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4 rescued from Thai cave in risky operation; 9 remain inside

Associated Press

MAE SAI, Thailand (AP) — Expert divers Sunday rescued four of 12 boys from a flooded cave in northern Thailand where they were trapped with their soccer coach for more than two weeks, as a dangerous and complicated plan unfolded amid heavy rain and the threat of rising water underground.

Eight of boys and the coach remained inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex as authorities paused the international effort until Monday to replenish air tanks along the treacherous exit route.

But the success of the initial evacuation raised hopes that all will be out soon, although officials said could it take up to four days to complete.

“The operation went much better than expected,” said Chiang Rai acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn, who is overseeing the mission.

He told reporters that four boys were brought out and taken to the hospital in the town of Chiang Rai, the provincial capital, for evaluation, and the next phase of the operation will resume after about 10-20 hours.

The names of the rescued boys were not released.

His announcement, at a news conference more than an hour after helicopters and ambulances were seen rushing from the cave area, drew cheers and applause.

Narongsak had dubbed Sunday to be “D-day” as the complicated effort was launched in the morning.

He said 13 foreign divers and five Thai navy SEALs were taking part in the key leg of the rescue: taking the boys from where they have been sheltering and through dark, tight and twisting passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents.

Two divers were to accompany each of the boys, all of whom have been learning to dive only since July 2, when the first searchers found them.

Cave rescue experts consider an underwater escape to be a last resort, especially with people untrained in diving.

But Narongsak said earlier that mild weather and falling water levels in recent days had created optimal conditions for an underwater evacuation. Those conditions won’t last if the rain resumes, he said.

After the four boys were removed from the cave, heavy rain started falling.

Authorities have said the monsoons could cause water to rise in the cave. That along with dwindling oxygen levels, added to the urgency of getting the team out. Earlier efforts to pump water out of the cave have been set back by heavy downpours.

Narongsak said Saturday that experts told him new rain could shrink the unflooded space where the boys are sheltering to just 10 square meters (108 square feet).

The next phase of the operation would start Monday after rescue teams replenish the supply of oxygen tanks along the route to ensure the safety of the journey, which takes several hours.

On Sunday night, Thai navy SEALs posted a celebratory note on their Facebook page, saying: “Have sweet dreams everyone. Good night. Hooyah.”

The boys and their coach, whose team is known as the Wild Boars, became stranded when they were exploring the cave after a practice game on June 23.

Monsoon flooding cut off their escape route and prevented rescuers from finding them for almost 10 days.

The ordeal has riveted Thailand and captured the world’s attention. The search and rescue operation has involved dozens of international experts and rescuers, including a U.S. military team.

President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday: “The U.S. is working very closely with the Government of Thailand to help get all of the children out of the cave and to safety. Very brave and talented people!”

To ensure a clear path for getting evacuees to the hospital and to safeguard their privacy, authorities ordered the media to move away from the cave before the boys came out.

The boys sounded calm and reassuring in handwritten notes to their families that were made public Saturday. The notes were sent out with divers who made an 11-hour, back-and-forth journey.

One of the boys, identified as Tun, wrote: “Mom and Dad, please don’t worry, I am fine. I’ve told Yod to get ready to take me out for fried chicken. With love.”

“Don’t be worried,” wrote another boy, Mick. “I miss everyone. Grandpa, Uncle, Mom, Dad and siblings, I love you all. I’m happy being here inside, the navy SEALS have taken good care. Love you all.”

One particularly touching note from another boy said: “I’m doing fine, but the air is a little cold, but don’t worry. Although, don’t forget to set up my birthday party.”

In a letter of his own, coach Ekapol Chanthawong apologized to the boys’ parents for the ordeal.

“To the parents of all the kids, right now the kids are all fine, the crew are taking good care. I promise I will care for the kids as best as possible. I want to say thanks for all the support and I want to apologize to the parents,” he wrote.

One of two ambulances leave the cave in northern Thailand hours after operation began to rescue the trapped youth soccer players and their coach, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand, Sunday, July 8, 2018. Chiang Rai province acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn, who is heading the operation, said earlier Sunday that 13 foreign and five Thai divers were taking part in the rescue and two divers will accompany each boy as they’re gradually extracted. He said the operation began at 10 a.m., and it will take at least 11 hours for the first person to be taken out of the cave. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
One of two ambulances leave the cave in northern Thailand hours after operation began to rescue the trapped youth soccer players and their coach, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand, Sunday, July 8, 2018. Chiang Rai province acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn, who is heading the operation, said earlier Sunday that 13 foreign and five Thai divers were taking part in the rescue and two divers will accompany each boy as they’re gradually extracted. He said the operation began at 10 a.m., and it will take at least 11 hours for the first person to be taken out of the cave. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Thai policemen stand guard near a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Australian Federal Police and Defense Force personnel arrive near a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Chiang Rai province acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn, who is leading the ongoing rescue operation of the soccer team and coach trapped in a flooded cave, talks to media during a press conference in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand, Sunday, July 8, 2018. Narongsak said the operation is going “better than expected.” (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Australian Federal Police and Defense Force personnel arrive near a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Rescuer arrive near cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Thai police stand guard near a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this image made from video, Chiang Rai acting Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn speaks to the media during a briefing on the cave rescue plans in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Narongsak says the operation to bring out 12 schoolboys and their soccer coach from deep inside a cave where they have been trapped for two weeks has begun. (AP Photo)
Thai policemen stand guard near a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Rescuer working near a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Australian Federal Police and Defense Force personnel arrive near a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Rescuer arrive near cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Australian Federal Police and Defense Force personnel arrive near a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Media staff leave the area around the entrance of the cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped for two weeks, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities asked media to leave the area, fueling speculation on Sunday morning that a rescue mission could be imminent. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Media staff leave the area around the entrance of the cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped for two weeks, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities asked media to leave the area, fueling speculation on Sunday morning that a rescue mission could be imminent. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Media staff prepare to leave the area around the entrance of the cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped for two weeks, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand Sunday, July 8, 2018. Thai authorities asked media to leave the area, fueling speculation on Sunday morning that a rescue mission could be imminent. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this undated photo released by Royal Thai Navy on Saturday, July 7, 2018, Thai rescue team members walk inside a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand. The local governor in charge of the mission to rescue them said Saturday that cooperating weather and falling water levels over the last few days had created appropriate conditions for evacuation, but that they won’t last if it rains again. (Royal Thai Navy via AP)
In this undated photo released by Royal Thai Navy on Saturday, July 7, 2018, Thai rescue team members walk inside a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand. The local governor in charge of the mission to rescue them said Saturday that cooperating weather and falling water levels over the last few days had created appropriate conditions for evacuation, but that they won’t last if it rains again. (Royal Thai Navy via AP)

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America is a nation of narcissists, according to two new studies

America is a nation of narcissists, according to two new studies

 

July 3

Is America a narcissistic country?

On a day when America gathers together to celebrate itself, this seems a fair question. The answer is a resounding yes, according to new research — but some states are more narcissistic than others.

In a study published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers asked more than 2,800 residents how much their home state contributed to the history of the United States.

Residents of Delaware believed on average that their state helped create 33 percent of the nation’s history. Georgians believed their state played almost as central a role, with 28 percent. Texans and Californians — two states famous for their braggadocio — ranked themselves at 21 and 22 percent, which was massive but nowhere near Virginia’s 41 percent and Massachusetts’s 35 percent.

“The question we asked is crazy in one sense, because there’s no correct answer, but it told us a lot about people and what they believe about themselves,” said Henry L. Roediger III, a psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis.

What was universal was the self-aggrandizing view people have when it comes to their own states — a kind of communal selective memory and self-importance that psychologists are just beginning to study and have dubbed “collective narcissism.”

Even folks in state like Kansas and Wyoming — which weren’t part of the original 13 colonies or historical powerhouses — had outsize opinions of their role in American history.


How residents ranked the percentage their home state contributed to all of U.S. history. (Psychological Science)

When researchers added up the average estimations from each state, it equaled a whopping 907 percent. “We thought the numbers would be high, but not this high,” said Roediger, who studies memory theory.

He and the other researchers then had some participants first take a history quiz that emphasized the breadth of American history and the fact that there are 50 states. “We thought maybe if people had their face rubbed into U.S. history it would change the results,” Roediger said. “We thought they would say to themselves, ‘Hmm, none of this happened in Wyoming.’”

The prerequisite quiz had no effect at all.

To create something they call a “Narcissism Index,” the researchers compared the estimations by home state residents to how other people around the country ranked a state. Virginia and Delaware led the nation with the highest levels of collective narcissism, according to their index. New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia and New Jersey followed close behind.


Researchers created a Narcissism Index by comparing how residents rated their home state’s historical importance compared with nonresidents’ rankings. The only outlier was Washington state, which researchers believed was caused by people’s confusion with Washington, D.C. (Psychological Science)

The researchers involved in the state-by-state study attribute the seeming narcissistic behavior of residents to a few factors: that state history is often drilled into residents in school, that people are bad at math when it comes to estimating with small numbers, and a psychological tendency in people to think of themselves as better than average and to associate themselves with successful groups.

In a second study also published last month, some of the same researchers applied this approach on a global scale, asking residents in 35 countries how much their nation contributed to world history.

The results showed an even stronger phenomenon of collective narcissism at play. With 195 countries in the world, residents in every country surveyed had astronomically high estimations of their role in world history.

Even the residents in the lowest-ranked country, famously neutral Switzerland, believed on average that their nation contributed 11.3 percent to global events.

Relatively small countries had outsize estimations of their importance. Malaysians believed they contributed 49 percent of the world’s history. Portugal said 38 percent and Canada 40 percent.

Perhaps surprisingly, the United States — the world’s leading power in recent decades — landed in the middle of the pack, with a self-rating of 29.6 percent, behind Peru, Bulgaria and Singapore.

The leading narcissist in the world, according to the study, was Russia, whose residents on average believed their country contributed 60.8 percent of the world’s history

That remarkable result parallels other studies of Russia in the past decade. James Wertsch, an anthropologist and expert on collective memory, compared how differently Russians and Americans viewed their contributions to World War II. When asked to name the most important events of that war, American students consistently listed Pearl Harbor and D-Day. By contrast, Russian students named events such as the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Moscow. There was almost no overlap between the two groups.

In recent years, psychologists have become increasingly interested in the intersection of collective memory, narcissism and the way it plays out in the real world.

“On some level, you could say this narcissism and collective memory is bad because it can promote racism, nationalism, xenophobia,” said William Hirst, a psychologist at the New School in New York who was not involved in the two new studies. “You might ask why Mother Nature even gave us this kind of memory. But there are advantages to it, as well. It is what promotes common understandings of our past, what grounds our identity as a country or people.”

 

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Sherry Johnson, Florida-based anti-child marriage campaigner who was forced to marry aged 11 in 1971.

‘It put an end to my childhood’: the hidden scandal of US child marriage

The Guardian

In half of US states, there is no legal minimum age for marriage; a 40-year-old man can, in theory, marry a five-year-old girl. But Florida may soon ban the practice for under-18s. We meet the former child brides campaigning for change

Sherry Johnson, Florida-based anti-child marriage campaigner who was forced to marry aged 11 in 1971.
Sherry Johnson, Florida-based anti-child marriage campaigner who was forced to marry aged 11 in 1971. Photograph: Katharina Bracher

Sherry Johnson was 11 when her mother told her she was going to get married. The bridegroom was nine years older and a deacon in the strict apostolic church that her family attended. He was also the man who had raped her and made her pregnant. “They forced me to marry him to cover up the scandal,” Johnson says. “Instead of putting the handcuffs on him and sending him to prison, they put the handcuffs on me and imprisoned me in a marriage.”

Johnson is now 58, but child marriage is not a thing of the past in the US: almost 250,000 children were married there between 2000 and 2010, some of them as young as 10. “Almost all were girls married to adult men,” says Fraidy Reiss, the director of campaigning organisation Unchained at Last.

In most US states, the minimum age for marriage is 18. However, in every state exceptions to this rule are possible, the most common being when parents approve and a judge gives their consent. In 25 states, there is no minimum marriage age when such an exception is made. But now Johnson’s home state, Florida, is poised to pass a law that sets the minimum marriage age at 18 with very few exceptions – thanks largely to her campaigning.

In 2013, Johnson was working at a barbecue stand in Tallahassee when she told her story to a senator who was one of her regular customers. “She listened to me and decided to do something,” Johnson recalls. “She presented a bill to restrict child marriage in 2014, but it failed. That was because nobody understood the problem at the time.

“People thought: this can’t happen in Florida. The minimum marriage age is 18; what’s the problem? But they didn’t know about the loopholes. Between 2001 and 2015, 16,000 children were married in Florida alone. A 40-year-old man can legally marry a five-year-old girl here.”

Sherry Johnson’s marriage certificate.
Pinterest
Sherry Johnson’s marriage certificate. Photograph: Katharina Bracher

Johnson, whose own child-marriage took place in 1971, didn’t give up. She contacted numerous Floridian politicians, told them her story and explained the problem. “It was part of my healing process to tell my story,” she says. Actually, she adds, “I don’t like to use the word story because it ain’t a story. It’s the truth – I lived it.”

Apart from Florida, there are five states in the process of passing laws to end child marriage. It has been a tough battle, says Reiss, whose organisation has been campaigning for laws to be changed all over the country for three years.

“When I began, I thought it would be easy. I thought we would just explain the problem and legislators would jump up and change the law immediately. After all, the US state department considers child marriage a human rights abuse. But everywhere there are politicians who think it’s a bad idea to change the law. You wouldn’t believe how many legislators have told me that if a girl gets pregnant, she’s got to get married. One female Democrat politician asked me: ‘Won’t you increase abortion rates if you end child marriage?’ That left me speechless.”

Last year, 17-year-old Girl Scout Cassandra Levesque campaigned to change the New Hampshire law that allows girls as young as 13 to get married if their parents approve. “My local representative introduced a bill that raised the minimum age to 18. But a couple of male representatives persuaded the others to kill the bill and to prevent it from being discussed again for some years,” she says. “One of them said that a 17-year-old Girl Scout couldn’t have a say in these matters.”

“So they think she’s old enough for marriage, but not old enough to talk about it, says Reiss. “I think that reasoning is terrifying.”

She goes on to outline the harmful effects of child marriage. “Girls who get married before 18 have a significantly higher risk of heart attacks, cancer, diabetes and strokes and a higher risk of psychiatric disorders. They are 50% more likely to drop out of high school and run a higher risk of living in poverty. They are also three times more likely to become victims of domestic violence. Really, child marriage helps no one. The only people who benefit are paedophiles.”

Reiss, who was born in an ultra-orthodox Jewish community, and was herself coerced into marrying when she was 19, says it is “extremely ironic” that laws make exceptions when parents consent to a child marriage or when an underage girl is pregnant. “Because, in many cases, the pregnancy is the result of sexual abuse and the parents are forcing the girl to marry to prevent a scandal. So the law doesn’t protect the child at all. When an adult man has sex with an underage girl, this is considered statutory rape in many states. But when the perpetrator marries his victim, he can legally go on abusing her.”

Fraidy Reiss, director of campaigning organisation Unchained At Last.
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Fraidy Reiss, director of campaigning organisation Unchained At Last. Photograph: Susan Landmann

Many child brides come from religious backgrounds and less privileged groups – but not all. Donna Pollard, 34, grew up in a white, middle-class, non-religious family in a town called London in Kentucky, and yet she was married when she was 16. The man was nearly 15 years older. “I met him when I was 14 and going through a difficult time. My father had recently deceased,” she recounts. “He was my mental health counsellor and he acted like I could trust him. He convinced me that we were in love and he said: ‘If we get married when you turn 16, you will have all this freedom and your mum won’t be able to control you any more.’ So I thought I was taking charge of my life by agreeing to this.”

Her mother had no problems with her daughter getting married at 16 and readily gave her permission. “She was glad to get rid of me.”

Pollard remembers feeling very uncomfortable during the marriage ceremony. “The clerk didn’t even look up at me from her computer. She only asked: ‘Which one’s the minor?’ She didn’t assess if I was safe or needed something. He was 30 years old at the time, but nobody questioned the fact that he was so much older. That void of emotion hit me like a freight train. I knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t feel empowered to speak up and say: ‘I don’t know that I really want to go through with this.’ Nor did I trust my own judgment. I was a troubled teenager.”

Once married, she left school and started working at a grocery store for a minimum wage, soon becoming the breadwinner because her husband stopped working. “He became physically abusive. He was controlling everything I did. In many ways, child marriage and human trafficking are interchangeable terms.”

Pollard left her husband when she was 19 after he tried to choke her in the presence of their baby daughter. “I realised she would grow up normalising violence if I didn’t leave. That’s what gave me the courage.” Looking back, she says that marrying young disrupted her personal development. “I was very good at school. I even received a substantial scholarship for writing achievement. I could have studied creative writing with a grant.”

Johnson says that “marriage put a definite end to my childhood. I was expelled from school and by the age of 17 I had six children. There was no way I could escape. You are not allowed to sign legal documents when you are under 18, so I couldn’t file for a divorce. For seven years, I was stuck with the man who damaged me and continued to do so.

“Child marriage delayed my life. I was never able to attain an education. I am still struggling, trying to survive. Working three jobs as a healthcare provider to make ends meet. And then there’s the pain, the trauma that you have to deal with.”

“We see the number of child marriages going down now, but it’s not going fast enough,” says Reiss. “It’s so difficult to help child brides escape. Our organisation risks being charged with kidnapping because they are under 18. This has already happened to us once. Also, there are very few shelters in the US that accept girls younger than 18. So when girls call us, we have to tell them the help we can provide is very limited. Most of the children who reach out to us for help have tried to kill themselves because they would rather be dead than forced into a marriage. That keeps me awake at night. Something has to change.”

On 31 January, Johnson sat in the public gallery while the Florida senate unanimously passed the bill that will end child marriage in the state (although the bill was subsequently amended to allow pregnant 16- and 17-year-old girls to marry). Several senators talked about her story and thanked her for pushing for the bill. Afterwards, she said that the senate vote helped to heal the pain. “I smile from within to know that children will not have to face what I have been through.”

For more information or counselling on any of the issues raised in this article go to unchainedatlast.org

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UNICEF and Education Ministry to launch campaign on discipline

UNICEF and Education Ministry to launch campaign on discipline

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun. 22, CMC –  The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) will be collaborating with the Ministry of Education to launch a campaign on positive discipline.

UNICEF’s country representative, Sylvie Fouet says the evidence-based campaign stems from a conversation the organisation has been having with stakeholders for some time .

“That consultation took place about a year ago and we also involved children themselves. It was important because the way of teaching has to change,” Fouet told the media, explaining that part of the campaign will also help the ministry in its review of its teaching scheme” Fouet told reporters on Thursday.

Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, Michael Gillis and UNICEF country representative, Sylvie Fouet

Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist Michael Gillis said the organisation started the collection of data in 2014.

That data gave an indication of the kind of discipline being practised. A situation analysis was also done on women on children which indicated what was happening and why it was happening. It was found too that there were key issues in hinterland communities.

“We then followed the lead of the data and then collected the information about indigenous women and children. There is a whole lot of evidence which moved beyond what is happening in school, what is being practised in society.  The positive discipline campaign was really evidence-informed,” he said.

The analysis found that corporal punishment was being practised at a very high level with over 70 per cent of parents administering some form of corporal punishment for different reasons.

“The positive discipline campaign will bring additional tools and ways of disciplining,” he said.

Communication Specialist, Frank Robinson relayed some recommendations that could be adhered to by parents to aid in their discipline technique.

He said, instead of hitting the child, parents can explain why the behaviour is not in keeping with what the parent would like.

“Give the child the chance to understand the severity of the action or behaviour by sitting and talking with the child,” he recommended.

At the same time, he said children need to understand that while they have rights, they also have responsibilities.

“So, it more of an empowerment type methodology in terms of disciplining children and so xfar, what we have seen with parents and schools that practice positive disciplining, we have seen positive changes,” Robinsons said.

UNICEF has already produced a video showcasing the perspective of children on the subject.

A second video is currently being produced that will give the perspective and views of the parents on positive discipline.

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IDB launches call for proposals from startups in the Caribbean

IDB launches call for proposals from startups in the Caribbean

 

WASHINGTON, Jun. 20,   CMC – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has launched a call for proposals that will reward the most disruptive ventures in Latin America and the Caribbean that are using innovation to improve lives.

The Washington-based financial institution said the selected startups will participate in Demand Solutions Chile, which will take place on November 21 in Santiago, Chile.

Demand Solutions is the IDB’s flagship innovation event that brings together “the world’s most forward-thinking minds to share creative solutions to the development challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean,” the statement said.

In this edition, the IDB said startups can participate in two thematic areas.

In the first, they must provide solutions in four categories related to the cultural and creative industries: Design with social sense: sustainable fashion, smart fashion, urban art, wearable technology; and multimedia that improves lives: videogames, digital content, audiovisual content.

The other categories are: New technologies: 3D printing, blockchain, internet of things, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics; and export of services to global markets: production and commercialization of cultural content, export of goods and creative services.

The IDB said the 10 most innovative startups in the creative industries will be selected to participate in Demand Solutions Chile with all expenses paid for one representative per startup.

The first place will receive financial support to continue with its development, the IDB said.

Additionally, the IDB said this edition of Demand Solutions will also reward five startups that provide solutions to water and sanitation challenges in the region.

Since 2009, the IDB said along with Fundación FEMSA it was awarded the Water and Sanitation Prize for Latin America and the Caribbean “to recognize and stimulate the most innovative solutions in the water, sanitation and solid waste sectors.”

The startups interested in participating in Demand Solutions must present a solution proposal to a development challenge before July 15, the IDB said.

It said the representatives must be over 18 years old.

Winners will be notified by mail in early September 2018.

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Caribbean American Congresswoman outraged over separation of children from parents at US border

Caribbean American Congresswoman outraged over separation of children from parents at US border

By Nelson A. King

NEW YORK, Jun. 18,   CMC – Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke has joined intensified outrage in the United States over the Trump administration’s decision to separate migrant children from their parents at the US border. 

“There is no act lower than ripping innocent children from the arms of their mothers,” said Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, in an  interview with the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), on Sunday.

Yvette D. Clarke

“We have hit an all-time low as a people and a country,” added the representative for the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn. “It is one of the most inhumane, cruel acts that could ever be taken by the Trump administration.

“As a second generation American, the daughter of Jamaican immigrant parents,  I take these assaults on immigrant communities personally,” Clarke continued, stating that she has been “a staunch advocate for immigration rights, from fighting for a clean Dream Act, aggressively advocating to keep families together to keeping vulnerable children with their parents, and fighting the Trump administration on their revocation of DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] and attacks on Diversity Visas.”

In addressing what she described as “the racist, xenophobia of the Trump Administration,” Clarke said she has also advocated for the ASPIRE Act, a bipartisan bill to provide individuals who have received Temporary Protective Status (TPS), legal permanent residency.

“This administration has no bounds, even children don’t seem to matter,” the congresswoman said. “Therefore, I vow to continue to fight ferociously, along with my colleagues, against these grave injustices; and, we don’t plan to stop until justice prevails.”

Amid the profound outrage, US President Donald J. Trump on Saturday reiterated what political analysts and observers say is his erroneous claim that Democrats were responsible for his administration’s policy of separating migrant families arrested at the US border.

“Democrats can fix their forced family breakup at the Border by working with Republicans on new legislation, for a change!” said Trump in a twitter post on the weekend.

On Friday, the Trump administration announced that close to 2,000 children were separated from their migrant parents in a six-week period, concluding in May, as part of its “zero tolerance” policy on immigration.

In expressing outrage over the Trump administration’s new policy, Democrats have said that the separation of children from their parents at the US border is just of the incumbent administration’s making – that they had not enacted any law or rule in that regard.

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Contestants at Ethel Fashion Show April 12

Eight Caribbean beauties in NY beauty pageant

 

 

 

According to Yvonne Peters, the Vincentian-born president and founder of the Brooklyn-based organizing group, Caribbean American Cultural Group, Inc., the contestants hail from Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Haiti, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The contestants are: Reality Dopwell (Miss Belize); Breana Maxwell (Miss Jamaica); Shanah Forbes (Miss Jamaica); Jamela (Miss Guyana); Maya Grant (Miss Kingstown, St. Vincent); Kaiia Krysta Phillips (Miss Greggs, St. Vincent); Makeda Peters (Miss St Vincent & the Grenadines); and Kimberly Thomas (Miss Haiti).

Peters said the contestants will be judged on swim wear, talent, evening wear and interview.

She said the contestants’ platforms include awareness of sexual assaults on college campuses and Title IX; awareness of rape culture among high school youths; depression and suicide; combating poverty; and building self-esteem in children and youths.

Contestants at Ethel Fashion Show April 12

“Over a period of approximately four months, these young ladies are transformed into pageant contestants through various workshops, such as building a foundation for success, modeling, swimwear show case, talent show case, interviews, communication training, pageantry and dance rehearsals,” she said.

Peters said she founded the pageant in 2010 because she “always wanted to help the young people, in particular young women, in my community and give them a sense of purpose, community involvement and empowerment.

“So, the idea of a cultural pageant materialized; and, years later, we are still going strong, empowering young women to be confident in themselves and become leaders in their communities,” she said. Peters said the venue has a capacity of 1,200.

“So, we looking forward to a well-attended event for family-fun evening,” the pageant coordinator said. “We invite everyone to come out and support this community-building event, support the young people of our community and have some fun.”

Doors open at 5:00 p.m.; showtime: 6:00 p.m. sharp.

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6-4-18-Proposed-Land-Use-For-Woodlands-Rezoning-To-Tourism-Development

Rezoning of Woodlands for Condos/Villa Project

The public is being asked to give feedback on the proposed rezoning of Woodlands to allow for a potential tourism development project.

According to a release from the Government Information Unit (GIU), the Physical Development Plan for North Montserrat 2012-2022 under the Physical Planning Unit (PPU) within the Ministry of Agriculture, Trade, Lands, Housing and the Environment (MATLHE) would need to be modified to allow for this.

The proposed development, which is titled The Montserrat Ledonda Bay Project’, consists of high end condominium villa/ resort hotel including facilities for recreation and cultural events, which will be designed to be a blend of elegant, romantic, free, open and dynamic themes.  The proposal is therefore seeking to rezone parts of Woodlands from recreation to tourism development.

In light of this request, PPU’s Chief Physical Planner, Clement Meade said that public consultation is required to ensure residents in the area and surrounding areas are adequately notified of the proposed development, and are able to provide their comments and concerns which will be factored into the decision making process.

The PPU has therefore scheduled a public consultation period of sixty days which took effect from June 1 and will continue until August 1, 2018.  Individuals with questions and comments on the proposed development are encouraged to contact the PPU. Within that time span, the PPU has also scheduled a Town Hall Meeting for Wednesday, July 18 starting at 6:30p.m. at the Salem Primary School.

The Town Hall meeting is specifically targeted at residents of Palm Loop, Woodlands, Olveston and surrounding areas; however, any individual interested in learning more about the proposed development and sharing their views on it, is invited to attend.

A detailed copy of the proposed development plan can be viewed at the PPU Office in Brades.  Interested persons can also view a map of the ‘Existing Land Use For Woodlands’ and the ‘Proposed Land Use For Woodlands Rezoning To Tourism Development’ on www.gov.ms in the publications section under the Ministry of Agriculture.  Alternatively, the maps can be viewed at the following direct links:

http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Existing-landuse-Woodlands.pdf

http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Proposed-Land-Use-For-Woodlands-Rezoning-To-Tourism-Development.pdf

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Monterrat Still nice

Montserrat: still here, still home, still nice !

An OECS release has revealed that this year, the much-anticipated OECS Council of Ministers of Environment Sustainability (COMES 5) will be held in the lovely island of Montserrat.

The 5th Meeting of the Council of Ministers of Environmental Sustainability (COMES) of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) will take place in Montserrat from July 10 to 11, under the theme “Building Resilience on the Frontlines of Climate Change”.

The COMES 5 comes at a critical juncture, given the severe economic and social impacts of the hurricanes of 2017 and  will provide the forum for ministers to engage with senior technocrats and development partners and to make decisions that will advance the climate and overall environmental resilience of the region.

Last year, COMES 4 was held in Grenada under the chairmanship of the Hon. Sen. Simon Stiell, Minister of State responsible for Human Resource Development & The Environment of Grenada under the theme “Accelerating Sustainable Development: Addressing Challenges and Creating Opportunities.” This year, the high-level meeting will be chaired by Hon. David Osborne, Minister of Agriculture, Trade, Lands, Housing and the Environment of Montserrat.

Montserrat is strategically placed to host such a major event. The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean has been able to build resilience despite the eruption of the Soufrière hills volcano that buried the southern part of the country. Today, Montserrat remains attractive and still keep secrets awaiting to be revealed by visitors such as those highlighted in this video. 

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De Ole Dawg – Part 10:The needed radical reform of our Civil Service

De Ole Dawg – Part 10:The needed radical reform of our Civil Service

Has our Civil Service persistently failed to be “fit for purpose” in post-volcano crisis Montserrat? (And, what is that “purpose”?)

BRADES, Montserrat– A few years ago, former Governor Elizabeth Carriere put on the table the question as to whether our Civil Service is “fit for purpose.”

Doubtless, just to mention this means feathers are already ruffled and hackles are rising in powerful circles. The same circles that – on fair comment – have too often tried to sideline or lock out or push out positive change agents[1] or even anyone with the temerity to raise such matters by “speaking truth to power” in our independent media. And of course, such pesky radical gadflies are obvious targets for hitmen to slander, spread gossip on, mock and make into scapegoats!

Guess what: that reaction is a sign that Miss Carriere’s concern was and is on target.

So, instead of shooting down the unwelcome messenger,  let us see how we can soberly and soundly deal with a hardy perennial problem, from the roots to the seeds that keep on bringing up new generations of thorny kusha.

If you doubt that this is a serious matter, simply take note that we are now on the third generation – “phase” – of a major public sector reform initiative.  Of course, we have changed the name; openly saying “phase three” obviously means that phases I and II did not do what was hoped.

A few weeks back, TMR listed the bits and pieces we must put together to get:

“CRITICAL MASS FOR TRANSFORMATIONAL STRATEGIC CHANGE

1: Identifying, encouraging, developing and supporting good change ideas, their originators and champions.

2: Providing sponsorship and incubators that get change initiatives to the point where they can break through to undeniable success. (That’s what the PMO was supposed to be, bringing to bear world class training, certification and organisation as well as management through the Axelos system, starting with PRINCE2.)

3: Providing Godfather support at top level, with marshals on call to deal with hitmen sent out to destructively undermine change and discredit change agents. (Responsible critics actually help the change process.)

4: Organising an agreed programme of strategic change initiatives with a timeline and designated expediters responsible to break through roadblocks.

5: Similarly, upgrading transparency, accountability and financial systems to provide confidence in the quality of governance.

6: To foster this, there should be joint oversight by a commission of GoM and UKG representatives.”

If we don’t meet that standard, predictably strategic change efforts will fail. Indeed, the Montserrat Development Corporation (MDC) was intended to be just such a well-backed incubator and catalyst for change.  But, if your change initiative is dogged by top-level capacity problems and is captured by the prevailing poorly performing organisation culture and its big frogs,[2] it will also fail. So, let us remember, DfID’s verdict in the 2012 EC$ 5+ million MDC rescue package business case was: failure.[3] In a DfID-sponsored Business Environment Review report, they gave some telling further points[4]“the  MDC  was  terminated following  poor performance  and concerns over management of money, as evidenced by the findings and recommendations of a Task Force review of the MDC in March 2015.” Similarly, DfID’s November 2014 health care improvement project review pointed to[5]gaps in GoM’s project management capacity.

Whether we agree with DfID or not makes little difference: we are seeing pointers to what our principal aid partner thinks, on long and frustrated experience – they are who we have to convince.  The same frustrations led our last Governor to challenge our civil service’s fitness for purpose. And many people across our community will agree that on the whole our Government Departments are not working up to efficient standard. We clearly have a long, rocky row to hoe.

To start, basic civics 101: our Civil Service is not the main arm of Government and it is not the main centre of legitimate power.  We live in a constitutional democracy, and so every three to five years, dozens of people go out door to door and stand on public platforms to face and be assessed by the voting public and the media. Nine of these are elected as our representatives and the platform of the majority sets the political and policy agenda for government. Meeting as the Legislative Assembly, these representatives publicly debate and pass our laws, including our Budgets. Cabinet serves as the executive committee of this Legislature and is accountable to it. Civil Service Ministries, Departments, Offices, Permanent Secretaries, Department Heads and staff – none of which are directly accountable to the people – all serve to facilitate and support that executive arm of our parliament.

Next, no, the Civil Service is not the “permanent government” that puts up with “those elected idiots” for a few years while its senior officers get on with their own business as usual agenda. Instead, its officers should serve the current government capably and ethically, in such a way that they may equally serve the next one and the one after that. Including, when it comes to time to challenge unsound policy based on thorough, sound analysis. In short, a politicised, low capability, self-serving Civil Service undermines its credibility.

Yes, there is continuity in government (which is a key civil Service role), but also there must be genuine self-assessment, review, accountability, partnership with the public, transparency, reform and change – especially in a day when rapid change is itself a driving force. Likewise, if the Civil Service builds a reputation for roadblocks, undue delays, lack of effective performance, poor customer service, laziness, needless delay in payment, doing their private or personal business on Government time, corrupt under the table dealings and more, it is not fit for purpose.

No, shattering the Cabinet-approved Programme Management Office by frog-marching its head out of Government Headquarters on a “no cause clause” dismissal[6] then delaying a replacement for almost a year has not removed the need for a strategic initiatives unit with world class programme based project cycle management capacity.[7] Likewise, dragging out or frustrating reform initiatives or recruitment of key strategic posts or undermining and poisoning people against needed technical cooperation officers has not eliminated the capacity gaps we face. 

Yes, we need a policy level round table where month by month the PS’es and HoD’s meet with the Cabinet and its executive officers to account for progress and gaps on the agreed timeline for the portfolio of critically important transformational projects. Meet, to make decisions on how to expedite the key projects.

And, more.

For, in the end, it is we of Montserrat who must work together with one heart and mind, to create economic self-sufficiency over the next ten to twenty years.

[1]           See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/head-of-pmo-dismissed-without-cause-the-premier-laments/

[2]           SeeTMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-19-2017-the-caribbeans-tainted-leadership-challenge/

[3]           See the DfID 2012 MDC Business Case, esp. p. 4:  http://iati.dfid.gov.uk/iati_documents/4158833.odt

[4]           See DfID’s BERF report, p. 1: http://www.businessenvironmentreform.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/BERF-Montserrat-BE-Capacity-Building_FINAL_31Jan2017.pdf

[5]               See TMR, https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-4-2018-montserrats-project-governance-challenge/

[6]           See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-22-2017-failing-the-opportunity-test/

[7]           See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-13-2017-prince2-and-moving-towards-an-economy-transformation-programme/

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