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News Article
The Bahamas and the United Arab Emirates form diplomatic relations
May 20, 2011
The Bahamas and the United Arab Emirates form diplomatic relations

The Government of The Bahamas and the Government of the United Arab Emirates established diplomatic relations, based on mutual willingness to promote friendship and cooperation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced.

Dr Paulette Bethel, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of The Bahamas to the United Nations and Ahmed Al-Jarman, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations signed a Joint Communiqué, on Monday, May 12, 2011 at the Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates in New York.

The document states that ties were also formed on the basis of

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News Article

August 10, 2010
Shades of Creation

By ALESHA CADET

Tribune Features Writer

Wenly and Bea Fowler have always been drawn to the artistic expressions of God, through nature, design, thought and patterns.

But it was not until recently, when they finally gave in to the demands of family and friends to share their talents, that the couple decided to hold their first art exhibition.

On Wednesday August 4- Friday August 6th, Wenly and Bea Fowler hosted an art exhibition under the theme, " Shades of Creation" at The National Centre for the Performing Arts on Shirley Street.

The creative couple had met on a college campus when they were studying education.

Since those early days, most of their artistic expressions were ...

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News Article

August 10, 2010
Letter: Removal of the Cheshire Home Deed of Trust from Registrar General's department

EDITOR, The Tribune.

Firstly, I express sincere gratitude to the family of Rotary Clubs in The Bahamas on behalf of all disable persons who resided in and otherwise benefited from the existence of Cheshire Home, for having undertaken the establishment of that very much needed, disabled-friendly residential facility on Dolphin Drive, in the 1980s. Acknowledgment and gratitude are also extended to Sir Durward Knowles for the leading roll he played in seeing the home come into existence.

Gratitude and appreciation are also extended to members of the general public for having financially supported the various fund raising efforts by the Rotary Clubs, which resulted in the eventual construction o ...

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News Article

August 10, 2010
Government in talks for judo training centre

By ERIKA RAHMING

VLAD Marinescu, personal assistant to Marius Vizer, president of the International Judo Federation (IJF), met with several high ranking Bahamian officials to discuss plans for the future of judo in the Bahamas and the Caribbean region.

Mr Marinescu was in town for the Bahamas Judo Open this past weekend.

Bahamas Judo Federation (BJF) president D'Arcy Rahming and Mr Marinescu met with Minister of Youth and Sports Charles Maynard to discuss the possibility of a regional judo training centre for the Caribbean within the sports complex currently being built here in New Providence.

The minister was enthusiastic and expressed interest in reviewing a more detailed plan.

Mr ...

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News Article

August 13, 2010
Letter: Social policies needed to deal with teenage prostitution

EDITOR, The Tribune.

Teenage prostitution published by The Tribune on July 23 is a report about underage girls exchanging sexual pleasures commercially. The well reported article features primarily Dr Sandra Dean-Patterson, director of the Bahamas Crisis Centre, discussing the matter. Dr Dean-Patterson expresses that the problem of teen prostitution doesn't exist because individuals under the age of 16 cannot give consent to sex; therefore, they are not committing prostitution. She said the girls are being exploited.

On the Tribune's website (www.tribune242.com) some people opined under the article. They aired how much they disagreed with Dr Dean-Patterson's assertion that the kid ...

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News Article

May 23, 2011
Win or lose, give me that sweet rush

By NOELLE NICOLLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
nnicolls@tribunemedia.net

THERE is a Yoruba story that says when the earth lost its tongue and could no longer speak the heavens gave birth to the drum. In the ceremony of Junkanoo, when the goatskin drums start to beat and the brass band starts to play, the Junkanooer disappears into a deep meditation as the spirit expresses itself in movement and sound.
If Junkanoo were to exist in its most natural form, perhaps it would appear more like a masked ancestral ritual on African soil or the dance of a honugan in a Haitian Voudon ceremony. But as with much else, we are living outside of the natural order of things.
Win or lose, I don’t care; just ...

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News Article

May 26, 2011
Nobel prize laureate, Derek Walcott to speak in St. Martin

Great Bay, St. Martin - Nobel Prize laureate Derek Walcott is the confirmed keynote speaker for the 9th annual St. Martin Book Fair, June 2 - 4, 2011, said book fair coordinator Shujah Reiph.

"Freedom of Expression" is the theme of the three-day fair that opens with Walcott's address at the Chamber of Commerce Building in Spring Concordia, Marigot, June 2, at 8pm.

In 2011, the much-in-demand Walcott won the T.S. Eliot Prize in the UK and
Trinidad's BOCAS literary prize for White Egrets, his new and 14th book of
poems...

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News Article

July 05, 2011
Grads: Are you ready for the real world of work

Congratulations graduate! You've waited years for this moment and it has finally arrived.  No more burning the midnight oil to cram for exams, no more worrying about your GPA, no more teachers telling you what to do, no more curfews from parents, no more...?  (You fill in the blank - I'm sure that you have a list) and us parents better recognize that you are now an adult (jokes) and you make your own rules.  Whatever!  Eye-winker was here before beard and since you're "all grown up" us parents hope that you can do one thing - support yourself with a job!  But here is the problem - finding a job, is a job because companies don't like to hire recent grads!  They complain that you are not ready; that you lack the right attitude, skills, work ethic and that you possess very little if any knowledge of what is expected of you in the workplace.
The sad reality is while graduating from high school/earning a degree is an accomplishment of which you can be proud, in the real world neither your grade point average or your degree can guarantee your success!
If you really want to be successful in your transition from the classroom to the workplace here are some tips for your consideration:
. Image matters: Being improperly dressed is cited by employers as the number one reason for rejecting an applicant (hostile overbearing know-it-all was # 9).  Unlike  your high school or college years when you were naïve enough to think that your image didn't matter, in the "real world" it really does matter what other people think about you.  Your image has the power to open doors of opportunity or have those same doors closed in your face.   Study after study has concluded that appearance plays a significant role in how we are perceived by others, whether you are hired or not and how much money you are paid.  In less than 30 seconds people form impressions true or false about you, based on the silent messages you send via your image.  Under consideration are: The way you dress, your overall grooming, the colors you choose to wear, your facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, communication skills, vocal tone, behavior, and personal etiquette.  So it's time to lose the flip flops, air brushed nails, tight clothes, colorful weaves, (guys) drop down baggy pants (invest in a belt!), braids, earring in ear, and tattoos.  Always remember that well-dressed people earn more money than their poorly dressed counterparts and are provided with more opportunities in the workplace, so dress for the level of success that you want.
. You can't survive on 'average'.  During your school years you may have been content to earn a "C" on your report card/transcript.  In the real world you will have to raise the bar and kiss average goodbye.  In fact you will do well to remove good from your vocabulary altogether.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, good and mediocre are the same word and today's employer and consumer are looking for a relationship, a product that is better than good.  Replace good with exceptional, best, outstanding, etc. Think like a champion!  "To be a warrior is not a simple matter of wishing to be one.  It is rather an endless struggle that will go on to the very last moment of our lives. Nobody is born a warrior, in exactly the same way that nobody is born an average man.  We make ourselves into one or the other." - Carlos Castaneda.
. Demonstrate a positive attitude and show a willingness to learn.  Nobody likes a know-it-all.  Try to maintain a positive working relationship with your colleagues and clients but don't become too familiar/over friendly - your boss is not your friend!
. Align your skills and interests with a job that excites you and can unleash your passions.
. Possess the following soft skills: Interpersonal skills, being a team player, planning and organizing, problem solving, multi-tasking, business etiquette, creativity, social graces, and a great handshake.
. Show integrity and demonstrate good work ethics.  Hold yourself to a higher standard than anyone expects from you.  For your information, there is no such thing as "Bahamian time".
. Display good oral and written communication skills - In that vein endeavor to speak the Queen's English at work.  Drop the "I ain't on ya run, my bad, das a vibe, true in I man still, link up, uh, um, beh, ya know!"  Turn down the volume on your voice and lower your pitch (you don't want to sound like a whiny cry baby).  Slow down your speech, watch your tone of voice, and take the time to enunciate your words.  Pay special attention to your body language - it's more believable than the words coming out of your mouth.  Remember, people think with their eyes and hear what they see.
. Build a strong personal brand.  Remember that you are a product/brand.  People buy products/brands because they satisfy a certain need.  What need will you satisfy?  What can your future employer expect when they hire you?  Volvo is known for safety, Hermes for the highest quality of leather goods and accessories, Disney for family entertainment, Oprah for caring and helping others - what will you be known for?  What unique talents and skills do you possess that will enable you to distinguish yourself from the competition?  It's time for introspection - become as knowledgeable as you can about what makes you unique and use these talents and skills to distinguish yourself.
. Invest your money wisely.  Just because you are making money doesn't mean you have to waste it.  Do you really need that "fresh" new car with the spinning rims?  Of course not!  My friend "if your yearnings cost more than your earnings" you are headed for trouble.  Stay out of debt, spend less and save more.
. Protect your reputation at all costs because you will have to live with it for the rest of your life.  Remember, your reputation is not only formed by your words and actions, but also by the company you keep, so choose your friends wisely.
. Above all, "do a little more than you're paid to, and give a little more than you have to.  Try a little harder than you want to, aim a little higher than you think possible, and give a lot of thanks to God for health, family and friends." - Art Linkletter.
 
n Stacia Williams offers keynotes, workshops and personal coaching on a wide range of: Personal Branding, Image Management, Customer Service, Leadership, Business Etiquette & International Protocol Topics.
You can contact Stacia Williams at 325-5992 or email Stacia@totalimagemanagement.com or visit staciawilliamsblog.com.
 

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News Article

February 21, 2012
KFC 'staring down barrel of gun'

The chairman of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) expressed disbelief at the management of KFC's apparent disregard of the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU).
While the ongoing spat between workers and management may have reached its tipping point, Winston Rolle said the fast food chain must nevertheless acknowledge the rights of the union.
According to Darren Woods, the secretary general of the BHCAWU, the management of KFC issued a letter to workers stipulating the perimeters of their new contract.  A second letter was also sent to the union, Woods said, indicating KFC's management no longer acknowledged it as a negotiating body.
"I don't think they can do that," Rolle said.  "If I remember correctly, the union would have received recognition through the minister of labour.  It's sad it has come to this.  I had hoped they would resolve the matter."
KFC is one of New Providence's oldest franchises.  Guardian Business understands that both sides met with the minister of labour last night.
Rolle felt management "must be staring down the barrel of a gun" to resort to these measures.  He said a strike by KFC workers will impact a number of employees and their families in The Bahamas.
KFC's management has refused to comment on the labor dispute since the beginning.
The letters to workers and the union is not the first unorthodox method taken up by KFC management. Earlier this month, advertisements were published in both major dailies outlining pay and benefits for employees.
The disclosure revealed generous benefits and pay that was nearly double compared to compensation paid at competing franchises.
The company also posted a notice declaring a new wage structure will be enforced on February 20.
Management clearly followed through with its intentions.
"The company is in a position where they feel they must make adjustments," Rolle added. "From a business perspective, they have to make decisions. Unfortunately they couldn't reach an amiable solution and now individuals will be impacted."
From the perspective of the BCCEC, Rolle hoped both parties can remain cool and levelheaded. He said KFC is clearly under a great deal of pressure and compromises must be made.
Either way, this latest action in the KFC saga will likely have ramifications for all sides.
"It will not go across lightly from anyone's perspective. It could impact the future of the BHCAWU. KFC must be under a lot of pressure to take those steps and prepare for what is to come," Rolle said.

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News Article

February 28, 2012
Students help each other to learn self-esteem

It's never to early to learn the life-changing effects community service can have on both the giver and receiver.  Now entering its fourth year, the Stephen Dillet Community Service Program at the Lyford Cay International School (LCIS) has been teaching its students the value of being the change they wish to see in the world.
Once a month, a group of LCIS students from grades 7 through 12 visit an eager group of fourth to sixth graders at Stephen Dillet Primary School in order to supplement their learning curriculum.  One of the program's advisors, LCIS teacher Helen De Jong, said the idea came from the students themselves as they toured the Stephen Dillet school grounds.
"I took my grade nine students to visit the school and we found they didn't have an art program, a music program, a language program, and the kids said well, they could do it," said De Jong.  "It was their idea to go into the school and supplement the programs."
What started as a group of roughly ten volunteers from LCIS has now more than doubled to 25 students eager to work together to build innovative and engaging lesson plans for the primary school students.
After three years of academic lesson plans for maths, languages, drama, and science, the program has decided to shift into a more arts-based focus, to encourage self expression and a tangible performance goal at the end of the school year.
With input from Stephen Dillet Principal Wently Fowler, the focus has been on building self-esteem, and allowing the LCIS students to produce lesson plans that help students work towards an end-of-year musical production "Proud" by Teresa Jennings, that explores themes celebrating individuality.
No matter what the subject is, however, the students on either side are deeply committed to attending.  With classes that incorporate discussions, role playing, skits, song writing, and game activities, not only do the LCIS students hardly miss a lesson, but they find the primary school students waiting in the parking lot, eager to spend their Saturdays with them.  It's no surprise, since such lessons are vital to the positive development of the youngsters, said the program's second advisor, Lyford Cay School instructor Dorenda Davis.
"I have taught in schools like Stephen Dillet and there are so many challenges with self-esteem," she said.  "Every month we go there, there is something different to help and encourage the students to excel, but in that school, for young people to be encouraged by kids their age to be proud of who they are and what they do, is a strong motivator.  There has to be a need to constantly enforce that you are more than what you're surrounded by."
But it's not only the primary school students who have benefitted from empathy, pride and confidence.  The program's great success is also measured by the important leadership experience it has given the LCIS students, and more importantly, the value of working together to improve and uplift a community.
"Seeing our seventh through twelfth graders work together as a team and communicate to execute these lesson plans has been amazing, and it gives our students a lot of leadership experience," said De Jong.
"I think it's good for our students also to see they can make a difference.  There is a Chinese proverb that says it's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, and I want our students to see that at their young age they have something to offer."
Indeed for LCIS senior Bernard Farquharson, who was part of the core group of volunteer students that launched the community service program years ago, teaching has been an eye-opening experience that he hopes to carry on in his college studies next year.
"I've never had trouble with any students and I think they've all enjoyed me as a teacher," he said.  "When I'm teaching I try to keep them engaged and I try to learn everyone's names and interact with everyone, not just a few."
"I always try to make sure that they know that we're all equals here.  We're teaching and we're older, but we all want to take something away from this, we're all friends," he continued.
"They look forward to it, they always come.  Even though it's educational, they also just want to hang out.  If we don't come, they'll know.  It's a good outlet for them. Otherwise, where would they be?"

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News Article

February 20, 2012
Born in The Bahamas

An overview of the data collected by the Department of Statistics on births in The Bahamas over the last 40 years shows that women, domestic and foreign-born, are having fewer children.
The data in the births report, collated from 1970 through 2010, shows that with a population of about 170,000 in 1970, there were 4,894 live births recorded.  Juxtapose those numbers against the 5,362 live births recorded among a population of more than 340,000 in 2010, and the downward shift is apparent.
The report also shows that the birth rate fell almost 50 percent, from 28.8 births per 1,000 persons to 15.8 births per 1,000 persons from 1970 through 2010.
The conclusion: Women between the ages of 15 and 49 were having an average of four children during the course of their lives in 1970.  By 2010, women were only having an average of two children.
The data doesn't indicate why birth rates have dropped so dramatically, but a scrutiny of the numbers does uncover some interesting trends among particular groups of women.
Births by foreign women have dropped in the past four decades, from about 30 percent in 1970 to about 18 percent in 2010.
However, an unavoidable fact - as pointed out by The Nassau Guardian several days ago - is that the birth rate among Haitian women in The Bahamas has nearly doubled in the past 40 years.
"The number of births grew from 7.2 percent in 1970, to an average of 13.7 percent by 2010," the report noted.  "In contrast, births to women of Jamaican ethnicity declined by some 50 percent.  For females from countries outside the Caribbean, the numbers of births plunged, especially since 2008 to (nearly zero) from 12.1 in 1970."
The report also points out that births to unwed mothers have practically doubled since 1970, and remain "the largest annual natural increase to the Bahamian population".
"Births to unwed mothers in The Bahamas escalated in the past 40 years, from 29 percent in 1970 to a high of 62 percent in 2009.  For the period 1990 to 2005, the annual birth trend, though high, leveled at 57 percent," the report said.  "Four years later, births to single mothers advanced by five percentage points and declined to 59 percent of the national total in 2010."
Meantime, the birth rate among teenage mothers (ages 10-19) has dropped significantly.
In 1970 the birth rate in this group was 32.4 per 1,000 women. The birth rate in that group now stands at 17.6 per 1,000 women.
"When compared to the annual national totals the proportion of births to teen mothers fluctuated, reaching a high of 21.7 percent in 1980, to a low of 9.7 percent in 2005," said the report.
"During the last two years, the percentage of births to females under the age of 20 dropped to single digits, indicating some degree of stability in terms of the annual number of births to this group of females."
Females ages 15-19 had a birth rate of 40.9 in 2010, compared to 38.9 in 1970.
Women ages 20-24 had the highest birthrate in 1970, with a little over 100 births per 1,000 women.  Now that group has a birth rate of 96.7 per 1,000 women and has been eclipsed by women ages 25-29, with a birth rate of 106.3 per 1,000 women.
Women ages 30-34 had a birth rate of 91.7 in 2010, compared to 54.2 in 1970.
Some women are also having children at an older age.  Women ages 35-39 had a birth rate of 49 in 2010, compared to 40.8 in 1970.
However, women ages 40-44 had a birth rate of 13 in 2010, compared to 16.7 in 1970.
Women ages 45-49 were having two children per 1,000 persons 40 years ago, and that rate has now fallen to one child among that age group.
As was the case 40 years ago, most children are still born in New Providence.
"In 1970, 63.3 percent of the nation's children were born in Nassau.  Between 1970 and 1980, births in New Providence grew by more than seven percentage points, and about 11 percent by 1990.  Thereafter, the proportion of births remained in the low 80 percent range, peaking at 83.9 percent in 2008," the report found.
"Over the past four decades, the proportion of births which occurred in Grand Bahama decreased by more than four percentage points; from 20.5 to 16 in 2010.
"Forty years ago, the Family Islands accounted for 16 percent of births in the country.  By 2010, these island communities experienced a significant loss of birth occurrences, from 794 births during 1970, to a record low of 17 births in 2010."
The number of boys and girls born in The Bahamas has consistently remained almost equal for the past 40 years, with the majority number fluctuating slightly between the genders.
Most babies are still being born in August and September, although many children are also born during the months between October and January.
But for all the babies being born, there are still many who don't make it out of their mothers' wombs alive - though that number is decreasing.
In 1970 there were 105 stillborn children in the country.  By 2010 that number decreased to 61.
Expressed as a rate, it would mean that in 1970, for every 1,000 live births there were 21.5 stillborn children.
In 2010, for every 1,000 babies born alive, 12.1 died in utero.
 
Ed. Note: This information can be viewed on the Department of Statistics website at http://statistics.bahamas.gov.bs

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News Article

January 10, 2012
Smooth start to distribution of voter's cards

Parliamentary Commissioner Errol Bethel said yesterday the distribution of voter's cards got off to a smooth start and he assured that the department was on high alert in an effort to prevent foreigners from registering to vote in the upcoming general election.
The distribution of voter's cards is taking place at Kendal G. L. Isaacs Gymnasium.  According to Bethel, nearly 100,000 cards are available for collection at that site.
The 2012 election will be the biggest test of the Parliamentary Registration Department since it received scathing criticisms from Election Court justices, who pointed to egregious failures in the process in the lead-up to the 2007 general election, and due to failures connected to the 2010 by-election in Elizabeth.
Such concerns about the process persist.
Just last week, The Nassau Guardian reported that an illegal immigrant who registered to vote in The Bahamas and fraudulently obtained a passport has been jailed for eight months.
Jamaican Andre Kumar Ebanks, 24, admitted to getting a Bahamian passport and voter's card by using a forged school record letter and a Bahamian birth certificate.
Bethel pointed out yesterday that people cannot register with old voter's cards.
"We have been going through this whole issue of who is a citizen and who is not a citizen and just in case some people slipped through last time, we want to make sure it doesn't happen again," Bethel said.
"Having a birth certificate does not prove citizenship.  We have to also know that your parents are citizens.
"Now if you have a passport we can accept that document because that would have meant that you should have gone through the Passport Office and they would have gone through all of your information in terms of who you are."
Some people who collected their voter's cards yesterday expressed excitement over the approaching election.
George Major, who is registered in Nassau Village, said he's most concerned about immigration and unemployment.
Joyce Conliffe, who lives in Bamboo Town, said if the election was called today, she would be ready.
"I know where my 'X' is going; it hasn't changed then and it isn't changing now. I'm ready to vote for the right party because the right person will get the job done," Conliffe said.
Voter's cards can be picked up at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

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News Article

January 10, 2012
Touching many 'soles'

Everyone's familiar with the phrase "to walk a mile in somebody's shoes", but one organization has been bringing it to life - with a Bahamian-American artist contributing a pair herself.
Multidisciplinary artist Alexis Caputo created a pair of shoes telling her own story of dual identity, including lots of Bahamian flair, as part of a group of artists working with a major organization for a good cause.
This organization, Sole Plus, the brainchild of Brian Keith Miller, combines art, education and activism to help disadvantaged communities. Pairing up with Converse Shoes, Sole Plus ventures into the community and encourages people to use the shoe as a canvas for their story. Such an exercise is not only cathartic and creative, but the results, says the organization on its website, show the closeness of human interconnectivity.
To that end, the project can oftentimes be used to raise awareness and funds for social issues. A group of artists came together to create a pair of their own shoes for Sole Plus which were then auctioned off and the proceeds donated to organizations benefitting the homeless.
The project appealed to Caputo, who has done a significant amount of work with women's shelters and disadvantaged youth.
The homeless component struck a cord with me because it's a universal issue," she points out.
"I lived in New York City where you walk outside of your front door and there's a homeless man, woman or child there and it's something that was very prominent and in my face regularly," says Caputo. "When I navigated to South Florida, I don't see it as much, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist."
In a nod to her Caribbean roots, the proceeds from some of the auctions will go towards funds helping those who lost their homes and continue to live in a state of homelessness in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
"I'm always a staunch supporter of anything that relates to cross-cultural exchanges, something that's educational," says Caputo.
"Because so many people in that nation have remained displaced and homeless, we thought, Haiti is right in our backyard, so why not participate in this? Why not raise funds? Why not be able to call international attention to it? It's not something that has to stop in Florida or stop in Haiti - it's something a lot of people can relate to and identify with."
Yet Caputo took the practice further, inspired to write a poem, "Soul to Sole" that addresses this universal issue and encourages those who find themselves in such a situation to keep their head up and find release and strength in self-expression and creativity. It also encourages literacy, says Caputo.
"I think that there are many different ways to interpret something and to translate something," she says.
"I wanted to find another way I could connect to this project. It doesn't just have to be a visual component. Maybe someone will appreciate or relate to the literary version rather than the visual shoe, or vice-versa."
Indeed, the multidisciplinary artist has been finding many ways to connect disadvantaged communities with art. With a background in writing, dancing, performance and music, Caputo is also an educator and activist, working closely with disadvantaged women, youth and cross-cultural projects.
In 2009, she formed the non-profit "Project Witness" in order to expand on that artistic practice and intention to foster social unity through art, cultural exploration, education and activism.
"I decided to expand my platform rather than just contributing to solo and collective projects and speak to diverse audiences with multicultural projects, and an inter-generational audience," she explains.
"The best way I felt to do that would be to launch a project that has appeal in the arts, has appeal as it relates to cultural exploration and education using arts and education and activism."
It's the reason she responded so positively and passionately to the Sole Plus Project - though it wasn't formed out of Project Witness, Caputo points out that its goals run parallel to her organization.
"That phrase 'walk a mile in my shoes' means absolutely nothing if you can't directly relate to someone who has been in the situation," she says. "I thought this was a fantastic platform to be able to raise awareness about homelessness."
As a Bahamian-American artist living abroad, her next move would be to plan to collaborate with other Bahamian artists to raise awareness about social issues in The Bahamas - perhaps even visiting to lead such an exchange.
"For such a very long time I've had an interest and desire in having a cross-cultural exchange with other Bahamian artists to create a bridge between The Bahamas and the U.S.A to create and debate ideas," she says.
"There's so much access and resource for things that could be done in terms of projects that have international appeal. There are so many great causes and so much room; there's so much great potential there that I would welcome the opportunity to be a part of that in any way."
For more about Sole Plus, check out www.soleplus.org. For more about Project Witness, check out their page on Facebook or www.projectwitnessinternational.org or contact them at inquiries@projectwitnessinternational.org. To contact Alexis Caputo, e-mail scribe@alexiscaputo.com.

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News Article

January 10, 2012
MDeez's Without You

By LESH

THE ARTIST they call MDeez was quick out the blocks in 2012, dropping a new soulful single called "Without You". Love, regret, and making this right are themes explored in the new single, the fourth from MDeez's album entitled "Two Faced Bastards".

With its usual mix of hip hop and rhythm and blues styles, MDeez said the new song has been a crowd pleaser so far.

"This is the best I have heard thus far. I know the year just started and all but I like this one here," said one fan, who took to Facebook to express his support.

Another fan wrote: "MDeez has done it again, never cease to amaze me. First love is and now this. It always warms my heart to he ...

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News Article

June 06, 2011
Politics, diplomacy and the church

A U.S. Embassy official claimed in a cable penned in 2003 that Bishop Neil C. Ellis -- who is repeatedly described in diplomatic documents as Perry Christie's spiritual adviser -- remarked that the then prime minister was not a "true man of God" although he was trying to be religious.
The American also wrote that at a meeting with Ellis at his Mount Tabor Baptist Church, he also remarked that Hubert Ingraham, at the time former prime minister, was definitely "not a man of God" even if he does attend church.
When we sat down with Ellis a few days ago at Mount Tabor to discuss the cables that mentioned his name, Ellis denied most of the claims documented by U.S. diplomats.
But it is the claim regarding his purported comment on Christie and Ingraham's spirituality that he seemed most taken aback by.
"I don't qualify to determine who is a man of God and who is not a man of God," he told The Nassau Guardian.
"...For me to say I think Christie is a pretender would be very hypocritical of me because I've always said publicly and I would say again, I believe Perry Christie is one of the greatest humanitarians I've ever met."
A read of at least two cables shows that while Ellis was growing his church, American diplomats were placing the spotlight on him and his relationship with Christie in a major way.
"Quite a bit of it surprises me," said Ellis, when asked about what his general impression was of what the Americans attributed to him.
According to the cables, obtained by The Nassau Guardian through WikiLeaks, despite not being a member of the government, Ellis wielded considerable influence in the Christie administration, as did businessman Franklyn Wilson.
One of the cables, which was classified by then Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Witajewksi, said,  "Ellis openly uses his pulpit in one of Nassau's largest and fastest growing churches to advance the PLP's political agenda, and by allying himself so closely with Christie, has surpassed many of his more established (and perhaps more respectable) religious brethren in influence."
The name at the end of that particular cable is Richard Blankenship, who at the time was United States ambassador to The Bahamas.
Ellis told The Guardian he was not well liked by Blankenship because he had made a statement about the involvement of diplomats in the local affairs of a country.
He said it arouses curiosity that the Americans want to know everything that is happening on every level in the Bahamas.
 
'A CONTROVERSIAL FIGURE'
 
The Americans documented two meetings they say they had with Ellis at his church in Pinewood Gardens.
Ellis told The Nassau Guardian he recalled at least one of those meetings, but he remembered it being very informal with no detailed discussion about Christie or Ingraham.
According to one of the cables, on December 2, 2003, a U.S. diplomat paid a courtesy call on Ellis, described as "hard to pin down" and "charismatic".
"During the nearly two-hour meeting, Ellis described the enterprise his parish has become," the cable said.
"He also outlined his role as the local Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, of Bahamian politics -- the one visit that all aspiring politicians must make in order to confirm their legitimacy."
Ellis totally dismissed this claim when he spoke with The Nassau Guardian.
"Why would any sensible, logically thinking person make a statement like that?" he asked
The cable added: "Ellis has come far, from a humble background, mentored and supported by prominent businessman Frankie Wilson, with whom he maintains a close personal and business relationship."
The American diplomat wrote in 2003 that conventional wisdom holds that Ingraham had sealed his fate by displaying arrogance toward the religious leadership while he was prime minister.
"The electorate of the Bahamas is devout, and the church leaders refused to remain silent after the former PM had expressed views antithetical to religious conservatives, such as welcoming to port a cruise liner catering to gay clientele and advocating for constitutional reform targeted toward improving women's rights," the diplomat also wrote.
According to the diplomat who wrote the cable on the heels of the December 2, 2002 meeting, Ellis described "a strange ritual" whereby Christie had sought a meeting with him over a several week period as he was gearing up for the 2002 election campaign.
The cable said: "Ellis kept rebuffing [Christie's] request, offering him only a 10 minute slot.
"Finally, however, Ellis offered [Christie] the opportunity to travel with him on a religious speaking tour in the U.S., promising that if [Christie] attended three of his sermons, he would be available to counsel  [Christie] throughout the tour.
"Thus, the two men spent many intense hours together, during which time Ellis looked into [Christie's] soul and concluded that [Christie] has religious inclinations, but is 'not yet there'."
But Ellis said this could not be further from the truth.
"I can't look into a person's soul," he told The Nassau Guardian.  "I'm not the savior of the world.  Jesus is."
The cable said though Christie was not one of Ellis' regular parishioners, since the 2002 election, he had attended from time to time, as did all but three cabinet ministers.
An embassy official said in another cable after reportedly meeting with Ellis in late May 2002 that the bishop had expressed his desire for closer relations with the embassy, bemoaned his treatment in the press and offered a fascinating, intimate account of how he came to publicly endorse Christie in the last election.
The official said that as Wilson did in a separate meeting, Ellis unconvincingly denied having or wanting any real influence.  Both men were described as "powerbrokers" as it regards the PLP -- a claim Ellis laughed at as he denied it to the Guardian.
The embassy official described Ellis as one of the Bahamas' most controversial figures.
The cable said:  "He publicly endorsed Perry Christie during the 2002 campaign and reportedly told his congregation from the pulpit during a religious service that they must support Christie if they wished to remain members of his church."
The diplomat also wrote that Ellis also held a huge religious revival featuring a renowned U.S. evangelist that was a magnet for criticism about the reported "greediness" of its fundraising appeal.
"Establishment religious figures now sometimes preface fund-raising remarks by noting that the funds 'will not be used to build a vacation house in Bimini' to distinguish themselves from the self-proclaimed bishop," the cable said.
"The press hounds him constantly about his flamboyant personal lifestyle and open political preferences.
"Ellis was another protégé of (the late former prime minister) Sir Lynden Pindling, who identified him as a promising young man growing up on the small island of Bimini and brought him to Nassau to complete his education."
The diplomat wrote that Ellis is affiliated with the Full Gospel Baptist Church headquartered in New Orleans, and is its "bishop" for international churches, theoretically having all Full Gospel Baptist churches in The Bahamas under his leadership.
"Prime Minister Christie has openly referred to Ellis as his spiritual adviser, and many Bahamians assume that his influence runs deep within the administration," the cable said.
 
ENDORSING CHRISTIE
 
In the cable that came out of the May 2002 meeting with Bishop Ellis, the diplomat goes into amazing details about what was allegedly observed.
For instance, the cable said the embassy official was met by the first of Ellis' personal assistants upon arrival, and was passed on to the second, who entertained him while Ellis finished a meeting with his seven associate pastors.
According to the cable, Ellis then received the official in his "nicely appointed, bordering on lavish, but not quite passing over into poor taste, office."
"He was dressed in a loud magenta clerical shirt with gold and diamond cufflinks, a thick gold chain, several large gold rings and a gold Rolex watch," the embassy official wrote.
"Ellis is a thin, energetic man of middling height, in his early 40s.  He is married and has three adopted daughters." (Ellis said he does not have three adopted daughters).
Ellis also strongly denied the American diplomat's characterization of him.
In fact, he said he never owned a Rolex watch or diamond cufflinks in his life.
"Anybody who knows me knows that I am not given to much jewelry," added Ellis, now 50.
When The Guardian visited him, he was wearing his gold bishop's cross around his neck, his wedding band and a wristwatch (definitely not a Rolex).
In fact, Ellis said he shops for $10 watches at Bijoux Terner in the Atlanta airport and has one watch that is a little more expensive that was a gift from someone in the ministry.
Ellis said he wears his bishop's ring only at special services -- a fact later confirmed separately by his associate pastors and assistant who had not been privy to his earlier discussion with The Guardian.
They all said they have never seen the bishop with any Rolex watches and that he barely wears jewelry.
The cable alleges that Ellis described "the remarkable story about how he came to endorse Perry Christie in the 2002 elections."
The diplomat wrote:  "According to Ellis, he barely knew Christie before the run up to the 2002 election.
"After that time, he says Christie began seeking an appointment with him, saying he needed to speak with him for several hours.
"Ellis says that he kept putting Christie off, both because he didn't have that time to spare and because he had a bad initial impression of him."
According to the cable, Ellis said this bad opinion dated from the PLP leadership battle between Christie and Dr. Bernard Nottage.
"Nottage was a friend and former congregation member of Ellis and harbored a lot of ill will toward Christie because of his loss," the diplomat wrote.
"Christie was persistent in his pursuit of Ellis, whose church membership has definite PLP leanings."
The cable added:  "Finally, according to Ellis, he agreed to take Christie along with him on an evangelical trip to the U.S., promising that if Christie attended all the services he preached at, Ellis would give him the time in between to listen to his appeal.
"Ellis said that when given the opportunity, Christie and Ellis spoke for 13 hours straight, about both secular and spiritual matters and that Ellis progressively became more convinced that Christie had been 'sent by God' to lead the Bahamas.
"The meeting ended, according to Ellis, in a scene reminiscent of the Biblical story of Samuel's anointing of Saul, with Christie coming around the table they were seated at, going to his knees and requesting a blessing from Bishop Ellis.
"At the time, Ellis reported, the spirit came upon him and told him that he had to endorse Christie."
The cable also said:  "Ellis, on the one hand, denied having or wanting any political influence with Christie, but on the other hand went to great lengths to explain how close their relationship is and how often Christie calls on him for spiritual guidance.
"For example, Ellis recounted that Christie had presented him with the names of his Cabinet nominees before they were announced and asked him to pray over them and give his opinion."
But Ellis told The Guardian that the official's characterization of these events is "totally false".
"First of all, I can't say I had a bad impression of Mr. Christie before I met him," Ellis said.
"But it is true I didn't know him that well (prior to 2002).  All I knew of him was his public life.
"As it relates to Mr. Christie seeking my anointing, that is totally false.  I don't remember him ever saying that to me and I don't remember saying that to anybody."
Ellis said it is true that Christie traveled with him more than once.
"The first trip he attended with me, he said he just wanted to talk with me and spend a little time with me," the bishop said.
"My office let him know what my schedule was and when they told him of a particular trip that was going on he asked if he could go and I had no objections because people go on trips with me from time to time.
"I did say to him since he was a politician that I would prefer him not to travel alone with me, so he brought two of his other colleagues with him."
Ellis said the trip was to Atlanta.  He also recalled another occasion where Christie traveled with him to Baltimore, Maryland.
"I don't see that as an unusual situation," he said of the trips.
Ellis also suggested it was laughable to write that he spoke to Christie for 13 hours straight.
"Just think about that," he said.
"I do know that in the 2002 election, I was very up front with my support for Mr. Christie.  I don't believe that if you have a conviction you have to be secretive about it.
"...I felt at that time this was the man to lead our country and I was proven to be right at the time.
"To say he was sent by God to lead the country, I don't know if any of us could be that bold."
Ellis also said he had no recollection of Christie ever getting on his knees to be anointed by him.
"If the person (the embassy official) wasn't even clear about what I was wearing, they were putting things on me that were not on my person, then I don't how much more attention to pay to anything that was said," he said.
 
MULTIPLE ATTACKS
 
According to the May 2002 cable, Ellis claimed that ever since Mount Tabor started to grow and he began to be seen as a successful pastor, he has come under attack by some people, including other pastors, who are jealous of his success.
As a result, Ellis claims he has been unfairly vilified in the press, particularly the scandal-mongering tabloid The Punch, the diplomat wrote.
"Ellis says that during one stretch The Punch printed negative articles about him in 95 consecutive editions.
"...In addition, Ellis has received heavy criticism for the large salary he draws (reportedly a tax-free $180,000 a year), and his penchant for luxurious living.
"Recently, attention has focused on the impressive house he is building for himself in one of Nassau's more exclusive neighborhoods, reportedly costing $1 million.
"Ellis claimed that the stories were exaggerated, but made no excuses for his lifestyle, implying it was only fitting for the pastor of such a large and thriving church."
Again rejecting how he was characterized by the diplomat, Ellis told The Nassau Guardian, "I understand the role I am in...I'm always up for public scrutiny.
"I try to take it gracefully.  I've never responded to any attacks in the media...When you're in the public's eye and when you're in public life you have to be open to public scrutiny."
The diplomat wrote in 2002, "As a consequence of his ongoing bad press, Ellis has vowed not to respond to any of the allegations against him.
"Doing so, he said, just legitimizes those allegations and gives them more life.  Many in his congregation, he says, have disagreed with this policy and urge him to publicly lash out at his critics, which he admits is tempting, but he continues to maintain his silence, preferring to let the criticism pass."
Ellis told the Guardian he has not collected a salary from Mount Tabor in 17 years.
"I give my services to Mount Tabor free of charge," he said.
He said he earns money from speaking engagements, books and other products he offers.
"If Mount Tabor was paying me $180,000 I wouldn't be going home," he said with a laugh.
He stressed also that he never told his congregation to vote PLP or leave the church.
Ellis insists that the recording to this effect is a compilation of several sermons he delivered that were doctored by critics and sent to the media.
He said Christie never asked him to be his spiritual adviser and he never regarded himself as such.
Asked by The Nassau Guardian if he would be prepared to endorse Christie in the next general election, Ellis said it was not something he wished to discuss publicly as yet.
"Mr. Christie and I shared a wonderful relationship leading up to the (2002) election and thereafter," he added.
"I don't claim to have been any closer to him than any others."
Ellis stressed that he has respect for all of the country's leaders and noted that he was a part of a group of pastors who met with Ingraham last year to discuss important matters.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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June 08, 2011
Cable: PM in spat with U.S. over Cuba

American diplomats expressed concerns about Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's apparent double-talk on the Cuba issue and wrote in an October 2008 diplomatic cable that his approaching trip to the Communist nation was "troubling".
On October 4, 2008, Ingraham informed a U.S. Embassy official that he was considering joining a group of his peers on a CARICOM-sponsored visit to Cuba that December, according to the cable.
Ingraham reportedly said he had traveled to Cuba "a couple of decades ago" and noted that his Free National Movement party had unsuccessfully opposed the Progressive Liberal Party government when it established diplomatic relations with Havana in 2006.
The embassy official, according to the cable, told Ingraham he was certain that at best the United States government would be "deeply disappointed" if the prime minister were to travel to Cuba.
"The U.S. considered The Bahamas a close friend but such a trip would be troubling," the official wrote.
The official noted that the Cuban regime had taken no significant steps to warrant such a visit by the prime minister.
According to the cable, Ingraham listened without comment to a message from the U.S. Embassy that the Castro government had rejected repeated U.S. offers of humanitarian hurricane assistance for the Cuban people.
The cable said Ingraham energetically stated that the "U.S. stands alone on the Cuban embargo" and told the embassy official that during a meeting at the White House, President Bill Clinton had bluntly told him that the embargo policy was based entirely on Florida electoral votes.
According to the document, the embassy official replied that the U.S. government was pursuing a principled and long-standing bi-partisan policy toward a repressive regime.
"The prime minister countered that the argument would be better if the U.S. had not adopted very different policies toward North Korea, China and other such countries," the cable said.
"He added his view that U.S. Cuba policy would in any event look much different after the November elections in the U.S. regardless of which candidate won."
The U.S. diplomat recorded in the cable: "Until very recently, the PM had deliberately kept his government at a distance from Cuba."
The official noted that after months of inaction Ingraham had recently named a new ambassador to Cuba -- former immigration director Vernon Burrows.
"To follow that up with a personal visit would complete the picture of [the Government of The Bahamas'] engagement with Cuba," the cable said.
"Dissuading PM Ingraham would be difficult, particularly given the apparent CARICOM cover for the trip and given his having moved on to the next administration in his political calculations.
"Direct engagement by an appropriately senior Washington interlocutor might get the PM to reconsider, but it would be an outside chance."
The Americans noted in a December 2008 cable that Ingraham traveled to Santiago de Cuba for the CARICOM high-level meeting on December 8 and "framed his government's basic continuation of the previous PLP government's Cuba policy as a matter of pragmatism, rather than conviction."
The cable pointed out that Ingraham, in remarks to the media, distanced his government from the PLP decision to elevate the consultate-general in Havana to an embassy, yet spoke supportively of education and medical exchanges with Cuba and downplayed the failure to reverse course on any front.
"Two days before International Human Rights Day, notably, Ingraham did not make any statements of support for democracy in Cuba or say anything that could be construed as critical of the Castro regime," the cable.
The embassy official noted that Ingraham had characterized the former government's policies toward Cuba as unnecessary and ad hoc.
In the comment section of the cable, the embassy official remarked: "The PM's attempt to have his cake and eat it too on Cuba was less surprising than the PLP's justification of its 'non-ideological' and 'strategic' attitude.
"Coming soon after a similar spat over Venezuela's Petrocaribe, which the [Government of The Bahamas] continues to oppose in the face of opposition criticism, the trading of barbs reveals a bigger difference in attitude toward the U.S., perhaps than toward either of the other two countries."
The American diplomat observed: "Ingraham's remarks also confirm, however, that the FNM will not make any effort to promote human rights in Cuba going foward.
"Bahamians appear convinced that the Obama administration will make significant changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba and, though some are critical of the democratic deficit in Cuba, none in power see any advantage in criticizing the Castro regime during a time of transition in Washington."
 
CAUTIOUS ON CUBA
In the lead-up to the 2007 general election, the Americans repeatedly stated that they did not expect Ingraham to express a great interest in building relations with Cuba.
"From the United States' perspective, an Ingraham-led government would likely abandon the PLP's sympathetic posture toward Cuba..." an official wrote in a 2006 cable.
"Ingraham would also give us an interlocutor willing and able to make decisions and follow through on them. His 10 years as prime minister have given him a good understanding of the United States and how to work with us, and he certainly looks forward to maintaining our traditionally close relations."
A U.S. diplomat wrote in 2007 that compared to Christie, Ingraham's foreign policy will likely be less multilateralist and more nationalistic.
"Ingraham has been critical of the PLP's closeness to Cuba, and he indicated to us that he would downgrade relations with Cuba if elected from an embassy to a consultate," the diplomat wrote.
An embassy official also wrote of Foreign Affairs Minister Brent Symonette in the cables: "We can expect him to be a strong partner for the U.S., who will be more decisive and more inclined to support U.S. positions than his predecessor.
"He will almost certainly focus less on relations with Cuba and he will be less engaged in CARICOM and the Non-Aligned Movement than Fred Mitchell."
The Americans said they expected The Bahamas' flirtations with Cuba to "cool" under the Ingraham administration.
A read of the cables show that it was not unusual for Bahamian government officials -- both PLP and FNM administrations -- to discuss approaching trips with the Americans.
A 2004 cable notes that at previous meetings with embassy officials, Tommy Turnquest (at the time FNM leader) "ever cautious not to step on the toes of the giant neighbor to the north", asked how the United States would receive the news that he has been invited to Cuba, and was considering a visit.
According to the cable, the embassy official explained to Turnquest "that it is completely up to him as a citizen of a sovereign country to exercise his right to visit Cuba, but strongly urged him to meet with the U.S. Interests Section and with the members of the democratic opposition and human rights movement (in Cuba) despite what will inevitably be Cuban government pressure not to do so."
The embassy official, according to the cable, also offered to help Turnquest arrange meetings via the Interests Section, outside of those that would be offered by the Castro regime, including with religious figures and the Catholic Church in order to give him more exposure and a more balanced visit in Cuba.
An embassy official remarked in a separate cable: "It is difficult to imagine any concrete benefits to The Bahamas from establishing a closer relationship to Cuba.
"The small size of the Bahamian population precludes major commercial sales to/purchases from Cuba, but Bahamians currently trading do make significant profits.
The embassy official also noted that medi-tourism was growing as fiscally prudent Bahamians seek a high-quality, lower-cost alternative to Miami for medical treatment.
"Ideologically, [Foreign Affairs Minister] Fred Mitchell and others in the Bahamian Cabinet will also get psychological gratification from proving that they can conduct an independent foreign policy at odds with [their] superpower neighbor."
In another cable, an embassy official wrote that The Bahamas' expansion of diplomatic ties with Cuba appeared driven by a pragmatic goal of addressing chronic Cuban migration issues.
"However, as a result of embarrassing incidents involving Cuban migrants, The Bahamas' vote for Cuba on the United Nations Human Rights Council, and the opening of the embassy in Havana, the government has come under increasing pressure from the opposition (the FNM) and the Bahamian public, making Cuban relations a likely election issue," the cable said.
 
CHRISTIE'S CONCERNS
A September 24, 2007 cable said former Prime Minister Perry Christie hosted a working lunch for U.S. Embassy officials to exchange views on current bilateral issues and domestic Bahamian politics.
"Christie, who remains as leader of the opposition, emphasized his party's commitment throughout their tenure in office to maintaining close relations with the U.S. and his desire that we continue to view the PLP as a trusted partner," the cable said.
"He registered his concern that a perception had developed prior to the election that the U.S. was unhappy with [his] administration because of its decision to establish formal diplomatic ties with Cuba.
"Christie thanked the [charge d' affaires] for this affirmation, and then launched into a defense of his opening of formal diplomatic relations with Cuba..."
The U.S. Embassy official noted he had heard the former prime minister speak before of his concern for the perceptions created by this opening. He said he believed Christie was more concerned by the relationship than the U.S. was.
"[The official] explained that the U.S. understood The Bahamas' need to work with Cuba to resolve migration matters and look after Bahamians who travel to or study in Cuba," the cable said.
"At the same time, we sought to encourage democratic countries, such as The Bahamas, to use their relationship with Cuba to encourage Cuban government respect for the same values and rights that people in The Bahamas demand."
 
 
 
 
 

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June 06, 2011
US: Local terror ties suspected

A United States Embassy assessment of possible terrorist activity in this country claimed that in 2006 there was information to indicate that there might have been terrorist "support and financial cells in The Bahamas," and "financing links" within the country, according to a classified communication exclusively obtained by The Nassau Guardian through WikiLeaks.
That cable also claimed that some members of the local Muslim population were being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and another agency.
The cable detailed the result of a Security Environment Profile Questionnaire (SEPQ) completed by an official at the embassy and classified "secret" in February 2006.
The SEPQ labeled some local Muslims as sympathetic toward foreign terrorist groups and claimed that they posed a possible threat to U.S. and Bahamian security.
"There is an Islamic community building a mosque in Nassau from which some threat information was obtained," the cable revealed.
"The leader and other members of the mosque are currently under investigation by the FBI and (another agency)."
The cable went on to state that the embassy was "unable to make a full assessment" at the time "but there does not appear to be imminent hostile intent."
When The Nassau Guardian asked leaders of the local Muslim community if their organization had any ties to terrorist groups, they categorically denied any such links.
The leaders added that they were "deeply offended" by the content of the cables.
"They have no basis for that statement.  Where is the evidence of this?"" asked Amir Faisal Hepburn, one of the administrators of the mosque on Carmichael Road where many Muslims worship.
"Those who have done nothing fear nothing.  We are a properly registered religious organization in the Bahamas.  The Bahamian people on the whole, their character is not (disposed) to terrorism."
One of the elders said that the Muslim community has met repeatedly with the officials from the U.S. Embassy who have had questions about the nature of activities at the mosque.
In addition, the elder claimed, Muslim leaders have also repeatedly met with police and other law enforcement officials to quell any fears about the Islamic community in the country.
The construction of the mosque was also the focus of some attention by the U.S. government and even a representative of the government of Israel.
According to a 2005 cable, visiting Israeli Ambassador David Dadonn -- who was stationed in Mexico City -- told the U.S. Ambassador to The Bahamas John Rood that he had "expressed concern about (the building of a large mosque on New Providence) to Bahamian officials but that they indicated that they could do nothing about its construction."
The cable went on to speculate that the mosque was being constructed with funds from the government of Saudi Arabia.
"Dadonn promised to forward any additional information about the mosque, its programs, or its funding that became available to him," the cable said.
Hepburn said the financing of the mosque has nothing to do with the United States or Israel.
"Organizations all around the world receive gifts and contributions from all sources and we are no exception to it," he said. "So we say categorically that it has nothing to do with terrorism and it has nothing to do with that biased statement by an Israeli.  The Bahamas is far away from Israel.  What can he (Dadonn) look into?  He should be more concerned about what is happening in Israel."
However, Hepburn admitted that the mosque's construction was funded in part by Saudi citizens.
"There is a difference between funding by the Saudi government and funding by Muslims in Saudi Arabia.  We are not funded by the Saudi government, that's not so. Now the citizens might be a part of the government, but that's a different thing."
Amir Hepburn alleged officials at the U.S. Embassy have consistently harassed and profiled Muslims in The Bahamas since the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. soil.
"Recently, we have Muslims who were called to the (U.S.) embassy to say that something was wrong with their visa and the American cancelled it.  When they asked them why the visa was being cancelled, they said, 'They don't have to give an answer.'"
One of the elders added that the Americans "will never say any Muslim is a good guy."
The threat assessment also commented on the "level, intent, and scope of hostile intelligence services...relative to potential anti-American terrorist acts" in the country.
"Cuba and China have a presence in country," noted the embassy. "Two known Cuban intelligence officers are working at the Cuban Embassy.  Post is not aware of any Chinese Intelligence Officers in the Bahamas but approaches have been made to U.S. officials that have previously been reported."
The Bahamas' ability to deal with a terrorist threat
Even though the U.S. Embassy did not believe there was any imminent hostile threat from the Muslim community in The Bahamas, it was still required to assess local law enforcement capabilities.
The questionnaire revealed that it was the embassy's view that the Royal Bahamas Police Force was a "professional police organization" that was "reasonably well trained" and did not suffer from "serious, widespread" corruption.
But the SEPQ noted that, "They suffer from a lack of material and personnel resources, which causes difficulty in responding to U.S. (government) inquiries in a timely manner."
The fact that the RBPF frequently receives training from numerous U.S. agencies was also highlighted.
Still, the SEPQ stated that the RBPF was only "somewhat" capable of deterring terrorist actions.
"The RBPF has the only intelligence gathering apparatus in The Bahamas.  It is rudimentary, but continues to develop with U.S. (government) assistance," the cable revealed.
"They are frequently slow to take action or initiate investigations.  They lack modern equipment with which to identify, catalog, or monitor terrorists or terrorist activity in the Bahamas."
The SEPQ remarked that local intelligence services had been cooperative with U.S. requests "but with frequently slow response times."
The embassy also assessed overall security at major airports in the country at the time as "average/poor".
Customs, immigration and border control security forces in the country were assessed as "average."
The embassy also gave its assessment on the availability of weapons and explosives in country or from nearby countries for hostile terrorist elements.
"Smuggling in the Bahamas is easy and occurs frequently," the assessment said.
"Historically, the Bahamas has been the point of entry for illegal migrants, drugs, and contraband into the southeast United States.  Weapons are easily obtained, either locally or from other countries."
 

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June 01, 2011
Cable: Christie in dark on foreign policy

In a "frank" discussion with U.S. Ambassador John Rood in 2006, then Prime Minister Perry Christie revealed that he had taken a hands-off approach to the country's foreign affairs policies, according to a confidential U.S. Embassy cable obtained by The Nassau Guardian through WikiLeaks.
Christie was responding to Ambassador Rood's concerns over The Bahamas' voting record in the United Nations and limited multilateral cooperation with the U.S. at the U.N., according to the cable.
"In response to the Ambassador's concerns, Christie distanced himself from Minister (Fred) Mitchell's handling of Bahamian policy, saying
'foreign policy is driven by Fred (Mitchell) and the MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), without involvement of my office'," the cable reads.
"Christie, who expressed surprise that The Bahamas was less in agreement with the U.S. than Barbados and Jamaica, conveyed genuine disappointment with Mitchell's handling of these U.N. issues. He said he would consider greater involvement in foreign policy decisions and suggested that he may ask for key international human rights votes to come before Cabinet for consideration."
The August 24 meeting was on the occasion of Christie's birthday. During that meeting, Rood also expressed appreciation for the outstanding partnerships between The Bahamas and the United States, praising the U.S.-Bahamian bilateral relationship, according to the cable.
But Rood expressed concern that "our shared values were not always reflected in common approaches to international problems in the United Nations, where the Department's most recent U.N. Voting Patterns report noted that The Bahamas ranks 29th of 33 countries in the Western Hemisphere on important votes to the U.S," the cable reads.
In a separate cable, a U.S. diplomat noted, "Prime Minister Christie has not been engaged on U.N. and international issues. Sometimes criticized for failing to attend international events, Christie is content to allow Foreign Minister Mitchell to oversee Bahamian foreign policy.
"Mitchell's relationship with PM Christie remains strong, though he is not in Christie's inner circle and there is no personal bond between them. Christie appears to trust Mitchell's formulation and handling of foreign policy. Though Christie has been privately critical of Mitchell on occasion, Mitchell has significant ability to influence The Bahamas's stance on U.N. and other foreign policy matters."
Ambassador Rood reminded Christie of his government's past advocacy against apartheid and encouraged Christie to use The Bahamas' U.N. vote to stand up for its own values and democratic principles elsewhere in the world, according to the August cable.
"The Ambassador suggested that the declining U.N. compatibility figures highlighted a need for closer dialogue on these issues between The Bahamas and the United States," the cable said.
The cable noted that Mitchell subsequently told the Ambassador that Christie had requested an analysis of The Bahamas' recent U.N. votes.
 
Concern over Bahamas Uncensored website
 
In that same meeting, Ambassador Rood also expressed to Christie his concern about what he described as the anti-U.S. viewpoints conveyed in the "Bahamas Uncensored website formerly administered by Fred Mitchell and which is seen by the Bahamian public and media as still largely under his editorial control", according to the cable.
Christie told the Ambassador that he doubted Mitchell was still directly involved in the site, but acknowledged that the perception of his continued involvement could contribute to perceptions of problems in the bilateral relationship, the cable reads.
In a "Note" the cable added: " The website (bahamasuncensored.com) is written in Mitchell's rhetorical style with MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) inside information and knowledge that no journalist would have access to."
In another cable, a U.S. diplomat writes: "The private Fred Mitchell is on display in a website previously titled 'Fred Mitchell Uncensored' and now nominally edited by a third-party and named 'Bahamas Uncensored'. In the Bahamian political circles, it is assumed that the foreign minister retains editorial control over the website. Mitchell hides behind the website and makes more petulant and more candid commentary than he normally would in public."
Mitchell has repeatedly stated that he is no longer associated with the website.
Four days after Ambassador Rood met with Christie, Mitchell also met with the Ambassador to express his concern about an Op-Ed released by Rood that called for closer cooperation between the U.S. and The Bahamas in the U.N. that appeared in The Nassau Guardian earlier that month, a U.S. diplomat wrote in a separate cable.
In the wake of the op-ed local media and opposition figures criticized Mitchell's handling of the country's foreign policy, and he requested a meeting with the Ambassador to discuss his concerns about the op-ed and the perceptions it had generated, according to the cable.
"Mitchell, who is sensitive to media criticism, is facing a difficult fight in his coming reelection bid. He said that he felt that the op-ed contradicted recent public statements by the Ambassador about the closeness of the bilateral relationship. He said the press had sought to spin the op-ed as a sign of U.S. support for the Free National Movement," the U.S. diplomat wrote.
"The Ambassador made it clear the U.S. had no intention to pick sides in the election. Both parties were friends. He challenged Mitchell's perception of the op-ed, suggesting he was reacting to the media's spin rather than the substance of the piece itself. The op-ed had detailed a broad range of partnerships between our countries, had maintained a positive, constructive tone, and concluded that the relationship was 'second to none'."
The Ambassador, according to the cable, explained to Mitchell that promoting human rights was a vital element of U.S. policy and one he took seriously. He pointed out that the U.S. and The Bahamas shared the same values, but the U.N. voting record does not reflect that compatibility.
Mitchell insisted that it was the policy of The Bahamas to "stay out" and "abstain on matters of controversy", and his goal was to maintain a "low profile" in such matters.
"The Permanent Secretary noted that The Bahamas often 'abstains with a reason'. When pressed to defend specific votes, Mitchell acknowledged that he generally did not know the specific wording of the resolutions in question, according to the cable.
In a direct contradiction to what Christie told the Ambassador days earlier, according to the cable, Mitchell "somewhat disingenuously insisted that his role in shaping the government's response on these matters was limited -- that he merely 'took advice' from his ministry and conveyed the decision of the Cabinet".
"He claimed that he had inherited a policy to abstain on voting on country specific resolutions," according to the cable.
In the 'Comment' section at the end of the cable, the U.S. diplomat wrote: "Mitchell has been taking a beating in the local media in the past few months for his handling of the U.S. relationship and perceived closeness to Cuba, highlighted by the mid-July opening of a new Embassy in Havana.
"Although no election date has been set and they could be held as far off as May 2007, the parties are on election footing and will seek to use any perception of difference for political advantage."
The Ambassador reassured Mitchell that he was sensitive to election politics, but made it clear that while the relationship is 'second-to-none', the Embassy would continue to speak up on issues of concern, reads the cable.
"Mitchell's statement that The Bahamas abstains from the country specific resolutions in the United Nations flies in the face of their voting record," said the cable.
 
 
 
 

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News Article

June 14, 2011
What is emotional wellness

Did you know that the emotional dimension of wellness involves recognizing, accepting and taking responsibility for your feelings?
Emotional wellness includes the degree in which you feel positive and enthusiastic about yourself and life.  It includes managing your feelings and their related behaviors and the ability to effectively cope with stress. The emotionally well person has satisfying relationships with others.
Emotional wellness allows you to be aware of different feelings and accept them in yourself and others. You'll be able to express your feelings and manage them effectively.
When you are on the wellness path you will notice that although you are working independently, you will still seek and appreciate the support and assistance of others.  You will form healthy relationships with others based on mutual trust and respect. You will be more inclined to take on risks and challenges and recognize that conflict may be potentially healthy.
On the emotional wellness journey you manage your life in personally rewarding ways, taking on responsibility for your actions and seeing life as an exciting adventure.  You begin to believe that it is better to be aware of your emotions and accept them, rather than denying them and it is better to be optimistic in our approach to life rather than pessimistic.
Emotional wellness is striving to meet your emotional needs constructively.  It is maintaining good mental health, a positive attitude, high self-esteem, and a strong self-image. It is the ability to respond appropriately to emotional states and everyday life circumstances.
It is about learning more about yourself and how things that you do affect your feelings.  It is taking responsibility for your own behavior and responding to challenges as opportunities.
How to increase emotional wellness
o Practice optimism.
o Be conscious about spending time with friends and family discussing important personal concerns and being supportive of each other.
o Seek others who are on a similar path to yourself and hold each other accountable
o Read a self-help book that is of interest to you.
o Exercise
o Become more spiritually aware and practice prayer and meditation
o Learn time management skills and other stress management techniques.
o Smile at least 20 times each day.
Emotional wellness is a step-by-step process, and it may take a health care professional, a counselor or a spiritual guide to help you go through past hurts and negative behaviors. Recognize that this time of emotional exploration is normal and very healthy.  Treat yourself and others with kindness and love and enjoy the scenic route of emotional wellness.
Anita Cates RN, community nurse specialist practitioner and certified diabetes educator at the Family Medicine Center can be reached at 327-2878.
 
 

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News Article

June 09, 2011
The WikiLeaks cables

Dear Editor,

In the estimation of thoughtful Bahamians, both Hubert Ingraham and Fred Mitchell will have benefited from the U.S. cables' assessment of their stance toward our nearest neighbor.
Although from different political sides, both seem to have been courteous and respectful but independent and not remotely blinded by the more outlandish aspects of U.S. propaganda.
The authors of the Cables themselves do not come off well.
We learn of almost comical scheming between U.S. and Israeli diplomatic staff over an utterly harmless local mosque.  Let's hope that neither country expended too much of their taxpayers' money following international terrorist leads along Carmichael Road.
Instead of commenting on the breath-taking arrogance of an Israeli Ambassador who would have liked to thwart a group of Bahamians from following a religion of their choosing, the U.S. cablers seemed to rue the inability of local politicians to deny a right to Bahamians cherished in their own constitution.
The final disappointment of the cables is the casual, chillingly callous hope expressed therein that thousands of Bahamians would soon be denied cheap eye treatment in Cuba in furtherance of a vindictive cold war policy that serves nobody in the US, the Bahamas or Cuba.
On leaving office in 1961, Dwight Eisenhower (no pinko, incidentally) warned of the growth of a 'Military Industrial Complex', answerable to no one and with a life of its own. He could have applied his warning to any entity, organisation or group that becomes accustomed to the pools of unaccountable power that inevitably form below blind spots of public transparency.
As Bahamians we have a right to know how our politicians manage our most important bilateral relationship.
No less important to us (and everyone else on earth for that matter) is that the American public be kept informed of all the things (from the great to the downright miserable) that are done in their name -- and with their money.
Well done, Guardian.

Yours, etc.,
ANDREW ALLEN

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