Sun | Dec 11, 2016

Bootyful; opening Cuba; and falling oil

Published:Sunday | January 18, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Egerton Chang, GUEST COLUMNIST

While, up to quite recently, a woman would spend quite a lot of time and money taming that big ass, it would seem that quite the opposite has been the trend lately.

With Nicki Minaj's rear end defying physics in her music video Anaconda and Kim Kardashian's derriere almost 'bruking' down the Internet, the posterior has been upfront and centre.

Remember Meghan Trainor's All about That Bass hit single that has passed six million copies worldwide?

Yeah, my momma she told me don't worry about your size

She says, boys they like a little more booty to hold at night

What did you think she was singing about? Eh?

While it may be that the recent tendency of measuring a woman's sex appeal by the prominence of her ass is just a passing craze, it turns out that there may be some actual medical benefits of a big booty.

Joseph Brownstein of ABC News Medical Unit reported January 12, 2010:

A new review published by researchers at the University of Oxford and Churchill Hospital in the United Kingdom suggests that people who carry their body fat in their thighs and backside aren't just carrying extra weight, but also some extra protection against diabetes, heart disease and other conditions associated with obesity.

"If you're going to have fat, you're definitely better off if you've got some fat in the lower body," said Dr Michael Jensen, director of endocrine research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

And if a woman has broad hips, it probably portends that her underlying morphology is probably such that she'd be able to have children fairly unencumbered.

Some researchers have also suggested (supported by some evidence) that large booties can be linked to intelligence. They imply that the increased omega-3 fat aids intelligence and, further, suggest that this may lead to smarter children. As far as I know, however, the jury is still out on this latter hypothesis.

None of this means that you should try to force fat down to your butt. Having a bodacious booty is primarily determined by genetics. As always, it is recommended that we all eat right, exercise and lose weight.

Opening Cuba

The Cuban government says international tourism brought in some $2.3b in revenue in 2013, up from $1.9b in 2009.

Further, Cuba says a record of more than three million tourists visited last year, up 5.3 per cent from 2013.

It's been reported that Canadians have led the way in recent years. For instance, about 1.1 million visited in 2013, many flying directly to Varadero and the like for a beach holiday.

As President Obama dismantles sanctions as part of the deal to restore ties, more Americans will be allowed to visit.

For now, tour operators are waiting for the US Treasury to publish new guidelines for travellers that they hope could see US visitor numbers shoot up.

Cuba's tourism ministry said last week that its record year in 2014 shows it must "continue perfecting our work, raising the quality of the services we offer".

There is a deficiency of quality hotel rooms, restaurants, taxis, rent-a-cars, etc., even while Havana is full of charm, architectural gems and great music.

Travel experts say that the new opening to Cuba that Obama announced in December goes far beyond the 2011 reform and could sharply increase US tourism.

Eliminating the licensing requirement could greatly reduce the costs of organised tours by cutting paperwork. It also could, perhaps more important, allow huge numbers of Americans to legally travel on their own to Cuba.

In the past, people-to-people travellers could only go to Cuba under a licence obtained by a travel company in a time-consuming process followed by lengthy government verification that travellers weren't engaging in inappropriate leisure tourism.

Now, some think the new 'general licence' travel permits would apply to individuals, allowing people to go on their own.

"As long as with integrity they can say they're going to engage with the Cuban people and learn about Cuba and talk about the United States, then they don't have to do anything other than say that's what they're doing," said John McAuliff, executive director of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, which has organised trips in the past.

What are the implications for Jamaica?

As I wrote in 'Warnings on TIA, strokes and Cuba' (Sunday Gleaner, July 18, 2010):

Recently, my wife and daughter visited Cuba, where my daughter participated in the Caribbean Island Swimming Championships, which was held in Havana June 29-July 2. My wife reports that her stay there was, for the most part, very pleasant. The budget hotel they stayed was kept very clean and was well maintained and the nightly rate represented good value for money. The rooms were air-conditioned and each had a TV, complete with cable. The World Cup was shown on three dedicated channels, plus CNN, et al. The water was drinkable, electricity available 24/7, and the infrastructure good.

Apart from the food, which required some getting used to, and the dearth of bilingual hotel staff, it was obvious that the embargo has had a cumulative effect on services generally. The trip, however, proved an eye-opener vis-a-vis the negative propaganda disseminated on Cuba. While Jamaica has a little time to get its tourism house in order, this time cannot be much more than three years.

Jamaica, be warned! Cuba will once again become the playground of America's elite.

With Obama promising that use of US credit and debit cards would be permitted and with vastly improved infrastructure linking the US and Cuba for commercial telecommunications and Internet services, along with the hugely decreased cost of an American visiting Cuba, the time may be indeed nigh for Cuba to once again become the playground of America's elite.

Jamaica, be warned!

Falling oil

I predicted the dramatic (over 60 per cent) fall in oil prices over six months ago. Well, no, I didn't, but Jesse Colombo, a contributor to Forbes, did in '9 Reasons Why Oil Prices May Be Headed For A Bust' (June 9, 2014).

Colombo wrote:

There are a growing number of reasons, however, why crude oil prices are likely to finally experience a bust in the not-too-distant future. I avoid making firm predictions about the oil market ... but it is important to be aware of several factors that have a high probability of pushing crude oil prices lower in the next couple of years.

With detailed analysis including charts and graphs, Colombo presented a persuasive argument. For shortage of space, only his headline reasoning is presented below.

1) The unwinding of record speculative bullish bets.

2) The 'smart money' is growing increasingly bearish.

3) The global monetary environment is tightening.

4) The shale oil boom is increasing supply.

5) Production is starting up again in many countries.

6) OPEC's limited ability to boost prices by cutting production.

7) Global oil demand is slowing.

8) The global economic 'recovery' is actually another bubble.

9) The ending of the commodities supercycle.

There is evidence to strongly support the prognosis that oil prices will remain low for a period, at least throughout 2015. Moreover, some experts believe that for the medium/long term, oil prices will not attain prices of more than US$100 a barrel.

In fact, Reuters reports that Bank of America Merrill Lynch lowered its oil forecast on January 15 saying that Brent could go as low as US$31/barrel by the end of the third quarter of 2015. Yet another has oil futures trading at under US$91 for delivery in 2017.

One of the benefits of this period of low oil prices to Third World countries, such as Jamaica, is that it provides a breathing space with not as much pressure on foreign-exchange resources.

Let's hope that this time is not squandered, and further, that the belt-tightening measures in place are not released (by more than a notch).

Egerton M. Chang is a businessman. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and e_rider69@hotmail.com.