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Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Research has shown that cannabis use by young teenagers can lower their intelligence and may cause permanent mental impairment.

Researchers from Britain and the US found that persistent and dependent use of cannabis before the age of 18 may have a so-called neurotoxic effect, but heavy use after 18 appears to be less damaging to the brain.

The most persistent users suffer an average eight-point decline in IQ between adolescence and adulthood, according to the study of more than 1,000 participants.

Scientists believe smoking cannabis from the age of puberty may disrupt developing and vulnerable brain circuits.

The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed that users experienced significantly more attention and memory problems than non-users.

Quitting or cutting down on cannabis use later in life did not fully reverse the impact on those who started taking the drug in their early teens.

The study found no evidence of similar problems affecting people who only took up cannabis as adults.

Professor Terrie Moffitt at King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry said the scope and length of the study gave its findings added weight.

Prof Moffitt worked with Madeline Meier, a post-doctoral researcher at Duke University, to analyse data on 1,037 New Zealanders who took part in the study.

About 96% of the original participants stuck with the study from 1972 to today, she said.

At age 38, all participants were given a battery of psychological tests to assess their memory, processing speed, reasoning and visual processing.

Those who had used cannabis persistently as teens scored significantly worse in most of the tests.

Friends and relatives regularly interviewed as part of the study were more likely to report that the heavy cannabis users had attention and memory problems such as losing focus and forgetting to do tasks.

Previous research on cannabis use has also pointed to potential long-term psychiatric effects.

A study published in March last year found that people who use it a lot in their youth dramatically increase their risk of psychotic symptoms, and that continued use of the drug can increase the risk of developing a psychotic disorder.


Sunday, August 26, 2012


A huge dark cloud of somberness   - perhaps invoking to some degree memories of the tragic Morne Sion disaster - hung over the proud and peaceful community of Mongouge on Sunday morning. Residents were awakened by the sad news of the death of a young man who some believed happened under mysterious circumstances while others claimed that the circumstances were not too mysterious after all.

The police identified the body as that CM - a construction worker of Mongouge who was found hanging (Inches from the ground) from a mango tree at a location approximately 300 yards to the north of his home, in a bushy area past a  shallow gorge to the west of the Mongouge Adult Daycare Centre.

As the news spread, a huge crowd converged on the scene to witness the gory spectacle which sent shockwaves through the community.

Sources told the Powerhouse that the young man had been talking all week about his “impending death”. A close relative told the blog that he complained that he would die this week but she thought he was only joking and encouraged him to come to work with her; but he declined saying that he didn't want to work; instead he said, he wanted to drink because his imminent death.

Another close friend reported that only last night he claimed that he had lost his will to live (for reasons of a personal nature that we are not authorized to publish). Nonetheless, he said he tried his best to persuade CM to give up on those negative thoughts and to start his life all over again. The close friend said he thought he had succeeded in convincing him; but he told me that “the young man failed (him) just as he failed himself”.

Perhaps, the greatest pain will be felt by CM's mother who has lost 4 of her 7 sons under extreme tragic circumstances; and it is alleged that 3 out of the 4 died under circumstances similar to CM's death.

Many residents are perplexed by CM's sudden death. He had a wonderful character. One of his teachers pointed out that he was a very quite and well-behaved boy at school. A close relative indicated that he was a stable young man and there were no signs that he would sacrifice his life the way he did.

We wish to convey our deepest condolences to the Modeste family in this difficult period of bereavement.

May he rest in peace.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


As Isaac prepares to strike Haiti, let us reflect on those "monsters of nature" called "hurricanes".

Early on Saturday, the storm was getting better organised and was packing winds of nearly 110 km/h with higher gusts as it approached the country.

It is noteworthy that approximately 400,000 Haitians still live in temporary tent camps following the 2010 earthquake that killed 250,000 and levelled Port-au-Prince, and they have nowhere to go.

The streets grew empty on Saturday and only a few vehicles ventured out after dark. Earlier, long lines formed outside supermarkets as people stocked up on supplies.

The frequency of tropical cyclone formation over the Atlantic so far for this year seems unusual. The early “scientific” predictions of a moderate season have been largely falsified; in fact, the intensity of activity had to be revised upward!

Undoubtedly, the very nature of weather forecasting or meteorology makes it an imprecise science depending on the images captured by US, UK satellites and "Hurricane Hunter" aircrafts provided by the US which penetrate "the eye" of the weather system. The information therefrom is then used to generate hypotheses using computer models. These models are based on different assumptions and calculations, some utilizing statistics, some physics calculations and others both.

But the fact the predictions are based on models leaves much room for error. A scientific model is only a tentative framework which helps us to give meaning to natural/physical phenomena.

Let us use atomic theory as an example to illustrate the point.

Atomic theory tells us that the atom is the basic unit of all matter; however, the atom is only a model - an invention by scientists - since nobody has ever seen any atom. That is why, in scientific circles, we say that the atom was "invented" (as opposed to "discovered") by scientists because nobody has seen it. However, the fundamental fact remains that the concept of the atom has enormous explanatory power – it helps us to explain so many different types of phenomena – and nobody has scientifically refuted it.

In fact, scientists have gone as far as "splitting" the atom into sub-atomic particles (protons, neutrons, and electrons) and have used their findings in that regard to explain, among other things, electrical and nuclear phenomena. For example, they explain electricity in terms of the flow of electrons through metals and nuclear energy as the result of the splitting of the nucleus of the atom (nuclear fission)!

Indeed, the natural sciences are imperfect “disciplines” driven by man’s pursuit for interpretations of nature; and hurricanes are part of the cycle of nature.

Why hurricanes are destructive to life and property, they are essential to the maintaining a “balance of nature” in the sense that they help regulate the thermal balance of our planet and help fight global warming and related phenomena. In fact, pundits equate them with “natural air conditioners” designed to cool down the earth. They control global warming through a process known as “energy inter-conversion”. They extract the “excess heat energy” from the sea and convert it to “motion energy” and it is this motion energy that results in destructive “hurricane force” winds, giant sea swells and flooding of unbelievable proportions.

Perhaps, there is a need for hurricane scientist to start getting his “hurricane science” right! A good scientific model predicts and leaves behind facts. Apparently, the scientific model used for making hurricane predictions needs refinement in that regard. It is too much like “Marxist” and “Freudian” pseudoscience having to making post hoc modification hypotheses to its original predictive models to bring them in line with the facts!

Perhaps, the contention that the scientists working in that field do not seem have factored all the variables in the “prediction” equation may be justifiable. I suspect that they may not have comprehensively assessed the “heat variable” in that equation; or perhaps there may be a reasonable degree of “unexplained variance” which they have not paid much attention to. The source of the variability may be in their dataset or it may be statistical and external to the data set.

Notwithstanding, the information generated is real-time and critically important. The predictions may not be accurate but the real-time tracking information helps to save lives and property.

Finally, I believe that there’s a lot of work to be done by the authorities (Met Office, NEMO and its allies) in educating the general public about tropical cyclones. The education should not only be limited to the hurricane season and it should include a focus on the nature of hurricane phenomena.

I say this in the context of the surprised generated by the passage of Tropical Storm Isaac. While several bulletins were issued for the same, I did not hear the authorities disseminate certain basic but critical information about the tropical weather system; and despite the proliferation of bulletins, the irony is many persons and even businesses were caught unprepared. Why? Many persons did not understand that – because the centre of the storm passed to the north of us meant that the gusts and rain would hit us in the opposite direction (that is from West to East).

My understanding is that the guests at one of our prestigious hotels in the south of the island suffered much discomfort because of the lack of this specific information.


BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Friday August 24, 2012 – Having drenched much of the Eastern Caribbean, whipped up waves as high as ten feet (three metres), and left thousands of Puerto Ricans without power or water, Tropical Storm Isaac barrelled toward the Dominican Republic and Haiti, threatening to strengthen into a Category One hurricane by the time it makes landfall today.

Yesterday, as Haiti began to feel the effects of the approaching storm, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe urged people to avoid crossing rivers and to tape their windows.  He also advised them to ask relatives overseas to wire money to enable them to stock up on food and water.

Lamothe and other officials in the flood-prone country said that the government had set aside about $50,000 in emergency funds and that it had buses and 32 boats on standby for evacuations.

But while Haiti's government spent the day preparing for Isaac, others simply did not have the means. The idea of storm preparedness in a country where most of the population exists on about $2 a day was reportedly met with a shrug.

"We don't have houses that can bear a hurricane," Jeanette Lauredan, who lives in a tent camp, told the Associated Press.

About 400,000 people remain in settlement camps that are mere clusters of shacks and tarps as a result of Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake.

Meanwhile, authorities in the Dominican Republic evacuated people living in low-lying areas yesterday. They nevertheless encountered some resistance from residents who feared their homes would be burgled in their absence.

The Dominican government planned to close all nine airports by dawn today, according to Alejandro Herrera, civil aviation director. Schools have been closed since yesterday afternoon.

Over in Cuba, the approach of the storm led military authorities at the US base in Guantanamo Bay to cancel pre-trial hearings for five prisoners charged in the September 11 attacks. They also evacuated about 200 people, including legal teams and relatives of September 11 victims.

Isaac also posed a threat to next week's Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, where 70,000 delegates, journalists and protesters are expected to descend on the city.

Convention officials said they were working closely with state and federal authorities on monitoring the storm.

Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said some outside agencies that had planned to send officers to help with convention security in Tampa might be forced to keep them home to deal with a storm.

"My primary concern right now is that we will lose resources," he said.

Out in the eastern Atlantic, Tropical Storm Joyce continues to pose no immediate threat to land. The US Hurricane Centre in Miami said yesterday that the storm had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph) and that it was becoming disorganized.