Commentary: High on Ebola, low on chikungunya

BY R.D. MILLER

Since the recent outbreak of chikungunya in the Caribbean, four people with close connections who arrived back into the US from the Caribbean region were hospitalized immediately and diagnosed with the virus. In addition, a few medical center employees communicated that they have seen an increase in patients from the region admitted to their medical facilities.

I am not a medical doctor, nor do I play one on the television; however, based on the recent reports chikungunya has seen a significant uptick. On the other hand, an impression is being portrayed that it is under the control of these shores. What long term effect it has on people is not known at this time.

The leaders must address this issue openly and develop a solid plan before this potential storm, where soon the US and other well-traveled countries by the Caribbean people will begin to put the medical drone in the region.

The drone concept is geared to destroy anything in its path when launched. However, could you blame the US if they cut travel, and begin to set a high alert and other screening of passengers from the region?

The recent death of Thomas Duncan from Ebola at age 42, who arrived in the US, has created an intensive focus on foreign travelers from many poor and developing countries.

The recent death of Thomas Duncan from Ebola at age 42, who arrived in the US, has created an intensive focus on foreign travelers from many poor and developing countries.

Although many believed Thomas Duncan’s death while in US care would inevitably send a statement to others to not come, many people are now wondering what the color of medicine is after two dedicated Caucasian doctors who worked in Liberia contracted the virus and recovered.

One of the silent tones in the Caribbean addressing chikungunya, I believe, is not the politics of the virus, which is often seen elsewhere, for the region, it is all economics.

Here is why: Most of the region’s economic engine is tourism, and if any indication like what has been taken place in Liberia, it could be worse than the economic collapse in 2008 that left many still sneezing.
 

I begin to wonder if this is a reason report of this increasing tide seems a bit hushed up to protect the tourism industry while many locals are suffering silently. Any business model during a turbulent time is not only to ready, but willing to tell about structural problems. This approach not only builds credibility but also demonstrates a level of leadership that is lacking today on several fronts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

To help stop the spread of Ebola, Red Cross volunteers in Guinea are visiting communities to meet with residents face-to-face. They sensitise people to change attitudes and practices that could spread the virus like here in the village of Kolebengo, one of the most resistant villages in Gueckedou

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

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

The National Institute of Health, World Health Organization, Public Health Department, and Infectious Disease, noted that chikungunya is a viral and rarely fatal disease. It is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes.

The symptoms include high fever and a headache with debilitating joint pains, swelling, and stiffness of joints, muscular pain, a headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and rash that can last for several weeks. Normally within four to seven days as reported after been bitten, the symptoms appear.

The mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a sick infected person during the viraemic period. Today, there are no specific antiviral treatments or vaccines available. However, it also has been reported that commonly used medications include ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, paracetamol, and aspirin.

Although there have been reported deaths, the number of related deaths is extremely low compared to Ebola; however, one should not discount it as a storm that will pass soon.

These regions have to debunk that only certain medicine can cure this outbreak, while many studies have reported there are no known cures at this time for the symptoms. It is extremely important that people take crucial preventive measures such as bite-proof long sleeves and trousers.

Purchasing untested drugs in desperation from local street vendors might not be the best approach, especially for people with limiting or no access to healthcare. More information can be found published by many health organizations.

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

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

Although some awareness has been posted, and the governments seem now to be taking steps to mitigate the potential problem, more needs to be done. Nevertheless, can we all be stratified?

This is not to reduce any attempts, as the lack of resources can make this a difficult task. Moreover, the chance of being robbed, shot, or killed in some of these areas, is more than likely than contracting the virus.
 

As the region continues to attract visitors, it is also important that these visitors receive a disclaimer of this undercurrent taking place.

The leaders must make sure that all proactive measures are taken, and seek help and resources as needed, and stop putting on a good face on this issues with a relaxed attitude.

I am still optimistic that all can come together and weather the storm. Moms and I obtain a ticket ready to land soon to take a break from the upcoming winter.

(Brazil’s) 2014 World Cup Soccer, is more than a game: After the final whistle blown, will much change for the poor in Brazil.`

BY R.D. MILLER

The Global Colors.

Every four years, millions of fans gather in person at watch parties in public parks and bars to see the best of the best players face off for bragging rights until another four years.

This remarkable event never seems to be far from controversy wherever it is being played. These controversies range from soccer or football, corruption, and the socio-economic responsibility it should take on in our society.

Despite the logistics, since the 2014 games begun, the Amazon colors have taken over our television, iPhones, smartphones, and iPads like a rainbow.

However, beneath it all, residents are crying for a new economic canvas to modernize and move poor people to a better standard of living.

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

They are the ones being left out of the prints. After the final whistle has blown, they too will be still asking economic referees for a penalty that was not given on a foul play.

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

Photo Credit: Reuters

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

The Socioeconomic Impact

The World Cup is bigger than its location, despite heartaches, especially from the premature departure by England, Italy, and Australia. However, the stage is still where players and supporters use the event to highlight their countries, send statements, and reconnect with compatriots who are still clubbing rivals.

This is like a family reunion before they head back to business and where lifelong friendships are formed, even between countries without diplomatic ties and where cultural divides are rooted in political turmoil.

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

Many now are aware that the Iranians play soccer and not everything is about nuclear weapons and tension with the Israelis. Even the Israelis have a solid team.

Yes, this is the real “World Champion Series,” and they crown the true world champions after eight weeks.

The Economics: These games are being led under the International Association Federation of Football (FIFA). It is a billion-dollar industry, and throughout this region, the games are ubiquitous.

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

Forbes magazine has reported that (FIFA) will generate about $4 billion in revenue. However, more needs to be done to promote social programs to cut poverty and not the appearance of forcing local economies to stretch their budgets to accommodate their demands.

Wherever FIFA places its goalposts, it is always under the microscope. Recently published in a British magazine, the organization is being investigated on corruption and bribes related to the Qatar 2022 bid.

FIFA’s operation is not much different from the American National Football League (NFL). Inside these games, recruitment is alive.

This is where wealthy club managers scope every play, searching for the next star and the face of new marketing global campaigns.

But beneath these targeted players, there are several communities of improvised youths looking for education, access to decent affordable medicines and safety.

Often these public investments are unsuccessful on a much bigger scale because when fans are gone and the multi-million stadiums are empty, the local people are stuck with the debt burden.

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

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

Such as gentrification, our society has been increasingly shifting as it is becoming more diverse, and that sometimes causes tension and even more isolation.  

The other Brazil off the pitch.

Many reports show that if black Brazilians could get on a boat and leave, and maybe on a soccer pitch is the safest place because they kill more blacks at an alarming rate besides the economic stagnation. Even when crime overall dropped, the number of violent deaths recorded, in comparison, the murder rate of black people has not decreased.

Maybe it is time for an economic package both socially and economically in these poor communities. After the goals are scored, and the pageantry is over for poor people of color, it is like a soccer ball with air.

FIFA always executes successful events. The game between the US and Portugal had one of the highest ratings, upward of 21 million. Imagine if these fans force FIFA to make sure some economic balance where it places the next goal posts.

With success should come responsibility, and despite the Beautiful Game that has broken down barriers, some players still face discrimination. They call some niggers, monkeys, and bananas a symbol of games by some fans.

Recently, Italian star Mario Balotelli spoke up after he faced racial slurs from a few fans, and more players must do the same.

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

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

Social Responsibility

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

Often, I join a few new fans at the local sports bars who seem intrigued with long pauses when they realize a few teams starting 11 such as the French, Germans; the Italians have black players, and some are Muslims. It is more than a game, and awareness is key.

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

Most of these children without their parents are under age 10 and now in detention camps at the US border. Up to 90,000 came from Honduras, Colombia, and Guatemala as reported.

These young people fled to escape sexual violence and other inhumane treatment stemming from crime. No one will know the long-term physiological impact but it can devastate, as studies have shown. 

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

Sadly, some are outside the gated walls looking to take the dangerous trip north, while they fill other pitches with toxins and the goalposts are two empty containers with lead. They can use maybe revenue generated to at least give awareness to this problem.

Extra Minutes:

These extra minutes added to games can generate more revenue for FIFA. However, in a few weeks, the cameras will be gone; and well-dressed immigrant men and women from the television networks with few selected feel-good stories, while surrounded with security as if they are in a war zone, will leave town.

Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

There will be more games to come, many players are of African descent, with similarities to an NFL player, and they too are extremely rich and more famous. Some I had to navigate drug and crime-infested areas to reach a local field.

The next referee

Today, I wonder if our socio-economic polarization, inequality disparities have reduced some of our imagination. Perhaps our major league should do more because such as Brazil, they lead us to believe that someone is watching. But has anyone notice to make a more systematic change for a better game.

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

Commentary: The elephant is still in the room

BY R.D. Miller

The elephant is still in the room

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

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P.M. Portia Simpson-Miller

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

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P.M. Eugenia Charles

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

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P.M. Kamla Persad-Bissessar

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

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

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

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

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Jeddah Marriott no women sign

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

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

Whitenicious-hand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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