MAMA 2016: BTS for the win!

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BTS poses with their Artists of the Year award at MAMA 2016 – Twitter

Last Friday, one of the most prestigious awards ceremonies in the Asian entertainment industry took place, the Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA).  Several artistes and groups took home big prizes at the awards function and millions of people across the world watched with joy.

However, chances are you were not one of them and you have probably never heard of this ceremony in your life.  Also, it is even less likely that you had even heard about the artists or their music.

The MAMA awards, dubbed one of the most popular Korean pop (K-Pop) focused music awards shows by Billboard writer Tamar Herman, involves actors and other celebrities from China (including Taiwan), Japan, Indonesia, Canada and the United States.

This year, my favourite K-pop group took home two of MAMA’s awards, one being a much coveted Daesang or ‘grand prize’– The Artist of the Year.  The group, BTS also known in Korean as Bangtan Sonyeondan or Bangtan Boys, is a seven member band who debuted in 2013.

Since its debut, BTS has defied the expectations of many due to its rapid and continuous rise in popularity as a group not from the ‘Big 3’ labels.  The ‘Big 3’ refers to the three biggest entertainment companies in South Korea: S.M, Y.G and J.Y.P.  BTS’ label is a relatively small company, Big Hit entertainment led by “Hitman” Bang Shi Hyuk.

Over the years, the Big 3 have dominated the MAMA awards ceremonies.  S.M entertainment’s nine member group EXO, and Y.G’s five member group Big Bang, have the record for the most Daesangs at the MAMA awards.  This year, the majority of awards went to artists from the three labels.  But BTS was able to snag some for itself.  This is why BTS’ win is so special.

BTS has been rising in popularity since its debut and enjoyed a spectacular year by  earning four places on the Billboard year end charts this year, as Yonhap News reports.  The band’s album The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 2 charted as number 1 on Billboard’s World Album Chart where it stayed for several weeks.  BTS also made history as the highest charting Korean artistes earning the 26th spot on Billboard 200.

BTS’ music spans a number of genres including Hip Pop, Trap, EDM (Electronic Dance Music) and R&B.  The group’s spell-bounding choreography in music videos like Dope and Danger has also captured interest in the West, and its music and lyrical content earned BTS the title “K-pop’s Social Conscience” by American music company Fuse.  The group has explored bullying, depression, loneliness and the pressures of youth – unpopular topics in the arguably conservative society that is South Korea.

However, BTS has been very successful despite its challenges.  To date, it has sold an estimated 2.5 million albums worldwide.

These are all of the reasons I am so proud to congratulate BTS on its win and as the group’s leader said in his very tearful and awestruck thank you speech at MAMA, “May we [BTS] continue to fly with our beautiful wings in 2017.”

Fighting crime or stalling to fight it?

I was extremely proud of Jamaica for winning not one, two or three but NINE awards at the 23rd World Travel Awards, last Friday as the Jamaica Gleaner reports.  My little island beat out all the other Caribbean countries to win six individual awards and three for the country’s resorts and travel partners.

But the smile on my face soured when I looked up the country’s economic profile for this year.  Tourism is one of the highest revenue sources for Jamaica’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) along with remittances and bauxite/aluminum production, according to Index Mundi.  This is a fact.  This was not why I was upset.

Do you want to know why I was upset? One of the greatest and frustrating challenges to our growing tourism sector continues to be crime as the website reports.  But to add to my frustrations, came the news that Prime Minister Andrew Holness had announced an announcement of an action plan to fight crime.  You read correctly.

I would never scoff at plans to fight crime but the news barely gave any details about this ‘plan’.  The news was not news.  It was almost useless.

The article says, the government is finalizing a plan to fight crime. Great.

It also reads, “The Government has the resolve to tackle crime and secure the citizens of the country, and the measures to be put in place will be sustainable.”  As it should, yes.  That is just fine and dandy.

Yet, this really tells me nothing. Just what are the plans? I was waiting for the plans; the details; the so called ‘meat of the matter.’  I was left hungry.

I had a flashback to news made in this exact way months ago when parliament announced it would be apologizing to the relatives of persons killed in the 2010 ‘incursion’ into Tivoli Gardens, Western Kingston.  It was the same, more or less – an announcement of an action before simply doing it.

We are almost at the end of the year and an ‘action plan’ to put it in the words of the Gleaner, is only being spoken of NOW? I mean, I know I could say better late than never but it had might as well stayed late.

Today, all we can show for our efforts to fight crime are promises and reassurances while people continue to die in the streets.  Take up any paper and you will be greeted by news of people who have been killed or shot or any of the above.

So, on the one hand we have great news about tourism and on the other, news reminding us yet again why we are not where we would like to be.

It is really nice to hear about a plan but what use is it without other useful pieces of information? Just release the actual plan when the time comes, otherwise it will look like you are simply stalling.

You can read the original news stories here:

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20161204/simply-best-jamaica-shines-world-travel-awards

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20161203/action-plan-coming-fight-crime-holness

http://www.indexmundi.com/jamaica/economy_profile.html

Churches open for business

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Credit: Mount Zion General Assembly

A South African pastor, Lethebo Rabalago of the Mount Zion General Assembly (MZGA) is reportedly spraying his congregants with pesticide to heal them, CNN reports.  He sprays them in the face, on the feet or anywhere the person needs healing.

This has drawn shock and outrage all over Africa but it is not the only case.  According to the BBC, all over the continent are signs advertising churches promising cures for every illness under the sun.  Charismatic pastors set up these churches instead of joining established ones.  Plus, they boast to have miraculous powers.

But here is the “catch”.  None of this is for free.  Persons are required to “plant a seed” by paying for the pastors’ services and these pastors use all kind of outrageous healing rituals.

One of the more extreme cases involves Ghanaian pastor, Bishop Daniel Obinim of International Godsway Ministries.  According to the BBC, in one case he stepped on the abdomen of a supposedly pregnant women claiming to exorcise demons from her.

In another case he was seen grabbing men’s crotches to cure them of erectile dysfunction and there was a line!  He also flogged a young couple with a belt for extra-marital sex.  The woman was retrained by the pastor’s aides and all of this was in front of a silent consenting congregation.

I strongly condemn these ‘leaders’ as greedy and evil.  They exploit the vulnerable people who are so desperate that they will do anything to get help, even if it could endanger their lives.  But, one cannot simply ignore the culture in these countries.

Over time, numerous churches have been established.  African culture has a close relationship with spirituality and in the case of a so-called prophet, his or her word is as good as scripture.

But I wonder, when is enough, enough?  It cannot be argued that these persons are always being forced to participate.  I bet the preachers would say the persons could leave if they wanted to.  This is true but the spiritual leader must take responsibility.

In life, there is one sure way to know when you are being hoodwinked: the involvement of money (always a dead giveaway).

While these pastors may depend on the contributions of the church to support themselves, they should never take advantage of congregants.  That would be very abusive.  Even Paul the apostle did fishing to provide for himself.  He also spoke about presenting the gospel FREELY as seen in this verse:

“Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ . . . I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision . . . What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:15–18).

I can also recall an even in Acts 8:18 where the apostle Peter condemned a man who had wanted to buy the power of the Holy Spirit.  He was rebuked for this.

But whether it is in the pews or public society, this issue of scamming is real.  Jamaica is already infamous for its reputed scamming industry which continues to rob persons at home and abroad of their money.  It is morally and ethically corrupt, no matter where it happens.

You can read the original stories here:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-38063882

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/11/23/africa/south-african-insecticide-prophet/

Put an x beside the…where?

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On the weekend, I pulled out a glossy flyer from my mail box.  The flyer instructed me to vote one of the parties’ candidates for my constituency’s local government post.

I looked at the candidate’s picture, took note of a rather considerate calendar on the back of the flyer, sighed in exasperation and left it for my father to read instead.

How can Jamaica’s political leaders expect the eligible voting populace to even want to be involved in the political process when we are given so little reason to do so?!

I searched that flyer just trying to find some of the candidate’s qualifications for the position.  Who is he really? What is he doing, has done and will do to help improve my community – the one he plans to serve? The flyer was so silent on the issues that truly matter.

Right now it remains to be seen (convincingly) just why local government is even relevant in a time where agencies like the National Works Agency (NWA), National Water Commission (NWC) and National Solid Waste Management Agency (NSWMA) manage much of the work listed under the councilor’s job description.

While my peers and I are struggling to see the benefit of this year’s local government elections, the potential representatives are having squabbles among themselves.

According to The Gleaner, sole Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) councilor for Portmore, Keith Blake is accusing the People’s National Party (PNP) of using their ten seat majority to block his contributions.

Blake’s claim is probably not an unjustifiable one but then, he ended up trading words with PNP councilor Fenley Douglas.  Get it together!  This is not about you.  It is about us – the people who put you there.

And in Manchester (to the south-west of the island), as the Jamaica Observer reports opposition leader Portia Simpson Miller told supporters to do everything in their power “to ensure that the People’s National Party controls the parish councils across the country. We can retake the country by way of local government.”

Seriously?  This is the best you can do to get a people so apathetic and disillusioned by the political populace to come out?

These days I just stop and look around my neighbourhood.  The drain is unusable as the metal bars have deteriorated, a pipe main has burst releasing water all over the road, and the streets are in their worst state yet.  I guess I should take some blame for this though.  Did I report the problems? Do I even know who to report to? Not really?

But no way am I taking the fall alone.  Future representatives, you need to do better too.  Why are we giving you positions that are not helping us?

The next time you try to tell me where to put my valuable  x, maybe you should be telling me the ‘why’ instead.

You can read the original stories mentioned above here:

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/PNP-can-retake-the-country—Simpson-Miller_81121

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20161121/sole-jlp-councillor-portmore-says-pnp-using-majority-representation-block

President-Elect Donald J. Trump

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Against all the odds; despite all the opposition Donald Trump won the the U.S presidential elections to become the 45th president of America.

This is the news I woke up to on November 9, a day after the elections.  I cried.  Me, a Jamaican citizen cried over another country’s election results.  Many across the world were stunned too, much like the reactions after Brexit months ago.  But this was much worse (as Trump predicted himself – “like Brexit times 5”).

Today, persons (including me) are still reeling from the shock.  Me: because I invested maybe a little too much time and interest following the campaigns. Them: because a man like Trump was elected as the head of their country.  If Trump can win, anyone can win.  So, whose next? Kanye West?!

Since, there have been protests all over the U.S in California, Oregon and Chicago. This is a constitutional right in the States but some of the arguments are ridiculous and show the ignorance of some of the voting populace.

For example, one man went as far as to call for Hillary Clinton to sue the United States.  He argued that Clinton is a lawyer and she should have won the presidency because she won the popular vote.  Sorry, but that’s not how it works.  Each state has a number of electoral college  votes allocated to them.  The candidate who gets the larger number of votes wins these electoral votes.  Trump won more votes than Clinton.

However, there is something called the popular vote.  This is won by the candidate who has the most votes when each vote is tallied.  According, to CNN Clinton won this vote and has between 500,000 votes to a million more than Trump but she won too few electoral votes.  This is one of the strange facts about the U.S election system.

I think the outrage and shock will eventually have to die down.  A democracy is not a democracy because everyone agrees with something.  It is a democracy because everyone can contribute to an outcome. So, as crazy and depressing as it seems Trump is on his way to becoming president whether we like it or not.  Its just four years  How much damage can be done in four years?

U.S Presidential Elections: Season Finale

Many of us will have to face a sad existence after Tuesday.  It’ll be the season finale of the popular TV show, the ‘U.S presidential elections’.  This season was filled with so many plot twists.  We were shocked, silenced and entertained throughout the season.

Remember when some of us were shocked because of the male casting? Who would have thought that Donald Trump would get the lead role? Not me.  Trump wasn’t like any character I’d seen before.  His comments on Mexicans and Muslims made him famous.

All the ‘fun’ ends today though.  No doubt that persons young and old, female and male, rich and poor will be tuning in for the season finale.

Ironically, Jamaica’s local government elections will be premiering this month but few seem interested at all.

In his letter to the editor in this Sunday’s Gleaner, Daniel Thwaites points out that local government representatives are responsible for the local affairs like “drain cleaning, road repair, garbage collection” and other day-to-day concerns of their communities.

While, MP’s are supposed to be focused on reviewing and passing the laws in parliament and concentrating on national business.

But I think we can all agree that this is not the reality.  The MP’s responsibility has merged into the councilors’, as Daniel Thwaites comments.  Thwaites says the local functions have been “swallowed up” by national institutions like the National Works Agency, National Solid Waste Management Agency and the Labour Ministry.

So when all is said and done, what does the councilor really do? I don’t know but if the disinterest of my family members and peers are anything to go by, the producers and writers for this year’s local government elections should not expect high viewer ratings.

But you can bet that this season’s “U.S presidential elections” TV show will end with a bang.

You can see the original story here:

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/commentary/20161106/daniel-thwaites-big-election-yawn

Farting fire

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Credit: Fart Lighting – http://www.thefullwiki.org

Today, I’ve decided not to comment on the U.S presidential elections.  Hasn’t it been done to death?  Instead, I’ve found a very  strange story but it might not be that different from the elections, after all.  They seem harmless but they have deadly consequences.

As the Washington Post reports, a Japanese woman was seriously burned when her lower body was set on fire during a surgery at the Tokyo Medical University hospital.

The unnamed woman passed gas during surgery while doctors focused a laser on her cervix.  The laser then ignited the gas setting the surgical drape ablaze and spreading fire all the way down to her legs.

The Post says her condition is unknown.

The hospital says the equipment was not responsible for the freak accident.

Who knew passing gas could be so dangerous? I mean, aside from the typical embarrassment and smell following this normal human action.

According to the article, ninety-nine percent of the gas we pass contains carbon dioxide, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and methane.  The bad smell you get from gas comes from the one percent made up of intestinal bacteria.

It’s the hydrogen and methane that also makes the gas flammable. The gas is mostly innocent.  But, this lady wasn’t so lucky.

News website, Inverse theories that maybe the fire might have been caused by a high level of methane in the gas she passed.

But who knows? Still, its certain this is one accident she’ll never forget.

You know what else we may never forget? This year’s U.S elections.  None of the candidates are particularly popular and the campaigns have gotten very nasty.

But at least it is memorable.  And like the story I spoke about, no one saw it coming but when it did, it burned.

You can read the original story here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/11/01/a-japanese-woman-passed-gas-during-laser-surgery-she-was-badly-burned/

https://www.inverse.com/article/22990-how-to-set-a-fart-on-fire-safely-laser-burn-chemistry

Sex as a rite

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Credit: CNN

According to the BBC, a Malawian woman is campaigning to end a tradition where men are paid to have sex with girls as young as 10 years old, as part of a Malawian sexual initiation ritual.

The men known as “hyenas” are paid by the village elders to have sex with the girls shortly after their first menstruation.

In July, the BBC reported on the story of Eric Aniva a so-called pre-eminent hyena in his village.

“Some girls are just 12 or 13 years old, but I prefer them older. All these girls find pleasure in having me as their hyena. They actually are proud and tell other people that this man is a real man, he knows how to please a woman, ” said Aniva.

The initiation is supposed to symbolise the girls’ transition from childhood to womanhood.

Its also said to provide sexual “cleansing” and if the girl refuses it’s believed that some disease or fatal misfortune will follow her family.

I was so shocked and disturbed to learn about this practice.  After all, I am a woman myself and my younger sister is just fifteen years old.  I can’t even imagine this happening to her.

Also, I remember the pain, confusion and even embarrassment of getting my period – not a happy memory.

Natasha Annie Tonthola tells the BBC she was only 13 years old when she went through this ritual.

We were told that we were going to learn about womanhood, and to be honest I was excited. So was every other girl.”

“On the last day one of the female elders told us that we had reached the final part of the process. She said a hyena was coming to visit us. “Don’t worry, I’m not talking about an animal,” she said. “I’m talking about a man.”

“But we didn’t actually know what a hyena is, or what he was going to do. They don’t tell you he’s going to have sex with you.”

“We each had a piece of cloth and we were told to put it on the floor. We were told that it was time to show that we knew how to treat a man, that we knew what to do for our future husbands. Then we were blindfolded.”

“You’re not supposed to show you’re scared, you’re not supposed to show you don’t know what’s happening to you.”

“The man comes, and he tells you to lie down, you open your legs and he does what he does. We weren’t allowed to know who the man was – only the elders know.”

“We were young girls, so we were tense, and this man would push our legs open. I found it painful. When he finished, I was relieved. The female elder came in and said, “Congratulations, you have finished the initiation ceremony, and you are a woman now.”

“Many girls think this is normal because we are in a way brainwashed, we think it is OK because it is tradition.”

“But the hyena didn’t use protection and some of the girls got pregnant.

Years later, Tonthola started a community based organisation to keep girls in school by fighting against early marriage and teenage pregnancy, and educating people about HIV/AIDS, sexual reproductive health and rituals and traditions like the “hyenas” which puts girls at risk.

Some communities have listened and stopped the practice of “hyenas”. But naturally, there has been opposition.

“In some communities they told us: “Just because you are educated, doesn’t mean that you should tell us what to do. These traditions and customs have existed for time immemorial, and we’ve practised them for ages without any harm,” says Tonthola.

The Jamaican reality

I don’t know about any institutionalized sexual initiation ritual in Jamaica that could be compared to the Malawians’ BUT there does exist an upsetting mindset that is undeniably similar.

Although this is a sickening reality, not often spoken about, we know of a culture that preys on young girls.  This is quietly perpetrated by older men – whether they are strangers, family friends or even relatives.

Nothing will change unless communities shout a unified and decided “No!” to this culture.

The conversation about sex cannot be the responsibility of just the school.  Its everyone’s business.

Then, our girls will be able to differentiate between sex as a rite vs. sex as a right.

You can read the original stories here:

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-37431005

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36843769

Trumped up election results

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Credit: https://www.donaldjtrump.com/landing/volunteer-to-be-a-trump-election-observer.

According to Reuters, Donald Trump’s newest campaign pitch is that the election results are being rigged ‘at many polling places’.

“The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary – but also at many polling places – SAD,” Trump tweeted Sunday.

And as usual, he is saying this without proof.

Two months ago, a Washington Post found only 31 credible cases of impersonation fraud out of more than 1 billion votes cast in elections from 2000 to 2014. Arizona State University studies in 2012 and 2016 found similarly low rates.

Trump’s claims comes after his vice-presidential running mate, Mike Pence said Republicans would accept the election results come November 8.

Things really haven’t been looking good for Trump since his first debate with Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Presidential candidate.

Many felt Hillary had done better in her delivery during the debate.  Trump doesn’t seem like he’s had a break ever since.

Just last Friday, a Hollywood Access video tape was released with Trump boasting about what could be seen as sexual assault against women.

Now, Trump is trailing behind Clinton by 7.1 per cent.

So, these events make it easy to see why Trump would make this claim.  He thinks he is going to lose.

Trump has a history of blaming the election process when he does not have his way.

Last month, Trump told supporters at a rally in Pennsylvania “The only way they can beat it, in my opinion, and I mean this 100%, is if in certain sections of the state they cheat.”  Business Insider says Clinton had been leading Trump by 11 points.

In February when Iowa held its caucuses, Trump accused Ted Cruz of cheating after coming second to Cruz.

Trump tweeted, “Ted Cruz didn’t win Iowa, he stole it.”  Forty minutes later he tweeted, “That is why all of the polls were so wrong and why he got far more votes than anticipated. Bad!”

This shows that Trump is consistent in one thing at least: pointing fingers.

At this point I don’t think anything Donald Trump does will surprise me.  I’m grateful though because he continues to make the U.S election really entertaining.  This is almost better than cable.

See the original stories here:

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-trump-rigged-idUSKBN12G0SU

http://www.businessinsider.com/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-pennsylvania-cheating-2016-8

Donald Trump: Sorry, not sorry

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American presidential candidate Donald Trump is under heat yet again but what else is new?

Last Friday, a video-tape surfaced of Trump discussing how he’d made sexual advances towards women without their consent.

Some of the women he mentioned were married or former Miss Universe contestants.

Since, there has been outrage and criticism of Trump’s comments in the tape from the public.

Trump says he’s sorry for the remarks he made 11 years ago.

But is he?

What Donald Trump has said – essentially

Trump was asked about his remarks in the tape at the final American presidential debate on Sunday by one of the moderators.

He responded by saying that his remarks were just “locker-room talk” and seemed almost dismissive of the issue of sexual assault.

Since the video tape, Trump’s chosen defense has been to divert attention away from himself to Former U.S president, Bill Clinton.

A simple definition of a ‘diversion’ is something that takes attention away from what is happening, says Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary.

And I think that is exactly what Trump did here.

He even went as far as to call Bill Clinton the most abusive president in American history.

In doing this, Trump’s message could be interpreted to mean, “But look! Bill was so much worse. I am not really that bad.”

But Trump misses the point of the discussion.

People are upset about his comments because of his blatant lack of respect for the women he associated with, at the time.

This could seriously affect the support Trump needs from the female base who make up a significant percentage of independent voters.

Also, with major party support quickly jumping ship, I don’t know how Trump will make it into the White House.

But we’ll have to see what voters decide come November 8, this year. I mean, Americans have been surprised before.

See the original story here:

http://newsthrive.com/us-presidential-debate-clinton-doubts-trump-groping-apology-bbc-news_10881272/