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News Round UP: Week Ending 10/1/16

Jamaica

Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Review Commission and former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, says CARICOM is not a failure, having achieved successes in several areas.

“I think we have done very well in terms of functional cooperation. If every country in CARICOM had to set up their own examination system, instead of having the Caribbean Examinations Council, it would be difficult for much of the smaller islands that have fewer resources than we do,” Golding said.

He was speaking at a youth forum hosted by the CARICOM Review Commission at the University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters, on Thursday, September 22.

The CARICOM Review Commission is the brainchild of Prime Minister Andrew Holness. It has been tasked to examine Jamaica’s role in the regional bloc and how it has impacted the country’s development.

Golding also cited institutions such as the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) as successful areas of cooperation.

“We are all subject to natural disasters, and the response to natural disasters when they occur requires institutional building, capabilities, and it requires management. If every country had to set up (one) for itself, then you see the difficulties that many countries would have,” Golding said.

The former prime minister also argued that CARICOM is important for foreign policy coordination.

“There is strength in numbers. We have, in fact, been able to exert a significant amount of influence in some of the major councils of the world, simply because when we go there we have 14 votes,” the chairman said.

“I know of some occasions where there are some contentious issues in the Organization of American States and the United Nations, where balance is so close that 14 votes can make a difference, and that’s when the biggest of the big come knocking on our doors,” Golding added.

For his part, Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Floyd Green, encouraged the youth to submit suggestions to the CARICOM Review Commission.

On the issue of integration, Green said this is being undermined “by the fact that it is so expensive for us to travel among our CARICOM states”.

He also mentioned that the University of the West Indies is becoming less integrated based on the make-up of the population on the campuses.

At the forum, the youth shared on issues such as regional integration and immigration.

CARICOM is a grouping of 20 countries: 15 Member States and five Associate Members. It is home to approximately 16 million citizens, 60 per cent of whom are under the age of 30, and from the main ethnic groups of Indigenous Peoples, Africans, Indians, Europeans, Chinese and Portuguese.

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

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Trinidad & Tobago

The Ministry of Health says it is seeking assistance from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to determine whether a baby born with microcephaly is as a result of the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly.

In a brief statement, the Ministry of Health said that the mother of the unidentified baby was attended to privately and was not a patient of the Mt Hope Maternity Hospital where the national screening effort is located.

“It is to be noted that Trinidad and Tobago registers approximately 12 cases of microcephaly yearly due to a variety of genetic causes.

“To date, this case cannot be directly attributed to the Zika virus and the assistance of PAHO/WHO has been sought to make a clinical determination,” the statement noted.

The Ministry of Health said that it was asking that the family’s privacy be respected and that it “will keep the public updated as new facts become available”.

Last month, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the number of Zika cases recorded were inaccurate and there were more than the 247 confirmed cases, with the likelihood that the figure was in the thousands. At least 60 pregnant women have been diagnosed with the virus.

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Regional

Antigua and Barbuda on Saturday joined its Caribbean Community (Caricom) member state, Jamaica, in raising the issue of debt for climate change swap while also lamenting moves by financial institutions in developed countries to stifle the socio-economic growth of small islands.

The call came a day after Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness told the 71st United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) that the mechanism has the potential to provide bilateral and multilateral relief for climate change and mitigation initiatives.

On Saturday, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne told the UNGA that, at a rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius, many of the small island developing states, including those in the Caribbean, will be washed away.

“Temperatures continue to rise, as the bell is tolling. The bell may be tolling for small islands, but in the words of the poet, John Donne, “it also tolls for thee’,” Browne remarked.

He said the ravages of climate change will not end with the erosion of small island states, nor will its consequences disappear with the last surging tide.

“Its refugees; its displaced people; the misery of its effects will wash up on the shores of those who dismiss or neglect the issue today. Mr President, our small countries endure the problem of climate change not because we created it, but because we are the victims of the polluting profligacy of others. But, we are not content simply to wring our hands in anguish, or throw up our arms in despair. We are keen to help provide solutions. That is why my government has repeatedly proposed debt swaps, for climate change adaptation and mitigation,” Browne reasoned.

Browne said that many of the small-island states are burdened by high debt because they are denied access to concessional financing and are forced to borrow at high commercial rates to rebuild after disasters, and to mitigate against them.

“High debt is not only a drag on our economic growth; it constrains our ability to achieve the sustainable development goals. We are caught in a very vicious cycle. We have proposed that we be provided with soft loans, to stop further high debt accumulation, while we build resilience to global warming and sea-level rise. However, to qualify for soft loans, requires the International Financial Institutions and donor governments, to stop using per capita income as a criterion. So far, our pleas have fallen on deaf ears,” he stressed.

Prime Minister Browne told the international community that, beyond the facade of high income per capita are increasing levels of poverty, high levels of household and individual vulnerability, acute issues in health and education, and worrying rates of unemployment especially amongst the young.

He said high income per capita distorts the reality that, because of the openness of small economies and the dependence on foreign investment, a minority of the population earn the largest percentage of income, leaving the majority at subsistence level and below.

“These are facts that are known to international financial institutions and those who govern them, yet, they are ignored. The more appropriate criteria for allowing access to concessionary financing should be, our very well-known vulnerability to shocks that are generated from outside our shores, and over which we have no control,” Browne said.

The Antiguan prime minister said that the cost to institutions such as the World Bank of refining their criteria would not be very expensive, but that would be a significant measure to allow small countries to improve their economic performance.

“Mr President, I have to admit a deep sense of frustration and disappointment that, year after year, other heads of government of small states, and I, have come to this Assembly and explained the challenges that confront us, to no avail,” he argued.

“We remain trapped in the reality of a narrow tax base, high debt, large trade deficits, small underdeveloped domestic financial markets, small private sectors and fragile banking systems. I remind this Assembly of the observation of Albert Einstein that: “In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems; for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same,” he added.

Prime Minister Browne said that the truth of small states is obvious to all so too should be the need for justice as he raised again the need for the United States to settle its World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute with Antigua and Barbuda over Internet gaming as quickly as possible.

But Browne said that the decision by banks in the developed countries to seek to end banking relationships with small islands, including those in the Caribbean, constitutes “an urgent and existential threat of considerable relevance to our survival”.

“The latest challenge our countries face is the withdrawal by global banks of correspondent banking relations to our financial institutions. In the international campaign against money-laundering and terrorist-financing, very strict penalties have been imposed on banks by regulatory bodies in North America and Europe, for any infringement of stringent regulations.

“In this environment, where even the slightest infraction could expose a bank to a fee of hundreds of millions of dollars, many banks have chosen to withdraw essential correspondent banking relations from financial institutions in the Caribbean, Central America and Africa,” Browne said.

According to Browne, they refer to that process as ‘de-risking’.

“I call it economic destruction. It is now prevalent in the Caribbean, but it also exists in parts of Africa and Central America. It will spread with global consequences unless, it is checked by collective action. All these countries, including mine, are now at the point of losing vital correspondent banking relationships. The consequences would be calamitous,” Browne said..

“We would be severed from the world’s trading system, unable to pay for basic goods and services we purchase, or to receive payments for goods and services we sell to other countries. Remittances from our diaspora would be cut off, causing more of the population to depend on social welfare, at a time when our economies are already under great stress.

“In other words, it is a growing cancer that is eating away at development; threatening the stability of our region; and denying us the right to participate in the international economy. But that is not all. Since the consequence of being cut off from the world trading system, would be economic collapse, not only would poverty and crime dramatically increase, so too would the very global scourges that every nation fears – increase in refugees and human trafficking,” he added.

He said the consequences would not be limited to just Caribbean countries, adding worse yet, financial transactions that are now regulated and monitored by law enforcement agencies, would be forced underground, creating huge opportunities for money laundering and terrorism financing.

“This would undermine the very global, multi-lateral cooperation that is required to fight these scourges. And, it is important to know that, in all the money laundering and financing of terrorism cases that have been prosecuted in the world, not one of them involved a Caribbean financial institution.

“This matter of’ de-risking’ is a substantial matter; its consequences are far reaching. The threat we face in the Caribbean is real; the danger is imminent. But, make no mistake; no country will be immune from its consequences, if it is left unchecked.”

He said that Caricom leaders had mandated him to convene, a high-level conference on the matter and that invitations have already been sent to key global-stakeholders to attend the conference that will be held in Antigua from October 27-28

“Our objective at this conference will be to work collectively to end this huge threat, to the immediate well-being of our region. We are acting responsibly. And, I call on this General Assembly of nations to recognize the substantial and dangerous nature of this issue, and to join us in addressing it constructively,” Browne said.

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National

The United States Department of Justice this week announced that a woman has been sentenced to 40 months in prison for her role in a Jamaica-based lottery fraud scheme.

She is Vania Lee Allen. According to the Department of Justice, Allen’s 40 months in prison will be followed by three years of supervised release. She was also reportedly ordered to pay $117,000 in restitution.

Allen, 30, pleaded guilty on June 22 in the Southern District of Georgia to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and false impersonation of an employee of the United States.

“Lottery fraud scams based in Jamaica targeting Americans typically need help from at least one co-conspirator in the United States,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Impersonating an FBI agent to convince an innocent victim that this so-called international lottery is real is deceitful, pure and simple. The Justice Department will actively pursue and charge those who participate in such criminal activity.”

As part of her guilty plea, Allen acknowledged that she and a co-conspirator in Jamaica sought to unlawfully enrich themselves through a fraudulent lottery scheme targeting an elderly resident of Evans, Georgia.

An indictment charging Allen was filed on March 3. According to the indictment, Allen’s co-conspirator falsely informed the victim that he had won money in a lottery and instructed the victim to make payments to various people in order to collect the purported lottery winnings.

As part of her plea agreement, Allen acknowledged that in order to induce the victim to continue to make payments as directed by her co-conspirator, Allen travelled from Jamaica to the United States to meet with the victim personally. Allen also acknowledged that when she met the victim, she falsely portrayed herself as a FBI agent, provided the victim with a cell phone, and directed him to speak with the person on the line, who was Allen’s co-conspirator in Jamaica.

“The prison sentence given by the court demonstrates the significant consequences of engaging in fraud designed to steal from Americans,” said US Attorney Edward J Tarver of the Southern District of Georgia. “International lottery scams will not be allowed to continually target the most vulnerable segments of our communities without fear of severe consequences.”

The Department of Justice said Allen’s prosecution is part of its effort to work with federal and local law enforcement to combat fraudulent lottery schemes in Jamaica that prey on US citizens.

According to the US Postal Inspection Service, Americans have lost tens of millions of dollars to fraudulent foreign lotteries

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SPORTS

Pakistan exposed West Indies weakness to spin bowling and large outfields by cantering to a comfortable eight-wicket win in their final match to complete a three-nil whitewash this week.

West Indies lost three front line batsmen to the ordinary left-arm spin of Imad Wasim before stumbling to 103 for five in their 20 overs at Sheikh Zayed Stadium.

Shoaib Malik struck an unbeaten 43 to guide his side to victory with 29 balls remaining.

Debutant fast bowler Kesrick Williams launched his international career by snatching, in one over, the only two Pakistan wickets to fall.

Asked to bat after Pakistan won the toss, West Indies innings careened into disarray in the third over when Wasim picked up two wickets in two balls.

Johnson Charles gifted his wicket when he attempted a heave over midwicket but missed and lost his middle and leg stumps.

Wasim’s next delivery kept low enough to hit the toe end of Chadwick Walton’s bat before crashing into the stumps.

Two overs later, the world champions plunged to 17 for three when Andre Fletcher was run out for nine.

Fletcher worked a ball towards square leg and took off without approval from Marlon Samuels but Rumman Raees’ throw was pounced on by Sarfraz Ahmed, who whipped off the bails.

A couple of partnerships in the middle of the innings attempted to repair the damaged caused primarily by West Indies’ failure to adapt, loose shots and bad running.

Samuels and Nicholas Pooran stitched together 37 runs for the sixth wicket until Pooran attempted a shot that would have cleared most grounds only to be caught by Malik on the deep mid-wicket boundary for 16.

Samuels and Kieron Pollard, negotiating spinners that were constantly attacking the stumps including Wasim who finished with three for 21, then compiled 37 runs for the sixth wicket.

Samuels finished unbeaten on 42 off 59 balls, while Pollard, in conditions not favouring big hitting, ended up not out on 16 off 17 balls without hitting a boundary or clearing the ropes.

Pakistan experienced a minor setback at 42 for two after Williams, the pacer from St Vincent and the Grenadines, kicked off his international career in spectacular fashion grabbing two wickets for 15 runs.

Williams angled his first delivery of a new over away from Sharjeel Khan who edged to Fletcher behind the stumps, while Khalid Latif was beaten by the final ball, a slower delivery, which removed his stumps.

But an unbroken stand of 68 for the third wicket between Malik and Babar Azam, who was unbeaten on 27, steered them home.

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Entertainment

Frankie Paul, who had part of his right leg amputated in January, has denied rumours that his health has deteriorated.

The singer set the record straight after an unflattering photograph of him was circulated on the Internet.

Posted on Facebook, it shows a thin, shirtless Paul sitting on a bed. The image triggered rumours that he has serious health issues.

Paul said the photo may have been taken without his permission by someone he was recording a dub session for.

“People have been calling me and asking what is going on but I didn’t know what was going on. People, I am recovering by God’s grace and your prayers. I have been stronger than ever and my voice has been beautiful as ever. Keep praying for me because my life depends on music, love and peace,” he said.

Paul, a diabetic, underwent surgery in late January. Early that month, he performed on the Startime event in Kingston, sitting in a chair.

Born visually impaired, Paul, whose given name Paul Blake, is a giant of 1980s’ dancehall. His hits include Cassanova, Worries In The DanceI Know The Score and Sarah.

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Jamaica

DEANS APPOINTED CG TO NYC

trudy-deans-cg
Trudy Deans CG –Photo courtesy of the Gleaner/Colin Hamilton

 

Trudy Deans has been appointed as Jamaica’s Consul General to New York.

Deans will assume duties in early October, at the Consulate General’s office at 767 Third Avenue, Manhattan, replacing Herman LaMont, who was recalled in May, after the change of government following the February 25, general election which the JLP won by a one seat majority.

She was the former vice consul and community relations officer (CRO), at the Jamaican Consulate General in New York from 2010-2012.

Deans holds a Master of Science (MSc) degree in human resource management and training from the University of Leicester, England, and a Bachelor of Science degree in international relations and public administration from the University of the West Indies.

In announcing Deans’ appointment, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Kamina Johnson Smith said, “Ms Deans’ solid foundation in Diaspora engagement, together with her academic achievements and strong leadership and managerial skills, augur well for this position which comes with great responsibility.”

Prior to her appointment, Deans was employed as an administrator at the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations Agency headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. She also contributed to GraceKennedy’s legacy as human resource and training manager at Allied Insurance Brokers Limited, from 2002-2010.

 

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