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THURSDAY, MAY 26, 2016

Jamaican company selected to participate in IDB programme

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) – A Jamaican company is the sole Caribbean entity selected from Latin America and the Caribbean to participate in an innovation and entrepreneurship event sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in October. The IDB said that "Book Fusion" is among the 12 start-up companies that will participate in the 2016 edition of Demand Solutions on October 4 in Washington.

The other companies are from Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico. "These 12 ventures stood out among the more than 500 entries we received from 20 countries," said Trinidad Zaldivar, chief of the Culture, Creativity and Solidarity Affairs Division.

"They're great examples of the raw talent and potential of our region in fields such as art, education, design, animation, and many others," he added.

IDB said that Demand Solutions "brings together some of the most creative minds in the world to share ideas on how to tackle and solve development challenges by leveraging the power of art, culture and technology".

It said during the conference, a founder from each of these start-ups will pitch their product or solution to a panel of judges, investors and business accelerators.


Trinidad and Tobago to supply Venezuela with manufactured goods

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The Government of Trinidad and Tobago says it will be providing relief to Venezuela in the form of manufactured goods, but gave no indication as to whether it is as a result of the socio-economic and political unrest in the Spanish- speaking country. Prime Minister Keith Rowley made the announcement yesterday after holding bilateral talks with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

The Rowley Administration also announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding that will allow the operating companies of the two countries to proceed on cross-border initiatives.

President Nicolás Maduro, who arrived here on Sunday night from Jamaica, paid a courtesy call on President Anthony and later held talks with Rowley.

Maduro was greeted by pro and anti-demonstrators as his motorcade made its way to the office of President Carmona and the Diplomatic Centre where he met Rowley.

Speaking at a joint news conference where neither men took questions from the media, Rowley described the talks as "very productive and very useful… that would be beneficial to both the people of the South American country and their Caribbean Community neighbour."

TUESDAY, MAY 24, 2016

Obama signs bill striking 'negro' from US laws

WASHINGTON, United States (AP) — Federal laws will no longer include outdated and offensive terms used to describe minority groups. President Barack Obama signed a bill striking the several terms, including "Negro" and "Oriental" on Friday, the White House said. Those terms will be replaced with "African American" and "Asian American".

The bill removing the terms passed the House in February and the Senate last week. No one in either chamber objected.

The language targeted by the bill had appeared in laws dating to the 1970s that attempted to define minorities.

In the Department of Energy Organization Act the phrases "a Negro, Puerto Rican, American Indian, Eskimo, Oriental, or Aleut or is a Spanish speaking individual of Spanish descent" will be replaced with "Asian American, Native Hawaiian, a Pacific Islander, African American, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Native American, or an Alaska Native".

The same language changes will be made to the Local Public Works Capital Development and Investment Act of 1976.

MONDAY, MAY 23, 2016

Maduro arrives in Trinidad for talks with PM

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) – Venezuelan Leader Nicolas Maduro arrived here on Sunday night for talks with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. Maduro arrived here from Jamaica where he held "fruitful" talks with Jamaica's Prime Minister Andrew Holness. Maduro will meet with Prime Minister Rowley to discuss issues of mutual interest, including enhancing bilateral cooperation between the two oil rich countries. A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister said that the talks would also centre on foreign policy, energy and trade.

Last weekend, Rowley told Parliament that if the economic and political unrest gets worse in Caracas, Port of Spain would be faced a call to provide assistance.

"There will be some call on the people of Trinidad and Tobago to provide aid and succour in the event that things get worse. Hopefully, it will not get to that," he told legislators.

Rowley said he is aware that there are already a number of Venezuelans seeking "aid and succour" here.

Meanwhile, the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) said it will stage a protest in support of Maduro who is expected to face opposition from Venezuelan nationals residing here.

The MSJ is expected to be supported by the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM).

The small opposition Independent Liberal Party (ILP) said it is concerned about the welfare of five Trinidadians detained in Venezuela for more than two years on allegations of plotting to overthrow the government.

"The party has been in communication with relatives of the detained men, all of whom belong to the Islamic faith, and all of whom have expressed concern for their health given the social, political and economic crisis taking place in Venezuela,' the ILP added.

FRIDAY, MAY 20, 2016

Possible human trials of Zika vaccine by September

TEXAS, United States, Thursday May 19, 2016 – Scientists have for the first time cloned the Zika virus, an important development towards fast-tracking a vaccine against the disease.

The genetically engineered copy is a replica of the strain that is spreading across Latin America and the Caribbean, bringing an increase in microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains.

Until now, researchers had known the structure of Zika, but they had not replicated it – at least not this strain, which is carried by mosquitoes but can also be sexually transmitted.

A team from the The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston was able to genetically engineer Zika, so researchers can now make the virus in test tubes and on Petri dishes, according to a study published this week in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

TUESDAY, MAY 17, 2016

Development of marijuana industry urgent – Jamaica Finance Minister

Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw, says Jamaica must move with urgency to develop a medical marijuana industry. He pointed out that exploiting the benefits of marijuana is "not about smoking a spliff" or "walking around with two ounces of the weed."

This is about building an industry of value-added products," the Minister emphasised.

Mr. Shaw was opening the 2016/17 Budget Debate in the House on May 12. His presentation was made under the theme: 'Partnership for Economic Growth'.

Citing other countries that have benefited from using the plant, the Minister contended that Jamaica is uniquely positioned to play a leading role in the medical marijuana industry which can create wealth for the country.

Mr. Shaw noted that in the United States alone, the legal marijuana market is predicted to rise from US$6.7 billion this year to US$21.8 billion by 2020. He pointed out as well that Canada has built a major industry which may become fully legalised next year.

The Minister further informed that the Dutch Ministry of Health is exporting medical marijuana to Canada, Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic. In addition, Israel has over 12,000 medical marijuana patients and is leading the world in research on medical marijuana.

Mr. Shaw said developing a medical marijuana industry for the country will involve pursuing research at the universities to create medicines which can help people dealing with major illnesses, such as diabetes, epilepsy and others.

MONDAY, MAY 16, 2016

Caribbean marine resources worth hundreds of millions of dollars

Caribbean countries have a living bank of marine resources from which they collectively cash out hundreds of millions of dollars a year. They can spend that money to support emerging national economies by providing good jobs, food and foreign exchange, among other benefits.

However, in order to remain active and competitive in the global marketplace, countries have had to find ways to surmount the challenges posed by stringent international standards called sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, for food safety and for protection against diseases carried animals and plants, reports CaribbeanNewsNow.

Under an EU-funded SPS Measures Project, the ability of Caribbean countries to effectively address those challenges is being strengthened through initiatives such as specialized training for those gatekeepers who help to ensure the safety of both imported and exported foods.

The project has reached a new milestone, as a group of professionals from CARIFORUM states - the countries which make up the Caribbean Community, as well as the Dominican Republic - has just concluded a sanitary and phytosanitary management course.

The intensive two-week training, held at the United Nations University – Fisheries Training Programme (UNU-FTP) in Reykjavik, Iceland, was organized under the capacity building component of the project.

"I am very pleased that the 18 senior officials from our member states were able to participate in this important training opportunity to strengthen public sector capacities to effectively manage sanitary and phytosanitary systems for fish and seafood," said Milton Haughton, executive director of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), the agency coordinating the fisheries sub-component of the project.

"Developing SPS capacities is just a part of our overall strategy for improving competitiveness, adding value and building resilience to climate change, while addressing supply chain challenges facing the fisheries and aquaculture sectors in our countries," Haughton added.

The Caribbean is looking at the Icelandic example to not just bolster its SPS regime, but also to expand the range of value added products from fish, and strengthen the value chain to maximize benefits across the spectrum, from fisher to processor to exporter.

FRIDAY, MAY 13, 2016

CARICOM advances relations with Sweden, Netherlands

CARICOM Secretariat – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Foreign Ministers have put measures in place for closer cooperation with Sweden and the Netherlands even as they seek to place issues impacting the development of Small Island Developing and Low-lying States (SIDS) in the spotlight. The Ministers, at their just concluded 19th Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR), in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, met their counterparts from the two European Union (EU) Member States.

Aware of Netherlands' strategic position as the current President of the EU, COFCOR engaged the country's Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders on climate change, particularly its impact on SIDS and low lying States. While acknowledging the diplomatic success of COP21, the urgency of operationalisation of the Agreement was stressed. The concerns of the Community over blacklisting by EU Member States, and the withdrawal of correspondent banking services, both of which had an adverse impact on CARICOM States, were also presented to the Minister.

Discussions with Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom centred on issues such as climate change, renewable energy, water management, ocean security, citizen security, as well as a proposal by Sweden and the Nordic countries to conclude a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate cooperation in a range of areas.

According to the Communique issued at the end of the Meeting, Foreign Ministers also considered CARICOM's relations with a number of other Third States, and regional groupings, as well as with important development partners with whom the Region enjoys long-standing ties. In acknowledging that many of these relationships were undergoing dynamic changes, they considered how best to position CARICOM to take advantage of these changing realities. They also deliberated on the Region's priorities and challenges within key regional, hemispheric and multilateral bodies including the United Nations, the ACS and CELAC.

THURSDAY, MAY 12, 2016

CARICOM's strategic relationships critical in changing global environment

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent and the Grenadines – The critical importance of CARICOM maintaining traditional relationships and building new ones was underscored by Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque as he addressed CARICOM Foreign Ministers who are gathered in St. Vincent and the Grenadines for the 19th Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR).

In a rapidly changing global environment, the need is critical for CARICOM to reinforce engagements such as those recently held with the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States of America, and that which will be advanced with the Foreign Ministers of Sweden and the Kingdom of the Netherlands during this Meeting of COFCOR, the Secretary-General noted.

Ambassador LaRocque said that the 9th UK-Caribbean Forum which took place in The Bahamas 10 days ago, confirmed the UK's renewal of interest UK by increasing its development support to the Caribbean over the next four years. More than £360 million (US$519.7 million) in grant-finance will be allocated to the region in bilateral programme support, including for infrastructure development for eligible countries.

The Secretary-General said the opportunity was maximized to inform the UK that the de-risking strategies being adopted by certain international banks, which have resulted in the withdrawal of correspondent banking services from banks in the Community, threaten dire consequences for the economic viability of CARICOM Member States.


UN launches trust fund for Caribbean Zika virus response

UNITED NATIONS (CMC) – The United Nations has established a Zika Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF) to finance critical unfunded priorities in the response to the outbreak of the mosquito borne virus in Latin America and the Caribbean. The UN said the Fund, which aims to provide a rapid, flexible and accountable platform to support a coordinated response from the UN system and partners, will directly support the Zika Strategic Response Framework, developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in consultation with UN agencies, partners and international epidemiological experts.

Donors will contribute to a central point, and an Advisory Committee will direct funds to the highest-priority activities in the affected countries, the UN said.

Since January 2015, the UN said 61 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean have reported local transmission of Zika, which is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes.

TUESDAY, MAY 10, 2016

Caribbean students to benefit from Rihanna's new scholarship programme

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Tuesday May 10, 2016 – Barbadian-born Grammy-winning singer Rihanna has announced a global scholarship programme that would fund education for students from seven countries, including her home country and four other Caribbean nations, in the United States.

The college scholarship programme, launched through her Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF), would provide up to US$50,000 in scholarships for successful applications from Barbados, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, Guyana, Jamaica, or the US who have already been accepted into a bachelor's degree program at an accredited four-year college or university in the US for the 2016-2017 year.

"To be able to give the gift of an education is actually an honour. "Higher education will help provide perspective, opportunities, and learning to a group of kids who really deserve it. I am thrilled to be able to do this," the star told USA Today.

Recipients will receive an award ranging from US$5,000 to US$50,000, which may be renewed for up to three additional years or until a bachelor's degree is earned. Renewal is contingent upon satisfactory academic performance, and awards may be used only for tuition expenses.

The deadline for applications is June 10. Once applications are submitted, a committee will screen 50 finalists based on academic performance, demonstrated leadership and participation in school and community activities, work experience and a personal essay, and winners will be announced by August.

The foundation's website said the global scholarship programme is designed to assist students who are aspiring to reach their fullest potential.

MONDAY, MAY 9, 2016

Fight the bite! Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week begins May 9

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. 5th May, 2016. The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is extending an invitation to representatives of the media to the launch of Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week.

The event is a collaboration between CARPHA, the CARICOM Secretariat and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO). The theme of Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week is 'Small Bite Big Threat: Fight the Bite, Destroy Mosquito Breeding Sites'. In keeping with the theme, it aims to intensify communications and mobilisation activities around vector control in all member states and to inspire communities to take action in their own homes and workplaces.

With the emergence of Zika in the Region and the approach of the rainy season, this year, Mosquito Awareness Week will focus on eliminating breeding sites and avoiding mosquito bites, especially for pregnant women. While events will take place throughout the Caribbean, the official launch will be held at the CARPHA Head Office.

FRIDAY, MAY 6, 2016

Cleaner, cheaper and more secure sources of energy for Caricom

WASHINGTON, DC, USA (CMC) – Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that creates a framework for cooperation to promote programmes and activities that foster the transformation of the energy sector in the Caribbean.

The MOU, which will support cleaner, cheaper, and more secure sources of energy for the Caribbean, was signed by the president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Luis Alberto Moreno, the president of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Warren Smith, the secretary of the United States Department of Energy (DOE), Ernest Moniz and Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Irwin LaRocque.

An IDB statement said that the MOU seeks to increase energy security, reduce energy vulnerability, and promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, and low-carbon technologies in the region.

The MOU, signed earlier this week, allows for the United States, the IDB, CDB, and Caricom to collaborate to support strategic projects, activities, and programmes developed in cooperation with regional governments.


Caribbean energy sector to get transformation support

The just ended Caribbean Energy Security Summit in Washington gave a commitment to support the Caribbean's transformation of the energy systems. In a joint statement the Summit pledged to pursue, among other things, comprehensive, planning-based and research-driven approaches to energy transition; the promotion and development of affordable no-or-lower carbon electricity generation through wind, solar, geothermal power, hydropower, bioenergy, ocean energy, energy recovery from waste, and other clean energies; and promotion of energy efficiency measures while also recognising that alternative fuels, such as natural gas, can play a useful bridging role.

The institutions and member states which participated in the 3-4 May Summit, hosted by the US Vice-President Joe Biden were: the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Colombia, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, United States, together with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, Caribbean Development Bank, European Union, Inter-American Development Bank Group, International Renewable Energy Agency, Organization of American States, and the World Bank Group.


US identifies priority areas to help Caribbean economies grow

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) – United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, has identified what he regarded as three priority areas in which the Obama administration would like the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean to grow and thrive. Addressing the Council of the Americas' 46th Annual Washington Conference of the Americas/US-Caribbean-Central American Energy Summit Reception Tuesday night, Kerry said these areas are trade, supporting entrepreneurs and innovators, and promoting accountability and transparency in government institutions.

"The fact is that, if we want the economies of Latin America and of the Caribbean to grow and thrive tomorrow, then we're going to have to make the right choices now, today, tomorrow," Kerry told the reception here that included regional prime ministers and representatives.

Among attendees were Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago, "who are both making their first official trip to Washington in those capacities", Kerry said.

Stating that trade was the US number one priority, Kerry said the best way to nurture prosperity and economic opportunity for all is to extend the benefits of free and open trade, and investment across the entire hemisphere.

He noted that the United States now has free trade agreements with a dozen countries in the region – "more than we have in any other part of the globe".

"And I will tell you, as a senator, I spent 28 years-plus in the [US] Senate and succeeded in winning my party's nomination even as I supported the trade agreements," Kerry said.

"Why? Because I believed, and I believe now even more, as does President Obama, if 95 per cent for the United States of America in an economy our size – 95 per cent of the customers of the world live in other countries, and no one is going to grow by trading with themselves alone.

"And we've been in that place where you begin to put the high tariffs in place and you prevent the capacity of competitiveness and of hard work and ingenuity to take hold by putting in place artificial barriers. That's a stomp on creativity, and it prevents the capacity to go forward," the US Secretary of State added.

He said Washington is committed to transforming the Americas, including the Caribbean, into an "open, integrated platform for global success.

"That's how you create and support jobs, and that is how we encourage innovation, and that's how we drive growth," he added.

But while expanding trade among nations, Kerry said it was important to focus on the second priority: supporting entrepreneurs and supporting innovators "as they strive to get their businesses up and running."

He recalled that former US President Jimmy Carter created the US Small Business Development Center Network almost 40 years ago, which "now serves nearly one million small businesses every year and creates three new businesses".

TUESDAY, MAY 3, 2016

Strong CARICOM presence for Energy Summit with U.S. Vice President

Several CARICOM Heads and Ministers of Government are in Washington for the US-Caribbean-Central American Energy Summit hosted by US Vice-President Joe Biden. The May 3 and 4 Summit will build on the work of the Caribbean Energy Security Summit that the Vice President hosted in January 2015, and launch the results of the energy task force for the Caribbean and Central America announced by President Obama during his meeting with CARICOM Heads of Government in Jamaica last April.

The Summit will also identify practical measures to ensure a more secure, affordable and clean energy future for citizens of the Caribbean, Central America and the US.

CARICOM representatives at the Summit include:
Guyana's President H.E. David Granger
Jamaica's Prime Minister Mr. Andrew Holness
St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris
St. Lucia's Energy Minister Dr. Jimmy Fletcher

MONDAY, MAY 2, 2016

Region continues climate change planning

The Caribbean Community continues to plan the way forward following the recent signing of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Member agencies of the Regional Coordinating Committee on Climate Change (RCCC) met in St. Lucia 27-28 April, to review the progress made in the implementation of the region's climate change plan and discuss the way forward.

The Committee, mandated by CARICOM Heads of Government to coordinate the Region's Climate Change efforts, is chaired by the Minister for Sustainable Development, Energy, Science, Technology and Public Utilities, Dr. James Fletcher of Saint Lucia and comprises CARICOM specialized agencies, academic institutions and regional financial institutions. Assistant Secretary-General, Human and Sustainable Development Dr. Douglas Slater is the CARICOM Secretariat's representative on the Committee.

The committee deliberated on the role that these regional institutions could play in assisting CARICOM member states in implementing their obligations of the Paris Agreement on climate change. CARICOM member states were among the 175 countries which signed the agreement on April 22nd in New York. In addition, five CARICOM members deposited their instruments of ratification while others have pledged to do so in the immediate future.

FRIDAY, APRIL 29, 2016

CARICOM countries seek to strengthen social security

NASSAU, Bahamas, Friday April 29, 2016 – Countries within the region are strategizing ways to ensure sustainability of their respective social security schemes. Officials are meeting in the Bahamas for the 27th CARICOM Heads of Social Security Meeting and they are exploring the global trends in social security and how these fit within the region, and at a national level.

"Caribbean nations must find their own unique method to adopt the innovative strategies in management and administration that help to improve communications with stakeholders and citizen engagement, expand benefits, improve compliance levels and strengthen their governance structures; all while ensuring the sustainability of their national insurance funds," the Bahamas' Minister of Labour and National Insurance Shane Gibson said at the meeting which ends today.

He noted that in his country, the National Insurance Fund (NIF) has reserves of approximately $1.8 billion, and it plays a critical role in the Bahamian economy.

"In fact, in many instances, NIB has invested in a number of infrastructural projects and private sector equity offerings as a means of stimulating economic activity and ultimately building our economy," Gibson said.

He also disclosed that NIB has reached a significant milestone in its history – the implementation of a state-of-the-art Insurance Administration System software, which will improve its services to the public.

The Bahamas is also introducing an NIB Smart Card, which contains encrypted information for the insured, has other security features to prevent fraud, and is the gateway to the government's proposed National Health Insurance plan.


New Zika Warning

(barbadostoday) A regional health official today warned of a possible rise in the number of Zika cases once the rainy season begins in June. And chairman of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Zika Task Force Professor Clive Landis said when it does Barbados and its Caribbean neighbours must not be caught unawares.

"Currently it is spreading in the Caribbean at the lower level . . . but then it is extremely dry right now. So since we are at the faith-based session today, God is doing the job for us, but at some point he is going to listen to the other constituents – maybe the farmers who are crying out for rain – and rains will come and when they do we expect the spread of Zika to pick up. And we wish to be ready with our monitoring and surveillance that we can pick up whether there is an increase in these health concerns that we are worried about," Landis, deputy principal of the UWI Cave Hill Campus, said.

The more than four-hour session held at the Christ Church office of the Pan American Health Organization focused on how faith-based groups could motivate their members to tackle the disease at the community level.

In this regard he championed the creation of Zero Zika Zones as an effective approach to mobilizing communities to get a handle on the breeding of the pest, which also transmit the dengue and chikungungya viruses.

"The Zero Zika Zone maps out where your mosquitos are likely to come from and engage your neighbours if you have neighbours within that zone and understand that you keep hunting until you find the mosquito breeding sites whether it is water containers, whether it is in plant pots, whether is it above ground – roof guttering are classic cases where mosquitos like to breed. Look above ground and below ground.

"The whole point of the Zika Zero Zone is that the mosquito is not coming from somewhere you can't control it. It is not up to anyone else to get rid of it. You can get rid of it," he said.

MONDAY, APRIL 26, 2016

US legislators introduce US-Caribbean strategic engagement legislation

The United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016, which Engel introduced last week with well known Anti-Castro Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, would require the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to submit to Congress a multiyear strategy focused on outreach to the countries of the Caribbean and diaspora communities in the US, improving energy security, countering violence, ramping up diplomacy, and other priority areas.

US congressman Eliot Engel, ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, on Thursday welcomed the unanimous approval by the Committee of his legislation to prioritize the United States-Caribbean relationship.

"It's a big world with a lot of challenges — some that get more attention than others. So it's important to stay focused on our neighbors in the Caribbean. These countries are profoundly important to the United States," said Engel at Thursday's Committee markup. "This bill makes it clear that US-Caribbean relations are a major priority."

"We'll end up with the best policy if we shape it in consultation with the many Caribbean-American citizens in the United States," Engel continued. "It's a strength for us to have such a strong and vibrant diaspora community. So this bill also calls for revitalized outreach to this community, seeking greater input on ideas for economic development and citizen security."

The legislation requires the State Department and USAID to:
Identify agency efforts to prioritize US policy towards the Caribbean;
Outline an approach to broaden outreach to the Caribbean diaspora community in the United States;
Outline an approach to partner with governments of the Caribbean region to improve citizen security and reduce drug trafficking;
Establish a comprehensive, multi-year strategy to improve energy security and increase access to diverse, reliable, affordable and sustainable power;
Outline an approach to improve diplomatic engagement with governments of the Caribbean region; and Develop an approach to assisting Caribbean countries in the diversification of their economies.

In addition, the bill requires the Government Accountability Office to produce two key reports:
An evaluation of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) and a breakdown of CBSI assistance provided to each country; and An evaluation of US diplomatic engagement with the Eastern Caribbean.
Source/Caribbean News Now

MONDAY, APRIL 25, 2016

Immigration officials need to do better, suggests CARICOM official

GEORGETOWN, Guyana – Amid concern about the way some CARICOM nationals are treated when they visit their regional neighbours, CARICOM Deputy Secretary-General Ambassador Manorma Soeknandan has called for more sensitization of immigration officials.

Delivering remarks this morning at the opening ceremony of the 42nd Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), Ambassador Soeknandan contended that "the people of the region have a right to expect consistent application of the rules governing our arrangements as they seek to enjoy the benefits of integration".

Trade Ministers from across the region will discuss the issue as part of their consideration of the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

"It is clear that more sensitization has to be done among our border officials in relation to the rules that are already in place and the procedures that should be followed. At this meeting, therefore, Ministers, you may wish to consider establishing a quick-response mechanism to resolve situations as they arise on the ground," the Deputy Secretary-General said.

Referring to comments made by the CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque at another COTED Meeting, Soeknandan reiterated that the average citizen judged CARICOM on the extent to which they were able to move freely throughout the region and engage in their legitimate activities without being hassled at the borders.

She also said it is essential that the administrative structures required to give effect to the legal arrangements are functioning properly.

"This is the only way to minimize or eliminate the obstacles that arise from time to time in the conduct of our integration affairs," she stressed.

FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 2016

Caribbean Countries To Sign Paris Agreement

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados,(CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders and senior government ministers are heading to the United States to participate in the signing and ratification of the Paris Agreement which adopted, late last year, at the 21st Session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP21).

The regional leaders, as well as the CARICOM Secretary-General, Irwin La Rocque, will attend the High-Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, tomorrow, and the High-Level Signature Ceremony for the Paris Agreement, on Friday, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

"I see the signing and the ratification of the Paris Agreement, therefore, as one of the most significant achievements of the 21st century relating to the continued existence of humankind and involving over 190 countries from all over the globe,' said Barbados Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart, who is leading a delegation to the event.

"The urgency, which inspired the negotiation and conclusion of this agreement, aimed at saving our planet, continues to be attached to its signing and ratification, as well as the implementation of its provisions.

"Barbados, as a Small Island Developing State, therefore has heeded the call of the United Nations Secretary-General for the speediest ratification possible, in order for the Paris Agreement to come into force at the earliest opportunity," Stuart added.

Grenada's Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell, is expected to co-chair, along with Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, the informal high-level event on promoting the early entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

St. Lucia will be represented at the signing ceremony by Public Service, Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology Minister, Dr James Fletcher, who led a strong CARICOM negotiating team that fought for, and was successful in, getting many critical issues reflected in the Paris Agreement.

Fletcher chairs the Regional Task Force on Sustainable Development that was established by CARICOM leaders, and he is also the chair of the Regional Coordinating Committee on Climate Change.

The High Level signing ceremony is expected to attract more than 130 nations, with over 60 world leaders expected to sign the landmark climate agreement on Earth Day.

The Paris Agreement will legally come into force when, at least 55 countries representing 55 percent of global emissions, ratify it.


Jamaica defends decriminalizing Marijuana at UN General Assembly

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Jamaica defended its decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana. Iran said it seized 620 tons of different types of drugs last year and is helping protect the world from "the evils of addiction." Cuba opposed the legalisation of drugs or declaring them harmless.

The first UN General Assembly special session to address global drug policy in nearly 20 years heard major differences on the approach to drug use on its second day on Wednesday.

On the liberalization side, Canada's Health Minister Jane Philpott announced that the government will introduce legislation to legalize marijuana next spring. She said Canada will ensure that marijuana is kept out children's hands, and will address the devastating consequences of drugs and drug-related crimes.

Jamaica's Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith told delegates that the government amended the Dangerous Drugs Act last year to give tickets for possession of less than two ounces of cannabis instead of making it a felony offense, and to legalize the sacramental use of marijuana by Rastafarians. It also established provisions for the medical, scientific and therapeutic uses of the plant, she said.

Smith said Jamaica is finalizing a five-year national drug plan including programs to reduce demand for drugs, provide for early intervention and treatment of drug users, and promote rehabilitation and social reintegration.

Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, stressed that "law enforcement efforts should focus on criminal organizations — not on people with substance use disorders who need treatment and recovery support services."


U.S. Decries Human Rights Practices In The Caribbean

By Nelson A. King
WASHINGTON, DC Apr. 17, (CMC) – The United States continues to decry human rights practices in Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member-states, saying that many of them are still engaged in egregious practices that derail democracy.

In its 2015 edition of the "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices," released here, last Wednesday, the US Department of State pointed to what it described as "a global governance crisis", in which, it said, the respect for the rule of law in some CARICOM states is inadequate and this is exacerbated by a deficient judicial system and chronic corruption in some branches of government, among other things.

In Haiti, the State Department said the most serious impediments to human rights involved weak democratic governance, worsened by the dissolution of parliament in January, when the terms of all deputies and two-thirds of the Senate expired.

Other human rights problems in Haiti included: "isolated allegations of arbitrary and unlawful killings by government officials; allegations of use of force against suspects and protesters; overcrowding and poor sanitation in prisons; prolonged pretrial detention; an inefficient, unreliable, and inconsistent judiciary; and governmental confiscation of private property without due process," the report said.

Additionally, the State Department said there were reports of rape, violence and societal discrimination against women; child abuse; allegations of social marginalization of vulnerable populations; and trafficking in persons.

Violence, including gender-based violence, and crime within the remaining internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, remained a problem, the report said.

"Although the government took steps to prosecute or punish government and law enforcement officials accused of committing abuses, credible reports persisted of officials engaging in corrupt practices, and civil society groups alleged that impunity was a problem," the State Department said.

It said the most serious human rights problem in Suriname was the "unresolved trial" of President Desire "Desi" Delano Bouterse and 22 co-defendants for the 1982 extrajudicial killings of 15 political opponents, "a trial that exemplifies deeper doubts about judicial independence in the country". Other human rights problems in Suriname included: police brutality; poor conditions in detention centers; self-censorship by media organizations and journalists; widespread government corruption; and violence and abuse against women and children.

The State Department also said other issues included: trafficking in persons; continued lack of recognition of land rights for Maroons – the descendants of escaped slaves who fled to the hinterland, and Amerindians; discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons and other minorities; and child labor in the informal sector.

In Jamaica, the report said "an overburdened, under-resourced and dysfunctional judicial system, which obstructed access to justice for victims of crime and their families, and allegedly unlawful killings by government security forces" were the most serious human rights issues.

Other human rights issues in Jamaica included: inadequate prison and jail conditions; violence against, and sexual abuse of, children; and violence and discrimination against women, and against (LGBTI) persons. The State Department said the government's efforts resulted in charging a much larger number of police officers with abuses than the previous year.

But the report said a lack of willing witnesses and inefficiencies in the judiciary "continued to plague the justice system," adding that trials continued to languish. Stating that civilian authorities in Guyana, at times, did not maintain effective control over the security forces in 2015, the State Department said the most significant human rights problems were "arbitrary killings by the government or its agents; allegations of government corruption, including among police officials;" and laws that discriminate against women and LGBT persons.

Other human rights problems in Guyana included lengthy pretrial detention. "There was a lack of independent and transparent procedures for handling allegations of abuses by security force members," the report said.

"Prosecutions when pursued were extremely lengthy, and convictions rare, leading to a widespread perception that security force members and government officials enjoyed impunity," it added.

In the Bahamas, the State Department said the most serious human rights problems were "mistreatment of irregular migrants, compounded by problems in processing them; an inefficient judicial system, resulting in trial delays and an increase in retaliatory crime against both witnesses and alleged perpetrators; and the perception of impunity on the part of law enforcement and immigration officials accused of using excessive force".

Other human rights problems in the Bahamas, the report said, included: substandard detention conditions; corruption; violence and discrimination against women; sexual abuse of children; and discrimination based on ethnic descent, sexual orientation, or HIV status.

The report said, however, that, in some cases, the government took action against police officers and other officials accused of abuse of power.


Immigrant children placed with adults who are in the U.S. illegally

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The vast majority of immigrant children who arrive alone at the US border are placed by the government with adults who are in the country illegally, federal data reviewed by The Associated Press show. The government has long said that it places the children with family and friends regardless of immigration status. But since more children began arriving on the border in 2014, officials have not revealed how often those sponsors lack legal papers.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the Department of Health and Human Services provided data showing that 80 percent of the 71,000 mostly Central American children placed between February 2014 and September 2015 were sent to sponsors who were not here legally.

Six percent were placed with adults who had temporary protected status, which has let some Central American citizens stay and work in the country legally for more than a decade. Four per cent were sponsored by American citizens and 1 percent by immigrants facing deportation proceedings.

Many of the others were placed with sponsors who had other forms of legal status or who have filed immigration applications.

Tens of thousands of children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras began arriving on the border in Texas in 2014, overwhelming border officials, overflowing government shelters and further backlogging the country's immigration courts.

Once apprehended by border agents, the children were placed in the care of Health and Human Services until caseworkers could screen and select suitable sponsors for them.

Republican lawmakers have blamed the influx on Obama administration policies they say encourage kids to leave their countries and come to the border. They say releasing unaccompanied children to sponsors who lack legal papers encourages illegal immigration and reduces the chances the children will show up for deportation hearings in immigration court.

Immigrant advocates insist the minors are fleeing violence and should be granted asylum. The top priority for children, they say, is to be placed with parents or close relatives so they can get on stable footing in the US. Any effort to deport sponsors might spook them from coming forward and put the children at risk.

Immigration status is not a factor in determining whether someone can sponsor a child. But sponsors are asked their status, and those in the country illegally must provide a backup plan to care for the children if they are deported.

US House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, said he was not surprised by the data. He blamed current policies for the surge on the border, but did not say whether placing children with sponsors who are here illegally created any additional problems.

"Since the president refuses to enforce our immigration laws, unlawful immigrants in the United States consistently pay criminal organizations along the border thousands of dollars to smuggle their family members into the United States," he said in a statement.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California and a Judiciary Committee member, said the government's responsibility is to find a safe home and guardian for children. Immigration status shouldn't matter, she said.

"If you were here as a legal resident or a US citizen, you would petition for your child," she said. "Their only route is political asylum. It is not the visa system."

During the 20-month period covered by the data, more than half of unaccompanied children were released to a parent. Many others were placed with siblings, aunts and uncles.

Potential sponsors must provide proof of identity and their relationship to the child and undergo screening and background checks. In some cases, the department's Office of Refugee Resettlement conducts a home study to determine if the placement is safe.

The office has collected information about sponsors' immigration status since at least 2005, the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement. Sponsors who are not the children's parents also are fingerprinted.

"The safety and well-being of every child in our care is of paramount importance at every stage," the statement said.

The statistics were culled from a database created in January 2014, according to the department.

Geyso Lemus from El Salvador said she didn't know what would happen to her 10-year-old son when he landed at a shelter in Illinois in 2014 because she didn't have legal papers, but a government social worker quickly put her at ease.

Two weeks later, she said, her son was sent to live with her in Southern California. He has since been granted asylum.

MONDAY, APRIL 18, 2016

Caribbean countries still struggling to overcome global economic meltdown says IMF

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — A senior official of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says with the global economy still struggling many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are facing a harsher world than they did a few years ago.

"Therefore, the growth outlook is weaker in advanced and emerging economies alike," said Alejandro Werner, the director of the IMF's Western Hemisphere Department.

He told a news conference over the weekend that the favourable external financial conditions of the past several years have become more volatile and risks of a sudden tightening are on the rise.

"Against this backdrop, economic activity in Latin America and the Caribbean has been revised downward compared with our January update and is likely to contract for a second year in a row in 2016.

"Basically, we are projecting an average rate of growth of minus 0.5 per cent for this year. But the growth outlook varies substantially within the region. We have in South America where the, let's say, the deeper slow down and the recession countries are concentrated in Central America and the Caribbean and Mexico where we have most of the countries benefitting from the declining price of oil and therefore economic activity in this sub-region of Latin America and the Caribbean is accelerating a bit.

"As I said, therefore, the news isn't all that bad because we have these sub-regions that are exhibiting some acceleration and an important reduction in the current account deficits and a strengthening of their fiscal balances."

FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 2016

US cautions Caribbean countries offering economic citizenship

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday April 14, 2016 – The United States Government has cautioned Caribbean countries offering a Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) to be extra cautious about who they give their passports to, and ensure that recipients have no terrorist or crime links.

It gave the advice, in a statement issued by the US Embassy in Barbados yesterday, even as it made it that it was not advising regional countries on whether or not they should offer economic citizenship.

Under the CIP offered by countries like Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis and Dominica, foreign nationals are granted citizenship in exchange for a substantial investment in the country.

"The United States does not approve or disapprove individual aspects of citizenship by investment programmes," the US statement said. "The United States strongly believes that all countries have an inherent responsibility to their citizens and the international community to review fully all applicants who seek a nation's citizenship."

"While the United States Government is willing to consult with governments on their citizenship investment programmes, the ultimate decisions to offer and how to operate such a programme, including the issuance of citizenship and related identifying documents, such as passports to applicants, lie with each individual government and not with the United States."


Barbados seeking to break into Cuban market

Barbados Government Information Service- With the formal re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States (US), Barbados and other CARICOM countries are now seeking to further partner with that country in an effort to take advantage of emerging opportunities.

This was revealed when Industry Minister, Donville Inniss, received a courtesy call from Cuba's Ambassador to Barbados, Francisco Fernandez Pena, at his Reef Road office this morning.

The Minister disclosed that apart from forging deeper economic relations with Cuba, Government was also eager to engage robustly in trade, and there were a number of companies ready to do business with the Spanish isle.

He confirmed that from May, Bank Breweries Limited would be seeking to export approximately one million cases of beer to Cuba. He added that early next month, a delegation comprising government and private officials would be travelling to Cuba to conduct a trade mission.

Mr. Inniss also pointed out that over the years, Cuba has been committed to providing extensive technical assistance to Barbados, especially in the area of health care.

In turn, the Ambassador noted that since the establishment of diplomatic relations in December 1972, Barbados and Cuba have maintained a cordial relationship characterised by cooperation and mutual respect. The two officials also touched briefly on the upcoming Cuba International Tourism Fair set to take place in Havana.

The restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States was signalled when on March 21 this year, President Barack Obama became the first US President to visit Cuba since 1928.


Region gets US$3B to support renewable energy efforts

NASSAU, Bahamas, Tuesday April 12, 2016 – Japan and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) are partnering to invest US$3 billion in Latin America and the Caribbean to support renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, as well as quality infrastructure projects related to energy savings.

The agreement between the IDB and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) expands on the Co-financing for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CORE) programme, which was created in 2012 to support energy investments to mitigate climate change impacts in Central America and the Caribbean.

It will increase the target amount of JICA's highly concessional loan window from US$1 billion to US$3 billion, and will extend the term of the programme until April 2021. This will also broaden CORE's geographical reach, enabling partners to fund projects in all low-and middle- income IDB borrowing member countries, as well as more vulnerable Caribbean economies not previously covered by the programme.


New project to create resilience culture in the Caribbean

BRIDGETON, Barbados (CDEMA) – The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) announced the project 'Strengthening Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Strategies and Capacities for Resilience in the Caribbean', that is supported by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA). The purpose of the project is reinforcing disaster risk reduction and creating a resilience culture in the Caribbean. The announcement was made during the Disaster Risk Reduction Development Partners Meeting which took place on April 7, 2016, in Barbados.

The Caribbean is prone to different natural hazards such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tsunamis and others. Most countries are which can be disproportionately affected by disasters due to their unique vulnerabilities. Climate change exacerbates the effects of disasters.

The recently started project will contribute to strengthening DRR monitoring capacities at national and regional levels in the Caribbean; increased knowledge and capacities for local resilience and community safety through enhanced capacities and commitment for safe schools and enhance risk-sensitive business investment.

MONDAY, APRIL 11, 2016

ECLAC predicts Caribbean economies will contract this year

SANTIAGO, Chile (CMC) – The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has revised downward its growth projections for the region's economic activity, forecasting an average contraction of -0.6 per cent in 2016. ECLAC said that this new estimate reflects that the contraction experienced by regional Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015 (-0.5 per cent) will extend to the current year.

"The new projections evidence the difficult global scenario in which low growth continues in developed countries, there is a significant deceleration in emerging economies (China in particular), increasing volatility and costs in financial markets, and low prices for commodities — especially hydrocarbons and minerals," ECLAC said.

"In addition, there is greater weakness in internal demand in the region's countries, with the decline in domestic investment accompanied by a deceleration of consumption," it added.

As in 2015, during 2016, ECLAC said the growth dynamic shows marked differences between countries and sub-regions.

The economies of South America — which are specialised in the production of commodities, especially oil and minerals, and have a growing degree of trade integration with China — will record a contraction of -1.9 per cent, ECLAC said.

Meanwhile, the growth rate for Central American economies is forecast at 3.9 per cent, below the figure registered in 2015 (4.3 per cent).

If Central America and Mexico are taken together, ECLAC said projections for 2016 are 2.6 percent, below the 2.9 per cent reached in 2015.

For the English- or Dutch-speaking Caribbean, estimated growth will be around 0.9 per cent in 2016, ECLAC said.


Jamaica and Mexico to deepen relations with cooperation agreement

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Friday April 8, 2016 – Relations between Jamaica and Mexico will be further strengthened next month with the two signing a comprehensive cooperation programme. Mexico's Ambassador to Jamaica, Martha Cecilia Jaber, said the programme, which will involve several projects, will be signed at the 8th Meeting of the Mexico-Jamaica Binational Commission in Mexico City.

Sport is one of the areas under consideration.

"We would be very happy to have any kind of agreement in the field of sport. For Mexico, it would be a very positive development to have an agreement with Jamaica, to share best experiences. We all know that sport in Jamaica is at an excellent level and we would like to have an exchange in that area," Ambassador Jabber said.

She further disclosed that the programme would include partnerships between the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the University of the West Indies' (UWI) Mona Campus, focusing on research and development, the social sciences, bio technology and gender studies.

Plans are also underway to start a Spanish Language training programme in Jamaica.

"We are working at different levels to see how we can bring to Jamaica, a regular and standard programme for Spanish training. We will be working with UNAM because they have a lot of experience, they have officers in different countries where they have Spanish learning programmes," the diplomat said.

Modalities of the training programme are expected to be finalized at the session in May.

This year, Jamaica and Mexico commemorated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in March 1965.

Ambassador Jabber said the relationship between the countries has been "very friendly and very fruitful," over the decades.

"There are different Mexican companies that are already working in Jamaica and we are trying to work together with the Jamaican Government to increase the presence of Mexican companies in Jamaica," she added.


Jamaica's marijuana industry on pause

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday April 6, 2016 – It will be a while longer before people who want to get involved in marijuana cultivation, transportation, processing, retailing, and research and development legally in Jamaica can do so. The Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA), which was expecting to accept applications from Monday, says the process has been delayed with the change in government.

Chairman of the CLA, Dr Andre Gordon, said regulations have to be reviewed and approved by the Minister of Justice before the ganja industry could start operations, and that has not yet been done.

However, he says he expects that will happen before the end of April.

Under the amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act, the CLA has been given the power to issue licences, permits and authorizations for the handling of hemp and marijuana for medical, therapeutic or scientific purposes.

And under the regulations for the industry, 11 types of licences across five main categories – cultivation, transportation, processing, retailing, and research and development – will be made available.

The regulations also make special provisions for small farmers, cooperatives, and small-scale processors to participate in the industry.


The World Bank on three trends on Public-Private Partnerships in the Caribbean

(Jamaica Observer) Many small developing states facing climate and social vulnerabilities are struggling to develop high-quality, efficient and accessible infrastructure. While private investment in infrastructure is not new in the Caribbean, the governments in the region are increasingly turning to Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) to develop and maintain infrastructure that supports national economic growth and delivers basic services to their citizens. In the context of low growth and global tailwinds, what can Caribbean countries do to invest in infrastructure and spur sustainable and inclusive growth?

Many PPP projects have operated successfully for years, delivering

high-quality roads, ports, airports, bulk water treatment facilities, and electricity generation plants. However, in many cases the complexity of the transaction and lack of capacity within governments has meant long delays in delivering projects.

For Managing Director of the Development Bank of Jamaica Milverton Reynolds, "We pursue PPPs because we accept that the private sector will take the investment and operating risks that are involved in delivering world-class infrastructure to citizens, while at the same time free up limited public resources that governments can employ elsewhere to improve social services."

This is one of the reasons PPPs are becoming increasingly more attractive to Caribbean governments. A recently published Caribbean Infrastructure road map for PPPs has identified a 'pipeline' of 33 projects across 11 Caribbean countries, representing about US$2 to US$3 billion.


IDB Says It Committed Billions To Climate Change Adaptation In The Caribbean

WASHINGTON, DC Apr. 4, (CMC) – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) said, today, it had committed US$3.8 billion for projects that target climate change adaptation and mitigation, renewable energy and environmental sustainability in Latin America and the Caribbean last year. "This investment represents over one-third of the Banks' lending for the year, surpassing its institutional target of 25 per cent," according to the IDB's annual Sustainability Report released here.

The Report highlights the IDB's sustainability performance in 2015, both in achieving institutional sustainability investment targets, as well as through a series of stories about the projects it is undertaking in its member countries.

It is accompanied by an interactive timeline that looks back over a decade of achievements of the bank in building a series of robust sustainability programs, and a suite of robust safeguard policies, as well as innovative projects and initiatives.

The Sustainability Report also details the IDB's achievements in leveraging significant climate resources in addition to the bank's own resources, reporting US$2.2 billion in climate finance for mitigation and adaption under the Multilateral Development Banks common approach for climate finance tracking.

In the year, the IDB continued to expand its activities through special initiatives, focused on different elements of sustainability in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In 2015, 15 cities joined the Emerging Sustainable Cities Initiative, helping to identify actions required and to leverage critical funds that help cities on a path to long-term urban sustainability.


Raising the US minimum wage to US$15 – an American dream

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — New York, Seattle, California: in the battle over the US minimum wage, cities and states are taking their own initiative, making regional advances toward the goal of a US$15-an-hour floor. Some cities have voted through spectacular increases, making the dream of better pay a reality for hundreds of thousands of employees in a country where the federal minimum wage level has remained unchanged at US$7.25 an hour since 2009.

New York was the latest state to act. State lawmakers reached a deal Thursday with Governor Andrew Cuomo to raise the minimum wage in New York City to US$15 an hour by the end of 2018.

Under the deal, the minimum will go up more slowly in the rest of the state, hitting US$12.50 an hour by the end of 2020.

To close the deal, Cuomo needed to get the state's Republican-controlled senate on board.

Republicans and Democrats have generally split on the need for a national wage hike.

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both support an increase, differing only on the scale and timing of such a move.

The former secretary of state calls for a smaller, slower raise while the Vermont senator wants the minimum doubled.

With rare exceptions such as Mitt Romney, the presidential nominee in 2012, Republicans have generally resisted calls for an increase, citing potential job losses.

Republican control of Congress over the past five years has ensured that the federal level remained unchanged.


Trio sentenced for targeting immigrants in Green Card scam

NEW YORK, United States, Friday April 1, 2016 – Three people, including one who impersonated a police officer, have been sentenced in New York in connection with a scheme in which they stole more than US$8,000 from two victims by falsely promising to help them obtain Green Cards and other government documents.

Richard Gomez, 44, was on Wednesday sentenced to an indeterminate term of one to three years imprisonment, following his guilty plea last week to charges of third-degree grand larceny; Marisol Mercado, 43, was sentenced to a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to first-degree attempted criminal impersonation; and Francisco Mercado was also sentenced to conditional discharge following his guilty plea to charges of second-degree criminal impersonation.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said the three "preyed on some of the most vulnerable members of our community and exploited their desires to achieve the American dream".

"Equally troubling is that a defendant posed as a New York City police officer to further this scheme to defraud–potentially damaging an often hidden community's trust in law enforcement…I'm committed to stopping such con artists from targeting and ripping off members of our immigrant communities," he added.

Between June 18, 2015 and September 3, 2015, Gomez falsely claimed to be an NYPD Sergeant named "Sergeant Russo" and with the assistance of Marisol and Francisco Mercado took money from the victims in exchange for Gomez's assistance with various government documents, including Green Cards. The defendants also claimed "Sergeant Russo" could get a liquor licence for the victims' restaurant in Bushwick.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, Gomez first approached his victims seeking a donation for the New York City Police Department—to which the victims would give cash. Gomez continued this ruse to convince his victims to hand over money in exchange for his assistance with various applications to government agencies.

In one instance, Gomez secured a US$2,100 loan from a victim but upon repayment, the cheque was declined due to insufficient funds.

In another instance, defendant Marisol Mercado called a victim demanding an additional US$6,000 to fix an alleged problem with the immigration paperwork for the victim's husband. Gomez threatened deportation if the victim did not pay.


Caribbean tourism officials to focus on business, service excellence

St. John's, Antigua (caricom.org) – As Caribbean tourism rebounds, tourism practitioners within the region are making their next strategic move by focusing on enhancing the quality of their product, and developing a strong culture of service excellence. The Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, Hugh Riley and other well-known Caribbean tourism officials will meet in Antigua and Barbuda to address the theme 'Making Excellence a Habit: Service Loyalty and Profitability in Caribbean Tourism' at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation's 8th annual Tourism Human Resources Conference, taking place from May 11 – 13, 2016.

Collaborators, the Antigua and Barbuda Ministry of Tourism, Economic Development, Investment and Energy, and the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, are voicing their support for the three day tourism gathering being held in Antigua for the first time.

Antigua and Barbuda Minister of Tourism, the Honourable Asot Michael, said, "We are committed to ensuring the well-rounded development of the tourism sector."

For our destinations to be successful, we must do more, to attract and meet the demands of the discerning traveller. While glitz attracts, more often than not, it is the quality of service that guests receive, that remains of paramount importance to serious tourism industry stakeholders aiming to deliver exceptional tourism experiences, increase revenues, and secure repeat visitors."

The Caribbean Tourism Organisation, the industry's leading body for Caribbean tourism development, has set out an intensive conference programme geared towards the pursuit of excellence in the region's growing tourism & hospitality sector.


Criminals using China to launder millions of dollars

ASHDOD, Israel (AP) — Scam artists, drug cartels and gangs from around the world have found a new haven for laundering money: China. The country's well-developed underground financial networks have caught the attention of foreign criminals who are using China to clean their dirty money and pump it back into the global financial system — largely beyond the reach of Western law enforcement, an Associated Press investigation has found.

As China globalised, sending people and money abroad, so too did its criminal economy. Gangs from Israel and Spain, cannabis dealers from North Africa and cartels from Mexico and Colombia have laundered billions in China and Hong Kong, slipping their ill-gotten gains into the great tides of legitimate trade and finance that wash through the region, according to police officials, European and US court records and intelligence documents reviewed by the AP.

Gilbert Chikli, a convicted French-Israeli con man, understands China's allure. He is widely credited with devising a scam so successful that it has inspired a generation of copycats. Called the fake CEO, fake president or business e-mail compromise scam, the fraud has cost thousands of companies, many of them American, $1.8 billion in just over two years, according to the FBI.

"China has become a universal passageway for all these scams," said Chikli. "Because China today is a world power, because it doesn't care about neighbouring countries, and because, overall, China is flipping off other countries in a big way."

China's central bank and police refused repeated requests for comment. In a regular briefing with reporters yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said "is not, has not been, nor will be in the future a centre of global money laundering."

MONDAY, MARCH 28, 2016

Ebola scare after patient returns to Bahamas from South Africa

NASSAU, Bahamas (CMC) – Health authorities say they are taking "the necessary precautions" and have so far ruled out a case of Ebola infection following the hospitalisation of a 51-year-old woman after a visit to South Africa earlier this month.

The Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) said the unidentified woman checked into the Accident and Emergency on March 15 after she visited Johannesburg two weeks ago.

"An intensive investigation is under way to determine the cause of illness. Senior health officials have confirmed, that the patient has not presented in a manner which indicates Ebola to be the likely diagnosis.

"At this time there is no confirmed case of Ebola infection at the Princess Margaret Hospital.

"According to the last Ebola Epi Alert issued on the 10th of August, 2015 by the World Health Organization (WHO), Sierra Leone and Guinea remain the only countries with ongoing intense transmission," according to an official statement issued here.

It said that "as with any potential infectious disease case, the hospital is taking the necessary precautions and abiding by the highest protocols requisite for such cases, within international guidelines.

"The patient is being nursed in isolation. The hospital will provide updates as test results are received," the statement added.

FRIDAY, MARCH 25, 2016

CARICOM Ambassador wants Caribbean people to take advantage of CSME

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – A senior Barbados diplomat Wednesday called on Caribbean people to secure their future by taking full advantage of the opportunities provided under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for free movement of goods, skills, labour and skills.

"We look forward to the day when freedom to move to learn, to work, to do business, to provide services with full social service security and safety nets, with provision for the full movement of families, will be seen not as a privilege for a few, but a right for all CARICOM citizens," said the island's Ambassador to CARICOM, Robert 'Bobby' Morris.

Addressing a ceremony for 19 students and one CARICOM Youth Ambassador, who will be going to Jamaica from April 10 to 16 as part of a CSME Student Exchange Programme, Morris reminded the students that Caribbean people have always been travelling to various destinations, whether through forced migration or voluntarily.

The diplomat underscored the importance of the Freedom of Movement régime to the regional integration process, and emphasised that the CARICOM Strategic Plan, 2015-2019, had this régime at its centre in terms of economic development.

"We look forward to the day when surplus human resources from one territory can be employed to add value to surplus land and natural resources in another country for the overall benefit of the region. It is the fervent wish and desire of integrationists that within the shortest possible time span, the identity of being members of a Caribbean civilisation will be on an equal basis with our commitment to our individual nation states."

Morris told the audience that the Freedom of Movement régime was identified as an important catalyst for the development of regional economies, since it would help to lift them from their current state of economic stagnation.


China, Barbados signs extradition treaty

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – Barbados and China Wednesday signed two treaties aimed at assisting each other in investigating criminal matters and bringing fugitives to justice. Acting Attorney General, Michael Lashley, signed the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty as well as an Extradition Treaty with China's Vice Foreign Minister Wang Chao.

Lashley said that the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty would enable both countries to receive assistance in terms of investigations, prosecutions and other proceedings related to criminal matters.

He said the extradition treaty would allow for more effective cooperation between the countries in the suppression of crime on the basis of mutual respect for sovereignty and equality.

"The Government of Barbados is pleased to be a signatory to these treaties since they provide additional avenues for intelligence gathering at a time of widespread transnational crime.


WHO chief issues new warning on Zika virus

UNITED NATIONS (CMC) — The head of the United Nations health agency has issued a new warning on the mosquito-borne Zika virus, saying that "the more we know the worse things look". World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, said that in less than a year, the status of Zika has changed from "a mild medical curiosity" to a disease with severe public health implications.

She, however, said the knowledge base is building very rapidly, thanking all countries and their scientists who have worked to help build up the evidence base.

"The virus is currently circulating in 38 countries and territories. On present knowledge, no one can predict whether the virus will spread to other parts of the world and cause a similar pattern of fetal malformations and neurological disorders.

"If this pattern is confirmed beyond Latin America and the Caribbean, the world will face a severe public health crisis," Chan warned.

According to WHO, the world was alerted to the first appearance of Zika in the Western Hemisphere on May 7, 2015, when Brazil confirmed that a "mysterious outbreak" of thousands of cases of mild disease with rash was caused by the Zika virus.

In July last year, the country then reported an increase in cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), followed by an unusual increase in microcephaly among newborns in late October.

"The possibility that a mosquito bite could be linked to severe fetal malformations alarmed the public and astonished scientists," Dr Chan said.

"The association with Guillain-Barré syndrome and other severe disorders of the central nervous system has expanded the risk group well beyond women of child-bearing age. We now know that sexual transmission of the virus occurs."

She detailed how a pattern has emerged in which initial detection of virus circulation is followed, within about three weeks, by an unusual increase in cases of GBS.

MONDAY, MARCH 21, 2016

Obama, Castro hold groundbreaking Cuba talks

HAVANA, Cuba (AFP) — US President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro met Monday in Havana's Palace of the Revolution for groundbreaking talks on ending the decades-long standoff between the two neighbors. Obama, meeting Castro for only the third time for formal talks, was the first US president in Cuba since 1928.

He was greeted by a military band at the Palace of the Revolution, the main government building since the 1959 revolution that turned Cuba into a communist state and Soviet client barely an hour's flight from Florida.

Obama, under pressure back home to show that his scrapping of more than half a century of US hostility to the Castro regime is paying off, then sat for discussions against a backdrop of tall tropical plants and the two countries' flags.

The United States has yet to fully lift a punishing economic embargo against Havana, and Cuba continues to restrict many basic freedoms.

But despite these differences, Obama and Castro -- brother of original revolutionary leader and anti-US firebrand Fidel Castro -- say they are ready to bury the Cold War-era conflict for good.

Obama, who arrived Sunday and began his visit with a look in driving rain at Havana's beautiful old town, earlier laid a wreath at the monument of Cuban independence hero Jose Marti.

On Tuesday, he was to give an address carried live on Cuban state television, and then attend a baseball game between the national team and Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Rays, before flying out.

FRIDAY, MARCH 18, 2016

Caribbean countries not fully satisfied with EPA accord

Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) countries say they are yet to "meaningfully reap the potential benefits" of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) signed with Europe in 2008. The issue was among matters discussed at the 23rd Meeting of the Council of CARIFORUM Ministers held here earlier this week, and according to a statement issued on Friday a review of the EPA had concluded that the region " had as yet to meaningfully reap the potential benefits of the Agreement.

"They underscored that, for CARIFORUM, the EPA is a source of mixed feelings. The commonly held view was that CARIFORUM committed itself and signed a comprehensive EPA, yet it has not "harvested the windfalls" which seemed to have been held out as reward for early signature of the Agreement," the statement noted.

It said that in further reviewing the state-of-play of EPA implementation, the ministers accorded high priority to wide-ranging technical work and tasked officials to follow up accordingly.

"They took note that CARIFORUM and EU senior officials held a Political Dialogue Meeting in Guyana on 15 March 2016, at which the EU provided an update on the Commission of the European Union's recent Communication on an External Strategy for Effective Taxation as Part of its Anti-Tax Avoidance Package," the statement said.The statement noted that the ministers also expressed "their deep concern" that recent developments on taxation in the European Union have the potential to negatively impact the economies of a number of CARIFORUM states.

The ministers at their meeting which was under the chairmanship of Haiti, welcomed the agreement arrived at in the Political Dialogue Meeting for the two regions to discuss a range of issues affecting the financial services sector, including taxation and correspondent banking, within the Joint CARIFORUM-EU Working Group on the Joint CARIFORUM-EU Partnership Strategy.


US Customs agents nab Caribbean smugglers

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) – The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) say they have detained two people, including a Haitian, on drug related charges. CBP said that its officers had detained United States citizen, Elisabethmone Lewis and Haitian Anne Cadet, in two separate occasions earlier this month.

It said Lewis was attempting to smuggle approximately three pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of US$59,000 on a visit from St Lucia, while Cadet was attempting to smuggle approximately five pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of US$77,000.

"These seizures demonstrate our officers vigilance and daily commitment at JFK, in keeping prohibited and dangerous narcotics off the streets and out of our communities," said Robert E Perez, CBP Director, Field Operations in New York.

CBP said the smugglers now face US federal narcotics smuggling charges and will be prosecuted by the US Attorney's Office in the US Eastern District Court of New York.


Tax evasion accounts for billions in lost revenue in Latin America and the Caribbean

SANTIAGO, Chile (CMC) – The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) says evasion is one of the main weaknesses of the tax systems in the region's economies, accounting for US$320 billion in 2014. ECLAC has just released its "Fiscal Panorama of Latin America and the Caribbean 2016," noting that tax revenues are the cornerstone of the basic financing of modern State, and it is therefore vital to prioritize the creation of a tax culture in which evaders are effectively punished.

The ECLAC document is being presented at the two day 28th Regional Seminar on Fiscal Policy which opened here on Wednesday.

The report states that fiscal non-compliance represents 2.2 points of gross domestic product (GDP) in terms of value added tax (VAT) at the regional level, and 4.1 GDP points in terms of income tax.


Haiti records nearly 100 cholera deaths in first two months of 2016

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) — Haiti says it has recorded 96 people have died from cholera during the first two months of this year. The Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) said there were also 7, 782 cases of the disease during the period January 1 to February 27.

But it said that the trend is towards a decrease in the number of cases following the outbreak US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention described as the worst epidemic of cholera in recent history.

Haitians have blamed UN peacekeeping troops from Nepal whom they said carried strains of the disease with them, contaminating a large portion of the country's drinking water.

The United Nations initially denied any role in the outbreak, and has refused to redress complaints, claiming immunity under a 1946 convention. In January, a US judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by human rights groups seeking compensation for Haitian victims.

The MSPP said that the decline has been observed every week despite the recent rains, saying "this situation demonstrates of a better capacity to control the transmission in outbreak and at the same time the need to enhance efforts to strengthen the management of cases.

"The humanitarian community continues to support the Haitian government in its efforts not only to ensure a rapid and effective response to the cholera epidemic in improving access to drinking water services, sanitation and health, but also to reduce the vulnerability of populations living in the most at-risk cholera areas.

"As part of the continuation of this commitment a humanitarian response plan in which the response to the cholera outbreak is a priority is being developed," the MSPP added.

MONDAY, MARCH 14, 2016

Grace Kennedy and SRC Sign MOU to Develop New Food Products

(jis.gov) The Scientific Research Council (SRC) is partnering with food manufacturing giant, Grace Kennedy on the development of new food items from local agricultural produce. Under a three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed at the SRC's Hope Gardens headquarters on March 8, the entities will collaborate to improve the quantity and quality of food products on the market through the application of science and technology solutions.

Executive Director of the SRC, Dr. Cliff Riley, said it is anticipated that a number of products for health and wellness will be derived from the relationship.

He noted that customers are increasingly demanding foods that have health benefits.

"There is a growing demand for functional foods… so that people not only have a bellyful and have enough calories to produce energy, but that whatever they consume have some other long-term benefits in terms of overall health. That is something that we are quite keen about at the SRC and Grace Kennedy has been driving that thrust," he said.

Dr. Riley indicated that by the end of this year or the end of the new financial year, "we should be able to have products coming from this relationship and a number of new ideas have popped up in terms of other areas we can explore."

The SRC's Executive Director hailed the agreement as a positive development for the Government-owned and operated research institution. "To be having a global impact on functional foods or even convenience foods …it is a noteworthy accomplishment for the Government of Jamaica," he said.

For his part, Chief Innovation Officer for Grace Kennedy Foods, Zak Mars, informed that data gathered from test marketing carried out locally and in the United States reveal that there is a strong demand for 'Brand Jamaica' foods.

FRIDAY, MARCH 11, 2016

US healthcare agency pays compensation for 'No Haitians' ad

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — A United States-based major healthcare staffing agency has agreed to pay US$100,000 in a settlement for what has been described as an "egregious" classified advertisement that discriminated against Haitian nurses. New York State Attorney General Eric T Schneiderman said that Interim Healthcare of Greater New York, Inc, a local franchise of one of the largest healthcare staffing agencies in the nation, will pay the penalty and agreed to revise its policies and procedures to ensure full compliance with law.

Schneiderman said the healthcare staffing agency had placed a help wanted advertisement in a local paper in October last year that discriminated against Haitians.

Many New York State legislators and the Haitian community in particular were outraged that the homecare, hospice, and medical placement agency "blatantly discriminated against Haitians."

Schneiderman said the settlement "will protect applicants and potential applicants against discrimination on the basis of national origin, race or any other protected class."

The settlement resolves the Attorney General's investigation of Interim Healthcare, a probe that arose he learned that Interim Healthcare had placed an advertisement requesting a female "laid back nurse, no Haitians."

"Blatantly discriminatory job advertisements like this are wrong and clearly illegal," Schneiderman said. "My office is committed to ensuring equal access to employment for all New Yorkers and will not tolerate discrimination against any New Yorker based on race or national origin or any other protected status."


Trinidad & Tobago ranked world's biggest daily waste producer

TRINIDAD GUARDIAN – T&T has been ranked as the highest producer of Municipal Solid Waste per capita by the World Bank. Municipal Solid Waste includes non-hazardous waste generated in households, commercial and business establishments, institutions, and non-hazardous industrial process wastes, agricultural wastes and sewage sludge.

World Bank statistics shown that the country produces a total of 14.4 kilograms of MSW per capita per day.

The World Bank cited a chronic lack of recycling facilities being major contributor to this country's waste management issues.

Among the issues the organisation observed was pervasiveness of littering, which has caused rises in the local mosquito population, as well as problems with rain water drainage.

Coming hand-in-hand with this pressing environmental concern is the trash situation's adverse influence on conditions conducive to widespread flooding.

Discarded plastic is also a major problem in the waters surrounding the country.

Other Caribbean countries listed as the worst countries in MSW generation include: Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Guyana, Barbados and St Lucia.


Caribbean countries urged to fully develop energy sector

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — Caribbean countries have been told that reducing energy costs will help the region improve growth and strengthen competitiveness. But at the same time, regional policymakers face conflicting objectives. On the one hand, investment in an effective energy reform strategy would have long-term benefits, while on the other, few countries have fiscal space to embark on ambitious investments to reform the energy sector.

The situation confronting the region in its energy sector is discussed in a paper titled "Caribbean Energy: Marco Related Challenges' written by a number of financial experts including the prominent Grenadian-born economist, Arnold McIntyre, and released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

They argue that the substantial decline in oil prices since mid-2014 does not obviate the need for energy sector reform.

"The impact of the oil price decline is global, so it has not improved relative prices for the Caribbean compared with its trade partners. Moreover, competitiveness challenges are escalating, with the appreciation of the US dollar (expected to continue over the next few years with the normalization of US monetary policy) and the potential opening of Cuba to US tourism and trade.

"Hence, any gains from recent oil price declines should be seen as a temporary breathing space that gives the English speaking Caribbean some time to catch up with the cost reductions needed to compete successfully in a more open region," they wrote in the paper.

They said that the case for Caribbean energy sector reform rests on two pillars. These are the current poor state of the energy sector, with infrastructure and institutional frameworks needing upgrades to eliminate high-cost inefficiencies and enable diversification; and the fact that the macro-impact of current large energy bills remains significant, even since the recent oil price decline.


CARICOM seeks Portugal's advocacy on major concerns

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Caribbean Community (Caricom) is calling on Portugal to help remove a number of Caribbean countries from a list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions developed by the European Union.

Caricom Secretary General Irwin LaRocque raised the issue as he received the accreditation Friday of Portugal's ambassador to the 15-member regional grouping, Fernando Teles Fazendeiro.

Portugal is among several European countries that have deemed some Caricom member states as non-cooperative tax jurisdictions, even as the regional countries insist they are in compliance with standards established by the Financial Action Task Force, the Global Forum and other international bodies.

LaRocque told the Portuguese envoy that Caricom is gravely affected by the listing, as financial services are of vital economic importance to the Caribbean Community, with implications for its efforts at growth.

"It would certainly be a step in the right direction if this unjust and unfair action be rescinded," he said, noting that Caricom would also welcome Portugal's advocacy on the swift implementation of the 2030 Development Agenda, ensuring sensitivity towards small states, and the provision of financing for development.

LaRocque said Caricom would welcome support for global efforts to implement the most ambitious, possible climate change targets, particularly pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

He also called for support for Caricom's effort to stem the trend toward graduation of Small Island Developing States from access to concessionary financing.


Europe funds project on preventing domestic violence in the Caribbean

LONDON, United Kingdom (CMC) – The European Union is providing 400,000 euros to implement a new project on preventing domestic violence in the Caribbean. The funds have been awarded to a team of Caribbean and European experts, headed by Professor Adele Jones from the University of Huddersfield, in partnership with The Sweet Water Foundation of Grenada.

The experts said that data will be used to develop interactive, role-playing computer games designed to empower victims and change attitudes that have been linked to aggressive and violent behaviours.

It is often claimed that computer games encourage violence, therefore the idea is to create computer games that can be used in schools to reduce negative attitudes developed in childhood and which can fuel domestic violence in later relationships.

"There is enough evidence to tell us that computer games can generate violence, so what we want to do is look at how we can create an educational tool that might begin to generate empathy – or non-violence," said Jones.

The two year project, titled "None-in-Three" has been derived from the finding that one in three women and girls experience violence in their lives.

"That's a fairly global statistic but domestic violence is identified as being particularly entrenched in the Caribbean," said Jones.

The None-in-Three project will be implemented in Barbados and Grenada and will be launched on March 8 to coincide with celebrations marking International Women's Day.

"If the numbers we see in domestic violence were applied to other forms of crime, to gang violence or terrorism, the entire region, even the world, would be up in arms, and it would be the lead story on the news all the time," said EU Ambassador Mikael Barfod.

The computer games will be just one aspect of the initiative, which has been designed to complement existing domestic violence prevention programmes in Barbados and Grenada, where the project is to be implemented.


JAMAICA ELECTION: Holness To Be Sworn In Tomorrow

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Mar 2, (CMC) – Andrew Holness will be sworn in as Prime Minister of Jamaica, tomorrow afternoon, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has announced. JLP spokesperson, Kamina Johnson Smith, said, the party is preparing for the swearing in, scheduled for 4.00 pm (local time).

Yesterday, the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) said, it had written to the Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen, advising that the final count of ballots in the February 25 general election had been completed, and that the JLP gained 32 seats to the People's National Party's 31 seats in the 63-seat House of Representatives.

The EOJ said, in addition, documents from returning officers – the B21 form indicating which candidate has won and the writ of election for each constituency – have been sent to the Clerk of the Houses of Parliament.

The preliminary results had shown the JLP had won by a 33-30 margin over the PNP, led by outgoing Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, but the PNP gained an additional seat, following the recount in the St. Mary South Eastern constituency.

But the JLP has since filed for a magisterial recount where the PNP's candidate, Dr Winston Green, was declared the winner over, Dr Norman Dunn by a nine vote majority.


CARICOM Official Warns That Violence Threatens Gains Made By Region

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Feb 29, (CMC) – A two-day regional forum on "Youth Crime and Violence" began here, on Monday, bringing together a wide range of stakeholders to examine challenges and solutions to the issue. Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Deputy Secretary General, Dr. Manorma Soeknandan, said, the issue threatens to consume the gains "we have made as a region and as individual member states, in preparing our young people to live productive and safe lives, and to contribute to the further development of our region".

But, she said, the region has not been silent on the "increasing incidences of violence" and that the Report of the CARICOM Commission on Youth Development (CCYD) showed that regional leaders in 2010, recognised the seriousness of crime and violence and the need for concerted action.

She said, the CCYD report identified crime and violence as the number one concern of youth and also identifies young people as under-utilized resources and partners in development.

"It underscores the importance of addressing youth needs and interests to achieve social cohesion, economic resilience and integration. The Declaration of Paramaribo, issued by Heads of Government on the basis of the Report of the Commission, also sends a strong signal of the intent of Member States to cooperate and address issues of concern related to youth," she told the regional participants.

The organisers said, that the February 29 to March 1 conference will also provide an opportunity to share good practices with a view to replicating the lessons learned; to explore strategies for a multi-sectoral 'whole of society' response to the challenge; and to examine the means for greater collaboration among institutions and development partners to sustain CARICOM's response to youth crime and violence.

The Forum is an outcome of the CARICOM and the government of Spain project titled, "Reducing Youth on Youth Violence", now being piloted in five Caribbean countries — Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.


Jamaica Prime Minister, Calls For Calm as recount in Jamaica elections continue

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Feb 28, (CMC) – Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, today, called for Jamaicans to remain calm, as the recounting of ballots in the February 25 general election resumes on Monday. In a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister, she said, that she wanted both the supporters of the People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), to remain calm in light of the prolonged recounting of ballots taking place in some constituencies.

"All Jamaicans have a responsibility to ensure that Jamaica's reputation as a mature democracy is preserved and nothing causes hurt to anyone," she said, adding that the country has made important economic gains which Jamaicans cannot afford to reverse at this time, and everyone must ensure that we put Jamaica first.

She urged everyone to put Jamaica first, amid reports here, Sunday, of tension in some areas across the island.

She told the nation, that they remain calm and allow the constitutionally prescribed processes to continue.

JLP General Secretary, Dr Horace Chang, is also appealing for calm and urging supporters not to be taken in by rumours of instability across the country.

He said, there has been no change to the fact that the Jamaica Labour Party has won the popular vote and retains the majority of Parliamentary seats.

"There are also rumours that attempts will be made, using the courts, to prevent the inauguration of Andrew Holness.

"The people have rejected the PNP, yet we are hearing that they still seek to take power through the back door. We, as Jamaicans, must be vigilant about any attempt to discredit the electoral process or to halt the prompt and effective transition of government in the interests of the Jamaican people," Chang said.

Preliminary figures show that the PNP lost Thursday's election by a 33-30 margin to the JLP, led by Andrew Holness, but on the first day of the re-count, it gained a seat after the Director of Elections, Orrette Fisher, said, the party's candidate in the constituency of South Eastern St. Mary, Dr. Winston Green, had been officially declared the winner of the seat in the eastern parish.


CARICOM, Japan strengthen decades-old ties

(caricom.org) The long-standing friendship that has existed between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Japan was strengthened on Thursday 25 February, with the accreditation of new Ambassador of Japan to CARICOM, His Excellency Mitsuhiko Okada.

In accepting the Letters of Credence of the new Japanese envoy to CARICOM, Ambassador Manorma Soeknandan, Deputy Secretary-General of CARICOM, also restated the Community's profound appreciation to the Government of Japan for contributing to a major symbol of the Region's integration efforts and progress: the CARICOM Secretariat building. She noted as another tangible testament to Japan's commitment to CARICOM, the first visit of a Japanese Prime Minister to the Region in 2014 and the new level of political engagement it carried. As an influential voice in the international fora, CARICOM greatly valued its friendship with this pacific island nation, she said.


Jamaica Labour Party wins general elections

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Andrew Holness is back in charge in Jamaica. He is set to be sworn in as the country's new Prime Minister after his Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) toppled the People's National Party (PNP) government, winning 33 of the 63 seats in Parliament in yesterday's elections.

Holness, who served as prime minister for a two-month period in 2011 when he succeeded Bruce Golding as JLP leader, will be joined in the House of Representatives by his wife, Juliette Holness, who captured the St Andrew East Rural seat in her first political outing.

Despite her party's loss, former prime minister Portia Simpson Miller also retained her seat.

The poll was marked by a low voter turnout – 47.5 per cent – and its outcome was historic. It was the slimmest victory margin for any political party in Jamaica's history.

Addressing supporters at JLP headquarters last night, Holness promised that it would not be "government as usual".

"We have been given stewardship of the country, and we stand to be held to account for our stewardship. We know that the cost of victory is accountability. The cost of victory is the responsiveness of the government that we will form. The cost of victory is to keep the commitments that we have made," he said.


Barbados bags Best Caribbean Destination 2016 award

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Barbados has been voted Caribbean Best Destination 2016 in recognition of outstanding performance and partnership by Expedia, the largest retailer of travel products in the Caribbean. The award, which was presented during the Caribbean Travel Marketplace in The Bahamas, was a continuation of Barbados' recent winning streak and marked the seventh international award Barbados has received over the past year.

The island was also dubbed Best Destination by Caribbean Journal, and ranked third among the islands of the Caribbean by TripAdvisor in 2015.

Telegraph readers also voted Barbados the best destination in the Caribbean for family holidays, best Caribbean beach holiday destination, best destination for activity and adventure holidays, and best destination for wedding and honeymoons.

The island has also been shortlisted in the destination category for the Routes Americas 2016 Marketing Awards, according to South Florida Caribbean News.

Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) CEO, William Griffith, said the latest award from Expedia was testament to the collaborative efforts local industry partners have been making on behalf of the island.

He added that it was a clear manifestation of the significant work being done by the entire BTMI leadership team in the major markets of the UK, USA and Canada.


CARICOM mounts Observer Mission for Jamaica's elections

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is mounting a CARICOM Electoral Observer Mission to monitor the general elections to be held in Jamaica, Thursday 25 February, 2016. The Mission is being headed by Ms. Josephine Tamai, Chief Elections Officer, Elections and Boundaries Department, Belize.

The other members of the Mission are experts in electoral management and administration from Barbados, The Bahamas, Dominica, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Members of the Mission and the CARICOM Secretariat Support Staff were scheduled to begin arriving in Jamaica from 21 February and will depart by 27 February.

The CARICOM Electoral Observer Mission will meet with Jamaican electoral officials, leaders of political parties and other stakeholders. On the day of the Elections, the Mission will monitor the electoral process including the opening of the Poll, the voting process, the closing of the Poll and the counting of the ballots.

The Observer Mission will issue a preliminary statement based on its observations and findings. A Report of the General Elections will be subsequently prepared and submitted to the CARICOM Secretary General.

For CARICOM, election observation serves as a platform to support existing democratic traditions within the Caribbean Community as part of its wider policy of supporting democracy.


Time to actually save the planet as world leaders agreed

By Andreas Sieber, Giselle Bernard and Ivo Bantel BERLIN, PARIS AND BRUSSELS, IPS, Monday February 22, 2016 – The day, 12 December 2015 was historic. Following decades of negotiations, countries agreed to sign the first global, legally binding climate agreement.

"Every government seems to recognize now that the fossil fuel era must end and soon", said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org. Two months after the deal was reached at the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties 21 (COP21), it is time to see to which extent these words have translated into concrete action.

World leaders agreed to limit global warming below 2°C and to aim for 1.5°C. They also decided to achieve carbon neutrality in the second half of this century – an obvious blow to the fossil fuel industry.

Brian Ricketts, Eurocoal's Secretary General, said that his industry will be "hated and vilified in the same way that slave-traders were". Since the climate climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009, the prices for solar panels droped by about 80%.

"All of a sudden, it is really easy to see what we should do instead of burning oil, gas and coal" McKibben told IPS. But according to him, the Paris agreement is far from enough: "I hope no one came away from Paris with the idea that we've won such big victories that we won't have to do anything anymore", he told IPS. "The problem of course is that we are way behind."

This becomes especially clear looking at the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), i.e. the countries' pledged contributions. They will only bend the warming curve — from 3.6°C with current policies to 2.7°C. But the contributions are far from enough to limit global warming to 2°C or 1.5°C.

According to Climate Action Tracker (CAT), an independent scientific analysis group, only five countries submitted INDCs fully consistent with the 2°C limit. Major emitters such as the USA, the EU, China or Brazil, especially have to revise their INDCs, since they will most likely cause global warming exceeding 2°C. Globally scaled, the climate pledges of many countries such as Australia, Canada or the Russian Federation would actually lead to global warming of more than 3°C.

Also troubling, is the lack of ambition for climate finance. It is a matter of justice that rich nations provide financial support, especially to developing countries struggling against climate change. Copenhagen set the target of $100 billion to be provided by developed countries. The Paris agreement, in contrast, contains no quantitative target. It merely states that there should be a progression beyond previous efforts, but postpones the revision of the already insufficient $100 bn target to 2025.


Obama plans historic trip to Cuba to further ties

WASHINGTON, United States (AP) — US President Barack Obama will pay a historic visit to Cuba in the coming weeks, senior Obama administration officials said, becoming the first president to set foot on the island in nearly seven decades.

The brief visit in mid-March will mark a watershed moment for relations between the US and Cuba, a communist nation estranged from the US for over half a century until Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro moved toward rapprochement more than a year ago. Since then, the nations have reopened embassies in Washington and Havana and have moved to restore commercial air travel, with a presidential visit seen as a key next step toward bridging the divide.

Obama's stop in Cuba will be part of a broader trip to Latin America that the president will take next month, said the officials, who requested anonymity because the trip hasn't been officially announced. The White House planned to unveil Obama's travel plans later Thursday.

Though Obama had long been expected to visit Cuba in his final year, word of his travel plans drew immediate resistance from opponents of warmer ties with Cuba — including Republican presidential candidates.

exas Senator Ted Cruz, whose father fled to the US from Cuba in the 1950s, said Obama shouldn't visit while the Castro family remains in power. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, another child of Cuban immigrants, lambasted the president for visiting what he called an "anti-American communist dictatorship."

"Today, a year and two months after the opening of Cuba, the Cuban government remains as oppressive as ever," Rubio said on CNN. Told of Obama's intention to visit, he added, "Probably not going to invite me."

With less than a year left in office, Obama has been eager to make rapid progress on restoring economic and diplomatic ties to cement warming relations with Cuba that his administration started. Following secret negotiations between their governments, Obama and Castro announced in late 2014 that they would begin normalizing ties, and months later held the first face-to-face meeting between an American and Cuban president since 1958.

But Obama, facing steadfast opposition to normalized relations from Republicans and some Democrats, has been unable to deliver on the former Cold War foe's biggest request: the lifting of the U.S. economic embargo. Opponents argue that repealing those sanctions would reward a government still engaging in human rights abuses and stifling democratic aspirations.


Caribbean countries urged to brace for floods

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – The Barbados-based Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) is warning regional countries that they should brace themselves for floods as the drought conditions which have affected the region since late 2014 are expected to subside by the start of the 2016 Hurricane Season.

CIMH said this latest forecast comes after many months of "warmer and drier than average conditions in the Caribbean fuelled by El Niño, a warming of the eastern equatorial Pacific which has implications for weather patterns around the world, including drought in many regions".

CIMH said that after the forecasted weakening of El Niño, its counterpart La Niña "a cooling of the Pacific may take over and affect the region in the latter part of 2016.

"If the change in circumstance takes place, it is likely to result in higher than normal rainfall and stronger storm systems," the CIMH said in its latest forecast, which it said will be further discussed at a news conference here on Wednesday.

It said that while near to above average rainfall is expected to ease the drought across the Caribbean later this year, "CIMH advises that areas experiencing long-term dryness will be more susceptible to hazards such as landslides and flash floods, once rains return excessive amounts.

Agrometeorologist and CIMH Chief of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, Adrian Trotman, said "limited rainfall over the last few months has left many parts of the Caribbean with dry, compacted soils.

"As a result, heavy rainfall will not be easily absorbed by affected soil which increases the risk of flooding," Trotman said, adding that recent advances in climate forecasting services for the Caribbean now means that government planners and other bodies can now make important decisions based on seasonal forecasts up to three to six months in advance.


Cuba and US to sign agreement for regular direct flights

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) – The United States and Cuba will sign an agreement Tuesday authorizing up to 110 daily US commercial flights to Havana and nine other destinations in the communist island, restoring regular air travel for the first time in more than 50 years.

Once the accord is signed, US authorities will immediately invite American airlines to submit applications to operate the flights, with routes to be set up in a matter of months, officials said.

Additionally, the Cuban government will give "thorough consideration to future requests from the US government to increase this level of service," US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Transportation Affairs Thomas Engle said.

"The two governments reaffirm their commitment to strengthen their already close cooperation in aviation safety and security matters."

Terms of the agreement allow for regular flights "between any city in the US and any city in Cuba," provided it is equipped with proper infrastructure for international flights, he added.

The United States announced plans to resume the flights in December, on the one-year anniversary of the start of reconciliation between Washington and Havana.

Under the new arrangement, airlines in the two countries can now strike deals in such areas as code-sharing and aircraft leasing, the Cuban embassy said at the time.

However, tourist travel is still barred under the trade embargo that the United States slapped on Cuba in 1960 after Fidel Castro came to power in a revolution.

The US Treasury Department has, however, set 12 categories of authorized travel.


American charged with defrauding Caribbean immigrants

WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) — The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) says an American had been arrested and charged with defrauding Caribbean and other immigrants. The DOJ said Helaman Hansen, 63, was arrested after a US federal grand jury returned a 13-count indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, 11 counts of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud for operating a fraudulent adult-adoption programme that targeted undocumented immigrants.

According to court documents, between October2012 and January 2016, Hansen and others used various entities, such as Americans Helping America (AHA), to sell members of immigrant communities, memberships in what he called a "Migration Programme."

A central feature of the programme was the fraudulent claim that immigrant adults could achieve US citizenship by being legally adopted by an American citizen and completing a list of additional tasks.

At first, memberships were sold for annual fees of US$150, but that fee gradually grew and eventually was as high as US$10,000, according to the indictment.

"The indictment returned today alleges a particularly predatory and manipulative type of fraud that takes advantage of the hopes and dreams of undocumented immigrants to extract fees based on false promises," said US Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner for the Eastern District of California.

"The adoption of adult aliens is not a legitimate path to US citizenship. While the charges against this defendant are only allegations at this point, no one should pay fees to anyone making false promises of citizenship through adult adoption," he said.

Ryan L Spradlin the special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigation's (HSI) San Francisco Field Office, said "it is very unfortunate that some in our communities would choose to misrepresent the American immigration system to deceive and hurt those who are trying only to make a better life for themselves and their families".

According to the indictment, although some victims completed the adoption stage of the "Migration Programme," not one person obtained citizenship.

The indictment states that, as early as October 2012, Hansen was informed by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services that immigrants adopted after their 16th birthdays could not obtain citizenship in the manner Hansen was promoting.


Cuba to host international congress on computer science in health

HAVANA, Cuba (CMC) — The 11th International Congress of Computing in Health will be held here next month under the theme 'Connected in Health'. The March 14-18 conference will also include talks in the areas of health and clinical proactive, computing nursing processes; telemedicine and medical technologies; and computer science, society and bio-computing.

Participants will also delve into norms and regulations on the use of ICT; advanced integrated information systems in this sector; computing in ICT / HIV / AIDS and health surveillance.

On the opening day of the conference, Dr David Novillo, director for knowledge management and organizational learning and coordinator of the Pan- American Health Organization (PAHO), will give a lecture entitled 'Electronic Health Strategy in Latin America'.


Barbados and United Kingdom sign air services agreement

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday February 11, 2016 – Barbados and the United Kingdom (UK) have signed an Air Services Agreement which is expected to strengthen existing air transport links between the two countries.

Barbados' Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, and British High Commissioner to Barbados, Victoria Dean, initialled the document, with the Barbadian official explaining that the agreement was able to bring the existing air services agreement into conformity with the European Commission.

All European Union member states must amend their bilateral air services agreements to permit all European airlines to benefit from the provisions of such agreements.

"Under this agreement, Barbadian-designated carriers can operate to intermediate points and points beyond, and the United Kingdom-designated carriers can operate from points in the United Kingdom to intermediate points beyond," McClean said.

"Through this agreement, there will be the opening up of the Barbados/UK route to numerous European and Caribbean carriers that will have the long-term effect of improving service and keeping prices low, while providing increased business opportunities and enhancement of Barbados' international reputation, especially as a tourism destination."

She pointed out that over four million tourists had visited the island over the past 10 years from the UK and other European markets.

Dean noted that the agreement was testament to the close working relationship between the two countries. She said she hoped it would increase the number of persons travelling between the two countries and points beyond, and agreed that the new arrangement should help to improve trade.


Reducing non-communicable disease in SIDS through climate preservation

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Tuesday February 9, 2016 – Chronic non- communicable diseases (NCDs) including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease account for some 7 out of every 10 deaths in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) including those of the Caribbean. This results in the expenditure of approximately 60% of health budgets in nearly all Caribbean countries. While it is easy to assume that the most common cause of NCDs are behavioural, such as exposure to tobacco smoke, unhealthy eating, physical inactivity and alcohol abuse, recognizing and understanding the connection between NCDs and environmental factors is critical, more so now than ever before.

The High Vulnerability of SIDS to Climate Change and Its Impact on NCDS

Climate change is one of the greatest threats to a sustainable future. Globally, this has been acknowledged by 195 countries who signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). This single act represents international recognition of the damaging effects of climate change and the unified commitment to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and take common action.

Regionally in the Caribbean and in other Small Island Developing States (SIDS), there is a higher level of vulnerability to climate change. For example, typically-limited physical size of SIDS effectively reduces adaptation options to climate change and sea level rise. Natural resources are limited and already heavily stressed by current unsustainable human activities. A high susceptibility to natural hazards have the potential to cause significant loss and damage to frequently underdeveloped infrastructure and struggling communities. The extreme openness of SIDS' small economies are highly sensitive to external market shocks.


Obama asking Congress for emergency funding to combat Zika

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is asking Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to help fight the Zika virus. In an announcement Monday, the White House said the money would be used to expand mosquito control programs, speed development of a vaccine, develop diagnostic tests and improve support for low-income pregnant women.

Zika virus disease is mainly spread by mosquitoes. Most people who catch it experience mild or no symptoms. But mounting evidence from Brazil suggests that infection in pregnant women is linked to abnormally small heads in their babies — a birth defect called microcephaly.

"What we now know is that there appears to be some significant risk for pregnant women and women who are thinking about having a baby," Obama said in an interview aired Monday on "CBS This Morning."

The White House said that as spring and summer approach, the US must prepare to quickly address local transmission with the continental US Obama added, however, that "there shouldn't be a panic on this."

The Pan American Health Organization reports 26 countries and territories in the Americas with local Zika transmission. To date, there has not been transmission of the Zika virus by mosquitoes within the US, but some Americans have returned to the US with Zika infections from affected countries in South America, Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 50 laboratory-confirmed cases among US travellers from December 2015- February 5, 2016, the White House said.


Cuba and US to collaborate in fight against migration fraud and human trafficking

HAVANA, Cuba, Feb. 6, (CMC) -Representatives from Cuba and the United States have agreed to collaborate in the fight against trafficking in persons and migration fraud. This was discussed at a meeting in Miami, Florida on Thursday.

According to the Cuban Foreign Ministry, the meeting was held in a respectful and professional environment as both countries agreed to advance joint work in the area and sign accords to formalize exchange initiatives in an effort to effectively neutralize those who practice the trafficking in persons.

The meeting was held as the number of Cubans migrating to the United States has gone up significantly.

According to Coast Guard officials, they have seen an increase of 350 per cent in the amount of Cubans trying to make their way to the US by sea.

The Cuban delegation was headed by Colonel Mario Mendez, Chief of the Identification, and Immigration at the Interior Ministry and made up of official from that institution and from the Cuban Foreign Ministry.

On the US side were representatives of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security, along with officials from the departments of State and Justice


WHO declares Zika an International Public Health Emergency

The World Health Organization declared the spread of Zika and an associated birth defect an international public health emergency Monday, freeing funds to combat the disease. "This is an extraordinary event," said WHO Director General Margaret Chan at a press conference Monday.

"It poses a public health threat to other parts of the world and a coordinated international response is needed."

Chan cited the pattern of the disease's spread, the lack of a vaccine, and the large global population of mosquitoes that can carry the virus as factors that contributed to the declaration.


Jamaica commits to climate change mitigation

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Monday February 1, 2016 – Jamaica is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 1.1 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2030, as part of its global commitment to take climate change mitigation action.

To bring that about, the island – as reflected in its nine-page Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) document to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – has undertaken to implement energy policies to ensure that the island: uses energy wisely and aggressively to pursue opportunities for conservation and efficiency; and has a modernized and expanded energy infrastructure that enhances energy generation capacity and ensures that energy supplies are safely, reliably and affordably transported to homes, communities and the productive sectors on a sustainable basis.

Other measures will also be taken to ensure Jamaica achieves its energy resource potential through the development of renewable energy sources by increasing their share in its primary energy mix of 20 per cent by 2030.

"Such policies are also to ensure that government agencies and ministries are a model/leader in energy conservation and environmental stewardship, and that the island has a well-defined and established governance, institutional, legal, and regulatory framework," the document said.

Fully implemented energy polices also need to ensure that private industry embraces "efficiency and ecological stewardship to advance international competitiveness and to move towards a green economy".


Japan & UNDP kick start US$15M Caribbean Climate Change Project

UNDP, 28 January, 2016) – The Government of Japan and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched a US$15 million Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (J-CCCP) today, in line with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The launch follows a two-day meeting with more than 40 representatives from eight Caribbean countries, including government officials, technical advisors, NGO and UN partners to set out a roadmap to mitigate and adapt to climate change, in line with countries' long-term strategies. The new initiative will help put in practice Caribbean countries' actions and policies to reduce greenhouse as emissions and adapt to climate change, such as Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). It will also boost access to sustainable energy and help reduce fossil fuel imports and dependence, setting the region on a low-emission development path, while addressing critical balance of payments constraints.

Participating countries include Belize, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, the Republic of Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Republic of Suriname, benefiting an estimated 200,000 women and men in 50 communities.


CARICOM condemns acts of violence in Haiti, calls for calm

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has called on all the stakeholders in Haiti's electoral process to do their utmost to resolve the current political crisis. The Community, in a statement Tuesday, condemned the acts of violence which have marred the electoral process and contributed to the postponement of the second round of the Presidential elections and the remaining members of the legislature.

Haiti's Electoral Council postponed the elections, scheduled for Sunday 24 January, citing security concerns.

The Community said it looks forward to the continuation of the electoral process and to an improved management and conduct of the polling process.


US broadens allowable exports to Cuba

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) – The United States is expanding authorized exports to Cuba in the latest incremental steps to ease a Cold War-era trade ban on the communist-ruled island, the US Treasury said Tuesday. The rule changes, which go into effect Wednesday, will allow more US exports related to disaster preparedness, education, agricultural production, food processing, public transportation and artistic endeavors.

Licenses for such exports that are deemed to be meeting the needs of the Cuban people will be granted on a case-by-case basis, the department said.

Also being removed are existing restrictions on payment and financing terms for authorized exports and reexports to Cuba, except agricultural products and commodities, it said.

The US actions "send a clear message to the world: the United States is committed to empowering and enabling economic advancements for the Cuban people," Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said.

The two countries restored diplomatic relations in July after a historic rapprochement between US President Barack Obama and Cuba's President Raul Castro the previous December.

Even so, the new openings were incremental as a more than half-century-old US trade embargo on the island remains in place, with little prospect of repeal under a Republican-controlled Congress.

The Obama instead has focused on regulatory changes to ease travel and trade between the two countries, once bitter foes and now in the midst of a tentative reconciliation process.


Jamaica receives more visitors than population

ST JAMES, Jamaica (JIS) – Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Dr Wykeham McNeill, says Jamaica has been welcoming more visitors than the population, confirming the country's status as one of the elite destinations in the Caribbean. The Minister told JIS News that for the past two years the country has been receiving two million stopover visitors and 1.5 million from the cruise ships annually, more than the population of 2.5 million.

"Bringing in more people than our current population is no ordinary feat…and we are not done as yet," Dr McNeill said.

The minister informed that currently, there are 2,500 new hotel rooms under construction, adding that never in the history of the country have so many rooms being built simultaneously.

He noted that in addition to the current boom, there are about 7,000 more rooms that are in the pipeline, including 4,000 to be built in North West St Ann.

Dr McNeill said his mantra as Minister of Tourism has always been about what is in the best interest of the Jamaican people and that every effort will be made to ensure that many Jamaicans are employed during the construction phase of the new rooms that are coming on stream.

The minister pointed out that with all the new rooms coming on stream, there will be over 10,000 jobs that will be available and he is urging Jamaicans to get certified to meet the demand.


Zika virus seen spreading to nearly all countries in the Americas: WHO

GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — The Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease suspected of causing serious birth defects, is expected to spread to all countries in the Americas except Canada and Chile, the World Health Organization said. Zika has suspected but unproven links to microcephaly – in which babies born to women infected during pregnancy have abnormally small heads.

The virus is already present in 21 of the 55 countries and territories across the Americas, the WHO said in a statement Sunday. But it stressed that the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries Zika and also dengue and chikungunya viruses, is already present in all countries in the Americas besides Canada and Chile.

WHO pointed out that since people in the region had not been exposed to Zika before it emerged in Brazil last May they lacked immunity, allowing the virus to spread quickly. The UN health agency said it therefore "anticipates that Zika virus will continue to spread and will likely reach all countries and territories of the region where Aedes mosquitoes are found."

WHO chief Margaret Chan told the opening of the organisation's executive committee meeting in Geneva Monday that "the explosive spread of Zika virus to new geographical areas, with little population immunity, is (a) cause for concern, especially given the possible link between infection during pregnancy and babies born with small heads."

She stressed that "a causal link between Zika infection in pregnancy and microcephaly has not been established," but added that "the circumstantial evidence is suggestive and extremely worrisome."

A surge in incidents across Latin America, notably in Brazil, has prompted the United States and other governments to warn pregnant women against travelling to the region – an alarming prospect for Brazil as it gears up to light the Olympic torch on August 5.

Brazil has recorded 3,893 microcephaly cases since an unusual spike in the rare condition was noticed in the country's northeast in October. Previously an annual average of 160 cases was the norm.


Caribbean reliance on tourism

The annual Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) Market place is under way here with Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie underscoring the importance of the tourism sector to the socio-economic development of the Caribbean. Christie addressing the three-day event, said that tourism as a direct contribution to Caribbean gross domestic product (GDP) was three per cent in 2015 compared to the worldwide average of 3.7 per cent.

He said the sector as a total contribution to Caribbean GDP rose by 2.9 per cent last year and is expected to increase by 3.3 per cent of GDP per annum each year over the next decade, against the worldwide average of 3.8 per cent.

He said in the region, total capital investment in tourism grew by 4.2 per cent in 2015, as compared to the worldwide average of 4.8 per cent. "All of this suggests that while we are holding our own in tourism in the Caribbean, we must do much better if we are to meet the needs and expectations of Caribbean citizens over the next decade and that we must be intent on giving prioritized focus to those drivers of our economies that will leverage our tourism assets for continued and accelerated growth in the years to come."

Christie said he welcomed the move by the United States to re-open diplomatic relations with Cuba and to work toward completely lifting the trade embargo. "With the US trade embargo eliminated, Cuba will enter the Caribbean arena as a heavy weight contender for the region's share of the tourism trade. Among Cuba's many attractions is her novelty and human beings are naturally attracted to what is new.

"But let's keep in mind that there is an upside to stiff competition. Competition motivates us to reach deep within and bring out qualities that we are unaware that we possess. All nations seek to strengthen their economic position through collaboration with neighbouring countries.

"Cuba is no exception. Already, several of our destinations have entered into agreements with Cuba to do joint tourism marketing and to create multiple destination packages," Christie said, noting "for us in the Caribbean, it is no longer business as usual.

"We are at that juncture in our development as tourism dependent nations where the name of our region must become synonymous, bar none, with world class, impeccable service, value for money, top rate accommodations and wonderfully memorable vacation experiences.

"The upside is that today's global economic landscape continues to provide opportunities for each of the Caribbean's tourism destinations, even as our governments seek to mitigate challenges such as infrastructure development, energy security, technological advancement, citizen security and climate change that impact tourism development."

Christie said that the three-day event here has attracted participation from Latin America and other global emerging markets which are well poised to tap into mainstream and niche tourism and hospitality products available throughout the Caribbean region.


2015 was hottest year by far in modern times

MIAMI, United States (AFP) – Blistering heat blanketed the Earth last year like never before, making 2015 by far the hottest year in modern times and raising new concerns about the accelerating pace of climate change. Not only was 2015 the warmest worldwide since 1880, it shattered the previous record held in 2014 by the widest margin ever observed, said the report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"During 2015, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.62 Fahrenheit (0.90 Celsius) above the 20th century average," said the NOAA report.

"This was the highest among all years in the 1880-2015 record," it added.

"This is also the largest margin by which the annual global temperature record has been broken."

The US space agency NASA, which monitors global climate using a fleet of satellites and weather stations, confirmed that last year broke records for heat in contemporary times.

NASA said that the temperature changes are largely driven by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere. "Climate change is the challenge of our generation," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "Today's announcement not only underscores how critical NASA's Earth observation program is, it is a key data point that should make policy makers stand up and take notice -- now is the time to act on climate."

Last year marked the fourth time a global temperature record has been set this century. Moreover, the latest finding adds to a steady rise in heat across land and sea surfaces that have seen records repeatedly broken over the years.

"Since 1997, which at the time was the warmest year on record, 16 of the subsequent 18 years have been warmer than that year," said the NOAA report. Last year alone, 10 months had record high temperatures for their respective months.

The heat was felt worldwide, with unprecedented warmth covering much of Central America and the northern half of South America.

Hot temperatures were observed in parts of northern, southern and eastern Europe as well as western Asia and a large section of east-central Siberia.

Regions of eastern and southern Africa experienced more blistering heat than ever, as did large parts of the northeastern and equatorial Pacific boosted by the El Nino weather phenomenon. A separate group, Berkeley Earth -- a US non-profit organization that says it was founded by people who saw some merit in the claims of climate change skeptics -- announced similar findings last week.

"2015 was unambiguously the hottest year on record," it said in a statement. "For the first time in recorded history, the Earth's temperature is clearly more than 1.0 C (1.8 F) above the 1850-1900 average."


Caribbean countries want more cooperation within energy sector

Barbados and Guyana are looking for Caribbean support to develop their energy sector and are looking towards Trinidad and Tobago for support. Guyana's National Resource Minister Raphael Trotman said that in terms of energy, Trinidad and Tobago has been, "in a sense a big brother to the region" while Barbados Energy Minister Darcy Boyce said "today's offshore petroleum acreage (in Barbados), like that of many countries within the region, remains largely under-explored".

Both government ministers are attending the three-day Trinidad and Tobago Energy Conference here that has brought together local, regional and international energy stakeholders. Trotman, who addressed the conference on Tuesday, later told reporters that Guyana, which recently announced the discovery of a large quantity of oil in its territorial waters, has always enjoyed a close working relationship with Port of Spain.

"Our previous governments had signed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) which expired last year. I believe the time is right for us to sit again and craft a new one, looking particularly at the development of our oil and gas sector," he said.

He said he had already met with the Trinidad and Tobago Energy Minister, Nicole Olivierre, on the issue reminding her of the talks held between Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley and the Guyana President David Granger last year.

"Our President and your Prime Minister met last year to discuss this, and few other matters, and we do need to get together," Trotman said, adding that he was now looking to hold talks with Olivierre "at the second level".

"Responsible governments have to steer companies towards national interests and regional interests," Trotman said, adding "responsible governments have to ensure that even as they get their rates of return, they do so within a context that is nationally, and regionally acceptable".

He said this could be achieved once there is the will among the countries and that in terms of energy, Port of Spain has been, "in a sense a big brother to the region."

But he said Georgetown was prepared to assume the role "not as a power player per se, but as a country that can perhaps fill gaps that Trinidad and Tobago would have left".

In his address to the conference, Trotman, said that while Guyana is excited at the prospects of being an oil producer, it is also cognisant of the fact that it has committed to becoming a country that utilises 100 per cent renewable energy within the next decade.

Noting that Guyana's challenge is to be self-sufficient in energy and to produce a surplus that can be sold on the world market, Trotman said that the country has been unable to access reliable power at stable, reasonable costs and as such, has been carefully examining hydropower projects, which caters for sustainable development.


Turkish newspaper says four Trinidadians among ISIS foreign fighters detained

ANKARA, Turkey, Tuesday January 19, 2016 – Four Trinidadians fighting with Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS or ISIL) were caught by Turkish security forces last year, according to a report in a Turkish newspaper. Hürriyet Daily News yesterday published an article in which it reported that the Turkey government last month released a list of 913 foreign jihadists from 57 countries who had been caught in Turkey in the first 11 months of 2015, and its sources had indicated that four Trinidad and Tobago citizens were among them.

No other Caribbean country was mentioned.

Earlier this month, Commander of US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) General John Kelly said that about 100 Islamic extremists left the Caribbean to join ISIS fighters in the Middle East last year and the number had risen to about 150 this year.

He expressed concern about those citizens returning to the region and carrying out terrorist attacks.

Meantime, according to the Hürriyet, China tops the list with 324 citizens caught in Turkey fighting for ISIL. There were 99 foreign fighters with Russian passports, 83 Palestinians, 63 fighters from Turkmenistan, 57 from Afghanistan, 44 from Indonesia, 19 from Germany and the United Kingdom each, 18 from France, six from South Korea, five from Australia, and two from the Maldives.

Two American citizens were among those caught, as well as fighters carrying Syrian passports, it added.

The newspaper reported that most ISIL fighters attempting to cross into Syria through Turkey claimed they were simply trying to look for their relatives.


US officials could advise pregnant women against visiting Caribbean islands with Zika

WASHINGTON, United States, Thursday January 14, 2016 – United States federal health officials are expected to make a decision either today or tomorrow on whether to warn pregnant women against travel to Caribbean and Latin American countries where the Zika virus has been confirmed.

According to the New York Times, they're giving consideration to issuing the warning because of the link between the mosquito-borne virus and microcephaly, a rare neurological disorder in infants in which the size of the brain is abnormally small.

The New York Times reports that if the advisory is issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it would the first time the agency has ever advised pregnant women to avoid a specific region during an outbreak.

"We can't make these decisions in a vacuum," said CDC spokesman, Thomas Skinner. "We're consulting with other experts outside."

Although it often causes only mild rashes and fevers, women who have contracted the virus, particularly in the first trimester of pregnancy, appear to be much more likely to have children with microcephaly.

Hundreds of babies with the disorder have been born in Brazil to mothers who contracted the Zika virus while they were pregnant.


Jamaica moves ahead with oil and gas exploration

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday January 13, 2016 – An offshore two-dimensional seismic survey will be conducted over the next 30 days to determine Jamaica's potential for commercial oil and gas, as the country moves full steam ahead with its exploration plan.

Tullow Jamaica Limited, a leader in independent gas and oil exploration and production, is undertaking the 3,000 kilometre survey as part of the work programme outlined in the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) the company signed with the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) back in November 2014.

Exploratory work is to be carried out on the south coast of the island, which has been identified in the past as having good frontier for exploration.

Tullow has contracted seismic vessel BGP Challenger to conduct the exploration and collect the data.

Addressing the media during a tour of the technologically sophisticated seismic vessel yesterday, Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Minister Phillip Paulwell said that works valued at US$70 million is being undertaken by Tullow under the contract.


Obama summons Americans to compromise and change

WASHINGTON (AP) — With Americans soon to begin choosing his successor, President Barack Obama is casting his seven divisive years as a time of positive change, implicitly asking voters to replace him with a Democrat who would continue his hard-won policies on health care, climate change and Iran.

Addressing a hostile Republican-led Congress and a country plunged in a tumultuous, at times angry presidential campaign, Obama used his final State of the Union address to summon an affirmative vision of his administration and for the future. He rebutted critics, naysayers and the GOP White House hopefuls, but also acknowledged his own failure to transform the country's bitter politics and unite the nation.

With a year left in office, he presented that task as more urgent than ever and pleaded with voters to turn away from harsh voices and come together.

"Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested," Obama said. "Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention."

Conceding that changing Washington was not the job of one person, Obama called on voters to change the system itself by demanding less money in politics, fairly drawn congressional districts and easier access to voting.

"There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber who would like to see more cooperation, a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the demands of getting elected," Obama told a Congress unlikely to follow his lead, though many lawmakers might agree with his call.

"It's one of the few regrets of my presidency - that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better," the president said.

At times, Obama referred sarcastically to the Republicans running to replace him, though without mentioning them by name, just weeks before voting in Iowa and New Hampshire. He countered the negativity of Donald Trump, who promises to keep out Muslims and "Make America Great Again," and Texas Sen Ted Cruz's vow to "carpet bomb" the Islamic State group.


Cash for climate change please, Caribbean leaders plead

By Desmond Brown GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Monday January 11, 2016, IPS – Funding to address the financial flows needed for adaptation and mitigation of climate change remains an issue of concern for the Caribbean. The region's leaders say developed countries should continue to take the lead in mobilizing climate finance from a wide variety of sources to prevent disaster to these vulnerable island states.

Additionally, the Secretary General of the Caribbean Community and Common Market, (CARICOM), Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, said there ought to be transparency in terms of the commitments countries make.

"And I would hope that the commitments that the developed countries have made to provide financing are commitments that they will honour," LaRocque told IPS. "And I dare add that such commitments to provide financing should not be tied up in all the bureaucratic maneuverings to access these finances."

"We also feel very, very strongly that the vulnerability that our countries exhibit should be a major criteria for accessing those resources and not per capita income," LaRocque added.

The climate change agreement signed in Paris in December recognized the importance of averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events.

With climate change already affecting the region, St. Lucia's Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony is concerned that there is still a gap between what the politicians are saying on the issue and what the region's people believe.

"There are a lot of people in the Caribbean who have not understood the danger that these islands face. It is true that they have experienced adverse weather systems but they have not translated that experience into understanding that there is a change in the weather systems, the weather patterns because of climatic factors, so we have to translate that to out ordinary people," Anthony said.


Jamaica lifts ban on travellers from Ebola-affected countries

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Friday January 8, 2016 – Government has lifted the ban it introduced more than a year ago on people entering the island from countries affected by the deadly Ebola virus. The Ministry of National Security made the announcement yesterday, saying the decision recently taken by Cabinet followed recent indications from the World Health Organization (WHO) about the reduction of cases worldwide, especially in countries that were directly affected by the virus.

In October 2014, the Jamaican Government instituted the ban on people ordinarily resident in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as people who had travelled to or transited through Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, within 28 days of having departed from these countries.

However, the WHO says the criteria it established to declare the end of any known transmission of the Ebola virus have been met, and as such has declared an end to the outbreak in the three key countries where the virus had been most prevalent — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.


Caribbean legislators hail US President's executive action on gun control

WASHINGTON - A tearful President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced stricter gun control regime in the United States, fondly remembering the children killed in mass shootings in America and making a passionate call for a national "sense of urgency" to limit gun violence in the country.

Obama admitted that not much was done on changing gun laws in America during his tenure and also made it clear that he does not expect more changes during his remaining year in office.

He however pledged to do what he can to make gun control a theme in the months leading up to the November election to replace him.

"In this room right here, there are a lot of stories. There's a lot of heartache," Obama said in the White House East Room. He was flanked by relatives of those struck down in mass shootings, including former Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.

"There's a lot of resilience, there's a lot of strength, but there's also a lot of pain."

Obama's new executive plan is seeking to expand background checks for gun buyers. The measure clarifies that individuals "in the business of selling firearms" register as licensed gun dealers, effectively narrowing the so-called "gun show loophole," which exempts most small sellers from keeping formal sales records.

But the president faces legal, political and logistical hurdles that are likely to blunt the effect of the plan he laid out, according to the New York Times.

A number of the executive actions he plans only suggested "guidance" for federal agencies, not binding regulations. They were framed mostly as clarifying and enforcing existing law, not expanding it. And many of those measures rely on hefty funding increases that a Republican-led Congress is almost certain to reject.

Obama lashed out at Congress, which blocked a tougher gun bill in 2013. He said the Congress still needs to impose new gun control measures. He noted that many of the actions he's calling for can only be imposed through legislative action.

"Congress still needs to act," Obama said. "The folks in this room will not rest until Congress does. Because once Congress gets on board with common-sense gun safety measures, we can reduce gun violence a whole lot."

"But we also can't wait," Obama added. "Until we have the Congress that's in line with the majority of Americans, there are actions within my legal authority that we can take to help reduce gun violence and save more lives."

Obama reiterated that his toughest time in office was grappling with the December 2012 massacre of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.


Addressing climate change on several fronts in the Caribbean

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Tuesday January 5, 2016 , (IPS) – Climate change is already affecting the Caribbean. But there is concern that a gap still exists between what the region's leaders are saying about the issue and what residents believe.

This, along with the issue of funding to address the financial flows needed for adaptation and mitigation, are among priority areas for the Caribbean post-COP21. Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, the Secretary General of CARICOM, a political and economic union comprising 15 small, developing, climate-vulnerable islands and low-lying nations, said there ought to be transparency in terms of the commitments countries make.


CTO declares 2016 "Year of Romance in the Caribbean"

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — The Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) has declared 2016 as the Year of Romance in the Caribbean . The organisation says with the launch of this new initiative, the CTO and its member countries and hotels will highlight the region as the leading choice for a romantic vacation for consumers and travel planners selling the region.

"With over 30 destinations to choose from, the Caribbean region provides the perfect backdrop for a romantic getaway highlighted by pristine beaches, secluded accommodations, an abundance of land and water activities, top-notch spa services and personalised attention that meets the needs of the most discerning traveller," said Hugh Riley, secretary general of CTO.

"The Year of Romance in the Caribbean will spotlight the romantic features of our region beyond the traditional times of year such as Valentine's Day. A romantic theme is easily embraced by all of our member destinations 365 days a year," Riley noted.

Throughout the year, CTO in cooperation with its private sector partner the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association; will assist member countries with ideas which can be implemented around the theme of romance to appeal to consumers, travel agents and tour operators.

Some of the areas of focus will include first or second marriages and the renewal of vows, the most romantic locations to "pop the question" or say "I do" and inviting celebrity couples to get married in t he Caribbean.

"We anticipate that in addition to the ideas we provide our members, the countries and hotels will develop their own plan of action for promoting romance in their individual destinations," said Riley adding: "The theme is inclusive of our partners, both public- and private-sector.

Caribbean hotels, travel agents and tour operators are urged to create their own romantic ideas or adopt ones being embraced by the destinations.


Politics dominated Caribbean life in 2015

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Dec 30, (CMC) – Three governments were booted out of office by the electorate in St Kitts and Nevis, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago during 2015. But while Dr Denzil Douglas, Donald Ramotar and Kamla Persad Bissessar sat brooding, their counterparts in Anguilla, Belize, Suriname, the British Virgin Islands and St. Vincent and the Grenadines were celebrating victories.

In all, voters in nine Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states went to the polls in 2015, which turned out to be a very challenging year politically for many.

In Haiti, the electoral process is still unfolding following the "indefinite postponement" of the second round of voting in presidential elections that had been scheduled for December 27 to choose a successor to Michel Martelly, who under the French speaking nation's constitution cannot seek a third consecutive term in office.

The final results are expected in early 2016. But the polls so far have been marred by allegations of voter rigging, as well as violence and death.

The outcome of the first round of balloting on October 25, only became known in mid-December, amid calls for the resignation of members of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) and threats of a boycott by opposition parties, which are were insisting that the polls in Haiti were not free and fair, despite the "clean bill of health" given by the international electoral observers.

As the year drew to a close, Jamaicans were wondering whether they too would be facing the election music. However, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller put an end to any such speculation when she said that the date for the new poll, which is constitutionally due in December 2016, would be announced after the new voters' list was published on November 30.

The prime minister also said her wish was for Jamaicans to have a peaceful Christmas season, even as she warned the electorate that "the hour is at hand".

For its part, the main opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) said it was confident of victory, no doubt encouraged by the success of their colleagues in neighbouring CARICOM states that have managed to unseat incumbents.

Among them, Timothy Harris and his opposition coalition which shattered Dr Douglas' hopes and dreams of becoming the first CARICOM leader to win five consecutive general elections.

When he announced February 16 as the date for choosing a new government in the twin island Federation, the 62-year-old Dr Douglas had plans of using the new voters list and new boundaries. But those plans were dashed by the London-based Privy Council, the highest court for St. Kitts and Nevis, which upheld an appeal filed by opposition legislators.

The Privy Council was asked to rule on whether or not the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal was correct in upholding the discharge of an interim injunction preventing the adoption of new electoral boundaries ahead of the general elections.

In its ruling, the Privy Council noted that both parties had agreed to use for the purposes of the forthcoming general election whatever list the Privy Council may determine as the appropriate list.

"It is determined and ordered that firstly, the list to be used in the said election, is and shall be that existing prior to and apart from the proclamation bearing the reference number two of 2015 purportedly issued and published by the Governor General… bearing the date January 16, 2015," the Privy Council said.

The opposition coalition, comprising the People's Action Movement (PAM), the People's Labour Party (PLP) and the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) welcomed the ruling and expressed confidence that voters would put an end to Dr Douglas' plan to extend his 20 years at the helm of the government.

What transpired after the electorate voted was a situation never before experienced in the Caribbean.


St Vincent court refuses opposition application to inspect poll documents

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC) — High Court judge Justice Brian Cottle has rejected an application from Ben Exeter, the opposition New Democratic Party's (NDP) candidate for Central Leeward in the December 9 general election, seeking access to certain electoral documents.

"I do not consider that the applicant has shown any grounds, far less any strong grounds, to grant the application," Cottle said in a written judgement handed down late Monday afternoon.

The judge cited the ruling of the Court of Appeal in Trinidad and Tobago in relation to petitions stemming from the recent general election in the twin island republic.

While noting that the laws in Trinidad and Tobago are different from those in St Vincent and the Grenadines, Cottle said, "I, too, feel that to grant the application as file would be akin to… permission to embark on an unfettered roving commission of inquiry. The only legitimate parameter are those circumscribed by the grounds and materials facts contained in the (application) in light of the relief sought and the relevant law."

"I therefore refuse the application," he said.

He, however, added in a postscript that, after the draft of the decision was completed, the court was informed by telephone that Exeter had filed at the court office, late Christmas Eve, "certain written submissions".

"I have not had the benefit of reading those before this decision was complete," the judge added.

Exeter was a first time candidate to the Unity Labour Party's (ULP) Sir Louis Straker, a former Central Leeward member of parliament who came out of political retirement to run again. Exeter lost by 313 votes.

The NDP candidate asked the court to order Supervisor of Election Sylvia Findlay to "produce forthwith all ballot boxes in her custody in the constituency of Central Leeward", and hand them over to the Registrar of the High Court.

He also asked the court to order the registrar to open the ballot boxes in his presence and that he be permitted to inspect all ballot papers inside them.

He also asked the court to order the sealed packets containing counterfoils in the ballot boxes to be opened by the registrar in his presence and that he be permitted to inspect the counterfoils.


Stranded Cuban migrants permitted to enter United States

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala, Tuesday December 29, 2015 – Thousands of Cuban migrants stuck in Costa Rica for the past month have finally been given the green light to continue their journey to the United States.

This follows an agreement reached by a group of Central American nations yesterday, following talks in Guatemala City.

About 7,000 Cuban migrants had travelled to Ecuador through Colombia and Panama and into Costa Rica but were blocked by Nicaragua. However, as a result of the agreement, from next month the Cubans will be airlifted to El Salvador and put on buses to cross Guatemala into Mexico and cross the border into the US.

Under the US 'wet foot dry foot policy', Cuban migrants who arrive on land to enter the country and apply for residency, while those who are intercepted at sea are sent back.

"The solution emerging is an absolute exception and only for those people who entered national territory legally," Costa Rica's Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez said, according to Reuters.

On Sunday, Pope Francis urged Central American governments to show generosity in dealing with the situation.


Harvard-affiliated research institute supporting eHealth in the Caribbean

MASSACHUSETTS, United States (CMC) – A major Harvard Medical School-affiliated research institute is aiming to develop education and care delivery in the Caribbean. The Division of Clinical Informatics at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) has signed a framework agreement with the Washington-based Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to collaborate in supporting the advancement of eHealth in Latin America and the Caribbean.

BIDMC said its efforts will be led by Director of Global Health Informatics Dr Yuri Quintana.

BIDMC noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) has defined eHealth as "the cost-effective and secure use of information and communication technologies in support of health, including treating patients, conducting research, educating the health workforce, tracking diseases and monitoring public health."

"This collaboration will allow us to tap into the vast expertise of BIDMC's informatics division and clinicians, as well as the entire Harvard community," Quintana said.

"As a systems design engineer, I'll be looking at the institutions, care providers and patients and the information that flows among them with the goal of determining how technology can facilitate communication, education and care coordination," he added.

Quintana said he will work with his technical counterpart, David Novillo, PAHO eHealth Program Coordinator, on eHealth training strategies and the development of research priorities and publications for use in Latin America and the Caribbean.

"We'll be studying how different implementations in different countries are adapted to fit local needs," Quintana said. "We'll then examine how effectively communicating best practices can help improve outcomes while reducing costs."

Quintana said he and Novillo will begin by looking at newborn and maternal health.

"One of the United Nations millennial goals is to reduce infant mortality," Quintana noted. "Progress has been made; but, in some countries, there are still infant mortality rates as high as 30 to 40 percent in areas where there are fewer services.

"This problem lends itself to telemedicine and eHealth because technology can connect experts where they're needed and when they're needed," added Quintana, stating that he will also collaborate with BIDMC clinicians Dr Charles Safran, Chief of the Division of Clinical Informatics, Dr James Gray, Neonatologist, and Dr Hope Ricciotti, MD, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

BIDMC says Safran and Gray developed one of the world's first telemedicine applications for neonatal care, called "Baby CareLink," in 1996.


CARICOM SG says 2015 was a "fulfilling year"

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque has singled out unity, commitment and innovative ideas among the features that helped to fashion a fulfilling 2015 in the Region.

"This past year has been a most fulfilling one for us in the Caribbean Community. The value of our integration movement proved itself at home and abroad as we continued our efforts to provide an improved standard of living for all our citizens. The progress that we have made on many fronts has been due to our acting in concert to secure the best option for our Community," the Secretary-General said in an end of year message.

Recalling the Community's progress over the year, the Secretary-General said that he was confident that with initiatives underway – including the Reform Process – bolstered by the "tangible evidence of what our unity" could achieve, the Region would provide "the safe, secure and viable society that will make us all proud to be citizens of CARICOM".


UN urges transfer of power in Haiti through polls

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern today over growing political uncertainty in Haiti and urged the two candidates in the presidential run-off there to help the electoral process move forward while preserving the country's democratic gains. "The Secretary-General is concerned over the growing political uncertainty in Haiti, following the publication of the results of the 25 October elections," which included the first round of presidential polls, read a statement issued through his spokesperson.

While taking note of the efforts by all stakeholders, including the establishment of an electoral evaluation commission on 16 December to address the concerns of opposition parties and ensure the successful and timely conclusion of the presidential elections, Mr. Ban in his statement stressed "the responsibility of all political actors to discourage violence and encourage a spirit of unity throughout the country."

According to the statement, the UN chief "calls for the urgent intensification of dialogue to ensure the transfer of power through elections, within the constitutional timeframe, maintain stability and preserve the country's democratic gains."

"The Secretary-General urges the two candidates in the presidential run-off to engage in good faith with the relevant institutions to identify and implement measures to help the process move forward," the statement said.

According to press reports, the run-off had been set for 27 December between Jovenel Moise from the governing party and former government executive Jude Celestin, but the election has been postponed until further notice.

In his statement, Mr. Ban reaffirmed the commitment of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the entire UN system to continue supporting the Haitian people in the fulfilment of their democratic aspirations.

In a statement to the press, the members of the UN Security Council trusted that, with the support of the international community, the Haitian people will build upon the first two rounds of Haitian elections and be able to bring the electoral process to a successful conclusion in the upcoming final round.


Strong regional collaboration credited for CARICOM's successful Climate Change campaign

CARICOM's well prepared and experienced team of negotiators, and a focused, unified campaign, helped the Caribbean Community get its red line climate change issues all represented in the final Agreement at the just ended Climate Change conference, COP 21, in Paris, France. And, CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque has hailed the strong regional collaboration, given the critical importance of climate change to the Region's survival.

"We saw our community operating at its best on the international front in Paris," Ambassador LaRocque stated emphatically as he reflected on the 30 November to 11 December conference that led to the approval of an historic Climate Change Agreement by 195 countries.

"The coordination was superb. I want to say hats off to our negotiators, led by Minister Jimmy Fletcher, Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development in St. Lucia and of course the role played by all our Ministers and our Heads of Government. I was there feeling very proud. We were of a single mind. We were one body with several parts working together in unison to achieve a set of goals that we had set. We left Paris with … our objectives being addressed in the Agreement," the Secretary-General added.

Minister Fletcher agreed that the coordinated approach strengthened the CARICOM campaign.

"One of the things that made a big difference this time around has been the CARICOM coordination and the presence of the CARICOM Secretary-General. The SG's presence here, encouraging us, allowing us to caucus, keeping the CARICOM team tight, has made a difference in how focused we've been and in ensuring that it's the CARICOM position, and not just Member States', that came across," the Minister said.

The view was also supported by Haiti's lead Advisor and negotiator, Mr. Renald Luberice.

"I was very impressed to see the political involvement of CARICOM in support of CARICOM country delegations. This is the first time I'm seeing CARICOM being involved in this manner and it sent a very good signal," Mr. Luberice said on the sidelines of the Conference.

CARICOM Heads of Government had set up a Task Force just over two years ago, under Minister Fletcher's Chairmanship and including representatives from Member States, to handle a series of important international engagements, including COP21. This Task Force of expert negotiators has since been constantly engaged in intensive negotiating sessions, including five meetings this year in France.


US Cuba agree to restore regular commercial flights

HAVANA, Cuba (CMC) — The United States and Cuba have agreed to restore regular commercial flights, a move that could pave the way for thousands of visitors to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean nation, on a daily basis.

The deal was announced yesterday, exactly one year since President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro announced an ease on the strained relations between both countries.

While US law still bars travel to Cuba for tourists, the deal is expected to increase authorised travel between both nations.

It is not known, however, when the first Cuba-bound flights will take off.

In a statement yesterday, US President Barack Obama, touted the steps the US has taken to normalise relations with Cuba in the past year and called on Congress to lift its embargo.

In May, the US removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, an act that led to the reopening of embassies months later.

Last week, the US and Cuba announced they would resume direct postal services between both nations several times a week, alleviating the need to rely on routing mail through a third country.

Details of that deal are expected to be finalised in coming weeks.

On December 17, 2013, Cuban President Raul Castro and Obama announced the normalisation of relations after more than 50 years of hostility between both countries.


Latin America and Caribbean severely affected by El Nino, says IICA

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (CMC) — A new study by experts of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) has found that Latin America and Caribbean countries (LAC) will continue to be severely affected by the El Niño phenomenon that has been affecting the region since 2014.

The IICA said that El Niño has impacted and will further impact the productive, social and environmental sectors of several countries in the region.

"Although the phenomenon will not have the same impact on all countries in LAC, or on all crops in a single country, experts agree that the only way to anticipate, prevent and mitigate its impacts is to incorporate risk management into agricultural planning; this is the only way in which agriculture can become more resilient in the face of extreme climatic events," the IICA noted.

The study was done by IICA specialists analysing the impact of El Niño on the agricultural sector of LAC, in order to support decision makers in designing instruments and strategies to deal with the climatic phenomenon.

The study found that severe hydrological, meteorological and agricultural droughts are being forecast for Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and some regions of South America, and are expected to cause significant losses of staple grains, fruits and livestock.

On the other hand, El Niño may improve agricultural yields in Andean and other South American countries, due to an expected increase in rain.

"Although some countries have developed projects and strategies for mitigating the impact of the phenomenon on agriculture, it is important to create long-term strategies that, in addition to mitigation, also contemplate adaptation and climate risk transfer," said Joaquín Arias, IICA specialist in policies and sectoral analysis and co-author of the publication.

Some of the recommendations are to make progress in developing comprehensive risk management strategies, especially in family agriculture, to strengthen monitoring and early warning systems, and to promote innovation in order to improve the resilience of agriculture and natural resource management.

IICA specialist in agriculture and climate change and co-author of the document, Kelly Witkowski, said the current manifestations of El Niño in the Americas serve as a preview to what the region could experience in a few years as a result of greater impact of climate change.

The IICA noted that throughout history, El Niño has affected the production, social and environmental sectors. For example, between 1997 and 1998, LAC faced losses of 50 per cent in some agricultural and livestock activities as a result of the phenomenon, in addition to damaged transportation, electricity and water infrastructure. The situation led to an increase in production costs.


Caribbean to have total input in selection of next UN Secretary General

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) – For the first time in its history, the United Nations says the 193 member-states, including those of the Caribbean, will be included "totally" in the selection of the next UN Secretary-General. Ban Ki-moon is the eighth UN Secretary General who first took up office on January 1, 2007. In 2011, he was unanimously re-elected by the General Assembly and serves until December 31, 2016.

Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft pledged to make the process "as transparent and inclusive as possible".

He underscored a joint letter with the President of the Security Council that was dispatched to all UN member-states on Tuesday and which, he said, officially "starts" the process of soliciting candidates leading to the selection and appointment of the next UN chief.

According to the UN Charter, the Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly following the recommendation of the Security Council.

The letter "acknowledges the importance of transparency and inclusivity in the process," the UN said, adding that it also encourages member-states "to consider presenting women, as well as men, as candidates for the position of Secretary-General."

In a new development, the President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council "will offer candidates opportunities for informal dialogues or meetings with the members of their respective bodies…these can take place before the Council begins its selection by the end of July 2016 and may continue throughout the process of selection," according to the letter.

"The process is started and the wish is that the membership, for the first time in UN history, is included totally in the discussion of the next Secretary-General," said Lykketoft, adding that he thinks "this is a watershed in the way that we are doing things."


Paris Agreement offers hope to Caribbean – CTO

(BRIDGETOWN, Barbados) – The climate change agreement hammered out in Paris, France last week was a "huge achievement" for the Caribbean and offers hope for the region, the Caribbean Tourism Organisaton (CTO) said. The CTO welcomed the agreement in a statement issued at the conclusion of Paris the negotiations which saw 195 nations adopting the agreement.

The Caribbean region is experiencing the impact of the ravaging effects of climate change. Sea level rise, frequent and intense natural hazards; extended dry seasons resulting in water scarcity, loss of livelihoods and the disappearance of some of our islands are among the present-day dangers that we face.

The tourism sector and the environment are inextricably linked and environmentally responsible tourism is paramount to the sector's sustainability and overall success. Tourism must be stewarded and balanced so that the benefits for the environment, the communities it serves, its employees and the economy outweigh the costs. Our commitment to the climate cause is one way to do this.

The Conference of Parties 21 *(COP21) came to a close at the end of last week and the Caribbean's position was clear. Caribbean governments and regional agencies joined in one voice to shout their message of '1.5 to stay alive' which urged global partners to support a call to limit warming to below 1.5C – a critical call on which our survival depends! The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) also endorsed this call!

Many are touting COP21 a success. The outcome, called the Paris Agreement, has been adopted by 195 nations, and for the first time brings all nations into a common cause based on their historic, current and future responsibilities. This is a huge achievement for the Caribbean.

The universal agreement's main aim is to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

This new agreement offers hope. As many of CTO's members are Small Island Developing States (SIDS), we remain optimistic that the tremendous strides made in Paris will help to ensure that this issue continues to occupy a prominent position on the global agenda. Let us all do our part to support the outcomes in Paris in any way we can.


Historic pact to slow global warming celebrated in Paris

LE BOURGET, France (AP) — Nearly 200 nations adopted the first global pact to fight climate change yesterday, calling on the world to collectively cut and then eliminate greenhouse gas pollution but imposing no sanctions on countries that don't. The "Paris agreement" aims to keep global temperatures from rising another degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) between now and 2100, a key demand of poor countries ravaged by rising sea levels and other effects of climate change.

Loud applause erupted in the conference hall after French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius gavelled the agreement. Some delegates wept, others embraced.

"It's a victory for all of the planet and for future generations," US Secretary of State John Kerry said, adding that the pact will "prevent the worst most devastating consequences of climate change from ever happening".

Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira added: "Today, we've proven that it's possible for every country to come together, hand in hand, to do its part to fight climate change."

In the pact, the countries pledge to limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100.

In practical terms, achieving that goal means the world would have to stop emitting greenhouse gases — most of which come from the burning of oil, coal and gas for energy — altogether in the next half-century, scientists said. That's because the less we pollute, the less pollution nature absorbs.

Achieving such a reduction in emissions would involve a complete transformation of how people get energy, and many activists worry that despite the pledges, countries are not ready to make such profound, costly changes.

The deal now needs to be ratified by individual governments — at least 55 countries representing at least 55 per cent of global emissions — before taking effect. It is the first pact to ask all countries to join the fight against global warming, representing a sea change in United Nations (UN) talks that previously required only wealthy nations to reduce their emissions.

"History will remember this day," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. "The Paris agreement on climate change is a monumental success for the planet and its people."

Speaking from Washington, President Barack Obama said the climate agreement offers "the best chance to save the one planet we have".

The deal commits countries to keeping the rise in global temperatures by the year 2100 compared with pre-industrial times "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and says they will "endeavour to limit" them even more, to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The world has already warmed by about one degree Celsius since pre-industrial times.


CARICOM reiterates call for lifting of economic and trade embargo against Cuba

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) – The Caribbean Community (Caricom) has reiterated its call for the United States to lift the economic, trade and financial embargo against Cuba. In an address to mark Caricom-Cuba day, that was observed on Tuesday, CARICOM Chairman, the Prime Minister of Barbados Fruendel Stuart while welcoming the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between Cuba and US and t he re-opening of diplomatic missions, other hurdles remain.

According to Stuart, Caricom has been steadfast in its advocacy for Cuba to be integrated into the wider hemisphere of which it is so integrally a part.

"In this regard, the Community welcomed the participation of Cuba in the Seventh Summit of the Americas held in Panama in April this year and its readmission to the Organisation of American States (OAS) after its regrettable and notable absence. The Caricom Chairman also assured the people of Cuba of the continued support from Caricom member states.

"As a further concrete demonstration of our close ties, allow me to make mention of our blossoming trade and economic relations which are given expression through the instrument of the Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement between Caricom and the Republic of Cuba, signed in July 2000. Last October in Havana, the Joint Commission established under the Agreement advanced discussions aimed at improving its implementation and deepening of cooperation."

"The Caribbean Community looks forward to a strengthened trade and economic partnership with the Republic of Cuba in the years ahead," he added.

He noted that Cuba for its part, has reciprocated by "demonstrating its appreciation of the actions and positions taken by Caricom over the years, including through generous and meaningful offers of technical assistance to the Community in its most critical areas of need."

Some of these areas include building the region's social, cultural and linguistic capacity, strengthening its competencies in disaster management, agriculture, sport and most especially, the field of health.


ECLAC proposes debt relief for Caribbean in fight against climate change

WASHINGTON, United States, Thursday December 10, 2015 (CMC) – The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has proposed a strategy to reduce the external public debt of English-speaking Caribbean countries that are considered to be Small Island Developing States (SIDS) through the creation of a regional resilience fund to finance climate change adaptation and mitigation measures.

The proposal was presented Tuesday by the Director of the regional organization's Economic Development Division, Daniel Titelman, during an event organized by ECLAC in conjunction with the Commonwealth Secretariat, in the context of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change taking place in Paris, France.

Titelman explained that in 2013, 10 countries of the Caribbean – Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines – had total public debt percentages of between 76 per cent and 130 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP), above the limits of what is considered to be sustainable debt.

Total public debt, both internal and external, in 15 countries of the Caribbean – the previous 10, plus Anguilla, Guyana, Montserrat, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago – reached nearly US$50 billion, equivalent to 72 per cent of sub regional GDP. Of this amount, about 30 billion corresponds to internal debt and nearly 18 billion to external debt, 46 per cent of which is owed to private creditors and 54 per cent to public creditors.

ECLAC underscored that these high debt burdens reflect the economic and environmental vulnerabilities of these countries and have become a hindrance to development of the SIDS, which also include countries that are not islands but that face similar challenges. As an example of this, it is estimated that between 2000 and 2014 natural disasters caused damage of at least US$27 billion in English-speaking Caribbean countries.

"The United Nations regional organization proposes the creation of a resilience fund that can be financed through instruments such as Debt Swaps for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation, which require interaction between multilateral institutions, donor countries and debtor countries. The sources of financing for this mechanism can come from the global funds for climate change," an ECLAC statement said.

"In exchange, the beneficiary countries would have to commit to allotting the resources that they save on debt servicing to this Caribbean resilience fund, which would be dedicated to financing climate change mitigation and adaptation actions and would be managed by a solid and credible financial institution."


Caricom to push positions on key issues in second week of COP21

CARICOM Ministers of Government and negotiators met on Monday to set the stage for a final push in negotiations around several key issues at COP 21 in Paris, France. Following a week of intense negotiations by the region's technical team, the ministers will take the process forward with equally intense political negotiations which they hope will lead to, among other things, a global legally binding agreement on climate action.

The region has strong negotiating positions on several key issues, including:

• The need for an internationally legally binding agreement; A long-term temperature goal of below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels;
• Loss and damage to be included as a separate and distinct element from Adaptation in the agreement;
• A strong commitment by developed countries to scale up financing;
• Special circumstances of Small Island and Low-lying Developing States recognised;
• The REDD Plus agreement should be anchored in the agreement; and
• Provisions to support the adaptation needs of vulnerable developing countries.

Caricom Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque has given kudos to the collaboration among the region's negotiators and ministers for keeping the region's concerns at the forefront of deliberations at the conference, and credited the presentations by Caricom Heads of Government at the start of the deliberations last week for setting the tone.

A final agreement is expected by the close of the conference this Friday.


Female farmers strive to combat climate change in the Caribbean

ANSE-LA-RAYE, St. Lucia (IPS) – In the Caribbean, some women find themselves on the frontline with the battle to mitigate climate change. Meet Dr. Krystal Cox. She is one of three girls who all studied medicine and got medical degrees. "I have planted, I've harvested potatoes and tomatoes, I've worked in the greenhouses, I drive my own tractor, I plough my own land, I drive my trucks, I do deliveries to the supermarkets that we serve," she explained.

Cox is encouraging more women and youths to get into farming, assuring that there is nothing wrong with it.

"We can't eat unless we farm and to not glorify it and to not put it in a position where it's respected and the people who do it are respected then you are going to have a lot of short comings especially with finance," she said.

Pamela Thomas, who heads the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN), said there are finances available to assist farmers but accessing these finances can prove challenging.

"When a farmer who wants to get a loan goes to the bank or another financial institution, one, you can't use your farm as security because you don't have farming insurance. So that farmer may be asked to put up his or her property to guarantee a loan. Now that is high risk because it doesn't only belong to the farmer but it belongs to the entire family," she said.

CaFAN represents farmers in all 15 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Countries. Initiated by farmer organisations across the Caribbean in 2002, it is mandated to speak on behalf of its membership and to develop programmes and projects aimed at improving livelihoods and to collaborate with all stakeholders in the agriculture sector to the strategic advantage of its farmers.

Thomas also said that the impacts of climate change increase a farmer's expenditure but farmers have serious difficulties accessing financing.


Global negotiators adopt draft agreement to reduce emissions

(AP) Negotiators adopted a draft climate agreement Saturday that was cluttered with brackets and competing options, leaving ministers with the job of untangling key sticking points in what is envisioned to become a lasting, universal pact to fight global warming.

As the UN talks outside Paris reached their midway point, the draft agreement was sent on to environment and foreign ministers who will work on it next week.

"We would have wished to be further along than we are at this point, but the text being forwarded so far reflects our key priorities," said Maldives delegate Thoriq Ibrahim, who chairs an alliance of small island nations on the front lines of climate change.

A host of disagreements remains, almost all related to defining the obligations and expectations of rich and poor countries, as well as those who don't fit neatly into either category.

There is still no agreement on how much the average global temperature should be able to rise. Many developing nations want it to be no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. But developed countries say the planet can handle 2 degrees.

Canadian scientist Alain Bourque, who advises the Quebec and federal governments on climate change and specializes in the connection between science and policy, explained the significance of 2 degrees C during an interview with CBC in Le Bourget, where the summit is taking place.


CARPHA again urges precaution to avoid mosquito bites

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is again urging persons to take every precaution to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Earlier this month, CARPHA had confirmed five case of Zika virus in a territory of the Caribbean Community.

Zika is a viral disease, transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the same insect vector for Dengue and Chikungunya. This is the first time Zika has been detected in CARICOM, leading CARPHA's Executive Director, Dr C James Hospedales, to emphasize the need for prevention and control measures to be taken in order to prevent transmission of the virus.

CARPHA's continued appeal to avoid being bitten is even more critical for women who are pregnant, as the Ministry of Health in Brazil investigates a link between the mosquito-borne Zika virus and an increased incidence of microcephaly. Microcephaly is a condition where the size of an infant's head is smaller than normal, because of slowed or incomplete brain development.

While this may happen for a wide range of reasons, including inherited factors, it sometimes occurs as a result of exposure of the baby in the mother's womb to certain infections, contracted in the first few months of pregnancy.

Zika virus is now suspected to be one of the infections that can increase the risk of this condition. CARPHA is therefore reminding all persons, and especially women who are pregnant, to protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved clothing or long pants, using insect repellents, and sleeping under mosquito nets. It is also important to destroy all breeding sites for mosquitoes in and around the home.

While there is no evidence to date that Zika has spread to other Caribbean countries, Dr Hospedales, is calling on its Caribbean Member States to continue to strengthen their surveillance programmes. He said "Member States must remain vigilant and step up their vector control."


Development banks vow to mobilize collective resources to confront climate change

The heads of the world's largest development banks have pledged to work together to substantially increase climate investments and ensure that development programs going forward consider climate risks and opportunities.

In a joint statement released on Monday, November 30 at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris, the African Development Bank (AfDB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), European Investment Bank (EIB), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the World Bank Group (WBG) announced their intention to further mobilize public and private finance to help countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.

In the joint statement, the multilateral development banks (MDBs) pledged to "consider climate change across our strategies, programs, and operations to deliver more sustainable results, with a particular focus on the poor and most vulnerable." It noted that the six institutions had already delivered $100 billion for climate action in developing and emerging countries in the four years since starting to track climate finance in 2011.

The statement followed on commitments in recent weeks by the MDBs to increased financing for climate change mitigation and adaptation over the next few years.

The MDBs "pledge to increase our climate finance and to support the outcomes of the Paris conference through 2020," the statement read. "Each of our organizations has set goals for increasing its climate finance and for leveraging finance from other sources. These pledges support the US $100 billion a year commitment by 2020 for climate action in developing countries."

Around 180 countries have now submitted their national plans, the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the UNFCCC, laying out plans to tackle climate change and to reduce emissions.

The MDBs also expressed support for the voluntary Principles for Mainstreaming Climate Action within Financial Institutions, along with 17 other multilateral, bilateral, national and commercial finance institutions, and committed to "measure the impact of our work in partnership with others, including the International Development Finance Club."


CARICOM chairman tells world leaders climate change conference must have legally binding outcome

PARIS, France, Tuesday December 1, 2015 – The outcome of the climate change conference now underway in Paris must be ambitious, legally binding and ensure global participation. That was the message Barbados' Prime Minister and Caribbean Commuinty (CARICOM) chairman Freundel Stuart delivered in a statement to leaders at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in the French capital yesterday.

Stuart said the conference must take into consideration the special circumstances and needs of those countries that are most vulnerable – Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and Least Developed and Landlocked States – and deliver agreed decisions on a number of elements.

He expressed concern that the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) which countries have sumitted – that is, the post-2020 climate actions they are committing to take – are not enough to realize the goal of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5o Celsius.

"This shortcoming challenges us to take a sober look at our current predicament and, in the coming days, to find the path to success for the planet Earth and for all of its peoples," Stuart said.

He stressed that there must also be enhanced provisions for supporting the adaptation needs of vulnerable developing countries, including the setting up of adequate, predictable, new and additional finance, technology and capacity building support, and strengthening of institutional arrangements.

The CARICOM chairman said there must also be a commitment by developed countries "to take the lead in scaling-up the provision of adequate, predictable, new and additional financial resources, and opportunities for other parties willing to do so, to also contribute to scaling up climate finance".


Caribbean encouraged to work towards eliminating AIDS

KINGSTON, Jamaica — World AIDS Day 2015 is being commemorated under the theme, "Take care of the complete you: ask for a HIV test too". This year, the Ministry of Health says it will focus on a wellness and preventative drive that will be supported by mass media as well as community mobilization, which aims to increase the number of people with HIV knowing their status.

Minister of Health Horace Dalley states that, despite the significant strides that have been made over the years, stigma and discrimination continue to adversely affect HIV testing as well as access and uptake of HIV treatment services with low retention rates of antiretroviral treatment.

Minister Dalley said: "This year's commemoration of World AIDS Day provides us with the opportunity to strengthen testing strategies in order to reach people who are living with HIV but are unaware of their status, HIV is still widely stigmatised in Jamaica; hence the campaign has to be seen to be more comprehensive and not single-disease specific".

The ministry said the campaign will incorporate other preventative screening procedures and services such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cancer, dental, mental and family planning, along with HIV screening at selected health facilities as well strengthening and maximising the implementation of Provider Initiated Testing and Counselling in health settings to reach every patient utilising the health centres with HIV testing and linkage to care.

The Health Ministry said Jamaica is among the countries charged with the ambitious goal of the fast track approach to accelerate action to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.


Bahamas to host regional environment conference

NASSAU, Bahamas (CMC) -- Two years after the implementation of the 2014-2024 Caribbean Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy, delegates to a one-week regional forum here will discuss the progress made to date. The Caribbean Conference on Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM9), which opens today and runs until December 4, is being held under the theme 'The Road to Resilience: Checkpoint 2015'.

"As the theme suggests, this forum will be our first checkpoint for reporting on the progress made after two years of the implementation of the 2014-2024 Caribbean Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy as we aspire towards the desired future state of regional resilience. Consequently, a number of new initiatives will be unveiled," said the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).

These include the monitoring, evaluation and reporting framework for the CDM Strategy 2014-2024 and the baseline study. Together, these tools will provide decision-makers with information related to progress, gaps and lessons learnt in the implementation of CDM. The conference will also create a space for reflection on the progress of CDM over the last 10 years, the organisers said.

Director of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Captain Stephen Russell said "the Bahamas, through NEMA, is pleased to host the high level conference as Participating States, namely-Dominica and The Bahamas, continue to rebuild livelihoods following the destructive Tropical Storm Erika and the category four Hurricane Joaquin, respectively".

The conference will facilitate discussions on how the region can move to become more resilient in the face of being most vulnerable to climate change.

The weeklong conference will review the progress of CDM in the region over the last two iterations of the CDM Strategy as well as facilitate knowledge exchanges on pathways to resilience.


Cuba and US agree to cooperate in environmental protection

WASHINGTON, United States – The good relations between the United States and Cuba are continuing, with the two countries signing an agreement to cooperate on environmental protection. The joint declaration was signed at the Cuban Embassy in Washington on Tuesday.

It focuses on sustainable management of natural resources and shared ecosystems, particularly marine biodiversity development, the analysis of the causes and effects of climate change and initiatives to reduce the risks of natural disasters. The Cuban Embassy said that is crucial to reducing vulnerabilities for both countries.

The two countries have agreed, under the declaration, to exchange scientific and technological information and resources. They will also work towards joint scientific research.

This is the second bilateral instrument signed by the two governments in the last week, both relating to environmental matters.

Last Wednesday, representatives of both countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the Cooperation in Conservation of Marine Protected Areas.


Trinidad to strengthen trade facilitation processes with help from the IDB

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Thursday November 19, 2015 – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved a US$25 million loan to Trinidad and Tobago to help the twin-island republic improve its trade facilitation processes, part of an effort to boost and diversify the economy.

The loan will help strengthen the country's Single Electronic Window for Trade and Business Facilitation Project (TTBizLink), a secure business portal created in 2009 that simplifies foreign trade and business processes by providing around-the-clock access to relevant government services.

The platform seeks to substantially reduce time and costs of trade and business transactions for private sector users while gathering and sharing relevant information among government agencies to simplify processes and optimize revenue collection.

The 25-year loan will support business processing reengineering and risk management for government agencies, an e-payment solution, the connection with Ports and Customs systems, an intermodal logistics platform, and the interoperability with other single windows, among other things.

More than 70 countries around the world have implemented single-window systems, and multiple studies have shown that they experience substantial cost and time savings and enhanced transparency and interagency collaboration.

Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile and Peru are among the countries in Latin America that already have experienced significant improvements thanks to their single window programmes.


French Caribbean under state of emergency following Paris attacks

FORT DE FRANCE, Martinique, Thursday November 19, 2015 – The state of emergency declared by France following the deadly terror attacks in Paris has been extended to Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Mayotte, Reunion Island, and St Martin and St Barths.

This means that lawmen will have the power to randomly stop the circulation of persons and install zones of protection and security and detain suspicious persons and their possessions.

They will also be able to ban meetings or demonstrations, order searches in houses day or night, give a compulsory order of residence to any persons whose behaviour or activity is deemed dangerous for security and public order, and order the submission of weapons and ammunition.

In making the announcement, French Minister of Overseas Territories George Pau-Langevin said the decision is justified and necessary for "coherence and reinforcement of security systems".

The emergency measure went into effect after at least 129 people were killed and more than 350 injured in last Friday's coordinated attacks on Paris, which terrorist group, the Islamic State, has claimed responsibility.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has since warned that France was at risk of a chemical or biological weapons attack as legislators opened debate on extending the state of emergency for three more months.

The measure is used in "cases of imminent danger resulting from serious breaches of public order, or in case of events threatening, by their nature and gravity, public disaster".


Haiti's ruling party wins big in municipal elections

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AFP) – Haiti's ruling party has emerged as the big winner of the impoverished Caribbean country's municipal elections, election results showed Tuesday.

The PHTK party won more than 30 mayoral races, including Port-au-Prince, the biggest prize of the country's 140 municipalities.

The October 25 elections were delayed for three years because of a political impasse between President Michel Martelly and the opposition.

As mayors reached the end of their terms during that period, they had been gradually replaced with interim agents named directly by the presidency.

Despite the PHTK's strong showing, the results showed how fragmented politically the country has become, with mayors elected from about 30 different political parties.

Participation also was extremely low. Port-au-Prince, a city with more than 500,000 eligible voters, was won by the PHTK candidate with a little more than 10,000 votes.

The candidates and parties have 72 hours to challenge the results published by the provisional electoral council.

Winning candidates will take office only after any challenges are ruled on by electoral tribunals.

After being mired for years in a political crisis that kept any elections from being held, Haiti has been on an electoral marathon this year, holding presidential, legislative and now finally these municipal elections.

Ruling party candidate Jovenel Moise and Jude Celestin face off December 27 in a runoff for the presidency.

Since the end of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, Haiti has been jolted by coups and contested elections that have further undermined the economy of the region's poorest country, which is still recovering from a devastating 2010 earthquake that claimed more than 200,000 lives.


Confirmed cases of Zika virus in CARICOM region

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago – The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has confirmed five cases of Zika virus in Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nation. But it has not identified the country or given no details about the infected individuals.

In a statement issued today, CARPHA said the cases were confirmed on Monday.

While earlier this year, suspected cases of the mosquito-borne disease were reported in Brazil and the Dominican Republic, this is the first time Zika has been detected within CARICOM.

CARPHA's executive director Dr. C. James Hospedales has emphasized that prevention and control are fundamental in order to prevent transmission of the virus.

"The best way to protect yourself from this disease is to avoid mosquito bites and to prevent mosquitoes breeding in and around your home environment."

Zika is a viral disease, transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also the insect vector for Dengue and Chikungunya. The symptoms are also very similar to these diseases and include fever, muscle and joint pain, headache, nausea, and rash. There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika and symptoms last approximately four to seven days. Complications are rare and no deaths due to Zika have ever been recorded.


Latin America and the Caribbean maintain high traffic accident mortality rate

WASHINGTON, United States– Latin American and the Caribbean's progress on reducing road traffic accident fatalities has been slower than expected, and therefore the region should redouble its efforts to achieve the goal of halving the number of deaths stemming from these tragedies by 2020, as established by the United Nations, ECLAC said in a recently published report.

According to the FAL Bulletin N⁰ 342 of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), prepared in conjunction with the 2nd Global High-Level Conference on Road Safety that will be held in Brasilia on November 18-19, the rate of fatalities from road tragedies in the region grew 20 per cent in the first decade of the current century, rising to 17.68 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010 from 14.75 deaths in the year 2000.

These figures did not improve significantly in the first years of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, considering that according to recent statistics delivered by the World Health Organization (WHO), the road traffic fatality rate in Latin America and the Caribbean reached 15.9 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 2013, lower than the 16.1 deaths registered in 2010 but still far from the expected 50 per cent reduction by the end of the decade, which is in line with the sixth target of Goal 3 of the new Sustainable Development Goals.

To address this matter, ECLAC and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) will hold on November 19 in Brasilia a regional meeting on the occasion of the 2nd Global Conference, in which the current situation of Latin America and the Caribbean will be analyzed.

According to the global Plan of Action for the decade, five pillars were established that aim to promote the development and coordination of actions to reduce road accident mortality in local, national and global arenas. ECLAC's study analyzes Latin America and the Caribbean's performance on these five pillars during the first years of the decade of action and presents the region's pending challenges in terms of road safety.

The five pillars are related to road safety management, road infrastructure and broader transport networks, safer vehicles, road users and post-crash response.


New study finds inequality a major barrier to good health in the Caribbean

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (CMC) – A new study by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has found that persistent inequities across gender, race and socioeconomic groups in the Americas, including the Caribbean, compound every major health challenge facing the region.

Evidence and analysis presented in a new series of articles in the Pan American Journal of Public Health, PAHO's peer-reviewed scientific journal, highlight key social, economic, cultural and environmental barriers to ensuring that quality health care and the conditions necessary for healthy lives are available and accessible to all the people of the Americas, regardless of income level or location.

On Wednesday, PAHO said that the 11 articles are part of a new series, entitled "Equity in Health and Sustainable Development," published across five issues of the journal, from July to November 2015.

"The research findings are especially important to shed light on problems that must be addressed as countries in the Americas work to achieve 'universal health,' a goal they collectively endorsed in 2014," PAHO said.

In an introduction to the series, PAHO Assistant Director, Dr Francisco Becerra, says "this mission—our mission—should focus primarily on mitigating the profound and ubiquitous social, economic, and environmental inequities that perpetuate a world of arbitrary and unjust inequalities in terms of people's ability to live full, healthy, decent, and gratifying lives."

It was found that access to health care for women of indigenous and African descent in Latin America and the Caribbean has been stymied by deep discrimination, including patient blaming, neglect, verbal or physical abuse and disregard for traditional beliefs.

While infant mortality in Latin America and the Caribbean has fallen by half overall since 1980, countries like Haiti have not shared equally in these gains, PAHO said.

In 2012, Haiti's infant mortality rate was 64 per 1,000 live births, compared with the regional average of 27 per 1,000, according to an article by researchers at the International Centre for Equity in Health at the Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil.

PAHO said problems examined in the series include inequality in reproductive, maternal and child health in Latin America and the Caribbean; the role of ethnicity and gender in generating inequality; and how lack of access to a healthy environment, clean water and adequate sanitation incubates diseases such as tuberculosis.


CDB and European Investment Bank agree to work on climate change and energy issues

By Desmond Brown BRIDGETOWN, Barbados– Officials from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the European Investment Bank (EIB), signed a Letter of Intent formalizing their intention to work together in the future to address pressing issues relating to climate change, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The signing took place at CDB's offices in Barbados, and was part of a two-day visit to the island by officials of the EIB, including its Vice President, Pim Van Ballekom.

Speaking at the signing, Dr. Warren Smith, President of CDB, said: "The Letter speaks to strengthening support for the sustainable economic development of our region and, more specifically, to supporting climate adaptation and mitigation initiatives in Caribbean countries. It, therefore, represents another phase in the strengthening of a long standing partnership and a deepening of cooperation between our two institutions that has produced four loan operations, to date."

He noted that the Letter of Intent formalizes a relationship between the institutions which began in 2011 when EIB agreed to provide a US$65.3 million Climate Action Line of Credit to CDB to be used to finance public or private sector climate action projects, including energy efficiency; renewable energy; transportation; low-carbon technologies, development and innovation; and adaptation.

Total commitments to date from that Line of Credit amount to US$35 million, or 54 per cent of the facility, with the funds being used for highway reconstruction; water supply redevelopment; dam rehabilitation and a solar PV plant. It is anticipated that the funds will be fully committed by March 2016.


Caribbean agriculture looks to cope with climate change

By Desmond Brown BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday November 9, 2015, IPS – Climate change represents a clear and growing threat to food security in the Caribbean with differing rainfall patterns, water scarcity, heat stress and increased climatic variability making it difficult for farmers to meet demand for crops and livestock.

Nearly all of the countries in the Caribbean have been experiencing prolonged drought, posing significant challenges to food production in one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change.

"Last year the drought was prolonged over a period of about five months; it affected 18,000 farmers and cost the agricultural sector about J$1 billion (US$8.3 million). So climate change through drought has really been a challenge," Norman Grant, President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), told IPS.

"What you find is that because of the drought, the domestic crop production has declined. For example, in 2014 our domestic crop production declined by just under about three or four percent and then it challenges the issue of our food import bill."

Each year the Caribbean imports US$5 billion worth of food.

Grant spoke with IPS during an event aimed at developing a business approach for the agri-food sector in Caribbean and other small island states (SIDS) in African Caribbean and Pacific Regions.

The Caribbean and Pacific Agri-Food Forum is organized by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), together with the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), with the support of the Intra-ACP Agricultural Policy Programme.

Jethro Greene, the Chief Coordinator of the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN), said climate change is causing "all kinds of challenges" for the region's farmers.

"There are ad hoc weather conditions, there's drought when we don't expect it, rain when we don't expect it, floods when we don't expect it. You can't tell what is the rainy season from what is the dry season," Greene told IPS.

"We are trying to get people's attention drawn to the fact that small farmers are more vulnerable than most and that some of our practices like crop rotation and intercropping are more favourable in terms of environmental practice. So attention must be given to help us cement and improve these practices and build on these practices," he said.

CaFAN represents farmers in all 15 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries. Initiated by farmer organizations across the Caribbean in 2002, it is mandated to speak on behalf of its membership and to develop programmes and projects aimed at improving livelihoods and to collaborate with all stakeholders in the agriculture sector to the strategic advantage of its farmers.

Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management in Barbados, Esworth Reid, said small island states are feeling the effects of climate change and this phenomenon has been impacting negatively on the agricultural sector due to long periods of drought.


World Bank warns of increased poverty in Latin America and Caribbean due to climate change

WASHINGTON, United States, Monday November 9, 2015 – Without climate-informed development in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2.6 million more people could fall into extreme poverty by 2030, largely as a result of the health impacts of climate change and effects of warmer temperatures on worker productivity, according to a World Bank report.

Natural disasters are also likely to disproportionately affect the poor in the region.

The report, Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty, finds that poor people are already at high risk from climate-related shocks, including crop failures from reduced rainfall, spikes in food prices after extreme weather events, and increased incidence of diseases after heat waves and floods. It says such shocks could wipe out hard-won gains, leading to irreversible losses, driving people back into poverty

Climate change is already preventing people from escaping poverty, and without rapid, inclusive and climate-smart development, together with emissions-reductions efforts that protect the poor, overall there could be more than 100 million additional people in extreme poverty by 2030.

The report, released a month before negotiators gather in Paris for international climate talks, finds that the poorest people are more exposed than the average population to climate-related shocks such as floods, droughts, and heat waves, and they lose much more of their wealth when they are hit.

In the 52 countries where data was available, 85 percent of the population live in countries where poor people are more exposed to drought than the average. Poor people are also more exposed to higher temperatures and live in countries where food production is expected to decrease because of climate change.

"This report sends a clear message that ending poverty will not be possible unless we take strong action to reduce the threat of climate change on poor people and dramatically reduce harmful emissions," said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. "Climate change hits the poorest the hardest, and our challenge now is to protect tens of millions of people from falling into extreme poverty because of a changing climate."

Agriculture will be the main driver of any increase in poverty, the report finds. Modelling studies suggest that climate change could result in global crop yield losses as large as five per cent by 2030 and 30 per cent by 2080. Health effects – higher incidence of malaria, diarrhea and stunting – and the labour productivity effects of high temperatures are the next-strongest drivers.


CARICOM Energy Week Kilo Walk

CARICOM Energy Week (CEW) will be observed from 7-14 November, 2015, under the theme `Empowering Our Sustainable Development'. The Week will be launched on Saturday with a `Kilo Walk' from the CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana.

The CEW was established in 2011 as an annual event, based on a mandate from CARICOM Energy Ministers to provide a platform for increased awareness on energy matters.

The activities and events during the week will provide an opportunity to raise awareness in relation to energy matters in CARICOM Member States whilst simultaneously addressing, in a deliberate way, some of the critical energy issues that continue to limit sustainable energy use.

Representatives of the Media are invited to cover the following:

EVENT: Kilo Walk to launch CARICOM Energy Week

DATE: 7 November, 2015

TIME: 6 am

VENUE: Starting point: CARICOM Secretariat→ west along the Railway Embankment →north on Conversation Tree→ east on Rupert Craig Highway→ along the University of Guyana Road → back to the Secretariat.


Haiti council names two candidates for presidential runoff

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Government-backed candidate Jovenel Moise and former state construction chief Jude Celestin appear to be advancing to a runoff election for Haiti's presidency, according to preliminary results announced Thursday.

The much-anticipated results from the 54-candidate first round presidential contest on Oct. 25 were issued by Pierre Louis Opont, the leader of the Provisional Electoral Council. Since no candidate won a majority in that ballot, the two top finishers are set to meet in a Dec. 27 runoff.

Opont did not take any questions from reporters after delivering the preliminary results at the council headquarters, which was under guard by heavily armed police. He said Moise received 511,992 votes or 32.8 percent of the total, and Celestin got 394,390 or 25.2 percent.


Climate change could cost Caribbean millions annually

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – Caribbean countries have been warned that if left unchecked, climate-related natural disasters, especially hurricane and drought, could result in losses estimated at US$22 billion annually by 2050.

"This means basically that the Caribbean region can be taken back 20-30 years because of the issue of climate change," said Juan M. Cheaz Pelaez, senior programme coordinator for Agricultural Policy and Value Chains at the -.

Addressing the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum that ends here Friday, the CTA official also noted that climate change left an estimated US$136 billion in damages throughout the Caribbean during the period 1990 and 2008.

"I can tell you there are huge economic losses every year related to climate change and, therefore, the need from all actors that are concerned and that are affected to try and mitigate and adapt and to be proactive to try to avoid that," he said.

Among the objectives of the forum is to help the Caribbean and Pacific regions make further progress towards resilient communities and climate-smart agricultural practices and policies in the face of climate change.

"In the case of the Caribbean region, as you know, the intensity of droughts, or the intensity of rain or the natural phenomena has a devastating effects on the crop, on farmers," Chaez said.

"One [climate-related] phenomenon can do away with many livelihoods. So it is a modern part of economics and also of people's livelihood. It's very relevant to the Caribbean and to having an economy in general that is resilient and an agriculture that is resilient," he said.

The weeklong forum is exploring the best opportunities to build partnerships that can make a difference as the Caribbean and Pacific regions battle with climate change.

"Being such a big issue — climate change — there are so many initiatives on the ground, so CTA is making an analysis of what is really the state of the art in terms of practices, in terms of polices, around climate change policies and measures, and we are bringing key actors together to identify what's happening, what kind of assistance is needed, and how, based on that analysis, we can move forward," Cheaz said.

Chief executive officer for the Barbados Agricultural Society, James Paul, identified climate change among the forces that "threaten the future of the agricultural sector in small island developing states.


CARICOM climate change ministers and negotiators working out COP21 strategy

CASTRIES, St. Lucia – CARICOM climate change negotiators and ministers began a two-day meeting in St. Lucia last week, to revise and improve the region`s negotiating artillery in preparation for the 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).

This second meeting of CARICOM ministers responsible for climate change follows a previous gathering held in Castries on September 18. The objective of the meeting is to prepare the ministers to engage in the pre-COP meeting organized by the COP Presidency, in November.

With just over one month before the start of COP 21, and on the heels of a climate negotiators preparatory meeting held earlier this month in Bonn, Germany, this is an opportune time for CARICOM negotiators and ministers to be updated on the critical issues, especially those with implications for Small Island Developing States.

At the meeting, ministers will be apprised of the state of climate change negotiations under the UNFCC for a new climate change agreement to be finalized at the COP 21 in Paris France (Nov. 30 – Dec 11).

The meeting will be preceded by a meeting of CARICOM climate change negotiators.

The meeting is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology, the High Level Support Mechanism and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre.


Jamaica Government Grants Licence To Canadian Company To Grow Ganja For Research

KINGSTON, Jamaica (CMC) – the Jamaica government has granted a licence to the Canadian nutraceutical and pharmaceutical company, Timeless Herbal Care Limited (THC), allowing it to cultivate marijuana, locally, for research and development, in keeping with provisions outlined in the amended Dangerous Drugs Act.

THC is the first private entity to be granted such a licence after the government granted similar awards to the University of the West Indies (UWI), and University of Technology (UTech)

A government statement said that, THC is now able to develop an international global brand for Jamaican medical marijuana, by incorporating state-of-the-art scientific applications and methodologies to conduct research on organic marijuana deemed of the highest quality.

It said, "this undertaking is expected to position the country to tap into the global industry, which generates an estimated US$1 billion in earnings."

Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining Minister, Phillip Paulwell, who presented the licence to THC President and Chief Executive Officer, Courtney Betty, said, the government remains committed to positioning Jamaica as a global leader in medical marijuana research and development.

He encouraged THC to "move very quickly" in establishing facilities capable of conducting the level of research that will record significant outcomes.

Paulwell said, while the ministry awaits the outcome of work being undertaken by the Cannabis Licensing Authority, "we anticipate, very soon, that the regulations will be in a position to be promulgated and that…you (THC) will move from research to commercial operations."

Paulwell said, while frequent updates are expected from the licensees, "we in the Ministry, through the National Commission on Science and Technology (NCST), and the Scientific Research Council (SRC), we (will be) monitoring…the institutions."

Betty said, his company is pleased to have been awarded the licence, pointing out that "we take our research and development very seriously".


World Bank approves loan inclusive growth and climate resilience

WASHINGTON, October 29, 2015- The World Bank Board of Directors approved today a US$ 15 million Development Policy Credit and Loan (DPC/DPL) with Grenada which aims to create sustainable conditions for private investment, improve public resource management, strengthen the banking sector and boost resilience against natural disasters.

As a small and middle income island economy, Grenada was hit hard by the 2008 global financial crisis. Real GDP contracted by more than 8 percent between 2009 and 2012, while fiscal deficit more than doubled as a share of GDP. Grenada's economic recovery accelerated in 2014, driven by the strong performance of tourism and agriculture.

This financing builds on the reforms supported under the first DPC/DPL in a series of three and is aligned with the Government's national development strategy which aims to accelerate economic growth, restore fiscal and debt sustainability, strengthening financial stability and improve social development indicators.

"Grenada's ambitious fiscal consolidation efforts are showing positive results," said Sophie Sirtaine, Country Director for the Caribbean. "With this financing, Grenada is expected to address critical bottlenecks to help promote inclusive growth and shared prosperity in the country".


CARICOM votes against Cuban trade embargo

NEW YORK, United States, Wednesday October 28, 2015 – Countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) were among the 191 nations calling for an end to the decades-old US trade embargo on Cuba, as the United Nations yesterday adopted the resolution for a 24th consecutive year. The United States, which recently relaxed restrictions and resumed diplomatic ties, continued to cast a "no" vote.

In a near unanimous vote, the 193-member UN General Assembly adopted a resolution renewing its call for an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the US against Cuba, while also acknowledging the restoration, after nearly 50 years, of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

By a vote of 191 in favour to two against – Israel and the United States –, the Assembly welcomed the resumption of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, announced last July, and the willingness of American President Barack Obama to work towards the lifting of the economic, financial and trade embargo against Cuba.

Having taken up the text for the past 24 years, the Assembly reiterated its call to all states to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures not conforming with their obligations un the UN Charter and international law, which reaffirm freedom of trade and navigation.

The Assembly "once again urges States that have and continue to apply such laws and measures to take the necessary steps to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible," the text added.


World Bank says Jamaica among countries with most business reforms

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (CMC) — The World Bank says Jamaica and Mexico have recorded the most reforms in Latin America and the Caribbean in the last five years, continuing to make big strides to improve their countries' business climate According to the World Bank's latest annual ease of doing business measurement, titled "Doing Business 2016: Measuring Regulatory Quality and Efficiency", which was released Tuesday, Costa Rica is the world's top improver.

The Washington-based financial institution said Jamaica is also among the global top 10 improvers, as it implemented a regional high of four reforms for the second consecutive year.

On Starting a Business, for instance, the bank said Jamaica decreased the time to incorporate a business from 15 to three days.

Mexico, the best ranked economy in the region, implemented two reforms in the areas of "Getting Credit and Paying Taxes" during the past year, the World Bank said.

As a result, it said the country improved its global ranking to 38 amongst 189 economies worldwide.

"While the pace of reform activity has slowed in Latin America and the Caribbean, improvements are still being made," said Rita Ramalho, manager of the Doing Business project, noting that "in 2004, only eight economies recorded reforms, compared to 15 in the past year".

The World Bank said Costa Rica implemented at least three reforms and moved up on the global rankings scale.

For the second year in a row, it said Costa Rica implemented reforms in the areas of Paying Taxes and Getting Electricity, in addition to making Getting Credit easier. On Getting Electricity, the time for a Costa Rican entrepreneur to get connected to the electrical grid has decreased from 55 to 45 days over the past year – which is now less than in Sweden.

The World Bank said several economies in the region also digitized procedures for trading across borders in the past year.

It said Suriname implemented an automated system that allows the electronic submission of customs declarations and supporting documents for exports and imports.

Brazil, Guatemala and Bahamas also introduced or improved systems allowing electronic submission and processing of trade-related documents for exports, imports or both, the bank said.

In the past year, it said Caribbean economies continued to make "remarkable progress" in resolving insolvency, saving viable businesses through reorganization.

In the previous year, the World Bank said Trinidad and Tobago, and St. Kitts-Nevis had modernized their insolvency frameworks.

It said that in 2014/15, Jamaica and St Vincent and the Grenadines adopted new insolvency laws.

Colombia has emerged as the country in Latin America and the Caribbean that has improved its business regulation the most since Doing Business started 12 year ago, the bank said.

The report also points out that less than half of the 32 economies in the Latin America and the Caribbean region implemented reforms during the past year.

This year's Doing Business report completes a two-year effort to expand benchmarks that measure the quality of regulation, as well as efficiency of the business regulatory framework, in order to better capture ground realities, the World Bank said.

On the five indicators that saw changes in this report – Dealing with Construction Permits, Getting Electricity, Enforcing Contracts, Registering Property and Trading across Borders – the World Bank said Latin America and the Caribbean economies "have room for improvement."


U.S. gives region good review for religious freedom

WASHINGTON, USA (CMC) — So accustomed to annual scathing reports on human rights practices and drug trafficking, Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries have received what can be considered overall favourable and rare review of their religious practices by the United States.

In its International Religious Freedom Report for 2014, released here earlier this month, the US Department of State said "there were no reports of significant societal actions affecting religious freedom" in most Caricom-member states.

Washington, however, said that some religious groups, such as Rastafarians and Muslims, continued, in some territories, to "express concern about government practices impacting their religious activities."

In Jamaica, the report said that while the constitution provides for freedom of religion, including the freedom to worship and to change religion, and that it prohibits discrimination based on belief, "Rastafarians expressed concerns about the government's prohibition of their use of marijuana for religious purposes. They stated they experienced additional scrutiny from law enforcement officials," the report said.

"Rastafarians stated that elements of their religious observance resulted in barriers to employment and professional advancement."

The report said local media outlets in Jamaica provided a forum for religious debate, and that the US Embassy in Kingston engaged in dialogue with religious groups, including Christians, Muslims, Jews and Rastafarians, as part of its overall efforts to promote religious freedom.


Caribbean record strong tourism figures for 2015

The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) is forecasting a five to six per cent growth in tourist arrivals for the region in 2015. The news comes as the region outpaces all other major regions globally, with record numbers for the first six months of 2015.

"For the first six months the Caribbean welcomed 14.8 million, approximately 800 thousand or 5.8 per cent higher than the corresponding period in 2014, well above the 4.1 per cent recorded globally," Richard Sealy, CTO chairman told journalists at a press conference at the close of the State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC), now on in Willemstad, Curacao.

The Caribbean share of global arrivals stood at 2.8 per cent.

Sealy, supported by executive director of the CTO, Hugh Riley, president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourist Association (CHTA), Emil Lee and Curacao Minister of Economic Development, Stanley Palm, said the Dutch Caribbean saw the fastest relative growth across the subregions, with an 8.5 per cent increase in arrivals.

He said all destinations in this sub-region had considerable growth benefiting from increase demand from the US and South American markets.

"Of the other five subregions only the French West Indies recorded a slight decline," he said.

The US continues to be the most important source market, registering 7.3 million visits between January and June representing a 5.3 per cent rise.

"The thawing of the relationship between Cuba and United States resulted in greater number of Americans transiting through other countries like The Bahamas, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands in order to visit Cuba," revealed Sealy.

The Canadian market continues to perform well with 2.1 million visits during the period, however, arrivals from Europe increased only by a modest 1.1 per cent, moving from 2.58 million in 2014 to 2.61 in 2015.

He pointed out that the intra-regional market recorded strong growth of 5.5 per cent, with some 400 thousand visits.


JetBlue increases flights to Barbados

NEW YORK, United States, October 22, 2015 – JetBlue today announced its intent to expand the airline's service to Barbados by adding a daily roundtrip flight between Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL) and Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) in Barbados.

The announcement was made by JetBlue's President & CEO Robin Hayes at the Caribbean Tourism Organization State of the Industry Conference in Curacao. The new daily roundtrip service is set to begin in April 2016, subject to government approval, with seats going on sale in the coming weeks. JetBlue's Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood focus city will become the third JetBlue city with non-stop flights to Barbados. Service from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) launched in 2009 and service from Boston's Logan International Airport (BOS) will begin this fall.

"Vibrant Caribbean communities like Barbados are critical to our success," said Hayes, who was the keynote speaker at the Caribbean Tourism Organization's State of the Industry Conference.

"Barbados is a terrific example of a destination where we have a true partnership with the tourism ministry, the airport, and local hoteliers. We are working together to expand travel options to this incredibly beautiful island, boosting tourism and the local economy. Thanks to the US-Barbados open skies agreement, and so many of the open skies agreements the US has with other nations, JetBlue has been able to continuously add new low fare services like this one, and that's been a real boon for the traveling public."

Today's announcement comes as JetBlue prepares to launch other new options for customers travelling to Barbados. New non-stop seasonal Saturday service between Boston and Barbados will begin November 7. On the same day, JetBlue will also launch seasonal Saturday Mint service between New York and Barbados. Additionally, seasonal Saturday Mint service between Boston and Barbados will begin in March 2016.

JetBlue's newest flights to Barbados are also a part of ongoing growth at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport where it operates nearly 100 flights per day to more than 40 destinations. JetBlue is commencing service to 8 new destinations in 2015 from the South Florida focus city and has already announced three more that will begin in 2016. Barbados service from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood will provide JetBlue customers with more connection options from destinations across the existing JetBlue network, including western U.S. destinations like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas.


Ancient fossils reveal humans greater threat than climate change

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA (UFL.edu) – Nearly 100 fossil species pulled from a flooded cave in the Bahamas reveal a true story of persistence against all odds — at least until the time humans stepped foot on the islands..

University of Florida researchers say the discovery, detailed in a study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows many human activities pose a threat to the future of island biodiversity, with modern human-driven climate change not necessarily the most alarming.

A new $375,000 National Science Foundation grant will allow further exploration of caves on Caribbean islands beginning in December.

Thirty-nine of the species discussed in the new study no longer exist on Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas. Of those, 17 species of birds likely fell victim to changes in climate and rising sea levels around the end of the ice age, about 10,000 years ago.

Twenty-two other species of reptiles, birds and mammals persisted through those dramatic environmental changes only to vanish when humans first arrived on the island 1,000 years ago.

Exploring why some species were more flexible than others in the face of climate and human-driven changes could alter the way we think about conservation and restoration of species today, when scientists fear activities like habitat alteration and the introduction of invasive species could pose the greatest risk to island species, said lead author Dave Steadman, ornithology curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.


Venezuela leader wants economic zone for Caribbean and Latin America

ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada, Tuesday October 20, 2015 – Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro is advocating the establishment of an economic zone for the Caribbean and Latin American. He says the economic zone should be part of a production and economic plan aimed at curbing the region's high import bill.

During a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell in Grenada over the weekend, the Venezuelan leader also suggested the establishment of a commerce and purchase agreement with Caribbean countries.

"I insist that we need to create an economic zone in the region. We need to produce locally," Maduro said.

"We need to have a production and economic plan. Venezuela, with all its challenges, we are still importing billions. We need to curb this."

During the talks, Prime Minister Mitchell also lamented his country's high import bill compared to the high level of food production.

"Look at how much food we produce yet we continue to import millions of dollars. Unless we take major intervention in food security, we will not only develop agriculture but increase the health of our people," the Grenadian leader said.

President Maduro suggested that the Caribbean and Latin America work out transportation arrangements to facilitate the movement of goods and services.


Six Caribbean countries to benefit from Sustainable Energy Facility

MIAMI, FLORIDA October 20, 2015 – More funding has been put in place to facilitate the growth of the renewable energy sector in the Eastern Caribbean. The Sustainable Energy Facility for the Eastern Caribbean; a USD 71.5 million loan and grant package, was today signed by Dr. William Warren Smith, President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and Luis Alberto Moreno of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

The signing occurred at the Intercontinental Hotel in Miami ahead of the start of the annual Caribbean Renewable Energy Conference.

The six independent countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) – Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines – are island states with small and isolated electricity markets, lacking the scale necessary to import cheaper fossil fuels, such as natural gas, and inadequate development of renewable energy potential.

SEF has the potential to move these Eastern Caribbean countries closer to energy security; a more diversified energy matrix; and increased competitiveness.


Invest in improvement of statistics – SG urges Member States

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, has urged Member States to invest in the improvement of the production of statistics to support and guide sustained Regional economic and social development.

He also commended statisticians in the Community for their efforts in the face of resource constraints that the Region was confronting.

In a message to mark Caribbean Statistics Day being observed this year on 15 October, the Secretary-General said "it is my wish that the theme of 'Better Data, Better Lives' for this year's observance can assist in demonstrating that statistics is an integral part in ensuring an improved quality of life of the peoples of our Region.'

The observance of Caribbean Statistics Day seeks to raise the profile of statistics in the Community to create more awareness of its production, dissemination and use in decision-making.

This year also marks the Second Observance of World Statistics Day on 20 October 2015.


Venezuelan President to visit Grenada and St. Lucia this weekend

ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada – (CMC) – Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is scheduled to visit Grenada and St. Lucia this weekend to discuss ongoing and future areas of cooperation between the member states of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the South American nation.

An advance contingent from Venezuela arrived in both islands on Wednesday, ahead of Maduro's arrival on Saturday, October 17.

Both countries are in the process of finalising a programme of activities for the weekend trip.

Maduro's visit will bring to four, the Eastern Caribbean nations that Maduro will visit in the space of three weeks.

While the details are not known, it's expected that Maduro will spend three hours in Grenada having bilateral discussion and visiting projects funded by the Venezuelan Government.

On September 23 he visited St. Kitts and Nevis and storm-ravaged Dominica. While in St Kitts Nevis, Maduro, whose government provided EC$16 million (US$5.9 million) to finalize compensation to sugar workers who were affected by the abrupt closure of the sugar industry in 2005, participated in a ceremonial handing of cheques to those former workers. In Dominica, he officially announced that his government would build 300 homes for those who lost their homes when Tropical Storm Erika ravaged the island in late August.


France warns about security risks caused by global warming

PARIS, France (AP) — UN conference on climate in Paris this year will also be a "conference for peace," given that global warming threatens the world's security, a top French official said Wednesday. Government officials from several African and island nations gathered in Paris on Wednesday to discuss the implications of climate change for defence issues.

"Climate and international security are closely linked," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said. Major droughts, floods and famines force people to migrate and "increase the risk of conflicts," he said.

In addition, making the transition to renewable energy sources will help ease power struggles over the control of oil and natural gas resources, Fabius added.

Defence ministers of neighbouring Chad and Niger described the growing desertification of Africa's Sahel region as a multiplier of threats —especially in the troubled Lake Chad region, which is facing frequent attacks by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.

Mahamadou Karidjo, Niger's defence minister, said his government's main concern was "to ensure that Nigerien people don't starve to death" amid climate changes.

Haitian Defence Minister Lener Renauld stressed the importance of curbing global warming. His Caribbean island is particularly vulnerable to climatic-related events.

"I'm convinced that for this planet, there's no plan B," he said.

France is host a major UN climate change conference from November 30 to December 11.


Small and medium business leaders to meet in St Lucia

CASTRIES, St Lucia – Entrepreneurs, owners, operators and managers of small to medium firms from across the region will meet here from Wednesday to adopt a strategy aimed at strengthening entrepreneurship and boost job creation across 14 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries.

The three-day Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development Workshop and Business Incubator Management (BIM) Training forms part of a series of training sessions, designed to build an integrated ecosystem of support for early-stage entrepreneurs in the region.

The workshop is part of the Accelerate Caribbean regional incubation support programme designed by the World Bank Group, InfoDev, to strengthen innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation across CARICOM.

The workshop will bring together incubator managers, entrepreneurs, academics, government officials, the media, donors and investors.

Team Leader of Accelerate Caribbean, Natalia Pipia, said the "Caribbean demonstrates a natural inclination towards innovation and entrepreneurship.

"People here work hard to build products, design new technology and offer services very attractive to even overseas markets, yet so many small businesses do not survive more than a few years," she noted.

Pipia said Accelerate Caribbean is offering training in incubation management to qualified professionals and business support companies in the Eastern Caribbean "to mitigate against this low business survival rate, which is critical to job creation and development in the region".

The highlight of the workshop will be a panel discussion on "Building a Strong Interconnected Start-up Community in St Lucia".


New ambassador to focus on energy, security and trade

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (JIS) – New Ambassador to the United States, Ralph Thomas, says energy, security, trade and economic development are among the priorities he intends to pursue at the State and Federal levels.

Addressing Jamaicans in the Diaspora, representatives of Federal and State governments and members of the diplomatic corps at a reception held in his honour in Washington, on October 8, Ambassador Thomas said he would be interfacing with US authorities to ensure that the priority areas receive due attention.

The Jamaican envoy, who is also the country's Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), told the large audience that he will be engaged with hemispheric issues, key among them the promotion and protection of democracy, human rights, security and sustainable development.

Ambassador Thomas said that through collective efforts, these multilateral engagements are critical to ensuring that the region remains stable, and for member countries to advance in the areas of security and economic development.

Turning to the Diaspora, the ambassador said cultural awareness must be promoted, especially among second and third generation Jamaicans; the fraternal bonds between the Jamaican diaspora in the US and Jamaicans back home should be strengthened; and support and guidance must be provided for philanthropic initiatives.

"The time has come when we must mobilise the Diaspora to have a greater voice in the respective communities in which we reside," said Ambassador Thomas. To this end, he said he would be seeking to promote better youth engagement and exchange between Jamaica and the USA, in which "our next generation can share in our rich cultural heritage."

The Ambassador assured that he will actively serve, not just those who reside in the District of Columbia metropolitan area, but across the length and breadth of the USA.


Caribbean immigrants among 314 criminals arrested in U.S.

MIAMI, United States – The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) says it has arrested several Caribbean nationals among 314 criminal immigrants in an enforcement action targeting individuals who pose a threat to public safety.

The immigration agency said those arrested from the Caribbean included nationals from the Bahamas, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, Turks & Caicos Islands, Antigua, and Cuba.

The arrests were made across the state of Florida, during an enforcement action, which concluded on September 29.

ICE said more than one-quarter had criminal records that included felony convictions for serious or violent offences, such as murder, attempted murder, child sex crimes, sex offences, weapons charges, and drug violations.

"As this operation makes clear, ICE is committed to prioritising convicted criminals and those who are public safety threats for apprehension and removal," said Marc Moore, field office director for the Miami Field Office of ERO, which oversees all of Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.


UN launches probe amidst bribery allegations against Antiguan diplomat

NEW YORK, United States, Friday October 9, 2015, (IPS) – After initial hesitation, the United Nations has decided to probe allegations of bribery and corruption extending to the office of a past president of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), the highest policy-making body in the 70-year old organization.

Ambassador John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda, who has been accused of receiving over US$1.3 million in "bribes" from a Chinese company, was the president of UNGA during 2013-2014.

The investigations will also focus on a donation of about US$1.5 million to the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (OSSC) from the Sun Kian Ip Group of China and one of its affiliates, Global Sustainability Foundation.

The head of the Group, a Chinese businessman Ng Lap Seng, and several of his colleagues are under arrest on charges of bribery and tax evasion.

The US federal authorities have charged Ashe with tax fraud – primarily for not declaring his income in his annual tax returns – which carry penalties that include heavy fines and/or jail sentences.

"In light of the recent accusations announced by US federal authorities, the Secretary-General is requesting that the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) launch an audit of the interaction between the United Nations and the Global Sustainability Foundation and the Sun Kian Ip Group, and the use of any funds received from these entities," UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters yesterday.


World Bank warns of adverse effects for Latin America and Caribbean

The World Bank says four years of an economic downturn are beginning to have adverse effects on jobs and household incomes in Latin America and the Caribbean. It said that after a commodity boom brought significant gains, a drop in labour force participation is causing families to feel the pinch.

The latest World Bank semiannual regional report points out that the expectation is that the region will see zero per cent growth for 2015 with a slight improvement to one per cent in 2016, although uncertainty around that projection is high.

The report titled " Jobs, Wages and the Latin American Slowdown" notes that would be the fifth year in a row the region has underperformed initial expectations, a sign that new factors, mainly internal, are prolonging the effects of worsening external conditions, particularly the sharp deceleration in China and fall of commodity prices.

"Even with the slowdown, labour markets in the region had managed to remain strong," said Augusto de la Torre, World Bank Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean.

"More recently, however, we are seeing employment quality deteriorate, as salaried workers become self-employed, and workers shift from larger to smaller companies.

"Most notable, however, is the fact that workers are exiting the labour market altogether, a propensity that is particularly marked among less educated, young males. As they go back home, or back to school, without a salary, the income of poorer households may suffer more," he added.


Caribbean bankers concerned over new "tax haven list"

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Wednesday October 7, 2015 – The Caribbean Association of Banks Inc. (CAB) is expressing deep concern over yet another tax-haven list which includes 15 Commonwealth Caribbean countries, and it's calling for them all to be removed.

The list appears within the District of Columbia's 2015 Budget Support Act – which expands the definition of tax haven -, due to be passed by the US Congress.

The St. Lucia-based CAB said in a statement issued yesterday that while it fully supports the District of Columbia's efforts to combat tax evasion, the designation of Caribbean territories as tax havens is prejudicial.

"It must be highlighted that this inaccurate description of Caribbean territories has already had and could have even further-reaching effects on the Caribbean's financial services sector as well as the economies. Indigenous banks in the region are currently being challenged with the threat of loss of correspondent banking relationships which are provided by international banks," it said.

"The DC 2015 Budget Support Act's "black list" may serve to exacerbate the perception of our region as a high risk area and consequently, negatively impact the Risk Rating profile of financial institutions by correspondent banks."

It added: "The CAB is unable to understand the justification for identifying these countries as tax havens and has written to the District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser (also copied to 13 Council members) and key members of Congress (Chairman and Ranking Members of both the House Appropriations Committee and the Subcommittee on Financial Services) urging them to remove the names of the Caribbean countries from this listing of tax havens as defined. The association noted that the Caribbean countries were being labelled tax havens even though: the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes have confirmed that all members of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) are fully or largely compliant and have committed to Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI); none of the CARICOM countries listed in the Act are on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) AML/CFT Strategic Deficiencies Lists; all of the CARICOM territories listed in the Act have cooperated with the US Internal Revenue Service through the US Foreign Account Tax Compliant Act (FATCA) and (with the exception of one) are listed as either having a signed intergovernmental agreement (IGA) or being treated as having an IGA in effect; and all CAB member banks and financial services institutions have mechanisms in place to satisfy FATCA requirements.


Jamaica secures $810.2 million World Bank grant for climate change project

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) – The Government has received approximately $810.2 million (US$6.8 million) in World Bank grant funding support to improve climate and weather data collection and information management within Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs).

The undertaking is part of a package of projects, valued of approximately $3.57 billion (US$30 million), which are being financed in Jamaica under the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR).

The US$1.2 billion PPCR is a funding window of the US$8.1 billion Climate Investment Funds (CIFs), which assists developing countries to integrate climate resilience into development planning.

Improvement of the data platform aims to better position Jamaica to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change, characterised by among other things, extreme drought and abnormal rainfall patterns.

Finance and Planning Minister, Dr Peter Phillips, in welcoming the World Bank support, underscored the need to generate data that will adequately assist Jamaica's preparation to deal with climate change.

He was addressing the signing ceremony held on Friday at his ministry's National Heroes Circle offices in Kingston.

Dr Phillips said the climate data project, to be implemented by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), will be of "tremendous" benefit to the country, and particularly, key stakeholders such as farmers, planners, residents in food-prone areas, and tourism and health sector interests.


ECLAC projects growth for Caribbean in 2015 and 2016

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday October 5, 2015 – While the wider Latin America and the Caribbean grouping looks set to see a contraction this year, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) says Caribbean economies looks set to grow not only in 2015 but 2016 as well.

ECLAC today forecast a decline in the overall region's economic activity for 2015 to -0.3 per cent from 0.5 per cent, and estimates that for 2016 growth will be close to 0.7 per cent. At the same time, it said, despite the regional trend towards a deceleration the region's economies will show differentiated dynamics

The countries of the Caribbean, for example, are expected to expand, an average, 1.6 per cent in 2015 and 1.8 per cent in 2016.

Mexico and Central America will grow 2.6 per cent in 2015 and 2.9 per cent in 2016.


Jamaica and Japan to expand trade

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Oct. 1, (CMC) - Jamaica and Japan have agreed to expand trade between both countries. On Wednesday, following bilateral talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller also announced that Japan will also provide assistance in the areas of energy efficiency and culture.

The government of Japan is providing $57 million in grant funding to Jamaica for improvements at the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) – the island's most significant cultural, artistic and scientific organization.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was also signed to promote educational cooperation between the University of the West Indies (UWI) and Japan's Sophia University.

Simpson Miller said Jamaica is also set to benefit from a new technical cooperation project in the field of energy efficiency and renewable energy. Other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states will also benefit from the initiative.

"We do not take lightly, this important contribution by Japan to Jamaica's economic and social development," the prime minister told Abe as she thanked his government for supporting the island.


CARICOM Foreign Ministers reaffirm support for Guyana's territorial integrity

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Oct. 1, (CMC) - CARICOM Foreign Ministers have welcomed Venezuela's decision to receive a United Nations Technical team which will provide recommendations to the UN Secretary-General on the way forward to a full and final solution to the Guyana/Venezuela territorial controversy.

And they say they fully support Guyana's "territorial integrity".

CARICOM's Council for Foreign Ministers (COFCOR) met on the sidelines of this week's 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, and was briefed by Guyana's Vice-President and Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge on the recent developments with respect to the territorial controversy with Venezuela.

The ministers noted said the decision by President Nicolás Maduro to receive the UN team in the shortest possible time would hasten the efforts aimed at bringing that controversy to an early end.

"The ministers underscored the need for the Caribbean region to be maintained as a Zone of Peace . . . The meeting was especially pleased at the decision of the government of Venezuela to receive, within the shortest possible time, the technical team from the UN Secretariat which is conducting a desk review in order to provide recommendations to the Secretary General on the way forward in the search for a full and final solution to the Guyana/Venezuela territorial controversy regarding the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award," a COFCOR statement said, noting that the decision would hasten the efforts aimed at bringing that controversy to an early end.

The COFCOR members also welcomed Sunday's meeting chaired by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at which Maduro and his Guyanese counterpart David Granger discussed their positions.

During that meeting, Maduro agreed to restore Venezuela's ambassador to Guyana and to grant agreement to the Ambassador Designate of Guyana to Venezuela.

COFCOR said that decision would set a firm basis for the return of full-fledged diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The meeting had been requested by Maduro who said he wanted to discuss the way forward on the border controversy. Venezuela has been laying claim to the vast mineral-rich area of jungle west of the Essequibo River, which accounts for about 40 per cent of Guyana's territory, since the 19th century. Guyana says that after agreeing to relinquish the Essequibo following a ruling by an international tribunal in 1899, Venezuela backtracked on the decision. Caracas insists the 1899 ruling was unfair and the territory is still in dispute.

Earlier this year, Maduro also extended Venezuela's maritime claims after Exxon Mobil announced it had made a significant oil discovery in Guyana's territorial waters.


CTO calls for Open Skies policy at Caribbean airports

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, (Caribbean Tourism Organisation Press Release)– Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) Hugh Riley has urged regional authorities to institute an Open Skies policy and wherever possible to eliminate secondary screening at Caribbean airports.

Mr. Riley argues that while an Open Skies policy would allow regional carriers to take unlimited flights to all Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Member States and encourage the growth of competition among carriers, while elimination of secondary screening would encourage greater demand for intra-regional travel.

He has also called for improved interline arrangements for a "vastly enhanced" baggage transfer and improved passenger experience.

In an address at the recent airline route development forum, World Routes 2015 in Durban, South Africa, Mr. Riley also made a plea for collaboration in a number of areas, including intelligence sharing with the use of the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS), and security processing.


CARICOM Reparation Commission writes open letter to British PM

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Sept 29, (CMC) – Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Reparation Commission, Sir Hilary Beckles has told British Prime Minister David Cameron that reparation justice is an issue that can no "be further ignored, remain under the rug, or placed on back burners".

In an open letter to the British head of government who is due here later on Tuesday on a one-day official visit, Sir Hilary, said that while Jamaica would open its heart to welcome the British leader, he must also be aware of the issue of reparation for slavery.


Guyana and Venezuela resume diplomatic relations after talks

New York, NY Sept 28, – President David Granger met with his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro for the first time to discuss the border dispute between the two countries. Maduro and Granger are currently holding discussions along with United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki Moon, in his office at the UN headquarters in New York.

Meanwhile, Guyana and Venezuela have spent the past hours laying out demands ahead of today's 7pm meeting between Presidents David Granger and Nicholas Maduro in the UN Secretary General's office in New York.

President Granger is insisting that the border claim matter be referred to the International Court of Justice and there be an immediate resumption of diplomatic relations.

On the other hand, Venezuela El Universal has reported a tweet by the Venezuelan Foreign Minister. "We hope that tomorrow (Sunday) the presence of (Guyana) President (David) Granger in the UN meeting legitimizes Guyana's will to return to the path of the Geneva Agreement," posted Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez on her Twitter account @DrodriguezVen, referring to the meeting on Sunday between Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his Guyana counterpart David Granger in New York."


PAHO/WHO promoting smart, green and safe hospital in the Caribbean

WASHINGTON, Sept 25, (CMC) – Two United Nations health organizations have a launched a campaign to promote safe, green and smart hospitals in the Caribbean. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) said that nearly seven in 10 hospitals in Latin America and the Caribbean are located in disaster prone areas, putting them at risk of becoming casualties themselves during hurricanes, earthquakes or flooding.

They said the Smart Hospitals programme, a multi-year initiative financed by the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID), targets a dozen hospitals in Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

They said when Tropical Storm Erika struck Dominica in late August, causing death and destruction, three hospitals on the island were in the process of being evaluated as part of the programme.

"Natural disasters can have a major impact on the health sector and on people's lives, and we need to ensure that health facilities are built to resist disasters while also being environmentally friendly," said Dana Van Alphen, coordinator of the programme.

"A bonus is that hospitals that participate in this program also see their operating costs decline and produce less pollution."

PAHO/WHO said a hospital is considered "smart" when it links structural and operational safety with green interventions, at a reasonable cost-benefit ratio.

"In "green" hospitals, air quality improves, water and energy costs decline, and people's working conditions improve. These improvements also affect users' decisions to visit health facilities: in hospitals that have adopted the Smart Hospitals programme, the number of users seeking care has increased by 40 per cent," they said in a joint statement.

They said that participating hospitals have instituted measures including reinforcing their roofs and windows to resist hurricane-force winds, and installing new rainwater-collection tanks and solar panels to supplement their traditional sources of water and energy.


Venezuelan President invites Granger to "one on one" meeting

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Sep. 24, (CMC) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has extended an invitation to President David Granger to a one on one meeting ahead of addressing world leaders at the 70th UN General Assembly meeting in New York on Tuesday.

A statement from Venezuela's Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the President extended the call to Granger to facilitate a meeting "in which they can find a positive way to clear obstacles in relations between the two governments."


World Bank report calls for new social contract for Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Wednesday September 23, 2015 – A new World Bank Group report is cautioning that faster economic growth alone will not be enough to improve the living standards of most Haitians, and proposes key priorities for rebuilding the social contract between the state and citizens.

The document, 'Haiti: Towards a New Narrative', notes the progress made in reducing extreme poverty and maintaining macroeconomic stability.

"Following the earthquake, Haiti experienced its best performance in decades with a real growth rate averaging 3.3 per cent from 2011 to 2014, partly spurred by high levels of reconstruction aid. However, this growth is faltering and will not be sufficient for Haiti to achieve its vision of becoming an emerging economy by 2030 and improve life for its poorest citizens," said Mary Barton-Dock, World Bank Special Envoy in Haiti.

"Haiti is at a cross road and this diagnostic identifies key priority areas for action to generate opportunities for all Haitians."

The authors highlight that, on one hand, the state struggles to provide adequate services for its citizens or a favourable climate for business and, on the other Hand, few pay taxes.

In the absence of the state, non-state actors have stepped in: In health, about 50 per cent of health expenditures are provided by NGOs and 80 per cent of primary and secondary schools are run by private institutions or NGOs.


Attorney General signs off on Jack Warner extradition to the U.S.

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Tuesday September 22, 2015 – Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi has signed the document required to begin the process of extraditing former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner to the United States to face corruption charges. But Warner's attorneys have challenged Al-Rawi's missed deadline for signing the authority to proceed (ATP) document, and a magistrate will rule on that on Friday.

Warner, who is out on bail, yesterday reappeared in court where it was disclosed that Al-Rawi had signed the ATP.

The deadline had been last Wednesday, but state attorney Brent Hallpike wrote to Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar that same day, asking for more time for Al-Rawi to examine the documents and make a decision on the matter, as he had only been sworn-in as Attorney General the previous week.


Call for Caribbean diaspora brand

NEW YORK, United States – A Caribbean-American community leader called on West Indians living in the United States to establish a Caribbean Diaspora brand. Following the success of the 48th West Indian American Labor Day Carnival Parade, Kwayera Archer Cunningham asserted it was time build on brand Caribbean, starting in Brooklyn – "Caribbean Central" in the United States.

"Yes, I am Jamaican, but when in New York City, I am a Jamaican from the Caribbean – the brand that many of our parents who came to this country helped to build," she said.

Archer Cunningham, an award-winning nonprofit executive who espouses the strengthening of communities by building sustainable philanthropic networks which ensure resources are directed to those most in need, suggested a powerful Diaspora brand might awaken Corporate America: "We have contributed so much creative and intellectual power to the success of the United States, and we have infinite potential to do great things – both locally and globally."

"Now that the festivities are over, let's work together to send our message of unity to Corporate America," Archer Cunningham exhorted, "so we can all reap the benefits of prosperity and allow every community to thrive."

The founder of Global Ase, an international firm established to assist leaders, organizations, corporations and communities who are working for social good, urged stateside Caribbean people to use the same focus "that our parents had when coming here for a better life …now it's our turn to leave a strong legacy."

She suggested Caribbean institutions and businesses collectively contribute to the community and to the Caribbean by pooling their significant resources.

Archer Cunningham, who has lived in Brooklyn for 27 years, believes the community needs to address the violence taking place during and beyond the Carnival season.


US court allows IRS to get info on American taxpayers' with Belize bank accounts

A federal judge in Miami has issued an order allowing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to serve a "John Doe" summons seeking information about American taxpayers who may hold offshore accounts at Belize Bank International Limited (BBIL) or Belize Bank Limited (BBL).

The order, which was entered by U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro, granted the United States' petition for permission to seek records of BBIL's and BBL's correspondent accounts at Bank of America, N.A. and Citibank, N.A. Those records will allow the IRS to identify U.S. taxpayers who hold or held interests in financial accounts at BBIL and BBL, as well as other financial institutions that used the same correspondent accounts.

"The Department and the IRS are using every tool available to identify and investigate those individuals determined to evade their U.S. tax and reporting obligations through the use of offshore financial accounts and foreign entities," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department's Tax Division.

"These John Doe summonses will provide detailed information about individuals using financial institutions in Belize and, to the extent funds were transferred, other jurisdictions. But rest assured, we are receiving information from many sources regarding hidden foreign accounts and offshore schemes. The time to come clean is now – before we knock on your door."

Commissioner John Koskinen of the IRS said hte court action further demonstrated the agency's relentless efforts to pursue and catch those evading taxes with hidden offshore accounts, "no matter where they are or what structures are used to hide behind", and also reinforces the ongoing importance of the John Doe summons in international tax enforcement.

According to the IRS declaration, BBL is incorporated and based in Belize, and directly owns BBIL. The IRS declaration further states that Belize Corporate Services (BCS) is incorporated and based in Belize and offers corporate services including the purchase of "shelf" Belizean international business companies.


NY attorney shot in pre-dawn West Indian Parade dies

NEW YORK - (AP) An aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo who was shot in the crossfire between two gangs hours before the city's West Indian Day parade died Wednesday, police said. Carey Gabay, a first deputy general counsel at the Empire State Development Corp., was shot in the head during a pre-dawn party celebrating the parade earlier this month. He was hospitalized and placed into a medically induced coma.

Earlier Wednesday, his family announced he had been declared brain dead.

"Our family is grieving that a man in the prime of his life who has impacted so many lives could be struck down by such a callous act," the family said in a statement. "This is a nightmare that's shaken our resolve and tested our faith."

Cuomo called Gabay, a 43-year-old Harvard University-educated lawyer, "the epitome of an outstanding public servant."

"He held a tremendous commitment to his community, and he chose to use his many talents to better the lives of others," Cuomo said in a statement. "New York is undeniably a better place today because of his service. He was also a friend and role model to the many people who were blessed to have known him, and he will be greatly missed."

Gabay joined Cuomo's administration in 2011 and had worked as an assistant counsel to Cuomo, a Democrat, before taking his new position in January.

He was walking with his brother near the Brooklyn parade route on Sept. 7 at 3:40 a.m. when he was shot. His family said he was in a coma last week, and Cuomo said at the time that the damage done by the bullet was "extensive."

No arrests have been made in the case. Police Commissioner William Bratton said last week that investigators were focusing on two gangs whose members are well known to the New York Police Department.


Possible financial market turbulence - World Bank

WASHINGTON, Sep. 16, (CMC) – The World Bank is warning developing economies, including those in the Caribbean, to brace for "possible financial market turbulence" from the upcoming US monetary policy tightening cycle.

According to a new World Bank policy research paper released ahead of this week's meeting by the US Federal Reserve's policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee, while a likely rise in US interest rates, which would be the Federal Reserve's (Fed) first rate hike since 2006, has been widely telegraphed to world financial markets and the public, "it, nonetheless, runs a risk of being associated with market volatility."


Cuba releasing 3,522 prisoners ahead of pope's visit

HAVANA, Cuba (AP) — Cuba's highest authority says it is releasing 3,522 prisoners ahead of next week's visit to the island by Pope Francis, the third time Cuba has granted inmates freedom before a papal visit.

The Council of State announced in state media Friday morning that the prisoners to be freed include a mix of women, people younger than 20, inmates suffering from illnesses and people whose terms were coming to an end next year.

The government won't release people convicted of serious crimes like murder, child sexual abuse or violations of state security. The final category is often applied to people considered political prisoners by Cuban and international human rights groups.

The government says the group includes some foreigners whose home countries have agreed to repatriate them.


Caribbean declared free of Rubella

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, (CMC) - The Americas region, which includes the Caribbean has been declared free of Rubella. The declaration of the elimination of rubella and congenital rubella syndrome was made by the international expert committee for Measles and Rubella Elimination in the Americas during the recent meeting of the Pan American Health Organisation and World Health Organsation (PAHO/WHO) in Washington, DC.

This brings to four the number of vaccine-preventable diseases to be eliminated from the Americas, the other two being smallpox in 1971 and polio in 1994.

"The elimination of rubella from the Americas is an historic achievement that reflects the collective will of our region's countries to work together to achieve ambitious public health milestones...All four achievements prove the value of immunisation and how important it is to make vaccines available even to the remotest corners of our hemisphere," said PAHO/WHO Director Carissa F Etienne.

There were widespread outbreaks of rubella, also known as German measles, throughout the Americas before the introduction of the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Although the virus is usually mild or asymptomatic, when contracted by pregnant women, it can cause miscarriage, or CRS, which is a constellation of birth defects including blindness, deafness and congenital heart defects.

Before the mass-scale MMR vaccination campaign, between 16,000 and 20,000 children were born with CRS every year in Latin America and the Caribbean, and there were more than 158,000 rubella cases reported in 1997 alone.


Obama leads US in moment of silence on 9/11

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) – US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle on Friday stood on the White House lawn to observe a moment of silence to mark the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The moment of silence was observed at 8:46 am (1246 GMT) -- the time when the first jet commandeered by Al-Qaeda operatives smashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York, where a ceremony of remembrance also took place.

The attacks killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, at the Pentagon and aboard a hijacked airliner that went down in Pennsylvania.

At the White House, a few hundred people -- political staff including National Security Advisor Susan Rice but also the White House chefs, gardeners and other residence staff -- joined the Obamas for the ceremony.

In New York, police and relatives of those killed in the World Trade Center began the annual reading of the names of the victims at Ground Zero, now the site of the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum.


Caribbean nationals among 79 'criminal aliens' arrested in major immigration sweep

DETROIT, Sept 10, (CMC) – The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) says officers have arrested several Caribbean nationals among 79 in a major enforcement action targeting "criminal aliens" and individuals who pose a threat to public safety.

ICE said on Wednesday that the officers made the arrests in the two-state region overseen by the Detroit office, which covers Michigan and Ohio.

Seventy-eight of the foreign nationals taken into custody by ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers during the enforcement action had prior criminal convictions with the exception of one, who's being charged federally with re-entry after deportation, ICE said.

It said nearly one third had criminal records that included felony convictions for serious or violent offences, such as child sex crimes, weapons charges and drug violations.

All of those arrested represented the agency's two highest enforcement priorities ICE said.

"Operations like this highlight ICE's ongoing commitment to prioritising convicted criminals and public safety threats for apprehension and removal," said Rebecca Adducci, field office director for ERO Detroit. "By arresting and removing these individuals, we make an immediate and tangible impact on public safety."

While the vast majority of those taken into custody are originally from Mexico - 53, ICE said 18 additional countries were represented, including Peru, Vietnam, Canada, United Kingdom, Philippines, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Laos, Bangladesh, India, Bahamas, Bosnia and Herzegovina, El Salvador, Cuba, Honduras, Haiti, Croatia, and Saudi Arabia.

Of the 26 counties where arrests occurred, west Michigan's Kent County accounted for the largest number of apprehensions followed by Franklin County in Ohio.

Last year alone, ICE said ERO deported 315,943 individuals from the United States.


Caricom leaders send congratulations

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Sept. 9, (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders were extending congratulations to Dr. Keith Rowley, who will be sworn in Wednesday as the new prime minister in Trinidad and Tobago, saying that they were looking forward to working with him in the socio-economic development of the Caribbean.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) chairman and Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart, said he was looking forward to welcoming Rowley "among the heads of government of the Caribbean Community.


Democrats Say Violence-Marred West Indian Day Celebration Is Still Very Safe

By Ross Barkan (Observer) -A day after violence surrounding the annual West Indian Day Parade left one man dead and a Cuomo administration aide in critical condition, a trio of City Council members declared that the annual celebration is still safe. Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, the chairwoman of the City Council's public safety committee, and local Council members Laurie Cumbo and Jumaane Williams issued a joint statement this afternoon that also called for more state and federal efforts to combat gun violence. They asked for further unspecified improvements to the Brooklyn parade.

"Statistically speaking, last year's West Indian American Carnival celebration was the safest in recent history, and early reports indicate that this year's was even safer–but statistics are of little comfort to the friends and families of those whose loved ones were hurt in the weekend's senseless violence," the Democrats said.

In the early morning hours before the parade, Carey Gabay, a first deputy general counsel at the Empire State Development Corporation, was shot in the head. Mr. Gabay, 43, was caught in the crossfire of two gangs, police said. A 24-year-old man was also stabbed to death shortly before near Grand Army Plaza. Police have not yet released the victim's name or any more information related to the stabbing.

The parade, which brings thousands to Brooklyn's Eastern Parkway and is regarded as the signature celebration of the city's growing Caribbean community, has been marred by bloodshed before. Last year, a recent parolee opened fire into a crowd of revelers, killing one man and wounding several others. In 2013, a 1-year-old boy sitting in his stroller was killed by a bullet meant for his father.

Mayor Bill de Blasio dismissed any talk of ending the pre-parade festivities where violence tends to break out. Mr. Williams and Ms. Cumbo, who represent large swaths of Brooklyn's Caribbean-American residents, also did not mention that possibility in their statement.

"Despite this being one of the safest summers in New York City, we are tired of our communities experiencing gun violence, even though the solutions are right in front of us," they said. "While respecting the second amendment, we must limit the supply of guns and address the structural deficits that exist in many communities, often driving the need for violence that can result in fatal actions."

The three Democrats (Ms. Gibson is a Bronx lawmaker) called on Congress to support Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's anti-gun trafficking bill and back micro-stamping and background checks on gun dealers. All initiatives are opposed by Republicans, who hold majorities in the House and Senate.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who represented the neighborhoods the parade rolls through when he served in the State Senate a couple of years ago, said he would be convening an emergency meeting to reexamine the pre-parade celebration known as J'Ouvert.


PNM wins general election

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Sept 7, (CMC) – The main opposition People's National Movement (PNM) won the general election here on Monday defeating the coalition People's Partnership (PP) of Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar that came to power in 2010.

The preliminary figures released here show that the PNM had won 22 of the 41 seats with the remaining 19 going to the PP that had won 29 seats in the 2010 general election.


Spike in Caribbean people booking travel on mobile phones

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Friday September 4, 2015 – New data released by one of the world's leading travel companies shows a significant increase in people in the Caribbean market making bookings for hotels, flights and other travel plans using their mobile devices.

The Expedia group says growth has been more than 55 per cent for the first half of the year, when compared for the same period in 2014, with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Jamaica among the major markets seeing a spike.

Mobile bookings allow travelers to make travel bookings on the go, and Expedia says it has seen more people going that route in almost all of its markets in the first two quarters of 2015.

"Today's technology has revolutionized the way we do business," said Demetrius Canton, Director of Lodging Partner Services for the Caribbean with the Expedia group.


Caribbean Carbon Forum 2015 looks towards International Climate Conference

GENEVA, Sep. 3, (CMC) – The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Government of Chile will host the 9th Latin American and Caribbean Carbon Forum (LACCF 2015) next week with "an eye" on the forthcoming International Climate Conference in Paris.

"As countries are busy preparing and making public their intended contributions to a new universal climate change agreement to be adopted in Paris in December, the Forum offers a golden opportunity to explore the use of market-based mechanisms and approaches to increase emission reduction ambition and stimulate sustainable development now and over the years and decades to come," said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a co-organizer of LACCF 2015.


US hopes to strengthen energy initiative in the Caribbean

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – The United States says it hopes to strengthen plans for a Caribbean Energy Security Initiative when regional policy makers meet in Miami next month. United States' Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Robin Dunnigan met with the minister with responsibility for energy, Darcy Boyce, on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

Dunnigan said that the United States was placing a great deal of emphasis on the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative and now had two programmes in place to push this initiative, including a US$20 million financing facility to support investment in clean energy projects in the region.

She said that a team headed by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) had been mandated to identify clean energy projects for support and that two wind energy projects in Jamaica were receiving support.

She said Washington was hoping to further concretise plans for the way forward when she meets with regional policy makers at the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum scheduled for October 19 in Miami.

Boyce welcomed the assistance being offered to the region by the United States, noting that there were several areas in which Barbados could benefit from technical expertise in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

He said that in addition to the projects already ongoing, he was hoping to see a pilot ocean thermal energy conversion plant established, to make use of the sea which surrounded the island both for water and energy production.


US and UK governments announce humanitarian aid for storm-ravaged Dominica

ROSEAU, Dominica, Tuesday September 1, 2015 – The United States and the United Kingdom governments are sending personnel and humanitarian aid to assist in Dominica's ongoing recovery effort on the heels of the destructive Tropical Storm Erika.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID), through its Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), said today that it is providing disaster relief support to the storm-ravaged island.

In addition to sending a four-member assessment team to provide initial damage assessments and needs analysis, USAID said it is in the process of providing humanitarian assistance totaling USD$50,000 for the immediate supply of storm-related disaster relief supplies.

"Working through the Dominica Red Cross, USAID will provide essential relief items to citizens in nine hard-hit areas identified by the government of Dominica," it said.

UK's Department for International Development (DFID), which has committed £300,000 (US$459,751) in humanitarian aid, said yesterday it had rerouted the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Lyme Bay to assist humanitarian relief efforts in the Caribbean island.

The British ship is carrying a range of disaster relief stores including bedding, shelter, torches and stretchers, as well as a Lynx Mk 8 helicopter and considerable supplies of fresh water.

Tropical Storm Erika hit Dominica last Thursday, resulting in severe flooding, landslides and wide spread infrastructure damage across the island.


Trinidad & Tobago celebrates 53 years of Independence

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug 31, (CMC) – Trinidad and Tobago is celebrating its 53rd anniversary of political independence from Britain with the thoughts of the political leaders of the country fixed on the September 7 general elections and the destruction that occurred in the neighbouring island of Dominica.

President Anthony Carmona in his Independence message urged Trinidad and Tobago to spare a thought and prayer for Dominica recovering from the passage of Tropical Storm Erika that left 25 people dead and many more missing and presumed dead.


Caribbean commits to 75% reduction in new HIV infections by 2020

RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 27, (CMC) – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says Caribbean and Latin American countries have set new regional targets for 2020 aimed at reducing by 75 percent new HIV infections in adults and young people by 2020.

During the second Latin American and Caribbean Forum on the HIV Continuum of Care––"Improving Combination HIV Prevention to Strengthen the Continuum of Prevention and Care", PAHO said the region also agreed to "guarantee a coordinated and comprehensive approach to HIV prevention, and achieve an environment of zero stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and the populations most affected by the epidemic."

These targets also include access to combination HIV prevention packages for 90 percent of transsexuals, gay men and other men who have sex with men, and sex workers by 2020.

PAHO said another goal is to remove legislation that can be used to discriminate against people living with or affected by HIV.

According to the Health Organisation, the most vulnerable populations in the region include gay men and other men who have sex with men, transsexual women, sex workers and their clients, drug users, young adults and adolescents, women and children, incarcerated people, transient populations, indigenous and Afro-descendant populations, homeless people, and female victims of violence.


Jamaica charities and youth projects get millions from Queen Diamond Jubilee Trust

LONDON, England – Jamaican charities and youth projects stand to benefit from approximately £2 million (US$3.1 million) from the Queen Diamond Jubilee Fund. The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust is a charitable foundation established in 2012 to mark and celebrate the Queen's 60 years on the Throne and her contribution to the Commonwealth. Its mission is to enrich the lives of people from all backgrounds across the Commonwealth.

The Trust was launched in February 2012 and countries were encouraged to support the initiative and Jamaica contributed £15,000 (US$23,533) to the Fund through the Jamaican High Commission in London.

Under the Trust, grants are being awarded to organizations working with young people in selected countries in the Commonwealth, including Jamaica.

"Jamaica's contribution to the Fund was £15,000; however, Jamaica stands to benefit from more than £2 million (US$3.1 million) in funding for a range of programmes and projects that support the development of youth entrepreneurship, young people, youth in agriculture and crime reduction in both rural and urban areas," said High Commissioner Aloun Ndombet Assamba.

In addition to supporting youth development projects, a major focus of the Trust will be on tackling preventable blindness.


United Nations holds first historic meeting on LGBT rights

by John Riley - (metroweekly)
The United Nations Security Council is meeting to discuss anti-LGBT persecution and violence for the first time in the organization's history. Specifically, the meeting will focus on the treatment of sexual minorities in areas under the control of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The meeting, which is an informal session known as an "Arria," will brief Security Council member states on instances of anti-LGBT violence and murders committed by the Islamic State. The Arria came to fruition because of efforts by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and Chilean Ambassador to the United Nations Cristian Barros Melet, who also make their own remarks.

However, due to the meeting's informal nature, it is unclear how many nations — particularly those with laws punishing homosexuality — will send representatives. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 75 countries criminalize same-sex relationships, and, in 10 others, same-sex activity is punishable by death. A number of countries, most notably Russia, have adopted "anti-propaganda" laws to prevent people from speaking about or sharing information related to homosexuality or LGBT rights.

According to the International Gay and Lesbian Rights Commission (IGLHRC), since June 2014, ISIS has published at least seven online photo reports purporting to show the execution of people accused of sodomy. The commission cites 12 other instances in which the Islamic State claims to have killed men for engaging in sodomy or adultery, as well as additional reports of stonings of women accused and convicted of adultery, and numerous accounts of people killed because of their religious affiliation. The killings and stonings of people thought to be gay at the hands of ISIS fighters has garnered much international attention, due in part to the graphic nature of the killings.


How the Caribbean diaspora can win in the connection economy

By Daniella Bien-Aime
How are your relationships going? Do you consider building relationships an investment or a fruitless deed? We're living in a dynamic new economy where we need to understand how relationships can yield a competitive advantage for success in the connection economy.

And history dictates that those who win the economic game do so by having a competitive advantage. Dean van Leeuwen wrote a commanding piece on Building Innovative Companies using the Powerful Disruptive Force of the Connected Generation. In that article, van Leeuwen summarized how competitive advantage played a role in those who led the charge. "By tracing what constituted competitive advantage through a succession of economic eras, we're able to see the evolution of what remains central to business success."

The article provided an interesting timeline of how the concept of an economic "competitive advantage" emerged over the past few centuries.


Hurricane Danny strengthens in the Caribbean but expected to weaken

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Aug 21, 2015 (CMC) – Hurricane Danny strengthened a little overnight as it makes it way towards the Leeward Islands on Friday, the Miami-based National Hurricane Centre (NHC) has said. In its 5.00 am bulletin, the NHC said that the hurricane, the first for the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane season, was 985 miles east south east of the Leeward Islands with maximum winds of 85 miles per hour (mph).

Danny was moving west north west at 10 mph and the NHC said that while there are no coastal watches or warnings in effect, people in the Caribbean should monitor the progress of the Category One hurricane.

The NHC said that Hurricane Danny is expected to continue on its current path and that some additional strengthening is possible on Friday "but Danny should begin to weaken on Saturday.


Continued drought expected for Caribbean with El Niño expected to be strongest on record

FLORIDA, United States, – This El Niño could be one of the strongest ever recorded, bringing further drought to the Caribbean. That's according to an updated forecast issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which indicates that there's a 90 per cent chance that El Niño will continue through the end of the year, and an 85 per cent chance that it will last until next April.

El Niño is a weather phenomenon that occurs irregularly in the eastern tropical Pacific every two to seven years. When the trade winds that usually blow from east to west weaken, sea surface temperatures start rising, setting off a chain of weather impacts.

This year's conditions are similar to those experienced in 1997-1998 when drought forced water restrictions across the Caribbean, and resulted in significant losses in the agriculture sector.

Already some countries in the region have implemented water rationing to deal with shortages of the resource, with Puerto Rico among the worst affected so far.

To classify El Niño as "very strong," the temperature in the tropical Pacific Ocean needs to be running at least two degrees Celsius warmer than average, for at least three months in a row.

Forecasters say they expect that a further increase in the Pacific ocean temperature will push this El Niño event into at least the "strong" category, and it could reach or even exceed the "very strong" criteria.

The intense El Niño has also been a major factor in the below-average activity this hurricane season.


Marcus Garvey's home to be transformed into a heritage site

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Aug. 18, (CMC) – The house in which Jamaica's first National Hero, Marcus Mosiah Garvey grew up, will be refurbished and transformed into a heritage site. This was outlined in a message from Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna during a ceremony to commemorate the 128th birthday of Jamaica's first national hero, held on the compound of the St Ann Parish Library in St Ann's Bay on Monday.

Read by councillor for the Beecher Town Division of the St Ann Parish Council, Ian Bell, the minister's message noted that the property on which the house is located was declared a protected site in 1992, as the Government moved to ensure that the legacy and history of Marcus Garvey is preserved.

"The Ministry of Youth and Culture remains committed to preserving the legacy of this outstanding Jamaican as we are ready to start plans to refurbish the house of Jamaica's first national hero and transforming it into a heritage site," Hanna said.

"We want to create an environment where Jamaicans at home and abroad can visit and pay tribute to a man who left a great legacy. It was he who said that 'a people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots'. Let us continue to embrace our rich cultural heritage and pass on the memories and traditions to the next generation," she added.

Hanna said the celebration of Marcus Garvey's 128th birthday and the 51st year of being named a national hero present an opportunity for the sharing of cultural heritage among the youth.

"Culture is a critical component of who we are as a nation," the minister emphasised.


The Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) names two new inductees into Hall of Fame

ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada, Aug 18, CMC – The Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) Monday night inducted the late Guyanese broadcaster Terry Holder and Montserratian Rose Willock into its Hall of Fame. Holder, who died in January last year, was recognized as being instrumental to the birth of the region's first ever television news exchange, "Caribvision" as well as the regional television magazine, "Caribscope".

Holder also served as CBU president, and secretary general.

Willock, a fomer manager of the now defunct Radio Antilles in Montserrat, was recognised for her service to the region, especially in building capacity for emergency broadcasting.

Editor Emeritus of the Barbados Nation Newspaper, Harold Hoyte noted that Willock's career had been marked by her time as Head of the English Service of Radio Antilles in the aftermath of the devastation by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, as well as her recognition on the Queen's honours lists in 1986 and 1996 with an MBE and an OBE respectively.

"These latest additions to the CBU Hall of Fame bring the total number of awardees to fourteen," the CBU said in a brief statement.


Obama Takes Lead On Climate Change

UNITED NATIONS, New York (IPS) — Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama formally unveiled the details of his Clean Power Plan (CPP), a comprehensive carbon-cutting strategy he described as "the biggest and most important step…ever taken to combat climate change" in a prior video address posted on Facebook.

As set down in the final rule from August 3 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the CPP requires power plant owners to reduce their CO2 emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Between 2005 and 2013, carbon dioxide emissions have fallen by 15 percent, meaning the U.S. is about halfway to the target.

States are allowed to create their own plans on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units (EGUs). Initial versions of these plans will have to be submitted by 2016, final versions by 2018.

Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the U.N. Secretary-General, told journalists at a U.N. press conference in New York: "The Plan is an example of the visionary leadership necessary to reduce emissions and to tackle climate change."

At a meeting between President Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Oval Office on Tuesday, the U.N. chief commended Obama's leadership role in addressing climate change: "I would like to congratulate you and highly commend your visionary and forward leadership announcement of yesterday on a Clean Power Plan. […] The U.S. can and will be able to change the world in addressing [the] climate phenomenon."

The U.S. is the world's biggest CO2 emitter after China. Yet, the praise given to Obama for his efforts in cutting CO2 emissions seems to suggest a shift in the perception of the U.S. as one of the largest climate offenders to a model and leader in combating climate change.

The announcement of the plan follows a series of recent diplomatic achievements by the U.S. government such as the Iranian nuclear deal and the normalisation of diplomatic relations with Cuba. Many observers attribute these significant moves by the U.S. president shortly ahead of the end of his presidency to his endeavors in building a legacy on the foreign policy front.


Caribbean Nurses Praised As Region Has One Of The World's Highest Immunization Rates

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, (CMC) – Caribbean regional nurses began a four-day meeting here, amid praises that the region can boast of having one of the highest immunization rates in the world. Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Assistant Secretary General for Human and Social Development, Dr. Douglas Slater, told the meeting that the region's rate is even better than that of the United States.

He attributed this accomplishment to the work of nurses in the region, noting that they made a valuable contribution to the rate of immunization regionally, as well as in other areas, such as maternal and child health.

Dr. Slater said, nurses also had a significant impact in areas related to communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCD's) which would be addressed during the meeting.

He said, their involvement in enhancing healthy lifestyle promotion, which included mental health, was also notable and, according to him, there was a high dependence on nurses to ensure that those issues would remain topical.

Minister in the Ministry of Health in Guyana, Dr. Karen Cummings, who also addressed the opening ceremony, noted that much has been done, but a lot more needed to be achieved, in dealing with emerging trends and diseases in health, including non-communicable diseases (NCD's).

She said, the Ministry of Health fully appreciated the intrinsic value that nurses bring to the public health care system.


Caribbean man wants to be FIFA's boss

ST JOHN'S, Antigua — Former Trinidad and Tobago international David Nakhid has announced his candidacy for the position of president of Football's World Governing Body FIFA. Nakhid, who played 35 times for Trinidad and Tobago, made the announcement in a radio interview in Antigua on Tuesday.

He is on a swing through the region seeking to drum-up support for his campaign ahead of the elections carded for February 26, 2016 at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

"I've played in all the confederations that you can think of. I speak five or six languages. I have the academic background that is needed for FIFA, more so than any of the others that have put themselves forward," said Nakhid, who needs the support of at least five FIFA member associations to contest the elections.

Nakhid, 51, a Trinidad and Tobago native, was the first from his country to play in Europe, playing from 1988 to 1995, in Switzerland, Belgium, and Greece.

He scored 20 goals over the span of four seasons with FC Grasshopper (Switzerland) and 12 goals in two years with Waregem (Belgium), where he was twice named Most Valuable Player for the club.


Caribbean countries agree to continue strengthening cooperation on digital matters

MEXICO CITY, – The Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC) says Caribbean countries have agreed to continue strengthening cooperation on digital matters. Representatives from 18 countries approved the Digital Agenda for Latin America (eLAC 2018) during the Fifth Ministerial Conference on the Information Society.

In the Mexico City Declaration signed at the closing session of the Fifth Ministerial Conference on the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean, countries in the region renewed accords for the eLAC process, which began 10 years ago, approving the Digital Agenda for Latin America and the Caribbean (eLAC2018), which establishes five areas of action and 23 objectives.

n her closing speech, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, emphasized that "this regional digital agenda should become the backbone for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to 2030."

The Mexico City Declaration was signed by representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The countries agreed to continue strengthening regional cooperation on digital matters with projects that have a regional scope and activities oriented towards promoting innovation, digital training and the dissemination and transfer of new technologies and good management practices. In addition, they will work to promote and respect all rights in the digital environment and encourage the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) to build peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development with equality.

The signatories also declared their commitment to the governance of the Internet and the information society based on processes that include multiple interested parties, which are democratic and guarantee significant and responsible participation by all actors, including governments, the private sector, civil society, academic and technical communities and users.


Jamaica making moves to tap into multi-billion-dollar bamboo industry

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Monday August 10, 2015 – The Ministry of Industry, Investment, and Commerce will spearhead a government feasibility study to determine whether mined-out bauxite lands are suitable for the wide-scale bamboo production, as the country seeks to get a piece of the lucrative international market for bamboo products, estimated to be valued at more than US$20 billion.

Senior Director of Special Projects at the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), Gladstone Rose says the agency will partner with the University of the West Indies' (UWI) Biotechnology Centre – represented by lecturer Dr. Sylvia Mitchell – to conduct parts of the study, which is expected to begin by the end of the year.

The study will be facilitated under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) soon to be signed by representatives of both institutions, and forms part of a two-year pilot being implemented at a cost of approximately J$10 million (US$85,733).

The study forms part of the ministry's Bamboo Products Industry Project, the implementation of which is being facilitated by the Bamboo and Indigenous Materials Advisory Committee (BIMAC), which Rose chairs.

He said the feasibility study constitutes the first of the pilot project's two phases that will target four acres of land in Clapham, St. Ann, over a 24-month period.

Rose said the BIMAC has been discussing the possibility of planting bamboo on mined-out bauxite lands with agencies such as the Jamaica Bauxite Institute.

"We will be doing (additional) research to match different types of soils with different species . . . so that we can optimize on . . . their growth," he said.

Based on the outcome of the study, he said, phase two would commence. That phase, which is expected to last up to a year, involves producing bamboo plants/saplings for distribution to farmers.


OECS statisticians meet in St. Kitts

Education statisticians across the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) will attend an annual meeting in St Kitts and Nevis from August 11-14, 2015 to provide OECS statisticians with a forum to identify and adopt best practices for improved education data for regional and international comparability.

The meeting is part of an approach by the OECS Commission, in collaboration with the United Nation Children's Fund (UNICEF) to strengthen efforts towards improving data administration in education. Specifically, the purpose of this year's meeting is to:

• Review the draft study report on Out-of-School–Children;

• Build capacity in the use of the OECS Education Simulation Model;

• Strengthen the region's administrative data systems and reporting framework

Having already been introduced to the methodology for the Out-of-School–Children Study, participants will now seek to review findings of that study, in order to ensure that the data presented is representative of their national context and to identify possible reasons for data gaps and trends reflected in the report.

In regards to the second purpose, participants will be exposed to an OECS teacher simulation model (OECS-TESiM). The OECS-TESiM allows decision-makers and planners in education to evaluate the effectiveness of various policy decisions related to teacher employment and training. This exercise will assist in ensuring that member states attain full ownership and operation of the OECS teacher simulation model.

Also during this year's forum, the education statisticians will report and present on national initiatives undertaken during the 2014/15 academic year which were geared towards strengthening data systems. Presentations will highlight lessons learnt, challenges and proposed work plans for the 2015/16 academic year.


WINAIR and Domino's launch Caribbean's first airline pizza delivery service

SIMPSON BAY, St. Maarten, Thursday August 6, 2015 – It is by far the region's most unique delivery service – pizza by plane. Regional airline WINAIR has teamed up with Domino's to offer a delivery service to residents of Saba and St. Eustatius.

Starting the start of this month, residents of the two small islands in the Netherland Antilles could call and place their orders at Domino's in the airport in St. Maarten, prepaying by credit card.

The pizzas are baked right before a scheduled WINAIR flight and flown to the nearby islands – within half hour – and left at the WINAIR airport counter for pick-up.

"Partnering with a company with a stature like Domino's is not only desirable for WINAIR but, moreover, an additional service we can offer the residents of the surrounding Islands," said president and chief executive officer of WINAIR Michael Cleaver.

Owner of Domino's local franchise, John Caputo, said the partnership takes Domino's mission to be the number one pizza delivery company in the world to new heights.

"We are excited to partner with Winair to be able to provide this service that Saba and St. Eustatius residents have been longing for," he said.


Jamaica celebrates 53 years of Independence

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Aug. 6, (CMC) – Jamaica is celebrating its 53rd year of political independence from Britain with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller calling on Jamaicans to build communities as a way of bringing the real meaning to independence.

"Let us build our communities and participate in the governance of our country. This is how we continue to build our nation. This is how we bring real meaning to Independence. Our commitment is to social justice, security and prosperity for all. We are in pursuit of economic equity and are unwavering in our commitment to the values and principles of democracy."


Warning to Haitian electoral candidates

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, Aug 5, (CMC) – The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) is warning candidates that it has the powers to remove them from contesting the upcoming elections as local authorities and the United Nations appealed for an end to all forms of violence before the first ballot is cast on August 9.

There have been many reports of electoral violence during the campaign with at least one candidate withdrawing and another accusing his opponent of spearheading an attack on vehicles belonging to his supporters over the last weekend.


Law suit for parent company of Red Stripe

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Aug 4, (CMC) – The London-based alcohol company, Diego, the parent company of Red Stripe, is facing a lawsuit in the United States for reportedly misleading consumers into believing that the beer is made in Jamaica

The lawsuit, filed by two people in a US federal court last week, takes aim at the Red Stripe promotion in the US which calls the beer a "Jamaican style lager" that contains the taste of Jamaica.

The lawsuit says the promotion is misleading because Red Stripe supplied in the US market is not made in Jamaica, but instead in Pennsylvania.

Red Stripe made the decision to start producing its signature beer destined for the US market in that US city in 2012.

It is made by city brewing company which pays Red Stripe royalties to produce the beer.


Caribbean countries represented at Codex meeting in Uruguay

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, Aug 3, (CMC) – Delegates from several Caribbean countries are gathering here for a meeting of 22 Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries o establish common positions on international food safety standards.

The Codex Alimentarius colloquium on Tuesday is being attended by delegates from Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, the United States, Guyana and Jamaica.

The meeting will also be attended by representatives of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the President of the Technological Laboratory of Uruguay, Fernando Fontán.

The event, organised by IICA and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), is an opportunity for the countries to identify regional positions of mutual interest and develop participation strategies for the forthcoming international Codex meetings on food hygiene, nutrition and foods for special dietary uses, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Codex Alimentarius is the benchmark organisation for food safety standards, recognized by the World Trade Organization (WTO). Its science-based standards contribute to safety, quality, and equity in international food trade.

FRIDAY, JULY 31, 2015

Caribbean wants positive action from UN climate conference in Paris

By Peter Richards BELMOPAN, Belize, July 31, (CMC) – Caribbean countries have been told that they should want to see " a very ambitious agreement" emanating from the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP 21) to be held in Paris in December.

Deputy Director and Science Advisor of the Belize-based Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), Dr. Ulric Trotz said that given the drastic impact of climate change on small islands developing states (SIDS), it was imperative therefore for the Caribbean to understand that "the reality is that we are living in a world where climate is changing.


United for "Climate Justice"

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Jul. 30, (CMC) - Caribbean artistes are being encouraged to use their talents to galvanise support for the region as the world prepares to sign a new climate accord in Paris later this year. The call came from Dr. Didacus Jules, director general of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) at the opening of the two-day "Voices and Imagination United for Climate Justice" conference here on Thursday.


Guyana seeks alternatives to Petrocaribe as tensions flare with Venezuela

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Tuesday July 28, 2015 – As tensions flare between Guyana and Venezuela, and the latter country fails to meet its oil export quotas, Guyana is considering energy alternatives to the Petrocaribe programme.

Bloomberg reports that Guyanese Finance Minister Winston Jordan revealed that his country is "actively considering other options."

Petrocaribe, a signature initiative of late President Hugo Chavez, has sold about US$28 billion to participating nations across the Caribbean and Central America since its creation in 2005. Member countries finance as much as half the price of the shipments at one per cent to 2 per cent interest over 25 years.

Guyana receives about half its fuel supply via Petrocaribe, but fears the agreement could be affected by the diplomatic row with Venezuela over a longstanding border dispute, according to Jordan.

Guyana currently receives about 5200 barrels of fuel a day under the Petrocaribe programme, although Venezuela has been unable to meet some delivery quotas, he said.

Relations between the South American neighbours have soured in recent years following Exxon Mobil Corporation's announcement of a "significant" oil discovery off Guyana's coast in waters that Venezuela claims as its own.

The Spanish-speaking socialist country has long contended that borders drawn in 1899 are invalid, and claims nearly two-thirds of Guyana as its own.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro recalled his ambassador in Georgetown for consultations earlier this month and said he would review relations.

Venezuela will stop purchasing Guyanese rice in November when a bartering agreement for oil payments expires, according to Georgetown.

TUESDAY, JULY 28, 2015

Venezuela President says UN mission to visit Guyana and Venezuela

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - A UN mission will travel to Venezuela and Guyana to promote dialogue between them over a border dispute, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday. Maduro made the remarks after meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who the Venezuelan said had promised to "immediately activate a commission" to visit both countries.

MONDAY, JULY 27, 2015

American civil rights leader visits French Caribbean islands

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)-Martinique continues to build upon its efforts in support of the United Nations Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), welcoming American civil rights activist and Baptist minister, Jesse Jackson, for an official visit July 20-21, 2015.

Reverend Jackson addressed a meeting of the Martinique Regional Council yesterday prior to paying his respects at the gravesite of fellow civil rights crusader and Martinican statesman, Aimé Césaire, who passed away in April 2008 at the age of 94. Reverend Jackson later visited the Aimé Césaire Museum in downtown Fort-de-France.

Muriel Wiltord, director Americas of the Martinique Promotion Bureau, commented on Reverend Jackson's visit, saying: "Among the islands of the Caribbean, Martinique holds a unique position in the area of civil rights, the name Césaire as cherished in the hearts and minds of people throughout the Francophone world as Dr. King and Malcolm X are in America. For us, Reverend Jackson's visit is a particularly proud occasion that highlights the similarities of our past, while also pointing ahead to a bright future."

Reverend Jackson's visit to Martinique further builds upon the island's efforts in support of The United Nations Decade for People of African Descent, a 10-year program designed to promote respect, protection and fulfillment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for people of African descent, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In line with this commitment, The Martinique Regional Council has pledged monetary support toward the construction of the UN permanent memorial for the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade (The Ark of Return) and hosted a delegation of 12 representatives of The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce over Emancipation Weekend – May 20-24, 2015.

FRIDAY, JULY 24, 2015

Trinidad gets extradition request for Warner in FIFA case

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) — Trinidad and Tobago's attorney general says he has received a U.S. request for the extradition of former FIFA vice president Jack Warner on corruption charges. Garvin Nicholas told reporters Wednesday that his office will evaluate the documents from the US Justice Department to decide whether to take the extradition matter before a magistrate.

Warner is scheduled to appear before a court Monday. He is resisting extradition on US charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering in the FIFA corruption case. He is out on bail.

Trinidad legal experts believe Warner's extradition could take five years to resolve.

US prosecutors allege South Africa funnelled US$10 million in 2008 to Warner and two other FIFA executives as payment for them supporting its successful bid to host the 2010 World Cup.


Canada introduces new travel system for Caribbean nationals

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — Canada has introduced a revision to its new entry requirements for all visa-exempt travellers seeking to enter the country by air. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade here said it has been advised that, effective March 15, 2016, it will become mandatory for Barbadians and other Caribbean nationals travelling to Canada to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA).

It said the application must be submitted online and will be available from August 1, 2015. Barbadians and other nationals of visa-exempt countries seeking further information on the new requirements may visit Canada Gazette's website at http://canadagazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2015/2015-04-22/html/sor-dors77-eng.php, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs added.


US and Cuba officially restore relations after 54-year diplomatic freeze

WASHINGTON, Jul 22, (CMC) –Two United Nations health organisations are calling on Caribbean governments to implement measures that would curb the consumption of alcohol after a new study found that alcohol consumption in the Americas is higher on average than the rest of the world.

"There are many actions that governments can take to control access to alcohol, including government monopolies, limiting hours and days of sale, and enforcement of minimum purchasing ages," the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) say after releasing the findings of a Regional Status Report on Alcohol and Health in the Americas.

TUESDAY, JULY 21, 2015

US and Cuba officially restore relations after 54-year diplomatic freeze

WASHINGTON, United States, Monday July 20, 2015 – Cuba's flag now stands among those of the nations with which the United States has diplomatic relations. An agreement reached after months of negotiations, to restore the ties between the two countries that had been broken for more than five decades, came into force at midnight.

The US officially reopened its embassy in the Cuban capital and the doors of the US Embassy in Havana opened again.

While the Cuban flag was raised over Havana's embassy in Washington for the first time in 54 years, during a short ceremony, it won't be until August 14 when US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Cuba that a similar ceremony will take place in Havana.

It will be the first visit by a Secretary of State to Cuba since 1945.
Kerry is due to hold talks with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez this afternoon. Deputy chief of mission for the US in Havana, Conrad Tribble, was those who took to social media to hail the historic day.

MONDAY, JULY 20, 2015

IDB approves climate-smart agriculture funds for Latin America and Caribbean

First-of-its-kind fund will support investments that increase rural livelihoods, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance biodiversity The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) announced the approval of the $5 million Climate-Smart Agriculture Fund for Latin America and the Caribbean (CSAF) to incentivize private sector companies in the region to invest in projects that increase farmers' incomes while addressing climate change. Created in partnership with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the CSAF aims to unlock greater private-sector investment in sustainable land use and climate-resilient agribusiness.

"Our efforts thus far have produced solid results on climate mitigation. This new initiative complements those achievements with a first-of-its-kind fund to pursue equally ambitious results on climate adaptation," said Kelle Bevine, Head of Strategy in the Structured and Corporate Finance Department of the IDB. "Concessional financing tools like this help to unleash the innovation of first mover projects and shift from business as usual."

Climate-smart agriculture is a business model that increases agricultural output while maintaining or lowering amounts of inputs, such as land, water or fertilizer. It increases total productivity while reducing environmental impacts and building resilience to threats to production induced by the effects of climate change.

Climate-smart agriculture investments, however, face a number of hurdles to access finance, including lengthy payback periods, as well as significant barriers to information on sustainable practices. As a result, climate-smart investments may be put off indefinitely, perpetuating poor land-use management, additional greenhouse gas emissions, increased vulnerability to climate change and lower incomes for small producers.

The Fund addresses these barriers by offering risk-tolerant capital with long tenors to catalyze private investment by cushioning early losses and providing a concessional tranche of resources that can transform projects into sustainable business investments. Associated technical assistance will enable IDB to build the necessary capacity for project implementation and to disseminate lessons to other private-sector investors.

The Fund's investments will focus on restoration of degraded lands through reforestation and other measures to increase productivity and profitability and enhance carbon stocks. They will improve agricultural management, including sustainability certification of agricultural products and water efficiency investments.

Across the region, the forestry and agriculture sectors are already affected by climate change. Coffee plantations in Central and South America are increasingly vulnerable to leaf rust fungus (la roya), for example, requiring investment for replanting and technical assistance. Reducing emissions from the land-use sectors and making them more resilient to the effects of climate change has become a critical development challenge given the importance of agriculture to the region.

FRIDAY, JULY 17, 2015

Caribbean leads world in reducing the number of new HIV/AIDS infections

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, – The United Nations is reporting major progress by the Caribbean in battling HIV/AIDS, with the region recording the biggest drop in new infections compared to all regions in the world.

According to a report from the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), 'How AIDS changed everything — MDG6: 15 years, 15 lessons of hope from the AIDS response' which indicates that the world has met and exceeded the sixth millennium development goal of halting and reversing the AIDS epidemic, it is estimated that the number of people newly infected with HIV in the Caribbean in 2014 had been cut in half since 2000.

"The number of people living with HIV in the Caribbean fell sharply in the first half of the past decade, as new infections declined and substantial AIDS-related mortality persisted. As access to HIV treatment has expanded, the number of people living with HIV has stabilized and begun to increase, consistent with trends seen globally," stated the report which was released yesterday on the sidelines of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development.

The decrease in new infections was most pronounced in the 2000 to 2004 period, when they fell by almost 32 per cent. In the 2005 to 2009 and 2010 to 2014 periods, more modest declines in new infections of about 10 per cent occurred.

Haiti accounted for roughly half of all new HIV infections in 2014 in the Caribbean, with the Dominican Republic contributing the second largest number of new infections.


American Airlines expands service in the Caribbean

FORT WORTH, Jul. 16, (CMC) – American Airlines has announced plans to add eight new routes throughout Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America later this year, further strengthening its position in these key regions and providing customers with increased options when traveling to these destinations.

According to Travel Daily News, the expanded service includes new flights to Curacao; Montego Bay, Jamaica and; Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.

"As the premier carrier to Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America with flights to 85 destinations, these additions highlight our commitment to providing our customers with a network that is second to none," said Art Torno, the airline's Senior Vice President for Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America.

"We are committed to each country we serve, and these new routes allow us to contribute to and further promote travel and tourism to and from the region," he added.

Flights will operate five times per week with Boeing 757 aircraft.

With the new routes, American Airlines will operate more than 1,750 weekly flights throughout Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America –more service than any other airline.

In addition to the 85 destinations throughout Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America, the airline has served Cuba since 1991 with charter flights from Miami and Tampa to five destinations in Cuba – Camaguey, Cienfuegos, Havana, Holguin and Santa Clara.

On the heels of American Airlines' new and expanded winter services to the Caribbean and Mexico, two other airlines have "joined the chorus."

It said JetBlue will add a new route from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Providenciales, Turks and Caicos in November, pending government approval.

Delta will resume its seasonal service from Atlanta to Grenada on December 19 with three weekly flights through January 9, after which the carrier reverts to a Saturday-only flight through April.


UN official says Caribbean countries need urgent access to financing

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – A senior United Nations official says Caribbean countries have very limited access to concessional financing and Official Development Assistance (ODA), with the exception of Haiti, which is classified as least developed country.

United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Jessica Faieta in an opinion piece to coincide with the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, said that with the majority of Caribbean Small Island Development States (SIDS) ranked as middle income countries, they "are shunned from receiving developing financing".

Caribbean countries have been calling on the international community to revise the means through which they are granted concessional aid, noting that the use of per capita levels above the international financial eligibility benchmarks should be scrapped.

"Having lived and worked in four Caribbean countries I have witnessed first-hand how these vibrant societies with enormous potential share serious challenges: from severe exposure to natural hazards and external financial shocks to slow economic growth and high debt," she wrote.

But she said the world has a unique opportunity to change this and help improve the lives and the future aspirations of Caribbean women and men making reference to the high-level meeting in Addis Abba.

The meeting is likely to adopt an international agreement setting out how the post 2015 sustainable development agenda will be financed.

Faieta said a new report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has found that that the traditional international standards, based on national per capita income averages, are inadequate measures of these countries' sustainable development needs.

"As a result, Caribbean countries have very limited access to concessional financing and Official Development Assistance (ODA), with the exception of Haiti, which is classified as least developed country. "

The report titled "Financing for Development Challenges in Caribbean SIDS: A case for review of eligibility criteria for access to concessionary financing" is being launched at the Addis Abba meeting that ends of Thursday.

The UN official said that it is time the international community responds to the call from Caribbean SIDS to review current criteria to access financing.

TUESDAY, JULY 14, 2015

UN chief says world on way to 'generation free of AIDS'

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AFP) – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday the world was headed for a "generation free of AIDS", after UNAIDS reported a 35-per cent drop in new HIV infections from 15 years ago. The positive news was also coupled with calls for more funding, with the objective of eliminating the virus by 2030. The United Nations also warned that continuing stigmatisation of sex workers, drug users and homosexuals were barriers to progress.

MONDAY, JULY 13, 2015

Regional Cultural Committee criticises Dominican Republic

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) – The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Regional Cultural Committee (RCC) wants the Dominican Republic "to immediately cease and desist" overtly racist policies disguised as state foreign policy.

In a statement criticising Santo Domingo over its policy of deporting people of Haitian descent, the RCC, which met in Haiti last week in preparation for the region's premier cultural festival, The Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA) in August, said it was also sending a similar message to "all other Caribbean nations" with such a policy.

Regional governments at their summit in Barbados earlier this month issued a statement condemning the forced deportation of the people of Haitian descent and the Haitian government said it wanted the Dominican Republic to return to the negotiating table to find a humane way to deal with the situation.

In its statement, the RCC said that it acknowledges the role that Haiti has played in influencing and shaping the wider freedom movement in Latin America and the Caribbean, declaring "its grave concern over the recent legislated decision of the government of the Dominican Republic that has rendered stateless thousands of Dominicans of Haitian origin/descent, a gross denial of their basic human rights".

The RCC said that it also viewed with "abhorrence, reports of lynching and forced expulsion of such persons from their homes by ordinary citizens with no reported government sanctions.

FRIDAY, JULY 10, 2015

Jamaica considering bio-fuel production

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) –The country is looking to produce its own biofuel and increase the current mix of ethanol in petrol to about 20 per cent. This is according to Principal Director, Policy, Planning, Development and Evaluation Division, in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Dr Oral Rainford, who said this "is something that we are giving serious consideration."

He was speaking at the opening of the workshop on the Life Cycle Sustainable Assessment and Global Bio Energy Partnership (GBEP) Indicators for Sustainable Biofuels in Jamaica, at the Kingston offices of the Jamaica Employers Federation (JEF), on Monday.

A ten per cent ethanol mix in fuel was implemented in Jamaica in 2008. This ethanol, which is produced from cane sugar and molasses, is mainly imported from Brazil.

Rainford is adamant, however, that "we've got to begin doing more for ourselves," in terms of producing biofuels locally, starting with the mix currently being used.

"Significantly, we want to develop the fleet stock to provide that 10 per cent because as it is, we have been importing that 10 per cent from Brazil, and to an extent, some has come from the United States (US)," he said.

The principal director noted that this plan to produce biofuel in Jamaica is being partly hampered by the unwillingness of industry players to venture into this production.

Another setback, he explained, is the lack of adequate arable land for the production of the raw material, as there is a "contest" for such lands with more profitable crops.

Rainford noted however, that the government is working to bring back into production, lands that have remained uncultivated for many years, and "begin developing the fleet stock which we will use in our bio-energy project as we go forward."

He further expressed optimism that the series of workshops will culminate in the country being able to produce most, if not all, of the fuel (specifically biofuel) that it needs.

This is the second workshop being held as part of the implementation of a trilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Brazil, Jamaica and the United States, for the advancement and co-operation on biofuels development.

The four-day workshop seeks to provide technical training in a Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment tool, which is a software designed to help decision-makers in the public and private sectors advance the production of biofuels locally.


Maduro blames Guyana for agitating border dispute

CARACAS, Venezuela, Jul 9, (CMC) – President Nicolas Maduro Thursday accused the newly elected Guyana President Donald Granger of disregarding the history surrounding the border dispute between the two countries and seeking to provoke and isolate his oil-rich country.

In an interview broadcast on the Venezuela-based television channel, Tele Sur, Maduro recounted the efforts made more than a century ago to settle the land dispute between the two countries involving the "British Empire" and the signing of a Geneva Agreement in 1966 that also included the signature of the late Forbes Burnham, the first Guyana head of state.


Cholera eradication in Haiti will take 'some years,' says outgoing UN coordinator

(un.org) While some 16,000 new cases of cholera have been reported in Haiti so far this year, the disease is now under control but it will not be eradicated unless improving water and sanitation conditions are given a higher priority by both the Government and donors, says the outgoing United Nations official tasked with leading the response to the outbreak.

"And in today's world, in the 21st century, it's not acceptable to have this huge number of cases of cholera," Pedro Medrano Rojas said in an interview with the UN News Service, as he wrapped up his assignment as UN Senior Coordinator for the Response to Cholera in Haiti.

Any country with this number of new cases of cholera would declare it an "emergency," added Mr. Medrano, who served in the post for two years.

"This is what we are trying to convey to donors and to the international community" so that they will contribute more towards the eradication of the largest epidemic in the Western Hemisphere. Currently, only about 20 per cent of the $2.2 billion needed for the 10-year national plan to eliminate cholera is available.

Mr. Medrano, who has been responsible for strengthening overall coordination among UN entities and mobilizing a coherent and effective response by the international community, recalled that in the 1990s there had been an outbreak of cholera in the Latin American region that started in Peru. It had taken almost 10 years to eliminate cholera at that time.

Comparing the water and sanitation infrastructure in the 20 countries in the region that were affected back then, where over 80 per cent of people had access to water and adequate sanitation, Mr. Medrano noted that "Haiti has a third of that."

"So we need to do a robust investment in water, sanitation and health, and this takes time," he said.

"So we have to be able to treat the cases, the emergency response, and we can control it and save lives. But what is really important is to have the infrastructure – in water and sanitation in particular – which has not been the priority of the international community for many decades."

About the current situation, Mr. Medrano said that when compared with 2010, the peak of the epidemic, there has been a 90 per cent reduction in the number of cases and to date, "we have the lowest number of new cases."

"So I think that we can say we have been able to control it, not eradicate it," he said.

As for vaccination rates, the target this year is 300,000 people, compared to 200,000 people last year and 100,000 in 2013.


ACP secretary general wants Caribbean to play significant role in shaping new global order

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jul 7, (CMC) – Secretary General of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) grouping, Dr. P.I. Gomes wants Caribbean countries to be part of the efforts in putting across a strong position for development financing for Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

"From the perspective of the ACP, we want the Caribbean to be looking forward to various areas, particularly how we prepare for the financing for development (conference) in Addis Abba (next week) and the post 2015-agenda because for us we have to put very strong case for SIDS and coastal states," he told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

FRIDAY, JULY 3, 2015

UN warns risky occupations drive vulnerability in the Caribbean

UNITED NATIONS, (CMC) - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has found that half of the 220 million "vulnerable" people in the Latin America and Caribbean region "who live slightly above the poverty line but below middle-class levels " are working under precarious conditions.

In anticipation of next year's launch of the Regional Human Development Report 2015-2016: Multidimensional progress: well-being beyond income, UNDP says that the economic boom and poverty reduction that took place over the past few decades significantly affected the labour composition in the region.

Indeed, the employed population grew nearly 40 per cent, from 205 million people in 1992 to 284 million in 2012. This growth was mostly concentrated in the middle class, those living on $10- 50 per day, and vulnerable populations, those earning between $4-10 a day. Over 80 per cent of workers are in the service sector, especially in small companies or self-employed as unskilled labourers. UNDP points out that many work as apprentices without a salary, a practice common among the region's unskilled youth.

"More economic growth that only generates precarious employment will not be enough to prevent this vulnerable group, which represents one in every three Latin Americans, from falling into poverty," UNDP Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Jessica Faieta said late last week during the second Regional Human Development Report Advisory Board meeting at the Ibero-American Secretariat headquarters in Madrid.

In spite of the expansion of jobs in the region and an overall salary increase in the last two decades, there were no significant improvements in social security for workers. UNDP even noted a slight deterioration in the case of access to pensions. Compared to vulnerable and middle class workers, a huge inequality in access to pension and health care existed among the poor

To avoid setbacks and boost social gains "we must invest in people," Ms. Faieta said, adding that boosting their resilience requires strengthening capabilities, increasing their assets and access to social safety nets.

According to UNDP, the disparity reflects a tradition of linking job quality and social security rights to the formal labour market, which is out of reach for most workers in the region.


Guyana wants total CARICOM support

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jul 2, (CMC) – The Guyana government says despite assurances from Venezuela that Georgetown has nothing to fear from the recent decree issued by President Nicolas Maduro regarding the country's territorial borders, the situation has not changed at all.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro issued the decree on May 26 that includes all the Atlantic waters off the Essequibo Coast.


Caribbean leaders open annual summit with recurring issues dominating event

By Peter Richards BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jul 1, (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders gather here from Thursday for their annual summit with recurrent issues ranging from the impact of the ongoing global economic crisis to climate change dominating the three day event.

The regional leaders will discuss developments surrounding the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for free movement of goods, services, labour and skills across the 15-member grouping, but which has come under severe criticism from a regional population still questioning the sincerity of their leaders to fully implement the initiative.

TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2015

HIV rate study highlights condom use gap among Caribbean youths in Canada

ONTARIO, Canada, Jun 30, (CMC) - A study examining the rates of HIV infection among local African, Caribbean and black youth here has found they are using condoms less often than their peers, though their sexual activities are otherwise the same as the broader population of youth that has a lower rate of infection.

More than 500 youths in these groups in Windsor and Essex County here took part in a survey over the past two calendar years, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). The participants were all 16 to 25 years of age.

Eleanor Maticka-Tindale, a University of Windsor professor and Canada Research Chair in social justice and sexual health, told CBC News that the researchers found that "they don't look very different than Canadian youth in general in terms of their sexual activities"

This includes the age at which sexual activity begins and the number of sexual partners these youths report.

Maticka-Tindale said the survey found that local African, Caribbean and black youths "don't use condoms as often as Canadian youth in general".

In the survey, participants were asked if they were HIV positive. The reported rate of HIV infection was approximately 15 in 1,000, a rate that is similar to African, Caribbean and black youths across the country, but well above the 1 in 1,000 Canadians in the same age group, according to CBC.

At the provincial level, according to CBC, Maticka-Tindale said individuals in these same groups have a higher rate of infection than the broader population.

"African, Caribbean and black people account for between four and five per cent of the population of Ontario, but they account for approximately 18 to 19 per cent of HIV infections," Maticka-Tindale said.

"So that's roughly four to five times higher than it should be proportional to the population and that's what we pay attention to," she added.

Kenny Gbadebo, the co-principal investigator on the study, said there is a need for outreach to the young people in the African, Caribbean and black communities.

MONDAY, JUNE 29, 2015

Caribbean countries participating in biotechnology workshop

IRAPUATO, Mexico, Jun 29 (CMC) – Agricultural producers and professionals from 13 Caribbean and Central American countries are attending a training programme in the use of biotechnology in agriculture. The training is organised by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), in collaboration with the Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute of Irapuato (CINVESTAV Irapuato).

The course, which ends on July 1, provides an overview of applied biotechnology techniques for improving soils and varieties, as well as sustainable agricultural practices. The goal is for participants to drive decision-making and promote development and research on this topic.

According to the organisers, biotechnology is a modern and effective tool for product and economic development in a country; as a result, its implementation is important for improving production and preserving biodiversity.

The countries participating in the workshop are Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Costa Rica, Dominica, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.

The initiative is part of the Mexico-Caribbean-Central American Countries Technical Cooperation Programme led by IICA and the General Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA) of Mexico, which seeks to strengthen the capacities of the agricultural sector.

"The programme addresses the specific needs of the participating countries through short training events that focus on improving agricultural productivity and generating economic impact. It is supported by the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs and the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID), as well as educational and research institutions" the organisers said in a statement.

FRIDAY, JUNE 26, 2015

CARICOM "strongly objects" to EU tax haven blacklist

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun 26, (CMC) – More than a week after the European Union named 13 Caribbean countries among a list of 30 nations deemed as tax havens, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping has taken strong objection to the Europe's position.

CARICOM said that it "strongly objects" to the decision by the European Commissioner to "blacklist" a number of member states "on the pretext that there is no cooperation on tax law enforcement with the countries of the European Union.

TUESDAY, JUNE 23, 2015

Experts meeting to discuss options for renewable energy

FORT-DE-FRANCE, Martinique, Jun 22, CMC – A three-day meeting bringing together some of the world's leading renewable energy experts considering options for renewable energy development in the Caribbean and on the numerous islands scattered around the globe is taking place here.

Organisers say the Martinique Conference on Island Energy Transitions, being held under the theme, "Pathways for Accelerated Uptake of Renewables", will provide an opportunity for an in-depth review of resource, technology, market, financing and other aspects of renewable energy development.

Government officials, companies and utilities involved in renewable energy development, banks interested in financing renewable energy development, experts in renewable energy resource assessment and development partners are participating in the three-day event that opens on Monday.

Among the regional participants at the conference are Melissa Defreitas from the Energy Office in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who will speak on the topic Partnerships for Assessment Drilling and Development of Geothermal Resources in St Vincent and the Grenadines; William Hinds, Chief Energy Conservation Officer, Office of the Prime Minister, Barbados, speaking on Integrating a High Share of Renewable Generation in Barbados; and Devon Gardner, Programme Manager, Energy, CARICOM, and Andrew Thorington of CARILEC who will both speak on Developing a Uniform Grid Integration Framework for CARICOM Countries.

The lead negotiator for the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) Barbadian, Hugh Sealy, will moderate a session of Island Renewable Energy Lighthouses.

Panelists for that session include Mike Eman, Prime Minister of Aruba; Jacques Rousseau, Minister of Public Works, Transport, Energy and Communications, Haiti; Joy Grant, Minister of Energy, Science, Technology and Public Utilities, Belize; Ian Liburd, Minister of Public Infrastructure, Post, Urban Development and Transport, St Kitts and Nevis; and Amanda Missick, Minister of Infrastructure, Housing and Planning, Turks and Caicos Islands.

In September 2014, the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Apia, Samoa unanimously adopted the outcome document "SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (S.A.M.O.A) Pathway" which contains a strong focus on renewable energy and requests a strategy for deployment of all sources of renewable energy, development of energy roadmaps, and access to mechanisms to increase capital flows for implementation of sustainable energy projects.

MONDAY, JUNE 22, 2015

US based Caribbean families torn apart by drug deportations – report

LOS ANGELES, Jun. 21, (CMC) – A major human rights group here says thousands of Caribbean families in the United States have been torn apart in recent years by detention and deportation for drug offenses. In its latest report, Human Rights Watch said that disproportionately harsh laws and policies relating to drug offences can lead to deportation for lawful permanent Caribbean and other residents and unauthorised immigrants alike.

The 93-page report, "A Price too high: US Families torn apart by deportations for drug offences," documents how the US regularly places legal residents and other immigrants with strong ties to US families into deportation proceedings for drug offences.

Often, those offenses are decades old or so minor they resulted in little or no prison time, the report says.

Deportations after convictions for drug possession in particular have spiked, increasing 43 per cent from 2007 to 2012, according to US Government data obtained by Human Rights Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The report is based on more than 130 interviews with affected immigrants, families, attorneys, and law enforcement officials, as well as new data obtained from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Deportations of non-citizens with drug convictions, and especially with drug possession convictions, increased significantly from 2007 to 2012, the report says.

In addition to the 43 per cent increase in deportations after convictions for drug possession during that period, the report says deportations after convictions for sales, smuggling, manufacture, or trafficking increased 23 per cent.

For more than 34,000 deported non-citizens, the most serious conviction was for marijuana possession, according to the report.

FRIDAY, JUNE 18, 2015

Lack of equity restricting Caribbean infrastructure investments

BY KARENA BENNETT- The Caribbean region has been losing out on a number of infrastructure developments due to its inability to provide up to US$20 million ($2.3 billion) in equity to international investors. The disclosure was made by managing director of CIBC's corporate credit and structured finance, David Clee, during the first of a two-day CIBC First Caribbean Infrastructure Conference being held at the Hyatt Ziva hotel, Montego Bay under the theme: 'Unlocking Economic Potential'.

"There is interest in energy generation and distribution, utility projects by investors, but a lot of countries get turned down because of their framework... The issue in the region is that the projects have to have good returns on investments because most professionals are looking for $15 to $20 million in equity," he said.

Clee was part of a five-member panel discussion on Caribbean Infrastructure as an asset class from the international and regional investor's perspective. His argument was supported by Managing Director of the Portland Private Equity Douglas Hewson, who stated that the main points around infrastructure development for the Caribbean is ensuring that there is a framework at the country level, and that the concessionary terms of the project will be influential to investors.

"Funding is available to the regio. The problem is that there needs to be proper structuring of the project. The threshold of the debt to equity ratio is not being met by the region, [while] investors look for a net 20 per cent return on investment and they also look for whatever sweeteners they can get," Hewson stated.


European Union blacklists 14 Caribbean countries as among world's worst tax havens

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday June 18, 2015 – Fourteen Caribbean countries are among 30 territories blacklisted by the European Union (EU) as the world's worst tax havens. The list published by the EU on Wednesday includes Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, and the Turks and Caicos Islands and the US Virgin Islands.

Each of those countries, and the other 16 on the blacklist, had been suggested by at least 10 EU member states as problematic because they were not doing enough to crack down on tax avoidance.

Jurisdictions commonly labelled as offshore tax avoidance hubs, including Luxembourg, Jersey and Switzerland, were not on the list.

MONDAY, JUNE 8, 2015

Caribbean health leaders to discuss action to tackle chronic diseases

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jun 8, (CMC) – Caribbean health officials are meeting with representatives of United Nations agencies this week to discuss actions that can be taken to reduce the impact in the Caribbean of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, and their associated risk factors.

The two-day meeting, which began in Barbados yesterday, is also being attended by officials from Canada and the United States, development banks, academia, and civil society.

The "Forum of Key Stakeholders on NCDs: Advancing the NCD agenda in the Caribbean" has been organised by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) in collaboration with the Barbados Ministry of Health.

PAHO/WHO said that compared with other sub regions of the Americas, the Caribbean has the highest rates of premature death among people, aged 30 to 69, from the four major NCDs: cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases.

"In addition, NCDs are a major cause of suffering and disability, which, combined with direct and indirect economic costs, places a heavy economic and social burden on families, communities, health systems and economies," the UN agencies said.

The discussions will focus on how to reduce the impact of NCDs by addressing their main risk factors, by strengthening health systems and improving care for NCDs, and by engaging sectors beyond health to support and participate in efforts to tackle NCDs.

In 2007, Caricom leaders committed to the Port of Spain Declaration, a series of 27 commitments to guide action against NCDs. In 2012, Caribbean countries joined other PAHO/WHO member states in endorsing the goal of reducing NCD deaths by 25 per cent by 2025.

FRIDAY, JUNE 5, 2015

Caribbean countries record growth in tourist arrivals

NEW YORK, Jun 5, (CMC) – The Caribbean recorded a six per cent increase in tourist arrivals in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the same period last year, chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Richard Sealy has said.

Sealy said the outlook for the remainder of the year is positive. Although growth is expected to be moderate and uneven among Caribbean countries, overall tourist arrivals are now anticipated to rise at least six per cent over 2014.

Sealy, who is also the Barbados Minister of Tourism, told a news conference here that the Caribbean had "bolted out of the gates" in 2015 as the region recorded its 17th straight quarter of growth with nearly eight million visitors coming to the region during the first four months of the year.

Sealy said the CTO board of directors had discussed how the Caribbean could build on the gains and sustain them, and was considering several initiatives including trageting new markets, such as Brazil and others in Latin America as well as Asia.

"There is a move on the part of the Caribbean to look beyond our traditional source markets," he said.

Meantime, addressing questions about the impact the opening of Cuba to American visitors would have on the tourism sector in other parts of the region, Sealy said that island, a member of the CTO, is "not a problem for the CTO or the Caribbean".


Blatter resigns amid FIFA corruption scandal that has touched Caribbean

ZURICH, Switzerland – The just re-elected president of football's world governing body, FIFA, today announced he will step down amidst a corruption scandal that has roped in a former FIFA official from Trinidad and Tobago and the current FIFA vice-president who is from the Cayman Islands.

Sepp Blatter's announcement came just four days after being voted in to serve a fifth term.

"Although the members of FIFA have given me the new mandate, this mandate does not seem to be supported by everybody in the world of football," the 79-year-old Swiss said at a press conference at FIFA's headquarters in Zurich.

"FIFA needs a profound restructuring. I have decided to lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective congress. I will continue to exercise my functions as FIFA president until that election."

Blatter said although he wanted the election to take place as soon as possible, enough time should be given for the best candidates to present themselves and to campaign.

The re-election of Blatter last Friday came two days after several top FIFA officials – including Trinidad's Jack Warner, a former vice-president of FIFA and president of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF); and current CONCACAF president and FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands – were named in a 47-count indictment unsealed in court in the United States. They are accused of racketeering, bribery, wire fraud and money laundering.


Warner placed on INTERPOL most wanted list

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jun 3, (CMC) – Former FIFA vice president Austin Jack Warner has been placed on the most wanted list of the international police (INTERPOL) on charges including corruption, conspiracy and racketeering.

INTERPOL said that at the request of US authorities "INTERPOL Red Notices – or international wanted persons alerts – have been issued for two former FIFA officials and four corporate executives for charges including racketeering, conspiracy and corruption".


Forecasters say effects of drier 2015 rainy season will be felt next year

CASTRIES, St Lucia (CMC) — Caribbean countries have been warned to prepare for a drier than normal hurricane season, even as forecasters say the effects of the lower rainfalls will be felt in the dry season of 2016.

"Could it be like 2009-2010? Well, if it going to be any of the year from now and a couple of years from now, it is likely going to be this year," climatologist Cèdric Van Meerbeeck of the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology told the Regional Climate Outlook forum for the 2015 wet/hurricane season yesterday.

The US-based National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting six to 11 named storms for the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season, but regional disaster officials have warned Caribbean countries not to become complacent.

"What we can expect for the wet season or the hurricane season -- that means from today until the end of November -- is that the temperatures are going to feel hotter than usual and that is pretty much throughout the Caribbean," Van Meerbeeck said yesterday.

He, however, said that the discomfort level should not be as high, since there will be less humidity.

Van Meerbeeck said that with a drier than usual season, forecaster are already beginning to be worried about the impact on productive sector come next dry season, which traditionally runs from December to May in most part of the Caribbean.

"The dry season is our tourism season. That is when most of our water is being used not only by tourists but also extinguishing fires, also by the farmers if they want to irrigate. There are many sectors that consume water in the dry season and our water reservoirs are not recharged in the wet season, they are recharged in the dry season before that," he said.

"So, if our wet season is going to be drier than usual, we are starting to be worried at this stage. But the advantage of knowing it already is that we can prepare, we have a longer time to prepare for that severe dry season that we probably are going to have next year," Van Meerbeeck said.

He said the drier conditions will mean fewer showers, and wet spells, and, in total, less rainfall accumulating for much of the region, except The Bahamas.

"The Bahamas behaves a bit differently when we are in a state of El Niño," Van Meerbeeck said of the warming of the Pacific waters near the equator that affects weather condition in the Caribbean and other parts of the world.

"In El Niño, what you see is that the conditions in the atmosphere lead to less showers, less thunderstorm, less tropical showers and cyclones, in the main, the Antilles islands and in The Guianas and in Belize to a certain level, but, in The Bahamas, you get a certain effect, you get more showers. So that part will be wetter," Van Meerbeeck said.

The two-day meeting brought together weather forecasters, disaster managers, and other officials from 25 countries and territories from across the Caribbean.

MONDAY, JUNE 1, 2015

Caribbean 2030: new thinking for a new generation

A three-day conference designed to tap into the thinking of future Caribbean leaders is scheduled to open today in London, England. The event, named Caribbean 2030, is being staged by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI), Wilton Park, JN Foundation and the Caribbean Council in association with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

According to the organisers, the event will seek to answer a number of pertinent questions that will affect both the future of Jamaica and the Caribbean.

"Among these questions are; How do the new and next generation of leaders in the Caribbean see the future? What is their vision for 2030 and beyond? How can they work better together to face the economic, political and security challenges and opportunities they face? How do they envisage the Caribbean countries can best work together in the future?" a news release from CaPRI said.

"CaPRI will provide three presentations at the conference from Dr Damien King, Dr Christopher Tufton and Dr Suzanne Shaw. The conference will also see presentations from our Gold Circle member Kevin Hendrickson from Continental Baking Company, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness and minister of state in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Julian Robinson. Dr Trevor Munroe from National Integrity Action will also present," the news release said.

"Social media engagement is encouraged for this event. Comments might include a summary of what is being said (non-attributable), the direction of the discussion or general impressions of the conference."

CaPRI is also asking Twitter users to include @CapriCaribbean when tweeting and the organisation will retweet the users' message.

FRIDAY, MAY 29, 2015

Caribbean countries sign visa waiver agreement with Europe

By Marie-Claire Williams BRUSSELS, Belgium, May 28, (CMC) – Five Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries were among seven member states of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries that have signed visa waiver agreements with the European Union on Thursday.

The signings took place between the EU, and Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Pacific Islands of Samoa and Vanuatu on the fringes of the ACP-EU Ministerial Council being held here over the next two days.

THURSDAY, MAY 28, 2015

Caribbean to increase resilience to climate change through US$10-m grant

WASHINGTON, May 27, (CMC) – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) says Caribbean countries will increase their resilience to climate change by enhancing the adaptive capacity across the region through a US$10.39 million grant.

The IDB said the funds were approved with support from the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR) of the Climate Investment Funds.

The project is to be executed by the Mona Office of Research and Innovation (MORI) of the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Jamaica and will be co-implemented by regional organisations working on climate change in the region, including the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre; Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, Climate Change Studies Group of UWI, Caribbean Public Health Agency, Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute, and the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism.

"The project is the implementation of the PPCR...and it will help the Caribbean region improve regional processes of climate-relevant data acquisition, storage, analysis, access, transfer and dissemination, and pilot and scale up innovative climate-resilient initiatives directly in PPCR countries - Jamaica, Haiti, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines," the IDB stated.

"However, it is expected that the region as a whole will benefit from the improved capacity and increased information and services related to climate change."

It said the project will focus on improving geospatial data and management for adaptation planning, sea level rise and storm surge impact analyses; consolidating and expanding the regional climate network and global platform linkages; as well as downscaling and expanded climate projection models and high-resolution maps.


Arrested FIFA officials 'corrupted world soccer' says US Attorney General

ZURICH (AP) — US Attorney General Loretta Lynch says bribery and corruption have been marring soccer for at least 24 years as FIFA officials solicited bribes from sports marketing firms and others surrounding its marque events.

Lynch spoke Wednesday in New York as federal charges were unveiled against 14 people in a sweeping investigation of FIFA. Seven FIFA officials were arrested Wednesday in Zurich pending extradition to the US.

Swiss prosecutors, meanwhile, announced criminal proceedings Wednesday intoFIFA's awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Lynch says, beginning in 1991, those involved "corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves ... They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament."

TUESDAY, MAY 26, 2015

China bets on strategic ties with Latin America and the Caribbean

China's Premier Li Keqiang is welcomed by ECLAC executive secretary Alicia Bárcena to the commission's headquarters in Santiago.
SANTIAGO, Chile, Tuesday May 26, 2015 – China's Premier Li Keqiang has reaffirmed his country's commitment to working with the region, and a United Nations body says it's time to take a "qualitative leap forward" in that cooperation. China is prepared to deepen its cooperation with Latin America and the Caribbean in order to mutually learn from each other and forge together a new path for the China-Latin America and the Caribbean Comprehensive Cooperation Association, announced by President Xi Jinping last July," said Premier Li Keqiang, during a keynote lecture at the headquarters of UN's Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago.

He gave a lecture aimed at the entire Latin American and Caribbean region, at the end of a tour of Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Chile, in which he stressed that the region is a cornerstone for global peace and stability, becoming a "new leading area" constantly on the rise in terms of international politics and economics.

He said the promotion of cooperation between China and the region in terms of productive capacity would boost development in such a way that everyone wins, explaining that China proposes that both parties explore a new 3 x 3 cooperation model, focused on the joint construction of the three major pathways of logistics, energy and information technology; the virtuous interaction between companies, society and government; and the broadening of three financing channels – funds, credits and insurance.

The Chinese premier added that his country and the region should intensify their international collaboration even more and strengthen their coordination to speak with a common voice on issues such as the reform of the international financial structure, the negotiations for a new agreement on carbon emissions, the development of the post-2015 development agenda, as well as cybersecurity, with the aim of forging a global network of associations for balanced development and of universal benefit, safeguarding in the best way possible both common interests and developing countries' right to have their say.

ECLAC's executive secretary Alicia Bárcena said the premier's message was relevant for the entire region to better understand its short and medium-term strategies.

"The relationship between China and Latin America and the Caribbean has reached enough maturity to take a qualitative leap forward and advance towards strategic ties that provide mutual benefits," the UN official said.

MONDAY, MAY 25, 2015

Caribbean Week New York 2015

BY Jared McCallister (NY Daily News) THE BUZZ around Caribbean Week New York 2015 is growing — reverberating from the Caribbean Tourism Organization's headquarters in Barbados all the way to New York, where the staffers at the CTO's USA offices in Lower Manhattan are making final preparations for the anticipated event.

Caribbean heads of state, government ministers, travel industry executives and other VIPs will be focused on tourism, investment and business opportunities in the region, in addition to taking part in a number of popular activities, which are open to the public during the week of June 1-7.

From CTO chair Richard Sealy, the Barbados Tourism and International Transport Minister, to New York-based CTO-USA Director Sylma Brown, the organization is working hard to fulfill Caribbean Week's goal to "showcase the warmth, spirit and vibrancy of the Caribbean."

There are a number of pleasurable and informative events for New Yorkers.

All week long, Caribbean chefs will be demonstrating their skills and sharing culinary secrets through the Celebrity Chef Program at locations around town. Up close and personal, Caribbean Diaspora Forum brings government officials from the region together with Caribbean New Yorkers on June 3 to discuss tourism and developments affecting persons living in and outside the region.

And the Rum and Rhythm Benefit and Auction is another opportunity for the public to take part in the activities to aid the CTO Foundation that helps students in the region.

For more information about Caribbean Week New York, visit www.CaribbeanWeek.com, send email to CaribbeanWeek@caribtourism.com, or call (212) 635-9530.

FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2015

UN human rights experts say deportation of Jamaican from Canada is "cruel, inhuman"

GENEVA, May 22, 2015 - The United Nations Human Rights Committee says Canada's deportation of a Jamaican man with a mental disability who spent most of his life in Canada amounted to "cruel and inhuman treatment." Canada's 2011 decision to deport the man, identified in the media as 52-year-old Audley Horace Gardner, left him "without the medical and family support he depended on," the UN Human Rights Committee ruled.

He had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1993, and Canadian authorities deported him in August 2011 over "serious criminality", including his conviction six years earlier for assault with a weapon.

Gardner came to Canada when he was aged 18.

The Geneva-based committee, which oversees countries' adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, said Canada had a right to protect the general public, but stressed that Gardner's crimes were recognised to be related to his mental illness.

The Jamaican had been evicted from his home in 2005, and experts said he subsequently faced difficulties in accessing medicines and suffered psychotic relapses.

The committee said his deportation breached the international covenant that stipulates: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment".

Canadian authorities had argued that the deportation was needed on security grounds and was "reasonable in the circumstances and proportionate to the gravity of the crimes committed, and the danger posed to the Canadian public"

THURSDAY, MAY 21, 2015

New CDB study recommends 'major rethink' of Caribbean airline industry

Damian Reeves of the Caribbean Development Bank presenting the findings of its newly launched study, 'Making Air Transport Work Better for the Caribbean'. (Photo: CDB)
A study commissioned by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has recommended a major rethink of the regional airline industry and for the setting up of a CARICOM Airlines Association to identify opportunities to reduce costs, create greater synergies and earn more revenue.

It has also proposed the creation of an Air Transport Reform Authority to address longer-term strategic issues at the regional level. These were among the steps identified to place the industry on a firmer footing to facilitate its re-launching into the global marketplace as a stronger competitor.

Findings of the study 'Making Air Transport Work Better for the Caribbean' were presented at a seminar held on Wednesday as part of CDB's 45th Annual Board of Governors' Meeting in Basseterre, St Kitts & Nevis. The overarching recommendation is for greater co-operation among regional governments and carriers and with other foreign airlines and a harmonising of administrative and regulatory policy and operations.

The study looked at the history and present make-up of the regional air transportation industry and, in particular, the performance of the state-owned airlines: Caribbean Airlines; Air Jamaica; LIAT; Surinam Airways; Bahamasair; and Cayman Airways. To ensure completeness of analysis, the study covered the 15 full member states of CARICOM, two CARICOM associate members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) i.e. Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands and one non˗OECS associate member- the Cayman Islands.

The study, carried out between the last quarter of 2014 and March 2015, was undertaken against the background of airlines continuing to make losses and shareholder governments, under tight budgetary constraints, concerned about having to prop them up indefinitely. It found that regional airlines were consistently recording losses with the aggregate of accumulated deficits for Caribbean Airlines (CAL), LIAT and Bahamas Air (BA) estimated at approximately USD1billion.

The research, which sought participation from a broad range of air transport industry stakeholders, including the region's domiciled carriers cited a number of reasons for continuing losses. Among them were: market share; operational costs; fuel costs; inadequate Information and Communications Technology (ICT) systems; industrial relations issues; competition from foreign airlines which serve the region; high taxes and charges compared to basic fares, and therefore lower demand and revenues.

The report also suggested that standardisation of regulatory responsibilities would create cost-saving opportunities for the region's airlines, by avoiding costly duplication of capital and labour investments.


Rethinking Caribbean logistics

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, May 20, (CMC) – A senior official of the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) says Caribbean countries need to act quickly to take full advantage of the potential and opportunities for the development of Caribbean logistics.

Professor Gordon Shirley, the PAJ president and chief executive officer the region was now at the cross roads of trade between the major politics and economic leaders, as well as being "at the cross roads between some of the major factories and consumption centers of the globe.

TUESDAY, MAY 19, 2015

Canada gives millions to CARICOM justice sector reform project

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday May 18, 2015 – The Canadian government is providing CAN$19.2 million to help reform the justice sector in Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries.

MONDAY, MAY 18, 2015

CARICOM expecting fresh ideas from new Guyana president

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Monday May 18, 2015 – Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ambassador Irwin LaRocque is anticipating "fresh ideas and views" from the newly elected President of Guyana David Granger. He said he expected that Granger's fresh perspectives would assist in "advancing the interests of the Community and its people."

In a letter to President Granger congratulating him and the coalition of A Partnership of National Unity (APNU) + Alliance for Change (AFC) on their victory at the polls, Ambassador LaRocque said they had been given a mandate by the people of Guyana "to lead them towards greater prosperity and to further the development of the country."

He assured that CARICOM and its Secretariat stood ready to work with Granger's administration in this task.

CARICOM Chairman, Prime Minister of The Bahamas Perry Christie, said he expected the same of Granger and also pledged his support.

He also praised the people of Guyana for "free and fair elections and on their discipline and patience as they awaited the final result of the polls".

FRIDAY, MAY 15, 2015

Caribbean renewable energy start-up fails in IPO attempt

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Thursday May 14, 2015 – A renewable energy finance company that opened a share offering to the public in a bid to be listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) has to go back to the drawing board after failing to attract enough interest. The JSE announced that Caribbean Energy Finance Company Limited (CEFCL) could not raise a minimum J$231 million (US$2 million) of the J$452 million (US$3.9 million) in the initial public offering (IPO).

THURSDAY, MAY 14, 2015

Opposition coalition wins general election in Guyana, according to preliminary results

By Peter Richards GEORGETOWN, Guyana, May 14, (CMC) – The main opposition coalition has won the general elections held here on Monday according to preliminary figures released Thursday by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

The opposition alliance, comprising A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change (AFC) polled 206,817 as compared to 201,457 for the incumbent party that was seeking to extend its 22 –year hold on power in this Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.


Guyana Elections 2015: Commonwealth Group to outline several recommendations to improve electoral process

By: Hon Kate Wilkinson - The Commonwealth has long supported elections in Guyana. Its first election observation exercise dates back to 1992. The Commonwealth Charter, which was adopted by the Commonwealth Heads of Governments in 2012, has at its heart credible and peaceful elections that enable citizens to choose their leaders.

Our group was constituted by Commonwealth Secretary-General Mr Kamalesh Sharma, following an invitation from the Office of the President of Guyana and the findings of an assessment team which was in Guyana last month.

The Commonwealth Observer Group is made up of seven persons from different regions of the Commonwealth and from a range of professions and areas of expertise.

It is our responsibility as observers to consider factors relating to the credibility of the electoral process as a whole. This includes observing and evaluating the pre-election period, election day itself, as well as the post-election period. Members of this group are participating in their individual capacities. We act with impartiality, objectivity and independence. We do not have a supervisory role.

We will assess whether the elections have been conducted according to the standards to which Guyana has committed itself, including through its constitutional and legislative framework and relevant Commonwealth and international commitments.

We arrived in the country on 5 May. We have met with the Electoral Commission of Guyana, some of the political parties, members of the press and international organisations.

Over the next two days we will continue to meet with a range of relevant stakeholders, including domestic and other international observer groups, youth representatives and members of the business community. We plan to take every opportunity to see and understand the election process for ourselves.

On 9 May, our teams will deploy to regions across the country to observe the election environment and preparations for election day. On 11 May, our teams will observe the opening and closing of the polls, the polling itself, counting of votes and transmittal of results. We will consult with other observer groups which will have teams throughout the country.

Our Group will issue an Interim Statement of key findings shortly after the elections. Thereafter, and before our departure from Guyana on 17 May, we will prepare our final report.

This report of our assessment will be submitted to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will in turn forward it to the Government of Guyana, the Elections Commission, the leadership of political parties, and then to all the Commonwealth governments. The report will then be made publicly available, here and throughout the Commonwealth.

We look forward to a high turnout on election-day and the conduct of peaceful elections. We encourage political parties to take a constructive approach to campaigning in these remaining days before the election. We also strongly urge the parties to respond to the officially declared results in a responsible manner.

We wish the people of Guyana well as they embark on this important national process.

TUESDAY, MAY 12, 2015

Caribbean countries want "pragmatic" help to deal with non communicable diseases

Nationnews.com BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, HEALTH MINISTER John Boyce will lead the Barbados delegation to the 68th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, from Thursday this week. There, he will join with other countries in the Caribbean region to call for a more pragmatic and systematic approach to technical and financial assistance required in the battle against non-communicable diseases.

Speaking Monday at the opening of a Caribbean Cancer Control Leadership Forum taking place at the Courtyard by Marriott, Boyce noted: "The challenges of public health in the region are very similar and with a collective voice we can make inroads towards the protection of public health for our people."

In welcoming the delegates to the workshop, the Health Minister stated that the gathering represented the region's commitment to reversing the trends of cancer which in many member states accounted for 25 per cent of sickness and death.

In Barbados, he revealed, cancer of the prostate was responsible for 48 per cent of all cancer deaths in men, and cancer of the breast, uterus and cervix were the leading cause of cancer deaths in women, accounting for 50 per cent.

Boyce said that the World Health Organisation had indicated that up to 30 per cent of cancers were preventable by the application of simple lifestyle interventions such as eliminating the use of tobacco products, limiting alcohol consumption, increasing daily physical activity and exercise, and consuming a varied and nutritious diet.

The Health of the Nation Study carried out in Barbados in 2012 indicated that 8.9 per cent of the population smoked tobacco; 35 per cent of individuals engaged in the consumption of harmful amounts of alcohol; and only 20 per cent of Barbadians were achieving the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables per day.

Boyce disclosed that Government was looking to forge ahead with appropriate policy and programme frameworks to create an enabling environment for prevention of cancer and other non-communicable diseases, and this was being addressed through the National Strategic Plan for Non-Communicable Diseases 2015 – 2019. Specific measures include anti-smoking legislation; national and school-based guidelines for nutritious and healthy foods; age specific guidelines for physical activity and exercise; and an action plan to reverse childhood obesity.

MONDAY, MAY 11, 2015

A Crucial Election: The Next Commonwealth Secretary-General

By Alex May – CNS Contributor May 09 2015 – The last rites have been read prematurely for the Commonwealth many times. But even some of its strongest supporters now believe that it faces an existential crisis graver than any it has faced before.

To the usual challenge of resources have been added, in the last decade or so, the even more profound challenges of salience, direction and credibility. Can the Commonwealth be turned round, to take advantage of the unique opportunities available to an organisation with member states in every inhabited continent, of every size, and at every stage of economic development? Can it realise its enormous potential for exchange of knowledge, ideas and practices, and for brokering international agreement in crucial areas of 21st century international politics? Can it bring its collective wisdom and experience to bear on major world issues such as terrorism and extremism, human rights, climate change, and persistent underdevelopment? Or will it continue its seemingly inexorable decline and end, forgotten and unlamented, not with a bang but a whimper?

The answers will depend largely on the decisions the heads of government take in Malta this November, and in particular on the choice they make of the next Commonwealth Secretary-General. The Commonwealth, since 1965, has been very much a Secretary-General-centred organisation. The personality and skills of the Secretary-General have been crucial in setting the tone of the Commonwealth and extending (or limiting) its reach. Many feel nostalgia for the days of Sonny Ramphal, when the twin issues of apartheid and economic justice kept the Commonwealth on the front pages of all the newspapers, or of Emeka Anyaoku, when the Commonwealth was ahead of the game on a range of issues, from human rights to the vulnerability of small states.

The role of the Secretary-General is not an easy one. It needs the skills of a politician as well as those of a diplomat; a media performer as well as a manager; a leader as well as an honest broker. It needs someone deeply familiar with its work and aspirations; who knows which levers work and which do not; who can use its traditions of informality and consensus to move agendas forward rather than hold them back. And it needs someone with a clear vision for the Commonwealth, who will be proactive not reactive, able to build agreement where possible but also willing to risk confrontation when necessary. The time has passed when continually searching for the lowest common denominator or trying to be all things to all people will lead to anything but continued decline. The next Secretary-General will most probably serve for eight years – long enough either to revitalise the Commonwealth or, perhaps, finally lay it to rest.

There are currently four declared candidates for the post. (It is possible that others may emerge, but in the nature of an organisation comprising 53 member states, late candidates will be at a disadvantage.) All four are extremely capable, but two are unlikely to get far. Doctor Bhoendradatt (Bhoe) Tewarie, Minister for Planning of Trinidad and Tobago, is a conscientious minister and an able politician, but he is hardly known outside his own country, and appears, before now, to have had little experience of or interest in international affairs. The fact that two other senior posts in the Commonwealth are already held by Trinidadians will also count against him. Baroness Scotland of Asthal, the Dominican-born former British Attorney-General, would make an excellent Secretary-General. But her position as a former British minister and a current member of the British legislature probably rules her out in an association still wary of colonial overtones. She will also have to work hard to live down the damage done to her reputation by her agreeing to advise Mohammed Waheed Hassan, leader of the 2012 coup in the Maldives, on how to avoid Commonwealth action for human rights abuses. The contest to become the next Secretary-General is therefore looking increasingly like a two-horse race.

Sir Ronald Sanders also brings considerable experience of management (including in the international finance and telecommunications sectors), and of the Commonwealth as a diplomat, political commentator and key figure in the 'Eminent Persons Group' appointed in 2010 to advise on reform of the Commonwealth (some of whose recommendations were rejected and others accepted, though their implementation has been very long in coming). Well known and widely respected in the Caribbean and in Commonwealth circles, he combines diplomatic, managerial and political skills and a realistic appraisal of possibilities with a passionate commitment to the Commonwealth and its core values. If anyone can revitalise the Commonwealth, one feels, it is him.

FRIDAY, MAY 8, 2015

Golden Krust recalls patties because of undeclared allergen

BRONX, N.Y. (PIX11) — Golden Krust is recalling more than 6,000 cases of shrimp and soya patties because of undeclared egg, which could give customers with egg allergies the wrong impression that the patties are safe for them to eat and potentially lead to a serious or life-threatening reaction, the company announced Wednesday.

The recalled patties were distributed directly to Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill stores in the northeast through a distributor for Golden Krust stores in Florida, Georgia and three other distributors, the company said.

A total of 6,188 cases of shrimp and soya patties — each bulk case containing 50 individual frozen patties lined with parchment paper, with a net weight of 17.2 pounds — are being recalled. The product cases are marked on the side with the expiration dates Jan. 24, 2015, through Feb. 26, 2016.

There have been no reports of adverse reactions connected to the patties, the company said.

After someone discovered the patties — which are known to contain eggs — were shipped in packaging that did not specify the ingredient, the company initiated the recall.

Customers of the Bronx-based chain with known egg allergies who have any of the recalled patties should not eat them, but rather throw them away.

Questions can be directed to 855-565-0561, which is available 8:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (EST) Monday through Friday, or sent via email at consumerresponse@goldenkrustbakery.com.


IMF launches youth photo contest for the Caribbean

LIMA, Peru, May 7, (CMC) – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has launched a regional photo contest entitled "Latin America and the Caribbean: Through the Eyes of its Youth" for Latin American and Caribbean youth.

The Washington-based financial institution on Wednesday said the contest, which is open to citizens of Latin American and Caribbean countries age 18-30, "provides an opportunity for youth in the region to communicate visually the economic and social challenges facing their countries, as well as ideas about how best to build a better future for the region."

"It's always enlightening and refreshing to engage with young people to learn more about the challenges they see and aspirations they have for the future," said Carla Grasso, IMF Deputy Managing Director, in launching of the photo contest Wednesday during a roundtable event with university students here.

"The photo contest will be a fantastic opportunity to visualize their perspectives on the region's economic and social situation and how to improve it," she added.

The top 20 finalists will be evaluated by a panel of judges composed of IMF staff and regional partners.

The selection will be based on originality, technical excellence and artistic merit.

In addition, the IMF said the panel will consider the country of origin and gender of the photographer.

Six finalists will be selected and invited to the 2015 Annual Meetings here, where the winners will be announced.


St Lucia tightens cyber security after hacking of SVG site

CASTRIES, St Lucia, Wednesday May 6, 2015 – Concerned about the recent attack on the official website of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines government, the administration of Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony is taking steps to strengthen its own cyber security.

In a statement issued yesterday, the government said the incident in the neighbouring island appeared to be part of a trend of increasing reports of cyberattacks of various kinds regionally and internationally.

"As the Government of St. Lucia seeks to continually enhance its online presence and make more of its services accessible online to citizens and other users, it is ever mindful of the increasing importance of cyber security. This is why it has embarked on numerous initiatives and taken several proactive measures to reduce the possibility of successful attacks on Government information and technology assets as well as to reduce the negative impact should such incidents occur," it said.

TUESDAY, MAY 5, 2015

New paradigm for Caribbean development

By Peter Richards PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, May 5, (CMC) – A three-day forum on the future of the Caribbean began here on Tuesday amidst concerns that a new paradigm is needed to take the region forward in a changing global environment.

Deputy Executive Director of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Dr. Antonio Prado said the Caribbean, like Latin America "is facing a future fraught with challenges and uncertainty" and that it is clear that the models and strategies that have delivered improved living standards in the past will be unable to continue doing so in the future.

MONDAY, MAY 4, 2015

ISIS group hacks St. Vincent Government website

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, May 4, (CMC) - The Islamic State (IS), an Islamist rebel group claiming religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide, has hacked the official website of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines government (www.gov.vc), a message appearing on the website Sunday evening suggested.

Visitors to the website were greeted by a message saying "Hacked By Moroccanwolf - Islamic State" and a photo of man firing a high calibre machine gun from the back of a pick-up truck.

Below the photo was a message in which the hackers accused the United States and NATO forces of being involved in "organised butchery" of the human race.

"They overthrow governments of sovereign nations and they undermine, threaten, refuse to recognise and seek to destroy democratically elected governments like they are in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Palestine.

"They support dictators as long as they are fulfilling US, EU & NATO interest in the region like they did in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. You speak of freedom of speech and freedom of expression but you remain silent in the face of a people desire to seek freedom to exist – unless those people are Israeli Zionists! Hypocrisy of this magnitude will bring the chickens home to roost and not peace and security as is your mantra!" continued the message signed by Islamic State Hackers.

However, the website subsequently went offline. No official statement had been issued by the government up to this morning.

FRIDAY, MAY 1, 2015

IDB launches new portal to aid Caribbean development

WASHINGTON D.C., United States, Thursday April 30, 2015, (CMC) – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has launched its new open data portal, which allows users to explore, visualize and download data from Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB said the data comes from diverse research analysis and sources it uses to generate knowledge for its development interventions.

The portal, named "Numbers for Development" allows users find in a single place a variety of specialized datasets with indicators and raw data on topics such as education, labor markets, poverty, gender participation, global integration and agriculture policy, among others.

"Numbers for Development is aimed at researchers, students, policymakers, analysts, and others working in development issues and public policy. The Bank previously offered a BETA version of the portal to early adapters and the feedback was tremendously positive, helping the IDB to create the current version of this useful tool," IDB said.

The IDB said it will also publish a blog series, "How to Use Numbers for Development" with key information and tips on how best to explore, visualize and download the data.

"The IDB is pleased to launch its open data portal, created with the aim of sharing data generated by our teams of specialists during more than 50 years of analytical work conducted by the Bank in our mission to find solutions to the Region's development challenges.

"With the launching or Numbers for Development we would like researchers and policy makers to take advantage of this data in designing policies, investigating issues, or any other analytical work to support development of the region", said Santiago Levy Algazi, Vice President for Sectors and Knowledge.


Commonwealth officials meet to focus on youth

Government officials and young people from across the Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean are mulling the major issues affecting youth as part of a three – day meeting, which started on Tuesday. Topping the list of matters for discussion is youth employment and entrepreneurship, participation in civic and political processes, the role of young people in peace building, and the professionalisation of the youth work sector. These issues will be tabled during the Caribbean Region Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting (CR-CYMM), hosted by the government of Antigua & Barbuda.

The Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Deodat Maharaj said considering the Caribbean has one of the youngest populations in the Commonwealth, with more than 60 per cent of people aged 29 years or under, youth play a great role in the present and future development of the region.

He said youth are "an enormous asset to the region's development, not just tomorrow, but today. We recognise that young people are playing a vital role in strengthening communities and championing democratic processes, leading and delivering change."

However, Maharaj highlighted that there are many challenges facing youth related to unemployment, climate change, health issues or conflict.

"Young people are feeling the squeeze in the labour market, may lack the capital to start a business, or can be shut out of democratic decision-making," he said.

"Commonwealth member governments are using this meeting, hosted and led by the Government of Antigua & Barbuda, to signal their commitment to young people and ensure that policy priorities are aligned to young people's ambitions and needs."


CARICOM to urgently review request from Cuba for improving trade

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, April 28, (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries say they will give urgent attention to a request from Cuba for additional preferential access to the markets of the more developed countries of the 15-member CARICOM grouping.

A communiqué issued after the 40th Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) last weekend said that the meeting "agreed to review urgently outstanding requests from Cuba for additional preferential access to CARICOM More Developed Countries which will pave the way for a Joint Commission Meeting between the two sides to be held by July 2015".

MONDAY, APRIL 27, 2015

Caribbean technologists meeting in St. Lucia

Google IT Expert, Arturo Servin speaks at recent CaribNOG event in Trinidad
(Photo: Caribbean Network Operators Group)
CASTRIES, ST. Lucia, April 27, (By Gerard Best, CJ Contributor) St Lucia will be the backdrop to the highly anticipated gathering of the men and women responsible for securing and administering computer networks across the Caribbean. From April 27 to May 1, the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG) will hold their ninth regional meeting, a significant forum that has been playing a key role in coordinating and equipping the region's technical community.

"CaribNOG plays a unique role in the region's technology ecosystem. It is a volunteer-based community dedicated to strengthening the Caribbean indigenous capacity to address the rapidly evolving technology landscape," explained Bevil Wooding, one of the CaribNOG founders and a main organizer of the event. "Computer network engineers and technology specialists from across the region and around the world take the time to share their knowledge and experience with the colleagues at CaribNOG."

Founded in 2010, CaribNOG has been steadily building its reputation as the Caribbean's most influential and solutions-oriented forum for network engineers and computer technology professionals.

The group has also built strong connections with other Network Operator Groups from around the world, including Latin America, North America and as far as the Pacific.

"CaribNOG members benefit immensely from exposure to experts from around the region and across the globe," said Jamaican-born Stephen Lee, another CaribNOG founding member and CEO of ArkiTechs Inc., a US-based technology firm.

"Topics range from protecting local networks from hackers and cyber-criminals to deploying broadband and the future of the Internet," he said. Network security, Internet exchange points, cloud computing and global network trends are among the topics to be addressed at CaribNOG's 9th regional meeting.

"Saint Lucia is really looking forward to hosting this important meeting," said Simon Alexander, local organizer and IT Manager at the Organization for Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission.

"The previous CaribNOG gathering in Curacao drew over 100 persons from more than 15 countries. The international nature of gathering affords us the opportunity to showcase Saint Lucia and the OECS to the world as a significant technology-enabled destination."

This ninth event comes on the heels of 2014 meetings in Dominica and Curacao.

FRIDAY, APRIL 24, 2015

FBI investigates British rogue trader for allegedly stashing millions in offshore banks in the Caribbean

LONDON, United Kingdom (CMC) – The United States Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is investigating a British trader who allegedly stashed millions of pound sterling in offshore bank account in some Caribbean islands.

The London Evening Standard reported that Navinder Singh Sarao, 36, who lives in a modest semi-detached house with his parents in Hounslow, West London, and doesn't even own a car, was able to find £5 million in sureties to pay his bail.

The FBI insisted that Sarao hid his alleged ill-gotten gains in a "complex" web of offshore accounts.

In the criminal complaint, United States of America vs Navinder Singh Sarao, filed Thursday at the US District Court in the Northern Illinois, FBI Special Agent Gregory Laberta claimed the Briton admitted to amassing "the majority of his (net) worth in no more than 20 days of trading on days when the market was particularly vulnerable".

According the FBI Special Agent Laberta, the Briton stashed money he earned during the 2010 Wall Street "flash crash" and in his other high frequency trades in Nevis and Anguilla.

"Around the time of the Flash Crash, SARAO took significant steps to protect his assets," says the criminal complaint.

According to the criminal complaint, one of Sarao's "wealth management assistants" described the company, in an email dated November 22, 2012, as having been created as part of "tax planning work" undertaken on the trader's behalf.


US cancer institute signs agreement to import vaccine developed in Cuba

HAVANA, Cuba, Apr. 23, (CMC) –Cuba's Center of Molecular Immunology and New York's Roswell Park Cancer Institute, have signed an agreement to export to the United States, a therapeutic vaccine against lung cancer developed here.

"The agreement will allow us to limit ourselves to clinical trials of the vaccine when we get to New York," said Candace Johnson, the director of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

Johnson was part of a trade delegation from New York, led by governor, Andrew Cuomo, to explore business options here, in addition to promoting exchanges in education and research.

"We are excited to bring the vaccine to the US and treating patients. This would not have been possible without this trade mission, which facilitated the initialling of the agreement face to face, "said Johnson.

The vaccine against lung cancer was created in Cuba in 2011 after 15 years of research with patent rights worldwide.

The vaccine – Cimivax, reportedly doubles as a treatment for lung cancer.

The vaccine is registered in Cuba and Peru, although countries like Brazil, Argentina and Colombia are in the process for registration, and others such as the UK and Australia have conducted clinical trials.


Caribbean entrepreneurs being urged to address General Assembly on climate change

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 22, (CMC) -The United Nations is appealing to young entrepreneurs from the Caribbean and other developing countries to address a special High-Level Event on Climate Change in June.

The UN said that a global search is underway for a young entrepreneur to address the event set for June 29 and convened by the President of the General Assembly, Sam Kutesa.

The event, which will be attended by ministers, business leaders and representatives from civil society organizations, will take place just months before countries meet in Paris in December 2015 to adopt a new universal agreement on climate change.

"The first goal is to check the pulse of Members States to see where we stand, but we also know the world needs to go further to tackle climate change.

"We are, therefore, looking for solutions and inspiration from a young person who is already successfully taking climate action in his or her community," said Kutesa.

The search for a dynamic young speaker to address the opening ceremony is being conducted by the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS). In addition, UN-NGLS is seeking candidates to participate in two other panels during the day of the meeting.

UN-NGLS is asking candidates who are representatives of civil society organizations to share their story of successful local climate action to help shift the world to a sustainable path, enabling economic opportunity, equality, and a healthy environment for all. Civil society representatives may also apply to serve on the Selection Committee for this event.

The UN said the event will be the high point of a week of climate change activities at UN Headquarters in New York, which kick off on June 23 with a meeting of business leaders organized by UN Global Compact.


UWI plants legal marijuana tree

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 20, (CMC) – The Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) planted the first legal marijuana plant in Jamaica on Monday, a few days after the amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act came into effect.

The University of the West Indies yesterday received the first licence under the amended Dangerous Drug Act.Speaking at the press launch of the symbolic planting of the first legal cannabis plant to mark the granting of the licence, Minister of Justice Mark Golding said it was a historic moment for the ganja movement in Jamaica.

"This has been a journey which has involved a lot of passion on the part of many people. I, in my quiet way, have been passionate, too, because I saw this as something that I could put my effort into it and achieve something special," he said.

He also made it clear that the Rastafarian community will not be left out of the benefits to be had under the provisions of the law.

"There are three provisions under the law which provide benefits for the Rastafari community, these relate to the view they hold about the protection of the constitutional right they have treating ganja as a sacrament," he added.

Principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor Archibald McDonald, said that the UWI will be engaging small farmers as part of the cultivation of the plant.

MONDAY, APRIL 20, 2015

Pensions at risk for 80 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean

WASHINGTON, Apr 20, (CMC) – Financial experts and policy makers have warned Caribbean countries that in the absence of reforms, members of the growing middle class may be vulnerable to poverty in their old age.

The event marked the launch of Pensions at a Glance: Latin America and the Caribbean, a publication co-published by the IDB, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the World Bank. The study provides detailed comparative indicators of pension models in 26 countries.

Population ageing will lead to higher spending on pensions in Latin America and the Caribbean; at the same time, the high number of workers in the informal sector, who do not make contributions, put the adequacy of pension benefits at risk. Currently, only 45 out of every 100 workers contribute to a retirement plan, and this ratio has hardly changed in recent decades. By 2050, between 63 and 83 million people in the region will be at risk of not receiving an adequate pension, unless pension systems are reformed and efforts are made to increase formal sector employment, including by improving access to quality education.

"We must act now to ensure the future of pensions in the region," said IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno during the inauguration of the event. "Right now we are enjoying a demographic dividend that cannot be missed. If we get more people to contribute to our pension systems, and if we adjust the systems to rising life expectancy, we will be able to provide adequate coverage to future generations. "

"Governments need to boost employment opportunities in the formal sector, especially for women, so that more people can build future pension entitlements in their own right", said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría opening the event. "Too many people in the region are still excluded from the pension systems. Further reforms are needed to broaden pension coverage to ensure an adequate income at retirement."

The most widespread practice to bridge the gap in pension coverage is expanding the so-called non-contributory pensions. These government subsidies help reduce inequality and poverty, but will pose a fiscal challenge as the population ages and the number of beneficiaries increases. Today there are 8 people of working age for every retiree but, by 2050, the rate will drop to 2.5, close to the OECD average of 1.9

FRIDAY, APRIL 17, 2015

Slow down in remittances to the Caribbean

WASHINGTON, Apr 17, (CMC) - The World Bank says remittances growth in the Caribbean is expected to slow in 2015. The Washington-based international financial institution said in its latest issue of its Migration and Development Brief that growth in global remittances, including those to developing countries, such as the Caribbean, will slow sharply this year due to weak economic growth in Europe, deterioration of the Russian economy and the depreciation of the Euro and Ruble.

In the Latin America and Caribbean region, the World Bank said remittances are expected to grow by 2.3 per cent in 2015 to US$66 billion.

"While this growth is slower than that seen in 2014, it is significantly higher than the anemic pace of the post-crisis period," the bank said.

It, however, said the outlook for the region is "positive, as remittance inflows are expected to benefit from growth in GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and employment in the United States, although this will be offset by high unemployment in Spain".

The report says remittances to the region are expected to grow to US$69 billion in 2016 and US$71 billion in 2017.

Officially recorded remittances to the developing world are expected to reach US$440 billion in 2015, an increase of 0.9 per cent over the previous year, with the report indicating that global remittances, including those to high income countries, are projected to grow by 0.4 per cent to US$586 billion.


CARICOM committed to International Decade for People of African Descent

NEW YORK, Apr. 16, (CMC) - St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ambassador to the United Nations, I. Rhonda King, has affirmed the commitment of the Community (CARICOM) to the International Decade for People of African Descent, as pronounced by the United Nations, which began on January 1.

Addressing the just-concluded International Reparations Summit here, King said the accompanying Programme of Activities for the Implementation of the International Decade will contribute to the full implementation of the Durban Declaration and to its Programme of Action, and raise awareness in combating racism, prejudice and intolerance.

"We see the International Decade for People of African Descent, with its theme, People of African Descent: recognition, justice and development, as an important space for diplomatic engagement," the envoy said. "The programme of activities which accompanies the Decade will address many of the concerns of the African descendant communities."

She added: "We can no longer accept a mere nibbling-away-at-the-edges of these concerns. Until and unless the issue of reparatory justice for slavery is addressed, due recognition, justice and development for People of African Descent will remain incomplete."

In this context, King said the steps to be taken by the International community, and international and regional organizations during this Decade, as outlined in the Programme of Action, will include engagement with people of African descent.

With respect to the steps and measures to be taken by the UN General Assembly, King said these will include the decision to establish a forum to serve as a consultation mechanism to be provided by one of the existing Durban follow-up mechanisms, such as the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent or the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

2015 marks the convergence of several events, including, the launch of the International Decade for People of African Descent; the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the Post 2015 Development Agenda with its Sustainable Development Goals and Financing for Development component; and the 70thAnniversary of the Charter of the United Nations – King said CARICOM maintains that "we have arrived at the crossroads of new possibilities.


President Obama wants Cuba removed from US terrorist list

Presidents Raul Castro (left) and Barack Obama during the Summit of the Americas in Panama (File Photo)
WASHINGTON, Apr 14, (CMC) – United States President Barack Obama Tuesday decided to lift the U.S. designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism. In a message to Congress, the White House said that the long-awaited decision effectively removes the principal impediment to establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, as pledged by Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro last December.

Congress has 45 days to consider Cuba's removal from the list before it becomes effective, but cannot interfere with Obama's decision without voting separate legislation, a measure that the White House has deemed unlikely.

At a news conference in Panama on Saturday, Obama said the majority of the American people, as well as a majority of Congress, approve of his opening to Cuba.

Cuba was first designated a state sponsor of terrorism in 1982, at the height of the Cold War. Cuba's removal would leave only three countries on the list Iran, Sudan and Syria.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries had been urging Washington to ease trade and other embargoes against Havana and they renewed their position during talks last Thursday with President Obama in Jamaica during his meeting with regional leaders.


Ganja law goes into effect April 15

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 13, (CMC) – The Jamaica government says the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015, commonly referred to as the "Ganja Law" and passed by both Houses of Parliament in February, goes into effect on Wednesday.

A statement from the Ministry of Justice Monday said that notification of the Governor General's assent to the Act has been published in the official Gazette and that the Minister of Justice, Mark Golding will bring the legislation into operation this week, April,15.

The Ministry of Justice said that the legislation is expected to have a number of positive implications for Jamaica, including strengthening respect for the rule of law and building a more just society, by eliminating a common cause of corrosive antagonism between the police and young men, particularly in less affluent communities.

It said the legislation would reduce the heavy burden of cases on the Resident Magistrates' Courts and acknowledge the constitutional rights of the Rastafari community, who use ganja as a sacrament.

In addition, the government said the legislation paves the way for the emergence of a lawful, regulated legitimate medicinal and industrial marijuana industry that may have significant economic opportunities and benefits.

"This is a landmark piece of legislation, that is long overdue," Golding said, adding "Jamaica is approaching these reforms in a responsible manner, and in keeping with our international obligations.

"The benefits of these reforms will be significant, and the possible negative implications will, for the first time, be mitigated by a public education campaign to discourage ganja use by adolescents, persons with mental disorders, pregnant women and other vulnerable groups," he added.

MONDAY, APRIL 13, 2015

United States rolls out new programme to support youth development in the Caribbean

President Obama with Caribbean leaders
By Nelson A. King WASHINGTON, Apr 13, CMC - On his short visit to the Caribbean last Thursday, United States President Barack Obama launched the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI), aimed at expanding opportunities for emerging entrepreneurs and civil society activists.

Building on the success of the President's young leader initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, the White House said YLAI, launched at a town-hall meeting at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) will "incubate and accelerate" the work of young business and civil society leaders from Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States.

FRIDAY, APRIL 10, 2015

Jamaica signs energy agreement with United States

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Thursday April 9, 2015, (CMC) – An energy co-operation agreement has been signed between Jamaica and the United States that could lead to the island becoming a hub for the distribution of liquefied natural gas (LNG), from the US to the rest of the Caribbean.

The document was signed by Jamaica's Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell, and Secretary of the United States Department of Energy Dr Ernest Moniz at the Eden Gardens Wellness Resort and Spa in St Andrew.

The Statement of Intent outlines the possible provision of technical assistance for the modernisation of the energy infrastructure; development of the energy renewable sector; fuel diversification especially in relation to the acquisition of natural gas; and the strengthening of the governance structure.

Minister Paulwell said Jamaica was very pleased that part of the agreement had to do with the issue of natural gas.

"Jamaica has attempted, for many years, to implement a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, but we have been hindered because we just did not have access to liquefied natural gas, and so one of the important achievements is the American support for our accessing natural gas," Paulwell said.

He added that the Government is aiming to have Jamaica identified as a possible hub allowing natural gas to be delivered to the rest of the region.

"Those are some of things we will be looking at, and we are also looking at energy conservation and efficiency in both the public and private sectors and the US promised to assist us," Paulwell said.

He said, too, that the Government was committed to ensuring the success of the collaboration by providing the necessary support to facilitate work with the US Department of Energy.


Caribbean American congresswoman urges US to end delay in implementing immigration programmes

WASHINGTON, Apr 9, (CMC) – Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke has joined 180 colleagues in the US House of Representatives in filing an amicus brief urging a US appeals court to end the delay in implementing critical programs for Caribbean and other immigrants.

The programmes - Deferred Action for Parental Accountability and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, will allow millions of immigrants to avoid deportation and become authorized to work.

Late Tuesday Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Federal District Court for the Southern District of Texas, in Brownsville, refused to lift the injunction he had placed in February on President Barack Obama's programmes, saying that to do so would cause irreparable harm.

Hanen's decision came about even as the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals signals that it might disagree with Hanen when it adopts the issue next week. President Obama and the US Department of Homeland Security are appealing that decision.

"I am proud to join my colleagues in supporting President Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson in their effort to allow millions of American families to remain in the United States and participate in our economy," said Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, before boarding a flight with Obama as the US president visits Jamaica for a summit with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders on Thursday.

"The decision by the District Court was completely unprecedented. Presidents of the United States – from President Ronald Reagan to President George W. Bush – have acted under the same authority as our chief executive as defer action in immigration cases," added the representative for the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn.

Hanen said he "remained convinced" that Obama had exceeded his authority by seeking to permit millions of undocumented immigrants to stay in the US legally and obtain work permits.

"Whether by ignorance, omission, purposeful misdirection, or because they were misled by their clients, the attorneys for the government misrepresented the facts," he wrote.

But Emily Pierce, a spokeswoman for the US Department of Justice Department, dismissed the judge's remarks. "We emphatically disagree with the district court's order regarding the government's statements."

The appeals court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on April 17 about whether to rescind Hanen's injunction.


Regional leaders gearing for talks with President Obama

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Apr 7, (CMC) – The prime ministers of Barbados, Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago will address the summit of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders and United States President Barack Obama in Jamaica later this week.

Obama arrives in Kingston on Wednesday for a two-day visit and will hold bi-lateral talks with his host Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

The regional leaders will meet with President Obama on Thursday and Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, His Dominica counterpart, Roosevelt Skerrit and Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar will speak on the topics Competitiveness/Prosperity, Renewable Energy and Security respectively.

Newly elected St Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris, who will be attending his first regional summit since his election last February, said he was looking forward to the meeting as it will give the region a further boost in its relationship with the United States.


Major US Black group to host reparations summit

NEW YORK, United States, Monday April 6, 2015, (CMC) – The Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW), a leading research, policy and advocacy group with offices in New York and Baltimore, says it is holding an International Reparations Summit at various sites across New York City from April 9-12.

On Friday, IBW announced that speakers will include Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies and chair of the Caribbean Community's (CARICOM) Reparations Commission; US civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson; Professor Charles Ogeltree of Harvard University; and Mireille Fanon Mendes France, President of the Frantz Fanon Foundation and Chair of the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African descent and daughter of Frantz Fanon, the Black liberation theoretician and psychiatrist from Martinique.

During the summit, US congressman John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, the most senior member of the US Congress and the dean of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), will be honored for authoring a bill, HR 40, the "Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act" and for his 50 years of service in the US House of Representatives.

"We are delighted that the Institute of the Black World can be a clearinghouse for ideas and strategies on how to pursue reparations for historical crimes and injustices against people of African descent in the US and across the Americas," said Dr. Ron Daniels, the Institute's president. "The courageous decision by nations in the Caribbean to demand reparations from the former European colonialists for Native Genocide and African enslavement and the formation of a CARICOM Reparations Commission is re-energizing the Reparations Movement in the US and throughout the Pan African world."

IBW said scores of reparations advocates, pan-Africanists and social justice activists from across the US, Canada, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean will take part in the New York summit.


New report urges Caribbean to make adjustments amid rising fiscal imbalances

BUSAN, Apr 2, (CMC) – A new report released here has called on Latin American and Caribbean countries to make budget adjustments in the face of rising fiscal imbalances and higher financial risks. The 2015 Inter-American Development Bank's (IDB) annual macroeconomic report has addressed the question of how budgets should be adjusted and how fast.

The report, issued during the IDB's annual meeting, also projects a baseline annual growth scenario for 2016-2019 of three per cent, on par with the 1990s but below the 4.7 per cent registered during the pre-crisis 2003-2008 period.

The report warns that additional negative external shocks in China, Japan and Europe could further erode economic growth.

On the bright side, however, the report says stronger US growth and lower commodity prices, including oil, may give a boost to countries that import energy and have strong trade ties with the United States.

"Latin America and the Caribbean has performed well in the years that followed the global financial crisis, increasing fiscal spending to fuel economic growth," said IDB chief economist José Juan Ruiz.


National Reserves called out for US President's visit

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr. 2, (CMC) – The National Reserve of the Jamaica Defense Force (JDF) has been called out to strengthen security ahead of the April 9 visit of US President Barak Obama. The National Security Minister, Peter Bunting made the disclosure in a statement issued this afternoon, saying it was among several measures being pursued.

In the statement, Bunting also said the public should expect traffic diversions and road closures for the visit.

Additionally, there will be air space restrictions to be communicated by the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority.

Meanwhile, Bunting has expressed satisfaction with the progress of the security arrangements being put in place by the Security Forces in collaboration with the United States Secret Service to welcome Obama and CARICOM Heads of Government.

Bunting and his Permanent Secretary were briefed on the security and logistical plans surrounding the visit, by the Chief of Defence Staff and the Commissioner of Police along with their support officers earlier today.


Warning for US travelers to the Caribbean

NASHVILLE, April 1, (CMC) - The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) is warning vacation and business travelers to the Caribbean about the importance of protecting themselves from mosquitoes that may transmit Chikungunya virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue.

The Tennessee Department of said the first confirmed case of Chikungunya virus disease in Tennessee occurred in 2014 and that since then 42 new cases have been documented, all involving travel outside the state.

"Travel plans to warmer destinations should include necessary precautions to avoid mosquito bites," said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. "Because there is no vaccine to prevent chikungunya virus disease, the only way to prevent its spread is the effective use of repellants and personal protection strategies."

Prior to 2013, chikungunya virus disease was found primarily in Africa, Asia, Europe and in the Indian and Pacific Ocean areas. The illness draws its name from an African word meaning "to become contorted" as most patients suffer from severe joint pain. Chikungunya is rarely fatal, but can cause fever, joint and muscle pain, headaches, fatigue and rash. It can also lead to chronic joint pain. In the past year, health organizations have reported the disease spreading in additional areas, including the Caribbean and the Americas.


CARICOM seeking international support for future socio-economic growth

UNITED NATIONS, March 31, 2015 (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are still grappling with the effects of global economic crisis as well as the impact of climate change, Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie has said.

Addressing the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, Christie, who is the CARICOM chairman, said that regional countries are acutely aware of the complexity of the global economic environment and the major transformation underway in the world economy.

"Indeed, the aftermath of the global economic and financial crises has translated into a less than favourable international context for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the CARICOM region into much of the next decade or so," Prime Minister Christie told the High-Level Interactive Dialogue on Monday held under the theme "The International Decade for Action: Progress achieved and lessons learned for sustainable development".

He told the delegates that the process of climate change has emerged as a global issue, with the increased frequency and severity of climatic events, along with the growing incidence of health pandemics and the risk of terrorism and war threatening to set back the development gains achieved over time by developing countries in particular.

"Given its susceptibility to external shocks, the global realities and challenges are either mirrored or heightened in the CARICOM region, evidenced in persistent low growth rates and crippling external debt, as well as in growing unemployment, especially among our youth."

Prime Minister Christie said that CARICOM has adopted either home-grown or multilaterally-supported stabilisation and structural adjustment programmes, which have not yet resulted in sustained growth in those member states experiencing significant macro-economic imbalances.

He said revitalizing economic growth is therefore of critical importance to preventing further deterioration in the region's human development gains and thus the Region has embarked on a plan to reposition itself.

"It is apparent that such a plan must take into consideration the rising levels of unemployment, particularly in the youth, which exists alongside skill shortages in several key areas.

MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2015

British Caribbean Chamber of Commerce Saint Lucia - President's reception concludes week of Events marking Launch

CASTRIES, ST. LUCIA - A week of meetings and events to mark the official launch of the British Caribbean Chamber of Commerce in Saint Lucia was concluded with a cocktail party hosted on Cap Estate by Chamber President, John Kennedy, attended by Her Excellency the Governor General of Saint Lucia, Dame Pearlette Louisy, Prime Minister The Honourable Dr Kenny Anthony, former Prime ministers Stephenson King and Dr Vaughn Lewis, members of the Opposition, including Allen Chastanet and Dr Gail Rigobert as well as other distinguished ministers, parliamentarians and leaders of the business community of Saint Lucia.

In remarks made to the invited guests, Chamber President John Kennedy expressed his gratitude to those attending for their enthusiastic support and confidence in the decision to establish the British Caribbean Chamber of Commerce and noted that Saint Lucia was the second state in the region to have such an organisation and it was a mark of confidence in the potential for trading links between the UK and Saint Lucia that had led to this decision.

The guests were told that the Chamber's role would be to immediately add support and value to current business activity in Saint Lucia and between British and Saint Lucian businesses, further deepening the relationship between our two countries going forward.

The establishment of the Chamber was described as a win-win for both British and St Lucian companies seeking to do business - for the benefit of both countries and through collaboration and partnerships with each other. Tribute and recognition was made to Saint Lucia's own Chamber of Commerce Industry & Agriculture founded in 1884, the oldest organization of its kind in St Lucia and a particular welcome was extended to its members present.

The President of the Chamber, Mr John Kennedy took the opportunity to formally announce the appointment of a new Country Manager for Saint Lucia, Mr Randy Cato, who recently retired as the OECS's Senior Director of Economic Affairs and gave special acknowledgement to the British High Commission, Andy Pryce and Debra Worrell in particular and Dr Ian Kelly and Pauline Wade from the British Chambers of Commerce in the UK.

FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 2015

CARICOM looking to Cuba to strengthen ICT sector

ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada, Mar 27, (CMC) – Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Science, Technology and Innovation Committee. Professor Harold Ramkissoon is to lead a delegation to Cuba as the region seeks to strengthen its technology lings with Havana.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, addressing the second high level CARICOM Science and Technology meeting here, said CARICOM needs to focus more in the areas of research and development as well as science and technology as part of its strategy for its future development.

"We undoubtedly have a major challenge here. But find we must, a way, innovative as it may be, to overcome this challenge. Inadequate expenditure on R&D has been for too long our greatest obstacle to development in the region, and we must now make investment in R&D a top priority in our region," said Mitchell, who has lead responsibility for science and technology within CARICOM.

He said Ramkissoon, whom he described as "well-qualified for this role" would be heading the delegation.

"For his scholarly work, Professor Ramkissoon has been made a Foreign Fellow of the Cuban Academy of Sciences, and for his contribution to the development of Science and Technology in the wider Caribbean, he was presented with the Key to the City of Havana. He is therefore strategically placed to open many doors for our region".

Mitchell told the conference that the Committee was launched out of his conviction that science and technology is important in developing present day societies.

"And that we here in the Caribbean therefore have no choice, if we are to successfully navigate our way, but to further promote the development of science and technology and do so aggressively and with urgency, so that it can assist with the socio-economic development of our people as it has done and continues to do for the people of so many countries including, USA, Japan and more recently Brazil, China, India, Malaysia and many other developed and developing countries."

He said that inadequate expenditure in the area of research and development has been for too long the region's greatest obstacle and it should become a top priority because data is showing that countries that are spending more in that area are developing faster in innovation.

Prime Minister Mitchell said that CARICOM needs to make science education an area of focus both content and mode of delivery and "to make it attractive to our young curious minds and link it to technology and innovation"

The conference which ends on Saturday is a joint initiative involving the CARICOM Science, Technology and Innovation Committee and the CARISCIENCE, UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean and TWAS Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean.

It is being attended by CARICOM ministers responsible for Science and Technology and other stakeholders. Governor of the Eastern Caribbean central bank, Sir Dwight Venner as well as Glenroy Cumberbatch, Registrar of the Caribbean Examination Council Headquarters and Dr Arnoldo Ventura, former science and technology advisor to the Prime Minister of Jamaica, will deliver papers at the conference.


ECLAC, UNAIDS sign agreement to support regional response to HIV-AIDS

SANTIAGO, Chile, Mar. 26, (CMC) – The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Latin America aimed at promoting and facilitating cooperation on matters related to the regional response to HIV/AIDS.

The MOU signed by ECLAC's executive secretary, Alicia Bárcena, and César Núñez, regional director of UNAIDS for Latin America, states that both institutions "share the commitment to promote universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support, reduce the spread of the disease, and contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)".

ECLAC said the collaboration between both United Nations organizations will focus on areas such as: analysis and awareness-raising concerning the inequalities faced by the most affected populations; efficiency and sustainability of regional responses to HIV; monitoring the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs and the Sustainable Development Goals; and the positioning of HIV as a priority within the post-2015 agenda.

In addition to the development and publication of studies on these matters, the memorandum opens the opportunity to explore other areas of cooperation on issues of common interest.

"The publications will put special emphasis on the increase in data availability and the necessary information for governments to be able to plan and adopt the most effective responses to tend to the groups most vulnerable to HIV infection,"


Jamaica, Suriname agree to on-site visits of Anti-Corruption Mechanism

WASHINGTON, Mar 25, (CMC) - The Organization of American States (OAS) says the governments of Jamaica and Suriname have consented to receive on-site visits as part of the Fifth Round of the Mechanism for Follow-up on the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption (MESICIC).

It said the two Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries along with Canada, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, have also consented to and received on-site visits during the Fourth Round of Review.

For the Fifth Round, the MESICIC Committee of Experts will review the implementation of the Inter-American Convention against corruption "which refers to the needed instruction to government personnel and the study of preventive measures that take into account the relationship between equitable compensation and probity in public service," the OAS said.

Moreover, it said the committee will analyze the follow-up on the recommendations formulated to the States Parties in the Second Round on topics such as public procurement, the hiring of public servants, whistleblower protection and the criminalization of acts of corruption under the convention.

The OAS said the "affirmative answers" from these five countries join those previously expressed by Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, the United States, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, México, Panamá, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay.


World TB Day 2015: TB still a major health priority for the Caribbean

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Mar 24, (CMC) – The Caribbean Tuesday joined the international community in observing World Tuberculosis (TB) day with the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) indicating that the disease remains a major health priority for the region.

"TB remains a public health priority for the Caribbean region with more than 30,000 new cases occurring every year," said CARPHA executive director Dr C James Hospedales.

Figures released here show that TB remains a major global health problem, responsible for illness among nine million new people each year, and deaths of 1.5 million.

Worldwide, TB ranks as the second leading cause of death from an infectious disease, after the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The Day is being observed under the theme "Find, Treat, Cure TB". The major symptoms of TB are persistent cough, fatigue, fever, night sweats, and weight loss.

CARPHA said that progress towards TB control in the Caribbean has been slow, despite recognition that emergence and/or increasing trends for the disease pose a threat to public health.

"The Caribbean, as a region, still has to increase its efforts in order to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 2015 target to reduce by 50% the burden of TB (disease prevalence and deaths) relative to the 1990 levels," CARPHA noted.

It said several Caribbean countries still have high TB incidence rates, and HIV/AIDS, shortage of laboratory capacity, limited treatment success and programme funding gaps, are among the factors favouring TB continuing to pose a significant health threat in the Region.

CARPHA, which serves as the regional reference and referral laboratory for the diagnosis of TB and drug resistant TB said it provides assistance to TB programmes in its member states, investigates TB outbreaks, and contributes to the regional TB surveillance through yearly reporting to the World Health Organization (WHO).

But Dr Hospedales said that in order to make further progress towards the new MDG goals "TB control must be mainstreamed into the health agenda as with HIV, and include broader strategic planning approaches and financial frameworks aimed at poverty reduction.

MONDAY, MARCH 23, 2015

Jamaica-based company gets new patent on cancer research

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Mar 23, (CMC) – The Jamaica-based Bio-Tech R&D Institute says it has been granted a new patent by the United States as it continues its cancer research. It said the new patent — Number 8907117 — is titled "Anti-tumour and Anti-Inflammatory Dicinnamoyl-Glycerol Esters and their Analogues" and is being regarded as a major scientific stride for biotechnology in Jamaica, as it relates to the making of a new group of chemical compounds called Dicinnamoyl-Glycerol Esters, which have major anti-cancer activities.

"The making of these new anti-cancer drugs was inspired by the isolation of chemical compounds from the Ball Moss plant, which has been actively pursued over the past 10 years by Dr Henry Lowe and his research team, the company said, adding, "the synthesis of these anti-cancer drug agents is a first of its kind."

The patent is one of three anti-cancer patents so far granted to the renowned Jamaican scientist with an additional five patents undergoing different stages of evaluation prior to the patent award.

"The bioactive isolates are currently undergoing the final stages of preclinical studies to pave the way for clinical trials and drug development," the news release added.

"Since filing for this patent over four years ago, we are pleased to know that it has finally been granted," the release quoted Dr. Lowe, who also explained that drug research and development is very expensive and time-consuming.

"The duration of the process is in keeping with drug development from conception to market, which can last anywhere from 10 to 15 years and costs approximately US$1 billion to US$1.5 billion," Dr Lowe said.

He said this is particularly burdensome for scientists in developing countries like Jamaica, where resources are limited and the filing and maintenance of patents are very expensive.

The company noted that Dr. Lowe and his colleague scientists – Dr. Joseph Bryant and Dr. Ngeh Toyang from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, as well as Dr. Charah Watson of Bio-Tech R&D — are particularly encouraged by the news that their work has been regarded as "exceptionally outstanding".

"The team has published 17 original peer reviewed articles in renowned scientific journals as at the end of 2014. Since then, a number of new manuscripts have been completed and are awaiting review and publication.

"The publications for 2015 are expected to far exceed those of 2014 and will help to make the Jamaican scientific endeavours outstanding."

The Bio-Tech R&D Institute, in collaboration with the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is primarily focused on cancer research, as well as diabetes and HIV/AIDS.

FRIDAY, MARCH 20, 2015

Fidel Castro: Venezuela ready to confront US on sanctions

HAVANA, Cuba (AFP) – Cuba's Fidel Castro warned Tuesday that Venezuela was prepared to confront US "threats and impositions," and said Washington could no longer count on the Venezuelan military to do its bidding.

Venezuela "will never allow a return to the shameful pre-revolutionary past," Castro said in a letter to Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro published in Cuba's state-run media.

Castro's letter comes just two days after Maduro gained decree-making powers in matters of security that the opposition fears will be used to crack down on dissent.

The confrontation with Washington follows the imposition of US sanctions March 9 on seven Venezuelan officials that the United States alleges have been involved in human rights abuses against opponents of the leftist regime in Caracas.

The measure signed by US President Barack Obama cites Venezuela as "an extraordinary threat to the national security" of the United States, which Caracas in turn has interpreted as a US threat.

Venezuela's foreign ministry took out a full page ad in Tuesday editions of the New York Times demanding that Obama abolish his executive order and "immediately cease hostile actions against Venezuelan people and democracy."

The dispute has shadowed, but not derailed, US-Cuban negotiations on restoring diplomatic ties severed in 1961, agreed in December by Obama and Cuba's President Raul Castro, Fidel's brother.

The 88-year-old Fidel resigned as president in 2006 for health reasons but retains enormous influence as the leader of Cuba's 1959 revolution. He was particularly close to the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who provided Havana with a steady supply of cut-rate oil and brought in thousands of Cuban advisers.

Fidel maintained in the letter to Maduro, Chavez's successor, that Venezuela has always been prepared "to argue in a peaceful and civilized manner with the United States, but will never accept threats and impositions by that country." He praised the "attitude" of the Venezuelan people and the "exemplary discipline and spirit" of the country's armed forces in the face of the US sanctions.

"No matter what the imperialism of the United States may do, it will never be able to count on them (the armed forces) to do what it had done for so many years," he said.

"Today, Venezuela counts on the best equipped soldiers and officers in Latin America," he said.


Impact of decline in oil prices on Caribbean

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Mar 18, (CMC) – A senior official of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says the impact of the drop in oil prices globally will affect member countries of the PetroCaribe grouping differently even though Haiti could be among those most affected.

Adrienne Cheasty, the Deputy Director in the Western Hemisphere Department of the IMF, said if PetroCaribe were to cease, the impact would differ across member countries.

"Governments receiving large flows and without alternative financing sources, like in Nicaragua and Haiti, would be most affected, although less so than they would have been in a world of higher oil prices."

She said governments that have built buffers, like Guyana, or that have alternative financing sources, like the Dominican Republic and Jamaica should be affected less.

"Belize would be particularly affected as the lower oil prices negatively impact the value of its exports of crude oil," Cheasty said, noting that so far, Venezuela has assured PetroCaribe members that the aid will continue.

PetroCaribe is an oil alliance of many Caribbean states with Venezuela to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment. The payment system allows for the purchase of oil at market value for five to 50 per cent up front with a grace period of one or two years with the remainder being paid through a 17-25 year financing agreement.

Cheasty, whose publications focus on fiscal deficit measurement, fiscal-financial issues, and natural resource management, said the lost income from the oil price drop for Venezuela has caused analysts to question whether PetroCaribe support will continue.

She said the oil price drop will impact the public and private sectors differently. Oil prices have dropped to below US$50 a barrel from a high of over US$100 a barrel in June last year.


US President to meet CARICOM leaders

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Mar 17, (CMC) – United States President Barack Obama will meet with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders here on April 9, Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller announced Tuesday. Obama will meet with regional leaders prior to his arrival in Panama for the Summit of the Americas.

It will be his second meeting with CARICOM leaders following his meeting in Trinidad during the Summit of the Americas six years ago.

"As a member of the hemispheric family of nations…during this historic visit, Jamaica will also host an encounter between President Obama and the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community for discussions on issues on the CARICOM/USA including security and trade.

"Heads of Government will also exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest. As is the regional interest the CARICOM/US summit will be co-chaired by the US president and the current Chairman of CARICOM Perry Christie, prime minister of the Bahamas," she added.

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness in an immediate response said the Opposition was extremely happy to know that a serving US President would be visiting Jamaica.

"The Opposition will play its role when President Obama visits Jamaica and would like to place on record our appreciation for the chill in relations between the United States and Cuba. We the Opposition have always stated that the economic embargo against Cuba should be lifted. We welcome President Obama to Jamaica," Holness said.

Prime Minister Simpson Miller said her administration "is delighted that President Obama will be visiting Jamaica" making it the "second time since our Independence that a sitting US President will be visiting Jamaica.

"We view the President's upcoming visit as an affirmation of the strong ties of friendship and cooperation that have united our two peoples for centuries.

"We are confident that through fruitful dialogue and exchanges during the visit we will succeed in further strengthening the close relations that exist at the bilateral level between Jamaica and the USA, and between the USA and CARICOM," she added.


OAS urges Caribbean to 'decisively' combat corruption, defend democracy

WASHINGTON (CMC) – The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, has called on Caribbean countries to "decisively" combat corruption and defend democracy.

Insulza urged regional governments to "stand strong against the scourge of corruption," saying that "governments and public authorities have the obligation and the legal mandate to be accountable for their actions, and citizens have the right to demand detailed accounts of them.

The OAS leader said that this "requires, of course, strong institutions and clear rules, because an issue as sensitive as corruption can always be used by demagogues to harm democracy.

"To clearly define to whom one is responsible and to whom one is accountable is a central element in this task."

He said there is clarity in which areas of transparency and accountability need to be strengthened based on strong institutions.

Addressing the opening session of the 25th Session of the Committee of Experts of the Follow-up Mechanism for the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption (MESICIC) on Monday, Insulza said "our governments are making efforts to address this responsibility," but warned that "if we are to actually strengthen democracy in our Hemisphere, the crucial problem of corruption and the improper influence of money in politics must be addressed much more decisively".

The OAS Secretary General added, however, that "we know the state is not the only place where corruption can take place, because the private sector is also a source of, a stage for and a victim of it, as shown by corporate scandals in recent years in our region and beyond."

Insulza said allegations of corruption have increased the separation and distrust of citizens toward politics and, at the same time, have weakened democratic systems.

MONDAY, MARCH 16, 2015

Top general says Islamic State could infiltrate US through Caribbean

WASHINGTON, (CMC) — A top United States military general says the militant group Islamic State (IS) could infiltrate the US through the Caribbean and South America. Marine General John F Kelly, chief of the Miami-based US Southern Command, known as SOUTHCOM, told the US Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday that about 100 people have joined the militant group from the region.

He said foreign fighters have gone to Syria from Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean, and Suriname and Venezuela in South America.

He said human smuggling networks are in place that could permit them to infiltrate the US if and when they return.

Kelly, who oversees US military operations in Central and South America and the Caribbean, said the networks are "so efficient that if a terrorist or almost anyone wants to get into our country, they just pay the fare.

"No one checks their passports... they don't go through metal detectors. No one cares why they're coming. They just ride this network," he said.

Over 15,000 foreign fighters have poured into the Middle East to join the Islamic State, travelling primarily to Syria.

Kelly said that while the number of fighters coming from the region is relatively small, Caribbean and other countries don't have the capability to monitor those returning.

"I would suspect that while they're in Syria, they'll get good at killing, and they'll pick up some real job skills in terms of explosives and beheadings and things like that.

"Everyone is concerned, of course, if they come home because if they go over radicalised, one can expect that they'll come back at least that radicalised, but with really good job skills."

Kelly said the freedom of travel in Central and South America enables radicals to move from the region, through the Isthmus of Panama, into the United States.

FRIDAY, MARCH 13, 2015

Cuba and US re-establish direct telephone links for the first time in 15 years

HAVANA, Cuba, Mar. 12, (CMC) – For the first time in 15 years, Cuba and the United States have re-established direct telephone links. The company, Etecsa, said initially the link would only be for phone calls. Telephone calls have until now passed through a third country, making them very expensive.

It is the first agreement signed by the two countries since the announcement last December that the two states would renew diplomatic ties.

Americans and Cubans will now be able to make direct calls to each other's countries.

"The re-establishment of direct communications between the United States and Cuba contributes to providing better infrastructure and better communications quality between the people and our two countries," Etecsa said.

Etecsa's American counterpart, New Jersey based telecommunication firm IDT Domestic Telecom, said: "Ultimately, the agreement will make it easier and more affordable for our customers to call friends and family in Cuba."

According to the Miami Herald newspaper, the two companies were in talks to restart international long-distance traffic between the two countries before the announcement in December.


Centuries-old DNA helps identify specific origins of slave skeletons found in Caribbean

(Stanford.edu) A newly developed genetic technique enabled researchers to sequence DNA from the teeth of 300-year-old skeletons, helping to pinpoint where in Africa three slaves had likely lived before being captured.

ore than 300 years ago, three African-born slaves died on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin. No written records memorialized their fate, and their names and precise ethnic background remained a mystery. For centuries, their skeletons were subjected to the hot, wet weather of the tropical island until they were unearthed in 2010 during a construction project in the Zoutsteeg area of the capital city of Philipsburg.

Now researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of Copenhagen have extracted and sequenced tiny bits of DNA remaining in the skeletons' teeth. From this data, they were able to determine where in Africa the individuals likely lived before they were captured and enslaved.

The research marks the first time that scientists have been able to use such old, poorly preserved DNA to identify with high specificity the ethnic origins of long-dead individuals. The finding paves the way for a greater understanding of the patterns of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and may transform the general practice of genealogical and historical research.


World Bank report calls for breaking cycle of poverty in the Caribbean

LIMA, Peru (CMC) — A new report by the World Bank is calling on Caribbean countries to rethink their policies in order to break the cycle of chronic poverty in the region. The report entitled "Left Behind, Chronic Poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean", takes a closer look at the region's entrenched poor, who and where they are, and how policies and thinking will need to change in order to more effectively assist them.

The report says that one out of every five people in Latin America and the Caribbean, or around 130 million, have never known anything but poverty, subsisting on less than four US dollars daily throughout their lives.

"These are the region's chronically poor, who have remained so despite unprecedented inroads against poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean since the turn of the century. Their situation is becoming more precarious as the economic boom that significantly contributed to a reduction poverty dwindles."

The report states that regional Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth has slowed from about six per cent in 2010 to an estimated 0.8 per cent last year.

"This contraction will likely take away one of the biggest drivers behind the strong reduction in poverty -- an improved job market," the reported said.

World Bank Vice-President for Latin America and the Caribbean Jorge Familiar said poverty exists and persists due to constraints within and without the households, "everything from lack of appropriate skills and motivation to the lack of basic services such as clean water".


Online travel sites report rise in demand for Cuba

NEW YORK, United States, Tuesday March 10, – Music moguls Jay-Z and Beyonce have been there, so have hotel heiress Paris Hilton and talk-show host Conan O'Brian. Now it seems John Public wants to jump on the bandwagon as travel sites report a surge in interest for trips to Cuba.

The development is one of the latest offshoots of improved United States-Cuba relations since the announcement in December by US President President Barack Obama and Cuba President Raul Castro of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Cheapflights.com noticed a spike in interest in Cuba immediately after President Obama announced an easing of travel and trade restrictions.

Indeed, for a few days after the December announcement, Cuba was the fourth most searched site for Caribbean travel on Cheapflights.com, the company said in a press release.

Its popularity surged again in mid-January, after the Obama administration released details about new trade and travel regulations, which included expanding to 12 the categories of Americans who could visit the island.

It went on to jump to number four in the most searched Caribbean destinations, behind Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, and has remained near the top since then, according to Cheapflights.com.

"There's an ongoing and growing interest in Cuba," Emily Fisher, head of North American Communications for Cheapflights.com, told Fox News Latino. "The people who are interested in going are interested in getting a snapshot of Cuba before it changes.

"It's like friends of mine who went to East Berlin when the wall first came down, before it became integrated with the rest of the world, when it was untouched, unwestern culture, with no chain restaurants," Fisher said.


IDB calls for gender equality in the Caribbean

WASHINGTON, Mar. 8, (CMC) – President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Luis Alberto Moreno, in his message to mark International Women's Day, has called for gender equality in the Caribbean and Latin America.

On this International Women's Day, we reaffirm our commitment to the advancement of women and the achievement of more prosperous and egalitarian societies," said Moreno in a statement.

He said the advancement of women carries with it a promise of progress for all of society.

"Equality at home, in access to education and health, in the job and financial markets and in participation in civic and political life contributes to improving social well-being and economic development".

He said this promise is becoming a reality in Latin America and the Caribbean, noting that the growth in the income of women between 2000 and 2010 translated into a drop of 30 percent in extreme poverty.

The IDB president said women account for 30 to 60 percent of the household income in the region.

"This has been possible thanks to their growing participation in the labor force, which rose from 48.8 percent in 2000 to 53.8 percent in 2012 and which surely will continue to rise," he said.


Suriname abolishes death penalty

By Marvin Hokstam PARAMARIBO, Suriname, Mar 6, (CMC) – The National Assembly has approved legislation formally abolishing the death penalty in the Dutch-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country. But the legislators raised the highest prison term limits from 30 to 50 years in what is seen as a compromise to amending the Criminal code.

Parliament also scrapped conditional release for people convicted of capital crimes. Convicts doing time for murder, manslaughter, sexual offences or major drug crimes are now no longer eligible for release after serving three quarters of their sentences.

Justice Minister Edward Belfort had initially suggested that that maximum jail sentence be increased to 30 years, but parliamentarians deemed it necessary to send an even stronger signal to criminals.

Crime has been on the rise and parliamentarians argued that criminals were exhibiting almost sadistic behaviour, often leaving victims dead or gravely injured.

They favoured hiking the maximum jail sentence instead to 50 years, "for crimes that would otherwise be punished with the death penalty," the National Assembly said in a statement.

"The punishments for major crimes have been increase. That is a clear signal," said Ruth Wijdenbosch, the Vice Chair of the National Assembly said at the end of the meeting.

She was among the parliamentarians who worked to have the death penalty removed from the criminal code.

Suriname has not implemented the death penalty since 1927, but the capital punishment remained included in the country's Criminal Code.


Cuba's designation as terrorism sponsor snags negotiations with US

WASHINGTON D.C., United States, (CMC) – Cuba's spot on the American list of states that sponsor terrorism has emerged as a major sticking point in efforts to restore diplomatic ties with the United States and reopen embassies that have been closed for nearly five decades.

This was revealed on Friday during a meeting of Cuban and American officials for a second round of talks aimed at pursuing the pledge by the US to restore diplomatic relations.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said removing Cuba from the list was not part of the negotiations but, instead, an evaluation that the department must make based on congressionally-mandated criteria.

He said the department must determine whether Cuba, in the last six months, has been engaged in supporting international terrorist acts.

"That evaluation will be made appropriately, and nothing will be done with respect to the list until the evaluation is completed," Kerry told reporters, without indicating how long that would take.

At the same time, Cuban officials said they could not envision opening a formal embassy in the United States while their country remains on the terror list. The only other countries listed are Iran, Sudan and Syria.

"It would be a contradiction, the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, if Cuba still remains on the list of countries sponsoring international terrorism," Gustavo Machin, deputy director of American affairs at the Cuba Foreign Ministry, told reporters on Wednesday in Havana.

But after Friday's talks, Josefina Vidal, a senior Cuban foreign ministry official, told reporters that removing Cuba from the terrorism list was not a prerequisite for diplomatic ties.

In December, US President Barak Obama announced that Cuba's terror designation would be reviewed.


Jamaica biggest exporter of marijuana in Caribbean and Central America

LONDON, Mar 4, (CMC) – A report by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has found that Jamaica remains the largest illicit producer and exporter of cannabis herb in Central America and the Caribbean.

The INCB 2014 report released here, showed that the island accounts for approximately one third of cannabis herb produced in the Caribbean.

It said that increased production of the drug has been noted in other countries, in particular Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

"Jamaica has also become a hub for the trafficking of cocaine, owing to the displacement of trafficking routes as a result of the strengthening of drug trafficking countermeasures in Latin America," the report stated, noting that the problem is compounded by the "fact that Jamaican criminal groups are using the elaborate networks originally established to traffic cannabis and cocaine as well.

The report, which examines the global trade in illegal drugs, noted that in Jamaica, drug trafficking takes place at airports through drug couriers, baggage and air freight and at seaports via containers, cargo vessels, underwater canisters attached to ship hulls, shipping vessels and speedboats.

"Illicit drugs are traded for money, guns and other goods, and much of the proceeds are used to foster criminal activities. The ports of Kingston and Montego Bay, which are used for the bulk movement of containerized shipments of cannabis herb and cocaine to Europe and North America, continue to experience serious issues involving corruption, violence, intimidation and the circumvention of legal controls".

The INCB said that in addition, illicit drugs are often attached to the bottom of shipping vessels destined for Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.

It noted that in 2013, Jamaica had the Caribbean's second-highest reported murder rate, behind the much smaller Saint Kitts and Nevis, with 1,197 homicides, up nine per cent from 1,099 in 2012.

In 2013, the Jamaica government eradicated 247 hectares of cannabis plant, compared with 711 hectares the previous year.

"The total area of cannabis plant cultivation in Jamaica was estimated at 15,000 hectares, out of total arable land of approximately 120,000 hectares. Statistics indicate that 30,900 kg of cannabis were seized in 2013, compared with 66,832 kg in 2012.


Caribbean observes World Birth Defects Day

WASHINGTON (CMC) – The Caribbean Tuesday joined the international community in observing World Birth Defects Day with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) noting that congenital anomalies, or birth defects, are the second-leading cause of death in children under five in the region.

PAHO said that combined with prematurity, asphyxia and sepsis, birth defects account for 44 per cent of deaths among children. Globally, birth defects affect one in 33 babies and cause 3.2 million disabilities each year.

"The commemoration of this day aims to raise awareness about this common, costly and challenging problem but also to foster the development and implementation of prevention programs and to expand healthcare services for all people with birth defects," said Suzanne Serruya, Director of PAHO's Latin American Center for Perinatology (CLAP).

PAHO said congenital anomalies can have genetic, infectious or environmental origins, although in most cases it is difficult to identify a cause.

It said the most common serious birth disorders are heart and neural tube defects and Down syndrome.

Each year, an estimated 270,000 newborn babies die in the first 28 days of life from congenital anomalies, which are the fourth-leading cause of neonatal deaths after complications of premature delivery, neonatal infections and complications of childbirth, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data.

For babies who survive and live with these conditions, birth defects increase their risk of long-term disabilities, which greatly impact the individuals affected, their families, health systems and society, PAHO said.

It said many birth defects can be prevented or treated. Sufficient folic acid and iodine consumption during pregnancy, vaccination against rubella, which can be transmitted to children during pregnancy, and proper prenatal care are all key prevention measures.

"Our vision is for every child to be born with the best health possible and with the potential for a full and productive life."


Haiti says Ebola measures still in effect

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) – Health authorities here say that the international guidelines regarding the prevention of the Ebola virus remain in effect and that people who would have travelled to countries with the deadly virus "should not try to get into Haiti before a minimum period of 21 days after the departure from the affected country".

The Ministry of Public Health and Population said it was reiterating the need to protect the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country from the virus finding its way here.

"After receiving international guidelines both from the WHO IOPS and the US Disease Prevention Control Centers of America, declaring Mali free of Ebola, Haiti has decided to exclude these destinations from the list of countries at risk," the Ministry of Public Health and Population said.

It said however, given the particular vulnerability of Haiti, the previous recommendations contained in the World Health Organization (WHO) "are maintained despite the considerable progress made to contain the disease in the remaining affected countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea-Conakry, except in cases of absolute necessity.

"All persons who have travelled to these countries cannot and should not try to get in Haiti before a minimum period of 21 days after the departure of or of affected country (ies).

"The Ministry of Interior will ensure that the 21-day incubation period is scrupulously respected. The authorities present at ports of entry must ensure that the instructions regarding screening of passengers are recalled to the relevant services."

Ebola has caused more than 7,000 deaths in West Africa and several Caribbean countries have instituted travel bans on nationals from countries in those areas.


Several Caribbean nationals caught trying to enter US illegally

MIAMI, Feb 27, (CMC) - The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency says it has apprehended 10 Caribbean migrants in the waters off Miami. CBP said that the migrants, whose nationalities were not identified, were nabbed after agents deployed warning shots and disabling fire to successfully interdict a vessel earlier this week.

It said law enforcement authorities had detected and tracked a suspicious vessel travelling westbound from the Bahamas without navigational lights.

"Training, skill and commitment of our agents allowed us to safely interdict these migrants attempting to enter the country illegally. Day and night we stand guard against illicit trafficking of people and contraband bound for the United States," CBP said in a statement.


CARICOM leaders gather in The Bahamas

NASSAU, Bahamas, (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders open their two-day inter-sessional summit here on Thursday discussing ways of leveraging the region's human, cultural and natural assets for the socio-economic development of the 15-member grouping.

Key discussion areas at the two-day 26th Inter-sessional Meeting also include issues related to Reparations for Native Genocide and Slavery, and the Marijuana Commission.

The Meeting will open tomorrow morning at the Melia Nassau Beach Resort, with addresses by CARICOM Chairman Rt. Hon. Perry Christie, Prime Minister of The Bahamas, immediate past Chairman, the Hon. Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, and CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.

The Ceremony, which begins at 9:30 Bahamian time (10:30 Eastern Time) will be streamed live on the ZNS TV Bahamas website http://www.znsbahamas.com/ and on the CARICOM Today newsblog www.today.caricom.org


Major regional conference on Chikungunya virus

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Feb 25 (CMC) – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) says it will host a three day conference focusing on the Chikungunya virus and other mosquito borne diseases.

The March 3-5 conference is being held under the theme "Chikungunya in the Caribbean: Meeting Today's Challenge and Preparing for the Future".

CARPHA said the consultation will bring together international experts representing different fields of activity related to Chikungunya and other mosquito-borne diseases.

CARPHA Executive Director, Dr C. James Hospedales, said the aim of the meeting is to support the Caribbean in its response to the Chikungunya epidemic and the growing challenge to health, social and economic systems.

"The meeting also provides a unique opportunity to renew efforts to position mosquito-borne diseases as a high priority in the public health agenda, and examine the potential for public-private partnerships, as government alone cannot solve the problem," he added.

CARPHA has said the emergence of the Chikungunya virus in the Caribbean in 2013, has led to more than 800,000 suspected cases in the Caribbean and Latin America to date.


OECS health ministers discuss region's readiness for diseases

CASTRIES, St Lucia, Feb 24, (CMC) – Health ministers and officials from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Tuesday met to discuss the status of the nine-member grouping regarding the deadly Eboa virus and other heath issues.

The meeting, via video – conference, discussed major issues such as the region's readiness regarding compliance with the International Health Regulations (IHR) which was implemented by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2005.

They also spoke about plans for their participation of OECS member states in the World Health Assembly in Geneva in May 2015.

OECS Director General Dr Didacus Jules said it is critical for OECS members states to comply with the IHR regulations, a convention to which they are signatory to.

"Compliance with the IHR would be the single most important thing we can do in order to protect ourselves internationally, and in order to obtain required assistance from the international community should a crisis rear its head," Jules said.

He said if the region is not in compliance, while people may act to contain whatever emergency which may arise, the region will still be blamed for not doing enough to protect its own interest.

In response to the increase in international travel and trade, and emergence an reemergence of international disease threats and other health risks, 196 countries agreed to implement the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR).

The purpose of the IHR is to prevent, protect against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease, in ways that are commensurate with and restricted to public health risks, and which avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade.


President Maduro to visit Trinidad for energy talks

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, February 23, 2014, (CMC) – The future of the Petrocaribe initiative is expected to be high on the agenda during bi-lateral talks between Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine and Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar on Tuesday.

According a report in the Trinidad Guardian newspaper, Maduro is scheduled to arrive here on Tuesday morning. Venezuela's Energy Minister Rafel Ramirez reportedly arrived on Friday in preparation for Maduro's visit.

During that meeting Maduro and Ramnarine are also expected to hammer out and sign a bilateral energy agreement.

The Venezuelan president is scheduled to depart on Tuesday evening.

It is understood that Maduro's visit relates to talks surrounding long-gestating arrangements about the Loran-Manatee natural gas field, which straddles the Trinidad and Tobago/Venezuela maritime boundary.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said Ramierez was scheduled to visit the twin island republic for talks on how to exploit natural gas reserves.

The discussions had their genesis under the former People's National Movement (PNM) government and were continued by the incumbent People's Partnership administration.

At the recent Caribbean Energy Summit in Washington D.C., the Prime Minister discussed Loran-Manatee with Maduro , she also proposed a US$1 billion Caribbean Energy Thematic Fund to encourage growth in the region's energy sector.


Exxon Mobil to begin exploratory drilling offshore Guyana

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Thursday February 19, 2015, (CMC) – Exxon Mobil says plans are in place to start exploratory drilling next month. In a release on Thursday, it was disclosed that the Minister of Natural Resources Robert Persaud, met with Chuck Calavan, ExxonMobil Vice President of US and Latin America and Jeff Simon, Country Manager, ESSO.

During the meeting, Persaud was updated on the deployment of the Company's oil rig (Deep Water Champion) which will depart from Louisiana, in the United States on Thursday for the Stabroek Block offshore Guyana where it is expected to start drilling in mid-March.

According to Persaud, the Cabinet recently approved a request from ESSO for a geological and geophysical survey in the form of 3D seismic survey within offshore Guyana.

A permit has been granted to CGG Service (UK) Limited to undertake this survey.

The release said he also made reference to the Oil and Gas Policy which will give way to a modern oil and gas development framework. This is being done with support from the Commonwealth Secretariat and other partners.


Caribbean to benefit from new ACP study

BRUSSELS, Feb 16, (CMC) – Caribbean countries are to benefit from a disaster preparedness study launched by the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group that offers a comprehensive view of the various risks faced by member countries, as well as valuable efforts to reduce them.

The ACP Compendium of Risk Knowledge, financed by the 10th European Development Fund under the Intra-ACP Cooperation envelope for Disaster Risk Reduction, show that disaster risk in ACP countries is considerably higher than in other regions.

The study found that 12 countries from Sub-Saharan Africa and one from the Caribbean were amongst the 20 most-at-risk from disasters in the world.

The report also notes that over a long period of time, ACP countries on average will lose US$6.9 billion annually from disasters, representing 2.3 per cent of their total gross domestic product (GDP).

"This compendium is telling us that disaster risk management is not the same thing as disaster management. While countries in the ACP have had good experience in managing disaster events in the past, it is now time that we start to proactively reduce the underlying drivers of these risks, to stem this growth of human and economic losses.

"I believe that political leaders, policy makers and practitioners should use this compendium to understand their risks so that they can judge wisely how best to address them," said ACP Secretary General Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni.

Head of Unit at the European Commission's Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, Susanne Mallaum, said the study helps in a practical manner to understand the real nature of risks that countries in the ACP regions face.

" Reducing disaster risks is at the heart of what we need to do to build the resilience of vulnerable populations, promote sustainable development and address climate change," said Mallaum,

Faced with these growing risks, the report also highlights innovative actions by ACP member countries and communities to reduce these risks, and the benefits of this proactive approach to managing risks, instead of managing disaster events.

President of the Jerry Town Farmers' Association in Jamaica, Veronica Gordon, said "in our view it is better to invest in risk reduction than disaster recovery".

The report, co-authored by Lezlie C. Morinière and Luis Sanchez Zimmerman, uses cutting edge science and case studies to map overall risk in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands.


UN urges stepped-up measles surveillance in Caribbean

UNITED NATIONS (CMC) — The United Nations says its health agency has called for "stepped-up" surveillance to prevent the spread of measles in the Americas, including the Caribbean. On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the recent outbreaks of measles -- one of the leading causes of deaths among young children — in the United States and Brazil suggested that immunisation rates in some areas have dropped below levels needed to prevent the spread of imported cases into the Americas.

The WHO and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) have both reported that there were 147 confirmed measles cases in four countries of the Americas this year, as of February 8.

"Of that total, 121 cases were in the United States, linked primarily to an outbreak that began at Disneyland in California last December," said the PAHO/WHO statement. The statement said that a single case in Mexico was also tied to that outbreak. Of the remaining cases, 21 were in Brazil and four were in Canada.

"Thanks to high levels of immunisation, the Americas have been on track for more than a decade to be formally declared free of measles," said Dr Cuauhtemoc Ruiz, head of PAHO/WHO's immunisation programme. "Maintaining high levels of vaccine coverage is key to preventing and halting outbreaks and to protect our populations from the constant threat of imported cases."

Measles had been considered eliminated from the Americas since 2002, due to the absence of endemic transmission of the disease as the result of the region's success in achieving high levels of immunisation, the UN said.

Now, measles elimination "is facing major challenges, with several ongoing importation of measles in some countries," said PAHO/WHO in an epidemiological alert distributed Tuesday to member countries across the region.

The alert urges countries to strengthen measles surveillance activities and to "take appropriate measures to protect residents in the Americas against measles and rubella".


World "dangerously unprepared" for pandemics warns bank chief

WASHINGTON D.C., United States, Wednesday February 11, 2015 – World Bank president Jim Yong Kim says the world is "dangerously unprepared" for future pandemics and lessons need to be learned from the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

Jim Yong Kim, speaking in Washington, said it was vital that governments, corporations, aid agencies and insurance companies worked together to prepare for future outbreaks.

He said they needed to learn lessons from the Ebola crisis.

More than 8,500 people have died, most in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

"The Ebola outbreak has been devastating in terms of lives lost and the loss of economic growth," Mr Kim told an audience at Georgetown University.

"We need to make sure that we get to zero cases in this Ebola outbreak. At the same time, we need to prepare for future pandemics that could become far more deadly and infectious than what we have seen so far with Ebola. We must learn the lessons from the Ebola outbreak because there is no doubt we will be faced with other pandemics in the years to come."

Mr Kim said the World Bank Group had been working with the World Health Organisation (WHO), other UN agencies, academics, insurance company officials and others to work on a concept of developing a financial "pandemic facility".


Inequality, Stigma, Discrimination Drive HIV Epidemic In Caribbean

ST. JOHN'S, Antigua, Feb 10 2015 (IPS) - At 49 years old, Edison Liburd has established himself as one of Antigua and Barbuda's most recognisable artists. But Liburd was not always in the spotlight. In fact, you could say he was a man in hiding.

"I have been infected with the HIV virus for about 24 years. I got my first HIV test done in February of 1993 at the Allen Pavilion Hospital in Manhattan New York," Liburd told IPS. "I can remember that day vividly. I felt like the earth had been removed from beneath me when I was handed the results of the test."

HIV/AIDS first emerged in the 1980s, and now, more than three decades later, stigma associated with the disease has persisted. Liburd pointed to that sigma as the main reason why he concealed his HIV status for as long as he did.

"I hid my status for years from family. I told a few friends, but most people who I knew did not know anything about my health condition. It was fear of being ostracised that kept me from disclosing my status," he said.

"In Antigua, HIV infected individuals still have to face job insecurity – first to be fired and last to be hired. Stigma and discrimination is still high because many still think themselves superior to individuals who are infected.

"Somehow they think themselves better than, but I believe that it is when infected individuals become empowered by taking hold of their health and indispensable to nation building that this will take a huge bite out of discrimination. People will begin to see you differently," Liburd said.

The Caribbean is one of the most heavily affected regions in the world, with adult HIV prevalence about one percent higher than in any other region outside sub-Saharan Africa.

The HIV pandemic in the Caribbean is fuelled by a range of social and economic inequalities and is sustained by high levels of stigma, discrimination against the most at-risk and marginalised populations and persistent gender inequality, violence and homophobia.


Caribbean tourism has 'best ever' year in 2014

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Feb 10, (CMC) – The Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) is projecting a five per cent increase in tourist arrivals in 2015 after the region recorded its best year ever in 2014. "Last year, we received more visitors than ever before - recording our fifth straight year of growth - and visitors spent more money in the Caribbean than they ever did before.


CARICOM urged to implement unified energy framework

THE 55th Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Energy and the Environment opened yesterday at the CARICOM Secretariat at Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown with Jamaica's Minister for Land, Water, Environment and Climate Change, Robert Pickershill, calling on CARICOM to move closer to implementing a unified energy framework. Believed to have brought together Energy and Environment Ministers in the Caribbean for the first time, the meeting sought to closely examine the real nexus between energy and climate change, and their contributions towards the sustainable development of the Caribbean Community.

Pickershill told the gathering that member states have common development challenges. He noted that one of the major challenges, particularly for energy projects, is the size of Caribbean nations. "Small energy projects are less attractive to blue chip investors and engineering procurement and construction," he contended.

Pickershill said it is important for the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE) to focus on regional approaches to energy projects that can overcome these challenges.

This, he said, would require coordination of policies, even as he underscored the importance for CARICOM to move ever closer to implementing a unifying energy framework, and pursue uniformity and integration regulations so as to enable more transformative energy projects and make the region attractive to the right kind of investments.

Pickershill said there is a possibility the Community could take advantage of the current ebb in energy enterprises and the ongoing prominence of climate change in international forums to invest in energy transformation so as to insulate the region from the inevitable upswing from oil prices that will come.

CCREEE, he said, could be the lead institution in implementing this transformation.

It is well recognised that energy transformation and climate resilience are quite complex matters, he said. For instance, consider the nexus around issues of climate change and water. Climate change affects water availability, water availability is important for the production of energy or hydroelectricity for cooling conventional generation and treatment and distribution of water.


Jamaican teen makes history as country's first female Pan American Champion

TORONTO, Canada, Friday February 6, 2015, (CMC) – A Jamaican teenager has written her name in the history books by becoming the country's first female fencer to be crowned Pan American champion.

Tia Simms-Lymn, who was born in Britain, claimed gold at the Cadet Junior Pan American Fencing Championships underway in Toronto, Canada, where 20 countries from the region are being represented.

Entering the championships ranked number seven in the women's epée, 15-year-old Simms-Lymn beat No. 1 seed Alexanne Verret of Canada 11-9 in an enthralling finale.

She had earlier whipped the 10th-ranked Catalina Leiva of Chile 15-6, before eking out a narrow 15-13 margin over Puerto Rico's Monica Lubczynski in the semi-final.

The Jamaican athlete also has the distinction of now being ranked No. 2 in Great Britain, where she resides with her parents.


Caribbean Airlines registers significant losses in 2014

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, (CMC) – The state-owned Caribbean Airlines (CAL) has recorded losses estimated at US$60 million last year, Finance Minister Larry Howai has said. Howai, speaking in the Senate on Tuesday, said that the accounts for fiscal year ending December 31, 2014 were still being compiled but that the losses took into account the US$38 million grant provided by the government during 2014 which was recorded as equity.

But Howai told legislators that the unaudited accounts showed a loss of US$60 million and that the airline had developed a strategy plan which envisaged it breaking even by 2017.

Howai said the transformation of CAL would take three to four years following a consistent company strategy to achieve identified objectives with major milestones targeted during this period. He said this strategy plan was recently developed and completed towards the end of last year.

Howai dismissed reports that there had been an injection of more than one billion dollars (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) into the airline last year.

Last July, CAL announced that it was projecting a loss of just under TT$100million for its financial year 2013.

Howai said then that the airline has been enduring a difficult period but may now be emerging from it.

According to its financial statements for 2012, the airline, which a few years ago merged its operations with the cash-strapped Air Jamaica, registered losses that moved from US$43.6 million in 2011 to US$83.7 million in 2012.


Cancer second leading cause of death in the Caribbean-CARPHA

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, (CMC) – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says the number of leprosy cases in the Americas, including the Caribbean and Latin America has declined significantly over the last decade.

CARPHA said that among females, breast cancer is the main cause of death, followed by cervical cancer. Prostate cancer is ranked as the leading cause of cancer death among males, with lung cancer being the second main cause of cancer death. Lung cancer also contributes to a high number of deaths among women. Colon cancer is the fifth leading cause of death in the region, with an almost equal number of deaths among males and females.

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable, yet it claims the lives of approximately 2,500 women, CARPHA said.

"There are common modifiable risk factors that contribute to the development of cancers. These include tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol," said CARPHA's Executive Director Dr James Hospedales.

"Research has shown that a reduction in the modifiable risk factors in the population will contribute to a reduction of cancer cases and as a consequence deaths and costs from the disease in our region."

Dr Hospedales said cancer prevention and control is certainly not beyond the Caribbean.

"Collaborative, multisectoral, multidisciplinary action supported by good data is urgently needed to impact this problem in our region. Let us use World Cancer Day 2015 to mark the start of concerted actions in our countries for reducing the scourge of cancer in our Caribbean!"

CARPHA said it has been supporting member states in identifying the risk factors for chronic diseases including cancer in the population and that results from such surveys have shown high levels of tobacco use in some countries especially among males; low levels of physical activity, overwhelming levels of overweight and obesity; high levels of harmful use of alcohol particularly among men and extremely low levels of intake of fruits and vegetable.

It said that the theme for World Cancer Day 2015 is "Not Beyond Us" and that countries are being urged to employ proactive approaches to fight against cancer with a strong message which stresses that solutions do exist and are within our reach to reduce the disease burden and cost impact.


Japan praised for developing Caribbean fisheries sector

BELMOPAN, Belize (CMC) – The executive director of the Belize-based Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), Milton Haughton, has praised Japan for its support to the regional fishing industry over the past 20 years.

"The fact that Japan has been willing and steadfast in contributing so generously to promote sustainable use of marine resources in the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) countries, even in these challenging economic times, is in my opinion, a true reflection of the special bond of friendship and importance that Japan attaches to our relationship," Haughton said.

"Over the past 20 years, Japan has emerged as the major contributor toward the development of the fisheries sector at the bilateral level within the Caribbean.

"Japan has been providing vital and substantial support in upgrading and improving the artisanal fishing fleet; fishing ports and other shore-based infrastructure for storage, processing and marketing of fish; as well as provision of training in gear technology, processing and quality assurance, resource management and conservation of fisheries," Haughton added.

The 20-year partnership between Japan and CARICOM culminated with a series of in-country seminars in six regional countries, which discussed national level interventions supported by Tokyo, with presentations on the successes as well as the challenges.

Over the past 20 years, Caribbean countries have benefitted from the development and expansion of trade in fish and fishery products by CARICOM member states; the construction of port facilities for fishing boats, and fresh fish markets as well as training attachments of fisheries personnel in Japan.


Decline in leprosy cases across the Caribbean

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, (CMC) – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says the number of leprosy cases in the Americas, including the Caribbean and Latin America has declined significantly over the last decade.

The number of new leprosy cases fell by 36.9 per cent between 2003 and 2013—from 52,435 to 33,084.

It said the proportion of people with leprosy declined 54.2 per cent at the regional level during the same period, from 0.72 to 0.33 cases per 10,000 inhabitants.

Leprosy is present in 24 of 35 countries of the Americas, but according to PAHO, all, with the exception of Brazil, have eliminated the disease as public health problem at the national level.

Eighteen countries have also reached that goal at the subnational level that is, in all their states, departments or provinces, said PAHO, adding that five countries still have states, departments or provinces where the rate exceeds 1 case in 10,000.

"The countries have achieved major reductions in leprosy, but protecting these achievements and advancing even more is a major challenge," said Marcos Espinal, Director of PAHO's Department of Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis. "We need to make sure leprosy remains on countries' public health agendas until it is eliminated."

With support from PAHO, countries have been implementing a leprosy strategy that seeks to expand access to early diagnosis by integrating leprosy services into primary health care.

The strategy also includes active case-finding to ensure early detection, and cost-free treatment with multidrug therapy (MDT). MDT is donated by Novartis laboratories, through PAHO, to countries' national leprosy control programs.

Leprosy is a chronic bacterial infection that affects mainly the skin, peripheral nerves, eyes, and mucosa of the upper respiratory tract. Early detection dramatically reduces the risks of deformities and disability in patients.


Economic challenge for Trinidad and Tobago

WASHINGTON, Jan 26, (CMC) – The United States Monday rolled out a new initiative for Caribbean countries to ensure energy security in a move widely seen as distancing the Caribbean from Venezuela for their oil needs.

An IMF delegation, headed by Elie Canetti, advisor in the IMF Western Hemisphere department, has ended a one week visit here.


New oil initiative for Caribbean countries

WASHINGTON, Jan 26, (CMC) – The United States Monday rolled out a new initiative for Caribbean countries to ensure energy security in a move widely seen as distancing the Caribbean from Venezuela for their oil needs.

United States Vice President Joe Biden, addressing the first ever Caribbean Energy Security Summit here, told Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries that there are more options at their disposal now for natural gas delivery than they have ever been.

"You can now purchase gas on the open market from many countries including your neighbor Trinidad and Tobago right now. There is also LNG exporters in the United States with licences to export to any of your countries whether you have a free trade agreement or not. If you want gas go talk to them.

"Meanwhile we are in the midst of a seismic shift in the global economy, the ascendancy of the Americas as the epicenter of the center of energy production in the world.

"We have more oil and gas… than all the states in the world combined. Mexico Canada the United States is the new epicenter of energy," Biden said.

Regional countries have in the past relied on Caracas for oil and petroleum products under the PetroCaribe initiative, an oil alliance of many Caribbean states with Venezuela to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment.

But Biden told the summit an integrated North America working to promote energy security beyond its borders "can be a major asset for the entire hemisphere and its profoundly in the self interest of the United States to see the Caribbean countries succeed as prosperous, secure and energy independent neighbours, not a world apart but an integral part of the hemisphere where every nation is middle class, democratic and secure".

Biden told the summit that it is the first time in history such a vision can be accomplished.


UN delegation calls for free and fair elections in Haiti

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, Jan 26, CMC – The United Nations has welcomed the formation of a new government in Haiti after the country's Parliament became "dysfunctional" due to its failure to hold elections within its constitutional framework.

Additionally, the extraordinary session of the National Assembly, which was convened to vote on the amendments to the Electoral Law, has also not taken place, said a statement issued by Sandra Honoré, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Haiti, and other members of the international community represented in the "Core Group" (Ambassadors of Brazil, Canada, France, Spain, the United States and the European Union, and the Special Representative of the Organization of American States).

"The 'Core Group' is gravely concerned that the Haitian Parliament has become dysfunctional due to the fact that elections have not been held within the constitutional timeframe," a statement released by the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) said.

In this context, the "Core Group" expressed its support to Haiti's President in the exercise of his constitutional duty to ensure the regular functioning of institutions. The "Core Group" said it trusted that the Executive and all the political actors will act with "responsibility and restraint."

The "Core Group" welcomed the Political Accord recently concluded between President Michel Martelly and several opposition parties and called on all parties to join in on consensus in the "best interest" of the nation.

"Recognizing the recent efforts made by the President and other actors to rebuild confidence in the political process, the Core Group further calls on all stakeholders to continue negotiations with the objective of forming, as a matter of urgency, a consensus Government," the Group said.

Haiti must also form a Provisional Electoral Council in the spirit of Article 289 of its national Constitution, and organise, as soon as technically feasible, inclusive, fair, and transparent elections in 2015, in order to consolidate democracy and stability.

Five years ago this week, on 12 January 2010 a devastating earthquake struck Haiti killing more than more than 220,000 people as well as 102 UN staff, delivering a major blow to country's already shaky economy, infrastructure and political landscape.

Originally established on 1 June 2004 by a Security Council resolution, MINUSTAH's mandate was increased after the earthquake to help the immediate recovery, reconstruction and stability efforts. The Council then requested MINUSTAH to further provide logistical support and technical expertise to assist Haiti's Government to continue operations to build the capacity of its rule of law institutions at the national and local level.


International security leaders resume dialogue on Caribbean counterdrug efforts

NASSAU, New Providence, Bahamas -- Strengthening capabilities, interoperability and information sharing to effectively counter transnational organized crime in the Caribbean was the focus again for military and civilian leaders from 21 nations who met in Nassau Jan. 21-22 to discuss the threat and ways to effectively reduce its presence and impact.

This was the fifth consecutive year the topic was the central theme of the Caribbean Nations Security Conference (CANSEC), underscoring the importance of the issue for regional leaders and their commitment to addressing it by working together.

CANSEC XIII, co-hosted by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) and U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), included more than 90 participants representing defense, law enforcement, government, and international organizations from the Caribbean, North America, South America, Central America and Europe.

RBDF commander, Commodore Roderick Bowe, joined U.S. Marine Gen. John Kelly, commander of SOUTHCOM, in co-hosting the two days of briefings, discussion panels and meetings. CANSEC XIII was Kelly's third as host or co-host, and he met privately with defense and security counterparts during the event to hear their ideas, concerns and viewpoints, and discuss bilateral defense cooperation goals.

"When it comes to the security of the Western Hemisphere, it doesn't matter where you're located on the map," Kelly said, sharing his own observations. "If it's a challenge faced by one of us, it's a challenge faced by all of us."

The general commended the countries for the work they've accomplished to support the new regional counter illicit trafficking strategy announced in 2013 by the Caribbean Community Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS) and encouraged them to "build on that momentum."

Officials from Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, France, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, the Netherlands, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, the United Kingdom, and the United States examined illicit trafficking trends impacting the Caribbean, as well as the various programs, activities, mechanisms and systems that support the region's strategy to counter the threat and its effects.


US official visits Cuba to begin talks on embassies and diplomatic ties

HAVANA (AP) — The United States and Cuba on Thursday set a detailed agenda for re-establishing full diplomatic ties, but said it could take weeks just to schedule the next round of talks, a sign of the long road ahead after more than a half-century of tension.

Roberta Jacobson, the top U.S. diplomat for Latin America and the most senior American official to visit the island country in more than three decades, said the second day of wide-ranging talks in Havana were "positive and productive," focusing on the mechanics of converting interest sections in each other's capitals into full-fledged embassies headed by ambassadors.

Josefina Vidal, her Cuban counterpart, also praised the dialogue.

Both officials, however, outlined the obstacles to making a U.S.-Cuban relationship like that of any two other countries.

Jacobson spoke of America's persistent human rights concerns in Cuba. Vidal cited Cuba's status on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and the various financial restrictions imposed on the country as a result of the U.S. trade embargo.

"We have to overcome more than 50 years of a relationship that was not based on confidence or trust," Jacobson told reporters.

She cited "profound differences" separating the two governments and said embassies by themselves would not constitute normalized ties between the U.S. and Cuba, as envisioned by Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro when they announced their historic detente last month.

"It was a first meeting. This is a process," Vidal said. In the next weeks, she said, the U.S. and Cuba will schedule a second round of talks, which may or may not be the time to finalize an agreement.

Issues on Thursday's agenda included ending caps on staff, limits on diplomats' movements and, in the case of the U.S. building, removing guard posts and other Cuban structures along the perimeter.

Deep disagreements remain over matters such as immigration and human rights. In a sign of the difficulty surrounding the rights issue, Jacobson said the U.S. had raised it; Vidal said it had not come up.

The needs for at least one future round of talks could set back U.S. hopes of reopening the embassies before April's Summit of the Americas, which Obama and Castro are expected to attend.

Gustavo Machin, Cuba's deputy chief of North American Affairs, said the meeting took place "in a relaxed atmosphere of respect."

"Look at my face," he said, smiling. "It reflects the spirit in which we've been talking up 'til now."


WHO wants Caribbean countries to take urgent action in addressing non-communicable diseases

GENEVA, Jan 21, (CMC) –The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging Caribbean countries to take urgent action to meet global targets to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

According to a new WHO report, 16 million people die prematurely annually – before the age of 70 – from heart and lung diseases, stroke, cancer and diabetes,

"The global community has the chance to change the course of the NCD epidemic," said WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan in launching the "Global status report on non-communicable diseases 2014" report.

She said that by investing one to three US dollars per person annually, countries can dramatically reduce illness and death from NCDs.

""In 2015, every country needs to set national targets and implement cost-effective actions. If they do not, millions of lives will continue to be lost too soon.

"The global community has the chance to change the course of the NCD epidemic," Chan said.

The report states that most premature NCD deaths are preventable. Of the 38 million lives lost in 2012 to NCDs, 16 million or 42 per cent were premature and avoidable – up from 14.6 million in 2000.

Nearly five years into the global effort to reduce premature deaths from NCDs by 25 per cent by 2025, the report provides a fresh perspective on key lessons learnt

It states premature NCD deaths can be significantly reduced through government policies reducing tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity, and delivering universal health care.

The report calls for more action to be taken to curb the epidemic, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, such as those in the Caribbean, "where deaths due to NCDs are overtaking those from infectious diseases."

The report provides "best buy" or cost-effective, high-impact interventions recommended by WHO, including banning all forms of tobacco advertising, replacing trans fats with polyunsaturated fats, restricting or banning alcohol advertising, preventing heart attacks and strokes, promoting breastfeeding, implementing public awareness programmes on diet and physical activity, and preventing cervical cancer through screening.


Caribbean regionalism in the context of economic challenges

By Peter Richards PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, (CMC) – Former Barbados prime minister Owen Arthur says while the decision in 1989 to transform Caribbean economies into a into a single market and economy was one of the most momentous decisions in the history of the Caribbean "it was a transformation that was never going to be easily achieved".

Delivering the guest lecture at the Institute of International Relations at the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) on Monday, Arthur, said the transformation was therefore going to be more taxing if not attended by clarity of purpose, and the determination to hold to a steady course come what may.

Speaking on the topic "Caribbean Regionalism in the Context of Economic Challenges," Arthur, who at one time had responsibility for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy (CSME) portfolio within the quasi CARICOM cabinet, said the creation of the CSME was intended both to be an agency by which the region created indigenous opportunities for its development and at the same time serve as the principal vehicle by which the regional economy would be integrated into the evolving and dynamic global economy.

"In agreeing to reconstitute itself as a Single Market and Economy the region, for the first time, sought to rest its own development and its relationship with the rest of the world on the embrace of the economic ideology of liberalization.

"In this regard, the creation of a Single Market was to take the form of removal of all of the constraints on the movement within the region of goods, services, labour, capital and the creation of enterprises over centuries," said Arthur, a three-time prime minister who lost office in 2008.

He told his audience that this process was however intended to be undertaken in accordance with particular principles and design features.

"To be precise, in reconstituting itself as a single market, the instruments of integration were to be designed to facilitate deeper, broader and faster liberalisation between individual economies in the

Caribbean than the region would agree to in its bilateral or multilateral agreements and relationships," Arthur said, noting that it also meant that the region had to be prepared to venture into areas for which there was no provision in its previous attempts at integration such as labour mobility.

But he noted that in order to be relevant, the region had to embrace and incorporate into its own programme of integration protocols pertaining to economic disciplines for which they are no multilateral agreements such as Investment.

Arthur said it was also clearly understood that the CSME, which allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour across the 15-member grouping, would or could never appear at any one time as a finite nor finished entity.

"It would have to be made to evolve to give effect to its intended purpose as an indigenous model for economies liberalization, and to ensure that the region's treatment of its own constituent units are always more favourable that its commitments to liberalise under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO) or through its bilateral trade and economic agreements.

"More pertinently, it was intended that the creation of a Single Market was not an end in itself. It was intended largely to create the foundations on which a virtual Single Economy would be erected."

Arthur said that the Single Economy was intended to have as some of its key elements the provision for production integration, the harmonization of economic policies in critical areas, and the bringing about the convergence of the macro-economic policies of the individual economies such as would facilitate the adoption of more advanced forms of integration such as monetary union.

Arthur said the architects of the Single Market had recognized that while CARICOM was initially designed to give effect to economic integration, functional cooperation and the coordination of foreign policy as separate and distinct pillars," the move to create a CSME required that a new and advanced harmony should be established between the various forms of regional integration".

He said it was for this reason that at the CARICOM summit in 2007 regional leaders endorsed the Girvan Plan as the roadmap to the Single Economy, a decision was made to constitute a Regional Task Force on Functional Cooperation to link that subject more closely to the efforts to build the CSME.


T&T government says oil price drop has resulted in $TT7.5 billion loss

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jan 16, (CMC) – The Trinidad and Tobago government has reiterated its position that the drop in oil prices on the global market is not a signal for a sudden change in its economic development policies.

"We have the capacity, we have the will and we have passion to secure our future and we will emerge stronger, together," Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar told business leaders at a meeting here on Thursday night.

Oil prices have dropped significantly from a high of US$104 a barrel in June to less than US$50 a barrel this week.

The government has said that the island has lost approximately $TT7.5 billion as a result of the oil price situation and last Thursday Prime Minister in an address to the nation outlined measures which she said her administration would take to lessen the impact on the local economy.

But it has already promised there would be no job cuts or cuts in social programmes.

A government statement issued after the talks said the prime minister held an "important conversation with the business community" and that "representatives endorsed the approach taken in dealing with the current environment, and expressed their commitment to working with the Government on projects and initiatives to further expand the economy."


Google testing new smartphone project in the Caribbean

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Jan. 15, (CMC) –The global tech giant, Google, will be launching the pilot test of its new smartphone project in Puerto Rico. The 'Project Ara' smartphone is a modular phone that allows users to swap out individual components of the phone, from the camera to the speaker to the lights.

According to Google, the aim is a totally customizable phone that turns the device into a collection of "physical" apps. Project Ara is part of Google's Advanced Technology and Projects Group. The phone will run the Android operating system.


U.S. Vice President Biden to Host Caribbean Energy Security Summit

(whitehouse.gov) Vice President Biden will host the first ever Caribbean Energy Security Summit in Washington, DC on January 26, 2015. The Vice President looks forward to welcoming Caribbean leaders and representatives of the international community to promote a cleaner and more sustainable energy future in the Caribbean through improved energy governance, greater access to finance, and donor coordination.

The Summit will include remarks by the Vice President, an energy security roundtable with heads of government, and meetings and events with government officials, representatives from the private sector, and officials from multilateral institutions. This Summit is a key component of the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative that the Vice President announced in June 2014, and will be hosted by the White House and the State Department in partnership with the Atlantic Council and the Council of the Americas. Further details are forthcoming.


Caribbean warned to be prepared for massive earthquake

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jan 13, (CMC) – The Seismic Research Centre (SRC) of the University of the West Indies (UWI) is warning the region to "move expeditiously" towards building resilience amid predictions of the Caribbean being hit with an earthquake with a magnitude of eight or larger.

"We must develop, legislate and enforce Building Codes using up-to-date seismic hazard maps based on the latest available science. Preparedness measures at the individual levels are insufficient and greater efforts are needed to facilitate self-resilience," the SRC said in a statement as it marked the fifth anniversary of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that ricked Haiti in 2010, killing an estimated 300,000 people.

The SRC said that the earthquake in Haiti "should have been the wakeup call for a fundamental shift in regional mechanisms for coping with seismic hazards".

It said major earthquake disasters around the world have stimulated similar shifts and resulted in greater resilience to seismic hazards in these regions.

"This has not happened in the Caribbean and the region continues to be extremely vulnerable to seismic events," the SRC said, adding "research suggests that the region is capable of generating an earthquake of magnitude 6.0 or larger every 3-5 years.

"Of more concerns, we are long overdue for a magnitude 8.0 earthquake, which has 32 times more energy than the Haiti event. In light of these sobering facts, it is imperative for the region to move expeditiously towards building resilience to such events," it added.

The SRC said that while there have been advances in many areas, "the effectiveness of the implemented strategy from country to country still needs to be measured.

"The need for broad based impact assessments for seismic hazards and risks is now greater than ever with clearly established short term and long term objectives. Every year that passes without the necessary measures being in place is a year closer to a repeat of the Haiti disaster. Now is the time to be ready," the SRC added.


Political crisis marks earthquake anniversary

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, Jan 12, (CMC) – Haiti is Monday marking the fifth anniversary of the powerful earthquake that killed an estimated 300,000 people and left more than a million others homeless with the Organization of American States (OAS) pledging its commitment to the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country rebuild its battered economy and infrastructure.

But even as the government continues to seek assistance from the international community, hundreds of opposition supporters took to the streets Sunday demanding the resignation of President Michel Martelly, who is seeking to resolve a standoff over elections.


Guyana backs India for UN Security Council seat

GANDHINAGAR, Jan. 8, (CMC) – President Donald Ramotar has pledged to support the Government of India in its quest to secure a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Ramotar, who delivered the inaugural address to the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Conference here on Thursday, said India has greater responsibility to support other developing countries and asked New Delhi to play a proactive role in fighting global challenges like climate change.

"India has greater responsibility to support other developing countries. India should play a major role in confronting global challenges like climate change. I want to assure you that my country will support India in securing a permanent seat in UN Security Council," he said, addressing the mega meet of Indian diaspora at Mahatma Mandir.

He shared the dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gujarat Chief Minister Anandi Patel, Governor O P Kohli, Union Ministers Sushma Swaraj and Ravi Shankar Prasad, among others.

tributes to Mahatma Gandhi, Ramotar described him "as the greatest man" of his time and recalled his deep influence on the Guyanese people.

He said 2015 is a historic year as it marks the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi's return to India from South Africa, where he fought for basic rights of his countrymen settled there, and later served as an inspiration in the struggle against apartheid.

Ramotar highlighted the long-standing bilateral ties and lauded the contribution of Indian bilateral ties and lauded the contribution of Indian diaspora in the South American country.

"Indian diaspora is the second largest in the world and it includes political leaders, Prime Ministers, Presidents and CEOs of Fortune-500 companies," he said.


World Bank says Caribbean will benefit from oil price slump

(CMC) Gains from low oil prices can be substantial for developing-country importers if supported by stronger global growth, says a World Bank Group analysis of the oil price decline, contained in the latest edition of Global Economic Prospects.

The decline in oil prices reflects a confluence of factors, including several years of upward surprises in oil supply and downward surprises in demand, receding geopolitical risks in some areas of the world, a significant change in policy objectives of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and appreciation of the U.S. dollar. Although the relative strength of the forces driving the recent plunge in prices remains uncertain, supply related factors appear to have played a dominant role.

Soft oil prices are expected to persist in 2015 and will be accompanied by significant real income shifts from oil-exporting to oil-importing countries. For many oil-importing countries, lower prices contribute to growth and reduce inflationary, external, and fiscal pressures.

However, weak oil prices present significant challenges for major oil-exporting countries, which will be adversely impacted by weakening growth prospects, and fiscal and external positions. If lower oil prices persist, they could also undermine investment in new exploration or development. This would especially put at risk investment in some low-income countries, or in unconventional sources such as shale oil, tar sands, and deep sea oil fields. "For policymakers in oil-importing developing countries, the fall in oil prices provides a window of opportunity to undertake fiscal policy and structural reforms as well as fund social programmes.

In oil-exporting countries, the sharp decline in oil prices is a reminder of significant vulnerabilities inherent in highly concentrated economic activity and the necessity to reinvigorate efforts to diversify over the medium and long term," said Ayhan Kose, Director of Development Prospects at the World Bank. The analysis on oil prices in Global Economic Prospects is complemented by two special features on how trends in global trade and remittance flows are impacting developing countries.

Global trade weak on cyclical and long-term factors Global trade expanded by less than 3.5 percent in 2012 and 2013, well below the pre-crisis average annual rate of seven percent, holding back developing country growth in recent years. Weak demand, mainly in investment but also in consumer demand, is one of the main causes of the deceleration in trade growth.

With high-income countries accounting for some 65 percent of global imports, the lingering weakness of their economies five years after the crisis suggests that weak demand continues to adversely impact the recovery in global trade. However, long-term trends have also slowed trade growth, including the changing relationship between trade and income. Specifically, world trade has become less responsive to changes in global income because of slower expansions of global supply chains and a shift in demand from trade-intensive investment to less trade-intensive private and public consumption.

The analysis finds that these long-term factors affecting trade will also shape the behaviour of trade flows in the years ahead—in particular, that the expected recovery in global growth is not likely to be accompanied by the rapid growth in trade flows observed in the pre-crisis years.


China pledges assistance to region

BEIJING, China, Jan 7, 2015 (CMC) – China says it will work "hand in hand" with Latin American and Caribbean countries to boost the comprehensive and cooperative partnership between Beijing and the region.

In a statement issued ahead of the inaugural Ministerial Meeting of the China-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (China-CELAC), China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi noted that since the turn of the new century, "China and Latin American and Caribbean countries have achieved leapfrog growth in our relations by pursuing common development and intensifying political, economic, cultural and people-to-people exchanges.


Major US black group to host CARICOM reparations summit

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) – A major Black group here says it will host the next summit of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Reparations Commission early this year. The New York-based Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW) said on Saturday that the summit will take place from April 9-12.

The CARICOM Commission is chaired by Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor Designate of the University of the West Indies.

Inspired by the creation of the CARICOM Commission, a National African American Reparations Commission is being established as part of an effort to intensify the Reparations movement in the US, the IBW said.

It said the Commission will be dedicated to the memory of Audley Moore, one of the foremost proponents of Reparations in the history of Africans in America and a mentor to generations of Reparations activists.

IBW said in addition to the CARICOM and African American Commissions, representatives of Reparations movements from Central and South America, Canada and Europe are expected to participate in what is emerging as a Pan African Reparations Summit.

It said the programmes for the Summit will include formal business sessions; a dialogue between leaders of the Caribbean Diaspora in the US and the CARICOM Commission; meetings between the newly-formed African American Commission and the Caribbean Commission; Rallies in Harlem, considered the symbolic Capital of Black America; Brooklyn, home to the largest Caribbean community in the US; and a tribute to Congressman John Conyers, Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus and Sponsor of HR-40, the Reparations Study Bill, which he has introduced in the US Congress since 1989.

The IBW noted that, at the most recent Reparations Braintrust at the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference, Sir Hilary urged participants to declare a "Conyers Decade of Reparatory Justice".

"The tribute to Congressman Conyers will begin that process," said the IBW, adding that there will also be special recognition of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N?COBRA) for "decades of ground-breaking work on the issue".

IBW president Dr. Ron Daniels said that the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) will develop a Reparations Programme similar to the 10 Point Programme that has been adopted by the CARICOM Commission.

"The first step will be to devise an interim programme that NAARC will take to the people in a series of town hall meetings to receive input before adopting the final programme," he said.

"The process of engaging people of African descent across the country, including young people, is incredibly important to strengthening the Reparations movement".

The IBW said Sir Hilary has been "eager to have Reparations Commissions form in various countries to build a global movement for Reparatory Justice".

The IBW said the activities for the CARICOM Reparations visit to the US will conclude with Sir Hilary travelling to Detroit for a Reparations Rally, which will be the climax to the Tribute to Conyers.


CARICOM chair says community should fully implement five-year strategic plan

(CMC) New CARICOM chairman Perry Christie says it's important for the 15-member regional grouping to fully implement the five-year strategic plan that has been endorsed by regional leaders to deepen the integration movement.

Christie, the new chairman of the 15-member grouping, said that the 2015-19 plan "is a bold step that demonstrates our determination to provide the best options for the growth and development of our people.

"This plan is an important part of the Reform Process in our Community and we stand to be judged both by its success and the actions we take in its implementation. In re-positioning our Community, as this plan seeks to do, we will be aiming at making it more resilient to the internal and external factors which hinder our efforts at attaining sustainable development in a rapidly changing world."

Christie, who took over the chairmanship of CARICOM from his Antigua and Barbuda colleague, Gaston Browne, said that there can be no more vivid demonstration of the dynamic nature of the global environment facing the Caribbean face than the recent rapprochement between Cuba and the United States.

"Those of us who have consistently called for an end to the isolation of our sister Caribbean country and, in particular, the cessation of the economic, trade and financial embargo are heartened by the initiatives announced by President Obama and President Castro.

"In my view this rapprochement underscores the urgency of a summit between the American President and the Heads of the Community."

He said that this year also marks the beginning of negotiations for the United Nations Post-2015 Development Agenda which seeks to find a more effective route to the sustainable development of all States.


Caribbean rocked by Chikungunya virus in 2014

By Peter Richards BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Dec 30, (CMC) – Three general elections and continued socio-economic problems may have made the headlines in the Caribbean in 2014, but it was the Chikungunya virus, the mosquito borne disease that really caught the attention of the region over the past 12 months.

In addition, while no cases had been recorded, Caribbean countries were putting in place various measures to deal with the deadly Ebola virus that have killed more than 7,000 people in West Africa and spread also by the same mosquito responsible for the Chikungunya virus.

A crippling mosquito-borne virus with a tongue twisting name, Chikungunya first appeared in the Caribbean towards the end of 2013. But by the end of 2014, every Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country had recorded cases of the virus caused by the aedes aegypti mosquito that causes a dengue-like sickness.

Symptoms include a sudden high fever, severe pain in the wrists, ankles or knuckles, muscle pain, headache, nausea, and rash. Joint pain and stiffness are more common with Chikungunya than with dengue. The symptoms appear between four to seven days after the bite of an infected mosquito.

The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) warned the Caribbean has not yet felt the "full impact" of the disease.

"There is an estimate in excess of 600,000 cases in total, most of those being from the bigger countries like the Dominican Republic and Haiti with 37 deaths in total. So it continues to spread," said CARPHA's executive director Dr. James Hospedales.

Dr. Hospedales said that with a population of 17 million people, the region is still in the early stages of the virus, warning "the full bloom of Chikungunya virus is yet to come.

"I am saying because everybody in this part of the world and there is no resistance to this virus and we have an abundance of the vector and we have a lot of movement. In six months it has moved to all the islands and we can expect further increases in levels of cases because of what has happened elsewhere in the world where in some countries you find a 30 per cent attack rate of the entire population within a year or so."

The situation forced regional leaders to hold a special summit in Trinidad and Tobago in November and at the end of the three hour deliberation, they outlined a series of measures to deal with both the Chikungunya and Ebola viruses.

"Heads of government expressed considerable concern, not just in relation to the possible health impact of the Ebola virus disease (EVD), but also about the disruption a single case could cause in the economic and social life of the region," CARICOM Chairman Gaston Browne, the Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister said afterwards.

Browne said that the leaders had adopted a 10-point plan to deal with Ebola and a four point plan to deal with the Chikungunya virus with CARPHA coordinated the strategy that would have an international input.


Ebola crisis likely to continue throughout 2015

LONDON, England, Monday December 29, 2014 – The Ebola crisis in West Africa is likely to continue until the end of 2015, according to Professor Peter Piot, a leading researcher who helped to discover the deadly virus.

Professor Piot, who recently returned from Sierra Leone, told the BBC World Service's Newsday programme that he was encouraged by progress in that country and by the promise of new anti-viral therapies.

He nevertheless cautioned that vaccines would take time to develop. Piot, who was one of the scientists who discovered the killer disease in 1976, is now Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

He said that although the epidemic has peaked in Liberia and was likely to peak in Sierra Leone in the coming weeks, the outbreak could have a "very long tail and a bumpy tail."

"The Ebola epidemic is still very much there. People are still dying, new cases are being detected," he told the BBC. "We need to be ready for a long effort, a sustained effort [for] probably the rest of 2015."

He nevertheless added that he was impressed by the progress he had witnessed during his recent trip to Sierra Leone.

"Treatment centres have now been established across the country with British help. You don't see any longer the scenes where people are dying in the streets," he said.

Piot also said he was encouraged that, thanks to simple treatments such as intravenous fluids and antibiotics, mortality rates had fallen to as low as one in three.

"Getting it below that will require specific therapies that are now going to be tested," he said, adding that he hoped that within three months it would be clear which anti-viral therapies were effective.

While noting that developing a vaccine would be more complicated, he said it must be done "so that when there is another epidemic or maybe when this epidemic drags on for a long time, that we have that vaccine available."

The current Ebola outbreak, the deadliest ever, has so far killed more than 7,300 people, mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.


Caribbean publication names Mighty Sparrow - "Person of the Year"

NEW YORK, United States, Monday December 29, 2014, (CMC) – A United States-based publication has named calypsonian Slinger Francisco, popularly known as The Mighty Sparrow, as its "Person of the Year."

"Any person, in any part of the world, regardless to sex, age and vocation, can emulate the virtues The Mighty Sparrow exemplified during 2014," said Herman Hall, the Grenadian-born editor, publisher and founder of the Brooklyn, New York-based Everybody's magazine.

"For those reasons, we unabashedly proclaim our readers' selection of The Mighty Sparrow as the '2014 Person of the Year'", he added.

Hall said Sparrow was "overwhelmingly" selected by its readers and social media friends from among "many regional leaders and people of Caribbean heritage in the Diaspora."

He said they included Tiffany Ford, of St. Lucian-Grenadian heritage, elected into municipal government in Toronto, Canada; Rodneyse Bichotte, the first Haitian-American elected to the New York State Assembly; Barbados Leader of the Opposition Mia Ottley; the 2008 and 2014 Formula One Grand Prix World Champion, Lewis Hamilton of the UK, who is of Grenadian heritage, outgoing US Attorney-General Eric Holder, of Barbadian heritage; and Antigua and Barbuda's newly elected Prime Minister Gaston Browne.

"Of all email messages received from Toronto, UK (United Kingdom), Jamaica, Guyana, Boston (Massachusetts) and other places, one name kept appearing often – The Mighty Sparrow," Hall said.

Hall said this "indomitable spirit has been the defining feature of Sparrow's life work, as he continues demonstrating sheer grit and an ability, 'inspired by God' to, 'survive through pain, sorrow and tears,' rendered in one of his hits, 'Survival'.

"Sparrow's timeless message and his health challenges testify to man's will to survive," he added.

The Mighty Sparrow, whose roots are in Gran Roi, a rural fishing village in Grenada, was born there to a poor working class family.

The family migrated to Sparrow's adopted homeland, Trinidad and Tobago, when he was one year old.

At 20, Sparrow emerged as the leading calypsonian in Trinidad and Tobago with his record-breaking hit, "Jean and Dinah."


New York pays tribute to Calypso Rose

By Nelson A. King NEW YORK, Dec 27, (CMC) - Though she was barely able to walk because of gout, Calypso Rose was still able to woo her audience, as Brooklyn paid tribute to the Tobago-born singer who "broke the glass ceiling" in the calypso genre.

"This woman, sometimes I sit and wonder what got that woman to sing calypso in the 1950s and survive," said popular Grenadian-born radio personality Harold Pysadee, one of the Master of Ceremonies at the grand tribute in honour of Calypso Rose, 74, renowned as the "Calypso Queen of the World".


Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Kamla style

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Dec 27, (CMC) – Government ministers have defended the decision to spend thousands of dollars erecting billboards showing Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar wishing the nation "Merry Christmas" even as a non-government organization warned that it showed the "dictatorial" tendencies of the leader of the coalition People's Partnership administration.

Communications Minister Vasant Bharath said the billboards cost taxpayers "somewhere in the region of TT$50,000 to TT$60,000" (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) and would not cause a significant dent in the public purse during this time of belt tightening.


CARICOM secretary general says 2014 was a "milestone" for the 15-member group

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Tuesday December 23, 2014, (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General Irwin La Rocque says 2014 has been a "milestone" for the 15-member regional grouping. In an end of year message released here Monday, La Rocque said that the "milestone" is as a result of the Community's Five Year Strategic Plan being approved by regional leaders at their summit in Antigua in July.

He said the 2015-19 plan seeks to ensure that CARICOM "is in a position to withstand the effects of events such as the global economic and financial crises and provides the way forward for pursuing sustainable growth and development as a region.

"Growth and development are critical factors in providing jobs and BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES," he said, adding that implementation of this plan is a major step in CARICOM's on-going Reform process "as we seek to become more efficient, accountable and above all, increase our responsiveness to the needs of the Community.

"You the people of the region should therefore more readily feel the difference that integration makes in your lives. You will continue to benefit from our collective efforts in health as demonstrated by the Caribbean PUBLIC HEALTH AGENCY (CARPHA).

"We are also placing emphasis on developing our human resources, particularly our youth by taking a thorough look at our education system. The exciting prospect of a SINGLE CARICOM ICT Space which would lower the cost of telephone calls and internet access will be pursued," La Rocque said.

He said these possibilities have only become reality through the region working as one, and more can be achieved with your participation and support.

"The integration movement has never been more important than at this time. Integration is our route to achieving sustainable development and to delivering the quality of life that our people expect and deserve.

"The coming year, therefore, would mark for us in CARICOM, the CONTINUATION of a dynamic period in our determined efforts to create a sustainable, secure and viable Community for all our peoples," La Rocque added.


American indicted for defrauding Caribbean immigrants

NEW YORK, United States, (CMC) – United States law enforcement authorities have indicted a woman who allegedly promised GREEN CARDS and work permits to undocumented CARIBBEAN immigrants. They said Nickya Wittington, also known as Nicky John, 27 has been charged with stealing US$12,850 from the immigrants.

The Brooklyn native was charged after she falsely promised to help an undercover detective obtain the same documents.

"This defendant is accused of preying on some of the most vulnerable members of our society," said Brooklyn District attorney Ken Thompson, adding that the Immigrant Fraud Unit is prosecuting this case so as "to stop such opportunists from TARGETING undocumented individuals".

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement New York special agent, James T. Hayes, said: "this defendant's alleged actions served not only to victimize immigrants attempting to comply with federal laws, they also threatened to undermine confidence in the federal government".

Thompson said Wittington has been arraigned by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on an indictment in which she is charged with first-degree scheme to defraud, third-degree grand larceny, third-degree attempted grand larceny, fourth-degree grand larceny and petit larceny.

She was ordered held on US$5,000 bail and to return to court on February 4, 2015. If convicted of the top count, she faces up to seven years in prison.

ACCORDING to the indictment, from June 10, 2014 to December 9, 2014, Wittington falsely claimed she could obtain green cards and work permits for the alleged victims in exchange for about US$7,000 to US$10,000, and allegedly took DOWN PAYMENTS ranging from US$1,000 to US$6,000 cash to get the process started.

The victims, who were originally from Guyana, Jamaica, Ghana and Liberia, met the defendant through mutual acquaintances, Thompson said.

The defendant was charged after allegedly taking US$3,250 from an undercover detective posing as an undocumented immigrant in exchange for a GREEN CARD.


Private sector objects to terrorist links

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Dec 18, (CMC) – The Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce (TTCIC) has taken issue with a statement made by the Governor of the Central Bank that businesses here should not conduct "business with companies with terrorist links" as the private sector again complain of a shortage of foreign currency here.

Jwala Rambarran, speaking at the launch of the latest Monetary Policy Report at the Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce, south of here earlier this month, said "we've noticed a trend, where businesses make noise for foreign exchange to pay bills for trade-related purposes and actively lobby the authorised dealers and Central Bank for US dollars.


Regional leaders welcome new chapter in US-Cuba relations

By Peter Richards BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Dec 17, (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders Wednesday welcomed the new chapter in diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba with St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves describing the event as one "'of earth shattering proportions".

President Barack Obama announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations as well as an easing in economic and travel restrictions on Cuba, declaring an end to America's "outdated approach" to the communist island in a historic shift that aims to bring an end to a half-century of Cold War enmity.

Obama and the Cuban leader, Raul Castro, made simultaneous announcements in their respective capitals announcing the moves to normalise the diplomatic relations that were broken after Fidel Castro established the first communist state in the Western Hemisphere after leading an overthrow of the military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

Washington imposed a trade and economic embargo on the island following the move by Castro and Caribbean governments joined several international countries in denouncing the move.

Obama said Washington will also open an embassy in Havana in the coming months and the moves on Wednesday were part of a deal that saw the release of American Alan Gross by Cuba and the release of three Cubans jailed in Florida for spying.

Obama hail the move as the "most significant changes in US policy towards Cuba in 50 years".

Prime Minister Gonsalves, who over the years has developed close ties with both Venezuela and Cuba, said while there were still several issues still be to ironed out, "many of the things which President Obama has spoken about…are inside the CUBA-CARICOM communiqué of last week and the ALBA summit of Sunday".

He said he had longed for the day when the "fracturing of the Western Hemisphere would be healed and it appears that there is a dramatic commencement of that healing.

"This is a day of great rejoicing," Gonsalves said, adding that he was now looking forward to the Summit of the Americas in Panama where both Cuba and the United States would be represented by their heads of state.

"It will be wonderful for us to be at the Summit of the Americas and it is almost too good to believe it is true to see the President of the United States and the President of Cuba sitting down in the hemispheric family like that..it is a day in which I look forward to and I hope the good Lord keeps me to see that Situation," Gonsalves told Parliament Wednesday.

He sought an early adjournment of Parliament as he said Kingstown had to be kept abreast of the "event of earth shaking proportions".

Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace said he too was looking forward to " a deepening of that relationship".

St. Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas also welcomed the announcement of improved relations between Cuba and the United States, saying Basseterre joined with governments the world over in long asserting "that the half-century old policy of the United States toward Cuba advanced the interests of neither the United States nor those of the Cuban people.

"The decision of the United States to no longer be the only country on earth dedicated to the isolation of Cuba is therefore a most welcome development in the eyes of the international community. It reflects the determination of the Obama administration to steadfastly and meticulously re-examine and re-cast policies that do not work, and to do so in the interest of advancing global peace and stability. For this, President Obama deserves great praise."

Prime Minister Douglas said that his twin island Federation had benefitted from many years of constructive bilateral relations with Cuba, "and we look forward to witnessing the benefits that are sure to accrue to the Governments and peoples of both the United States and Cuba as a result of this historic decision".

Grenada's Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell said he was elated at the development.


Cuba-United States improving diplomatic relations

WASHINGTON, Dec 17, (CMC) – The United States and Cuba are to start talks to normalise diplomatic ties in a historic shift in relations between the two countries, President Barak Obama announced Wednesday. In a nationwide broadcast, Obama said Washington will also open an embassy in Havana in the coming months.

The moves are part of a deal that saw the release of American Alan Gross by Cuba and includes the release of three Cubans jailed in Florida for spying.

Obama hail the move as the "most significant changes in US policy towards Cuba in 50 years".

Obama and the Cuban leader, Raul Castro, made simultaneous announcements announcing the moves to normalise the diplomatic relations that were broken after Fidel Castro took power in the Caribbean country in 1959.

Washington imposed a trade and economic embargo on the island following the move by Castro.


Warning for Caribbean countries

By Ernie Seon BRUSSELS, Dec 15, (CMC) – The former director general of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Dr. Len Ishmael, says the Caribbean will never achieve the status of economic resilience, as long as the international community insist on graduating it to middle income status at the level of the European Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations.

Ishmael, who is now the OECS Ambassador to Belgium and the European Union, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that European Development Funds (EDF) have been very important to the sub-region having been used as budgetary support at both the national and sub-regional levels.

"In the case of St. Kitts Nevis these funds have been vital through trade windows accompanying measures that seek to cushion the shock with the loss of the sugar market, and in the case of the Windwards, the banana market," she told CMC on the sidelines of the just completed 100th African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Ministerial Summit.

But she said that over time, the islands have been graduated to middle income countries, given the fact the European Union has been using gross domestic product (GDP) per capital to undertake fresh comparative analysis with the rest of the world.

Ishmael told CMC that with that middle income status comes the loss of several privileges, and access to concessionary financing which inevitably makes capital more and more expensive.

As a result, she contends the islands are required to engage in commercial ventures so as to attract capital and loans which have been critical to support their development.

"We argue strenuously in this theatre that GDP as a means of speaking to the health and wealth of our countries is a bit of an artifice when you are dealing with islands that are naturally small.

"The fact that we are small mean that there are systemic vulnerabilities that come with our size, the fact that we have been able to emerge from cycles of real poverty, does not mean that the vulnerabilities associated with small size, are no longer there," she noted.

The OECS diplomat said on one hand there is the European Union very much in favour of supporting vulnerability and providing finance to ensure sustainable development while on the other it is graduating the Caribbean out of the access to the very funds that it would use in pursuit of a life of sustainable development.

"So the issue of graduating is a very vital one in this theatre because GDP per capita is used not only in the EU but by the IMF (International Monetary Fund), the World Bank, multi-laterals, the WTO (World Trade Organization) and everywhere else to determine those countries which are graduated out of their ability to attract any new concessions for financing," she said.

"In fact we have received word that St. Kitts Nevis will soon be graduated out entirely, you and I both know that as Small Islands Development States (SIDS) we are acutely vulnerable not just economically but environmentally and we don't need to indulge in a conversation to know exactly what that means.

"Now we are not even safe from a wet whether event associated with last December's tropical low pressure that wrecked St. Lucia and St. Vincent, not even a hurricane as a consequence of climate change, wrecked such havoc on our physical infrastructure including our livestock and crop supplies.

"The problem therefore for SIDS, is if we have no economic resilience, there is no way we can become economically resilient," Ishmael noted.

She said that the paradox of all of this is that these small states are not saying that anyone else should be paying their way, but they argue that there should be across all theatres an understanding of the unique criteria that makes SIDS as vulnerable as they are.

"So it's not all well and good to have a discussion on our vulnerability only when it comes to talking once every 10 years through Mauritius or the Barbados Plan of Action. "These discussions should result in policy prescriptions that cut across all theatres, at the WTO, the UN General Assembly, post 2015 agenda for development or all of the global issues that directly impact us uniquely because of our small size.

"We will continue to ask that SIDS issues should be cross cutting and SIDS sensitivity is one that should be inherent to all national discussion on sustainable development," she added.

The issue of graduating the Caribbean to middle income designation has been identified by the new ACP Secretary General Dr. P.I. Gomes as one of more challenging tasks of his five year term.

"We will need to resolve the principle of differentiation in the Cotonou agreement where Caribbean countries are being unjustly graduated to a middle income designation, and thereby excluded from grant assistance," he told reporters.


UNHCR says nearly 5,000 people risk their lives by sea to avert poverty

GENEVA, Dec 14, (CMC) – The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said nearly 5,000 people have taken to boats this year in a bid to escape poverty. But the agency is warning that given the high number of global migrant arrivals by sea, the international community is steadily losing focus on saving lives and intensifying its efforts to deny foreigners access to asylum.

"This is a mistake, and precisely the wrong reaction for an era in which record numbers of people are fleeing wars," said António Guterres, the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees, ahead of a Geneva-based forum devoted to protecting sea-bound migrants.

"Security and immigration management are concerns for any country, but policies must be designed in a way that human lives do not end up becoming collateral damage," he added.

According to estimates from coastal authorities and data points collected by the UN, at least 348,000 people have risked seafaring journeys worldwide since the beginning of 2014 as they flee conflicts and poverty.

"In the Caribbean, 2014 has seen almost 5,000 people take to boats as they escape the clutches of poverty and explore asylum options in the neighbouring countries," UNHCR said.

The Bahamas have constantly urged Haitians authorities to do more to prevent their nationals from undertaking the dangerous travel by sea in unseaworthy boats.

Many of the Haitians either try to remain in the Bahamas or use the chain of islands for an easier passage into the United States.

The UNCHR said that in addition to the difficulties of these journeys, which often stretch across multiple borders and over thousands of kilometres, many of those migrating along these maritime corridors succumb to trafficking and smuggling networks coordinated by international organized crime.

"You can't stop a person who is fleeing for their life by deterrence, without escalating the dangers even more. The real causes have to be addressed, and this means looking at why people are fleeing, what prevents them from seeking asylum by safer means, and what can be done to crack down on the criminal networks who prosper from this, while at the same time protecting their victims," . Guterres said.

"It also means having proper systems to deal with arrivals and distinguish real refugees from those who are note," he added.

Guterres' comment comes as UN officials from its humanitarian and human rights agencies prepare to gather at UNHCR?s 2014 High Commissioner's Dialogue here, an informal policy discussion forum whose focus this year is "Protection at Sea".


ACP urges lifting of travel and trade restrictions related to Ebola outbreak

Washington, D.C., 10 December 2014 (PAHO/WHO) — A new report on interpersonal violence around the world shows that low- and middle-income countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have the highest homicide rates of any developing region, as well as the highest proportion of homicides committed with firearms.

Concerns over the spread of Ebola across the west Africa region, and the deaths of 3000 people is gaining the full attention of the ACP Ministerial meetings taking place this week in Brussels. Delegates, in a communiqué noting that the Ebola outbreak constitutes a threat to global peace and security, appealed to other ACP member states to make contributions towards the efforts of controlling the epidemic.

"The imposed travel and trade restrictions to and from affected countries, particularly the suspension of operations of some regional and international airlines have hampered the intervention efforts as well as food production and supply," they argued.

The delegates also called on the international community to support the implementation of synchronised cross-border interventions to fight the current Ebola hemorrhagic fever virus, as well as supporting the countries at risk in other African regions.

"This can be done through the strengthening of epidemiological surveillance, conducting rapid assessments, social mobilisation, training of health personnel among others," the statement noted.

They noted that affected countries are faced with numerous challenges including their fragile heath systems, with significant deficits in human, financial and material resources, high mobility of populations which increases the risk of cross border movement of infected persons, and the weak capacity of the regional network for disease surveillance and response.

They strongly commended the efforts of the governments of affected countries and the West Africa region, the UN system, the World Bank group, the EU, the USA, the Africa Development Bank, and non-governmental organisations towards containing the disease.

"We appreciate the financial, material and technical contributions by a number of ACP member states towards these efforts of control in the effected countries, particularly the knowledge of Cuba which continues to provide medical brigades as well as rapid response to the Ebola epidemic along with the WHO," the delegates noted.

They recommended the convening of an International conference on the control of the Ebola outbreaks, organised by the ACP Group of States, the African Union and the European Union in Brussels.

Delegates said the current virus outbreak was no longer of regional concern but an international public heath emergency with possible humanitarian economic and social consequences.


Caribbean leads in homicide rates

Washington, D.C., 10 December 2014 (PAHO/WHO) — A new report on interpersonal violence around the world shows that low- and middle-income countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have the highest homicide rates of any developing region, as well as the highest proportion of homicides committed with firearms.

The Global Status Report on Violence Prevention 2014, released today in Geneva, was published jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Development Program, and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

Among other findings, the report estimates that 165,617 deaths in developing countries of Latin America and the Caribbean were due to homicide, and three-quarters of these were carried out with firearms (data for 2012). This translates into 28.5 homicides per 100,000 population, more than four times the global homicide rate (6.7 per 100,000) and more than twice the rate of developing countries in Africa, which have the world's second-highest regional homicide rate (10.9 per 100,000).

"As a group, developing countries in the Americas share the dubious distinction of having the highest rate of lethal interpersonal violence in the world," said Dr. Marcelo Korc, Advisor on Sustainable Development and Human Security at the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO). "Many of our member countries are taking steps to address this violence, but it remains a huge challenge to implement effective prevention and treatment programs to lower these rates and reduce the tremendous suffering they represent."

Among other findings about the Region of the Americas, the new report shows:

The highest WHO-estimated homicide rates were in Honduras (103.9 per 100,000), Venezuela (57.6 per 100,000), Jamaica (45.1), and Belize (44.7). The lowest homicide rates were in Canada (1.8 per 100,000), Antigua and Barbuda (4.4) and Chile (4.6). The highest estimated rates of homicide by firearms were in Venezuela (90%), Guatemala (86%), Honduras (84%), Colombia and Panama (80%), and El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago (77%). Firearms are also predominantly used in intimate partner homicides in the Americas. Both globally and in the Americas, 30% of ever-partnered women report having experienced physical or sexual violence, or both, at some point in their lives. A higher proportion (76%) of countries of the Americas have national action plans to reduce violence than in any other WHO region. This includes 91% with plans to reduce child maltreatment, 86% with plans to reduce intimate partner and sexual violence, and 71% with plans to reduce youth violence. All countries in the Americas have laws regulating firearms. However, less than two-thirds have special firearms control programs such as gun buy-backs or firearms collection and destruction programs.

To reduce levels of violence, the report recommends 18 "best buy" programs, including: programs to reduce the availability and harmful use of alcohol laws and programs to reduce access to firearms school-based programs to teach children and adolescents "life-skills" such as non-violent conflict resolution efforts to change gender norms that are supportive of violence against women programs to improve parenting in families at risk of violence public information campaigns to prevent elder abuse.

Twenty-one PAHO/WHO member countries in the Americas participated in the report, out of a total of 35 member countries.

"One of the conclusions that can be drawn from this report is that we continue to need more and better data on interpersonal violence, and this is true of the Americas as well as other regions," said Korc. "It is critical to know the dimensions and specific characteristics of interpersonal violence to better inform policymaking and the design of effective plans and programs. To really work, plans have to be based on good data."

PAHO, founded in 1902, is the oldest international public health organization in the world. It works with its member countries to improve the health and the quality of life of the people of the Americas. It serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of WHO and is part of the Inter-American system.


CARICOM 'heartened' by UN's call for climate financing

By Kenton X. Chance
LIMA, Peru, Dec. 10, CMC -- The 15-member Caribbean (CARICOM) says it is "heartened" by the call of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for development finance to be linked to funding for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

"Investments in addressing climate change will propel gains in broader development goals. Conversely, investments made in development must be aligned with our climate aims.

"Just as climate issues are not separate from development issues –climate finance cannot be treated separately from development finance. They are quite literally two sides of the same coin," Ban told the opening of the High-Level Segment of the global climate change summit here on Tuesday.

International and Regional Liaison Officer at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), Carlos Fuller, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that his agency is pleased with the statement of the UN chief, as negotiators move into the final days of 20th Conference of Parties (COP20) to the United Nations Framework convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which ends on December 14.

"We are certainly heartened from a CARICOM perspective that the secretary general recognises our call for enhanced financing is on the top of the agenda for us. Without climate financing, we cannot take the adaptation and mitigation measures that we will like to undertake in the Caribbean to adapt to climate change," Fuller told CMC.

He said adaptation is a priority for 5Cs.

"It is extremely important that we build the resilience in our agriculture, water, health, food security, fisheries, and all of those are linked to tourism, which is the biggest income earner for the Caribbean."

The CARICOM climate change official noted that adaptation is important to the livelihood of CARICOM residents.

"If fact, our livelihoods depend on fishing, on farming, on the coastal zones. So, unless those are resources are maintained in some fashion, we will be unable to live in the Caribbean," he said.

Fuller said CARICOM is "just touching the surface" as far as adaptation to climate change is concerned.

"In the past 10 years for example, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre has been able to attract some US$45 million, but that is hardly being felt in the Caribbean." He told CMC, hundreds of millions of dollars is needed if the region is to properly adapt to climate change.

Fuller said that in the area of mitigation, while CARICOM countries are a minute source of green house gases in the world, "still, we want to show that we can do something".

From a sustainable development point of view, the CARICOM region wants to cut its dependence on imported fossil fuels. "We are spending something in the order of 60 to 70 per cent of our foreign exchange on petroleum products," he said.

Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development in Belize, Lisel Alamilla was also pleased with the UN Secretary General's statement.

"We are really pleased that the Secretary General has called attention to that, because that is critical to developing countries — that when we leave Peru that there is a commitment of $15 billion dollars at minimum to the Green Climate Fund," she said.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a mechanism within the framework of the UNFCCC, and was founded as a mechanism to redistribute money from the developed to the developing world, in order to assist the developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.

The first-ever United Nations Environment Programme Adaptation Gap Report, released last week, has found that, despite funding for adaptation to climate change by public sources reaching US$23 billion to US$26 billion in 2012-2013, there will be a significant funding gap after 2020 unless new and additional finance for adaptation is made available.


CARICOM-Cuba end successful summit

HAVANA, Cuba, Dec 9, (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Cuban leaders Monday adopted a declaration urging closer unity and integration of the region as "the only way to confront the challenges" common to them.

The leaders ended their Fifth CARICOM-Cuba summit adopting the Declaration of La Habana that places emphasis on mechanisms for improving trade among countries of the Caribbean.

The summit also discussed areas for accelerating and strengthening links between CARICOM and Cuba while the declaration acknowledges Cuba's contribution to the development of the region in areas of health, education, human resources, sport, and disaster preparedness.

It also underlines the importance of closer relations within the context of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), the Venezuela-led Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALB) and PetroCaribe.

The communiqué also makes reference to the continued commitment to Haiti as it grapples with the reconstruction following the massive earthquake in 2010 that killed more than 300,000 people and left more than a million others homeless.

It said that the commitment would "always be in accordance with the priorities defined by the Government on the issue of climate change and its impact on the Caribbean, the leaders discussed the need for a global agreement "to stabilise the increase of the temperature by two degrees as well as the need to establish guidelines to these challenges in the future".

"In this context, the countries that are signatories of the Declaration of La Habana are committed to the sustainable use of resources and …supports the proposal by ACS to declare the area special".

The communiqué also notes the steps taken by Cuba, ALBA and CARICOM to prevent the spread of the economic blockade that the United States imposed unilaterally on Cuba, as well as to re-affirm the common position that Cuba attend the Seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama in April 2015 on conditions of equal sovereignty without constraints.

The next CARICOM-Cuba summit will be held in Antigua in December 2017 and the fifth ministerial meeting will take place here in June 2016.


Trinidad government defends spending TT$2.6m to deport African nationals

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Monday December 8, 2014, (CMC) – The Trinidad and Tobago government has defended its decision to spend TT$2.6 million (One TT dollar = US$0.16 cents) to charter a plane to deport 15 illegal Ghana nationals saying that it was difficult to get visas for them men to travel back to their country through commercial flights

The Ghanaians were deported following a marathon 12 hour court case on Saturday by lawyers to prevent their deportation.

National Security Minister Gary Griffith told the Trinidad Express newspaper that there were 100,000 illegal immigrants here, whom he said were draining the country's resources. He also accused some of them of being involved in criminal activities.

"The matter has to be dealt with and we cannot bury our heads in the sand. What was done was done within the law,'' said Griffith, adding that the deportees can re-apply to be regularised.

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan denied that the coalition People's Partnership government was engaged in a witch hunt against immigrants.

"The rule of law has prevailed and the process was followed. A historic emergency session of the High Court and Court of the Appeal was necessary to avoid any further delay and unwarranted expenditure that can surpass two million dollars," he said.

"This is not a witch hunt, we are asking persons to come forward and we are providing them with the opportunity to be regularised," said Ramlogan, who also said that some of the illegal immigrants had a track record related to criminal activities.

"Our intelligence suggests that there are many dimensions to this problem, including links to the gangs, drugs, arms and other crimes that have plagued our society."

But attorney Faris Scoon described the move to deport the African nationals as unjust and unhumanitarian.

He said some of the men deported have been living here for more than 10 years and have Trinidadian wives and children here.

"I think that is harsh, oppressive, unjust, inhumane and unhumanitarian conduct. Quite frankly, I am ashamed to be a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago on account of what our immigration policies are," said Scoon.

Earlier the men had tried to challenge the deportation order of the Chief Immigration Officer but failed.

Justice Ricky Rahim rejected their applications and also ruled that they pay the State's legal costs.


2014 set to be the hottest year on record – NOAA

WASHINGTON D.C., United States, Friday December 5, 2014 – Despite the record early snowfall in parts of the United States in recent weeks, 2014 is shaping up to be the hottest year on record. According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the first ten months of this year have been the hottest since record keeping began more than 130 years ago.

NOAA data showed that October was the hottest October on record globally, with temperatures climbing more than one degree Fahrenheit above the 20th century average of 57.1 F.

"The record high October temperature was driven by warmth across the globe over both the land and ocean surfaces and was fairly evenly distributed between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres," the agency said.

Meanwhile, the average global temperature between January and October has been 0.68 degrees Celsius (1.22 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the 20th century's average global temperature of 14.1 C (57.4 F).

NOAA's analysis breaks down global temperatures into two categories, land and sea, as well as an average that includes both. October's record high temperatures were clocked across both land and sea.

The surface temperature on land approached a significant and potentially perilous scientific benchmark at almost 2 degrees Celsius higher than the 20th century average for October of 9.3 C (48.7 F).

Any temperature increase above the 2 degree Celsius mark is "dangerous," according to the non-binding international agreement on climate change, the Copenhagen Accord, reached in 2009. Experts have long predicted that a change in global average temperature of just 2 to 3 degrees higher could have catastrophic consequences, contributing to disastrous storms, storm surges, melting polar ice and sea level rise.

October's ocean temperatures were also the warmest on record, according to NOAA, with an increase of 1.12 F over the 20th century average of 60.6 degrees.

Of particular concern, several countries have already seen an average temperature increase exceeding 2 degrees Celsius in October 2014 compared to 20th century averages, including France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and Australia.

"Record warmth for the year-to-date was particularly notable across much of northern and western Europe, parts of Far East Russia, and large areas of the northeastern and western equatorial Pacific Ocean," NOAA said.

"It is also notable that record warmth was observed in at least some areas of every continent and major ocean basin around the world," the agency added.

The midsection of the United States, which saw a severe winter, was a notable exception, with its average temperature this year below the 20th century average.


Caribbean legislators outraged over acquittal of white police officer in "chokehold death"

Nelson A. King NEW YORK, United States, Thursday December 4, 2014, (CMC) – Caribbean American legislators Thursday expressed outrage over a grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer in Staten Island in the death of a black man who died when the officer used a chokehold to restrain him.

The grand jury's decision on Wednesday not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the killing of Eric Garner, 43, a father of six last July, comes on the heels of a similar decision last month in Ferguson, Missouri in which a white police officer shot and killed 19 year-old Michael Brown.

Caribbean American congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York, said the latest decision "defies comprehension".

Clarke, who has asked the US Department of Justice to conduct an investigation of the killing, noted that the chokehold has been prohibited under New York Police Department (NYPD) regulations for more than 20 years.

The New York medical examiner had ruled that Garner's death was a homicide. ADVERTISEMENT

Garner died from a heart attack while being arrested for allegedly selling illegal cigarettes in Staten Island last summer.

A disturbing video of Garner's arrest went viral online, showing Pantaleo holding Garner in a chokehold prior to his death. Another video released immediately following the incident shows Garner facedown and unconscious, surrounded by police and eventually paramedics.

"We will not accept the continued devaluation of the lives of men and women who are African-American," Clarke told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

"After the killing of Michael Brown, in which the grand jury refused to indict the police officer responsible, the killing of Akai Gurley by a police officer in East New York, and similar incidents in every part of our nation, the time has arrived for us to demand reforms to law enforcement practices that are deadly for people of colour," said Clarke, a member of the US House of Representatives Committee on Small Business, Ethics, and Homeland Security.

Grenadian American Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, a frequent critic of NYPD tactics, said "there are no words to adequately describe how I feel tonight, but I've been vacillating between numbness and abject anger.

"People keep telling us to 'stay calm' and 'keep the peace', but where are justice and accountability for this life lost," asked the Deputy Leader and co-chair of the City Council's Taskforce to Combat Gun Violence.

"The video is there; but video or not, there is always a reason why it's ok that unarmed Black and Brown people are killed by law enforcement," said the representative for the predominantly Caribbean 45th Council District in Brooklyn.

He said while Dan Donovan, the Staten Island prosecutor, and the grand jury "failed, the Mayor and Commissioner cannot fail.

"Department protocol was violated and another unarmed man is dead," said the son of Grenadian immigrants. "Officer Pantaleo must be held accountable for killing Eric Garner, and he must be fired immediately," he added.

Haitian American New York State Assemblymember-Elect Rodneyse Bichotte described the grand jury's decision as "unsettling.

"My heart and prayers are with the Garner family, Mr. Garner's community, and the men and women who again are left wondering how our justice system works after today's decision," said Bichotte, who will be sworn in January as the representative for the 42nd State Assembly District in Brooklyn.

"Though this is not the end of the story on Mr. Garner's death. Officer Pantaleo still faces internal discipline in the NYPD and the family can still bring a civil suit against the NYPD and the city ? the grand jury's decision closes the door on one path that Mr. Garner's family had sought for justice and closure over his death," she added.

But Bichotte said while many will want to protest the grand jury's decision, "we owe it to our communities, our families and our children to make our voices heard in a constructive and peaceful manner.

"While we face a watershed moment of asking ourselves the unavoidable questions, when is enough, enough. When will we see real reform and real redress for the losses our communities have suffered, progress, as always, starts with an honest dialogue between our community and the NYPD," she said.

"It is the first step in our ability to work hand-in-hand with each other."


Britain abolishes travel tax for children under 12

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Dec 3, (CMC) – The Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Wednesday said it welcomed the announcement by the British government to abolish the Air Passenger Duty (APD) for children under the age of 12.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, in his Autumn Statement by the Treasury, could provide a significant fillip to travel. The industry coalition A Fair Tax on Flying launched a campaign to demand the scrapping of APD on under-12s only last week, media reports out of the UK said.

Osborne also pledged to abolish APD for children under 16 as of May 1, 2016.

The move will halve the APD on the holiday air fares of a family of four, greatly benefitting travellers from the UK to Jamaica and the Caribbean.

"The cut in APD is good news for the outbound tourism industry in encouraging more families to vacation abroad," the British Hospitality Association (BHA) noted.

Meanwhile Jason Waldron, product and marketing director at Broadway Travel, said: "Common sense has prevailed. The Chancellor has made the family holiday a little more affordable."

The APD cut will come into force next May a month after the current four APD rates go down to two – reducing APD on fares to the Caribbean and other long-haul destinations to the same rate as to the US. The Chancellor announced that change in March.


World AIDS Day - UNAIDS predicts Caribbean country could be first to eliminate mother to child HIV transmission

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Dec 1, 2014 (CMC) – UNAIDS Caribbean is predicting that a Caribbean country could become the first nation worldwide to eliminate mother to child HIV transmission.

It said 13 Caribbean countries are on track to be certified as having achieved the status while three are close to reaching the goal. Over the last decade, countries have successfully increased access to antiretroviral medicines during pregnancy and empowered women to make informed decisions about their health and that of their children.

UNAIDS Caribbean said national validation processes are underway throughout the region to confirm reported rates, making it likely that by 2015 a Caribbean country will be the first in the world to announce that it has ended HIV transmission to babies.

"This region was the first to eliminate polio and measles," said UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team Director, Dr Ernest Massiah. "These successes would not have been possible without political commitment. We need the same will to end mother to child HIV transmission. The question is which country will be first," he added.

UNAIDS Caribbean noted that before treatment was available, at least one in four babies born to HIV positive women in many Caribbean countries was infected with HIV.

"Today Anguilla, Barbados, Cuba, Guyana, Montserrat and St. Kitts and Nevis all have shown that they have reached the elimination target of below two percent transmission. Bonaire, the Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominica, Saba, St Eustatius, St Kitts & Nevis and St Maarten have not had an HIV positive baby on record in the last four to ten years, but must finalise their documentation. "

It said The Bahamas, Jamaica and Suriname currently have transmission rates between two and five per cent. Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago lag behind with more than five per cent of children born to mothers living with HIV becoming infected. The Dominican Republic, Grenada and St Lucia have insufficient information.

"No child living in the Caribbean should be born with HIV. We must look carefully at how we can protect and empower women so that they go to clinic early, get tested, get treated and follow-up with their babies," Dr Massiah said.

UNAIDS Caribbean said there was also need for increased focus on young women and men who have sex with men to close the gap and end the AIDS epidemic by 2030

"Ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 is possible, but only by closing the gap between people who have access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services and those who are being left behind."

In the Caribbean more must be done to prevent HIV among young women, sex workers and men who have sex with men. Those already living with HIV must also be able to access the services they need.

A public opinion poll commissioned by UNAIDS shows that the majority of Trinidadians and Tobagonians support giving young people access to age-appropriate sex and sexuality education in schools as well as access to condoms and contraceptives. Additionally, nine of ten respondents think that child abuse and domestic violence are problems. Addressing the lack of knowledge, sexual and reproductive health services and social protection available to young women can help reduce their vulnerability to HIV.

CARIMIS, an online study of men who have sex with men in the Caribbean, found that while respondents who were out tended to exhibit better health-seeking behaviour, those who were not were less vulnerable to homophobic abuse.

"Within the past month of responding to the survey, one in three respondents had been stared at or intimidated and one in four experienced verbal insults or name-calling. One in ten reported being physically assaulted in the past five years," UNAIDS Caribbean noted.

It said that the polls found that the majority of people disagree with treating others differently because of their sexual orientation and recognise violence against homosexuals as a form of discrimination.

"Public engagement on equality and non-violence is fundamental to not only the security and well-being of men who have sex with men, but also the Caribbean's ability to end the AIDS epidemic."


Caribbean legislators outraged over decision not to indict white police officer

by Nelson A. King NEW YORK, United States, Wednesday November 26, 2014, (CMC) – Caribbean born legislators have expressed outrage over a grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri not to indict a white police officer who killed an unarmed 18-year-old black youth in August.

"On behalf of the people of the Ninth Congressional District of New York, I wish once again to share my condolences with the family of Michael Brown, whose efforts to secure justice on behalf of their son have been undermined by the decision of the grand jury, said Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants.

"The killing of Michael Brown and attacks by the Ferguson Police Department on the media and protesters demonstrate a reckless disregard for the civil rights and civil liberties of Americans of African descent and people of good will who seek justice in a nation with a long and tortured history of racial bias and discrimination against human beings in black bodies," Clarke told the Caribbean Media Corporation

"The assumption that young men and young women who are African-American are inherently suspicious is a false assumption with deadly consequences, as witnessed and experienced by Black people from the inception of our nation to the present day.

"We must not allow this false assumption to prevail in our society. We cannot continue to accept the devaluation of African-American lives that resulted in the inhumane killing of Michael Brown and the failure of the grand jury to indict the police officer who killed him, on any charge, as well as in recent incidents such as the senseless killings of Eric Garner of Staten Island (New York) and Akai Gurley here in Brooklyn just last week, said Clarke, a member of the US House of Representatives Committee on Small Business, Ethics, and Homeland Security.

Clarke's Democratic Congressional colleague in Brooklyn, Hakeem Jeffries, who represents the 8th Congressional District, also condemned the grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer, Darren Wilson.

"From Ferguson to Brooklyn, the zip codes may be different but the issue of police officers shooting young, unarmed African-American men without justification is exactly the same.

"Throughout this country, we need a dramatic change in the manner that law enforcement authorities engage communities of colour. The failure of the grand jury to indict Officer Darren Wilson is a miscarriage of justice.

"But justice delayed is not justice denied. We now need the federal civil rights investigation to take center stage, and do the right thing for the family of Michael Brown.?

Grenadian American New York City Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, Deputy Leader and co-chair of the City Council's Taskforce to Combat Gun Violence, said while the grand jury's decision "for most of us were not surprising, it was disheartening nonetheless.

"It disturbed me that instead of deciding whether or not there was enough evidence existing to support an indictment, the jury essentially conducted a full trial," Williams, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn, also told CMC., adding "that was not the charge of a grand jury, as I understood it.

"In addition, many would want America to focus on minute details of this single case and ask that the verdict be accepted, but to do that would overlook the forest of much more dense and troubling trees," he said, adding "perhaps it would be a reasonable request if history did not repeat itself time and time again.


St Lucia places temporary ban on all UK poultry imports

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Nov 25, (CMC) - St Lucia has slapped a temporary ban on the importation of all poultry and poultry products from the United Kingdom, as a result of an outbreak of Bird Flu there. The Ministry of Agriculture said the ban was imposed in light of information received from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the United Kingdom confirming that the country recently experienced an outbreak of a Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).

"The start date of the outbreak event is November 14, 2014 and pertains to the entire country," the Ministry statement said.

It said the importation ban is imposed with immediate effect and applies to all poultry, poultry meat products and processed internal organs of poultry raised, slaughtered or processed in the United Kingdom from 21 days prior to the start date of the outbreak.

"These importation restrictions are part of quarantine measures aimed at preventing the entry of the Avian Influenza Virus into St Lucia and will remain in effect until further notice," the Ministry said.

One local supplier told reporters that the ban could help local poultry farmers significantly, since they have been complaining about a backlog of local products.

However an importer, speaking on condition of anonymity, disagreed, saying that local suppliers do not provide "specialised cuts", such as chicken wings, which imported into the island.

The importer disclosed that St Lucia buys over a quarter of a million pounds of chicken annually from the United Kingdom at a cheaper price than imports from the United States.


President Obama moves to halt deportation of millions of immigrants

by By MICHAEL D. SHEAR (NYTIMES) WASHINGTON — President Obama chose confrontation over conciliation on Thursday as he asserted the powers of the Oval Office to reshape the nation's immigration system and all but dared members of next year's Republican-controlled Congress to reverse his actions on behalf of millions of immigrants.

In a 15-minute address from the East Room of the White House that sought to appeal to a nation's compassion, Mr. Obama told Americans that deporting millions is "not who we are" and cited Scripture, saying, "We shall not oppress a stranger for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too."

The prime-time speech reflected Mr. Obama's years of frustration with congressional gridlock and his desire to frame the last years of his presidency with far-reaching executive actions. His directive will shield up to five million people from deportation and allow many to work legally, although it offers no path to citizenship.

"The actions I'm taking are not only lawful, they're the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every Democratic president for the past half-century," Mr. Obama said. "To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill."

In a series of rhetorical questions, he cast the immigration debate in emotional terms. "Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law?" he asked. Later he added, "Whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in."

Mr. Obama intends to underscore the schism between the parties on the issue of immigration during a campaign-like rally on Friday at a high school in Las Vegas, where Hispanics are a powerful and growing voting bloc.

The trip is part of a White House strategy to try to convince Americans in the next months that Mr. Obama's actions are legal and right. Immigration advocates plan to use that time to push for greater protections while Republicans are devising ways to defy the president and exercise their new authority.


U.S. Attorney general to visit Barbados

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to visit Barbados this week to discuss various issues related to justice and security on the island where his father was born.Holder will meet with Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite,Governor-General Elliott Belgrave, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, and representatives from both Houses of Parliament, according to a statement from the government of Barbados.

The outgoing U.S. attorney general's father emigrated to the United States at an early age from Saint Joseph, Barbados, while his mother's family hailed from the Barbadian town of Saint Philip.

Holder announced his resignation in September, but pledged to remain until his successor was confirmed.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama nominated federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch as the next U.S. attorney general


IMF monitoring impact of PetroCaribe on Caribbean

By Kenton Chance KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Nov 19, (CMC) -- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says it is monitoring the potential impact any changes to PetroCaribe, Venezuela's oil alliance with several Caribbean islands will have on regional economies.

Analysts say the initiative, which allows countries to pay for part of their oil import from Caracas over a 20-year period at low interest rates, will have to be modified or discontinued amidst a worsening economic situation in the South American country.

Several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries including Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Jamaica, Belize, St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), Guyana, and Suriname are members of PetroCaribe.

St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said that Caracas has invited PetroCaribe member countries to a meeting on Thursday about "reaffirmation" of the commitment to the initiative, the brainchild of the former Venezuelan President, the late Hugo Chavez.

Gonsalves said that the notification regarding Thursday's meeting said the talks were about "reaffirming the commitment to PetroCaribe and to give that reaffirmation, and, secondly, to look at ways and means where we can deepen the integration process within the framework of PetroCaribe."

IMF advisor, Western Hemisphere, Elie Canetti, told reporters that the IMF's main concern "is that we know Venezuela is going through increasing financial stress, and oil prices have dropped from around US120 dollars a barrel to mid 70s a barrel and Venezuela is hugely dependent on selling oils.

"So, we are mindful and concerned about the feasibility of PetroCaribe continuing, certainly at the level it has been, and we are looking into what will be the impact on Caribbean countries," Cantelli said.

He said the IMF has been monitoring the situation for quite some time, "but the urgency in trying to understand that is much higher now because of the financial situation in Venezuela does seem to be deteriorating much more quickly now with the drop in oil prices".


Haitian diaspora to benefit from new identification office

MIAMI, United States, Monday November 17, 2014, (CMC) – Haitians living in the Diaspora will no longer have to fly to Haiti to get a national identification card, a critical document to obtain a Haitian passport or the ability to vote in the country's elections.

The head of Haiti's civil registry, the National Identification Office (ONI), said starting next month, the agency will open an office in Haiti's Miami consulate and other consulates in the Diaspora to register Haitians.

Approved applicants will be issued a card, valid for 10 years, with an assigned number similar to a Social Security number.

With the registry key in determining who can vote in upcoming elections, ONI's Executive Director Jean-Baptiste Fils St. Cyr said demand at the consulates will also dictate where voting bureaus outside of Haiti will be installed to allow Haitians to vote.

Under Haiti's revised constitution, nationals living in the Diaspora will now be allowed to vote in future elections.

According to a report in the Miami Herald, the logistics of Diaspora voting remains a work in process in Haiti, where there is still no schedule for the country's legislative and local elections now three years delayed, the Herald said.

"There is a motivation among some people in the Diaspora, when they come to [Haiti] for 15 or 22 days, they rush to our office to get a number," St. Cyr told reporters at a press conference in Little Haiti Cultural Center, downtown Miami. ADVERTISEMENT

"Even though the process is long, they never hesitate," he added. "So we decided that if you have this kind of determination, why not bring the services to the people living in the Diaspora?"

St. Cyr said that, given Haiti Diaspora's critical role in the country's economic development, "it's not normal for them to stand outside of the political sphere "There are a lot of opportunities people lose because they don't have any identification," he said, adding that the expansion of the office out of Haiti has become "a matter of necessity."


New York mayor signs bills limiting deportation of Caribbean immigrants

NEW YORK, United States, Sunday November 16, 2014, (CMC) – With United States President Barack Obama vowing to proceed on immigration reform by executive order, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday signed two bills that would drastically limit the federal government's ability to deport undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants from New York City.

Under one of the new laws, the city will, in many cases, refuse to hand over immigrants in the criminal justice system to federal agents, according to the New York Daily News.

In the past, the city sometimes had to turn over people whose cases had been dismissed or who had been arrested on minor charges, the paper said.

Now, it said the city will only cooperate with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) if the agency has a federal warrant, or if the person has been convicted of a serious crime or is on a terror watch list.

Another bill gets rid of ICE from its offices on Rikers Island jail in Queens, New York.

"We're signing legislation that will have a really meaningful effect on the lives of immigrants," said de Blasio, as he signed the bill, flanked by City Legislators and Carlos Rodriguez, who was mistakenly arrested for trespassing and detained by federal law enforcement authorities for eight months even though the charges were dropped.

Rodriquez is still fighting deportation to the Dominican Republic, the Daily News said.

"Even though it doesn't help me right now, I know it helps somebody else out there," Rodriquez said.

Nearing the end of an Asian trip, Obama, in Myanmar, repeated vows to use executive orders to act on overhauling immigration enforcement.

The president said Republicans "have the ability" to pass a comprehensive immigration bill.

But many conservative Republicans said they would risk forcing another government shutdown in a bid to block Obama from changing deportation practices.

"Unless Congress pre-empts or blocks the President's promised executive action, a long-term funding bill is little more than a blank check for amnesty," said Heritage Action, a Washington-based lobbying group with major influence among conservative Republicans, urging a shutdown threat.

As de Blasio signed the bills on Friday, New York City Council Speaker Puerto Rican-born Melissa Mark-Viverito repeated her support for another measure, supported by many immigrant advocacy groups, giving noncitizen immigrants the right to vote in municipal elections.

Mark-Viverito said the bill could be proposed as soon as January next year.


Solar energy to meet Barbados needs?

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Nov 12, (CMC) – Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados, Dr. DeLisle Worrell believes that the island could benefit significantly from the use of solar energy and reduce the billion dollar import bill on energy.

Worrell told a two-day "Discussion on the Energy Sector in Barbados" that ended here on Tuesday that last month he was privy to a presentation on energy by Dominican businessman Phillip Nassief that held great potential for countries like Barbados.

He said under Nassief's plan outlined during the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conference in Jamaica, electricity would be generated by solar power for the most part, with only a small off-peak power station, and surplus power would be stored during hours of sunshine for use in the hours of darkness.

He said the solar output would be distributed via a smart grid, and storage could be either at the individual producing sites or at a central storage site.

"This is the ideal energy solution for Barbados. Every single day Barbadians generate vast amounts of energy on the roofs of our homes and businesses, almost all of it completely wasted, because it is in the form of heat."

Worrell noted that a "little of that energy is used to heat water, through our long-established solar water heating industry, but that is trifling compared with the potential for near self-sufficiency which is in prospect, if we were to capture the energy from our roofs to generate electricity.

"Generating most of our power from solar would benefit consumers, workers and the country. The benefit to consumers is already evident to those who have recently installed solar-powered generators, now on sale from a variety of retailers, including the Barbados Light and Power."

Worrell said that users immediately achieve a substantial reduction in their monthly payment to the power company, which can go towards the cost of loan service, if they choose to borrow to finance the purchase of the solar system.

"Once the loan is fully paid, they have the prospect of relatively modest electricity costs for the expected life of the system. Generating their own electricity through solar and some wind is, in the long run, the cheapest potential energy solution for homes and businesses.

"An island-wide solar-powered grid would create a sufficient demand for energy products and services to be the foundation of an industry with potential for hundreds of jobs, for advisory services, installation, maintenance, trouble-shooting and repair, product development, quality control, and information technology, finance, marketing and other business services specific to the solar electricity business."

He said as Barbados builds a sizeable solar energy sector with a wide range of domestic expertise, prospects for selling that expertise abroad would open up, and this sector could become a significant source of foreign exchange earnings, and a way of further diversifying the country's foreign earning potential.

"Powering our country by using solar power, a natural resource that Barbados has in abundance, would produce a truly remarkable saving in foreign currency spending.

"Fuel imports are in the region of one billion dollars (One Barbados dollar =US$0.50 cents) every year, or about one-third of everything we import. Converting fully to solar generation would probably cut that bill in half, or even lower, if accompanied by widespread use of electricity for transportation and the use of natural and petroleum gas for supplementary power generation."

He said an additional BDS$500 million of foreign exchange annually would provide a substantial boost to Barbados' economic growth.

"The fly in the ointment is cost. The solar generating systems have now become as affordable as motor cars, if not more so, and the expected life of the systems make their installation an attractive proposition. "However, storage is not yet as affordable, or as long-lived. It may well be the case that centralised storage is the more efficient in the long run. I really don't know. Also, things may change for the better."


Japan provides more than one billion Yen in assistance to Caribbean countries

By Peter Richards TOKYO, Japan, Nov 12, (CMC)– Japan has provided more than JPY1.7 billion (One Yen=US$0.008 cents) to 14 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries since 1975, according to figures released here on Wednesday

Jamaica has been the biggest beneficiary of the Japanese aid, accumulating a total of JPY639.15 for the period 1977-2013.

Haiti was the second biggest recipient of aid from Tokyo, receiving JPY446.39 million for the period 1979 to 2013.

Port Au Prince received most of the funds, JPY419.41 million in grants and JPY26.98 million in technical assistance.

Japan's aid to Guyana totalled JPY155.49 million for the period 1974-2013, with JPY140.57 million in grants and JPY14.92 million in technical assistance.

Within the seven-member sub-regional Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), St. Lucia received the the biggest slice of aid from Tokyo with Castries benefitting from JPY63.37 million in grants and JPY 27.81 million in technical assistance during the period 1983-2013.

Dominica St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Antigua and Barbuda received funds totalling JPY81.04 million, JPY64.32 million and JPY59.93 million respectively, with Roseau getting JPY65.62 million in grants and JPY15.42 million in technical assistance with Kingstown benefitting from JPY48.58 million in grants and JPY15.74 million in technical assistance.

Grenada, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago also received some sort of assistance from Japan.

The Bahamas received the least amount of aid from Jpan, totalling a mere JPY0.52 million, with most of that figure, JPY0.46 million coming through technical assistance.


Jamaican appointed chair of United Nations Security Council reform

KINSGTON, Jamaica – Jamaica's Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) Ambassador Courtenay Rattray, has been appointed Chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council reform.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade said in a release that the appointment was made on Monday.

Reform of the fifteen-member Security Council has been high on the agenda of the wider UN membership for over 20 years, the release said.

The ministry explained that an aspect of reform that has received much attention surrounds the question of the size of the permanent membership of the Council, which currently stands at five (US, UK, Russian Federation, France and China).

Also on the reform agenda are issues relating to the categories of membership and the question of the veto power accorded to the permanent members, it added.

The Security has only been reformed once since 1945, when it expanded the number of non-permanent members from six to ten.

Jamaica has been actively engaged in efforts in the reform process and the appointment of its Permanent Representative will give greater prominence to Jamaica's role and contribution at the United Nations, the ministry stated.


"Credibility being undermined" - CARICOM Secretary General

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Nov. 10, (CMC) – Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Irwin La Rocque, says problems related to the freedom of movement across the region have undermined the credibility of the regional body.

La Rocque, in an address at the University of Guyana's graduation ceremony on the weekend acknowledged the difficulties facing Caribbean nationals.

"I am acutely aware of the difficulties still being experienced at ports of entry in some of our member states by those who seek to exercise their rights of free movement and to hassle-free travel…..all CARICOM nationals have the right to an automatic stay of six months, subject only to circumscribed exceptions…."

He said the problems are being addressed and "all the enabling structures in place, and see them fully, consistently and equitably enacted, enforced and implemented". He added that the region must remember the outcome of the case involving Jamaican Shanique Myrie and stated that the training of the relevant points of entry officials is continuing in order to minimize the difficulties.

La Rocque, also urged the graduating class of 2014 to remain committed to the region, noting that while there are opportunities beyond the Caribbean, it is now possible to "serve the wider world from right here in our community", given the advances in technology.

In making reference to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that provides for the free movement of skilled CARICOM nationals, the Secretary General encouraged the graduates to apply for the CARICOM Skills certificate.

"Just remember that you are fortunate in another way as CARICOM nationals. Now that you are university graduates, you should apply for your CARICOM skills certificate in order to seek professional opportunities in any of the twelve countries currently participating in the CSME (Caribbean Single Market and Economy)." Another matter of concern highlighted by the Secretary General was that of the admission of non-University of the West Indies (UWI) graduates to the law schools of the Council of Legal Education (CLE).

He said the limited spaces available for those who did not graduate from UWI "constrain the ambitions of many aspiring lawyers in the region, including LL.B graduates of UG (University of Guyana." "The Government of Guyana has brought this matter to the attention of the Conference of Heads of Government.".

He said following talks between CARICOM and the CLE, 25 graduates from the University of Guyana will be accommodated in law schools, however this is not a permanent solution. "This clearly shows it is not just a Guyana problem but it's in fact a regional issue requiring a Community solution."

The Secretary General said CARICOM Heads of Government have asked the CLE to look at all available options for a permanent way to facilitate equitable access to legal education in the region.

"It is my hope that the new intake of law students at this university, would have no difficulty in gaining access to regional Law schools by the time they end their tenure here," he said.


CARICOM prepared to walk out of Peru climate change talks

By Kenton X. Chance KINGSTON, Jamaica, Friday November 7, 2014, (CMC) – The 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is making it clear that it is prepared to walk out of the world climate change talks in Peru next month if rich countries are not prepared to agree on a deal that will reduce the impacts of climate change on the region.

The 20th Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nation's Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is expected to work towards a legally binding agreement to be signed in Paris in 2015.

Countries are expected to agree on ways to reduce human-induced climate change and finance mitigation and adaptation for the worst affected countries, such as those in the Caribbean.

There is much anticipation for the 2014 and 2015 talks, as a similar exercise in 2009 ended in failure.

Jamaica-born climate negotiator, Clifford Mahlung, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that while the Lima talks "is the bridge to the agreement" in 2015, CARICOM and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have already drawn a red line.

"We have as a redline with respect to our position that if the commitments with respect to reducing green house gases are not of a significant and meaningful amount, then we will not accept the agreement," he told CMC on the sidelines of Jamaica's national consultation ahead of global climate change talks.

"We will not accept a bad agreement," he said, explaining that a bad agreement is one that does not speak adequately to reducing green house gas emissions or the provision of financing for poorer countries.

"If there is no significant funding for that, then we are going to have serious problems with accepting that agreement," Mahlung said noting that rejection of the proposed agreement "can happen in many ways.

"We don't have to be part of the consensus, but we can just walk away from the agreement. We think that if we walk away it will send a strong signal. It is the first time that we have ever attempt such type of an action, but we strongly believe that the need for having a new agreement is of such significance that that is what we would be prepared to do," he said.

Non-governmental organizations walked out of the talks last year in a bit to force rich countries to keep their commitments to developing nations. Mahlung's position was supported by Jeffery Spooner, Jamaica's Focal Point to the UNFCC.

"It is not in our interest as Jamaica and Small Island Developing States to agree to a bad agreement that would possibly even submerge our islands," Spooner told CMC. He said that CARICOM's is taking "more than a moral stance", adding, "the science has shown that if we don't act and act decisively, then climate change impacts will become irreversible".

SIDS are hoping to get developed countries to commit to keeping global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, but are prepared to accept a two degrees Celsius rise at the maximum. This will mean that countries will have to agree to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Mahlung said that the region is "concerned that emission levels are now very close to the tipping point, where the impacts are going to be irreversible wherever you look at them at, and the ability to reduce emissions are going to be so expensive that it becomes a fruitless exercise.

"So if that is what the agreement will lead to, then it becomes extremely difficult," he said, noting however that the region is mindful of the consequences of leaving the negotiating table.

"We understand the ramifications of walking away, but we have been in the process since the start and to be thinking along this line now means that we seriously think that the new agreement has the ability to keep future temperature increases well below the two degrees Celsius," said Mahlung, who has been participating in the negotiations since 1997.

But he also pointed out that the region has suffered as a result of climate change, noting the Christmas Eve trough system last year that left death and destruction in the Windward Islands.

"A hurricane went through the northeastern region this year and we have been feeling the impacts. This is a real issue for us," he also said.

But Spooner also noted that while some countries in the region are being affected by floods, others are affected by unusually dry spells. "In 2014 we have seen not only Jamaica but a number of our Caribbean counterpart countries being impacted severely by droughts. So these are footprints of climate change and it is really sending the wakeup call to us to start to put things in place and to ensure that at the negotiation table things are articulated by each country in the best way we can."


Caribbean likely to get hotter as climate changes says researcher

By Kenton X. Chance KINGSTON, Jamaica, Thursday November 6, 2014, (CMC) – A Jamaican researcher has warned that the Caribbean will have to take steps to respond to climate change, as predictions are that the region will become increasingly hotter and drier if global temperature rise continues or increases.

Dale Rankine, a PhD candidate at the University of the West (UWI) Indies and member of the UWI Climate Studies Group, told regional journalists on Wednesday that rainfall across the region could decrease by 40 per cent between May and November by 2050.

"Sixty per cent of the rainfall in all the Caribbean falls between May to November. So, if we get drier between May and November, we are in some serious trouble. This is a compelling story; it is a serious challenge," Rankine said.

He said such a scenario is important because it is going to impact more specifically on food security.

"And suggestions are that we can have increasing frequencies of droughts and floods, and this high variability is almost certainly going to impact negatively on crop yields," he further said.

"We must change how we live. Not only I would say adapt technologies that reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, but there is much more than we have to do," Rankine said, adding that he gets "a little annoyed when I see our politicians dance around whether we should use coal or methane.

"Well none of them are really going to help us in the end," he said.

Scientists are 95 per cent certain that human activity contributes to climate change and say the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and methane contribute to the problem.

Rankine was speaking to regional journalists at a two-day workshop organised by Panos Caibbean and Freidrich Ebert Stiftung. The workshop comes ahead of the world climate change talks in Peru next month, and aims to build capacity of journalists to cover climate change better.

Rankine noted that while no one knows exactly how climate change will impact the region, there are already observable changes in some countries.

"We are seeing as well that the observed trends that we have in changes are also quite clear. In Bermuda, we have seen a two millimetre increase in sea levels. In Puerto Rico, it is 1.65 millimetres," he said, adding, "That is quite significant when you talk about an incremental change that is taking place every year."

He said adaptation to climate change is the best option for the region, and pointed out that there must be re-orientation about the way the region does business.

"This is relative and important for all sectors," he said, adding that the region also needs to retool all institution, particularly research and financial institutions.

Rankine said the Caribbean will also have to reposition, explaining, "that is how we integrate and mainstream climate change in all we do."


Regional leaders agree on plan to deal with Ebola and Chikunguyna

By Peter Richards PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Nov 4, (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have ended a three-hour special summit here on Tuesday agreeing to a 10-point plan to deal with the outbreak of the Chikunguyna virus and any possible incident of the deadly Ebola virus that has killed nearly 5,000 people in West Africa.

"Heads of government expressed considerable concern, nt just in relation to the possible health impact of the Ebola virus disease, but also about the disruption a single case could cause in the economic and social life of the region," CARICOM Chairman Gaston Browne told a news conference.

Browne, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said the regional leaders had also emphasised that the response to the diseases "must be a Community effort" and that "no member state of CARICOM must battle these public health challenges on its own".

Browne told reporters the region's responses to the two public health challenges are being coordinated by the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and that the meeting here accepted that the likelihood of "penetration of the Ebola virus in the region is low, based on the low level of traffic from affected areas.

He added that while there have been no reported cases of EVD in the region, the 17th special meeting of regional leaders "urged the strengthening of the regional public health capacity to confront the possibility of an outbreak of Ebola and any other future public health challenges".

The regional leaders received a presentation from St. Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas, who has lead responsibility for health within the quasi-CARICOM cabinet, and also endorsed the measures taken so far by CARPHA, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the government of Cuba "to establish and strengthen regional capabilities to confront Ebola.

According to the 10-point plan adopted by the regional leaders, under the theme "Stop Ebola There and Here", there was need to strengthen effective, coordinated measures at ports of entry to prevent Ebola from entering the region, including harmonising travel restrictions.

The leaders also agreed to strengthen health systems including training, equipment, laboratories and containment, and to enlist the participation of airlines in the region in transporting specimens and response teams.

In addition, they have agreed to create a Regional Rapid Response Team (CARIB REACT) that is able to reach any member state in 24 hours to support the national response team to contain and stop the outbreak early on, as well as launch an intensive public education campaign for visitors and citizens of the region.


PAHO/WHO mobilize Ebola preparedness teams in the Caribbean

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Tuesday November 4, 2014, CMC – The Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) say they are mobilizing teams of experts in outbreak alert and response to help member states in Latin America and the Caribbean ensure they are prepared for any potential introduction of Ebola virus disease (EVD).

PAHO/WHO missions will visit member countries over the next two months to assess countries' levels of preparedness to detect, treat and control the spread of any potential imported case of Ebola.

A PAHO/WHO statement said the missions, in coordination with national health authorities, will assess gaps and make recommendations for addressing them, and PAHO/WHO will provide follow-up technical cooperation based on individual countries' needs.

In addition, PAHO/WHO experts and experts from the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) will be deployed if an imported case of Ebola is identified in any member country, to assist national health authorities in implementing their EVD response plans.

No cases of Ebola have been reported in Latin America or the Caribbean to date. However, "the risk of an imported case in the region is real," said Dr. Marcos Espinal, Director of PAHO/WHO's Department of Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis.

"It is important that our countries' health systems be prepared to respond quickly to cases of Ebola and make sure it does not spread."

The PAHO/WHO said that to be prepared for a potential case of Ebola, countries need to have the ability to detect a patient with symptoms.

They said healthcare workers must be familiar with screening criteria, including symptoms and history of travel/exposure, and know when to isolate patients. "They also need to know how to protect themselves from exposure to the virus in the course of their work. Health officials need to know how to prepare and send medical specimens for testing and which laboratories are able to diagnose Ebola. Ministry officials must know how and when to carry out contact tracing."

The two UN agencies say they have working closely with member countries to ensure they have the necessary policies, procedures and human resource capacity in place to manage any introduction of Ebola.

PAHO/WHO's work in this area has included a series of virtual and face-to-face training sessions on preparedness, risk communication and logistics, as well as the dissemination of norms and guidelines on infection control, use of personal protective equipment (PPE), collection and management of samples with highly pathogenic agents, disease surveillance, and laboratory procedures.

The new PAHO/WHO preparedness missions will examine and make recommendations in several key areas with the goal of ensuring that country capacities are in line with recommended standards under the International Health Regulations (IHR).

These include coordination mechanisms for key institutions involved detecting and responding to potential Ebola cases; epidemiological investigation, surveillance and laboratory capacity, particularly to ensure rapid identification of suspected cases, diagnostic confirmation, and contact tracing.

PAHO Director Dr. Carissa F. Etienne also announced last week that she had appointed Canadian Dr. Ronald St. John as Ebola Incident Manager.


Grenadian-American legislator expresses outrage over resignation of black NYDP chief

NEW YORK, United States, Monday November 3, 2014, (CMC) – A Grenadian American legislator has joined his New York City Council colleague in expressing outrage over the resignation of the black chief of the New York Police Department (NYPD).

Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn, has collaborated with Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, a Bronx Democrat, who chairs the Council's Committee on Public Safety, in expressing deep concern over Philip Banks' resignation on Friday.

According to reports here, Banks' resignation came after he reluctantly accepted a promotion to First Deputy Commissioner after threatening to resign amid ongoing friction over NYPD Commissioner William Bratton's regime and the previous one under Ray Kelly.

Banks, who was promoted to Chief of Department in 2013 after a 28-year career with the NYPD, was one of the highest ranking black law enforcement officials in New York City.

Williams, Deputy Leader and co-chair of the City Council's Task Force to Combat Gun Violence, has been a frequent critic of the NYPD.

"As elected officials who have fought for better police practices, we are extremely disturbed by news of the resignation of Chief Banks, which comes after news of his 'promotion' to a ceremonial position that does not hold the authority it deserves," said Williams and Gibson in the joint statement, noting that Banks' resignation takes place nearly two months after the resignation of Deputy Pineiro.

"Throughout Chief Banks' tenure, his leadership has played a critical role in helping to navigate difficult relationships between NYPD and communities of more color as we attempted to deal with chronic issues in policing," the statement added.

"Whether it be the abuses of Stop, Question and Frisk, the misapplication of Broken Windows Theory, or local issues, Chief Banks has deftly held the line for the Department while having a responsive ear to all communities."

Additionally, Williams and Gibson said having Chief Banks involved in addressing the issues surrounding the death of Eric Garner, a black man who died recently from a choke hold by white police officers in Staten Island, a New York City borough, "really helped New York City avoid the racial tensions that occurred during the past two decades.

"The resignation of the highest ranking Black and Latino official in the department seems to provide a strong indication that much more work needs to be done within the NYPD," they said. "Ten months is not enough time to completely change a broken system. It is, however, enough time to see the direction being taken.


Region observes Caribbean Tourism Month

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Oct 31, (CMC) – Caribbean countries have been told that while there has been an upswing in tourist arrivals to the region they are yet to achieve their goals. Chairman of the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Richard Sealy in a message marking Caribbean Tourism Month in November, said the statistics provided by the CTO's research department show that arrivals to the Caribbean are up for the first half of this year.

"While this is encouraging, we cannot be satisfied, we must all tell ourselves that we are yet to achieve our goal," said Sealy, who is also Barbados' Tourism Minister.

The CTO reported that the region enjoyed a 4.3 per cent increase during the first six months of the 2014, much in line with the world average of 4.7 per cent.

CTO director of research and information technology, Winfield Griffith, said that just under 14 million long-stay tourists visited the Caribbean between January and June, with nearly half this number (6.87 million) coming from the United States. He said compared to the same period last year when 6.61 million American visitors arrived in the Caribbean, the 2014 figure represents a 3.9 per cent rise in arrivals from the US market.

The Month of Tourism will be observed under the theme "One Sea, One Voice, One Caribbean' and Sealy said it provides an opportunity to "engage in activities collectively and individually that involve the people of the Caribbean, to remind every Caribbean national that tourism is critical to the region.

"It's a period during which we remind the world that every member country has something different to offer, every experience is a unique experience, but that, as the Caribbean, we are a strong, powerful, desirable brand.

"Caribbean Tourism Month gives everyone in the industry an opportunity to open their doors to citizens and to help understand and appreciate tourism, to help them feel that they too are part of the industry, that they are impacted by the industry, that they have a role to play in the growth of the industry," Sealy added.

He said the month also provides stakeholders with the chance to look inwards "at our approach to tourism, at the quality of our product, at the strategies we employ in managing this vital sector. Indeed, this is an ideal time to look at current world trends and find the opportunities to keep pace with the rest of the world".

Sealy said that while the trend this year shows an upswing in tourist arrivals, the Caribbean "must aim to out-grow the rest of the world.

"In order to achieve this, in order to remain competitive, in order to realize our vision of positioning the Caribbean as the world's most desirable, year round, warm weather destination, we must combine the efforts of all stake-holders, public sector and private sector, those who contribute directly and those who do indirectly, tourism workers and the general population.


Caribbean economies adopt record number of reforms – World Bank

WASHINGTON D.C., United States, Thursday October 30, 2014, CMC – The World Bank says many Caribbean countries have implemented at least one reform in their economies over the past year making it easier for local entrepreneurs to do business.

n a new report released here, the World Bank says there were 12 reforms in total, a historical high for the region.

"Doing Business 2015: Going Beyond Efficiency" finds that Jamaica had the region's biggest improvement in the ease of doing business in the past year, thanks to three reforms in areas measured by the report.

It says Jamaica streamlined the requirements for starting a business, reduced the cost of getting an electricity connection, and established new credit bureaus while also adopting a new secured transactions law that broadens the range of assets that can be used as collateral. Joining Jamaica in implementing multiple regulatory reforms were the Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago.

The Dominican Republic made cross-border trade easier by reducing the number of documents required to import and export, improved the regulatory framework for credit reporting, and strengthened minority shareholder protections.

Trinidad and Tobago, among the 10 top improvers worldwide in this year's report, made resolving insolvency easier by introducing a new restructuring proceeding, according to the report.

The twin-island republic also strengthened the rights of secured creditors during reorganization procedures, and it made starting a business easier by introducing online systems for employer and tax registration.

The report says such reforms are leading to "tangible benefits for entrepreneurs". For example, it says starting a business now takes 11.5 days for an entrepreneur in Trinidad and Tobago, on par with international best practice, down from 35.5 days in 2013.

"Entrepreneurs in the Caribbean continue to see gains in the business environment. With half the region's economies making regulatory reforms in the past year, the Caribbean continues to move in the right direction," said Rita Ramalho the lead author of the report.


Ship denied entry to St Vincent following report of crew exhibiting Ebola symptoms

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Wednesday October 29, 2014, CMC - St. Vincent and the Grenadines earlier this month denied an oil tanker entry into its territorial waters after being informed that two crewmembers were exhibiting symptoms of the deadly Ebola virus, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has said.

Gonsalves told Parliament that on October 14, he had received a call from the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Godfred Pompey, indicating that the oil tanker, the Noble Spirit, had also been denied entry into Jamaica because two Pilipino nationals, who boarded the tanker at Houston, Texas on October 10, had high fever and vomiting.

Health authorities warn that high fever and vomiting are among the symptoms of the Ebola virus which has killed nearly 5,000 people in West Africa. There is no known cure.

Gonsalves who is also Minister of National Security, said the tanker was scheduled to call at the port here at 11.p.m. (local time) on October 14, and that he had instructed the Coastguard, the Signal Station and all the relevant agencies that the vessel would not be permitted to enter St. Vincent and the Grenadines territorial waters.

"It turns out that when it came down from St. Lucia, we allowed it innocent passage, it changed its course and went to Barbados, and was not allowed to land in Barbados."

Gonsalves told lawmakers that he didn't consider it "necessary and desirable to talk to the people about that — certainly not at that time." He said that from the outside the waters of Barbados, the vessel went to Equatorial Guinea.

"Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, you see the potential for harm. It (Ebola virus) would be on any vessel, which comes in at any place in our archipelago of islands.

"So, I can't start to talk about complete readiness until I have that sorted out in every respect. I am at a particular level of readiness, but not as yet at a level which I could say we are fully prepared; I can't say that. No place in the region, and the great United States of America, it is for you to judge, not me, with all their resources, as to whether they were prepared."

Gonsalves said he was informed by the communication department of the Office of the Prime Minister that because he told the ALBA Ebola summit in Cuba last week that St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the rest of the Caribbean were unprepared for Ebola, it has been taken "as something that we are not doing anything.

"But we are doing far more than other countries in the region, certainly in the OECS. That is why what we have done, the OECS conference recently has adopted what we have done as the template in going forward with Ebola," Gonsalves said.

"But, Mr. Speaker, if I go to a conference, an ALBA conference on Ebola, am I going to go there with any false pride and say 'We have been doing remarkably well, we don't need any assistance, we can handle things on our own'?

"Well, I would be a complete and utter fool and I would also be dishonest," Gonsalves said, noting that the island has 25 points of entry, which have to be monitored.

"And the point I was making at the ALBA conference is that we are an archipelagic state. We have in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, here in the Caribbean, a greater problem than any country here in CARICOM save and except the Bahamas. They have more islands on which people are inhabited than we have."

Gonsalves also told Parliament that in his presentation to the Ebola summit, he made the point to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan-American Health Organization, that in setting out their guidelines, they need to take cognizance of that fact that "not one size fits all sizes".

Gonsalves also noted that last month, St. Vincent and the Grenadines banned entry for anyone coming out of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.


Haiti postpones Legislative and Municipal elections

PORT AU PRINCE, (CMC) – Haiti Sunday announced the postponement of the much delayed legislative and municipal elections. The polls were due to have taken place on Sunday but a statement from the Office of the President gave no indication when the polls would take place.

"President Michel Martelly, in his constant concern to guarantee political stability, promises to pursue consultations with the different sectors of national life in order to hold the elections as soon as possible," the statement said.

But opposition politicians called for protest action and demand Martelly's resignation. Haitians were supposed to have gone to the polls Sunday to elect 20 senators, 102 deputies and municipal officials.

Martelly had decreed in June that there would be an election on October 26, but the National Assembly did not pass an electoral law in time because of a political impasse.

Political observers say the failure to organize elections means that the mandates of the rest of the members of the already depleted National Assembly will expire, potentially leaving Martelly to rule by decree.

The mandates of a third of the senators in the 30-strong body had already expired, leaving it struggling to find a quorum, and Martelly has imposed 120 municipal leaders on towns to replace elected councils.

In August, the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) adopted a declaration calling on the three branches of government in Haiti to comply with an earlier agreement to hold legislative and municipal elections by the end of this year.

The Council said that the Haitian authorities must respect the agreement, known as El Rancho, that had been agreed to by political stakeholders in the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country and call the legislative and municipal elections by the end of 2014.


Caribbean cyber crime comes under scruitny during OAS, IDB workshop

WASHINGTON D.C., United States, Friday October 24, 2014, (CMC) – The Organization of American States (OAS) is collaborating with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in conducting a workshop here to improve public policies to better prevent cyber crimes in Latin American and the Caribbean.

The OAS said more than 100 participants from 35 countries are taking part in the workshop that started on Wednesday.

"The aim of the workshop is for individuals responsible for cyber security to share their knowledge and experiences in Latin America and the Caribbean, with experts from countries with more experience in the field such as Canada, Spain, the United States, Estonia and Israel," the OAS said.

President of the IDB, Luis Alberto Moreno, and the Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, Albert Ramdin, inaugurated the workshop, together with the Special Advisor for Cyber Security in the Department of Public Safety of Canada, Robert Gordon.

"Globally, more than half a million websites are under attack daily. Without cyber security policies, these attacks can inhibit socioeconomic progress," said the OAS, adding that Latin America and the Caribbean has 250 million internet users who spend almost nine hours a month on social media. It said only Trinidad and Tobago has a cyber security strategy and that "a reduced group of countries" is in the process of developing it.

"Cyber crime is a crime," said Ana María Rodríguez, manager of the Department of Institutions for Development at the IDB. "It prevents citizens from taking advantage of the full potential of personal development and professional opportunities that a knowledge society is producing."

During the three days, officials will hold group sessions to identify the key issues in which the region needs support and define the main characteristics of the study, "The State of Cyber Security in Latin America and the Caribbean," the OAS said.

It said the study will be conducted over several months "to better understand the situation in each country." Last year, there were 253 failures that let cyber thieves access the personal data of 600 million people, according to the Internet Security Threat Report 2013.

"The world has never been more interconnected and dependent on information technology; and, as a result, our exposure to cyber attacks has increased," Ramdin said.

"In this context, the OAS has increased its efforts to support member states in addressing their vulnerabilities by offering cyber security training and development programs," he added. "We hope this initiative will foster heightened collaboration and partnerships within the Inter-American cyber security community."


Caribbean health a‎uthority to host infectious substance training

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago – The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) says it will host workshops geared at strengthening the Caribbean's ability to prepare and respond to outbreak situations such as the ongoing Ebola crisis in West Africa.

According to a release from CARPHA, it will provide two training workshops on Infectious Substances Shipping Training and Bio-safety Practices for the Clinical Laboratory in collaboration with the Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis (CHA) unit of PAHO/WHO.

The training will be carried out from November 17 – 21 at CARPHA's headquarters in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

Laboratory professionals from across the Caribbean who complete the World Health Organisation Shipping Infectious Substances course will be certified to prepare shipments of laboratory samples, CARPHA noted.

Successful participants will be certified for a period of two years to handle and package Category A Infectious Substances, such as samples from suspected cases of Ebola virus disease, the agency added.

CARPHA says it will also train personnel in bio-safety measures, practiced in the laboratory, which include infection control, proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and waste management measures.

Both the Shipping and Bio-safety courses are in accordance with WHO Guidance on regulations for the transport of Infectious Substances 2013-2014 and WHO Biorisk Management Programme respectively.


New report says more than seven suicides per hour in the Caribbean

MEXICO CITY (CMC) – A new Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), report says about 65,000 people take their own lives in the Americas, including the Caribbean, each year—more than seven per hour. The report, "Suicide Mortality in the Americas," is based on data from 48 countries and territories in the Western Hemisphere.

It shows that suicide is a significant health problem and one of the region's leading preventable causes of death.

Countries in the region with the highest suicide rates for 2005-2009 listed in the report were: Guyana (26.2 per 100,000); Suriname (23.3); Uruguay (14.2); Chile (11.2); Trinidad and Tobago (10.7); the United States (10.1); Cuba (9.9) and Canada (9.7).

Region-wide, PAHO said the Americas has a lower average suicide rate (7.3 per 100,000 inhabitants) than the global average (11.4 per 100,000) and lower than other World Health Organization (WHO) regions.

Within the Americas, however, PAHO said rates vary significantly in different countries, as well as by age and sex. Among sub-regions, it said North America and the non-Hispanic Caribbean have the highest suicide rates.

PAHO said men have higher rates than women in all the region's countries and among age groups, people over age 70 have the highest suicide rates.

Other significant findings of the new report include: Suicide is the third-leading cause of death in young people ages 10 to 24; adults over age 70 are the most likely to die from suicide; men are about 4 times more likely than women to die from suicide, although women make more suicide attempts; and the most common method of suicide in the region is suffocation, including hanging, followed by firearms and poisoning (including drug overdose and pesticide ingestion.

The report says suicide declined slightly in North America between 2005 and 2009 but increased in Latin America and the Caribbean.


More than 200 Canadians infected with Chikungunya virus according to health agency

OTTAWA, Canada, Wednesday October 22, 2014, (CMC) – Canada's health agency says more than 200 Canadians have been infected by the chikungunya virus that has affected thousands of people in the Caribbean. On Tuesday, Health Canada reported that 201 Canadians have been infected with the mosquito borne virus.

Eric Morrissette, a spokesman for Health Canada, said the cases have been confirmed among travelers returning from endemic areas in 2014.

"A very significant rise in infections by this virus has occurred in 2014, which is consistent with the large outbreak in the Caribbean region and ongoing activity in the Asia-Pacific area."

He said the majority of the Canadian cases stem from travel to Caribbean,adding that there is no evidence of local transmission in Canada, since the specie of mosquito that transmits the virus is not native to the country.

The first case of the disease in the Western Hemisphere was documented on St. Martin last December.

Chikungunya has been present in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region for decades.

Almost 800,000 people have been infected in the Caribbean, the majority of them in the Dominican Republic.

The Public Health Agency of Canada urged travelers to consult a health-care provider, or visit a travel-health clinic, at least six weeks before going to the Caribbean.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said while there is no vaccine or treatment to fight the virus, most infected patients recover fully.

"But in some cases joint pain may persist for several months, or even years," WHO said.

"Occasional cases of eye, neurological and heart complications have been reported, as well as gastrointestinal complaints.Serious complications are not common; but, in older people, the disease can contribute to the cause of death," it added.


Defending CARICOM countries to impose a travel ban

By Anika Kentish ST. JOHN'S, Antigua, Oct 20, (CMC) – Prime Minister Gaston Browne Monday defended the decision by a number of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to impose a travel ban on nationals from three West African countries because of the deadly Ebola virus that has killed nearly 5,000 people.

Browne, who is also the CARICOM chairman, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) just before boarding a plane for London that "the restriction is necessary".

"Even if we end up with a single case of Ebola, it has serious consequences for our tourism product. Most of our countries are dependent on tourism and I can assure you that if any of our respective countries has a single case of Ebola then you can see potentially maybe a 30 to 50 per cent drop in tourism. That means immense hardship for our people."

Several Caribbean countries including Antigua & Barbuda, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Lucia and Suriname have implemented restrictions on passengers travelling from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone as a result of the virus for which there is no known cure.

Browne said CARICOM states need to go the extra mile to ensure that the virus is proactively managed as it has the potential to have grave consequences compared to other developed countries like the United States.

"They (the United States) have well-diversified economy that is not overly dependent on any on single sector and in our case you know the gravity of the problem would be far worse, the consequences will be far worse so we'll have to go the extra mile,"

The CARICOM chairman acknowledged that the Caribbean is at a higher risk given the presence of the virus in the United States, but he says his country and others are implementing other measures to detect and, if necessary, treat the virus.


Antigua, Suriname join other Caribbean countries banning nationals from Ebola hit countries

ST JOHN'S, Antigua, Friday October 17, 2014, (CMC) - Antigua and Barbuda and Suriname have become the latest Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to issue a ban on travelers from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa.

Director of Communications, Maurice Merchant told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the Gaston Browne-led cabinet agreed to travel restrictions on passengers traveling from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The often deadly disease has been prevalent in West African nations.

As part of the restriction, St John's will discontinue issuing to the three African states hardest hit by the Ebola virus. Passengers who are known to have visited those countries within the last three weeks will not be allowed entry to the country

Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and St Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana have effected similar restrictions as the disease, for which there is no cure, spreads to other parts of the world including the United States and Spain.

Suriname has also announced that it too had placed a ban on visitors from West Africa.

"It concerns people who have spent 21 days or more in Ebola areas and who want to travel to Suriname. They will not be allowed in," a spokesman for the Ministry of Health Martelise Eersel said.

She said it does not matter whether the people hail from West Africa or had visited a country there, they will not be allowed onto any aircraft heading towards Suriname.

"If you're in the European Union (EU), that is where you will stay," she said.

Suriname in August said it would no longer host the Summit of the African, Pacific and Caribbean (ACP) that was due to have taken place there in September.

The summit would have brought delegates from member countries from Sub-Saharan Africa to Paramaribo.

Symptoms of the virus tend to show two to 21 days after infection. They include, high fever, headache, joint and muscle and stomach pain. An estimated 4,500 people have died from the disease and the World Health Organization (WHO) projects as many as 20,000 cases by November if efforts to curtail the disease are not stepped up.


Guyana takes issue with WHO report on highest per capita suicide cases

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Friday October 17, 2014, (CMC) – The Guyana government says it is taking umbrage the recent figures released by the World Health Organization (WHO) giving the country the dubious ranking of having the highest suicide rate per capita in the world.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon said that the way in which the number of suicide cases calculated by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the WHO did not accurately reflect what is recorded by the Guyana Police Force and the Ministry of Health.

The WHO said Guyana has by far the highest suicide rate among countries in the Caribbean. It has also been listed in the top 10 most suicidal countries.

So far this year more than 30 people have committed suicide, while several others are recovering from failed attempts.

Earlier this year, the government said a multi-sectoral approach was needed to deal with the number of suicides in the country.

Luncheon acknowledged that the Ministry of Health's reports are utilised by the WHO and PAHO which employ "statistical devices" to ascertain their figures.

"They have a statistical tool or tools that they use to convert our data into numbers that allow them to compare and contrast Guyana with other countries and therein lies the difficulties".

He said the Guyana Police Force's Criminal Investigation Department, have records which are overstated by the Health Ministry and even more so by the international community's organisations.

"Cabinet has agreed that efforts must be made to affect the necessary reconciliation. There must be some mechanism to satisfy Guyana and the Cabinet about the accuracy of these reports and efforts are being made to do that".

In terms of combating incidences of suicide, the Health Ministry has launched a new Mental Health Strategy which will see special focus being placed on suicide causes and prevention.


Caribbean healthcare workers must be trained, prepared for potential Ebola cases – PAHO

WASHINGTON D.C., United States, Wednesday October 15, 2014, (CMC) - The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) wants healthcare workers throughout the Americas, including the Caribbean, trained in the use of personal protective equipment and early identification of suspected cases of the Ebola virus disease (EVD).

PAHO's call comes amid confirmation by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of a healthcare worker who became the first case of secondary transmission of Ebola in the United States.

PAHO also reminded countries of the importance of maintaining surveillance and updating their procedures for any potential introduction of the virus.

The healthcare worker confirmed as having Ebola worked at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Texas, where she had been involved in the treatment of the first Ebola case diagnosed within the United States, who died on October 8.

"Healthcare workers are at high risk of infection with Ebola unless they take adequate precautions," PAHO said, noting that in Africa, healthcare workers have been one of the most heavily affected groups, with 416 cases and 233 deaths.

It said the virus is not airborne but is transmitted through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people.

PAHO said it is working with its member states in the Americas to ensure preparedness for any possible introduction of Ebola virus disease.

The organization reminded member countries of the need for measures to ensure early detection of potential cases.


Caribbean Statistics Day 2014 Celebrations

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Oct 15, 2014 (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are observing Caribbean Statistics Day on Wednesday amidst concerns that investment in statistics remains a challenge despite the significant role it plays in development.

THEME: Data Revolution for Sustainable Development of CARICOM- Designing and Operationalising a Framework for Statistics in the Post 2015 Development Agenda

Wednesday, 15 October 2014, will mark the sixth observance of Caribbean Statistics Day in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The observance is aimed at recognising the vital role of statistics in improving the daily lives of the peoples of our Community and in raising the profile of statistics and statisticians across the Region. The theme that has been proposed for this year borrows from that of a major statistical event that was held in the Region, the Second High Level Advocacy Forum on Statistics (HLF), in St Georges, Grenada on 26 May 2014 with the theme: 'A Data Revolution for Sustainable Development, with a new International Initiative to Improve the Quality of Statistics and Information available for Citizens'.

Member States and Associate Members are encouraged to actively engage with stakeholders including, suppliers and users of data and specifically, schools, children and youth in general in promoting the importance of statistics to the development of the respective countries. Countries are also urged to recruit members to the Caribbean Association of Professional Statisticians (CAPS).


Ebola screening underway at US and UK airports as another case diagnosed in US

NEW YORK, United States, Monday October 13, 2014 – Ebola screening got underway on Saturday for some travellers at New York's John F Kennedy International Airport, with four other US airports due to come on stream on Thursday.

The testing will expand to Washington-Dulles, Newark, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

The five airports, including JFK, receive 94 percent of air travellers arriving from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the countries worst affected by the deadly virus.

An official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nevertheless warned against complacency.

"No matter how many of these procedures are put into place, we can't get the risk to zero," Dr Martin Cetron, director of the CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, told reporters on Saturday.

"That will not be the case but this additional layer should add a measure of security to the American public. This entry screening procedure, for example, would not necessarily have caught the patient in Dallas."

Dr Cetron was referring to the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the US: that of Thomas Duncan, an infected Liberian national, who died last week at a Texas hospital after arriving in the United States prior to showing any symptoms.

A nurse who treated Duncan has since contracted the disease in Dallas, while 48 of her colleagues are undergoing daily testing for the virus and senior health officials are anticipating further cases.

Under the latest screening measures, Coast Guard corpsmen and eventually medical workers under contract will take passengers' temperature and Customs and Border Protection staffers will question them about their health and possible exposure to Ebola.

Those suspected of possible Ebola exposure will be referred to CDC personnel for further screening.

"The expanded screening measures provide this layer of protection to the already established protocols to minimize the risk of another case of Ebola here in the United States," said R. Gil Kerlikowske, commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection.


Caribbean wants justice for atrocities committed under transatlantic slave trade

ST JOHN'S, Antigua, Monday October 13, 2014, (CMC) - The second Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Conference on Reparations began here on Sunday night with reparations activists joining political leaders in calling for justice for a region that is still reeling from the social, economic effects from the transatlantic slave trade.

"I implore all of us to see ourselves as working towards one aim, one destiny – the search for justice and repair of our societies; societies which were disfigured by colonization; societies that continue to suffer the legacies of enslavement and native genocide," said PJ Patterson, former prime minister of Jamaica.

"We need all hands on deck, wherever we are located in the west, in the north, in the east, because the tentacles of colonial injustices were spread far and wide and their legacies continue to be far-reaching to this very day.

"The masses of Caribbean people are still to be brought on board the reparation train. They are stuck at the halts and stations all around the region and indeed in the Diaspora, waiting for reason to board. If we do not wish to have them waiting indefinitely on the platform, or worse boarding the wrong train, we need to use this forum to settle all the unanswered questions around the struggle for reparatory justice," Patterson said.

Patterson was among several speakers lending his voice to the cause. University of the West Indies Vice Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles, and Dr Julius Garvey, son of Jamaican Negro rights activist Marcus Garvey also spoke at the start of the three-day event.

In delivering the feature address, Garvey lamented that Africa is being re-colonized.

"We also see Africans as the poorest people on the planet. In America, the wealth of the average African American is one twentieth of his or her white counterpart. It almost seems that nothing has changed in 100 years so we still have to speak of repairing the breach, which, in my view, is the full meaning of reparations.

"I would like to suggest that he struggle for reparations is and should be firmly embedded in the struggle for us to repair the damage caused by 500 years of Euro-American dominance so that we address the root causes of the problem," Garvey said.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, who is also the CARICOM Chairman, said the transnational slave trade lead to the separation and destruction of many families and of the cultural values, tradition, beliefs and artifacts of our people.

He said that CARICOM's concept of reparations is not defined by or limited to economic reparations. It also includes reconciliation, racial equality, inclusivity, equality of opportunity and justice.

"The atrocities committed against our people rank among the worst examples of human barbarism. This instituionalised trade in humans and its attendant atrocities have resulted in state of underdevelopment in the Caribbean and Africa, 180 years after its abolition," Browne said, adding "notwithstanding these atrocities; what we seek now is reparation-not reprisal."

The CARICOM chairman said the argument is not with the peoples of Europe, neither is it a formulation based on race or a war of revenge.


Foreign minister says CARICOM treaty was breached in UN vote against terrorism

KINGSTON, Jamaica — CARICOM countries breached their regional agreement (the Treaty of Chaguaramas) by not consulting on the recent United Nations resolution against terrorism. The resolution focused on the activities of the radical Islamic group referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria(ISIS).

This was confirmed by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator AJ Nicholson, in a statement to the Senate on Jamaica's participation in the 69th UN assembly in September.

"It would have been good for all CARICOM states to have acted in unison on this resolution, in keeping with the Treaty of Chaguaramas which calls on member states to establish mechanisms to co-ordinate foreign policy," Nicholson said.

"However, the reality on the ground at such conferences is that events are fast moving, fluid and dynamic and there is often the need for individual nations to make their own decisions without the benefit of regional coordination," he added.

Nicholson said that this was the case with the resolution passed unanimously by the UN security council "on threats to international peace and security" by terrorists, including the ISIS.

Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago were the only two Caribbean nations who supported the bill.

Yesterday, Opposition spokesman on foreign affairs and foreign trade Edmund Bartlett issued a statement on the issue, questioning why there was no consultation between CARICOM states on the resolution, and the government's silence on the issue since the vote was taken by the security council on September 24 in New York.


Amnesty International says 'truth must not die' with Duvalier

LONDON, Oct. 9, (CMC) – The London-based human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, says the death of former Haitian ruler Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier must not halt the investigations and prosecutions owed to thousands of people killed, tortured, arbitrarily arrested and disappeared under his regime.

"The death of Jean-Claude Duvalier must not be used to brush away the crimes committed under his regime," said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

Duvalier died of an apparent heart attack on Saturday.

Guevara said an entire network of volunteer militia and state authorities are also suspected of perpetrating human rights violations under Duvalier's command.

"These people too must be investigated and, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, prosecuted in fair trials," she said.

"This is not the final chapter in this horrific episode of Haiti's recent history. Instead it should be a reminder that there are thousands of victims who still deserve justice, truth and reparation for the human rights violations they suffered." In response to news of the death, Haiti's current President Michel Martelly has spoken of reconciliation and called Jean-Claude Duvalier a "true son of Haiti".

Despite being investigated for embezzlement charges, Duvalier was issued a diplomatic passport in 2013, and participated in several official ceremonies and events.

"Whereas President Martelly could have expressed compassion for the thousands of victims of Duvalierism and participated in forging memories about the crimes committed at that time, he willingly decided to express 'sadness' and 'sympathy' only for Duvalier's family. This is a slap on the face for human rights and the victims' struggle to justice," Guevara said.

During Duvalier's presidency– between 1971 and 1986 – prisons and torture centres claimed the lives of hundreds of victims, according to Amnesty International, adding that arbitrary arrests, torture, deaths in custody, enforced disappearances and political killings were regularly reported.

In January 2012, an investigating judge ruled that Duvalier should stand trial before a lower court only for misappropriation of public funds. Both the human rights victims and Duvalier appealed the decision. On February 20, the Port-au-Prince Court of Appeal reversed the January 2012 ruling by stating that there can be no statute of limitations for crimes against humanity and that these can be prosecuted under Haitian law.

It also recognized that the proceedings had so far wrongly focused only on Duvalier. It ordered that those identified by the plaintiffs as collaborators should be heard by the court, and that others suspected of being responsible for abuses should also be identified.

The court also appointed one of its sitting judges to further investigate the allegations of crimes against humanity committed by Duvalier and his collaborators.


IMF says economic growth in Caribbean continues to slow down in 2014

WASHINGTON, Oct 8, (CMC) – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says economic growth in Latin America and the Caribbean continued to slow in early 2014 even as it predicted that regional growth will pick up to 2.2 per cent in 2015, 0.7 percentage points weaker than previously projected.

The IMF in its Economic Outlook for 2014 released on Tuesday, noted that external conditions played a role, as exports fell short of expectations in early 2014, and terms of trade deteriorated for some countries.

But it said domestic factors were also important in several economies as supply bottlenecks and policy uncertainty held back business confidence and investment.

"The resulting slowdown has increasingly spread to consumer spending amid signs that labour markets, although still quite tight, are starting to soften. Overall, financial conditions are still supportive, with continued gains in equity prices and a narrowing of sovereign spreads since the beginning of the year, which have helped to reverse most of the financial market losses suffered after the mid-2013 turmoil."

The IMF said domestic interest rates have also eased in most economies since April, but credit growth has continued to slow.

"Growth in the region is expected to average 1.3 per cent for 2014, the lowest rate since 2009 and 1.2 percentage points below the April 2014. The downward revision partly reflects weaker-than-expected growth outturns for the first half of the year and domestic demand growth that is now expected to be slower than previously projected."

It predicted that "regional growth will pick up to 2.2 per cent in 2015, again 0.7 percentage points weaker than previously projected, supported by improving exports and a recovery in investment.

"In particular, supply-side reforms undertaken by some countries…should start to pay off as an initial wait-and-see attitude among businesses gives way to higher capital spending. "

The IMF said in the Caribbean, "long-standing competitiveness problems, high public debt, and significant financial fragilities will result in low growth in much of the region.


Golden Krust Takes Halal Patties to the Middle East!

Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill, the nation's largest and fastest growing Caribbean franchise has enhanced their 25th anniversary by successfully delivering the first shipment of Golden Krust Halal Beef Patties to the Middle East. The journey began four years ago with Everest Foods Company. W.L.L., a general trading company specializing in importing and exporting frozen food products.

Everest Foods Co. supplies frozen products to consumers in, not limited to, the following countries: Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The vision of Golden Krust (GK) is to bring the taste of the Caribbean to the world and the partnership with Everest Food Co. has offered a significant opportunity to do so in the Middle East.

Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill signed a two-year contract with Everest Foods Co., legalized by Washington, in which Golden Krust will supply Everest Foods Co. with a 20ft container of product per month. The first shipment meet all customs criteria and was delivered without any hindrances. These GK Halal patties are being supplied to the Military Bases, supermarkets, and other local businesses in the Middle East.

Everest Foods Co. has informed GK VP of Retail Sales, Leroy Hawthorne, that the response of the sampled Halal Beef Patties was so overwhelming that they are requesting Halal Chicken Patties as well as Coco Bread to be sent on the next shipment to be sampled! They are even looking into supplying the commissaries with Golden Krust products.

GK VP of Retail Sales, Leroy Hawthorne stated, "After four years of negotiating, four years of hard work, we have finally penetrated this untouched market. Finally, finally, we have broken into the Middle Eastern market and we know we will do extremely well." Leroy Hawthorne and VP of Real Estate and Legal, Lorraine Hawthorne-Morrison, along with other team members have worked tirelessly on this project for years with the help of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce and all are excited for what the future holds. GK President & CEO, Lowell Hawthorne mentioned that the success of this project brings GK one step closer to fulfilling its' 2020 vision of making Jamaican-styled patties and Jerk Chicken mainstream food items.

Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill, Inc., www.goldenkrustbakery.com, is a Caribbean food chain. Founded in 1989 by Lowell Hawthorne and his family, Golden Krust headquarters is located in Bronx, NY and has 120 stores nationwide.


Jamaica activates emergency response team to fight Chikungunya outbreak

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Oct. 2, (CMC) - Jamaica's National Emergency Response Team has been activated to coordinate and support the country's response to the current outbreak of Chikungunya .

The government has also allocated an additional J$150 million (One Jamaica dollar = US$0.004 cents) to the Chikungunya response, which includes a massive clean-up campaign aimed at destroying and removing mosquito breeding sites.

The information came out of a technical meeting held on Thursday of key Government agencies involved in the ongoing response.

Following a Ministerial meeting on the issue Wednesday, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller addressed the technical meeting and mandated those involved to be thorough and consistent in the planning, implementation and public communication of the ongoing national response.

The National Emergency Response Team, which is headed by the Prime Minister involves Ministries, Agencies and non-government stakeholders with the ODPEM having a lead role in coordination and implementation.

The Team's activation is at level two meaning that activation is related to a specific event or specific events.

Activation of the National Emergency Response Team will also provide a thorough, intensive and extensive management framework for Jamaica's planning for prevention, mitigation and response action in respect of other communicable diseases including Ebola.

This planning and preparation has already started with attention being paid to the various ports of entry and sensitisation and response training of key first responders including health workers .

Training of other stakeholders, including Immigration Officers, Customs Officers and other air and seaport workers will be intensified.


Ebola-ravaged nations could face "chaos and collapse"

LONDON, England, (Caribbean360) – The Ebola outbreak raging in West Africa could potentially infect 1.4 million people by the end of January, according to a worst-case scenario extrapolated by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

An equally daunting report in the New England Journal of Medicine warned that the epidemic might never be brought fully under control and the virus could become endemic, crippling civic life in the affected countries and posing an ongoing threat of contagion elsewhere.

Now, the International Crisis Group (ICG) has added its voice to the prevailing atmosphere of gloom, with the warning that the world's largest-ever Ebola outbreak threatens to become a political crisis that could undo years of effort to stabilise West Africa.

"The worst-hit countries now face widespread chaos and, potentially, collapse," the think tank said in a statement.

Guinea, where the outbreak began earlier this year, as well as neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone are the worst affected of the six countries where Ebola has emerged in recent months. Both Liberia and Sierra Leone are recovering from brutal civil wars, while Guinea has faced coups and ethnic unrest.

In these worst-hit countries, "past civil conflicts fuelled by local and regional antagonisms could resurface", the ICG statement said. The group also noted that the Ebola crisis had exposed citizens' lack of trust in their government in "already fragile societies."

This appeared to be backed up in part by recent attacks on teams of health workers in Guinea, the most serious of which resulted in the death of an eight-member team trying to raise awareness about Ebola in the south-east of the country, who died at the hands of villagers suspicious of official attempts to combat the disease.

"Adding social breakdown to the epidemic would create disaster perhaps impossible to manage," the ICG noted. It added that the international community needs to provide more personnel and resources "not only to the immediate medical response, but also to the longer-term problems of strengthening governance and rebuilding health-care systems."

While countries like the US, UK, China, France and Cuba were ramping up their responses by setting up Ebola health facilities and sending trained personnel, special attention also needed to be paid to Guinea-Bissau and The Gambia, countries near the epicentre which both have inadequate health systems, the ICG statement added.


St Vincent and the Grenadines assumes chairmanship of OAS Permanent Council

WASHINGTON D.C., United States, Thursday October 2, 2014 - St. Vincent and the Grenadines has assumed the chairmanship of the Permanent Council at the Organisation of American States. The Permanent Council, comprised of the Permanent Representatives (Ambassadors) from the 34 member states is one of the two main political bodies of the Organisation. At the handing over ceremony which took place at the OAS headquarters in Washington DC, Permanent Representative of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ambassador La Celia A. Prince received the chairperson's gavel from outgoing chair of the Council, Ambassador Sonia Johnny of St. Lucia.

In handing over the gavel, the Ambassador of St. Lucia indicated that she has known Ambassador of St. Vincent and the Grenadines for a very long time and expressed her confidence in her ability to meet the demands of the chairmanship.

Upon accepting the gavel and assuming the role, Ambassador Prince, in her address before the Secretary General, Assistant Secretary General and other Permanent Representatives to the Organisation, indicated what a tremendous honour it is for St. Vincent and the Grenadines to be entrusted with the responsibility of chairmanship of the Council. "For St. Vincent and the Grenadines assuming this chairmanship is a symbol of our place in this hemisphere and an acknowledgement that we too have a role to play in advancing the objectives and purposes of this Organisation" she said. "It is one of the great things about this Organisation, that no matter the geographical size or financial wealth of a country, each Member States has an equal opportunity to be at the forefront of steering the Organisaton in the advancement of its work."

In her acceptance remarks Ambassador Prince committed herself and the delegation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to working determinedly in ensuring that the mandate which has been entrusted to her country will be fulfilled for the betterment of the Organisation, while balancing the interests and needs of all Member States. She also briefly outlined some of the priority areas on which she intends to focus the Permanent Council's attention during her chairmanship and congratulated the sterling leadership of her predecessor, whose success she said she hopes to emulate.

Ambassador Prince will be at the helm of the Permanent Council for a period of 3 months, after which the chairmanship will be passed to Suriname. The chairmanship of the Permanent Council rotates every quarter, passing to each country by name in alphabetical order. At this time, CARICOM countries have a tremendous and unique opportunity to influence the focus of the OAS agenda since the rotation by alphabetical order has created a 15-month consecutive CARICOM leadership at the Organisation through chairmanships from St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.

The Permanent Council will also be chaired for an unprecedented 12 consecutive months by female Envoys, notably from the CARICOM region.


Jamaican, Trinidadian and Guyanese nationals seek top ACP post

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, (CMC) – Three candidates from Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica have been short listed for the post of secretary general of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) grouping. Informed sources said Guyana's Brussels-based Ambassador to the ACP, Dr. P.I, Gomes, Jamaica's Patricia Francis, the former executive director of the International Trade Centre (ITC) and Dr. Hamid Ghany, a political scientist and senior lecturer at the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) have been shortlisted for the post.


Regional countries urged to collaborate on improving health care

WASHINGTON, (CMC) – Health ministers from the Caribbean are joining their counterparts from other member countries of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) in the United States this week to debate universal coverage and other regional health challenges.

The PAHO 53rd Directing Council meeting has been told that collective action by the regional countries is needed to expand affordable access to health care and to address other hemispheric health challenges.

The five-day meeting will discuss a wide range of issues including childhood obesity, blood safety, disabilities and rehabilitation, mental health, prevention of blindness and visual impairment, health-related law, coordination of humanitarian assistance, and universal access and universal health coverage.

Dominican-born PAHO Director Carissa F Etienne reminded delegates that many key public health achievements in the Americas have been made possible by the collective action of PAHO member countries.

"Our region is on track to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis. More than 75 per cent of people living with HIV in the Americas have access to antiretroviral treatment. Our region was the first to eradicate polio, smallpox, measles, and congenital rubella syndrome," she said.

"This region has always been, and will continue to be, a trail blazer as a result of your collective and committed leadership and your tireless hard work in improving the social conditions and health systems within your countries."

Etienne urged similar collaboration to advance universal access and universal health coverage, top agenda items for this week's meeting.

"It is hoped that the decisions and resolutions that emanate from our discussions this week will result in major health benefits for all, and especially those people in most need."


Cuba calls for "profound reform" of United Nations

NEW YORK, United States, Monday September 29, 2014, (CMC) – Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla has called for "profound reform" of the United Nations, starting with the 15-member Security Council, saying that the Secretary-General should be "an advocator and guarantor of international peace and security."

n addressing the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly Debate on Saturday, Rodríguez also said the UN needs to defend its principles.

"The Security Council should be rebuilt upon democracy, transparency, a fair representation of the countries of the South that are discriminated against among Permanent and Non-Permanent Members, credibility, strict observance of the United Nations Charter, without double standards, obscure procedures or the anachronistic veto," he said.

"The General Assembly is to exercise the prerogatives entrusted to it by the Charter given the currently dangerous and unstable international situation, which is full of threats and challenges," he added.

Rodríguez also called on the international community to "respond vigorously" to the UN appeal for help to fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

"It is urgent to consider Sub-Saharan Africa a priority. It is necessary to jointly and resolutely confront, through a sufficient and genuine cooperation, the Ebola epidemic that is affecting some countries of the continent," he declared, stating that Cuba decided to maintain its medical cooperation in all the 32 African countries, where more than 4 000 Cuban specialists are working, and expand it, under the leadership of the World Health Organization (WHO), to the other most affected countries.

"We call upon the international community, particularly the industrialized countries with abundant resources, to vigorously respond to the appeal launched by the United Nations and the WHO, so that it could be possible to immediately count on the financial, health and scientific resources required to eradicate that scourge and prevent it from taking a higher toll on human lives," he added.

Likewise, the Cuban foreign minister said "all the necessary resources should be contributed" in support of the Agenda 2063 of the African Union, which has established the roadmap for the development of that region.


Haiti president seeks to attract investors in energy, tourism and industry sectors

NEW YORK, United States, Friday September, 26, 2014, (CMC) – Haiti's president Michel Martelly has told an international conference here that while "major challenges" still remain, the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country is strengthening democracy and rebuilding the infrastructure damaged by a powerful earthquake in 2010 that killed more than 300,000 people.

Martelly, accompanied by Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe met with international donors as part of "Haiti Partners" to discuss ways to improve the delivery of aid to the Caribbean country.

Martelly, who provided an update on the country's development since the earthquake that left more than a million people homeless, said that Haiti was now a vast construction site, with schools, vocational training centers, roads, bridges housing being built or under construction.

"Major challenges remain, however, my administration and the government, led by my dedicated, talented and tireless Prime Minister, undertook the necessary task of guiding the Republic of Haiti to a broad programme of profound reforms of its institutions," Martelly said.

He said the government was also committed to doing more to attract direct investments, especially in the fields of energy, tourism, industry, and to enjoy the benefits of new legislation passed by the United States giving duty-free access to the American market for textiles and other products, so as to create jobs in Haiti.

Martelly said he counted on the solidarity of donors to help the country strengthen the capacity of its institutions to achieve the desired level of economic and social development.

"It is in this context that my administration began a fierce fight against corruption, against tax evasion, and to strengthen the rule of law, for the provision of quality education for all children in the country, " Martelly said as he informed that 1.75 million children were now go to school free of charge.

He assured that the democratic process in Haiti was irreversible, despite the perception of permanent crisis, committing his administration to the rule of law.

During his address, President Martelly said he has made ​​all the concessions and adopted all the necessary measures aimed at advancing the electoral process, but reminded that Haiti was only waiting for the approval of the amended electoral law, which is an attribution of parliament, for voting to take place.

Elections – to elect two-thirds of the 30-member Senate, the entire Lower House and all the local government entities – were planned for the end of the year, but blamed a group of Opposition senators for failing to pass the necessary legislation to ensure elections are held.

Prime Minister Lamothe told the meeting that Haiti was indeed improving adding we want to tell you that things are moving forward, things are improving in Haiti today.

"We have made ​​tremendous progress, but there are also enormous challenges in the years to come," said Lamothe encouraging donors to fully respect their commitments to the rehabilitation efforts.

He also urged foreign investors to do business in the French country so as to create sustainable jobs and stimulate the economy.


Climate change an "existential threat" for the Caribbean

Desmond Brown KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Wednesday, September 24, 2014, IPS – When it comes to climate change, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves doesn't mince words: he will tell you that it is a matter of life and death for Small Island Developing States (SIDS). "The threat is not abstract, it is not very distant, it is immediate and it is real. And if this matter is the premier existential issue which faces us it means that we have to take it more seriously and put it at the centre stage of all our developmental efforts," Gonsalves told IPS.

"The country which I have the honour to lead is a disaster-prone country. We need to adapt, strengthen our resilience, to mitigate, we need to reduce risks to human and natural assets resulting from climate change.

"This is an issue however, which we alone cannot address. The world is a small place and we contribute very little to global warming but yet we are in the frontlines of continuing disasters," Gonsalves added.

Since 2001, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has had 14 major weather events, five of which have occurred since 2010. These five weather events have caused loss and damage amounting to more than 600 million dollars, or just about a third of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

"Three rain-related events, and in the case of Hurricane Tomas, wind, occurred in 2010; in April 2011 there were landslides and flooding of almost biblical proportions in the northeast of our country; and in December we had on Christmas Eve, a calamitous event," Gonsalves said.

"My Christmas Eve flood was 17.5 percent of GDP and I don't have the base out of which I can climb easily. More than 10,000 people were directly affected, that is to say more than one tenth of our population.

"In the first half of 2010 and the first half of this year we had drought. Tomas caused loss and damage amounting to 150 million dollars; the April floods of 2011 caused damage and loss amounting to 100 million dollars; and the Christmas Eve weather event caused loss and damage amounting to just over 330 million. If you add those up you get 580 million, you throw in 20 million for the drought and you see a number 600 million dollars and climbing," Gonsalves said.

Over the past several years, and in particular since the 2009 summit of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, the United States and other large countries have made a commitment to help small island states deal with the adverse impacts of climate change, and pledged millions of dollars to support adaptation and disaster risk-reduction efforts.

On a recent visit to several Pacific islands, Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated the importance of deepening partnerships with small island nations and others to meet the immediate threats and long-term development challenges posed by climate change.

He stressed that through cooperative behaviour and fostering regional integration, the U.S. could help create sustainable economic growth, power a clean energy revolution, and empower people to deal with the negative impacts of climate change.

But Gonsalves noted that despite the generosity of the United States, there is a scarcity of funds for mitigation and adaptation promised by the global community, "not only the developed world but also other major emitters, China and India, for example," adding that these promises were made to SIDS and to less developed countries.


Caribbean countries mark China's Independence Day

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) – Guyana and Dominica Tuesday night praised China for its role in helping in their socio-economic development and promised to continue diplomatic relations with the Asian country. In separate activities in Roseau and Georgetown, the two countries marked the observance of the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949, praising Beijing for friendship that has led to economic development in the two countries.

Dominica's Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said that his island remained "steadfast" to the One China policy and that the two countries enjoy "excellent relations both at the bilateral and also at the multilateral levels".

Skerrit said that over the past 10 years Beijing has assisted Roseau in a number of areas, including the provision of scholarships for many young Dominicans. He said very soon with Chinese grant funding, a new hospital would be built in his country "which would assist in transforming the delivery of health care to our citizens".

Skerrit said that China has also demonstrated to "the world the need for us to promote peace and not war and to use both diplomatic and political means to solve conflicts between and among nations".

In his address, Prime Minister Sam Hinds said since the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries, Guyana has benefitted from Chinese assistance in a number of areas.

"Indeed, China's recent allocation towards the capitalisation of the New Development Bank, established by the BRICS countries in July 2014, and the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) to soften infrastructure deficits, attests to China's commitment to a more just economic world order and South/ South cooperation".

Hinds said that the dynamism of trade, which amounted to over US$180 million, between the two countries, was also an important factor in the relationship, noting that Chinese companies have invested in infrastructure, forestry, mining and other sectors.

Hinds said the recent opening of the Confucius Institute at the University of Guyana was another example of the "commitment to strengthening future exchanges and mutual learning of Guyanese and Chinese cultures".

China's Ambassador to Guyana Zhang Limin noted that the relationship among China, Latin America and Caribbean countries is highly valued and that the recent announcement of the China- CELAC Forum has provided a mechanism of guarantee for the overall cooperation between Beijing and the rest of the region.


Caribbean among most vulnerable regions to climate change

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Monday September 22, 2014, (CMC) – Environmental experts say developing societies in the Caribbean are the most vulnerable economies in the Americas to climate change because the majority of the population reside in coastal areas. According to the Spanish international news agency (EFE), rising sea levels, coastal erosion and the spread of tropical diseases are among the signs of climate change.

"Atlantic Ocean temperatures have been increasing in recent years, and the water's pH imbalance has been harming marine species," said Ernesto Diaz, director of the Coastal Zone Management Program at the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources, during a news conference organized by El Puente Latino Climate Action Network.

"We are losing our beaches and that not only affects tourism but also our people," added Diaz, predicting more intense hurricanes. He urged Caribbean governments to maximize the protection of ecosystems and inhabitants.

Diaz said it is understandable that the Caribbean calls for more international cooperation on the issue and that he expects the region's representatives to call for action once again at this week's UN Climate Summit in New York.

"We are the first ones to experience climate change," he said, noting that populations of coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to rising sea level and hurricanes.

Cecilio Ortiz, associate professor in Public Administration from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, said governments must learn about the issue in order to prevent or lessen the impact of climate change on their territories, according to EFE.

Meanwhile, in the lead-up to UN's Climate Summit, the United Nations on Saturday lit up its iconic Headquarters complex in New York with a spectacular 30-story architectural projection show aimed to inspire global citizens to take climate action.

The Climate Summit aims to catalyze ambitious action on the ground to reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience and mobilize political action toward a "meaningful, robust, universal, and legal climate agreement by 2015."


Study highlights Caribbean women's role in socio-economic development

BRUSSELS, Sept 22, (CMC) - A newly released study on the role of women in advancing sustainable human development in African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries has highlighted the prevalence of social and cultural norms that discriminate against women in ACP regions.

The EU-funded report, titled " ACP Women, Actos in Development," documents 30 case studies illustrating the vital role of women's grassroots organizations, as well as the their potential to stimulate learning and innovation in development programmes.

The study notes that Caribbean countries have advanced in women's political participation and their access to decision-making spheres.


No Ebola case in Trinidad, Health Ministry says after man shows symptoms

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Sept 19, (CMC) – The Trinidad and Tobago government says there are "no suspected or confirmed cases" of the Ebola virus in the country. "A Trinidadian man was initially seen at the Mayaro Health Centre after exhibiting prolonged symptoms of fever, pains and tiredness. The patient recently travelled from Equatorial Guinea through the Abuja Airport, Nigeria, before arriving in Trinidad on September 3.

"Accordingly, certain precautions were taken. On Wednesday, September 17, the patient was admitted to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, where he was isolated and managed," according to a statement from the Ministry of health.

It said the unidentified "patient was screened for hepatitis, dengue haemorrhagic fever, leptospirosis and malaria. These more common diseases need to be excluded before a diagnosis of Ebola can be made."

The statement said that the malaria test was positive and the patient continues to receive treatment at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex.

The Health Ministry said it remains on "high alert" for the Ebola virus that has killed more than 2,000 people mainly in West Africa. There is no known vaccine for the disease.

"The ministry wishes to inform citizens of Trinidad and Tobago that while a global emergency has been declared for the Ebola virus, there are no suspected or confirmed cases of the virus in this country. In spite of this, the Ministry of Health is on high alert to deal with this situation.


Caribbean countries named in US major drug transit countries

(Jamaica Observer) JAMAICA has been listed as one of 22 major drug-producing and transit countries by US President Barack Obama, according to information released Monday by the US Department of State. However, Minister of National Security Peter Bunting did not appear overly worried about the listing as he said Jamaica has been included in that category for some time now.

"… From memory, Jamaica has been on that list every year since I became spokesman on national security in 2008," Bunting replied to the Jamaica Observer, via text messaging, from a Cabinet retreat, yesterday.

A media note from the State Department said, that under the Foreign Relations Authorisation Act, the president is required to notify Congress of those countries he determines to be major illicit drug-producing countries or major drug-transit countries that "significantly affect the United States" every year.

A country's presence on the list does not necessarily reflect its counter-narcotics efforts or its level of co-operation with the United States on illicit drug control.

The Department of State said the designation can reflect a combination of geographic, commercial, and economic factors that allow drugs to be produced and/or trafficked through a country.

Jamaica and four other Caribbean countries — Belize, The Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti — are among 22 named by Obama.

The rest of the list reads: Afghanistan, Burma, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.

If a listed country does not fulfil its obligations under international counter-narcotics agreements and conventions, the president could determine that the country has "failed demonstrably" to meet its anti-narcotics obligations – a designation which could lead to sanctions. The president may also execute a National Interest Waiver when he determines there is a vital national interest in continuing US assistance to such countries.

In a report in June, the Department of State cited money laundering in Jamaica as primarily related to proceeds from illegal narcotics and financial scams, and was largely controlled by organised criminal gangs.

In 2010, Jamaica was cited as the largest supplier of marijuana to the United States and a cocaine trans-shipment point.

"Jamaica suffers from one of the highest murder rates in the region. In 2009, violent crime rates increased to civil war levels, with homicides at 64/100,000 ratio. The vast majority of the violent crimes in Jamaica are perpetrated by gang members who use the drug trade to secure weapons which are smuggled mainly from the United States. Increasing organised crime permeates both the legitimate business sector as well as the political sector, undermines the Government of Jamaica's ability to maintain law and order and threatens international security. Jamaica's inadequate police and judicial systems serve as the primary shortcomings in addressing both corruption and crime; they lack the capacity to timely investigate and adjudicate crime," a May 2010 US State Department report stated.


Expert fears Ebola could mutate to become airborne

MINNESOTA, United States, Wednesday September 17, 2014 - As the Ebola outbreak continues to spiral out of control, with the number of cases rising faster than the ability to contain them, some scientists are concerned that the virus could mutate to become an airborne disease, greatly increasing its potential for contagion.

More than 2,500 people in West Africa have died from the virus in recent months, with over 5,000 cases recorded, making the current outbreak the worst since the disease was discovered in 1976, with more cases than all previous outbreaks combined.

World Health Organisation (WHO) officials say the number of people affected is likely to be much greater than current estimates suggest, moreover, and have forecast as many as 20, 000 cases and hinted at the possibility of even more.

Just when we thought the outlook couldn't get much bleaker, a leading American scientist has revealed that some virologists fear that what we have seen so far may be just the beginning of a far greater threat.

Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, disclosed that those experts are reluctant to discuss their concerns publicly for fear of creating panic.

Writing for the New York Times, Osterholm said: "The second possibility is one that virologists are loath to discuss openly but are definitely considering in private: that an Ebola virus could mutate to become transmissible through the air."

Since its discovery almost 40 years ago, the virus has only been transmitted through contact with bodily fluids, including sweat, of an infected person, dead or alive. But viruses similar to Ebola are notorious for replicating and reinventing themselves, Dr Osterholm cautioned.


CARICOM formalising recommendations to deal with Ebola, Chikungunya

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Tuesday September 16, 2014, (CMC) – The Guyana-based Caribbean Community (CARICOM) says it is formalising recommendations to deal with any possible incidence of the Ebola virus and is also improving efforts to respond to the Chikungunya epidemic.

A CARICOM statement said that chief medical officers and other technical health experts from CARICOM member states met via video conference to rationalise the region's response to the two diseases. The meeting was convened by the CARICOM Secretariat in collaboration with the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

"Among draft proposals that were fleshed out at the meeting was the achievement of the core competencies cited in WHO's International Health Regulations. Discussions additionally focused on the need to urge a calm but prudent response when applying the World Health Organisation's (WHO) recommendation with regards to the Ebola virus – no restrictions on travel and trade in areas where the Ebola transmission has occurred," the statement said.

It said the meeting also discussed the "urgent need to put in place isolation facilities and resources to permit barrier management of suspected or affected cases of Ebola".

Meanwhile, the Director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Dr Carissa Etienne, who has ended a visit to Guyana, has assured that there was a very low death rate from Chikungunya, despite the significant illness and disability it causes.

Dr Etienne paid a courtesy call on CARICOM Secretary-General, Irwin LaRocque and met with officials of the Directorate of Human and Social Development to discuss the region's response to the current disease alerts.

Dr Etienne said that Chikungunya has had a significant effect on productivity and the social and economic life of affected communities, and it was therefore critical to concentrate response efforts on vector reduction. "It is a household mosquito (aedes. aegypti) and all householders must become active in reducing the breeding sites inside and outside of their homes … garbage disposal, drainage of water, emptying of containers.

"We also have to ask people to sleep under bed nets so that you don't get bitten, particularly an infected person. The treatment is mini-supportive, we give Tylenol, Paracetamol, Acetaminophen, and ensure fluid intake," Dr Etienne said.

She said multi-sectoral action was needed to ensure access to water, to avoid storage which encourages mosquito breeding. Adequate garbage disposal and activating communities to take better care of themselves at the Community and individual levels were other critical responses the PAHO Director proposed.

With regard to Ebola, Dr Etienne noted that PAHO has observed outbreaks in Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, and three other African countries, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sengal, which have reported cases, but have contained the disease.

"At this stage, the current Ebola outbreak has been upgraded to a United Nations Humanitarian Crisis which activates all of the UN to react to the crisis. It is being viewed not only as a health problem; it is generating food security and human security issues," Dr Etienne said.


Caribbean Export funding tech initiative "Start Up Jamaica"

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday September 15, 2014, (CMC) – The Barbados-based Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) says it will provide financial support towards the launch of "Start Up Jamaica (SUJ)," an initiative through which technology companies can access seed capital, training and mentorship in return for equity in the company.

Caribbean Export said that the funds would be provided under the Regional Private Sector Development Programme (RPSDP) that is being funded by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF), in efforts to accelerate development in youth entrepreneurship, with a focus on the technology sector.

SUJ, a project of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, aims to support talented and technologically savvy young people to tap into the growing global market for technological innovations, and further serves the social demand for more employment opportunities not only in Jamaica but also in the wider Caribbean.

"This initiative has the potential to be a regional game changer in the transitional development of the regions savvy young people who are bursting with ideas, into our future entrepreneurial successes," said Caribbean Export's Executive Director, Pamela Coke-Hamilton.

Caribbean Export said the support offered through the programme is intended to grow the ideas of innovators and entrepreneurs from the region into marketable products and services, while also increasing employment and generating foreign exchange.

The strategy aims to transform Caribbean people from being "technology consumers" to "technology creators" over the next few years, and to position Jamaica as the hub for entrepreneurship and innovation in the Caribbean, it added.

'Start Up Jamaica' is modelled on the very successful 'Start Up Chile' programme, which at pilot stage in 2010 attracted 22 start-up companies from across 14 countries, and now is on track to meet its target of 1,000 participants by the end of this year.


Caribbean low risk case for Ebola

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Sept 11, (CMC) – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) while there has not been any case of the deadly Ebola visa in the Caribbean, the region should not rest on its laurels. "The overall risk assessment remains low risk for the Caribbean region. Be that as it may this is not a time for complacency because of the consequence of an imported case…will be serious for the health of our residents and for the tourism industry in the Caribbean," said CARPHA executive director Dr. James Hospedales.

Dr. Hospedales told a regional news conference that while the virus for which there is no vaccine is confined mainly to Central and South Africa, his organisation is continuing to monitor the situation and advising member states "to continue their efforts to attain a high level of preparedness for a possible, though unlikely introduction of case to a CARPHA member state".

He said that this low level of risk "may change as the satiations changes and new information becomes available".

Dr. Hospdales said that while the risk level remains low "it is important that each member state takes the opportunity to ensure that several mechanisms are in place to mitigate the potential impact of its arrival".

He said these measures are included in the international health regulations (IAHR) that came into force in 2005 and include appropriate communication messages to be disseminated to the general population, to travellers and to health workers ensuring that people know how to reduce their risks.

"This is key, we will have other problems beyond Ebola in the future, achieving compliance with the international health regulations is the way to be able to be prepared," he said.

Dr. Hospedales said that while the Trinidad-based organisation will not be able to carry out tests to determine whether a person had contracted the deadly virus, international arrangements have been made with the United States Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the Public Health agency in Canada for such testing.

He said CARPHA is also bolstering regional preparedness by establishing an incident management team here "to facilitate coordination of the regional response.

"We have executed several video and teleconferences with chief medical officers, epidemiologists and laboratory directors… providing answers to questions and queries alongside PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) and the US Centre for Disease Control.


Americans remember 9/11 on 13th anniversary

NEW YORK, (AFP) - Americans on Thursday marked the 13th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, with sombre ceremonies of remembrance in New York and Washington. President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle and Vice-President Joe Biden observed a moment of silence on the White House south lawn, along with about 300 staffers. Flags in Washington flew at half-mast.

Obama was then to attend a ceremony at the Pentagon -- scene of one of the strikes.

The anniversary comes just hours after Obama laid out his strategy to counter Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria -- a new front in America's unresolved confrontation with radical Islam begun in earnest 13 years ago.

In New York, relatives of those killed when hijacked airliners slammed into the World Trade Centre gathered at Ground Zero to remember the dead.

The ceremony began, as usual, with a moment of silence at 8:46 am when the first plane smashed into the Twin Towers.

Family members then began the long process of reading the names of the nearly 3,000 people who were killed in the attacks on New York, the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

This is the first year that the 9/11 museum in New York will be open on the anniversary of the attacks.


Antigua seeks millions from US to end gaming dispute

ST JOHN'S, Antigua (CMC) – Antigua and Barbuda is seeking US$100 million to settle the long standing dispute over internet gaming with the United States. Prime Minister Gaston Browne told a news conference that his administration, which had submitted new proposals to Washington to end the dispute, that while the figure represents a reduction on what St John's had originally been demanding, it is negotiable and could be a mixture of cash and kind.

"For instance increasing the capacity for the Defence Force, they need a vessel to continue the surveillance of our coastline, we are also trying to get the establishment of a US satellite visa office here.

"We have also asked them to support additional scholarships for the American University of Antigua (AUA) so that we could have more students coming here to help build our economy."

Last week, Ambassador Colin Murdoch, who is the chairman of a local committee that is holding talks with the United States, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the new Browne administration had reviewed the previous proposals put forward by the former administration and "has agreed to adopt a clean slate principle and has decided to propose new measures to the United States in order to settle the dispute."

A notice posted on the website of the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced the new proposal from St John's. But while it gave no details, it said that Antigua and Barbuda had "reiterated its concern that it had not yet received any settlement proposal or other communication from the United States." The government has since informed the WTO Dispute Settlement Board of the comprehensive and realistic proposal to the US.

Prime Minister Browne told reporters that he believed the new proposals would be more palatable to Washington. Antigua and Barbuda has criticised the United States since 1998 of breaching its commitments to members of the WTO under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) by enacting laws that prevented foreign-based operators from offering gambling and betting services to its citizens.

In 2005, the WTO ruled that Washington had violated international trade agreements by prohibiting operation of offshore Internet gambling sites. Antigua claimed that it lost US$3.4 billion a year due to the US action, but the WTO awarded the island US$21 million.

But in its final ruling, the Geneva-based WTO has allowed Antigua and Barbuda to suspend certain concessions and obligations it has under international law to the United States in respect of intellectual property rights.

Prime Minister Browne also dismissed a report on an international website that claimed his administration would be more aggressive than the previous government in the negotiations on settling the internet gaming dispute with Washington.

"That statement was never articulated by anyone in my government including myself. I actually read it…and I want to say that is not so.

"We have always indicated if when in opposition that the best way out of this is through negotiations," he said, telling reporters that the government has spent an estimated US$15 million in legal fees to date.

He said the lawyer who had been representing the island has been "constructively fired" because his administration has decided on direct diplomatic representation.


Marijuana tourism

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Sept 9, (CMC) – The deputy chief executive officer of Jamaica's first medical marijuana company, Richard Kildare, will lead of debate on the notion or reality of marijuana tourism during the Caribbean Tourism Organization's (CTO) State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC) later this month.

The September 17-19 conference will be held in the United States Virgin Islands and apart from Kildare, presentations will also come from Dr. James Hospedales, the executive director of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), and Josef Woodman, the chief executive officer and founder of Patients Beyond Borders.

Rory Johnston, a PhD student at the faculty of health sciences at Simon Fraser University in Canada, will present on the ethical and legal implications, as well as the risks associated with medical tourism.

"This presentation will provide an overview of the key challenges that medical tourism poses to the operation of equitable health systems – those that are accessible to local populations and responsive to their needs.

"Examples will be drawn from both established medical tourism destinations and projects being pursued in the Caribbean to explore how negative health equity impacts can emerge and ways in which they might be anticipated and minimized," Johnston said.

The CTO said that the debate surrounding marijuana tourism has taken a sharper focus in recent months following its legalization for recreational use by two US states, including Colorado.

Uruguay has also become the first country in the world to make it legal to grow, sell and consume cannabis.


Can you imagine a Caribbean minus its beaches? It's not science fiction, it's climate change

(WorldBank.org) Nearly 15 years ago, a World Bank disaster risk management team went to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia to work at the beach -- literally. Based on scientific evidence, they set off, together with the government, to counter erosion and rebuild the beaches. The result, the construction of two submerged offshore structures, designed to break up incoming waves and capture sand. Today, 15 meters of beach in the area have been restored.

This success story is part of an effort to tackle the Caribbean coastal erosion. Due to rising sea levels and recurring storms, most Caribbean nations have been seeing their beaches disappear. In some areas of St. Vincent, for instance, an estimated 18-30 meters of beach have been lost over the last nine years. The highly vulnerable coastal strand and adjacent towns are fighting against increased flood risk from rainfall and storm surge.

The issue of challenges faced by small islands around the world was at the center of this week's 3rd Small Island Developing States conference held in Samoa. The overarching theme of the conference was sustainable development in view of these states' unique and particular vulnerabilities.

Back in the late 1990s, coastal erosion and beach losses were threatening a fishing village on the east coast of St. Lucia. To address the issue, the World Bank, through the Emergency Recovery and Disaster Management Project (1998-2003), supported detailed scientific investigations to identify how nature was really behaving. From those investigations, designs were developed not just to stop the erosion but to re-grow the beach.

"You can't fight nature, you must work together with it," said Jerry Meier, a World Bank climate change expert. Adding another level of science to the process, computer simulations were used to test the designs before embarking on their construction. "When the project first built the structures, you had to swim to get to the first barrier. Now, you can walk to it," explained Meier.

And the beaches are not the only concern. Caribbean ports are also at risk from rising sea levels. Built in colonial times, many sea ports, such as Castries, St. Lucia; St. Georges, Grenada; Kingstown, St Vincent, are suffering from the increasing threat of flooding, in part due to rising sea level. In island states, ports are the economic heart of the country, typically the capital and the island center of commerce.

Airports too are affected. Typically built in flat coastal areas, airports such as Melville Hall, Dominica; Maurice Bishop, Grenada; and Hewannorrah, St Lucia, are dealing with increased flood risk and sea level rise.

These rising sea levels affect islands big and small. A study by the World Bank states that if the sea continues to rise at the current rate, Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, will be one on the five cities most affected at a global level by climate change in 2050 (after Alexandria, Barranquilla, Naples and Sapporo).


Antigua and Barbuda confident new proposals will end dispute with US

ST. JOHN'S, Antigua, Sept 5, (CMC) –Antigua and Barbuda says it remained confident that the new proposals submitted to the United States for ending their long running dispute over internet gaming will be accepted by Washington.

Ambassador Colin Murdoch, who is the chairman of a local committee that is holding talks with the United States, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the new Gaston Browne administration had reviewed the previous proposals put forward by the former administration and "has agreed to adopt a clean slate principle and has decided to propose new measures to the United States in order to settle the dispute".

A notice posted on the website of the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced the new proposal from St John's.

But while it gave no details, it said that Antigua and Barbuda had "reiterated its concern that it had not yet received any settlement proposal or other communication from the United States."

The government has since informed the Dispute Settlement Board of the comprehensive and realistic proposal to the US.

"Antigua and Barbuda urged the US to consider the proposal with good faith and to engage comprehensively with Antigua and Barbuda so as to end this dispute," the statement said adding that Washington had indicated "it remained committed to resolving this dispute and looked forward to working with Antigua and Barbuda's new government."

Murdoch told CMC that the proposal had been submitted to the United States Trade Representative "a couple of weeks ago and we are awaiting a response from them".

He would not divulge the contents of the proposals, noting "we are hopeful that these new proposals will provide a way forward.

"We think these proposals offer an incentive to the United States to settle this matter while at the same time providing benefit to Antigua and Barbuda in relation to the gaming sector.

"We believe the United States will look at these proposals seriously (and) based on statements that have been made by the United States at the Dispute Settlement Board meetings of the WTO, we are hearing some very conciliatory statements, we are hopeful that our new proposals will be the basis for settling this matter."

Antigua and Barbuda has criticised the United States since 1998 of breaching its commitments to members of the WTO under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) by enacting laws that prevented foreign-based operators from offering gambling and betting services to its citizens.


Caribbean countries discussing "critical factors" that underpin their vulnerability

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) says the authorities in several Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and experts from the United Nations have been discussing "critical factors" that underpin the vulnerability of Caribbean countries

In a side event of the United Nations Third International Conference on SIDS here, ECLAC said it hosted a meeting in collaboration with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, entitled, "The Vulnerability of Caribbean SIDS Revisited - It's All About size".

During the meeting, ECLAC said ministers participated in a panel discussion and mentioned the Caribbean SIDS journey and the role of the wider international community.

ECLAS said the panellists addressed the challenges related to the vulnerability of Caribbean SIDS as a result of small size and resulting limited capacity. It said the areas of trade and finance, governance and institutional capacity, disaster management and regional integration were also discussed.

ECLAC said the issue of classification of the majority of Caribbean SIDS as middle income countries, based on Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was also analyzed, adding that opportunities arising from small size were explored within the context of regional integration.

"The development imperatives that drive national decision making are related to size", said Jamaica's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Arnold J. Nicholson, who moderated the meeting.

ECLAC's Director of Programme Planning and Operations Division, Raúl García-Buchaca, said the discussion focused on the critical factors that underpin the vulnerability of Caribbean SIDS and that are based on their unique characteristics.

"The middle income status based on GDP per capita does not consider the inequalities that exist even at the national level. Narrowing of gaps within countries is essential, and this could be done through collaboration," he said.

During the meeting, Antigua and Barbuda diplomat, John Ashe, the President of the 68th Session of the United Nations delivered a statement focusing on the particular vulnerabilities of Caribbean SIDS and suggested that they should be mainstreamed into the post-2015 UN Development Agenda.

Trinidad and Tobago's Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran noted that conflicting interests make it difficult to work together in the theme of SIDS and suggested examining the "systemic problems that create the conditions in which we live".

Dookeran also questioned whether the Caribbean's vulnerability comes from size, geography or structure and that buffers to external shocks should be built by working together with development partners and international financial institutions.


Region warned to brace for full impact of Chikungunya

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Sept 3, (CMC) – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is warning the Caribbean to be prepared for the "full impact" of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus eight months after the first case was detected. CARPHA executive director Dr. James Hospedales told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that almost all Caribbean Community (CARICCOM) countries have now reported cases of the virus.

"There are a total of over 9,000 confirmed cases. There is an estimate in excess of 600,000 cases in total, most of those being from the bigger countries like the Dominican Republic and Haiti with 37 deaths in total.

"So it continues to spread, we will have an expert consultation next month to look at all the plans and also to see how we better inform and protect people and protect the economy of the region," Dr. Hospedales told CMC.

HE SAID Caribbean governments were making a "valiant effort" in dealing with the virus, adding "what we have been doing has not been sufficient and the increase of dengue that we have seen in the last years is a marker that what we are doing is not working as well as it ought to work.

"That's partly why we are having this experts meeting next month to look at what's new in terms of the science and how can we better educate people and how can we deal with the mosquitoes that are so prevalent," he added.

Chikungunya is a viral disease, carried mainly by the aedes aegypti mosquito and causes a dengue-like sickness.

Symptoms include a sudden high fever, severe pain in the wrists, ankles or knuckles, muscle pain, headache, nausea, and rash. Joint pain and stiffness are more common with chikungunya than with dengue.

The symptoms appear between four to seven days after the bite of an infected mosquito. The majority of clinical signs and symptoms last three to 10 days, but joint pain may persist longer. Severe cases requiring hospitalisation are rare.


Jamaican food chain Golden Krust sues rival over name

NEW YORK, (CMC) – The owners of the popular Golden Krust food chain in the US have filed a lawsuit to stop a rival Jamaican food company -- Silver Krust -- from partially using its name. In papers filed in Manhattan Federal Court Friday, Golden Krust says it's been "among the most successful minority owned businesses in the country" since opening in the 1990s, and the knockoff is hurting its reputation.

"Without plaintiffs' knowledge or approval, defendants set up a competing Caribbean food restaurant they, not coincidentally, called Silver Krust," the suit says.

"Defendants use the distinctive K in misspelling KRUST, and have merely substituted Golden with Silver in coming up with" their name, the suit adds.

Golden Krust claims that Silver Krust sells some of Golden Krust's products, and "have gradually expanded their Silver Krust restaurant locations so they have become closer and closer to genuine Golden Krust restaurants," according to the lawsuit.

There are currently six Silver Krust restaurants in Brooklyn and Queens, the lawsuit says adding that there's been "actual confusion about the relationship" between the two chains.

The suit claims that when Golden Krust communicated with Silver Krust about the problem, a representative for Silver Krust "readily apologized" for the name, but has failed to change it.

Golden Krust wants a court order forcing Silver Krust to change its name and to grant unspecified money damages for the "blatant infringement of their trademarks."

Silver Krust lawyer Bruce Colfin said he's yet to see the lawsuit, adding that the dispute is "more complicated than it sounds."

He told the New York Daily News that Silver Krust has "been in business for several years," and that Golden Krust should have spoken up earlier.


Increase tourist arrivals to the Caribbean

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Aug 29, (CMC) - The Caribbean recorded a rise in visitor arrivals during the first half of this year, keeping pace with the world average, according to figures released by the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

It said the region enjoyed a 4.3 per cent increase during the first six months of the 2014, much in line with the world average of 4.7 per cent.

CTO director of research and information technology, Winfield Griffith, speaking on the CTO's television programme, "Destination Caribbean" aired on CARIBVISION on Thursday night, said that just under 14 million long-stay tourists visited the Caribbean between January and June, with nearly half this number ( 6.87 million) coming from the United States.

He said compared to the same period last year when 6.61 million American visitors arrived in the Caribbean, the 2014 figure represents a 3.9 per cent rise in arrivals from the US market.

"There is enough evidence to suggest that there is growing economic confidence in the region's biggest neighbour and this is releasing much pent-up travel demand caused by a long recessionary period". Griffith said.

The CTO research head stated that just 21 countries in the region were able to breakdown their tourist arrivals by destination in time for the report. From the most recent figures it was clear that more Europeans and Canadians are gravitating to the region showing increases of six and 4.3 per cent respectively.

For the winter period, January to April, at least five countries reported double digit growth and the CTO said that destinations continue to power through the current summer showing signs of doing exceptionally well this year.

Griffith also announced that the cruise sector enjoyed an eight per cent increase in passenger arrivals to reach 13.1 million after the first half of this year.

Meanwhile, CTO secretary general Hugh Riley, speaking ahead of the organisation's annual "State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC) to be held in the United States Virgin Islands, said stakeholders will seek to evaluate the state of the industry during the September 17-19 event that will focus on "Positioning Caribbean tourism for major change".

"So it really focuses very squarely on where the CTO is suggesting that Caribbean tourism should go within a specific time…and the conference is looking at how we are going to get from where we are today to where we say we want to be.

"I think participants can expect to see us take a fairly logical step by step approach to looking at all of the issues that are involved in helping or hindering that processing of realising that vision for Caribbean tourism," he told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).


Haiti urged to hold legislative and municipal elections in 2014

WASHINGTON, Aug 28, (CMC) – The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) has adopted a declaration calling on the three branches of government in Haiti to comply with an earlier agreement to hold legislative and municipal elections by the end of this year.

The Council said that the Haitian authorities must respect the agreement, known as El Rancho, that had been agreed to by political stakeholders in the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country and call the legislative and municipal elections by the end of 2014.


Caribbean and Latin America poverty on the decline – UNDP

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador, Wednesday August 27, 2014, (CMC) - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says poverty is on the decline in the Caribbean and Latin American. In launching its latest report here to complement global analysis on vulnerability and resilience that was presented in Japan, the UNDP said more than 56 million people have been lifted out of poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean in recent years.

In assessing 18 countries in the region, the report says poverty levels from 2000-2012 fell from 41.7 per cent to 25.3 percent of the population.

But despite the progress, it warned that about 200 million people, or 37.8 per cent of the population, remained vulnerable.

"In Latin America and the Caribbean, poverty has been reduced by almost half in the last decade, and the middle class rose from 22 percent of the population in 2000 to 34 percent in 2012," said Jessica Faieta, UNDP director or Latin America and the Caribbean.

"Despite these achievements, a very high share of the population is living in constant uncertainty. They are neither classified as living in poverty, nor have they gained access to a stable middle class status."

According to the report, people living on between four and 10 US dollars a day increased by 3.4 per cent between 2000 and 2012.

The report, however, said more than a third of people in the region remained vulnerable, like these living in a slum in Peru, according to the BBC. The UNDP has called for more investment in social protection programmes in the region.

"Clearly, if countries of the region do not reduce their vulnerabilities and strengthen their resilience to financial crises and natural disasters, we won't able to guarantee, let alone expand, progress in the social, economic and environmental realms," Faieta warned.

She also stated that the pace of social and economic progress is slower now than it has been in the past decade, not just in Latin America and the Caribbean but in every other region of the world.


Antigua seeking Chinese funds to establish local university

ST. JOHN'S, Antigua, Tuesday August 26, 2014, (CMC) – Antigua and Barbuda is hoping that China will provide US$18 million towards the expansion of the Five Islands Secondary School to the University College Antigua. Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who is on an official visit to Beijing, has officially informed the principals of China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) of the intention of his government regarding the facility, according to a government statement issued here Tuesday.

It said that prior to leaving here, Prime Minister Browne toured the facilities at Five Islands with Chinese Ambassador Ren Gongping and noted that the new proposal will include student dorms, an expanded library, expanded ICT facility, Olympic size swimming pool and tennis courts.

Prime Minister Browne said he has already started talks with the University of the West Indies (UWI) on establishing the local university and that the government will be appointing a National Committee with a corresponding committee from the UWI to produce a proposal for collaboration and a timeframe for implementation.

The statement said that Prime Minister Browne is expected to finalise the agreement for US$18 million towards the expansion of the facility at Five Islands.

"Prime Minister Browne said that CCECC is very important to strengthening the business relations between China and Antigua and Barbuda and he is confident that after his visit, cooperation and trade will be heightened. He said that his government's desire to strengthened relations is demonstrated in its recent decision to abolish the requirement for visas for Chinese nationals to visit Antigua and Barbuda," the statement added.

Prime Minister Browne has also indicated that his government is prepared to enter into a public private partnership arrangement with CCECC for the construction of an additional hotel and shops in the area.


Japan ready to offer flu drug for Ebola treatment

TOKYO (AP) — Japan said Monday it is ready to provide a Japanese-developed anti-influenza drug as a possible treatment for the rapidly expanding Ebola outbreak. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that Japan can offer favipiravir, developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings Corp., at any time at the request of the World Health Organisation.

Suga said Japan is watching for a decision by WHO that would provide more details on the use of untested drugs. In case of an emergency, Japan may respond to individual requests before any further decision by WHO, he said. WHO said earlier this month that it is ethical to use untested drugs on Ebola patients given the magnitude of the outbreak.

The drug, developed by Fujifilm subsidiary Toyama Chemical Co. under the brand name Avigan to treat new and re-emerging influenza viruses, was approved by Japan's health ministry in March. Fujifilm is in talks with the US Food and Drug Administration on clinical testing of the drug in treating Ebola, company spokesman Takao Aoki said.

The company has enough stock of favipiravir for more than 20,000 patients, Aoki said. He said Ebola and influenza viruses are the same type and a similar effect can theoretically be expected for Ebola.

Several drugs are being developed for the treatment of Ebola. They are still in the early stages and there is no proven treatment or vaccine for the often fatal disease.

Favipiravir inhibits viral gene replication within infected cells to prevent propagation, while other anti-viral drugs often are designed to inhibit the release of new viral particles to prevent the spread of infection, the company said.

Recently, two American doctors recovered from Ebola after being treated with the experimental drug ZMapp, though it was unclear whether they were cured by the drug.

ZMapp, developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., had never been tested on humans, although an early version worked in some Ebola-infected monkeys. It is aimed at boosting the immune system's efforts to fight off Ebola. Ebola has killed more than 1,400 people in West Africa in the latest outbreak.


Jamaican Diaspora remits US $16 billion over last ten years

WASHINGTON DC (JIS) -- Jamaicans living overseas have remitted US $16 billion to the island over the past 10 years. The figure was disclosed by Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Arnaldo Brown, while addressing the launch of the Mapping Jamaica's Diaspora Project recently in Baltimore, Maryland.

Brown said the level of inflow demonstrates the continued commitment of the Diaspora to the development of the country.

He noted that last year alone, there were over 300 health missions to the island, while schools continue to receive tremendous support from organisations, institutions and alumni groups.

The State Minister, in hailing the contribution, called on members to strengthen their partnership "with their land of origin in the areas identified in the national grow and investment agenda," by participating in the Mapping Jamaica's Diaspora Project.

Brown said that there are an estimated three million Jamaicans living in the Diaspora, with the United States accounting for 1.8 million of that number. The United Kingdom and Canada are home to approximately 800,000 and 300,000 Jamaicans, respectively.

He encouraging them to log on at www.mapjadiaspora.iom.int and take the online survey, to register their skills, interests and location. He said the goal is to have a 100,000 Jamaicans in the database by June 2015.


Suriname no longer hosting African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) summit

PARAMARIBO, Suriname, Aug 20, (CMC) – Suriname says it will no longer host the summit of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries here in November. A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Cabinet had reconsidered hosting the November 6-7 summit because the Dutch-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country would still be chair of the Union of South American States (UNASUR).

The Ministry said that there were "some internal matters that should be taken care of first". An exact date for the transfer could not yet be given because that would be determined by the Presidential elections that will take place in Brazil, Bolivia and Uruguay itself. The press release stated that as Suriname will remain UNASUR chair until at least October, this brings with it "enormous responsibilities." It said the pressure the ACP Agenda would create prompted the President to decide to reconsider hosting the summit. The cancelation comes a week after Suriname said it was making all necessary preparations for the summit, including putting in place measures to prevent possible transmission of the deadly Ebola virus by visitors from West Africa.

Since the beginning of this year, more than 1,000 people have died from Ebola in West Africa in the most severe outbreak of the virus since it was first identified in 1976. Among the hundreds of officials from the 79-member ACP, there would be delegates from West Africa. The ACP Group includes former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.


Kamla wants Caribbean leaders to meet on Ebola and Chikungunya

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Wednesday August 20, 2014, (CMC) – Trinidad and Tobago has called for a meeting of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders to discuss a coordinated response to the public health threats posed by the Ebola and Chikungunya viruses.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar, responding to an advisory issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) said Port of Spain would be willing to host the meeting.

"My advice to colleague Heads of Government in the Caribbean is to take preemptive measures to ensure the safety, health and well-being of millions of citizens of the Caribbean region. While our risk is low, our actions must further diminish the risks to our citizens. And I am confident that nations across CARICOM will respond favourably," she said.

"The meeting will feature discussions geared towards orchestrating a plan of action in response to the increasing number of cases of Chikungunya in the Caribbean and the prevention of the Ebola virus disease," according to a statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister, adding that it would also "be instrumental in CARICOM's stance, together with the rest of the global community in the fight against these life threatening viruses.

It said furthermore, CARICOM must address international decisions made which will undoubtedly affect the region's tourism industry.

So far, the Caribbean has not recorded any cases of the Ebola virus that has caused a number of deaths in Africa, but many regional countries have reported cases of the mosquito borne Chikungunya virus.

"As Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, my approach to regional matters is similar to my approach here at home, we must not wait for a crisis to act".

The statement said that the meeting will also act as a direct response to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) which has been calling for CARICOM member states "to adequately prepare for potential cases to implement the necessary steps to protect health care facilities, patients, health care workers and communities".

The statement noted that Jamaica is already moving to acquire fever-detecting devices to use at its ports as part of efforts to boost the country's defence against the deadly Ebola and other viruses.


United States court has granted subpoena to the Trinidad Integrity Commission

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug 19, (CMC) – A United States court has granted a subpoena to the Integrity Commission here allowing it to request information from the internet search engine, Google, as part of its investigation into the alleged "Emailgate" scandal here.

Justice William H Orrick of the Northern District of California Court on August 14 granted the application for subpoena seeking information for the email accounts "anand@gmail.com," "anand@tstt.net.tt," and "kamlapb1@gmail.com," "which the Commission said was relevant to a criminal investigation into possible governmental corruption.

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley on May 20, 2013 told Parliament he had received 31 emails purporting to show correspondence between Prime Minister Persad Bissessar, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, Local Government and Works Minister Suruj Rambachan and then security adviser Gary Griffith, in a sinister move to undermine the judiciary, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and the media.

Rowley said the emails, dating back to September 2012, were from people concerned with the government's defence of the early proclamation of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Act that had the effect of allowing people, whose trial has not started after a 10-year period to walk free and a verdict of not guilty entered against their

Critics say that the clause was aimed at supporting businessmen Ish Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson, who have been described as financiers of the ruling United National Congress (UNC), the biggest partner in the four-member coalition People's Partnership government.

The two are facing fraud and laundering charges relating to the re-development of the Piarco International Airport in 2001. They are also wanted in the United States on a number of related charges.

The government officials have all denied the accusations and Prime Minister Persad Bissessar and Ramlogan have filed pre-action protocol letters alleging that Rowley on May 23, 2013, at a public meeting continued to use the e-mails as the basis for his assertion.

Justice Orrick ruled that the application by the Integrity Commission met both the statutory requirements and discretionary factors.

He ruled that Google itself is not the subject of the case and since it's out of the jurisdiction of Trinidad and Tobago law enforcement, any evidence will be unobtainable without Google's help.

He said there was also no evidence the request is an attempt to circumvent foreign proof-gathering restrictions or any country's policies and that it's not "intrusive or burdensome."

The judge said the subpoena is only a request for information concerning three accounts and an affidavit to authenticate…and according to the document, one of the owners, Anand Ramlogan, has given consent to search his TSTT account which is operated by Google.

"The Commission shall serve Google with this Order and the subpoena, and shall file proof of service on the day service is effected. Google may move to modify or quash this subpoena within 14 days of service. "Any return date for the subpoena shall be at least 14 days after the date Google is served so that Google may have a reasonable amount to file any motion; the return date shall be stayed if such a motion is filed. The Commission shall file any response within 14 days of any motion by Google," the judge ruled.

Chairman of the Integrity Commission, Ken Gordon, is quoted in the NEWSDAY newspaper on Tuesday as saying "things seem be to going forward and we all want to get the facts".


Caribbean fine tuning new system to detect harmful products on local markets

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, (CMC) - Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are implementing a new system aimed at protecting consumers from acquiring dangerous goods on the regional markets.

The Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat is assisting member states in implementing the CARICOM Rapid Alert System for Exchange of Information on Dangerous (non-food) Consumer Goods (CARREX) as the Caribbean seeks to boost consumer protection and confidence as well as improve the quality of products entering and trading on the regional market.

"CARREX will act in the interests of regional consumers regardless of the origin of these dangerous goods whether of Community origin or imported into the Community; once there is an inherent threat to the health and safety of consumers, said Philip McClauren, the deputy programme manager at the Barbados-based CARICOM CSME Unit,."

The programme functions as an alert system and is designed to operate as a regional mechanism for sharing information between member states and the CARICOM Secretariat when a dangerous product is detected.

McClauren, addressing the CARREX In-Country Consultation here Thursday said that the system must be seen as a critical mechanism for the region. It was designed in response to concerns of persistent product dumping on the regional market.

McClauren said the international agencies the region are primarily concerned about their markets and are not obligated to act or "issue alerts if the dangerous goods are in a foreign market," including the Caribbean.

He told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that "consumers would now be made more aware of the goods on the market that inherit risk or problems." Adding that "the media is very critical as a vehicle to help us inform the public at home, the Diaspora and consumers generally where ever they are".

CARREX software would function as a webportal system for sharing information and the CARICOM Secretariat is using the in-country missions to fine-tune and address he technical concerns associated with the system so as to ensure it is user friendly and accessible to all stakeholders.

Barbados is the fifth CARICOM country visited by the team.


CARICOM to harmonise Caribbean business rules

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Thursday August 14, 2014, (CMC) - The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has started work towards creating a harmonized framework within which companies and other businesses can be established and operate in the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

To fulfill this mandate, BKP Development Research and Consulting in consortium with AESA, has been awarded the contract to strengthen the CSME Regulatory and Market Regimes. CARICOM Heads are striving to ensure that the rules for establishing and operating businesses in one country apply throughout the CSME.

The two year consultancy started last month, with funding through the 10th European Development Fund and is expected to be completed by July 2016.

In addition to the Single Jurisdiction, the project will also strengthen the framework for regulating competition, strengthen consumer protection and create the structure for companies from startup to bankruptcy.

It is expected that systems and practices for business complaints administration and determination of competition disputes will be put in place through the training of staff of national competition authorities.


Integrity Commission goes after Google

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug. 14, (CMC) – A subpoena has been filed in the US Federal Court ordering Google to provide information to aid the "Emailgate" investigations. The Integrity Commission has hired top US attorney Gina Durham, partner co-Chair, US Social Media Practice at DLA Piper law firm, to initiate action.

The Trinidad Express reports that in a lawsuit filed on Monday in the Northern District court of California, Durham said the Integrity Commission requires the information to authenticate the alleged e-mails which would assist the commission in determining whether an offence was committed which should be turned over the Direction of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in support of an ongoing criminal investigation.

This move by the Integrity Commission comes more than a year since Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley made the allegations.

On May 20, 2013, Rowley, during his motion of no confidence against the People's Partnership Government and the Prime Minister, disclosed the contents of 31 "e-mails" purporting to be exchanges between Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, Minister of Local Government Surujrattan Rambachan and then national security adviser to the Prime Minister, Gary Griffith.

The e-mails alleged that plans were in the making to harm a journalist, plant electronic spy devices in the Office of the DPP, and offer the DPP a judgeship with respect to the Section 34 fiasco in September 2012.

"As part of an investigation into possible corruption at the highest levels of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, the commission is seeking to learn the owner of the e-mail accounts and authenticate specifically prior published e-mails that purportedly were sent from accounts maintained on servers controlled by Google (the "E-mails")" stated Durham in her lawsuit.

"The commission requests this Court's assistance in having these specific e-mails authenticated, in aid of the commission's ongoing investigation," stated the document. Durham outlined the allegations against the public officials named and listed the e-mails which the allegations purportedly came from.

She said the Prime Minister has not confirmed that any of the e-mail addresses belong to her.


New guidelines for marijuana arrests

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Aug 13, 2014 (CMC) - The Jamaica government has outlined new guidelines which are to be implemented immediately by police regarding how they treat persons who are charged with minor offences such as possession of small quantities of marijuana.

National Security Minister Peter Bunting said that the guidelines would allow for law enforcement officials proceeding by way of summons where a Justice of Peace is available.

"If a Justice of Peace (JP) is not available, or if the offender is unable to provide identification or is unable to be identified by other means, he/she may be taken to a police station until identification can be verified. Once identification is verified, the person should be granted bail on his/her own recognizance."

Bunting said that in exceptional cases, such as, if the offender is being investigated for other serious offences, "persons will be given bail with conditions, or be remanded in custody.

The new guidelines arose from a memorandum on the matter from the Attorney General's Chambers, and followed discussions between Bunting and Acting Police Commissioner Glenmore Hinds.

The Attorney-General Patrick Atkinson was asked to review the existing situation with view to recommending new guidelines, if deemed necessary, following the death of Mario Deane in hospital last week, after he was severely beaten while in custody at the Barnet Street lock-up for possession of a marijuana cigarette.

Six police officers, who were on duty at the time of Deane's injury, have been interdicted and suspended with immediate effect, as investigations continue to determine possible culpability.

Dean's family has already announced plans to sue the state arguing that the state failed to protect him while he was in the custody of law enforcement authorities after being arrested on August 3.

Meantime, Bunting says he expects to receive from the Acting Commissioner of Police, "by Monday the latest," a report on new arrangements for the care and protection of persons in police custody.

This is in response to a directive from the Minister to the Police High Command last Thursday, "that there needed to be an immediate and comprehensive review of all the procedures and arrangements governing detentions."

The Minister, in his statement, said he "joins with the family and all well thinking citizens in mourning the death of Mario Deane and reaffirms the government's resolve to make the necessary policy and legislative changes to avoid recurrence of such a tragedy".


Legislators debate controversial Constitution Amendment Bill

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug 11, (CMC) – Debate on the controversial Constitution Amendment Bill is expected to begin here on Monday amid growing opposition and a call by the second largest member of the coalition government to delay the vote on the legislation.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar piloted the Bill when the Parliament began at 10.30 am (local time). But the Constitutional Amendment Bill, failed to get the support of two senior government ministers, including Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran. One other government minister abstained during the voting.

Dookeran told legislators during the mammoth 18 hour parliamentary session that he could not sit there and "allow the next generation's interest be compromised by the politics of today".

The legislation, which the government said needed just a simple majority to be passed, also allows for a mechanism to recall legislators.

As she piloted the legislation on Monday, Prime Minister Persad Bissessar told parliament that she would lift the collective responsibility of Cabinet in order to allow government legislators to vote according to their consciences.

During his contribution, Dookeran was critical of Attorney General Anand Ramlogan who over the past few days had been engaged in a public quarrel with Dr. Merle Hodge, a member of the Constitutional Reform Commission (CRC), who said the run-off proposals had not been discussed during the public consultations.

"Dr Merle Hodge is indeed a respected activist, it is unfortunate that she was attacked especially by my colleague," Dookeran said as he referred to a letter submitted by the former University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer on the run-off provision in the bill.

"The run-off mechanism directly contradicts the principle of proportional representation which is a central recommendation of the Constitution Reform Commission," Dookeran said, telling legislators that "over the last 12 hours or so I have been in a state of great torment.


Two new Chikungunya cases confirmed in Jamaica

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Friday August 8, 2014, (CMC) – Health Minister Dr. Fenton Ferguson Thursday confirmed two new cases of the mosquito borne disease, Chikungunya. He told a news conference that the victims had no travel history outside of Jamaica

The new cases bring to four the number of persons infected with the virus here. Health authorities said that the first two cases were of people who had traveled to countries where the Chikungunya virus had already been detected.

Dr. Ferguson said vector control measures have also been implemented at the commercial office of one of the affected persons as the Ministry of Health stepped up its activities to help eradicate the aedes aegypti mosquito, which also spreads dengue.

Earlier this week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said the number of new cases of the Chikungunya virus in the Caribbean increased by nearly 38,000 with the Dominican Republic having the most cases.

PAHO said that the total figure for the mosquito-borne disease had reached 513,393 cases compared with 473,523 cases a week earlier.

In total, the Caribbean countries had a total of 4, 135 suspected cases with 527 confirmed. PAHO said 35 of these cases were imported from another country.


Flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia suspended amid escalating Ebola fears

LONDON, England, Thursday August 7, 2014 – As Nigeria's health minister described the Ebola outbreak as a national emergency that could become an international emergency, and the death toll in the four affected West African countries inched relentlessly closer to the 1,000 mark, British Airways became the latest airline to temporarily suspended flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia.

On Tuesday, the UK's national flag carrier confirmed that it is grounding the flights until month-end because of "the deteriorating public health situation in both countries."

According to a British Airways spokesman: "The safety of our customers, crew and ground teams is always our top priority and we will keep the route under constant review in the coming weeks.

"Customers with tickets on those routes are being offered a range of options including a full refund and the ability to rebook their flights to a later date."

British Airways, which until the suspension operated four flights weekly to Monrovia, Liberia, and Freetown, Sierra Leone, joins three other airlines that have grounded flights over concerns about the Ebola epidemic that is known to have infected more than 1,600 people in the past few months.

African carriers Arik and ASKY were the first to take precautionary measures by halting flights to Guinea, while Dubai-based carrier Emirates became the first major international airline to cancel flights to Ebola-hit countries late last week.

Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are battling the worst Ebola outbreak since the virus was first detected in 1976. Two deaths and a growing number of cases have been reported in Nigeria since the deadly virus was imported by air.

United States citizens have been warned to avoid travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as Ebola fears intensify, while Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is encouraging people to refer to the National Travel Health Network and Centre's website before travelling


CARPHA says risk of Ebola in the Caribbean "Low"

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug 6, (CMC) – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) says the risk of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) being imported to the Caribbean is low. "There have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in the Caribbean, and overall, the risk of becoming infected with the Ebola virus in this region remains low," said CARPHA executive director, Dr. C. James Hospedales.

He said that in countries where the virus is present, "people who have direct contact with the organs, blood, or other bodily fluids of dead or living infected persons or animals are those at greatest risk"

"Ebola spreads through mucous and other body fluids or secretions such as stool, urine, saliva and semen of infected people.

"In the unlikely event of a person infected with Ebola travelling to the Caribbean, the available evidence shows that the risk of secondary transmission to direct close contacts (family or relatives) or in healthcare settings is still considered very low, if appropriate prevention measures are implemented.

"The risk from casual contact, such as shaking hands or sitting next to someone who is not displaying symptoms is also likely to be very low," he added.

CARPHA said it had evaluated the risk of importation of the disease to the Caribbean following an increase in the number of cases of EVD in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The World Health Organization (WHO), which began a two-day meeting in Geneva on Wednesday, said that since August 4, there have been 1,711 confirmed cases of EVD and 932 deaths in the four African countries, namely, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.


Eight Caribbean governments purchase CCRIF parametric rainfall insurance

GRAND CAYMAN, Cayman Islands, Wednesday August 6, 2014, CMC – The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) says it is now providing excess rainfall insurance coverage to eight regional countries as the Caribbean continues to take precautions against possible damage caused by storms and hurricanes during the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season.

CCRIF is a not-for-profit risk pooling facility, owned and operated by Caribbean governments. It is designed to limit the financial impact of catastrophic hurricanes and earthquakes to Caribbean governments by quickly providing short-term liquidity when a parametric insurance policy is triggered.

The new excess rainfall product has been eagerly awaited by Caribbean governments as we all realize that considerable damage in the region is caused by rainfall and flooding.

"This product complements CCRIF's hurricane coverage which determines losses based on wind and storm surge. We commend our eight members for taking the initiative and purchasing this ground-breaking product and hope that other countries in the region will follow," said CCRIF chief executive officer, Isaac Anthony.

Developed by CCRIF and global reinsurer, Swiss Re, the excess rainfall product is aimed primarily at extreme high rainfall events of short duration whether they occur during a tropical cyclone or not.

"Because the excess rainfall product is parametric, a payout can be made quickly -within 14 days- after a rain event that triggers a country's policy, without waiting for time-consuming damage and loss assessments on the ground," the CCRIF said in a statement.

Chairman, Global Partnerships, Martyn Parker, speaking on behalf of Swiss Re said securing excess rainfall insurance protection demonstrates that Caribbean countries are taking a proactive approach to manage the contingent risks posed by climate change.

CCRIF said that the regional countries that have acquired the new policy will now be able to respond better to an event such as the trough that brought heavy rains to the Eastern Caribbean in December last year, resulting in the loss of life, extensive damage to infrastructure and wide-spread economic disruption.

Almost every hurricane season, Caribbean countries suffer millions of dollars in losses as a result of the destruction caused by the storms.


Slight economic growth for the Caribbean

SANTIAGO, Chile, Aug 5, (CMC) – The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) says Caribbean economies are expected to recover in 2014, while lowering the growth forecast for the entire region to 2.2 per cent.

ECLAC has unveiled its report, "Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean 2014," indicating that Caribbean economies will grow to two per cent "which implies a recovery from the 1.2 per cent registered in 2013".


Caribbean travellers to the US can expect new customs declaration forms

WASHINGTON D.C., United States, (CMC) - The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency says it has issued a new customs declaration form "in print and online" that expands the definition of family members for arriving Caribbean and other travellers.

CBP said the definition expands to "members of a family residing in the same household who are related by blood, marriage, domestic relationship, or adoption". The agency said it has accepted this family definition since the final rule became effective on January 17.

It said the new form – CBP Form 6059B – provides the expanded definition in the first paragraph.

CBP said the recent regulation change allows more returning US citizens, residents and international visitors to file a joint customs declaration for items acquired abroad.

"This produces less paperwork for people travelling together as a family and streamlines passenger processing, thereby increasing efficiency for CBP, airline personnel and the travelling public," the statement said. "Travellers may complete the declaration form online, print it and bring it on their trip to present to CBP when they arrive in the US or at a CBP preclearance site," it said.

CBP said air and cruise lines also will hand out the declaration forms for travellers to complete before disembarking in the US. In addition to clarifying the definition of family members, the final rule also clarified the term domestic relationship, which includes foster children, stepchildren, half-siblings, legal wards, other dependents, and individuals with an "in loco parentis or guardianship relationship".

The definition also includes two adults who are in a "committed relationship including, but not limited to, long-term companions and couples in civil unions or domestic partnerships where the partners are financially interdependent, and are not married to, or a partner of, anyone else".

CBP said "domestic relationship" does not extend to roommates or other cohabitants not otherwise meeting the above definition.

"Members of a family residing in one household" will continue to encompass relationships of blood, adoption and marriage, CBP said.

Under the new definition of domestic relationship, CBP said one combined family declaration can now be presented to the officer upon arrival.

As with any joint declaration, verbal or written, it said the person making and/or signing the declaration will be held accountable for its validity. For returning US residents, to be considered members of a family and to group exemptions from customs duty and internal revenue tax, CBP said the travelers must have lived together in one household at their last permanent residence and intend to live together in one household.

US regulations allow US residents to combine the personal duty exemptions of each family member.

For example, CBP said a family of five members returning directly from France would be entitled to a combined personal duty exemption of US$4,000.

For international visitors, such as those arriving from the Caribbean, CBP said the regulations allow them certain exemptions "gifts, tobacco, personal effects, etc," adding they can file a single family declaration.


Eastern Caribbean prepared for any Ebola virus 'eventuality'

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Friday August 1, 2014, (CMC) - St Lucia's national Epidemiologist, Nahum Jn Baptiste, is confident that the Eastern Caribbean sub-region is prepared for any eventuality in connection with the Ebola virus. Jn Baptiste told reporters that St Lucia and the other islands have trusted surveillance systems with which to track some of the main symptoms of viral diseases including dengue fever and chikungunya.

He also disclosed that the island is working with agencies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency.

"We feel fairly confident that should we get a case of the ebola virus in this part of the region, we will be prepared in terms of response and best practices, which is not to say that we are not concerned," Jn Baptiste said.

He noted that just this week local officials were in touch with the Trinidad based Caribbean Public Health Agency to obtain the agency's specific advice with respect to responding to the ebola virus.

According to the WHO, the Ebola virus (formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever) is a severe, often fatal illness, with a case fatality rate of up to 90 per cent. There is no known treatment for the disease.


On World Day against Trafficking in Persons, UN calls for action to eradicate scourge

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 31, (CMC) – Emphasizing that the practice of slavery still plagues modern society, the United Nations marked its first-ever World Day against Trafficking in Persons by calling on the international community to end impunity for perpetrators.

The UN Wednesday also called for help for victims, especially women and children, who continue to be particularly vulnerable to the perfidious trade.

"Most of those trafficked are vulnerable women and children deceived into a life of suffering. They are exploited for sex and forced to work in conditions akin to slavery," said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a statement.

The UN said millions of people are trafficked a year – women, men and children sold and forced to work in sweatshops, fields and brothels.

The global body said the purposes of trafficking in persons range from forced and bonded labor to various forms of sexual exploitation, forced marriage, organ removal and other contemporary practices similar to slavery.

Ban urged countries that have not yet done so, to ratify and fully implement the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol on Trafficking in Persons.

He said it is especially imperative to send a message of hope to survivors, emphasizing the need to support the Trust Fund for the Victims of Trafficking in Persons- established by the UN General Assembly in 2010 in line with the Global Plan of Action to tackle trafficking.


US officials detect new agricultural pest in luggage of Jamaican visitor

BALTIMORE, USA (CMC) - The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has confirmed the discovery of a new agricultural pest after intercepting the Chrysauginae (Pyralidae) caterpillar in the luggage of an unidentified Jamaican visitor.

CBP said caterpillars can pose a significant agriculture threat because they feed on a wide variety of important agriculture crops.

It said infestation can lead to a decrease in productivity and quality of crops, which can result in significant economic loss.

"When bacteria and fungi enter the injury caused by the feeding caterpillars, indirect effects such as rotting or early dropping of fruits can occur," CBP said, noting that the Chrysauginae caterpillar was discovered while inspecting soursop leaves in the passenger's luggage at Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport.

CBP said officials seized the infested leaves and forwarded a specimen to a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) entomologist for identification.

"CBP agriculture specialists are very good at detecting foreign invasive plants and plant pests," said Dianna Bowman CBP Area Port Director for the Port of Baltimore.

TUESDAY, JULY 28, 2014

Caribbean countries to benefit from Japanese aid

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jul 28, (CMC) – Japan is providing US$15 million to help several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries cope with the impact of climate change. The "Project for Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership" will help Guyana, Grenada, Jamaica, Suriname, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Dominica and Belize build the capacity to cope with climate change.

The agreement was signed on the margins of the first ever Japan-CARICOM summit here on Monday that was attended by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and several CARICOM heads of governments.

MONDAY, JULY 28, 2014

Japan PM to meet CARICOM leaders

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jul 27, (CMC) – Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Sunday began an official two-day visit to Trinidad and Tobago holding talks with Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar. A statement issued afterwards said that the two leaders had discussed a wide range of issues including possible Japanese investment in the oil-rich twin island Republic and the possibility of Port of Spain opening an embassy in Tokyo.

Abe, whose first ever visit here, forms part of his trip to Latin America and the Caribbean, will also meet with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders on Monday for talks that the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat said would include areas such as climate change, technical cooperation, trade and investment.

The CARICOM Secretariat said that the half-day summit is also expected to provide an opportunity for discussions on the upcoming Third United Nations Conference on Small Island States to be held in Samoa in September.

"The summit provides a timely opportunity to advance CARICOM's priorities in these areas and for fostering solidarity between CARICOM and Japan," the statement said.

Abe, who was met on arrival by Foreign Minister Winston Dookeran, expressed his gratitude to the Trinidad and Tobago government for its decision to waive entry visa requirements for Japanese nationals coming here to conduct business for a maximum period of 90 days.

According to the statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister, the two government leaders discussed the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) which establishes international standards for the movement of conventional arms and ammunition across borders. Both Japan and Trinidad and Tobago signed the treaty in 2013.

FRIDAY, JULY 25, 2014

May and June were the hottest months ever as global warming heats up

FLORIDA, United States, Friday July 25, 2014 (Caribbean360)– The planet appears to be turning up the jets, setting a global heat record last month hot on the heels of breaking the same record in May. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the average global temperature in June was 61.2 degrees, which is 1.3 degrees higher than the 20th century average, and beat the record set in 2010 by one-twentieth of a degree.

Although one-twentieth of a degree might not sound impressive, "it's like winning a horse race by several lengths" when it comes to temperature records, according to NOAA climate monitoring chief Derek Arndt.

Arndt went on to reveal that the world's oceans not only broke a monthly heat record at 62.7 degrees, but it was the hottest the oceans have been on record in any month.

"We are living in the steroid era of the climate system," he commented.

The climatologist explained that both the May and June records were driven by unusually hot oceans, especially the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Although the United States had only its 33rd hottest June, heat records were broken in June on every continent but Antarctica. Particularly high temperatures were recorded in New Zealand, northern South America, Greenland, central Africa and southern Asia.

According to NOAA, the first six months of this year were the third warmest first six months on record, trailing 2010 and 1998.

June was the 352nd hotter-than-average month in a row as determined by global temperature records dating back to 1880.


Drought induced food shortage confirmed in Jamaica

KINGSTON, Jamaica, (CMC) – The protracted dry spell across the island has led to a shortage of several food items based on an assessment completed by the Ministry of Agriculture. Donovan Stanberry, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry said the vegetables that are hard to come by include carrots, lettuce, tomatoes and onions.

According to Stanberry this was "somewhat inevitable, due to the length and severity of the drought" and has suggested that in light of the current shortage of some produce, consumers might have to consider food substitutes as a short-term measure.

He however disclosed that no application has been received for permits to import agricultural produce and has attributed this to the high cost of some imported items, and the fact that the tourism sector, which is the largest consumer of vegetables in Jamaica, is currently in its off-peak season.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture Ministry is pursuing strategies to ease the impact of the dry spell on agricultural production.

This drought mitigation strategy is aimed, not only at "preserving and recovering the crops in drought stricken areas," but also to expand production in areas across the country "which are getting adequate supply of rainfall," said Stanberry.

On Monday, Water Minister Robert Pickersgill, warned Jamaicans to brace for the worst as the dry spell continues.

Last week, the National Water Commission (NWC) reported that levels at the two main catchment facilities in the Corporate Area have dwindled to about one month's supply and the situation is deteriorating daily.


Caribbean HIV / AIDS fight to benefit from USAID US$500m global fund

MELBOURNE, Australia, Wednesday July 23, 2014, (CMC) – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recently announced that over US$500 million will be allocated for new efforts to achieve an aids-free generation in the Caribbean and other countries around the World.

The new programmes will support implementation of the blueprint for the US President Barak Obama's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), USAID said.

Announced at the 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) here, USAID said the investments illustrate how it is supporting the next phase of PEPFAR, and the global HIV and AIDS response.

"With this substantial investment, USAID and PEPFAR are better able to sustain a lasting impact in the global fight against HIV and AIDS," said USAID Assistant Administrator for Global Health Ariel Pablos-Méndez.

"By strengthening high impact interventions, engaging key populations, and supporting the capacity of local partners and host country governments, we know that it is possible to accelerate the end of this epidemic and realize the promise of an AIDS-free generation," he added.

USAID said the awards include US$250 million that will be implemented over five years for strengthening the impact interventions for an AIDS-Free Generation (AIDSFree).

It said the award also comprises USAID's Linkages Across the Continuum of HIV Services for Key Populations Affected by HIV (LINKAGES), a US$73 million award that will also be implemented over five years.

TUESDAY, JULY 22, 2014

GraceKennedy buys U.S. food chain

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Tuesday, July 22, 2014, (CMC) – GraceKennedy has acquired the assets of USA food business La Fe Foods Inc through its wholly owned subsidiary GraceKennedy Foods (USA) LLC for US$26 million.

Making the announcement Friday, GraceKennedy CEO, Don Wehby, stated, "This acquisition represents a major step for us, and will be the platform for the growth of GraceKennedy's North American business going forward."

La Fe Foods, a largely Hispanic food manufacturing and distributing company, was established in 1968 and currently has revenues of approximately US$80 million. It has operations in Moonachie, New Jersey; Miami, Florida and Raleigh, North Carolina, with brand and distribution presence in the New York/Tri-state area, Florida, Georgia and the East Coast.

"I am very excited to enter this new phase in GraceKennedy's history, and ask for your support as we continue to execute on achieving our vision."

"While we work to grow the business abroad, please know that our domestic market remains the fortress of our operations. We remain more focused than ever on strengthening this critical market through increased investments and well-devised strategies to ensure growth in market share here," Wehby stated.

There were management changes at the Jamaican conglomerate owing to the new acquisition.

Wehby revealed premiere among the changes, "Michael Ranglin has been appointed President and CEO of GraceKennedy Foods (USA) LLC, while retaining his substantive position as the CEO of the GK Foods Division. He will be based in New Jersey".

MONDAY, JULY 21, 2014

Jamaica water woes continue as drought worsens

KINGSTON, Jamaica, (CMC) – The water crisis across Jamaica's Corporate Area has worsened as the severe drought continues. The National Water Commission (NWC) is reporting that levels at the two main catchment facilities in the Corporate Area have dwindled to about one month's supply.

The NWC's Vice-President for Potable Water and Maintenance, Mark Blair, says the situation is deteriorating daily. "We have roughly around 30 days of storage left at the Hermitage Dam based on present usage and with the restrictions that we have placed on the distribution network and a similar amount of days the Mona Reservoir. We are operating at around 60% capacity.

He says supplies from alternative sources have to be shared with the Corporate Area and the eastern parish of St. Thomas. Meanwhile, with water supplies in the Corporate Area critically low, the NWC says there could be further restrictions.

"If nothing changes, we will have to make adjustments, we are making adjustments weekly as we look at the forecast. The Met Office says they expect moderate drought conditions even during September which is very frightning. We are very nervous about that and we hope that projection is wrong," he said.

A prohibition notice took effect a week ago restricting water usage.

Persons are not allowed to water gardens, lawns, grounds and farms; and are barred from filling tanks, ponds or swimming pools. The drought has also had an impact on farming communities, mainly in the southern parish of St Elizabeth.

FRIDAY, JULY 18, 2014

UN Secteray-General, Ban Ki-moon, makes 'necessary pilgrimage' to Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, (CMC) – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for intensified efforts to ensure access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation in Haiti, as he launched a new UN-supported initiative and met with families affected by the cholera epidemic.

"As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I want to assure you that the United Nations and its partners are strongly committed to ending the epidemic as quickly as possible," said Ban at a church service on Monday in the village of Los Palmas that has been ravaged by the epidemic.

"We are making progress, and we will continue to pursue with all our energy, our goal of freeing the country from the disease," he added, describing his visit as a "necessary pilgrimage".

"I know that the epidemic has caused much anger and fear. I know that the disease continues to affect an unacceptable number of people," Ban continued. "Whatever I say today will not lessen the despair you have felt over the loss of your loved ones." But the UN chief did not acknowledge the global body's alleged complicity in causing the epidemic, the subject of at least two lawsuits filed in the United States.

The UN said there have been about 703,000 suspected cases of cholera and an estimated 8,500 deaths since the beginning of the epidemic in October 2010. The disease had been absent from the earthquake-ravaged country for nearly 100 years until after the devastating January 2010 earthquake.

Forensic studies have identified the cholera bacteria as an Asian strain carried by Nepalese members of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Haiti, known by the French-acronym, MINUSTAH. The UN, however, said it has initiated a system-wide effort to support the Haitian Government to fight the disease. Ban has sought to raise US$2.2 billion to eradicate cholera.

In December 2012, he launched an initiative for the elimination of the disease in Haiti and the Dominican Republic that focuses on prevention, treatment and education, as well as infrastructure planning for the long-term.

The UN said concerted Haitian and international efforts have succeeded in significantly reducing the toll of the epidemic, and there has been a 74 per cent reduction of the number of cases in the first five months of 2014, compared to the same period last year.

However, despite the progress made, the UN said structural issues, including weak water, sanitation and health systems, enable cholera, acute diarrhoea or other waterborne diseases to persist.

While in Los Palmas, the Secretary-General launched, with Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, the country's "Total Sanitation Campaign", which aims to scale up sanitation and hygiene interventions in rural areas.

Ban described the campaign as "a development milestone" for the country, where half the population lacks access to adequate sanitation systems.


Pakistani teenage activist Malala to visit Trinidad

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) – Seventeen year old Pakistani activist, Malala Yousafzai will visit the twin island republic on July 31. This was confirmed on Monday in a news release from the Ministry of Tertiary Education and Skills Training.

Malala gained worldwide attention in 2012, when a Taliban gunman, who opposed the teenager's advocacy for women's rights to education, entered the school bus in which she was travelling and shot her in the head.

She survived the attack and went on to continue her advocacy work, most recently campaigning for the release of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram.

Malala has received numerous awards for her work as an activist, including the National Youth Peace Prize, the Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice and International Prize for Equality and Non-Discrimination among others.

Her birthday, July 12, has been named "Malala Day".

Praising Malala's initiative, Tertiary Education Minister Fazal Karim said, "We in Trinidad and Tobago are extremely fortunate to live in a country where all of our citizens are offered universal, free access to education from the pre-school to tertiary levels and as such we can be seen as a model of what this young lady is advocating for, across the world."

A news release from the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) confirmed that Malala will be hosted by the institution in celebration of its tenth anniversary.

"She is a transformative voice in this generation—an advocate for the rights of girls in all countries and cultures to be able to access quality education," the release stated.


Jamaica investigates first possible case of chikungunya virus

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday July 16, 2014, (CMC) – The Ministry of Health is investigating a suspected case of the Chikungunya virus in an individual who travelled from an affected country and fell ill.

In a release late Tuesday, Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kevin Harvey said the individual had screening tests done at a private laboratory which indicated the illness, following which a sample was taken and sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad for confirmation.

Should this be positive it will confirm Jamaica's first imported case of the chikungunya virus.

"This does not indicate local spread of the virus and we continue to monitor persons living in and around areas visited by the individual. We have heightened our vector control activities to reduce the possibility of local spread," Harvey explained.

He said Ministry of Health has been putting measures in place for more than two years in anticipation of chikungunya virus.

There is no specific treatment for the chikungunya virus nor is there a vaccine.

"The Aedes aegypti is a day biting mosquito that will almost always be found in and around areas where people live, work and play. The mosquito breeds in water that settles around homes, schools, churches, workplaces and playgrounds," he said.

To date, twenty-eight countries in the Caribbean and Latin American Region have reported cases of Chikungunya with a total of 5,227 confirmed.

TUESDAY, JULY 15, 2014

Taiwanese disburse funds for crop improvement

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, July, 15 (CMC) – The agriculture industry has received a boost with the with the disbursement of just over US$324,000.00 from the Government of the Republic of China (ROC) – Taiwan

In addition to the training of technicians and farmers the funds will also ensure the construction of several facilities. These would include soil fertility analysis and pesticide residue detection laboratories as well as a compost demonstration site.

These actions fall under the Vegetable, Fruit and Upland Crop Quality and Safety Improvement Project which came into being with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on March 14, 2014. The MOU was signed by St. Kitts and Nevis' Minister of Agriculture Honourable Nigel Carty and ROC – Taiwan's Resident Ambassador His Excellency Miguel Le-Jey Tsao.

The project is expected to last for four years up until December 31, 2017 with total funding of just under US$3.2 million. The ROC Government will provide US$2,468,723 while the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis will supply the equivalent of US$723,000.

In attendance at the June 25, handing over ceremony for the first disbursement of funds was His Excellency Miguel Tsao, Minister Carty, Project Manager Chang-Ching-Ching Yeh "Fernando" along with representatives from the Taiwanese Embassy and the Ministry of Agriculture.

MONDAY, JULY 14, 2014

ID cards for NY Caribbean immigrants

NEW YORK, July 13, 2014 (CMC) – New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, has signed legislation to create a municipal identification card for Caribbean and other immigrants living in the city, including undocumented persons.

"Even for those who already have IDs, we're going to make sure that this card brings a lot to the equation, a lot of benefits that will go with it," said deBlasio, whose wife, Chirlane, traces her roots to Barbados.

"But for those who don't have ID, it's going to be crucial," he said when signing on to the new law Thursday.
Although de Blasio originally wanted the ID card law to roll out before the end of the year, it's now scheduled to launch in January, the New York Daily News reported.

The mayor assured undocumented Caribbean applicants for the new ID card that they will not be asked about their immigration status.

"We want all New Yorkers to feel very comfortable working with the police," deBlasio said. "We want them to be very able to identify themselves to the police and do it in an atmosphere of safety.

"This is going to play a crucial role in deepening the relationship between police and community, including a lot of our immigrant communities," he added.

City Councilmen Carlos Menchaca and Daniel Dromm, who sponsored the measure, said the bill would allow a large section of the city's marginalized populations to receive benefits and access to simple services like opening a bank account or renting an apartment.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the first Puerto Rican-born elected official to hold the position in New York City, described the bill as "historic." "Today, we're living up to our highest ideals, and today we're saying that no one should be left out," she said. Officials said the ID card will be free of cost during the first year, adding that there will be walk-in enrollment centres along with online applications.

FRIDAY, JULY 11, 2014

Caribbean Airlines projecting TT$100 million loss

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Friday July 11, 2014, (CMC) – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Airlines (CAL) is projecting a loss of just under TT$100 (One TT dollar = US 0.16 cents) million for its financial year 2013. Finance Minister, Larry Howai, said that the airline has been enduring a difficult period but may now be emerging from it.

"CAL has had some struggles getting its accounts done, they should be able to bring them up in a couple of months. It hasn't been very good news but they have narrowed the loss down," he said.

The Finance Minister said he remains hopeful that CAL's loss can be brought down to less than TT$100 million, maintaining that the airline industry worldwide was not an easy one.

"Every one of those (international airlines) has gone bankrupt at one time or the other so it is a challenge," he said.

According to its financial statements for 2012, the airline, which a few years ago merged its operations with the cash-strapped Air Jamaica, registered losses that moved from US$43.6 million in 2011 to US$83.7 million in 2012.


This is a sobering statistic on the spread of Chikungunya across the Caribbean

NASSAU, Bahamas, Wednesday July 9, 2014, CMC – Bahamian authorities have confirmed the country's first case of the mosquito-borne disease, Chikungunya, warning that the progression of the sickness in the region is occurring at the rate of one country every seven to 14 days.

Environment and Housing Minister Kenred Dorsett in an update statement on the virus said that the case recorded here has been linked to a "tourist visiting from the Dominican Republic" who has since been admitted to hospital.

He said the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS) is aware of this threat to the health of the population and has since "implemented a heightened monitoring programme for Aedes aegypti at all ports of entry in The Bahamas in response to the alert of Chikungunya transmission in Latin America and the Caribbean.

"This activity will continue. Additionally, the systematic monitoring of localities for mosquito breeding will continue and fogging exercises will be conducted for the established prevention protocols."

Dorsett said that since the virus was first detected in the Caribbean in December 2013, in the last six months, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has documented nearly 4,600 new cases of Chikungunya in the Caribbean.

"Chikungunya is spreading rapidly on the French Islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, accounting for 2,800 of new cases. It has been reported that there have been a total of "165,800 suspected and 4,805 laboratory-confirmed chikungunya cases from five jurisdictions" in the Caribbean he added.


HIV/AIDS cases on the rise in Dominica

ROSEAU, Dominica, Wednesday July 9, 2014, (CMC) – Dominica has recorded an increase in the number of HIV/AIDS cases and health authorities are warning that most of the cases are among the male population. Coordinator of the National Response Programme for HIV/AIDS, Julie Frampton, said that since the first HIV/AIDS case was reported here in 1987, there were 410 cumulative cases at the end of 2013.

"We have a male-dominated epidemic with over 70 per cent of cases being male. So the 410, from 1987 up to end of 2013, doesn't mean that all those people are alive," Frampton said, noting that the age group most affected by HIV/AIDS is 25-49. The Ministry of Health said there were 15 new cases of HIV/AIDS on the island in 2013 and Frampton reported that almost every year more males have tested positive for the virus.

"Last year we had fifteen new cases and ten of them were males. What is interesting though, about our new cases now, we see the older age group, out of the 15 of last year, 14 of them were over 30," she said.

Addressing a stakeholder consultation meeting for Dominica's National Strategic plan for HIV/AIDS for 2015-2019, which ends on Wednesday, Frampton said participants should consider whether the correct people are being targeted, "or should we shift our focus, or are the older age group like me saying we're safe and what it is we need to do address that".

The consultation seeks to sensitize stakeholders on the HIV/AIDS strategic plan and mitigate the negative impacts of HIV/AIDS in Dominica.


Barbados voices concern over impact of climate change in the Caribbean

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Tuesday July 8, 2014, (CMC) – Prime Minister Freundel Stuart says Caribbean countries and other small island developing states (SIDS) are becoming increasingly susceptible to climate change and steps have to be taken to reduce this vulnerability.

Stuart noted that as a result of climate change, unprecedented flooding was taking place in several parts of the world, including the Caribbean, with neighbouring territories experiencing unseasonal hurricane type behaviour.

"St. Vincent and the Grenadines, for example, around Christmas last year and St. Lucia and Dominica experienced systems that were unprecedented for that time of the year. Seventeen per cent of the gross domestic product of St. Vincent and the Grenadines was destroyed by that system last December.

"We were fortunately spared (that system but) about two or three years before, (Hurricane) Tomas passed by at a very awkward time for us as well and I am not aware that we have fully come out of the damage done by Tomas," he said.

Prime Minister Stuart said that Barbados would be articulating its position on the effects of climate change on SIDS at the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, which will be held in Samoa in September.

"We'll be accentuating a lot of those issues that have to do with the threats posed to small island developing states by climate change and making sure that we can access a lot of the funding that is being put in place to effect adaptation and mitigation measures so that we can minimise our risks.

"So, for us, this is not an academic issue. This is an issue that affects people in their everyday lives, and therefore, we have to continue our leadership on the issue of the environment and on issues related to climate change as these two affect small island developing states, of which Barbados is one," he said.

The United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States will be held in Apia, Samoa, from September 1 to 4.

MONDAY, JULY 7, 2014

US drug policy groups support CARICOM's decision to set up marijuana commission

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) - Two influential drug policy groups here have supported the Caribbean Community's (CARICOM) decision to establish a Regional Marijuana Commission. It's great that governments in the Caribbean are finally pushing forward with this dialogue," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), which claims that it is America's leading organization that promotes drug policies that are "grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights".

"With so much momentum for reform in both North and South America, it is crucially important that the Caribbean not be left on the sidelines," Nadelmann told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

He said the DPA is actively involved in the legislative process and seeks to roll back the excesses of the drug war, block new, harmful initiatives, and promote sensible drug policy reforms.

"We at the Institute of the Black World also pledge our support to this CARICOM initiative, recognizing that it is a logical and enlightened move towards decriminalizing the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana and an important step towards researching the economic potential of a regulated medical marijuana industry in the Caribbean," said Don Rojas.

Rojas, the Vincentian-born director of communications at the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW), told CMC that the IBW, which works on drug policy and criminal justice reform, is a leading black research, policy and advocacy organization in the US.

"We are committed to enhancing the capacity of Black communities in the US and globally to achieve cultural, social, economic and political equality, and an enhanced quality of life for all marginalized people," Rojas said.


Obama seeks funds to speed deportations

WASHINGTON, DC, USA (CMC) — After announcing plans earlier this month to detain and deport more illegal immigrants, including Caribbean nationals, US President Barack Obama wants Congress to provide more than US$2 billion to control the surge of illegal migrants entering the country.

On the weekend, White House officials announced that the funds would grant broader powers for immigration officials to expedite deportations of children entering the US without their parents.

But even with the new White House proposal, immigrant rights groups signaled, in more than 40 coordinated protests in 23 states, over the weekend that they were still hopeful for action by Obama to decelerate the pace of deportations.

"This is an urgent humanitarian situation," said Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, as she commented on the surge of illegal immigrants.

"We are being as aggressive as we can be, on both sides of the border," she added. "We are dealing with smuggling networks that are exploiting people, and with the humanitarian treatment of migrants, while also applying the law as appropriate."

Muñoz said the Obama administration plans to detain more illegal immigrants, "and to accelerate their court cases so as to deport them more quickly".

She disclosed that the president was expected to dispatch a letter yesterday to Congress, alerting representatives that he will seek an emergency appropriation for rapidly expanding border enforcement and humanitarian assistance programmes to cope with the influx of illegal immigrants, which White House officials say includes unprecedented numbers of unaccompanied minors.

Obama will also ask for tougher penalties for smugglers who bring children and other vulnerable migrants across the border illegally.

Caribbean American Congresswoman, Yvette D Clarke, has been among advocates calling for the redesign of the immigration process in the wake of a US Supreme Court ruling that Caribbean and other immigrant children who lost their places in the slow-moving immigration system, because they turned 21 before their parents received their immigrant visa, could not be given priority.


Study finds Caribbean children obese and overweight

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – A study done in four Caribbean countries has found that 30 per cent of children aged 11 to 13 were overweight or obese, a senior official of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has said

Dr Audrey Morris, the advisor on Food and Nutrition at PAHO, told a workshop to review and refine a draft policy document on Nutritious and Healthy Foods in Barbadian schools that the number of overweight and obese children in the region has more than doubled over the last decade due primarily to unhealthy diets and inadequate exercise.

Dr Morris said the consequences of overweight and obesity in children were serious, including breathing difficulties, hypertension, early signs of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and psychological effects.

She noted the easy access to fatty and salty foods in school canteens and revealed that up to 80 per cent of the children in the Caribbean study admitted to drinking a carbonated soda every day.

The countries in the study were not disclosed.

The PAHO official said in addition to drinking carbonated soda daily, children were allowed to easily opt out of physical education classes at school, especially when preparing for examinations.

In addition, the children spent many hours watching television and playing computer games at home.

Dr Morris said countries like the United States had placed limits on sugar, fat and sodium in all foods and beverages sold on school compounds.

In addition, Brazil has mandated that 30 per cent of the input in school meals must come from local agriculture, and Panama has banned fried foods and sodas from school premises.

She said what is needed in the Caribbean is a multi-faceted, multi-sectoral approach to reinforce the message of healthier eating and active living.

Senior Medical Officer of Health, here, Dr Kenneth George, said that while Barbados was not included in the PAHO study, statistics show that the situation was very similar on the island.

According to him, the most recent survey conducted in 2012 and involving 1,600 secondary school students, revealed that 31.9 per cent of students aged 13 to 15 were overweight, and 14.4 per cent obese.

"These are frightening statistics because there is a higher propensity for the obese child to become an obese adult, with all the associated chronic diseases."

The standard Body Mass Index (BMI) for overweight is between 25 and 30 and for obesity between 30 and 40.


Caribbean leaders gather in Antigua and Barbuda for annual summit

By Peter Richards ST. JOHN'S, Antigua, July 1, (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders begin their annual summit here on Tuesday fully discussing the first ever Strategic Plan for the 15-member regional grouping.

The five year plan, 2015-19, will dominate the July 1-4 event and CARICOM officials hope it will reposition the Community to deal with a changing global environment.

The plan has been developed following widespread public consultation across the region and the leaders will seek to reach agreement on top priority areas for focused attention over the five year period of the plan.

MONDAY, JUNE 30, 2014

Late stage HIV/AIDS diagnoses worries Barbados authorities

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday June 30, 2014, CMC - Amid continued decline in the number of persons diagnosed HIV/AIDS positive, authorities are concerned that many of those found to be infected are offering themselves for testing at late stages.

Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Elizabeth Ferdinand, has said, "What is of concern for us is the alarming fact that many persons with HIV are being diagnosed at a late stage of the disease, when they already have developed AIDS".

Ferdinand's comment came as Barbados last week marked Regional HIV/AIDS Testing Day, an annual event, now in its seventh year, organised by the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AID