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September 8, 2012

Hellen Saohaga\’s London performance ranks as second best Solomon Island performance at Olympics and Paralympics

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hellen Saohaga at the Paralympic Village on Friday
Image: Laura Hale.

The Solomon Islands during the Opening Ceremony, with Saohaga as flag-bearer
Image: Laura Hale.

London, England—When Solomon Islander Hellen Saohaga finished fifteenth in Saturday’s women’s shot put — F57/58, she set a personal best and became the second-highest finishing Solomon Islander ever in Olympic and Paralympic competition; only Olympic powerlifter Jenly Tegu Wini has bettered her performance, coming twelfth in competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Saohaga qualified for this year’s Paralympics on the basis of being a wildcard invite; a representative of the Solomon Islands Paralympic Committee believes, with better coaching and additional training, she has the potential to qualify for the Rio Paralympics on performance grounds.

Saohaga’s best throw in competition was a distance of 5.23 metres. This set a personal-best career throw for the athlete, and sees her finishing with a season’s best score of 228. Her efforts saw her finish ahead of several competitors including: Nephtalie Jean Louis of Haiti, Rhodah Mutale of Zambia, Madinat Abdullayeva of Azerbaijan and Nadia Medjedj of Algeria.

Solomon islands.ogg

Excerpt from an interview with Saohaga prior to competition
Image: Laura Hale.

In training at the practice athletics field in London, Saohaga spent time on-field at the same time as Oscar Pistrious; and, getting her picture taken with the “Blade Runner”.



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August 30, 2012

Micronesia left behind by the Paralympic movement

Micronesia left behind by the Paralympic movement

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

2012 Summer Paralympics

Trafalgar Square, London - London 2012 - countdown clock.jpg

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Sir Philip Craven at the International Paralympic Committee press conference
Image: Laura Hale.

London, England — At the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) press conference Monday, Sir Philip Craven indicated the goal of the IPC is to grow disability sport globally. At the same time, according to Paul Bird of the Oceania Paralympic Committee, the Micronesian of Oceania has been left completely behind by the Paralympic movement.

According to a member of the Oceania Paralympic Committee, the IPC recognizes fewer countries than the International Olympic Committee, with IPC rules prohibiting countries from becoming full members of the organization if their independence is not clear. This rule dates back to the organization’s founding and no serious attempts have been made to change it since.

As many Micronesian countries are not viewed as independent countries, they cannot join. This includes Guam, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The only eligibility route for elite athletes with disabilities in these countries to the Paralympic Games is through their home country, which for most of the Micronesian region is the United States; they have to compete against better-funded and better-supported competitors to earn national team selection. No disability sport competitors from Micronesia were chosen to represent the United States at the 2012 Summer Paralympics.

This problem is not unique to Micronesia, with the United States territories of Puerto Rico and United States Virgin Islands not being represented as members of the United States team in 2012.



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August 29, 2012

Colombian President announces peace talks with FARC rebels

Colombian President announces peace talks with FARC rebels

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

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FARC guerrillas marching during peace talks of 1998–2002.
Image: U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced on state television Monday that his government is to hold talks with FARC rebels who have been fighting the government since 1964. Regional media outlet Telesur said the negotiations will take place in Oslo, Norway on October 5 and will then continue in Cuba.

There has been a growing recognition in Colombia that after decades of war, only a peace settlement will allow the country to move forward. Colombian Chief Prosecutor Eduardo Montealegre commenting on Monday said the country “must move toward a peace process” whilst Daniel García-Peña, Peace Commissioner in the 1990s, said: “[…] I am upbeat. I think both the government and the FARC understand that continuing the war is senseless.”

FARC renounced kidnapping in February and released the last of its non-civilian captives in April. Previous negotiations between the parties ten years ago failed.



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March 29, 2012

Pope Benedict visits Cuba urging openness, religious freedom

Pope Benedict visits Cuba urging openness, religious freedom

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

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Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Cuba on Monday beginning a three day trip in which the leader of the Catholic church met with Cuban leaders and publicly spoke on the need for religious freedom. Pope Benedict spoke before a large audience yesterday in the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana. Benedict called for change in Cuba and the rest of the world.

Pope Benedict XVI
Image: Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland. (2010)

Cquote1.svg Cuba and the world need change, but this will occur only if each one is in a position to seek the truth and chooses the way of love, sowing reconciliation and fraternity. Cquote2.svg

—Pope Benedict XVI

“Cuba and the world need change, but this will occur only if each one is in a position to seek the truth and chooses the way of love, sowing reconciliation and fraternity,” he said.

Benedict’s arrival in Cuba comes 14 years after the first papal visit by Pope John Paul II. The late pope addressed the nation in 1998 and said that Cuba should “open itself up to the world, and may the world open itself up to Cuba.” Benedict’s speech in Havana focused on the rise of religious freedom in Cuba since the 1990s – when the country dropped official atheism – as well as the need for more religious freedom in the country.

“It is with joy that in Cuba there have been steps so that the church can carry out its mission. … The right to freedom of religion, as an individual and a community, manifests the unity of a human being, citizen and believer at the same time,” he said.

While Benedict kept the speech mostly apolitical, during the trip he made comments that could be interpreted as criticism of the communist country.

“There are those who wrongly interpret this search for the truth, leading them to irrationality and fanaticism; they close themselves up in ‘their truth’ and try to impose it on others,” Benedict said.

Also during the trip, the pope prayed for greater freedom for Cubans at the statue of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre in Santiago. The pope also said Cuba’s political system “no longer corresponds to reality.”

Cquote1.svg In Cuba, there will not be political reform. Cquote2.svg

Marino Murillo

In response, Marino Murillo, vice president of the island’s council of ministers, said Cuba is sustainable and will not change. “In Cuba, there will not be political reform,” Murillo said.

According to groups on the island, 60 individuals were detained or put on house arrest during Pope Benedict’s televised Mass. Amnesty International also reported that Cuban human rights organizations, such as the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, were unable to communicate via phones or mobile-phones starting Monday.

Cquote1.svg … some have had their houses surrounded to prevent them (from) denouncing abuses during Pope Benedict’s tour. Cquote2.svg

—Amnesty International

“The clampdown has seen an increase in arrests, activists’ phones have been disconnected, and some have had their houses surrounded to prevent them (from) denouncing abuses during Pope Benedict’s tour,” Amnesty International said.

In addition to visiting various cities in Cuba and celebrating Mass in Havana, Benedict also met with former Cuban President Fidel Castro yesterday. According to a Vatican spokesman, Castro asked for a “modest and simple” meeting with the pontiff. The two spoke for 30 minutes in which the former president – who stepped down in 2006 due to illness – asked the pope about the evolution of the Catholic church over the years and what life is like as a pope.

Castro spoke of the pope in a positive light: “…a man whose contact with children and humble members of society has, invariably, raised feelings of affection.”

Pope Benedict left Cuba Wednesday evening.



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July 7, 2011

Bahamas become fourth country to ban shark fishing

Bahamas become fourth country to ban shark fishing

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

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The Bahamas has become the fourth country to ban shark fishing
Image: Dr. James P. McVey, NOAA Sea Grant Program.

The Bahamas on Tuesday approved a law banning shark fishing in its waters, along with selling, importing and exporting shark products. This makes the Bahamas the fourth country to ban shark fishing, joining the Maldives, Honduras, and Palau. The 630,000 sq km of water around the Bahamas has now become an official shark sanctuary.

The ban is welcomed by many, including environmentalists. The President of the Bahamas National Trust, Neil McKinney, spoke about the issue saying, “They desperately need protection if we’re not going to drive them to extinction.” Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette also commented on the ban: “This is in keeping with the government’s commitment to pursue conservation policies and strategies in order to safeguard the marine and terrestrial environment.”

However, some feel that the ban will affect relations with China. Shark-fin soup is highly popular in China, with around 73 million sharks killed every year. To prepare shark-fin soup, the fins are often scraped off, and the body of the shark is thrown back into the water. A report published by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that shark populations have fallen by 70 to 80 per cent, with a third of all shark species being threatened or nearly threatened by extinction.



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Jamaican Olympian and coach Pablo McNeil dies aged 71

Jamaican Olympian and coach Pablo McNeil dies aged 71

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

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Image: Celeste.

Jamaican Olympic athlete and coach Pablo McNeil has died at the age of 71. The cause of death was a long illness he suffered since a stroke in December 2007.

A sprinter since childhood, McNeil competed at two Olympic Games. In the 1964 Tokyo Games he reached the semi-final of the 100 meters, finishing sixth. He also appeared in the 100 meters at the 1968 Games in Mexico City, but failed to make it past the first round. He was part of the relay team that won a silver medal at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica.

After a career of competing in athletics, McNeil turned his attention to coaching. He became the sprint coach at the William Knibb High School where he met Usain Bolt. He convinced Bolt to make the switch from cricket to track and trained him up until the age of 16, when Bolt joined the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association-administered High Performance Training Centre in Kingston.

Bolt, through his publicist, said that “Coach McNeil was a part of my early track and field life. I appreciate all he sought to pass on to me. I would like to offer my condolences and sympathies to his family and close friends.”

Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Olivia Grange paid tribute to McNeil in a statement saying “Pablo McNeil has left a mark on Jamaican and world sports. He was a good competitor for Jamaica and went on to nurture, mentor, inspire and coach some of our fine young athletes at William Knibb High School – including Usain Bolt who has been such a success and inspiration. On behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica, I offer sincerely condolences to Pablo McNeil’s family, friends, and the entire Track and Field fraternity who will be saddened by his passing.”



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March 21, 2011

Haiti votes in presidential runoff

Haiti votes in presidential runoff – Wikinews, the free news source

Haiti votes in presidential runoff

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Monday, March 21, 2011

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About one million Haitians remain in squalid, temporary shelters.

Voters in Haiti are going to the polls today to vote for the country’s next president. The election follows months of political turmoil after the corrupt first round election in November caused a crisis requiring international intervention.

Haiti is still struggling to recover from the devastating January 2010 earthquake, with about one million people remaining in squalid, temporary shelters and a recent cholera epidemic which threatens to break out again with the return of the rainy season. Observers are hoping the new president will restore enough stability so rebuilding efforts can begin with international help.

In Haiti’s first round of balloting in November, names were missing from voter rolls, ballot boxes were stuffed or trashed, voters were blocked from the precincts by supporters of candidates, among other irregularities. Haitians rioted, plunging the process into chaos that was quelled by the determined efforts of foreign monitors.

Out of the original 19 candidates, two remained after the first round: Mirlande Manigat, age 70, a sedate, reserved university professor and wife of former president Leslie Manigat, and pop star “Sweet Micky” Martelly, age 50, who the The Washington Post described as being “a popular kompa singer […] famous for dropping his pants on stage, mooning audiences, and dressing in drag — or sometimes a diaper.”

However, Martelly has waged an energetic, well financed campaign with pink campaign posters picturing his smiling face and bald head, cultivating a populist image with Haiti’s poor. He has been successful at marketing himself as an unpretentious outsider who will shake up the political system and yank the country out of its paralysis. At the same time, he has courted the upper class with a platform containing pro-business promises and support for the return of the Haitian army.

The sedate personality of Manigat contrasts starkly with that of Martelly. She portrays herself as a dignified, mature mother figure able to nurture Haiti through its troubles.

The determining factor may be the popular former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who returned two days ago to Haiti from South America after seven years in exile. Aristide has not endorsed either candidate, but Aristide supporters, among those Haitians most desperately poor, have voiced support for Manigat. Upon Aristide’s arrival, there were banners saying, “My mother is here already. Welcome home Father”, according to The Washington Post.

Pierre-Marie Boisson, a private-sector economist in Haiti, sees the candidates as having similar platforms, promising jobs, housing and free education, even if their personal styles are so different. “They have both promised the moon to the voters,” he said. He noted that this puts tremendous pressure on the winner to produce results quickly in a world where the price of food and fuel is rising.

As voting concluded, despite some irregularities such as missing ballots and late starts, authorities concluded the voting went well, without the pervasive fraud that marked the November election. Colin Granderson, head of Organization of American States (OAS) observer mission, said the runoff election was a great improvement over the previous one.

The final results will be announced on April 16.



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March 9, 2011

Che Guevara\’s \’\’Motorcycle Diaries\’\’ companion dies

Che Guevara’s ”Motorcycle Diaries” companion dies

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Alberto Jiménez in 2007

Alberto Granado Jiménez, the Argentinian biochemist who was Che Guevara‘s companion on his transformative motorcycle trip through South America, died in Havana on Saturday, reported Cuban state television. He was 88 and died of natural causes.

The politically active Jiménez met Ernesto “Che” Guevara, then a medical student, in Hernando, Argentina where Guevara had gone to play rugby. Both were intellectually curious and interested in exploration. In 1951 they set out on an eight-month motorcycle trip through South American that exposed them to the poverty in which most South Americans lived. The pair worked in a leprosy colony and met wtih destitute miners and indigenous people. Both men kept diaries which served as the basis for the 2004 film, The Motorcycle Diaries, produced by Robert Redford and directed by Walter Salles.

According to the Guardian, “Their road trip awoke in Guevara a social consciousness and political convictions that would turn him into one of the iconic revolutionaries of the 20th century.” The trip is widely believed to have inspired Guevara to go to Cuba and join Fidel Castro in his 1959 revolt against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.

By the time the two men met again eight years later, Guevara was a revolutionary hero and chief of Cuba’s central bank. Jiménez, who had remained in Argentina working in a clinic, accepted Guevara’s invitation to move to Cuba in 1961 and founded a medical facility in Santiago. Later he moved to Havana where he continued his medical work. The two remained friends although they did not always agree. Jiménez rejected Guevara’s belief that social reform in Latin America had to be accomplished through guerrilla warfare.

The book The Motorcycle Diaries was published in the 1990’s. Jiménez said of the book that it inspired the image of the young Che as a romantic figure.

Jiménez authored the book Traveling with Che Guevara: The Making of a Revolutionary, published in 2003.



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November 23, 2010

Cabinet Minister resigns after boycott in Grenada

Cabinet Minister resigns after boycott in Grenada

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

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Prime Minister of Grenada, Tillman Thomas

A Grenadian cabinet Minister has resigned after he boycotted his own swearing-in ceremony. Michael Church handed his resignation to Tillman Thomas, the Prime Minister of Grenada yesterday. Church boycotted the ceremony after he was demoted from Minister of Labour, Social Security and Ecclesiastical Affairs. He was then given the post of Junior Minister in the Ministry of Works, Physical Development and Public Utilities.

Church was demoted after he made a visit to Italy with a former trade advisor without the government’s consent. He then boycotted the ceremony along with two other ministers. Peter David and Glynnis Roberts also had their posts changed in the cabinet reshuffle. They have since accepted their new posts.

Prime Minister Tillman issued a statement on Church’s decision to leave the cabinet. He said “It is always a traumatic experience for a government to lose one of its members, especially at a time when all hands are needed in the rebuilding of our nation.”



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November 20, 2010

Dominican comedian Freddy Beras-Goico dies aged 69

Dominican comedian Freddy Beras-Goico dies aged 69

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

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Freddy Beras-Goico in 2010

Dominican comedian Freddy Beras-Goico has died at the age of 69 in the United States. Beras died at the Mount Sinai Medical Center on Thursday in New York. Admitted to the hospital on November 5, the comedian died on Thursday, three days before his 70th birthday, of pancreatic cancer.

Beras, who started his career as a cameraman in the 1960s, was also an actor and television presenter. As a child Beras fled Colombia with his family due to the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. During the 1950s and 60s he became a political activist and was jailed in 1965. He reached national fame when he began to present a weekly variety television programme. During its thirty year run the show featured some of the most famous musicians from the Dominican Republic and Latin America.

Tributes have been paid to the late comedian. The president of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernandez, said that he spoke out against the social and political conflicts of the country. He added that “He appealed with energy and integrity for the construction of a better society.”

His son posted an announcement through his Twitter page. He said “It is with great pain that I announce the death of my father. Infinite thanks to all for your solidarity in these days. Peace to his remains.”

His funeral is to take place in the Dominican Republic and his body is due to return there today.



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