by Linda Straker

Grenada has paid tribute to the United States of America (USA) for contributions it has made, not just to the island since it established diplomatic ties on 7 February 1974, but also to the wider CARICOM member states.

Foreign Affairs Minister Elvin Nimrod, said that the contribution from the USA to governments in the region is very significant, especially in the area of peace and security.

“We commend the United States for their effortless dedication geared towards ensuring peace and security in the Caribbean basin, enhancing cooperation in the fight against corruption and drugs, illicit trafficking in small arms, money laundering and others,” he said at the reception to mark the United States’ 241st Independence celebrations.

Organised by the US embassy in Grenada and held at St George’s University on 3 July, the event was also attended by a number of Head of States who are in Grenada for the 38th Regular Meeting of the Heads of Government of CARICOM.

“The United States is always there for us…we are encouraged by the work done and the progress made as we embark on fighting common problems,” Nimrod said in his remarks. Referring specifically to USAID (US Agency for International Development) he said that agency has often taken the lead following a disaster to provide assistance to regional government.

US Ambassador to the OECS and Barbados, Linda Taglialatela explained that the 2017 celebration is a tribute to Route 66 – also known as the Will Rogers Highway, the Main Street of America or the Mother Road.

It was one of the original highways within the US Highway System. US 66 was established on 11 November 1926, with road signs erected the following year. The highway, which became one of the most famous roads in the United States, originally ran from Chicago  Illinois, through Missouri Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, before ending at Santa Monica California, covering a total of 2,448 miles.

The relationship between the United States, Grenada and the nations of CARICOM are strong. Much like Route 66 we are unified and diverse cultures and the alliance between us unifies us,” she said while explaining that Route 66 symbolises, freedom, adventure, pleasure and opportunities.

She disclosed the US Government recently released a new strategy for growth and development and boosting relationship in the Caribbean. “The strategy supports US efforts to enhance partnership in 6 key areas: prosperity, security, diplomacy, education, health and energy,” she said, while reminding that the in the area of security, efforts are on dismounting illicit drug trafficking and other terrorist networks.

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Certain movies have the power to reach us on a level we never thought possible. There are also those precious few that manage to blow us away emotionally and evoke a sense of patriotism not found in many other places. Here are 10 films that are guaranteed to pump you up and remind you of how awesome it is to live in America.

We are going to start off with an easy one. You can’t say July 4 without “Independence Day.” Despite sub-par special effects that haven’t stood the test of time, Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum have burned this one into the zeitgeist with their 90’s humor and a ton of explosions.

The high-octane action coupled with the USA rally cries will have you bleeding red white and blue by the end credits. Let’s forget about the terrible sequel and just remember the famous speech given by Bill Pullman that made us all feel like launching some nukes and kicking some alien ass.

Bill Murray is one of the most all-American actors of our generation, and the movie “Stripes” is one of his crowning achievements.

Paired with Harold Ramis of Ghostbusters and John Candy as “Ox,” this Chicago comedy team managed to salute American patriotism while satirizing the military in a way that was unprecedented in its time.

The best moment of the film comes when Murray is forced to give a motivational speech before basic training graduation in which he reminds the troops that “We’ve been kicking ass for 200 years!” Add to that machine guns, some cute MP’s, explosions and an “urban assault vehicle” and you are ready for a good time America style.

This one is fun for the whole family and still manages to get a little raunchy…but hey, that’s America. A ragtag group of misfits spends a magical summer on the baseball diamond managing to find time to kiss the cute older lifeguard, steal a Babe Ruth autographed ball and take on the infamous “Beast.”

We get a shoutout to the famous Murders Row team from the 1927 New York Yankees and are also graced with a James Earl Jones cameo. What could be more American than that? The highlight comes, however, during the July 4 block party when the kids play a night game while fireworks explode overhead to Ray Charles singing “America the Beautiful.” This film reminds us of the simple pleasures and freedoms we take for granted every day. So grill up some burgers, grab your mitt and bust out your old VHS copy of this classic to celebrate the greatness of America.

This is the first of two Tom Cruise films on our list. Nothing says America like seeing some hotshot ace fighter pilots dispatch “enemy boogies” and look good doing it. Cruise delivers a hallmark performance as Maverick “writing checks his body can’t cash.”

Maverick speaks to the rebel in all of us as a man who gets the job done but pisses off every one of his bosses in the process. Suit up and hop on the highway to the danger zone with some 80’s gold.

This one might surprise some, but the themes of American exceptionalism that drive this film are impossible to ignore. For starters, the film is based on a Tom Clancy novel and is an installment in the Jack Ryan series. The premise sees a Soviet submarine captain plan a defection to America without telling the enlisted men. During his attempt to turn the submarine’s technology over the the Americans, Sean Connery’s executive officer, played by Sam Neil, asks Connery what it’s like to live in America.

He asks if he would be allowed to live in two different states during different times of the year, and is surprised to learn that he can cross state lines freely and fulfill all of his lifelong dreams. Neil wishes to live in Montana and Arizona and asks, “No papers? State to State?” Connery smiles and replies, “No papers…state to state.” Fire this one up to remember that in America we can travel when we want, live where we want, and be whomever we wish to be.

This one is cheating a bit but we couldn’t resist giving you the full flavor of John McClane and the Die Hard franchise. High-paced action and city-wide movie violence in the name of the New York Police Department is more American than apple pie. Bruce Willis has crafted an iconic character in McClane who represents the best of America. He doesn’t have time for small talk, curses like a sailor and always gets the job done. He also pops off hundreds of machine gun rounds and manages to never hit civilians.

You can go the old fashioned route and watch all of them in order, but we recommend watching the first film, then skipping to “Die Hard: With A Vengeance,” and finally finishing up with “Live Free or Die Hard” for the name alone. The rest are optional, but even if you picked one at random, odds are you’ll get that rush of patriotism that only McClane can deliver. “Yippie Ki Yay!”

There are few moments of national pride that united our country the way the 1980 Olympic hockey team’s victory did. “Miracle” tells the story of coach Herb Brooks’ mission to beat the Soviet Union at their own game and walk away with a gold medal. At a time when pride in American exceptionalism was hitting the skids, the U.S. was in desperate need of a victory.

The country was still locked in a Cold War with “The Evil Empire” of the Soviet Union while dealing with the Iran hostage crisis, an oil shortage and everything in between. Brooks and his group of young college students managed to defeat the best hockey team in the world and then went on to beat Finland in a come-from-behind win to clinch the gold medal.

Despite taking place in Scotland, the spirit of “Braveheart” is something to which every American can relate. Mel Gibson won two academy awards for producing and directing this cinematic gem and it has since taken its position as one of the best movies about freedom in the history of film. The famous scene of Gibson on horseback saying, “they can take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!” speaks to America’s refusal to be ruled by anyone other than themselves.

The film also references corruption in positions of power, with Wallace stating, “You think the people of this country exist to provide you with position. I think your position exists to provide those people with freedom! And I go to make sure that they have it.”

The villainous Longshanks add a level of evil to the movie that wouldn’t have been there without the skill and precision of veteran actor Patrick McGoohan. And lest we forget the film’s closing line that sums up what it means to be a patriot: “In the year of our lord 1314, patriots of Scotland, starving and outnumbered charged the fields of Bannockburn. They fought like warrior poets. They fought like Scotsmen…and won their freedom.”

Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” is one of the most critically acclaimed war epics of our time. The all-star cast of Tom Hanks, Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Ted Danson, Barry Pepper and Matt Damon executed their roles in a way we had never seen before. They accurately depicted the horror of war and the sacrifices America made to help save Europe and the world from Nazi Germany.

Spielberg used this film as a way to pioneer a new shaky camera technique that various television shows and movies replicated in the years that followed. The violence and gore are difficult to watch, but it lines up with reality and reminds us of how ugly war can be. It also highlights the bravery of all those who fought, giving us reason to ponder why we celebrate this week.

It may take awhile to get through this one, but if you’re not in the mood for a comedy this is certainly a film that will remind you of what it means to be an American.

It was a tough call, but we decided to double dip into Mel Gibson’s filmography and name “The Patriot” number one. Gibson plays an intelligent capable man who just wants to be left alone to enjoy the good things in life with his family.

It’s only when society, criminals, or in this case British redcoats, disturb his privacy that he is forced to play the reluctant hero. We usually feel bad for Gibson, but boy are we glad they decided to piss him off.

This diamond-in-the-rough from 2000 sees Gibson take on the persona of “The Ghost,” the tomahawk wielding veteran who isn’t afraid to kill a dozen men any which way he can. The film also features the late Heath Ledger as Gibson’s son. The chemistry between the two carries the film for most of the way and shows why they are both considered acting giants.

The best way to describe “The Patriot” is “‘Braveheart’ on American soil.” Violent, heavy, but oh-so badass. It may not be 100 percent historically accurate, but like any great American movie, it proves the point that you don’t want to mess with the U.S., and that the best bet is to let America do her thing.

Despite not being a movie, we want to give an honorable mention to the FX show “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” for their episode “Charlie Goes America All Over Everybody’s Ass.” Complete with American flag swag and one of the best ad libbed song moments in TV history, this one is guaranteed to make you laugh and feel like you’re driving your Ford F-150 to your buddy’s barbeque. “ROCK FLAG AND EAGLE!!!”

Enjoy your food, families and beer, but don’t ever forget that vigilance is the price of freedom. Happy Fourth to all!

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Maria Menounos has revealed she is standing down as an anchor of E! News while she recovers from surgery to remove a brain tumour.

Menounos told a magazine interviewer, she had recently undergone seven hours of surgery to get rid of the tumour, which was said to be the size of a golf ball. The tumour was benign.

Menounos, 39, told People she had prepared for the surgery, even as her own mother was confronting advanced brain cancer.

“[The surgeon] said there’s a six to seven per cent chance that we’ll see it come back,” said Menounos, who is recovering at home. “But I’ll take those odds any day.”

Menounos joined E! in 2014 and began co-hosting its news programme the next year.

USA: Former president Jimmy Carter confirms brain cancer battle

“Our thoughts and support go out to Maria and her family and we wish them all the best knowing that Maria will tackle this with the same fierce dedication she is known for,” said Adam Stotsky, president of E! Entertainment.

“We are grateful for Maria’s many contributions to E! over the past three years.”

Menounos, who also hosts a Sirius XM radio show, said her decision to talk about her challenges was important on several levels. She said the diagnosis came after she began feeling lightheaded on set and suffering from headaches and slurred speech.

It came at the same time that her mother was being treated for stage four brain cancer.

“We’re caretakers as women and we put ourselves last,” said Menounos. “I tell people all the time, if your car is making a weird noise, you take it to the mechanic. How come when our body is making weird noises, we ignore it? I’m so lucky that I went to the doctor and raised the alarm.”