Tag Archive | "Jamaica"

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Connecticut Man Goes Weeks Without Food After DSS Delays Food Stamps

Updated Saturday, August 15, 2015 at 11:32 a.m.

HARTFORD — For almost three weeks, Al Lopez went hungry in Connecticut. He was alone and bedridden in Avon after he returned from the John Dempsey Hospital in May. The cupboards were empty. The electricity was off. But Northeast Utilities, Community Renewal Team and other social agencies said no to his plea for help. So Lopez lived on just sugar and water for those three weeks until a neighbor returned from a business trip. Lopez then limped down the stairs to talk to his neighbor, who called 911. After being in the emergency room for hours, the nurses admitted him into the hospital’s psychiatric unit, where he stayed for three days and was released. The doctors deduced he was hungry — not mentally ill.

This experience was a first for the soft-spoken, 43-year-old man with a Jamaican lilt.

“It was an unpleasant experience,”  said Lopez who now stays with a relative. “I survived it.”

Hunger, that uneasy or painful experience caused by lack of food, affects about 390,000 people in Connecticut every year, according to a recent report by the Food Research and Action Center. In May 2015, about one in seven people nationwide received help from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP or Food Stamps. And about one in nine were unemployed or underemployed, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Lopez, an Afro-Latino who recently emigrated from Jamaica, went hungry for almost three weeks, he said, because his caseworkers and state officials said “I wasn’t eligible” for the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. So he was denied food stamps by the Department of Social Services while he was underemployed and unemployed. Community Renewal Team also delayed energy assistance applications for several months; and the Connecticut Light and Power company, now called Eversource, refused to reduce his relative’s electric bill to keep the lights on.

Previous research shows that many immigrants do not apply for food stamps or know that this and other social services exist. Or, like Lopez, they are denied services or they received inadequate or delayed assistance while they integrate into their new home. Since 2000, about 50 percent of immigrant households with little or no education received social services. Prior to that, most immigrants would do two or three menial jobs. Now, experts say, they are assimilated into the welfare system instead of jobs with livable wages. And in some cases educated black immigrants are pushed out of white-collar jobs and onto welfare.

A recent immigrant adjusting to work, school and life in America, Lopez received little or no help from the social agencies he signed up with when he lost his job as a customer representative at Big Y in Avon.  Last fall, Gifts of Love turned him away, saying they were not taking new applicants. So he went to Hartford Hospital, and they placed him in the Institute of Living mainly, he said, because they didn’t understand him, his accent and his customs. He was just anxious about his new home, how to find another job and how to cope with the loss of his mother before he was attacked by nativists in Hartford, he said. After relatives called 911, Hartford police officers took him to Capitol Region Mental Health Center, a community-based mental health facility operated by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. The staff there failed to secure food stamps and Medicaid for him.

Lopez’s Case Manager, Morris Mendez, said he did the paperwork and did not know why Lopez was denied.  So Lopez followed up with his clinician at Capitol Region in Hartford, Roxanne Ellis-Denby.

“Unfortunately, you get the most help when you are in hospitals or jails,” said Ellis-Denby, who is Lopez’s clinician for about three years. “And he’s not eligible for food stamps or Medicaid until after five years here.”

Lopez’s eligibility is clear.

According to DSS’s website, every Connecticut resident (citizens and non citizens), whose income and assets are within the set limits are eligible for food stamps. Lopez was in school and work until October 2014. Because of being misdiagnosed, his clinician scheduled frequent visits to Capitol Region, so he could get help with other social services, he said. After his last visit to Capitol Region in October, he has been without a job and has zero income.

When asked why he was put in a psych ward in May, he said, they told him he had “anxieties.”

Civil Rights Advocate said that anxiety is not a reason to be in a mental institution. Lopez’s experience is only about someone adjusting to a new home or a process of acculturation, not mental illness, they said. Besides, even if he was a recent immigrant, there’s absolutely no reason DSS should delay or deny food stamps to someone unemployed, underemployed, sick or homeless,” they said.

But representatives in Hartford’s DSS office did, even though there is no backlog, according to DSS spokesman David Dearborn.

“In fact, we have an over 96 percent timeliness rate for SNAP application processing in the last six-month period evaluated by the federal government, which runs from October 2014 through March 2015,” he said. “Our internal data show that we have been maintaining that excellent rate to date.”

Lopez’s experience with DSS contradicts that prevailing trend at the department.

When contacted, a representative in the Hartford office said Lopez was denied in 2012 and 2014 when he was ill and underemployed. And despite submitting all the required documents, his application has been delayed since April 2015.

Some immigrant advocates believe Lopez is a victim of the anti-immigrant sentiment in Hartford and beyond.

Hate group membership has expanded since 2005 — fueled largely by anti-immigrant sentiment. But after President Barack Obama’s election in 2008, it spiked. That’s according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, which tracks right-wing extremists and hate groups.

Black immigrants, they say, are subjected to a particular brand of nativism—akin to the ethno-racism found among the Irish community in the early 1900s. It is now pervasive among African Americans, who are in these positions to help black immigrants but often failed to do so, they said.  Xenophobia among native-born blacks is a disturbing trend in the age of Obama, the first African-American president in the United States. And many native-born blacks now believe they “are more endowed with more rights” than black immigrants, who are pushed away by African-American and Hispanic communities. So they, “fall between the cracks,” advocates said.

Lopez is of one of many who fell between those cracks in a xenophobic society spurred by immigration reform debates since 2007.

“There is a damaging immigration narrative that is largely predicated on anti-Blackness,” said Marybeth Onyeukwu, in Truthout. “ However, there are recent attempts to discuss immigration in a way that is inclusive of the Black immigrant experience,” disallowing the erasure of Black immigrants.

Despite a ban on discrimination based on national origin and ancestry, Lopez’s situation seems to be an anomaly or a result of unconscious bias, which consists of a series of micro aggressions toward black immigrants — even from native born blacks. This incredible incident of hunger in Connecticut is, therefore, the cumulative effect of a blatant indifference toward someone’s need for help, advocates say. And black immigrants from the West Indies are less likely than Hispanic immigrants to feel empowered about exercising their constitutional rights, said Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida Joyce Hamilton-Henry.

“Hispanic immigrants have unabashed demands that they have equal protection,” she said. “West Indians (some of whom are Afro-Latinos) are not as politically empowered.”

Accessing welfare and other programs—including jobs—can be seen as an indication that some immigrants have a difficult time assimilating in America. Black immigrants from the West Indies, pushed out of jobs because of anti-immigrant sentiments and other reasons, are now often assimilated into the welfare system, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.

“When anti-immigrant sentiments are present,” Hamilton-Henry said, “all of us are threatened.”

The delayed SNAP application left Lopez food deficient for about a month. He called DSS and was put on hold for more than 70 minutes. As of press time, he’s still waiting for his application to be approved.

The story is based on the experiences of volunteers with the Connecticut Alliance for Better Communities, which publishes The Hartford Guardian. The name Al Lopez was used to protect the source used in this story.



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White House Official: No Pardon For Marcus Garvey

By Tony Best,  Contributor Los Angeles Sentinel

A bid to secure a posthumous presidential pardon for Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jamaica’s first national hero, has been rejected by the Barack Obama White House in Washington.

But the Administration’s rejection is unlikely to end the campaign in and out of the United States, Jamaica and elsewhere to clear the name of the iconic figure.

Garvey, who led the greatest mass movement of Blacks in the United States in the first half of the 20th century and is often credited by historians and other experts with promoting the economic, social and political interests of the ordinary Black person as no other had been able to do for more than half a century, had a following that ran into the millions in the Western Hemisphere. He was convicted in U.S. federal court in the 1920s of mail fraud and was incarcerated for almost three years before he was released and deported to Jamaica. He died in London in 1940 and was initially buried there but his remains were exhumed from Kensal Green Cemetery in 1964 and returned to Jamaica where they were re-interred at National Heroes Park in Kingston.

In a letter to Donovan Parker, a Jamaican attorney in Florida, who has been writing to the U.S. President every week requesting clemency.

Ronald Rogers, White House pardon attorney, stated that the limited resources of the Justice Department would be better spent on other requests for presidential clemency.
“It is the general policy of the Department of Justice that requests for posthumous pardons for federal offences not be processed for adjudication,” Rogers told Parker in a sharply worded response. “The policy is grounded in the belief that the time of the officials involved in the clemency process is better spent on pardon and commutation requests of living persons.

“Many posthumous pardon requests would likely be based on a claim of manifest injustice, and given the decades that have passed since the event and the historical record would have been scoured to objectively and comprehensively investigate such applications, it is the Department’s position that the limited resources which are available to process requests for presidential clemency–now being submitted in record numbers–are best dedicated to requests submitted by persons who can benefit from a grant of the request,” Rogers stated.
In a letter to the White House, Parker described Garvey as a “leading forbearer of the African-American civil rights experience.”

He said that “it is full time that this extra-ordinary human being of humble beginnings and strong moral character be pardoned by the pen of an American President. It would be fitting if both you, Mr. President, and the first lady visit Jamaica for the purpose of signing the executive order pardoning Marcus Mosiah Garvey.”

After receiving the White House rejection, Parker said that he disappointed and urged Pamela Bridgewater, U.S. Ambassador in Jamaica, to join in the call for the pardon.

“I believe there has been no coordinated effort to get this issue in front of the President,” Parker said. “I think if President Obama reads it (the request), he will sign it.”

What has upset many supporters of the clemency application was the tone of Roger’s reply, which Miguel Lorne of the Marcus Garvey founded People’s Political Alliance found unacceptable.

“The language used in the reply was most disdainful. It makes you wonder if Obama actually read the request,” he said. “Obama must know about Garvey, who is the forerunner of the civil rights movement. It is most disappointing.”

Legal experts and other who have studied the Garvey case have long concluded that he was framed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and wrongfully convicted.

Successive Jamaican governments and their leaders, including Edward Seaga, of the Jamaica Labor Party, and Portia Simpson-Miller, the country’s first female Prime Minister, have called for the pardon but it has not been granted by either Republican or Democratic Presidents.


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Jamaica Declares Emergency in Capital After Attacks


By Horace Helps Horace Helps

KINGSTON (Reuters) – Jamaica declared a state of emergency in two parishes of its capital Kingston on Sunday after shooting and firebomb attacks on police stations by suspected supporters of an alleged drug lord who faces extradition to the United States.

“A state of public emergency, limited to the parishes of Kingston and St. Andrew, has been declared and will come into effect at 6:00 p.m. (2300 GMT) today,” the government’s Jamaica Information Service (JIS) said.

Profile of Christopher \”Dudus\” Coke 

The limited emergency in the popular Caribbean tourist destination covered districts of the capital where gunmen on Sunday fired on two police stations and set fire to another. At least one policemen was injured.

The attackers were suspected supporters of Christopher “Dudus” Coke whom the government has called on to surrender to face a U.S. extradition request on cocaine trafficking and gun-running charges.

Streets into the poor Tivoli Gardens area of West Kingston, where Coke is believed to be hiding, were barricaded on Sunday in defiance of a police call for Coke to hand himself over, witnesses said.

The U.S. Department of State has issued a travel alert warning its citizens of the possibility of violence in Jamaica’s Kingston Metropolitan area.

Tensions in Jamaica rose over the last week after Prime Minister Bruce Golding announced he was starting proceedings to extradite Coke. U.S. prosecutors describe Coke as the leader of the infamous “Shower Posse” that murdered hundreds of people during the cocaine wars of the 1980s.

Relations between Jamaica and the United States grew strained when Jamaica initially spurned a 2009 extradition request for Coke, who is a supporter of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party and wields influence in the volatile inner city constituency that Golding represents.


The violence comes as the government is moving ahead with an International Monetary Fund loan program.

The IMF in February finalized a $1.27 billion loan for Jamaica, its first loan from the fund in 15 years, to help the Caribbean nation address deep-rooted weaknesses in its economy and make it less vulnerable to economic shocks, such as last year’s financial crisis.

The United States requested Coke’s extradition in August 2009 but Jamaica initially refused, alleging that U.S. evidence against him had been gathered through illegal wiretaps.

In its annual narcotics control strategy report in March, the U.S. State Department said Coke’s ties to Jamaica’s ruling party “highlights the potential depth of corruption in the government.”

Golding acknowledged in parliament earlier this month that he had been aware that his party hired a U.S. law firm to lobby the Obama administration against pursuing Coke’s extradition.

He had initially denied knowledge of the hiring but later said he had sanctioned it in his capacity as leader of the ruling party and not as prime minister.

The admission prompted demands for the resignation of Golding, who is midway through a five-year term.

(Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Cynthia Osterman)

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Negril, Jamaica No Longer A Hidden Paradise



NEGRIL, JAMAICA (Tierramérica) — For centuries, Negril, a seven-mile stretch of white sand beach on the western tip of Jamaica, was cut off from the rest of the island by bad roads and a large swamp.

It remained relatively unknown to the world until the 1960s and 1970s, when U.S. “hippies,” students and Vietnam veterans gravitated towards this laid-back village.

The U.S. travelers arrived in ever-increasing numbers and, towards the end of the 1970s, Negril blossomed as a tourist destination. But with the growing population and improved infrastructure, the natural beauty of Jamaica’s third largest tourism centre has suffered visible deterioration.

“When I first visited Negril from Kingston in 1960, just after the first road to the coast was built, there were no buildings the entire length of the beach. The waters were crystal clear,” wrote Thomas J. Goreau, president of the non-governmental U.S.-based Global Coral Reef Alliance, in a paper published in 1992.

“Now that it is Jamaica’s fastest growing resort area, all the tall coconut trees are gone, the beaches are crowded with people and buildings,” states the text.

Eighteen years later, the demise of the Negril environment has again been brought into sharp focus, this time by United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Division of Early Warning and Assessment.

Expert Pascal Peduzzi, who heads the Early Warning Unit, predicted in March that several beaches on the western end of Jamaica could be totally wiped out in the next five to 10 years if local authorities and residents do not act now.

His prediction is based on data coming out of a UNEP study on the role of the ecosystem in disaster risk reduction.

“The data has found that beaches in Negril are receding between half and one meter per year,” said Peduzzi.

The scientific evidence shows that over the past 40 years Negril’s beaches have undergone severe and irreversible shoreline erosion and retreat, according to the study entitled “Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Methodology Development Project (RiVAMP): The Case of Jamaica.”

“The highest erosion rates have occurred after 1991, when beach recovery after storms has been slower, and these trends are likely to continue,” Peduzzi said.

The UNEP report says bad environmental and building practices and illegal dumping of pollutants in the sea were killing sea grass and coral reefs, thus reducing their effectiveness in protecting the beaches from erosion.

In the opinion of Maxine Hamilton, executive director of the Negril Environmental Protection Trust, the UNEP study will help determine the way forward in finding solutions for an already fragile environment.

“It will help us to structure our program to ensure that we conserve the environment and to increase the resilience of the vulnerable communities in our area to natural disasters… It gives us ammunition to move ahead to take the appropriate action,” she said.

In April 2000, the Negril Chamber of Commerce invited professor Edward Maltby, who headed the Commission on Ecosystem Management of the World Conservation Union, to visit Negril and assist in guiding the community on the way forward.

Maltby was adamant that the Negril Great Morass, a wetland covering 2,289 hectares, must be revitalized. The Great Morass constitutes one-fifth of Jamaica’s wetland area.

The Great Morass once completely surrounded the Negril beach, preventing access to the coast. The area has been subjected to extensive man-made changes that have influenced its hydrological function as well as its role as a wildlife habitat.

“Greed is what functions now. They have built hotels on the last forest swamp which had mangroves and was where the crabs and fish spawned,” ecologist and hotel owner Sylvie Grizzle told Tierramérica. She moved here from her native France in 1981.

The red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) in the area grows toward the sea, holding the sands in place. “That gave us a bit more land every year, so of course that’s gone, that’s finished,” she said.

“I was probably the only person who protested. I said, ‘please, you can have your hotel anywhere else, just not in that area because that is the last little bit of coastal forest that we have’.”

“One of these days we won’t even have a beach if nothing is done,” lamented Grizzle, who owns the Charela Inn and is a pioneer in the country’s environmental movement.

She says there has been no planning in Negril or in the rest of Jamaica. “We are destroying our coastlines everywhere. Jamaica is a small island and Jamaicans are being pushed out and that is terrible,” Grizzle said.

One of the problems, she says, is the violation of rules and regulations. “For those who put their hotels on the sea, let them pay a terrible tax for the rest of their days for breaking the law” or tear down their buildings.

(*This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialized news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Program, United Nations Environment Program and the World Bank.)



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Dozens Hurt in American Airlines Accident in Jamaica

By Reuters

KINGSTON, JAMAICA — An American Airlines Boeing 737 overshot the runway while landing at the international airport in Kingston, Jamaica Tuesday night, injuring dozens of the 143 passagers but no fatalities, a local newspaper reported.

“The injured passengers have been taken to the Kingston Public Hospital,” Information Minister Daryl Vaz told the Jamaica Observer. “There are no reports of fatalities.”

Up to 91 people have been taken to the hospital, CNN reports.

An FAA spokeswoman told Reuters the plane was American Airlines flight 331 from Miami. The flight originated in Washington DC.

The plane crashed and broke in two after landing, according to local reports.

The Jamaica Observer newspaper said the plane arrived in pouring rain at around 10 p.m. local time and overshot the runway.

CNN.com quoted Omar Lawrence, the airport’s operations coordinator, as saying there were 145 passengers and seven crew members aboard.

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Mayor, Officals Fete Jamaican Senator

HARTFORD — Mayor Eddie Perez and other city officials took time out to meet and greet Jamaica’s Senator, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Ronald Robinson.

Robinson was feted in April and given an entire day, which the mayor proclaimed in his honor. The city also pledged to partner on a number of trade and investment initiatives, including a gift of a fire truck to the government of Jamaica through the Caribbean Trade Council.

Robinson’s trip was a part of trip planned by the Jamaican government to reach out to Jamaicans in the United States. Trips were planned for New York, New Jersey, Miami and Hartford. Hartford purportedly has the largest number of Jamicans in the U.S.

Connecticut’s capital city is also home to the third largest West Indian population in the nation.

Robinson was the speaker at lunch ceremony held at the West Indian Social Club of Hartford, which was attended by, among others, Andrew Lawrence, President of the Caribbean Trade Council of Hartford; Daryl K. Roberts, Chief of Hartford Police Department; Veronica Airy-Wilson, Councilwoman of City of Hartford; Geneive Brown Metzger, Consul General of Jamaica in New York; RJo Winch, Councilwoman of Hartford; Charles Teale, Sr., Chief of Hartford Fire Department.

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Cheap Winter Getaways

AREAWIDE — Have those winter blues? Maybe it’s time to get away. But wait. Can you afford to get away in these economic times with no relief in sight? It’s something to think about.  But just incase you are itching to get some relief from this economic and winter depression, we put together a list of cost effective adventures for those who are low on cash and high on anxiety. If you are thinking of relaxing and releasing and would like a short weekend winter get away that will fit their budget, we have put together a list of hot spots.

We will add to the list  until spring is near. So if you have any hot spots you would like to share with us,  feel free to send them our way.




Jamaica  has slashed its price as temperature continues to drop and snow piles up. The island bills itself as a “destination for fun-filled getway for families and a romantic retreat for couples.

The island’s winter package includes:


The Super-Inclusive “Gift of Travel” Promotion offers the season’s lowest rates to guests who stay at participating resorts now through Aug. 31, 2009:

  • Breezes Runaway Bay – US$145
  • Breezes Montego Bay – US$125
  • Hedonism II – US$149
  • Hedonism III – US$149
  • Starfish Trelawny – US$86 (US$50 per night for kids ages 2-13 years)

To learn more about Jamaica’s resorts and hotels, or to book a trip, go to www.visitjamaica.com.




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