Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011
Report from Haiti Libre website (click title above to link)
Haiti's President Michel Martelly, decorated Tuesday at the National Palace, the Chairman of the company Digicel, Denis O'Brien, for his dynamic involvement in the social and his contribution in the development of telecommunications in the country.
In his speech for the occasion, the Head of State declared : "This distinction reflects my personal appreciation and that of the Nation for what you and your company have achieved in Haiti. Not only has Digicel become a key partner of our telecommunications sector but also it has embarked on unprecedented social investments in the country, art, education or sport, have had to benefit from the attentions of your team in the different departments of country.
"When the January 2010 earthquake shook not only Earth, but all the Haitian families, your company has proven to be a model of solidarity for our customers and also for all citizens affected [...] We will never forget, that thanks to Digicel, one of the jewels of the architecture of Port-au-Prince: "the Market Hyppolite" commonly known - Iron Market - has been restored. We will not forget, the establishment of a rehabilitation program of 50 schools affected by the earthquake.
"It is all your efforts and those of your company, that we intend to salute by the decoration that you have awarded. Decoration, the citation for which I quote, 'for his dynamic collaboration to the promotion of investment in Haiti and his contributions to the development of telecommunications in the country' eloquently expresses the feelings of the Haitian people to your person.
Mr. O'Brien, Chairman of Digicel, thank you for all that you have given us and I invite you to continue on this way of active solidarity that honours you."
Thursday, June 23, 2011
NY TImes | June 21, 2011
U.S. Releases Graphic Images to Deter Smokers
By DUFF WILSON
Federal health officials released on Tuesday their final selection of nine graphic warning labels to cover the top half of cigarette packages beginning next year, over the opposition of tobacco manufacturers.
In the first major change to warning labels in more than a quarter-century, the graphic images will include photos of horribly damaged teeth and lungs and a man exhaling smoke through a tracheotomy opening in his neck. The Department of Health and Human Services selected nine color images among 36 proposed to accompany larger text warnings.
Health advocacy groups praised the government plan in the hope that images would shock and deter new smokers and motivate existing smokers to quit. The images are to cover the upper half of the front and back of cigarette packages produced after September 2012, as well as 20 percent of the space in cigarette advertisements.
“These labels are frank, honest and powerful depictions of the health risks of smoking, and they will help encourage smokers to quit, and prevent children from smoking,” Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said Tuesday in a statement.
The four leading tobacco companies were all threatening legal action, saying the images would unfairly hurt their property and free-speech rights by obscuring their brand names in retail displays, demonizing the companies and stigmatizing smokers.
The government won one case last year in a federal court in Kentucky on its overall ability to require larger warning labels with images; the specific images released Tuesday are likely to stir further legal action. The Kentucky case is before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
The new labels were required under landmark antismoking legislation giving the Food and Drug Administration power to regulate, but not ban, tobacco products. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act required F.D.A. action on the graphic warning labels by Wednesday, two years after President Obama signed it into law.
The United States was the first nation to require a health warning on cigarette packages 45 years ago. Since then, at least 39 other nations, including Canada and many in Europe, have imposed more eye-catching warnings, including graphic photos.
Click on title to read more
June 23, 2011 11:58 a.m. EDT
Editor's Note: This is the first of two stories focusing on rape as a tool of war. The second story, being published tomorrow, looks at the untold stories of rape in the Holocaust. Both stories contain graphic language; discretion is advised.
(CNN) -- It began as a headache. Then her throat started to feel tight. A dull pain welled in her chest and her joints ached.
But Victoria Sanford continued to do the interviews. Even in the middle of the night, the women in Guatemala always managed to find her, the "gringa" they heard had come to listen to them.
It was the early 1990s, years before the international community would formally recognize the Guatemalan government's role in the systematic rape of its Mayan women, and decades before the current Arab uprisings would once again remind the world of the brutal effectiveness of rape as a weapon of war.
Sanford was then in her early 30s and pursuing an anthropology doctorate at Stanford University. A Spanish speaker who had worked with Central American refugees, she befriended the few Mayans who had moved to California.
Click on title to read full story.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Several months ago, a yawning fiscal deficit, spiralling financing costs, and a closed capital market threatened a full-blooded economic disaster in Jamaica.
A number of rating downgrades, coupled with a very unstable currency, added to the frustration of Jamaicans. The country needed a game-changing event since the often-adopted muddle-through option was no longer available or applicable to a very bad economic backdrop.
Taking the bull by the horns, the Jamaican economy took its first stride on its path to emerge from its fiscal woes. The game-changing event was for holders of locally issued Jamaican assets to agree to a coupon 'hair cut' and maturity extension of their bond holdings - the Jamaica Debt Exchange (JDX).
Stupid, you may say, or totally patriotic, depending on your perspective of the actions of the bond holders. However, investors realised that the solvency of the Jamaican state was at risk, and a bitter economic crisis was about to unfold.
Jamaican investors recognised that the State needed breathing room to implement far-reaching reform to the Jamaican economy.
In return, the Government promised to be fiscally prudent and not to spend our money in a way that would call on our children to shoulder the burden.
Of course, Jamaica's history of fiscal profligacy meant that investors take with a grain of salt what policymakers often have to say. To seal the deal, or to remove, technically speaking, the dynamic inconsistency problem, investors - including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - asked for a binding commitment.
We really hope that binding commitment will come by way of a well-crafted fiscal responsibility law that can only be amended by a qualified majority in Parliament.
Why does Greece look so similar to Jamaica? Well, the simple answer is that a Herculean effort is needed in both countries to stem financial meltdown. In the case of Jamaica, some of that effort has been seen with the strength of the overwhelming support of the JDX by local investors.
Greece will need major action on the fiscal front to address solvency issues.
Bulging fiscal deficit
Even Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou would admit that his country has a credibility problem when it comes to past fiscal indiscretions. The European Union (EU) estimates that Greece's fiscal deficit finished last fiscal year at 13.6 per cent instead of the 12.9 per cent originally targeted, due mainly, we suspect, to rising interest cost on the debt and weak revenue flow.
The debt-to-GDP ratio for Greece is running above 100 per cent and it is scheduled to go even higher with the bulging fiscal deficit. The market, just like it did with Jamaica, has lost faith in the Greek government's ability to pull the country back from a financial disaster, hence, the SOS by the Greek Prime Minister to the EU and IMF for a package to stave off the "bond vigilantes".
So why can't the Greeks borrow their way out of the problem, or give more to the public-sector workers who are demonstrating in Athens? Well, you could ask the same question of Jamaica.
Why can't the Government pay public-sector workers more money, or spend more to stimulate the Jamaican economy? The simple answer is that there is no fiscal free lunch.
In other words, no one will lend you money to continue spending on recurrent - or any type of expenditure, for that matter - expenses when your solvency is in doubt.
In simple terms, no one wants to board a sinking ship. You may argue that the Jamaican Government could print the money to pay workers and everybody would be happy.
Truth is, the Government can only print money and be effective in spending that money if - and only if - holders of the currency allowed it.
The explanation for this is a bit technical, but it boils down to a higher rate of inflation.
In the case of Greece, of course, it cannot print more of the euro, since the currency is controlled by the European Central Bank.
Again you might say, surely all the government - Greek or Jamaican - has to do is promise investors that they will be repaid if they buy government bonds.
Well, no investor will believe your promise to pay once your debt level rises past 90 per cent and there is a credibility factor. There are many ways out of a sovereign solvency problem, and the government spending more money is not one. The Greeks will testify to this if you are still in doubt.
What do you have to do?
First, you need Hercules or some Herculean effort. Greece has close ties to the mythical Heracles and will understand quite easily the scale of the solution.
The JDX was part of the Jamaican Herculean effort. Reducing the fiscal deficit and bringing down the debt-to-GDP ratio in coming years are enormous challenges that Jamaica will face.
Greece, in coming years, will have to bring the debt-to-GDP ratio from 13 per cent to around 3.0 per cent as per the Maastricht Treaty.
I suspect Greece will have a huge challenge here since it cannot devalue the nominal exchange rate, as we have done in Jamaica.
In addition, there are signs that the real exchange rate in Greece is overvalued and will have to be brought under control via output loss. Given the demonstrations in Athens and what we know of the Jamaican Government's efforts to reduce public-sector spending, I wish Greece luck. Notwithstanding, the Greeks have the backing of the EU - the EU has very little choice given the huge risk - in reforming their economy.
Jamaica has started on the road to fiscal responsibility from what we can see in the 2010-11 Budget. For this fiscal year (2010-11), the Government has projected a J$88.4 billion reduction in aggregate spending (at J$503.9 billion).
Due wholly to the JDX, planned domestic interest costs and amortisation costs for the year have been slashed by J$46.5 billion and J$74.1 billion, respectively. In particular, domestic amortisation and interest payments collectively for this fiscal year were forecast at J$164.8 billion, noticeably lower than the J$289.3 billion for FY 2009-10, and underscores the future benefits to be garnered from the JDX.
Move in the right direction
Moreover, to tighten the fiscal purse further, the increase in expenditure on recurrent programmes and wages was kept at a minimum of 2.2 per cent (J$1.6 billion), and 0.8 per cent (J$1 billion), respectively.
While there are key risks to the Budget, such as inflation, natural disasters and a weaker-than-expected domestic economy, we believe there is a reasonable chance of the Government coming close to the targets.
The Budget deficit is targeted around J$80 billion, with some J$21 billion due to Air Jamaica divestment costs. Whether intended or not, if you add back the one-time cost due to Air Jamaica, you realise that for the first time in many years, the Jamaican Government is only borrowing to fund capital expenditure.
This is a move in the right direction and should augur well for a sustainable fiscal position over time.
However, like Greece, because the debt burden in Jamaica is so high, the Jamaican economy will be highly vulnerable to a variety of economic shocks going forward.
Dr Adrian Stokes is vice-president of strategic planning at Scotia DBG Investments.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
By Evan McKenzie – from the KSAFA Website
Reggae Boyz packing possession, passes and speed, put the Hondurans to play second fiddle in the final group B game of Gold Cup 2011. From the early proceedings the Boyz were prepared to get thing right this time around rather than to wait for the second half as they did against Guatemala.
While both teams prided themselves with the use of speedy players, the Reggae Boyz were more potent on the day, as Omar Daley, Demar Phillips, Ryan Johnson and Dane Richards could not be contained. These electrifying runs were made possible by the overall team possession, and movements off the ball even though Honduras showed on many occasion that they were not prepared to lay down and die nor were they prepared to watch the Reggae Boyz dazzling display of speed and passing which puts the law of average on their side, when Ryan Johnson 26 yards power drive slammed the underside of opponents goal and bounced gentle off the Honduras goalkeeper to rolled over the prize line for the Reggae Boyz to take pole position in Group B, as they put their stamp on the Tournament with a number of goal getting passes which the Boyz could not score.
The second half started with the Boyz immediately playing the expected passing game and despite the many chances including a penalty which the goal scorer Ryan Johnson just could not increase, the Reggae Boyz lead over the fighting Hondurans, who despite the Reggae Boyz territorial dominance still had enough fight in them to take the final 20 minutes of the game putting the Boyz on the back foot even with the fresh legs brought in by coach Whitmore. Weary Jamaicans for the first time in the tournament looked vulnerable and were more to hear the referees final whistle and for the 1st time topped their zone.
Read more at :
Friday, June 10, 2011
"It was not in my cards at all," Daniel Rouzier said of being prime minister. "But it is quite an opportunity to serve the people."
By Moni Basu, CNN
June 10, 2011 11:48 a.m. EDT
(CNN) -- Two weeks after Haiti's devastating earthquake, Daniel Rouzier stood in front of heaps of bodies, dumped unceremoniously in the valleys of Titanyen. He clutched a mahogany rosary and covered his face with a sterile mask -- the stench of decomposing human flesh carried with the breeze.
Rouzier, a wealthy businessman and executive with a notable charity had seen on CNN how earthquake victims had been trucked out of Port-au-Prince and disposed in Titanyen without burial. Upset, he put his own resources to work and hired bulldozers to dig mass graves for 2,500 bodies.
He said then that it was sacrilege so many people had not been given proper internment. He didn't want to blame anyone for the aftermath of Haiti's tragedy; he was simply grateful to be able to help.
Now, Rouzier stands poised to be able to do a lot more for his country.
Haiti's new President Michel Martelly tapped the successful entrepreneur to become the troubled nation's next prime minister. Unknown in Haitian politics, Rouzier at first was not even sure he wanted to enter a new realm.
"It was not in my cards at all," he said in a brief phone conversation in the midst of his confirmation hearings Thursday. "But it is quite an opportunity to serve the people."
The ratification process before a parliamentary committee began Wednesday and is expected to go on for a few days. Rouzier said he hopes to be approved by next Tuesday.
Martelly and Rouzier go way back. They went to the same high school and Rouzier's brother Fabrice Rouzier founded the Haitian band Mizik Mizik. Until recently, Martelly, of course, was better known as Sweet Mickey, a wildly popular bad boy of music.
Martelly said he tapped Rouzier because the two men share a vision for a prosperous Haiti.
"Daniel Rouzier is a man of integrity," Martelly said. "He has a track record of getting things done, he turns dreams into reality. Daniel is a man who will prioritize the interests of the country and will respect the rule of law."
A deeply devout Catholic, Rouzier said that if he is confirmed, he will serve in the prime ministerial post as a servant of God. He acknowledged that the journey ahead will be challenging.
Haiti remains the poorest and least developed country in the Western hemisphere and is struggling to recover from the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and displaced 1.6 million others. Hundreds of thousands of those people are still eeking out existances in makeshift camps.
The Inter-American Development Bank estimated that the cost of rebuilding homes, roads, schools and other infrastructure could be as much as $14 billion.The international community pledged $10 billion in March, 2010 but evidence of that money is scant.
A year after the earthquake, there are still mounds of rubble stacked high in parts of Port-au-Prince.
Haiti's problems were compounded by a cholera epidemic that erupted last October and has resurged recently as the rainy season begins.
Part of the reason Martelly won at the polls is because Haitians had increasingly grown discontent with the slow pace of recovery and reconstruction.
Haitians said they wanted a fresh start. Rouzier adds to Martelly's credibility in that aspect, said Jocelyn McCalla, a Haitian-born political strategist and human rights expert.
Rouzier also brings expertise both in the business world and in charitable work.
He served as general manager of his family's Port-au-Prince car dealership, Sun Auto, and also spearheaded E-Power, a private plant intended to increase Haitians' access to electricity. That project was inaugurated on the first anniversary of the earthquake this past January.
Rouzier also helped oversee Food for the Poor, a Florida-based Christian charity that is active in Haiti.
Despite no political experience, Rouzier is seen as someone who can be fair, McCalla said.
"He has a good reputation," McCalla said. "He strikes me as somebody who is well-intentioned."
But as with all others who have entered politics in Haiti, Rouzier will have to rise above entrenched corruption, McCalla said. If he becomes prime minister, Rouzier will inherit a government that was barely functioning, McCalla said.
"One of his challenges is to rebuild the government from the ground up," he said.
Martelly has already promised a free and mandatory education for all Haitians, key to the Caribbean nation's development. The new president has also said he will not look so kindly on those who hinder much needed change.
Rouzier, said McCalla, will help Martelly in challenging a mindset that has hindered Haiti in the past.
"There is so much to be done," Rouzier said. "It's not going to be easy."
All those months ago, he had bestowed peace upon the souls of the dead. It may prove more difficult to do so for the living.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller (third left) and president of the club, Andrea Moore (fourth left), share some of the spotlight with the awardees (from left) Myrna Hague-Bradshaw, Barbara Gloudon, Jacqueline Samuels-Brown, Verene Sheperd, Dr Patricia Yap and Lisa Lewis (accepting on behalf of the Digicel Foundation). - photos by Gladstone Taylor
Kiwanis heroines (excerpt from Observer column by Jean Lowrie-Chin - 6 JUN 11)
We may have been the only ones giving Barbara Gloudon a standing ovation last Wednesday, but we were not at all deterred. Miss B was one of five exceptional Jamaican ladies who were honoured by the Kiwanis Club of New Kingston for their excellence and contribution to the people of Jamaica. The citations reminded us that in this small spot we have some of the biggest hearts and finest minds: Barbara Gloudon, playwright, cultural icon and wearer of innumerable other hats; Professor Verene Shepherd, passionate historian and gender specialist; Myrna Hague-Bradshaw, dazzling jazz singer and innovator; Jacqueline Samuels-Brown, legal luminary and Dr Patricia Yap, brilliant dermatologist and entrepreneur.
We were delighted that the Digicel Foundation received the "Because You Care" Community Service Award for ploughing $750 million into sustainable projects across the island since 2004. (I am advised that I should mention they are a client.)
Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Playing-with-people-s-lives_8956191#ixzz1OoXKFuUb
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
The 4-0 thrashing of Grenada in their opening group B Gold Cup game in LA offers a breath of fresh air for the football hopefuls. While I am not in a position to present the stats on the game, the sheer number of passes is indeed encouraging.
As far as I can remember since the beginning of the new millennium this type of team football was clearly missing. As for me it is not the margin of victory that caught my interest, but the movements off the ball and very few but necessary touches, letting the ball do the work.
The second thing that was noticeable in our possession game was the number of opportunities that were created. As for those who don't believe possession can't win games and as a result don't train our players to keep the ball - they may have to re-examine this performance. For us the hopeful we want to see consistency with this type of performance, and even more importantly improvements in our ability to defend a team. Clearly individual defending helps but with more formidable opponents, penetration will be more frequent.
The Senior BOYZ have shown that keeping the ball deprives the opponent the opportunity to use it against us, and therefore we humbly ask those responsible for the Juniors to begin immediately training team football rather than what appears to be the emphasis on "Individual Brilliance". Again let me say it loud and clear WE KEEP POSSESSION FOR PENETRATION.
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Wednesday, June 1, 2011
At Blakka Ellis's one-man show "Un", Winston "Bello" Bell joined him onstage to sing a ballad to the tune of Mona Lisa. Lovingly staring in his passport, Bello sang, "Mona visa, mi owna visa!"
But that excitement over a US visa is not for certain circles. A visa is a given for the more privileged, and so there is a feeling of shock when it is withdrawn from someone like former Minister of Mining and Energy James Robertson. We understand that he has engaged lawyers to appeal to the State Department regarding this occurrence, and he has denied any allegation of wrongdoing.
No one should rush to judgement, but it is an opportune time to ask if succeeding governments have done enough to mentor their young leaders. We know that in corporate Jamaica, leadership is not taken lightly: there are psychology tests, extensive training and systems of accountability. We are not sure how leaders are selected and groomed in the respective political parties. Since so much is expected of our young prospects, it is incumbent on the older, wiser heads to use their legacy not for vanity, but to inform and guide their successors.
Contractor General Greg Christie was the guest speaker last week at the AGM of the Police Federation. Of course, the media soundbites carried only parts of the speech where the CG was urging the Force to clean up its act. In fact, Mr Christie started out by applauding the Federation on their discernment, as stated in their brochure of "the need to balance the welfare of its members with the proper development of the Force".
The publication continues, "To achieve these objectives the Federation is also focusing its attention on matters such as discipline, motivation, morale and service delivery with the aim of achieving greater protection of the society."
"The foregoing statement of intent and belief clearly discloses the mindset, the vision and the culture of the Central Executive and membership of the Police Federation," said Greg Christie. "It is one in respect of which you should be commended, for above all, it recognises that change in anything is possible and that success in any meaningful change effort must start from within."
Police Commissioner Owen Ellington has led this change. An interview with Jamaica Speaks co-hosts Prof Trevor Munroe and Donna Scott-Mottley revealed a true professional, focused on his mandate, and unflinching in discussing even the thorniest of issues.
Considering that over 60 police officers have been charged with corruption over the past year, we should ask ourselves what other public organisations have been investigating and punishing their own, as doggedly as the police force. While the Force has been insisting on a code of conduct to keep their officers on the straight and narrow, I doubt if our political representatives are fully aware of the Declaration on Political Conduct, which was signed in September 2005 by then Prime Minister PJ Patterson and then Opposition Leader Bruce Golding during a weekly sitting of the House of Representatives. This Declaration was lobbied for by the PSOJ, whose members had locked their businesses and met in Emancipation Park earlier that year, calling for a halt to the country's spiralling crime rate.
A JIS report quoted Mr Patterson as having said at the signing, "We must, in the process of plural democracy, build a culture of greater political tolerance at every level... (there were) deliberate steps to publicly dissociate political leaders from criminal elements and criminal activity."
The Declaration called on our leaders to "eschew the practice of political tribalism rooted in coercion, intimidation and violence of any kind, and commit to removing and resisting the development of any structures, behavioural, cultural, social or organisational, which reinforce political tribalism".
Mr Golding had commented at the signing: "It is not enough for us to demonstrate that we are the exception; it is not enough for us to differentiate ourselves individually; it is rather incumbent on us to define the rules and enforce the rule so that there can be few if any exceptions, and that where exceptions arise, they can be effectively dealt with."
An experienced observer said before last year's Tivoli operation, that there are indeed "innocents" in political parties and mentioned by name Dr Ken Baugh and Burchell Whiteman. "They are kept in the dark when it comes to certain dealings," I was told. "I am not sure when this will stop – power too sweet."
But we hold on to hope. In his budget presentation earlier this month, PM Golding announced that the government was taking the declaration further. "The next step is to provide for the imposition of criminal sanctions for certain breaches that involve conduct intended to undermine or corrupt the process and for the denial of contracts to persons deemed not to be fit and proper," he told the House.
We should know that while the Electoral Commission, Contractor General, Public Defender, Political Ombudsman and the Local Government Authorities exist in law, they are still not specifically recognised or protected in the Constitution. The PM assured that a Bill has been drafted to address this and will shortly be tabled in Parliament.
May our lawmakers not stand in the way of these long-awaited amendments. May they balance their taste for the sweetness of power with the oath they took when they assumed their hallowed positions in Gordon House.
About two years ago, a group of us had dinner at the Rockhouse in Negril's West End. The meal was so good that we asked to meet the chef, who turned out to be a humble gentleman called Kevin Broderick from St Mary. He said it was his late grandmother who first taught him how to cook. Last Thursday at the Observer Food Awards, Chef Broderick was announced the Chef of the Year from a field of five outstanding chefs, some of international repute. When we sought him out to congratulate him, his eyes misted over as he said, "Well my grandmother is gone now, but I think she would be proud of me." Indeed, she would be.
Congrats to all winners, especially Island Grill, Mother's and Jamaica Broilers, recipients respectively of the People's Choice, Chairman's Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award.
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