Friday, December 28, 2012

Stem cell research and therapy has the potential to jump start a more than $100 million medical tourism industry in The Bahamas

Stem Cell Research May Bring $100m Industry





By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
aturnquest@tribunemedia.net



STEM CELL research and therapy has the potential to jump start a more than $100 million medical tourism industry, according to the government’s task force, which delivered its verdict on the country’s proposed plunge into the controversial science yesterday.

In a presentation to Minister of Health Dr Perry Gomez, the group outlawed the use of embryonic cells to create new stem cells and reproductive cloning, and gave recommendations on how the country could maximise its potential to advance global medical research.

Stating the therapy’s profound implications, the committee called for an overhaul of existing legislation concerning medical tourism, and widespread education and consultation to ensure that decision makers are well-versed with the importance of the groundbreaking science and related ethical issues.

Dr Arthur Porter, who led the special research team, said: “We put together the framework for stem cell work to be carried out to the benefit of Bahamians in an ethical way and to support the potential for a medical tourism industry, and we delved into the specifics of what can be done and what should not be done.”

“What we don’t want to do is make it an open season for anybody who wants to do anything. What we want to do is we want to have that reputable high class science and therapy can be done here under the right sort of regulations and the right sort of ethics control because not only are you controlling it for the jurisdiction and the reputation of the jurisdiction also frankly the sophisticated person won’t go to a place that is uncertain so it’s much better that we start off right the first time.”

Dr Gomez announced the task force last month, giving the panel of experts 60 days to study stem cell research from an ethical and medical point of view before delivering a final report.

Task force members include: Dr Robin Roberts, Rev Angela Palacious, Dr Paul Ward, Dr Barrett McCartney, Dr Indira Martin, Dr Wesley Francis, Dr Glen Beneby, Dr Duane Sands and Mrs Michelle Pindling-Sands.

Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that have the capacity to renew themselves and to differentiate into various cell types – such as blood, muscle, and nerve cells. Stem cells are divided into two categories – embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.

Dr Porter said: “Probably the most challenging ethical reasons [against the use of embryonic cells] are around the disruption of a blastocyst to create new stem cell lines, that was something that we felt as a group was difficult for us to overcome especially within this jurisdiction, and within the religious issues that we have here.”

“However, existing stem cell lines that may have been generated elsewhere over time that under the right conditions and the right ethical supervision should be allowed but again the creation of new stem cell lines in this country should not be permitted.”

A blastocyst is an embryo that has developed for five to six days after fertilisation. The committee approved the use of adult stem cells, said Dr Porter, who also noted that this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded for discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent, which characterizes the potential of a cell to differentiate into different cells.

Dr Porter said: “The second and perhaps more scientifically practical is that people are moving away from embryonic stem cells and in fact much of the research now is on adult stem cells or adult stem cells which are being transformed to be able to act in ways pluripotent stem cells can.”

“The needs to go back and take stem cells out of an embryo are becoming less and less. What we looked at for The Bahamas is to be future ready, to not look to what other countries have done but let’s create an environment so that we can capture the future.

He added: “We believe over the next ten years that we are going to see a renaissance in the use of this therapy and that we are always going to have to be looking forward and asking ourselves the question: ‘Is this new development okay?’ ‘is that new development all right?’”

The committee also approved the use of umbilical cord blood, which Dr Porter said has been used globally for over 15 years, and the use of somatic cell nuclear transfer, which is a type of technique in which adult stem cells are encouraged to behave as early stem cells.

Dr Porter said: “We are on the frontiers of new science so the appropriate clinical trials, the appropriate committees, the appropriate ethics support, should be given to the use of these areas.”

“The purveyors of stem cell work, the medical practitioners, research scientists, foster the skills necessary to perform good clinical trials. It is important whenever new therapies are introduced that we have the right practitioners, the right scientists, and the right facilities to be able to ensure quality use,” he said

According to Dr Porter, the group predicts a renaissance in use of stem cell therapy over the next ten years.

Noting that medical tourism was a “several billion” dollar industry, Dr Porter said the Bahamas’ market could earn more than a hundred million dollars per year. He also noted trickle down benefits for physicians, labs and the wider economy.

Dr Sands said: “This is a rapidly developing, rapidly evolving field, there are many countries in the world that have embraced medical tourism and as such have tried desperately to ensure that the process of approval, of ratification, of consideration of new projects, is done in a timely fashion. Similarly efforts have been made to ensure that phenomenal scrutiny of the proposed projects, the participants et cetera, is carefully done.”

He added: “So we need to ensure that the legislation in The Bahamas is robust enough to protect the integrity and reputation of this country, while at the same time promoting good science and this is an ongoing process so we need to make sure that the laws are constantly keeping up with what is happening on the ground.”

Dr Gomez said he plans to present the stem cell report to Cabinet early next year. He added that the report will affect possible future legislation and the development of guidelines for the use of stem cell therapy in the country.

December 28, 2012



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Firm steps taken in the updating of Cuba’s economic model


• Council of Ministers Vice President Marino Murillo Jorge, head of the Policy Guidelines Implementation Permanent Commission, reports to National Assembly





O. Fonticoba Gener

 
 
 
 
DURING the last period between sessions of the Cuban Parliament, the process of implementation of Policy Guidelines approved by the 6th Party Congress has progressed at a satisfactory pace, with new measures implemented to update the country’s socioeconomic model and others, already in place, being perfected.

This was the essence of the report presented by Council of Ministers Vice President Marino Murillo Jorge, head of the Policy Guidelines Implementation Permanent Commission, during the final plenary session of the 7th Legislature.

In a summary of progress made in the implementation process, he said, "The tasks which the Commission, national bodies and entities, local governments and enterprises must complete in 2013 and 2014 will be the most complex, those of greatest importance and impact on the updating of our economic model and on society as a whole."

Given their nature and scope, he said, these tasks must be studied carefully, in order to adopt the best decisions for the country, with the coherence required.

WORK UNDERWAY


Murillo reported that the drafting of the theoretical conception of Cuba’s economic model is well underway. This document will guide the work of all bodies involved in the nation’s development.

He said that also advancing is the establishment of fundamentals for the country’s long-term Economic and Social Development Program, which include the definition of indicators to be used to evaluate the model’s performance and, above all, to precisely determine goals to be met.

Murillo indicated that a timeline is being prepared for the implementation of macro-economic policies, included among the most important are a new methodology to determine wholesale and retail prices; monetary policy measures to be adopted to control the circulation of money; and procedures for financial planning, as tools to better coordinate macro-economic policy, the Economic Plan and State Budget.

Murillo made special mention of the new Tax System Law No. 113, which will go into effect in January, and highlighted the fact that regulations were included, which is not the case with the current, soon to be replaced, law.

While the Tax System Law is the highest authority, establishing the principles and taxable bases, he said, the Regulations detail procedures and norms governing the law’s application, which can be changed within the parameters established, without having to propose changes to the general law.

Murillo reported that work is currently being done on the design of the first 230 non-agricultural cooperatives which will open the gradual, experimental process of establishing this new form of economic activity. The legal framework for non-agricultural cooperatives went into effect December 11.

MORE AUTONOMY FOR ENTERPRISES


According to Murillo Jorge, a number of experimental changes in the functioning of enterprises will begin January 1, directed at expanding autonomy and authority in the economic and financial management of enterprises.

This process is being undertaken to advance in the construction of a working model of the socialist state enterprise and to support macro-economic policies, among others approved.

The objectives of this process are the re-capitalization of enterprises; increased earnings to make possible the financing of increased wages for workers; the creation of a wholesale market and the reconciliation of costs which the Cuban economy can sustain with their value on the international market.

The policy to be followed in the implementation of these changes, he said, has been approved and work is underway on the legal framework.

The experiment will expand the context in which enterprises function and, on a small scale, allow for trying out needed changes. The process of full implementation will begin with the consolidated sugar group AzCuba, and that of the biotechnological and pharmaceutical industries, BioCubaFarma, as well as the state shrimp farming enterprise.

Murillo explained that the experiment will additionally include limited changes for other enterprises, selected because of their importance to the country’s economic development. These will, for example, allow for the sale of excess production available after state contracts have been fulfilled, at accorded prices.

OTHER STEPS FORWARD


As part of his report to deputies, Murillo Jorge addressed the approval process underway of a proposal to make state entities’ social objectives more flexible, with the goal of allowing such institutions to more fully develop their potential.

This proposal would allow for the adoption of measures such as the establishment of the principal social objective by the body or institution creating the entity, with no reference to the currency in which it will operate. Another option would be permitting the director of an enterprise or entity to make decisions about secondary activities, related to the social objective.

Murillo Jorge likewise emphasized the importance of studies being done on the development of linked production sequences, in an effort to increase productivity and contribute to a better structural balance within the economy. These efforts are directed toward the fulfillment of Guidelines No. 7, 89, 103, 129, 132, 136, 185, 217 and 219.

He also reported that work continues to facilitate self-employment. Among the measures are the inclusion of new activities (such as real estate agent, measurement instrument repairer and antique dealer), the renewed granting of licenses for activities previously suspended, as well as a new regulation which defines the scope of all types of approved work.

The policy which governs the awarding of subsidies to individuals for home construction, Murillo explained, has also been updated, with more financing available if the dwelling is to be built in a seismic zone; for coverage of transportation costs of building materials and for costs associated with technical documentation or for long-term leasing of land rights. New categories of persons eligible for subsidies were also established, including renters or persons living in rented rooms. Subsidies will also be available for the repair of leaks and plumbing problems.

IMPROVING GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION


The experience of Artemisa and Mayabeque provinces, involved in an innovative project to perfect their administrative systems and leadership bodies, was also discussed during the National Assembly plenary session.

Second in charge of the Permanent Commission, General Leonardo Andollo, emphasized the importance of Decree No. 301, which defines state functions to be assumed by national state administrative bodies and entities with respect to provincial authorities in the two provinces.

"This decree provides the legal framework allowing the experiment to operate on an institutional foundation in which the delegation of authority and attributes at the different levels are clearly defined."

"No antecedent to this document exists and it is an important foundation for the future, since today there is no such regulation which defines precisely and comprehensively, the procedures involved."

He explained that as part of the project, in Güines municipality, Mayabeque, an effort is being made to consolidate, in a single building, all administrative services the population requires. Plans include the creation of a single administration and shared logistical support, for example, in the area of data and telecommunications, while studies continue to guide improvement of the project.

Andollo reported that regulations for Government Information Councils and Technical Committees in the two provinces have been approved and that the process of integrating all higher education centers is underway there, as well as in the Isle of Youth.

One important accomplishment of the experimental project, he said, is that throughout the process thus far, there has been no administrative instability, significant when taking into consideration that administrative structures in each of the two provinces have been staffed with 26% of the original personnel and the principal indicators of development have been maintained at levels similar to those of other provinces.

Despite the progress made, Andollo indicated that difficulties persist. Among these are limitations on efforts to concentrate leadership bodies in the smallest number of locations possible and the insufficient availability of supplies needed by leadership bodies and service providers.
 
December 18, 2012
 
 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hugo Chavez has given everything he has ...and asked for nothing in return... ...Today, Venezuela grows and flourishes ...thanks to his commitment and vision ...thanks to his dedication and determination ...thanks to his love

Chavez


By Eva Golinger:



The first time I met Hugo Chavez was at the United Nations in New York in January 2003. He asked me my name, as if we were chatting between friends just getting to know each other. When I told him “Eva”, he responded “Eva, really?”[i] “Yes, Eva”, I said. “My brother is named Adan”, he said, adding, “My mother wanted me to be a girl so that she could call me Eva, and look, I appeared!” He smiled and laughed with that laugh of his, so pure and sincere it’s contagious to all those near.

He appeared. Chavez, who even underestimated himself.

This man appeared, larger than life, with an immense heart full of his people, pueblo, beating with homeland, patria. A human being appeared, with a great capacity to persist and stand defiantly in the face of the most powerful obstacles.

Hugo Chavez dreamed the impossible and achieved it. He assumed responsibility for the grandiose and difficult tasks that remained undone from the time of independence, those that Simon Bolivar couldn’t attain due to the adverse forces against him. Chavez fulfilled those goals, turning them into reality. The Bolivarian Revolution, the recovery of Venezuelan dignity, social justice, the visibility and power of the people, Latin American integration, national and regional sovereignty, true independence, the realization of the dream of the Patria Grande, and much, much more. These are Chavez’s achievements, the man who appeared just like that.

There are millions of people around the world who are inspired by Hugo Chavez. Chavez raises his voice without trembling before the most powerful, he says the truth – what others are afraid of saying –, he kneels before no one, he walks with firm dignity, head held high, with the people, el pueblo, guiding him and a dream of a prosperous, just and fulfilled nation. Chavez has given us the collective strength to fight inequality, injustice, to build nations and to believe that a better world isn’t just a dream, it’s an achievable reality.
Chavez, a man who could spend time in the company of the world’s richest and most powerful, prefers to be with those most in need, feeling their pain, embracing them and finding ways to improve their lives.

Chavez once told us a story, or told it many times as he often does. He was driving in his motorcade, out in the Venezuelan plains, los llanos, on those long roads that seem to continue infinitely. A dog suddenly appeared at the side of the road, limping with a wounded leg. Chavez ordered the motorcade to stop and went out to get the dog. He hugged the wounded animal, saying it had to be taken to the vet. “How can we leave it here alone and wounded”, he asked. “It’s a being, it’s a life, it needs to be cared for”, he said, demonstrating his sensitivity. “How can we call ourselves socialists without the lives of others mattering? We need to love, we need to care for all, including animals, which are innocent beings. We can turn our backs on no one”, he recalled.

When he told that story I cried. I cried because of my love for animals and the widespread mistreatment they suffer, and how necessary it was for someone like him, Chavez, to say something like that to awaken consciousness about the need to care for those who share our planet. But I also cried because Chavez confirmed something in that moment that I already knew, something I felt in my heart, but was unsure of in my mind. Chavez confirmed his simplicity, his sensitivity and his capacity to love. He confirmed he is a man whose heart feels pain when he sees a wounded animal. A man who not only feels, but acts. That’s who he is.

When Chavez assumed the presidency of Venezuela, the country was limping. He had seen its wounds and knew that he had to do all he could to help. He took Venezuela into his arms, embracing it closely, soothing and seeking how to make it better. He gave everything he had in him - his sweat, soul, strength, energy, intelligence and love – to change Venezuela with dignity, growth, sovereignty, and nation-building. He looked after it day and night, never leaving it alone. He found its beauty, its strength, its potential and its greatness. He helped it to grow strong, beautiful, visible and happy. He led its rebirth and filled its pulse with force and passion, with people’s power and a dignified homeland.

Chavez has given everything he has and asked for nothing in return. Today, Venezuela grows and flourishes, thanks to his commitment and vision, thanks to his dedication and determination, thanks to his love.

Thank goodness you appeared, Chavez.

Eva Golinger is an investigative journalist and writer on Venezuelan affairs, and author of ‘The Chavez Code’ (2006) among other titles. This article was translated by Ewan Robertson and edited by Eva Golinger. It first appeared in Spanish on RT

December 11, 2012

venezuelanalysis

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Haiti's two unfinished universal and national revolutions... ...The one of 1804 destroyed for itself and for humanity the gangrene of slavery of man by man ...and the revolution of 1986, which brought an end for itself and also for humanity the stronghold of the dictators... ...As such, the Revolution of 1804 and the one closest to us in 1986 will be no more vain conquests, an incomplete rupture; Haiti will experience its golden age -- the one it has been tackling for over five hundred years!

Haiti: An unfinished revolution



By Jean H Charles


Haiti had two unfinished universal and national revolutions. The one of 1804 destroyed for itself and for humanity the gangrene of slavery of man by man and the revolution of 1986, which brought an end for itself and also for humanity the stronghold of the dictators. After 1986, the non-violent mass movement that forced the departure of Duvalier has educated those in the Philippines, Poland and Nicaragua. It continues to educate today in the Arab world, where Tunisia gave the signal to eradicate almost all Arab dictators, while the Syrian people today continue to fight to unseat their dictator.


Jean Hervé Charles LLB, MSW, JD, former Vice-Dean of Students at City College of the City University of New York, is now responsible for policy and public relations for the political platform in power in Haiti, Répons Peyisan. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol.com
However, after 1804 and twenty five years after the end of the Duvalier era, Haiti is still a flop, to use the language of a colleague who has nostalgia for a former Port-au-Prince.

"The former Champ de Mars, the place of choice for families to relax and stroll, this place of my youth when I studied every night for years ... is no more. It is handed over to dealers (badly) boucanés, to car scrubbers, to thieves and phone robbers, it is hard not to remember the effective management of the city by the mayor Franck Romain in the early 1980s during the Duvalier era.”

In an essay published recently in Caribbean News Now and reproduced in the Nassau Guardian, “Haiti’s failed 25 years experience with democracy,” I decried the failure of the democratic era in Haiti. The achievements of the Revolution of 1986 were as short-lived as the Revolution of 1804, when the revolutionary experience ended in 1806 after the assassination of its founder, Jean Jacques Dessalines.

The signatories of the Act of Independence of 1804 did not agree to build a nation that would be hospitable to all. Those who had in mind to remove the settlers to settle themselves had the upper hand in 1806. They built a Haiti close to their vision. They used education or the non access to education as a barrier to prevent the masses from getting into the path of civilization.

The mass of slaves who took refuge in the hills of Haiti in 1804 is now, two hundred years later, the peasants, uneducated and without economic support from the state of Haiti. Now they rush to the gates of the capital and the provincial towns, occupying any empty space and compromising any planned organized urban development.

The Revolution of 1986, with the new 1987 Constitution, should have put Haiti on the true course. It was different. The organic institutions of Haiti such as the Catholic Church, the army, the Voodoo and even the press have failed the country.

First of all, the army seized the Revolution, not to bring Haiti to where milk and honey abound but into anarchy and a democratic spree, with people who could neither read nor write and could not understand that with rights also come responsibilities. Neo-liberalism, with its doctrine that growth can happen without personal wealth for all, was installed as the ruler of the economic game. The local economy, under immeasurable international influences, soon collapsed under a blitz from the Americans, the Chinese and now the Dominicans. Most of the local industries were closed, to be relocated in the Dominican Republic. The Haitian rice industry, freshly rebuilt by Taiwan, was destroyed by imported rice from Arkansas.

The Catholic Church, Breton in its origin that had accompanied the young Haiti in 1860 to the table where the bread of education and training was delivered in the towns, is now in the hands of the native clergy. It should have extended to the rural counties the mission of continuing the civilizing action started by the Breton clergy.

Instead it gave a rather poisoned apple, packaged with liberation theology and the venom of the social power of dissension, hatred of one against other and a race to the bottom, where the sense of ethics, lack of patriotism, organized theft of state assets are now the rule of the game. From the kingdom of meritocracy we went to the realm of the mediocrity of meritocracy. The government, which includes the executive, the judiciary, the legislature and the public service, confuses the brazen search of self-interest to service to the public good.

Voodoo, still underground, has not yet found its St Patrick to transform this rich cultural heritage into a national and universal mythology to enrich the imagination of young Haitians, as would be the world's youth, and as the Iliad and the Odyssey did by transforming those seeking great human values that are called courage, resilience, friendliness and brotherhood and joie de vivre.

And the people who believe in voodoo as an act of faith would be endowed with true antidotes that are called education, health, and training and economic development, freeing the devotees from the opium of the pseudo-religious constraints.

Finally, the press has become the country's image, a press bidonvillisée, rising one above the other, not to help each other to go higher but following the experience of Rwanda, where violence has led an entire nation to tear each other apart without even asking the question why?

This essay is not part of a series to lament once more about the troubles and the misfortunes of Haiti. It is rather a call to action for Haiti to return to its civilizing mission of yesteryear. It seeks men and women who want to add value in building a Haiti fit for Toussaint Louverture, Jean Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe. A Haiti that cares first for those most in need of relief and support: the peasant masses confused and uneducated.

They are now at the door of the cities in rags and tatters, under-capitalized by neo-liberalism, recklessness national governments, and the revenge of nature that was not protected by a benevolent hand. Uneducated and untrained, they doubt even their own humanity as they seek shelter anywhere in defiance of the human sense of self-preservation.

I propose that:

• The ONI (the Office of National Identification) should be found in all communal sections providing to each farmer a Haitian national identification.

• the Haitian government, through the Department of Agriculture, Planning, Interior, the Ministry for the Status of peasant and the Ministry of Extreme Poverty, the Ministry of Environment and Social Affairs and Fayes accompanies the myriad of NGOs to initiate a massive operation of jobs, literacy and training in all areas and all communal sections directed mainly to agriculture, reforestation, livestock and crafts.

• The program of literacy, basic education and continuing civics becomes not only a responsibility for the state but also of the elite. Man and women must become Haitian citizens, aware of their rights but also aware of their civic duty to pay their taxes and provide for the common good.

• The government should engage in its kingly responsibility to transform the state into a nation where Haiti would provide sound institutions and good infrastructure throughout the republic from the city to the countryside.

• The elite, those who have succeeded in spite of the unfavorable national conditions, reach out to those who are left behind to create a nation where living together is an experience shared and supported by all.

• The Haitian Diaspora must stop or rather amplify its vocation of monthly subsistence to commit to a partnership of nation-building and sustainable endogenous industries.

• The NGOs in general and MINUSTHA cease their particular industry that exists for itself, not for those under their mission, and funds to serve.

As such the Revolution of 1804 and the one closest to us in 1986 will be no more vain conquests, an incomplete rupture; Haiti will experience its golden age -- the one it has been tackling for over five hundred years!

December 08, 2012

Caribbeannewsnow

Friday, November 23, 2012

Lifting the Cuban embargo

By Ramesh Sujanani, Jamaica Gleaner Contributor
 
 
 
Sometime ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly shared the view that the United States' embargo against Cuba helps the Castros, noting, "It is my personal belief that the Castros do not want to see an end to the embargo, and do not want to see normalisation with the United States."

Clinton said in the same interview that "we're open to changing with them," though the US government maintains its strong position against lifting the embargo.

The fact is that Cuban-Americans, most of whom reside in Miami, had their property and other assets confiscated by Fidel Castro, worth almost US$6 billion. Should the embargo be lifted, these persons will require compensation for personal assets seized. Who will make good that claim by the Cuban migrants? Many are protesting Castro's reasons for becoming the dictator, and are not satisfied Castro will honour his obligations. These Cuban-Americans have supported Obama's Florida campaign, and it seems that as long as it takes to recover their assets, they will continue to support him.

There are no other considerations, as the effect of battle (Bay of Pigs), and the Cuban Missile Crisis, seemed to have been relinquished. The Cato Institute in the USA remarked: "The embargo has been a failure by every measure. It has not changed the course or nature of the Cuban government. It has not liberated a single Cuban citizen. In fact, the embargo has made the Cuban people a bit more impoverished, without making them one bit more liberated. At the same time, it has deprived Americans of their freedom to travel and has cost US farmers and other producers billions of dollars of potential exports."

I might add that it has also affected Jamaica's, and CARICOM's, trade possibilities with Cuba which may have been fruitful. As it is at this time, we employ Cuban doctors and other medical assistants to improve our skills in medicine, and we have sent patients into Cuba who require ophthalmic operations; it seems their availability of this discipline is greater than ours.

The embargo does place the people in poverty, but as Mrs Clinton said, it indicates that the State prefers to have a docile and ignorant population.

I have heard from various Jamaicans who seem to feel various past governments in Jamaica seem to have a similar intent, though I cannot understand why this would occur in this country. It seems a well-respected member of the Church, Pope John Paul II, had that on his mind about Cuba.

Some religious leaders oppose the embargo for a variety of reasons, including the humanitarian and economic hardships the embargo imposes on Cubans. Pope John Paul II called for an end to the embargo during his 1979 pastoral visit to Mexico. However, during his January 1998 visit to Cuba, Pope John Paul II delivered his most powerful attack against President Fidel Castro's government, urging the Roman Catholic Church to take "courageous and prophetic stands in the face of the corruption of political or economic power" and to promote human rights within Cuba.

While also opposing the embargo, the general secretary of the National Council of Churches stated, "We did not understand the depth of the suffering of Christians under communism, and we failed to really cry out under the communist oppression." The US bishops called for an end to the embargo after Pope Benedict's visit this year. Cuba has also dubbed as 'theft' the use of frozen Cuban assets to pay for lawsuits filed in the US against the Republic of Cuba.

On Thursday, June 10, 2010, seventy-four of Cuba's dissidents signed a letter to the US Congress in support of a bill that would lift the travel ban for Americans wishing to visit Cuba. The letter supports a bill introduced on February 23 by Representative Collin Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat, that would bar the president from prohibiting travel to Cuba or blocking transactions required to make such trips. It also would bar the White House from stopping direct transfers between US and Cuban banks.

The signers stated: "We share the opinion that the isolation of the people of Cuba benefits the most inflexible interests of its government, while any opening serves to inform and empower the Cuban people and helps to further strengthen civil society."

At this time, Americans with family in Cuba are allowed to travel and visit them; they are also allowed to bring in foodstuffs and other necessities.

Ramesh Sujanani is a businessman. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and rsujanani78@gmail.com.

Jamaica Gleaner

November 24, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Caribbean people need to re-educate themselves and fight for social change

By Hudson George




Caribbean people need to re-educate themselves to fit into a changing world that is globalised by capitalism. Some of the religious and political values the majority of Caribbean people are trying to hold on to were indoctrinated in them during the colonial era by the capitalists. However, the capitalist system always keeps changing and, with the constant changes in capitalism, moral values within society changes too.
Hudson George has a BA in Social Science from York University, Toronto, Canada. He has been writing since his early teenage years and now contributes letters and articles to a number of Caribbean newspapers
Unfortunately, the majority of Caribbean people do not understand how the capitalist system functions, and they seem to hold on the Christian values given to them by the capitalists during slavery. In some Caribbean countries people take the law into their own hands and punish citizens who participate in behaviour that is opposite to Christian values. And while the majority of citizens might condone mob rule justice, they are blind to the fact that they too are guilty of going against Christian values. In addition, the Christian values they are trying to hold on to is not what the capitalist media is selling to the Caribbean youth of today, through the media.

Caribbean societies’ Christian values have been compromised with the plantation culture of poverty, promiscuity and illiteracy. Therefore, in all Caribbean societies that claim to be Christianised, it is alright for a man to have children with various women and he will never experience resentment from the mainstream society. And the main reason why some Caribbean men are fathers of many children with different women, goes back to the days of slavery on the plantation when slaves were not allowed to raise a family.

During the period of slavery in the Caribbean, the slaves were not considered to be real human beings. Yet still, they were forced to be Christianised by their colonial masters, but they were not allowed to raise a family. They were considered as their master’s property and the religious leaders on the plantation colonies throughout the Caribbean were supportive of the slave system of such oppression. Today it is very common to hear that religious leaders of those churches that aided and abetted slavery are the ones talking about the lack of moral values in society, when they are the genesis of the problem.

However, the negative effects from that past plantation era still affect some Caribbean people up to this present time. Most Caribbean people’s biggest problem is that they do not read on a daily basis and because of the lack of reading and trying to analyse things, they become paranoid by new cultures introduced into society by the giant capitalist media. Therefore, the only way for Caribbean people to survive in this changing world that they do not have control over is to re-educate themselves.

Some Caribbean folks go to church on a weekly basis and, whatever they were told by the religious minister of church where they worship, they tend to believe everything without taking the extra time and effort to do further research. Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons why mob rule is very common in some Caribbean countries, whenever a minority of people act in certain ways that the majority of citizens are not accustomed to as part of the norms.

With globalisation and the spread of western cultures into the Caribbean, it is expected that new sub cultures will take root in society. And while the elders keep on defending the old style Caribbean values, the young people are exposed to social media that promote North American lifestyle values. Television news and entertainment influence coming from networks such as BET, CNN create a new mindset for today’s generation of Caribbean youth. Now they have access to iPods and internet cell phones and it is expected that some youths will conform to the foreign culture they see in the media.

In addition, most of the older Caribbean people might try to deny the fact that the usage and popularity of illegal drugs started in the 1960s during the hippie cultural era from the United States and, in the 1970s, the Rastafarian movement spread through the region with music and songs glorifying the smoking of marijuana.

Therefore, with a lack of information through education, some Caribbean people formalised what they think is right from wrong and the value system they created has deep roots in ghetto culture, which is not progressive even though it seems to be entertaining.

Now it is very common to see young Caribbean men trying to act as a macho-man to portray how manly they are in society; while on the other hand, they are lacking professional work skills to make a decent livelihood. However, these young Caribbean men do not realise that a man can only show he is a real macho man when he has a professional skill and a job that pays good wages. In addition, they do not recognise the fact that capitalism and a technology are more macho than they are, because within a capitalist society and a capitalist economy, new and better technology is always needed to keep capitalism functioning at the highest level.

However, the macho-man culture cannot build an economy and it will be impossible for Caribbean countries to make economic progress as long as they keep fighting against changes that have become part of the sub-cultures in western societies, because Caribbean countries still depend on western countries for economic and technical support. And it is not all sub-cultures in western societies that promote macho-man behaviour. However, due to the fact that the genesis of Caribbean societies begins with slavery and colonialism, the legacy of ignorance is still holding back progress and modern thinking.

Additionally, it is very easy to observe that most Caribbean folks do not understand that the societies they are living in are made up of sub-cultures that were imported from outside influence. For example, in some Caribbean countries, marijuana smoking has become part of the popular culture, even though it is an illegal drug according to the law. And if police officers catch users of that drug smoking it, they will be charged for breaking the law. Yet still, there is an increase in the number of people smoking marijuana but there are no functioning organisations with a plans trying to find a solution how to deal with marijuana issue, even though it is very common to hear musician artistes express their love for smoking marijuana.

However, with the lack of proper organisational skills and activism grouping among marijuana smokers, it is expected that they will continue pointing fingers at the police officers who arrest them for using the drug that they consider a holy herb. And unfortunately, they forget that the police role in society is to serve and protect the state according to the laws that govern the nation. It is very important that Caribbean people to re-educate themselves and fight for social change in a professional way. It will make no sense in trying to break the law and sometimes ignorantly making their own laws without the formation of proper political structure and planning.

But the strange thing is that is puzzling, with all the ignorance among some Caribbean people when it comes to dealing with social issues, that they are strong supporters of US President Barack Obama, who wants to bring about some social and political changes for the American people in a democratic and civil manner. However, it was very amazing to see the joy on Caribbean people faces, on the night of the US presidential election when President Obama was re-elected for a second term.

Those of us who are thinking openly and willing to accept changes in society can see clearly that Caribbean people only love President Obama because he is black. They are not paying any attention to Obama’s domestic policy for changing some things within American society. Therefore, based on how they are thinking in terms of dealing with social changes in the Caribbean, their political and social thoughts are more in line with the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s conservative backward politics.

They really need to re-educate themselves.

November 21, 2012

Caribbeannewsnow

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Latinos, Be Careful What You Wish For

Hispanic Link Service, Commentary by Arnoldo Torres




There is growing doubt today whether our political system is able to deal with the realities that confront us and significantly impact our futures. U.S. voters were uneasy with the two presidential candidates they had before them. The turnout, lower than in 2008, reflects this disconnect.

In the country where newscasts and networks speak daily about democracy and its greatness and candidates are compelled to wear a U.S. flag pin on their lapels, 93 million eligible citizens did not vote: 57.5 percent of all eligible voters turned out this month, compared with 62.3 percent in 2008 and 60.4 percent in 2004.

I have been involved in Latino politics and public policy since 1975. I have participated in, and observed, national elections since 1976. I have been through the "sleeping giant" claims about Latino political power, the so- called "Decade of the Hispanic" in the 1980s, the steady ascendance to elected office by Latinos in the 1990s, and the recognition that both political parties are committed to the attainment and maintenance of power at the expense of Latinos.

Throughout this time, the liberal and conservative media controlled and set the narrative for Latino political growth. We were talked about and analyzed but seldom were we part of that discussion on NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, Fox, CSPAN or MSNBC.

Now, for the very first time, I believe Latino voters have arrived at a point where we can claim political power. The role we played in the election outcomes in key swing states of Nevada, Colorado and Florida are proof that we have arrived. The facts allow me to reach that conclusion. We went out and voted probably for the lesser of two damaged products.

While our turnout efficiency was less in 2012 (78 percent) than in 2008 (84 percent), we now comprise 10 percent of the national electorate. This is consistent with the constant increase since 2004 at 8 percent and 2008 at 9 percent. Nationally, as demonstrated in these three key states, Latinos made up a growing share of voters.

We have spent better than four decades working to get to this position. Many of our political mentors have been in the Democratic and Republican parties. We have run for office on the platform that to be fair and democratic, politics needs more Latinos. Seldom have we pressed political visions of specific policies we would introduce to remedy the problems we have talked about for the last 40 years. I believe we have not prepared to get to this point. We spent entirely too much time talking about our desire to get here.

Now that we have arrived, what will we do?

Think about it. We have three Latinos in the U.S. Senate, all of Cuban heritage. One each from Florida and New Jersey and now one born in Canada representing Texas. We have 28 in the House of Representatives, a net gain of four in an institution that has little support or respect from the public. It has been phenomenally dysfunctional during times when it needed to be at its best.

Few of the newly elected Latino members have spoken yet about how they would help change these serious structural problems in Congress. Their campaigns were standard fare as campaigns go. In other words, they were not campaigns of new ideas, vision and specifics. With the exception of the Texas U.S. Senate race, most of these campaigns hit Republican incumbents hard or criticized the Republican position and philosophy. The campaigns were not about competing ideas, solutions or philosophies. The Texas race hardly addressed any of the main issues of concern to Latinos or the fact that the Republican and Democratic strategies had excluded the reality of Latinos that "one size does not fit all."

Before the ink was dry on President Obama's victory speech, the liberal left in D.C. was orchestrating Latino immigrant groups to call out the president to move on immigration now that Latinos had "elected him." This is so very disconcerting. Once again rather than initiate, we demand, we complain, we request - we react. Rather than propose our version of what should be done on the issues of the day, we demand payment.

This history-making contingency of Latino members of Congress should begin a serious and inclusive dialogue within our own large and complex Latino community on the economic issues that have historically hamstrung our future. Since we argue that the political establishment does not take such interest, our Latino politicos should demonstrate how to do it. While we are at it, we should include the issues of education, health and crime in our communities.

We should not allow Senators Chuck Schumer and Lindsay Graham to lead the way on immigration reform legislation. They are not solution-driven, they are elements of appeasement! Both members are very far removed from the realities that are necessary to reach reasonable and practical solutions. We cannot afford to approach this challenge from an ideological or political angle.

It is imperative that Latinos lead this debate with ideas that solve the human suffering, dilemmas and conflicts, unintended consequences that undocumented flows from various countries to the United States cause in this nation as well as in the countries of origin. Since we have bitterly pointed out the poor leadership this issue has received from both parties, since we have long been troubled by the separation of families, abuse of workers and discriminatory treatment of immigrants, we must set the standard for approaching this complex issue and not forget that it impacts all of society in one form or another. We cannot be myopic!

We should be proud of what everyday Latinos and Latinas did this month. We all participated in a process that can lead to change. We must not lose sight of the fact that this is simply the first step followed by the responsibility to govern. The hard part is making things happen, bringing about the policies that benefit a nation, not one group. Remember the saying, "Be careful what you wish for!"

Our wish has come true and we better perform a lot better than those we have been criticizing for decades.

Sacramento-based public policy consultant Arnoldo Torres served as the national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in D.C. from 1979 to 1985. He testified more than 100 times on immigration legislation and wrote several provisions of the 1986 reform bill signed by President Ronald Reagan. He has served as an expert on Latino issues for Univisión network over the last 12 years. Reach him at arnoldots@yahoo.com.

November 20, 2012

Newamericamedia


BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – The number of children born with the deadly HIV declined significantly in the Caribbean during the period 2009 and 2011, according to the 2012 global report by UNAIDS.
The report noted that the Caribbean, which has the second highest incidence of HIV/AIDS after sub-Saharan Africa, also recorded the highest decline in AIDS-related deaths of any region between 2005 and 2011.


Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Caribbean-records-significant-decrease-in-HIV-infections#ixzz2CrjfcV9r
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – The number of children born with the deadly HIV declined significantly in the Caribbean during the period 2009 and 2011, according to the 2012 global report by UNAIDS.
The report noted that the Caribbean, which has the second highest incidence of HIV/AIDS after sub-Saharan Africa, also recorded the highest decline in AIDS-related deaths of any region between 2005 and 2011.


Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Caribbean-records-significant-decrease-in-HIV-infections#ixzz2CrjfcV9r

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I want to join with all peace loving friends in the global community ...to support the United Nations' vote ...and continue to press for the lifting of the United States of America's (USA's) embargo against the government and people of the Republic of Cuba

Cuba: Time for Washington to act




By Ian Francis


It was indeed another historic vote at the United Nations when 188 nations clearly said "it is time to end the embargo". This message was clearly directed at the United States of America, which has embarked upon a policy of embargos and isolation against the Cuban regime. I want to join with all peace loving friends in the global community to support the vote and continue to press for the lifting of USA embargo against the government and people of the Republic of Cuba.

Ian Francis resides in Toronto and is a frequent contributor on Caribbean affairs. He is a former Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grenada and can be reached at ianf505@gmail.com
Washington should recognize and accept the overwhelming vote and immediately begin the dismantling process. The embargo has gone on too long and Washington's hawkish attitude should ease and demonstrate a more conciliatory tone. At the same time, the government of Cuba also has a responsibility to find creative and innovative ways for engaging Washington to resolve all outstanding issues between the two nations.

Given that CARICOM nations supported the resolution and the growing bilateral friendship between Havana and CARICOM states, the latter has a responsibility to press Havana on changing its hard line attitude to Washington. The cold war is over and new foreign policy engagements are essential to bring about and sustain the necessary changes.

The Republic of Cuba is part of the Caribbean and this must always be understood and accepted. Manley of Jamaica, Barrow of Barbados, Burnham of Guyana and Williams of Trinidad must all be remembered and recognized for their political courage shown in establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. These leaders were strong regionalists and in spite of the enormous pressure placed on them by Washington and the United Kingdom to isolate Cuba, they did not succumb to Washington's pressure. May these leaders continue to rest in peace. Your leadership strength will always be remembered and recognized.

Since Havana's diplomatic recognition within the CARICOM region, the Republic has had its encouraging and dull moments. The bombing of a Cuban Airline of Barbados, which resulted in the death of many Cuban nationals, is a historical moment that cannot be ignored. The Estrada affair in Jamaica, which saw former Prime Minister Eddy Seaga ordering the ambassador's expulsion and pursuing a policy of isolation against Cuba.

The 1983 Grenada conflict which led to United States military intervention resulted in the humiliation, capture and deportation of many Cuban workers from Grenada who were at the time engaged in the building of the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA). In addition to the humiliation by the US military, the Republic also suffered the destruction of heavy equipment, including an aircraft that was parked at Pearls Airport on the eastern side of Grenada. These dull moments never deterred Havana's commitment to the region. The Republic of Cuba remains the largest donor of foreign assistance to CARICOM nations.

Cuba has also had some enduring moments in the region. Although Bishop's assassination was seen as a great setback for Cuba and the regional revolutionary movement, the former Grenada Mitchell administration recognized the importance of Cuba and benefits to be derived in Grenada led to a state visit to Grenada by Fidel Castro and afforded him to land at the MBIA, which was started with Cuban labour and completed with United States assistance as a result of the military intervention. Grenada has benefitted significantly from Cuba in rebuilding Grenada's health infrastructure which has been destroyed by the current NDC Thomas administration.

In my view, Cuba has proven its worth to CARICOM and, while the United Nations General Assembly vote is a step in the right direction, CARICOM nations need to expand their work by jointly telling Washington that it is time to lift the embargo against Cuba. It is not too clear if our leaders are prepared to demonstrate the leadership shown by Burnham, Barrow, Williams and Manley.

So the embargo limbo continues and it is not too certain that the hawkish State Department officials are placing any importance of the overwhelming vote. It is quite possible that many of the State Department hawks are privately saying that it is just one of the annual UN rituals outside of the General Assembly talk shop.

It only shows that Cuba-United States diplomatic relations are far from resolution and the interest sections in both capitals will continue with their allegations of diplomatic misconduct by each other.

The Republic of Cuba maintains an interest section housed in the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington. The United States maintain in a similar arrangement at the Embassy of Switzerland in Havana.

November 15, 2012

Caribbeannewsnow

Friday, November 16, 2012

AT THE UN: ...The world reiterates overwhelming opposition to U.S. blockade of Cuba


By Juan Diego Nusa Peñalver




"THERE is nothing worse than a blind man who does not want to see," is a popular expression among Cubans, and can be perfectly applied to recently reelected U.S. President Barack Obama. During his first term in office, Obama has not strayed an inch from the policy of economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba which he inherited from successive previous administrations and is directed at destroying the Cuban Revolution.

On November 13, 1991, the UN General Assembly made the decision to include on the agenda of its next session a Cuban resolution entitled, "The necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States."

Those were the times when the U.S. was opportunistically tightening its blockade of Cuba, which was struggling given the collapse of the USSR. The Torricelli Act was being implemented, limiting sales of medicine and food to the country by subsidiaries of U.S. companies established in other nations. It was this official act which exposed the notorious extraterritorial nature of the U.S. blockade.

As if this weren’t enough, in 1996, the Helms-Burton Act was approved, further extending the extraterritorial application of blockade regulations and explicitly citing the goal of "regime change" and plans for subsequent U.S. intervention in Cuba. Moreover, no one in the current U.S. administration has indicated whether the 2004 Bush plan for Cuba, intended to re-colonize the country, remains in effect.

Thus two decades have transpired and the UN General Assembly continues to condemn the genocidal White House policy, recognizing the issue as one of respect for national self-determination, international law and established trade norms, all of which are fundamental to the United Nations.

The blockade is now one of the traditional issues addressed by the General Assembly. Calls to end the policy are reiterated again and again, and while Cuba’s resolution receives overwhelming majority support, the isolation and shameful behavior of an aggressive nation is exposed. The U.S. is publicly reminded every year of the heroic resistance of the Cuban people who will not surrender our right to sovereignty.

Shortly after the announcement of Obama’s reelection, Bolivian President Evo Morales called on him to change U.S. policy toward Cuba, saying, "Thanks to the Latino vote, he is the President-elect. I would say that the least he could do would be to lift or end the economic blockade of Cuba. That’s the best thing he can do to acknowledge the votes of Latin Americans in the United States," Morales said during a speech in Potosí.

Nevertheless, with its customary arrogance and increasingly absurd arguments, Washington is totally ignoring international demands, preferring to rely on force rather than the moral strength of its policies.

In the 21st UN vote, taken on November 13, 188 nations supported the Cuban resolution, expressing a practically unanimous international opinion in opposition to a unilateral policy, the reprehensible goal of which is to force the Cuban people to surrender because of hunger and illness and not, as alleged, to promote human rights and democracy. In this vendetta, the U.S. is accompanied only by Israel and Palau, while the Marshall Islands and Micronesia abstained.

The Obama administration has maintained the principal elements of the longstanding U.S. economic war on Cuba; in fact, there have been more extensive attacks on international companies which had commercial relations with Cuba or processed related financial transactions.

According to the annual report published by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), at the close of 2011, the value of Cuban funds frozen in that country amounted to $245 million.

Washington has even created obstacles to Cuba’s attempts to pay its contributions to UN organizations, supported the theft of Cuban trademarks by U.S. companies and taken reprisals against those who have chosen to do business with the country.

According to conservative estimates, the Obama administration’s anti-Cuban crusade, just this last year, has cost Cuba $3,553,602,645, 15% more than in 2010.

Over the same period, the fact that blockade regulations prohibit Cuba from using U.S. dollars in financial transactions with other countries has cost the country 57% more this year. Financial losses caused by frozen funds, the breaking of contracts and litigation have all increased.

In the tourist sector alone, damages were estimated to have been 2.3 billion dollars.

Over the course of 50 years, through 11 U.S. federal administrations, the blockade has caused enormous human suffering and extensive economic damage, reaching the astronomical figure of $1.066 trillion, considering the devaluation of the U.S. dollar as compared to gold on the international market.

In Fidel’s Reflection of April 21, 2009, entitled ‘Obama and the Blockade,’ Cuba’s historical leader wrote, "Do we have to wait many more years for him to end the blockade? He didn’t invent it, but he has made it his own, just as 10 other United States Presidents have. He can expect sure failure following this route, just like all his predecessors. This was not the dream of Martin Luther King, whose role in the struggle for human rights will increasingly illuminate the path forward for the U.S. people."

Thus Cuba stands firm, continuing its political, economic and social project, despite this uncivilized policy. The vast majority of the world’s people support the country, recognizing that it has reason and truth on its side. •
November 15, 2012
 
 
 
The table below shows the actual UN General Assembly vote on “the need to end the embargo against Cuba” ...as it was cast year by year.

Year by Year Count of the UN General Assembly Vote on the Need to End the Embargo against Cuba

End It
Keep It
Abs
1992
59
3
79
1993
88
4
57
1994
101
2
48
1995
117
3
38
1996
137
3
25
1997
143
3
17
1998
157
2
12
1999
155
2
8
2000
167
3
4
2001
167
3
3
2002
173
3
0
2003
175
3
2
2004
179
4
1
2005
182
4
1
2006
183
4
1
2007
184
4
1
2008
185
3
2
2009
187
3
2
2010
187
2
2
2011
186
2
3
2012
188
3
2




Totals
3300
63
308