Posts from — April 2009
Pick up the paper, watch the news, check out many blogs and all you see is the same thing over and over again…Stress inducing bad news!
And now, study after study is actually documenting how stress is literally killing us.
You’ve probably been affected by the current economic news more than you realize.
No, I’m not talking about your finance — I’m talking about your health.
We in the diaspora may face challenging hurdles, however our capacity to cope and thrive is an order of magnitude better than many of our fellow Jamaican back a yard.
The social and community infrastructure where most of us live provide us with a much more developed social safety net. Just think about it, 20% of Jamaica’s GDP is from remittance, the private economic stimulus to sustain families there.
But what about those who are in need and do not have any diasporic support ?
Sure there is government safety net, but as we are well aware, this net is fragile at best, and is not enough. The current economic pressures have further frayed the existing net. Well organized, and efficient charitable organizations are called on to fill the gap.
It is indeed my privilege to introduce you to one such organization, the Jamaica Volunteers Association, Inc. (JVA).
This organization has been serving in this capacity for 26 years. They have supported multiple organizations with a focus on education, health care, and community outreach.
My first encounter with this organization came in last September when Prime minister Golding came to visit in Washington DC. Ambassador Johnson recognized one special couple for their many years of serving the Jamaican community, and publicly affirmed them . Well long story short, I had the privilege to visit with that special couple, the Morgans several times and was able to secure an interview with Mr. Donald Morgan, president of JVA.
Prof. Morgan & the Women’s centre of Jamaica Foundation director
review development plans
The focus for 2009 is the development of a kitchen and dinning facility for the Women’s centre in Kingston. This centre is one of eight centres in Jamaica that serve adolescents, who need a second chance after teen pregnancy. These centres have successfully served over 35,000 young women, giving them education and the necessary life skills to become well developed adults.
The goal is to raise US$14K by June 15, 2009.
Send your tax deductible contribution to:
Jamaica Volunteers Association, INC
1201 Kalmia Road, NW
Washington DC, 20012
Inquiry : 202 726 8292
Last year, Prof. Morgan placed a smile on director Beryl Weir’s face with the first installment to develop the centre.
Will you be one of the 1400 that would invest $10 to make a difference?
Let us support JVA in funding visionary projects that help heal the sick, educate the young, and lift the spirit’s of so many Jamaicans.
April 30, 2009 1 Comment
On the eve of the 100 day milestone of the Obama presidency,
A group of Caribbean networks met on Capitol Hill in Washington DC to network and access this young presidency. This was a reception hosted by the Virgin Islands Development Institute and the Caribbean Professional Network.
Invited guests included:
Members of the Caribbean diplomatic corps.
Members of the US Congress.
Members of the Caribbean Congressional Caucus.
Her Excellency, Glenda Morean-Phillips , Trinidad & Tobago’s US ambassador, and Ambassador Albert Ramdin, assistant Secretary General from the Organization of American States provided the perspective from the recently concluded summit of the Americas, hosted in Trinidad. They highlighted the successes of the summit:
Avoided confrontation and the rebuilding the partnership based on listening to each other.
$30M for Caribbean security improvement
$448M for micro financing to spur entrepreneurship
New energy and climate cooperation
Attention to the Haitian issues.
Follow up meeting of Caricom leaders in Washington
The US congressional perspective was provided by Honorable Yvette Clarke, congresswoman serving the 11th. district in new York. She has strong and deep Jamaican roots.
She was present at the summit of the Americas and shared that there will be an active congressional engagement on Caribbean related issues. She also noted how embracing folks from Caribbean islands were of Obama. She has introduced two key pieces of legislation that will have import to the Caribbean community. These are:
A Bill to protect those who have immigration troubles from mercenary fraud.
A bill to have folks of Caribbean origin be recognized and thus counted in the upcoming US census.
Finally, Dr. Ron Walters, professor of government and politics from the University of Maryland, shared the scholar’s perspective on the Obama 100 days. he noted the power of the Black vote in the recent elections which he translated into 100 electoral votes. His professional assessment was for us to pay attention to the second 100 days, as this is the time slice that most presidents make their mark.
The accomplishments he noted were the change of the US foreign policy, and the management of the multitude of crises, the economic one being chief. He also noted the power of the symbol of an intact Black family as a great model. He shared concern of the lack of an urban policy but noted that a new office is being created to address this vital issue.
He challenged us to keep a sharp eye on the stimulus monies flow, and he noted the need for increased unity between the African American community and the Caribbean community. Our week-ends and evenings need to have time invested in our local community engagement, not just crab grass battles was his final cry.
So what is your perspective on the first 100 days?
April 29, 2009 No Comments
Connecting possibilities is something I cherish.
I had stopped in my favorite ice cream store to indulge my taste buds with some soursop delight when I noticed a flier requesting donation of books for a book drive for the upcoming read across Jamaica campaign. This campaign is powered by a dedicated set of Jamaicans who formed the Read Across Jamaica Foundation and made the “READ ACROSS JAMAICA LITERACY PROJECT” a key initiative.
Well my fertile mind just connected to a story I had read the day prior about Bill Gates. It was a review of an upcoming book by his dad giving insights into raising this mogul. One of the striking points for me was how critical reading was in raising Bill.
Bill Gates at an early age became a diligent learner. He read the World Book Encyclopedia series start to finish. His parents encouraged his appetite for reading by paying for any book he wanted.
Could it be that we have an opportunity to nourish the learning, and fire the imagination of the Jamaican Bill Gates by donating a book?
Without a doubt !
I see a potential double tragedy. Some kids cannot get their fingers on a book, while other ignore books.
“Affluent” kids today grow up in the world of multi-media that to my reasoning stunt the development of their innate imagination.
I will elaborate further in an upcoming interview with the writer and illustrator of a very promising book series, little Lion.
For now, consider making a donation of funds or a book. The window of opportunity here is tight as the coordinator leaves for Jamaica on Wednesday.
It will share drop off points for your physical book.
or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Read across Jamaica has a powerful motto:
Share a book with a child and you have given illiteracy a dose of cure…
April 27, 2009 No Comments
On Wednesday evening, the Prime Minister addressed the nation regarding the 2010 budget process.
- He painted the reality of our situation.
- The servicing of the debt is the anchor weighting on the budget and future prosperity. The projected debt serving expenditure is $309B. The proposed budget is $548B.
- The proposed budget expenditures cannot be pared further without harming our future or ripping the social safety net.
- The days where we could kick the can down the road by further borrowing is over.
- With reluctance, he announced the need for tax increase to close the budget gap. (Estimated gap $18B)
- The tax increase details will be shared on Thursday. He however spoke to the fairness of the distribution. (return here for details later. trying to package the information in a useful form).
- He rightly anticipated unrest, and shared that security is on alert to address this situation appropriately.
- This captain of our state is keeping it real and have exercised a high level of leadership to steer us through these tough times. He is taking tough courageous steps in stewardship over the country’s credit card.
What can we do to uphold his hand and share with others the enormous dilemma the government faces?
April 23, 2009 No Comments
One of my favorite places to spend a glorious, blue sky spring afternoon is Washington DC.
Washington’s world famous cherry blossom bloom is receding but the national mall is dressed up with the glorious beauty of early blooms. One of the special treasures of the mall is the interior botanical gardens, where one can experience every climate condition on earth; from the dessert to the rain forest.
Well, this past week-end I was indeed blessed with such an outing to the gardens, and got the bonus engagement with the design for use expo leading into this earth week. Stewardship of our environment has taken on renewed urgency similar to our renewal of our economy.
I was however bristling from the EPA announcement of last week regarding carbon dioxide regulation. The threat of their regulation could be a game changer. The last set of folks I wanted to encounter was a bunch of ecological crusaders declaring dire global warming predictions that will enable draconian policies with self righteousness smugness. With the economy in the recovery room, we need to be very prudent with the type of stress we apply to this patient that un-intended consequences do not trigger a relapse.
Well, I was pleasantly surprised by my encounter at this expo. Most of the presenters were college kids presenting the engineering and design projects that were making a difference in many developing countries. I was most interested in projects that could be transferred to tropical setting .
For example, a group from the University of Florida had implemented a novel scheme in Burkina Faso to eliminate malaria from sitting water. They were able to put is a stone and sand base that filtered and eliminate this water borne menace rather cheaply.
The there was a group from Wisconsin that was concerned with the depletion of the aquifer and devised a scheme to trap rain water and used it to water lawns. The neat thing was they used a cheap solar sensor to detect when the soil needed to be watered to release the water.
There was a group from Colorado who had a project in Mongolia. The wells there were tainted with arsenic. They designed a cheap pump that contained a section with a magnetic remover that removed this poison that the most sensitive monitor could not detect a trace.
- Then there was a group from University of Alabama who designed a solar powered desalination device that is actually portable.
- University of Cincinnati team designed a solar powered water disinfectant being used in Mexico.
- The kids from Arizona designed a solar cooker that can be used as a barbeque station. They are working on a transmission system that will allow for the energy to be transferred indoors via a vegetable oil scheme. I have been promised a video that I will share when it is available.
Finally, there was a hobby group promoting electric cars. They demonstrated an electric car that has been around for 20 years. With current technology, a gas powered car can be converted to an electric car for $10K was the claim! I will be dialoging with them further on this issue.
There are several take aways beyond the obvious green friendly future these kids were creating.
First, these kids were on the cutting edge of green professional jobs. Some had changed majors from the tradional medicine or finance as they were truly driven by a pioneering spirit of the future. White collar is out, green is in. Are we being conscious of this?
There are green grants more readily available to fund initiatives.
Many of these schools did projects in other countries. This affords access to resources and technology transfer on the cheap for host countries.
We are clearly in an era of technological discontinuity that reset the possibilities to be a part of the pioneering class. The twin ETs (energy technology and environmental technology) will be growth segments that will add rocket weath fuel to economies of those who seize the day.
Echoes of our applauding our students from NCU who won the Microsoft competition is still in the air. Let us form new teams that will do us proud in the twin fields of ETs.
April 21, 2009 No Comments
Thank God for an unevenful resolution to the hijacking situation.
At approximately 6:40 am (Monday, April 20) members of the Jamaica Defence Force Counter Terrorism Operations Group entered the cabin of the aircraft and effected a tactical resolution authorized by the incident commando and in the process disarmed and arrested the gunman who has been identified as Stephen Fray from a Montego Bay address while rescuing the other hostages on board.
I’ll be tracking the Canadian response via
The much anticipated Americas summit is over. First let’s summarize the consensus of the summit, and then imagine what Prime minister Golding may have thought on his trip back to Jamaica.
Summit Pillars – Human prosperity, energy security and environmental sustainability
If you were a wordsmiter, this was a great occasion to craft and decorate a lot of nice words to let these leaders look good, 98 paragraphs of such words. Here is the executive summary of said words.
The Declaration of Commitment recognises that meeting long-term goals will require tackling short-term economic challenges. “We are committed to addressing the current economic and financial crisis in order to achieve our objectives of promoting human prosperity and securing our citizens’ future,” the document states. “We are determined to enhance our cooperation and work together to restore global growth and achieve needed reforms in the world’s financial systems.”
Harper, & Golding & Obama
The longest section of the document, on human prosperity, lays out measures to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of anti-poverty efforts, promote job creation and prevent exploitation of workers. It also calls for action to strengthen food security, promote good nutrition and broaden access to health care, particularly for the most vulnerable. Health-related commitments include measures to reduce neonatal mortality, combat both communicable and non-communicable diseases and continue efforts against HIV/AIDS. “We commit to strengthening public policies aimed at reducing the incidence of mother-to-child transmission of HIV to less than 5% by 2015,” the document states.
Golding & Obama
It also lays out a series of education-related commitments, among them achieving universal primary education by 2015, a secondary education enrolment rate of 75% by 2010 and a minimum 40% participation in tertiary education by 2020.
The section on energy security looks at aspects such as energy efficiency and conservation and calls for the development of renewable energy sources and technologies. It notes that energy “is an essential resource for improving the standard of living of our peoples and that access to energy is of paramount importance to economic growth with equity and social inclusion.”
Chavez & Golding
Environmental sustainability, the third pillar of the Fifth Summit theme, is another area in which the region’s leaders called for cooperation. The Declaration of Commitment recognises “the adverse impacts of climate change on all countries of the Hemisphere, in particular, Small Island Developing States, countries with low-lying coastal, arid and semi-arid areas or areas liable to floods, drought and desertification, developing countries with fragile mountainous ecosystems and land-locked countries.”
Now, were there any substantive take aways?
- Obama pledge $30M for additional security – piracy, drugs, and gun control.
- Obama pledge an invite to Washington later this year for a follow up meeting.
My reaction: big whoop.
This declaration is so toothless, it would have difficulty having a bowl of porridge
G20 announced a $1T help for developing countries and the only monies mention is $30M?
Forgive my ignorance, but where is the linkage to the big pot?
Maybe I am just irked to see the headlines declaring that this is a meeting of Latin America, and Obama, and some floating the trial balloon that the next summit should be in Cuba. How should the Prime Minister take all of this?
As Golding headed home, what are some of the thinking that may have coursed through his fertile mind?
- I better get to writing a book and find a way of making a big splash when we get back to Washington. This could shot up to #2 on Amazon like that idiot’s book. Hmmm, is he such a idiot or a genius marketing persona?
- Should I create an alternative position to bring some additional muscle in our struggle on the world stage?
- I am the studious , thoughtful type, and I am pretty type-casted. Chavez, and Ortega are also type-casted as bad boys. Do I need to hire a government rude boy?
- What would be the profile of this new office:
- Someone with sharp elbows like Obama’s Rahm Emanuel.
- Need someone who is not a grievance pimp, but can spot an opportunity that we can exploit.
- Be a loud mouth that CNN would seek out and get on Larry King Live, early and often.
- Be willing to shout un-delicate stuff such as “Cuba is not the entire Caribbean”, i.e. un-apologetically look out for our self interest.
- Some one to publicly call Chavez and his ilk names.
- Someone who can be a type of catalyst within Caricom that they will engage in some heated debate to move the initiatives beyond the present molasses politeness.
- Some one who I can fire as a shock absorber for outrage should he/she go too far.
Bruce, Bruce, we have landed , time to go get ready for Prime Minister Harper.
So, what’s your take on the outcome of the Summit?
April 19, 2009 No Comments
Tom Fordyce does a blog for BBC Sports conducted this interview.
Fordyce’s interview was driven by questions he received from submitters to an earlier blog.
Here is the link to the interview he did with Bolt.
My question as to the management of Bolt from last week remains.
As to the et al, you Penn relay fans excitement is building as you get to see who will be the next Bolt. Another element of this drama will be the unspoken rivalry with the US kids.
The best American track and field athletes will work hard to surpass the Jamaican youngsters who are in high gear after the recent Boy and Girls Champs meet.
I have an interview planned with a veteran of this meet to share with you next week. For those who may consider making plans to attend now, here are some contact info.
For tickets, call (888) PENN-TIX (736- 6848). To get information on meets, participating teams and previews of the big races, visit www.thepennrelays.com online.
Are we extracting the maximum leverage from our athletic genius?
April 19, 2009 2 Comments
I have never watched American Idol or any of its derivatives as my TV viewing is limited to American football, news, and some documentary in that order. I am however aware of the judges such as Simon. However with the news rave about Susan Boyle, I viewed the Utube presentation of this fine lady.
For those who may not have heard about Susan, let me share a brief profile. Here was a 47 year old, unemployed, lonely woman who had never been kissed. She had made it on the British version of Idol to audition, and shared her dream of becoming a star. Well, the snickering from the audience was louder than a sonic boom. You see, Susan did not look the part, fit the image of a successful person. Her image was not the hollywood type, sauve, good-looking, intelligent, cool. I can just hear some saying, “I know Beyonce, and she is no Beyonce”.
And then she sang.
This video should let you cheer for all the Susans in our world. Susan could be you! Your detractors tell you you are not smart, or well educated to deserve success.
They try to tell you you do not have the right family pedigree, come from the wrong country, too fat, too thin, or failed too many times.
Well, just say get thee behind me satan, you will not kill my dream!
Flush the mental images of failures in the past, and move forward boldly into a new day!
May Susan Boyle’s story give you dreamers new courage to move forward beyond the dull gray of the past.
There is a class of Jamaicans that I think we have given the Susan Boyle treatment, our higglers. We sterotype them, and do not appreciate the enormous value that they bring.
Here are the characteristics of the higgler that I truly appreciate:
- She has her PHD (She is passionate, hungry and driven)
- She is a risk taker
- She is fearless
- She can negotiate many different circumstances from immigration officers, to wholesale agents, to customers
- She knows how to create and communicate value
- She puts in long hours
- She would not be fired by Donald Trump
As we try to regain our economic footing, we will need to marshall all our innovative resources to create new wealth for our nation.
I hope and pray our past prejudices do not blind us to creating a friendly environment to encourage, develop and foster the spirit of enterprise so embedded in the DNA of our higglers.
What policies would best bolster and leverage the capabilites of our higglers?
April 17, 2009 1 Comment
Last Tuesday, I had the rare opportunity to put aside all work and go enjoy a day away from my master, all computing devices. I went to the Inner Harbor in Baltimore to have lunch and catch the natural rhythms of a spring day by the sea. I am a magnet for technology and was quickly drawn to a tour of the USS Constellation. This magnifient ship just called me to come listen to its legends. The USS Constellation was a war ship commissioned to protect US interest during the US civil war.
We got to tour all four floors of this sleek embodiment of technology, listen in on the daily lives of the crew, touch the cold steel of its the many hot lead projectiles (guns for you in Port Royal). We had an enliven conversation with an African American sailor on deck, but that sharing is for another time. Our final stop was , you guessed it, the gift shop .
Can you guess again what the featured character was? I am glad this is not the Price is right as I would have a larger hole in my pocket.You guess it, AARGH – Pirates. Pirates of the Carribbean, Treasure Island, Erol Flynn, musicals, the Pittsburg Pirates, pirate jokes all leave romantic notions about these set of characters. Just look at this painting.
What emotions do you experience here?
For those of your who are not into art interpretation, try this on for size.
Now imagine that the pirates of Port Royal led by Henry Morgan were resurrected in 2009? Sir Henry Morgan was the chief poster boy of this “wicked” period in Jamaica. Have you ever wandered how Morgan got such an esteemed title such as Sir? Well, remember the global competition between the world powers of the day, the Spanish, and the British. He was commissioned as a privateer, i.e. a British officer and a pirate. He was well networked as his uncle was lieutenant governor of Jamaica and he married “well”, his cousin Mary, daughter of his uncle Edward.
Now, what do you think these pirates would be doing on the carribbean seas? Would we be yatching, or relaxingly taking cruises and doing your Island hopping thing?
Not without your heart taking up residence in your throat. Just the thought of the possibility knocks the giggle factor out of our thinking.
As to the present piracy in Somali, we need to examine the pirate economy 2009 style. The images of piracy that we seek these day are the hands, not the brains, not the Henry Morgans of today. There are pirate bases on land in places like Eyl, and Xarardheere, Somali. These land post operate mother ships that serve as platforms for the speed boats that attack the vessels. If you were one of the captives, it would have been no fun spending an average of 6 months in some Somali city. The Ethopians had been used to try to tamper down this situation back in 2006, but they have recently uttered “No mas”.
So, what is the lesson we can take away from this situation? – and praying for an earthquake is not an option.
J. Peter Pham framed it well, where he sees piracy as a crime of opportunity. It flourishes where anarchy is normal. It seizes upon those at the margins of life and uses them to wreak havoc for a maga material gain (for the hands), while the brains walk away with the majority of the plunder with zero capital gains tax.
When we broaden our view of piracy as not being a sea based enterprise, but look at the evil syndicate that empowers it we may learn some lessons to help us deal with the chronic crime issue that we in Jamaica wrestle with. Holding people accountable while creating alternative opportunities is a tough balancing act for any government (especially one that is resourced-constrained) , but what is our alternative?
Let me leave you with the true image of piracy.
By now, I hope you know I would never leave you on a downward note, so read this challenge.
|“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”|
|– Japanese Proverb|
April 16, 2009 No Comments
Usain Bolt recently did an interview with the Bild Newspaper of Germany.
The early reports I have read are focused on his report of trying weed as a youth exclusively.
I decided to spend a few minutes on the web to explore this story at it’s source. I took a segment of the extensive interview and did a machine translation. Let me share with you what 5 minutes of effort produced. You will have to read between the lines to fully appreciate the context, but I know I share this space with thoughtful folks.
Usain Bolt: I want to become a legend.
Bild: Mister Bolt, explain us please: Why are 2.8 Mio Jamaikaner so fast and 80 Mio German so lame?
Usain Bolt : We work hard. Here all revolves around sport. We have extremely strong west African genes. Since the slavery, we try to win every day and to improve ourselves. We develop always further and give never up.
Bild: The German sprinter Tobias Unger said after Olympia that they make fun of the entire world. It moved you therewith into the vicinity of performance drugs.
Usain Bolt: Such statements do not bother me. The people can say, what they want. I know that I am clean. Only that count – not what others think. I so often am tested. In the Olympia year 30- or 40-times. I am clean!
Bild: What do you know of Germany?
Usain Bolt: I know only that the German beer of dear. I was once with Dr. Müller welfare in Munich and let me treat there. There I did not see that the people drank already beer to the breakfast – the small glasses, but rather the giant Dinger. That was incredible!
Bild: In Olympia 1936, Jesse Owens got four times gold in Berlin. Do you step in the World Cup in the same stadium into its footprint?
Usain Bolt: I know Jesse Owens. But very honestly: The past does not especially interest me . I live in the present, I have own goals. I want to become a legend! I want to bring my sport on another plane and develop further for everyone, that will come after me.
Bild: How one becomes the legend
Usain Bolt: Very simply: You must stand always at the tip and must bring Top achievements. Not only for a race – many years long. One highly must hold the level. Always and again and again.
Bild: Who are the largest sports legends for you?
Usain Bolt: In any case a soccer player: Maradona and Pelé. Those are legends for me.
Bild: Do you love something more than to win?
Bolt grins, distorts the eyes and answers not.
Bild: Thank you very much, we know on what you just think!
Take a look at how USA Today reported on this interview:
But then the NY TIMES had this coverage
I will be looking to get a better translation for the sensitive portion of this story. However, I want you to to follow the various reporting you will see on this story and use this as a case study on how reporters slice and dice and give emphasis to a view point they are trying to represent.
Given that we Jamaicans have so much emotional investment in Bolt, is he being managed well?
April 12, 2009 No Comments