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Editor's POV
Hope for the road ahead
Editor   
Thursday, 22 January 2009 01:56

The world changed this week. Not only did the United States inaugurate a new president, but that new president was the first black man to become president of that country. An estimated two million people packed the Mall and surrounding areas of Washington DC for the event.

Even though the overwhelming majority could not even glimpse the proceedings directly (but many could follow along via massive closed-circuit monitors), they came anyway. Braving below-freezing temperatures, stifling congestion and inconveniences, they came anyway. Those nuisances were barely registered in the minds of those determined to take part in a historic moment in time when the world shifted.

While millions gathered in the U.S. capital city, millions more watched around the world, including thousands in the Bahamas. Schools suspended classes to watch collectively, businesses tuned in as customers and employees stood together and cheered.

Truly, this was a moment worth celebrating, regardless of political inclinations or preferences. What seemed only a dream in the United States 45 years ago (and even then, for only a few) suddenly morphed into actuality. It is important to grasp that it is because of this context that this occurrence is so significant.

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Selling our souls
Erik J. Russell / Editor   
Thursday, 08 January 2009 01:20

The Bahamas holds an attraction for millions of people that choose to visit every year. From accountants to taxi drivers, from CEOs to athletes, from housewives to royalty, from Americans to Chinese –- we’re very happy that so many people, and so many different people, want to come to the Bahamas. Our economy, and almost every occupation either directly or indirectly, depends on people wanting to come here.

Celebrities are attracted here as well, of course. Whether they come here to escape from the scrutiny of the crowds they endure at home, or they come to shoot a movie or a TV show, or they come to live out a part of their lives at the property they own, many celebrities enjoy the convenient proximity and the familiar yet exotic nature of the Bahamas. For the most part, their cell phones work, they can plug in their hairdryers, they can watch U.S.-based TV, and they can speak and hear English. And, again for the most part, Bahamians will get a giggle out of seeing a movie superstar at the beach but they usually won’t impose themselves upon a celebrity that obviously wants to enjoy a fleeting few moments of anonymity.

When John Travolta’s and Kelly Preston’s son Jett suddenly and tragically died last weekend while vacationing at Old Bahama Bay Resort & Marina in West End, Grand Bahama, it dramatically shattered their lives. The four-person family (including their daughter Ella) arrived in the Bahamas a few days earlier, likely with excited anticipation about the days ahead. They watched a sparkling beachside fireworks show on New Year’s Eve, enjoyed time fishing, and shared meals with other friends and family at the relatively remote and quiet resort.

Little did they know that just one week later only three of them would board a plane to return to their Florida home, a vacant void left in their lives that would never be filled. Celebrities or not, a family has been irreversibly and catastrophically altered, and the grief and loss can never be fully measured.

American media personnel from 'Access Hollywood' working in the Bahamas during the frenzy surrounding the death of Jett Travolta. (Photo ©2009 Erik J. Russell / Keen i Media Ltd)But with celebrity status comes a fascination and level of interest that most of us crave but few of us could tolerate. Sure, it is alluring and exciting to have the cameras flash and the TV lights trained on you while you walk a red carpet or receive a reward. But when you desperately need privacy and solitude to face times of personal crises, the cameras will be right there then too, and in greater numbers with even greater determination.

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Looking back, moving ahead
Erik J. Russell / Editor   
Tuesday, 30 December 2008 13:32

Two-thousand-and-eight is almost done. Many of us would say, “Good riddance!” Sagging visitor arrivals, unemployment on the rise, the loss or halt of several major developments (that would have brought an immediate influx of employment and therefore cash as well as long-term growth), multiple hurricane strikes in the southern Bahamas and the region, and the global economic slowdown have all contributed to a year that can be politely described as “challenging”.

There have also been some high spots in the year.

The election of Barack Obama to the U.S. presidency is widely expected to bring positive changes for them and us; how that will play out in reality remains to be seen, but at least there is an air of upbeat anticipation about it.

New Providence will finally see some major improvements coming in its traffic woes, with the signing and commencement of a 34-month-long $120 million road project. More than 400 new jobs and other spin-off opportunities are expected to be some of the side benefits of the project. While any improvement will be a huge improvement, the fact remains that New Providence has a finite amount of space and an ever-increasing number of occupants, vehicles and structures.

In Grand Bahama, there have been some promising indicators that there could be a resolution ahead in the ownership –- and, more importantly, the leadership –- of the Grand Bahama Port Authority. Whether or not that includes a role for Roddie Fleming is in the hands of the Government which, to date, has not indicated much receptiveness to the Fleming group. But, at least the legal battles over ownership seem to be waning.

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Merry Christmas to all!
Erik J. Russell / Editor   
Wednesday, 24 December 2008 08:18

Happy Holidays! Season's Greetings!

We hear those phrases often. They are frequently used in advertising, greeting cards and signage. They don't much stand out, depending on the context.

But, this past week we were watching a Canadian TV channel when we came upon an advertisement for a popular Canadian restaurant. Several co-workers were sitting and standing together in an office setting when one says to another: "So, what did you get for the holidays?" The other says, "I got this great coffee mug," as he proudly displays the branded coffee cup.

Hang on a second: What did you get for the holidays? Given the design of the mug shown and the office motif it is clear they are meaning "What did you get for Christmas". But instead of just saying that they go with the so-called politically correct/generic term "holidays".

Do they think that we are all idiots? Whether you think the practice is right or wrong, does anyone watch that kind of mess and not think "Christmas"?

Last time I checked, giving gifts because there is a public holiday is not a common practice. Do you give gifts on Labour Day? How about Discovery Day (or "National Heroes Day", as some have been given to calling it)? Do you plan some special gift giving for New Year's Day? Emancipation Day? Perhaps your significant other has put together their wish list for Whit Monday. We think not.

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A wolf in sheep's clothing?
Erik J. Russell / Editor   
Thursday, 18 December 2008 01:35

When prospects are slim, you end up being grateful for anything. This week, when word arose that Grand Bahama may lose regular visits from a newly launched cruise ship service that would ply between Florida and that island, there weren’t many happy faces. The ship would service local residents (providing an alternative low-cost option to travel to South Florida) and could potentially bring more than 120,000 visitors each year to Grand Bahama. Any boost for Grand Bahama’s economy -– especially in the tourism sector -– is welcome news.

There was much handwringing and gnashing of teeth in the local media, in restaurants and at the water coolers in Grand Bahama as residents were incredulous that Freeport Harbour Company, the Ministry of Tourism and, ultimately, the Bahamas Government wouldn’t stop the foolishness and just let the people do what they want. Why question or stall such an opportunity? It was clear that the company, Imperial Majesty Cruise Lines, was displeased with the resistance they were experiencing and they wasted no time spilling their displeasure into the media.

But what do we know about Imperial Majesty Cruise Lines, besides the promises and claims that have been made?

Last month, Imperial Majesty was named in a lawsuit claiming that the company failed to disclose more than $4 million in fuel surcharges to its passengers over the past two years. Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum said that Imperial Majesty engaged in "unfair deceptive trade practices," and levied a fuel surcharge "without giving proper notice to customers."

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