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Archive for September, 2006

GUEST COMMENTARY: Trade and Aid Negotiations with Europe Set to Get Tougher

Posted by kinchendavid on September 30, 2006

By Sir Ronald Sanders

The admission to membership of the European Union (EU) on Jan. 1, 2007 of Bulgaria and Romania, albeit with conditions, will make it tougher for the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries to negotiate advantageous Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the EU. These negotiations began formally in 2003 and the EU would like to complete them by 2008.

Of the 15 countries that comprised the EU up to 2004, eight had colonial relationships in ACP countries and three (Britain, France and the Netherlands) continue to have overseas territories in the Caribbean.

Therefore, up to that time a limited desire remained among key players in the EU to “look after”, several countries in the ACP.

After 1995 when Austria, Finland and Sweden joined the EU, the majority of members of the Union had already begun to move away from the attitude of benefactor to the ACP.

By 2004 when the EU expanded to embrace 10 new members among which were Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Estonia, any residual collective sentiment toward the ACP countries all but disappeared.

The new members had no history of colonial relationships with the ACP countries and felt no particular moral obligation to develop anything more than reciprocal trade and investment relations with them.

Indeed, they were far more interested in what membership of the EU could do to improve their own economic circumstances than in the relationship between the EU and the ACP.

They had witnessed the economic transformation that EU development aid brought to Ireland, Spain and Portugal, and they wanted to benefit in the same way.

A tougher relationship between the EU and the ACP countries has become very apparent and was painfully evident at the ACP-EU Joint Council meeting in June this year when major differences surfaced between the two groups of countries.

Among those differences were: opposing approaches to tariff liberalisation and market access; the creation of an effective funding mechanism to support the proposed Economic Partnership Agreements between the EU and ACP countries; and giving tangible expression to the concept of development in the proposed EPAs.

The ACP Council was so unhappy with the negotiating directives that the European Commission (EC) was given by the EU Council of Ministers that it adopted a decision expressing “disappointment and apprehension” over how EC negotiators were dealing with delivery of development objectives in the proposed EPA’s.

All this is likely to get worse after Bulgaria and Romania join the EU on January 1st.

A Council of 27 members, nineteen of which feel no particular responsibility for the ACP – and certainly feel that they owe them no debt – will not be accommodating to ACP demands.

In any event, a 27 member Ministerial Council is stymied by its own size – only consensus decisions are likely to carry, and the consensus is unlikely to favour a “benefactor” attitude to the ACP.

Bulgaria and Romania have a combined population of 30 million with per capita wealth that is only one-third of the EU average.

Both countries are expecting that EU development aid and investment, including US$10.2 billion of farm aid alone, will improve the social and economic conditions in their countries. The last thing they want is more EU resources directed away from them to the ACP, and they will undoubtedly want their own contributions to ACP funding to be kept to the minimum.

They also want to see greater EU focus for the Black Sea region of which they are a part. That greater focus may come at the expense of attention to the ACP.

Bare statistics indicate that the majority of Caribbean countries have a higher standard of living and a bigger per capita income than Bulgaria, Romania and other former Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004.

The task of convincing officials in these countries that the EU should continue to give the ACP special treatment will not be easy.

And it is not a task that can be left to the former colonial powers in the EU; they would simply be told by the new EU members that they were not beneficiaries of that colonial relationship.

A large part of the argument has to urge recognition that, in the interest of global stability, a rich region of the world, like Europe, should contribute meaningfully to the development of less well off regions in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

But, ACP countries also need to demonstrate that they are implementing measures that will adjust their own economic circumstances making them less dependent on special treatment in the years ahead.

ACP governments should be taking an early initiative, and visits to the Bulgarian and Romanian capitals should be scheduled soon.

* * *

Sir Ronald Sanders is a business executive and former Caribbean Ambassador to the World Trade Organisation who publishes widely on Small States in the global community. Responses to: ronaldsanders29@hotmail.com

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GUEST COMMENTARY: National Intelligence Estimate? So What?

Posted by kinchendavid on September 29, 2006

By Jim Kouri

Sometimes I envy liberal Democrats. Unlike conservatives, they are permitted to have it both ways. Who permits them to have such a political advantage? Those sanctimonious geniuses working in the mainstream news media.

Why do I say that? Well, there are so many cases it’s hard to begin. Take the flap over the recently leaked National Intelligence Estimate, a document once treated as top secret until it was discovered by certain traitors within the intelligence community that it’s now patriotic in this topsy-turvy country to betray and smear your own country. If a document is leaked that helps conservatives, its a security leak and must be punished. If it hurts conservatives, then the leaker is a “whistleblower” and a hero.

Information contained in the April 2006 NIE revealed that some US intelligence operatives believed — based on their analysis — that the war in Iraq actually created an environment in the Middle East that encouraged more Muslims to become Jihadists. It’s something that’s been claimed by liberals since 2004, but now — Praise the Lord! — they have proof positive that they were right. Bush is creating more terrorists which means we’re less safe.

Of course, the media helps them by disclosing only the parts of the NIE that can be used to undermine the Commander-in-Chief.

So how are the liberals having it both ways? Simple. When previous National Security Estimates claimed that Saddam indeed had weapons of mass destruction, but they were either destroyed, buried in the desert, or shipped to either Syria or Iran, those counter-terrorism warriors in the Democrat Party told the world that the Bush Administration exerted pressure on the intelligence analysts to “tweak” the information contained in their reports. Some, such as Senator Ted Kennedy, went as far as alleging the Bushies forced the intelligence community to submit deceptive NIEs. They insinuated that the NIE was useless in preparing our antiterrorism strategy.

But now, since the NIE — or the leaked portion — can be used during the election season to hurt the pro-war conservatives, suddenly the NIE is infallible and a document that’s sacrosanct. It went from being useless as an empty toilet paper dispenser to being a document deserving of widespread promulgation.

The American people, for the most part, never even heard of the National Intelligence Estimate until the Democrats started harping about the White House’s war effort being riddled with deception and incompetence. The 9/11 Commission made this top-secret report a household name. The New York Times frequently working as the Jihadist Intelligence Agency or JIA, garners leaks from treasonous political hacks working at CIA, NSA and other intelligence agencies and tells the world about information contained in secret communications. The only prerequisite is that the information hurts the Commander in Chief and the GOP.

The NIE is really a consensus report based on the opinions and educated guesses of analysts from 16 intelligence agencies. One can be sure that previous NIEs never tipped off our leaders that the terrorists were planning to fly commercial airplanes into buildings. Its goal of providing national security failed miserably. Yet, today we have people holding up statements and making claims based on a report that in the past failed to help in protecting the United States and its citizens.

According to a news story by Sher Zieve of The Conservative Voice, the New York Times reported:”While the spread of self-described Jihadists is hard to measure,” the report says, the terrorists “are increasing in both number and geographic dispersion.”

However, other portions of the now released NIE report found: ”Greater pluralism and more responsive political systems in Muslim majority nations would alleviate some of the grievances Jihadists exploit. Over time, such progress, together with sustained, multifaceted programs targeting the vulnerabilities of the Jihadist movement and continued pressure on Al-Qaeda, could erode support for the Jihadists.

”Should Jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.

The Jihadists’ greatest vulnerability is that their ultimate political solution — an ultraconservative interpretation of Sharia -based governance spanning the Muslim world — is unpopular with the vast majority of Muslims. Exposing the religious and political straitjacket that is implied by the Jihadists’ propaganda would help to divide them from the audiences they seek to persuade.”

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow advised reporters and critics during his Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2006 press conference that the portions of the report not released are those sections that would place overseas US intelligence agents in jeopardy.

But the Democrats don’t care about winning wars, protecting Americans, and maintaining the integrity of our intelligence gathering and analysis. They care about being elected and taking back the US government as if it rightfully belongs to them.

Is the war in Iraq encouraging Muslims to become radicalized and take up arms against the United States? Maybe. But history shows that Jihadists didn’t need much of an excuse to kill, butcher, and destroy. For the most part, these Islamic Fascists use various rationales for their horrible violence. And they know the United States has a dumb news media and sleazy politicians to help them rationalize their hatred and violence towards the infidels.

The newly declassified and released NIE report may be viewed at:

http://www.sanluisobispo.com/mld/sanluisobispo/15617157.htm

* * * *

Jim Kouri is fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a staff writer for the New Media Alliance (thenma.org). He’s a former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed “Crack City” by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. Kouri has appeared as on-air commentator for more than 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. Kouri’s own website is http://jimkouri.U.S.

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Bath Sets Sold at Wal-mart Pose Choking Hazard; Kawasaki Mule Utility Vehicles Can Lose Control; More Recalls

Posted by kinchendavid on September 28, 2006

By Staff, with information supplied by http://www.recalls.org

Almar Sales Co. is recalling Suave Kids Bath Sets sold nationwide at
Wal-Mart stores from March 2006 to June 2006. Items in the baths sets
contain small parts that pose a choking hazard. Also, the plastic carrying case poses a danger of
suffocation.

This recall involves “Suave” brand bath sets that contain a 3-in-1 shampoo,
bath sponge, and various other toy animal and character bath products. Style
numbers involved in this recall are: SVK 9498, 9499, 9501, 9506, 9507 and
9508. The style numbers are located on the back and/or bottom right corner
of the package, above the UPC code.

Consumers should either dispose of the bath sets or return them to the store
where purchased for a full refund.

Consumers can call Almar Sales at (800) 251-2522 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
ET Monday through Friday. More info at http://www.recalls.org.

KAWASAKI MULE UTILITY VEHICLES CAN LOSE CONTROL

Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. is recalling Kawasaki MULE utility vehicles
Sold nationwide from August 2006 to September 2006. These vehicles could
have been assembled with improperly manufactured steering knuckles that
could break while the vehicle is in operation. This can cause a loss of
steering control and cause a crash resulting in injury or death.

The recall involves Kawasaki MULE 3000 (KAF620-G), MULE 3010 4x4
(KAF620-E/H), MULE 3010 Trans4x4 (KAF620-J/K) and MULE 3010 Diesel Trans4x4
(KAF950-C) models.

Consumers should contact their local Kawasaki dealer to schedule an
appointment for an inspection of the steering knuckles and a free
replacement.

Consumers can also call Kawasaki toll-free at (866) 802-9381 between 8:30
a.m. and 4:45 p.m. PT Monday thru Friday, or visit
http://www.kawasaki.com/content.asp?url=/kawasaki_aux/misc/recalls.asp.
More info at http://www.recalls.org.

NOTEBOOK COMPUTER BATTERIES CAN OVERHEAT

Lenovo and IBM are recalling Rechargeable, lithium-ion batteries used in
ThinkPad
notebook computers sold nationwide from February 2005 to September
2006.These lithium-ion batteries can cause overheating, posing a fire
hazard.

The recalled lithium-ion batteries were sold with or sold separately to
be used with the following ThinkPad notebook computers: T Series (T43, T43p,
T60); R Series (R51e, R52, R60, R60e); and X Series (X60, X60s). The recalled
Batteries have the following part or model numbers, which can be found on the battery
label:

Part/model number:
ASM P/N FRU P/N
92P1072 92P1073
92P1088 92P1089
92P1142 92P1141
92P1170 92P1169 or 93P5028
92P1174 92P1173 or 93P5030

Consumers should contact Lenovo at (800) 426-7378 anytime to receive a
replacement battery, free-of-charge or visit http://www.lenovo.com/batteryprogram .
More info at http://www.recalls.org.

BICYCLE FRAMES CAN SEPARATE

Cervélo Cycles Inc. is recalling 2005 R2.5 Model Carbon Fiber Bicycles and
Bicycle Frames sold nationwide from December 2004 to May 2005. The bicycle
frames can loosen or separate, causing the rider to lose control, fall and
be injured.

This recall involves only the 2005 model year R2.5 model bicycles and
bicycle frames with serial numbers higher than R251700. The model numbers
and serial numbers are printed on the bicycle frame tubes.

Consumers should contact Cervèlo at (866) 296-3137 between 10 a.m. and 5
p.m. ET Monday through Friday to receive a free replacement frame. Consumers
can also visit http://www.cervelo.com/R25recall. More info at http://www.recalls.org.

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BOOK REVIEW: Concept of ‘Doing Nothing’ Seems to be Anachronistic in Today’s Workaholic World, But Author Tom Lutz Says It’s the Other Side of Work Ethic Coin

Posted by kinchendavid on September 28, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Huntington News Network Book Critic

Hinton, WV – Any author who includes references to the Statler Brothers (“Flowers on the Wall”) and Max Weber (“The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”) in his book is on track to create something worth reading. That’s the case with Tom Lutz and his latest book “Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 363 pages, bibliography, index, $25).

Popular music and sociological treatises like Weber’s are just a few of the references offered up by Lutz, a Southern California English professor and self-confessed former slacker, loafer and commune dweller. He’s also the father of 18-year-old Cody Lutz, whose proclivities for loafing alarmed a man who spent a decade — before attending college — wandering hither and yon.

I have to accuse Lutz of what we in the journalism business call “burying the lede” – if the “lede” or thesis of the story is that societies that are among the most workaholic – Lutz cites Japan and the U.S. – also produce a rich culture of slackers and loafers. A brief detour from the American aspect of slacking and loafing takes place when Lutz visits (Page 310 ff) Tokyo’s Golden Gai slacker central. Yin and yang, work ethic and slacker ethic. Can’t have one without the other, it appears.

By the way, Lutz points out that the word “workaholic” was coined by Wayne E. Oates in 1968, but became widespread upon the 1971 publication of the South Carolinian’s best-selling “Confessions of a Workaholic.” Born into a poor family in 1917, Oates wrote 47 books, earned a master’s and a Ph.D. and worked full-time as a pastor and later as a college professor. He died in 1999.

The way Oates describes this condition – which I thought afflicts me and many other journalists, writers and editors – sounds like a form of addiction. Workaholics (Page 275) are people who cannot stop working, who need larger and larger doses to get by (Lutz paraphrasing here) and (leading into an Oates quote) have “forced themselves into exhaustion, depression, cardiovascular disorders, excessive eating in order to maintain energy, and all manners of imbalances of the human life.”

Wow! Come to think of it, if that describes workaholism, I guess I’m not a true workaholic. I suffer from none of the conditions described, with the possible exception of exhaustion after a day of physical labor. Maybe it’s just that I enjoy my work so much I just want to do it. I “prefer to do it,” in contrast to Herman Melville’s famous “Bartleby the Scrivener” whose mantra is “I prefer not to” when asked to do a particular job in the office where he ostensibly works.

Lutz’s book is crammed to the rafters with references to literary figures – including Bartleby – from Tom Sawyer, a classic slacker who manages to get others to do his work, to Rip Van Winkle, taking that famous nap and waking up decades later. He also cites many sociological and historical works, all listed in the comprehensive bibliography.

Karl Marx and his father Hirschel Marx share book space with Groucho, Harpo and the rest of the Marx Brothers, making “Doing Nothing” a fascinating book indeed. I enjoy juxtapositions of this sort.

Lutz notes that famous loafers and slackers of the past and present were and are really industrious folks, closet workaholics, if you will. Beat icon Jack Kerouac worked in a variety of jobs while creating his novels; he even enlisted in three branches of the armed services in the space of a few days!

Film director Richard Linklater (born in Texas in 1960) is the man whose 1991 movie “Slacker” gave a name to a concept that has been around seemingly forever. I watched Linklater’s 1993 flick “Dazed and Confused” the other night and noted that the Matthew McConaughey character – slightly older than most of the high school students portrayed in the movie – is a classic slacker. “Dazed and Confused” can be compared to “American Graffiti” or “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” or “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” McConaughey also plays a slacker in Tom Dey’s “Failure to Launch” that came out earlier this year. His character in the upcoming “We Are Marshall” movie is anything but a slacker.

Linklater is no slacker, Lutz points out: He’s directing and writing constantly. I checked this out with the movie data base site and found this to be true with 17 films written and/or directed by the Houston native since the mid-1980s, including “The School of Rock,” “The Newton Boys,” and, most recently “A Scanner Darkly,” based on the Philip K. Dick story.

Last year I obtained a copy of Weber’s “Protestant Ethic” book and actually read it, in the English translation. It was published in 1905 and last year was the centennial of the classic sociology work, which helped create the field of sociology itself. Essentially, the German academic argues that the settlement of America by Calvinist workaholics created the work ethic that is the hallmark of America. It drove the nation to succeed and also worked a lot of people too hard for their own taste. This is a vast simplification of Weber; get the book and read it for yourself – unless, of course, you “prefer not to!”

Lutz says our current president is a classic slacker, the kind of Chief Executive who interprets 24/7 as 24 hours a week, 7 months a year as his working schedule. George W. Bush probably was taken to the woodshed (figuratively, I hope) by his workaholic dad, former President George H.W. Bush, Lutz posits.

What about Cody Lutz, introduced in the beginning of the book, where we see him lounging on the sofa of his dad’s place, watching TV? According to his dad, Cody’s working 14 hours a day in the workaholic environment of Hollywood, in a city that has an undeserved reputation for being “laid back.” I lived there for 16 years and most Angelenos are anything but laid back; they have to work two or three jobs just to afford living in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Publisher’s web site: http://www.fsgbooks.com

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NEWS ANALYSIS: End Times for the Christian Coalition: Chapters Severing Ties to National Group

Posted by kinchendavid on September 28, 2006

By  Nathan Tabor and Jim Kouri 

A once valuable part of the conservative movement appears to be on its last legs, with state chapters cutting ties and $2 million of debt.

On Monday, Sept. 25, 2006, officials from the Christian Coalition of Georgia announced their formal notice for a name change.

In a letter sent to the Christian Coalition of America’s President  Roberta Combs, dated September 25, 2006, Georgia Chapter Chairperson Sadie Fields said, “I have been authorized by the Board of Directors of the Christian Coalition of Georgia Inc. to notify you as Chairman and President of the Christian Coalition of America of our plans to change the name of our state organization.”

Georgia now joins the Alabama, Iowa and Ohio state chapters in departure as state affiliates of the national organization.

Fields confirmed the break: “Our new organization will maintain the same board of directors, officers and staff and will be issues driven based on our long- standing, tried, true and tested mission and tenets that have guided our organization since 1989.”

She stated that their mission statement is: “We believe that people of faith have a right and a responsibility to be involved in the world around them; that involvement includes social, community and political action.

“The long-standing tenets that bring unity among conservative members of our coalition of Christians are: strengthening the family, protecting innocent human life, returning education to local  parental control, easing the tax burden on families, punishing criminals   defending victims’ rights, protecting young people   our communities from the pollution of pornography and the expansion of gambling, defending the institution of marriage and protecting religious freedom.”

”In every major public policy debate, it is almost guaranteed that the liberal forces opposing our view will try to redefine who we are and feverishly attempt to amend our tenets and mission. The Christian Coalition of America has demonstrated by their actions in word and in deed a desire to drift from our founding tenets. The Christian Coalition of America has left us, we have not left them,” Fields concluded.

CCG Board of Directors is currently developing a new name and logo for the state operation, which will be unveiled on or before Nov. 1, 2006.

Fields added, “We will march forward and continue on our mission to educate voters in Georgia with our one million voter guide project.”

Fields’ letter to Combs concluded with the following statement, “A name change was our last resort. Those of us who have served the Christian Coalition faithfully and well deeply regret that we have been compelled to make this move. But, we must in order to preserve the original mission of the Christian Coalition and to continue in the tradition thereof.” 


One of the issues that has soured Christian Coalition state chapters is national Christian Coalition leader Roberta Combs joining forces with leftist groups such as the ACLU, MoveOn.Org, and others in support of the Clinton-Markey effort to have more government control over the Internet.

Also, In Alabama in 2003, the Christian Coalition of America and the usual suspects — public employee unions and newspaper editorial boards — all applauded the effort to hike taxes by more than a billion dollars a year.

While the national officials loudly supported this tax increase on Alabama families,   John Giles and the Alabama chapter of the Christian Coalition broke with the national chapter and worked to defeat the tax increase.

The Alabama chapter won the debate and turned out conservative voters, who soundly defeated the higher tax plan at the polls. Even better, without the tax increase, Alabama‘s government today is enjoying record budget surpluses.

Former Republican lawmaker and party leader, Dick Armey has severely criticized the national Christian Coalition.

Armey said of Roberta Combs and CCA in an article appearing in the Hawaii Reporter: “The national Christian Coalition was once an important part of the movement that helped bring conservative, limited government ideas to majority status in America. Today, the shell organization that remains is too often simply another Washington, DC, voice calling for bigger government.”

Earlier this year, Chris Long, executive director of the Ohio chapter, stated, “From this time forward, we will be known as Ohio Christian Alliance (OCA).”

“It was a sad day when our board found it impossible to continue a name that was associated with the national organization,” he said.

Long added, “But the board felt it would rather function as an independent organization than an organization shrouded with perceptions contrary to Christian commitments, and it voted unanimously to spin off.”
 
The Ohio chapter had followed the lead of the Iowa chapter, which severed its ties in March in a statement nearly identical to the one issued by Ohio.

The Coalition’s influence has greatly declined under Roberta Combs, and the once prosperous group is now $2 million in the red. It’s under siege by lawsuits from creditors and is also struggling to hold on to state chapters. Once, the Christian Coalition organized a dozen lobbyists in Washington, but now the only remnant of the Coalition within a mile of the Capitol is a single employee who works from his home.

Observers of this latest controversy involving the Christian Coalition believe that more chapters will break off from the national organization.

 

           

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GUEST COMMENTARY: Cuba: An Economic Tiger in the Caribbean?

Posted by kinchendavid on September 25, 2006

By Sir Ronald Sanders

US President George W Bush and UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, talked on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2006 about the possibility that Cuba “could once again be an economic tiger in the Caribbean”.

This information was revealed to news reporters at the Algonquin Hotel in New York by Mike Kozak, Senior Director for Democracy Human Rights, and International Organizations in the National Security Council.

According to Mr. Kozak, “This was not a long, deep, analytical thing… But just that one of these days, if Cubans are able to make the kind of changes that they need to make, that it could once again be an economic tiger in the Caribbean”.

What are the kinds of changes that Cuba would have to make to become an economic tiger in the region? Crucial among these would be a move toward a market economy, trade expansion, increased productivity through better wages and salaries for workers, access by Cubans to capital which they can use to invest in businesses, and more foreign direct investment.

And, a very important element in expanding trade and increasing foreign investment would be the lifting of the 45-year old US trade embargo, and normalisation of relations between Cuba and the US.

Against this background, Cuba is not likely to become an economic tiger in the region anytime soon, unless there is a massive collapse of the governmental system and a swift kiss and make up period between Washington and Havana.

For the time being, the Cuban government can afford to continue its present economic and foreign policies, but as pressure increases in a post-Castro era, a re-think of these policies, including in its relationship with the US, is bound to come.

At the moment, increased investment and aid from Venezuela is helping to bolster the Cuban economy. So too, is investment from France, Spain, Canada and more recently China and India.

China is now Cuba’s third largest trading partner with a trade exchange of US$985 million in 2005. China has invested US$1 billion in Cuba’s nickel industry as well as tourism, transportation and telecommunications, and it intends to explore for oil. And, India’s state-owned ONGC Videsh has signed a production sharing agreement with Cuba’s state oil company Cupet.

According to the Economy and Planning Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez, the Cuban economy grew by 12.5% in the first half of 2006 and he expects annual growth to exceed 10% for the second successive year.

He is adamant that Cuba’s policy towards market opening will not change. But, there is pressure for change in Cuba now both within the country and from external forces. Cuba’s trading partners, Canada and the European Union (EU), have been urging greater respect for human rights, more room for dissent within the society and more individual freedom.

Meanwhile the US Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, which is chaired by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, has called for US$80 million to be spent over two years to “increase support for Cuban civil society, expand international awareness, break the regime’s information blockade and continue developing assistance initiatives to help Cuban civil society realise a democratic transition”.

All these factors will play a part in determining the policies of a Cuban government in the not too distant future.

One of the scenarios that could play out is a normalisation of relations between Cuba and the US in the post-Castro era.

Should this happen, there will be ramifications for the rest of the Caribbean.

For example, the Caribbean’s quota of sugar exports to the US would have to be reduced to accommodate Cuban sugar, and this would adversely impact an industry that is already reeling from the reduction in prices being paid by the EU for sugar from the countries of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM).

Some trade experts in the Caribbean also fear that there could be a displacement of CARICOM products such as rum, and they ponder what kind of favourable bilateral free trade agreement the US might work out with Cuba to gain influence on the economy. Equally, they are concerned about whether US assistance to Cuba would reduce aid to the rest of the Caribbean.

There is little doubt that if Cuba’s relationship with the US is normalised, Washington’s interest in the smaller Caribbean countries, which is already limited, will diminish even further. Apart from drug trafficking and illegal immigration, the CARICOM countries would command little attention or resources from the US.

Therefore, that brief conversation between Kofi Annan and George W Bush about Cuba once again becoming an economic tiger in the region should not simply be dismissed. The implications for other Caribbean countries are worthy of careful study.

* * *

Sir Ronald Sanders is a business executive and former Caribbean Ambassador to the World Trade Organisation who publishes widely on Small States in the global community. Responses to: ronaldsanders29@hotmail.com

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GUEST COMMENTARY: Falwell: God Will Preserve a Republican Majority! Did He Ever Hear About the Internal Revenue Service?

Posted by kinchendavid on September 25, 2006

By Joseph J. Honick

Bainbridge Island, WA — The Rev. Jerry Falwell, the last we heard, was running a couple of tax exempt operations including the Moral Majority and a university. And the last time we heard, it remained against the law for such folks to be doing political campaigning at the risk of losing their tax status Certainly those who railed quite appropriately against some of Jesse Jackson’s political efforts said so.

But this time, Falwell declared that God has anointed one political party over another and even indicated that Hillary Clinton is the devil in disguise.

What is fascinating in all of this is not the obvious extremism of what has been called the “religious right” so much as it is cause to revisit the entire study of religion itself in light of the declarations by those who seem to have taken unto themselves virtual status as Jeremiah’s or: (fill in the blanks yourself).

When some liberal church leaders over the years used their pulpits to endorse favored candidates or at least to express themselves on political issues, it was as if someone had thrown gasoline on the streets and struck matches everywhere and anywhere more conservative leadership might hear of these sinful activities. Calls, nay, screams went out to pull the tax-exempt status of any religious institution that violated the longstanding laws against getting into the murky waters of politics.

Aha! But now, Jerry Falwell and others like James Dobson, boss of the outfit known as Focus on the Family, don’t seem to care about such things and just as seemingly feel they are immune by perhaps divine something or other.

What is even worse among these folks is the idea they believe and propagate the idea that only their version of beliefs are truly American and patriotic.

Somewhere in all of this, the First Amendment got muddled by these folks in perhaps the same ways as other amendments guarding privacy and forbidden means of intervention in individual lives without proper legal warrants.

It all runs much more deeper than even any of the above. And the contradictions are huge and obvious. There was a time when conservatives quite rightly demanded the government at any level stay out of our personal lives, our bedrooms and our businesses. Somehow that has all shifted.

According to the most conservative elements today, it is fine for the government to tell people with whom they may or may not cohabitate or marry based on religious grounds. Absent from even any remote consideration is the idea that some religious faith might emerge that says all the stuff the neocons oppose might be just fine, and who is to say the new faith is less acceptable under the law inasmuch as it is illegal to get in the way of religious freedom. Says so right there in the Constitution!

Entangled in all this confusion is something called “traditional values.” We never really learn whose values and who established them as traditional.

Let’s face it: there were times in our amazing history when even those divinely inspired religionists would not permit African Americans to pray side by side with white folks or even choose to marry interracially. In fact, there was a time when conservative inspired laws traditionally allowed for what were called “Restricted” neighborhoods and for real estate advertisements in newspapers to say so. Of course, we all knew what “Restricted” meant, and it was not merely on racial grounds. Jews were also not welcomed in those neighborhoods.

Now none of this critical commentary about the right should offer any comfort to those from more liberal sectors who choose to use their tax exempt platforms for political purposes. Everyone should have to toe the lines defined for us in our Constitution, or will more conservative judges become the “activists” the more liberal jurists are often accused of being? What we have here is a collage of hypocrisy from people some of whom suggest they have even communicated with God. I seem to recall Comedian Lily Tomlin taking note some years ago that, when we talk to God, we call it praying; when God talks to us, we call it schizophrenia. With apologies to the more devout, the real question is why do some arrogate unto themselves, and with great arrogance I might add, the idea that God actually has a political agenda or tendency and speaks only to groups run by Falwell, Dobson et al.

The America I grew up with preached the ideals of individualism, minimal government and that faith was the province of religious institutions but not politics. If it is the aim of some to impose their faiths on others, that is not only illegal but un-American and has to be shut down fast. If they wish to propagate their faith to their faithful and others through legally tax exempt means, God bless them. And that goes for those across the political belief systems because all are guaranteed those rights.

On the other hand, as Tevye finally said in frustration in “Fiddler On The Roof,” “there is no other hand” …..at least when it comes to separation of church and state. How do I know? The Constitution tells me so! There may be a song there as well.

* * * *

Honick is president of GMA International Ltd., the consulting firm he established in 1975. Its principal areas involved working to broaden business opportunities abroad for American companies and assisting them in preparing for such effort. He is also a regular contributor to Huntington News Network.

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Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours Begin This Weekend

Posted by kinchendavid on September 25, 2006

By Staff

Parkersburg, WV — The Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours are haunted and historical walking tours of downtown Parkersburg, West Virginia led by real ghost hunters, psychic mediums and paranormal authors.

The tour covers local folklore as well as actual cases of real hauntings which occur up until to the current day. In its tenth season, the tour is broken up in a Friday night “Haunted City” tour covering the downtown section which includes stories of Blennerhassett Island, Indrid Cold, and a haunted bookstore and also a Saturday night “Haunted Houses” tour which passes by a haunted graveyard and haunted houses in the beautiful upper historical district of early Parkersburg.

These are the dates for the 2006 Ghost Tours.

Friday & Saturday September 29th & 30th

Friday & Saturday October 6th & 7th

Friday & Saturday October 13th & 14th

Friday & Saturday October 20th & 21st

Friday & Saturday October 27th & 28th

Sunday & Monday October 29th & 30th

Tuesday October 31st — Special Halloween Tour

Last Tours! November 3rd & 4th, 2006

All Tours Begin at 7:30 p.m in the lobby of the Blennerhassett Hotel in downtown Parkersburg – at 4th & Market Streets. For more information on the ghost tour, call (304) 428-7978. For directions to the Blennerhassett Hotel call (304) 422-3131.

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COMMENTARY: Bill Clinton’s Meltdown, Deception on Fox

Posted by kinchendavid on September 25, 2006

By  Jim Kouri

 

Americans who watched William Jefferson Clinton’s performance Sunday morning, Sept. 24, 2006, on Fox News got a heaping tablespoon of Clinton‘s meltdown for their breakfast. It was quite revealing that even in the heat of being defensive, a string of lies, half-truths and conspiracy theories proceeded from the mouth of America‘s “First Black President.”   The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy was out to tarnish his reputation, as if he needed any help in achieving that goal. You know the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy — ABC TV, Fox News Channel, Newsweek and others.

I’m not going to analyze Bill Clinton’s entire interview on the Fox News Sunday talkfest. It would take a full-length book to analyze each and every canard that man uttered. I was, however, shocked to hear Clinton say that in 1993, no one ever heard of Al-Qaeda. Just that one tidbit of deception is worthy of a column.

Former President Bill Clinton told Fox News’ Chris Wallace that no one knew about Al-Qaeda in 1993? What about the FBI’s chief of counterterrorism John O’Neill? Not only did he know about Al-Qaeda, but he warned the Clinton Administration, the FBI, the CIA and anyone else who would listen that the terrorist group was a danger to the security of the United States. So once again, President Clinton plays fast and loose with the truth on national television (“I did not have sex with that woman…).

I knew O’Neill and respected his work up to and including his service as Director of Security for the World Trade Center, where he died on 9/11. I think I believe him more than that pathological liar named B.J. Clinton. O’Neill continues to be praised by the membership of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and other police organizations. No man trained more police chiefs, commanders and officers in counterterrorism than Special Agent John O’Neill.

While the Clinton Administration slept during the terrorists’ war against the United States, O’Neill did all he could to fight the radical Islamists who wished to place the American people in harm’s way. After the first attack on the World Trade Center, O’Neill investigated the link between the Islamists who perpetrated the bombing and the terrorist group in the Middle East and North Africa know as Al-Qaeda.

The first WTC bombing was treated and prosecuted as a crime, while O’Neill wanted to followup with an extensive investigation of international terrorism. It didn’t happen.

O’Neill served in a number of critical positions in the FBI prior to his retirement in August, 2001. He became an FBI agent in July, 1976. His first office was in Baltimore, where his investigative assignments included Foreign Counterintelligence, Organized Crime, and White-Collar crimes.

From 1987-1991, he served in several positions within the Criminal Investigative Division and Inspection Division at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. In 1991, he was the Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Chicago Field Office. In 1994, Mr. O’Neill was designated Inspector in Charge of a multi-agency task force investigating domestic violence in the United States.

O’Neill was appointed Chief of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Section at FBI Headquarters where he was responsible for the direction and support of all of the FBI’s international and domestic counterterrorism investigations.

Of particular note during this time, was the capture and extradition of bombing suspect Ramzi Yousef for his role in the first attack on the World Trade Center, the investigation of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and the investigations of the bombings of US facilities in Saudi Arabia. He also supervised investigations of numerous other terrorist incidents involving Americans and American interests around the world.

SAC O’Neill served as the FBI representative on the Interagency Counterterrorism Committee of the National Security Council. He was also a member of the Terrorism Committee of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Terrorism Subcommittee of the American Society of Industrial Security.

O’Neill faced political opposition from members of the Clinton Administration, who ignored his reports and warnings. On many occasions he was denied funding for his frequent trips to the Middle East to investigate leads on terrorist groups. On several trips, he paid for his own expenses — plane fare, hotel accommodations, etc. — in order to wage his one=man war against terrorism.

Turf wars and dislike of O’Neill members of the Clinton Administration and then the Bush Administration in Washington meant that the FBI’s New York office was left out of the investigation, and later that O’Neill was left behind when other New York-based agents were sent to the region to pick up leads. O’Neill decided to continue fighting terrorism in the private sector.

After claiming ignorance of Al-Qaeda in 1993, Clintion takes a giant leap and says he came closest to capturing Osama bin Laden. Yes, close, but no cigar. Unless it was the famous cigar he shared with his intern Monica. Mr. Clinton, the road to perdition is paved with “almosts.”

 

      

                                * * * *

Jim Kouri  is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a staff writer for the New Media Alliance (thenma.org). He’s a former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed “Crack City” by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. Kouri has appeared as on-air commentator for more than 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc.  His book “Assume The Position” is available at Amazon.Com. Kouri’s  website is: http://jimkouri.U.S.

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Nicole Kidman’ Biography Gives Film Historian David Thomson a Platform for Alternative Takes on Movies

Posted by kinchendavid on September 24, 2006

Reviewed By David M. Kinchen
Huntington News Network Book Critic

Hinton, WV – When I heard that David Thomson, my favorite film historian, had written a biography of Nicole Kidman, I was intrigued and puzzled at the same time.

Intrigued because Thomson, whose “The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood” (Knopf) I reviewed for this site and enjoyed immensely and whose “The New Biographical Dictionary of Film” (also Knopf, 2002 and due for a new edition) is in constant use in my TV watching area, would never write a conventional biography. I naturally requested a review copy. Some have kidded me that I would read a Thomson version of the San Francisco (where the British-born Thomson lives with his family) telephone directory. Not true…. (I think).

“Nicole Kidman” (Knopf, 304 pages, $24.95, illustrations, sources, index) is pure, unadulterated Thomson. For many readers that would be a turnoff, but to my quirky way of thinking, it’s pure joy! Thomson loves to create his own movies, substituting actors and actresses (like me, I sense he hates the current Hollywood practice of using “actors” for both men and women), changing the plot, rewriting a film so it satisfies us. After all, aren’t we the customer and isn’t the customer always right? Why can’t we make changes and improvements in the product we pay for?

I’ve been accused (and I admit my guilt) of personalizing my reviews, of often – not always — putting my own experiences and thoughts into a review. I did this recently with a review of a book by a former Harvard College dean and long-time professor about what’s wrong with Harvard and he sent me an email praising the review, but saying that what I said about Harvard not being the best choice for everybody had elements of truth in it, even though it may have overstated the case. I had cited my experience of attending a fine but not spectacular state university not known for research and how the presence of actual teachers and not teaching assistants gave me a solid education in my major (English) and my minor (Industrial Arts). That odd-ball combination, I might add, later proved invaluable when I was a real estate editor and writer and was also – briefly – an auto editor and writer.

Thomson gives us the facts on Kidman, born in Hawaii on June 20, 1967 to an Australian couple studying at the University of Hawaii, growing up as the “stalky” stringbean of a girl obsessed with TV programs like “Bewitched” and acting in general. She was a busy young girl, acting in many Australian TV shows and mini-series. Her breakout role, with Sam Neill and Billy Zane, was a thriller called “Dead Calm” (1989, directed by Australian Phillip Noyce). The next year she married Tom Cruise, whom she met playing the world’s youngest – and prettiest — doctor, Claire Lewicki in “Days of Thunder,” directed by Tony Scott, a movie that weirdly foreshadowed the rise of NASCAR racing great Jeff Gordon. Both Gordon and Cruise have faced intrusive media questions about their sexual identities.

David Thomson often uses an existing movie as a basis for his own creation, as I’ve previously noted. Nicole Kidman was great as Faunia in “The Human Stain,” adapted from the Philip Roth novel. But maybe Kidman is too pretty, too much of the cover girl to play an abused working class woman who hooks up with a college professor twice her age. Might not fellow Australian Cate Blanchett have made a better Faunia? I tend to agree, having seen Blanchett work wonders with the role of Kevin Spacey’s blowsy, unfaithful doomed wife in the movie “The Shipping News.”

Blanchett has a terrific range and she never looks the same in every movie she makes, which I’m afraid can’t be said for Kidman. What about her Virginia Woolf role in “The Hours,” you ask? You know, with the artificial nose that didn’t do anything to make the lovely Australian look like the mostly lesbian English author, but her portrayal won her the best actress Oscar. Suggestion to David Thomson: Follow up this wonderful book about Nicole Kidman and the weird process of creating a movie with one on the many faces of Cate Blanchett, born in Melbourne May 14, 1969. How about Cate Blanchett in the role of Ada, played by Kidman in “Cold Mountain?” You can see how this can be a turn off a reader who wants the straight facts – as if such a thing exists.

The author deals with the usual details of Kidman’s life, including the breakup of her marriage to Cruise after 10 years, her marriage to fellow Australian Keith Urban a few months ago and her photo spreads in many fashion magazines. Thomson suggests that Kidman is rushing to do everything she can while she’s still in her 30s. After all, next June she’ll be 40, in a world filled with Scarlett Johanssons (turning 22 in November!), Natalie Portmans (25) and Emmy Rossums (the latter, just turned 20 – almost exactly half Kidman’s age and possessed of a great future if she’ll only sing more, in my not-so-humble opinion!)

Men can look distinguished and have careers in their 40s and even 50s and beyond in Hollywood, but a woman beyond 40 is past the expiration date in the minds of most contemporary casting directors. More’s the pity, in view of the excellent performances recently by Joan Allen, 50, Julianne Moore, 45, Diane Keaton, 60, Blythe Danner, 63, and Meryl Streep, 57, to name just a few outstanding actresses – excuse me, “women actors” – past 40. Maybe I’m showing my age, but these seasoned women seem to be aging more gracefully than their male contemporaries.

That may be the reason why Kidman rushed into projects that didn’t work, including “The Stepford Wives,” “Bewitched” and “The Interpreter”, Thomson suggests. She’s also re-imagining photographer Diane Arbus in the upcoming “Fur.” I’m intrigued by this film, since it has Robert Downey Jr. playing Lionel, her mentor. When he’s hitting on all eight cylinders, there’s not a better actor around (see him in “The Singing Detective” directed by Keith Gordon, based on the Dennis Potter TV series). Diane Arbus doesn’t look a bit like Nicole Kidman, but who are we to question this strong-willed Aussie in her choice of roles? I leave that to a better writer, David Thomson! For the record, I agree with Thomson’s praise of Kidman’s performance as the crooked Russian woman in “Birthday Girl” and Kidman’s wonderful performance as Alice in Stanley Kubrick’s last movie, “Eyes Wide Shut.” I also liked her in “Birth,” which deserves wider showing. Even the best actors and actresses have a number of clunkers in their resumes — why not Kidman?

Who would want to read “Nicole Kidman”? And all the other books by Thomson? My not-so-short answer: General readers who want more than a superficial look at a subject, who desire insights not often found in movie reviews written under deadline pressure. Film buffs who can’t get enough of quirky movies like “The Ice Harvest” that I saw the other night on cable. Written by Robert Benton and Richard Russo (“Empire Falls,” “The Straight Man”), this 2005 Harold Ramis-helmed film noir featured John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton and Oliver Platt and was set in Wichita, Kansas in the Christmas season. Benton directed Kidman in “The Human Stain.” I’ve never heard of a movie set in Wichita and I make it a point to see everything Canadian-born Oliver Platt is in. How’s that for being a quirky film buff?

Near the very end of this book, which I urge everyone who cares about movies to read, Thomson says: “People ask me anew why I am doing a book about Nicole Kidman. I tell them there are great things to come, and I hope that I am right.”

Publisher’s web site: http://www.aaknopf.com

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