotary
Monday, Beverly Hills, BH Hotel, 9641 Sunset
Tuesday, WLA/Brentwood, Chez Mimi, 246 26th St, Santa Monica
Wednesday, Century City, La Cuchette Restaurant, 10506 Santa Monica Blvd.
Culver City, Wyndham Hotel, 6333 Bristol Parkway, CC, or
Wilshire, The Ebell, 743 S. Lucerne Blvd, LA
Friday, Santa Monica, Riviera Country Club, 1250 Capri Dr, Pacific Palisades