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Caribbean pastors call on US to halt promotion of LGBT rights abroad

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — Several religious officials, including pastors from across the Caribbean, have called on the United States to halt the promotion of LGBT and intersex rights abroad. LGBTA report published in the Washington Blade, a LGBT publication, said 289 Ministers of Religion from The Bahamas, St Maarten, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana made the request in a letter sent to US President Donald Trump on January 31.

"We write to you as concerned Christian ministers and churches from the Caribbean region (including the Bahamas) who hope and pray that the United States, under your leadership, will once again cast a light from 'The City upon a Hill' of which your American forefathers and President Ronald Reagan so frequently spoke," the letter said.

"Sadly, during recent years, that City has too often cast shadows instead of light."

We refer specifically to the policies of the US State Department and other government agencies involved in foreign policy that have undertaken to coerce our countries into accepting a mistaken version of marriage."

According to the Washington Blade, the letter specifically notes the appointment of Randy Berry as the special US envoy for the promotion of LGBT and intersex rights in 2015 was central to "the promotion of same-sex marriage" in American foreign policy.

It also questions then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2011 speech to the UN Human Rights Council in which she said "gay rights are human rights."

"We have our rights by virtue of being human beings and not by anything else — not our ethnicity, not our religion, not our race, not our tribe and certainly not our sexual orientation," the letter continued.

The leaders also pointed out that "several of your government agencies" are "using executive orders to foist transgender confusion through the bathroom issue on your public schools by threatening the loss of federal funds."

"Please understand that this same kind of coercion is being used against our countries to force us to fall in line with the entire same-sex agenda."


National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica Celebrates 55th Anniversary

(Photo by Bryan Robinson) The National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) of Jamaica is a voluntary group of dancers, singers, musicians and creative technicians who are dedicated to the view that their work in dance can help to bring discipline, a sense of process and cultural awareness to the awesome task of nation-building. The search for a definitive Caribbean dance theater linked a varied and versatile group together to make this goal a reality. During its more than five decades of existence, NDTC has achieved a reputation for artistic excellence, developing much of its repertoire from authentic folk material.

The entirely Jamaican ensemble has performed in Europe, North, Central and South America, Australia and the wider Caribbean meeting with unqualified success and establishing for itself a laudable international reputation. A biennial visitor to the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College for more than two decades, NDTC celebrates its 55th anniversary with a program combining evocative new works with favorites from their extensive repertoire. The residency includes three New York premieres, including "Mountain Climbing," created by choreographer Chris Walker in tribute to NDTC's Founding Artistic Director, Rex Nettleford, who passed away in 2010.

Co-founded by Rex Nettleford and Eddy Thomas in 1962, at the time of Jamaica's Independence, NDTC ventures to provide an atmosphere in which dancers could create and perform works of high standards, to encourage the Jamaican public to better appreciate the art of dance, and to research and utilize indigenous dance-forms and movement pattern from Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.


Exxon Mobil plans to make Guyana a major oil producer

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Thursday March 16, 2017 – American oil giant Exxon Mobil Corporation is moving full steam ahead with plans to transform Guyana into a major oil producer. In what industry experts call a rare occurrence in the industry, Exxon Mobil has asked the David Granger administration for a production licence to start pumping oil from the country's seabed, less than five years after it discovered major oil finds.

Guyana Geology and Mines Commissioner Newell Dennison yesterday confirmed the application to the Associated Press, saying it would be the first time the small South American country has issued an oil and gas licence.

Last year, Exxon Mobil announced the successful drilling of a deep water exploration well that it said positioned the Guyana seafloor as one of the richest oil and natural gas discoveries in decades.

The company estimated that one of its offshore fields, known as Liza, could contain 1.4 billion barrels of oils mixed with natural gas.

Dennison said the company has also submitted its general production plan alongside its application for a production permit. The firm has so far drilled five wells and is currently completing work on a sixth. Only one has come up dry so far.

"I can confirm that they have applied for the permit," Dennison revealed, saying it would allow operations by late 2019.

Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman has said that government is planning to contract international firms to help it in negotiations with Exxon Mobil because the country has no expertise in this area. He did not identify any of the firms.

Just last Friday, the government appointed Dr Jan Mangal, an expert in offshore and civil engineering, as the country's petroleum advisor in the Ministry of the Presidency.


International Women's Day (IWD)- theme 'Be Bold for Change'

TODAY, March 8, is being celebrated worldwide as International Women's Day (IWD), under the theme 'Be Bold for Change'. It is a call for individuals to help forge a more inclusive, gender-equal world. For the United Nations, the focus is on 'Women in the changing world of work: Planet 50-50 by 2030', and Secretary-General António Guterres has called for all to "pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women's empowerment"

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka says across the world, too many women and girls spend too many hours on household responsibilities — typically more than double the time spent by men and boys.

"We want to construct a different world of work for women. As they grow up, girls must be exposed to a broad range of careers, and encouraged to make choices that lead beyond the traditional service and care options to jobs in industry, art, public service, modern agriculture and science," she said.

She said addressing injustices will take resolve and flexibility from both public and private sector employers. Incentives will be needed to recruit and retain female workers; like expanded maternity benefits for women that also support their re-entry into work, adoption of women's empowerment principles, and direct representation at decision-making levels.

"Big changes must be made: for men to parent, for women to participate and for girls to be free to grow up equal to boys. Adjustments must happen on all sides if we are to increase the number of people able to engage in decent work, to keep this pool inclusive, and to realise the benefits that will come to all from the equal world envisaged in our agenda 2030 for sustainable development," she said.


Jamaica adopts alternative theme for International Women's Day

KINGSTON, Jamaica — International's Women Day, will be celebrated tomorrow under the theme "Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030". The Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, however, said earlier this year that it will be turning the spotlight on gender-based violence for the occasion.

Director of Policy and Research in the ministry, Sharon Coburn Robinson, said this is in light of the recent spike in the cases of violence against women and girls.

"The norm is that for International Women's Day we would have celebratory activities where we recognise and honour women for their achievements and contributions, but this year it is going to be a little different because of the context," she said at a JIS Think Tank last month.

Internationally, the United Nations will be focusing of women in the working world and closing the gender wage gap.

Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said in a statement to the media ""We want to construct a different world of work for women, as they grow up, girls must be exposed to a broad range of careers, and encouraged to make choices that lead beyond the traditional service and care options to jobs in industry, art, public service, modern agriculture and science."


Marleys Launch Ganja Lines As California Legalizes Recreational Use

SAN FRANCISCO, California, Thursday March 2, 2017 – The children of reggae legend Bob Marley are among a growing number of celebrities openly embracing the marijuana industry and eyeing the California ganja market, which is expected to take off after voters agreed on legalization of the recreational use of the herb.

Marley's oldest daughter, Cedella, backed by a Seattle venture capital firm, launched Marley Natural in 2014 and says California is now the world's largest legal cannabis market since voters approved Proposition 64 in November.

"It also carries enormous cultural significance and influence, so it will be an important place to help people understand the herb the way my dad enjoyed it," she said.

Marley Natural products are already available in California medical dispensaries.

Meanwhile, Bob Marley's youngest son, Damian, runs Stony Hill, a competing operation, and recently joined with another cannabis company to buy a vacant prison in California's Central Valley which they turned into a marijuana factory.

Other big names jumping on the marijuana bandwagon include actress Whoopi Goldberg, country singer Willie Nelson, and rapper Calvin Broadus, better known as Snoop Dogg.

Regulators scrambling to get California's recreational ganja market launched are racing to issue licences to growers and sellers by early 2018, but who will be granted the first licences to grow, distribute and sell recreational marijuana is yet to be decided.

Farmers already cleared to sell medical marijuana in California could be at the top of the list, and analysts say brands already established in legal medical marijuana dispensaries — including celebrities who partner with approved California growers — should have the edge when the first licences are issued.

Marley's children are thought to be in prime positions because of their high profile and long history with the herb.

The new California marijuana law calls for nearly 20 types of licences, including permits for farmers; delivery services that will take pot to a buyer's front door; testing labs; distributors; and dispensary operators at the retail level.


Muhammad Ali Jr says air port detention made him feel 'violated'

FLORIDA, USA — Muhammad Ali Jr, son of the American boxing great, said yesterday he felt "violated" when immigration officials questioned him about his religion at a Florida airport. "I was just appalled," Muhammad Ali Jr told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "I'm a US citizen and they're asking me what is my religion?"

Ali Jr and his mother, Khalilah Camacho Ali, said they were pulled aside and separated from each other on February 7 at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport as they returned from a trip to Jamaica for a Black History Month event.

Ali Jr, 44, said he was detained for about two hours, despite telling customs officials that he's the boxing great's son and a native-born US citizen. Ali Jr showed them his passport and driver's licence, said attorney Chris Mancini, a family friend.

"I felt like I was religiously profiled," Ali Jr said. "I felt violated."

US Customs and Border Protection spokesman Daniel Hetlage confirmed that Ali Jr was held for questioning by customs officers, but said "it wasn't because he's a Muslim and it wasn't because of his Arabic-sounding name".

The agency said in a statement that its officers process more than 1.2 million international travellers daily with "vigilance and in accordance with the law", adding that it does not discriminate based on religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

Ali Jr. said that his treatment by the customs officials is the kind of wrong his father fought against.


Son of Jamaican immigrant is vice chairman of Democratic Party

NEW YORK, USA (CMC) — A Caribbean American legislator in New York has won a top position in the United States Democratic Party's National Committee. Bronx Assemblyman Michael Blake, the son of Jamaican immigrants, won one of the vice chair positions in the Democratic National Committee (DNC) at an insiders' meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, over the weekend.

Queens, New York, Congresswoman Grace Meng won the other vice chair position. Tom Perez was elected chairman of the party.

Blake, a 34-year-old veteran of former US President Barack Obama's presidential campaign and White House, and Meng called for unity in rebuilding the party's infrastructure and to support new candidates for local office.

"We have to leave here united. We cannot walk out of here as Obama Democrats or Hillary Democrats or Bernie Democrats, we are a united Democratic Party, and that is who we are."

In a show of unity, Perez asked the 400-plus DNC members to elect Ellison his deputy chairman. They complied, and Ellison accepted the post.

The Bronx-based Garifuna Political Action Committee congratulated Blake on his election.

US Congresswoman Yvette D Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, was among members of the Congressional Black Caucus who had also endorsed Blake.

"As a fellow Jamaican American, it is with great pride that I endorse Michael Blake for DNC vice chair," Clarke said, adding "Michael is absolutely committed to organising on the ground, mobilising communities to vote, and communicating how policies are directly impacted by political decisions.


Trinidad reports nearly 800 cases of Zika

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — Health authorities in Trinidad are reporting more than 400 confirmed cases of pregnant women suffering from the mosquito-borne Zika virus. The Ministry of Health said that since the virus was first reported here in February last year, there has been 718 cases with 463 confirmed cases noted in pregnancy.

So far this year, there have been four confirmed births of babies with microcephaly, a rare neurological condition in which an infant's head is significantly smaller than the heads of other children of the same age and sex.

The ministry said that of the four cases, two of the mothers tested positive for the Zika virus during the course of their pregnancy.

The ministry said it is now awaiting the test results to determine the cause of the other two cases of microcephaly in keeping with expected international rates of Zika related complications.

The Ministry of Health said that it is maintaining close communication with the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services to ensure that assistance, as required, is made available to the babies and families affected by the disease, in accordance with established policy.

"All cases of microcephaly are treated with the utmost confidentiality and sensitivity by the Ministry of Health and the Regional Health Authorities. It is expected that the privacy of the affected families will be respected at this time," the ministry added.


US congratulates Guyana on 47 years of Republican status

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — US President Donald Trump on Thursday congratulated President David Granger as Guyana marks 47 years since attaining Republican status. Trump said the US remains committed to the long-standing friendship with Guyana, noting that the country is a leader in the region.

"As you mark 47 years as a republic, know that the United States remains as committed as ever to our close friendship and partnership on common interests such as economic development, good governance and environmental protection."

"I would also like to acknowledge Guyana's role as a regional leader, which has been clearly on display since you assumed the rotating chair of the Caribbean Community on January 1," Trump said.

Meanwhile, in his message, Prime Minister Moses Nagamooto said the celebration coincides with the 100th anniversary of the abolition of Indian Indentureship.

"Our Indian ancestors lived and worked under oppressive conditions, yet they helped to lay the foundations for economic growth and imbued their off-springs with passion and purpose to fight for the independence of our country. Today, I pay tribute to the memory of our Indian ancestors, and celebrate the end to indentureship as a victory of their early struggles for freedom."

He also said February 23 marks another anniversary as on this day more than 250 years ago African slaves revolted in Berbice.

"Their dreams like those of former indentured servants were to be free from bondage. Their aspirations were for them to be treated with dignity and respect. When Guyana became a Republic in 1970, we realised these dreams. We celebrate this year with "dignity, liberty and greater unity" – the theme of Mashramani 2017."

According to Nagamooto, Republican status has given Guyana identity, a national personality.

"As Guyanese republicans we became equal with all other nationalities in the world. Today, we are proud Guyanese of different ethnicities, living side by side, in a stable democracy…"

"We are not aliens, refugees or illegal migrants. We are free, independent and proud Guyanese citizens! We no longer owe allegiance to any Monarchs or foreign Flags. Our country, the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, is our common home, our Motherland," he said.


Trump Invites Trinidad PM to Washington

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Tuesday February 21, 2017 – Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley got a surprise calls from American President Donald Trump during which the leader of the twin-island republic was invited to Washington.

Although not much was disclosed about the conversation, the US Embassy in Trinidad said that in the call from Trump, which came around 4:40 p.m. on Sunday, the leaders "spoke about a number of issues of mutual interest to Trinidad and Tobago and the United States".

It said the two agreed that both administrations would continue to strengthen the relationship which exists between the two countries.

The Embassy also mentioned Trump's invitation to Rowley on its social media pages.

"The two leaders reaffirmed the strong security partnership and agreed to continue close coordination in the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime. President Trump invited Prime Minister Rowley to visit Washington, D.C., in the coming months," it added.

Meantime, the Embassy announced earlier today that the US is working with the twin-island republic to fight money laundering and terrorism financing.

It said that John Murphy, an economic crime advisor from US Treasury, is currently working with the T&T government regulatory, intelligence, investigative and prosecutorial entities to enhance capabilities and respond to concerns raised in the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force's Mutual Evaluation Report.

The technical assistance is based on an agreement signed between the United States and Trinidad and Tobago in August 2016.


Jamaican Government starts new programme to assist deportees

While the country grapples with its crime issues, over 100 Jamaicans are being deported home every month from developed nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, for various reasons. The situation has been aggravated by reports of mass deportations of Jamaicans who have been living in the United States permanently without the necessary legal instruments, under the Donald Trump Administration.

These "deportees" are not usually greeted with open arms when they return, as there is fear within the country that they could contribute to the crime problems.

So, in order to strengthen the policy, legislative, and institutional framework guiding the management and treatment of involuntary returned migrants to Jamaica, the Ministry of National Security has teamed with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in funding a project called the Reintegration and Rehabilitation of Involuntary Returned Migrants in Jamaica.

The programme, the new project which starts in April and is expected to continue through to March 2019, has received $13.3 million from the UNDP, and an additional approximately $19 million from the ministry, to finance the first phase.

The Estimates of Expenditures, tabled by Finance and Public Service Minister Audley Shaw in Gordon House on February ninth, states that $13.8 million will be spent during the 2017/18 financial year to deal with the treatment of these deportees.


Jamaicans among undocumented migrants nabbed

MIAMI, USA (CMC) — The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency says the authorities have detained several undocumented Jamaicans during a human smuggling attempt. The CBP said the Jamaicans were among 14 people detained after a chase in waters off the south-east coast of Miami on February 7.

According to the CBP, there was one US legal permanent resident boat operator, and 14 migrants of various nationalities — from China, Sri Lanka, Jamaica and Ecuador — "without proper documentation for entry into the United States".

"This movement of illegal migrants into South Florida came directly from The Bahamas. The interdiction was safely and successfully accomplished by CBP Marine Unit assets and partner agency assistance," it added.

The CBP said the migrants will be deported, adding that the smuggler was arrested and detained by the Miami Marine Unit. "This coordinated use of AMO's (Air and Marine Operations) air and marine assets is a shining example of our ability to detect and interdict vessels at sea," said Tony Arevalo, director of marine operations for the CBP's Miami Air and Marine Branch.

"We'll continue to aggressively patrol to prevent illegal maritime activity," he said.


Obama didn't pardon Garvey... moving right along to Trump

New York USA — They might not have achieved their objective while former President Barack Obama was in office, but organisers of a move to have National Hero Marcus Garvey pardoned for a 1928 conviction in the United States will continue. Dr Julius Garvey, son of the national hero, said no approach has as yet been made to the new Donald Trump Administration, but that would come in due course.

He admitted that he was "disappointed" that former President Obama, the first African-American head of Government, did not issue the pardon which would have corrected "the wrong which was committed" — the wrong being the conviction of his father on mail fraud charges.

He noted that the fact that Obama was African-American and has a keen awareness of the role of Dr Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey in civil rights matters had made the disappointment even "more hurtful".

Obama was the last in a long line of US presidents to have disappointed the pardon Garvey movement, which believes that the Jamaican hero's name was falsely sullied by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. At the height of his popularity, the charismatic Garvey was leader of the four million-strong Universal Negro Improvement Association which he founded.

Last year a move to secure 100,000 signatures to support the petition to have the national hero pardoned fell short and failed to get traction from the Justice Department or the Obama White House, despite support from US-born Jamaican congresswoman Yvette Clarke and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The pardon issue was reportedly raised by then Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller during Obama's visit to Jamaica in 2015, but it was unclear what response, if any, Obama had made.


CARICOM and Cuba Agree to Accept Each Other's Goods Duty-Free

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Wednesday February 8, 2017 – The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Cuba have reached agreement for the expansion of preferential access to each other's markets. The agreement was reached at the 10th Meeting of the Joint Commission Established Under the Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement Between CARICOM and Cuba, held in Guyana at the end of last month, according to a statement from the CARICOM Secretariat.

"A significant number of items from the Community, including beer, fish and other agricultural products, and manufactured goods, have been approved for entry into the Cuban market free of duty once both sides formalize the agreement," it said.

"CARICOM member states have also agreed to grant duty-free access to Cuban goods, including pharmaceuticals. More Developed Countries (MDC) in the Community will also determine the level of preference they will grant to Cuba on a number of other items."

CARICOM said the agreement also includes a number of items on which each MDC will determine the level of preference it will grant to Cuba.

Exploratory discussions on trade in services were also held.

The two sides agreed to continue to exchange information on trade in services, and to make efforts to advance cooperation in this area, particularly in tourism, CARICOM said.


Crime Costing Caribbean Billions

WASHINGTON, U.S – A study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) estimates the direct annual cost of crime and violence in Latin America and the Caribbean at US$261 billion or 3.55 per cent of GDP – roughly what the region invests on infrastructure. The Costs of Crime and Violence: New Evidence, New Revelations in Latin America and the Caribbean provides comparable crime costs numbers for 17 countries in the region – including the CARICOM nations of Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago – benchmarking them against six developed countries.

Crime and violence are at near crisis levels in Latin America and the Caribbean. The region accounts for nine per cent of the world's population but contributes nearly one-third of its homicide victims, making it the most violent region outside of war zones.

Six out of ten robberies in the region involve violence and 90 per cent of murders go unsolved. Its prisons are the most overcrowded in the world, the report adds.

"Crime has reached alarming levels in many countries," said Ana María Rodríguez, the manager of the IDB's Institutions for Development Department. "By providing estimates of the costs of violence at the regional, sub-regional, and national levels, the study will help governments and international cooperation agencies better allocate resources, as well as design better policies to control and prevent crime."


New President Takes Charge in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Tuesday February 7, 2017 – Haiti officially has a new elected president. Jovenel Moise was installed this morning as the French speaking nation's 58th president in a brief ceremony that was attended by former President Michel Martelly, as well as Caribbean and international dignitaries. The 48-year-old entrepreneur and political novice took the oath of office at the Haitian Parliament, a year after Martelly left office without a successor and Jocelerme Privert filled the post in the interim.

With a Bible in hand, Moise vowed to protect the Constitution and work to improve the lives of Haitians.

Senate President Youri Latortue, who led the ceremony, assured the new president that he had the support of Parliament and the country, adding that Haitians were ready to get to work to restore stability.

"The Haitian people are ready to assume their responsibility with the Haiti National Police and Haitian army. You are the president of all Haitians, regardless of their political family or ideology," Latortue said.

President Moise is expected to deliver a speech later today outlining his Government's priorities.

Guyana's president David Granger represented the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) at the ceremony that also attended by Trinidad and Tobago's President Anthony Carmona.

Granger, the incoming CARICOM chairman, told the Miami Herald ahead of the ceremony that the regional group was standing behind Moise.

"It's not just a matter of showing solidarity with a country that has suffered more than any other CARICOM member state in terms of environmental disasters, but it's also an important statement in terms of our confidence in the democratic process in this country," he said.

US President Donald Trump also set a delegation to the inauguration. His government later also sent a message of congratulations.


Trinidad to amend anti-terrorism legislation

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The Trinidad and Tobago government on Thursday announced plans to amend the existing anti-terrorism legislation making it much more difficult for anyone to participate in terrorist activities at home or abroad. Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, speaking at the weekly Cabinet news conference said that the amendment to the Anti-Terrorist Act will be presented to the Parliament on Friday.

"We are now able to come with a very very comprehensive piece of law which seeks to amend the Anti-Terrorism Act of Trinidad and Tobago," he said, adding "what we are doing is to specifically attend to the deficiencies observed in the …anti-terrorism marking of Trinidad and Tobago.

"We are allowing for specific provisions to allow us to meet with the United Nations resolutions which we have not been fully compliant on," he said.

"What we are expanding (is) the definition of property of funds for terrorism and we are specifically going to include oil and other natural resources," the attorney general added.

Al-Rawi told reporters that terrorism financing is often perceived to be in cash but "in reality there's a lot of in kind and other resources can be used to fund terrorist organisation.


Iran rejects Trump missile warning as relations sour

TEHRAN, Iran (AFP) — Iran on Thursday rejected a warning from President Donald Trump over its latest missile test as unfounded and "provocative", reflecting growing tensions between Tehran and the new US administration. Trump is a strident critic of the Islamic republic and a vocal opponent of an international deal that saw Iran curb its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief.

He said on Thursday that Tehran was now officially "on notice" after Sunday's missile test and said all options were on the table.

"Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile.Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the US made with them!" Trump tweeted, echoing similar comments by National Security Advisor Michael Flynn a day earlier.

Trump told a journalist later the same day that "nothing is off the table" when asked if military action was a possibility.

Flynn insisted that the missile test was "in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231," which calls on Iran not to test missiles capable of delivering a nuclear weapon. The remarks drew an angry response from Tehran.

"Claims made by US President Donald Trump's National Security Advisor are baseless, repetitive and provocative," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.

Iran has confirmed that it tested a ballistic missile, but denied that it violated the terms of the nuclear deal.

Tehran says its missiles do not breach UN resolutions because they are for defence purposes only and are not designed to carry nuclear warheads.

The row comes against a backdrop of already difficult relations over Trump's travel ban on citizens from Iran and six other Muslim-majority countries.

- 'Sinister intentions' -

The US warning prompted a defiant response from Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards.

"The number of Iranian missiles, warships and defence missile launchers is growing every day, and the sky, land and sea is under the control of this nation," said General Hossein Salami, the number two in the Guards which is in charge of weapons programmes.

"This is not a land where an outsider can set foot with sinister intentions," he said.

Iran has missiles with a range of up to 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles), sufficient to reach Israel as well as US bases in the region.

There has been scant detail from the White House as to what it's warning over the missile test means in practical terms, and it remains to be seen if Washington will push for new sanctions.

Ghasemi said that the US warning came at a time when "the efforts by the Islamic Republic of Iran in fighting terrorist groups in the Middle East are known to all".

"It is regrettable that the US administration, instead of appreciating the nation of Iran for its continued fight against terrorism, is in practice aiding terrorist groups by repeating baseless claims and adopting unwise measures."

He referred to Syrian rebel groups which "directly or indirectly receive financial, logistic and intelligence support by the US and its partners".

Ghasemi dismissed charges of Iranian meddling in the region, saying Tehran wanted good relations with its neighbours based on "mutual respect and non-interference in countries' domestic affairs."


More Than 100 Trinis Linked to Terrorist Activities Overseas

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Wednesday February 1, 2017 – Some 128 Trinidadians have been linked to terrorist activities in other countries, but Trinidad and Tobago is no terrorist state, National Security Minister Edmund Dillon has declared.

Dillon made the comments in Senate yesterday as lawmakers raised concern about the issue on the heels of charges levelled by a United States commentator on MSNBC network last weekend, that the radical group ISIS, had dozen of members in the twin-island republic.

Malcome Nance, referring to US President Donald Trump's recent visa ban for seven majority Muslim countries, said the US "hadn't banned terrorists from Brazil and ISIS which has dozens of members from Brazil or Trinidad or the Bahamas, who have more terrorist members than any of those (seven countries)."

Dillon, who condemned the statement, one day after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley slammed Nance, said "based on our information at this point in time, there are almost 130 nationals who have left T&T involved in terrorist activities in countries away from T&T.

"Information at hand right now reflects about 70 adults and roughly about 58 family members."

The Minister admitted that the issue was a challenging one but he assured that the Government was working with partners to crack down on the problem.

"It's [Government] working closely with international partners – the US, Canada, UK – on strategic areas such as intelligence sharing, concerning nationals found to be associated with any terrorist group, whether locally or internationally."

Prime Minister Rowley was not so measured in his response to Nance in a statement issued Monday.

"Mr Nance's broad and simplistic statement is not supported by fact and ignores the robust and substantial national security cooperative partnership between T&T and the US," he said.

Dr Rowley insisted that Trinidad and Tobago's effort to combat terrorism could not be called into question, maintaining that his Government would continue to partner with the international community to tackle terrorism.

Nance had also charged that ISIS had significant numbers in the Bahamas but Prime Minister Perry Christie had denounced the claim as false.

"I was astonished by it. In the region we have heard from time to time of the people going to the Middle East in connection with the fighting going on there, but never have Bahamians been named as being a part of that. And so I was astonished to hear the claims…because it is not true," he said.


How President Trump's Anti-Abortion Order Could Hurt HIV Programmes in Barbados

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – US President Donald Trump's signing of a ban on US government funding international groups that perform or provide information on abortions could have an unlikely casualty in Barbados. The Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA) just might lose out on funds for its HIV programmes.

On his first day in office on Monday, Trump signed an executive order reinstating an expanded version of the Mexico City Policy (also called the Global Gag Rule which was first announced in 1984 by the Reagan administration). The policy requires foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to certify that they will not provide abortion services, counselling, or referrals, even in countries where abortion is legal.

It means these organizations must sign a formal agreement that they will not use their own funds or funds from any source on abortions services, counselling, and referrals, as a condition for receiving all forms of US global health assistance. Under prior administrations, the gag rule was limited to funding for family planning programmes and did not impact HIV programmes.

The policy has been rescinded and reinstated by subsequent administrations along party Democrat and Republican Party lines. It has been in effect for approximately 17 of the past 32 years. President Obama rescinded the order for the duration of his administration.

In a statement issued a day after Trump's decision to reinstate the policy, the BFPA said while it does not rely heavily on US government funding or external funding to sustain its work, it currently has an important programme of work around HIV which is partially supported by a US-funded international non-governmental organization (NGO) that must comply with the order.

"Consequently, this order may cause BFPA to lose US funding for ongoing HIV programmes. We are uncertain and we are currently awaiting a formal advisory about the status of our US funded projects from our US funders," it said.

"BFPA stands in solidarity with our sister organizations across the globe who rely heavily on US funding."

The association's executive director Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland lamented that the gag rule compels the BFPA to choose between being silent about a lawful service for women and receiving international funding from US government sources.

"This is not much of a choice. BFPA cannot sign any gag order preventing work or advice on family planning and abortion issued by the United States government, as the work of the Association on family planning and abortions is in compliance with the sovereign laws of Barbados and women in Barbados view these services as essential health and guard these rights jealously," she said.

"We know from decades of global experience that eliminating access to safe abortion services does not reduce the incidence of abortion; it just makes abortion more unsafe. For BFPA, we counsel on the range of contraceptives available to meet the needs of women and families, so that they can plan and space the timing of pregnancies – this is what has worked well in Barbados to reduce the need for terminations."


Haitians face deportation as 2010 quake reprieve expires

MIAMI, United States (AFP) — Bernedy Prosper is afraid his 23-year-old son Harold will die if he is deported from the United States back to Haiti. Prosper, 52, had hoped Harold could benefit from a special status granted to Haitian immigrants in 2010 after a devastating earthquake struck the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Instead, Harold is one of more than 4,000 Haitians awaiting deportation due to a sudden policy reversal late last year as then-president Barack Obama was preparing to leave office. With President Donald Trump now in power, elected on a vow to build a wall on the Mexican border and halt illegal immigration, Harold's situation looks bleak.

"I ran away for my life and now my kid had to do the same," said a despairing Prosper as he stood in an immigration aid centre in Little Haiti, the heart of the Haitian diaspora in dilapidated north Miami.

Prosper himself arrived in Florida on a boat without immigration documents in 2000 and obtained political asylum.

He tried to bring his son over to join him, but Harold got tired of waiting for the legal process to run its course, and decided to try his luck crossing the Mexican border illegally.

Instead he was caught in San Diego, California, just as deportations of Haitians are ramping up dramatically compared to last January when, according to government figures, only 267 Haitians were awaiting deportation.

"I believe that if he is put back to Haiti, I have no more son," said Prosper, his head down and voice a low monotone.

"I know they will kill him," he said.


Caribbean American legislators outraged over Trump's executive orders on illegal immigration

NEW YORK, United States, Thursday January 26, 2017 – A Caribbean-American legislator is vowing to fight for immigrants following President Donald Trump's executive orders expanding immigration raids across the United States. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke made the pledge yesterday on the heels of Trump signing the executive orders that include penalties for so-called sanctuary cities – jurisdictions that, through a range of policies, shield undocumented immigrants.

The order will strip federal grant money from these states and cities, including New York City which Clarke, a daughter of Jamaican immigrants, serves.

The representatives for the 9th Congressional District of New York, which includes communities that are predominantly Caribbean, said in her statement that "this vicious attack on families across the United States cannot stand".

"There are more than ten million people here, in our communities, who want to obtain legal status and become full members of our civil society. Their numbers include several hundred thousand young women and men who are enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme and are now attending college, working, and serving in the armed forces," she said.

Clarke contended that people of good faith – both Democrats and Republicans – have worked for years to enact comprehensive immigration reform, and she had joined in that work.

But, she lamented, "with Donald Trump's executive orders, our immigration laws are under the control of individuals whose dislike of the 'other' now dictates policy".

"Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo [of New York] have pledged to protect all families in New York City. I will join them in that fight," Clarke promised.


Cuba seeks 'respectful' talks with Trump govt: Castro

BAVARO, Dominican Republic (AFP) — Cuba is willing to hold "respectful dialogue" with Donald Trump, President Raul Castro said Wednesday, following the new US leader's warnings that he may halt the two countries' rapprochement. "I wish to express Cuba's desire to continue negotiating on current bilateral issues with the United States on a basis of equality, reciprocity and respect for the sovereignty and independence of our country," Castro said.

He added that he was willing "to pursue respectful dialogue and cooperation on issues of common interest with the new government of President Donald Trump."

Castro, 85, was addressing a summit of the 33-nation Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), meeting in the Dominican Republic.

Trump said in November he may end the diplomatic thaw if Cuba does not make more concessions on human rights — an issue on which Havana has refused to be lectured.

Castro warned Wednesday that although the two countries could "cooperate and live together in a civilized way," Cuba could not be expected to "make concessions on matters inherent to its sovereignty and independence."

- Historic thaw -

The restoration of diplomatic ties by Trump's predecessor Barack Obama and Castro in 2015 was a historic breakthrough in a Cold War dispute dating to the 1950s.

Since Raul Castro took the reins of power from his brother Fidel in 2006, Cuba has gradually opened up its economy and foreign relations. Fidel Castro died on November 25.

Obama and Raul Castro further eased some economic and trade restrictions, although Washington's main trade embargo on Cuba remains in place.

The embargo causes "considerable deprivation" on the communist island, Castro said Wednesday.


Ending HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean by 2030

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — A two-day consultation on ending HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean by 2030 will be held in Trinidad and Tobago early next month. The February 1-2 event is being organised jointly by the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) and Caribbean Faith Leaders. It is being co-funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

The organisers said that the consultation has already attracted at least 55 religious and lay leaders representing different faiths and denominations across the Caribbean.

Director of the PANCAP Coordinating Unit, Dereck Springer, said 'the consultation is for Caribbean faith leaders by faith leaders, given the crucial role of the faith community in ending AIDS. The consultation will focus on faith leaders' contributions to end the epidemic by 2030.


First Zika-related Microcephaly Case Recorded In Grenada

ST GEORGE'S, Grenada – One Caribbean country has confirmed its first case of Zika-related microcephaly, while another is investigating a possible case. Grenada has confirmed that a baby was born with the birth defect, while Jamaican authorities have dispatched samples from a baby suspected of having the condition to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for testing.

Microcephaly is a birth defect in which a baby's head and brain are smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age.

Grenada's Health Minister Nickolas Steele revealed that the baby was born in the last quarter of 2016, but it was now only being disclosed to the public.

"We did not want to raise an alarm because we saw that as private," Steele said, refusing to disclose the location of the child.

Steele assured the family was being monitored and insisted there was no need for undue concern about the virus transmitted by the Aedes Egypti mosquito.

He reported that no new cases of the disease have been recorded in recent time.

At the height of the Zika outbreak, Steele said 11 people were diagnosed with the Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS), a disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.

Two of the people who contracted GBS have since died.


Uber's in Trinidad, But the Government Is Questioning Whether It's Legal

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Online transportation network company Uber is now in Trinidad and Tobago. But the government of the twin-island republic is looking into whether it can legally operate there. The Uber app was activated in Port of Spain and San Fernando yesterday, three months after the company announced it was heading to Trinidad.

The app allows consumers to submit a request for a driver in the Uber network, via their smartphones. The nearest Uber driver is alerted and sent to the location and the information about the vehicle is sent to the customer. The service typically bills a customer's credit card through the app but last year Uber opened up a cash option, and both options are available in Trinidad.

The Dominican Republic is the only other Caribbean country among the 66 countries in which Uber operates.

But in a statement issued yesterday, the Ministry of Works and Transport said it was looking into the legality of Uber's operations.

Under the country's Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic Act, private vehicles are not allowed to operate as taxis.

"A major concern of the Ministry of Works and Transport in the operation of Uber is whether private vehicles would be used for hire," the ministry's statement said. "When you travel with an authorized taxi, you are ensuring the relevant checks and balances have taken place. Further, the use of a private vehicle for hire is contrary to its registration. The public is advised that no private vehicle should be used for hire."

It also raised the issue of insurance, stressing that "using a vehicle contrary to its registration may have far-reaching implications for the driver and passengers".

"In light of the above, the public is asked to exercise caution and due diligence," the ministry said.


US Ends Wet Foot, Dry Foot Policy; Cubans Now Face Same Fate As Other Illegal Immigrants

WASHINGTON, United States – In one of his final acts as US president, Barack Obama has put an end to the so-called "wet foot, dry foot" policy that allowed Cubans who land on American soil to stay in the country while those caught at sea were sent home.

The policy was implemented more than 20 years ago. But in a statement last week, President Obama said that in an effort to move forward in America's normalization of relations with Cuba and bring greater consistency to its immigration policy, it would end with immediate effect.

"Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with US law and enforcement priorities," he said.

"By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries."

The repeal of the controversial policy was welcomed by Havana which has long called for it to end.

The Cuban government has agreed to accept the return of Cuban nationals who have been ordered removed, just as it has been accepting the return of migrants interdicted at sea.

At the same time, President Obama announced that the Department of Homeland Security was also ending the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Programme. That programme allowed Cuban medical personnel conscripted to study or work in a third country under the direction of the Cuban government to enter the United States.

President Obama said the US and Cuba were working together to combat diseases that endanger the health and lives of our people and by providing preferential treatment to Cuban medical personnel, the medical parole programme contradicted those efforts, and risked harming the Cuban people.

"Cuban medical personnel will now be eligible to apply for asylum at US embassies and consulates around the world, consistent with the procedures for all foreign nationals," the American leader said.


Caribbean American congresswoman joins legislators in boycotting Trump's inauguration

NEW YORK, (CMC) – Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D Clarke has joined several United States Congressional representatives in planning to boycott Donald Trump's inauguration as US President on Friday. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York, will be among a number of Democratic lawmakers who say they will stay away from the ceremony.

"I will NOT attend the inauguration of @realDonaldTrump," Clarke tweeted on Saturday. "When you insult @RepJohnLewis, you insult America."

According to the New York Daily News, Trump insulted the Georgia representative on Saturday after Lewis said he did not see Trump as a "legitimate president", citing claims that Russia meddled in the US election in Trump's favour.

According to Politico – a Virginia-based political-journalism organisation – Congressmen Adriano Espaillat and Jerrold Nadler, of New York, are among at least 18 congressional representatives planning to stay away from Trump's inauguration.

On Saturday, Nadler tweeted that Trump stands with Putin, while he supports Lewis.

"(We) cannot celebrate the inauguration of a man who has no regard for my constituents," tweeted New York Congressman Jose Serrano on Thursday, responding to Trump's campaign pledge to deport millions of undocumented migrants.

Another New York congressional representative, Nydia Velazquez, pledged to travel to Washington in joining thousands of women protesting Trump's presidency with a massive march scheduled for the Saturday after the swearing-in ceremony.

Earlier, California Congresswoman Barbara Lee said she "will not be celebrating or honouring an incoming president who rode racism, sexism, xenophobia and bigotry to the White House.

"Donald Trump ran one of the most divisive and prejudiced campaigns in modern history," she said in a statement. "He began his campaign by insulting Mexican immigrants, pledging to build a wall between the United States and Mexico and then spent a year-and-a-half denigrating communities of colour and normalising bigotry.


Obama ends decades old open door policy for Cuban migrants

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — United States President Barack Obama on Thursday ended a five-decade-old open door policy for Cuba migrants, who will now face similar residency restrictions to other citizens from Latin America. In one of his final acts before leaving the White House, Obama scrapped rules dating back to the 1960s, which allowed those fleeing communist Cuba a fast track to US citizenship.

In a statement, Obama said the move would "bring greater consistency to our immigration policy".

"Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with US law and enforcement priorities," Obama said.

The Cold War-era policy had a wide-ranging impact, transforming both Cuba and the United States.

It enticed millions to flee the island, fuelling economic stasis and a severe "brain drain."

Meanwhile in the United States, the growing Cuban-American population become a potent political, cultural and economic force.

Today there are around 1.8 million Cuban-Americans. Two Republican 2016 presidential candidates, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, were of Cuban heritage.

Cuban issues are at the forefront of politics in the swing state of Florida, making generations of politicians extremely wary about revoking the policy or lifting economic sanctions against Havana.

But as Cuban-American politics has become less strident, the policy has come under pressure, with some viewing it as anachronistic and encouraging dangerous sea voyages in makeshift rafts.

That led president Bill Clinton in 1995 to close the door halfway. He decided Cubans intercepted at sea would be sent home, a policy that become known as "wetfoot/dryfoot."

Obama's decision means normal immigration rules will also apply to Cubans arriving at land borders. Obama's rapprochement with Cuba and his historic visit to Havana last year had only lifted speculation that the policy would be scrapped.

That prompted a spike in the number of migrants attempting the trip, out of fear that normalized relations would bring an end to the special status granted to Cuban immigrants.

Geoff Thale of the Washington Office on Latin America, a research and advocacy group, welcomed the change.

The old policy, he said, "seemed particularly unfair when children and families fleeing violence in Central America are subject to deportation. This change 'normalizes' our treatment of Cuban immigrants." Obama said the decision was another step toward normal relations.

"By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries. The Cuban government has agreed to accept the return of Cuban nationals who have been ordered removed, just as it has been accepting the return of migrants interdicted at sea."

"With this change we will continue to welcome Cubans as we welcome immigrants from other nations, consistent with our laws," he said.


Antigua Looking to Trump to Finally Settle Gaming Dispute

ST JOHN'S, Antigua, Wednesday January 11, 2017 – With just a week to go before United States President-elect Donald Trump takes office, Antigua and Barbuda has served notice that the settlement of its long standing dispute over online gaming with Washington will be issue number one as it prepares to engage the new administration.

The government says it will be pressing the Trump team to pay up US$100 million to settle the dispute won by Antigua and Barbuda before the World Trade Organization (WTO) 12 years ago.

"My government believes that the new administration that is about to take office will recognize the lawfulness and justness of our actions and will quickly settle the differences that have kept our negotiators apart," announced Governor General Sir Rodney Williams as he delivered the Throne Speech at the opening of a new session of Parliament on Monday.

In 2005, the WTO ruled that the US had violated international trade agreements by prohibiting Antigua and Barbuda to operate offshore internet gambling sites.

Antigua argued that the US' actions had caused the country to lose US$3.4 billion a year in much needed revenue and critical jobs. The WTO agreed that the US was in violation of trade agreements, but only awarded the country US$21 million. However, the trade body gave Antigua and Barbuda the right to suspend certain concessions and obligations it has under international law to the United States in respect of intellectual property rights.

Despite several rounds of negotiations, Washington has failed to compensate the twin-island nation.

The Antigua Government said on Monday that it would also pass legislation to take action as recommended by the WTO to recover the outstanding revenue.

"It is my government's intention to proceed to Parliament to adopt legislation consistent with the WTO ruling allowing Antigua and Barbuda to nullify US copyright protections and to benefit from so doing," the Governor General said.


Caricom wants good working relationship with Trump administration

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Caribbean Community (Caricom) Council of Ministers has ended a two-day meeting here Tuesday saying it was appreciative of the Caribbean's good working relationship with past US administrations and was looking forward to working with the Donald Trump administration.

The Council, the second highest organ of the 15-member Caricom grouping, said it welcomed the recent passage of the US-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016, which calls for a new long-term strategy to strengthen ties between the United States government and the Caribbean region.

The legislation was signed by President Barack Obama on December 16, last year.

"We note with satisfaction the overwhelming bipartisan support received in both Houses of Congress for the Act and thank its sponsors, Representative Eliot L Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, former Chair of the Committee, for their tireless efforts.

"We recognise that this Act is both timely and significant, and commend both Houses of Congress and the US Administration for this proactive and collaborative approach to engagement with the Caribbean region."

The Caricom Council said it believes that the multi-year strategy mandated by this Act "will engender increased interaction between the Caribbean and the United States, especially in the areas of security, trade, economic development, energy, education and diaspora engagement.

"We are keen to urgently advance dialogue on the specific interests of the Caribbean region," the council said, adding it was looking forward to working with the Trump administration on further strengthening US-Caribbean relations.

Engel said last year that that passage of the bill came "at a time when our friends in the Caribbean need us more than ever, this bill will prioritise our partnership with the sub-region for many years to come.

"It is long past time to have a multi-year strategy that will allow us to increase engagement with the Caribbean, especially when it comes to energy and security.

"The countries of the Caribbean are profoundly important to the United States, and particularly to the many Caribbean-American citizens in our country."

"I look forward to working with the Caribbean-American diaspora to ensure that they can provide input to the State Department and USAID on US relations with the Caribbean in the years ahead. With constant crises around the globe that demand US attention, we must not lose sight of our long-term interests close to home," said Engel.


Help Caribbean Immigrants, Coalition Pleads With U.S. President

(caribbean360) WASHINGTON, United States – Outgoing US President Barack Obama is being urged to draft policies to assist Caribbean immigrants before he leaves office this month. Cities for Action, a coalition of over 100 mayors and county executives from across the United States, is calling on Obama to commit to further protections for Caribbean and other immigrants in their communities.

In a letter to the American president, they recommended that his administration strengthen support for young immigrants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) by accepting early DACA renewal applications.

The programme permits young immigrants who are brought to the US illegally as children to remain in the country without threat of deportation and also to work legally.

The letter was signed by mayors from cities in Pennsylvania, Texas, Maryland, Alabama, Massachusetts, North Carolina, California, Rhode Island, Illinois, Iowa, New York, Tennessee, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Colorado, and Washington.

"As local government leaders throughout the country, we know that immigrants make our communities stronger economically, culturally and socially," said the leaders.

"For this reason, we have enthusiastically embraced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, expressed repeated support for and defence of your 2014 executive actions on immigration, and worked closely with your administration to promote citizenship and the economic, social, and civic integration of immigrants."

In the letter to Obama who leaves office on January 20, at least 30 members thanked him for his administration's support for immigrant families.

"On behalf of millions of our immigrant residents and their families, we thank you for the steps your administration has taken to support vulnerable immigrant populations, from bright young people who may only know life in this country, to immigrants who cannot return to their home countries because of conflict or natural disaster, as well as those who look to the US to lead on human rights and non-discrimination.

"These actions reflect the ideals of inclusion and refuge that our country is founded on," the letter added.

The leaders also asked the US president to commit to "timely processing" by the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) for initial and renewal DACA applications, and to implement additional privacy protections for DACA holders "to reassure recipients that they will not be punished as a result of coming out of the shadows.


US ambassador to Jamaica not among diplomats recalled by Trump

UNITED States Ambassador to Jamaica Luis G Moreno will not be among US diplomats around the world who will be returning home by January 20, when president-elect Donald Trump assumes office.

According to an article published by the New York Times on Thursday, the transition staff of the president-elect had issued an official order which required politically appointed ambassadors to leave their overseas posts by his Inauguration Day. The article said that "political" ambassadors, usually major donors who are nominated by virtue of close ties with the president, almost always leave at the end of his term, while ambassadors who are career diplomats often remain in their posts.

In a response, via e-mail to the Jamaica Observer, Public Affairs Officer for the US Embassy in Kingston Joshua Polacheck stated that Moreno is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and was not politically appointed.

He also quoted a statement, which he attributed to a State Department official which stated that, "per standard practice, the White House requested and received the resignations from all politically appointed chiefs of missions".

While it is not unusual for politically appointed ambassadors to demit their posts at the end of a president's term in office, the New York Times reported that several American diplomats familiar with the process, said the mandate issued by the president-elect breaks decades of precedent by declining to provide even the "briefest of grace periods".


Bolt's Bubbly New Role As CEO Of Mumm Champagne

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Whether you were ringing out the old year or ushering in the new, chances are there was a glass of bubbly in your hand. If you were doing so in style, the fizz in question may well have been Mumm champagne, which is not only one of France's finest, but has recently forged a special relationship with the world's fastest man Usain Bolt.

The Jamaican sprint icon has taken on the role of "CEO" of Maison Mumm – in this case meaning Chief Entertainment Officer. The nine-time gold medal winning Olympian announced his appointment by appearing in a video in which he sabres a bottle of Mumm champagne with one of his gold medals.

For its part, the company stated on its website: "Maison Mumm is proud to announce the special appointment of Usain Bolt, one of the world's most daring and decorated athletes, as the newest CEO – chief entertainment officer."

In his new role, Bolt will take a lead in devising "unique and daring" initiatives to encourage consumers to celebrate with Mumm Champagne, serve as a spokesperson for the brand and as its public face by fronting a multi-media campaign.

The sprint king's long-term goals for Mumm include spearheading initiatives to increase the brand's image across the world and ultimately aid in efforts to make Maison Mumm the top champagne brand in the United States.

"I'm honoured to take on the role of CEO for Maison Mumm and to show the world what it means to celebrate and entertain in daring ways," he said. "My number one mission will be to enhance Mumm's legacy in celebrating victories in stunning ways, and I'm very excited to invite all my fans around the world to raise their glasses with me."

Mumm, which was founded in 1827 and is owned by Pernod Ricard, is one of the largest and most prestigious champagne houses in the world.

Bolt, a long-time ambassador for Puma sportswear, recently took up the post of Chief Speed Officer for Digicel throughout the Caribbean. The unique "job for life" comes in tandem with the agreement of a lifetime partnership between Digicel and Jamaica's most revered athlete.


Jovenel Moise It Is! Court Confirms Victory of Businessman In Haiti Presidential Election

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Wednesday January 4, 2017 – It's official! In just over a month, businessman Jovenel Moise is set to be installed as the new President of Haiti, ending weeks of uncertainty following the November 20, 2016 election.

An election tribunal stamped its approval on Moise's election yesterday, as it ruled out allegations of massive fraud at the polls.

"There was no massive fraud in the election. There were irregularities, which did not affect the electoral process," the tribunal reported.

Spokesman for the tribunal, Nicole Simeon, declared that Moise, who campaigned on behalf of the Bald Heads Party (PHTK) led by former President Michel Martelly, won 55.6 per cent of the votes. His closest rival Jude Celestin only mustered 19.5 per cent of the vote.

The tribunal's declaration is being seen as vindication for Moise, 48, who had won the first round of the election in October 2015. Those results were scrapped after authorities ruled there was widespread fraud.

Moise, who runs a banana export company, is expected to be sworn in on February 7 and will take over from interim President Jocelerme Privert, who was appointed after Martelly left office in February last year without a successor in place.

In an interview last month with the Associated Press, Moise said his first priority would be to improve the lives of Haiti's poor, who have been struggling to rebuild their lives following the 2016 passage of Hurricane Matthew and the catastrophic January 2010 earthquake.


Guyanese Man Shot Dead in New York While Visiting US for Grandmother's Funeral

NEW YORK, United States, Tuesday January 3, 2017 – A Guyanese man has been listed as New York's first homicide victim for the New Year. Ricky Kalisaran, 31, who travelled the United States city to attend his grandmother's funeral, lost his life at the hands of an armed thief, plunging his already grieving family into despair.

At the same time, the Kalisarans family have been left to desperately pray for the recovery of Ricky's brother, Sunny, who was also shot in the back during the incident.

According to the Daily News New York publication, the gunman shot the two brothers late Sunday night after leaving a nightclub, The Underground Lounge.

The men were reportedly walking towards their car when the robber approached and demanded their valuables at gunpoint.

Sources told the newspaper the brothers refused and struggled for the gun. They were shot by the robber who fled the scene in a car.

Emergency personnel called to the scene rushed the injured men to the Jamaica Hospital, but it was too late for Ricky who died of a chest wound. His brother remains hospitalized in serious but stable condition. Grief stricken mother, Anita Kalisaran, was still in shock as she related the sad tale to the Daily News.

"They killed my son for a gold chain. They shot and killed him. He come here for the funeral and [he's] dead now," she said.

She said her son was a humble, loving and hardworking man, and his aunt, Lena George, described him as a quiet, polite person.


Obama's Parting Gift to the Caribbean

In one of his last acts before demitting office, United States President Barack Obama is shortly to initial legislation aimed at deepening relations between the US and the Caribbean, with special emphasis on energy security, countering violence, expanding diplomacy and providing educational exchange opportunities for citizens of the region. The far-reaching legislation called the United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act (HR 4939), was passed by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, following earlier passage by the Senate.

Jamaica's Dr Richard Bernal, former ambassador to the United States who gave testimony to Congress in support of HR 4939 at hearings in Washington DC last July, was elated at the passage of the Bill by Congress.

"A democratic, peaceful and prosperous Caribbean Basin is in the interest of both the United States of America, which views the region as its Third Border, and the Caribbean for which the US is a vitally important economic and security partner," Bernal told the Jamaica Observer.

The Bill mandates the Department of State, through the secretary of state and the administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), to submit to Congress a multi-year strategy for US engagement with the Caribbean region and report annually to the appropriate congressional committees on efforts to implement such strategy.

It was initiated and piloted by Representative Elliott Engels, the ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), a former chair of the committee, both of whom said they were motivated by the belief that "the countries of the Caribbean are profoundly important to the United States".

Congressman Engels said: "With constant crises around the globe that demand US attention we must not lose sight of our long-term interests close to home. At a time when our friends in the Caribbean need us more than ever, this bill will prioritise our partnership with the sub-region for many years to come. It is long past time to have a multi-year strategy that will allow us to increase engagement with the Caribbean, especially when it comes to energy and security."


Trinidadian ISIS Soldier Admits To Local Killings, Urges Muslims To Wage Jihad In Homeland

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – It's no secret that several Trinidadian Muslims have left the country to join Islamic group ISIS. But in a candid interview, one of them, a sniper in the organization, admitted to killings in his homeland and urged Muslims still living there to wage jihad in the twin-island republic.

Abu Sa'd at-Trinidadi, one of the first three Muslims to leave Trinidad and Tobago to join the jihadist organization, told ISIS magazine Dabiq about why he rejected his family's Baptist Christian faith and embraced Islam, and even went as far as urging Muslims who live in the twin-island republic to "terrify the disbelievers in their own homes and make their streets run with their blood".

No dates were given in the interview but at-Trinidadi, whose birth name is Shane Crawford, spoke about his own "jihad endeavour" in his homeland. He admitted that he and a few of his Muslims brothers to took revenge "whenever the disbelievers in Trinidad would kill or harm a Muslim".


3 Caribbean countries deemed among the world's worst corporate tax havens

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — The BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Wednesday December 14, 2016 – Mischievous, grossly inaccurate and under-researched! That's how three Caribbean countries deemed among the world's worst corporate tax havens have described a report published by international charity Oxfam, entitled 'Tax Battles – The Dangerous Global Race to the Bottom on Corporate Tax'.

Authorities in Bermuda, listed as the worst offender, the Cayman Islands, ranked second, and Barbados, 13th, are hopping mad at the claims leveled in the 46-page report that lists 15 countries.

The UK charity has charged that these countries "facilitate the most extreme forms of corporate tax avoidance, driving the race to the bottom in corporate taxation."

It said they were responsible for "starving countries out of the billions of dollars needed to tackle poverty and inequality."

"Corporate tax havens are propping up a dangerously unequal economic system that is leaving millions of people with few opportunities for a better life," Oxfam tax policy advisor Esme Berkhout said in a statement.

Bermuda's Finance Minister Bob Richards rejected the findings pointing to what he called "serial errors" in the report, which found that multinational companies reported US$80 billion in profits on the island in 2012.

Richards argued that the findings were based solely on volume of assets, which is not a recognized criteria of transparency and compliance, on which Bermuda measures well.


IDB warns of low rate of export for Latin America and Caribbean

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is warning of a lower rate of export contraction due to the stabilisation of commodity prices In a new report released Monday, the IDB noted that Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) exports are expected to fall approximately US$50 billion, or six per cent in 2016, a lower contraction rate than the 15 per cent observed in 2015.

It said that this relative improvement was mainly due to a rebound of commodity prices with the report using detailed data for 24 countries in the region. The value of total exports should reach US$850 billion in 2016.

The annual report titled "Trade Trend Estimates— Latin America and the Caribbean", argues that export volumes did not display sufficiently high growth rates to give a significant boost to the region's export performance, which registered a contraction for the fourth consecutive year.

The export contraction was due primarily to a fall in sales to the United States (-5 per cent) and to the region itself (-11 per cent), which together explained three-quarter of the total, and, to a lesser extent, to China (5 per cent), the rest of Asia, and the European Union (-4 per cent each).

"An acceleration of demand, particularly in the United States and in China, could sustain exports, but the resurgence of trade protectionism could bias the forecast," stated Paolo Giordano, principal economist of the Integration and Trade Sector and the report's coordinator.

The main factor driving the region's export performance was the fall in commodity prices. Although the deflationary trend has been easing since the beginning of 2016, when signs of recovery were first observed, prices have not yet reached the levels displayed prior to their collapse at the end of 2014, with the exception of sugar and gold.

At the subregional level, the report shows that the export decline slowed down noticeably in South America, while it remained relatively stable in Mexico and in some countries of Central America and the Caribbean.


Tourism key to US-Caribbean interests

MIAMI, USA — The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) has joined Caribbean-Central American Action (CCAA) in urging the US Senate to adopt the US-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016 (HR 4939), which has already received bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, and which recently moved out of Senate Committee for consideration by the full Senate.

HR 4939, introduced by Congressman Eliot L Engel (D-NY) with Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), would require the US Secretary of State and the Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to submit to Congress a multi-year strategy focused on enhancing engagement with the countries of the Caribbean.

The draft legislation, which emphasises energy security, countering violence, expanded diplomacy, engagement with the private sector, and other priority areas, sets the stage for a new US-Caribbean relationship, declared CHTA president Karolin Troubetzkoy, who met with Congressman Engel during the 40th Annual Conference on the Caribbean and Central America in Miami in late November.

Underscoring the common interests between the Caribbean and the United States and the critical importance of tourism to the region's socioeconomic development and stability, Troubetzkoy called for a new focus by the region's governments and private sector in support of recent legislation aimed at strengthening United States relations with Caribbean countries.


International Human Rights Day - Dec. 10th, 2016

Jamaica is pleased to join the international community once again in the observance of Human Rights Day. This year's theme, Stand up for someone's rights today, is a call for each of us to promote universal advocacy of the fundamental rights to which human beings are entitled and especially those who are unable to act on their own behalf.

At the international level, Jamaica has had a long tradition of standing up for the rights of others. Most notable in this regard is the Government of Jamaica's pivotal role in having 1968 declared as the International Year for Human Rights, as well as our advocacy for an end to the apartheid regime in South Africa. Over the years, we have consistently used various international fora, such as the United Nations and the Organisation of American States, to support efforts towards ensuring greater respect for the rights of the oppressed, people of African descent, women and children and displaced migrants and marginalised persons around the world.

With regard to the protection of the rights of its own citizens, Jamaica has ratified a range of core international human rights instruments, including the two major international covenants on civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights, as well as conventions related to the rights of women, children, persons with disabilities, migrant workers, and racism. Importantly, the ratification of these international instruments has paved the way for the development of the local legislative, policy and institutional frameworks to safeguard the human rights of our citizens.

This year, progress achieved in areas, such as HIV/AIDS discrimination and redress, diversity training in the police force, protection of children in state care and justice reform was recognised by the United Nations' Human Rights Committee during Jamaica's Fourth Review pursuant to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.The Government of Jamaica acknowledges, however, that there is more work to be done. We will therefore continue to explore ways of improving the human rights protection architecture through both local and international partnerships.

One example of this collaboration is Jamaica's recent incorporation into the Global Partnership to end Violence against Children, which willserve to boost our capacity to tackle abuses against one of our most vulnerable groups. Other initiatives being pursued include the review of the Child Care and Protection Act, the Sexual Offences Act, and the Domestic Violence Act. The Government also expects to finalise the National Strategic Action Plan to Eliminate Gender-based Violence, advance the implementation of the Disabilities Act, make further progress in addressing human trafficking, and work towards the establishment of a national human rights institution.


Lessons Learnt And Best Practices In Zika Virus Response

By the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Less than a month ago, on November 18, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the Zika virus is no longer a public health emergency of international concern. It does, however, continue to present a serious public health concern in the Americas, especially to the most vulnerable populations like women of childbearing age.


Caribbean cruise line to pay largest-ever criminal penalty for deliberate vessel pollution

WASHINGTON, DC, USA (CMC) — The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) says a Caribbean cruise line has agreed to plead guilty to seven felony charges stemming from its deliberate pollution of the seas and intentional acts to cover it up. The DOJ said Princess Cruise Lines Ltd will pay a US$40-million penalty – the largest-ever criminal penalty involving deliberate vessel pollution – and plead guilty to charges related to illegal dumping of oil contaminated waste from the Caribbean Princess cruise ship.

The plea agreement was announced last Thursday by Assistant Attorney General John C Cruden for the DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division and US Attorney Wifredo A Ferrer for the Southern District of Florida in Miami, Florida.

Princess, headquartered in Santa Clarita, California, is a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation (Carnival), which owns and operates multiple cruise lines and collectively comprises the world's largest cruise company. Carnival is headquartered in Miami.

As part of the plea agreement with Princess, cruise ships from eight Carnival cruise line companies (Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line NV, Seabourn Cruise Line Ltd and AIDA Cruises) will be under a court-supervised Environmental Compliance Program (ECP) for five years, the DOJ said.

The ECP will require independent audits by an outside entity and a court-appointed monitor.

The charges to which Princess will plead guilty concern the Caribbean Princess cruise ship which visited various US ports in Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, US Virgin Islands and Virginia.


Prince Harry And Rihanna Join Barbados' 50th Anniversary of Independence Celebrations

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Britain's Prince Harry joined Rihanna in celebrating 50 years of independence for her native Barbados. The prince and the singer shared the stage with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart during a concert marking the date the island broke away from Britain.

He read a message from Queen Elizabeth II congratulating Barbados and saying that the island should be "rightfully proud" of a vibrant culture and natural beauty.

Prince Harry spoke last night before a crowd of about 20,000 people at the Kensington Oval cricket joined thousands of Barbadians for the Golden Anniversary Mega Concert.

He also encouraged residents to work together to confront challenges such as climate change.


Cuba buries Castro, entering post-Fidel era

SANTIAGO de CUBA, Cuba (AFP) Fidel Castro's ashes were entombed in a massive stone next to national heroes on Sunday, as Cuba opens a new era without the communist leader who ruled for decades. President Raul Castro placed his brother's cedar urn inside the tall round monolith near the mausoleums of 19th century independence icon Jose Marti and comrades of Castro's rebellion in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba.

Capping a week of massive tributes, a simple, dark green marble plaque bearing just his first name — "Fidel" — was placed over the niche at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery.

Raul Castro gave a military salute at the private ceremony attended by his family and some foreign dignitaries, including Latin American allies from Venezuela and Nicaragua, according to official photos.

"There were no speeches. It was very simple. There were just the ashes that were interred, the family, the government and officials," French Environment Minister Segolene Royal, who was criticised in her country for defending Castro's human rights record, told AFP after the hour-long funeral.

Castro, who died on November 25 at age 90, was revered by supporters for the free health care and education he spread across the island, but vilified by dissidents who saw him as a brutal dictator.

The burial marked the end of nine days of national mourning during which Cubans, often encouraged by the government, flooded the streets to pay tribute to Castro, chanting "I am Fidel!" as his ashes were driven across the Caribbean country.

As a military jeep took the urn toward the ceremony thousands who lined the streets of Santiago shouted, "viva Fidel!"

On Saturday night, Raul Castro led a final rally in his brother's honour at Santiago's Revolution Plaza, leading the crowd in a pledge to uphold socialist ideals.

"In front of Fidel's remains... we swear to defend the fatherland and socialism," Raul Castro said.

Fidel Castro remained a towering figure in Cuba a decade after intestinal surgery forced him to hand power to his younger brother Raul.


UN secretary general calls for greater effort to eradicate HIV/AIDS on World AIDS Day

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — Outgoing United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon yesterday urged the world to do more to eradicate the HIV/AIDS virus, even as he acknowledged that 35 years since its emergence, the international community can look back with some pride. Ban, who is due to leave office this year, said "we must also look ahead with resolve and commitment to reach our goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030".

He said in a message to mark World AIDS Day today that there has been real progress in tackling the disease.

"More people than ever are on treatment. Since 2010, the number of children infected through mother-to-child transmission has dropped by half. Fewer people die of AIDS-related causes each year. And people living with HIV are living longer lives."


Royal Hospitality scholarships for Caribbean professionals

ST GEORGE'S, Grenada (CMC) — At least nine Caribbean nationals working in the hospitality sector will have an opportunity to experience working in Buckingham Palace next year under a new initiative announced by Britain's Prince Harry, who is now winding up a 15-day visit to the Caribbean.

Prince Harry, who is now in Barbados as part of a swing to nine Caribbean countries, announced nine new Royal Household Hospitality Scholarships, which will give professionals across the nine Caribbean territories he is visiting the opportunity to undergo training at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle for six weeks next year, culminating in Royal Ascot week in June 2017.

"Successful applicants for the scholarships will be attached to the Master of the Household's department in the planning and delivery of all entertaining hosted by The Queen and senior members of The Royal Family," he said.

Each scholar, Prince Harry said, will learn new techniques and will receive a certificate of completion from the Royal Household at the end of the six week placement. They will all undertake a six-week project to advance their skills in their chosen area of expertise.

"This could range from learning complex chocolate and sugar craft, performing duties for Her Majesty's guests at Windsor Castle during Royal Ascot week or shadowing the service team at official and private events during this busy period," he told the audience here prior to his visit to Barbados.

Applications should be made to the governor general's office in each country. Successful candidates will be provided with staff accommodation in the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, as well as meals and travel. Flights will be provided by their home Realm.

The Master of the Household's Department looks after all planning and entertaining given by The Queen, both official and private, in the UK and overseas. The department also provides support to the Duke of Edinburgh, he Prince of Wales and other members of the Royal Family.


T&T Gov't warns against using home testing kits to test for HIV/AIDS

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The Ministry of Health Monday urged people not to use HIV home testing kits to determine whether or not they are suffering from the HIV/AIDS virus. In a statement, the ministry said it has become aware of the kits are now available locally, but advised "members of the public who have concerns about their HIV status to get tested at a quality assured Ministry of Health testing site.

"Persons using home kits not reviewed and approved by the ministry may lead to self-diagnosis outside of a supportive environment where they can be linked to clinical services for follow-up care for themselves or those that they care about."

Last week, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said there are about 11,500 people living with the disease here and that he was also encouraged by the increase in people going for testing which has been encouraging as the global target in eradicating HIV/AIDS was by 2030.


Fidel Castro, who defied US for 50 years, is dead

HAVANA (AP & AFP) — Former president of Cuba Fidel Castro, who led a rebel army to improbable victory in Cuba, embraced Soviet-style communism and defied the power of 11 US presidents during his half-century rule, died Friday at age 90. With a shaking voice, his younger brother, Raul Castro, announced on State television that his brother died at 10:29 pm.

One of the world's longest-serving rulers and among modern history's most striking personalities, Castro survived hundreds of assassination attempts.

Fidel Castro crushed opposition at home from the moment he took power in 1959 to lead the Caribbean island through the cold war. He stepped aside only in 2006 after intestinal surgery.

For defenders of the revolution, Castro was a hero who protected ordinary people against capitalist domination.

To opponents, including thousands of Cuban exiles living in the United States, he was a cruel communist tyrant.

Yesterday the Cuban Government decreed nine days of mourning.

From November 26 to December 4, "public activities and shows will cease, the national flag will fly at half-mast on public buildings and military installations", said a statement from the State executive.

Castro's ashes will be buried in the south-eastern city of Santiago on December 4 after a four-day procession through the country, it added.

Castro's reign over the island nation 90 miles from Florida was marked by the US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. The bearded revolutionary who survived a crippling US trade embargo as well as dozens —possibly hundreds — of assassination plots died eight years after ill health forced him to formally hand power over to Raul.


Airbnb Set To Sign Another Caribbean Agreement

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Friday November 18, 2016 – On the heels of Airbnb signing its first Caribbean partnership with the Aruba Tourism Authority, Jamaica's Tourism Ministry is set to sign a major agreement with the online short-term rental business. Minister Edmund Bartlett made the disclosure after a meeting with Airbnb officials this week. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) is to be drafted and signed at a later date.

The market for Airbnb in Jamaica is rapidly growing and is extremely lucrative, according to Airbnb's executive with responsibility for public policy in Latin America and the Caribbean, Shawn Sullivan.

The site currently accounts for 2,300 active hosts and 4,000 active listings in the past year from Jamaica.

"Generally in the Caribbean, people will rent their entire homes. Here in Jamaica, we are seeing a mixture between private homes versus a private space in someone's home. We were responsible for bringing in roughly 32,000 tourists within the past year and we believe that this collaboration will allow this to grow exponentially," Sullivan explained.

Minister Bartlett is optimistic about the potential impact the deal will have on community tourism and is eager to finalize the MOU to concretize the partnership with Airbnb.

"We are very happy to be partnering with Airbnb and know that it will be mutually beneficial to both entities involved. Once drafted, I know that the agreement will take into account our goal of destination assurance, which ensures our credibility in the marketplace," Bartlett said. "It will also allow us to utilize analytics across their social platforms. This will be a great tool for us to build a better collective resource management platform for our destination."

Airbnb is an online community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book accommodations around the world online. It connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 34,000 cities and 191 countries.


Antigua PM calls for immediate intervention on Climate Change with Trump

MARRAKECH, Morocco (CMC) — Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda has called on all government and special groupings in the United Nations to commence discussions with the incoming US administration on Climate Change. "If the United States waivers in its current leadership on climate change, or if it withdraws from its commitments, a chain reaction will be triggered, that will leave the Agreement in tatters, and the world in peril," said Browne in addressing at a meeting of the 22nd Session of the Conference of Parties (COP22) here on Wednesday.

A release from the Government said Browne was making reference to the uncertainty of US President-elect, Donald Trump's position on Climate Change, which was once of the issues highlighted in the lead-up to the November 8 elections in the United States.

"We (the Caribbean) know that global warming, sea-level rise, extreme drought and stronger cyclones, are daggers at the heart of our existence," Browne said.

"For us, '1.5 to stay alive' is not a frivolous slogan; it is a constant reminder that, if temperatures continue to rise, our countries will suffer insurmountable losses," he warned. "In fact, many small island states will disappear beneath the sea. That is the stark reality facing small island states."

"While my government offers congratulations to the US President-elect, Donald Trump, and pledges our resolve to work co-operatively with his administration, we are, however, aware that he remains unconvinced of Climate Change," Browne continued.

"Those of us from small states live with a different reality. We hope it is also a warning to the world's most developed nations that the tides of the world's climate will also be battering their most secure bastions.

"In this connection, I call on all governments to begin early conversations with appointees to Mr Trump's administration," he said. "If the United States waivers in its current leadership on climate change, or if it withdraws from its commitments, a chain reaction will be triggered, that will leave the Agreement in tatters, and the world in peril. It is a real danger that must be addressed with urgency."

Browne called on special groupings within the United Nations, such as AOSIS, to mount urgently a collaborative effort to lay out the dangers that confront the globe to the incoming new US administration.

Browne also said that in order to fulfill the commitments of the universal Climate Change Agreement, the resources of the Global Environmental Fund and the Green Climate Fund must be replenished.

He said that adaptation financing must be significantly increased to balance global priorities in line with the Agreement.

The prime minister said average global temperatures have already increased one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, stating: "We must collectively act now to protect our planet.


Fight against Zika virus a 'marathon' PAHO warns

ATLANTA, United States (CMC) — Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Dr Carissa F Etienne has warned that the fight against the Zika virus will be a "marathon," making it clear that it is "not a hundred-meter race". In delivering the keynote address at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene here, Etienne said the fight is "a marathon in which science and public health need to work hand in hand".

"There is still a long way to go on Zika," she told delegates. "The development of affordable new tools by the scientific community, including diagnostic tests and a vaccine against Zika, as well as innovation in vector control, is an urgent priority.

"Our health systems will need to be prepared to ensure such new tools are introduced and that their benefits reach everyone, not merely a few," she added.

Etienne recounted Zika's sudden "apparition" in Brazil in May 2015 and its rapid spread throughout the Americas, including the Caribbean.

"No one could have imagined two years ago that our children would be affected by microcephaly as a result of this once-dormant villain," she said. "Regardless of the cause, a child with microcephaly means a complete family catastrophe."


Mexico weighs grim prospect of deportation wave under Trump

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico is starting to seriously contemplate the possibility that millions of its migrants could be deported, and the picture is not pretty. Under proposals put forward by President-elect Donald Trump, Mexico could see millions of people streaming back with no jobs available; the country might lose some of the billions of dollars in remittances sent home annually; and some jobless deportees could swell the ranks of drug cartels, sparking more violence.

Governor Hector Astudillo of the southern state of Guerrero considered the possible scenario over the weekend. At least a million Guerrero residents live in the United States, many without proper documents, and the state is already reeling from drug gang violence and poverty.

"Of course Guerrero is not in any condition to receive the million or more than one million migrants" in the US, Astudillo said. "On the contrary, they have been an important mainstay in supporting the economy of Guerrero."

Migrants sent home almost US$25 billion in remittances to Mexico in 2015, and experts say most of that went to support the most basic needs of the poorest Mexicans. Trump has suggested he might somehow seize the funds of those immigrants who are not deported to pay for a border wall.

Mexico already has a shortfall of 800,000 new jobs for youths who join the labour force each year, let alone returning migrants, said Alejandra Barrales, head of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party. "We need to close ranks and create (job) opportunities, not just for people who might be deported, but for the 1.2 million young people who join the labour market each year."

The federal government announced an emergency program this week aimed at encouraging business to hire returning migrants, but Mexico City teacher Armando Osorio doubted that would be enough, given the government's poor track record on job creation. "These people have no moral authority to say they will receive their countrymen with open arms," he said. "They are the ones who are mainly responsible for the forced exodus of millions of Mexicans who don't have enough to eat."

Even if Trump seems to be walking back the idea of mass deportations, the prospect still remains frightening for people in Mexico.


Guyanese Entrepreneur To Meet President Obama

(caribbean360) GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Monday November 14, 2016 – Guyanese entrepreneur Abbigale Loncke will get the opportunity of a lifetime this week. She is one of a select 21 young people who will meet president of the United States Barrack Obama later this week in Peru at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit.

Loncke, who successfully took part in the 2016 Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) earlier this year, is the founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Community Health Care, an agency which delivers home care for the elderly, sick, disabled, and children. It also helps to train women, who need employment, offering them work as caregivers.

The young CEO was among four Guyanese chosen to represent the nation at the YLAI. The YLAI brought together 250 young leaders from Latin America, the Caribbean, Guyana and the United States for an exchange programme that involved internship and skills-building workshops.

She successfully participated in the YLAI pitch competition in which she showcased her skills.

"It was tough…21 finalists…I was the only person to represent Guyana…I didn't win the competition but I'm heading to Peru on Wednesday to meet President Obama. There's the APEC summit from the 17-19 and so a few participants were invited to go meet him as he wasn't able to see us due to election commitments. I leave Wednesday and come back Sunday. I'm excited about that!" Loncke told Kaieteur News.

She plans to use her skills to further train single mothers and young women to care for the elderly. "I also want to create a volunteer group that would care for the elderly folks who can't afford it but need help at home."


US congresswoman calls on Obama administration to halt deportation of Haitians

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — US Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke has urged the Obama administration to immediately halt the deportation of undocumented Haitians. "Earlier today (Wednesday), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed that removal proceedings have resumed for Haitian nationals in the United States who lack Temporary Protected Status (TPS)," Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC)."The majority of the people DHS intends to remove have not been accused of any crime".

According to Clarke, the deportations will "return thousands of Haitians to a country that continues to struggle with the devastation of Hurricane Matthew and the recent outbreak of cholera that was introduced by international aid workers responding to the 2010 earthquake".

"This will only exacerbate the difficulties of rebuilding Haiti and deny families access to remittances from relatives in the United States," added the representative for the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York.

"I am deeply saddened that these deportations have resumed, and I call on President Obama and his administration to end this policy immediately".

On November 2, Clarke, with 13 of congressional colleagues, urged Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, to suspend the removal of Haitians who have not been convicted of a serious crime or otherwise present a threat to US national security.

Last week, two major Haitian Diaspora groups in New York launched an online petition requesting that Obama also immediately halt the deportation of undocumented Haitians in the wake of the massive destruction caused to the French-speaking Caribbean country by Hurricane Matthew a month ago.

The New York-based Haiti Renewal Alliance and the United Front of the Haitian Diaspora on Friday launched the petition, saying that they are hoping to build awareness to support it, which, on receiving 100,000 signatures, will require an official response from the White House.

"This petition is to urge President Barack Obama to grant Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED), expand and/or Re-designate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian nationals, including recently arrived individuals who are currently threatened with deportation, based on the devastation of Hurricane Matthew," the petition says.

It notes that Hurricane Matthew "violently struck Haiti and resulted in the country's largest humanitarian crisis since the 2010 earthquake".

The petition says Matthew caused extensive damage, leaving more than 2.1 million people at risk of food insecurity, homelessness, and increase cholera and other diseases.

"It is currently impractical, unsafe and inhumane to deport people into the country at this time," the petition says. "Haitians are hardworking, law-abiding, contribute to the US economy, as well as supporting their families via remittances".

"I want you to know that, in partnership with the Haiti Renewal Alliance and the United Front of the Haitian Diaspora, I am supporting an online petition to the White House requesting the President Obama halt the deportation of Haitian nationals, which will allow critical resources in the form of remittances to fund the recovery in Haiti," Clarke said.

"If we obtain 100,000 signatures in 30 days, the community will receive an official response from the White House," said Clarke, whose Brooklyn district has the second largest concentration of Haitians in the US. Miami is reported to have the highest.


President Obama hosts Trump at The White House

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — President Barack Obama hosted a triumphant Donald Trump in the Oval Office Thursday for talks on executing a smooth transition of power and steadying nerves after a vote that shocked the world. Anger over the Republican property mogul's upset election win over Hillary Clinton spilled out onto the streets of US cities late Wednesday as chanting protesters lit bonfires and snarled traffic.

The billionaire president-elect arrived at his soon-to-be home on Pennsylvania Avenue at roughly 11:00 am (1600 GMT), a US official said, for what may be an awkward meeting with Obama ahead of the January 20 inauguration.

Trump, 70, championed the so-called "birther movement" challenging that Obama was actually born in the United States -- a suggestion laden with deep racial overtones -- only dropping the position recently.

The Democratic commander-in-chief in turn has described the celebrity businessman as "uniquely unqualified" to be president.

But in the day after Trump's shock election win, which virtually no poll had predicted, both sides spoke of healing the deep divisions sown in a bruising two-year battle for the White House.

His vanquished Democratic rival Clinton, holding back the bitter disappointment of not becoming America's first female president, urged the country to give Trump a chance.

"We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead," she said Wednesday in a concession speech.

Obama, addressing disconsolate staff in the White House Rose Garden, played down Trump's win as part of the messy "zig-zag" movement of a democracy.

"Sometimes you lose an argument," he said, adding that all Americans should now be "rooting" for Trump's success.

In the battle for the soul of America, those who helped elect its first black president now appear to be in retreat and pondering whether his eight years in power have come to naught.

Both Obama and Clinton issued a faint -- but clear -- warning that Trump must respect institutions and the rule of law if a modicum of goodwill is to hold.


Clinton loses tight race; Trump asks U.S. to Unite

NEW YORK, United States (AP/AFP) – Donald Trump was elected America's 45th president yesterday, and early this morning asked the nation to come together and promised to "represent every citizen of our land".

He added that it was "time for America to bind the wounds of division" and "time for us to come together as one".

The president-elect, addressing supporters at his victory party in New York City, said that he received a call from his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, congratulating him on his victory. He told his supporters that he "congratulated her and her family on a very, very hard-fought campaign".

"We owe her a major debt of gratitude" for her service, he added.

The gracious sentiment was a far cry from Trump's usually heated rhetoric about Clinton. He has suggested that she should go to jail and chants of "Lock her up!" were a staple at his campaign rallies.

Declaring that his Administration will be a time of "national growth and renewal," Trump said "America will no longer settle for anything but the best" and that the nation will "dream big and bold and daring".

His journey to the White House is an astonishing victory for the celebrity businessman and political novice who capitalised on voters' economic anxieties, took advantage of racial tensions, and overcame a string of sexual assault allegations.


Historic Climate Change Agreement Goes Into Force

(caribbean360) The Paris Agreement on climate change enters into force today, 30 days after the required 55 minimum states – accounting for 55 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions – ratified the convention.

The central aim of the Agreement is to keep global temperature rise during this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and to try to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius (the level pushed by CARICOM during the Paris negotiations). This commitment supports Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 (Climate Action) and 12 others that include targets addressing climate change.

Countries will begin to tackle implementation of the Paris Agreement when COP22 (the 22nd Session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC)) convenes in Marrakech, Morocco from November 7 to 18. The CARICOM Secretariat will join several CARICOM Member States at this meeting.

At this first meeting of the parties to the Agreement, areas of focus will include emissions reduction, resilience, finance, transparency, technology transfer, migration, capacity building, and loss and damages.


The Haitian Diaspora Urges President Obama to Stop Haitian Deportation Now

(whitehouse.gov) Created by F.B. on November 03, 2016 - This petition is to urge President Barack Obama to grant Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED), expand and/or Redesignate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian nationals including recently arrived individuals who are currently threatened with deportation, based on the devastation of Hurricane Matthew.
The Hurricane violently struck Haiti and resulted in the country's largest humanitarian crisis since the 2010 earthquake. It caused extensive damage, leaving more than 2.1 million people at risk of food insecurity, homelessness, and increase cholera and other diseases. It is currently impractical, unsafe and inhumane to deport people into the country at this time. Haitians are hardworking, law abiding, contribute to the US economy, as well as supporting their families via remittances.

Click below to Sign the Petition: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/haitian-diaspora-urges-president-obama-stop-haitian-deportation-now


UN calls for end of impunity for crimes against journalists

UNITED NATIONS, United States (CMC) — Warning that impunity for crimes against journalists is rampant, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for immediate action to secure justice in cases where journalists have been attacked or killed. On marking the International Day to end impunity for crimes against Journalists on Wednesday, Ban also called for concrete steps from all countries, including those in the Caribbean, to ensure that media professionals are guaranteed space to operate free from harassment and intimidation.

The UN said the International Day was "an opportunity to raise awareness about the 827 known killings of journalists over the past 10 years".

Only eight per cent of perpetrators have been held accountable.

"I pay tribute to the courage of all media personnel who put their lives on the line for the sake of truth," said Ban in his message. "I call for immediate action to secure justice in cases where journalists were attacked, harassed or killed".

The Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has launched a series of events to tackle impunity and call for concerted state action.

"Impunity breeds impunity. This is injustice for all," said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova .

Each year UNESCO releases a report with the latest facts and figures about the violence around the world towards journalists.

According to the report, 2015 was the second deadliest year since 2006. Further, 115 journalists were killed, including the 10 media workers murdered in the unprecedented attack against the French satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

In addition to killings, the UN said journalists are kidnapped, arbitrarily detained, tortured, intimidated and harassed, both on and offline.

The UN said freelance journalists are more vulnerable, "as they often work without adequate protections that large media outlets provide."

While the overwhelming majority of journalists who are murdered are men, the UN said this should not obscure the fact that women journalists face additional risks: gender-based threats, harassment, intimidation, violence and rape.

The UN said the majority of killings (36.5 per cent) occur in the Arab States, largely due to ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya.

Latin America and the Caribbean are second, with 51 journalists killed between 2014 and 2015.

Asia and the Pacific account for 16 per cent of killings, said the UN, adding that 90 per cent worldwide are local journalists, "although 2014 saw a rise in the killing of foreign journalists".


Trinidad and Tobago confirms first case of microcephaly linked to Zika

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) – Trinidad and Tobago yesterday confirmed the first case of a baby born with microcephaly as a result of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh told a news conference that the parents were informed of the diagnosis on Friday. The unidentified child was born in September.

Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby's head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age.

Deyalsingh said that the Ministry of Health, through the Caribbean Public Health Agency, has already enlisted the help of experts from Brazil and Canada to supplement the local pool of specialists since the number of microcephaly cases caused by Zika may increase in the coming months.


Caribbean ministers' summit to highlight tourism outlook seminar

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS)—A Summit of Caribbean Tourism Ministers will highlight this year's staging of the Tourism Outlook Seminar slated for December 6 to 8 at the Montego Bay Convention Centre. The three-day event is being jointly hosted by the Ministry of Tourism, Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) and United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), under the theme – 'Tourism: Navigating Global Challenges for Continued Growth'.

Portfolio minister, Edmund Bartlett, says the summit will facilitate discussion among Caribbean ministers on a collaborative approach to generating increased tourism growth opportunities across the region.

He was speaking at the media launch of the seminar on October 27 at Devon House in St Andrew.

Bartlett said the summit's staging comes against the background of data indicating that the Caribbean has the slowest rate of tourism growth in the world.

He noted that while the Caribbean and Latin America is the most tourism-dependent region globally, it lagged behind other areas, such as Asia, Africa and the Pacific, which had high growth rates.

In this regard, Bartlett said the summit will focus on how best countries can collectively transition from highly competitive strategies "that have not given us (adequate levels of) growth" to a new approach of "looking at the things we share... that we can do well together and do it better".

Bartlett said among the key issues for discussion are harmonisation of policies to facilitate seamless regional airlift and aviation; measures to enhance visitor facilitation; review of visa stipulations; and addressing airspace pre-clearance arrangements and rationalisation to reduce costs to airlines.

"We in Jamaica have set our eyes on a five per cent growth target over the next five years to achieve five million visitor arrivals, earn US$5 billion, employ 125,000 people directly and in the process, expand our room count up to about 45,000," he further outlined.

Bartlett said the summit and conference, which will feature discussion on other tourism-related matters will "allow us to explore, further, how we move towards achieving those outcomes".

Tourism Director, Paul Pennicook, in his remarks, said the seminar will present an ideal opportunity for dialogue among tourism interests on a wide range of sector issues, with the expectation that decisions reached "would have benefited from the deliberations of a wide cross section of persons".

Chairman of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), which is providing funding support, Godfrey Dyer, said the seminar provides a forum for the tourism ministry and its agencies to have "thought-provoking" interaction with a dynamic group of industry experts and leaders.

Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association (JHTA) President, Omar Robinson, for his part, said the entity fully endorses this seminar "for the huge benefit it will bring for the entire industry".

The Tourism Outlook Seminar, which was first staged in 2008, is expected to be attended by local, regional and international delegates.


Ambassador Marks tells Jamaicans to become US citizens

By Harold Bailey, Jamaica Observer, New York, USA — Jamaica's Ambassador to the United States Audrey Marks on Saturday urged her compatriots here who qualify to "take steps to become citizens of the US" as one way of stemming the high deportation numbers, especially among young males with little or no concrete connections to Jamaica.

She said that there had been a "dramatic increase in deportations" from the US since the enactment of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.

Delivering the keynote address at the Jamaica Diaspora 2016 Trailblazer Awards, in Queens, Marks noted that over 20,000 Jamaicans had been deported from the US in the past decade. Jamaica also received the highest share of individuals deported from the USA on criminal grounds, with those convicted of criminal offences accounting for around 90 per cent of deportees.

In contrast, Marks said, nearly 90 per cent of those deported from all other countries — mainly Canada and the United Kingdom — during the period were deported for reasons unrelated to violent crimes, mostly for illegal immigration and drug-related offenses.

In addition to becoming citizens, Marks also challenged Jamaican organisations in the States to unite as mentors and protect "marginalised immigrant Jamaican youths from being recruited into criminal activity", adding: "You can put a dent in exporting the crime back to Jamaica. "

Thirty-five individuals and two organisations received awards at the event.


Caribbean countries approve strategy to achieve gender equality by 2030

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (CMC) — The 13th Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean ended here on Friday with delegates, including those from the Caribbean, approving the Montevideo Strategy to achieve gender equality in the region by 2030. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said the Strategy sets out 74 measures for the 10 implementation pillars of the regional agenda on gender.

"This agenda encompasses all the commitments undertaken by the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean regarding women's rights and autonomy, and on gender equality, since the first Regional Conference held in 1977 through the present," ECLAC said.

It said the first five implementation pillars of the strategy approved are normative framework – equality and rule of law; Institutions – multidimensional and integrated policies of gender equality; Popular and citizen participation -democratization of policy and society; State capacity-building and–strengthening: public administration based on equality and non-discrimination; and Financing – mobilizing sufficient and sustainable resources for gender equality.


A Donald Trump Presidency Could Backtrack On US Relations With Cuba

WASHINGTON, United States, Wednesday October 26, 2016 – Donald Trump has criticized the Barack Obama administration's move to normalize relations with Cuba as a "very weak agreement", and suggested he would roll back some measures if he becomes president.

"Would you break off diplomatic relations, though, on day one?" CBS4's Jim Defede asked Trump.

"I would do whatever you have to do to get a strong agreement. And people want an agreement. I like the idea of an agreement, but it has to be a real agreement," Trump said.

"Look, Cuba has to treat us fairly and it has to treat the people of Cuba fairly, and the people living here that were from Cuba or their families were from Cuba," he argued.

He said President Obama signed "a very weak agreement. We get nothing. The people of Cuba get nothing, and I would do whatever is necessary to get a good agreement."


CARICOM SG tours farm during Caribbean Week of Agriculture

CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque (3rd left) joined the Premier of the Cayman Islands Hon. Alden McLaughlin (2nd right) on a tour of the CARDI (Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute) Research field on Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, Tuesday. They were accompanied by Cayman Islands Agriculture Minister Mr. Kurt Tibbets (2nd left) and CARDI officials.

The Secretary-General will address the official Opening Ceremony for the 2016 Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) at the Westin Grand Cayman Hotel, Cayman Islands tomorrow. This year's CWA is being held under the theme `Investing in Food and Agriculture'. Participants have been drawn from across the Region as well as Brazil, New Zealand, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samao, Tonga and the Netherlands.

CARDI was established by CARICOM Heads of Government in 1975 to serve the agricultural research and development needs of Member Countries. It strives to improve the quality of lives of Caribbean people through agricultural research and innovation without compromising biodiversity, biosafety, environment sustainability, and human health.


Seat Mix-Up On Caribbean Airlines Lands Passenger In Police Custody

KINGSTON, Jamaica – A Jamaican-born UK citizen is threatening to sue Caribbean Airlines over a seat mix-up landed him in court in Trinidad and Tobago. When Dudley Smith boarded the flight to Barbados at the Norman Manley International Airport he never dreamt that it would lead to his first arrest and detention.

He told the Jamaica Observer that he was wrongly arrested and charged for disruptive behaviour on the flight after he refused to relinquish his seat which appeared to have been mistakenly assigned to another passenger.

Smith said that the night before his August 26 flight, he used the airline' web check-in feature and selected seat 11F. Immediately after, he said he received a confirmation e-mail with the corresponding boarding pass, which he printed the day of the flight.

Having had everything checked and verified at the airline counter, Smith then proceeded to board the aircraft and take his seat. As he settled, he said the problem began.

"I was in my seat for about 10 minutes when I was rudely interrupted by a woman who demanded that I vacate the seat. I showed her my boarding pass and she said she had 11F. I told her that she should sort that out with the crew," Smith recalled, noting that the woman left.

"An air stewardess came and told me to hand over my boarding pass, which I did. She told me that I should vacate the seat and move to 5F. I asked her to give me one cogent reason why I should remove from my seat and also tell me what my rights were. She took the boarding pass, went out of my sight and returned with 11F crossed out in ink and again repeated that I should remove. I told her I believe she has no right to go and do that change. She called in the airport police authority," Smith stated.

When the police personnel arrived, he said, they asked about the problem and he told them the same thing that he told the flight attendant. The security personnel, according to Smith, conferred amongst themselves and requested that he place his bag in the overhead hatch as he was seated at an emergency exit.

He said they questioned his willingness to aide passengers should there be an emergency and left the aircraft when he affirmed his willingness.

The aircraft then left for Trinidad & Tobago, Smith being of the view that the seat matter had been laid to rest.

But it wasn't.

Though nothing was said in the roughly two-and-a-half hours flight enroute to Piarco International Airport, Smith shared that when the aircraft landed, the flight attendant approached him again.

"When the plane was nearly half full in Trinidad, the same stewardess came and again told me to vacate the seat. I told her that I thought the matter was settled in Jamaica and I would like not to be further harassed on the 45-minute leg to Barbados. Another stewardess came and asked me if I am saying that I am not willing to move and I answered yes. I even pointed out to them that they could have taken the seat if they so wished when I went to the restroom, which took about 10 minutes because of a queue. They left," said Smith.

"I got up from seat 11F and was moving towards 5F when I observed that the captain's door was opened and he had some crew. I went a couple feet from them and asked why I am being harassed on the plane but no one answered, so I left and sat in seat 5F," he added.

Shortly after moving, he said, the Trinidad and Tobago airport police boarded the aircraft and instructed him to leave the plane to talk to them on the outside, to which he adhered.

"When I went onto the tarmac, they ordered me to get into the vehicle. He (an officer) said you're not under arrest as yet, or something of the sort. I said ok, fine, because I did not want to get into any ruction with them. As far as I am concerned he was goading me and asking 'why didn't you get out of your seat?'," he recalled of the exchange.

After this exchange, Smith said the officer returned and read him his rights and informed him that he was being charged for disruptive behaviour on a Caribbean Airlines flight.

He was detained until the 29th of August – two-and-a-half days and three nights – when he was brought before a judge.

Senior Criminal Defence Attorney, Trinidadian Sean Cazabon appeared in court on Smith's behalf.

"Obviously there was an incident on the aircraft which led to Smith being charged. He was charged for behaving in a disruptive manner on board a Caribbean Airlines flight. I made legal submission to the court basically saying that I was of the view that the charge was unsubstantiated as there was no evidence to support the charge. I made a preliminary legal submission to court and the court agreed to the submission and the charge was dismissed," Cazabon said when asked about the case.

"The reality is that the other passenger was a white woman and he was a black man. I don't know if that had a role in the way the situation was handled, but Mr Smith was charged, which, to me, was unfounded because Mr Smith remained calm, he never used offensive language, he never threatened anyone, he just stood his ground," Cazabon added.

Anxious to continue his journey, Smith was scheduled to leave the evening after his court appearance but again ran into problems with the airline.

"Further to the humiliation at the Piarco airport on Monday, August 29 where I was booked onto an onward flight to Barbados, I was again checked in, issued with a boarding pass and then turned away at Caribbean Airlines' boarding gate as Caribbean Airlines decided at that point not to cover the cost of the flight to Barbados, though I contended that I had already paid for it," Smith stated.

He said that it was when he purchased another ticket that he was allowed to board the aircraft.

Highlighting that the ordeal has negatively affected him, Smith told the Sunday Observer that he intends to take legal action against the airline.


Study shows Caribbean middle class has grown over past 10 years

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — The middle class in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) nearly doubled in size during the last decade, according to a new study released by the Washington-based Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on Monday. It said that the middle class population now stands at 186 million people "The region experienced a transformation in all sectors," said Héctor Salazar, manager of the social sector of the IDB.

"Between 2002 and 2008 — the years of highest growth of per capita GDP — poverty decreased 11 per cent faster, and the size of the middle class expanded by 35 per cent more than during the period of slower growth after 2008," he added.

The IDB said that although the benefits of the economic growth since 2000 have contributed to the expansion of the middle class, the gains from growth have not been exploited equally by all countries and all age groups. As a result, the region continues being the most unequal in the world, and its children suffer the most from inequality.

"Children have benefited the least from programmes and cash transfers designed to combat extreme poverty, and therefore it is important to direct special attention now to childhood, since that is precisely the stage of life when inequality begins," said Marcos Robles, economist with the Social Sector and co-author of the report.

The prevalence of extreme poverty today among children is three times greater than the prevalence of extreme poverty among the elderly. This constitutes a worsening of the situation of children since, 20 years ago in 1996; the incidence of extreme poverty among children was double the rate of extreme poverty of the elderly.

The study titled "Social Pulse 2016: Realities and Perspectives," also shows that Latin American and Caribbean countries still face an enormous challenge with a broad segment of the population, those whose incomes range between five and 12 US dollars per day, because they are vulnerable to slipping into poverty.

The study explores the contribution of women to the total labour earnings of households, and reports that women's earnings as a percentage of total household labour income have increased from 28 percent in 1996 to 35 per cent in 2014.

"The economic empowerment of women is changing family dynamics and transforming societies in the region," said Suzanne Duryea, economist with the Social Sector and co-author of the report.



Washington, DC - The Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) will present its annual Caribbean American Heritage Awards to nine Caribbean American stalwarts excelling in science, business, advocacy, technology and the arts on Friday, November 18 in Washington, DC. In its 23rd year, the CARAH Awards celebrate the accomplishments of individuals of Caribbean American descent making outstanding contributions to American society and friends of the Caribbean community.

This year's cadre of honorees demonstrate the diverse ways that people of Caribbean descent are shifting narratives in the United States and contributing their intellectual property, artistic talents and business acumen.

"Each year, we seek nominations and do a diligent search for individuals who are making a difference and raising the profile of the Caribbean American community," said ICS founder and president Dr. Claire Nelson. "This year's group of honorees are a true testament to the many ways that Caribbean American people continue to contribute and leave their mark on the American landscape. We are honored that we can highlight these individuals and their extraordinary accomplishments."


Haiti hurricane victims face choice: leave or rebuild

ROCHE-À-BATEAU, Haiti (AFP) — The beach was like paradise. Then Hurricane Matthew turned it into a cemetery of coconut palm trees, with not a house left intact. Facing such devastation, the residents of Chabet, a town in southwestern Haiti, are stuck between leaving or starting from scratch. Hilaire Servilius paces around what was, two weeks ago, a beach of fine sand. Walking amid rocks carried ashore by the powerful waves unleashed by Matthew, he searches in vain for a telephone signal.

"The area is devastated. There's nothing at all left — a person doesn't even have clothes to change into," said the 55-year-old man, his shirt open and ripped at the shoulder.

"I was born here. I spent all my life here but I must leave," he said, gesturing to the spot where his house sat before the ocean swept it away.

To rebuild a home, replant banana trees, the thought is unbearable to him. "I should begin the work all over? But no one knows what could happen again, so why do it?"

Resigned to leaving, Servilius survived living under a plastic sheet. He has no money to pay for transportation. "If I find someone to help me get away, I would say 'Thank you, dear God' for that would be his plan," he said, smiling and pointing a finger to the sky.

On the other side of the road hugging the coast at Chabet, in Roche-a-Bateau, the damage is also significant. The ocean carried everything away when Matthew slammed into Haiti on October 4.


Caribbean countries warned to closely monitor National Insurance Schemes

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — Caribbean countries have been warned that they need to build national awareness of the fiscal risk associated with pension schemes and need for reforms. "At a minimum, the actuarial deficits should be systematically monitored and reported to the public with more frequency and a degree of detail to allow proper evaluation of the fiscal risk," according to a new study released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Since their establishment in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, contribution incomes have exceeded benefit payments and administrative expenses for most countries and the systems have accumulated a large fund.

"The schemes appear relatively sound until about 2017. Thereafter, they are projected to incur substantial deficits and eventually run down their assets, raising the prospects that the government would have to bear a share of the promised pension benefits," the study warned.

"To avoid crowding out other priority expenditures, the authorities could, in the short term, implement parametric reforms that would help offset the impact of demographic pressures. Phasing in these reforms now will prevent a significant buildup of pressures and avoid the need for drastic measures in the future."

The study on National Insurance Scheme Reforms in the Caribbean, notes that National Insurance Schemes (NIS) in the Caribbean are weighed down by population aging, slow economic growth, and high unemployment.

It said as a result of these factors, the NIS's in the region are "projected to run substantial deficits and deplete their assets in the next decades, raising the prospects of government intervention".

The study, part of the IMF Working Papers, notes that population aging is putting increasing pressure on public finances in the Caribbean.

"Long term projections point to continuing unfavourable demographic trends. Thus, pension schemes have become unsustainable. In addition, there is a concern that investment of pension funds may lead to high exposures to government securities."


Marcus Garvey's Criminal Record Being Expunged

KINGSTON, Jamaica – A petition calling on the US government to clear the name of Jamaican National Hero Marcus Garvey failed to get the required support, but the Jamaica government plans to clean up his criminal record at home, along with the records of two other heroes and a noted freedom fighter. Garvey, along with fellow national heroes Samuel Sharpe and Paul Bogle and Maroon Chief, Tacky will have their records expunged.

Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange announced yesterday that Cabinet had approved drafting instructions for legislation to make that possible.

Garvey had been charged for contempt of court and convicted in 1929 for criticizing Jamaica's legal system, which he reportedly described as "oppressive", while calling for laws to "punish judges who acted unfairly". He was fined £100 and sentenced to three months' imprisonment.

Sharpe and Bogle were convicted and hanged for their roles in the 1831/32 Christmas and 1865 Morant Bay rebellions respectively, while Tacky was implicated in the 1760 St. Mary slave revolt.

Grange cited the "widely held" view that the events for which the four were implicated were not criminal acts of rebellion or treason, but rather "acts of liberation with abundant moral justification".

"Consequently, our heroes ought not to have the stain of criminal conviction accompanying their role as national heroes. This Government is of the view…that our heroes should be pardoned by the State as a means of blunting the edge of the sword of injustice and as a symbolic recognition of their struggle," she said.

Consequently, Grange said the administration acknowledged that a statutory pardon/expungement, which originates in Parliament's "supreme" legislative power, is required to "totally absolve them of any criminal wrongdoing", in keeping with Section 90 of the Constitution.

"A statutory pardon would have the effect of saying that our National Heroes did not commit any criminal offence, as the acts cannot be construed as criminal in the first place," the Minister explained.

Grange argued that in light of global lobbies to expunge Garvey's criminal record in the United States, in particular, Jamaica had an opportunity to make a "definitive statement" to the international community by passing the proposed Bill.

"When this legislation is tabled in Parliament, generations to come will look back on that act as a defining moment," she said.

An online petition that opened on August 29 to get US President Barack Obama to pardon Garvey of his mail fraud conviction on the basis of wrongful conviction, failed late last month after it could not attract the required 100,000 signatures to get a response from the White House.

By the time it closed on September 28, it had only received 26,115 signatures.


Jamaica starts coordinating help for Haiti

JAMAICA'S Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) says it is too early to put a monetary estimate on the level of assistance that the country will be providing to Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. This, as Haiti is yet to give an initial damage assessment report. The impoverished Caribbean nation was slammed by the devastating Category Four storm between Monday and Tuesday, after sparing Jamaica.

"We don't know what the value of the damage is. Our assistance now would be based on what the donations are," Delmaris Whyte, ODPEM's director of information and training, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

White further explained that any discussion on the matter would have to be raised between the Local Government Ministry and the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).

She also said that it was too soon to quantify the level of participation from the private sector.


Nearly 2 million urged to flee — as Hurricane Matthew barrels towards US

MELBOURNE BEACH, Florida (AP) — Hurricane Matthew marched toward Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, and nearly two million people along the coast were urged to evacuate their homes yesterday, a mass exodus ahead of a major storm packing power that the United States hasn't seen in more than a decade. Matthew was a dangerous and life-threatening Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 120 mph (190 kph) as it passed through The Bahamas, and it was expected to be very near Florida's Atlantic coast by this evening. At least 16 deaths in the Caribbean have been blamed on the storm, with heavy damage reported in Haiti.

The storm was forecast to scrape much of the Florida coast and any slight deviation could mean landfall or it heading farther out to sea. Either way, it was going to be close enough to wreak havoc along the lower part of the East Coast, and many people weren't taking any chances.

In Melbourne Beach, near the Kennedy Space Center, Carlos and April Medina moved their paddle board and kayak inside the garage and took pictures off the walls of their home about 500 feet from the coast. They moved the pool furniture inside, turned off the water, disconnected all electrical appliances and emptied their refrigerator.


CTO pleads for access for the disabled

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – The Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) has made a plea for people living with disabilities to be able to gain equal access and flourish within the tourism industry in the region. In a message marking World Tourism Day 2016 yesterday, CTO Secretary General Hugh Riley said as a region, it is important to be aware that accessibility in tourism is a shared responsibility, which warrants consistent and conscientious effort by all parties involved in the tourism value chain to tourism.

"This requires that countries and destinations – and the industry as a whole – promote accessibility for all in the physical environment, in transport systems, in tourist and business facilities and in the availability of services and opportunities," Riley said.

He said that the CTO was identifying with this year's theme of 'Tourism for All – Promoting Universal Accessibility' since it reminds all stakeholders of "the need to ensure that all persons, including those living with disabilities, have equal access to tourism experiences, tourism business opportunities and employment in the industry".

He said furthermore, the CTO was encouraging its members to invest in the necessary training, improvements to infrastructure and facilities and adoption of the new information communication technologies which are available and can contribute to enhancing both business and destination competitiveness.

"We believe that making tourism more accessible is a moral and social responsibility which speaks to the need to treat everyone with due courtesy, care and consideration.

"We are also confident that the benefits to be gained by countries and businesses that embrace the accessibility for all philosophy, far outweigh the required investments and will result in added value and a competitive advantage in the global tourism market. And it is simply the right thing to do. "


New study finds taxes on labour income lower in Latin America and Caribbean

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — A new study has found that taxes on the labour income of the average worker in Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries totalled 21.7 per cent of total labour costs in 2013. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), said that the new study titled "Taxing Wages in Latin America and the Caribbean," found that the figure was one-third lower than in Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, where the average was 35.9 per cent.

The study found more than 90 per cent of the difference between LAC and OECD is due to personal income tax estimated at 13 per cent of total labour costs.

The new report, covering 20 LAC countries, was produced jointly by the Inter-American Centre of Tax Administrations (CIAT), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Development Centre and the Centre for Tax and Policy Administration.


UN Boss To Assess Guyana-Venezuela Border Dispute Before Departure

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Monday September 26, 2016 — United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has promised to look into the Guyana/Venezuela border dispute before his term of office ends. Speaking at a meeting with Guyana President David Granger on Saturday, Mr Ban said his assessment would most likely be delivered in November.

Granger has committed to providing the Secretary General with any additional information needed to compete the assessment.

"We have been very impressed with the seriousness with which you have approached the problem and your own sincerity… We have been personally convinced that you want to bring closure to this matter," the president told Mr Ban.

Former Commonwealth Secretary General, Guyana-born Sir Shridath Ramphal, and Guyana's Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge also attended the meeting with other officials of Guyana's Foreign Ministry.

Guyana has been trying to persuade the United Nations to recommend a judicial settlement to the longstanding dispute.

At a press conference last week, the Guyana president expressed satisfaction with efforts being made by the UN Secretary General to reach a satisfactory solution to the decades-old border row between the two South American countries.

"I am satisfied with what the Secretary-General has done; I am not satisfied that the Bolivarian Republic [of Venezuela] has acted in good faith. It is clear that much more needs to be done by Venezuela if this matter is to be resolved…


Commonwealth SG backs plans for global agreement on migration

Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland is supporting plans for a global agreement to end the refugee and migration crisis around the world. The global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration is part of the agenda for sustainable development and achieving full respect for the human rights of migrants by 2030. It will be discussed at a round-table event at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

"I would like to commend this initiative of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the UNGA president, Peter Thomson. This high-level plenary meeting is a bold response to forced displacement of populations, which has now become a global crisis that requires our collective effort as the international community," she said.

The Dominican-born secretary general emphasised the importance of nations considering how best to use the mechanisms needed to tackle the crisis, such as economic, political, legal, humanitarian aspects. This year, UN member states will begin the process of intergovernmental negotiations, leading to the adoption of the compact in 2018.

"The Commonwealth will play an important role to ensure that this global compact leaves no one behind, by identifying specific challenges faced by our member states, especially small nations, which represent the majority of our members."


Caricom leaders raise concerns about 'global inequalities' at NAM summit

MARGARITA ISLAND, Venezuela (CMC) – Two Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders have used the just concluded summit of non-aligned countries to highlight concerns affecting their respective countries. Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne called for the "active solidarity" of members of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) in his island's Internet gaming dispute with the United States.

He told the summit that ended here over the last weekend that Washington has failed to offer a fair settlement after the World Trade Organisation (WTO) had ruled 13 years ago that the American action was illegal.

The WTO had ruled that against the United States' total prohibition of cross-border gambling services offered by Antiguan operators.

"To this day, 13 years later, the United States has not put a fair offer on the table,'" Brown said, adding that Washington's failure has "deprived my small country of revenue, employment and economic growth."

He said the Antigua and Barbuda has been deprived of about US$250 million since the ruling.

"How do small and micro states get justice when powerful nations refuse to co-operate?" Brown asked.

He said his country has begun to seriously consider selling US material without paying copyright to the value of US$12 million a year until Washington finally settles the dispute.


China offers US$100 million in aid for refugees

    Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (Photo: AFP)
UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) — China on Monday pledged US$100 million in humanitarian aid to address the world's biggest refugee crisis and said a US$1-billion fund it has set up with the United Nations could also be used for that purpose.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made the pledge at the first-ever UN summit on refugees and migrants, called to agree on an international response to the displacement crisis.

"China attaches great importance to and has taken an active part in addressing this issue," Li told the gathering.

"We are committed to shouldering our responsibilities compatible with our abilities," he added.

The premier announced US$100 million in humanitarian aid "on top of previous pledges" and said his government was considering "setting aside the China-UN Peace and Development Fund to help countries with that effort".

China announced the creation of the US$1-billion fund last year to support the work of the United Nations over the next 10 years.

Li described the plight of refugees suffering from hunger and disease as "a serious shock to the human conscience" and said "the spirit of humanitarianism must be carried forward".

World governments gathered at the United Nations adopted a political declaration that calls for upholding the dignity of refugees.


UN holds first-ever summit on refugees and migrants

UNITED NATIONS, United States (AP) — The issue of what to do about the world's 65.3 million displaced people takes centre stage at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly today when leaders from around the globe converge on New York for the first-ever summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants.

With more people forced to flee their homes than at any time since World War II, leaders and diplomats are expected to approve a document aimed at unifying the UN's 193 member states behind a more coordinated approach that protects the human rights of refugees and migrants.

"It's very interesting, because if we are able to translate that paper into a response in which many actors are going to participate, we will solve a lot of problems in emergency responses and in long-term refugee situations like the Syrian situation," Fillipo Grandi, the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees told The Associated Press.

That may prove an uphill struggle, however, as the document is not legally binding and comes at a time that refugees and migrants have become a divisive issue in Europe and the United States.


US congressman demands dismissal of cop in killing of Jamaican youth

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) – A United States congressman is demanding the dismissal of a white New York Police Department (NYPD) officer who allegedly shot and killed a Jamaican youth in his home four years ago. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, a member of the US Congressional Black Caucus leadership and US House of Representative's Judiciary Committee wants the NYPD to dismiss officer Richard Haste in connection with the death of Ramarley Graham.
Haste had shot Graham in the bathroom of his Bronx home. Jeffries is also demanding that the NYPD dismiss another officer, Daniel Pantaleo, who has been linked to the death of African American Eric Garner in 2014.

Standing on the steps of City Hall in Lower Manhattan with the mothers of the two deceased, Jeffries said "the administration's coddling of police officers like Daniel Pantaleo and Richard Haste, both of whom took the life of innocent, unarmed African-American men, is unacceptable and unconscionable".

The Congressman said Haste chased18-year-old Graham, the son of Jamaican immigrants, into his home and shot him to death "a decision a prosecutor called "neither reasonable or justifiable".

Jeffries said that Pantaleo, "an officer with a history of disciplinary issues, asphyxiated Mr Garner on a side walk in Staten Island in 2014, irrespective of Mr Garner declaring 11separate times that he could not breathe.

Jeffries said both officers have retained their taxpayer-funded jobs and "enjoyed significant increases in pay since the horrific deaths of both victims".

"The majority of New York City police officers are hardworking public servants who are in the community to protect and serve. However, those police officers who cross the line and take the life of innocent civilians without justification must be held accountable, not rewarded with overtime and bonus pay."

Last year, Jeffries said officer Haste received nearly US$25,000 in raises, stating that Haste earned a salary of about US$76,000 in the 2015 fiscal year and received over US$2,000 in overtime pay and $10,147 in "other pay".


US official wants Caribbean nationals help to shape foreign policy

NEW YORK, USA (CMC) — A top United States official is calling on Caribbean nationals in the United States to help shape Washington's foreign policy. "Our diversity is our strength and it needs to move faster," said Juan Gonzalez, deputy assistant secretary for Central America and the Caribbean at the US Department of State, as he addressed a panel discussion on the Caribbean Diaspora at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York.

The event, which examined the social and economic problems facing Caribbean nations, was organized by Medgar Evers College and the US Department of State.

It represented the first-ever partnership between the college in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn and the US Department of State to "underscore the deep connections between the US and the Caribbean," according to Medgar Ever College.

"I would encourage you to join us and to help show how our foreign policy is designed," said Gonzalez, one of the three panellists.

The others were Lowell Hawthorne, the Jamaican-born president and chief executive officer of Golden Crust Caribbean Bakery and Grill, and Dr Sheilah Paul, Associate Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Education at Medgar Evers College, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago.

The discussion was moderated by Tony Best, the Barbadian-born senior editor at New York's Carib News newspaper. Gonzalez said extant US policy towards the Caribbean surrounds education, security and energy security, lamenting that the Caribbean pays more than the rest of the world for energy.

"If we can help the Caribbean, it'll have implications for the world," he said. On exchange, Gonzalez said the goal is to have 100,000 students study in the Caribbean, stating that President Obama earlier this year launched the Young Future Leaders initiative to aid, among others, Caribbean young scholars.

The State Department official said the US has a "special interest in the Caribbean," which is aimed at seeing "prosperity and security" in the region thrive, disclosing that Washington has provided US$427million to the Caribbean since 2011.

"The Caribbean Diaspora is an incredible force," Gonzalez said, adding "the community here can have an impact on the Caribbean."

He said that he migrated to the US, when he was only seven years old, adding that "this country affords lots of opportunities." Gonzalez said the Caribbean Diaspora can influence US foreign policy in much the same way as the Colombian American community.


Former New Zealand PM seeking CARICOM support as the next secretary General of the United Nations

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark is lobbying Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries as she seeks to replace Ban Ki-moon as the next secretary general of the United Nations. Clark, the Administrator for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is considered the front runner among the 12 candidates vying to replace the diplomat who is ending his second consecutive five-year term of office at the end of the year.

Clark, who is here for the launch of the UNDP Caribbean Human Development Report (HDR) 2016, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that coming from a "small country" she would be fully aware of the problems facing small island states like those in the Caribbean.

"From a Caribbean perspective, you would know that you have an in-coming Secretary General who is very immersed in the issues of the small island developing states.

"As a New Zealander I come out of a region where the majority of nations are small island developing states with a number of issues and challenges to those of the Caribbean, not entirely identical…but certainly an immersion in the issues and development solutions," she told CMC.

The UN established in the wake of World War II in 1945, has had eight secretaries general in its more than 70 years of existence — all of them have been men.

Last week, the outgoing Secretary General said he should be replaced by a woman, noting that it is "high time" a woman lead the multinational organisation.

"We have many distinguished and eminent women leaders in national governments or other organizations or even business communities, political communities, and cultural and every aspect of our life," Ban told the Associated Press, adding "there's no reason why not in the United Nations."

Ban also argued his successor should be able to represent minorities.


Caribbean countries urged to do more to tackle cyber-crime

BASSETERRE, St Kitts (CMC) – A senior official of the accounting firm, Deloitte's Global, says despite increased improvements in technology in Latin America and the Caribbean, the region remains highly vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Delivering the Prime Minister's Independence Lecture Series Monday as part of the activities to celebrate the 33rdanniversary of St Kitts and Nevis' independence from Britain, is Deloitte's Global Chief Information Officer, Larry Quinlan, said "there is a price to be paid for all the unfettered computing and it's called cyber security.

"It is a concern that will continue to grow worldwide and one that threatens to engulf us in developing countries if we're not careful," he said.

Making reference to the 2016 Cyber security Report produced by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Organization of American States (OAS), the Deloitte executive said "four out of every five countries in the region do not have a cyber security strategy or plans for protecting critical infrastructure.

"Two out of every three countries do not have a command and control center for cyber security and a large number of prosecutors lack the capacity to punish cyber criminals," Quilan said, adding that cyber-crime has now gone well beyond the electronic mail people used to receive requesting bank account details.

He said the situation now strikes at the heart of businesses and governments, having become far more sophisticated and having the capability of destabilizing institutions.


US envoy wants to be known as the 'Billion-Dollar Ambassador'

United States Ambassador Luis G Moreno believes that Jamaica can have a fully developed economy that provides prosperity for all its citizens by 2030, the target date for Vision 2030, Jamaica's long-term development plan to make the country the 'place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business'.

"The foundation is already here — a well-integrated service sector with a well-educated and industrious workforce," Moreno said, adding: "Reducing the burden of security and corruption, which experts estimate eat up almost 20 per cent of business budgets, will unleash the capital for investment and higher wages."

Ambassador Moreno was speaking at last week's Jamaica-US Bilateral Relations Forum held at the Regional Headquarters of the University of the West Indies (UWI). The forum focused on a report from the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) entitled 'Dialogues Between Democracies: The Future of US-Jamaica Bilateral Relations'.

The report from CaPRI covered areas such as enhancing security; emboldening democratic governance; increasing trade and investment; enabling health and prosperity; endorsing full and equal citizenship; and strengthening partnerships.


Claims of injustice, racism as UK deports 42 Jamaicans

(jamaica observer) Despite a protest staged outside the Jamaican High Commission in London Tuesday, the British Government deported 42 Jamaicans amid claims that they were tricked and that the expulsions were unjust. The deportees, some carrying only one bag of personal possessions, arrived in Kingston on a chartered flight yesterday morning and were taken to Mobile Reserve, the police unit at Merrion Road, where they were processed before being released to anxious relatives.

Most hid their faces on release, except for one irate middle-aged man. He accused the British authorities of "using racism and bullyism" to effect the deportations and blamed the Jamaican Government of being a "sell-out".

He said he was sent back to Jamaica over a "few bags of weed", but argued that the British "rob and rape the world and no one is holding them responsible for that".

"I'm a Rasta man, what do you expect of me? I smoke it," he said in reference to marijuana.

He said he had already completed over four months of his nine-month sentence, but that the immigration authorities held him for another four months. "Then dem just say time to deport you. I appealed everything, and they turned down everything and pushed it aside," he told journalists.


Island Routes to host first Caribbean attractions conference

MORE than 50 of the Caribbean's top attractions providers will gather in Jamaica later this month to discuss industry challenges and opportunities for growth and development when Island Routes Caribbean Adventures hosts its inaugural Island Routes Certified Partner Conference.

Slated for Sandals Ochi Beach Resort from September 13 - 16, the conference will feature presentations from Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett; director of the Centre for Tourism and Policy and Carlton Alexander chair in management studies, Professor Ian Boxill; and Tara Lano, director of product planning and promotions, Leisure, Flight Centre, USA — one of the world's largest travel companies and retail travel outlets.

The revolutionary event is spearheaded by Island Routes' Chief Executive Officer Adam Stewart, who said the conference will allow stakeholders to collectively assess the state of the industry and discuss possible solutions for existing challenges.

"This is an exciting billion-dollar industry, not just for Jamaica, but for the entire region. Numerous opportunities exist, but there are also many challenges. This conference will provide a platform for this growing community to come together, share ideas, discuss the difficulties and determine how, as a region, we can overcome these and better position ourselves to take advantage of all the available opportunities," Stewart said.

As a five-time recipient of the World Travel Award for the World's Leading Caribbean Attraction Company, Island Routes is a respected authority within the sector and this conference represents its newest initiative to support attractions providers across the region.

The company will also use the opportunity to launch its Island Routes Certified Partner Programme to demonstrate its continued commitment to delivering first-class service to its customers, and to show recognition for the strict operational standards maintained by its partners.


US politician condemns shootings at West Indian Day Carnival

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) – Brooklyn Council member Jumaane Williams says United States law enforcement authorities need to deal with the "chronic violence" now affecting the J'ouvert celebrations which precedes the grand West Indian American Day Carnival Parade.

"I'm sure people are not paying attention on days when there's no J'ouvert," said Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants and the representative for the predominantly Caribbean 45thCouncil District in Brooklyn.

Police said four people were shot, two of them fatally, during the Caribbean J'ouvert in Brooklyn.

The two killed were Trinidadian Tyreke Borel, 17, who was shot in the chest, and Tiarah Poyau, 22, who died after being shot in the face.

Police also said a 72-year-old woman and a 20-year-old man were also shot in the J'ouvert gunfire, but both were expected to survive.

Assistant Chief Patrick Conry, the Brooklyn chief of detectives, said they may have been unintended targets.

Civil rights activist, the Rev Al Sharpton, said the "great history" of the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade must not be disregarded by violence.

He said the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade must not be judged by gun violence but by the huge number of people who converge on the Parkway.

Officials said about three million people from around the world converged Monday on Eastern Parkway for arguably the largest carnival parade in North America.

"Let it be the last that we have to mourn as we celebrate," said Sharpton, while New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio agreed with Sharpton, saying "we will not let a few who turn to violence [disturb] the peace.

"We will not accept any violence. We're not happy with what happened last night. We still have to work hard. Every day is to serve the community – to get the guns off the streets. We will not rest until we get that change," he added.


CARICOM congratulates Trinidad and Tobago on 54th Independence anniversary

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Wednesday August 31, 2016 – The oil-rich Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago is celebrating its 54th Anniversary of Independence today. And in a congratulatory message to the government and people of the twin-island republic, CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque thanked the country for its economic success that has benefited the entire region.

"Having been a founding member of the Community, Trinidad and Tobago has made and continues to make significant contributions to the promotion of regional integration. CARICOM benefits from the leadership on energy and security issues for which you, Prime Minister, have portfolio responsibilities in the Quasi Cabinet of the Conference of Heads of Government," he said.

"The Community looks forward to Trinidad and Tobago's continued support for and commitment to the integration process as your country and the Region progress on the path to sustainable development."

Ambassador LaRocque added that the country's achievements in various fields, including sports and culture, have served to make its people "justly proud".

Meantime, in his first Independence message since becoming Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley said he was convinced Trinidad and Tobago's future is bright, despite the current economic challenges.

"We are all aware of the fall in oil and gas prices, the resources upon which our country is heavily dependent for needed revenue. We find ourselves at a crucial point in our development when we are being asked to make some tough choices," he said.


Canada partners with PAHO to reduce disaster risks in Caribbean health sector

RIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — Canada is providing $3 million (US$2.28 million) to help the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reduce the health consequences of emergencies and disasters in the Caribbean. PAHO said that the grant will aid in improving preparedness for emergencies and making the health sector more resilient to climate change.

The new funds, from Global Affairs Canada's Caribbean Regional Programme, will support the health sector components of the Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Programme over the next four years.

"The Caribbean islands are especially vulnerable to the impact of hurricanes, floods, seismic events and other natural hazards as a result of their geography, small size, limited resources, and dense populations," PAHO said.

"The islands are also disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, particularly rising sea levels, coastal erosion and salt water intrusion, as well as possible intensification of severe weather events," it said, adding that this vulnerability has "special implications for the health sector, whose facilities and staff are themselves vulnerable to disasters and emergencies while also bearing the responsibility of providing essential health services during and after emergencies."

PAHO said most hospitals in the Caribbean score between 14 and 77 per cent on its Hospital Safety Index, indicating that patients and hospital staff are at risk during disasters and that these facilities may not be able to continue functioning fully during such events.


Obama presses Congress for Zika funding as worries grow

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) – US President Barack Obama called on Congress Saturday to step up funding to combat the Zika virus, warning that delay is putting more Americans at risk. Obama's latest appeal, in his weekly radio address, came the day after the US authorities expressed deepening worry about the spread of the mosquito-borne virus, urging that all donated blood be tested for Zika.

The Congress has denied past administration requests for Zika funding, instead redirecting funds that had been earmarked to fight Ebola, cancer and other diseases.

"That's not a sustainable solution," Obama said. The delay for more funds "puts more Americans at risk."

Congress "should treat Zika like the threat that it is" and "fully fund our Zika response," he added. "A fraction of the funding won't get the job done. You can't solve a fraction of a disease."

Zika infections in pregnant women can cause a severe birth defect known as microcephaly, in which babies develop abnormally small skulls and brains.

More than 2,500 people in the United States have been diagnosed with Zika, along with more than 9,000 in Puerto Rico and other US territories, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most of those cases were brought in by people infected while traveling abroad.

There are 584 pregnant women on the US mainland with lab evidence of Zika infection, and 812 in the US territories.


Haiti launches programme to deal with HIV/AIDS among young population

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) – Haiti has launched a programme aimed at sensitising young people about the HIV/AIDS virus. The project is being co-funded by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and UNAIDS and will target young people between the ages 15 to 30 mainly from the west, center and south Haiti where the epidemic is most widespread.

"I believe in the youth of Haiti, because you believe in the future of this beautiful country. We want you as ambassadors to address the problem of HIV juvenilisation, growth of sexual violence and the increase in early pregnancy," said Sandra Honoré, the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations.

Figures released here show that over 15,500 young people aged 15 to 24 are living with HIV, with 61 per cent being females.


Hurricane Gaston expected to weaken in the Atlantic

MIAMI, Florida (AP) — Hurricane Gaston is expected to weaken to a tropical storm in the Atlantic. The US National Hurricane Center says the storm's maximum sustained winds early Thursday are near 75 mph (120 kph) with weakening forecast during the next day or so. The hurricane is centred about 1,225 miles (1,970 kilometres) east of the Leeward Islands and is moving northwest near 17 mph (28 kph).

Meanwhile in the Pacific, Tropical Storm Lester formed far off Mexico's coast. The storm's maximum sustained winds are near 40 mph (65 kph). Additional strengthening is forecast and Lester could become a hurricane in a few days.


WANTED: Volunteers Willing To Be Infected With the Zika Virus

NEW YORK, United States, Monday August 22, 2016 – Zika is an unorthodox virus, transmittable through mosquito bites, sexual intercourse and blood. Therefore, it only seems natural that researchers are taking unorthodox methods to combat the virus, and they are now looking for people who are willing to be infected to help in their efforts to combat it.

Yes, that's right, the very virus that was once viewed as a mere nuisance — until it was found to be linked to a birth defect that affects a fetus' brain — just under a year ago could soon be injected in willing participants in order to accelerate the development of a much-needed vaccine.

Researchers in the U.S. are already in the midst of safety-testing two vaccine candidates, and more experimental shots are poised to enter that preliminary testing soon. Any that appear promising will be tested in parts of Latin America and the Caribbean that are hard-hit by the mosquito-borne virus.

However this approach, while reliable, also has two significant weaknesses: First, testing experimental vaccines in this manner is the only way to see if it really works. If it doesn't, then not only did researchers waste time, but money as well. Second, in the chance that it does work, researchers would still have a long road ahead of them to make the vaccine readily available for the public.

This is where this avenue of research comes in. Called a human challenge study — when healthy and non-pregnant people agree to be deliberately injected with a virus, mimicking natural infection while scientists track how their bodies react.


Caribbean countries warned to prepare for major quake

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – An earthquake with a magnitude of 4.0 rattled three Caribbean islands on Friday, but there were no immediate reports of damages or injuries. The Trinidad-based Seismic Research Centre (SRC) of the University of the West Indies (UWI) said that the quake, which occurred at 3.21 am (local time) occurred near Dominica,Antigua and Barbuda and the French island of Guadeloupe.

It said the quake was located at latitude: 16.05N, longitude: 61.15W at a depth of 12 kilometres(km) and that it was felt 48 km south-east of Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, 87 km north-northeast of Roseau, Dominica and 141 km south-east of St John's, Antigua and Barbuda.

Caribbean countries have, in recent months, been rattled by earthquakes and SRC officials here have warned regional countries to be prepared for a major quake.


Usain Bolt Ends Olympic Career As A Legend

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, Saturday August 20, 2016 – If there were any doubts about his status as the greatest sprinter of all time, Usain Bolt erased them last night when he helped Jamaica win the 4x100m relay to complete the first "triple triple" in Olympic history.

Bolt, who turns 30 tomorrow, ended his Olympics career in Rio, Brazil, having never lost a final at an Olympic Games. He is the first person to get gold in the 4x100m, 100m and 200m at three consecutive Olympic Games.

"There you go, I'm the greatest," Bolt told reporters afterwards. "I'm going to stay up late and have fun. I never knew this would happen when I started out."


Caribbean Diaspora join campaign to exonerate Marcus Garvey

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) – A number of United States-based Caribbean organisations have joined a campaign to exonerate Jamaica's first national hero, Marcus Garvey. The Washington-based Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS), said Caribbean Diaspora organisations signing on the campaign include Caribbean Georgia; Caribbean American Advancement Foundation; Caribbean Political Action Committee; Foundation for the Exoneration of Marcus Garvey; Jamaica Association of Maryland; Jamaica Nationals Association; and Rebuild Dominica.

"The campaign offers an unprecedented opportunity for engagement among civil rights actors, research and education institutions, and the Caribbean Diaspora community," said Jamaican Dr Claire Nelson, ICS founder and president.

During the 100-day campaign, Nelson said Caribbean Diaspora organisations will, among other things, organise cultural expositions, fora and lectures "to shed light on the legacy of Garvey and provide support for this effort to right a wrong".

Nelson said this "wrong" has "long been a thorn in the side of people of African descent and especially Caribbean Americans, whose ancestors immigrated to the US through Ellis Island (in New York) almost 100 years ago".

Nelson said the campaign builds on activities, over the past two decades, organised by the Universal Negro Improvement Association that was founded by Garvey; the Foundation for the Exoneration of Marcus Garvey; the National Association of Jamaican and Supportive Organizations; and ICS, among others.

Nelson said that Garvey's family will hold a press conference later on Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington "to formally announce their petition to the White House for a posthumous Presidential Pardon".

She said the Garvey family, under the leadership of Dr Julius W Garvey, a medical doctor and youngest son of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, and several lawyers who have been advising the family on a pro bono basis and others will celebrate Garvey's birthday and kick off of the campaign in support of the petition.

Nelson said the press conference is expected to be attended by leaders of the Caribbean Diaspora and several US Congressional Black Caucus members, "who are joining the call for Garvey's name to be cleared of the 1923 charges with a Presidential Pardon".

In Jamaica, Nelson said celebrations for the birthday will begin with a floral tribute at the National Heroes Park in Kingston, the capital, to be attended by the governor general and political leaders.

She said that, on June 24, Julius W Garvey, Harvard University Law Professor Charles Ogletree and others "submitted a petition requesting a presidential pardon be granted to Marcus Mosiah Garvey to exonerate his 1923 mail fraud charge".

"A pardon is being called for on the grounds that Marcus Garvey was targeted by the US government and J Edgar Hoover [the late, former US Attorney General] for his political activity as a leader of the Pan-African movement," Nelson said.


More than 200 confirmed cases of Zika virus in T&T

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) – Trinidad and Tobago health authorities said that the country now has 254 confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. The Ministry of Health in a statement noted that the number of Zika positive pregnancies stands at 78.

It said the figures were released after consultation with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and that while four of five infected persons will not show any symptoms of the virus, only 'high risk' cases are confirmed by the Trinidad-based regional agency.

The Ministry of Health said that it would continue to intensify its efforts to monitor and manage the virus that is spread by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which is also responsible for the disease such as dengue and Chikungunya.


A new Jamaican champion makes her mark in Olympic 100 meters

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, Sunday August 14, 2016 – Jamaica won the English-speaking Caribbean's first medals at the Olympic Games in Rio last night – gold and bronze – in a highly-anticipated women's 100m final. Elaine Thompson's gold-winning run saw her dethroning two-time champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and ending her compatriot's hopes of a hat-trick of 100m titles.

When the race began, all eyes were on Fraser-Pryce, and not only because of her gold and green dyed hair. She was seeking to become the first woman in track to win three consecutive Olympic gold medals in the event.

But her training partner, 24-year-old Thompson, turned what was supposed to be one of the most competitive races on the Olympic programme into a stroll. Running at the halfway mark with Fraser-Pryce a.k.a Pocket Rocket and Tori Bowie of the United States, Thompson pulled away over the last half and finished in 10.71 seconds, just 0.01 seconds outside her personal best.

"When I crossed the line and glanced across to see I was clear, I didn't know how to celebrate," the new sprint queen said.


Cybercrime Bill not meant to stifle free speech says Gonsalves

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC) — Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has brushed aside suggestions that he is seeking to stifle free expression in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Gonsalves, speaking on a radio programme here on Tuesday, also dismissed remarks that the Cybercrime Bill — which is now before the Parliament — is designed to protect him and other members of the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP).

"That's absolute rubbish," Gonsalves said. "I am telling you and the facts show that this is a regional effort with assistance from consultancies outside of the region and this process has started since 2013."

Gonsalves said that consultations were held in St Vincent and the Grenadines over two days with various stakeholders.


Bolt Big in Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, Wednesday August 10, 2016 – A veteran Brazilian journalist says that Usain Bolt is more popular than all of Brazil's top sports personalities, including Pele, Formula One champion Ayrton Senna, and current football star Neymar.

But the Jamaican's unmatched popularity is not because he is the greatest sprinter of all time – it's due to his personality.

"Usain Bolt is an international world phenomenon, not only of sports, but also [because of] his communication with the crowd. He is like a master of ceremony of athletics and sports overall," Claudio Nogueira told the Jamaica Observer.

Nogueira is covering his fourth Olympic Games with SporTV, a part of the powerful Globo Group of companies, which has the broadcast rights for the games. He has been a journalist with O'Globo since 1987.

"Bolt is more popular than Neymar. Neymar does not have such a good relationship with the media, although it's not a specific problem of Neymar, but his generation of Brazilian football players," Nogueira said. "He needs to be more humble, and if Neymar can be more humble he would be more of a star in Brazil."

He said that, in general, Brazilians are poor people who don't take kindly to people flashing their wealth around.


Power Outage Leaves Airline Passengers Worldwide Stranded

LONDON, United Kingdom, Tuesday August 9, 2016 – Thousands of air passengers around the world have been left stranded after a power cut forced the US airline Delta to suspend flights. The incident caused delays across the US and in Japan, Italy and the UK. Airport check-in systems, passenger advisory screens, the airline's website and smartphone apps were affected by the systems failure on Monday.

Flights resumed six hours later but Delta warned of continuing delays as a backlog of passengers was cleared.

The airline suspended or cancelled dozens of departures early on Monday, with airport agents forced to write out boarding passes by hand.

By Monday evening, Delta said more than 740 flights had been cancelled but its computer systems were working again.

The airline serves about 180 million customers a year, employing over 80,000 people, its website says.

It is the latest carrier to suffer computer problems, with Southwest Airlines last month forced to cancel more than 2,000 flights after an outage prevented travellers checking in. (BBC)


US congratulates Jamaica on anniversary of independence

WASHINGTON, DC, USA (CMC) – The United States has extended congratulations to Jamaica on its 54th anniversary of political independence from Great Britain, saying that it considers Jamaica a "close friend and partner". Jamaica celebrated its independenec on Saturday, August 6.

"On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Jamaica as you celebrate the 54th anniversary of your nation's independence," said US Secretary of State John Kerry in a statement on Saturday. "The United States considers Jamaica a close friend and strong partner. Your vibrant democratic institutions, independent judiciary and robust parliamentary system set a positive example throughout our hemisphere."

Kerry said the United States is "proud of the work our countries are doing to fight crime and promote stability and prosperity in the region, particularly through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative".

"Together, we are also building on the success of last spring's US-Caribbean-Central American Energy Summit to create a more affordable, sustainable, and clean energy future," he said. "And we continue to support the principles of social inclusion, diversity and tolerance through programmes such as 'FiWi Jamaica'.

"On this joyous day, I send warm wishes for peace and happiness in the year ahead," the US secretary of state said.


Caribbean fishing industry at risk

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — The lead researcher at a US-based environmental research unit has called for urgent action to ensure the future sustainability of the fishing industry in the Caribbean. Aylin Ulman, from the Sea Around Us — a research initiative at the University of British Columbia — also warned that the marine environment of local communities in the Turks and Caicos Islands and the rest of the Caribbean are being threatened as marine catches have been "drastically under-reported".

According to a report published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Marine Science, Ulman said actual catches on the islands were an alarming 86 per cent higher than that reported to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and this has very troubling implications.

This has prompted Ulman and her team to call for urgent action from policymakers.

In making specific reference to the Turks and Caicos Islands, Ulman said fishing has historically been the main industry there and in some areas, up to 75 per cent of locals are involved in the fishing industry. The rise in tourism is creating more demand for locally caught seafood and is placing increasing pressure on local marine life.

However, she noted that the data passed on to the FAO are incorrect because they only account for commercial catches that will be exported, and do not include seafood caught and consumed by locals and tourists on the islands. This can put future stocks at risk.

"DEMA (The Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs) has done a great job of monitoring fish sold to the country's fish plants," said Ulman.


Caribbean countries observing Emancipation Day

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries were on Monday observing Emancipation Day with a national holiday and calls for the population of the region to reflect on the social, economic and political progress achieved since slavery had been abolished in 1834.

At least four Caricom countries in separate messages urged their citizens not to rest on their laurels and continue to work towards the development of their respective countries and the region as a whole.

Jamaica's Prime Minister Andrew Holness said the occasion provides for an opportunity to reflect on the heroism, awe-inspiring courage and indomitable will of our forebears, as well as the legacy they have bequeathed to Jamaicans.

"The daring of those who were insistent in demanding their dignity; their resoluteness in struggling against their dehumanisation and their freshness of vision in imagining a new kind of life, must elicit the deepest admiration in us, their successors.

"We are heirs of a great and noble tradition of struggle for justice and human rights. The boldness of Nanny of the Maroons; the fortitude of Tacky and the moral fierceness of Sam Sharpe must illuminate our own path as we trod this road to the full economic emancipation of our people.

"We must draw on the rich reservoir of our history to drive our actions today. We are emancipated from the shackles of chattel slavery, but there are still some chains which hold us back. We must rid ourselves of them and break free," Holness added.

His Antigua and Barbuda counterpart, Gaston Browne, recalled that the Jamaican National hero Marcus Garvey who visited Antigua in October 1937, "encapsulated the philosophical underpinning of our motivation" in understanding the "storm of subjugation by evolving and shaping new norms that have defined us culturally and politically".

He said the late Jamaican reggae icon Bob Marley echoed Garvey's thinking when he sang, "none but ourselves can free our minds" from the wounds of slavery and injustice to build a new Antigua and Barbuda and Caribbean.

"Our emancipation is therefore ongoing, as our people continue to explore new strategies and mechanisms designed to make life and living better for all our citizens. It is the task of each one of us to think big, aim high and strive for greater productivity in our blessed state of Antigua and Barbuda," Browne said.

He told citizens that over the past 182 years, "we have risen from the 'ruin and rubble of colonialism and political subjugation' to independence, economic and social transformation.

"Our economic situation in Antigua and Barbuda, despite our limited resources and small population, has grown from strength to strength with few setbacks caused primarily by exogenous shocks. We are determined to evolve into an economic powerhouse under my stewardship as prime minister.

"Since Emancipation, our economy has moved from sugar and cotton production to one that is service-based, relying on tourism, financial services, construction, agriculture/fisheries, and government services," Prime Minister Browne added.


Business leaders lauded for participation in Caricom review

MINISTER of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith has commended business leaders for participating in the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Review Commission. Johnson Smith also lauded the leaders for their demonstrated interest to ensure that Jamaica's path to realising economic growth and job creation is "well cemented" with the nations closest to the island.

The minister, who was speaking at the third meeting of the commission Tuesday at the ministry's New Kingston offices, indicated that a lot of interest has been generated in the work of the commission.

That interest, the minister said, is not only coming from persons locally, but also regionally and internationally. The Caricom Review Commission is the brainchild of Prime Minister Andrew Holness. It has been tasked to examine Jamaica's role in the regional bloc and how it has impacted the country's development.

Topical issues such as trade practices; the treatment of Jamaicans travelling to other Caricom countries; contrasts emerging between Caricom's strategies and goals and those of individual countries, and how these can be reconciled, are also to be explored.


Florida probes four suspected non-travel cases of Zika

MIAMI, United States (AFP) – Florida is investigating two new cases of Zika virus that may not involve people infected while traveling outside the United States, bringing the state's total number of such cases to four, officials said Wednesday. If any of the cases are confirmed, it would mark the first time that mosquitoes carrying the virus are known to be present in the continental United States.

Zika is spread via mosquitoes and by sexual contact. If pregnant women are infected they face a higher risk of bearing an infant with microcephaly, a birth defect that causes an abnormally small head.

"The department is expanding its ongoing investigations with two additional possible non-travel-related Zika virus cases in Miami-Dade and Broward counties," the Florida Department of Health said in a statement.

TUESDAY, JULY 26, 2016

First medical marijuana dispensary to open in Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (AP) — The first medical marijuana dispensary in Florida is slated to open. Trulieve, the approved organisation in northwest Florida, is set to open a dispensary in Tallahassee on Tuesday, one week after being given dispensing authorisation by Florida's health department.

The state's Office of Compassionate Use, which was formed to oversee state regulation of medical marijuana, projects that there will be dispensing locations in 19 cities by the time all six organisations are up and running.

The Legislature gave limited approval to medical marijuana in 2014, with many expecting it to be available early in 2015. The process was beset by administrative delays.

Patients suffering from cancer, epilepsy, chronic seizures and chronic muscle spasms can order medical marijuana by contacting their physician, as long as both are in a state registry.

MONDAY, JULY 25, 2016

Jamaica participates in clinical trials for Zika

Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, says Jamaica will shortly be participating in a number of clinical trials in the drive to find a vaccine to treat the Zika Virus (ZIKV). Addressing a Ministry of Health/Southern Regional Health Authority (SRHA) Parish Town Hall Meeting at the Sandy Bank Primary School in St. Elizabeth on July 21, the Minister said Jamaica's participation forms part of an international study and fight against ZIKV.

Dr. Tufton noted that the clinical trials are supported by the World Health Organisaton (WHO).

The Minister pointed out that the vaccine could become available within a year, but in the meantime, more persons and countries will be affected. He added that once the virus gets to its second phase, less people will be affected.

Dr. Tufton also told the gathering that Jamaica is among some 65 countries fighting ZIKV, and Jamaicans must appreciate the fact that the virus will continue to spread for a while.

FRIDAY, JULY 22, 2016

UWI honours T&T PM; Holness to be recognised later this year

Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. the Hon. Keith Rowley, was inducted on Wednesday July 20, into the Prime Minister's Park of Honour located at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona. The park is used to honour UWI graduates who have been or are serving as Heads of Government. The addition of Dr. Rowley's name brings to 17 the number of heads who have been added to the monument at the park.

Dr. Rowley, who is the seventh Prime Minister of the twin-island republic, earned his first degree in Geology and Geography at the Mona Campus before completing a Master's in Volcanic Stratigraphy at the St. Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago. He later obtained a Doctorate in Geology, specialising in Geochemistry.

He thanked the UWI for acknowledging his presence at the institution, adding that he would continue to play his part in ensuring that the institution remains a "star in the crown of the Caribbean nation".


CARICOM Heads of Government endorse Action Plan for Statistics

The necessity to underpin any action towards growth, development and empowerment of the peoples of CARICOM with statistically sound evidence has been the consistent rallying cry of statisticians. Regionally, there is an increasing demand for better data to inform decision-making. But that demand has exposed deficiencies in the statistical offices and has prompted undertakings to better equip statistical offices with the tools, human and otherwise, to do the job.

As the Community looks to strengthen its national statistical systems, CARICOM Heads of Government earlier this month endorsed an Action Plan for Statistics that was developed by the Standing Committee of Caribbean Statisticians. Time-frames of between two and seven years have been allocated for various elements of the Plan.

The Plan supports a regional approach to the development of statistics, and, among other things, will enable the upgrading of the Information and Communications Technology infrastructure and provide overall support to human resource development.

The endorsement of the Plan was made during the 37th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government which was convened in Georgetown, Guyana, 4-6 July.


Zika Epidemic To Last For Years And Could Become Endemic

LONDON, England, Wednesday July 20, 2016 – The Zika virus isn't going anywhere anytime soon, according to experts. They say the epidemic is likely to continue for another two to three years, and in a worst-case scenario could become endemic in Latin America.

Scientists from the Medical Research Council Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling at Imperial College London believe the epidemic will end only when the population reaches a stage of "herd immunity," when there are no longer enough uninfected people for transmission of the virus to be sustained.

Once this stage is reached, there would be a long period with few new cases until the emergence of a new generation who had not been exposed to Zika, the researchers said in the journal Science.

Using data modelling, the scientists predicted that the next outbreak would take place in around 10 years' time. And they said slowing the spread of the virus would simply delay the point at which it fizzled out naturally.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika virus a global public health emergency, largely because of the risk to newborns.

TUESDAY, JULY 19, 2016

Discussions between Jamaica and T&T to strengthen bonds – PM Holness

(jis.gov) Bilateral discussions between Jamaica and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago are expected to result in robust initiatives that will lead to increased co-operation, and the promotion of improved trade relations. This is the sentiment expressed by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, who is hosting his Trinidadian counterpart, Dr. the Hon. Keith Rowley, on an official four-day visit.

He noted that the interactions will also facilitate "the sharing of information, experience and best practices for capacity building in our institutions, to better create growth and prosperity in a stable and secure environment."

…In his remarks, Prime Minister Rowley stressed his country's commitment "to treating with the challenges, whatever they might be," noting that as members of CARICOM, Jamaica and Trinidad are family. We are one people with a common purpose, common history and cultural norms that we would defend for ourselves and for each other."

MONDAY, JULY 18, 2016

Jamaica welcomes Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister

(jis.gov) Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. the Hon. Keith Rowley, and Mrs. Sharon Rowley, arrived in Jamaica today (July 17) for a four-day official visit. They were met at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston by a welcoming party led by Prime Minister the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, and Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Senator Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith.

Other members of the local delegation included: Kingston's Mayor, Senator Councillor Dr. Angela Brown Burke; Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Elaine Foster Allen; wife of the Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Juliet Holness; Chief Justice, Hon. Zaila McCalla; and Chief of State Protocol, Ambassador Elinor Felix.

Speaking with journalists, Mr. Holness said the visit aims to strengthen the countries' bilateral relations, noting the strong cultural, commercial, financial and trade links they share.

He said discussions with Dr. Rowley will focus on these areas as well as matters related to security, among others.

Both leaders will also discuss the signing of a Framework Agreement and the establishment of a Joint Commission, currently under negotiation, to provide a structured medium for bilateral discussions and co-operation in areas of mutual interest.

FRIDAY, JULY 15, 2016

HIV infections in Caribbean on the rise

GENEVA, Switzerland (CMC) — The United Nations says HIV infections among adults in the Caribbean has risen, warning also that the decline globally among adults has stalled for at least five years. The Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Prevention Gap Report, issued here on Wednesday, revealed that "after years of steady decline, the Caribbean saw a nine per cent rise among adults".

In launching the report, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé told reporters that new HIV infections among adults and children, globally, have been reduced by 40 per cent since the peak in 1997, but lamented that the decline among adults has stalled for at least five years.

The report revealed that an estimated 1.9 million adults have become infected with HIV every year for at least the past five years, and that new HIV infections among adults are rising in some regions.

The UN said the Caribbean is second to sub-Saharan Africa for the prevalence of HIV infections.

"We are sounding the alarm. The power of prevention is not being realised. If there is a resurgence in new HIV infections now, the epidemic will become impossible to control. The world needs to take urgent and immediate action to close the prevention gap," Sidibé said.

Since the start of the AIDS epidemic 35 years ago, Sidibé said 35 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses and an estimated 78 million people have become infected with HIV.

He said new HIV infections among children have declined by more than 70 per cent since 2001, and were continuing to decline.


US Records First Zika-Related Death as Virus Spreads

UTAH, United States, Thursday July 14, 2016 – A Utah woman infected with the Zika virus has died, and while the exact cause is unclear, authorities said that it marks the first death related to the virus in the continental United States.

The elderly Salt Lake County resident contracted the virus while traveling abroad to an area with a Zika outbreak, health officials said.

According to the Salt Lake County Health Department, the patient also suffered from another health condition.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spokesman Benjamin Haynes said that the patient had Zika symptoms — including rash, fever and conjunctivitis — but it was unclear if or how the virus contributed to her death.

The case was discovered by officials reviewing death certificates, and lab tests confirmed their suspicions, said Gary Edwards, executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department.

Due to health privacy laws, officials would not release further details about the individual or the individual's travel history.

The woman is said to have died late last month.

The Salt Lake County Health Department said in a statement that there is no threat of Zika virus infection in the area.


Caribbean countries entangled by U.S. financial crackdown

BELIZE CITY, Belize, (Reuters) – Burdened by chronic back pain, Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow avoids traveling abroad, his colleagues say. But in January, he flew to Washington and visited one government agency after another on a singular mission: reconnecting his country to the U.S. financial system.

A U.S.-educated lawyer, Barrow made his case before agencies with chief oversight of American banks, including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the U.S. Treasury's Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

His Belizean delegation described how their country had been shunned over the last year by large, reputable American banks, a trend that threatens its tiny economy.

As banks scrub their books of potentially risky businesses amid a tightening regulatory noose, major U.S. financial institutions have ended relationships with regional banks across the Caribbean in the last four years, Caribbean officials and bank executives say.

This so-called "de-risking" or "de-banking," in which banks pull out of certain lines of business and even parts of the world, has intensified. Enhanced scrutiny on financial fraud and new regulations to stem money laundering and terror finance are all at play.

Yet the de-risking movement has triggered a collision of interests: As banks tighten controls, small, poor countries most dependent on trade say they're being unfairly cut off from global finance, a case made by Barrow.

TUESDAY, JULY 12, 2016

Bahamas issues travel warning for US, citing racial tension

NASSAU, Bahamas (AFP) – The government of the Bahamas has urged its citizens to be careful when traveling to the United States, citing tensions over the recent deaths of black men at the hands of police. Most people in the Caribbean nation are black. The foreign ministry said young Bahamian men in particular should exercise caution in their dealings with police in US cities.

"Do not be confrontational and cooperate," the ministry said in a statement.

Monday is a holiday in the Bahamas, so many people here were expected to use the long weekend to visit the US.

The travel warning is of the kind that the US State Department issues to Americans traveling to countries it deems dangerous.

Racial tensions are running extremely high in the United States because of the death last week of two black men at the hands of police, the latest in a series of such incidents.

Micah Johnson, the black gunman who killed five police and wounded seven others during a peaceful protest Thursday in Dallas, told police those earlier killings were the reason for his rampage. Police killed him by detonating a bomb carried by a robot.

MONDAY, JULY 11, 2016

Caribbean leaders in Florida to host prayer vigil following fatal shootings

Fort Lauderdale, USA (CMC) — Caribbean American pastors and community leaders in South Florida will be holding a prayer vigil here this week in the aftermath of the recent shootings across the country that led to the deaths of five police officers in the state of Texas and two black men in Louisiana and Minnesota.

Acknowledging that there is a sense of fear among Caribbean Americans, the leaders, in a move spearheaded by Dr Dennis Grant, a Jamaican pastor and entrepreneur — a motorcade, to be followed by a prayer vigil will be held on Tuesday in Broward County.

Prior to the prayer vigil, the community leaders are scheduled to meet with the Sherriff of Broward City, Scott Israel.

According to Grant — during the meeting, frank discussions will be held in an effort to avoid similar incidents in South Florida.

"All of us are hurting, not just black folks, not just white folks. Black folks are being killed, white folks are being killed. Retaliation is not the answer. Only through prayer will God intervene and bring a solution to the senseless killings," he said.

Meanwhile, president of the South Florida Jamaica Diaspora, Marlon Hill, has acknowledged that there are mixed feelings in the Diaspora.

"It is very important that persons (in the region) with family members in the United States, whatever their background, racially or otherwise, [know] that every country has its laundry to deal with. The US has a couple buckets of laundry to look at in regards to the gap that exits between law enforcement and citizens, especially those who feel a sense of injustice or fear.


Jamaica welcomes US-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Legislation

MINISTER of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith has commended the US-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Legislation now being considered by the United States Senate. Speaking at the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica (AMCHAM) breakfast last Tuesday at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, Senator Johnson noted that the bipartisan bill, which was introduced by Congressman Eliot L Engel (D-NY), seeks to enhance the level of engagement between the United States and the Caribbean.

On June 13, the US House of Representatives passed legislation to strengthen United States engagement with Caribbean countries.

The United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act (HR 4939), which Engel, a ranking member of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, introduced with representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), require the secretary of State and the administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to submit to Congress a multi-year strategy focused on enhancing engagement with the countries of the Caribbean and enhancing outreach to diaspora communities in the United States.


Guyanese nationals warned against overstaying in US

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — Guyanese nationals visiting the United States (US) have been warned against overstaying their time in the country. According to Bryan Hunt, the outgoing deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy here said while the US has been increasing the number of non-immigrant visas to Guyanese nationals, the situation could be overturned if visitors overstay their time..

"They need to continue to use those visas appropriately. Because if they do not and if we start seeing large numbers of Guyanese that either overstay or decide to get a job or stay and work for six months then come back home then go back and work another six months, it will make it difficult for everyone in Guyana to get a visa."

Hunt, in a recent interview with News Source Guyana said because more Guyanese nationals have been returning home after visiting the United States, this has led to an increase in the number of non-immigrant visas being issued.

He noted that in the past, several Guyanese nationals would stay past the time given to remain in the country and would find jobs and live illegally in the US. Many of them are still illegal immigrants.

Hunt explained that the US will continue to make it easier for Guyanese to be granted non-immigrant visas as long as they continue to see the high return rate.

MONDAY, JULY 4, 2016

Former Trinidad Prime Minister Patrick Manning dies

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) – Former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning died early Saturday after being diagnosed with blood cancer. He was 69. On Friday, his wife, Hazel Manning, a former education minister, confirmed that her husband had been suffering from Acute Myeloid Leukemia and was "being prepared to undergo treatment".

A statement posted on his Facebook page, noted that "at 8:15 am today, Former Prime Minister Patrick Augustus Mervyn Manning passed away peacefully at the San Fernando General Hospital after battling Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

"Former Prime Minister Manning was surrounded by his family and loved ones. The Manning family would like to thank everyone for their prayers, love and support during this trying time.

"Funeral arrangements will be announced in due course."

Manning served as prime minister on two occasions between 1991-2010 and in 2012, suffered a stroke and received medical attention in the United States. He did not contest the September 7, 2015 general election.

FRIDAY, JULY 1, 2016

Court blocks Barbados plans to introduce fingerprinting at ports

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — The Supreme Court on Thursday quashed plans by the Government to introduce fingerprinting at ports of entry. The case brought by social activist and attorney David Comissiong was heard by Justice Pamela Beckles after Government failed to file a defense within the stipulated 28-day period.

Comissiong said he was not surprised by the judge's ruling which deemed the matter null and void and unconstitutional. The Immigrations (Biometrics) Regulations 2015 was supposed to begin on April 1 but was delayed because of the court matter.

Under the law, all persons entering and leaving the country were to be fingerprinted. There were also plans to introduce facial scanning.

The Immigration Authority of Barbados said those measures were intended to bring the country in line with international ports of entry regulations.


ExxonMobil confirms significant oil discovery off Guyana

TEXAS, United States, Thursday June 30, 2016 – International oil and gas giant Exxon Mobil Corporation says that drilling results from a second exploration well off Guyana, confirm a world-class discovery with a recoverable resource of between 800 million and 1.4 billion oil-equivalent barrels.

The well is one of two Liza wells located in the 6.6 million-acre Stabroek block, approximately 120 miles offshore Guyana. Data from the successful Liza-2 well test is being assessed.

"We are excited by the results of a production test of the Liza-2 well, which confirms the presence of high-quality oil from the same high-porosity sandstone reservoirs that we saw in the Liza-1 well completed in 2015," said Steve Greenlee, president of Exxon Mobil Exploration Company.

"We, along with our co-venturers, look forward to continuing a strong partnership with the government of Guyana to further evaluate the commercial potential for this exciting prospect."

Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited is operator and holds 45 percent interest in the Stabroek block. Hess Guyana Exploration Ltd. holds 30 per cent interest and CNOOC Nexen Petroleum Guyana Limited holds 25 per cent interest.

The Liza-2 well was drilled by ExxonMobil affiliate Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Ltd., approximately two miles from the Liza-1 well.

TUESDAY, JUNE 28, 2016

ECLAC proposes single digital market for the Caribbean

CANCUN, Mexico (CMC) — The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has called for the creation of a regional digital market, saying that it will contribute to development with equality and environmental sustainability in the region. ECLAC told the fourth Latin American Telecommunications Congress here that the creation of the market will enable increased connectivity for people and businesses, and facilitate the online exchange of goods and services.

"We must overcome taboos and open an honest discussion of the obstacles in the way of developing a digital economy in the region," said Mario Cimoli, Director of ECLAC's Division of Production, Productivity and Management. "Today, it is urgent that we advance toward a political decision on the creation of a regional digital market."

At the event, attended by specialists and business representatives, Cimoli stressed the need to generate and take advantage of economies of scale and network to strengthen the digital ecosystem through the development of networks and digital platforms.

While linguistic and cultural diversity on other continents pose barriers to the formation of such markets, in Latin America and the Caribbean the obstacles to creating a single digital market are related to the lack of co-ordination in terms of standards and regulations, and to shortages in infrastructure and goods transportation, the expert said.

An ideal place for discussing these issues, Cimoli stressed, is the Working Group created in the framework of the Digital Agenda for Latin America and the Caribbean, approved last year in Mexico City.

On that occasion, a single digital market for the region was proposed for the first time in the document,

The New Digital Revolution: From the Consumer Internet to the Industrial Internet, ECLAC said.

To increase connectivity, ECLAC said regional countries should focus on co-ordinating actions in terms of network infrastructure and interconnectivity among Internet exchange points (IXP), and on drastically reducing the cost of data roaming because of its impact on the internationalisation of the region's companies, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2016

US citizenship law that treats men, women differently to be reviewed

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to referee a dispute about an odd piece of US citizenship law that treats men and women differently. The justices said they will hear a case about a law that applies only to children born outside the US to one parent who is an American and one who is not. The law makes it easier for children whose mother is a citizen to become citizens themselves. Even after reform legislation in 1986, children of American fathers face higher hurdles claiming citizenship for themselves.

The federal appeals court in New York struck down the law in the case of Luis Ramon Morales-Santana. He challenged the law and asserted he is a US citizen after US authorities sought to deport him after convictions for robbery and attempted murder.

Morales-Santana is the son a of a Dominican mother and an American father, who left Puerto Rico for the Dominican Republic 20 days before his 19th birthday. For people born before 1986 to parents who are not married, their US citizen fathers had to have lived in the US for 10 years, at least five of them after the age of 14. Morales-Santana's father missed meeting the second part of that requirement by 20 days.

American mothers need only have lived in the US continuously for a year before the birth of a child.

Changes to immigration law made in 1986 reduced the total residency time for fathers to five years, only two of which had to be after the age of 14.

By contrast, a child born in the United States, regardless of the parents' nationality, is a U.S. citizen, as is a child born abroad to two American citizens if one of them has ever lived in the United States.

The justices attempted to answer this question in 2011, but divided 4-4 with Justice Elena Kagan out of the case because she worked on while serving in the Justice Department. This time around, the case will again be heard by eight justices, but with Kagan taking part.

The case, Lynch v Morales-Santana, 15-1191, will be argued in the fall.

FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 2016

New York City Council passes resolutions for Haitian Day in US

NEW YORK, CMC –The New York City Council has unanimously passed resolutions tabled by Haitian-born Council Member Dr. Mathieu Eugene calling on New York State and the United States to recognise the contributions Haitians have made by establishing a Haitian Day. Resolution 687 establishes October 9 – which signifies the Battle of Savannah, when Haitian soldiers fought for freedom with the United States – annually as New York City Haitian Day, in recognition of the historic contributions of the Haitian Diaspora to the City of New York.

The Resolution calls on the United States Congress and the New York State Legislature to pass – and the President of the United States and Governor of the State of New York to sign – legislation to establish October 9 annually as Haitian Day in recognition of the historic contributions of Haitians to the United States.

"We are lucky to live in one of the most diverse places in the world. The character of New York has been shaped by so many different cultures and, since the beginning of American history, Haiti has helped shape this great nation," said Eugene, who represents the largely Caribbean 40th Council District in Brooklyn.

MONDAY, JUNE 20, 2016

IMF approves US$80M disbursement for Jamaica

KINGSTON, Jamaica — The International Monetary Fund (IMF) board has completed Jamaica's eleventh and twelfth reviews under the Extended Fund Facility (EEF) and has approved US$80 million disbursement. The review, which was completed on June 17, 2016, enabled the disbursement of additional funds, bringing the total disbursements under the arrangement to US$748.2 million.

The executive board approved the EFF arrangement for four years and a total of about US$948.1 million — the equivalent of 225 per cent of Jamaica's quota in the IMF at the time of approval of the arrangement on May 1, 2013.

Following the executive board's discussion yesterday, Mitsuhiro Furusawa, deputy managing director and acting chair, issued the following statement:

"Jamaica's economic reform programme supported by the fund's Extended Fund Facility has made major strides in restoring macroeconomic stability, pursuing fiscal consolidation, reducing public debt and undertaking significant tax policy reforms, building financial sector resilience, and tackling structural issues.

"Business confidence is at an all time high, while inflation and the current account deficit have been significantly reduced. The domestic bond market has reopened after the 2013 debt exchange, and private credit growth is recovering.

Furusawa said the new administration, led by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, is committed to continued fiscal discipline.


US Congresswoman seeks presidential pardon for Garvey

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — US Congresswoman Yvette Clarke is seeking presidential pardon for one of Jamaica's National Heroes – Marcus Mosiah Garvey who was charged with US mail fraud. Clarke – the daughter of former New York Council woman Una Clarke hopes that Garvey will be exonerated before US President Barak Obama leaves office in January 2017.

In a recent address to the Jamaica Diaspora here, Clarke said that two other congressmen from the Congressional Black Caucus – House Ways and Means Committee – Chairman and friend of Jamaica Charles Rangel of New York and the Dean of Congress, the longest serving member of the House, Representative John Conyers of Detroit – would join her to lead the charge in ensuring ensure that the Jamaican National Hero received the presidential pardon and that his name is reclaimed.

On January 12, 1922, while residing in the United States, Garvey, founder of the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and charged with mail fraud.

In 1925, Garvey began serving a five-year sentence in a US penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia.

After several appeals, his sentence was eventually commuted by President Calvin Coolidge, and he was deported to Jamaica.

Observers and political and legal analysts say that while Garvey did not commit any criminal acts, "his politics were on trial."

As a Jamaican political leader, writer, entrepreneur, orator and thinker whose philosophy supported the "Back to Africa" movement of the 1920s, Garvey advocated that members of the African Diaspora return to their ancestral lands. He is remembered for his influence on Black Nationalism and pan-Africanism.


US lawmakers pass Bill to increase engagement with Caribbean region

WASHINGTON, United States--The United States House of Representatives has passed a piece of legislation aimed at increasing engagement with the governments of the Caribbean region, the Caribbean Diaspora in the US, and the private sector and civil society in the US and the Caribbean.

The United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016 was passed in the House 386 to 6 when the vote was taken on Monday.

The Bill was sponsored by Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

"We spend a great deal of time focusing on challenges and opportunities in faraway places, but it's important that we never lose sight of our interests closer to home. Indeed, we should be working to strengthen our ties with countries in the Caribbean. That's the aim of this bill, which would prioritize US-Caribbean relations for years to come," Engel told the House.

The Bill directs the Department of State to submit to Congress a multi-year strategy for US engagement with the Caribbean region that: identifies State Department and US Agency for International Development (USAID) efforts to prioritize US policy towards the Caribbean region; broadens State Department and USAID outreach to the Caribbean Diaspora community in the United States to promote their involvement in Caribbean economic development and citizen security; outlines an approach to partner with Caribbean governments to improve citizen security, reduce illicit drug trafficking, strengthen the rule of law, and improve the effectiveness of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI); encourages efforts of the region to implement regional and national strategies that improve Caribbean energy security; improves diplomatic engagement with Caribbean governments; and assists Caribbean countries in diversifying their economies, reducing free trade and investment barriers, and supporting the training and employment of persons in marginalized communities.

The Bill now has to go to Senate for consideration. It must be passed by both the House and Senate in identical form and then be signed by the President to become law.

TUESDAY, JUNE 14, 2016

Florida bank issues first US credit card for use in Cuba

HAVANA (AP) — A small Florida bank will issue the first US credit card intended for use in Cuba and make it easier for Americans to travel and work on an island largely cut off from the US financial system, the bank announced Tuesday. Pompano Beach-based Stonegate Bank said its Mastercard, available Wednesday, will let US travellers charge purchases at state-run businesses and a handful of private ones, mostly high-end private restaurants equipped with point-of-sale devices. Until now, Americans have generally had to bring cash to Cuba and change it either at state institutions that impose a 10 percent penalty on the dollar or in informal exchanges with locals.

"This is going to be huge for American companies trying to do business down here," Stonegate president David Seleski said. The card's utility will be limited for the moment, however. Cuba is preventing cardholders from using them for cash advances. And while the bank says there are 10,000 point-of-sale devices across the island, cashiers in state-owned stores often say they are out of service.

The 54-year-old US trade embargo has barred nearly all US financial transactions with Cuba, including direct bank transfers and the use of American debit and credit cards on the island.

A series of exemptions carved out by President Barack Obama after the declaration of detente with Cuba in Dec. 2014 allows American companies to unblock debit and credit card use and open direct links to Cuban banks that permit financial transfers between the two countries.

Stonegate opened an account for the Cuban government and last year became the first institution to issue a US debit card for use in Cuba. The bank says the debit card allows point-of-sale purchases and was briefly authorized for ATM withdrawals before Cuba shut down that capability in order to implement new security measures.

MONDAY, JUNE 13, 2016

Marijuana conversation moves forward in CARICOM

The formal regional conversation around marijuana in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will move to another level when the first national consultation on the issue is held on Wednesday, 15 June in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The Regional Commission on Marijuana, in collaboration with the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has convened a series of consultations with a cross section of stakeholders including youth, faith based organizations and non-governmental organizations and special interests groups.

In July 2014, the CARICOM Conference of Heads of Government mandated the Secretary General of CARICOM to established the Marijuana Commission which would, inter alia, "examine the social, economic, health and legal issues surrounding the various aspects of Marijuana use in the Caribbean and its implications, and make recommendations to the Conference".

In fulfilling its mandate, the Commission will host three Focus Group discussions and a Town Hall meeting as part of the national consultation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. They will engage with Youth drawn from secondary and high schools, community colleges, tertiary learning institutions, out of school youth, youth leaders and institutions working with youth.

Discussions will also be held with special interests groups such as researchers, medical practitioners, including of alternative medicine; advocates for medicinal and others uses of marijuana, and representatives from the National Drug Council, as well as faith-based organizations and non-governmental organizations.

The Commission, headed by Prof. Rose-Marie-Bell Antoine, Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, is composed of practitioners with expert knowledge in a variety of disciplines including medicine and allied health, health research, law enforcement, ethics, education, anthropology, sociology, and culture.

The consultation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the first of the region-wide engagements to be undertaken by the Commission.

FRIDAY, JUNE 10, 2016

UN plan to end AIDS by 2030 faces Russian resistance

UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) – UN member-states agreed on Wednesday to fast-track their response to end the AIDS pandemic by 2030 despite a last-minute bid by Russia to dilute efforts to focus on drug users and gay men. A political declaration was adopted by the 193-nation General Assembly that stressed the need to help intravenous drug users, sex workers, gay men, transgender people and prisoners who are at high risk of contracting HIV.

The HIV epidemic has been in decline over the past decade, but there are still 36.7 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told delegates that "AIDS is far from over," and that the world had an opportunity over the next five years to "radically change the trajectory of the epidemic."

Ban appealed for treatment and services "without discrimination" to all people living with HIV. He singled out "young people, migrants, women and girls, sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, transgender people and prisoners."

The political declaration builds on a previous UN AIDS plan approved five years ago by placing more emphasis on those most vulnerable to HIV infection.

It sets out three targets to be reached by 2020: reducing new HIV infections, reducing mortality rates and eliminating HIV-related discrimination.


Caribbean still worried at high prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS

UNITED NATIONS (CMC) – The 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping says despite its successes in dealing with the HIV/AIDs epidemic, the region still remains second to Sub-Sahara Africa in its prevalence rate.

St Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris, who has lead responsibility of HIV/AIDS in the grouping, told the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS, now underway here, that more than ever, CARICOM member States recognise that confronting the challenges for fast-tracking the response to HIV and AIDS collectively and in global solidarity "is our best option for ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

"Moreover, we in the Caribbean aspire to be the first region in the world to get to zero, and with the support of the Global Community, we certainly can."

He said that since the last UN High-Level Meeting in June 2011, the Caribbean has made great strides and this is demonstrated by the facts that between 2006 and 2015 the HIV prevalence rate has been halved from 2.2 per cent to 1.1 per cent, the estimated number of people living with HIV receiving antiretroviral therapy has increased from under five per cent to 44 per cent and deaths from AIDS-related causes declined from approximately 20,000 to 8,800.

He said in addition, the region also wants to be the first in the world to end mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

"These successes should not lure us into a state of complacency. The Caribbean, for all its successes, is still second to Sub-Sahara Africa in its prevalence rate. The vast majority of people living with HIV are concentrated in three Caribbean countries

"In these three countries, prevalence among the key risk groups such as men who have sex with men can be as high as 32 per cent and in many countries, data is increasingly revealing a spike in prevalence among women and girls. This trend, of course, needs to be stopped."

Harris said that there are lessons to be learnt as the global community moves towards eliminating AIDS by 2030 in keeping with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to which all CARICOM member states are committed.

"We are fortunate for the global and regional leadership of UNAIDS. It has demonstrated what can be achieved by the coordinated policy to fast track the response to AIDS. We are fortunate too, for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, without whose investments many countries like ours in CARICOM would not survive these diseases, and we are particularly indebted to the US-led PEPFAR, among other development partners, for keeping the faith in the region as a whole as we move forward towards 2030. "


Reflect, act to safeguard Caribbean Sea – CARICOM on World Oceans Day

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), as steward of the the Caribbean Sea – the second largest sea in the world – is joining in the observance of World Oceans Day today. And this year's celebration should be used to reflect and act "as we seek to safeguard this natural resource so critical to this Region's economy, cultural expression and recreation," according to Dr. Douglas Slater, Assistant Secretary General, Human and Social Development, CARICOM Secretariat.

Message by Dr. Douglas Slater, Assistant Secretary-General, Human and Social Development, CARICOM Secretariat, on the occasion of World Oceans Day

"The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) joins the international observance of World Oceans Day under the theme 'Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet'. We add our voices as stewards of the Caribbean Sea, the second largest sea in the world with an area of over 2.5 million square kilometres.

The Caribbean Sea is of critical importance to the wider Caribbean Region especially as it relates to: –
Its role in Food Security and Nutrition;
Acting as the resource base supporting a multi-million dollar tourism industry;
Serving as one of the world's great shipping routes; and
Supporting several major ecosystems including mangroves, sea-grass beds and coral reefs.

While we are cognisant of the importance of the waters that border our shores, it is apparent that the World's oceans are being turned into "dumping grounds" currently estimated to contain approximately 150 million tons of garbage. Scientists have estimated that 32 % of all plastic packaging ends up into the natural ecosystems including the ocean. Further, eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean each year. In practical terms this means that there is one ton of plastic for every five tons of fish. If we continue polluting at this rate by 2050 the amount of plastic in the ocean will surpass the amount of fish


WHO to reconsider Olympics Zika threat after "conflict of interest" accusation

NEW YORK, United States, Monday June 6, 2016 – With less than two months to go before the start of the Rio Olympics, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said it will reconsider the threat of the Zika virus. In an unexpected turnaround, the director-general of the organisation, Dr Margaret Chan, said the WHO will now "examine the risks of holding the Olympic Summer Games as currently scheduled."

The development came after more than 200 academics from around the world signed an open letter to Dr Chan, calling for the Olympics and Paralympics to be postponed or moved from Rio de Janeiro.

Amir Attaran, a professor of law and medicine at Canada's University of Ottawa, was among those academics leading the charge.

Professor Attaran called the WHO "arrogant and ignorant" for its failure to assess the risks posed by the ongoing pandemic.

"The WHO is in a terrible conflict of interest by being partners and advisers to the Olympics, and then having to turn around and assess the risk of the Olympics," he told The Telegraph.

Attaran also accused the organisation of "rejecting the wisdom of an open, transparent, independent scientific evaluation" after it had decided to follow the advice of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which had said there was no reason to delay or move the games.

MONDAY, JUNE 6, 2016

CARICOM unwavering in its determination to preserve Guyana's territorial integrity

Georgetown, Guyana – Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ambassador Irwin LaRocque on Wednesday said that the Community remained unwavering in its determination to preserve Guyana's territorial integrity. He gave the commitment when he met with President David Granger at the Ministry of the Presidency.

The community has been resolute in always preserving the territorial integrity of Guyana. It is an issue that we are always on. At appropriate junctures, statements have always been issued. I have made statements, the Community has made statements, the Chairman, at the appropriate occasion, and the matter of Guyana's territorial integrity is sacrosanct. The Community will always be supporting Guyana in this issue. There is no question about it. It is an issue, which will, of course, be discussed in the next few weeks when the Heads are here, but in terms of Guyana, there can be no question in terms of the Community's support to Guyana," Ambassador LaRocque said, in an invited comment.

Ambassador LaRocque met with President Granger to discuss the status of the preparations and the agenda for the upcoming Heads of Government Summit, which is being co-hosted by Guyana since Dominica, which holds the current Chairmanship and was scheduled to host, could not assume that responsibility as it is still recovering from the impact of Tropical Storm Erika, which battered that island nation last year.

FRIDAY, JUNE 3, 2016

Jamaica to get climate change aid from Japan

Jamaica will receive US$1.8 million from Japan to assist in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Approximately J$73 million (US$587,054) of that sum will be provided to support on-the-ground work to help communities' efforts to cope with the effects of climate change.

Another portion of the funds will be allocated at the national level to address barriers to the implementation of climate-resilient technologies and to build Jamaica's capacity to implement nationally appropriate mitigation actions and a National Adaptation Plan.

Speaking at the launch of the local component of the project, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Daryl Vaz stressed the importance of the partnership to Jamaica.

"This project is critical as climate change has far reaching implications, particularly its impact on the livelihoods of Jamaicans as well as the country's sustainable development goals," he said.

"Under the J-CCCP (Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (J-CCCP), community based projects will include sustainable agriculture and water resource management. These projects will benefit the communities by introducing technologies which will improve the livelihoods of residents through job provision and income generation," he added.

The Jamaica component forms part of the larger regional project in which Japan will spend US$15 million in eight Caribbean countries, including Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname.


CDB helps Haitian entrepreneurs find the recipe for success

In Haiti, small-business owner Isabelle Laguerre Mevs has found the recipe for success. Her company turns local produce into condiments that are in demand across the island. Today, the pepper sauce, honey, vinegar, and green seasoning sauce are now on local supermarket shelves and in a number of Haitian restaurants and hotels.

Since 2013, Stars Industries S.A. (SISA) has been growing into a fruitful agro-processing enterprise. One year after opening, the demand for the company's pepper sauce product was increasing. SISA needed technical guidance and support.

To grow the company sustainably, the company required a marketing plan; research data to better understand the Haitian pepper sauce market; and a technical plan. SISA also needed to improve its production capacity and invest in more equipment to fulfil growing orders.

Isabelle applied to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) for assistance to better navigate the path to growing SISA. The Bank's Technical Cooperation Division facilitated Isabelle's access to experts with business and technical experience. This was done through the Caribbean Technological Consultancy Services (CTCS) Network, the Division's programme dedicated to the development of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.


South America's biggest airline is latest to pull out of embattled Venezuela

SANTIAGO, Chile, Wednesday June 1, 2016 – Latin America's largest airline is the latest carrier to suspend flights to Venezuela. LATAM, which was formed by the merger of Chile's LAN and Brazilian airline TAM blamed the "difficult macroeconomic scenario" for the move.

"Owing to the current complex macroeconomic scenario in the region, LATAM Airlines has announced adjustments to its destination network… it will suspend temporarily and for an undefined time its operations to Caracas airport," the company said in a statement.

Flights between Sao Paulo and Caracas ceased at the end of May, and those from Santiago and Lima will end in July, the company said, adding that it would work to restart operations "as soon as conditions permitted".

On Saturday, German airline Deutsche Lufthansa AG also announced that it was halting Caracas-bound operations. It said it was owed more than $100 million in ticket revenue.

International airlines have for years struggled to repatriate billions of dollars in revenue held in Venezuela's local bolivar currency, as the cash-strapped government failed to convert it to hard currency amid tight exchange controls.

Strict currency controls were first imposed in Venezuela in 2003 by late President Hugo Chavez, and were further tightened two years ago, forcing several airlines to reduce their operations in the country.

Some airlines are now requiring passengers to pay their fares in dollars – no easy task in a country mired in deep recession and skyrocketing inflation.

For its part, Venezuela's government says it is using its foreign reserves, which are rapidly dwindling, to pay for essential items such as medicines and industrial machinery.

MONDAY, MAY 31, 2016

Caribbean urged to brace for more hurricane activity this year

ROSEAU, Dominica (CMC) — A two-day Caribbean Regional Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF) began here yesterday with the region being told to brace itself for a wetter than usual season and chances of more hurricane activity this year than in the past five years.

Climatologist with the Dominica Meteorologist Service (DMS) Annie Carrette-Jospeh, who presented the Wet/Hurricane Season Outlook for 2016, said that between the period June and August, there would also be a gradual drought alleviation across the region and that "surface water reservoirs will recharge, there will be soil moisture replenishment and an increase in river flow".

She predicted that water shortage-related problems in agriculture will disappear in many places and that "where it has not already started, the wet season may start abruptly in June".

The outlook noted that the second half of the wet season will be wetter or unusual in countries like Belize and the Leeward Islands with Carrette-Joseph warning that "moist conditions may favour mosquito breeding".

THURSDAY, MAY 26, 2016

Jamaican company selected to participate in IDB programme

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) – A Jamaican company is the sole Caribbean entity selected from Latin America and the Caribbean to participate in an innovation and entrepreneurship event sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in October. The IDB said that "Book Fusion" is among the 12 start-up companies that will participate in the 2016 edition of Demand Solutions on October 4 in Washington.

The other companies are from Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico. "These 12 ventures stood out among the more than 500 entries we received from 20 countries," said Trinidad Zaldivar, chief of the Culture, Creativity and Solidarity Affairs Division.

"They're great examples of the raw talent and potential of our region in fields such as art, education, design, animation, and many others," he added.

IDB said that Demand Solutions "brings together some of the most creative minds in the world to share ideas on how to tackle and solve development challenges by leveraging the power of art, culture and technology".

It said during the conference, a founder from each of these start-ups will pitch their product or solution to a panel of judges, investors and business accelerators.


Trinidad and Tobago to supply Venezuela with manufactured goods

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The Government of Trinidad and Tobago says it will be providing relief to Venezuela in the form of manufactured goods, but gave no indication as to whether it is as a result of the socio-economic and political unrest in the Spanish- speaking country. Prime Minister Keith Rowley made the announcement yesterday after holding bilateral talks with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

The Rowley Administration also announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding that will allow the operating companies of the two countries to proceed on cross-border initiatives.

President Nicolás Maduro, who arrived here on Sunday night from Jamaica, paid a courtesy call on President Anthony and later held talks with Rowley.

Maduro was greeted by pro and anti-demonstrators as his motorcade made its way to the office of President Carmona and the Diplomatic Centre where he met Rowley.

Speaking at a joint news conference where neither men took questions from the media, Rowley described the talks as "very productive and very useful… that would be beneficial to both the people of the South American country and their Caribbean Community neighbour."

TUESDAY, MAY 24, 2016

Obama signs bill striking 'negro' from US laws

WASHINGTON, United States (AP) — Federal laws will no longer include outdated and offensive terms used to describe minority groups. President Barack Obama signed a bill striking the several terms, including "Negro" and "Oriental" on Friday, the White House said. Those terms will be replaced with "African American" and "Asian American".

The bill removing the terms passed the House in February and the Senate last week. No one in either chamber objected.

The language targeted by the bill had appeared in laws dating to the 1970s that attempted to define minorities.

In the Department of Energy Organization Act the phrases "a Negro, Puerto Rican, American Indian, Eskimo, Oriental, or Aleut or is a Spanish speaking individual of Spanish descent" will be replaced with "Asian American, Native Hawaiian, a Pacific Islander, African American, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Native American, or an Alaska Native".

The same language changes will be made to the Local Public Works Capital Development and Investment Act of 1976.

MONDAY, MAY 23, 2016

Maduro arrives in Trinidad for talks with PM

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) – Venezuelan Leader Nicolas Maduro arrived here on Sunday night for talks with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. Maduro arrived here from Jamaica where he held "fruitful" talks with Jamaica's Prime Minister Andrew Holness. Maduro will meet with Prime Minister Rowley to discuss issues of mutual interest, including enhancing bilateral cooperation between the two oil rich countries. A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister said that the talks would also centre on foreign policy, energy and trade.

Last weekend, Rowley told Parliament that if the economic and political unrest gets worse in Caracas, Port of Spain would be faced a call to provide assistance.

"There will be some call on the people of Trinidad and Tobago to provide aid and succour in the event that things get worse. Hopefully, it will not get to that," he told legislators.

Rowley said he is aware that there are already a number of Venezuelans seeking "aid and succour" here.

Meanwhile, the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) said it will stage a protest in support of Maduro who is expected to face opposition from Venezuelan nationals residing here.

The MSJ is expected to be supported by the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM).

The small opposition Independent Liberal Party (ILP) said it is concerned about the welfare of five Trinidadians detained in Venezuela for more than two years on allegations of plotting to overthrow the government.

"The party has been in communication with relatives of the detained men, all of whom belong to the Islamic faith, and all of whom have expressed concern for their health given the social, political and economic crisis taking place in Venezuela,' the ILP added.

FRIDAY, MAY 20, 2016

Possible human trials of Zika vaccine by September

TEXAS, United States, Thursday May 19, 2016 – Scientists have for the first time cloned the Zika virus, an important development towards fast-tracking a vaccine against the disease.

The genetically engineered copy is a replica of the strain that is spreading across Latin America and the Caribbean, bringing an increase in microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains.

Until now, researchers had known the structure of Zika, but they had not replicated it – at least not this strain, which is carried by mosquitoes but can also be sexually transmitted.

A team from the The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston was able to genetically engineer Zika, so researchers can now make the virus in test tubes and on Petri dishes, according to a study published this week in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

TUESDAY, MAY 17, 2016

Development of marijuana industry urgent – Jamaica Finance Minister

Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw, says Jamaica must move with urgency to develop a medical marijuana industry. He pointed out that exploiting the benefits of marijuana is "not about smoking a spliff" or "walking around with two ounces of the weed."

This is about building an industry of value-added products," the Minister emphasised.

Mr. Shaw was opening the 2016/17 Budget Debate in the House on May 12. His presentation was made under the theme: 'Partnership for Economic Growth'.

Citing other countries that have benefited from using the plant, the Minister contended that Jamaica is uniquely positioned to play a leading role in the medical marijuana industry which can create wealth for the country.

Mr. Shaw noted that in the United States alone, the legal marijuana market is predicted to rise from US$6.7 billion this year to US$21.8 billion by 2020. He pointed out as well that Canada has built a major industry which may become fully legalised next year.

The Minister further informed that the Dutch Ministry of Health is exporting medical marijuana to Canada, Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic. In addition, Israel has over 12,000 medical marijuana patients and is leading the world in research on medical marijuana.

Mr. Shaw said developing a medical marijuana industry for the country will involve pursuing research at the universities to create medicines which can help people dealing with major illnesses, such as diabetes, epilepsy and others.

MONDAY, MAY 16, 2016

Caribbean marine resources worth hundreds of millions of dollars

Caribbean countries have a living bank of marine resources from which they collectively cash out hundreds of millions of dollars a year. They can spend that money to support emerging national economies by providing good jobs, food and foreign exchange, among other benefits.

However, in order to remain active and competitive in the global marketplace, countries have had to find ways to surmount the challenges posed by stringent international standards called sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, for food safety and for protection against diseases carried animals and plants, reports CaribbeanNewsNow.

Under an EU-funded SPS Measures Project, the ability of Caribbean countries to effectively address those challenges is being strengthened through initiatives such as specialized training for those gatekeepers who help to ensure the safety of both imported and exported foods.

The project has reached a new milestone, as a group of professionals from CARIFORUM states - the countries which make up the Caribbean Community, as well as the Dominican Republic - has just concluded a sanitary and phytosanitary management course.

The intensive two-week training, held at the United Nations University – Fisheries Training Programme (UNU-FTP) in Reykjavik, Iceland, was organized under the capacity building component of the project.

"I am very pleased that the 18 senior officials from our member states were able to participate in this important training opportunity to strengthen public sector capacities to effectively manage sanitary and phytosanitary systems for fish and seafood," said Milton Haughton, executive director of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), the agency coordinating the fisheries sub-component of the project.

"Developing SPS capacities is just a part of our overall strategy for improving competitiveness, adding value and building resilience to climate change, while addressing supply chain challenges facing the fisheries and aquaculture sectors in our countries," Haughton added.

The Caribbean is looking at the Icelandic example to not just bolster its SPS regime, but also to expand the range of value added products from fish, and strengthen the value chain to maximize benefits across the spectrum, from fisher to processor to exporter.

FRIDAY, MAY 13, 2016

CARICOM advances relations with Sweden, Netherlands

CARICOM Secretariat – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Foreign Ministers have put measures in place for closer cooperation with Sweden and the Netherlands even as they seek to place issues impacting the development of Small Island Developing and Low-lying States (SIDS) in the spotlight. The Ministers, at their just concluded 19th Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR), in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, met their counterparts from the two European Union (EU) Member States.

Aware of Netherlands' strategic position as the current President of the EU, COFCOR engaged the country's Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders on climate change, particularly its impact on SIDS and low lying States. While acknowledging the diplomatic success of COP21, the urgency of operationalisation of the Agreement was stressed. The concerns of the Community over blacklisting by EU Member States, and the withdrawal of correspondent banking services, both of which had an adverse impact on CARICOM States, were also presented to the Minister.

Discussions with Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom centred on issues such as climate change, renewable energy, water management, ocean security, citizen security, as well as a proposal by Sweden and the Nordic countries to conclude a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate cooperation in a range of areas.

According to the Communique issued at the end of the Meeting, Foreign Ministers also considered CARICOM's relations with a number of other Third States, and regional groupings, as well as with important development partners with whom the Region enjoys long-standing ties. In acknowledging that many of these relationships were undergoing dynamic changes, they considered how best to position CARICOM to take advantage of these changing realities. They also deliberated on the Region's priorities and challenges within key regional, hemispheric and multilateral bodies including the United Nations, the ACS and CELAC.

THURSDAY, MAY 12, 2016

CARICOM's strategic relationships critical in changing global environment

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent and the Grenadines – The critical importance of CARICOM maintaining traditional relationships and building new ones was underscored by Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque as he addressed CARICOM Foreign Ministers who are gathered in St. Vincent and the Grenadines for the 19th Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR).

In a rapidly changing global environment, the need is critical for CARICOM to reinforce engagements such as those recently held with the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States of America, and that which will be advanced with the Foreign Ministers of Sweden and the Kingdom of the Netherlands during this Meeting of COFCOR, the Secretary-General noted.

Ambassador LaRocque said that the 9th UK-Caribbean Forum which took place in The Bahamas 10 days ago, confirmed the UK's renewal of interest UK by increasing its development support to the Caribbean over the next four years. More than £360 million (US$519.7 million) in grant-finance will be allocated to the region in bilateral programme support, including for infrastructure development for eligible countries.

The Secretary-General said the opportunity was maximized to inform the UK that the de-risking strategies being adopted by certain international banks, which have resulted in the withdrawal of correspondent banking services from banks in the Community, threaten dire consequences for the economic viability of CARICOM Member States.


UN launches trust fund for Caribbean Zika virus response

UNITED NATIONS (CMC) – The United Nations has established a Zika Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF) to finance critical unfunded priorities in the response to the outbreak of the mosquito borne virus in Latin America and the Caribbean. The UN said the Fund, which aims to provide a rapid, flexible and accountable platform to support a coordinated response from the UN system and partners, will directly support the Zika Strategic Response Framework, developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in consultation with UN agencies, partners and international epidemiological experts.

Donors will contribute to a central point, and an Advisory Committee will direct funds to the highest-priority activities in the affected countries, the UN said.

Since January 2015, the UN said 61 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean have reported local transmission of Zika, which is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes.

TUESDAY, MAY 10, 2016

Caribbean students to benefit from Rihanna's new scholarship programme

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Tuesday May 10, 2016 – Barbadian-born Grammy-winning singer Rihanna has announced a global scholarship programme that would fund education for students from seven countries, including her home country and four other Caribbean nations, in the United States.

The college scholarship programme, launched through her Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF), would provide up to US$50,000 in scholarships for successful applications from Barbados, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, Guyana, Jamaica, or the US who have already been accepted into a bachelor's degree program at an accredited four-year college or university in the US for the 2016-2017 year.

"To be able to give the gift of an education is actually an honour. "Higher education will help provide perspective, opportunities, and learning to a group of kids who really deserve it. I am thrilled to be able to do this," the star told USA Today.

Recipients will receive an award ranging from US$5,000 to US$50,000, which may be renewed for up to three additional years or until a bachelor's degree is earned. Renewal is contingent upon satisfactory academic performance, and awards may be used only for tuition expenses.

The deadline for applications is June 10. Once applications are submitted, a committee will screen 50 finalists based on academic performance, demonstrated leadership and participation in school and community activities, work experience and a personal essay, and winners will be announced by August.

The foundation's website said the global scholarship programme is designed to assist students who are aspiring to reach their fullest potential.

MONDAY, MAY 9, 2016

Fight the bite! Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week begins May 9

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. 5th May, 2016. The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is extending an invitation to representatives of the media to the launch of Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week.

The event is a collaboration between CARPHA, the CARICOM Secretariat and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO). The theme of Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week is 'Small Bite Big Threat: Fight the Bite, Destroy Mosquito Breeding Sites'. In keeping with the theme, it aims to intensify communications and mobilisation activities around vector control in all member states and to inspire communities to take action in their own homes and workplaces.

With the emergence of Zika in the Region and the approach of the rainy season, this year, Mosquito Awareness Week will focus on eliminating breeding sites and avoiding mosquito bites, especially for pregnant women. While events will take place throughout the Caribbean, the official launch will be held at the CARPHA Head Office.

FRIDAY, MAY 6, 2016

Cleaner, cheaper and more secure sources of energy for Caricom

WASHINGTON, DC, USA (CMC) – Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that creates a framework for cooperation to promote programmes and activities that foster the transformation of the energy sector in the Caribbean.

The MOU, which will support cleaner, cheaper, and more secure sources of energy for the Caribbean, was signed by the president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Luis Alberto Moreno, the president of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Warren Smith, the secretary of the United States Department of Energy (DOE), Ernest Moniz and Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Irwin LaRocque.

An IDB statement said that the MOU seeks to increase energy security, reduce energy vulnerability, and promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, and low-carbon technologies in the region.

The MOU, signed earlier this week, allows for the United States, the IDB, CDB, and Caricom to collaborate to support strategic projects, activities, and programmes developed in cooperation with regional governments.


Caribbean energy sector to get transformation support

The just ended Caribbean Energy Security Summit in Washington gave a commitment to support the Caribbean's transformation of the energy systems. In a joint statement the Summit pledged to pursue, among other things, comprehensive, planning-based and research-driven approaches to energy transition; the promotion and development of affordable no-or-lower carbon electricity generation through wind, solar, geothermal power, hydropower, bioenergy, ocean energy, energy recovery from waste, and other clean energies; and promotion of energy efficiency measures while also recognising that alternative fuels, such as natural gas, can play a useful bridging role.

The institutions and member states which participated in the 3-4 May Summit, hosted by the US Vice-President Joe Biden were: the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Colombia, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, United States, together with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, Caribbean Development Bank, European Union, Inter-American Development Bank Group, International Renewable Energy Agency, Organization of American States, and the World Bank Group.


US identifies priority areas to help Caribbean economies grow

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) – United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, has identified what he regarded as three priority areas in which the Obama administration would like the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean to grow and thrive. Addressing the Council of the Americas' 46th Annual Washington Conference of the Americas/US-Caribbean-Central American Energy Summit Reception Tuesday night, Kerry said these areas are trade, supporting entrepreneurs and innovators, and promoting accountability and transparency in government institutions.

"The fact is that, if we want the economies of Latin America and of the Caribbean to grow and thrive tomorrow, then we're going to have to make the right choices now, today, tomorrow," Kerry told the reception here that included regional prime ministers and representatives.

Among attendees were Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago, "who are both making their first official trip to Washington in those capacities", Kerry said.

Stating that trade was the US number one priority, Kerry said the best way to nurture prosperity and economic opportunity for all is to extend the benefits of free and open trade, and investment across the entire hemisphere.

He noted that the United States now has free trade agreements with a dozen countries in the region – "more than we have in any other part of the globe".

"And I will tell you, as a senator, I spent 28 years-plus in the [US] Senate and succeeded in winning my party's nomination even as I supported the trade agreements," Kerry said.

"Why? Because I believed, and I believe now even more, as does President Obama, if 95 per cent for the United States of America in an economy our size – 95 per cent of the customers of the world live in other countries, and no one is going to grow by trading with themselves alone.

"And we've been in that place where you begin to put the high tariffs in place and you prevent the capacity of competitiveness and of hard work and ingenuity to take hold by putting in place artificial barriers. That's a stomp on creativity, and it prevents the capacity to go forward," the US Secretary of State added.

He said Washington is committed to transforming the Americas, including the Caribbean, into an "open, integrated platform for global success.

"That's how you create and support jobs, and that is how we encourage innovation, and that's how we drive growth," he added.

But while expanding trade among nations, Kerry said it was important to focus on the second priority: supporting entrepreneurs and supporting innovators "as they strive to get their businesses up and running."

He recalled that former US President Jimmy Carter created the US Small Business Development Center Network almost 40 years ago, which "now serves nearly one million small businesses every year and creates three new businesses".

TUESDAY, MAY 3, 2016

Strong CARICOM presence for Energy Summit with U.S. Vice President

Several CARICOM Heads and Ministers of Government are in Washington for the US-Caribbean-Central American Energy Summit hosted by US Vice-President Joe Biden. The May 3 and 4 Summit will build on the work of the Caribbean Energy Security Summit that the Vice President hosted in January 2015, and launch the results of the energy task force for the Caribbean and Central America announced by President Obama during his meeting with CARICOM Heads of Government in Jamaica last April.

The Summit will also identify practical measures to ensure a more secure, affordable and clean energy future for citizens of the Caribbean, Central America and the US.

CARICOM representatives at the Summit include:
Guyana's President H.E. David Granger
Jamaica's Prime Minister Mr. Andrew Holness
St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris
St. Lucia's Energy Minister Dr. Jimmy Fletcher

MONDAY, MAY 2, 2016

Region continues climate change planning

The Caribbean Community continues to plan the way forward following the recent signing of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Member agencies of the Regional Coordinating Committee on Climate Change (RCCC) met in St. Lucia 27-28 April, to review the progress made in the implementation of the region's climate change plan and discuss the way forward.

The Committee, mandated by CARICOM Heads of Government to coordinate the Region's Climate Change efforts, is chaired by the Minister for Sustainable Development, Energy, Science, Technology and Public Utilities, Dr. James Fletcher of Saint Lucia and comprises CARICOM specialized agencies, academic institutions and regional financial institutions. Assistant Secretary-General, Human and Sustainable Development Dr. Douglas Slater is the CARICOM Secretariat's representative on the Committee.

The committee deliberated on the role that these regional institutions could play in assisting CARICOM member states in implementing their obligations of the Paris Agreement on climate change. CARICOM member states were among the 175 countries which signed the agreement on April 22nd in New York. In addition, five CARICOM members deposited their instruments of ratification while others have pledged to do so in the immediate future.

FRIDAY, APRIL 29, 2016

CARICOM countries seek to strengthen social security

NASSAU, Bahamas, Friday April 29, 2016 – Countries within the region are strategizing ways to ensure sustainability of their respective social security schemes. Officials are meeting in the Bahamas for the 27th CARICOM Heads of Social Security Meeting and they are exploring the global trends in social security and how these fit within the region, and at a national level.

"Caribbean nations must find their own unique method to adopt the innovative strategies in management and administration that help to improve communications with stakeholders and citizen engagement, expand benefits, improve compliance levels and strengthen their governance structures; all while ensuring the sustainability of their national insurance funds," the Bahamas' Minister of Labour and National Insurance Shane Gibson said at the meeting which ends today.

He noted that in his country, the National Insurance Fund (NIF) has reserves of approximately $1.8 billion, and it plays a critical role in the Bahamian economy.

"In fact, in many instances, NIB has invested in a number of infrastructural projects and private sector equity offerings as a means of stimulating economic activity and ultimately building our economy," Gibson said.

He also disclosed that NIB has reached a significant milestone in its history – the implementation of a state-of-the-art Insurance Administration System software, which will improve its services to the public.

The Bahamas is also introducing an NIB Smart Card, which contains encrypted information for the insured, has other security features to prevent fraud, and is the gateway to the government's proposed National Health Insurance plan.


New Zika Warning

(barbadostoday) A regional health official today warned of a possible rise in the number of Zika cases once the rainy season begins in June. And chairman of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Zika Task Force Professor Clive Landis said when it does Barbados and its Caribbean neighbours must not be caught unawares.

"Currently it is spreading in the Caribbean at the lower level . . . but then it is extremely dry right now. So since we are at the faith-based session today, God is doing the job for us, but at some point he is going to listen to the other constituents – maybe the farmers who are crying out for rain – and rains will come and when they do we expect the spread of Zika to pick up. And we wish to be ready with our monitoring and surveillance that we can pick up whether there is an increase in these health concerns that we are worried about," Landis, deputy principal of the UWI Cave Hill Campus, said.

The more than four-hour session held at the Christ Church office of the Pan American Health Organization focused on how faith-based groups could motivate their members to tackle the disease at the community level.

In this regard he championed the creation of Zero Zika Zones as an effective approach to mobilizing communities to get a handle on the breeding of the pest, which also transmit the dengue and chikungungya viruses.

"The Zero Zika Zone maps out where your mosquitos are likely to come from and engage your neighbours if you have neighbours within that zone and understand that you keep hunting until you find the mosquito breeding sites whether it is water containers, whether it is in plant pots, whether is it above ground – roof guttering are classic cases where mosquitos like to breed. Look above ground and below ground.

"The whole point of the Zika Zero Zone is that the mosquito is not coming from somewhere you can't control it. It is not up to anyone else to get rid of it. You can get rid of it," he said.

MONDAY, APRIL 26, 2016

US legislators introduce US-Caribbean strategic engagement legislation

The United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016, which Engel introduced last week with well known Anti-Castro Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, would require the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to submit to Congress a multiyear strategy focused on outreach to the countries of the Caribbean and diaspora communities in the US, improving energy security, countering violence, ramping up diplomacy, and other priority areas.

US congressman Eliot Engel, ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, on Thursday welcomed the unanimous approval by the Committee of his legislation to prioritize the United States-Caribbean relationship.

"It's a big world with a lot of challenges — some that get more attention than others. So it's important to stay focused on our neighbors in the Caribbean. These countries are profoundly important to the United States," said Engel at Thursday's Committee markup. "This bill makes it clear that US-Caribbean relations are a major priority."

"We'll end up with the best policy if we shape it in consultation with the many Caribbean-American citizens in the United States," Engel continued. "It's a strength for us to have such a strong and vibrant diaspora community. So this bill also calls for revitalized outreach to this community, seeking greater input on ideas for economic development and citizen security."

The legislation requires the State Department and USAID to:
Identify agency efforts to prioritize US policy towards the Caribbean;
Outline an approach to broaden outreach to the Caribbean diaspora community in the United States;
Outline an approach to partner with governments of the Caribbean region to improve citizen security and reduce drug trafficking;
Establish a comprehensive, multi-year strategy to improve energy security and increase access to diverse, reliable, affordable and sustainable power;
Outline an approach to improve diplomatic engagement with governments of the Caribbean region; and Develop an approach to assisting Caribbean countries in the diversification of their economies.

In addition, the bill requires the Government Accountability Office to produce two key reports:
An evaluation of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) and a breakdown of CBSI assistance provided to each country; and An evaluation of US diplomatic engagement with the Eastern Caribbean.
Source/Caribbean News Now

MONDAY, APRIL 25, 2016

Immigration officials need to do better, suggests CARICOM official

GEORGETOWN, Guyana – Amid concern about the way some CARICOM nationals are treated when they visit their regional neighbours, CARICOM Deputy Secretary-General Ambassador Manorma Soeknandan has called for more sensitization of immigration officials.

Delivering remarks this morning at the opening ceremony of the 42nd Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), Ambassador Soeknandan contended that "the people of the region have a right to expect consistent application of the rules governing our arrangements as they seek to enjoy the benefits of integration".

Trade Ministers from across the region will discuss the issue as part of their consideration of the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

"It is clear that more sensitization has to be done among our border officials in relation to the rules that are already in place and the procedures that should be followed. At this meeting, therefore, Ministers, you may wish to consider establishing a quick-response mechanism to resolve situations as they arise on the ground," the Deputy Secretary-General said.

Referring to comments made by the CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque at another COTED Meeting, Soeknandan reiterated that the average citizen judged CARICOM on the extent to which they were able to move freely throughout the region and engage in their legitimate activities without being hassled at the borders.

She also said it is essential that the administrative structures required to give effect to the legal arrangements are functioning properly.

"This is the only way to minimize or eliminate the obstacles that arise from time to time in the conduct of our integration affairs," she stressed.

FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 2016

Caribbean Countries To Sign Paris Agreement

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados,(CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders and senior government ministers are heading to the United States to participate in the signing and ratification of the Paris Agreement which adopted, late last year, at the 21st Session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP21).

The regional leaders, as well as the CARICOM Secretary-General, Irwin La Rocque, will attend the High-Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, tomorrow, and the High-Level Signature Ceremony for the Paris Agreement, on Friday, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

"I see the signing and the ratification of the Paris Agreement, therefore, as one of the most significant achievements of the 21st century relating to the continued existence of humankind and involving over 190 countries from all over the globe,' said Barbados Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart, who is leading a delegation to the event.

"The urgency, which inspired the negotiation and conclusion of this agreement, aimed at saving our planet, continues to be attached to its signing and ratification, as well as the implementation of its provisions.

"Barbados, as a Small Island Developing State, therefore has heeded the call of the United Nations Secretary-General for the speediest ratification possible, in order for the Paris Agreement to come into force at the earliest opportunity," Stuart added.

Grenada's Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell, is expected to co-chair, along with Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, the informal high-level event on promoting the early entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

St. Lucia will be represented at the signing ceremony by Public Service, Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology Minister, Dr James Fletcher, who led a strong CARICOM negotiating team that fought for, and was successful in, getting many critical issues reflected in the Paris Agreement.

Fletcher chairs the Regional Task Force on Sustainable Development that was established by CARICOM leaders, and he is also the chair of the Regional Coordinating Committee on Climate Change.

The High Level signing ceremony is expected to attract more than 130 nations, with over 60 world leaders expected to sign the landmark climate agreement on Earth Day.

The Paris Agreement will legally come into force when, at least 55 countries representing 55 percent of global emissions, ratify it.


Jamaica defends decriminalizing Marijuana at UN General Assembly

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Jamaica defended its decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana. Iran said it seized 620 tons of different types of drugs last year and is helping protect the world from "the evils of addiction." Cuba opposed the legalisation of drugs or declaring them harmless.

The first UN General Assembly special session to address global drug policy in nearly 20 years heard major differences on the approach to drug use on its second day on Wednesday.

On the liberalization side, Canada's Health Minister Jane Philpott announced that the government will introduce legislation to legalize marijuana next spring. She said Canada will ensure that marijuana is kept out children's hands, and will address the devastating consequences of drugs and drug-related crimes.

Jamaica's Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith told delegates that the government amended the Dangerous Drugs Act last year to give tickets for possession of less than two ounces of cannabis instead of making it a felony offense, and to legalize the sacramental use of marijuana by Rastafarians. It also established provisions for the medical, scientific and therapeutic uses of the plant, she said.

Smith said Jamaica is finalizing a five-year national drug plan including programs to reduce demand for drugs, provide for early intervention and treatment of drug users, and promote rehabilitation and social reintegration.

Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, stressed that "law enforcement efforts should focus on criminal organizations — not on people with substance use disorders who need treatment and recovery support services."


U.S. Decries Human Rights Practices In The Caribbean

By Nelson A. King
WASHINGTON, DC Apr. 17, (CMC) – The United States continues to decry human rights practices in Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member-states, saying that many of them are still engaged in egregious practices that derail democracy.

In its 2015 edition of the "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices," released here, last Wednesday, the US Department of State pointed to what it described as "a global governance crisis", in which, it said, the respect for the rule of law in some CARICOM states is inadequate and this is exacerbated by a deficient judicial system and chronic corruption in some branches of government, among other things.

In Haiti, the State Department said the most serious impediments to human rights involved weak democratic governance, worsened by the dissolution of parliament in January, when the terms of all deputies and two-thirds of the Senate expired.

Other human rights problems in Haiti included: "isolated allegations of arbitrary and unlawful killings by government officials; allegations of use of force against suspects and protesters; overcrowding and poor sanitation in prisons; prolonged pretrial detention; an inefficient, unreliable, and inconsistent judiciary; and governmental confiscation of private property without due process," the report said.

Additionally, the State Department said there were reports of rape, violence and societal discrimination against women; child abuse; allegations of social marginalization of vulnerable populations; and trafficking in persons.

Violence, including gender-based violence, and crime within the remaining internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, remained a problem, the report said.

"Although the government took steps to prosecute or punish government and law enforcement officials accused of committing abuses, credible reports persisted of officials engaging in corrupt practices, and civil society groups alleged that impunity was a problem," the State Department said.

It said the most serious human rights problem in Suriname was the "unresolved trial" of President Desire "Desi" Delano Bouterse and 22 co-defendants for the 1982 extrajudicial killings of 15 political opponents, "a trial that exemplifies deeper doubts about judicial independence in the country". Other human rights problems in Suriname included: police brutality; poor conditions in detention centers; self-censorship by media organizations and journalists; widespread government corruption; and violence and abuse against women and children.

The State Department also said other issues included: trafficking in persons; continued lack of recognition of land rights for Maroons – the descendants of escaped slaves who fled to the hinterland, and Amerindians; discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons and other minorities; and child labor in the informal sector.

In Jamaica, the report said "an overburdened, under-resourced and dysfunctional judicial system, which obstructed access to justice for victims of crime and their families, and allegedly unlawful killings by government security forces" were the most serious human rights issues.

Other human rights issues in Jamaica included: inadequate prison and jail conditions; violence against, and sexual abuse of, children; and violence and discrimination against women, and against (LGBTI) persons. The State Department said the government's efforts resulted in charging a much larger number of police officers with abuses than the previous year.

But the report said a lack of willing witnesses and inefficiencies in the judiciary "continued to plague the justice system," adding that trials continued to languish. Stating that civilian authorities in Guyana, at times, did not maintain effective control over the security forces in 2015, the State Department said the most significant human rights problems were "arbitrary killings by the government or its agents; allegations of government corruption, including among police officials;" and laws that discriminate against women and LGBT persons.

Other human rights problems in Guyana included lengthy pretrial detention. "There was a lack of independent and transparent procedures for handling allegations of abuses by security force members," the report said.

"Prosecutions when pursued were extremely lengthy, and convictions rare, leading to a widespread perception that security force members and government officials enjoyed impunity," it added.

In the Bahamas, the State Department said the most serious human rights problems were "mistreatment of irregular migrants, compounded by problems in processing them; an inefficient judicial system, resulting in trial delays and an increase in retaliatory crime against both witnesses and alleged perpetrators; and the perception of impunity on the part of law enforcement and immigration officials accused of using excessive force".

Other human rights problems in the Bahamas, the report said, included: substandard detention conditions; corruption; violence and discrimination against women; sexual abuse of children; and discrimination based on ethnic descent, sexual orientation, or HIV status.

The report said, however, that, in some cases, the government took action against police officers and other officials accused of abuse of power.


Immigrant children placed with adults who are in the U.S. illegally

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The vast majority of immigrant children who arrive alone at the US border are placed by the government with adults who are in the country illegally, federal data reviewed by The Associated Press show. The government has long said that it places the children with family and friends regardless of immigration status. But since more children began arriving on the border in 2014, officials have not revealed how often those sponsors lack legal papers.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the Department of Health and Human Services provided data showing that 80 percent of the 71,000 mostly Central American children placed between February 2014 and September 2015 were sent to sponsors who were not here legally.

Six percent were placed with adults who had temporary protected status, which has let some Central American citizens stay and work in the country legally for more than a decade. Four per cent were sponsored by American citizens and 1 percent by immigrants facing deportation proceedings.

Many of the others were placed with sponsors who had other forms of legal status or who have filed immigration applications.

Tens of thousands of children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras began arriving on the border in Texas in 2014, overwhelming border officials, overflowing government shelters and further backlogging the country's immigration courts.

Once apprehended by border agents, the children were placed in the care of Health and Human Services until caseworkers could screen and select suitable sponsors for them.

Republican lawmakers have blamed the influx on Obama administration policies they say encourage kids to leave their countries and come to the border. They say releasing unaccompanied children to sponsors who lack legal papers encourages illegal immigration and reduces the chances the children will show up for deportation hearings in immigration court.

Immigrant advocates insist the minors are fleeing violence and should be granted asylum. The top priority for children, they say, is to be placed with parents or close relatives so they can get on stable footing in the US. Any effort to deport sponsors might spook them from coming forward and put the children at risk.

Immigration status is not a factor in determining whether someone can sponsor a child. But sponsors are asked their status, and those in the country illegally must provide a backup plan to care for the children if they are deported.

US House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, said he was not surprised by the data. He blamed current policies for the surge on the border, but did not say whether placing children with sponsors who are here illegally created any additional problems.

"Since the president refuses to enforce our immigration laws, unlawful immigrants in the United States consistently pay criminal organizations along the border thousands of dollars to smuggle their family members into the United States," he said in a statement.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California and a Judiciary Committee member, said the government's responsibility is to find a safe home and guardian for children. Immigration status shouldn't matter, she said.

"If you were here as a legal resident or a US citizen, you would petition for your child," she said. "Their only route is political asylum. It is not the visa system."

During the 20-month period covered by the data, more than half of unaccompanied children were released to a parent. Many others were placed with siblings, aunts and uncles.

Potential sponsors must provide proof of identity and their relationship to the child and undergo screening and background checks. In some cases, the department's Office of Refugee Resettlement conducts a home study to determine if the placement is safe.

The office has collected information about sponsors' immigration status since at least 2005, the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement. Sponsors who are not the children's parents also are fingerprinted.

"The safety and well-being of every child in our care is of paramount importance at every stage," the statement said.

The statistics were culled from a database created in January 2014, according to the department.

Geyso Lemus from El Salvador said she didn't know what would happen to her 10-year-old son when he landed at a shelter in Illinois in 2014 because she didn't have legal papers, but a government social worker quickly put her at ease.

Two weeks later, she said, her son was sent to live with her in Southern California. He has since been granted asylum.

MONDAY, APRIL 18, 2016

Caribbean countries still struggling to overcome global economic meltdown says IMF

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — A senior official of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says with the global economy still struggling many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are facing a harsher world than they did a few years ago.

"Therefore, the growth outlook is weaker in advanced and emerging economies alike," said Alejandro Werner, the director of the IMF's Western Hemisphere Department.

He told a news conference over the weekend that the favourable external financial conditions of the past several years have become more volatile and risks of a sudden tightening are on the rise.

"Against this backdrop, economic activity in Latin America and the Caribbean has been revised downward compared with our January update and is likely to contract for a second year in a row in 2016.

"Basically, we are projecting an average rate of growth of minus 0.5 per cent for this year. But the growth outlook varies substantially within the region. We have in South America where the, let's say, the deeper slow down and the recession countries are concentrated in Central America and the Caribbean and Mexico where we have most of the countries benefitting from the declining price of oil and therefore economic activity in this sub-region of Latin America and the Caribbean is accelerating a bit.

"As I said, therefore, the news isn't all that bad because we have these sub-regions that are exhibiting some acceleration and an important reduction in the current account deficits and a strengthening of their fiscal balances."

FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 2016

US cautions Caribbean countries offering economic citizenship

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday April 14, 2016 – The United States Government has cautioned Caribbean countries offering a Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) to be extra cautious about who they give their passports to, and ensure that recipients have no terrorist or crime links.

It gave the advice, in a statement issued by the US Embassy in Barbados yesterday, even as it made it that it was not advising regional countries on whether or not they should offer economic citizenship.

Under the CIP offered by countries like Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis and Dominica, foreign nationals are granted citizenship in exchange for a substantial investment in the country.

"The United States does not approve or disapprove individual aspects of citizenship by investment programmes," the US statement said. "The United States strongly believes that all countries have an inherent responsibility to their citizens and the international community to review fully all applicants who seek a nation's citizenship."

"While the United States Government is willing to consult with governments on their citizenship investment programmes, the ultimate decisions to offer and how to operate such a programme, including the issuance of citizenship and related identifying documents, such as passports to applicants, lie with each individual government and not with the United States."


Barbados seeking to break into Cuban market

Barbados Government Information Service- With the formal re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States (US), Barbados and other CARICOM countries are now seeking to further partner with that country in an effort to take advantage of emerging opportunities.

This was revealed when Industry Minister, Donville Inniss, received a courtesy call from Cuba's Ambassador to Barbados, Francisco Fernandez Pena, at his Reef Road office this morning.

The Minister disclosed that apart from forging deeper economic relations with Cuba, Government was also eager to engage robustly in trade, and there were a number of companies ready to do business with the Spanish isle.

He confirmed that from May, Bank Breweries Limited would be seeking to export approximately one million cases of beer to Cuba. He added that early next month, a delegation comprising government and private officials would be travelling to Cuba to conduct a trade mission.

Mr. Inniss also pointed out that over the years, Cuba has been committed to providing extensive technical assistance to Barbados, especially in the area of health care.

In turn, the Ambassador noted that since the establishment of diplomatic relations in December 1972, Barbados and Cuba have maintained a cordial relationship characterised by cooperation and mutual respect. The two officials also touched briefly on the upcoming Cuba International Tourism Fair set to take place in Havana.

The restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States was signalled when on March 21 this year, President Barack Obama became the first US President to visit Cuba since 1928.


Region gets US$3B to support renewable energy efforts

NASSAU, Bahamas, Tuesday April 12, 2016 – Japan and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) are partnering to invest US$3 billion in Latin America and the Caribbean to support renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, as well as quality infrastructure projects related to energy savings.

The agreement between the IDB and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) expands on the Co-financing for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CORE) programme, which was created in 2012 to support energy investments to mitigate climate change impacts in Central America and the Caribbean.

It will increase the target amount of JICA's highly concessional loan window from US$1 billion to US$3 billion, and will extend the term of the programme until April 2021. This will also broaden CORE's geographical reach, enabling partners to fund projects in all low-and middle- income IDB borrowing member countries, as well as more vulnerable Caribbean economies not previously covered by the programme.


New project to create resilience culture in the Caribbean

BRIDGETON, Barbados (CDEMA) – The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) announced the project 'Strengthening Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Strategies and Capacities for Resilience in the Caribbean', that is supported by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA). The purpose of the project is reinforcing disaster risk reduction and creating a resilience culture in the Caribbean. The announcement was made during the Disaster Risk Reduction Development Partners Meeting which took place on April 7, 2016, in Barbados.

The Caribbean is prone to different natural hazards such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tsunamis and others. Most countries are which can be disproportionately affected by disasters due to their unique vulnerabilities. Climate change exacerbates the effects of disasters.

The recently started project will contribute to strengthening DRR monitoring capacities at national and regional levels in the Caribbean; increased knowledge and capacities for local resilience and community safety through enhanced capacities and commitment for safe schools and enhance risk-sensitive business investment.

MONDAY, APRIL 11, 2016

ECLAC predicts Caribbean economies will contract this year

SANTIAGO, Chile (CMC) – The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has revised downward its growth projections for the region's economic activity, forecasting an average contraction of -0.6 per cent in 2016. ECLAC said that this new estimate reflects that the contraction experienced by regional Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015 (-0.5 per cent) will extend to the current year.

"The new projections evidence the difficult global scenario in which low growth continues in developed countries, there is a significant deceleration in emerging economies (China in particular), increasing volatility and costs in financial markets, and low prices for commodities — especially hydrocarbons and minerals," ECLAC said.

"In addition, there is greater weakness in internal demand in the region's countries, with the decline in domestic investment accompanied by a deceleration of consumption," it added.

As in 2015, during 2016, ECLAC said the growth dynamic shows marked differences between countries and sub-regions.

The economies of South America — which are specialised in the production of commodities, especially oil and minerals, and have a growing degree of trade integration with China — will record a contraction of -1.9 per cent, ECLAC said.

Meanwhile, the growth rate for Central American economies is forecast at 3.9 per cent, below the figure registered in 2015 (4.3 per cent).

If Central America and Mexico are taken together, ECLAC said projections for 2016 are 2.6 percent, below the 2.9 per cent reached in 2015.

For the English- or Dutch-speaking Caribbean, estimated growth will be around 0.9 per cent in 2016, ECLAC said.


Jamaica and Mexico to deepen relations with cooperation agreement

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Friday April 8, 2016 – Relations between Jamaica and Mexico will be further strengthened next month with the two signing a comprehensive cooperation programme. Mexico's Ambassador to Jamaica, Martha Cecilia Jaber, said the programme, which will involve several projects, will be signed at the 8th Meeting of the Mexico-Jamaica Binational Commission in Mexico City.

Sport is one of the areas under consideration.

"We would be very happy to have any kind of agreement in the field of sport. For Mexico, it would be a very positive development to have an agreement with Jamaica, to share best experiences. We all know that sport in Jamaica is at an excellent level and we would like to have an exchange in that area," Ambassador Jabber said.

She further disclosed that the programme would include partnerships between the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the University of the West Indies' (UWI) Mona Campus, focusing on research and development, the social sciences, bio technology and gender studies.

Plans are also underway to start a Spanish Language training programme in Jamaica.

"We are working at different levels to see how we can bring to Jamaica, a regular and standard programme for Spanish training. We will be working with UNAM because they have a lot of experience, they have officers in different countries where they have Spanish learning programmes," the diplomat said.

Modalities of the training programme are expected to be finalized at the session in May.

This year, Jamaica and Mexico commemorated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in March 1965.

Ambassador Jabber said the relationship between the countries has been "very friendly and very fruitful," over the decades.

"There are different Mexican companies that are already working in Jamaica and we are trying to work together with the Jamaican Government to increase the presence of Mexican companies in Jamaica," she added.


Jamaica's marijuana industry on pause

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday April 6, 2016 – It will be a while longer before people who want to get involved in marijuana cultivation, transportation, processing, retailing, and research and development legally in Jamaica can do so. The Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA), which was expecting to accept applications from Monday, says the process has been delayed with the change in government.

Chairman of the CLA, Dr Andre Gordon, said regulations have to be reviewed and approved by the Minister of Justice before the ganja industry could start operations, and that has not yet been done.

However, he says he expects that will happen before the end of April.

Under the amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act, the CLA has been given the power to issue licences, permits and authorizations for the handling of hemp and marijuana for medical, therapeutic or scientific purposes.

And under the regulations for the industry, 11 types of licences across five main categories – cultivation, transportation, processing, retailing, and research and development – will be made available.

The regulations also make special provisions for small farmers, cooperatives, and small-scale processors to participate in the industry.


The World Bank on three trends on Public-Private Partnerships in the Caribbean

(Jamaica Observer) Many small developing states facing climate and social vulnerabilities are struggling to develop high-quality, efficient and accessible infrastructure. While private investment in infrastructure is not new in the Caribbean, the governments in the region are increasingly turning to Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) to develop and maintain infrastructure that supports national economic growth and delivers basic services to their citizens. In the context of low growth and global tailwinds, what can Caribbean countries do to invest in infrastructure and spur sustainable and inclusive growth?

Many PPP projects have operated successfully for years, delivering

high-quality roads, ports, airports, bulk water treatment facilities, and electricity generation plants. However, in many cases the complexity of the transaction and lack of capacity within governments has meant long delays in delivering projects.

For Managing Director of the Development Bank of Jamaica Milverton Reynolds, "We pursue PPPs because we accept that the private sector will take the investment and operating risks that are involved in delivering world-class infrastructure to citizens, while at the same time free up limited public resources that governments can employ elsewhere to improve social services."

This is one of the reasons PPPs are becoming increasingly more attractive to Caribbean governments. A recently published Caribbean Infrastructure road map for PPPs has identified a 'pipeline' of 33 projects across 11 Caribbean countries, representing about US$2 to US$3 billion.


IDB Says It Committed Billions To Climate Change Adaptation In The Caribbean

WASHINGTON, DC Apr. 4, (CMC) – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) said, today, it had committed US$3.8 billion for projects that target climate change adaptation and mitigation, renewable energy and environmental sustainability in Latin America and the Caribbean last year. "This investment represents over one-third of the Banks' lending for the year, surpassing its institutional target of 25 per cent," according to the IDB's annual Sustainability Report released here.

The Report highlights the IDB's sustainability performance in 2015, both in achieving institutional sustainability investment targets, as well as through a series of stories about the projects it is undertaking in its member countries.

It is accompanied by an interactive timeline that looks back over a decade of achievements of the bank in building a series of robust sustainability programs, and a suite of robust safeguard policies, as well as innovative projects and initiatives.

The Sustainability Report also details the IDB's achievements in leveraging significant climate resources in addition to the bank's own resources, reporting US$2.2 billion in climate finance for mitigation and adaption under the Multilateral Development Banks common approach for climate finance tracking.

In the year, the IDB continued to expand its activities through special initiatives, focused on different elements of sustainability in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In 2015, 15 cities joined the Emerging Sustainable Cities Initiative, helping to identify actions required and to leverage critical funds that help cities on a path to long-term urban sustainability.


Raising the US minimum wage to US$15 – an American dream

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — New York, Seattle, California: in the battle over the US minimum wage, cities and states are taking their own initiative, making regional advances toward the goal of a US$15-an-hour floor. Some cities have voted through spectacular increases, making the dream of better pay a reality for hundreds of thousands of employees in a country where the federal minimum wage level has remained unchanged at US$7.25 an hour since 2009.

New York was the latest state to act. State lawmakers reached a deal Thursday with Governor Andrew Cuomo to raise the minimum wage in New York City to US$15 an hour by the end of 2018.

Under the deal, the minimum will go up more slowly in the rest of the state, hitting US$12.50 an hour by the end of 2020.

To close the deal, Cuomo needed to get the state's Republican-controlled senate on board.

Republicans and Democrats have generally split on the need for a national wage hike.

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both support an increase, differing only on the scale and timing of such a move.

The former secretary of state calls for a smaller, slower raise while the Vermont senator wants the minimum doubled.

With rare exceptions such as Mitt Romney, the presidential nominee in 2012, Republicans have generally resisted calls for an increase, citing potential job losses.

Republican control of Congress over the past five years has ensured that the federal level remained unchanged.


Trio sentenced for targeting immigrants in Green Card scam

NEW YORK, United States, Friday April 1, 2016 – Three people, including one who impersonated a police officer, have been sentenced in New York in connection with a scheme in which they stole more than US$8,000 from two victims by falsely promising to help them obtain Green Cards and other government documents.

Richard Gomez, 44, was on Wednesday sentenced to an indeterminate term of one to three years imprisonment, following his guilty plea last week to charges of third-degree grand larceny; Marisol Mercado, 43, was sentenced to a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to first-degree attempted criminal impersonation; and Francisco Mercado was also sentenced to conditional discharge following his guilty plea to charges of second-degree criminal impersonation.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said the three "preyed on some of the most vulnerable members of our community and exploited their desires to achieve the American dream".

"Equally troubling is that a defendant posed as a New York City police officer to further this scheme to defraud–potentially damaging an often hidden community's trust in law enforcement…I'm committed to stopping such con artists from targeting and ripping off members of our immigrant communities," he added.

Between June 18, 2015 and September 3, 2015, Gomez falsely claimed to be an NYPD Sergeant named "Sergeant Russo" and with the assistance of Marisol and Francisco Mercado took money from the victims in exchange for Gomez's assistance with various government documents, including Green Cards. The defendants also claimed "Sergeant Russo" could get a liquor licence for the victims' restaurant in Bushwick.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, Gomez first approached his victims seeking a donation for the New York City Police Department—to which the victims would give cash. Gomez continued this ruse to convince his victims to hand over money in exchange for his assistance with various applications to government agencies.

In one instance, Gomez secured a US$2,100 loan from a victim but upon repayment, the cheque was declined due to insufficient funds.

In another instance, defendant Marisol Mercado called a victim demanding an additional US$6,000 to fix an alleged problem with the immigration paperwork for the victim's husband. Gomez threatened deportation if the victim did not pay.


Caribbean tourism officials to focus on business, service excellence

St. John's, Antigua (caricom.org) – As Caribbean tourism rebounds, tourism practitioners within the region are making their next strategic move by focusing on enhancing the quality of their product, and developing a strong culture of service excellence. The Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, Hugh Riley and other well-known Caribbean tourism officials will meet in Antigua and Barbuda to address the theme 'Making Excellence a Habit: Service Loyalty and Profitability in Caribbean Tourism' at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation's 8th annual Tourism Human Resources Conference, taking place from May 11 – 13, 2016.

Collaborators, the Antigua and Barbuda Ministry of Tourism, Economic Development, Investment and Energy, and the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, are voicing their support for the three day tourism gathering being held in Antigua for the first time.

Antigua and Barbuda Minister of Tourism, the Honourable Asot Michael, said, "We are committed to ensuring the well-rounded development of the tourism sector."

For our destinations to be successful, we must do more, to attract and meet the demands of the discerning traveller. While glitz attracts, more often than not, it is the quality of service that guests receive, that remains of paramount importance to serious tourism industry stakeholders aiming to deliver exceptional tourism experiences, increase revenues, and secure repeat visitors."

The Caribbean Tourism Organisation, the industry's leading body for Caribbean tourism development, has set out an intensive conference programme geared towards the pursuit of excellence in the region's growing tourism & hospitality sector.


Criminals using China to launder millions of dollars

ASHDOD, Israel (AP) — Scam artists, drug cartels and gangs from around the world have found a new haven for laundering money: China. The country's well-developed underground financial networks have caught the attention of foreign criminals who are using China to clean their dirty money and pump it back into the global financial system — largely beyond the reach of Western law enforcement, an Associated Press investigation has found.

As China globalised, sending people and money abroad, so too did its criminal economy. Gangs from Israel and Spain, cannabis dealers from North Africa and cartels from Mexico and Colombia have laundered billions in China and Hong Kong, slipping their ill-gotten gains into the great tides of legitimate trade and finance that wash through the region, according to police officials, European and US court records and intelligence documents reviewed by the AP.

Gilbert Chikli, a convicted French-Israeli con man, understands China's allure. He is widely credited with devising a scam so successful that it has inspired a generation of copycats. Called the fake CEO, fake president or business e-mail compromise scam, the fraud has cost thousands of companies, many of them American, $1.8 billion in just over two years, according to the FBI.

"China has become a universal passageway for all these scams," said Chikli. "Because China today is a world power, because it doesn't care about neighbouring countries, and because, overall, China is flipping off other countries in a big way."

China's central bank and police refused repeated requests for comment. In a regular briefing with reporters yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said "is not, has not been, nor will be in the future a centre of global money laundering."

MONDAY, MARCH 28, 2016

Ebola scare after patient returns to Bahamas from South Africa

NASSAU, Bahamas (CMC) – Health authorities say they are taking "the necessary precautions" and have so far ruled out a case of Ebola infection following the hospitalisation of a 51-year-old woman after a visit to South Africa earlier this month.

The Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) said the unidentified woman checked into the Accident and Emergency on March 15 after she visited Johannesburg two weeks ago.

"An intensive investigation is under way to determine the cause of illness. Senior health officials have confirmed, that the patient has not presented in a manner which indicates Ebola to be the likely diagnosis.

"At this time there is no confirmed case of Ebola infection at the Princess Margaret Hospital.

"According to the last Ebola Epi Alert issued on the 10th of August, 2015 by the World Health Organization (WHO), Sierra Leone and Guinea remain the only countries with ongoing intense transmission," according to an official statement issued here.

It said that "as with any potential infectious disease case, the hospital is taking the necessary precautions and abiding by the highest protocols requisite for such cases, within international guidelines.

"The patient is being nursed in isolation. The hospital will provide updates as test results are received," the statement added.

FRIDAY, MARCH 25, 2016

CARICOM Ambassador wants Caribbean people to take advantage of CSME

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – A senior Barbados diplomat Wednesday called on Caribbean people to secure their future by taking full advantage of the opportunities provided under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for free movement of goods, skills, labour and skills.

"We look forward to the day when freedom to move to learn, to work, to do business, to provide services with full social service security and safety nets, with provision for the full movement of families, will be seen not as a privilege for a few, but a right for all CARICOM citizens," said the island's Ambassador to CARICOM, Robert 'Bobby' Morris.

Addressing a ceremony for 19 students and one CARICOM Youth Ambassador, who will be going to Jamaica from April 10 to 16 as part of a CSME Student Exchange Programme, Morris reminded the students that Caribbean people have always been travelling to various destinations, whether through forced migration or voluntarily.

The diplomat underscored the importance of the Freedom of Movement régime to the regional integration process, and emphasised that the CARICOM Strategic Plan, 2015-2019, had this régime at its centre in terms of economic development.

"We look forward to the day when surplus human resources from one territory can be employed to add value to surplus land and natural resources in another country for the overall benefit of the region. It is the fervent wish and desire of integrationists that within the shortest possible time span, the identity of being members of a Caribbean civilisation will be on an equal basis with our commitment to our individual nation states."

Morris told the audience that the Freedom of Movement régime was identified as an important catalyst for the development of regional economies, since it would help to lift them from their current state of economic stagnation.


China, Barbados signs extradition treaty

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – Barbados and China Wednesday signed two treaties aimed at assisting each other in investigating criminal matters and bringing fugitives to justice. Acting Attorney General, Michael Lashley, signed the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty as well as an Extradition Treaty with China's Vice Foreign Minister Wang Chao.

Lashley said that the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty would enable both countries to receive assistance in terms of investigations, prosecutions and other proceedings related to criminal matters.

He said the extradition treaty would allow for more effective cooperation between the countries in the suppression of crime on the basis of mutual respect for sovereignty and equality.

"The Government of Barbados is pleased to be a signatory to these treaties since they provide additional avenues for intelligence gathering at a time of widespread transnational crime.


WHO chief issues new warning on Zika virus

UNITED NATIONS (CMC) — The head of the United Nations health agency has issued a new warning on the mosquito-borne Zika virus, saying that "the more we know the worse things look". World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, said that in less than a year, the status of Zika has changed from "a mild medical curiosity" to a disease with severe public health implications.

She, however, said the knowledge base is building very rapidly, thanking all countries and their scientists who have worked to help build up the evidence base.

"The virus is currently circulating in 38 countries and territories. On present knowledge, no one can predict whether the virus will spread to other parts of the world and cause a similar pattern of fetal malformations and neurological disorders.

"If this pattern is confirmed beyond Latin America and the Caribbean, the world will face a severe public health crisis," Chan warned.

According to WHO, the world was alerted to the first appearance of Zika in the Western Hemisphere on May 7, 2015, when Brazil confirmed that a "mysterious outbreak" of thousands of cases of mild disease with rash was caused by the Zika virus.

In July last year, the country then reported an increase in cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), followed by an unusual increase in microcephaly among newborns in late October.

"The possibility that a mosquito bite could be linked to severe fetal malformations alarmed the public and astonished scientists," Dr Chan said.

"The association with Guillain-Barré syndrome and other severe disorders of the central nervous system has expanded the risk group well beyond women of child-bearing age. We now know that sexual transmission of the virus occurs."

She detailed how a pattern has emerged in which initial detection of virus circulation is followed, within about three weeks, by an unusual increase in cases of GBS.

MONDAY, MARCH 21, 2016

Obama, Castro hold groundbreaking Cuba talks

HAVANA, Cuba (AFP) — US President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro met Monday in Havana's Palace of the Revolution for groundbreaking talks on ending the decades-long standoff between the two neighbors. Obama, meeting Castro for only the third time for formal talks, was the first US president in Cuba since 1928.

He was greeted by a military band at the Palace of the Revolution, the main government building since the 1959 revolution that turned Cuba into a communist state and Soviet client barely an hour's flight from Florida.

Obama, under pressure back home to show that his scrapping of more than half a century of US hostility to the Castro regime is paying off, then sat for discussions against a backdrop of tall tropical plants and the two countries' flags.

The United States has yet to fully lift a punishing economic embargo against Havana, and Cuba continues to restrict many basic freedoms.

But despite these differences, Obama and Castro -- brother of original revolutionary leader and anti-US firebrand Fidel Castro -- say they are ready to bury the Cold War-era conflict for good.

Obama, who arrived Sunday and began his visit with a look in driving rain at Havana's beautiful old town, earlier laid a wreath at the monument of Cuban independence hero Jose Marti.

On Tuesday, he was to give an address carried live on Cuban state television, and then attend a baseball game between the national team and Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Rays, before flying out.

FRIDAY, MARCH 18, 2016

Caribbean countries not fully satisfied with EPA accord

Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) countries say they are yet to "meaningfully reap the potential benefits" of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) signed with Europe in 2008. The issue was among matters discussed at the 23rd Meeting of the Council of CARIFORUM Ministers held here earlier this week, and according to a statement issued on Friday a review of the EPA had concluded that the region " had as yet to meaningfully reap the potential benefits of the Agreement.

"They underscored that, for CARIFORUM, the EPA is a source of mixed feelings. The commonly held view was that CARIFORUM committed itself and signed a comprehensive EPA, yet it has not "harvested the windfalls" which seemed to have been held out as reward for early signature of the Agreement," the statement noted.

It said that in further reviewing the state-of-play of EPA implementation, the ministers accorded high priority to wide-ranging technical work and tasked officials to follow up accordingly.

"They took note that CARIFORUM and EU senior officials held a Political Dialogue Meeting in Guyana on 15 March 2016, at which the EU provided an update on the Commission of the European Union's recent Communication on an External Strategy for Effective Taxation as Part of its Anti-Tax Avoidance Package," the statement said.The statement noted that the ministers also expressed "their deep concern" that recent developments on taxation in the European Union have the potential to negatively impact the economies of a number of CARIFORUM states.

The ministers at their meeting which was under the chairmanship of Haiti, welcomed the agreement arrived at in the Political Dialogue Meeting for the two regions to discuss a range of issues affecting the financial services sector, including taxation and correspondent banking, within the Joint CARIFORUM-EU Working Group on the Joint CARIFORUM-EU Partnership Strategy.


US Customs agents nab Caribbean smugglers

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) – The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) say they have detained two people, including a Haitian, on drug related charges. CBP said that its officers had detained United States citizen, Elisabethmone Lewis and Haitian Anne Cadet, in two separate occasions earlier this month.

It said Lewis was attempting to smuggle approximately three pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of US$59,000 on a visit from St Lucia, while Cadet was attempting to smuggle approximately five pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of US$77,000.

"These seizures demonstrate our officers vigilance and daily commitment at JFK, in keeping prohibited and dangerous narcotics off the streets and out of our communities," said Robert E Perez, CBP Director, Field Operations in New York.

CBP said the smugglers now face US federal narcotics smuggling charges and will be prosecuted by the US Attorney's Office in the US Eastern District Court of New York.


Tax evasion accounts for billions in lost revenue in Latin America and the Caribbean

SANTIAGO, Chile (CMC) – The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) says evasion is one of the main weaknesses of the tax systems in the region's economies, accounting for US$320 billion in 2014. ECLAC has just released its "Fiscal Panorama of Latin America and the Caribbean 2016," noting that tax revenues are the cornerstone of the basic financing of modern State, and it is therefore vital to prioritize the creation of a tax culture in which evaders are effectively punished.

The ECLAC document is being presented at the two day 28th Regional Seminar on Fiscal Policy which opened here on Wednesday.

The report states that fiscal non-compliance represents 2.2 points of gross domestic product (GDP) in terms of value added tax (VAT) at the regional level, and 4.1 GDP points in terms of income tax.


Haiti records nearly 100 cholera deaths in first two months of 2016

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) — Haiti says it has recorded 96 people have died from cholera during the first two months of this year. The Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) said there were also 7, 782 cases of the disease during the period January 1 to February 27.

But it said that the trend is towards a decrease in the number of cases following the outbreak US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention described as the worst epidemic of cholera in recent history.

Haitians have blamed UN peacekeeping troops from Nepal whom they said carried strains of the disease with them, contaminating a large portion of the country's drinking water.

The United Nations initially denied any role in the outbreak, and has refused to redress complaints, claiming immunity under a 1946 convention. In January, a US judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by human rights groups seeking compensation for Haitian victims.

The MSPP said that the decline has been observed every week despite the recent rains, saying "this situation demonstrates of a better capacity to control the transmission in outbreak and at the same time the need to enhance efforts to strengthen the management of cases.

"The humanitarian community continues to support the Haitian government in its efforts not only to ensure a rapid and effective response to the cholera epidemic in improving access to drinking water services, sanitation and health, but also to reduce the vulnerability of populations living in the most at-risk cholera areas.

"As part of the continuation of this commitment a humanitarian response plan in which the response to the cholera outbreak is a priority is being developed," the MSPP added.

MONDAY, MARCH 14, 2016

Grace Kennedy and SRC Sign MOU to Develop New Food Products

(jis.gov) The Scientific Research Council (SRC) is partnering with food manufacturing giant, Grace Kennedy on the development of new food items from local agricultural produce. Under a three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed at the SRC's Hope Gardens headquarters on March 8, the entities will collaborate to improve the quantity and quality of food products on the market through the application of science and technology solutions.

Executive Director of the SRC, Dr. Cliff Riley, said it is anticipated that a number of products for health and wellness will be derived from the relationship.

He noted that customers are increasingly demanding foods that have health benefits.

"There is a growing demand for functional foods… so that people not only have a bellyful and have enough calories to produce energy, but that whatever they consume have some other long-term benefits in terms of overall health. That is something that we are quite keen about at the SRC and Grace Kennedy has been driving that thrust," he said.

Dr. Riley indicated that by the end of this year or the end of the new financial year, "we should be able to have products coming from this relationship and a number of new ideas have popped up in terms of other areas we can explore."

The SRC's Executive Director hailed the agreement as a positive development for the Government-owned and operated research institution. "To be having a global impact on functional foods or even convenience foods …it is a noteworthy accomplishment for the Government of Jamaica," he said.

For his part, Chief Innovation Officer for Grace Kennedy Foods, Zak Mars, informed that data gathered from test marketing carried out locally and in the United States reveal that there is a strong demand for 'Brand Jamaica' foods.

FRIDAY, MARCH 11, 2016

US healthcare agency pays compensation for 'No Haitians' ad

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — A United States-based major healthcare staffing agency has agreed to pay US$100,000 in a settlement for what has been described as an "egregious" classified advertisement that discriminated against Haitian nurses. New York State Attorney General Eric T Schneiderman said that Interim Healthcare of Greater New York, Inc, a local franchise of one of the largest healthcare staffing agencies in the nation, will pay the penalty and agreed to revise its policies and procedures to ensure full compliance with law.

Schneiderman said the healthcare staffing agency had placed a help wanted advertisement in a local paper in October last year that discriminated against Haitians.

Many New York State legislators and the Haitian community in particular were outraged that the homecare, hospice, and medical placement agency "blatantly discriminated against Haitians."

Schneiderman said the settlement "will protect applicants and potential applicants against discrimination on the basis of national origin, race or any other protected class."

The settlement resolves the Attorney General's investigation of Interim Healthcare, a probe that arose he learned that Interim Healthcare had placed an advertisement requesting a female "laid back nurse, no Haitians."

"Blatantly discriminatory job advertisements like this are wrong and clearly illegal," Schneiderman said. "My office is committed to ensuring equal access to employment for all New Yorkers and will not tolerate discrimination against any New Yorker based on race or national origin or any other protected status."


Trinidad & Tobago ranked world's biggest daily waste producer

TRINIDAD GUARDIAN – T&T has been ranked as the highest producer of Municipal Solid Waste per capita by the World Bank. Municipal Solid Waste includes non-hazardous waste generated in households, commercial and business establishments, institutions, and non-hazardous industrial process wastes, agricultural wastes and sewage sludge.

World Bank statistics shown that the country produces a total of 14.4 kilograms of MSW per capita per day.

The World Bank cited a chronic lack of recycling facilities being major contributor to this country's waste management issues.

Among the issues the organisation observed was pervasiveness of littering, which has caused rises in the local mosquito population, as well as problems with rain water drainage.

Coming hand-in-hand with this pressing environmental concern is the trash situation's adverse influence on conditions conducive to widespread flooding.

Discarded plastic is also a major problem in the waters surrounding the country.

Other Caribbean countries listed as the worst countries in MSW generation include: Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Guyana, Barbados and St Lucia.


Caribbean countries urged to fully develop energy sector

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — Caribbean countries have been told that reducing energy costs will help the region improve growth and strengthen competitiveness. But at the same time, regional policymakers face conflicting objectives. On the one hand, investment in an effective energy reform strategy would have long-term benefits, while on the other, few countries have fiscal space to embark on ambitious investments to reform the energy sector.

The situation confronting the region in its energy sector is discussed in a paper titled "Caribbean Energy: Marco Related Challenges' written by a number of financial experts including the prominent Grenadian-born economist, Arnold McIntyre, and released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

They argue that the substantial decline in oil prices since mid-2014 does not obviate the need for energy sector reform.

"The impact of the oil price decline is global, so it has not improved relative prices for the Caribbean compared with its trade partners. Moreover, competitiveness challenges are escalating, with the appreciation of the US dollar (expected to continue over the next few years with the normalization of US monetary policy) and the potential opening of Cuba to US tourism and trade.

"Hence, any gains from recent oil price declines should be seen as a temporary breathing space that gives the English speaking Caribbean some time to catch up with the cost reductions needed to compete successfully in a more open region," they wrote in the paper.

They said that the case for Caribbean energy sector reform rests on two pillars. These are the current poor state of the energy sector, with infrastructure and institutional frameworks needing upgrades to eliminate high-cost inefficiencies and enable diversification; and the fact that the macro-impact of current large energy bills remains significant, even since the recent oil price decline.


CARICOM seeks Portugal's advocacy on major concerns

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Caribbean Community (Caricom) is calling on Portugal to help remove a number of Caribbean countries from a list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions developed by the European Union.

Caricom Secretary General Irwin LaRocque raised the issue as he received the accreditation Friday of Portugal's ambassador to the 15-member regional grouping, Fernando Teles Fazendeiro.

Portugal is among several European countries that have deemed some Caricom member states as non-cooperative tax jurisdictions, even as the regional countries insist they are in compliance with standards established by the Financial Action Task Force, the Global Forum and other international bodies.

LaRocque told the Portuguese envoy that Caricom is gravely affected by the listing, as financial services are of vital economic importance to the Caribbean Community, with implications for its efforts at growth.

"It would certainly be a step in the right direction if this unjust and unfair action be rescinded," he said, noting that Caricom would also welcome Portugal's advocacy on the swift implementation of the 2030 Development Agenda, ensuring sensitivity towards small states, and the provision of financing for development.

LaRocque said Caricom would welcome support for global efforts to implement the most ambitious, possible climate change targets, particularly pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

He also called for support for Caricom's effort to stem the trend toward graduation of Small Island Developing States from access to concessionary financing.


Europe funds project on preventing domestic violence in the Caribbean

LONDON, United Kingdom (CMC) – The European Union is providing 400,000 euros to implement a new project on preventing domestic violence in the Caribbean. The funds have been awarded to a team of Caribbean and European experts, headed by Professor Adele Jones from the University of Huddersfield, in partnership with The Sweet Water Foundation of Grenada.

The experts said that data will be used to develop interactive, role-playing computer games designed to empower victims and change attitudes that have been linked to aggressive and violent behaviours.

It is often claimed that computer games encourage violence, therefore the idea is to create computer games that can be used in schools to reduce negative attitudes developed in childhood and which can fuel domestic violence in later relationships.

"There is enough evidence to tell us that computer games can generate violence, so what we want to do is look at how we can create an educational tool that might begin to generate empathy – or non-violence," said Jones.

The two year project, titled "None-in-Three" has been derived from the finding that one in three women and girls experience violence in their lives.

"That's a fairly global statistic but domestic violence is identified as being particularly entrenched in the Caribbean," said Jones.

The None-in-Three project will be implemented in Barbados and Grenada and will be launched on March 8 to coincide with celebrations marking International Women's Day.

"If the numbers we see in domestic violence were applied to other forms of crime, to gang violence or terrorism, the entire region, even the world, would be up in arms, and it would be the lead story on the news all the time," said EU Ambassador Mikael Barfod.

The computer games will be just one aspect of the initiative, which has been designed to complement existing domestic violence prevention programmes in Barbados and Grenada, where the project is to be implemented.


JAMAICA ELECTION: Holness To Be Sworn In Tomorrow

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Mar 2, (CMC) – Andrew Holness will be sworn in as Prime Minister of Jamaica, tomorrow afternoon, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has announced. JLP spokesperson, Kamina Johnson Smith, said, the party is preparing for the swearing in, scheduled for 4.00 pm (local time).

Yesterday, the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) said, it had written to the Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen, advising that the final count of ballots in the February 25 general election had been completed, and that the JLP gained 32 seats to the People's National Party's 31 seats in the 63-seat House of Representatives.

The EOJ said, in addition, documents from returning officers – the B21 form indicating which candidate has won and the writ of election for each constituency – have been sent to the Clerk of the Houses of Parliament.

The preliminary results had shown the JLP had won by a 33-30 margin over the PNP, led by outgoing Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, but the PNP gained an additional seat, following the recount in the St. Mary South Eastern constituency.

But the JLP has since filed for a magisterial recount where the PNP's candidate, Dr Winston Green, was declared the winner over, Dr Norman Dunn by a nine vote majority.


CARICOM Official Warns That Violence Threatens Gains Made By Region

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Feb 29, (CMC) – A two-day regional forum on "Youth Crime and Violence" began here, on Monday, bringing together a wide range of stakeholders to examine challenges and solutions to the issue. Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Deputy Secretary General, Dr. Manorma Soeknandan, said, the issue threatens to consume the gains "we have made as a region and as individual member states, in preparing our young people to live productive and safe lives, and to contribute to the further development of our region".

But, she said, the region has not been silent on the "increasing incidences of violence" and that the Report of the CARICOM Commission on Youth Development (CCYD) showed that regional leaders in 2010, recognised the seriousness of crime and violence and the need for concerted action.

She said, the CCYD report identified crime and violence as the number one concern of youth and also identifies young people as under-utilized resources and partners in development.

"It underscores the importance of addressing youth needs and interests to achieve social cohesion, economic resilience and integration. The Declaration of Paramaribo, issued by Heads of Government on the basis of the Report of the Commission, also sends a strong signal of the intent of Member States to cooperate and address issues of concern related to youth," she told the regional participants.

The organisers said, that the February 29 to March 1 conference will also provide an opportunity to share good practices with a view to replicating the lessons learned; to explore strategies for a multi-sectoral 'whole of society' response to the challenge; and to examine the means for greater collaboration among institutions and development partners to sustain CARICOM's response to youth crime and violence.

The Forum is an outcome of the CARICOM and the government of Spain project titled, "Reducing Youth on Youth Violence", now being piloted in five Caribbean countries — Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.


Jamaica Prime Minister, Calls For Calm as recount in Jamaica elections continue

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Feb 28, (CMC) – Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, today, called for Jamaicans to remain calm, as the recounting of ballots in the February 25 general election resumes on Monday. In a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister, she said, that she wanted both the supporters of the People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), to remain calm in light of the prolonged recounting of ballots taking place in some constituencies.

"All Jamaicans have a responsibility to ensure that Jamaica's reputation as a mature democracy is preserved and nothing causes hurt to anyone," she said, adding that the country has made important economic gains which Jamaicans cannot afford to reverse at this time, and everyone must ensure that we put Jamaica first.

She urged everyone to put Jamaica first, amid reports here, Sunday, of tension in some areas across the island.

She told the nation, that they remain calm and allow the constitutionally prescribed processes to continue.

JLP General Secretary, Dr Horace Chang, is also appealing for calm and urging supporters not to be taken in by rumours of instability across the country.

He said, there has been no change to the fact that the Jamaica Labour Party has won the popular vote and retains the majority of Parliamentary seats.

"There are also rumours that attempts will be made, using the courts, to prevent the inauguration of Andrew Holness.

"The people have rejected the PNP, yet we are hearing that they still seek to take power through the back door. We, as Jamaicans, must be vigilant about any attempt to discredit the electoral process or to halt the prompt and effective transition of government in the interests of the Jamaican people," Chang said.

Preliminary figures show that the PNP lost Thursday's election by a 33-30 margin to the JLP, led by Andrew Holness, but on the first day of the re-count, it gained a seat after the Director of Elections, Orrette Fisher, said, the party's candidate in the constituency of South Eastern St. Mary, Dr. Winston Green, had been officially declared the winner of the seat in the eastern parish.


CARICOM, Japan strengthen decades-old ties

(caricom.org) The long-standing friendship that has existed between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Japan was strengthened on Thursday 25 February, with the accreditation of new Ambassador of Japan to CARICOM, His Excellency Mitsuhiko Okada.

In accepting the Letters of Credence of the new Japanese envoy to CARICOM, Ambassador Manorma Soeknandan, Deputy Secretary-General of CARICOM, also restated the Community's profound appreciation to the Government of Japan for contributing to a major symbol of the Region's integration efforts and progress: the CARICOM Secretariat building. She noted as another tangible testament to Japan's commitment to CARICOM, the first visit of a Japanese Prime Minister to the Region in 2014 and the new level of political engagement it carried. As an influential voice in the international fora, CARICOM greatly valued its friendship with this pacific island nation, she said.


Jamaica Labour Party wins general elections

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Andrew Holness is back in charge in Jamaica. He is set to be sworn in as the country's new Prime Minister after his Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) toppled the People's National Party (PNP) government, winning 33 of the 63 seats in Parliament in yesterday's elections.

Holness, who served as prime minister for a two-month period in 2011 when he succeeded Bruce Golding as JLP leader, will be joined in the House of Representatives by his wife, Juliette Holness, who captured the St Andrew East Rural seat in her first political outing.

Despite her party's loss, former prime minister Portia Simpson Miller also retained her seat.

The poll was marked by a low voter turnout – 47.5 per cent – and its outcome was historic. It was the slimmest victory margin for any political party in Jamaica's history.

Addressing supporters at JLP headquarters last night, Holness promised that it would not be "government as usual".

"We have been given stewardship of the country, and we stand to be held to account for our stewardship. We know that the cost of victory is accountability. The cost of victory is the responsiveness of the government that we will form. The cost of victory is to keep the commitments that we have made," he said.


Barbados bags Best Caribbean Destination 2016 award

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Barbados has been voted Caribbean Best Destination 2016 in recognition of outstanding performance and partnership by Expedia, the largest retailer of travel products in the Caribbean. The award, which was presented during the Caribbean Travel Marketplace in The Bahamas, was a continuation of Barbados' recent winning streak and marked the seventh international award Barbados has received over the past year.

The island was also dubbed Best Destination by Caribbean Journal, and ranked third among the islands of the Caribbean by TripAdvisor in 2015.

Telegraph readers also voted Barbados the best destination in the Caribbean for family holidays, best Caribbean beach holiday destination, best destination for activity and adventure holidays, and best destination for wedding and honeymoons.

The island has also been shortlisted in the destination category for the Routes Americas 2016 Marketing Awards, according to South Florida Caribbean News.

Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) CEO, William Griffith, said the latest award from Expedia was testament to the collaborative efforts local industry partners have been making on behalf of the island.

He added that it was a clear manifestation of the significant work being done by the entire BTMI leadership team in the major markets of the UK, USA and Canada.


CARICOM mounts Observer Mission for Jamaica's elections

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is mounting a CARICOM Electoral Observer Mission to monitor the general elections to be held in Jamaica, Thursday 25 February, 2016. The Mission is being headed by Ms. Josephine Tamai, Chief Elections Officer, Elections and Boundaries Department, Belize.

The other members of the Mission are experts in electoral management and administration from Barbados, The Bahamas, Dominica, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Members of the Mission and the CARICOM Secretariat Support Staff were scheduled to begin arriving in Jamaica from 21 February and will depart by 27 February.

The CARICOM Electoral Observer Mission will meet with Jamaican electoral officials, leaders of political parties and other stakeholders. On the day of the Elections, the Mission will monitor the electoral process including the opening of the Poll, the voting process, the closing of the Poll and the counting of the ballots.

The Observer Mission will issue a preliminary statement based on its observations and findings. A Report of the General Elections will be subsequently prepared and submitted to the CARICOM Secretary General.

For CARICOM, election observation serves as a platform to support existing democratic traditions within the Caribbean Community as part of its wider policy of supporting democracy.


Time to actually save the planet as world leaders agreed

By Andreas Sieber, Giselle Bernard and Ivo Bantel BERLIN, PARIS AND BRUSSELS, IPS, Monday February 22, 2016 – The day, 12 December 2015 was historic. Following decades of negotiations, countries agreed to sign the first global, legally binding climate agreement.

"Every government seems to recognize now that the fossil fuel era must end and soon", said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org. Two months after the deal was reached at the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties 21 (COP21), it is time to see to which extent these words have translated into concrete action.

World leaders agreed to limit global warming below 2°C and to aim for 1.5°C. They also decided to achieve carbon neutrality in the second half of this century – an obvious blow to the fossil fuel industry.

Brian Ricketts, Eurocoal's Secretary General, said that his industry will be "hated and vilified in the same way that slave-traders were". Since the climate climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009, the prices for solar panels droped by about 80%.

"All of a sudden, it is really easy to see what we should do instead of burning oil, gas and coal" McKibben told IPS. But according to him, the Paris agreement is far from enough: "I hope no one came away from Paris with the idea that we've won such big victories that we won't have to do anything anymore", he told IPS. "The problem of course is that we are way behind."

This becomes especially clear looking at the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), i.e. the countries' pledged contributions. They will only bend the warming curve — from 3.6°C with current policies to 2.7°C. But the contributions are far from enough to limit global warming to 2°C or 1.5°C.

According to Climate Action Tracker (CAT), an independent scientific analysis group, only five countries submitted INDCs fully consistent with the 2°C limit. Major emitters such as the USA, the EU, China or Brazil, especially have to revise their INDCs, since they will most likely cause global warming exceeding 2°C. Globally scaled, the climate pledges of many countries such as Australia, Canada or the Russian Federation would actually lead to global warming of more than 3°C.

Also troubling, is the lack of ambition for climate finance. It is a matter of justice that rich nations provide financial support, especially to developing countries struggling against climate change. Copenhagen set the target of $100 billion to be provided by developed countries. The Paris agreement, in contrast, contains no quantitative target. It merely states that there should be a progression beyond previous efforts, but postpones the revision of the already insufficient $100 bn target to 2025.


Obama plans historic trip to Cuba to further ties

WASHINGTON, United States (AP) — US President Barack Obama will pay a historic visit to Cuba in the coming weeks, senior Obama administration officials said, becoming the first president to set foot on the island in nearly seven decades.

The brief visit in mid-March will mark a watershed moment for relations between the US and Cuba, a communist nation estranged from the US for over half a century until Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro moved toward rapprochement more than a year ago. Since then, the nations have reopened embassies in Washington and Havana and have moved to restore commercial air travel, with a presidential visit seen as a key next step toward bridging the divide.

Obama's stop in Cuba will be part of a broader trip to Latin America that the president will take next month, said the officials, who requested anonymity because the trip hasn't been officially announced. The White House planned to unveil Obama's travel plans later Thursday.

Though Obama had long been expected to visit Cuba in his final year, word of his travel plans drew immediate resistance from opponents of warmer ties with Cuba — including Republican presidential candidates.

exas Senator Ted Cruz, whose father fled to the US from Cuba in the 1950s, said Obama shouldn't visit while the Castro family remains in power. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, another child of Cuban immigrants, lambasted the president for visiting what he called an "anti-American communist dictatorship."

"Today, a year and two months after the opening of Cuba, the Cuban government remains as oppressive as ever," Rubio said on CNN. Told of Obama's intention to visit, he added, "Probably not going to invite me."

With less than a year left in office, Obama has been eager to make rapid progress on restoring economic and diplomatic ties to cement warming relations with Cuba that his administration started. Following secret negotiations between their governments, Obama and Castro announced in late 2014 that they would begin normalizing ties, and months later held the first face-to-face meeting between an American and Cuban president since 1958.

But Obama, facing steadfast opposition to normalized relations from Republicans and some Democrats, has been unable to deliver on the former Cold War foe's biggest request: the lifting of the U.S. economic embargo. Opponents argue that repealing those sanctions would reward a government still engaging in human rights abuses and stifling democratic aspirations.


Caribbean countries urged to brace for floods

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – The Barbados-based Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) is warning regional countries that they should brace themselves for floods as the drought conditions which have affected the region since late 2014 are expected to subside by the start of the 2016 Hurricane Season.

CIMH said this latest forecast comes after many months of "warmer and drier than average conditions in the Caribbean fuelled by El Niño, a warming of the eastern equatorial Pacific which has implications for weather patterns around the world, including drought in many regions".

CIMH said that after the forecasted weakening of El Niño, its counterpart La Niña "a cooling of the Pacific may take over and affect the region in the latter part of 2016.

"If the change in circumstance takes place, it is likely to result in higher than normal rainfall and stronger storm systems," the CIMH said in its latest forecast, which it said will be further discussed at a news conference here on Wednesday.

It said that while near to above average rainfall is expected to ease the drought across the Caribbean later this year, "CIMH advises that areas experiencing long-term dryness will be more susceptible to hazards such as landslides and flash floods, once rains return excessive amounts.

Agrometeorologist and CIMH Chief of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, Adrian Trotman, said "limited rainfall over the last few months has left many parts of the Caribbean with dry, compacted soils.

"As a result, heavy rainfall will not be easily absorbed by affected soil which increases the risk of flooding," Trotman said, adding that recent advances in climate forecasting services for the Caribbean now means that government planners and other bodies can now make important decisions based on seasonal forecasts up to three to six months in advance.


Cuba and US to sign agreement for regular direct flights

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) – The United States and Cuba will sign an agreement Tuesday authorizing up to 110 daily US commercial flights to Havana and nine other destinations in the communist island, restoring regular air travel for the first time in more than 50 years.

Once the accord is signed, US authorities will immediately invite American airlines to submit applications to operate the flights, with routes to be set up in a matter of months, officials said.

Additionally, the Cuban government will give "thorough consideration to future requests from the US government to increase this level of service," US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Transportation Affairs Thomas Engle said.

"The two governments reaffirm their commitment to strengthen their already close cooperation in aviation safety and security matters."

Terms of the agreement allow for regular flights "between any city in the US and any city in Cuba," provided it is equipped with proper infrastructure for international flights, he added.

The United States announced plans to resume the flights in December, on the one-year anniversary of the start of reconciliation between Washington and Havana.

Under the new arrangement, airlines in the two countries can now strike deals in such areas as code-sharing and aircraft leasing, the Cuban embassy said at the time.

However, tourist travel is still barred under the trade embargo that the United States slapped on Cuba in 1960 after Fidel Castro came to power in a revolution.

The US Treasury Department has, however, set 12 categories of authorized travel.


American charged with defrauding Caribbean immigrants

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) says an American had been arrested and charged with defrauding Caribbean and other immigrants. The DOJ said Helaman Hansen, 63, was arrested after a US federal grand jury returned a 13-count indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, 11 counts of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud for operating a fraudulent adult-adoption programme that targeted undocumented immigrants.

According to court documents, between October2012 and January 2016, Hansen and others used various entities, such as Americans Helping America (AHA), to sell members of immigrant communities, memberships in what he called a "Migration Programme."

A central feature of the programme was the fraudulent claim that immigrant adults could achieve US citizenship by being legally adopted by an American citizen and completing a list of additional tasks.

At first, memberships were sold for annual fees of US$150, but that fee gradually grew and eventually was as high as US$10,000, according to the indictment.

"The indictment returned today alleges a particularly predatory and manipulative type of fraud that takes advantage of the hopes and dreams of undocumented immigrants to extract fees based on false promises," said US Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner for the Eastern District of California.

"The adoption of adult aliens is not a legitimate path to US citizenship. While the charges against this defendant are only allegations at this point, no one should pay fees to anyone making false promises of citizenship through adult adoption," he said.

Ryan L Spradlin the special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigation's (HSI) San Francisco Field Office, said "it is very unfortunate that some in our communities would choose to misrepresent the American immigration system to deceive and hurt those who are trying only to make a better life for themselves and their families".

According to the indictment, although some victims completed the adoption stage of the "Migration Programme," not one person obtained citizenship.

The indictment states that, as early as October 2012, Hansen was informed by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services that immigrants adopted after their 16th birthdays could not obtain citizenship in the manner Hansen was promoting.


Cuba to host international congress on computer science in health

HAVANA, Cuba (CMC) — The 11th International Congress of Computing in Health will be held here next month under the theme 'Connected in Health'. The March 14-18 conference will also include talks in the areas of health and clinical proactive, computing nursing processes; telemedicine and medical technologies; and computer science, society and bio-computing.

Participants will also delve into norms and regulations on the use of ICT; advanced integrated information systems in this sector; computing in ICT / HIV / AIDS and health surveillance.

On the opening day of the conference, Dr David Novillo, director for knowledge management and organizational learning and coordinator of the Pan- American Health Organization (PAHO), will give a lecture entitled 'Electronic Health Strategy in Latin America'.


Barbados and United Kingdom sign air services agreement

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday February 11, 2016 – Barbados and the United Kingdom (UK) have signed an Air Services Agreement which is expected to strengthen existing air transport links between the two countries.

Barbados' Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, and British High Commissioner to Barbados, Victoria Dean, initialled the document, with the Barbadian official explaining that the agreement was able to bring the existing air services agreement into conformity with the European Commission.

All European Union member states must amend their bilateral air services agreements to permit all European airlines to benefit from the provisions of such agreements.

"Under this agreement, Barbadian-designated carriers can operate to intermediate points and points beyond, and the United Kingdom-designated carriers can operate from points in the United Kingdom to intermediate points beyond," McClean said.

"Through this agreement, there will be the opening up of the Barbados/UK route to numerous European and Caribbean carriers that will have the long-term effect of improving service and keeping prices low, while providing increased business opportunities and enhancement of Barbados' international reputation, especially as a tourism destination."

She pointed out that over four million tourists had visited the island over the past 10 years from the UK and other European markets.

Dean noted that the agreement was testament to the close working relationship between the two countries. She said she hoped it would increase the number of persons travelling between the two countries and points beyond, and agreed that the new arrangement should help to improve trade.


Reducing non-communicable disease in SIDS through climate preservation

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Tuesday February 9, 2016 – Chronic non- communicable diseases (NCDs) including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease account for some 7 out of every 10 deaths in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) including those of the Caribbean. This results in the expenditure of approximately 60% of health budgets in nearly all Caribbean countries. While it is easy to assume that the most common cause of NCDs are behavioural, such as exposure to tobacco smoke, unhealthy eating, physical inactivity and alcohol abuse, recognizing and understanding the connection between NCDs and environmental factors is critical, more so now than ever before.

The High Vulnerability of SIDS to Climate Change and Its Impact on NCDS

Climate change is one of the greatest threats to a sustainable future. Globally, this has been acknowledged by 195 countries who signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). This single act represents international recognition of the damaging effects of climate change and the unified commitment to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and take common action.

Regionally in the Caribbean and in other Small Island Developing States (SIDS), there is a higher level of vulnerability to climate change. For example, typically-limited physical size of SIDS effectively reduces adaptation options to climate change and sea level rise. Natural resources are limited and already heavily stressed by current unsustainable human activities. A high susceptibility to natural hazards have the potential to cause significant loss and damage to frequently underdeveloped infrastructure and struggling communities. The extreme openness of SIDS' small economies are highly sensitive to external market shocks.


Obama asking Congress for emergency funding to combat Zika

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is asking Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to help fight the Zika virus. In an announcement Monday, the White House said the money would be used to expand mosquito control programs, speed development of a vaccine, develop diagnostic tests and improve support for low-income pregnant women.

Zika virus disease is mainly spread by mosquitoes. Most people who catch it experience mild or no symptoms. But mounting evidence from Brazil suggests that infection in pregnant women is linked to abnormally small heads in their babies — a birth defect called microcephaly.

"What we now know is that there appears to be some significant risk for pregnant women and women who are thinking about having a baby," Obama said in an interview aired Monday on "CBS This Morning."

The White House said that as spring and summer approach, the US must prepare to quickly address local transmission with the continental US Obama added, however, that "there shouldn't be a panic on this."

The Pan American Health Organization reports 26 countries and territories in the Americas with local Zika transmission. To date, there has not been transmission of the Zika virus by mosquitoes within the US, but some Americans have returned to the US with Zika infections from affected countries in South America, Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 50 laboratory-confirmed cases among US travellers from December 2015- February 5, 2016, the White House said.


Cuba and US to collaborate in fight against migration fraud and human trafficking

HAVANA, Cuba, Feb. 6, (CMC) -Representatives from Cuba and the United States have agreed to collaborate in the fight against trafficking in persons and migration fraud. This was discussed at a meeting in Miami, Florida on Thursday.

According to the Cuban Foreign Ministry, the meeting was held in a respectful and professional environment as both countries agreed to advance joint work in the area and sign accords to formalize exchange initiatives in an effort to effectively neutralize those who practice the trafficking in persons.

The meeting was held as the number of Cubans migrating to the United States has gone up significantly.

According to Coast Guard officials, they have seen an increase of 350 per cent in the amount of Cubans trying to make their way to the US by sea.

The Cuban delegation was headed by Colonel Mario Mendez, Chief of the Identification, and Immigration at the Interior Ministry and made up of official from that institution and from the Cuban Foreign Ministry.

On the US side were representatives of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security, along with officials from the departments of State and Justice


WHO declares Zika an International Public Health Emergency

The World Health Organization declared the spread of Zika and an associated birth defect an international public health emergency Monday, freeing funds to combat the disease. "This is an extraordinary event," said WHO Director General Margaret Chan at a press conference Monday.

"It poses a public health threat to other parts of the world and a coordinated international response is needed."

Chan cited the pattern of the disease's spread, the lack of a vaccine, and the large global population of mosquitoes that can carry the virus as factors that contributed to the declaration.


Jamaica commits to climate change mitigation

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Monday February 1, 2016 – Jamaica is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 1.1 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2030, as part of its global commitment to take climate change mitigation action.

To bring that about, the island – as reflected in its nine-page Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) document to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – has undertaken to implement energy policies to ensure that the island: uses energy wisely and aggressively to pursue opportunities for conservation and efficiency; and has a modernized and expanded energy infrastructure that enhances energy generation capacity and ensures that energy supplies are safely, reliably and affordably transported to homes, communities and the productive sectors on a sustainable basis.

Other measures will also be taken to ensure Jamaica achieves its energy resource potential through the development of renewable energy sources by increasing their share in its primary energy mix of 20 per cent by 2030.

"Such policies are also to ensure that government agencies and ministries are a model/leader in energy conservation and environmental stewardship, and that the island has a well-defined and established governance, institutional, legal, and regulatory framework," the document said.

Fully implemented energy polices also need to ensure that private industry embraces "efficiency and ecological stewardship to advance international competitiveness and to move towards a green economy".


Japan & UNDP kick start US$15M Caribbean Climate Change Project

UNDP, 28 January, 2016) – The Government of Japan and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched a US$15 million Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (J-CCCP) today, in line with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The launch follows a two-day meeting with more than 40 representatives from eight Caribbean countries, including government officials, technical advisors, NGO and UN partners to set out a roadmap to mitigate and adapt to climate change, in line with countries' long-term strategies. The new initiative will help put in practice Caribbean countries' actions and policies to reduce greenhouse as emissions and adapt to climate change, such as Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). It will also boost access to sustainable energy and help reduce fossil fuel imports and dependence, setting the region on a low-emission development path, while addressing critical balance of payments constraints.

Participating countries include Belize, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, the Republic of Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Republic of Suriname, benefiting an estimated 200,000 women and men in 50 communities.


CARICOM condemns acts of violence in Haiti, calls for calm

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has called on all the stakeholders in Haiti's electoral process to do their utmost to resolve the current political crisis. The Community, in a statement Tuesday, condemned the acts of violence which have marred the electoral process and contributed to the postponement of the second round of the Presidential elections and the remaining members of the legislature.

Haiti's Electoral Council postponed the elections, scheduled for Sunday 24 January, citing security concerns.

The Community said it looks forward to the continuation of the electoral process and to an improved management and conduct of the polling process.


US broadens allowable exports to Cuba

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) – The United States is expanding authorized exports to Cuba in the latest incremental steps to ease a Cold War-era trade ban on the communist-ruled island, the US Treasury said Tuesday. The rule changes, which go into effect Wednesday, will allow more US exports related to disaster preparedness, education, agricultural production, food processing, public transportation and artistic endeavors.

Licenses for such exports that are deemed to be meeting the needs of the Cuban people will be granted on a case-by-case basis, the department said.

Also being removed are existing restrictions on payment and financing terms for authorized exports and reexports to Cuba, except agricultural products and commodities, it said.

The US actions "send a clear message to the world: the United States is committed to empowering and enabling economic advancements for the Cuban people," Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said.

The two countries restored diplomatic relations in July after a historic rapprochement between US President Barack Obama and Cuba's President Raul Castro the previous December.

Even so, the new openings were incremental as a more than half-century-old US trade embargo on the island remains in place, with little prospect of repeal under a Republican-controlled Congress.

The Obama instead has focused on regulatory changes to ease travel and trade between the two countries, once bitter foes and now in the midst of a tentative reconciliation process.


Jamaica receives more visitors than population

ST JAMES, Jamaica (JIS) – Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Dr Wykeham McNeill, says Jamaica has been welcoming more visitors than the population, confirming the country's status as one of the elite destinations in the Caribbean. The Minister told JIS News that for the past two years the country has been receiving two million stopover visitors and 1.5 million from the cruise ships annually, more than the population of 2.5 million.

"Bringing in more people than our current population is no ordinary feat…and we are not done as yet," Dr McNeill said.

The minister informed that currently, there are 2,500 new hotel rooms under construction, adding that never in the history of the country have so many rooms being built simultaneously.

He noted that in addition to the current boom, there are about 7,000 more rooms that are in the pipeline, including 4,000 to be built in North West St Ann.

Dr McNeill said his mantra as Minister of Tourism has always been about what is in the best interest of the Jamaican people and that every effort will be made to ensure that many Jamaicans are employed during the construction phase of the new rooms that are coming on stream.

The minister pointed out that with all the new rooms coming on stream, there will be over 10,000 jobs that will be available and he is urging Jamaicans to get certified to meet the demand.


Zika virus seen spreading to nearly all countries in the Americas: WHO

GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — The Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease suspected of causing serious birth defects, is expected to spread to all countries in the Americas except Canada and Chile, the World Health Organization said. Zika has suspected but unproven links to microcephaly – in which babies born to women infected during pregnancy have abnormally small heads.

The virus is already present in 21 of the 55 countries and territories across the Americas, the WHO said in a statement Sunday. But it stressed that the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries Zika and also dengue and chikungunya viruses, is already present in all countries in the Americas besides Canada and Chile.

WHO pointed out that since people in the region had not been exposed to Zika before it emerged in Brazil last May they lacked immunity, allowing the virus to spread quickly. The UN health agency said it therefore "anticipates that Zika virus will continue to spread and will likely reach all countries and territories of the region where Aedes mosquitoes are found."

WHO chief Margaret Chan told the opening of the organisation's executive committee meeting in Geneva Monday that "the explosive spread of Zika virus to new geographical areas, with little population immunity, is (a) cause for concern, especially given the possible link between infection during pregnancy and babies born with small heads."

She stressed that "a causal link between Zika infection in pregnancy and microcephaly has not been established," but added that "the circumstantial evidence is suggestive and extremely worrisome."

A surge in incidents across Latin America, notably in Brazil, has prompted the United States and other governments to warn pregnant women against travelling to the region – an alarming prospect for Brazil as it gears up to light the Olympic torch on August 5.

Brazil has recorded 3,893 microcephaly cases since an unusual spike in the rare condition was noticed in the country's northeast in October. Previously an annual average of 160 cases was the norm.


Caribbean reliance on tourism

The annual Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) Market place is under way here with Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie underscoring the importance of the tourism sector to the socio-economic development of the Caribbean. Christie addressing the three-day event, said that tourism as a direct contribution to Caribbean gross domestic product (GDP) was three per cent in 2015 compared to the worldwide average of 3.7 per cent.

He said the sector as a total contribution to Caribbean GDP rose by 2.9 per cent last year and is expected to increase by 3.3 per cent of GDP per annum each year over the next decade, against the worldwide average of 3.8 per cent.

He said in the region, total capital investment in tourism grew by 4.2 per cent in 2015, as compared to the worldwide average of 4.8 per cent. "All of this suggests that while we are holding our own in tourism in the Caribbean, we must do much better if we are to meet the needs and expectations of Caribbean citizens over the next decade and that we must be intent on giving prioritized focus to those drivers of our economies that will leverage our tourism assets for continued and accelerated growth in the years to come."

Christie said he welcomed the move by the United States to re-open diplomatic relations with Cuba and to work toward completely lifting the trade embargo. "With the US trade embargo eliminated, Cuba will enter the Caribbean arena as a heavy weight contender for the region's share of the tourism trade. Among Cuba's many attractions is her novelty and human beings are naturally attracted to what is new.

"But let's keep in mind that there is an upside to stiff competition. Competition motivates us to reach deep within and bring out qualities that we are unaware that we possess. All nations seek to strengthen their economic position through collaboration with neighbouring countries.

"Cuba is no exception. Already, several of our destinations have entered into agreements with Cuba to do joint tourism marketing and to create multiple destination packages," Christie said, noting "for us in the Caribbean, it is no longer business as usual.

"We are at that juncture in our development as tourism dependent nations where the name of our region must become synonymous, bar none, with world class, impeccable service, value for money, top rate accommodations and wonderfully memorable vacation experiences.

"The upside is that today's global economic landscape continues to provide opportunities for each of the Caribbean's tourism destinations, even as our governments seek to mitigate challenges such as infrastructure development, energy security, technological advancement, citizen security and climate change that impact tourism development."

Christie said that the three-day event here has attracted participation from Latin America and other global emerging markets which are well poised to tap into mainstream and niche tourism and hospitality products available throughout the Caribbean region.


2015 was hottest year by far in modern times

MIAMI, United States (AFP) – Blistering heat blanketed the Earth last year like never before, making 2015 by far the hottest year in modern times and raising new concerns about the accelerating pace of climate change. Not only was 2015 the warmest worldwide since 1880, it shattered the previous record held in 2014 by the widest margin ever observed, said the report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"During 2015, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.62 Fahrenheit (0.90 Celsius) above the 20th century average," said the NOAA report.

"This was the highest among all years in the 1880-2015 record," it added.

"This is also the largest margin by which the annual global temperature record has been broken."

The US space agency NASA, which monitors global climate using a fleet of satellites and weather stations, confirmed that last year broke records for heat in contemporary times.

NASA said that the temperature changes are largely driven by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere. "Climate change is the challenge of our generation," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "Today's announcement not only underscores how critical NASA's Earth observation program is, it is a key data point that should make policy makers stand up and take notice -- now is the time to act on climate."

Last year marked the fourth time a global temperature record has been set this century. Moreover, the latest finding adds to a steady rise in heat across land and sea surfaces that have seen records repeatedly broken over the years.

"Since 1997, which at the time was the warmest year on record, 16 of the subsequent 18 years have been warmer than that year," said the NOAA report. Last year alone, 10 months had record high temperatures for their respective months.

The heat was felt worldwide, with unprecedented warmth covering much of Central America and the northern half of South America.

Hot temperatures were observed in parts of northern, southern and eastern Europe as well as western Asia and a large section of east-central Siberia.

Regions of eastern and southern Africa experienced more blistering heat than ever, as did large parts of the northeastern and equatorial Pacific boosted by the El Nino weather phenomenon. A separate group, Berkeley Earth -- a US non-profit organization that says it was founded by people who saw some merit in the claims of climate change skeptics -- announced similar findings last week.

"2015 was unambiguously the hottest year on record," it said in a statement. "For the first time in recorded history, the Earth's temperature is clearly more than 1.0 C (1.8 F) above the 1850-1900 average."


Caribbean countries want more cooperation within energy sector

Barbados and Guyana are looking for Caribbean support to develop their energy sector and are looking towards Trinidad and Tobago for support. Guyana's National Resource Minister Raphael Trotman said that in terms of energy, Trinidad and Tobago has been, "in a sense a big brother to the region" while Barbados Energy Minister Darcy Boyce said "today's offshore petroleum acreage (in Barbados), like that of many countries within the region, remains largely under-explored".

Both government ministers are attending the three-day Trinidad and Tobago Energy Conference here that has brought together local, regional and international energy stakeholders. Trotman, who addressed the conference on Tuesday, later told reporters that Guyana, which recently announced the discovery of a large quantity of oil in its territorial waters, has always enjoyed a close working relationship with Port of Spain.

"Our previous governments had signed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) which expired last year. I believe the time is right for us to sit again and craft a new one, looking particularly at the development of our oil and gas sector," he said.

He said he had already met with the Trinidad and Tobago Energy Minister, Nicole Olivierre, on the issue reminding her of the talks held between Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley and the Guyana President David Granger last year.

"Our President and your Prime Minister met last year to discuss this, and few other matters, and we do need to get together," Trotman said, adding that he was now looking to hold talks with Olivierre "at the second level".

"Responsible governments have to steer companies towards national interests and regional interests," Trotman said, adding "responsible governments have to ensure that even as they get their rates of return, they do so within a context that is nationally, and regionally acceptable".

He said this could be achieved once there is the will among the countries and that in terms of energy, Port of Spain has been, "in a sense a big brother to the region."

But he said Georgetown was prepared to assume the role "not as a power player per se, but as a country that can perhaps fill gaps that Trinidad and Tobago would have left".

In his address to the conference, Trotman, said that while Guyana is excited at the prospects of being an oil producer, it is also cognisant of the fact that it has committed to becoming a country that utilises 100 per cent renewable energy within the next decade.

Noting that Guyana's challenge is to be self-sufficient in energy and to produce a surplus that can be sold on the world market, Trotman said that the country has been unable to access reliable power at stable, reasonable costs and as such, has been carefully examining hydropower projects, which caters for sustainable development.


Turkish newspaper says four Trinidadians among ISIS foreign fighters detained

ANKARA, Turkey, Tuesday January 19, 2016 – Four Trinidadians fighting with Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS or ISIL) were caught by Turkish security forces last year, according to a report in a Turkish newspaper. Hürriyet Daily News yesterday published an article in which it reported that the Turkey government last month released a list of 913 foreign jihadists from 57 countries who had been caught in Turkey in the first 11 months of 2015, and its sources had indicated that four Trinidad and Tobago citizens were among them.

No other Caribbean country was mentioned.

Earlier this month, Commander of US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) General John Kelly said that about 100 Islamic extremists left the Caribbean to join ISIS fighters in the Middle East last year and the number had risen to about 150 this year.

He expressed concern about those citizens returning to the region and carrying out terrorist attacks.

Meantime, according to the Hürriyet, China tops the list with 324 citizens caught in Turkey fighting for ISIL. There were 99 foreign fighters with Russian passports, 83 Palestinians, 63 fighters from Turkmenistan, 57 from Afghanistan, 44 from Indonesia, 19 from Germany and the United Kingdom each, 18 from France, six from South Korea, five from Australia, and two from the Maldives.

Two American citizens were among those caught, as well as fighters carrying Syrian passports, it added.

The newspaper reported that most ISIL fighters attempting to cross into Syria through Turkey claimed they were simply trying to look for their relatives.


US officials could advise pregnant women against visiting Caribbean islands with Zika

WASHINGTON, United States, Thursday January 14, 2016 – United States federal health officials are expected to make a decision either today or tomorrow on whether to warn pregnant women against travel to Caribbean and Latin American countries where the Zika virus has been confirmed.

According to the New York Times, they're giving consideration to issuing the warning because of the link between the mosquito-borne virus and microcephaly, a rare neurological disorder in infants in which the size of the brain is abnormally small.

The New York Times reports that if the advisory is issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it would the first time the agency has ever advised pregnant women to avoid a specific region during an outbreak.

"We can't make these decisions in a vacuum," said CDC spokesman, Thomas Skinner. "We're consulting with other experts outside."

Although it often causes only mild rashes and fevers, women who have contracted the virus, particularly in the first trimester of pregnancy, appear to be much more likely to have children with microcephaly.

Hundreds of babies with the disorder have been born in Brazil to mothers who contracted the Zika virus while they were pregnant.


Jamaica moves ahead with oil and gas exploration

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday January 13, 2016 – An offshore two-dimensional seismic survey will be conducted over the next 30 days to determine Jamaica's potential for commercial oil and gas, as the country moves full steam ahead with its exploration plan.

Tullow Jamaica Limited, a leader in independent gas and oil exploration and production, is undertaking the 3,000 kilometre survey as part of the work programme outlined in the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) the company signed with the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) back in November 2014.

Exploratory work is to be carried out on the south coast of the island, which has been identified in the past as having good frontier for exploration.

Tullow has contracted seismic vessel BGP Challenger to conduct the exploration and collect the data.

Addressing the media during a tour of the technologically sophisticated seismic vessel yesterday, Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Minister Phillip Paulwell said that works valued at US$70 million is being undertaken by Tullow under the contract.


Obama summons Americans to compromise and change

WASHINGTON (AP) — With Americans soon to begin choosing his successor, President Barack Obama is casting his seven divisive years as a time of positive change, implicitly asking voters to replace him with a Democrat who would continue his hard-won policies on health care, climate change and Iran.

Addressing a hostile Republican-led Congress and a country plunged in a tumultuous, at times angry presidential campaign, Obama used his final State of the Union address to summon an affirmative vision of his administration and for the future. He rebutted critics, naysayers and the GOP White House hopefuls, but also acknowledged his own failure to transform the country's bitter politics and unite the nation.

With a year left in office, he presented that task as more urgent than ever and pleaded with voters to turn away from harsh voices and come together.

"Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested," Obama said. "Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention."

Conceding that changing Washington was not the job of one person, Obama called on voters to change the system itself by demanding less money in politics, fairly drawn congressional districts and easier access to voting.

"There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber who would like to see more cooperation, a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the demands of getting elected," Obama told a Congress unlikely to follow his lead, though many lawmakers might agree with his call.

"It's one of the few regrets of my presidency - that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better," the president said.

At times, Obama referred sarcastically to the Republicans running to replace him, though without mentioning them by name, just weeks before voting in Iowa and New Hampshire. He countered the negativity of Donald Trump, who promises to keep out Muslims and "Make America Great Again," and Texas Sen Ted Cruz's vow to "carpet bomb" the Islamic State group.


Cash for climate change please, Caribbean leaders plead

By Desmond Brown GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Monday January 11, 2016, IPS – Funding to address the financial flows needed for adaptation and mitigation of climate change remains an issue of concern for the Caribbean. The region's leaders say developed countries should continue to take the lead in mobilizing climate finance from a wide variety of sources to prevent disaster to these vulnerable island states.

Additionally, the Secretary General of the Caribbean Community and Common Market, (CARICOM), Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, said there ought to be transparency in terms of the commitments countries make.

"And I would hope that the commitments that the developed countries have made to provide financing are commitments that they will honour," LaRocque told IPS. "And I dare add that such commitments to provide financing should not be tied up in all the bureaucratic maneuverings to access these finances."

"We also feel very, very strongly that the vulnerability that our countries exhibit should be a major criteria for accessing those resources and not per capita income," LaRocque added.

The climate change agreement signed in Paris in December recognized the importance of averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events.

With climate change already affecting the region, St. Lucia's Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony is concerned that there is still a gap between what the politicians are saying on the issue and what the region's people believe.

"There are a lot of people in the Caribbean who have not understood the danger that these islands face. It is true that they have experienced adverse weather systems but they have not translated that experience into understanding that there is a change in the weather systems, the weather patterns because of climatic factors, so we have to translate that to out ordinary people," Anthony said.


Jamaica lifts ban on travellers from Ebola-affected countries

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Friday January 8, 2016 – Government has lifted the ban it introduced more than a year ago on people entering the island from countries affected by the deadly Ebola virus. The Ministry of National Security made the announcement yesterday, saying the decision recently taken by Cabinet followed recent indications from the World Health Organization (WHO) about the reduction of cases worldwide, especially in countries that were directly affected by the virus.

In October 2014, the Jamaican Government instituted the ban on people ordinarily resident in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as people who had travelled to or transited through Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, within 28 days of having departed from these countries.

However, the WHO says the criteria it established to declare the end of any known transmission of the Ebola virus have been met, and as such has declared an end to the outbreak in the three key countries where the virus had been most prevalent — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.


Caribbean legislators hail US President's executive action on gun control

WASHINGTON - A tearful President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced stricter gun control regime in the United States, fondly remembering the children killed in mass shootings in America and making a passionate call for a national "sense of urgency" to limit gun violence in the country.

Obama admitted that not much was done on changing gun laws in America during his tenure and also made it clear that he does not expect more changes during his remaining year in office.

He however pledged to do what he can to make gun control a theme in the months leading up to the November election to replace him.

"In this room right here, there are a lot of stories. There's a lot of heartache," Obama said in the White House East Room. He was flanked by relatives of those struck down in mass shootings, including former Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.

"There's a lot of resilience, there's a lot of strength, but there's also a lot of pain."

Obama's new executive plan is seeking to expand background checks for gun buyers. The measure clarifies that individuals "in the business of selling firearms" register as licensed gun dealers, effectively narrowing the so-called "gun show loophole," which exempts most small sellers from keeping formal sales records.

But the president faces legal, political and logistical hurdles that are likely to blunt the effect of the plan he laid out, according to the New York Times.

A number of the executive actions he plans only suggested "guidance" for federal agencies, not binding regulations. They were framed mostly as clarifying and enforcing existing law, not expanding it. And many of those measures rely on hefty funding increases that a Republican-led Congress is almost certain to reject.

Obama lashed out at Congress, which blocked a tougher gun bill in 2013. He said the Congress still needs to impose new gun control measures. He noted that many of the actions he's calling for can only be imposed through legislative action.

"Congress still needs to act," Obama said. "The folks in this room will not rest until Congress does. Because once Congress gets on board with common-sense gun safety measures, we can reduce gun violence a whole lot."

"But we also can't wait," Obama added. "Until we have the Congress that's in line with the majority of Americans, there are actions within my legal authority that we can take to help reduce gun violence and save more lives."

Obama reiterated that his toughest time in office was grappling with the December 2012 massacre of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.


Addressing climate change on several fronts in the Caribbean

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Tuesday January 5, 2016 , (IPS) – Climate change is already affecting the Caribbean. But there is concern that a gap still exists between what the region's leaders are saying about the issue and what residents believe.

This, along with the issue of funding to address the financial flows needed for adaptation and mitigation, are among priority areas for the Caribbean post-COP21. Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, the Secretary General of CARICOM, a political and economic union comprising 15 small, developing, climate-vulnerable islands and low-lying nations, said there ought to be transparency in terms of the commitments countries make.


CTO declares 2016 "Year of Romance in the Caribbean"

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — The Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) has declared 2016 as the Year of Romance in the Caribbean . The organisation says with the launch of this new initiative, the CTO and its member countries and hotels will highlight the region as the leading choice for a romantic vacation for consumers and travel planners selling the region.

"With over 30 destinations to choose from, the Caribbean region provides the perfect backdrop for a romantic getaway highlighted by pristine beaches, secluded accommodations, an abundance of land and water activities, top-notch spa services and personalised attention that meets the needs of the most discerning traveller," said Hugh Riley, secretary general of CTO.

"The Year of Romance in the Caribbean will spotlight the romantic features of our region beyond the traditional times of year such as Valentine's Day. A romantic theme is easily embraced by all of our member destinations 365 days a year," Riley noted.

Throughout the year, CTO in cooperation with its private sector partner the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association; will assist member countries with ideas which can be implemented around the theme of romance to appeal to consumers, travel agents and tour operators.

Some of the areas of focus will include first or second marriages and the renewal of vows, the most romantic locations to "pop the question" or say "I do" and inviting celebrity couples to get married in t he Caribbean.

"We anticipate that in addition to the ideas we provide our members, the countries and hotels will develop their own plan of action for promoting romance in their individual destinations," said Riley adding: "The theme is inclusive of our partners, both public- and private-sector.

Caribbean hotels, travel agents and tour operators are urged to create their own romantic ideas or adopt ones being embraced by the destinations.


Politics dominated Caribbean life in 2015

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Dec 30, (CMC) – Three governments were booted out of office by the electorate in St Kitts and Nevis, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago during 2015. But while Dr Denzil Douglas, Donald Ramotar and Kamla Persad Bissessar sat brooding, their counterparts in Anguilla, Belize, Suriname, the British Virgin Islands and St. Vincent and the Grenadines were celebrating victories.

In all, voters in nine Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states went to the polls in 2015, which turned out to be a very challenging year politically for many.

In Haiti, the electoral process is still unfolding following the "indefinite postponement" of the second round of voting in presidential elections that had been scheduled for December 27 to choose a successor to Michel Martelly, who under the French speaking nation's constitution cannot seek a third consecutive term in office.

The final results are expected in early 2016. But the polls so far have been marred by allegations of voter rigging, as well as violence and death.

The outcome of the first round of balloting on October 25, only became known in mid-December, amid calls for the resignation of members of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) and threats of a boycott by opposition parties, which are were insisting that the polls in Haiti were not free and fair, despite the "clean bill of health" given by the international electoral observers.

As the year drew to a close, Jamaicans were wondering whether they too would be facing the election music. However, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller put an end to any such speculation when she said that the date for the new poll, which is constitutionally due in December 2016, would be announced after the new voters' list was published on November 30.

The prime minister also said her wish was for Jamaicans to have a peaceful Christmas season, even as she warned the electorate that "the hour is at hand".

For its part, the main opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) said it was confident of victory, no doubt encouraged by the success of their colleagues in neighbouring CARICOM states that have managed to unseat incumbents.

Among them, Timothy Harris and his opposition coalition which shattered Dr Douglas' hopes and dreams of becoming the first CARICOM leader to win five consecutive general elections.

When he announced February 16 as the date for choosing a new government in the twin island Federation, the 62-year-old Dr Douglas had plans of using the new voters list and new boundaries. But those plans were dashed by the London-based Privy Council, the highest court for St. Kitts and Nevis, which upheld an appeal filed by opposition legislators.

The Privy Council was asked to rule on whether or not the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal was correct in upholding the discharge of an interim injunction preventing the adoption of new electoral boundaries ahead of the general elections.

In its ruling, the Privy Council noted that both parties had agreed to use for the purposes of the forthcoming general election whatever list the Privy Council may determine as the appropriate list.

"It is determined and ordered that firstly, the list to be used in the said election, is and shall be that existing prior to and apart from the proclamation bearing the reference number two of 2015 purportedly issued and published by the Governor General… bearing the date January 16, 2015," the Privy Council said.

The opposition coalition, comprising the People's Action Movement (PAM), the People's Labour Party (PLP) and the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) welcomed the ruling and expressed confidence that voters would put an end to Dr Douglas' plan to extend his 20 years at the helm of the government.

What transpired after the electorate voted was a situation never before experienced in the Caribbean.


St Vincent court refuses opposition application to inspect poll documents

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC) — High Court judge Justice Brian Cottle has rejected an application from Ben Exeter, the opposition New Democratic Party's (NDP) candidate for Central Leeward in the December 9 general election, seeking access to certain electoral documents.

"I do not consider that the applicant has shown any grounds, far less any strong grounds, to grant the application," Cottle said in a written judgement handed down late Monday afternoon.

The judge cited the ruling of the Court of Appeal in Trinidad and Tobago in relation to petitions stemming from the recent general election in the twin island republic.

While noting that the laws in Trinidad and Tobago are different from those in St Vincent and the Grenadines, Cottle said, "I, too, feel that to grant the application as file would be akin to… permission to embark on an unfettered roving commission of inquiry. The only legitimate parameter are those circumscribed by the grounds and materials facts contained in the (application) in light of the relief sought and the relevant law."

"I therefore refuse the application," he said.

He, however, added in a postscript that, after the draft of the decision was completed, the court was informed by telephone that Exeter had filed at the court office, late Christmas Eve, "certain written submissions".

"I have not had the benefit of reading those before this decision was complete," the judge added.

Exeter was a first time candidate to the Unity Labour Party's (ULP) Sir Louis Straker, a former Central Leeward member of parliament who came out of political retirement to run again. Exeter lost by 313 votes.

The NDP candidate asked the court to order Supervisor of Election Sylvia Findlay to "produce forthwith all ballot boxes in her custody in the constituency of Central Leeward", and hand them over to the Registrar of the High Court.

He also asked the court to order the registrar to open the ballot boxes in his presence and that he be permitted to inspect all ballot papers inside them.

He also asked the court to order the sealed packets containing counterfoils in the ballot boxes to be opened by the registrar in his presence and that he be permitted to inspect the counterfoils.


Stranded Cuban migrants permitted to enter United States

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala, Tuesday December 29, 2015 – Thousands of Cuban migrants stuck in Costa Rica for the past month have finally been given the green light to continue their journey to the United States.

This follows an agreement reached by a group of Central American nations yesterday, following talks in Guatemala City.

About 7,000 Cuban migrants had travelled to Ecuador through Colombia and Panama and into Costa Rica but were blocked by Nicaragua. However, as a result of the agreement, from next month the Cubans will be airlifted to El Salvador and put on buses to cross Guatemala into Mexico and cross the border into the US.

Under the US 'wet foot dry foot policy', Cuban migrants who arrive on land to enter the country and apply for residency, while those who are intercepted at sea are sent back.

"The solution emerging is an absolute exception and only for those people who entered national territory legally," Costa Rica's Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez said, according to Reuters.

On Sunday, Pope Francis urged Central American governments to show generosity in dealing with the situation.


Harvard-affiliated research institute supporting eHealth in the Caribbean

MASSACHUSETTS, United States (CMC) – A major Harvard Medical School-affiliated research institute is aiming to develop education and care delivery in the Caribbean. The Division of Clinical Informatics at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) has signed a framework agreement with the Washington-based Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to collaborate in supporting the advancement of eHealth in Latin America and the Caribbean.

BIDMC said its efforts will be led by Director of Global Health Informatics Dr Yuri Quintana.

BIDMC noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) has defined eHealth as "the cost-effective and secure use of information and communication technologies in support of health, including treating patients, conducting research, educating the health workforce, tracking diseases and monitoring public health."

"This collaboration will allow us to tap into the vast expertise of BIDMC's informatics division and clinicians, as well as the entire Harvard community," Quintana said.

"As a systems design engineer, I'll be looking at the institutions, care providers and patients and the information that flows among them with the goal of determining how technology can facilitate communication, education and care coordination," he added.

Quintana said he will work with his technical counterpart, David Novillo, PAHO eHealth Program Coordinator, on eHealth training strategies and the development of research priorities and publications for use in Latin America and the Caribbean.

"We'll be studying how different implementations in different countries are adapted to fit local needs," Quintana said. "We'll then examine how effectively communicating best practices can help improve outcomes while reducing costs."

Quintana said he and Novillo will begin by looking at newborn and maternal health.

"One of the United Nations millennial goals is to reduce infant mortality," Quintana noted. "Progress has been made; but, in some countries, there are still infant mortality rates as high as 30 to 40 percent in areas where there are fewer services.

"This problem lends itself to telemedicine and eHealth because technology can connect experts where they're needed and when they're needed," added Quintana, stating that he will also collaborate with BIDMC clinicians Dr Charles Safran, Chief of the Division of Clinical Informatics, Dr James Gray, Neonatologist, and Dr Hope Ricciotti, MD, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

BIDMC says Safran and Gray developed one of the world's first telemedicine applications for neonatal care, called "Baby CareLink," in 1996.


CARICOM SG says 2015 was a "fulfilling year"

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque has singled out unity, commitment and innovative ideas among the features that helped to fashion a fulfilling 2015 in the Region.

"This past year has been a most fulfilling one for us in the Caribbean Community. The value of our integration movement proved itself at home and abroad as we continued our efforts to provide an improved standard of living for all our citizens. The progress that we have made on many fronts has been due to our acting in concert to secure the best option for our Community," the Secretary-General said in an end of year message.

Recalling the Community's progress over the year, the Secretary-General said that he was confident that with initiatives underway – including the Reform Process – bolstered by the "tangible evidence of what our unity" could achieve, the Region would provide "the safe, secure and viable society that will make us all proud to be citizens of CARICOM".


UN urges transfer of power in Haiti through polls

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern today over growing political uncertainty in Haiti and urged the two candidates in the presidential run-off there to help the electoral process move forward while preserving the country's democratic gains. "The Secretary-General is concerned over the growing political uncertainty in Haiti, following the publication of the results of the 25 October elections," which included the first round of presidential polls, read a statement issued through his spokesperson.

While taking note of the efforts by all stakeholders, including the establishment of an electoral evaluation commission on 16 December to address the concerns of opposition parties and ensure the successful and timely conclusion of the presidential elections, Mr. Ban in his statement stressed "the responsibility of all political actors to discourage violence and encourage a spirit of unity throughout the country."

According to the statement, the UN chief "calls for the urgent intensification of dialogue to ensure the transfer of power through elections, within the constitutional timeframe, maintain stability and preserve the country's democratic gains."

"The Secretary-General urges the two candidates in the presidential run-off to engage in good faith with the relevant institutions to identify and implement measures to help the process move forward," the statement said.

According to press reports, the run-off had been set for 27 December between Jovenel Moise from the governing party and former government executive Jude Celestin, but the election has been postponed until further notice.

In his statement, Mr. Ban reaffirmed the commitment of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the entire UN system to continue supporting the Haitian people in the fulfilment of their democratic aspirations.

In a statement to the press, the members of the UN Security Council trusted that, with the support of the international community, the Haitian people will build upon the first two rounds of Haitian elections and be able to bring the electoral process to a successful conclusion in the upcoming final round.


Strong regional collaboration credited for CARICOM's successful Climate Change campaign

CARICOM's well prepared and experienced team of negotiators, and a focused, unified campaign, helped the Caribbean Community get its red line climate change issues all represented in the final Agreement at the just ended Climate Change conference, COP 21, in Paris, France. And, CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque has hailed the strong regional collaboration, given the critical importance of climate change to the Region's survival.

"We saw our community operating at its best on the international front in Paris," Ambassador LaRocque stated emphatically as he reflected on the 30 November to 11 December conference that led to the approval of an historic Climate Change Agreement by 195 countries.

"The coordination was superb. I want to say hats off to our negotiators, led by Minister Jimmy Fletcher, Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development in St. Lucia and of course the role played by all our Ministers and our Heads of Government. I was there feeling very proud. We were of a single mind. We were one body with several parts working together in unison to achieve a set of goals that we had set. We left Paris with … our objectives being addressed in the Agreement," the Secretary-General added.

Minister Fletcher agreed that the coordinated approach strengthened the CARICOM campaign.

"One of the things that made a big difference this time around has been the CARICOM coordination and the presence of the CARICOM Secretary-General. The SG's presence here, encouraging us, allowing us to caucus, keeping the CARICOM team tight, has made a difference in how focused we've been and in ensuring that it's the CARICOM position, and not just Member States', that came across," the Minister said.

The view was also supported by Haiti's lead Advisor and negotiator, Mr. Renald Luberice.

"I was very impressed to see the political involvement of CARICOM in support of CARICOM country delegations. This is the first time I'm seeing CARICOM being involved in this manner and it sent a very good signal," Mr. Luberice said on the sidelines of the Conference.

CARICOM Heads of Government had set up a Task Force just over two years ago, under Minister Fletcher's Chairmanship and including representatives from Member States, to handle a series of important international engagements, including COP21. This Task Force of expert negotiators has since been constantly engaged in intensive negotiating sessions, including five meetings this year in France.


US Cuba agree to restore regular commercial flights

HAVANA, Cuba (CMC) — The United States and Cuba have agreed to restore regular commercial flights, a move that could pave the way for thousands of visitors to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean nation, on a daily basis.

The deal was announced yesterday, exactly one year since President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro announced an ease on the strained relations between both countries.

While US law still bars travel to Cuba for tourists, the deal is expected to increase authorised travel between both nations.

It is not known, however, when the first Cuba-bound flights will take off.

In a statement yesterday, US President Barack Obama, touted the steps the US has taken to normalise relations with Cuba in the past year and called on Congress to lift its embargo.

In May, the US removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, an act that led to the reopening of embassies months later.

Last week, the US and Cuba announced they would resume direct postal services between both nations several times a week, alleviating the need to rely on routing mail through a third country.

Details of that deal are expected to be finalised in coming weeks.

On December 17, 2013, Cuban President Raul Castro and Obama announced the normalisation of relations after more than 50 years of hostility between both countries.


Latin America and Caribbean severely affected by El Nino, says IICA

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (CMC) — A new study by experts of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) has found that Latin America and Caribbean countries (LAC) will continue to be severely affected by the El Niño phenomenon that has been affecting the region since 2014.

The IICA said that El Niño has impacted and will further impact the productive, social and environmental sectors of several countries in the region.

"Although the phenomenon will not have the same impact on all countries in LAC, or on all crops in a single country, experts agree that the only way to anticipate, prevent and mitigate its impacts is to incorporate risk management into agricultural planning; this is the only way in which agriculture can become more resilient in the face of extreme climatic events," the IICA noted.

The study was done by IICA specialists analysing the impact of El Niño on the agricultural sector of LAC, in order to support decision makers in designing instruments and strategies to deal with the climatic phenomenon.

The study found that severe hydrological, meteorological and agricultural droughts are being forecast for Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and some regions of South America, and are expected to cause significant losses of staple grains, fruits and livestock.

On the other hand, El Niño may improve agricultural yields in Andean and other South American countries, due to an expected increase in rain.

"Although some countries have developed projects and strategies for mitigating the impact of the phenomenon on agriculture, it is important to create long-term strategies that, in addition to mitigation, also contemplate adaptation and climate risk transfer," said Joaquín Arias, IICA specialist in policies and sectoral analysis and co-author of the publication.

Some of the recommendations are to make progress in developing comprehensive risk management strategies, especially in family agriculture, to strengthen monitoring and early warning systems, and to promote innovation in order to improve the resilience of agriculture and natural resource management.

IICA specialist in agriculture and climate change and co-author of the document, Kelly Witkowski, said the current manifestations of El Niño in the Americas serve as a preview to what the region could experience in a few years as a result of greater impact of climate change.

The IICA noted that throughout history, El Niño has affected the production, social and environmental sectors. For example, between 1997 and 1998, LAC faced losses of 50 per cent in some agricultural and livestock activities as a result of the phenomenon, in addition to damaged transportation, electricity and water infrastructure. The situation led to an increase in production costs.


Caribbean to have total input in selection of next UN Secretary General

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) – For the first time in its history, the United Nations says the 193 member-states, including those of the Caribbean, will be included "totally" in the selection of the next UN Secretary-General. Ban Ki-moon is the eighth UN Secretary General who first took up office on January 1, 2007. In 2011, he was unanimously re-elected by the General Assembly and serves until December 31, 2016.

Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft pledged to make the process "as transparent and inclusive as possible".

He underscored a joint letter with the President of the Security Council that was dispatched to all UN member-states on Tuesday and which, he said, officially "starts" the process of soliciting candidates leading to the selection and appointment of the next UN chief.

According to the UN Charter, the Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly following the recommendation of the Security Council.

The letter "acknowledges the importance of transparency and inclusivity in the process," the UN said, adding that it also encourages member-states "to consider presenting women, as well as men, as candidates for the position of Secretary-General."

In a new development, the President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council "will offer candidates opportunities for informal dialogues or meetings with the members of their respective bodies…these can take place before the Council begins its selection by the end of July 2016 and may continue throughout the process of selection," according to the letter.

"The process is started and the wish is that the membership, for the first time in UN history, is included totally in the discussion of the next Secretary-General," said Lykketoft, adding that he thinks "this is a watershed in the way that we are doing things."


Paris Agreement offers hope to Caribbean – CTO

(BRIDGETOWN, Barbados) – The climate change agreement hammered out in Paris, France last week was a "huge achievement" for the Caribbean and offers hope for the region, the Caribbean Tourism Organisaton (CTO) said. The CTO welcomed the agreement in a statement issued at the conclusion of Paris the negotiations which saw 195 nations adopting the agreement.

The Caribbean region is experiencing the impact of the ravaging effects of climate change. Sea level rise, frequent and intense natural hazards; extended dry seasons resulting in water scarcity, loss of livelihoods and the disappearance of some of our islands are among the present-day dangers that we face.

The tourism sector and the environment are inextricably linked and environmentally responsible tourism is paramount to the sector's sustainability and overall success. Tourism must be stewarded and balanced so that the benefits for the environment, the communities it serves, its employees and the economy outweigh the costs. Our commitment to the climate cause is one way to do this.

The Conference of Parties 21 *(COP21) came to a close at the end of last week and the Caribbean's position was clear. Caribbean governments and regional agencies joined in one voice to shout their message of '1.5 to stay alive' which urged global partners to support a call to limit warming to below 1.5C – a critical call on which our survival depends! The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) also endorsed this call!

Many are touting COP21 a success. The outcome, called the Paris Agreement, has been adopted by 195 nations, and for the first time brings all nations into a common cause based on their historic, current and future responsibilities. This is a huge achievement for the Caribbean.

The universal agreement's main aim is to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

This new agreement offers hope. As many of CTO's members are Small Island Developing States (SIDS), we remain optimistic that the tremendous strides made in Paris will help to ensure that this issue continues to occupy a prominent position on the global agenda. Let us all do our part to support the outcomes in Paris in any way we can.


Historic pact to slow global warming celebrated in Paris

LE BOURGET, France (AP) — Nearly 200 nations adopted the first global pact to fight climate change yesterday, calling on the world to collectively cut and then eliminate greenhouse gas pollution but imposing no sanctions on countries that don't. The "Paris agreement" aims to keep global temperatures from rising another degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) between now and 2100, a key demand of poor countries ravaged by rising sea levels and other effects of climate change.

Loud applause erupted in the conference hall after French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius gavelled the agreement. Some delegates wept, others embraced.

"It's a victory for all of the planet and for future generations," US Secretary of State John Kerry said, adding that the pact will "prevent the worst most devastating consequences of climate change from ever happening".

Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira added: "Today, we've proven that it's possible for every country to come together, hand in hand, to do its part to fight climate change."

In the pact, the countries pledge to limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100.

In practical terms, achieving that goal means the world would have to stop emitting greenhouse gases — most of which come from the burning of oil, coal and gas for energy — altogether in the next half-century, scientists said. That's because the less we pollute, the less pollution nature absorbs.

Achieving such a reduction in emissions would involve a complete transformation of how people get energy, and many activists worry that despite the pledges, countries are not ready to make such profound, costly changes.

The deal now needs to be ratified by individual governments — at least 55 countries representing at least 55 per cent of global emissions — before taking effect. It is the first pact to ask all countries to join the fight against global warming, representing a sea change in United Nations (UN) talks that previously required only wealthy nations to reduce their emissions.

"History will remember this day," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. "The Paris agreement on climate change is a monumental success for the planet and its people."

Speaking from Washington, President Barack Obama said the climate agreement offers "the best chance to save the one planet we have".

The deal commits countries to keeping the rise in global temperatures by the year 2100 compared with pre-industrial times "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and says they will "endeavour to limit" them even more, to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The world has already warmed by about one degree Celsius since pre-industrial times.


CARICOM reiterates call for lifting of economic and trade embargo against Cuba

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) – The Caribbean Community (Caricom) has reiterated its call for the United States to lift the economic, trade and financial embargo against Cuba. In an address to mark Caricom-Cuba day, that was observed on Tuesday, CARICOM Chairman, the Prime Minister of Barbados Fruendel Stuart while welcoming the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between Cuba and US and t he re-opening of diplomatic missions, other hurdles remain.

According to Stuart, Caricom has been steadfast in its advocacy for Cuba to be integrated into the wider hemisphere of which it is so integrally a part.

"In this regard, the Community welcomed the participation of Cuba in the Seventh Summit of the Americas held in Panama in April this year and its readmission to the Organisation of American States (OAS) after its regrettable and notable absence. The Caricom Chairman also assured the people of Cuba of the continued support from Caricom member states.

"As a further concrete demonstration of our close ties, allow me to make mention of our blossoming trade and economic relations which are given expression through the instrument of the Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement between Caricom and the Republic of Cuba, signed in July 2000. Last October in Havana, the Joint Commission established under the Agreement advanced discussions aimed at improving its implementation and deepening of cooperation."

"The Caribbean Community looks forward to a strengthened trade and economic partnership with the Republic of Cuba in the years ahead," he added.

He noted that Cuba for its part, has reciprocated by "demonstrating its appreciation of the actions and positions taken by Caricom over the years, including through generous and meaningful offers of technical assistance to the Community in its most critical areas of need."

Some of these areas include building the region's social, cultural and linguistic capacity, strengthening its competencies in disaster management, agriculture, sport and most especially, the field of health.


ECLAC proposes debt relief for Caribbean in fight against climate change

WASHINGTON, United States, Thursday December 10, 2015 (CMC) – The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has proposed a strategy to reduce the external public debt of English-speaking Caribbean countries that are considered to be Small Island Developing States (SIDS) through the creation of a regional resilience fund to finance climate change adaptation and mitigation measures.

The proposal was presented Tuesday by the Director of the regional organization's Economic Development Division, Daniel Titelman, during an event organized by ECLAC in conjunction with the Commonwealth Secretariat, in the context of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change taking place in Paris, France.

Titelman explained that in 2013, 10 countries of the Caribbean – Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines – had total public debt percentages of between 76 per cent and 130 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP), above the limits of what is considered to be sustainable debt.

Total public debt, both internal and external, in 15 countries of the Caribbean – the previous 10, plus Anguilla, Guyana, Montserrat, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago – reached nearly US$50 billion, equivalent to 72 per cent of sub regional GDP. Of this amount, about 30 billion corresponds to internal debt and nearly 18 billion to external debt, 46 per cent of which is owed to private creditors and 54 per cent to public creditors.

ECLAC underscored that these high debt burdens reflect the economic and environmental vulnerabilities of these countries and have become a hindrance to development of the SIDS, which also include countries that are not islands but that face similar challenges. As an example of this, it is estimated that between 2000 and 2014 natural disasters caused damage of at least US$27 billion in English-speaking Caribbean countries.

"The United Nations regional organization proposes the creation of a resilience fund that can be financed through instruments such as Debt Swaps for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation, which require interaction between multilateral institutions, donor countries and debtor countries. The sources of financing for this mechanism can come from the global funds for climate change," an ECLAC statement said.

"In exchange, the beneficiary countries would have to commit to allotting the resources that they save on debt servicing to this Caribbean resilience fund, which would be dedicated to financing climate change mitigation and adaptation actions and would be managed by a solid and credible financial institution."


Caricom to push positions on key issues in second week of COP21

CARICOM Ministers of Government and negotiators met on Monday to set the stage for a final push in negotiations around several key issues at COP 21 in Paris, France. Following a week of intense negotiations by the region's technical team, the ministers will take the process forward with equally intense political negotiations which they hope will lead to, among other things, a global legally binding agreement on climate action.

The region has strong negotiating positions on several key issues, including:

• The need for an internationally legally binding agreement; A long-term temperature goal of below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels;
• Loss and damage to be included as a separate and distinct element from Adaptation in the agreement;
• A strong commitment by developed countries to scale up financing;
• Special circumstances of Small Island and Low-lying Developing States recognised;
• The REDD Plus agreement should be anchored in the agreement; and
• Provisions to support the adaptation needs of vulnerable developing countries.

Caricom Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque has given kudos to the collaboration among the region's negotiators and ministers for keeping the region's concerns at the forefront of deliberations at the conference, and credited the presentations by Caricom Heads of Government at the start of the deliberations last week for setting the tone.

A final agreement is expected by the close of the conference this Friday.


Female farmers strive to combat climate change in the Caribbean

ANSE-LA-RAYE, St. Lucia (IPS) – In the Caribbean, some women find themselves on the frontline with the battle to mitigate climate change. Meet Dr. Krystal Cox. She is one of three girls who all studied medicine and got medical degrees. "I have planted, I've harvested potatoes and tomatoes, I've worked in the greenhouses, I drive my own tractor, I plough my own land, I drive my trucks, I do deliveries to the supermarkets that we serve," she explained.

Cox is encouraging more women and youths to get into farming, assuring that there is nothing wrong with it.

"We can't eat unless we farm and to not glorify it and to not put it in a position where it's respected and the people who do it are respected then you are going to have a lot of short comings especially with finance," she said.

Pamela Thomas, who heads the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN), said there are finances available to assist farmers but accessing these finances can prove challenging.

"When a farmer who wants to get a loan goes to the bank or another financial institution, one, you can't use your farm as security because you don't have farming insurance. So that farmer may be asked to put up his or her property to guarantee a loan. Now that is high risk because it doesn't only belong to the farmer but it belongs to the entire family," she said.

CaFAN represents farmers in all 15 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Countries. Initiated by farmer organisations across the Caribbean in 2002, it is mandated to speak on behalf of its membership and to develop programmes and projects aimed at improving livelihoods and to collaborate with all stakeholders in the agriculture sector to the strategic advantage of its farmers.

Thomas also said that the impacts of climate change increase a farmer's expenditure but farmers have serious difficulties accessing financing.


Global negotiators adopt draft agreement to reduce emissions

(AP) Negotiators adopted a draft climate agreement Saturday that was cluttered with brackets and competing options, leaving ministers with the job of untangling key sticking points in what is envisioned to become a lasting, universal pact to fight global warming.

As the UN talks outside Paris reached their midway point, the draft agreement was sent on to environment and foreign ministers who will work on it next week.

"We would have wished to be further along than we are at this point, but the text being forwarded so far reflects our key priorities," said Maldives delegate Thoriq Ibrahim, who chairs an alliance of small island nations on the front lines of climate change.

A host of disagreements remains, almost all related to defining the obligations and expectations of rich and poor countries, as well as those who don't fit neatly into either category.

There is still no agreement on how much the average global temperature should be able to rise. Many developing nations want it to be no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. But developed countries say the planet can handle 2 degrees.

Canadian scientist Alain Bourque, who advises the Quebec and federal governments on climate change and specializes in the connection between science and policy, explained the significance of 2 degrees C during an interview with CBC in Le Bourget, where the summit is taking place.


CARPHA again urges precaution to avoid mosquito bites

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is again urging persons to take every precaution to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Earlier this month, CARPHA had confirmed five case of Zika virus in a territory of the Caribbean Community.

Zika is a viral disease, transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the same insect vector for Dengue and Chikungunya. This is the first time Zika has been detected in CARICOM, leading CARPHA's Executive Director, Dr C James Hospedales, to emphasize the need for prevention and control measures to be taken in order to prevent transmission of the virus.

CARPHA's continued appeal to avoid being bitten is even more critical for women who are pregnant, as the Ministry of Health in Brazil investigates a link between the mosquito-borne Zika virus and an increased incidence of microcephaly. Microcephaly is a condition where the size of an infant's head is smaller than normal, because of slowed or incomplete brain development.

While this may happen for a wide range of reasons, including inherited factors, it sometimes occurs as a result of exposure of the baby in the mother's womb to certain infections, contracted in the first few months of pregnancy.

Zika virus is now suspected to be one of the infections that can increase the risk of this condition. CARPHA is therefore reminding all persons, and especially women who are pregnant, to protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved clothing or long pants, using insect repellents, and sleeping under mosquito nets. It is also important to destroy all breeding sites for mosquitoes in and around the home.

While there is no evidence to date that Zika has spread to other Caribbean countries, Dr Hospedales, is calling on its Caribbean Member States to continue to strengthen their surveillance programmes. He said "Member States must remain vigilant and step up their vector control."


Development banks vow to mobilize collective resources to confront climate change

The heads of the world's largest development banks have pledged to work together to substantially increase climate investments and ensure that development programs going forward consider climate risks and opportunities.

In a joint statement released on Monday, November 30 at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris, the African Development Bank (AfDB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), European Investment Bank (EIB), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the World Bank Group (WBG) announced their intention to further mobilize public and private finance to help countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.

In the joint statement, the multilateral development banks (MDBs) pledged to "consider climate change across our strategies, programs, and operations to deliver more sustainable results, with a particular focus on the poor and most vulnerable." It noted that the six institutions had already delivered $100 billion for climate action in developing and emerging countries in the four years since starting to track climate finance in 2011.

The statement followed on commitments in recent weeks by the MDBs to increased financing for climate change mitigation and adaptation over the next few years.

The MDBs "pledge to increase our climate finance and to support the outcomes of the Paris conference through 2020," the statement read. "Each of our organizations has set goals for increasing its climate finance and for leveraging finance from other sources. These pledges support the US $100 billion a year commitment by 2020 for climate action in developing countries."

Around 180 countries have now submitted their national plans, the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the UNFCCC, laying out plans to tackle climate change and to reduce emissions.

The MDBs also expressed support for the voluntary Principles for Mainstreaming Climate Action within Financial Institutions, along with 17 other multilateral, bilateral, national and commercial finance institutions, and committed to "measure the impact of our work in partnership with others, including the International Development Finance Club."


CARICOM chairman tells world leaders climate change conference must have legally binding outcome

PARIS, France, Tuesday December 1, 2015 – The outcome of the climate change conference now underway in Paris must be ambitious, legally binding and ensure global participation. That was the message Barbados' Prime Minister and Caribbean Commuinty (CARICOM) chairman Freundel Stuart delivered in a statement to leaders at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in the French capital yesterday.

Stuart said the conference must take into consideration the special circumstances and needs of those countries that are most vulnerable – Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and Least Developed and Landlocked States – and deliver agreed decisions on a number of elements.

He expressed concern that the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) which countries have sumitted – that is, the post-2020 climate actions they are committing to take – are not enough to realize the goal of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5o Celsius.

"This shortcoming challenges us to take a sober look at our current predicament and, in the coming days, to find the path to success for the planet Earth and for all of its peoples," Stuart said.

He stressed that there must also be enhanced provisions for supporting the adaptation needs of vulnerable developing countries, including the setting up of adequate, predictable, new and additional finance, technology and capacity building support, and strengthening of institutional arrangements.

The CARICOM chairman said there must also be a commitment by developed countries "to take the lead in scaling-up the provision of adequate, predictable, new and additional financial resources, and opportunities for other parties willing to do so, to also contribute to scaling up climate finance".


Caribbean encouraged to work towards eliminating AIDS

KINGSTON, Jamaica — World AIDS Day 2015 is being commemorated under the theme, "Take care of the complete you: ask for a HIV test too". This year, the Ministry of Health says it will focus on a wellness and preventative drive that will be supported by mass media as well as community mobilization, which aims to increase the number of people with HIV knowing their status.

Minister of Health Horace Dalley states that, despite the significant strides that have been made over the years, stigma and discrimination continue to adversely affect HIV testing as well as access and uptake of HIV treatment services with low retention rates of antiretroviral treatment.

Minister Dalley said: "This year's commemoration of World AIDS Day provides us with the opportunity to strengthen testing strategies in order to reach people who are living with HIV but are unaware of their status, HIV is still widely stigmatised in Jamaica; hence the campaign has to be seen to be more comprehensive and not single-disease specific".

The ministry said the campaign will incorporate other preventative screening procedures and services such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cancer, dental, mental and family planning, along with HIV screening at selected health facilities as well strengthening and maximising the implementation of Provider Initiated Testing and Counselling in health settings to reach every patient utilising the health centres with HIV testing and linkage to care.

The Health Ministry said Jamaica is among the countries charged with the ambitious goal of the fast track approach to accelerate action to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.


Bahamas to host regional environment conference

NASSAU, Bahamas (CMC) -- Two years after the implementation of the 2014-2024 Caribbean Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy, delegates to a one-week regional forum here will discuss the progress made to date. The Caribbean Conference on Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM9), which opens today and runs until December 4, is being held under the theme 'The Road to Resilience: Checkpoint 2015'.

"As the theme suggests, this forum will be our first checkpoint for reporting on the progress made after two years of the implementation of the 2014-2024 Caribbean Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy as we aspire towards the desired future state of regional resilience. Consequently, a number of new initiatives will be unveiled," said the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).

These include the monitoring, evaluation and reporting framework for the CDM Strategy 2014-2024 and the baseline study. Together, these tools will provide decision-makers with information related to progress, gaps and lessons learnt in the implementation of CDM. The conference will also create a space for reflection on the progress of CDM over the last 10 years, the organisers said.

Director of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Captain Stephen Russell said "the Bahamas, through NEMA, is pleased to host the high level conference as Participating States, namely-Dominica and The Bahamas, continue to rebuild livelihoods following the destructive Tropical Storm Erika and the category four Hurricane Joaquin, respectively".

The conference will facilitate discussions on how the region can move to become more resilient in the face of being most vulnerable to climate change.

The weeklong conference will review the progress of CDM in the region over the last two iterations of the CDM Strategy as well as facilitate knowledge exchanges on pathways to resilience.


Cuba and US agree to cooperate in environmental protection

WASHINGTON, United States – The good relations between the United States and Cuba are continuing, with the two countries signing an agreement to cooperate on environmental protection. The joint declaration was signed at the Cuban Embassy in Washington on Tuesday.

It focuses on sustainable management of natural resources and shared ecosystems, particularly marine biodiversity development, the analysis of the causes and effects of climate change and initiatives to reduce the risks of natural disasters. The Cuban Embassy said that is crucial to reducing vulnerabilities for both countries.

The two countries have agreed, under the declaration, to exchange scientific and technological information and resources. They will also work towards joint scientific research.

This is the second bilateral instrument signed by the two governments in the last week, both relating to environmental matters.

Last Wednesday, representatives of both countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the Cooperation in Conservation of Marine Protected Areas.


Trinidad to strengthen trade facilitation processes with help from the IDB

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Thursday November 19, 2015 – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved a US$25 million loan to Trinidad and Tobago to help the twin-island republic improve its trade facilitation processes, part of an effort to boost and diversify the economy.

The loan will help strengthen the country's Single Electronic Window for Trade and Business Facilitation Project (TTBizLink), a secure business portal created in 2009 that simplifies foreign trade and business processes by providing around-the-clock access to relevant government services.

The platform seeks to substantially reduce time and costs of trade and business transactions for private sector users while gathering and sharing relevant information among government agencies to simplify processes and optimize revenue collection.

The 25-year loan will support business processing reengineering and risk management for government agencies, an e-payment solution, the connection with Ports and Customs systems, an intermodal logistics platform, and the interoperability with other single windows, among other things.

More than 70 countries around the world have implemented single-window systems, and multiple studies have shown that they experience substantial cost and time savings and enhanced transparency and interagency collaboration.

Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile and Peru are among the countries in Latin America that already have experienced significant improvements thanks to their single window programmes.


French Caribbean under state of emergency following Paris attacks

FORT DE FRANCE, Martinique, Thursday November 19, 2015 – The state of emergency declared by France following the deadly terror attacks in Paris has been extended to Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Mayotte, Reunion Island, and St Martin and St Barths.

This means that lawmen will have the power to randomly stop the circulation of persons and install zones of protection and security and detain suspicious persons and their possessions.

They will also be able to ban meetings or demonstrations, order searches in houses day or night, give a compulsory order of residence to any persons whose behaviour or activity is deemed dangerous for security and public order, and order the submission of weapons and ammunition.

In making the announcement, French Minister of Overseas Territories George Pau-Langevin said the decision is justified and necessary for "coherence and reinforcement of security systems".

The emergency measure went into effect after at least 129 people were killed and more than 350 injured in last Friday's coordinated attacks on Paris, which terrorist group, the Islamic State, has claimed responsibility.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has since warned that France was at risk of a chemical or biological weapons attack as legislators opened debate on extending the state of emergency for three more months.

The measure is used in "cases of imminent danger resulting from serious breaches of public order, or in case of events threatening, by their nature and gravity, public disaster".


Haiti's ruling party wins big in municipal elections

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AFP) – Haiti's ruling party has emerged as the big winner of the impoverished Caribbean country's municipal elections, election results showed Tuesday.

The PHTK party won more than 30 mayoral races, including Port-au-Prince, the biggest prize of the country's 140 municipalities.

The October 25 elections were delayed for three years because of a political impasse between President Michel Martelly and the opposition.

As mayors reached the end of their terms during that period, they had been gradually replaced with interim agents named directly by the presidency.

Despite the PHTK's strong showing, the results showed how fragmented politically the country has become, with mayors elected from about 30 different political parties.

Participation also was extremely low. Port-au-Prince, a city with more than 500,000 eligible voters, was won by the PHTK candidate with a little more than 10,000 votes.

The candidates and parties have 72 hours to challenge the results published by the provisional electoral council.

Winning candidates will take office only after any challenges are ruled on by electoral tribunals.

After being mired for years in a political crisis that kept any elections from being held, Haiti has been on an electoral marathon this year, holding presidential, legislative and now finally these municipal elections.

Ruling party candidate Jovenel Moise and Jude Celestin face off December 27 in a runoff for the presidency.

Since the end of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, Haiti has been jolted by coups and contested elections that have further undermined the economy of the region's poorest country, which is still recovering from a devastating 2010 earthquake that claimed more than 200,000 lives.


Confirmed cases of Zika virus in CARICOM region

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago – The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has confirmed five cases of Zika virus in Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nation. But it has not identified the country or given no details about the infected individuals.

In a statement issued today, CARPHA said the cases were confirmed on Monday.

While earlier this year, suspected cases of the mosquito-borne disease were reported in Brazil and the Dominican Republic, this is the first time Zika has been detected within CARICOM.

CARPHA's executive director Dr. C. James Hospedales has emphasized that prevention and control are fundamental in order to prevent transmission of the virus.

"The best way to protect yourself from this disease is to avoid mosquito bites and to prevent mosquitoes breeding in and around your home environment."

Zika is a viral disease, transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also the insect vector for Dengue and Chikungunya. The symptoms are also very similar to these diseases and include fever, muscle and joint pain, headache, nausea, and rash. There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika and symptoms last approximately four to seven days. Complications are rare and no deaths due to Zika have ever been recorded.


Latin America and the Caribbean maintain high traffic accident mortality rate

WASHINGTON, United States– Latin American and the Caribbean's progress on reducing road traffic accident fatalities has been slower than expected, and therefore the region should redouble its efforts to achieve the goal of halving the number of deaths stemming from these tragedies by 2020, as established by the United Nations, ECLAC said in a recently published report.

According to the FAL Bulletin N⁰ 342 of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), prepared in conjunction with the 2nd Global High-Level Conference on Road Safety that will be held in Brasilia on November 18-19, the rate of fatalities from road tragedies in the region grew 20 per cent in the first decade of the current century, rising to 17.68 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010 from 14.75 deaths in the year 2000.

These figures did not improve significantly in the first years of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, considering that according to recent statistics delivered by the World Health Organization (WHO), the road traffic fatality rate in Latin America and the Caribbean reached 15.9 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 2013, lower than the 16.1 deaths registered in 2010 but still far from the expected 50 per cent reduction by the end of the decade, which is in line with the sixth target of Goal 3 of the new Sustainable Development Goals.

To address this matter, ECLAC and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) will hold on November 19 in Brasilia a regional meeting on the occasion of the 2nd Global Conference, in which the current situation of Latin America and the Caribbean will be analyzed.

According to the global Plan of Action for the decade, five pillars were established that aim to promote the development and coordination of actions to reduce road accident mortality in local, national and global arenas. ECLAC's study analyzes Latin America and the Caribbean's performance on these five pillars during the first years of the decade of action and presents the region's pending challenges in terms of road safety.

The five pillars are related to road safety management, road infrastructure and broader transport networks, safer vehicles, road users and post-crash response.


New study finds inequality a major barrier to good health in the Caribbean

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (CMC) – A new study by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has found that persistent inequities across gender, race and socioeconomic groups in the Americas, including the Caribbean, compound every major health challenge facing the region.

Evidence and analysis presented in a new series of articles in the Pan American Journal of Public Health, PAHO's peer-reviewed scientific journal, highlight key social, economic, cultural and environmental barriers to ensuring that quality health care and the conditions necessary for healthy lives are available and accessible to all the people of the Americas, regardless of income level or location.

On Wednesday, PAHO said that the 11 articles are part of a new series, entitled "Equity in Health and Sustainable Development," published across five issues of the journal, from July to November 2015.

"The research findings are especially important to shed light on problems that must be addressed as countries in the Americas work to achieve 'universal health,' a goal they collectively endorsed in 2014," PAHO said.

In an introduction to the series, PAHO Assistant Director, Dr Francisco Becerra, says "this mission—our mission—should focus primarily on mitigating the profound and ubiquitous social, economic, and environmental inequities that perpetuate a world of arbitrary and unjust inequalities in terms of people's ability to live full, healthy, decent, and gratifying lives."

It was found that access to health care for women of indigenous and African descent in Latin America and the Caribbean has been stymied by deep discrimination, including patient blaming, neglect, verbal or physical abuse and disregard for traditional beliefs.

While infant mortality in Latin America and the Caribbean has fallen by half overall since 1980, countries like Haiti have not shared equally in these gains, PAHO said.

In 2012, Haiti's infant mortality rate was 64 per 1,000 live births, compared with the regional average of 27 per 1,000, according to an article by researchers at the International Centre for Equity in Health at the Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil.

PAHO said problems examined in the series include inequality in reproductive, maternal and child health in Latin America and the Caribbean; the role of ethnicity and gender in generating inequality; and how lack of access to a healthy environment, clean water and adequate sanitation incubates diseases such as tuberculosis.


CDB and European Investment Bank agree to work on climate change and energy issues

By Desmond Brown BRIDGETOWN, Barbados– Officials from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the European Investment Bank (EIB), signed a Letter of Intent formalizing their intention to work together in the future to address pressing issues relating to climate change, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The signing took place at CDB's offices in Barbados, and was part of a two-day visit to the island by officials of the EIB, including its Vice President, Pim Van Ballekom.

Speaking at the signing, Dr. Warren Smith, President of CDB, said: "The Letter speaks to strengthening support for the sustainable economic development of our region and, more specifically, to supporting climate adaptation and mitigation initiatives in Caribbean countries. It, therefore, represents another phase in the strengthening of a long standing partnership and a deepening of cooperation between our two institutions that has produced four loan operations, to date."

He noted that the Letter of Intent formalizes a relationship between the institutions which began in 2011 when EIB agreed to provide a US$65.3 million Climate Action Line of Credit to CDB to be used to finance public or private sector climate action projects, including energy efficiency; renewable energy; transportation; low-carbon technologies, development and innovation; and adaptation.

Total commitments to date from that Line of Credit amount to US$35 million, or 54 per cent of the facility, with the funds being used for highway reconstruction; water supply redevelopment; dam rehabilitation and a solar PV plant. It is anticipated that the funds will be fully committed by March 2016.


Caribbean agriculture looks to cope with climate change

By Desmond Brown BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday November 9, 2015, IPS – Climate change represents a clear and growing threat to food security in the Caribbean with differing rainfall patterns, water scarcity, heat stress and increased climatic variability making it difficult for farmers to meet demand for crops and livestock.

Nearly all of the countries in the Caribbean have been experiencing prolonged drought, posing significant challenges to food production in one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change.

"Last year the drought was prolonged over a period of about five months; it affected 18,000 farmers and cost the agricultural sector about J$1 billion (US$8.3 million). So climate change through drought has really been a challenge," Norman Grant, President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), told IPS.

"What you find is that because of the drought, the domestic crop production has declined. For example, in 2014 our domestic crop production declined by just under about three or four percent and then it challenges the issue of our food import bill."

Each year the Caribbean imports US$5 billion worth of food.

Grant spoke with IPS during an event aimed at developing a business approach for the agri-food sector in Caribbean and other small island states (SIDS) in African Caribbean and Pacific Regions.

The Caribbean and Pacific Agri-Food Forum is organized by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), together with the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), with the support of the Intra-ACP Agricultural Policy Programme.

Jethro Greene, the Chief Coordinator of the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN), said climate change is causing "all kinds of challenges" for the region's farmers.

"There are ad hoc weather conditions, there's drought when we don't expect it, rain when we don't expect it, floods when we don't expect it. You can't tell what is the rainy season from what is the dry season," Greene told IPS.

"We are trying to get people's attention drawn to the fact that small farmers are more vulnerable than most and that some of our practices like crop rotation and intercropping are more favourable in terms of environmental practice. So attention must be given to help us cement and improve these practices and build on these practices," he said.

CaFAN represents farmers in all 15 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries. Initiated by farmer organizations across the Caribbean in 2002, it is mandated to speak on behalf of its membership and to develop programmes and projects aimed at improving livelihoods and to collaborate with all stakeholders in the agriculture sector to the strategic advantage of its farmers.

Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management in Barbados, Esworth Reid, said small island states are feeling the effects of climate change and this phenomenon has been impacting negatively on the agricultural sector due to long periods of drought.


World Bank warns of increased poverty in Latin America and Caribbean due to climate change

WASHINGTON, United States, Monday November 9, 2015 – Without climate-informed development in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2.6 million more people could fall into extreme poverty by 2030, largely as a result of the health impacts of climate change and effects of warmer temperatures on worker productivity, according to a World Bank report.

Natural disasters are also likely to disproportionately affect the poor in the region.

The report, Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty, finds that poor people are already at high risk from climate-related shocks, including crop failures from reduced rainfall, spikes in food prices after extreme weather events, and increased incidence of diseases after heat waves and floods. It says such shocks could wipe out hard-won gains, leading to irreversible losses, driving people back into poverty

Climate change is already preventing people from escaping poverty, and without rapid, inclusive and climate-smart development, together with emissions-reductions efforts that protect the poor, overall there could be more than 100 million additional people in extreme poverty by 2030.

The report, released a month before negotiators gather in Paris for international climate talks, finds that the poorest people are more exposed than the average population to climate-related shocks such as floods, droughts, and heat waves, and they lose much more of their wealth when they are hit.

In the 52 countries where data was available, 85 percent of the population live in countries where poor people are more exposed to drought than the average. Poor people are also more exposed to higher temperatures and live in countries where food production is expected to decrease because of climate change.

"This report sends a clear message that ending poverty will not be possible unless we take strong action to reduce the threat of climate change on poor people and dramatically reduce harmful emissions," said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. "Climate change hits the poorest the hardest, and our challenge now is to protect tens of millions of people from falling into extreme poverty because of a changing climate."

Agriculture will be the main driver of any increase in poverty, the report finds. Modelling studies suggest that climate change could result in global crop yield losses as large as five per cent by 2030 and 30 per cent by 2080. Health effects – higher incidence of malaria, diarrhea and stunting – and the labour productivity effects of high temperatures are the next-strongest drivers.


CARICOM Energy Week Kilo Walk

CARICOM Energy Week (CEW) will be observed from 7-14 November, 2015, under the theme `Empowering Our Sustainable Development'. The Week will be launched on Saturday with a `Kilo Walk' from the CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana.

The CEW was established in 2011 as an annual event, based on a mandate from CARICOM Energy Ministers to provide a platform for increased awareness on energy matters.

The activities and events during the week will provide an opportunity to raise awareness in relation to energy matters in CARICOM Member States whilst simultaneously addressing, in a deliberate way, some of the critical energy issues that continue to limit sustainable energy use.

Representatives of the Media are invited to cover the following:

EVENT: Kilo Walk to launch CARICOM Energy Week

DATE: 7 November, 2015

TIME: 6 am

VENUE: Starting point: CARICOM Secretariat→ west along the Railway Embankment →north on Conversation Tree→ east on Rupert Craig Highway→ along the University of Guyana Road → back to the Secretariat.


Haiti council names two candidates for presidential runoff

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Government-backed candidate Jovenel Moise and former state construction chief Jude Celestin appear to be advancing to a runoff election for Haiti's presidency, according to preliminary results announced Thursday.

The much-anticipated results from the 54-candidate first round presidential contest on Oct. 25 were issued by Pierre Louis Opont, the leader of the Provisional Electoral Council. Since no candidate won a majority in that ballot, the two top finishers are set to meet in a Dec. 27 runoff.

Opont did not take any questions from reporters after delivering the preliminary results at the council headquarters, which was under guard by heavily armed police. He said Moise received 511,992 votes or 32.8 percent of the total, and Celestin got 394,390 or 25.2 percent.


Climate change could cost Caribbean millions annually

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – Caribbean countries have been warned that if left unchecked, climate-related natural disasters, especially hurricane and drought, could result in losses estimated at US$22 billion annually by 2050.

"This means basically that the Caribbean region can be taken back 20-30 years because of the issue of climate change," said Juan M. Cheaz Pelaez, senior programme coordinator for Agricultural Policy and Value Chains at the -.

Addressing the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum that ends here Friday, the CTA official also noted that climate change left an estimated US$136 billion in damages throughout the Caribbean during the period 1990 and 2008.

"I can tell you there are huge economic losses every year related to climate change and, therefore, the need from all actors that are concerned and that are affected to try and mitigate and adapt and to be proactive to try to avoid that," he said.

Among the objectives of the forum is to help the Caribbean and Pacific regions make further progress towards resilient communities and climate-smart agricultural practices and policies in the face of climate change.

"In the case of the Caribbean region, as you know, the intensity of droughts, or the intensity of rain or the natural phenomena has a devastating effects on the crop, on farmers," Chaez said.

"One [climate-related] phenomenon can do away with many livelihoods. So it is a modern part of economics and also of people's livelihood. It's very relevant to the Caribbean and to having an economy in general that is resilient and an agriculture that is resilient," he said.

The weeklong forum is exploring the best opportunities to build partnerships that can make a difference as the Caribbean and Pacific regions battle with climate change.

"Being such a big issue — climate change — there are so many initiatives on the ground, so CTA is making an analysis of what is really the state of the art in terms of practices, in terms of polices, around climate change policies and measures, and we are bringing key actors together to identify what's happening, what kind of assistance is needed, and how, based on that analysis, we can move forward," Cheaz said.

Chief executive officer for the Barbados Agricultural Society, James Paul, identified climate change among the forces that "threaten the future of the agricultural sector in small island developing states.


CARICOM climate change ministers and negotiators working out COP21 strategy

CASTRIES, St. Lucia – CARICOM climate change negotiators and ministers began a two-day meeting in St. Lucia last week, to revise and improve the region`s negotiating artillery in preparation for the 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).

This second meeting of CARICOM ministers responsible for climate change follows a previous gathering held in Castries on September 18. The objective of the meeting is to prepare the ministers to engage in the pre-COP meeting organized by the COP Presidency, in November.

With just over one month before the start of COP 21, and on the heels of a climate negotiators preparatory meeting held earlier this month in Bonn, Germany, this is an opportune time for CARICOM negotiators and ministers to be updated on the critical issues, especially those with implications for Small Island Developing States.

At the meeting, ministers will be apprised of the state of climate change negotiations under the UNFCC for a new climate change agreement to be finalized at the COP 21 in Paris France (Nov. 30 – Dec 11).

The meeting will be preceded by a meeting of CARICOM climate change negotiators.

The meeting is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology, the High Level Support Mechanism and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre.


Jamaica Government Grants Licence To Canadian Company To Grow Ganja For Research

KINGSTON, Jamaica (CMC) – the Jamaica government has granted a licence to the Canadian nutraceutical and pharmaceutical company, Timeless Herbal Care Limited (THC), allowing it to cultivate marijuana, locally, for research and development, in keeping with provisions outlined in the amended Dangerous Drugs Act.

THC is the first private entity to be granted such a licence after the government granted similar awards to the University of the West Indies (UWI), and University of Technology (UTech)

A government statement said that, THC is now able to develop an international global brand for Jamaican medical marijuana, by incorporating state-of-the-art scientific applications and methodologies to conduct research on organic marijuana deemed of the highest quality.

It said, "this undertaking is expected to position the country to tap into the global industry, which generates an estimated US$1 billion in earnings."

Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining Minister, Phillip Paulwell, who presented the licence to THC President and Chief Executive Officer, Courtney Betty, said, the government remains committed to positioning Jamaica as a global leader in medical marijuana research and development.

He encouraged THC to "move very quickly" in establishing facilities capable of conducting the level of research that will record significant outcomes.

Paulwell said, while the ministry awaits the outcome of work being undertaken by the Cannabis Licensing Authority, "we anticipate, very soon, that the regulations will be in a position to be promulgated and that…you (THC) will move from research to commercial operations."

Paulwell said, while frequent updates are expected from the licensees, "we in the Ministry, through the National Commission on Science and Technology (NCST), and the Scientific Research Council (SRC), we (will be) monitoring…the institutions."

Betty said, his company is pleased to have been awarded the licence, pointing out that "we take our research and development very seriously".


World Bank approves loan inclusive growth and climate resilience

WASHINGTON, October 29, 2015- The World Bank Board of Directors approved today a US$ 15 million Development Policy Credit and Loan (DPC/DPL) with Grenada which aims to create sustainable conditions for private investment, improve public resource management, strengthen the banking sector and boost resilience against natural disasters.

As a small and middle income island economy, Grenada was hit hard by the 2008 global financial crisis. Real GDP contracted by more than 8 percent between 2009 and 2012, while fiscal deficit more than doubled as a share of GDP. Grenada's economic recovery accelerated in 2014, driven by the strong performance of tourism and agriculture.

This financing builds on the reforms supported under the first DPC/DPL in a series of three and is aligned with the Government's national development strategy which aims to accelerate economic growth, restore fiscal and debt sustainability, strengthening financial stability and improve social development indicators.

"Grenada's ambitious fiscal consolidation efforts are showing positive results," said Sophie Sirtaine, Country Director for the Caribbean. "With this financing, Grenada is expected to address critical bottlenecks to help promote inclusive growth and shared prosperity in the country".


CARICOM votes against Cuban trade embargo

NEW YORK, United States, Wednesday October 28, 2015 – Countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) were among the 191 nations calling for an end to the decades-old US trade embargo on Cuba, as the United Nations yesterday adopted the resolution for a 24th consecutive year. The United States, which recently relaxed restrictions and resumed diplomatic ties, continued to cast a "no" vote.

In a near unanimous vote, the 193-member UN General Assembly adopted a resolution renewing its call for an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the US against Cuba, while also acknowledging the restoration, after nearly 50 years, of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

By a vote of 191 in favour to two against – Israel and the United States –, the Assembly welcomed the resumption of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, announced last July, and the willingness of American President Barack Obama to work towards the lifting of the economic, financial and trade embargo against Cuba.

Having taken up the text for the past 24 years, the Assembly reiterated its call to all states to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures not conforming with their obligations un the UN Charter and international law, which reaffirm freedom of trade and navigation.

The Assembly "once again urges States that have and continue to apply such laws and measures to take the necessary steps to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible," the text added.


World Bank says Jamaica among countries with most business reforms

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (CMC) — The World Bank says Jamaica and Mexico have recorded the most reforms in Latin America and the Caribbean in the last five years, continuing to make big strides to improve their countries' business climate According to the World Bank's latest annual ease of doing business measurement, titled "Doing Business 2016: Measuring Regulatory Quality and Efficiency", which was released Tuesday, Costa Rica is the world's top improver.

The Washington-based financial institution said Jamaica is also among the global top 10 improvers, as it implemented a regional high of four reforms for the second consecutive year.

On Starting a Business, for instance, the bank said Jamaica decreased the time to incorporate a business from 15 to three days.

Mexico, the best ranked economy in the region, implemented two reforms in the areas of "Getting Credit and Paying Taxes" during the past year, the World Bank said.

As a result, it said the country improved its global ranking to 38 amongst 189 economies worldwide.

"While the pace of reform activity has slowed in Latin America and the Caribbean, improvements are still being made," said Rita Ramalho, manager of the Doing Business project, noting that "in 2004, only eight economies recorded reforms, compared to 15 in the past year".

The World Bank said Costa Rica implemented at least three reforms and moved up on the global rankings scale.

For the second year in a row, it said Costa Rica implemented reforms in the areas of Paying Taxes and Getting Electricity, in addition to making Getting Credit easier. On Getting Electricity, the time for a Costa Rican entrepreneur to get connected to the electrical grid has decreased from 55 to 45 days over the past year – which is now less than in Sweden.

The World Bank said several economies in the region also digitized procedures for trading across borders in the past year.

It said Suriname implemented an automated system that allows the electronic submission of customs declarations and supporting documents for exports and imports.

Brazil, Guatemala and Bahamas also introduced or improved systems allowing electronic submission and processing of trade-related documents for exports, imports or both, the bank said.

In the past year, it said Caribbean economies continued to make "remarkable progress" in resolving insolvency, saving viable businesses through reorganization.

In the previous year, the World Bank said Trinidad and Tobago, and St. Kitts-Nevis had modernized their insolvency frameworks.

It said that in 2014/15, Jamaica and St Vincent and the Grenadines adopted new insolvency laws.

Colombia has emerged as the country in Latin America and the Caribbean that has improved its business regulation the most since Doing Business started 12 year ago, the bank said.

The report also points out that less than half of the 32 economies in the Latin America and the Caribbean region implemented reforms during the past year.

This year's Doing Business report completes a two-year effort to expand benchmarks that measure the quality of regulation, as well as efficiency of the business regulatory framework, in order to better capture ground realities, the World Bank said.

On the five indicators that saw changes in this report – Dealing with Construction Permits, Getting Electricity, Enforcing Contracts, Registering Property and Trading across Borders – the World Bank said Latin America and the Caribbean economies "have room for improvement."


U.S. gives region good review for religious freedom

WASHINGTON, USA (CMC) — So accustomed to annual scathing reports on human rights practices and drug trafficking, Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries have received what can be considered overall favourable and rare review of their religious practices by the United States.

In its International Religious Freedom Report for 2014, released here earlier this month, the US Department of State said "there were no reports of significant societal actions affecting religious freedom" in most Caricom-member states.

Washington, however, said that some religious groups, such as Rastafarians and Muslims, continued, in some territories, to "express concern about government practices impacting their religious activities."

In Jamaica, the report said that while the constitution provides for freedom of religion, including the freedom to worship and to change religion, and that it prohibits discrimination based on belief, "Rastafarians expressed concerns about the government's prohibition of their use of marijuana for religious purposes. They stated they experienced additional scrutiny from law enforcement officials," the report said.

"Rastafarians stated that elements of their religious observance resulted in barriers to employment and professional advancement."

The report said local media outlets in Jamaica provided a forum for religious debate, and that the US Embassy in Kingston engaged in dialogue with religious groups, including Christians, Muslims, Jews and Rastafarians, as part of its overall efforts to promote religious freedom.


Caribbean record strong tourism figures for 2015

The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) is forecasting a five to six per cent growth in tourist arrivals for the region in 2015. The news comes as the region outpaces all other major regions globally, with record numbers for the first six months of 2015.

"For the first six months the Caribbean welcomed 14.8 million, approximately 800 thousand or 5.8 per cent higher than the corresponding period in 2014, well above the 4.1 per cent recorded globally," Richard Sealy, CTO chairman told journalists at a press conference at the close of the State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC), now on in Willemstad, Curacao.

The Caribbean share of global arrivals stood at 2.8 per cent.

Sealy, supported by executive director of the CTO, Hugh Riley, president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourist Association (CHTA), Emil Lee and Curacao Minister of Economic Development, Stanley Palm, said the Dutch Caribbean saw the fastest relative growth across the subregions, with an 8.5 per cent increase in arrivals.

He said all destinations in this sub-region had considerable growth benefiting from increase demand from the US and South American markets.

"Of the other five subregions only the French West Indies recorded a slight decline," he said.

The US continues to be the most important source market, registering 7.3 million visits between January and June representing a 5.3 per cent rise.

"The thawing of the relationship between Cuba and United States resulted in greater number of Americans transiting through other countries like The Bahamas, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands in order to visit Cuba," revealed Sealy.

The Canadian market continues to perform well with 2.1 million visits during the period, however, arrivals from Europe increased only by a modest 1.1 per cent, moving from 2.58 million in 2014 to 2.61 in 2015.

He pointed out that the intra-regional market recorded strong growth of 5.5 per cent, with some 400 thousand visits.


JetBlue increases flights to Barbados

NEW YORK, United States, October 22, 2015 – JetBlue today announced its intent to expand the airline's service to Barbados by adding a daily roundtrip flight between Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL) and Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) in Barbados.

The announcement was made by JetBlue's President & CEO Robin Hayes at the Caribbean Tourism Organization State of the Industry Conference in Curacao. The new daily roundtrip service is set to begin in April 2016, subject to government approval, with seats going on sale in the coming weeks. JetBlue's Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood focus city will become the third JetBlue city with non-stop flights to Barbados. Service from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) launched in 2009 and service from Boston's Logan International Airport (BOS) will begin this fall.

"Vibrant Caribbean communities like Barbados are critical to our success," said Hayes, who was the keynote speaker at the Caribbean Tourism Organization's State of the Industry Conference.

"Barbados is a terrific example of a destination where we have a true partnership with the tourism ministry, the airport, and local hoteliers. We are working together to expand travel options to this incredibly beautiful island, boosting tourism and the local economy. Thanks to the US-Barbados open skies agreement, and so many of the open skies agreements the US has with other nations, JetBlue has been able to continuously add new low fare services like this one, and that's been a real boon for the traveling public."

Today's announcement comes as JetBlue prepares to launch other new options for customers travelling to Barbados. New non-stop seasonal Saturday service between Boston and Barbados will begin November 7. On the same day, JetBlue will also launch seasonal Saturday Mint service between New York and Barbados. Additionally, seasonal Saturday Mint service between Boston and Barbados will begin in March 2016.

JetBlue's newest flights to Barbados are also a part of ongoing growth at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport where it operates nearly 100 flights per day to more than 40 destinations. JetBlue is commencing service to 8 new destinations in 2015 from the South Florida focus city and has already announced three more that will begin in 2016. Barbados service from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood will provide JetBlue customers with more connection options from destinations across the existing JetBlue network, including western U.S. destinations like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas.


Ancient fossils reveal humans greater threat than climate change

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA (UFL.edu) – Nearly 100 fossil species pulled from a flooded cave in the Bahamas reveal a true story of persistence against all odds — at least until the time humans stepped foot on the islands..

University of Florida researchers say the discovery, detailed in a study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows many human activities pose a threat to the future of island biodiversity, with modern human-driven climate change not necessarily the most alarming.

A new $375,000 National Science Foundation grant will allow further exploration of caves on Caribbean islands beginning in December.

Thirty-nine of the species discussed in the new study no longer exist on Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas. Of those, 17 species of birds likely fell victim to changes in climate and rising sea levels around the end of the ice age, about 10,000 years ago.

Twenty-two other species of reptiles, birds and mammals persisted through those dramatic environmental changes only to vanish when humans first arrived on the island 1,000 years ago.

Exploring why some species were more flexible than others in the face of climate and human-driven changes could alter the way we think about conservation and restoration of species today, when scientists fear activities like habitat alteration and the introduction of invasive species could pose the greatest risk to island species, said lead author Dave Steadman, ornithology curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.


Venezuela leader wants economic zone for Caribbean and Latin America

ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada, Tuesday October 20, 2015 – Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro is advocating the establishment of an economic zone for the Caribbean and Latin American. He says the economic zone should be part of a production and economic plan aimed at curbing the region's high import bill.

During a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell in Grenada over the weekend, the Venezuelan leader also suggested the establishment of a commerce and purchase agreement with Caribbean countries.

"I insist that we need to create an economic zone in the region. We need to produce locally," Maduro said.

"We need to have a production and economic plan. Venezuela, with all its challenges, we are still importing billions. We need to curb this."

During the talks, Prime Minister Mitchell also lamented his country's high import bill compared to the high level of food production.

"Look at how much food we produce yet we continue to import millions of dollars. Unless we take major intervention in food security, we will not only develop agriculture but increase the health of our people," the Grenadian leader said.

President Maduro suggested that the Caribbean and Latin America work out transportation arrangements to facilitate the movement of goods and services.


Six Caribbean countries to benefit from Sustainable Energy Facility

MIAMI, FLORIDA October 20, 2015 – More funding has been put in place to facilitate the growth of the renewable energy sector in the Eastern Caribbean. The Sustainable Energy Facility for the Eastern Caribbean; a USD 71.5 million loan and grant package, was today signed by Dr. William Warren Smith, President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and Luis Alberto Moreno of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

The signing occurred at the Intercontinental Hotel in Miami ahead of the start of the annual Caribbean Renewable Energy Conference.

The six independent countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) – Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines – are island states with small and isolated electricity markets, lacking the scale necessary to import cheaper fossil fuels, such as natural gas, and inadequate development of renewable energy potential.

SEF has the potential to move these Eastern Caribbean countries closer to energy security; a more diversified energy matrix; and increased competitiveness.


Invest in improvement of statistics – SG urges Member States

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, has urged Member States to invest in the improvement of the production of statistics to support and guide sustained Regional economic and social development.

He also commended statisticians in the Community for their efforts in the face of resource constraints that the Region was confronting.

In a message to mark Caribbean Statistics Day being observed this year on 15 October, the Secretary-General said "it is my wish that the theme of 'Better Data, Better Lives' for this year's observance can assist in demonstrating that statistics is an integral part in ensuring an improved quality of life of the peoples of our Region.'

The observance of Caribbean Statistics Day seeks to raise the profile of statistics in the Community to create more awareness of its production, dissemination and use in decision-making.

This year also marks the Second Observance of World Statistics Day on 20 October 2015.


Venezuelan President to visit Grenada and St. Lucia this weekend

ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada – (CMC) – Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is scheduled to visit Grenada and St. Lucia this weekend to discuss ongoing and future areas of cooperation between the member states of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the South American nation.

An advance contingent from Venezuela arrived in both islands on Wednesday, ahead of Maduro's arrival on Saturday, October 17.

Both countries are in the process of finalising a programme of activities for the weekend trip.

Maduro's visit will bring to four, the Eastern Caribbean nations that Maduro will visit in the space of three weeks.

While the details are not known, it's expected that Maduro will spend three hours in Grenada having bilateral discussion and visiting projects funded by the Venezuelan Government.

On September 23 he visited St. Kitts and Nevis and storm-ravaged Dominica. While in St Kitts Nevis, Maduro, whose government provided EC$16 million (US$5.9 million) to finalize compensation to sugar workers who were affected by the abrupt closure of the sugar industry in 2005, participated in a ceremonial handing of cheques to those former workers. In Dominica, he officially announced that his government would build 300 homes for those who lost their homes when Tropical Storm Erika ravaged the island in late August.


France warns about security risks caused by global warming

PARIS, France (AP) — UN conference on climate in Paris this year will also be a "conference for peace," given that global warming threatens the world's security, a top French official said Wednesday. Government officials from several African and island nations gathered in Paris on Wednesday to discuss the implications of climate change for defence issues.

"Climate and international security are closely linked," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said. Major droughts, floods and famines force people to migrate and "increase the risk of conflicts," he said.

In addition, making the transition to renewable energy sources will help ease power struggles over the control of oil and natural gas resources, Fabius added.

Defence ministers of neighbouring Chad and Niger described the growing desertification of Africa's Sahel region as a multiplier of threats —especially in the troubled Lake Chad region, which is facing frequent attacks by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.

Mahamadou Karidjo, Niger's defence minister, said his government's main concern was "to ensure that Nigerien people don't starve to death" amid climate changes.

Haitian Defence Minister Lener Renauld stressed the importance of curbing global warming. His Caribbean island is particularly vulnerable to climatic-related events.

"I'm convinced that for this planet, there's no plan B," he said.

France is host a major UN climate change conference from November 30 to December 11.


Small and medium business leaders to meet in St Lucia

CASTRIES, St Lucia – Entrepreneurs, owners, operators and managers of small to medium firms from across the region will meet here from Wednesday to adopt a strategy aimed at strengthening entrepreneurship and boost job creation across 14 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries.

The three-day Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development Workshop and Business Incubator Management (BIM) Training forms part of a series of training sessions, designed to build an integrated ecosystem of support for early-stage entrepreneurs in the region.

The workshop is part of the Accelerate Caribbean regional incubation support programme designed by the World Bank Group, InfoDev, to strengthen innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation across CARICOM.

The workshop will bring together incubator managers, entrepreneurs, academics, government officials, the media, donors and investors.

Team Leader of Accelerate Caribbean, Natalia Pipia, said the "Caribbean demonstrates a natural inclination towards innovation and entrepreneurship.

"People here work hard to build products, design new technology and offer services very attractive to even overseas markets, yet so many small businesses do not survive more than a few years," she noted.

Pipia said Accelerate Caribbean is offering training in incubation management to qualified professionals and business support companies in the Eastern Caribbean "to mitigate against this low business survival rate, which is critical to job creation and development in the region".

The highlight of the workshop will be a panel discussion on "Building a Strong Interconnected Start-up Community in St Lucia".


New ambassador to focus on energy, security and trade

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (JIS) – New Ambassador to the United States, Ralph Thomas, says energy, security, trade and economic development are among the priorities he intends to pursue at the State and Federal levels.

Addressing Jamaicans in the Diaspora, representatives of Federal and State governments and members of the diplomatic corps at a reception held in his honour in Washington, on October 8, Ambassador Thomas said he would be interfacing with US authorities to ensure that the priority areas receive due attention.

The Jamaican envoy, who is also the country's Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), told the large audience that he will be engaged with hemispheric issues, key among them the promotion and protection of democracy, human rights, security and sustainable development.

Ambassador Thomas said that through collective efforts, these multilateral engagements are critical to ensuring that the region remains stable, and for member countries to advance in the areas of security and economic development.

Turning to the Diaspora, the ambassador said cultural awareness must be promoted, especially among second and third generation Jamaicans; the fraternal bonds between the Jamaican diaspora in the US and Jamaicans back home should be strengthened; and support and guidance must be provided for philanthropic initiatives.

"The time has come when we must mobilise the Diaspora to have a greater voice in the respective communities in which we reside," said Ambassador Thomas. To this end, he said he would be seeking to promote better youth engagement and exchange between Jamaica and the USA, in which "our next generation can share in our rich cultural heritage."

The Ambassador assured that he will actively serve, not just those who reside in the District of Columbia metropolitan area, but across the length and breadth of the USA.


Caribbean immigrants among 314 criminals arrested in U.S.

MIAMI, United States – The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) says it has arrested several Caribbean nationals among 314 criminal immigrants in an enforcement action targeting individuals who pose a threat to public safety.

The immigration agency said those arrested from the Caribbean included nationals from the Bahamas, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, Turks & Caicos Islands, Antigua, and Cuba.

The arrests were made across the state of Florida, during an enforcement action, which concluded on September 29.

ICE said more than one-quarter had criminal records that included felony convictions for serious or violent offences, such as murder, attempted murder, child sex crimes, sex offences, weapons charges, and drug violations.

"As this operation makes clear, ICE is committed to prioritising convicted criminals and those who are public safety threats for apprehension and removal," said Marc Moore, field office director for the Miami Field Office of ERO, which oversees all of Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.


UN launches probe amidst bribery allegations against Antiguan diplomat

NEW YORK, United States, Friday October 9, 2015, (IPS) – After initial hesitation, the United Nations has decided to probe allegations of bribery and corruption extending to the office of a past president of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), the highest policy-making body in the 70-year old organization.

Ambassador John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda, who has been accused of receiving over US$1.3 million in "bribes" from a Chinese company, was the president of UNGA during 2013-2014.

The investigations will also focus on a donation of about US$1.5 million to the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (OSSC) from the Sun Kian Ip Group of China and one of its affiliates, Global Sustainability Foundation.

The head of the Group, a Chinese businessman Ng Lap Seng, and several of his colleagues are under arrest on charges of bribery and tax evasion.

The US federal authorities have charged Ashe with tax fraud – primarily for not declaring his income in his annual tax returns – which carry penalties that include heavy fines and/or jail sentences.

"In light of the recent accusations announced by US federal authorities, the Secretary-General is requesting that the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) launch an audit of the interaction between the United Nations and the Global Sustainability Foundation and the Sun Kian Ip Group, and the use of any funds received from these entities," UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters yesterday.


World Bank warns of adverse effects for Latin America and Caribbean

The World Bank says four years of an economic downturn are beginning to have adverse effects on jobs and household incomes in Latin America and the Caribbean. It said that after a commodity boom brought significant gains, a drop in labour force participation is causing families to feel the pinch.

The latest World Bank semiannual regional report points out that the expectation is that the region will see zero per cent growth for 2015 with a slight improvement to one per cent in 2016, although uncertainty around that projection is high.

The report titled " Jobs, Wages and the Latin American Slowdown" notes that would be the fifth year in a row the region has underperformed initial expectations, a sign that new factors, mainly internal, are prolonging the effects of worsening external conditions, particularly the sharp deceleration in China and fall of commodity prices.

"Even with the slowdown, labour markets in the region had managed to remain strong," said Augusto de la Torre, World Bank Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean.

"More recently, however, we are seeing employment quality deteriorate, as salaried workers become self-employed, and workers shift from larger to smaller companies.

"Most notable, however, is the fact that workers are exiting the labour market altogether, a propensity that is particularly marked among less educated, young males. As they go back home, or back to school, without a salary, the income of poorer households may suffer more," he added.


Caribbean bankers concerned over new "tax haven list"

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Wednesday October 7, 2015 – The Caribbean Association of Banks Inc. (CAB) is expressing deep concern over yet another tax-haven list which includes 15 Commonwealth Caribbean countries, and it's calling for them all to be removed.

The list appears within the District of Columbia's 2015 Budget Support Act – which expands the definition of tax haven -, due to be passed by the US Congress.

The St. Lucia-based CAB said in a statement issued yesterday that while it fully supports the District of Columbia's efforts to combat tax evasion, the designation of Caribbean territories as tax havens is prejudicial.

"It must be highlighted that this inaccurate description of Caribbean territories has already had and could have even further-reaching effects on the Caribbean's financial services sector as well as the economies. Indigenous banks in the region are currently being challenged with the threat of loss of correspondent banking relationships which are provided by international banks," it said.

"The DC 2015 Budget Support Act's "black list" may serve to exacerbate the perception of our region as a high risk area and consequently, negatively impact the Risk Rating profile of financial institutions by correspondent banks."

It added: "The CAB is unable to understand the justification for identifying these countries as tax havens and has written to the District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser (also copied to 13 Council members) and key members of Congress (Chairman and Ranking Members of both the House Appropriations Committee and the Subcommittee on Financial Services) urging them to remove the names of the Caribbean countries from this listing of tax havens as defined. The association noted that the Caribbean countries were being labelled tax havens even though: the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes have confirmed that all members of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) are fully or largely compliant and have committed to Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI); none of the CARICOM countries listed in the Act are on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) AML/CFT Strategic Deficiencies Lists; all of the CARICOM territories listed in the Act have cooperated with the US Internal Revenue Service through the US Foreign Account Tax Compliant Act (FATCA) and (with the exception of one) are listed as either having a signed intergovernmental agreement (IGA) or being treated as having an IGA in effect; and all CAB member banks and financial services institutions have mechanisms in place to satisfy FATCA requirements.


Jamaica secures $810.2 million World Bank grant for climate change project

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) – The Government has received approximately $810.2 million (US$6.8 million) in World Bank grant funding support to improve climate and weather data collection and information management within Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs).

The undertaking is part of a package of projects, valued of approximately $3.57 billion (US$30 million), which are being financed in Jamaica under the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR).

The US$1.2 billion PPCR is a funding window of the US$8.1 billion Climate Investment Funds (CIFs), which assists developing countries to integrate climate resilience into development planning.

Improvement of the data platform aims to better position Jamaica to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change, characterised by among other things, extreme drought and abnormal rainfall patterns.

Finance and Planning Minister, Dr Peter Phillips, in welcoming the World Bank support, underscored the need to generate data that will adequately assist Jamaica's preparation to deal with climate change.

He was addressing the signing ceremony held on Friday at his ministry's National Heroes Circle offices in Kingston.

Dr Phillips said the climate data project, to be implemented by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), will be of "tremendous" benefit to the country, and particularly, key stakeholders such as farmers, planners, residents in food-prone areas, and tourism and health sector interests.


ECLAC projects growth for Caribbean in 2015 and 2016

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday October 5, 2015 – While the wider Latin America and the Caribbean grouping looks set to see a contraction this year, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) says Caribbean economies looks set to grow not only in 2015 but 2016 as well.

ECLAC today forecast a decline in the overall region's economic activity for 2015 to -0.3 per cent from 0.5 per cent, and estimates that for 2016 growth will be close to 0.7 per cent. At the same time, it said, despite the regional trend towards a deceleration the region's economies will show differentiated dynamics

The countries of the Caribbean, for example, are expected to expand, an average, 1.6 per cent in 2015 and 1.8 per cent in 2016.

Mexico and Central America will grow 2.6 per cent in 2015 and 2.9 per cent in 2016.


Jamaica and Japan to expand trade

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Oct. 1, (CMC) - Jamaica and Japan have agreed to expand trade between both countries. On Wednesday, following bilateral talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller also announced that Japan will also provide assistance in the areas of energy efficiency and culture.

The government of Japan is providing $57 million in grant funding to Jamaica for improvements at the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) – the island's most significant cultural, artistic and scientific organization.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was also signed to promote educational cooperation between the University of the West Indies (UWI) and Japan's Sophia University.

Simpson Miller said Jamaica is also set to benefit from a new technical cooperation project in the field of energy efficiency and renewable energy. Other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states will also benefit from the initiative.

"We do not take lightly, this important contribution by Japan to Jamaica's economic and social development," the prime minister told Abe as she thanked his government for supporting the island.


CARICOM Foreign Ministers reaffirm support for Guyana's territorial integrity

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Oct. 1, (CMC) - CARICOM Foreign Ministers have welcomed Venezuela's decision to receive a United Nations Technical team which will provide recommendations to the UN Secretary-General on the way forward to a full and final solution to the Guyana/Venezuela territorial controversy.

And they say they fully support Guyana's "territorial integrity".

CARICOM's Council for Foreign Ministers (COFCOR) met on the sidelines of this week's 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, and was briefed by Guyana's Vice-President and Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge on the recent developments with respect to the territorial controversy with Venezuela.

The ministers noted said the decision by President Nicolás Maduro to receive the UN team in the shortest possible time would hasten the efforts aimed at bringing that controversy to an early end.

"The ministers underscored the need for the Caribbean region to be maintained as a Zone of Peace . . . The meeting was especially pleased at the decision of the government of Venezuela to receive, within the shortest possible time, the technical team from the UN Secretariat which is conducting a desk review in order to provide recommendations to the Secretary General on the way forward in the search for a full and final solution to the Guyana/Venezuela territorial controversy regarding the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award," a COFCOR statement said, noting that the decision would hasten the efforts aimed at bringing that controversy to an early end.

The COFCOR members also welcomed Sunday's meeting chaired by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at which Maduro and his Guyanese counterpart David Granger discussed their positions.

During that meeting, Maduro agreed to restore Venezuela's ambassador to Guyana and to grant agreement to the Ambassador Designate of Guyana to Venezuela.

COFCOR said that decision would set a firm basis for the return of full-fledged diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The meeting had been requested by Maduro who said he wanted to discuss the way forward on the border controversy. Venezuela has been laying claim to the vast mineral-rich area of jungle west of the Essequibo River, which accounts for about 40 per cent of Guyana's territory, since the 19th century. Guyana says that after agreeing to relinquish the Essequibo following a ruling by an international tribunal in 1899, Venezuela backtracked on the decision. Caracas insists the 1899 ruling was unfair and the territory is still in dispute.

Earlier this year, Maduro also extended Venezuela's maritime claims after Exxon Mobil announced it had made a significant oil discovery in Guyana's territorial waters.


CTO calls for Open Skies policy at Caribbean airports

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, (Caribbean Tourism Organisation Press Release)– Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) Hugh Riley has urged regional authorities to institute an Open Skies policy and wherever possible to eliminate secondary screening at Caribbean airports.

Mr. Riley argues that while an Open Skies policy would allow regional carriers to take unlimited flights to all Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Member States and encourage the growth of competition among carriers, while elimination of secondary screening would encourage greater demand for intra-regional travel.

He has also called for improved interline arrangements for a "vastly enhanced" baggage transfer and improved passenger experience.

In an address at the recent airline route development forum, World Routes 2015 in Durban, South Africa, Mr. Riley also made a plea for collaboration in a number of areas, including intelligence sharing with the use of the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS), and security processing.


CARICOM Reparation Commission writes open letter to British PM

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Sept 29, (CMC) – Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Reparation Commission, Sir Hilary Beckles has told British Prime Minister David Cameron that reparation justice is an issue that can no "be further ignored, remain under the rug, or placed on back burners".

In an open letter to the British head of government who is due here later on Tuesday on a one-day official visit, Sir Hilary, said that while Jamaica would open its heart to welcome the British leader, he must also be aware of the issue of reparation for slavery.


Guyana and Venezuela resume diplomatic relations after talks

New York, NY Sept 28, – President David Granger met with his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro for the first time to discuss the border dispute between the two countries. Maduro and Granger are currently holding discussions along with United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki Moon, in his office at the UN headquarters in New York.

Meanwhile, Guyana and Venezuela have spent the past hours laying out demands ahead of today's 7pm meeting between Presidents David Granger and Nicholas Maduro in the UN Secretary General's office in New York.

President Granger is insisting that the border claim matter be referred to the International Court of Justice and there be an immediate resumption of diplomatic relations.

On the other hand, Venezuela El Universal has reported a tweet by the Venezuelan Foreign Minister. "We hope that tomorrow (Sunday) the presence of (Guyana) President (David) Granger in the UN meeting legitimizes Guyana's will to return to the path of the Geneva Agreement," posted Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez on her Twitter account @DrodriguezVen, referring to the meeting on Sunday between Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his Guyana counterpart David Granger in New York."


PAHO/WHO promoting smart, green and safe hospital in the Caribbean

WASHINGTON, Sept 25, (CMC) – Two United Nations health organizations have a launched a campaign to promote safe, green and smart hospitals in the Caribbean. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) said that nearly seven in 10 hospitals in Latin America and the Caribbean are located in disaster prone areas, putting them at risk of becoming casualties themselves during hurricanes, earthquakes or flooding.

They said the Smart Hospitals programme, a multi-year initiative financed by the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID), targets a dozen hospitals in Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

They said when Tropical Storm Erika struck Dominica in late August, causing death and destruction, three hospitals on the island were in the process of being evaluated as part of the programme.

"Natural disasters can have a major impact on the health sector and on people's lives, and we need to ensure that health facilities are built to resist disasters while also being environmentally friendly," said Dana Van Alphen, coordinator of the programme.

"A bonus is that hospitals that participate in this program also see their operating costs decline and produce less pollution."

PAHO/WHO said a hospital is considered "smart" when it links structural and operational safety with green interventions, at a reasonable cost-benefit ratio.

"In "green" hospitals, air quality improves, water and energy costs decline, and people's working conditions improve. These improvements also affect users' decisions to visit health facilities: in hospitals that have adopted the Smart Hospitals programme, the number of users seeking care has increased by 40 per cent," they said in a joint statement.

They said that participating hospitals have instituted measures including reinforcing their roofs and windows to resist hurricane-force winds, and installing new rainwater-collection tanks and solar panels to supplement their traditional sources of water and energy.


Venezuelan President invites Granger to "one on one" meeting

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Sep. 24, (CMC) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has extended an invitation to President David Granger to a one on one meeting ahead of addressing world leaders at the 70th UN General Assembly meeting in New York on Tuesday.

A statement from Venezuela's Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the President extended the call to Granger to facilitate a meeting "in which they can find a positive way to clear obstacles in relations between the two governments."


World Bank report calls for new social contract for Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Wednesday September 23, 2015 – A new World Bank Group report is cautioning that faster economic growth alone will not be enough to improve the living standards of most Haitians, and proposes key priorities for rebuilding the social contract between the state and citizens.

The document, 'Haiti: Towards a New Narrative', notes the progress made in reducing extreme poverty and maintaining macroeconomic stability.

"Following the earthquake, Haiti experienced its best performance in decades with a real growth rate averaging 3.3 per cent from 2011 to 2014, partly spurred by high levels of reconstruction aid. However, this growth is faltering and will not be sufficient for Haiti to achieve its vision of becoming an emerging economy by 2030 and improve life for its poorest citizens," said Mary Barton-Dock, World Bank Special Envoy in Haiti.

"Haiti is at a cross road and this diagnostic identifies key priority areas for action to generate opportunities for all Haitians."

The authors highlight that, on one hand, the state struggles to provide adequate services for its citizens or a favourable climate for business and, on the other Hand, few pay taxes.

In the absence of the state, non-state actors have stepped in: In health, about 50 per cent of health expenditures are provided by NGOs and 80 per cent of primary and secondary schools are run by private institutions or NGOs.


Attorney General signs off on Jack Warner extradition to the U.S.

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Tuesday September 22, 2015 – Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi has signed the document required to begin the process of extraditing former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner to the United States to face corruption charges. But Warner's attorneys have challenged Al-Rawi's missed deadline for signing the authority to proceed (ATP) document, and a magistrate will rule on that on Friday.

Warner, who is out on bail, yesterday reappeared in court where it was disclosed that Al-Rawi had signed the ATP.

The deadline had been last Wednesday, but state attorney Brent Hallpike wrote to Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar that same day, asking for more time for Al-Rawi to examine the documents and make a decision on the matter, as he had only been sworn-in as Attorney General the previous week.


Call for Caribbean diaspora brand

NEW YORK, United States – A Caribbean-American community leader called on West Indians living in the United States to establish a Caribbean Diaspora brand. Following the success of the 48th West Indian American Labor Day Carnival Parade, Kwayera Archer Cunningham asserted it was time build on brand Caribbean, starting in Brooklyn – "Caribbean Central" in the United States.

"Yes, I am Jamaican, but when in New York City, I am a Jamaican from the Caribbean – the brand that many of our parents who came to this country helped to build," she said.

Archer Cunningham, an award-winning nonprofit executive who espouses the strengthening of communities by building sustainable philanthropic networks which ensure resources are directed to those most in need, suggested a powerful Diaspora brand might awaken Corporate America: "We have contributed so much creative and intellectual power to the success of the United States, and we have infinite potential to do great things – both locally and globally."

"Now that the festivities are over, let's work together to send our message of unity to Corporate America," Archer Cunningham exhorted, "so we can all reap the benefits of prosperity and allow every community to thrive."

The founder of Global Ase, an international firm established to assist leaders, organizations, corporations and communities who are working for social good, urged stateside Caribbean people to use the same focus "that our parents had when coming here for a better life …now it's our turn to leave a strong legacy."

She suggested Caribbean institutions and businesses collectively contribute to the community and to the Caribbean by pooling their significant resources.

Archer Cunningham, who has lived in Brooklyn for 27 years, believes the community needs to address the violence taking place during and beyond the Carnival season.


US court allows IRS to get info on American taxpayers' with Belize bank accounts

A federal judge in Miami has issued an order allowing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to serve a "John Doe" summons seeking information about American taxpayers who may hold offshore accounts at Belize Bank International Limited (BBIL) or Belize Bank Limited (BBL).

The order, which was entered by U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro, granted the United States' petition for permission to seek records of BBIL's and BBL's correspondent accounts at Bank of America, N.A. and Citibank, N.A. Those records will allow the IRS to identify U.S. taxpayers who hold or held interests in financial accounts at BBIL and BBL, as well as other financial institutions that used the same correspondent accounts.

"The Department and the IRS are using every tool available to identify and investigate those individuals determined to evade their U.S. tax and reporting obligations through the use of offshore financial accounts and foreign entities," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department's Tax Division.

"These John Doe summonses will provide detailed information about individuals using financial institutions in Belize and, to the extent funds were transferred, other jurisdictions. But rest assured, we are receiving information from many sources regarding hidden foreign accounts and offshore schemes. The time to come clean is now – before we knock on your door."

Commissioner John Koskinen of the IRS said hte court action further demonstrated the agency's relentless efforts to pursue and catch those evading taxes with hidden offshore accounts, "no matter where they are or what structures are used to hide behind", and also reinforces the ongoing importance of the John Doe summons in international tax enforcement.

According to the IRS declaration, BBL is incorporated and based in Belize, and directly owns BBIL. The IRS declaration further states that Belize Corporate Services (BCS) is incorporated and based in Belize and offers corporate services including the purchase of "shelf" Belizean international business companies.


NY attorney shot in pre-dawn West Indian Parade dies

NEW YORK - (AP) An aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo who was shot in the crossfire between two gangs hours before the city's West Indian Day parade died Wednesday, police said. Carey Gabay, a first deputy general counsel at the Empire State Development Corp., was shot in the head during a pre-dawn party celebrating the parade earlier this month. He was hospitalized and placed into a medically induced coma.

Earlier Wednesday, his family announced he had been declared brain dead.

"Our family is grieving that a man in the prime of his life who has impacted so many lives could be struck down by such a callous act," the family said in a statement. "This is a nightmare that's shaken our resolve and tested our faith."

Cuomo called Gabay, a 43-year-old Harvard University-educated lawyer, "the epitome of an outstanding public servant."

"He held a tremendous commitment to his community, and he chose to use his many talents to better the lives of others," Cuomo said in a statement. "New York is undeniably a better place today because of his service. He was also a friend and role model to the many people who were blessed to have known him, and he will be greatly missed."

Gabay joined Cuomo's administration in 2011 and had worked as an assistant counsel to Cuomo, a Democrat, before taking his new position in January.

He was walking with his brother near the Brooklyn parade route on Sept. 7 at 3:40 a.m. when he was shot. His family said he was in a coma last week, and Cuomo said at the time that the damage done by the bullet was "extensive."

No arrests have been made in the case. Police Commissioner William Bratton said last week that investigators were focusing on two gangs whose members are well known to the New York Police Department.


Possible financial market turbulence - World Bank

WASHINGTON, Sep. 16, (CMC) – The World Bank is warning developing economies, including those in the Caribbean, to brace for "possible financial market turbulence" from the upcoming US monetary policy tightening cycle.

According to a new World Bank policy research paper released ahead of this week's meeting by the US Federal Reserve's policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee, while a likely rise in US interest rates, which would be the Federal Reserve's (Fed) first rate hike since 2006, has been widely telegraphed to world financial markets and the public, "it, nonetheless, runs a risk of being associated with market volatility."


Cuba releasing 3,522 prisoners ahead of pope's visit

HAVANA, Cuba (AP) — Cuba's highest authority says it is releasing 3,522 prisoners ahead of next week's visit to the island by Pope Francis, the third time Cuba has granted inmates freedom before a papal visit.

The Council of State announced in state media Friday morning that the prisoners to be freed include a mix of women, people younger than 20, inmates suffering from illnesses and people whose terms were coming to an end next year.

The government won't release people convicted of serious crimes like murder, child sexual abuse or violations of state security. The final category is often applied to people considered political prisoners by Cuban and international human rights groups.

The government says the group includes some foreigners whose home countries have agreed to repatriate them.


Caribbean declared free of Rubella

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, (CMC) - The Americas region, which includes the Caribbean has been declared free of Rubella. The declaration of the elimination of rubella and congenital rubella syndrome was made by the international expert committee for Measles and Rubella Elimination in the Americas during the recent meeting of the Pan American Health Organisation and World Health Organsation (PAHO/WHO) in Washington, DC.

This brings to four the number of vaccine-preventable diseases to be eliminated from the Americas, the other two being smallpox in 1971 and polio in 1994.

"The elimination of rubella from the Americas is an historic achievement that reflects the collective will of our region's countries to work together to achieve ambitious public health milestones...All four achievements prove the value of immunisation and how important it is to make vaccines available even to the remotest corners of our hemisphere," said PAHO/WHO Director Carissa F Etienne.

There were widespread outbreaks of rubella, also known as German measles, throughout the Americas before the introduction of the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Although the virus is usually mild or asymptomatic, when contracted by pregnant women, it can cause miscarriage, or CRS, which is a constellation of birth defects including blindness, deafness and congenital heart defects.

Before the mass-scale MMR vaccination campaign, between 16,000 and 20,000 children were born with CRS every year in Latin America and the Caribbean, and there were more than 158,000 rubella cases reported in 1997 alone.


Obama leads US in moment of silence on 9/11

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) – US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle on Friday stood on the White House lawn to observe a moment of silence to mark the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The moment of silence was observed at 8:46 am (1246 GMT) -- the time when the first jet commandeered by Al-Qaeda operatives smashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York, where a ceremony of remembrance also took place.

The attacks killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, at the Pentagon and aboard a hijacked airliner that went down in Pennsylvania.

At the White House, a few hundred people -- political staff including National Security Advisor Susan Rice but also the White House chefs, gardeners and other residence staff -- joined the Obamas for the ceremony.

In New York, police and relatives of those killed in the World Trade Center began the annual reading of the names of the victims at Ground Zero, now the site of the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum.


Caribbean nationals among 79 'criminal aliens' arrested in major immigration sweep

DETROIT, Sept 10, (CMC) – The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) says officers have arrested several Caribbean nationals among 79 in a major enforcement action targeting "criminal aliens" and individuals who pose a threat to public safety.

ICE said on Wednesday that the officers made the arrests in the two-state region overseen by the Detroit office, which covers Michigan and Ohio.

Seventy-eight of the foreign nationals taken into custody by ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers during the enforcement action had prior criminal convictions with the exception of one, who's being charged federally with re-entry after deportation, ICE said.

It said nearly one third had criminal records that included felony convictions for serious or violent offences, such as child sex crimes, weapons charges and drug violations.

All of those arrested represented the agency's two highest enforcement priorities ICE said.

"Operations like this highlight ICE's ongoing commitment to prioritising convicted criminals and public safety threats for apprehension and removal," said Rebecca Adducci, field office director for ERO Detroit. "By arresting and removing these individuals, we make an immediate and tangible impact on public safety."

While the vast majority of those taken into custody are originally from Mexico - 53, ICE said 18 additional countries were represented, including Peru, Vietnam, Canada, United Kingdom, Philippines, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Laos, Bangladesh, India, Bahamas, Bosnia and Herzegovina, El Salvador, Cuba, Honduras, Haiti, Croatia, and Saudi Arabia.

Of the 26 counties where arrests occurred, west Michigan's Kent County accounted for the largest number of apprehensions followed by Franklin County in Ohio.

Last year alone, ICE said ERO deported 315,943 individuals from the United States.


Caricom leaders send congratulations

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Sept. 9, (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders were extending congratulations to Dr. Keith Rowley, who will be sworn in Wednesday as the new prime minister in Trinidad and Tobago, saying that they were looking forward to working with him in the socio-economic development of the Caribbean.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) chairman and Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart, said he was looking forward to welcoming Rowley "among the heads of government of the Caribbean Community.


Democrats Say Violence-Marred West Indian Day Celebration Is Still Very Safe

By Ross Barkan (Observer) -A day after violence surrounding the annual West Indian Day Parade left one man dead and a Cuomo administration aide in critical condition, a trio of City Council members declared that the annual celebration is still safe. Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, the chairwoman of the City Council's public safety committee, and local Council members Laurie Cumbo and Jumaane Williams issued a joint statement this afternoon that also called for more state and federal efforts to combat gun violence. They asked for further unspecified improvements to the Brooklyn parade.

"Statistically speaking, last year's West Indian American Carnival celebration was the safest in recent history, and early reports indicate that this year's was even safer–but statistics are of little comfort to the friends and families of those whose loved ones were hurt in the weekend's senseless violence," the Democrats said.

In the early morning hours before the parade, Carey Gabay, a first deputy general counsel at the Empire State Development Corporation, was shot in the head. Mr. Gabay, 43, was caught in the crossfire of two gangs, police said. A 24-year-old man was also stabbed to death shortly before near Grand Army Plaza. Police have not yet released the victim's name or any more information related to the stabbing.

The parade, which brings thousands to Brooklyn's Eastern Parkway and is regarded as the signature celebration of the city's growing Caribbean community, has been marred by bloodshed before. Last year, a recent parolee opened fire into a crowd of revelers, killing one man and wounding several others. In 2013, a 1-year-old boy sitting in his stroller was killed by a bullet meant for his father.

Mayor Bill de Blasio dismissed any talk of ending the pre-parade festivities where violence tends to break out. Mr. Williams and Ms. Cumbo, who represent large swaths of Brooklyn's Caribbean-American residents, also did not mention that possibility in their statement.

"Despite this being one of the safest summers in New York City, we are tired of our communities experiencing gun violence, even though the solutions are right in front of us," they said. "While respecting the second amendment, we must limit the supply of guns and address the structural deficits that exist in many communities, often driving the need for violence that can result in fatal actions."

The three Democrats (Ms. Gibson is a Bronx lawmaker) called on Congress to support Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's anti-gun trafficking bill and back micro-stamping and background checks on gun dealers. All initiatives are opposed by Republicans, who hold majorities in the House and Senate.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who represented the neighborhoods the parade rolls through when he served in the State Senate a couple of years ago, said he would be convening an emergency meeting to reexamine the pre-parade celebration known as J'Ouvert.


PNM wins general election

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Sept 7, (CMC) – The main opposition People's National Movement (PNM) won the general election here on Monday defeating the coalition People's Partnership (PP) of Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar that came to power in 2010.

The preliminary figures released here show that the PNM had won 22 of the 41 seats with the remaining 19 going to the PP that had won 29 seats in the 2010 general election.


Spike in Caribbean people booking travel on mobile phones

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Friday September 4, 2015 – New data released by one of the world's leading travel companies shows a significant increase in people in the Caribbean market making bookings for hotels, flights and other travel plans using their mobile devices.

The Expedia group says growth has been more than 55 per cent for the first half of the year, when compared for the same period in 2014, with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Jamaica among the major markets seeing a spike.

Mobile bookings allow travelers to make travel bookings on the go, and Expedia says it has seen more people going that route in almost all of its markets in the first two quarters of 2015.

"Today's technology has revolutionized the way we do business," said Demetrius Canton, Director of Lodging Partner Services for the Caribbean with the Expedia group.


Caribbean Carbon Forum 2015 looks towards International Climate Conference

GENEVA, Sep. 3, (CMC) – The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Government of Chile will host the 9th Latin American and Caribbean Carbon Forum (LACCF 2015) next week with "an eye" on the forthcoming International Climate Conference in Paris.

"As countries are busy preparing and making public their intended contributions to a new universal climate change agreement to be adopted in Paris in December, the Forum offers a golden opportunity to explore the use of market-based mechanisms and approaches to increase emission reduction ambition and stimulate sustainable development now and over the years and decades to come," said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a co-organizer of LACCF 2015.


US hopes to strengthen energy initiative in the Caribbean

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – The United States says it hopes to strengthen plans for a Caribbean Energy Security Initiative when regional policy makers meet in Miami next month. United States' Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Robin Dunnigan met with the minister with responsibility for energy, Darcy Boyce, on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

Dunnigan said that the United States was placing a great deal of emphasis on the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative and now had two programmes in place to push this initiative, including a US$20 million financing facility to support investment in clean energy projects in the region.

She said that a team headed by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) had been mandated to identify clean energy projects for support and that two wind energy projects in Jamaica were receiving support.

She said Washington was hoping to further concretise plans for the way forward when she meets with regional policy makers at the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum scheduled for October 19 in Miami.

Boyce welcomed the assistance being offered to the region by the United States, noting that there were several areas in which Barbados could benefit from technical expertise in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

He said that in addition to the projects already ongoing, he was hoping to see a pilot ocean thermal energy conversion plant established, to make use of the sea which surrounded the island both for water and energy production.


US and UK governments announce humanitarian aid for storm-ravaged Dominica

ROSEAU, Dominica, Tuesday September 1, 2015 – The United States and the United Kingdom governments are sending personnel and humanitarian aid to assist in Dominica's ongoing recovery effort on the heels of the destructive Tropical Storm Erika.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID), through its Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), said today that it is providing disaster relief support to the storm-ravaged island.

In addition to sending a four-member assessment team to provide initial damage assessments and needs analysis, USAID said it is in the process of providing humanitarian assistance totaling USD$50,000 for the immediate supply of storm-related disaster relief supplies.

"Working through the Dominica Red Cross, USAID will provide essential relief items to citizens in nine hard-hit areas identified by the government of Dominica," it said.

UK's Department for International Development (DFID), which has committed £300,000 (US$459,751) in humanitarian aid, said yesterday it had rerouted the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Lyme Bay to assist humanitarian relief efforts in the Caribbean island.

The British ship is carrying a range of disaster relief stores including bedding, shelter, torches and stretchers, as well as a Lynx Mk 8 helicopter and considerable supplies of fresh water.

Tropical Storm Erika hit Dominica last Thursday, resulting in severe flooding, landslides and wide spread infrastructure damage across the island.


Trinidad & Tobago celebrates 53 years of Independence

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug 31, (CMC) – Trinidad and Tobago is celebrating its 53rd anniversary of political independence from Britain with the thoughts of the political leaders of the country fixed on the September 7 general elections and the destruction that occurred in the neighbouring island of Dominica.

President Anthony Carmona in his Independence message urged Trinidad and Tobago to spare a thought and prayer for Dominica recovering from the passage of Tropical Storm Erika that left 25 people dead and many more missing and presumed dead.


Caribbean commits to 75% reduction in new HIV infections by 2020

RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 27, (CMC) – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says Caribbean and Latin American countries have set new regional targets for 2020 aimed at reducing by 75 percent new HIV infections in adults and young people by 2020.

During the second Latin American and Caribbean Forum on the HIV Continuum of Care––"Improving Combination HIV Prevention to Strengthen the Continuum of Prevention and Care", PAHO said the region also agreed to "guarantee a coordinated and comprehensive approach to HIV prevention, and achieve an environment of zero stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and the populations most affected by the epidemic."

These targets also include access to combination HIV prevention packages for 90 percent of transsexuals, gay men and other men who have sex with men, and sex workers by 2020.

PAHO said another goal is to remove legislation that can be used to discriminate against people living with or affected by HIV.

According to the Health Organisation, the most vulnerable populations in the region include gay men and other men who have sex with men, transsexual women, sex workers and their clients, drug users, young adults and adolescents, women and children, incarcerated people, transient populations, indigenous and Afro-descendant populations, homeless people, and female victims of violence.


Jamaica charities and youth projects get millions from Queen Diamond Jubilee Trust

LONDON, England – Jamaican charities and youth projects stand to benefit from approximately £2 million (US$3.1 million) from the Queen Diamond Jubilee Fund. The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust is a charitable foundation established in 2012 to mark and celebrate the Queen's 60 years on the Throne and her contribution to the Commonwealth. Its mission is to enrich the lives of people from all backgrounds across the Commonwealth.

The Trust was launched in February 2012 and countries were encouraged to support the initiative and Jamaica contributed £15,000 (US$23,533) to the Fund through the Jamaican High Commission in London.

Under the Trust, grants are being awarded to organizations working with young people in selected countries in the Commonwealth, including Jamaica.

"Jamaica's contribution to the Fund was £15,000; however, Jamaica stands to benefit from more than £2 million (US$3.1 million) in funding for a range of programmes and projects that support the development of youth entrepreneurship, young people, youth in agriculture and crime reduction in both rural and urban areas," said High Commissioner Aloun Ndombet Assamba.

In addition to supporting youth development projects, a major focus of the Trust will be on tackling preventable blindness.


United Nations holds first historic meeting on LGBT rights

by John Riley - (metroweekly)
The United Nations Security Council is meeting to discuss anti-LGBT persecution and violence for the first time in the organization's history. Specifically, the meeting will focus on the treatment of sexual minorities in areas under the control of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The meeting, which is an informal session known as an "Arria," will brief Security Council member states on instances of anti-LGBT violence and murders committed by the Islamic State. The Arria came to fruition because of efforts by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and Chilean Ambassador to the United Nations Cristian Barros Melet, who also make their own remarks.

However, due to the meeting's informal nature, it is unclear how many nations — particularly those with laws punishing homosexuality — will send representatives. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 75 countries criminalize same-sex relationships, and, in 10 others, same-sex activity is punishable by death. A number of countries, most notably Russia, have adopted "anti-propaganda" laws to prevent people from speaking about or sharing information related to homosexuality or LGBT rights.

According to the International Gay and Lesbian Rights Commission (IGLHRC), since June 2014, ISIS has published at least seven online photo reports purporting to show the execution of people accused of sodomy. The commission cites 12 other instances in which the Islamic State claims to have killed men for engaging in sodomy or adultery, as well as additional reports of stonings of women accused and convicted of adultery, and numerous accounts of people killed because of their religious affiliation. The killings and stonings of people thought to be gay at the hands of ISIS fighters has garnered much international attention, due in part to the graphic nature of the killings.


How the Caribbean diaspora can win in the connection economy

By Daniella Bien-Aime
How are your relationships going? Do you consider building relationships an investment or a fruitless deed? We're living in a dynamic new economy where we need to understand how relationships can yield a competitive advantage for success in the connection economy.

And history dictates that those who win the economic game do so by having a competitive advantage. Dean van Leeuwen wrote a commanding piece on Building Innovative Companies using the Powerful Disruptive Force of the Connected Generation. In that article, van Leeuwen summarized how competitive advantage played a role in those who led the charge. "By tracing what constituted competitive advantage through a succession of economic eras, we're able to see the evolution of what remains central to business success."

The article provided an interesting timeline of how the concept of an economic "competitive advantage" emerged over the past few centuries.


Hurricane Danny strengthens in the Caribbean but expected to weaken

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Aug 21, 2015 (CMC) – Hurricane Danny strengthened a little overnight as it makes it way towards the Leeward Islands on Friday, the Miami-based National Hurricane Centre (NHC) has said. In its 5.00 am bulletin, the NHC said that the hurricane, the first for the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane season, was 985 miles east south east of the Leeward Islands with maximum winds of 85 miles per hour (mph).

Danny was moving west north west at 10 mph and the NHC said that while there are no coastal watches or warnings in effect, people in the Caribbean should monitor the progress of the Category One hurricane.

The NHC said that Hurricane Danny is expected to continue on its current path and that some additional strengthening is possible on Friday "but Danny should begin to weaken on Saturday.


Continued drought expected for Caribbean with El Niño expected to be strongest on record

FLORIDA, United States, – This El Niño could be one of the strongest ever recorded, bringing further drought to the Caribbean. That's according to an updated forecast issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which indicates that there's a 90 per cent chance that El Niño will continue through the end of the year, and an 85 per cent chance that it will last until next April.

El Niño is a weather phenomenon that occurs irregularly in the eastern tropical Pacific every two to seven years. When the trade winds that usually blow from east to west weaken, sea surface temperatures start rising, setting off a chain of weather impacts.

This year's conditions are similar to those experienced in 1997-1998 when drought forced water restrictions across the Caribbean, and resulted in significant losses in the agriculture sector.

Already some countries in the region have implemented water rationing to deal with shortages of the resource, with Puerto Rico among the worst affected so far.

To classify El Niño as "very strong," the temperature in the tropical Pacific Ocean needs to be running at least two degrees Celsius warmer than average, for at least three months in a row.

Forecasters say they expect that a further increase in the Pacific ocean temperature will push this El Niño event into at least the "strong" category, and it could reach or even exceed the "very strong" criteria.

The intense El Niño has also been a major factor in the below-average activity this hurricane season.


Marcus Garvey's home to be transformed into a heritage site

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Aug. 18, (CMC) – The house in which Jamaica's first National Hero, Marcus Mosiah Garvey grew up, will be refurbished and transformed into a heritage site. This was outlined in a message from Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna during a ceremony to commemorate the 128th birthday of Jamaica's first national hero, held on the compound of the St Ann Parish Library in St Ann's Bay on Monday.

Read by councillor for the Beecher Town Division of the St Ann Parish Council, Ian Bell, the minister's message noted that the property on which the house is located was declared a protected site in 1992, as the Government moved to ensure that the legacy and history of Marcus Garvey is preserved.

"The Ministry of Youth and Culture remains committed to preserving the legacy of this outstanding Jamaican as we are ready to start plans to refurbish the house of Jamaica's first national hero and transforming it into a heritage site," Hanna said.

"We want to create an environment where Jamaicans at home and abroad can visit and pay tribute to a man who left a great legacy. It was he who said that 'a people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots'. Let us continue to embrace our rich cultural heritage and pass on the memories and traditions to the next generation," she added.

Hanna said the celebration of Marcus Garvey's 128th birthday and the 51st year of being named a national hero present an opportunity for the sharing of cultural heritage among the youth.

"Culture is a critical component of who we are as a nation," the minister emphasised.


The Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) names two new inductees into Hall of Fame

ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada, Aug 18, CMC – The Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) Monday night inducted the late Guyanese broadcaster Terry Holder and Montserratian Rose Willock into its Hall of Fame. Holder, who died in January last year, was recognized as being instrumental to the birth of the region's first ever television news exchange, "Caribvision" as well as the regional television magazine, "Caribscope".

Holder also served as CBU president, and secretary general.

Willock, a fomer manager of the now defunct Radio Antilles in Montserrat, was recognised for her service to the region, especially in building capacity for emergency broadcasting.

Editor Emeritus of the Barbados Nation Newspaper, Harold Hoyte noted that Willock's career had been marked by her time as Head of the English Service of Radio Antilles in the aftermath of the devastation by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, as well as her recognition on the Queen's honours lists in 1986 and 1996 with an MBE and an OBE respectively.

"These latest additions to the CBU Hall of Fame bring the total number of awardees to fourteen," the CBU said in a brief statement.


Obama Takes Lead On Climate Change

UNITED NATIONS, New York (IPS) — Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama formally unveiled the details of his Clean Power Plan (CPP), a comprehensive carbon-cutting strategy he described as "the biggest and most important step…ever taken to combat climate change" in a prior video address posted on Facebook.

As set down in the final rule from August 3 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the CPP requires power plant owners to reduce their CO2 emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Between 2005 and 2013, carbon dioxide emissions have fallen by 15 percent, meaning the U.S. is about halfway to the target.

States are allowed to create their own plans on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units (EGUs). Initial versions of these plans will have to be submitted by 2016, final versions by 2018.

Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the U.N. Secretary-General, told journalists at a U.N. press conference in New York: "The Plan is an example of the visionary leadership necessary to reduce emissions and to tackle climate change."

At a meeting between President Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Oval Office on Tuesday, the U.N. chief commended Obama's leadership role in addressing climate change: "I would like to congratulate you and highly commend your visionary and forward leadership announcement of yesterday on a Clean Power Plan. […] The U.S. can and will be able to change the world in addressing [the] climate phenomenon."

The U.S. is the world's biggest CO2 emitter after China. Yet, the praise given to Obama for his efforts in cutting CO2 emissions seems to suggest a shift in the perception of the U.S. as one of the largest climate offenders to a model and leader in combating climate change.

The announcement of the plan follows a series of recent diplomatic achievements by the U.S. government such as the Iranian nuclear deal and the normalisation of diplomatic relations with Cuba. Many observers attribute these significant moves by the U.S. president shortly ahead of the end of his presidency to his endeavors in building a legacy on the foreign policy front.


Caribbean Nurses Praised As Region Has One Of The World's Highest Immunization Rates

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, (CMC) – Caribbean regional nurses began a four-day meeting here, amid praises that the region can boast of having one of the highest immunization rates in the world. Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Assistant Secretary General for Human and Social Development, Dr. Douglas Slater, told the meeting that the region's rate is even better than that of the United States.

He attributed this accomplishment to the work of nurses in the region, noting that they made a valuable contribution to the rate of immunization regionally, as well as in other areas, such as maternal and child health.

Dr. Slater said, nurses also had a significant impact in areas related to communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCD's) which would be addressed during the meeting.

He said, their involvement in enhancing healthy lifestyle promotion, which included mental health, was also notable and, according to him, there was a high dependence on nurses to ensure that those issues would remain topical.

Minister in the Ministry of Health in Guyana, Dr. Karen Cummings, who also addressed the opening ceremony, noted that much has been done, but a lot more needed to be achieved, in dealing with emerging trends and diseases in health, including non-communicable diseases (NCD's).

She said, the Ministry of Health fully appreciated the intrinsic value that nurses bring to the public health care system.


Caribbean man wants to be FIFA's boss

ST JOHN'S, Antigua — Former Trinidad and Tobago international David Nakhid has announced his candidacy for the position of president of Football's World Governing Body FIFA. Nakhid, who played 35 times for Trinidad and Tobago, made the announcement in a radio interview in Antigua on Tuesday.

He is on a swing through the region seeking to drum-up support for his campaign ahead of the elections carded for February 26, 2016 at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

"I've played in all the confederations that you can think of. I speak five or six languages. I have the academic background that is needed for FIFA, more so than any of the others that have put themselves forward," said Nakhid, who needs the support of at least five FIFA member associations to contest the elections.

Nakhid, 51, a Trinidad and Tobago native, was the first from his country to play in Europe, playing from 1988 to 1995, in Switzerland, Belgium, and Greece.

He scored 20 goals over the span of four seasons with FC Grasshopper (Switzerland) and 12 goals in two years with Waregem (Belgium), where he was twice named Most Valuable Player for the club.


Caribbean countries agree to continue strengthening cooperation on digital matters

MEXICO CITY, – The Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC) says Caribbean countries have agreed to continue strengthening cooperation on digital matters. Representatives from 18 countries approved the Digital Agenda for Latin America (eLAC 2018) during the Fifth Ministerial Conference on the Information Society.

In the Mexico City Declaration signed at the closing session of the Fifth Ministerial Conference on the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean, countries in the region renewed accords for the eLAC process, which began 10 years ago, approving the Digital Agenda for Latin America and the Caribbean (eLAC2018), which establishes five areas of action and 23 objectives.

n her closing speech, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, emphasized that "this regional digital agenda should become the backbone for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to 2030."

The Mexico City Declaration was signed by representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The countries agreed to continue strengthening regional cooperation on digital matters with projects that have a regional scope and activities oriented towards promoting innovation, digital training and the dissemination and transfer of new technologies and good management practices. In addition, they will work to promote and respect all rights in the digital environment and encourage the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) to build peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development with equality.

The signatories also declared their commitment to the governance of the Internet and the information society based on processes that include multiple interested parties, which are democratic and guarantee significant and responsible participation by all actors, including governments, the private sector, civil society, academic and technical communities and users.


Jamaica making moves to tap into multi-billion-dollar bamboo industry

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Monday August 10, 2015 – The Ministry of Industry, Investment, and Commerce will spearhead a government feasibility study to determine whether mined-out bauxite lands are suitable for the wide-scale bamboo production, as the country seeks to get a piece of the lucrative international market for bamboo products, estimated to be valued at more than US$20 billion.

Senior Director of Special Projects at the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), Gladstone Rose says the agency will partner with the University of the West Indies' (UWI) Biotechnology Centre – represented by lecturer Dr. Sylvia Mitchell – to conduct parts of the study, which is expected to begin by the end of the year.

The study will be facilitated under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) soon to be signed by representatives of both institutions, and forms part of a two-year pilot being implemented at a cost of approximately J$10 million (US$85,733).

The study forms part of the ministry's Bamboo Products Industry Project, the implementation of which is being facilitated by the Bamboo and Indigenous Materials Advisory Committee (BIMAC), which Rose chairs.

He said the feasibility study constitutes the first of the pilot project's two phases that will target four acres of land in Clapham, St. Ann, over a 24-month period.

Rose said the BIMAC has been discussing the possibility of planting bamboo on mined-out bauxite lands with agencies such as the Jamaica Bauxite Institute.

"We will be doing (additional) research to match different types of soils with different species . . . so that we can optimize on . . . their growth," he said.

Based on the outcome of the study, he said, phase two would commence. That phase, which is expected to last up to a year, involves producing bamboo plants/saplings for distribution to farmers.


OECS statisticians meet in St. Kitts

Education statisticians across the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) will attend an annual meeting in St Kitts and Nevis from August 11-14, 2015 to provide OECS statisticians with a forum to identify and adopt best practices for improved education data for regional and international comparability.

The meeting is part of an approach by the OECS Commission, in collaboration with the United Nation Children's Fund (UNICEF) to strengthen efforts towards improving data administration in education. Specifically, the purpose of this year's meeting is to:

• Review the draft study report on Out-of-School–Children;

• Build capacity in the use of the OECS Education Simulation Model;

• Strengthen the region's administrative data systems and reporting framework

Having already been introduced to the methodology for the Out-of-School–Children Study, participants will now seek to review findings of that study, in order to ensure that the data presented is representative of their national context and to identify possible reasons for data gaps and trends reflected in the report.

In regards to the second purpose, participants will be exposed to an OECS teacher simulation model (OECS-TESiM). The OECS-TESiM allows decision-makers and planners in education to evaluate the effectiveness of various policy decisions related to teacher employment and training. This exercise will assist in ensuring that member states attain full ownership and operation of the OECS teacher simulation model.

Also during this year's forum, the education statisticians will report and present on national initiatives undertaken during the 2014/15 academic year which were geared towards strengthening data systems. Presentations will highlight lessons learnt, challenges and proposed work plans for the 2015/16 academic year.


WINAIR and Domino's launch Caribbean's first airline pizza delivery service

SIMPSON BAY, St. Maarten, Thursday August 6, 2015 – It is by far the region's most unique delivery service – pizza by plane. Regional airline WINAIR has teamed up with Domino's to offer a delivery service to residents of Saba and St. Eustatius.

Starting the start of this month, residents of the two small islands in the Netherland Antilles could call and place their orders at Domino's in the airport in St. Maarten, prepaying by credit card.

The pizzas are baked right before a scheduled WINAIR flight and flown to the nearby islands – within half hour – and left at the WINAIR airport counter for pick-up.

"Partnering with a company with a stature like Domino's is not only desirable for WINAIR but, moreover, an additional service we can offer the residents of the surrounding Islands," said president and chief executive officer of WINAIR Michael Cleaver.

Owner of Domino's local franchise, John Caputo, said the partnership takes Domino's mission to be the number one pizza delivery company in the world to new heights.

"We are excited to partner with Winair to be able to provide this service that Saba and St. Eustatius residents have been longing for," he said.


Jamaica celebrates 53 years of Independence

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Aug. 6, (CMC) – Jamaica is celebrating its 53rd year of political independence from Britain with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller calling on Jamaicans to build communities as a way of bringing the real meaning to independence.

"Let us build our communities and participate in the governance of our country. This is how we continue to build our nation. This is how we bring real meaning to Independence. Our commitment is to social justice, security and prosperity for all. We are in pursuit of economic equity and are unwavering in our commitment to the values and principles of democracy."


Warning to Haitian electoral candidates

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, Aug 5, (CMC) – The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) is warning candidates that it has the powers to remove them from contesting the upcoming elections as local authorities and the United Nations appealed for an end to all forms of violence before the first ballot is cast on August 9.

There have been many reports of electoral violence during the campaign with at least one candidate withdrawing and another accusing his opponent of spearheading an attack on vehicles belonging to his supporters over the last weekend.


Law suit for parent company of Red Stripe

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Aug 4, (CMC) – The London-based alcohol company, Diego, the parent company of Red Stripe, is facing a lawsuit in the United States for reportedly misleading consumers into believing that the beer is made in Jamaica

The lawsuit, filed by two people in a US federal court last week, takes aim at the Red Stripe promotion in the US which calls the beer a "Jamaican style lager" that contains the taste of Jamaica.

The lawsuit says the promotion is misleading because Red Stripe supplied in the US market is not made in Jamaica, but instead in Pennsylvania.

Red Stripe made the decision to start producing its signature beer destined for the US market in that US city in 2012.

It is made by city brewing company which pays Red Stripe royalties to produce the beer.


Caribbean countries represented at Codex meeting in Uruguay

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, Aug 3, (CMC) – Delegates from several Caribbean countries are gathering here for a meeting of 22 Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries o establish common positions on international food safety standards.

The Codex Alimentarius colloquium on Tuesday is being attended by delegates from Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, the United States, Guyana and Jamaica.

The meeting will also be attended by representatives of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the President of the Technological Laboratory of Uruguay, Fernando Fontán.

The event, organised by IICA and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), is an opportunity for the countries to identify regional positions of mutual interest and develop participation strategies for the forthcoming international Codex meetings on food hygiene, nutrition and foods for special dietary uses, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Codex Alimentarius is the benchmark organisation for food safety standards, recognized by the World Trade Organization (WTO). Its science-based standards contribute to safety, quality, and equity in international food trade.

FRIDAY, JULY 31, 2015

Caribbean wants positive action from UN climate conference in Paris

By Peter Richards BELMOPAN, Belize, July 31, (CMC) – Caribbean countries have been told that they should want to see " a very ambitious agreement" emanating from the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP 21) to be held in Paris in December.

Deputy Director and Science Advisor of the Belize-based Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), Dr. Ulric Trotz said that given the drastic impact of climate change on small islands developing states (SIDS), it was imperative therefore for the Caribbean to understand that "the reality is that we are living in a world where climate is changing.


United for "Climate Justice"

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Jul. 30, (CMC) - Caribbean artistes are being encouraged to use their talents to galvanise support for the region as the world prepares to sign a new climate accord in Paris later this year. The call came from Dr. Didacus Jules, director general of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) at the opening of the two-day "Voices and Imagination United for Climate Justice" conference here on Thursday.


Guyana seeks alternatives to Petrocaribe as tensions flare with Venezuela

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Tuesday July 28, 2015 – As tensions flare between Guyana and Venezuela, and the latter country fails to meet its oil export quotas, Guyana is considering energy alternatives to the Petrocaribe programme.

Bloomberg reports that Guyanese Finance Minister Winston Jordan revealed that his country is "actively considering other options."

Petrocaribe, a signature initiative of late President Hugo Chavez, has sold about US$28 billion to participating nations across the Caribbean and Central America since its creation in 2005. Member countries finance as much as half the price of the shipments at one per cent to 2 per cent interest over 25 years.

Guyana receives about half its fuel supply via Petrocaribe, but fears the agreement could be affected by the diplomatic row with Venezuela over a longstanding border dispute, according to Jordan.

Guyana currently receives about 5200 barrels of fuel a day under the Petrocaribe programme, although Venezuela has been unable to meet some delivery quotas, he said.

Relations between the South American neighbours have soured in recent years following Exxon Mobil Corporation's announcement of a "significant" oil discovery off Guyana's coast in waters that Venezuela claims as its own.

The Spanish-speaking socialist country has long contended that borders drawn in 1899 are invalid, and claims nearly two-thirds of Guyana as its own.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro recalled his ambassador in Georgetown for consultations earlier this month and said he would review relations.

Venezuela will stop purchasing Guyanese rice in November when a bartering agreement for oil payments expires, according to Georgetown.

TUESDAY, JULY 28, 2015

Venezuela President says UN mission to visit Guyana and Venezuela

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - A UN mission will travel to Venezuela and Guyana to promote dialogue between them over a border dispute, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday. Maduro made the remarks after meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who the Venezuelan said had promised to "immediately activate a commission" to visit both countries.

MONDAY, JULY 27, 2015

American civil rights leader visits French Caribbean islands

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)-Martinique continues to build upon its efforts in support of the United Nations Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), welcoming American civil rights activist and Baptist minister, Jesse Jackson, for an official visit July 20-21, 2015.

Reverend Jackson addressed a meeting of the Martinique Regional Council yesterday prior to paying his respects at the gravesite of fellow civil rights crusader and Martinican statesman, Aimé Césaire, who passed away in April 2008 at the age of 94. Reverend Jackson later visited the Aimé Césaire Museum in downtown Fort-de-France.

Muriel Wiltord, director Americas of the Martinique Promotion Bureau, commented on Reverend Jackson's visit, saying: "Among the islands of the Caribbean, Martinique holds a unique position in the area of civil rights, the name Césaire as cherished in the hearts and minds of people throughout the Francophone world as Dr. King and Malcolm X are in America. For us, Reverend Jackson's visit is a particularly proud occasion that highlights the similarities of our past, while also pointing ahead to a bright future."

Reverend Jackson's visit to Martinique further builds upon the island's efforts in support of The United Nations Decade for People of African Descent, a 10-year program designed to promote respect, protection and fulfillment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for people of African descent, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In line with this commitment, The Martinique Regional Council has pledged monetary support toward the construction of the UN permanent memorial for the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade (The Ark of Return) and hosted a delegation of 12 representatives of The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce over Emancipation Weekend – May 20-24, 2015.

FRIDAY, JULY 24, 2015

Trinidad gets extradition request for Warner in FIFA case

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) — Trinidad and Tobago's attorney general says he has received a U.S. request for the extradition of former FIFA vice president Jack Warner on corruption charges. Garvin Nicholas told reporters Wednesday that his office will evaluate the documents from the US Justice Department to decide whether to take the extradition matter before a magistrate.

Warner is scheduled to appear before a court Monday. He is resisting extradition on US charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering in the FIFA corruption case. He is out on bail.

Trinidad legal experts believe Warner's extradition could take five years to resolve.

US prosecutors allege South Africa funnelled US$10 million in 2008 to Warner and two other FIFA executives as payment for them supporting its successful bid to host the 2010 World Cup.


Canada introduces new travel system for Caribbean nationals

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — Canada has introduced a revision to its new entry requirements for all visa-exempt travellers seeking to enter the country by air. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade here said it has been advised that, effective March 15, 2016, it will become mandatory for Barbadians and other Caribbean nationals travelling to Canada to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA).

It said the application must be submitted online and will be available from August 1, 2015. Barbadians and other nationals of visa-exempt countries seeking further information on the new requirements may visit Canada Gazette's website at http://canadagazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2015/2015-04-22/html/sor-dors77-eng.php, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs added.


US and Cuba officially restore relations after 54-year diplomatic freeze

WASHINGTON, Jul 22, (CMC) –Two United Nations health organisations are calling on Caribbean governments to implement measures that would curb the consumption of alcohol after a new study found that alcohol consumption in the Americas is higher on average than the rest of the world.

"There are many actions that governments can take to control access to alcohol, including government monopolies, limiting hours and days of sale, and enforcement of minimum purchasing ages," the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) say after releasing the findings of a Regional Status Report on Alcohol and Health in the Americas.

TUESDAY, JULY 21, 2015

US and Cuba officially restore relations after 54-year diplomatic freeze

WASHINGTON, United States, Monday July 20, 2015 – Cuba's flag now stands among those of the nations with which the United States has diplomatic relations. An agreement reached after months of negotiations, to restore the ties between the two countries that had been broken for more than five decades, came into force at midnight.

The US officially reopened its embassy in the Cuban capital and the doors of the US Embassy in Havana opened again.

While the Cuban flag was raised over Havana's embassy in Washington for the first time in 54 years, during a short ceremony, it won't be until August 14 when US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Cuba that a similar ceremony will take place in Havana.

It will be the first visit by a Secretary of State to Cuba since 1945.
Kerry is due to hold talks with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez this afternoon. Deputy chief of mission for the US in Havana, Conrad Tribble, was those who took to social media to hail the historic day.

MONDAY, JULY 20, 2015

IDB approves climate-smart agriculture funds for Latin America and Caribbean

First-of-its-kind fund will support investments that increase rural livelihoods, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance biodiversity The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) announced the approval of the $5 million Climate-Smart Agriculture Fund for Latin America and the Caribbean (CSAF) to incentivize private sector companies in the region to invest in projects that increase farmers' incomes while addressing climate change. Created in partnership with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the CSAF aims to unlock greater private-sector investment in sustainable land use and climate-resilient agribusiness.

"Our efforts thus far have produced solid results on climate mitigation. This new initiative complements those achievements with a first-of-its-kind fund to pursue equally ambitious results on climate adaptation," said Kelle Bevine, Head of Strategy in the Structured and Corporate Finance Department of the IDB. "Concessional financing tools like this help to unleash the innovation of first mover projects and shift from business as usual."

Climate-smart agriculture is a business model that increases agricultural output while maintaining or lowering amounts of inputs, such as land, water or fertilizer. It increases total productivity while reducing environmental impacts and building resilience to threats to production induced by the effects of climate change.

Climate-smart agriculture investments, however, face a number of hurdles to access finance, including lengthy payback periods, as well as significant barriers to information on sustainable practices. As a result, climate-smart investments may be put off indefinitely, perpetuating poor land-use management, additional greenhouse gas emissions, increased vulnerability to climate change and lower incomes for small producers.

The Fund addresses these barriers by offering risk-tolerant capital with long tenors to catalyze private investment by cushioning early losses and providing a concessional tranche of resources that can transform projects into sustainable business investments. Associated technical assistance will enable IDB to build the necessary capacity for project implementation and to disseminate lessons to other private-sector investors.

The Fund's investments will focus on restoration of degraded lands through reforestation and other measures to increase productivity and profitability and enhance carbon stocks. They will improve agricultural management, including sustainability certification of agricultural products and water efficiency investments.

Across the region, the forestry and agriculture sectors are already affected by climate change. Coffee plantations in Central and South America are increasingly vulnerable to leaf rust fungus (la roya), for example, requiring investment for replanting and technical assistance. Reducing emissions from the land-use sectors and making them more resilient to the effects of climate change has become a critical development challenge given the importance of agriculture to the region.

FRIDAY, JULY 17, 2015

Caribbean leads world in reducing the number of new HIV/AIDS infections

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, – The United Nations is reporting major progress by the Caribbean in battling HIV/AIDS, with the region recording the biggest drop in new infections compared to all regions in the world.

According to a report from the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), 'How AIDS changed everything — MDG6: 15 years, 15 lessons of hope from the AIDS response' which indicates that the world has met and exceeded the sixth millennium development goal of halting and reversing the AIDS epidemic, it is estimated that the number of people newly infected with HIV in the Caribbean in 2014 had been cut in half since 2000.

"The number of people living with HIV in the Caribbean fell sharply in the first half of the past decade, as new infections declined and substantial AIDS-related mortality persisted. As access to HIV treatment has expanded, the number of people living with HIV has stabilized and begun to increase, consistent with trends seen globally," stated the report which was released yesterday on the sidelines of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development.

The decrease in new infections was most pronounced in the 2000 to 2004 period, when they fell by almost 32 per cent. In the 2005 to 2009 and 2010 to 2014 periods, more modest declines in new infections of about 10 per cent occurred.

Haiti accounted for roughly half of all new HIV infections in 2014 in the Caribbean, with the Dominican Republic contributing the second largest number of new infections.


American Airlines expands service in the Caribbean

FORT WORTH, Jul. 16, (CMC) – American Airlines has announced plans to add eight new routes throughout Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America later this year, further strengthening its position in these key regions and providing customers with increased options when traveling to these destinations.

According to Travel Daily News, the expanded service includes new flights to Curacao; Montego Bay, Jamaica and; Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.

"As the premier carrier to Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America with flights to 85 destinations, these additions highlight our commitment to providing our customers with a network that is second to none," said Art Torno, the airline's Senior Vice President for Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America.

"We are committed to each country we serve, and these new routes allow us to contribute to and further promote travel and tourism to and from the region," he added.

Flights will operate five times per week with Boeing 757 aircraft.

With the new routes, American Airlines will operate more than 1,750 weekly flights throughout Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America –more service than any other airline.

In addition to the 85 destinations throughout Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America, the airline has served Cuba since 1991 with charter flights from Miami and Tampa to five destinations in Cuba – Camaguey, Cienfuegos, Havana, Holguin and Santa Clara.

On the heels of American Airlines' new and expanded winter services to the Caribbean and Mexico, two other airlines have "joined the chorus."

It said JetBlue will add a new route from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Providenciales, Turks and Caicos in November, pending government approval.

Delta will resume its seasonal service from Atlanta to Grenada on December 19 with three weekly flights through January 9, after which the carrier reverts to a Saturday-only flight through April.


UN official says Caribbean countries need urgent access to financing

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – A senior United Nations official says Caribbean countries have very limited access to concessional financing and Official Development Assistance (ODA), with the exception of Haiti, which is classified as least developed country.

United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Jessica Faieta in an opinion piece to coincide with the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, said that with the majority of Caribbean Small Island Development States (SIDS) ranked as middle income countries, they "are shunned from receiving developing financing".

Caribbean countries have been calling on the international community to revise the means through which they are granted concessional aid, noting that the use of per capita levels above the international financial eligibility benchmarks should be scrapped.

"Having lived and worked in four Caribbean countries I have witnessed first-hand how these vibrant societies with enormous potential share serious challenges: from severe exposure to natural hazards and external financial shocks to slow economic growth and high debt," she wrote.

But she said the world has a unique opportunity to change this and help improve the lives and the future aspirations of Caribbean women and men making reference to the high-level meeting in Addis Abba.

The meeting is likely to adopt an international agreement setting out how the post 2015 sustainable development agenda will be financed.

Faieta said a new report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has found that that the traditional international standards, based on national per capita income averages, are inadequate measures of these countries' sustainable development needs.

"As a result, Caribbean countries have very limited access to concessional financing and Official Development Assistance (ODA), with the exception of Haiti, which is classified as least developed country. "

The report titled "Financing for Development Challenges in Caribbean SIDS: A case for review of eligibility criteria for access to concessionary financing" is being launched at the Addis Abba meeting that ends of Thursday.

The UN official said that it is time the international community responds to the call from Caribbean SIDS to review current criteria to access financing.

TUESDAY, JULY 14, 2015

UN chief says world on way to 'generation free of AIDS'

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AFP) – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday the world was headed for a "generation free of AIDS", after UNAIDS reported a 35-per cent drop in new HIV infections from 15 years ago. The positive news was also coupled with calls for more funding, with the objective of eliminating the virus by 2030. The United Nations also warned that continuing stigmatisation of sex workers, drug users and homosexuals were barriers to progress.

MONDAY, JULY 13, 2015

Regional Cultural Committee criticises Dominican Republic

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) – The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Regional Cultural Committee (RCC) wants the Dominican Republic "to immediately cease and desist" overtly racist policies disguised as state foreign policy.

In a statement criticising Santo Domingo over its policy of deporting people of Haitian descent, the RCC, which met in Haiti last week in preparation for the region's premier cultural festival, The Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA) in August, said it was also sending a similar message to "all other Caribbean nations" with such a policy.

Regional governments at their summit in Barbados earlier this month issued a statement condemning the forced deportation of the people of Haitian descent and the Haitian government said it wanted the Dominican Republic to return to the negotiating table to find a humane way to deal with the situation.

In its statement, the RCC said that it acknowledges the role that Haiti has played in influencing and shaping the wider freedom movement in Latin America and the Caribbean, declaring "its grave concern over the recent legislated decision of the government of the Dominican Republic that has rendered stateless thousands of Dominicans of Haitian origin/descent, a gross denial of their basic human rights".

The RCC said that it also viewed with "abhorrence, reports of lynching and forced expulsion of such persons from their homes by ordinary citizens with no reported government sanctions.

FRIDAY, JULY 10, 2015

Jamaica considering bio-fuel production

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) –The country is looking to produce its own biofuel and increase the current mix of ethanol in petrol to about 20 per cent. This is according to Principal Director, Policy, Planning, Development and Evaluation Division, in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Dr Oral Rainford, who said this "is something that we are giving serious consideration."

He was speaking at the opening of the workshop on the Life Cycle Sustainable Assessment and Global Bio Energy Partnership (GBEP) Indicators for Sustainable Biofuels in Jamaica, at the Kingston offices of the Jamaica Employers Federation (JEF), on Monday.

A ten per cent ethanol mix in fuel was implemented in Jamaica in 2008. This ethanol, which is produced from cane sugar and molasses, is mainly imported from Brazil.

Rainford is adamant, however, that "we've got to begin doing more for ourselves," in terms of producing biofuels locally, starting with the mix currently being used.

"Significantly, we want to develop the fleet stock to provide that 10 per cent because as it is, we have been importing that 10 per cent from Brazil, and to an extent, some has come from the United States (US)," he said.

The principal director noted that this plan to produce biofuel in Jamaica is being partly hampered by the unwillingness of industry players to venture into this production.

Another setback, he explained, is the lack of adequate arable land for the production of the raw material, as there is a "contest" for such lands with more profitable crops.

Rainford noted however, that the government is working to bring back into production, lands that have remained uncultivated for many years, and "begin developing the fleet stock which we will use in our bio-energy project as we go forward."

He further expressed optimism that the series of workshops will culminate in the country being able to produce most, if not all, of the fuel (specifically biofuel) that it needs.

This is the second workshop being held as part of the implementation of a trilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Brazil, Jamaica and the United States, for the advancement and co-operation on biofuels development.

The four-day workshop seeks to provide technical training in a Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment tool, which is a software designed to help decision-makers in the public and private sectors advance the production of biofuels locally.


Maduro blames Guyana for agitating border dispute

CARACAS, Venezuela, Jul 9, (CMC) – President Nicolas Maduro Thursday accused the newly elected Guyana President Donald Granger of disregarding the history surrounding the border dispute between the two countries and seeking to provoke and isolate his oil-rich country.

In an interview broadcast on the Venezuela-based television channel, Tele Sur, Maduro recounted the efforts made more than a century ago to settle the land dispute between the two countries involving the "British Empire" and the signing of a Geneva Agreement in 1966 that also included the signature of the late Forbes Burnham, the first Guyana head of state.


Cholera eradication in Haiti will take 'some years,' says outgoing UN coordinator

(un.org) While some 16,000 new cases of cholera have been reported in Haiti so far this year, the disease is now under control but it will not be eradicated unless improving water and sanitation conditions are given a higher priority by both the Government and donors, says the outgoing United Nations official tasked with leading the response to the outbreak.

"And in today's world, in the 21st century, it's not acceptable to have this huge number of cases of cholera," Pedro Medrano Rojas said in an interview with the UN News Service, as he wrapped up his assignment as UN Senior Coordinator for the Response to Cholera in Haiti.

Any country with this number of new cases of cholera would declare it an "emergency," added Mr. Medrano, who served in the post for two years.

"This is what we are trying to convey to donors and to the international community" so that they will contribute more towards the eradication of the largest epidemic in the Western Hemisphere. Currently, only about 20 per cent of the $2.2 billion needed for the 10-year national plan to eliminate cholera is available.

Mr. Medrano, who has been responsible for strengthening overall coordination among UN entities and mobilizing a coherent and effective response by the international community, recalled that in the 1990s there had been an outbreak of cholera in the Latin American region that started in Peru. It had taken almost 10 years to eliminate cholera at that time.

Comparing the water and sanitation infrastructure in the 20 countries in the region that were affected back then, where over 80 per cent of people had access to water and adequate sanitation, Mr. Medrano noted that "Haiti has a third of that."

"So we need to do a robust investment in water, sanitation and health, and this takes time," he said.

"So we have to be able to treat the cases, the emergency response, and we can control it and save lives. But what is really important is to have the infrastructure – in water and sanitation in particular – which has not been the priority of the international community for many decades."

About the current situation, Mr. Medrano said that when compared with 2010, the peak of the epidemic, there has been a 90 per cent reduction in the number of cases and to date, "we have the lowest number of new cases."

"So I think that we can say we have been able to control it, not eradicate it," he said.

As for vaccination rates, the target this year is 300,000 people, compared to 200,000 people last year and 100,000 in 2013.


ACP secretary general wants Caribbean to play significant role in shaping new global order

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jul 7, (CMC) – Secretary General of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) grouping, Dr. P.I. Gomes wants Caribbean countries to be part of the efforts in putting across a strong position for development financing for Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

"From the perspective of the ACP, we want the Caribbean to be looking forward to various areas, particularly how we prepare for the financing for development (conference) in Addis Abba (next week) and the post 2015-agenda because for us we have to put very strong case for SIDS and coastal states," he told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

FRIDAY, JULY 3, 2015

UN warns risky occupations drive vulnerability in the Caribbean

UNITED NATIONS, (CMC) - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has found that half of the 220 million "vulnerable" people in the Latin America and Caribbean region "who live slightly above the poverty line but below middle-class levels " are working under precarious conditions.

In anticipation of next year's launch of the Regional Human Development Report 2015-2016: Multidimensional progress: well-being beyond income, UNDP says that the economic boom and poverty reduction that took place over the past few decades significantly affected the labour composition in the region.

Indeed, the employed population grew nearly 40 per cent, from 205 million people in 1992 to 284 million in 2012. This growth was mostly concentrated in the middle class, those living on $10- 50 per day, and vulnerable populations, those earning between $4-10 a day. Over 80 per cent of workers are in the service sector, especially in small companies or self-employed as unskilled labourers. UNDP points out that many work as apprentices without a salary, a practice common among the region's unskilled youth.

"More economic growth that only generates precarious employment will not be enough to prevent this vulnerable group, which represents one in every three Latin Americans, from falling into poverty," UNDP Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Jessica Faieta said late last week during the second Regional Human Development Report Advisory Board meeting at the Ibero-American Secretariat headquarters in Madrid.

In spite of the expansion of jobs in the region and an overall salary increase in the last two decades, there were no significant improvements in social security for workers. UNDP even noted a slight deterioration in the case of access to pensions. Compared to vulnerable and middle class workers, a huge inequality in access to pension and health care existed among the poor

To avoid setbacks and boost social gains "we must invest in people," Ms. Faieta said, adding that boosting their resilience requires strengthening capabilities, increasing their assets and access to social safety nets.

According to UNDP, the disparity reflects a tradition of linking job quality and social security rights to the formal labour market, which is out of reach for most workers in the region.


Guyana wants total CARICOM support

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jul 2, (CMC) – The Guyana government says despite assurances from Venezuela that Georgetown has nothing to fear from the recent decree issued by President Nicolas Maduro regarding the country's territorial borders, the situation has not changed at all.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro issued the decree on May 26 that includes all the Atlantic waters off the Essequibo Coast.


Caribbean leaders open annual summit with recurring issues dominating event

By Peter Richards BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jul 1, (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders gather here from Thursday for their annual summit with recurrent issues ranging from the impact of the ongoing global economic crisis to climate change dominating the three day event.

The regional leaders will discuss developments surrounding the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for free movement of goods, services, labour and skills across the 15-member grouping, but which has come under severe criticism from a regional population still questioning the sincerity of their leaders to fully implement the initiative.

TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2015

HIV rate study highlights condom use gap among Caribbean youths in Canada

ONTARIO, Canada, Jun 30, (CMC) - A study examining the rates of HIV infection among local African, Caribbean and black youth here has found they are using condoms less often than their peers, though their sexual activities are otherwise the same as the broader population of youth that has a lower rate of infection.

More than 500 youths in these groups in Windsor and Essex County here took part in a survey over the past two calendar years, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). The participants were all 16 to 25 years of age.

Eleanor Maticka-Tindale, a University of Windsor professor and Canada Research Chair in social justice and sexual health, told CBC News that the researchers found that "they don't look very different than Canadian youth in general in terms of their sexual activities"

This includes the age at which sexual activity begins and the number of sexual partners these youths report.

Maticka-Tindale said the survey found that local African, Caribbean and black youths "don't use condoms as often as Canadian youth in general".

In the survey, participants were asked if they were HIV positive. The reported rate of HIV infection was approximately 15 in 1,000, a rate that is similar to African, Caribbean and black youths across the country, but well above the 1 in 1,000 Canadians in the same age group, according to CBC.

At the provincial level, according to CBC, Maticka-Tindale said individuals in these same groups have a higher rate of infection than the broader population.

"African, Caribbean and black people account for between four and five per cent of the population of Ontario, but they account for approximately 18 to 19 per cent of HIV infections," Maticka-Tindale said.

"So that's roughly four to five times higher than it should be proportional to the population and that's what we pay attention to," she added.

Kenny Gbadebo, the co-principal investigator on the study, said there is a need for outreach to the young people in the African, Caribbean and black communities.

MONDAY, JUNE 29, 2015

Caribbean countries participating in biotechnology workshop

IRAPUATO, Mexico, Jun 29 (CMC) – Agricultural producers and professionals from 13 Caribbean and Central American countries are attending a training programme in the use of biotechnology in agriculture. The training is organised by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), in collaboration with the Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute of Irapuato (CINVESTAV Irapuato).

The course, which ends on July 1, provides an overview of applied biotechnology techniques for improving soils and varieties, as well as sustainable agricultural practices. The goal is for participants to drive decision-making and promote development and research on this topic.

According to the organisers, biotechnology is a modern and effective tool for product and economic development in a country; as a result, its implementation is important for improving production and preserving biodiversity.

The countries participating in the workshop are Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Costa Rica, Dominica, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.

The initiative is part of the Mexico-Caribbean-Central American Countries Technical Cooperation Programme led by IICA and the General Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA) of Mexico, which seeks to strengthen the capacities of the agricultural sector.

"The programme addresses the specific needs of the participating countries through short training events that focus on improving agricultural productivity and generating economic impact. It is supported by the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs and the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID), as well as educational and research institutions" the organisers said in a statement.

FRIDAY, JUNE 26, 2015

CARICOM "strongly objects" to EU tax haven blacklist

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun 26, (CMC) – More than a week after the European Union named 13 Caribbean countries among a list of 30 nations deemed as tax havens, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping has taken strong objection to the Europe's position.

CARICOM said that it "strongly objects" to the decision by the European Commissioner to "blacklist" a number of member states "on the pretext that there is no cooperation on tax law enforcement with the countries of the European Union.

TUESDAY, JUNE 23, 2015

Experts meeting to discuss options for renewable energy

FORT-DE-FRANCE, Martinique, Jun 22, CMC – A three-day meeting bringing together some of the world's leading renewable energy experts considering options for renewable energy development in the Caribbean and on the numerous islands scattered around the globe is taking place here.

Organisers say the Martinique Conference on Island Energy Transitions, being held under the theme, "Pathways for Accelerated Uptake of Renewables", will provide an opportunity for an in-depth review of resource, technology, market, financing and other aspects of renewable energy development.

Government officials, companies and utilities involved in renewable energy development, banks interested in financing renewable energy development, experts in renewable energy resource assessment and development partners are participating in the three-day event that opens on Monday.

Among the regional participants at the conference are Melissa Defreitas from the Energy Office in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who will speak on the topic Partnerships for Assessment Drilling and Development of Geothermal Resources in St Vincent and the Grenadines; William Hinds, Chief Energy Conservation Officer, Office of the Prime Minister, Barbados, speaking on Integrating a High Share of Renewable Generation in Barbados; and Devon Gardner, Programme Manager, Energy, CARICOM, and Andrew Thorington of CARILEC who will both speak on Developing a Uniform Grid Integration Framework for CARICOM Countries.

The lead negotiator for the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) Barbadian, Hugh Sealy, will moderate a session of Island Renewable Energy Lighthouses.

Panelists for that session include Mike Eman, Prime Minister of Aruba; Jacques Rousseau, Minister of Public Works, Transport, Energy and Communications, Haiti; Joy Grant, Minister of Energy, Science, Technology and Public Utilities, Belize; Ian Liburd, Minister of Public Infrastructure, Post, Urban Development and Transport, St Kitts and Nevis; and Amanda Missick, Minister of Infrastructure, Housing and Planning, Turks and Caicos Islands.

In September 2014, the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Apia, Samoa unanimously adopted the outcome document "SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (S.A.M.O.A) Pathway" which contains a strong focus on renewable energy and requests a strategy for deployment of all sources of renewable energy, development of energy roadmaps, and access to mechanisms to increase capital flows for implementation of sustainable energy projects.

MONDAY, JUNE 22, 2015

US based Caribbean families torn apart by drug deportations – report

LOS ANGELES, Jun. 21, (CMC) – A major human rights group here says thousands of Caribbean families in the United States have been torn apart in recent years by detention and deportation for drug offenses. In its latest report, Human Rights Watch said that disproportionately harsh laws and policies relating to drug offences can lead to deportation for lawful permanent Caribbean and other residents and unauthorised immigrants alike.

The 93-page report, "A Price too high: US Families torn apart by deportations for drug offences," documents how the US regularly places legal residents and other immigrants with strong ties to US families into deportation proceedings for drug offences.

Often, those offenses are decades old or so minor they resulted in little or no prison time, the report says.

Deportations after convictions for drug possession in particular have spiked, increasing 43 per cent from 2007 to 2012, according to US Government data obtained by Human Rights Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The report is based on more than 130 interviews with affected immigrants, families, attorneys, and law enforcement officials, as well as new data obtained from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Deportations of non-citizens with drug convictions, and especially with drug possession convictions, increased significantly from 2007 to 2012, the report says.

In addition to the 43 per cent increase in deportations after convictions for drug possession during that period, the report says deportations after convictions for sales, smuggling, manufacture, or trafficking increased 23 per cent.

For more than 34,000 deported non-citizens, the most serious conviction was for marijuana possession, according to the report.

FRIDAY, JUNE 18, 2015

Lack of equity restricting Caribbean infrastructure investments

BY KARENA BENNETT- The Caribbean region has been losing out on a number of infrastructure developments due to its inability to provide up to US$20 million ($2.3 billion) in equity to international investors. The disclosure was made by managing director of CIBC's corporate credit and structured finance, David Clee, during the first of a two-day CIBC First Caribbean Infrastructure Conference being held at the Hyatt Ziva hotel, Montego Bay under the theme: 'Unlocking Economic Potential'.

"There is interest in energy generation and distribution, utility projects by investors, but a lot of countries get turned down because of their framework... The issue in the region is that the projects have to have good returns on investments because most professionals are looking for $15 to $20 million in equity," he said.

Clee was part of a five-member panel discussion on Caribbean Infrastructure as an asset class from the international and regional investor's perspective. His argument was supported by Managing Director of the Portland Private Equity Douglas Hewson, who stated that the main points around infrastructure development for the Caribbean is ensuring that there is a framework at the country level, and that the concessionary terms of the project will be influential to investors.

"Funding is available to the regio. The problem is that there needs to be proper structuring of the project. The threshold of the debt to equity ratio is not being met by the region, [while] investors look for a net 20 per cent return on investment and they also look for whatever sweeteners they can get," Hewson stated.


European Union blacklists 14 Caribbean countries as among world's worst tax havens

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday June 18, 2015 – Fourteen Caribbean countries are among 30 territories blacklisted by the European Union (EU) as the world's worst tax havens. The list published by the EU on Wednesday includes Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, and the Turks and Caicos Islands and the US Virgin Islands.

Each of those countries, and the other 16 on the blacklist, had been suggested by at least 10 EU member states as problematic because they were not doing enough to crack down on tax avoidance.

Jurisdictions commonly labelled as offshore tax avoidance hubs, including Luxembourg, Jersey and Switzerland, were not on the list.

MONDAY, JUNE 8, 2015

Caribbean health leaders to discuss action to tackle chronic diseases

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jun 8, (CMC) – Caribbean health officials are meeting with representatives of United Nations agencies this week to discuss actions that can be taken to reduce the impact in the Caribbean of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, and their associated risk factors.

The two-day meeting, which began in Barbados yesterday, is also being attended by officials from Canada and the United States, development banks, academia, and civil society.

The "Forum of Key Stakeholders on NCDs: Advancing the NCD agenda in the Caribbean" has been organised by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) in collaboration with the Barbados Ministry of Health.

PAHO/WHO said that compared with other sub regions of the Americas, the Caribbean has the highest rates of premature death among people, aged 30 to 69, from the four major NCDs: cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases.

"In addition, NCDs are a major cause of suffering and disability, which, combined with direct and indirect economic costs, places a heavy economic and social burden on families, communities, health systems and economies," the UN agencies said.

The discussions will focus on how to reduce the impact of NCDs by addressing their main risk factors, by strengthening health systems and improving care for NCDs, and by engaging sectors beyond health to support and participate in efforts to tackle NCDs.

In 2007, Caricom leaders committed to the Port of Spain Declaration, a series of 27 commitments to guide action against NCDs. In 2012, Caribbean countries joined other PAHO/WHO member states in endorsing the goal of reducing NCD deaths by 25 per cent by 2025.

FRIDAY, JUNE 5, 2015

Caribbean countries record growth in tourist arrivals

NEW YORK, Jun 5, (CMC) – The Caribbean recorded a six per cent increase in tourist arrivals in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the same period last year, chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Richard Sealy has said.

Sealy said the outlook for the remainder of the year is positive. Although growth is expected to be moderate and uneven among Caribbean countries, overall tourist arrivals are now anticipated to rise at least six per cent over 2014.

Sealy, who is also the Barbados Minister of Tourism, told a news conference here that the Caribbean had "bolted out of the gates" in 2015 as the region recorded its 17th straight quarter of growth with nearly eight million visitors coming to the region during the first four months of the year.

Sealy said the CTO board of directors had discussed how the Caribbean could build on the gains and sustain them, and was considering several initiatives including trageting new markets, such as Brazil and others in Latin America as well as Asia.

"There is a move on the part of the Caribbean to look beyond our traditional source markets," he said.

Meantime, addressing questions about the impact the opening of Cuba to American visitors would have on the tourism sector in other parts of the region, Sealy said that island, a member of the CTO, is "not a problem for the CTO or the Caribbean".


Blatter resigns amid FIFA corruption scandal that has touched Caribbean

ZURICH, Switzerland – The just re-elected president of football's world governing body, FIFA, today announced he will step down amidst a corruption scandal that has roped in a former FIFA official from Trinidad and Tobago and the current FIFA vice-president who is from the Cayman Islands.

Sepp Blatter's announcement came just four days after being voted in to serve a fifth term.

"Although the members of FIFA have given me the new mandate, this mandate does not seem to be supported by everybody in the world of football," the 79-year-old Swiss said at a press conference at FIFA's headquarters in Zurich.

"FIFA needs a profound restructuring. I have decided to lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective congress. I will continue to exercise my functions as FIFA president until that election."

Blatter said although he wanted the election to take place as soon as possible, enough time should be given for the best candidates to present themselves and to campaign.

The re-election of Blatter last Friday came two days after several top FIFA officials – including Trinidad's Jack Warner, a former vice-president of FIFA and president of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF); and current CONCACAF president and FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands – were named in a 47-count indictment unsealed in court in the United States. They are accused of racketeering, bribery, wire fraud and money laundering.


Warner placed on INTERPOL most wanted list

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jun 3, (CMC) – Former FIFA vice president Austin Jack Warner has been placed on the most wanted list of the international police (INTERPOL) on charges including corruption, conspiracy and racketeering.

INTERPOL said that at the request of US authorities "INTERPOL Red Notices – or international wanted persons alerts – have been issued for two former FIFA officials and four corporate executives for charges including racketeering, conspiracy and corruption".


Forecasters say effects of drier 2015 rainy season will be felt next year

CASTRIES, St Lucia (CMC) — Caribbean countries have been warned to prepare for a drier than normal hurricane season, even as forecasters say the effects of the lower rainfalls will be felt in the dry season of 2016.

"Could it be like 2009-2010? Well, if it going to be any of the year from now and a couple of years from now, it is likely going to be this year," climatologist Cèdric Van Meerbeeck of the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology told the Regional Climate Outlook forum for the 2015 wet/hurricane season yesterday.

The US-based National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting six to 11 named storms for the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season, but regional disaster officials have warned Caribbean countries not to become complacent.

"What we can expect for the wet season or the hurricane season -- that means from today until the end of November -- is that the temperatures are going to feel hotter than usual and that is pretty much throughout the Caribbean," Van Meerbeeck said yesterday.

He, however, said that the discomfort level should not be as high, since there will be less humidity.

Van Meerbeeck said that with a drier than usual season, forecaster are already beginning to be worried about the impact on productive sector come next dry season, which traditionally runs from December to May in most part of the Caribbean.

"The dry season is our tourism season. That is when most of our water is being used not only by tourists but also extinguishing fires, also by the farmers if they want to irrigate. There are many sectors that consume water in the dry season and our water reservoirs are not recharged in the wet season, they are recharged in the dry season before that," he said.

"So, if our wet season is going to be drier than usual, we are starting to be worried at this stage. But the advantage of knowing it already is that we can prepare, we have a longer time to prepare for that severe dry season that we probably are going to have next year," Van Meerbeeck said.

He said the drier conditions will mean fewer showers, and wet spells, and, in total, less rainfall accumulating for much of the region, except The Bahamas.

"The Bahamas behaves a bit differently when we are in a state of El Niño," Van Meerbeeck said of the warming of the Pacific waters near the equator that affects weather condition in the Caribbean and other parts of the world.

"In El Niño, what you see is that the conditions in the atmosphere lead to less showers, less thunderstorm, less tropical showers and cyclones, in the main, the Antilles islands and in The Guianas and in Belize to a certain level, but, in The Bahamas, you get a certain effect, you get more showers. So that part will be wetter," Van Meerbeeck said.

The two-day meeting brought together weather forecasters, disaster managers, and other officials from 25 countries and territories from across the Caribbean.

MONDAY, JUNE 1, 2015

Caribbean 2030: new thinking for a new generation

A three-day conference designed to tap into the thinking of future Caribbean leaders is scheduled to open today in London, England. The event, named Caribbean 2030, is being staged by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI), Wilton Park, JN Foundation and the Caribbean Council in association with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

According to the organisers, the event will seek to answer a number of pertinent questions that will affect both the future of Jamaica and the Caribbean.

"Among these questions are; How do the new and next generation of leaders in the Caribbean see the future? What is their vision for 2030 and beyond? How can they work better together to face the economic, political and security challenges and opportunities they face? How do they envisage the Caribbean countries can best work together in the future?" a news release from CaPRI said.

"CaPRI will provide three presentations at the conference from Dr Damien King, Dr Christopher Tufton and Dr Suzanne Shaw. The conference will also see presentations from our Gold Circle member Kevin Hendrickson from Continental Baking Company, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness and minister of state in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Julian Robinson. Dr Trevor Munroe from National Integrity Action will also present," the news release said.

"Social media engagement is encouraged for this event. Comments might include a summary of what is being said (non-attributable), the direction of the discussion or general impressions of the conference."

CaPRI is also asking Twitter users to include @CapriCaribbean when tweeting and the organisation will retweet the users' message.

FRIDAY, MAY 29, 2015

Caribbean countries sign visa waiver agreement with Europe

By Marie-Claire Williams BRUSSELS, Belgium, May 28, (CMC) – Five Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries were among seven member states of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries that have signed visa waiver agreements with the European Union on Thursday.

The signings took place between the EU, and Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Pacific Islands of Samoa and Vanuatu on the fringes of the ACP-EU Ministerial Council being held here over the next two days.

THURSDAY, MAY 28, 2015

Caribbean to increase resilience to climate change through US$10-m grant

WASHINGTON, May 27, (CMC) – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) says Caribbean countries will increase their resilience to climate change by enhancing the adaptive capacity across the region through a US$10.39 million grant.

The IDB said the funds were approved with support from the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR) of the Climate Investment Funds.

The project is to be executed by the Mona Office of Research and Innovation (MORI) of the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Jamaica and will be co-implemented by regional organisations working on climate change in the region, including the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre; Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, Climate Change Studies Group of UWI, Caribbean Public Health Agency, Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute, and the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism.

"The project is the implementation of the PPCR...and it will help the Caribbean region improve regional processes of climate-relevant data acquisition, storage, analysis, access, transfer and dissemination, and pilot and scale up innovative climate-resilient initiatives directly in PPCR countries - Jamaica, Haiti, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines," the IDB stated.

"However, it is expected that the region as a whole will benefit from the improved capacity and increased information and services related to climate change."

It said the project will focus on improving geospatial data and management for adaptation planning, sea level rise and storm surge impact analyses; consolidating and expanding the regional climate network and global platform linkages; as well as downscaling and expanded climate projection models and high-resolution maps.


Arrested FIFA officials 'corrupted world soccer' says US Attorney General

ZURICH (AP) — US Attorney General Loretta Lynch says bribery and corruption have been marring soccer for at least 24 years as FIFA officials solicited bribes from sports marketing firms and others surrounding its marque events.

Lynch spoke Wednesday in New York as federal charges were unveiled against 14 people in a sweeping investigation of FIFA. Seven FIFA officials were arrested Wednesday in Zurich pending extradition to the US.

Swiss prosecutors, meanwhile, announced criminal proceedings Wednesday intoFIFA's awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Lynch says, beginning in 1991, those involved "corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves ... They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament."

TUESDAY, MAY 26, 2015

China bets on strategic ties with Latin America and the Caribbean

China's Premier Li Keqiang is welcomed by ECLAC executive secretary Alicia Bárcena to the commission's headquarters in Santiago.
SANTIAGO, Chile, Tuesday May 26, 2015 – China's Premier Li Keqiang has reaffirmed his country's commitment to working with the region, and a United Nations body says it's time to take a "qualitative leap forward" in that cooperation. China is prepared to deepen its cooperation with Latin America and the Caribbean in order to mutually learn from each other and forge together a new path for the China-Latin America and the Caribbean Comprehensive Cooperation Association, announced by President Xi Jinping last July," said Premier Li Keqiang, during a keynote lecture at the headquarters of UN's Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago.

He gave a lecture aimed at the entire Latin American and Caribbean region, at the end of a tour of Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Chile, in which he stressed that the region is a cornerstone for global peace and stability, becoming a "new leading area" constantly on the rise in terms of international politics and economics.

He said the promotion of cooperation between China and the region in terms of productive capacity would boost development in such a way that everyone wins, explaining that China proposes that both parties explore a new 3 x 3 cooperation model, focused on the joint construction of the three major pathways of logistics, energy and information technology; the virtuous interaction between companies, society and government; and the broadening of three financing channels – funds, credits and insurance.

The Chinese premier added that his country and the region should intensify their international collaboration even more and strengthen their coordination to speak with a common voice on issues such as the reform of the international financial structure, the negotiations for a new agreement on carbon emissions, the development of the post-2015 development agenda, as well as cybersecurity, with the aim of forging a global network of associations for balanced development and of universal benefit, safeguarding in the best way possible both common interests and developing countries' right to have their say.

ECLAC's executive secretary Alicia Bárcena said the premier's message was relevant for the entire region to better understand its short and medium-term strategies.

"The relationship between China and Latin America and the Caribbean has reached enough maturity to take a qualitative leap forward and advance towards strategic ties that provide mutual benefits," the UN official said.

MONDAY, MAY 25, 2015

Caribbean Week New York 2015

BY Jared McCallister (NY Daily News) THE BUZZ around Caribbean Week New York 2015 is growing — reverberating from the Caribbean Tourism Organization's headquarters in Barbados all the way to New York, where the staffers at the CTO's USA offices in Lower Manhattan are making final preparations for the anticipated event.

Caribbean heads of state, government ministers, travel industry executives and other VIPs will be focused on tourism, investment and business opportunities in the region, in addition to taking part in a number of popular activities, which are open to the public during the week of June 1-7.

From CTO chair Richard Sealy, the Barbados Tourism and International Transport Minister, to New York-based CTO-USA Director Sylma Brown, the organization is working hard to fulfill Caribbean Week's goal to "showcase the warmth, spirit and vibrancy of the Caribbean."

There are a number of pleasurable and informative events for New Yorkers.

All week long, Caribbean chefs will be demonstrating their skills and sharing culinary secrets through the Celebrity Chef Program at locations around town. Up close and personal, Caribbean Diaspora Forum brings government officials from the region together with Caribbean New Yorkers on June 3 to discuss tourism and developments affecting persons living in and outside the region.

And the Rum and Rhythm Benefit and Auction is another opportunity for the public to take part in the activities to aid the CTO Foundation that helps students in the region.

For more information about Caribbean Week New York, visit www.CaribbeanWeek.com, send email to CaribbeanWeek@caribtourism.com, or call (212) 635-9530.

FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2015

UN human rights experts say deportation of Jamaican from Canada is "cruel, inhuman"

GENEVA, May 22, 2015 - The United Nations Human Rights Committee says Canada's deportation of a Jamaican man with a mental disability who spent most of his life in Canada amounted to "cruel and inhuman treatment." Canada's 2011 decision to deport the man, identified in the media as 52-year-old Audley Horace Gardner, left him "without the medical and family support he depended on," the UN Human Rights Committee ruled.

He had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1993, and Canadian authorities deported him in August 2011 over "serious criminality", including his conviction six years earlier for assault with a weapon.

Gardner came to Canada when he was aged 18.

The Geneva-based committee, which oversees countries' adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, said Canada had a right to protect the general public, but stressed that Gardner's crimes were recognised to be related to his mental illness.

The Jamaican had been evicted from his home in 2005, and experts said he subsequently faced difficulties in accessing medicines and suffered psychotic relapses.

The committee said his deportation breached the international covenant that stipulates: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment".

Canadian authorities had argued that the deportation was needed on security grounds and was "reasonable in the circumstances and proportionate to the gravity of the crimes committed, and the danger posed to the Canadian public"

THURSDAY, MAY 21, 2015

New CDB study recommends 'major rethink' of Caribbean airline industry

Damian Reeves of the Caribbean Development Bank presenting the findings of its newly launched study, 'Making Air Transport Work Better for the Caribbean'. (Photo: CDB)
A study commissioned by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has recommended a major rethink of the regional airline industry and for the setting up of a CARICOM Airlines Association to identify opportunities to reduce costs, create greater synergies and earn more revenue.

It has also proposed the creation of an Air Transport Reform Authority to address longer-term strategic issues at the regional level. These were among the steps identified to place the industry on a firmer footing to facilitate its re-launching into the global marketplace as a stronger competitor.

Findings of the study 'Making Air Transport Work Better for the Caribbean' were presented at a seminar held on Wednesday as part of CDB's 45th Annual Board of Governors' Meeting in Basseterre, St Kitts & Nevis. The overarching recommendation is for greater co-operation among regional governments and carriers and with other foreign airlines and a harmonising of administrative and regulatory policy and operations.

The study looked at the history and present make-up of the regional air transportation industry and, in particular, the performance of the state-owned airlines: Caribbean Airlines; Air Jamaica; LIAT; Surinam Airways; Bahamasair; and Cayman Airways. To ensure completeness of analysis, the study covered the 15 full member states of CARICOM, two CARICOM associate members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) i.e. Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands and one non˗OECS associate member- the Cayman Islands.

The study, carried out between the last quarter of 2014 and March 2015, was undertaken against the background of airlines continuing to make losses and shareholder governments, under tight budgetary constraints, concerned about having to prop them up indefinitely. It found that regional airlines were consistently recording losses with the aggregate of accumulated deficits for Caribbean Airlines (CAL), LIAT and Bahamas Air (BA) estimated at approximately USD1billion.

The research, which sought participation from a broad range of air transport industry stakeholders, including the region's domiciled carriers cited a number of reasons for continuing losses. Among them were: market share; operational costs; fuel costs; inadequate Information and Communications Technology (ICT) systems; industrial relations issues; competition from foreign airlines which serve the region; high taxes and charges compared to basic fares, and therefore lower demand and revenues.

The report also suggested that standardisation of regulatory responsibilities would create cost-saving opportunities for the region's airlines, by avoiding costly duplication of capital and labour investments.


Rethinking Caribbean logistics

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, May 20, (CMC) – A senior official of the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) says Caribbean countries need to act quickly to take full advantage of the potential and opportunities for the development of Caribbean logistics.

Professor Gordon Shirley, the PAJ president and chief executive officer the region was now at the cross roads of trade between the major politics and economic leaders, as well as being "at the cross roads between some of the major factories and consumption centers of the globe.

TUESDAY, MAY 19, 2015

Canada gives millions to CARICOM justice sector reform project

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday May 18, 2015 – The Canadian government is providing CAN$19.2 million to help reform the justice sector in Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries.

MONDAY, MAY 18, 2015

CARICOM expecting fresh ideas from new Guyana president

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Monday May 18, 2015 – Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ambassador Irwin LaRocque is anticipating "fresh ideas and views" from the newly elected President of Guyana David Granger. He said he expected that Granger's fresh perspectives would assist in "advancing the interests of the Community and its people."

In a letter to President Granger congratulating him and the coalition of A Partnership of National Unity (APNU) + Alliance for Change (AFC) on their victory at the polls, Ambassador LaRocque said they had been given a mandate by the people of Guyana "to lead them towards greater prosperity and to further the development of the country."

He assured that CARICOM and its Secretariat stood ready to work with Granger's administration in this task.

CARICOM Chairman, Prime Minister of The Bahamas Perry Christie, said he expected the same of Granger and also pledged his support.

He also praised the people of Guyana for "free and fair elections and on their discipline and patience as they awaited the final result of the polls".

FRIDAY, MAY 15, 2015

Caribbean renewable energy start-up fails in IPO attempt

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Thursday May 14, 2015 – A renewable energy finance company that opened a share offering to the public in a bid to be listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) has to go back to the drawing board after failing to attract enough interest. The JSE announced that Caribbean Energy Finance Company Limited (CEFCL) could not raise a minimum J$231 million (US$2 million) of the J$452 million (US$3.9 million) in the initial public offering (IPO).

THURSDAY, MAY 14, 2015

Opposition coalition wins general election in Guyana, according to preliminary results

By Peter Richards GEORGETOWN, Guyana, May 14, (CMC) – The main opposition coalition has won the general elections held here on Monday according to preliminary figures released Thursday by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

The opposition alliance, comprising A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change (AFC) polled 206,817 as compared to 201,457 for the incumbent party that was seeking to extend its 22 –year hold on power in this Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.


Guyana Elections 2015: Commonwealth Group to outline several recommendations to improve electoral process

By: Hon Kate Wilkinson - The Commonwealth has long supported elections in Guyana. Its first election observation exercise dates back to 1992. The Commonwealth Charter, which was adopted by the Commonwealth Heads of Governments in 2012, has at its heart credible and peaceful elections that enable citizens to choose their leaders.

Our group was constituted by Commonwealth Secretary-General Mr Kamalesh Sharma, following an invitation from the Office of the President of Guyana and the findings of an assessment team which was in Guyana last month.

The Commonwealth Observer Group is made up of seven persons from different regions of the Commonwealth and from a range of professions and areas of expertise.

It is our responsibility as observers to consider factors relating to the credibility of the electoral process as a whole. This includes observing and evaluating the pre-election period, election day itself, as well as the post-election period. Members of this group are participating in their individual capacities. We act with impartiality, objectivity and independence. We do not have a supervisory role.

We will assess whether the elections have been conducted according to the standards to which Guyana has committed itself, including through its constitutional and legislative framework and relevant Commonwealth and international commitments.

We arrived in the country on 5 May. We have met with the Electoral Commission of Guyana, some of the political parties, members of the press and international organisations.

Over the next two days we will continue to meet with a range of relevant stakeholders, including domestic and other international observer groups, youth representatives and members of the business community. We plan to take every opportunity to see and understand the election process for ourselves.

On 9 May, our teams will deploy to regions across the country to observe the election environment and preparations for election day. On 11 May, our teams will observe the opening and closing of the polls, the polling itself, counting of votes and transmittal of results. We will consult with other observer groups which will have teams throughout the country.

Our Group will issue an Interim Statement of key findings shortly after the elections. Thereafter, and before our departure from Guyana on 17 May, we will prepare our final report.

This report of our assessment will be submitted to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will in turn forward it to the Government of Guyana, the Elections Commission, the leadership of political parties, and then to all the Commonwealth governments. The report will then be made publicly available, here and throughout the Commonwealth.

We look forward to a high turnout on election-day and the conduct of peaceful elections. We encourage political parties to take a constructive approach to campaigning in these remaining days before the election. We also strongly urge the parties to respond to the officially declared results in a responsible manner.

We wish the people of Guyana well as they embark on this important national process.

TUESDAY, MAY 12, 2015

Caribbean countries want "pragmatic" help to deal with non communicable diseases

Nationnews.com BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, HEALTH MINISTER John Boyce will lead the Barbados delegation to the 68th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, from Thursday this week. There, he will join with other countries in the Caribbean region to call for a more pragmatic and systematic approach to technical and financial assistance required in the battle against non-communicable diseases.

Speaking Monday at the opening of a Caribbean Cancer Control Leadership Forum taking place at the Courtyard by Marriott, Boyce noted: "The challenges of public health in the region are very similar and with a collective voice we can make inroads towards the protection of public health for our people."

In welcoming the delegates to the workshop, the Health Minister stated that the gathering represented the region's commitment to reversing the trends of cancer which in many member states accounted for 25 per cent of sickness and death.

In Barbados, he revealed, cancer of the prostate was responsible for 48 per cent of all cancer deaths in men, and cancer of the breast, uterus and cervix were the leading cause of cancer deaths in women, accounting for 50 per cent.

Boyce said that the World Health Organisation had indicated that up to 30 per cent of cancers were preventable by the application of simple lifestyle interventions such as eliminating the use of tobacco products, limiting alcohol consumption, increasing daily physical activity and exercise, and consuming a varied and nutritious diet.

The Health of the Nation Study carried out in Barbados in 2012 indicated that 8.9 per cent of the population smoked tobacco; 35 per cent of individuals engaged in the consumption of harmful amounts of alcohol; and only 20 per cent of Barbadians were achieving the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables per day.

Boyce disclosed that Government was looking to forge ahead with appropriate policy and programme frameworks to create an enabling environment for prevention of cancer and other non-communicable diseases, and this was being addressed through the National Strategic Plan for Non-Communicable Diseases 2015 – 2019. Specific measures include anti-smoking legislation; national and school-based guidelines for nutritious and healthy foods; age specific guidelines for physical activity and exercise; and an action plan to reverse childhood obesity.

MONDAY, MAY 11, 2015

A Crucial Election: The Next Commonwealth Secretary-General

By Alex May – CNS Contributor May 09 2015 – The last rites have been read prematurely for the Commonwealth many times. But even some of its strongest supporters now believe that it faces an existential crisis graver than any it has faced before.

To the usual challenge of resources have been added, in the last decade or so, the even more profound challenges of salience, direction and credibility. Can the Commonwealth be turned round, to take advantage of the unique opportunities available to an organisation with member states in every inhabited continent, of every size, and at every stage of economic development? Can it realise its enormous potential for exchange of knowledge, ideas and practices, and for brokering international agreement in crucial areas of 21st century international politics? Can it bring its collective wisdom and experience to bear on major world issues such as terrorism and extremism, human rights, climate change, and persistent underdevelopment? Or will it continue its seemingly inexorable decline and end, forgotten and unlamented, not with a bang but a whimper?

The answers will depend largely on the decisions the heads of government take in Malta this November, and in particular on the choice they make of the next Commonwealth Secretary-General. The Commonwealth, since 1965, has been very much a Secretary-General-centred organisation. The personality and skills of the Secretary-General have been crucial in setting the tone of the Commonwealth and extending (or limiting) its reach. Many feel nostalgia for the days of Sonny Ramphal, when the twin issues of apartheid and economic justice kept the Commonwealth on the front pages of all the newspapers, or of Emeka Anyaoku, when the Commonwealth was ahead of the game on a range of issues, from human rights to the vulnerability of small states.

The role of the Secretary-General is not an easy one. It needs the skills of a politician as well as those of a diplomat; a media performer as well as a manager; a leader as well as an honest broker. It needs someone deeply familiar with its work and aspirations; who knows which levers work and which do not; who can use its traditions of informality and consensus to move agendas forward rather than hold them back. And it needs someone with a clear vision for the Commonwealth, who will be proactive not reactive, able to build agreement where possible but also willing to risk confrontation when necessary. The time has passed when continually searching for the lowest common denominator or trying to be all things to all people will lead to anything but continued decline. The next Secretary-General will most probably serve for eight years – long enough either to revitalise the Commonwealth or, perhaps, finally lay it to rest.

There are currently four declared candidates for the post. (It is possible that others may emerge, but in the nature of an organisation comprising 53 member states, late candidates will be at a disadvantage.) All four are extremely capable, but two are unlikely to get far. Doctor Bhoendradatt (Bhoe) Tewarie, Minister for Planning of Trinidad and Tobago, is a conscientious minister and an able politician, but he is hardly known outside his own country, and appears, before now, to have had little experience of or interest in international affairs. The fact that two other senior posts in the Commonwealth are already held by Trinidadians will also count against him. Baroness Scotland of Asthal, the Dominican-born former British Attorney-General, would make an excellent Secretary-General. But her position as a former British minister and a current member of the British legislature probably rules her out in an association still wary of colonial overtones. She will also have to work hard to live down the damage done to her reputation by her agreeing to advise Mohammed Waheed Hassan, leader of the 2012 coup in the Maldives, on how to avoid Commonwealth action for human rights abuses. The contest to become the next Secretary-General is therefore looking increasingly like a two-horse race.

Sir Ronald Sanders also brings considerable experience of management (including in the international finance and telecommunications sectors), and of the Commonwealth as a diplomat, political commentator and key figure in the 'Eminent Persons Group' appointed in 2010 to advise on reform of the Commonwealth (some of whose recommendations were rejected and others accepted, though their implementation has been very long in coming). Well known and widely respected in the Caribbean and in Commonwealth circles, he combines diplomatic, managerial and political skills and a realistic appraisal of possibilities with a passionate commitment to the Commonwealth and its core values. If anyone can revitalise the Commonwealth, one feels, it is him.

FRIDAY, MAY 8, 2015

Golden Krust recalls patties because of undeclared allergen

BRONX, N.Y. (PIX11) — Golden Krust is recalling more than 6,000 cases of shrimp and soya patties because of undeclared egg, which could give customers with egg allergies the wrong impression that the patties are safe for them to eat and potentially lead to a serious or life-threatening reaction, the company announced Wednesday.

The recalled patties were distributed directly to Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill stores in the northeast through a distributor for Golden Krust stores in Florida, Georgia and three other distributors, the company said.

A total of 6,188 cases of shrimp and soya patties — each bulk case containing 50 individual frozen patties lined with parchment paper, with a net weight of 17.2 pounds — are being recalled. The product cases are marked on the side with the expiration dates Jan. 24, 2015, through Feb. 26, 2016.

There have been no reports of adverse reactions connected to the patties, the company said.

After someone discovered the patties — which are known to contain eggs — were shipped in packaging that did not specify the ingredient, the company initiated the recall.

Customers of the Bronx-based chain with known egg allergies who have any of the recalled patties should not eat them, but rather throw them away.

Questions can be directed to 855-565-0561, which is available 8:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (EST) Monday through Friday, or sent via email at consumerresponse@goldenkrustbakery.com.


IMF launches youth photo contest for the Caribbean

LIMA, Peru, May 7, (CMC) – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has launched a regional photo contest entitled "Latin America and the Caribbean: Through the Eyes of its Youth" for Latin American and Caribbean youth.

The Washington-based financial institution on Wednesday said the contest, which is open to citizens of Latin American and Caribbean countries age 18-30, "provides an opportunity for youth in the region to communicate visually the economic and social challenges facing their countries, as well as ideas about how best to build a better future for the region."

"It's always enlightening and refreshing to engage with young people to learn more about the challenges they see and aspirations they have for the future," said Carla Grasso, IMF Deputy Managing Director, in launching of the photo contest Wednesday during a roundtable event with university students here.

"The photo contest will be a fantastic opportunity to visualize their perspectives on the region's economic and social situation and how to improve it," she added.

The top 20 finalists will be evaluated by a panel of judges composed of IMF staff and regional partners.

The selection will be based on originality, technical excellence and artistic merit.

In addition, the IMF said the panel will consider the country of origin and gender of the photographer.

Six finalists will be selected and invited to the 2015 Annual Meetings here, where the winners will be announced.


St Lucia tightens cyber security after hacking of SVG site

CASTRIES, St Lucia, Wednesday May 6, 2015 – Concerned about the recent attack on the official website of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines government, the administration of Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony is taking steps to strengthen its own cyber security.

In a statement issued yesterday, the government said the incident in the neighbouring island appeared to be part of a trend of increasing reports of cyberattacks of various kinds regionally and internationally.

"As the Government of St. Lucia seeks to continually enhance its online presence and make more of its services accessible online to citizens and other users, it is ever mindful of the increasing importance of cyber security. This is why it has embarked on numerous initiatives and taken several proactive measures to reduce the possibility of successful attacks on Government information and technology assets as well as to reduce the negative impact should such incidents occur," it said.

TUESDAY, MAY 5, 2015

New paradigm for Caribbean development

By Peter Richards PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, May 5, (CMC) – A three-day forum on the future of the Caribbean began here on Tuesday amidst concerns that a new paradigm is needed to take the region forward in a changing global environment.

Deputy Executive Director of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Dr. Antonio Prado said the Caribbean, like Latin America "is facing a future fraught with challenges and uncertainty" and that it is clear that the models and strategies that have delivered improved living standards in the past will be unable to continue doing so in the future.

MONDAY, MAY 4, 2015

ISIS group hacks St. Vincent Government website

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, May 4, (CMC) - The Islamic State (IS), an Islamist rebel group claiming religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide, has hacked the official website of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines government (www.gov.vc), a message appearing on the website Sunday evening suggested.

Visitors to the website were greeted by a message saying "Hacked By Moroccanwolf - Islamic State" and a photo of man firing a high calibre machine gun from the back of a pick-up truck.

Below the photo was a message in which the hackers accused the United States and NATO forces of being involved in "organised butchery" of the human race.

"They overthrow governments of sovereign nations and they undermine, threaten, refuse to recognise and seek to destroy democratically elected governments like they are in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Palestine.

"They support dictators as long as they are fulfilling US, EU & NATO interest in the region like they did in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. You speak of freedom of speech and freedom of expression but you remain silent in the face of a people desire to seek freedom to exist – unless those people are Israeli Zionists! Hypocrisy of this magnitude will bring the chickens home to roost and not peace and security as is your mantra!" continued the message signed by Islamic State Hackers.

However, the website subsequently went offline. No official statement had been issued by the government up to this morning.

FRIDAY, MAY 1, 2015

IDB launches new portal to aid Caribbean development

WASHINGTON D.C., United States, Thursday April 30, 2015, (CMC) – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has launched its new open data portal, which allows users to explore, visualize and download data from Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB said the data comes from diverse research analysis and sources it uses to generate knowledge for its development interventions.

The portal, named "Numbers for Development" allows users find in a single place a variety of specialized datasets with indicators and raw data on topics such as education, labor markets, poverty, gender participation, global integration and agriculture policy, among others.

"Numbers for Development is aimed at researchers, students, policymakers, analysts, and others working in development issues and public policy. The Bank previously offered a BETA version of the portal to early adapters and the feedback was tremendously positive, helping the IDB to create the current version of this useful tool," IDB said.

The IDB said it will also publish a blog series, "How to Use Numbers for Development" with key information and tips on how best to explore, visualize and download the data.

"The IDB is pleased to launch its open data portal, created with the aim of sharing data generated by our teams of specialists during more than 50 years of analytical work conducted by the Bank in our mission to find solutions to the Region's development challenges.

"With the launching or Numbers for Development we would like researchers and policy makers to take advantage of this data in designing policies, investigating issues, or any other analytical work to support development of the region", said Santiago Levy Algazi, Vice President for Sectors and Knowledge.


Commonwealth officials meet to focus on youth

Government officials and young people from across the Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean are mulling the major issues affecting youth as part of a three – day meeting, which started on Tuesday. Topping the list of matters for discussion is youth employment and entrepreneurship, participation in civic and political processes, the role of young people in peace building, and the professionalisation of the youth work sector. These issues will be tabled during the Caribbean Region Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting (CR-CYMM), hosted by the government of Antigua & Barbuda.

The Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Deodat Maharaj said considering the Caribbean has one of the youngest populations in the Commonwealth, with more than 60 per cent of people aged 29 years or under, youth play a great role in the present and future development of the region.

He said youth are "an enormous asset to the region's development, not just tomorrow, but today. We recognise that young people are playing a vital role in strengthening communities and championing democratic processes, leading and delivering change."

However, Maharaj highlighted that there are many challenges facing youth related to unemployment, climate change, health issues or conflict.

"Young people are feeling the squeeze in the labour market, may lack the capital to start a business, or can be shut out of democratic decision-making," he said.

"Commonwealth member governments are using this meeting, hosted and led by the Government of Antigua & Barbuda, to signal their commitment to young people and ensure that policy priorities are aligned to young people's ambitions and needs."


CARICOM to urgently review request from Cuba for improving trade

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, April 28, (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries say they will give urgent attention to a request from Cuba for additional preferential access to the markets of the more developed countries of the 15-member CARICOM grouping.

A communiqué issued after the 40th Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) last weekend said that the meeting "agreed to review urgently outstanding requests from Cuba for additional preferential access to CARICOM More Developed Countries which will pave the way for a Joint Commission Meeting between the two sides to be held by July 2015".

MONDAY, APRIL 27, 2015

Caribbean technologists meeting in St. Lucia

Google IT Expert, Arturo Servin speaks at recent CaribNOG event in Trinidad
(Photo: Caribbean Network Operators Group)
CASTRIES, ST. Lucia, April 27, (By Gerard Best, CJ Contributor) St Lucia will be the backdrop to the highly anticipated gathering of the men and women responsible for securing and administering computer networks across the Caribbean. From April 27 to May 1, the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG) will hold their ninth regional meeting, a significant forum that has been playing a key role in coordinating and equipping the region's technical community.

"CaribNOG plays a unique role in the region's technology ecosystem. It is a volunteer-based community dedicated to strengthening the Caribbean indigenous capacity to address the rapidly evolving technology landscape," explained Bevil Wooding, one of the CaribNOG founders and a main organizer of the event. "Computer network engineers and technology specialists from across the region and around the world take the time to share their knowledge and experience with the colleagues at CaribNOG."

Founded in 2010, CaribNOG has been steadily building its reputation as the Caribbean's most influential and solutions-oriented forum for network engineers and computer technology professionals.

The group has also built strong connections with other Network Operator Groups from around the world, including Latin America, North America and as far as the Pacific.

"CaribNOG members benefit immensely from exposure to experts from around the region and across the globe," said Jamaican-born Stephen Lee, another CaribNOG founding member and CEO of ArkiTechs Inc., a US-based technology firm.

"Topics range from protecting local networks from hackers and cyber-criminals to deploying broadband and the future of the Internet," he said. Network security, Internet exchange points, cloud computing and global network trends are among the topics to be addressed at CaribNOG's 9th regional meeting.

"Saint Lucia is really looking forward to hosting this important meeting," said Simon Alexander, local organizer and IT Manager at the Organization for Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission.

"The previous CaribNOG gathering in Curacao drew over 100 persons from more than 15 countries. The international nature of gathering affords us the opportunity to showcase Saint Lucia and the OECS to the world as a significant technology-enabled destination."

This ninth event comes on the heels of 2014 meetings in Dominica and Curacao.

FRIDAY, APRIL 24, 2015

FBI investigates British rogue trader for allegedly stashing millions in offshore banks in the Caribbean

LONDON, United Kingdom (CMC) – The United States Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is investigating a British trader who allegedly stashed millions of pound sterling in offshore bank account in some Caribbean islands.

The London Evening Standard reported that Navinder Singh Sarao, 36, who lives in a modest semi-detached house with his parents in Hounslow, West London, and doesn't even own a car, was able to find £5 million in sureties to pay his bail.

The FBI insisted that Sarao hid his alleged ill-gotten gains in a "complex" web of offshore accounts.

In the criminal complaint, United States of America vs Navinder Singh Sarao, filed Thursday at the US District Court in the Northern Illinois, FBI Special Agent Gregory Laberta claimed the Briton admitted to amassing "the majority of his (net) worth in no more than 20 days of trading on days when the market was particularly vulnerable".

According the FBI Special Agent Laberta, the Briton stashed money he earned during the 2010 Wall Street "flash crash" and in his other high frequency trades in Nevis and Anguilla.

"Around the time of the Flash Crash, SARAO took significant steps to protect his assets," says the criminal complaint.

According to the criminal complaint, one of Sarao's "wealth management assistants" described the company, in an email dated November 22, 2012, as having been created as part of "tax planning work" undertaken on the trader's behalf.


US cancer institute signs agreement to import vaccine developed in Cuba

HAVANA, Cuba, Apr. 23, (CMC) –Cuba's Center of Molecular Immunology and New York's Roswell Park Cancer Institute, have signed an agreement to export to the United States, a therapeutic vaccine against lung cancer developed here.

"The agreement will allow us to limit ourselves to clinical trials of the vaccine when we get to New York," said Candace Johnson, the director of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

Johnson was part of a trade delegation from New York, led by governor, Andrew Cuomo, to explore business options here, in addition to promoting exchanges in education and research.

"We are excited to bring the vaccine to the US and treating patients. This would not have been possible without this trade mission, which facilitated the initialling of the agreement face to face, "said Johnson.

The vaccine against lung cancer was created in Cuba in 2011 after 15 years of research with patent rights worldwide.

The vaccine – Cimivax, reportedly doubles as a treatment for lung cancer.

The vaccine is registered in Cuba and Peru, although countries like Brazil, Argentina and Colombia are in the process for registration, and others such as the UK and Australia have conducted clinical trials.


Caribbean entrepreneurs being urged to address General Assembly on climate change

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 22, (CMC) -The United Nations is appealing to young entrepreneurs from the Caribbean and other developing countries to address a special High-Level Event on Climate Change in June.

The UN said that a global search is underway for a young entrepreneur to address the event set for June 29 and convened by the President of the General Assembly, Sam Kutesa.

The event, which will be attended by ministers, business leaders and representatives from civil society organizations, will take place just months before countries meet in Paris in December 2015 to adopt a new universal agreement on climate change.

"The first goal is to check the pulse of Members States to see where we stand, but we also know the world needs to go further to tackle climate change.

"We are, therefore, looking for solutions and inspiration from a young person who is already successfully taking climate action in his or her community," said Kutesa.

The search for a dynamic young speaker to address the opening ceremony is being conducted by the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS). In addition, UN-NGLS is seeking candidates to participate in two other panels during the day of the meeting.

UN-NGLS is asking candidates who are representatives of civil society organizations to share their story of successful local climate action to help shift the world to a sustainable path, enabling economic opportunity, equality, and a healthy environment for all. Civil society representatives may also apply to serve on the Selection Committee for this event.

The UN said the event will be the high point of a week of climate change activities at UN Headquarters in New York, which kick off on June 23 with a meeting of business leaders organized by UN Global Compact.


UWI plants legal marijuana tree

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 20, (CMC) – The Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) planted the first legal marijuana plant in Jamaica on Monday, a few days after the amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act came into effect.

The University of the West Indies yesterday received the first licence under the amended Dangerous Drug Act.Speaking at the press launch of the symbolic planting of the first legal cannabis plant to mark the granting of the licence, Minister of Justice Mark Golding said it was a historic moment for the ganja movement in Jamaica.

"This has been a journey which has involved a lot of passion on the part of many people. I, in my quiet way, have been passionate, too, because I saw this as something that I could put my effort into it and achieve something special," he said.

He also made it clear that the Rastafarian community will not be left out of the benefits to be had under the provisions of the law.

"There are three provisions under the law which provide benefits for the Rastafari community, these relate to the view they hold about the protection of the constitutional right they have treating ganja as a sacrament," he added.

Principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor Archibald McDonald, said that the UWI will be engaging small farmers as part of the cultivation of the plant.

MONDAY, APRIL 20, 2015

Pensions at risk for 80 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean

WASHINGTON, Apr 20, (CMC) – Financial experts and policy makers have warned Caribbean countries that in the absence of reforms, members of the growing middle class may be vulnerable to poverty in their old age.

The event marked the launch of Pensions at a Glance: Latin America and the Caribbean, a publication co-published by the IDB, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the World Bank. The study provides detailed comparative indicators of pension models in 26 countries.

Population ageing will lead to higher spending on pensions in Latin America and the Caribbean; at the same time, the high number of workers in the informal sector, who do not make contributions, put the adequacy of pension benefits at risk. Currently, only 45 out of every 100 workers contribute to a retirement plan, and this ratio has hardly changed in recent decades. By 2050, between 63 and 83 million people in the region will be at risk of not receiving an adequate pension, unless pension systems are reformed and efforts are made to increase formal sector employment, including by improving access to quality education.

"We must act now to ensure the future of pensions in the region," said IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno during the inauguration of the event. "Right now we are enjoying a demographic dividend that cannot be missed. If we get more people to contribute to our pension systems, and if we adjust the systems to rising life expectancy, we will be able to provide adequate coverage to future generations. "

"Governments need to boost employment opportunities in the formal sector, especially for women, so that more people can build future pension entitlements in their own right", said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría opening the event. "Too many people in the region are still excluded from the pension systems. Further reforms are needed to broaden pension coverage to ensure an adequate income at retirement."

The most widespread practice to bridge the gap in pension coverage is expanding the so-called non-contributory pensions. These government subsidies help reduce inequality and poverty, but will pose a fiscal challenge as the population ages and the number of beneficiaries increases. Today there are 8 people of working age for every retiree but, by 2050, the rate will drop to 2.5, close to the OECD average of 1.9

FRIDAY, APRIL 17, 2015

Slow down in remittances to the Caribbean

WASHINGTON, Apr 17, (CMC) - The World Bank says remittances growth in the Caribbean is expected to slow in 2015. The Washington-based international financial institution said in its latest issue of its Migration and Development Brief that growth in global remittances, including those to developing countries, such as the Caribbean, will slow sharply this year due to weak economic growth in Europe, deterioration of the Russian economy and the depreciation of the Euro and Ruble.

In the Latin America and Caribbean region, the World Bank said remittances are expected to grow by 2.3 per cent in 2015 to US$66 billion.

"While this growth is slower than that seen in 2014, it is significantly higher than the anemic pace of the post-crisis period," the bank said.

It, however, said the outlook for the region is "positive, as remittance inflows are expected to benefit from growth in GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and employment in the United States, although this will be offset by high unemployment in Spain".

The report says remittances to the region are expected to grow to US$69 billion in 2016 and US$71 billion in 2017.

Officially recorded remittances to the developing world are expected to reach US$440 billion in 2015, an increase of 0.9 per cent over the previous year, with the report indicating that global remittances, including those to high income countries, are projected to grow by 0.4 per cent to US$586 billion.


CARICOM committed to International Decade for People of African Descent

NEW YORK, Apr. 16, (CMC) - St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ambassador to the United Nations, I. Rhonda King, has affirmed the commitment of the Community (CARICOM) to the International Decade for People of African Descent, as pronounced by the United Nations, which began on January 1.

Addressing the just-concluded International Reparations Summit here, King said the accompanying Programme of Activities for the Implementation of the International Decade will contribute to the full implementation of the Durban Declaration and to its Programme of Action, and raise awareness in combating racism, prejudice and intolerance.

"We see the International Decade for People of African Descent, with its theme, People of African Descent: recognition, justice and development, as an important space for diplomatic engagement," the envoy said. "The programme of activities which accompanies the Decade will address many of the concerns of the African descendant communities."

She added: "We can no longer accept a mere nibbling-away-at-the-edges of these concerns. Until and unless the issue of reparatory justice for slavery is addressed, due recognition, justice and development for People of African Descent will remain incomplete."

In this context, King said the steps to be taken by the International community, and international and regional organizations during this Decade, as outlined in the Programme of Action, will include engagement with people of African descent.

With respect to the steps and measures to be taken by the UN General Assembly, King said these will include the decision to establish a forum to serve as a consultation mechanism to be provided by one of the existing Durban follow-up mechanisms, such as the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent or the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

2015 marks the convergence of several events, including, the launch of the International Decade for People of African Descent; the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the Post 2015 Development Agenda with its Sustainable Development Goals and Financing for Development component; and the 70thAnniversary of the Charter of the United Nations – King said CARICOM maintains that "we have arrived at the crossroads of new possibilities.


President Obama wants Cuba removed from US terrorist list

Presidents Raul Castro (left) and Barack Obama during the Summit of the Americas in Panama (File Photo)
WASHINGTON, Apr 14, (CMC) – United States President Barack Obama Tuesday decided to lift the U.S. designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism. In a message to Congress, the White House said that the long-awaited decision effectively removes the principal impediment to establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, as pledged by Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro last December.

Congress has 45 days to consider Cuba's removal from the list before it becomes effective, but cannot interfere with Obama's decision without voting separate legislation, a measure that the White House has deemed unlikely.

At a news conference in Panama on Saturday, Obama said the majority of the American people, as well as a majority of Congress, approve of his opening to Cuba.

Cuba was first designated a state sponsor of terrorism in 1982, at the height of the Cold War. Cuba's removal would leave only three countries on the list Iran, Sudan and Syria.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries had been urging Washington to ease trade and other embargoes against Havana and they renewed their position during talks last Thursday with President Obama in Jamaica during his meeting with regional leaders.


Ganja law goes into effect April 15

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 13, (CMC) – The Jamaica government says the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015, commonly referred to as the "Ganja Law" and passed by both Houses of Parliament in February, goes into effect on Wednesday.

A statement from the Ministry of Justice Monday said that notification of the Governor General's assent to the Act has been published in the official Gazette and that the Minister of Justice, Mark Golding will bring the legislation into operation this week, April,15.

The Ministry of Justice said that the legislation is expected to have a number of positive implications for Jamaica, including strengthening respect for the rule of law and building a more just society, by eliminating a common cause of corrosive antagonism between the police and young men, particularly in less affluent communities.

It said the legislation would reduce the heavy burden of cases on the Resident Magistrates' Courts and acknowledge the constitutional rights of the Rastafari community, who use ganja as a sacrament.

In addition, the government said the legislation paves the way for the emergence of a lawful, regulated legitimate medicinal and industrial marijuana industry that may have significant economic opportunities and benefits.

"This is a landmark piece of legislation, that is long overdue," Golding said, adding "Jamaica is approaching these reforms in a responsible manner, and in keeping with our international obligations.

"The benefits of these reforms will be significant, and the possible negative implications will, for the first time, be mitigated by a public education campaign to discourage ganja use by adolescents, persons with mental disorders, pregnant women and other vulnerable groups," he added.

MONDAY, APRIL 13, 2015

United States rolls out new programme to support youth development in the Caribbean

President Obama with Caribbean leaders
By Nelson A. King WASHINGTON, Apr 13, CMC - On his short visit to the Caribbean last Thursday, United States President Barack Obama launched the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI), aimed at expanding opportunities for emerging entrepreneurs and civil society activists.

Building on the success of the President's young leader initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, the White House said YLAI, launched at a town-hall meeting at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) will "incubate and accelerate" the work of young business and civil society leaders from Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States.

FRIDAY, APRIL 10, 2015

Jamaica signs energy agreement with United States

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Thursday April 9, 2015, (CMC) – An energy co-operation agreement has been signed between Jamaica and the United States that could lead to the island becoming a hub for the distribution of liquefied natural gas (LNG), from the US to the rest of the Caribbean.

The document was signed by Jamaica's Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell, and Secretary of the United States Department of Energy Dr Ernest Moniz at the Eden Gardens Wellness Resort and Spa in St Andrew.

The Statement of Intent outlines the possible provision of technical assistance for the modernisation of the energy infrastructure; development of the energy renewable sector; fuel diversification especially in relation to the acquisition of natural gas; and the strengthening of the governance structure.

Minister Paulwell said Jamaica was very pleased that part of the agreement had to do with the issue of natural gas.

"Jamaica has attempted, for many years, to implement a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, but we have been hindered because we just did not have access to liquefied natural gas, and so one of the important achievements is the American support for our accessing natural gas," Paulwell said.

He added that the Government is aiming to have Jamaica identified as a possible hub allowing natural gas to be delivered to the rest of the region.

"Those are some of things we will be looking at, and we are also looking at energy conservation and efficiency in both the public and private sectors and the US promised to assist us," Paulwell said.

He said, too, that the Government was committed to ensuring the success of the collaboration by providing the necessary support to facilitate work with the US Department of Energy.


Caribbean American congresswoman urges US to end delay in implementing immigration programmes

WASHINGTON, Apr 9, (CMC) – Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke has joined 180 colleagues in the US House of Representatives in filing an amicus brief urging a US appeals court to end the delay in implementing critical programs for Caribbean and other immigrants.

The programmes - Deferred Action for Parental Accountability and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, will allow millions of immigrants to avoid deportation and become authorized to work.

Late Tuesday Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Federal District Court for the Southern District of Texas, in Brownsville, refused to lift the injunction he had placed in February on President Barack Obama's programmes, saying that to do so would cause irreparable harm.

Hanen's decision came about even as the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals signals that it might disagree with Hanen when it adopts the issue next week. President Obama and the US Department of Homeland Security are appealing that decision.

"I am proud to join my colleagues in supporting President Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson in their effort to allow millions of American families to remain in the United States and participate in our economy," said Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, before boarding a flight with Obama as the US president visits Jamaica for a summit with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders on Thursday.

"The decision by the District Court was completely unprecedented. Presidents of the United States – from President Ronald Reagan to President George W. Bush – have acted under the same authority as our chief executive as defer action in immigration cases," added the representative for the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn.

Hanen said he "remained convinced" that Obama had exceeded his authority by seeking to permit millions of undocumented immigrants to stay in the US legally and obtain work permits.

"Whether by ignorance, omission, purposeful misdirection, or because they were misled by their clients, the attorneys for the government misrepresented the facts," he wrote.

But Emily Pierce, a spokeswoman for the US Department of Justice Department, dismissed the judge's remarks. "We emphatically disagree with the district court's order regarding the government's statements."

The appeals court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on April 17 about whether to rescind Hanen's injunction.


Regional leaders gearing for talks with President Obama

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Apr 7, (CMC) – The prime ministers of Barbados, Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago will address the summit of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders and United States President Barack Obama in Jamaica later this week.

Obama arrives in Kingston on Wednesday for a two-day visit and will hold bi-lateral talks with his host Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

The regional leaders will meet with President Obama on Thursday and Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, His Dominica counterpart, Roosevelt Skerrit and Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar will speak on the topics Competitiveness/Prosperity, Renewable Energy and Security respectively.

Newly elected St Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris, who will be attending his first regional summit since his election last February, said he was looking forward to the meeting as it will give the region a further boost in its relationship with the United States.


Major US Black group to host reparations summit

NEW YORK, United States, Monday April 6, 2015, (CMC) – The Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW), a leading research, policy and advocacy group with offices in New York and Baltimore, says it is holding an International Reparations Summit at various sites across New York City from April 9-12.

On Friday, IBW announced that speakers will include Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies and chair of the Caribbean Community's (CARICOM) Reparations Commission; US civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson; Professor Charles Ogeltree of Harvard University; and Mireille Fanon Mendes France, President of the Frantz Fanon Foundation and Chair of the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African descent and daughter of Frantz Fanon, the Black liberation theoretician and psychiatrist from Martinique.

During the summit, US congressman John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, the most senior member of the US Congress and the dean of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), will be honored for authoring a bill, HR 40, the "Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act" and for his 50 years of service in the US House of Representatives.

"We are delighted that the Institute of the Black World can be a clearinghouse for ideas and strategies on how to pursue reparations for historical crimes and injustices against people of African descent in the US and across the Americas," said Dr. Ron Daniels, the Institute's president. "The courageous decision by nations in the Caribbean to demand reparations from the former European colonialists for Native Genocide and African enslavement and the formation of a CARICOM Reparations Commission is re-energizing the Reparations Movement in the US and throughout the Pan African world."

IBW said scores of reparations advocates, pan-Africanists and social justice activists from across the US, Canada, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean will take part in the New York summit.


New report urges Caribbean to make adjustments amid rising fiscal imbalances

BUSAN, Apr 2, (CMC) – A new report released here has called on Latin American and Caribbean countries to make budget adjustments in the face of rising fiscal imbalances and higher financial risks. The 2015 Inter-American Development Bank's (IDB) annual macroeconomic report has addressed the question of how budgets should be adjusted and how fast.

The report, issued during the IDB's annual meeting, also projects a baseline annual growth scenario for 2016-2019 of three per cent, on par with the 1990s but below the 4.7 per cent registered during the pre-crisis 2003-2008 period.

The report warns that additional negative external shocks in China, Japan and Europe could further erode economic growth.

On the bright side, however, the report says stronger US growth and lower commodity prices, including oil, may give a boost to countries that import energy and have strong trade ties with the United States.

"Latin America and the Caribbean has performed well in the years that followed the global financial crisis, increasing fiscal spending to fuel economic growth," said IDB chief economist José Juan Ruiz.


National Reserves called out for US President's visit

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr. 2, (CMC) – The National Reserve of the Jamaica Defense Force (JDF) has been called out to strengthen security ahead of the April 9 visit of US President Barak Obama. The National Security Minister, Peter Bunting made the disclosure in a statement issued this afternoon, saying it was among several measures being pursued.

In the statement, Bunting also said the public should expect traffic diversions and road closures for the visit.

Additionally, there will be air space restrictions to be communicated by the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority.

Meanwhile, Bunting has expressed satisfaction with the progress of the security arrangements being put in place by the Security Forces in collaboration with the United States Secret Service to welcome Obama and CARICOM Heads of Government.

Bunting and his Permanent Secretary were briefed on the security and logistical plans surrounding the visit, by the Chief of Defence Staff and the Commissioner of Police along with their support officers earlier today.


Warning for US travelers to the Caribbean

NASHVILLE, April 1, (CMC) - The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) is warning vacation and business travelers to the Caribbean about the importance of protecting themselves from mosquitoes that may transmit Chikungunya virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue.

The Tennessee Department of said the first confirmed case of Chikungunya virus disease in Tennessee occurred in 2014 and that since then 42 new cases have been documented, all involving travel outside the state.

"Travel plans to warmer destinations should include necessary precautions to avoid mosquito bites," said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. "Because there is no vaccine to prevent chikungunya virus disease, the only way to prevent its spread is the effective use of repellants and personal protection strategies."

Prior to 2013, chikungunya virus disease was found primarily in Africa, Asia, Europe and in the Indian and Pacific Ocean areas. The illness draws its name from an African word meaning "to become contorted" as most patients suffer from severe joint pain. Chikungunya is rarely fatal, but can cause fever, joint and muscle pain, headaches, fatigue and rash. It can also lead to chronic joint pain. In the past year, health organizations have reported the disease spreading in additional areas, including the Caribbean and the Americas.


CARICOM seeking international support for future socio-economic growth

UNITED NATIONS, March 31, 2015 (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are still grappling with the effects of global economic crisis as well as the impact of climate change, Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie has said.

Addressing the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, Christie, who is the CARICOM chairman, said that regional countries are acutely aware of the complexity of the global economic environment and the major transformation underway in the world economy.

"Indeed, the aftermath of the global economic and financial crises has translated into a less than favourable international context for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the CARICOM region into much of the next decade or so," Prime Minister Christie told the High-Level Interactive Dialogue on Monday held under the theme "The International Decade for Action: Progress achieved and lessons learned for sustainable development".

He told the delegates that the process of climate change has emerged as a global issue, with the increased frequency and severity of climatic events, along with the growing incidence of health pandemics and the risk of terrorism and war threatening to set back the development gains achieved over time by developing countries in particular.

"Given its susceptibility to external shocks, the global realities and challenges are either mirrored or heightened in the CARICOM region, evidenced in persistent low growth rates and crippling external debt, as well as in growing unemployment, especially among our youth."

Prime Minister Christie said that CARICOM has adopted either home-grown or multilaterally-supported stabilisation and structural adjustment programmes, which have not yet resulted in sustained growth in those member states experiencing significant macro-economic imbalances.

He said revitalizing economic growth is therefore of critical importance to preventing further deterioration in the region's human development gains and thus the Region has embarked on a plan to reposition itself.

"It is apparent that such a plan must take into consideration the rising levels of unemployment, particularly in the youth, which exists alongside skill shortages in several key areas.

MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2015

British Caribbean Chamber of Commerce Saint Lucia - President's reception concludes week of Events marking Launch

CASTRIES, ST. LUCIA - A week of meetings and events to mark the official launch of the British Caribbean Chamber of Commerce in Saint Lucia was concluded with a cocktail party hosted on Cap Estate by Chamber President, John Kennedy, attended by Her Excellency the Governor General of Saint Lucia, Dame Pearlette Louisy, Prime Minister The Honourable Dr Kenny Anthony, former Prime ministers Stephenson King and Dr Vaughn Lewis, members of the Opposition, including Allen Chastanet and Dr Gail Rigobert as well as other distinguished ministers, parliamentarians and leaders of the business community of Saint Lucia.

In remarks made to the invited guests, Chamber President John Kennedy expressed his gratitude to those attending for their enthusiastic support and confidence in the decision to establish the British Caribbean Chamber of Commerce and noted that Saint Lucia was the second state in the region to have such an organisation and it was a mark of confidence in the potential for trading links between the UK and Saint Lucia that had led to this decision.

The guests were told that the Chamber's role would be to immediately add support and value to current business activity in Saint Lucia and between British and Saint Lucian businesses, further deepening the relationship between our two countries going forward.

The establishment of the Chamber was described as a win-win for both British and St Lucian companies seeking to do business - for the benefit of both countries and through collaboration and partnerships with each other. Tribute and recognition was made to Saint Lucia's own Chamber of Commerce Industry & Agriculture founded in 1884, the oldest organization of its kind in St Lucia and a particular welcome was extended to its members present.

The President of the Chamber, Mr John Kennedy took the opportunity to formally announce the appointment of a new Country Manager for Saint Lucia, Mr Randy Cato, who recently retired as the OECS's Senior Director of Economic Affairs and gave special acknowledgement to the British High Commission, Andy Pryce and Debra Worrell in particular and Dr Ian Kelly and Pauline Wade from the British Chambers of Commerce in the UK.

FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 2015

CARICOM looking to Cuba to strengthen ICT sector

ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada, Mar 27, (CMC) – Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Science, Technology and Innovation Committee. Professor Harold Ramkissoon is to lead a delegation to Cuba as the region seeks to strengthen its technology lings with Havana.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, addressing the second high level CARICOM Science and Technology meeting here, said CARICOM needs to focus more in the areas of research and development as well as science and technology as part of its strategy for its future development.

"We undoubtedly have a major challenge here. But find we must, a way, innovative as it may be, to overcome this challenge. Inadequate expenditure on R&D has been for too long our greatest obstacle to development in the region, and we must now make investment in R&D a top priority in our region," said Mitchell, who has lead responsibility for science and technology within CARICOM.

He said Ramkissoon, whom he described as "well-qualified for this role" would be heading the delegation.

"For his scholarly work, Professor Ramkissoon has been made a Foreign Fellow of the Cuban Academy of Sciences, and for his contribution to the development of Science and Technology in the wider Caribbean, he was presented with the Key to the City of Havana. He is therefore strategically placed to open many doors for our region".

Mitchell told the conference that the Committee was launched out of his conviction that science and technology is important in developing present day societies.

"And that we here in the Caribbean therefore have no choice, if we are to successfully navigate our way, but to further promote the development of science and technology and do so aggressively and with urgency, so that it can assist with the socio-economic development of our people as it has done and continues to do for the people of so many countries including, USA, Japan and more recently Brazil, China, India, Malaysia and many other developed and developing countries."

He said that inadequate expenditure in the area of research and development has been for too long the region's greatest obstacle and it should become a top priority because data is showing that countries that are spending more in that area are developing faster in innovation.

Prime Minister Mitchell said that CARICOM needs to make science education an area of focus both content and mode of delivery and "to make it attractive to our young curious minds and link it to technology and innovation"

The conference which ends on Saturday is a joint initiative involving the CARICOM Science, Technology and Innovation Committee and the CARISCIENCE, UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean and TWAS Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean.

It is being attended by CARICOM ministers responsible for Science and Technology and other stakeholders. Governor of the Eastern Caribbean central bank, Sir Dwight Venner as well as Glenroy Cumberbatch, Registrar of the Caribbean Examination Council Headquarters and Dr Arnoldo Ventura, former science and technology advisor to the Prime Minister of Jamaica, will deliver papers at the conference.


ECLAC, UNAIDS sign agreement to support regional response to HIV-AIDS

SANTIAGO, Chile, Mar. 26, (CMC) – The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Latin America aimed at promoting and facilitating cooperation on matters related to the regional response to HIV/AIDS.

The MOU signed by ECLAC's executive secretary, Alicia Bárcena, and César Núñez, regional director of UNAIDS for Latin America, states that both institutions "share the commitment to promote universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support, reduce the spread of the disease, and contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)".

ECLAC said the collaboration between both United Nations organizations will focus on areas such as: analysis and awareness-raising concerning the inequalities faced by the most affected populations; efficiency and sustainability of regional responses to HIV; monitoring the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs and the Sustainable Development Goals; and the positioning of HIV as a priority within the post-2015 agenda.

In addition to the development and publication of studies on these matters, the memorandum opens the opportunity to explore other areas of cooperation on issues of common interest.

"The publications will put special emphasis on the increase in data availability and the necessary information for governments to be able to plan and adopt the most effective responses to tend to the groups most vulnerable to HIV infection,"


Jamaica, Suriname agree to on-site visits of Anti-Corruption Mechanism

WASHINGTON, Mar 25, (CMC) - The Organization of American States (OAS) says the governments of Jamaica and Suriname have consented to receive on-site visits as part of the Fifth Round of the Mechanism for Follow-up on the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption (MESICIC).

It said the two Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries along with Canada, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, have also consented to and received on-site visits during the Fourth Round of Review.

For the Fifth Round, the MESICIC Committee of Experts will review the implementation of the Inter-American Convention against corruption "which refers to the needed instruction to government personnel and the study of preventive measures that take into account the relationship between equitable compensation and probity in public service," the OAS said.

Moreover, it said the committee will analyze the follow-up on the recommendations formulated to the States Parties in the Second Round on topics such as public procurement, the hiring of public servants, whistleblower protection and the criminalization of acts of corruption under the convention.

The OAS said the "affirmative answers" from these five countries join those previously expressed by Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, the United States, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, México, Panamá, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay.


World TB Day 2015: TB still a major health priority for the Caribbean

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Mar 24, (CMC) – The Caribbean Tuesday joined the international community in observing World Tuberculosis (TB) day with the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) indicating that the disease remains a major health priority for the region.

"TB remains a public health priority for the Caribbean region with more than 30,000 new cases occurring every year," said CARPHA executive director Dr C James Hospedales.

Figures released here show that TB remains a major global health problem, responsible for illness among nine million new people each year, and deaths of 1.5 million.

Worldwide, TB ranks as the second leading cause of death from an infectious disease, after the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The Day is being observed under the theme "Find, Treat, Cure TB". The major symptoms of TB are persistent cough, fatigue, fever, night sweats, and weight loss.

CARPHA said that progress towards TB control in the Caribbean has been slow, despite recognition that emergence and/or increasing trends for the disease pose a threat to public health.

"The Caribbean, as a region, still has to increase its efforts in order to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 2015 target to reduce by 50% the burden of TB (disease prevalence and deaths) relative to the 1990 levels," CARPHA noted.

It said several Caribbean countries still have high TB incidence rates, and HIV/AIDS, shortage of laboratory capacity, limited treatment success and programme funding gaps, are among the factors favouring TB continuing to pose a significant health threat in the Region.

CARPHA, which serves as the regional reference and referral laboratory for the diagnosis of TB and drug resistant TB said it provides assistance to TB programmes in its member states, investigates TB outbreaks, and contributes to the regional TB surveillance through yearly reporting to the World Health Organization (WHO).

But Dr Hospedales said that in order to make further progress towards the new MDG goals "TB control must be mainstreamed into the health agenda as with HIV, and include broader strategic planning approaches and financial frameworks aimed at poverty reduction.

MONDAY, MARCH 23, 2015

Jamaica-based company gets new patent on cancer research

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Mar 23, (CMC) – The Jamaica-based Bio-Tech R&D Institute says it has been granted a new patent by the United States as it continues its cancer research. It said the new patent — Number 8907117 — is titled "Anti-tumour and Anti-Inflammatory Dicinnamoyl-Glycerol Esters and their Analogues" and is being regarded as a major scientific stride for biotechnology in Jamaica, as it relates to the making of a new group of chemical compounds called Dicinnamoyl-Glycerol Esters, which have major anti-cancer activities.

"The making of these new anti-cancer drugs was inspired by the isolation of chemical compounds from the Ball Moss plant, which has been actively pursued over the past 10 years by Dr Henry Lowe and his research team, the company said, adding, "the synthesis of these anti-cancer drug agents is a first of its kind."

The patent is one of three anti-cancer patents so far granted to the renowned Jamaican scientist with an additional five patents undergoing different stages of evaluation prior to the patent award.

"The bioactive isolates are currently undergoing the final stages of preclinical studies to pave the way for clinical trials and drug development," the news release added.

"Since filing for this patent over four years ago, we are pleased to know that it has finally been granted," the release quoted Dr. Lowe, who also explained that drug research and development is very expensive and time-consuming.

"The duration of the process is in keeping with drug development from conception to market, which can last anywhere from 10 to 15 years and costs approximately US$1 billion to US$1.5 billion," Dr Lowe said.

He said this is particularly burdensome for scientists in developing countries like Jamaica, where resources are limited and the filing and maintenance of patents are very expensive.

The company noted that Dr. Lowe and his colleague scientists – Dr. Joseph Bryant and Dr. Ngeh Toyang from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, as well as Dr. Charah Watson of Bio-Tech R&D — are particularly encouraged by the news that their work has been regarded as "exceptionally outstanding".

"The team has published 17 original peer reviewed articles in renowned scientific journals as at the end of 2014. Since then, a number of new manuscripts have been completed and are awaiting review and publication.

"The publications for 2015 are expected to far exceed those of 2014 and will help to make the Jamaican scientific endeavours outstanding."

The Bio-Tech R&D Institute, in collaboration with the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is primarily focused on cancer research, as well as diabetes and HIV/AIDS.

FRIDAY, MARCH 20, 2015

Fidel Castro: Venezuela ready to confront US on sanctions

HAVANA, Cuba (AFP) – Cuba's Fidel Castro warned Tuesday that Venezuela was prepared to confront US "threats and impositions," and said Washington could no longer count on the Venezuelan military to do its bidding.

Venezuela "will never allow a return to the shameful pre-revolutionary past," Castro said in a letter to Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro published in Cuba's state-run media.

Castro's letter comes just two days after Maduro gained decree-making powers in matters of security that the opposition fears will be used to crack down on dissent.

The confrontation with Washington follows the imposition of US sanctions March 9 on seven Venezuelan officials that the United States alleges have been involved in human rights abuses against opponents of the leftist regime in Caracas.

The measure signed by US President Barack Obama cites Venezuela as "an extraordinary threat to the national security" of the United States, which Caracas in turn has interpreted as a US threat.

Venezuela's foreign ministry took out a full page ad in Tuesday editions of the New York Times demanding that Obama abolish his executive order and "immediately cease hostile actions against Venezuelan people and democracy."

The dispute has shadowed, but not derailed, US-Cuban negotiations on restoring diplomatic ties severed in 1961, agreed in December by Obama and Cuba's President Raul Castro, Fidel's brother.

The 88-year-old Fidel resigned as president in 2006 for health reasons but retains enormous influence as the leader of Cuba's 1959 revolution. He was particularly close to the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who provided Havana with a steady supply of cut-rate oil and brought in thousands of Cuban advisers.

Fidel maintained in the letter to Maduro, Chavez's successor, that Venezuela has always been prepared "to argue in a peaceful and civilized manner with the United States, but will never accept threats and impositions by that country." He praised the "attitude" of the Venezuelan people and the "exemplary discipline and spirit" of the country's armed forces in the face of the US sanctions.

"No matter what the imperialism of the United States may do, it will never be able to count on them (the armed forces) to do what it had done for so many years," he said.

"Today, Venezuela counts on the best equipped soldiers and officers in Latin America," he said.


Impact of decline in oil prices on Caribbean

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Mar 18, (CMC) – A senior official of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says the impact of the drop in oil prices globally will affect member countries of the PetroCaribe grouping differently even though Haiti could be among those most affected.

Adrienne Cheasty, the Deputy Director in the Western Hemisphere Department of the IMF, said if PetroCaribe were to cease, the impact would differ across member countries.

"Governments receiving large flows and without alternative financing sources, like in Nicaragua and Haiti, would be most affected, although less so than they would have been in a world of higher oil prices."

She said governments that have built buffers, like Guyana, or that have alternative financing sources, like the Dominican Republic and Jamaica should be affected less.

"Belize would be particularly affected as the lower oil prices negatively impact the value of its exports of crude oil," Cheasty said, noting that so far, Venezuela has assured PetroCaribe members that the aid will continue.

PetroCaribe is an oil alliance of many Caribbean states with Venezuela to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment. The payment system allows for the purchase of oil at market value for five to 50 per cent up front with a grace period of one or two years with the remainder being paid through a 17-25 year financing agreement.

Cheasty, whose publications focus on fiscal deficit measurement, fiscal-financial issues, and natural resource management, said the lost income from the oil price drop for Venezuela has caused analysts to question whether PetroCaribe support will continue.

She said the oil price drop will impact the public and private sectors differently. Oil prices have dropped to below US$50 a barrel from a high of over US$100 a barrel in June last year.


US President to meet CARICOM leaders

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Mar 17, (CMC) – United States President Barack Obama will meet with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders here on April 9, Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller announced Tuesday. Obama will meet with regional leaders prior to his arrival in Panama for the Summit of the Americas.

It will be his second meeting with CARICOM leaders following his meeting in Trinidad during the Summit of the Americas six years ago.

"As a member of the hemispheric family of nations…during this historic visit, Jamaica will also host an encounter between President Obama and the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community for discussions on issues on the CARICOM/USA including security and trade.

"Heads of Government will also exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest. As is the regional interest the CARICOM/US summit will be co-chaired by the US president and the current Chairman of CARICOM Perry Christie, prime minister of the Bahamas," she added.

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness in an immediate response said the Opposition was extremely happy to know that a serving US President would be visiting Jamaica.

"The Opposition will play its role when President Obama visits Jamaica and would like to place on record our appreciation for the chill in relations between the United States and Cuba. We the Opposition have always stated that the economic embargo against Cuba should be lifted. We welcome President Obama to Jamaica," Holness said.

Prime Minister Simpson Miller said her administration "is delighted that President Obama will be visiting Jamaica" making it the "second time since our Independence that a sitting US President will be visiting Jamaica.

"We view the President's upcoming visit as an affirmation of the strong ties of friendship and cooperation that have united our two peoples for centuries.

"We are confident that through fruitful dialogue and exchanges during the visit we will succeed in further strengthening the close relations that exist at the bilateral level between Jamaica and the USA, and between the USA and CARICOM," she added.


OAS urges Caribbean to 'decisively' combat corruption, defend democracy

WASHINGTON (CMC) – The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, has called on Caribbean countries to "decisively" combat corruption and defend democracy.

Insulza urged regional governments to "stand strong against the scourge of corruption," saying that "governments and public authorities have the obligation and the legal mandate to be accountable for their actions, and citizens have the right to demand detailed accounts of them.

The OAS leader said that this "requires, of course, strong institutions and clear rules, because an issue as sensitive as corruption can always be used by demagogues to harm democracy.

"To clearly define to whom one is responsible and to whom one is accountable is a central element in this task."

He said there is clarity in which areas of transparency and accountability need to be strengthened based on strong institutions.

Addressing the opening session of the 25th Session of the Committee of Experts of the Follow-up Mechanism for the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption (MESICIC) on Monday, Insulza said "our governments are making efforts to address this responsibility," but warned that "if we are to actually strengthen democracy in our Hemisphere, the crucial problem of corruption and the improper influence of money in politics must be addressed much more decisively".

The OAS Secretary General added, however, that "we know the state is not the only place where corruption can take place, because the private sector is also a source of, a stage for and a victim of it, as shown by corporate scandals in recent years in our region and beyond."

Insulza said allegations of corruption have increased the separation and distrust of citizens toward politics and, at the same time, have weakened democratic systems.

MONDAY, MARCH 16, 2015

Top general says Islamic State could infiltrate US through Caribbean

WASHINGTON, (CMC) — A top United States military general says the militant group Islamic State (IS) could infiltrate the US through the Caribbean and South America. Marine General John F Kelly, chief of the Miami-based US Southern Command, known as SOUTHCOM, told the US Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday that about 100 people have joined the militant group from the region.

He said foreign fighters have gone to Syria from Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean, and Suriname and Venezuela in South America.

He said human smuggling networks are in place that could permit them to infiltrate the US if and when they return.

Kelly, who oversees US military operations in Central and South America and the Caribbean, said the networks are "so efficient that if a terrorist or almost anyone wants to get into our country, they just pay the fare.

"No one checks their passports... they don't go through metal detectors. No one cares why they're coming. They just ride this network," he said.

Over 15,000 foreign fighters have poured into the Middle East to join the Islamic State, travelling primarily to Syria.

Kelly said that while the number of fighters coming from the region is relatively small, Caribbean and other countries don't have the capability to monitor those returning.

"I would suspect that while they're in Syria, they'll get good at killing, and they'll pick up some real job skills in terms of explosives and beheadings and things like that.

"Everyone is concerned, of course, if they come home because if they go over radicalised, one can expect that they'll come back at least that radicalised, but with really good job skills."

Kelly said the freedom of travel in Central and South America enables radicals to move from the region, through the Isthmus of Panama, into the United States.

FRIDAY, MARCH 13, 2015

Cuba and US re-establish direct telephone links for the first time in 15 years

HAVANA, Cuba, Mar. 12, (CMC) – For the first time in 15 years, Cuba and the United States have re-established direct telephone links. The company, Etecsa, said initially the link would only be for phone calls. Telephone calls have until now passed through a third country, making them very expensive.

It is the first agreement signed by the two countries since the announcement last December that the two states would renew diplomatic ties.

Americans and Cubans will now be able to make direct calls to each other's countries.

"The re-establishment of direct communications between the United States and Cuba contributes to providing better infrastructure and better communications quality between the people and our two countries," Etecsa said.

Etecsa's American counterpart, New Jersey based telecommunication firm IDT Domestic Telecom, said: "Ultimately, the agreement will make it easier and more affordable for our customers to call friends and family in Cuba."

According to the Miami Herald newspaper, the two companies were in talks to restart international long-distance traffic between the two countries before the announcement in December.


Centuries-old DNA helps identify specific origins of slave skeletons found in Caribbean

(Stanford.edu) A newly developed genetic technique enabled researchers to sequence DNA from the teeth of 300-year-old skeletons, helping to pinpoint where in Africa three slaves had likely lived before being captured.

ore than 300 years ago, three African-born slaves died on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin. No written records memorialized their fate, and their names and precise ethnic background remained a mystery. For centuries, their skeletons were subjected to the hot, wet weather of the tropical island until they were unearthed in 2010 during a construction project in the Zoutsteeg area of the capital city of Philipsburg.

Now researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of Copenhagen have extracted and sequenced tiny bits of DNA remaining in the skeletons' teeth. From this data, they were able to determine where in Africa the individuals likely lived before they were captured and enslaved.

The research marks the first time that scientists have been able to use such old, poorly preserved DNA to identify with high specificity the ethnic origins of long-dead individuals. The finding paves the way for a greater understanding of the patterns of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and may transform the general practice of genealogical and historical research.


World Bank report calls for breaking cycle of poverty in the Caribbean

LIMA, Peru (CMC) — A new report by the World Bank is calling on Caribbean countries to rethink their policies in order to break the cycle of chronic poverty in the region. The report entitled "Left Behind, Chronic Poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean", takes a closer look at the region's entrenched poor, who and where they are, and how policies and thinking will need to change in order to more effectively assist them.

The report says that one out of every five people in Latin America and the Caribbean, or around 130 million, have never known anything but poverty, subsisting on less than four US dollars daily throughout their lives.

"These are the region's chronically poor, who have remained so despite unprecedented inroads against poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean since the turn of the century. Their situation is becoming more precarious as the economic boom that significantly contributed to a reduction poverty dwindles."

The report states that regional Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth has slowed from about six per cent in 2010 to an estimated 0.8 per cent last year.

"This contraction will likely take away one of the biggest drivers behind the strong reduction in poverty -- an improved job market," the reported said.

World Bank Vice-President for Latin America and the Caribbean Jorge Familiar said poverty exists and persists due to constraints within and without the households, "everything from lack of appropriate skills and motivation to the lack of basic services such as clean water".


Online travel sites report rise in demand for Cuba

NEW YORK, United States, Tuesday March 10, – Music moguls Jay-Z and Beyonce have been there, so have hotel heiress Paris Hilton and talk-show host Conan O'Brian. Now it seems John Public wants to jump on the bandwagon as travel sites report a surge in interest for trips to Cuba.

The development is one of the latest offshoots of improved United States-Cuba relations since the announcement in December by US President President Barack Obama and Cuba President Raul Castro of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Cheapflights.com noticed a spike in interest in Cuba immediately after President Obama announced an easing of travel and trade restrictions.

Indeed, for a few days after the December announcement, Cuba was the fourth most searched site for Caribbean travel on Cheapflights.com, the company said in a press release.

Its popularity surged again in mid-January, after the Obama administration released details about new trade and travel regulations, which included expanding to 12 the categories of Americans who could visit the island.

It went on to jump to number four in the most searched Caribbean destinations, behind Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, and has remained near the top since then, according to Cheapflights.com.

"There's an ongoing and growing interest in Cuba," Emily Fisher, head of North American Communications for Cheapflights.com, told Fox News Latino. "The people who are interested in going are interested in getting a snapshot of Cuba before it changes.

"It's like friends of mine who went to East Berlin when the wall first came down, before it became integrated with the rest of the world, when it was untouched, unwestern culture, with no chain restaurants," Fisher said.


IDB calls for gender equality in the Caribbean

WASHINGTON, Mar. 8, (CMC) – President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Luis Alberto Moreno, in his message to mark International Women's Day, has called for gender equality in the Caribbean and Latin America.

On this International Women's Day, we reaffirm our commitment to the advancement of women and the achievement of more prosperous and egalitarian societies," said Moreno in a statement.

He said the advancement of women carries with it a promise of progress for all of society.

"Equality at home, in access to education and health, in the job and financial markets and in participation in civic and political life contributes to improving social well-being and economic development".

He said this promise is becoming a reality in Latin America and the Caribbean, noting that the growth in the income of women between 2000 and 2010 translated into a drop of 30 percent in extreme poverty.

The IDB president said women account for 30 to 60 percent of the household income in the region.

"This has been possible thanks to their growing participation in the labor force, which rose from 48.8 percent in 2000 to 53.8 percent in 2012 and which surely will continue to rise," he said.


Suriname abolishes death penalty

By Marvin Hokstam PARAMARIBO, Suriname, Mar 6, (CMC) – The National Assembly has approved legislation formally abolishing the death penalty in the Dutch-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country. But the legislators raised the highest prison term limits from 30 to 50 years in what is seen as a compromise to amending the Criminal code.

Parliament also scrapped conditional release for people convicted of capital crimes. Convicts doing time for murder, manslaughter, sexual offences or major drug crimes are now no longer eligible for release after serving three quarters of their sentences.

Justice Minister Edward Belfort had initially suggested that that maximum jail sentence be increased to 30 years, but parliamentarians deemed it necessary to send an even stronger signal to criminals.

Crime has been on the rise and parliamentarians argued that criminals were exhibiting almost sadistic behaviour, often leaving victims dead or gravely injured.

They favoured hiking the maximum jail sentence instead to 50 years, "for crimes that would otherwise be punished with the death penalty," the National Assembly said in a statement.

"The punishments for major crimes have been increase. That is a clear signal," said Ruth Wijdenbosch, the Vice Chair of the National Assembly said at the end of the meeting.

She was among the parliamentarians who worked to have the death penalty removed from the criminal code.

Suriname has not implemented the death penalty since 1927, but the capital punishment remained included in the country's Criminal Code.


Cuba's designation as terrorism sponsor snags negotiations with US

WASHINGTON D.C., United States, (CMC) – Cuba's spot on the American list of states that sponsor terrorism has emerged as a major sticking point in efforts to restore diplomatic ties with the United States and reopen embassies that have been closed for nearly five decades.

This was revealed on Friday during a meeting of Cuban and American officials for a second round of talks aimed at pursuing the pledge by the US to restore diplomatic relations.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said removing Cuba from the list was not part of the negotiations but, instead, an evaluation that the department must make based on congressionally-mandated criteria.

He said the department must determine whether Cuba, in the last six months, has been engaged in supporting international terrorist acts.

"That evaluation will be made appropriately, and nothing will be done with respect to the list until the evaluation is completed," Kerry told reporters, without indicating how long that would take.

At the same time, Cuban officials said they could not envision opening a formal embassy in the United States while their country remains on the terror list. The only other countries listed are Iran, Sudan and Syria.

"It would be a contradiction, the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, if Cuba still remains on the list of countries sponsoring international terrorism," Gustavo Machin, deputy director of American affairs at the Cuba Foreign Ministry, told reporters on Wednesday in Havana.

But after Friday's talks, Josefina Vidal, a senior Cuban foreign ministry official, told reporters that removing Cuba from the terrorism list was not a prerequisite for diplomatic ties.

In December, US President Barak Obama announced that Cuba's terror designation would be reviewed.


Jamaica biggest exporter of marijuana in Caribbean and Central America

LONDON, Mar 4, (CMC) – A report by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has found that Jamaica remains the largest illicit producer and exporter of cannabis herb in Central America and the Caribbean.

The INCB 2014 report released here, showed that the island accounts for approximately one third of cannabis herb produced in the Caribbean.

It said that increased production of the drug has been noted in other countries, in particular Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

"Jamaica has also become a hub for the trafficking of cocaine, owing to the displacement of trafficking routes as a result of the strengthening of drug trafficking countermeasures in Latin America," the report stated, noting that the problem is compounded by the "fact that Jamaican criminal groups are using the elaborate networks originally established to traffic cannabis and cocaine as well.

The report, which examines the global trade in illegal drugs, noted that in Jamaica, drug trafficking takes place at airports through drug couriers, baggage and air freight and at seaports via containers, cargo vessels, underwater canisters attached to ship hulls, shipping vessels and speedboats.

"Illicit drugs are traded for money, guns and other goods, and much of the proceeds are used to foster criminal activities. The ports of Kingston and Montego Bay, which are used for the bulk movement of containerized shipments of cannabis herb and cocaine to Europe and North America, continue to experience serious issues involving corruption, violence, intimidation and the circumvention of legal controls".

The INCB said that in addition, illicit drugs are often attached to the bottom of shipping vessels destined for Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.

It noted that in 2013, Jamaica had the Caribbean's second-highest reported murder rate, behind the much smaller Saint Kitts and Nevis, with 1,197 homicides, up nine per cent from 1,099 in 2012.

In 2013, the Jamaica government eradicated 247 hectares of cannabis plant, compared with 711 hectares the previous year.

"The total area of cannabis plant cultivation in Jamaica was estimated at 15,000 hectares, out of total arable land of approximately 120,000 hectares. Statistics indicate that 30,900 kg of cannabis were seized in 2013, compared with 66,832 kg in 2012.


Caribbean observes World Birth Defects Day

WASHINGTON (CMC) – The Caribbean Tuesday joined the international community in observing World Birth Defects Day with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) noting that congenital anomalies, or birth defects, are the second-leading cause of death in children under five in the region.

PAHO said that combined with prematurity, asphyxia and sepsis, birth defects account for 44 per cent of deaths among children. Globally, birth defects affect one in 33 babies and cause 3.2 million disabilities each year.

"The commemoration of this day aims to raise awareness about this common, costly and challenging problem but also to foster the development and implementation of prevention programs and to expand healthcare services for all people with birth defects," said Suzanne Serruya, Director of PAHO's Latin American Center for Perinatology (CLAP).

PAHO said congenital anomalies can have genetic, infectious or environmental origins, although in most cases it is difficult to identify a cause.

It said the most common serious birth disorders are heart and neural tube defects and Down syndrome.

Each year, an estimated 270,000 newborn babies die in the first 28 days of life from congenital anomalies, which are the fourth-leading cause of neonatal deaths after complications of premature delivery, neonatal infections and complications of childbirth, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data.

For babies who survive and live with these conditions, birth defects increase their risk of long-term disabilities, which greatly impact the individuals affected, their families, health systems and society, PAHO said.

It said many birth defects can be prevented or treated. Sufficient folic acid and iodine consumption during pregnancy, vaccination against rubella, which can be transmitted to children during pregnancy, and proper prenatal care are all key prevention measures.

"Our vision is for every child to be born with the best health possible and with the potential for a full and productive life."


Haiti says Ebola measures still in effect

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) – Health authorities here say that the international guidelines regarding the prevention of the Ebola virus remain in effect and that people who would have travelled to countries with the deadly virus "should not try to get into Haiti before a minimum period of 21 days after the departure from the affected country".

The Ministry of Public Health and Population said it was reiterating the need to protect the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country from the virus finding its way here.

"After receiving international guidelines both from the WHO IOPS and the US Disease Prevention Control Centers of America, declaring Mali free of Ebola, Haiti has decided to exclude these destinations from the list of countries at risk," the Ministry of Public Health and Population said.

It said however, given the particular vulnerability of Haiti, the previous recommendations contained in the World Health Organization (WHO) "are maintained despite the considerable progress made to contain the disease in the remaining affected countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea-Conakry, except in cases of absolute necessity.

"All persons who have travelled to these countries cannot and should not try to get in Haiti before a minimum period of 21 days after the departure of or of affected country (ies).

"The Ministry of Interior will ensure that the 21-day incubation period is scrupulously respected. The authorities present at ports of entry must ensure that the instructions regarding screening of passengers are recalled to the relevant services."

Ebola has caused more than 7,000 deaths in West Africa and several Caribbean countries have instituted travel bans on nationals from countries in those areas.


Several Caribbean nationals caught trying to enter US illegally

MIAMI, Feb 27, (CMC) - The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency says it has apprehended 10 Caribbean migrants in the waters off Miami. CBP said that the migrants, whose nationalities were not identified, were nabbed after agents deployed warning shots and disabling fire to successfully interdict a vessel earlier this week.

It said law enforcement authorities had detected and tracked a suspicious vessel travelling westbound from the Bahamas without navigational lights.

"Training, skill and commitment of our agents allowed us to safely interdict these migrants attempting to enter the country illegally. Day and night we stand guard against illicit trafficking of people and contraband bound for the United States," CBP said in a statement.


CARICOM leaders gather in The Bahamas

NASSAU, Bahamas, (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders open their two-day inter-sessional summit here on Thursday discussing ways of leveraging the region's human, cultural and natural assets for the socio-economic development of the 15-member grouping.

Key discussion areas at the two-day 26th Inter-sessional Meeting also include issues related to Reparations for Native Genocide and Slavery, and the Marijuana Commission.

The Meeting will open tomorrow morning at the Melia Nassau Beach Resort, with addresses by CARICOM Chairman Rt. Hon. Perry Christie, Prime Minister of The Bahamas, immediate past Chairman, the Hon. Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, and CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.

The Ceremony, which begins at 9:30 Bahamian time (10:30 Eastern Time) will be streamed live on the ZNS TV Bahamas website http://www.znsbahamas.com/ and on the CARICOM Today newsblog www.today.caricom.org


Major regional conference on Chikungunya virus

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Feb 25 (CMC) – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) says it will host a three day conference focusing on the Chikungunya virus and other mosquito borne diseases.

The March 3-5 conference is being held under the theme "Chikungunya in the Caribbean: Meeting Today's Challenge and Preparing for the Future".

CARPHA said the consultation will bring together international experts representing different fields of activity related to Chikungunya and other mosquito-borne diseases.

CARPHA Executive Director, Dr C. James Hospedales, said the aim of the meeting is to support the Caribbean in its response to the Chikungunya epidemic and the growing challenge to health, social and economic systems.

"The meeting also provides a unique opportunity to renew efforts to position mosquito-borne diseases as a high priority in the public health agenda, and examine the potential for public-private partnerships, as government alone cannot solve the problem," he added.

CARPHA has said the emergence of the Chikungunya virus in the Caribbean in 2013, has led to more than 800,000 suspected cases in the Caribbean and Latin America to date.


OECS health ministers discuss region's readiness for diseases

CASTRIES, St Lucia, Feb 24, (CMC) – Health ministers and officials from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Tuesday met to discuss the status of the nine-member grouping regarding the deadly Eboa virus and other heath issues.

The meeting, via video – conference, discussed major issues such as the region's readiness regarding compliance with the International Health Regulations (IHR) which was implemented by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2005.

They also spoke about plans for their participation of OECS member states in the World Health Assembly in Geneva in May 2015.

OECS Director General Dr Didacus Jules said it is critical for OECS members states to comply with the IHR regulations, a convention to which they are signatory to.

"Compliance with the IHR would be the single most important thing we can do in order to protect ourselves internationally, and in order to obtain required assistance from the international community should a crisis rear its head," Jules said.

He said if the region is not in compliance, while people may act to contain whatever emergency which may arise, the region will still be blamed for not doing enough to protect its own interest.

In response to the increase in international travel and trade, and emergence an reemergence of international disease threats and other health risks, 196 countries agreed to implement the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR).

The purpose of the IHR is to prevent, protect against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease, in ways that are commensurate with and restricted to public health risks, and which avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade.


President Maduro to visit Trinidad for energy talks

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, February 23, 2014, (CMC) – The future of the Petrocaribe initiative is expected to be high on the agenda during bi-lateral talks between Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine and Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar on Tuesday.

According a report in the Trinidad Guardian newspaper, Maduro is scheduled to arrive here on Tuesday morning. Venezuela's Energy Minister Rafel Ramirez reportedly arrived on Friday in preparation for Maduro's visit.

During that meeting Maduro and Ramnarine are also expected to hammer out and sign a bilateral energy agreement.

The Venezuelan president is scheduled to depart on Tuesday evening.

It is understood that Maduro's visit relates to talks surrounding long-gestating arrangements about the Loran-Manatee natural gas field, which straddles the Trinidad and Tobago/Venezuela maritime boundary.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said Ramierez was scheduled to visit the twin island republic for talks on how to exploit natural gas reserves.

The discussions had their genesis under the former People's National Movement (PNM) government and were continued by the incumbent People's Partnership administration.

At the recent Caribbean Energy Summit in Washington D.C., the Prime Minister discussed Loran-Manatee with Maduro , she also proposed a US$1 billion Caribbean Energy Thematic Fund to encourage growth in the region's energy sector.


Exxon Mobil to begin exploratory drilling offshore Guyana

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Thursday February 19, 2015, (CMC) – Exxon Mobil says plans are in place to start exploratory drilling next month. In a release on Thursday, it was disclosed that the Minister of Natural Resources Robert Persaud, met with Chuck Calavan, ExxonMobil Vice President of US and Latin America and Jeff Simon, Country Manager, ESSO.

During the meeting, Persaud was updated on the deployment of the Company's oil rig (Deep Water Champion) which will depart from Louisiana, in the United States on Thursday for the Stabroek Block offshore Guyana where it is expected to start drilling in mid-March.

According to Persaud, the Cabinet recently approved a request from ESSO for a geological and geophysical survey in the form of 3D seismic survey within offshore Guyana.

A permit has been granted to CGG Service (UK) Limited to undertake this survey.

The release said he also made reference to the Oil and Gas Policy which will give way to a modern oil and gas development framework. This is being done with support from the Commonwealth Secretariat and other partners.


Caribbean to benefit from new ACP study

BRUSSELS, Feb 16, (CMC) – Caribbean countries are to benefit from a disaster preparedness study launched by the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group that offers a comprehensive view of the various risks faced by member countries, as well as valuable efforts to reduce them.

The ACP Compendium of Risk Knowledge, financed by the 10th European Development Fund under the Intra-ACP Cooperation envelope for Disaster Risk Reduction, show that disaster risk in ACP countries is considerably higher than in other regions.

The study found that 12 countries from Sub-Saharan Africa and one from the Caribbean were amongst the 20 most-at-risk from disasters in the world.

The report also notes that over a long period of time, ACP countries on average will lose US$6.9 billion annually from disasters, representing 2.3 per cent of their total gross domestic product (GDP).

"This compendium is telling us that disaster risk management is not the same thing as disaster management. While countries in the ACP have had good experience in managing disaster events in the past, it is now time that we start to proactively reduce the underlying drivers of these risks, to stem this growth of human and economic losses.

"I believe that political leaders, policy makers and practitioners should use this compendium to understand their risks so that they can judge wisely how best to address them," said ACP Secretary General Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni.

Head of Unit at the European Commission's Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, Susanne Mallaum, said the study helps in a practical manner to understand the real nature of risks that countries in the ACP regions face.

" Reducing disaster risks is at the heart of what we need to do to build the resilience of vulnerable populations, promote sustainable development and address climate change," said Mallaum,

Faced with these growing risks, the report also highlights innovative actions by ACP member countries and communities to reduce these risks, and the benefits of this proactive approach to managing risks, instead of managing disaster events.

President of the Jerry Town Farmers' Association in Jamaica, Veronica Gordon, said "in our view it is better to invest in risk reduction than disaster recovery".

The report, co-authored by Lezlie C. Morinière and Luis Sanchez Zimmerman, uses cutting edge science and case studies to map overall risk in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands.


UN urges stepped-up measles surveillance in Caribbean

UNITED NATIONS (CMC) — The United Nations says its health agency has called for "stepped-up" surveillance to prevent the spread of measles in the Americas, including the Caribbean. On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the recent outbreaks of measles -- one of the leading causes of deaths among young children — in the United States and Brazil suggested that immunisation rates in some areas have dropped below levels needed to prevent the spread of imported cases into the Americas.

The WHO and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) have both reported that there were 147 confirmed measles cases in four countries of the Americas this year, as of February 8.

"Of that total, 121 cases were in the United States, linked primarily to an outbreak that began at Disneyland in California last December," said the PAHO/WHO statement. The statement said that a single case in Mexico was also tied to that outbreak. Of the remaining cases, 21 were in Brazil and four were in Canada.

"Thanks to high levels of immunisation, the Americas have been on track for more than a decade to be formally declared free of measles," said Dr Cuauhtemoc Ruiz, head of PAHO/WHO's immunisation programme. "Maintaining high levels of vaccine coverage is key to preventing and halting outbreaks and to protect our populations from the constant threat of imported cases."

Measles had been considered eliminated from the Americas since 2002, due to the absence of endemic transmission of the disease as the result of the region's success in achieving high levels of immunisation, the UN said.

Now, measles elimination "is facing major challenges, with several ongoing importation of measles in some countries," said PAHO/WHO in an epidemiological alert distributed Tuesday to member countries across the region.

The alert urges countries to strengthen measles surveillance activities and to "take appropriate measures to protect residents in the Americas against measles and rubella".


World "dangerously unprepared" for pandemics warns bank chief

WASHINGTON D.C., United States, Wednesday February 11, 2015 – World Bank president Jim Yong Kim says the world is "dangerously unprepared" for future pandemics and lessons need to be learned from the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

Jim Yong Kim, speaking in Washington, said it was vital that governments, corporations, aid agencies and insurance companies worked together to prepare for future outbreaks.

He said they needed to learn lessons from the Ebola crisis.

More than 8,500 people have died, most in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

"The Ebola outbreak has been devastating in terms of lives lost and the loss of economic growth," Mr Kim told an audience at Georgetown University.

"We need to make sure that we get to zero cases in this Ebola outbreak. At the same time, we need to prepare for future pandemics that could become far more deadly and infectious than what we have seen so far with Ebola. We must learn the lessons from the Ebola outbreak because there is no doubt we will be faced with other pandemics in the years to come."

Mr Kim said the World Bank Group had been working with the World Health Organisation (WHO), other UN agencies, academics, insurance company officials and others to work on a concept of developing a financial "pandemic facility".


Inequality, Stigma, Discrimination Drive HIV Epidemic In Caribbean

ST. JOHN'S, Antigua, Feb 10 2015 (IPS) - At 49 years old, Edison Liburd has established himself as one of Antigua and Barbuda's most recognisable artists. But Liburd was not always in the spotlight. In fact, you could say he was a man in hiding.

"I have been infected with the HIV virus for about 24 years. I got my first HIV test done in February of 1993 at the Allen Pavilion Hospital in Manhattan New York," Liburd told IPS. "I can remember that day vividly. I felt like the earth had been removed from beneath me when I was handed the results of the test."

HIV/AIDS first emerged in the 1980s, and now, more than three decades later, stigma associated with the disease has persisted. Liburd pointed to that sigma as the main reason why he concealed his HIV status for as long as he did.

"I hid my status for years from family. I told a few friends, but most people who I knew did not know anything about my health condition. It was fear of being ostracised that kept me from disclosing my status," he said.

"In Antigua, HIV infected individuals still have to face job insecurity – first to be fired and last to be hired. Stigma and discrimination is still high because many still think themselves superior to individuals who are infected.

"Somehow they think themselves better than, but I believe that it is when infected individuals become empowered by taking hold of their health and indispensable to nation building that this will take a huge bite out of discrimination. People will begin to see you differently," Liburd said.

The Caribbean is one of the most heavily affected regions in the world, with adult HIV prevalence about one percent higher than in any other region outside sub-Saharan Africa.

The HIV pandemic in the Caribbean is fuelled by a range of social and economic inequalities and is sustained by high levels of stigma, discrimination against the most at-risk and marginalised populations and persistent gender inequality, violence and homophobia.


Caribbean tourism has 'best ever' year in 2014

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Feb 10, (CMC) – The Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) is projecting a five per cent increase in tourist arrivals in 2015 after the region recorded its best year ever in 2014. "Last year, we received more visitors than ever before - recording our fifth straight year of growth - and visitors spent more money in the Caribbean than they ever did before.


CARICOM urged to implement unified energy framework

THE 55th Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Energy and the Environment opened yesterday at the CARICOM Secretariat at Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown with Jamaica's Minister for Land, Water, Environment and Climate Change, Robert Pickershill, calling on CARICOM to move closer to implementing a unified energy framework. Believed to have brought together Energy and Environment Ministers in the Caribbean for the first time, the meeting sought to closely examine the real nexus between energy and climate change, and their contributions towards the sustainable development of the Caribbean Community.

Pickershill told the gathering that member states have common development challenges. He noted that one of the major challenges, particularly for energy projects, is the size of Caribbean nations. "Small energy projects are less attractive to blue chip investors and engineering procurement and construction," he contended.

Pickershill said it is important for the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE) to focus on regional approaches to energy projects that can overcome these challenges.

This, he said, would require coordination of policies, even as he underscored the importance for CARICOM to move ever closer to implementing a unifying energy framework, and pursue uniformity and integration regulations so as to enable more transformative energy projects and make the region attractive to the right kind of investments.

Pickershill said there is a possibility the Community could take advantage of the current ebb in energy enterprises and the ongoing prominence of climate change in international forums to invest in energy transformation so as to insulate the region from the inevitable upswing from oil prices that will come.

CCREEE, he said, could be the lead institution in implementing this transformation.

It is well recognised that energy transformation and climate resilience are quite complex matters, he said. For instance, consider the nexus around issues of climate change and water. Climate change affects water availability, water availability is important for the production of energy or hydroelectricity for cooling conventional generation and treatment and distribution of water.


Jamaican teen makes history as country's first female Pan American Champion

TORONTO, Canada, Friday February 6, 2015, (CMC) – A Jamaican teenager has written her name in the history books by becoming the country's first female fencer to be crowned Pan American champion.

Tia Simms-Lymn, who was born in Britain, claimed gold at the Cadet Junior Pan American Fencing Championships underway in Toronto, Canada, where 20 countries from the region are being represented.

Entering the championships ranked number seven in the women's epée, 15-year-old Simms-Lymn beat No. 1 seed Alexanne Verret of Canada 11-9 in an enthralling finale.

She had earlier whipped the 10th-ranked Catalina Leiva of Chile 15-6, before eking out a narrow 15-13 margin over Puerto Rico's Monica Lubczynski in the semi-final.

The Jamaican athlete also has the distinction of now being ranked No. 2 in Great Britain, where she resides with her parents.


Caribbean Airlines registers significant losses in 2014

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, (CMC) – The state-owned Caribbean Airlines (CAL) has recorded losses estimated at US$60 million last year, Finance Minister Larry Howai has said. Howai, speaking in the Senate on Tuesday, said that the accounts for fiscal year ending December 31, 2014 were still being compiled but that the losses took into account the US$38 million grant provided by the government during 2014 which was recorded as equity.

But Howai told legislators that the unaudited accounts showed a loss of US$60 million and that the airline had developed a strategy plan which envisaged it breaking even by 2017.

Howai said the transformation of CAL would take three to four years following a consistent company strategy to achieve identified objectives with major milestones targeted during this period. He said this strategy plan was recently developed and completed towards the end of last year.

Howai dismissed reports that there had been an injection of more than one billion dollars (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) into the airline last year.

Last July, CAL announced that it was projecting a loss of just under TT$100million for its financial year 2013.

Howai said then that the airline has been enduring a difficult period but may now be emerging from it.

According to its financial statements for 2012, the airline, which a few years ago merged its operations with the cash-strapped Air Jamaica, registered losses that moved from US$43.6 million in 2011 to US$83.7 million in 2012.


Cancer second leading cause of death in the Caribbean-CARPHA

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, (CMC) – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says the number of leprosy cases in the Americas, including the Caribbean and Latin America has declined significantly over the last decade.

CARPHA said that among females, breast cancer is the main cause of death, followed by cervical cancer. Prostate cancer is ranked as the leading cause of cancer death among males, with lung cancer being the second main cause of cancer death. Lung cancer also contributes to a high number of deaths among women. Colon cancer is the fifth leading cause of death in the region, with an almost equal number of deaths among males and females.

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable, yet it claims the lives of approximately 2,500 women, CARPHA said.

"There are common modifiable risk factors that contribute to the development of cancers. These include tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol," said CARPHA's Executive Director Dr James Hospedales.

"Research has shown that a reduction in the modifiable risk factors in the population will contribute to a reduction of cancer cases and as a consequence deaths and costs from the disease in our region."

Dr Hospedales said cancer prevention and control is certainly not beyond the Caribbean.

"Collaborative, multisectoral, multidisciplinary action supported by good data is urgently needed to impact this problem in our region. Let us use World Cancer Day 2015 to mark the start of concerted actions in our countries for reducing the scourge of cancer in our Caribbean!"

CARPHA said it has been supporting member states in identifying the risk factors for chronic diseases including cancer in the population and that results from such surveys have shown high levels of tobacco use in some countries especially among males; low levels of physical activity, overwhelming levels of overweight and obesity; high levels of harmful use of alcohol particularly among men and extremely low levels of intake of fruits and vegetable.

It said that the theme for World Cancer Day 2015 is "Not Beyond Us" and that countries are being urged to employ proactive approaches to fight against cancer with a strong message which stresses that solutions do exist and are within our reach to reduce the disease burden and cost impact.


Japan praised for developing Caribbean fisheries sector

BELMOPAN, Belize (CMC) – The executive director of the Belize-based Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), Milton Haughton, has praised Japan for its support to the regional fishing industry over the past 20 years.

"The fact that Japan has been willing and steadfast in contributing so generously to promote sustainable use of marine resources in the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) countries, even in these challenging economic times, is in my opinion, a true reflection of the special bond of friendship and importance that Japan attaches to our relationship," Haughton said.

"Over the past 20 years, Japan has emerged as the major contributor toward the development of the fisheries sector at the bilateral level within the Caribbean.

"Japan has been providing vital and substantial support in upgrading and improving the artisanal fishing fleet; fishing ports and other shore-based infrastructure for storage, processing and marketing of fish; as well as provision of training in gear technology, processing and quality assurance, resource management and conservation of fisheries," Haughton added.

The 20-year partnership between Japan and CARICOM culminated with a series of in-country seminars in six regional countries, which discussed national level interventions supported by Tokyo, with presentations on the successes as well as the challenges.

Over the past 20 years, Caribbean countries have benefitted from the development and expansion of trade in fish and fishery products by CARICOM member states; the construction of port facilities for fishing boats, and fresh fish markets as well as training attachments of fisheries personnel in Japan.


Decline in leprosy cases across the Caribbean

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, (CMC) – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says the number of leprosy cases in the Americas, including the Caribbean and Latin America has declined significantly over the last decade.

The number of new leprosy cases fell by 36.9 per cent between 2003 and 2013—from 52,435 to 33,084.

It said the proportion of people with leprosy declined 54.2 per cent at the regional level during the same period, from 0.72 to 0.33 cases per 10,000 inhabitants.

Leprosy is present in 24 of 35 countries of the Americas, but according to PAHO, all, with the exception of Brazil, have eliminated the disease as public health problem at the national level.

Eighteen countries have also reached that goal at the subnational level that is, in all their states, departments or provinces, said PAHO, adding that five countries still have states, departments or provinces where the rate exceeds 1 case in 10,000.

"The countries have achieved major reductions in leprosy, but protecting these achievements and advancing even more is a major challenge," said Marcos Espinal, Director of PAHO's Department of Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis. "We need to make sure leprosy remains on countries' public health agendas until it is eliminated."

With support from PAHO, countries have been implementing a leprosy strategy that seeks to expand access to early diagnosis by integrating leprosy services into primary health care.

The strategy also includes active case-finding to ensure early detection, and cost-free treatment with multidrug therapy (MDT). MDT is donated by Novartis laboratories, through PAHO, to countries' national leprosy control programs.

Leprosy is a chronic bacterial infection that affects mainly the skin, peripheral nerves, eyes, and mucosa of the upper respiratory tract. Early detection dramatically reduces the risks of deformities and disability in patients.


Economic challenge for Trinidad and Tobago

WASHINGTON, Jan 26, (CMC) – The United States Monday rolled out a new initiative for Caribbean countries to ensure energy security in a move widely seen as distancing the Caribbean from Venezuela for their oil needs.

An IMF delegation, headed by Elie Canetti, advisor in the IMF Western Hemisphere department, has ended a one week visit here.


New oil initiative for Caribbean countries

WASHINGTON, Jan 26, (CMC) – The United States Monday rolled out a new initiative for Caribbean countries to ensure energy security in a move widely seen as distancing the Caribbean from Venezuela for their oil needs.

United States Vice President Joe Biden, addressing the first ever Caribbean Energy Security Summit here, told Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries that there are more options at their disposal now for natural gas delivery than they have ever been.

"You can now purchase gas on the open market from many countries including your neighbor Trinidad and Tobago right now. There is also LNG exporters in the United States with licences to export to any of your countries whether you have a free trade agreement or not. If you want gas go talk to them.

"Meanwhile we are in the midst of a seismic shift in the global economy, the ascendancy of the Americas as the epicenter of the center of energy production in the world.

"We have more oil and gas… than all the states in the world combined. Mexico Canada the United States is the new epicenter of energy," Biden said.

Regional countries have in the past relied on Caracas for oil and petroleum products under the PetroCaribe initiative, an oil alliance of many Caribbean states with Venezuela to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment.

But Biden told the summit an integrated North America working to promote energy security beyond its borders "can be a major asset for the entire hemisphere and its profoundly in the self interest of the United States to see the Caribbean countries succeed as prosperous, secure and energy independent neighbours, not a world apart but an integral part of the hemisphere where every nation is middle class, democratic and secure".

Biden told the summit that it is the first time in history such a vision can be accomplished.


UN delegation calls for free and fair elections in Haiti

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, Jan 26, CMC – The United Nations has welcomed the formation of a new government in Haiti after the country's Parliament became "dysfunctional" due to its failure to hold elections within its constitutional framework.

Additionally, the extraordinary session of the National Assembly, which was convened to vote on the amendments to the Electoral Law, has also not taken place, said a statement issued by Sandra Honoré, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Haiti, and other members of the international community represented in the "Core Group" (Ambassadors of Brazil, Canada, France, Spain, the United States and the European Union, and the Special Representative of the Organization of American States).

"The 'Core Group' is gravely concerned that the Haitian Parliament has become dysfunctional due to the fact that elections have not been held within the constitutional timeframe," a statement released by the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) said.

In this context, the "Core Group" expressed its support to Haiti's President in the exercise of his constitutional duty to ensure the regular functioning of institutions. The "Core Group" said it trusted that the Executive and all the political actors will act with "responsibility and restraint."

The "Core Group" welcomed the Political Accord recently concluded between President Michel Martelly and several opposition parties and called on all parties to join in on consensus in the "best interest" of the nation.

"Recognizing the recent efforts made by the President and other actors to rebuild confidence in the political process, the Core Group further calls on all stakeholders to continue negotiations with the objective of forming, as a matter of urgency, a consensus Government," the Group said.

Haiti must also form a Provisional Electoral Council in the spirit of Article 289 of its national Constitution, and organise, as soon as technically feasible, inclusive, fair, and transparent elections in 2015, in order to consolidate democracy and stability.

Five years ago this week, on 12 January 2010 a devastating earthquake struck Haiti killing more than more than 220,000 people as well as 102 UN staff, delivering a major blow to country's already shaky economy, infrastructure and political landscape.

Originally established on 1 June 2004 by a Security Council resolution, MINUSTAH's mandate was increased after the earthquake to help the immediate recovery, reconstruction and stability efforts. The Council then requested MINUSTAH to further provide logistical support and technical expertise to assist Haiti's Government to continue operations to build the capacity of its rule of law institutions at the national and local level.


International security leaders resume dialogue on Caribbean counterdrug efforts

NASSAU, New Providence, Bahamas -- Strengthening capabilities, interoperability and information sharing to effectively counter transnational organized crime in the Caribbean was the focus again for military and civilian leaders from 21 nations who met in Nassau Jan. 21-22 to discuss the threat and ways to effectively reduce its presence and impact.

This was the fifth consecutive year the topic was the central theme of the Caribbean Nations Security Conference (CANSEC), underscoring the importance of the issue for regional leaders and their commitment to addressing it by working together.

CANSEC XIII, co-hosted by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) and U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), included more than 90 participants representing defense, law enforcement, government, and international organizations from the Caribbean, North America, South America, Central America and Europe.

RBDF commander, Commodore Roderick Bowe, joined U.S. Marine Gen. John Kelly, commander of SOUTHCOM, in co-hosting the two days of briefings, discussion panels and meetings. CANSEC XIII was Kelly's third as host or co-host, and he met privately with defense and security counterparts during the event to hear their ideas, concerns and viewpoints, and discuss bilateral defense cooperation goals.

"When it comes to the security of the Western Hemisphere, it doesn't matter where you're located on the map," Kelly said, sharing his own observations. "If it's a challenge faced by one of us, it's a challenge faced by all of us."

The general commended the countries for the work they've accomplished to support the new regional counter illicit trafficking strategy announced in 2013 by the Caribbean Community Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS) and encouraged them to "build on that momentum."

Officials from Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, France, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, the Netherlands, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, the United Kingdom, and the United States examined illicit trafficking trends impacting the Caribbean, as well as the various programs, activities, mechanisms and systems that support the region's strategy to counter the threat and its effects.


US official visits Cuba to begin talks on embassies and diplomatic ties

HAVANA (AP) — The United States and Cuba on Thursday set a detailed agenda for re-establishing full diplomatic ties, but said it could take weeks just to schedule the next round of talks, a sign of the long road ahead after more than a half-century of tension.

Roberta Jacobson, the top U.S. diplomat for Latin America and the most senior American official to visit the island country in more than three decades, said the second day of wide-ranging talks in Havana were "positive and productive," focusing on the mechanics of converting interest sections in each other's capitals into full-fledged embassies headed by ambassadors.

Josefina Vidal, her Cuban counterpart, also praised the dialogue.

Both officials, however, outlined the obstacles to making a U.S.-Cuban relationship like that of any two other countries.

Jacobson spoke of America's persistent human rights concerns in Cuba. Vidal cited Cuba's status on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and the various financial restrictions imposed on the country as a result of the U.S. trade embargo.

"We have to overcome more than 50 years of a relationship that was not based on confidence or trust," Jacobson told reporters.

She cited "profound differences" separating the two governments and said embassies by themselves would not constitute normalized ties between the U.S. and Cuba, as envisioned by Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro when they announced their historic detente last month.

"It was a first meeting. This is a process," Vidal said. In the next weeks, she said, the U.S. and Cuba will schedule a second round of talks, which may or may not be the time to finalize an agreement.

Issues on Thursday's agenda included ending caps on staff, limits on diplomats' movements and, in the case of the U.S. building, removing guard posts and other Cuban structures along the perimeter.

Deep disagreements remain over matters such as immigration and human rights. In a sign of the difficulty surrounding the rights issue, Jacobson said the U.S. had raised it; Vidal said it had not come up.

The needs for at least one future round of talks could set back U.S. hopes of reopening the embassies before April's Summit of the Americas, which Obama and Castro are expected to attend.

Gustavo Machin, Cuba's deputy chief of North American Affairs, said the meeting took place "in a relaxed atmosphere of respect."

"Look at my face," he said, smiling. "It reflects the spirit in which we've been talking up 'til now."


WHO wants Caribbean countries to take urgent action in addressing non-communicable diseases

GENEVA, Jan 21, (CMC) –The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging Caribbean countries to take urgent action to meet global targets to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

According to a new WHO report, 16 million people die prematurely annually – before the age of 70 – from heart and lung diseases, stroke, cancer and diabetes,

"The global community has the chance to change the course of the NCD epidemic," said WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan in launching the "Global status report on non-communicable diseases 2014" report.

She said that by investing one to three US dollars per person annually, countries can dramatically reduce illness and death from NCDs.

""In 2015, every country needs to set national targets and implement cost-effective actions. If they do not, millions of lives will continue to be lost too soon.

"The global community has the chance to change the course of the NCD epidemic," Chan said.

The report states that most premature NCD deaths are preventable. Of the 38 million lives lost in 2012 to NCDs, 16 million or 42 per cent were premature and avoidable – up from 14.6 million in 2000.

Nearly five years into the global effort to reduce premature deaths from NCDs by 25 per cent by 2025, the report provides a fresh perspective on key lessons learnt

It states premature NCD deaths can be significantly reduced through government policies reducing tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity, and delivering universal health care.

The report calls for more action to be taken to curb the epidemic, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, such as those in the Caribbean, "where deaths due to NCDs are overtaking those from infectious diseases."

The report provides "best buy" or cost-effective, high-impact interventions recommended by WHO, including banning all forms of tobacco advertising, replacing trans fats with polyunsaturated fats, restricting or banning alcohol advertising, preventing heart attacks and strokes, promoting breastfeeding, implementing public awareness programmes on diet and physical activity, and preventing cervical cancer through screening.


Caribbean regionalism in the context of economic challenges

By Peter Richards PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, (CMC) – Former Barbados prime minister Owen Arthur says while the decision in 1989 to transform Caribbean economies into a into a single market and economy was one of the most momentous decisions in the history of the Caribbean "it was a transformation that was never going to be easily achieved".

Delivering the guest lecture at the Institute of International Relations at the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) on Monday, Arthur, said the transformation was therefore going to be more taxing if not attended by clarity of purpose, and the determination to hold to a steady course come what may.

Speaking on the topic "Caribbean Regionalism in the Context of Economic Challenges," Arthur, who at one time had responsibility for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy (CSME) portfolio within the quasi CARICOM cabinet, said the creation of the CSME was intended both to be an agency by which the region created indigenous opportunities for its development and at the same time serve as the principal vehicle by which the regional economy would be integrated into the evolving and dynamic global economy.

"In agreeing to reconstitute itself as a Single Market and Economy the region, for the first time, sought to rest its own development and its relationship with the rest of the world on the embrace of the economic ideology of liberalization.

"In this regard, the creation of a Single Market was to take the form of removal of all of the constraints on the movement within the region of goods, services, labour, capital and the creation of enterprises over centuries," said Arthur, a three-time prime minister who lost office in 2008.

He told his audience that this process was however intended to be undertaken in accordance with particular principles and design features.

"To be precise, in reconstituting itself as a single market, the instruments of integration were to be designed to facilitate deeper, broader and faster liberalisation between individual economies in the

Caribbean than the region would agree to in its bilateral or multilateral agreements and relationships," Arthur said, noting that it also meant that the region had to be prepared to venture into areas for which there was no provision in its previous attempts at integration such as labour mobility.

But he noted that in order to be relevant, the region had to embrace and incorporate into its own programme of integration protocols pertaining to economic disciplines for which they are no multilateral agreements such as Investment.

Arthur said it was also clearly understood that the CSME, which allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour across the 15-member grouping, would or could never appear at any one time as a finite nor finished entity.

"It would have to be made to evolve to give effect to its intended purpose as an indigenous model for economies liberalization, and to ensure that the region's treatment of its own constituent units are always more favourable that its commitments to liberalise under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO) or through its bilateral trade and economic agreements.

"More pertinently, it was intended that the creation of a Single Market was not an end in itself. It was intended largely to create the foundations on which a virtual Single Economy would be erected."

Arthur said that the Single Economy was intended to have as some of its key elements the provision for production integration, the harmonization of economic policies in critical areas, and the bringing about the convergence of the macro-economic policies of the individual economies such as would facilitate the adoption of more advanced forms of integration such as monetary union.

Arthur said the architects of the Single Market had recognized that while CARICOM was initially designed to give effect to economic integration, functional cooperation and the coordination of foreign policy as separate and distinct pillars," the move to create a CSME required that a new and advanced harmony should be established between the various forms of regional integration".

He said it was for this reason that at the CARICOM summit in 2007 regional leaders endorsed the Girvan Plan as the roadmap to the Single Economy, a decision was made to constitute a Regional Task Force on Functional Cooperation to link that subject more closely to the efforts to build the CSME.


T&T government says oil price drop has resulted in $TT7.5 billion loss

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jan 16, (CMC) – The Trinidad and Tobago government has reiterated its position that the drop in oil prices on the global market is not a signal for a sudden change in its economic development policies.

"We have the capacity, we have the will and we have passion to secure our future and we will emerge stronger, together," Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar told business leaders at a meeting here on Thursday night.

Oil prices have dropped significantly from a high of US$104 a barrel in June to less than US$50 a barrel this week.

The government has said that the island has lost approximately $TT7.5 billion as a result of the oil price situation and last Thursday Prime Minister in an address to the nation outlined measures which she said her administration would take to lessen the impact on the local economy.

But it has already promised there would be no job cuts or cuts in social programmes.

A government statement issued after the talks said the prime minister held an "important conversation with the business community" and that "representatives endorsed the approach taken in dealing with the current environment, and expressed their commitment to working with the Government on projects and initiatives to further expand the economy."


Google testing new smartphone project in the Caribbean

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Jan. 15, (CMC) –The global tech giant, Google, will be launching the pilot test of its new smartphone project in Puerto Rico. The 'Project Ara' smartphone is a modular phone that allows users to swap out individual components of the phone, from the camera to the speaker to the lights.

According to Google, the aim is a totally customizable phone that turns the device into a collection of "physical" apps. Project Ara is part of Google's Advanced Technology and Projects Group. The phone will run the Android operating system.


U.S. Vice President Biden to Host Caribbean Energy Security Summit

(whitehouse.gov) Vice President Biden will host the first ever Caribbean Energy Security Summit in Washington, DC on January 26, 2015. The Vice President looks forward to welcoming Caribbean leaders and representatives of the international community to promote a cleaner and more sustainable energy future in the Caribbean through improved energy governance, greater access to finance, and donor coordination.

The Summit will include remarks by the Vice President, an energy security roundtable with heads of government, and meetings and events with government officials, representatives from the private sector, and officials from multilateral institutions. This Summit is a key component of the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative that the Vice President announced in June 2014, and will be hosted by the White House and the State Department in partnership with the Atlantic Council and the Council of the Americas. Further details are forthcoming.


Caribbean warned to be prepared for massive earthquake

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jan 13, (CMC) – The Seismic Research Centre (SRC) of the University of the West Indies (UWI) is warning the region to "move expeditiously" towards building resilience amid predictions of the Caribbean being hit with an earthquake with a magnitude of eight or larger.

"We must develop, legislate and enforce Building Codes using up-to-date seismic hazard maps based on the latest available science. Preparedness measures at the individual levels are insufficient and greater efforts are needed to facilitate self-resilience," the SRC said in a statement as it marked the fifth anniversary of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that ricked Haiti in 2010, killing an estimated 300,000 people.

The SRC said that the earthquake in Haiti "should have been the wakeup call for a fundamental shift in regional mechanisms for coping with seismic hazards".

It said major earthquake disasters around the world have stimulated similar shifts and resulted in greater resilience to seismic hazards in these regions.

"This has not happened in the Caribbean and the region continues to be extremely vulnerable to seismic events," the SRC said, adding "research suggests that the region is capable of generating an earthquake of magnitude 6.0 or larger every 3-5 years.

"Of more concerns, we are long overdue for a magnitude 8.0 earthquake, which has 32 times more energy than the Haiti event. In light of these sobering facts, it is imperative for the region to move expeditiously towards building resilience to such events," it added.

The SRC said that while there have been advances in many areas, "the effectiveness of the implemented strategy from country to country still needs to be measured.

"The need for broad based impact assessments for seismic hazards and risks is now greater than ever with clearly established short term and long term objectives. Every year that passes without the necessary measures being in place is a year closer to a repeat of the Haiti disaster. Now is the time to be ready," the SRC added.


Political crisis marks earthquake anniversary

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, Jan 12, (CMC) – Haiti is Monday marking the fifth anniversary of the powerful earthquake that killed an estimated 300,000 people and left more than a million others homeless with the Organization of American States (OAS) pledging its commitment to the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country rebuild its battered economy and infrastructure.

But even as the government continues to seek assistance from the international community, hundreds of opposition supporters took to the streets Sunday demanding the resignation of President Michel Martelly, who is seeking to resolve a standoff over elections.


Guyana backs India for UN Security Council seat

GANDHINAGAR, Jan. 8, (CMC) – President Donald Ramotar has pledged to support the Government of India in its quest to secure a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Ramotar, who delivered the inaugural address to the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Conference here on Thursday, said India has greater responsibility to support other developing countries and asked New Delhi to play a proactive role in fighting global challenges like climate change.

"India has greater responsibility to support other developing countries. India should play a major role in confronting global challenges like climate change. I want to assure you that my country will support India in securing a permanent seat in UN Security Council," he said, addressing the mega meet of Indian diaspora at Mahatma Mandir.

He shared the dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gujarat Chief Minister Anandi Patel, Governor O P Kohli, Union Ministers Sushma Swaraj and Ravi Shankar Prasad, among others.

tributes to Mahatma Gandhi, Ramotar described him "as the greatest man" of his time and recalled his deep influence on the Guyanese people.

He said 2015 is a historic year as it marks the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi's return to India from South Africa, where he fought for basic rights of his countrymen settled there, and later served as an inspiration in the struggle against apartheid.

Ramotar highlighted the long-standing bilateral ties and lauded the contribution of Indian bilateral ties and lauded the contribution of Indian diaspora in the South American country.

"Indian diaspora is the second largest in the world and it includes political leaders, Prime Ministers, Presidents and CEOs of Fortune-500 companies," he said.


World Bank says Caribbean will benefit from oil price slump

(CMC) Gains from low oil prices can be substantial for developing-country importers if supported by stronger global growth, says a World Bank Group analysis of the oil price decline, contained in the latest edition of Global Economic Prospects.

The decline in oil prices reflects a confluence of factors, including several years of upward surprises in oil supply and downward surprises in demand, receding geopolitical risks in some areas of the world, a significant change in policy objectives of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and appreciation of the U.S. dollar. Although the relative strength of the forces driving the recent plunge in prices remains uncertain, supply related factors appear to have played a dominant role.

Soft oil prices are expected to persist in 2015 and will be accompanied by significant real income shifts from oil-exporting to oil-importing countries. For many oil-importing countries, lower prices contribute to growth and reduce inflationary, external, and fiscal pressures.

However, weak oil prices present significant challenges for major oil-exporting countries, which will be adversely impacted by weakening growth prospects, and fiscal and external positions. If lower oil prices persist, they could also undermine investment in new exploration or development. This would especially put at risk investment in some low-income countries, or in unconventional sources such as shale oil, tar sands, and deep sea oil fields. "For policymakers in oil-importing developing countries, the fall in oil prices provides a window of opportunity to undertake fiscal policy and structural reforms as well as fund social programmes.

In oil-exporting countries, the sharp decline in oil prices is a reminder of significant vulnerabilities inherent in highly concentrated economic activity and the necessity to reinvigorate efforts to diversify over the medium and long term," said Ayhan Kose, Director of Development Prospects at the World Bank. The analysis on oil prices in Global Economic Prospects is complemented by two special features on how trends in global trade and remittance flows are impacting developing countries.

Global trade weak on cyclical and long-term factors Global trade expanded by less than 3.5 percent in 2012 and 2013, well below the pre-crisis average annual rate of seven percent, holding back developing country growth in recent years. Weak demand, mainly in investment but also in consumer demand, is one of the main causes of the deceleration in trade growth.

With high-income countries accounting for some 65 percent of global imports, the lingering weakness of their economies five years after the crisis suggests that weak demand continues to adversely impact the recovery in global trade. However, long-term trends have also slowed trade growth, including the changing relationship between trade and income. Specifically, world trade has become less responsive to changes in global income because of slower expansions of global supply chains and a shift in demand from trade-intensive investment to less trade-intensive private and public consumption.

The analysis finds that these long-term factors affecting trade will also shape the behaviour of trade flows in the years ahead—in particular, that the expected recovery in global growth is not likely to be accompanied by the rapid growth in trade flows observed in the pre-crisis years.


China pledges assistance to region

BEIJING, China, Jan 7, 2015 (CMC) – China says it will work "hand in hand" with Latin American and Caribbean countries to boost the comprehensive and cooperative partnership between Beijing and the region.

In a statement issued ahead of the inaugural Ministerial Meeting of the China-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (China-CELAC), China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi noted that since the turn of the new century, "China and Latin American and Caribbean countries have achieved leapfrog growth in our relations by pursuing common development and intensifying political, economic, cultural and people-to-people exchanges.


Major US black group to host CARICOM reparations summit

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) – A major Black group here says it will host the next summit of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Reparations Commission early this year. The New York-based Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW) said on Saturday that the summit will take place from April 9-12.

The CARICOM Commission is chaired by Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor Designate of the University of the West Indies.

Inspired by the creation of the CARICOM Commission, a National African American Reparations Commission is being established as part of an effort to intensify the Reparations movement in the US, the IBW said.

It said the Commission will be dedicated to the memory of Audley Moore, one of the foremost proponents of Reparations in the history of Africans in America and a mentor to generations of Reparations activists.

IBW said in addition to the CARICOM and African American Commissions, representatives of Reparations movements from Central and South America, Canada and Europe are expected to participate in what is emerging as a Pan African Reparations Summit.

It said the programmes for the Summit will include formal business sessions; a dialogue between leaders of the Caribbean Diaspora in the US and the CARICOM Commission; meetings between the newly-formed African American Commission and the Caribbean Commission; Rallies in Harlem, considered the symbolic Capital of Black America; Brooklyn, home to the largest Caribbean community in the US; and a tribute to Congressman John Conyers, Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus and Sponsor of HR-40, the Reparations Study Bill, which he has introduced in the US Congress since 1989.

The IBW noted that, at the most recent Reparations Braintrust at the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference, Sir Hilary urged participants to declare a "Conyers Decade of Reparatory Justice".

"The tribute to Congressman Conyers will begin that process," said the IBW, adding that there will also be special recognition of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N?COBRA) for "decades of ground-breaking work on the issue".

IBW president Dr. Ron Daniels said that the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) will develop a Reparations Programme similar to the 10 Point Programme that has been adopted by the CARICOM Commission.

"The first step will be to devise an interim programme that NAARC will take to the people in a series of town hall meetings to receive input before adopting the final programme," he said.

"The process of engaging people of African descent across the country, including young people, is incredibly important to strengthening the Reparations movement".

The IBW said Sir Hilary has been "eager to have Reparations Commissions form in various countries to build a global movement for Reparatory Justice".

The IBW said the activities for the CARICOM Reparations visit to the US will conclude with Sir Hilary travelling to Detroit for a Reparations Rally, which will be the climax to the Tribute to Conyers.


CARICOM chair says community should fully implement five-year strategic plan

(CMC) New CARICOM chairman Perry Christie says it's important for the 15-member regional grouping to fully implement the five-year strategic plan that has been endorsed by regional leaders to deepen the integration movement.

Christie, the new chairman of the 15-member grouping, said that the 2015-19 plan "is a bold step that demonstrates our determination to provide the best options for the growth and development of our people.

"This plan is an important part of the Reform Process in our Community and we stand to be judged both by its success and the actions we take in its implementation. In re-positioning our Community, as this plan seeks to do, we will be aiming at making it more resilient to the internal and external factors which hinder our efforts at attaining sustainable development in a rapidly changing world."

Christie, who took over the chairmanship of CARICOM from his Antigua and Barbuda colleague, Gaston Browne, said that there can be no more vivid demonstration of the dynamic nature of the global environment facing the Caribbean face than the recent rapprochement between Cuba and the United States.

"Those of us who have consistently called for an end to the isolation of our sister Caribbean country and, in particular, the cessation of the economic, trade and financial embargo are heartened by the initiatives announced by President Obama and President Castro.

"In my view this rapprochement underscores the urgency of a summit between the American President and the Heads of the Community."

He said that this year also marks the beginning of negotiations for the United Nations Post-2015 Development Agenda which seeks to find a more effective route to the sustainable development of all States.


Caribbean rocked by Chikungunya virus in 2014

By Peter Richards BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Dec 30, (CMC) – Three general elections and continued socio-economic problems may have made the headlines in the Caribbean in 2014, but it was the Chikungunya virus, the mosquito borne disease that really caught the attention of the region over the past 12 months.

In addition, while no cases had been recorded, Caribbean countries were putting in place various measures to deal with the deadly Ebola virus that have killed more than 7,000 people in West Africa and spread also by the same mosquito responsible for the Chikungunya virus.

A crippling mosquito-borne virus with a tongue twisting name, Chikungunya first appeared in the Caribbean towards the end of 2013. But by the end of 2014, every Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country had recorded cases of the virus caused by the aedes aegypti mosquito that causes a dengue-like sickness.

Symptoms include a sudden high fever, severe pain in the wrists, ankles or knuckles, muscle pain, headache, nausea, and rash. Joint pain and stiffness are more common with Chikungunya than with dengue. The symptoms appear between four to seven days after the bite of an infected mosquito.

The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) warned the Caribbean has not yet felt the "full impact" of the disease.

"There is an estimate in excess of 600,000 cases in total, most of those being from the bigger countries like the Dominican Republic and Haiti with 37 deaths in total. So it continues to spread," said CARPHA's executive director Dr. James Hospedales.

Dr. Hospedales said that with a population of 17 million people, the region is still in the early stages of the virus, warning "the full bloom of Chikungunya virus is yet to come.

"I am saying because everybody in this part of the world and there is no resistance to this virus and we have an abundance of the vector and we have a lot of movement. In six months it has moved to all the islands and we can expect further increases in levels of cases because of what has happened elsewhere in the world where in some countries you find a 30 per cent attack rate of the entire population within a year or so."

The situation forced regional leaders to hold a special summit in Trinidad and Tobago in November and at the end of the three hour deliberation, they outlined a series of measures to deal with both the Chikungunya and Ebola viruses.

"Heads of government expressed considerable concern, not just in relation to the possible health impact of the Ebola virus disease (EVD), but also about the disruption a single case could cause in the economic and social life of the region," CARICOM Chairman Gaston Browne, the Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister said afterwards.

Browne said that the leaders had adopted a 10-point plan to deal with Ebola and a four point plan to deal with the Chikungunya virus with CARPHA coordinated the strategy that would have an international input.


Ebola crisis likely to continue throughout 2015

LONDON, England, Monday December 29, 2014 – The Ebola crisis in West Africa is likely to continue until the end of 2015, according to Professor Peter Piot, a leading researcher who helped to discover the deadly virus.

Professor Piot, who recently returned from Sierra Leone, told the BBC World Service's Newsday programme that he was encouraged by progress in that country and by the promise of new anti-viral therapies.

He nevertheless cautioned that vaccines would take time to develop. Piot, who was one of the scientists who discovered the killer disease in 1976, is now Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

He said that although the epidemic has peaked in Liberia and was likely to peak in Sierra Leone in the coming weeks, the outbreak could have a "very long tail and a bumpy tail."

"The Ebola epidemic is still very much there. People are still dying, new cases are being detected," he told the BBC. "We need to be ready for a long effort, a sustained effort [for] probably the rest of 2015."

He nevertheless added that he was impressed by the progress he had witnessed during his recent trip to Sierra Leone.

"Treatment centres have now been established across the country with British help. You don't see any longer the scenes where people are dying in the streets," he said.

Piot also said he was encouraged that, thanks to simple treatments such as intravenous fluids and antibiotics, mortality rates had fallen to as low as one in three.

"Getting it below that will require specific therapies that are now going to be tested," he said, adding that he hoped that within three months it would be clear which anti-viral therapies were effective.

While noting that developing a vaccine would be more complicated, he said it must be done "so that when there is another epidemic or maybe when this epidemic drags on for a long time, that we have that vaccine available."

The current Ebola outbreak, the deadliest ever, has so far killed more than 7,300 people, mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.


Caribbean publication names Mighty Sparrow - "Person of the Year"

NEW YORK, United States, Monday December 29, 2014, (CMC) – A United States-based publication has named calypsonian Slinger Francisco, popularly known as The Mighty Sparrow, as its "Person of the Year."

"Any person, in any part of the world, regardless to sex, age and vocation, can emulate the virtues The Mighty Sparrow exemplified during 2014," said Herman Hall, the Grenadian-born editor, publisher and founder of the Brooklyn, New York-based Everybody's magazine.

"For those reasons, we unabashedly proclaim our readers' selection of The Mighty Sparrow as the '2014 Person of the Year'", he added.

Hall said Sparrow was "overwhelmingly" selected by its readers and social media friends from among "many regional leaders and people of Caribbean heritage in the Diaspora."

He said they included Tiffany Ford, of St. Lucian-Grenadian heritage, elected into municipal government in Toronto, Canada; Rodneyse Bichotte, the first Haitian-American elected to the New York State Assembly; Barbados Leader of the Opposition Mia Ottley; the 2008 and 2014 Formula One Grand Prix World Champion, Lewis Hamilton of the UK, who is of Grenadian heritage, outgoing US Attorney-General Eric Holder, of Barbadian heritage; and Antigua and Barbuda's newly elected Prime Minister Gaston Browne.

"Of all email messages received from Toronto, UK (United Kingdom), Jamaica, Guyana, Boston (Massachusetts) and other places, one name kept appearing often – The Mighty Sparrow," Hall said.

Hall said this "indomitable spirit has been the defining feature of Sparrow's life work, as he continues demonstrating sheer grit and an ability, 'inspired by God' to, 'survive through pain, sorrow and tears,' rendered in one of his hits, 'Survival'.

"Sparrow's timeless message and his health challenges testify to man's will to survive," he added.

The Mighty Sparrow, whose roots are in Gran Roi, a rural fishing village in Grenada, was born there to a poor working class family.

The family migrated to Sparrow's adopted homeland, Trinidad and Tobago, when he was one year old.

At 20, Sparrow emerged as the leading calypsonian in Trinidad and Tobago with his record-breaking hit, "Jean and Dinah."


New York pays tribute to Calypso Rose

By Nelson A. King NEW YORK, Dec 27, (CMC) - Though she was barely able to walk because of gout, Calypso Rose was still able to woo her audience, as Brooklyn paid tribute to the Tobago-born singer who "broke the glass ceiling" in the calypso genre.

"This woman, sometimes I sit and wonder what got that woman to sing calypso in the 1950s and survive," said popular Grenadian-born radio personality Harold Pysadee, one of the Master of Ceremonies at the grand tribute in honour of Calypso Rose, 74, renowned as the "Calypso Queen of the World".


Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Kamla style

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Dec 27, (CMC) – Government ministers have defended the decision to spend thousands of dollars erecting billboards showing Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar wishing the nation "Merry Christmas" even as a non-government organization warned that it showed the "dictatorial" tendencies of the leader of the coalition People's Partnership administration.

Communications Minister Vasant Bharath said the billboards cost taxpayers "somewhere in the region of TT$50,000 to TT$60,000" (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) and would not cause a significant dent in the public purse during this time of belt tightening.


CARICOM secretary general says 2014 was a "milestone" for the 15-member group

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Tuesday December 23, 2014, (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General Irwin La Rocque says 2014 has been a "milestone" for the 15-member regional grouping. In an end of year message released here Monday, La Rocque said that the "milestone" is as a result of the Community's Five Year Strategic Plan being approved by regional leaders at their summit in Antigua in July.

He said the 2015-19 plan seeks to ensure that CARICOM "is in a position to withstand the effects of events such as the global economic and financial crises and provides the way forward for pursuing sustainable growth and development as a region.

"Growth and development are critical factors in providing jobs and BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES," he said, adding that implementation of this plan is a major step in CARICOM's on-going Reform process "as we seek to become more efficient, accountable and above all, increase our responsiveness to the needs of the Community.

"You the people of the region should therefore more readily feel the difference that integration makes in your lives. You will continue to benefit from our collective efforts in health as demonstrated by the Caribbean PUBLIC HEALTH AGENCY (CARPHA).

"We are also placing emphasis on developing our human resources, particularly our youth by taking a thorough look at our education system. The exciting prospect of a SINGLE CARICOM ICT Space which would lower the cost of telephone calls and internet access will be pursued," La Rocque said.

He said these possibilities have only become reality through the region working as one, and more can be achieved with your participation and support.

"The integration movement has never been more important than at this time. Integration is our route to achieving sustainable development and to delivering the quality of life that our people expect and deserve.

"The coming year, therefore, would mark for us in CARICOM, the CONTINUATION of a dynamic period in our determined efforts to create a sustainable, secure and viable Community for all our peoples," La Rocque added.


American indicted for defrauding Caribbean immigrants

NEW YORK, United States, (CMC) – United States law enforcement authorities have indicted a woman who allegedly promised GREEN CARDS and work permits to undocumented CARIBBEAN immigrants. They said Nickya Wittington, also known as Nicky John, 27 has been charged with stealing US$12,850 from the immigrants.

The Brooklyn native was charged after she falsely promised to help an undercover detective obtain the same documents.

"This defendant is accused of preying on some of the most vulnerable members of our society," said Brooklyn District attorney Ken Thompson, adding that the Immigrant Fraud Unit is prosecuting this case so as "to stop such opportunists from TARGETING undocumented individuals".

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement New York special agent, James T. Hayes, said: "this defendant's alleged actions served not only to victimize immigrants attempting to comply with federal laws, they also threatened to undermine confidence in the federal government".

Thompson said Wittington has been arraigned by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on an indictment in which she is charged with first-degree scheme to defraud, third-degree grand larceny, third-degree attempted grand larceny, fourth-degree grand larceny and petit larceny.

She was ordered held on US$5,000 bail and to return to court on February 4, 2015. If convicted of the top count, she faces up to seven years in prison.

ACCORDING to the indictment, from June 10, 2014 to December 9, 2014, Wittington falsely claimed she could obtain green cards and work permits for the alleged victims in exchange for about US$7,000 to US$10,000, and allegedly took DOWN PAYMENTS ranging from US$1,000 to US$6,000 cash to get the process started.

The victims, who were originally from Guyana, Jamaica, Ghana and Liberia, met the defendant through mutual acquaintances, Thompson said.

The defendant was charged after allegedly taking US$3,250 from an undercover detective posing as an undocumented immigrant in exchange for a GREEN CARD.


Private sector objects to terrorist links

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Dec 18, (CMC) – The Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce (TTCIC) has taken issue with a statement made by the Governor of the Central Bank that businesses here should not conduct "business with companies with terrorist links" as the private sector again complain of a shortage of foreign currency here.

Jwala Rambarran, speaking at the launch of the latest Monetary Policy Report at the Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce, south of here earlier this month, said "we've noticed a trend, where businesses make noise for foreign exchange to pay bills for trade-related purposes and actively lobby the authorised dealers and Central Bank for US dollars.


Regional leaders welcome new chapter in US-Cuba relations

By Peter Richards BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Dec 17, (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders Wednesday welcomed the new chapter in diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba with St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves describing the event as one "'of earth shattering proportions".

President Barack Obama announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations as well as an easing in economic and travel restrictions on Cuba, declaring an end to America's "outdated approach" to the communist island in a historic shift that aims to bring an end to a half-century of Cold War enmity.

Obama and the Cuban leader, Raul Castro, made simultaneous announcements in their respective capitals announcing the moves to normalise the diplomatic relations that were broken after Fidel Castro established the first communist state in the Western Hemisphere after leading an overthrow of the military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

Washington imposed a trade and economic embargo on the island following the move by Castro and Caribbean governments joined several international countries in denouncing the move.

Obama said Washington will also open an embassy in Havana in the coming months and the moves on Wednesday were part of a deal that saw the release of American Alan Gross by Cuba and the release of three Cubans jailed in Florida for spying.

Obama hail the move as the "most significant changes in US policy towards Cuba in 50 years".

Prime Minister Gonsalves, who over the years has developed close ties with both Venezuela and Cuba, said while there were still several issues still be to ironed out, "many of the things which President Obama has spoken about…are inside the CUBA-CARICOM communiqué of last week and the ALBA summit of Sunday".

He said he had longed for the day when the "fracturing of the Western Hemisphere would be healed and it appears that there is a dramatic commencement of that healing.

"This is a day of great rejoicing," Gonsalves said, adding that he was now looking forward to the Summit of the Americas in Panama where both Cuba and the United States would be represented by their heads of state.

"It will be wonderful for us to be at the Summit of the Americas and it is almost too good to believe it is true to see the President of the United States and the President of Cuba sitting down in the hemispheric family like that..it is a day in which I look forward to and I hope the good Lord keeps me to see that Situation," Gonsalves told Parliament Wednesday.

He sought an early adjournment of Parliament as he said Kingstown had to be kept abreast of the "event of earth shaking proportions".

Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace said he too was looking forward to " a deepening of that relationship".

St. Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas also welcomed the announcement of improved relations between Cuba and the United States, saying Basseterre joined with governments the world over in long asserting "that the half-century old policy of the United States toward Cuba advanced the interests of neither the United States nor those of the Cuban people.

"The decision of the United States to no longer be the only country on earth dedicated to the isolation of Cuba is therefore a most welcome development in the eyes of the international community. It reflects the determination of the Obama administration to steadfastly and meticulously re-examine and re-cast policies that do not work, and to do so in the interest of advancing global peace and stability. For this, President Obama deserves great praise."

Prime Minister Douglas said that his twin island Federation had benefitted from many years of constructive bilateral relations with Cuba, "and we look forward to witnessing the benefits that are sure to accrue to the Governments and peoples of both the United States and Cuba as a result of this historic decision".

Grenada's Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell said he was elated at the development.


Cuba-United States improving diplomatic relations

WASHINGTON, Dec 17, (CMC) – The United States and Cuba are to start talks to normalise diplomatic ties in a historic shift in relations between the two countries, President Barak Obama announced Wednesday. In a nationwide broadcast, Obama said Washington will also open an embassy in Havana in the coming months.

The moves are part of a deal that saw the release of American Alan Gross by Cuba and includes the release of three Cubans jailed in Florida for spying.

Obama hail the move as the "most significant changes in US policy towards Cuba in 50 years".

Obama and the Cuban leader, Raul Castro, made simultaneous announcements announcing the moves to normalise the diplomatic relations that were broken after Fidel Castro took power in the Caribbean country in 1959.

Washington imposed a trade and economic embargo on the island following the move by Castro.


Warning for Caribbean countries

By Ernie Seon BRUSSELS, Dec 15, (CMC) – The former director general of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Dr. Len Ishmael, says the Caribbean will never achieve the status of economic resilience, as long as the international community insist on graduating it to middle income status at the level of the European Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations.

Ishmael, who is now the OECS Ambassador to Belgium and the European Union, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that European Development Funds (EDF) have been very important to the sub-region having been used as budgetary support at both the national and sub-regional levels.

"In the case of St. Kitts Nevis these funds have been vital through trade windows accompanying measures that seek to cushion the shock with the loss of the sugar market, and in the case of the Windwards, the banana market," she told CMC on the sidelines of the just completed 100th African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Ministerial Summit.

But she said that over time, the islands have been graduated to middle income countries, given the fact the European Union has been using gross domestic product (GDP) per capital to undertake fresh comparative analysis with the rest of the world.

Ishmael told CMC that with that middle income status comes the loss of several privileges, and access to concessionary financing which inevitably makes capital more and more expensive.

As a result, she contends the islands are required to engage in commercial ventures so as to attract capital and loans which have been critical to support their development.

"We argue strenuously in this theatre that GDP as a means of speaking to the health and wealth of our countries is a bit of an artifice when you are dealing with islands that are naturally small.

"The fact that we are small mean that there are systemic vulnerabilities that come with our size, the fact that we have been able to emerge from cycles of real poverty, does not mean that the vulnerabilities associated with small size, are no longer there," she noted.

The OECS diplomat said on one hand there is the European Union very much in favour of supporting vulnerability and providing finance to ensure sustainable development while on the other it is graduating the Caribbean out of the access to the very funds that it would use in pursuit of a life of sustainable development.

"So the issue of graduating is a very vital one in this theatre because GDP per capita is used not only in the EU but by the IMF (International Monetary Fund), the World Bank, multi-laterals, the WTO (World Trade Organization) and everywhere else to determine those countries which are graduated out of their ability to attract any new concessions for financing," she said.

"In fact we have received word that St. Kitts Nevis will soon be graduated out entirely, you and I both know that as Small Islands Development States (SIDS) we are acutely vulnerable not just economically but environmentally and we don't need to indulge in a conversation to know exactly what that means.

"Now we are not even safe from a wet whether event associated with last December's tropical low pressure that wrecked St. Lucia and St. Vincent, not even a hurricane as a consequence of climate change, wrecked such havoc on our physical infrastructure including our livestock and crop supplies.

"The problem therefore for SIDS, is if we have no economic resilience, there is no way we can become economically resilient," Ishmael noted.

She said that the paradox of all of this is that these small states are not saying that anyone else should be paying their way, but they argue that there should be across all theatres an understanding of the unique criteria that makes SIDS as vulnerable as they are.

"So it's not all well and good to have a discussion on our vulnerability only when it comes to talking once every 10 years through Mauritius or the Barbados Plan of Action. "These discussions should result in policy prescriptions that cut across all theatres, at the WTO, the UN General Assembly, post 2015 agenda for development or all of the global issues that directly impact us uniquely because of our small size.

"We will continue to ask that SIDS issues should be cross cutting and SIDS sensitivity is one that should be inherent to all national discussion on sustainable development," she added.

The issue of graduating the Caribbean to middle income designation has been identified by the new ACP Secretary General Dr. P.I. Gomes as one of more challenging tasks of his five year term.

"We will need to resolve the principle of differentiation in the Cotonou agreement where Caribbean countries are being unjustly graduated to a middle income designation, and thereby excluded from grant assistance," he told reporters.


UNHCR says nearly 5,000 people risk their lives by sea to avert poverty

GENEVA, Dec 14, (CMC) – The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said nearly 5,000 people have taken to boats this year in a bid to escape poverty. But the agency is warning that given the high number of global migrant arrivals by sea, the international community is steadily losing focus on saving lives and intensifying its efforts to deny foreigners access to asylum.

"This is a mistake, and precisely the wrong reaction for an era in which record numbers of people are fleeing wars," said António Guterres, the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees, ahead of a Geneva-based forum devoted to protecting sea-bound migrants.

"Security and immigration management are concerns for any country, but policies must be designed in a way that human lives do not end up becoming collateral damage," he added.

According to estimates from coastal authorities and data points collected by the UN, at least 348,000 people have risked seafaring journeys worldwide since the beginning of 2014 as they flee conflicts and poverty.

"In the Caribbean, 2014 has seen almost 5,000 people take to boats as they escape the clutches of poverty and explore asylum options in the neighbouring countries," UNHCR said.

The Bahamas have constantly urged Haitians authorities to do more to prevent their nationals from undertaking the dangerous travel by sea in unseaworthy boats.

Many of the Haitians either try to remain in the Bahamas or use the chain of islands for an easier passage into the United States.

The UNCHR said that in addition to the difficulties of these journeys, which often stretch across multiple borders and over thousands of kilometres, many of those migrating along these maritime corridors succumb to trafficking and smuggling networks coordinated by international organized crime.

"You can't stop a person who is fleeing for their life by deterrence, without escalating the dangers even more. The real causes have to be addressed, and this means looking at why people are fleeing, what prevents them from seeking asylum by safer means, and what can be done to crack down on the criminal networks who prosper from this, while at the sam