UNDILUTED pays tribute to John Maxwell by featuring two previous columns by him from the Hot Calaloo UNDILUTED archives:
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US drones over the Caribbean
After quietly testing Predator drones over the Bahamas for more than 18 months, the US Department of Homeland Security plans to expand the unmanned surveillance flights into the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to fight drug smuggling, according to U.S. officials. The move would dramatically increase U.S. drone flights in the Western Hemisphere, more than doubling the number of square miles now covered by the department's fleet of nine surveillance drones, which are used primarily on the northern and southwestern U.S. borders.
The Predator B is best known as the drone used by the CIA to find and kill al-Qaida terrorists in Pakistan and Yemen. An unarmed version patrols the U.S. borders searching known overland smuggling routes.
But the high-tech aircraft have had limited success spotting drug runners in the open ocean. The drones have largely failed to impress veteran military, Coast Guard and Drug Enforcement Agency officers charged with finding and boarding speedboats, fishing vessels and makeshift submarines ferrying tons of cocaine and marijuana to America's coasts.
Despite budget cuts in other areas, Customs and Border Protection has requested $5.8 million to push its drone operations farther into the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. But test flights for the drones showed disappointing results in the Bahamas, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the program who were not authorized to speak publicly.
Maximum 23 years for Dudus
Christopher 'Dudus' Coke was sentenced to 20 years in prison for drug and firearm trafficking and three years for assault in the Southern District Court of New York,. The sentences will run consecutively. The judge also ordered the forfeiture of Coke's assets in the sum of US$1.5 million. Coke will also pay fines for the crimes he confessed to.
'Dudus' had pleaded for leniency, telling the judge that he was "a good person who had done a lot of good things for the people of Tivoli Gardens," and as such did not deserve the maximum sentence. In his impassioned plea, the former Tivoli don told the court, "In my community, I have implemented certain programs, so that kids could get off the streets at a certain time of the night. I have created a remedial centre, a homework program to benefit the youths."
Family members present in court were visibly distressed following the judge's ruling.
Stanford gets 110 years
United States district judge David Hittner declared Allen Stanford's actions were among the most "egregious criminal frauds" and sentenced him to 110 years behind bars. But Stanford, the former jet-setting Texas tycoon, whose financial empire once spanned the Americas, has denied ever running Ponzi schemes.
Stanford, 62, was sent to prison for bilking investors out of more than $7 billion over 20 years in one of the largest Ponzi schemes in US history.
Prosecutors had asked that Stanford be sentenced to 230 years in prison, the maximum sentence possible after a jury convicted the one-time billionaire in March on 13 of 14 fraud-related counts. Stanford's convictions on conspiracy, wire and mail fraud charges followed a seven-week trial.
Stanford's attorneys had asked for a maximum of 41 months, a sentence he could have completed within about five months because he has been jailed since his arrest in June 2009.
Speaking for more than 40 minutes, Stanford said he was a scapegoat and blamed the federal government and a US-appointed receiver who took over his companies for tearing down his business empire and preventing his investors from getting any of their money back.
‘Sir’ Allen Stanford was once considered one of the richest men in the US and became the pride of Antigua, with an estimated net worth of more than $2 billion. His financial empire stretched from the US to Latin America and the Caribbean. He bankrolled a regional 20/20 cricket tournament, which was named for him.
West Indians to benefit from Obama’s Dream Act executive order
The Dream act is now law, thanks to an executive order by President Obama. Republicans are furious as they have tried everything to sabotage it legislatetively. But, Caribbean residents and Latinos in the US are are filled with joy.
Under the new policy which takes immediate effect, the US government has agreed to stop the deportation of undocumented immigrants who were taken there before they were 16 years old and are under 30 years old. Those who qualify will be allowed to apply for work permits that will last for two years with no limits on the number of times it can be renewed. To apply, however, these individuals must show that they have been living continuously in the US for the last five years, do not have a criminal record and must have graduated from a US high school, have a general equivalency diploma or served in the military.
Delinquent school fees may force many Ja private schools to close
Many Jamaica private schools are facing a crisis. According to the the Jamaica Independent Schools' Association (JISA), a number of preparatory and other private schools across the country are owed millions of dollars in outstanding fees, some as high as $15 million. Members of JISA indicated that schools continue to have difficulties in collecting the monies from parents who are struggling to pay for their students' education.
Six schools recently indicated their intention to close to the Ministry of Education. These include Fay Simpson, Happy Glow, Cauldean, Splendor and St John De Baptist preparatory schools were among the group.
The president of the Jamaica Independent Schools' Association (JISA), the Reverend Sylvester O'Gilvie, is calling on the Government to make available low-interest-rate loans for schools which are facing financial hardship.
Venezuela, Cuba and Argentina sign development assistance agreements with Haiti
Venezuela, Cuba and Argentina have signed new agreements to support Haiti’s development, including agricultural projects and building a new hospital on the Caribbean island.
One accord with Argentina and Venezuela involves boosting Haiti’s agricultural sector, which imports nearly 80% of its main food staple, rice.
Another agreement commits Venezuela and Cuba to build a new hospital in the capital zone of Corail, where the prime ministers’ office sat before the January 2010 earthquake. The project will cost around US $78 million and will equip the hospital with the latest technology.
The four countries also agreed to form a joint body to administer Venezuela’s Petrocaribe program in Haiti, which supplies the island with oil at a preferential rate. The body will administer Petrocaribe funds to construct shelters, invest in educational institutions, and provide 300 scholarships to young people from low income backgrounds.
Haiti launched a new social program last Sunday with US $13 million generated from Petrocaribe to provide poor mothers with stipends to help cover basic living costs.
Venezuela has been a key support to Haiti in its reconstruction efforts.
This includes through the ALBA alliance and Petrocaribe, where Venezuela has been constructing power plants on the island and dedicated funds to the housing, infrastructure, agricultural, health and education sectors. Venezuela also wrote off US $400 million of Haitian debt in June 2010.
EU threatens CARIFORUM over tariffs
The European Union is warning that it is running
out of patience with Jamaica and seven other CARIFORUM countries which
have failed to cut import duties for products coming from Europe. Under
the European Partnership Agreement (EPA), the tariff cuts should have
started in January 2011 when a three-year grace period expired.
Jamaica banana growers face severe crisis
LOCAL BANANA growers in Portland, Jamaica, are appealing to the Ministry of Agricultureto provide a sustainable local market for them to sell their fruits, as thousands of acres of green gold are going to waste. The last-ditch appeal comes against the background of large amounts of banana chips and other by-products of the fruit that are imported into the country each year, while rural banana farmers remain poor.
In the words of one farmer:
The farmers were airing their grouses at the Portland Area Council All-Island Banana Growers AssociationLtd (AIBGA) annual general meeting at the Old Port Antonio Marina.
The local banana industry has been under threat in recent years from various angles, including the ruling by the World Trade Organisation, which removed preferential market access by the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, of which Jamaica is a member. In addition, the suspension of local banana exports to Europe in 2008 was a direct result of that decision.
Additionally, a number of devastating hurricanes, as well as a steady number of diseases and pests have helped to cripple the banana export trade in Jamaica. Among the most dreaded of the diseases is the black sigatoka, a fungal disease, which has reached global epidemic proportions.
‘Maxi taxi’ operators to go on hunger strike in T&T
Drivers of ‘maxi taxi’ minibuses in the eastern city of Arima who ply Trinidad’s busy East-West corridor have gone on a hunger strike to press the government to pay money owed to them for the last two years. The protest fast is likely to disrupt the morning commute from the island’s fourth largest town to the Trinidad capital, Port of Spain, and seven1 town centres. Some members of the mat taxi association in Arima, whose privately owned and operated buses carry a red band, have said they will stage their ‘fast for justice’ outside the office here of Finance Minister Winston Dookeran.
In a judgement, the Privy Council in London, the two island republic’s final court of appeal, ordered that the government in Port of Spain pay approximately 50 million Trinidad and Tobago dollars (7.8 million US dollars) to maxitaxi oper ators who use Port of Spain’s City Gate.
Home rule returns to Turks and Caicos
After three years of direct rule from London, the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands are to go to the polls on November 9 to elect a government for the British territory.
The announcement has plunged the political parties on the tiny northern Caribbean group of islands into campaign mode, five months ahead of the elections.
In an unprecedented move, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which oversees the defence and foreign affairs of overseas territories and appoints the governor, disbanded the Michael Misick administration in 2009 and took control of the island's domestic affairs after an inquiry found evidence of corruption.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has said critical financial controls have been implemented in the TCI to pave the way the elections and a return to home rule for the islands’ 45,000 people.
The return to home rule will end a saga that goes back to 2008, when a British parliamentary committee began to hear allegations of systemic corruption in the PNP government. Premier Misick late found himself at the centre of a criminal investigation into sexual assault charges which he has denied.
Vacancies for workers in Jamaica
A manpower gap analysis conducted by the Government's job placement and training agency - HEART Trust/NTA - has revealed that close to 100,000 employment opportunities are available in Jamaica today despite the growing unemployment rate. The HEART study that canvassed 100 occupational areas across nine major sectors also revealed that there was a manpower glut in some occupational areas. The only area in the agriculture sector that recorded a surplus in workers was 'agricultural or industrial machinery mechanics and fitter'.
The study, which breaks down the country into four regions - South East, South West, North East and North West showed :
Injustice in Florida
George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. Marissa Alexander fired a warning shot to defend herself against her abusive husband. A Florida court has now sentenced Marissa Alexander to 20 years in prison.
Alexander was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for firing into a wall near her husband and his two young children at their Jacksonville home in 2010. Alexander has maintained that she wasn't trying to hurt anyone and that she was standing her ground against a man who had over the course of nearly a year punched and choked her on several different occasions. Alexander says that she believed she was protected that day under the state's Stand Your Ground Law, which gives people wide discretion in using deadly force to defend themselves.
Alexander, who did not have a criminal record before the shooting, was convicted of felony assault with a gun.
Alexander’s case has drawn comparisons to the case of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager shot to death in February by a neighborhood watch volunteer who claimed he shot Martin in self-defense. The shooter, George Zimmerman, was initially released after the police said he was within his legal rights to defend himself. He was later arrested and charged with second-degree murder more than 40 days later.
Both the Martin and Alexander cases have stirred controversy around Florida's self-defense and gun laws, but it wasn't until some media pivoted from the Martin case to Alexander's that her name became known outside of Jacksonville.
T&T moves to stave off trade dispute with Barbados
Trinidad and Tobago moved swiftly on Friday to head off a trade dispute with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) trading partner Barbados, apologising for the actions of its food safety agency in blocking the entry of Barbadian milk and juices into the two-island republic and saying it was working to resolve the issue.
Trade Minister Stephen Cadiz apologized for the actions of the country's food safety agency, the Food and Drugs Division in the Ministry of Health, in refusing the entry of juices and milk products from Pine Hill Dairy in Barbados.
He alsol sought to play down growing uneasiness over Trinidad and Tobago's trade surplus with fellow CARICOM partners, including Jamaica, whose manufacturers have complained of obstacles in penetrating Trinidadian markets.
Cadiz suggested he was also trying to address growing rumblings in Jamaica that questioned Port of Spain's commitment to the regional bloc and calls by Jamaica's former commerce minister Karl Samuda for a withdrawal from the 38-year-old customs union.
The Jamaican manufacturers association has also complained of problems with entering the Trinidadian market but had said it would leave the matter for resolution between the two governments. CARICOM is the main buyer of Trinidadian goods and services.
Prisoners feed themselves and Jamaica
Why on earth should a fertile island like Jamaica import US $930 million in food? Yes, AGRICULTURE MINISTER Roger Clarke recently noted that Jamaica’s staggering food import bill for 2011 of US$930 million (J$80 billion) was "unsustainable", and declared that Government would redouble its effort to get Jamaicans to eat more locally produced foods.
"Any institution that comes under government control - be it hospital, prison, infirmary - we can't afford to be importing food to feed them," he declared.
However, the Department of Correctional Services through COSPROD (Correctional Services Production Company) has for more than 15 years been doing its part to not only feed the inmates in its care but, in the process, also impart a skill as part of the rehabilitation process.
The statutory limited liability company was established in 1994 with the mandate to develop the farms within the Correctional Services, primarily the Richmond Farm Adult Correctional Centre in St Mary, Tamarind Farm Adult Correctional Centre, St Catherine, and the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre (Brickyard) in Kingston.
The crops and other produce at all three locations are sold at low costs to the Department of Correctional Services and the surplus sold to staff members and outside markets. Projects include animal husbandry (pig, sheep), crop production (vegetable, orchard, tree crop), poultry rearing (layer and broiler meat rearing), block making, welding, and woodwork manufacturing.
Richmond Farm has the largest acreage and has been leading the way in vegetable production, with eggs and pork also doing well. The success of COSPROD has made the Department of Correctional Services self-sufficient in vegetable and eggs, which is quite an accomplishment if taken against the background of the weekly demand at Tower Street with the largest population of more than 8,000 inmates. Richmond provides 1,000 pounds of cabbage, 295 dozen eggs, 1,100 pounds of callaloo, 550 pounds of pak choi, with Tamarind Farm contributing 840 pounds of chicken.
Multinational giant loses to local Jamaica company
Lasco Distributors Limited (LDL) earned an important court victory against giant international pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which its attorney says will boost the value of the company.
The court awarded damages estimated to be some J$ 400 million to Lasco's for compensation for lost earnings over the seven years in which the sale of generic blood-pressure drug Las Amlodipine was halted. The Appeal Court last week sided with an earlier ruling by the Supreme Court that Pfizer could not claim patent rights in Jamaica for Norvasc, when its patent had expired elsewhere in 1997. The decision handed victory to Lasco and Medimpex, both of which had been barred from selling generic versions of the drug.
The case between Pfizer and the two Jamaican companies dates back to 2002. In 2005, Pfizer got the local courts to block Lasco and Medimpex sales, on the basis that it infringed its patent. Its patent in Jamaica was granted well after the court fight began, on June 22, 2007.
This is an impressive victory as Pfizer is one of those powerful multinational drug corporations that dominates even American politics in the healthcare debate.
Hundreds protest Haiti plan to destroy slum
More than 1,000 Haitians marched through the Caribbean nation's capital recently to protest a reported plan to destroy their hillside shanties for a flood-control project before they have found better, more permanent dwellings in the wake of a devastating earthquake.
The demonstrators snaked through the grid-like streets of Petionville chanting threats to burn down the relatively affluent district if the authorities flatten their homes.
The No. 2 official at the Environment Ministry, Pierre Andre Gedeon, said on a local radio broadcast last week that officials want to demolish several hundred homes to build channels and reforest the hillsides in an effort to curb the deadly floods that come with the annual rainy season.
World Cup soccer underway
The first matches of the world cup soccer eliminations have been played and play-offs continue in September. Jamaica is tied with US for lead in their division and will play US in Columbus next. Book your tickets to Columbus now to support the team,
The next round will see the 3 group winners and 3 runners-up compete in a single group. The matches are scheduled to be played from 6 February to 15 October 2013.
The top three teams will qualify directly for the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals, while the fourth-placed team will enter the intercontinental play-offs.
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