By Jamal Laoudi
Washington D.C. October 27, 2016- Early voting has started and votes have already been cast to choose the next president of the United States.  Like every election, some will stay home.  Here are ten interesting facts about the U.S. presidency that should compel a non-voter to come out and partake in the election process:  

10 - The first non-establishment, non-elitist president was Andrew Jackson in 1828.

9- All U.S. Presidents have been males and of Christian faith so far.

8- The electoral votes allocated to each state can and do change from election cycle to another depending on population numbers reported by the census bureau.

7- George Washington gave the shortest inauguration speech at 135 words. William Henry Harrison’s was the longest, at 8,445 words. The latter later died a month later of Pneumonia

6- George Washington had to be lobbied to run for the presidency. In a response to one such lobby attempt by Alexander Hamilton he said: "It is my great and sole desire to live and die, in peace and retirement on my own farm.”

5- Four times we had a president who did not win the popular vote: 1824 John Quincy Adam, 1876 Rutherford B Hayes, 1888 Benjamin Harrison, and 2000 George W Bush

4 - The election of 1800 took 36 rounds of votes to decide Thomas Jefferson as president.

3- Eight Presidents died while in office. Four were assassinated, and four others died of natural causes.  Statistically speaking, there is about 18% chance that the next president of the United States will die in office, which makes it one of the deadliest, if not the deadliest, job there is. 

2- Reagan won 49 of the 50 states in 1984 elections, all but Minnesota. The coining of the term "Reagan democrats" was solidified.    

10- While it is true that George Washington is the first president of the United States since the constitution was adopted, it is always neglected that there were other presidents prior to him.  They were called "Presidents of the United States in Congress Assembled." John Hanson and John Hancock are but some of those names.

Picture(Photo by Alex Brandon / AP)
By Jamal Laoudi
Washington D.C., July 18, 2016- Today, the Republican convention kicks off in Cleveland Ohio.  It will last until Thursday July, 12th when the expected Republican nominee, Donald Trump, will give his acceptance speech, assuming the nomination process goes smoothly. 

With rare exceptions, recent Republican conventions have gone smoothly and the Republican nominee has always been known ahead of the convention with much consensus.   This time around, the nominee has proven quite spiky, and many argue that he is hardly a Republican.  We are talking about the colorful Donald J. Trump.  

During the primaries, he has proven very controversial, from his comments about banning Muslims from entering the U.S., which he revised to a watered down version, to building a wall throughout the American-Mexican border, among other eyebrow-raising comments. 

On the Muslim issue, his campaign stated in a press release that “Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." With respect to building a wall, he stated, numerous times that “we are going to build the wall” and that he will “make Mexico pay for it.”

Tensions are running high even among the Republican Party where many Republicans, including in Congress, have refused to endorse him.  Paul Ryan, leader of the Republican Party in Congress and House Speaker initially did to endorse Trump. It took few meetings and discussions for him to come around to that.  As far as the reaction of the Democrats and the liberals to this nominee are concerned, it is safe to leave that part to your imagination.

Security at the convention is bound to be ultra-tight due to the various incidents that took place during the primaries, especially during Trump’s rallies who has proved very divisive.  Trump has done his part to ensure ultra-tight security measures but another issue has the police quite tense to put it mildly. 

In recent weeks, there were reprisal attacks against police officers in some parts of the U.S. for what is seen as police brutality against African Americans.  Last week, three police officers were ambushed and killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana by Gavin Eugene Long, an African-American former Marine.  The week prior, five police officers were killed in Dallas, Texas in an ambush by Micah Xavier Johnson, an African American Afghan former Army reservist and Afghan War veteran.  

The LA Times argues in a piece entitled “it's not just Dallas or Baton Rouge — police officers have been killed across the country” that these two attacks are by no means the entire story. These killings were triggered by two recent incidents where police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota shot dead two black men, Alton B. Sterling and Philando Castile respectively.  Videos of the two incidents put into question whether or not excessive force of that nature was warranted thereby reigniting the ever-divisive issue of race.      

These incidents have the police very nervous all over the country.  With the GOP convention in Cleveland, it is a nightmare for law enforcement.  A nightmare because in Ohio, open-carry law is in full effect.  Many are promising to publically and openly carry firearms. There were suggestions and requests to temporarily suspend open-carry but those requests were denied.  Stephen Loomis, president of Cleveland Police Union told CNN that “We are sending a letter to Gov. Kasich requesting assistance from him. He could very easily do some kind of executive order or something — I don’t care if it’s constitutional or not at this point.” Ohio’s governor John Kasich’s office responded by denying the request on the grounds that “Ohio governors do not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state laws.”  

In what may appear as odd, Jeff Larson CEO of the GOP convention agrees with the Ohio’s governor and defended him by stating that “The governor can’t simply say, I’m going to relax [the law] for a day.” Protests against Trump and police brutality and misconduct have been ongoing for months and will only intensify during the Republican Convention.  Everybody involved needs to give 110% if this is to go smoothly.                 

Washington DC, October 2, 2011
By Jamal Laoudi

It is 11 am on Sunday morning. Ali has just gotten back from the market where he has bought the Eid sheep for the family. He goes into the kitchen and asks Sara, his wife, who is cooking lunch,
“Come take a look at the sheep for this year. I just settled it in the garage.”
“Oh great; can’t wait to see it.” Sara responds.
Once in the garage, Sara takes a good scrutinizing look at the sheep and feels its back.
“It is big and looks very healthy. It must have been expensive,.” she says.
Ali responds: “I paid a little bit more that we had budgeted but it is worth it. I could not pass on his one.”
”Good choice and I am very satisfied.” replies Sara
“Do you doubt my choices?” Ali asks.
Sara: “No not that but I know how impatient you are when it comes to shopping in general and I want to make sure that this isn’t the case of picking something just for the sake of getting the chore out of the way, something we both know you are infamous for. I know you are an excellent shopper once you put your mind to it; it just does not happen often. Anyway, thank you and you are the best; that is why I married you.”
Ali replies with pride and a sense of achievement. “I am glad I got this over with and two weeks ahead of time.”
“Case in point. Come have some tea as I finish preparing lunch.” replies Sara smilingly.

Ali changes the topic: “Where are the kids?” Adnan is their 10 year-old son and Fairuz their 7 year-old daughter.
Sara: “Fairuz is upstairs playing with her dolls and Adnan is at the neighbor’s house playing with their two sons.”
Ali: “Get Fairuz, and I am going to get Adnan so they can see the sheep.” He then walks towards the neighbor’s house while Sara yells out:
“Fairuz, come down and check out the sheep. It is here.”
“Where? Where? I want to see it,.” Exclaims Fairuz.
Sara walks her to the garage and asks:
“Look, isn’t it nice?”
”Yes it is. It is big too.” affirms Fairuz.
Sara: “Come and feel it.”
Fairuz takes a step back and says: ”is it a nice sheep? I don’t want it to hurt me.”
Sara: “Oh don’t worry, it won’t hurt you. I will hold its horns while you touch it. ”
Fairuz approaches the sheep cautiously and hesitantly touches its back.
Sara: ”Don’t be scared. This one is very nice and hasn’t shown any resistance. In fact, your father did not struggle at all to get it inside the garage.”
“Why do we always bring a sheep home once a year, mommy?” asks Fairuz seemingly out of the blue.
“Good question my dear.” responds Sara and explains:
“We, Muslims, have a Eid called the Greater Eid where we commemorate Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son prophet Ismail as ordered by God. It was a test. When it became clear that Abraham would carry out God’s will, the latter sent him a sheep to sacrifice instead.”
Ali arrives at the neighbor’s house and knocks. Radouan, head of the household, answers the door.
“Hi Ali, come in.”
Ali: “Thank you. I came to get Adnan. We have bought the sheep and I promised to get him as soon as I brought it in.”
Radouan: “Already? That is good. How is the market this year? I have yet to get one myself.”
Ali: “This year is very good. Plenty of nice choices and the prices are reasonable.”
Radouan: “Good to hear. I am still going to wait few more days.”
”Well, if you wait, you may not get what you want at the price you want,.” says Ali hinting to a slight sense of urgency.
Radouan: ”There is a cost to everything so I am going to wait.”
Ali: “I hope you will find what you are looking for when the time comes.”
Radouan: “Thank you. Have a seat and stay for tea while I get Adnan.”
Ali: “Would love to but I really need to get going. Another time. Thank you.”
Adnan comes down and Ali informs him that the sheep is inside the house. They walk back.

In to the garage rushes Adnan with his dad Ali behind him.
Ali says: ”Easy Adnan, and don’t run to it. You may scare it and provoke unwanted reaction.”
Adnan pads and feels the sheep all over. He looks very happy.
Ali: “Kids, remember that this is not a toy you can play with so be very careful around it. Also, do not try and feed it. It has its hay, so no fries or mac & cheese, especially you Fairuz.”
Fairuz: ”Ok, daddy.”
The family goes back inside the house. Later that afternoon, Fairuz and Adnan ask their mom:
“Mami, we want to go watch the sheep.”
Sara: ”Ok, you can go but stay a way and no matter what, do not get close to him. Adnan, see to it that your sister does not do that.”
Adnan: ”We won’t. We’ll just watch from a distance. You do have him on a rope so he can’t come close right?”
“That is correct,.” affirms Sara.
The kids go to the garage and sit within a safe distance. They watch him as the sheep watches them back at times, other times eats, and other times lies down.”
Fairuz notices that the sheep digs into the hay when eating and that he goes for what looks like green dry sweet peas.

As the days go by, the kids increase their visits to the garage. They notice that the sheep is quite nice and friendly. As they grow more and more comfortable around the sheep, they get closer and closer to the point where they muster enough courage to actually pet it.
One day, Ali comes home and didn’t see his kids. He asks his wife: “Where are the kids?”
Sara: “With Massoud. Where else?”
Ali: ”Massoud who?”
Sara: “The sheep. I did not tell you? They have named him Massoud and they are spending much of their free time with it. I must admit he is quite different and quite domesticated. I even took the rope off of him to give him more space to roam around in the garage.”
Ali: ”Are you sure that is a good idea? ”
Sara: “Yeh, the garage-door is always closed and Massoud behaves quite nicely. This sheep must have grown up around kids.”
Ali: “Easy with the Massoud thing. It is a sheep don’t forget. Still we cannot have him loose around the kids.”

Ali calls his kids out to come inside the house.
Fairuz asks: “Can Massoud come too?”
Ali: ”No, he cannot.”
Fairuz: “But daddy he is very nice. He can stay in my room.”
Ali: ”Come here my dear. The sheep makes a lot of mess and he would not be comfortable inside the house. He is happiest there.”
Fairuz nods in agreement hesitantly.
Sara: “What do you want for dinner?”
Fairuz first to answer: “Sweet peas and lots of sweet peas.”
Sara: ”What happened to mac & cheesse?”
“”I learned that sweet peas are good for you,.” responds Fairuz with a smirk on her face.
”Yes, sweet peas are very good for you,.” agrees Comments Sara with a slight expression of suspicion.

Come dinner time, the family sits around the table. Everyone is eating normally except for Fairuz who just collects sweet peas and puts them on her plate.
Ali: ”What is it with you and sweet peas all of a sudden?”
Fairuz: ”Nothing. I just like them and I want to save them for a later since I am not hungry right now.”
With a slight sense of confusion Ali nods, “Ok!”
Fairuz takes her sweet peas up to her room with her. When it was time to watch the sheep the next day, she sneaks the peas with her and puts the plate before Massoud. The latter digs in and finishes the plate with in seconds. Fairuz’s face glows with happiness upon that sight.

The day of Eid has arrived. Ali goes to Eid prayer and comes back home. After about an hour or so, Hamza, the local butcher arrives for the sacrifice.
After breakfast, Hamza informs Ali that he needs to get to work, as he has other homes too visit.
Ali: ”Sara, Hamza is here and we are ready for the sacrifice.”
Sara: ”Ok, I will be rather there. Let me get the kids.”
She then calls her kids out: ”Kids, come downstairs; your dad is back and we are ready for the sacrifice.”
They come down running and go straight to the garage.

As Ali and Hamza start positioning the sheep for sacrifice, Adnan’s face goes grim and Fairuz’s eyes water. Before long, Fairuz starts crying and asks her mom:
‘Why are they going to hurt him? He is my friend.”
Sara: ”Oh no, they are not going to hurt him.”
Adnan starts crying in turn and runs up to his room.
Fairuz: ”Mom, please tell them to not hurt him, tell them to stop.”
Ali asks Hamza to let the sheep free until he deals with his kids. He gathers them in the kitchen and says:
“You see, we are sacrificing Massoud so he can go to heaven. This is what our religion recommends and we are acting on that recommendation.”
Fairuz: “Don’t hurt Massoud.”
Ali: ”We are not going to hurt him and he is not going to feel pain. Don’t you want mommy to make you your favorite Kababs?”
Fairuz goes on another round of crying and responds: “No, I don’t eat meat anymore.”
Sara jumps in “What are talking about Ali? We are not going to hurt Massoud and we are going to take to the farm where he can live happily ever after. I am going to shower the kids now. In the meantime, go get us another sheep, a bad mean sheep.”
Ali: “Ok, I get it. Go shower and change and I will get another one.”
As soon as the kids head upstairs with their mother, Ali turns to Hamza and says:
“Let us get this over with before they come back.”
Sara shows up alone: “They are taking a shower; hide the head as soon as possible.”
Ali responds with a perplexed look: ”Ok, we’ll do that.”
Hamza: ”Kids today are very soft. You are the fourth house I worked on today and I have seen something similar in at least one of them. This trend is on the increase year after year. “
Ali: ”Well, it is a different time and a different generation. It is true that at their age, we wanted to actually carry the sacrifice ourselves and our parents had to fight us to convince us otherwise but we cannot compare. That being said, I kind of understand.”
Hamza: ”Ali, are you ok? I hope you are joking when you said you understand. They are kids and it is only a sheep.”
Not wanting to engage this topic further Ali nods agreeably and carries on with the operation.
After all is said and done, Ali and Sara succeed in convincing their kids that Massoud lives in a far away farm, to preempt a visit-request at any point down the road, and that he is very happy.

Later that evening, Ali steps outside and he runs into his neighbor Radouan.
  “Hi Ali, how did the sheep turn out?” asks Radouan.
  “The most difficult and complicated Eid we have had so far.” responds Ali with relief.
”What happened?”  inquires Radouan.
”The kids did not want us to sacrifice the sheep. They even named him Massoud, can you believe that?” says Ali with a half puzzeled face.
Radouan: “To be frank with you Ali, you had no business bringing the sheep in two weeks out. What were you thinking? Remember when I told that there is a cost to everything? I was going to say more the other day when you informed me that you have brought tone home that early but I refrained in the last minute. My sheep came home last night and the kids didn’t see it until this morning. Piece of cake. That being said, I confess that I had the same experience with mine few years back. It was a mess. Samir my son has not eaten lamb since and he would still not eat it even if you paid him.”

جمال العودي. واشنطن
الثلاثاء, 02 ابريل/نيسان 2014
يعتبر الدكتور سعد الدين العثماني وزير الشؤون الخارجية والتعاون الاسبق  بحكومة رئيس الحكومة المغربية السيد عبد الاله بنكيران  من ابرز الشخصيات السياسية المغربية في السنوات الاخيرة  
وعلى الرغم من انتهاء مهامه كوزيرا للخارجية الا انه ما زال يتولى بعض المسؤوليات ويسهر على انشطة دينية وسياسية وثقافية الى غير ذلك
وخلال زيارة قام بها الى واشنطن في الاونة الاخيرة واثناء حضوره فعاليات المنتدى المغربي الامريكي للاغاثة والتنمية, التقيت السيد الوزيرالاسبق الذي اجاب على اسئلة طرحتها عليه تمحورت حول قضايا مختلفة منها ملف الصحراء والربيع العربي.  وفيما يلي النص الكامل للاسئلة واجوبة الوزير الاسبق

أصبح حزب العدالة والتنمية اليوم في القيادة وعلى رأس الحكومة في المغرب. في رأيك، ما هي أهم نقاط التحول أو التطور التي مر بها الحزب حتى وصل إلى رئاسة الحكومة في شخص أمينه العام عبد الإله بنكيران؟
نشأ حزب العدالة والتنمية سنة 1996 من التحاق أطر من حركة التوحيد والإصلاح، بحزب "الحركة الشعبية الدستورية الديمقراطية" الذي كان يرأسه الزعيم الوطني الدكتور عبد الكريم الخطيب، حيث مكنت هذه الخطوة من تشبيب قيادة الحزب ودعم توجهه الإسلامي وإعادة هيكلته من جديد. وكان أول مشاركة له في الانتخابات التشريعية سنة 1997، فحصل على تسعة مقاعد اعتبرت حينها انتصارا كبيرا. وأقدم الحزب على تغيير اسمه سنة 1998 ليصبح هو "حزب العدالة والتنمية"، تعبيرا على التفاعل الجديد للحزب مع المعطيات السياسية

وفي سنة 1998 اتخذ موقف المساندة النقدية لحكومة التناوب برئاسة الزعيم اليساري الأستاذ عبد الرحمن اليوسفي. ثم انتقل سنة 2000 إلى موقف المعارضة البناءة بعد إصدار مذكرة تقييمية للأداء الحكومي. وشارك الحزب في محطات سياسية محورية طيلة العشر سنوات التالية. وحصل سنة 2002 على 42 مقعدا، محتلا المرتبة الثالثة بفارق قليل عن حزب الاتحاد الاشتراكي للقوات الشعبية وحزب الاستقلال، ليصبح المعارضة السياسية الأولى بالبلاد. وبعد التفجيرات الإرهابية المفاجئة التي عرفها المغرب سنة 2003 والتي ندد بها الحزب مثل باقي أطياف المجتمع المغربي،  قامت بعض الأطراف السياسية بتوظيفها ضده، وذهبت بعض الأصوات السياسية وأعضاء يساريين من الحكومة إلى المطالبة بحله. وتجاوز الحزب هذه المحنة بهدوء وحكمة. وجاءت  الانتخابات التشريعية لسنة 2007 فحصل فيها الحزب على 46 مقعدا على الرغم من أساليب التدخل غير المشروع فيها

وبعد هبوب رياح الربيع الديمقراطي في المنطقة، كان له صدى كبير في الشارع المغربي. ووقعت تحولات سياسية أدت إلى تعديل الدستور سنة 2011، ثم  تنظيم انتخابات تشريعية حصل فيها الحزب على المرتبة الأولى ب 107 مقعدا من أصل 295، مما مكنه من تشكيل حكومة ائتلافية حيث نص الدستور الجديد على أن جلالة الملك يعين رئيس الحكومة من الحزب الأول في الانتخابات وهكذا استطاع حزب العدالة والتنمية المغربي، بعد تجربة سياسية في المعارضة لمدة 15 سنة، تطوير رؤيته المذهبية وتصوره لتدبير الشأن السياسي، الشيء الذي مهد للتجربة الحكومية الحالية، ويمكن إرجاع جزء مهم من ذلك لاحتكاكه المباشر والمتنوع مع المواطنين ومع الفرقاء السياسيين من جهة ووعيه المبكربأهمية العمل الإصلاحي من إطار المؤسسات السياسية والرسمية للبلاد من جهة أخرى

 بعد أن شغلت منصب وزير الخارجية لفترة لا بأس بها، كيف تغير مفهومك لقضية الصحراء والتي تعتبر أهم قضية بالنسبة للمغرب؟
مع التجربة العملية كوزير للشؤون الخارجية، ازداد إيماني أكثر بأن المغرب يمكن أن ينهي هذا الملف بفضل نقط القوة التي يتوفر عليها المغرب، وأهمها أن المغرب في أرضه وأن أكثر من ثلثي أبناء الصحراء موجودون في المغرب، وبفضل المسار المتميز للمغرب حول هذه القضية عربيا ودوليا، حيث استطاع استقطاب اهتمام العالم بتحولاته السريعة والجريئة المتماشية مع روح العصر والديمقراطية، وتجاوبا مع قرار مجلس الأمن رقم 1309، الداعي إلى "استكشاف حل سياسي جديد"، تعاطى المغرب بمرونة مع قضية الصحراء حيث بادر إلى الدعوة إلى حكم ذاتي جهوي للجنوب المغربي بما فيه الأقاليم الصحراوية، الشيء الذي سيمكن الصحراويين من تدبير الشأن المحلي بصلاحيات واسعة، تحت السيادة المغربية، وقد لقيت هذه المبادرة المغربية استحسانا وترحيبا دوليا حيث اعتبرها مجلس الأمن الدولي واقعية وذات مصداقية

 في نفس السياق سبق وأن ذكرت أن قضية الصحراء هي قضية معقدة. أين تتجلى نقط التعقيد وما هي في رأيك الحلول المواتية لإيجاد حل نهائي؟
نعم قضية الصحراء قضية معقدة لأن لها جذورا تاريخية. فلا ننس أن اسبانيا قامت ببدء بسط نفوذها عليها منذ سنة 1884، في إطار اتفاق مع القوى الاستعمارية الأخرى على اقتسام المنطقة. ثانيا بسبب خصوصيات حرب التحرير المغربية، وكونه استرد أراضيه على مراحل: وسط المغرب من الاحتلال الفرنسي في مارس1956، وشماله من الاحتلال الاسباني في أبريل 1956، ومنطقة طنجة (التي كانت تحت النظام الدولي) سنة 1957 ، ثم استرجاع إقليم طرفاية  في أبريل 1958 وإقليم سيدي إفني في  مارس 1969، وكلاهما في الجنوب المغربي ومستعمران من اسبانيا. واستمر المغرب في التفاوض مع اسبانيا وفق قرارات الجمعية العامة للأمم المتحدة إلى أن وقع الاتفاق الثلاثي فاسترجع المغرب أقاليمه الصحراوية الجنوبية

فهذا المسار، والظرفية التي وقع فيها الاسترجاع، وخصوصا اشتداد الحرب الباردة، أدى إلى النزاع المفتعل على سيادة المغرب على صحرائه الجنوبية، فكان تدويل القضية سببا في تعقيد آخر

 هناك من يقول أن أسرع وأسهل وسيلة لحل نزاع الصحراء هو أن تقف الجزائر إلى جانب المغرب. وهناك من يقول أن المشكل منحصر بين القيادات في المغرب وفي الجزائر وأن جيل جديد فقط هو من سينهي هذا القضية. ويضاف أن أي توثر في العلاقات بين البلدين يأخذ بالنزاع خطوات إلى الوراء. هل تتفقون مع هذه الاستنتاجات؟
 إن يد المغرب ممدودة باستمرار للأشقاء في الجزائر، وخير دليل على ذلك أني قمت شخصيا خلال بأول زيارة رسمية لي بعد تسلمي لمهامي وزيرا للخارجية المغربية إلى الجزائر. وقد حاولنا خلالها إضفاء صبغة جديدة وواعدة في العلاقة المغربية الجزائرية، وفق رؤية تدرجية، وضمن خطوات عملية من جهة أخرى فإن الشعبين الشقيقين لهما من الخصائص المشتركة والروابط التاريخية والاجتماعية والثقافية، ما يفوق أي خلاف. ويمكن لهيئات المجتمع المدني بكلا البلدين، القيام بأدوار متقدمة في ربط الجسور وتقوية العلاقات. لكن المغرب لا يمكنه بحال أن يتساهل في حقوقه، وأن يتنازل عن سيادته

وإن المتغيرات الجديدة التي شهدتها المنطقة المغاربية تفرض علينا أكثر من أي وقت مضى، الأخذ بعين الاعتبار متطلبات وطموحات الشعوب المغاربية في حرية الحركة والتنقل والاندماج الاقتصادي والاجتماعي، وهذا يجرنا إلى الدعوة لبذل مزيد من الجهد لتفعيل الاتحاد المغاربي الذي يوجد في وضعية غير فاعلة

 فيما يتعلق بالربيع العربي وبالضبط في مصر، محمد مرسي أول رئيس منتخب ديمقراطيا يحاكم اليوم بعد إجباره على التخلي عن كرسي الرئاسة. وهناك الكثير من الحديث عن ترشيح عبد الفتاح السيسي، القائد العام للقوات المسلحة المصرية ووزير الدفاع، لرئاسة الجمهورية. هل تتفق مع من يقول أنه في حالة ترشح السيسي إلى الرئاسة، فإنه سيفوز حتما بطريقة أو بأخرى، وهذا سيعني العودة إلى ما كانت عليه مصر قبل٢٥ يناير ٢٠١١ مما سيذهب بالثورة في مهب الريح؟
أريد هنا أن أبدي ملاحظتين، الأولى أنه ليست هناك ثورة إلا احتاجت إلى فترة – قد تطول أحيانا – لإيجاد التوازن في المجتمع، وخصوصا بعد الخروج من عباءة نظام قمعي مغلق. والسبب أن التحول إلى أهداف الثورة في حالة السلم أصعب بكثير من القيام بالثورة. الملاحظة الثانية أن التوافق الوطني بقدر ما يكون واسعا بقدر ما تستطيع القوى السياسية تجاوز التحديات. فالديمقراطية لا تبنى فقط بصناديق الاقتراع، بل بأرضية توافقية تشكل أساس التنافس. وهذه الأرضية يمكن أن تكون دستورا متفقا عليه، أو مؤسسات تشكل ضمان الاستقرار والاستمرار، أو هما معا. وعند فقدان ذلك يصعب تجاوز مرحلة ما بعد الثورة بنجاح أوبسهولة

 يبدو أن تونس تعاملت مع الثورة بأفضل الطرق مقارنة مع مصر وليبيا وسوريا وهناك دستور جديد ثمة المصادقة عليه مؤخرا. في رأيك, لماذا نجحت ثورة تونس؟ وما هي الدروس التي يمكن استنتاجها من نجاحها إلى حد الآن؟
هذا يرجع في رأيي إلى المرونة التي أبدتها مختلف الأطراف السياسية والمجتمعية إلى أن وصلت إلى دستور توافقي. فالتوافق الوطني هو أساس تجاوز مرحلة البناء

By Jamal Laoudi                                                                    
Hollywood today is indeed of new faces in martial arts.  Van Damme, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li are among the few names that still sell but you can only push so far.  As for possible new faces, there is a name to keep a watch on, Nassim Faras Lehrizi.  He is a 9 year-old martial arts prodigy being trained and groomed by his own father Hamid, a martial artist in his own right.  Based out of Massachusetts of Moroccan origins, Hamid and his son are due to start shooting in a martial arts film.  As it is only their first ever such adventure, dreams of Hollywood are that much closer. I caught up with Hamid and we discussed his movie project among other things. 

How did you start out in martial arts and where does your apssionof the sport come from? 
Growing up in Mohammedia where I was born and raised, I was picked on quite a bit by other kids partly because I had a small frame.  I was bullied and one can derive quite a bit of passion from anything that helps defeat that. Like every father, my dad wanted that I would be able to defend myself so he took me to a friend of his who ran a boxing gym.  That did not last past two sessions as I took a beating when thrown right into the boxing ring.   Luckily, I have an older brother who, at the time was a black belt in Judo, took me to a Karate Shotokan school.  This appealed to me and I took it seriously. At 14, I had already entered regional and national competitions, and received my black belt in the discipline.

You opened you own martial arts school at a very young age, and you have never looked back. What is involved in not only running but growing such a business?
I started as an assistant instruction in Morocco when I was 17.  After moving to the States soon after in 1987, I became an assistant instructor in a Taekwondo school in Cambridge Mass.  After I got married in 1990, I bought a house with a large basement in Brockton Mass.  That basement became a small Dojo for my neighborhood kids.   A year later, I opened Hamid's Karate Academy at Bay State Gym in West Bridgewater Mass.  After other openings and renovations, I had about 250 students.  In 2008, I moved to Brockton where I established Hamid's Academy of All Mixed Xtreme Martial Arts (AMXMA).

AMXMA is your own creation. Why did you create this style and how is it different from existing ones? 
AMXMA involves acrobatics, weapons, and exciting martial arts tricks on top of what Mixed Martial Arts requires.  The techniques involved are very exciting and is similar to what you see in Disney’s Martial Arts movies like Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers.  This happens to appeal to kids which is the exact demographic for the new style I have created.  They can commit more time, they are more energetic, and more willing to try new things than their adult counterparts.  My focus has been to transition this style to a point where my students can compete all over the United Sates and the World.  So far, it has been very successful.  
You are quite dedicated and committed to you craft.  That becomes abundantly clear once one takes a look at your 9 year old son and prodigy Nassim Young Dragon.  When and how did you decide to get your son involved?
I have been asked this question many times before and I have never told the full story; I am sharing it now.  Nassim, my first kid, was born three weeks early in August 2004 weighting 3.75lbs.  My academy is a family business.  I run the floor and my wife handles the front desk so Nassim is always around.  At 11 months old exactly, he began to sit beside me during kids’ training sessions.  I remember him that young trying to mimic other kids’ moves in his own uniform.  It was having a blast.  He would throw a fit if I tried to make him wait for me on the side.   Just like that, a young dragon was born.
A day after his 1st birthday, Nassim went into a coma caused by an unknown virus according to the doctors who examined him.  That was the worst time of my life as you can imagine.  I prayed and prayed that he recovers and I recall saying to him "I promise to make you a champion someday son" then I prayed to God to allow me to keep my promise.
A week later, Nassim was back on his feet. Soon after, he was back in the gym enjoying himself.  And ever since, he has been with me at the Academy pretty much consistently.  He enjoys it.  I have always made it a point to expose him but to leave the final decisions to him.  Now, Nassim "Young Dragon" Faras Lahrizi is the youngest Karate & Kickboxing World Champion with many international & national titles. We travel around the world where he competes, holds workshops and seminars, among other things.

How has Nassim respond to this discipline and do you balance your role as a father and a master?
A child is a great gift and a blessing. I am blessed to have married Loubna Faras.  She is a great wife and mother to our two kids Nassim and his sister Aya.   At home, we are family, at the Dojo and during p5actice. Nassim is just one of my students.   

There are reports that you will both be starting in Hollywood movies in the very near future. Talk to me about that and when would it come out? 
Indeed, we will both be taking part of the upcoming Martial Arts action movie "The Martial Arts Kid” alongside Don The Dragon Wilson and Lady Dragon Cynthia Rothrock.  Michael Baumgarten is the screenwriter as well as the director. The Producers include Cheryl Wheeler Duncan and James Wilson.  We are very much lookign forward to this project.
It is too early to talk about release date but I would say end 2014 early 2015.  This among other things will become clearer during the next few months.

How can one keep in touch with your work?
In this day and age, social media is proving to be quite a marketing and communications tool.  I am active I this domain and here are links to my activities:


Demo by Nassim Young Dragon

By Jamal Laoudi
It is common knowledge that there are many decent rappers with plenty of talent but it is also well known that very few actually make the cut.  There are many factors that can determine whether an artist has a chance at fame.   Believability is a characteristic that is essential to such outcome.
Tarik Bakkal aka Yung-T, an artist based out of Boston, stands out as one artist that will catch your attention quickly and draw you to his performances.  His awesome flow combined with abundance of passion showing guarantee that you will pay attention, remember, and come back for more.  H
ere is Yung-T himself:

Who’s YungT?

Yung T is a 20 year-old Moroccan-American kid who lives with his parents and is chasing his dream.

What kind of music did you grew up listening to?  Given your Moroccan roots, how does that influenced you artistically?
To be honest with you, I may be influenced by various types of music, from Spanish to Arabic to Indian to what have you.  As an artist, I am very open to new sounds.  Growing up, I listened to Michael Jackson heavily as he was and still is one of my biggest sources of inspiration.

How did you get hooked on hip hop?
When did u write your first track? I want to make clear that I am not hooked on any one genre of music.  I consider myself an artist with many flavors.  I write music of various genres from hip hop to R&B to Pop to make sure I don’t cling myself to any one genre.   As far as my first track is concerned, I was in the kitchen daydreaming about my ability to be a successful artist and I wrote a track.  Next thing you know, I am where you see me today and it is only the beginning.

Speaking of R&B, why not haven’t you put out more R&B tracks?  
I will get busy putting out R&B Music.  Given the needs of my hip hop fans, I try and balance between the two music genres.  You will see me release some intriguing R&B.

Given the stigma attached to Rap, did you encounter any resistance from your family?  If no, what kind of role did they play in your development as an artist?
My Parents have always supported me in all my endeavors.   That being said, no parent would take their kid seriously if he/she tells them that they aspire to be a well established rapper.  I informed my parents and their response was “ok.” I think we all know what “ok” means in this context.  As for now, they respect from craft as they see the gift Allah has bestowed on me.

Compare and contrast Rap today and yesterday?  
I think the old school era was richer artistically because that is when everything started.  Today, much of what you see can be classified as a branch off of the original.

Take me through your music-writing process.
It is as simple as this, once I hear a proposed instrumental and it touches me, I literally get all into it.  Before any lyrical writing takes place, I would record myself mumbling melodies to the instrumental. Once I have a catchy chorus to which I think people would easily get hooked on, I move on to figuring out the bridge.  Once I get that, I go after lyrics and the rest is history.

Tell me a bit about your music production crew. Who does what given a song?
I don’t really have a production crew. I record my stuff at a local studio with Fresh, a super talented sound engineer.  As for music videos, I have my childhood friend Ervin Carrillo who handles editing while I collaborate with him in directing and shooting with the cameras.

In your opinion, what are an upcoming rapper’s main challenges?
That would have to be finding your own sound and having your own look.  Add to that possessing the ability to come up with Catchy Chorus.   Record Labels nowadays do not look for lyrical talent anymore and it is unfortunate to say.  It is partly because of that I train myself in how to write lyrics at the same time, I am studying old school songs.  One day I do that is to scrutinize a song. I have done so for works of many including Johnny Gill, Marvin Gaye, and Michael Jackson.  This allows me to stretch out my sound and helps me with my creative process.

If there is one artist that you would be happiest to work with, who would that be, and why?
I would have to go with Drake.  I consider him to be one of my biggest new sources of inspiration.

What are your current and near-future projects?
I am working on so much material and so many songs that I don’t know where to begin.   It is not clear to me even what is going to be released when.  I can also say that I will be collaborating with artists, some well-established,   from various countries including England and France.

Thanks Yung-T for taking the time.  Last words:
I just want to say to all upcoming artists and dreamers who are striving to excel, and are really dedicated to their craft that I know it is very hard … Remember that the more you struggle and sweat to achieve a goal the  more you can savor and enjoy that achievement.  Don’t let anyone stop you or get in your way.  I wish the best of luck and much success to everyone out there pursuing a dream.  God bless!

Yung-T Performs his Hit Song “Work Hard”

Imagine United States Senator Kelly A. Ayotte of New Hampshire reporting to work at a Senate Armed Services Committee session with her barely week-old newborn baby, whom she holds by a sling tied around her shoulders.  What kind of reactions would this spark?  Will Chairman Carl Levy allow that?  Can you imagine trying to accomplish anything under these circumstances? How about distractions? While there appears to be no precedence of such case in the U.S., Europe provided an example. Italian European Member of Parliament Licia Ronzulli brought her newborn baby to European Parliament and conducted business while nursing her.  Why did she do that? What kind of reactions did she get? The questions are endless. Here is Honorable Licia Ronzulli answering such questions:

Honorable Ronzulli, thank you for accepting my request for an interview. I wish to start by asking, how is your daughter Vittoria doing and how old is she now?
Licia Ronzulli: Thanks for your invitation! Vittoria is very well and now she is already 7 months old.

How did the idea of bringing your child to work come about and why not hire a babysitter?
Unfortunately, in the European Parliament there is no maternity leave for members. This means that every absent member during European Parliament official sessions, even for maternity reasons, will not receive allowance for being present in a session, and will not be able to justify their absence for the purpose of voting statistics as well!
I am very informal as a mother: when Vittoria was just a newborn and she could not stay without me as I nursed her, I had some very important votes during Strasbourg´s Plenary Session, in which every absence could have been crucial. So I packed my bags and flew to Strasbourg with her. Anyway, in my daily life I am not alone in taking care of Vittoria.  There’s also my recently retired mom, who helps me with her.

The photos of you with your daughter in the European Parliament attracted much attention- Why do you think that is?
Maybe a lot of people were astonished just because we are not used to seeing things like that. I do not see anything strange in it: it’s always wonderful to see a mother and her daughter together, either in the Parliament or during a walk in a park.

What was the reaction of your male colleagues initially and have they changed towards you since?
They all were kind and gentle; I received a hearty welcome regardless of their political orientation. No, nobody changed their approach towards me.

How about your female colleagues?
They were very kind too; on several occasions they expressed their solidarity with me.

You have continued to take your child with you to work.   Is that decision deliberately chosen or is it imposed by necessity?
Bringing Vittoria with me gives me self-confidence and calm, and I think it is exactly the same for her. Besides this, the Parliament agenda is very crowded, and my daughter is too young to remain without her mother for long time.

You have been working towards attracting attention to women’s rights in the workplace for quite a while but none of those efforts were as successful as your bringing your child to work.  Why do you think that is?
Unfortunately it’s like that. We work very often for months on important dossiers regarding the real interests of citizens, but we are completely ignored by the mass media. I think the shock caused by my act – I received messages from all over the world! – is due to the fact that it has become a symbol, an icon for all the mothers who try to conciliate their professional life with the choice of becoming mothers.

How are you planning to take advantage of this attention in order to advance your causes?
I will keep on supporting the rights of women, and who decide to become mothers without leaving their work place, especially now that the European Council ruled against the European Parliament proposal on the maternity leave.

European women have come a long way since the past few decades.  You now have the Swiss cabinet with a female majority though only 4 decades after winning right to vote.   That being said, there is still plenty of room for improvement.  What are some of the main demands of European women today in your opinion?
The Swiss example comes after the Norwegian, Swedish or Danish ones, who have been front-runners for years regarding female presence in Parliament. The key to obtain equal opportunities at work is to be able not to penalize women in their careers, only because they follow the natural choice to become mothers.

In many countries, women’s rights are in a pitiful state. That being said, some countries are beginning to take steps to improve the situation of women. Let me take the example of Morocco that appears to have started the process of enacting laws favoring women’s rights.  What do you think about the EU role in encouraging countries like Morocco to continue on this path and entice others to follow suit?  In general, how do you want to develop the issues about women’s rights outside the European borders?
The EU cannot oblige the developing countries to respect the fundamental rights of women, but this does not mean that we did not do anything about it. Its diplomatic activity is continuous and pressing, especially towards those countries which do not respect women’s fundamental rights. Also thanks to MEP’s denouncements.  For the time being, the death sentence for Sakineh, the Iranian woman accused of adultery, has been suspended.
Besides this, in December I went to the Democratic Republic of Congo as vice-president of ACP-UE Joint Parliamentary Assembly of Africa – Caribbean – Pacific and EU. During the official sessions, attended by the President Kabila, my dossier about the Millennium Development Goals WAS approved.
In particular, I focus attention on the situation of women and children, who are the two components of society that most suffer from situations of poverty and misery and for whom we need to increase our aid.

Thanks again for taking the time to entertain these questions. Any last words?
Thank you for your attention. I hope to come to your country as soon as possible and to have the opportunity to meet you personally in order to talk with you about the current maternity leave situation in the United States.

By Jamal Laoudi
Women are banned from driving in Saudi Arabia.  This is not to say that all Saudis agree and obey on the contrary.  Dissident voices have been around for a while and have become more and more active in the past few years.  Given that protest, the most common form of which is speaking out, is also banned in Saudi Arabia, a number of activists have resulted to creativity. 

Some women had declared a defiance of the law and organized a day calling on all Saudi women to go out and drive.   Very few women took to the street to drive. Those who did were “dealt with appropriately” said a Saudi official.

Another approaches of protest are rather subtle.  Such is the approach adopted by business Mogul Al-Waleed bin Talal, one of the more progressive members of the Saudi royal family.  He tweeted in April 2013 indicating the economic benefits of repealing the women driving ban by arguing that “"The question of allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia will save more than 500,000 jobs in addition to the social and economic benefits."

Then, there is a purely artistic method of protest.  Hisham Fageer, a Saudi-American comedian took a shot at the issue via music, and he impressed.   He covered the legendary Bob Marley’s song “No Woman No cry” and renamed it “No Woman No drive” and changed parts of the lyrics accordingly.   The creativity aspect did not stop at that. He relied on some of his friends to provide music through humming among other things as no musical instrument was used.   Satire and sarcasm is the methods of choice.  The outcome is a poignant, funny, and pleasant musical piece.
Check out the video:


By Jamal Laoudi
Born on December 11, 1996, Samy Omari started singing since he was 7.  He is an up and coming Pop star based out of Florida.  Aside from his singing/songwriting endeavors, Sami is very active with his community.  With an album just out, it was imperative to found out more.

 What kind of music genres were you exposed to growing up?
I was exposed to all different types of music but took on to Pop iN general.   Justin Timberlake has had an immense impact on me.

 How did you settle down on Pop and have you experimented with other music genres? Pop music is a genre that moves something inside me.  Body and soul move to it; it makes me want to move.  Combined with dancing, I see them as two of my main forms of expressions.  I have also experiment with R&B that I feel comes from inside me just like a flame and I do love to sing jazz as well.

The music industry can be brutal for beginners. Compound that with the fact that teenage years can be quite difficult. How do you balance your work in music with your obligations to school work and other aspects of your life? 
School always comes first.  I happen to be an honor student at Dr. Phillips High School because I hold myself to high academic standards.  Balancing an academic and an artistic career can be pretty challenging.  Jumping from school to the studio back to home for homework is sometimes tough but worth it.  That being said, I have a close circle of friends who support me and keep me grounded.  Singing is what I want to do but there are other priorities.  As long as I stay focused and work hard, I think it will all work out. Nothing is impossible.

You already are quite aware of the importance of community participation.  You are active with fundraising for B.A.P, a bullying awareness program, through your pro bono performance. Where did this desire come from? Shed some light on your community activism. 
I have experienced bullying as a little kid and it is an unpleasant experience that is tough to deal with.  Turning to music for me played an important role in overcoming it.  I enjoy it and I am good at it, something no one could take away from me. B.A.P is a program that helps victims of bullying and provides them with means to overcome it.  It also teaches kids to get involved in a positive way avoiding problems.  This boosts their confidence and gives them a sense of pride and promotes a sense of family.  It builds a community where kids do not have to worry about being teased.  I am a volunteer with this organization and I work with kids through their problems be it at home or in school.  That is not the only way I help, I perform at their shows, and partake in their annual talent competition.  It is always a fun event where we are all having fun singing, dancing, raping, drawing etc.  On the same note, I am very involved with my community be it during blood drives, street cleanings efforts…  They have always supported me and I will always do the same.

What message are you trying to get out through your music?  
That anything is possible, however big or small it may be; that we can all have an impact.  Everyone, dream big and shoot for the stars

You have covered Justin Bieber and that has proven successful. You now have your first original track out entitled “So Crazy”.  Talk to me about this project? 
Justin Bieber is one of the many artists I strive to emulate.  He is very successful and inspiring, and I think he impacts us positively.  As for his entertaining talent, it is abundant to see.  "So Crazy", which is now available on iTunes, Amazon, Google music store, and Spotify,  is the first single of my new album “Untouchable” that will be available in the market soon.  In this album, I present and describe myself.  There is so much time and effort that went into it.  I hope everyone will enjoy listening to it as much as I did putting it together.  It is something you don't want to miss.

What do you attribute your success so far to?
My drive and my talent not to leave out my parents’ support and God’s blessings.
What are your short and long term projects?

Short term, I am looking into getting my music out there.  Long term, I hope that my music is inspirational.  Furthermore, I hope I can shine some light on Morocco, my roots.  I have been there and it is an amazing place.  I also hope that I can reach Moroccan kids and show them that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.  
When all said and done, I hope I can leave my mark on the music industry.  For now, I want to entertain and I want people to have fun listening and dancing to my music.

Continuous success Samy; last word:
Samy is fearless!  I have never given up despite bumps among other adversities.  My music defines me and I strive to entertain the masses.  My goal is to share my God-given talent with the world and I look forward to the day everyone sings my songs.  With God’s blessings, support from my family, friends, and peers, I will make a name for myself.