brad brace

4/7/2007

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd

Filed under: airlines — admin @ 3:31 pm

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd
Customer Relations Department
5/F, South Tower, Cathay Pacific City,
8 Scenic Road, Hong Kong International Airport,
Lantau Island, Hong Kong

The flight was late into Hong Kong so many passengers missed their connections and were immediately offered new tickets and hotel room. But not me. After a very long wait, I was given someone else’s ticket at first and then repeatedly lied-to (agent’s name: Vanessa W.) about the availability of a hotel room. At first she told me I had to sleep in the lounge, and then that there weren’t any hotel rooms available because there had been a fire — and even later she was uncertain whether a room would be provided! Highly stressful and dishonest treatment of a weary traveller!!! I’m very disappointed by your company. Flight cx839 291106 vancouver to hong kong seat63F alaska ff

no response from cp

4/6/2007

Nicaragua exports its poor

Filed under: global islands,nicaragua — admin @ 6:39 am

To desperate Nicaraguans, the prosperity of neighbouring Costa Rica makes it seem an accessible El Dorado. They can enter its labour market just by boarding a bus. But Costa Rica can barely cope with the influx.

They waited at the intersection of two alleyways, as they do late every Monday afternoon. The entire population of the village of Santa Rosa del Peñon, in northern Nicaragua — the old, along with women and children — hoped for news from Costa Rica. When the post office truck raced up in a cloud of dust, there was a rush to grab a letter, an envelope containing banknotes, even perhaps a small refrigerator.

Santa Rosa’s émigrés help their families from across the border. The village survives on remesas (remittances), between $10 and $100 a month to buy food, schoolbooks and medicine, or to repay loans. Since Nicaragua cut its public services, the costs of education and health have weighed heavily on a population unable to afford them. Despite a steady inflow of dollars, Santa Rosa just about survives and is grateful to do so.

Although traditionally dependent on agriculture, the region now produces almost nothing. “We grow enough to feed ourselves,” said Julio Antonio Niño, standing at the centre of his weed-infested fields. “What’s the point of doing any more? I can’t afford to build a well or an irrigation system: credit is too expensive at 40% interest and the banks will only lend to major landowners with solid collateral.” Nicaragua’s small farmers all say the same. The crisis that followed the collapse in 2000 of coffee prices on the international market has made the situation worse.

Half the population lives in rural areas, so the previous government’s official line was that it cared about farmers. In practice its economic policies concentrated on opening frontiers, competing internationally on the agricultural export market and attracting foreign investment in the free zones; outgoing president Enrique Bolaños claimed these created thousands of jobs. Niño’s response to this programme was to say: “Sure, some women from the village went off to work in the textile maquilas [factories carrying out subcontracted work]. It’s better than nothing, but the wages are half what you can earn in Costa Rica.”

It is estimated that one in five from Santa Rosa has emigrated to Costa Rica. Half a million Nicaraguans are thought to be living on the other side of the San Juan, the river that marks the frontier, and another 300,000 are scattered elsewhere, in total some 14% of the population. For destitute campesinos (farmers), Costa Rica is the obvious destination, just a few hours away by bus. Until recently no visa at all was required and even now it costs only $10 to enter the country legally.

Many Nicaraguans have abandoned their original trades to work as peons on Costa Rica’s banana, coffee, pineapple, sugar and orange plantations: Costa Rica has been successful in diversifying its labour-intensive agricultural industry. “Starting in January I pick coffee, then I move on to other crops,” explained Niño who, exhausted by the difficulty of working the land at Santa Rosa, crosses the border illegally every year. “Then, like other people around here, I come back to sow frijol (beans). I make at least twice what I could hope to earn in Nicaragua.”

Historically, Nicaraguans have always used their southern neighbour as a refuge during periods of violence, such as the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza or the war of the 1980s. But since the 1990s migration has been driven by the struggle for economic survival. After the fighting ended, demobilisation left thousands of soldiers and counter-revolutionaries on the loose, with no resources or future, in a country whose economy was unable to integrate them. At the time, the Nicaraguan government’s priority was to privatise and reduce public spending. Costa Rica, which has impressive economic growth and a remarkably well-developed welfare state for Central America, seemed an accessible El Dorado.

“Emigration served the government’s interests,” said Martha Cranshaw of RNSCM, an NGO supporting migrants and their families. “It relieves the pressure created by unemployment. But we are beginning to understand its real impact upon our country.” This analysis is not always popular.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations are banking on remittances to relaunch growth; but investigations on the ground in Nicaragua show that the $900m sent home every year by émigrés, which is more than the country exports, mostly serve to make the day-to-day existence of an exhausted population just bearable.

As Cranshaw pointed out, the RNSCM has also noticed another, less immediately quantifiable, story: “We are becoming aware of the thousands of individual tragedies represented by the emigration of a family’s father or mother. Collectively, this phenomenon is having a huge impact upon Nicaraguan society.” Fragmented families, children brought up by sometimes-absent grandparents, missing father and mother figures, children dropping out of school: what sort of society is Nicaragua creating?

In Santa Rosa, a grandfather whose son and daughter-in-law have left but did not take their children said: “My wife and I are bringing our grandchildren up, but there’s often a lot of tension with them and we worry a great deal about our son, who is in Costa Rica illegally. Sometimes I think there has to be another way. It’s too risky, for us and for them.”

It is easy to spot the Nicaraguans in the Costa Rican capital, San José. Their skin and hair seem darker and they always carry a rucksack containing overalls or a change of clothes. The men work in construction or as security guards, the women as domestic servants. Most of the seasonal workers, and many of those who have been here for several years, have no papers. Only half the “Nicas” in Costa Rica are there legally. Almost all have experienced the harsh working conditions on plantations. Most of the 4.3 million “Ticas” (Costa Ricans) regard the Nicas primarily as an unwanted 10% of the population.

“Costa Ricans see Nicaraguans as a negative value,” said Carlos Sandoval, a sociologist at San José university. He argued that Costa Ricans construct their identity around powerful ideas: the paleness of their skin, which is unusual in Central America (and is the result of the fact that there were only a few indigenous inhabitants when the conquistadores arrived); the stability of a democracy that has experienced little violence; and the success of an economy and a welfare state unique in the region. Costa Rica and its neighbours describe it as “the Switzerland of Central America”. Its ecotourist-friendly beaches and jungles, its relaxed way of life attract prosperous foreign tourists in numbers its neighbours can only dream about.

From this perspective, Nicaragua, with its wars and chronic instability, seems an immature country condemned to poverty. In Costa Rica, the dark-skinned immigrants are often described as violent, ignorant and untrustworthy, as thieves and alcoholics. “No seas Nica” (“don’t be an idiot”) is a common insult. This latent xenophobia, and correspondingly strong anti-Costa Rican feelings in Nicaragua, rises to the surface each time the perennial conflict over navigation rights on the San Juan river turns nasty. But the countries manage to get along, or at least they used to.

4/4/2007

Mayans Protest in the Streets of Belize City

Filed under: belize,global islands — admin @ 8:05 am

A historic action was filed in the Supreme Court this morning: the Mayan communities of Conejo and Santa Cruz in the Toledo District are asking the Supreme Court to force the government of Belize to recognize Maya customary land right. Those customary rights refer to lands for which the Mayans have no formal title, but claim as communal property that they have occupied from a time before land was administered by a title system.

It’s called indigenous ownership and it’s a thorny matter for any modern government, and even more so for one already at odds with Mayan communities over an oil concession granted within their national park.

So today, Greg Choq, the Mayan Leaders Alliance – known as the MLA – and hundreds of Mayans from Toledo descended with numbers on the country’s judicial center in Belize City to demonstrate that this time they are posing a serious challenge to government’s system of land administration. They came by the busload, six to be exact, into the heart of Belize City – blocking traffic in the crush of morning traffic. Most of these folks, families really, had been traveling since two or three on the morning from countless communities in the south namely Conejo and Santa Cruz, Pueblo Viejo, Santa Elena, San Jose, San Antonio, Midway, Sundaywod, Crique Carco, Aguacata, Blue Creek and Santa Ana.

They came here into Belize City into the Battlefield Park before the Supreme Court before the Tony Soberanis Bust to invoke the name of their own heroes like Julian Cho and their own slogans for their own struggle. They stood before the high court as their lawyers were inside, making a filing in their names.

And after taking that stand, they marched unto the streets, heading to the Radisson Fort George for a press conference. About 300 strong, they walked over the Swing Bridge carrying placards of protest, and Belizean flags; some with infants two at a time, some barefooted, and some carrying candles.

An unusual show in the middle of the morning in the heart of the city, but still,by-standers could be heard shouting support. At the front, an elder from Santa Cruz carried a Mayehak – a copal incense burner used for spiritual ceremonies, the smoke and the fire they believe invokes blessings from their Gods. When they reached the Radisson on Cork Street, the Mayehak was left to burn out.

And they crowded into the Radisson Villa Wing up the elevators and trooping up the stairs. They gathered in the Caracol Room – renting a space that carries a name freely appropriated from their own culture. In there it was standing room only.

And while they waited an hour for the press conference to start as lawyers were still filing the constitutional motion, they were entertained by marimba players from Pueblo Viejo. When the press conference did start – the leaders of the villages and the MLA made it clear what they are fighting for and who they are fighting against.

Nicaragua Sandinistas to fight former foes' hunger

Filed under: global islands,nicaragua — admin @ 5:20 am

Nicaragua’s Sandinista government will hand out seeds and farm animals to fight hunger the Caribbean coast, including among Miskito Indians who fought the leftists’ first government in the 1980s.

Agriculture Minister Ariel Bucardo said the project would help 75,000 malnourished families, starting in the extremely poor Rio Coco region, close to the border with Honduras.

“It is incredible the level of poverty in this region,” Bucardo told reporters. He said an average of 17 people died of hunger-related diseases in the region each month.

Rio Coco, an often waterlogged zone recently blighted by crop-destroying plagues of rats, is largely populated by the Miskito and Mayagna ethnic groups.

The Miskitos, traditionally turtle fishermen, aligned with U.S.-financed “Contra” rebels to fight the revolutionary government of Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega in the 1980s.

Thousands of Miskitos were forcibly relocated by the first Sandinista government.

Under the new program, which Bucardo said would last five years and cost about $150 million, families will be given farm animals, seeds and tools.

Ortega was voted out of office in 1990 but made a comeback after winning elections last year. He has promised reconciliation with wartime enemies and says he will reduce poverty.

Nicaragua is the second-poorest country in the Americas, after Haiti.

Nicaragua Sandinistas to fight former foes’ hunger

Filed under: global islands,nicaragua — admin @ 5:20 am

Nicaragua’s Sandinista government will hand out seeds and farm animals to fight hunger the Caribbean coast, including among Miskito Indians who fought the leftists’ first government in the 1980s.

Agriculture Minister Ariel Bucardo said the project would help 75,000 malnourished families, starting in the extremely poor Rio Coco region, close to the border with Honduras.

“It is incredible the level of poverty in this region,” Bucardo told reporters. He said an average of 17 people died of hunger-related diseases in the region each month.

Rio Coco, an often waterlogged zone recently blighted by crop-destroying plagues of rats, is largely populated by the Miskito and Mayagna ethnic groups.

The Miskitos, traditionally turtle fishermen, aligned with U.S.-financed “Contra” rebels to fight the revolutionary government of Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega in the 1980s.

Thousands of Miskitos were forcibly relocated by the first Sandinista government.

Under the new program, which Bucardo said would last five years and cost about $150 million, families will be given farm animals, seeds and tools.

Ortega was voted out of office in 1990 but made a comeback after winning elections last year. He has promised reconciliation with wartime enemies and says he will reduce poverty.

Nicaragua is the second-poorest country in the Americas, after Haiti.

4/1/2007

Prized Black Bengal Goats of Bangladesh

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 6:20 am

Among the world´s poorest countries, Bangladesh is home to one of the richest treasures – prized black bengal goats. The dwarf-size animals are the source of meat, milk, and leather for families – and a big part of the national economy. But changing patterns of land use are threatening the animals´ future.

“Our fallow lands for grazing goats are reducing day by day,” says Dr. M. O. Faruque of the country´s Department of Animal Breeding & Genetics at Bangladesh Agricultural University. “It´s because of our growing human population and the need to plant cereal crops.”

Research supported by the IAEA and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is helping Bangadesh plan and protect the goats´ future. Working with other countries in the Asian region, scientists are looking to learn more about black bengal goats and other livetock. A specific aim is to build up the capacity of national agricultural research systems to conduct research in livestock genetics and breeding using modern methods of molecular science.

“The goat is perhaps the most misunderstood and neglected, but nevertheless important species of livestock in the Third World countries,” notes Prof. Md. Ruhul Amin, a colleague at the university. “They play an important role in our country’s economy.”

Bangladesh scientists are working with other experts to help goat herders and farmers adapt to the changing environment. About 80% of the country´s people live in the countryside, and raising goats and other livestock is a key part of their livelihood.

“Goats have typically been raised as scavengers, but now the traditional rearing system in Bangladesh is under threat,” says Dr. Faruque. New approaches to rearing and managing the herds are needed, he says. One government priority is to train tens of thousands of farmers on better ways to raise black bengal goats.

No one knows exactly how many goats graze in Bangladesh – some estimates run as high as 30 million. Together they provide about 30 thousand tons of meat and 20 million square feet of hides and skins, besides milk and other products families depend upon.

“Meat and skin obtained from the Black Bengal are of excellent quality and fetch high prices, even in the local market,” says Prof. Ruhul Amin.

The FAO/IAEA-supported research, launched in 2004 to run over two phases, is analyzing more that 100 sheep and goat breeds by applying nuclear and molecular tools for DNA analysis. Together, the breeds represent the most important livestock species in the Asian region, numbering nearly one billion animals.

Villagers die in Bangladesh storms

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 6:14 am

At least 10 people died and more than 200 were injured as tropical storms swept through southern Bangladesh, according to reports.

Several thousand villagers were left homeless following the downpours.

The storms levelled hundreds of houses in Bhola district, 65 miles south of the country’s capital of Dhaka, the United News of Bangladesh reported, quoting a local government official.

Rescuers recovered 10 bodies buried under the debris of collapsed houses, and dozens of injured were taken to a hospital, local television station ATN Bangla said.

The storms knocked down trees and electricity lines, plunging the affected areas into darkness and hampering rescue work.

Several thousand people were left homeless in dozens of farming villages, the TV station said.

Seasonal storms are common in Bangladesh, a tropical delta nation of 140 million people.

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