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bulletAir Jamaica un-privatised
bulletJamaica & T&T offer tsunami aid
bulletQuakes hit Caribbean
bulletGuyana divest bauxite mines
bulletCuba discovers oil
bulletMajor gas find in T&T
bulletAirport troubles in Guyana and Tobago
bulletChina gets access to Venezuelan oil
bulletValues and attitude training for Jamaican schools
bulletDivorce causing housing shortage in Bermuda
bulletOver 5,000 traffic tickets in a week
bulletRising soca star dies from accident
bulletBajan woman elected to NY Supreme Court
bulletSt. Lucia govt. to control nurse migration
bulletFire destroys historic Guyana church
bulletJamaican boxer named fighter of the year
bulletRalph to play in Spain
bulletJamaica wins belated bronze medal


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.



January 2005

Air Jamaica un-privatised

After racking up loss after loss after loss each year, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart has given up and turned Air Jamaica back over to the Jamaica government. Negotiations for a new structure that would have diluted the stake of AJAG, the Butch Stewart company which had taken over the airlines, to 55 per cent, from 78 per cent, fell through. The Government would have owned 45 per cent under that deal. Even with Stewart’s departure, he will pump US$20 million (J$1.2 billion) into the troubled airline to help with working capital and to write-down debt.

Air Jamaica had debts of US$560 million and had lost US$682 million during its decade of privatisation. A team of management consultants had also projected that it would require about US$270 million in capital over the next five years.

Although Stewart leaves Air Jamaica deep in debt, he is credited with rejuvenating the airline's previously battered image and winning market share. The airline brings 51 per cent of all air passengers to Jamaica and is considered a strategic asset to the island's economy, to which it is estimated that it contributes, directly and indirectly, about US$1.2 billion annually. It has done everything but made money, despite ‘Butch’ Stewart’s legendary Midas touch. Obviously, that extends only to his Sandals hotel chain.

However, other big factors in all that red ink is 9/11 terrorist attacks which , the Iraq war and skyrocketing gas prices, which blasted air travel and even now many an airline has not survived and others are still flirting with bankruptcy.

Meanwhile another major carrier to the Caribbean, US Air is proposing to stave off bankruptcy by cutting health benefits for 10,000 retirees and wipe out the pensions of 50,000 current and former employees. With current trends, Air Jamaica employees could be soon on such a bubble.

Editor’s Comment: Once again the privatization panacea has failed. The government is stuck with money losing enterprises and private investors get the valuable money making ones. Just like the rail system, the profitable freight lines were sold off easily leaving the government stuck with the money-losing passenger service which for years now remains badly needed but rotting away, unusable and financially undesired.

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Jamaica & T&T offer tsunami aid

Both Prime Ministers, Patrick Manning of T&T and PJ Patterson of Jamaica have offered financial aid to the victims of the tsunami disaster in South Asia. Both prime ministers declined to say how much they planned to contribute to that catastrophic disaster which has claimed over 100,000 lives. Patterson said that his government would be working through international agencies such as the UN Disaster Relief Committee and the International Red Cross.

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Quakes hit Caribbean

There has been a whole lot of shaking going on in the Caribbean recently by earthquakes. It started in Dominica and Guadeloupe on November 21, 2004. They were shook by a quake registering 6.0 on the Richter scale. In Dominica, one person was killed and the rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads, bridges, schools and health facilities is estimated to cost US$19 million.

Next an earthquake registering 5.4 hit Trinidad and Tobago on December 3. Then on December the Cayman Islands became the latest Caribbean island to be rocked by an earthquake. This one was the strongest yet registering 6.7.

Of course, these quakes are nothing compared to the monster 9.0 off Sumatra, but lets hope all this earthquake activity is not a sign of worse to come.

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Guyana divest bauxite mines

The Guyana government has announced that they have sold 90% of its shares in the Berbice bauxite company Aroaima Mining, to RUSAL, Bauxite and Alumina Mining Venture (BAMV). The buyers have promised to invest US$20 million to boost production. The new entity will be called the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated and is slated to be a joint venture with the Russian giant, the second largest alumina company in the world. The contracts will take effect in 2005 and the Guyana government says bauxite production is expected to expand to 2.5M tons per annum over the next two years. 
A week earlier the Government had sold majority shares in the Linden bauxite mines. According to Guyana’s Prime Minister, Samuel Hinds, this industry has been losing money since the mid 1970s.

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Cuba discovers oil

Cuban President Fidel Castro said an offshore crude-oil deposit has been discovered containing up to 100 million barrels. He said production, could begin during 2006.
Cuba already produces oil – but only about 75,000 barrels per day, which can only satisfy about 50 percent of its populations needs. The other 50 percent is usually imported from Venezuela.

This could have serious repercussion on the US sanctions. The sanctions would exclude US companies from cashing in leaving European, Canadian and Latin American rivals free to develop new oil resources on doorstep of US. Even Halliburton has said it wants economic sanctions against Cuba lifted. Of course US could really cash in if they invaded Cuba like they did oil rich Iraq.

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Major gas find in T&T

A significant discovery of gas has been made on the east coast of Trinidad and Tobago.
Energy Minister Eric Williams says the British Petroleum Trinidad and Tobago Company (BPTT) had officially informed Government of the discovery at its Chakalaka well, 50 miles of the island's east coast. The well is the first exploration well drilled by BPTT since the company started drilling 18 months ago. He said BPTT will continue its exploration activity and drill three more wells all the way through the middle of 2006. The last major oil find was made in 2002, also off the island's east coast.

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Airport troubles in Guyana and Tobago

Hundreds of international passengers were left stranded at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Guyana after air traffic controllers took industrial action. The strike followed the expiration of the deadline for settlement of a pay dispute with the Government. The dispute has been partially resolved allowing flights to resume at the airport late the following day.
Meanwhile in Tobago shortage of fuel stranded scores of passengers at the airport for more than three days. Apparently Tobago cannot handle its tourism success. The gasoline storage facilities there is inadequate to supply the booming planeloads of tourists visiting that beautiful island. The problem was aggravated when  after a tanker that transports jet fuel from Pointe-a-Pierre, Trinidad to Crown Point, Tobago, broke down. During this period, International airliners could still reach the island, but had to stop to refuel at other Caribbean islands, causing delays of up to two days. Ironically this fuel shortage comes when the petroleum and natural gas production is booming in the nation.

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China gets access to Venezuelan oil

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has offered China wide-ranging access to the country's oil reserves. The offer will allow China to operate oil fields in Venezuela and invest in new refineries. Venezuela has also offered to supply 120,000 barrels of fuel oil monthly to China.
Venezuela, the world's fifth largest oil exporter, sells about 60 per cent of its output to the United States. Mr. Chavez's administration, which has a strained relationship with the US, is trying to diversify sales to reduce its dependence on its largest export market.
China's quick-growing economy's need for oil has contributed to record-high oil prices this year, along with political unrest in the Middle East and supply bottlenecks.

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Values and attitude training for Jamaican schools

Secondary schools in Jamaica will soon be required to integrate a comprehensive program of values training into the school's extra-curricula activities, starting at grade seven. The HEART Trust/NTA, in collaboration with the National Youth Service (NYS), is proposing to implement the program using a values and attitudes manual developed by the NYS and which has been used to train NYS participants and tertiary students of the JAMVAT program. The manual has five units: self development and interpersonal skills, citizenship, conflict resolution, family life and work ethics.

The recently-tabled Task Force on Education report calls for a citizens' education program in schools that would address serious issues of anti-social and violent behaviour. Specifically it calls for training in values and attitudes, character education, patriotism and service and recommends mandatory co-curricula or extra-curricula enrollment for all students.

HEART and NYS are proposing to infuse the manual's curriculum in the activities of the clubs and societies, such as the Inter Schools Christian Fellowship, Girl Guides, Brownies, Cadets and other clubs and societies operating within the schools.

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Divorce causing housing shortage in Bermuda

There are growing fears in Bermuda that the country's high divorce rate is contributing to a chronic housing shortage. According to official records one in two marriages in Bermuda ends in divorce to give Bermuda one of the highest divorce rates in the world. This high rate and  couples splitting up doubles the housing needs which in turn is contributing to the housing shortage. This split-up and children wanting to leave home early is also placing stresses on the Bermudan law that permits families to own only one vehicle.

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Over 5,000 traffic tickets in a week

Jamaica traffic police mean business. With over 24 persons killed in traffic accidents within the first three weeks of December, the police are reporting that they have issued 5,421 tickets to traffic offenders islandwide between December 22 and 28, 2004. Of this high number it is reported that:


1,204 of these tickets were issued for excessive speeding


384 was for obstructing traffic and safety devices


226 were prosecuted for disobeying road signs.


194 were for improper overtaking,


98 were for careless driving


87 were for dangerous driving


34 were for driving defective vehicles.

Police records show that for the year 2004 there were 344 fatalities, from 294 accidents. This is 47 fewer fatalities than the corresponding period for last year.

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Rising soca star dies from accident

Young music sensation Onika Bostik died on December 19, 2004 as result of a car accident on December 11 in Trinidad and Tobago. The 24-year-old T&T born singer with the Antiguan band Invazion had been in a coma since the accident. The car in which she was being driven by a bandmate went out of control and hit a wall. She was rushed to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital but never regained consciousness. She gained fame while she was a member of the well-known Antiguan soca band Burning Flames for such hits as ‘Mash It Up, Rush’, ‘Get On Bad’, and ‘Devilish’.

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Bajan woman elected to NY Supreme Court

Barbadian native, Sylvia Hinds-Radix, has become the first person from Barbados to be elected to the Supreme Court of the state of New York. Justice Hinds-Radix was inducted on Sunday, December 19 at a ceremony held at the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights in Brooklyn. Before being elected to the bench she previously had a successful law practice and served as legal advisor to District Council 37, the largest municipal labor union. Justice Hinds-Radix served previously as judge of the Civil Court in Brooklyn, New York, and had a laudable tenure.

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St. Lucia Govt. to control nurse migration

The St. Lucian Government has announced plans to manage the migration of its nurses to better paying jobs in North America and Europe. The CARICOM Health Ministers conference in Barbados earlier this year estimated that 600,000 nurses could leave the region for North America and Europe in the next few years. According to the plan, nurses would be allowed to go out and be trained in various specialized fields but this will be managed in collaboration with certain agencies. Also the plan would encourage nurses already in the island to remain by creating incentives for them to serve the island’s medical institutions.

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Fire destroys historic Guyana church

Guyana’s 141-year-old Sacred Heart Church went up in flames on Christmas Day. Decorative lights in the nativity crib at the altar started the fire. The adjoining newly renovated school, the Sacred Heart Primary school, was also destroyed The church was built to cater to the needs of the Portuguese immigrants in the late 1800’s. It was identified for inclusion as one of the 13 monuments selected in Georgetown’s nomination as a World Heritage Site.

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Jamaican boxer named fighter of the year

Jamaican-born boxer, Glen Johnson won in a split decision bout  Saturday night, December 19, 2004 in Los Angeles over Antonio Tarver to become the new light heavyweight Champion of the World. He had advanced to the championship bout by knocking out the seemingly invincible American champ Roy Jones in the 9th round in Memphis. Antonio Tarver also got there by knocking out Roy Jones. With such an outstanding record, Johnson is being labeled the fighter of the year.

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Ralph to play in Spain

Damani Ralph will not be playing for the MLS Chicago Fire next year. The striker for Jamaica’s Regge Boyz is on his way to play in Spain for Malaga.

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Jamaica wins belated bronze medal

Former Jamaican world indoor champion, Juliet Campbell, is now the bronze medal winner for the 200m of the 2003 IAAF world indoor track and field championship following the disqualification of American gold medallist Michelle Collins. Campbell had finish fourth in Birmingham behind Collins.
However, Collins has been banned by the United States Anti-Doping Agency for eight years for doping violations and had all her results from February 2002 scrapped. Muriel Hurtis of France is now the 2003 indoor champion since she had finished second in 22.20 seconds. Collins also loses the 2003 US 200m indoor title to Allison Felix.


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