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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 2003

Bush invades Iraq and torpedoes the UN

I remember vividly how George Bush’s Goering, Colin Powell, threatened at the UN to make that valuable respected organization "irrelevant" unless they approved their invasion. Iraq is about to fall to the invaders, but the UN has already fallen to the might and power of the new American Empire. Right wing groups here in America have long advocated the demise of the UN so they must be jubilant.

The UN has been the most powerful international organization of countries. With the destruction of the UN, other international organizations must come under scrutiny also. The new American domination must also render any international organisation, of which America is a member, "irrelevant" also and relegates other members to being just rubber stamps of US will. For us in the Caribbean, what now is the value of the Organisation of American States (OAS) other than a venue to accept US orders? Already US has been breaking the NAFTA rules by imposing quotas on Canadian lumber imports. We in the Caribbean will have to follow WTO rules even at our economic peril, but the US does not. Already the upcoming Free Trade Association of the Americas was going to devastate local Caribbean industries as they could not be protected by tariffs from marauding multi-national corporations who are actually the forces behind the FTAA anyway.

Of course George Bush might try to make his empire more palatable by offering a honeymoon period for these organizations. In this case, CARICOM countries should be ready to demand complete freedom to negotiate whatever trade deal with whatever country at whatever conditions we desire as long as we are mired in poverty and until an agreed upon per capita rate is achieved. Right now, instead some time limit is the criterion which in reality is a time bomb. This time limit is artificial and will never make us competitive enough to survive the FTAA. Under those conditions we will lose not only our present export markets but our local markets too. Because of CARICOM we have voting numbers in the FTAA, 17 out of 35,and we must not be shy to use them to our full advantage. It’s our only chance.

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The UN failed Iraq

The UN failed to protect a small country like Iraq from invasion by superpower US. Not only did it fail but there is no evidence that it even tried to protect it. Worse yet by its inspectors, with the invaders massing on its borders, it forced Iraq to weaken its defences by

  • destroying its weapons

  • Providing reconnaissance for the invaders

  • Informing on the location and extent of its military strength or weakness

Now as the invaders ravage the lands evidenced by:

  • Thousands of deaths and injuries of men women and children

  • Electricity is destroyed

  • Water supply system is destroyed

  • Clean drinking water is hard to find

  • Hospitals are overwhelmed by massive casualties of Rumsfield’s "shock and awe" blanket bombing and cruise missile attacks

  • Medicines and food are running out

  • Looting is taking place

  • "Embedded" invasion reporters portray the one-sided view for American entertainment purposes as if the war is just one big video game.

  • American companies jockey for the spoils/oils of the war and so called Iraq rebuilding contracts.

  • Instead of American reparations for the destruction of Iraq, the UN will probably foot the bill.

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CARICOM condemns invasion but risks US wrath

CARICOM has joined the majority of peoples of almost every country in the world (including even co-invaders England and Australia) in opposing the US invasion. But, they have been threatened by this stance.

Special Envoy to President George W. Bush for Western Hemispheric Initiatives, Otto Reich, said the US was disappointed at CARICOM’s criticism of the war and urged regional leaders to study the consequences of their words. He said he was not blacklisting them, but just warning that Congress and the American people might become pissed off and take it out on their banana trade. The notorious Otto Reich is another Iran-Contra conspirator restored to power by Bush, whom he appointed Assistant Secretary of State by bypassing Senate approval.

Barbados was especially vocal in rejecting US threats and CARICOM stuck to their opposition to the invasion. Their position may be summed up best by words of Chancellor of the University of the West Indies Sir Shridath Ramphal.
"We cannot counter the development of war by military means or major diplomatic effort. We must stand up to be counted and be part of the voice of the conscience of the world. Our leaders must speak out. War is not our way……" 
"I do not believe that the leadership in the Caribbean can be silenced in that way. We have not lacked courage in the past. We have spoken out clearly about the Cuban embargo and breaking the embargo against Cuba and we have done so on the basis of principle. I do not believe that they (Caribbean leaders) can be cowed into silence".

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War wrecks airlines here in the US and in the Caribbean

The war has been the last straw for many an airline. Already struggling, Bush’s war has predictably significantly reduced airplane passengers and sent airlines reeling towards bankruptcy. The mighty American Airlines and US Air have filed for bankruptcy. In the Caribbean, T&T’s BWIA and Jamaica’s Air Jamaica struggle to survive.

BWIA is worse and could be terminal. The airlines announced that it had 24 hours to decide if it would continue operations. Prime Minister Manning responded that government rescue was not forthcoming and that he was prepared to allow it to fold unless some viable plan to make it profitable was presented. The airline's daily operating expenses are about US$700,000 but the airline is not generating anywhere close to this in daily revenues. Last year BWIA posted losses of more than 182-million US dollars.
In January, BWIA laid-off 617 employees as part of the new business plan it said it had instituted in an attempt to overturn millions of dollars in losses last year. Since then the dismissed workers have been protesting that they have not received their severance pay and the company has not indicated when it will cough it up.

Air Jamaica
Meanwhile Air Jamaica’s 400-plus flight attendants have agreed to forgo three per cent of their basic salary for three months to help raise the US$30 million needed to keep the national airline flying.

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Jamaica trade deficit widens and will continue unless

Jamaica’s deficit between imports and exports increased again. For the first 9 months of 2002, total imports were valued at US$2.59 billion while exports amounted to US$ 837 million. When these figures are compared to the same period of the preceding year, 2001, imports rose by 3.4% and exports fell by 12.8%. This is very bad news and too often we tend to disregard how bad it is. Let us examine these figures more closely.

Year 2002
Imports US$5,900,000,000
Exports US$ 837,000,000
Difference US$5,063,000,000

This means that if we had some fantastic export improvements and doubled or tripled our total market share we still would continue to run a deficit. In fact we would have to increase our total exports 7 times to make up for the deficit! It is abundantly clear that Jamaica will never make up that deficit. It gets worse and will continue to get worse especially when WTO regulations  strips away more of our trade protections and thus accelerate the decline of our export markets. In any event, a major product like sugar costs us more to produce than the price we get for it outside. Some estimates are that it costs us 30 cents a pound to produce to be sold at 18 cents per pound. All evidence indicates that the highly trumpeted Free Trade Association of the Americas will dramatically increase the deficit. And at the same time , trade is supposed to be our vehicle to prosperity!

On the contrary, these global trade agreements have robbed us of our sovereignty to deal with these problems and have placed Jamaica and many other countries like her on a fast track to economic calamity. Trade in these agricultural products seems to be a losing game. We are selling our products for peanuts and dooms us to perpetual poverty unless there is substantial change. Gasoline was selling here in the US for 33 cents a gallon until gas producing countries got together and formed OPEC. Shortly afterwards gas was selling for over a dollar and these countries began to enjoy real prosperity. Seems obvious there is a lesson there.

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Canadian company buys twin Mutual Life Towers in Jamaica

Recently, FINSAC LTD. sold the twin Mutual Life towers, Oxford Road, New Kingston, Jamaica,for $650 million. Canada-based AIC Ltd. acquired the prime office complex after prolonged negotiations. FINSAC had been trying to sell the towers for more than four years with potential purchasers for the North Tower, including the US Embassy. A FINSAC spokesman said that based on the net rental income potential of the property, it was valued at $677 million last year. Michael Lee Chin, chairman of AIC, and Jamaican-born, said the purchase was being made using the $100 million in quarterly dividend income AIC receives from its 75 per cent holding in NCB. He said, "This is the first of the acquisitions we intend to make."

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Guyana launches solar power for communities

Solar power has come to Guyana. The Government has commissioned a $4M solar-powered electricity supply system in Bethany, an Amerindian community in Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam). Just two weeks ago another power supply system was commissioned in Moraikobai, Region Five (Mahaica/Berbice). The system, which was funded by the Social Impact Amelioration Program (SIMAP), will supply regular electrical energy to the Bethany Community Centre, the Primary/Nursery School, and the Health Centre, among other community buildings. This new project also depended on the contribution of free labor and security by the residents themselves.

Amerindian communities across Guyana have been making efforts to be abreast with technology and development and require a regular supply of electricity in these remote areas, an initiative supported by the Guyana Government.

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Louima philanthropy to Haiti

Five years after the assault by New York police that brought him a record $8.7 million settlement, Abner Louima is turning his attention to his native Haiti. The man whose case came to symbolize police brutality in the United States says he's convinced he can make a difference in his impoverished homeland.

Louima, who now lives in Florida, is setting up a nonprofit group, the Abner Louima Foundation, and hopes to raise money to build a community center and much-needed hospital in Haiti. He says he plans to use his own money and donations to open community centers in Haiti, New York and Florida for Haitians and others seeking legal, financial or other aid. In the hills that fringe Port-au-Prince, Louima also is paying school tuition for 14 poor children in Thomassin, a small community where he grew up.

Louima’s life changed forever on Aug. 9, 1997, when he was sodomized with a broomstick in a New York City police precinct restroom after being arrested in a brawl outside a Brooklyn nightclub. Louima suffered severe internal injuries. One officer is serving 30 years for the attack, and another is serving a five-year term for perjury. Louima sued and in 2001 the city and police union agreed to pay $8.7 million, the largest settlement ever in a police brutality case in New York. After legal fees, Louima walked away with about $5.8 million.

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Cable and Wireless rates drop as monopoly ends

British Telecom giant that has dominated telephone systems is dropping its rates as it’s monopoly in the Caribbean ends and it feels the heat of competition. In St. Lucia and Grenada the company has announced a drop in rates as low as 59% reduction for international calls. Similar changes are to be made in Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Kitts and Nevis.

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Union busting charge in Jamaica

A union busting charge has been leveled at the Jamalco Alumina refinery in Halse Hall , Clarendon, Jamaica. Jamalco is a 50/50 partnership between Alcoa Inc. of the United States, and the Government of Jamaica, with Alcoa as the managing partner. Caribbean Constuction Company (CCC) has been a major subcontractor at the site.

On February 20 the National Workers Union won a poll at the site, but the workers lost their jobs the following day after the contractor, CCC, pulled out. The union has accused the company of union busting, since the very day after the CCC workers elected the NWU as their union, CCC’s contrat was terminated, leaving 64 workers jobless. The newly jobless workers responded angrily blocking some entrances to the site in confrontations with police and this action jeopardized planned plant expansion.

The NWU and the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union jointly claimed bargaining rights on behalf of some 300 workers employed by nine contractors involved in various aspects of the expansion at the alumina refinery.

The contractors involved are main contractor Kier/Commercial Contracting Company (Jamaica); Joint Venture of San Antonio, Texas; and sub contractors- PAHK, Solid Rock Contractors, Jamaica Installation and Ducking, Automatic Computer System, F.C. Reynolds, Chicago Bridge Iron Company, ONYX Contractors and Trevor Dunkley & Company.

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Machines fingering drug mules

BRITISH CUSTOMS is pleased with how effectively the ion scan drug trace detection machines at Jamaica's two international airports have been fingering cocaine swallowers before they get to Britain. So pleased, in fact, that the British Foreign and Common-wealth Office is thinking of providing with the same technology, some Eastern Caribbean countries which have been experiencing increased smuggling of cocaine to Britain by mules who swallow the drug.

Customs and police action in both Jamaica and the UK has resulted in a fall by two thirds in the number of cocaine couriers detected on arrival in the UK. At the same time, the number of couriers arrested in Jamaica has risen 10-fold, compared with the same period (June to November) the previous year, British Customs states.

Since the installation of the IonScan machines at Norman Manley International Airport, east Kingston, and Sangster International Airport, Montego Bay, many of the drug couriers arrested in the United Kingdom have come from the Eastern Caribbean, especially St. Maarten in the Dutch Antilles. Theree smugglers have been swallowing the cocaine in cat and goat intestine, instead of latex-made condoms, in a bid to thwart detection by x-ray machines.

The smuggling of cocaine from Jamaica by ingestion had grown steadily since the late 1990s and in 2001/2002 more than 800 couriers from Jamaica were arrested in the UK.

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Privatisation of motor vehicle inspection by June in Jamaica

Plans are being finalized for the take over of motor vehicle inspection by a private company, Mustang Jamaica Ltd. The government is expected to turn over inspections by June. The company was registered at the Registrar of Companies to offer motor vehicle inspection services, operate service stations and conduct certain engineering services. Plans for the divestment of the motor vehicle inspection services at the Island Traffic Authority stretch back to 1999, but have been severely delayed.

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Spring breakers volunteer services in Jamaica

Spring breaker are associated with riotous rowdy celebrations usually. But not the 17 students who came to Jamaica this spring from James Madison University in Virginia, US. The students had heard about the Committee for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill (CUMI) through a programme at their school called the Spring Break Alternative. The programme encourages students to give voluntary service to welfare agencies throughout the United States and in several other countries, including Jamaica.

During their week-long stay, the students formed three groups and spent their time helping out between CUMI, the Blossom Gardens Children's Home and the Montego Bay Christian Academy. The students, ranging in ages from 18 to 21, raised their own funds to pay for the trip plus accommodation and other expenses. The only cost to CUMI and the other agencies is time to share the local culture with the students.

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Hot Calaloo goes to Jamaica

Hot Calaloo went to Jamaica in the form of me, the editor. I was a keen observer and I am happy to say that conditions were better than expected. Among the observations were:

  • Motorists were much more polite than I remembered. Driving from Montego Bay to Kingston, I was constantly surprised that motorists would stop and yield so that I could make right turns ( equivalent to left turns here in America).

  • Gas station attendants were almost entirely women.

  • Radio Talk Shows -Laing and Company and the Mootie Perkins Show
    Laing and Company did a very good job promoting "Buy Jamaica", but like the other talk shows, there was undeserved criticism of overseas Jamaicans running down the island. Sure, there are some that do, but from my experience most overseas Jamaicans are very proud of Jamaica and very deeply concerned about its crime and other problems. The show seemed to support the working man and the use of new technology to increase efficiency.
    Mootie Perkins on the other hand, saw Jamaica’s salvation completely in the hands of the private sector. It was distinctly anti-Government, pro Seaga and beat a steady drumbeat of divisive criticism destined to maintain the corrosive political atmosphere. He was critical of university education which he constantly referred to contemptuously as the " regurgitation of book knowledge". He cited the example of an academic ‘dunce’ who turned to the masonry trade resulting in great wealth as demonstrated by his possession of a Mercedes Benz and a sophisticated "Browning" while his PhD counterpart struggled to make ends meet. Maybe many of Jamaica’s males are heeding his advice as recent data of UWI show women consisting of 77 per cent of recent graduation classes.
    In general, the talk shows like almost everywhere else, is looking for the great leader to emerge and solve all the problems. It naw go happen! Even if the great leader emerged, he probably would be abused and sent packing. Divisive criticism is still more entertaining in Jamaica. Instead the talk shows need to spread a more positive message and try to heal the political divisions which plague that society.

  • Mountain View Rd - Mountain View Road has been the site of vicious gang violence and murders in recent months, but the Saturday morning I drove there it seemed so peaceful and tranquil.

  • That morning I also drove in the heart of downtown Kingston along almost the full extent of Duke Street. It was clean and tree box planters adorned the sidewalks.

  • High atop Red Hills with the panorama of Kingston below, my host asked me if I noticed something missing. I admired the glorious view, but did not have a clue to what he was referring. He enlightened me. It was John Crows. There was not a single one in sight. Then I remembered how plentiful these buzzards were in the Jamaican sky. Their absence now seemed unreal, weird. I traveled all over the island and during that time a saw a grand total of four. Only 4! My host’s explanation was that they disappeared after the US introduced the aerial spraying to eradicate ganja. I do not know if this is the correct explanation. But, ganja is still around but sadly the crows are not.

  • I encountered a parent who had to leave a Saturday night party early because he had to rise early to help his daughter study all day Sunday because the school was so competitive. The age of the daughter – 8 years!

  • Opposition to the US invasion of Iraq was very strong by the man in the street.

  • There was an abundance of American fast food franchises which I avoided like the plague but they seemed very popular.

  • Burger King advertised that it used Jamaican beef unlike its other competitor.

  • I had great apprehension about driving the country roads but the Montego Bay to Negril main road was excellent. Montego Bay to Ocho Rios road was under construction in many sections but upon completion will also be excellent. The winding roads from Ocho Rios, through Fern Gully and Bog Walk gorge had excellent pothole-free road surfaces. But, in Kingston almost from Spanish Town, traffic is a nightmare.

  • Some blamed the traffic problems on deportees. These deportees are not criminals deported from America, but is the term for high quality inexpensive used cars imported from Japan that have made driving affordable to many more Jamaicans.

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Hail Barbados, Caribbean cricket champions

Barbados emerged as double champions of Caribbean cricket. Having already won the Cup for 1 day cricket, they proceeded to take the Carib Beer Cup too in a most convincing manner. In the final they defeated Jamaica in Barbados. They scored 369 to which Jamaica could only muster 184. Forced to follow-on Jamaica scored a mere 219. Barbados then knocked off the 35 runs needed with 7 wickets intact to seal the victory and win the cup.
Apart from their double success, which added to the capture of the regional limited overs championship in Jamaica last September, Barbados also set a couple other records.

  • Their five wins in the Carib Beer Cup, secured with a match to spare, made them the first team to win that number of matches inside of three days in a season.

  • And they were also the only side to win both semi-final and final matches outright in the International championship, which has been contested for three years.

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Lara named WI captain again

Brian Lara has been named captain of the WI team for their upcoming series with the visiting Aussies. The first test starts on April 10, 2003. He replaces Carl Hooper and was somewhat of a surprise.

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CONCAAF Gold Cup Soccer 2003

Jamaica advances
Jamaica advanced in Gold Cup soccer by beating St. Lucia 5-0, tying Martinique 2-2 and defeating Haiti 3-0 to advance to the final in the US in July.

T&T falters, coach resigns
T&T faltered badly. They lost to Cuba 3-1 and must now face an uphill battle to advance needing to beat hosts Martinique and Honduras. This result forced T&T’s coach and technical director, Hannibal Najjar to resign. Ex-Joe Public coach, Zoran Vranes, has been asked to serve as interim coach with Corneal helping to guide the new technical staff.


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