Right Steps & Poui Trees


.#Matthew: Friday Morning Outlook From Jamaica

I went up on the roof this morning and the view is beautiful and peaceful, as it usually is. p1010350

Forecasts

matthew-met-service-release-30-9-16-5amThe current weather forecasts are, however, showing that Jamaica is increasingly likely to have a direct encounter with Hurricane Matthew. Our Met Service‘s 5am release says that “A Hurricane Watch may be required for Jamaica today.” A Hurricane Watch is usually issued 48 hours before tropical storm force winds are likely to be felt. Once we have that strength winds, it’s difficult to do any further preparations.

 

The National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) map at 8am EST (7am Jamaican time) forecasts that on Monday morning the eye of Hurricane Matthew is likely to be very near the eastern tip of Jamaica, and within the forecast cone a direct hit is quite likely. This can obviously change, but direct hit or not, we are in for severe weather, it seems. Here is the NHC 8:00am advisory.

 

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I don’t like what I am seeing on Weather Underground this morning, which forecasts Matthew as a category 3 hurricane when it affects Jamaica, and the computer models are clustering to show a likely direct hit.

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pm-tweet-30-9-16Jamaica Prepares

Prime Minster Andrew Holness held  an emergency meeting with Members of Parliament at the Office of the Prime Minister last night. He has posted an update on Twitter & Facebook, and if you scroll down on his Facebook page, there is a recording posted of the full meeting – Meeting on Hurricane Preparedness. This morning the newspapers have reports of that meeting.

Gleaner: Ready For Matthew – Gov’t Says It’s Prepared For Hurricane, Jamaicans Urged To Store Water

Jamaica Observer: J’cans urged to prepare for Hurricane Matthew

So, even as we keep an eye on the weather forecasts, it’s time to prepare.

I went through Hurricane Gilbert at this house, when it hit at category 3 strength in 1988, and I know that this house can stand a serious storm. But it was very frightening. I know what I need to do to prepare and am beginning to do it.  I hope we don’t have a direct hit; a major hurricane would cause devastating damage in Jamaica.


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Keeping Track of Hurricanes: Gilbert vs #Matthew

That weekend in September 1988, I knew that there was a hurricane in the Caribbean; it was on the news, but I wasn’t paying close attention. It wasn’t until my mother called me on the Sunday morning (Sept 11), that I began to pay attention.

“Susan, this one looks as though it’s going to hit us,” she said. And the following day Hurricane Gilbert did hit us, as a category 3 hurricane, with the eye travelling across Jamaica from the east to the west.

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National Hurricane Center satellite  picture, showing eye approaching eastern tip of island on Sept 12, 1988

At that time, the radio newscasts  and the weather forecast on the nightly television news were the main sources of information, which came from Jamaica’s Met Office.

How different it is today!

Matthew

On September 23 (2016), Jeff Masters of Weather Underground began to comment on the system that became Tropical Storm Matthew, before it even became Invest 97L.jeff-masters-23-9-16

He has continued to track and forecast about the system since then and his blog – Dr Jeff Master’s Wunderblog – is a good weather blog to follow.

There are many good Twitter accounts to follow for weather info about storms and hurricanes, and two that had early tweets about Invest 97L were:cantore-tweet-29-9-16andErdman 23-9-16.PNGThere are official sites, such as the US National Hurricane Center, at which you can read updates and view forecast maps & satellite imagery.

(Forecast map & satellite image – Matthew, 29-9-16)

met-service-29-9-16-aThe Meteorological Service of Jamaica site is the official government site for updates & is a good place to check. It has issued a severe weather alert for Jamaica and has advised us to pay attention to subsequent releases.

Yesterday Matthew began to affect the Caribbean and Twitter came alive with updates from around the region..

A short while ago, I saw online that Matthew has now been upgraded to a hurricane and posted a tweet myself. It looks as though we may be feeling some effects come Sunday…sg-tweet-29-9-16I still listen to the radio for hurricane updates, but there are so many other sources nowadays that tracking Hurricane Matthew is a vastly different experience than tracking Hurricane Gilbert was 28 years ago!

 


350 Words or Less: So I Watched The Debate on Monday…

So, I watched the first US Presidential debate on Monday night and I think there is little doubt that Hillary Clinton won. She was well-prepared, knowledgeable and was calm and steady throughout. Donald Trump, whose campaign seemed to be making his lack of preparation into a virtue, was unprepared, didn’t have enough of a foundation of knowledge about many of the issues to wing it and rambled and misstepped a number of times.

The split screen of the two candidates, which was shown for most of the debate, offered a good opportunity for viewers to make an ongoing comparison for an extended period of time, both when the candidates were speaking and listening.

The link below takes you to the full debate, with the candidates coming on stage at 4:22.

Lester Holt of NBC was the moderator and the three areas scheduled for focus were “achieving prosperity, America’s direction and securing America”. A couple of notable moments were:

Clinton & Trump on aspects of race in America ( video 43:18 – 58:43)

Clinton & Trump on nuclear capabilities & defense (video 1:25:25 – 1:31:30)

npr-debate-transcript-26-9-16NPR’s annotated transcript from Monday night is another useful resource for reviewing the debate.

I agree with Clyde Williams that Clinton outscored Trump in all aspects of debate performance.williams-tweet-re-debate-26-9-16williams-tweet-re-debate-26-9-16-bYet I obviously can’t say that this performance guarantees that Clinton will win the election. Nobody realistically can. Not in what is an extremely strange election on so many counts. Many commentators after the debate said that they had never seen anything like it in their 20, 30, 40 years of watching US presidential debates. The most I would do is to agree with one commentator I heard, who said that Clinton’s debate performance may stop or at least slow the previous momentum towards Trump that was being seen in the polls. By next week, the polls should be showing whether or not this is so.

 

There are two more debates and 6 weeks to go till the election, which is a lot of time in politics.

 


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350 Words or Less: You Following the US Election Too?

Most days now, I check Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site. I could say I’m there to read the articles. There are often very good articles and sometimes I read them. But the truth is I’m there for the pictures. Specifically the three forecasting model pictures which answer the question:

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Here are the three pictures today:

 

The first gives the Polls-plus forecast, the second the Polls-only forecast & the third the Now-cast, which are explained below:

538-three-models-for-forecast

I can also have a look at the trend graph, which gives an indication of whether the gap between Clinton and Trump is widening or narrowing according to an overall assessment of polls.ns-polls-plus-graph-24-9-16-pm

When Trump declared his candidacy for the Republican primaries last year, I hardly paid attention. I was certainly one of many who thought he didn’t stand a chance and was in it for the publicity. Yet here it is, a few weeks before the US election and not only is he the Republican candidate but there is a possibility that he could win.

I have no vote, but I follow the election, not only out of a general interest but also because I have relatives who live in the US and because what happens in the US impacts the rest of the world.

On Monday coming, there will be the first of the three debates between Clinton and Trump. I will be watching. It will also be a lively topic for discussion with family in many countries via our dedicated e-mail thread and Whats App group. You can see the Trump campaign spin emerging in this recent interview with Jimmy Fallon, beginning at minute 1:05.

 

Fallon: …You say you don’t traditionally prepare for the debate…

Trump: …I was in eleven debates in the primary system…I never debated professionally or from a political stand point before…they’re trying to game the system…they’re trying to make it so that Lester’s going to come out and be really tough on me…

Nate Silver also had some thoughts on this:ns-trump-tweet-23-9-16-ans-trump-tweet-23-9-16-bns-trump-tweet-23-9-16-cClinton, based on knowledge and experience, should win this debate. But hey…

 


Apologise for What? – When the state commits human rights abuses

gleaner-headline-5-9-2000-cash-for-street-peopleIn 2000, the Jamaican government agreed to pay compensation to the so-called MoBay street people – homeless Jamaicans, many of whom were living with mental illnesses – who had been rounded up in Montego Bay on the night of July 14, 1999. They were taken by truck to St Elizabeth, where they were callously dumped near a mud lake in the dead of night. After the Commission of Enquiry, the government accepted responsibility and indicated that the sum of J$20,000 per month was to be paid to the victims of its abuse. One of the women who was subjected to this horrendous treatment, Miss Sarah, was subsequently interviewed by a reporter about the news of this compensation. She was asked how she felt about the money that the government would be paying her. Her response was that the money was all well and good, but up to that time no-one had yet come and told her sorry for the way she was treated.

When the state through its agents commits human rights abuses, there are many things that the state has an obligation to do as part of the process towards justice. This includes prompt and effective investigations, actions towards holding those responsible accountable, and steps towards reparation for those harmed by the abuse. An often overlooked step in the reparation process is that of apologising for the harm done.

IACHR & Michael Gayle

In 2005, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) published its findings in the petition filed by Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) regarding the death of Michael Gayle, the 26-year-old man who died after being brutally beaten by police and soldiers on the night of August 21, 1999. The Commission made a number of recommendations for action by the Jamaican state. Among those recommendations was that the state should make a public apology to Michael Gayle’s mother, Miss Jenny Cameron:

At the time, the Jamaican government said that it had issued an apology, but Miss Cameron and JFJ, which had made the petition on her behalf, disagreed. This raises issues about the nature of an apology given by the state, where and how it should be given and what it should say. Certainly, the person or people to whom the apology is given should be in no doubt that an apology has been made, nor should the community and country at large.

West Kingston, May 2010

Last week, Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck indicated that the government would within a matter of weeks be issuing an apology to the residents of West Kingston. This was one of the recommendations made in the report of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry, released to the public in June this year.

Some people have again been asking, as they did at the time the report was released, “Apologise for what?” For some, the actions of the police and soldiers during the May 2010 joint security operation were completely justified and they feel that the state has nothing to apologise for. After hearing and examining the evidence put before them during the Enquiry, the Commissioners are of a different opinion.

It is the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) that now forms the government that will deliver the apology in Parliament; it was the JLP that formed the government at the time that human rights violations were carried out in May 2010. Yet, if it had been a PNP administration in government now, they would have had the responsibility to deliver the apology nonetheless, as the state responsibilities continue, whichever party forms the government at a particular time.

A public apology is an important part of justice and reparation, but there must be no misunderstanding that it is all that is needed. There is much additional concrete action that needs to take place to fulfill the recommendations of the Commission of Enquiry and the state’s obligations for accountability (including accountability for crimes committed), for compensation and for measures that will prevent such an occurrence again.

UN Basic Principles & Guidelines

un-logoIn 2005, the United Nations (UN) adopted the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, which is a useful and relevant document.

In the section dealing with Reparations for harm suffered (IX), there is a list of principles which are necessary for full and effective reparation: restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition. Among recommended actions contributing to the principle of satisfaction is:

“Public apology, including acknowledgement of the facts and acceptance of responsibility.” 22.(e)

 

Public apology is there among the many facets to the provision of justice for those who have suffered serious violations of their human rights.

Apologise for what? The Jamaican state must apologise for the human rights abuses carried out by its agents.

 

 


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Tree Knots

There is something fascinating about knots on trees, imperfections that can form quite routinely around the spots where branches fall away as a tree grows. Notable rough spots, signifying growth. At other times, knots form as a result of something more dramatic, when limbs are torn from a tree during a hurricane, for example. Over many years, the tree can grow around the torn off stump and the wood inside can rot, leaving a hole in the trunk. So many metaphors suggesting the passage of time and self-protective actions, but I will resist & simply share some photos.

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Water oakp1010093p1010098

Poor Man’s Orchidp1010049p1010040

Julie Mangop1010184p1010201Knot:  A knob, protuberance, or node in a stem, branch, or root.

            A hard mass formed in a tree trunk at the intersection with a branch, resulting in a round cross-grained piece in timber when cut through.

 


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You Have Got to Be Kidding! (Those Sleeveless Rules Again…)

Some government ministries and departments have rules about what members of the public can wear when they go to do business at those offices. One of these rules that makes absolutely no sense in this tropical country of ours is the prohibition against wearing sleeveless garments. Over the years, there have been a number of reports (sometimes accompanied by photos) of women being prevented from entering to do business because they have been wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses.

Last night, I saw the following tweet online which demonstrates the utterly absurd nature of this rule:gd-tweet-re-sleeves-14-9-16

So, according to this, the government department in question would not allow these women in:

But if they had a couple of scandal bags handy, well then…fashion some makeshift sleeves to cover those bare arms… and come on in!scandal bags.PNG

 

 


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350 Words or Less: Hurricane Gilbert, September 12, 1988

It’s 28 years since Hurricane Gilbert made its way from east to west across Jamaica, a direct hit if there ever was one.

noaa-map-of-gilbert-track

I remember it well. As a child, I longed to experience a “proper” hurricane. Gilbert fulfilled that childhood wish and though I retain a fascination with weather phenomena, I have no desire to experience anything like it ever again.

Each year on September 12, there is some acknowledgement of Hurricane Gilbert’s landfall in Jamaica. This morning I heard Lloyd Lovindeer’s hit song from that time, “Wild Gilbert”, a welcome comic take on events, generating much-needed laughter at the time.wild-gilbert-lovindeer

This evening, NOAA tweeted about Gilbert, which remains one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record.noaa-hurricane-gilbert-tweet-12-9-16I have very clear memories from that time. I remember the first tree to fall in our garden, the massive guinep tree that was completely uprooted very early in the storm:gilbert-1gilbert-2

I remember letting the dogs out during the eye of the storm, and walking around in the garden, seeing the damage already done. It was quite still and the sky was blue. And then the incredible intensity of the winds when they returned, from the opposite direction. By nightfall, the sustained winds had passed, but every so often there was a strong gust and I remember lying in bed, unable to sleep, with a terrible headache, worrying about how some family members had fared.

I don’t have many pictures from that time. This one shows the house next door with much of its roof gone. The massive metal beams that held that roof had been bent back like plasticine, a mental image that forever represents for me the power of the winds during the hurricane.gilbert-3

After Hurricane Gilbert, we were without water for some time and without electricity for many weeks. We, like so many others, refined the art of cooking bully beef and savoured the pleasure of occasional cold drinks.

It’s a generation ago now and there are probably many Jamaican children wishing to experience a “proper” hurricane. And there are those of us who’ve experienced one, saying “No, thank you!”hurricane-gilbert-eye-over-jamaica-12-9-88

 

 

 


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Jamaica: #Zika At The Beginning of September

After a hiatus of more than three weeks, Jamaica’s Ministry of Health (MOH) has posted a new zika update on its website. This update gives data received by the MOH as of August 26, 2016, which I have incorporated into the chart below:MOH zika data 26-8-16 - chart(The 8 reports are all posted on the MOH website, in the Press Releases section.)

More cases of zika than the numbers show

The numbers in this chart reflect the changing situation over a two month period regarding the zika outbreak. It is important to note, however, that the actual situation on the ground is vastly different for a variety of frequently articulated reasons:

  • it is estimated that as many as 80% of people who become infected with the zika virus never show any symptoms, and therefore wouldn’t be represented in the  data;
  • many people experience only mild symptoms during a zika infection and do not seek medical care;
  • doctors and other medical staff do not necessarily report all those they suspect of having zika, although it is a Class 1 Notifiable disease, requiring notification within 24 hours.

Increasing numbers in two-month period

The increased numbers being reported are indicative not only of the actually increasing numbers of zika infections, but probably also of increased awareness of the disease, as well as increased reporting. The figures over the two-month period show the following:

  • the numbers of zika notifications and suspected cases of zika have both more than doubled;
  • the number of confirmed cases of zika has more than tripled;
  • there has been a dramatic increase in suspected cases of zika in pregnant women, from 88 to 470;
  • the number of confirmed cases of zika in pregnant women has increased significantly from 4 to 31.

Guillain Barre Syndrome – increased cases & 6 deaths

The number of Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) notifications has more than doubled during this two month period, as has the number of suspected cases among these notifications. Suspected cases are those that on further evaluation fit the case definition for GBS based on clinical signs, symptoms and investigation results. To date, zika has been lab confirmed in only 3 of these suspected cases of GBS.

Dr De La HayeHowever, the situation with GBS is of increasing concern, with Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Winston De La Haye confirming that as of September 2 there have been 6 GBS-related deaths. In none of these cases has it yet been confirmed that the deceased had a zika infection; test results have come back negative in two cases and the results are pending in the others. The first of these GBS-related deaths was on June 26, and in this instance the deceased tested negative for zika, but positive for both dengue and chikungunya. The two most recent deaths occurred this week.

Communication in the context of zika

Earlier this week, the Opposition Spokesman on Health Horace Dalley (who is the former Minister of Health) made a public statement about the death of a patient at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) on Tuesday. Initially the MOH was unable to confirm the death. In subsequent interviews, Dr De La Haye said that communication with the MOH was being improved, as it was obviously a problem that Mr Dalley knew of the death at KPH, when he did not.

The MOH is also seeking to increase access to information about zika through the provision of two additional phone numbers that the public can call with questions about zika. This is being done through the MOH’s National Emergency Operation Center (NEOC) and is aimed particularly at providing information for pregnant women. The numbers are 537-1709 & 536-9125 and can be called Mondays to Fridays, 8:00am to 4:00pm.

I was very encouraged when the MOH began to post updates of the zika numbers on its website two months ago, and I was disappointed when the effort seemed to falter. I hope that the MOH will try to post the new figures regularly, perhaps on a weekly basis. This would be one useful – and fairly straightforward way – of providing ongoing data to the public.