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zephyr   zephyr Dennis Dames's TIGblog
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US contractor worked for 'secret services', says Cuba
Related to country: Cuba

HAVANA, Cuba (Reuters) -- A US contractor detained last month in Cuba for distributing satellite communications equipment to dissidents worked for American "secret services" and is being investigated, a top Cuban official said on Wednesday.

Cuban Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon shed no light on what the government plans to do with the prisoner, who President Raul Castro has cited as evidence that the United States continues its five-decade long campaign to subvert the island's communist system.

The man, arrested in early December, has never been publicly identified. US diplomats were permitted to visit him on December 28, but they have provided little information about the meeting.

He worked for a Maryland-based company called Development Alternatives Inc. that said he was involved in a US government program to strengthen civil society and promote democracy in Cuba.

"This is a man hired by a company that contracts for the American secret services and that is the object of investigation," Alarcon told reporters after a meeting of Cuba's National Election Commission.

He said the contractor was part of trend toward "privatization of war" by the United States, which hires people to be "agents, torturers, spies."

Asked if the prisoner was in good condition, Alarcon said, "I can assure you that he is much better -- much, much better -- than the victims of those contractors all over the world."

The man's arrest comes as part of a turn for the worse in US-Cuban relations, that had thawed slightly under Obama, who said he wanted a "new beginning" with Cuba after 50 years of hostilities that followed the island's 1959 revolution.

Cuban leaders who spoke well of Obama early in his presidency have begun to harshly criticize him for not moving faster to end the US trade embargo against the island, imposed since 1962 to undermine the Cuban government.

President Castro, who replaced his ailing brother Fidel Castro in 2008, referred to the arrested contractor in a December 21 speech to the National Assembly, saying it was evidence that despite Obama's hopeful words, "The enemy is as active as ever."

Cuba restricts satellite communications, including satellite television, because of fears they can be used against the government.

Cuba again signaled its anger with Washington on Tuesday, when it summoned the top US diplomat in Havana to protest increased air security measures for US-bound passengers from Cuba.

Cuba was one of 14 countries selected by the US for extra security following the botched Christmas Day bombing of a Delta jet plane en route to Detroit by a Nigerian believed to be an al Qaeda operative.

Cuba is on a US State Department list of countries considered "state sponsors of terrorism," which Cuban leaders have protested for years.

January 7, 2010


January 7, 2010 | 11:42 PM Comments  {num} comments

zephyr   zephyr Dennis Dames's TIGblog
Dennis Dames's profile

Bahamas: Police 'will try to disrupt' the trade in fake goods
Related to country: Bahamas

Tribune Staff Reporter

POLICE have expressed determination to crackdown on the illicit trade of pirated and counterfeit goods after the US government dubbed the force complicit in such illicit trade.

The United States Trade Representative's Office report on the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA) which presents the official view of the Obama administration describes the enforcement of Intellectual Property Right (IPR) laws in the Bahamas as "lax".

It further states how anecdotal evidence suggests, "the police are complicit in the buying and selling of pirated movies, songs and fabricated high-end purses to residents and tourists".

But spokesman for the US Embassy in Nassau Jeff Dubel said the terminology used in the report required by Congress to continue funding for the Caribbean initiative simply relates to the fact that pirated and counterfeit goods are bought and sold openly in the country.

He named two local operations where, he said, copyright films are duplicated and sold without returning profit to the filmmakers. As the businesses are allowed to continue without interception by police the police must be termed complicit, Mr Dubel said.

In addition independent vendors freely sell pirated DVD's in Nassau's streets and in the Bay Street straw market where an array of faux name-brand bags and purses.

But police maintain that the force does not condone such activity and is determined to intercept it where possible having been trained in how to approach operations, take evidence and build a case with assistance from the US Embassy.

The US Embassy in Nassau worked with the police and the Attorney General's office to draft legislation and rules for the enforcement of IPR's two years ago and facilitated a two-day workshop on IPR law enforcement at the Police Training College in November.

A total of 25 members of the police force, the Bahamas Customs Office, Attorney General's Office and department of the Public Prosecutor shared ideas and developed strategies to enforce existing IPR laws during the course so officials can designate and protect intellectual property.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Hulan Hanna said: "We know there is a problem, and the Americans engaged us positively whereby a number of officers received training in bootlegging, piracy and counterfeit goods trade, and that is something we will work at diligently to try to disrupt this illegal process.

"It is not something that is condoned by the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the training our officers received from the Americans provoked a positive response from both sides."

The enforcement of IPR laws is not only important for the protection of filmmakers in Hollywood, but they are also vital for local artists and the survival of local arts and culture, Mr Dubel said.

He praised Bahamian police for their enthusiasm in enforcing IPR laws and clarified the terminology of the report.

Mr Dubel said: "The police are doing a lot to try to enforce these things, but there is also a lot more work to be done by everybody.

"Working together is the best way to fix it and the Bahamian authorities have been very cooperative, and wanting to do more.

"The CBERA report on the whole is very positive and by complicit we should be clear that we do not think the police are involved, but there are all these things going on here.

He named an outlet that he said "is selling bootleg DVD's and no one has closed it down, and when you walk into the Straw Market the first few stalls are full of counterfeit music and DVD's, so it's not being enforced.

"It does not mean to imply that the police are corrupt or have done anything to aid it, it just means that they're there and no one has enforced it on them."

January 06, 2010


January 6, 2010 | 10:20 PM Comments  {num} comments

zephyr   zephyr Dennis Dames's TIGblog
Dennis Dames's profile

US: Bahamian Police 'complicit' in pirated goods trade
Related to country: Bahamas

Tribune Business Editor:

The US government has accused Bahamian police officers of being "complicit" in the pirated/counterfeit goods trade, and branded this nation's enforcement of intellectual property rights laws as "lax".

The US Trade Representative's Office, in its newly-released report on the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA), which the Bahamas benefits from, said Bahamian laws did provide for the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights.

"However, enforcement is lax and anecdotal evidence suggests that the police are complicit in the buying and selling of pirated movies, songs and fabricated high-end purses to residents and tourists," the US Trade Representative's Office wrote in the report.

No substantive evidence was provided to support the allegation, which is likely to anger both the Government and the hierarchy of the Royal Bahamas Police Force.

Yet since the US Trade Representative's Office is part of the US government, the report represents the official view of the Obama administration. The US Embassy in Nassau is also likely to have provided its input into the report, and possibly reviewed drafts before it was officially released on New Year's Eve.

Intellectual property rights, or copyright, are designed to guard the 'fruits of the mind', protecting creators such as artists, musicians and designers from having their works exploited and sold by others for their gain, without them enjoying any economic benefit/compensation.

Intellectual property rights are also key components in free trade agreements, such as the Economic Partnership (EPA) the Bahamas has already signed up to, and full membership in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) - something this nation hopes to achieve within the next three to four years.

It thus appears highly likely that the Bahamas will have to further tighten its intellectual property rights legislation and enforcement, the US Trade Representative's report saying: "The Bahamian government has taken some steps to strengthen intellectual property rights protection as part of its WTO accession, and in response to requests from the United States."

On the WTO front, the US Trade Representative's Office said the Bahamas' Memorandum of Trade Regime had been circulated among WTO members in April 2009. They "were asked to review it and submit questions and comments on the Bahamas' trade regime".

The report said that of the $465.823 million worth of goods exported to the US by the Bahamas in the period January-August 2009, some 13.3 per cent or $62.16 million entered tariff-free under the preferences provided by the CBERA and its subsidiary agreement, the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI).

These figures represented a drop on the 2008 comparative period, when $93.472 million or 27.9 per cent of a total $334.497 million worth of goods exported to the US by the Bahamas entered under the CBERA.

For the eight-month period January-August 2009, some 41 per cent or $190.832 million worth of Bahamian exports also entered the US duty-free, compared to $197.476 million or 59 per cent of exports for the same period in 2008.

The US Trade Representative's Office's report also noted that US exports to the Bahamas for the eight months to January 2009 had fallen by 18.6 per cent, from $1.895 billion the year before to $1.542.2 billion, the more than $300 million drop likely to have been induced by the recession.

Overall, for the 2008 full year, the Bahamas exported some $603.935 million worth of products to the US, of which $141.048 million or 23.4 per cent entered the US duty-free under the CBERA. The main beneficiaries from the Act's trade preferences were Bahamian crawfish, Polymers' plastic products, salt, fruits and vegetables.

In that same year, the US exported some $2.76 billion worth of goods and services to the Bahamas.

Elsewhere, the US Trade Representative's Office said it would "continue to monitor" the Bahamas' implementation of its 2004 amendment to the Copyright Act, which took effect on October 1, 2009.

This amendment narrowed this nation's compulsory licensing system for television when it came to the re-transmission of copyrighted works, preventing Cable Bahamas from distributing such programmes without having commercial agreements in place with the copyright owners.

The US Trade Representative's Office's report also said "a high level of child labour continues to be a concern" in the Bahamas, while workers had "no legal right to remove themselves from hazardous work situations without penalty".

January 05, 2010


January 5, 2010 | 4:02 PM Comments  {num} comments

calieel   calieel Rashad Amahad's TIGblog
Rashad Amahad's profile

JUNKANOO, a sweet sensation my Inspiration.
Related to country: Bahamas

A burning desire my people my race.The men the women the boys and the girls.The foreigners in my land, the beautiful people in my Bahamaland.Haitian,jamiacan,chinese,philipino's,cuban all of these people who come to share in the beauty of my homeland.This junkanoo music that bellows out in the darkness of the night that comes to the morning light, the goat skin drums,that beat comes from mother Africa that is so strong today than it has ever been before that is so relevant as it has ever been before, the horns that conch shell still blown the nature of this music swell deep down in my soul no matter how I grow old .I looked at the baby and she is wide awake and with my connect I know there is no end insight in her eyes she will carry the light.

The Rush as those beats gather that ignite our dance deep in within our souls,and anyone who has caught the fire must dance.The parade so colourful it can put you in a trance, the costume quite grand, however there is something more that will meet your eye something magnificent if you are not careful it could make you cry.Oh they were so pretty as they came down the Bay new years and boxing day.Although they have gone back to there shacks they did not leave without the imprint of their tracks,oh how I wish they wish they would come back,Bold and courageous souls parade again.With them they carry the past the present and the future.In their dance and there music they express what they could not say openly this fire this passion which they carry daily,their voice their dreams no matter how far it may seem; they carry it daily to the beat of the drum I say the beat is in our hearts,the proceeding months you hear some far some near they will gather don't despair.As they gather and the sounds of there distant drums carry the message in mencholic beats, these beats of hope that our captors who enslave us don't seem to understand what is ever present is the message of our freedom our hope for our homeland.My brothers and my sisters join me as we forge our beat to thrust the very chords, chains and fetters that use to keep us captive we will dash it away.The mental enslavement that seems to baffle us will no longer entrap us , listen to the beat and feel the rythm that lies within our very hearts.What to many seem thousands of miles away remember the beat it resides within hearts today.

Bahamas what we need is to be courageous everyone although in different villages we know that we are still one let us covene in what I would say is a rush so that we can parade again everyday,ohh remember when we were home free to roam.

Speak your language Bahamas don't be afraid for they can not win with this white man tyrade,when will you stop being slave.

For those of you who feel the rush the time is now to get in line we will meet you at those shacks and there we will plan our attacks.They have long abandon there systems and there language is still very much the same.

If we don't rush we have no one to blame.

January 5, 2010 | 10:08 AM Comments  {num} comments


calieel   calieel Rashad Amahad's TIGblog
Rashad Amahad's profile

A nation hurting
Related to country: Bahamas

When lives of people are lost and families of the love ones on both sides of the equation are left at lost.When people in the nation have a great difficulty in adapting to the economics of living a comfortable live when it is blantant that the leaders of the country are not being forthcoming and are looked at as being cunning.The nation cries out in pain everyday we go back to the very basis of the nation the family.There is a large amount of people in my country that are having to bear the burden alone, mothers because of the lack of education in many regards, fathers for the lack of respect in his community,the family suffers.I contend that the moral fiber of the country are in deadly decay.

A people that are not lead by God is bound for distruction, we in the Bahamas seem to have bought into the idea that you can get something for nothing,weather it is by our own device or the colonial sabotage.We as a people must regain the control and right the wrongs and put in place the mechanism that would ensure we never have to suffer to such a degree again.

The education system in my country should be improved and in some cases instituted.I recall speaking with a senior man in my community and he said that at the age of 14 he had to leave school, at that time under the the united kingdom had the Bahamas as one of her colonies.He said to me that a system was put in place to ensure that the level of education he recieved verses a white boy his was no comparison when he went on to high school the black boy went to learn a trade or do manual labour.The clear advantage was used to ensure control over the blacks of the time those parents who were very close to the white man got the benefits because of the proximity and some of there children were afford the opportunity for higher learning.Only the best best students at the time were sent to Government high school and history would reflect that they who had the opportunity became the lawyers and doctors of the day and went on to be the polictical leaders of this country.Reader can you pause with me for a moment and think
about if all of the children were allowed to go as far as they would have liked to go.Wow What a brighter Bahamas this would have been in many ways.looking at the history once the black leaders gained political control of the Government then they soon opened the door for others who may not have had the opportunity to do so however only to a certain degree we today have really failed to take the baton to the next level of equip our people with the tools for greater growth,if a generation of people were not afford the right of a proper education then I would think the ones havong being freed to empower there people should ensure that there is no level in which any Bahamian should want to go as it relates to education the Government should not enourage,it is my belief that a bahamian child should have acess to free education up to university level.This only make sense to ensure the country will be able to compete on a world level.As a result of not facilating this to such an extent we have done our people a disservice.Rather we have continued with the notion of the white man agenda for the country which was to be his play ground and by extension his servants.Tourism was focused upon and blacks were seen to be the the servants,maids gardeners,waiters, and carry out the back of the house functions.To this day we have not changed this mindset with in the sucessive governments.
We are in desparate need for new industries and see ourselves in positions of authority and most importantly ownership.What has happened is the current leadership have been drunk with the power of selfish greed we must free our selve of this scourge.What has happened is the sense of obligation to the building up of the nation has been place on the back burner.It was once said to me man can only change his socioeconomic status based on his degree of education.I believe that to be correct to a large extent.My government has failed us her people in this fundamental tenant.Education of the masses to a greater degree if employed will be the pillars of our strength for centuries to come.

The pride of the people should be there nation when I look around the commonwealth of the Bahamas and see a small bust of Milo Butler just to name one think tell me that we don't think much of the Great Bahamian men and women when I look around and see the flags or non display of the flags of our country tell me about the feeling of the people as it relates to their country,it seems as though we have not taken ownership of our country although handed to us over 36years ago.Could it be that the handing over process was flawed in some way? Or could it be that we have not done enough to bring ourselves to the point of pride for self and country ?When I look at the way we treat one and the other it appears as if the white man's mentality is much alive in the spirit of the black man against his own self or by extension his own people.We seem to look at the qualified Bahamian as not good enough to run his or her department in government operations.It seems as if these things only become important on the celebration of the day and forgotten by the evening of the day of celebration,there seems to be no culture of pride for the artists,when I look at other countries in the carribean there pride for their homeland is very high and it seems like in the Bahamas we are very low.This much change in order to have the klind of national development that is needed to bring about the nationhood that is necessary for a more significant global position.It is interesting that we are view as member states by some which to me suggest that we have not produced such a display that we are definitely looked at as are own people.What is sad to me is that on many accounts it is our own people that are by extesion responsible .

The responsibility of a citizen should be taught at every level bringing about the pride necessary to enhance our nationhood,I have not seen for example people on a national level being sworn into be citizens of our country and there obligation to our country it seems as if people come here and are alolowed to form there own community within ours,this is tragic and what is becoming more prevalent is the dismissal of the facts when in fact it is very real to the Bahamian on the gound they would tell you that they are aware,but do nothing to prevent or change this if this continues we will be foreigners in our own land.

What is the solution? we come together,unite as a people on all levels to bring solutions to this mounting problem.I would like to see all sides of the political divide hold hands in solidatrity to strenghten our country in areas that will be benefical to all Bahamians and persons living within our borders.National Development across the board a united Bahamas, a Bahamas where Bahamian are encouraged to strive, dream and realise the loftier goals.

January 4, 2010 | 8:41 AM Comments  {num} comments


zephyr   zephyr Dennis Dames's TIGblog
Dennis Dames's profile

The Year In Pot: Top 10 Events That Will Change the Way We Think About Marijuana

By Paul Armentano, NORML:

#1 Obama Administration: Don’t Focus On Medical Marijuana Prosecutions
United States Deputy Attorney General David Ogden issued a memorandum to federal prosecutors in October directing them to not “focus federal resources … on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” The directive upheld a campaign promise by President Barack Obama, who had previously pledged that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.” Read the full story here.

#2 Public Support For Legalizing Pot Hits All-Time High
A majority of U.S. voters now support legalizing marijuana, according to a national poll of 1,004 likely voters published in December by Angus Reid. The Angus Reid Public Opinion poll results echo those of separate national polls conducted this year by Gallup, Zogby, ABC News, CBS News, Rasmussen Reports, and the California Field Poll, each of which reported greater public support for marijuana legalization than ever before. Read the full story here.

#3 Lifetime Marijuana Use Associated With Reduced Cancer Risk

The moderate long-term use of cannabis is associated with a reduced risk of head and neck cancer, according to the results of a population-based control study published in August by the journal Cancer Prevention Research. Authors reported, “After adjusting for potential confounders (including smoking and alcohol drinking), 10 to 20 years of marijuana use was associated with a significantly reduced risk of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.” Read the full story here.

#4 AMA Calls For Review Of Marijuana’s Prohibitive Status
In November, the American Medical Association resolved that marijuana should longer be classified as a Schedule I prohibited substance. Drugs classified in Schedule I are defined as possessing “no currently accepted use in treatment in the United States.” In a separate action, the AMA also determined, “Results of short term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.” Read the full story here.

#5 California: Lawmakers Hold Historic Hearing On Marijuana Legalization
State lawmakers heard testimony in October in support of taxing and regulating the commercial production and distribution of cannabis for adults age 21 and older. Additional hearings, as well as a vote on Assembly Bill 390: the Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act, are scheduled for January 12, 2010. Read the full story here.

#6 Maine Voters Approve Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Measure; Dispensaries Coming To Rhode Island, Washington, DC In 2010
Voters in November decided in favor of a statewide measure that allows for the state to license non-profit facilities to distribute medical cannabis to qualified patients. The vote marked the first time that citizens ever approved a statewide ballot proposal authorizing the creation of dispensaries. In June, Rhode Island lawmakers enacted a similar measure. In December, Congress lifted federal restrictions to allow for the DC City Council to implement provisions of a ten-year-old medical marijuana law that would allow for the use and distribution of medicinal cannabis in the District of Columbia. Read the full story here.

#7 Oakland: Voters Approve First-In-The-Nation Medical Marijuana Business Tax
In July 80 percent of municipal voters approved Ballot Measure F, the nation’s first ever business tax on the retail sales of cannabis. The tax, which takes effect on January 1, imposes an exclusive tax for “cannabis businesses” of $18 for every $1,000 of gross receipts. Read the full story here.

#8 Rasmussen Poll: Majority Of Americans Say Marijuana Is Safer Than Alcohol
More than half of American adults believe that alcohol is “more dangerous” than marijuana, according to the results of a national telephone poll of 1,000 likely voters published in September by Rasmussen Reports. Fifty-one percent of respondents, including a majority of women, rated the use of marijuana to be less dangerous than alcohol. Only 19 percent of those polled said that cannabis is the more dangerous of the two substances. Read the full story here.

#9 Many Teens See Medical Cannabis As Alternative Treatment Option
Some one-third of adolescents view their use of marijuana as therapeutic rather than recreational, according to survey data published in May by the journal Substance Abuse, Treatment, Prevention and Policy. Teens most commonly reported using cannabis therapeutically to counter symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), physical pain, and sleeplessness. In November several mainstream media outlets, including The New York Times and Good Morning America, featured stories on adolescents using marijuana as a medicine. Read the full story here.

#10 Oregon NORML Opens ‘Cannabis Café,’ Media Frenzy Follows
In November Oregon NORML opened the state’s first café catering to state-authorized medical marijuana patients. Unlike conventional marijuana dispensaries that operate in states like California and Colorado, medical cannabis is not sold on the premises, nor is the primary function of the café to dispense marijuana. “This is not a medical marijuana dispensary with a café; this is a café for medical marijuana patients,” said Madeline Martinez, Oregon NORML Executive Director. The Associated Press, Reuters, USA Today, The New York Times, and Democracy Now were among the hundreds of media outlets that covered the story. Read the full story here.

Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), and is the co-author of the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink (2009, Chelsea Green).

January 1, 2010


January 3, 2010 | 11:53 AM Comments  {num} comments

zephyr   zephyr Dennis Dames's TIGblog
Dennis Dames's profile

2009: Deceptions, crises and hopes

Nidia Diaz

THE year 2009 has ended and the international panorama offers a curious gamut of conflicts, crossroads, frustrations and extreme situations intermixed with positive hopes and developments, all combined with the serious global economic crisis provoked by the United States. Its devastating effects extended vertiginously to the rest of the world, starting with the capitalist developed countries, but had its worst effect on the nations of the Third World.

In the midst of plunging economic indicators and their social consequences of increased poverty, hunger and disease – as confirmed by international agencies and the specialized UN bodies – 2009 was also overshadowed by the continuation of the wars of aggression and military occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and dangerously extended to Pakistan; the military-oligarchical coup d’état that deposed the constitutional government of José Manuel Zelaya in Honduras; and the installation of seven U.S. military bases in Colombia.

The great frustration of the year was doubtless the presidential action of Barack Obama, who was inaugurated as president in January surrounded by an aureole that seemed to presage the possibility of certain changes – albeit minimum – as he had promised in his spectacular campaign. But, within a few months, he rapidly demonstrated in his actions the real essence of his administration, thus confirming the foresight of those whose who always doubted such an eventuality in the context of the unalterable nature of the imperialist phenomenon and its need for wars, acts of aggression, domination and plunder in order to survive and impose itself on the world as such. The impossibility of reverting those intentions became evident within a few months, but not only that: the new U.S. president took measures and aggressive steps that his disastrous predecessor might even have envied.

Whether he has done so under brutal pressure, whether it has been the fruit of internal contradictions within his own government, whether he is acting as he is in search of possibly securing a second term; all of that is currently the subject of world debate and argument, but one that will not change the outcome in any way.

Without any doubt, the months that have gone by under the new White House incumbent demonstrate the need to continue confronting imperialist politics with renewed energy, particularly on the part of the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean, which continue to be the preferred and propitious terrain for the exercise of hegemony and plunder.

The global economic crisis was accompanied by an environmental crisis whose most visible and threatening element is climate change, which is advancing uncontainably. It has proved impossible to halt it either with the ill-treated Kyoto Protocol or with summits like that of Copenhagen, whose degrading developments and shameful results demonstrated that, in a suicidal manner, the United States and the developed capitalist world are ignoring dangers that could lead to the end of humanity.

The Third World nations will pay the price for the depredators of world capitalism and small island states will disappear little by little if there is no end to the irresponsible contamination of the environment on the part of those who are currently and criminally practicing it in order to swell their pockets, thus accelerating the melting of icecaps and increased sea levels, drought and natural disasters.

The global economic crisis was accompanied by an energy crisis, already looming as a consequence of extremely high oil prices. The indiscriminate increase in biofuels on the pretext of replacing oil and avoiding its high price provoked a food crisis, which likewise affected, obviously, the poorest countries and the most vulnerable population sectors.

The AH1N1 influenza pandemic also made its presence felt throughout the year, bringing yet another calamity to the inhabitants of the earth, who have still not been liberated from HIV/AIDS and are fighting against dengue fever in tropical regions. The economic crisis, compounded by negligence, extreme apathy and diverted resources on the part of oblivious and irresponsible governments resulted in particularly acute effects being felt in certain countries.

The European Union finally managed to reach agreement over implementing the Lisbon Treaty, which replaced the constitutional treaty after years of fruitless attempts on the part of members to have it approved. After last-minute reluctance on the part of Poland and the Czech Republic, which enabled these two nations to secure certain concessions, the new legal framework for the union of 27 countries was signed.

However, the independent political role that the European Union could play in the world – and within Europe itself – remained unseen and, in 2009, it continued departing from its original intentions, becoming steadily more dependent on the positions of U.S. administrations, whether of Bush or of Obama, to which it virtually subordinated itself at the most important international junctures. The existence of a majority of right-wing governments within it; the relations that many EU countries are obliged to maintain with Washington given their membership of the NATO political-military pact; and the high-level of U.S. economic and cultural penetration after World War II and the disintegration of the USSR and the European socialist camp are factors that combine in one way or another to prevent the European Union from exercising a more active leadership.

On the contrary, in Japan, the arrival of the Democratic Party and its allies brought to an end the almost 50 years of uninterrupted rule of the Liberal Democratic Party, closely associated with the United States throughout that extensive period, and the reason for defense agreements that turned the country into a kind of Asian aircraft carrier for the U.S. armed forces. As he announced during his electoral campaign, Prime Minister Hatoyama is prepared to discuss alternatives with Washington that would transform and more effectively regulate the huge military presence in his country.

Throughout 2009, the development of certain previously initiated processes merit attention given their regional and global significance.

Despite the world crisis, one of these was the sustained growth of the economy of the People’s Republic of China and that country’s consolidation as a major economic power that many experts consider as already the second in the world.

In relation to Africa, it continued its conversion into a major world oil exporter via various contracts and agreements, according to the country involved, thus increasing the presence of oil transnationals and their profits, as well as the income of national governments benefiting from the oil boom. However, there are no reports of any notable improvements in the living standards of those peoples or any sustained reduction of poverty and underdevelopment.

One ray of hope, together with multiple concrete realities, continued reflecting its light from Latin America and the Caribbean. The processes of economic, political and social transformations involving a large number of Latin American and Caribbean countries in various forms have consolidated and, despite the onslaught of the economic crisis and the premeditated policy on the part of the U.S. government and associated and dependent national oligarchies intended to obstruct and liquidate them, they have advanced in many spheres of cooperation and integration.

The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), created five years ago on the basis of agreements between Cuba and Venezuela signed by Presidents Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, emerged as an unprecedented scheme of solidarity-focused and mutually beneficial integration, moving beyond the purely commercial union that had previously characterized other integration efforts in the region. The achievements of ALBA became rapidly evident and that provided a framework for the extension of the Alliance to other countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominica, Antigua & Barbuda, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Honduras. Achievements that were celebrated at the end of 2009 with new goals and aspirations based on the principles of Simón Bolívar and José Martí and the construction of the Patria Grande (Greater Homeland).

The June 28 coup d’état in Honduras against the constitutional president José Manuel Zelaya is attributed, among other things, to his decision to join ALBA and to try and lead the country toward sovereignty and self-development, on the margins of the closed national oligarchy of a handful of families who have secularly exploited the country. As has been reiterated, this was a strike at ALBA involving the United States, which was already feeling the need to express its rejection of the Alliance and make patent that it was disposed to confront it on what it viewed as its weakest link.

Contrary to its aspirations, the year that is ending witnessed the birth of a popular resistance movement prepared to convert that setback into a victory, as confirmed by its firm decision not to demobilize but to do battle as the worthy heirs of Morazán.

Latin America and the Caribbean are undoubtedly moving into a new epoch and nothing is nor will be the same as before. Washington’s failure to impose the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) marked a definitive turning point in the situation, accompanied by the successive ascents to government of various progressive, nationalist, popular and even anti-imperialist forces – distinct in style and composition – but united by one common denominator that is integrating them and bringing them closer together.

Cuba’s entry into the Rio Group and the lifting of the sanctions that the United States had managed to impose on the Organization of American States, similarly expressed the decadence of the empire’s power and the loss of its all-embracing influence over its former "backyard."

The New Year is not arriving in exactly equal form to all the regions of the planet, although global problems such as climate change and the economic crisis would seem to admit no witnesses and in them, we are all protagonists. Deceptions, crises and hopes could continue to characterize the successor to this convulsive 2009.


January 1, 2010 | 8:41 PM Comments  {num} comments

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New Year's Resolutions: Just be humbled by the gift of life!

By Mutryce A Williams:

New Year’s Day is such an anticipatory time. On New Year’s Eve we just can’t wait for that clock to strike twelve. It is a time of hope. There is this precept that somehow we would be totally transformed, made whole, become anew. We shout, “New Year, New Rules! The Old Year; Man that was for Fools!”

Mutryce Williams is a native of St Kitts and Nevis.  She is a social commentator who writes weekly commentaries for 98.9 WINN FM, as well as the Leewards Times newspaperIt is that time of year when we reflect upon our lives. We do soul searching. We do spring cleaning. We take out pen and paper and write down our list of ‘friends I need to keep and friends I need to discard,’ because somehow this year is definitely going to be different.

This year is going to be a year of no baggage and for the last few days of 2009, we have Mary J. Blige’s song, “No More Drama in my Life,’ on repeat as a source of reinforcement and strength. It is also the time of year that we hear the preacher joke at the end of his sermon wishing many a Happy New Year and a Merry Christmas because he knows that he won’t be seeing some of the congregation until the next year. We hear people saying, “Boy you need to stop drinking so hard,” or “you need to lose some weight.” The response is often, “I going do it next year man, that is one thing that is on my list of things to do.”

Every year we set lofty New Year’s goals, resolutions or plans. We write them down, type them up even, have them laminated and posted on our walls. We carry them around with us and vow to the heavens that these goals will not get the better of us. We will get the better of them. We vow to make changes to our personalities, to our bodies and to our relationships with family and friends. We aspire to change jobs, get that promotion, and seek additional education, certification or take a self-development course. We hope to realize dreams of home or car ownership. It is our aim to save more and spend less.

We plan to travel more, loosen up and not take life too seriously. We plan to give more of ourselves to the service of others. We vow to give our hearts and lives to the lord. We tried really hard last year but we ‘backslid,’ as life and its many temptations got in the way. We really did try but we just couldn’t keep it up. We have decided that God has really been good to us this past year so 2010 will be his year for sure. We are determined and focused. We say that we are going to go to church more. It is our goal to take off that old coat and put on the new. It will all start on New Year’s Eve when we attend church to thank God for ‘sparing us another year,’ as we like to say it.

If it is anything that 2009 has taught me it is that life is totally unpredictable and although I am a firm believer in the credence that ‘Man is author of his destiny.’ There is only so much that we mere mortals have within our control. I am not just alluding to Murphy’s Law, which states that ‘anything that can go wrong will go wrong.’ I am alluding to the fact that we can not control everything that happens to us. Life has a way of taking over sometimes.

The goals of weight loss, attitudinal changes, spirituality, being a go-getter are all ‘well and good’ but how many times have we found ourselves at the end of one spectrum even though it was our goal or our desire to go in the next.

How many times have we made plans which were dependent on several other factors but because one of these variables did not fall in place our plans fell through?

How many times have we found ourselves in situations, faced with several options and remarked, “But this was never part of the plan. This was not supposed to happen…this isn’t how I planned it.”

How many times have we, whether it was out of tears of pain or joy asked ourselves, “How did I ever end up here?”

How many times have we blurted out, “this was totally unexpected, believe me it was!” These things happen however as humans we have to be open to change. Adaptability is necessary. Embracing the many twists and turns that life may toss us is key.

How many times have you, even if you share the conviction that one controls his own destiny, how many times have you been awed by the twists and turns that life takes? I can recall a conversation with a friend who had been diagnosed with cancer. She remarked, “Everything that I have ever wanted in life, I have toiled, sweat and worked hard for. I have earned. My current disposition however has taught me that there are forces greater than I am, forces beyond my control, that there are forces beyond my will.”

She went on to say, “I have a positive outlook on life and I am doing all that I can to beat this but it may sound odd because at the same time I have learnt to let go and accept that it is not that my will be done but rather that His will done and I am at peace with this.”

This has stuck with me. As mere mortals we need to be humbled by life and realize that there are forces greater than us at work and we need to have faith in something greater than ourselves.

Whatever 2010 may bring and whatever your goals, aspirations or resolutions are I hope that it brings you the best of health and happiness. As you greet that fellow churchgoer on New Year’s Eve or raise your glass in toast as you ring in the New Year or lay snuggled on the couch watching the ball drop in Times Square with a smile plastered over your face, be certain to give thanks for all of the good things that happened the past year and the bad things that didn’t.

Give thanks for the courage and strength given that assisted you in persevering. Look forward to each day that will be given you, as you must not be naïve, thinking that the days are yours to take or that they are guaranteed. Remember to love those you love best and be kind to each person that you meet not just for a day or week but make this a permanent part of your fiber. Remember too that you are not immortal. Smile and Brace yourself for 2010 because life is unexpected.

Whatever twists and turns or blows that you are dealt be prepared to roll with the punches, have faith and don’t let the troughs of life get the better of you. Have a great 2010 and just be humbled by the gift of life.

December 31, 2009


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The right of humanity to exist


(Taken from CubaDebate)

CLIMATE change is already causing considerable damage and hundreds of millions of poor people are suffering the consequences.

The most advanced research centers assure that very little time is left for avoiding an irreversible catastrophe. James Hansen, of NASA’s Goddard Institute, says that a level of 350 parts carbon dioxide per million is still tolerable; today, however, the figure is in excess of 390 and it is increasing at a rate of 2 parts per million every year, exceeding the levels of 600,000 years ago. Each one of the last two decades has been the hottest ever recorded. The abovementioned gas increased 80 parts per million in the last 150 years.

The ice of the Artic Sea, the vast, two-kilometer-thick layer that covers Greenland, the glaciers of South America which feed its principle sources of freshwater, the colossal volume that covers Antarctica, the layer that covers Kilimanjaro, the ice that covers the Himalayas and the enormous frozen mass of Siberia are visibly melting. Notable scientists fear qualitative jumps in these natural phenomena that give rise to changes.

Humanity placed great hope in the Copenhagen Summit, after the Kyoto Protocol signed in 1997, which entered into effect in 2005. The summit’s resounding failure gave way to shameful episodes that require due clarification.

The United States, with less than 5% of the world’s population, issues 25% of its carbon dioxide. The new president of the United States had promised to cooperate with international efforts to confront a problem that is affecting that country as much as the rest of the world. During meetings prior to the summit, it became evident that the leaders of that nation and of the richest nations maneuvered to make the weight of the sacrifice fall onto emerging and poor countries.

A large number of leaders and thousands of representatives of social movements and scientific institutions, determined to fight to preserve humanity from the greatest threat in its history went to Copenhagen, invited by the summit’s organizers. In order to focus on the political aspects of the summit, I will not go into details concerning the brutality of the Danish public forces, which attacked thousands of demonstrators and guests of the social movements and scientists who went to Denmark’s capital.

In Copenhagen, real chaos prevailed, and unbelievable things happened. Social movements and scientific institutions were not allowed to attend the debates. There were heads of state and government who were not even able to issue their opinions on vital problems. Obama and the leaders of the richest countries took over the conference with the complicity of the Danish government. The agencies of the United Nations were relegated.

Barack Obama, who arrived on the last day of the summit to remain there for only 12 hours, met with two groups of guests "hand-picked" by him and his collaborators. Together with one of them, he met with the rest of the highest delegations in the plenary hall. He spoke and immediately left via the back door. In that plenary session, except for the small group selected by him, the representatives of other countries were not allowed to speak. During that meeting, the presidents of Bolivia and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela were allowed to speak, because the president of the summit had no alternative than to concede that in the face of the strenuous demands of those present.

In an adjoining room, Obama met with the leaders of the richest countries, several of the most important emerging states, and two very poor ones. He presented a document, negotiated with two or three of the most important countries, ignored the United Nations General Assembly, gave press conferences, and marched away like Julius Caesar during one of his victorious campaigns in Asia Minor, which prompted him to exclaim, "I came, I saw, I conquered."

Even Gordon Brown, prime minister of the United Kingdom, had affirmed on October 19, "If we do not reach a deal at this time, let us be in no doubt: once the damage from unchecked emissions growth is done, no retrospective global agreement in some future period can undo that choice. By then it will be irretrievably too late."

Brown concluded his speech with dramatic words: "We cannot afford to fail. If we act now; if we act together; if we act with vision and resolve, success at Copenhagen is still within our reach. But if we falter, the earth itself will be at risk… For the planet there is no plan B."

Now he arrogantly stated that the United Nations cannot be taken hostage by a small group of countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Tuvalu, while accusing China, India, Brazil, South Africa and other emerging states of giving in to the seduction of the United States and signing a document that dumps the Kyoto Protocol into the garbage bin and contains no binding commitment whatsoever on the part of the United States and its rich allies.

I feel obliged to remember that the United Nations was born just six decades ago, after the last World War. There were no more than 50 independent countries at the time. Today, it is made up of more than 190 independent states, after the odious colonial system ceased to exist because of the determined struggles of the peoples. Even the People’s Republic of China was denied UN membership for many years, and a puppet government held its representation in that institution and on its privileged Security Council.

The tenacious support of a growing number of Third World countries was indispensable to the international recognition of China, and an extremely important factor for the United States and its allies in NATO recognizing its (China’s) rights in the United Nations.

In the historic struggle against fascism, the Soviet Union made the largest contribution. More than 25 million of its sons and daughters died, and enormous destruction ravaged the country. Out of that struggle, it emerged as a superpower, capable of countering, in part, the absolute dominion of the imperial system of the United States and the former colonial powers in their unlimited plunder of the peoples of the Third World. When the USSR disintegrated, the United States extended its political and military power toward the East, toward the heart of Russia, and its influence over the rest of Europe grew. There is nothing strange about what happened in Copenhagen.

I would like to emphasize the unjust and offensive nature of the statements of the prime minister of the United Kingdom, and the yanki attempt to impose, as a summit agreement, a document that was never discussed at any time with the participating countries.

At a December 21 press conference, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez stated a truth that is impossible to deny; I will use some of his exact paragraphs: "I would like to emphasized that in Copenhagen, there was no agreement whatsoever of the Conference of the Parties; no decision whatsoever was made with respect to binding or non-binding commitments or international law; there was simply no agreement in Copenhagen.

"The summit was a failure and a deception of world public opinion…. The lack of political will was laid bare….

"It was a step backward in the actions of the international community to prevent or mitigate the effects of climate change….

"The average world temperature could rise by 5 degrees…."

Immediately, our foreign minister added other interesting facts about possible consequences according to the latest scientific investigations.

"From the Kyoto Protocol to date, the emissions of the developed countries have risen by 12.8%... and 55% of that volume comes from the United States.

"One person in the United States consumes, on average, 25 barrels of oil annually; one European, 11; one Chinese citizen, less than two, and one Latin American or Caribbean, less than one.

"Thirty countries, including those of the European Union, consume 80% of the fuel produced."

The very real fact is that the developed countries which signed the Kyoto Protocol drastically increased their emissions. They now wish to replace the base of emissions adopted starting 1990 with that of 2005, with which the United States, the maximum issuer, would reduce its emissions of 25 years earlier by only 3%. It is a shameless mockery of world opinion.

The Cuban foreign minister, speaking on behalf of a group of ALBA countries, defended China, India, Brazil, South Africa and other important states with emerging economies, affirming the concept reached in Kyoto of "common, but differentiated responsibilities; meaning that the historic accumulators and the developed countries, those responsible for this catastrophe, have different responsibilities from those of the small island states, or those of the countries of the South, above all the least-developed countries….

"Responsibilities means financing; responsibilities means the transfer of technology under acceptable conditions, and then Obama makes a play on words, and instead of talking about common but differentiated responsibilities, talks about ‘common, but differentiated responses.’

"He leaves the plenary without deigning to listen to anybody, nor had he listened to anybody before his speech."

At a subsequent press conference, before leaving the Danish capital, Obama affirmed, "We've made meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough in Copenhagen. For the first time in history the major economies have come together to accept their responsibility…"

In his clear and irrefutable statement, our foreign minister affirmed, "What is meant by ‘the major economies have come together to accept their responsibility?’ It means that they are shrugging off an important part of the burden signified by the financing for the mitigation and adaptation of countries — above all the entire South — to climate change, onto China, Brazil, India and South Africa; because it must be said that in Copenhagen, there was an assault on, a mugging of China, Brazil, India, and South Africa, and of all of the countries euphemistically referred to as developing."

These were the resounding and irrefutable words with which our foreign minister recounted what happened in Copenhagen.

I should add that, at 10 a.m. on December 19th, after our Vice President Esteban Lazo and the Cuban foreign minister had left, there was a belated attempt to resuscitate the corpse of Copenhagen as a summit agreement. At that point, virtually no heads of state or even ministers were left. Once again, the exposé of the remaining members of the Cuban, Venezuela, Bolivian, Nicaraguan and other countries’ delegations defeated the maneuver. That was how the inglorious summit ended.

Another fact that cannot be forgotten was that, during the most critical moments of that day, in the early morning, the Cuban foreign minister, together with the delegations that were waging their dignified battle, offered UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon their cooperation in the increasingly difficult battle that is being waged, and in the efforts that must be undertaken in the future to preserve the life of our species.

The environmental group WWF warned that climate change will become uncontrollable in the next 5 to 10 years if emissions are not drastically cut.

But it is not necessary to demonstrate the essence of what is being said here about what Obama did.

The U.S. president stated on Wednesday, December 23 that people were right to be disappointed by the outcome of the Summit on Climate Change. In an interview with the CBS television network, the president noted, "Rather than see a complete collapse in Copenhagen, in which nothing at all got done and would have been a huge backward step, at least we kind of held ground and there wasn't too much backsliding from where we were…"

Obama, according to the news dispatch, was the one most criticized by those countries which, virtually unanimously, believe that the outcome of the summit was disastrous.

The UN is now in a predicament. Asking other countries to adhere to the arrogant and antidemocratic agreement would be humiliating for many states.

Continuing the battle and demanding at all meetings, particularly those of Bonn and Mexico, the right of humanity to exist, with the moral authority and strength the truth affords us, is, in our opinion, the only way forward.

Fidel Castro Ruz
December 26, 2009
8:15 p.m.

Translated by Granma International


December 28, 2009 | 4:05 PM Comments  {num} comments

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Fighting poverty more effectively in times of crisis

By Vinod Thomas and Marvin Taylor-Dormond:

The current economic crisis could push nearly 90 million people into poverty worldwide, including some 8 million in Latin America and the Caribbean. Sounder macroeconomic policies and healthier financial sectors in the region today more than during earlier crises episodes allow to weather it better. But the socio-economic effects of the crisis are still severe, especially in rising unemployment and growing credit gaps.

Dealing with such impacts requires re-invigorated financial flows and more effective use of funds. Similar volumes of spending in the past have been seen to have produced vastly different development outcomes. The World Bank Group’s Independent Evaluation Group, based on reviews of countries, including several in this region, highlights factors regarding the quantity and quality of the crisis response.

First, financial flows need to be adequate and timely, especially in the face of growing fiscal gaps. During the current crisis, official flows from multilateral sources have been at record levels in answer to country needs. In this situation, it is essential to recognize that sustained recovery depends not only on the volume of spending but also on its quality and its structure.

Currently, the World Bank Group is seeking a substantial capital increase to help clients confront the severity of the economic slowdown, especially its social impacts.

Within the World Bank Group, this year’s commitments by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (lending to middle-income governments) have tripled to $33 billion; and by the International Development Association (lending to low-income governments) increased 25 percent, to $14 billion. Some 30 percent of this increase by the World Bank is to Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. The International Finance Corporation (the private sector arm) invested $10.5 billion in 2009, and has focused its crisis response on strengthening the financial sector and facilitating trade. Some examples include the new IFC Capitalization Fund that made its first investments in a systemic Paraguayan bank; IFC’s trading platforms that help banks in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, and South America to maintain their trade facilities, as well as investments in infrastructure and support for micro, small, and medium enterprises in the region, as has been done in Caribbean countries.

However, to sustain the economic revival, private capital flows must be re-invigorated. Those to developing countries fell from $1,200 billion in 2007 to $360 billion in 2009. Reversing this trend is fundamental, as the poorer developing countries worldwide face a $12 billion financing gap this year, and may not be able to cover even the most essential social spending.

Second, the macroeconomic implications of the crisis response, in particular the growing government deficits, need to be handled well. Fiscal deficits in 2009 are estimated to be nearly 7 percentage points of GDP higher than in 2007 in G-20 nations, and about 5 percentage points higher in G-20 emerging economies. Meanwhile, the ratio of public debt-to-GDP in the G-20 could, by one estimate, rise by nearly 15 percentage points between these years. Going forward, a sharp fiscal adjustment and stronger growth will be needed to pay down the debt.

Equally, to generate economic growth, the spending needs to be directed to high-productivity areas, such as infrastructure projects that have been seen to have produced higher payoffs than providing untargeted subsidies. But even here, just any spending on infrastructure would not automatically generate growth. Only a few countries have, during the crisis response, put in place the much-needed mechanisms for analyzing, tracking, evaluating project costs and benefits.

Third, considerations of poverty and unemployment are paramount. During past financial crises, poverty issues did not receive sufficient attention. Signals are that this time, social safety nets, such as conditional cash transfers, are better established and better protected, with support from official sources such as the World Bank Group. Given the long-term damages of crises for the poor, it is vital to protect vulnerable groups early on.

Finally, the rising pressures of the financial crisis should not dilute the attention to the environment and climate. The fiscal stimulus presents a unique opportunity to shift to sustainable investments—as Mexico is doing to some degree.

Every crisis is unique, yet lessons from past crisis responses are informative. The speed and scale of response needs to be matched by careful attention to the quality of the interventions. Together with improved coordination across organizations, the World Bank Group, drawing on these lessons, can support countries in the hemisphere to mitigate the crisis impacts.

Vinod Thomas is the Director-General and Marvin Taylor-Dormond is Director of the Independent Evaluation Group at the World Bank Group.

December 26, 2009


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Lessons from Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer

By Dr Isaac Newton:

‘’More, more please,’ was her plea, as I tossed her high in mid-air. She laughed heartily. Even as a toddler, my sister’s daughter, Nikko Moses, sees life quite differently from most of us -- why settle for a little fun, when you can have plenty of it.

Dr Isaac Newton is an international leadership and change management consultant and political adviser who specialises in government and business relations, and sustainable development projects. Dr Newton works extensively in West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, and is a graduate of Oakwood College, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia. He has published several books on personal development and written many articles on economics, leadership, political, social, and faith-based issuesWhile interacting after a thanksgiving service, I overheard these words: “Maybe you are too prideful to consider that you are prideful.” The young man being addressed, stout for his age, with heavy limbs and large fingers, walked away with shock plastered all over his face.

But that young lady’s voice -- a reservoir of courage and truth -- must have echoed from the summit of his wonder to the valley of his worry. Like all ideas that creep up in reflection, it dawned on me that loving people heal people.

Each of these experiences interrupted the passing of 2009 with lessons that won’t go away. My niece taught me that it is better to seek abundant happiness than less joy. That beautiful young lady showed me that sincere outpouring, surrenders deep insights that penetrate.

This year, disappeared between paradise and hell. Scandalous memories and bitter sufferings occurred around dramatic changes in the market, the environment and the cry for peace. For many, the shift from joyful pessimism to biting optimism resulted in trading sadness.

Just think. Has 2009 bullied you? Were there moments of sheer terror? Could it be that you did not pour out your trials into testimonies of resurrection? I failed to parade my blessings as a trophy of gratitude. I was too busy trying to navigate the storms that I did not appreciate the fresh supply of love that came from family and friends.

But without explanation, sometime in early October, thoughts of ‘Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,’ crossed my mind. The more I reflected, the more I became convinced that perhaps Rudolph’s dilemma is our experience. Perhaps like us, Rudolph’s life was barren because it was plagued with the side effects of mockery and the madness of insecurity.

Too many of us still permit our economic status to define our dignity. How many times have we allowed, the hammering voices of others to make us feel tragically worthless? The story of ‘Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer’ demonstrates that to be obsessed with our brokenness is to miss the essence of living. It is as if we remember what does not matter, to forget what truly matter. Rudolph discovered that there were many things he could not have and didn’t need.

But Rudolph’s radical turnaround from red-nosed shame to cheering stardom points symbolically, to the celebration of the Christ child in the manger. In this sense, Christmas declares that God abounds in the gift of giving.

The Christ child, like Santa Claus, comes so that we can discover our real worth and true identity. For Rudolph, the capacity to overcome inner scars is therapeutic. For us, Christmas is an oasis of peace, a garden of goodwill, and a teaspoon of spiritual medicine.

We may be poorer than we ever were. The dread of days and the fears of nights may creep up upon us. Guilt may point its bony finger of condemnation and we may feel forever doomed by loneliness and jealousy.

The good news of great joy is that the Christ child grew up and became our Saviour. See through the manger into the empty tomb. Do more. Look beyond the cruel cross to the risen Lord. Let Christmas declare once more, that God is with us to bring our lives purpose and joy.

How miraculous that Rudolph’s red nose, once a point of pain, with the advent of Santa Claus, became a posture of celebration and usefulness. I suspect we suffer from a kind of Rudolph syndrome, when our talents function as volcanoes or waterfalls, depending on whether we are laughed at by other reindeers or embraced by Santa Claus.

Seen through the lens of the story of the Christ child, Rudolph’s experience inflates our lives with hopefulness and vigor. It signals that fundamental change is possible -- we can step away from extravagance into intimacy. We are healthy ambassadors of love, in the presence of the Christ child. And like Rudolph, we can make history.

Embodied in Christmas, the Red-nosed Reindeer’s story dramatises that our personal misfortunes, national infightings, and regional challenges can be overcome. The blight of our red-noses is but a transition from solitude to solidarity.

Applied to the Caribbean, the story of Rudolph suggests that our development must come from within. We must learn to value our cultural, human and natural resources. Perhaps in the transformational ethos of Christmas, where the generosity of love abounds, we may realise that our red-noses, which represents national and regional turmoil, point to the splendour beyond.

How beautiful is the Caribbean’s natural inheritance; how precious is the resilience of our people; how sacred our belief in God. While enjoying the festivities, the spirit of Christmas could refresh us. It could push us to improve inter-island relations and strategic agreements with global partners.

Let it not be said, that we are too prideful to defect our pride or too coward to reach for much more than what is. Turning our red-noses into great causes for the Caribbean is one way to celebrate Christmas. We can respond to the hopes of 2010. But we must cross the bridge from 2009 to 2010 inspired by lessons from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Let’s think of what is yet to be achieved -- prosperity for all, the preservation of our natural habitat and the affirmation of the worth and genius of our own people.

If you have God’s breath in your body and your heart is beating, you still have a lot of good to do. With miracle, compassion and mystery wrapped in one package, may all that is happy about Christmas and healthy about the New Year be entrusted to you!

December 23, 2009


December 23, 2009 | 10:39 AM Comments  {num} comments

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Givers and takers in relationships

ELIZABETH and George Knight in their book, Compatibility Code: An Intelligent Woman's Guide to Dating and Marriage, write that, "there are givers and takers in every relationship". The giver is the person who is always giving; the one who is always going the extra mile, and as you might guess, the taker is the one who does nothing but takes what the giver has to offer.

When there are two takers in a relationship, the relationship is doomed to fail, and will tend to end at a very early stage. When there is a giver and a taker in a relationship, the relationship may last for a longer period but the giver suffers in silence; sometimes for many years. Usually, after many years of suffering the giver may decide to quit. When there are two givers in a relationship, the relationship is poised for success as both partners take the time to give and to nourish each other.

Because there is more blessing in giving than receiving, I implore you to commit to being a giver for the rest of your relationship; aim to become a giver rather than a taker. Just in case you are a taker, wondering where to begin or what to give, here is a short list of inexpensive items that your partner should be sure to enjoy.

Foot massage or back rub No cost

One hour of listening ear No cost

Quality time No cost

Three little wishes No cost

Stroll in the park No cost

Setting the bath No cost

Little love notes No cost

Helping with house work No cost

Since it is better to give than to receive, no wonder, successful relationships are those where both partners are givers. Show your appreciation this Christmas by getting creative or giving something special. Remember to give according to your budget and the taste of your partner.

Jacqueline Champier is a counselling psychologist from Mandeville.

December 21, 2009


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If I were Prime minister of The Bahamas.
Related to country: Bahamas

Here is the first thing I would do have a complete review of all the Government ministries and have a completely transparent report given to the people as it relate to the state of affairs.

Then I would ask for the recommendations by members of my cabinet and get the people invovled in the process of change.
I would establish national dialogue with my people through various media sources.I will have a yearly report of the manifesto as to the progress made and shortfalls if any.

I would also seek to make the ministries more effficeient and reduce the size of operating budgets ie.all government vehicles will be reduces in size.

My passion as prime minister will be on Social services of my people.I would appoint task force to address the development of bussiness in the local economy and start to look at alternative energy and reduction of polution in my country.

Education of my people will be the next stage of development,in all regards with special focus towards export of local products.

Land reform and constitutional reform will take place.The would be a massive appeal toward the Community to take a greater part in the welfare and self governence of the community in which they live.

How would I inffluence my people to challenge them to be greater than they were before would be a national promotion in every area.

I would allow and encourage trading among the local people development of money markets.

What I have found that the level of national pride is low in my country the flag of the country is not herald with the respect it deserves and just a general sense of unity in our country is not at a level of greatness.

We need to come together as a people and make this country the country I know we can become and that is great.

December 22, 2009 | 8:09 AM Comments  {num} comments


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Venezuela's Chavez renames world's tallest waterfall
Related to country: Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) -- Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez on Sunday renamed Angel Falls, the world's tallest waterfall, saying it should be called by its indigenous name Kerepakupai Meru.

Angel Falls are named after a US explorer Jimmie Angel, who in the 1930s crashed his plane onto the table-top mountain where the roughly 3,280-feet (1 kilometre) drop begins.

"This is ours, long before Angel arrived there," Chavez said on his weekly television show, in front of a large painted mural of the falls and surrounding jungle.

Angel Falls (Salto Angel), the world's highest waterfall, with a height of 979 m (3,212 ft), near the village of Canaima, Southeastern Venezuela. AFP PHOTO"This is indigenous property, ours, aborigine." He said thousands of people had seen the falls before Jimmie Angel "discovered" them.

The falls are in the Canaima National Park in the Gran Sabana region in southeastern Venezuela, near borders with Brazil and Guyana. About 15,000 Pemon Indians live in the region.

Chavez initially said the waterfall was to be called Cheru-Meru, also spelled as Cherun Meru, but corrected himself when his daughter pointed out that was the name of a smaller waterfall in the same region.

He spent several minutes practicing the name Kerepakupai, before declaring he had mastered it.

The socialist Chavez said the remote falls normally reached by plane and boat were only visited by the wealthy, and called on a publicly owned airline to fly poor Venezuelans to the site.

The unique landscape of sheer table-top mountains known as tepuis juts out of the rainforest and inspired Arthur Conan Doyle's novel "The Lost World."

The 2009 animated film "Up" is also partially based on the Canaima area.

Chavez, who says his government is revolutionary, has in the past changed the formal name of Venezuela, redesigned the flag and created a new time zone for the South American country.

December 21, 2009


December 21, 2009 | 10:08 AM Comments  {num} comments

calieel   calieel Rashad Amahad's TIGblog
Rashad Amahad's profile

If you could make a difference.
Related to country: Bahamas

What would you do? some of you may say I have nothing to give and I would say again what would you do? I would hope you will understand that it is what will you do .I was told love is an action word, how would you make the difference.

In the first instance there must be something in you that says you can do something and answer the question in your mind, all you may have to do is tell someone you know.I remember I would get upset that people just talked but very few acted or when it was time to meet they would always have something coming up many people are fearful of the reprecussions involved with the change until it happens to them.Who among you will stand up and fight for your common right and you must know that you have the power to fight for your right how long will you hear of your sons being gunned down in your streets before you gain the courage to fight to protect your family and your country.When will you take ownership that you are a part of the problem if you sit by and do nothing say nothing contribute nothing ?
If all it took was you to bring the water for the solider in the battle field or keep the watch or thre key for the gate you must do something.

I look at my friends my brothers and sisters in the Bahamas like sheep thinking that God will come down out of the sky and stop the criminal, from shooting,Killing,robbing It is the hands and feet of the people in authority but we the people must cry out with a voice of unity and strenght and say enough is enough.The people must be consulted before a decision is made,we give the right it seems that my people are in a fog and are not able to make the decision to say to the people they have entrusted the power to it is time to act.Where are the christians where are they? Why they are not marching in the streets do they serve the same God because my God is not says I will not fear the evil.

I shall speak while the enemy is in the gate.Where is our conviction? We must trust in the Lord who is mighty in battle.To many times we just want to recieve the victory with out the strains of the battle.

Don't worry I will do it for you,don't worry I will take care of you I will give you a fish instead of teaching how to fish.It is a set up at the end of the day your children will be slaves.No stay in tourism don't develop other industries.It will always be the same.What a fool.
Rise up all you fighters take your stance again.
Bahamas we need a revolution let the majority rule,let not the leaders take bribe vote all your senators in let your attorney general's be seen to have the hear of the common man before he is appointed to the dogmas of a few.To represent me you must come from my community and I will only chose the best from my community.God Bless the Bahamas.

December 20, 2009 | 1:34 PM Comments  {num} comments


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