Commentary: High on Ebola, low on chikungunya

EbolaSince the recent outbreak of chikungunya in the Caribbean, four people with close connections who arrived back to into the US from the Caribbean region were hospitalized immediately and diagnosed with the virus. In addition, a few medical center employees communicated that they have seen an increase of patients from the region admitted to their medical facilities. I am not a medical doctor, nor I do I play one on the television; however, based on the recent reports chikungunya has seen a significant up-tick. On the other hand, an impression is being portrayed that it is under control on these shores. What  long term-effect it has on people  is not  known at this time.

The leaders must address this issue openly and develop a solid plan before this potential storm, where soon US and other well-traveled countries by the Caribbean people will begin to put the medical drone in the region. The drone concept is geared to destroy anything in its path when launched. However, could you blame the US if they cut travel, and begin to set a high alert and other screening of passengers from the region?

The recent death of Thomas Duncan from Ebola at age 42, who arrived in the US, has created an intensive focus on foreign travelers from many poor and developing countries. Although many believed Thomas Duncan’s death while in US care would inevitably send a statement to others to not come, many people are now wondering what the color of medicine is after two dedicated Caucasian doctors who worked in Liberia contracted the virus and recovered. One of the silent tones in the Caribbean addressing chikungunya, I believe, is not the politics of the virus, which is often seen elsewhere, for the region it is all economics.

1797349_origHere is why: Most of the region’s economic engine is tourism, and if any indication like what has been taken place in Liberia, it could be worse than the economic collapse in 2008 that left many still sneezing. I begin to wonder if this is a reason reports of this increasing tide seem a bit hushed up to protect the tourism industry while many locals are suffering silently. Any business model during a turbulent time is not only to ready, but willing to tell about structural problems. This approach not only builds credibility, but also shows a level of leadership that is lacking today on several fronts.

This is not a call for a reduction of travel to and from the region, or high-level screening at airports — that would be premature at this point. On the other hand, when the local government is slow to educate people, this could be a tornado building. Therefore, questions must be asked. Along these blue waters there lies an undercurrent overflowing its banks at any time, and the long-term impact could cripple many lives, both medically and economically.

Managing these issues takes compassion and resources. Recently I saw a Facebook picture post of what appeared to be a sick person from the region who became more victimized as he was scorned from an appearance of what is believed to be the symptoms of the Ebola virus. Furthermore, when it is reported that few local doctors are contemplating refusing to report to work in the event of an outbreak due to the lack of medical supplies and other resources that is troubling.

In today’s society, where billions are being spent on wars and politicians re-election, it is hard to fathom that lack of resource and awareness, combined with scorn, can leave many more suffering. I hope elective officials, medical staff, and CARICOM step up its mandate to educate people and seek help through awareness, because the potential problems such as what is occurring in Liberia and other West African countries, where perception is more dangerous that an actual virus.

These islands are unique and sometimes that can be their own downfall because the uniqueness creates a form of isolation. It further limits collaboration, as all seem to be competing for piece of the visitors pie. Therefore, competition mutes concerns, while marketing becomes“them and not us mentality.”

This virus is not just an island thing, or in Third World countries as one of my less informed friends stated, he is going to stop eat chicken, and stop going to places where lots of chicken are found.

-Ebola3-thumb response

Education is key: No, you cannot get it from eating chicken, or visiting places where chicken are in abundance. The name chikungunya derives from a word in Makonde language roughly meaning that which bends up reflecting the physique of a person disabled by the disease. Many reports have noted that it was first identified in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) in 1952

According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the first known autochthonous chikungunya cases in the Western Hemisphere occurred in October 2013 on the island of Saint Martin. By March 2014, travelers to other Caribbean islands carried it to: Dominica; the British territories Anguilla and British Virgin Islands; overseas departments of France — Guadeloupe, Martinique; and the constituent countries of the Netherlands Antilles, as well as other areas such as St Kitts and Nevis; the Dominican Republic; and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

An estimated 3.6 billion persons in 124 countries are at risk worldwide, such as the many who are exposed to dengue fever. Large outbreaks have also been seen Indian Ocean islands, India and South-East Asia, according to the Infection, Genetic, and Evolution Journal. It has also reached Asia and Europe, and North America has seen a few cases recently in Florida.

The National Institute of Health, World Health Organization, Public Health Department, and Infectious Disease, noted that chikungunya is a viral disease that is rarely fatal. It is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. The symptoms include high fever and headache with debilitating joint pains, swelling and stiffness of joints, muscular pain, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and rash that can last for several weeks. Normally within four to seven days as reported after been bitten, the symptoms appear. The mosquitoes become infected when they feed on an infected person during the viraemic period. Today, there are no specific antiviral treatments or vaccines available. However, it also has been reported that commonly used medications include ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, paracetamol, and aspirin. Although there have been reported deaths, the number of related deaths are extremely low compared to Ebola; however, one should not discount it as a storm that will pass soon.

These regions have to debunk that only certain medicine can cure this outbreak, while many studies have reported there are no known cures at this time for the symptoms. It is extremely important that people take serious preventive measures such as bite-proof long sleeves and trousers.  Purchasing  untested drugs in desperation from local street vendors might not be the best approach, especially for people with limited or no access to healthcare.  More information can be found published by many health organizations.

It can be extremely difficult to track down all mosquitoes and apply chemical spray on an entire region to cut concerns and especially in poor  and, rural areas with pool of slow-flowing water that is a breeding ground for mosquitoes and the lack of access to good health care only add to the problem.

Today many travelers are still waiting on a concrete government plan on how they are handling the issue in a coördinated effort. If there is one, please post.

Although some awareness has been posted, and the governments seem now to be taking steps to mitigate the potential problem, more needs to be done. Nevertheless, can we all be stratified? This is not to reduce  any attempts, as the lack of resources can make this a difficult task. Moreover, the chance of being robbed, shot or killed in some of these areas, is more than likely than contracting the virus.

Island PicAs the region continues to attract visitors, it is also important that these visitors receive a disclaimer of this undercurrent taking place. The leaders must make sure that all proactive measures are taken, and seek help and resources as needed, and stop putting on a good face on this issues with a relaxed attitude. I am still optimistic that all can come together and weather the storm. Moms and I have a ticket ready to land soon to take a break from the upcoming winter.


Commentary: Black is the new green

GEJ-at-US-Africa-summitOur Disconnect: Who could imagine the US making a tremendous pivot into Africa’s continent, expanding its economic reach?

Often when we conceptualize any US moves into the African region, poverty, AIDS, hunger, refugees, genocide and political turmoil, and recently Ebola, or, an online database where numbers of people turn to DNA as a tool to trace their roots.

Other times were during history classes on the migration during the transatlantic slave period from the mid 1600 to late 1800 between the US and the Caribbean to build their wealth.

When the US elected Barack Obama, the first African American president, in November 2008, many thought this historic event would have created a new model with unlimited collaboration both home and abroad, and prescriptions for equality, social and economic justice, and even racial harmony. Today, the world has gone Bokish.

Since 2009, the US economy has rebounded: US GDP Growth Rate.  However, the nation is more polarized by race, religion belief, ideology, and value woven into social and economic inequality as studies have shown. We have come a long way, but we are still far apart. This has also made it difficult for the president’s policies.

Unemployment rate among blacks in the US remains higher than whites, income disparity, and even incarceration rates. Furthermore, there are only limited bipartisan agreements in Congress on policies on reducing turmoil and economic stagnation.

Election really does matter,” as many political analysts have argued.

The Economic Arrival: Between August 3-6, 2014, President Obama gathered over 45 African leaders and other heads of state to Washington, DC, for what was called an unprecedented US-Africa Summit.

Many leaders had only seen the White House on television or from print media. Finally, they walked the well-kept lawn that was built by their own ancestors. In addition, the summit was not a payback gathering for slavery or a policy push for reparation.

They did not bring animal skins, lions, tigers, and other exotic tribal customs as some would believe when we talk about Africa. It was simply because business leaders from the US realized that “black is the new green”.

The Sub-Saharan African countries that were once occupied by wild animals, nomads, peasants, slaves, tribal groups in jungles and on hard clay dirt roads have become an economic power, not only in Africa, but an economic source for others in the region, and the US community has taken notice.

In a recent Harvard Business review by Jonathan Berman, Africa’s economy is growing faster than the economies of all other continents, and half of the countries are seeing an annual GDP growth of more than 6%. The work force by 2035 will reach about 135 million, and bigger than China, and about 25% of the world workforce by 2050. Today more than $40 billion has been invested. This region will hold about 60% of the world’s farmland, and it could become an agricultural powerhouse. In addition, Africa’s middle class in the next decade will be higher than India’s, including the amount of people who will be living in cities by 2030.

The Obama administration also announced a $14 billion in commitment from US businesses to invest in Africa during the August 2014 summit. It was noted that the West has barely scratched the economic powerhouse that is building there. The Administration also reported that GE, by 2018, will have $200 million in investments across Africa. Marriott also has made a $66 million commitment and IBM is to give technology services in the region.

Strategically, some US companies should be rebalancing their portfolios due to other region’s socio-economic turmoil. Today, many countries of Sub-Saharan Africa seem more stable while other regions seek rockets, war equipment, territories, committing genocide and ethnic cleansing, while this once troubled region is seeing a tremendous economic boom.

This pivot is not because the president is black, or when black people gather we believe it is for a candlelight vigil from some violence. However, Africa’s plants have sprouted with green and tremendous power.

President Obama’s poll numbers might have been low; however, strategically for the business community, for once, his Kenyan roots might be paying off despite a lukewarm relationship.

On the other hand, given Africa’s history, I wonder if this new-found respect is another exploitation of cheap labor disguised with modernized expensive business models, and planned dumping through one-sided trades to come. Nevertheless, despite doubts, failure to tap in to this market could be far worse than the Ebola virus for companies who fail to be ready for piece of this economic medicine.

Missed Opportunity: The US has to remove its borders, as Tom Freidman wrote in the “The World is Flat”, to stay competitive.

Recently Li Yang reported that China-Africa trade will tick up by 50 percent by 2015, and will head up to US$1.7 trillion in 2030.

Richard Cooper of Harvard University noted that the population of China would reach about of 1.4 billion people. Additionally, the Pacific region, including India and Japan, will also see such growth; and an estimated GDP over $2.75 trillion by the year 2025. Given its enormous potential growth, China and others in the region will have to find places to dump some their goods to support this projected growth. The Chinese are forging long-term alliances with decades-long contracts that will outlive all of us today.

China is one-step ahead of the US in Africa and many scholars have noticed their inroads. The global crisis did not seem to dent China’s appetite for investing in Africa in early 2009, Paulin Houanye and Sibao Shen noted. They are capitalizing on the logistics issues that are still a major hurdle in the region, and using every opportunity to build roads and power supplies.

China link China link2 China link3 China link4





Fewer than 300 miles from the US coastline, China has also been on a modern colonial conquest in the Caribbean. The Caribbean Basin is the last and most complex of our ancestral components, with African, Europeans, Latin Americans, and Native Americans, Indians and Asians. Many studies have also shown that, over the next 40 years, this region will be part of over 80% of the world’s global growth.

Countries such as Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, and Jamaica, and others have received community-based stadiums, roads, schools and hospitals and other monetary contributions from China. China’s quest is both economic and political. The flood of cheap cash flooding the region has seen significant devaluation of several currencies.

Portia 1 in ChinaThe ongoing economic struggles have forced some Caribbean leaders to lay out the red carpets like the white sand that glazes the beaches for an arranged marriage. However, we will have to see how this marriage evolves after the honeymoon period is over, when China’s real motive is revealed.

Many other races in US support ancestral links. Even in controversial geo-political issues, despite never having visited, lived in or could survive in their parents’ homelands, they have undivided support.

I thought about African American and Caribbean communities that are forever linked by the slave ships, but it seems we are forgotten in Africa’s new paradigm shift with an “ancestral gap.” I am also aware our transportation ride to the US shores was not first class. I am not implying that we all should pack our bags and leave. Most of us could not survive living in the region. There are also recent debates if African Americans should just be called blacks such as in Britain, Canada, and the Caribbean. In some parts of Africa it can be refreshing not be reminded of one’s skin color.

Moreover, who would like to revisit a painful past that we are reminded of daily by polarization, intolerance, hate, isolation through economic deprivation in some of our communities? Our own gap is often simply a subconscious glimpse of what had been part of our history. As a result, we stay detached because of the known, and the unknowns.

Refocusing: This new African paradigm shift is not only derived from commerce, investment, share interests, trade. Equally importantly, our leaders have to recognize that geo-political turmoil is erupting in several other places. These issues cannot be solved with drones, but investing in the next generation.

It is reported that half of the world’s youth population in the next two decades will be living on the African continent. This is a Mecca that cannot be ignored and especially for global safety. Many of today youths are holding other nations accountable for own prosperity.

Today, we are seeing more strategic alliances, not only for the best talents to build the next energy system to reduce fossil fuels consumptions, or the next Microsoft, but in ideologies rooted in violence based on religious beliefs, exploitation, violence, race, color grouping, place and the fight for economic mobility.

This stratification is not good for businesses because, to sustain growth, an economy needs everyone. The idea of calling one group an ethnic minority soon has to be eliminated, like the “N” word in public.

Today it seems some too are pre-occupied with priorities that change instantaneously like Twitter posts and fail to recognize opportunities.

Our leaders seem concerned about their polls numbers and not economic governance; others are worried if Jay-Z and Beyoncé are splitting up; or if reversing a 400-year-old colonial law that prohibits homosexuality in the Caribbean region is bad for humanity.

Neither the US nor the Caribbean can wait until an Ebola virus hits, and then elevate the status to an epidemic because certain groups are affected while the economic cancer has killed for decades. Socio-economic needs cannot be tested on a few in disguise; it has to be collaborated in advance.

I hope these beautiful highways and bridges being built will not be used by wild animals after the minerals and other products have been extracted from the soil.

MARCUS GARVEYMarcus Garvey’s Pan-Africanism, decades later, seems to be on the horizon. He believed that unification of Africans would be vital for long-term economic prosperity. Had he lived today, despite his controversies, he could be an ambassador to the region.

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Commentary: Have you been polled lately?

Block Party PhillyOpinion polls mean nothing to most of us until an election season. They have been around for over 150 years in the US. For example, in 1936, during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election, the polls targeted citizens from telephone books and car registrations. It was believed that this demographic were well-off Republicans, and the results favoured the other candidates. In fact, President Roosevelt won. Today, several polls have mistakenly predicted elections outcomes.The problem with most of our opinion polls today is that they seem to be skewed towards a certain demographic. They are subjective and in disguise, driving more divide and isolation by race and social economic status. However, not all polls are bad when designed properly.

Many have created major paradigm shifts and blueprints for leaders.It has enabled some organizations to change poor practices to where a new bus route ends, and how many police officers are placed in some communities, to where new schools are built. Polls have played a role in ending wars to building new bridges. Today, some of our polls seem poorly designed, both local and global, to further create a society of them vs. us, which might satisfy our short term taste, but we will remain hungry for another 100 years to reverse a bad appetite to form a better union. 

Governing with polls is nothing new. Most politicians often use them to differentiate themselves as many have reported. In May 1939, a Gallup poll put the question: “Are you in favor of Mr. Winston Churchill being invited to join the Cabinet?” It was reported that about 56% agreed, and the rest is history as to his leadership.However, when polls are being used as roadblocks to economic growth and stratification dominated by specific segmented opinions, it is problematic.

Pollsters are viewed as highly intelligent people and groups. However, I wonder if they too doubt their own hypotheses, but refuse to reject them as the outcome agenda is more important than the numbers themselves.  Since the 1990s scholars have reported that polling has become very competitive, as more companies that are private are conducting polls today. It is a very lucrative business for any side of the political spectrum.

Despite these companies, “Have you been polled today?” Alternatively, would it have made any difference since we do not even trust each other? Far too often, the sub-sets and significant areas of our society are not reflected in the last numbers. As a result, we are less gullible even when information can be vital.Today anti-sentiments force most of us to wonder if certain zip codes, boroughs, parishes, races, cultures, and economic status are pre-requisites to be polled. In the end, we are left more isolated with more simple questions, rooted in mere divided reflections.

'Sorry, sir, but we don't have a category for that.'Slowly it seem polling has begun to diminish its own legitimacy and, if technology can track what medication families are prescribed to what they eat and buy,  and there is no excuse for what is believed to be only the gated community to have their opinions heard and often they do not share the same views.

Several telephone numbers and home addresses have been the same, and the bills are still being paid. These families have not moved, only less seen from the trees that are now overgrown once planted by their parents, and most of their friends and children are teachers, police officers, business, and civic leaders now paying new mortgages from an upgrade from the homes passed down from immigrants’ parents woven in the melting pot.

The only issue I believe could have barred several poor communities from being polled was the monopoly a local telephone company had on the community. After it was broken up, many left for a better price. My family realized that for over five years we rented a telephone that was priced at about $15. Imagine the huge savings over time and our frustration was heard loudly.

These overlooked communities are modernized and tucked away behind beautiful well-kept trees planted 40-50 years ago, as second and third generation still called home where many were not allowed to park in certain areas while paying rent by the head count each night, are now homeowners. Sure, some of the roads have not been paved in a few years, and faces are more tanned and not from the sun. However, they too have sons, uncles, fathers who have fought for the freedom most of us enjoy today.

Polled yet PicPolls often draw attention, but is it a true reflection of our young and urban people, especially politically driven polls that should have included popular culture, and demographics engagement? Today, it seems the questions being asked are precursors embedded to create isolation, while others gain from our exodus from the process. This is not because we are uniformed; simply frustrated with pundits’ quests to expand conflicts by creating toxicity in their communities and not eliminating the poisons.

New technology has created new graphs but, beneath the coded colours, it is not much different from a few Third World countries’ polls where local politicians themselves conduct the polls. The only samples are cash, liquor, and road projects awarded to supporters. In the end, elections are measured by the amount of people who came out for cash that ensures the minister locked up his constituency by any means necessary. It seems our modernized data are not much different, only this time technology is the distribution chain.


Tony Lee Photo: Black loosing support For Obama 2013

Polled or Polarized: Politically motivated polls seem no longer to serve as a talking point and for rigorous debate. They are being used as a weapon that has minimized progress. It now represents segment-coded words, racial epithets, and other languages that target sub-groups.

Even when the polls are generally upbeat, many in my community remain skeptical. Polls are like the “Boy Who Cried Wolf.” After several missed calls, finally, when the wolves arrived, it was often too late. We left because we have been fooled too many times, and are now rebuilding simply because we are still somewhat leery of the same stories.

Often the interpretations we brought to these numbers are different. Maybe because our own sampling can be too predictable because of our behaviour and struggle. Therefore, the initiative tends to be grouped into sublet isolated by codes. However, as these pollsters and interests groups relegate, they must recognize most of us have also sacrificed families in wars, stayed committed during slow economic times, and have made other significant contributions to the wealth of the nation.

Today, few of us attend local community meetings of concern, from where to build an offender re-entry center or mall, or about immigration issues, because polarization has already dictated decisions. Nevertheless, we had to cope and move on.

As I travel across several regions, communities are being built with themes that represent other nations left decades ago. Many residents seem to be struggling with the melting pot concept. The only times we see them on Main Street from isolation are a cultural event, and during a popular world game such as the World Cup every four years, when their ancestors’ flags drape their homes and cars: More than a game

These sub-groups now have their own schools, where over 90% still practice their parents’ customs. No, they are not terrorists, they are educated, and in high demand and part of the new world organization, but they are more divided and isolated, watching pundits exploit certain groups, which justifies their own isolation in a reversal of the melting pot. We only cross paths at the local department of motor vehicles while our leaders fight over poll numbers.

Any numbers that solve one side of the equation normally has to isolate the other. These polls might have short-term political success. However, consistently forcing a division in our society could overlook a great leader who went underground from poor governance driven by subjective and isolation polls.

Unemployment chartOne recent poll stated that President Obama is the worst since World War II. Many were quick to argue that it has little to do with race. If you live outside theB82mI3lCUAAbKth political spectrum, and just happen to tune in, one might believe President Barack Obama, compared to others before him, has an outside marital affair, the unemployment rate is now 10.9%, five years after he took office, he sold arms to Iran, started two wars, gotten a personal check for freeing the terrorist from GITMO, selected by the Supreme Court to a second term, and zero jobs were created under his leadership. Sure, he has not been perfect, but name one president without some issues. I have met many who disagrees with this administration policies, but never been polled on that block.

What demographic was polled and question were asked? Many in the main community have seen far more economic turmoil, both local and global, including scandals, they have better numbers, and this is why we tend simply to call it a null hypothesis.

Although one cannot close that all polls conducted are racially motivated, especially surrounding the first African American president, where some of our discourse already had him down 20 points just by his mere colour, while others would like to erase his history.

When variations exist with Obama’s policies, we respectfully disagree, nor do many of us have a poster of him like a teenager in love with a rock star. However, preservation of our history has to be solid. It ensures that the next generations have a sense of where we were. What good is history if it continues to repeat itself? Therefore, we must reject polarization and skewed agendas and begin to create the polls we deserve.

Metropolitan areas: New  front line of the demographic change:

Metropolitan areas: New front line of the demographic change:

What would be the last poll numbers for a family or person in war torn areas fighting over land, religious belief, or missing and exploited children and the homeless who are now under a bridge that connects working class people to the nation’s capital.

Our doubts are always good in a democratic system. It allows us to continue looking for the correct answers. If you were to ask who killed John F. Kennedy, Dr. King many perhaps still believe someone other than the person charged,  and especially,  Lee Harvey Oswald 50 years later on Kennedy’s death

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Commentary: World Cup Soccer, more than a game (Brazil)

More than a game: By D.R. Miller

World Cup Soccer

(AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Global Colours: Every four years, millions of fans gather in person at watch parties in public parks and bars to see the best of the best players face off for bragging rights until another four years. This remarkable event never seems to be far from controversy wherever it is being played. These controversies range from soccer or football, corruptions and the socio-economic responsibility it should take on in our society.

Despite the logistics, since the 2014 games begun, the Amazon colors have taken over our television, iPhones, smartphones, and iPads like a rainbow. However, beneath it all, local residents are crying for a new economic canvas to modernize and move poor people to better standard of living. They are the ones being left out of the prints. After the final whistle has blown, they too will be still asking economic referees for a penalty that was not given on a foul play.

Fifa protect2

Credit Photo: Reuters

The poor socio-economic issues surrounding these games often erupt in protests. The games go on, but the turmoil lingers, blocks from where the games are being played. In the end, these issues never left, as they will re-emerge like the sea rushing back to the shores to recreate the sand paths that were eroded by rich footprints left the day before.

Football is a global game that originated in England, but later called soccer in the US. The game unites people. Relatively, it is not expensive to start a game. However, the gap between the rich and the poor is further than the locations where these games are being played, while the poverty is closer than the two goal posts.

Brazil protest

Photo: Credit Credit Forbes

The Brazilian local economy problems have been overlooked,” several protesters argued. It appears this colour is seldom beamed to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, Brazilians are now under the microscope. The carefully orchestrated images that emerge from the sideline will have a lasting effect.

The World Cup is bigger than its location, despite heartaches, especially from the early departure by England, Italy and Australia. However, the stage is still where players and supporters use the event to highlight their countries, send statements, and reconnect with compatriots who are still club rivals. This is like a family reunion before they head back to business.

Most importantly, lifelong friendships are formed, even between countries without diplomatic ties and where cultural divides are rooted in political turmoil.

Yes! This is the real “World Champion Series,” and the true world champions are crowned after eight weeks.

The Economics: These games are being led under the International Association Federation of Football (FIFA). It is a billion-dollar industry, and throughout this region, the games are ubiquitous. Forbes magazine has reported that (FIFA) will generate about $4 billion in revenue. However, more needs to be done to promote social programs to cut poverty and not the appearance of forcing local economies to stretch their budgets to accommodate its demands.

In preparation of the 2014 World Cup, an estimated cost of up to US$11 billion was spent — while the Brazilian economy remains stagnant. However, the government has predicted that it will be a net positive for the overall economy, stemming from event-related services among several industries.

world cupWherever FIFA places its goal posts, it is always under the microscope. Recently published in a British magazine, the organization is being investigated on corruption and bribes related to the Qatar 2022 bid. Nevertheless, FIFA always manages to execute successful events. The game between the US and Portugal had one of the highest ratings, upward of 21 million. Imagine if these fans force FIFA to make sure some economic balance where it places the next goal posts.

FIFA’s operation is not much different from the American National Football League (NFL). Inside these games, recruitment is alive. This is where wealthy club managers scope every play, searching for the next star and the face of new marketing global campaigns.

BrazilBrazil is not alone in this new paradigm shift, as the media outlets would have liked us to believe. In the US, billions have also been spent on NFL stadiums and baseball parks, funded with taxpayers’ money. In some cases, poor neighbours are also uprooted; residents are priced out of the real estate market, and relocated for the perfect camera shots. Often these public investments are unsuccessful. The fans are gone and games are empty.



Economic gentrification has taken place for over a decade in other areas like China, Caribbean and Europe.Sure, these new areas will attract visitors in the long-run, but one cannot ignore the fact that, a few blocks down the street, across from these new complexes lie drug-infested housing projects, prostitution, sexual violence, and even exploitation of children, as many wait for a foul ball to exit the stadiums to be noticed.

Brazil-WC2014 Brazil WC

The socio-economic argument that surrounds the World Cup is nothing new. In 2010, South Africa went through the same issues on how much its own government spent that could have been used to move people out of poverty.

Soccer, or football, has generated several global stars, and has moved families out of poverty. Some of their stories are similar to some players of the NFL, National Basketball Association (NBA), baseball and many other professional sports. In some areas, the millions generated from players who left slums (ghettos) seldom trickle down to communities where it all started.


The other Brazil

Game Lessons: With success should come responsibility, and despite the Beautiful Game that has broken down barriers, some players still face discrimination. Some are called niggers, monkey and banana being used as symbol a games by some fans. Such as gentrification, our society has been increasingly shifting as it is becoming more diverse and that sometimes causes tension

FIFA should know how to combat these issues. It has been around since 1904 and now has over 300,000 clubs and over 240 million players around the world.

The game represents a much wider reach far beyond 90 minutes on the field. It is an extension of the communities, economics, discipline teamwork, acceptance, talent optimization and diplomacy, even between nations with political tensions.

As a young man, a soccer/football field and now “pitch” as it is called by some was critical to stay off the streets after school. Although not all young players became stars, the friendships gained, and lessons learned lasted a lifetime.

Often I join a few new fans at the local sport bars who seem intrigued with long pauses when they realize a few team’s starting 11 such as the French, Germans, the Italians have black players, and some are Muslims. It is more than a game and awareness is key. Thirty years later since I had to navigate drug and crime infested areas to reach a local field, I wondered if our own socio-economic polarization on this side of town has reduced some of our imagination. Perhaps our own major league should do more.

Many now are aware that the Iranians plays soccer and not everything is about nuclear weapons and tension with the Israelis. Even the Israelis have a solid team. On the Latin side of town, some players are of African descent, with similarities as an NFL player and they too are extremely rich and more famous.

(AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Responsibility: FIFA is excellent at managing the global operation. However, as our society becomes more diverse, isolated by ideology and personal interests, it will need more than building stadiums. Equality, discrimination, and a platform for players to speak when issues threaten to reduce the next generation of players.

This 2014 World Cup has been a homecoming for many South American teams, and celebrations have been tremendous. However, there is a dark side that is lurking in some countries just north of these games off the Atlantic Ocean, thousands of children who have fled their countries where a few dominating stars call home.

Border kids(1)Most of these children without their parents are under age 10 and now in detention camps at the US border. Up to 90,000 came from Honduras, Colombia and Guatemala as reported. These young people fled to escape sexual violence and other inhumane treatment stemming from crime. No one will know the long-term physiological impact but it can be devastating, as studies have shown.  Some of the children I believe have left posters of favourite players in the game today. However, it seems their stories have gone unnoticed until the final whistle has been blown. These players have to step up, as most of the atrocities are a few blocks from their own stadiums.

Mario B(1)

Italian star Mario Balotelli

The football organizations and its players cannot be the world police but with success and global appeal comes responsibility to speak in humanitarian crisis. Billions are being spent to create perfect pictures while others seek the next Latin star to fill their stadiums from ticket sales.

Sadly, some are outside the gated walls looking to take the dangerous trip north, while other pitches are filled with toxins and the goal posts are two empty containers with lead. Maybe revenue generated can be used to at least give awareness to this problem.

Recently, Italian star Mario Balotelli spoke up after he faced racial slurs from a few fans and more players have to do the same.
Extra Minutes: These extra minutes added to games can generate more revenue for FIFA. However, in a few weeks, the cameras will be gone; and well-dressed immigrant men and women from the television networks with few selected feel-good stories, while surrounded with security as if they are in a war zone, will leave town.

When the final whistle is blown, some of the players will have to pass through their poor towns and cities plagued with violence. Before FIFA canvasses the next venue, it should not only seek ways on how to increase its own balance sheet. It must make sure the community economic impact benefits all, regardless of colour, class, race, and socio-economic status, because the next 100 years can only be beautiful if it remains more than a game.

Commentary: The elephant is still in the room

The elephant is still in the room

DSC06573Often when one looks at the Caribbean region from outside, only a few things come to mind: (1) the warmth of the people; (2) the blue waters; and (3) most of those who visit from other industrial countries have no idea that the region still has social and cultural issues hidden under the warm welcome.

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P.M. Portia Simpson-Miller

Despite upward mobility and economic growth women have made since the late Eugenia Charles became the first and only female prime minister of Dominica from 1980 to 1995, today, women are still under-represented in this region. There are now a couple of top positions held by women: Kamla Persad-Bissessar, prime minster of Trinidad and Tobago, and Portia Simpson-Miller, prime minister of Jamaica. More needs to be done, and if your name not listed, you know who you are. To some of these male leaders who are stuck in past: let us face it. The generation gap often creates tensions.


P.M. Eugenia Charles

While more women hold advanced degrees, they earn less for same work performed by men. Although some progress has been made where a few higher offices held are women, they constantly face tremendous resistance. Often the only reason(s) their economic policies are blocked or not taken seriously both by some government leaders and by the community are simple: that they are women.


P.M. Kamla Persad-Bissessar

The male chauvinism mindset instilled from birth continues to be passed on for generations in the region. The expectation is that she should be at home cooking and ensuring kids are clean and well fed is now by choice, and that can be hard to fathom in a male dominated circle. Yielding this treasured power to women even when it is for the greater good of the society is very difficult despite modernization for several decades.

Additionally, about 57 percent of all college degrees awarded were to women in recent years. It represents about six in every ten college degrees earned today are by women. Furthermore, since January 2013, women lead some of US largest weapon makers: Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and BAE Systems.

Equally important, despite those significant upward-mobility and accomplishments in areas such as government, research and development, media, medicine, sports, and academia, recent studies have shown there is an increase in the women prison population. It is my hope, as more women leaders take offices, and these issues can be addressed going forward, to reverse the negative side of the statistics.

A few weeks ago, Senator Ruel Reid of the Jamaican Parliament delivered what I believe was an excellent speech with a broad appeal beyond the beach of Jamaica. He called for “Rebuilding Jamaica,” across several sectors. However, the senator also argued that families should consider only two children as a part of an economic growth plan.

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Jeddah Marriott no women sign

The concept of a repressive system of government lurking in one’s bedroom to dictate how many children one should have plays into a structured ideology, and does not quantify a sound economic plan to move forward. Furthermore, this system of government is not China, who recently eased its 34-year restriction on population growth from one to two children. According to the Population Research Institute, about 25 million men in China cannot find brides because there is a shortage of women.

The region’s population numbers and the size of the countries are not the only real barriers to growth, but also an intangible that has to change. It is important not to ignore the colourless statue still lurking in these regions: “Stratification.” A few leaders who graze the stages in front of the cameras are not always the perfect picture they paint when the lights go off in moving the region ahead as one body.

Whitenicious-handMany writers have talked about one’s colour and its importance in the region for decades. The stratification and the willingness to be accepted saw an explosion in bleaching cream. This product, as noted, should give the appearance of lighter skin tone than one’s actual skin pigmentation. However, this is a topic where a dermatologist will better to explain the downside to this trend.

Professor Oliver Mills talked about “liberation of our minds from mental slavery.” As noted, often these traits can be traced back to the old colonial ideology, slavery, and oppression where only a few rule the greatest. Several locals are being priced-out of affording basic food supplies, this trend cuts across all colours, and when these barriers continue to divide it creates a sociological stagnation and hinders economic mobility.

As society evolves, most new generations have a total different outlook on these social barriers, and are willing to move forward, but past ideology still woven into the political system makes it more difficult to form alliances. Sure, society often can learn from older leaders, however, sometime one has to yield power or simply give it up.

It is not helpful to sit on the cyber crime committee, but cannot save a document in Microsoft Word. Maybe term limits in Parliament could help change some of these perceptions, as it will welcome new ideas if such law can become a reality.

Solidarity is alPicture1ways important to one’s country. Moreover, it gives one sense of belonging, but when it promotes separation, it can be very difficult to move all forward. Each island is unique in its own way. The Caribbean is not alone in wanting to be different despite similar history. For example, in the US, northern and southern states tend to have different views on several socio-economic agendas, and it often dictates who gets elected into office, or what political agenda is important.

1thThe history of seeking separation too has played a role in the American Civil War, fought between states in 1861. Some still argue that it was to free the stronghold on slavery in the South while others believed that it was a separation between the North and South. However, the tension sometimes between each other will not amount to civil wars in the Caribbean, but limits cross-border travel, investments that could expand tourism, imports, and exports that could give to a better social agenda, crime control.

The mindset that its population size and notoriety are reasons to isolate and continue to classify some as small islands can be problematic and, therefore, cut its importance in the long-run to connect. Every island has a graph on the economic scale. Too often, one sees themselves as different and, yes, nothing is wrong with that. Every person has a certain amount of biases. However, when one fails to accept and address biases, and uses them as a determinant factor, they can become a roadblock in moving forward.

The word “independence” tells us that one has to do what is best for their growth engine. However, when they compete where it is not necessary and ignore the bigger picture through collaboration to move the next generation send, the only outcome is that someone loses. However, to reach a reduction in high unemployment rates, this region has to grow more than what has been forecast to lift the lower class out of poverty.

spreadpeacesmMoving   forward is critical and to make sure equality for all to cut gaps between haves vs. the have-nots should be a universal mission. These regions were once the envy of colonial powers. The English, Dutch and French, and the US were once colonial rivals in this region. St Lucia, Barbados, and Jamaica, as well as Bermuda in the Atlantic were all economically important Caribbean islands. Caribbean sea-lanes as it was called were of strategic significance as early as the 17th century before the slaves arrived. They should get back to that essence of belonging.

What will change you might ask in this year? Answer: not much: There will be another election in this region in several months and leader’s re-election signs will be posted to map their next re-election path. If you are not careful and lose track, every four to five years, another proposal will emerge. The values we place on governance, whether we agree or disagree, at some point we are responsible to create a better future for the next generation. This is why it is important to work together.

The region must ask itself: “What happened to an economic inequality agenda; victim’s rights, women rights, gay rights, comprehensive educational policy to lower the cost of education, the offender population, homelessness and the prison system reform. In addition, what resources are there to help others with less hope stemming from long periods of incarceration, conflicts, and resources for rehabilitation?

Although government is not the solution to some of the social problems the islands face today, it has a responsibility to make sure that basic safety is paramount, including policies that are fundamentally geared to moving people forward and especially young people who have more student loan debts than opportunities.

Homeless2Far too often, segments of that society who fall on hard times are left out. Some are labeled “lunatics” because recently he or she has been seen in the same clothing for a few days. It appears this often ignores what happened. Did this person witness a crime, and needed an outlet to cope? Alternatively, were she and her family just being physically, sexually, verbally abused and have no one to talk to so she ended up in the street, and later raped by the same [lunatic] the system has ignored. If these people are woven back into society, the economic growth will continue. A country cannot sell only the white sand, and ignore the ones that washed away.

These issues go beyond pure numbers in any class. Nothing will immediately stop the rate of teen pregnancy, the level of care that only financial status dictates, automobile accidents, and other crimes from being committed each day on the streets. One in four women will become a victim of some sexual violence, and the prison sizes will not drastically be reduced.

The region has to move from the mindset where some are often measured by race, culture, and economic status. Not everyone will be a senator, or member of parliament, a doctor, and attorney, or the chief of police. The trash needs to be picked up, and the farmer to make sure you have the supplies for a good meal. However, structural ideology often divides us by race, culture, sex, and socioeconomic status. Far too often, these labels have dictated one’s outcome in the criminal justice system or the education they receive.

It is more critical that my [Generation X] balances the appetite for the latest gadgets searching and the next best thing and miss what has taken place next door. We do not talk as much as we once did; we rather stay wired to the next headlines a million miles away. Most of the local media seem to be more on entertainment than what is actually going on in the local region. I am not implying that some are not responsible; however, we should not isolate ourselves but we need a balance and to stay informed.

Picture4.One of the biggest threats to this region is not its location that has a hurricane hovering over it or an outbreak of disease on local crops. It is simple the lack of sound economic policies, and collaboration, and moving from that they vs. us mentality as several writers have discussed before.

Although economic development is critical to sustain the quality of life, however, all aspects of the community from the media to the local police department, schoolteachers, religious leaders, Rastafarian community, to the minimum wage workers and investment bankers should all have a voice at the table because too often the barriers to success in the region far outweigh the opportunities.