As summer begins to wane and we enter the hurricane season, I am pausing to send solidarity and good wishes to our friends in Dominica, who have been overwhelmed by Tropical Storm Erika this week. As I write this there have been at least 20 deaths recorded and more are missing. The video footage and photographs of the raging floods are truly frightening. As for Jamaica, since the storm has dissipated, it is a pleasant blue-skied afternoon…with no rain in sight.
Stars in our eyes: As predicted, we are all thrilled to bits by the performances of our athletes at the World Championships in Beijing this week. It is a complete, delirious distraction from the stresses of life. We get up early (or, in my case, struggle out of bed) to watch live action, which buoys us through the day. In a week or two, the memories will be fading rapidly. Meanwhile, we enjoy the moment. But is sports supposed to unite us? I asked this question in my Gleaner blog this week. The link is here: http://gleanerblogs.com/socialimpact/?p=2878
West Kingston: A Twitter friend reminded me today that Denham Town in West Kingston is less than a couple of square miles in size, and yet some thirty of its residents have been killed (including women and children) this year. A fifteen-year-old girl was murdered there very recently, and it hardly caused a ripple in the news. What is it about this relatively small corner of our city that garners such indifference among the average Jamaican? I don’t get it. Is it discrimination, class bias or what?
Is Parliament still on holiday? I am wondering why there has not been a post-Cabinet press briefing for at least three or four weeks. Information Minister Senator Sandrea Falconer seems to be missing in action.
Up in the air: What is going on with the air traffic controllers – or rather, their equipment? There was a breakdown this week, just a few days after the ATCs had complained about their aging equipment. The Civil Aviation Authority denied that airspace was closed for 45 minutes on Wednesday, saying that a lightning strike had damaged one of its communication modules and a few flights had to be re-routed.
The Minister does a bit of a “U” turn: Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, whose emphatic rejection of children he described as “leggo beasts” has thought about it, changed his mind and apologized for using this expression. However, he seems to have gone a step further, claiming he is unaware of any gangs in schools (we have been hearing about this for years now). The man in charge of school security says violence in schools declined last year; he does not recall mentioning “gangs” to the media. The Permanent Secretary has chimed in, saying there are “a few groups of children who behave in a ‘gangsterish’ manner…” but no actual gangs. Don’t these people talk to each other? They are sounding confused.
I am ready. We are ready. Yes, we get the message: Using her best “tracing” voice, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller emphasized: “I am ready. We are ready, and I hope they are as ready as we are. If I say we are ready, then other people going start fret because indeed, we are ready.” OK, Labourites; you had better “start fret” now. Ready for what, you may ask? Have you been living under a rock? P.S. Opposition Leader Andrew Holness also says he’s “ready.”
Coconut water: I have a question. A friend posted an article about a firm in Thailand that produces pure, organically produced coconut water that also has a good shelf life, which has been certified as “fair trade,” by the USDA, etc. Just simple coconut water. As I look around, I see coconut trees everywhere in Jamaica. Why couldn’t we do something like this, for export, perhaps with another natural, plentiful product? It is beautifully packaged and well marketed. Go to: http://www.harmlessharvest.com to read more about how they did it. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but… We need to stop making excuses. And yes, I know about the coconut yellowing disease…
The tragic deaths of two bright young people: O’Shane Reid and Shanice Simmonds died on Wednesday night in St. Ann, after their car crashed into a coaster bus traveling in the opposite direction. Strangely, both newspapers focused entirely on Mr. Reid, and not his girlfriend, about whom very little information was given – except that she was about to graduate from the University of the West Indies, where Mr. Reid was pursuing his Master’s degree. Meanwhile, their fellow students are in shock. My deepest sympathies to the couple’s friends and families. In the midst of life…
Speaking of road deaths, no less than 71 motorbike riders have died this year, as of August 22. This is insane; last year 36 bikers died in the same period. When you are on the road you see very few wearing crash helmets, a legal requirement. When are the police going to actually enforce this law? Don’t these bike riders know that they are unlikely to survive a crash without a helmet – why do they take such risks? Are there proper driving tests or are bike riders regulated in any way? They are now rivaling robot taxi drivers for crazy behavior on the road, overtaking lines of traffic and so on. It’s really sad, and frightening.
In flight fight: A fight broke out between two women when a Jet Blue flight from Kingston arrived at John F Kennedy Airport on Wednesday morning. One woman produced an eyebrow razor and the other pepper spray! A few other passengers were injured. How did these passengers get on the plane with prohibited items in their carry-on luggage? The Norman Manley International Airport is investigating – as well it should.
Policemen to be charged with murder: The Coroner’s Court has ruled that two policemen be charged with the murders of Winston Malcolm Senior and son Winston Malcolm Junior in Spanish Town in 2007. The case has been monitored by Jamaicans for Justice. One of the policemen, Constable Malica Reid, is also charged with the murder of a guest house operator in Negril in 2010; that trial has not yet begun. The wheels of justice turn mighty slowly.
Oh! Remember Outameni? It’s going up for sale! More on this anon…
Hackathon? Well, not quite… The Ministry of Youth and Culture invited young people (entrepreneurs etc) to attend a “hackathon” with Finance Minister Peter Phillips, so that they could understand what was going on in Jamaica’s economy. It turned out to be more of a forum/town hall meeting than anything else. Local tech guru Ingrid Riley gave us her definition of a hackathon: “A hackathon is an event in which computer programmers, graphic designers, UI designers etc collaborate intensively on a software project.” I don’t think much technological activity of any kind took place, but there was quite a bit of live tweeting going on, if that counts. The basic idea was a good one; a good first try at something interesting.
So much praise for:
- Our athletes, of course: Medalists Nickel Ashmeade, Usain Bolt, Veronica Campbell Brown, Nesta Carter, Shericka Jackson, Natasha Morrison, Hansle Parchment, Asafa Powell, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, O’dayne Richards, Elaine Thompson and Danielle Williams. And all the amazing, hard-working athletes who competed and gave of their best. Well done, all!
- Just prior to our high-profile sportsmen and women doing so well in Beijing, our amazing Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson was chalking up another medal-winning performance. Big ups to her! The Texas-based Alia is doing better and better.
- Then there was Jamaica’s win at the Caribbean Senior Squash Championships. Jamaica fielded a strong men’s team, which came out on top for the first time in a decade! Congratulations, team…
- And our young chess players! Jamaica recently won at the Central American and Caribbean Youth Chess Festival in Trinidad and Tobago from August 14 to 19, becoming the first English-speaking country to win this prestigious annual chess tournament.
- National Bakery Limited, whose contribution to the Crayons Count initiative in Jamaica has been extraordinary over the past three years (going into four). The company just launched its National Baking Company Foundation and I will be writing more about this; but would like to especially “big up” Mr. Gary “Butch” Hendrickson, patron of the Foundation, for his remarkable generosity. This is corporate commitment to education and development at its very best!
- WMW Jamaica, which continues its #IAmaPowHERhouse leadership training with a vibrant group of young women leaders of varying ages. I am looking forward to talking to this group about blogging and online activism next week.
- Fifty inmates at three of our correctional institutions (Tower Street, St. Catherine and Fort Augusta), who did amazingly well at their CSEC examinations this year with very high pass rates in Mathematics, English, Social Studies and Human and Social Biology. Special kudos to the non-governmental organization Stand Up for Jamaica, which works in the prisons, and the European Union for providing support and funding.
I do not understand why so little attention is being paid to our continually soaring murder rate, and the cause/s or impact it is having in several communities. What is happening in Clarendon? What can we do to make the lives of our citizens better in West Kingston – and in some rural areas as well as the inner city? I am not able to wrap my head around these lists of names once or twice per week. My deepest sympathies are with the families and friends. The hurt and trauma is great. Why haven’t the two bodies found in a car in Duhaney Park been identified, or the two shot dead in Grants Pen?
Two unidentified men (one a teenager), Duhaney Park, Kingston
Two unidentified men, Fagan Avenue, Grants Pen, Kingston
Unidentified man, Oxford Street, Kingston
Andrea Mundell-Bowen, Golden Spring, St. Andrew
Robert Dickson, 31, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Levar Hunnington, March Pen Road, St. Catherine
Hugh Nelson, 42, May Pen, Clarendon
Orville Eccleston, 31, Mount Clare, Clarendon
Hugh Brown, New Bowens, Clarendon
Unidentified woman, Salt Spring, St. James
Jameel Scott, 26, Bath, St. Thomas
Andrew Messam, 24, Heathfield, Manchester
Franklin Swaby, 51, Alligator Pond, Manchester