The Death of Demario, Bolt and the Tabloids and Glowing Recommendations: Jamaica, Friday, August 26, 2016

I think chess is considered a "sport," although I am not quite sure how, or why. Anyway, it's really good to see Sports Minister Olivia Grange presenting a cheque for US$2 million to  President of the Jamaica Chess Federation, Ian Wilkinson yesterday. The two were joined by members of the team that will represent Jamaica at the 2016 Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijani, September 1-14. I wish them good luck! (Photo: JIS)
I think chess is considered a "sport," although I am not quite sure how, or why. Anyway, it's really good to see Sports Minister Olivia Grange presenting a cheque for US$2 million to President of the Jamaica Chess Federation, Ian Wilkinson yesterday. The two were joined by members of the team that will represent Jamaica at the 2016 Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijani, September 1-14. I wish them good luck! (Photo: JIS)

After an unpleasantly dry and hot month, the rain arrived in Kingston yesterday, and there’s the promise of more rain, perhaps. The past few days have been quite dramatic , although not always the kind of drama you really welcome. But, there it is.

Innocent baby: I apologize, but I have to start on this tragic note. Two-year-old Demario Whyte was shot dead on Tuesday night on Luke Lane in downtown Kingston, where “turf wars” have been rumbling among gangs (the turf is apparently the market area). In the past two weeks nine people have been killed in West Kingston. Little Demario was not “caught in crossfire” – which would have been bad enough. He was reportedly “executed” as the gunman could not kill his father (who was running away and had left the little boy at the gate).

Empressz Golding: PTSD is a real concern among our young people. (My photo)

Emprezz Golding: PTSD among our young people is a real concern. (My photo)

Demario was just the same age as my grandson. A few days ago, Emprezz Golding, who works with young people, tweeted simply that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a huge worry. It is deep and widespread. Demario’s mother is working overseas and his father, who was injured, is traumatized. The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has put out a list of six names of wanted men in connection with the violence. However, it would be so good if they could post pictures, if they have any! One might be walking down my street, and I would never know… Meanwhile, two suspects have been arrested in connection with Demario’s death. Nevertheless, I commend the JCF for their increased use of Twitter and hope they keep it up. It could be a useful crime-solving tool!

Police met with residents in Luke Lane last night to discuss the recent violence. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby)

Police met with residents in Luke Lane last night to discuss the recent violence. The Jamaica Star reports comments by some residents that they fear the police more than gunmen. (Photo: Jermaine Barnaby)

The crime/health link: Moreover, at a recent health fair organized by West Kingston Power Partners in the area, medical workers discovered that many residents had extremely high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Crime is a burden on our health system, and not only the victims of crime but those all around who are affected by it.

#saynotocoalJA: I have been reading (and will share in a separate post) many stories regarding the environmental impact of coal-fired power plants around the world. With regard to our local situation, Director of the CoalSwarm Project Ted Nace says a 1,000 MW coal plant would produce 5.6 – 5.8 million tonnes of CO2 annually, increasing our emissions by 79 to 82 per cent. This would make a mockery of our commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change to reduce emissions by 7.8 per cent by 2030. Please recall that Jamaica and its Caribbean neighbors campaigned so hard for the “1.5 To Stay Alive” campaign in Paris, making quite an impact. Mr. Nace also mentioned the “construction of a coal terminal and the possibility of a coal spill” as other environmental hazards associated with the construction of a coal-fired power plant at the Alpart bauxite plant in St. Elizabeth.

Businessman and former Jamaica Labour Party  Norman Horne.

Businessman and PNP Treasurer Norman Horne.

It’s the kind of thing that makes Jamaicans roll their eyes. Firstly, recently allegations in the Miami Herald by a former Assistant Commissioner of Police regarding a Jamaican politician have resulted in an investigation of sorts. When asked about it, Police Commissioner Carl Williams said police investigators were told “We should do some more work on it.” Hold on a minute! Well, you know what the obvious question is here, don’t you?  Secondly, the People’s National Party (PNP) is having some major financial issues; much of the discussion seems to be taking place in social media, while the party leader is silent. A financial report, presented to the party’s National Executive Council in July by its Treasurer Norman Horne, revealed that some private sector donations were apparently mishandled by candidates during the election campaign earlier this year. Both these major issues are going to rumble along for a while. They are lurking rather darkly, so let us just stay tuned.

The Half Way Tree clock on fire. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

The Half Way Tree clock on fire. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Half Way Tree is a mess: Bright and early on Tuesday morning, the famous Half Way Tree clock caught fire. There was a lot of garbage at the base of it (surprise) and probably someone had set fire to it. The Jamaica Fire Brigade put it out quite quickly. Our Culture Minister Olivia Grange bemoaned the historic clock being damaged – but, let’s face it Minister Grange: Half Way Tree is a dirty, chaotic mess and has been for years. It is not just congested, it is disorderly and Mandela Park is a sad – very sad – place to be named after such a great man. And by the way, when was this clock that we love so much actually telling the right time? I have never seen it working.

Has Opposition Finance Spokesman Peter Phillips lost the plot?

Has Opposition Finance Spokesman Peter Phillips lost the plot?

Please, Peter Phillips: I think you’ve got it wrong. The Opposition Finance Spokesman is trying to spin the latest statement from the International Monetary Fund team to suggest that the approval of the next drawdown of US$40 million is conditional. I believe the language (“preliminary agreement”) in their August 19 press release is, in fact, the standard language. Or what am I missing? Meanwhile, the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) is projecting an exciting 1 to 2 per cent growth this fiscal year. The PIOJ reports 1.1 per cent growth from April to June 2016 compared to the same quarter in 2015 (when we were suffering from a major drought).

The “I hope you mean this” news item: Prime Minister Andrew Holness says “we have to bring back” the teaching of Civics into the school curriculum. It should never have been dropped in the first place, should it? May I also add that we could incorporate the teachings of Marcus Garvey? Thank you.

Irrelevant news item of the week: The PNP’s Dr. Karl Blythe, who came out of the woodwork recently to challenge the Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller for the leadership of the party, is now suggesting Ms. Simpson Miller is afraid to face him in a leadership debate (just as the PNP refused to participate in a national debate before the February elections). Sigh!

I love this photo tweeted by Police Commissioner Dr. Carl Williams (@DrCarlWilliams) today. It shows U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Luis Moreno, Opposition Spokesman on National Security Paul Bunting, National Security Minister Robert Montague and Commissioner Williams at the handover of 120 body cameras for the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

I love this photo tweeted by Police Commissioner Dr. Carl Williams (@DrCarlWilliams) today. It shows U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Luis Moreno, Opposition Spokesman on National Security Paul Bunting, National Security Minister Robert Montague and Commissioner Williams at the handover of 120 body cameras for the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

Body cameras for our police: Yes, interesting developments in national security this week, indeed. Today the U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Luis Moreno handed over 120 body cameras for use by the police in a pilot project. The U.S. Government will also provide training for the personnel in the St Andrew Central, St Andrew South, Kingston East, Kingston Central, Traffic Headquarters and the Motorised Patrol divisions. Interestingly, Jamaica will be only the third country in the Western Hemisphere to use body cameras; the United States and Canada are the other countries. By the way, both the Police Federation and taxi drivers (who are frequently stopped by the police) are welcoming the move.

Mario Deane died in custody after suffering severe injuries at the Barnett Street police lock-up in Montego Bay in August, 2014.

Mario Deane died in custody after suffering severe injuries at the Barnett Street police lock-up in Montego Bay in August, 2014.

Mario Deane: Michael Lorne, the attorney representing the family of Mario Deane, who died after being beaten in a Montego Bay police lockup two years ago, has filed for a default judgement for damages against the State. The Attorney General has not filed a defense and the matter will now go to court regarding compensation. The criminal case drags on, meanwhile.

JP’s, what’s going on? Commissioner Williams made some revealing and somewhat disturbing comments at the event yesterday. He said that all applicants for positions in the police force undergo polygraph tests; this will continue with the assistance of international partners (the U.S., Canada and the UK). Recently 191 potential recruits were screened and 103 passed the test. Some of those who failed were found to be involved in scamming and gang activities – despite having received “glowing recommendations” from Justices of the Peace (JPs), Ministers of Religion and other “upstanding” citizens, the Commissioner added. What is this?

Yes, of course - we all love Usain. Here he is at the National Stadium in Kingston in June this year, winning another race ahead of Nickel Ashmeade (2nd) and Yohan Blake (3rd). (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Yes, of course – we all love Usain. That’s a given. Here he is at the National Stadium in Kingston in June this year, winning another race. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn/Gleaner)

Giving Bolt a “bly”: The reaction of most Jamaicans to the negative publicity regarding Usain Bolt’s social activities in Rio after the Olympics has been “Ah nuh nutten.” In other words, “It’s nothing! He’s young. Let him be, he’s having fun. What’s the big deal? I don’t care what he does in his private life,” etc. No, I don’t care either, nor do I care about the motive of the woman who has put this out in all the UK tabloids, BET and beyond. But everyone is forgetting that Usain is not some average Jamaican man having fun. He is an international superstar and sporting icon, way beyond our little island, with huge sponsorships and endorsements from major companies. Just as the swimmer Ryan Lochte made a fool of himself and within days lost major endorsements, the same thing could happen to Usain. He is a “brand.” Yes, we know he likes to party, but  he has to think of his image and avoid negative publicity. Unfortunately, the tabloids thrive on this trashy stuff. Don’t give them any more fodder, please Mr. Bolt!

It was painful to listen to an interview by talk show host Cliff Hughes with the police officer in charge of the parish of Portland, based in Port Antonio. They were discussing the  case of a group of 16 young women, who were staying in a villa in Portland earlier this month for a happy high school reunion. They were robbed, assaulted and three were raped. It’s a very disturbing case, but what was even more worrying was the subsequent revelation by the policewoman that rape is very common, and has almost been normalized in some communities in this beautiful rural parish. “It’s a community problem,” she said, citing the case of a father who refused to prosecute an older man (in his 40s) who had raped his own 15-year-old daughter. She also reported that out of 41 reported cases of rape in the past three years (many are not reported of course), the police had struggled to obtain just one conviction. How utterly depressing. Our rural communities need help.

Carl Abrahams - The Destruction of Port Royal (n.d.), AD Scott Collection, NGJ. On view in the Kingston - Part 1: The City and Art exhibition.

Carl Abrahams – The Destruction of Port Royal (n.d.), AD Scott Collection, NGJ. On view in the Kingston – Part 1: The City and Art exhibition at the National Gallery of Jamaica.

The National Gallery of Jamaica is (or has been) one of our favorite hangout spots for quite a few years now – especially the Last Sundays. I am baffled by the new Chairman’s belittling remarks in the media – and by an anonymous letter to the Gleaner, making vague accusations about the way the Gallery has been managed. (Why do you print anonymous letters, Gleaner? It’s unethical, in my view).  We are customers (and art lovers/sometime collectors), and we regularly recommend a trip to the Gallery to visitors, who want to know what to do in Kingston. Come to their Last Sunday this weekend (it’s free, there are guided tours and there is great music, the café has good coffee and the gift shop is great too)…and see if you enjoy the Gallery as much as we have been enjoying it. Will it go in the exciting new direction that Senator Tom Tavares Finson promises? We’ll see. By the way, the call is out for submissions for the juried section of the Jamaica Biennial (February 26 to May 28, 2017).

Look out for a new and revealing biography of former Prime Minister, the late Michael Manley. Coming soon!

Kudos to…
JPS' BannaBags are really cool, made from recycled banners, very strong too.

JPS’ BannaBags are really cool, made from recycled banners, very strong too.

Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) for their great BannaBags project. I wrote an article about this for a local magazine – last year I think. The schoolbags are made from recycled vinyl banners – very strong, bright and no two are the same of course. This year JPS is donating the bags plus school supplies to 500 children for back-to-school, which is less than two weeks away now. Entities with unused vinyl banners lying in storage can make arrangements to donate them by sending an email to bannabags@jpsco.com or delivering them to 6 Knutsford Boulevard, Kingston.

Wish I knew what the joke was… (L-R) Mr. David Nair, Executive Director, Food For The Poor; Ms. Susan Moore, Director of Recipient Services Food For The Poor; Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton and Mr. Nakhle Hado, Director of Distribution Services, Food For The Poor during the handover of stethoscopes valued at $400,000 to the Ministry of Health. (Photo: JIS)

Wish I knew what the joke was… (L-R) Mr. David Nair, Executive Director, Food For The Poor; Ms. Susan Moore, Director of Recipient Services Food For The Poor; Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton and Mr. Nakhle Hado, Director of Distribution Services, Food For The Poor during the handover of stethoscopes valued at $400,000 to the Ministry of Health. (Photo: JIS)

Food for the Poor never stops doing good work. They recently donated stethoscopes valued at $400,000 to the Ministry of Health. Thank you!

Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan explained the Twelve Standards for Early Childhood Institutions at the Certification Fair. (My photo)

Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan explained the Twelve Standards for Early Childhood Institutions at the Certification Fair. (My photo)

The Early Childhood Commission, which organized an Early Childhood Certification Fair at Jamaica College today. It was extremely well attended, by teachers from across the island – and very well organized. There were twelve booths, each representing one of the standards required for Early Childhood Institutions. There was a high level of enthusiasm. I do hope that this will result in many more certifications for our basic and infant schools! These are the critical years.

I have not even discussed the convicted Reverend Al Miller, who is being defended on all sides; the woman who was roughed up by the police, but who has now pleaded guilty to several charges, including resisting arrest; and the stabbing of a man who allegedly hit down a policeman in a police lock-up (what is going on in police lock-ups? CCTV anyone?)

The Planning Institute of Jamaica has recorded a slight increase in the murder rate from January to June 2016. There were 22.2 murders per 100 000 of the population, up 2.4 per cent over the same period in 2015. Apparently for the past six years other “serious and violent crimes” have declined by 117 per 100,000, a decline of 22.8 per cent. Problem is, murder is the most serious and violent crime of them all. My condolences to the families of these people who have passed – three of whom were not named by the police apparently.

Demario Whyte, 2, Luke Lane, Kingston

Unidentified man, Barry Street/Luke Lane, Kingston

Unidentified man, Gordon Town, St. Andrew

Unidentified man, Belle Isle/Grange Hill, Westmoreland

Jamari Reid, 25, Falmouth Gardens, Trelawny

Dancehall entertainer Jamari Reid was murdered in Falmouth this week.

Dancehall entertainer Jamari Reid was murdered in Falmouth this week.

23 Jamaicans Selected as Chevening Scholars: Congrats to All!

Applications for the 2017/18 Chevening Scholarships are now open. Apply today!
Applications for the 2017/18 Chevening Scholarships are now open. Apply today!

Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting the Jamaicans who had been selected for Chevening Scholarships in the UK. It was great getting to know them, and I am sure they benefited greatly from their year of study. This year, even more Jamaicans (and one Bahamian) are going off to the UK shortly. Please find the British High Commission’s press release below, as well as brief profiles of the 2016/17 Chevening Scholars. Huge congratulations to all (and a special shout out from me to two young activists, Kemesha Kelly and Nicolette Bryan!)

The British High Commission is pleased to announce that 23 Jamaicans and 1 Bahamian have been awarded the 2016-17 Chevening Scholarships to study in the UK.

The 2016-17 Chevening scholars are : Andrei Bennett, Nicolette Bryan, Major Brandon Chambers, André Coore, Philip Cross, Alecia Darby, Shannon Grant, Kethania Griffiths, Shamoy Hajare, Kerry-Ann Heavens, Kerri-Ann Henry, Marlon James, Kemesha Kelly, Courtney Laidlaw, Monique Long, Sherriffa Monroe, Rainée Oliphant, Kahmile Reid, Kemar Richards, Monique Rose, Kimberly Sherlock, Dwayne Tucker, Theresa Wright, and Dr Sean Knowles (Bahamas).The scholars were selected based on their track record of leadership, solid academic achievements and their passion for assisting their country’s development.

British High Commissioner to Jamaica, David Fitton said “This is the highest number of Jamaicans to be awarded scholarships in one year. I am happy that we have been able to move our awards from 3 in 2013 to 23 in 2016. The increase is in keeping with a promise made by former Prime Minister David Cameron to double the Chevening allocation for the Commonwealth Caribbean during his visit to Jamaica last year. I know the scholars will have a wonderful time in the UK and will benefit significantly from this experience.”

The Chevening Secretariat is accepting applications for 2017/2018 Chevening Scholarships and some Chevening Fellowships via http://www.chevening.org/ You may apply from 8 August until 8 November 2016.

Chevening Scholarships are awarded to individuals with demonstrable leadership potential who also have strong academic backgrounds. The scholarship offers financial support to study for a master’s degree at any UK university and the opportunity to become part of an influential global network of 46,000 alumni.

Andrei Bennett, Chevening Scholar.

Andrei Bennett, Chevening Scholar.

Andrei Bennett is an Attorney-at-Law in private practice. Prior to transitioning to private practice, Andrei was a Procurement Practitioner employed by the Government of Jamaica. He has contributed to the public procurement reforms now being undertaken by the Government of Jamaica and is passionate about aligning Jamaica’s public Procurement functions with international best practices. He will be pursuing a Master of Laws (LLM) degree in Public Procurement Law and Strategy at Bangor University, Wales. Andrei plays music in his spare time.

Nicolette Bryan, Chevening Scholar.

Nicolette Bryan, Chevening Scholar.

Nicolette Bryan is a human and women’s rights advocate with a growing interest in policy and Sustainable Development. She is a University of the West Indies trained Social Worker who is employed as the Programme Officer in charge of youth and outreach at J-FLAG. She is also the Associate Director: Youth and Outreach at Women’s Empowerment for Change. Nicolette will be pursuing a Masters in Social and Public Policy at Cardiff University in Wales.

Major Brandon Chambers, Chevening Scholar.

Major Brandon Chambers, Chevening Scholar.

Major Brandon Chambers is currently serving as a pilot in the Jamaica Defence Force Air Wing. He will be pursuing a Master of Arts in Applied Security and Strategy at the University of Exeter.

Andre Coore, Chevening Scholar.

Andre Coore, Chevening Scholar.

André Coore is an Attorney-at-law at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and an Adjunct Tutor at the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, Mona. He will be pursuing a Master of Laws (LLM) in International Law at University College London. André believes that this will enable him to play a greater role in the continued reform and effective implementation of Jamaica’s trade and foreign policies in order to increase economic growth and development.

Phillip Cross, Chevening Scholar.

Philip Cross, Chevening Scholar.

Philip Cross is an Attorney-at-Law employed to the National Environment and Planning Agency. Philip will be pursuing a Master of Laws at University College London with a focus on International and Environmental Law. He hopes to address issues on biodiversity conservation and climate change affecting Jamaica. In his spare time he is an avid classical guitarist.

Alecia Darby, Chevening Scholar.

Alecia Darby, Chevening Scholar.

Alecia Darby is currently employed to the Independent Commission of Investigations as a Chief Investigator. She will be pursuing a Master of Arts in Applied Security Strategy at the University of Exeter. Alecia enjoys the visual and performing arts, sports, reading, writing, and sewing.

Shannon Grant, Chevening Scholar.

Shannon Grant, Chevening Scholar.

Shannon Grant is employed to Nestlé Jamaica as a part-time Senior Nutrition Advisor. She is also a Lieutenant in the Jamaica Combined Cadet Force. She will be pursuing a MSc. in Human Nutrition at the University of Aberdeen.

Kethania Griffiths, Chevening Scholar.

Kethania Griffiths, Chevening Scholar.

Kethania Griffiths is a Research Assistant in the Office of Social Entrepreneurship, Mona School of Business and Management, UWI. She will be pursuing a MA in Social Entrepreneurship at Goldsmith’s College, University of London. Kethania is happy for the opportunity to pursue an area which is a driving force for social and economic development in Jamaica.

Shamoy Hajare, Chevening Scholar.

Shamoy Hajare, Chevening Scholar.

Shamoy Hajare is the CEO at Jamaica School for Social Entrepreneurship (JSSE). She is internationally known for her work in youth and community development and is this year’s Commonwealth Young Person of the Year for the Caribbean and Canada region. Shamoy will be pursuing a Master’s in Environment and Sustainable Development at University College London.

Kerry-Ann Heavens, Chevening Scholar.

Kerry-Ann Heavens, Chevening Scholar.

Kerry-Ann Heavens is an Associate at the law firm, Myers, Fletcher & Gordon (MFG) where she practices in the Commercial Department. She will be pursuing a Masters of Corporate Law at the University of Cambridge. Kerry-Ann has a keen interest in entrepreneurial development and believes that a robust venture capital industry has the potential to stimulate growth through the financing of emerging enterprises. Upon completion of her studies, she aspires to make meaningful contribution to, among other things, the enactment of laws that will improve Jamaica’s business environment.

Kerri-Ann Henry, Chevening Scholar.

Kerri-Ann Henry, Chevening Scholar.

Kerri-Ann Henry is a consultant (short term) to the World Bank. She previously worked in the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM). She will be pursuing an M.Sc in Earthquake Engineering with Disaster Management at the University College of London. Her most noted achievement is the application of the Rapid Visual Screening Methodology which has contributed to shaping policy for Seismic Readiness. She is a graduate of the University of Technology, Jamaica with a Bachelor’s in Construction Engineering Management.

Police Inspector Marlon James, Chevening Scholar.

Police Inspector Marlon James, Chevening Scholar.

Marlon James is a Police Inspector attached to the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (M.O.CA.). He has been a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force for the past 17 years. Marlon will be pursing an MA in Security and International Law at the University of Manchester. His main areas of interests are security, international relations, international law and Politics.

 

Kemesha Kelly, Chevening Scholar.

Kemesha Kelly, Chevening Scholar.

Kemesha Kelly is a trained youth advocate and motivational speaker. She has worked as Programme Manager and Consultant at Digicel Foundation and in the Youth and Adolescent Policy Division of the Ministry of Youth. She has served on government boards and represented Jamaica at numerous regional and international fora. She is a graduate of the University of the West Indies and a former Miss Jamaica Festival Queen. Kemesha will be pursuing a Master of Arts in Social Policy at the University of York.

Courtney Laidlaw, Chevening Scholar.

Courtney Laidlaw, Chevening Scholar.

Courtney Laidlaw is currently employed to the Ministry of Transport and Mining, Government of Jamaica. He will be pursuing a Master’s degree in Infrastructure Engineering and Management at the University of Surrey.

Monique Long, Chevening Scholar.

Monique Long, Chevening Scholar.

Monique Long is an Attorney-at-Law and youth and human rights advocate. She has managed the Policy and Advocacy portfolio at Equality for All Foundation and acts as the Executive Director of the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network. As a local and international advocate, she has influenced policy and advocacy positions for youth, women and other vulnerable groups on a national and global scale.

Monique will pursue her Master of Laws Degree at Queen Mary University of London.

Sheriffa Munroe, Chevening Scholar.

Sherriffa Monroe, Chevening Scholar.

Sherriffa Monroe is an Acting Senior Bank examiner at the Bank of Jamaica. She will be pursuing a MSc. in Economics and Finance at the University of Bristol. She is keen on promoting financial literacy and financial inclusion as essentials to Jamaica’s economic health and development. She is also a passionate youth advocate who enjoys mentorship and outreach activities.

Rainee Oliphant, Chevening Scholar.

Rainee Oliphant, Chevening Scholar.

Rainee Oliphant is the Senior Legal Officer in the Forestry Department of Jamaica and Head of its Legal and Enforcement Division. She has held this position since 2009 and oversees the Agency’s regulatory and legislative framework. Ms. Oliphant’s pursuit of a Master of Science in Climate Change and Environmental Policy at the University of Leeds will significantly increase her capacity to contribute to the development of the island’s policy agenda.

Kahmile Reid, Chevening Scholar.

Kahmile Reid, Chevening Scholar.

Kahmile Reid is the Senior Public Relations Officer at the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM). Her interests lie in the areas of philosophy and communication; she believes effective communication is achieved when parties engage in empathetic listening and apply critical thinking. She will be pursuing a Master of Arts Degree in International Public Relations and Global Communication Management at Cardiff University.

Kemar Richards, Chevening Scholar.

Kemar Richards, Chevening Scholar.

Kemar Richards is a Senior Analytical and Policy Officer at Bank of Jamaica. Kemar will be pursuing a Master of Laws (LLM) in International Banking and Finance Law at University College London. He has worked on projects geared towards enhancing the country’s legal financial architecture including the development of Jamaica’s Agent Banking framework.  Whilst at the central bank, he has also served in other capacities in the sphere of financial sector regulation and supervision. Kemar has a diverse academic background, holding Honours degrees in Actuarial Science as well as Law from the University of the West Indies and the University of London respectively.

Monique Rose, Chevening Scholar.

Monique Rose, Chevening Scholar.

Monique Rose is a project architect in the private sector. She will be pursuing a Masters in Environment and Sustainable Development at the University College London. Monique plans to use her background in the built environment to become an advocate for the country’s sustainable development.

Kimberly Sherlock, Chevening Scholar.

Kimberly Sherlock, Chevening Scholar.

Kimberly Sherlock has a passion for national development and believes that the inclusion of persons with disabilities is critical for sustainable development to truly be achieved. She will be pursuing a Master of Science in international Development with specific focus on Poverty, Inequality and Development at the University of Birmingham. She is founder of the Bloom Foundation for Education, providing support to educational programmes for children with disabilities. Kimberley is also the Director of Social Services at the Jamaica Association for the Deaf.

Dwayne Tucker, Chevening Scholar.

Dwayne Tucker, Chevening Scholar.

Dwayne Tucker is a senior medical technologist in the Department of Pathology at University of the West Indies Mona. He will be pursuing an MSc in Oncology at the University of Nottingham. Dwayne is keen on cancer research and plans to focus on diversifying the laboratory diagnostic techniques available for cancer in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

Theresa Wright, Chevening Scholar.

Theresa Wright, Chevening Scholar.

Theresa Wright has been an active member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) for fourteen years. She is assigned to the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) where she has been a Crime and Intelligence Analyst for over ten years. She will be pursuing a Master of Arts Degree in International Relations (Security) at the University of Birmingham. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Management Studies from the Northern Caribbean University. She is passionate about having a positive impact on the Law Enforcement efforts in Jamaica.

Dr. Sean L. Knowles, Chevening Scholar.

Dr. Sean L. Knowles, Chevening Scholar.

Dr Sean L. Knowles is a graduate of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Jamaica. He currently works in the Department of Psychiatry at Sandiland’s Rehabilitation Centre in Nassau. Dr Knowles will pursue studies in the Immunology of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. His goal is to be an infectious disease and mental health expert in The Bahamas and throughout the Caribbean. In his spare time, Sean enjoys traveling, weight-lifting, jogging, socializing, and watching movies with his family.

Take a Moment to Remember…International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition

This is the theme for the UN's remembrance for 2016.
This is the theme for the UN's remembrance for 2016.

This just dropped into my inbox from the ever-diligent Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, to remind us all of the observance of a very important day for all Jamaicans – and for all citizens of those countries over whom the shadow of slavery fell. This is a very well-written message. The themes of resilience and the never-ending “good versus evil” narrative, as well as the importance of human rights for all – all are as relevant as ever in 2016.

By the way, I just found an interesting piece of Jamaican history on line that is worth reading to remind ourselves: http://www.victorianweb.org/history/empire/westindies/jamaica.html  You can also find much more information on this special day at the UN website here – including updates on activities, materials etc. Tomorrow (August 23) is the actual day the UN observes. Please also note UNESCO’s special project, The Slave Route: 1994 – 2014 – The Road Travelled, which is an important update on the topic of slavery. You can find more details and graphics on the Facebook page and find information on Twitter @rememberslavery.

So, let us take a moment to reflect today.

A simple stone memorial and plaque at Seville Great House in St. Ann. (My photo)

A simple stone memorial and plaque at Seville Great House in St. Ann. (My photo)

MESSAGE: INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE REMEMBRANCE OF THE SLAVE TRADE AND ITS ABOLITION

(MFA&FT Kingston: August 22, 2016)

Jamaica joins the international community in observing the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. Today’s observance of this historic event provides an opportunity for sober reflection on the triumph of good over evil, as well as the strength and determination of an enslaved people to survive despite the odds. This occasion also compels us to not take for granted the freedom which is now a part of our individual and collective existence, gained at such monumental expense. The events of 22-23 August 1791, played a pivotal role in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, as it signifies the victory of the enslaved over oppression and domination, and remain a symbol of hope and determination for the global community of nations.

Jamaica has consistently championed the remembrance of slavery and the slave trade, a cause that has been immortalised through the erection of a Permanent Memorial in honour of the victims of these crimes, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. It is our hope that additional efforts to recognise or correct the historic injustices committed against people of African Descent will be undertaken during the International Decade for People of African Descent which is being observed from 2015 to 2024.

In commemorating the abolition of the slave trade, we cannot ignore the fact that many persons around the world have become victims of modern day slavery and human trafficking. Our ancestors paid a heavy price to curtail the trafficking of human beings over two centuries ago. The Government of Jamaica is, therefore, committed to ensuring that this scourge does not take root in our society, and will continue to collaborate with local and international partners to this end.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade invites all Jamaicans to take a moment to remember and honour our ancestors who fought against all odds to dismantle the inhumane system of slavery and the trade in Africans. Their resilience and indomitable spirit have left us with an enduring legacy of perseverance, the resolve to be the masters of our own destiny, and the courage to ensure that trafficking in human beings is confined to the annals of human history.

Contact: Ann-Margaret Lim; tel: 564-4241

UNESCO has embarked on an international project called The Slave Route, which according to Director General Irina Bokova "intends to find in this collective memory the strength to build a better world and to show the historical and moral connections that unite different peoples." (Graphic: Facebook)

UNESCO has embarked on an international project called The Slave Route, which according to Director General Irina Bokova “intends to find in this collective memory the strength to build a better world and to show the historical and moral connections that unite different peoples.” (Graphic: Facebook)

 

 

Rolling Jamaica’s Economic Cricket Pitch, Hit and Run Sadness, and Awesome Vets: Sunday, August 21, 2016

It's a little late to wish our superb sprinting hero Usain Bolt a happy 30th birthday! But let us do it, anyway…This meme is 3 years old actually, but I like it...
It's a little late to wish our superb sprinting hero Usain Bolt a happy 30th birthday! But let us do it, anyway…This meme is 3 years old actually, but I like it...

Yes, it’s been a while… But you know how it is. I have been very busy with one or two projects, while trying to fit them in with the Olympics. To be honest, I have been missing out on the news quite a bit. Oh, and did I mention the heat? I know. Excuses, excuses… So I know there are more stories out there (including our dismal examination results in Maths) but will try to catch up a bit more in the next post.

IMF Mission Chief Dr. Uma Ramakrishnan wants to see stronger growth and job creation. (Photo: IMF)

IMF Mission Chief Dr. Uma Ramakrishnan wants to see stronger growth and job creation. (Photo: IMF)

Jamaica passes its 13th IMF Review: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) paid one of its regular visits recently. The Chief of Mission, Dr. Uma Ramakrishnan notes that the drawdown of US$40 million will be considered by the IMF’s Executive Board and is “tentatively scheduled for September 2016.” The team is concerned about high unemployment (officially at 13.7 per cent) and the need for a stronger “social safety net” but says growth is taking place gradually. Obviously, though, there is much work to be done. The Extended Fund Facility for Jamaica ends in April 2017. One suspects a new one may be negotiated and is already being discussed. The Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) also sees lots of good indicators, with Mr. Byles saying that it is a “very good cricket pitch” for investors to play on. If they want to play cricket, that is. However, Mr. Byles says we should not become complacent – our debt to GDP ratio is far too high and there is a $16 billion gap that must be filled – hopefully without heavy taxation, although new taxes are “probably very likely,” says Mr. Byles.

Christopher Tufton, Minister of Health, is still urging us to ward off those mosquitoes, bearers of the Zika Virus. It seems to have spread from the Kingston/St. Catherine area now to the north coast. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

Christopher Tufton, Minister of Health, is still urging us to ward off those mosquitoes, bearers of the Zika Virus. It seems to have spread from the Kingston/St. Catherine area now to the north coast. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

Pregnant women with Zik V: The Health Ministry says it is closely monitoring pregnant women who have had the Zika virus and who are due to give birth in September and afterwards. The first pregnant woman to be diagnosed with the Zika Virus was in January, so now is the time. An “expert group” has been identified to deal with any possible cases of microcephaly from these births (can’t these be identified from ultrasounds though?)

Distressing “hit and run” murders: Recently, two police officers have been killed by “hit and run” drivers. Inspector Mark Gibbs was knocked down by a car that he had motioned to stop on the road in Clarks Town, Trelawny. The car has since been found and a man is in custody. A similar thing happened to Police Constable Mark Rose of the Mobile Reserve Division on Job’s Lane, Spanish Town on August 12. What unbelievable cruelty and cowardice.

West Kingston is restive: Gangs have been busy in the Denham Town, Lincoln Crescent, Havana, and Tivoli Gardens areas – not good news. There were roadblocks downtown in the area of Darling Street and Spanish Town Road over the weekend, and police warned us to avoid the area.

What’s happening with agro parks? Opposition Spokesman on Agriculture Dr. Dayton Campbell would like to know. He points out that nine agro-parks were established under the PNP administration and that the sector grew by 13 per cent, with 4,000 acres in production. Dr. Campbell asked some pointed questions on Twitter, and we shall see what the response is.

INDECOM is not impressed…nor am I: The Independent Commission of Investigations has reported a 20 per cent increase in police killings, after declines in the past two years (last year was 99 citizens killed by agents of the State). INDECOM also noted the continuous stream of abuses by the police – unlawful entry into people’s homes without warrants, gun salutes at events where the police are present, and other activities. When is the Jamaica Constabulary Force going to pull itself together? I am very glad to know, however, that the Prime Minister and Derrick Smith, Minister Without Portfolio who is a previous National Security Minister, both asserted that INDECOM is not going anywhere.“The administration gives INDECOM its full support and we appeal to all parties involved to respect each other’s authority. INDECOM is here to stay, so a way has to be found for all to coexist,” said Minister Smith on August 14.

Former Assistant Commissioner of Police Les Green. (Photo: Gleaner)

Former Assistant Commissioner of Police Les Green. (Photo: Gleaner)

There’s a dark cloud hovering with the publication of an article in the Miami Herald about a certain politician (our newspapers won’t name him, for fear of lawsuits). Former Assistant Police Commissioner Les Green – one of those seconded from the British, and a rather surly fellow I always thought – told the Herald that he had been investigating said politician for trying to arrange two murders, back in 2011. He also said Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn had been unwilling to prosecute. So now he and the DPP are in a bit of a tit for tat over it all, with the DPP claiming that he could have gone ahead and made an arrest on his own and Green saying, well he would have preferred a “comprehensive prosecution strategy,” that it was complicated, etc. Nothing will come of all this, I’d say.

“Playing politics”: Well, isn’t that what politicians do? Anyway, these are the words of Opposition Spokesman on Finance Peter Phillips (who appears to be the People’s National Party (PNP) campaign manager again, too). He is uncomfortable with the Holness administration’s pursuit of several PNP-dominated parish councils in recent weeks – files being taken away, nervous employees and so on. Both parties seem a little edgy about local government elections; the date has not been announced yet. Will they take place before the end of the year? One would think so. In general, there are a lot of mixed signals coming out of the PNP. I haven’t made the effort yet to try to decode them.

kudos!

Mr. Barry Beckford, Life Vice President of RAFA Jamaica (580) Branch, gives the Exhortation, while Major (Retired) Johanna Lewin, Chair of RAFA Jamaica joins in. (My photo)

Mr. Barry Beckford, Life Vice President of RAFA Jamaica (580) Branch, gives the Exhortation, while Major (Retired) Johanna Lewin, Chair of RAFA Jamaica joins in, at the 70th Anniversary Exhibition and Awards Ceremony last week. (My photo)

  • The Royal Air Forces Association Jamaica 580 Branch celebrated its 70th Anniversary last week with an awards ceremony and the opening of a special exhibition. It was a wonderful event. I will be writing more about it. Congratulations to all who worked hard to put it together. The Military Band was fabulous, playing old-fashioned tunes that reminded me of my parents (all the older members of my family served in World War II). I have the small book of memoirs by Jamaican veteran James Ferguson, published by Valerie Facey, that was launched that evening, and will be reviewing it soon. Mr. Ferguson told the Jamaica Information Service: “War disgusts me; it makes me want to cry. I don’t like it; wars should be stopped. It is the worst thing that could happen to the human race and the quicker it stops, is the better for all of us.” Well said.
Senior Director, Youth and Adolescent Policy Division in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Michelle Small Bartley (left), and Director, Sub-Regional Office, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Sheila Roseau (right), share a photo opportunity with the top performers in the International Youth Day photo and video competition. They are (from left) Leneka Rhoden, who placed second; Toni-Kay Bromfield, who placed third; and winner Jason Whyte. (Photo: JIS)

Senior Director, Youth and Adolescent Policy Division in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Michelle Small Bartley (left), and Director, Sub-Regional Office, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Sheila Roseau (right), with the top performers in the International Youth Day photo and video competition: (from left) Leneka Rhoden, who placed second; Toni-Kay Bromfield, who placed third; and winner Jason Whyte. (Photo: JIS)

  • There was quite a lot of activity for International Youth Day (August 12) this year. Many congratulations to the three winners of the UNFPA’s photo and video competition under the theme The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Poverty Reduction. You can see the winning entries (Jason Whyte of the Clarendon Youth Information Centre came first) here.
Professor Rosalea Hamilton of Fi Wi Jamaica at a recent public forum in partnership with 51% Coalition. (My photo)

Professor Rosalea Hamilton of Fi Wi Jamaica at a recent public forum in partnership with 51% Coalition. (My photo)

  • Special kudos to UTech’s Professor Rosalea Hamilton, Project Director of Fi Wi Jamaica, which is actively engaged in public education about domestic and intimate partner violence. The project also seeks to empower women and girls through training, with several partners including the 51% Coalition, Social Development Commission and others. Fi Wi Jamaica is really doing good work. Read this great article by Professor Hamilton here.
Here's the Jamaica National Youth Team from Ardenne, Camperdown, Calabar, KC, GC Foster, Excelsior and George's College, at the Breds Foundation's basketball camp. (Photo: Twitter)

Here’s the Jamaica National Youth Team from Ardenne, Camperdown, Calabar, KC, GC Foster, Excelsior and George’s College, at the Breds Foundation’s basketball camp. (Photo: Twitter)

  • Lots of good things have been happening around the island over the summer. The Philadelphia Mans Basketball League visited Treasure Beach in St. Elizabeth and held a basketball camp for over 500 children, followed by a tournament, at Breds Sports Park. This was in partnership with the awesome Breds Foundation headed by Jason Henzell, who is a real “community person.” Congratulations to all! Follow @BredsFoundation on Twitter for more photos.

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  • The Early Childhood Commission is holding a Certification Fair for Early Childhood Institutions – teachers, practitioners, parents etc. – on Friday, August 26 at Jamaica College. Please share this information! It will be back to school time soon…
  • New shoes needed! And talking of back to school, the National Youth Service launched a shoe drive recently, to collect new shoes for children in needy communities and homes. They hope to collect about 2,000 pairs. Deadline is August 26! 

My last news update was on August 6 – Independence Day. During that time, the following Jamaicans have been murdered. Yes, it is a long and sad list. I wonder why I actually do this – but I just want people to know that, in the last two weeks while we have been watching the Olympics, this trauma and suffering has continued. My condolences to all the families.

Earl Reid, 40, Pink Lane, Kingston

Unidentified man, Orange Street, Kingston

Kenardo Hutchinson, 22, Lincoln Crescent, Kingston

Odane Abbot, 23, Lincoln Crescent, Kingston

Morais Harris, 35, Lincoln Crescent, Kingston

Omar Spaulding, 33, Pembroke Hall, Kingston

Alvin Brown, 28, Coronation Market, Kingston

Unidentified man, Hellshire, St. Catherine

“Craig,” Bog Walk, St. Catherine

Elaine Richards, 51, Old Harbour, St. Catherine

Rohan Daley, 49, Old Harbour, St. Catherine

Shemar Plummer, 29, Freetown, Clarendon

Jason McLeod, 33, Palmer’s Cross, Clarendon

Rohan Stevens, 28, Palmers Cross, Clarendon (killed by police)

Opal Rochester-Shand, 43, Milk River, Clarendon

James Stephenson, 22, Lionel Town, Clarendon

Cleon McLean, Four Paths, Clarendon

Durahno Bartley, Gloucester Avenue, Montego Bay, St. James

Bobby Solomon, Gloucester Avenue, Montego Bay, St. James

Richard Williams, Bogue Village, St. James

Comair Elliot, 24, Peel Street, Falmouth, Trelawny

Henry 36, Cedar Grove, Manchester

Alonzo Reynolds, 38, Highgate, St. Mary

Conrad Kenton, 72, Yallahs, St. Thomas

Nicholas Murray, 21, Buff Bay, Portland (killed by police)

 

Inspector Mark Gibbs, 52, was conducting a "spot check" outside Clark's Town Police Station when he was hit down and killed by the driver, who refused to stop. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Inspector Mark Gibbs, 52, was conducting a “spot check” outside Clark’s Town Police Station when he was hit down and killed by the driver, who refused to stop. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Environment Stories: Trash Free Waters, Manatees and the Oldest Tree in Europe: Sunday, August 21, 2016

Another mystery photo: Do you know what these are? What do they remind you of? NOTE: They are not found in the Caribbean… (Photo: Daily Mail)
Another mystery photo: Do you know what these are? What do they remind you of? NOTE: They are not found in the Caribbean… (Photo: Daily Mail)

Here are the week’s highlights, carefully selected by me! I hope you find them useful. Click on the underlined words and you will find the links to articles. Feedback is welcome!

Jamaica and the Caribbean

Acting Country Director of the U.S. Peace Corps, Mr. George Like, speaks at the launch of the Trash Free Waters Initiative at NEPA offices last week. The Peace Corps has over 30 volunteers working in the environmental field in Jamaica. (My photo)

Acting Country Director of the U.S. Peace Corps, Mr. George Like, speaks at the launch of the Trash Free Waters Initiative at NEPA offices last week. The Peace Corps has over 30 volunteers working in the environmental field in Jamaica. (My photo)

Trash Free Waters: The Trash Free Waters Initiative was launched on August 18 at the offices of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA). There’s a great website here. The  launch was a friendly affair, attended by government officials, NGO representatives and members of the media. This is very much a collaborative effort, with funding from the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and support from the Jamaican Government, the United Nations Environment Programme, NEPA and the U.S. Peace Corps. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Ambassador Sheila Sealy Monteith officially launched the Initiative/ UNEP’s Christopher Corbin and others noted that this was not a “reinvent the wheel” project, but rather building on local efforts across the island – with an emphasis on prevention of littering. Diana McCaulay, CEO of Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), informed the meeting that the Tourism Ministry’s Clean Coasts Initiative has been discontinued – which is a huge shame. This is one of the most pressing environmental issues in Jamaica; we need all hands on deck.

Gentle giant: West Indian Manatees are up to 13 feet long and weigh as much as 1,300 pounds. They are mammals, and they are not aggressive creatures. (Photo: National Geographic)

Gentle giant: West Indian Manatees are up to 13 feet long and weigh as much as 1,300 pounds. They are mammals, and they are not aggressive creatures. (Photo: National Geographic)

West Indian Manatees (Trichechus manatus) are now quite rare. I believe there are only a few in the waters around Jamaica and they were hunted to extinction in the French Caribbean over 100 years ago. Now two “sea cows” have been imported all the way from Singapore to Guadeloupe. The male and female are now safely installed in Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin, a 37,000-acre protected bay. Over the next five years, 13 more manatees will join them (mostly females), from zoos around the world. The West Indian Manatee can live in fresh, brackish, and saline water. It is threatened by loss of habitat, poaching, entanglement with fishing gear, and being hit by boats.

Climate risk atlas to be ready by year-end: The Planning Institute of Jamaica will have a Climate Risk Atlas for Jamaica ready by year-end. While the Negril breakwater project has been shelved, the Atlas is another component of the Adaptation Fund’s support, to the tune of US$785,500 under the Improving Institutional and Local Level Capacity for Coastal and Agricultural Adaptation and Awareness Raising for Behaviour Modification project. It will help planners and developers to determine possible risks due to climate change.

Climate Change Division head Albert Daley, speaking at a training session last year. Seated is Judith Wedderburn, formerly of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES). (My photo)

Climate Change Division head Albert Daley, speaking at a training session last year. Mr. Daley has now retired. Seated is Judith Wedderburn, formerly of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES). (My photo)

Albert Daley retires from Climate Change Division (CCD): Head of the CCD Mr. Albert Daley is retiring this month, after three years in the position. The former Senior Technical Officer Gerald Lindo also recently departed and is now at USAID. The Division has always been extremely small and now really needs a capacity boost. Mr. Daley notes,“The UNDP did a study and it basically said that ideally we needed about 20 persons at the very least.” Considering that it really only consisted of four or five members of staff at best, the Division has done the very best it can and has had some modest achievements.

Elevated view of Hanson’s Bay (Photo courtesy of Kevel Lindsay/Antigua Observer)

Elevated view of Hanson’s Bay (Photo courtesy of Kevel Lindsay/Antigua Observer)

Biologist calls on private landowners to help preserve Antigua’s landscape: Regional Biologist and Conservationist Kevel Lindsay (who has an interesting Facebook page called Wild Caribbean) has asked private landowners not to implement large-scale developments in ecologically sensitive areas of the island, but to go for “low impact, low footprint development” instead. A number of areas that are privately owned could still be designated as protected areas if there are incentives for the owners to practice conservation measures, Linsday maintains. He is particularly concerned about the the Sleeping Hill-Saddle Hill, Hanson’s Bay, Yorks Extension and Sutherlands areas.

The Rest of the World

A jellyfish & a plastic cup cover – which is which? It’s easy to see how a sea turtle could get confused and accidentally swallow plastic. (Photo by Mike Davenport)

A jellyfish & a plastic cup cover – which is which? It’s easy to see how a sea turtle could get confused and accidentally swallow plastic. (Photo by Mike Davenport)

I follow the blog of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. A recent post focuses on the impact of plastic pollution on our wildlife, and this photo illustrates how extremely similar a plastic cup lid is to a jellyfish is quite telling. The blog post reminds members of the public to take care not to make the problem a lot worse.

The $290 million, 30 MW wind farm off the coast of Block Island is quite small compared to European wind farms. (Photo: fastcoexist.com)

The $290 million, 30 MW wind farm off the coast of Block Island is quite small compared to European wind farms. (Photo: fastcoexist.com)

It has taken a while, but America’s first offshore wind farm is almost complete.  The Block Island Wind Farm, a five-turbine, 30 MW  project built by Deepwater Wind, is very small-scale compared to most European projects (90 per cent of all offshore wind projects are in Europe, providing 11 gigawatts of power). But it will likely open the door to more and larger projects along the U.S. east coast.

Is climate change making our beaches saltier? A recent study in Delaware Bay in the United States suggests that the water at high tide on our beaches may be becoming more saline, probably because of evaporation due to climate change. This will likely drive away crabs and other small creatures that live along the water’s edge. This may also have implications for freshwater along our coastlines.

A prayer vigil held recently at Kyaik Monastery, in Kyaikmayaw, Myanmar to protest a proposed coal-fired power plant. (Photo: MNA/Mon Htaw)

A prayer vigil held recently at Kyaik Monastery, in Kyaikmayaw, Myanmar to protest a proposed coal-fired power plant. (Photo: MNA/Mon Htaw)

Burmese town protests proposed coal-fired power plantOver 800 residents and monks held a vigil at a local monastery recently against a proposed 40 MW coal-fired power plant to power a cement factory in the area. Nearly 4,000 villagers also sent a petition to the President and local officials. Mawlamyine Cement Limited never gave them any information on the project, they say.

Think of all the history this tree has lived through… a Bosnian Pine, which is 1,075 years old. (Photo: Dr. Oliver Konter, Mainz)

Think of all the history this tree has lived through… a Bosnian Pine, which is 1,075 years old. (Photo: Dr. Oliver Konter, Mainz)

The oldest tree in Europe: Scientists have discovered what they say is the oldest tree in Europe. It’s at least 1,075 years old and it is a Bosnian Pine, found in the Pindus Mountains of northern Greece.  The scientists have called it Adonis, after the Greek god of beauty.

Rio Olympics 2016: Things I Will and Will Not Miss

Jamaicans celebrate the 4 x 100 metro men's relay win last night in Half Way Tree, Kingston, where a big screen was set up. (Photo: Neville Charlton/Twitter)
Jamaicans celebrate the 4 x 100 metro men's relay win last night in Half Way Tree, Kingston, where a big screen was set up. (Photo: Neville Charlton/Twitter)

I was greatly looking forward to the Rio Olympics. As expected, it has been a wonderful escape from the grinding heat of the Jamaican summer and an excuse to stay at home on the couch with cups of tea. But now I feel I have had enough. I want to get back to sports-free days – apart from the English Premier League’s new season, which has just got under way. Go Gunners!

Looking back at the Games – the media coverage, the social media – I realize there are things I did really enjoy, and others I didn’t. Here’s my quick list of likes and dislikes:

The positives:

The beautiful energy of the host city and its people, the Cariocas. I spent one week in Rio a few years back, and would love to return and explore some more. There was so much negative publicity (the Zika virus, etc) ahead of the Games, but much of it seems to have evaporated as the events progressed.

Dusk descends on the new mural depicting members of the Olympic Refugee Team. (Photo: Getty Images)

Dusk descends on the new mural depicting members of the Olympic Refugee Team. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Refugee Team: When they appeared at the Opening Ceremony, there was a lump in my throat. The team of six men and four women includes athletes competing in swimming, judo and athletics. Five are from South Sudan, two from Syria, two from the Democratic Republic of Congo and one from Ethiopia. To commemorate their presence in Rio, Brazilian artists have painted a beautiful portrait of each one of them on the wall of the Olympic Boulevard. As artist Rodrigo Sini said: There is no medal that justifies the pleasure or the weight each of them carries, for the story each of them has, for the determination and courage they all had when they had to abandon their home countries to restart their lives somewhere else.”

Nimble Ms. Simone Biles.

Nimble Ms. Simone Biles.

A Bahamian baton change. What speed! (Photo: Twitter)

A Bahamian baton change. What speed! (Photo: Twitter)

The beautiful bodies: Well, hammer throwers aren’t exactly svelte, but still impressive in their own way. There were nimble gymnasts; slender divers (I got a rather perverse thrill watching them showering afterwards); the strong, graceful underwater movements of the swimmers; tall, slender high jumpers; and the sprinters’ muscle-packed physique. There was plenty to admire. A sort of ode to the human body, its power and symmetry. I was in awe of their skill, their coordination – and their beauty.

South African gold medalist Wayde van Niekerk and his mother

South African gold medalist Wayde van Niekerk and his mother Odessa Swarts – also a runner, who participated in non-racial, non-apartheid sport under the South African Council on Sport, but was not allowed to compete internationally.

The athletes themselves and their stories. I always find this the most inspiring part of the Olympics. These men and women have arrived from all over the world, carrying their personal stories with them. South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk broke the World Record in the men’s 400 metres and his mother Odessa Swarts was so proud of him; she was a world-class runner herself but was not able to compete under apartheid. There are so many others, of overcoming huge challenges and struggling to reach Rio.

Dislikes:

Tennis player Andy Murray wraps himself in the flag...

British tennis player Andy Murray wraps himself in the flag…

The persistent flag-waving – quite often accompanied by the “my country is better than yours” attitude – or even ” [Insert country name here] is the best country in the world! The Olympics is supposed to promote global peace and unity, but many supporters (especially those commenting online) don’t seem to have caught that spirit. I find excessive patriotism – including the dissing of individual athletes, who have worked their hearts out to get there – so unpleasant, wherever it is coming from.

Yulia Efimova of Russia in a preliminary heat in the 200-meter breaststroke. She had initially been banned but was given the go ahead to compete at Rio just before the Games started. (Photo:Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters)

Yulia Efimova of Russia in a preliminary heat in the 200-meter breaststroke. She had initially been banned but was given the go ahead to compete at Rio just before the Games started. (Photo:Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters)

The cloud of doping: This was hanging on the horizon even before the Games started. The New York Times reported that at least 120 athletes in Rio had prior suspensions for doping – from close to one third of the country delegations. Swimmer Yulia Efimova was booed whenever she competed. Justin Gatlin was also booed. It’s depressing, and complex, and it certainly detracts from the world of sports.

Gold medal winner Omar McLeod (centre) with Sports Minister Olivia Grange and Prime Minister Andrew Holness before his race in Rio. (Photo: Andrew Holness/Twitter)

Gold medal winner Omar McLeod (centre) with Sports Minister Olivia Grange and Prime Minister Andrew Holness before his race in Rio. (Photo: Andrew Holness/Twitter)

Random incidents of unpleasantness: One, the strange episode of the American swimmers, who apparently fabricated a robbery and have now brought themselves into disrepute and embarrassed the United States, their fellow competitors and the U.S. Olympic Committee. Secondly and on the local front, a single one-word tweet clouded the excitement over Omar McLeod’s emphatic gold medal in the 110 meters hurdles. Happily, this was swiftly dealt with, and celebrations could continue. Another one that left a bad taste in one’s mouth was Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby’s refusal to shake the hand of Israeli Or Sasson after a judo match. El Shehaby was sent home.

Residents of the Mangueira favela watch the Opening Ceremony from a rooftop. So near, and yet so far away. (Photo: Reuters)

Residents of the Mangueira favela watch the Opening Ceremony fireworks in the Maracana Stadium from a rooftop. So near, and yet so far away. (Photo: Reuters)

The social exclusion: It worried me to see acres of empty seats in the athletics stadium and other venues (which only appeared reasonably full when Usain Bolt was running). Were the tickets too expensive? If there were unsold seats, why not organize groups of local schoolchildren (some of whom may well be budding sportsmen/women), disabled persons and other groups who would not have the opportunity, to fill them? Photographs of residents of the poverty-stricken favelas looking down on the brilliantly lit stadium from their hillside made me sad. Ticket prices for the opening ceremony ranged from about $63 to $1,400. A minimum-wage worker in Brazil takes home around $55 a week.

Well then. Time to wrap up now. Time to go home, everyone. See you again, God’s willing, in 2020 in Tokyo. And let us all get back to “normal.”

The "Triple Triple" man, Usain Bolt. (Photo tweeted by Cristiano Ronaldo on Twitter)

The “Triple Triple” man, Usain Bolt. (Photo tweeted by Cristiano Ronaldo)

Yona Knight-Wisdome was so excited at reaching the semi-finals in the Olympics. He did SO well! (Photo: Twitter)

Yona Knight-Wisdome was so excited at reaching the semi-finals in the Olympics. He did SO well! (Photo: Twitter)

Congratulations to the marvelous Jamaican sprinter Elaine Thompson, the first woman to win the 100 meters and 200 meters gold medals for the first time in 28 years.

Congratulations to the marvelous Jamaican sprinter Elaine Thompson, the first woman to win the 100 meters and 200 meters gold medals for the first time in 28 years.

 

On World Humanitarian Day, The Pain and Grief in Aleppo: Guest Blog Post by Wayne Campbell

The image of Omran Daqneesh, rescued from the rubble of his apartment block in Aleppo, Syria after an air raid, has shocked the world. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
The image of Omran Daqneesh, rescued from the rubble of his apartment block in Aleppo, Syria after an air raid, has shocked the world. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

In the midst of our rejoicing over gold medals, I have seen social media posts that have torn at my heart. Today is World Humanitarian Day, and fellow blogger Wayne Campbell has encapsulated beautifully exactly how I feel. I am so glad he wrote this. Please share widely, and please share a thought for the innocent men, women and children who are suffering daily in Syria. Wayne has written two more articles on this topic on his excellent blog: http://wayaine.blogspot.com Thank you, Wayne, for your great writing!

These brave civilian volunteers (the "White Helmets") spend their days rescuing their fellow citizens from the rubble, or removing dead bodies.

These brave civilian volunteers (the “White Helmets”) spend their days rescuing their fellow citizens from the rubble, or removing dead bodies.

While many of us are glued to our television in the safety of our homes celebrating the successes of our athletes at the Rio Olympics, darkness and terror reign in a world not that far away where there is nothing to smile about. The haunting picture of a young bloodied Syrian boy rescued from a partially destroyed building in Aleppo has disturbed many of us. The image of a dazed looking boy, covered from head to toe in dust has been etched in our memories and will be with us for a long time. Disturbingly, 5 year old Omran Daqneesh has become the face of the suffering in Aleppo.

The beautiful Citadel of Aleppo at night, six years ago. People relaxing and enjoying the evening… (Photo: dianadarke.com)

The beautiful Citadel of Aleppo at night, six years ago. People relaxing and enjoying the evening…but those days are gone. The ancient heritage of the city is almost completely destroyed, and the citizens’ lifestyle – and several thousand lives – with it. (Photo: dianadarke.com)

The besieged city of Aleppo has more than 2 million people living there. The Syrian war gone on now for over five years and yet there is no end in sight. The United Nations (UN) has been unable to get both sides of the conflict to commit in guaranteeing safe passage for convoys with food and medicine to reach those who are suffering in a conflict which has displaced millions of Syrians and have contributed immensely to the international refugee crisis. The flouting of the rules of the Geneva Conventions by all warring parties is as inhumane as the death and destruction caused by the civil war in Syria.

The Geneva Conventions is a body of Public International Law, also known as the Humanitarian Law of Armed Conflicts, whose purpose is to provide minimum protections, standards of humane treatment and fundamental guarantees of respect to individuals who become victims of armed conflicts. It is rather disturbing that despite the many wars the world has witnessed we have not learned the lessons from armed conflicts. It is unfortunate that grown men, many of whom are refereed to global statesmen, have allowed their egos and pride to get in the way of them arriving at a solution for the humanitarian crisis.

Women and children are more at risk and vulnerable in times of war. Sadly, only a few days ago a hospital operated by the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Northern Yemen was bombed by a Saudi Arabia coalition killing a number of children. The United Nations certainly has its hands full as wars and rumours of wars are all across the planet. These international conflicts have frustrated the United Nation’s efforts to fulfill its humanitarian mandate while the images of the dying and injured continue to affect our psyche. It is obvious that diplomacy has failed to bring to an end the hostilities in Syria and elsewhere.

The world today is very much interconnected and what happens in one part of the world will ultimately have consequences for people thousands of miles away. What will it take to stir the collective consciousness of our global leaders into action? What will it take for the world to wake up and say enough is enough? Who will speak for the voiceless and most vulnerable? In the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

#Syria #Aleppo #WorldHumanitarianDay #UnitedNations #refugee #peace #humanrights #gender #GenevaConventions

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

waykam@yahoo.com

@WayneCamo

P.S. If you feel helpless, and want to help, the UK Guardian today listed the organizations that are helping Syrian families caught up in this terrible, seemingly unending conflict. Here is the link: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/19/shocked-by-the-image-of-the-syrian-boy-in-the-rubble-heres-how-to-help

Khaled Omar Harrah, a volunteer who saved many lives, was himself killed in an air strike on August 11. Two years ago, he rescued a small baby from the ruins of a building - a video which went viral at the time. (Photo: White Helmets)

Khaled Omar Harrah, a volunteer who saved many lives, was himself killed in an air strike on August 11. Two years ago, he rescued a small baby from the ruins of a building – a video which went viral at the time. (Photo: White Helmets)