President Dennis Connolly began the meeting by announcing that the Thursday morning meetings have been discontinued due to low attendance.  Other options for flexible meeting times may be considered.  Dennis also noted that we will be evaluating our meal payment system.  A discussion ensued with Rotarians expressing varied opinions about the best method and the implications for membership, attendance and fiscal stability.  Your feedback is welcomed by the President and Board of Directors.
Cindy Carlson reported on this morning’s Gold Plate Dinner Gala planning meeting.  The committee has selected CPY Summer Camperships as the Fund-a-Cause for this year’s event.  Jed Hamoud is handling the tickets this year so see him if you have not received your ticket or need more tickets.  It goes without saying that we should all be looking for potential attendees and donors for the Gala.  Click these links to download the Invitation Brochure and the Sponsor Brochure.  All club members are expected to help in some way to make the Gala a success.
Jennifer Fink announced that there will be an opportunity to meet the finalists for the New Brighton City Manager position on March 18th, 5-7 PM, at City Hall.  Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more details.
Today’s presenter was our own Jed Hamoud.  His topic was “The Middle East in a Nutshell”.  Jed’s explanation for the current situation in the Middle East is that the lack of education, industry, immigration, development and employment opportunities combined with a high birthrate have led to poverty for the vast majority of people there.  Jed described the “Arab Spring” of 2010 as a reaction to the disparities between the Middle East and more developed countries.  Jed believes that the cell phone increased Middle Easterner’s awareness of these disparities, contributing to the unrest.  The Arab Spring started in Tunisia and rapidly spread to other Muslim countries, leading to full-fledged civil war in Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Iraq and Yemen as well as civil unrest and protests in all other Middle Eastern countries.  Jed said that there are three common factors in all of these Arab Spring related events: Corruption, Poverty and Islam.  The unrest began as anti government dissent but Middle Easterners are now realizing that the Islamic leaders are the root cause.  Jed suggested that an article by Kim Ghattas provides an excellent overview of the situation.  You can download it by clicking here.