03 December 2012

Curaçao-Set Little League Baseball Drama 'Boys Of Summer'



Continuing pre-festival highlights of films scheduled to screen at the upcoming African Diaspora International Film Festival (ADIFF) - the festival's 20th edition, to be held in Manhattan from November 23 to December 11.

Tribeca and ESPN Films documentary Boys of Summer, directed by Keith Aumont, stars Vernon Isabella and the Curaçao All-Star Team.

The film's short story goes... On the tiny Caribbean island of Curaçao, they take their Little League Baseball very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that Manager Vernon Isabella has sent his Little League All-Stars to the Little League World Series for an unprecedented 7 consecutive years. However, in the summer of 2008, the boys are faced with new challenges that could jeopardize their 8th chance at the championship. They must overcome injuries, team bickering and Puerto Rican Little League players who’ve already matured in order to do their team, manager, and nation proud.

At its core, Boys Of Summer is a film about baseball as a universally beloved pastime; about children carrying the privilege and burden of a nation's pride; about athletes competing at the highest level and the unexpected camaraderie that develops between these boys as they do what they love.

It'll screen on Tuesday, December 4 at 11AM at Teachers College (New York).

Barbados government establishes Reparations Task Force

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, – The Barbados government has established a 12-member Reparations Task Force that would be responsible for sustaining the local, regional and international momentum for reparations.

It will also conceptualise and articulate strategies, frameworks and projects to accept and manage financial and other resources.“They will also further the research and publication of works that make the case for reparations and self-reparations at individual, community, national, regional and international levels, among other things,” said Culture Minister Stephen Lashley.

Culture Minister Stephen Lashley said Barbados supports the argument that reparations should be made to the people of African descent in the Caribbean. (File photo)

The Task Force is chaired by Professor Pedro Welch and Lashley said it would provide advice and support to government, through the Commission for Pan-African Affairs, on sourcing financial, in-kind and technical assistance resources to implement a package of reparative initiatives.

These projects will include government collaborating with the University of the West Indies to mount a regional reparations conference, which would lead to the formation of a Caribbean commission; and the establishment of a Multi-ethnic Research Centre, a National Museum on Slavery and a Centre for Reparations Research.

Lashley said Barbados supports the argument that reparations should be made to the people of African descent in the Caribbean and has been expressed repeatedly its position over the years at various high-level international meetings.

“It is now acknowledged internationally that Barbados’ historic and pivotal leadership role during the preparatory meetings and at the 2001 World Conference Against Racism ensured that reparations remained on the global agenda in the face of fierce resistance from some countries.

“Against this resistance, forceful Caribbean, African and African-Diasporic negotiations got the World Conference Against Racism to agree that the transatlantic trade in Africans was a crime against humanity and called for reparations in the Durban Declaration,” he said.

He acknowledged that while some Barbadians might argue against pursuing reparations because of certain pre-conceived ideas, some historians, legal thinkers and Pan-Africanists do not believe those views should “diminish the moral or legal force of arguments in favour of reparations”.

Lashley has already said that any resources acquired from reparations should be used for “transformative national development”.

At least three Caribbean countries are exploring the possibility of setting up Reparations Commissions.

The International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) says States have a legal duty to acknowledge and address widespread or systematic human rights violations, in cases where the state caused the violations or did not seriously try to prevent them.

“Reparations initiatives seek to address the harms caused by these violations. They can take the form of compensating for the losses suffered, which helps overcome some of the consequences of abuse. They can also be future oriented—providing rehabilitation and a better life to victims—and help to change the underlying causes of abuse,” ICTJ said. (CMC) 

Op-Ed: Rum Subsidies in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands

by Frank W Ward 
West Indies Rum & Spirits Producers’ Association 

The views are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the WIRSPA.
Caribbean Journal Op-Eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.

Op-Ed: Rum Subsidies in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands

RUM HAS A SPECIAL PLACE in the hearts and minds of Caribbean people. It is the product of an industry mainly comprised of small, local distillers which, as a significant economic operator, brings much needed foreign exchange, adds value to primary agriculture and contributes to the revenues of governments struggling to cope with the consequences of severe economic reversals.

The Caribbean is not only rum, but rum is truly of the Caribbean and through these small producers forges an identity associated with the islands and countries from which it comes.

That is why measures being taken by the governments of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) and Puerto Rico to provide rum producing companies located in these territories with huge subsidies using a programme that returns to these territories the excise taxes on all rum sold in the mainland USA have, in 2011, prompted the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers Association Inc. (WIRSPA), the regional industry association to ask CARICOM governments to formally express their deep concern to the US Administration.

These companies, which collectively account for the bulk of sales of rum internationally, also benefit from the excise taxes collected on CARIFORUM rums sold in the USA.

CARICOM wrote to the US Trade Representative in December of 2011 and subsequently raised the issue at a meeting of the US-CARICOM Trade and Investment Council in March in Georgetown.

More recently, in June 2012, a technical meeting was held between CARICOM (and included the Dominican Republic) and the representatives of the USTR and Departments of State, Commerce and the Interior. In addition, subsequent to a meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government in July 2012, a letter expressing the concern of the region was written to President Barack Obama.

The Caribbean’s case revolves around the fact that subsidies offered by the USVI and Puerto Rico are inconsistent with the obligations of the US at the World Trade Organization, in as much as they involve prohibited export subsidies, make use of discriminatory taxation, and cause adverse effects to the interests of other WTO members — in this case, the countries of CARIFORUM.

Specifically, the region’s concerns relate to the application by the USVI and Puerto Rico of a “cover-over” programme which has an admirable developmental purpose and which remits 98 percent of all excise taxes collected on rums sold in the US back to these territories.

In 2010, this amounted to approximately $450 million, and includes the excise taxes paid on CARIFORUM rums sold in the USA.

In order to secure a greater amount of this “cover-over” support, the USVI and Puerto Rico have, since 2008, offered extremely generous concessions, subsidies and other long-term support for rum production in those territories.

Estimates suggest that, in some cases, the value of the operating subsidies alone exceeds the actual production cost per litre of rum. It is also believed that the combined new production capacity resulting from the subsidies offered will be equivalent to at least 80 percent of current US rum consumption.

Unsurprisingly, rum producers in the Anglophone Caribbean, Haiti and the Dominican Republic have viewed this development with alarm.

So, too, have CARIFORUM governments which have recognized the dangers for themselves and the region’s largest agriculture-based export industry which generates an estimated $500 million in foreign exchange and well over $250 million in tax revenues, which is to say nothing of the industry’s role as an important provider of employment or its close relationship to tourism.

What is important to understand is that this involves significant matters of principle over subsidies and fair competition, key components of the WTO regime on trade in goods.

For this reason, the dispute is at a government-to-government, rather than an industry level.

There is also a sense that the manner in which the cover-over programme is being used raises serious questions about the consistency of the United States in adhering to its obligations at WTO.

The United States has for many years taken a leadership role in promoting strong WTO disciplines on trade distorting subsidies, so it is surprising that it has allowed a situation of competitive harm to arise.

CARIFORUM countries may not have considerable political and economic muscle to flex in Washington, London and Brussels, but the region has the facts and strict rules of world trade on its side.

While there is understanding across the region of the economic problems facing the Caribbean territories of the US, by allowing a development programme to be used to subsidize rum production in those territories, the US is damaging one of the few competitive industries that CARIFORUM nations have and which helps underpin their small and vulnerable economies.

The concern is that if the matter goes unchallenged, it will result in CARIFORUM producers seeing their share of the US market wiped out by subsidized product, and induce other rum-producing companies to locate in the USVI and Puerto Rico and benefit from such largesse.