Cleopatra on the Caribbean
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Tarell Alvin McCraney Reimagines Shakespeare’s ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ in Haiti, as Lizzie SImon reports in this article for The Wall Street Journal.
Of all the things that $625,000 can buy, the freedom to decline new projects means a lot to the playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, who received one of the MacArthur Foundation’s “genius grants” in September.
"It has already begun to change how much I pack on," the 33-year-old said. "I’m able to say ‘no.’ I’m able to say ‘wait.’ "
Mr. McCraney is currently in the midst of his most ambitious effort to date, “Antony and Cleopatra,” which will have its New York premiere at the Public Theater next week. The play, first published in 1623, has a reputation for being one of the most difficult in Shakespeare’s canon, with leaps through time and space and more than 40 characters.
As the play’s editor and director, Mr. McCraney whittled the cast down to 10 players, but for the most part retained its language, characters and plot. Where he has realized his own vision is in the setting, placing the story not at the dawn of the Sicilian revolt but the Haitian Revolution. While Cleopatra and Antony remain, along with references to Egypt and Rome, the composer Michael Thurber has incorporated rara, a musical genre native to Haiti, and choreographer Gelan Lambert added French and Afro-Caribbean dance into the production.
"When reading the piece, you’re aware that Shakespeare is highly concerned with, interested in, fascinated by the colonial economic and political power transfer between Egypt and Rome at the time," Mr. McCraney said. "France and Haiti were involved with a similar kind of relationship. Without Haiti, France couldn’t fund most of its wars."
The production, whose cast is equal parts American and British, is in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, where it had its world premiere in November, and Miami’s GableStage, where it had its U.S. premiere in January.
Miami is Mr. McCraney’s hometown, and there he helped develop a partnership with the public-school system that brought more than 4,000 local students to weekday matinee performances.
"When I was a kid, I took part in so many social programs designed for low-income families," he said. "I took tons of ballet classes and painting classes because there were centers to keep me out of trouble. Those are scarce now."
"It was essential to Tarell’s vision to have an impact on Miami, to bring theater to kids who were like him," said Oskar Eustis, the Public Theater’s artistic director.
Mr. Eustis produced Mr. McCraney’s first play, “The Brothers Size,” at the Public in 2007, when Mr. McCraney was a third-year student at the Yale School of Drama. “Tarell was one of those very rare artists where it felt like he’d sprung from Zeus fully formed,” Mr. Eustis said. “We were among the first to notice, but we were by no means unique in noticing.”
Since then, Mr. McCraney has had a handful of critically acclaimed plays produced on the New York stage. His trilogy, “The Brother/Sister Plays,” followed a family in Lafayette, La. “Wig Out!” was centered around drag performers in Harlem. And “Choir Boy,” which ran this summer at Manhattan Theater Club, was about the struggles of a gay prep-school student in the South.
Mr. Eustis said that he has observed Mr. McCraney go from creating what he called “jewel-box” plays to ones with larger, thornier themes. “I’ve seen him stretching, to see how broad a vision he can create,” he said. “In his adaptation of ‘Antony and Cleopatra,’ he’s both exploring the tension between the attraction of worldly power and the attraction of love, and also looking at what happens to personal relationships mediated by colonialism and power struggles. He doesn’t shy away from the big issues.”
"Antony" received mixed reviews during its British and Miami runs, and Mr. McCraney continues to make adjustments to everything from the lighting to the performances.
Thanks to the MacArthur grant, he said, “there’s nothing else I’m thinking about.”
March 25, 2014

Cleopatra on the Caribbean

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Tarell Alvin McCraney Reimagines Shakespeare’s ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ in Haiti, as Lizzie SImon reports in this article for The Wall Street Journal.

Of all the things that $625,000 can buy, the freedom to decline new projects means a lot to the playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, who received one of the MacArthur Foundation’s “genius grants” in September.

"It has already begun to change how much I pack on," the 33-year-old said. "I’m able to say ‘no.’ I’m able to say ‘wait.’ "

Mr. McCraney is currently in the midst of his most ambitious effort to date, “Antony and Cleopatra,” which will have its New York premiere at the Public Theater next week. The play, first published in 1623, has a reputation for being one of the most difficult in Shakespeare’s canon, with leaps through time and space and more than 40 characters.

As the play’s editor and director, Mr. McCraney whittled the cast down to 10 players, but for the most part retained its language, characters and plot. Where he has realized his own vision is in the setting, placing the story not at the dawn of the Sicilian revolt but the Haitian Revolution. While Cleopatra and Antony remain, along with references to Egypt and Rome, the composer Michael Thurber has incorporated rara, a musical genre native to Haiti, and choreographer Gelan Lambert added French and Afro-Caribbean dance into the production.

"When reading the piece, you’re aware that Shakespeare is highly concerned with, interested in, fascinated by the colonial economic and political power transfer between Egypt and Rome at the time," Mr. McCraney said. "France and Haiti were involved with a similar kind of relationship. Without Haiti, France couldn’t fund most of its wars."

The production, whose cast is equal parts American and British, is in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, where it had its world premiere in November, and Miami’s GableStage, where it had its U.S. premiere in January.

Miami is Mr. McCraney’s hometown, and there he helped develop a partnership with the public-school system that brought more than 4,000 local students to weekday matinee performances.

"When I was a kid, I took part in so many social programs designed for low-income families," he said. "I took tons of ballet classes and painting classes because there were centers to keep me out of trouble. Those are scarce now."

"It was essential to Tarell’s vision to have an impact on Miami, to bring theater to kids who were like him," said Oskar Eustis, the Public Theater’s artistic director.

Mr. Eustis produced Mr. McCraney’s first play, “The Brothers Size,” at the Public in 2007, when Mr. McCraney was a third-year student at the Yale School of Drama. “Tarell was one of those very rare artists where it felt like he’d sprung from Zeus fully formed,” Mr. Eustis said. “We were among the first to notice, but we were by no means unique in noticing.”

Since then, Mr. McCraney has had a handful of critically acclaimed plays produced on the New York stage. His trilogy, “The Brother/Sister Plays,” followed a family in Lafayette, La. “Wig Out!” was centered around drag performers in Harlem. And “Choir Boy,” which ran this summer at Manhattan Theater Club, was about the struggles of a gay prep-school student in the South.

Mr. Eustis said that he has observed Mr. McCraney go from creating what he called “jewel-box” plays to ones with larger, thornier themes. “I’ve seen him stretching, to see how broad a vision he can create,” he said. “In his adaptation of ‘Antony and Cleopatra,’ he’s both exploring the tension between the attraction of worldly power and the attraction of love, and also looking at what happens to personal relationships mediated by colonialism and power struggles. He doesn’t shy away from the big issues.”

"Antony" received mixed reviews during its British and Miami runs, and Mr. McCraney continues to make adjustments to everything from the lighting to the performances.

Thanks to the MacArthur grant, he said, “there’s nothing else I’m thinking about.”

Jamaica school serves as cradle for island’s music

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Barefoot and dressed in donated clothes, 12-year-old Renaldo Brown methodically plays scales on a flute under the canopy of trees at a Jamaican vocational school renowned for nurturing many of this music-steeped island’s top instrumentalists, as David McFadden reports for the Associated Press. “It’s challenging but I like it. I’m getting better ’cause I’ve been practicing nearly every day for two years,” said the serious boy from the gritty Jamaican city of Spanish Town, tapping the keys on the silver-colored wind instrument as he spoke. Renaldo is among two dozen boys from impoverished backgrounds who are discovering a new world through music after being placed by family courts at Alpha Boys’ School. Some of the boys are orphans, while others are placed at the home because of neglect, abuse or because their parents can’t control them. A residential facility operated by Catholic nuns since the late 19th century, the school has long been the cradle of Jamaica’s prolific music culture — and…….Full article HERE
March 24, 2014

Jamaica school serves as cradle for island’s music

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Barefoot and dressed in donated clothes, 12-year-old Renaldo Brown methodically plays scales on a flute under the canopy of trees at a Jamaican vocational school renowned for nurturing many of this music-steeped island’s top instrumentalists, as David McFadden reports for the Associated Press. “It’s challenging but I like it. I’m getting better ’cause I’ve been practicing nearly every day for two years,” said the serious boy from the gritty Jamaican city of Spanish Town, tapping the keys on the silver-colored wind instrument as he spoke. Renaldo is among two dozen boys from impoverished backgrounds who are discovering a new world through music after being placed by family courts at Alpha Boys’ School. Some of the boys are orphans, while others are placed at the home because of neglect, abuse or because their parents can’t control them. A residential facility operated by Catholic nuns since the late 19th century, the school has long been the cradle of Jamaica’s prolific music culture — and…….Full article HERE

Kern Spencer freed in Cuban light-bulb trial - News
March 24, 2014

Wizkid does Bob Marley….Destination Africa Live Lounges….

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Finally, a probe into Rodney’s death
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The Guyana government this week appointed a team of top Caribbean lawyers to probe the 1980 assassination of acclaimed historian Walter Rodney, a top opposition figure and international icon; but the party he helped found has said it hopes the truth will emerge as to who exactly ordered Rodney’s murder, Bert Wilkinson reports in this article for Caribbean Life News.
Dr. Walter Rodney, then 37, died when a bomb exploded in his lap near the main city prison facility in Georgetown on the night of June 13, 1980 as he was leading a spirited challenge against the then governing People’s National Congress (PNC) in the run up the 1980 general elections, which opposition parties had boycotted because of alleged widespread rigging.
Walter Rodney’s Working People’s Alliance (WPA) which today, ironically, is part of the main opposition APNU coalition with the PNC, immediately blamed the PNC for his assassination, contending that Rodney was handed the device by military intelligence agents who had infiltrated his inner circle.
Caribbean and international governments, academics and civil society also pointed fingers at the PNC led then by its founder, Prime Minister Forbes Burnham; charges the PNC has denied, even as it says it welcomes any probe.
Army Chief of Staff Brig. Gen Mark Phillips has promised full cooperation of the military with the commission, after meeting with the commission this week.
Rodney’s brother Donald, who was in the car with him when the explosion rocked the quiet of the city on that fateful Friday night, was injured and hid for several days before emerging, pointing fingers at the military for conspiracy in Walter’s death.
Barbadian Jurist Sir Richard Cheltenham, who incidentally is also part of a regional team investigating a 1990 Muslim-led attempted coup in neighboring Trinidad — will chair the three-person team that also includes Jamaican, Jacqueline Samuels-Brown and Trinidadian, Seenath Jairam.
The three were sworn in on Monday but the WPA Wednesday demanded “to see the terms of reference to determine whether it will enable the entire truth to come out in the public,” spokesman Desmond Trotman said.
Rodney was well known in the Caribbean, Africa and the U.S. for a series of well-acclaimed books he wrote, including: “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,” a reference text that is widely used in American and other universities.
Cheltenham said the long delay in holding a commission of inquiry should not affect the outcome. At least 100 witnesses, many of them opposition and government politicians and ex-soldiers, are listed to testify. Others will have to be summoned.
He said the commission will likely sit for two-week stretches when work begins at a date to be determined by the readiness of organizers. He also noted that “many of them (witnesses) remembered the events as though they happened yesterday and (there were) several pieces of documentary evidence that allowed us to have no difficulties in finding facts and coming to conclusions. The fact that it happened 30 years or so ago need not be any bar to a full exposure of what took place and for the commission to make some firm conclusions,” he said.
March 23, 2014

Finally, a probe into Rodney’s death

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The Guyana government this week appointed a team of top Caribbean lawyers to probe the 1980 assassination of acclaimed historian Walter Rodney, a top opposition figure and international icon; but the party he helped found has said it hopes the truth will emerge as to who exactly ordered Rodney’s murder, Bert Wilkinson reports in this article for Caribbean Life News.

Dr. Walter Rodney, then 37, died when a bomb exploded in his lap near the main city prison facility in Georgetown on the night of June 13, 1980 as he was leading a spirited challenge against the then governing People’s National Congress (PNC) in the run up the 1980 general elections, which opposition parties had boycotted because of alleged widespread rigging.

Walter Rodney’s Working People’s Alliance (WPA) which today, ironically, is part of the main opposition APNU coalition with the PNC, immediately blamed the PNC for his assassination, contending that Rodney was handed the device by military intelligence agents who had infiltrated his inner circle.

Caribbean and international governments, academics and civil society also pointed fingers at the PNC led then by its founder, Prime Minister Forbes Burnham; charges the PNC has denied, even as it says it welcomes any probe.

Army Chief of Staff Brig. Gen Mark Phillips has promised full cooperation of the military with the commission, after meeting with the commission this week.

Rodney’s brother Donald, who was in the car with him when the explosion rocked the quiet of the city on that fateful Friday night, was injured and hid for several days before emerging, pointing fingers at the military for conspiracy in Walter’s death.

Barbadian Jurist Sir Richard Cheltenham, who incidentally is also part of a regional team investigating a 1990 Muslim-led attempted coup in neighboring Trinidad — will chair the three-person team that also includes Jamaican, Jacqueline Samuels-Brown and Trinidadian, Seenath Jairam.

The three were sworn in on Monday but the WPA Wednesday demanded “to see the terms of reference to determine whether it will enable the entire truth to come out in the public,” spokesman Desmond Trotman said.

Rodney was well known in the Caribbean, Africa and the U.S. for a series of well-acclaimed books he wrote, including: “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,” a reference text that is widely used in American and other universities.

Cheltenham said the long delay in holding a commission of inquiry should not affect the outcome. At least 100 witnesses, many of them opposition and government politicians and ex-soldiers, are listed to testify. Others will have to be summoned.

He said the commission will likely sit for two-week stretches when work begins at a date to be determined by the readiness of organizers. He also noted that “many of them (witnesses) remembered the events as though they happened yesterday and (there were) several pieces of documentary evidence that allowed us to have no difficulties in finding facts and coming to conclusions. The fact that it happened 30 years or so ago need not be any bar to a full exposure of what took place and for the commission to make some firm conclusions,” he said.

British Freerunners Take on Jamaican Sprinter Yohan Blake
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Britain’s best freerunners have flipped and dived their way aroundJamaica and even taken on sprinter Yohan Blake in a special film (Dream Runners) created to celebrate Thomson Cruises’ new sailings from the Caribbean island. Here are excerpts; to read complete article and view film, see link below.
The world’s second-fastest sprinter may outrun 3RUN - the British group who have worked on Hollywood blockbusters like Casino Royale and World War Z - but the team certainly get their revenge as they flip over the Jamaican as he sets off from the starting blocks.
The stunt professionals met the sprinter while filming a freerunning video to showcase the best of Jamaica and even managed to convince him to strike his famous pose for the cameras.
The film sees the group - who are currently working on the latest Avengers film - taking in the island’s most famous sights, but not in the traditional way.
They scale Dunn’s River Falls, flip over market stalls in Ocho Rios and dive from the cliffs in Negril, before vaulting onto jet skis to chase Thomson Dream and scale its sides, James Bond style.
The video is a follow-up to one they created last year to mark the multi-million pound makeover of Thomson Dream. It was the first time freerunning took to the high seas.
This year the action movie - titled Dream Runners - celebrates Thomson’s presence in the Caribbean for the 2014/15 season, sailing from Jamaica to destinations including Costa Rica, Panama, Cuba, Honduras, Belize and Mexico.
Speaking at the launch of the video, freerunner Sam Parham told TravelMail that working with Blake was one of the highlights of the trip. ‘Yohan was the coolest guy, it felt like he was just one of our mates, now we talk on Twitter.’
Having never been to Jamaica before, the 3RUN team managed to squeeze the best of the island into 10 days’ filming to create the two-minute video……HERE
March 22, 2014

British Freerunners Take on Jamaican Sprinter Yohan Blake

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Britain’s best freerunners have flipped and dived their way aroundJamaica and even taken on sprinter Yohan Blake in a special film (Dream Runners) created to celebrate Thomson Cruises’ new sailings from the Caribbean island. Here are excerpts; to read complete article and view film, see link below.

The world’s second-fastest sprinter may outrun 3RUN - the British group who have worked on Hollywood blockbusters like Casino Royale and World War Z - but the team certainly get their revenge as they flip over the Jamaican as he sets off from the starting blocks.

The stunt professionals met the sprinter while filming a freerunning video to showcase the best of Jamaica and even managed to convince him to strike his famous pose for the cameras.

The film sees the group - who are currently working on the latest Avengers film - taking in the island’s most famous sights, but not in the traditional way.

They scale Dunn’s River Falls, flip over market stalls in Ocho Rios and dive from the cliffs in Negril, before vaulting onto jet skis to chase Thomson Dream and scale its sides, James Bond style.

The video is a follow-up to one they created last year to mark the multi-million pound makeover of Thomson Dream. It was the first time freerunning took to the high seas.

This year the action movie - titled Dream Runners - celebrates Thomson’s presence in the Caribbean for the 2014/15 season, sailing from Jamaica to destinations including Costa Rica, Panama, Cuba, Honduras, Belize and Mexico.

Speaking at the launch of the video, freerunner Sam Parham told TravelMail that working with Blake was one of the highlights of the trip. ‘Yohan was the coolest guy, it felt like he was just one of our mates, now we talk on Twitter.’

Having never been to Jamaica before, the 3RUN team managed to squeeze the best of the island into 10 days’ filming to create the two-minute video……HERE

Jamaica’s PM Portia Simpson Miller Emphasizes Climate Change
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Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller emphasized the importance of climate change when speaking of the key issues coming out of the 25th Inter-sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, which was held in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has expressed satisfaction with the increased focus that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has placed on the issue of climate change, which is critical for the future sustainability of the region. She said climate change, which has been gaining prominence globally, is of great significance for small island states, especially in light of the freak storm last year, which devastated the three sister islands of Saint Lucia, Dominica, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Simpson Miller was speaking….Full article HERE
March 21, 2014

Jamaica’s PM Portia Simpson Miller Emphasizes Climate Change

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Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller emphasized the importance of climate change when speaking of the key issues coming out of the 25th Inter-sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, which was held in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has expressed satisfaction with the increased focus that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has placed on the issue of climate change, which is critical for the future sustainability of the region. She said climate change, which has been gaining prominence globally, is of great significance for small island states, especially in light of the freak storm last year, which devastated the three sister islands of Saint Lucia, Dominica, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Simpson Miller was speaking….Full article HERE

Jamaican music theater stalwart Mercedes Kirkwood dies

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Mercedes Kirkwood, who last year at 92 years old received the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Commander (CD) for outstanding contribution to the development of the Jamaican musical theatre, has died, Jamaica’s Observer reports.
Kirkwood, who was affectionately called GG, was born in Del Rio, Cuba, and started singing at age three.
She relocated to Jamaica, and attended Jamaica School of Music (JSM), where it was discovered that “she had a stunning voice, perfect for opera”.
During her tenure at JSM, Kirkwood became a popular favourite, appearing frequently in several concerts, and on radio programmes.
After spending time in Jamaica, she migrated to the United Kingdom, and furthered her career in operatic theatre, for some 16 years, making her international debut.
During the height of her career, Kirkwood sang the title role of ‘Madame Butterfly’ in Yorkshire, and Mimi (‘La Boheme’) in Ireland; ‘Porgy & Bess’, ‘Carmen Jones’, and ‘Show Boat’.
After returning home to Jamaica, she made a number of local appearances at concerts, such as an Enchanted Evening with Jimmy Tucker and David Reid.
March 19, 2014

Jamaican music theater stalwart Mercedes Kirkwood dies

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Mercedes Kirkwood, who last year at 92 years old received the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Commander (CD) for outstanding contribution to the development of the Jamaican musical theatre, has died, Jamaica’s Observer reports.

Kirkwood, who was affectionately called GG, was born in Del Rio, Cuba, and started singing at age three.

She relocated to Jamaica, and attended Jamaica School of Music (JSM), where it was discovered that “she had a stunning voice, perfect for opera”.

During her tenure at JSM, Kirkwood became a popular favourite, appearing frequently in several concerts, and on radio programmes.

After spending time in Jamaica, she migrated to the United Kingdom, and furthered her career in operatic theatre, for some 16 years, making her international debut.

During the height of her career, Kirkwood sang the title role of ‘Madame Butterfly’ in Yorkshire, and Mimi (‘La Boheme’) in Ireland; ‘Porgy & Bess’, ‘Carmen Jones’, and ‘Show Boat’.

After returning home to Jamaica, she made a number of local appearances at concerts, such as an Enchanted Evening with Jimmy Tucker and David Reid.

Contestants At Havana Cigar Festival Try To Make Longest Ash

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Pungent smoke filled the room, obscuring the lights and leaving clothing and skin reeking. There were applause, shouts and laughter, and above all plenty of H. Upmann Sir Winstons — formidable 7-inch Cuban cigars.
More than 450 stogie aficionados took part in an unusual contest Thursday at Havana’s annual marquee Cigar Festival: competing to see who could create the longest unbroken ash, the Associated Press reports.
"I love it," Argentine sommelier Flavio Lanfredi said good-naturedly despite falling out of contention early on. "For me this is like going to Mecca, or a kid entering a toy store and they tell you to grab whatever you want, it’s yours. It’s really exciting."
In a cavernous room in Havana’s Palace of Conventions, contestants exhaled clouds of smoke and handled their cigars gingerly to keep the gray ash intact as long as possible. They lolled on luxurious leather chairs set amid tables holding dozens of ashtrays, lighters, chocolate-flavored hard candy and snifters of aged Cuban rum.
Many, like Lanfredi, lost their ashes before smoking even halfway through. Others managed to keep going until their cigars were little more than tiny stubs.
"It was a little bit stressful, and I’m somewhat dizzy," said Cuban restaurateur Andres Espinosa, one of the better finishers with a 6.2-inch ash.
Just over a half-hour in, only a handful of finalists remained. Judges milled about the room handing out rulers to measure the results.
The winner was to be announced Friday.
It would be hard to top Olivia Terri, also from Cuba, who smoked her Sir Winston down to a stub with an ash that grew to 6.6 inches before it crumbled.
The Sir Winston is a chubby cigar with a rich brown color and a hint of toasted gold. It’s hand-rolled with a selection of tobacco leaves from the western province of Pinar del Rio, the cradle of Cuba’s tobacco country.
The event was both a light-hearted competition and also an exhibition calculated to show off Cuba’s premium tobacco, which is among the most coveted in the world. Some 1,500 smokers from 80 countries are attending the weeklong festival.
"This (contest) in particular is aimed at people being able to appreciate the quality of our product," said Ana Lopez, marketing director for Habanos SA, a Cuban-British joint company that produces and distributes Cuban cigars exclusively. "Only products of magnificent quality can make the ash take on a permanent consistency for a long time."
March 19, 2014

Contestants At Havana Cigar Festival Try To Make Longest Ash

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Pungent smoke filled the room, obscuring the lights and leaving clothing and skin reeking. There were applause, shouts and laughter, and above all plenty of H. Upmann Sir Winstons — formidable 7-inch Cuban cigars.

More than 450 stogie aficionados took part in an unusual contest Thursday at Havana’s annual marquee Cigar Festival: competing to see who could create the longest unbroken ash, the Associated Press reports.

"I love it," Argentine sommelier Flavio Lanfredi said good-naturedly despite falling out of contention early on. "For me this is like going to Mecca, or a kid entering a toy store and they tell you to grab whatever you want, it’s yours. It’s really exciting."

In a cavernous room in Havana’s Palace of Conventions, contestants exhaled clouds of smoke and handled their cigars gingerly to keep the gray ash intact as long as possible. They lolled on luxurious leather chairs set amid tables holding dozens of ashtrays, lighters, chocolate-flavored hard candy and snifters of aged Cuban rum.

Many, like Lanfredi, lost their ashes before smoking even halfway through. Others managed to keep going until their cigars were little more than tiny stubs.

"It was a little bit stressful, and I’m somewhat dizzy," said Cuban restaurateur Andres Espinosa, one of the better finishers with a 6.2-inch ash.

Just over a half-hour in, only a handful of finalists remained. Judges milled about the room handing out rulers to measure the results.

The winner was to be announced Friday.

It would be hard to top Olivia Terri, also from Cuba, who smoked her Sir Winston down to a stub with an ash that grew to 6.6 inches before it crumbled.

The Sir Winston is a chubby cigar with a rich brown color and a hint of toasted gold. It’s hand-rolled with a selection of tobacco leaves from the western province of Pinar del Rio, the cradle of Cuba’s tobacco country.

The event was both a light-hearted competition and also an exhibition calculated to show off Cuba’s premium tobacco, which is among the most coveted in the world. Some 1,500 smokers from 80 countries are attending the weeklong festival.

"This (contest) in particular is aimed at people being able to appreciate the quality of our product," said Ana Lopez, marketing director for Habanos SA, a Cuban-British joint company that produces and distributes Cuban cigars exclusively. "Only products of magnificent quality can make the ash take on a permanent consistency for a long time."

On board Ethiopian Airlines
March 7, 2014

On board Ethiopian Airlines

The killing of Dr Rodney

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This article by correspondent Rickey Singh appeared in Trinidad’s Express.
NOW that Carnival 2014 is over, perhaps the people of Trinidad and Tobago could spare some time to reflect on developments in other Caricom states. One such country is Guyana.
An issue currently in sharp focus in Guyana is a probe into the killing, decades ago, of the internationally famous historian and crusader for freedom and social justice Walter Rodney.
Thirty-three years after this intellectual and writer was killed in a bomb blast in his car on the night of June 13, 1980, in Georgetown, a three-member team of Caribbean legal experts has been established to begin an enquiry into the circumstances surrounding the killing of Dr Rodney.
“Assassination” has always been the unofficial verdict of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), the party of which Dr Rodney was a founder-leader, as well as from thousands of its supporters across Guyana. They continue to blame the administration of late president Forbes Burnham for the murder.
The challenging task of the commission of enquiry is to unearth the truth—given the deaths of key figures—not the least being that of former sergeant of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Gregory Smith, who has been implicated in the killing. An electronics expert, Smith died some years ago in neighbouring French Guiana, to which he escaped and where he had started a new life.
The commission’s members are Barbados’s Sir Richard Cheltenham QC (chairman); Jamaica’s Jacqueline Samuels-Brown QC, and Guyana-born Seenauth Jairam SC, who lives and works in Trinidad and Tobago.
The commissioners were sworn in last week by President Donald Ramotar.
During his many years as Guyanese leader, Forbes Burnham and his People’s National Congress (PNC) never acquiesced to calls for an independent probe into Rodney’s death from various political parties and non-government organisations as well as from the widow and children of the slain historian and charismatic advocate for fundamental human rights and social, economic and political change in Guyana.
When efforts were made, after 1992, with a change in government led by the People’s Progressive Party’s Dr Cheddi Jagan to seek the cooperation of France for Smith’s extradition the French authorities made it clear it was not their policy to extradite an individual back to his country of birth to face a likely death sentence. France is opposed to the death penalty.
Earlier efforts by human rights advocates and organisations to secure the involvement in a probe into Rodney’s death by the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) had also proved fruitless.
In a telephone interview I had done as a regional correspondent for the Caribbean News Agency (CANA) with Smith while he was still in French Guiana, the fugitive claimed the tragedy “was an accident” and that he was “sorry” but preferred not to say anything further.
It was left to Burnham’s successor, Desmond Hoyte, under pressure from, in particular, Eusi Kwayana, the iconic cultural/political activist and a founding member of the WPA, to initiate a coroner’s inquest.
Eight years after Burnham’s passing, and in the absence of efforts to summon key witnesses and secure forensic evidence, the inquest concluded Rodney’s death had been caused “by accident or misadventure…”
Following the deaths of Burnham and Hoyte, there was the passage of a parliamentary motion calling for an independent probe into Rodney’s death, but only after the opposition PNC and WPA parliamentarians succeeded in getting removal of the word “assassination” with the argument that it would prejudge the circumstances surrounding the historian’s death.

Subsequently, and prior to Guyana’s last general election in November 2011, the WPA surprisingly opted to team up with the PNC— under the leadership of retired Brigadier of the GDF, David Granger—to contest elections under the umbrella of convenience known as APNU—A Partnership for National Unity. In this “partnership” Granger—always a “comrade” of the PNC—and the WPA’s “brother” Rupert Roopnarine, academic and writer, are respectively ALPNU’s chairman and deputy chairman. You think party politics in Guyana easy? We anxiously await the findings of the commission of enquiry.
Dr Rodney was at the height of his popular crusade against what he had described as the “Burnham dictatorship” when he was killed by the bomb planted in a walkie-talkie device and given to his brother, Donald Rodney, by Gregory Smith.
While we await the start of the probe, Rodney’s seminal work, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, is being translated for publication by China, whose economic and political influence in both Africa and the Caribbean/Latin America region is progressively rising. Stay tuned.
March 7, 2014

The killing of Dr Rodney

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This article by correspondent Rickey Singh appeared in Trinidad’s Express.

NOW that Carnival 2014 is over, perhaps the people of Trinidad and Tobago could spare some time to reflect on developments in other Caricom states. One such country is Guyana.

An issue currently in sharp focus in Guyana is a probe into the killing, decades ago, of the internationally famous historian and crusader for freedom and social justice Walter Rodney.

Thirty-three years after this intellectual and writer was killed in a bomb blast in his car on the night of June 13, 1980, in Georgetown, a three-member team of Caribbean legal experts has been established to begin an enquiry into the circumstances surrounding the killing of Dr Rodney.

“Assassination” has always been the unofficial verdict of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), the party of which Dr Rodney was a founder-leader, as well as from thousands of its supporters across Guyana. They continue to blame the administration of late president Forbes Burnham for the murder.

The challenging task of the commission of enquiry is to unearth the truth—given the deaths of key figures—not the least being that of former sergeant of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Gregory Smith, who has been implicated in the killing. An electronics expert, Smith died some years ago in neighbouring French Guiana, to which he escaped and where he had started a new life.

The commission’s members are Barbados’s Sir Richard Cheltenham QC (chairman); Jamaica’s Jacqueline Samuels-Brown QC, and Guyana-born Seenauth Jairam SC, who lives and works in Trinidad and Tobago.

The commissioners were sworn in last week by President Donald Ramotar.

During his many years as Guyanese leader, Forbes Burnham and his People’s National Congress (PNC) never acquiesced to calls for an independent probe into Rodney’s death from various political parties and non-government organisations as well as from the widow and children of the slain historian and charismatic advocate for fundamental human rights and social, economic and political change in Guyana.

When efforts were made, after 1992, with a change in government led by the People’s Progressive Party’s Dr Cheddi Jagan to seek the cooperation of France for Smith’s extradition the French authorities made it clear it was not their policy to extradite an individual back to his country of birth to face a likely death sentence. France is opposed to the death penalty.

Earlier efforts by human rights advocates and organisations to secure the involvement in a probe into Rodney’s death by the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) had also proved fruitless.

In a telephone interview I had done as a regional correspondent for the Caribbean News Agency (CANA) with Smith while he was still in French Guiana, the fugitive claimed the tragedy “was an accident” and that he was “sorry” but preferred not to say anything further.

It was left to Burnham’s successor, Desmond Hoyte, under pressure from, in particular, Eusi Kwayana, the iconic cultural/political activist and a founding member of the WPA, to initiate a coroner’s inquest.

Eight years after Burnham’s passing, and in the absence of efforts to summon key witnesses and secure forensic evidence, the inquest concluded Rodney’s death had been caused “by accident or misadventure…”

Following the deaths of Burnham and Hoyte, there was the passage of a parliamentary motion calling for an independent probe into Rodney’s death, but only after the opposition PNC and WPA parliamentarians succeeded in getting removal of the word “assassination” with the argument that it would prejudge the circumstances surrounding the historian’s death.

Subsequently, and prior to Guyana’s last general election in November 2011, the WPA surprisingly opted to team up with the PNC— under the leadership of retired Brigadier of the GDF, David Granger—to contest elections under the umbrella of convenience known as APNU—A Partnership for National Unity. In this “partnership” Granger—always a “comrade” of the PNC—and the WPA’s “brother” Rupert Roopnarine, academic and writer, are respectively ALPNU’s chairman and deputy chairman. You think party politics in Guyana easy? We anxiously await the findings of the commission of enquiry.

Dr Rodney was at the height of his popular crusade against what he had described as the “Burnham dictatorship” when he was killed by the bomb planted in a walkie-talkie device and given to his brother, Donald Rodney, by Gregory Smith.

While we await the start of the probe, Rodney’s seminal work, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, is being translated for publication by China, whose economic and political influence in both Africa and the Caribbean/Latin America region is progressively rising. Stay tuned.

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY TO OUR FOLLOWERS FROM GHANA
(PLEASE FOLLOW BOTH Tumblr’s  HERE & HERE)

Ghana, officially called the Republic of Ghana, is a sovereign state and unitary presidential constitutional republic, located along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, in West Africa
ON THIS DAY 1957
March 6, 2014

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY TO OUR FOLLOWERS FROM GHANA

(PLEASE FOLLOW BOTH Tumblr’s  HERE & HERE)

Ghana, officially called the Republic of Ghana, is a sovereign state and unitary presidential constitutional republic, located along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, in West Africa

ON THIS DAY 1957