May 20, 2015
A series of decisions by Attorney General (AG) Allyson Maynard-Gibson has raised serious questions about her conduct in office over the past three years. There is widespread concern that she has politicized the office and has attempted to duck responsibility for troubling decisions.
The latest matter involves her decision to appoint a former judge to review the government's handling of the release of a report on the Rubis gas leak. The Tribune reported: "Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson yesterday dodged questions over whether the government should have expedited the release of an independent report into the 2012 underground gas leak in the Marathon community and related public health assessments, stating that she was not an expert.
"She also dismissed calls for an independent committee to review the government's handling of the matter and determine whether there was criminal negligence."
In a classic case of misdirection Maynard-Gibson stated: "I don't want to comment on timeline because I'm not an expert. What I would say is that it could appear to me that there may be some of what I would call, working in silos. All of the experts in the various branches of government are obviously working hard and it could be that they're working in silos rather than all of us working together coordinating efforts."
This is rich. It is a variation on the "mistakes were made" formulation often used to pass the buck on a decision. The reality is that it was the Cabinet that sat on the report, failing to release it in a timely manner. And it was the attorney general in particular who sat on the report and only released it after public pressure.
As reported in one of the dailies: "Marathon MP Jerome Fitzgerald and Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett have said the report came to Cabinet and was turned over to the attorney general, who was to determine when the report would be released."
This talk of her not being an expert and people operating in silos has nothing to do with the timing of the release of the report. It is a smug attempt to shift the blame to bureaucrats. The silo into which the report fell, unable to see the light of day, was the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).
The smug condescension continued: "I again don't want to point fingers, I don't think it is worthy of us to point fingers when it is clear that everybody does care, is concerned and wants to exercise all of our energy to addressing this serious matter."
The claim that she does not want to point fingers is gross hypocrisy and exactly an attempt to point fingers elsewhere. Fingers should be pointed at the attorney general and the Cabinet. It is "worthy" for Bahamians to know that it is the AG who stalled the release of the report.
Recall that the AG finally apologized along with other ministers for the delay in releasing the report, after she initially suggested that the release of the report had not been delayed. What curious backtracking and how disingenuous. Her initial political instinct was to suggest that there was no delay. When this backfired, she backtracked.
When her incredible and unbelievable - in both senses of the word - statement wilted under public pressure, the AG flip-flopped opting this time for contrition and humility. Unbelievable, especially as humility is not one of the attributes associated with this attorney general.
Then there was this laughable and contemptible statement by the AG.
"We in the government under no circumstances will allow this very serious matter to be used as a political football," she said.
The very government that sat on the report and is playing politics in order to shift blame and save face is attempting to say with a straight face that the whole matter is above politics. It is precisely a matter for political debate in our system of government.
In a disgraceful display of petty politics, supporters of Marathon MP Jerome Fitzgerald were bussed in to cheer him on at a town hall meeting on the gas leak.
The government, including Fitzgerald, voted down the formation of a parliamentary committee to investigate the fuel leak. Maynard-Gibson also dismissed the idea of an independent committee to review how the government handled the release of the report. If the government has nothing to hide, why has it dismissed an independent review of the entire affair?
The latest political ploy by the government was the announcement of a retired judge to review the delayed release of the report. It is a sheer attempt at face-saving by the AG.
In announcing the review by a former judge the AG engaged in bureaucratic gobbledygook meant to divert attention from her failure to act in a timely manner and to be held responsible.
She chimed: "The review is intended to ensure that the processes to support future investigations and enquiries conducted in the public interest are managed according to international best practices, as well as to ensure timely disclosure when these reports are going to be made public."
Imagine someone stealing $1 million out of someone else's account and then when caught suggesting the appointment of another individual to investigate why they stole the money. Again, unbelievable.
At the April 16 town meeting Philip Weech, director of the Bahamas Environment Science and Technology Commission, noted that the Rubis report was not previously released because the AG had not given permission for its release.
What we need to know plain and simple is why the AG sat on the report. She needs to accept primary responsibility in this matter rather than shift blame elsewhere.
One of the most alarming developments of the AG's tenure was the grant of a nolle prosequi by then Acting AG Jerome Fitzgerald when Maynard-Gibson was out of the country. The grant of a nolle prosequi is a serious matter and a rare occurrence. Such a grant should be done by the substantive AG.
But conveniently such a grant was made to former clients of Maynard-Gibson when she was away from the country. The whole affair stinks to high heaven.
Why didn't Maynard-Gibson grant the nolle prosequi herself? Why was it done when she was out of the country? Did the AG know that the acting AG was going to grant the nolle prosequi? The fact that it was granted to former clients of the AG raises all manner of deeply troubling questions.
The former administration found cause to prosecute the individuals. Yet, suddenly under a new administration the nolle prosequi was granted, with little explanation and smug indifference by the AG who has yet to explain in serious terms what occurred.
The public can only be left wondering why such a grant was made, with many concluding that rank favoritism was at play, along with other questionable reasons.
The V. Alfred Gray matter has also raised serious questions about the AG's conduct in office. Gray, minister of agriculture and marine resources and the MP for MICAL, admitted to calling the family island administrator in Mayaguana to discuss the case of a constituent who was convicted of a charge. The administrator eventually dismissed the conviction and released the young man.
Surprise, surprise, the AG declined to charge Gray. She stated that there was too much conflicting evidence. Isn't sorting out conflicting evidence the task of a magistrate or a jury?
There is no conflicting evidence as to the admitted fact by Gray that he initiated two calls to the administrator to discuss the case. It seems an inconvenient fact for the AG.
The AG's decision not to prosecute provided the cover Prime Minister Perry Christie needed to retain in his Cabinet a minister who should have been immediately fired for gross interference in a judicial matter, breaching judicial independence.
Earlier this year the prime minister caused the appointment of a number of Queen's Counsels, among them Maynard-Gibson, who obviously delighted in becoming the first female QC.
Despite there being other more seasoned female attorneys and more deserving, she was the only woman recognized. How odd. And it seemed unbecoming for the sitting AG to accept such an honor, especially as she would have had to recommend herself, while failing to recommend any other women.
It is the sort of smug privilege and arrogance for which this attorney general has become known throughout her public career. It also speaks to the quality of her service over the past three years as she has politicized the OAG and seems more interested in the service of the powerful, the rich and the connected.
Her smarminess and attitude on a range of matters is one thing. But her questionable actions on the delayed Rubis gas leak report, the grant of a nolle prosequi to a former client of hers when she was out of the country, and a host of other decisions, suggest that she is no longer fit to service as attorney general, an office in which the judgment and decisions by the holder must be beyond reproach.
Maynard-Gibson no longer meets the standard of holding this office, with many Bahamians disgusted and alarmed by questionable decisions on her part.
o firstname.lastname@example.org, www.bahamapundit.com.
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May 20, 2015
The noble goal of universal access to healthcare by all Bahamians is being challenged by several stakeholders not based on the principle, but rather on the premise of how the government plans to achieve this through the proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.
The coalition is of the view that a life lost due to the lack of access to quality healthcare in The Bahamas is one life too many. The government therefore has the obligation and significant role in assisting those among us who are unable to fend for themselves.
The main contention is that the elaborate plan as contained in the hundreds of pages of the report produced by Sanigest Internacional - the government's consultant from Costa Rica - seems to outline the framework for an initiative that is not only unaffordable but also not sustainable. Additionally, the proposal also appears to alienate the important allies and partners that are required to achieve this national initiative. It is difficult to understand why the current administration is trying its best to fail at bringing about an initiative as important as universal health coverage by adopting a wrong approach and picking fights with groups that do not oppose the essence of their plan.
Outside of the debate on NHI, we examine the genuineness of the government's commitment to universal healthcare for the people of The Bahamas. Without getting into the extensive details from Sanigest, there are some basic things that could have been and can still be done to create a healthier Bahamas and achieve better health outcomes for all of our people.
Nutrition and the cost of healthy foods
It has been said over and over again that our diet as Bahamians is generally not very healthy. A look at the typical meal during lunch hour will show that we do not do a superb job in consuming a balanced diet. While it is recommended that individuals consume more fruits and vegetables, our meals are often dominated by starch and proteins with significant proportion of fats.
The truth of the matter is that it is not cheap to eat heathy and individuals with the best intentions regarding consumption of healthy foods are quickly brought back to reality when they visit the grocery store. Simply put, very few Bahamians can afford to buy the right quantity of fruits and vegetables necessary to stay healthy. Sadly, despite the outcry from the masses, the government has not deemed it necessary to provide incentives for healthy nutrition by significantly reducing the taxes on organic foods as well as fruits and vegetables. This is in spite of the fact that they could recoup some of the lost revenue by increasing taxes on processed foods and unhealthy food items. This raises the important question: How much does the government care about our health? Perhaps the minister of finance, the minister of state for finance and the minister of health can answer this question.
The health of Bahamian youth and children
The rate of obesity and number of overweight persons in The Bahamas is cause for concern as is the case with diabetes. More disturbing, however, is the rising number of our children who are not only overweight but also obese and often have diabetes. It is apparent that the main cause of this phenomenon is their diet and an inactive lifestyle fostered by minimal physical activity.
We are not privy to any deliberate effort or initiative by the government to confront this menace either by regulating the lunch menus of food vendors at our schools, launching programs to educate children, parents and guardians or simply working with the private sector to promote physical activity among school children. The children of our country are the future of our country; we have a duty to keep them healthy to ensure the continued progress of our nation. Is anyone out there listening? The minister of education and minister of Social Services, and again the minister of health, come to mind.
The cost of healthcare in The Bahamas
It has been reported that the cost of healthcare is much higher in The Bahamas than it is in other countries within our region. When this is considered against the returns and outcomes, it is obvious that something needs to be done to make healthcare more affordable in our country. This is an area where there also seems to be agreement by basically all persons involved in the NHI debate. The million-dollar question is what has been done and what is being done to address this issue seeing that one of the main objectives is to ensure that the lack of sufficient money is not a barrier to healthcare access.
For decades, we have complained about the rising cost of healthcare and how it is putting healthcare beyond the reach of the average Bahamian. However, the status quo has remained and insurers have attributed the rising health insurance premiums to the increasing cost of healthcare. Sanigest, like previous consultants and local commentators, has proposed certain ideas to drive down these costs even though this has only come about as part of the NHI public discourse. What has the government been doing and what will the government do to reduce the cost of healthcare for Bahamians, which has consistently been increasing for the past 20 years? This seems to be a question best suited for the minister of health.
Despite the above, the government made the unpopular decision to impose value-added tax (VAT) on healthcare and health insurance premiums. Most jurisdictions across the world do not impose such taxes on healthcare because they serve as an impediment to access by the people of the country. Charging VAT on the cost of visiting clinics, doctors, laboratories, therapists and imaging centers, just to mention a few, effectively makes those services more expensive for the Bahamian people effective July 1, 2015. Is this the action of a caring government touting its concern for universal access to medical coverage in The Bahamas?
To add insult upon injury, individuals who are currently able to afford health insurance or make sacrifices to purchase health insurance will be required to pay an additional 7.5 percent on their health insurance premiums beginning July 1, 2015. This does not include any increase that health insurance companies may add to their existing insurance premiums. It is difficult to reconcile these actions by the government to that of an administration or political leaders who genuinely care about the health of their people or who are committed to ensuring that more people can access and afford healthcare in The Bahamas. This contradiction can only be explained by the minister of finance, minister of state for finance and minister of health (who ought to have been an advocate for the health sector).
The state of public health facilities in The Bahamas has been a recurrent topic in all studies done on universal healthcare for over 30 years. The evidence is right before our very eyes and our people are confronted with this on a daily basis as they visit Princess Margaret Hospital and other public clinics. They are in a deplorable state and the blame lies at the feet of successive governments of The Bahamas. This government has had more than one opportunity to fix it and they have not. One of the main issues has been the poor culture of maintenance and improvements to these healthcare facilities as well as the shortage of resources. The Sanigest report attests to this by indicating that persons on the public ward at PMH are more than five times more likely to die than those on the private wards. This is sad and unacceptable. The government's proposal for NHI will still not fix this problem. The culture of waste and corruption has to be solved.
There has been much talk about the new Critical Care Block; however, the infrastructural needs are more extensive than one building. Upgrades to our community clinics in the form of equipment and human resources are necessary as we begin our journey to universal healthcare in The Bahamas.
Where is the care or concern?
Universal health coverage is a massive project that often takes years to be actualized in any nation. There is a popular saying that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Journeys are indeed made up of steps and the points made in this article are specific steps that demonstrate dedication to our well-being by the government. Regrettably, we have seen very little progress on these minor but important initiatives by the proponents of NHI for the past three decades.
The various areas touched by a comprehensive health reform process show that a holistic approach involving several ministries, government agencies and other stakeholders must be adopted to make universal health coverage a reality in The Bahamas. As the government prepares to commence debate on its 2015/2016 budget, the coalition will be watching to see whether the government cares as much as its members profess.
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May 19, 2015
o First published January 3, 2013.
The advent of a new year is often characterized by resolutions containing set goals and objectives for individuals. History has proven however, that the achievement of goals is dependent upon the preparation and implementation of realistic plans. The Bahamas, just like individuals with New Year's resolutions, is ripe for the setting of appropriate targets, goals, standards and strategic direction for the modern 21st century Bahamas...
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May 15, 2015
We, in the Caribbean, are familiar with the phenomenon of thousands of persons - primarily from Cuba and Haiti - that for years have been risking their lives, leaving their homes in rickety boats to reach "greener pastures''.
Recently, we also have been witnessing thousands of persons from Africa and the Middle East risking their lives, through the same method, trying to get to the shores of Europe, to escape political and social instability.
Needless to say hundreds - if not thousands - have lost their lives in the process, beginning with the on-land, cross-country journey in their nations where, in many instances, it is necessary to travel through deserts. Those who survive the deserts then must face the seas that often-times become a watery grave.
It is heart-wrenching to listen to the stories and the plight of these asylum-seekers and refugees. Most are merely fighting for survival. And, one wonders how in a world of so much plenty - a world in which boxers Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, in one single contest, share $300 million between themselves - there is so much abject poverty and all its accompanying ills, such as armed conflicts and starvation.
As it concerns Africans, I cannot help but remember the late Walter Rodney and his liberating work, "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa''. If Rodney was still around, he would have written volumes more on that subject. The lasting legacy of exploitation of African countries by the west is there for all to see; that legacy includes the artificial division of these countries for the purpose of sharing the spoils between European powers. These historical western misdeeds, no doubt, are still haunting the African continent.
Now, that does not explain fully why some countries - if not all African countries - continue to struggle and why their poverty rate is so high. Even Nigeria, the biggest economy on the continent, now struggles with serious religious fanaticism. African presidents and prime ministers must take their fair share of responsibility for reckless and corrupt leadership.
However, unlike Israel, no African country enjoys the love of a godfather like the United States; and, unlike our Jewish friends, black people are yet to be compensated for the slave trade and slavery.
These issues come to the fore.
In the Middle East - and in particular Libya (an African country) - America's shortsighted foreign policy helped rebels to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi, without any single, unifying leadership to take over the reins. Now, Libya is nothing short of a failed state: different militias control different areas of the country, including the airport. Libya is simply lawless.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq, it is well-established, was based on lies; and now, look at what's happening. The American action - which was solidly supported by then British Prime Minister Tony Blair - has allowed for the growth of radical Iraqi Islamic groups that pose one of the most serious security threats to Iraq and the world. And, of course, the U.S. policy towards Syria has inadvertently led to the same result.
Now, I carry no brief for these leaders who were toppled, but the reality of what followed their removals is staring us in the face and we simply cannot ignore it.
At the moment, the world is faced with one of the worst refugee crises ever. The United Nations has estimated that there are currently some 43 million uprooted victims of conflict and persecution worldwide; more than 15 million are refugees fleeing their countries. Coupled with that are some 27 million internally displaced people; people who are "refugees'' in their own countries.
It appears, to me that this represents one of the greatest challenges of our time; and while we, in the Caribbean, may not be directly affected by it, we must not ignore this reality.
The wealthy developed nations continue to give lip service to these issues. The European Union is now forced to triple its spending on search and rescue of migrants to save face, after the loss of nearly 2,000 lives so far this year. It is estimated that nearly 40,000 persons will attempt the crossing to Europe by year-end.
The European Union must be told that this is not just a moral and humanitarian responsibility; the EU countries, for all the centuries of looting the wealth of Africa, also have a legal obligation to house, feed, clothe, educate and employ Africans.
It may be argued that not all European countries were involved in the looting, pillaging and exploitation. But, I will answer and say, that all of them now benefit - directly and indirectly. And, since they are one community now, they should share the burden.
o Arley Gill is a magistrate and former Grenada minister of culture. This article is published with permission from Caribbean News Now.
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May 15, 2015
Millions of post cards and flowers will be delivered. Many will be celebrating on this day, and some will not. More will be lost to violence before this day ends. Some are still looking to reconnect, while others simply want to disconnect. Many still wish she was here...
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May 13, 2015
I'm amazed that Prime Minister Perry Christie feels vindicated about his recently concluded carnival. Since the prime minister was a first-hand spectator of the live pornographic displays by women whose heads were more covered than their bodies, I thought he would have felt shame instead of vindication. But sadly, he feels no shame...
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May 12, 2015
The headlines in the newspapers continue to attract much attention and extensive discourse among the populace. The debates are sometimes accompanied by shock, passion, emotions, outrage and disappointment as different stakeholders and affected individuals seek to ensure that their voices are heard. In the midst of these are also the political maneuvres and posturing of politicians hoping to capitalize on the anything considered to be newsworthy...
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May 11, 2015
This past Thursday, May 7, marked the third anniversary of the current government's election to office. There are two years left in the current term and the question on most Bahamians' minds is: will the next two years be as tumultuous as the last three?
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May 08, 2015
I felt the need to continue on the trend I haphazardly started last week with regard to The Bahamas and what the future may look like for the church in our daily lives.
I also prefaced that submission with the understanding that we can't look into the future in a linear fashion. What I mean is that we can't think about the future and say with any certainty that "this" is where The Bahamas will be in general or overall; rather we must look at where we will be and what we will look like on several fronts.
As said, last week was about the role of the church. Politics, in this vein, is no different in terms of evolution, even though its impact on the general population and meaning for the majority of us is significantly different than that of the church.
What's really trending in Bahamian politics? The shorthand is that the major parties are fracturing. Not quite unexpected because, as the population grows, the larger organizations will find it challenging to serve all of the people under their tent.
This is not to say that the larger parties are unorganized and can't muster up enough coordination to serve all of the people under a given tent, but the fact of the matter is, we're dealing with people. People and by extension organizations and society at large, have hierarchies. Totem poles. A pecking order. So, oftentimes, gifts and hand-outs start from the top and filter down to the bottom.
As you can imagine, many of the people at the top got there because of their selfishness, aggression or to some extent greed. The higher up and more distant they become, the more likelihood there is of their becoming disengaged from the average citizen. It's easier for a camel to enter into the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
I'm not excusing the disengagement at all. I find it deplorable, particularly for a still, relatively, small and intimate country like The Bahamas. But, to some extent, the people in charge must look like the people in charge; if that means subjugating, creating distance, and subordinating the so called "lesser-folk", then so be it. If only by the sheer nature of the job. As they say, it's lonely at the top.
The Bahamas has a unique problem within that matrix: the baby-boomer leadership is deeply conservative, with an ever increasingly liberal youth demographic (Generation Y and beyond), mixed in with a frustrated Generation X that feels stifled and cheated because of the baby-boomer generation's staying power and clinging to power. For whatever reason.
Seriously, however, it is not only the age group differences that pose a direct challenge, the baby-boomer generation has had a significant amount of staying power. Something that should be commended, but it should also be concerning because, as they hold on to power, their ideas become stale, their way of thinking about doing business is outdated, in addition to their incestuously uncanny ability to select people of "like mind"; i.e., people within their own age grouping and also persons from younger generations who, even if only feigning, express interest in whatever program that comes out of that baby-boomer think-tank.
Without a doubt there will be a conflict of ideas coming out of the age-group differences as we move forward. As we are seeing more and more intently now, the younger generations have too much information at their fingertips to be given the same story on the same issues that have not worked. One only has to read Facebook for 30 minutes to find out how much they know, where they know it from, how it was confirmed and who is being straight up and honest about it.
What we are currently seeing develop is an era of duplicity in politics. One which is as seedy as it is unpredictable.
We have oftentimes heard terms used, particularly within the last 10 to 15 years: "PLP's for (insert name of leader of the FNM), or "FNM's for (insert name of the leader of the PLP). In fact, the 2007 election was centered on such duplicitous, cloak and dagger gimmickry that one may liken to a Pink Panther movie, just with real life effects and consequences. The 2012 election was no different either, but less pronounced, with more action post election by the then governing party.
The era of duplicity is also going to be very challenging, due to the fact that the chain that binds the generations has a rusted and shop-worn link: that is the flow of information that Generation Y-ers (millennials) have at their fingertips right now, which the preceding Generation X-ers did not have when making their assessments. We can't overlook that, at all.
Along with the oncoming era of duplicity, we also have now a developed culture of distrust, chugging its fuel from the years and years of obeisance under a "dark" Bahamas.
We have a Generation Y that has a greater chance and opportunity to review the ideas and issues from the past, juxtaposed with current affairs, and consider how we became the way we are today. At the same time, the perceived source of much ire, the baby-boomer generation, is still in control, if only psychologically, yet again adding to the frustration and sentiments of being cheated by Generation X while simultaneously being greeted with disgusted sneers and sarcastic grunts from Generation Y.
Within the next 25 years, at least, as the baby-boomers are taken to their eternal glory at the very least, we will have a little challenge reconciling the following generations: Generation X will want to reclaim what they feel was stolen from them by the baby-boomer generation, and Generation Y will begin to say that you can't steal from me so easily and so openly as your predecessors did to you. This is going to create conflict. Even though there is a lot for all, the fact of the matter is we can't ever quantify feelings and sentiments: being cheated and lied to on the one hand, and pervasive false needs that border on extreme avarice on the other.
All within the same time, the political process will become more fractured; distrust will build and build in the most acrimonious ways. It will take tremendous acts of courage to mend the fences and provide equal opportunity for all. Regardless of where you started from, or where you are now.
This is not to say all is shot to hell right now as we speak, but I think everyone with an ounce of intelligence can see quite clearly that the policies of 50 years ago have not worked in the last 15 years, at the very least. It's obvious that the preceding generations' time is being eaten up by a generation, the baby-boomers, that have simply exhausted their usefulness (quite respectfully speaking).
The cannibalization of each other and lack of security for the future is based on old ideas that are not working and at best are deleterious to the future development of The Bahamas. The fallout will continue to be felt long after the baby boomers would have finally exited the stage, and the current carry-over of failed concepts for managing country-wide problems is not going over smoothly, and will become more problematic for anyone coming afterwards trying to implement the baby-boomers' methodology of doing things.
The era of distrust and duplicity is upon us. As with all countries, from large empires to small fiefdoms, there have always been successive years of "challenge periods". The Bahamas is right up next to our very own, made worse by the global financial collapse in, 2008.
This is not a prophesy of things to be, but a warning of what may happen if we do not summon the courage, intelligence, decency and tact to handle this matter in a judicious manner. But first we must understand the problem. To which end, I humbly rest my submission on the matter on the table for perusal.
o Youri Kemp is president and CEO of Kemp Global, a management consultancy firm based in The Bahamas. This column is published with permission from Caribbean News Now.
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May 08, 2015
After decades of discussions, research, studies, proposal and reports, the government of The Bahamas has indicated that it intends to introduce National Health Insurance (NHI) effective January 1, 2016. In this regard and prior to the recent announcement, Sanigest Internacional was engaged to conduct a study and present a proposal for implementation of this significant initiative...
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May 06, 2015
Three years ago today, the PLP returned to office. Today also the British go to the polls to elect a new government. The three-year anniversary and the U.K.'s general election are prisms through which to reflect on the FNM as it seeks to become the next government...
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May 05, 2015
"Change is inevitable. Change is constant". This quote, which is attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, the first Earl of Beaconsfield and former British prime minister, is often separated into two quotes to highlight the certainty and continuous nature of change within the human race...
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May 04, 2015
"Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it. They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it's not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance."
- Terry Pratchett
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