Monday, November 30, 2009

Africa's First World War: The Conflict in DR Congo

As we speak, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), formerly known as Zaire is being tested in ways that we cannot imagine. Civilians are being abducted, women and girls are being raped and forced into sexual slavery, men and young boys are forcefully conscripted into the armed forces. The worst forms of child labour are in full manifestation in the DRC. People are dying in their numbers in the DRC while in other parts of the world, people quietly watch. A majority of people do not even know that there's a potentially rich country (as large as Western Europe) called the DRC, whose people live in peril.

There's an armed conflict raging across the DRC, with the highest number of casualties and human rights violations registerd in the Northeastern Ituri district. Some analysts have described the conflict as "Africa's First World War". There are as many reasons for the war as there's sand in the Sahara desert. But the reasons that stand out include, conflicts over basic resources such as water, access and control over rich mineral resources such as cobalt, coltan, cassiterite, copper, diamond and gold. It is no secret that countries rich in minerals are often marred by corruption, militarization, civil war and various political agendas. Unfortunately, the DRC is not different.

The DRC is geographically as large as Western Europe and is very attractive to both national and international Corporations. These corporations have an interest in the mineral potential of the country and have fueled the conflict in the region in one way or the other. An example of a company that has come under scrutiny for fueling the brutal conflict and human rights violations in eastern Congo is Afrimex (a United Kingdom (UK) company). See Global Witness Report.

Congo has been in some form of armed conflict since 1996 when the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (ADFL) led by Laurent Kabila launched a campaign to oust Mobutu Sese Seko. Since then, more than 5.4 million people have died and it has been the world's deadliest conflict since World War II. There're more than 1.5 million internally displaced people/refugees and 45,000 people continue to die each month from violent and non-violent causes such as malaria and other deseases. The figures are shocking!

Where is the international community?

There's a lot of international attention focused on ending wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza, Pakistan and other hotspots in the world. Is the DRC less important?

Presently the largest number of "blue helmets" (UN peacekeeping forces) ever deployed to a conflict are on the ground in the Congo but they have failed to secure peace. Why? Is the conflict in the DRC a tailored conflict?

I will address some of the above tough questions in subsequent posts. We can't forget the people of the DRC. WATCH...



NOTE: Contrary to what the narrator in the above video said, as of today, the conflict in DR Congo is NOT over

Sunday, November 29, 2009

How to Add a Twitter Button to Your Facebook Profile

When I started blogging, I promised myself that anything I learn, my readers would learn. That's exactly what I'm doing.

Today, 29/11/2009, I learned how to add a Twitter Button to my Facebook profile. It's a great thing to do if you're active on both Twitter and Facebook and want to spread yourself between the two networks. In order to add a Twitter button to your Facebook profile, you need to follow the 4 steps below.

1. First and foremost, you need to get a twitter button (see picture of my button above). Click here to get a button. Be sure to follow the instructions on how to customize the button so that the code that would be generated represents your Twitter account. The main thing you have to do is to put in you twitter username in the top box on the Twitter buttons page (for example, twitter.com/...............).

2. After you've chosen and customized your button, you need to log into your Facebook account. On the bottom left corner of your Facebook profile, you'll see APPLICATIONS. Click on it, a menu will show up and on the menu, you have to click on BROWSE MORE APPLICATIONS. Then type in "extended info" in the Search Apps box and search.

3. Click on EXTENDED INFO. This will take you to the Extended Info Facebook page. While on this page, click on "Go to Application" (below the profile picture). Make sure you Allow the application. When that is done, a box will come up.

4. Copy the code that was generated below the Twitter button you selected. Paste the code in the box that came up when you completed Step 3 above. Click "Save Changes" and then "Add to Profile". DONE!!

Check out my Facebook profile here. You're welcome to add me as a friend (if we're not yet connected).

If you have any questions on how to add the Twitter Button to your Facebook profile, leave a comment below. I'll respond to your question within 24 hours. I'd also like to know if you successfully added the twitter button. :)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Trust: Do business with a friend or with the guy at the Mall?

Trust means reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc of a person or thing; confidence. Trust has many meanings but let's stick with this one for the purpose of this article.

Trust is a hugh thing in our lives and it is one of those important things that can easily be overlooked. It is enthrusted in all aspects of our lives and it is the foundation for meaningful and successful relationships. When it comes to business relationships, some claim that it is better to do business with a trusted friend (or family member), and others feel it is better to do business with the unknown guy down at the mall. Now that you know the bone of contention here, do you have an opinion about it?

Let's say your friend is involved in my line of business: provides home phones (VoIP), cell phones (from all major cellular providers in the U.S.), satellite TV, broadband internet and home security systems, for the same price (sometimes cheaper) as you'd have them at the shop or dealers store. Would you get your services from him/her? Or would you prefer to go to the dealers store?

In business relationships, would you completely trust your friend or family member? Your decision would probably be based on how well you know the friend and whether he/she is licensed to provide the goods and services you need. Your decision would also probably be based on whether you want to support the business venture or not.

I agree that we feel safe doing business the way we're used to. If you're used to going down to the mall or to the dealers store to get your goods or services, you'd find it hard to make the first move to get the same goods or services (even at a cheaper rate) from an independent representative. But just like you took that first chance to do business with an unknown guy at the mall or dealers store, I believe you can take another chance to do business with a trusted friend. Life is about taking one chance after another.

Doing business with the guy down at the mall is a risk we all take and I know if it wasn't for the fact that we so desperately need the goods and services we buy, we would probably not dare to take a chance on someone we just met at the mall.

I encourage you to follow your gut feeling. Do not be pressured to do business with anyone (be it a friend, family member or the guy at the mall). But always make sure you don't strain your relationships. Try as much as possible to make your friend or family member understand why you'd rather do business with the unknown guy at the mall. The choice remains yours. For me, I'd rather do business with a trusted friend or family member than with the unknown guy at the mall.

The Person in the Mirror: How do you see yourself?

Over the years, I have come to realise that humans beings, by nature are creatures who want to fit into a social universe. While many profess not to care about what others think, the reality is different. A majority of people become depressed and agitated when it becomes clear that they're not accepted by a group of people or by a person of concern.

I vividly remember a wedding I attended a few years ago. I remember this particular wedding because of the events that preceded the ceremony. A friend and I planned on attending the wedding and we agreed to "dress to impress". That fateful afternoon, I was all dressed and smelling good when my friend "appeared", badly dressed. The dress was clearly 2 sizes bigger and did not fit her at all. She asked me, "what do you think?" For a moment, I was speechless. The dress clearly did not fit and there was no way I was going to tell her otherwise. I looked at her in the face and said, "It's big. It doesn't look good." The party literally ended at this point because she got so mad at me for not appreciating her. She left the party and because we planned it together for a long time, I got bored and left the party prematurely as well.

One thing is clear. My friend must have looked at herself in the mirror before leaving the house. Considering the fact that she is a lady of great taste in fashion, I suspect she knew the dress was big and did not fit. But somehow, she was hoping people (including me) would see it differently.

This human tendency goes beyond dressing. Many people seek to potray a different picture of themselves. For instance, broke and struggling people want to appear rich, losers want to appear as winners, you name it.

The bottom line is that people pretend and ignore devastating consequences. Nowadays, people drive cars that they should not be in, people live in houses that they should not be living in, people wear dresses they should not be wearing - all in a bid to sway public opinion. As a matter of fact, people want to be rich for all the wrong reasons and this has driven many into debt. Needless to say, their stress level is high because they're living a lie. Is it worth it?

I know some people will be quick to point out that it's alright if it makes them happy. No doubt, happiness is important but there're ways of being responsible and happy.

In life, it's important to know what others think of you, although the clearest view depends on how you see yourself.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Truth about the Retirement Plan (Pension Scheme)

The things that are indoctrinated in us as we grow are more often than not accepted as truth in the society that we grow in. Consequently, we accept them as norm and never dare to challenge them. One of such things is the retirement plan (known as pension scheme in some countries).

Broadly speaking, the retirement plan or pension scheme is designed to provide people with some income when they are no longer employed and earning a regular income. It allows for the accumulation of a fund for later use as retirement income. Retirement plans could be setup by governments, employers or insurance companies.

I would not go into the intricacies of the retirement plan but I will like to respectfully point out that the retirement plan is a lie; it does not work.

Typically, the retirement plan represents 50% or less of a person's salary when he/she was employed. Based on this alone, we must not look very far to notice that the retirement plan doesn't work. Why doesn't it work?

Well, it is mathetically impossible to retire and live comfortably with 50% or less or your salary. Think about it. Imagine every month, while you work a job from 9 to 5pm, you take home 2000EUR (3,027.33 USD, as of now). This amount is barely enough to meet all your monthly expenses such as car payment, credit card payment, mortgage, school fees for your kids, vacation, just to name a few.

Considering the fact that life is difficult with 100% of your salary, how do you expect to live comfortably with 50% or less of your salary upon retirement? Despite the glaring truth that the retirement plan does not work, many people have been made to believe in it with devastating consequences. Many hardworking people worldwide retire and live a life of struggle simply because they accepted a lie as truth.

Another down side of the retirement plan is this: when the stock market plunges, the retirement plan assets also plunge. In the U.S. in 2008, assets held within retiremnt plans lost 22% of their value. At the same time, individual retirement plan assets declined by 24%. (For more details click here). That said, can you trust the retirement plan with the global economy the way it is?

Many of my readers are still very young and some of them would be wondering what the retirement has to do with them at this point. However, we all agree that it's better to be prepared than to be sorry. So, what do we do?

Financial experts, investors and successful businessmen like Robert Kiyosaki (author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad) have suggested that the best thing to do is what I've done - invest in assets or businesses that generate passive income, while we're young. For instance, you can buy houses and rent them out so that tenants will pay rents and guarantee you a steady stream of income. Better still, invest in a telecom company (bearing in mind that people will always make phone calls) and when your customers pay their bills (which they always do), you get a big chunk of passive income. How about that?

Well, what ever decision you make is up to you. I have done my part to inform you that the retirement plan is a lie; the retirement plan does not work!!

Odd Jobs for the Highly Educated in Europe!

When I was in the University of Buea, Cameroon, I'd work any job just to have some extra money to party and maybe buy a few fancy clothes and shoes. Fortunately or unfortunately, jobs were not available for students. Consequently, many students had to completely depend on their parents for financial support. In other parts of the world, part time jobs are available for students. This is a good thing because with part time jobs, students can afford to take care of themselves to an extent.

After 3 years with no job as a student in Cameroon, I traveled to Europe to pursue a Masters degree. It was then that I was exposed to the "job opportunities" for students. I became excited about the possibilities. I could work and go to school. This made me feel "big" and independent. However, I refused to become a product of the system that has completely derailed many brilliant students.

It is acceptable for students for work odd jobs to support themselves while studying. But I become worried when people continue to work odd jobs long after graduating from school with Bachelor degrees, Masters degrees and in some cases PhDs. This is the story of many international students in Europe (mostly from poor countries). It is a story many people are familiar with. The question is, are we that desperate? Or are we out of options?

It is no secret that many students from poor countries travel abroad to study and help support themselves and their families back home. That's a very good intention. But the essence of education is to get a good job after graduating and support your family in "style". Right? That's what parents would be proud of. Well, the reality is different.

Many students travel abroad and become comfortable with odd jobs so much so that they forget what they were studying for. They graduate from school and continue doing the odd jobs they were expected to do as students. Some of them even graduate and get full time odd jobs. A majority of them delibrately refuse to look at other opportunities because they're "busy". Busy doing what? I wonder.

You would agree with me that there's a lot of potential in students, which if fully exploited would help develop themselves and their countries. Unfortunately, many of them are contented with working odd jobs abroad and making a few hundreds or thousands of euros or dollars. No doubt, these students represent the generation that is expected to take their countries out of poverty. Is this the way they expect to do it? Or is this part of a conspiracy? I know many people will be quick to point accusing fingers but I think we must take full responsibility for our actions and start doing the right thing. We can do better!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Passive Income: The Key to long term Wealth

Whenever I talk about money, many of my friends are quick to remind me that, "it's not all about the money". The truth is that life is theoretically not all about money. Practically, in the real world, it's all about the money. Believe it or not!

Everywhere I go, people spend the bulk of their waking hours working for money, yet they're quick to say money is not important. Without money you have no house, you have no car, you have no food, you have no medication, above all you and your kids would have no education without money. In fact, I don't know what on earth money does not affect.

We all aim to generate enough income to meet our needs. The problem is that many people know only one type of income and resign themselves to generating only that type of income. This is the case because it's the type of income many are educated to generate and it's the easiest and most convinient type of income. This type of income also happens to be the worst type of income. The question that arises here is, what is the most common and worst type of income?

Earned income is the the most common and the worst type of income. Earned income is income that is generated by working. It is salary or money made from employment. The downside of earned income is that if you're not working, you're not making any money. This means that earned income earners are condemned to working for money if they intend to have any money. Once they stop working or get fired (which is common nowadays), they make no money and they and their families suffer.

Many people consider earned income as a secured and safe type of income because no investment is required to earn it. On the contrary, I see it as the most insecure type of income because the earner has no control over it. Besides, it's taxed at a higher rate than any other type of income.

Prior to October 2008, I was trapped in the same mindset like many people and mistakenly thought earned income was the way to go. Needless to say, I was wrong.

I got involved in business on October 8 2008 and started researching on how people build wealth. I wanted to know why a sizeable minority of people become wealthy while the majority of people merely survive and live a life of struggle. I found out (among other things) that the type of income we generate determines whether we'd create long term wealth or not. Wealthy people understand that earned income would not create wealth. Hence, they build businesses that generate PASSIVE INCOME.

Passive income is money you get from your assets. For example, if you own a business that operates independently of your working for it. Once you set it up, it pays you whether you're still building it or not. Another example of an asset that can generate income is a pin ball machine. If you buy a pin ball machine, it generates income irrespective of whether you're there or not (Warren Buffet was once involved in this business).

Wealthy people invest in passive income businesses because it continues to pay them month after month long after they stop building the business. Some activities that generate passive income include:

  • Multi-level or network marketing
  • Rental income from real estate
  • creating and selling intellectual property - books, patents, internet content etc.
It is impossible to find passive money businesses unless you're open to hearing about them. I got involved with my present network marketing company because I was looking for an opportunity to earn passive income. I would not have found the opportunity if I was not ready and open to hear about it. Once I found it, I researched it and it turned out to be what I've been looking for. Today, my business has expanded as far as Nigeria, West Africa. Guess what, this is just the beginning.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Optimism vs. Pessimism: Is the glass half empty or half full?


A discussion on my Facebook wall on November 13, 2009 brought this timeless philosophical question to my mind: Is the glass half empty of half full? This question is commonly used to indicate that a particular situation could be a cause for optimism or pessimism.

On the above date, I updated my Facebook status with the words, "Good things happen to good people". Many of my friends responded to the update. They shared one thing in common - disagreement. I was not surprised. I'm fully aware of the fact that many people focus on the negative side of things and completely ignore the positive side. For instance, people focus on the number of good people to whom bad things have happened and completely ignore the good number of good people to whom good things have happened.

How we respond to life's experiences (how we see the glass) is a key determinant of the level of success we attain. When you experience difficulties and setbacks in life do you see them as just another proof that everything is working against you? When you face challenges in life, do you give in or do you punch back? When life knocks you down, do you stay down and cry or do you get up and keep going?

Traditionally, the world is made up of optimists (those who see the glass half full) and pessimists (those who see the glass half empty). A pessimist who sees the glass half empty is expecting a full glass while the optimist operates under the assumption that the glass could as well be completely empty or there would have been no glass at all. The person who sees the glass half empty imagines how things could be better and completely ignores the fact that it could be worst. Such a person could be compared to the kid who complains that he has no new shoes, completely forgetting that there're other less previleged kids who have no shoes at all. As a matter of fact, there're people who don't even have feet to wear shoes.

Answer the questions below and find out whether you may be too negative or trying hard to stay positive.

  • Do you give up early and often or do you refuse to give up without a good fight?
  • When you meet a new person, do you expect to like the person or be annoyed by the person?
  • Do you think the best days of your life are yet to come, are happening now or have already happened?
  • Does failure make you depressed or stronger?
  • Do you believe most people try to be good or are liars and cheats?
  • When your boss offers you a challenging task, do you become suspicious that nobody else wants the task or are you glad to help out?
  • Whenever you predict the future, do you think something good is about to happen to you or something bad?
After answering the above questions myself, I can safely conclude that I see the glass half full. No matter what's going on in my life, I always find something to be thankful for and try to remain positive. I try as much as possible to inspire the people around me and to make the world a happier place. With this positive attitude, I might even live longer!

It is worth mentioning that there's an alternative view of optimism and pessimism (in relation to the glass half full or half empty). Another school of thought suggests that the person who sees the glass half full is a pessimist who has been pleasantly surprised; a person who is satisfied with the status quo and thinks he/she does not deserve more. On the other hand, the person who sees the glass half empty is an optimist who has been disappointed and sincerely believes he/she can do better.

All in all, no matter your perspective to this philosophical question, the bottom line is that your level of success in anything you do depends on whether you have a positive or negative attitude towards life's experiences.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Do you believe in the death penalty?

This is a strange question to be asked on the blog of a master in international human rights law but it is worth asking: do you believe in the death penalty?

This is a very important question because even human rights advocates do not have clear cut answers to the question. During my masters studies, I asked the same question to one of my classmates and I was taken aback by his response. He said he believes in the death penalty if the offender is a mass murderer. I was shocked by my classmate's ideology but I later realised that he is not the only human rights advocate who tolerates the death penalty. As a matter of fact, many human rights lawyers who push for the death penalty go unnoticed while those who oppose the death penalty, like Mohammad Mostafaei get arrested.

Being against the death penalty means being for the opinion that life is secret and the State should preserve life and not take it away in the name of administering justice.

This morning, 11/11/09, I woke up to the news of the execution of the DC sniper John Muhammad (seen in the picture above). He was executed by lethal injection in the Greensville Correctional Centre. In case you missed it, John Muhammad was a 48 year old man who was sentenced to death 7 years ago and held in the Virginia Department of Corrections, after he and his teenage accomplice terrorized the Washington DC area for 3 weeks. It is worth mentioning that the pair killed a total of 10 people in the Washington DC area and were suspected of murders in Louisiana, Alabama and Arizona. (Click here to read more).

The execution of John Muhammad has left me with even more questions about the legality of the death penalty. If the execution of criminals is the administration of justice, why was his accomplice, Lee Boyde Malvo, (who was 17 at the time of the shooting) not executed as well? Why was he given a life sentence for the same offence? Was he "more" human?

At this point, you've probably noticed that I'm not a proponent of the death penalty and I do not believe the execution of a criminal is synonymous to the administration of justice. I support the United Nation's call for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty. The death penalty is immoral and illegal in international Law.

For more information about the death penalty in International Law, click here.

You're welcome to let me know what you think about the death penalty. Luckily, we live in a free world and everyone has the right to his/her opinion.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tiger Woods: Are Some People Born to Succeed?

Today, a friend of mine on Facebook shared an article entitled, "What it takes to be great". On the article, there was a photo of Tiger Woods, the world's greatest golfer, at 3 years old - holding a golf club. The moment I looked at the photo, one question lingered in my mind - are some people born to succeed? 

Evidently, Tiger Woods understood early enough that nobody becomes great without hard work. Unfortunately, most people see the fruits of success, but fail to realise how much hardwork and commitment was put in to achieve it.

After I looked at the photo of the Tiger Woods at 3 years old, I went further to read about him and came across the following video of the man - Tiger Woods at 2 years old:



You would agree that since Tiger was introduced to golf by his father at 18 months old, he has never stopped trying to be the best he can be.

He didn't only wish to become the best; he made it happen - by working hard to perfect his swing. Whether you understand golf or not, I'm sure you understand that practice makes perfect. Positive thinking alone could not make Tiger Woods the best. Positive thinking alone can NEVER make you successful.

As Benjamin Franklin rightly pointed out, "vision without implementation is hallucination." Can you cook an amelet without breaking an egg? If the anwer is NO, then it goes without saying that you can't become successful, arguably in anything you do, without long hours or years of pain-inducing hard work.

Not only Tiger Woods' story shows the role of many years of hard work and perseverance in the quest for greatness.

Permit me to mention the greatest entertainer the world has ever known (my opinion) - Michael Jackson. Together with his brothers, Michael consistently worked hard before he could be crowned "King of Pop". He didn't wake up one morning and became successful; he didn't wave the magic wand and became great. He showed up for reheasals every single day - while the other kids went playing around. If you have not done so yet, I encourage you to watch a mini-series entitled, "The Jacksons: An American Dream". The series reveals that there's truly a price for success! If success was "free", don't you think everyone would be successful today?

You are encouraged to read about successful people. If you do, you'll realise that they didn't become successful by settling in with the common things. They did what others would not do. They even did what they didn't want to do. Successful folks set clear goals and consistently worked hard to achieve their goals. No one is born to succeed; everyone is born with the potential to succeed - but it takes hard work to realise this potential. Success occurs over time and there's no short road to success. True success only comes from years of hard work, dedication and concentrated effort. Simply put - success does not happen overnight!.

Unfortunately, many people set a goal, "give it a try" for a few weeks or months, fail once and QUIT. What if Tiger Woods had quit after hitting a few golf balls off target? What if Michael Jackson had quit because rehearsing everyday was over-demanding? Or, what if Barack Obama - the political phenomenon - had quit because he lost a few primaries, and was told a black man would never be President of the United States?

Make no mistake - you might work hard and still fail. In this case, chances are you're working hard on the wrong thing. Keep in mind that hardwork does not guarantee anything, but without it, you don't stand a chance.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Freedom is not Free!

Freedom is defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as the quality or state of being free. It is the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action. Freedom also refers to liberation from slavery or restraint, or from the power of another. It means independence. It is worth mentioning that the word "freedom has a broad range of application and it's a very strong word.

All across the world, people want to be free. People want to be free from financial, economic, political or social restraint. Needless to say, freedom has a price and not everybody is willing to pay the price. If you want to be free, you must be willing and ready to pay the price for freedom. The question that arises here is, what do you want to be free from?

If you ask me the same question, I would tell you I want to be free from financial restraint. I want to be free from the restraints of having to work for money (that's why I do what I do). I understand I'm not free until I'm able to do what I want to do, when we want to do it and with whom we want to do it. Unfortunately, many of us are constrained by jobs and we don't really have a choice. We're not free! Whether you understand this or not, you have to realise that in order to be free you must be able to make money work for you or set up a system that generates income for you so that you'd have the time and freedom to do what you really want to do. You sincerely don't want to go to work, but you HAVE to. True or false? Unfortunately you MUST go to work in order to pay the bills. Are you free? The answer is NO.

You might argue that money is not everything. I perfectly agree with you. Life is not all about money. But, tell me something on earth that money does not affect. Money influences the school you and your kids go, the car you drive, the house you live in, the food you eat, you name it. The bottom line is, money is important but many people are in denial. Until we learn to have money work for us, we'd be constrained to work for money until old age renders us incapable.

My favorite song is about freedom. The song never fails to inspire me to get out there and fight for my freedom. It's a song by Akon entitled FREEDOM. You've probably listened to it before but take a listen again and pay particular attention to the lyrics:



Many of us enjoy good music but very few of us pay close attention to the lyrics. In case you missed the lyrics, FREEDOM by Akon is the story of a boy who left Senegal, West Africa for the United States in search for freedom. He had a talent in playing drums so he took along his drum and one other thing - a dream. He knew the world was up for grasp so he searched to find his freedom.

Freedom remains an illusive concept for many people but you can gain your freedom if you know what you want and you're ready to pay the price. Make no mistake about it, freedom is not free. That said, make sure you don't stop till you find you're freedom!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I can see Russia from my House!

November 5, 2009, the temperature outside is -1 degree celsius and it's snowing. As I stood on my balcony at about 03:15pm, the view was fascinating and I could not stop staring. A few minutes later, the snow stopped "pouring" down so I picked up my camera and dashed out to make a short video of the first snow of 2009. Watch the video below:

video

That's it! It's been a while since I last posted on my blog. I've been in the "trenches" working to take my business to the next level and preparing to face the harsh winter, as you can see...

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