Archive for the ‘Jamaica’ Category

>Bits and Pieces for 1000, Alex

August 21, 2008

>

Alabama Stonewall Democrats will meet tonight at 6:00 at Logan’s Roadhouse near Crestwood Blvd. Everyone is welcome, we will be discussing the Democratic platform, in particular how it relates to GLBT issues.

Newspapers across the country are printing wedding or commitment ceremony announcements for same sex couples. How do the Alabama papers measure up?

GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) has published a list of papers in every state. Of the major papers in the state, The Birmingham News will print an announcement if it is legally recognized, and has done so in the past. According to the site: The meaning of “legally recognized” varies from paper to paper, but usually means either that the couple’s union was legally recognized by some authority (i.e. obtained marriage license in Canada, Massachusetts, California or Spain, or obtained domestic partnership that is recognized by a state authority).

The Mobile Press Register will do so on a case by case basis, but has not printed one in the past.

Fifteen papers are included in the list. You might be surprised to learn which papers will print an announcement and under what circumstances.

MSNBC will have a new show following Countdown with Keith Olbermann, with Rachel Maddow as its host. Maddow is a Rhodes scholar with a Ph.D. in political science and according to The Advocate she may be the first openly gay woman to host a prime time show.

Olympic shot of the day has to be Usain Bolt of Jamaica, who now has world records in both 100 and 200 meter races. 19.30 in the 200!!!

And speaking of Jamaica, a year ago today I returned from that island after being pounded by Hurricane Dean. And here is how we kept in touch.

Here are some shots of Jamaica after the hurricane.

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Random topics and Jamaican Flowers

August 30, 2007

This should be posted under “Things I should have posted earlier in the week.”

On August 30, 2007 at 6:30 P.M., the Bessemer Downtown Redevelopment Authority in cooperation with the Auburn University School of Architecture’s Urban Studio will sponsor a public forum at the city hall auditorium to solicit public input for a revitalization plan for downtown Bessemer.

I hope this effort is more successful than the TVA Strategic Initiative meetings that were held a few years ago, which produced wonderful, doable recommendations for downtown, and were then immediately ignored by the leaders of the city. Then there was B3, which had a few meetings and brought in highly respected consultants to help plan and implement improvements in several areas including downtown, but their offers were completely ignored by the leaders of the city.

At any rate, there are those of us who still believe that Bessemer’s downtown can be revived. But people have to realize that it can not be what it was 40 years ago. And it probably can’t be like downtown Hartselle, with its numerous antique shops and Willieburgers. But it can be something special and inviting, with a few antique and trendy shops, an art gallery and studio or two, and some little restaurants and a coffee shop.

****************************************************

Birmingham City Council member Joel Montgomery’s pubic intoxication charges have been reinstated because he failed to show proof he sought counseling, part of the deal that resulted in the charges being dropped. In fact, Montgomery’s statement that he has “never been to alcohol rehabilitation and have no reason to enroll in any alcohol rehabilitation” was what led prosecutors to reopen the case.

Imagine tripping and falling off a curb. You instinctively extend your arms to break your fall and/or use your hands to protect your face. Now imagine falling like that when drunk, and if you did, your reflexes would be slowed and maybe you wouldn’t break your fall or protect your face. Now look at this picture. Drunk or sober?

The Western Tribune reported last week that a suit has been filed against the pastor of Broken Vessel Full Gospel Church regarding breach of contract from a business deal in Homewood in 2006. I would not report this had it not already been published, but you remember how pleased I was that the church was being restored and I am certainly glad to see the historic building being put to use. In fact we use the church for our Bessemer Neighborhood Association meetings and several of their members and staff are active in that group.

So here is the message that appeared on the church sign after the story was published. Hmmm.

Here are a few pictures from Jamaica.

This last picture was taken after the hurricane.

>Random topics and Jamaican Flowers

August 30, 2007

>This should be posted under “Things I should have posted earlier in the week.”

On August 30, 2007 at 6:30 P.M., the Bessemer Downtown Redevelopment Authority in cooperation with the Auburn University School of Architecture’s Urban Studio will sponsor a public forum at the city hall auditorium to solicit public input for a revitalization plan for downtown Bessemer.

I hope this effort is more successful than the TVA Strategic Initiative meetings that were held a few years ago, which produced wonderful, doable recommendations for downtown, and were then immediately ignored by the leaders of the city. Then there was B3, which had a few meetings and brought in highly respected consultants to help plan and implement improvements in several areas including downtown, but their offers were completely ignored by the leaders of the city.

At any rate, there are those of us who still believe that Bessemer’s downtown can be revived. But people have to realize that it can not be what it was 40 years ago. And it probably can’t be like downtown Hartselle, with its numerous antique shops and Willieburgers. But it can be something special and inviting, with a few antique and trendy shops, an art gallery and studio or two, and some little restaurants and a coffee shop.

****************************************************

Birmingham City Council member Joel Montgomery’s pubic intoxication charges have been reinstated because he failed to show proof he sought counseling, part of the deal that resulted in the charges being dropped. In fact, Montgomery’s statement that he has “never been to alcohol rehabilitation and have no reason to enroll in any alcohol rehabilitation” was what led prosecutors to reopen the case.

Imagine tripping and falling off a curb. You instinctively extend your arms to break your fall and/or use your hands to protect your face. Now imagine falling like that when drunk, and if you did, your reflexes would be slowed and maybe you wouldn’t break your fall or protect your face. Now look at this picture. Drunk or sober?

The Western Tribune reported last week that a suit has been filed against the pastor of Broken Vessel Full Gospel Church regarding breach of contract from a business deal in Homewood in 2006. I would not report this had it not already been published, but you remember how pleased I was that the church was being restored and I am certainly glad to see the historic building being put to use. In fact we use the church for our Bessemer Neighborhood Association meetings and several of their members and staff are active in that group.

So here is the message that appeared on the church sign after the story was published. Hmmm.

Here are a few pictures from Jamaica.

This last picture was taken after the hurricane.

Jamaican Elections – Western Tribune column

August 28, 2007

Here is the column from The Western Tribune for August 22. The elections I wrote about have been delayed due to Hurricane Dean.

The presidential election will be here before we know it. In fact, the way state political parties are jostling their primaries around, people in some states might be voting in their primaries before the year is out. In Jamaica, the elections are this month, and the locals here say this is the first really divisive election they can recall. The University of the West Indies has a partnership with UAB’s Sparkman Center for Global Health that allows me to be down here participating in public health work.

In our country, the political process is spirited, to say the least. Candidates make accusations about their opponents, staff members resign amid allegations of improprieties and the media blows up every little story in an effort to create controversy between the red and the blue.

But our red and blue colors are nothing like the green and the orange colors that represent the two parties in Jamaica. In fact, things are so tense here that we were told not to wear shirts of either color when we are in the communities. And just the mention of the upcoming elections can start a fight. A question about mosquito control on a survey I was conducting led one respondent to blame the mosquito problem (and by association, the threat of vector borne diseases) on the current party in power and he let me know in no uncertain terms that a change was needed.

While my brief analysis of the two parties (and the opinion of a local newspaper) suggests that there is not much more than a sliver of difference between the two in their philosophies, one would think that they are as different as night and day.

But the main difference between their political process and ours is the violence and threat of violence associated with the upcoming elections in Jamaica. So much so that leaders are suggesting that the elections might be delayed if something is not done to make the process more peaceful.

In addition gangs are very influential here, and their influence spills over in to the political arena. Young people especially are growing weary of living in garrisoned communities and not having control over their own lives and votes. They must submit to the will of the leaders and vote as they are told. To do otherwise, is a mortal sin and one young man described his portion of Jamaica as “talibanised.” He said if someone asks to see his ballot before he turns it in and he refuses, he is dead.

That kind of intimidation would not be tolerated in our country. Barring a delay the Jamaican elections will be over in a few days. Let’s hope they pass peacefully.

>Jamaican Elections – Western Tribune column

August 28, 2007

>Here is the column from The Western Tribune for August 22. The elections I wrote about have been delayed due to Hurricane Dean.

The presidential election will be here before we know it. In fact, the way state political parties are jostling their primaries around, people in some states might be voting in their primaries before the year is out. In Jamaica, the elections are this month, and the locals here say this is the first really divisive election they can recall. The University of the West Indies has a partnership with UAB’s Sparkman Center for Global Health that allows me to be down here participating in public health work.

In our country, the political process is spirited, to say the least. Candidates make accusations about their opponents, staff members resign amid allegations of improprieties and the media blows up every little story in an effort to create controversy between the red and the blue.

But our red and blue colors are nothing like the green and the orange colors that represent the two parties in Jamaica. In fact, things are so tense here that we were told not to wear shirts of either color when we are in the communities. And just the mention of the upcoming elections can start a fight. A question about mosquito control on a survey I was conducting led one respondent to blame the mosquito problem (and by association, the threat of vector borne diseases) on the current party in power and he let me know in no uncertain terms that a change was needed.

While my brief analysis of the two parties (and the opinion of a local newspaper) suggests that there is not much more than a sliver of difference between the two in their philosophies, one would think that they are as different as night and day.

But the main difference between their political process and ours is the violence and threat of violence associated with the upcoming elections in Jamaica. So much so that leaders are suggesting that the elections might be delayed if something is not done to make the process more peaceful.

In addition gangs are very influential here, and their influence spills over in to the political arena. Young people especially are growing weary of living in garrisoned communities and not having control over their own lives and votes. They must submit to the will of the leaders and vote as they are told. To do otherwise, is a mortal sin and one young man described his portion of Jamaica as “talibanised.” He said if someone asks to see his ballot before he turns it in and he refuses, he is dead.

That kind of intimidation would not be tolerated in our country. Barring a delay the Jamaican elections will be over in a few days. Let’s hope they pass peacefully.

>More of the Storm

August 24, 2007

>I said the other day that Red Stripe and Appleton helped us cope with the storm, but really it was the thoughts and prayers of our friends and families, and our limited contact that gave us reassurance.

We lost internet access Saturday, and for some of us our cell phones would not work to call the states. But we discovered we could send and recieve text messages, so updates like these let us know where the storm was and what was being reported at home. Until we lost that ability at the height of the storm as well.

Thanks Bobby and Ted. Ted reported the National Hurricane Center updates, Bobby reported off the Weather Channel. Your updates kept us informed and just being in contact, even electronically was conforting.

I want someone who understands these things to tell me why my verizon phone (which does not have international capability) was able to transmit text but not voice.

Of course we did have battery powered radio and good information was available there also, but we liked getting information from our families.

Jamaican hospitality and concern are top notch. On the day after the storm, when public transportation was cut off and everyone was dealing with their own problems, the kitchen staff showed up and prepared us lunch. One woman told me they were concerned about us and thought we needed a hot meal. Jamaicans who were involved with our course returned to check on us. Here is Dr. Brendan Bain of Kingston who lectured us on HIV and AIDS checking on us after the storm.

And we were able to make our presentations and have a celebration on Monday night, thanks to a generator and a gas stove. Here is Mr. Henroy Scarlett of UWI receiving an award from Madhav Bhatta of the Sparkman Center for Global Health while Dr. Stephanie Brodine of San Diego State University looks on.

My group was the mosquito group and here we are (minus Stephanie and Maung, two Jamaican students who are also public health officers in their parishes) with our instructor Mr. Trevor Castle, a retired entomologist from UWI who knows literally everything there is to know about the mosquito vectors of Jamaica.

On the night before the storm, several locals came by to make sure the Americans felt secure for the next day before going to their homes or shelters to endure the storm.

That will probably end my hurricane coverage for this blog, unless I come across pictures that I can’t resist sharing. But I will post next week some information about Jamaica and the communities we worked in.

And thanks to all of you who sent emails, texts, calls, thoughts and prayers before, during and after the storm. Your well wishes are greatly appreciated.

More of the Storm

August 24, 2007

I said the other day that Red Stripe and Appleton helped us cope with the storm, but really it was the thoughts and prayers of our friends and families, and our limited contact that gave us reassurance.

We lost internet access Saturday, and for some of us our cell phones would not work to call the states. But we discovered we could send and recieve text messages, so updates like these let us know where the storm was and what was being reported at home. Until we lost that ability at the height of the storm as well.

Thanks Bobby and Ted. Ted reported the National Hurricane Center updates, Bobby reported off the Weather Channel. Your updates kept us informed and just being in contact, even electronically was conforting.

I want someone who understands these things to tell me why my verizon phone (which does not have international capability) was able to transmit text but not voice.

Of course we did have battery powered radio and good information was available there also, but we liked getting information from our families.

Jamaican hospitality and concern are top notch. On the day after the storm, when public transportation was cut off and everyone was dealing with their own problems, the kitchen staff showed up and prepared us lunch. One woman told me they were concerned about us and thought we needed a hot meal. Jamaicans who were involved with our course returned to check on us. Here is Dr. Brendan Bain of Kingston who lectured us on HIV and AIDS checking on us after the storm.

And we were able to make our presentations and have a celebration on Monday night, thanks to a generator and a gas stove. Here is Mr. Henroy Scarlett of UWI receiving an award from Madhav Bhatta of the Sparkman Center for Global Health while Dr. Stephanie Brodine of San Diego State University looks on.

My group was the mosquito group and here we are (minus Stephanie and Maung, two Jamaican students who are also public health officers in their parishes) with our instructor Mr. Trevor Castle, a retired entomologist from UWI who knows literally everything there is to know about the mosquito vectors of Jamaica.

On the night before the storm, several locals came by to make sure the Americans felt secure for the next day before going to their homes or shelters to endure the storm.

That will probably end my hurricane coverage for this blog, unless I come across pictures that I can’t resist sharing. But I will post next week some information about Jamaica and the communities we worked in.

And thanks to all of you who sent emails, texts, calls, thoughts and prayers before, during and after the storm. Your well wishes are greatly appreciated.

>Jamaica: After Dean

August 23, 2007

>We did not venture out Sunday night after the storm because gusts were still occuring and things could still be falling and flying. Also, there was debris and nails and power lines down and even with flashlights (torchlights they say) it didn’t seem safe.

So Monday morning we ventured out. Palm trees are made for hurricanes, because few were down. Their leaves were shredded and some of the leaves broken or stripped off, but the trunks were standing, and they will survive. This is outside our room. Deciduous trees seemed to suffer more.

Wooden manmade structures are not made for hurricanes, as this arbor did not make it.

It takes a strong wind to blow a chain link fence over…seems like the wind could just go through it.

These chunks of wood almost made it through the fence

We use chain saws…they use machetes. The guy on the bike is security.


The streets of Kingston were littered with debris and downed power lines. but the Kingston residents are right back in business, as this fruit stand has reopened and has a customer. People have to eat.

Small shrubs and flowers did not fare well. Before and after. I think this one will be blooming again before summer ends.

But the day we left the sun rose on beautiful tropical Jamaica tempting us to find a a way to stay. But that temptation didn’t last, and soon we were on our way to the airport. Once there, power outages (don’t you think a generator at an airport would be a good idea?) caused delays and frustation among the hundreds of passengers. But the airline employees had the upper hand,and held their composure even though they had to process each passport and write out each ticket by hand.

The air was still and hot and the waiting areas were dark and we sat for a couple of hours with ipods and cameras. We sweated and we waited with the masses.


Finally our flight number was announced and we made our way to the plane, confident that within a few hours we would be home.

Jamaica: After Dean

August 23, 2007

We did not venture out Sunday night after the storm because gusts were still occuring and things could still be falling and flying. Also, there was debris and nails and power lines down and even with flashlights (torchlights they say) it didn’t seem safe.

So Monday morning we ventured out. Palm trees are made for hurricanes, because few were down. Their leaves were shredded and some of the leaves broken or stripped off, but the trunks were standing, and they will survive. This is outside our room. Deciduous trees seemed to suffer more.

Wooden manmade structures are not made for hurricanes, as this arbor did not make it.

It takes a strong wind to blow a chain link fence over…seems like the wind could just go through it.

These chunks of wood almost made it through the fence

We use chain saws…they use machetes. The guy on the bike is security.


The streets of Kingston were littered with debris and downed power lines. but the Kingston residents are right back in business, as this fruit stand has reopened and has a customer. People have to eat.

Small shrubs and flowers did not fare well. Before and after. I think this one will be blooming again before summer ends.

But the day we left the sun rose on beautiful tropical Jamaica tempting us to find a a way to stay. But that temptation didn’t last, and soon we were on our way to the airport. Once there, power outages (don’t you think a generator at an airport would be a good idea?) caused delays and frustation among the hundreds of passengers. But the airline employees had the upper hand,and held their composure even though they had to process each passport and write out each ticket by hand.

The air was still and hot and the waiting areas were dark and we sat for a couple of hours with ipods and cameras. We sweated and we waited with the masses.


Finally our flight number was announced and we made our way to the plane, confident that within a few hours we would be home.

>No Prob, Mon

August 22, 2007

>We arrived in Birmingham around 10:30 last night from Kingston, Jamaica, all safe and accounted for. The local media has picked up this story, and today (the first day of classes for us at UAB’s School of Public Health) we held a press conference for them. You will hear students interviewed (and read in the paper), and see some pictures tonight (Wednesday) on TV. But only here will you get the true inside story on how we survived hurricane Dean. The satellite view was from NOAA and the graphics were from AccuWeather.


Really, all the interviews are truthful, and we never felt that our lives were threatened by the storm because our hosts from UWI Mona were trained in hurricane preparedness as were many of the students. The higher ups were aware of the storm as it was approaching, and did try to make arrangements for us to leave, but counting the San Diego State students there were about 30 people to move, and it couldn’t be done.

We were glad to stay and complete our work in Kingston. We will benefit from the experience of the field work, and we will benefit from experiencing a category 4 hurricane together. So I think our group will benefit from this course more than any group in the past.

I will post stories about the storm and our work over the next few days. People seem to be most interested in the storm, so I will start there.

I said we never felt threatened, but in truth, Red Stripe and Appleton Estates helped ease the anxiety as the storm approached and pounded down on us.


Customary it seems in the United States is to spray paint plywood or sheets with messages for the approaching storm. We were low on sheets and used no plywood, but I sacrificed a shirt for the cause. It must have worked, because something made Dean slightly change his course and stay off the coast, if only for a few miles.

The winds at UWI were estimated to be 100-120 mph. The noise was bothersome, and came in with unpredictable frequency, from winds building in intensity over about 4 or 5 hours, then maintaining high intensity for a couple of hours, followed by several hours of decreasing intensity with unexpected strong bursts. There was lots and lots of rain, I’m not sure how much, I haven’t seen the reports.

The day after the storm we assisted a little in cleaning up the area around our part of the campus, and in the afternoon a group went out to Mona Commons, a community they had done some previous work in and assisted them with recovery. They also delivered several hundred dollars of school supplies that we had brought for that community. I will put some “after” pictures on here tomorrow.