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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bahamas: More than 20,000 young people involved in gangs

'20,000' in street gangs
Tribune Staff Reporter

THE gang problem in the Bahamas affects more than 20,000 young people, according to a Bahamian gang expert, and the number is on the rise.

Pastor Carlos Reid is set to release an updated gang list this week, a document produced by the community-based non-profit Youth Against Violence, which he leads. The list details the schools and communities that are "contaminated" with gangs.

Ridgeland Park and the Grove are two communities featured on the list. They are said to have gangs that are involved in "wars" and "cross rivalry", according to St Cecelia Member of Parliament Cynthia "Mother" Pratt, who recently sounded the alarm.

She claims both communities are engaged in an endless spree of retaliations that are affecting the community.

Pastor Reid said the Grove has several gangs on the list, including the Grove Boys. He said the Jungalist gang occupies Ridgeland Park.

The gang listing was first brought out in 1997. It was last updated in 2002, when more than 50 gangs were listed. It has grown since then.

"A lot of the killings we have seen this year are retaliation killings. When someone gets killed, you are not just getting rid of that person, because that person is attached to an immediate family and an extended family, the gang. The mentality is, when you kill one of us, in most cases we have to take one of your own," said Pastor Reid..

"Almost every community has a feud going on with a different community. We have not properly addressed the issue of gangs. We have allowed situations to breed, and a lot of the people in the position to make a difference don't have a clue about what is going on," he said.

Poinciana Drive is still known as "the Gaza Strip", according to Pastor Reid. It is the meeting ground of four different gang territories (Gun Dogs, Pond Boys, Rebellions and Nike Boys), and four different schools (CC Sweeting, HO Nash, TA Thompson and CR Walker).

The Balliou Hill playing fields is known as the "killing fields", according to Pastor Reid, who said, "every day there is a fight going on out there".

"Let us look at Government High School. When you have to walk through Yellow Elder, where the Hornets are, if you are a Rebellion they know and you are getting it," said Pastor Reid.

Once a student lives in a certain area, they are automatically assumed to be in a "particular click". A GHS student said there was a fight in school yesterday because of gangs. The fight was sparked because a student from the Grove "trespassed" in Rebellion territory.

"Take CI Gibson. The Hoyas from Kemp Road believe they own that school, so as far as they are concerned, no one else is supposed to be in that school," said Pastor Fox.

However, students from the Fox Hill Dogs, Nassau Village Rebellions and the Mad Ass from Wulff Road all go to the same school.

"Now think about this. If you know someone wants to chap you up and kill you, do you really think you can focus on your school work. The only thing you are thinking about is how am I going to get out of here after school," he said.

Pastor Reid is certified in gang prevention and intervention skills by the National Gang and Crime Research Centre of the United States of America.

He is also the lead pastor at the Hope Centre Ministries, which runs several youth outreach programmes, including a suspension programme.

The Hope Centre and Youth Against Violence are hosting a Conflict Resolution and Manger Management Seminar this week, where they plan to release the updated gang listing.

Minister Keith Grey, also a certified gang prevention and intervention specialist, is one of the presenters at the seminar. He was one of the founders of the Rebellion Raiders.

Pastor Keith said the Rebellion gang is still the largest gang in the Bahamas. Its members boast of having 14 segments across the island, from Elizabeth Estates to Carmichael, Road.

It was started in the early 1980s "to rebel against the Syndicates, which was one of the earliest gangs formed that had some structure", said Pastor Reid.

"The same things they formed to rebel against, they started doing, so the other gangs started coming up to rebel against the Rebellions," he said.

Bahamian gangs are not constituted in the same way as American gangs, or Jamaican gangs. Pastor Reid said American gangs are "more organised crime gangs", and Jamaican gangs are "political gangs".

Organised crime gangs are often underground organisations that run the entire community, including housing projects, businesses and politicians.

"It doesn't mean we don't have gangs. We basically have youth gangs. The problem is, America started off just as we did and we don't want to get where America is," said Pastor Reid.

"We are seeing the formation of these groups really to protect themselves. To be honest, in the Bahamas, just being by yourself is a risk.

"Most of the youth gangs they will mess with you just because they see you walking by yourself and you might have something on you that they want: watch, chain, shoes," he said.

September 29, 2010


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Turks and Caicos Islands: Self revocation

Self revocation
by David Tapfer

The Turks and Caicos Islands is in dismay. The economy is in shambles, debts have mounted and personal and government income is down to zip. Future government income from tourism is dependent on a harsh winter up north and questionable economic conditions in the USA.

David Tapfer is a retired, US-born engineer and management executive. He is the chairman of the Middle Caicos Branch of the Peoples Democratic Movement.Now, a promise made by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to hold elections in July 2011 has been set aside, revoked, by none other than the same bureau who made the promise, the FCO. Yes, of course, there is a new government in Britain and a new FCO minister, but it is still self revocation.

Both the new minister and chairman of the TCI All Party Group on their visits have praised the governor and his administration but criticised the Labour government that brought them here and assisted with their decisions.

Well over a year after recommendations came forth from the Inquiry we are stuck in a quagmire of long term debt, which in this slow season grows bigger daily. Inward investment has all but dried up and hope is all but gone.

Independence was the choice of other regional countries but is untenable for this debt-ridden tiny country. We are told we must embrace British pride yet the British have yet to understand the pride of being a West Indian here and elsewhere!

The mother country needed to pay attention to its own Robin Auld, the Inquiry Commissioner, who wrote months back cautioning about the inaction on his recommendations.

Let us face the facts of life. This Interim Government and the FCO have been largely a reactionary group. When they faced hard decisions, they folded. Kate Sullivan's 48 recommendations are largely a cover-up for lack of oversight.

Facing an NHIP 800-page contract signed by a central figure in the Inquiry, the FCO folded and let outsourcing health care for Canadian profit go forward. Is Roger Chessman a better choice to manage health than Dr Ewing?

The $100 million airport expansion might make it easier for the future Governor and the British to travel but the airport tax will be burden to US tourists and Islanders traveling anywhere. It may just cost more than it will make. Will it bring in tourists from the EU countries that are just about bankrupt? Doubtful!

How will we ever pay off the “consolidated” stop gap loan, which rescheduled some of the debts the Misick administration left us with? In two months we have heard about two new emergency "loans". Why not plain grant and aid? More debt to pay interest on debt. Like a household with too many credit cards and no hope of paying them off.

Two TCI professionals Ben Roberts and Alfred Gibbs, both graduates of Howard University living in Washington, who keep tabs on the TCI, have weighed in during phone interviews on PTV8. They find the country not ready for elections but hold the British responsible for this condition.

Will the new British government turn up the heat? They have started off on the wrong foot and I think they already know it!

September 29, 2010


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What they want is Venezuela’s oil

Reflections of Fidel

(Taken from CubaDebate)

YESTERDAY I said what I would do if I were Venezuelan; I explained that it was the poor who were most affected by natural disasters and I gave the reasons why. Further on, I added: "…where imperialism dominates and the opportunistic oligarchy receives a lucrative slice of national goods and services, the masses have nothing to win or lose and don’t give a jot about the elections" and that, "in the United States, even for a presidential election, no more than 50% of those entitled to vote turn out."

Today I would add that, even when in those same elections the whole of the House of Representatives, part of the Senate and other significant posts are voted on, they do not manage to exceed that figure.

I asked why they employ their vast media resources to try and sink the Revolutionary Bolivarian government in a sea of lies and calumnies. What the yankis want is Venezuela’s oil.

We have all seen during this election period, a group of ignoble individuals who, in the company of mercenaries from the national written press, radio and television, have even denied the fact that there is press freedom in Venezuela.

The enemy has succeeded with some of its aims: preventing the Bolivarian government from winning the support of two thirds of the Parliament.

Perhaps the empire believes that it obtained a great victory.

I believe exactly the opposite: the results of September 26 represent a victory for the Bolivarian Revolution and its leader Hugo Chávez Frías.

In these parliamentary elections, the participation of the electors rose to the record figure of 66.45%. With its vast resources, the empire could not prevent the PSUV from obtaining 95 of the 165 seats in parliaments, with six results still to come in. The most important thing is the high number of young people, women and other combative and proven activists who have entered this institution.

The Bolivarian Revolution today holds executive power, has a majority in Parliament and a party capable of mobilizing millions of people who will fight for socialism.

In Venezuela, the United States can only rely on fragments of parties, cobbled together through their fear of the Revolution and gross material cravings.

They will not be able to resort to a coup d’état in Venezuela as they did with Allende in Chile and other countries in Our America.

The Armed Forces of that sister nation, educated in the spirit and example of the Liberator and which, in its heart, nurtured the leaders who began the process are the promoters of and part of the Revolution.

Such a group of forces is invincible. I would not be able to see that with such clarity without the experience I have accumulated over half a century.

Fidel Castro Ruz

September 27, 2010

3:24 a.m.

Translated by Granma International

Monday, September 27, 2010

The more things change in the Turks and Caicos, the more they stay the same

Caribbeannewsnow Opinion-Editorial

The well-known French saying: ‘Plus ça change’, plus c’est la même chose’ -- The more things change, the more they stay the same -- is frequently used, and for good reason. History tends to repeat itself.

The original context of the phrase was a dramatic moment in history – the French Revolution, which was intended to cure many if not all of the social injustices, outrages and problems of the day.

However, after the Revolution, the situation for the common man and woman was essentially the same… ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.’

One might draw some comfort from George Santayana’s oft-misquoted remark, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” in that there might be hope for some at least to remember the past and, who knows, to learn from it.

However, some it seems are incapable of such a feat of memory.

One would have thought that in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) especially there is more than sufficient reason to remember the recent past and learn from it. Indeed, as with the French Revolution, last year’s intervention by Britain in the affairs of the TCI was sought and welcomed by many TCIslanders to counter the social injustices, outrages and problems created by the territory’s elected government, then led by the now disgraced former premier, Michael Misick.

One of the more noteworthy complaints emanating from the TCI at the time was the level of official intimidation and resulting fear in speaking out on the part of residents. In fact, members of Britain’s Foreign Affairs Committee said they were “shocked and appalled” at the situation that then existed in the TCI, equating the level of repression there to that of China.

It is, therefore, quite astonishing that some of the very people that complained bitterly about the situation two or three years ago now seek to perpetuate it themselves… plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

On Friday, Caribbean News Now published an open letter from our regular op-ed columnist Anthony Hall, which took to task in no uncertain terms the current crop of politicians in the TCI.

We were subsequently informed by Mr Hall that, following publication of his letter, he was told by concerned family and friends in the TCI that senior members of the two local political parties – in a rare and possibly unique bipartisan approach – were threatening to "shut him up once and for all."

Of course, Mr Hall’s characteristically pointed response was a dismissive, "Who do they think they are, Michael Misick?"

We find it quite extraordinary that influential people in what should be an inherently prosperous territory that has to all intents and purposes been brought to its knees by similar inappropriate behaviour and attitudes of the previous elected administration could ever fail to learn from the mistakes and missteps of the recent past.

Regrettably, however, this apparent failure to learn merely serves to prove our point: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Caribbeannewsnow Opinion-Editorial

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bahamas: Straw Vendors say Native Straw Products are not selling in the Bahamian Straw Market

Straw isn't selling, say vendors

STRAW just isn't selling, vendors told The Tribune as we took to downtown Nassau for Street Talk in the wake of the arrest of nine straw vendors in New York last week.

It is claimed the bags are a hit among local women, and visitors to this island, who turn down straw products for counterfeit goods they can also find at home.

Telator Strachan, president of the Straw Vendors Association was receiving calls just before midnight on Wednesday night as the situation unfolded.

"Interested Bahamians were concerned, and they wanted to know if there was something they could do to help," she said.

"I understand the government put the tariff high on the bags to discourage them. Yet they know they were bringing these bags in and collecting duty.

"The vendors try to make an honest living with those bags. They bought them and were prepared to pay duty on the items."

Mrs Strachan said everything should be done to bring the arrested vendors home.

Shop owner Lerond Colebrook said: "New York City is the cheapest place to purchase these items from. If you take away the bags, you take away the food out of our mouth, or our customs officers, and for the tourists who come here excitedly for the bags.

"I did a customer survey in my shop, asking them what is their reason for coming to the Bahamas. They say they come to the Bahamas to get a bag.

"Customers say they've been coming several times a year, and we are bringing the tourists to the country."

Musician Kevin Young, said: "I do feel that selling these counterfeit bags destroy what the Bahamas straw market is all about. It deprives major stores which are authorised from getting and selling their merchandise.

"Although they're selling them at cheaper prices, the authorised stores are not getting the sales they need. Some rules and regulations need to be put in place at the reopening of the new straw market."

Vendor Ethel King said: "It is difficult to go and get straw. The poor people have to make a living."

"On the cruise ships they tell the tourist that the straw basket is filled up with bugs, so when the people come here they ask for knock off bags."

Irene Rolle, president of a prayer band group, said: "We have been praying for 37 years in this market for our country and our vendors. We pray that the mercies of God will be extended to the vendors incarcerated in New York."

On Monday, Ms Rolle said they prayed earnestly for the women, and felt really bad about the whole situation.

Although she doesn't sell knock off bags, Ms Rolle is passionate about native straw, and has been supporting the craft all her life.

"If we don't buy from our plaitters of the neighbouring family islands, who make bags from native straw, who is going to support them?" she asks.

"When they see us making straw products by hand, there is nothing else that empowers them to buy our work."

Phillipa Nixon said: "We went to selling knock off bags because we had to go with the flow with what was selling at the time, because straw products weren't and still aren't marketable.


"In 2007, the tourists were asking us about the knock off bags. My sister was one of the first vendors who started selling knock off bags. She brought them from the free market in Miami.

"This is what we live off of right now. Whatever we have to go back to we will."

"Right now we pay a $100 difference a year for business license," she said. "Why can't we sell what is valuable to make money?

"Tourists are coming in to buy straw products and people are moving with the times."

Joy Drakes said: "From since I came to the straw market we always had, even down to the T-Shirts, products that had the Bahamas logo on it which are made in Honduras, Nicaragua, and Haiti. We don't have factories to produce this stuff.

"Whatever government decides on this issue, I have to do my job to survive.

"When I did the straw I survived, when I buy knock off, I survived on knock off.

'I will sell it until they shut us down completely.

"Americans like designer bags, they even come with a print-out of the bags they want.

"The straw isn't selling because the cruise ships are telling tourists not to purchase the straw bags because they have the red bug which eats the straw like a termite,"

Wood carver James Rolle, had a more open view of the situation. He said: "Every part of the world, people are making fake items. As long as you could get fake goods at a cheap price, people will sell it.

"Back then the straw market was selling strictly straw work. If you depend on native straw bags, you will have to do without many a day's lunch.

"If I could find some fake wood carving then I'd sell it too. Vendors are not stealing this stuff, but if they get catch with purchasing these knock off items, they have to pay the penalty.

"If I was a vendor, as far as I'm concerned, once the government get the duty I could sell them anyway. You can't tell me they're illegal once you collect the duty.

"You go to the US to buy these fake items. Once you bring them to the Bahamas and pay government duty, they aren't illegal any more.

"If government didn't want them in our country, their job is to take them at the airport over here."

September 25, 2010


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Latin America: Regional reflections, 200 years on

Regional reflections, 200 years on
By David Roberts

As several Latin American countries celebrate their bicentenaries, the latest being Chile and Mexico, marking 200 years since the start of the process that led to their independence from Spain, now is probably as good a time as any to reflect upon the progress the region has made over recent decades.

And not insignificant progress that is, too. Almost every country in the region now enjoys a relatively stable democracy, a situation quite unlike that of 20, 30 or more years ago, when military dictatorships and guerrilla wars were commonplace. Of course, there's no such thing as a perfect democracy - witness the 2000 US election when Al Gore lost despite receiving more votes than George W Bush - and in Latin America it comes in various shapes and sizes, some more steadfast than others, but there remains just one country that cannot seriously claim to be a democracy, and we all know which one that is.

Then there's the economic progress made in recent years. Most countries in the region now have stable, regulated and market-based economies that have seen steady growth, and generally survived the financial meltdown of 2008-09 better than their counterparts in the so-called developed world. Indeed, countries like Chile, Peru and Colombia have made remarkable headway, and even the "socialist" countries like Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador are a far cry from the old-style socialism seen in the communist/Soviet era. Brazil, meanwhile, has emerged as a genuine world economic powerhouse, with many of its corporations being global industry leaders (Vale, Petrobras and Embraer, for example). Compare all that to the constant banking, foreign debt and hyperinflation crises of yesteryear.

Of course, all that is no excuse for complacency. The region faces many severe challenges, such as the still unacceptable levels of poverty and a shameful record on wealth distribution, high rates of crime and drug-related violence, indigenous rights issues, corruption, weak institutions and inadequate infrastructure, to name a few. Large parts of Latin America are still over-dependent on exports of raw materials and consequently remain vulnerable to commodity price cycles, and economies in some parts of the continent, as in the case of Mexico in the recent global slump, are too reliant on demand for their products in the US.

The region is also particularly susceptible to natural disasters, such as earthquakes, flooding and hurricanes. The consequences of these "acts of God" can only partly be blamed on divinity, as many of the deaths and much of the damage are more often than not the result of shoddy building (Haiti in January, for example), poverty, deforestation and other human frailties.

And the region remains divided between the left-leaning Venezuela-led bloc and the more "liberal" nations, although perhaps less so than some may imagine as leaders such as Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador have shown they are not always prepared to toe the Chavez line.

Finally, and this may be more of a symptom than a cause of the region's ills, Latin America remains largely ignored by the outside world. Events like earthquakes and the attempts to rescue the 33 trapped miners in northern Chile do, quite naturally, capture the attention of the world, but even Washington's policy towards Latin America (talk of a partnership of equals, etc) is fuzzy to put it kindly, and regions further afield simply don't seem to have Latin America on their radar. This too represents a major challenge that regional leaders must face up to - to make sure Latin America's voice is heard on the global stage, and it's one that cannot wait another 200 years.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Jamaica: Pope Benedict, the church, Brady bunch, PNP audit

Pope Benedict, the church, Brady bunch, PNP audit

ALL churches in Jamaica owe their origins to the Pope and the trend to abuse by some -- from Rasta to revivalist is disrespectful and ignorant. As 3,000 local church leaders meet for a talkfest, this fragile 83-year-old head of the Vatican state and the Catholic Church visits the UK. His job is serving God and man. To some he is "antichrist", to most a lighthouse. His shock and sadness at the crimes of some priests, and his soft rant at "militant secularism" pushing good values to the margins resonate with us too. His trip is the second to the UK by a Pope in 600 years and the first State visit. He gave the Queen lost gospels from 500 CE. I would like "a read"! The Pope is first among equals as our conduit for the Bible. The British church fought the slave trade and slavery; yet after 178 years our churches make no progress on "mental slavery". Whether by illiteracy or denial we make up a past and they approve our fictions being princes and queens in Africa, exiled and so we will not toil. Some form a group of 89 members and say it's the true church.

They speak in tongues; say they have visions of some deacons lusting, hell fire and lottery numbers, yet none of martyrs or thinkers of the global church; all are limited by the little they know. Ask your pastor about the church in 1962, 1862 and 1000? What says he? The Pope is an affront to ignorance as he embodies 2,000 years of faith with archives to show good and bad, crusades and Inquisition! Your pastor got a Bible, a vision to start a church; a penchant for fine robes, titles, ham and eggs prayer breakfasts, but no vision to tackle state corruption or a mission to subdue the land, produce and live in love — imagine that! The riches of many new churches are an affront to poverty. Are some pastors in the pocket of politicians? Who is using whom? They stipple our landscape with tasteless buildings paid for by the poor; they get honours, land and permits — a sop for keeping us quiet! British churches delivered for us! These have not! Foreign missions acted and removed our chains. For 30 years Wilberforce was dedicated to freedom for blacks he didn't know! Our churches collude in keeping us in mental slavery! Is corruption on their agenda? No! New MPs for old? No! I went to Westminster Cathedral and lit a candle for my sins, my friends and my nation -- anything for JA! The Pope is our link to 2,000 years of Christ's blood, guts and glory! Pastors cannot ignore politics, they were born in it. The Pope called Henry VIII to account, so the king beheaded Sir Thomas! Our bishops "see an' blin', 'ear an deaf". Who will say "Bruce, enough!"

The Pope's armour-plated Benz M class Popemobile is as incongruous as his elite Swiss Guard and his retro-red shoes - emblem of blood of martyrs. Let us "hail the man" as the patriarch of all Christians in the West and invite him to JA. Sir Thomas Moore, the Pope's envoy, refused to annul King Henry's marriage. The king executed him in 1535, took England out of the Catholic (universal) church and had royal sex with Anne Boleyn. This break-up was not the Pope's doing, and now for the first time a Pope visits Lambeth Palace and Westminster Abbey, the Anglican power base. All churches derive from one man who could not keep his pants on! What a bam-bam! Anglican, Adventist, Baptist, Rasta, Church of God, all exist because the king desired a woman, the Pope said, "No, stay with your flippin' wife", and lust tore apart the global church! Even today new churches are born of lust and sex. The Pope just visited Westminster Cathedral and love flowed; brown faces of Eastern Catholic priests in mufti and British youth of all colours testify that faith is strong! Our churches want "repentance healing, renewal", why not protest and action? They have the numbers. Prayer is OK, but why not call out members to picket Gordon House and demand good government? Is there a Daniel?

The Bruce, Brady, Manatt debacle is in a primal twist --the don, JLP hacks, suborned writers and civil servants, now a heavyweight! Bruce disowns Brady! Adopt him, Portia! The man "gie weh 'im fren Dudus an now 'im fren Harold". Who next? Brady is credible in and out of the JLP and knows if we follow the money we find truth. No lawyer goes abroad with US$50k, no contacts, no client and no brief. Bruce is playing "business as usual" but is seen by many as damaged goods, a weak heir, disloyal, indecisive, power-hungry, he "sang sankey" and many in the JLP rejoice at his misery! Revenge is better cold! It is as Seaga left it; autocratic, arthritic, no one dares open his mouth! Bruce is no match for Brady; can he buy him off by retraction, apology or rewards? The executive must regret not taking his resignation and they will not fight Brady as he can exhume bodies and make the Dudus episode seem a tea party. I fear for his safety. The spotlight moves to donors, so watch things escalate. What can good JLP donors do now? The donor of the US$50k is the key. If he comes out freely, he clears his name and sanitises all honest donors! He runs a private firm; gets legal permits, contracts and deposits; is an old friend of the JLP; affects the Abe Issa mantra and donates to both parties as "business must always be in power". He has nothing to fear. He is the "game changer" we must pray for. He is the catalyst to make it OK for all of us to support a party openly, if we so wish! This donor is not tribal or criminal and to be a pioneer in our twisted nation is a hard decision to make. He may begin an avalanche of openness; a catalyst to a Parliamentary vote for disclosure! Sir, you can change the tone of our politics! In the sweep of history Bruce is nothing, but our country we can count in history if we defeat the Goliath of ignorance and secrecy and prosper. Please help us. Stay conscious, my friend!

Congratulations to the PNP on a watershed audit! Transparency begins here. Please ensure the next audit is vouched by a registered public auditor and the donor schedule given to the OCG and the taxman "for their eyes only". Most big firms are on both JLP and PNP lists anyway. Whoever loses, business always wins. More power to you!

Dr Franklin Johnston is an international project manager with Teape-Johnston Consultants currently on assignment in the UK.

September 24, 2010


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bahamas: Can't justify Straw Market's counterfeit trade

Can't justify Straw Market's counterfeit trade
tribune242 editorial

MANY Tribune readers were shocked at the attitude of straw vendors Tuesday on learning that nine of their own were arrested in New York and charged with allegedly purchasing counterfeit designer goods for resale in the Bay Street market.

The cry of the locals seemed a plea to the Bahamas government to question the authority of US law enforcement to snatch their life's bread from their tables.

Although many vendors are aware that they are trading in counterfeit goods, they seem to think they have a right to do so. There is no apparent awareness -- despite many warnings -- that such a trade is against the law and that there are serious penalties for law breakers.

The president of the Straw Business Persons Society, a reverend no less, went so far as to tell our reporter that unless someone can provide a means for Bahamian vendors to get the counterfeit designer bags without risking getting caught by US authorities "things are going to get rough" for vendors and their families.

Let us suppose that someone did find a means to get these illegal goods onto their shelves, don't they know that they could be arrested by local police for doing so? It is only because our police have not been as aggressive as they should have been about enforcing the law that the incident in New York took place this week.

The US government has accused Bahamian police officers of being "complicit" in the straw market's counterfeit trade. The Bahamas' enforcement laws, it said, are "lax" when it comes to protecting intellectual property rights. Tired of dealing with a country of "lax" laws, US authorities decided to enforce the law themselves -- especially when it is broken on their own territory.

"I would feel sorry for the Bahamas if we have to stop selling these bags," the Society's president told our reporter. "It will affect the vendors and it will affect The Bahamas. These bags are generating a lot of funds. The whole economy will feel it. The tourists come and they have to go to the ATM to purchase these bags. I guarantee you they wouldn't go to the ATM to buy a straw bag.

"If you look at the straw bags, you would be surprised to know how long they were hanging there. The knock off move quickly. So if you are looking to put food on the table that's what you do."

Does this argument justify breaking the law? If so then why arrest the little thief in the night who breaks into your home because he too has to put food on his table?

True it is stealing of a different kind of property, but it is still stealing.

It is probably the same argument used by the pirates when Woodes Rodgers - on pain of the noose -- tried to restore legitimate commerce to these islands.

Our reporter walked through the "world famous straw market" on Tuesday to find that "virtually every stall sells at least some fake designer goods, and many of them are heavily-draped in knock-off designer handbags of all shapes, colours and sizes."

The vendors made no attempt to hide them.

Although many vendors have acknowledged that their goods are counterfeit -- from such designer brands as Gucci, Prada, Dolce, Gabana and others-- their attitude is that theirs is the right to sell. The pushing of these "hot" items was so obvious that if the police were in fact intent on applying the law, the market could have been cleaned out in a matter of days. But, of course, the political fall-out also has to be reckoned with. Straw vendors have always expected rules to be bent in their favour, so the squeals would have been loud and furious had there been a hard local crack down.

The "world famous straw market" disappeared from our shores many years ago -- ever since the days when it was removed from its Rawson Square location - a colourful scene of Bahamian basket women, plaiting their bags, hats, toys and mats, while their children learned the trade by their sides. It was a scene that inspired poets and artists. But no more.

Today we have a cheap flea market, which as Mr Charles Klonaris, chairman of the Nassau Tourism and Development Board, pointed out last year is of no benefit to the Bahamas.

We hope that taxpayers' money, now being spent to create a new straw market, will be one that displays local arts and crafts of which Bahamians can be proud -- and visitors will want to purchase as souvenirs. "But what they are producing now," said Mr Klonaris, "is just not acceptable."

September 22, 2010


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Strengthen the family by decriminalising the single mother

By Mutryce A. Williams:

Over the years we have heard the calls for the decriminalisation of drugs, prostitution and homosexuality. What we haven’t heard the call for is the decriminalisation of the single mother.

Mutryce Williams is a native of St Kitts and Nevis. She is a social commentator who writes weekly commentaries for 98.9 WINN FM, as well as the Leewards Times newspaperYou may ask, “Well who is criminalising the single mother and by what means is she being criminalised?” How did you arrive at the conclusion that she is being criminalised when our society is comprised of single mothers who do a stellar job in raising their children? How is she being criminalised when we give her so many accolades?

Now, society, do we really give her accolades? Well maybe we do, but when are these accolades given? Isn’t it after she has proven herself? Isn’t it after she had toiled and struggled immensely in raising upstanding citizens? It definitely isn’t when she had begun the journey of single motherhood.

It is my opinion, and I reiterate, my opinion that we view the single mother, especially if she is quite young as the cause of ALL societal ills. Some of us may not vocalize this but we think it and whether it is by our actions or inactions we let her know that this is the case. We let her know that we disapprove of her. We let her know that we think that she has committed a criminal act by being a single mother.

Our thoughts are that this female, knowing that she is ill-equipped, whether it is emotionally unprepared or not financially sound has chosen to bring one, two, three or more children into this world. She does this knowing that times have changed. She does this knowing that she may have little or no help in raising them. She is blameworthy as she should have been more responsible.

We say, “Look how she go let sheself get breed off no…this aint like once ago they have so many methods of contraception…is pure carelessness and willfulness that… me arm peets she breed again… these young people aint thinking…they don’t like themselves…”

The thing that irks me at times is that some of the same people who are making these remarks have walked the same path that these young mothers are walking and instead of lending a hand of support or a word of encouragement they join the fray and chastise them.

We don’t criminalise the men. As my mother aptly told me the other day, “You don’t see cock walking with no chicken behind it, is the hen you always see with the chicks.”

The single mother wears the scarlet letter. She holds the burden of proof, not the man. She is the one with the impregnated belly. She is the one with the one, two, three or more children in tow. She is the one who gets the looks of disdain. She is the one who bears the brunt of the remarks and advice that society so readily spews. Again, we don’t criminalise the man who impregnated her. We criminalise her. The fact that she has all of these children is her fault. It is seen as willful, negligent and criminal.

On Mother’s Day many churches honour mothers during the service. There are several gifts that are distributed. There is the gift for the oldest mother in church, not the oldest married mother but the oldest mother and then there is a gift for the youngest married mother.

Now you may say that the church is a moral institution and that by awarding the youngest mother, that this may be seen as enabling, but isn’t the youngest mother, a mother? Is she less of a mother, less of a woman; is her child less of a child? Wouldn’t you think that by acknowledging her status as mother, that she would be proud to be a mother, that she would view her role as all important and not as a burden? Don’t you think that she needs more support than the married mother?

Now let me tell you what would happen here. She feels slighted. She is shamed. This single mother who needs the support, whose child needs the biblical teachings instilled in him or her would no longer feel welcomed at church and won’t return.

It is not my intention to “call out” the church but the same can be said for baptism. The single mother approaches baptismal counseling with trepidation, as the first thing she is asked is, where is the father of your child? Some pastors even refuse to baptize the child unless the father shows up. This is added pressure for the mother. She cannot control this man, so why refuse her child the sacrament of baptism because he fails to show up?

This should be an indicator that this mother is clearly “on her own.” She needs to be welcomed into your fold. She needs support. At baptismal counseling the focus isn’t the sacrament of baptism; how this child is going to be welcomed into the fold or what support services the church has available for mothers, but rather chastisement. The mother receives a sermon on how she has sinned. She is told that should she have any other children out of wedlock she shouldn’t approach the church for baptism.

I can go into a doctrine about what Jesus says about suffering the little children but that is another discourse. I attended baptismal counseling as a godparent and the “liberty” that pastor took with my friend, if that were me, I would have walked out.

The pastor, whom she had just met, as she had not been to church in quite some time, knew her entire life story and begun preaching to her about the type of life that she had been living. He made it crystal clear that the church was doing her a favour. He noted that had it not been for her aunt who was a leader in the church, he would have refused to baptize her son.

When we left she remarked, “I had all intention of going back church because of my son, I want him to raise up in the church, but when he done christen that’s it. I am finding another church.”

Then we go on the pulpit and remark on how morally bankrupt and crime ridden our nation is, and criticize other churches by saying that they have no standards or morals, when they offer support and agree to baptize those children that we have turned away.

One can say that we have come a long way, as in past times only “lawful” children were allowed baptism during the Sunday service. The child of the single mother was baptized on a weekday. Could you imagine that? I wonder what Jesus would have said to that, as if this child is less than a child, as if this mother didn’t go through the nine months of pregnancy and arduous labour in bringing this child into the world.

I can hear the remarks now, “This is pure slackness… how dare you… nobody going tell us how to run we church…the church is an institution of morals… we not bending our rules…this aint no scamby namby business…this article is blasphemous…”

Have you asked what the purpose of the church is? As an institution that is in the business of saving souls, is your target audience those who sit in the pews every Sunday or those who are out there, those single mothers who are in need of support and not chastisement.

Isn’t there a hymn that goes, “there were ninety and nine that safely lay in the shelter of the fold but one was out on the hills away, far off from the gates of gold, away on the mountains wild and dare, away from the tender shepherd’s care.” This lost sheep is that struggling single mother who is in need of support. You don’t welcome her into the fold by criminalising her. You welcome her with reassurance.

Now, society, the reality is and has been that our society is comprised mostly of single mothers. This is the reality. Instead of chastising them, instead of letting them know how immoral their acts are, instead of letting them know that they are unworthy because the father of their child did not see it fit to marry them, that because they are single mothers that this is equivalent to being an unfit mother, why not lend our support.

Often times we debate on the causes of problems and how to prevent these problems, what we fail to do is to find means of dealing with these problems and when I say dealing I don’t mean in terms of eradication but rather a means of lending support, rather a means of lessening the burden.

The single mother needs support. She doesn’t just need financial support but she needs emotional support. She not only needs the support of family and friends but she needs society’s support as well. What we do is criminalise her and shame her.

As our nation celebrates 27 years of Independence under the theme Strengthening the Family, let’s be aware that in order to strengthen the family we have to provide support to the person who heads the family and often times that person is a single mother trying her best to raise her children with many obstacles. Instead of judging her or chastising her let us lend a hand of support.

September 22, 2010


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Caricom in 'changing' Cuba



A communiqué was expected to be issued yesterday on the Third Caribbean Community-Cuba Ministerial Meeting that concluded in Havana on Friday.

It was expected to offer an explanation on future Caricom-Cuba co-operation and initiatives in economic and political co-ordination with Latin America in the context of new economic and political alliances and arrangements in response to international developments.

The two-day meeting occurred in the significantly changing Cuban environment compared to that of 1972, when four Caricom countries had played a vital role in helping to bring the then Fidel Castro-led revolutionary Government out of the diplomatic cold in a display of courageous defiance of the United States of America.

At that time, Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago chose to break Washington's crude isolationist policy against that small Caribbean nation with their unprecedented joint establishment of diplomatic relations with Havana.

The legendary Fidel Castro along with the administration he led for some half-a-century, before serious illness compelled him to hand over government leadership to younger brother Raoul Castro four years ago, has never failed to show his deep appreciation for that pace-setting diplomatic initiative by the quartet of Caricom states.

Caricom ministers who participated in the Havana meeting were expected to learn at first-hand why Cuba -- the only country to suffer from the longest and most punitive embargo enforced by the USA -- is now in the process of implementing serious adjustments to its economic model from total State control, based on socialist transformation, to embrace a widening experiment in private sector operations.

The announcement earlier in the week by President Raoul Castro that some half-a-million State workers are to be facilitated in new employment, mostly in a gradually expanding private sector — including tourism and construction industries — had followed a controversial interview by elder brother Fidel with an American journalist, Jeffrey Goldberg, published in The Atlantic magazine.

The "misinterpretation"

Castro lost no time in telling the media at the launch of his latest book that he was "misinterpreted on the economy" by Goldberg when he reported him as saying that "the economic model no longer works for us".

But the Cuban leader refrained from any criticisms of Goldberg, remarking that he would "await with interest" the journalist's promised "extensive article" to be published in The Atlantic.

Those in the US Congress and mainstream media, known for their anxieties to ridicule Cuba's economic model and governance system, can be expected to join in political jeerings.

Of course, they would have no interest in considering, for instance, that after 50 years of admirable struggles to survive the onslaughts of successive administrations in Washington, with their suffocating blockade as a core feature, Cuba does not have to apologise for tough, pragmatic decisions on adjustments to its economic model; not in this closing first decade of the 21st century — long after the disappearance of the once powerful superpower, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and not after the collapse of Wall Street, America's traditionally flaunted economic model of capitalism.

Indeed, the 'Wall Street crash' was a development that spawned the prevailing global economic and financial crisis still seriously impacting today on economies the world over.

Work force

Initially, as explained in Havana, the alternative employment programme will affect half-a-million of the five million-strong Cuban work force, with another half-million to follow over a phased period with State assistance in various private sector businesses.

This, according to reports out of Havana, is not an overnight development. The adjustments, linked to reassessments of policies and programmes over the past two years, are being made all the more necessary by the global crisis that has affected so many poor and developing nations.

Incidentally, as readers would know, none of the economically affected nations have had to contend with a 50-year-long spiteful blockade by Uncle Sam.

Yet, for all its domestic challenges, the Cuban Government continues to reach out, in offering assistance, though not as previously extensive, to countries in the Caribbean and other regions in various areas, including health, agriculture and construction.

The United Nations has long recognised the remarkable achievements of Cuba in health and education. And just last week, while President Raoul Castro was speaking about redeployment of sections of the labour force, Inter-Press Service was reporting on Cuba's success in making available in the world VA-MENGOCO-BC, the only vaccine against meningitis-B. This medication has been included, since 1991, in Cuba's national infant immunisation programme and is used successfully in South and Central America.

As we await the outcome of last week's Third Cuba-Caricom Ministerial Meeting, it is of relevance to recall here what Professor Norman Girvan noted when he accepted in 2009 an Honorary Doctor of Economic Sciences degree from the University of Havana.

In recalling the debt of gratitude owed to the people of that Caribbean island state by so many in the poor and developing world, Girvan, a former secretary general of the Association of Caribbean States, observed:

"The Cuban revolution has been a source of inspiration on the ability of a small Caribbean country to chart its own course of social justice, economic transformation and national independence by relying on the mobilisation of the entire population; on the will and energy of its people; and for its numerous actions of intensive international solidarity... The debt is unpayable."

September 19, 2010


Monday, September 20, 2010

Haiti needs a democratic revolution not an election!

By Jean H Charles:

“After Rwanda and Yugoslavia, Haiti seems to be the next theater of a major mischief by some international institutions.”

I must state at the outset that I am not advocating nor promoting neither a violent nor an armed revolution. I am talking about a democratic revolution in the minds and the spirit of the people, a revamping of the institutions and a new covenant of the government to usher in a true process of democracy. Once this revolution is on the way, Haiti can then proceed with a free and fair election.

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 country needs a hiatus of three to five years of reconstruction, free of politicking, to heal the nation and set the country on the road of reconciliation and nation building. The present regime can be compared to a piece of wood filled with termites in a piece of furniture. To repair the furniture one needs to cut and throw away the damaged wood before affixing a new piece. Otherwise the damage part will eventually infect the entire furniture, including the new piece.

It was Alexis de Tocqueville who coined the concept of democratic revolution, while speaking of the birth of the United States. Akin to South Africa before Mandela, Haiti must transform itself from a de facto apartheid country to a state where the sense of appurtenance is the rule. It needs now a democratic revolution not an election.

I have this week visited a rural community named Mazere on the road from Grand River to Bahon. I have in mind these pictures that depict the extent of the misery, the magnitude of the squalid conditions as well as the inequality that 85% of the population of Haiti is forced to live under.

The public school, the only state presence of the area is located across the river. There is no bridge for easy access. I asked the kids how they get to school, one of the mothers interjected to let me know they carry the younger ones across the river, which sometimes destroys everything in its way, including an irrigation dam recently built.

Inquiring further with the adults, I asked them what their most pressing needs are. They told me that the government used to protect the land with rock formation on the hills to prevent avalanches during the rainy season. This operation has not been done for the past decades. We have now huge amount of water sitting for months in the fields destroying our produce.

It has been decades that the Haitian government has been a predatory entity preying on its people instead of providing services and support to help its citizens to enjoy the pursuit of happiness.

As such the people of Haiti educated or otherwise are waiting for the Blanc (the white man) to bring about deliverance. On the political scene, the question is not what is the agenda of the candidates, it is rather who has the blessing of Barack Obama for the presidency of Haiti? The sense of civics patriotism and leadership has been dimished by the last sixty years of corrupt governance.

The entire population is a crowd in transit. The rural world with no services from the government is in transit towards the small cities. The small towns have become ghost entities with the citizens in transit towards the larger cities, their citizens are in transit towards the capital and there the dream is to find an American visa or take a leaky boat towards Florida or the Bahamas.

Building up the sense of nation has not been a governmental priority or a United Nations foreign intervention initiative. MINUSTHA (the UN force) is substituting itself as the Haitian army without assuming the defense of the country. Inequality and injustice is queen, extorting the notion of appurtenance from and for each other. The sense of noblesse oblige of the past that kept the poor ones afloat has been substituted by the doctrine of “rock in the water against rock in the sun” or class warfare by Aristide. The Preval regime has introduced the concept of “swim to the shores at your own risk” leaving everyone to fend for themselves... It has left no lifeline of security for the majority of the population which is going into a free fall abyss.

In an article this week in the Miami Herald, Jacqueline Charles depicted the fetid situation where the Haitian refugees are living under in the Corail camp. “What was supposed to be the model for a new Haiti looks like the old one, a menacing slum.” Jean Christophe Adrian the United Nations Human Settlements Program added “the international community has a tremendous responsibility for creating this monster.”

Haiti, after Rwanda and Yugoslavia, could be the scene of a major catastrophe orchestrated by a non sensitive government with the connivance of major international institutions. I was in Washington last June at the OAS mansion at a conference on Haiti organized by CARICOM. In a conversation with Mr Colin Granderson, the Haiti resident, I shared my intention of running in the next election. His answer: how much money do you have, instead of what is your vision for Haiti? Sounds like “how many regiments do you have at your disposal?”

The gang of three -- the UN, the OAS and CARICOM -- in its dealing with Haiti is using according to Emil Vlajky in the wretched of the modernity, the absolute rationality which is anti-human. The human rationality with its sense of ethics is not in favor. The poor, the wretched, the refugees of the catastrophe will continue to live with unkept promises. While the entire country is decrying the upcoming election as a masquerade with the president holding all the marbles, the General Secretary of OAS characterize the process as “credible”. The Haiti of the Duvalier’s, the Aristide’s and the Preval’s culture is a gangrene that must be extirpated to create a modern nation sensitive to the needs of its people.

Any policy short of this radical intervention is unfriendly to the gallant people of Haiti that deserve a break from a life of abject misery.

September 20, 2010


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Honduras 14 months on: Time for a dose of diplomatic realpolitik

By David Roberts

So, those who plotted the coup in Honduras at the end of June last year got their way, after all. The coup-backers' bogeyman, President Manuel Zelaya, was successfully overthrown and remains in exile in the Dominican Republic, and the new government led by Porfirio Lobo has been recognized as democratic, or very close to democratic, by Washington, the EU and most of the countries that cut off ties when Zelaya was ousted.

The latest countries to recognize the Lobo government and restore full diplomatic relations were Chile and Mexico, both citing a report by the Organization of American States - which expelled Honduras after the coup - that concluded Lobo has made "considerable progress in the cause of restoring democracy and freedoms in the Central American country."

Still holding out are the left-leaning Latin American nations inspired by Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, and, most notably, Brazil and Argentina. So was it right for the US, the EU, Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Peru and others - including all of Honduras' Central American neighbors except Nicaragua - to recognize the Lobo government? And if the answer is yes, should those who haven't done so follow suit?

Whatever the rights and wrongs of last June's coup - those behind it justified their move by arguing that Zelaya was trying to change the constitution illegally so he could run for another term in office - not having diplomatic relations with a country should not be used as a "punishment" for events in the past, nor as a means of protest because one nation does not like another nation's system of government. Otherwise, western-style democracies simply would not have diplomatic ties with most countries in Africa and the Middle East, nor with quite a few in Asia.

Nor of course with Cuba, although the argument that if a country is going to have diplomatic relations with Havana then there's no excuse for not having them with Tegucigalpa doesn't entirely stand up, as Cuba was not a democracy when the present incumbents took power.

Of course, withdrawing ambassadors and cutting ties can and should be used as a means of expressing disapproval of a serious breach of the democratic "rules of the game," as happened in Honduras last year, but times move on and the de facto government has given way to one that has earned a certain legitimacy.

Like it or not, Lobo was democratically elected, although Zelaya should be allowed to return without having to face criminal proceedings - and perhaps those who carried out the coup should face at the very least a full investigation (although not necessarily criminal punishment as Chavez and company maintain). But in deciding whether to restore relations, a nation needs to give priority to the current situation, and, of course, practical issues such as its own political, business and cultural interests, along with the interests of its own citizens.

In conclusion: Breaking off diplomatic relations may be a useful means of protest but in itself it doesn't solve anything, and over time has negative effects in other areas such as trade, investment, travel and cultural exchange. In the case of Honduras, it's time for the Venezuela-led bloc to fall in line with the rest of the region.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bahamas: law in place to govern shark harvesting

Guardian Staff Reporter

Amid calls for the government to enact legislation aimed at clamping down on shark fishing, officials at the Department of Marine Resources insist that policies are in place that strongly discourage commercial shark harvesting.

Director of Marine Resources Michael Braynen told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that despite recent reports in the media, there is no evidence indicating that there is a viable market for commercial shark or sea urchin harvesting.

While he admitted that there is no law in place to govern shark harvesting, Braynen said the Department of Fisheries adheres to a policy which in effect bans commercial shark fishing, and does not recommend applications for licenses to the Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources for shark meat or any shark products to be exported outside the country. The recommendations of the Marine Resources Department weigh highly in the decision making process, said Braynen.

In a joint release sent out over the weekend by the Bahamas Marine Exporters Association(BMEA)and the Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance(BCFA)the two organizations expressed their opposition to the commercial harvesting of both shark fins and sea urchins in Bahamian waters. The organizations added that they do not believe proper research has been conducted into the impact of the commercial trade of both marine species.

The Bahamas National Trust(BNT)has also highlighted the issue of shark fishing in The Bahamas in a release, which strongly opposed any type of shark finning or commercial shark fishing in The Bahamas.

"While there are no specific laws prohibiting fishing for sharks in The Bahamas, there is really no commercial fishery for sharks in The Bahamas,"said Braynen."As a consequence fishermen do not pursue them. Braynen also noted the absence of a viable market for sea urchin harvesting in The Bahamas.

"The policy being pursued by the Department of Marine Resources has for years not allowed the export of sharks of shark products from The Bahamas. So i think there is little concern for the establishment of a shark fin industry in The Bahamas."

Braynen said while shark harvesting is a major issue for countries in Asia where the shark fin trade is a major industry, he insisted that simply is not the case in The Bahamas.

Given the fact that shark meat is not a Bahamian delicacy, Braynen added that local fishermen focus their attention on big sale items like crawfish and conch.

As a result he said fishermen shy away from wasting their energy and resources to catch a product that is not profitable in the Bahamian market.

"The big selling item for sharks around the world is their fins, but we have no evidence that commercial shark fishing in The Bahamas would be sustainable,"he said.

"That is why we don't support the export of sharks. In effect that's one means for controlling and limiting the fishing of sharks in Bahamian waters. Fishermen would not be able to makemoney because the export market would be closed to them."

Braynen further added that long line fishing, the most common and popular practice used in commercial shark fishing, is banned in The Bahamas.



Record number of US homes seized by banks

By Andre Damon:

More US homes were repossessed by banks in August—more than 95,000—than in any other month in history, according to, a real estate marketplace. The company expects 1.2 million bank repossessions this year, a level 12 times higher than in 2005, when there were only 100,000.

Every month, the company releases a summary of all foreclosure actions, which includes bank repossessions. Realtytrac said that the number of foreclosures increased 4 percent last month, but was down by 5 percent compared with a year earlier.

The University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment unexpectedly dropped to its lowest level since 2009, according to results published Friday. The preliminary September reading of the index fell to 66.6, down from 68.9 in August.

And they have reason to feel that way, given the most recent economic developments. The news came as more companies announced layoffs, and economic figures continued to darken.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s index of Mid-Atlantic manufacturing showed that factory activity again contracted, disappointing analysts, who had expected it to plateau.

“Regional manufacturing activity has stalled over the past two months,” observed the bank. “The broadest indicators of growth—general activity, new orders, and shipments—have all remained slightly negative for at least the last two months.”

Fedex, the second-largest package shipping company in the United States, announced Thursday that it would cut 1,700 jobs, in line with a gloomy projection for US business.

“We expect a phase of somewhat slower economic growth going forward,” said CEO Fred Smith in the company’s second-quarter conference call on Friday. “Slower growth is consistent with historical business cycles,” he said.

The number of people putting in new claims for unemployment benefits remained basically unchanged last week, at 450,000, the same level as nine months ago, and nearly double the pre-recession level.

In short, all indicators point to a protracted economic slump, with little, if any, improvement in housing prices. The bad housing market will further hurt families burdened by falling wages and high unemployment. According to figures released by the US Census Bureau on Friday, one in seven Americans is now living below the poverty level, and the total number living in poverty, nearly 44 million, is the highest since the 1960s.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday that real average hourly earnings for production and non-supervisory workers fell again in August. A 0.3 percent increase in prices wiped out a 0.2 percent increase in average hourly wages, leaving these workers with a 0.1 percent fall in average hourly earnings.

Housing prices are down 28 percent since 2006, leaving nearly one quarter of mortgaged houses “underwater,” or valued at less than what their owners owe on them. In some states, the majority of homes are in this condition.

In Nevada, for instance, 68 percent of homes were under water, with the total value of mortgages being more than double the total value of houses.

Meanwhile Corelogic, a California-based real estate tracker, said that housing prices in some cities, such as Detroit and Las Vegas, will not return most homeowners to positive equity for another 10 years. And in a separate interview with Bloomberg radio, Fannie Mae chief economist Sam Khater said that there are 7 million US homes that are either vacant or in some stage of foreclosure.

Economists expect prices to drop—some by up to 10 percent, before the US housing market begins a lasting rebound. There had been a temporary resurgence in home values earlier in the year, but this ran out of steam as the Obama administration withdrew a tax credit to encourage first-time homebuyers in May.

Fannie Mae, the home mortgage company, said in a report issued Thursday that the expiration of the tax credit “suggests weakening home prices” in the coming period, and that the company projects a 7 percent decline in home sales in 2010, putting even more homeowners underwater.

The latest figures underscore the critical absence of any government programs to create jobs or alleviate the plight of families in foreclosure.

The “Home Affordable Modification Program,” which the Obama administration promised would help up to 8 million people adjust their mortgages, has to date offered permanent mortgage modification to only 422,000 homeowners. This figure is miniscule compared to the 10 million home foreclosures that are expected through 2012. But even this small assistance has taken the form of an adjustment to borrowers’ monthly payments, and not the total amount that they have to pay.

Instead of helping workers and homeowners, the administration has recently announced a program that would further extend tax credits for businesses, including write-offs for research and capital investments.

18 September 2010


Friday, September 17, 2010

Making the WTO democratic

By Sir Ronald Sanders:

The World Trade Organization (WTO) held its fifth public forum in Geneva over three days beginning September 15. It has become a kind of international bazaar in which every conceivable idea on trade and development is discussed formally and informally by representatives of virtually every government in the world and more Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) than can be easily counted.

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.comA great deal of talk takes place without too much follow-up action.

But, maybe that’s the point. People who talk to each other aren’t warring, so long may the talk continue.

That’s not to say that good ideas don’t emerge from this overcrowded market place. They do. But many perish shortly after they are unveiled, usually because representatives of a powerful government or group of governments regard them as a threat to their interest, and quickly kill them off.

I was in Geneva for a Writers’ Conference on a book on negotiations in the WTO for which I am contributing a chapter. All the writers are from what used to be called the “third world,” a description seldom used these days, not because we have miraculously graduated into some better world, but because other descriptions suit the agenda of those who dictate the form of discourse on the global economy. Far better, in their view, to describe poor countries as “emerging” or “developing” whether or not they are really emerging or developing.

The purpose of the book, which has been commissioned by a progressive organization called CUTS International, is to tell the story of the many aspects of WTO negotiations from the point of view of negotiators from developing countries.

When it is published, it should make fascinating reading. It will break new ground in presenting the personal knowledge and experiences of the writers who were either in the trenches of the negotiations or were marginalized from the “inner sanctum” in which only the rich and powerful nations enjoy belonger’s rights, and into which they invite only those they wish to suborn in order to stich-up deals.

Of the many features of the WTO which point to the need for reform, this insider trading - in what has come to be called ‘the green room’ - is among the worst. No democratically managed organization should continue a process which so blatantly excludes from decision-making the weak, poor, small, and vulnerable nations which – as it happens – make up the majority of world’s countries.

That it has continued so long is entirely the fault of the majority of governments who allow it to happen without tangible and meaningful protest, such as packing their bags and going home leaving the ‘green room’ insiders to deal only with themselves, and returning only when there is a table at which representatives of all parties sit as equals.

But, that would call for two things – courage and solidarity, two very scarce commodities among “third world” governments these days. National interests have changed, some argue, and in pursuing these interests following a “third world” strategy is not productive.

It is worth, noting, however, that a “developed countries” strategy has never altered. The world’s industrialized nations continue to cling to their councils and to exploit their advantages. For instance, the creation of the G20 (the industrialized nations and the larger and wealthier developed countries) has not overshadowed - let alone eliminated - the G7 (the industrialized nations alone) who continue to devise and coordinate their own global positions.

Against this background, I was surprised to hear Pascal Lamy, the Director-General of the WTO, say at the opening of this year’s Public Forum, almost boastfully, that while the G20 has signalled the requirement for institutional reform of some international organizations, “the WTO was not amongst them”.

Lamy went on to say: “That governance battle has already been fought in the trade sphere, and the outcome is a fairly democratic institution where the voice of the small cannot be ignored.”

I have no doubt that Lamy believes what he says, but his belief – however sincere and fervent – does not make his statement right. The governance of the WTO is still an open sore. Despite Lamy’s personal efforts, the organisation still reflects the preponderance of power by the industrialised nations and the marginalization of poor, small, and vulnerable countries.

“No board, no quotas. One member, one vote, is the background rule against which the WTO forges its consensus”, Lamy declared. Oh, were that to be entirely true, what a far better world would mankind inhabit than the one we endure today.

Sure, there is technically no board and no quotas, but every representative of a small or poor nation knows that decision making is still the preserve of a few nations whose economic power allows them to arrogate to themselves the right to dictate agendas and outcomes. The WTO is very far from the consensus decision-making body that it should be. It is still not yet even the “fairly democratic institution” that Lamy believes it to be.

Those who defend the ‘green room’ process do so on the basis that it is impossible to negotiate agreements with over 150 countries at the same table. There is truth in that. But it is equally true that representatives of like-minded groups of these countries can gather on sectorial issues that are important to them such as agriculture or services. This way their voices will be heard during the debate and account taken over their views.

Against this background, it is good for developing countries - and small and vulnerable countries in particular - that the Bahamas is now negotiating the terms of its accession to full membership of the WTO. No country can now afford to stay out of an organisation whose rules govern world trade, and every country should want a say in the rules of the game it has to play.

The Bahamas will strengthen the voice of small and vulnerable countries, who if they act with courage and in solidarity with themselves and other like-minded developing nations, can negotiate meaningful recognition and fair and flexible treatment for their people – in other words, try to make the WTO truly democratic.

September 17, 2010


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Independence of the judiciary in the Caribbean

by Oscar Ramjeet:

There is separation of powers in the English-speaking Caribbean and throughout the Commonwealth, but sometimes the question arises whether or not there is independence of the judiciary. Although there might be complaints in some quarters, it seems to me that the judiciary is independent in the Caribbean Community.

Oscar Ramjeet is an attorney at law who practices extensively throughout the wider CaribbeanIn fact, I met several heads of the judiciary and senior jurists in the region in Barbados recently and heard no significant complaint.

The decision last month by Guyanese-born Justice Gertel Thom in St Vincent and the Grenadines to make an order for the continuation of an injunction to block the Boundaries Commission from increasing the number of constituencies from 15 to 17 until the determination of the substantive action brought by the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) has prompted me to look at the operations of judges in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC).

Justice Thom's decision was a rather bold one, since it is not favourable to the United Labour Party administration in the multi island state, and I must say that it is commendable for Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves to make a public statement accepting the court's decision (whether or not he meant it is another matter). However, the fact that he issued a favourable comment augers well for the relationship between the executive and the judiciary in that country.

This is contrary to Antigua and Barbuda, where a minister of government made adverse comments against the trial judge who ruled against Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and two other ministers of government in a election petition case, which now has the administration in limbo. The Antiguan minister said that if the judge had given such decision in Jamaica she could not have walked out of court -- a very unfortunate statement, which was criticised by the opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP).

Guyanese-born Justice Louise Blenman made a very bold decision in Antigua when she found that there were breaches in the process of the last general elections in the constituencies that elected Spencer, John Maginley, Minister of Tourism, and Jacqui Quinn Leandro, Minister of Education, and vacated the three seats. But another judge the same day stayed the order and appeals were filed and later heard by the Appellate Court, but the decision has not yet been given by Chief Justice Hugh Rawlins and the two other appellate judges.

Over in Dominica, Vincentian-born judge Errol Thomas on August 25 made a ruling that Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt and one of his ministers, Peter Saint Jean, should face trial over a claim that they were not eligible to contest the last general elections because they have dual citizenship.

The same judge had made another controversial decision last October in St Kitts when he ruled in the boundaries case in which he found that the Denzil Douglas government violated the Constitution.

It is interesting to note that Justice Thomas was transferred on September 1 from Antigua and Barbuda to St Kitts.

Another Vincentian-born judge, Brian Cottle, made a ruling in St Lucia in August last year in which he ruled that a Cabinet conclusion on the Tuxedo Villas affair that allowed the Health Minister concessions for his Bonne Terre home as part of his Tuxedo Villas mini hotel was unreasonable and had to be quashed.

An appeal against Cottle's ruling was dismissed by the Court of Appeal last June.

Although judges of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court are appointed by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) and do not fall under the regional governments, the administration is nevertheless responsible for accommodation, security, clerical staff, etc., and perhaps at liberty to make "life difficult for them" in their day to day activities.

It is said that judges who are close to the administration can get better facilities than others, but there is no serious complaint in this regard.

September 15, 2010


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bahamas: Sharks need protection in Bahamian waters

tribune242 editorial

MELISSA Maura, an ardent protector of all God's helpless creatures -- from birds to sharks - horrified that sharks in our waters will soon be targeted for shark fin soup, has launched an e-mail petition to ban their killing. She is also against the harvesting of the sea cucumber and sea urchin "as this will really damage our heritage and ecosystem."

So if anyone wants to have a say in preventing the introduction of this much talked of enterprise to the Bahamas, they can sign her petition.

International organisations and local conservation groups are already rallying their forces to save the sharks from this cruel slaughter.

Sharks, over fished internationally to satisfy this billion dollar industry, have been relatively safe in Bahamian waters. However, the Bahamas has no legislation to ensure their continued protection.

The Bahamas National Trust (BNT), in partnership with the Pew Environment Group, is now pushing for such legislation.

"The BNT wants to further secure the future of all shark populations in the Bahamas by establishing legislation that fully protects these important species and will make Bahamian waters a shark sanctuary," said shark campaign manager Shelley Cant.

It is estimated that between 38 to 100 million sharks are killed annually for their fins. It is a particularly cruel enterprise.

Giam Choo Hoo, the longest serving member of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora Animals denies that sharks are killed only for their fins. He maintains that the fins are taken from them after they are dead. However, there are researchers who dispute this statement. Their examination of data shows that between 26-73 million sharks are killed every year just for their fins. It is claimed that this figure is three times higher than the official Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates.

According to researchers "finning" -- or cutting off fins from living sharks -- is the usual practice in the industry.

After the shark has been caught and his fins cut off, because there is little value in his meat, he is thrown back into the ocean, still alive. There he either dies from suffocation or is eaten because he is unable to move normally. There are reports that because of the huge profits, organised crime has infiltrated the industry. There are also medical concerns, because of the high level of toxic mercury that scientists claim has been found in the fins.

According to Wikipedia Hong Kong Disneyland has joined those banning shark fin soup from its menus.

It is reported that the delicacy was banned from Disneyland's wedding banquets menu after international pressure from environment groups threatened to boycott its parks world wide despite the high demand for the delicacy in China. The University of Hong Kong has also banned shark fin on campus.

But man, greedy for the financial returns, and those hungry for the delicacy that tickles their pallets, will continue to argue that the ocean has a never ending supply of sharks. This group will certainly keep up the fight for the continuation of finning. However, the Bahamas government has now to step up to the plate and protect our waters from this menace.

September 14, 2010

tribune242 editorial

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Remittances to the Caribbean on the rise again — World Bank

WASHINGTON, USA (CMC) — After what was considered to be a "rough 2009", the World Bank says remittances are on the rise again in the Caribbean.

A briefing paper by the Washington-based financial institution said remittances "began to bottom out during the last quarter of 2009" and, as a result, "money transfers now appear to be on the rise" in Jamaica, Haiti and other places.

The briefing paper said remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean didn't fall as sharply as private capital flows to the region, as investors pulled out of emerging markets.

The bank said remittances to Latin American and Caribbean nations sank 12 per cent as the US and global economies "hit the skids" last year.

Overall, World Bank researchers said remittances to the region are expected to increase this year by an estimated 5.7 per cent and would also grow in 2011.

The World Bank said remittances to Haiti are expected to increase this year as relatives abroad seek to assist those at home.

It said the post-earthquake decision by the United States to grant temporary protected status to 200,000 Haitians living in the country illegally could also increase remittances by as much as US $360 million this year.

The bank said the Haitian Diaspora sent an estimated US $1.32 billion in remittances to their homeland last year. In 2008, remittances accounted for a fifth of the Haitian economy.

September 14, 2010


Monday, September 13, 2010

Waiting for Superman: Can the US and the Caribbean save its educational system?

By Rebecca Theodore:

At a time when a cheerless wind chills the mist and gathering swallows twitter in the approaching dusk, the International Film Festival ushers in an appropriate opening to the beginning of a solemn first day of film and harvest in Toronto.

Rebecca Theodore was born on the north coast of the Caribbean island of Dominica and resides in Toronto, Canada. A national security and political columnist, she holds a BA and MA in Philosophy. She can be reached at rebethd@aim.comIn high-heeled shoes that pinched, I sat tense and earnest, overwhelmed in the shadows of standing ovations at the Winter Garden Theatre, eyes soaked in tears, infinitesimal in the company of automatic enthusiasts, and birthing reformist. Looking back, I saw myself walking down memory lane in the corridors of Bense Primary school in my beloved island home of Dominica. I saw a multitude of US and Caribbean kids full of dreams, hopes and aspiration…. I had seen the opening of the film ‘Waiting For Superman.’

Davis Guggenheim’s look at what’s wrong with the educational system was not only a wake up call to the problems children face from kindergarten to high school in the US and what is needed to fix it but also a plea to education ministers in the Caribbean letting them know that education is crucial to development and a basic requirement for achieving genuine equal opportunity in a competitive world.

In reminding us that education "statistics" have names: Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy, and Emily, whose stories make up the engrossing foundation of Waiting For Superman, Guggenheim follows a handful of promising kids through a system that inhibits, rather than encourages, academic growth, as he undertakes an exhaustive review of public education, surveying "drop-out factories" and "academic sinkholes," methodically dissecting the system and its seemingly intractable problems.

Guggenheim pulls no punches as he makes the point over and over again that bad teachers must be eliminated from schools and replaced with good ones. His archenemy is the teachers’ unions which oppose evaluation of teachers, and the firing of poor teachers.

It is evident that Guggenheim’s film depicts the time has come for a review of the education system not only in the US but also in the Caribbean to better cater to the needs of children, who are faced with increasing challenges because there is a disconnect between children and teaching.

In this regard, Waiting for Superman provides a rethink of the education system from early childhood all the way up to tertiary level. Ironically enough, the same day the movie premiered, the first round of educational grants to states for Obama's Race to the Top program were announced and the government of Trinidad and Tobago allocated the largest slice of the 2010/2011 national budget -- $8 billion to the training sector.

These are worthy footprints for the remainder of other Caribbean islands to follow for the film has made it apparent that US and Caribbean kids are entering an unfriendly labor market without appropriate qualifications, thus increasing their prospects of long term unemployment, poverty and crime.

Even though it is perceived by many that the education system in the Caribbean evolved from a colonial historical legacy which was predicated on privilege; education should no longer serve as a primary device for social selection and class stratification because the attainment of independence and the growth of nationalism, has limited the effects of a socio-political priority and Caribbean education is no longer modeled on the British school system. Therefore, changes to the education system will equip Caribbean schools to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

It is clear that Guggenheim has done what artists are supposed to do in trying to understand this problem. In propelling people to be outraged in his outstanding cinematography, he has disturbed the social order in demanding that schools in America and also the Caribbean are great for every kid. Educational opportunities should not be determined by playing a bingo card to get a good education. There is a chance to be won in having a future in the world by breaking the code on how kids are educated.

September 13, 2010


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saga of Taiwan politics/business in Caricom



WHETHER at the level of its government or private business interests, Taiwan seems to be creating problems for some of the member states of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) as it continues its long, arduous battle for international recognition to secure membership of the United Nations as a sovereign state.

In our Caribbean region, Taiwan -- which the Chinese officially view as a 'renegade province' of the People's Republic of China — has been investing in what came to be known as "dollar diplomacy" to influence support among political parties.

Since the dawning of political independence 48 years ago in the English-speaking Caribbean, first in Jamaica, Taiwan's effort to win friends and influence votes on its behalf has proven to be a dismal failure.

The present count of converts is a mere four of the 14 independent countries of Caricom -- Belize, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia -- as more and more community partners walked away from diplomatic ties.

That's despite the financial generosity displayed by the Government in Taipei towards parties across the political divide in this region -- at times dealing with both ruling and opposition parties in the same country. St Vincent and the Grenadines has long been such an example.

While it suffered losses in once-firm relations with countries like The Bahamas, Dominica and Grenada, it is in St Lucia that Taiwan was to secure a very surprising return with a change in government in Castries at the December 2006 general election after the defeat of the then two-term St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) by the United Workers Party (UWP).

$$ diplomacy

And it is in that Windward Island state that Taiwanese-style 'dollar diplomacy' was to manifest itself in a most aggressive and contemptuous manner in political financing which reportedly contributed significantly to the return of the UWP to power and subsequent severing of relations with China.

The daughter of the late founder-leader of the UWP and once long-serving prime minister, Sir John Compton, was to show courage and honesty in post-election financial accountability.

Shortly after the UWP's return to power, Taiwan succeeded in replacing China in diplomatic ties, against the advice of the then seriously ill Sir John.

Following the death of her father, and amid open political controversies over Taipei's diplomatic replacement of Beijing, Jannine Compton was to disclose in Parliament how she had spent some EC $1 million, made available from Taiwanese funding, for projects in her Micoud North constituency.

As of this September, and with some 15 months more before a constitutionally due new general election -- though expected earlier -- none of the other 10 Government MPs of Prime Minister Stephen King's administration has yet accounted for expenditures in their respective constituencies as allocated directly by Taiwan through its embassy in Castries.

At this period in regional and international politics, when there are growing demands for accountability of election campaign financing -- an issue currently seriously engaging politicians and parties in Jamaica, for instance -- the Tawain/UWP $$ connection appears headed for a decisive phase in the electoral politics of that Caricom member state.

The Opposition SLP of former Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony, which -- like the ruling UWP -- is currently actively preparing for new general elections, has already made clear its anxiety for the expulsion of the Taiwanese ambassador to Castries for what it claims is his "arrogant and contemptuous" involvement in St Lucia's domestic affairs.

Embarrassing deal

Meanwhile, in Grenada, there is a different kind of problem for the Government of Prime Minister Tilman Thomas involving a deal with a Taiwanese group of investors that seems to have gone terribly wrong.

It has resulted from a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that Prime Minister Thomas signed in May this year with a Taiwanese company known as Sewang One World (SOW) for development financing of well over US$2 billion on various projects.

However, there came the sensational disclosure last month that primary figures of SOW had been arrested by the Taiwanese authorities for bank fraud and linked to the establishment of dummy companies in Taiwan, South Korea and the USA.

By September 3, the Grenada Government was ready to publicly confess its error in signing the MOU with the Taiwanese company without first undertaking an appropriate due diligence exercise.

Finance Minister Nazim Burke has stated that it was wrong to enter into the MOU without careful scrutiny of SOW. He has also disclosed to the media in St George's that it was "regrettable" that Prime Minister Thomas and his office were "exposed to the (Taiwanese) company without required due diligence". According to Burke, the entire business deal with SOW has now been abandoned.

News of the charges against the SOW representatives were first learnt of in Grenada from an August 24 report in the China Times of Taiwan.

Interestingly, this same Taiwanese company had first established business contact in 2004 with the then Government of former Prime Minister Keith Mitchell during the diplomatic romance between Taipei and St George's.

Later came the ditching of Grenada's diplomatic relations with Taiwan by the Mitchell Government in favour of China, which has been maintained by the current administration of Prime Minister Thomas.

What next, I wonder, in the saga of Taiwanese politics and business deals in the Caribbean?

September 12, 2010