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bulletInvestment clubs in Jamaica promise bonanza but ...
bulletJLP win again in Jamaica
bulletBanco del Sur challenges World Bank, IMF
bulletUWI opens fourth campus in Montego Bay, Jamaica
bulletGay cruises ok to dock in Grenada
bulletCrime Jamaica's worst problem
bulletPALS tackles trauma in Jamaican schools
bulletDominica government to ban toy guns
bulletCivil servants in Nevis and Antigua to benefit
bulletJamaica CSEC results alarmingly dismal
bulletStudies show brain drain hurting Jamaica
bulletTropical storm Olga takes at least 14 lives
bulletDebt cancellation delay will hurt Haiti again
bulletBob Marley and sons top reggae charts for 2007
bulletHaitian hip-hop star Wyclef Jean in concert in Haiti
bulletThousands clean oil spill in S. Korea
bulletFree health care JLP promise causing concern
bulletPray for males in Jamaica
bulletStep aside steel and concrete to make way for bamboo



Boycott Money and Save Your Soul - Launching the Goodwill Revolution
by Michael I Phillips

List Price $11.95 (paperback)
Special Introductory Offer $9.95

Not just a book but an invitation to join the Goodwill Revolution against an unfair, unjust and deceptive system that keeps the world poor and without hope. Find out how you can join, quit the rat race, and achieve a happier more meaningful life for yourself and others through goodwill to all.  
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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.



January 2008

Investment clubs in Jamaica promise bonanza but...

There is a slew of investment clubs in Jamaica which promise a bonanza of over 10%  per month on investment and so far have been delivering on their promise. Tha't over 120% profit per year! How do they raise so much money? They say they do it by foreign currency trading. Traditional banks are upset as they see their bread and butter, savings account, moving away to these ‘clubs’. Banks have struck back raising all sorts of legal challenges.

Cash Plus is among the most visible of these institutions. They have mostly resisted attempts at regulation by Jamaica’s Financial Services Commission (FSC), arguing that they are private members clubs and outside the ambit of the regulator. More recently, though, Cash Plus has gone to court seeking a declaration on whether its activities would fall within the jurisdiction of the FSC or the Bank of Jamaica.

While another big foreign- exchange trading club, Olint, has gone to court to contest the FSC's regulatory authority over it.

The FSC indicated that its more aggressive stance against Cash Plus was driven by recent media stories about the founder of Cash Plus, Carlos Hill: 

bullet having been jailed in the United States for investment fraud 
bullet the difficulties faced by some clients in making withdrawals
bullet the dishonoring of Cash Plus checks
bulletthe closure by some banks of the accounts held by Cash Plus and its subsidiaries.

Cash Plus is no paper tiger. The five-year-old company in Jamaica, has built up an array of businesses in its expanding and diversified portfolio of companies. Hill operates in the telecoms, financial, shipping, hospitality, fuels/ chemicals, real estate and other sectors. He claims ownership of a number of other properties in the Corporate Area, including Priscilla's Nightclub. Its most recent acquisition is the prestigious Kingston Hilton Hotel. The hotel was purchased at a price of US$42 million (J$2.8 billion), and gives Cash Plus, already the owners of the Executive Inn hotels in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios and also the Golden Seas resort in Oracabessa, St. Mary, a sound footing in the island's hospitality sector. Even Jamaica’s premier soccer league is sponsored by them, beating out the established J. Wray & Nephew for that honor.

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JLP win again in Jamaica

The ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is celebrating its second straight victory at the polls in just three months, its third in four years, having swept yesterday's local government elections.

At the end of the preliminary count last night, the JLP had won nine of the 13 parish councils, while the St. Ann Parish Council was declared a tie, with both the JLP and the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) winning eight divisions each in the 16-seat council. The PNP, which only won Westmoreland and Portmore in the 2003 elections before adding Portland, yesterday picked up Hanover and Manchester to go along with Westmoreland.

The PNP retained the Portmore municipality and George Lee, PNP, was returned as mayor. He defeated the JLP's Keith Hinds by a narrow margin of 27 votes.

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Banco del Sur challenges World Bank, IMF

True relief for poor countries may be on the way. With as much as US$7 billion in expected start-up capital, backers say the Banco del Sur, or Bank of the South, will offer Latin American countries loans with fewer strings attached than those given by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund or the Inter-American Development Bank. The bank is the brainchild of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in response to the hobbling criteria like ‘structural adjustment’ those banks imposed on poor countries. The institution is one of several proposals under Chávez's ambitious call to unite Latin American countries in a "confederation of republics".

The leaders signed the "founding act" Sunday at a ceremony at Argentina's presidential palace hosted by President Nestor Kirchner and his wife, President-elect Cristina Fernandez, who takes office Monday. Venezuela, with South America's largest known oil reserves, is expected to be a leading financier along with Brazil.

Many consider it it a bold stroke for Latin America's financial independence. Officials say it will dispense loans for projects from road-building to anti-poverty programs and regional integration plans.

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UWI opens fourth campus in Montego Bay, Jamaica

The new University of the West Indies Principal, Professor Gordon Shirley, has announced that the university will commence operation of its fourth campus, from a temporary site at the Chatwick Centre in Montego Bay, Jamaica, come the 2008 academic year. . He said the UWI saw the need to expand its academic programs to western Jamaica due to the large number of developments taking place in the northern end of the island.

The proposed permanent campus facility is to be sited on 25 acres of land at Irwin, St. James. The university has three other campuses in Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and in Kingston.

The new Montego bay campus will be offering full, three-year degree programs, and will be expanding in the second and third years.

In the words of Professor Shirley, "We have a larger population in the western end of Jamaica than we have in all of the eastern Caribbean, includingBarbados, which has a big university of its own, and we think it's time that we had a presence here, and that we offer programs that are particularly targeted at the needs of the community and the businesses here in western Jamaica."

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Gay cruises ok to dock in Grenada

The Grenada Government yesterday has made it clear that it would not prevent several cruise ships carrying gay passengers from docking at Port St. George over the next few months. A statement from the Ministry of Tourism says there has been a negative fallout as a result of reports in the foreign press suggesting that the country was moving to ban gay cruises to the island.

Cruise liners Queen Mary 2 and Legend of the Seas have scheduled cruises with gay passengers to several Caribbean countries, including Grenada, in December, January, February and March.

Officials are particularly upset about a headline appearing in the online edition of the Toronto Star newspaper, which says 'Grenada considering ban on gay cruises'. This resulted in many cancellations at local hotels from a travelling world adverse to the homophobia which seems so prevalent in the Caribbean.

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Crime Jamaica's worst problem

Jamaicans consider Crime and violence as the worst problem facing the island according to the finding of the most recent Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll which was done less than two weeks before local government elections. And for good reason. Over 1,400 people have been murdered in 11 months - over 350 of them since September. Among them have been four policemen murdered in the last week, including an assistant commissioner of police (ACP), Kameka, who was gunned down in Irish Town, St. Andrew.

Kameka became the most senior policeman to be murdered in Jamaica in recent memory when he was shot dead in the rustic community of Irish Town in St. Andrew on November 29. ACP Kameka had served the Jamaica Constabulary Force for 28 years and was the commander of the Area Four Police Division. Kameka's coffin was draped with the Jamaican flag, the cop's hat and sword resting neatly on top. He was buried with full honours atthe family plot in Haddo, Westmoreland.

The poll which surveyed 1,008 residents islandwide, and which was conducted on November 24 and 25, shows that close to three quarters of Jamaicans or 63 per cent feel crime and violence is the country's worst problem, seven per cent more than in August prior to the September 3 general election.

Similarly, more people think the country is going in the wrong direction, with 56 per cent sharing that feeling. At the same time, 15 per cent of Jamaicans are concerned about the rising cost of living and inflation, up from a mere three per cent in August. The price of basic food items such as flour and rice have skyrocketed in recent weeks. So too, the price of petrol, electricity, among other items.

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PALS tackles trauma in Jamaican schools

PALS (Peace and Love in Schools) Jamaica is set to tackle a problem with which increasingly more school children are force to cope. They have launched their critical incident management intervention for select schools recently. The event took the form of a two-hour workshop for principals and select staff of the participating schools. The schools that comprise the pilot are August Town Primary, Denham Town Primary, Charlie Smith High School and Penwood High School. PALS is working in these schools under the IDB/Government of Jamaica's 'Citizen Security and Justice Program' (CSJP).

PALS is promoting the implementation of a critical incident management response plan as a key component of a school's overall safety plan. The plan is a proactive and direct way of planning for and managing critical incidents at school. The plan also speaks to the need for programs that generate compliant student behaviour.

Guided by the principles espoused in the 'Critical Incident Management Guidelines' manual, schools will be able to effectively manage crises, including those generated by crime and violence - fights with and without weapons, shootings, gang activity; rape; kidnappings, suicide; facility emergencies; and, weather events like flood and hurricanes.

In a crisis, a core objective is to ensure the school establishes early control, disruption is minimised, and recovery is as quick as possible.

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Dominica government to ban toy guns

The Dominica government says this could be the last Christmas toys guns are legally sold here as Parliament will move to outlaw them early in the New Year. Minister of National Security Rayburn Blackmoore said legislation to ban the sale and use of toy guns is coming next year and at least one opposition legislator said the move will have his full backing. There have been reports of burglaries and threats using toy guns which sometimes look like authentic firearms.

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Civil servants in Nevis and Antigua benefit

Both Nevis and Antigua deserve special commendation for voluntarily raising salaries of civil servants. Elsewhere in the world it seems civil servants are always the first to have their salaries frozen and the last to receive raises.

In Nevis, Premier of Nevis and Minister of Finance in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) Joseph Parry, confirmed that all civil servants on Nevis would benefit from a five percent salary increase and would receive retroactive pay from January 1, 2007.

In Antigua, a rare phenomenon occurred. A budget surplus! Antigua Finance Minister Dr. Errol Cort on Monday responded to the anticipated surplus by increasing civil servants pay and decreasing taxes. The tax rate of about 15% will be reduced to 10%.

Specifically, workers earning between EC$4,000 and EC$6,000 will be taxed at 10 per cent down from 15 per cent while those earning between EC$6,000 and EC$8000 will pay income tax of 12.5 per cent. (US$1 is equivalent to about EC$2.67). Essentially, the two income groups will pay 17 to 33 per cent less tax.

Antigua's 2008 budget projects recurrent spending of EC$792 million while revenue and transfers are expected to reach EC$810 million, for a net gain of EC$18 million.

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Jamaica CSEC results alarmingly dismal

According to an analysis of the 2007 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) results, conducted by Dr. Ralph Thompson, education advocate and businessman, 89 per cent of students in non-traditional high schools failed English language, while 37 per cent of their peers in traditional high schools also failed the subject. The CSEC is a Caribbean-wide school leaving exam.

According to Dr. Thompson:

bulletIn mathematics, 96 per cent of students in non-traditional schools failed the subject, while 59 per cent of their counterparts in traditional high schools were unsuccessful.
bulletIn technical schools, 81 per cent failed English language, while 90 per cent failed mathematics.
bulletThe  total school enrolment for English language was 40,037, but 17,612 students were not allowed to sit the examination. Of the 22,425 who sat the examination, 10,789 failed.
bulletWhen the overall pass rates were disaggregated, it became clear that the crucial problem with the education system was in the non-traditional school segment.
bulletSome 70 per cent of the total secondary school population attend non-traditional schools and these institutions should be the prime focus of an education policy.

When Dr. Thompson ranked traditional schools based on their performance in the two core subjects, Wolmer's High School for girls came out on top for English Language, while Campion College topped the chart for mathematics. Notably, seven of the schools in the top 10 for English were all girls institutions. Five of the 10 schools in the top 10 for mathematics were also all-girls institutions. Traditional all-boys high schools such as Kingston College, St. George's College, Munro, Jamaica College and Cornwall College did not make it in the top 10 for either subject. Wolmer's High School for Boys was the only all-boys institution that made it in the top 10.


 % Pass
1 Wolmer's Girls 97.19 Campion College  97.23
2 Campion College  95.85 St. Andrew High 92.82
3 Westwood High 94.57 Immaculate Conception  89.17
4 St. Andrew High 93.6 Wolmer's Boys' School 85.11
5 Bishop Gibson High  93.57 Ardenne High 83.22
6 Immaculate Conception 93.5 Glenmuir High 80.08
7 Ardenne High  91.61 Wolmer's Girls School 79.43
8 St. Hilda's Diocesan 90.69 St. Jago High 75.97
9 Holy Childhood High 89.67 Westwood High 72.68
10 Wolmer's Boys' School 87.90 Montego Bay High 71.57
  TOP TEN average 92.82   82.72
  Last year top ten ave. 93.04   79.93
  All traditional schools 62.76   40.53

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Studies show brain drain hurting Jamaica

According to senior University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer, Keirh Nurse's Policy Paper entitled 'Diaspora, Migration and Development in the Caribbean'. 

bulletSome 20 per cent of Jamaica's specialist nurses and eight per cent of its registered nurses leave the island annually in pursuit of greener pastures overseas. 
bulletApproximately 2,000 teachers have left the country between 2000 and 2002. 
bulletA study done by the Planning Institute of Jamaica and Dr. Pauline Knight, which concluded that over 82 per cent of Jamaicans with tertiary level education, that were living and working in the United States in the 1990s were trained in Jamaica.

A major concern is that the continued brain-drain robs a country of much needed skilled and academic labor, required for nation building; destroys families and strips a people of its pride and confidence.

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Tropical storm Olga takes at least 14 lives

Almost two weeks after the Atlantic hurricane season officially ended and even though it is rare for tropical storms to form after the November 30 end of the six-month season, along came tropical storm Olga. It never made it to hurricane status but it left behind at least 14 dead in its wake. 

bulletIn the Dominican Republic, at least 11 people were killed in the northern city of Santiago, some 34,500 people were evacuated because of the floods and an estimated 5,000 homes were affected, many of them completely destroyed. 
bulletIn Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, the storm killed at least 2 people, destroyed homes and uprooted trees. 
bulletIn Puerto Rico, one man was killed when his car was buried under a landslide near San Juan.

Olga was the 15th named storm to form in the Atlantic this year. Six of the storms became hurricanes, including two that hit land with rare fury, reaching the topmost intensity five with maximum sustained winds of more than 155 miles per hour.

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Debt cancellation delay will hurt Haiti again

Delays in debt cancellation threaten to cost millions in urgently needed funds, and Haiti would benefit from immediate debt relief instead, according to a new paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The paper, " Debt Cancellation For Haiti: No Reason for Further Delays," notes that Haiti is supposed to have most of its debt canceled under the IMF and World Bank's Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) Initiative, but this process is still in its early stages, and is likely to fall behind schedule.

The delays could have tragic consequences for Haiti, which is the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere and has a life expectancy of 53 years.

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Bob Marley and sons top reggae charts for 2007

More than 26 years after his death, Bob Marley continues to rule the reggae roost. His album "Forever Bob Marley "topped Billboard's year-end Top Reggae Albums chart. He also captured the number 9 position with "Africa Unite: The Singles Collection".

Right behind him in the 2nd and 3rd position were two of his sons. Stephen captured number 2 with "Mind Control". Damian Marley copped 3rd with "Welcome to Jamrock".

For the second year in a row, New Yorker Matisyahu tops the Reggae Artists chart, continuing to garner new fans with his mix of hip-hop and reggae, as well as his lyrics about his Hasidic Jewish background. His three albums, "Youth" , "No Place to Be" and "Live at Stubb's" are Nos. 5, 6 and 11, respectively, on the Top Reggae Albums chart.

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Haitian hip-hop star Wyclef Jean in concert in Haiti

World-famous Haitian hip-hop star Wyclef Jean has given an open-air concert near Port-au-Prince's presidential palace, along with Senegalese-American singer Akon. Named Haiti's goodwill ambassador by President Rene Preval, Jean is intent on changing his country's international image.
"Speaking of change, we need big foreign stars to come over and discover our country, see how beautiful it is and find out what's happening here," Jean told reporters after he and Akon arrived in the Caribbean nation.

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Thousands clean oil spill in S. Korea

South Korea showed the world how valuable volunteers can be as thousands pitched in to clean up a devastating oil spill.

Oil started hitting beaches Saturday, a day after a Hong Kong-registered supertanker was slammed by a South Korean-owned barge that came unmoored from its tugboat in rough seas about seven miles off Mallipo, one of South Korea's best-known beaches. Nearly 2.8 million gallons of crude gushed into the ocean.Thick, smelly waves of crude washed ashore, turning seagulls black and threatening fish farms along an 11-mile stretch of coast.

South Korea’s Coast Guard mobilized thousands of people with buckets and shovels to tackle the problem. About 100 ships, including Coast Guard, navy and private fishing boats, were also to help contain and clean up South Korea's worst spill. At total of 7,500 police, military, civil servants and volunteers struggled to remove the oil, some battling headaches, dizziness and nausea.

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Free health care JLP promise causing concern

In its campaign leading up to the September 3, 2007 elections, the JLP promised free health care. The concern is not that they might not live up to their promise but that they might. Undue pressure on public hospitals from the previous People's National Party (PNP) administration's policy of free health care for children is making health-care providers fearful that any further move to free up health care in public health facilities could be disastrous. They say before any imposition of the sort can be made, Government must move with urgency to upgrade public hospitals and improve staff complements and equipment in the sector.

Since the imposition of free health care for children by the Portia Simpson Miller-led administration in May, hospitals have been bending over backwards to meet the added demand on its accident and emergency (A&E) units.

The Bustamante Hospital for Children, for example, has been seeing up to three times the number of patients since the freeing up of health care for children, The Sunday Gleaner understands. Those seeking care in A&E increased from just about 100 patients to 300 last month. This increase is typical for other hospitals. Hospitals are already under severe strain even without the promised increase due in April 2008 since:

"No provisions were made for the expansion of the physical plant

"The increase is causing inordinately long delays in accident emergencies and casualties.

There are not enough doctors, not enough surgeons, not enough anaesthetists, not enough operating time, not enough recovery room.

The clinics are overwhelmed.

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Pray for males in Jamaica

A good man is getting so hard to find in Jamaica that churches across the island are being urged to pray for the success of a national conference to reclaim Jamaica's male population. The conference, to be staged next February at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston, is aimed at motivating men to make a commitment to God and regenerate their responsibility as leaders in society. The conference is targeted at men age 18 and above, and will encourage them to make sincere behaviour changes at its conclusion. The conference is being hosted by a cross section of church leaders in Jamaica.

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Step aside steel and concrete to make way for bamboo

In November 2004, the International Code Council certified that Structural Bamboo Poles produced by Hawaii-based Bamboo Technologies comply with International Building Code (IBC), International Residential Code (IRC) and Uniform Building Code (UBC) standards. This doies not belong to steel and concrete anymore. Since then, the Bamboo Technologies factory in Vietnam has constructed and shipped over 100 building-code compliant bamboo structures used as homes and vacation resorts around the world, including Belize Island Resorts, Belize, Central America, Kalani Oceanside Retreat, Big Island, Hawaii, Bamboo Village Beach Resort, Phan Thiet, Vietnam and The Magic Waters Resort, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (where the bamboo structures have successfully stood up to three hurricanes).

So far, only two types of thick-walled bamboo are suitable for construction and they need to be vacuum pressure treated in an earth-friendly Borate (salt) solution, altering the sugars and starch, which both hardens the bamboo and protects it from insects. Additional treatments with non-toxic, earth friendly, fungicides protect the bamboo from molding and finish coats are made using water based acrylic with no VOC's.

Bamboo structures are extremely "Green"? Bamboo is the fastest growing plant, technically it's a "grass". Compared to a hardwood forest the same size, bamboo produces 30% more oxygen and 20 times the biomass yield. Bamboo can be harvested annually after the first 5 to 7 years without replanting, compared to 25 to 50 years for trees, which then need to be replanted in bare soil. To put it in perspective, it takes 25 years and an acre of land to generate enough 2x4’s to build a typical American house, in just seven years that same acre can generate enough bamboo to build 20 bamboo houses, in 25 years that’s 80 bamboo structures!

Editor’s note: We got the big bamboo. Could there be a bamboo industry in the Caribbean’s future?


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