Government Bloat and Bullsh*t

The next swamp creature we met in the Mingling in the CIA series was Bloud.

…Bloud was an experienced [text is redacted here] officer, in his fifties, whom I had heard much about. Apparently he had done some pretty exciting things years ago and he loved talking about his experiences, holding a captive audience in the young officers surrounding him. He delighted in telling tales of encounters with tigers and serving time in a hole in the ground somewhere in the Middle East. It was hard to imagine this slovenly, obese man doing anything besides eating pork rinds and drinking beer, but the stories were entertaining. He was given the Chief of Operations or third-in-charge position in the office. I did not have many friends in the office and he seemed like an interesting drinking buddy, so one day after work Bloud and I went to a nearby bar for drinks….

The Federal Government Way – Pass The Trash!

Annie strikes again. Your first introduction to one of the swamp creatures in my series, Mingling in the CIA:

…Her whole career was in limbo and she was going through something called mediation with her former supervisors. This was a process whereby she could contest the citation for bad behavior they had placed in her file. In any other workplace I knew of she would have been fired for not calling in when sick, not to mention dropping the ball on some highly sensitive intelligence during a critical time, but in the Agency there really did not seem to be a way to get rid of people who were bad employees. It was called “passing the trash,” and Annie would just be moved from assignment to assignment for her entire career….

The Cream of the Crop?

…Annie was another of the many women I encountered at the Agency who made me wonder how on earth she passed the psychological exam to get in.  She was a masseuse on the side and she often told me stories about giving married men “happy endings.”  Some of the men were Agency employees.  She seemed proud of this activity.  One day, after I had come back from my TDY medical exam, she loudly proclaimed that I could not possibly be done with my medical travel clearance because I hadn’t met with a psychologist yet.  It crossed my mind that maybe she should not be so open about this information.  Apparently, if you had red flags in your psychological history, the medical office would have you meet with a psychologist before you were allowed to go on even a brief TDY.  I had not met with one, but was granted my travel clearance, so I was set to go.  Annie was one of the main people who made me question the Agency’s hiring process…

Introducing a New Swamp Creature

In anticipation of my newest book’s release and launch, I want to highlight some of the swamp creatures we have met so far in my series, Mingling in the CIA. Having spent most of my career in Washington, DC, I’ve had broad experience with many types of swamp creatures. This experience gives me plenty of material for my books.

We first met Annie in my book, Single in the CIA:

…Annie was a twenty-something-year-old, borderline obese girl with the mentality of a twelve-year-old. She had been hired into the Agency by way of the Office of Security, where she was sent to training to become a background investigator. Apparently she had some issues while there, and also did not pass the investigations training class, so she was told to find another job within the Agency. At this point in time, the NCS was pretty desperate for SOOs, and Annie got a job there – the NCS, the directorate most people think of when they think of the CIA and national security – the “tip of the spear.” I noticed this happened a lot – when a newly hired officer was identified as having some issues, instead of documenting it or perhaps even terminating the employee, they were just moved to another position in the Agency. Part of this phenomenon was likely due to the high cost of the CIA’s hiring process and clearing someone for access to classified information – Top Secret clearances did not come cheap, nor did they happen quickly….

Get ready to meet Archie!

Bringing Dubai To Zimbabwe

UAE’s Investment in Zimbabwe Grows with the Groundbreaking of Zim Cyber City

It’s no secret that many countries across the globe are clamoring for their piece of the action on the resource-abundant African continent. We have all heard of China’s influence and expansion into Africa, but the United Arab Emirates has also been very active in the African region. One African country, Zimbabwe, has seen a 300% increase in trade with the UAE in the past three years. The UAE is now Zimbabwe’s second largest trading partner.

On July 20, 2022, a vision of Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa was actualized. President Mnangagwa held a groundbreaking ceremony for Zim Cyber City, the first real estate investment in Zimbabwe channeled through the Zimbabwe Global Investments (ZGI) Special Economic Zone (SEZ) program. Touted as the “smartest city of our age”, Zim Cyber City will be spread over 2.5 million square feet of land and is expected to have a shopping mall, luxury villas and apartments, cyber technology offices and other facilities, to include Mulk Tower, projected to be the tallest building in Africa.

Dubai-based billionaire Mr. Shaji Ul Mulk met with President Mnangagwa at the 2020 Dubai Expo in the UAE and what followed was the vision for many future investments in Zimbabwe. Zim Cyber City is the first embodiment of this futuristic vision and Mr. Mulk promised there will be many more to come. The President’s decision to allow UAE businesses to invest in Zimbabwe will bring more investment in the future, and as President Mnangagwa stated, “Zimbabwe is open for business”.

President Mnangagwa stated that his desire is to transplant Dubai to Zimbabwe and to build a smart city even better than Dubai. Declaring that Zimbabwe will not be left behind, the President is certainly ensuring that Zimbabwe is developing a culture of continuous innovation and an environment for economic growth.

The cyber city’s goal is not only to offer economic benefits to commercial enterprises combined with lavish, uptown living, but to create an easy system for blockchain and crypto exchange companies to operate, where digital currencies can flourish. With Zim Cyber City, located in Mount Hampden, New Harare, we will witness the successful integration of blockchain and crypto technology and premium, residential living.

President Mnangagwa has granted Mulk International an exclusive license to establish a blockchain and digital assets special economic zone and investors in Zim Cyber City will benefit from the many tax and import incentives offered through the ZGI Special Economic Zone program.

Mulk International is a multinational conglomerate with diversified business interests spanning primarily four sectors – building materials, plastics, healthcare and cricket assets. For more than two decades, Mulk International has been owning and managing a group of 18 companies under the leadership of Chairman Nawab Shaji Ul Mulk.

Mr. Mulk is quite an inspirational figure himself. Mulk gave up his US dreams of going to the Wharton Business School to pursue the dream of being an entrepreneur. He once fixed films on windows in the UAE, but is now worth over $2.7 billion. He had moved to the UAE originally to save money for college and prepare for his GMAT exams. He took a job at his brother-in-law’s small company that dealt in solar panel glass covers, working in the installation department. Three days into the job, he moved from installation into sales. Within a few months he was feeding the company’s capacity 100%. Then he got into sub-contracting work and within a year had saved $30,000 to pay his college fees. A week before he was to leave for the US he asked a friend for advice. The pull of entrepreneurship was strong. He then gave up his Wharton’s admission to stay in the UAE and pursue business. His calculated risk of giving up his admission to the prestigious college has paid off in spades. Now, a man who used to clean window panes and install panel sheets on windows, who had to take various forms of transportation just to get to work every day, drives a Rolls-Royce Phantom, among other luxury cars. His company has a global annual turnover of $1.8 billion.

Mulk is a man who is not afraid to take a calculated risk. Teamed up with President Mnangagwa, the transformative project of Zim Cyber City will most certainly help Zimbabwe reach its goal of seeing an upper-middle income by 2030, giving multitudes a better life and building Zimbabwe into one of the dominant countries in Africa.

This article was originally published on OpsLens.

Is Property Ownership Out of Reach for Our Youngest Generations?

These days it seems most of the youth of the world is woefully uninformed when it comes to financial literacy.  I was lucky to have parents who taught me early on about credit.  Even when I found myself, in my twenties and thirties, underpaid and overworked, living above my means with the help of numerous credit cards, I still knew how to right my own financial ship.  It seems that for the most part, today’s youth do not have the same experience or knowledge.

I know plenty of people, even in the Gen X and Baby Boomer generations, who consider owning their own piece of property pretty much out of reach in today’s world.  Many of them cannot afford today’s rent prices either.  This is glum on so many levels.  I mean, who wants to move back in with their parents in their mid-forties?  Sadly, I’ve seen this one too many times in the recent past.  To make matters worse, rents all over the world are skyrocketing and the cost of living is only rising…. (to continue reading, please go here)

Operation Handbag Smuggle

Terror washed over her as the realization hit- There was no trash can in this bathroom!

Panicked, Martha stood frozen for a few seconds, mind racing.  Flushing just was not an option.  Aside from the environmental concerns, the city plumbing just could not handle this sort of activity.  She didn’t want to bring down the entire plumbing infrastructure of her host!

She took the offending item and wrapped it in more toilet paper.  Slipping it up her sleeve, she crept back to the dinner party.  Feeling as if she was on some sort of covert mission she made her way to her handbag, which was hanging on the back of her chair.  There, the handbag smuggle operation was complete.  Doing the right thing sure was stressful.

Had anyone noticed the transfer?  Even worse, did anyone smell it?

This was not an exchange of highly sensitive documents or equipment.  It was a used tampon.

After searching in vain to find some product that would ensure she would never have to experience such awkwardness again, and surveying friends about what they do when faced with disposal of used tampons or pads, Martha Silcott realized there were no disposal products for used feminine care items.  She also discovered the horrifying levels of pollution that flushing period products causes in our rivers and oceans.  In the United Kingdom alone, 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million pads are flushed every day.  When sewer systems fail, these can end up in rivers and oceans.

She then made up her mind.  She would create a solution.  FabLittleBag was born.

FabLittleBag is a multi-purpose, sustainably sourced, sealable, opaque disposal bag.  FabLittleBags are made of plants and recycled plastics, supporting the circular economy of waste.

After some time of letting her idea germinate in her head, with the particular challenge of how to make the bag able to be opened one-handed, Martha had her eureka moment during a series of snatched spare minutes here and there during mundane daily activities.  Martha took a sandwich bag, some Sellotape, and a staple, and there she had her rough version of FabLittleBag.

Some years later she applied for a patent.  She then created a handmade prototype out of black trash bags (or bin liners, as they say in the UK), and double sided glue.  She contacted nine different plastic manufacturers in the UK and went to visit them.  She asked each one if they could make this bag for her.  Every single one said “No”.

After quite a few stumbling blocks, to include the financial crisis of 2008-2009, progress stalled.  Eventually, after seven years, her patent was granted.  This pushed her back into the challenge of finding a manufacturer.  She revisited one of the companies that had previously rejected her, now under new management.  This time the answer was a resounding “Yes!”

One little catch though.  The manufacturer did not have the machinery required to make her bag.  The solution to this obstacle came from a machine manufacturer in Malaysia, where Martha then had a machine built from scratch.  No small feat.

FabLittleBag launched in November 2015.  They are currently made from 60% sugarcane waste, 30% recycled LDPE, and 10% renewable cornstarch.  Since a lot of sanitary waste is incinerated or ends up in a landfill, the goal was to be sustainably sourced.  Martha wanted to ensure that the bags were made from the best materials with the least negative impact on the environment.  She accomplished this goal – even the glue on the bags is vegan!

Since launching the FabLittleBag, approximately 10 million bags have been sold and sales are growing exponentially each year.  The bags can be used for not only discarded tampons and pads, but additional items such as condoms, tissues, wipes, and the modern, smaller incontinence pads.  The list of uses for the FabLittleBag is endless.

Martha didn’t stop there.  In March 2022 the HyGeeni bag made its entrance into the world!  The HyGeeni is a much larger multi-purpose disposable bag for items such as diapers, incontinence pads, personal medical devices like ostomy bags and catheters, as well as other eclectic uses.  The HyGeeni has been very warmly received, especially by those in the ostomy community whose only option previously were terribly thin, plastic dog food-type bags.  The HyGeeni helps people dispose with dignity.

Doing the right thing shouldn’t be stressful.  Out of an embarrassing incident at a friend’s house, an idea was born.  That idea was then transformed into a creation, through patience and persistence.  In today’s world, it is easy to find obstacles.  Martha Silcott not only identified a problem, she created a solution.

https://fablittlebag.com/

This article was originally published on OpsLens.com.

Secret Agent Teach is Back!

I believe that many of the problems we see today in the US stem from an overall ignorance of history and civics. There is a true lack of knowledge of historical documents like the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, to name a couple. Many do not understand at all how our government works or know anything about our founding fathers. Having attended high school in California, I don’t recall learning very much about US History and the founding of this country.

One of my clients, Secret Agent Teach strives to bridge this gap in knowledge by offering educator-tested, student-approved teaching resources to teachers (and parents) at a cheap price on his store. For the past 3-4 years, I have learned more about US History than I ever learned in California public school as I have built Secret Agent Teach’s online storefront.

We had 250-300 teaching resources available on our storefront on Teachers Pay Teachers. It wasn’t going to make us billionaires, but it was an easy 30-50 dollars extra passive income each month. That’s enough to help out with groceries, school supplies, whatever.

Beginning in October 2020, Teachers Pay Teachers started picking at Secret Agent Teach’s store. First, Secret Agent Teach was told he could not post any lessons that mentioned Christopher Columbus. Then Secret Agent Teach was told to remove any lessons that had any “sensitive” content in them. Sensitive content was any lesson or activity that had role-playing in it because it might be upsetting to the students. Finally, after all of the offending documents were removed from the storefront, Teachers Pay Teachers came at Secret Agent Teach with accusations of “copyright infringement”.

These emails were never very clear, and did not provide much guidance. Secret Agent Teach believed he had done everything that was asked of him in order to bring his storefront into compliance, as he did not hear back after he followed the cryptic instructions in the email received. Secret Agent Teach complied, and thought he was in good standing once again.

Imagine Secret Agent Teach’s surprise when in November 2021, Teachers Pay Teachers took his entire storefront down. Unceremoniously, without notice, all of Secret Agent Teach’s hard work vanished. A few years of work, gone!

When appeals were made, Teachers Pay Teachers simply ignored Secret Agent Teach’s requests and refused to submit the final counter-offer that Secret Agent Teach had asked them to submit.

The worksheets and presentations, reading activities – they were all just straight history, no commentary, no agenda. Just simply a way to teach US History to middle-school kids.

Well, I have some good news. Secret Agent Teach is back online! Secret Agent Teach’s new, smaller storefront can be found at https://www.etsy.com/shop/secretagentteach.

If you know of any teachers who used Secret Agent Teach’s documents to teach US History to their middle-schoolers, please let them know! Secret Agent Teach was a big hit and helped hundreds of teachers do their difficult job, even during COVID shutdowns.

Additionally, if you believe in teaching history without an agenda, if you are not afraid of history because it might be “upsetting”, please support this store!  Please tell any educators you know- home schooling parents included- about this resource. Let’s make learning and teaching easier, not harder.

Some Good News For A Change…

It’s no secret that human beings are bad for most things environmental, right? But what if we used our brains to come up with ways to FIX problems, not just whine about them or create more of them?

In this day of rampant virtue signaling, I’m happy to share news about a company and people who are really DOING something about plastic pollution in the ocean and waterways. Thanks to an introduction from Kerrin Black of Talentfinders, I was able to share RanMarine Technology’s story here….