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TUESDAY, JULY 17, 2018

Obama speech in South Africa to mark 100 years since Mandela's birth

JOHANNES -BURG, South Africa (AFP) — Former US president Barack Obama was set to deliver a speech to a crowd of 15,000 people in South Africa on Tuesday as the centrepiece of celebrations marking 100 years since Nelson Mandela's birth. Obama has made relatively few public appearances since leaving the White House in 2017, but he has often credited Mandela for being one of the great inspirations in his life.

He will deliver the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture at a cricket stadium in Johannesburg at 1245 GMT in an address set to urge young people to fight to defend democracy, human rights and peace. Obama is not expected to directly criticise his successor Donald Trump, but the speech will be closely scrutinised for any veiled rebukes.

Mandela, who died in 2013, remains a global icon for his long struggle against white-minority apartheid rule and for his message of peace and reconciliation after being freed following 27 years in prison.

Obama met Mandela only briefly in 2005 but gave a eulogy at his funeral saying Mandela "makes me want to be a better man" and hailing him as "the last great liberator of the 20th century".

Tuesday's speech comes on the eve of "Mandela Day" — his birthday, which is marked around the world every year on July 18.

The "Mandela 100" anniversary has triggered a bout of memories and tributes to the late anti-apartheid leader, as well as a debate over his legacy and South Africa's fate since he stepped down in 1999.

MONDAY, JULY 16, 2018

Haiti to name new prime minister 'as soon as possible

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti's president says he will appoint a new prime minister as soon as possible following the resignation of the country's second highest official. President Jovenel Moise said late Saturday in a television broadcast that he will "form an inclusive government whose mission will be to alleviate the misery of the Haitian people."

Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant resigned earlier in the weekend over his handling of a failed plan to raise the prices of gasoline, diesel and kerosene by 38 per cent to 51 per cent.

At least seven people were killed and dozens of businesses were looted during riots after the government announced the price hike.

Moise said he had spoken with protesters and international organizations to find a solution, but did not say if fuel prices would still rise.


Trinidad and Tobago PM says decriminalising marijuana not a priority

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC)— Decriminalising marijuana is not on Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley's list of priorities. This is despite a recommen- dation by the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Marijuana Commission that countries in the region move to either legalise or decriminalise marijuana.

The commission presented its report to Caricom Heads of Government at their 39th annual conference in St James, Jamaica, last week, suggesting that going the route of legalisation or decriminalisation could lead to substantial economic benefits.

But Rowley said at a post-Cabinet media briefing on Thursday that the jury is still out on that.

“At the moment we're not running any advocacy for decriminalising marijuana or incorporating it into the economic space because we have some other priorities, and we're also not convinced of the benefits that some people are asking us to grasp,” he said.

Rowley identified one of those priorities as addressing the crime situation in the two-island republic.

“The crime level is affecting us in very many ways — not just safety and security, but also in watering down our position for economic growth and T&T's potential to sell ourself as a place where investment can be done. And we're losing in our communities, the sense of brotherly love,” he said.

owever, he said a state of emergency wasn't being considered “at this time” since Government didn't see it as an effective way of changing what's happening and also because this could have negative effects on the economy, thereby creating an environment for the growth of criminals.


University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC) confers Doctorate on US congresswoman Yvette D Clark

KINGSTON, Jamaica — The University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC) is to confer African-American Congresswoman Yvette D Clarke with an Honorary Doctorate in Public Policy. According to a release from the university, Clarke who is of Jamaican heritage will be conferred on July 22 when she delivers her keynote address to the class of 2018 in the National Arena.

The theme of the commencement ceremony is 'A Purpose to Fulfil: A Destiny to Embrace”, where Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Ruel Reid, will also address the 700 graduates.

The university said the congresswoman's travel to UCC to receive this honour was formally approved by the US House of Representatives Ethics Committee recently

Clarke who represents the (NY-09) Ninth Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York, is the sixth Jamaican or American of Jamaican heritage, to be so honoured by the university.

Previous honourees include Professor Errol Morrison, former UTechPresident; Bruce Bowen, former President and CEO of the Scotiabank Group Jamaica; Richard Byles, former President and CEO of the Sagicor Group; Professor Henry Lowe, Executive Chairman of the Environmental Health Foundation of Jamaica; and Gary “Butch” Hendrickson, Chairman and CEO of the Continental Baking Company Limited.

The university said that as an advocate, a community organiser, and now legislator, Clarke's boldness, compassion and love for the people has allowed her to become an effective leader and an outspoken advocate concerning numerous issues of great importance to her constituents.

TUESDAY, JULY 10, 2018

Caribbean governments urged to include disaster planning in budgets

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — A call has been made for emergency management and disaster preparedness to be mainstreamed in the budgets of Caribbean countries. Barbados' Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Gayle Francis-Vaughan, made the appeal Tuesday as she addressed a two-day Caribbean Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Seminar at the Hilton Barbados Resort.

Personally, as the permanent secretary in the ministry responsible for disasters and emergencies, I would like to see emergency management and disaster preparedness mainstreamed in the budgets of our countries,” she said.

Francis-Vaughan called on those present to remember the efforts that were made in the fight against HIV and AIDS when budget lines were developed and funds were made available in every country.

“We knew how much money we had and what we had to do with it. It is something you can discuss and explore; it is something that we should do. We have departments, but we have to properly fund them and give the resources to handle the very important jobs,” the permanent secretary maintained. Francis-Vaughan said issues related to the development of resilience in Barbados, and support for the region, were high on the Government's agenda.

She added that the devastation left behind following last year's hurricane season was evidence that countries could never be totally prepared, and they could not do it all on their own.

“It reminds us that the Caribbean region is really a family that comes together immediately if any one of us is impacted seriously by any sort of disaster but especially disasters brought on by hurricanes. No Caribbean country is alone when preparing for hurricanes and dealing with the aftermath,” she remarked.

Noting that Caribbean countries all shared a common apprehension and anxiety during the Atlantic hurricane season, Francis-Vaughan said they did not have to be lobbied during times of crisis because they rushed to each other's aid.

Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Ronald Jackson, said the effects of last year's hurricane season had prompted the Heads of Government of Caricom, during their annual conference last week, to reaffirm their commitment to the regional agency.

He added that they also pledged to redouble their efforts to ensure that there was sustainability of the agency.

MONDAY, JULY 9, 2018

Canada, US warn about travel to Haiti

OTTAWA, Canada (CMC) – Amid protests over plans to hike the price of fuel in Haiti, the Canadian Government is warning citizens to “avoid non-essential travel” to the French-speaking Caribbean country. “Avoid non-essential travel to Haiti due to civil unrests,” read a tweet at travel.gc.ca on Sunday.

“Protesters have set up burning barricades in the main streets of Port-au-Prince, as well as in residential neighbourhoods,” it added. “Limit your movements.”

The Canadian Government has also noted that several airlines have cancelled their flights to Toussaint-Louverture International Airport in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

“Contact your travel agent or tour operator to confirm your travel arrangements,” the government said. The US Embassy in Haiti has also warned Americans about “non-emergency travel”.

“Due to continuing demonstrations, roadblocks, and violence across Port-au-Prince, the Embassy is prohibiting all non-emergency travel into Haiti by its employees,” the statement said.

“All other Embassy personnel are still under a Shelter in Place order.”

The Embassy urged Americans in Haiti to “contact your family to keep them informed of your welfare and whereabouts,” and to avoid protests and any large gathering of people.

“Do not attempt to drive through roadblocks,” it cautioned. “If you encounter a roadblock, turnaround and get to a safe area.”

On Saturday, Haitian Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant said his government was instituting a “temporary stop” to the fuel hike, appealing for calm. Reports in Port-au-Prince indicate that gasoline prices were to rise by 38 per cent, diesel by 47 per cent and kerosene by 51 per cent.


Caribbean to address progress, challenges on population, development

SANTIAGO, Chile (CMC) — The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) says the situation of migrants, the aging of the population, sexual and reproductive health, indigenous peoples and Afro-descendant populations will be some of the central topics addressed at the third meeting of the Regional Conference on Population and Development in the region next month.

ECLAC said the event will take place in Lima, Peru, from August 7-9.

At the convention — organised by ECLAC and the Peruvian government, with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) — “the region's countries will follow up on implementation of the priority measures set forth in the Montevideo Consensus , the most important intergovernmental agreement on population and development signed to date in the region,” ECLAC said.

It said delegates will also examine the project of the first regional report on the agreement's implementation, “which will serve as a contribution to the review and global evaluation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development Beyond 2014.”

This will take place in 2019 in the context of the 52nd session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development.

In addition, ECLAC said delegates will analyse a proposal for a virtual platform to contribute to regional follow-up of the Montevideo Consensus.

MONDAY, JULY 2, 2018

CARICOM heads to tackle critical issues at 39th regular meeting

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — When the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government gather for the 39th Regular Meeting in St James in a few days, they will be tackling a number of critical issues that impact the economic and social advancement of the countries of the region. Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, who assumed Chairmanship of the Conference of Heads of Government on July 1, will steer the meeting, which is scheduled to take place from July 4 to 6 at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in James.

About 200 foreign officials are expected to attend the meeting. These include Heads of State and Government of the Community and their delegations, officials from other regional and hemispheric international bodies and institutions, as well as members of the diplomatic corps, both local and overseas, which are accredited to CARICOM.

Among the key agenda items are crime and security strategy, disaster management and climate change, and implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Other areas for discussion include the upcoming 2018 G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which will be the first to be held in South America.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade indicates that Jamaica's chairmanship will place particular focus on the CSME given the critical importance in facilitating the expansion of investment and trade in goods and services as well as the free movement of people across the region.

Prime Minister Holness is expected to address his colleague Heads of Government on the Report of the Commission to Review Jamaica's Relations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Frameworks.

MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2018

Venezuela will not participate in ICJ Guyana border case

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Government of Venezuela has disclosed that it will not be participating in the international court case to bring to an end the decades old border controversy with Guyana. The Venezuelan government, in a statement today indicated that this has been communicated to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Earlier this year, the matter was transferred to the ICJ, by the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, however, Venezuela had objected to that move.

In the statement, the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “the Venezuelan delegation has informed the president of the court, through a letter signed by the President of the Republic, Nicolás Maduro, of its sovereign decision not to participate in the procedure that Guyana intends to initiate, since the Court manifestly lacks jurisdiction over an action unilaterally proposed by the neighbouring country, which does not have the consent of Venezuela”.

The decision was made after a meeting took place at The Hague between the Venezuelan delegation led by Vice President Delcy Rodríguez, accompanied by Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, along with President of the ICJ Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf.

Venezuela wants the diplomatic channels to be reopened, but Guyana believes that the UN Good Offices process has been exhausted. The Secretary General had made it clear that he would have been referring the matter to the ICJ if the Good Offices process offered no results by the end of 2017. He has stuck to that promise.

The Venezuelan delegation had been invited to the Court to begin filing its proceedings in the matter.

A similar invitation was also extended to Guyana, which already has its legal team in place.

Guyana has been pushing for a judicial settlement to bring an end to the border controversy. Venezuela has been claiming two-thirds of Guyana's territory, although the matter was settled back in 1899.


UN agency says remittances much more than a 'lifeline' for the Caribbean

UNITED NATIONS (CMC) — The United Nations’ International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) says remittances to the Caribbean and other countries are much more than a “lifeline” for millions of people. IFAD said the direct benefits of money sent home by migrant workers touch the lives of one in every seven persons on the planet – over one billion people.

“Remittances are vital for millions of families, helping them to address their own development goals, but we can help them do more and build their longer-term future,” said IFAD president Gilbert Houngbo.

Last year, IFAD said 200 million migrants sent US$481 billion to remittances-reliant countries.

Of this amount, it said US$466 billion went to developing countries, including those in the Caribbean, adding that there are estimates that, between 2015 and 2030, remittances sent to developing countries could cross US$6.5 trillion.

According to IFAD, after spending remittances on basic needs such as food, housing, education and health, a sizable amount – over U$100 billion, still remains – presenting a large pool of resources, which can then be invested in financial and tangible assets, such as savings or small business development, that help families build their future. IFAD said “these productive activities can also create jobs and transform economies, in particular in rural areas.”

MONDAY, MAY 7, 2018

CARICOM and Commonwealth Secretariats Sign Agreement to Strengthen Cooperation

GEORGETOWN, Guyana – The CARICOM and Commonwealth Secretariats signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to further strengthen cooperation between the two Organisations. CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque and Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland signed the MOU, which will facilitate joint implementation of programmes and projects while harnessing the experience and resources of the two Organisations, at a ceremony at the Pegasus in Georgetown, Guyana, yesterday.

The MOU will build on areas of interest agreed to in an earlier MOU, signed in 1996.

The areas of cooperation will include:

The economy – supporting more inclusive economic growth and sustainable development;

Climate Change – strengthening the resilience of small and other vulnerable states, including adaptation and mitigation against climate change;

Justice Reform – promoting more effective, efficient and equitable public governance;

Crime and Security – promoting the development and implementation of programmes aimed at combatting crime and enhancing citizen secure; and

Youth, Sports and Gender – promoting increased youth development through education and employment and develop programmes to promote sports and women’s rights.

MONDAY, APRIL 16, 2018

CARICOM leaders hold wide-ranging discussions with US VP

LIMA, Peru (CMC) — Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, says his country remains interested in the Caribbean and Latin America. Pence made the disclosure as he met with leaders from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), on Saturday – the final day of the Summit of the Americas.

According to Guyana's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, following the Summit, the Caribbean leaders “took advantage” of the opportunity to dialogue with the world leader.

“It was a good opportunity to at least exchange ideas at practically the highest level in the United States,” Greenidge said. During the meeting, the CARICOM heads of state and delegations also had discussions with the Vice President's team including the new head of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“It was a wide-ranging discussion. The Caribbean raised many of the problems they would have raised before but also looked at an on-going framework of cooperation with the US and setting a scene for the types of discussions that may arise”, Greenidge explained.

The discussions, in relation to the Guyanese concerns, were along the line of migration and crime and security. “We share, of course, some of the other things the Caribbean would normally have,” Greenidge added. These include resilience, the problem of de-risking and the disappearance of correspondent banking.

The regional leaders also raised the concerns over the rigid formulation and enforcement of rules without reference to the so called collateral damage that they may pose, especially on small island nations.

The Caribbean region is considered the “third border” for the United States. The US State Department notes that the US's Caribbean 2020 multi-year strategy seeks to engage the Caribbean region “in the areas of security, diplomacy, prosperity, energy, education, and health.”

This will be coordinated by the State Department and USAID.

The CARICOM heads of state and delegations were participating in the eight Summit of the Americas which is being hosted by the Organisation of the American States under the theme “Democratic Governance against Corruption”. World leaders from the Caribbean, Latina America, the US and Canada adopted the Lima Commitment in line with the theme and have pledged to do more to eradicate corruption in public officers.


China committed to helping Caribbean with poverty reduction

The Chinese Government says it is prepared to continue assisting countries in the Caribbean and Latin American region with poverty alleviation, despite its own lingering developmental challenges. Counsellor for the Department of Latin America and Caribbean, Han Jing, told journalists from the region at a meeting at China's foreign affairs ministry in Beijing earlier this week, that while the two matters are interconnected, one should not affect the other.

The session formed part of the agenda for media workers from the region who are being hosted by the Chinese Public Diplomacy Association and the Beijing International Chinese College under a newly launched China-Caribbean media exchange programme.

He pointed out that his Government has already implemented a number of strategies to alleviate poverty among the 14 per cent of its population which is still lagging behind.

Han said some private companies are also engaged in poverty alleviation projects.

“China tries to locate appropriate projects so as to propel employment and growth [in the region],” he said, noting areas such as technical cooperation in agriculture help promote a stable source of income for stakeholders.

“We have a large number of projects and methods for cooperation... the best projects are those in keeping with the imperatives and circumstances in localities,” he said.

According to Han, China and the countries of the Caribbean and Latin America with which it has formal ties, are now benefitting from the best diplomatic and economic relations in history.

He noted, too, that China and the region face common challenges, as despite its rapid socio-economic development over the past four decades, China is still a developing country.

“We are aware of the common challenges we face together. No country can face up to these challenges alone, nor can they retreat to isolation,” Han said.

He pointed out that although China is the world's second largest economy, recording gross domestic product of US$1.22 billion in 2017, it still has its own problems of uneven development and an “alarming” gap between urban and rural areas. He said 14 per cent of the population still live in poverty but that the Government intends to build a “moderately prosperous” society by 2021, and a modern socialist country that is wealthy and democratically advanced by 2029.

At the same time, China is pushing hard at its Belt in the Road Initiative (BRI), which was launched four years ago. The BRI is a development campaign which China plans to use to stimulate economic growth across Asia and Europe.

China says that with the countries of the region being what it sees as a “natural extension” of one aspect of the BRI — the maritime silk road — it is willing to synergise its development strategies with those of the countries of the Caribbean region, under the BRI framework.


T&T High Court rules in favour of LGBT community

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) —The High Court in Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday ruled it unconstitutional to impede on the rights of homosexual men and anal sex. The challenge against the state was brought by gay rights activist Jason Jones in 2017.

However, a final ruling will be handed down in three months.

Following the court's decision members of the LGBT Community, celebrated on the outskirts of the building. The court matter was brought to repeal sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offenses Act which criminalises buggery and serious indecency even between consenting adults.

Jones claimed that the long-standing legislation contravenes his constitutional rights to privacy and freedom of thought and expression in addition to being in direct contradiction to this country's international human rights obligations.

“It was a stunning victory for human rights and for all Trinidad and Tobago citizens …I think we must all come together now after this judgement and embrace each other in true love and respect and honour for each citizen. This is not about LGBT, it is about the rights and freedoms that are enshrined in our constitution and I hope that everybody will come away with this calmly and collectively, looking at what the future should be for our nation. We have to now start to pull together and I think today is a starting moment for us to do that,” said Jones, following the ruling.


Jamaica remains largest Caribbean supplier of ganja to US

WASHINGTON, DC, USA (CMC) — Four Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries have been named by the United States as major illicit drug-producing countries. In its 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, the State Department noted that the Bahamas, Belize, Haiti and Jamaica were also described as major drug-transit countries.

According to Washington, a major illicit drug-producing country is one in which 1,000 hectares or more of illicit opium poppy is cultivated or harvested during a year; 1,000 hectares or more of illicit coca is cultivated or harvested during a year; or 5,000 hectares or more of illicit cannabis is cultivated or harvested during a year.

The report noted that Jamaica remains the largest Caribbean supplier of marijuana to the United States and the Caribbean islands.

“Although cocaine and synthetic drugs are not produced locally, Jamaica is a transit point for drugs trafficked from South America to North America and other international markets,” the report noted, stating that in 2016, drug production and trafficking were enabled and accompanied by organised crime, domestic and international gang activity, and police and government corruption.

“Illicit drugs are also a means of exchange for illegally trafficked firearms entering the country, exacerbating Jamaica's security situation,” the report stated.

It said that drugs flow from and through Jamaica by maritime conveyance, air freight, human couriers, and private aircraft.

“Marijuana and cocaine are trafficked from and through Jamaica into other Caribbean nations, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Jamaica is a transit point for cocaine moving from Central America to the United States, and some drug trafficking organisations exchange Jamaican marijuana for cocaine.”

The report noted that factors that contribute to drug trafficking include the country's convenient geographic position as a waypoint for illicit drugs trafficked from Latin America include its lengthy, rugged, and difficult-to-patrol coastline; a high volume of tourist travel and airline traffic; its status as a major transshipment hub for maritime containerised cargo as well as inadequate educational and employment opportunities for at-risk youth who engage in crime and a struggling economy that encourages marijuana cultivation in rural areas.

The report noted that while the government and law enforcement authorities are committed to combating narcotics and illicit trafficking “their efforts were only moderately effective in 2016 because of insufficient resources, corruption, an inefficient criminal justice system, and the inability of lawmakers to adopt meaningful legislation to combat corruption.

“In 2015, legislation to decriminalise the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana for personal use (including religious purposes) went into effect.”

The State Department also named Belize as the lone Caricom country identified as a major source of precursor or essential chemicals used in the production of illicit narcotics.

Regarding money laundering, Washington named all the15-member Caricom countries “whose financial institutions engage in currency transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from international narcotics trafficking”.

But it acknowledged that the “complex nature of money laundering transactions today makes it difficult in many cases to distinguish the proceeds of narcotics trafficking from the proceeds of other serious crime. Moreover, financial institutions engaging in transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds of other serious crime are vulnerable to narcotics-related money laundering”.

Washington said that this year's list of major money laundering countries “recognises this relationship by including all countries and other jurisdictions, whose financial institutions engage in transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from all serious crime”.


The Caribbean faces a fatal fate

By Sir Ronald Sanders
High-tide flooding is set to become an every-other-day affair in coastal areas along the Gulf of Mexico and the east coast of the US by the year 2100. It will also fatally harm the countries of the Caribbean. As the level of the sea continues to rise, conditions will be calamitous long before that 82-year period is reached. The resulting flooding will not be storm related, it will occur simply because the level of the sea has risen above the level of land. When storms also strike, conditions will be even worse.

This 82-year projection is based on the assumption that greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming and sea level rise, will be curbed. But there is no evidence of that happening. Indeed, even in the much-vaunted Paris and Bonn accords on climate change, there is no legally binding agreement on nations to cut back their emissions. In the case of the US, the present Administration has back-pedalled on commitments made by the previous government and it may yet withdraw the US entirely from the understandings reached so far.

The problems caused by high-tide flooding will adversely impact the states on the east coast of the US, ranging from New York through Florida and across to Texas. But the islands of the Caribbean and mainland countries with already low-lying coasts, such as Guyana and Belize, will be affected first.

This latest cause for alarm, concerning high-tide flooding, is identified in a new report from the US National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA). According to the report, high-tide flooding in the mid-Atlantic doubled from an average of three days a year in 2000 to six in 2015.

The report points out that high-tide flooding, which is today an occasional event, will occur every other day by 2100, inundating homes and businesses, including hotels. That is 182 days a year.

Of course, if there is no curbing of greenhouse gas emissions, high-tide flooding will become a happening every day, forcing businesses, homes and agricultural activity further inland. The migration of such activities away from the coast will be possible in mainland countries at great expense, disruption, loss of property, and the creation of refugees, but such inland migration will hardly be possible for the islands of the Caribbean, particularly the small ones.


Expert warns Caribbean must strengthen its Internet infrastructure

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC) — An Internet expert has called for greater regional network resilience and security and is urging Caribbean countries to strengthen their critical Internet infrastructure if they are to defend against the growing threat of climate-change-driven natural disasters.

The expert, Bevil Wooding, is also urging regional countries to adopt the new strategies if they are to keep up with the world's growing digital economy.

Wooding, the Caribbean outreach director at the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) said 'in today's world, the security, resilience and robustness of computers networks are critical to the development of the digital economy.

“The Caribbean can no longer afford to leave important decisions about network build out, network resource management and network infrastructure spend only to commercial telecommunications providers. Those issues are now the concern and the responsibility of governments, private network operators and even end users,” said Wooding, who works with the US-based non-profit organisation responsible for Internet number resource management.

Wooding, who is also the Strategic ICT Advisor for the St Lucia-based OECS Commission, told officials attending the 36th Executive Council meeting of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), that the regional regulator has established a special commission to identify “actionable recommendations for improving Caribbean network resilience”.

He also highlighted current efforts by regional and international non-profit organisations to address the issue, noting that the CTU, ARIN, the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), Packet Clearing House and others are already collaborating on initiatives “to develop greater awareness and technical capacity in computer network design, management and cybersecurity.”

OECS Director General, Dr Didacus Jules, said that the devastating impact of the 2017 hurricane season on several Caribbean territories has put a spotlight on the importance of strengthening the resilience of the region's communications network and infrastructure.


Venezuela wants 'practical and satisfying' solution to border dispute

CARACAS, Venezuela (CMC) — Venezuela is seeking a “practical and satisfying” solution to its border dispute with Guyana even as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country has already filed its application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague on the matter.

“Under the aegis of the Geneva Agreement of 1966, the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela proposed the Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana to re-establish the diplomatic contacts that allow for a practical and satisfying solution of the territorial controversy,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Caracas said that it “objects to the judicial settlement as a means of resolving the territorial dispute over Guyana's Essequibo, since it violates the preamble of the 1966 Geneva Agreement, which establishes, exhaustively, that the controversy must be “amicably resolved in a way that is acceptable to both parties”.

It said that the move to the ICJ also violates Article I, since it does not lead to “satisfactory solutions for the practical settlement of the dispute”.

The Geneva Agreement of 1966 was signed between Venezuela and the United Kingdom regarding steps for a future resolution of the border controversy. Venezuela had rejected the Arbitral Award of 1899 between both countries as “null and void,” claiming sovereignty over a portion of what was then British Guiana.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Guyana's move to have the judicial settlement “is unacceptable, sterile and unenforceable, given that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela does not recognise the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice as mandatory, and in this sense, it has always been consistent with its historical position of making an express reservation or not being a signatory of any international legal instrument that contains arbitration clauses that grant compulsory jurisdiction to the aforementioned Court.”

In January, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gutierrez decided to hand the border dispute between the two countries to the ICJ, a move that was rejected by Caracas but welcomed by Georgetown.


Guyana welcomes American Airlines flights from US

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Guyana government Tuesday welcomed the decision of American Airlines to reinstitute flights to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country from December. “I am delighted that American Airlines will commence flying to Guyana in December. This will coincide with the launch of the newly expanded Cheddi Jagan International Airport and demonstrates a confidence in Destination Guyana not only as a desirable tourist destination but as an emerging oil economy as well,” said Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson.

“The government has been working at various levels to provide more options to travellers to and from Guyana, to North America, with increased airlift, and American Airlines' commitment to destination Guyana is a recognition of government's work since coming into office in 2015,” he added.

Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin, noted that “this is good for tourism, good for business and good for Guyana.”

He said only last week, the Antigua-based regional airline, LIAT, announced direct flights to Trinidad adding “this will give Guyanese and visitors to Guyana two additional travel options in this year alone”.

American Airlines said that from December it would be expanding its presence in the region, with the addition of four new destinations including Guyana, Colombia, Argentina (COR) and Oaxaca in Mexico.

The airline said tickets for the new four destinations will go on sale in April.

“We're creating a world-class customer experience and as the largest US carrier in Mexico and South America, we are committed to offering more choices with the best schedules for our customers in the region,” said Vasu Raja, vice president, Network and Schedule Planning.

“As we look to strengthen our network, we're excited to add more nonstop flights to places like Buenos Aires, maximising connections across our network,” he added.

MONDAY, MARCH 26, 2018

IDB proposes growth agenda for Latin America and the Caribbean

MENDOZA, Argentina (CMC) — Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) countries require an ambitious growth agenda that focuses on overcoming large gaps in investment and productivity, according to a report by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

The report, released on the final day of the at the IDB annual board of governors meeting, noted that while the global economy faces potential risks from higher interest rates and a correction to global asset prices, the region's overall outlook is positive, with a 1.9 per cent growth rate expected this year.

This, however, is well below the growth rate expected for the world of 3.9 per cent, and Latin America and the Caribbean will continue to lag unless substantial policy changes are enacted on the economic front.

The report titled “A Mandate to Grow” notes that past drivers of growth such as positive demographic trends, increasing commodity prices, and available fiscal stimulus space are either reversed or restricted.

“For many decades now, Latin America has been accumulating a growth deficit,” said IDB Vice-President for Sectors, Santiago Levy.

“Macroeconomic stability is a good starting point to get an economy moving forward. But to grow more vigorously, we need to invest more and more productively, and we need to tackle the bottlenecks that limit growth, which include the design of tax systems, low savings, credit constraints and the lack of competitive markets that reward high productivity.”

The IDB says Latin America and the Caribbean certainly need more investments, particularly in infrastructure.

It noted that investment rates for the 1990-2017 period averaged 17 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), well behind the 26 per cent rate for Emerging Asia.

Also, the region is 40 per cent less effective than Emerging Asia in generating GDP growth for every additional invested dollar. Latin America's economy would be three times larger today if it had managed to match Emerging Asia's investment rates and efficiency since 1990.

Challenges for the region include the low savings rates, with small and inefficient financial systems, pension systems that have low coverage, and on the fiscal front, low revenues and a bias against public investment relative to consumption.

The reports notes that at the heart of the productivity shortfall lie the size and lack of dynamism of the region's firms.


Telecoms service providers urged to do more seven months after passage of hurricane

ROSEAU, Dominica (CMC) — Seven months after Hurricane Maria swept through Dominica destroying the tele- communications system, a senior government minister is urging providers to do more to enable consumers to keep in touch. Telecommunications, Science and Information Technology, Minister Kelvar Darroux, speaking on the state-owned DBS radio Monday, said in his discussions with the service providers he has always raised the issue.

“We have a responsibility to the consumers of this country, so why is it that you still have certain communities in the country where service is limited or you have no service at all,” he told radio listeners.

Dominica relies mainly on the British telecommunications giant, Cable and Wireless that operates in the region as Flow, and the Irish-owned DIGICEL.

“I believe, and I am speaking now in my capacity as a minister, that they have a responsibility to look at interim measures, while they continue building back up their networks better. So there's no excuse really why someone, let's say in Belles (a small village west of here) …they is no excuse why they should not have some sort of service, some sort of communication six months after the hurricane”.

Darroux said that he has a responsibility to ensure that the consumers get proper service.

“The same with the government services, we have to ensure we get back the critical services that were available on line for government…as soon as possible,” he said, recalling that he had been told by some one of the unavailability of securing the birth certificate on line.


Guyana calls for Americas to be declared zone of peace

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The 24th Inter-American Congress of Ministers and High-Level Authorities on Tourism (CITUR) began on Wednesday with President David Granger urging that the Americas be promoted as a zone of peace. “The promotion of sustainable tourism initiatives and the marketing of the Americas as a 'zone of peace,' in a world with so many wars and conflicts should be subjects for consideration at this congress,” Granger told delegates attending the two-day event of the Organisation of American States (OAS).

“The protection of the Americas' patrimony, its natural assets, its cultural diversity and this blissful state of peace, is the bedrock of sustainable tourism,” Granger said, adding that tourism industries must be protected from the perils of trans-national threats such as cybercrime and trafficking in drugs, guns and people.

“Security cooperation against transnational threats will make our societies safer for our citizens and our visitors,” he told the delegates.

The two-day Congress is being held under the theme, “Connecting the Americas through Sustainable Tourism”, and Granger said Guyana likes to describe itself as “a continental country with Caribbean characteristics”.

He said it is the only English-speaking country on the continent of South America reminding his audience “we are the 'gateway' to the continent for the goods, services and peoples of the South to markets and destinations in the Caribbean, Central America and North America”.

Granger said that the Americas are unique in world history, possessing spectacular attractions.

“They have more than the traditional Mediterranean and Pacific sun, sand and sea tourism. They are rich in cultural diversity. The immigrants, together with the indigenous peoples, have woven a fantastic fabric of faiths, festivals and foods.

“The Americas are endowed with un-spoilt islands, highlands, grasslands, wetlands, waterfalls, lakes, rivers and rainforests, which are the habitat of unmatched flora and wildlife. The Americas must protect and preserve these priceless assets for the benefit of present and future generations.”

He said the Americas, despite their just wars of independence and a few civil wars, are a hemisphere of relative peace in the present turbulent world.

President Granger said that Guyana's commitment to hemispheric integration is manifested in its membership of regional and hemispheric organisations, including the Caribbean Community; Association of Caribbean States; Common Market of the South; Community of Latin American and Caribbean States; Organization of America States (OAS); and the Union of South American States.


Gaston Browne re-elected as Antigua & Barbuda's PM

ST JOHN'S, Antigua — The ruling Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP), led by Gaston Browne, has emerged the victor of today's general election. Based on preliminary results, the party, which has governed the eastern Caribbean country since 2014, won 15 seats to secure a second consecutive term.

The United Progressive Party (UPP) only managed to take two seats, including Barbuda. However, its leader Harold Lovell lost his seat for the second time consecutively.

The country also recorded a low voter turnout.

Browne announced general elections on February 24, 15 months before a constitutionally mandated deadline, giving opposition parties less than four weeks to prepare. He had predicted a clean sweep of the polls by his ABLP.


Latin America, Caribbean countries collaborate to eradicate hunger and malnutrition

MONTEGO BAY, St James (CMC) — A much more concerted effort is underway to stem rising hunger and food security and eradicate all forms of malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). The 33 member countries of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), at the end of their four day meeting here, have agreed to collaborate more in an effort to end the scourge and reverse a trend which had resurfaced in 2016, for the first time in the last two decades.

Some delegates did admit it was something of an embarrassment to be discussing hunger in the Caribbean in 2018.

But given the reality of the crisis, government ministers, including those with the portfolios of agriculture, social development, environment, education and health, have all praised the FAO for its commitment to focusing on hunger and the plight of the poor, while acknowledging that the region has missed the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of eradicating poverty and hunger by December 2015.

Data presented at the conference pointed to an unacceptable increase in hunger in the LAC compared to advances made over recent decades.

The number of people who are undernourished in the region increased by 2.4 million between 2015 and 2016, totalling 4.2 million — the equivalent of 6.6 per cent of the population.

At the same time, estimates based on data collected on adults from all over the world, showed that 38 million people suffered from severe food security in the region in 2016.

At the subregional level, the trend of undernourishment between 2000 and 2016 shows that from 2013, in both Meso-America and the Caribbean, hunger maintains a downward trend, while in South America there is a significant upturn.

The main reason for this increase, according to the FAO, are the economic downturn that has affected the region since 2015, as well as a drop in the price of raw the materials which are the region's main export products, in addition to instability and political uncertainty.


Bahamas 'disappointed' at EU move to blacklist it as tax haven

NASSAU, Bahamas (CMC) — The Bahamas government said it is “disappointed” that the European Union (EU) is moving to name the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country as a tax haven later this week. Finance Minister, K Peter Turnquest, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister said that Nassau has learnt that the EU Code of Conduct Group (COCG) will be making a recommendation to the Council of the European Union this week to include The Bahamas on the EU List of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes.

“Throughout this process, The Bahamas has consistently been engaged with the OECD (Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development) and the COCG on the EU listing criteria – including as late as last week. Therefore, this latest move is particularly surprising to us,” Turnquest said in a statement.

Last week, international media reports indicated that St Lucia will join its Caribbean neighbours Barbados and Grenada in being removed from a list of tax havens drawn up by the EU.

The Reuters news agency said it had seen an EC document indicating that Bahrain, the Marshall Islands and St Lucia will be removed from the list last week.

It said that the latest decision was taken by the EU Code of Conduct Group, which includes tax experts from the 28 member states.

The EU finance ministers are expected to endorse the proposal at their regular monthly meeting in Brussels on March 13.

Earlier this month, the CARICOM leaders who met in Haiti for the 29th inter-sessional summit, called on their finance ministers and central bank governors of the region to meet “expeditiously” to consider new proposals as regional governments continue to react to decisions by Europe in listing some countries as tax havens.

The communique issued at the end of the summit noted that the proposals on a CARICOM Strategy had been prepared by a CARICOM Technical Working Group.

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, whose country remains the only Caribbean nation on the EU black list, told reporters that the regional countries were being “threatened” by the unilateral decision of the European Union to “blacklist” several islands even as the region has tried to comply with the necessary legislative requirements.

According to the communique, regional leaders “deplored” the significant reputational damage inflicted on member states from their inclusion in the list of 'non-cooperative tax jurisdictions' published by the European Union Council in December 2017 as well as other unilateral processes which label member states as 'tax havens”.

The three countries to be de-listed this week are reported to have made “specific commitments” to adapt their tax rules and practices to EU standards, according to the EU document.

MONDAY, MARCH 12, 2018

New UN health agency guidelines aim to help Caribbean end 'reign' of tobacco industry

GENEVA, Switzerland (CMC) — The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) has launched new guidelines aimed at helping Caribbean and other countries end the “reign” of the tobacco industry. WHO said the new guidelines, together with an accompanying publication, will help Caribbean and other governments “do much more” to implement regulations and address the “exploitation of tobacco product regulations.”

“The tobacco industry has enjoyed years of little or no regulation, mainly due to the complexity of tobacco product regulation and lack of appropriate guidance in this area,” said Douglas Bettcher, the director of the WHO Department for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases.

“Tobacco product regulation is an under-utilized tool which has a critical role to play in reducing tobacco use, [and] these new tools provide a useful resource to countries to either introduce or improve existing tobacco product regulation provisions and end the tobacco industry ‘reign’,” he added.

The UN said the guide, “Tobacco product regulation: Building laboratory testing capacity,” provides practical and stepwise approaches to implementing tobacco testing relevant to a wide range of countries, especially those with inadequate resources to establish testing facilities.

The guide also provides regulators and policymakers with comprehensible information on how to test tobacco products, what products to test, and how to use testing data in a meaningful manner to support regulation, the UN said.

It said the guidelines will also assist in the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – a global treaty combatting the tobacco epidemic – through strengthening tobacco product regulation capacity in WHO member States.

“We need more countries to introduce and increase tobacco taxes to drive down smoking rates and generate revenues to fund health systems,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

According to Vinayak Prasad, the head of the Tobacco Free Initiative at WHO, most countries “hesitate” to implement policies, due in part to the highly technical nature of such policy interventions and the difficulties in translating science into regulation.

“Failure to regulate is a missed opportunity as tobacco product regulation – in the context of comprehensive control – is a valuable tool that complements other tried and tested tobacco control interventions, such as raising taxes, and ensuring smoke-free environments,” he said.

The UN said the accompanying publication, “ Case studies for regulatory approaches to tobacco products-Menthol in tobacco products,” includes “practical steps, as well as policy options countries can employ to make regulations more effective, such as the regulators’ enforcement of a total ban on the use of flavors in tobacco products, such as menthol.”

The guidance document and the accompanying publication were launched at the 2018 World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Cape Town, South Africa, the UN said.


International Women's Day: European diplomat says Caribbean women still yet to shatter glass ceiling

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC)— A senior European Union diplomat says while women in the Caribbean have made “outstanding strides” in recent years, they, like their European counterparts are still yet to completely shatter the glass ceiling. In a message to mark International Women's Day on Wednesday, the EU Delegation Ambassador to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, the OECS, and CARICOM/CARIFORUM, Daniela Tramacere, said in the Caribbean, women have made outstanding strides and in a few countries — Dominica, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago for example — women have reached the highest levels of power.

“Yes, strides are being made as more women in the Caribbean are becoming decision makers which suggest that inequality at the workplace is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Also in Barbados one can see such progress.

“Yet there are still glass ceilings to be shattered. In the region as well as in Europe, women are still generally underrepresented in politics and in boardrooms; domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace are too often commonplace — despite some laudable legislative efforts,” Tramacere said.

The EU diplomat said that as for violence against women and girls, it is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in the world today.

She said the European Union is contributing to gender equality in the region by mainstreaming gender in all EU funded cooperation programmes as well as by funding specific gender equality actions. “The EU has become more ambitious with the Gender Action Plan II and its vision for 2016-2020. Our “gender architecture” has evolved significantly.


A single market and single economy is a strange beast

By Franklin Johnston
The amalgamation of states to form a single nation is not new. The term single market and economy (SME), as in CSME, is unusual. In times past states united by conquest — imperial Rome in the 2nd century; West Indies by Europeans in the 15th century; Africa's land capture in the 19th century, the Nazi putsch across Europe in the 20th; and Russia annexing the Crimea were recently all of this genre. The powerful “subdue earth” and wise men seek power.

The white man was outstanding at creating, accumulating and using power — now challenged by China and states with fissile material. By contrast, modern unions are for mutual benefit. The response to a column titled “Caricom vs CSME' proved SME was a little-known term; understood by few, not used elsewhere, but interested many. We need facts!

To us SME is fusing small islands into a single nation. It begins with softly sport culture; then trade, security, fiscal, monetary stuff. But when a nation cedes these politics follows, as money is power. A normal name for us would be “United States of the Caribbean” or “Caribbean Union”, so why this opaque CSME? The USA, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics [defunct], European Union (EU), and West Indies Federation are transparent — one market, one currency, central bank; one nation. CSME is stealthy!

How did other states merge? Some united to fight a common enemy — the British; and America was born. Some unite to end internecine wars — millions killed in world wars and as a foil to America's power; so the EU was born. What compelling reasons did our leaders have for union? Did this British ploy to exit Empire on the cheap grab the imagination of our anti-imperialist London-trained lawyers?

As SMEs go the smallest and most successful union of the big four is the USA. The EU is most recent, third largest, then China, India really massive. The last two were united by Maharajas and Dynastic rulers by the sword long ago; the USA by war, negotiation; and the EU by mutual benefit. All have common traits — many ethnicities and languages; strong local governments. Their federal governments are secular, diverse — Christian, Hindu, Communists, Muslim, socialist, capitalist. Most empires conquered distant domains, but all are unions of contiguous states as proximity is crucial to success and sustainability.

CSME is a historical and global anomaly and would not stand due diligence of modern analytical tools. Our Cabinets gave no public education until caught with pants down by the Shanique Myrie incident and then information was inserted into the Barbados-based Caribbean Examinations Council-monitored curriculum to condition our kids — too little, too late.

The inquiries posed by some readers of our column were basic: What is CSME to Caricom? The latter is a collegial support body, while the former is a crawling peg political union in sheep's clothing. Second, what's in it for us? We do sports and always win as other members are not in our league, but they thrive on our market as reparations? They ask why didn't we “do a thing” with nations in our backyard? Canada's federation has a French province and Britain's is with old arch-enemies France, Spain; not kin in New Zealand. Truth is West Indians spoke radical, but default to a neo-colonial union of islands with dim economic prospects. They studied in London, met all races, received reparation from English ladies, and returned with trophy wives and unreconstructed minds. Many were more imperialist or inflexible than the British, who linked with old foes to rebuild fortunes ravaged by war. Many youth do not understand the West Indian colour bar. Our own “out of many one” drooped as Caricom, CSME excluded brown nations — shame!

But why did we have one per cent growth over decades, as in 2014 all islands had higher per capita gross domestic product (GDP) than us by 50 per cent some by 250 per cent? All of us are in trouble, but at US$25,000 GDP per capita the house or car bought when money was running is solid. Our citizens could not buy them — worse now the global economy has gone south. Finance Minister Audley Shaw, how long at five per cent growth to catch up with Trinidad? Twenty years? 30? Only disruptive development can help us. Many were curious that CSME was economic yet Grace, Goddard, ANSA, who created West Indian jobs for decades were not decision-makers and executives — why?

CSME does not posit political union, but assigns portfolios and dismember states by agencies to supplant their functions. CSME is insidious as, with security outsourced to it; the single market and single economy on steam; what use is Parliament when Jamaica's security and economy are run from Guyana?

The questions for today: If the CSME was just starting up would we want in? We have economic, production, logistics, and finance gurus to crunch numbers. Then, is CSME in sync with the national project of economic independence? For years we kicked our private sector for not doing like Trinidad. Their joy was to tap a market three times their size and the investment paid off. But their market did not justify investing, and our firms even pulled back from Guyana. It takes cash forever to overcome logistics challenges of CSME. A single market with America is on the table, but we have in these pages posited a single market with Nigeria as to ship 100 twenty-foot equivalent units of toilet paper to get eight per cent market share would be better value than two containers to St Vincent for 92 per cent of their market. Stay conscious!

Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager; fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK); and lectures in logistics and supply chain management at the Mona School of Business and Management at The University of the West Indies. Send comments to franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com.


Haiti cancels participation in UN cholera meeting

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) — A day after recalling its United Nations ambassador for consultations in protest over a UN official's remarks about oil-loan corruption allegations, the Haitian government has cancelled its participation in a high-level UN retreat on cholera in New York. Hosted by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and his Special Envoy for Haiti Josette Sheeran, the overnight retreat at Greentree on Long Island opened last week.

The gathering involved some of the world's leading innovators in public health, finance and business, who discussed eradicating the deadly waterborne disease from Haiti.

Several Haitian government ministers were scheduled to attend, along with Haiti President Jovenel Moïse, who was to give the keynote remarks, along with Guterres at dinner on Wednesday, and open and close Thursday's session.

However, following a recent diplomatic row with the UN, the delegation's appearance at the cholera meeting was cancelled.

The dispute erupted after Guterres' special representative in Haiti, Susan D Page, issued a statement welcoming a judicial corruption inquiry into how US$2 billion in oil loans from Venezuela was spent by former Haitian government officials, the Herald said.

Page is the head of the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti — known by the French acronym MINUJUSTH.


We are going to build the Caribbean entrepreneur — Branson

During a brief visit to the Branson Centre of Entrepreneur- ship, its founder Sir Richard Branson reiterated his commitment to assist in building the economies of the Caribbean by supporting entrepreneurs. “The accelerator programme is what we at the Branson Centre will use to get the entrepreneurs in the Caribbean going forward.” Branson congratulated the Lissandra Rickarts-led team at the Branson Centre who has led the flagship programme in Jamaica, and includes other regions such as the British Virgin Islands and other Caribbean islands.

Recently, the Branson Centre announced that it would focus on scale-ups and not start-ups. That does leave a gap for training that the Small Business Association of Jamaica has committed to take up in terms of helping start-ups become scale-ups.

Rickards previously stated, “We do a lot of tracking and analysis here at the Centre, and based on our monitoring and evaluation reports, we realised that we could increase our impact by supporting entrepreneurs ready to scale in this way in order to remain committed to our mission 'To create dynamic economies'.”

According to experts, the required skill set and focus of a company's leadership shifts dramatically between a company's start-up and scale-up phases. Recode.com outlines a few key examples:

Specialising: In a start-up, there's an early bias towards hiring “full stack” employees that are generalists. They can achieve a lot with a little, and they allow the business to get started and keep growing with a smaller team. As the organisation grows, however, one person can no longer do it all, or do it as well as a specialist. This can spell a tricky time for a business. Shifting generalists to a narrower focus or bringing in a team to sit beneath generalists can be an adjustment, but it's one of the growing pains involved in transitioning from start-up to scale-up.

Risk-averting: As a start-up, your customer base is small, and you haven't proven your model yet. You aren't worried about messing up a status quo because you haven't settled into one yet. Since you're focused on taking risks that could lead to the perfect “Bingo!” moment, consistency isn't exactly king (or queen). That will shift gradually and increasingly as your customer base grows, and your growing team will require more support from operations, technical and customer service. As a company scales up in size, the previous trial and error allows a more thorough knowledge of what works and what doesn't; however, with that comes a smaller window for experimentation in your business model.


Report critical of uneven legal aid for undocumented Caribbean immigrants in NY

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — Three major groups in New York have criticised what they described as “uneven legal assistance” for Caribbean and other immigrants in New York. A report entitled “NO SAFE HARBOR: Challenges in Obtaining Immigration Legal Services in New York State,” published on Thursday by the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), The Legal Aid Society and The Immigrant Advocates Response Collaborative (I-ARC), says that, in addition to a lack of resources to help more people, “there are serious systemic problems preventing immigrant New Yorkers from protecting their legal rights.”

The report states that, upon consulting organizations serving undocumented people, it is worrisome to find that the city of New York’s investment in legal services does not actually cover people who have committed serious crimes, leaving them to fend for themselves and denying them due process in an immigration court, according to the publication Voices of NY.

“While the amount of money invested by the city – US$48 million – is historic, legal services providers who receive municipal funding are required to comply with a new and troublesome disposition that forbids them from helping clients who have been convicted of a list of 170 crimes, an exclusion that seriously limits the provider’s capabilities,” the report says.

On top of the US$47.5 billion assigned by the city, the state added $16,388,100. But activists have expressed concern about whether Albany is willing to renew the investment for fiscal year 2019, Voices said.

The report says that both the state and the city doubled their investments this year. In 2017, the City Council and the de Blasio administration assigned US$27.2 billion, and Governor Andrew Cuomo and Albany, the capitol, disbursed US$7,138,100.

Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said that legal services providers are the first line of defense against President Donald Trump’s “brutal attacks,” stressing that the criminal justice system and the immigration system must remain separate.


CARPHA urges precaution against influenza virus

CASTRIES, St Lucia (CMC) — The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is urging persons to practice good personal hygiene in order to reduce the risk of transmission of influenza and other respiratory viruses. “Influenza (flu), a contagious respiratory illness which affects thousands of people in the Caribbean each year. Typically, the Flu season in the Region occurs between September to March when there is usually an increase in the number of persons coming down with the flu in the northern hemisphere,” a CARPHA statement noted Thursday.

In St Lucia, the Ministry of Health says an usually high number of persons iare being affected at this time of the year, as a result, the Ministry has bolstered its surveillance to ensure that a deadly influenza outbreak in the United States does not spread here.

According to the unit, Acting National Epidemiologist, Doctor Gemma Cherry, has reassured St Lucians that the country is not experiencing the same strain of influenza.

“In our case it is not the same- we are not having such an active or such a severe flu season at present. Like I said, before lots of persons would have flu or influenza, but you expect lots of persons to have mild influenza cases so at present we're not having lots of hospitalisation as a result of persons developing complications as a result of the flu virus,” Cherry explained.

Flu is characterized by a sudden onset of high fever, cough (usually dry), headache, muscle and joint pain, severe malaise (feeling unwell), sore throat and runny nose. Most people recover from symptoms within a week without requiring medical attention but influenza can cause severe illness or death in people at high risk.

CARPHA's Executive Director, Dr C James Hospedales, says the primary form of influenza transmission is through interpersonal contact.

He added that large social events like carnival, festivals and concerts can create serious public health challenges because persons are often in crowds, sharing personal space and common areas.

Given elevated flu activity in the United States, combined with the high travel season to the Caribbean, it is important that people take the necessary steps now, to protect themselves and their loved ones from the flu.


UN human rights experts urge Trump to protect the rights of 'Dreamers'

UNITED NATIONS, United States (CMC) — A group of United Nations human rights experts has urged US President Donald Trump to take urgent steps to address the situation surrounding thousands of migrants, including Caribbean nationals, who arrived in the United States as children and ensure that their rights are protected.

“We are increasingly concerned about the impact that ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme could have on the young people who benefit from it,” said the rights experts in a statement issued by the UN human rights wing earlier this week.

The call comes ahead of the March 5 deadline for the DACA programme, which grants work permits and renewable two-year deferments from deportation to qualifying migrants who arrived as children under 16, are pursuing or have completed a high school education or military service, and have not committed a serious crime.

Often referred to as “Dreamers,” the DACA beneficiaries – estimated to number around 800,000 – will be stripped of their legal status and their protection from deportation without procedural safeguards if a solution is not reached by the deadline. The majority of Dreamers are ages 25 or below, and many are current students.

“The US needs to adopt measures to address this situation as a matter of urgency. These migrants risk losing protection of their rights and being expelled from the country, where many of them have lived and developed their lives for decades,” the experts underscored, noting that of particular concern is that the majority of these migrants are young women at risk of being expelled to countries where there are high levels of violence, lawlessness and crime.

The human rights experts also underscored that an abrupt end to the DACA programme will disrupt the lives of these migrants and cause “profound grief and irreparable harm by tearing their families apart” and making them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse if deported to countries where they barely have any ties.

“Ending the programme without a feasible alternative would also send a wrong signal to the population, as it would reinforce harmful racial stereotypes and stigmatize hard-working, law-abiding young migrants who are an asset to the country which they consider home,” they added.

The human rights experts also highlighted that the expiry of DACA offers a “unique opportunity” for regularisation of many migrants, who have strong economic, social, cultural and family links in the US, and whose contribution to society is unquestionable.

The UN rights experts making the call include Felipe González Morales, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Elina Steinerte, Vice-Chair on Communications of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Alda Facio, Chair of the UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice; and E Tendayi Achiume, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism.

The UN said Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation.

The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.


Caribbean diplomats ask UK for more compassion for citizens

LONDON, United Kingdom (CMC) — Caribbean diplomats here have asked the United Kingdom Government to be more compassionate in the treatment of Caribbean migrants. The diplomats on Wednesday urged the British Home Office to adopt this approach towards retirement-age Commonwealth citizens facing deportation, despite living in the UK all their adult lives.

The British Guardian reports that there could be thousands of people born in Commonwealth countries who emigrated to the UK with their parents as children and did not realise they were required to formally naturalise in Britain.

Their unresolved residency status could mean they face problems accessing pensions, housing, healthcare and work, said Guy Hewitt, the Barbados high commissioner in London.

New evidence of harsh treatment by the Home Office emerged this week when officials said they “now accepted” that Anthony Bryan, 60, who has spent five weeks in immigration detention centers in England, was in fact “lawfully present in the UK”.

Bryan, a grandfather who has lived in the UK for 52 years, has had two spells in detention and was booked last November on a flight to Jamaica, a country he left in 1965, when he was eight, and has not visited since.

The report said the decorator lost his job in 2015 because he was unable to prove he was not an “illegal worker”, and struggled to convince the Home Office of his right to be in the UK until his case was highlighted in news reports last year.

Bryan said he was relieved but angry at his treatment, which has left him heavily in debt because he was prevented from working for almost three years.

“I told them I was eight years old when I arrived here, but nobody believed; they told me I was an illegal immigrant and a criminal. They locked me up unlawfully. It was very stressful. It has been a nightmare,” he said. Hewitt and fellow high commissioners have raised the broader issue with the Foreign Office, urging officials to take a more humane approach in cases like Bryan's and Paulette Wilson's, a grandmother who lived and worked in the UK for 51 years, having arrived aged 10, before being told she was an illegal immigrant, being detained and threatened with forced removal to Jamaica, the Guardian said. It said Caribbean diplomats were concerned that people were reluctant to try to regularize their status because of fears they might be detained or deported.


World leaders join new drive to beat non-communicable diseases in the Caribbean

GENEVA, Switzerland (CMC) — The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a new high-level commission, comprising heads of state and ministers, leaders in health and development and entrepreneurs in helping to beat non-communicable diseases in the Caribbean and other places.

WHO said the group will propose “bold and innovative solutions to accelerate prevention and control of the leading killers on the planet – non-communicable diseases (NCDs), like heart and lung disease, cancers and diabetes.

WHO Independent Global High-level Commission on NCDs is co-chaired by President Tabaré Vázquez of Uruguay; President Maithripala Sirisena of Sri Lanka; President Sauli Niinistö of Finland; Veronika Skvortsova, Minister of Healthcare of the Russian Federation; and Sania Nishtar, former Federal Minister of Pakistan.

Seven in 10 deaths globally every year are from NCDs, the main contributors to which are tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity, WHO said.

It said more than 15 million people between the ages of 30 and 70 years die from NCDs annually.

Low- and lower-middle income countries are increasingly affected, with half of premature deaths from NCDs occurring in those countries, WHO said.

“Many lives can be saved from NCDs through early diagnosis, and improved access to quality and affordable treatment, as well as a whole-of-government approach to reduce the main risk factors,” WHO said.

“NCDs are the world's leading avoidable killers but the world is not doing enough to prevent and control them,” Dr Vázquez said. “We have to ask ourselves if we want to condemn future generations from dying too young, and living lives of ill health and lost opportunity. The answer clearly is 'no,'"expressed Vázquez.

“But there is so much we can do to safeguard and care for people, from protecting everyone from tobacco, harmful use of alcohol, and unhealthy foods and sugary drinks, to giving people the health services they need to stop NCDs in their tracks,” he added.

Former New York City Mayor Michael R Bloomberg, WHO Global Ambassador for Non-communicable Diseases and Commission member, said: “For the first time in history, more people are dying of non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, than infectious diseases.


Caribbean/American congresswoman blames Trump for DACA crisis

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — Caribbean/ American Congresswoman Yvette Clarke has blamed US President Donald Trump for the crisis surrounding the fate of the so-called Caribbean and other “Dreamers”. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the president created “a crisis by ending DACA [Deferred Acton for Childhood Arrivals], (and) called on Congress to work together to solve it”.

But Clarke, who represents the ninth Congressional District in Brooklyn, said Trump “continues to torpedo bipartisan deal after bipartisan deal, while offering an immigration framework that is cruel, vindictive and heartless.

“Over 100 Dreamers are deported daily, and we are quickly approaching the March 5th deadline,” she said.

“If Donald Trump cannot lead, he must get out of the way and let the Congress do its job in a bipartisan fashion, and save DACA.”

March 5 is the day that Trump has set the DACA programme to expire. The programme protects about 690,000 Caribbean and other Dreamers from deportation and allows them to work, study or join the military. But Trump rescinded DACA, leaving it to Congress to find a replacement.

After the week began with the promise of an extraordinarily open, free-ranging debate on immigration, senators on Thursday struck down measure after measure, leaving into question whether any solution on the Dreamers can be reached.

In a rebuke to Trump, senators voted overwhelmingly, 39 to 60, against the White House-backed bill, which would have committed US$25 billion for a wall along the border with Mexico, placed strict limits on legal immigration, ended the diversity visa lottery and offered 1.8 million Dreamers an eventual path to citizenship.

Senators were 21 votes short of the 60 required to open debate, with the rejection of the president's plan: Democrats refused its get-tough approach to legal immigration, while many conservative Republicans derided it as amnesty.

Before the vote on Trump's plan, senators rejected two bipartisan measures, including one written by Senators John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, and another drafted by a broad bipartisan group of centrists calling themselves the Common Sense Coalition.

The estimated 690,000 young, undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants have been protected from deportation, until March 5, by DACA, and another 1.1 million would be eligible.

However, some Dreamers, many of whom have known no country other than the United States, are hopeful that the judicial system will protect them.

Meanwhile, two federal courts have issued injunctions ordering the Trump administration to keep DACA in place for those already receiving its protections, but the US Justice Department has asked the US Supreme Court to intervene and overturn lower court rulings.


NYC Council passes resolution supporting Trinidadian immigrant rights activist

   Ravi Ragbir (center) during a recent protest
NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — The New York City Council has approved a resolution supporting Trinidadian-born immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir who faces deportation to his country. The resolution — introduced by Grenadian American Council Member Jumaane D Williams and his City Council colleague Ydanis Rodriguez — calls on the United States Congress to pass HR 4937, a bill by New York Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, to give Ragbir legal permanent status in the United States.

The measure would also give Ragbir “a legal right to return to the United States,” if deported, according to Williams, who, with Rodriguez, were among 18 people arrested protesting Ragbir's detention on January 11 during a routine immigration check-in at 26 Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan.

“This is one of many efforts by the Council to advocate for Ravi to stay in the United States with his family and community he has built,” Williams told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), adding “I stand with Ravi, and I'm heartened that the City Council stand with him as well.

“As Donald Trump and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agency aggressively target immigrants for immoral deportation, we in New York have a moral obligation to stand against this xenophobia — not just for Ravi Ragbir but for the thousands of immigrants under threat who lack the widespread support that Ravi has rightly received,” he added.

“I thank Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez for taking federal action to protect Ravi, and my colleagues on the council, including council member Ydanis Rodriguez and chair of the committee on immigration, council member Carlos Menchaca, and speaker Corey Johnson for taking up this cause with such conviction,” Williams added.

Rodriguez, a council member from Manhattan, said “a vote in support of Ravi is a vote in support of the millions of all deportation vulnerable Americans who contribute billions of dollars to our economy.

Ragbir, the executive director of the New York-based New Sanctuary Coalition, and several organisations supporting him have filed a lawsuit against ICE, the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Department of Justice, alleging that he was targeted because of his activism.

He was granted a stay of deportation to allow for the briefing and consideration of the suit, according to AM New York.

Lawyers defending Ragbir said the US government has agreed to stay Ragbir's deportation temporarily. The lawsuit seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction, restraining the government from taking further action to force a deportation order against Ragbir.

It also seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction “restraining the government from selectively enforcing immigration laws against individuals based on protected political speech.”

But ICE has denied targeting immigrants based on their advocacy work or comments, saying in a statement that “any suggestion to the contrary is irresponsible, speculative and inaccurate.” A judge ordered Ragbir's release from ICE detention on January 29, ruling that his detention was “unnecessarily cruel.”

Once released, he was ordered to report to ICE for deportation on Saturday, February 10. But, last Friday, his legal defence team said he was no longer required by ICE to check in.

Ragbir was issued a green card in 1994 after migrating in 1991, but he was convicted of wire fraud in 2001 and served 30 months in federal prison.


Regional Team To Continue Rebuilding Efforts in Barbuda

ST JOHN’S, Antigua - A 25-member regional team will be in Barbuda next week to assist with the rebuilding efforts following the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma last September. The National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) will receive assistance from a 12-member delegation from Jamaica, along with 13 individuals from the Regional Security System (RSS).

They will join a ten-member Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force team that is already carrying out work in Barbuda along with local contractors.

The focus is now on homes categorized as Levels One and Two – those that received minor damage, public buildings and properties belonging to persons who work in the critical services namely teachers, airport staff, among others. In all, 82 houses have been repaired.

Meanwhile, Operations Officer within the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) Major Alando Michael says clean-up of the properties on Barbuda continues. Electricity has been restored to several homes after they were assessed and then verified by APUA. The Sir McChesney George Secondary School has been reopened and caters for 58 primary and secondary students.

Major Michael says work has started on getting the Antigua Commercial Bank operational this week.

In addition, security personnel are now operating from the airport and customs and immigration are expected to be installed shortly. The River Dock is also opened to the ferry, small cargo vessels and barges.


Aid and ad-hoc agendas create the tangled web of US-Caribbean relations
By Sir Ronald Sanders

Much has been said about the Government of the United States of America cutting off aid to countries which do not support that country's position in international organisations. Other donor countries have the same view, although they do not express it in quite the same way, as the US Government now makes clear.

The US, of course, is free to direct its aid where it wishes, and is very much within its rights to show its displeasure with countries that take its money but don't support it. Aid, after all, seldom has moral considerations. Economic aid, in particular, was introduced in the world because it merged with the desire of rich countries to maintain access to markets of developing countries and to garner political influence over them.

The same was true of the Soviet Union, and it continues to be so for Russia and China today. Even developing countries, such as Venezuela, that have emerged as donors, are hardly motivated by altruism. Developing countries know that reality better than any.

It is worth recalling that the original demand of developing countries was not for bilateral aid but for improvement of the terms of trade and the establishment of multilateral institutions that would provide financing for their industrialisation. But most of the Western countries had no interest in altering the system to suit developing countries and, by so doing, weakening their own positions.


US group says crime will destabilise Guyana

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — The New York-based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) has warned that crime will destabilise Guyana if the David Granger-led administration fails to immediately enact modern laws and crime-fighting measures. On Saturday, CGID said it was “concerned about the inability of Guyana's law enforcement authorities to arrest violent crime,” claiming that murders, shootings, armed robberies, domestic violence, rape, car-jacking, felonious assaults and other serious crimes are “pervasive”.

“Sections of the population live in fear,” it said, “Guyanese abroad fear being robbed when visiting Guyana.”

CGID said that “pervasive violent crime” prompted the US State Department, on November 25, to warn US citizens to exercise increased caution in Guyana due to crime.

Violent crime, such as armed robbery and murder, is common,” the State Department said. “Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents.”

CGID said the “brazen robbery and shooting to death of America Street money-changer, Shawn Nurse (aka 'Fabulous'), on the morning of Sunday, February 4 while doing business in the busy Georgetown commercial district, and other murders, demonstrate that criminals are unafraid to strike at any time.

“Their bravery is driven by an insufficient deployment of security assets in strategic areas of Guyana,” it said.

“Daily press reports of overseas visitors or senior citizens, business owners and ordinary citizens being robbed at gunpoint and/or killed are damaging to Guyana's image. It will also hinder Guyana's nascent ecotourism industry and deters foreign investment.”

CGID also claimed that residents in the hinterland/forest communities are “being terrorized by the murderous, Venezuelan gang, 'Sindicato'.”

It said villagers, gold miners and business owners in Hosororo, White Water and communities in the Amakuru River, in Region One, and Arau, Mango Landing and surrounding Amerindian communities in Region Seven, have “detailed ordeals of Venezuelan gang members crossing the border into Guyana unrestricted".

“They engage in shoot-outs, demand taxes, cash, gold, house hold items and store inventories, with impunity,” CGID said. “The gang has ostensibly slaughtered several Guyanese miners working in border areas in Venezuela.”

In January, CGID said Venezuelan gang members reportedly beheaded a young Guyanese miner, stating that the killing was photographed, videotaped and allegedly released on social media.

“To date, the Guyana government has not announced an investigation of these murders or warned Guyanese about the dangers of crossing the border,” CGID claimed. “Residents report no increased security or capture of gang members to restore public safety. The borders remain, open, lawless and dangerous.”

CGID President Rickford Burke said crime fighting measures by the coalition government “have been inadequate or ineffective.”


US lauds Jamaica on progress in combating lottery scamming

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has lauded the Government for the important progress made in combating lottery scamming and assured of the US Government's continued support to Jamaica's security forces and criminal justice system.

Tillerson said he appreciated the country's close cooperation with US authorities to extradite suspected lotto scammers to the US and welcomed the establishment of a bilateral lottery scam task force.

He was addressing a joint press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister today following bilateral talks with Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

The US Secretary of State, who is on a one-day working visit to Jamaica, also noted the Jamaican Government's commitment to countering narcotics trafficking and transnational criminal organisations. He said that there are “many opportunities” to enhance cooperation in this regard, “to be even more effective in disrupting these illegal organisations.”

“It is in both of our countries' interest to work together to investigate crimes, share intelligence, conduct asset seizures where legally and appropriate to do so, and bolster existing anti-corruption and anti-gang programmes,” he pointed out.

In his remarks, Holness expressed gratitude for the “high levels of support” provided by the US to Jamaica over the years, especially in the areas which have assisted in meeting the country's National Development goals.


PAHO launches new study on migration of health workers in the Caribbean

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has launched a new study that it says will survey current migration trends of health care workers in the Caribbean region. PAHO said that the results of the survey will be used to develop recommendations on migration within the health sector of the countries involved.

The study will be conducted over a three-month period in 16 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries and territories including Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands and the English-speaking islands of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), PAHO said.

It said the research team is planning to meet with representatives of ministries of health, hospitals, organisations, governments, general practitioners, and primary health care groups, among others.

PAHO said the outcomes of the survey will inform regional policy on migration in the Caribbean and contribute to the implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO)/PAHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel.

"The region will soon face one of the most critical shortages in the labour market of health workers in its history if nothing is done to reverse the trend of low in-migration and high out-migration levels within the Anglo-Caribbean", said Jessie Schutt-Aine, coordinator of the PAHO Sub-regional Program for the Eastern Caribbean.

"The undersupply of these practitioners will impact negatively on both the quality and sustainability of health systems, especially in the smaller islands of the region," he added.

PAHO said the migration and shortages of health care workers in the Americas, and particularly in the Caribbean region, are impacting on health systems and services.

The problem is also a global one, with an estimated 40 million new health care jobs required to meet people's health needs and achieve the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals related to health by 2030, according to the latest projections from WHO and the World Bank.

PAHO said it is working to address migration-related shortages of human resources for health in the Caribbean.

"The situation with regard to health care workers in the Caribbean and in most countries in the OECS is critical, with many persons opting to leave the region for better working conditions, higher salaries, better job security and even a better mental state of mind", said Erika Wheeler, PAHO Sub-regional Advisor on Human Resources for Health.

Principal researcher in the project and an expert in labour market and migration statistics, C Justine Pierre said, "the governments of the Caribbean region have struggled to contain the migration of health workers, and very few, if any, have established migration protocols or policies in place".

The recently-approved PAHO Strategy on Human Resources for Universal Health urges countries to increase public investment in human resources for health, especially at the first level of care.

PAHO said the strategy aims to guide national policies to cover a shortfall of nearly 800,000 health workers in the Region of the Americas.


US House Democratic leader holds floor in advocacy of Caribbean 'Dreamers'

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — United States House of Representatives Democratic Leader Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday held the floor of the House for over eight hours advocating for Caribbean and other “Dreamers.”

Her marathon monologue — highly unusual for the House, which has no equivalent to the Senate filibuster — appears to have set the record for the longest continuous speech in the chamber, dating to at least 1909, according to the New York Times.

The report said her marathon speech tied up the House into the evening, delaying debate on a bill intended to spur competition in the mortgage market.

It also demonstrated, yet again, why Pelosi, 77, of California, remains one of the most enduring — and to many, infuriating — figures in Washington, the Times said.

It said Pelosi's speech came as Republicans were scrambling to pass legislation to keep the government open. A short-term funding bill expires at midnight Thursday. About 800,000 young unauthorised immigrants are protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme that President Barack Obama instituted and President Donald J Trump plans to end in March.

Pelosi said she was protesting lack of protection for the Dreamers, who were brought to the US as children and have been shielded from deportation by DACA.


Jamaica to host 2019 Caribbean Travel Marketplace

The Caribbean's largest tourism marketing event will be held in Jamaica next year. Caribbean Travel Marketplace will be held at Montego Bay Convention Centre from January 29 to 31, 2019, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) said at the weekend. The event will be held in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, and the Jamaica Tourist Board.

Produced by CHTA, Caribbean Travel Marketplace brings together hotel and destination representatives; wholesalers and tour operators; online travel agencies; meeting, incentive, convention and exhibition planners; and members of the media for several days of business meetings, including thousands of pre-scheduled appointments.

A CHTA news release reports the association's CEO and Director General Frank Comito as saying that after an incredibly successful 36th convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico, last week, the trade association is delighted to return the event to Jamaica next winter.

“Jamaica is synonymous with exceptional hospitality, world-renowned culture and incredible beauty. We look forward to continuing to offer our participants a high- quality programme to engage with industry peers and promote travel to our region,” he said.

Jamaica's Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett agreed and said that the country stands to benefit from the event. “It is an incredible achievement for our country and I am certain we will reap significant benefits,” he said.

This year's Caribbean Travel Marketplace exceeded organisers' expectations. The meeting received an exceptional billing and showcased the resilience of the people of Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean, in particular those destinations which are rebounding from the impact of two category five hurricanes.


US immigration agents crack down on 'sanctuary state' California

LOS ANGELES, United States (AFP) — US immigration officials said Friday they raided 77 California businesses this week as operations intensify in the state, whose own authorities are defying President Donald Trump's hard line on immigration by not cooperating with federal enforcement agents.

The raids took place in cities including San Francisco, Sacramento and San Jose in the north of California — a "sanctuary state" where, since January 1, law enforcement has been mostly prohibited from working with federal officials seeking to arrest undocumented immigrants.

"The actions taken this week reflect ... stepped-up efforts to enforce the laws that prohibit businesses from hiring illegal workers," with a focus on "protecting jobs for US citizens and others who are lawfully employed," US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a statement.

In 2017, the government carried out 1,360 similar raids and arrested more than 300 people — with businesses paying out over US$100 million in restitution and fines, ICE said.

"It's put people in a lot of panic," Mariela Garcia, with San Jose-based charity Sacred Heart Community Service, told the local Mercury News.

"We have people who are quitting their jobs."

US immigration authorities also recently adopted a policy that allows officials to enter courtrooms to arrest undocumented immigrants. Previously, courtrooms were considered "sanctuaries" so as to not discourage witnesses from testifying during trials.

Meanwhile last month, ICE agents carried out visible raids on around 100 7-Eleven convenience stores across the country to discourage managers from hiring undocumented workers.


Jamaican Business in Venture with US Company to Produce Cannabis-Based Medicinals

KINGSTON, Jamaica – A Jamaican manufacturing company has entered a joint venture with US-based biotechnology company United Cannabis Corporation (UCANN) and Cannabinoid Research and its local subsidiary company, Cannabinoid Research and Development Company Limited (CRD), to produce cannabis-infused water and other cannabis-based products.

Under the limited partnership, LASCO Manufacturing Limited will produce UCANN's cannabidiol water and other medicinals such as capsules, sublinguals, roll-ons and balms for export to the English-speaking Caribbean and Central America, excluding Mexico.

For this venture, LASCO has formed a new company, Lasvac, which is in the final stage of receiving approval from the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) to grow, manufacture, transport, research and export cannabis products. Once it gets approved, Lasvac will be importing the raw material for the water and medicinals from Europe.

LASCO has earmarked US$100 million for the manufacture and distribution of the products, and another US$3 million will be provided by UCANN. CRD will be responsible for growing the cannabis locally.

Founder and executive chairman of the LASCO Group, Lascelles Chin, said he has already received "visits from potential customers from Australia interested in placing large orders, as well as inquiries from territories including Canada, Italy, Europe, and Ukraine wanting information on timing of production and distribution".

"We are eager to begin this new venture," he said. "We started LASCO with the mission to build the market for Jamaica's products domestically and around the world, and we recognized the opportunity to do that with the United Cannabis brand."

UCANN's chief executive officer, Earnest Blackmon, said LASCO was the ideal partner in Jamaica.


New survey finds climate change concerns much higher in Caribbean than US, Canada

NASHVILLE, United States (CMC) — A leading university here has found that climate change concerns are much higher in Latin America and the Caribbean that in the United States and Canada. According to a new “Insights” report from Vanderbilt University's Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP), titled “Education and Risk Assessments Predict Climate Change Concerns in Latin America and the Caribbean,” 66.7 per cent of Caribbean nationals were “very serious” about climate change.

The report says 21.9 per cent of Caribbean nationals said they were “somewhat serious” about the phenomenon. Meanwhile, more than eight in 10 adults in Mexico and Central America believe climate change is a very serious problem for their country, more than twice the proportion of adults in the United States and Canada, the report says.

Elizabeth Zechmeister, LAPOP's director and Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science, and graduate student Claire Evans wrote the report.

“Climate change is a highly politicised and partisan issue in the United States, and we wanted to examine whether that is a common characteristic of this issue in other countries in the region,” said Zechmeister. “If not politics, then what predicts attitudes about climate change in these other places?”

Using data collected from LAPOP's 2016-17 Americas Barometre survey, Zechmeister and Evans analysed responses to the question: “If nothing is done to reduce climate change in the future, how serious of a problem do you think it will be for [country]?”

They found that concern was highest in Mexico and Central America, where 81.5 per cent characterised climate change as a “very serious” problem, with an additional 10.4 per cent characterising it as “somewhat serious.”

South America followed close behind, with 75 per cent answering “very serious” and 15.2 per cent saying “somewhat serious.”

The United States and Canada trailed their neighbours considerably, with just 39.6 per cent, saying unchecked climate change was a “very serious” problem.

However, a much larger proportion of adults in these areas considered it a “somewhat serious” issue — 35.4 per cent, the report finds.

In the Latin America and Caribbean region, the report says the most significant predictors of climate change concern are education and worries about being affected by a natural disaster, though wealth also plays a role.

Education increases concern for climate change nearly 11 per cent, while worries about natural disasters increase that concern 8.3 per cent, the report says. Wealth is also linked to increased climate change concern, raising it by 3.3 per cent.

Vanderbilt University said the findings confirmed the researchers' hypothesis that climate change is a much more partisan issue in the United States than it is anywhere else in the hemisphere.


Civil rights group sues over Trump's decision to rescind protected status for Haitians

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — The largest and oldest civil rights organisation in the United States has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over the Trump administration's decision to rescind Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian immigrants. Included in the lawsuit is current head of the agency, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and the former acting head of the agency, Elaine C Duke. The suit has asked the court to void the decision and reinstate the status for thousands of Haitians.

It's reported that the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which is a separate organisation from the NAACP, is representing the NAACP and its Haitian members and says DHS “irrational and discriminatory government action, denying Haitian immigrants their right to due process and equal protection under the Fifth Amendment.”

“Governmental decisions that target people based on racial discrimination violate our Constitution,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in a statement. “The decision by the Department of Homeland Security to rescind TPS status for Haitian immigrants was infected by racial discrimination.

“Every step taken by the department to reach this decision reveals that far from a rational and fact-based determination, this decision was driven by calculated, determined and intentional discrimination against Haitian immigrants,” she added.

To make its case, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund references in the lawsuit President Donald J Trump's alleged derogatory comments about Haitians and about limiting immigrants from the French-speaking Caribbean nation to increase immigration from European countries.

“On January 11, 2018, during a meeting on immigration with several U. Senators, Secretary of State Rex W Tillerson, White House Chief of Staff John F Kelly, and Defendant Nielsen, the President stated that he did not want immigrants from African countries, which he derided as 's...hole countries,'” the complaint reads. “The President also asked, 'Why do we need more Haitians?' and directed that Haitian immigrants should not be admitted through any proposed immigration plan.

“In stark contrast, the President stated that immigrants from countries 'like Norway' were more desirable and should be admitted,” the complaint adds. “As Senator Richard Durbin pointed out during the meeting, President Trump's singling out of Haitians for exclusion was 'an obvious racial decision.'”

The complaint also points to reports that the president said all Haitians “have AIDS” and argues that Trump's “racial bias against Haitian immigrants recalls America's long, ignominious history of discrimination against Haiti, the world's first Black republic.”

The lawsuit also states that officials at DHS sought crime data on Haitians with TTPS, as well as information on how many Haitian nationals were receiving public benefits, in an effort to use “false anti-Black stereotypes about criminality and exploitation of public benefits.”

TPS covers hundreds of thousands of people who are living in the United States and who are temporarily unable to return to their countries of origin because of safety concerns or other issues, PBS noted, adding that Haitians gained the status days after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated the country in January 2010. President Barack Obama repeatedly renewed the 18-month protected status for Haitians. But in November, the Trump administration announced that it would not renew the status for thousands of Haitians when it expires next year.


Record remittances for Caribbean in 2016

WASHINGTON, United States (CANA) — While remittance flows decreased worldwide for a second-consecutive year in 2016, remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean, however, rose to a record high. This is based on recently released data from the World Bank.

In analysing the figures, the Pew Research Center, a non-partisan American think tank based here, reported that globally migrants sent an estimated US$574 billion to their home countries in 2016, a 1.4 per cent drop from 2015.

But in Latin America and the Caribbean — together making up a region where many people say economic conditions are bad — remittances rose to US$74.3 billion, a 7.4 per cent increase from the previous year (US$69.2 billion), said the Pew Research Center.

It said Europe was the only other region in the world to see an increase, "and it was a much smaller one (up 0.9 per cent)."

Remittances are funds or other assets sent by migrants via formal channels, such as banks.

The think tank said the total amount of money transferred is likely significantly larger than what is reported "because these estimates do not include the transfer of other assets, such as gifts, or informal monetary transfers." The World Bank reports only remittances sent via formal channels, the Pew Research Center said.

It said the increase in remittances to the region is primarily due to general improved labour market conditions in the US, which has helped boost migrants' capacity to send money home.

This improvement was especially evident in sectors such as information, construction and manufacturing, industries in which many Latin American immigrants work.

Among Latin American and Caribbean countries, Mexico has long received the highest amount of remittances, the centre said.

In 2016, it said US$28.6 billion in remittances flowed to Mexico (up 9.3 per cent from the previous year) — a total that accounted for over a third of remittances to all of Latin America and the Caribbean.


China looks towards deepening trade with CARICOM

    Suriname's Foreign Minister Yldiz Pollack-Beighle and her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.

SANTIAGO, Chile (CMC) — Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries have indicated a willingness to work with China regarding the socio-economic development of the 15-member grouping. Foreign ministers of the nine CARICOM countries which recognise Beijing met with their Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on the side-lines of the Second Ministerial Meeting of the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC) that ended here on Monday.

Chair of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) Maxine McClean, underscored the importance CARICOM attached to the existing Caribbean-China Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum, and the Caribbean-China Consultations.

McClean who is also the Barbados Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister described those consultations as “valuable mechanisms for continued dialogue and cooperation”.

She said CARICOM also regards the “One Belt, One Road” initiative China announced in Santiago, as a “very important cooperation and development mechanism.

“We look forward to working closely with China in ascertaining the best means of linking the opportunities arising from the initiative to the Community's own development goals and priorities. These include, for example, regional transportation, renewable energy, and strengthening our disaster management capacity,” the COFCOR Chair stated.

She said CARICOM also attaches importance to the CELAC-China Forum and believes a number of projects could redound to the benefit of all members of the Community from the Action Plan for 2019-2011. Noting that sustainable development within CARICOM was challenged by peculiar exposures and vulnerabilities unique to Small Island Developing States, McClean said there was need for a “new paradigm in development finance” adding that this is critical for CARICOM to realise its economic and social development aspirations.

“We need the international financial architecture revised urgently to take into consideration the developmental peculiarities and vulnerabilities of SIDS,” she said, adding that CARICOM countries' ability to rebound from the ravages of natural disasters is impaired by the graduation of some of its economies from access to concessionary development finance, due to the use of per capita income as the primary eligibility criterion and non-incorporation of their peculiar vulnerabilities.

“Concessional development funding is essential for the building of economic and climate resilience to serve as the platform for our sustainable development,” she said, urging the Chinese foreign minister to relay CARICOM's concerns to his colleagues of the G20 and to the heads of international financial institutions.

She said that the region had also benefitted from China's generous grant funding in the past and hoped that consideration would “continue to be given to this valuable means of development support.”


Caricom: The people say 'legalise it'
BY NAZMA MULLER - Sunday Observer writer

(Jamaica Observer) Across the Caribbean the strongest view expressed about cannabis is that it ought to be decriminalised or legalised, says head of Caricom's Regional Commission on Marijuana, Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine. Speaking to reporters after a town meeting at Holy Trinity Activity Centre in New Providence, in The Bahamas recently, Antoine said, “[It was an] excellent meeting, very well attended, and my distinct impression is that this is a very important issue for The Bahamas.

“… One of the interesting things, too, is what I said in the beginning: that marijuana isn't just about marijuana — it's about so many other social issues, like poverty and equality in a society, and that came out as well, so I was very pleased. But [it was] a very, very powerful meeting, I think.”

Antoine, who is dean of the Faculty of Law at The UWI, St Augustine, added: “Honestly, [in] every single country we've been, whether it's because those are the ones who came out, the majority of the people have said either decriminalise or legalise, so far.

“That's what they've been saying. I think there is a turn in public opinion; how widespread it is, it's difficult to say.

“But I would say that if people who were very vehemently opposed were indeed that way, they should come out and say so, and they haven't been.

“So I think that tells you something, that there's a softening perhaps of attitudes in relation to marijuana.”

The meeting was part of the commission's mandate to gauge public opinion in Caricom member countries on the issue. Antoine told the Jamaica Observer: “We finally had some traction with the consultations late last year and up till last week (once the funding issues regarding travel were sorted out). The consultations have been going very well. Originally, we had not planned to go to Jamaica but today I understand the Government wants us to visit so I will try my best to convince Caricom we should go. We still also need to persuade Trinidad, but we have done eight so far. Dominica was willing but the hurricane put a stop to that.”

Following the meeting, Bahamian representative on the commission Bishop Simeon Hall expressed support for medical marijuana.

“I have a deeper appreciation for medicinal usage of marijuana than I had previous to coming to this committee,” Hall told reporters. “…I didn't know. I was prejudiced. My only point though was pastoral, that these young people shouldn't be criminalised for a little joint. I said that years ago. “I am now a proponent of medicinal usage of marijuana because I've heard enough, like we heard tonight, that it does have some medicinal value and personally, as I said, I have a daughter who is challenged and I'll do anything that I can to keep her alive.”

Asked about recreational use of the drug, Hall said, “Well, that's a different thing. I think that needs more management, but I respect your right as long as it does not infringe on mine or someone else's.”

Hall said he was surprised by the level of support for decriminalisation of cannabis at the meeting, noting that the conversation on the topic needs to continue.

“I believe it is deserving of a national discussion, and that's what you saw tonight. “Mind you, the majority of persons who spoke seem to be in favour of decriminalising marijuana.

“I'm not sure if they have an appreciation of all the ramifications of that, but I think the conversation should be ongoing.”

Caricom's Marijuana Commission, established in 2014, aims to conduct studies into the “social, economic, health and legal issues surrounding marijuana use in the Caribbean, and to determine whether there should be a change in the current drug classification of marijuana, thereby making the drug more accessible for all types of usage (religious, recreational, medical and research)”.

It also aims to “recommend, if there is to be a reclassification, the legal and administrative conditions that shall apply”.


Haitians march in NY protesting Trump's reported racist comments

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — Hundreds of Haitians marched from the Brooklyn Bridge to Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan Friday, protesting Trump’s reported disparaging remarks about the French-speaking Caribbean country. Waving Haitian flags and dancing to the beat of drums and horns, the number of demonstrators multiplied as they streamed into Midtown.

“We have a president in power who knows no history and seems to have no education, who just disrespects any and everybody in the world,” said Marie Timothee, 28, a social worker born in Haiti and raised in Brooklyn.

The protesters took to the streets eight days after Trump was reported, in a White House meeting with lawmakers, to have described Haiti and African nations as “s..thole countries” .

The US president resident reportedly used the derogatory term to describe the countries with black populations while wondering aloud why the US wasn’t accepting more people from places like Norway, a predominantly white country.

“I am here with my fellow Haitians, and also our fellow Africans, to tell Trump he’s wrong the way he thinks about us,” said Sully Guillaume-Sam, 49, a priest at St Thomas Episcopal Church in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

“We bring a lot to this country, and he needs to be fair to us,” Guillaume-Sam said. “He needs to be a leader with heart, not the kind of racist leader he has been showing us he is.”


CARICOM denounces enslavement of African migrants in Libya

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — Caribbean Community (CARICOM) foreign ministers have denounced the enslavement of African migrants in Libya saying slavery should never again be experienced in old or new forms. A statement issued by the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat said that the ministers met earlier this week for the first time this year and issued the statement expressing concern at the reports of the dehumanising situation of African migrants in Libya being auctioned into slavery by criminal elements.

It said that the ministers joined in solidarity with the statements made by African and European leaders at the 5th African Union-European Union Summit on 29-30 November 2017 calling for “an immediate end of these criminal practices” and with that of the United Nations Security Council on December 7, 2017 condemning “such actions as heinous abuses of human rights”.

The statement said that the ministers also welcomed the statement by the Presidential Council of the Government of National Accord of Libya denouncing “slavery and human trafficking” and committing to take action against the reported crimes.

“Given the history, lessons and effects of slavery, the (Community) Council (of Ministers of CARICOM) underscored the need to condemn this gross violation of human rights.

“As stated in 2007 by then Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Dr Ralph Gonsalves, on the occasion of the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, slavery should “never again be experienced in old or new forms,” the statement added.

An estimated 700,000 migrants are in Libya, which is among the key transit pathways towards Europe, according to a UN estimate.

One human trafficker was quoted by a television station recently as saying that many of the enslaved refugees are held for ransom or forced into prostitution and sexual exploitation to pay their captors and smugglers. Others are murdered by smugglers or die in the desert from thirst or car accidents.


Haitian Ambassador encourages Trump to visit Haiti

    Haiti's ambassador to the US, Paul Altidor
WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — An invitation has been extended to US President Donald Trump to visit Haiti in the aftermath of reports that he made a derogatory comment about the French speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member state. The invitation came from Haiti's ambassador to the US, Paul Altidor, who was speaking with CNN on Monday.

According to Altidor, the words reportedly said by the president were an insult to Haiti's dignity. “The words, they did hurt the community, they did hurt the country of Haiti…..it hurt because one, it's an insult to our dignity but more importantly it's because too much of Haiti is misunderstood,” said Altidor. The Haitian ambassador, in issuing the invitation said it “doesn't excuse an apology for what was said” and that “such words shouldn't be coming out of anybody's mouth, let alone the President of the United States.”

During a meeting with lawmakers here last week, the President reportedly made the comment about immigrations for Haiti, El Salvador and African nations. However Trump later tweeted that he “never said anything derogatory about Haitians, other than Haiti is, obviously a very poor and troubled country.”

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of St. Lucia, Allen Chastanet has also weighed in on the issue.

Chastanet told reporters in St Lucia on Monday that Trump's statements were "very unfortunate".

He expressed the view that CARICOM had issued an appropriate response. "If anything, I think that maybe the African Union's response which asked for an apology would have been appropriate," Chastanet declared. "I think there are two sides to take, one obviously from an international perspective that it's just insulting and particularly when you think of what Haitians and Haiti have gone through and the need for our assistance," he observed.

According to Chastanet, Haitians are still trying to recover from a devastating earthquake and hurricane Matthew one year ago.

“If anything, they need our sympathy not that level of criticism," Chastanet told reporters. He explained that the world is becoming very unsympathetic.


MLK Day marked by Trump criticism, pledges to fight racism

ATLANTA, USA (AP) — Martin Luther King Jr's children and the pastor of an Atlanta church where he preached decried disparaging remarks President Donald Trump is said to have made about African countries, while protests between Haitian immigrants and Trump supporters broke out near the president's Florida resort yesterday, the official federal holiday honouring King.

At gatherings across the nation, activists, residents and teachers honoured the late civil rights leader on what would have been his 89th birthday and ahead of the 50th anniversary of his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee. In Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation marked Martin Luther King Jr Day with events aimed at coming to terms with its own history of slavery and by welcoming descendants of former slaves into the tribe.

Trump marked his first King holiday as president buffeted by claims that during a meeting with senators on immigration last week, he used a vulgarity to describe African countries and questioned the need to allow more Haitians into the US. He also is said to have asked why the country couldn't have more immigrants from nations like Norway.

In Washington, King's eldest son, Martin Luther King III, criticised Trump, saying, “When a president insists that our nation needs more citizens from white states like Norway, I don't even think we need to spend any time even talking about what it says and what it is“.

He added: “We got to find a way to work on this man's heart.”

In Atlanta, King's daughter, the Rev Bernice King, told hundreds of people who packed the pews of the Ebenezer Baptist Church that they “cannot allow the nations of the world to embrace the words that come from our president as a reflection of the true spirit of America.

“We are one people, one nation, one blood, one destiny. ... All of civilisation and humanity originated from the soils of Africa,” Bernice King said. “Our collective voice in this hour must always be louder than the one who sometimes does not reflect the legacy of my father.”


Caribbean-American legislator arrested for protesting detention of Trinidadian community leader

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — A Caribbean-American legislator was arrested in New York on Thursday while protesting the detention of Trinidadian community leader Ravi Ragbir. “Many people were taken away by law enforcement today,” New York City Council Member Jumaane D Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants told the Caribbean Media Corporation late Thursday after his release.

“Protesters like myself were taken in an NYPD [New York Police Department] van. Ravi Ragbir was taken away in an ambulance, by ICE [US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency]. The protesters taken in, myself among them, were eventually released. Ravi has not been. If ICE continues along its current track in this case, he [Ragbir] will be deported,” added Williams, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn. “This is a tragic injustice for him, his family, and the community that he has served and led for over two decades in this country,”said Williams.

He also noted that Ragbir was detained by ICE officials and removed from Jacob K Javits Federal Building in lower Manhattan after a routine check-in with ICE officials.

Williams said he and some of his City Council colleagues had joined New York State Senator Gustavo Rivera and State Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, along with Ragbir's supporters and a group of activists in protesting, as the ambulance left the building.

He said several people, including him “peacefully protested" but officers began forcefully removing the protesters. At that point, Williams said he and Rodriguez were arrested, along with a group of protesters, “and removed from the area in a police van".

“After those arrested had been removed, the remaining group of activists continued to chant in support not only of those who had been taken by the NYPD but Ravi himself,” Williams said. He described Ragbir as “a dedicated community educator, spokesperson, and advocate for immigrants.”

Williams said Ragbir has served on the Board of Directors and Steering Committees of national and local non-profit organisations.

“He has educated other advocates, allies, community organisers, and elected officials on immigration issues, as well as new policies and reform proposals from Congress,” Williams said. A Fire Department spokesman said that Ragbir had been taken to Bellevue Hospital Center in lower Manhattan for evaluation, and the ICE spokeswoman said he was later taken into custody.


US agents target convenience stores to nab illegal Caribbean nationals

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — US Federal immigration agents on Wednesday arrested several undocumented workers when they descended on dozens of convenience stores across the country, targeting illegal Caribbean and other immigrants. The agents descended on 7-Eleven convenience stores before daybreak, arresting undocumented workers and demanding paperwork from managers, in what the Trump administration described as its largest enforcement operation against employers so far.

The sweep of 98 stores in 17 states, from California to Florida, resulted in 21 arrests, according to United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which signalled intensified efforts against businesses that hire unauthorised workers.

“Today's actions send a strong message to US businesses that hire and employ an illegal work force:; ICE will enforce the law, and if you are found to be breaking the law, you will be held accountable,” said Thomas D Homan, the acting director of the agency, in a statement. Homan, the US's top immigration-enforcement official, has promised more scrutiny of businesses that knowingly violate federal laws requiring employers to verify the identity and employment eligibility of their workers.

Under President Trump, ICE has significantly expanded immigration enforcement, arresting undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants in their homes or when they check in with US federal agents as part of immigration court cases.

In a statement, 7-Eleven Inc, based in Irving, Texas, distanced itself from the situation, saying that the individual stores are franchises that belong to independent business owners, who “are solely responsible for their employees, including deciding whom to hire and verifying their eligibility to work in the United States”.

“[Our] 7-Eleven [stores] take compliance with immigration laws seriously and has terminated the franchise agreements of franchisees convicted of violating these laws,” the company said.

“If ICE hoped to make a bold statement, it could hardly pick a more iconic target than 7-Eleven, a chain known for ubiquitous stores that are open all the time and sell the much-loved Slurpees and Big Gulps,” the New York Times said in a report adding that several 7-Eleven franchises have been steppingstones for new legal immigrants who want to own and run their own small businesses.

ICE called its Wednesday sweep a “follow-up” of a 2013 investigation that resulted in the arrests of nine 7-Eleven franchise owners and managers on Long Island, New York, and in Virginia on charges of employing undocumented workers.

Several have pleaded guilty and forfeited their franchises, and have been ordered to pay millions of dollars in back wages owed to the workers.

According to ICE, federal agents served inspection notices to 7-Eleven franchises in California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington State and Washington, DC.

In all, 16 of the 98 stores visited on Wednesday were in the New York City area, according to an ICE spokeswoman, Rachael Yong Yow, who would not specify the locations.

In Miami Beach, an employee at one 7-Eleven said that while no agents showed up at her store, her boss asked workers to make sure their employment records were up to date, in case ICE continued its visits, according to the Times.

It said agents dropped in on 7-Eleven stores in seven cities in south-east Florida, including Miami Beach, according to Nestor Yglesias, an ICE spokesman; he, too, declined to identify specific stores.


CARICOM states urged to address climate change to prevent total annihilation of economies

BASSETERRE, St Kitts (CMC) — Member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), have been urged to tackle climate change with courage and realism to prevent total annihilation of their economies. The plea was made by Opposition People's National Party (PNP) foreign affairs spokesperson, Lisa Hanna, as she addressed patrons at the 18th annual New Year's Gala hosted by former St Kitts Prime Minister Dr Denzil L Douglas.

According to Hanna, climate change “is real and potentially destructive and a destructive issue for all who call the Caribbean home.”

“Climate change has serious implications for small island developing states in CARICOM and must be tackled with courage and realism. All of us could face a total annihilation of our economies if we do not tackle this fight,” she said.

She referred to the extensive work that the former prime minister and his St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party administration did to protect the coastlines in St Kitts and Nevis when she chaired UNESCO “the resolutions that were moved at the UNSECO by the ambassador for St Kitts and Nevis on climate change on Small Island Developing States looking at climate change. We supported it and we must not stop supporting these kinds of issues.”

“It says he who feels it knows it and rain do not fall on one man house. Jamaica felt the back to back recent category five hurricanes and this is now a reality for this region,” she said.

The Jamaican politician also recalled Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit's emotional pronouncements last year at the UN General Assembly.

“It should serve as a chilling reminder to urgently brace for the 2018 hurricane season. Not because it did not hit Jamaica, we felt ravaged by what we saw in terms of the Eastern Caribbean. When it hits one, it hits all of us,” said Hanna.

“In this fight we must not only survive but we must prevail. There is no other option. We cannot afford to get wiped out,” she said.

Hanna said the Caribbean has to speak with as one voice “if we are going to be globally relevant as countries and as a region.”


Jamaicans in US list high murder toll as major concern for 2018

New York USA — Not surprisingly, and not for the first time, Jamaicans across the United States have identified the country's astronomical murder statistics as “their most pressing concern” as another new year begins. “With more than 1,600 homicides in their country last year, and with the numbers for this year already in double digits, the situation is having a debilitating effect on Jamaicans here,” said Dr Robert Clarke, president of the umbrella National Association of Jamaica and Supportive Organisations (NAJASO).

Clarke said that the situation continued to have a “crippling effect on potential investment opportunities from within the Diaspora”, as while many credit the Government for trying to bring the situation under control, “these efforts are seemingly being stymied by a lack of adequate resources available to the security forces”.

Clarke argued that the matter of resources — including a satisfactory resolution of the salary issue for the security forces and other public servants — should be a priority in Government's crime-fighting measures.

He also reiterated calls from among the Jamaican community here for a greater, deeper, and more strategic engagement by Government with the Diaspora, in efforts to reduce the murder figures.

But he acknowledged that “there has been improved efforts in this regard”.

In a measured response to the concerns and effects the murder figures are having on Jamaicans here, Akelila Lawrence-Maitland, Diaspora Advisory Board representative for the north-east US, said “the issue of [crime] hits us in more ways than one”.

“While there is no one-size-fit all solution to the complex murder issue, as it is fuelled by many factors, the Diaspora stands in hope and optimism with Jamaica in the new year that the situation will improve,” she said.

Former correctional officer and current president of the Ex-Correctional Officers Association of Jamaica, Ronnie Hammick, described the number of homicide in Jamaica last year as “very upsetting”.

“There is an obvious need for a bi-partisan approach on a strategic plan on how to deal with the matter,” he suggested. Other community leaders in the meantime have used the occasion also to offer solutions on the matter.

Horace Daley, who heads the Connecticut-based Professional Jamaicans for Jamaica, has proposed a grass root level involvement of the youth in the inner-city communities, using sports and skills training measures as an appeal.


Caribbean passengers delayed at JFK after flood, storm backlog

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — Caribbean nationals are among scores of passengers that are expecting long delays after John F Kennedy (JFK) International Airport in New York tries to “dig out” from last Thursday's winter storm. Scores of rescheduled flights, damaged equipment and other lingering effects of the winter storm have combined to create long delays for passengers at JFK and forced US federal officials to limit some flights into the airport on the weekend.

Adeola Dorris just wanted to go home to Guyana, but, instead, she was standing among other stranded passengers amid stacks and stacks of luggage at JFK Sunday afternoon.

Dorris, 40, an accountant who arrived at the airport Saturday night, had no idea when her connecting flight would leave. “When the flight was suspended, I literally cried,” she said. “Because I'm here alone, and I have nowhere to go. And you can't tell me when I'm going to get home. And I have to work tomorrow.”

On Sunday, JFK remained in disarray – three days after New York City's first major snowstorm of 2018 disrupted operations. Since the storm, a lingering, bone-chilling cold and a series of missteps have contributed to a logjam that has left thousands of travelers stranded and caused hundreds of flights to be canceled or diverted.

As a result, the disorder at JFK, one of the world's busiest airports, rippled across the world, affecting passengers as far away as Beijing. Flights headed to New York were forced to turn back, and connecting flights that were only supposed to bring passengers to New York for a brief stay were grounded indefinitely.

On Sunday, just as there were signs that things were finally improving, a water main break in a terminal plunged the airport back into chaos – flooding sections of Terminal 4 . This compounded the confusion that had gripped parts of JFK all weekend, as airlines tried to rebound from the cancellation of thousands of flights because of the storm.

Officials of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates JFK, were still trying to sort out what had gone wrong on Saturday when they had to scramble on Sunday to cope with the burst pipe. Rick Cotton, the executive director of the Port Authority, said that he was ordering an investigation of the water main break and the continuing flight problems.

He emphasised that the terminal with the flooding was operated by a private company, not the Port Authority.

For the second day in a row, the Port Authority had to ask US federal aviation officials to block some international flights from landing at JFK, the Times said. It said that order would add to the two dozen flights that had been diverted to other airports since Saturday. The protracted chaos at JFK drew harsh condemnation from US Senator Chuck Schumer, who called for “a thorough review” of the airport and the Port Authority to find out what went wrong, especially since Thursday's storm had not come as a surprise.


Caricom congratulates Haiti on 214th anniversary of Independence

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Caribbean Community (Caricom) has congratulated the Government and people of Haiti on the nation's 214th anniversary of political independence from France.

In a message to mark the anniversary, celebrated on January 1, Caricom Secretary General Irwin LaRocque said the occasion is cause for celebration “since history has proven that the success of the Haitian Revolution extended into the success of the region both socially and politically”.

He noted that the French-speaking Caricom country has demonstrated its resilience to the world on several occasions.

“The courage and fortitude of the Haitian people have served as an inspiration to the people of the region. The contribution of the country to the world of art, music, literature, and academia has gained Haiti international renown.”

The secretary general, in his letter to the president of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, said that as the regional grouping looks forward to Haiti's leadership of Caricom, the nation continues to make its mark through its commitment to the welfare of people with disabilities.

“The Caribbean Community salutes Haiti as it continues its journey of self-determination,” LaRocque said.


Jamaican Company Makes Stock Market History

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Thursday January 4, 2018 – A family-owned Jamaican manufacturing and distribution company has started listing on the main market of the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) with the largest single amount of money secured in an initial public offering (IPO).

Wisynco Group Limited, which distributes food, beverages and paper products, and also manufactures its own line of products, had offered just over 20 per cent of its shares to the investing public – 149,414,576 ordinary shares – at J$7.87 per share. Another 314.7 million shares were reserved for employees, strategic investors and stock brokers.

The IPO opened on December 6 and was oversubscribed two days after. And the homegrown company, with over 4,000 products across 110 brands, secured J$6.17 billion (US$49.8 million) in equity from investors – the largest in Jamaica’s capital markets history.

“The oversubscription of our shares also provides a testament of the faith that Jamaicans have in our company,” Wisynco chairman William Mahfood said at the listing ceremony on December 28.

Managing director of the JSE, Marlene Street Forrest, encouraged more large local companies to seek equity capital from the market in order to further expand and increase their level of competiveness, both Jamaica and globally.

“Based on the levels of oversubscription when offers are made available to the market, it is evident that investors are interested in good companies in which to invest. There is a definite appetite for equity and quasi equity securities. This increase in awareness of the market and willingness to participate is not by accident or an overnight feat. This has been achieved by the hard work, especially in recent years, of our brokers, attorneys and other market players in educating the market and putting in the hours to work with both companies and investors to seek capital and invest in solid businesses respectively,” she said.

Wisynco gained 25 per cent on its first day of trading on the JSE.


Caricom moving to create world's first climate-resilient region

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) — Incoming chairman of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), Haiti's President Jovenel Moïse, says the regional grouping is moving towards creating the world's first climate-resilient region this year. “2018 dawns for the Caribbean Community with the prospect of seizing an opportunity out of a crisis,” said Moïse in his New Year's message.

“As we begin the rebuilding process after the devastating hurricanes of last September, as well as Hurricane Matthew, which pounded the region on October 3-4, 2016, we do so with the aim of creating the first climate-resilient region in the world.

“The absolute necessity to create a climate-smart region is clear given the effects of climate change, which have brought us droughts, mega hurricanes, heavy floods and unusual weather patterns, all of which adversely affect our development,” he added.

“The social and economic gains that we have made individually and collectively must be protected against the onslaught of nature. The Caricom member States, as well as the region's non-member States' production of greenhouse gases, is practically nil, even though they bear a disproportionate share of the consequences.”

Moïse said the goodwill and pledges, “which have been forthcoming from the international community at two major global conferences in New York and Paris give us hope that the necessary support to achieve our objective will be forthcoming.”

He said the region's efforts are against the backdrop of the Caribbean Community's Strategic Plan for the period 2015-19, “which is our guide towards the economic, social, environmental, and technological resilience that is needed to produce sustained growth and development for our community.”

The incoming Caricom chairman said efforts will be made in 2018 in increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) in “providing the basis for our economic growth”.

Moïse said since many of the major legislative and administrative measures for the operations of the single market are in effect, it is, therefore, now up to all of the stakeholders in the public and private sectors to ensure they derive maximum benefits from the CSME's provisions.


'2017 the most eventful year for CARICOM', says chairman

ST GEORGE'S, Grenada (CMC) — Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Grenada's Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, says there is no doubt that 2017 has been “a most eventful year for CARICOM”. “We experienced a scale of multi-country devastation never before seen in the region as two category five Hurricanes, Irma and Maria, raged through the Caribbean within two weeks,” said Mitchell in CARICOM's end-of-year message.

“The Governments and people of our community immediately responded to assist their brothers and sisters with the generosity and spirit of togetherness which is our trademark.

“I, therefore, must pay tribute to those who so willingly extended a helping hand in the hour of need of our brothers and sisters in the stricken countries,” he added. “Even before the hurricane season was over, the resilient people that we are, we had begun to rally. We determined that we could use the rebuilding process to become the first climate-resilient region in the world.”

Recognising that the region did not have the resources to achieve that goal on its own, the Caricom chair said the region sought the assistance of the international community.

First, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), he said the region organised the Caricom-UN High Level Pledging Conference, 'Building a More Climate-Resilient Community', which was held in November at the UN Headquarters in New York.

It brought together nearly 400 high-level representatives from governments, multilateral and civil society organisations and the private sector, and raised more than US$1.3 billion in pledges and more than US$1 billion in loans and debt relief, Mitchell said.

In early December, at the One Planet Summit in Paris, he noted that a Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition was launched in partnership with British millionaire Sir Richard Branson.

The Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition seeks rapid implementation of a US$8-billion climate investment plan that will transform the regional energy system, build resilience, drive economic growth, “and set us on the road to being a climate-resilient region”, Mitchell said.


US threatens to end aid to Caribbean

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — United States President Donald Trump has threatened to cut off American aid to any country, including those in the Caribbean, that votes for a resolution at the United Nations condemning his recent decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Trump's statement, delivered at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday in which he exulted over the passage of a tax overhaul, followed a letter to UN General Assembly members from US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R Haley, in which she warned that the United States would take note of countries that voted in favour of the measure.

“All of these nations that take our money and then they vote against us at the Security Council or they vote against us, potentially, at the Assembly, they take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us,” Trump said.

“Well, we're watching those votes,” he added. “Let them vote against us; we'll save a lot. We don't care.” But while Trump can hold up aid unilaterally as a form of leverage, cancelling it would require new legislation.

The bitter confrontation at the United Nations shows the lingering repercussions of Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem, which defied world opinion and upended decades of American policy.

While the decision has not unleashed the violence in the Arab capitals that some had feared, it has left the United States diplomatically isolated.


France outlines priorities for Caribbean development

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — France says it is prepared to assist the Caribbean Community (CARICIOM) in the fight against organised crime and drug trafficking as well as encourage economic exchanges, contribute to security and to strengthen cultural ties.

Newly accredited French Ambassador to CARICOM, Antoine Joly, said Paris was also looking to play a meaningful role in the region's efforts at protecting the environment, noting that since its chairmanship of COP21, France has maintained “close dialogue” with the Caribbean in the fight against climate change.

“With the risk of natural disasters facing the Caribbean, France favours a logic of prevention, leading the Climate Risk Early Warning Systems (CREWS) initiative. It implements cooperation actions in the most vulnerable countries and seeks to leverage other funding and projects,” he said.

The French diplomat against that backdrop, the purpose of the recently held “One Planet Summit” was to fulfill the financial commitments of the international community for climate change adaption in vulnerable countries.

Joly said he is aware of the “extremely important” contribution framework presented by the Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition to address obstacles to climate smart investments.

He said French solidarity was expressed not only with emergency aid when natural disasters occurs, but also by participating in the establishment of networks to understand natural phenomena, to prevent risks, to organise aid and relief systems for the affected population, and to mitigate the consequences of disasters.

“And we are ready to sign the agreement on civil protection between France and the Caribbean Community on Technical Co-operation and mutual assistance in civil security,” he added.


Dominica PM suggests CARICOM issues its own tax blacklisted countries

ROSEAU, Dominica (CMC) — Dominica's Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit Tuesday jokingly advocated for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to consider placing international countries on a blacklist as he responded to the latest move by the European Union to include several Caribbean countries on a list of global countries considered to be tax havens.

“We always maintain in CARICOM that we do all what we have to do to ensure and assure the security of the world. People have to appreciate too that in our small jurisdictions there will always be certain capacity constraints…

“But I think CARICOM should start coming up with its own list too and start blacklisting countries likewise. Is that a practice we should take or route we should take,” he asked, telling reporters “I think I should end there, I think I should end here on this” as he laughed out loudly. “But just to say, I think it is unfortunate,” he said.

Last weekend, the 15-member CARICOM grouping “strongly” objected to the move by the EU with CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque saying the decision by Europe had 'been based on new and unilaterally-determined criteria”.

Earlier this month, EU finance ministers meeting in Brussels named St Lucia, Barbados, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago among a list of 17 countries considered to be global tax havens. They said the new list had been drawn up after 10 months of investigations by EU officials.

The ministers said the countries on the blacklist were not doing enough to crack down on offshore avoidance schemes. Potential sanctions that could be enforced on members of the list are expected to be agreed in the coming weeks.


Hurricane-Battered Puerto Rico Now Officially Open For Tourism

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Puerto Rico is open for tourism as it kicks-off its winter season on December 20, and just in time for the holidays. More than 100 hotels are open and operating. More than four thousand restaurants are taking orders and serving up delicious cuisine. Major tourism attractions Island-wide have been cleaned up and restored, according to the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC), the official governing body of the tourism industry.

“It’s been the continued collaboration with Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s team and tourism industry partners that has resulted in tremendous progress and we’re thrilled to be officially open for tourism,” said José Izquierdo, Executive Director of the PRTC.

“Tourism is a vital contributor to the Island’s economy, so reaching these milestones not only will help build a stronger, better Puerto Rico, but showcases the resiliency in our people and destination.”

Detailing the improvements since Hurricane Maria significantly impacted the country, the PRTC said all airports are fully operational, with approximately 70 flights per day across 27 different major commercial airlines. San Juan International airport (SJU) continues to have daily nonstop service from 17 major airports in mainland US. Additional nonstop flights are operating from Canada, Germany, Panama, Colombia, Dominican Republic and other islands from the Caribbean.

Additionally, more than 75 per cent of hotels are operational and taking reservations.

“As first-responders staying at hotels in San Juan prepare to depart, this frees up rooms for travelers. Not only are iconic hotels like El San Juan Hotel re-opening, but new hotels are also opening, like Solace by the Sea in Ponce,” the PRTC said.

As for cruises, close to 60 cruise shore excursions are available.


CARICOM denounces EU blacklisting of Caribbean countries

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has “strongly” objected to a move by the European Union to include a number of Caribbean countries on a list of global countries considered to be tax havens. CARICOM Secretary-General Irwin la Rocque said the decision by Europe had 'been based on new and unilaterally-determined criteria” and urged France to use its influence to reverse the “arbitrary and punitive actions” against the regional countries.

Earlier this month, EU finance ministers meeting in Brussels named St. Lucia, Barbados, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago among a list of 17 countries considered to be global tax havens. They said the new list had been drawn up after 10 months of investigations by EU officials.

The ministers said the countries on the blacklist were not doing enough to crack down on offshore avoidance schemes. Potential sanctions that could be enforced on members of the list are expected to be agreed in the coming weeks.

The EU said that as a first step, a letter will be sent to all jurisdictions on the new list, explaining the decision and what they can do to be de-listed.

But as he accepted the credentials of Antoine Joly, the new French Ambassador to CARICOM, LaRocque said that regional countries had been blacklisted even though they have not been so labelled by the relevant regulatory authorities such as the Financial Action Task Force and the OECD Global Forum. “This decision by the EU has been based on new and unilaterally-determined criteria, that go beyond the generally accepted international tax transparency and accountability standards which our countries have been diligently meeting over the past several years,” he said.

“CARICOM strongly objects to this listing of our member states and calls on the EU to remove our member states from this pernicious list,” he said, noting that the 15-member grouping stood ready to discuss the matter with the European Council.


Caribbean leaders launch plan to create world's first 'climate-smart zone'

PARIS, France (CMC) — Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have launched an ambitious plan to create the world's first “climate smart zone” after two Category 5 hurricanes caused widespread devastation and death in the Lesser Antilles in September. The Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition aims to find a way to break through the systemic obstacles that stop finance flowing to climate-smart investments.

The leaders are of the opinion that with the right domestic and international reforms, the world can step up – and help unleash the means to catalyse an ambitious eight billion US dollar investment plan to bring greater energy and infrastructure resilience to 3.2 million Caribbean households.

They said this would help Caribbean islands to eliminate their costly dependency on fossil fuels so that they can meet close to 100 per cent of their energy needs from renewable sources, and to embed resilience into communities and livelihoods to realise the bold ambitions of all Caribbean people.

The announcement of the new initiative was made at the One Planet Summit being hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron to review progress made on the Paris Agreement adopted by global governments two years ago.

Grenada's Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, who is also the chairman of the 15-member Caribbean Community grouping, said “Caribbean leaders have come together as a powerful collective to build a better future for the people of the Caribbean.

“We welcome the financial commitments from our partners – around US$1.3 billion for recovery efforts and US$2.8 billion toward the vision shared by all members of the Coalition and others.

“This is a great first step. Now we need to turn this possibility into a set of realities that benefit all our people. We all need to work together to change the rules of the game to accelerate climate-smart financial flows for the Caribbean and other small island developing states.

“Together we can build thriving economies fuelled by clean energy, nature-based resilient design and innovation. The time for action is now,' Mitchell said.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, whose island, Dominica, was severely hit by Hurricane Maria on September 18, resulting in millions of dollars in damage, said that ”despite the immense human suffering and economic damage caused by the recent hurricanes, the people of the Caribbean do not want to be just passive victims of climate change.


Golden Krust CEO sued by employees, less than a week after being found dead

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Five days after Lowell Hawthorne was found dead at the Golden Krust Bakery in the Bronx, workers at the Jamaican beef patty manufacturer have filed a federal class-action lawsuit. According to foreign media reports, the lawsuit, filed Thursday, is the second filed this year against Hawthorne and his company under the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA.

The new suit was filed in Manhattan on behalf of two employees at Golden Krust facilities in Brooklyn and the Bronx, and claims they were not paid overtime, had to pay to clean their own uniforms, and were denied tips kept in a tip jar for employees. "At all relevant times, the defendants had a policy and practice of refusing to pay overtime compensation at the statutory rate of time and one-half... for their hours worked in excess of 40 hours per workweek," the 25-page complaint said. "At all relevant times, defendants had a policy of time-shaving and refusing to pay plaintiffs.

Attorney for the plaintiffs CK Lee said Friday the lawsuit had been in the works for several months, and "was independent of his death." "There are general practices and policies for the restaurant that don't comply with law," Lee said, adding "They should comply with it." According to the lawsuit, plaintiff X was hired as a prep cook for Golden Krust in Brooklyn on March 25, 2016.

X said he worked five days a week and was paid US$10.50 an hour. He later received a raise to US$12 an hour, but only after his hours were cut back to three days per week. He also had 30 minutes of pay deducted for lunch, he said. X added that he also had to spend US$10 per week to have his company uniform, which was required, washed and cleaned. Plaintiff Y was hired in 2014 and was a maintenance worker at the company's facility on Park Avenue in the Bronx. Martinez said he was hired at US$8 an hour, and later received a raise to US$8.50 an hour.

Like X, Y claimed he routinely worked additional hours and was not paid for the extra time that he worked.

Hawthorne, 57, built a Caribbean food empire that made the Jamaican beef patty popular throughout the nation. He opened the first Golden Krust store in the Bronx in 1989, featuring his secret recipe for the spicy beef patties.

He expanded the company over the following 28 years, opening about 120 franchises selling the patties and jerk chicken across the country. As his fame grew, Hawthorne wrote a memoir in 2013 titled "The Baker's Son," and planned to build a US$37 million corporate headquarters in Orangetown. On December 2, Hawthorne was found dead in the Bronx factory from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.


Four Caribbean countries named in EU's new list of tax havens

BRUSSELS, Belgium (CMC) — Four Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries were named Tuesday in a new list of global tax havens released by the European Union. EU finance ministers said that the countries – Barbados, Grenada, St Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago – were among 17 countries on the blacklist of tax havens, after 10 months of investigations by EU officials.

Caribbean countries have in the past been very critical of being included on these lists insisting that they have done everything as outlined by various European organisations like the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The finance ministers who met here on Tuesday also named American Samoa, Bahrain, Guam, South Korea, Macau, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Panama, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.

They said the countries on the blacklist were not doing enough to crack down on offshore avoidance schemes.

Potential sanctions that could be enforced on members of the list are expected to be agreed in the coming weeks.

The list excludes a number of British Overseas Territories such as the Cayman Islands and Bermuda that were on a previous EU blacklist from June 2015. Complaints about the methodology of that last list saw it scrapped and replaced with the new register.


Caricom-Cuba Sixth Summit opens in Antigua

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) – Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the Republic of Cuba will meet today for the Sixth Caricom-Cuba Summit in Antigua and Barbuda. The meeting will be co-chaired by the chairman of Caricom, Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell of Grenada, and President of Cuba Raúl Castro.

This meeting marks 45 years of diplomatic relations between Caricom and Cuba, and will examine issues of regional and global importance, including climate change adaptation and disaster risk management.

A memorandum of understanding will be signed between the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency and Cuba's Agency for Civil Defence which will provide opportunities for closer collaboration, especially following the devastating impact of the September 2017 hurricanes across the region, and the increased focus on climate change resilience.

Today's discussions will also review the status of the decades-old Caricom-Cuba cooperation in commercial and economic areas.

Trade relations between the two parties were strengthened in November 2017 with the signing of the Second Protocol to the Caricom-Cuba Trade Agreement. The protocol expands reciprocal duty-free market access to more than 320 items including meat, fish, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, beer, rum, cement, soap and apparel.


JAMPRO to target BPO investors at Outsource to the Caribbean 2017

KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) says that it will be targeting investors and other influencers in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector as Jamaica hosts the Outsource to the Caribbean (OCC) 2017 conference tomorrow. The conference will be held under the theme, “Leveraging the Nearshore Caribbean for Outsourcing Services”. JAMPRO President Diane Edwards, who is also president of the Caribbean Investment Promotions Agencies (CAIPA), said that the event not only signals Jamaica and the Caribbean's rising profile in the global BPO sector, but the growing importance of the sector to the region.

She also noted that the conference will be focusing on creating solutions to promote the region for investment, and displaying Caribbean success in the BPO sector.

“In Jamaica, there is currently an active ICT/BPO sector with over 50 companies and over 26,000 agents employed. The sector continues to grow far beyond estimates as the industry experiences a boom in new projects,” Edwards explained.

The event, Edwards also stated, presents a unique opportunity for Jamaica to display this progress in BPO, and lead on developing a strategy through CAIPA for developing the region on the whole through investment.

“With Jamaica at the helm of CAIPA, we really want to promote more work on key sectors that we know have high potential for growth. Outsourcing is one of these sectors, and throughout this conference, we will be discussing and setting strategies to boost investments into BPO,” she said.

JAMPRO's mission is to drive economic development through growth in investment and export. JAMPRO is an agency of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation.


Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill founder, CEO commits suicide in Bronx factory

NEW YORK, USA — The founder and CEO of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill killed himself inside his Bronx factory on Saturday, Dec. 2, police sources said. Lowell Hawthorne, 57, shot himself inside the Park Avenue building about 5:30 pm, sources said. More than a dozen current and former employees stood in disbelief outside the factory for hours. Hawthorne opened the first Golden Krust store on E Gun Hill Road in 1989.

He built the Jamaica beef patty purveyor into a national empire boasting more than 120 restaurants across the US. It also produces more than 50 million patties a year for retail stores, and supplies them to about 20,000 outlets. “We believe in the power of the patty,” Hawthorne, a former winner of the Observer's Business Leader Award, said in May. Some of his employees said they suspected something was amiss when they spotted his car, a silver Tesla 85D, parked oddly outside the factory. It was left straddling two lanes.

Everald Woods said he loved working with Hawthorne. “He was a nice boss, a wonderful guy,” said Woods, an employee since 2003. “He's the kind of guy you want to work for that long. He takes care of his employees.” Woods said he was stunned to learn that Hawthorne had taken his life. “I didn't believe the news when I heard it at first,” Woods added. “I don't know if the pressure of running the business was too much, but I'm shocked.”


UN appeals for record US$22.5-b in global aid for 2018

GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — The United Nations appealed Friday for a record US$22.5 billion (18.9 billion euros) to provide aid in 2018 to soaring numbers of people slammed by conflicts and disasters around the world. The global appeal by UN agencies and other humanitarian organisations aims to raise funds to help the some 91 million most vulnerable of the nearly 136 million people expected to need aid across 26 countries next year.

The number of people in need of international assistance worldwide has thus risen more than five percent from last year's estimate. "More people than ever before will need our assistance," UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said in a statement launching the appeal. Drought, floods and other weather-related catastrophes are expected to continue racking up humanitarian needs. But Lowcock stressed that "conflict, in particular protracted crises, will continue to be the main driver of need in 2018." One conflict clearly tops the charts in terms of humanitarian needs.

A full US$7.66 billion is needed to address the staggering needs created by Syria's brutal conflict alone -- more than a third of the requested amount of funds next year.

According to the appeal, US$3.5 billion is needed to provide humanitarian assistance inside the war-ravaged country, where more than 340,000 people have been killed and millions driven from their homes since March 2011.

Another US$4.16 billion is needed to address the towering needs of the 5.3 million Syrian refugees registered in neighbouring countries, as well as of their over-burdened host communities, the appeal said. War-torn Yemen, which is facing the world's most dire humanitarian crisis, comes next on the list, with Friday's appeal urging donors to cough up $2.5 billion to provide desperately needed assistance to the most vulnerable people in the country.

That amount would meanwhile only cover the needs of 10.8 million people -- fewer than half of the 22.2 million in need of aid, the UN acknowledged. Other major crises requiring substantial funds include South Sudan, which has been wracked by civil war since 2013, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan and Nigeria.

On a more positive note, the UN said that humanitarian needs in a number of countries, including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Iraq and Ukraine had declined some, although they still remained high.

At the same time however, "substantial increases in needed are projected" in places like Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Libya, it warned.


Canada pledges CDN$100 million for reconstruction, climate resilience in Caribbean

NEW YORK, United States — The devastating Caribbean countries are now seeking assistance from the international community for their immediate reconstruction and for their climate adaptation needs. At the recent Caribbean Community (Caricom)-UN High Level Pledging Conference in New York, Celina Caesar-Chavannes, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of International Development, announced Canada's pledge of CDN$100 million to support reconstruction and climate resilience efforts in the Caribbean region over the next five years.

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season and the category five storms it churned caused extensive damage to several Caribbean islands, reminding the world, Canada says, “that these small island states are on the front line of climate change”.

“Canada is proud to stand in solidarity with its Caribbean friends that were impacted by the devastating 2017 hurricanes. We have listened to the region on its needs and understand that reconstruction and longer-term climate resilience go hand in hand. Canada will help the Caribbean rebuild better and stronger for the future,” Caesar-Chavannes said.

The Canadian Government said its contribution will help the most vulnerable people, including women and children, to rebuild more resilient communities so they can be better prepared for natural disasters. Particular attention, it added, will be given to specific projects aimed at reconstructing essential services, improving disaster risk management and emergency preparedness practices, supporting the role of women as leaders in reconstruction and adopting climate-adaptation measures at the community level.

Prior to the 100-m pledge, Canada provided more than CDN$2 million to humanitarian organisations for emergency relief. As a major contributor to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Canada also supported the CDB's emergency relief efforts in the affected countries and territories. Canada said its support to the region also comes via international financial institutions such as the World Bank.

“Canada represents many Caribbean nations on the Board of Governors of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. At the World Bank annual meetings in October, Canada and participants reaffirmed their solidarity and support for the affected countries and communities,” the government said.


Caribbean Nationals Arrested As Immigration Officials Conduct Sweep in New York

NEW YORK, USA (CMC) – The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) says nine Caribbean nationals were among among 55 immigrants detained in New York during a six-day operation conducted by ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).

ICE said that ERO officers “targeted at-large criminal aliens, illegal re-entrants, and immigration fugitives during the operation,” which ended on November 20.

Among those detained were five Jamaicans, a Trinidadian and a Guyanese national.

Other detainees were from Mexico, Ecuador, Honduras, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Yemen, Bangladesh, France, Jordan, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Yemen, Serbia and Egypt.

ICE said of the people detained, Jamaican Cedric Marston, 41, had previously been removed from the country, was arrested by ERO deportation officers in Jamaica, New York, for immigration violations.

Marston was previously removed to Jamaica by the Immigration and Naturalization Service March 26, 1999, following a California felony conviction for possession of concentrated cannabis, for which he was sentenced to three years of probation.

On May 2, 2017, ICE said Marston was arrested by the New York Police Department (NYPD) on local charges. On that same date, ERO deportation officers lodged an immigration detainer with the NYPD's Queens Central Booking.

However, ICE said Marston was released from NYPD custody, without the detainer being honoured and without notification to ICE.

It said also that 35-year-old Guyanese national, Dane John, was arrested by the NYPD on June 9, this year on local charges. On that same date, ICE said ERO deportation officers lodged an immigration detainer with the NYPD's Brooklyn Central Booking.


US awards $4.3m for energy diversification in the Caribbean

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — The United States Department of State has announced US$4.3 million in funding to support energy diversification in the Caribbean. On Thursday, the State Department the announcement was made at the US and Caribbean Prosperity Roundtable the day before in Miami.

“This funding, programmed through the Department of State's Bureau of Energy Resources, USAID [United States Agency for International Development], and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), will advance the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative and the Caribbean 2020 Strategy by providing energy-related technical assistance, grant funding for project preparation, and new opportunities for globally competitive US energy firms and exports,” the State Department said.

The US and Caribbean Prosperity Roundtable brought together Caribbean ministers and US executives from the private sector to spur investment and address obstacles and opportunities for economic collaboration, the State Department said.

It said this year's Roundtable was led by the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Kenneth Merten.

The State Department said the Roundtable “affirmed the US government's commitment to increase the security, the prosperity, and the well-being of the people of the United States and the Caribbean.”

The US-Caribbean 2020 Multi-Year Strategy identifies the Department of State and USAID's priorities for United States engagement with the Caribbean region in the areas of security, diplomacy, prosperity, energy, education and health.


Caribbean scientists review status of main fish stocks in the region

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — Top fisheries scientists in a review of the main fish stock in the region have reported uncertainty of stock status of different species due to the lack of formal assessments for most of the Caribbean. The scientists who attended a meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group (SAG) of the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC), in Mexico earlier this month also noted there has been some improvement in coverage of species/species groups assessed and also on the status of resources, in comparison to the last assessment in 2013.

However, they found that 54 per cent of species or species groups were considered over fished or over-to-fully fished.

During the two-day event, the regional scientists reviewed the main fish stocks and provided scientific advice to WECAFC and its Working Groups.

The experts also gave specific attention to a review of a range of fisheries management recommendations and resolutions that have been prepared by working groups of WECAFC and partner agencies.

Recommendations reviewed focused on illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, billfish fisheries management and conservation, sharks and rays fisheries management and conservation and the sustainable use of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs).

Resolutions included the Interim Coordination Mechanism for Sustainable Fisheries, which is a formalised collaboration between the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), Central America Fisheries and Aquaculture Organization (OSPESCA) and WECAFC.

Another key resolution focused on the institutionalisation within WECAFC, of the Caribbean and North Brazil Shelf Large Marine Ecosystems (CLME+) Project reporting mechanism titled “State of the Marine Ecosystems and associated Economies in the Caribbean and north Brazil shelf large marine ecosystems (SOMEE)”.

This resolution supports on-going efforts to strengthen data collection in WECAFC countries through the creation of a regional database which will allow countries to share their information, a requirement to improve the assessment of fish stocks status and management of the related fisheries.


Fly Jamaica to begin direct flights between Guyana, Cuba

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Government of Guyana has given Fly Jamaica Airways permission to begin a series between Guyana and Cuba. This was announced by Minister of State Joe Harmon during a press briefing. He said that several months ago Fly Jamaica had applied to begin the service.

He noted that there was no delay at the level of cabinet in granting the approval, but said the application would have had to be processed by the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority before reaching cabinet.

Fly Jamaica has been seeking to spread its wings to various destinations and is expected to launch the service to Cuba to take advantage of the increased travel between the two destinations.

Fly Jamaica falls under the Wings Aviation company – the same company owns Air Guyana .


CARICOM eyes key outcomes from UN climate change talks

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — Representatives from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), attending the 23rd meeting of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Conventon on Climate Change (COP23) now underway in Bonn, Germany are focusing on mitigating climate risks and building resilience against extreme weather events. This year's climate talks mark the first time a member of the Alliance for Small Island States (AOSIS) has held the Presidency. It presents an important opportunity for CARICOM and the wider Small Island Developing States (SIDs) to influence the global climate change agenda.

According to CARICOM, this comes against the backdrop of the unprecedented climate disaster events which struck the Caribbean in September 2017, the opportunity looms large to focus the world's attention on the peculiar vulnerabilities of Small Island and low-lying coastal countries.

“For CARICOM, COP 23 offers an opportunity to advance the Paris Agreement Work Program, and to strengthen partnerships for climate action targeting financing for mitigation and adaptation.”

The Community is expected to continue to advocate for the international community to honour the annual commitment of US$100 billion to assist developing countries in their adaptation and mitigation efforts. The scale of the devastation in Barbuda (Sister Isle of Antigua), Dominica, the British Virgin Islands, St Marten, Ragged Island in the Bahamas, the Turks and Caico Islands and well as Anguilla, will be highlighted as strong reminders of the need to upscale efforts, especially among SIDS, to adapt to and recover from the impact of global climate change.

Based on recent events, CARICOM officials have pledged to push countries to implement their intended Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to greenhouse gas emissions, as it continues to advocate that global temperature limit should be 1.5°C which is critical for our survival.


CARICOM-Cuba sign new trade agreement

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Cuba have signed a trade agreement aimed at improving trade relations between Havana and the 15-member regional grouping. The accord was signed here during the 45th meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) that ended last Friday.

“The signing of this protocol is critical to that process. The region, therefore, welcomes the formal signing of the protocol and looks forward to the dynamism in trade which it heralds,” a CARICOM Secretariat statement noted.

This is the second trade agreement between the parties with the first having been signed in 2000. The new accord, signed by CARICOM Secretary-General, Irwin LaRocque and Cuba's Ambassador to CARICOM, Julio César González, seeks to expand the preferential market access into each other's market and signals the prospects for even stronger and more profound trade and economic ties. According to the CARICOM Secretariat, the protocol is a further demonstration of the commitment of both sides in advancing the trade and economic relationship that was established many years ago, providing possibilities for investment.

The agreement also seeks to imbue in the CARICOM private sector, in particular, an urgency to access the Cuban market utilising the preferences provided under the original agreement itself. The agreement offers “expanded preferential market access, notably, duty-free access, offered by Cuba to CARICOM countries on a list of approximately 326 items which include meat, fish, dairy produce, fruits and vegetables, beer, rum, cement, soaps, articles of apparel and clothing.

Approximately 50 items on which immediate duty-free access will be granted and a list of22 items on which differentiated treatment, including phased reduction of duty, which CAR1COM more developed countries will grant to Cuba.

Products included in the CARICOM duty-free offer to Cuba are fish, pharmaceutical products, fertilisers, articles of iron and steel, electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof. The CARICOM Secretariat noted that having regard to the fact that CARICOM already has an existing Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement with Cuba, it would be in the interest of both parties to ensure that the expansion of preferential access into each other's market, provided for under the second protocol to the agreement.


Popular Caribbean candidates victorious in NYC general elections

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — Despite the treacherous weather on Tuesday, several voters rushed to the polls to cast ballots for two Caribbean candidates, who secured sound victories in New York City general elections. The rainy, cold and blustery weather did not prevent voters from overwhelmingly returning Council Members Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, and Haitian-born Dr Mathieu Eugene, to another four-year term in districts in Brooklyn that are predominantly Caribbean.

With 100 per cent of the 121 precincts reporting, Williams, who represents the 45th Council District and ran on the Democratic and Working Families parties line, defeated Anthony Beckford, of the True Freedom Party, by a landslide.

Williams — who currently serves as Deputy Leader of the New York City Council, chair of the Council's Committee on Housing and Buildings, and co-chair of the Council's Task Force to Combat Gun Violence — trounced Beckford in attaining 20, 347 votes, or 97 per cent. Beckford only received 613 votes, or three per cent.

Williams, who is also among eight candidates vying to become Speaker of New York City Council in the Special Elections in January, had won the Democratic Primary in a landslide in September with 100 per cent of the 121 precincts reporting. At that time, he received 8,588 votes, or 90 per cent, to his then lone challenger, Lou Cespedes, who garnered 904 votes, or 10 per cent.

On Tuesday, Democrat Eugene — the first Haitian to hold elective office in New York City and who represents the 40th Council District, juxtaposed to Williams' 45th Council District — beat Brian Christopher Cunningham, the son of Jamaican immigrants in garnering 13, 840 votes, or 60 per cent.


Guyana to host consultations on marijuana use

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — Guyana will host a consultation on the use of marijuana on Monday as part of the efforts by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) governments to conduct careful in-depth research so as to inform decision making on the issue. The Regional Commission on Marijuana, which was established by CARICOM leaders, will meet with various stakeholders including youth and faith-based organisations.

The region-wide consultations are intended to obtain information on the social, economic, health and legal issues related to marijuana use in the Caribbean.

“Such information would, among other outcomes, determine whether there should be a change in the current drug classification, modelled after the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances for which many, if not all, CARICOM members are party to,” the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat said in a statement.

It said that given that reclassification of the drug would make it legally accessible for all types of use, including religious, recreational, medicinal and research, the Regional Commission is expected also to provide recommendations on the legal and administrative conditions that will apply, as per its terms of reference.

Many Caribbean countries' legislations do not currently allow for full legislation under international law and national approaches to addressing this issue have resulted in various positions.

In the case of Jamaica, for example, the Dangerous Drugs Act was amended in 2016 and legislation was passed which reduced possession of small quantities to a petty offence. It also created the framework for the development of legal medical marijuana, hemp and nutraceutical industries.

Antigua and Barbuda's Cabinet agreed, in August 2016, to send a draft law to Parliament for its first reading. In August of this year, Belize introduced an amendment to its Misuse of Drugs Act, to decriminalise the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana.

The proposed legislation also provides for the imposition of monetary and non-recordable penalties for such amounts that are found on school premises in specialised circumstances and decriminalises the use of the substance in small amounts on private premises.


China-Latin America and Caribbean Expo the place to be

It is not very often that Jamaica and other countries in the English-speaking Caribbean get a chance to put their goods, services and culture on display at a major exposition in a huge market overseas. For this reason we welcome the China-Latin America and Caribbean International Expo scheduled for November 9 to 11 in China, the world's largest and fastest-growing market.

According to organisers, the three-day event is expected to attract up to 500 enterprises and more than 40,000 visitors. The venue, they add, will also serve as a platform for bilateral cultural and tourism exchanges, as well as cooperation in technology, cross-border e-commerce, and modern commercial service.

This, we hold, is a great opportunity for the Caribbean Community (Caricom) because, in addition to the Chinese market, the expo will give participants a chance to explore the Latin American market, which itself is massive and is largely untapped by our manufacturers here in Caricom.

We assume that, locally, Jampro, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, and the ministries of foreign trade; industry and commerce; culture and tourism have already made the necessary preparations to participate in this expo, because, as we all know, promotion in the field has the potential to reap huge benefits. Plus, meeting face to face with potential customers often offers better advantages than communicating via the use of technology.


CARICOM to hold major donor conference in US

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), will hold a high-level donor conference in the United States next month, according to a statement issued by the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat. It said that the November 20-21 conference will be to mobilise international resources for member CARICOM countries devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria when they passed through the Lesser Antilles last month killing several people and causing damage worth more than a billion US dollars.

Dominica and Antigua & Barbuda were among the hardest hit CARICOM countries as the Category 5 storms also hit the Bahamas, St Kitts-Nevis, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Turks and Caicos Islands and St Martin.

“This initiative is aimed at rebuilding the devastated members as the first climate resilient countries in the world and helping the wider CARICOM region improve its resilience.

“International Development Partners, friendly countries, NGOs, prominent personalities, private sector entities and foundations have been invited. CARICOM heads of government and the Secretaries-General of CARICOM and the United Nations will also participate,” the statement said.

It said CARICOM, through the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) has been at the forefront of the immediate relief effort.

“Given the level of devastation and in anticipation that the frequency and intensity will become the new normal, the region has recognised the need to build back better for improved resilience,” the statement said, noting that November's donor conference also comes against the backdrop that the impacted countries are Caribbean Small Island and Low-lying Coastal Developing States (SIDS) with inherent vulnerabilities.

“Most have also been made ineligible for concessional financing from major donors, which have categorised them as middle to high income countries,” the statement added.


Caribbean leaders to attend CARICOM-Mexico Summit

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — Leaders from across the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will participate in the IV CARICOM-Mexico Summit that is scheduled to begin on Wednesday in Belize. The main theme of the summit will be cooperation for the prevention of and treatment of natural disasters. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, will be accompanied by the Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs, Dennis Moses.

The one day summit will be co-chaired by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and the Prime Minister of Belize, Dean Barrow.

The summit aims to consolidate the progress of the III CARICOM-Mexico Summit, held in 2014.

The scheduled talks further endorses the importance Mexico places on cooperation with the Caribbean in matters of security, migration, climate change mitigation and the prevention of natural disasters.

The Government of Mexico will provide air transport for the Trinidad and Tobago Delegation and other CARICOM Delegations, to and from Belize, City.


Difficult balance between growth, inflation in the Caribbean — World Bank report

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — A New World Bank report has found what it describes as a “difficult balance” between growth and inflation in Latin America and the Caribbean, with the region's economy expected to grow again this year after suffering a significant gross domestic product (GDP) contraction of 1.3 per cent last year. “Still, with a global environment that remains rather neutral to growth in the region, policy makers will need to walk a fine line to increase growth while ensuring protection of the most vulnerable,” according to the semi-annual report titled “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: The Monetary Policy Dilemma in Latin America and the Caribbean”.

In the report, the Washington-based financial institution's Chief Economist Office for Latin America and the Caribbean explores the potential of monetary policy to support growth without risking hard-won gains in the battle against inflation.

For Latin America and the Caribbean, market analysts forecast GDP growth of 1.2 per cent for 2017 and 2.3 per cent for 2018.

Growth in Central America and the Caribbean is expected to remain at just below four per cent in both 2017 and 2018, the World Bank said.

“External drivers of growth, such as high commodity prices, aren't playing a major role and the region will need to rely on home-grown sources for growth,” said Carlos Vegh, World Bank Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Reforms in labour markets and education, higher infrastructure spending and addressing the fiscal situation are key.”

The report finds that 28 out of 32 countries in the region will show a negative overall fiscal balance in 2017, noting that average debt ratios are expected to stand at 58.7 per cent of GDP, with six countries having ratios above 80 per cent.

The report notes that the recent string of natural disasters in the region will only add to existing fiscal pressures in light of the staggering losses.


UN says recovery of hurricane-ravaged Caribbean could cost US$1 billion

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The recovery of eastern Caribbean islands hardest hit by recent hurricanes, including Dominica, Barbuda, Turks and Caicos, the British Virgin Islands, and Anguilla, could cost up to US$1 billion, a senior UN official said Tuesday. "It's going to be a large-scale rebuilding effort that will take time, said Stephen O'Malley, the UN resident coordinator for Barbados and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, "and it will be important to do that right."

He told UN correspondents in a phone briefing from Dominica that "we don't have exact figures yet", but for the worst-affected islands, the recovery bill will be "half a billion to a billion dollars".

O'Malley said the United Nations, World Bank and Antigua Government have conducted a post-disaster needs assessment for Barbuda, whose 1,800 residents were evacuated to Antigua before Hurricane Irma damaged 95 per cent of its structures on September 14. And he said a similar assessment will be done in Dominica, which was ravaged on September 18 by Hurricane Maria, a Category Five storm, probably in about three weeks.

"They want to build back better and they take that very, very seriously — to make sure that that can be done," O'Malley said. Dominica's Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said he wants to have the world's first "climate-resilient nation".

He made an impassioned case for the world to do more to help vulnerable countries cope with the effects of global warming, and urged the UN General Assembly 10 days ago to "let these extraordinary events elicit extraordinary efforts to rebuild nations sustainably".


Caribbean countries assessing Paris Agreement

ST GEORGE'S, Grenada (CMC) — Representatives from several Caribbean countries have started a meeting here that will provide both states and the private sector representatives an opportunity of working towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. Assistance Executive Director of the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) Dr Mark Bynoe, said the two-day meeting will first determine the needs of the each country and will provide guidelines to achieving the goals.

The meeting is organised by the CCCCC with funding from the Swedish government.

Bynoe said that the national determined contribution is the goal each country had set itself when they countries adopted the historic climate agreement at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in December 2015. It has become known as the Paris Agreement.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries and all other participating nations have already outlined what post-2020 climate actions they intended to take under the new international agreement, known as their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

Bynoe said that the climate actions communicated in these INDCs largely determine whether the world achieves the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement which is to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C, to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C, and to achieve net zero emissions in the second half of this century.

“So, if it's a case of weak legislation in our Caribbean territory our role in this conference is to provide states with avenues such as organisations and institutions that can assist with the process of creating an enabling environment for achieving the national determine contributions,” he said.


UN launches US$31-m appeal for 'badly battered' Dominica

UNITED NATIONS United States (CMC) — The United Nations says it has launched a Hurricane Maria Flash Appeal for the "badly battered" Caribbean island of Dominica. It said the international aid community is asking for US$31.1 million to reach 65,000 people over the next three months in order to address challenges, such as a lack of fresh running water and electricity, along with road damage and communication black-outs.

Emergency supplies from the United Nations food relief agency are being delivered to Dominica as people face "huge challenges in their lives" in the wake of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria, which ripped through the small Caribbean island last week, the UN said.

"Dominica has been badly battered and needs to be rebuilt," said World Food Programme (WFP) Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Miguel Barreto.

Barreto said the mountainous island suffered nearly 30 deaths, about 80 per cent of its buildings damaged, and many roads blocked or impaired.

"We're working with the Government to support the people who are facing huge challenges in their lives" said Barreto, noting that an estimated 10 metric tons of WFP high-energy biscuits were transported by ship to the eastern Caribbean island this week and then delivered to communities in the remote interior by helicopter and to coastal communities by boat.

Overall, WFP plans to provide a range of food assistance to some 25,000 people for three months as it discusses with the Dominica Government a system to supply hurricane-affected people with food vouchers to be used in local markets once they reopen.


New US travel ban 'psychological terrorism' — Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (AFP) — Venezuela accused the United States on Monday of "psychological terrorism" designed to bring down the government after it was included in a list of eight countries targeted by a travel ban. "These types of lists....are incompatible with international law and constitute in themselves a form of psychological and political terrorism," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

These types of lists....are incompatible with international law and constitute in themselves a form of psychological and political terrorism," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Venezuela was added Sunday to a new list of countries targeted by the US ban, due to poor security and a lack of cooperation with American authorities.

The restrictions on Venezuela were limited to officials from a long list of government agencies and their families, while full travel bans were placed on nationals from the other seven countries, including North Korea and Chad


Hurricane Maria bears down on battered Caribbean

POINTE-À-PITRE, FRANCE (AFP) — Hurricane Maria strengthened rapidly on Monday as it blasted towards the eastern Caribbean, forcing exhausted islanders -- still recovering from megastorm Irma -- to brace for the worst again. The US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said the "major hurricane" had intensified to Category 3 as it approached the French island of Guadeloupe, the base for relief operations for several islands devastated by Irma this month.

Islanders on neighbouring Martinique, which is also part of France, were ordered to stay indoors under a maximum-level "violet" alert.

As heavy rain beat down, energy supplier EDF said power had been cut off from 10,000 homes on Martinique, which has a population of some 400,000.

The NHC warned the hurricane was already packing maximum sustained winds of 200 kilometres (125 miles) an hour and would strengthen further over the next two days with its eye expected to move through the Leeward Islands by Monday evening.

Maria could produce a "dangerous storm surge accompanied by large and destructive waves" that would raise water levels by as much as nine feet (2.7 metres), it said.

Up to 20 inches (51 centimetres) of rain could drench the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico and the US and British Virgin Islands through Wednesday night -- conditions that could cause life-threatening floods and mudslides.


French President Promises to Rebuild St Martin Better Than it Was Before Hurricane Irma

MARIGOT, St Martin, Wednesday September 13, 2017 – Faced with a mammoth recovery process and a repair bill expected to reach the millions in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild St Martin as a “model island.” “I don’t want to rebuild St Martin as it was,” he said. “We have seen there are many homes that were built too precariously, with fragile infrastructure. The geography of the homes was not adapted to the risks.”

Macron arrived in the French territory yesterday morning and immediately hit the ground to get a first-hand look at the impact of Irma’s wrath, against the backdrop of complaints that France had deserted its own.


Britain increases aid for storm-hit Caribbean islands

LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — Britain on Wednesday announced an extra £25 million (US$33.2 million, 27.2 million euros) in aid for its territories in the Caribbean that have been devastated by Hurricane Irma. The funds were announced as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson visited the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla, pledging "our absolute commitment" to Britons there.

"Today I'm announcing an additional £25 million to support the recovery effort, further to the £32 million of assistance I announced last week," Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons. More than 1,000 military personnel are now in the region, with another 200 due to arrive within days, along with more than 60 police officers, she said. May — facing criticism of the British response — insisted that her government's reaction had been "speedy." "The devastation that has taken place means there will be a significant need for reconstruction in those British Overseas Territories," she said.


CARICOM Heads of Government Meet on Hurricane Situation

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Monday September 11, 2017 – Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) met in special emergency session on Saturday to receive an update on the effects of the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Jose on the region and progress on the coordinated response to provide relief for those affected.

The meeting, presided over by CARICOM Chairman, Dr Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada, received a full briefing on the situation from representatives of the affected countries, the Caribbean Disaster Management Agency (CDEMA), the Community’s lead agency for disaster response, CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque and regional institutions.

The Executive Director of CDEMA Ronald Jackson addressed the situation in Antigua and Barbuda and Anguilla as well as giving an update on the Community’s coordinated response to all the countries affected.

Immediate needs were identified for those worst affected, particularly, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Anguilla. These included water, food items, materials to aid in providing temporary shelter such as plywood and tarpaulins and especially cash to purchase items to help with the cost of immediate recovery efforts in the affected countries.

Premier of the BVI Dr Orlando Smith; the Prime Minister of The Bahamas, Dr Hubert Minnis; Haiti’s Foreign Minister Antonio Rodrigues; and a representative of the Turks and Caicos Government provided the latest information on their countries.

Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerritt provided information on the situation on the island of St Maarten where a significant number of CARICOM nationals are currently located and Prime Minister of St Lucia, Allen Chastenet alerted the meeting to the situation in St Kitts and Nevis.


Caribbean Tourism Organization launches relief fund to assist with hurricane AID efforts

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (8 Sept, 2017) - The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has activated its "CTO Relief Fund" through GoFundMe to help families and countries rebuild after hurricanes, particularly in the wake of the massive category 5 Hurricane Irma, which has impacted a number of member countries. All of the money raised through the CTO's Relief Fund will be sent directly to CTO-member destinations affected by the catastrophic storm, which hit some countries with winds up to 185 mph.

"The damage caused by the force of Hurricane Irma is an important example of why we must do whatever is possible to provide financial relief to those who need it most. It's through this fund that the CTO channels monetary assistance to our impacted member states," CTO secretary general Hugh Riley said. "The CTO appreciates all donations to assist in the recovery efforts in these countries."

For more information on CTO's Relief Fund or to make a donation, visit www.gofundme.com/hurricane-relief-fund-cto.

About the Caribbean Tourism Organization The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), with headquarters in Barbados and offices in New York and London, is the Caribbean's tourism development agency comprising membership of the region's finest countries and territories including Dutch, English, French and Spanish, as well as a myriad of private sector allied members. The CTO's vision is to position the Caribbean as the most desirable, year round, warm weather destination, and its purpose is Leading Sustainable Tourism - One Sea, One Voice, One Caribbean.

Among the benefits to its members the organization provides specialized support and technical assistance in sustainable tourism development, marketing, communications, advocacy, human resource development, event planning & execution and research & information technology.

In addition the CTO, in partnership with the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association, jointly and equally owns the Caribbean Tourism Development Company, a marketing and business development entity dedicated to promoting the Caribbean brand worldwide.

The CTO's Headquarters is located at Baobab Tower, Warrens, St. Michael, Barbados BB 22026; Tel: (246) 427-5242; Fax: (246) 429-3065; E-mail: CTObarbados@caribtourism.com;

The CTO's New York office is located at 80 Broad St., Suite 3302, New York, NY 10004, USA: Tel: (212) 635-9530; Fax: (212) 635-9511; E-mail: CTOny@caribtourism.com;

The CTO's London office is located at The Quadrant, Richmond, Surrey TW9 1BP, England. Tel: 011 44 208 948 0057; Fax: 011 44 208 948 0067; E-mail: CTOlondon@caribtourism.com.


Hurricane Irma Leaves At Least 10 Dead; Barbuda and St Martin Devastated

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday September 7, 2017 – Hurricane Irma continues to churn its way through the Caribbean, leaving in its wake a trail of death and destruction that only started to become clear late yesterday. At least 10 people have been reported dead. The Category 5 hurricane which was carrying maximum sustained winds near 185 miles per hour has devastated Barbuda – which Prime Minister Gaston Browne described as barely habitable – and St Martin, and reports of additional damage in other countries are also coming in.

A state of emergency was yesterday declared in Antigua’s sister isle, Barbuda, where Browne reported almost total devastation, with about 95 percent buildings damaged and 60 per cent of the island’s residents now homeless. A two-year-old child was Hurricane Irma’s first victim when it made a direct hit on the island.

The situation is similar in St Martin. France’s Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told Franc Info that eight people died and another 23 were injured in the French Caribbean island territories of St Martin and Saint Barthélemy. But that number is expected to rise. St Martin official Daniel Gibbs is quoted by the Associated Press as saying that island is “95 per cent destroyed”.


Holness calls for greater ties among Caribbean, Latin American countries

SANTIAGO, Chile (CMC) — In his first official visit to Chile, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has called for deepening cooperation ties between Caribbean and Latin American countries. In delivering the keynote address at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Holness also gave his backing to the Caribbean debt relief proposal.

“I am convinced that the path to prosperity must be forged through expanded trade and investment, and deeper regional cooperation between countries,” said Holness who also recognised the contribution that ECLAC has made to Latin American and Caribbean economic development.

He also indicated that Jamaica has followed this school of thought based on the structural change of economies, productive transformation, and equality at the center of development.

“We reaffirm our commitment to the ideas and principles of ECLAC, said the Jamaican leader, fully endorsing and backing ECLAC's proposal for debt relief for English-speaking Caribbean nations.

“Jamaica supports and encourages this proposal,” he said, referring to the initiative first presented in late 2015 that contemplates the creation of a regional resilience fund to finance measures for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

With regard to that proposal, Holness endorsed the organisation's assessment of growing evidence that the Caribbean public debt has reached unsustainable levels, creating a situation that compromises the sub-region's economic growth if it is not specifically addressed, according to ECLAC.

“I am here to fully endorse that assessment,” Holness said.

Along with supporting the initiative, ECLAC,the prime minister called on the commission to make the case for highly indebted Caribbean countries in all relevant international financial forums, and invited other governments from Latin America to join this cause to protect the viability of the region's economies.

ECLAC said Louise Arbour, the United Nations Secretary-General's Representative for International Migration, participated in the keynote lecture as a special guest, urging Holness to “participate actively in the Global Compact,” a UN initiative on safe, regular and orderly migration.

“I invite you to participate in this and many other initiatives related to migration that are crucial for this region and the entire world,” she said.

“We need your leadership to ensure that much of the negative narrative that 'poisons' public opinion about migration is counteracted by a much more appropriate understanding of the benefits of human mobility,” Arbour added.

Holness, the first Jamaican leader to visit this United Nations regional organization, was received by ECLAC's Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, who welcomed him and highlighted Jamaica's commitment to moving ahead on achieving the goals of the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, “in an adverse economic and environmental context.”


CARICOM says Hurricane Harvey highlights 'unusual weather patterns'

GEORGETOWN, Guyana CMC — The 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping says the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey as it swept through Texas in the United States last weekend, “highlights the unusual nature of weather patterns that continue to affect nations across the globe”. In a message to United States President Donald Trump, expressing the grouping's sympathy to the people, especially those in the State of Texas, CARICOM Secretary General Irwin La Roque said “the widespread destruction wrought by this hurricane has brought suffering to many and will necessitate a significant and lengthy rebuilding process”.

Hurricane Harvey, the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in 50 years, made landfall on Friday, bringing record rainfall which caused unprecedented flooding leaving many people homeless. Several deaths have also been reported.

“The unprecedented nature of this climatic event highlights the unusual nature of weather patterns that continue to affect nations across the globe,” La Rocque added.

Trump, who toured the devastation in Texas on Tuesday, had in June announced that the US would cease all participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation. He said then that the Paris accord would undermine the US economy and put the country at a permanent disadvantage.

Trump stated that the withdrawal would be in accordance with his America First policy.

Following Trump's announcement, the governors of several US states formed the United States Climate Alliance to continue to advance the objectives of the Paris Agreement despite the federal withdrawal.


Barbados and China Reach Reciprocal Visa Waiver Agreement

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Tuesday August 29, 2017 – Barbadians wishing to travel to the People’s Republic of China for 30 days or less, no longer require a visa to enter that country. A reciprocal visa waiver agreement between the Government of Barbados and the People’s Republic of China now allows citizens holding ordinary passports of both countries to travel visa free for a period of 30 days.

The agreement was signed by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean and Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, Wang Ke.

A similar agreement was also negotiated for persons holding passports from Hong Kong, officially called the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region the Republic of China.


Jamaica pays tribute to Garvey on 130th birthday anniversary

The Government and people of Jamaica honoured the life and legacy of the country's first National Hero Marcus Garvey with a floral tribute at National Heroes Park in Kingston. The function, which included the laying of floral arrangements at Garvey's shrine, was to commemorate the 130th anniversary of his birth. Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange, who represented Prime Minister Andrew Holness, hailed Garvey as a champion for social justice and education.

She said that for Garvey, education was a "powerful weapon" in improving the condition of people of African descent throughout the world.

"He taught us that the way to achieve black power and black prosperity was through education and not bullets," she pointed out.

Grange noted that Garvey hosted educational programmes at Liberty Hall in Kingston for scores of people who later influenced national life.

The two-storey building, acquired in 1923 to serve as the centre of activities for the Kingston division of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), was the first meeting hall in Jamaica that was fully owned and operated by blacks.


The Legacy of Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt has changed the face of athletics across his unparalleled career. His story has entered the realms of legend, becoming one of athletics' origin myths. A gangly sprinter from humble beginnings bursts onto the scene in Beijing, demolishing three world records, as athletics crowns a new king. Armed with the perfect concoction of attributes — speed, swagger and an unavoidably-excellent surname — Usain Bolt has ruled the sport ever since.

Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps and Serena Williams are some of the great names who have dominated their sport with unerring intensity. But Bolt, by contrast, is in his element clowning around on the startline. How has the sport's jester held the mental edge for nine years in events that last a few fleeting seconds? How can he stay so calm when his legacy is one mistake from unravelling? What is unique about the mindset which has spurred him onto unimaginable heights? And how on earth can athletics prosper once the curtain falls on Bolt's career?

"It is only when the starter says 'on your marks' that I focus in on the race," Bolt exclusively tells Eurosport, as he takes us inside the mind of a sporting great. At 21:45pm on Saturday, August 5, the starter uttered those words to the Jamaican one final time in the last race of his incredible career.


US says Cuba must investigate attacks on diplomats

BEDMINSTER, United States (AFP) – The United States said Friday it holds Cuba responsible for investigating an apparent sonic attack that left several of its diplomats in need of medical treatment. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US mission in Havana had not been able to determine who was behind what he called "health attacks" on its staff.

But he warned: "We hold the Cubans responsible just as every host country has a responsibility for safety and security of diplomats in their country.

"We hold the Cuban authorities responsible for finding out who is carrying out these health attacks not just on our diplomats -- as you've seen there are cases with other diplomats as well."

On Thursday, Canada revealed that one of its diplomats had also fallen victim to the mysterious attack, which officials said seem to have been carried out with some kind of sonic device. US personnel began experiencing ailments in late 2016, but that it was not immediately recognized that it could be anything other than an ordinary health issue.

US media have said the diplomats suffered hearing loss.

Cuba's foreign ministry said US officials had alerted it to the "alleged incidents" on February 17. The State Department has not said how many of its diplomats were hurt, but in May it ordered two Cubans to leave the Cuban embassy in Washington.


Caribbean leaders discuss Venezuela situation

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders on Tuesday held "varied and robust views" on the on going political situation in Venezuela during a three-hour meeting. No official statement has been issued by the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat or from the office of the Grenada Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, who is the CARICOM chairman and who is reported to have convened the special emergency meeting by videoconference.


Former Bahamas Labour Minister on Bribery Charges

CASTRIES, St Lucia (CMC) — The Eastern Caribbean Collective Organisation for music rights, (ECCO) has won a landmark case in the High Court against Mega Plex Entertainment which operates Caribbean Cinemas here and across the region. In a civil suit, ECCO sued Mega Plex for copyright infringement and asked the court for damages.


Thousands of Haitians deported from Dominican Republic in July

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (CMC) — More than 13,000 Haitians were deported from the Dominican Republic during the month of July, according to official figures released here.

The head of the General Directorate of Migration (DGM), Lieutenant-General Maximo William Muñoz Delgado, said that 13,446 Haitians were deported last month with 6,545 being intercepted at one of the 100 checkpoints established in the border area at various unofficial crossing points.

The official said that the other 6,901 Haitians were arrested during migration controls throughout the country.

Haitians arrested are then transferred to a specialised center where they are identified before their repatriation.

Muñoz Delgado, acknowledges that this is an unprecedented number of deportees over a single month, indicating that the average number usually varies between 5,000 and 6,000 each month.

He said that the Dominican migration services will open three new illegal foreigners' reception centers in Azua, Puerto Plata and Nagua, tourist areas where a large number of illegal foreign nationals, most of whom are of Haitian origin, are found.

Haiti's Defence Minister, Hervé Denis, travels to the Dominican Republic next week as the Spanish speaking country steps up its deployment of troops along the borders between the two countries.

MONDAY, JULY 31, 2017

Eastern Caribbean music rights group wins landmark copyright case

CASTRIES, St Lucia (CMC) — The Eastern Caribbean Collective Organisation for music rights, (ECCO) has won a landmark case in the High Court against Mega Plex Entertainment which operates Caribbean Cinemas here and across the region. In a civil suit, ECCO sued Mega Plex for copyright infringement and asked the court for damages.

The ruling in favour of the ECCO, was handed down last week by Justice Godfrey Smith who found that the cinema was liable for infringing the rights of ECCO's members.

A second hearing will address the matter of an assessment of damages. ECCO's CEO, Steve Etienne, called the ruling a 'great achievement for ECCO and the wider Caribbean.'

"We have long sought a judgement that we can refer to when taking action against abusers of our rights – abusers of copyright," Etienne said.

ECCO Chairman, Shayne Ross urged all users of music to obtain a licence from the organisation.


'Coral gardening' benefitting Caribbean reefs — study

FLORIDA, United States (CMC) — A new study has found that Caribbean staghorn corals (Acropora cervicornis) are benefiting from "coral gardening," the process of restoring coral populations by planting laboratory-raised coral fragments on reefs.

"Our study showed that current restoration methods are very effective," said UM Rosenstiel school coral biologist Stephanie Schopmeyer, the lead author of the study.

"Healthy coral reefs are essential to our everyday life and successful coral restoration has been proven as a recovery tool for lost coastal resources."

In the study, the researchers set out to document restoration success during their initial two years at several coral restoration sites in Florida and Puerto Rico. Their findings showed that current restoration methods are not causing excess damage to donor colonies as a result of removing coral tissue to propagate new coral in the lab, and that once out planted, corals behave just as wild colonies do.


AIDS claimed 1 million lives in 2016 —UN

AIDS claimed a million lives in 2016, almost half the 2005 toll that marked the peak of the deadly epidemic, said a UN report Thursday proclaiming "the scales have tipped". Not only are new HIV infections and deaths declining, but more people than ever are on life-saving treatment, according to data published ahead of an AIDS science conference opening in Paris on Sunday.

Experts warned, however, that much of the progress can be undone by growing resistance to HIV drugs.

Unless something is done, drug-resistant virus strains may infect an extra 105,000 people and kill 135,000 over the next five years, and boost treatment costs by $650 million (560 million euros), said the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to a UNAIDS global roundup, 19.5 million of 36.7 million people living with HIV in 2016 had access to treatment.

This marked the first time that more than half of infected people were receiving anti-retroviral treatment, which rolls back the AIDS virus but does not completely eliminate it.

"We could get 2.4 million new people on treatment" in 2016, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe told journalists in Paris. "We are saving lives."

The report said AIDS-related deaths have fallen from 1.9 million in 2005 to one million in 2016, adding that "for the first time the scales have tipped."

The year 2016 saw 1.8 million new infections, almost half the record number of some 3.5 million in 1997, said UNAIDS.

In total, 76.1 million people have been infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, since the epidemic started in the 1980s. Some 35 million have died.

"Communities and families are thriving as AIDS is being pushed back," said Sidibe.

TUESDAY, JULY 18, 2017

World celebrates Nelson Mandela Day today

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Today the World celebrates the memory and legacy of the first black president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. The United Nations has marked July 18, Mandela's birthday as "International Nelson Mandela Day" Mandela, also known as 'Madiba', devoted his life to the service of humanity and socio-political equality in his native South Africa.

A human rights lawyer, prisoner under the South African Apartheid regime, international peacemaker, and the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa, Mandela died December 1, 2013, at the age of 95.

During his lifetime Mandela emerged as a global symbol of peace and tolerance and inspired socio-political change across the world.

In celebration of Mandela OBSERVER ONLINE presents facts on the legendary leader:

1. Mandela's birth name was Rolihlahla Mandela. According to NelsonMandela.org, "Rolihlahla" is often translated as "troublemaker" in the Xhosa language, but colloquially the word means "pulling the branch of a tree."

MONDAY, JULY 17, 2017

Accused Jamaican lottery scam 'kingpin' to plead guilty

NORTH DAKOTA, United States (AP) — A Jamaican man accused of masterminding a lottery scam that victimised dozens of Americans out of millions of dollars has agreed to plead guilty in a deal with federal prosecutors in North Dakota. The agreement signed by the defence and prosecutors on Friday calls for Lavrick Willocks to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy. Prosecutors will dismiss 65 other counts of wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering.


Tribute Paid to Jamaica's First and Only Female Prime Minister As She Bows Out of Politics

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Prime Minister Andrew Holness has hailed former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, for her stellar contribution to politics and to the people of Jamaica. At a joint sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate on Tuesday to pay tribute to Simpson Miller, who is resigning as Member of Parliament for South West St. Andrew, the Prime Minister noted that she has had a phenomenal career and done well in her over 40 years of service in politics.

He described her as "a metaphor of hope in the face of adversity" and as being "no ordinary woman." Simpson Miller was also lauded by Holness for being compassionate, especially to the poor and marginalized in the society. "The defence of the poor in society must never be left unattended. You have been the voice on policies that govern the poor," he said.

In his tribute, Acting Leader of Government Business in the House, Everald Warmington, said Simpson Miller's commitment to the people of Jamaica is without question. He described her as a "champion of the poor and oppressed."

Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips, said Simpson Miller had made a tremendous contribution to the development of Jamaica.

"Portia Simpson Miller has become for thousands of Jamaicans a symbol of our capacity to achieve greatness," he said.

Simpson Miller said she was heartened by the kind words and she offered special thanks to members of her South Western St Andrew constituency, whom she described as her "armour of steel".

"They know I will never ever leave them….They have made me who I am today. They provided me with the platform that launched my career into the highest form of Government," she said.

Simpson Miller has served as Member of Parliament for the constituency of St Andrew South Western since 1976, and as the country's first and so far only female Prime Minister.


LGBTI Community in Caribbean and Elsewhere Get Voice at Commonwealth

LONDON, England, Saturday June 24, 2017 – The lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex (LGBTI) community has been given a voice in, and increased access to, Commonwealth, in a historic decision by the 52-member body.

The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN), a network of 38 civil society organizations in 39 countries, including in the Caribbean, has become the first LGBTI organization to be officially accredited by the Commonwealth. The decision was made during the recent Board of Governors Meeting at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.

Accreditation as a Commonwealth organization means that TCEN activists will benefit from increased access to, participation in and information about Commonwealth matters.

"It also sends a strong signal that the voices and needs of LGBTI people are legitimate and LGBTI activists have a vital role in civil society," the network said in a statement.

TCEN challenges inequality and end discrimination against LGBTI people in the Commonwealth. Currently, 36 Commonwealth countries continue to criminalize consensual same-sex acts. And Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, chair of TCEN, said the accreditation is a "great victory".

MONDAY, JUNE 19, 2017

Caribbean/American legislative forum to address US/Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — The Washington-based Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) says the United States/ Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016 (HR 4939), which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2016, will form the backdrop of the 19th Annual Caribbean American Legislative Forum.

On Saturday, ICS said the two-day forum, which starts here on Wednesday on Capitol Hill, takes place under the auspices of Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio on the Senate Side on June 21st, and Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Yvette Clarke and Stacey Plaskett on the House of Representatives' side on June 22nd.

The law, Public Law 114-291, prioritizes the United States-Caribbean relationship and requires the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the U.S. 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, ICS said.

"This law is an opportunity for us of Caribbean Diaspora to take hold of with both hands," Jennifer Carroll, former Florida Lieutenant Governor, who will be a featured speaker at the forum.

"This is the first time that a bill has linked US/Caribbean policy to the Caribbean Diaspora, and it signals a great opportunity for Caribbean Diaspora leaders to engage with the Trump Administration," she added.


UN seeks funds urgently for Haiti's cholera

UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) — The United Nations on Wednesday launched another urgent appeal to member countries to finance its nearly empty relief fund for battling cholera in Haiti. It was expected to raise $400 million over two years but only about 2.7 million have been raised so far, UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed said.

I wish to reaffirm the moral responsibility of the United Nations to the people of Haiti. The Secretary General and I appeal to you to come forward with the resources needed to bring the new approach to life," she said.

The funds raised sp far were used to launch three community or development projects in the Caribbean nation at a cost of 2.5 million, and there is only a little over $183,000 left in the fund, she told the General Assembly.

No new contributions have been received since the end of April, she said. To date, only seven countries have joined the portfolio: Britain, South Korea, France, Liechtenstein, India, Sri Lanka and Chile.

TUESDAY, JUNE 13, 2017

Proposed US budget cuts could pose regional security problems, Caribbean/American leaders warn

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — Caribbean American leaders in Washington have warned that proposed cuts to the United States Department of State's foreign aid budget could have serious implications for the region at a time when there is increasing concern about terrorism.

The warning came in a briefing on US-Caribbean policy, hosted by Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette Clarke and members of the Caribbean Congressional Caucus.

The talks focused on security, a bill proposing to tax remittances and the Trump administration's recent decision to give Haitians a limited, six-month extension in the Temporary Protected Status programme, potentially sending 58,000 undocumented Haitians back to their country in January.

"The economy cannot absorb 60,000 people in 60 months. It is unrealistic, it is inhumane and it should not happen," said Curtis Ward, a former Jamaican ambassador to the United States.

Most of Ward's remarks, however, were focused on proposed US aid cuts and possible implications for the United States' third border, as the Caribbean Basin is sometimes known.

The Miami Herald newspaper reported that Ward expressed fear that a proposed 28 per cent reduction in the State Department's budget would force it to slash programmes like the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), introduced by President Barack Obama in 2009 to improve citizen safety throughout the Caribbean with US aid.

MONDAY, JUNE 12, 2017

CARICOM launches new IT system to alert consumers on dangerous goods

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Guyana-based Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat Monday said that people in the region now have access to an electronic platform providing alerts on dangerous non-foods consumer goods on the markets in all 15-member countries. The Secretariat said that the CARREX Online Electronic Platform and the live public portal can now be accessed via www.carrex.caricom.org

It said registered National Contact Points (NCPs) and their alternates, national authorities and economic operators, will be able to transmit notifications on this IT platform which was developed with assistance under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) Economic Integration Programme.

"Through the online platform, consumers and consumer organisations will be able to submit complaints about products that may have caused or have the potential to cause harm to them. The facility can also be used by the public to submit complaints electronically to consumer protection agencies on defective products purchased from suppliers in the Community."


National Caribbean-American Heritage Month Marks 12th Anniversary in 2017

In June 2005, the House of Representatives unanimously adopted H. Con. Res. 71, sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, recognizing the significance of Caribbean people and their descendants in the history and culture of the United States. On February 14, 2006, the resolution similarly passed the Senate, culminating a two-year, bipartisan and bicameral effort. The Proclamation was issued by President George Bush on June 6, 2006.

Since the declaration, the White House has issued an annual proclamation recognizing June as Caribbean-American Heritage Month. This year marks the eighth anniversary of June as National Caribbean American Heritage Month.

The campaign to designate June as National Caribbean American Heritage Month, was spearheaded by Dr. Claire Nelson, Founder and President of the Institute of Caribbean Studies. Through the commemoration of this month, we hope to ensure that America is reminded that its greatness lies in its diversity, with Caribbean immigrants from founding father Alexander Hamilton, to journalist Malcolm Gladwell, who have shaped the American dream.

TUESDAY, MAY 30, 2017

Train has left on Caribbean's 1.5˚C climate goal – meteorologist

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC) – A leading regional meteorologist Tuesday said the Caribbean and other small island developing states are facing an uphill task in trying to convince the world to contain global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrialisation levels.In fact, Puerto Rico-based meteorologist, John Toohey-Morales, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the train has already left the station.

"We are already at 0.95 degrees above pre-industrialisation levels and unfortunately, the way that temperatures are going, they are accelerating, they are rising faster and faster as the years go by," Toohey-Morales said.

"This train has left the station, it is, unfortunately, accelerating and being able to limit it to 1.5 degrees seems like a reach to me, seems unrealistic to me," he said.

Toohey-Morales spoke to CMC on the sideline of a climate and media training for Caribbean media practitioners, as part of the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology's (CIMH) annual Wet/Hurricane Season Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum.

In the face of human-induced climate change, Caribbean researchers say that a half a degree Celsius change in global temperature could make quite a difference for the region, which is already being severely impacted by the adverse effects of a warming climate.

At the global climate change talks in Paris in 2015, countries agreed to contain global temperature rise to two degrees Celcius above pre-industrialisation levels.

MONDAY, MAY 29, 2017

Caribbean earns US$27 billion from tourism

ST JAMES, Jamaica (JIS) — Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, says tourism remains the most vital source of earnings and economic activity for the majority of Caribbean islands, with region-wide revenues estimated at more than US$27 billion. "Tourism is the single largest generator of foreign exchange in 16 of the 28 countries in the Caribbean, with the sector receiving the most by way of foreign direct investment (FDI)," he pointed out.

TUESDAY, MAY 23, 2017

US gives Haitians limited extension of TPS

WASHINGTON, DC, USA (CMC) — United States Secretary of Homeland Security John F Kelly says he has decided to extend, for an additional six months, the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for undocumented Haitians living in the US.On Monday, Kelly said the extension is effective July 23, 2017 through January 22, 2018.

"After careful review of the current conditions in Haiti and conversations with the Haitian government, I have decided to extend the designation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status for a limited period of six months," he said.

"Haiti has made progress across several fronts since the devastating earthquake in 2010, and I'm proud of the role the United States has played during this time in helping our Haitian friends. The Haitian economy continues to recover and grow, and 96 per cent of people displaced by the earthquake and living in internally displaced person camps have left those camps," he added.

"Even more encouraging is that over 98 per cent of these camps have closed. Also, indicative of Haiti's success in recovering from the earthquake seven years ago is the Haitian Government's stated plans to rebuild the Haitian President's residence at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, and the withdrawal of the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti."


Remittance taxes counterproductive — economists

American citizens canvassed by the Jamaica Observer have suggested that, in order to fund the construction of a wall between Mexico and the United States, there are other ways to raise the money besides a tax on remittances — a serious proposal made by the Government of the United States regarding funds sent from the US to some countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Jamaica.

One male from the Midwest who declined to be identified commented: "When you consider the crazy salaries and pensions our politicians receive and the amount we spend on our military, one realises that budget cuts could be made in places like these to save [money] instead. But that's in an ideal world where we don't live, apparently."

The proposed tax is a two per cent levy on outgoing remittances.


US visa exemption rules in Republican crosshairs

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — Congressional Republicans sounded an alarm Wednesday over rules allowing millions of Europeans to travel to the United States without a visa, warning that jihadists could exploit weak links in the program.The Islamic State and Al-Qaeda extremist groups "have incurred great losses in Syria and Iraq," Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told a hearing on the security of the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

"Yet as the territory under their control shrinks, we are seeing an exodus of foreign fighters returning to their homelands," he said.

House Republican Mike Gallagher pointed to deadly attacks in Paris, Brussels, Nice and Berlin as examples of why the US should increase its vigilance.

"The majority of these attackers were European citizens with valid passports, so it is easy to imagine any one of them gaining access to this country through a valid visa or through the Visa Waiver Program," said Gallagher, who heads the Task Force on Denying Terrorists Entry to the United States.

"While there are numerous benefits to our country that stem from our welcoming immigration system — like tourism, trade, and business — we should never cease to examine our processes through the lens of a terrorist in search of potential gaps."

Millions of travellers from 38 wealthy countries, including 30 European nations, currently benefit from the exemption, which allows them to come to the United States for 90 days without having to go through a lengthy visa process.

TUESDAY, MAY 2, 2017

Venezuela Found Half Million Dollars To Donate to Trump Inauguration Despite Economic Crisis

WASHINGTON DC, USA, Tuesday May 2, 2017 – The Venezuelan government may not have enough money to ensure sufficient food, medicine and other necessities for its people, but it found the cash to donate US$500,000 to US President Donald Trump's inauguration fund.

While foreign donations are banned under US law, recently released records show that Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA made the donation through its US affiliate, Citgo Petrol, soon after offering a nearly 50 percent stake in Citgo to Russian oil giant Rosneft as collateral for a $1.5 billion loan.

Citgo Petrol was one of the biggest corporate donors to the swearing-in ceremony, ranking with the likes of JP Morgan Chase and Exxon.

The transactions came at a time when PDVSA and the Nicolas Maduro government were desperate for cash as oil revenues continued to shrink and civil unrest grew. The influx of money from Rosneft is said to be helping keep PDVSA and Maduro afloat.

According to a report in The Guardian, if Venezuela defaults on the debt, Rosneft could stand to gain a controlling stake in Citgo, a prospect that has caused anxiety among both Republicans and Democrats in the US Congress.

MONDAY, MAY 1, 2017

OCR, Facebook in historic partnership for missing children

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT Jamaica wrote another chapter in regional history yesterday with the launch of a partnership between the Office of the Children's Registry (OCR) and Facebook that will see Ananda Alerts being sent to the news feed of local users of the immensely popular social media platform to help locate missing children.

Emily Vacher, former Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent and current director of trust and safety at Facebook, who was present at the launch of the partnership held at the Courtyard by Marriott in Kingston, lauded Jamaica for being the first Caribbean country to launch an emergency missing child alert system on the social networking service.

"Jamaica and the OCR are leaders in this area. There are many countries who have not even developed missing child alert protocols," she said.

"When Facebook receives an alert from OCR, within 15 minutes that alert will be prepared and disseminated to the public. When you see this missing child alert it pops up as Active Ananda Alert that will have the picture of the missing child and a brief description. When you click 'learn more' it will take you off Facebook to the page prepared by the Global Missing Children Network, where you will see the age, height, weight, last clothing seen in, and a description of the vehicle or licence plate number if all that was witnessed."


Herb Cuisine: Bob Marley's Daughter Releasing Cookbook Of Marijuana Recipes

KINGSTON, Jamaica – A new cookbook with delightful recipes using marijuana will hit the market soon. And it's coming from daughter of late Jamaican and international reggae icon Bob Marley. On July 25, Chief Executive Officer at Tuff Gong International Cedella Marley, the firstborn of Bob and Rita Marley, will launch her Cooking with Herb: 75 Recipes for the Marley Natural Lifestyle.

The book, which is already being promoted on major online platforms, including Amazon, is being touted as "more than a collection of recipes—it's a lifestyle book reflecting the Marley Natural brand's holistic clean living philosophy."

It promises to show readers how they can experience the healing benefits of cannabis, "safely and pleasurably".

Marley guides readers on the questions they should ask at dispensaries, offers insights on today's more potent weed, and demystifies the process behind controlling the dosage of cannabis in edibles.

The 240-page book will feature a collection of more than 75 Caribbean-inflected, canna-boosted recipes. It also provides recipes for homemade scrubs and hair treatments.

The book is expected to retail for just under US$30.


Climate Impact on Caribbean Coral Reefs Could Be Mitigated

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz CAHUITA, Costa Rica (IPS) – A few dozen metres from the Caribbean beach of Puerto Vargas, where you can barely see the white foam of the waves breaking offshore, is the coral reef that is the central figure of the ocean front of the Cahuita National Park in Costa Rica.

Puerto Vargas is known for the shrinking of its once long beach, as a result of erosion. The coast has lost dozens of metres in a matter of a few years, which has had an effect on tourists and on the nesting of sea turtles that used to come to lay their eggs.

Just as the beaches have been affected, there have been effects under water, in this area of the eastern province of Limón, which runs along the country's Caribbean coast from north to south.

"The impact of the rise in sea level and changes in temperatures also affect the coral ecosystems," Patricia Madrigal, Costa Rica's vice minister of environment, told IPS.

The waters of the Caribbean sea are particularly fertile for corals, but the warming of the waters and acidification due to climate change threaten to wipe out these ecosystems, which serve as environmental and economic drivers for coastal regions.


Probe Into Trinidad Oil Spill That's Worse Than First Thought

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Wednesday April 26, 2017 – Trinidad and Tobago's oil company Petrotrin says the equivalent of 300 barrels of oil actually leaked from a ruptured storage tank on Sunday – 15 times more than the amount it had initially indicated.

There had been suggestions, based on the spread of the oil in the waters of the Gulf of Paria, and oil drenched seagulls and marine life, that there was much more than the 20 barrels of oil which the oil company initially leaked into the sea.


Barbados Rejects US Money Laundering Report

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Tuesday April 25, 2017 – Barbados' Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite isn't taking the listing of Barbados as a major money laundering country sitting down. The United States (US) State Department recently named the island among several that it regards as major money laundering nations, but Brathwaite says that is misleading.

He said while the report cited a number of generic methods of money laundering that may be found in any country, "Barbados' best intelligence does not support the view that they are at proportions which would have a significant impact on the local economy, or cause the faintest ripple in the international financial sector".

The Attorney General said the illegal drugs trade is a crime that causes great concern in this country, as it gives birth to other criminal activity, including the importation and use of unlicensed firearms.


World Bank says remittance growth only seen in Caribbean region

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — Despite overall global decline, the World Bank says the only region to record growth in remittances in 2016, was Latin America and the Caribbean . On Friday, the Washington-based financial institution said regional growth was estimated at US$73 billion, an increase of 6.9 per cent over 2015.

"Remittance senders took advantage of the strong US labor market and beneficial exchange rates."

It said robust remittance growth was estimated for Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala.

In 2017, the World Bank projected remittances to the region to grow by 3.3 per cent to US$75 billion.

But remittances to developing countries fell for a second consecutive year in 2016, a trend not seen in three decades, according to the latest edition of the Migration and Development Brief, released by the World Bank during its spring meetings.

The bank estimated that officially recorded remittances to developing countries amounted to US$429 billion in 2016, a decline of 2.4 percent over US$440 billion in 2015.

Global remittances, which include flows to high-income countries, contracted by 1.2 percent to US$575 billion in 2016, from US$582 billion in 2015.


US resort faces seasonal worker shortage due to visa cap

RUTLAND, Vermont (AP) — Some Vermont ski resorts and luxury hotels are facing an acute labor shortage because of a congressional cap on the number of special visas issued to international workers who fill seasonal jobs such as ski lift operators and waiters, officials say. Bob Beach, co-owner of the Basin Harbor Club resort near Lake Champlain in Ferrisburgh, said the cap on H-2B visas for temporary nonagricultural workers has left him scrambling to hire the 300 workers he needs to keep the resort running from May to October.

He said he has longtime seasonal staff members from Jamaica who were waiting to return to Vermont.

"Not only are we having to really search to the extreme to find those replacements, we're also having to contact those folks to say, 'It does not look like you'll be joining us for the summer,'" Beach said.

Congress capped the H-2B visa program nationwide at 66,000 workers. There was an exemption last year that helped alleviate the shortage of workers, but it was not renewed for this year.

Tom Torti of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce said the state's labor shortage is getting worse as Vermont's population ages.

The Killington ski resort, the state's largest, has trouble filling positions in the winter, when its employment need jumps to 1,800 workers from 300 for summer.


UN keeping eye on Haiti, envoy says

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AFP) — Sandra Honore — a diplomat from Trinidad who has headed the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH since July 2013 — says the UN will keep tabs on progress in the country even after the mission shuts down. Following the UN Security Council's decision on Thursday to end the mission by the end of October, she also spoke to AFP about allegations of sexual abuse committed by UN peacekeepers in the poor Caribbean country.

MONDAY, APRIL 17, 2017

Call For Travel and Tourism Best Practices

MIAMI, United States – The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) is accepting nominations for the coveted Caribbean Hospitality Industry Exchange Forum (CHIEF) Awards, which are set to take place during the third edition of the event in Miami from June 2 to 4, 2017.

Tourism stakeholders are encouraged to join innovative and forward-thinking travel and tourism businesses, such as Rosalie Bay in Dominica, Ocean Two Resort in Barbados, and regional resort collections, including Elegant Hotels and Sandals Resorts, which have been previously honored during the premier tourism event. Nominations must be submitted by April 17.

The CHIEF Awards shine a spotlight on the Caribbean hospitality and tourism industry's best practices and Caribbean businesses that have implemented them for the betterment of the industry and the region. The theme for this year's conference, which will feature awards in the areas of Environmental Sustainability, Operations, Sales and Marketing, and Social Responsibility, is "Connect, Learn and Lead the Way".

"This is an opportunity for nominees to showcase and share their innovative ideas while gaining exposure within the industry," said Frank Comito, Director General and CEO of CHTA. "We encourage everyone eligible to enter and exchange their unique and transformative best practices to improve the hospitality and tourism sector across the entire Caribbean."

CHIEF is the Caribbean hospitality industry's premier event for collaborative discourse and offers unparalleled networking opportunities.

The finalists will be announced on Friday, May 5, 2017. The top three finalists in each category will be invited to present their best practices during CHIEF at the Hyatt Regency Miami, and the overall winner in each category will be announced at the conference.


Canada unveils legislation to legalise marijuana

OTTAWA, Canada (AFP) — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government unveiled legislation Thursday to fully legalise marijuana, making Canada only the second country to do so, after Uruguay. While medical marijuana use has been regulated in this country since 2001, cannabis remains a controlled substance. Its legalisation and regulation for recreational use is expected in 2018, in time for Canada's national holiday on July 1.

"We know that criminal prohibition has failed," former-police-chief-turned-MP Bill Blair, who spearheaded the initiative, told a press conference

"Legalisation," he said, "seeks to regulate and restrict access to cannabis and will make Canada safer."

According to government statistics, as many as 4.6 million Canadians will consume an estimated total 655 metric tons of cannabis annually by 2018, spending an estimated Can$4.2 billion to Can$6.2 billion (USD $3.15-4.65 billion) each year.

The new regulations closely follow recommendations proposed in December by a task force led by former deputy prime minister Anne McLellan.

They would allow individuals to grow up to four plants at home for personal use.

Personal possession, however, would be limited to 30 grams (one ounce). And access would be restricted to adults 18 years and older.


UN Security Council to Vote on Getting Peacekeeping Mission Out of Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Wednesday April 12, 2017 – The United Nations Security Council will officially vote tomorrow on closing the 13-year-long peacekeeping mission in Haiti as recommended by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Sandra Honoré, told the Security Council yesterday that United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) should prepare to drawdown over the next six months and transition into a smaller peacekeeping operation focused on strengthening the rule of law, institutions and the national police force.


Safe, High Quality Drugs Assured With Caribbean Regulatory System

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Tuesday April 11, 2017 – The establishment of a Caribbean Regulatory System (CRS) will improve conditions for patients in the region to receive safe, efficacious, high quality drugs. Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) Dr. James Hospedales gave that assurance as he promised that access to safe, efficacious and good quality drugs is a human right which the regional public health organization is committed to facilitating.

CARPHA, in collaboration with CARICOM and World Health Organisation/Pan American Health Organisation (WHO/PAHO), has established a CRS.

Dr. Hospedales explained that the CRS will focus on providing regulatory assurance to essential generic medicines for the region.

"Through the CRS, CARPHA will be able to help countries perform functions such as reviewing, approving and monitoring medicines, in a timely manner, allowing patients faster access to quality drugs," he said, adding that it would also help to reduce cost of medicines to consumers and the health system, thus improving accessibility and affordability.

With only five CARICOM countries currently conducting a review of safety, quality, and efficacy of drugs, PAHO Country Representative for Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Bernadette Theodore-Gandi, emphasized the need for strong regulatory systems for medicines.

MONDAY, APRIL 10, 2017

Trump funding cuts to UNFPA could affect Jamaica

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has dismissed claims by the United States Government that it supports, or participates in the management of a programme of forced abortion in China, the reason given for deep funding cuts to one of the UN's key agencies.ch of the partnership.

The UNFPA pushed back against the Trump Administration's announcement that the US would no longer fund any of its work worldwide, declaring: "All of its (UNFPA) work promotes the human rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination. Indeed, United Nations member states have long described UNFPA's work in China as a force for good."

The US State Department said it would withhold over $32.5 million in financial support for this year because the UNFPA "supports, or participates in the management of a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation" in China. The move marks a step in the Administration's promise to make major cuts to United Nations funding by executive orders. On March 30, 2017, the Administration informed Congress of its intention to cut the funding to UNFPA, saying those funds would instead go towards "other family planning, maternal and reproductive health activities".The US, was in 2016, the fourth-largest donor to UNFPA.


Zika could cost region billions, says UN

UNITED NATIONS (CMC) — A new United Nations report has found that in addition to the impact on public health, the mosquito-borne Zika outbreak could cost the Latin American and the Caribbean region as much as US$18 billion between 2015 and 2017. The report, titled "Socio-economic impact assessment of Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean", prepared by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has a particular focus on Brazil, Colombia and Suriname – countries that first reported the outbreak in October-November 2015.

The UNDP assistant administrator and director of its Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, Jessica Faieta, underscored the far-reaching impact the Zika virus would go, beyond tangible losses, such as to the gross domestic product (GDP), and could potentially impact the implementation of the 2003 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The consequences of the virus can undermine decades of social development, hard-earned health gains and slow progress towards [achieving] the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), she said.


Jamaica in Partnership with Facebook to Search for Missing Children

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica's Ministry of Education, Youth and Information will be partnering with social media giant, Facebook, to broadcast Ananda Alerts which are issued when children go missing. State Minister in the Ministry Floyd Green said a Facebook team will be visiting Jamaica next month for the official launch of the partnership.

"This partnership will enable the broadcast of Ananda Alerts on the pages of all Facebook users in Jamaica, which will ensure that we have a larger pool searching for our children when they go missing," he explained in the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, Green informed that the backlog of sexual-offence cases at the Child Development Agency (CDA) has been cleared.

And he said that a planned merger of the CDA and the Office of the Children's Registry (OCR) aims to "remove the bureaucracy from child protection".

"The CDA and OCR merger is not a cost-saving measure. The focus will be on efficiency, roles and effectiveness. The motivating factor is to have a child-protection sector which appropriately responds to the needs of our children," Green pointed out.

He added that in the new dispensation, the Registry functions will be sufficiently protected to guarantee the necessary legal safeguards in child-abuse cases.


CARICOM Considers How To Keep Market Access in Tact After Brexit

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados - CARICOM has reportedly narrowed down the options it intends to pursue to prevent a break in market access in the United Kingdom due to the UK's planned exit from the European Union (EU). Director General of the Office of Trade Negotiations at the CARICOM Secretariat, Ambassador Gail Mathurin said while a number of possibilities were being considered, one option appears more probable.

"It is highly likely that we could see the process going forward in two stages. One, we legally seek the new agreement with rollover provisions to ensure no hiatus; and secondly, we seek a commitment with the UK that at an agreed time we would sit down and re-examine the agreement with a view to negotiating better terms," she said.

"That would take some time, both because of the UK's own priorities but also because the region will need some time to reflect what areas it would like to see improvement in."

Ambassador Mathurin was addressing a two-day private/public sector forum that zeroed in on the so-called Brexit and its implications for Barbados and the region.

She said any option pursued by CARIFORUM states that had signed the Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU and which would be affected by the UK's decision, must be in line with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

She explained that this would prevent other WTO members from challenging trade between CARIFORUM and the UK.

CARICOM exports to the UK represent around 21 per cent of what is sent to the EU.


Barbados health minister worried at high level of hypertension, diabetes

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — A national consultation for the developmyent of the National Strategic Plan for Health 2017-2022, began on Monday with Health Minister John Boyce warning that end-stage renal failure is a growing public health problem in Barbados, driven primarily by the high levels of hypertension and diabetes in the population. Boyce said that the treatment of hypertension and diabetes combined accounted for 58 per cent of expenditure by the Barbados Drug Service last year.

The consultation, which will run until Friday, brings together stakeholders from the public and private sectors, as well as non-governmental organisations, to map the way forward for health care in Barbados.

Boyce, quoting a 2015 report commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Health Organization (WHO), said that while Barbados spent an estimated BDS$64 million (One Barbados dollar =US$0.50 cents) annually treating cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, the total cost was about BDS$209 million annually, due to missed work days, low productivity and reduced workforce participation.

He said this represented about two per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Boyce said that with one in three adults in Barbados being hypertensive and one in five diabetic, non-communicable diseases were firmly fixed as major causes of morbidity and mortality.

The health minister told his audience that he envisioned a comprehensive and responsive plan which would meet the present and future needs of Barbadians, given the existing challenges.


Jamaica expecting 4.2 million visitors in 2017

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has projected that tourist arrivals will reach 4.2 million by the end of this year, surpassing last year's 3.84 million, to set a new record in Jamaica. "So you know what that means. It means 4.2 million opportunities for income generating and earning. More consumption in the Jamaican space translates into more opportunity for jobs," the minister said.

He was speaking at the official opening of the fourth staging of the Tourism Linkages Speed Network at the Hilton Rose Hall Hotel and Spa in Montego Bay on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, noting that 172 representatives from 98 supplying companies and 79 representatives from 59 buyers were attending the event, Chairman of the Tourism Linkages Network Adam Stewart, challenged stakeholders to grow the event.

"This thing has taken on a life of its own and if we could ask you for something, don't just make a lot of money today (Wednesday). That is objective number one, right? The cash flow? Please spread the word, please try and build the hype, please try and inspire others so that next year we have 150 (suppliers), not just 100," Stewart charged.

At the same time, Bartlett, who noted that he was heartened by the strong support of buyers and suppliers to this year's event, said when he makes his sectoral budget presentation in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, he plans to highlight the economic gains derived from the staging of the event over the last four years.

"I want to show what we have achieved by way of income from the reduction in the import of certain inputs in the tourism that is consumed here. I also want to say how the tourism spend has been increased over the period as a result of more local consumption, because that is what it is all about," he said.

President of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association Metry Seaga was encouraged by the opportunity to showcase local goods and services.


Eastern Caribbean Branded a Transit Point For Drug Traffickers By US

WASHINGTON DC, USA– The Eastern Caribbean has been branded a "transit point for drug traffickers going to the United States and Europe" by the US State Department. The department's International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), released this month, claims that the Eastern Caribbean hosts abundant transhipment points for illicit narcotics, primarily from Venezuela destined for North American, European and domestic Caribbean markets.

According to the report, marijuana remains the most commonly used illicit drug within the region and many of the homicides in the seven countries occur as a result of turf wars between factions fighting for control of drug distribution.

The report named St Vincent as a primary source for cannabis in the Eastern Caribbean.

Data provided to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) indicates that, during the first nine months of last year, drug seizures in the Eastern Caribbean totalled 196.65 metric tons of marijuana and 1,103.8 kg of cocaine, along with 159 drug trafficking-related arrests.

According to the State Department, law enforcement capacity in the region is under increasing stress and, while Eastern Caribbean governments made some improvements, their criminal codes remained antiquated.


OAS discusses Venezuela crisis, Caracas protests

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — The Organization of American States held a special meeting on the crisis in Venezuela on Tuesday, triggering a furious reaction from the Venezuelan government and its staunchest regional allies. The meeting is the international community's latest effort to get to grips with an economic and political unravelling in the once-booming oil producer, whose skid to the brink of collapse has the rest of Latin America increasingly worried.

It comes after 14 countries in the OAS, including the United States, urged Venezuela's leftist government last week to release political prisoners and "re-establish democracy" by holding elections.

In a sign that Venezuela is increasingly cornered, a total of 20 countries voted to open Tuesday's special session of the OAS Permanent Council in Washington.

Eleven countries voted against, two abstained and one was absent.

"As members of this organization, we cannot remain indifferent," said Costa Rica's representative, Rogelio Sotela.

Venezuela protested that the organisation was interfering in the country's internal affairs, in "flagrant violation of its principles."

Joining in, the leftist governments of Nicaragua and Bolivia stalled the proceedings with nearly an hour of legal objections in support of their ideological ally, whose largesse with its oil wealth long bought it outsize influence in the region.

Venezuela has the world's largest oil reserves, but has plunged deep into recession since 2014 as low crude prices have laid bare its overwhelming dependence on its chief export.

MONDAY, MARCH 27, 2017

India willing to help develop Jamaican film industry

(Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange) Indian High Commissioner to Jamaica Shri Sevala Naik expressed an interest in helping to develop the Jamaican film industry by offering scholarships and internships to interested Jamaicans. Though nothing has been officially implemented, the diplomat welcomed the suggestion that through India's booming film industry, known as Bollywood, his country could offer assistance to Jamaica.

"Film scholarships are not there, but we can develop a model and we can take it up with my Government. There has been no expression of interest from Jamaicans, but I can explore this opportunity. I will be more than happy to help the Jamaican film industry to go and study," Naik told reporters and editors at the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper's Kingston offices.

He also encouraged interested parties to submit proposals to the Indian High Commission.


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."


Trinis Are The Happiest Islanders In The Caribbean, Says UN Report

NEW YORK, USA, Wednesday March 22, 2017 – The United Nations annual World Happiness Report was published on Monday (World Happiness Day), but Caribbean people interested in how their country fared were mostly disappointed, with much of the region apparently escaping the attention of the experts who compiled the report. Of those nations to make it on the 155-strong list, the top four that could be considered part of the wider region were the mainland countries of Mexico (25), Guatemala (29), Panama (30) and Colombia (36).

The distinction of being the first Caribbean island country named went to Trinidad and Tobago, which placed 38th despite the twin-island republic's rampant crime.

Next up were another two Central American countries: Nicaragua (43) and Belize (50), followed by Jamaica in 76th place.

Venezuela, which came in 82nd, was one of three countries to experience the biggest happiness drops in recent years.

The Dominican Republic (86) and Honduras (91) followed, while Haiti, ranked 145th, brought up the regional rear.

Happiness is increasingly considered a significant marker of social progress and is measured by the report on the basis of six key variables: GDP per capita, healthy years of life expectancy, social support (as measured by having someone to count on in times of trouble), trust (as measured by a perceived absence of corruption in government and business), perceived freedom to make life decisions, and generosity (as measured by recent donations).

The fifth annual report named Norway the world's happiest nation, up from fourth place last year.

This year, Norway pipped fellow Scandinavians in Denmark to the title and, while doing so, leapfrogged Iceland and Switzerland. The four countries in the Nordic region consistently perform well within the UN's report.


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".