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From February 2001


March 2001

Marc Rich and Jamaica

Former President Clinton has been getting an onslaught of criticism for his pardon of Marc Rich. But, we can expect no such criticism from Jamaica, for Marc Rich is considered a friend of Jamaica. According to the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper in a recent article by senior reporter Balford Henry quoted  in its entirety:

Marc Rich to the rescue ... again

INDICATIONS ARE that recently-pardoned American commodities trader Marc Rich will again be involved with the rescue of the local bauxite/alumina industry by purchasing the assets of Alcan Jamaica Company.
Glencore International AC, expected to take over Alcan's local operations by the end of March, was formerly Marc Rich and Company AC.
Rich, one of the world's wealthiest men, was one of the United States' most wanted fugitives, until he was pardoned by former US President Bill Clinton, of racketeering and tax evasion charges. He had been exiled in Switzerland, where Glencore is based, for the last 15 years.
A House Panel on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., opened hearings yesterday into the motives behind Clinton's pardon of Rich, amid a report that the last-minute pardon were granted without the usual Justice Department scrutiny.
A 10-year agreement between Marc Rich & Co. and the Government of Jamaica expired in 1996 and a new agreement to 2002, was signed with its successor company Glencore, which offered more flexible and favourable pricing arrangements.
Under the current agreement BATCO (Jamaica's Bauxite and Alumina Trading Co. Ltd.) sells some 250,000 tonnes of Jamaican alumina annually to Glencore on a basis which allows the parties to establish prices annually and an additional 100,000 annually using various pricing mechanisms.
Because of the Government's problems with financing its budget, several forward sales arrangements have been made with Glencore which, sources say, have left the country heavily indebted to Rich's Swiss firm and could impact on its negotiations with Glencore over the local Alcan assets.
The Government signed an agreement with Glencore in 1999 for the sale of alumina for the five years, 2000-2004. Dr. Omar Davies, Minister of Finance and Planning, told the House of Representatives in November 1999, that the agreement was to sell Jamaican alumina at fixed prices as a loan to help finance the 1999/2000 budget.
Norman DaCosta, the NWU spokesman on bauxite/alumina, says the union will be meeting with Glencore's representatives on February 23 to discuss how the sale will affect the workers. He said he had no doubt that the change would affect jobs at the company.
It is possible that the Kirkvine plant, which is considered aged and short on space, technology and raw material for expansion, will either close or change to producing hydrate. However, he says that a feasibility study of the Ewarton plant suggests that it has the proximity and resources to expand.
However, it is uncertain what Glencore will do about the workers on the 15 dairy, beef and horticultural farms owned by Alcan Jamaica Company. That will certainly depend on how Glencore, the world's largest commodities dealers, look at trading beef, dairy and horticulture in addition to metals and oil.

Jamaican company to manage operations
It has been reported that the new owners will turn the management of Alcan to a local Jamaican alumina company. Nevertheless, layoffs at the Ewarton and Kirkvine plants are expected because of the change of ownership and operation.


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T&T Constitutional crisis over

After 55 days, the constitutional crisis in Trinidad and Tobago is over. T&T President A.N.R. Robinson finally approved the seven Government senators, which Prime Minister Basdeo Panday had appointed. The president had refused to certify them, because they had been losing candidates in the recent general elections.


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Pests threaten Jamaica’s most beautiful plants

Jamaica’s most beautiful plants, including crotons, ixora, bougainvilla as well as some fruit trees and legumes like gungo and cherries, face a stubborn, deadly new pest. These insects are similar to the "Mealy bug". They are called "white flies" but their real name is "ensign scale". They have invaded Kingston and St. Andrew mainly, but have been reported in about 4 other parishes. They hide under a waxy shell, which protects them from insecticides. The Ministry of Agriculture recommends gardeners to continue using insecticides for three or four applications. If the insecticides are ineffective, gardeners should clip off infected branches and either burn them or wrap them in plastic and place in the sun for the heat to kill them. The Ministry considers the real solution is importing  another bug from the US which is a natural predator of these "flies". This was done in Kenya and financing is being sought to introduce such a project in Jamaica.
Editors Note: Importing another bug! Lets take every precaution that this "rescue" bug does not become a worse problem too.
Also, fruit trees in the US are a nuisance in the backyard. Unlike in Jamaica, here in the US you have to spray them, and several times too, in order to reap any edible fruit. Otherwise you get some deformed "wingy" fruit that defies eating. I hope we won't have to spray every little mango tree in Jamaica to be able to eat the fruit.


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Caribbean reacts to "mad cow" and "hoof and mouth" diseases

Mad cow disease is bad enough, but we have witnessed the devastation that the outbreak of hoof and mouth disease is having in Europe. Although so far the disease has shown up only in the UK, the burning of thousands of cows has not been limited to England only. But France, Germany and other European countries have done so. Unlike mad cow disease, foot and mouth disease does not affect humans. However, because it is so extremely infectious:

  • Slaughter houses all over the UK and Europe have closed.

  • No movement of cows, sheep or pigs are permitted.

  • Farmers not only cannot sell their animals even though there is no signs of the dreaded foot and mouth disease on their farm, but often find themselves restricted to their farms.

  • Horse racing, and other sporting events have been cancelled.

  • In the Irish Republic, without one single case of the disease, the long-standing traditional St. Patrick's Day parade has been cancelled.

  • Extensive decontamination is underway.

But, the world is a neighborhood, a shrinking neighborhood. Is the Caribbean safe? So far it seems safe, but some countries are taking precautions. Caribbean countries which have imposed bans on account of hoof and mouth disease include Grenada and Bermuda. Not just beef, but pork, lamb, and even chicken from the UK are included.

But, the world is a neighborhood, a shrinking neighborhood. Is the Caribbean safe? Caribbean countries have already taken precations against mad cow disease. (See Caribbean takes precaution against mad cow disease  (Jan 7, 2001)} To add to this, the NAFTA countries, US, Canada and Mexico, banned canned beef and beef products from Brazil because of mad cow disease. St. Kitts, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Lucia were among those that joined that ban and St. Lucia was on the verge. However, the NAFTA has lifted the ban and Caribbean countries are expected to do likewise.


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178 Earthquakes hit Jamaica last year

According to seismologists in Jamaica there were 178 earthquakes in the past year. However, only 15 of them were likely strong enough to be felt by the public. There have been major quakes in Seattle, Washington, USA, El Salvador and other parts of the world. With this prevalence of quakes, could Jamaica be due for the "big one"?

These little quakes should serve as a reminder and hopefully not a harbinger of Jamaica's vulnerability to earthquakes. Considering this, it is alarming that a major quake of the magnitude of the one that recently struck El Salvador, measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, could be even more devastating in Jamaica. The earthquake in El Salvador killed 683 and destroyed 38, 628 homes.


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Guyana prepares for elections

The Guyana Parliament was dissolved on February 15 in preparation for general elections on March 19. The governing Peoples Progressive Party/Civic did not complete its full term. This was because of an agreement brokered by the CARICOM heads of government forced by the opposition Peoples National Congress 6-month long and often violent protests. These protests almost shut down the capital Georgetown and ripped the country apart racially.


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T&T Carnival is now "Sparrow Carnival"

For years they have called it The Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. But this year's is simply called "The Sparrow Carnival". It's in honour of 65-year-old Grenada-born calypsonian Slinger Francisco, better known as The Mighty Sparrow, who has dominated the world calypso stage since the 1950s. Sparrow on Ash Wednesday joined Belize's "Father of Independence", George Price, and Third World health spokesman/motivator Dr. George Alleyne, head of the Pan American Health Organisation, in receiving CARICOM's highest award - the Order of the Caribbean Community (OCC).

Carnival Winners
It may also be considered a Shadow (Winston Bailey) carnival based on the results. The veteran easily captured Souca Monarch and Road March titles, and placed second in the Calypso Monarch contest.
Denyse Plummer came full circle by winning the Calypso Monarch title with the song "Heroes" a tribute to famous calypsonians. This is a far cry from her debut 16 years ago when she was booed and pelted with toilet paper and fruit.


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Belize and Guatemala hold border talks

Belize Prime Minister Said Musa reported that there were positive signs in recent talks with Guatemala. However, he went on to add that Guatemala continues to insist on claiming large portions of Belize territory, so one has to wonder if there was really much progress. At least if they are talking, they are not fighting. In a fight tiny Belize would be no match for Guatemala.


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Former T&T Govt. Minister charged with murder

Former Trinidad and Tobago local Government minister, Dhanraj Singh, has been charged with murder. Singh, 41, was fired from the Basdeo Panday administration last October. He also faces over two dozen fraud charges involving millions of dollars. The murder victim was a local government councillor. He was killed over a year ago. He had written letters to PM Panday, reporting a threat to his life from a high-level official in Panday's government. Singh is the second person charged in the murder.


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Jamaica's Governor-General robbed

In an obvious elaborate scheme, thieves forged the signature of Jamaica's Governor-General, Sir Howard Cooke and withdrew more than J$700,000 from his bank. According to Gleaner reports, thieves got hold of checks, forged the Governor-General's signature 6 times and lodged the checks in an automatic Teller machine in Kingston. The checks were credited to an account at the Ocho Rios branch. The money was subsequently withdrawn from the account which he operates jointly with his wife. The bank has since closed that account and opened another joint account for the couple. Meanwhile the police are puzzled how the thieves got Sir Howard's bank account number, checks, and other confidential details about his account.


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Banana Wars, Banana Memories

(Article written by Hot Calaloo editor Michael Phillips in 1993)

What is the most popular fruit eaten here in America. Yes, it is the banana. Traditionally, throughout the West Indies it has been the major agriculture crop second only to sugar. However, banana wars with Latin America loom as a threat to a tradition, to a way of life.

I remember that first morning many years ago. I was just a boy of about ten spending my summer holidays in the countryside, the little Jamaican north coast port of Oracabessa. On that memorable morning, I looked out the window of my uncle's house which offered a spectacular panoramic view of the harbour . There "it" was, almost filling the entire harbour and landscape. "It" was the "banana boat." To my young and tender eyes it seemed massive, magnificent. It could have well been the luxury liner, the Queen Mary, instead of the Jamaica Producer. It had come in overnight.

The sleepy little port was transformed into a hum of activity. I was excited. It seemed to me everyone in the town was somehow involved. The mood was festive. The smell of money, no doubt. Trucks overladen with bunches of banana, wrapped in banana leaves, steadily streamed into port. Since Oracabessa was not a deep water harbour, the "Banana boat" could not come up to the dock, but had to drop anchor outside. So the "six-hand,seven-hand bunches" had to be loaded assembly-line style by vigorous perspiring men unto small boats which carried them out to the "Banana boat". As the men worked they sang. Of course, it was not reggae, which was decades away in the future. It was not even calypso, but traditional Jamaican work songs. songs like Day-O, Hill and Gully, and Sammy Dead. This continued non-stop way into the night. I still remember looking out from the veranda on that starlit night with fascination as the flickering lights of the flotilla of tiny banana-laden boats made their way to the huge ship.

That summer I really came to know the banana. From the short stubby "Chiney" banana to the slender but durable Lackatan to the robust Robusta and Gros Mitchell. Do you remember ripe banana fritters, fried and boiled green bananas? How about mackerel and banana rundown also known as "Dip and Fall Back"? I even had "banana water" to which was attributed all sorts of nutritional powers. But, I hated banana porridge.

Banana like the people of Jamaica and the rest of the West Indies are survivors. Threatened regularly and sometimes devastated by hurricane, but they survive. Threatened by disease, but with extensive help from our agricultural researchers, they adapt and survive. In the past, in order for the West Indies to survive, the banana had to survive.

But will the banana trade in the West Indies survive? Sadly, the prospects don't seem good. The fight is being waged primarily by the Windward Isles, who are especially dependent on this for employment and foreign exchange. They are up against powerful multinational corporations with banana plantations in Latin America. The bottom line is that these Latin American countries are able to grow it cheaper and these Caribbean countries must depend on the protected market of the UK. But, the UK is not as independent as it used to be now that it is a member of the European Common Market (EC). So far, Britain has been barely able to beat back the attacks of other EC countries led by Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands as well as the Latin American producers against this protected market. I, myself, am surprised at the fight Britain has put up on behalf of the Caribbean countries even though it means more expensive bananas for the English consumer. Upcoming General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), and LOME talks are expected to take dead aim on this protected market again.

Up till now , the West Indies has been moving closer to its Latin American neighbors. But, these banana wars are straining relations in some circles. The Windward Island governments of Grenada, St. Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Dominica, have even threatened to pull out of the Organisation of American States (OAS) over this issue. Banana prices in Grenada have dropped to their lowest since 1985. There is no question a way of life for many is being threatened. Not one single banana we eat here in the US comes from the West Indies. The market belongs exclusively to the Latin American countries. The UK is virtually the only export market for West Indian bananas. Now that is imperilled.

I went back to Oracabessa recently. The "banana boat" has long since abandoned it , lured away by a deep sea port elsewhere. Instead, on the distant horizon, occasionally a tourist-laden luxury ocean liner can be barely discerned heading probably to or from nearby Ocho Rios. Or, from time to time small boats can be seen dropping or retrieving their fish pots, but their message is " Oh yes we have no bananas, we've got no bananas today." Tourism has had some impact, but the town remains a sleepy fishing village. Unemployment seems high. Of course, traditional work songs no longer fill the air. That day, I could not help but notice a man clad in a flamboyant gold and black sequined dance-hall costume. In the background I could hear a sound system blaring with its deep thumping bass as its dee-jay music extolled " yuh body good, it good like a gold......"


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Govt. announce sale of Jamaica Public Service Co.

Privatisation is alive and well as the Jamaican government has announced the Atlanta-based Mirant is to purchase the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo), the country's major electricity supplier, paying more than $200 million for an 80 per cent stake. Prime Minister P.J Patterson told Parliament  the sale should be concluded by the end of March. Mirant, formerly Southern Energy Inc, will pay the government US$201 million for 80 percent of the state-owned company. The government will retain the remaining 20 percent and name three members to the nine-member board. The new majority owners will invest a further US$500 million, mostly in increasing generating capacity over the next 10 years.


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Patois gets language status in NY City schools

Move over Ebonics as Jamaican patois and other Creole speech of the Caribbean are to be treated as separate languages by the New York State Education Department. Dr Karl Folkes, a linguist and Field Instructional specialist with the Office of Bilingual Education, Brooklyn, New York see this as a personal triumph. This ruling will require school districts to formally identify, test and place students from the Commonwealth Caribbean in programs geared at teaching English as a second language. Dr Folkes believes Caribbean students should be taught in their native patois or Creole, a benefit Spanish speaking students already have.

The Jamaican-born Dr.Folkes, supported by the large New York-based Jamaican community, contends because of the difficulty with "standard English" many patois speaking students end up in special education. So they expect students to perform better in schools.

Editors Note: As far as I know, schools in Jamaica not only teach in "standard English", but serves to improve and upgrade the language. I have to respect Dr. Folkes for his credentials and expertise, but still I see serious problems ahead. Jamaican patois is different from patois from other Caribbean countries. Patois has no formal rules. Where will the trained teachers come from? 
Ah wha dem a gwan wid sah?.


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Ja.Teachers flock for US jobs

The pending layoff of 300 teachers in Jamaica cannot have helped teacher morale. So when a seminar recruiting teachers for jobs in the US was held, teachers turned up in droves. The Visiting International Faculty Program, a US -based non-governmental organisation held two sessions in order to fill only 30 positions, but teachers packed the room to the max each time.


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Victory for teachers in Dominica

Victory at last! More than four years after a week's pay was deducted from their pay packets, teachers in Dominica are to get their money back. The money will be returned within the next two months, union officials say. The deduction was made a month following an October, 1996 one-week strike by members of the Dominica Association of Teachers (DAT). The strike was in protest against the United Workers Party (UWP) government's refusal to give a two per cent retroactive pay hike. The DAT took the matter to court, but the case was thrown out. The association appealed the case before the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal and won.


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Hooper named WI cricket captain

Jimmy Adams is not only out as captain of the West Indies cricket team for the upcoming series with South Africa, he is not on the team. Carl Hooper, the stylish Guyanese batsman, who cut short his retirement from international cricket was selected by the WI Cricket Board. Ironically, he retired after the Lara-led WI team was white-washed by South Africa 5-0. Apparently leadership is not a high priority in the Boards judgment.

Jamaica soccer on top

Reggae Boyz
Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz debuted with a 1 nil victory over Trinidad and Tobago in the first game of the final playoff series for the 2002 soccer World Cup in Japan - Korea. By so doing they join US atop the group of 6 with 3 points each. . But there is a long way to go in the home and away 10-game series. (See schedule)

Under 20 Reggae Boyz make World Cup Finals
The under-20 Reggae Boyz also earned plaudits as they qualified for the under-20 World Cup finals in Argentina this year.   In the final playoff series among 4 teams, they tied 1st place Canada 0-0 in the last game to take 2nd place and qualify. The other 2 teams they beat out in the playoffs were Mexico and Honduras. Jamaica’s captain and ordinarily a regular starter for the national team, Shavar Thomas, earned MVP honors for the tournament.


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"Ah wha happen to de Galliwasp?"

"Ah wha happen to the Galliwasp?" That’s what Dr. Byron Wilson and Dale McGinty , a curator of the Nashville Zoo want to find out as they searched Jamaica for the Galliwasp. The Jamaican Galliwasp is a lizard which lived all over the island but so far they could not even find one single one. They could not even come up with a picture of the Galliwasp and had to use a picture of a Haitian Galliwasp to show people as they asked if they had seen any. They want to study it, but so far the scientists have come up with nothing.

They describe the lizard as about three foot long. I myself recall seeing Galliwasps when I was a boy, but it certainly was much smaller than three feet. Have you ever seen a Galliwasp?


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