UNDILUTED pays tribute to John Maxwell by featuring two previous columns by him from the Hot Calaloo UNDILUTED archives:
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 .
by Donna Hemans ... $16.10
---------------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.
Singer Buju Banton found guilty in cocaine case
Grammy-winning reggae singer Buju Banton was convicted in of conspiring to set up a cocaine deal in 2009. The verdict elicited anguish and disbelief among supporters in the crowded Tampa, Florida courtroom and from other artists in his native Jamaica.
A federal jury deliberated for 11 hours over two days on the fate of Banton, who won a Grammy last week for best reggae album for his work entitled "Before the Dawn." He was found guilty of three of four charges, and his attorney said he's facing at least 15 years in prison.
The 37-year-old Banton, whose given name is Mark Myrie, remains wildly popular in Jamaica, and the trial — his second over the drug accusations — was packed with supporters that included other well-known reggae artists. The first trial ended in a mistrial last year after the jury deadlocked.
His lawyer said he plans to appeal the conviction and will file a motion to try to get Banton out of jail on bond in the meantime. Banton was found guilty of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense and using a telephone to facilitate a drug trafficking offense. He was acquitted of attempted possession with the intent to distribute cocaine.
Prosecutors acknowledge that Banton did not put any money into the drug deal, nor did he ever profit from it. His lawyer said his client is "a big talker" who admitted to trying to impress the confidential informant but wasn't involved in any drug deal. Much of the case hinged on meetings and phone calls that were video- and audiotaped by the informant, who was working with the Drug Enforcement Administration — and who made $50,000 in commission after the bust.
Banton testified that that the informant badgered him after they met on a trans-Atlantic flight in July 2009 and insisted that they meet to set up a cocaine purchase. He said he was so uninterested in the informant's proposals that after they met twice, Banton didn't return the man's phone calls for months.
University of Puerto Rico student strike spark political crisis
Egypt to Wisconsin to Puerto Rico
José Ramón de la Torre, head of the 60,000-student system, resigned Friday after a series of violent clashes between students and riot police. Some 200 people have been arrested and scores of students injured, prompting professors and university workers to walk out for two days last week in sympathy with the students.
Conservative Gov. Luis Fortuño finally relented and pulled back the hundreds of riot police that had been occupying the system's 11 campuses for weeks. It was the first police occupation of the university in more than 30 years.
Students began boycotting classes in early December to protest a special $800 annual fee Fortuño imposed this semester to reduce a huge government deficit. That fee - equal to more than 50% of annual tuition - stunned the university community, given that more than 60% of UPR students have family incomes of less than $20,000 a year.
Student leaders persuaded the trustees to reject similar tuition hikes Fortuño proposed last spring. They did so by conducting massive sit-ins and barricading themselves in buildings on all the campuses for two months, and by running a sophisticated Internet and media campaign that garnered much public support.
Fortuño's pro-statehood New Progressive Party (but conservative), which controls both houses of the Puerto Rico legislature, responded by packing the board of trustees with new appointees, guaranteeing him complete control this time around. Local courts cooperated by banning student protests on university grounds. Most experts expected the students would be too exhausted from last spring to challenge the governor again. Those experts were wrong.
Inspired by the youth revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, the students refused to simply go home. They presented more than 200 pages of proposals to university officials on ways to trim budget costs without huge tuition increases. Under Puerto Rico law, the commonwealth government must spend 9.6% of its budget on the university's operation.
The Fortuño administration, which recently pushed through the biggest corporate and individual tax cuts in Puerto Rico's history, has laid off thousands of government workers and wants even greater privatization of public services. (sounds familiar?) To underscore his message, Fortuño was a featured speaker recently at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
The striking students at UPR know this is not simply a conflict with their trustees. They are up against the forces of the entire Fortuño administration. The way they see it, the future of a great public university, one that has educated generations of low-income citizens in Puerto Rico, is at stake.
Undersea cable connects Jamaica to Cuba
JAMAICA ACHIEVED another milestone in its telecommunications industry with the landing in St Ann recently of a 240-km undersea fibre-optic cable between the island and Cuba.
The occasion, which took place at Golden Sands in Ocho Rios, was part of a joint agreement between Jamaica, Cuba and Venezuela, with Lime serving as landing partner on the Cuba-Jamaica leg of a plan to link Cuba and Venezuela.
The first leg of the connection, a 1500 km cable from Venezuela to Cuba, has been concluded. Because of the American embargo, it marks the first time in decades that an international telecoms cable was being connected to Cuba. Installation of the cable should be completed by June this year. The cable will provide direct connectivity between Venezuela, Cuba and Jamaica for voice and data traffic.
Under the agreement signed late last year between LIME and its parent company, Cable and Wireless, and Telecommunicaciones Gran Caribe - which is a joint venture between Cuba (Transbit SA) and Venezuela (Telecom Venezuela) - Lime will carry voice and data traffic from Cuba to Europe, an arrangement which means significant income for Jamaica.
The ultra-high bandwidth infrastructure will provide data download at a speed of 3,000 times faster than the satellite technology which Cuba currently uses, said a release from LIME. The upgraded facilities are also expected to result in lower cost for international calls into and out of Cuba. Apart from developing communications in the Caribbean, the project is expected to boost other sectors, including business, tourism, education and finance.
Millions to be paid out to sugar workers in Guyana
The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) has signed an agreement with the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) that could result in more than 1,500 workers benefiting financially under an annual production incentive scheme. Union officials said that the workers stand to benefit from a GUY$300 million (US$1.4 million) payout scheduled for February 25.
Government has already agreed to pay a five per cent wage hike retroactive to January 1, 2010. The incentive would be paid based on the production of 220,218 tons of sugar - the lowest production since 1991. Last year's target was 269,000 tonnes.
GAWU's president Komal Chand said that GUYSUCO was offering four days pay and the union was demanding six days but eventually they reached a compromise of five days.
GUYSUCO has blamed low production on rainy weather and industrial unrest, while the union has argued that the corporation has not done enough to improve plant husbandry and pay workers better so that they could have been motivated during last year.
Authorities have said that the corporation was suffering from a 40 per cent shortfall in labour, partly due to higher paying jobs in the construction sector.
Jamaican schools rocked by student expulsions and suspensions
Students seem to be running amok in Jamaica! Statistics from the education ministry have painted a worrying picture of indiscipline in schools in Jamaica, and have revealed that some 26,000 students have been suspended and hundreds expelled over a three-year period. The education ministry compiled the reports of suspensions and expulsions reported from all regions by public, private, and independent schools during the 2006-2007 to 2008-2009 academic years.
The ministry was careful to point out that the figures "are estimates for suspension and expulsion", which means the figures could be higher, especially after allowing for under-reporting, the ministry conceded.
During the period under review, an average of 8,600 students were suspended in each academic year while no less than 506 of their peers were booted from school.
Permanent secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Education (MOE), Audrey Sewell, was staggered by the data. "It is the first time I have sat and looked at it globally. It is significant and nobody would feel comfortable with that level," said a concerned Sewell.
The education ministry did not have a breakdown of the reasons for the disciplinary measures taken against the students.
"School begins at 7:30 a.m. and every morning they go into a nearby fast food place and loiter all morning, then waltz into school when they please," Sinclair lamented.
She said that:
Although a private institution, St Andrew College falls under the Ministry of Education through a memorandum of understanding and each year the ministry sends them students.
IMF says economic activity in Trinidad remains weak
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says economic activity in Trinidad and Tobago "remains weak" and that the near-term outlook is "affected by uncertainty". The Washington-based financial institution said that:
Recovery could be achieved by reversing the large increases in current expenditures that occurred during the boom years, while ensuring adequate social spending and investment to promote economic diversification," the IMF said, calling also for strengthening the tax administration.
Outstanding traffic tickets top J$3b in Jamaica
Motorists in Jamaica who have failed to pay traffic fines over an extended period owe the Government a sum total of $3 billion. The Jamaica tax authority, The Inland Revenue Department, had not received payment for about one million outstanding traffic tickets.
However, the Government is introducing new measures to crack down on drivers who accumulate 14 demerit points and should lose their licenses as well as those who evade the payment of fines. The Government had already introduced a new integrated traffic-ticketing system in seven parishes with a full roll-out expected in the coming months.
It is a new integrated system where the moment the ticket is issued, it is registered in that database. Servers then download it to the courts' offices in those seven parishes so far.
The system, which was introduced in mid-November last year, had already issued 97,609 tickets by January 26 this year. Of that number, 40,065 have been paid, while some outstanding tickets from the total issued have not yet expired for payment.
At the same time, the traffic police will soon be armed with hand-held ticketing machines. When a ticket is issued, almost immediately that information is transferred to the tax office.
The new system will also be able to capture all data relating to a person's driver's license. It will match receipts against tickets, manage demerit points, report on paid tickets, manage warrants and record disposition of court cases.
19 tenants owe Ja Govt J$7m in rent
In its annual report for the period ended March 31, 2010, the AGD said the PTD failed to provide information on the status of outstanding rental as at January 31, 2010. In an update, the AGD said the telecommunication company's account was now current.
Derek Walcott wins British Prize
St. Lucian Nobel laureate has won the TS Eliot prize for the best new collection of poems published in the United Kingdom or Ireland. The 81-year-old Walcott’s publication of White Egrets took the prize against some stiff competition from an eclectic group of poets including fellow Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, Iraq war veteran Brian Turner and Sam Willetts.
The prize was presented to him by Valerie Eliot, the widow of T.S. Eliot in London recently.
World Bank warns food prices hit 'dangerous levels'
World Bank President Robert Zoellick says global food prices have hit "dangerous levels" that could contribute to political instability, push millions of people into poverty and raise the cost of groceries. The bank says in a new report that global food prices have jumped 29 per cent in the past year, and are just 3 per cent below the all-time peak hit in 2008. The World Bank estimates higher prices for corn, wheat and oil have pushed 44 million people into extreme poverty since last June.
Zoellick says the rising prices have hit people hardest in the developing world because they spend as much as half their income on food. Furthermore, he expects food prices to continue to rise, and export bans and weather disruptions are partly to blame.
Jamaica alumina plant Windalco to reopen in July
Operations at the Windalco-Kirkvine works plant in Manchester are set to restart in July this year. Mining and Energy Minister James Robertson said the reopening of the plant would create some 1,000 medium and high-end jobs. The total capacity of Kirkvine is approximately 600,000 tonnes of alumina per year. However, the plant is projected to produce about 252,000 tonnes of alumina for 2011.
Roberston told parliamentarians that the planned restart of operations at Kirkvine was subject to approval by international lenders. The Kirkvine plant is owned by Russian aluminium company, UC Rusal. A decision was taken to suspend operations at the Windalco-Kirkvine plant in April 2009 in the wake of the global economic crisis which affected the bauxite and alumina sector.
St Aloysius Primary hits the road to celebrate Jamaica Day
Brilliant, beautiful colours lit up the streets of the capital city yesterday morning as excited students from St Aloysius Primary School marched around a section of Kingston with pride of spirit in celebration of Jamaica Day.
Representing Jamaica's motto 'Out Of Many One People', the students donned costumes depicting the Tainos, Chinese, Africans, Spaniards, English, and East Indians.
With strains of Jamaican folk music echoing from the vehicle leading the march, the darling children, with parents and teachers marching alongside them, were more than happy to showcase their talent to onlookers.
Jamaica Day is traditionally celebrated the last Friday in February as schools seek to teach the leaders of tomorrow the history and traditions of their country.
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