May 31, 2012

By David McFadden |

The Associated Press

KINGSTON, Jamaica —Archae­ologists said Tuesday that they'll ask the United Nations’ cultural agency to bestow world heritage status on Port Royal, the mostly submerged remains of a historic Jamaican port known as the “wickedest city on Earth” more than three centuries ago.

Receiving the designation from UNESCO would place Port Royal in the company of global marvels such as Cambodia’s Angkor temple complex and India’s Taj Mahal.

The sunken 17th century city was once a bustling place where buccaneers including Henry Morgan docked in search of rum, women and boat repairs.

In recent days, international consultants have conducted painstaking surveys to mark the old city’s land and sea boundaries to apply for the world heritage designation by June 2014, said Dorrick Gray, a technical director with the Jamaican National Heritage Trust, a government agency responsible for preserving and developing the island’s cultural spots.

Port Royal was the main city of the British colony of Jamaica in the 17th century until an earthquake and tsunami submerged two-thirds of the settlement in 1692. It boasted a well-to-do population of roughly 7,000 at the time, and was comparable to Boston during the same period.

After the quake, the remainder of the town served as a British royal navy base for two centuries, even as it was periodically ravaged by fires and hurricanes.

In his sprawling book “Caribbean,” American author James Michener described Port Royal as having “no restraints of any kind, and the soldiers stationed in the fort seemed as undisciplined as the pirates who roared ashore to take over the place night after night. They were of all breeds, all with nefarious occupations.”

Now, it’s a depressed fishing village at the tip of a spit of land near Kingston’s airport. It has little to attract visitors except some restaurants offering seafood and a few dilapidated historic buildings. The sunken, algae-covered remnants of the city are in murky waters in an archaeological preserve closed to divers without a permit.

But in recent decades, underwater excavations have turned up artifacts including cannonballs, wine glasses, ornate pipes, pewter plates and ceramic plates dredged from the muck just offshore. The partial skeleton of a child was found in 1998.

At a Tuesday press conference, experts said it’s among the top British archaeological sites in the Western Hemisphere and should be protected for future generations.

“There is outstanding potential here. Submerged towns like this just do not exist anywhere else in the Americas,” said Robert Grenier, a Canadian underwater archaeologist who has worked closely with UNESCO. He believes the Jamaican site has a strong chance of getting on the world heritage list.

Texas A&M University nautical archaeologist Donny Hamilton said the consulting team has completed the fieldwork for the world heritage assessment and is working on a management plan. He said Port Royal could become a sustainable attraction for tourists but first “there’s got to be something above the ground that people are going to want to come and see.”

Jamaican officials and businessmen have announced various ­strategies to renovate the ramshackle town over the years, including plans for modern cruise liners and a Disney-style theme park featuring actors dressed as pirates.

Some area businessmen have grown exasperated with the slow pace of development.

“Somebody has to act with a certain measure of dispatch,” said Marvin D. Goodman, an architect with offices in Kingston, across the bay from Port Royal.

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May 31, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has signed legislation that renews the charter of the Export-Import Bank for three years and increases the bank’s lending cap to $140 billion from the current $100 billion. The bank is the government’s vehicle for promotingU.S.export sales.

Obama says the move will help thousands of businesses sell their products and services overseas and help them create jobs at home.

The president says the independent federal agency is a key factor toward reaching his goal of doubling exports over five years.

Lawmakers passed the legislation earlier this month amid resistance from conservatives who argued that the bank distorts the market. The bank had support from numerous business groups.

Last year it provided about $32 billion in loans, loan guarantees and credit financing, helping support 290,000 jobs.

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May 31, 2012

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The state Assembly has rejected legislation seeking to change the mediation process for California cities on the verge of declaring bankruptcy.

The attempt comes just months after lawmakers approved the system now being used by Mammoth Lakes and Stockton.

Lawmakers rejected AB1692 on a 32-28 vote Tuesday, but it could come up for another vote later this week.

Assemblyman Bob Wiec­kowski says neutral evaluators need more financial information about the cities they are working with. Republicans said the Fremont Democrat’s bill would undermine public policy they only just approved.

The public employee unions that sought Wieckowski’s 2011 legislation establishing mediation now want to change it.

Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, a Santa Clara Republican, says the Legislature should instead seek feedback from cities about how the new process is working

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June 07, 2012

Prior to her historic victory Tuesday, the Sentinel spoke to candidate/now winning nominee Jackie Lacey about her vision as district attorney of L.A. County. Lacey opened with a statement about her qualifications for the top job.

Lacey:  I think my entire life has prepared me for this position. In the district attorney’s office, I have done every job except sweep the floor. I’ve done zoning enforcement cases, I’ve prosecuted cases where an officer has been assaulted, I’ve prosecuted a serial child molester, I have had 11 murder cases. I prosecuted the first hate crime murder case based on race.

LAS: What general changes would you make in the way the DA’s office is run at present?

Lacey: I want to expand alternative sentencing. We don’t have enough money to send people to jail wholesale, and it’s wrong to send people to jail for being mentally ill. There is a significant population of African Americans who are suffering from undiagnosed, untreated mental illness, and they get arrested and sent into the criminal justice system.

LAS: What is your position on AB 109? (the bill that Governor Brown put forth to send prisoners from state to county facilities to alleviate overcrowding)

Lacey: I agree that California needed the change. I believe at one point the prisons were at 230 percent their capacity, which is inhumane.

What I disagree with is how quickly he thrust this responsibility onto the county. [AB 109] was passed in less than a day; I think it only took four or five hours. When we got the law, it took a team of lawyers a month to figure out what it was about.

I also think if the governor was going to shift all of these people over here, where is the money? You can’t just give us the problems of the state without giving us the money. And the money has not arrived. [Governor Jerry Brown] is counting on you guys voting for the tax increase in November.

LAS:  What is your position on the death penalty? Can it be reformed?

Lacey: I think the biggest fear, morally, of the death penalty is that we do not want to execute the wrong person. I think we need checks and balances in place. Under my administration, [the DA’s] office would make absolutely sure the evidence points to the right person.

One of the reforms we have to do is streamline the appeals process. It suffers from a lack of training for lawyers to handle those appeals. Although I’m a prosecutor who has been on the side of seeking justice by seeking the death penalty, I believe everybody has the right to a fair trial.

I don’t think the answer is to do away with the death penalty because I believe after looking at some cases that it’s just the appropriate punishment.

LAS: If elected, what can L.A. county residents expect from you as D.A.?

Lacey: What they get in me is a woman who understands that people are human, who has come from the Crenshaw district. I’m an ordinary woman attempting to do an extraordinary thing. I think I am the kind of person you need.

I’m not ego-driven. I understand my place in the world. I understand that the criminal justice system needs someone who can make tough decisions, who can look people in the eye and tell them the truth. I’m here to serve.


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