Wednesday, February 29, 2012

World Champion Yohan Blake leads off 2012 adidas Grand Prix lineup

From Anthony Turner - IMAGES Media LLC

NEW YORK (Feb. 29, 2012)—World Champion Yohan Blake of Jamaica, ranked No. 1 in the world at 100 meters, kicks off a scintillating lineup of superstars expected at the 2012 adidas Grand Prix in a preview of the action later this summer in London.

Blake 22, joins a long list of sprint champions who have thrilled fans at the adidas Grand Prix in the past, including Maurice Greene, Tyson Gay, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Allyson Felix and, of course, Usain Bolt, who in 2008 set his first 100-meter World Record here to kick off his history-making Olympic campaign.

"The Gibson Relays last weekend were a great start for my 2012 season," said Blake, of the event at National Stadium in Kingston on Feb. 25 in which he came from behind to anchor his 4x400-meter and 4x100-meter teams to victory. "I am already looking forward to that fast track in New York City on June 9th."

Last summer in Daegu, South Korea, Blake became the youngest 100-meter gold medalist at the World Championships since it began in 1983. "I would like to be a legend," he said before capping off his historic week by running the third leg and handing off to his training partner, Bolt, on the 4x100-meter relay team that broke its own World Record.

This is not the first time Blake has competed at the adidas Grand Prix. The youngster made his debut here way back in 2007 when he anchored his St. Jago team to victory in the boys' 4x400-meter high school relay, and competed over 100 meters in 2009 and 2010.More athlete announcements for the 2012 event are expected soon.

The eighth-annual adidas Grand Prix, one of the premier track-and-field events in the world, is the sixth stop on the international Samsung Diamond League circuit, and the third stop on the Visa Championship Series. It will begin at 1 p.m. on June 9 at Icahn Stadium on Randall's Island.

Homestretch tickets for the event, set for June 9, are now on sale at 877-849-8722.

For more information, visit the event website at and follow the adidas Grand Prix on Facebook and Twitter. When tweeting, use #agpny.
Sent from my BlackBerry® device from Digicel

Monday, February 27, 2012

Dr Henry Lowe creates new JA industry in nutraceuticals

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Observer column | Monday, February 27, 2012

Local scientist Dr Henry Lowe (2nd right), updates Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson (left) about the new range of local nutraceutical supplements and teas being promoted under the Eden Gardens brand at the launch last Thursday at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in Kingston. Dr Lowe's wife and Sir Kenneth Hall, former governor general, listen in. The products are developed and formulated from local plants by Dr Lowe and his Bio-Tech R&D Institute team. (Caption from the Observer - Photo: Lionel Rookwood)

In spite of the challenges, there are special Jamaicans who help us to keep the faith. In continuing our mini-features on recipients of the CCRP Jamaica 50 Living Legacy Award, this week we highlight distinguished scientist and entrepreneur, Dr Henry Lowe, the founder and executive chairman of Bio-Tech R&D Institute. Last Thursday he launched a range of nutraceutical products under the "Eden Gardens" brand made from indigenous plant extracts and scientifically proved to enhance health and wellness.

Dr Lowe explained that Jamaica was a cornucopia of 84 internationally recognised medical plants, only two of which had been successfully developed into accepted pharmaceuticals. One is the periwinkle, which we apparently knew about, but allowed the Canadians to "first" us. They have developed from this wild plant, expensive drugs, one of which cost US$5,000 per milligram. The other is cannabis (ganja), from which Jamaica's canasol was developed by Professor Manley West, Dr Albert Lockhart and Dr Lowe. It is now regarded internationally as one of the most effective treatments of glaucoma.

Then, when Dr Henry Lowe started his decade-long experimentation on the lowly ball moss, another miraculous indigenous plant became internationally accepted. An extract of the ball moss, commonly called "bird's nest" that we see on power lines all over Jamaica, has been developed into a nutraceutical called Alpha Prostate Formula 1, a chemo-preventative agent to support and enhance prostate health.

In one short year since he launched the Bio-Tech R&D Institute, Dr Lowe and his brilliant team of scientists have developed seven nutraceuticals which have all won FDA approval and a Certificate of Free Sale for the USA. The team has done extensive toxicity tests showing no negative side-effects, and their products are now set to enter the US$86-billion a year nutraceutical market. They have also developed five medicinal teas. Henry Lowe projects that they should be able to add to their workforce of 30 with each passing year and Jamaican farmers will increasingly benefit from their business.

Master of ceremonies for the event, Mrs Beverley Anderson Duncan, and several other speakers said they were awaiting the listing of Bio-Tech R&D on the Jamaica Stock Exchange so they could own shares in this unique organisation. Dr Lowe has not only created a business, but he has also created an entire new industry which will bring fame and well-needed prosperity to Jamaica. We salute this distinguished son of Jamaica.

Jamaica must win the war on corruption


Observer column | Monday, February 27, 2012

Several young people who did not bother to vote in the December elections told us that they were disillusioned — they had little faith in either political party. Now as the parties prepare for Local Government elections next month, they should be working to earn the confidence of our young people.

We are hearing allegations of corruption regarding the fires at the Riverton dump and the slow response which resulted in an environmental crisis. While the politicians do their finger-pointing, residents in the area continue to suffer. This is the problem with corruption. It does not remain under the table where envelopes change hands. It spreads its slimy tentacles over the entire nation — public and private sector, rich and poor. In an address at a PSOJ event last year, Professor Trevor Munroe, director of the National Integrity Action Forum (NIAF), spoke on the topic, "Combatting Corruption, Building Integrity, Strengthening Governance".

"While the beneficiaries of corruption in the public and private sectors enjoy the fruits of ill-gotten gains," said Professor Munroe, "amongst our people, the combination of economic distress, personal vulnerability to violent criminals, distrust of public institutions, disgust at corruption in high places and increasing social disorder is seriously undermining confidence in public institutions, even support for democracy. Indeed, available evidence points to a growing tendency towards authoritarian solutions. This turning away from democracy has got to be arrested and can be arrested."

He called on all sectors to raise the level of resistance against corruption. A gentleman I know got his business in Kingston burnt out when he refused to supply the community "don" with his demands and had to flee the country after receiving death threats when he reported the matter. Only last Thursday, we heard that Vanity Food Fair in St Catherine was torched — the owner had been gunned down some time ago. A relative was heard asking if there was no place in these communities for decent business people to operate. But there is also a less visible form of corruption happening in both the private and public sectors. The shaken victims are warned, "This is a small country — speak at your peril."

Professor Munroe appealed: "Those who resist and those who stand up need support, need reinforcement to be more effective if, ultimately, frustration is not to get the better of them and they ask themselves 'what's the point?' I know one such is Greg Christie; I ask the PSOJ and all well-thinking Jamaicans to call on him to make himself available for renewal of his contract when it expires!"

Professor Munroe pointed out "four man-made circumstances" which had opened up the opportunities for Jamaica to move swiftly to address such issues. He cited "public servants of integrity asserting professionalism", giving the examples of Greg Christie, then Customs Chief Danville Walker, Commissioner Ellington, Major General Saunders, Major General Anderson, and ACP Felice. He saw "an awakening of civil society - more active media, churches/denominations overcoming differences, human rights, environmental, grass-roots groups talking out".

He also noted "a more interventionist private sector - importantly embracing in the organisation small people like taxi operators, craft vendors, etc, and with a national vision superceding partisan support" and "more assertive international partners" like the IMF which helped to inspire JDX and the US Department of Justice which filed for the Coke extradition.

One thing we know for sure, the tightening global economy will result in choosier investors. Let us fight corruption to receive a solid rating as a good place to do business.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Human Brain Scan


Monday, February 20, 2012

JDF CHIEFS: Profiles in Jamaican Courage

by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Observer column | Monday 20 February 2012

The Pollyanna in me had been struggling with the tragic death of Edgar Gallimore and the troubling crime statistics, so thank goodness, I made it to last Thursday's "Conversation with JDF Chiefs 1973 to present". At the UWI Faculty of Law, history unfolded in the accounts of seven leaders of the Jamaica Defence Force spanning the past 39 years. They spoke of our soldiers in war, states of emergency, hurricanes and floods. In the Caribbean and as far away as Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, our women and men in uniform have been giving comfort to the suffering and defending democracy and human rights.  

Major General Rudolph Green recalled Jamaica's year-long state of emergency in 1976 when the JDF's resources were stretched to the limit. Major General Robert Neish was appointed as chief in 1979 and his watchwords of "professionalism, loyalty, military discipline and impartiality" were crucial in the face of the violence-ridden run-up to the 1980 elections.   

In October 1983 came "Urgent Fury", the US military invasion of Grenada after the violent coup in that country. General Neish said that this was the JDF's first "all-out war", and the professionalism of the JDF was in top order, their capability quickly recognised by the Americans. "In a few weeks, they were able to pull out," commented General Neish, leaving the JDF in charge of operations.

Rear Admiral Peter Brady took over leadership in 1990, describing the force as a "well-oiled machine" which then had to face the spectre of rising crime. The JDF collaborated with the US Coast Guard in their war against the drug trade. Admiral Brady also established the JDF Engineer Regiment as a homogenous body which we know has done yeoman's work throughout the island.  

He recalled the demands of the visit of Pope John Paul in 1993 which went off without a hitch. However, a helicopter trip with Prime Minister Michael Manley and the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell did not go as smoothly and the aircraft landed just a few inches away from the coastline.  This experience was recounted in the first chapter of General Powell's book, My American Journey.

Major General Simmonds, who took over the JDF reins in 1998, said he emphasised the importance of intelligence. He said the National Youth Service programme with the military should have continued, euphemistically commenting that "the system calms you". He described the elaborate arrangements for the funeral of Michael Manley: "The Force came together so quickly" to mount a world-class event. After a tense moment, the stuttering Land Rover leading the hearse to Heroes' Park yielded to a good Jamaican "push".

Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin who took over in 2002, remarked on the excellent training given on following orders, describing his first experience on the frigate HMS10 when his steering instructions were followed instantly: "I had goose bumps". At the request of then National Security Minister Peter Phillips, he rolled out a five-year plan "which the JDF not only developed  – we implemented."

Major General Stewart Saunders, who was appointed head in 2007, remarked on the JDF's excellent relations with the Jamaica Constabulary Force. General Saunders served under National Security Ministers Derrick Smith, Dwight Nelson, and Trevor MacMillan. He stressed the importance of continuity to avoid "championing causes all over again and losing momentum".

The current Chief, Maj General Antony Anderson, raised our consciousness of "the threat over the horizon". He reminded us of the danger of natural disasters – "in Haiti, in a minute, there were 200,000 dead – way beyond war."  The JDF's mission, he said, was "to ensure the protection of Jamaica and its interests".  

Moderator for the evening Prof Stephen Vacciannie asked about the "glass ceiling" in the JDF, to which the chiefs responded that there was no gender bar as all soldiers are eligible to do promotion examinations. In fact, Admiral Lewin said that women soldiers now serve in the infantry.  As to the proposal to move Up Park Camp from its current location, there was resounding applause when General Neish declared, "Leave Up Park Camp in the safe hands of the JDF!"   

General Anderson emphasised that "this business of crime is certainly not in the nation's interest - we lose too much of our potential for growth.  We are supporting the JCF overtly and covertly".
As we observed our valiant JDF leaders and the soldiers who so precisely supported this event, we need to ask our political players to examine their consciences. As we see the courageous efforts of the many decent members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, we have to speak out in their support. Is this upsurge in crime linked to a desperate 'las' lick' game that the two political parties are playing over the upcoming Local Government elections?  Are thugs being brought into this scenario?  We have to stand strong with Crime Stop and other civic groups so we can get to the root of this sickening crime problem.  What a great day when our security professionals can use their considerable skills not to fight crime, but to contribute to the sustainable development of our beloved Jamaica.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Strength of Weak Ties in Social Media

Rethinking Information Diversity in Networks
by Eytan Bakshy on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 11:00 am - from the Facebook Research Team·

How do your friends shape the information you see and read online? Social networking technologies like Facebook let us connect to hundreds, even thousands of people -- and have fundamentally changed how people get their information.

 While much of our time is spent communicating with close friends about events in our personal lives [1], we also use online networks to share breaking news, discuss political issues and learn about new trends.  In 2010, my colleagues Itamar Rosenn, Cameron Marlow, Lada Adamic and I conducted a study on Facebook to understand the nature of information spread in social networks.

 Some claim that social networks act like echo chambers in which people only consume and share information from likeminded close friends, stifling the spread of diverse information. Our study paints a different picture of the world.

 Instead, we found that even though people are more likely to consume and share information that comes from close contacts that they interact with frequently (like discussing a photo from last night's party), the vast majority of information comes from contacts that they interact with infrequently.  These distant contacts are also more likely to share novel information, demonstrating that social networks can act as a powerful medium for sharing new ideas, highlighting new products and discussing current events.

The research suggests that Facebook isn't the echo chamber that some might expect – online social networks actually increase the spread of novel information and diverse viewpoints.

Social Networks as Information Pathways

Economic sociologist Mark Granovetter was one of the first to popularize the use of social networks in understanding the spread of information.  In his seminal 1973 paper, The Strength of Weak Ties [2], Granovetter found that surprisingly, people are more likely to acquire jobs that they learned about through individuals they interact with infrequently rather than their close personal contacts. 

To explain this phenomenon Granovetter used social graphs to illustrate how networks relate to information access (Figure 1). When a person interacts with two individuals frequently, those individuals are also likely to interact with one another.  It follows that people tend to form dense clusters of strong ties who are all connected.


Figure 1: We are connected to core groups of strong ties that we interact with frequently and weak ties that we interact with infrequently. Granovetter's hypothesis about the "strength of weak ties" states that weak ties facilitate information flow from disparate clusters of people.

 What do these structures have to do with information access? Since people in these clusters all know each other, any information that is available to one individual spreads quickly to others within the cluster. These tight-knit social circles tend to be small relative to people's entire social network, and when it comes to information about future job opportunities, it can be hard to find new leads.

 Granovetter used the relationship between interaction frequency and social structure to explain why information about jobs is instead found through weak ties that we interact with infrequently.  Weak ties help spread novel information by bridging the gap between clusters of strong tie contacts.  The strength of weak ties informs much of the popular understanding of information spread in social networks.

Birds of a Feather Surf Together

But what about information that is more widely available, like news on the Internet? To understand the flow of more general types of information in society, it's important not only to take into account how people are connected, but also the commonalities that promote the spread of information.  One of the most robust findings in social networks is that of homophily [3], the tendency of individuals with similar characteristics to associate with one another.  Individuals are connected to each other through workplaces, professions, schools, clubs, hobbies, political beliefs and other affiliations.  The homophily principle holds true for any kind of social network you can think of: close friends, professional contacts, classmates and even the people you ride the bus with. 

 Today, these commonalities not only shape how often people interact and what they talk about, but also what kinds of information they as individuals seek on the Web.  Homophily suggests that people who interact frequently are similar and may consume more of the same information.  Individuals that interact less often tend to be dissimilar and may consume more diverse information.  This view of the world is illustrated in Figure 2 below.

 Figure 2: Information spread in online social networks. Our study suggests that strong ties are similar and more likely to be tuned into the same web sites. Weak ties, being more dissimilar, tend to visit different websites.

Interest and Novelty

To understand how online social networks affect the spread of information, we used random variation in the News Feed to determine how likely a person is to share Web content if she did or did not see the content shared by her friends.  We found that people are more likely to share the information they were exposed to by their strong ties than by their weak ties on Facebook (Figure 3).   

 Figure 3: People are more likely to share information (links to Web pages) that they were exposed to by strong ties in their News Feed [4]. Tie strength between two individuals is measured by the number of comments a person received from their friend on Facebook. Other measurements of tie strength, like the number of messages, co-appearances in photos, and discussion on posts are discussed in our paper [5].

There are many possible explanations for the increased flow of information across strong ties. One reason is that close contacts are more likely to be similar to one another, and therefore find content shared by their close friends more interesting.  An alternative explanation is that strong ties are more "influential", so that people are more likely to be persuaded to share information from their close contacts. 

We also investigate how Facebook amplifies information distribution. That is, if a friend shares something on Facebook, how many times more likely are you to share that information as a result of seeing it in the News Feed? The figure below shows how this multiplicative effect depends on the strength of your tie with that friend.

Figure 4: Weak ties spread novel information that people are unlikely to otherwise see. The figure above shows how many times more likely people are to share a page because of exposure via the News Feed from strong and weak ties.

 We found that information shared by a person's weak ties is unlikely to be shared at a later point in time independently of those friends. Therefore, seeing content from a weak tie leads to a nearly tenfold increase in the likelihood that a person will share a link. In contrast, seeing information shared by a strong tie in News Feed makes people just six times as likely to share. In short, weak ties have the greatest potential to expose their friends to information that they would not have otherwise discovered.

The Collective Influence of Weak Ties

Ultimately, we are interested in how these network effects shape information spread as a whole.  Even though a person is more likely to share a single piece of information from one of their close contacts, it turns out that weak ties are collectively responsible for the majority of information spread. 

 Let's consider a hypothetical example (illustrated in Figure 5). Let's say a person has 100 contacts that are weak tie friends, and 10 that are strong tie friends.  Suppose the chance that you'll share something is very high for strong tie friends, say 50%, but the weak tie friends tend to share less interesting stuff, so the likelihood of sharing is only 15%. Therefore the amount of information spread due to weak and strong ties would be 100*0.15 = 15, and 10*0.50 = 5 respectively, so in total, people would end up sharing more from their weak tie friends.


Figure 5: People are more likely to share information from their strong ties, but because of their abundance, weak ties are primarily responsible for the majority of information spread on Facebook. The figure above illustrates how a majority of influence (orange) can be generated by weak ties, even if strong ties are individually more influential.

 It turns out that the mathematics of information spread on Facebook is quite similar to our hypothetical example: the majority of people's contacts are weak tie friends, and if we carry out this same computation using the empirical distribution of tie strengths and their corresponding probabilities, we find that weak ties generate the majority of information spread.


The information we consume and share on Facebook is actually much more diverse in nature than conventional wisdom might suggest.  We are exposed to and spread more information from our distant contacts than our close friends.  Since these distant contacts tend to be different from us, the bulk of information we consume and share comes from people with different perspectives. This may provide some comfort to those who worry that social networks are simply an echo chamber where people are only exposed to those who share the same opinions.  Our work is among the first to rigorously quantify influence at a mass scale, and shows that online social networks can serve as an important medium for sharing new perspectives, products and world events. 


[1] Common experience would suggest that we spend most of our time communicating with only a few individuals on Facebook.  To a large extent, this is true, and documented in Backstrom, et al. Center of Attention: How Facebook Users allocate Attention. ICWSM, 2011.

[2] M. Granovetter. The Strength of Weak Ties. American Journal of Sociology, 1973.

[3] An extensive and accessible introduction to homophily can be found in McPherson et al.  Birds of a Feather Flock Together. Annual Review of Sociology, 2001.

[4] It is important to note that very often, information does not "cascade" very far along the network.  This phenomenon has been observed in earlier research on Twitter in Everyone's an Influencer: Quantifying Influence on Twitter and has been studied across other networks more extensively in upcoming work by Sharad Goel and Duncan Watts at Yahoo! Research, NY.

[5] The Role of Social Networks in Information Diffusion. E. Bakshy, I. Rosenn, C.A. Marlow, L.A. Adamic, ACM WWW 2012

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Clap Soul-Hands Whitney!

... and thoughts of Whitney Houston as we watch her funeral

How wondrous is the truth I found
The soul is not by body bound
It travels like a ray of light
And sees with universal sight

And so my soul will keep me whole
When senses fail and steps grow slow
This body is a tiny stage
On which the soul performs a phase

Come, fly beyond the day and night
Sway your soul to strains of light
God’s music falls like sweet, soft rain
Takes you past all fear and pain

Clap soul-hands, tap soul-feet
And dance to Heaven’s mighty beat!

(c) Jean Lowrie-Chin 2007

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sidjae Walia on Teamwork

Good day leaders,
"Individual Commitment to Teamwork"

Individual commitment to a group effort ... that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work."  -  Vince Lombardi

Birds often fly in a V formation. They recognize that they get further faster and with less effort if they pull together as a team. They also recognize that those with the greatest responsibility sometimes need a break, and they rotate the lead roles. The evidence of strength in togetherness is again demonstrated by the king of the jungle. Lions travel in groups, known as prides, to indicate their strength especially when they are hunting. Nature is replete with examples of the importance and success of teamwork.

Teamwork is the result of individual contribution and commitment toward a group goal. Is your team moving in the same direction or do you have individuals tearing away the fabric of the team? Do you rotate the lead roles in your team based on talent and opportunity or do the same few people take the lead on every project? The strength of your team is not in the numbers, it is in the level of togetherness, the level of individual commitment to the group effort.

To Your Unlimited Possibilities,
‪Sidjae Walia

Training that delivers "Above and Beyond" results
Twitter ID:
(647) 927 9289

Sent from my BlackBerry® device from Digicel

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Faces of Whitney and 'Angel's Message'

- Photos from New York Times

Angel's Message

When I thought you'd really left
I froze in sorrow, so bereft
But then you touched my soul and said
"Look here friend, I am not dead!
What you see is but a body
Feel the breeze? That's me
Hear the whisper of the grass drinking in the rain?
That's me again!"

I blinked and saw you in the sun
Winking through the trees, having fun
Warmly whispering "I'm really alright
I've entered forever
I'm surrounded by light"

You've made it, my Angel
Past the trials and strife
In heaven's embrace now
You're larger than life.


© Jean Lowrie-Chin

from Souldance


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Scenes from the CCRP Jamaica 50 Living Legacy Awards

Presentations were made to a total of 70 outstanding Jamaicans yesterday - Wed 8 February, by the CCRP – Caribbean Community of Retired Persons – to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Jamaica’s Independence.

Leading the list of recipients was retired Governor General the Most Honourable Sir Howard Cooke, who at 96 years of age, remains alert and active. Photo shows Governor General Sir Partick Allen and CCRP Chair Prof Denise Eldemire applauding this legendary leader.
Some of the other awardees pictured below receiving Awards from Prof Eldemire Shearer and Vice Chair Aloun Assamba (from top) were:
Bishop Hon Carmen Stewart
Mrs Cynthia Wilmot, media and film veteran
Dr Molly Thorburn, pioneer in addressing learning disabilities
Mr Ferdinand Mahfood, Founder of Food for the Poor, now the largest international charity in the USA
Mr Kenneth Benjamin, head of the largest security conglomerate in the Caribbean and prime mover in Hope Zoo Restoration
Mr Francis ‘Paco’ Kennedy, extraordinary support to the development of commerce in Jamaica and a quiet philanthropist
Mrs Sarah Newland-Martin, Shining beacon as a role model for both disabled and non-disabled persons.

The event took place at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.



Yesterday, the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons - CCRP - commemorated the Golden Jubilee of Jamaica's Independence by honouring a total of 70 Jamaicans in two categories, for the Legacy they have bestowed on our beloved country. Below is the text of Professor Baugh's brilliant reply on behalf of the CCRP Jamaica 50 Legacy Award Recipients


by Professor Emeritus Edward Baugh

 (Jamaica Pegasus, 8 February 2012)


Time takes its revenge.  For all of my adult life, I've dreamed of inheriting a legacy, some little "dead-leff" that would drop into my lap miraculously, without any warning, and would bring me all the material luxuries I coveted.  I took note of a phrase in Fr Ramkissoon's grace before lunch.  He referred to "the many retired persons and the many persons in need."  That juxtaposition, that identification is apt:  I am in need.


Anyway, now, by a nice irony, and to my amazement, Time and the CCRP have determined that I am a legacy.  The idea that future generations will inherit me, will inherit us awardees, is humbling.  Happily though, at least for now, not "dead-leff" but a living legacy.  The adjective "living" was obviously carefully chosen, to make us feel good by balancing the opposite connotations of "legacy."  Furthermore, if Time has turned the tables on me, I rationalize the turn by telling myself that it has confirmed for me, for all of us awardees, the truth that it is better to give than to receive.  Still, we have received much, and most notably now, this honour.


          For me personally, an additional, daunting honour is to be asked to say thanks on behalf of all the awardees.  When I consider the varieties of eloquence represented in this room, among the awardees, I wonder if mine is not a mixed blessing.  I wonder what would have been the outcome if the awardees had been asked to elect one of their number to say thanks.  Perhaps we would have had an election "too close to call."  Perhaps this is my chance to justify my award!


          Anyway, the other awardees and I say thanks, first, for the gift of life and the grace of the Great Giver, that have allowed us to do whatever we have done that was worthy of this honour, and for the gift of life that allows us to be here today.  If, by virtue of this award, we are projected as worth emulating, then in that respect we will have been of that much more service to society, and that privilege will be another gift we have been given, for which we say thanks.


                         We say thanks to the CCRP for having chosen us.  We congratulate them on the comprehensive variety of categories, of kinds of service which their choices represent.  The Governor-General and Mr Kellier both highlighted the same point, and I wish to underline it.  This range of choice indicates a good understanding of the much abused buzz-word "development," an understanding that development cannot be just a matter of the bottom line at all costs, but that the bottom line is inextricably intertwined with all sorts of other aspects of life which are not immediately seen as quantifiable or having cash value.  We shall wear the honour modestly and soberly, because we know that we are not exclusive, but only representative of those many others who could also easily have been applauded today, were it not for the constraint of numbers, or for the fact that their work has been done outside of the limelight.  We thank them too, nameable or nameless.


                         We must also thank and congratulate Mrs Lowrie-Chin, the ever-vivacious, upbeat and go-getting Jean, for having conceived and brought to efficient reality the CCRP and this Independence Award.  She is herself a model of that prompt transition from idea and talk to action and implementation that our society has long needed to practise more.  No doubt, in founding the CCRP, Jean is securing her own future.  If that is so, then that is a good example of enlightened self-interest.


                         To be associated in this way with the 50th anniversary of Jamaica's independence is a distinction we shall cherish. I had the good fortune to be in the National Stadium on Independence night 1962.  Curiously, the one specific memory I have is of a hitch.  At midnight the lights went out.  In the darkness, the Union Jack was to be lowered and the Jamaican flag raised, so that the Jamaican flag would be flying when the lights came back on.  But the darkness seemed to last an eternity; obviously something had gone wrong.  It was either that the Union Jack wouldn't come down, or the Jamaican flag was diffident about going up.


Anyway, the lights came on again, and there was rejoicing.  Since that night, we've had many hitches and glitches, but we have survived.  We have achieved much, but much more remains to be achieved and to be righted.  May this moment be a moment of resolve.


                         If saying thanks goes on too long, it becomes suspect, and I may deserve the Shakespearean rebuke from Hamlet, adjusted slightly:  "Methinks he doth protest too much."  So, on behalf of all the awardees, thank you.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Anbell's Retro Plug-In for BB

Anbell's Andrew Pairman sent me this interesting retro handset from Echo Logico - It plugs into my BlackBerry and he says it should block 99% of cell phone radiation. It's cool to use - fits well between shoulder and ear and has an on-off button.

National Bakery's first Bold Ones 'graduate'

Dr Andre Jones, of Yono Industries, has signed a contract with a distributor for mouthwash, shampoo and conditioner.
Joseph Adduci's cigar company is one of eleven to have benefited from the Bold Ones campaign.
Jamaica Observer | Sunday, February 05, 2012
The eleven graduates of National Bakery's first Bold Ones campaign say it has helped them brand awareness, increase respect and market penetration, and gain local and international contracts.
National's chairman, Butch Hendrickson, introduced the $25 million investment in those "Bold" enough to go into manufacturing in an effort to revitalise the sector.
"We wanted to encourage Jamaican manufacturers to come to the forefront and position themselves at par with the best in the world," Hendrickson said.
"This is an initiative to highlight and showcase the people who are into manufacturing, and are working towards creating opportunities and contributing meaningfully towards the country's economy."
The company is now looking for a new crop of companies for Bold Ones 2012.
"We are now working on plans to launch a 2012 campaign, in which a new batch of 'Bold Ones' will be selected and encouraged in a practical way," he said.
"There are many promising manufacturing companies in Jamaica. We have only begun to uncover the depth of talent and innovation that our local manufacturers have to offer, and we are expecting even bolder initiatives in the future."
In 2010 eleven companies were selected to be 'Bold Ones' from a shortlist of 18. Selection was based on four criteria: each had to be no more than seven years old, employing at least five persons, using indigenous resources in the manufacturing process, and being tax compliant.
They were: Spur Tree Spices Jamaica Ltd, producer of jerk seasonings and sauces; Home Choice Enterprises Ltd, producers of peppered shrimp, guava cheese, boneless saltfish and curry and jerk sauces; Chocolate Dreams, offering a range of chocolate delights; Yono Corporation, which manufactures cleaning agents, toiletries and cosmetic supplies; AMG Packaging, producing packaging materials; Pastry Passions, with a range of pastries and cakes; Country House Products, offering lemon grass products, tea, body care products, shampoos and candles; Banyan Creations, also producing candles and bath products; Adduci Jamaican Cigars, reviving what was once a major Jamaican industry; West Indies Gypsum Company, manufacturing ceiling tiles, and Jerk Place & Restaurant, producers of Matie Sauce, a multi-purpose jerk dipping sauce.
These companies benefited from broadcast and print media features, advertisements on National trucks that travel the island, and a grand showcasing of their products at Expo Jamaica 2010. The programme also underwrote full photo shoots and the production of a 5-minute video for each manufacturer to use in their marketing and promotions efforts.
Dr Andre Jones, principal of Yono Industries said that he recently signed a contract with a distributor to manufacture mouthwash, shampoo and conditioner. Once this is implemented, he says, he expects to see a significant financial increase.
And he encouraged other manufacturers to join the programme: "The Bold Ones campaign will increase your visibility with the public and will help to give validation to what you are producing."
George Hugh, CEO of AMG said his company's profits have "definitely" increased. In June of 2010 AMG became the tenth company to list on the Jamaica Stock Exchange Junior Market. The packaging and paper company won the confidence of hundreds of investors, raising $213 million in its initial public offering.
Brian Walks, Managing Director of West Indies Gypsum, credits the Bold Ones campaign with enabling his growing company to gain "a manufacturing and supply contract with a major marketing and distribution company"..
Spur Tree Spices has also ramped up international marketing, and its products have won a number of awards, including the Jamaica Observer Food Award for Best New Sauce for 2010/2011.
Home Choice Enterprises has redesigned its website and created a presence on Facebook and You Tube, using video clips and features sponsored under the Bold Ones campaign. Managing Director Kareema Muncey notes, "These moves have helped us to target the overseas market as well".

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tessa Sanderson: JA is ‘the surprise country’

Tessa Sanderson Team Great Britain 2012 Ambassador poses for a portrait on March 28, 2011 in London, England.
(March 27, 2011 - Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe)

Observer column | by Jean Lowrie-Chin | 30 Jan 2012

Tessa Sanderson commanded our attention at the RJR Sports Awards. The Jamaican born UK Olympic Gold medalist reminded us that in sport, and may we add in life, there are no guarantees. Sanderson traced her life for us from her idyllic childhood in St. Elizabeth, proudly declaring of her breadbasket parish, “you want it, we have it”. She recalled walking to primary school, ‘sharp pleats in our uniforms’.

Soon, her family’s migration took her north to England where she gloried in the diversity of the London society: “I was now in the home of the world.” How can we ever underestimate the power of a perceptive affirming teacher? For Usain Bolt, it was Margaret Lee and for Tessa Sanderson it was her physical education teacher Sonia Lannaman who watched the agile 13-year-old toss a cricket ball 199 feet and immediately saw her stellar potential.

Her family and teachers kept Sanderson as focused on her academic development as on her sport. “Education is the key to success,” she stated, adding that her eventual climb to stardom was due to “a rock solid mind”. From 1976 to 1996, during which time she finally achieved the gold and many other accolades, Sanderson described 20 years of sacrifice. When she left school and started to work, she had a nine to five day and then trained sometimes until 10 pm.

“I was having my evening meal after training, but who cares? I was chasing my goal,” she told us. During those years she singled out two people who inspired her to persevere: “My coach Wilf Paish, and my father who worked all hours to give his best … I was always his champion.”

But Tessa Sanderson learned dramatically about the huge risk all sportswomen and men face: while participating in a heptathlon she ruptured her Achilles tendon and then broke her throwing arm, on the very same day. It took her two years to recover, and a fierce rivalry with fellow UK thrower Fatima Whitbread to take her to the top of her game.

“Healthy rivalry is fantastic – it is always good to take your crown,” enthused Sanderson. When she mounted the stand at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 to receive her Olympic Gold, she said she was “hilariously happy – it was the best feeling in the world. I shed tears of joy.”

It was ironical that having arrived back in the UK to a hero’s welcome, Tessa found that she had lost her job. Her champion’s spirit was not dampened. She decided to embark on a career in the media and later established the Tessa Sanderson Foundation to assist young athletes, including those with physical disabilities.

Our hearts sang as Sanderson poured out her love for Jamaica. “You are the surprise country! You have great actors, broadcasters, high court judges.” Turning to sports, she says it has given Jamaica a special branding. “You are like gazelles in motion – Holding and Walsh bowling like lighning. Deon Hemmings (in Atlanta). In Beijing the speed King himself – Usain Bolt!”

She referred to our fight for justice, the years of struggle for Jamaicans Dorie and Neville Lawrence whose son Stephen had been murdered in 1993 in a hate crime in the UK, and whose two killers were finally sentenced last year.

She reminded us that we’ve had three Miss Worlds and that we run our own sports academy. How true! Remember the days when we thought our athletes could only become world class if they trained abroad? Now the world is coming to fast-class here!

Tessa Sanderson said, “the tide has changed … you should be nurturing what is in your own backyard.” With London Olympics 2012 on the horizon, she says Jamaicans are the chosen topic, especially for the vast Jamaican community, getting ready to receive our stars.

Sanderson is a close friend of another UK-Jamaica, RJR Group’s dynamic Yvonne Wilks. They bring back memories of another “Jam-Brit”, the late Pauline Little Gray who in her short life made her mark of excellence in journalism, export promotion and shipping. As Sanderson said, ‘healthy rivalry is fantastic’ and when one has to measure up against achievers in a highly competitive environment, one exceeds expectations. Last week New York Times columnist Thomas l. Friedman wrote that “Average is over”. He said with so much clever technology, only the most educated and diligent will make it.

At the memorable celebration of India’s 63rd Republic Day at the High Commission, Foreign Affairs Minister A.J. Nicholson noted the assistance we had been receiving from the Indian Government in IT training – we could not want for better. There we spoke with that exceptional math teacher, Jayshree Kumar who would like to see gifted underprivileged Jamaican children benefitting from boarding facilities and be nurtured in an optimum learning environment.

At a PSOJ Chairman’s Forum last Tuesday where Finance Minister Peter Phillips was guest speaker, investment guru Sushil Jain suggested intensive training for ‘half a million craftsmen’. When Jamaicans are properly trained, we cannot find more efficient, resourceful workers anywhere. Minister Phillips gave a short solid presentation, emphasizing the importance of retaining low interest rates and reducing bureaucracy. In his previous ministerial posts, we have known him to be a stickler for performance, and look forward to his effective leadership of this, Jamaica’s most challenging ministry.

The cries of the poor and unemployed are growing louder. A passionate Tessa Sanderson tells us we are the talk of London because of our sporting fame. If we could take a leaf from JAAA/IAAF’s Teddy McCook’s book of discipline, tough training and fair play, Jamaica can become the positive ‘talk’ of the world. We have the goodwill and the ingenuity to do it – let us surprise ourselves.