Monday, September 28, 2009

Change Is A Need !!!

I don¹t want to overstate the case for change, I am fairly circumspect about political parties intentions when they insinuate change. For the most part they do not act very forcefully to help bring it to fruition. There needs to be tangible evidence which is very essential if there is to be any progressive change of consequence in this country.That said, those who have been in the political process for what seems like eternity and believe that the ruling Party is firmly in the hands of a malignant and self-serving corporate and political elite have to explain why their own political agenda, seems to be sinking.Meanwhile, it must be acknowledged that the change phenomenon is a real thing. That is to say, whatever your personal politics, the change desire is genuinely igniting a wave of passionate support across this country especially among and particularly the young, and more recently the middle and lower income citizens who had for years been ignored by, and consequently disinterested in the political process.It might be that this is the result of all the mismanagement, corruption, crime, intimidation that has become a staple in the present regime. Hence the reason, it would be a mistake for anyone, to dismiss this phenomenon as meaningless, and to ignore it or its potential.Indeed, I want to suggest here that at this point it would be wise to take the proverbial tiger by the tail, and heed the clarion call for "change". The stirring up of hopes and expectations for those in dire straits should not be denied, in the end that call will succeed. Those who are complicant and comfortble with the status quo will be suprised that the folly of their ways is but to their own detrement.Therefore, the forces that are propelling this call is louder than they could ever imagine, and those forces will not easily be denied if they are determine to succeed.Should this happen- and it probably will happen there needs to be a real alternative agent of progressive change.This is a call-to-action, definitely, not a reason complancency.What I'm suggesting here is, the very rhetoric of change, may be creating something bigger than one can imagine, and that there is: a powerful constituency for real change.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

PROTECT YOUR CHILD AGAINST KIDNAPPERS.

“Don’t talk to strangers” is one of the foremost practices that a lot of families try to instill in children when it comes to guarding personal safety. In recent times however, it has proven to be both inadequate and ineffective. As the world of strangers is becoming bigger these days, thanks to the internet and a host of other advanced technology, our children are more exposed and more vulnerable to predators than ever before. Kidnapping does not just stop at that. The more terrifying reality of it is that kids do not only go missing; they could be in danger of being victims of sexual abuse, human trafficking, or both.In a 2008 report the total number of missing children almost reached 3 million worldwide. What was interesting in the report was that only a very small percentage—less than 15%–fell prey to suspects unknown to the victims. This is extremely alarming because it shows that advising kids to simply not talk to strangers won’t protect them at all since predators anticipate this and are likely to befriend children before staging their attack.Good strangers, bad strangersFirst of all, the word “stranger” needs to be redefined so that both parents and children can be re-oriented as to who should be appropriately considered as such. The most common off-hand definition of “strangers” given to children is that these are people that they do not know.But out at the grocery store or at the gas station, kids see their parents talk to strangers all the time. This is especially confusing to little children and they will probably wonder why it’s okay for parents to talk to people they don’t know but it’s not okay for kids. Try clearing this out by saying there are good people and bad people out there, then follow up by explaining that parents can usually tell the good ones from the bad ones.It would be helpful to add that even nice-looking people can turn out to be bad. The challenge here is that it is nearly impossible to tell who can be trusted. Instead of trying to cover all possible stereotypes and breaking them up for your child, try to focus on tailoring your explanation to the personality of your child. An easily-terrified child should not be made even more wary of the world, while precocious and outgoing children should constantly be reminded to be careful with people they don’t know, whether good or bad.Run, yell, and tellDiana Jones, proponent of the stranger-danger program called Run, Yell and Tell, advises parents that it is good to teach children as early as the age of four about what to do when being attacked by a stranger. She advocates the method of running as the first step, then making noise, and then finding someone to tell the incident to. It is a good idea, according to her, to point to your children some “safety havens” along routes usually taken so they know where to seek help—a police station, fire station, church, and retail shops. It’s also a must to have your child keep money in his pockets at all times which will solely be used for telephone calls in case of an emergency.Be with a buddyAdvise children to always bring a buddy along when going to places such as a public bathroom or when walking home from school. It is even better to be with more than one friend, especially when going out by themselves to places such as the mall or the park. Remind them that there is safety in numbers.Knowing the enemyRemember that kidnappers, child molesters and their ilk know exactly where to find their victims. These places are the ones frequented most by families: shopping centers, playgrounds, amusement parks, fairs, and even school premises. Reminding yourself constantly that there might be a pedophile lurking in the corner will force you to keep your guard up the whole time you are in these places. Next, keep in mind that some predators take their time before attacking. They would go through deliberate lengths NOT to be the person parents tell their children to stay away from.Keeping secretsStart nurturing an open relationship with your children from a very young age. This way, they will learn to feel comfortable talking to you about almost anything because they feel confident and secure. Teach them about the idea of a “safe” secret versus an “unsafe” one. It’s okay to keep a secret about a birthday present, but definitely not about an online friend who is asking for personal details and even photos. Ask your children about their new friends, both young ones and especially the adults. Make them feel that you want to be involved in their social lives but restrain yourself from smothering them too much, or else they will hold back and this will just leave you in the dark about the relationships they have outside the home.Finding the balance here is critical or else they won’t be as open with you as their safety requires.Make room for mistakesDon’t expect your kids to remember every single precaution you outline for them as this is an impossible task even for a grown-up. If your child forgets that she was not supposed to accept a ride from anyone other than you without your permission, let it be a learning experience rather than a reason for punishment. Children are more likely to keep things to themselves when they know that they will be in trouble for something they did, no matter how innocent it was on their part.This is by no means a comprehensive list of how to keep children safe from predators. It is futile to try and cover all possible scenarios because there is just no way to do that without losing one’s head. Even if a parent does succeed in doing so, it will probably be too frightening for the poor child that he would not even dare go out at all. The important thing is that parents should be aware of new and more difficult challenges to the safety of children and that children in turn should be equipped with enough know-how to keep themselves away from harm.I look forward to your comments. This is an important issue so let me know what you think and please kick in any tips you have because you never know whether it could be the difference in saving a child’s life!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

OUR REPUBLIC DAY MESSAGE TO TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

On the 24th day of September 2009, we celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. When we became a twin island Republic 33 years ago, it was a defining moment in our history. As a people, we had passed through harsh and cruel times - from slavery and indenture, through the colonial period, to the status of a free, proud and independent people. By that act, we had assumed the responsibility of creating a nation out of our diverse ethnicities, religions and cultures. We eagerly took up the task of building a cohesive society with great courage and optimism; for we had decided to be masters in our own house and together carve out our own destiny.At that juncture of our history we had the good fortune to have had at the helm of , people of towering intellect, incisive intelligence, great courage and stubborn determination. They taught us that real independence was not evidenced by the formal symbols of sovereignty – a flag, an anthem, a seat in the United Nations – but by an independent mind, the ability to do our own thinking and make our own decisions. They relentlessly instilled in us the importance of self-esteem, pride in our country and the obligation to work hard and to respect each another.For them, true independence also meant the pursuit of certain objectives as ideals: foodself-sufficiency, the acceptance and promotion of local cultural expressions and manifestations. They saw all of these things as reinforcing national pride and our sense of achievement. They advocated, too, the development of a cohesive national culture as the best means of promoting understanding among our people, breaking down prejudices and reinforcing our sense of nationhood. And in the early days we pursued these ideals with a restless energy. We engaged in extraordinary feats of self-help work, from building of small bridges, to theconstruction of schools, to the repairing of our aging infrastructure. Our cultural life flourished. We established several local and national programmes to showcase our culture. Our sportsmen and women, being greatly encouraged, turned in significant achievements and triumphs on the world Olympic stage. And the arts – sculpture, painting, theatre, flourished. Those were wonderful, joyous days when it seemed that nothing could stop our progress and development as a nation.But, the course of human history is not a straight line. We faced difficulties of one kind or another. We had our ups and downs, our vicissitudes; but thanks to our resilience, our courage and our determination, we survived. We acknowledged our setbacks and we need to start rebuilding again. Within recent years, we have seen a decline in the ideals of national pride, self-confidence, respect for one another, and the achievement of a cohesive society. Selfish men and women have jeopardised these ideals as they desperately strive after narrow partisan goals and personal agendas. Today, the nation is at it’s lowest ebb in it‘s history. Cultural life is becoming an endangered art form; national cohesiveness is undermined as some people promote ethnic and religious divisiveness as a virtue. Educational standards have deteriorated; opportunities contracted; and thousands of young people, as they leave school, face a bleak prospect. They can no longer see the horizon. The pervasiveness of a feeling of insecurity and despair is evidenced by the increasing number of homicides and migration in our society, by the frequency of crimes against hard working people and their property. And the kidnappings, drug addiction and HIV/ Aids threaten to destroy a whole generation. Many of our important national institutions have been weakened and are threatened with decay: the army, the police, the judiciary, the public service, all because of selfish partisan political policies. Today, however, the people of this country are showing that they will not allow this tradition to be destroyed.It is understandable, then, why so many people are despairing.But I bring you a message of hope. Do not despair!We are a proud people, courageous and resilient people. We have overcome many obstacles and impediments in the past. There is no reason why we cannot now overleap the hurdles that lie in our path. Indeed, we must, it threatens our very existence. We have overcome in the past and we must overcome again.At this point in time, we are now about to face another defining moment in our history. Very soon we will be having a national election. This will not be the usual run-of-the-mill periodic elections. For the nation, the outcome will be a matter of life and death. It will determine whether the people of this country will remain in the thrall of corruption, incompetence and backwardness and suffer a lingering social death; or whether they will, by their votes, throw off the yoke of oppression and burst forth into a new dispensation of freedom, security and opportunity –and so survive and prosper.For us, the choice is stark and clear. On the one hand, it is to allow this regime to remain in office and complete the destruction of our people and our country. On the other, it is to install a government that will guarantee that you and your children survive in conditions of dignity and prosperity.The people of this country are shrewd and sensible. They will choose to survive. They will elect a government that will have no time for victimization or witch-hunting or settling political scores; a government that will administer the affairs of Trinidad and Tobago in a fair just and equitable manner in the interests of all people irrespective of race, culture, social or economic status.Let us all do our duty to ourselves, our children and our country. That duty requires us to rescue our nation from the abyss in which it now finds itself and install a reform government to oversee the task.Have a happy and joyful Republic day! But after the celebrations, “time for seriousness has arrived”. We have a serious duty to perform, we have our country to rescue!!.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Eid-Ul-Fitr Blessings To The Muslim Community

The celebration of Eid is a fitting time to reflect on the positive impact that the Muslim community has made in the world.Eid-ul-Fitr is a Muslim festival that comes at the end of Ramadan, which is a holy month of fasting. Eid is due to be celebrated tomorow.I am delighted to send my sincere and warmest wishes to Muslims all across the country - everyone who is celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr.Now this is a special time for the Muslim community as it marks the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan. During this month of fasting, Muslims remember those who cannot take their next meal for granted, and we reflect on our society's shared obligation to help those less fortunate than ourselves.Particularly during Ramadan, Muslims are also encouraged to spend time with their families, be kind to others and give regularly to charity. These are all important values that every person in this country should share, irrespective of faith.We have a long and proud tradition in Trinidad and Tobago of welcoming people from all religions, races and backgrounds. Our Muslim communities have had a hugely positive impact in this country over the years. The celebration of Eid is a fitting time to reflect therefore on the impact that Muslims have had on Trinidad and Tobago, and indeed the rest of the world. From philosophy and Islamic arts through to science and business, that influence is at the heart of our strongest communities, it is distinctive, and it is positive.On this note I extend my very best wishes to Muslims across the world, particularly to their friends and families in Trinidad and Tobago, for a happy and joyous Eid. Eid Mubarak to everyone.

ROSH HASHANAH GREETINGS. TO THE JEWISH COMMUNITY

I am pleased to send warm greetings to the Jewish community in this country, and other nations around the world as you observe Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of a New Year within the Jewish community, and it is a time for personal reflection. As you prepare for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, may this solemn period bring forth a deeper devotion to your faith's noble ideals. During this time of renewal and recovery.

HOW TO SAVE YOUR OWN LIFE AND EVERYONE ELSE’S IN A “FLASH.”

Last two weeks ago a Facebook friend of mine almost got run of the road by a crazy driver. It’s Trinidad, nothing new.Oh but what he did next was ingenious and super cool! He whipped out his camera phone, took a picture of the crazy driver car with the number plate in full view. And then, he posted the picture on Facebook. What a hero! In an instant tons of people were commenting – I’m sure a lot of people knew the crazy person was too. And more than likely this person now knows that he/she is plastered all over Facebook. For shame!As I mentioned to a colleague of mine, I truly believe that other than domestic violence issues, many missing girls and women I feel are in such a state because of the sort of ad hoc transportation system that many face – there are so many unregistered maxi-taxis and taxis out there with so many predators taking advantage of this disorganized gap and over-demand for transport.We were discussing possible ways of fixing this disorganization – many long term options are available and some are in the process of implementation but what can be done NOW! NOW! NOW!There is a solution and you literally hold it in your hands my ladies and gentlemen, my boys and girls. It’s called a cell phone. CELL PHONE, CELL PHONE CELL PHONE! Almost everyone has a cell phone, even if it is only a cell phone that can send text messages. But, most people these days do have cameras in their phone.So listen…use it! People, if it is late and you’re getting into a maxi or taxi you don’t trust, take a picture of it, the driver and especially if you could the license plate. Do it discreetly, from in your purse or pocket. If you are in a car and you feel weird – don’t wait for the feeling to pass, text someone discreetly and quietly as much info as you can about the car, the surrounding places you see – ANYTHING! And send it to at least one person – parents or friends. At least that way we’d have a start if we have to set out to look for you!And it doesn’t have to be a car situation. Someone you know or do not know is seriously harassing you on the street? Get away quickly and safely first, but if you could, text or take a picture of the person and send it to at least one trusted person. And then if you feel safe enough to do it, anonymously BROADCAST it! Send anonymous pictures to the newspapers – who knows, it may save a life!In 2008 I did this for a man in lower Cascade (86 Cascade Rd, Port of Spain, people, for extra shame on this man), who was beating and starving his tied dog to the point of death. I went to the police (funny right?) – of course nothing doing. I whipped out my camera, zoomed in, took pictures, printed them with a message that I was going to share them with the News, and stuck them all over his front gate so people could see. The next week he gave away the dog.Now I’m NOT telling you to get camera happy like that. This is about giving yourself a chance to save your own life if you feel that you are in danger! Make sure first and foremost that you are always discreet and safe when you take these pictures or texts and make sure to send them to someone who will 1. Get them immediately and 2. Know what to do – call the right authorities, persons etc. Nor am I saying that you suddenly shame every Tom, Dick and Harry who is happily minding his/her own business. Please this is a life saving technique, not “Jerry Springer.”It’s not hard. It’s ridiculously easy to do – practice it with a friend or family member; it will actually be fun to do.And ladies, girls and boys out there, as an aside, there are many extra curricular defense classes out there, some of them are very affordable – please, join a defense class. While attending university they had a free weekend defense class open to the public and I attended – and let me tell you after it was finished I saw a 12 year old girl topple and safely run from two 6 feet robust men – knowing the right techniques.LEADERS who are reading this, it would be good to start a self-defense drive in schools and community clubs for ladies and girls in particular. Now.We don’t need guns and we don’t need to stay inside scared. We need to know the proper and effective tactics to defend ourselves and to make sure these attackers are exposed.And this is not only for Trinidad this is for every citizen of every country who reads this in Facebook and wherever this note ends up. (If you can read this and translate it into another language, please do and pass it on).I care about you! I care about us. Let’s do this.Use your cell phone to save your own life, and share the word and the picture with at least one trusted person. Become your own life saving journalist! Be the paparazzi to these predators. Empower yourself with this media tool you already have.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

THE SIDE EFFECTS OF POVERTY.

Poverty is the deficiency or lack of resources needed to survive and live comfortably. Everywhere in the world we see a lot of families suffering from this condition. They experience scarcity of food, clothing, shelter, and other things essential in order to exist. Poverty does not only affect the people struck by it, but also the society they are living in. This is a serious problem that each government has to look deeper into if they want to improve the overall well-being of their people and help in the progression of their country.The personal effects of poverty can be debilitating for people. This affects the physical, mental, social, and psychological condition of an individual. The most obvious hardship these people experience is the insufficient supply of necessary things that we need day-to-day in order to live. Getting food to put on their tables and clothes to protect them can be a real challenge. Starvation is the first and foremost effect of poverty, which can lead to malnutrition. This situation makes people more susceptible to contracting diseases and spreading them. Their overall resistance to illnesses lowers when their body does not have the sufficient vitamins and minerals to stay strong and repel viruses. When they get sick, they don't have the assets to go to the hospital and buy the needed medicines to recover. The mental state and health of people can also be affected when they are always hungry. Delusions and hallucinations can be experienced by malnourished people. When not prevented, this may eventually lead to more serious mental illnesses.Individuals who are denied of the riches that other people have can also have an effect on their self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth. They feel that they are worthless and no longer have a bright future, hence the tendency to lose hope and just give up. It affects their peace of mind since they are constantly worrying how to survive yet another day. Their dignities are also bruised and can eventually affect their perception of the world in whole. Impoverished people can actually feel hatred in the world they live in since they think it is unfair that some people can live abundantly and not them.Without enough resources, people also become illiterate. They cannot afford to go to school and learn. People living in really poor countries cannot even read and write, and this can limit their options in life. Without the proper knowledge, they won't be able to find a good job to improve their standardof living, and they will be forever stuck in the condition they are in. Opportunities to prosper will not be available.Other than the effects of poverty on oneself, there is also the effect on the society they live in. Everywhere we go, we see people living on the streets and sleeping on the pavements. They do not have permanent homes or shelters and just squat on empty lots or spaces. This view can be bad for tourism since it is unsightly to look at. Sometimes these people even relieve themselves on the streets making it so unhygienic not just for themselves but also on the people who lives around the area or passes the location. This scenario definitely won't invite tourists and in turn can affect the income of the country.Poverty also makes the affected people be a burden to the government since they are depended on whatever help it can give them. The budget of the government intended for other things needed to run a country can be hugely divided when there are more people to support in terms of health care, housing, or welfare. A country will not prosper well when many of its constituents are on the poverty line. When most of its people are poor with no means to education, a country's economy can easily decline. Skills, knowledge, and competency will not be available for the next generation to run the country in the future. Illiteracy will also result to unproductivity since people cannot work. They are not contributing to the society since they don't pay taxes and help in bringing more income to the country.Crime and delinquency will also increase with poverty. Individuals will do anything to live and survive, and when their means are limited, it is easy for them to break the law. People will be forced to steal, snatch, and rob just to have money to provide for their essential needs. Increase in prostitution and illegal businesses are also results of poverty. People turn to anything even if it is against their personal values just to get by. It is no longer a choice for them whether an act is right or wrong, their only purpose is to stay alive.Poverty is present everywhere and it can afflict anyone. When resources are limited, the distribution of assets and wealth will never be equal, hence, leaving some people with lesser money and some with more. This is a global problem that affects everybody, no matter what your status in the society. What we have to contemplate now is how we will be able to help and make a difference in our little ways.

CAN YOU HELP????- FROM A STUDENT AT A SCHOOL

Students are not being heard...... this is the 2nd time (for this week) Chaguanas North Secondary School has been evacuated.... there is a problem of African Killer Bees, no Electricity, and not enough properly ventilated classrooms for the students........ how are we supposed to be get an education when we're always being sent home...... it is absolute nonsense for A Level students to have to walk around a school looking and begging for classrooms....... have you ever heard about having classes under the trees??? well thats what happens here...... Who is listening??? who is going to help???? The Government is looking for "Developed Nation Status" by the year 2020...... is that when we will see a Change??!!!we've been trying to get help.... we even resorted to calling news rooms around the country. do you know what they said??? they said we are wasting their time..... Something needs to be done about the situation....... its the second time teachers have walked out...... CAN YOU PLEASE HELP???

Monday, September 14, 2009

TRUE NATIONAL UNITY IS WHAT IS NEEDED

Possibly no body of men comes in closer touch with the people of this country than the elected officials, theircontact reaches out to men of every locality and of every station in life. What can be then of greater importance than that these representatives should thoroughly understand the underlying principles of our national life and appreciate what is needed to promote the nation's best wel- fare? These principles may be elementary and even self-evi- dent, but how often do we forget the importance of simple truths in the maze of sophistry which is spread out to ensnare us by wily vendors of false panaceas for the cure of all na- tional ills. The heat of the recent election is past. The nation has recorded its decision. Therefore, we may now as loyal citizens dispassionately discuss, in terms of perfect frankness, present national tendencies and problems, without running any risk of being misunderstood or misinterpreted. Every man of serious mind and every student of the world's progress must realize that there are disquieting ele- ments in the present situation and that to guide our nation in attaining and retaining its proper position in the world, we need now as never before far-sighted wisdom and clear judg- ment. We should work together as citizens of this countryfor the good of the whole body politicaly, united for mutual aid in the furtherance of the common good; a bondformed to overcome the centrifugal and disintegrating forces of self-interest and to promote unity and co-ordination. The bonds which hold us together at times seem to tighten and again to relax but harmony is the basis of our national system. Classes are unknown in the land. That is our boast, but the fact is that, in the growth of national unity one of the worst obstacles is the existence of classes, or groups, if that word is preferred, and the disputes between them. The very rich and very poor, the educated and uneducated, the employers and employed, these are some of the classes which exist and always will exist. These distinctions are necessary in our complex life, but the aim of this country's democracy is that there shall be nothing in our system which makes it impossible for any individual to move freely from one class to another. We aim to prevent, as far as possible, individual retrogression and to place personal advancement within the reach of every- one on a basis of individual merit and accomplishment. In this sense "classes" rigidly and permanently established do not exist. Every day we hear of men who, by reason of individual worth, have risen in the social scale and we also hear of others who have fallen to a lower estate. The Trinidad and Tobago idea is that this movement of the individual from one class to another shall be absolutely unrestricted. That is what is meant by "free- dom" and "equality. Any statute of this country and any reg- ulation of any "class organization which hampers the in- dividual in the exercise of thrift, industry and persistency or compels him to curtail his hours of labor or lose his personal freedom to work, may be good for the class as a whole, but is Trinbagonian and acts as a brake upon individual freedom. It is equally improper, in the absence of a voluntary contract arrangement, to compel the individual to work against his will. This general subject has been so prominently before us of late that a rehearsal of recent events is not necessary, but if we analyze carefully these conflicts between the various "classes" we find that the fundamental cause of difference is that the interest of the "class" is placed ahead of everything else, and individual freedom and the common welfare are sub- ordinated. If, in these conflicts, the old-fashioned ideas of our forefathers (the ideas of individual freedom, of mutual con- cession and of united effort for the nation's welfare) could be substituted for the modern tendency toward placing the "class" above the nation, great progress would be made out of our difficulties.Organizations we should not discourage, but every class leader should recog- nize that the body that he represents is, and must be, sub- ordinate to the greatest of all organizations, the "nation." We must have union and harmony between these groups. This can only be obtained if paramount to all class interests we keep ever before us the true Trinbagoanian ideal, the achievement of the greatest good for all. Another factor inimical to national unity is the clash of local interests. In a country covering such diversity of people, the interests of its various sections are naturally diverse. Rivalry and competition betwesn these sections are unavoidable, but when local pride and local selfish interest overshadow national pride and national interest then national unity is in peril. Our method of electing representatives from the various sections of the country should also have the provision that those represen- tatives be residents of the place in which they are elected. For a representive, to be re- elected, he/she must satisfy their local constituents. Different sections of the country to understand each other. The view of the farmer from the South and the banker from the East, or the manufacturer from central and of the importer north is in each case naturally based primarily upon his own salfish requirements, especially when the question of taxation or some other matter affecting his local interest comes up for consideration in Parliament,and the unscrupulous politician has naturally done all he can to encourage a sentiment of sectional rivalry and jeal- ousy. The East has only a superficial knowledge of the ideas of the West and South, and these latter localities, except in the most general way, are not informed as to the methods and ideas which prevail in the financial centres of the East. In the consideration of any broad national policy, we see these sec- tions arrayed, each against the other, on strictly geographical lines. If a tax is to be imposed, each tries to throw the bur- den upon the other. If a national improvement is to be made, each demands that his section shall have the lion's share. For this Governments', enthusiasm cannot be aroused unless local ad- vantages can be shown. We have to study the debates and votes on the legislation, on national disaster preparedness, on national infrastructure improvements, on the income tax, onthe health issue, on education, on the immigration question, on foreign relations, on transportation regulation, to see that the above exhibition of self-interest is so universal that it hardly needs to be stated. Is it to be wondered that we often feel that in consequence our national unity is in danger? It is a very simple matter to state conditions which we know exist; it is a very important matter to offer a proper solution. The contest between the various classes and the rivalry be- tween the various sections to which we have referred is exactly similar to the old dispute between the members of the body, as described by Paul in the Bible. The head, the foot, the hand, the eye and the ear entered into the same struggle under motives of self-interest which we see existing between the different political entities in or society, and the situa- tion cannot be more tersely summed up than in the statement in the same biblical quotation that "whether one member suffer, all the mem- bers suffer with it, or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. There can be no segregation even in thought of the various groups without a serious loss to the whole body, and there must be closer mutual acquaintance and knowledge and a finer spirit of concession between these warring factors, if we are to maintain the deli- cate equilibrium of our country. Possibly one great difficulty in bringing about such a basis of unity is that, under our government, the ordinary citizen is not made to feel in the slightest degree that he owes anything to his country. He does not be made to feel that he contributes in any way. In short, he feels himself left out of the nations' favors and protection. In consequence of this, as is apt to be the case, he has no enthusiasm,he feels no sense of obligation and little sense of loyalty. When a crisis arise, it has always been found, up to the present time, that the nation is full of loyalty and full of patriotism. The sentiment is there but cannot express itsslf properly and effectively be- cause it has no instruments with which to work. Often this or that remedy is suggested to correct the evils of which we are speaking, but these remedies most frequently apply only to some specific trouble. We must look to the basic principles if we wish to carry out the real promise of our founding fathers. No nation can be a mere collection of persons born or living within certain geographical limits. A great na- tion must be a social unit, moved consciously or unconsciously by common motives and by an instinctive loyalty to common ideals. Nationality is both a spiritual and a physical fact.We associate the words spirituality and soul with purely religious discussions, but it is no exaggeration, nor is it an impractical suggestion, to state that the only basis of true national unity must be a unified national soul. An example beyond parallel has been offered in not to distant Euro- pean War, where we have found a nation, often misunderstood by Anglo-Saxons, pre-eminent in its intellectuality, mercurial in its temperament, solidified under the present pressure to a nation with a single soul. Nothing else can explain the cour- age, the persistency, the cheerfulness and the patience of the French nation under suffering. It is something of this sort which this nation must cultivate and possess if we are to have real national unity. Materialism runs rife in a young and prosperous nation and our isolation from the present conflict that is taking place in this countryhas increased that tendency. It is well for us, in our serious moments, to keep ever before us the higher philosophy, the higher ideal, for "what shall it profit a man," or a nation, "if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" May God bless all of us and the wonderful Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Budget speech disappoints everyone.

In the face of the worst economic conditions in recent decades, the government delivered it’s budget speech.The contents of the budget speech, delivered by the Minister of Finance, were, for the most part, predictable, and the response from opposition parties has thus far has also been predictable.Not surprisingly, the focus of the speech was the severity of the economic crisis, and the broad stroke measures the government intends to implement to mitigate the impact of the country's economic doldrums, and drive economic recovery.The pace, depth and scope of the economic crisis surpassed expectations, she implied.We have been hit by seismic economic shifts that were unpredictable and brutally deceiving in their speed and force, she wanted to yell out. The language she is using is an indication that it’s [deficit situation] going to be really bad,It was a rationalization of all the cuts and downgrading of vital services they’re going to have to do because of the deficit situation.These to me are re-hashes of previous speeches or the worst I have heard.The speech, lacked any real relevance for communities currently suffering as a result of neglience by this government.What’s missing in this speech is a deliberate and concerted effort to help with crime, health care, education, proper infrastructure and the list could go on and on.We’re losing our capacity to maintain our communities in a healthy manner.We need some real strategies. It is time for this government to stop with all the lies and callous immoral behaviour and start dealing with the citizens of this country with respect and dignity.

Monday, September 7, 2009

THE AWAKENING OF A POLITICAL REFORMATION !!

The flag of Trinidad and Tobago means something. It stands for something we all recognize, and all believe in. Freedom!!.Yet idly, we have stood by, while watching our political leaders take away freedom, after freedom. For the sake of security. The sake of protection. The sake of the kids. Whatever excuse they can come up with. When will it end? Hopefully soon. It seem’s as if Trinidad and Tobago's apathy for politics is coming to an end, and a rage is beginning.The next Election is just the start of what will undoubtably become a huge Reformation in Trinidad and Tobago. The restoration of the document of supreme law of the land, The Trinidad and Tobago Constitution. As citizens, we live in a country that gives us great opportunity, but we also live in a country, where we have been taught to find salvation from our Government, which is FAR from the truth!!!.We as a nation, have been taken for the proverbial ride by our Elected officials time and time again. Supposably being represented by two parties, who are so close in beliefs, except when it comes to trivial issues, that have no signifance in our elections. Then we blame it on the media, because surely our government isn’t to blame! Then when we catch our elected officials, we slap them on the hand and go, “Bad boy!! now go to your room”, and keep them in office, ONLY TO DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN.Our laws aren’t being dictated by common sense. Instead of wondering “Does this better our common good, is it in line with the constitution”, it’s become “Is this against MY PARTY?”.We claim the media’s too liberal. We claim the media’s too conservative. We claim they never told us about that story months ago that we just didn’t listen to, or is it because we didn’t care?I’m sorry to say, but our government, is a reflection and empowered by ourselves. We have empowered their actions for years, and now we are being oppressed by them, because we oppress everyone around us. In fear that something is going to happen. It’s becoming intolerable and things are about to explode.This Administration…..•Demand more money.•Demand a bigger, more unbalanced system of government.•Demand to know where you are, who you are, what you buy, and how you live your life.•Demand more outsourcing of labour and contracts.•Demand more power.•Demand more censorship.•Demand more control.•Demand control of your life.•Demand the right to tell you, what to do.•Demand Totaltarianism.•Demand more Nepotsim in Government•Demand less private rights.•Demand less human rights.Fearful words to make you believe everything they say. After all, Fear is powerful. Everyone has it, but not many people can control it with sense and thought.They make it easier with standardized education. Nothing like restricting what our upcoming generation knows, so that your life is easier to dominate what you desire. Unfortunately, the internet became what they never expected.If you haven’t already figured it out, here’s a tip. The government is trying to control you. Restrict your knowledge. The less you know, the less you can make judgement.Fortunately, the youth (and many others) of Trinidad and Tobago are opening their eyes. Campaigns all over the country calling for the restoration of the constitution are growing. •It’s time to drop the lawless behaviour of those in elected office.•It’s time for you to start to follow the rule of law, and stop interpreting it according to your own liking.•It’s time for paycut on all elected officials and receive pay on work done which I believe for most would be minimum wage.•It’s time for sound money, no specualtion markets on essential commodities.•It’s time to help people stand on their own two feet.•It’s time to allow the public the right to plan and choose their own course of action without your censorship, once it is within the law of the land.•It’s time to restore your belief in the constitution.•It’s time to educate, not stipulate and dictate.•It’s time to let thy fellow man live their life, without your intervention.•It’s time for smaller more responsible government.•It’s time to Govern by the rule of the law books and stop making up your own ad hoc rules.•It’s time for a more balanced government.
It's Time For A Reformation.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Our Independence Day Message To All Citizens Of Trinidad and Tobago.

Forty seven years ago the voice of the people of Trinidad and Tobago found its true and free expression in gaining Independence from British Colonial rule.Inspired by the unique personalities of great souls, our freedom fighters gave us a Constitution of which we are all truly proud. Our Constitution has given us not just a political democracy, but also a social democracy, guaranteeing equality of all and empowerment of the weak and the marginalized. Every citizen of this wonderful twin Republic has cherished our hard won freedom because it is only as a secular democracy committed to social justice that we would be able to empower the poorest of the poor in this wonderful land of ours.The building of a free, democratic Trinidad and Tobago has been one of the greatest adventures of our visionaries this past century. In these forty seven years we have done much and we have achieved much. Yet, we have some distance to travel before we can say that we have fulfilled our founding visionaries dream of wiping the last tear of the poorest of the poor. This should remain our sacred duty as citizens of this country.Today, when we look back and look around I believe we can say with some sense of satisfaction that Trinidad and Tobago is on the move. There is a new dynamism in our people. A new sense of confidence in their capabilities. A new sense of hope in their collective future. They recognize we have a long road ahead in our tryst with destiny; and more to be done to redeem our pledge in full measure. However, the people of Trinidad and Tobago also know that they can do it. This new sense of urgency, this new outburst of energy of our people, has to be harnessed and channelised in the right direction for Trinidad and Tobago to regain its due place in the comity of modern Nations.As I have often said, the caribbean and the world today wants Trinidad and Tobago to do well. The world community wishes us well. Our external situation is benign and favourable. Our challenges are at home. There is no other institution more powerful than the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago in addressing these challenges we face at home and as a people we must demand that they attend this sacred responsibility.On this solemn day, as we mark the 47th anniversary of our Independence, I urge every Member of Parliament, the Prime Minister, every elected member of every constituency and municipality to resolve to translate our hard won freedom into true freedom for all. Let us resolve to create an environment in which the creativity and enterprise of our people can find its full and free expression. Let us resolve not to pursue divisive agendas, not to weaken our nation and society by dividing our people on narrow race, religious, communal, linguistic and regional lines. Unity in diversity are the wall and roof of the fabric of our nation which is Trinidad and Tobago.I truly believe that the service of Trinidad and Tobago is nothing more than the service of the hunderds of thousands who suffer. Every elected representative must remember this motto every day. I would like to see a Trinidad and Tobago of greater equality, a Trinidad and Tobago less argumentative and more cooperative, a Trinidad and Tobago that works hard with a sense of purpose and devotion. It should be our common and collective endeavour to ensure that every one of our citizens is educated and skilled so that every one is gainfully employed. Equality of opportunity in securing education is the best and the most durable means of social empowerment and social justice. Every child, irrespective of race, creed, religion or region, must have reasonable assurance of access to modern education and acquisition of requisite skills.From times immemorial Trinidad and Tobago has been at the forefront of the evolution of human knowledge in the Caribbean. We need to promote a scientific outlook, inculcate a scientific temper and foster a more enlightened and modern outlook in our people. We should once again regain that position as a modern, knowledge-based culture where science and technology are used to overcome age-old problems of mass poverty, ignorance and disease. Our agriculture sector is urgently in need of a second green revolution. We need to forge ahead with labour intensive industrialization and the development of a knowledge-based economy. We ought to be mindful of the welfare of all people and specially of our ecological inheritance, our environment and our natural wealth and resources.For all the benefits of development to reach the poor it is essential that the delivery systems of the Government, at all levels, are more efficient and purged of corruption. The cancer of corruption must be extinguished if democracy and development have to have a real meaning for our people. This Parliament has a very important role to play for attaining the national goals of development and progress. The representatives of our people have to ensure that all the institutions of our Republic - the legislature, the judiciary and the executive - are all responsive, accountable, transparent and honest in their functioning. This much we owe to our people and to all those who sacrificed their lives to give us our precious freedom forty seven years ago.A VERY HAPPY AND SAFE INDEPENDENCE DAY TO ALL CITIZENS OF THE REPUBLIC OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Human trafficking in Trinidad: Children being sold for over 200,000.Share

PORT OF SPAIN: The Guardian newspaper of Trinidad published a disturbing report in which it alleges that human traffickers are on the prowl, looking to lure children and women to sell them for big money. The report states that “children, because they live longer, are sold for over $200,000. Adults can fetch as much as $100,000. They are mostly used as sex slaves and sometimes for slave labour. “Sometimes, they are used to make pay-offs in the drug trade — a well placed source informed the Sunday Guardian.” The report stated that men owing drug lords are being lured into capturing humans, who will be sold for payment of their debts. A source, pleading for anonymity for fear of his life, said victims were drugged almost immediately after capture and their cellphones switched off. A Sunday Guardian investigation revealed that the lucrative human trafficking ring is operating in the Cascade/St Ann’s area, between Sangre Grande and Tunapuna, Diego Martin and in South. Women have mysteriously disappeared from the Cascade area without a trace during the past year and “several straying young boys have vanished from the streets of San Fernando“. The report further stated that the clandestine local trade, which operates through a well organised network and is supported by several powerful agencies, is linked to an international human trafficking ring. Even some policemen are convinced that there is a human trafficking ring in Trinidad and they suspect that a number of missing persons have been victims of the trade, but were reluctant to say more. According to the newspaper report, “fingers are pointing at a popular businessman, who has been described as the ‘big man’ in the human trade.” “He’s popular. He is also linked with other businessmen across the country.” The information was unearthed by a local resident after a female relative went missing several months ago. The man said his family, desperate for answers, launched their own investigation with the support of a police officer and local private investigators.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

TRINIDAD: Where Are the Missing People?

TRINIDAD: Where Are the Missing People?

When 15-year-old Devika Lalman left her home a few days before Christmas to buy school supplies for the new academic term, her parents had taken all the necessary precautions to ensure her safety.The mother of the Form Three student said she had also given her daughter a cell phone, but all calls to that phone have gone unanswered and the daughter has not been seen since. "We have become like a Little Red Riding Hood country. The child goes to the shop to get sweeties and never returns," prominent attorney Vernon De Lima later told a news conference. Lalman is among a record number of more than 600 people reported missing in this twin-island state last year. Acting Police Commissioner James Philbert insists that there is no evidence "to suggest people are being trafficked". "We are not idly refuting the fact that there is no human trafficking in this country," he said, indicating that the total number of those missing last year, ranging in age from four to 42 years, may be closer to 77 since the majority of those unaccounted for had returned home. But the acting top cop acknowledged that because of the country's high crime rate, the police had implemented a number of initiatives including relaxing the mandatory 24-hour period required before a report is made to the authorities about a missing person. Philbert said as part of the new initiative, both the Anti-Kidnapping Squad and the Homicide Bureau were being contacted immediately whenever a missing person report is received. "We have had reports in the past where police officers told citizens to come back. We have informed police officers that they must accept a report and deal with it immediately, because we have great concerns in that area," Philbert told a news conference. But the newly-formed Missing Persons Association (MPA) said much more needs to be done and has accused the police of "turning a blind eye" to the issue. "People just don't disappear into thin air. We know that human trafficking exists, but the police are probably too embarrassed to come out and say so," said MPA chairman Nathifa Mitchell in a statement to the media. "The evidence is there. If there is no human trafficking, as Philbert suggests, then we have a serial killer on our hands. Where have all these missing persons gone?" Mitchell said, insisting that women, children and men were being lured by human traffickers and shipped to foreign countries, where they worked as sex slaves or were forced into pornography. Mitchell, whose 36-year-old niece, Lena Johnson, was last seen on Nov. 8, 1998, said her organisation is determined to help other families deal with the trauma of missing loved ones and has created a web site to sensitise the public on human trafficking. "We are not going to rest until something is done. The world ought to know the truth," Mitchell said, as she and other executive members, including a pastor, embarked on a media blitz here. "Almost all the women who disappeared left behind a pattern. Their cell phones were switched off. We also heard that they were transported from one house to another before being shipped out." The Sunday Guardian newspaper, which carried out its own investigation, said that the "clandestine local trade, which operates through a well-organised network and is supported by several powerful agencies, is linked to an international human trafficking ring". The paper said that children were being sold for as much as 34,000 dollars and adults for half that amount. "They are mostly used as sex slaves and sometimes for slave labour. Sometimes, they are used to make pay-offs in the drug trade," the paper said, noting that the trafficking also includes young women who were being brought into the country from Venezuela, Colombia and Guyana. Following the publication of the newspaper article, the United States Embassy here said it was watching the matter very closely. "This is definitely an issue we want to follow. The U.S. government has taken note of the report. If one person disappears, it's one too many," said John Cushing, the political chief at the U.S. Embassy, who attended the public meeting of the MPA two days before Christmas. "I went to the meeting because the U.S. government takes human trafficking very seriously. It was tragic, heart-breaking, to see what the families of missing person are going through. It's good they formed this association and can give each other emotional support," he told reporters. Prominent lawyer Anand Ramlogan said that the police were "only now slowly beginning to treat seriously the theory about the abduction of Trinidad and Tobago nationals for human trafficking". "This whole idea of being abducted to supply some organ or limb to save another person is worrying for most of us," he wrote in a newspaper column. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which last year organised two major counter-trafficking events here, said that at the request of the Patrick Manning government, it was embarking on a project for strengthening technical capacity in the oil-rich republic. The U.S. State Department-funded project will bolster the capabilities of the Immigration Division and other law enforcement agencies, providing analysis and advice to ensure adoption of international best practices, migration laws, policies and procedures, as well as contingency planning for sudden mass migration outflows in the Caribbean region. The IOM said that there is also concern that local authorities could be encountering exploitative labour situations that not only break national laws, but also may qualify as cases of trafficking. "This concern is also supported by IOM's Exploratory Assessment of Trafficking in Persons which identified forced labour, domestic servitude, and sexual exploitation as Caribbean regional trends," it said, adding that IOM Washington will publish exploratory research on human trafficking in Trinidad and Tobago and would also assist in the launching of a local counter-trafficking information campaign. The minority opposition Congress of the People (COP) party wants the government to urgently implement legislation to deal with human trafficking. "We recognise that legislation is critically important at this point because without proper legislation, which is really one of the handicaps in the social areas, we could not possibly move forward in terms of consequences for human traffickers," said the party's deputy leader, Dr Sharon Gopaul McNicol, a clinical psychologist. She told a news conference that most of the human trafficking "takes place in small boats where people are drugged and shipped off to other countries, primarily those countries that people don't speak English so there is little chance of the victims being able to get away without much difficulty".

Friday, August 14, 2009

Towards Eliminating Racism: My 12 Working Assumptions.

Because racism is both institutional and attitudinal, effective strategies against it must recognize this dual character. The elimination of institutionalized racism requires a conscious project of attitudinal transformation. The deliberate attempt to transform racist patterns of thought and action must be accompanied by political and social change. The following assumptions offer a perspective for beginning the work.

1. The systematic mistreatment of any group of people isolates and divides human beings from each other. This practice is a hurt to all people. The division and isolation produced by racism is a hurt to people from all ethnic groups.

2. Racism is not a genetic disease. No human being is born with racist attitudes and beliefs. Physical and cultural differences between people are not the cause of racism; these differences are used as the excuse to justify racism. (Analogy with sexism: anatomical differences between human males and females are not the cause of sexism; these differences are used to justify the mistreatment of females of all ages.)

3. No young person acquires misinformation by their own free choice. Racist attitudes and beliefs are a mixture of misinformation and ignorance which is imposed upon young people through a painful process of social conditioning. "You have to be taught to hate and fear."

4. Misinformation is harmful to all human beings. Misinformation about peoples of color is harmful to all people. Having racist attitudes and beliefs is like having a clamp on one's mind. It distorts one's perceptions of reality. Two examples: the notion that "flesh color" and the use of the term 'minorities' to describe the majority of the world's people.

5. No one holds onto misinformation voluntarily. People hold onto racist beliefs and attitudes because this misinformation represents the best thinking they have been able to do at this time, and because no one has been able to assist them to change their perspective.

6.People will change their minds and let go of ingrained attitudes under the following conditions: A) the new position is presented in a way that makes sense to them; B) they trust the person who is presenting the new position; C) they are not blamed for having had misinformation.

7. People hurt others because they themselves have been hurt. In this society we have all experienced systematic mistreatment as young people- often through physical violence, but also through the invalidation of our intelligence, the disregard of our feelings, the discounting of our abilities. As a result of these experiences, we tend both to internalize this mistreatment by accepting it as 'the way things are', and to externalize it by mistreating others. Part of the process of undoing racism involves becoming aware of and interrupting this cycle of mistreatment in day to day encounters and interactions.

8. As young people we have often witnessed despair and cynicism in the adults around us, and we have often been made to feel powerless in the face of injustice. Racism continues in part because we feel powerless to do anything about it.

9. There are times when we have failed to act, times when we did not achieve as much as we wanted to in the struggle against racism. Eliminating racism also involves understanding the difficulties we have had and learning to overcome them, without blaming ourselves for having had those difficulties.

10.The situation is not hopeless; people can grow and change; we are not condemned to repeat the past. Racist conditioning need not be a permanent state of affairs. It can be -examined, analyzed and dismantled. Because this misinformation is glued together and held in place with painful emotion, the process of dismantling it must take place on the experiential as well as on the theoretical level.

11.We live in a multicultural, multi-ethnic scoiety; everyone is "ethnic." Misinformation about other people's ethnicity is often the flip side of misinformation about one's own ethnicity. For example the notion that some ethnic groups are 'exotic' and 'different' is the flip side of the notion that one's own group is just 'regular' or 'plain'. Thus a crucial part of eliminating racism is the acquiring of accurate information about one's own ethnicity and cultural heritage. Reclaiming this information will show us that we all come from traditions in which we can take justified pride.

12.All people come from traditions which have a history of resistance to injustice, and every person has their own individual history of resistance to oppressive social conditioning. This history deserves to be recalled and celebrated. Reclaiming one's own history of resistance is central to the project of acquiring an accurate account of one's own heritage. When people act from a sense of informed pride in themselves and their traditions, they will be more effective in all struggles for justice.

LETS ALL WORK TOGETHER TO PUT AND END TO THIS FORM OF IGNORANCE !!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

PM upsets anti-smelter activists.

La Brea residents and environmentalists have described Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s statement that the community would become the home to the nation’s first aluminium smelter facility as “disrespectful” and bordering on contempt.
Addressing a large crowd of jubilant supporters at Frisco Junction, Point Fortin on Monday night, Manning maintained a smelter would be built and said members of the anti-smelter wanted to derail the country’s industrialisation drive. However, La Brea resident, Anselm Carter, along with others who gathered at a camp site outside the Union Industrial Estate on Monday night in the hope of speaking to the Prime Minister on his way to the Point Fortin meeting, said the Government has not brought any scientific evidence to prove the proposed facility was safe for residents and the environment. “He (Manning) is just talking. He refuses to meet with the residents to say why a smelter plant and not some other facility is needed for the La Brea area,” Carter said. Carter also condemned the large police presence at the camp site on Monday night saying the activists were peaceful. Residents and activists at the site viewed the socially-conscious music videos of late pop icon Michael Jackson’s “Earth song” and “Man in the mirror”. Activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh reiterated the anti-smelter protestors were not opposed to industrialisation but against an industry which would not produce any sustainable benefits to the nation. Meanwhile, a small group of former oil workers staged a placard and candlelight vigil during the PNM meeting to highlight the non-payment of cost of living allowances by State-owned oil company, Petrotrin since 2003. Bearing placards reading, “Manning pensioner hungry” and “Mr Manning, please help the retirees”, spokesperson Jonathan Maguire said the groups’ intention was not to disrupt the meeting but rather to highlight their plight to the Prime Minister.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Education is a self-enlightening process. It is an important component of life.

When I started thinking about why education is so important, I remembered my school years, the grounding years of anyone’s education. I went down memory lane to remember all my teachers, my school subjects, the study and the play! I never really hated school. But I have seen many who hate going to school; I have had some friends who did not like the idea of studying in classrooms. Many of you must have unwillingly entered your school gates.... But all of us know this dislike never lasts long. We soon start loving school and it is when it is time to leave school that we are in tears.... What is school life all about? It is all about laying the foundation of our education. It is a place to understand why education is so important and how important it is! It is an institution, where we learn to read and write. School transforms kids into literate individuals. It is where we get our basics cleared and at the point of leaving school, we are all set to soar high in life, enter the new world in pursuit of our dreams. Why is education so important? The first thing that strikes me about education is knowledge gain. Education gives us the knowledge of the world around us. It develops in us a perspective of looking at life. It helps us build opinions and have points of view on everything in life. People debate over the subject of whether education is the only thing that gives knowledge. Some say, education is the process of gaining information about the surrounding world while knowledge is something very different. They are partly right. But the conversion of information to knowledge is possible because of education. Education makes us capable of interpreting rightly the things perceived. Education is not about lessons and poems in textbooks. It is about the lessons of life. The words 'cultivate' and 'civilize' are almost synonymous to the word 'educate'. That says it! Education is important as it teaches us the right behavior, the good manners thus making us civilized. It teaches us how to lead our lives. Education is the basis of culture and civilization. It is instrumental in the development of our values and virtues. Education cultivates us into mature individuals, individuals capable of planning for our futures and taking the right decisions. Education arms us with an insight to look at our lives and learn from every experience. The future of a nation is safe in the hands of educated individuals. Education is important for the economic growth of a nation. It fosters principles of equality and socialism. Education forms a support system for talents to excel in life. It is the backbone of society. Education is important because it equips us with all that is needed to make our dreams come true. Education opens doors of brilliant career opportunities. It fetches better prospects in career and growth. Every employer of today requires his prospective employees to be well educated. He requires expertise. So, education becomes an eligibility criterion for employment into any sector of the industry. We are rewarded for exercising the expertise required for the field we venture. We are weighed in the market on the basis of our educational skills and how well we can apply them. Education is essential as it paves the path leading to disillusionment. It wipes out all the wrong beliefs in our minds. It helps create a clear picture of everything around us and we no more remain in confusion about the things we learn. Education brings up questions and also devises ways to find satisfactory answers to them. Education is about knowing that everything has a science to it, it is about learning to reason everything till every question meets its answer. Education can lead us to enlightenment. It is education that builds in every individual, a confidence to take decisions, to face life and to accept successes and failures. It instills a sense of pride about the knowledge one has and prepares him/her for life! Schools and colleges define the basic framework of education. Schooling gives us the fundamentals whereas we specialize in fields of our interest, during the degree courses. But education does not end here. It is a lifelong process. Self-learning begins at the point that marks the end of institutional education. The process of self-learning continues...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Freedom of Speech.

Perhaps few human rights have ever received the legal, political and social scrutiny of the concept of freedom of speech. This Country's Constitution, along with similar passages in the framework documents of other countries, addresses this basic right of citizens to express themselves through written and oral speech. The difficulty with enforcing this ideal of freedom of speech, however, lies with the definition of "free speech" and the rights of governments to restrict or censor potentially dangerous forms of speech.Freedom of speech in a legal sense, however, does not protect every single word ever uttered or written by individuals. The Constitution primarily guarantees that the government itself would not infringe on the rights of a "free press" to publish articles critical of the government. Citizens also has the right to "redress grievances," which means they could legally assemble in public areas and deliver speeches without fear of government reprisal.The concept of freedom of speech has continued to evolve since the days of Colonial rule. It is still illlegal for private citizens to express controversial or unpopular speech under most circumstances, which means a group cannot deliver speeches or publish material which denigrates another race or other targeted groups. The rules which govern freedom of speech must be applied equally, regardless of the quality or veracity of the speech itself.There are restrictions on the concept of freedom of speech, however. Certain words and images cannot be broadcast over publicly accessible airwaves, for example. The government still has the right to determine if a form of speech violates existing indecency or pornography laws. Any speech which could be considered provocative "fighting words" or a call to take immediate illegal action is not protected under freedom of speech laws. The idea of yelling "Fire!" falsely in a crowded theater falls under this concept of prohibited speech.The legal and governmental concept of freedom of speech does not necessarily apply between private citizens and publishers. The Constitution only restricts governmental interference with private expressions of free speech. A private publisher can still refuse to publish a controversial or hate-filled article, and a private owner of a web-based discussion can still remove objectionable posts unilaterally. While citizens may enjoy the benefits of freedom of speech, there is also the concept of "freedom from speech" which protects the general public from immoral or inflammatory forms of expression.Freedom of speech is an important human right, and one worth defending against threats of arbitrary governmental censorship or repression. With such freedom, however, does come great responsibility. Freedom of speech does allow controversial artists, and others to push the envelope of acceptable speech and artistic expression, but there should still be some safeguards in place to protect the general population from extreme forms of speech which violate community standards of decency.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

This Is True Democracy- Every True Democracy Should Operate Under These Principles

Democracy consists of four basic elements:I want to begin with an overview of what democracy is. We can think of democracy as a system of government with four key elements:1. A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections. 2. The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life.3. Protection of the human rights of all citizens.4. A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.I want to talk about each of these four elements of what democracy is. Then I will talk about the obligations and requirements of citizens in a democracy. I. Democracy as a Political System of Competition for PowerDemocracy is a means for the people to choose their leaders and to hold their leaders accountable for their policies and their conduct in office.The people decide who will represent them in parliament, and who will head the government at the national and local levels. They do so by choosing between competing parties in regular, free and fair elections.Government is based on the consent of the governed. In a democracy, the people are sovereign—they are the highest form of political authority.Power flows from the people to the leaders of government, who hold power only temporarily.Laws and policies require majority support in parliament, but the rights of minorities are protected in various ways.The people are free to criticize their elected leaders and representatives, and to observe how they conduct the business of government.Elected representatives at the national and local levels should listen to the people and respond to their needs and suggestions.Elections have to occur at regular intervals, as prescribed by law. Those in power cannot extend their terms in office without asking for the consent of the people again in an election.For elections to be free and fair, they have to be administered by a neutral, fair, and professional body that treats all political parties and candidates equally.All parties and candidates must have the right to campaign freely, to present their proposals to the voters both directly and through the mass media.Voters must be able to vote in secret, free of intimidation and violence. Independent observers must be able to observe the voting and the vote counting to ensure that the process is free of corruption, intimidation, and fraud.There needs to be some impartial and independent tribunal to resolve any disputes about the election results.This is why it takes a lot of time to organize a good, democratic election.Any country can hold an election, but for an election to be free and fair requires a lot of organization, preparation, and training of political parties, electoral officials, and civil society organizations who monitor the process.II. Participation: The Role of the Citizen in A DemocracyThe key role of citizens in a democracy is to participate in public life. Citizens have an obligation to become informed about public issues, to watch carefully how their political leaders and representatives use their powers, and to express their own opinions and interests. Voting in elections is another important civic duty of all citizens. But to vote wisely, each citizen should listen to the views of the different parties and candidates, and then make his or her own decision on whom to support.Participation can also involve campaigning for a political party or candidate, standing as a candidate for political office, debating public issues, attending community meetings and membership civic meetings, A vital form of participation comes through active membership in independent, non-governmental organizations, what we call “civil society."These organizations represent a variety of interests and beliefs: farmers, workers, doctors, teachers, business owners, religious believers, women, students, human rights activists,animals. It is important that women participate fully both in politics and in civil society.This requires efforts by civil society organizations to educate women about their democratic rights and responsibilities, improve their political skills, represent their common interests, and involve them in political life.In a democracy, participation in civic groups should be voluntary. No one should be forced to join an organization against their will.Political parties are vital organizations in a democracy, and democracy is stronger when citizens become active members of political parties. However, no one should support a political party because he is pressured or threatened by others. In a democracy, citizens are free to choose which party to support.Democracy depends on citizen participation in all these ways. But participation must be peaceful, respectful of the law, and tolerant of the different views of other groups and individuals. III. The Rights of Citizens in a DemocracyIn a democracy, every citizen has certain basic rights that the state cannot take away from them. These rights are guaranteed under international law.You have the right to have your own beliefs, and to say and write what you think. No one can tell you what you must think, believe, and say or not say.There is freedom of religion. Everyone is free to choose their own religion and to worship and practice their religion as they see fit.Every individual has the right to enjoy their own culture, along with other members of their group, even if their group is a minority.There is freedom and pluralism in the mass media.You can choose between different sources of news and opinion to read in the newspapers, to hear on the radio, and to watch on television.You have the right to associate with other people, and to form and join organizations of your own choice, including trade unions. You are free to move about the country, and if you wish, to leave the country.You have the right to assemble freely, and to protest government actions. However, everyone has an obligation to exercise these rights peacefully, with respect for the law and for the rights of others. IV. The Rule of LawDemocracy is a system of rule by laws, not by individuals. In a democracy, the rule of law protects the rights of citizens, maintains order, and limits the power of government. All citizens are equal under the law. No one may be discriminated against on the basis of their race, religion, ethnic group, or gender. No one may be arrested, imprisoned, or exiled arbitrarily. If you are detained, you have the right to know the charges against you, and to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to the law. Anyone charged with a crime has the right to a fair, speedy, and public trial by an impartial court.No one may be taxed or prosecuted except by a law established in advance. No one is above the law, not even a king or an elected Prime Minister. The law is fairly, impartially, and consistently enforced, by courts that are independent of the other branches of government. Torture and cruel and inhumane treatment are absolutely forbidden.The rule of law places limits on the power of government. No government official may violate these limits.No Leader, minister, or political party can tell a judge how to decide a case. Office holders cannot use their power to enrich themselves. Independent courts and commissions punish corruption, no matter who is guilty.V. The Limits and Requirements for DemocracyIf democracy is to work, citizens must not only participate and exercise their rights. They must also observe certain principles and rules of democratic conduct.People must respect the law and reject violence. Nothing ever justifies using violence against your political opponents, just because you disagree with them.Every citizen must respect the rights of his or her fellow citizens, and their dignity as human beings. No one should denounce a political opponent as evil and illegitimate, just because they have different views.People should question the decisions of the government, but not reject the government’s authority.Every group has the right to practice its culture and to have some control over its own affairs, but each group should accept that it is a part of a democratic state.When you express your opinions, you should also listen to the views of other people, even people you disagree with. Everyone has a right to be heard.Don’t be so convinced of the rightness of your views that you refuse to see any merit in another position. Consider different interests and points of view.When you make demands, you should understand that in a democracy, it is impossible for everyone to achieve everything they want.Democracy requires compromise. Groups with different interests and opinions must be willing to sit down with one another and negotiate.In a democracy, one group does not always win everything it wants. Different combinations of groups win on different issues. Over time, everyone wins something.If one group is always excluded and fails to be heard, it may turn against democracy in anger and frustration. Everyone who is willing to participate peacefully and respect the rights of others should have some say in the way the country is governed.

Seven wonders of Trinidad & Tobago - A Must See.

Trinidad & Tobago has long been revered as one of the Caribbean’s best kept secrets. With exotic tropical landscape and its multi-dimensional cultural element, the dual island nation provides travelers with something more than just sun, sand and sea. The destination offers visitors a myriad of off-the-beaten path activities and extraordinary sites that are unique to the island. Among the most interesting are the following seven wonders: The Pitch Lake ­ This natural phenomenon, situated in the village of La Brea in southwest Trinidad, has fascinated explorers, scientists and locals since its discovery by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1595. About 250 feet deep at its center, it is estimated to have reserves in excess of 6 million tons, from which approximately 180 tons of pitch are mined daily. On a good day, the output can reach 240 tons. Far from being water, the “lake” is 40 percent pitch, 30 percent water and 30 percent colloidal clay. The only liquid source is the self-replenishing center, known as “The Mother of the Lake.” A gift of nature and a national treasure, The Pitch Lake provides the entire country, and many of the neighboring islands with pitch for building roads. Hanuman Murti ­ Standing a towering 85-feet tall, the red and pink-coloured statue of the Hindu deity, epitome of wisdom, righteousness and strength, is said to be the largest such statue outside of India. Located in Carapichaima, in central Trinidad, the Hanuman Murti is a “must-see” religious site. The Hanuman Murti stands on the grounds of the Dattatreya Yoga Center and Mandir and attracts devotees offering gifts and performing the ritual of pradakshina, or walking clockwise in a holy temple while uttering the sacred Hanuman mantra. The Hanuman Murti took two years to construct and was consecrated in 2003. The Magnificent Seven ­ These extravagant structures were originally built as family homes by wealthy Trinidadian men to symbolize their success and elevation in society. All but one of these lavish creations was built in 1904. The buildings are situated on lots located directly across from the Queens Park Savannah. One of the most impressive is Queens College. Designed by Daniel Hahn, former alum of the institution, the structure is described as being of German Renaissance style. Next door to the Queen’s College is the far more modest Hayes Court. Serving as the residence for the Anglican Archbishop, the building also has the distinction of being the only structure built in 1910. Adjacent to Hayes Court is the French Renaissance inspired Mille Fleur. The building was abandoned for several years and has since been acquired by the government with plans to restore it to its former splendour. White Hall is viewed as an impressive three-story structure that shimmers and glows in the sunlight. The building is currently being used as the Prime Minister’s office. One of the most popular of all these fabulous creations is the Stollmeyer’s Castle. Enjoyed by many for its fairytale style design, the building is described as completely bizarre based on its mix of French, German and Scottish influences. Originally known as the Ambard’s House, Rumoor’s whimsical domed roofs, arched windows and iron-gate posts are reminiscent of an elaborate gingerbread house. The final member of this remarkable collection is the residence of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Port of Spain. Main Ridge Rainforest Reserve ­ Located in Tobago, the reserve is the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. It was established in 1765 as a means to preserve the watershed of the island. The forest offers great biodiversity including many species of birds, mammals, frogs and non-poisonous snakes. Local tour operators offer rainforest excursions into the reserve primarily along the Gilpin Trace trail. Nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers walk into relatively undisturbed forest and feast on the flora and fauna. The reserve has consecutively won the award for World’s Leading Ecotourism Destination by the World Travel Awards from 2003 to 2007. Buccoo Reef/Nylon Pool ­ Buccoo Reef is the largest coral reef in Tobago and was designated as a marine park in 1973. The popular dive site contains a reef system of five flats separated by deep channels. A spectrum of colour is offered by the coral gardens and the marine life supported by the reef. A major feature is the Nylon Pool, a veritable tranquil paradise in the ocean. It was given the name by Princess Margaret after her visit there in 1962, who thought the water was as clear as her nylon stockings. This unique feature of the reef complex allows swimmers to enjoy their own private swimming pool. Depths are no greater than 7-10 feet at high tides. Local folklore promises that a swim in the waters of the Nylon Pool will make you look five years younger. The Caroni Swamp ­ Considered to be Trinidad’s largest mangrove wetland, the Caroni Swamp is situated just south of the capital Port of Spain on the island’s western shore. Spanning approximately 20 square miles, it is home to over 200 avian species, the most famous resident being the Scarlet Ibis, Trinidad’s national bird. During the day the birds are said to feed 11 miles away in Venezuela and then return to the island at dusk to roost. In so doing converting the mangroves from a sea of green to scarlet red ­ a spectacle that has become a “must see” for tourists visiting the island. The swamp is a maze of channels and although the Scarlet Ibis is the feature attraction, there is a vast number of wildlife that inhabit the mangroves including fiddler crabs, oysters, four-eyed fish, tree boa and spectacled caiman. Queen’s Park Savannah ­ This extensive open area located just north of Trinidad’s city center, is “the world’s largest roundabout”. Occupying approximately 260 acres of land, the Savannah is over 180 years old, making it the oldest recreation ground in the West Indies. It was originally part of the Paradise Estate owned by the Peschier family. In 1817, then Governor Sir Ralph Woodford acquired the property and converted it into a city park keeping a portion of land in the centre as a burial ground for the members of the Peschier family. The Savannah, considered the heartbeat of Port of Spain, plays host to larger musical events and is the epicenter for the annual Carnival festivities. As the city’s largest green space, locals can be seen jogging, cycling and walking their dogs at any hour of day or night. On the weekends and after 4 p.m. during the work week, the Savannah comes alive with football and cricket games, jogging, and couples and families talking strolls or having picnics. It is home to coconut vendors whose trucks that line the street on the western side. Other vendors sell roasted corn, oysters, pholourie and sno-cones. Trinidad & Tobago is located in the southeastern region of the Caribbean. With their careful approach to tourism, the dual island nation offers one of the last absolutely unspoiled Caribbean destinations. Trinidad, the ‘cultural capital of the Caribbean,’ is home to the world famous Carnival, the birth of the steel pan drum and Emmy Award Winning designer, for his work on the Opening Ceremony of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, Peter Minshall. Tobago, sister island to Trinidad, is the quintessential Caribbean island with secluded beaches, quaint villages, award winning eco-attractions and private villas.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Capital Punishment- The Moral Issue- The Death Penalty.

The death penalty is a form of punishment which is currently used in many countries around the world, the USA being one of its largest supporters. Capital Punishment is no longer practiced in some countries however, and the debate that's gripping these countries is this: should Capital Punishment be legal? The answer is yes.It is immoral to the furthest extent to proclaim that a person who commits an extremely heinous act; such as rape, brutal premeditated murder or torture to another human being, still deserves the right to live freely, or even in an incarcerated state, in our country.We live in a digital age, thanks to DNA testing, forensic science and computers we are able to analyze evidence thoroughly and determine, beyond a shadow of a doubt, whether or not a person is guilty of committing a crime. This is not always the case, however, and in such instances it would be a blatantdisplay of bad leadership and moral values for the government to put someone to death. But if they know, with full certainty, that someone is guilty of a heinous crime such as murder, rape, torture or any other very henious crime, they should have the full right to remove the offender from society.Life SentencesA life sentence is a the second option, for individuals who commit heinous crimes. But it is a variable option. Sentences to life imprisonment may be withdrawn after twenty years in some instances, and the criminal is let back on the streets, where they are likely to re-offend. The government is paying for sick criminals to rot away for the rest (or most) of their lives in prison. They use tax payer's money to fund the prisons, where criminals are vainly being kept alive, simply to live the rest of their lives in prison; a purgatory between their free life, and finally their death. There is simply no point in keeping these people alive, consequently overcrowding prisons and costing tax payers more money. The argument of Life Sentences vs. Death Sentences is a weak one; if opposers of the Death Penalty argue that no-one has the right to decide whether someone lives or dies, then should they not argue that no-one has the right to decide whether someone may live freely or be incarcerated locked up in prison for the rest of their lives, where they are no use to anybody.Do They Deserve to Die?Another argument used by opposers of Capital Punishment is that everyone deserves a life; that no-one deserves to be killed. But then, they support Life Imprisonment, simply because the offender is still alive even though there is really no point to their existence. There should be no argument here: some people simply deserve to die, to pay for their actions.Wrongful ExecutionIt would be incorrect to state that every person who has been put to death was guilty. Wrongful execution is definitely a major issue with capital punishment. It is the main plot of The Life of David Gale, A 2003 film directed by Alan Parker. In the film, David Gale, an anti-death penaltyactivist was put on death row for the murder of his fellow Deathwatch activist, and good friend, Constance. At the end of the film, after Gale is put to death, evidence is released to prove that Gale was innocent; Constance killed herself in order to prove that innocent people are put to death.This is a justified argument against the death penalty. But, as was earlier mentioned, we live in an intelligent and technological age, and should the death penalty used, such mistakes definitely should not be made. In order for the death penalty to be effective, there must be an unquestionable amount of evidence to prove that the offender is guilty without a doubt before they are placed on death row.Moral ValuesWhen a person commits a heinous offence, when they appear in court they often present 'excuses' for their actions. The most common excuses are mental illness or mental scarring due to abuse as a child or a troubled upbringing; the offender might say that his mother was a drug addict, or that he grew up in an abusive environment, to justify his own acts of violence. But regardless of whether the offender didn't know they were doing wrong, or were in a psychotic state due to mental illness, the responsibility for their actions lays on them, and no-one else.For example, a man was in a car accident as a child which caused damage to his brain and gave him a psychotic anger management problem. He flew into a fit of rage, and bashed his daughter to death. He was most likely unaware of what he was doing, nor was he able to control it, but he still did it. He was sentenced to life in prison. Regardless of the 'excuse', regardless ofthe 'justification', that man was responsible for his actions.The argument of deciding whether a criminal should live or die does not come down to'playing god' by putting them to death, nor does it matter whether the offender had an 'excuse'. It comes down to moral values. The man bashed his daughter to death; no-one would want this man living in their community, because he committed a heinous act.The Death Penalty is the strongest promoter of moral values. By putting a dangerous criminal to death they are removed from a lawful society where they may re-offend, they are not placed in confinement where they live pointlessly off the community, and their misjudgment of moral values is made public. The public will know, then, that if they are humane and moral beings, they will be free to live peacefully with others.The FamiliesIt is natural that in the event of a murder or serious offence, the only people taken into consideration are the family of the victim. A thought is rarely spared for the family of the sentenced offender; it is unlikely that an unrelated party could imagine how the offender's family may feel knowing that their relative is suffering in an overcrowded prison, rather than being put out of their misery. The death penalty is a justice to the victim and the offender, as well as their families, by bringing justice to the victim and putting the offender out of their misery.Playing GodWhenever the issue of capital punishment comes up, religion is thrown into the works. Religious people argue that their particular god created life and is the only one who has the right to end it. This causes a whole other argument; Atheism vs. Christianity vs. Islam vs. Hinduism vs Judaism, etc. The same way that a person should not be put to death simply because someone believes that they are guilty, a person should not be put to death simply because someone believes in a higher being which controls the occurrence of life and death. The government is representative of the wider community, and the government makes decisions to benefit the community. They decide which person are to be removed from society and incarcerated, for the benefit of the community. It is simply the matter of the Death Penalty being an improved alternative to life imprisonment, therefore the government has full right to put an undeniably guilty person to death.Methods of Capital PunishmentThe current most common methods of putting someone to death are: lethal injection, firing squad, electric chair, and in some countries hanging, gas chamber and beheading are still used.It is important for any human being, criminal or not, to die with dignity. A murderer may display his or her own immorality by taking another's life, but it would be inhumane for anyone to put them to death in an undignified manner. For example, the lethal injection is the most commonly used method in the United States. It involves the offender being given a last meal, being made to wear a diaper (because when the lethal injection kills the person, their bodily functions fail) and lead down a corridor to the chamber where they are strapped down and injected with either Sodium Pentothal, Pancuronium Bromide, or Potassium Chloride. The death penalty should be used more effectively. It will free space in prisons, cease tax payer's funding the life of undesirable criminals, bring justice to both offender and victim, and keep heinous criminals out of society.Life sentences are not an effective alternative; the offenders may be released, causing them to reoffend, or if they are kept in prison for the rest of their lives they suffer, cause overcrowding of prisons, are cause for their families to suffer, and are simply no use to society.Capital Punishment is the strongest promoter of moral values. By letting a criminal rot in prison, simply because the victims or affected people want them to suffer, simply causes them to stoop to the criminal's level of inhumanity. The death penalty is there to eliminate inhumanity in oursociety, while Life Sentences support it.People who commit heinous crimes deserve to die; they surrender their right to live freely in society by displaying inhumanity towards others. It is time to mend the mistakes made in society and make this country a better country free of criminals and all its elements. Some of you may not agree, but you decide and comment.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Don't get scammed on vacation.

Crooks are waiting at your destination. Watch out for these latest scams while you're travelling.You didn't fall for the "free trip" scam and you wisely avoided those too-good-to-be-true offers. However, don't let your guard down just yet. There are many scams awaiting you at your destination. Here are some of the latest tricks you'll want to avoid: Can you spot the fakes? When it comes to petty crime, tourists are easy targets because they're unfamiliar with their surroundings and aren't aware of culture norms or "how things are done" at their destination. It's easy to dupe an unsuspecting tourist who can't tell the difference between a fake and "the real deal". Counterfeit cops. You're in a foreign country and an official-looking person asks to see your documentation, your currency, credit cards and other valuables. As soon as you dig them out, the thief grabs them and runs. Fake cops have also been known pull over cars for a "search" (translation: robbery or carjacking). False friends. Sometimes these counterfeit cops have help from someone who is sent to earn your trust. The U.S. State Department warns of a scheme in Bolivia where a "tourist" befriends other travellers to win their trust. The counterfeit police then intercept the group and find contraband on the "tourist" -- which is the perfect excuse to take everyone to the "police station" and collect all of their documents, credit cards and bank cards. Alternatively, these new friends might suggest a trip to a local attraction via taxi -- but instead, the destination is a safe house and the activity is a robbery. Phony cabs and limos. You arrive at your destination and there are many helpful services offering you a ride to your hotel. The best case scenario: an unscrupulous driver will take the "the long way" or grossly overcharge you. If you're not so lucky, you could be robbed, assaulted or kidnapped. Phony travel guides. You might see through the "helpful local" who offers to show you around for a fee, but Scambusters warns that con artists posing as official guides are harder to spot. They'll take your money, ask you to wait at a certain spot and then disappear with your cash. Fake parking lot attendants. Parking in your home town can be tricky enough -- but at least you know the rules. Abroad, criminals posing as parking lot attendants are banking on you not knowing the rules. They'll hand you a ticket with an inflated fee which you must pay on the spot. Chances are you're parked illegally or you'll still have to pay the real fee to the real parking attendant. (Scambusters warns this scam is currently spreading through major European cities.)Fake cola. Beware when buying beverages at a roadside stand or café. The bottle label and cap may be from your favourite soft drink, but the contents are questionable and are likely made by street gangs under less than sanitary conditions. Scambusters notes that this trick is common in the Indian subcontinent.Good services gone bad Some scams are a little harder to spot because they're perpetuated by people you think you can trust like travel service providers and company representatives. They're counting on you to be tired and in a hurry so you won't ask too many questions or cause a fuss. Rental car rip-off. You return your car safe and sound, but suddenly it won't work for the attendant. The company will then blame you and force you to pay for repairs -- and they may hold your luggage until you pay up. Downgrading the hotel. You arrive at your hotel only to find out it's overbooked, but you're being offered alternative accommodations at another property. However, your new room definitely isn't worth the price you paid -- and your original hotel is pocketing the difference. (For more information, see Avoid the latest hotel scam). Paper ticket fees. While e-tickets are becoming the norm for air travel, you can still pay to have a printed ticket mailed to you. However, experts warn that some travel agents are charging four to five times the usual fee for this service. It's time to comparison shop those fees as well as the fares. Cash transfers. Believe it or not, it's possible to use an ATM in some countries (like South Africa) to transfer money to other people using a "CashSend" service. While Scambusters notes that this is a legitimate service, it warns that crooks can set up the service to transfer the cash to them instead. In fact, they might stand behind you in line and tell you that hitting the "CashSend" button will speed up your cash withdrawal."Tourist prices". It's well-known that many establishments charge tourists more than locals, but they often have help getting customers through the door. Beware of helpful taxi drivers or locals who recommend a place as they're likely earning a commission. And a warning to single men: beware of pretty girls asking you to buy them drinks -- the bill will be much higher than you expect. In some countries, pricing scams are so well-known that local embassies post lists of clubs and restaurants tourists should avoid.Phishing scams. Sure, it would be nice to get some cash back from the taxes you paid on items while you were abroad. However, beware of any emails pretending to be from your country's customs service, especially if they ask you for banking information in order to help you get your money back. Distract and grab. Reach for your wallet if you find mustard splattered on your shirt or if a bird does its business on your shoulder. While you're distracted cleaning up, someone else is running off with your wallet. Alternatively, someone may drop money or another valuable item to get your attention. Drink spiked or tainted food. Smart women know not to accept drinks from strangers and to keep a close eye on their beverages. However, abroad both men and women can become victims of drugs slipped into their drinks before they're robbed. Tips to avoid getting taken: - Know before you go. Find out as much as you can about how things are done at your destination (like paying for parking or booking a tour) and what criminal tactics you should watch out for. Can you tell a real police officer from a bogus one? Do you know what fees you'll have to pay and to whom? Check out guide books, travel websites and government travel advice to get the scoop. (See Is it safe to go? for tips and resources.)- Don't get greedy. A lot of scams prey on people's desires for cash and goods -- like dropped money, offers of "valuable" goods at discount prices, opportunities to transport goods for cash or other business scams. Some of these crimes can even land you in jail.- Keep your wits about you. Enjoy the scenery, but be aware and alert to your surroundings too. Also, drink in moderation -- criminals will be looking for intoxicated tourists whose judgment and reaction times are impaired. - Go incognito. Tourists are often targets because they're perceived as wealthy, so trying to blend in is recommended. Two big no-nos: obvious displays of wealth (like fancy jewellery and designer labels) and obvious signs that you're a tourist (like you're paying more attention to the map than your surroundings.) - Give yourself plenty of time. How can you avoid unscrupulous agents and companies? Remember, they're counting on you to be in a hurry so allow yourself extra time to read the policies, ask questions and request to talk to a manager if needed. Don't leave checking in or returning the car until the last minute, and try not to appear rushed, tired or frustrated even if that's how you're feeling. - Get used to the local currency. Be smart with your money by knowing not just the conversion rates but also the look and feel of the money you're handling. Some experts even recommend saying the bill denominations out loud as you hand over the cash.- Practice safe money handling. There are a number of steps you can take to protect your valuables from pickpockets, like not carrying your cash and passport together or carrying a "dummy" wallet. In some countries, it may not be safe to use your credit cards at all. (For more tips, see Credit card fraud and money safety abroad.)- Keep important numbers handy -- namely your travel agent, your embassy and the local police or tourist police. Call the appropriate authorities on the spot if you have to (or threaten to call). - Avoid harm. Both the police and governments warns that you should never put yourself at risk of physical harm. If you're threatened with violence or think a criminal could become violent, don't resist. You can replace your cash and documents. - If you're caught, report the incident to the police and to your embassy. You may not see any resolution or return of your property, but you will be helping to warn other travellers. This information ends up in government travel advice and on embassy websites. So should you be paranoid? No, but do be cautious. Most travellers don't experience serious problems, but being informed can help you reduce the risk of a crime disrupting your vacation.