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Friday, December 28, 2012

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

Stem Cell Research May Bring $100m Industry

Tribune Staff Reporter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 28, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

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

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

O. Fonticoba Gener

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 13, 2012

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


By Eva Golinger:

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

He appeared. Chavez, who even underestimated himself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank goodness you appeared, Chavez.

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

December 11, 2012


Saturday, December 8, 2012

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

Haiti: An unfinished revolution

By Jean H Charles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I propose that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 08, 2012