Saturday, May 05, 2007
re: "VMI Honors Tech"
re: New Sisyphus
S&S - Pentagon: More troops needed for surge. DOD officials tell Senate panel that 6,000-7,000 servicemembers required for support roles.
Stars and Stripes
Pentagon: More troops needed for surge
DOD officials tell Senate panel that 6,000-7,000 servicemembers required for support roles
Mideast edition, Saturday, March 3, 2007
WASHINGTON — Pentagon officials told a Senate committee Thursday that President Bush’s planned increase of U.S. forces in Iraq will require as many as 28,500 troops, USA Today reported Friday.
In January, Bush said he would send 21,500 more combat troops to Iraq. Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England said Thursday that 6,000 to 7,000 support troops will be needed to back up the larger combat force, the paper reported.
England’s estimate differed from a Congressional Budget Office estimate last month that as many as 28,000 extra troops would be needed to support the increase.
Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that some support troops have already been approved.
“There are 2,400 that have been approved to date,” Giambastiani told the Senators, “and there are some additional requests for somewhere in the order of — for combat support, detainee support, those kind of things — I would say in the order of 3,000, 4,000. But once again, these numbers are much lower than what you’ve seen before. And we are in with the Joint Chiefs reviewing these requests right now.”
There are about 10,000 soldiers in Iraq now associated with the troop increase, according to Army spokesman Lt. Col. Carl Ey.
“The support train is flowing,” Ey told Stars and Stripes via e-mail. “We expect to have about 25-26 [thousand] total in the Plus Up.”
The support units being considered have not been identified yet, Ey said.
The increase in force levels is expected to reach its peak in May, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s Feb. 1 report.
“Thus far, the Department of Defense has identified only combat units for deployment,” the report said. “However, U.S. military operations also require substantial support forces, including personnel to staff headquarters, serve as military police and provide communications, contracting, engineering, intelligence, medical and other services.
“Over the past few years, DOD’s practice has been to deploy a total of about 9,500 personnel per combat brigade to the Iraq theater, including about 4,000 combat troops and about 5,500 supporting troops,” the CBO reported.
England stressed that with the existing infrastructure and support units in place, such ratios would not be needed.
“The CBO had a very large number of support troops, and we already have a large number in theater,” he said. “So while the number we have estimated may vary somewhat, it’s not at all going to be in that order of many multiples estimated by CBO.”
USA Today also reported that England told the Senate Budget Committee that it will be clear within months whether the increase in forces has succeeded in helping secure Iraq.
“By this summer we would have a much better indication in terms of the success of the program,” England is reported as saying. “And so at that time we would adjust however is appropriate to do so.”
JG - Short Story - Becoming American
Short Story - Becoming American
published: Sunday February 25, 2007
Charlotte Brady, Contributor
She hates it. 26 Federal Plaza. The letter is in her bag. As soon as she sees the address in print it makes her cringe. The INS - Immigration and Naturalization Services - is like a huge colossus of sticky bureaucratic glue. You're not getting anywhere.
Note: the INS no longer exists as such.
Eva is part-fearful, part-annoyed at having to be here today. What if her passport disappears? What if somebody deletes her case? She also has a lot of work to do, productive work. Some designs that need to be sent off to clients.
INS has taught her to hate bureaucracy. It is the same in every country, everywhere, but the INS has given her a crash course. Bureaucracy never fails to create dishonest a-kissers out of decent people and power-hungry Gestapo wannabes out of ordinary men. Is this where we're at, she thinks, as humans? She is amazed how easily people conform to the situation. If there are a-kissers there will be Gestapo soldiers, and vice versa. It's a law of nature. At 26 Federal Plaza you are considered an illiterate idiot, no matter who you are. At least it's democratic, she thinks. And there is not much else to do.
Except wait in endless lines you are not really sure why you are in. Everything seems arbitrary, handled on a whim. You are told to wait in another line ... and then another line ... until you think, for sure you will never be able to do what you came to do. Then you are told to sit. Wait. Be quiet.
No walking around.
Even if you have to be there all day. No eating. No drinking.
Not that you get that hungry, anyway. The air itself is nauseating. There are bathrooms but you don't want to risk missing your turn and then having to go through the whole procedure again. Eva imagines the insults she would have to face. What punishment would they come up with? Would they make her spend an extra day? Psychological torture. Warfare. Maybe it is all a plan to have undesirable elements withdraw their applications? She laughs at the paranoid thought, then stops. You probably shouldn't be laughing at 26 Federal Plaza. It might be considered a threat, or at least an offence of some sort.
She has been staring at it for over an hour now. Relentlessly her eyes are drawn to it. No matter where they start they come back to the poster. It is hanging, slightly tilted, on a wall painted in bureaucracy beige. A palm tree leaning over a turquoise ocean, the crown gently kissing the white velvet sand.
The ultimate dream. As it has been dreamed a million times.
If that isn't paradise, paradise can't possibly exist. She has seen it before, in doctors' offices, tax offices, waiting areas, often really drab places where someone probably felt a little dreaming of paradise was needed.
The waiting room is big, with hundreds of plastic chairs lined up for everybody who hopes to one day belong in this country. Guards tell people not to stand, not to sit on the windowsills, not to wander away. People are insulted, detested, dehumanised. Diminished into little black holes of spit. There is nothing to do but sit on your plastic chair and listen to the recorded number system. Number A227, at Window 18. El numero A dos cientos veinte siete. En ventranilla diez y ocho.
There were simultaneously three series of A, B and C numbers being called. In the old system the employees had to yell out foreign-sounding names that sounded even more foreign in their mouths. Some names never made it to the back of the room.
Now there was at least a number system. But nothing had really changed. It was all on the surface. The only thing that changed when the INS was transformed to USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) was that they got a fancy website where you were supposed to be able to locate your case, but never could, and that the recorded phone message, when you tried to call them, was nicer. Sometimes your call even got through and you could speak to a real person.
She had come early, maybe 45 minutes before they opened at 7:30. Still, she had to wait in line for an hour and a half before she even got inside the building. It was raining. It was cold. She didn't have an umbrella.
Once inside it was the usual procedure of taking off your jacket, emptying your pockets, and then passing through a metal detector. After that she was shepherded to another line where she was supposed to get information on where she would have to go to get the stamp in her passport that she needed to travel.
There was a guard there who kept repeating, time after time: 'Everybody in line. Have your letter ready. If there's an emergency go to Window Number 2. An emergency means a sick relative, a funeral. A trip is not an emergency.'
People came with whole families. Babies and grandmas with tired legs. Nobody could sit. 'Everybody in line. Have your letter ready. If there's an emergency go to Window Number 2. An emergency means a sick relative, a funeral. A trip is not an emergency.' She waited another 45 minutes and, after she had left the window, realized she had forgotten to ask something. She went back. A loud voice cut through the room:
'What do you think you're doing?'
She waited patiently for the new person at the window to be finished so she could ask what she had forgotten to ask.
'What do you think you're doing? Get in line! Ma'am, I'm talking to you.'
Confused, she turned around and realised the angry guard was talking to her; that she was in fact the 'Ma'am' he was referring to.
'I said, get in line!' His loud voice pronounced every little syllable with whiplash force.
'Oh, I'm sorry, but I was here just now and I realised that I forgot to ask something. I'm just going to ...'
Before she could finish he cut her off. 'I said, get in line. Get in line. Is there anything you don't understand about that? That's the rule. You cannot just go up and speak to an official.'
'Yes, yes, I understand. I just ...'
'Yes, you're just going to get in line!'
He yelled the last words. She calmly walked all the way to the back of the line, which now had grown considerably. She would have to wait for at least another hour or two. There was absolutely nothing she could do but to stand in line again.
She watched the guard. He kept repeating his script. 'Everybody in line. Have your letter ready. If there's an emergency go to Window Number two. An emergency means a sick relative, a funeral. A trip is not an emergency.' Every time somebody didn't know where to go he yelled. His yelling made them even more confused. They didn't understand what rule they had broken. She saw old people looking confused and afraid.
'Where are you going? Do you have an emergency? That's not an emergency. Get in line!' There was no understanding, no kind words, which was surprising since many of the employees seemed to be recent immigrants themselves. The message was clear: Come to America, get in line, and then get a job at the USCIS to be rude to little sh-ts just like yourself, only now you don't have to be a little sanymore, you can upgrade to a medium sized one. Congratulations!
When she had been in line again for about ten minutes the guard lifted the divider and gestured for her to come forward to the window. She heard herself say: 'Oh, the rules have changed?' She immediately realised her mistake and bit her tongue, but too late: the insult was already polluting the air. How stupid of her. Why couldn't she just have smiled a grateful smile? Oh, no, not her. She had to be sarcastic. Why couldn't she just have kissed his arse like everybody else?
'Do you want to come or not?' he said with a look on his face that told her that he knew full well he didn't have to do anything for her. He did it because he had the power to do it and she should be thankful and quiet. Healso had the power to throw her out. He had given her his grace and she had spat at it.
'Yes, yes, I'm sorry,' she said quietly, trying to polish his grace to make it look new again. He silently held up the divider and she went to ask her question, her eyes glued to the ground.
She is directed to the third floor, Room Number 816, and this is where she finds herself now, looking at the poster, listening to the number system. She has handed in her passport and has been waiting for two hours by now. It is impossible to find out how long it will take. The dreary beige makes her sleepy; she keeps yawning. When she very politely had asked how long approximately it would take, the tired official had given her a blank stare with a focus somewhere behind her on the grey linoleum floor and simply said: 'Please take a seat.' The collar on his shirt is fraying and the fabric is a faded blue. His face is ashen, deeply lined. He is wearing a tie with the Camel character on it. The moose. She recognises it from one of the huge electrical billboards in Times Square. At least he hadn't yelled at her.
The paradise poster reminds her of her trip. Hot sun on her body. The sound of waves, like breaths, eternal. Him.
She has to remind herself why she is here, in this sickening place. The ring on her finger has something of the ocean in it. She could be in paradise instead.
It is all because of New York. The New York fairy had descended on her and made her life successful and fun, even glamorous, she thought when she tried to picture herself from the outside. That counted for something. A lot. Maybe it wasn't paradise - the USCIS certainly wasn't - but it was hers, all hers. She had created it herself, out of her dreams, like so many before her. So what if she needs to spend a day at the USCIS?
A pregnant woman starts crying next to her. She is speaking to a fellow applicant. 'I don't know what to do. They tell me to come back tomorrow. I won't get my passport now. Oh, I don't know what to do. I'm eight months pregnant andthere's a risk of miscarriage. The doctor said I should be on bed rest. I can't come back tomorrow. They just won't do it now. I don't know what to do.'
The tragedies the employees had to harden themselves against. The lies they had to see through. Maybe because they couldn't distinguish between what was lies and what was true they could never really do anything outside of the official routine. The result seemed heartless.
There were friends with cases that had been lost. They were living in limbo, unable to travel anywhere outside of the U.S. One friend hadn't been able to visit her parents for eight years, until her grandfather died and she was granted an exemption to travel for the funeral her husband was a citizen, their children born Americans, she was still living like a refugee. Like somebody who had committed a crime and wasn't allowed to leave the country before the trial.
Another friend had been granted the dubious title of Temporary Permanent Resident, without any explanation as how something permanent possibly could be temporary. She hadn't yet been married two years to her American husband when she filed for a Green Card. She had to file again; the whole process all over again. Even though they had two toddlers together, their union was suspected.
Again, the question of truth. It had to be dealt with. The officials followed a script.
Eva is lucky. Her employer-sponsored case has taken only four years, so far. And she can travel. She only needs to renew her stamp once a year, which is what she is doing right now. Maybe in one or two more years she will have her Green Card.
When she is finally out it is close to two. She breathes in the air, a feeling of freedom.
She loves New York. She loves New Yorkers. Inside, the sheep are still being shepherded around. She is the one that managed to escape. She is running free.
She wants to go for lunch, as far away from 26 Federal Plaza as she can. It's a whole year before she needs to go back again.
She pretends it's never.
- Charlotte Brady
Friday, May 04, 2007
S&S - Scouts collect gear for troops
Stars and Stripes
Scouts collect gear for troops
By Allison Batdorff, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Sunday, March 4, 2007
Allison Batdorff / S&S Members of Girls Scout Troop 18 (from left: Erica Sanchez, Catherine Jamshidi, Christen Carpenter and Jackie and Chantal Prez) cover a collection box for the Wounded Warrior program. The Girl Scouts are collecting basic civilian necessities for the next two weeks in order to make wounded troops arriving at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center more comfortable.
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — When troops wounded downrange are transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, they aren’t carrying suitcases.
They don’t have basic civilian comforts with them such as clean underwear, shoes and clothes, said 12-year old Christen Carpenter, a Girl Scout in Yokosuka’s Troop 18.
“They don’t have time to pack — they just have their uniform and boots,” Carpenter said. “We thought it’d be nice to give them some of things that we are able to have.”
The Girl Scouts are asking Yokosuka to donate basics — three-packs of men’s and women’s underwear, black duffle bags, sweat tops and bottoms, athletic shoes, telephone cards, DVDs, DVD players and toiletries — to the troops between Friday and March 19. Collection boxes are set up at the Chapel of Hope, Navy Exchange and Commissary, said troop leader Mary Carpenter.
Items will be distributed to servicemembers through the Wounded Warrior Ministry Center, which gives the packages to all soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, the leader said.
Donations can be dropped off in boxes at the Navy Exchange, Commissary and the Chapel of Hope.
JG - Late winter season and Cancun kept tourists away
Late winter season and Cancun kept tourists away
published: Sunday February 25, 2007
A view of the cruise ship, 'Freedom of the Seas' which docked in Montego Bay recently. Cruise ship arrivals up 11 per cent in January, according to governmentstatistics. - File
A late winter season, the revitalisation of the Mexican resort destination, Cancun, and the implementation of the U.S. passport initiative were some of the reasons why tourist arrivals for the month of January were flat on last year figures, according to government officials.
Total visitors arrivals during January increased by 3.2 per cent on the corresponding month in 2006, when 260,000 foreign nationals and residents visited the island.
"The preliminary figures showed that we would have seen a decline, but when our Research and Market Intelligence Unit at the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) cross-checked, we realised that we are up," said Tourism Minister, Aloun Assamba
She was speaking at the launch of 'Irish-fest' by the Sunset Grande Resort and Spa, at the Courtleigh Hotel in New Kingston last Tuesday.
The early indicators largely reflected the lower number of stop over arrivals which ended the month at 124,756 visitors, down 4.5 per cent or 6,000 persons when compared to last year January.
Cruise ship passengers
It was cruise ship passengers which brought the total above last year January. According to the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), those visitors brought the total number up 3.2 per cent. If accurate, it would mean that cruise ship arrivals for the month of January was up 10 per cent or 14,418 persons.
The flat numbers, according to Assamba, should be viewed against the background of a bumper year for tourism during 2006, when just over three million tourists visited the island, 15 per cent higher than in 2005.
"When we make generalisations that the figures are trending down, we have to bear in mind that 2006 was an exceptional year for several reasons, some of which have changed," she pointed out.
But the industry in 2007 is already facing major challenges including the revitalisation of Cancun, a popular resort area in Mexico, which was ravaged by a hurricane in 2005; and the implementation of the US passport initiative, which requires visitors to hold passports when travelling to the Caribbean.
Assamba also chalked up the flat performance to a later winter season.
"We are used to having winter earlier," added Assamba. "Depending on how cold it is, people make their decision on when to travel, so we did not really start to ramp up with visitors coming in until later, because it was so warm, they did not have to leave the cold."
Thursday, May 03, 2007
AO (Bz) - GOB says Dwayne Seawell should be returned to Belize for extradition hearings
Amandala Online (Bz)
GOB says Dwayne Seawell should be returned to Belize for extradition hearings
The Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade issued a statement this week saying that Dwayne Seawell, one of three Belizean brothers wanted by United States authorities in relation to drug trafficking charges, has not been extradited, as had been previously reported to the media, but remains in Jamaica awaiting escort to Belize.
We had reported that Dwayne has been extradited to the U.S. from Jamaica, where he had been detained on immigration charges on Sunday, January 28, 2007.
The Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said Monday, however, that Dwayne “…is the subject of a deportation order issued by Jamaica and remains detained in Jamaica. The ministry remains in regular contact with Jamaican counterparts…”
The Government of Belize’s position is that Seawell should be returned to Belize for extradition hearings here, rather than being taken directly to the U.S., but there is no indication that U.S. authorities will, indeed, accede to that request.
The MFA statement added that, “Pursuant to the extradition treaty between Belize and the USA, the Government of Belize has formally requested the United States of America to provide safe transit for Mr. Seawell to pass through Miami on his return to Belize. This request is currently being considered by the relevant U.S. authorities.”
JG - Gleaner reporter to participate in US leadership programme
Gleaner reporter to participate in US leadership programme
published: Sunday February 25, 2007
Public Affairs Officer, United States Embassy, Glenn Guimond (left) speaks with Gleaner reporter Andrea Downer who will be participating in the U.S.-sponsored International Visitor Leader-ship Programme on Human Trafficking in the U.S.A. - Contributed
The United States Embassy in Kingston has announced the selection of Andrea Downer, reporter and producer with The Gleaner/Power 106 News Centre, to participate in the U.S. Department of State-sponsored International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) on Combating Human Trafficking.
As a reporter with The Gleaner and Power 106, Ms. Downer is responsible for producing and reporting news and investigative stories with special emphasis on environment, health, human rights and gender issues.
According to Ms. Downer: "The programme comes at a time when Jamaica is facing numerous challenges in combating trafficking and despite progress in a number of areas, there needs to be significantly more investigation, to unearth trafficking networks, which should then result in prosecution and conviction of offenders."
She further added: "The provision of support network is a crucial area which the Government has still not addressed and this increases the vulnerability of persons who are at risk as repeat victims."
The three-week multi-city IVLP programme begins on March 1, and will take Ms. Downer and her 23 counterparts to Washington, D.C., where they will explore U.S. policy initiatives to protect, assist and provide social and economic reintegration of victims of trafficking. They will also discuss best practices to combat trafficking in persons, including prosecution of traffickers and enforcement strategies, as well as international cooperation efforts to combat human trafficking.
Ms. Downer will meet with Department of Homeland officials in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to discuss immigration procedures and law enforcement strategies for identifying victims and traffickers. She is also expected to examine a case study on how federal and local law enforcement collaborate on immigration trafficking issues in a major border community.
In San Francisco, California,
Ms. Downer and her colleagues will meet with students at the University of California, Berkley, and attend classes at their human rights clinic. She will also meet with state representatives to explore the role of media in public education and outreach, victim services, legal representation and social interventions.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
AO (Bz) - Courtenay says Cal abused diplomatic passport – FIU investigates
Amandala Online (Bz)
Courtenay says Cal abused diplomatic passport – FIU investigates
Belizean authorities have confirmed to our newspaper that Moises Cal - the former Ambassador for Belize to Central America and former standard bearer for the ruling People’s United Party, accused of smuggling US$1 million into Panama almost two weeks ago - is under investigation by both local and foreign authorities.
“It think it is a very regrettable thing what [former] Ambassador Cal has done. It has given Belize a ‘black eye.’ None of us are proud of it; none of us can be proud of it,” said Hon. Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs, when we interviewed him this afternoon.
Courtenay said that Cal abused the privilege of having a diplomatic passport – which the Ministry had asked him to turn in. He is accused of using this passport while taking money outside of Belize that was above the limit Belizeans are allowed to export without Central Bank approval.
Courtenay told us he has received no official reports that Cal took out a million US dollars, as had been alleged.
“Those figures are being thrown around, but he did leave Belize, according to what we are told by the Panamanians, with a significant amount of US dollars, far in excess of what he should be doing without authority – without permission from the Central Bank,” said Courtenay.
When we checked with the Central Bank, that amount that requires Central Bank approval is $500 Belize dollars in cash, and anything $20,000 Belize or the equivalent in foreign currency – in this case US $10,000 – should be registered with the FIU.
(The law that stipulates this was put in place, purportedly, to curb money laundering, but authorities acknowledge that people exporting illegal dollars simply avoid registering their money.)
Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), Mrs. Geraldine Davis, told our newspaper today that Cal made no such registration with the FIU. She said that the first step for the FIU is to determine whether Cal, indeed, took that money out of Belize, or acquired it elsewhere.
The Panama news reports on the matter say that on Saturday, February 10, Cal arrived in Panama at El Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen (Tocumen International Airport), 15 miles from Panama City, Panama, via a TACA flight from Central America, but the report did not say where the flight came from.
The reports also say that he traveled on a diplomatic passport – which, Courtenay told us, he was asked to surrender a long time ago. He told us that he is not aware of any penalty Cal could face for traveling on a diplomatic passport after he was asked to surrender it.
The Minister also said that he would have to discuss the matter with the Minister of Immigration, Hon. Ralph Fonseca, and “…look at a way to ensure that this does not happen again.”
GOB officials say Cal surrendered the passport to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs this Tuesday, February 20 – 10 days after the Panama incident - and MFA then turned it over to Immigration.
This was, notably, after the Police Department in Belize – also under the portfolio of the Immigration Minister – had been informed of ongoing investigations in Panama.
Police Commissioner, Gerald Westby, told our newspaper today that he became aware that Cal was under investigation in Panama on Saturday, February 17, through the rumor mill. He said that later that Saturday, the Police Department requested information from Panama through Interpol counterparts in that country. Westby claims that the Department does not yet have the complete details about the case, but Panama officials had confirmed that Cal had been detained there.
Courtenay, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that authorities in Panama had only one question for his ministry – they wanted to find out about Cal’s diplomatic status. The MFA has said that Cal resigned as a diplomat in early December when he became the PUP’s standard-bearer for Belmopan.
“When he resigned, we requested him to turn in his passport…” said Courtenay. “He did not have to have a diplomatic passport to travel to Panama, but it allowed him certain courtesies.”
Minister Courtenay said that with regards to any other investigations - criminal or otherwise – “…we will receive papers that request assistance—which we haven’t.”
According to Panama press reports, four customs officers were detained on Sunday, February 11, for allegedly colluding with “a false diplomat,” who, the reports say, was carrying more than a million dollars in his suitcase.
Panama police retrieved US$103,000 of what they suspect was bribe money. Police had detained Customs inspector, Gregorio Villarreal, who was allegedly carrying $88,060 cash in his car. Panamanian authorities said that he had a further $15,700 stashed at his home.
Villarreal reportedly implicated three other Customs officials who work with him at El Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen (Tocumen International Airport). Among the four there are reportedly one woman and three men accused of colluding with Cal.
The Customs Director, Daniel Delgado Diamante, said that the US bills confiscated from the Customs Inspector Villareal had traces of cocaine, which leads them to suspect that the money is linked to narco-trafficking.
The reports say that Panamanian police were tipped off by an anonymous call.
According to Prensa in Panama, Diamante had said that Cal had a diplomatic passport and arrived in Panama via TACA early last Saturday, February 10. The money was discovered when his bag was searched at the airport.
Prensa news report of February 17 said that the Belizean is suspected of being a narco-traffic mule, and that the Panamanian authorities were looking for him.
JG - Spring breakers shun Jamaica
Spring breakers shun Jamaica
published: Sunday February 25, 2007
Spring breakers at the Sangster International Airport. - File
Janet Silvera, Senior Tourism Writer
A 50 per cent decline in the island's spring break market is causing concern in the tourism sector.
Yesterday, the first set of spring breakers arrived at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. But, unlike previous years, there was no welcome reception for the college students who up to six years ago, were 25,000 strong in numbers, but are expected to number about 5,000 this season - down from approximately 10,000 last year.
Noting that the decline started about three years ago, and has since spiralled downwards by 10 per cent annually, tourism interests blame the trend partially on the recent requirement by the United States authorities for their citizens re-entering the country to present passports under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.
Lacklustre marketing by the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), stiff competition from cruise ships, as well as competition from Florida are also posited as contributors to the decline in the arrival of spring breakers to Jamaica.
"A number of students went to get their passports at the end of December, but refused to make vacation bookings because of the six-week waiting period," explains Karim Kuzbari, president of the New York-based Sunsplash Tours. "They (students) are not the type to do the expediting thing."
In addition, he discloses that the Florida Pan Handle - Daytona, Panama City Beach - Alcapulco and Cancn in Mexico, are the places that Jamaica is competing against. Americans travelling from Mexico are not yet required to produce passports on re-entry.
Kuzbari argues that the lack of interest in Jamaica by the students is as a result of the original hype about the country becoming very flat.
"Spring break needs to be given the same attention, Jazz and Sumfest are given," suggests Kuzbari. According to him, the JTB started advertising in the universities late. "The ads ran in January for students booking vacation to come to Jamaica in February and March. There must be a much longer lead time," the tour operator explains.
However, JTB director Basil Smith his says while it can be surmised that the passport issue could be a factor in the decline in the arrival of spring breakers, it is early days yet to say for certain. "We anticipate a negative impact, but are not yet able to quantify it. Because other destinations in the region do not produce statistics as quickly as Jamaica does, we have no basis for comparison," he reasons.
Malaria and crime
"However, there are other indicators that provide some anecdotal feel," Mr. Smith says. "For example, while we have largely been able to avoid too much mainstream media attention about malaria, blogs online indicate that the travel trade has been discussing it with prospective spring break clients. There's also evidence that crime is of concern."
While disclosing that the JTB has invested substantially in advertisements in dozens of college papers at the appropriate time, the JTB director points to the need for improvement in the quality of entertainment.
"On the very first occasion that I spoke publicly as director of tourism, I pointed to the deficiency we have in nightlife and entertainment for visitors, which is ironic, given the success we enjoy in the entertainment industry internationally," he notes.
For the last 12 years, Margaritaville Jamaica has been one of the spring break headquarters. With March being the biggest month for business, Margaritaville's owner, Brian Jardim said this year's figures are a shadow of the student market's former self. "We usually double our staff in Negril during the period, taking on 100 additional temporary employees, but this year we won't be able to do that," he tells The Sunday Gleaner.
Disappointed as he is with the numbers he, however, notes the upside, that his complexes will get the kids who visit from the ships, "They don't need the passport to go on the ship."
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
TG (Bz) - First Mes, now Moises - PUP dropping like Flies
The Guardian (Bz)
First Mes, now Moises - PUP dropping like Flies
Belizeans were definitely appalled, but neither shocked nor surprised, as it became clear that recently elected PUP Belmopan Standard Bearer Moises Cal was being sought by Panamanian authorities in connection with a reported US$1.0 million that was brought into Panama by a “false Belizean diplomat” without ever declaring that he was traveling with such a huge sum of cash.
According to official reports out of Panama, Moises Cal traveled to Panama on February 10, 2007, under a Belizean diplomatic passport. Customs agents in panama detected that his suitcase was “packed with money” but that Moises Cal did not make the appropriate declaration. “Upon detecting the undeclared money, as the Panamanian law demands, the alleged diplomat offered and delivered an amount of money to the Customs agents, with the purpose of avoiding the total impoundment of the money”, said the Panamanian Director General of Customs Daniel Delgado Diamante.
Moises Cal reportedly bribed the Customs agents with US$130,000 and was then allowed to declare the rest of his money as “an undetermined amount of cash”. The four Panamanian Customs agents are reportedly under arrest for their involvement in the “act of corruption”. The Customs agents were busted with the bribe money, and official reports are that traces of cocaine were found on the cash. At some point after February 10, and after Panamanian officials were informed by this PUP Administration that he was not part of Belize’s diplomatic corps, Moises Cal was “barred from leaving the country”, but as of February 16, 2007, authorities from the Panamanian Ministry of Justice were looking for him to no avail.
And they could not find Moises Cal because he had already absconded to Belize, further aggravating his untenable legal position in Panama as he had ignored the order not to leave the country. It is not clear exactly when Moises Cal returned to Belize and if he returned with or without the remaining cash in hand. But his previous departure and his subsequent return raise a lot of questions.
Firstly, how could Moises Cal have left Belize with such a huge sum of US$ and not be accosted by our own Customs agents? Could it be on the strength of his Diplomatic passport or were there bribes offered in Belize also? If the former is true, then did this PUP Administration not cancel his passport because Moises Cal was fronting for them or was it an innocent “mistake” or oversight? If the latter is true, then why hasn’t the Government launched its own investigation into its Customs agents? Additionally, did Moises Cal return with the balance of cash, and if so, why wasn’t it again detected by our Customs agents?
The second round of questions has to do with the Government’s response to his departure from Panama and his subsequent arrival in Belize. Being a member of SICA with current Presidency, why did this PUP Government not cooperate with Panamanian officials and have Moises Cal returned to Panama? He knew he broke Panamanian law and he was barred from leaving the country. No doubt, those in Government knew about it or the PUP would not have caused him to step down as a PUP Standard Bearer after so readily defeating the PUP Belmopan “prize boy” Anthony Chanona.Whatever name that Belize had made for itself among our Central American neighbours was unceremoniously destroyed by this PUP Government’s obvious harbouring of a fugitive from Panamanian law. The consequences of such an action could have serious diplomatic repercussions and further tarnish Belize’s already diminished reputation in international circles. It will be quite interesting to see where Belize ends up in the next Transparency International corruption index.
MUSA CAUGHT LYING AGAIN
Since all the evidence shows that this PUP Administration was aware of Moises Cal’s actions in Panama (an official request was made to determine if Cal was a part of Belize’s Diplomatic Corps), Belizeans must now question the press release issued by the Office of the Prime Minister on Monday February 19, 2007. According to the release, Moises Cal “announced that he has withdrawn as a candidate” and that he “decided to step down for personal and family reasons”.
Belizeans do not expect that this release would have been issued without the complete knowledge and approval of the Prime Minister, as there is too much at stake. Consequently, Belizeans are of the firm belief that it was intentional on behalf of the Prime Minister and his Ministry to conceal the facts and try to make this incident “blow over like wah lee breeze”.
And Moises Cal’s supporters in Belmopan are certain that “those on Capital Hill” knew fully well what was going on. On Tuesday February 20, 2007, some 30 to 40 of Cal’s supporters conducted a demonstration in front of the Prime Minister’s office over the expulsion of their elected Standard Bearer. Some in the demonstration said that they were informed by Moises Cal that he had been “set up”, suggesting that he was under instructions by individuals higher up in the hierarchy of the PUP, and that now he alone is left to “take the fall”.
NOTHING NEW FOR THE PUP
This latest episode is really nothing new for the PUP. A few years ago, readers may recall, the wife of an unnamed Minister was caught at the Miami International Airport with some US$1.5 million in cash and financial instruments that she was transporting to the Cayman Islands, a haven for offshore banking.
Readers may also recall that Ralph Fonseca, the self-proclaimed financial engineer that is the real architect of Belize’s current economic woes, had threatened to sue The Guardian because the US Embassy had put out a press release denying ever having stated that Ralph Fonseca’s wife had been caught in Miami with undeclared cash and financial instruments (how stupid).
And then there is the current Italian Government money laundering investigation that has led to additional charges and investigations in both Panama and Columbia. The very “circle of individuals” that are linked with this investigation was also instrumental with Belize receiving Italian funding for the Commercial Center and the Fire Station in Belize City, among other projects, during the 1989-93 PUP Administration. The very person from Panama who once wrote his “good friend Ralph Fonseca” to protect his interests in Intelco is also implicated in the money laundering ring being investigated by the Italian Government.
Even Belize recently experienced its own money laundering scheme that saw over US$100.0 million being “washed” with overwhelming evidence, yet there has been no official investigation despite formal requests from many civic groups, including the Association of Concerned Belizeans (ACB).
On the drugs front, members of the PUP have a long history of involvement and guilt. Former PUP Minister and father of current Deputy Prime Minister Johnny Briceño, Elijio Briceño, spent several years in a US prison for drug trafficking. Maxwell Monsanto, former Clerk of the National assembly under the PUP, was also jailed in the US under similar circumstances. According to a former prominent local drug dealer, the drugs ring in Belize was organized from the National Assembly during the 1970’s.
All in all, the charge that the PUP is a “criminal organization involved in politics” rings more clearly today than any other time in our history. Although not declared by any court of Belize, the Belizean people view much of what the PUP does as evidently criminal. How else can the people describe actions and policies that routinely and systematically rob from the poor to give to the rich? But this is what the PUP is all about – raping and plundering the assets of hard working, tax paying Belizeans to create an obscenely rich PUP elite.
But this type of behaviour will not last too long. PUP candidates are dropping like flies all around us. First it was Marcial Mes and his cowardly deeds, and now it is Moises Cal and his law-breaking passion that he has now exported. Even Anthony Chanona has called it quits. Why don’t Said Musa, Ralph Fonseca and all their minions not now realize that the people are fed up and save us further embarrassment and hurt by resigning forthwith and calling new elections? The people can’t wait until 2008.
JO - Oh for a good night's rest
From my archive of press clippings:
Sunday, February 25, 2007
How is it possible that the police cannot do anything to stop the owner of a pet dog disturbing his/her neighbour/s?
Is it so that they only make laws to control reggae music?
According to the Senior Superintendent of Police, Jasmine Tomlinson-Brown, the police cannot do anything because dogs are not included in the Noise Abatement Act.
Might I ask what or who is included in the Noise Abatement Act in my beloved Jamaica?
In case "The Supe" hasn't figured it out as yet, it is "Noise Abatement Act" and not "Dog Abatement Act", which simply means that the German ambassador, Mr Schlegel, doesn't have a problem with the dog, his problem is with the noise that happens to be coming from a dog, which is driving him up the wall at nights.
There is a similar case here in Belgium where this couple has an old age animal home for dogs and cats (aged 10 and above). Even though there are more dogs involved in this case, the main point here is the "noise". Whether it is one, two, three or four dogs, it is all the same.
Of course, people complained to the relevant authority about the dog excrement, barking, the smell and some have even taken the couple to court. A new legislation then came in force January 2006 which states that you must have a permit if you want to house more than 10 pets. So you see, "Supe", something can be done and the reason why it cannot be done on the Rock is because we are still thinking Third World style. When are we going to move forward? Why are we allowing our beautiful country to be stagnant?
There are two types of noises - Joyful noise and annoying noise. Music on a whole has them both. When you play music within the 'allotted' time it is joyful noise, but when you breach that time, it then turns into annoying noise. When the owner is allowing his/her dog to bark in the night when people are supposed to be sleeping, one can only call that annoying noise.
A lack of shut-eye is a dangerous thing and something we must take seriously. Excessive sleepiness, when it goes untreated, is a major contributor to serious road accidents (this one is vital for the ambassador because the Autobahn in Germany is 'speedy Gonzales' and when travelling on it, you need to keep your eyes open at all times), lost productivity and breakdown of marriages and relationships, according to medical experts. Driving on the Autobahn is no shut-eye thing.
And in case that dog owner doesn't know what s/he is possibly doing to Mr Schlegel, bear in mind that sleep deprivation can affect appetite, weight gain, diabetes risk and even the chance of developing depression.
Losing a night's sleep can cause the ambassador (people in general) to be clumsy and irritable the next day, going two nights without sleep, he will have problems concentrating and will begin to make mistakes on things that he could normally do with his eyes closed. Missing three nights and the ambassador will start to hallucinate and lose his grasp of reality.
Instead of putting on 2 more zeros on the cheque that the German Embassy wants to donate to the Jamaica Cancer Society, he mistakenly puts one zero and that means less money for the Cancer Society, but, can you blame him? It is because of that dog why the Cancer Society is a little poorer?
The dog owner needs to cut the ambassador and the rest of the neighbours some slack to get a good night's rest.
Monday, April 30, 2007
TR (Bz) - Moises Cal allegedly busted with loot in Panama
The Reporter (Bz)
Moises Cal allegedly busted with loot in Panama
Friday, 23 February 2007
By Ann-Marie Williams - Staff Reporter
Moises Cal tarnishes his reputation with scandalous allegations.
Former Ambassador to Guatemala Moises Cal and brother to Agriculture Minister of State Ismael Cal, it seems is in hiding after Reporter tried unsuccessfully to reach him at his residence.
It’s alleged he was caught entering customs in neighbouring Panama with a suitcase containing a large sum of money; about half a million U.S. dollars.
Cal who was still travelling on a diplomatic passport did not declare the money.
Sources close to Reporter say he tried to bribe four customs officials who were subsequently fired.
Cal resigned from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last year as ambassador for Belize, but was allowed to keep his diplomatic passport.
People who travel on such passport are usually not subjected to scrutiny and searches unless airport officials are tipped off about suspicious misdeeds.
On Sunday government issued an official press release only saying that Moises Cal is stepping down as Standard Bearer for the Belmopan constituency, citing “family reasons.”
Cal defeated Anthony Chanona, former Belmopan Mayor in the December 2, PUP Convention.
Moises Cal was named the representative for the PUP to take on the U.D.P.s John Saldivar in the new division of Belmopan in the 2008 general elections.
Last Updated ( Friday, 23 February 2007 )
JG - ST LUCIA - Taiwan engineering sabotage, says China
ST LUCIA - Taiwan engineering sabotage, says China
published: Monday February 19, 2007
CASTRIES, St. Lucia (CMC):
The St. Lucia-based Chinese Embassy is urging the speeding up of official ties with the new government of St. Lucia warning that Taiwan is trying to sabotage the process.
Chinese Ambassador to St. Lucia, Gu Huaming, said the process of signing a memorandum of understanding with the new government needs to be expedited amid what he told newsmen are attempts by Taiwan to rupture relations between St. Lucia and China.
"Taiwan's leader visited Nicaragua in January and attempted to come to St. Lucia for talks with the new government but they refused to grant him an audience," Huaming told reporters Friday.
St. Lucia broke diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1997 shortly after the St. Lucia Labour Party came to power.
The United Workers Party, which won the December 11 general election last year, has already committed itself to maintaining diplomatic ties with China.
But the Chinese say they are concerned about Taiwan's efforts to undermine the process.
The ambassador said the Taiwanese made a further incursion when that country's ambassador to St. Kitts and Nevis visited here on a number of occasions.
"Reports reaching our embassy suggest that he has been seeking to sabotage the good relations between China and St. Lucia," the ambassador added.
China regards Taiwan as a renegade province and the Chinese ambassador said that Taiwan is as much a part of his country as Pigeon Island in the north is part of St. Lucia.
When questioned about reports that Taiwanese officials have been in St. Lucia, apparently looking for property, the ambassador said he was not aware of that, saying he felt sure that the current administration would not allow it to happen.
China is currently undertaking the construction of a US$10.1 million mental health facility on the island, having already completed the construction of a sports stadium and plans to build a cultural centre on completion of the hospital.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
TR (Bz) - Seawell bros await extradition hearings associate Chris Lewis extradited to the U.S.A.
The Reporter (Bz)
Seawell bros await extradition hearings associate Chris Lewis extradited to the U.S.A.
Friday, 23 February 2007
By Ann-Marie Williams - Staff Reporter
Belize police on Saturday last, February 17, extradited Christopher Lewis, 30, an associate of Duane Seawell, to the United States of America to stand trial for drug trafficking and money laundering.
Belizean authorities with the assistance of their U.S. counterpart put Lewis on a Continental Airlines flight bound for Houston, Texas.
Upon arrival proceedings were underway for him to be extradited to the state of Ohio, where both him and Duane Seawell are allegedly wanted to answer joint charges.
Lewis who lived at a Macaw Avenue address in Belmopan was picked up on Friday last, February 16, while hanging out in a vehicle with a few guys which was parked in the shopping square near the Belize Bank in Belmopan.
Reporter’s investigations revealed that Lewis came to Belize in 1994 when brothers Duane,32 and Mark Seawell, 37 were allegedly wanted while living in the U.S.A.
Since coming to Belize it seems Lewis took on a new identity calling himself one Karl Meighan. He grew dreadlocks and spoke Kriol so as to fit into the Belizean community.
He even had a driver’s licence issued in that name and was charged and paid a fine for a drug trafficking offence in Belize in 2000. He also used his alias when he got into trouble with the law.
Meanwhile, Duane Seawell’s fate hang’s in the balance as he’s in Jamaica awaiting extradition to Belize.
Sources tell this newspaper that GOB was trying to circumvent the Extradition Treaty to see how the younger Seawell could fly back to Belize without being arrested in Miami.
Duane was arrested in Jamaica where he’s been living for over a year for illegal entry and false passport. On January 28, 2007 the Jamaican Narcotics Group picked him up and searched a house where he frequented. The search turned up a fake passport he travelled with in the name of Michael Latchman and an airplane ticket in the same name.
Sources say he was living at a Kingston Hotel for a few days prior under several different names prior to his arrest.
Authorities say Duane’s extradition can take up to six months.
As if one brother being held weren’t bad enough, on Thursday last, February 14, Belize police arrested Mark Seawell. He’s being held at the Hattieville Prison awaiting extradition hearing.
Last Updated ( Friday, 23 February 2007 )
JG - Olufolajimi Modupe Akintola - One who speaks with authority
Olufolajimi Modupe Akintola - One who speaks with authority
published: Monday February 19, 2007
Chief O. Modupe Akintola, Nigerian High Commissioner to Jamaica, is a lawyer with 40 years' practice under her belt. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer
Daviot Kelly, Staff Reporter
In her native land, her title is Ye Ye Awishe, or the one who speaks with authority. She is Chief Olufolajimi Modupe Akintola, Nigerian High Commissioner to Jamaica.
A lawyer by profession, she trained in England and finished her studies in Nigeria. She practised law for 40 years.
"I have always been involved in international relations because I had taken part in the International Bar Association (IBA)," she explains.
Her first job was in journalism where she worked with Radio Nigeria as a programme assistant. But that only lasted for six months before she went off to study law.
"I did enjoy my practice. I started off with advocacy then I branched out to solicitorship. I enjoyed meeting colleagues from all parts of the world," she says.
CHANCE TO SERVE
When she appeared before the senate committee, she was asked where she would like to spend her posting as protocol dictated. She expressed a desire for Jamaica.
"I had spent so much time in Europe that I would rather come to this side to work with my brothers and sisters and see how they are faring," she said. After the necessary consultations, she was appointed to the island.
May of this year will mark three years in the post as high commissioner. She was appointed by political appointment in the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo. She explained that her term will end after the next election.
During her tenure, she has worked hard to continue the building of relations between both nations. Nigeria's first female Senior Advocate (equivalent to a Queen's Counsel for us) lectured at the Norman Manley Law School. The high commission is always represented at various cultural events and generally whenever requests for assistance are made, they try to oblige. There is also an ongoing programme between the countries which involves volunteer nurses.
"The Nigerian Government pays their expenses and their passage while the Jamaican Government finds their accommodation and provides health care," she explained.
Before she departs, her interest is to continue to increase the cultural exchange between both countries.
"The problem is the air link between our countries because there is none. To get to Nigeria from here, you have to go to Europe; you'll be travelling for two days," she reasoned. Her desire is to see more interaction between Africans in the diaspora and those on the continent.
CELEBRATING OUR HISTORY
Though Nigerians do not celebrate Black History Month, their national day celebrations in October mirror our February activities.
"We come out to inform and sensitise especially the young ones that this is what our heroes fought for. Children especially like to hear her speak at the various events and see her in traditional dress.
"It's good to celebrate the freedom and remember those who had worked hard to make it possible like Garvey, Bustamante and Nanny," she said.
One of her biggest joys is to take her various guests around the island. She does this because like in Africa, she is of the view that the foreign media doesn't always portray Jamaica in a balanced light.
When she returns home she will continued work with Families United, a non-governmental to organisation she founded in 1992 which seeks to bring together families that have been separated. As for Jamaica's future, she suggests we have one cog to put in place.
"If the men are more involved in family life, there will be less crime because their concentration will be on their home. You have to be responsible as the head of the family because everything starts from the home," she concluded.