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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.



August 2003

 Montserrat Volcano erupts back to life

The volcano is back. Montserrat's volcano spewed thick clouds of ash into the air, delaying flights across the Caribbean and plunging surrounding islands into a gritty haze. Part of the Montserrat volcano's dome that faces the Tar River Valley collapsed sending a torrent of mud and ash down the valley and pelting distant houses and buildings with a hail of rocks. Montserrat's Governor Richard Aspen has declared the entire island a disaster area following lengthy meetings with officials today following the collapse of the dome. In October, 300 residents who live near the valley were evacuated after scientists warned the volcano's dome had shifted its growth toward the north.

The Soufriere Hills volcano sprang to life in 1995, chasing away more than half the British Caribbean island's population. An eruption in 1997 buried much of the south, including the capital, Plymouth, and killed 19 people.

On account of this recent eruption:

  • Tree branches were snapped off from the weight of the ash and significant damage was done to surrounding vegetation on the British territory, said Richard Herd, director of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory

  • Debris blanketed much of the Dutch Caribbean territory of St Maarten, putting a grimy coat of ash on houses, cars and trees. Residents were told to stay indoors or to wear surgical masks.

  • Over 50 American Eagle flights and two American Airlines flights to St Thomas, St Maarten, Anguilla, Guadeloupe, Dominica, and St Kitts had to be cancelled the day of the eruption.

  • Continental, Winair, LIAT, Caribbean Sun and Caribbean Star also suspended operations because of the ash.

  • Today, the peak still casts a reddish-orange glow at night. Scientists monitor it and report any changes to the island's 4,500 residents, who live in northern areas declared safe.

Once a bustling island where sheep and cattle roamed the hills and chartered yachts pulled in weekly on tourist runs, Montserrat's economy has been hard hit by losses in tourism, farmland in the south, which is now uninhabitable under mountains of volcanic, gray ash and more than half its population.

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Caribbean Court of Justice takes shape

The inauguration of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) will take place in November and the court is set to start sittings by the middle of next year according to Sheldon McDonald, co-ordinator of the CCJ.

Currently, persons are being nominated to the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission, which is the body that will name judges to the CCJ. Prominent constitutional lawyer, Dr. Lloyd Barnett, is among four lawyers who were nominated to the commission by the various law and bar associations across the region, at a meeting in Barbados.  Mr. McDonald said that the other persons who will sit on the 11-member commission are currently being nominated by specified groups within the region and the full slate is set to be named by the end of this month.

Some US$12 million will be used for start-up expenses of the CCJ, while the remaining US$88 million will be placed in the special trust fund that will be managed by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). The fund is projected to yield just over US$5 million in interest each year and it is this money that will be used to defray the annual cost of the court.

The establishment of the court, which has been in the making for many years, has been plagued by controversy, particularly in Jamaica, where the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), has opposed it replacing the UK-based Privy Council as the country's final appeal court. In fact, the party's leader, Edward Seaga, has vowed that a future JLP Government would pull out of the court, if the Government goes into it without consulting the people in a referendum.

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Antigua takes US to WTO arbitration

Antigua and Barbuda have charged that a general US ban on cross-border Internet gambling breaks global trading rules. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has set up a panel to investigate this charge. The powerful gambling lobby in the US brought about this ban because offshore internet gambling from Antigua was siphoning off some of their business in the casinos.
Antigua is confident that they will win. Despite the merits of the case, a win against omnipotent US, seems overly optimistic.

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Sugar fading in Barbados too

"… and it no longer makes economic sense to grow cane"

The future of sugar production in the Caribbean continues to look dim. This time it is Barbados which is voluntarily turning away from sugar as one of its leading producers says no more losses. After recording losses of nearly $1 million annually on two of his largest estates – Lears, St Michael, and Kendal, St John – Sir Charles Williams, with the comment above, revealed yesterday  that he was taking the two of them out of sugar production. Lears alone accounted for more than 300 acres.
And it looks like another half-dozen estate owners will be following suit, as Barbados is likely to record its lowest sugar production this year.

Sir Charles said Lears was losing between $300 000 and $500 000 annually through sugar production, while at Kendal, annual losses ran around $500 000. He noted that in 1995 when he acquired Kendal, growers were receiving $92 for every ton of canes delivered to the factory, while from last year’s harvest the price dropped to between $67 and $72 per ton. The price paid for cane has gone down while the production costs have gone up.

Williams plans to continue farming these estates by raising pigs, chickens, horses, cows , anything but sugarcane.

Even lower prices ahead
The sad reality is that even lower prices probably lie ahead. This is because Brazil, Australia and Thailand are challenging the European Union (EU) pricing policy which gives preference to African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. According to the Europworld Web site, the three countries are opposing the right of the EU to export sugar without export refunds, as well as the special arrangements for sugar imports from a number of ACP countries, as agreed in the Uruguay Round.

But, sugar-exporting ACP countries have expressed concerns about the view of the three countries, as it could undermine preferential ACP sugar exports to Europe. The three opposing countries have also requested a WTO panel against the EU common market organisation for sugar.
If their opposition is successful, "the price paid to our sugar producers is going to be less," Minister Knight told delegates at the Union of Clerical Administrative and Supervisory Employees (UCASE) at the Jamaica Conference Center before he left. If the price is less, then "we are going to be in some difficulty because we are able to maintain the industry as a result of the special pricing arrangement."

Here we go again like bananas. Sounds like the death knell for the sugar industry in the Caribbean!

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Caribbean produced 24,000 tons of sugar for June

Some sugar stats:

  • Caribbean sugar production totalled over 24,000 tons for June, the official end of the 2002/2003 crop. 
  • Belize produced over 10,000 tons, followed by Jamaica with over 6,000 tons. 
  • Total production for the year to date by the six member countries represented in the Sugar Association of the Caribbean was over 700,000 tons.
  • Exports for the year was over 500,000 tons.
  • Apart from Guyana, all the Caribbean producers fell below their production targets for the year.

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Privatised JPSCO hits a big bump

This time it is not Air Jamaica or BWIA. Sure they are still losing money sustained only by raids of their Government’s till to keep them aloft. No, this time it’s the Jamaica Public Service Co. (JPSCO). The privatised JPSCO has hit a big bump. The "privatiser" has declared bankruptcy. 
Only 2 years ago the Mirant Company bought 80% of the company and there were expectations of vast sums of capital infusion and foreign expertise to make it flourish. Well a couple weeks ago the Atlanta based company filed for Chapter eleven bankruptcy protection so that they can undergo financial restructuring of their debts. Mirant owns power companies all over the world including USA, Canada, the Philippines, Curacao, Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago and of course Jamaica. These worldwide companies, particularly in the Caribbean and the Philippines are to continue uninterrupted. In Jamaica Mirant owns 80% and the Government the remaining 20% of JPSCO. JPSCO serves approximately 517,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers.

Worldwide customers must be relieved that service will continue uninterrupted. After all Mirant is a very big powerful company, but not as big as another power company was. Does the name Enron ring a bell? Let’s hope Jamaica will not end up like Moses did when the lights went out. In the darkness.

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US plan for AIDS relief includes all CARICOM

All Caricom states are now eligible for inclusion in a US$15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (EPAR). The Plan focuses on prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean. When the original bill was passed, only two countries in the region, Haiti and Guyana, were eligible for assistance under the EPAR program. The bill was amended in the US congress to include all CARICOM thanks to an amendment introduced by long-time Caribbean advocate NY Congressman Charles Rangel and co-sponsored by California congresswoman Barbara Lee.

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More teachers leaving Jamaica

A UK-based and a US-based agency have announced have announced that they have recruited more teachers from Jamaica for the upcoming school year. The Teach London agency has not disclosed how many teachers it has recruited. However, the US Visiting International Faculty (VIF) Program reports recruiting 122 teachers. Both agencies have been recruiting Jamaican teachers since 2001. Most of the applications for overseas teaching jobs are made via the Internet.

What is VIF
According to their literature, " VIF is a U.S. government-recognized exchange-program sponsor that searches the world over for talented teachers dedicated to educational excellence and the ideals of cultural exchange. We match these teachers with select primary and secondary schools in the United States and the United Kingdom, and we provide teachers and schools unparalleled support. The result: classroom success - and teachers, students and community members with a new, more global perspective."

The VIF program permits foreign teachers in United States schools for a maximum of three years. They earn at a minimum salary of US$29,000 per annum. A spokesman of VIF said of the 122 Jamaican teachers who have been recruited for the new school year, 101 are 'return teachers', who have been in the program for at least one year.

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Globalization could threaten retailers in Jamaica

One of the top retailers in Jamaica, Mr. Wayne Chen, CEO of the 28-store Super Plus supermarket chain has issued a severe warning about globalization in Jamaica.

Speaking of potentially competitive supermarket chains, such as the United States-based WalMart, Mr. Chen said: "If they are not constrained and if they are allowed to come in, they can easily swallow us up in a flash." Adding to that, he told a gathering of Rotarians that those larger entities would be able to lose money for five years in order to undercut the local merchants and then dominate the Jamaican market.

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Food For the Poor rescues Falmouth hospital

The Falmouth Hospital in Jamaica had deteriorated so badly that there were fears it would have to close. But, the Food For The Poor (FFTP) organization came to the rescue with a generous donation pf US$20,000 in medical supplies.

The surgical department got orthopaedic surgical equipment, cardiac surgical equipment, surgical tables, surgical gum and surgical instruments; while the children's ward got baby cots and nutritional supplements.

Other gifts to the institution included X-ray machines, drip stands, beds, refrigerators, ECG machines, dental curing lights, suction units, gauze and office furniture.

Such action by FFTP is not new to Jamaica. According to the organisation’s communication manager, Sidney Henry, contributions to Jamaica hospitals have exceded US$9 million. Also over the last ten years, the organisation has offered help to most hospitals in the island. He explains that supplies are this week being sent off to Kingston Public Hospital and Bustamante Hospital for Children.

Food For The Poor operates its own warehouse distribution site in Kingston. From this site, Food For The Poor has been able to provide missionaries, priests and laypeople of every faith with more than $281 million in food, hospital supplies, vocational training equipment, school furniture and other aid.

Special Food For The Poor projects in Jamaica include, but are not limited to, vocational skills training, school and church repair, school and clinic construction, medical supplies, water pumps, hospitals, orphanages, educational supplies, handicapped children's homes, feeding programs, home building, educational projects and self-help programs.

More About Food For the Poor
Food For The Poor is an international organization located in the US. It raises funds and provides direct relief assistance to the poor, usually by purchasing specifically requested materials and distributing them through the churches and charity organizations already operating in areas of need. In this way, the organization serves the poor with dignity and ensures the most appropriate use of donors' funds.

"Our ministry reflects God's unconditional love, which surrenders all, inspires trust and faith, and embraces all people regardless of race, status or creed."

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Joint UK, Jamaica action nabs drug smugglers

The number of cocaine smugglers form Jamaica to the UK has dropped significantly as a new joint program, "Operation Airbridge", between Jamaica and the UK is intercepting them. The "Airbridge" initiative was announced in May last year and involves the use of ion scan technology at Jamaican airports that can detect passengers travelling to the UK who test positive for cocaine. The operation also included a two-million pound investment by the UK Government to create a new Customs mobile strike force team to reinforce frontier controls at UK airports. 

The latest figures revealed that between June 2002 and May 2003 the number of "cocaine swallowers" arrested in Jamaica had more than doubled, up from 82 in the previous 12 months to 216; and the number of swallowers arrested in the UK fell by 75 per cent compared with the same period in 2001/02.

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Jamaicans stranded in Nicaragua for 32 years

SIXTEEN JAMAICAN fishermen who claim they have been stranded in the Central American country of Nicaragua for from five to 32 years, are seeking help to return home. They were stranded there when a Jamaican businessman hired them to fish off the Nicaraguan coast and abandoned them there. The fishermen felt like fish out of water there in a strange country surviving in the furtive life of illegal immigrants. Those stranded are two groups of fishermen, the first landing there in 1971 and the other in 1998. Two of the men are in their seventies

The men said that another problem was that they owed the Nicaraguan Government hundreds of thousands of cordobas (Nicaraguan currency) in immigration taxes and some have no papers, as their passports and other identifying documents had been lost or destroyed. They desperately want to come home but feel that the Jamaica Government has not done enough to repatriate them.

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Miss Lou is back for Jamaica independence

"Long time gal me nevah see you", the children sang as Jamaica rolled out the red carpet to welcome home Miss Lou, Louise Bennett–Coverly. Hundreds of people, young and old waved replicas of the Jamaican flag from the airport gallery as Miss Lou, disembarked the Air Canada aircraft. The immigration section was filled with obvious joy as she was rapturously greeted by dignitaries, groups of folk singers including Ashe, and dance troupes. Even along the way from the airport, her motorcade stopped at different points to allow groups, especially school children, to pay tribute in song and recitation of some of her dialect poems. This was just the beginning of a busy schedule of events for this 83-year-old cultural icon as she was in great demand at Independence celebrations. And after all she had been away for 13 long years.

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Jamaica’s Usain Bolt dazzle World Youth Championships

Jamaica’s running sensation, 16 year-old Usain Bolt dazzled the running world by winning the 200 meters at the 3rd World Youth Championships in Sherbroke Canada in the record time of 20.4 seconds and a full second ahead of his nearest rival. Jamaica owned the 200 m as Aneisha McLaughlin captured the gold also in the women’s event too. Jamaica gained silver in the women’s medley relay and 100 m hurdles for a total of 4 medals. This total placed them in 7th place behind leaders the United States with 14.

Here is the medal table of some countries:

Place Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 USA 6 4 4 14
2 Russia 4 5 3 12
3 Kenya 3 4 2 9
4 China 3 1 0 4
5 Saudi Arabia 2 3 2 7
6 Germany 2 2 4 8
7 Jamaica 2 2 0 4
8 Australia 2 1 2 5
9 Romania 2 0 1 3
10 Cuba 2 0 0 2
32 UK 0 0 3 3
  Trinidad & Tobago 0 0 1 1

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Bolt even more impressive

Jamaica’s Usain Bolt apparently used the Junior Championships as a warm-up as he was even more impressive soon after at the Pan American Junior Track and Field Championships. He took the 200 meters in 20.13 seconds to equal Roy Martin’s 1985 world mark, while adding the Pan Am Junior title to the World Junior (Under-20) and World Youth (Under-18) titles he already holds over the distance.

The teenager's amazing run makes him the fifth fastest in the world so far this year, behind American Bernard Williams (20.01) and Shawn Crawford (20.02), Japan's Shingo Suetsugo (20.03), and Americans Coby Miller (20.04) and Joshua Johnson (20.05). Bolt, who turns 17 years old this month, is expected to represent Jamaica at the August 23-31 World (Senior) Championship in France.

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Jamaica 3rd in World Netball Championships

Jamaica’s Sunshine girls defeated England 46-40 to grab the 3rd place bronze medal in the recent World Netball Champioships held in Kingston Jamaica. New Zealand took the crown by defeating previous title-holder Australia by 49-47.

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