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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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Jamaica in crisis debt-swap plan

Category : World News

Jamaica announces plans for its second debt swap in three years in the face of a “serious economic crisis”.

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Clarks, the shoes that tap to Jamaica’s reggae beat

Category : Business

How did the brand, scourge of schoolchildren, become the music genre’s footwear of choice? A new book about this strange love affair explains why Kingston’s reggae stars regularly travelled to buy up the Somerset firm’s wares

For generations of Britain’s boys and girls the trip to the shoe shop before the start of term has heralded a familiar argument. Why can’t I have these cool ones? Please, Mum? The answer is always the same: you need sensible shoes, darling, something that will last you. Cue the foot-size gauge with the width-fitting tape, and that sinking feeling: it’s another pair of Clarks.

But while the name has spelled “total square” to British schoolchildren since the 1960s, for one set of customers across the Atlantic the notion of comfy, well-made English footwear has provoked a very different reaction. In Jamaica – above all among its singers, musicians, DJs and producers – Clarks are king.

A new book, Clarks in Jamaica, tells the bizarre story of how the stolid Somerset firm became shoemakers to the reggae industry. Designed, written and published by Londoner Al Newman (aka Al Fingers), the handsome edition was inspired by one of the biggest and most entertaining reggae tunes of recent years. In his 2010 hit Clarks singer and MC Vybz Kartel not only delivered a hymn to their durability and stylishness, he also included tips for keeping the suede looking tidy, including judicious use of a toothbrush for reaching tricky areas. The tune was massive in Jamaica and beyond, and it set reggae buff Newman thinking about the many artists who have been moved to namecheck the island’s favourite shoes in song.

“It is kind of niche,” says Newman, with some understatement. “But I thought – it’s such a colourful story, it’s about time someone documented this. I wanted to focus on the music and the Jamaican musicians who have sung about Clarks. Reggae and dancehall stars Dillinger, Trinity, Ranking Joe, Scorcher, Little John, Super Cat and countless others had sung about Clarks in the past. So I went there just over a year ago to interview and photograph musicians, as well as other people on the street wearing the shoes.”

Accompanying Newman was photographer Mark Read, who has shot for National Geographic, and there is something of the tone of that publication in his lush, almost sensual colour images of the music biz dandies of Kingston. They offer an elegant counterpoint to the archive pictures that Newman has lovingly disinterred: dainty line drawings from Clarks advertising of the 40s and 50s; sepia photographs of earnest-looking workers at the company’s factory in the town of Street, near Glastonbury – a spot that feels a million miles from Trenchtown.

“It seemed like a perfectly natural thing to the musicians that someone would come from England to write a book about Clarks,” says Newman, himself an instrumentalist and remixer on the side. “They were happy to be recognised for their love of the shoes.”

It certainly is a love affair that Clarks in Jamaica documents, and it was the desert boot that began it. Newman quotes a report in 1967 from the head of Clarks’ West Indies distribution: “Our stockist, La Parisienne in Kingston, sold out a consignment of 400 pairs in five days. Although our boots are priced the highest, the young boys insist on Clarks.” What the report doesn’t mention is that these weren’t just boys, they were rude boys – part of an emerging youth culture in the recently independent Jamaica.

“The original gangster rude boy dem, a Clarks dem wear,” producer Jah Thomas tells Newman in the book. “And in Jamaica a rude boy him nah wear cheap ting.”

“In the early 70s,” writes Newman, “the rude boy/desert boot association became so strong that young males risked a beating by police simply for wearing a pair. ‘You must be a thief,’ the police would say. ‘How else would you afford such expensive Clarks?’” He tells the story of an infamous Kingston police officer called Joe Williams, who carried out a raid on a dance being run by producer and label boss “Sir Coxsone” Dodd. The DJ Dennis Alcapone recalls the arrival of Superintendent Williams: “He tell the DJ to turn the sound down, and he say: ‘All who’s wearing Clarks booty, stand on that side of the dance. And who’s not wearing Clarks booty stand on this side.’ Because he know that rude boys wear dem, so that is a way of identifying them.”

The Wallabees worn by Alcapone on the cover of his 1971 album Guns Don’t Argue (left) mark one of the earliest appearances of Clarks in Jamaican music. In 1976, Alcapone associate Dillinger was the first to sing about the label, on the huge hit CB200, a version of a Gregory Isaacs song in which he rides through town on a Honda CB200 motorbike, goes to the bank, buys some new trousers and finally a pair of Clarks booties. Two years later the DJ Trinity released Clark Shoe Skank, in which his attempts to buy a proper pair are thwarted and he is fobbed off with a “pointed-toe” alternative.

When government import bans made it difficult for Jamaica’s emerging music stars to get their hands on their shoe of choice, they soon turned to DIY importation. Singers and producers travelling to the UK would return with boxes of Clarks for friends and family, with the more intrepid descending on the outlet stores in rural Street to buy up whole batches of stock.

John MacGillivray of London record store Dub Vendor says in the book: “When I started the shop in Ladbroke Grove in 1980, a guy called Smithy used to bring our records over from Jamaica, and then take Clarks back. He’d go down to the factory in Somerset and buy them with the money he’d made from the records.”

Along with Smithy came a succession of stars, and during the 1980s I-Roy, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs and Dr Alimantado were all to be found clutching discount shoeboxes deep in the West Country. For the final leg of the journey to the Caribbean, the favoured method was to ship the booty in a barrel, to avoid import duties.

Through songs such as Wa-Do-Dem by Eek-A-Mouse, Clarks Booty Style by Ranking Joe, and Squeeze Breast by Movado, Newman teases out Jamaican culture’s fascinating relationship with Britain, the mother country whose products – from Kangol hats to string vests to Clarks shoes – it has consistently adopted and re-purposed down the years.

The Jamaicanisation of sensible Englishness reaches its peak in Newman’s tale of the Clarks desert trek boot. Each of these carries an innocent-seeming embossed logo of a hiker with a backpack over his shoulder. To the denizens of west Kingston, however, this was clearly a man fleeing with a bag of swag, and so the desert trek has long been known by a more ghetto-ready name: “the bank robber”.

Clarks in Jamaica is published on 19 Nov ( Portraits from the book will be exhibited at KK Outlet, London N1 6PB, from 1-5 Nov

Jamaica prepares for hurricane –

Category : Stocks

Jamaica prepares for hurricane
Jamaicans stocked up on supplies and reinforced roofs ahead of the arrival of Tropical Storm Sandy, which is expected to hit the Caribbean island as a hurricane with lashing rain and wind. The US National Hurricane Centre in Miami said the storm was
Could Hurricane Sandy Become A Perfect Storm?KMVT (blog)
Is Sandy going to be a name to remember? (blog)
Wonderful WednesdayWNCT
Government of Jamaica, Jamaica Information Service
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The Jamaicanisation of the eurozone | Mark Weisbrot

Category : Business

By imposing budget cuts and austerity, the ECB is condemning countries like Greece and Spain to an economic twilight zone

Jamaica, an English-speaking Caribbean island nation of 2.9 million people, may seem worlds away from Europe. The country’s income per person of $9,000 ranks it 88th in the world, as compared to the eurozone countries, which are three or four times richer. But they face a common problem, and although none of the eurozone countries is likely to become as poor as Jamaica is today, they could easily – going forward – mimic the dismal economic performance that Jamaica has seen over the past 20 years.

Jamaica has the world’s highest public debt burden: interest payments on the government’s debt account for 10% of the country’s national income. (For comparison, Greece – with the worst debt burden in Europe – is paying 6.8% of GDP in interest.) This leaves little room for public investment in infrastructure, or improving education or healthcare. Partly as a result of this debt trap, Jamaica’s income per person has grown by just 0.7% annually over the past 20 years.

Two years ago, Jamaica reached an agreement with its creditors, brokered by the IMF, that restructured its debt. Interest payments were lowered, and some principal payments were pushed forward. But the debt burden remained unsustainable. The IMF now projects that Jamaica’s debt will reach 153% of GDP in just three years.

Sound familiar? That is what happened to Greece just four months ago. The Greek government reached an agreement with the European authorities (the “Troika” of the European Central Bank or ECB, the European Commission, and the IMF) that reduced its debt. Unlike in Jamaica, the private investors holding Greek debt took a “haircut”, losing about half of the principal.

But still, it wasn’t enough. Before the ink was dry on the deal, an IMF estimate of a “pessimistic scenario” going forward showed Greek debt reaching more than 160% of GDP by 2020. Since the IMF’s projections for Greece over the past few years have proved enormously over-optimistic, and with Europe sliding further into recession, the pessimistic scenario is the more likely one. This means that even if Greek voters end up with a government that accepts the agreement – by no means guaranteed – it is likely that their economy will limp along from one crisis to the next until there is another restructuring, or a chaotic default.

In both Greece and Jamaica, the problem is not just the debt itself; even more, it is the policies that the creditors have attached to further lending. In Greece, this is extreme: the Troika insisted on Greece cutting 8.6% of GDP from its fiscal deficit over the past two years – the equivalent of the United States wiping out its entire federal budget deficit of $1.3tn. Naturally, the economy went into a tailspin. In Jamaica also, the IMF attached conditions during the 2008-2009 economic crisis that worsened the country’s downturn.

Europe’s problem with harmful policies attached to official lending is not limited to Greece. Dow Jones’ recent headline tells the sad story of Portugal in a sentence: “EU: Portugal Will Need More Austerity To Meet Deficit Targets.” Yes, the European Commission wants Portugal to make even bigger budget cuts because the ones they already made have shrunk the economy so much that they won’t make their target deficit-to-GDP ratio. The economy is projected to shrink by a painful 3.3% this year, and official unemployment has risen from 12.9% last year, to 15.3% this. Ireland is in recession, yet it, too, is engaging in big budget tightening.

Spain hasn’t yet had to borrow from the Troika, but has followed the same policies. With more than half of its youth languishing in unemployment, Spain’s fiscal tightening – according to the government’s projections – will carve 2.6% out of its economic growth this year.

Of course, there are many important differences between the situation of the eurozone countries and Jamaica, and among the eurozone countries themselves. Jamaica needs debt cancellation; some of the eurozone countries in trouble – for example, Spain – would have a sustainable debt burden if the ECB would simply intervene in the sovereign bond markets and guarantee a low interest rate on their bonds. And the ECB, as the issuer of a hard currency in a monetary area with no serious inflationary threat, has a lot of room to do whatever is necessary to make sure that all of the eurozone countries have low borrowing costs and therefore sustainable debt.

But the ECB has refused to use its powers to put an end to the sovereign debt crisis, preferring instead – hand-in-hand with the rest of the Troika – to exploit it in order to force unpopular political changes in eurozone countries, especially the weaker ones. In so doing, they are condemning these countries to the long-term stagnation of high unemployment and slow growth that Jamaica has suffered for the past two decades. Although the human costs are much higher in a developing country such as Jamaica, this still entails a huge amount of unnecessary suffering on both sides of the ocean.

J. Martinez and Co. Encourages Coffee Lovers to Experience Authentic Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee

Category : World News

Grown in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is known for its mild flavor and lack of bitterness.

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British Airways’ Cabin Crew Takes Part in Chain of Hope Walk

Category : World News

British Airways’ cabin crew will join champion sprinter, Usian Bolt, for Jamaica Chain of Hope walk.

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