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Raúl Castro defends more unity and integration Cuba-Caricom

Raúl Castro defends more unity and integration Cuba-Caricom

Antigua and Barbuda, Dec 8. 2017 – Cuban President Raúl Castro today called for unity in diversity, integration and genuine cooperation among Caribbean states to face common challenges and problems of the region and the world.

In a speech on the opening day of the 6th summit of his country and the Caribbean Community (Caricom), the head of state also warned of the dangers that loom and increase over the human species.

“How can we face the challenge of moving towards development in the midst of the deep economic, social, political and environmental crisis that this hemisphere and the world is suffering?”, Raúl Castro asked the Prime Ministers of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, and Granada, Keith Mitchell.

“The dangers for the survival of the human species increase. The consequences of the application of concepts not universally accepted as ‘humanitarian intervention” and “responsibility to protect”, are used to cover interventionist and aggressive actions that threaten international peace and security”, he said.

Such situations, the Cuban president said, “call us to defend international law and the full validity of the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations”.

Raúl Castro considered that the Caribbean countries should be articulated to demand a fair action by the industrialized powers in order to mitigate and adapt the effects of climate change, “particularly with financial resources and technology transfer”, he added.

Likewise, he said, “we should agree on approaches to the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and, especially, to collectively face the mechanisms of domination imposed on us by the unjust international financial system”.

In his address to the other leaders of the 14 nations of the regional body, the Cuban president expressed the will of Havana to promote and promote ties with its neighbors in various areas.

“I reiterate Cuba’s invariable position of supporting, in all circumstances, the right of small island states and developing nations to receive special and differential treatment in access to trade and investment”.

“We will continue to receive Caribbean students in our universities. The 5,640 young people of the Caribbean who have been trained and the 695 who are currently studying in them”, he emphasized.

Likewise, the Cuban leader considered that the thousand 762 Cuban collaborators present in all the countries of Caricom, of whom 1,469 in the health sector, “are part of Cuba’s contribution to the development of the Caribbean peoples”.

We intend to advance in the development of trade and investments. Between 2014 and 2016, commercial exchange grew by 70 percent. This year marches at a good pace, assessed.

He added that the “broad and diverse” participation of Caribbean companies and agencies in the recent International Fair of Havana augurs greater growth in that regard.

“We welcome the implementation in January 2018 of the Second Protocol to the bilateral Trade and Cooperation Agreement, a document that expands tariff preferences granted by Cuba and facilitates access to our markets”, said President Raul Castro. (PL)

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Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar and Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley

Government critical of Opposition over defeat of Anti-Gang legislation

PM Rowley: “And we’re seeing an exponential rise in gang activity,”

 

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Dec 7, CMC – The Trinidad and Tobago government Thursday blasted Opposition legislators after they failed to provide the necessary support for the Anti-Gang Legislation that the authorities said was needed to deal with the rising gang activities in the country.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley told a news conference that all objections to the bill had been addressed and amended before it was put to the vote and accused the Opposition of supporting criminality by objecting to the legislation that had required a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

At the end of it all…there was not a single impediment standing in their way…every single thing they raised including the (comments by the) Chief Whip (David Lee) (were addressed).

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar and Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley

“On December 7, 2017, in the wee hours of the morning, (Opposition) refused to use their vote to defend the lives of the people,” a visibly upset Rowley told reporters.”

“The business of Trinidad and Tobago was gutted and undermined. We have a scourge of gang activity in many if not most of our communities, there are thousands of families where the quality of life is being severely impacted by illegal activity.

“For some inexplicable reason, our colleagues in the Parliament found it difficult or impossible to convert the scourge of gang activity into an illegal activity,” he added.

The Anti-Gang Bill 2017 seeks to make provision for the maintenance of public safety and order through discouraging membership of criminal gangs and the suppression of criminal gang activity and for other related matters.

It seeks to make it an offence to be a member of a gang, to be in possession of a bullet-proof vest, to participate in, or contribute to, the activities of a gang, to support or invite support for a gang, or to harbour or conceal gang members or recruit persons to a gang.

The legislation also contains a ‘retaliatory clause’ which protects persons who have left gangs from retaliatory actions by gang members.

Opposition legislators voted against the bill that had first been introduced here during the term in office of the People’s Partnership government headed by Kamla Persad Bissessar.

Former Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar abstained when the vote was taken during the early hours of Thursday morning and has promised to outline his position at a news conference  on the weekend.

Rowley told reporters that he had spoken to the Lee seeking to determine the objections of the Opposition saying that the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) was seeking to benefit from the crime situation in order to attain power.

“Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her UNC gang and cabal voted to maintain that status quo….so that crime and criminality can remain a chronic state of affairs, so that those politicians can point to the crime and call Trinidad and Tobago a failed state and hope that you will be disgusted with those in office and put them in office

“That is the most cynical, wicked and pernicious act,” Rowley said, adding that citizens should hold their representatives to account.

“You put them in office and you have to get them to work for you, because right now they are working for themselves. I could not believe…I served with people who would do something like that.”

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, who had earlier told legislators during the debate that between 2014 and this year, gangs in Trinidad and Tobago had increased 129 per cent and gang members have increased 60 per cent,

“And we’re seeing an exponential rise in gang activity,” he said, noting that in 2014 the acting Police Commissioner had said there were 92 gangs with 1,500 members.

“In 2016 it grew to 172 gangs and 2,358 members – today it’s 211 gangs and 2,458 members,” he said, adding that gang-related murders totalled 998 between 2010 and this year and the number of gang-related guns seized stands at 4,674.

According to Al-Rawi an estimated 1,195 firearms were seized since 2016 alone, reiterating that the number of gangs and their members in the nine police divisions ranging from 49 (Western) to nine (Eastern). There are also 221 members in the Witness Protection Programme, he noted.

Al- Rawi said that when the bill was first introduced here by the previous government, 463 were arrested under the law during the 2011 state of emergency (SoE).

Speaking at the news conference Al-Rawi said he was ‘shell-shocked’ by the Opposition’s behaviour, saying “we went over it bit by bit…when we came to take the final vote… all 21 PNM (People’s National Movement) members present voted yes. When we came to the vote from the Opposition it started with no…a big fat no.

“Suffice it to say it was shell-shocking to see what happened yesterday after 14 hours of work,” he said, telling reporters that he had observed that some Opposition legislators were in disagreement with the decision adopted by the Opposition Leader.

“I saw the look on the faces of those opposite me last night. I saw shock. I saw fear, I saw disgust. I saw a member of the UNC bench have some very heated words with his leader and storm out of the Parliament,” Al-Rawi added.

Prime Minister Rowley said his government would continue to seek to criminalise gang activity and will seek to use other laws in the interim in order to crack down on gang activity.

“I realised that Opposition was hell-bent on not making gang activity in Trinidad and Tobago an illegal act….we have one hell of a problem because Opposition has decided to come down in support of criminality in Trinidad and Tobago.”

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CIPP

Grenada dismisses criticism of CIP

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada, Dec 4, CMC – The chairman of the board of the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP), Kaisha Ince, has dismissed a report by the self-styled United States-based financial analyst which he said is designed to discredit “a number of successful CIB programmes in the region” including Grenada.

“As Chairman of the Board of the Citizenship by Investment programme and as one of the persons referred to in (Kenneth) Rijock’s fabricated text message exchanges, I roundly reject the latest blogpost, which has unsubstantiated issues being put out as facts,” Ince said in a statement here.

She  said Rijock’s latest blog, like several of the previous, “is bogus and an outright lie, intended to mislead and deceive people, and to disrupt Grenada’s CBI Programme”.

Earlier this year, the Dominica government filed a lawsuit against Rijock after he failed to retract, apologize and pay compensation for the allegations that he made regarding the Dominica CIP.

In her statement, Ince said that there is “absolutely no truth to the allegations made or indeed to the text messages he refers to in the blog post.

“In fact, the text messages he presents are ludicrous to say the least. Similar to the “Wells Fargo Bank screenshot” relied on to purportedly substantiate the fake news story published by Rijock on 21 August, 2017, the text messages that appear in this most recent blog post are a total fabrication.”

Ince warned that Rijock should “cease and desist from continuing to disseminate this fake news pieces, which are clearly malicious falsehoods, as the Government will have no hesitation whatsoever in prosecuting them to the full force of law”.

Last month, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell said the government expects to rake in more than EC$81 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) in 2018 from the controversial CIP.

Grenada is one of several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) governments that has implemented the CIP through which foreign investors are provided with citizenship in return for making a substantial investment in the socio-economic development of the country.

Delivering the EC$1.1 billion national budget to Parliament on Monday, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell said that his administration has “adopted conservative assumptions for receipts from the CBI Programme, to the tune of $81.1 million”.

He told legislators that the CIP, which commenced in 2014, has exceeded all expectations in 2017 and is now regarded as one of the highest-rated programmes in the world.

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Guyana venezuela border

ExxonMobil offers financial assistance to settle border controversy – report

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Dec. 3, CMC – The government of Guyana could be getting help from US oil giant ExxonMobil, in its efforts to have a judicial settlement of the border controversy with Venezuela.

According to News Source Guyana, Government sources have reported that the company has set aside just under US$20 million to assist Guyana with legal fees and other costs that could be incurred once Guyana moves to have the judicial settlement of the border controversy.

Guyana venezuela border“Our national sovereignty is riding on this issue and it will be remiss of us if we are not prepared and all resources are not put in place. The actual amount is more than GUY$15 million but less than GUY$20 million. This is not the first time we are going this route as it was done with the CGX Energy and Suriname after the June 2000 incident with the Surinamese coastguard. The PPP was then in office. This is nothing new. This is not a signing bonus, but rather we are garnering the resources to prepare for the case. This is a sovereignty issue,” the source was quoted as saying.

Venezuela contends that the Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899 demarcating the border between Guyana (British Guiana at the time) and Venezuela is null and void. Consequently, it continues to lay claim to two-thirds of Guyana’s territory.

In 2015, the Guyana government requested the United Nations Secretary-General to take steps toward a resolution of the controversy using an option from the menu as stated in the Geneva Agreement of February 17, 1966.

Further, last year, as a consequence of a stalemate on the matter, outgoing United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon agreed with his successor,  António Guterres, to continue to use the Good Offices Process until the end of 2017 as a means of arriving at a settlement.

According to the mandate of the Personal Representative, “If, by the end of 2017, the Secretary-General concludes that no significant progress has been made toward arriving at a full agreement for the solution of the controversy, he will choose the International Court of Justice as the next means of settlement, unless the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela jointly request that he refrain from doing so.”

The government statement said that since his appointment on 27 February this year, Nylander has visited Guyana on four occasions holding talks with President David Granger and Greenidge, among others.

In September, the Guyana delegation to the United Nations General Assembly met with the Secretary-General as well as Nylander and held informal discussions with Venezuelan counterparts.

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Lowell Hawthorne

CEO of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill founder reportedly commits suicide in NY factory

NEW YORK, Dec 3, CMC – The founder and chief executive officer of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill, Jamaican Lowell Hawthorne reportedly killed himself inside his Bronx, New York factory on Saturday .

According to police reports, Hawthorne, 57, shot himself inside the Park Ave. building, near E. 173rd St., in Claremont section of the Bronx, at about 5:30 p.m.

Lowell Hawthorne

The  New York Daily news reports more than a dozen current and former employees stood in disbelief outside the factory hours later.

“He was a good boss, humble and a good businessman,” said Pete Tee, 27, a former employee, “He never seemed sad. This is just terrible news right now.”

Hawthorne opened the first Golden Krust store on E. Gun Hill Rd. in the Bronx in 1989, going on to build the Jamaica beef patty purveyor into a US national empire by boasting more than 120 restaurants in nine states.

Pat Russo, who has worked with Hawthorne since the 1990s, was shocked by the news that his fellow businessman had taken his own life.

“It doesn’t make any sense. He had everything to live for,” said Russo, who is the president of Chef’s Choice food company. “He was a brilliant business guy. The perfect American success story.”

Hawthorne’s death sent shockwaves from the streets of the Bronx to government offices in Jamaica where Prime Minister Andrew Holness fired off a tweet offering his condolences.

Some of Hawthorne’s employees said they suspected something was amiss when they spotted his car, a silver Tesla 85D, parked oddly outside the factory – blocking a lane of traffic.

Longtime employee Everald Woods said he loved working under Hawthorne.

“He was a nice boss, a wonderful guy,” said Woods, an employee since 2003. “He’s the kind of guy you want to work for – for that long. He takes care of his employees.”

Family friend Wayne Muschamb said Hawthorne was an inspiration to his compatriot in Jamaica.

“Look how far he reached. He’s known from here to Jamaica,” Muschamb told the Daily News. “I’m kind of lost for words, man. This has got me shocked.”

Hawthorne’s rags-to-riches story was set in motion in 1981 when he followed several relatives to the US from Jamaica in search of opportunity.

He briefly worked as an accountant for the New York Police Department (NYPD) before deciding to build a business inspired by his father’s bakery back in Jamaica.

Golden Krust became the first Caribbean-owned business in the US to be granted a franchise license, according to its website.

In 2012, Hawthorne published “The Baker’s Son: My Life in Business,” a memoir.

“It’s a very humbling experience to know that the concept that began in Jamaica with our parents was able to come here,” Hawthorne told the Daily News at the time.

Hawthorne told the Wall Street Journal in 2015 that his goal was that, “by 2020, all Americans will have heard of Jamaican patties,” according to the New York Post.

He told the newspaper that it’s a family operation with Hawthorne’s wife, three sons and daughter, not to mention cousins. nieces and nephews, all involved.

Saddened employees gathered outside the Golden Krust factory, at 3958 Park Ave. Saturday night to pay their respects.

“He’s a nice man, a good man,’’ said John Harrison, who had been working there for three years. “The Jamaican people, they feel it. All of us are Jamaican. We lost a Jamaican, we feel it.’’

Hanaku Oxori, who had worked at the plant for 17 years, said, “he’s nice with everyone here.”

The suicide “was a surprise to me,” he added. “We saw him every day. He talks to everyone. He was always in a good mood.”

Hawthorne, on November 28, made a post on Facebook, reflecting on his life.

“I was always in search of the next honest means to make a dollar,” he wrote. “Like many transplanted Caribbean nationals, I struggled to work and raise a family. I can only thank God for everything I have achieved.”

“If my story here can inspire others to rise up and give it a go, I would have accomplished something meaningful,” he added.

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Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of The Commonwealth of Dominica speaking at the Investment Immigration Summit East Asia in Hong Kong earlier this month. (PRNewsfoto/Beacon Events)

Caribbean Prime Ministers Discuss the Recent Citizenship by Investment Prices After the Atlantic Hurricanes Earlier This Year

 News provided by

The Commonwealth of Dominica was impacted significantly by Hurricane Maria, a category 5 storm leaving behind a trail of devastation and over 50,000 people displaced. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit gave the opening address at the Investment Immigration Summit East Asia in Hong Kong.

     (Photo: http://mma.prnewswire.com/media/610028/Beacon_Events_Investment_Immigration_Summit.jpg )

“What we would like to recognize is that literally days after the hurricane, our Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme was back on the road. While we were receiving 200+ miles wind, stakeholders were processing applications because we were able to advance our programme to ensure that we utilize technology to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of our programme.”

When asked about whether Dominica will follow St. Kitts and Antigua in the recent controversial reduction of its CBI programme prices, Skerrit replied, “the government of Dominica has not taken any decision in respect to this matter. What I would like to see though, for the long-term benefit of the programme, is for there to be a base price for all the categories within our programmes based on a gentlemen agreement, that we shouldn’t go below a particular price point.”

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet of St Lucia also made an appearance at the Investment Immigration Summit in Hong Kong. When interviewed by the Investment Migration Insider, he confirmed that St Lucia will be accepting other currencies as part of their CIP programme, and are looking at the possibility of getting their domestic bank, Bank of St Lucia, to open a branch in Dubai as part of the IFC. Chastanet hopes to have it up and running before the end of the year, if not, by early January. They will be looking at accepting the Euro and the Yen first, and possibly Bitcoin.

The investment migration industry is now looking towards the Middle East and North African region and hoping to tap into the potential of this market. The sister event of the Hong Kong Summit, the 4th Annual Investment Immigration Summit MENA (IIS MENA), is coming to Dubai on 25-27 February 2018. The conference and exhibition will offer the latest and most comprehensive information on investment immigration programs from around the world including the USA, European Union, Canada, the Caribbean, Australia and the Pacific Islands. It will showcase the latest content offerings for the local Middle East market, focusing on the alternative pathways to migration.

Other key topics at the Summit include the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) developed in 2014, the latest trends for outbound investment migration in the MENA region, how to effectively manage and utilize dual citizenship, the relationship between wealth management, tax planning and citizenship by investment, addressing the global perception of citizenship-by-investment programs, and new investment programs entering the market.

The Summit will provide a platform for MENA migration agents along with High Net Worth representatives from the region, who have interests in overseas investment and migration opportunities, and are looking to secure a better future via the Citizenship by Investment and/or permanent residency options.

Enjoy a 10% discount on delegate tickets upon registration. Use promo code BD1057PR. Visit the website to view the full agenda and register for your delegate ticket: https://mena.investmentimmigrationsummit.com/

The 2-day conference with the workshop day will be presented in English. For further inquiries, email marketing@beaconevents.com.

ABOUT INVESTMENT IMMIGRTION SUMMIT WORLD SERIES 

Investment Immigration Summit World Series offers a unique angle which not only gives you unique access to the most updated information on the global investor market, intelligence on the latest trends driving HNWI interest but also the latest development in CRS and key tax strategies for the globally mobile while providing a platform for a comprehensive array of investment immigration programmes from around the world.

The last 12 months have seen huge changes in the political landscape around the globe. From Brexit to the US election among a number of notable developments such as the CRS, demand for better due-diligence on applicants and so on, there is need for a period of reflection across the investment immigration industry.

With an overview of programmes, updates on changes to process and regulation as well as expert insight into the climate for investment, geo political and economic drivers for HNWIs and the latest OECD requirements on Common Reporting Standards which all affect those seeking investment immigration opportunities, this conference offers a comprehensive update on the top investment immigration / citizenship-by-investment programmes worldwide, providing advisers, wealth managers and agents the information and tools that they need to give the best advice and strategies to their clients. For more information, visit our website on https://investmentimmigrationsummit.com/

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Beacon is a major conference and exhibition organizer, producing first class international events that meet the challenges facing major business sectors today. Beacon’s focus is on large-scale, must-attend events that are independently researched and tailored to deliver unbiased and focused market information. From Finance & Investment, Mining & Technology, to Gaming events and conferences, we deliver the critical business information which enables success.

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SOURCE Beacon Events

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Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Taleb Rifai underscored that all-inclusive resorts had become similar to “modern-day plantations”.

UNWTO head calls for Caribbean to rethink all-inclusive model

 Loop News  Created : 28 November 2017 

Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Taleb Rifai underscored that all-inclusive resorts had become similar to “modern-day plantations”.

Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Taleb Rifai underscored

that all-inclusive resorts had become similar to “modern-day plantations”.

Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Taleb Rifai, says the Caribbean cannot continue to pursue all-inclusive resort development if tourism is to play an integral role in the development of the region’s states.

Speaking on day two of the Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Development, at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St James, Tuesday, Rifai underscored that all-inclusive resorts had become similar to “modern-day plantations”.

“We cannot continue to build five-star hotels in three-star communities,” he underscored. “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. That’s a very important message we have to keep in mind.”

“We have to continue to lower the walls between the host communities and visitors. We cannot let our visitors live in bubbles. That is not acceptable anymore,” he said to rousing applause. “We cannot continue to promote modern-day plantations in our own countries called exclusive resorts. That is not the model we are looking for at all.”

The Secretary-General emphasised that in the final analysis, tourism is about the development of people and called for communities to be empowered to play a greater role in the industry.

Rifai also called for greater partnerships with the private sector in tourism, noting that the sector will not achieve its sustainable development goals without closer collaboration with private businesses.  

“We cannot achieve community empowerment without full cooperation of the private sector and the owners of infrastructural businesses,” he said.

The Secretary-General added that in order for the sector to garner more attention and receive more help, it has to demonstrate its relevance to other sectors.

“Building walls between nations is not a solution at all,” he said, pointing out that the conference is an opportunity to address those issues.

Delivering the keynote address at the opening of the conference, Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness also underscored the importance of people in tourism.

“Tourism is fundamentally a people based activity,” the Prime Minister said. 

“Careful planning of human resources, with private enterprises and employee representatives, is needed to ensure that tourism can fulfil its employment creation potential and has a sufficient supply of suitably skilled labour to meet future growth,” he continued. 

Holness said creating a tourism industry that enhances opportunities for local communities to leverage their cultural and natural assets and benefit from employment in tourism activities will help to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth.

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Caribbean Grains spreads the fine art of baking

Caribbean Grains spreads the fine art of baking

 

Bakers Michael and Ali with students from Vieux Fort Comprehensive Secondary School

(PRESS RELEASE) – Caribbean Grains Ltd, which operates a production mill in Vieux Fort, considers itself more than just a manufacturer of flour.

The Company, which has been here for more than a year, sees itself as an ally of the present and future generation of bakers.

During the month of November, the Company has been conducting training sessions aimed at equipping bakers with new techniques in the areas of bread and pastry production.

The latest training sessions were held on Thursday, November 16th and Friday, November 17th at the Caribbean Grains facility in Vieux Fort. A session with students of the Beanefield Comprehensive Secondary School, together with local bakers from the south, was conducted on day-one. Day-two was devoted to students from the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC) and Vieux Fort Comprehensive Secondary School (VFCSS). The training sessions were conducted by two bakers from Guadeloupe and Mustique.

Managing Director of Caribbean Grains Ltd, Arnaud de Moussac said such training is very useful because it allows the Company to interact with bakers while they prepare various products made from flour from the Company.

“What we are aiming at is giving a consistent product every time the baker is starting his process, helping them to rationalise and practising economy, mostly by weighing the product because, at the end of the day, not weighing products can make a big difference in terms of earning and losing. And no one knows that you are winning when you are getting a little heavier product, but your bottom line will know it. So, we are trying to get the same cause and effect from these training sessions.”

The Managing Director added that Caribbean Grains is a new Company which must prove itself to its customers. He described the level of business with local bakers as “good” and “picking up.”

“The people have a better response to our product. We are very happy with the way they are willing to re-assess us. Nobody likes to change, but the change is welcome, and more and more we hear people saying that they want to buy Saint Lucian products because it generates Saint Lucian employment.”

Bakers were given an opportunity to learn and improve their skills in the areas of French and local bread products, as well as in baked goods such as pastries, cakes, croissants and pizza, using local flour manufactured by Caribbean Grains.  Sessions with the students are part of a practical training programme that Caribbean Grains conducts every other month with local bakeries and bakers.

Chef at Coconut Bay Resort, David Serieux, who has been a baker for 18 years, said he emerged from the training session with knowledge of how to refine his baking skills.

” Well, to be honest, it’s not something I never did before, but the techniques and the process I saw here seem much better here because of the equipment, such as the proof-box, and the way the oven works is amazing.”

Other bakeries represented at the training sessions were Bonne Baguette Bakery, the French Bakery, Mannee’s Bakery, and Kaision Bakery.

Participating students expressed gratitude to Caribbean Grains for exposing them to various techniques and opportunities in the field of baking.

 

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Addicted to Your Phone? It Could Throw Off Your Brain Chemistry

Addicted to Your Phone? It Could Throw Off Your Brain Chemistry

Livescience.com
 Credit: baranq/Shutterstock

It’s hard to escape screens; there is a roughly 100 percent chance you are looking at one right now. And though the long-term effects of screen time are still being studied, the effects of excessive internet and smartphone use are well-documented. “Pathological” internet use has been linked to depression in teens, and it may even shrink gray matter.

Now, a small new study suggests that for teens, being hooked on the internet and smartphones may harm brain chemistry, as well.

The research was presented yesterday (Nov. 30) at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting in Chicago.The paper, which was presented by lead study author Dr. Hyung Suk Seo, a professor of neuroradiology at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea, found an imbalance of chemicals in the brain of “internet-addicted” teenagers. This imbalance was similar to that seen in people experiencing anxiety and depression. [9 Odd Ways Your Tech Devices May Injure You]

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But there’s also good news: The imbalance is reversible in several weeks using a type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy.

In the study, researchers examined the brains of 19 internet- and smartphone-addicted teenagers and 19 nonaddicted teenagers using magnetic resonance spectroscopy, a form of MRI that can reveal changes in the chemical composition of the brain. (Internet and smartphone addiction were measured using standardized questionnaires.)

Compared with the control group, the teens with internet and smartphone addiction showed a clear overabundance of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in one region of the limbic system, the brain’s emotional control center. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that it blocks nerve cells from firing.

GABA is found in everyone’s brain, but too much of this neurotransmitter in the wrong areas can have stultifying effects.”When the normal function of the limbic system is disturbed, patients can develop anxiety, depression or addiction,” said Dr. Max Wintermark, a professor of radiology and the chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University. Wintermark was not involved with the new research but said that he was intrigued by it because of the increasing prevalence of phones and web devices in society.

“There have been multiple studies published [that link] addiction to alcohol and other substances with chemical imbalances in different regions of the brain, but this is the first study I’ve read about internet addiction” that shows such a link, Wintermark told Live Science.

For most people, checking email first thing in the morning or spending an hour scrolling though Instagram after work does not signify an internet addiction.

Rather, internet addiction, as defined by the American Psychiatric Association, is an excessive use of the internet that leads to impairment of everyday life, sleep and relationships. Studies from around the world have found that the rates of internet addiction in young people range from less than 1 percent to 18 percent.

The teens who participated in Seo’s study all took standardized tests used to diagnose internet and smartphone addiction. The participants whose scores indicated an addiction  tended to saythat their internet and smartphone use interfered with their daily routines, social lives, sleep and productivity. These teenagers also had significantly higher scores in depression, anxiety, insomnia and impulsivity than the control group (the participants whose scores did not indicate internet addiction).

Due to the small sample size used in the study, Wintermark stressed that it’s too early to say that the chemical imbalances observed in the teens’ brains are linked to clinical problems such as anxiety and depression. Further testing on a larger group of people is needed, he said.

Wintermark noted that 12 teens in the study with addiction went on to participate in cognitive behavioral therapy, and after nine weeks, they all showed decreased or normalized levels of GABA in their brains. According to the researchers, those teens completed a modified form of therapy that’s used to treat video game addiction, involving weekly 75-minute sessions of mindfulness exercises. These include recognizing internet impulses, finding alternative activities and expressing emotions.

“With appropriate intervention, the teens were able to basically correct those chemical changes” in their brains, Wintermark said. “That’s the part of the study I find most interesting. It shows there’s hope.”

The study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Originally published on Live Science.

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dry season

Forecasters have ‘good news’ as dry season begins

By Kenton X. Chance

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, CMC — After a disastrous hurricane season, Caribbean forecasters have good news for the upcoming dry season, which begins on December 1.

“We are happy to announce for once that the climate outlook is positive mostly and so we just want to make sure that the people keep updating themselves with the weather because heavy rains can fall in December and in The Guianas also in January and the Christmas Floods of 2013 have shown that being caught off-guard is not a good idea, so please keep monitoring the weather,” Cédric Van Meerbeeck, a climatologist at the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

dry season“We will be back with updates on climate every month. So check in with the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology or your local met service if you want to know more about climate,” he said at the Caribbean Regional Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF) now underway here.

“After a disastrous hurricane season for especially the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles and for Puerto Rico, they are really wondering what is going to happen in the next three to six months. And I am very happy to say that it is mostly good news,” he said.

He said that most countries got enough rain in the hurricane season and, therefore, there will not be any drought or severe dryness in the dry season which would impact bushfires, agriculture, and water availability.

“So that is the best news we can have right now,” he said at the two-day event.

Van Meerbeeck told CMC that another piece of good news is that temperatures would be “cool enough.

“So we would not be impacted severely by heat stress in the coming three months. After that, the temperature will again warm up toward the summer months. But, for now, we will be cool and that’s a good relief.”

Bringing more good news, Van Meerbeeck said that The Guianas, which are currently in the wet season in their coastal areas, will get reliable rains which is also important for agricultural output.

He said this is especially important for Guyana, where agriculture pays such an important role in the economy.

Van Meerbeeck told CMC that Haiti was again impacted by the climate, this time suffering a drought and severe heat waves.

“They have been suffering record temperatures since April up until October and we hope now, with the cool season, they will return now to a normal situation but of course, once you have been impacted, just like those that have been impacted by the hurricanes, a little stress is to deteriorate the situation.”

He said that the dry season would be wetter and cooler than normal, except in the Bahamas and Cuba.

“The importance of this is that once you don’t have too much dryness occurring because you have less dry spells, you have a few more rainy days, then you keep your soil moist a bit longer and whatever water you have been storing in the wet season will also be available for longer during the dry season,” the climatologist said.

“So if there is reduced water availability, which is typical in the dry season, this time it will happen a bit later and once the rains come back, probably we will not see a water crisis, at least from the rainfall side of things. Distribution is another question, but we don’t expect climate to be a major negative role player for the coming months,” Van Meerbeeck added.

He said that when he talks about cooler temperatures, it is not much of a difference compared to the long-term averages.

“So if you look historically back into the 70s and the 80s and you draw a line right to the present, it might be like half a degree cooler than usual.

“… except maybe for a few cold nights, we are really not going to be too cold or anything. It’s just slightly cooler, which mean we are more at ease in temperatures that we’ll meet outside.”

Regarding the situation in the Leeward Islands, where there has been extended dry spells over the past few years, Van Meerbeeck told CMC that he is not a hydrologist and has not been monitoring the water reservoirs specifically.

“But, all other factors being equal, the ample rainfall that has fallen in the wet season has probably contributed in some way to reducing water stress in terms of reduced availability of water, but I can’t go into the detail with regards to water availability for households or particular countries.”

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