Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Colour me black - Athletic success is skin deep

Wednesday | November 15, 2006

Eulalee Thompson

black people seem to have an edge over other racial groups in a wide
range of athletic activities requiring speed and power.

This issue preoccupied the mind of Professor Errol Morrison, president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross of Jamaica (on leave from the position of dean, School for Graduate Studies
and Research, University of the West Indies), when he teamed up with
Patrick Cooper, Jamaican journalist and businessman, now living in the
United States to do research.

characteristics, peculiar to black people as a result of their
evolution and interface in a tropical environment, the sickle-cell
trait and malaria were some of the factors they found, almost acting in consort, to produce a disproportionate number of successful black athletes over the decades.

Their viewpoint, presented in an essay published in the recent issue of the West Indian Medical Journal 2006; 55(3):
205, places a positive twist on the sickle-cell trait, a condition
which people of African origin seem more predisposed to develop and
malaria, an infectious disease transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito, primarily in tropical and sub-tropical regions.

Sickle-shaped cells

( L - R ) Simpson and Powell

development of sickle-shaped blood cells (relative to sickle-cell trait
and disease) is apparently the body's way of protecting itself against
the parasites linked to the development of malaria. Sickle-shaped blood
cells are not as 'welcoming' as normally-shaped red blood cells to the
malaria germs.

may now be wondering, 'so what's the link to between sickled cells and
athletic prowess?' The link lies somewhere in the use of oxygen. One
would imagine that sickle-shaped cells would compromise the amount of
oxygen available to black athletes wanting to perform at the top levels
of their profession.

Morrison and Cooper, quoting from elaborate studies conducted on
Olympic athletes from the 1968 Games in Mexico City, find that there
are 'compensatory mechanisms' developed by the body to take care of
these deficiencies in oxygen intake and use. Some of these
'compensatory mechanisms' relate to differences in the composition and
activity of muscle fibres found in black people when compared to other
racial groups. Black people have a higher percentage of fast-twitch
fibres and lower levels of slow-twitch fibres than white people. This
composition of black muscles is linked to a more rapid conversion of
glucose into energy than in white muscles.

of the studies conducted by Claude Bouchard, geneticist and exercise
physiologist, and Jean-Aime Simoneau, exercise biochemist (published
1990), concludes that "the racial differences observed between Africans
and Caucasians in fibre type proportion and enzyme activities ... may
well result from inherited variation. These data suggest that sedentary
male black individuals are, in terms of muscle characteristics, well
endowed for sports events of short duration."

Longer arms and legs

studies point to differences in the lung activities that impact
athletic prowess in black people. Lung volume among white subjects, for
example, was 10 to 15 per cent greater than in their black counterpart
but differences in breathing patterns during exercise and the fact that
black subjects consumed more oxygen at every phase of exercising made
for more powerful performances.

and Cooper also point to differences in body type and body proportions
that impacted athletic performance. People of African descent have less
fat under their skin, narrower hips, longer arms and legs and shorter
trunks than other racial groups. These biomechanical advantages, they
say, "influence power-to-weight ratio and stride length."

what do you think?

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Latibeaudiere Upbeat On The Economy

Al Edwards
Friday, November 10, 2006

With inflation trending down, a continuing reduction in interest rates, a stable exchange rate and no external shocks to derail firm progress, it was an upbeat Governor of the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) who reviewed economic developments in the September quarter.

Speaking at the BOJ's Nethersole Place headquarters on Wednesday, the Governor of the BOJ, Derick Latibeaudiere, said economic developments in the quarter were generally positive, continuing the trend of the three previous quarters. These positive trends in the domestic economy was supported by the generally favourable international economic developments in the review quarter.

The Governor pointed out that at the end of September, the 12-month point-to-point inflation was 6.5 per cent - the lowest annual rate since March 2003. For the September quarter last year, the 12-month point-to-point inflation was much higher at 19 per cent.

Headline inflation for the quarter was 2.4 per cent-much-lower than the 4.3 per cent recorded for the corresponding quarter in 2005.

Core inflation was estimated at 1.1 per cent for the quarter, slightly higher than was planned for. Nevertheless, the annual core inflation. which is estimated at 3.8 per cent at the end of September, still remains in line with the BOJ's medium-term trajectory of 4.0 to 5.0 per cent.

"Price increases in the Food and Drink category were the dominant influences on inflation in the September quarter, but despite the impact, these increases were not as great as we had anticipated. In fact, the prices of vegetables, which are usually high in the September quarter, were actually lower than expected, due largely to increased supplies.

"For the December quarter, the bank is projecting continued moderation in inflation. We expect that prices of domestic agricultural commodities will continue to moderate and that the consumer basket will benefit from the lowering of fuel prices. In addition, the demand for some goods and services associated with the Christmas holidays could also influence an upward movement in prices. All told, we expect inflation for the December quarter to be in the range of 1.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent, resulting in inflation of around 8.0 per cent for the calendar year," declared the Governor.
FX market

There was a slowing in the rate of depreciation of the Jamaican dollar to 0.03 per cent in the September quarter, the lowest since the March 2005 quarter. Latibeaudiere noted that the stability in the foreign exchange market was supported by strong private capital inflows, complemented by continued buoyancy in the flows from tourism and remittances during the quarter.

As a result of these flows, the net international reserves increased by US$232 million during the quarter to US$2.342 billion at the end of September. Gross reserves were US$2.4747 billion representing 18.8 weeks of estimated goods and services imports.

Real Growth

GDP grew faster in the September quarter than it did in the June quarter. With the exception of manufacturing, all sectors recorded positive growth. Agriculture and Miscellaneous Services, which include the tourism industry, were the major drivers of growth.

"For the December 2006 quarter, the Central Bank is expecting the macroeconomic conditions to remain favourable. We expect real GDP growth to strengthen as the construction sector rebounds. The mining and tourism industries are also forecasted to record strong growth.

"The bank is anticipating the usual seasonally higher demand for foreign exchange to meet the increased payments for imports for the Christmas holidays. In fact, we are already seeing that the pick-up in demand is putting some pressure on the exchange rate."

However, Latibeaudiere sought to allay fears by forecasting that private capital inflows would remain high, supported by strong flows from remittances and tourism.

"With the NIR now being maintained in a reasonable comfort zone, the Central Bank has the ability and is prepared to augment any temporary shortfall in supplies in the market.

"Consistent with previous years, we are also expecting the usual pick-up in demand for currency in this period to meet the seasonal expansion in consumption expenditure. Accordingly, base money is projected to expand during the December quarter, "said the Governor.

Trafigura and banking confidentiality

The Trafigura affair has placed the local banking sector under the spotlight and raises many questions concerning confidentiality.

Latibeaudiere said that during his 11-year tenure as Governor of the Central Bank, he has never had reason to question the confidentiality of the banking system.
"At the end of the day, you can have the best banking systems in the world but confidentiality breaches are down to the people who manage. In our monitoring of banking affairs we have been very careful in terms of what is done to preserve banking confidentiality.

"It would be of major concern to me if there were breaches of confidentiality at the Central Bank. My staff, whether it concerns prices, interest rates, foreign exchange rates, or whatever we do, maintain a very high level of confidentiality right across the board. I attribute that to the quality of the staff.
It really comes down to a question of the integrity of the workforce. I cannot envisage a system where people take it upon themselves to be judge and jury when it comes to divulging confidential information. That is a recipe for disaster!

"There is no evidence that the systems in place in the commercial banking sector are themselves contributing to a lack of confidentiality. It really comes back to the integrity of the workforce."

FX trading
Still with controversial topics, the Governor addressed the question of investors turning to FX trading in search of higher returns.

"Some very powerful people in the country have been commenting on the concept and what it stands for and the institution involved. I want to take this opportunity to say that I think that investors have to be careful in an environment where they see global rates averaging at a certain level and the returns from one particular source being multiples of that. You have to wonder what other investors throughout the world are doing with their investments and how can people obtain those high rates.

"I want to make it very clear here that we at the Central Bank take no responsibility whatsoever for people who want to invest their funds that way. There will be no recompense or support for anybody who loses their investments."

Latibeaudiere said that for some people there is a culture of living off high interest rates but with the reduction of interest rates, institutions will have to be far more skilled in investments to remain competitive.

"Many institutions, have not made the transition from the high interest rate culture to a situation where interest rates are half of what they once were and that is the issue."

The Governor went on to say that with more mergers of banking institutions particularly commercial banks with brokerage houses, it was time to consider having just one super regulatory body to monitor the sector.

With the economy on a sound footing and encouraging numbers in support, the Governor said that the next challenge was to maintain stability and keep a watchful eye on the country's macroeconomic performance.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Anancy Introduction

By Marcia Davidson

August 2, 2003

The Ashanti handed down to us brilliant folktales about the trickster Anancy, the spider-man, as the hare is the chief character in the Yoruba folktales and the tortoise in the stories of the Ibo people. Songs often accompany the stories and have inspired many Jamaican folksongs.

Anancy the Spiderman was brought from the west coast of Africa by the first slaves and went into business as the only therapy for three centuries of hideousness. He took on the trappings of the tribal oral historian, with an interpretive addition. As Jamaicans are wont to do, they added innumerable prodigy - Brer Tacoma, Brer Tiger and others to the Anancy folktales.

Anancy is quick-witted and intelligent surviving the odds and tricking those around him. He personifies the quality of survival so admired by Jamaicans. You may see his name spelled in a variety of ways; Anancy, Anance, Anansi (‘Nansi) or even Brer Nansi.

Bra ‘Nansi filled the role of storyteller hero or villain. He was great at disguises, omniscient but nonetheless willing to be chopped to prove a moral. He was something to everyone: his indestructibility, knowledge and wit were an investment in hope. The stories were usually satirical and cynical. They never had a live-happily-ever-after ending. Anancy’s devotees were always on the lookout for the unexpected; everywhere were challenges that must be faced lest they come in at the back of the neck.

The tradition of oral folklore however, is alive and well on the island of Jamaica, and preserved in the pages of children’s storybooks. Children’s folklore and literature thrives in the stories of Anancy. Nearly all Jamaicans tell bedtime ‘Nansi stories to their children, making them up as they go along. But the big storytellers invariably village matriarchs, are much sought after and are always warmly welcomed to the guest seat on the coffee-drying limestone terrace behind the footlights of fireflies. The Anancy stories belong to “evening time.”

As Rex Nettleford states in his introduction to Walter Jekylls, Jamaican Song and Story, "in order to cope with an unstraight and crooked world, one needs unstraight and crooked paths." As a child, playwright and author, Louise Bennett recalls that everything that happened in the world was caused by Anancy." As a child Louise Bennett, at the end of each Anancy story, would have to say, "Jack Mandora, me no chose none." This was because Anancy sometimes did very wicked things in his stories, and the children would have to let Jack Mandora, the doorman at Heaven’s door, know that they were not in favor of Anancy’s wicked ways.

As in the West African stories Anancyi is “craven” (greedy) and, being small and weak, he wins by guile not by strength. It is Anancy “who mek wasp sting, who mek dog belly come hollow, who mek Jackass bray.”

Anancy is an indestructible and irresistible spider who is both, "fooler and fool, maker and unmade, wily and stupid, subtle and gross, the High Gods accomplice and his rival." Anancy is generally a figure of admiration whose cunning and scheming nature reflects the indirection and subtleties necessary for survival and occasionally victory for the Black man in a racist society.

In Jamaica, Anancy, the descendant of a West African deity takes on special significance in a society, which has its roots in a system of slavery. It is as though every slave strove to be Anancy and he who achieved the Spider-form became a kind of hero. Anancy’s greatest attributes however, are his character flaws. Anancy is far from a perfect folk hero, and many of his characteristics are egotistical, selfish, and ignorant. Regardless of the wealth of character flaws he possesses, Anancy has an irresistibility that has been preserved in its most uncorrupted form.

The character flaws of Anancy were a direct link to the problems that the people of Jamaica were facing. It was always necessary for the black people of Jamaica to survive. After slavery, that meant moving into the interior away from the plantations. It is here, that Anancy was created and Walter Jekyll was able to document the stories and songs of a dynamic people. Anancy uses his wit and cunning to survive. In many cases, the larger animals of his stories, the Lion, Snake, and Monkeys are representations of the white man in Jamaica. For example in the tale, "Tiger Story, Anancy Story," all of the history of Jamaica and the animals are told as Tiger Stories. It is not until Anancy approaches the tiger and asks him if the stories could be changed to the Anancy Stories that the true survival begins. The tiger, dismisses the spider’s request, and tells him that if he can accomplish two impossible tasks the stories can be called the Anancy stories. Through his trickery, Anancy successfully accomplishes the two successful deeds and forces the Tiger to rename the tales as the Anancy Stories.

What this represents to the reader and the listener is that the history of Jamaica before Anancy’s accomplishment, was a "white mans history." Like many colonized West Indian and African countries of the early twentieth century, white colonists believed that the history of these individual countries did not begin until the arrival of the white man. What this tale does is take back the history and stories of Jamaica, and returns them to Anancy’s and the black people of Jamaica.

When examining the two impossible tasks Anancy’s was asked to perform for the Tiger, the reader soon realizes that the tasks are representations of the impossibilities that Jamaicans have faced throughout the centuries. One of these tasks requires Anancy’s to gather a swarm of bees to bring to the Tiger. The bees are very dangerous and could sting Anancy’s to death if he were to upset, or disturb their environment. The symbolism of this request illustrates the difficulties of bringing together a large group of people, who are not prepared, or are too content with their environment to face the white man, represented as the Tiger. Only through his cunning can Anancy convince the bees to come with him to see the Tiger.

In Jamaican folklore, this type of symbolism demonstrates to the reader and listener the struggles of the people of Jamaica against racism and slavery. The question that should be raised however, is as children did the Anancy Stories signify the struggles of the Jamaican people, or did they come across to children as simply adventure stories, and not stories of survival. Daryl C. Dance, author of Folklore from contemporary Jamaicans states, "As we look at the Anancy stories, we will find that they appeal to us not only because of their drama, excitement, and humor but also because we quickly perceive that, like most animal tales, these are not really about animals but about human beings, and we realize that a part of our attraction is that we recognize ourselves in the antics of these creatures."

Anancy takes many shapes; at times, he seems to be a man, and at other times, he is an insect, running his web and taking refuge in the ceiling, as author Louise Bennett describes it. What this represents for children is that even though the Anancy Stories are filled with animal characters, their characteristics are so human like that at many times when reading or listening to his stories you begin to feel as though the characters are the same people who are part of your lives and history. The effect of these stories on children was not only morally fulfilling, but pure enjoyment as well. As one interview with a Jamaica youth states: ”But the way I learnt Anancy, I knew Anancy as a child, and it was a joy-y-y! We loved to listen to the stories, we loved to hear about this little trickify man, and you know, and one thing we knew, that this man was magic, and we could never be like him. You know he is a magic man. He could spin a web and become a spider whenever he wanted to [laughter]. You cant do that, so you better not try the Anancy’s tricks, you know, but it was fun!”

This type of "magic man," or prophet in many cases is represented in several histories. Whether it is the magical lyrics of Bob Marley, the powerful speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or the cunning of a small spider named Anancy, different cultures tend to glorify individuals and make them their saviors in a sense. Children see this spider perform heroic and sometimes-foolish deeds and they see a human being. It is interesting that sometimes a society so burdened with racism and subordination turns to a figure, or individual as a representative of the people. In South Africa’s case, that would be a person like Nelson Mandela, or Stephen Biko. In Jamaica, that individual is a fictional spider who for over two centuries has represented the hardships of a nation.

In North America, that type of fictional character, who represents the hardships of a country, is missing. Maybe the reason for this is that today we who live in North America, live in a place that is economically thriving. We are not subjected to the same hardships as the people of Jamaica. The reason however, I believe that a character like Anancy is missing from our society is because we are a country based on technology. Children are sent to school at seven o’clock in the morning and do not arrive home again until seven o’clock at night. There is something missing between parent and child, and in many cases, it is simply communication. I do not mean to give you my own rhetoric on how I think a parent should speak to his or her child. However, it is important to see the fundamental difference between as something as simple as children’s folklore in our society, compared to that of Jamaica to distinguish the importance of a child’s story tale.

Anancy’s presence in politics is sequential a bridge across the gulf that pre-election rhetoric creates. Anancy is an art that woos the loser even as it acclaims the victor.

The anti-fraud ink-dip had hardly dried on the fingers of Jamaican’s honest burghers after the 1980 elections when there appeared on the street a sight not seen since the Socialists had declared, for climate and economy, that the short-sleeved safari outfit could be worn at official functions. To the new “Conservatives”, these casual clothes looked very much like Cuban apparel not at all appropriate for a country making overtures to the United States. Immediately, phalanxes of twitching men losers and winners alike began appearing in the streets sweating and steaming in 3-piece suits. It was Madison-Avenue-under-the-bananas. Without violence, the political statement had been made: adios Cuba: hello America.

On the map, the island of Jamaica looks like a scared puppy swimming in deep water thrashing to escape the Cuban flail and the Florida club. “Stone a river bottom never know sun hot,” is a Jamaican proverb sometimes cited in resentment of the insensitivity of the big political powers. Maybe Anancy the Spiderman is on the ropes somewhere up front.

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Why am I so proud to be Jamaican?

By Karen Lee
Posted Friday, July 28, 2006

Why am I so proud to be Jamaican? To begin, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride when I see Jamaicans being recognized for their contributions to society and making mention of their Jamaican heritage. Former US Secretary of State, General Colin Powell who was born of Jamaican parentage stood in the thrust of America’s political arena at a time that history will not soon forget. History books document our very own Marcus Mosiah Garvey, a Jamaica National Hero, as a courageous Jamaican that spread his wings beyond the boundaries of our beautiful island. Since then, so many Jamaicans like General Powell has proved that although Jamaicans are birthed from a tiny island, our dreams have taken us way beyond the scope of the world and across all walks of life.

One accomplished Jamaican, Wayne Hewitt, was highlighted in Black Enterprise Magazine, as one of America's successful businessmen. Mr. Hewitt is the General Manager of Petrochemicals and Global Sourcing at General Electric (GE). A recent headline in newspapers around the globe read, “Jamaican creates history/Earns three graduate degrees at one sitting.” It was just a few years ago that Saleem Josephs took on nay sayer faculty and advisors at Columbia University. He proved them wrong when he attempted and earned the almost impossibly difficult two dual degree options at the University. Saleem graduated with a Doctorate in Dental Surgery (DDS) with a Master's in Business Administration (MBA), and the DDS with a Master's in Public Health (MPH).

In 1998, Jamaican Jody-Anne Maxwell became the first non-American to win the Scripps Howard Spelling. That same year, "The Reggae Boyz" (Jamaica’s national football team) made Jamaica the first English-speaking Caribbean country to qualify for World Cup football. Not only did our football team make international history, we gained greater recognition when we presented the Winter Olympics with our very own Bobsled team. Talk about bold; we don’t even have snow in Jamaica.

Jamaicans excel in so many areas, and their accomplishments are published worldwide every single day making Jamaica a prominent little giant sitting in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.

Politicians: General Colin Powell, Marcus Garvey,
Actors: Delroy Lindo, Madge Sinclair, Grace Jones, Shari Belafonte, Sheryl Lee Ralph
Theatre: Oliver Samuels, Louise Bennett, Glen Campbell
Boxing: World Heavyweight Champion: Lennox Lewis
Musical Artists: Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, Busta Rhymes, Grace Jones, Harry Belafonte, Heavy D, Notorious BIG
Sports: Patrick Ewing, Donovan Bailey
Models: Naomi Campbell, Stacey McKenzie, Tyson Beckford

Every Jamaican or those of Jamaican heritage, mentioned above has made a considerable contribution to helping put Jamaica’s name on the map. It is no wonder the Honorable Lousie Bennett-Coverley sums us up as, "we little but wi tallawah!"

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Jamaica embracing solar power

published: Wednesday | November 8, 2006

Ross Sheil, Staff Reporter

Solar energy has taken a long time to gain popularity in Jamaica.

At last count. there were just 7,000 units on the island.

But recently, in the form of solar water heaters (SWH), interest has grown. SWHs are also zero-rated for GCT and import duties as part of Government policy to encourage renewable energy.

The Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) has just launched its latest awareness campaign featuring a mascot, 'Solar Man', targeting children, rather than adults whose indifference has frustrated past efforts.

Still a hobby

Currently, photovoltaic (PV) units, which convert sunlight into electricity, are expensive. They remain the reserve of the hobbyist who wants to be independent from the national grid and free from light bills. Or maybe that person just cares about the damage caused by burning imported oil to foreign-exchange earnings and the environment.

Making your house PV-self-sufficient could cost around $1 million, said Richard Osborne, support engineer for the Automatic Control Engineering company based in Mandeville. But even with these costs, he says, there has been increasing interest.

"They call all the time, I wouldn't say more business, but more enquiries," said Mr. Osborne.

Mr. Osbourne said SWHs are doing a much better trade, buoyed by loan packages offered by the National Housing Trust (NHT) and credit unions.

Assuming that you are using electricity to heat your water, you could save up to two thirds on your light bill.

He believes payback times are estimated at between two to three years. The NHT loan, with an available $100,000 repayable within five years, makes sound economic sense.

Public embracing solar

The NHT has now approved 107 such loans, including one to Guy Wiltshire from Baillieston district in Clarendon.

Mr. Wiltshire had just constructed a new housing unit for his family of four and, when looking to buy an electric water heater, went to his friend's hardware store.

Instead, the friend advised him to apply for the NHT loan and last month had a unit installed.

"One thing I can say is that we are enjoying it. It is working perfectly well and the company that installed the unit was very efficient. So far, it's beautiful," he said.

But for Mikael Oerbekke, president of the Jamaica Solar Energy Association and owner of Bluefields, Westmoreland-based Eco-Tec, those 107 loans are far from beautiful. He acknowledged, however, that more suppliers were entering the market.

More incentives needed

He said that, for PV to really take off, heavy tax incentives offered in countries like Barbados, Germany and the United States would be needed. Additionally, the current net-billing arrangement would need to be converted to net metering - JPS would pay the same rate that they charge unlike the lower rate currently offered.

There may be no bigger fillip for the industry than the draft national building code under which it is proposed that SWH units be mandatory. Some developers have pre-empted that.

Most notably, New Era Homes has installed units on all 950 houses at its Caribbean Estates development in Portmore, St. Catherine.

As New Era told The Gleaner, the decision was part of its policy to lower post-occupancy costs.

Local industry developing

The solar energy industry is in its early stage in Jamaica.

The PCJ is in "advanced stages" of negotiation with one foreign manufacturer to establish a factory here.

Standing in the car park at the Scientific Research Council's Hope Gardens, St. Andrew, headquarters is a machine resembling something out of an old science-fiction film.

Belonging to young St. Mary-based inventor, George 'Helicopter' Douglas, the machine aims to use fewer panels to generate more electricity than more standard PV. He is, however, reluctant to divulge the technology behind it.

Currently, it produces 110 watts, sufficient to power a fridge or any appliance that uses less than one kilowatt in voltage.

Mr. Douglas' ultimate aim is to produce 100,000 watts, enough to provide power to 100 rural housing units. But to do this, he will need financial assistance to purchase an expensive current inverter.

A/C technology

Meanwhile Eco-Tec is also looking into a new, albeit proven technology, solar cooling, which uses solar panels and heat exchange as an alternative to conventional air conditioning. The company is negotiating over two projects, said Mr. Oerbekke.

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