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Akron General and Cleveland Clinic Merger Discussion; Dealing with Putin's Russia and "Happy Dog Takes on the World"

On Tuesday, February 2nd, we drove to Akron to attend a program at the Akron Press Club titled "Akron General and Cleveland Clinic Merger Discussion" which featured Akron General Health System CEO Dr. Tim Stover and Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Toby Cosgrove being interviewed by Ms. M.L. Schultze of WKSU-Kent State University.IMG_7576 Both Dr. Stover and Dr. Cosgrove were very happy about the merger that has been in the works for several years and finally took place in November of 2015.  It was said that 19 different teams worked together to bring this about and the CEO's believed that this will work out for the better for both institutions. Among the other topics that were discussed was the need to for preventive care to be more strongly emphasized, the so-far effects of the Affordable Care Act, the terrible infant mortality rate in Ohio, the medical damage caused by gun violence, and the possible yields of genetic science. To be sure, all of these were discussed in the context of the responsibility of health care providers to put the patient first above all else. We know that there is a significant number of foreign-born people living in Akron, many of whom are Bhutanese refugees, so we asked about efforts to reach out to them as the Cleveland Clinic has successfully done with the immigrant population of Cleveland. We were told that the Cleveland Clinic is highly respected and its successful efforts would certainly be considered for adaptation to Akron. We made about a dozen new contacts at this luncheon including Ms. Leslie Genovese, Senior Manager of Corporate Relations and Special Events at the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank; Ms. Rose Juriga, Executive Director of Tri-County Independent Living Center, Inc.; Mr. Anthony J. Capozzi, SFO, of The Helping Hand. We had the good fortune to sit next to Mr. Tom Duke, one of the founding members of the Akron Press Club. When Mr. Duke heard that we had just joined the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce, he was more than willing to talk with us and share his knowledge of Akron. The next part of our day involved attending three events; the first two started at approximately the same time and the third one came close to overlapping with the second. Nevertheless, we resolved to do what we could to make it to all three. The first one was a fundraiser for Judge Michael Astrab who is running for his second term on the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. We had forgotten that this day was Groundhog Day but were reminded of this when we looked at the invitation which read, "we don't know if Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow on Tuesday but we hope Judge Astrab sees you at his fundraiser."IMG_7579 We admire Judge Astrab for his work regarding cautioning young people about the dangers of illegal drug usage so we definitely wanted to see him there. Judge Astrab's fundraiser was held at the Barley House on West 6th Street near downtown Cleveland starting at 5pm so we parked our car in a parking lot around the corner at 4:45pm  As we started to walk over, we spied Judge Astrab and his bailiff, Mr. Michael Cook just a few feet from us so we visited with them there for a few minutes instead. Judge Astrab told us of experiences that he had when dealing with foreign-born children and the questions that they ask him about things that are illegal in their native land but very acceptable here. Ms. Margaret W. Wong had sent the judge a contribution so we ended up not exactly going to the fundraiser but still seeing Judge Astrab and wishing him well. We now had enough time to get over the Union Club for a 5:30pm program put on by the Cleveland Council on World Affairs (CCWA) titled "Dealing with Putin's Russia" featuring Mr. Steven Pifer, Director of the Brookings Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine from 1998 to 2000. Mr. Pifer said that the United States and Russia's relationship has varied greatly over the years but, as we know, is definitely troubled now. Mr. Pifer believed that Russian President Vladimir Putin's current nationalist, anti-American posture can at least partially be attributed to domestic politics in Russia-the necessary monies are not there to provide the necessary social programs so he is resorting to nationalism to cement his credibility with the Russian citizenry; his belief that post cold war security actions in Europe are not to Russia's advantage; unease over current revolutions like Arab spring; and being reluctant to work with President Obama after bad relations with former President George W. Bush. Mr. Pifer challenged President Putin's viewpoint and actions by citing instances where our government and those of Europe have really tried to work with him only to be rebuffed. Mr. Pifer was fair and talked about things that President Putin has done that some people are worried about but really shouldn't be like more spending on the Russian military-a move that can really be attributed to modernization of equipment which is what the United States and other countries do also. Mr. Pifer is very worried, however, about how President Putin talks about nuclear weapons like they were a means of coercion and his support of President Assad in Syria. And, needless to say, President Putin's actions against Crimea and Ukraine are reprehensible. IMG_7581Mr. Pifer believed that the best way to deal with Russia was to adopt a policy of "deter, constrain, and engage" which involved assisting the countries bordered by NATO and Russia to become more resilient, holding firm on economic sanctions which do indeed put pressure on Russia if carried out with uniformity and consistency, and making it clear to President Putin that hostile and forceful actions against NATO will not be tolerated, and modernization of our own nuclear and military forces. In terms of engagement, Mr. Pifer said that Russia and the United States have a history of working together on certain issues to the benefit of both parties, such as the stabilization of Afghanistan and preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons and this must continue. Unfortunately, Mr. Pifer didn't see U.S./Russian relations improving anytime in the near future but still, over the past 30 years there have been times which conditions have very suddenly changed for the better for considerable periods of time. Even though our time was limited, we still had some good discussions such as the one that we had regarding last week's CCWA program about Iran with several people who were there for that one too like Mr. Ralph C. Bertonaschi and his wife, Ms. Barbara Bartow; Mr. James and Ms. Joan Schattenger; and Mr. Christopher Davis. We also met Professor Steve Hook, a political scientist from Kent State and one of his graduate students, Mr. Eli Kaul. When we mentioned that we once worked for U.S. Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich, Mr. Kaul lit up and told us that in 2005, when he was in high school, he interned in the congressman's Lakewood office and our mutual friends who worked there. Just before we sat down, we talked to Ms. Katie Scott from Hawkins High School in Chesterland who was there with several of her students. Not only had Ms. Scott heard of our law firm, she told us that Ms. Margaret W. Wong, herself, is a consistent guest speaker at a class she gives on immigration each December! We stayed for most of the Q and A with Mr. Pifer but we had to leave a few minutes early so we could attend the monthly "Happy Dog Takes on the World" at 58th Street and Detroit Avenue. Oddly enough, we had just gotten through hearing about Putin's Russia and went directly from there to a program titled "Challenges of the European Union in the 21st Century" featuring Dr. Elliot Posner, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Dept. of Political Science at CWRU and his wife, Dr. Gillian Weiss, Ph.D., Associate Professor of the Dept. of History at CWRU.IMG_7584 What was even more odd, was at the previous event we met Ms. Morgan Domin, a CCWA intern, who attended CWRU and knew both Dr. Posner and Dr. Weiss and thought very highly of them. Ms. Weiss wished that she could have gone to the Happy Dog with us but was busy helping to manage the CCWA event. When we arrived at the Happy Dog, Mr. Tom Hagesfeld who we see all of the time at the City Club saw us come in and invited us to share a table with him. We had just enough time to eat a delicious vegan hot dog with vegetarian chili, onions, tomatoes and sauerkraut which we needed after hurrying around as much as did. As nearly always, the Happy Dog program was coordinated by Mr. Tony Ganzer of WCPN. Dr. Posner and Dr. Weiss talked about the history of the European Union and the continuing struggle of the countries involved to find the balance between their own particular interests and working together for the betterment of the whole. It was emphasized that the European Union is not a "sovereign state" but a "project" based on international law and agreements which makes for a very complicated, often drawn out and frustrating decision-making process. The end result is often reforms that are "incomplete" but the participants do the best they can to make them work not surprisingly to varying results. Among the issues discussed were the financial dilemmas of some of the members and how they were dealt with; the politically rightward turns of Hungary and Poland which have resulted in serious human rights violations; the difficulties that United States companies with plants in Europe encounter when trying to deal with extensive chemical regulations; and the current refugee crisis in Europe. As for the latter, it was said that an agreement has been reached but not implemented pertaining to the disbursement of refugees but, at this time, there is for the most part only the patchwork policies of the different countries. There is talk, however, about working together on border patrols and security issues involving the Coast Guard. Dr. Weiss hopes that much-needed reform may finally come about in terms of the definition of categories like what is a "refugee" and what is a "citizen." When the program ended, we were left with the impression that while the European Union may not have wholly lived up to its high expectations when it was founded because it sounds like there are a lot of areas where improvement would be welcomed if not embraced, it has still brought people and countries together in ways that was never thought possible largely by promoting a necessary and continuous dialogue.   Written by: Michael Patterson Community Liaison, Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.  

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