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bulletMirant sells off Jamaica and other Caribbean power companies
bulletBahamas voters oust ruling party
bulletExiled Aristide receives doctorate in South Africa
bulletEcuador and Venezuela say bye to IMF
bulletUS frees anti-Castro ex-CIA terrorist killer
bulletImus had to go
bulletGuyana's President Jagdeo seeks divorce
bulletAlarming deterioration of Jamaica education
bulletHaitian-American US Army vet enters 2nd week hunger strike
bulletKerik withdraws from top security jobs in Guyana and T&T
bullet"One Laptop per Child" for poor countries
bullet128-y-o Jamaican woman dies
bulletAussies sizzle, West Indies fizzle, in Cricket World Cup
bulletDominica, Barbados 11th and 12th fattest in the world



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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.


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a wonderful book about a young girl in the Carribean, the first of her family to go to secondary school.



May 2007

Mirant sells off Jamaica and other Caribbean power companies

Mirant Corporation yesterday announced it had agreed to sell its controlling stake in the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) and all of its other Caribbean assets to Marubeni Corporation of Japan for US$1.082 billion. The Jamaica Public Service is being sold for US$800 million, having acquired an 80 per cent stake in the power company for US$201 million in 2001.

The Jamaica government owns the remaining 20 per cent which it retained upon privatising the monopoly electricity provider to the United States-based Mirant.

Mirant, which last year survived Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S., has had a troubled history in Jamaica with frequent customer complaints of inflated light bills, numerous inquiries by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) and last July's islandwide shutdown, which was attributed to the JPS' failure to adequately maintain the national grid. The profitability of the JPS continues to be affected by the prevalence of illegal connections in many communities while the company claimed that irregularities found on the bills of 600 businesses, cost it US$30 million (J$2 billion) in 2006.

Marubeni is likely to invest further in the national grid, which is hampered by high fuel costs, old generating capacity and inefficiency, with last year's system loss of 23 per cent the highest in two decades. It is a major Japanese company that has been involved in infrastructure and power financing globally and in Jamaica and has a very solid reputation. The immediate challenge for them will be to deal with the efficiency of JPS now that the system has declined. Over 50 per cent of the plant is over 30 years old.

The price tag of US$1.082 billion, includes debt of US$350 million and power purchase obligations of approximately $153 million. Mirant is currently considering the sale of all its assets with one bid valued at US$32 billion. Having sold off its Philippines business for US$3.4 billion last year to a Marubeni-Tepco consortium, the sale of its Caribbean assets will be the end of its overseas operations.

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Bahamas voters oust ruling party

Bahamian voters ousted their government and returned former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's party to power in parliamentary elections dominated by economic issues and political scandals. Ingraham's Free National Movement, or FNM, won 23 of the 41 seats in the House of Assembly and will form the new government to lead the island chain for the next five years, according to unofficial results reported by the state-owned ZNS television station.

Outgoing Prime Minister Perry Christie's Progressive Liberal Party, or PLP, campaigned mainly on its economic record in the affluent, tourism-dependent nation of 700 islands and 320,000 people.

But Ingraham's party successfully raised ethical questions, including allegations that immigration officials fast-tracked a residency permit for pinup model and billionaire's widow Anna Nicole Smith, who lived in the Bahamas until her accidental drug overdose death in Florida in February. Ingraham, who was prime minister from 1992 to 2002, portrayed the election as "a matter of trust." He also accused Christie's party of allowing foreign investors and foreign workers to profit at the expense of Bahamians.

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Exiled Aristide receives doctorate in South Africa

Former Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide, exiled in South Africa since his 2004 ouster, received a doctorate in African Languages Wednesday in a ceremony attended by President Thabo Mbeki. The 53-year-old priest, who became Haiti's first democratically-elected leader, was among a group of several dozen awarded doctorates in the ceremony at the University of South Africa (UNISA) in Pretoria. A university spokesman said that Aristide had become fluent in Zulu since being appointed an honorary research fellow shortly after his exile began. His wife Mildred works at the same university.

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Ecuador and Venezuela say bye to IMF

Remember how Jamaica struggled with structural adjustment and has not seemed to have recovered from it yet? Well it’s bye-bye to forced structural adjustment for good for Ecuador. It has paid off its debt to the International Monetary Fund and will sever ties with the financial institution. Ecuador made the US$9 million payment to the "international bureaucracy" the same week fellow leftist country Venezuela said it had paid off its remaining debt with the IMF and World Bank. When he took office three months ago Ecuador’s President Correa, a United States-trained economist, vowed to renegotiate the country's US$16.4 billion foreign debt and direct resources to programs to help the poor. Correa, a staunch ally of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, has frequently criticised the "unacceptable conditions" of IMF loans, and said Sunday that the institution has "been harmful for the country."

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US frees anti-Castro ex-CIA terrorist killer

Despite all their anti-terrorist rhetoric, the US has released ex-CIA terrorist Luis Posada Carriles who was convicted in Venezuela in 1976 for bombing a Cuban jet. Seventy three died in the bombing, but Posada escaped suspiciously in 1985 from prison there. He was later sentenced to eight years jail in Panama in a 2000 bomb plot to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and was ‘pardoned’ four years later. He was detained by US immigration in May 2005 for entering the US illegally. He has been freed on US$350,000 bond on April 19, pending the May 11 start of his trial.

Cuba and Venezuela "denounce the complicity of the government of the United States and its complete responsibility" in freeing Luis Posada Carriles. The two countries accused Washington of "flagrant violation" of parts of the 2001 UN resolution 1371 on terrorism. They have called for his extradition to Venezuela and have asked the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee to quickly review his release on bail by a Texas court ahead of his trial May 11 for immigration fraud.

Declassified US documents show that Posada worked for the CIA from 1965 to 1976. He reportedly helped the US government ferry arms to Contra rebels who waged a bloody campaign to topple the Sandanista government in Nicaragua in the eighties. US says it will bar any testimony of Posada's CIA days.

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Imus had to go

Imus had to go. The excuse that his racist on-air insulting of the blacks on the Rutgers women basketball team, who represented pride of black womanhood, was an accidental slip of the tongue, lacks credibility. I think it is much more likely that Imus makes comments like that and worse all the time but only among the privacy his friends. He called them "nappy-headed ho's (whores)"  on the air deliberately to amuse his ardent fans and these fans probably loved it. At worst he figured he could always apologize. But, he did make a mistake though. He did not expect the widespread hostile reaction.

He should have been fired. Send him to Fox. A slap-on-the-the wrist two-week suspension was nothing. A reputable radio or TV network has got to set and maintain certain minimum standards of behaviour and comments on the air. There are stations that would welcome Imus because of his comments. By their punishment, MSNBC and CBS had said pretty much, "To heck with these standards!" Others, including some blacks, claim that freedom of speech gives him the right to broadcast racist insults against black people. Racist stations do have that right.

There is a huge market out there for racist listeners. They buy products and listen to advertisements. If Imus goes, he will take these numerous racist fans with him. So MSNBC probably did not want to fire him. Presidential candidate John McCain has already said he would go back on his show. McCain knows where his voters are. So if not fired, Imus would not only would have survived but would have emerge even stronger than before armed with the confidence that he got away with it. Even John Kerry echoed McCain’s sentiments.

The fact of the matter is America’s moral fiber has inevitably been undermined by its own government. This is a government that waged and invaded an innocent helpless country on lies, destroyed their water supply, killed hundred of thousands of their people, allowed war profiteering, tortured and humiliated prisoners of war, continues to hold people in Guantanamo jail for years without charge, kidnapped innocent people overseas so that they could have them tortured in foreign jails and so on. Like McCain, lots of the radio fans of the Imus show consider this government conduct acceptable, so they think nothing about the despicable comments of Imus. What next?

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Guyana's President Jagdeo seeks divorce

Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo and First Lady Varshnie have agreed to a divorce following nine years of marriage. President Jagdeo grew up in Unity on the East Coast of Demerara, and on July 26, 1998, he married Varshnie Singh, who grew up a few villages away, at Enmore. A recent announcement ended weeks of speculation that the marriage was in trouble.

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Alarming deterioration of Jamaica education

Over thirty years ago when I was a student at Howard University in Washington DC, Jamaicans were tops academically. A couple weeks ago, I ran into a fellow Jamaican who was there with me and now was a professor there. I was dismayed to hear that from his observations, the Jamaican students had fallen way behind. Students from Trinidad and Africa continued to excel, he said.

Let us hope the educators in Jamaica take note. Jamaica’s performance on the school leaving CXC exams has been poor compared to other Caribbean countries. It is evident that the Jamaica high school education has deteriorated badly. No wonder Air Jamaica is now outsourcing advertising to a US company. Alarm bells should be going off because an educated workforce is essential in these times. If education deteriorates, then Jamaica deteriorates.

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Haitian-American US Army vet enters 2nd week hunger strike

Henri Petithomme, Haitian-American U.S. Army veteran entered the second week of a hunger strike Tuesday to protest the detention of 101 Haitian migrants who landed in South Florida in a dilapidated sailboat.

The 32-year-old vet is drinking only water and Gatorade and spoke in barely audible sentences as he described his goals. He wants the migrants released to their families as they await their deportation hearings so they can work closely with their attorneys to prepare their cases. Ultimately, he hopes the U.S. will grant temporary legal status to Haitians who are in the country illegally, as it has done in the past for citizens from several Central American nations following major natural disasters, or in cases of major political strife or other extreme situations instead of holding them in jail many of which are in deplorable conditions.

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Kerik withdraws from top security jobs in Guyana and T&T

Embattled former New York City Police Department Commissioner, Bernard Kerik, has withdrawn his services as a security consultant in Guyana to the Office of the President and the Minister of Home Affairs and also a similar post in Trinidad and Tobago. Kerik had apparently postponed these plans because of the unresolved legal troubles.

Kerik was expected to begin a one-year contract with the Guyana government in February, but in a statement to Trinidadian officials, Kerik said he could not travel while US prosecutors were investigating him. Guyana President Jagdeo announced last year that Kerik would begin working as his security adviser despite criticism over the former New York City official’s history of alleged ethics violations.

In late 2004, President Bush nominated him for Homeland Security Chief, but Kerik withdrew after acknowledging he had not paid all the taxes for a family nanny-housekeeper and that the woman may have been in the country illegally.

Last June, Kerik pleaded guilty to accepting tens of thousands of dollars in gifts from a company that was trying to do business with New York City.

The Associated Press reported that a person close to the investigation in New York said US prosecutors could indict Kerik on multiple felony counts, including tax evasion, conspiracy to eavesdrop and providing false information.

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"One Laptop per Child" for poor countries

One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is a non-profit organization seeking to to develop a low-cost laptop - the "$100 Laptop" - a technology that could revolutionize how we educate the world's children. Their goal is to provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment, and express themselves. The project was started by Nicholas Negroponte, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology academic. It quickly expanded to include a wide range of exceptionally talented and dedicated people from academia, industry, the arts, business, and the open-source community.

Once known as the $100 laptop, the lime-green-and-white devices are inching up in price. In February, the project estimated said they would sell for $150 each.

The laptop features a string pulley to charge its battery, a keyboard that switches between languages, a digital video camera, wireless connectivity and Linux open-source operating software tailored for remote regions.

The display switches from color to black and white for viewing in direct sunlight -- a feature unavailable in laptops at least 10 times more expensive.

It requires just two watts of power compared to the typical laptop's 30 to 40 watts, and does away with hard drives, relying instead on flash memory and four USB ports to add memory devices. A minute of yanking on its pulley generates 10 minutes of electricity.

Walter Bender, the group's president of software and content, said tests mostly begun in February in Brazil, Nigeria, Argentina, Uruguay, Pakistan, Thailand, Libya and other countries were largely successful.

Children in the developing world will receive accounts with Google Inc.'s free e-mail service to store journals, videos, photos, composed music and other school projects. Already, educators are tapping into the popular YouTube Internet video service. The laptops will enter mass production in September if the One Laptop Per Child Foundation that runs the project receives orders for at least 3 million devices.

(To date there is no mention of the Caribbean participating in this project. The laptops are great but would still take a chunk out of already depleted educational budgets of poor countries.)

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128-y-o Jamaican woman dies

The woman, believed to be the oldest person in Jamaica, has died. Mary Ewen, otherwise called 'Granny Mary', died at the age of 128. She was born at Coley Mountain in Manchester on May 5, 1878. She died on April 10, 2007. Granny Mary was married to Tommy Ewen of Coley Mountain, and had six children. Two of her daughters are still alive, one is 82 and the other is 84 years old. She had 25 grand-, great-grand and great-great grandchildren. Her father reportedly lived for 130 years. Granny Mary attributed her long years to God's blessing, no alcohol and the eating of simple and healthy natural foods.

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Aussies sizzle, West Indies fizzle, in Cricket World Cup

Australia dominated every team they played to take the 2007 Cricket World Cup in impressive fashion. After destroying the other seven teams in the Super 8 round, they faced Sri Lanka in the finals as overwhelming favorites. Australia batted first and racked up an impressive 281 for 4 in 38 overs, led by a magnificent century by Adam Gilchrist. Sri Lanka was able to muster 215 for eight to lose the rain-shortened game by an adjusted 53 runs.

In winning the match and losing only four wickets, the gold brigade also finished with a perfect 11 from 11, while not losing more than six wickets in any match and thus underlined their claim as the game's best, probably of all time, but undoubtedly so since the glory days of the West Indies.

In winning the match, Australia, not only made it two 11-straight in back to-back World Cup tournaments following their unblemished performance in 2003, but starting at Lord's in 1999, they also stretched their winning run to an imposing 23.

Meanwhile the West Indies team was a severe disappointment to its home fans. They went out with only 1 win in the Super 8 round. In the fallout since, WI captain Brian Lara has quit international cricket. The selectors have named Guyanese batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan as his successor, an unenviable job. Gone also is WI coach, Australian Bennett King by resignation. Another Aussie, his assistant, David Moore, has been selected to replace him.

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Dominica, Barbados 11th and 12th fattest in the world

Dominica is the 11th and Barbados 12th fattest countries in the world. According to a World Health Organisation report, Dominica leads with 71% of its population overweight, closely followed by Barbados with 69.7%. The US is ahead of them at number nine , with 74.1 percent.

The WHO says there are currently 1.6 billion overweight adults in the world and it has projected that number to grow by 40 percent over the next 10 years.

The WHO's definitions of "overweight" and "obese" are based on an individual's body mass index (BMI), which measures weight relative to height. Overweight is marked by a BMI greater than or equal to 25 and obese is defined as having a BMI greater than or equal to 30.


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