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News Article

February 24, 2012
The Facts on the National Prescription Drug Plan

NIB Sets Record Straight on NPDP Drugs and Payment

Nassau, Bahamas - The following is an NIB Statement on the National Prescription Drug Plan Generic Drugs and Payments:

In
light of recent misinformation heard on the radio airwaves with respect
to the National Prescription Drug Plan and generic drugs, The National
Insurance Board wishes, once again, to provide the public with the true
facts about prescription drugs supplied by the National Prescription
Drug Plan.

The
public should know that the Drug Plan's formulary of medications provides
more than 160 drugs and medical supplies for the treatment of eleven
chronic conditions...

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News Article

February 29, 2012
Man pleads guilty to manslaughter in 2011 beating death

A man yesterday pleaded guilty to beating a man in the head with a piece of wood during a fight.
Mario Thompson, 34, ended his murder trial by making a plea to the less serious charge of manslaughter in the January 2011 death of Francoeur Etienne at Wilson Track.
In his confession statement, Thompson said he got into a fight with the deceased after confronting another man about bothering his nephew and girlfriend.
Thompson said that during the fight, he picked up the wood off the ground and hit Etienne in the head.
Prosecutors recommended a sentencing range of 16 to 18 years in a plea agreement.
Supreme Court Justice Indra Charles sentenced Thompson, who has spent a year on remand, to 17 years.
Chief counsel Neil Brathwaite said the prosecution accepted the plea to manslaughter because it would have been an available verdict for the jury since the issue of provocation arose and the jury would have had to determine if Thompson was capable of forming the intent required to prove a murder charge because of his intoxication.
In mitigation, defense lawyer Terrell Butler said Thompson had no prior convictions. She said, "He was drunk.  He was not acting like his normal self. This was a man who has never been in trouble with the law."
Butler added that Thompson had shown "great remorse for his actions".
She said he was a marine carpenter and consequently was able to make a contribution to society on his release from prison.
In passing judgment, Charles said, "You are a man of good character and look at where you are just because you say you were intoxicated. You have no previous convictions and pleaded guilty at the first reasonable opportunity, but in light of what you've done the court has to sentence you."

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News Article

February 20, 2012
Political parties must set clear policies

Dear Editor,
 
The much-anticipated upcoming general election is expected to be formally called and Parliament dissolved by Prime Minister Hubert A. Ingraham within the next few weeks.  Established youth organization (organizers of the 'Say Something' youth forum) 'We Are The Future' - A Youth Organization in conjunction with its election arm 'Truth Bahamas' wishes to engage those seeking election in discussion on the key issues currently affecting The Bahamas.
The governing Free National Movement, the official opposition Progressive Liberal Party and the newly formed Democratic National Alliance have now all officially launched their candidates.  It would, therefore, appear that the three political parties, as well as the numerous independent candidates, are ready for the campaign ahead of the general election.
Notwithstanding the lights, carefully orchestrated political performances and the professionally drafted, repetitious, empty and partisan rhetoric without a clear statement of the issues currently facing The Bahamas and a clear statement of each party's policy position on those issues, it would appear that no one is ready to actually govern the country for the next five years if elected.  While it is imperative for each party to outline what it intends to do if elected, this rhetoric is not helpful and is moreover unrealistic, especially considering the flexibility required in governance, as well as the unstable global economic climate in which the elected government must operate.
Where the leaders of the respective parties have made traditional campaign promises, there has been no substantial and realistic discussion as to the viability of these promises and absolutely no indication of the source of funds required to make such promises a reality.
Whilst we understand that election campaign literature (Manifesto 2012, Our Plan, etc.) has yet to be published 'We Are The Future' - A Youth Organization, on behalf of the youth electorate, call for this literature to include a clear statement of each party's policy as it relates to the following key issues currently facing The Bahamas:
1. Crime - Including proposed statutory amendments to ensure that justice is properly served and safeguarded in the interest of society, propositions for the enhancement of the prosecution capabilities at the Attorney General's Office, propositions for the preservation of independent prosecutions inclusive of the source of additional resources to be allocated for crime fighting (if any), etc;
2. The judiciary - Including parties' policies on protecting the independence of the judiciary, propositions on expanding the number of judicial officers, propositions for the modernization of the various judicial registries inclusive of the source of additional resources to be allocated for crime fighting (if any), etc;
3. Immigration - (i.) General policy on immigration, more specifically including parties' policies on illegal immigrants, those working and residing within The Bahamas without leave to work and/or remain, policy on present statutory framework and proposed amendments to either regularize and/or crack down on illegal immigration;
(ii.) General policy on foreign labor, more specifically including an established and transparent process for the grant of work permits, such that the same may be subject to proper scrutiny, whether public, judicial or otherwise, etc;
4. The economy - General economic and monetary policy, including propositions to diversify the current economic model, relieving the present day reliance on tourism, inclusive of the source of additional resources to be allocated on such diversification (if any);
5. Tax - General policy for a sustainable system of taxation, more specifically propositions for the overhaul of the current tax regime, more specifically, policy and propositions on income tax, value added tax (VAT), sales tax, corporation tax, etc;
6. Oil exploration and drilling - General policy on offshore oil exploration and drilling, more specifically, in support of it or not, if so, policy on the requisite environmental protections and tax framework, immigration policy relating to the required specialist workforce, policy on educating young Bahamians in specialist areas;
7. The environment - General policy for a sustainable environment, more specifically, the proposed legislative program to ensure protection of the environment, etc;
8. Youth entrepreneurship - General policy to encouraging youth entrepreneurship;
9. Social welfare - General policy for sustainable social welfare, inclusive of the source of additional resources to be allocated for proposals (if any);
10.  Unemployment - General policy to reducing unemployment, inclusive of the source of additional resources to be allocated for proposals (if any);
11.  Sports - General policy to encourage sporting in The Bahamas.
The country looks forward to considering parties' and candidates' policies on the issues in exercising the established democratic tradition through the upcoming general election.
 
- 'We Are The Future' - a youth organization

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News Article

February 24, 2012
Laing predicts GB 'renaissance' at Outlook

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama - State Minister of Finance Zhivargo Laing says he is not "delusional" about the uphill climb for the Grand Bahama economy.
The minister served as the opening speaker of this year's Grand Bahama Business Outlook at the Grand Lucayan Beach & Golf Resort.  This year's event, he said, comes at a critical time.  Laing believes it will be remembered as the turn of the tide for this struggling economy.
He told Guardian Business the island will begin to recover by the fourth quarter of this year, and by early 2013, the unemployment rate should fall below 20 percent.
"I'm not delusional," he said. "Grand Bahama's economy is significantly challenged.  I think people do not realize for about 10 years this has been going on.  That is the closest to a recession you can get.
"But I remain bullish on the future."
The minister began his speech by looking back over the last 10 years.  In May 2002, he said, unemployment stood at 6.4 percent.  By 2007 it had risen to 8.8 percent, caused by a lack of significant investment, the impact of hurricanes and in particular the closure of the Royal Oasis Resort.
Of course, next came the recession in 2008. The GBPA was also plagued with ownership and managerial issues at this time and there was limited promotion of the island.
Millions upon millions of dollars in government subsidies, he claimed, "stopped the island's economy from collapsing".
According to the latest numbers from the Department of Statistics, the unemployment rate on the island stands at more than 21 percent.  Investment, both foreign and domestic, has remained stagnant and uninspiring.
After acknowledging the past, Laing announced to the crowd that the future holds a different story.
Continued government subsidies to the tune of $17.3 million this year, rising airlift from Bahamasair and "aggressive intentions" from the GBPA "will begin a renaissance of this island", he said.
Last week, Guardian Business reported that Bahamasair plans to inject at least $25 million into the Grand Bahama economy through significantly expanded airlift.
Through an initiative with the Ministry of Tourism, direct service from Baltimore, Raleigh, Louisville, Richmond and Fort Lauderdale will all begin in a matter of weeks.
Bahamasair is investing in new, more efficient planes for its fleet and will enlist a sub-service operator to assist with the service.
According to David Johnson, the director general in the Ministry of Tourism, airfare will be slashed 50 percent and travel time by 70 percent.
"I think we're going to gain serious momentum in the tourism sector as Bahamasair follows with this arrangement," Laing added. "I expect it will create results."
The minister said the "fullness" of the Job Readiness Programme should be felt a little later this year as spending works its way through the system.  He told Guardian Business the intention is to improve the economic outlook and generate enthusiasm for those on the island.
Another concern for business interests in Grand Bahama is the future of the shipping industry.
Over recent months, Hutchison Port Holdings has laid off dozens of workers as Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), its sole client, continues to move operations over to Panama.
The booming South American nation has proven to be a force to be reckoned with in the region, offering high efficiency, low prices and convenience.
Hutchison Port Holdings owns a significant stake in the Grand Lucayan, which has also experienced major struggles in recent years.
Laing said that with light at the end of the tunnel, stakeholders in Grand Bahama will stay the course.
"The one thing I am confident about is those who made an investment here are interested in protecting it.  They have the ability to be creative and innovative," he said.  "The government is prepared to do what it can to provide support.  I think GB is ready for the turn and things will get better."

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News Article

February 29, 2012
Fasting

Dear Editor,
 
On September 16, 2011 the Catholic Church in England and Wales returned to the obligatory practice of abstaining from eating meat on Friday.  The allowance, after Vatican II, for self-motivated substitutions to this rule, resulted in the erroneous widespread belief that the rule itself had been abolished.  Not surprisingly, fasting gradually disappeared from the ordinary lives of many Catholics.  The Bishops of England and Wales are now re-establishing the practice of Friday penance in order to unite Catholics and restore Catholic identity.
We are now in the season of Lent and the importance of fasting cannot be understated.  Sacred scripture and Christian tradition teach that fasting is a great help to avoid sin and all that leads to it.  We first hear of the commandment to fast in Genesis where man is prohibited from eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  After Adam and Eve's expulsion from the garden fasting is proposed, in the stories of Ezra and Nineveh, as an instrument to restore our friendship with God.
In the New Testament Jesus brings to light the true and most profound meaning of fasting which is to do the will of the Heavenly Father who "sees in secret and will reward you"(Mt. 6:18).
Jesus himself sets the example, answering Satan, at the end of 40 days and 40 nights in the desert: "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Mt. 4:4). True fasting then is eating the "true food" which is doing the Father's will.  If, therefore, Adam disobeyed God's directive not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the believer, through fasting, intends to submit himself humbly to God, trusting in His goodness and mercy.
Fasting is recorded in the early church and is frequently encountered and recommended by the saints of every age.  Today, however, fasting has lost much of its spiritual meaning.  To a great extent it has been replaced by non-religious fasting meant to look good and impress others.  While fasting does bring certain benefits to our physical well-being, it is, for Christians, primarily a means of mortifying our egoism, avoiding sin, and opening our hearts to the love of God and our fellow man.
Fasting represents an important ascetical practice, a spiritual arm to do battle against every possible disordered attachment to ourselves.  Freely chosen detachment from the pleasure of food and other material goods helps the disciple of Christ to control the appetites of nature, weakened by original sin, whose negative effects impact the entire human person.
Denying material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to our Lord and be nourished by his saving word.  Through prayer and fasting we allow Christ so satisfy our deepest hunger and thirst for God.  At the same time fasting helps us recognize the situation in which so many of our brothers and sisters live.  In his First Letter, St. John admonishes: "How can God's love survive in a man who has enough of this world's goods yet closes his heart to his brother when he sees him in need?" (1 Jn. 3:17)
Voluntary fasting enables us to become more like the Good Samaritan.  By freely engaging in acts of self-denial we make a statement that those in need are not strangers but rather our brothers and sisters.  This practice needs to be rediscovered and encouraged in our materialistic age, especially during the liturgical season of Lent.
Lent is a time when we fast with joy, submitting ourselves to spiritual struggles in preparation for the sorrowful Passion and joyful Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What is demanded of all Christians at this time is fasting, abstinence, almsgiving, restriction of personal desires and pleasures, intense prayer, confession and similar penitential elements.
Lent is a sacred time of divine grace, which seeks to detach us from things material, lowly and corrupt in order to attract us toward things superior, wholesome and spiritual.  It is a unique opportunity to remove from the soul every inordinate passion so as to make room for the immense rejoicing and gladness of Easter.
Limiting ourselves to what is absolutely essential and necessary in an attitude of dignified, deliberate simplicity is a formula for patience and tolerance; it is an opportunity to acknowledge and emphasize our need for God's assistance and mercy, placing our complete trust in His affectionate providence; it is a prescription for salvation.
 
- Paul Kokoski

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News Article

February 29, 2012
Report: U.S. Embassy among top 10 posts processing waivers for persons ineligible for visa-free entry

The U.S. Embassy in Nassau is ranked among the top 10 posts processing U.S. waivers for people otherwise ineligible for visa-free entry into the United States last year, according to a U.S. Office of Inspector General report.
"In 2011 the consular section submitted almost 450 requests for waivers [in Nassau]," the report said.  "An unusual number of visa applicants have criminal records, previous overstays in the United States, or other ineligibilities for visa-free entry," it continued.
An inspection took place in Nassau last year between September 29 and October 12 by the Office of Inspector General (OIG).  The resulting report contains various recommendations to increase efficency at the embassy.
"Consular officers have the authority to recommend... waivers of ineligibilities to the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which has a regional office in Kingston, Jamaica," the report read.
The report further noted that visa officers are "uncomfortable with recommending waivers for individuals with serious ineligibilities".
According to the report, the new consular chief at the embassy has indicated his willingness to review the current waiver policy with the adjudicating officers, and to develop guidelines for considering each case in light of the reasons for the ineligibility and the purpose of travel.
The report also noted that requests for waivers of ineligibility are labor intensive and delay the processing of visas for all applicants.
As a result the report notes that the OIG has recommended the embassy should "review (U.S.) Department of State criteria for recommending waivers of visa ineligibilities and apply those standards to the visa process to facilitate the application of consistent policy for each waiver recommendation".

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News Article

February 17, 2012
SisBro Productions returns with Post-Valentine's Day Stop Light Party

Freeport, Bahamas -

The brother and sister team of Kenton
and Kerel Pinder is bringing another star studded event to the Island
of Grand Bahama; a Post-Valentine's Day Stop Light party on February 18th!

"Whether you're
in relationship, single, or in a complicated situation, this party
is for you,"

said Kerel Pinder, who is a past Miss Grand Bahama as well as Miss Earth Bahamas.

"We think that Valentine's Day should be  fun for EVERYONE, not just couples!"

This SisBro Productions sibling duo held a very successful women entrepreneurs cocktail
expo in 2010 called, "Blooming Orchids" and their Stop Light Party...

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News Article

February 20, 2012
New forms of life discovered in Bahamas blue holes

An American researcher found new forms of life in a blue hole in Abaco, which he believes may provide clues to how life evolved.
Dr. Thomas Iliffe, a marine biology professor at Texas A&M University,  said he's made a number of discoveries in the 20 years that he has been studying blue holes in The Bahamas.
On a recent excursion with five other researchers, Dr. Iliffe and his team found strange forms of bacteria - which he said point to the evolution of life.
"Mostly I've been studying the higher life forms, mostly crustaceans which are relatives of shrimp, crab and lobster, and also a few species of fish," he told The Nassau Guardian last week. "But the big question is, what are these animals eating? We believe that the bacteria living in the cave are the base of a food web.  So I had one of my graduate students, Brett Gonzales, conduct an investigation of some bacteria that we found on one of the blue hole walls in Abaco.  And so we scraped some off the wall at a depth of about 100 feet.
"We brought it back to the laboratory and looked at the DNA in these bacteria, and we found that it wasn't just a single species, that there were multiple species and multiple types of bacteria... Most life forms on the surface use photosynthesis as the base of the food chain. There is no light in the [blue hole]."
According to Iliffe, one idea being espoused is that these animals in the blue holes are living under low oxygen environments because there is no photosynthesis - where oxygen is produced. "There is no light; there's no oxygen production. Because of that, the level of oxygen in the caves is low or totally absent.  So these are like the conditions present on the early earth before the evolution of plants and the evolution of photosynthesis.  We believe that some of the bacteria found in these caves are similar to the bacteria that lived on the early earth prior to the evolution of plants," Iliffe continued.
He added that such findings may give some insight into how life could develop on other planets.
"On other planets in the solar system, there is new evidence that shows that oceans existed.  For example on Mars, the oceans have dried up... so if there's water still on Mars, there may be cave explorers going to explore them.  I expect that it would be similar to the cave environment that we have in the blue holes in The Bahamas."
Iliffe has also studied salt water caves in Mexico, Bermuda, the Mediterranean Sea, and in the Pacific Ocean.
"So basically, I've studied all around the world, but The Bahamas stands out as one of the most important and specular areas that I've studied anywhere on earth," he added.
"For example, one of the very interesting species in The Bahamas is called the remipede," he said, adding that it looks like a centipede, and is only found in saltwater caves at significant depths.
"Right now there are 25 known (saltwater cave) species known from around the world.  And of those, 16 are known from caves in The Bahamas," he said.
The Bahamas is known to have more than 1,000 blue holes, most of which have not been scientifically explored.
"I could spend several lifetimes without running out of things to do.  There is no shortage of interesting  and fascinating work to be done," he said.

Iliffe and his team plan to return to The Bahamas later this year.

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News Article

February 23, 2012
Success is measured by ability to change

INDUSTRY POSITION: Vice president and chief financial officer, Foyil Asset Management; recently elected as brand ambassador at BFSB
 
What attracted you to the sector? 
With the task of researching a high school business project, I chose the topic of "Banking, the #2 industry in The Bahamas".  Initially, my interest may have stemmed from my mother and other close relatives working in the sector but upon completion of the project, I became even more excited.  From then, I wanted to be a part of that growing industry and planned my educational studies around this disposition.  I enrolled in all business courses, and once I found the right fit, I made the decision to pursue a degree in finance.  After two years of study on a government scholarship at the College of The Bahamas (COB), I traveled to Halifax, Nova Scotia to complete my bachelor's degree at Saint Mary's University.  Upon my return home, I started working at my present company as a junior fund accountant and within a year, I was the accountant for the firm's corporate and fund accounts.  Looking back, The Bahamas was still in its infancy as a financial services destination and the government and regulatory bodies were just commencing development of platforms to boost the industry to achieve the country's full potential.  By the time I returned, The Bahamas had made vast advancements with a fully operational stock exchange and a newly established financial services board working to further augment the industry.
 
How long have you been involved in financial services?
It has been thirteen years; I started working part time at the international banking firm, Banco Santander, while I attended COB.  This experience further motivated me to pursue my finance degree.
As it was when I made my decision to study finance as a high school student, so it is now.  I am proud to be part of a growing environment.  When I started at Foyil, the company was providing fund administration and fund management services only.  Over the past ten years, the company has expanded to provide services in Eastern Europe such as brokerage, custody and corporate finance.  This expansion not only strengthened my financial management skills but it kept me challenged and informed of the global financial environment.  In the same way that I am enthused about the growth of my company, I am inspired to see The Bahamas becoming the premier jurisdiction for financial services.
 
Why do you think you have been successful?
I do not become complacent; there is always opportunity for improvement to advance both myself and the sector. In my professional development, I saw that the financial industry would warrant more regulation, so I expanded my certification to qualify me as a money laundering reporting officer as well as a compliance officer, and gained membership in the International Compliance Association and Bahamas Association of Compliance Officers.  In addition, I have sought to be a representative for the financial industry in my role as a brand advantage ambassador.
 
What qualifications do you feel are the most useful in helping you perform?

With the financial sector constantly progressing and the universe figuratively becoming smaller, being qualified requires me to keep well-informed with international evolution and regulations.  I see The Bahamas as a foremost financial services destination, and in that light, global reform affects local regulation.  It is important to attend seminars, conferences and be a part of organizations that are active in the progression of the industry.  Along with the certifications in compliance and anti-money laundering from the Manchester Business School, I have furthered my degree with a MBA with speciality in finance and accounting from the University of Liverpool.
 
What has been the biggest challenge in your career and how did you overcome it?

Over the last five years, the global financial climate has rapidly evolved and regulations have progressed equally as swift.  In addition, the effects of the financial crisis (especially in Europe and emerging markets) require a broad spectrum of accountability and financial management.  With investors uneasy about expanding or even maintaining their current investments, and the risk management platform becoming more intense, the challenge has been to remain focused; so I reaffirmed my commitment to transparency and long-term vision. Collaboration and discussions with my colleagues and regulatory agents within the industry kept me informed thus enabling me to be innovative with expansion of services to our clients.
 
What are you currently reading or something you have recently read that has been influential?

"Who Moved My Cheese" by Spencer Johnson, M.D.  This book is particularly applicable considering the changes in the environment over the last five years.  It is an amazing metaphoric outlook of how to deal with change.  Johnson sums it up well: Change happens; you should anticipate it, monitor it and adapt to it quickly.

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News Article

February 24, 2012
DNA: Flashing Lights Fireworks

Nassau, Bahamas -

The Free
National Movement (FNM) government plans to officially open the Thomas
A. Robinson National Stadium, a $30 million gift from the Chinese government,
on Saturday. With the critical issues facing our nation, the Democratic
National Alliance believes this is highly irresponsible and reflects
how out of touch the FNM government has been.

The government
says it will spend between $500,000-$600,00 on the official opening
of the stadium. Minister Charles Maynard is quoted as saying that "the
original budget was around $1 million so the new figure of $600,000
is not exorbitant." The DNA begs to differ. While a government known
for wasteful spending may not see this as exorbitant, the DNA understands
that this money could be used to...

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