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First Friday Club

On Thursday, October 2nd, we attended the First Friday Club of Cleveland luncheon at the City Club of Greater Cleveland. The guest speaker was Mr. Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Cleveland and his topic was "Combating Human Trafficking and Other Threats to Northeast Ohio." Mr. Anthony began his presentation by saying that many FBI agents are Catholic because to be a good agent it must be like a calling and, moreover, the core values of compassion and integrity are mutual. He said that, basically, the FBI did five things which is to prevent terrorism, catch and arrest spies, litigate the cyber threat, investigate and prosecute those who break federal laws, and provide assistance to other law enforcement agencies. There are 56 FBI field offices in the United States (and offices in 72 countries) and Cleveland has the 18th largest. In terms of size, there are 8,000 less people in the FBI than the New York City Police Department. Thus many partnership are required and the FBI tries to be directly involved in matters where they can be of "unique value". We were very glad when Mr. Anthony stressed several times during his presentation that the FBI is constantly striving to achieve the delicate balance between law enforcement/capturing criminals and the protection of our civil liberties/civil rights. Mr. Anthony said that "if we violate civil rights we lose as a country."

Mr. Anthony talked about human trafficking and said that he feels that they are doing a pretty good job of fighting it in Northeast Ohio due to awareness and, above all, the cooperation of outside sources such as local the Sisters of St. Joseph, the Collaborative Initiative to End Human Trafficking and the Cleveland Rape Crisis Centers. He also said that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty has been a great help to them. Mr. Anthony discussed the reasons that so many young are vulnerable to being caught up in it like poverty and dysfunctional families. Above all these young people have a "void" in their lives that makes them susceptible to becoming prey for "terrible" people who wish to exploit them for profit. Mr. Anthony said that it is very easy to lure young people via the computer and gave several chilling examples of the cases that he had encountered. It is downright sobering to know that the average human trafficking victim is 13 years old when they first become involved and only have a life expectancy of seven years so they are dead by the time that they are 20. We asked him how many of these young people were immigrants and he acknowledged that a significant number of human trafficking victims are brought here from across the Mexican border. He couldn't give a percentage but both he and Ms. Peggy Gerovac, Director of the Office for Human Life at Catholic Charities, agreed that the number was quite large.

Mr. Anthony went on to discuss other areas of urgency like cybercrime and terrorism and stressed that a criminal or terrorist can do immeasurable harm simply by working off his/her own computer. He said that $100 billion a year in the form of intellectual property and trade secrets are stolen in this fashion and a terrorist can be recruited and conditioned on-line. He believes that the federal government needs to come up with comprehensive cyber strategy which they have been working on for years because, unlike military might, other countries are superior to the United States in this area and we have a lot of catching up to do.

In terms of what we, as citizens, can do to assist the FBI in their efforts to end human trafficking, cybercrimes and terrorism, Mr. Anthony said that we should be watchful and report things that we believe are reasonably suspicious. He reminded everyone that Amanda Berry/Gina DeJesus/Michelle Knight were rescued largely due to a neighbor reporting what he saw as was the case in many of the success stories regarding apprehending human traffickers and rescuing victims. Earlier in his presentation he said that "if everyone is out doing little things that make a difference, we make the world a better place to live."We shook hands with Mr. Anthony and we believe him to be a very sincere, caring individual.

We also met Sister Diana Stano, President of Ursuline College and Dr. Mimi Pipino, Director of the Ursuline Studies Program. Sister Diana said that she would have given us her card had she had one with her but she had recently returned from a visit to Turkey and laughed as she said that she had gotten out of the habit of giving out cards while she was there. She mentioned to her friend, Dr. Pipino that "Margaret Wong is a great immigration lawyer" and that she had consulted Ms. Wong on immigration matters.

We shared a table with two people from PNC Mr. Andy Schuler and Mr. John Beer and Mr. Daniel G. Schmidt of Wells Fargo Insurance Services. Also sitting at our table were Ms. Cathy Knittel of St. Joseph's Theology Institute who recalled seeing Ms. Wong at a women's leadership conference. Ms. Knittel brought two students from St. Joseph's with her named Abby and Christina. We learned that Christina's family had immigrated to the United States from Egypt some twenty years ago and Christina said that at first it was a difficult time for them adjusting to living in another country but things were good for them now.

Due to the subject matter, the luncheon had a unsettling effect on us all so we welcomed Bishop Roger Gries' touch of humor when he concluded the program by saying that "we've come a long way from the Garden of Eden, haven't we?" He went on to say that today's presentation was a reminder that "there are many things we have to be aware of as we live our lives."

Thursday night we went to a fundraiser at the refreshingly outdoorsy Sanctuary on the Green in South Euclid for Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Sunny Simon which had a fine turnout that included South Euclid Mayor Georgine Welo; County Councilmen Dale Miller and Dan Brady; Ohio State Rep. Mike Foley; South Euclid Councilpeople David Miller, Jane Goodman, and Marty Gelfand; Euclid Councilwomen Kirsten Holzheimer, Madeline Scarniench, and Laura J. Gorsche; Solon Councilman Ed Kraus; Ohio State Senate Candidate Kenny Yuko and his wife Pam; Ohio State Rep. Candidate Kent Smith; and quite a others including our friends from the Stonewall Democratic Club Ms. Kate Kennedy and Ms. Karen Slaven.

We spoke to Mr. Johnathan Stallworth, who is a member of the executive board and block watch for East Antisdal Road. He appreciated the efforts of County Councilwoman Simon and South Euclid Councilman Gelfand on "cleaning up" the street by helping to rid it of "bad tenants and bad neighbors."

Ms. Sally Martin, South Euclid Housing Manager, told us that County Councilwoman Simon (who also used to serve on the city council) has been "amazing" for South Euclid. She went on to say that sustainability is an important thing in South Euclid and County Councilwoman Simon is regarded as a "champion." After we told Ms. Martin that we worked for Margaret W. Wong and Associates, we talked about the growing number of Bhutanese refugees living there. We also talked about the potential positive impact that immigrants can have on an area/city with local community activist Mr. Jim Valentino who we hadn't seen in a while but were glad to see again.

County Councilwoman Simon greeted all of her supporters and talked with them about anything that they wanted to talk about but didn't take it upon herself to give a speech; instead she just let everyone kick back and relax in a lovely outdoor patio setting in warm but not hot weather which was certainly welcomed by people who had come here after a long day.

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