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News Article
French bridge to Brazil: The Caribbean should not be stranded

The world is about to see Europe linked to South America in a way that has never happened before.  A bridge will link French Guiana, the last European outpost in the Americas, with Brazil, the largest country in South America and now the sixth largest economy in the world.
There are other physical links to Brazil, but none from Europe.  Once the bridge between French Guiana and Brazil is opened, so too will open the opportunity for greater trade and investment between the European Union (E.U.) and Brazil, since for all administrative purposes French Guiana is as much a part of France as Paris.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country is just ahead of Brazil in the rankings of the world's largest economies, will probably announce the opening of the bridge across the Oyapock River, French Guiana's border with Brazil, while he is in French Guiana as part of a campaign whipping up support for his shot at a second term as president.
His interest in the relationship between French Guiana and Brazil will go beyond the physical link between the two neighbors to the economic opportunities it can provide for France and by extension the E.U.  Brazil has a population of about 200 million and its economy grew by 7.5 percent in 2010, and was forecast to grow another 3.5 percent in 2011.  It is rich in natural resources and is open to European investment.
On the other side, Brazil has a vibrant manufacturing sector and, remarkably, it sells more to China than it imports.  For Brazil, the link to French Guiana could lead to a direct land-crossing to the Atlantic Ocean for parts of its huge territory from which overland transportation to its own Atlantic coast is expensive.
This possibility will be additional to a border-crossing established in 2009 between Brazil and Guyana, when a bridge was built over the Takutu River that barely divides the two countries at Brazil's northern point.  However, while the bridge accommodates regular traffic between Brazil's northern area, Roraima, and Guyana, there is not an all-weather road from the bridge to Guyana's coast.  Until the all-weather road is constructed, Brazil still cannot use Guyana effectively for transporting exports from its northern region.
If French Guiana opens the 1,240-ft long bridge for business, it will connect the towns of Saint-Georges-de-l'Oyapock and Oiapoque on the French and Brazilian sides respectively, and the opportunities for commerce not only between the two neighbors, but between France and Brazil, will expand rapidly.
The opening of this bridge need not rival or displace the already-opened link between Guyana and Brazil, an all-weather road, estimated at US$40 million, was built from the Guyana border town, Lethem, to Guyana's Atlantic coast.  Guyana's Foreign Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett recently announced that Guyana has completed a feasibility study for the Lethem Road paving project.  She is reported to have said: "We would like to see this project accelerate quickly, but we also have to be very patient."  While she did not say so, the minister's caution could be based on the level of concessional financing that Brazil is willing to give.
Meantime, authoritative reports show that, as a result of the Takutu Bridge, the flow of commodities from Guyana to Brazil has increased.  There is also a flow of Brazilians into Guyana especially into the gold and diamond mining industries, and, increasingly, into the establishment of nightclubs and restaurants in Guyana's capital city.
The completed road would not only give Guyana an opportunity to sell commodities to northern Brazil, it would also earn Guyana revenues from Brazilian exports moving to Guyana's sea port which would have to be converted into a deep water harbor.  Services to Brazilian transport vehicles would also provide new economic opportunities for Guyanese and very likely lead to new townships along the hundreds of miles of road.  If the Brazilians extend their cooperation further to provide concessional financing for a deep water port in Guyana, both countries would benefit.  So too would the countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), whose people would find jobs in an expanded Guyana economy, and whose manufacturing industries could access Northern Brazil through Guyana.
The Guyana-Brazil relationship would have to be carefully negotiated to ensure that Guyana is not overwhelmed.  While there is no tension between Guyana and Brazil, some of Brazil's other neighbors in South America - particularly Bolivia and Paraguay - have complained about Brazil flexing its newfound political and economic muscle.
Marcel Biato, Brazil's ambassador to Bolivia, said, about infrastructure financing in Bolivia and elsewhere in South America, "We want Brazil to be surrounded by prosperous, stable countries."
Other Brazilian authorities have argued that their country has access to sources of raw materials other than its immediate neighbors and that it has routes across the continent through which it can send goods to ports on the Pacific.  That may be so, but it is cheaper for Brazil to secure raw materials it needs from their closest point, and the governor of Roraima has made it clear that it would be cheaper for manufacturing industries in his state to be able to ship their goods to the Atlantic through Guyana.
It is very much in Brazil's interest to allay the fears of its neighbors and to monitor carefully the behavior of some of its companies operating in nearby countries, or, over time, it could be tainted with the same image of bullying that Latin American and Caribbean countries applied to the United States.  That would not be good for Brazil or its neighbors.
As the Brazilian economic ship rises in the sea of economic fortunes, it has the chance to pull along the smaller economies around it in a manner that commands respect and support.
The bridges to two of the Guianas - Guyana and French Guiana - as well as the increasing economic links to the third of the Guianas - Suriname - offer great opportunities for Brazil.
As for Guyana, the all-weather road to Brazil will be a catalyst for further economic growth and a gateway to South America for the Caribbean Community countries.  As two developing countries with shared interests in the international arena, Guyana and Brazil should cement a fair, balanced and co-operative agreement to ensure mutual benefits and gains whatever happens with the connection between France and Brazil through the use of French Guiana.
 
Sir Ronald Sanders is a business executive and former Caribbean diplomat who publishes widely on small states in the global community.

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News Article
CIArb president: Support 'invisible services' as well as tangible

The president of the London-based Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) has called on the prime minister to support the development of The Bahamas as a center for international arbitration, by committing to investment in the "intangible" parts of the economy as much as the physical.
Intervening at the National Conclave of Chambers of Commerce, held at SuperClubs Breezes yesterday, Michael Stephens said that The Bahamas has "significant legal, financial and maritime services which are there to be capitalized on".
Stephens is in The Bahamas to participate in the Pre-ICCA (International Council for Commercial Arbitration) conference, set to begin tomorrow.
Stephens made his comments following a speech by Prime Minister Perry Christie, who spoke of the $100 million investment his government intends to make in Andros.
Stephens told Christie: "I was delighted to hear of the government's intention to invest $100 million in infrastructure.
"The comment that I may make is this: infrastructure includes not just lengthening the runways, building schools and other tangible structures, it also includes investment in services. In The Bahamas you have significant legal, financial and maritime services which are there to be capitalized on.
"I was quoted in The Tribune this morning as saying there is now hope that The Bahamas will become an international arbitration hub in the next three to five years. The comment I would offer to you is could the government be mindful when investing that it is not just the buildings, it is also the invisible services that could also bring great economic benefits to the community."
In an interview with Guardian Business, Stephens called for arbitration to "become part of the judicial training, part of the court rules, and certainly to become a technique that is well-known in the community" in The Bahamas.
"It will have benefits not just for the international economic aspect in the Bahamas but also for community relations and therefore for the domestic economy as well," he said.
Stephens said that ultimately it would help the cause if the government would consider establishing a "dedicated facility" for arbitration and alternative dispute resolution.
Responding to Stephen's public comments at the conference, Christie said he too agreed that infrastructural development must encompass more than the tangible, and added that he is "excited about the possibilities of arbitration", even discussing the possibility of making Grand Bahama the home for such a center.
"We are trying to really move in 20 different areas at one time all with a view of really positioning our country to be positioned in a maximum way with respect to new products," he added.
Minister of Financial Services Ryan Pinder in an address later on during the conclave, also stated that the government supports the development of the country as a center not only for trade-related arbitration, but also for financial and maritime matters, and for domestic arbitration.
"It will create efficiencies for the operation of businesses and members of the Chamber," said Pinder.
Providing an example of when The Bahamas could become a choice location for a trade-related arbitration matter, Pinder pointed to a case where a business in Florida trades with a business in Brazil, and they end up in a dispute.
In such a case, the Florida business may not want the dispute arbitrated in Brazil, and vice-versa, out of concerns over bias, and therefore would choose The Bahamas as a geographically close and neutral site for arbitration.
Pinder suggested that the development of The Bahamas as an arbitration center would complement his ministry's efforts to further the amount of trade done by this country. At present, said Pinder, his ministry believes The Bahamas can find ways to expand its trade in goods with the outside world through a "value-added trade strategy" that would involve sourcing components from all over the world and putting them together in The Bahamas for re-export.
The minister said a study has been commissioned by the government with the Organization of American States (OAS) that will further explore the possibilities in this regard.
The Pre-ICCA conference will be held in Nassau tomorrow at the British Colonial Hilton under the theme "The emergence of The Bahamas as an international arbitration center - complementing the Americas."
It is free and open to the public.

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News Article
Ingranomics Part 2

Last week we noted that although the Ingraham administration steered us through a treacherous period in world economic history it has not completely come up smelling like roses.  There have been some unpleasant consequences to the administration's choices and there were, in my view, many missed opportunities.

CULTURE AND INDUSTRY
The FNM's investments in tourism infrastructure (the harbor dredging, the port move and the new airport terminal), are largely making way for anticipated tourism growth in the medium to long-term. That's not necessarily a foolish or irresponsible choice to make.
The problem is such investments won't yield the desired results unless you seriously address some of the reasons The Bahamas is no longer a hot ticket.
We are facing ever diminishing returns in tourism.  Despite the millions who come here on cruise ships, what we really need are stopover visitors and this is where we've been dead in the water.  We have had more cruise ship visitors than stopover visitors since the mid 80s.
We are a far more expensive destination than many competitors south of us and that's not about to change.  But where we are also losing is that we are culturally far less interesting.  Not enough of an investment has been made to actually make The Bahamas a more distinct and attractive destination.  Beaches, casinos and sunshine can be found all over the globe and for a lot less than in Nassau.  Are we going to be offering "1 flies-1 flies free" deals and cruise ship tax rebates for the rest of the decade?
Many of us believe that the answer lies in the marriage of tourism and cultural and artistic expression.  Yet the government of The Bahamas refuses or is unable to act in a manner that encourages wider cultural entrepreneurship - entrepreneurship that can maximize local and tourist markets.  And to be fair, the private sector is even less interested in investing than the government.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, Junkanoo is a Christmas festival not a spring festival like Mardi Gras or Trinidad or Rio Carnival.  The western world is just not going to travel heavily to be in another country on Christmas night or New Year's Day.  So what does that leave here in the capital?
The Fry (Arawak Cay) is the best attraction in Nassau, outside of Atlantis' casino, restaurants, clubs and water attractions.  It features local food, live music and atmosphere (at affordable prices, prices which no hotel can match).
How can we expand or duplicate what's best about the Fry?  What would it cost to do so?
Let's look at the FNM's track record. They rejected Carifesta twice.  They show contempt (like the PLP before them) for the run-down shell of a National Performing Arts Centre (which could be the year round home of the National Dance Company, Children's Choir, Youth Choir, Youth Orchestra, Police and Defence Force bands and a National Theatre Company).
They have made a ghost out of the Junkanoo Museum.  They don't seem to know what to do with Shakespeare in Paradise.  And they generally refuse to facilitate cultural workers in a sustained and comprehensive way in the tourist zones.
As a result, Nassau remains a dull, run-down, expensive place to visit.  We absorb all sorts of tax breaks for resort development.
In this period why couldn't we have been bold and taken some risks in an effort to improve The Bahamas as a cultural destination?  Hotels aren't destinations.  Cities, towns and countries are, but we settle for a country where the only thing people come for is to walk around in Atlantis.  And soon Baha Mar, I suppose.
But outside of the jobs these enclaves create, aren't we losing out on opportunities to truly maximize the tourist dollars spent on the island?
NUMBERS
Ingraham also flirted with legalizing numbers and then backed off, promising a referendum if he is re-elected.  This is leading from behind, which is not his style.
The Bahamian government is broke and the numbers business is a quarter to half a billion dollar enterprise that goes untaxed and unregulated.
The government has a right and a responsibility to tax the daylights out of this business, to bring it into the light of public scrutiny and to use the money it gains to help build the country and strengthen the social fabric.
Ingraham should have used this recession to regulate numbers.
Instead, a magistrate has confiscated nearly $1 million and fined businessman Craig Flowers $10,000.
By now Ingraham could have collected as much in taxes for numbers as he got in the BTC sale.  He should also have taxed alcohol more heavily as well.
 
TAXATION
I said earlier that if you are going to risk being voted out over something unpopular, you better make sure that the change you're introducing is worth it all.
I'm sorry but Ingraham could have left the roads bumpy, focused exclusively on fixing the eastern district water problem, and tackled a real problem instead of going through all this madness with the roads all at once.
What he should have done, again under the cover of the economic crisis, is address our regressive and unethical system of taxation that burdens the poor and middle class and lets the rich and their companies get away with all their cash.
Ingraham should have been the man to introduce income tax.  It's the perfect time to do so.  The pressure from the U.S. is leading us in that direction anyway.  Would he lose this election if he did so?  He may lose it over unfinished roads.
 

What I guarantee you though, is that the PLP would not have repealed it afterward.  The government needs revenue.  We have thousands of people on pension in the civil service who have contributed nothing to it but feel entitled.
The bubble will burst eventually.  NIB is already automatically removing a percentage of my salary before it hits my bank account.
I may never make a claim at NIB but I accept that my contribution helps those who need support more than I do.  Income tax is doable.
And thereby we can reduce these ridiculous customs duties that hamper the growth of Bahamian businesses because you are being taxed before you sell anything.  I reject the argument that the government can't handle income tax.  It can and so can our people.
 
DOWNSIZING?
I could talk about the fact that after downsizing ZNS, it is still operating at the same quality level as before, or about the FNM's refusal to touch Bahamasair despite the fact there are homegrown airlines who can pick up the slack.
But instead I wish to raise the question of right sizing the civil service.  I don't think this has to mean sending hundreds of people home and creating a social and economic crisis.  I mean actually moving people from posts where they are under-performing or are really redundant and re-training them to help plug holes elsewhere in the system.  I'll give just a few examples.
I once interviewed Loretta Butler-Turner, Minister of State for Social Development, and she told me that the nation could use another 150 social workers.  As you might imagine the social worker does crucial work that is essential to public health, public safety, crime prevention and the overall wellbeing of the society.  Why not re-deploy and re-train some of your civil servants to fill this need?
Our schools are overcrowded.  Every classroom could use a teacher's aid.  And what about the problem of truancy?  Or the need for environmental health inspectors to check homes and businesses, particularly given the occurrences of dengue.
There were creative options available to the government that would allow it to shift the public service work force to meet the greatest needs.  We need park wardens and after school mentors for our teenagers; we need these in every community.
The FNM just lacked a holistic, creative social vision and they failed to see how their economic choices and challenges could actually work for them not against them in the effort to build a stronger, better country.
They took the unemployed and had them cleaning the streets.  And sure, that met a need, because New Providence is filthy.  But in the same way, there were other serious needs that could have been met, not just with new hires but by properly utilizing the people you already have employed.
So overall, I'll describe Ingranomics as an orthodox approach, lacking in innovation or experimentation.  Ingraham played it safe, which can be a comfort in these unstable times.  But sometimes you can play it so safe that you get fired by the people anyway, because the times demand more daring.  We'll see what happens.
 

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News Article
Volunteerism in sports

In the Prime Minister's address on crime, he invited the populace to increase the level of volunteerism, something he felt would reduce the crime level. People from many sectors in The Bahamas have been and continue to be involved in volunteerism.
You name it - Rotary, Kiwanis, fraternities, the church, Yellowbirds, The Cancer Society, etc. Much has been done and continues to be done by volunteers in The Bahamas. There is however a whole body of volunteerism which has not gone unnoticed. We are speaking about the sporting community which strives on volunteers.
At the closing ceremony of this summer's IAAF World Championships numerous volunteers were at center stage on the field. We often forget how many volunteers are needed to pull off a national, regional, or international competition, much less to carry on a continual program of bringing athletes from the introduction to a sport, to them becoming world champions. Today we salute those unsung heroes who have made a difference in sports in The Bahamas.
The School System
It is said that most things are learned in school. Most athletes have been introduced to sports through their schools. From the track and field perspective we single out Andrea Lockhart of Oakes Field Primary who was instrumental in the start of Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie in track and field. About 55 years ago, Dr. John Carey was instrumental in the athletic start of former Member of Parliament and Olympian Leslie Miller at Eastern Junior School.
Numerous world class athletes can trace their humble beginnings to somebody in the school system that recognized their talent and encouraged them to pursue sports further.
Bahamas Association of Certified Officials (BACO)
Andrea Lockhart became a member of the Bahamas Association of Athletic Officials (BACO) of which Deacon Leviticus Adderley was a driving force. This organization is now headed by Ralf McKinney and assists numerous groups in staging road races throughout The Bahamas, in addition to their regular obligation of officiating at all Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations events as well as numerous other organization's events.
The Club System
There are the numerous clubs throughout the country through which athletes are guided and hone their competitive skills. No athletes who won medals for The Bahamas this year, or any previous year, could do it without the guidance of somebody in a school or club.
In the early years of track and field clubs like St. Bernards, The Southerners, St. George's followed by the Pioneers' Sporting Club, The Ambassadors, and The Bain Town Flyers, to name only a few, made a significant impact on the sporting and cultural life of The Bahamas. Some of the coaches like Henry Crawford, Charlie Wright, and D'ynza Burrows were legendary and contributed to the development of numerous national and international level athletes.
Volunteerism was the 'name of the game' with them. Fast forward to today where there are about 20 track and field clubs in The Bahamas which monitor the progress of our upcoming athletes. Many of them hold their own track and field meets which are heavily subscribed by athletes. Each of these clubs have numerous volunteers who give of their time, and occasionally resources, to ensure the success of the athletes.
Parents
Parents are a significant factor in the success of numerous athletes and clubs. Sometimes they act as just transportation to practice and sometimes they are a significant part of the clubs, whether they are coaches or part of the organizational structure. There are numerous parents throughout The Commonwealth of The Bahamas who give yeoman service to the sport.
The Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA)
This is the organization given the mandate by the international body, the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF), to develop and promote Road Running, Cross Country, Mountain Running, and track and field throughout The Bahamas. The BAAA will celebrate its' 60th anniversary on May 6, 2012. The organization's initial membership included president Alfred Francis Adderley, Cyril Richardson, Joseph Garfunkle, Edward Mitchell, Reginald Farrington, Fred Moultrie, Reginald Robertson, Kendal Isaacs, Cecil V. Bethel, Gerald Cash, Randol Fawkes, and Orville Turnquest.
The presidents who succeeded Adderley were Cyril Richardson, Harold Munnings, Paul Adderley, Levi Gibson, Sir Arlington Butler, Reverend Enoch Backford, Winston Cooper, Dr. Bernard Nottage, Alpheus Finlayson, Foster Dorsett, Desmond Bannister, Mike Sands and Curt Hollingsworth (Interim).
From its inception, the organization has been defined by volunteers who have worked untiringly to make it one of the premier sports federations in the country and in the region. As the BAAA moves into its' 60th anniversary and London Olympics year, it is imperative that more volunteers, in addition to the elected members are needed to fulfill its mandate. The volunteers can be to the local clubs or the BAAA.
We have members of BACO who have officiated in regional and area competitions and look forward to an increase in the number of members of BACO and hope that one day soon, one of its members will soon qualify to officiate in the World Championships and Olympic Games. Funding is a critical area so persons who adept at those skills are in high demand. Then there are those who are adept at organization. They are needed in every organization.
The BAAA has had athletes win Olympic and World Championships gold medals and coaches who coached at the highest levels. We have had two Bahamians, Alpheus Finlayson and Pauline Davis-Thompson, who have been elected to the Council of the IAAF, the world's governing body of track and field. In the process, the organization has been influential in the lives of many young persons, in and outside the inner city, who would have been left by the wayside and may have pursued a life of crime otherwise.
Next year will be a significant year for Bahamian track and field. Volunteers are definitely needed for the organization to do what we all know is possible. If you have some extra time or are looking forward to a rewarding experience, please call the BAAA office at 325 4433 or e-mail us at bahamastrack@hotmail.com.

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News Article
Living up to a legacy of excellence

Dreams are bigger than the problems that try to disillusion you.  This is the belief of 14-year-old Kathie-Lee Petsch, a tenth grade student at N.G.M. Major High School in Long Island.  The over-achiever, who was recognized at the Ministry of Education's annual national awards presentation for the best overall performance by a female student in the Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) in the public schools, with seven A and two B grades, said hard work and perseverance are the things she lives by when it comes to her education.
Kathie-Lee chalks up her incredible drive to the loving memory of her father, Andreas Petsch, a German electrical engineer who was murdered when she was just 15 months old.
Although she never got to know her dad she feels that her academic achievements make him proud and she hopes to keep doing her best.
Even though he's not actively in her life, she still believes she is connected to her father and inherited his passion and love for education.  In her dad's memory, the student with the best BJC results in Math and Science at North Long Island High School are presented with an award. Petsch has proudly presented the award to a deserving student for the past four years.
To get to where she is academically, Kathie-Lee understands the value of time management and takes advantage of opportunities.
"I did not get where I am overnight," said the honor roll student.  "It's about working hard and being consistent.  It's about balance and time management.  It's about making goals and sticking to them.  I am not saying it's not always going to be hard to stay on top, but it's important to do the extra work even when you don't have to, so you don't get overwhelmed."
Her method for studying effectively is to find a quiet corner in any given environment (preferably her home) and tackle her most intense subjects like Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Mathematics and English first. Then she relaxes and catches up on subjects that are easier for her like Spanish and Commerce.  She has a strict evening schedule that she adheres to after school so that she does not lose her focus or fall behind in her studies.
Kathie-Lee also believes in always challenging herself and not getting comfortable even if she attains a goal. Even though she did well in her BJC's and received A grades in English, Mathematics, Social Studies, Health Science, General Science, Religious Knowledge and Technical Drawing, and a B grade in Art and Design, she said that does not distract her.  She's upping the ante as she aims for a perfect 4.0 grade point average.  It's currently 3.39.
"I know I am capable of getting a 4.0 grade point average, so I am looking forward to really showing that I can.  I am currently still getting used to my new courses and I am sure in no time I will do what I set out to do."
She said she really needs to keep up her grades if she wants to get into a good university and make her dream of becoming a pediatric psychologist a reality.
Determination and persistence is only one of the key ingredients to Kathie-Lee's recipe for success.  Her familial support system which she feels is unshakeable is also key.  She's an only child, but she lives in a home with five other people, including her mother, Lucinda Petsch and aunts Janetta and Dezerine Cooper, grandmother Rowena Cooper and an eight-year-old cousin Deneshia Johnson. She says their presence gives her the sense of home and support that makes her comfortable and relaxed enough to study her best.
"My mother is especially very supportive of me and is always interested in what I am doing or studying.  She ensures she knows exactly what is going on and if I don't know something she helps me.  If she can't help, she ensures she gets me the resources so I can learn and do my best."
While she strives to do her best academically, Kathie-Lee says she also knows that there is much more to life and to being a good student than simply cramming her mind with facts and equations.  She also values extra-curricular activities and makes time to have fun.  She is active in the Governor General Youth Awards Program and has gotten the bronze and silver medals of achievement.  She is also part of the Bahamas Youth Network -- a Christian-focused group that focuses on community services. To enhance her Spanish-speaking skills she also joined Club Bajamar and hopes to travel to Cuba during the Easter break to make use of what she's learned.  She also ensures she keeps her focus on God in all that she does in being a member of her church's (Church of God the Bight) youth and young adult group, the Family Training Hour.  The smart student even takes time out to be a part of the peer tutoring program in her school, which encourages academically-gifted students to assist those who are struggling with their work.
"I think it's very important to be active in things other than my schoolwork.  Being in numerous activities forces me to manage my time better," she says.  "I also am useful to my community and make myself more well-rounded [because] being in numerous clubs also looks good on my college resume.  Besides you do need to relax sometimes, learn new things and just have fun."
Her advice to all students who wish to excel is to always continue to strive for excellence in all they do.  She says achieveing perfect A grades is always great, but said it is not right to judge what others can do to what you know you are capable of.  If your best grade is a C or a B, then she said you should do your best to achieve those grades. As long as you work as hard as you can, she said knowing that you could not have given anything more -- whatever achievement -- should make you proud.
"I understand that not everyone is the same and what is easy for me is hard for others or the other way around.  I always advise others to do what is best for them and work as hard as they can.  If you need help get it, but the real key to all of this is doing what you personally can and continuing to challenge yourself.  Do not procrastinate when it comes to your work, and it never hurts to ask questions.  No one knows everything, so as long as you remember that you will not only do well but you will be the best that you can be."

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News Article
Team Bahamas makes first official appearance

A 25-member Bahamian team was introduced yesterday, paving its way to participation in the first ever International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Relays.
Head Coach Fritz Grant said that while they may be missing top-notch sprinter Shaunae Miller and a few other injured veterans, the small unit is prepared to represent The Bahamas to the best of its ability, turning some heads in the process. The IAAF World Relays Bahamas 2014 will get underway on Saturday evening at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium and will wrap up on Sunday.
"First of all, I just want to congratulate all of the athletes who are here for making the team," said Grant yesterday. "The training camp has been going extremely well. The athletes are really focused and ready to go. They're looking to go out there and perform exceptionally well for the Bahamian people."
As far as Miller is concerned, a nagging hamstring injury has forced her out of competition for the World Relays this weekend. According to a release from her management team, On Track Management, Inc. out of Atlanta, Georgia, Miller is about a week away from race-readiness. She will still be in The Bahamas as an IAAF World Relays ambassador, a title afforded to all of the world championships and Olympic medalists for The Bahamas.
"Anytime you could run a 22 in the women's 200 (meters) and you have that type of leg speed and strength, you will be missed. It will impact us, but nevertheless, we have to move forward to give these athletes who are here the best opportunity to experience success. The athletes who are here, we are going to make sure that they are indeed ready to compete," said Grant. "When you look at the men's 4x400 meters (m) relay team, they are obviously one of the favorites. I think that with the women's 4x200m, we still stand a good chance in that event. We intend to put a very competitive team together regardless.
"With the women and men's 4x100m, I think that they stand a very good chance to advance to the final. The exchange zones, and paying attention to the rules, are going to be very important. The little things count in the 4x100m, and we have to pay special attention to that. We will do what we need to do to get Team Bahamas to execute in stages and advance to the respective finals. Once you get in the finals, anything is possible."
The team members include: Adrian Griffith, Warren Fraser, Trevorvano Mackey, Blake Bartlett, Jamial Rolle and Johnathon Farquharson for the men's 4x100m; Griffith, Mackey, Bartlett, Rolle, Farquharson and Andretti Bain for the men's 4x200m; Chris Brown, Ramon Miller, Demetrius Pinder, Michael Mathieu, LaToy Williams and Alonzo Russell in the men's 4x400m; Sheniqua Ferguson, Anthonique Strachan, V'Alonee Robinson, Tayla Carter, Cache Armbrister and Nivea Smith in the women's 4x100m; Ferguson, Strachan, Carter, Smith and Rashan Brown in the women's 4x200m; and finally, Brown, Lanece Clarke, Shakeitha Henfield, Christine Amertil, Miriam Byfield and Katrina Seymour in the women's 4x400m. The coaches for the team are Fritz Grant, Rupert Gardiner, Rodger Charlton and Cherish Hollingsworth.
The team members have been engaged in a training camp since Saturday.
"The team is very focused, and the synergy is being developed," said Mike Sands yesterday. Sands is the president of the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) and deputy chairman of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for the IAAF World Relays Bahamas 2014.
"Team Bahamas is ready to do battle. We are going to war with the armor that we have, and I am sure that we will make The Bahamas very proud of us," added Sands.
The team is currently in transit from the Paradise Island Harbour Resort to SuperClubs Breezes, the official athletes village of the relays. They are working out on a daily basis at the old Thomas A. Robinson stadium. With the athletes being at home, most will be able to utilize the services of their own personal coaches, in addition to the team coaches.
"With the team being home, all of their regular resources are available to them," said Sands. "When you look at the coaching staff, while that may appear skeletal, bear in mind that we are in a position to have other local coaches accredited, and that will give them the opportunity to work closely with the athletes.
"This is a global event. What is exciting about these World Relays is that there is prize money being offered for the top finishers and also prize money for any world record that is set. It is reasonably expected that a world record could fall in the men's 4x200m and the 4x800 and 4x1,500m events which are not normally ran. Those events, particularly the 4x800m, are usually run in the U.S. college system, so when you put together a team like Kenya that can probably average 1:44 in the men's 800m, you could definitely envision a world record being set. The Bahamian public is going to see some very exciting performances throughout the course of the event."
The IAAF recently announced that the total prize purse for this event is USD $1.4 million. A total of $50,000 is being offered for first place and another $50,000 for a world record. The second through eighth spots will all receive prize money ranging from $30,000 for second to $4,000 for eighth.
The official broadcaster for the two-day meet is ISB (International Sports Broadcasting) based in Madrid, Spain. They are offering feeds to various companies around the world, one of which was purchased by the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas. Out of the United States, Universal Sports (DirecTV channel 625) will be providing coverage of the event.
As far as the injury sustained by Miller is concerned, Sands said that members of the BAAA were unaware of the unfortunate mishap until recently.
"There were rumors flying around over the weekend, but the BAAA wasn't officially notified until Tuesday morning," he said. "Let me just say that injuries are a hazard of our trade. Often it comes at the most inopportune time. They are unfortunate, but we cannot allow injuries to deter us from our stated objectives. Whilst we might not have the entire squad that we wish to have, we will go to war with the army that we have. At the end of the day, we cannot dwell on what could have been. We are faced with a challenge from the best in the world, so we will focus our attention to performing to the best of our ability under any circumstances."
Head Coach Grant remained confident of the team's chances this weekend.
"The BAAA sent out the criteria in terms of what is needed for team selection, the top six times, and based on the information and results that we had, we put together the best team possible to represent The Bahamas," said Grant. "In all of the events, I think that we are going to be very competitive. We might not be as strong as we would have liked due to some of our key athletes having injuries, but nevertheless, we are going to put together the best combination that we have to be able to compete at a high standard. Everyone is locked in, and we are ready to go. We just have to continue to focus on the task at hand, and we should do extremely well. We are going to strategically place our athletes in the best possible positions, based on the strengths and weaknesses of the team, to maximize their potential and give The Bahamas the greatest chance of success."
The 25 members selected to the team will represent The Bahamas in six relay events this weekend - the men and women's 4x100m, the men and women's 4x200m and the men and women's 4x400m.

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A young lady with lofty goals

Mikell Butler has dreams. She wants to become an oncologist and is taking steps to ensure that her dreams come true in her first year studying bio-chemistry at The College of the Bahamas (COB), with plans to move on to study medicine at the University of the West Indies in August. She has the money needed for her studies, with an $80,000 government scholarship to be disbursed over four years at the college of her choice.
With lofty goals, the 18-year-old says knowing her limits and realizing when it is time to step back and stop worrying is a lesson she has learned, and will put into practice as she continues on the second phase of her academic life. The 2011 C.V. Bethel High School graduate says stressing over grades is not the way to go if one wants to succeed academically. There are people who would disagree with her, after all, she graduated high school with a 3.67 grade point average. She also had the best Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) results, seven A grades in Math, History, Combined Science, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Language, and two B grades for Spanish and Literature. She was also her school's valedictorian.
With all of her accomplishments, people would think she always had her head in her books and studied non-stop to accomplish what she did but she says quite to the contrary.
"When it comes to studying and preparing for exams you have to understand that they are only tests. They may greatly assist you later in life, but they don't determine who you are or what you can do. Success comes in many ways and it is easy to fall short of your full potential by overtaxing yourself and not just living," says Butler.
She believes that many academically gifted young people are too competitive and absorbed in their own worlds so much so that they let life pass them by, and don't take time to see that there are others out there that could use a hand.
Besides obtaining her medical degree, she wants to create a program for high school students that would not only provide tutoring services for people that need it, but also incorporate professional people mentoring students.
"To me, the true test of one's mastery of a subject is when he can teach what he knows to his peers. This is why I really want to create a program where students help students, but they are also introduced to the 'real world' by having mentors in the fields they want to get into. It would do some good to really get a good idea about the field of work you want to get into and really understand if you like it before you spend years in school studying it. I want to do something that can really positively impact students because so many of us are disserviced and have no real path to follow once we finish school."
The over achiever says her desire to work with high school students arose from her own experiences and desires that things could have been different for her during her high school years. While she was able to assist other students and get help as well, she says it was in a very limited way. When it came time to decide on a career path, she had already chosen medicine, but says there was nothing in place for her to be mentored by professionals in the field, so that she could know specifically which specialization she was interested in. This is something that she hopes will not have to happen to future students.
"I know there is a guidance counselling department in most schools, but I do not feel they often do enough to prepare students for their future. They do a great job bringing in persons from the community from different careers of course, but this is also very limited and not all careers of interest are represented. Many times students enjoy what they see but there is no way to keep in contact with these guest speakers, which is frustrating to students. Furthermore, finding a job after spending years in school is hard sometimes and it helps if you already know someone in the field and they can guide you. So I am really looking forward to getting this program off the ground in another year or two."
In the meantime, Butler encourages students to work with what they have and work hard to make their own way in the professional world. She says finding support wherever you can is just as important. For her it was her family, community and friends that were the driving force behind her success to date.
"While tutoring and mentoring are important, other elements like familial support and community involvement are also important to a student's success. My reasons for pushing the mentoring program is because so many students don't have the home support, drive or means to explore the field of work they wish to enter themselves. Because of this they need a push. But even so I think the best push of it all is when the family and community is involved."
The student said her parents, Michael and Gayle Butler, ensured they were there for her for, whether she was receiving a certificate or a trophy. She said they made sure they never missed anything that she was honored at.
She also encourages parents to be more active in their children's academic life because she believes the best tutor of all is found at home. In primary school and junior school she remembers her mom really pushing her and helping with her school work. By the time Mikell got to high school she was responsible for her studies, but she said she had the right foundation to excel on her own. She recognizes that no matter how many outside tutors she had, if she didn't have support at home she may not have achieved as she did academically.
"Although I am sure my mentoring program will be successful in many ways it will not be as useful if students don't have a foundation to build on. They can have lofty dreams but if there is no work ethic or people who are proud of them, many students tend not to care. This is why I believe the best tutors or mentors are first and foremost a student's parents and community. If they have support in the places closest to them they can use the support they find elsewhere like at school a lot better."
The COB student said it is also important for students to be proactive and discover their strengths and weaknesses early in their academic careers. This way she said they know what they are good at and what they need help with. She said they will also be able to find methods that work for them when it comes to studying. She added that students need to realize that what works for one person may not work for another, and that they should not keep trying to compare themselves to other people. Not being realistic about their abilities, and burning themselves out due to stress, she believes causes many capable students to fall short academically.
If she was able to speak to her peers, she said she would advise them to pace themselves and stop worrying about achieving perfection. For students on the other side of the spectrum, who just don't believe in themselves academically, she advised them to challenge themselves and seek the help they need to succeed.
"It's all about knowing yourself. I don't think many students are conscious of their actual capabilities. Some overshoot and others underestimate. I think spending time calculating what you will need to do per class, and how much time you have to give to each subject realistically in order to succeed, is something students need to do. It's better to succeed at the eight subjects you know you can do well in and have the time to study, for than to push for 10 subjects knowing that you need more time to prepare for them than you have, and as a result do a mediocre job across the board. On the other hand, some students don't test themselves and will settle for the bare minimum. These students need a challenge and should push themselves a bit harder. But like I said you have to know what you can do and work accordingly."
Even when succeeding academically and being on the right course for future success, the young lady said it is also important for students to be involved in their communities and do things just because they want to. She said finding a balance in life with academics and extracurricular activities are key in a person's holistic success.
"As a person your life will not always be about studying, so you have to get used to interacting and networking with other people. You cannot be a completely balanced or well-rounded person if academics are the only things you care about."
During high school, Mikell was involved in numerous activities, from science clubs to the Governor General Youth Award program and Junior Achievers. She said she had a lot of things she needed to study, but always made to time for life.
As she begins her journey to make her dream of becoming a doctor reality, Mikell advised her peers to continue to work hard, but to not over-stress themselves about examinations, and to always make time for fun activities, if not just for their college resumes then at least for themselves. Doing well she said is always a plus, but taking the time to appreciate life and make lifelong friends along the way is invaluable.

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Lion's Club sponsors Peace Poster contest

The Freeport News: The Lions' Club of Freeport is presently
sponsoring a Peace Poster Contest in Grand Bahama as part of their wider
organizations call for world peace.

Lions Clubs International, the world's largest service club
organization, is made up of 1.35 million men and women in 207 countries
and geographical locations throughout the world and this organization
has created the Peace Poster Contest to foster a spirit of peace and
international understanding in young people worldwide...

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U.S. Charg presents Missouri Sherman-Peter with The Bahamas' 2013 International Woman of Courage award

NASSAU, Bahamas -- For the last seven years in honor of International Women's Day, the United States Government has asked its embassies around the world to nominate one female leader for the International Women of Courage Award.  Each year, U.S. Embassy Nassau proudly recognizes a Bahamian female leader who has demonstrated perseverance in the struggle to address inequalities faced by women throughout The Bahamas.
On Friday, March 15, 2013, U.S. Chargé d'Affaires John Dinkelman along with senior U.S. and Bahamian government officials came together at the SuperClubs Breezes Resort on Cable Beach to recognize the U.S. Embassy's 2013 International Woman of Courage (IWOC) award recipient, Ms. Missouri Sherman-Peter, for her courageous leadership in advocating women's rights and empowerment throughout her 40 years of public service in national government and multinational organizations.  Two previous International Women of Courage award winners were also on hand for the celebration; 2012 award recipient The Honorable Janet Bostwick, a Bahamian national and "matriarch of women's rights" and the 2010 honoree, Dr. Sandra Dean Patterson, founder and director of The Crisis Center.   
In his remarks Chargé Dinkelman he noted that International Women's Day is a time when each of us must recommit to ending gender inequality around the world, so that every woman and girl can live up to her full potential because all societies benefit when women are healthy, safe, and can contribute their labor, leadership, and creativity to the global economy.  He also applauded Ms. Sherman Peter for personifying the possibilities that have been created by female Bahamian women trailblazers and urged young women throughout The Bahamas to take the reins.  

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Welcome way to highlight unwelcome new species

THE Bahamas National Trust recently brought fun to the Discovery Club programme by challenging its 41 Discovery Clubs nationwide to create attention grabbing Public Service Announcements to increase awareness of invasive species and the problems that these unwelcomed guests can cause.

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