May’s Russian Bluff over Salisbury

The political fallout from the alleged nerve agent Salisbury attack against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia should never have happened. The diplomatic mess caused by Prime Minister Theresa May is embarrassing. Not that the wider British public would realise this thanks to pro-May coverage in the media.

Accusing the Russian government and expelling diplomats thereafter – based on flimsy evidence – was incompetence of an amateurish level. That the media, Tory MPs and some backbench Labour Party MPs fell for the spin from Downing Street was entirely predictable.

The minute May first disclosed news of the alleged Russia government involvement you knew she was hiding something. The truth. The fact that she was not willing to share any hard evidence with colleagues and Jeremy Corbyn was classic May.

During her time as Home Secretary senior staff would complain of May’s bunker-type mentality and withholding key information and decisions from even her own junior ministers and key relevant staff.

The classic May is – make a big statement then retreat into the background leaving others such as her media friends to spin information to crazy levels.

In Parliament, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party leader, was correct to challenge May’s assertions of the Russian government’s involvement. Most of the British media, the government and Labour backbench MPs mocked his stance. Labelling him a traitor, not fit to become PM and a Vladimir Putin stooge.

But Corbyn – like many of us – has seen much too often where  governments and law enforcement officials have got their initial claims on high profile incidents so wrong. e.g. Hillsborough,  Manchester bombing, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Jean Charles de Menenez, Jill Dando, Rachel Nickell, Stephen Lawrence etc.

The minute Theresa May started to use safe terms like “high likely”, “culpable”, “might”.. you knew there was no solid evidence.

There is no way May would have allowed Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to speak on her behalf if the Russian evidence was solid. Why would May give her arch rival that media space to speak and take the credit for handling this ‘crisis’? Amber Rudd would never had allow it.

Given the alleged foreign state sponsored incident happened on British soil,  Home Secretary Rudd  – who has oversight over national security – has said very little. The last time Rudd directly accused the Russian government was early March. Ben Wallace is Rudd’s junior minister responsible for national security matters, he too has been very silent.

My old Home Office instincts tells me this was a political game that quickly got out control. The fault lies not with Amber Rudd but Downing Street. Hence the silence from Rudd and Wallace: and why in recent days Rudd has deflected from Salisbury and promised to target wealthy Russians residing in the UK.

The reason why the May government is not receiving any flak for this diplomatic blunder is because the media hates Jeremy Corbyn. The media would rather play down a diplomatic incident, than to ever admit that Corbyn’s cautious instincts were correct.

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  1. How is it that over 125 countries did not join May and expel any Russian diplomats?
  2. Why did May say that the Skripals’ health was in such danger that they might never fully recover? Only for days later both came out of intensive care and recovering well.
  3. Why has the UK prevented Russian Embassy officials from visiting the Skripals in hospital? Why have they denied a visa to Yulia’s cousin Viktoria to visit them from Russia?
  4. Why has May blocked international observers from inspecting the alleged nerve agent?
  5. Why has May and Amber Rudd  said very little in Parliament over the past 14 days?
  6. Why did Boris Johnson claim that he was told by government scientists at Porton Down that the source of the nerve agent used was Russian? Only for the Chief Executive to deny such claims?
  7. Why has there been no joint press conference held by May, Rudd and Johnson to answer media questions?

The government will never admit to their error of judgment as that would be political suicide. So expect May, her ministers and media pals to play out this false narrative right up to the May local elections.

The public will never know the truth on what really happened in Salisbury and how the May government came to their conclusions.  As the government will invoke “national security” to keep such details from the public for an eternity.

The media and Downing Street will step up their anti-Corbyn attacks. This is understandable given the background of some of May’s closest advisers at Downing Street who include:

  • Robbie Gibb (former editor of BBC Politics and Sunday Politics)
  • Kirsty Buchanan (ex Daily Express)
  • James Slack & Liz Sanderson (ex Daily Mail)
  • Dylan Sharpe (ex Head of PR for The Sun)

Full marks to Corbyn and the Labour front bench for standing their ground and challenging Theresa May directly over Salisbury. After the Iraq lies the public has a right to question their government on any statements relating to serious national security issues.

Since 2002, when it comes to national security matters I rarely believe any official statement by ministers. But the skeptics like me would feel more accepting if the media heard directly from Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, head of Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism and Andrew Parker, head of MI-5.

Labour MPs who supported the government’s assertions – because of their hatred of Corbyn – should be ashamed of themselves. This was not the time for them to make such a decision out of sheer personal spite.

So in essence Theresa May instigated a diplomatic crisis – with the most prolific nuclear power – where the fatalities were a cat and 2 guinea pigs.

The Salisbury affair just does not make any rational sense. May and the media knows it too.

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May vs Putin – Guinea Pig Diplomacy

 

 

 

 

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Jamaica’s Goat Islands now a Protected Wildlife Sanctuary: Environmentalists & Traffickers Happy

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Map of St Catherine, Jamaica

The Jamaican government recently declared the Goat Islands a protected wildlife sanctuary. Thus dashing any hopes of transforming Goat Islands into a major business establishment; such as the proposed logistics hub announced by the previous government.

The government’s decision was welcomed by environmentalists. But for many residents living near Goat Islands – incl. Old Harbour Bay, Old Harbour, Bannister, Bodles, Bushy Park, Colbeck, Spring Village, Church Pen- the news was a blow to an area desperately in need of major investment.

The People’s National Party (PNP) government (2012-2016) made a raft of announcements on plans to establish a multi-billion US dollar transshipment base and logistics hub on Goat Islands and mainland environs of Old Harbour Bay etc.

The proposed logistic hub was said to be pushed by Far Eastern investors. In 2013 then Industry Minister Anthony Hylton said:

“The construction and the build out of the facilities will employ significant numbers and we are talking about projects that span numbers like US$9 billion of investments, a lot of that in physical infrastructure”

My initial reaction was “$US 9-10 billion in the Old Harbour area? This can’t be real.”  But Hylton kept reassuring the media that these plans were authentic.

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Goat Islands

The residents were excited at this major development. Billions of US dollars in investment for any country is a massive. So for this area such a massive venture is bound to be life changing.

For an area plague by high unemployment, increasing levels of violent  crime and growing population Hylton’s statements was much needed positive news.

Today, Old Harbour, Old Harbour Bay and it’s environs is recognised as the fastest growing community in the Caribbean with a population more nearer to 70,000 – far more than most recent official figures (2011) of 35,000.

With the never ending major housing developments, some experts have projected that the combined population could exceed 180,000 by 2030.

Ironically most of latest housing projects is being built on land historically used for fishing and agriculture, with no environmental outrage.

[“Gore Developments Limited has acquired a 475-acre property at Old Harbour in St Catherine from Matalon-owned West Indies Home Contractors (WIHCON) to develop more than 2,000 homes on lands known as Whim and Brampton Farms.” – 2018]

Yes, thousands of houses being constructed, but the local infrastructure, regeneration and economy has not matched this sharp population increase. The area has just one high school that was established in 1969 to cater for 600 students. Today the school population is roughly 2500.

The local health centre has hardly expanded since the 1970s to meet the needs of its growing community. Patients can wait up to 7 hours to get any assistance.

Hub for Drugs & Guns

For 30+ years the coast of Goats Islands and Old Harbour Bay has been  a regular transit route for gun and narcotics trafficking.

Some local traffickers have carved out lucrative criminal careers thanks to the easy flow of guns shipped via Old Harbour Bay from Haiti and elsewhere.

Goat Islands is also widely known as a drop-off point for narcotics coming from South America.

So while environmentalists and pro Goat Islands lobbyists have raised concerns about wildlife, spare a thought for the local community blighted by criminal activity exacerbated by decades of illegal trafficking.

Local men have known to die at sea over a gun or drug deal gone wrong. Some live both in Haiti and Jamaica and use the sea as their main method of transport to enhance their illegal wealth.

Some locals believe that a high percentage of the illegal guns – in today’s violent Jamaica – came through the coast of Goat Islands and Old Harbour Bay. Impacting heavily on the area and nearby parish of Clarendon

Old Harbour Bay is a well known fishing village. But some will tell you that there are days when it is easier to buy a gun than purchase 2lbs of fresh parrot fish.

In one of the most recent murders in Old Harbour the shooter was just 16 years old.

With this history of drug and gun trafficking, the proposed logistic hub was welcome news. Any major development of Goats Islands and the mainland could have modernised the area, making it more secured and monitored. Providing legitimate employment for tens of thousands Jamaicans. Creating real hope.

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Folks heading to Goat Islands

Hub Local Consultations and Next Steps

Following Hylton’s announcements, a number of focus group meetings were hosted by government appointed project planners. The project team advised the community on how best to prepare for these major upcoming developments.

Old Harbour High School had put in plans for students to learn basic Mandarin.

In anticipation of the logistic hub, existing local businesses upgraded their premises. New swanky businesses were being established in Old Harbour. Some came from China.

Locals were attending vocational classes to acquire certificates in their chosen skill in preparation for the employment opportunities.

As popular fisherman Compton Campbell said “My children, my grandchildren need jobs… They need opportunities. I believe this port business will be good for Jamaica.” (source: Jamaica Observer)

Most of the promised “30000 jobs” were said to be on the mainland (coast of Old Harbour Bay and Bushy Park) leaving parts of Goat Islands safe for the current wildlife population.

But as the months dragged on there were no ongoing tangible developments

Did the PNP run scared of influential environmental lobby? 

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View of Goat Islands from Old Harbour Bay’s coast

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View of Goat Islands from 3 miles north

 

Hub Dream is Dead

The Jamaica Labour Party won power in February 2016 and months later quietly scrapped any logistics hub plans for Goat Islands. A decision that wrong footed interested stakeholders including the IMF which had days earlier mentioned the Goat Islands hub development in a report.

Too many folks have a misunderstanding of the historical maritime relevance of Goat Islands/Old Harbour and its future potential.

  • Goat Islands and nearby mainland were occupied by the indigenous Tainos.
  • Columbus visited the coast of Goat Islands/Old Harbour Bay and met the head Cacique for the Taino community.
  • When the British chased the Spanish out of Jamaica (17th century) Old Harbour & Old Harbour Bay was initially called Colbeck. Named after Colonel John Colbeck who was assigned the area by the crown.
  • Pirates hid their treasures and livestock (tax avoidance) on Goat Islands
  • Slaves worked and lived on Goat Islands up to the 19th century.
  • The British shipped sugar from there.
  • The first Indian contract workers embarked at Old Harbour Bay.
  • A century ago the American-owned United Fruit Company operated their business on parts of Goat Islands and the mainland in nearby Bushy Park.

As a kid in the 1970/80s Goat Islands was a regular (scary) short boat ride for many of us at weekends and during the summer holidays.

US Navy on Goat Islands

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© not mine

During the 2nd World War the US had a naval base stationed at Goat Islands. I used to hear stories of the impact the US naval base had on the local economy of Old Harbour Bay and Old Harbour.

Jobs were created. The Americans would go into hills of rural St Catherine and Clarendon and purchased raw materials and food from the locals. The US navy even brought along a string orchestra.

3 years ago, a local historian in Old Harbour showed me aerial photographs – of the US occupied Goat Islands – taken by an English cameraman. In the photos you could clearly see the Goat Islands with structures, barracks, ships, small boats, airstrip etc.

The US left Goat Islands in 1949 but still owned the long term lease.

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1941 – US on Little Goat Island source: gleaner file

Winners and Losers

  • Credit must go to the environmental lobby led by Diana McCaulay for mounting such an effective and passionate campaign from the start.
  • The PNP government must be blamed for a lousy display of leadership and not backing up their comments with commitment and significant steps.
  • Old Harbour, Old Harbour Bay and extended communities missed out on thousands of jobs.
  • Current JLP government were short sighted in their rush to halt the hub development and protect the whole of Goat Islands. Why did the opposition PNP show little objection to the government’s decision?
  • Business as usual for local gun and drug trafficking?

2017 – 2 Murders in Old Harbour Bay linked to gun trafficking

2015: Old Harbour Bay major gun and drug dealer killed in Haiti

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UK Governments the Real Champions of Pay Inequality?

The brilliant journalist Carrie Gracie has taken a stance over pay inequality and transferred (some said she quit) from her role as BBC Chinese editor to the BBC newsroom team. It was a noble decision but a great loss to those of us who admired her Chinese related reports.

Pay inequality discussions tend to focus on salary differences based on gender. But in the UK civil service pay inequality does exist but not gender related.

UK governments like to lecture other employers on pay inequality . Yet the said governments have allowed unfair pay structures to thrive under their noses for 3 decades across the civil service.

In the 1990s, the Conservative government decided to delegate human resources strategic (incl. pay and salary) responsibilities to each government department to handle independently.

Some government departments used this new found autonomy to bump up salary structures. Some other government departments took a moderate approach and kept their salary scales conservative.

[The less said about how recruitment and promotion practices became corrupted]

This has led to many staff across the civil service performing the same role, in the same grade (sometimes the same building), same length of service, but paid vastly different depending on their government department.

Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) is widely known as one of the most poorly paid government department for admin and middle management grades. DWP is also the most challenging government to work at, especially for frontline staff handling welfare payments and job seekers. Given the abuse they regularly face from the public.

Departments such as the Treasury and especially HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) on the other hand pay their staff vastly better wages. Home Office and Department of Health pay scales are sandwich somewhere between DWP and HMRC.

Simply there is no pay consistency  at admin and management grades across the civil service.

An Executive Officer (EO) at HMRC can earn as much (sometimes more) as a Senior Executive Officer (SEO) at the DWP; even though the latter is 2 grades higher and has far more responsibility and staff to manage.

You would never hear of civil servants transferring permanently to the likes of DWP due to its lower salary structure. Even if such a transfer could mean promotion.

In 2003, Gordon Brown – then Chancellor of the Exchequer – mooted the idea of merging Customs and Excise with the Inland Revenue. Staff in both departments hated the proposal. This was due to long standing cultural animosity that existed for between both departments.

Customs and Excise and Inland Revenue staff did not feel the merger was feasible due to the salary differences that existed between both departments

E.g. Higher Executive Officer at Inland Revenue could earn £6-£10k more than their counterparts at Customs and Excise.

In 2005, Gordon Brown pushed through the merger. In one single month Brown upgraded the thousands of Customs and Excise staff salaries to match their Inland Revenue counterparts. Customs & Excise staff felt happy with the sharp pay increase while some Revenue staff were livid at salary upgrade for their new colleagues.

Some government departments would advertise their vacancies without disclosing the salary for fear of turning off potential applicants.

Yet trade unions and politicians have sat back and watched this unfair pay practice to thrive for decades. While lecturing the private sector on gender pay equality.

But with BREXIT looming now is a perfect time for a universal salary scale to be gradually implemented across the civil service. Pay inequality based on which government department employs you is simply unfair to its staff, future recruits and tax payers.

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HM Treasury – Facilitators of Pay Inequality?

 

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Cyrille Regis: One of English Football’s True Gentlemen

Yesterday we woke up to the sad news that former England footballer Cyrille Regis had died of a heart attack at just age 59.

Cyrille is regarded as one of the trailblazing black footballers in English football from the late 1970s onwards who inspired future generations of black kids to take up professional football.

The first time I came across Cyrille was in the early 1970s. He and my older brother David played football together as teenagers in the North West London area of Kilburn/Queens Park, Brent.

David was a football fanatic. He, Cyrille and other young working class teenagers found solace and camaraderie in sports. They would play a variety of sports in the local parks of Queens Park, Grange Park and Paddington Recreation Ground.

Cyrille and David played local sports alongside future sports stars such as Ricky Hill, Mike and Steve Gatting. David, Cyrille and especially Ricky Hill became local stars in junior football across Brent. For a while David and Cyrille played at the influential Oxford and Kilburn Boys Club.

By the mid 1970s my mum dragged both David and me to live in Jamaica.

But David and I followed Cyrille’s career through British newspapers and magazines (e.g. Football Monthly) sent to us in Jamaica by family friends.

Imagine our delight in 1977 when we saw Cyrille being recruited by top football club West Bromwich Albion. He and other black players Brendan Batson and Laurie Cunningham played together at The Albion.

Having 3 black players in the same team in those days was unheard of in English football and thus caused a media frenzy. As black players in the English professional league was still a novelty.

Cyrille explained that at the time having 3 black players in one team proved too much for some fans who stepped up their racist abuse.

From 1970s – 1990s racism in English football against black players and black spectators was toxic. It just was never a pleasant atmosphere to watch your team in person as rival fans and some from your own club would taunt you at the game and on public transport.

As Cyrille said about his own experience of racism

You’d have up to 10,000 of them chanting racist abuse at you. You’d have hundreds of bananas hurled at you. You’d get called names – the ‘n’ word, ‘you black b******d’. I had a bullet through the post on my first England call-up

But the players like Cyrille, Laurie, Brendan, Ricky Hill, Bob Hazell, Vince Hilaire, Viv Anderson, Terry Connor, John Barnes, Luther Blissett, Garth Crooks, George Berry, Paul Canoville etc became cult heroes to young black kids in England and beyond.

Their efforts to combat racism – without any support from the police and football authorities – must never be forgotten.

Cyrille was a very strong physical player with supreme speed and was a powerful striker of the ball. He was a hard working player.

My dad – an Aston Villa fan for over 60 years – was pleased when Cyrille join the Villa in 1991.

Whatever team Cyrille played for I was delighted whenever he scored goals. As in a way he was one of us. Like the other few black players then in the league I wanted them all to be successful.

When Cyrille won the FA Cup in 1987 with Coventry City, David and I watched the game at our flat in Kilburn – just a few hundred yards from where Cyrille’s football journey started.

At the time David felt so proud and remarked something like  “How many black men from Brent can say they have won the FA Cup… In Brent?”

Cyrille was a credit to football both on and off the pitch. He was calm and easy to get on with. On the pitch he was a nightmare for defenders but off it he was respected by players, the media and fans. Even by some of  those same fans who had made racist chants against him.

Cyrille delved into coaching and also became a football agent. Cyrille’s unassuming demeanour earned him respect by football club owners when he negotiated contracts on behalf of his clients.

The last time I saw Cyrille in person was (with David) roughly 8 years ago at a celebrity charity football match in Hayes, West London that Cyrille organised with his nephew (former footballer) Jason Roberts.

My brother David died in Bedford, Central England in March 2013. In the very last exchange I had with him we spoke about Laurie Cunningham and Cyrille. As David had suggested that I watch a tv documentary on Laurie’s life which featured Cyrille.

Cyrille we will never forget you big man.

Where’s Laurie? In heaven? In hell? In space? He was 33. If I had died in that car crash where would I be…..I had to get some answers and, to cut a long story short, I became a born-again Christian. It gave me a perspective of earthly values and eternity. I hope I see him in heaven.’Cyrille Regis,  July 2017

“I look back over my life and can say that, although I have some regrets I have so much to be thankful and so much to be proud of. I have the privilege to mentor players and men in general, sharing the wisdom I gained through life” – Cyrille Regis, 2010.

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Cyrille and Laurie Cunningham

Laurie Cunningham Day/Leyton Orient v MK Dons  12th Oct 2013

Leyton, East London 2013: L-R Brendan Baston, Nicky Brown (Laurie’s widow). and Cyrille at the unveiling of a plaque in honour of Laurie Cunningham

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Oxford & Kilburn Boys Club, NW London where Cyrille played as a teen

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Laurie, Brendan and Cyrille – West Brom’s own Three Degrees meet their more illustrious Philadelphian counterparts

 

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Coming home: Brent lad Cyrille winning the FA Cup in 1987 at Wembley Stadium, Brent

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No Surprise that Jamaica Abstained on UN Jerusalem Vote

There seems to be some disbelief that Jamaica abstained on the recent UN resolution – that rejected Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel.

For Jamaica’s opposition People National Party to express surprise shows a lack of awareness on their part on the developing relationship between the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) government and Israel.

In January this year, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness made an official visit to Israel. Where both Holness and Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu cemented their diplomatic relationship. So much so that Netanyahu accepted Holness’ invitation to visit Jamaica.

At a press conference (in Jerusalem) Netanyahu said to Holness  “Our relations are always friendly. We appreciate the fact that you didn’t join the recent vote against Israel, the absurd vote in UNESCO,”

That 2016 UNESCO vote was said to ignore Jewish ties to the Temple Mount. Of the 21 votes to be casted Jamaica was the only member nation absent from the vote.

So last week’s abstention will no doubt seal the Jamaican government’s friendship with Israel even further.

Was the Jamaican government promised tangible perks by the US and Israel governments? I hope so.

Jamaica could do with significant aid in modern technology and vehicles to combat the violent crime surge. So it would have been wise – as a bargaining chip -for the Jamaican government to demand tangible support from the US and Israelis in return for abstaining.

Deals is the nature of international politics. Every nation has a price. Today, International pride and solidarity works only up to a symbolic point in theory.

  • Just ask Obama’s administration who turned a blind to Hezbollah’s drug trafficking and money laundering activities in order to clinch the Iran nuclear deal.
  • Successive UK governments of all stripes have ignored human rights violations and bribery issues committed by Saudi Arabia in order to secure major arms sales for UK companies.

The outrage in the Arab world over Trump’s decision was predictable. Egypt and Jordan raised strong objections. But does anyone really think that Jordan and Egypt would – as a protest – refuse to continue receiving the billions in aid they get from the US?

Will Jamaica pay a heavy price in the Arab world for the vote abstention? It could.  As many highly skilled Jamaicans are based there; especially in the aviation industry.

[So while there is constant focus by the UN on the Palestine/Israel impasse; the international community has quietly ignored China’s occupation of Tibet. Chinese government has – through slick lobbying and bargaining – managed to end any discussion at the UN on their occupation of Tibet. UN has not be discussed Tibet for over 2 decades.]

The Jamaican media and opposition PNP have simply been asleep in not cross checking the government’s new found stronger ties with Israel since 2016.

Now is an appropriate time for the PNP and Jamaican media to demand answers from the Jamaican government.

  • What deals have been made with Israel since Holiness’ visit?
  • Ahead of the vote did Israel’s UN officials discuss the resolution with their Jamaican counterparts?
  • Was there personal pressure from the US and Israeli governments ahead of the vote?
  • Was the Jamaican government promised substantial tangible perks or aid in return for abstaining?
  • Did the Jamaican government demand aid and other deals for abstaining?
  • Given the 2016 Temple Mount UNESCO no vote; did the Palestinian Authority and other Arab states consult the Jamaican government ahead of the Jerusalem vote?
  • Has Israel or any Arab state spoken with the Jamaican government since last week’s vote?

Nikki Haley – US Ambassador to the UN – will host a function in January to thank those nations who did not support the UN resolution to condemn Trump’s Jerusalem decision.

Let’s hope the Jamaican delegation that attends the function will walk with a shopping list. They also should remind the US not to take any Jamaican vote (or no vote) at the UN for granted.

 

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Netanyahu & Holness in Jerusalem, Israel January 2017

 

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Ian Boyne – Raised the Profile of Many Jamaicans

The news of Ian Boyne’s death on Monday sent shockwaves across Jamaica. Boyne died following a short illness. Boyne had such a big impact on many Jamaicans through his vast body of media work.

Boyne was one of the most influential journalists in Jamaica’s history. His weekly TV show ‘Profile’ spanned 30 years and featured half hour interviews with successful Jamaicans from all walks of life and also international guests: all with an inspirational rags-to-riches story to share.

Guest have included Prince Buster, Usain Bolt, Renato Adams, Shaggy, Taye Diggs, Dawn Butler, Dr Henry Lowe, Leonie Forbes, Madge Sinclair, Marcia Griffiths and  the late Lowell Hawthorne (Golden Krust).

Boyne’s other TV show ‘Religious Hardtalk’ featured passionate debates with guests from any religion (and I mean any) or spiritual beliefs. ‘Religious Hardtalk’ was a unique talk show.  It was thought frank, thought provoking, controversial, good humoured and entertaining.

Guest have included former hardcore gangsters, dancehall entertainers, who transformed their lives due to a religious awakening.

Sometimes you had to wonder “Where does Ian Boyne find these guests?”

I will never forget the interviews Boyne did with former dancehall entertainer and now renowned preacher Goddy Goddy and some of his church members. It was just wild.

Boybe’s interview with Jamaican playwright Hugh King was also memorable to me. King – a former near neighbour – came out from decades of a self imposed hermit lifestyle to do the interview.

Having a hit TV show is never easy. So for Boyne to have 2 successful TV discussion shows on during the same period was a testament to his ability to keep both shows fresh and entertaining. Especially as both ‘ ‘Profile’ and ‘Religious Hardtalk’ were polar opposites.

All this terrific success while Boyne was still working as a senior executive at the government run Jamaica Information Service and a columnist for the Sunday Gleaner. Not to mention his ministerial duties in the church.

Boyne’s column in the Sunday Gleaner was always detailed, well researched and forthright.

But I loved ‘Profile’. Anytime I was away from Jamaica for lengthy periods, my family would video tape episodes for me to watch whenever I returned.

I have never met Mr Boyne but between 2004 and 2006 we did exchange emails regarding ‘Profile’. I admired him for taking the time to respond in the respectable manner that he always did.

In the UK, educational and social commentators lamented the perceived lack of positive black role models for young people of Afro Caribbean descent to look up to. Some didn’t like it when I challenged their lazy stereotypical perception. One of my suggestions was that they should request copies of ‘Profile’ to show and discuss in the classroom. As some of Boyne’s guests on ‘Profile’ where indeed successful Jamaicans living in the UK.

Watching this week’s pre-recorded episode of ‘Religious Hardtalk’ was humbling. It was the season finale and Boyne’s guest was gospel artiste Glacia Robinson.

Glacia described to Boyne her near death experiences due to years of ill health and explained how the strength of her Christian faith helped pulled her through some very tough times. They discussed the meaning of death in some detail.  The interview was deep, warm and engaging. The chemistry between Glacia and Boyne was real.

At the end the show Boyne turned to Glacia and simply said how for years he had been looking forward to this particular interview. It was Ian Boyne at his very best.

[Glacial has since said that her interview with Boyne was initially scheduled for the day he died. But Boyne called her and requested bringing the interview forward as he felt need to conduct it immediately. 3 days after the interview was recorded Boyne was rushed to hospital]

Here’s a short clip from this week’s ‘Religious Hardtalk’.

Jamaica is the worse for Ian Boyne no longer being a key part if its nation building. But his role in Jamaica’s development will live on through his collection of work and the people he showcased and inspired.

Let’s hope ‘Profile’ and ‘Religious Hardtalk’ will continue.

Rest in Peace.

 

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Ian Boyne 1957-2017

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The Trump Presidency so far – Winners and Losers

It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both – Niccolo Machiavelli

It certainly feels like 3 years since Donald J. Trump won the US Presidential election, even though he defeated Hillary Clinton just over 12 months ago.

A very strange reality for Americans and those of us observing from a safe distance overseas.

Trump has become the most covered, scrutinised, over analysed, despised and discussed person in modern political history: and he loves the attention.

Many of his doubters and enemies had hoped Trump would gradually mellow his usual braggadocio style when he became President. We knew from his inauguration speech – that was not going to happen.

But so far, who are some of the winners and losers during the Trump presidency?

Losers

  1. Donald J Trump – Petty. Stubborn. Juvenile in his personal attacks. Gaffe guzzler. Likes to compare himself to former President Andrew Jackson but acts more like Lincoln’s successor Andrew Johnson.
  2. Republicans in Congress – Hold the majority in both the House and the Senate but no clue on how to govern effectively.
  3. Bipartisan politics – Not happening for most Democrat and Republican elected officials under this president. Sad.
  4. Jeff Sessions, Attorney General – Seems overwhelmed by his role.
  5. Mainstream Political Journalism–  Objective and balanced political journalism is over in the US. Even the BBC has abandoned its usual neutral stance to go 100% anti-Trump. The relentless fake news reporting is embarrassing. Glenn Greenwald sums up how sensational fake news is destroying political journalism in this article.
  6. Black and Hispanic senior appointments – Trump administration’s forgotten man and woman? Yes there’s Alex Acosta, Ajit Pai, Ben Carson, Jerome Adams. But any black judges nominated by Trump? Any black or Hispanic Ambassadors? As soon-to-be departed WH staffer, Omarosa Manigault Newman, said this week “It has been very, very challenging being the only African-American woman in the senior staff,….There was a lack of diversity that I will acknowledge.”
  7. Central America and Caribbean-  Near neighbours  but yet so far off the Trump radar – a. US no longer contributing to the Inter American Development Bank. b. Reversal of closer ties with Cuba. c. 50,000 Haitians affected by natural disasters to be deported from the US. d. Puerto Rico hurricane recovery debacle.
  8. Sub-Sahara Africa – Took the recent death of 4 US servicemen in Niger for any discussion on what is Trump’s US foriegn policy approach towards Africa. Whatever that is.
  9. Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort – key Trump campaign senior staff who have been Muellered!
  10. Lawyers – With countless political scandals, investigations, rulings and controversial policies sweeping Washington, the legal profession is having a profitable 2017.
  11. Steve Bannon, Briebart – His Lt Colombo act in influencing average Republicans is fading after the Roy Moore blunder.

Winners

  1. Donald J Trump –  “President of the United States” – each morning he wakes up with that job title means he is still winning. Tough, direct and sets the news agenda most days. Still underestimated by many of his enemies.
  2. US economy – Has strengthened sharply under Trump’s watch. (Does Obama take some of the credit?)
  3. Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the UN –  Her hawkish stance makes her a clear favourite to be the next Secretary of State and thereafter a prime candidate for next Secretary of State and eventually president. Her growing popularity must make Trump envious.
  4. Mainstream News Media – Their anti-Trump mantra and reporting is still doing wonders for ratings and readership. Are they and Trump in collusion ? E.g.  Trump gives the impression he hates CNN. But who is the White House’s favourite political reporter? CNN’s Jim Acosta. The media knows covering just Trump is good for business.
  5. Heather Nauert, State Department Spokeswoman – Conducts her briefings with control, succinctness and modesty. Rarely makes any controversy which is the benchmark of an effective govt spokesperson.
  6. Robert Mueller, Special Counsel – The Trump administration’s kryptonite. Although stacking his team with Hillary donors has caste a shadow over the ‘independent’ approach to Russia collusion investigations.
  7. Hillary Clinton – There are US folks serving life sentences for cumulative minor offences such as stealing a candy bar. But Hillary the untouchable – when it comes to political corruption – is just simply above US law and she knows we know it.
  8. Far right groups– Such US and European groups are emboldened by what Trump says and tweets. Also these groups feel encouraged by his silence on certain issues. (Trump’s recent retweet of a UK right wing party’s anti Muslim postings made him look like a right berk.)
  9. Women in the Trump Administration–  Little scandal, ego-free have been the likes Haley, Nauert, Kirstjen Nielsen, Elaine Chao and Linda MacMahon.
  10. The Anti-Trump Female Movement – The likes of Maxine Waters, April Ryan, Ana Navarro, Susan Collins, etc are now household names due their sustained anti-Trump leanings.  Some whose bank balances has been enriched thanks to Trump.
  11. US Politics– Never before has US politics and politicians been so well known and covered across the globe. Folks in other countries know far more of what’s happening (or not)  politically in the US than in their own state.
  12. Israel and Saudi Arabia – Trump’s anti-Iran stance has come as relief to both countries following the Iran deal. Both nations are flexing more muscle in region and even forming their own unusual alliance.
  13. China – While Trump champions an America first policy, China continues to consolidate their economic strength globally.
  14. US Late Night TV talkshows  – Not since the days of George W Bush has a president being lambasted and ridiculed on late night tv. Another TV ratings bonanza.
  15. George W Bush – Thanks to Trump the George W Bush brand has had a positive upgrade in some liberal circles.

Trump’s mantra is “Make America Great Again” but what he’s achieved so far was to “Make America’s Politics Popular” across the entire globe.

Oh well, 3 more years of this to go. Could it really be 7?

“I’m not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.” Machiavelli

Trump

Endless Turbulence @ Ground Level

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