Sunday, May 30, 2010

Haiti, a peon of international politics

By Jean H Charles:


This connotation seems gratuitous but a preponderance of evidence will convince the reader that indeed Haiti is the quintessential victim of misfeasance and malfeasance from the international community with “centuries of invasion, blackmail, plain robbery of Haiti’s natural resources and the impoverishment of its people”.

Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol.comThe latest manifestation of that malfeasance is happening today. Edmond Mulet, the United Nations representative in Haiti has decided to use the leverage and the prestige of that august body to embark upon the Preval government mulette (a mulette in French or Creole language is a donkey that provides the only means of transportation for rural Haiti) to mortgage the next generation of Haitian children into squalor and ill governance. We will come back to this latest manifestation of misfeasance but, it is imperative to start at the beginning to understand the extent of the wrong committed by governments on both sides of the Atlantic upon the people of Haiti.

I will not dwell into three hundred years of hard labor upon countless generations of Haitian people to produce the sugar, the coffee and the coco sold all over Europe by the French merchants who accumulated enormous wealth on the backbone of men and women who were not paid one cent for their sweat, their tears and their sorrow. Instead “they were hung up with their heads downward, crucified on planks, buried alive, crushed in mortars, forced to eat excrement, cast alive to be devoured by worms and mosquitoes.”

I will start instead with the gallantry of a Haitian Spartacus, the man Frederick Douglass described as the best black known and moving hero of the Western world, Toussaint Louverture. He transcended the weeping and the vexation to become the father of a nation that was hospitable to all, hospitable to the old white masters as well as the newly liberated slaves. He wrote to Napoleon as a black emperor to the white emperor suggesting the building of a French Commonwealth in Haiti akin to the British Commonwealth that we have today, with a semi-autonomous Haiti that would respect the human rights of all the citizens within its territory.

The answer to Toussaint Louverture was an army of some 10.000 French soldiers, facilitated by a grant of $750,000 by the newly elected American President Thomas Jefferson, to re-establish slavery in Haiti. The protracted war and the destruction in infrastructure and in physical assets that followed set Haiti back to a scorched land as it won its independence from France in 1804. Some 100.000 lives were lost during the struggle.

To add insult to injury, Charles X demanded and exacted from the second and the third President of Haiti, Alexander Petion and Jean Pierre Boyer a debt of independence amounting to some 21 billion dollars in today’s money. It was not enough that their forefathers have labored for three centuries without pay; it was not enough they have won their freedom through their own bravura they must pay the planters for the slaves who were their prized possession.

To ensure that the odious contract was signed, French diplomacy took an active part in facilitating the secession of the country. Henry Christophe would have nothing to do with such stipulation; as such, he was denied the authority to rule over the entire country. The culture of acting patriotically internally while plotting externally with foreign powers for the spoils of the country has became the staple of successive Haitian governments until today under the Preval governance.

Haiti’s tradition of service and hospitality to liberators was greeted with a cold reception not a thank you by the same freedom fighters. Miranda and Bolivia received arms, food, and support from Alexander Petion on his way to liberate Venezuela, Bolivia, and Columbia from slavery. Yet at the first international meeting of Latin American States, Haiti was an uninvited guest. Even the Vatican, the pillar of moral authority, refused to recognize as well as sending educators to Haiti.

To repay the French debt, Haiti without financial resources had to borrow money at usurious rate on the French and the American market to meet that obligation. The country has been the theatre of international intrigues by the German, the Dutch and, of course, the French, who armed one faction against the other to ensure that peace and development was never on the agenda. Finally, to repay the First National Bank, the directors convinced the American government to invade Haiti and seize its custom entries as a guaranty for the unpaid debt.

I will quote J Michael Dash an expert on Haiti customs and culture to describe the outcome of the American occupation: ‘perhaps the greatest single lasting effect of the occupation was the centralization of state power in Port au Prince, the ostracism of the peasantry and the elite divided by class and color rivalry.’

We are living today the consequences of these policies adopted during the occupation. There was a fleeting moment of peace and prosperity during the Paul Magloire presidency during the Eisenhower administration in the 1950s. Magloire committed the mistake of trying to remain in power beyond his mandate as Rene Preval is trying to do now, extending his term beyond February 7, 2011. Magloire was forced into exile and the country has been in convulsion since.

The Duvalier father and sons maintained their criminal grip on the throats of the Haitian people for thirty years with the overt support of the American government under the pretext that they were a bulwark against communism in the region.

The Haitian people’s liberation day of February 7, 1986 was of a short stay. The populism of Jean Bertrand Aristide and Rene Preval that followed the militarism of Henry Namphy was concocted in Washington at the White House and in New York at the United Nations.

I was at the meeting at the White House when the Clinton Administration designed the Haitian plan in the 1990s; such a plan destroyed the Haitian rice industry. To my suggestion that Haiti should engage in its natural agricultural vocation, the answer was swift and unequivocal. ‘Agriculture is for Mexico, Haiti is for small assembly industries’. I was again at the White House lobbying for the withdrawal of the embargo against the country. The answer was a stronger embargo, causing major destruction to the flora for future generations.

The international community in spite of its outpouring of financial support (10 billion dollars) after the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010 is charting a dangerous course for Haiti’s rebuilding. With the Strategic Plan of National Recovery (PSSN) an elite group of intellectuals from the Diaspora and the motherland has labored in Santo Domingo to chart a course to rebuild Haiti. Yet through sheer arrogance bordering hubris, neither the Haitian government nor the international community has called upon this select group to share their findings with and incorporate their vision into the making of the new rebuilt Haiti.

The political parties, the civil society, the intellectual elite, the political candidates, the masses have all been united in refusing to go to the polls under the Preval government. The streets of the cities are rumbling with protest. All his elections have been flawed, stolen and disfranchised. He is inimical to the concept of political mouvemance. His claim that he wants to deliver power to an elected president is as hollow and shallow as his ten years of governance. In fact, the only time there was a minimum of decent standard of free and fair elections in recent times in Haiti, was during a transitional government. The transition of Ertha Trouillot produced a free election that gave the power to Arisitide, and the transition of Latortue organized the election leading Preval into power.

As president, Preval has exhibited a glaring indifference to the needs of, and the solutions to the problems haunting the Haitian people. He has never visited Cape Haitian, the second city of the Republic of Haiti. He would have seen an historical city that has sunk into decrepit and physical decay due to lack of public hygiene, population pressure and no minimum care from the national government. With the hurricane and the rainy season on the horizon, countless lives will be destroyed. The camps are a fetid hotpodge of physical and psychological no man’s land, where the unnatural is happening: mothers throwing their children into the garbage because they are so overwhelmed and so despondent.

The United Nations is now the new oppressing force in Haiti, the enforcer behind which the western powers are hiding to continue the malicious practice of doing wrong to Haiti. Having lost some three hundred members, I would like to believe sharing this thought of Frederic Douglass that sharing in common a terrible calamity and this touch of nature would have made us more than countrymen, it made us kin.

This election is a breaking point to change the practice of treating the majority of Haitian people as peons. Handing the baton to Preval to conduct the presidential and the legislative elections will seal Haiti into a life of squalor and ill governance that has been its lot for the past fifty years. It will, as said Andrew Flold, condemn future generations of Haitians to remain enslaved by poverty and desperation.

The United Nations’ credibility is at stake these days. A recent news report has indicated that a major drug dealer, who is consolidating Guinea Bissau as a hub for drug transshipment, has found refuge in the United Nations compound, where he has plotted his next move into power. Facilitating the status quo in Haiti after fifty years of ill governance with a government that has little interest in and little concern for the Haitian people is detrimental to the very essence of what the United Nations should stand for.

Some two years ago, the Haitian people have tried to storm the Haitian palace to force Preval to resign, because they were hungry while the food was rotting at the port. The UN occupation forces repelled the assailants. The critical mass of Haitian people revolting this time might be too large for any UN forces to contain!

I am seeing at the horizon the debacle that happen in Saigon/Hanoi some sixty years ago! History is unfolding in front of our very eyes. Stay tuned!

May 29, 2010

caribbeannetnews


Saturday, May 29, 2010

...fears that the massive BP oil spill will reach Cuba and wreak havoc on an island still relatively untouched by modernity's environmental ills

Fearful Cuba watches, waits for BP oil spill
By Jeff Franks:


HAVANA, Cuba (Reuters) -- Red flags went up on beaches in western Cuban this week, closing them briefly to swimmers amid rumors that the BP oil spill in the US part of the Gulf of Mexico was forcing sharks into Cuban waters.

The government, through state-run press, quickly denounced the rumors as false and the beaches were reopened, but the incident reflected fears that the massive spill will reach Cuba and wreak havoc on an island still relatively untouched by modernity's environmental ills.

"Cuba, like all the countries in this area, is worried about the situation in the Gulf," said Osmani Borrego Fernandez, a director at the Guanahacabibes National Park at Cuba's western tip.

So far, he said, there has been no evidence of the oil, but "we are alert."

A trip along Cuba's coastline is like a trip back in time where vast stretches of palm-fringed beaches sit undeveloped and sea life abounds in the crystalline waters.

While rampant development and overfishing have damaged coastlines and depleted seas around the world, communist-led Cuba has been largely preserved by its slow economic pace.

As a result, scientists and environmentalists view Cuban waters as a place where they can see how the world's oceans were decades ago.

"Many areas along the coast, and thousands of small keys, are in rural areas or are remote and have simply been left alone," said Dan Whittle, senior attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund.

"Ernest Hemingway set up a fish camp on Cayo Paraiso (about 90 miles west of Havana) in the 1940s and the area has not really changed since then. If he were still alive, he'd still recognize it today," he said of the US writer who lived in Cuba for two decades.

Cuba's northwest coast is considered most in danger from the oil. It is there that coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves provide major breeding grounds for many fish and sea creatures, including endangered migratory species like sea turtles, sharks and manatees, Whittle said.

All that is at stake if the BP oil finds its way to Cuba. It could also damage Cuba's tourism industry, which is centered on beaches and to a lesser degree eco-tourism.

Tourism brought in more than $2 billion to Cuba last year, or about 20 percent of Cuban's foreign exchange income.

The good news for Cuba is that the spill is still centered about 300 miles northwest of the island and BP may finally be gaining control over the massive leak.

Officials for the oil giant said on Friday their so-called "top kill" solution of plugging the gusher by pumping in "drilling mud" was showing signs of success.

But even if that happens soon, Cuban officials are concerned that the oil already in the water could be swept south by gulf currents.

Cuba is separated from the Florida Keys by just 90 miles of water and despite their disparate political histories, the United States and Cuba are inextricably linked ecologically.

Another rumor that supposedly contributed to the Cuban beach closures this week was that lionfish, which have venomous spikes and have invaded Cuban waters in recent years from Florida, were poisoning swimmers. The government said that rumor also was false.

The United States and Cuba have been at odds since Fidel Castro took power in a 1959 revolution, but they held talks last week about the oil slick, officials said.

Cuba expert Wayne Smith at the Center for International Policy think tank in Washington said he met with Cuban authorities this week in Havana and that they are "fully open" to cooperation with the Americans to stop the oil.

Standing in the way is the longstanding US trade embargo against Cuba, which prevents the use of much US technology in Cuba.

At a conference this week in Washington, oil experts and environmentalists said it was time to allow cooperation with Cuba in oil safety practices.

"We are not talking about a transfer of technology. All we are asking is that, if there is an accident, the Cubans can pick up the phone and call American experts who can bring resources within 24 hours," said oil expert Jorge Pinon.

The issue is becoming a bigger one as Spanish oil giant Repsol prepares to drill for oil off Cuba's ecologically rich northwest coast perhaps later this year. It has contracted for use of an Italian-owned drilling rig now being completed in China.

While the spill is a disaster, it might have one positive result, Smith said.

"It actually could help improve (US-Cuba) relations if we cooperate in the right way and we have the right attitude," he said.

May 29, 2010

caribbeannetnews

Friday, May 28, 2010

Jamaica's business is the Caribbean's business

By Sir Ronald Sanders:


The widely publicised bloody clashes over the last few days between law enforcement agencies and armed gangs in Jamaica are as bad for the economic and social well-being of the people of Caribbean countries as they are for Jamaicans.

While the members of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) see themselves as a “Community of Independent Sovereign States”, most of the rest of the world regard them as one area. Only the most knowledgeable make a distinction between them. So, events in Jamaica impact all other CARICOM countries whether they like it or not.

Sir Ronald Sanders is a business executive and former Caribbean diplomat who publishes widely on small states in the global community. Reponses to: www.sirronaldsanders.comIn meaningful terms, therefore, Jamaica’s business is CARICOM’s business. Neither CARICOM governments nor the people of CARICOM can sit back and pretend that events in Jamaica in which criminals defy the authority of the State are not relevant to them. CARICOM countries are tied together and none can deny cross-border relationships in trade, investment and people.

Jamaica is the biggest of the CARICOM countries in population terms and it impresses and influences the world far more than other CARICOM countries. Of course, the impression and influence have been both beneficial and inimical to Jamaica and the wider region.

On the positive side, the vibrant music of Jamaica and its musicians, led by the iconic Bob Marley, have clearly given Jamaica global recognition. So too have its holiday resorts which are playgrounds for tourists from all over Europe and North America. Jamaican agricultural products, such as its Blue Mountain Coffee, and many of its manufactured goods have been able to penetrate foreign markets more deeply than those from other regional countries.

And, CARICOM’s negotiations with large countries and groups of countries would be much weaker and far less effective without the participation of Jamaica. Its relatively large population of close to three million people makes Jamaica a more attractive market than the majority of CARICOM countries which, with the exception of Trinidad and Tobago, each number less than a million people. Because of the size of its population, even with the limitations of educational opportunities, Jamaica also has more qualified technical people for bargaining internationally than its partner countries in CARICOM. Therefore, the participation of Jamaican negotiators in CARICOM teams is extremely valuable.

Jamaicans also constitute the largest number of the West Indian Diaspora in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. To the extent that the West Indian Diaspora is a group whose votes are wooed by political parties in these countries, much is owed to Jamaicans for the attention paid to Caribbean concerns.

On the negative side, Jamaica’s internal crime, and organised crime that its gangs have exported to Britain, Canada and the United States have created an unwholesome image for the country and severely damaged it economically. In the process, CARICOM has been weakened economically as well, for an economically weak Jamaica is unable to serve as a dynamo for economic activity and growth throughout the area.

Jamaica’s high crime level has been bad for business and bad for its economy. A 2003 study found that the total costs of crime came to J$12.4 billion which was 3.7% of GDP, and a 2007 UN report projected that if Jamaica could reduce violent crime to Costa Rica’s low level, the economy would grow by 5.4%. In a World Bank survey, 39% of Jamaica’s business managers said they were less likely to expand their businesses because of crime, and 37% reported that crime discourages investment that would have encouraged greater productivity.

Apart from scaring away investment, high crime in Jamaica has also caused many of its professionals and middle-class families to flee the country seeking safer environments abroad. More than 80 per cent of Jamaica’s tertiary educated people have migrated to the world’s industrialized nations.

It doesn’t take much imagination to work out how much more socially and economically developed Jamaica would have been today had it not been plagued by over 30 years of escalating crime and its debilitating consequences.

From time to time, outbursts of violent crime have affected the country’s tourism which contributes about 10 per cent of the country’s GDP. It is only because of expensive and extensive advertising and public relations campaigns in the main tourist markets that Jamaica has managed to keep its tourism arrivals by air fairly stable.

This latest, globally-publicized, bloody confrontation between security forces and criminal gangs protecting a Drugs Don, Christopher “Dudus” Coke, from being served with an order for extradition to the United States and arrested, will damage the tourism industry harshly, and, again, once it is over, Jamaica will be forced to spend large sums repairing its image and assuring tourists of its safety.

Other CARICOM countries will not be immune from the Jamaica disturbances. On the basis that tourists see the Caribbean as one place, other Caribbean destinations will also have to spend more on promoting themselves.

The fact that “Dudus” could be protected by well-armed, criminal gangs who have neither respect for, nor fear of, Jamaica’s security forces or the authority of the State, is a direct consequence of governance gone badly wrong. From the mid-1970s the two main political parties in Jamaica, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Peoples National Party (PNP) have formed alliances with gangs that have been well-armed and in many cases are involved in the drugs trade. Having taken that step that renders politicians beholden to criminals, the political hierarchy began an inexorable downward spiral to disaster.

In effect, part of the State has been captured by leaders of criminal gangs to whom political parties are obligated. Nothing else but this sense of obligation to “Dudus” Coke can explain why Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding, as Leader of the JLP, would have intervened at party level to influence a law enforcement matter between his government and the government of the US.

The Jamaican government now has to assert the authority of the State over “Dudus” and his gang, and it must be done if Jamaica is to be freed from the captivity of criminal gangs.

And, when this particular confrontation is over, Jamaica must start the gruelling process of openly and transparently dismantling all party political connections with gangs, reasserting the supremacy of the State, and weeding out gangs that are the scourge of the society. Any alternative scenario is too terrifying to contemplate but it does include Jamaica being plunged into the status of a failed State.

This is why it behoves the current party political leaders to set to the task of recovering the State from the influence of criminals and establishing broad based institutions empowered by law to oversee public services and political practices. Jamaica will be economically stronger, socially better and politically more stable than it has been for decades and, as a consequence, CARICOM will benefit.

May 28, 2010

caribbeannetnews

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Christopher 'Dudus' Coke is next to God

'Dudus next to God'
By Pastor Devon Dick:



On Thursday last, an unnamed woman expressed solidarity with Christopher 'Dudus' Coke by stating that "Dudus next to God." This affirmation portrays how she perceived both God and Dudus.

Some Christians might find it an affront to God. And it is hardly likely that the churches that will be observing Trinity Sunday in three days time will have such a formulation as they try to explain God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. But it appears to me that this woman was mouthing a concept of God, to which some sections of the church have unwittingly ascribed. Obviously, for her, God is someone who destroys the enemies, dispenses justice quickly without going through legal human channels, provides for them and protects them. And apparently, Dudus has similar attributes. One woman proclaimed that she has six children and Dudus is the godfather, while another testified that she can leave her door open and her children are not raped.

This concept of God is not empowering and definitely one-dimensional. Rather it makes people passive, expecting handouts only. It is a mentality in some sections of the church in which the main philosophy is to give a fish rather than teaching the person to fish. It is a mendicancy syndrome. Therefore, some churches take pride in announcing what they can hand out to persons on the margins rather than challenging the economic system which impoverishes those on the periphery. And there is a similar mentality in our political system in which politicians boast in Parliament how much handouts are given for school fees, to bury dead and to feed people through the Constituency Development Fund.

Hiding behind prayer

Some sections of the church use prayer in this passive role of doing nothing but only waiting on God to do everything. Therefore, as we listen to the prayers to God about our crisis, it is always telling God what to do, as if God does not know the gravity of the crisis, rather than seeking the will of God concerning our role in confronting the tribulations.

So we would rather pray for more rain than build more dams, and channel more rivers to dams and engage in better stewardship of water. We would rather pray to God about the high murder rate rather than have God induce courage to telephone Crime Stop.

And most of our gospel music is not wrestling with issues of economic justice and equality of all. Not even Rastafarian singers will chant, "Get up, stand for your rights".

The Church has largely moved away from an activist role in society. In Rebellion to Riot: The Jamaican Church in Nation Building (2002), I showed that pre-Independence (1962) the Church was leading in nation building in the areas of economic empowerment, educating the people and holistic concept of evangelism, etc. And in the concluding chapter I suggested that we need to return to that activist role.

The Church needs to admit that the theologising that claimed that "Dudus next to God" is a reflection of the failure of sections of the church to present the proper attributes of God. God must be shown also as a God of justice who rewards the righteous and empowers persons to live a life of service and sacrifice, as well as punishes the wicked for their evil deeds.

Let us not blame so much the unnamed woman for the affirmation "Dudus next to God", but perceive it as an indictment on the church which often engages in cowardice and inaction rather than confronting evil and turning the city upside down (Acts 17:6), and serving God rather than man (Acts 5:29).

Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church and author of 'The Cross and the Machete: Native Baptists of Jamaica - Identity, Ministry and Legacy'. Feedback may be sent to columns@gleanerjm.com.

May 27, 2010

jamaica-gleaner

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bahamas: Sea food industry eyes oil slick

Sea food industry eyes oil slick
By INDERIA SAUNDERS ~ Guardian Business Reporter ~ inderia@nasguard.com:



One of the country's largest lobster exporters - holding Olive Garden and Red Lobster contracts - is taking a wait and see approach to the oil spill shifting to The Bahamas, a stance spurred by the current closed season.

It means many local companies like Ronald's Seafood in Spanish Wells will not be in a position to fill any immediate demand for lobster or crawfish until September when the season is opened again. The spill shift, however, could materialize into bad news for other fishermen who depend on the marine life to put bread on the table.

Co-owner of Ronald's Bill Albury said the company would take things one day at a time, monitoring the effects of the oil spill's shift into Bahama waters as millions of gallons of oil still gush into the Gulf following an oil rig explosion on April 20.

"It's not having an effect on us right now because the season is closed for this period," Albury told Guardian Business. " But we don't want anything bad to happen."

It's a statement that comes as a top local meteorologist confirms a shift in wind patterns will most likely slide the oil slick into Bahama waters by the weekend. The surface winds are expected to propel the slick in a more easterly direction to the Cay Sal banks, Bimini and Western Grand Bahama area.

The degree to which Bahamian fishermen - a multi-million dollar industry in The Bahamas - will be affected is yet to be determined. However, for many businesses the oil spill couldn't have come at a worse time, given tough economic conditions already slicing into sales for those in the industry.

"We're already finding it hard to sell what little we could catch now because people just don't have the money to be buying like how they used to," said Marcian Dean, a Potters Cay fish vendor, in an interview with the Nassau Guardian. "Now imagine if this oil spill comes and contaminates the water and kills off the marine life.

"We wouldn't have anything to fish for and that would mean thousands of people would be out a job."

It's a situation currently playing itself out in.


May 26, 2010

Political fraternization with drug gangs come home to roost in Jamaica

By Anthony L. Hall:


Given the way Jamaican celebrities like Bob Marley have glorified ganja (marijuana), foreigners can be forgiven for thinking that it is the national crop of Jamaica. And Jamaicans can be forgiven for making folk heroes of men who defiantly use marijuana, or even profit from the sale of it. After all, it has undisputed medicinal benefits and is arguably no more anti-social than alcohol.

Anthony L. Hall is a descendant of the Turks & Caicos Islands, international lawyer and political consultant - headquartered in Washington DC - who publishes his own weblog, The iPINIONS Journal, at http://ipjn.com offering commentaries on current events from a Caribbean perspectiveOn the other hand, despite foreign media reports, I doubt there’s more than a handful of Jamaicans who glorify the use of cocaine or, even worse, make heroes of men who peddle this inherently destructive and anti-social drug. This is why it must have incited national shock and dismay when gun battles erupted on Sunday, right in the heart of the capital Kingston, between security forces and thugs associated with a reputed cocaine kingpin. How did it come to this…?

Well, it began many years ago when Jamaica’s main political parties began relying on gangs to cultivate grass-roots support amongst the many poor people who live on their turf. This explains why successive Jamaican governments have been loath to intervene over the years in the gang-related activities that led the BBC in 2006 to designate this island paradise, paradoxically, as the murder capital of world.

In any event, it is in this context that the now governing Jamaica Labour Party (JPL) established a Faustian alliance with the aptly named Christopher “Dudas” Coke. More to the point, the JPL knew full well that Coke was a drug kingpin who ruled one of the major “political slums” (Tivoli Gardens), where white-shoe politicians dare not tread, like a feudal lord.

But all Jamaican political leaders must have known that the American government would not turn a blind eye to the activities of anyone involved in trafficking drugs wholesale into the United States. Indeed, given its open and notorious efforts to extradite Columbian and Mexican drug lords (not to mention even invading Panama to arrest that country’s president Manuel Noriega on suspicion of narco-trafficking), it was only a matter of time before Coke’s operations became too big to ignore.

And so the inevitable came some nine months ago when the Obama administration submitted an extradition request -- after labeling Coke, 42, as one of the most dangerous drug lords in the world and indicting him on a battery of cocaine trafficking and gun-running charges.

Of course, notwithstanding being in bed with Coke, regard for national sovereignty dictated that Prime Minister Bruce Golding, the leader of the JPL, put up legal challenges to this request. After all, even with no such political ties to Bahamian drug kingpin Samuel “Ninety” Knowles, the government of The Bahamas fought a similar extradition request for almost six years before being legally and politically compelled to hand him over to US authorities.

Therefore, it was hardly surprising to learn - as reported on Monday by the Associated Press, that:

“Prime Minister Bruce Golding had stalled Coke’s extradition request for nine months with claims the US indictment relied on illegal wiretap evidence.”

What is surprising, if not stupefying, is that Golding misled the Jamaican people about the extent of his efforts to stave off Coke’s extradition. Frankly, given his party’s well-known association with Coke, one wonders what political fallout he feared from this revelation. For here’s how Jamaican information Minister Daryl Vaz alluded to his country’s record of cross-party political fraternization with the likes of Coke, which implies that any party leader caught in Golding’s position would have done the same thing:

“As far as I’m concerned, the prime minister did what he had to do, and the fact is that those who are calling for the prime minister to resign and for the Government to resign have no moral authority to call for anybody to resign based on their past and their history.” (Caribbean360, May 13, 2010)

Golding did not demonstrate a profile in courage, however, when he agreed last week to hand over Coke after only nine months of … stalling. Especially since he seemed to cave in not to legal and political pressure from US officials but to plainly partisan carping from local politicians over his furtive efforts in this respect. (To be fair, though, the fact that Jamaica is looking to the US-controlled IMF to bailout its economy once again might have softened Golding’s spine….)

Unfortunately, this made a mockery of his protestations of standing on constitutional principles and smacked of a betrayal of his party’s long-standing association with Coke.

Evidently, it is this perceived betrayal that provoked gangs from other turfs across the island to join Coke’s “Shower Posse” (so named for their menacing inclination to unload their firearms) in a battle to defy any attempt to arrest him pursuant to an extradition warrant. And thousands of slum dwellers in his Tivoli Gardens - who regard Coke more as a latter-day Robin Hood than as a murdering drug dealer - are not only serving as human shields but also providing very vocal moral support.

Here’s how Caribbean Net News quoted one of them in a report yesterday protesting their misguided loyalty:

“He is next to God. Just like how Jesus died on the cross for us, we are willing to die for Dudas.”

Or is that Judas…?

Anyway, so far police stations have been torched and 60 people, including two police officers, have been killed in a frenzy of violence that shows no signs of abating. And things are bound to get much worse. Not least because, thanks to the JPL giving a wink and a nod over the years to Coke’s gun-running enterprise, local gangs now have just as much fire power as the security forces.

“If Coke is somehow able to hold out and formally establish his community as a state within a state, then Jamaica’s future is bleak.” (Brian Meeks, a professor of government at Jamaica’s Mona campus of the University of the West Indies, London Guardian, May 25, 2010)

The JPL created this monster. And given that Coke’s domain of Tivoli Gardens is located in his constituency, Golding must feel particularly responsible.

All the same, it’s clearly far better now, for obvious reasons, to seize this opportunity to kill Coke (and all others like him) than to extradite him. And Golding seems determined to do just that:

“The threats that have emerged to the safety and security of our people will be repelled with strong and decisive action. The state of emergency will remain in effect for a period of one month… This will be a turning point for us as a nation to confront the powers of evil that are penalizing our society and earned us the unenviable label as the murder capital of the world. We must confront this criminal element with determination and unqualified resolve…

“I appeal to all law abiding citizens to remain calm and support these necessary measures.” (PM Golding addressing the nation on Sunday evening, Agence French Presse, May 24, 2010)


I wish my many friends and the rest of the people of Jamaica well.

NOTE: This violence affects a very small area of Jamaica that is far removed from most hotels and tourist sites. Therefore, despite the pro forma travel advisory the U.S. State Department issued on Monday, it remains as safe as ever to travel there….

May 26, 2010

caribbeannetnews

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Haiti... how soon we forget

jamaicaobserver.com/editorial:




With our own troubles at home, it is easy to forget the pain and suffering a few steps from our door in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. But that we must not allow.

The reconstruction of Port-au-Prince is an opportunity for the global community to help boost the economic development of Haiti by the delivery of the enormous amount of aid which has been promised. There are three important and interrelated aspects to this reconstruction.

First, is the humanitarian relief for what was already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Second, the physical and institutional reconstruction of the largest city and economic and political capital of Haiti. Third, the opportunity to set in motion a process of sustainable economic development which will lift Haiti permanently from the ranks of the world's most destitute and poverty-stricken people.

The economic reconstruction of Haiti will, of necessity, involve a massive infusion of development assistance for infrastructure and human resource development. An indispensable mechanism is the provision of preferential trade arrangements which will allow Haiti to earn its way by exporting to global markets. These preferential trade arrangements also serve to attract direct foreign investment, thus enabling Haiti to be an economic platform capitalising on the global market.

Haiti has been the sleeping giant of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) regional economic integration process. It has been a part of Caricom only in name and spirit. Differences in language and poor logistics have contributed to Haiti's isolation among its Caribbean brothers. However, a major cause has been the insularity and xenophobia of the English-speaking Caribbean whose engagement has been more patronising than genuine.

The earthquake was also a political tremor in Caricom and the region reached out in a meaningful way for the first time, nowhere more magnificently than Jamaica's truly noble humanitarian mission in the immediate aftermath of the devastation. Caricom has appointed former Jamaican prime minister Percival Patterson as its special envoy to help Haiti to articulate its needs in the international arena and to be interlocutor at the highest political levels. All of this is commendable, but it really does not integrate Haiti into Caricom in an economic sense.

The means for integrating Haiti into the Caricom economy is at hand. The enormous expenditure of development assistance and humanitarian aid will create a demand for goods and services which Caricom is ideally suited, by location and comparative advantage, to supply. Haiti's imports from Caricom would not only link the markets but be a stimulus package for the struggling Caricom economies. This would create a multiplier effect as Caricom in turn purchases products, eg handicrafts, apparel from Haiti.

The development assistance expenditure can simultaneously boost the economies of Haiti and the rest of Caricom, and significantly increase the size of the regional market, at last reaching a critical mass that can offer economies of scale in production, making exports internationally competitive.

Governments can encourage a market-driven process by having the international community earmark a certain share of development aid procurement to be sourced from Caricom-made products and services.

To be convinced, we need just look at the miraculous transformation underway in formerly dirt poor China.

May 25, 2010

jamaicaobserver

Monday, May 24, 2010

A vile attack on the Jamaican State

jamaicaobserver editorial:



The obviously co-ordinated strikes on four police stations in West Kingston by criminal gunmen yesterday represent a vile attack on the State that this newspaper strongly condemns.

That the lumpen gunmen also torched one of the police stations -- that in Hannah Town -- and fired on policemen who were clearing roadblocks in West Kingston demonstrate their utter disregard for law and order, and flies in the face of the very responsible and tolerant approach that the police have so far taken in their effort to execute an arrest warrant on Mr Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

Based on police reports that gangsters from other communities outside of Kingston and St Andrew have gone into Tivoli Gardens, supposedly to give support to Mr Coke and his defenders, it is clear that his tentacles spread far and wide, and his influence is very strong.

But that influence, we maintain, resides with the minority of Jamaicans, and as such the majority, law-abiding among us need to make a united stand against the terrorism that these riffraffs seek to unleash on the country.

It is against that background that we endorse the limited State of Public Emergency that has been imposed on Kingston and St Andrew by the Government.

While we support the measure giving the security forces additional powers of search and arrest, we caution the law enforcers to utilise these powers with responsibility. For just one case of abuse of a citizen will erode the gains the security forces have made over the past few days with the way they have handled this extradition matter.

However, we urge the security forces to use this opportunity to clean up the mess that has stained this country for too many years. And in doing so, they need to ignore the politicians -- on both sides -- who have more than proven to us that they have no idea, if any desire, to deal effectively with crime.

May 24, 2010

jamaicaobserver


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Jamaica: State of public emergency called

State of emergency called
Jamaica Observer:



PRIME Minister Bruce Golding has declared a state of public emergency, limited to sections of Kingston and St Andrew effective 6:00 pm today.

Golding said that based on the advice of the security forces, the action has been taken so as to ensure public safety.

The state of emergency was called following an emergency meeting of the Cabinet at 2.00 pm today.

"The Cabinet took the decision to advise the Governor General to issue a Proclamation pursuant to Section 26 of the Constitution declaring that a state of public emergency exists in the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew," a release from the Office of the Prime Minister said.

The proclamation shall remain in force for a period of one month unless extended by the House of Representatives or earlier revoked.

Meanwhile, gunshots continue to be fired in West Kingston and roadblocks have now been mounted as far as the intersection of Maxfield Avenue and Spanish Town Road.

May 23, 2010

jamaicaobserver

Bahamian Fishermen Fear over Oil Spill in The Bahamas

Fear over oil spill
By K. NANCOO-RUSSELL
Freeport News Reporter
krystal@nasguard.com:


Local fishermen are expressing concerns about the possibility that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could reach Bahamian waters, and affect the marine life which is the basis of their livelihood.

Cordero Gardiner spoke with The Freeport News yesterday on the matter, and said he has been following the international news stories on the disaster and was alarmed by the thought of what could happen to the seafood industry.

"I already feel a little frightened because things are already slow. If that (oil spill) comes now things will be worse. If it comes this way we won't be able to go out there and dive. We will be stranded, no money making, no money to support the family," he said.

Gardiner said he owns two boats and goes out to sea daily with his two workers to catch fish and conch.

"We were now talking about that, wondering what would we do. This is all we do. We are fishermen. I never had another job in my life. The only thing I know about is fishing, that's all I do."

It has already been a struggle recently to get business, he said, since the seafood vendors who were previously located around the island were made to relocate to the Goombay Park area in preparation for the Grand Bahama Port Authority's construction of its Farmers Market.

The less accessible location and the fact that all the vendors are forced to compete for the same business has meant lower sales for him, he said. A possible ban on fishing, which is what has been implemented in Louisiana following the spill would be devastating, he added.

Another fisherman, Jer-maine Plakaris, shared similar concerns.

"I am concerned about how it's going to kill our reef, or damage our shores. It will make it little harder for us. I don't know if they're doing anything here about it but I know we going to be in plenty problems because it will affect our fish too," he said.

"This is our livelihood. I don't know what we would do. The only thing we could do is go out further but the oil could still be out there. Plenty people could be poisoned from the fish. Even if you go to another area, the fish could still be contaminated."

In a press conference on Wednesday, Minister of Environment Earl Deveaux said the government is considering following the United States' lead of providing some funding for fishermen who would have been out of work as a result of the oil spill.

Both Plakaris and Gardiner agree that the government should step in insuch an instance.

Speaking to the probability that the spill would indeed affect local waters, Deveaux said Wednesday that something as simple as a change in weather can be a determining factor.

"It's May and next month is June, which is hurricane month and a high pressure system or a low pressure system could change the course of the wind and this thing which is already 2,500 square miles big, which is half the size of our country, is not controlled by any man. It can sweep around Key West, we pray to God it doesn't but it could and when it does and however fast it does it is very likely to affect Bimini, Cay Sal, Grand Bahama and migrate to the west coast of Andros and Abaco," he said.

Today, scientists are to be dispatched to Cay Sal, which is the area the government feels is most vulnerable, to take water and marine samples and determine against the likelihood of the spill turning south and heading into Bahamian waters.

The government is deeply concerned about the oil spill and its likely impact on The Bahamas," Deveaux said. The country's Oil Spill Con-tingency Team, which has been mobilized, will work to refine the country's options, marshall national and international resources and to keep a watchful eye on the spill, the minister disclosed


freeport nassauguardian


CLICO (Bahamas) liquidator warns that the sale price achieved for Wellington Preserve would not be enough to satisfy creditors and policyholders

Main CLICO asset not enough for $14m 'gap'
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor:


CLICO (Bahamas) liquidator has warned that he is unlikely to realise enough funds from the sale of the Florida real estate project, which accounts for 63 per cent of the insolvent insurer's assets, to cover a $14.394 million solvency deficiency, as he "tentatively" hopes to complete a sale of the firm's insurance policy portfolio this quarter.

Warning that the sales price achieved for Wellington Preserve would not be enough to ensure creditors and policyholders recovered 100 per cent of the sums owed to them, Craig A. 'Tony' Gomez, the Baker Tilly Gomez accountant and partner, said he would look to call in the $58 million guarantee provided by the Bahamian insurer's Trinidadian parent, CL Financial.

"The current real estate market in the US is very soft, and it is very unlikely that I will be able to realise a more than favourable price for the Wellington Preserve property," Mr Gomez said in his latest report to the Supreme Court.

"In light of these conditions, I have asked my Trinidad counsel to proceed with the call on the CL Financial guarantee."

The liquidator has been in lengthy negotiations with the Hines Group, a major international real estate development firm, for the sale of Wellington Preserve, but a deal appears not to have been concluded yet.

Maximising its sales price is vital to ensuring that CLICO (Bahamas) policyholders and creditors recover the sums due to them, but at the moment the insolvent Bahamian life and health insurer has total assets of some $50.865 million, with liabilities standing at $65.259 million.

The last financial statements for Wellington Preserve, which were unaudited, showed it having $127 million worth of investment property on its books in January 2009, but Mr Gomez said the property "valued on an 'as is' basis today is worth approximately $62 million".

Explaining that the project consisted of 80 residential lots and equestrian amenities, plus commercial sites, on a 523-acre site, Mr Gomez said: "It was previously estimated that the project required a substantial cash injection of a minimum $42 million to fund the development before it could be reasonably presented for sale. The financing is not yet in place, and in my opinion would not be an option."

Meanwhile, Mr Gomez said the selection of an insurer to whom CLICO (Bahamas) remaining life and health policies would be transferred was an ongoing process, with due diligence being undertaken.

"This process is tentatively expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2010," he added. It is still believed that Colina Insurance Company is the preferred acquirer.

As of January 31, 2010, CLICO (Bahamas) had some 17,707 policies with a collective surrender value of $23.302 million in force. The majority of these were 11,290 life policies, with a surrender value of $11.236 million, and 5,401 medical policies with a surrender value of $137,465.

"There was considerable attrition with regard to the number of in-force policies," Mr Gomez said, "which was attributed mainly to the non-deletion by CLICO of life policies tied to Citibank loans, totalling 5,873, which were no longer needed as Citibank's commercial operation had ceased doing business in the Bahamas.

"There was further attrition of policies due to the lapsing of some of the student protection plans, totalling 2,441. Based on my discussion with many of the policyholders cancelling their policies, the decision to cancel is as a result of the economic conditions that existed, and not necessarily as a result of CLICO's insolvency."

Between October 8, 2009, and January 31, 2010, CLICO (Bahamas) saw some 9,121 policies, with a sum assured worth $251.789 million, lapse.

Mr Gomez said he was reviewing and drafting responses to offers made to acquire 11 of CLICO (Bahamas) real estate assets - its former branch and sales offices, plus associated land parcels and the Centreville Medical Centre - which he wanted to raise around $5 million from.

The liquidator added that he would apply to the Supreme Court to settle the $360,786 mortgage balance owed to FirstCaribbean International Bank (Bahamas), in order to prevent any real estate assets he was selling from being encumbered.

May 21, 2010

tribune242

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Haiti and its flawed electoral process!

By Jean H Charles:



The Haitian Constitution stipulates that regular presidential elections shall take place every five years on the last Sunday of November, with a presidential inauguration to take place on the following February 7, to correspond ab eternum to the day the Haitian people delivered themselves from the Duvalier dictatorial regime.

Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol.comThe earthquake of January 12, 2010, has destroyed the capital city of Port au Prince as well as surrounding cities of Jacmel, Leogane, Petit Goave and Grand Goave, with more than 1.7 million people sleeping under a tent, sometimes in the rain amidst squalor and the mud. Vital records have been destroyed, the dead have been cremated without proper state sponsored identification and the Preval government has exhibited a culture of deception, corruption, and perversion of the electoral process. It is a perfect storm to create a disaster in lives lost in the next few months. It is also the perfect tool for maintaining the status quo through a flawed electoral process.

Yet the international community, through the voice of the OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin, the United Nations representative Edmond Mulet, the CARICOM delegate PJ Patterson, is pushing full speed ahead for a flawed election to take place under the baton of Rene Preval, a master mind of cunning, double talk, and plain disregard for the plight of the majority of the Haitian people.

He personifies the man Paul Berman would qualify in his recent book, The Flight of the Intellectuals, as the Pretender, saying different things to different audiences with no truth and no conviction to either. He is neither a capitalist, nor a socialist, nor a nationalist. He is “a dark smudge of ambiguity”. Here are some relevant facts on Preval’s past election records.

* The election of April 6, 1997 was set for the renewal of one third of the Senate; he forced upon the electorate Fourell Celestin, a recently drug convicted. There was opposition from the Electoral Board, causing its president Leon Manus to be spirited by an American helicopter to safer pasture abroad to avoid injury to his person.

* The election of May 2000 as well as the election of November 26, 2000 was mired in irregularities and disfranchisement of the majority.

* The election of April 21, 2009 has repeated the canvass of the election of April 6, 1997, with President Preval incubating with state funds the candidates of notorious human rights violators. There was very low national participation.
He was on his way of forging ahead with his macabre plan of succeeding himself through his newlywed wife or one of his trusted companions when, to quote the malicious Haitian people, God got Himself into the fray and allowed the earthquake the very afternoon after a crucial meeting of Preval in the national palace to seal the election in his favor.

May 18 commemorates the weaving of the flag made with the blue and red piece of cloth from which the white piece symbolizing colonial France has been extirpated. On this very day of celebration, the people of Haiti are demonstrating en masse, on the street demanding the forced departure of the Preval government so they can go on with their lives, and ensure a fairly clean election.

Will Preval and the international community, through misguided policy, succeed in maintaining a status quo that will lead to disaster in the coming months of the hurricane season with millions of people at risk? Or will the Haitian people succeed in forging a new order of business in running the Republic of Haiti?

To solve this dilemma, I will peer into the history of the Haitian Revolution and the story of the United States Black Emancipation for inspiration as to the outcome of this David and Goliath re-enacting the biblical battle.

I am now 64 years old. I have only lived 11 years in my youth in the bliss of the dream of living in a country where hope was part of the staple of the daily life. Yet I belong to the 10 percent minority of Haitian people where the roof was sound, the food was always on the table and the best education was a given expectation and a reality.

For the past 50 years, the mass of Haitian have endured a living hell. Through dictatorial regimes Duvalier pere and Duvalier fils, through military regime, Namphy, Avril and, Regala, through the populism regimes of Aristide and Preval, through government of transition, Malval, Latortue, it has been for Haiti and for the Haitian people: the more things change, the more they remain the same.

The United Nations, through several acronyms:

* MICIVIH February 1993- May 1998 to support the embargo against Haiti
* UNMIH September 1993- Jun 1996 to support the American military intervention
* UNSMIH July 1996- 1997
* UNTMIH August 1997 – November 1997
* MIPONUH December 1997- March 2000
* MINUSTAH April 2004 to present

(Source: http://solutionshaiti.blogspot.com/2009/01/haiti-facts-and-foreign-occupation.html)

have promised that they will stand fast to support and help the Haitian people to gravitate towards a better life. Yet, Haiti has since been sinking deeper into bigger risk in food security, diminution of human life protection and severe environmental degradation. It was Edmond Mulet of the United Nations who picked up Rene Preval from his hamlet of Marmelade to help to catapult him into his second mandate. Mr Mulet has today the odious task of helping Preval to choose his successor.

The Haitian intellectual and political class has for once entered into a holy alliance with the masses to say no to this plan. They have decided that Haiti must enter into a new paradigm where the children will be fed and schooled, where taking a leaking boat to Miami or the Bahamas is a nightmare of the past, where the government will work with the Diaspora to create a land hospitable to all, where the flora will be replenished with precious wood such as mahogany. They also plan to unleash the creativity of the critical mass of Haitian people for their own benefit and their personal wealth accumulation.

The international community has responded with unusual humanity and compassion to the earthquake-stricken Haiti with ten billion dollars, the corrupt regime and the partisans of the status quo will easily sink $100 billion with no apparent result for the Haitian people. They have discovered a brand new concept: disaster profiteering.

It took the advent of Abraham Lincoln after sixty years the American Independence to recognize that “American slavery had been an offense that God was ready to see destroyed”. Frederic Douglass, the black American avenger, saw the Federalist War against the South as a path to the nation’s healing, even “when the cold and greedy earth drinks up the warm red blood of our patriot sons, brothers, husbands and fathers, carrying sorrow and agony into every household.”

Will the deaths of some 300,000 Haitian people be in vain? Parodying Lincoln “with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds”! This is the rallying cry of the new Haitian coalition that plans to remake the Haitian Revolution of 1804 in 2011 not with bullets but with ballots. We need a culture of respect for the electoral process.

Indeed, two hundred years ago, Napoleon Bonaparte succumbing to the pressure from the former colonial planters of Haiti, formerly St Domingue, invaded the country to re-establish slavery dismantled by Toussaint Louverture. Napoleon succeeded in kidnapping Toussaint but the roots of liberty were too deep to be uprooted. The Haitian indigenous army rebuilt and energized by the Congress of May 18, 1803 submitted a definitive blow to slavery for the benefit of the entire world. The only predecessor to this epic story of defying slavery was a vain attempt by Spartacus against the Roman Empire in 73 BC!

The Western world has succeeded in realigning Haiti to a de facto slavery condition through the connivance of its own leaders after the assassination of the black avenger, Jean Jacques Dessalines, in 1807. Haiti is today, after two hundred years, a de facto apartheid regime. The labeling is cheap but the facts are convincing. Not one of the 565 rural hamlets of Haiti has received any funding for infrastructure and institution building. Seven million Haitian people out of the 9 million population live in extreme misery, neglect and ostracism from their own government.

The holy coalition amongst the Haitian civil society, the masses, the Diaspora, the intellectual class is determined to dismantle that status quo. No amount of intimidation and pressure from the Haitian government and its allies – the so-called friends of Haiti- will stop this new alliance. Haiti needs a café au lait revolution a la Martin Luther King or a la Nelson Mandela to create a culture of inclusion for the majority.

The Vatican some two hundred years ago was supporting slavery! It did oppose the recognition of Haiti! Victory is always on the side of morality. In the long run! There is a Creole proverb that says: la guerre avertie pa tue co-co be. Cicero said it best: Caveat Consules!

May 22, 2010

caribbeannetnews

Friday, May 21, 2010

The British Petroleum (BP) Deep Horizon oil spill enters Loop Current, headed for The Bahamas

Oil enters Loop Current, headed for the Bahamas
By NOELLE NICOLLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
nnicolls@tribunemedia.net:


OIL from the BP Deep Horizon spill has now entered the Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico, according to reports by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the international media.

This latest development increases the likelihood of the oil reaching the Bahamas.

Early yesterday, local authorities said the most up-to-date information they had as to the location of the oil was Sunday data that placed the oil's location three miles away from the loop current.

Michael Stubbs, chief climatological officer at the Meteorological Department, said it was "very likely" the oil would end up in the loop current. At such a time, the risk of the Bahamas being directly impacted would increase significantly.

"Whatever is deposited in the loop current will travel through the loop current no matter what. Once it gets into the loop current we can't duck it. If you have no wind, no weather systems and it is calm, the loop current will still facilitate the movement of material into the vicinity of our islands," said Mr Stubbs.

With hurricane season fast approaching on June 1, local responders are furthered concerned about the impending environmental disaster. Given the high number of storms that have been predicted this season, there is "great concern" about the added challenges to possible containment efforts.

Historical records show that early in the season cyclones tend to originate in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico, North of the Bahamas, where the source of the spill is located, according to Mr Stubbs. "The area in the gulf is fertile ground."

Several issues are of concern. A hurricane or other severe weather system would likely hamper efforts in the gulf to contain and clean up the oil. It could also generate strong waves or wind that would drive surface oil, oil residue or particles, and chemical disspersants into the area of the north-western Bahamas.

"From our knowledge, this is the first major one so close to home. It is going to be with us for a great length of time. It has overwhelmed the immediate resources, so obviously it leads one to wonder how and when we will be able to control it," said Mr Stubbs.

The loop current is an oceanic "conveyor belt", travelling from the Western tip of Cuba in the Caribbean Sea, north along the Yucatán Channel, according Mr Stubbs. It makes a clockwise turn towards the Florida Keys, and then travels eastward between the Bahamas Islands and the Florida peninsula. It then moves northward along the eastern coastline of Florida until it joins the gulf stream, which carries it further north into the North Atlantic ocean towards Europe.

May 21, 2010

tribune242

Diehards defend Embattled west Kingston strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke

Diehards defend 'Dudus'
jamaica-gleaner:


A supporter of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke holds a placard high as hundreds of demonstrators march along Spanish Town Road yesterday to demand that his extradition hearing be scrapped. - Ian Allen/Photographer


Embattled west Kingston strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke received a fillip yesterday as thousands of vocal residents of Tivoli Gardens and adjoining communities took to the streets supporting him.

The protesters, mainly women and children dressed in white, started their demonstration at the intersection of Industrial Terrace and Spanish Town Road just after 8 yesterday morning.

Initially, they concentrated on the reports by the police that they were being forced to stay at home and that their cellular phones had been confiscated by thugs backing Dudus.

"Dem a talk about our phones take away and if we leave we can't come back and that is a lie," declared one angry protester.

"Anybody can come into Tivoli and see the situation. We can go and come as we want, we can walk peacefully and see mi phone here," the woman added.

Her friend rushed to address the Gleaner team as she blasted the police for their claims.

"We a no hostage, a lie the police a tell because them no like the 'Big Man'. We happy and them fi leave we alone," the scantily clad woman said.

But the focus of the protesters quickly changed as they voiced their opposition to any plan to extradite the man they call 'The President'.

"No Dudus, no Jamaica. Dudus a feed the whole a wi and them fi leave him. The police them always have problems with the Coke dem. If you have a pickney now and him name Coke, by the time him reach 20-year-old them a go accuse him," another protester charged.

The protesters also had harsh words for Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller and the party's point man on the extradition matter, Dr Peter Phillips.

"Portia must tell we if the PNP did extradite Anthony Brown and George Flash when them did wanted. How them did have them man deh free and now them want fi extradite Dudus. A just politics them a play," one woman said, referring to two men who topped the police most-wanted list in the 1970s and '80s.

Not about politics

"Dudus tell we fi wear white today and not green because this is not about politics, and the PNP, dem a play politics and Dudus only want peace," another protester said. Green is the colour of the Jamaica Labour Party which the residents of Tivoli support.

With a strong police presence and marshals from the community ensuring that persons did not block Spanish Town Road, the protesters chanted loudly for more than two hours before a shout from one of their leaders saw them heading across Spanish Town Road into the heart of downtown Kingston.

Around St William Grant Park and across East Queen Street went the crowd which was growing by the minute.

Then came the shout "mek wi march to Gleaner", signalling a sharp left turn on to Duke Street towards the North Street offices of The Gleaner Company.

But by then, the police had had enough and after allowing the demonstrators free rein through the heart of the commercial centre, the cops used their vehicles to form a line on Duke Street in the vicinity of the country's Parliament building, Gordon House.

A single explosion from a policeman's gun was enough to convince the protesters that the cops were serious and that it was time to head along Beeston Street down North Street and back into Tivoli Gardens.

May 21, 2010

jamaica-gleaner

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Bahamas mobilizes a team of regional and international experts to assist in oil spill disaster preparedness exercise

International experts to aid Bahamas in oil spill exercise
By NOELLE NICOLLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
nnicolls@tribunemedia.net:


THE Bahamas is mobilising a team of regional and international experts to assist in the oil spill disaster preparedness exercise currently under way.

Acknowledging the weaknesses in local capacity, Minister of Environment Earl Deveaux said the government contacted the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and other international partners to formally request assistance.

"The Bahamas is not prepared for the level of calamity. We are mobilising to address it," said Minister Deveaux.

If the oil currently leaking from the BP Deep Horizon platform enters the exclusive economic zone of the Bahamas, which sits about 120 miles south of Key West, Florida, it could be "disastrous" for the Bahamas, and the many people who depend on fishing for their livelihood, said Minister Deveaux.

The government is prepared to cede some judgments to the team of experts, while maintaining its sovereignty. These decisions would include the type of chemical disspersants to be used in the event they are needed.

Chemical disspersants have proven to be controversial, because the manner and the quantity in which they are being used in the gulf are unprecedented. Standards vary across the world as to what chemicals are most safe and most effective.

"We don't have the resources and means to make an independent determination," said Minister Deveaux, who admitted the long-term environmental impact of the chemicals is unknown.

Philip Weech, director of the Bahamas Environment Science and Technology (BEST) Commission, said the use of chemicals, while potentially harmful, was necessary for the immediate containment exercise.

He said it was important to "shorten the resident time of oil in the environment", and the chemicals helped to thin out the oil, enabling it to be evaporated, and prevent clumping.

Based on the potential use of chemicals, he anticipated testing in the marine environment would persist long after the immediate aftermath of the disaster to assess the long term impact.

No definitive models exists to determine if or when oil will enter Bahamian territory, and if it does, what form the oil will take. Scientists predict based on ocean currents, the north-western Bahamas is at risk, including some areas being considered for protected marine habitat designation.

Three American scientists were named by the local organising body, the National Oil Spill Contingency Team, to spearhead the planned Friday exercise of collecting water, tissue and sediment samples on the Cay Sal Bank.

Marine biologist Kathleen Sealey, from the University of Miami, botanist Dr Ethan Freid and independent biologist and Bahamian seabird ecologist Will Mackin will travel to the Cay Sal Bank to collect samples.

Tissue samples from the livers of fish will be of particular interest to the researchers, according to Eric Carey, director of the Bahamas National Trust. He said researchers would also test seabirds who nest in Cay Sal, because some of them travel a long distance to feed in areas immediately affected by the oil spill.

Initial samples will provide baseline data for future analysis. Although the government is yet to sign off on a laboratory, tests will be conducted in a lab certified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They will also be stored based on strict EPA guidelines.

Minister Deveaux said he understands the oil is "sticky and messy". Some environmentalists have described it as "thin". They maintain it is difficult to predict the state on arrival in the Bahamas, but scenarios include oil arriving on the surface, as tar balls, or underwater plums or clouds.

Scientists determined the tar balls discovered on the Florida coast by the US Coast Guard earlier this week were not from the BP oil spill.

In the event of oil reaching land in the Bahamas, the government plans to call on volunteers to make themselves available to assist, including individuals from the scientific community. Volunteers with boats are asked to be on stand by to assist with laying booms, which are partially submerged floating devices used to trap surface oil.

"We want to ensure we have on call and available resources to mobalise in the event the worse case scenario arises," said Minister Deveaux.

May 20, 2010

tribune242

Stop all oil exploration in the Bahamas and never issue permits for drilling in the Islands - says reEarth

Bahamians sign 'no drill, no spill' petition
NOELLE NICOLLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
nnicolls@tribunemedia.net:



THE local environmental advocacy agency reEarth launched an online petition yesterday calling on the government to stop all oil exploration in the Bahamas, and to never issue permits for drilling.

Almost 50 Bahamians had signed the petition shortly after its release, including Lynn Sweeting and Jackson Burnside. Advocates as far as Germany, Sweden and Belarus signed on.

"Bahamians need to wake up. It is very close to home this time and it should be an eye-opener for us to make the changes that we need to make and start moving the country in the right direction for our energy needs. This is an obvious opportunity to drive forward the clean energy revolution in the Bahamas," said Sam Duncombe, reEarth director.

Since the April 20 explosion and fire on the BP drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, oil has been pouring into the gulf coast. Ms Duncombe said recent estimates indicate the spill now covers 25,000 square miles, equivalent to a quarter of the Bahamas' total land and sea area.

International media reported yesterday that the US Coast Guard discovered twenty tar balls on a beach off Key West, Florida. Some fear this may be an indication the spill has reached the strong loop currents that are projected to bring oil to the Bahamas.

The environmental disaster has threatened the livelihood of fishermen in the United States' second largest fishery industry, which formerly provided 40 per cent of the seafood to the US market.

"How do you come back from that when everything in the area has been tainted? There is no coming back from it unfortunately. Fishermen in this country should be outraged that the governing is still singing the song (of local oil exploration) and that we have not canned the idea," said Ms Duncombe.

She also said local fishermen should not count on the US market opening up for them, because an increase in poaching is the more likely result of the spill. She said some fishermen from the Gulf may resort to coming to the Bahamas to earn a living.

Ecosystem

Marine Biologist and University of Alaska fisheries agent Rick Steiner, who has worked on oil spills all around the world, said in an interview on Democracy Now: "There's no way to restore a spill-injured ecosystem. There's really no way to rehabilitate oiled wildlife successfully, and there's very little way to adequately compensate human communities whose lives have been turned upside down by these kinds of things. So it's all bad. There's no good. The one potential silver lining to this disaster may be if we finally get the lesson learned that we need sustainable energy policies in this country."

The theme of the petition launched by reEarth is "No oil, no spill." Andrew Burrows, a signatory to the petition said: "The impact of the destruction of our marine ecosystems cannot compare to the reward of finding and extracting oil. Our way of life would definitely change for the worse if the Deepwater Horizon incident happened in the Bahamas."

The Bahamas has been praised internationally for its efforts in establishing protected marine habitats. However, Ms Duncombe said the government's willingness to consider oil exploration runs counter to the spirit of these efforts.

"What is the use of creating all of these protected areas if you plan to go down the oil route?

"If we have a spill we are going to be in big trouble. We have to decide if we are going to be a tourist destination or a oil destination," said Ms Duncombe.

"You can fix a lot of the problems that tourism creates, but you cannot fix the problems oil creates.

"In every country that there is oil, the top few benefit from it - the oil companies benefit from it - and the vast majority pays for the sins to have oil.

"It is not as though we are living in an era where we have no alternatives," she said.

May 19, 2010

tribune242

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bahamian government set to sue The British Petroleum (BP) as the gulf coast oil spill fears grow in The Bahamas

Bahamian government set to sue as oil fears grow
NOELLE NICOLLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
nnicolls@tribunemedia.net:



AS the likelihood of the Bahamas being affected by the gulf coast oil spill increases, the government may seek to recover costs from BP, the operators of the exploded Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

It is feared that ocean currents could carry the spilled oil into Bahamian waters and devastate wildlife habitats in the north-western islands.

"Any money that is spent in (a possible) clean-up the government would be looking to be reimbursed, and the entire exercise being paid for by BP," said Commander Patrick McNeil, head of the National Oil Spill Contingency Team.

While he said the committee had not specifically discussed a recommendation for the government to sue BP, he said the government would look to recover the financial cost for any resources marshalled to address the spill.

"It is an American problem. They have a responsibility to address the problem as best as they can to ensure it doesn't affect other sovereign states. We are expecting them to do all they can to ensure it doesn't reach the Bahamas," said Commander McNeil.

At this time, the Contingency Team is not in contact with any US emergency response agencies involved in the containment effort, according to Commander McNeil; however, he said Brooke Moppert, economic officer at the United States Embassy in Nassau, attended a meeting and indicated the US government is doing all it can to contain the spill and clean it up.

Some scientists predict deep water currents will send oil along the western Florida coast to meet up with the Gulf Stream. These currents run between the eastern seaboard of the US and the western side of the Bahamas. The Cay Sal Bank, the Bimini chain, the western side of Andros and West End, Grand Bahama are the primary areas at risk.

"The greatest feared risk is that the oil spill will enter the western Bahamas and cause devastation to wetlands, bird sanctuaries, turtle habitats, and cause a deterioration in our marine life and bird species. That is our greatest fear. We will try to put in place steps to minimise the impact," said Commander McNeil.

Sam Duncombe, director of the local environmental advocacy agency reEarth, said the government should "get on it" and look to BP for compensation for any damage caused to beaches, local fisheries, or the marine environment.

Environment Minister Earl Deveaux and Attorney General John Delaney could not be reached. They were in a Cabinet meeting yesterday.

The National Oil Spill Contingency Team is not "depending solely" on the American response. It is making preparations for an emergency, although Commander McNeil said the committee is not in emergency mode.

The team brings together various emergency response agencies and industry experts. They met yesterday to identify a team of scientists that will be sent to collect marine samples in the Northwestern Bahamas.

Samples will be tested to establish base data in the continuing effort to determine the impact of the April 20 gulf oil spill on the Bahamas. The team of scientists will determine the testing frequency after the initial tests are conducted.

A lead scientist is yet to be identified, although Commander McNeil said the person is likely to come from the Department of Environmental Health. Scientists will also come from the Department of Marine Resources and the Bahamas National Trust. The Royal Bahamas Police Force is expected to "provide a platform for them to carry out testing."

May 19, 2010


tribune242

Bahamas Government pressured to deal with Haitian settlements

Government pressured to deal with Haitian settlements
By MEGAN REYNOLDS
Tribune Staff Reporter
mreynolds@tribunemedia.net


PRESSURE is mounting on the government to address Haitian settlements as an estimated 1,500 residents of Marsh Harbour's Pigeon Pea face eviction.

The complex mix of Haitian permanent residents, naturalised citizens, people born in the Bahamas with the right to citizenship, and Haitian migrants who may or may not have work permits living in around 500 overcrowded shacks on five acres of land in the centre of Marsh Harbour have been served eviction notices by landowner Ricky Albury this week giving them six months to vacate the property or be moved by order of the court.

Local government chairman of the Marsh Harbour and Spring City Township Roscoe Thompson III helped Mr Albury serve notices yesterday and said most residents are afraid they will have nowhere to go.

He said he will put pressure on central government to address the needs of the soon to be displaced community by providing housing for legal residents and regularising their status.

Haitian Society of the Bahamas president Jetta Baptiste said government will have to regularise their status and allow them to become recognised citizens or working members of society in response to the mass eviction.

"I feel if the government regularised everybody's status people would be happy to move out and invest in properties of their own," she said.

"But right now many people are afraid of investing in a home or property because they fear they could be deported and forced to leave their properties behind, losing their investment.

"So they're in a situation where they don't know what to do.

"They consider the place slippery ground.

"So the government should regularise those who need to be regularised, and deal with it once and for all.

"If they made them legal, gave them status, then we wouldn't have this problem.

"I think if they address it like that, all their problems would be absolved."

Director of Immigration Jack Thompson said he expects a multi-agency approach will be required to respond to the mass eviction as he awaits instructions from the top.

Abaconians hope the breaking up of Pigeon Pea will force government to regularise and house the residents of Pigeon Pea, but also confront the estimated 2,000 or more residents in The Mud on adjacent government land.

"The action we are hoping to get from central government is that they are going to effect somewhere for these people to go," an Abaco resident who supports the eviction told The Tribune.

"The ones here legally should be given every opportunity a Bahamian has, and for the ones here on work permits, it's up to their employers to find housing for them.

"But something needs to be done, it's getting ridiculous out here."

He said the situation in Abaco has reached boiling point as Abaconians born of Bahamian families are outnumbered two to one by Haitians and Bahamians of Haitian descent, and unregularised residents are putting pressure on healthcare services and schools without being able to fully participate in the economy as they await the processing of their paperwork.

If the social problems in Marsh Harbour continue to be ignored the repercussions will be felt by Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham who could lose his Abaco seat, said Ms Baptiste.

"I don't think the anger will lead to riots in the community," she said.

"But the government is going to suffer because they are going to vote against the government, they are not going to re-elect him into office and it will make or break them."

May 19, 2010

tribune242

Gulf of Mexico oil spill closing on The Bahamas

Oil spill closing on Bahamas
Oil Spill Updates:




The oil spill tripled in size in 3 days to more than 9000 square miles, the spill continues to grow unabated every minute. If the spill continues for 2 – 3 months as forecast and into the hurricane season then an ugly situation will get dire. I can’t believe they are going to use chemicals to disperse the oil, like throwing gasoline on fire. With the swirling currents in the gulf and the growth in the spill, the Bahamas, Cuba and Mexico should start to prepare for the worst. If it doesn’t happen good, but if it reaches their shores then a plan of action might make. the difference. I’ve flown over the Bahamas a number of times and even from an airplane the water and cays are spectacular, not to mention what lies beneath the sea.

10th May 2010

oilspillupdates

Monday, May 17, 2010

Underground Cuban rappers live on the edge

By Esteban Israel:


HAVANA, Cuba (Reuters) -- It's almost midnight at a roadside bar on the outskirts of Havana and young Cubans gather to listen to hip hop.

A man with dreadlocks steps up, microphone in hand, to the roar of approval from a crowd of 150 fans.

"I'm not going to turn my back on reality, even if they censor and repress me," he chants to a driving beat, as the eager audience, which knows every word, sings along.

"Days go by and I'm still locked up, censored. They look at me like a renowned dissident, rejected by the media."

The two-man Cuban rap group "Los Aldeanos" can sell songs on iTunes to followers abroad, but in Cuba they remain an underground band that has been playing mostly unadvertised gigs at unauthorized venues for seven years.

They rap about prostitution, police harassment, social inequality and corruption, delicate issues rarely raised by Cuban musicians in the socialist state born of Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution.

Cuba's communist authorities say their anti-establishment songs are too critical and cannot be played on Cuban radio stations, that are all state-run, or sold in the shops.

The band has no access to Cuba's record labels either. Their 20 albums were recorded in a friend's makeshift studio a long bus ride and a two-mile walk from downtown Havana.

"Los Aldeanos" was formed in 2003 by Aldo Rodriguez and elementary school teacher Bian Rodriguez.

The rappers have become the abrasive voice of a disaffected generation of politically numbed Cubans who grew up during Cuba's post-Soviet economic crisis of the 1990s.

Some of their music is sold overseas through online sites, with the proceeds going to buy equipment, said their U.S.-based producer Melisa Riviere, president of Emetrece Productions.

But with no income from record sales or concerts in Cuba, theirs is a labor of love.

Barred from access to state media, their fans hear about their performances by word of mouth or text messages sent from cell phone to cell phone.

Their fans are mainly young people who revel in the outlaw nature of their shows and their politically risque lyrics.

"They talk about our reality. That's why we like them," says Pablo, a 20-year old musician wearing a black T-shirt hand painted with the band's name.

"Los Aldeanos are the result of a pact to do the rebellious music we wanted. We wanted to say what we feel, what we see, without limits," says Aldo, who has a huge tattoo saying "Rap is war" on his right forearm.

While critical of society, Aldo says the group's music seeks to restore the solidarity and respect Cubans had before they were worn away by decades of economic hardship.

"Our work aims at a positive change in society. Not just in the government, but also spiritually ... today Cubans step on and humiliate one another," he told Reuters in a recent interview.

The group's name means "The Villagers" and refers to their vision of a unified and supportive Cuban society.

The official Cuban news agency AIN recently accused them of "hypercriticism" and being the latest tool of Cuba's foes.

"Our enemies make no distinction between mercenaries and naive, irresponsible people who disagree. Anyone is good as long as they sing the counterrevolutionary music," it said.

But rappers of "Los Aldeanos" say their music is actually revolutionary, and they criticized those Cubans who become critical only after reaching the safe shores of Miami.

"I wouldn't be a revolutionary man if I didn't say what I think when asked," said Aldo. "Why do I have to be afraid to express what I feel? Shutting up means freezing in time."

If their official reception at home is cool, overseas Los Aldeanos are being warmly embraced. Like most Cubans they have little access to Internet, but their music is all over the Web and a recent homemade video got almost 500,000 hits.

"Los Aldeanos are YouTube kings. They are audio-visually pirated throughout the globe," says producer Riviere.

Colombian rock star Juanes wanted them at a huge outdoor concert he held last year in Havana but the government refused. Puerto Rican hip hop heavyweights Calle 13 tried unsuccessfully to sneak them on stage during their Havana show last month.

But things could be changing.

The rappers, who have been denied permits to travel abroad, now have invitations to perform in Colombia, Mexico and Spain, and they hope to be allowed to go this time.

Riviere said Cuba's authorities have realized Los Aldeanos are a reflection of the island's culture and it would be better to give the popular group some slack.

In a hopeful sign things may be opening up, the government allowed them to perform their first concert in a Havana theater on April 24 to mark their seventh anniversary.

Entry was tightly controlled by police and state security agents were inside the theater, but 1,000 fans attended the show and hundreds more had to be turned away.

"You can't imagine all we have been through to get here tonight," Aldo told the cheering crowd.

May 17, 2010

caribbeannetnews


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Why Privacy on Facebook Is 'Virtually Impossible'






Editor's Note: The controversy over Facebook's aggressive attempts to cash in on information about its members is heating up. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that "anti-Facebook sentiment is surfacing in highly visible places, from the halls of Congress to the blogs and podcasts of influential technology experts like Leo Laporte of Petaluma."It seems to me that ultimately their goal is to funnel all Internet traffic through Facebook.com," said Laporte, who deleted his Facebook profile during a recent podcast and donated money to Diaspora, a project to create a more open and private alternative to Facebook. Laporte was inspired to put an end to his Facebook account by a recent blog post by Jason Calacanis, chief executive officer of Mahalo, a question-and-answer Web site. He accused Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg of trading users' privacy for profit. ... Facebook convened a staff meeting Thursday to discuss the backlash, although some staff members described it as a routine gathering. ...


"Earlier this month, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and 14 other privacy and consumer organizations filed a complaint against Facebook with the Federal Trade Commission, accusing the popular social network of "unfair and deceptive trade practices" and violating users' expectations of privacy and consumer protection laws. And last month, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., asked the FTC to develop guidelines instructing social networks on how private information can be used. All of this comes in the wake of the company's launch of a new "open" social platform designed to bring Facebook features, such as its Like button, to other Web sites, and an experimental Instant Personalization feature that gives certain Web sites the ability to access a member's name, profile picture, sex and network of friends. The company also launched community pages that made topics in a member's profile more public."


Erik Hayden's article below from Miller-McCune explores the results of a new study that suggest that privacy on Facebook is probably impossible:


***


On Facebook, You Are Who You Know



Even if you do have a mostly private Facebook profile, others can glean vital information about you — just by looking at your friend list.


by Erik Hayden, Miller-McCune.com



Remember the golden days when Facebook used to be for just college students? It was a quainter site — with a much different set of rules.


Drunken party photos used to be unceremoniously splayed out in public, privacy settings were almost nonexistent, wall posts weren’t status updates and there was little need to filter regrettably off-color comments. After all, the only people (you assumed) who saw that stuff were college buddies who were also posting the same incriminating photos of themselves on the site.


Now, after the Facebook explosion, users are more aware of privacy issues than ever before and the new rule of thumb has become “curb public access to your profile as best you can.”


New research suggests that this is nearly impossible.


In a study conducted by Alan Mislove of Northeastern University and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems, researchers tested an algorithm that could accurately infer the personal attributes of Facebook users by simply looking at their friend lists. The research culled profile information from two detailed social-network data sets: one from a sample of almost 4,000 students and alumni on Facebook at Rice University and another from more than 63,000 users in the New Orleans regional network.


Researchers developed an algorithm to see if they could accurately infer attributes like high school or college, department of study, hometown, graduation year and even dormitory by dissecting these users’ friend lists. The study cut to the core of the debate surrounding the social-networking site: Is your personal profile your own or, to paraphrase anti-Facebook crusader Leif Harmsen, is it the site’s profile about you?


“The current privacy debate that’s going on concerning Facebook is essentially covering explicitly provided attributes [i.e. information uploaded by you onto your profile],” Mislove wrote. “We see our work as pointing out that there exist many implicitly provided attributes that aren’t even being discussed.” Namely, that your friend’s profile can usually divulge more information than you think.


According to the study, only about 5 percent of users in each network had changed their privacy settings to make their friend list inaccessible. (To hide it, enter your Facebook profile, click on the edit icon above your friends and unclick the blue box marked “Show Friend List to everyone.”) In the New Orleans network, personal profiles remained largely accessible to researchers. Some 58 percent of users disclosed university attended, 42 percent disclosed employers, 35 percent disclosed interests and 19 percent gave the public access to their location.


Because of this information given, Mislove explained that it was relatively easy for his algorithm to accurately pinpoint attributes such as geography (dormitory or hometown) or education background (which high school or college users attend) for a specific user.


In the New Orleans regional network, the algorithm unsurprisingly found that users were 53 times more likely to share the attribute of the same high school with those on their friend list than with other random users in the network. At Rice, the algorithm accurately predicted the correct dormitory, graduation year and area of study for the many of the students. In fact, among these undergraduates, researchers found that “with as little as 20 percent of the users providing attributes we can often infer the attributes for the remaining users with over 80 percent accuracy.”


While marketing companies who specialize in targeted advertising may rejoice, these results may be troubling for those who’ve held out hope that Facebook could provide adequate privacy controls. Not to seem alarmist (“privacy” on the Web has always been overrated), but if these researchers could develop a limited algorithm that can infer rudimentary attributes off locked profiles, the possibilities seem endless for others to harness advanced software that could render current privacy controls completely useless.


“The privacy story on these sites is more complicated that we like to think, as your privacy is not just a function of what you provide, it’s a function of what your friends and community members provide as well,” Mislove elaborated.


Researchers concluded that it wasn’t “sufficient” to just give users access to privacy controls for their own profiles; the option to censor friend lists should be given to make sure that private information cannot be inferred.


As the title of the study states, on Facebook, you are who you know.

Erik Hayden recently graduated from Pepperdine University with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Religion. He is currently a fellow for Miller-McCune and regularly contributes for a variety of publications including the Ventura County Star and the alt-weekly, VCReporter.


May 15, 2010



alternet