Picks of the week

Just sharing a potpourri of articles from the web i found compelling/interesting over the last week…

Twitter’s #dearpublisher hashtag takes off

Readers and publishers engage in new medium for debate

A Twitter page

A Twitter page. Photograph: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Twitter is not to everyone’s taste – it’s no secret that many readers
of this blog suspect that the Guardian gives the microblogging service
far more attention than it deserves and might agree with Oyl
Miller’s stream of consciousness piece in McSweeney’s
this week that
begins: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by brevity,
over-connectedness, emotionally starving for attention.”


Haiti at 6 months|Managing expectations by not naming them?

Posted on July 16, 2010 by Carla Murphy
A tree is a rare sight at a camp and here, in Tabarre, residents use the shade for community meetings.

When I nearly fainted in the second camp we visited in Tabarre this Monday, some of the women leaders who live there brought me a Tampico juice right quick.  It was sweating, ice cold. How do they get ice? And where do they keep it? Then I thought, Great. They’re running to bring me juice while the 250 families that live here get by on 500 gallons of water a day. That’s the same amount of water in a luxe hotel’s fish tank.

Op-Ed Columnist, New York Times
Can We Talk?
THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: July 16, 2010
On July 7, CNN fired its senior editor of Middle East affairs, Octavia Nasr, after she published a Twitter message saying, “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah,” one of the most prominent Lebanese Shiite spiritual leaders who was involved in the founding of the Hezbollah militia. Nasr described him as “one of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.”


The unpublished journal of a successful entrepreneur

by neo

One year ago, I spent an entire night dreaming that I was a giant fly. When I awoke, I was startled to discover that I was myself. I decided that this was a vision, and asked my Guruji (from Better Living through Conscious Snoring) what I should do with it.

Guruji told me to stop depending on other people to tell me what to do, become an entrepreneur, and document my journey and daily achievements in a journal.

This is the journal:


And finally:

Ataklan flavours up The Mix

Gillian Moore

Published: 10 Jul 2010

Audience members dance and wave during Ataklan’s performance. Photos: Gillian Moore

The crowd went crazy for Ataklan on July 3, at the T&T launch of The Mix at Casa de Ibiza on Tragarete Road in Woodbrook.

Ataklan has been coming to Jamaica frequently over the last year to record songs for his next album here. Identified as the “Trinidadian friend” in the photo below when it appeared in a Jamaican blogpost, Klan even penned a Dudus song called Kingston Town (“Man, so many of dead bodies, so few recovered guns…Tell me what a gwaan roun here, is there no love for life roun here…“) while here in June. I’m indebted to Corve Dacosta who took the photo for his blogpost on the Jamaica Pegasus tweetup.

L-R (@hubertnealjr @anniepaul and a Trinidadian friend

Who Tipped off Dudus?

Paul the Octopus calls it in Jamaica’s Dudus saga…

Las May, Gleaner

Did anyone else watch the Diamond League showdown between Asafa Powell and Usain Bolt today? What a race! The top three spots were taken by Jamaican runners, Usain first with 9.84, Asafa next with 9.91 and Yohan Blake in third place. It’s called a Trifecta apparently…

Speaking of world beaters, Jamaica has two of the world’s best cartoonists as well. Las May of the Gleaner Co. and Clovis of the Jamaica Observer. The cartoon above of OctoPaul confronting the Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding with an accusing tentacle had me in stitches for days. Great way to tie in the World Cup in which Paul the Octopus played a starring role with local politics and the sensational Admiral Lewin revelations.

Why is Dudus called Dudus?


Ambassador Dudley Thompson in African-style shirt

Why is Dudus called Dudus? And what is the right way to pronounce his name?

Unfortunately the answers to these questions are to be found in the New York Post rather than any organ of the Jamaican media. People in the know here, or people with a working knowledge of runnings in Tivoli Gardens have always said that the name is prounounced Dud-dus (thanks @JustSherman) to rhyme with ‘cud’ or ‘bud’ and not ‘Dud’ to rhyme with ‘good’ or ‘wood’ which is how most people here pronounce it.

You’d think local media would make an attempt to get it right but of course very few have done so. As for speculating on the reasons for Christopher Coke’s nickname it takes the foreign media to do that. The New York Post tells us that of Jim Brown’s three sons:

The youngest was Christopher, who earned his nickname “Dudus” — pronounced DUD-us — because he wore an African-style shirt favored by Jamaican World War II hero and Cabinet minister Dudley Thompson.

Dudley Thompson is a character in his own right (see above), so its rather interesting that Cuddly Duddly might have inadvertently lent his name to Jamaica’s most notorious don. Of course some might say Dudley is no angel either…but that’s another story.

Read more of the NY Post article here:

Fortunately for us there is a ray of hope on the media horizon in Jamaica with the establishment of On the Ground News Reports (@onthegroundjm), an invaluable source of news in the wake of the May 23rd assault on Tivoli. At first i was wary of the tweets coming from OGNR but then i noticed that almost everything they tweeted was later confirmed in the mainstream media. OGNR was providing the news live and direct almost as it happened.

In fact they were the ‘social media’ that the information minister Daryl Vaz was fulminating against when the government cracked down on media here denying them access to Tivoli and its environs.


Las May, The Gleaner, June 28, 2010

There has been some speculation as to the people who started ONGR and whether its a new kind of political high jinks but an interview with the founder today provides a lot of information on the way this innovative news gathering service operates. Check it out here.

Meanwhile i was happy to be quoted again in the international media (The New York Times’ Lede blog, a Village Voice blog and in an Associated Press article ) on the Dudus imbroglio. Channel 4 News in London also asked me to contribute a piece which i did, see it here:

And for a laugh check out ONGR’s spoof on the Jamaica World Service with Paleface, Tony Hendriks:

Post-script to Soldiers and Police in Jamaica

Well, the local media have been pipped once again. According to the Guardian (UK) in an article titled From Kabul to Kingston “Army tactics in Jamaica resemble those used in Afghanistan – and it’s no mere coincidence.”

“For two weeks, the Jamaican army and police have fought gun battles in Kingston. The many allegations of human rights abuses committed by the security forces – including extrajudicial killings and the disposal of bodies – have received almost no international attention. Nor have the linkages between the Jamaican crisis, the security establishments in the US, Britain and Canada, and the mutations of the “war on terror”.

But strategy and tactics deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan are being applied in Jamaica. Drones fly over Kingston, and were used in the 24 May assault to select targets. On 7 June, Tivoli residents discovered that to enter or leave the area they had to produce “passes” issued by the police (revised, after protests, to restrictions on movement after dark). There is blanket surveillance of electronic communications in breach of Jamaican privacy protections – indeed, it was the illegal provenance of some of the evidence against Christopher “Dudus” Coke that initially held up extradition proceedings.”

In fact in Hubert Neal’s painting mentioned in the previous post he had included the figure of a triangular shaped plane hovering over Kingston Harbour and then attempted to erase it leaving a ghostly shape. The soldiers were quite excited to see this. “The spy plane! the spy plane!” they exclaimed.

One day hopefully we’ll hear the whole nine yards. I’ve thought from the beginning that this was a well-executed plan, with outside assistance, designed to breach the fortress of Tivoli on grounds of capturing Dudus which would bloom into an all-out assault on Dons and their gangs.

The problem is that even in times of uneasy peace the human rights of the poor were routinely violated. How can we assure ourselves that they are not victimized in this so-called war on crime?

Meanwhile in Britain “David Cameron today (June 15) issued a formal, state apology for the “unjustified and unjustifiable” killing of 14 civil rights marchers by British soldiers on Bloody Sunday in Derry 38 years ago.”

Will we ever have closure here on the killing of 73 civilians in Tivoli on May 24th?

Soldiers and Police in The Hunt for Dudus





Photos above by Hubert Neal Jr.

A frequently heard comment in the wake of the May 23rd assault by Jamaican security forces on Tivoli Gardens is that Jamaica Defence Force soldiers are far more civil and easy to trust than the police. The latter stand accused of shooting to kill without any consideration for whether the target is actually a suspected criminal or not. The soldiers on the other hand have been accused at the most of paying too much attention to the young women of Tivoli, an area that has remained under curfew ever since the barricades of Tivoli were demolished.

Of course the soldiers too are alleged to have participated in some questionable activities such as the hasty and unauthorized burial of bodies in makeshift coffins during the siege of Tivoli. But their reputation has fared far better than that of the much reviled and feared Police Force accused of wantonly killing young men in the affected areas. According to a Trini friend who generally knows about such things, a state of emergency is an opportunity for rogue police to go around eliminating those who are their partners in crime in times of peace–those who abet them in drug dealing, illegal taxi operations, extortion among other things. If true, this could explain the outrageously high number of casualties in the operation to capture Dudus–who of course, remains free and alive.

The Hunt for Dudus has inspired Belizean artist Hubert Neal Jr., who arrived in the island on May 20, just before the ‘Operation Take Dudus Alive’ unfurled. Neal, an artist in residence at Roktowa on Pechon Street around the corner from Coronation Market and Tivoli Gardens found himself the recipient of an unlikely studio visit a few days ago when three groups of soldiers decided to patrol the old Red Stripe Brewery where he works along with the Haitian artists who are part of the ‘Trembling Heart’ project.

The soldiers allowed themselves to be detained by Neal’s painting in progress, titled–what else–The Hunt for Dudus. They questioned him closely about his representation of the storming of Tivoli, disapproving of the low number of soldiers depicted (see photos above and below). On the whole however they were quite animated by the work they saw and their unorthodox art critique thrilled Hubert who documented The Studio Visit on his blog The Visual Poets Society.

Photos below by Annie Paul

The Hunt for Dudus by Hubert Neal Jr. (work in progress)


Dudus in between his bodyguards above and terrified woman and child below


A beaming Neal…

The most potent paintings i think are the two below, Hubert’s depictions of the torture chamber the media described finding in Tivoli. I’m particularly moved by his interpretation of the grave found with a skeleton buried upright in it (below right).

Last Saturday we were part of a visit to award-winning writer/sociologist Erna Brodber‘s home at Woodside, St. Mary. As part of her Blackspace project she has documented various sites and relics dating from the days of slavery. One of the things she mentioned was the existence of what she referred to as a ‘punishment hole’ somewhere in the vicinity. What’s that, I asked.

Well, sometimes slaves were punished by being buried upright up to their necks for days on end, said Erna. Wow, i thought, the Tivoli Punishment Hole was no doubt a variant of this time-honoured method of torture.


Erna Brodber at the entrance to the Woodside Community Centre

If you come to Roktowa next Sunday for the opening of Laura Facey’s show Propel you can see Hubert’s painting and work by the Haitian artists as well. In addition to Laura’s marvelous drawings, prints, carving and sculpture there will also be Nine Night singing. The show is curated by Melinda Brown. Click on invite below for address and map to Roktowa.

Desperately Seeking Dudus 2: The Person behind the Persona


Las May, The Gleaner

On May 8 I had occasion to talk to Tom Tavares-Finson, Chris Dudus Coke’s erstwhile lawyer (who stepped down as part of his defence team on May 18, citing conflict of interest) at a mutual friend’s birthday party. Can you talk about Dudus I asked, unable to resist my reporter’s instincts.

“You mean that figment of the collective imagination?” Tom responded playing his legal role to the hilt; according to him, Dudus was an ordinary man on whom every abnormal event–the revoking of visas, crimes of various kinds, resignations–was being pinned with abandon. I was more than willing to engage in a spirited discussion on this unlikely portrayal of the nation’s Public Enemy No. 1 but, alas, was deterred by frantic hand signals from my host who was afraid that the ensuing argument might derail his party.

I don’t think anyone there could have guessed that within two weeks Tom’s beloved Tivoli would be torn to pieces by Jamaican armed forces searching for Dudus who was barricaded in there. And apart from the one or two nondescript photographs circulating in the media there was hardly any information on this man now hunted on grounds of being a dangerous criminal mastermind by the United States.

This was the same man whose power enabled him some months ago to defuse the simmering rivalry between the Gaza and Gully factions by mounting the West Kingston Jamboree in Tivoli where the rival Dancehall DJs at the head of the two factions, Vybz Kartel and Mavado, performed on stage together (see video above). Dudus is also reputed to do a mean Gully Creeper but unlike our business and social elite he shuns the limelight remaining a shadowy, mysterious figure who by all reports craves ‘ordinariness’ and ‘normalcy’.

Finally this morning, Jamaica’s Sunday Gleaner has shed some more light on this retiring character in an excellent article by Tyrone Reid called “FROM MATH WHIZ TO WANTED.” For once we’re able to read a story like this in the local media and not in the New York Times, on BBC or CNN. The Gleaner reporter tracked down people who knew Coke at Ardenne High School, and uncovered information suggesting that the young Coke was anything but a ganglord in the making. In fact he was one of that rare, endangered species in Jamaica, a natural mathematical talent.

“The math teacher remembered Coke as one of his elite batch, picked at the end of the ninth grade.

Having breezed through CXC math Coke tackled the dreaded additional mathematics (add math) in Grade 11 and scored a Grade B – the second-highest mark.

“Math is the only universal language, and he spoke it very fluently,” the teacher reminisced. “I taught him for five years straight. Basically, he was the model student; very quiet, and there were no problems in terms of discipline,” said the educator.

Reid’s story goes toe to toe against The Sunday Observer‘s rambling reminiscence by journalist Tino Geddes of Tivoli and its various Dons, most of whom he seems to have known closely.

Dudus is not a run of the mill ordinary Joe, looking to make some money and in search of power. He has never been and he will never be regarded by those who have known him, in that light.

I have personally known all the previous ‘dons’ of Tivoli Gardens. I had a special affection for Massop; I was closely involved with Bya; I watched Jah T go through high school at Wolmer’s; I was particularly close to Jim Brown, and although not as close to Dudus as I was to his father, the younger Coke has commanded my respect.

Dudus has undeniably captured the nation’s imagination. At the recently staged Calabash Literary Festival the open mic segment was dominated by references to both Dudus and Tivoli. As news broke that his brother Livity and sister Sandra had both turned themselves in to the Police stories started swirling.

Was it true, enquiring minds on Facebook wanted to know, that Livity Coke was on Twitter and when rumours of his demise were reported he immediately tweeted saying “See mi yah”? The urban legends surrounding the Coke family continue to grow yet there have been no images in the media here of either Sandra or Livity or any further information about them.

The Jamaican media is puzzling in its tendency to conceal rather than reveal the news. Tightlipped and taciturn at the best of times, it took the New York Times to carry an article on the extrajudicial killings by the security forces in Tivoli. With the exception of Lloyd D’Aguilar, my former co-host on Newstalk 93, who took it upon himself to visit Tivoli in the wake of the assault on it, and report on what he found there, no other major news media here has followed up in a serious way on the ‘collateral damage’ caused by the breaching of Tivoli.

In the aftermath of the events of May 24th the BBC had footage of masked gunmen in Tivoli fortifying themselves and the community (see below). A reliable source informs me that this footage was actually shot by a TV Jamaica cameraman who had access to the individuals in question yet TVJ declined to air the exclusive video allowing the BBC an unnecessary scoop. The local television channel’s reticence in airing the footage shot by its own cameraman remains a mystery.

What amazed me about this BBC footage that i watched over and over again in my hotel room in Barbados was that much of the early scenery shown, with police dodging around corners of buildings was right outside the National Gallery of Jamaica. The Gallery’s walls are slightly pockmarked with bullet holes now and the fighting outside was so intense that a security guard was trapped inside the Gallery for 5 days.

“How did he survive? What did he eat?” I gasped when told this by the Executive Director of the Gallery, Veerle Poupeye.

“Well, he had access to the coffee shop. Thank God we stock three different flavours of muffins there,” she replied laughing.

The Don of a New Era Part 2: The Gideon continues


Sign in Barbados

Well, the Gideon (local slang for Armageddon) continues. Last night it seemed as if things in Kingston had simmered down but this morning i checked into Twitter to hear that the armed forces were lobbing grenades and perhaps bombs at a house in E. Kirkland Heights, a very upscale neighbourhood in Red Hills, Kingston. “The template of violence in jamaica has changed ova d las week. Its now an insurgency with all the relevant weaponry” tweeted one of the people i follow. “I wanna see the police deny this one. Grenades an bombs are the new weapon of choice for the state now.”

No idea whether the Police suspect that Dudus is holed up in there or some other Don. Things unravelled very quickly. On May 17th Prime Minister Bruce Golding addressed the nation saying apologetically that he was finally giving the go-ahead for the signing of the papers to extradite Dudus to the US, something he had resisted for 9 months. To many of us it was clear that the US had made him an offer he couldn’t refuse; pressure from the local media, business and other interest groups had also mounted in the weeks leading up to this astonishing about-face.

As i said before Dudus’ lawyer Tom Tavares-Finson was furious. He would take the matter to court the next day he said but the following day we heard that he had removed himself from the team representing Dudus due to conflict of interest issues; issues however that had always existed. All I can say is, do not use this as an excuse to slaughter innocents in Tivoli, an angry Finson was heard saying in interview after interview on radio and tv. His words would prove prophetic.

The day after Golding’s speech it was announced that a warrant had been issued for Dudus’s arrest. That would have been on May 18th. The rest of the week was tense with everyone expecting the Police and Army to invade Tivoli at any minute but the armed forces seemed unusually tolerant, waiting patiently for Dudus to turn himself in. Actually they were waiting till the weekend of the 21st, a long weekend with the 24th being a holiday in Jamaica–Labour Day–to make their move.

On the 23rd a number of colleagues and i were at the airport waiting to catch a flight to Barbados to attend the Caribbean Studies’ Association’s 35th annual conference presciently titled “The Everyday Occurrence of Violence in the Cultural Life of the Caribbean” when i saw a tweet saying that shots were being fired in the vicinity of Tivoli. It’s going down i said to one of my colleagues, a leading Jamaican criminologist, the war is beginning.

I wouldn’t say so he said calmly, assuring us that his information was that Dudus was willing to turn himself in to the US authorities and was expected to do so any minute now. Well, that turned out to be misinformation of the highest quality. By the time we reached Barbados we heard that a state of emergency had been imposed and I’ve literally been glued to Twitter and online media ever since.

In fact I’m happy to report that my tweets were actually picked up by the New York Times blog The Lede in an article called Following Jamaica’s State of Emergency Online. Channel 4 in London contacted me to see if i could write a piece for them on Dudus which i did. My comments appeared in their story Jamaica death toll rises as unrest continues.

Here is an excerpt from it:

Dudus has been an extraordinary provider for the inhabitants of Tivoli.

What makes him exceptional is that he has also managed to forge coalitions between gangs across party lines and across the country when needed because of the respect he commands. His reach extends beyond his immediate community across all kinds of borders and is a testament to his abilities as an astute leader.

Had he been legit and able to run for election he would have probably created a modern, efficient Jamaica the likes of which have yet to be seen, but of course one where personal freedoms may have been more circumscribed than they are today.

The problem is his links to the underworld do not permit the state to continue the tacit alliance with him and others like him that have persisted to this day.

The question is how do you take the milk out of the coffee once the two have been mixed. That is the predicament Jamaica finds itself in.

Meanwhile the Gideon continues and while many of us would like to comfort ourselves by thinking that this is a necessary bloodletting, a purge of the criminal elements in society, the truth is otherwise. Discriminating between criminals and law-abiding citizens is not as easy as we think particularly for the Police force, members of which are known to wield their ‘license to kill’ with wanton disregard. i received a heartbreaking message from a friend about the execution of a young man she personally knew, by the police, a story which was reported in the media under the headline “Cops kill three men in Back Bush.”

One of the men was well-known to my friend and no criminal. Here is part of the heartbreaking message i received from her this morning:

“Picked up one of my neighbours on the road only to hear that Ian Gordon, a sweet young dread who ran a little “venue” in Irish Town square was killed by the police. Hard to believe he would be involved in anything – he would always ask me if I had dominos, or other games, that I could give him because he liked to have lots of games for people coming to his place. On Sundays I would sometimes take him down to town and he always said he was going to visit his 2 daughters. He had a lovely girlfriend, also a dread, and it was a joke in Irish Town how they were always together. Anyway I’m sure this Observer story of how he died is accurate, and this is probably happening to young men all over Kingston. Very depressing. “

It turns out also that the early morning raid on Red Hills i mentioned earlier was in pursuit of Dudus who was believed to be holed up in a house there. In the process of flushing him out the armed forces have killed another innocent man, Keith Clarke, the brother of former minister Claude Clarke, who lived nearby, by mistake.

Mr. Seaga, former Prime Minister is also concerned about the safety of the residents of Tivoli Gardens, his former constituents and has broken his silence. I conducted an interview with him in January this year in which i asked him about his relationship with Dudus and the fact that he had once placed him at the top of a list of wanted men that he provided the Police with in 1994. I’ll post relevant portions of the interview later.

Time doesn’t permit for me to write much more right now. I’m still at the conference in Barbados but will end with two lighthearted takes on what is a truly dread situation back home, (to use Jamaican parlance).

The photo posted at the top of this blog is actually a piece of graffiti seen in Barbados on the day the armed forces went into Tivoli Gardens in pursuit of Christopher Lloyd Coke–Dudus. The blog that carried it said “This sign was seen today (Monday May 24 Bank Holiday) on the left-hand side of Collymore Rock Road going towards Wildey from Bridgetown.” Dudus’s reach clearly extends beyond Jamaican shores.

And of course Jamaicans being Jamaican still have a mordant sense of humour. The following dance poster was making the rounds on email and facebook.