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bulletPortia takes over
bulletHistory-making gold rush for Jamaica in Commonwealth Games
bulletT&T opposition party continues to self-destruct
bulletLos Angeles leads the way in immigrant rights demo
bullet500 tons of bad cement creates crisis in Jamaica
bulletT&T bans French imports because of bird flu
bulletMajority of Jamaicans feel safe in Jamaica
bulletUN Human Rights Council
bulletCuba and Venezuela come to Guyana’s aid
bulletBig companies fail to pay billboard advertising fees to Govt
bulletESSO pricing strategy in Jamaica draws anger
bulletSteel band ban for soccer World Cup
bulletJamaica-bound cruise ship fire kills 1, injures 11
bulletKiller bees injure 6 in Trinidad health center
bulletGuyana’s 2006 Soca Monarch disputed



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by Michael I Phillips

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cover River Woman by Donna Hemans ... $16.10
  The Rio Minho in Jamaica provides much more than a setting for this potent, accomplished debut by Jamaican-born Donna Hemans.


cover  For the Life of Laetitia by Trinidad -born Merle Hodge  Price: $10.54
a wonderful book about a young girl in the Carribean, the first of her family to go to secondary school.



April 2006

Portia takes over

Portia Simpson-Miller has made history by becoming the first female Prime Minister of Jamaica on March 29, 2006. She has appointed her cabinet which includes most of the members of the previous cabinet of former PM P J Patterson. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, K D Knight, who had been very critical of the PM during the campaign resigned to what he described as the happier life of a backbencher in the Parliament. Burchell Whiteman and Delka Morrison have retired from politics. Other notable absentees from the Cabinet include former resigned Minister of Water and Housing, Dr. Karl Blythe, his successor Donald Buchanan, and former Development Minister Dr. Paul Robertson.

Members of the Cabinet include:

bulletPortia Simpson Miller:  Defence, Sports, Women's Affairs
bulletRobert Pickersgill:  Housing, Transport and Works
bulletPeter Phillips:  National Security
bulletRoger Clarke:  Agriculture and Land
bulletSenator A.J. Nicholson:  Attorney-General, Minister of Justice
bulletDean Peart:  Local Government and Environment
bulletPhillip Paulwell:  Industry, Commerce, Science and Technology (with Energy)
bulletAloun Assamba: Tourism, Entertainment and Culture
bulletHorace Dalley: Health

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History-making gold rush for Jamaica in Commonwealth Games

Jamaica won every sprint event, men and women, in the recent Commonwealth Games in Australia to amass a total of 10 gold medals. This historic feat means they captured for both men and women, the 100 m, 200 m, hurdles, and 4x100 m relay. Out of 71 countries Jamaica came second behind host Australia in athletics with 22 medals, 10 gold, 4 silver and 8 bronze. Kenya and England tied for third, with South Africa rounding out the top five teams in fifth place. It could have been more medals, but the girls dropped the baton while leading on the second leg in the 4x400 m relay. With all sports included, Jamaica ended up 7th overall.

As expected world 100m record-holder, Asafa Powell, won the 100 m easily. However, Jamaica’s Olympic 200 m gold medallist women, Veronica Campbell, was beaten into second place in the 200, but by another Jamaican, Sherone Simpson.


100 m 1. Asafa Powell (Jamaica); 3. Marc Burns (T&T)
200 m 1. Omar Brown (Jamaica); 3. Chris Williams (Jamaica)
110 m hurdles 1. Maurice Wignall (Jamaica)
400m 2. Francique Alleyene(Grenada); 3. Jermaine Gonzales (Jamaica)
400 m Hurdles 3. Kemel Thompson (Jamaica)
Decathlon 2. Maurice Smith (Jamaica)
Shot Put 2. Scott Dorian (Jamaica)
Seated Discus 1. Tanto Campbell (Jamaica)
4x100 m Relay 1. Jamaica (Chris Williams, Michael Frater, Ainsley Waugh, Asafa Powell)
4x400 m Relay 3. Jamaica (Davian Clarke, Lansford Davis, Lansford Spence, Jermaine Gonzales)

100 m 1. Sheri-Ann Brooks (Jamaica)
200 m 1. Sherone Simpson (Jamaica); 2. Veronica Campbell (Jamaica)
100 m hurdles 1. Brigitte Foster-Hylton; 3. Delloreen Ennis-London (Jamaica)
400 m 2. Tonique Williams (Bahamas); 3. Novlene Williams (Jamaica)
800 m 2. Kenia Sinclair (Jamaica)
High Jump 3. Karen Beautle (Jamaica)
Triple Jump 1. Trecia Smith (Jamaica)
Javelin 2. LaVerne Eve (Bahamas); 3. Olivia McKoy (Jamaica)
Shot Put 3. Cleopatra Borel_Brown (T&T)
4x100m Relay 1. Jamaica (Daniele Browning, Sheri-Ann Brooks, Peta-Gaye Dowdie, Sherone       Simpson)

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T&T opposition party continues to self-destruct

The opposition Democratic national Congress Party of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) continues to self-destruct as another MP has resigned because of the readmittance of former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj to the party. This time it is Gerard Yetming, Member of Parliament for St. Joseph. He is a former Finance Minister who held office during the UNC time in government. He led a heavy verbal attack on Panday for inviting one-time party member, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, back into the fold. Maharaj was one of three former UNC members that parted ways with the then Panday administration, citing corruption in government.

Yetming has now joined ranks with Point-a-Pierre MP Jillian Lucky and San Juan Barataria MP Fuad Khan as independent Members of Parliament. Another member, Senator Robin Montano, fell out of grace with the opposition leader earlier and was fired.

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Massive demonstrations for immigrant rights sweep US

All over America, massive demonstrations have been taking place against the reactionary Sensenbrenner Immigration Bill that passed the Republican dominated US House of Representatives. This bill criminalizes illegal aliens and those that hire them as felons. It has whipped up anti-immigrant sentiment for all immigrants not just illegals, especially among right-wing Republican supporters. But, this time immigrants are fighting back and Los Angeles leads the way.

In downtown Los Angeles, over 1 million people demonstrated in support of immigrant rights. This was the largest demonstration in the history of California. March organizers announced from the stage that the crowd was over 1 million. Univision and other Spanish-language television reported that up to 2 million people marched. The Los Angeles Times, reflecting police estimates, gave the march 500,000 - police estimates have been trying to minimize pro-immigrant rights demonstration for the last few weeks.

This demonstration was the largest of many immigrant rights demonstrations that have taken place this month. It is an uprising. The demonstrations began with 50,000 in Washington DC on March 7, 500,000 in Chicago on March 10 (the largest demonstration ever in Chicago history), and tens of thousands more in the last week in Milwaukee, Phoenix, Atlanta and other cities. In build up for the LA demonstrations, thousands of high school students walked out of class and marched in Los Angeles. In Georgia, tens of thousands of immigrant workers refused to show up at their jobs in a work stoppage protesting regressive legislation passed by the Georgia State Legislature. These demonstrations reflect a tremendous upsurge in the immigrant community.

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500 tons of bad cement creates crisis in Jamaica

The Jamaica building and construction industry was plunged into a crisis created by the introduction into the marketplace of 500 tons of bad cement which had to be recalled. The cement was produced by the only local factory, the Caribbean Cement Company. The company had to cease production to investigate this quality control failure. This created a severe shortage all over the island in which:

bulletSeveral major projects island-wide had to be shut down including construction work on Sabina Park in Kingston and Greenfield (Trelawny) cricket facilities being prepared for the cricket World Cup.
bulletIn the new Half-Way-Tree Center four columns had to be demolished.
bulletThe shutdown of worksites put an estimated 30,000 construction workers out of jobs temporarily paying an average worker J$1,500 per day.

The Government responded by:

bulletConfirming that 500 tonnes of the product bagged and supplied to the public between February 23 and 25 were sub-standard.
bulletAssuring customers that they would be compensated for faulty cement
bulletPermitting the importation of cement with temporary reduction of the tariff from 41% to 15% to fill the desperate need.

There was a rush to import under the new rates with as much as 100,000 tons ordered in a short time. Finally Carib Cement Co. resumed production but under very strict government enforced quality control measures.

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T&T bans French imports because of bird flu

The Ministry of Agriculture in Trinidad and Tobago has banned all poultry products imported from France. According to a statement released by the Ministry of Agriculture, the government is concerned about the increasing threat posed by a significant number of confirmed cases of the Avian Bird Flu in poultry products originating in France. As an additional precautionary measure, a temporary ban on live birds and eggs will remain in effect until further notice.

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Poll reveals majority feel safe in Jamaica

As Jamaica is caught up in the midst of a most vicious crime wave that only seems to get worse, Jamaicans generally feel safe living in their country, according to a Gleaner-commissioned poll by pollster Bill Johnson. Johnson interviewed 1,008 persons for the survey which was conducted March 5 and 6 in 84 communities across the island's 14 parishes. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent. Among his findings were:

bullet83 per cent said they felt safe living in their communities, while 14 per cent said they did not. Three per cent said they did not know.
bulletThe majority of those who said that they were not feeling safe live in Kingston, St. Andrew, Westmoreland and St. James. These persons were mainly in the age groups 18 to 24 and 55 to 64.
bulletSixty-six per cent said they felt safe when leaving home to go shopping or other errands. 28 per cent said they did not, while five per cent did not know.
bullet83 per cent of the respondents said they would recommend Jamaica as a vacation spot to friends living overseas. Fourteen per cent said they would not, while three per cent were uncommitted.
bullet32 per cent said the governing Peoples National was better of the two major parties in dealing with crime. 28 % picked the opposition Jamaica Labor Party. The majority, 40 per cent, said they did not know which would do a better job.

In another of Johnson's polls, 72 per cent of persons polled said crime was Jamaica's most pressing problem.

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UN Human Rights Council

The UN voted on whether to establish a Human Rights Council last month. The vote was 170 to 4, in favor. The four against were Israel, Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the United States. It didn't pass. The U.S. has veto privilege and used it.

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Cuba and Venezuela come to Guyana’s aid

In Guyana, The Mahaica Mahaicony, Abary and Pomeroon areas were declared disaster areas on January 28 following serious flooding caused by extensive rainfall. Heavy rains began in mid-December 2005 and since then many of the communities, which rely heavily on agriculture have been inundated.

This has prompted the Guyana Government to launch an international appeal for assistance. The Government of Guyana's appeal sought assistance, financial or otherwise, for support to restore the livelihood of affected communities, the rehabilitation of drainage structures and to support urgent assistance with the implementation of the emergency disaster mitigation and prevention programme.

Venezuela has responded to that appeal by:

bulletSending a planeload of supplies
bulletOffering to send Venezuelan officials to conduct a screening mission looking at the four rivers identified for dredging to improve the drainage situation.
bulletOffering to provide equipment such as water, trucks, pumps, boats, engines and electrical generators to promote a return to sustainable livelihood in the affected communities in Guyana. 

In the meantime, Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo visited Cuba. He did not come back empty-handed. The visit served not only to deepen diplomatic ties but also to expand the level of assistance offered to Guyana from Cuba. Cuba signed an agreement to provide:

bulletValuable assistance on energy conservation.
bulletA state-of-the-art ophthalmology center in which the Cuban government would provide the equipment and staff. The center is expected to have a capacity to exceed 10,000 surgeries yearly.
bulletdiagnostic centres
bullet965 scholarships for Guyanese including 715 medical scholarships over the next 5 years
bulletmore doctors
bulletspecialists for the sugar industry
bulletinstructors for local medical programs

During the latter half of last year Guyanese patients began accessing health care in Cuba, and to date more than 2,000 Guyanese have had eye surgeries, mainly for cataracts, through the 'Miracle Mission'.

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Big companies fail to pay billboard advertising fees to Govt

The Mayor of Kingston, Desmond McKenzie, has angrily berated 16 companies for not paying their billboard advertising fees owed to the Council in excess of J$75 million. These companies include Burger King, Euro Star Motors, Burt's Auto, Money Gram, Pepsi Cola, Facey Commodity, Neil and Massy and the Jamaica Public Service (JPS). Two of the companies had paid no fees for two and a half years. Burger King was especially criticized for re-erecting signs removed for non-payment without paying their bill.

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ESSO pricing strategy in Jamaica draws anger

THE JAMAICA Gasolene Retailers Association (JGRA) has given marketing company Esso Standard Oil until March 16, to suspend its pricing strategy, desist from discrimination and victimisation of its dealers and withdraw the termination notice served on one of its dealers.

"It is grossly unfair and this is typical of these multi-national companies and we cannot accept this," Trevor Heaven, president of the JGRA, told The Gleaner.

Esso's pricing strategy, which has been a bone of contention between the marketing company and its retailers since last year, is now the focus of a Board of Inquiry being conducted by the Fair Trading Commission. It took the intervention of the Ministry of Labour to avert a shutdown of the industry last November after retailers accused Esso of an unfair pricing strategy.

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Steel band ban for soccer World Cup

T&T’s Soca warriors might have to play their World Cup games in Germany this year without the sweet sounds of their steelband supporters. FIFA and the Organising Committee for the FIFA World Cup 2006 football campaign has put a hold on allowing access for steelpan and other iron-made musical instruments being taken into the stadiums for Trinidad and Tobago's matches in June. But, there is hope. Trinidad and Tobago experienced a similar problem in Manama last November for their final qualifying match against Bahrain when officials of the Football Association there, after initially agreeing, later said the instruments would not be allowed into the venue.

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Jamaica-bound cruise ship fire kills 1, injures 11

A fire broke out Thursday on the Jamaica-bound Star Princess cruise ship. By the time it made it to Montego Bay, the crew had already extinguished the fire but one person died of a heart attack. Several hundred passengers had to be accommodated in local Jamaican hotels. Two other injured passengers were airlifted to the United States.

The ship which was carrying 2,690 passengers and 1,123 crew members. The 550 persons whose rooms were badly affected by the blaze, were evacuated from the boat. They were housed at both the RIU Negril and Sunset Jamaica Grande hotels in Ocho Rios, St. Ann. Between Friday and Saturday morning the remaining passengers were flown to their respective cities in the U.S.

Star Princess left Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Sunday, March 19, on a western Caribbean itinerary with calls at Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Montego Bay and Princess Cays.

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Killer bees attack 6 in Trinidad health center

The health center was not safe. Not when the center was invaded by a swarm of African killer bees. Six persons Six persons from Careenage West Trinidad had to seek medical attention from the attack. The six persons were among several patients attending the district health center when a swarm of bees entered the facility, stinging some patients and eventually forcing the closure of the health center. Two of the six victims had to be taken to the Port of Spain general hospital for treatment while four others were treated at the Careenage health center.

The island's Agriculture Ministry also had to be called in to deal with the bee infestation. According to one report, in 1979-1990, Africanized bees had stung 3,955 humans in Trinidad with 10 deaths, and 1,071 domestic animals, with 715 deaths. An immediate result upon multiple stings is acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis.

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Guyana’s 2006 Soca Monarch disputed

We demand a recount! No this was not a political election shout as we would expect in the charged political atmosphere of Guyana. Nope it was the crowning of the 2006 Soca Monarch.

First Michelle "Big Red" King was crowned the 2006 Carib Soca monarch in the wee hours of the Monday morning. But not for long. Runner-up Adrian Dutchin, the 2005 Soca Monarch, demanded a recount. By the Tuesday, the local papers displayed King's photograph as the Monarch with her song, 'Unity'. The same day the organisors of the event, Carib Beer told her that Dutchin had been declared the winner after a recount.

King was justifiably livid with anger and threatened to take the matter to court. Dutchin was the clear crowd pleaser, winning the crowd over with his dramatic performance of his song one onstage arriving there in white, atop a white horse and ending his song by releasing a white dove. Apparently not a dove of peace, as fireworks erupted with mixed reactions to the judges decisions.

It might turn out to be a dove of peace after all as a Carib Beer official confirmed that King and Dutchin will each receive the 1st place prize money of GYD$550,000 but Dutchin will retain the monarchy.

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