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St. Vincent suspends importation of pesticides containing glyphosate

St. Vincent suspends importation of pesticides containing glyphosate

ST. GEORGE’S , Grenada, Aug. 24, CMC –  The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, has placed an immediate suspension on the importation of pesticides that contain   the acting ingredient glyphosate.

Acting on the advice of the Pesticides Board, the government said the chemical is found in pesticides such as Round-Up, Touchdown and Glyphos.

According to a statement on Friday, the move is pending a technical review by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation, Industry and Labour.

“A preliminary review was conducted by the Pesticides Board which revealed that further research is needed regarding these listed chemicals. In the interim, a special technical committee was established to advise on sustainable alternatives to the listed chemicals. This committee is expected to present its findings by October 1,” the statement noted.

Meanwhile, the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) have been requested to provide support to the Ministry of Agriculture  to conduct a full chemical analysis of these products.

The Ministry of Agriculture is also scheduled to launch a national sensitisation programme with all stakeholders within the sector.

“The Department of Labour takes this opportunity to remind farmers and farm workers of the duty of care needed while using all chemicals. All employers must provide protective gears and a safe working environment for employees in accordance with the Laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” the statement added .

With the suspension of these products, Agriculture Minister Saboto Caesar, has called on all stakeholders to be appreciative of the suspension on the importation of the chemicals “in light of the nation’s quest to promote a safe working environment and good agricultural health and food safety practices.”

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Dominica calls for cheaper roaming rates within sub-region

Dominica calls for cheaper roaming rates within sub-region

ROSEAU, Dominica, Aug 21, CMC – Telecommunication ministers from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) are likely to agree on a policy regarding roaming rates in the sub-region when they meet in October, Telecommunications Minister Kelver Darroux has said.

He said that a decision on roaming rates is long overdue.

“We have met as the Council of Ministers of ECTEL (Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority) on the matter. We have had consultations held with various stakeholders to get the views as to what’s the best approach.

“Like we have said the European Union has gone ahead and done it and I believe for a smaller jurisdiction like the OECS member states there’s no difficulty in us moving forward. I believe we still have to take a practical step towards achieving it,” he said.

Darroux said that the ministers of the OECS ministers have listen to the plight of the consumers of the region as (it) relates to the high rates of roaming”.

He insisted that it is a situation that has to be addressed “in a timely manner.

“There has been enough talk on the matter and it is time to take action. I think we have to put more pressure on the telecom service providers in the region,” he said, acknowledging that while they individually have made “significant investments, they have held their grounds now and I think we have to put more pressure on them.

“And I think with that pressure from the Council of Ministers of ECTEL we will implement it. The Council of Ministers meet again in October of this year and that will be one of the items on the agenda at this meeting to see where we are at, what progress we have made and I am hoping at that meeting we can come to a final decision as it relates to roaming rates in the Caribbean and the OECS in particular,” Darroux said.

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Mottley says Barbados needs new international business

Mottley says Barbados needs new international business

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Aug. 24 CMC – Prime Minister Mia Mottley said Barbados needs to pick up new business in the area of international business and financial services.

Barbados PM Mia Mottley

Mottley who made the comment after the Barbados International Business Association’s (BIBA) Task Force  presented a report to the Government on Thursday said many opportunities were available to Barbados but enough people had to be put in place to pursue them “in a credible and structured way”.

She stressed that if this was done, additional business would be brought to the country.   

The Prime Minister also gave the assurance that Barbados would be marketed aggressively and proffered the view that there had to be a different approach to the diversification of marketing, both in terms of product and countries.

Those attending the meeting included Minister of International Business and Industry, Ronald Toppin; Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Dr. Jerome Walcott; Governor of the Central Bank, Cleviston Haynes; Director of Finance and Economic Affairs, Ian Carrington; members of BIBA and other senior public officers.

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Little Bay - 2008 with Potato hill, bottom rt; Renesvouz bluff, mid-left. (Barge stranded aground on shoreline below Potato Hill)

Little Bay port development by 2020

by Bennette Roach

Little Bay – 2008 with Potato hill, bottom rt; Rendesvouz bluff, beach barely seen beyond, mid-left. (Barge stranded aground on shoreline below Potato Hill)

Premier the Hon. Donaldson Romeo has been touting on the transformation projects that are about to be rolled out by the end of this year. Among them is what his government sees as most integral to the development of Montserrat. As reported he is spouting great optimism surrounding the delivery of a new breakwater and berthing facility for Montserrat. Only that will not break ground until next year.

Earlier in this month like before, the Government was reportedly in negotiation with the European Union for an additional £5million to fund the project. This is expected to supplement the 14.4 million pounds or $50.8 million already allocated under the UK Caribbean Investment Fund, UK-CIF.

Government of Montserrat (GoM) confirmed that the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) delegation was due to travel to Montserrat soon, to move the project to the next stage.

The Premier explained, “following that we hope to go to procurement on the port a final decision as to what we’re doing with the port and go to procurement, hopefully as I said before we go towards having a contract in place and action on the port around this time next year, by this time next year with a view to spend those funds by 2020.”

He continued: “…a port would have to be in place completed by 2020,” as he confirms, “… that’s one certainty we have once we complete the negotiation successfully.”

He promises, “there will be activity over that period from next year right into 2020 which is good news for the man out there who wants that continuous work that I’ve spoken about.”

He said the visit by the bank was confirmed at the CDB’s forty seventh Annual General Meeting in Turks and Caicos being attended by the Hon Premier Donaldson Romeo, the Financial Secretary Collin Owen and Chief Economist Raja Cadre.

Economic Growth Strategy to get boost

The Premier reportedly has met with the CDB President Dr William Warren Smith and the full board of directors. Premier Romeo discussed the five transformational projects that Montserrat plan to take forward and focused on the partnership between the C.B.D. and Montserrat to deliver the breakwater facility.

It was also confirmed at the meeting that CDB’s Chief Economist will be visiting Montserrat to support the development of the economic growth strategy now being developed by the government.

Meanwhile in late news Friday, a Press Conference on Port Development Project is announced for Tuesday, August 21, 2018  advising that the Project will be implemented by the Ministry of Communications, Works, Energy and Labour.

The information says, that “Since the signing, the Ministry has been inviting and receiving tenders for several key aspects of the project, including, perhaps beginning with the provision of ‘Technical Consultancy and Supervision of the project. 

This Press Conference will therefore provide an update on the tender process and the upcoming stages required as part of the project implementation.


Pics Premier

Little Bay

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Manafort convicted on 8 counts; mistrial declared on 10 others

Michael Cohen says he worked to silence two women ‘in coordination’ with Trump to influence 2016 election

The Washington Post

Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen pleads guilty – makes deal

President Trump’s former attorney pleaded guilty Aug. 21 to charges related to his business dealings, according to those familiar with the matter.

August 21 at 5:50 PM

BREAKING: The president’s longtime personal lawyer, who pleaded guilty to eight violations of banking, tax and campaign finance laws on Tuesday, faces a recommended jail sentence of between four and five years. This story will be updated.

President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday in a Manhattan courthouse to eight violations of banking, tax and campaign finance laws in a federal investigation that scrutinized his business dealings and efforts to silence women with negative stories about Trump.

Cohen pleaded guilty to five counts of tax evasion, one count of making a false statement to a bank and two campaign finance violations: making an unlawful corporate campaign contribution and making an excessive campaign contribution.

“Yes, sir,” Cohen answered when the judge asked if he pleaded guilty.

Cohen — long the self-professed “fixer” for Trump — agreed to the deal after prosecutors claimed he risked more than a dozen years in prison, according to a person familiar with the matter.

His guilty plea follow a months-long grand-jury investigation into Cohen’s activities, including his taxi business, as well as a hush-money payment that Cohen arranged to an adult-film actress, Stormy Daniels, who claimed to have had a tryst with Trump years ago.

Cohen has said he used a home-equity line of credit to finance a $130,000 payment to Daniels in October 2016, a month before the 2016 election.

Cohen is the fifth Trump associate to have pleaded guilty or be charged with criminal wrongdoing since Trump took office, including his former national security adviser, his deputy campaign chairman and a former campaign policy adviser.

Cable television played Cohen’s plea in an extraordinary legal split screen, as a Virginia jury convicted Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on eight counts in his bank and tax fraud trial.

Reminded that he had previously vowed to “take a bullet” or “do anything” to protect the president, Cohen told ABC in July that Trump is not his top priority. “To be crystal clear, my wife, my daughter and my son, and this country have my first loyalty,” he said.

Last month, Cohen attorney Lanny Davis released an audio recording of a September 2016 conversation between Trump and Cohen in which they discussed a deal that a Playboy model made to sell the rights to her story of an alleged affair with Trump. The move was seen as a dramatic turn against Trump by the Cohen camp.

Trump’s many denials about knowledge of Michael Cohen’s payments

CNN aired audio from 2016 of Trump and Cohen discussing paying for a story about an alleged affair, after months of Trump and his advisers claiming ignorance.

Trump’s current attorney and advisers have said he has nothing to fear from Cohen.

“If he gets indicted for something that has nothing to do with the president, well, I feel sorry for Michael, although I don’t know how sorry I feel for him, because he was tape recording the world and deceiving them, including his client,” Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani told Fox News on Monday.

“But it has nothing to do with us,” he added.

Cohen’s plea agreement comes just one day after the New York federal court overseeing the seizure of Cohen’s records finished its review of which documents were protected by attorney-client privilege.

The case against Cohen stems in part from a referral by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and examined Cohen’s role in at least two episodes involving Russian interests, according to people familiar with that probe.

However, special-counsel investigators have indicated to federal law enforcement officials that the office does not require Cohen’s cooperation for its probe, according to two people familiar with their work.

The Cohen investigation first burst into public view in April, when FBI agents searched his New York office, home and hotel room. The searches — in which agents collected all of Cohen’s phones and electronic devices — set off panic in the White House that federal investigators were looking into Trump’s business dealings and communications with Cohen.

Since then, the probe has led to revelations about how Cohen sought to squelch negative stories about Trump and then leverage his access to the president.

After the raid, Giuliani acknowledged that the president had made several payments reimbursing Cohen for the $130,000 settlement with Daniels. Trump had previously denied knowledge of the payoff.

Meanwhile, leaked documents showed that Cohen was paid millions last year by companies such as AT&T and Novartis to provide advice about the new administration.

Cohen had been under scrutiny by federal prosecutors starting in the fall of 2017, when Mueller’s team came across some unusual financial transactions and loans Cohen had obtained.

The special counsel referred the matter to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, which has been looking for evidence of possible bank fraud, wire fraud or violations of campaign finance laws in Cohen’s business dealings, according to people familiar with the matter.

The investigation has examined loans related to Cohen’s taxi medallion business and whether any laws were broken as part of an effort to stifle negative stories about Trump when he was running for president, according to people familiar with the matter.

A central focus of the probe has been on matters that have nothing to do with Cohen’s most famous client but rather Cohen’s attempts to borrow substantial sums of money against his taxi medallions and evidence suggesting he lied to get the money. On more than a dozen loan documents, according to two people familiar with investigators’ work, Cohen dramatically inflated the value of his medallion business year after year, even as the industry suffered from the rise of ride-hailing businesses.

In May, a New York taxi operator and former Cohen business partner agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of a plea deal in a separate New York state criminal tax fraud case.

Cohen is also under investigation for defrauding the IRS and failing to report his earnings, according to one person familiar with requests for information about Cohen’s financial records.

Cohen worked for Trump for more than a decade, starting in 2007. The raid on Cohen’s office enraged the president, who claimed prosecutors were violating attorney-client privilege.

Cohen also argued that prosecutors had violated attorney-client privilege by seizing what his lawyers said could be thousands or more items related to his work as a lawyer.

It is unusual for investigators to seize the papers of an attorney, but in court filings federal prosecutors maintained that Cohen was doing very little legal work and that they were investigating his business dealings to search for evidence of potential crimes.

U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood appointed a former federal judge to act as a special master and review the seized items to assess what material must be withheld from investigators because it is covered by attorney-client privilege.

In the end, only a tiny fraction of the seized material was found to be covered by the privilege, according to court filings.

Although Cohen has for years been portrayed as a lawyer who handled some of the most important and sensitive issues for Trump, the president has insisted to associates in recent months that Cohen was not that closely involved with him.

However, Giuliani said in May that Cohen was routinely asked to handle issues that could cause personal embarrassment for Trump, such as the claim of an affair by Daniels.

Trump has denied the affair, but Cohen directed that Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, be paid $130,000 just before the November 2016 election to ensure her silence, Cohen acknowledged this year.

“The agreement with Michael Cohen, as far as I know, is a long-standing agreement that Michael Cohen takes care of situations like this, then gets paid for them sometimes,” Giuliani said in May.

Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.

Manafort convicted on 8 counts; mistrial declared on 10 others

Manafort guilty on 8 counts of tax and bank fraud, with jury deadlocked on other 10

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted on eight counts of bank and tax fraud. The judge declared a mistrial on the remaining 10 charges.

August 21 at 5:58 PM

A jury has found former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty on tax and bank fraud charges — a major if not complete victory for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as he continues to investigate the president’s associates.

The jury convicted Manafort on eight of the 18 counts against him and said it was deadlocked on the other 10. U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis declared a mistrial on those charges.

Manafort stood impassively, his hands folded in front of him, and showed little reaction as the clerk read the word “guilty” eight separate times. As through most of the three-week trial, Manafort showed no apparent emotion as he looked at the six women and men who convicted him.

President Trump reacted to the verdict by denouncing Mueller’s investigation.

“It doesn’t involve me … it’s a very sad thing,” the president said after arriving in West Virginia for a political rally, adding that the Manafort case “has nothing to do with” Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort,” Trump said. “Again, he worked for Bob Dole, he worked for Ronald Reagan. He worked for many people. And this is the way it ends up.”

Paul Manafort’s attorneys, Kevin Downing, center, Richard Wetling, left, and Thomas Zehnle leave the Federal Courthouse after their client, Paul Manafort, was convicted on 8 counts of tax and bank fraud. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Manafort, 69, was found guilty of filing a false tax return in each of the years from 2010 through 2014, as well as not filing a form to report a foreign bank account as required in 2012. He was also convicted of two different instances of bank fraud, related to a $3.4 million loan from Citizens Bank and a $1 million loan from Banc of California.

The charges on which the jury deadlocked included three counts for not filing a form to report a foreign bank account, and seven for committing bank fraud or conspiring to commit bank fraud.

After the clerk read the verdict, Ellis asked the jurors if they wanted to keep their names confidential. The group responded, “Yes, sir.” Ellis then said he’d keep their names under seal, but that they could talk about the case if they desire.

The judge thanked the jury members for their service and they were dismissed.

Once the jury left the courtroom, Ellis asked Manafort to approach the lectern. The judge told Manafort that he would be ordering a pre-sentencing report and it was important for Manafort to “pay careful attention to the preparation of the document.” Manafort, in a black suit, listened as the judge explained the pre-sentencing process.

‘I feel very sad’: Trump reacts to Manafort guilty verdict

President Trump reacted on Aug. 21 to the conviction of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on eight counts tax and bank fraud charges.

Manafort’s possible prison sentence wasn’t immediately clear, but legal experts said he likely faces more than a decade in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

The verdict comes as President Trump has stepped up his criticism of Mueller’s investigation, publicly criticizing it on a weekly basis. As the Manafort trial began, Trump called for the probe to be shut down immediately.

Manafort’s guilty verdict may strengthen Mueller’s hand as he continues to investigate possible conspiracy and seeks an interview with the president; an acquittal could have led to a broader effort by conservatives to shut down the special counsel’s office.

The 18 charges in the Manafort trial centered around Manafort’s personal finances, and had little to do with the special counsel’s mandate of probing Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates conspired with those efforts.

But the trial was the first to emerge from Mueller’s probe, and as such it marked a significant public test of his work.

The jury deliberated for four days before announcing its verdict.

Over two weeks of testimony, more than two dozen witnesses, including his former right hand man Rick Gates, as well as his former bookkeeper and accountants, testified against Manafort. They said he hid millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts that went unreported to the IRS, and then later lied to banks in order to get millions of dollars in loans.

His lawyers had argued that Gates, not Manafort, was the real criminal, pointing to Gates’ admitted lies, theft, and infidelity. Gates pleaded guilty in February to lying to the FBI and conspiring against the United States, and has said he hopes to get a lesser prison sentence by cooperating against Manafort.

Prosecutors, in turn, told the jury that the most compelling evidence in the case were the dozens of documents, many of them emails, showing Manafort oversaw the false statements to the IRS and banks.

Manafort called no witnesses at all, as his lawyer argued prosecutors had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to defraud the government or banks. Manafort’s lawyers repeatedly suggested their client might not have known the law.

The trial featured heated arguments at times — not between the government and defense lawyers, but between U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis and prosecutors. The judge repeatedly chided prosecutors in front of the jury, though at the end of the trial he urged the panel not to consider during deliberations any opinions he may have expressed.

Manafort faces a second trial in September in Washington D.C., on charges he failed to register as a lobbyist for the Ukraine government, and conspired to tamper with witnesses in that case. Manafort has been in jail since June as a result of the witness tampering charges.

On Tuesday morning, the jury sent a note indicating they were split on at least one count. At that time, Ellis said he might be open to accepting a partial verdict at a later point, but not yet.

Manafort’s attorney Kevin Downing argued jurors should be given a new verdict form that would give them the option to be undecided on the charges. The “third option should be hung as to each count,” said Downing, who added that the jury “shouldn’t be misled” into thinking that a hung jury is inappropriate.

Prosecutor Greg Andres objected to that suggestion, saying such a form goes against the judge’s instruction for the jury to keep deliberating. The judge agreed, saying that if the jurors still can’t come to a consensus after he sends them back to continue deliberating, then he would “ask them to tell me where they stand.”

When the jurors were brought into the courtroom, Ellis told them only that if they failed to agree on a verdict, the case would be “left open and undecided,” and that there was no reason another 12 jurors could decide the case “better or more exhaustively” than they could. He told jurors not to yield their beliefs, but asked them to consider whether they stood in the minority, and if so, whether they should change their minds.

The president has repeatedly spoken out publicly in support of Manafort, both at the trial’s outset and during jury deliberations. On Monday morning, Trump tweeted that Mueller’s investigators “are enjoying ruining people’s lives and REFUSE to look at the real corruption on the Democrat side — the lies, the firings, the deleted Emails and soooo much more! Mueller’s Angry Dems are looking to impact the election. They are a National Disgrace!”

During closing arguments last week, Manafort’s lawyers accused the special counsel’s office of having gone on a fishing expedition to find evidence of financial crimes.

“Nobody came forward to say we’re concerned about what we’re seeing here. Not until the special counsel showed up and started asking questions,” lawyer Richard Westling said, suggesting the special counsel “cobbled together” information to “stack up the counts” against Manafort and overwhelm the jury.

“It is not enough that wrong information or even false information was given,” Westling said, telling jurors that to convict his client, they had to be convinced that Manafort intended to deceive banks and the IRS.

Downing, another defense lawyer, said the government was so desperate to charge Manafort they made a deal with Gates, who should not be trusted.

“To the very end, he lied to you,” Downing told the jury.

Prosecutors charged Manafort failed to pay taxes between 2010 and 2014 on millions of dollars in overseas bank accounts which he kept hidden from his accountants and the IRS. He earned that money working as a consultant for Ukraine’s then-president, Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych fled Ukraine in 2014 amid massive street protests, causing Manafort’s income to dry up, according to witnesses.

Prosecutors called Manafort’s bookkeeper and former accountants to testify against him. Those witnesses said Manafort misled them about foreign bank accounts he controlled. A former accountant for Manafort said she went along with falsifying information on Manafort’s tax return to lower the amount he would have to pay.

Other witnesses included employees of luxury clothing stores, a landscaper, and a home entertainment company employee, all of whom testified to the big ticket purchases Manafort made — paid via wire transfers from foreign bank accounts.

Witnesses said Manafort spent a small fortune at the time he was cheating the IRS — more than $1 million on clothes, including a $15,000 ostrich jacket, more than $2 million on home entertainment systems, and millions of dollars on homes for himself and his family. One witness said Manafort spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on landscaping, including a bed of red flowers in the shape of an “M” in the backyard of his Hamptons home.

Michael Brice-Saddler contributed to this report.

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Dominica Opposition party wants answers on Ross University departure

Dominica Opposition party wants answers on Ross University departure

While St. Vincent PM says no blame should be afforded to his regional colleagues on Ross University

ROSEAU, Dominica, Aug 14, CMC – The main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) is calling on the Dominica government to make public the recent 25 year agreement it signed with the US-owned Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) that still allowed for the school to be relocated in Barbados.

“Given the apparent support of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit for the relocation of Ross University to Barbados, the people of Dominica have a right to full disclosure of the 25-year agreement that allowed this to happen without notice. We need to know what are the unmet government obligations under the agreement that allowed Ross to relocate without breaching the agreement,” the UWP said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Skerrit announced Ross University, which had been forced to relocate its operations to St Kitts and the state of Tennessee in the United States following the passage of Hurricane Maria last September, would be leaving the Eastern Caribbean nation after 40 years.

His announcement was followed by a press conference in Bridgetown where Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley and the president Adtalem Global Education and chief executive officer at Ross University,  Lisa Wardell, announced that Bridgetown would be the new home of the American university by January 5, 2018.

The Skerrit administration said it had informed the RUSM that it could have resumed its operations on the hurricane struck island even before the start of the January semester in 2019.

The island’s ambassador to the United States and the Organisation of American States (OAS), Vince Henderson, speaking on a radio programme last Tuesday night, read from a three-page letter Prime Minister  Skerrit had sent to the university in July indicating that plans were advanced for the resumption of classes in Portsmouth, north of here.

“It is my fervent hope that all things considered there will be a much earlier re-opening of the campus that has been indicated in your earlier communication and during your visit in April 2018,” Skerrit wrote in the July 9 letter to Wardell.

Opposition Leader Lennox Linton

But in its statement, the UWP said that after 40 years of serving as a major engine of economic activity in Dominica, “the Prime Minister found it impossible to negotiate even a phased withdrawal that would give the country at least 12 months to cushion the devastating blow and prepare for adjustments”.

It asked “what exactly does the agreement provide?”

The party said that the circumstances of the termination “allow us to conclude that the Prime Minister failed to deliver on the investment support and public infrastructure improvements that had to be addressed satisfactorily within the context of the agreement to facilitate a return of Ross. What exactly does the agreement provide?

“There was a particular concern about accreditation by the Dominica Medical Board and the future of Ross in Dominica. What exactly does the agreement provide?”

It said that the National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation in the United States  is authorized to evaluate the standards of accreditation applied to foreign medical schools and to determine their comparability to standards applied to medical schools in the United States.

“This determination of comparability of accreditation standards by NCFMEA is an eligibility requirement for foreign medical schools to participate in the US government’s student financial assistance program and is therefore extremely important to Ross.

“Yet, under the watch of the Prime Minister who made himself directly responsible for Ross, there has been no determination, for more than 10 years, that accreditation standards in Dominica are comparable to those of the United States,” the UWP said.

The opposition party said “instead of coming clean with the people of Dominica to facilitate learning the lessons that will avert a similar catastrophe in the future, the Prime Minister is busy confusing the issue and creating distractions.”

The party said it has also taken note that both the chief economic and political advisor to Prime Minister Skerrit are Barbadian Avinash Persaud and Hartley Henry, both of whom serve in the same capacity to Prime Minister Mottley.

“These advisors had the inside track on the challenges faced by Ross in Dominica and were no doubt asked to advise both Prime Ministers. What was their advice to their Dominica boss about facilitating Ross to stay in Dominica?

“What was their advice to their Barbadian boss about facilitating Ross to relocate to Barbados? Did they even advise their bosses that they should, as CARICOM partners, meet with the owners of Ross to work out the best way forward for Dominica – a CARICOM Single Market and Economy country that stands to lose the significant development benefits of a 40-year investment relationship?

“Only Barbados is benefitting from this glaring conflict of interest in which the same political and economic advisors serve masters in Bridgetown and Roseau,” the UWP said.

On Monday, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said he would not blame either his Dominican or Barbadian counterparts for the controversy surrounding the decision of the US-owned Ross University to re-locate to Barbados.

Speaking at a news conference, Gonsalves told reporters that he had received information “from different sources” and he does not believe that ‘anyone can reasonably blame Prime Minister (Roosevelt) Skerrit (of Dominica) of losing Ross University neither can one reasonably blame Mia Mottley of poaching Ross University.

“The matter which comes out stark to me first of all is that the business entity has no loyalty to any country or any community if that loyalty conflicts with what they perceive to be their immediate, medium term long term interest,” Gonsalves said.

No blame should be afforded to regional colleagues on Ross University

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Aug 13, CMC – St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves Monday said he would not blame either his Dominican or Barbadian counterparts for the controversy surrounding the decision of the US-owned Ross University to re-locate to Barbados.

Speaking at a news conference, Gonsalves told reporters that he had received information “from different sources” and he does not believe that ‘anyone can reasonably blame Prime Minister (Roosevelt) Skerrit (of Dominica) of losing Ross University neither can one reasonably blame Mia Mottley of poaching Ross University.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves

“The matter which comes out stark to me first of all is that the business entity has no loyalty to any country or any community if that loyalty conflicts with what they perceive to be their immediate, medium term long term interest,” Gonsalves said.

Over the weekend, the Dominica government called for an end to the “unwarranted verbal attacks” against the Barbados government as a result of the decision of the university to re-locate after 40 years there.

“The decision to relocate to Barbados was a decision taken solely by Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM). The relationship between Barbados and Dominica is longstanding and amicable. The people and Government of Barbados have always stood with us both in good times and most recently in difficult times,’ Skerrit said in a radio and television broadcast.

The Skerrit administration said it had informed the Ross University School of Medicine that it could have resumed its operations on the hurricane struck island even before the start of the January semester in 2019.

The island’s ambassador to the United States and the Organisation of American States (OAS), Vince Henderson, speaking on a radio programme last Tuesday night, read from a three-page letter Prime Minister  Skerrit had sent to the university in July indicating that plans were advanced for the resumption of classes in Portsmouth, north of here.

“It is my fervent hope that all things considered there will be a much earlier re-opening of the campus that has been indicated in your earlier communication and during your visit in April 2018,” Skerrit wrote in the July 9 letter to the Adtalem Global Education president and chief executive officer at Ross University,  Lisa Wardell.

“I wish to assure you that all the arrangements we discussed for the accreditation for Ross by the Medical Board have been acted upon to meet the desired expectation,” Skerrit added.

Last week,Prime Minister Mottley denied there was anything underhanded by her administration into accepting the Ross University School of Medicine’s move to the island.

“Barbados came into the picture, only when, for Ross University, returning to Dominica for the start of the January semester in 2019, was not an option. This is not and has never been a case of poaching or enticing anyone away from Dominica,” she said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Skerrit announced Ross University, which had been forced to relocate its operations to St Kitts and the state of Tennessee in the United States following the passage of Hurricane Maria last September, would be leaving the Eastern Caribbean nation after 40 years. Hours later, Mottley and Wardell held a press conference in Bridgetown indicating that Barbados would be the new home of the American university by January 5, 2018.

In her statement, Mottley said while she could not speak for or on behalf of Ross, “the hands of the Barbados Government are clean in this matter”.

Gonsalves said Ross University was built in Dominica, recalling that “when Ross went to Dominica in 1978 …they started with 80 students, they would have had a hurricane in 1979…that did not stop them, they were just up and running, they came back.

“They have had other hurricanes. The Barbados government, nobody could tell Ross that there will be no hurricane in Barbados. Barbados has had hurricane in the past.

“They (Ross) have assessed where they are. The back to back hurricanes were probably the occasion, the spark for them having consideration for moving. But they would have assessed that their immediate, long term interest is no longer with Dominica”.

Gonsalves said the decision by Ross was “clearly” not based solely on the weather.

“Look, Grenada is outside the hurricane belt more than Barbados. They say Grenada is south of the hurricane belt but what happened in 2004. Ivan blow down the whole place including the medical school and they build it back better because they saw their long term interest being there in Grenada….”

Gonsalves recalled that when the off shore medical schools were first coming into the region, some Caribbean countries campaigned against them saying “they are bad for the medical profession.

“Now their thinking is clearly different,” he said, adding he is unaware if the medical professionals in Barbados “are yet convinced about having it (offshore medical school).

“It is going to be interesting to see how those medical doctors going to work with the medical students at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. I am sure they would be working out all of those problems and I don’t want to be negative about that, but I come back to the fundamentals that you can’t reasonably blame Roosevelt Skerrit or Mia Mottley.

“The thing is this between the decision to leave somewhere and to go somewhere else is always some period of uncertainty and that has to be sorted out…and they decided they going to Barbados. But basically 40 years of Ross in Dominica, clearly they did not consider that to be of any importance to them,” Gonsalves told reporters.


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Government reviewing dress code

Government reviewing dress code

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Aug 15, CMC – Less than a week after the Jamaica government announced it had suspended the no sleeveless policy after reviewing the longstanding practice of prohibiting women wearing sleeveless attire from entry into government buildings, another Caribbean island is following suit.

The Antigua and Barbuda government said it had appointed Social Transformation Minister Samantha Marshall to undertake a comprehensive review of the policy that prohibits people from wearing certain types of clothing when accessing services at government departments.

Marshall said that her ministry has already started the process and is also holding discussions with other Caribbean islands to learn from best practices.

“In the past, we have used what is the old-time sort of thinking in terms of dress code. Right now, we have to appreciate that we serve the people and we have to accept that there are ways in which persons may present themselves,” Marshall told the OBSERVER Media.

She said that if an individual is not dressed in a vulgar manner, he or she should be allowed to conduct their business.

Marshall said that the present policy is not mandated by law, but is a rather a rule that was adopted a few years ago.

“We are in consulting stages, we are hoping that within two to three weeks we can have an initial report to present to the Cabinet and we are hoping very shortly that there will be a change in the policy,” Marshall said.

Last week, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness in a statement said he has formally given instructions for the suspension of the no-sleeveless policy and instructed a full review of government dress code practices.

“It has been found, that while the practice exists to prohibit persons who wear sleeveless from entering Government buildings through “dress codes” established within particular Ministries, Departments and Agencies, there is no law or official government policy on which these are based. “

“To ensure the formulation of a proper policy, in the medium term, the Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport has been mandated to formulate, subject to consultation, a government dress code policy that is aligned with modern considerations as well as the climatic realities of Jamaica,” the statement noted.

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St. Kitts-Nevis P M promises no new taxes under current administration

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Aug 15, CMC – Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr. Timothy Harris has promised that citizens will not have to worry about any new taxes for the time remaining in his administration’s term in office.

Team Unity – an alliance of the Concerned Citizens’ Movement, the People’s Action Movement, and the People’s Labour Party, led by Dr. Harris – assumed power in the February 2015 general elections. With another year and a half left in the current term in office, Dr. Harris said the focus is on alleviating poverty.

“No new taxes are contemplated during the life of this Team Unity administration. We believe that through appropriate management, through the consistent growth of the economy and through the necessary administrative efficiencies in tax collection, we believe in reordering our incentive programme, the government will be able to collect adequate revenues to finance the programmes which are required by the people,” he said on local radio programme ‘Straight Talk’ on Monday.

Prime Minister Harris said it was important to initiate programmes to assist the people of St. Kitts and Nevis. He assured that the government stood ready to help where necessary.

“I would say that, by and large, the programmes in which we are engaged are not frivolous programmes. The fact that people are poor and need help is a matter to which we must respond and we must respond appropriately,” he said. “It is a commitment of this government to do all that we can to alleviate poverty in the country because no one ought to be living demeaning lives and, at the same time, the government through the variety of social and other interventions would want to ensure that people can move from poverty into prosperity.”

The Kittitian leader reminded that alleviating poverty and economically empowering residents form part of the government’s good governance and prosperity agenda.

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Redonda in the back ground - web

Magical Transformation – (Redonda)

Antigua Observer – August 4, 2018


Redonda in the back ground rt (Montserrat)

Not too long ago, Redonda’s landscape could be described as being closer in appearance to the lunar surface than earth’s. The once heavily-forested rock, was being decimated by invasive species in the form of black rats and non-native goats.

Then came the Redonda Restoration Program, which was formed by the Antigua and Barbuda government and the Environmental Awareness Group (EAG), in collaboration with other earth-friendly organisations like Fauna & Flora International, British Mountaineering Council, Island Conservation and Wildlife Management International Ltd.

The mission was simple. Rid the island of the rats and the goats and allow Mother Nature to heal the flora and fauna that are native to the island. For those who do not know, the rock called Redonda is legally part of our bit of paradise. It is said that Columbus gave the island its name because of its shape.

In Latin languages such as Spanish and Portuguese, “redonda” is the female form of the adjective meaning “round.” While the island belongs to us, it is actually closer to Montserrat.

Redonda was a guano mine and operated as one from about the 1860’s up until just after the start of World War I – before the age of artificial fertilisers. There are still the remnants of a few buildings from that era on the rock. If you have visited Redonda, it is hard to believe that anyone could live there, but it is reported that the population was 120 in 1901 and the workers produced up to 7,000 tons of guano annually.

This is not intended to be a history lesson on Redonda, but it is nice to know something about this magnificent rock as we celebrate what has been described as a “magical transformation” by Fauna & Flora International (FFI) in just over one shortyear. Just reading of the successes made possible by the restoration programme is heartwarming and it is something of which the sponsors and the project and the participants should be quite proud. It is a clear demonstration that when we work together towards as common goal, we can achieve great things.

For example, it has been reported that Redonda’s ground dragon, which is a rare black lizard found nowhere else on the planet, has doubled its population. Not only that, the rare Redonda tree lizards have multiplied in the absence of the alien predators, and hundreds of new trees have sprung up. FFI reports that “land birds have increased tenfold, and the island’s globally important seabird colonies – including magnificent frigate birds and several booby species – are having their best breeding year on record.” How a tree lizard ever survived on an island that was near devoid of trees is amazing in its own right.

Interestingly, one of the invasive species, the goats, have been captured, and studies and tests are underway to see if a breeding program can be established to take advantage of their drought-resistant genes. So, aside from restoring Redonda to an environmental paradise, we may be able to make our local goats more resistant to droughts, and we all know, with the kind of weather that we are experiencing, that would be a good thing. All of these spectacular results seem like an “overnight” success, considering all that has been achieved in such a short period of time, but it has been a chore for the team that was – on the rock. From the capture of dozens of fleet-footed goats to the removal of 6,000 rats from the rugged terrain of Redonda – which included rappelling down cliff faces to set bait – the entire team deserves our praise. Redonda may be far away and out of our minds but this restoration project should not be. It demonstrates that with proper planning, support and execution, great things can be achieved for our environment. So, please join us in complimenting the government, the EAG and all the other contributing agencies, along with all the individuals who participated in the programme.

Their work is invisible to most but they have produced a “magical transformation” that can be used as a framework for future conservation projects. Well done!


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Caribbean broadcasters meeting in Jamaica

Caribbean broadcasters meeting in Jamaica

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Aug 14, CMC –Caribbean and international broadcasters are meeting here amidst calls for regional governments to adapt to the new media environment of which social media is now a critical part.

Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Ruel Reid, addressing the 49th annual General Assembly of the Barbados-based Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU), Tuesday, said that it was also necessary for Caribbean societies to guard against insularity as well as to take their place in the discourse in the global geo politics.

“I encourage our governments to adapt to our new media environment of which social media is now a critical part – embrace social media as an additional means to engage with our citizenry, encourage youth participation in our democracies and build trust in our systems.

Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Ruel Reid

“We see the power of the media in the #MeToo Movement – and it is from advocacy against gender based injustices in the West to campaigns for girls to access to education in the East that now cannot be muted given the coverage through multiple media platforms.”

But Reid said that the shift to the online world has also brought many new social problems.

“For example, children and young adults are particularly vulnerable to cyber-bullying, revenge porn, internet addiction disorder and other forms of deeply problematic internet use. One of the worst problems is that some gangs now record their criminal acts, including murders and rapes, which they then post on social media and share via WhatsApp in order to exult in their ‘success’, humiliate their victims, devastate their families and intimidate others. These posts/shares encourage imitation and retaliation, resulting in a vicious cycle of reciprocal violence. “

He said that a less-obvious but equally troubling problem is that as traditional news outlets have become less profitable, they are also losing some of their primary news-gathering and fact-checking capacity.

“The loss of authoritative and independent sources of news means that many people now obtain their information from closed loops of like-minded people, which encourages political tribalism and increases vulnerability to fake news and manipulation via social media.”

Reid said that a number of state agencies, criminal and terrorist organizations and mercenary hackers now have the ability to destabilize countries by penetrating their communications, compromising their infrastructure and manipulating elections with fake news.

He said the cost of a cyber-hack/fake news attack has fallen dramatically as the necessary skills have spread through the hacker community, which means that these attacks are likely to be much more common in future.

“So the critical issue for our countries now is that our regulatory framework must focus on protecting vulnerable persons such as children, adolescents and young adults against malign content; our States must take steps to improve national media literacy.

“Media must ensure that it maintains high media quality with particular regard to factual content, support national and citizen security, and protect the integrity of our democratic systems,” he told the delegates.

Reid recalled that while there had been the Ferguson riots in the United States against the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager Mike Brown in 2014, Jamaica was grappling with the Mario Dean tragedy.

Deane was reportedly beaten while in police custody and later died. That matter is still before the courts. Reid said that the ordinary citizen’s perspectives were amplified alongside traditional broadcast journalists and media houses’ coverage ensuring appropriate focus on the issues attendant on both security and justice.

He said tools available to journalists, civil society and the public at large, such as access to information (ATI) legislation must not be underused.

“Just recently, use of our ATI Act exploded the widely held view that women were not allowed to wear sleeveless shirts and or dresses to conduct business in government establishments, effectively proving a barrier to access timely government services.

“Human rights activist and blogger Susan Goffe utilized the Access to Information Act to request from a number of government Ministries, whether this enforced dress code was originated from any policy document. Following the request it was revealed that no policy prohibited women’s access to government buildings in sleeveless shirts or dresses. The national discourse again ignited, and this is where these discussions can influence policy,” he said.

Reid noted the challenges to the survival of indigenous Caribbean media recognising that the global media industry is in the middle of a profound transformation.

“We have left behind the era in which the media industry was organized and regulated by infrastructure -radio, television, telephone, print etc.-. Today, content flows over many different networks and technologies.”

He said that news, information, entertainment, education, directions, home management and shopping, translations and many other services are all now digital streams that can be directed to the nearest screen.

“Many different services can now be handled on the same networks, and different services can be transmitted on a number of competing networks using different and combined technology platforms. This means that the flow of content is no longer controlled by infrastructure.

“In addition, it is now possible to provide media services without the need to have any local presence at all, or ownership of any infrastructure – other than access to the internet- , which makes it increasingly difficult to regulate effectively within a single jurisdiction, let alone by a given technology.”

Reid said that these changes mean that the traditional divisions by region and infrastructure are becoming less and less relevant.

He said in the new era, consolidated content is the heart of the media world, while infrastructure and devices are delivery channels.

“This has implications for how we will regulate, paying particular attention to what flows through an increasingly diverse array of pipes.

“The media and communications sector today is in the business of conveying both specialized and mass information across the rapidly eroding borders of broadcasting. Television and radio, business and market information, education, entertainment, publishing, advertising, telecommunications, motion pictures, home videos, video games, computer databases, and other information products are all now digital streams which run across different networks, including many that flow through some of the currently unregulated spaces”.

Reid said that content, defined broadly, is now a most critical factor and it is where value is generated and added.

“Content is now the critical determinant of the economic dynamism and prosperity of an economy.

We in the Caribbean must take note that media firms are now competing against technology firms that can operate in unregulated and untaxed spaces while accessing advertising revenue. The traditional media organizations therefore are losing both audience and income.”

Reid said between  2012 -2014 the audience for radio fell from 21 per cent to 19.6 per cent; the audience for Free-to-Air TV fell from 25 to 23.2 per cent and newspaper readership fell from 22 to 20.6 per cent as people switched to the internet and international cable.

He quoted from a 2015 document by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) that argued that the creative economy of which Film and Television and Media Arts & Communications are apart, is an important part of global trade.

“The global market for traded creative goods and services totalled US$547 billion in 2012.  Growth rates stood at 8.6 per cent annually from 2003 – 2013, showing the strength and resilience of the sector despite the economic deceleration of the world economy,” the document stated.

But Reid said that there are advantages to some of the profound changes in the media landscape with one of the most significant gains being the shift from traditional to non-traditional platforms and stimulated many new creative and business ideas, as many people are now both consumers and providers of content.

“News, information and entertainment are no longer the sole province of the traditional creators and distributors of content, the broadcast and print media. In an era of citizen journalists, Facebookers, Tweeters, bloggers and vloggers, the average person is both consumer and creator of content. “

The Assembly which is being held under the theme “Building Resilience to Climate Change: Business, Technology & Content Options for Caribbean Media,” ends on Wednesday.



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