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Friday, April 17, 2015

Obama and PJ: “Wah gwaan Jamaica?



President Obama addresses Jamaican Young Leaders

Observer column for MON 13 April 2015
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

It was a privilege to have been present at two moving events last week:  President Obama’s Town Hall Meeting and former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson’s 80th birthday celebrations.  Both politicians were outstanding law students and have been acknowledged for their even temperament. In campaigning, they were nicknamed, “No-drama-Obama” and PJ, the “Fresh Prince”, who was not given to the platform dramatics of his predecessors.
Former PM Patterson celebrates with his grandchildren
Ever since the young African American Barack Obama was nominated as a US presidential candidate in May 2004, Jamaicans have been journeying with him, and so expectations were high when we heard that finally, he would be landing on our soil on April 8.  But even those expectations were surpassed. 
GraceKennedy CEO Don Wehby noted at a press event on Friday: “Jamaica’s ‘love meter’ was on a high when President Obama arrived, as he reminded us how important it was to have humility.” 
Well, I believe that ‘love meter’ exploded when he walked into the UWI Assembly Hall and hailed his audience with “Greetings, massive!  Wah gwaan, Jamaica?  … I want to thank the University of the West Indies for hosting us.  Big up, You-Wee!  Thank you.  I’ve been making myself at home here.”
The President visits the Bob Marley Museum
As we awaited his arrival, all the talk was about his visit to the Bob Marley Museum, his singing along to “Exodus” and “One Love”, his reference to his collection of Marley albums.  We knew he had hosted the Marley family during his first term as President, and this was confirmation that he was a true fan of our beloved Bob.
This President touched a special chord when he referred to Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce: “I get a chance to say hi to Usain Bolt and Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce. When you have the fastest people on the planet, you’ve got to say hi to them, right?  Because that’s fast. There are a lot of people out there, and they’re the fastest!”  
In a more serious tone, he discussed America’s commitment to the Caribbean and Jamaica: “Now, we are not just nations, we’re also neighbors. Tens of millions of Americans are bound to the Caribbean and the Americas through ties of commerce, but also ties of kin.  More than one million Americans trace their ancestry to Jamaica.  More than one million Americans visit Jamaica each year.  So we’re committed to you and this region.  And as I’ve said before, in our foreign policy there are no senior or junior partners in the Americas; there are just partners.”
President Obama strikes "To the world!" pose with Usain Bolt
The President then turned to his historic decision to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, a country that has been a compassionate neighbour to Jamaica.
We applauded President Obama’s declaration: “I believe that engagement is a more powerful force than isolation, and the changes we are making can help improve the lives of the Cuban people.  And I also believe that this new beginning will be good for the United States and the entire hemisphere.”
Mr Obama underscored the importance of our young people. “More than 100 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean are between the ages of 15 and 24.  Most of the region is under 35,” he noted, “And what gives me so much hope about your generation is that you’re more interested in the hard work of waging peace than resorting to the quick impulses of conflict.  You’re more interested in the hard work of building prosperity through entrepreneurship, not cronyism or corruption.”
PJ Patterson with an admirer and Minister Phillip Paulwell

There was loud applause as the president pronounced the words “cronyism and corruption”, and I reflected on the fact that this was the reason given by several young people who have not registered to be on the Electoral Office of Jamaica’s voters’ list.
Many years ago, early in his role as Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson launched his “Values and Attitudes Campaign”.  It is with great sadness that I remember the cynical comments from political opponents and media commentators alike as the campaign was laughed to scorn. At that time the writing was on the wall for Jamaica, as children were having children, who then evolved into “barrel children”.  These “barrel children” were so named because they had been left behind by migrant parents, who sent them barrels of food and clothing. Some of these children were exploited by greedy relatives, some left to fend for themselves in violence ridden tenements. These tenements continue to exist, and are a reproach to those who say they care for their constituents
But, where there is life there is hope, and as we give thanks that Mr Patterson has arrived at his 80th year in good health, we ask both political parties, many of whose representatives were present at his birthday celebrations, to give him a lasting gift for national stability.  Let the PNP and JLP join together to develop and sign a P.J. Patterson 80th Birthday Charter for Values and Attitudes, declaring that together, they will work selflessly for our beloved Jamaica.
Although he is no longer in active politics, P.J. Patterson is an active member of the Madrid Club, composed of 80 former world leaders, the Global Leadership Foundation and is regarded as the most respected adviser to the People’s National Party. 
President Obama with PM Simpson-Miller
In his reply to tributes from family and friends, he harked back to that day in his young life when his mother, a teacher in Somerton, St James, put her bright young son on the bus to begin studies at Calabar High School, and his extraordinary political journey, beginning with his appointment to the Senate in 1969 by N.W. Manley. He noted that his circle of friends included members of both political parties, acknowledging that their common aim was Jamaica’s development.
As he pondered Jamaica’s future in a 1992 interview, Mr Patterson told Black Enterprise Magazine, “With creativity, discipline, determination and hard work, we will enter the 21st century as a strong nation.”  This is the same formula we distilled from President Obama’s responses at his Townhall Meeting at UWI, when he noted that the small country of Singapore “has one of the highest standards of living in the world.”
He shared: “What is it that Singapore did that might be replicable? Well, one of the most important things they did was they made an enormous investment in their people. And if you’ve got a highly skilled, highly educated workforce, if you’ve set up rules of law and governance that are transparent and non-corrupt, then you can attract actually a lot of service industries to supplement the tourist industry, because people would want to locate in your country.” 
The most powerful leader on our soil, an elder statesman in our midst – may they inspire fellow leaders to earn the respect of Jamaica’s disillusioned young people. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Percy Sledge - Ian Martin's Tribute

Image result for percy sledge
from youtube.com
Percy Sledge, an internationally acclaimed rhythm and blues vocalist, died today at age 73. Percy, a friend of Jamaica last performed in the island little more than a year ago. Over twenty-five years ago, The Jamaica Star (“Star”), a satellite paper of the Jamaica Daily Gleaner conducted a survey of as to what its readers considered to be the top 100 songs of all time in Jamaica. To my disappointment but not to my surprise Percy Sledge’s 1966 golden hit song “When a Man Loves a Woman” sat atop the other ninety-nine songs that made the cut in the mind of the Star’s readers.
Disappointed yes, because in my mind songs like Michael Jackson’s “Ben” Jackie Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops”, Al Green’s “Let Stay Together”, Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On”, Johnnie Ace’s “Pledging My Love” and the Impressions “I Am So Proud of You” to name a few from the Rock and Roll/Rhythm and Blues genre should sit atop of “When a Man Loves a Woman” even though it is among my all-time favorites. In all probability, what the song must have had going for it at the time of the survey are its lyrics and arrangement that span three generations of readers.
Image result for percy sledge
from last.fm
Interestingly, the song is still as popular today as when it was first released. Even more interesting is its popularity among music fans born decades after. Today with the passing of Percy Sledge, sales of “When a Man Loves a Woman” along with other Percy Sledge hit songs are expected to rise as fans pay tribute to him.
Other hit songs from Percy Sledge are, “Cover Me”, “Warm and Tender Love”, “Take Time to Know Her”, “It Tears Me Up’ and “Out Left Field.” Percy will be missed by his many fans. However, thanks to technology, his voice lives on.
from smoothradio.com
When the news of Percy’s death broke, Michael Bolton who did a cover version of “When a Man Loves a Woman” in paying tribute to Percy had this to say about him: "He was an inspiration as an artist and one of the most gracious human beings. We sang together. Forever grateful! Love MB."
Percy you played a good inning. Rest in Peace! I extend deepest sympathy to his fans, friends, family and relatives.

Ian Martin
April 14, 2015.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Time to launch a love campaign

 by Jean Lowrie-Chin | excerpt from Jamaica Observer column | 6 April 2015

A weeping student at the university in Garissa, Kenya receives assistance
WE headed to Good Friday and Easter services and were moved as we contemplated the foundation of our faith, the crucifixion, and triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ. We were emotional as we reflected on the news that 147 Kenyans, the majority of them students, were massacred at their college by terrorists because of this very faith. A student who escaped said they were asked about the Koran, and those who could not answer were shot in the back of their heads. It is understood that a room where Christian students gathered for morning prayers was targeted.

The challenge to us is to ensure that we do not allow such incidents to prejudice us against people of differing religions. Those murderers are criminals, and good people of the Muslim faith in Kenya have joined with Christians to condemn the horrific acts of al-Shabab, the group that has claimed responsibility for the murders.

Our challenge is to make this love we profess for God and our neighbour into a practical and focused instrument. Clearly, such groups as al-Shabab and ISIS are using clever marketing to win over new recruits. Three British schoolgirls secretly planned their exodus to Iraq via Turkey last month, while only a few days ago, two women were arrested in New York for signing up to become suicide bombers.

Christian churches around the world must dry their tears and make their message of Christian love so attractive, so riveting, that our love campaign will recruit millions and win over benighted souls.
As we look at films on the life of Christ, we understand the suffering and the risks taken by the apostles who travelled widely after His death to spread His good news. Most of them suffered and died like Him, but His church prevailed. Now it is under dangerous siege in several countries, and all who call themselves Christian must use all our God-given talents to plan and provide security and shelter to our brothers and sisters.

  • you are basically advocating for another prayer breakfast. wouldnt it prove more beneficial to demand accountability from those in power now?

    Well , we have many Religions and a number of Gods. Love was supposed to be coming from our heats, but sometime ''Love takes a flight ,'' as we are drawn to religious dogmas. We have seen the bloodshed and there seems to be no stopping anytime soon.
    The words of John Lennon. in his song ''Imagine there is no Country etc /'' must have gone by the way side .
    Yea mon, ah whole heap of people prays daily , but that alone can't do a thing ! You have to use your God given senses to make life better.
    I pray too, but know fully well that God will answer, when he wants and however he wants. In the mean time common sense affi rule whatever I am doing . .
    • "Tell me all your thoughts on God...I'm on my way to see HER"...I'm happy my God would be female, if I ever had need for one...!!!
      • God does not give everything that we think we want. Sure enough we have to be satisfied that his mother is a woman, it looks like that is the best we will have.
        When ,his son, Jesus met a '' a Samaritan woman ,'' at the well, in conversation he did say who is God.
        Read John 4 : 7-24 { KJV } Jesus said that God is a Spirit and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. { I think Jesus should know and I have reason to trust him }
        The gender of God is not that crucial,since he is Spirit . Mi Glad say he is Spirit, because if he was not he could not have saved me from my bosom close enemies !
  • Jean Dearest, there is no difference between an American, al-Shabab or ISIS bombing/massacre...All are designed to cause major murder & mayhem...Religionists are "warriors" for their religion & all religions have been guilty of major crimes against humanity, as they grab for turf...All RELIGIONS. Look at the crimes the jews have committed against the Palestinians...If God was for real, such crimes would/should not go unpunished but...

Saturday, April 4, 2015

From Gleaner: Impacts Of Benzene On Public Health

Published: Jamaica Gleaner
Saturday April 4, 2015

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/commentary/20150404/impacts-benzene-public-health

By Dr Homero Silva

The Ministry of Health's acknowledgement of the highest benzene concentration ever recorded in Jamaica's air following the March 2015 fire at the Riverton dumpsite is only the tip of the iceberg.

The weak air-quality monitoring programme conducted by the National Environment and Planning Agency prevents the public from appreciating the real magnitude of Jamaica's environmental health problems, especially those related to poor solid-waste management. Air pollutants such as some of those from the 'Dirty Dozen' (dioxins, furans and PCBs), biphenol A and heavy metals are not measured, but they are more dangerous to health because they can accumulate in the body, especially in fatty and soft tissues.

Metals differ from other toxic substances in that they are neither created nor destroyed by humans. These pollutants will be dealt with in another article. This time, I will focus on benzene.

Background monitoring stations report concentrations of benzene from sources other than dump fires such as motor vehicle emissions, so the high-concentration event cannot be separated from the year-round low, but risky, benzene concentrations.

No Safe Exposure
The World Health Organization (WHO) considers benzene to be carcinogenic to humans. No safe level of exposure can be recommended. Using WHO estimates of the excess lifetime risk of leukaemia at an air concentration of 84 ug/m3, the estimate is 494 cases per million population.

Ontario regulations propose a 24-hour average standard of 2.3 mg/m3 for benzene based on the carcinogenic effects associated with exposure to benzene. The concentration of benzene at the Half-Way Tree Road background monitoring station was 7.87. Two weeks after the 2012 fire, the benzene concentration was 13. Therefore, background benzene concentrations in Jamaica EXCEED the Ontario standard. Jamaica does not have standards for benzene.

The risk of harmful health effects from toxic substances depends on many factors such as dose, health, age, adaptation, routes of exposure, frequency and duration of exposure (acute vs chronic).

Benzene is a carcinogen (causes cancer), mutagen (causes mutations in DNA), teratogen (causes birth defect), allergen (causes unnecessary immune response), neurotoxic (damages nervous system), and endocrine disruptor (interferes with hormones).

High concentrations of benzene cause the following short-term effects: drowsiness, dizziness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, headache, tremors and confusion immediately after exposure to high levels of the substance.

Long-term exposure to benzene causes other health problems like aplastic anaemia, excessive bleeding, reduction in the capacity of the immune system to fight infections, cancers, and chromosomal aberrations in human peripheral lymphocytes.

Other studies have also found that

- Benzene crosses the placenta and is present in cord blood in concentrations equal to or greater than maternal blood.

- Women exposed to benzene concentrations of 2.86 to 7.44 ug/m3 had a 2.3 odd ratio of having a child with neural tube defect (spina bifida) and a 1.28 odd ratio for having a child with anencephaly (improper formation of the top part of the skull and brain).

- Early-life exposure to ambient air pollution may increase the risk of upper and lower respiratory tract infections in infants.

- Increase in preterm birth or a decrease in biparietal diameter growth with maternal exposure to benzene or early exposure to aromatic solvents. Biparietal diameter is one of the basic biometric parameters used to assess fetal size.

- Benzene is fetotoxic (causes mutations in DNA) in mice and rabbits following maternal exposure by inhalation, causing a reduction in birth weight.

- Results of animal studies showed that benzene may cause Zymbal-gland (ear canal) carcinoma, oral-cavity tumours, skin cancer, lymphoma, lung tumours, ovarian tumours, and mammary-gland carcinoma.

- Dr Homero Silva is professor in public health, environment and climate change at UTech's School of Public Health and Health Technology. Email feedback tocolumns@gleanerjm.com.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

That positive Obama example

President Barack Obama joins First Lady Michelle Obama on stage for a surprise visit during the Kids' State Dinner in the East Room of the White House, July 18, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Jamaica Observer column | 30 March 2015

The officials who will be in charge of guest lists for the upcoming visit of US President Barack Obama to Jamaica will certainly not be able to accommodate the many who wish to meet the great man. Therefore, let us be content to enjoy his writings and be grateful that our Maker has provided an outstanding role model for the people of the African Diaspora.

I will never forget the eyewitness account of the Inauguration of Mr Obama by my brother-in-law William Beard Jr, captured in my column of January 26, 2009.

William Beard Jr
"I was absolutely taken by the moment,” said Bill Beard. “For me it was a bookend, taking me back to that day in 1963 when relatives from all over America gathered at our house in DC, then set out with my parents to march with Martin Luther King Jr. They kept me home because they did not know if it would have been dangerous. I had seen on television marchers being beaten, attacked by dogs and knocked down by water cannons. What a far way we have come - on Tuesday I was heading to the Mall with my 13-year-old daughter, to witness the swearing-in of the first African-American president!

"You should have seen the Mall - a wonderful spirit pervaded. People knew they were being called to a higher level of behaviour. They were helping and checking on each other, laughing, sharing stories, making each other feel comfortable. The one reason was the man, Barack Obama, who was taking the Oath of Office. They wanted him to see that they could pattern the behaviour this extraordinary leader exemplified.”

In the close-ups of Barack and Michelle Obama at those 10 inaugural balls, we agreed that they impressed us with their lack of pretense, that they are truly a loving couple, very comfortable in their skin. Bill noted of their children Malia and Sasha, "When your children so readily embrace what you espouse, respect and decency, they are redefining what an American family is, at a time when family was becoming unravelled."

Bill commented, "Obama is a man sent for this moment, just as Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt were, in their time. History will place him up there with them. This is divine order, a gift from God in so many ways.”

If Barack Obama's life had been a movie script, we would have probably said it was too unrealistic. How could his parents have met in Hawaii, the same place that the black/white young couple met in that movie classic “Guess Who's Coming to Dinner”, starring Sidney Poitier? How could these brilliant individuals — one from Kenya and one from Kansas — produce an even more brilliant son, who would become the first ever African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review?

The marriage of his parents dissolved when he was a toddler and his mother Ann Dunham remarried Indonesian Lolo Soetero, taking young Barack to live with his stepfather in that Asian country. Ann awakened her seven-year-old son early every day to keep his English strong and resonant, playing inspiring recordings. The voice she played to young Barry over and over again: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saying his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

When on May 4, 2011, Barack Obama announced that the leader of the dreaded Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden had been killed by US Navy Seals, this column referred to the description of him by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair: "The personal character is clear: this is a man with steel in every part of him."  Obama's subsequent visit to the site of the bombing of the twin towers in New York City and the New York Fire Department which had lost over 300 firefighters, gave closure to a horror story that had haunted the entire world.

Barack Obama and his close-knit family have shown us how hard work, high achievement, and righteousness took them to the most prestigious address in the world. Can we work to promote this kind of leadership for Jamaica? Yes we can!