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New Port development launched

Concept design – Full to be available by August

The Government of Montserrat through the Ministry of Communication and Works on Friday, May 17, 2019, conducted the Montserrat Port Development Project Launch which has been seriously undertaken when Premier Romeo announced in February last year, that the funds had been sourced for the project.

The event was hosted at the Montserrat Port Authority – Ferry Terminal Building, with an overflow of persons who were outside of the small available space, but with the apparent intention to afford guests the opportunity to tour the site and to ask pertinent questions, especially that there is not yet a design for the actual port.

Port Authority manager Joseph O’Garro chaired the proceedings which began with the singing of the Territorial song and a prayer led by Fr. Carlisle Vyphius of the Anglican church.

Following, were welcome and opening remarks by the port manager, referred to as the Chief Executive Officer – Montserrat Port Authority on the program; H.E. Governor Pearce, CDB Representative Andrew Dupigny, Head of Infrastructure Partnerships, Hon. Paul Lewis, Minister of MCWEL, a feature address by Premier Donaldson Romeo and finally a vote of thanks by MCWEL Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Beverley Mendes.

Seated in the front row l-r, Governor, Premier, Minister, Dupigny and PS with CDB officials in the back row

Mr. O’Garro briefly in his opening and welcome outlined what most or all of the remarks noted, that the project will provide safe, secure and modern port facility for Montserrat, that will provide critical access and reduce down-time especially in times of poor weather.

He, again like others, in addressing the down time noted that about 12% of the vessels calling at Little Bay had not come into, or leave or port.

CEO O’Garro and Governor Pearce

The Governor said about the project. “It works with the grain of our small island community and it sort of aligns with the niche nature of our economy,” preceding that with the observation. “Size is not everything, quality and balance are key – it matches the scale of little Montserrat – we aren’t going to get and we don’t want almost 4000 berth cruise ships, hopefully smaller ones – we can host graciously…

CDB’s Andrew Dupigny, who has been with the project from early 2017, in his remarks, noted that, “…On completion it is expected that the new facility will provide direct and positive impact on the  economy with the potential that would increase employment, improved productivity and overall improvements in the business environment.

Andrew Dupigny

Sounding like coming straight out of a business case, he continued to say: “Over the long term the provision of a reliable access and connectivity to the island, the movement of people goods and services would increase its creativity potential which would ultimately positively impact growth – improve the efficiency effectiveness and resilience of the port facility to provide safety and accessibility.” –

When we say that this project goes way, 12 years, further than the Premier would later recall, Dupigny noted “This actually dovetails very well with the government of Montserrat’s ongoing activities to restore access and connectivity to the island,” which he said, “…was articulated in the Hon Premiers presentation of the budget address in 2017 when he declared ‘access is perhaps our single biggest challenge to growth.’”

He connected this to: “CDB’s strategic plan for the period 2015 to 19 similarly recognises, the positive relationship between infrastructure economic growth and poverty reduction.”

 He offered, “Good transportation is one of the main elements that supports national development. A Key success of any project especially a project such as this which will impact every community across Montserrat is the participation of stakeholders.”

“We are therefore extremely pleased to see the enthusiasm evidenced by your numbers here this morning as well as a high level of participation in the workshop that took place over the past few days.”

This was a workshop that this long-standing stakeholder in all Montserrat progress media house was excluded and knew nothing about. Such could very well be to the detriment to any project, except for dishonest follow-ups which in the end will as we say be detrimental to Montserrat.

Minister Lewis was firm in his presentation as he set out the history of loss and difficulties with a port that far than less served the required needs of Montserrat, but finally, “a solution.”

He spoke to how, “with unreliable sea access for the last 23 years Montserrat lost opportunities for economic growth, our country’s people suffered other losses, including vessels running aground and the destruction of cargo vessels; loss of fishing vessels and yachts unable to come into port; cost of goods have increased after additional charges were placed on shipping given the uncertainty of docking on arrival in Montserrat and having to wait, perhaps even leave before returning a second time to off load,” referring to unsuccessful attempts as they try to dock in rough waters, having to return to Antigua – the road to a solution has not been without challenges.

He spoke of the benefits to be gained as the project progresses, as well as the revealing that, “The project will also provide employment for 72-100 workers over 18 months to two years.

With all other requirements in place and September this year, for a design and build contractor will take place, thereafter, the successful company will be mobilizing to start work by the end of the year

Funding for this project, after a £23 million offer by the UK was turned down (technically) in early 2014, came with a £14.4 million grant to GoM from the UK government via the United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund (UKCIF), augmented by another £7 million budgetary support from the European Union.

With the (CDB) making an initial allocation for the project, advised to GoM in July 2016, an application for the grant made in March 2017, the agreement between the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Government of Montserrat for £14,400,000 was signed by Premier Romeo on Wednesday, April 11, 2018.

Premier Romeo and Minister Lewis

The Premier was set to deliver the feature address for the event. He, following what took his Government nearly three years to get to this point, recently accessing the needed additional funds, he was relieved probably more than excited.

“Today, marks one of the first, breakthrough step towards the fulfillment of a twenty four-year old hope for Montserrat; a protected sea port here in the safe zone.  Yes, the first safe harbour in Montserrat’s history,” he began.

He continued by recalling as many of the arguments that had no doubt, like Dupigny recalled, made in the business case that had to be presented for the port. He quoted DFID: “The principal barrier to economic growth and development on the island is poor physical access.. . . Without the development of Little Bay and Carr’s Bay, improved access, and reduced costs of doing business, Montserrat will remain uncompetitive in attracting [Foreign Direct Investment].”

So he told an appreciable number of many of whom were invited for the event. “The port development project is therefore one of the strategic keys for unlocking growth and building Montserrat’s future.” 

Concurring that this key we will open up the door for local and foreign investment and for self-sustaining, private sector led growth, he added: “It will create jobs during the construction phase, and it will provide more reliable docking for Cruise ships and for cargo vessels.”

Like other speakers he pointed out that “due to rough seas…out of a total of 478 calls, vessels were unable to berth 58 times…one vessel out of every eight had to turn back. “Yes, that is not sustainable. We had to fix the problem,” he said

That’s why a safe harbour “is of vital importance in providing connectivity to the island of Montserrat and for supporting economic activity.”

He reminded of earlier attempts at building a port, that the Government of the day had envisioned a sea port development in Carrs Bay, and it had actually knocked down part of Gun Hill to facilitate the project.

With no design yet in place for the current project, he noted that in the previous case, a design was made and developed, being presented to the public at 60% and 90% points. “But, alas, it was very costly and suitable private sector partners were hard to secure,” but giving no details of the contrasts.  

He recalled also a statement made by former Chief Minister John Osborne, deceased, in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo on July 30, 1990: “With assistance in developing its infrastructure, including a proper airport and a safe harbour, Montserrat could develop a viable economy and opt for independence.”

Before closing his address, the Premier gave an insight as to how the project will move from this launch. “First, through presentations and workshops that have been going on for a few days, we look at preliminary designs, then adjust towards a preferred option. The preferred option will then be fully developed as a technical design, starting in August. Then, once that design is completed and accepted, construction will begin.

He revealed that “Construction will take considerable time, over a year,” with a caution. “However, we must always recognise that we are dealing with the sea, which has its own power, its own ways and its own voice; which can force changes to our proposed schedules.”

He concludes after thanking several key authorities, Minister Lewis, UK govt and other key personel, and then: “Let us see, how we can work together as a people as we put in place one of the foundation stones for building our future.”

Discussing the possible design

The P:S gave a fairly descriptive and comprehensive vote of thanks, praising the Ministry and staff for the work done so far on the project and hosting the morning’s event which ended with people looking at and discussing the site from the concept drawing.

Related: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/planning-to-begin-for-a-breakwater-facility-at-little-bay/

https://youtu.be/jhkzwryf-2w

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1-cZXxLq1fMwTeH0q5kA4vBcaQdyCsAbz?usp=sharing

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhkzwryf-2w&feature=youtu.be

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, CARICOM, Environment, Featured, International, Local, News, TOURISM, Videos0 Comments

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Montserrat has a Tourism Strategy

Participants at the strategy workshop

Tourism Intelligence International Inc. completed a Tourism Strategy for Montserrat.

Following a comprehensive tour, by the consultants who completed many one on one sessions, facilitated a stakeholders’ workshop in February, they submitted a draft to which comments were sought to be used to create the best path forward for Montserrat Tourism. A strategy was written and approved in early April after a deadline for submission of comments by March 11, 2019.

Here is a brief report of how the workshop in February progressed.

Dr. Auliana Poon

In the course of the February 14, 2019 Montserrat Tourism Strategy Workshop, Dr. Auliana Poon raised the questions, Montserrat’s vision 2050 and Montserrat’s uniqueness. Participants were invited to write on small strips of paper which were then posted on wall charts.

In trying to summarise Montserrat’s uniqueness, participants suggested:

  • Hassle free living
  • Strangers paradise
  • The Montserrat Oriole and Galliwasp
  • The active/living beautiful volcano
  • The volcano experience
  • Buried city
  • Clean, reliable water
  • Nature lovers’ paradise
  • Traditions
  • Safety/negligible or low crime rate
  • Lowest crime rate regionally
  • Dark skies at night for stargasing
  • Our collective experience in our specific environment (thus, history, culture, volcano impact)
  • It is the way the Caribbean used to be
  • Friendly people
  • Close-knit
  • Tradition
  • Peaceful
  • 50 shades of green
  • Pristine
  • Very easygoing lives
  • Getting here is an achievement
  • Tranquil
  • Culture and festival diverse
  • No traffic (issues)
  • Natural spring water
  • Exclusive black sand

The gist of these themes suggests that our key tourism and development assets are tied to our natural and cultural heritage, with particular reference to tranquility, peacefulness, friendliness greenness and the spiciness of a drive-in active volcano experience. At the same time, it was clear that it was a struggle for some participants to see the volcano as a value driver. Perhaps, also, we need to ponder to what extent we suffer from post-traumatic stress disorders, even in the midst of celebrating resilience.

In this context, Dr Poon’s other question on where we hope to be in just thirty-one years’ time, opens up another window on ourselves. In other words, if we now are how the Caribbean used to be, where do we want to go in the next generation?

Participants suggested:

  • Innovative
  • Pristine
  • Vibrant
  • The way the Caribbean used to be
  • Green, tranquil, inclusive and safe
  • Clean, green connected and beautiful
  • Clean, green and self-sustaining
  • Water, black sand, friendly people
  • Alive
  • Sustainable 100%
  • Carbon neutral
  • Crime free
  • Developed
  • Viable
  • Booming
  • Family friendly
  • Connected, green, thriving
  • Dynamic tourism industry
  • Competitively involved
  • Fulfill the National Vision (buoyant, inclusive, prosperous, God-fearing)
  • Wholesome, sustainable
  • Crime-free, God-fearing
  • Sustainably developed
  • Efficient
  • Economically efficient
  • Green, evolving and receptive
  • Highly valued

Here, we may see that there is a desire to keep the best of what we have and to gain self-sustaining prosperity in a green, wholesome, beautiful, God-fearing way.

Now see the completed strategy here:

http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/2019-03-29-Montserrat-Tourism-Strategy-2019-2022.pdf?

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, International, Local, News, Regional, TOURISM0 Comments

We need a new politics of truth, soundness and national consensus

We need a new politics of truth, soundness and national consensus

Part 4/2019 (Contribution)

Can we move beyond the politics of bitterness, slander, half-truths and insincere promises?

BRADES, Montserrat, May 11, 2019 –  In this election year we have just seen two elected members of our assembly suspended for unbecoming behaviour in the Assembly. Behaviour, of a degree that has been unprecedented for eighty-two years. At the same time, we have had to spend time looking at the FAC’s intent to impose “same-sex marriage” on us, and we saw how a Chief Justice in Cayman, to promote the same homosexualisation, tried to rewrite Cayman’s Constitution from the judicial bench. These unfortunate developments are a wake-up call, a sign that we need a better politics, one capable of handling far more ticklish, potentially explosive issues, and handling them soundly and soberly. 

In short, we need “a fresh, serious, public-spirited conversation on how we will govern ourselves as a nation over the next six years.” (Yes, six years, as we must not waste this year’s opportunities.) A great place to begin that conversation is with our official, national vision statement:

A healthy and wholesome Montserrat,
founded upon a thriving modern economy
with a friendly, vibrant community,
in which all our people
through enterprise and initiative,
can fulfill their hopes
in a truly democratic and God-fearing society

It would be hard to object to this.  So, then, why is there so much bitterness, disrespect, untruth, slander, misleading half-truth and insincerity in our politics?

If you doubt me, consider the case of the local commenter who recently claimed on radio that the UK has done “nothing” for Montserrat over the past twenty-five years. Likewise, think about the one who suggested that in awarding a three percent salary increase (after ten years of no increases at all), the government then took it all back through taxes. As a third, ponder the persistent gap between manifesto promises and what our elected governments do in office. Not once, not twice, again and again.

Obviously, long-suffering British taxpayers have cause to object to such an attitude.  For they pay for 60% of our recurrent budget – which is being debated this coming week (after two delays), typically pay for much more of our capital budget and have paid perhaps £500 millions in support to Montserrat since the volcano crisis began. Added up, that’s about EC$  350,000 for each resident of Montserrat, the cost of a good house.

So, as a first step, if we are to build an improved onward development partnership with the UK, we would be well advised to form a more balanced view of what has been contributed and what has been achieved thus far. Yes, results have been very mixed, but without the £500 millions of support to date, Montserrat would have long since completely collapsed.

Likewise, given a progressive tax structure and that someone else is paying 60% of our recurrent budget (someone, who is not getting big tax cuts), it will be very hard for any future local government to cut local income tax rates significantly until we are paying our own way and are collecting enough to cover cuts from other forms of revenue.  The horse pulls the cart, not the other way around.

Also, let us remember: increased consumption is not at all the same as increased investment.

As sustainable economic growth must come from fresh business investment, our national priority must be the “catalytic” infrastructure that opens the door for private sector investment led growth. Then, we can argue that new business investments hire people and buy services from other businesses, starting with construction. We can then use our longstanding tax incentives to help fertilise new investments.  Tourism and the digital sector are obvious priority sectors. Significantly, government just hired a regional person – do we dare say the now dirtied word: “TC”? – to help us move tourism forward. The good news is, it seems the breakwater and berth and the new fibre optic cable – at last, after at least a decade of too often questionable delays and roadblocks – are on the move.

We can also notice that key infrastructure projects are now clearly moving ahead: the sea port, the fibre optic cable project, the 250 kW solar photo voltaic electricity plant, even the new air traffic control tower for the airport. These projects will open opportunities for investment, and while we remain concerned about long delayed geothermal energy development after learning that the drilling equipment was deteriorated and had to be removed even as DfID closed the project, good news is indeed good news. 

So, we must ask pointed questions of those who act as though good news for Montserrat is bad news for them, while bad news for Montserrat is good news for them.  Instead, a fair-minded critic will be balanced and constructive (not bitterly destructive).

Another concern, is that we must find ways to improve administration and project management so that we actually spend out our budgets. Especially, capital budgets. It’s a good thing that we have a new head of the Programme Management Office.

Again, while, yes the EU money came late (November) it is not good that we were only able to expend 27% of the already small capital programme for the 2018-19 budget by the end of March. Obviously, it does no good to be habitually rolling over capital projects into the next year. This, again, points to the urgent need to continue restoring the Programme Management Office now that a new head is in place. Let us use it to build up capacity to manage, govern and execute projects on time, to international standards such as PRINCE2.

Likewise, we need to ask our politicians and pundits some very hard questions about what a local government beholden to DfID for 60% of recurrent budget and for most of our capital budget can realistically achieve.

It is very clear that when Lord Ahmad announced £30 millions for CIPREG, he admitted the need was more like £50 millions. Premier Romeo seems to think £70 millions is more like it. We must take manifestos far more seriously, thinking hard about what it means to lightly break promises to the voting public. Then, when it comes to spreading nasty stories about politicians etc or when we act disrespectfully in the Assembly, are we simply acting out of disregard for truth, disrespect, delight in damaging reputation, habitual gossip or worse?

Jeremiah has some choice words for us:

Jeremiah 9:4 Let everyone beware of his neighbor,
and put no trust in any brother,
for every brother is a deceiver,
and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.
5 Everyone deceives his neighbor,
and no one speaks the truth;
they have taught their tongue to speak lies;
they weary themselves committing iniquity. [ESV]

Plainly, we cannot build a sound future through lies and liars. Where, a loaded, misleading half truth is a full lie. (TMR noted for the last election, to lie is to speak with disregard to truth, in the hope of profiting from what is said or suggested being taken as true.)

Let us turn from “advantage,” gossip, slander, disrespect etc. – the politics of bitterness and deception.

Turn, to what?

Perhaps, the five principal goals in our seemingly forgotten 2008 – 2020 Sustainable Development Plan:

I.        Prudent Economic Management

II.      Sound Human Development

III.    Robust Environmental Management and Disaster Mitigation

IV.     Good Governance

V.      A Sustainable Population

Okay, let the “fresh, serious, public-spirited conversation” begin.

Budget Speech- http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Budget-Speech-2019-20.pdf Budget Estimates- http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Budget-Estimates-2019-20.pdf

Budget Speech- http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Budget-Speech-2019-20.pdf
Budget Estimates- http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Budget-Estimates-2019-20.pdf

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, De Ole Dawg, General, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional0 Comments

William Gelling

John Gordon and Will Gelling directors for OTS to visit Montserrat

William Gelling, Deputy Director, OTS at FCO, UK

John Gordon is the Deputy Director for the OTs and the Caribbean at DFID, along with Will Gelling, Deputy Director for the OTs at the FCO, will visit Montserrat from  Monday, for two days next week during a familiarisation visit to the Caribbean.

While on island, they are expected to meet with Premier and other ministers and senior officials in the Government of Montserrat. They will discuss a fair range of critical issues including disaster resilience and security, transport, environment, health, education and tourism polices and challenges.

They will also meet with key members of the business and political communities.

According to information from the Governor’s office, in between these discussions, both officials will visit the hospital, port and breakwater, airport, Montserrat Secondary School and the Davy Hill and Look Out communities. They will also view the volcanic exclusion zone.

The visit will end with a press briefing at the Governor’s Office in Brades.

Posted in Announcements/Greetings, Business/Economy/Banking, Environment, International, Local, News, Regional0 Comments

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Sold Into Sex Slavery

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by Mark Bassant and Hema Ramkissoon

May 18 2019

SOLD A LIE

Maria There­sa, a 19-year-old nurs­ing stu­dent from Tu­cu­pi­ta, saw the promise of a new be­gin­ning.

Like oth­er places in Venezuela, the econ­o­my of her small town in the Orinoco Delta had col­lapsed, caus­ing thou­sands of res­i­dents to flee.

Maria saw her chance when a friend told her about peo­ple who could take her to find a bet­ter life in Trinidad.

Some traf­fick­ers, an or­gan­ised net­work of Trinida­di­ans and Venezue­lans, promised Maria and her friends that they would loan them mon­ey for the trip. When they land­ed in Trinidad, the same peo­ple would find them jobs as hair­dressers or house­keep­ers.

So, one night in Jan­u­ary, Maria climbed on­to a pirogue from a hid­den in­let on the Orinoco Riv­er. About six hours lat­er, she land­ed in an area she be­lieved to be Ch­aguara­mas, where she and oth­er pas­sen­gers on the boat were met by a man they didn’t know. From there, they were tak­en to a house oc­cu­pied by oth­er mi­grants.

For three days, Maria and eight oth­er Venezue­lans were crammed in­to a room where day­light bare­ly crept in. Their pass­ports were tak­en from them and they were fed a di­et of Crix and wa­ter. One day, they had no food at all.

It was on­ly then Maria re­alised that the traf­fick­ers had sold her a lie.

On the third day, the door to her room opened and one of her han­dlers told her to get pret­ty; that some vis­i­tors would be ar­riv­ing soon. Maria was con­fused and afraid but did as she was com­mand­ed.

When a strange man came in and leered at her, she un­der­stood her fate.

“They said that we (were) go­ing to be pros­ti­tutes and if we didn’t like it, it didn’t mat­ter, be­cause they brought us here and we had to do it.”

Dressed in a green track suit, Maria gave this de­tailed ac­count from a safe house in Pe­tit Bourg.

“I would have worked in any job be­cause there is noth­ing in Venezuela. There is no op­por­tu­ni­ty. You can’t sur­vive. But not pros­ti­tu­tion,” Maria said, bury­ing her face in her hands.

BONDAGE DEBT PAID WITH SEX

Venezuela’s eco­nom­ic col­lapse has trig­gered an ex­o­dus of some five mil­lion peo­ple from the South Amer­i­can na­tion. By some es­ti­mates, some 60,000 have sought refuge in Trinidad.

A three-month Guardian Me­dia in­ves­ti­ga­tion has re­vealed how hu­man traf­fick­ers have swooped in to prey on Venezue­lan women seek­ing eco­nom­ic sur­vival. These traf­fick­ers have placed hun­dreds of young women in­to mod­ern-day sex slav­ery.

The net­works in­volve an en­tan­gled web of Trinida­di­an and Venezue­lan traf­fick­ers who smug­gle these women, cor­rupt po­lice of­fi­cers who fa­cil­i­tate the trade and pro­tect wrong­do­ers, and im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials who of­ten times take bribes to turn a blind eye to the women’s ex­ploita­tion. Un­der­world Venezue­lan fig­ures with il­lic­it arms and Asian crim­i­nal gangs are of­ten part of the crim­i­nal net­works.

The il­lic­it sex trade seems to span the en­tire coun­try, from the re­mote port of Ce­dros to high-ris­es in West­moor­ings, where sex slaves—some as young as 15 years old—are held against their will, locked in rooms and forced to have sex with men. Some vic­tims are drugged so old­er men can have their way with them.

The traf­fick­ers rou­tine­ly take these women to bars and night­clubs in search of clients. The younger the women, the high­er the price.

For a 30-minute ses­sion, traf­fick­ers charge $300, about the price of a doc­tor’s vis­it. The rates dou­ble to $600 for an hour. For the en­tire night, the traf­fick­er pock­ets $6,000.

The women are giv­en a mere pit­tance to sur­vive. They are forced to work night af­ter night un­til their bondage debt is erased; a debt owed to traf­fick­ers for their pas­sage to this coun­try.

These women are trapped in a cy­cle of debt with no re­lief in sight. And the traf­fick­ers find ways to keep the women en­slaved by adding the cost of food, cloth­ing, shel­ter, med­ical and pro­tec­tion fees to the orig­i­nal fig­ure.

SIX YEARS LAT­ER, NO CON­VIC­TIONS

Since the in­cep­tion of the Counter Traf­fick­ing Unit un­der the Min­istry of Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty six years ago, on­ly 56 peo­ple—a lit­tle more than nine a year—have faced the courts for this of­fence, ac­cord­ing to a top law en­force­ment of­fi­cial. To date, no one has been con­vict­ed, au­thor­i­ties say.

In the last six months, po­lice have made some high-pro­file ar­rests, but hu­man rights ac­tivists con­tend that not enough is be­ing done.

The re­cent ar­rests in­clude:

On Feb­ru­ary 6, Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice Gary Grif­fith lead an op­er­a­tion that res­cued 19 young South Amer­i­can women from two homes in West­moor­ings and a restau­rant along Ari­api­ta Av­enue. The young women, ages 15-18 years, were locked in rooms and made to take drugs and have sex with men for mon­ey. Po­lice al­so round­ed up at least 18 sus­pects for ques­tion­ing. A Chi­nese man, Jin­fu Zhu, and his 23-year-old Venezue­lan ac­com­plice, Solient Tor­res, were lat­er charged with 43 sex charges un­der the Sex­u­al Of­fences Act. The young women, most­ly of Venezue­lan na­tion­al­i­ty, were lat­er tak­en un­der the State’s care and kept in a safe house.

Mere days af­ter this ma­jor bust, a 24-year-old Venezue­lan woman who had es­caped from hu­man traf­fick­ers was re­cap­tured by them in Diego Mar­tin. Po­lice in­ter­cept­ed the al­leged traf­fick­ers along the Solomon Ho­choy High­way in the Clax­ton Bay area. Bat­tered and bruised, the shak­en woman was tak­en to the Wood­brook Po­lice Sta­tion. Akeem James, a 28-year-old spe­cial re­serve po­lice of­fi­cer and 39-year-old Kevin Houl­der a truck dri­ver were lat­er ar­rest­ed .

In Oc­to­ber last year, a 19-year-old Venezue­lan woman was se­vere­ly beat­en in a house in Debe. A video of the beat­ing was post­ed on so­cial me­dia by her al­leged per­pe­tra­tor who be­rat­ed her. A Diego Mar­tin man, Aval­on Cal­len­der was lat­er charged with kid­nap­ping and wound­ing with in­tent.

Au­thor­i­ties ac­knowl­edge that the hu­man traf­fick­ing prob­lem in­volv­ing sex slav­ery is a mas­sive one.

Min­is­ter of Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Stu­art Young said the res­cue of the 19 women last Feb­ru­ary had trig­gered a flood of tips about il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ty in­volv­ing hu­man traf­fick­ing across Trinidad and To­ba­go.

THE WORLD TAKES NO­TICE

Sev­er­al in­ter­na­tion­al agen­cies have fo­cused on the sex traf­fick­ing prob­lem dur­ing their in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Venezue­lan mi­grant sit­u­a­tion in Trinidad.

Melanie Teff, who is UNICEF UK’s se­nior hu­man­i­tar­i­an ad­vo­ca­cy and pol­i­cy ad­vis­er, re­called in­ter­view­ing about 50 Venezue­lan vic­tims who re­count­ed how traf­fick­ers en­trapped them in­to lives of sex and drugs.

In an in­ter­view with Guardian Me­dia, Teff said, “We heard about these women and girls read­ing ad­ver­tise­ments for what seemed like jobs in bars that did not ap­pear to be pros­ti­tu­tion. Their doc­u­ments are tak­en away leav­ing them trapped in a for­eign land.”

Teff said the height­ened de­spair of these Venezue­lan women left them at the mer­cy of heart­less traf­fick­ers.

“They want to sur­vive and send back mon­ey to their fam­i­lies, who they feel a re­spon­si­bil­i­ty to sup­port. If they are not al­lowed a way of be­ing le­gal in Trinidad and To­ba­go, then they are go­ing to be at much greater risk of be­ing ex­ploit­ed,” she said.

‘COPS IN­VOLVED IN HU­MAN TRAF­FICK­ING’

PCA di­rec­tor David West con­firmed re­ceiv­ing many re­ports about po­lice of­fi­cers be­ing in­volved in hu­man traf­fick­ing and hold­ing girls and young women cap­tive.

Young girls are at the mer­cy of rogue po­lice of­fi­cers, West said.

“These young girls do not know the sys­tem and there­fore they are afraid to re­port it,” he said.

West said that the PCA had re­ceived a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of com­plaints in 2019 when com­pared to pre­vi­ous years.

“It is very wor­ry­ing, the sto­ries that the girls tell are…,” West said, paus­ing to com­pose him­self.

A fa­ther of two girls, West said, “I do not wish it on any­body’s daugh­ter, what they have al­leged­ly done to those girls.”

West said vic­tims should know that his agency will in­ves­ti­gate com­plaints against of­fi­cers. “Come to the PCA and we will take their com­plaints and in­ves­ti­gate the mat­ter and bring those per­pe­tra­tors to jus­tice,” he said.

Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice Gary Grif­fith said he could not com­ment on pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­to po­lice of­fi­cers in­volved in hu­man traf­fick­ing.

Grif­fith said he was mov­ing quick­ly to adopt poli­cies to tar­get and stamp out cor­rupt cops with the in­tro­duc­tion of poly­graph tests.

“Like any oth­er kind of il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ty hu­man traf­fick­ing we will treat through sting op­er­a­tions,” Grif­fith said. “If they don’t (stop),we will get enough ev­i­dence to put them be­hind bars.”

‘YOU’LL BE­COME PROS­TI­TUTES’

Cas­es in­volv­ing Maria and oth­er women im­pli­cate po­lice of­fi­cers who not on­ly held them cap­tive but fa­cil­i­tat­ed sex­u­al ex­ploita­tion of the women.

Maria was adamant that an of­fi­cer was the mas­ter­mind be­hind the hu­man traf­fick­ing ring that held her cap­tive for al­most six months.

An­oth­er woman who was held at the house in Debe, south Trinidad, said a po­lice of­fi­cer rou­tine­ly raped her and forced her to have sex with cus­tomers. “He col­lect­ed and kept all of the mon­ey.”

Guardian Me­dia spoke to their vic­tims…

Like Maria, Ju­marie Car­oli­na fled pover­ty and star­va­tion in her home town of Cara­cas.

She en­dured a nine-hour jour­ney from her home to Tu­cu­pi­ta. Car­ry­ing on­ly a knap­sack, she board­ed a fer­ry to Ce­dros.

A friend from her home town told her of the op­por­tu­ni­ties in Trinidad. The is­land at the South­ern tip of the Caribbean was de­scribed as an ide­al es­cape from the crum­bling Venezue­lan so­ci­ety.

At Ce­dros, she met a man iden­ti­fied as James who picked her up and took her to a house in Princes Town. James told her she would be there for a few days be­fore she could start work­ing as a wait­ress at a near­by bar.

Af­ter three days, one of the traf­fick­ers en­tered her room and raped her. Over sev­er­al days, he re­peat­ed­ly raped her. “He would force me to take (mar­i­jua­na), then rape me,” said Ju­marie, tears welling up in her eyes.

James made it clear that she owed him $1,000 for the trip and would have to work as a pros­ti­tute to re­pay him.

He bought her a back­less hal­ter-top and tight-fit­ting jeans and took her to a well-known San Fer­nan­do night­club fre­quent­ed by men, from all walks of life; hop­ing their mon­ey could buy them a good time with young Span­ish-speak­ing women.

When­ev­er Ju­marie seemed un­will­ing to com­ply with James’ wish­es, he would threat­en to harm her fam­i­ly while bran­dish­ing his firearm, she said.

Ju­marie said she knew she had to es­cape. A taxi dri­ver hired by James to take her to and from the club was her on­ly con­nec­tion to the out­side world. One evening, she asked him how much it would cost to take her to meet a Venezue­lan friend in Port-of-Spain. He agreed to help her.

Af­ter hear­ing Ju­marie’s sto­ry, her friend—de­ter­mined that it would be too risky to keep her—con­tact­ed an­oth­er woman who gave Ju­marie refuge.

But it seemed as though she was un­able to es­cape James’ reach. He sent a se­ries of men­ac­ing mes­sages, show­ing pic­tures of her fam­i­ly mem­bers in Venezuela, she said.

“You can’t hide here and you can’t hide in Venezuela,” he told her via text mes­sage.

Ju­marie had ini­tial­ly agreed to take Guardian Me­dia re­porters to sev­er­al lo­ca­tions where men had abused her. But on the day of the meet­ing, Ju­marie texted a friend, “I’m gone. He will find me.”

She then left on a boat from Ce­dros.

ES­CAP­ING CAP­TORS

One day in Feb­ru­ary, Maria es­caped from her cap­tors when she jumped through a bath­room at a bar in Wood­brook. She ran as fast as she could with no idea of where she was head­ed. She met some Venezue­lans on the street and bor­rowed a phone to con­tact a friend. Maria end­ed up in the same safe house as Ju­marie.

Af­ter ex­chang­ing sto­ries, Maria and Ju­marie re­alised they were vic­tims of the same sex traf­fick­ing ring. They had even stayed in sep­a­rate rooms of the same Debe house rent­ed by the po­lice of­fi­cer.

The sin­gle-storey house, paint­ed in brick red, had raised con­cerns among lo­cal res­i­dents who point­ed out that the house’s win­dows had been plas­tered over and ro­bust steel door kept oc­cu­pants in­side.

Many neigh­bours told Guardian Me­dia how Span­ish-speak­ing women would leave the house at night and re­turn in the wee hours of the morn­ing.

The same house was the scene of sev­er­al ques­tion­able in­ci­dents over the last year, in­clud­ing the vi­ral video of the beat­ing in­volv­ing the Venezue­lan woman.

PO­LICE OF­FI­CER DE­NIES IN­VOLVE­MENT

Both Maria and Ju­marie claimed that an of­fi­cer known as He­mant “Crix” Ram­sumair, who had ties to the po­lice of­fi­cer known as James, rent­ed the Debe home where they were once held cap­tive.

Peo­ple who live in the area said Ram­sumair resided ten min­utes away from the house in ques­tion.

Guardian Me­dia ap­proached Ram­sumair a few weeks ago out­side the Bar­rack­pore Po­lice Sta­tion where he worked. Ram­sumair was asked to ex­plain sev­er­al in­ci­dents at the house, in­clud­ing the beat­ing of the Venezue­lan woman last Oc­to­ber and the use of the prop­er­ty to en­slave Maria, Ju­marie and oth­ers.

Ram­sumair had been sus­pend­ed for some time from the po­lice ser­vice be­cause of a do­mes­tic mat­ter and had on­ly re­cent­ly re­sumed du­ty. He ac­knowl­edged tak­ing charge of the house about two years ago, but said he re­lin­quished it af­ter the beat­ing cap­tured in the vi­ral video.

Ram­sumair dis­tanced him­self from the al­leged beat­ing in­ci­dent at the house and de­nied any part in any hu­man traf­fick­ing ring that in­cludes the in­volve­ment of po­lice of­fi­cers.

He chalked up the in­ci­dent to noth­ing more than a lover’s quar­rel. He said, “That was the guy’s girl­friend and some­thing hap­pened and he could not take it and that is the gist of it. Se­ri­ous­ly.”

While Ram­sumair claimed to have giv­en up rental of the prop­er­ty, lo­cal res­i­dents con­tra­dict­ed that claim.

A rel­a­tive of the own­er, who re­sides in Cana­da, said they had been try­ing to evict Ram­sumair for sev­er­al months now with­out suc­cess.

Asked to com­ment on the as­ser­tions by Maria and Ju­marie and their or­deal, Ram­sumair said: “I would like to see that be­cause I knew all the peo­ple who stayed there. They were my friends. They can’t say any­thing bad. I think I have a good re­la­tion­ship with one or two of the girls I know who came to Trinidad.”

When asked if po­lice of­fi­cers in the area were part of this il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ty?

Ram­sumair said, “No, that is not so. It could nev­er be so.”

Ram­sumair said he had nev­er been un­der any in­ves­ti­ga­tion for hu­man traf­fick­ing.

Ram­sumair said, “Hon­est to God, I don’t know any­thing about the stuff, that pros­ti­tu­tion thing. My fam­i­ly taught me bet­ter than that.”

In the last sev­er­al months, dozens of Venezue­lan women have en­tered the coun­try in the hope of a new life. Many have been duped in­to sex slav­ery.

Un­like Ju­marie who es­caped, these women re­main be­hind trapped.

Hema Ramkissoon is the top ed­i­tor for the Guardian Me­dia Lim­it­ed broad­cast di­vi­sion. She has been with the com­pa­ny for more than a decade. Hema is the host of CNC3’s Morn­ing Brew pro­gramme which high­lights pol­i­cy and pol­i­cy­mak­ers in T&T.

Mark Bas­sant heads the in­ves­tiga­tive desk at Guardian Me­dia Lim­it­ed. He has more than two decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in jour­nal­ism and is a grad­u­ate of Ry­er­son Uni­ver­si­ty in Toron­to, Cana­da. He has won six Caribbean Broad­cast­ing Union awards for Best In­ves­tiga­tive Re­port­ing in tele­vi­sion.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, CARICOM, Court, Crime, Featured, International, News, Police, Regional, Youth0 Comments

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Here’s What Could Happen If You Get Measles While Pregnant

By Cari Nierenberg, Live Science Contributor | May 16, 2019

Here’s What Could Happen If You Get Measles While Pregnant
Credit: Shutterstock

The measles can be dangerous for people of all ages, but the highly contagious virus poses a particular threat to pregnant women.

That threat was clearly illustrated in a recent case report, which detailed the case of a 27-year-old woman in England — who had not been vaccinated — who got measles during her third trimester and ended up needing an emergency cesarean section to save her baby.

When the woman was initially hospitalized, it wasn’t clear that she had measles, according to the case report, published May 9 in the journal BMJ Case Reports. In fact, it took doctors nearly 2 weeks to make the proper diagnosis. [27 Devastating Infectious Diseases]Advertisement

Within a day of being hospitalized, the woman began having severe breathing problems.

Problems that arise from any respiratory infection are more severe in pregnant women, because the immune system is in a naturally suppressed state, said lead case report author Dr. Jassimran Bansal, an obstetrics and gynecology resident at King’s College Hospital in London. But the woman’s breathing problems didn’t improve; they worsened over the next five days, and her lungs showed signs of severe respiratory failure.

Because both the woman and her baby’s health were at risk from her illness, the woman’s doctors recommended she have an emergency C-section, where she delivered a healthy, but premature baby.

Measles during pregnancy

Measles can be difficult to diagnose during pregnancy, because the infection’s telltale rash is often absent, said Bansal, who was involved with the woman’s treatment. It’s not clear why the characteristic rash — which shows up as distinctive large red spots that typically spread from the face to the neck, trunk, arms, legs and feet— may be absent, but it’s likely due to changes in the immune system that occur during pregnancy, she said.

In fact, the woman did have a mild rash when she went to the hospital during her 32nd week of pregnancy. She told doctors that she also had a sore throat and fever. The rash, which was itchy with red bumps, had first appeared on the palms of her hands and then spread to her face, according to the report. But simply having a rash doesn’t mean a person has the measles; other viruses can also cause rashes, Bansal said.

When the woman was admitted to the hospital, doctors initially suspected she may have had a nonspecific viral respiratory infection, like the flu, Bansal told Live Science. Measles was lower down on the list of possible diagnoses, because the woman didn’t have the typical rash, and because measles in pregnancy is still very rarein England, she noted.

As her illness worsened, however, doctors noted that her rash did spread to her chest, back and stomach, a pattern that is more typical of measles, according to the report.

Making the diagnosis

As the woman recovered from both her C-section and the illness, test results suggested that her breathing problems were due to pneumonia caused by a parainfluenza virus, a type of virus linked to respiratory infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Throat cultures from people with measles will also test positive for parainfluenza virus, according to the report.)

But it wasn’t until a week after the baby was born — when the woman’s husband came down with measles — that the doctors decided to test her for the infection, too.

Indeed, the woman had also had the measles, the tests revealed. But luckily, her baby did not. (Babies can develop “congenital measles,” a form of the disease that can be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy and appears shortly after birth.) [7 Ways Pregnant Women Affect Babies]

After spending three weeks in the hospital, the woman was sent home. Both mother and baby are doing fine, Bansal said, adding that the woman’s two other children had, in fact, received the MMR vaccine before their parents had come down with the measles.

Pregnant women who have not received the MMR vaccine, as was the case with this woman, are at increased risk of severe illness and complications of measles, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). The group also notes that getting the measles during pregnancy is linked with an increased risk of hospitalization and pneumonia, as well as an increased risk of giving birth prematurely, miscarriage or having a low-birth-weight baby.

Posted in Births, Health, International, Local, Regional, Science/Technology0 Comments

Trump takes over Fourth of July celebration, changing its location and inserting himself into the program

Trump takes over Fourth of July celebration, changing its location and inserting himself into the program

Fireworks after a campaign rally by President Trump rally in Panama City Beach, Fla., on Wednesday. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

By Josh Dawsey , Juliet Eilperin and Peter Jamison May 10

President Trump has effectively taken charge of the nation’s premier Fourth of July celebration in Washington, moving the gargantuan fireworks display from its usual spot on the Mall to be closer to the Potomac River and making tentative plans to address the nation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, according to top administration officials.

 The president’s starring role has the potential to turn what has long been a nonpartisan celebration of the nation’s founding into another version of a Trump campaign rally. Officials said it is unclear how much the changes may cost, but the plans have already raised alarms among city officials and some lawmakers about the potential impact of such major alterations to a time-honored and well-organized summer tradition.

Fireworks on the Mall, which the National Park Service has orchestrated for more than half a century, draw hundreds of thousands of Americans annually and mark one of the highlights of the city’s tourist season. The event has been broadcast live on television since 1947 and since 1981 has been accompanied by a free concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol featuring high-profile musicians and a performance by the National Symphony Orchestra.

The new event, to be called “A Salute to America,” will shift the fireworks launch to West Potomac Park, less than a mile southwest of its usual location near the Washington Monument. In addition to a possible address by Trump, the location may feature a second stage of entertainment apart from the performers at the Capitol, officials said.

Washington D.C. council member Mary Cheh, (D-Ward 3) says that President Trump is trying to mimic totalitarian regimes with his plans to hold a military parade. (Whitney Shefte/The Washington Post)

The revised Independence Day celebration is the culmination of two years of attempts by Trump to create a major patriotic event centered on him and his supporters, including failed efforts to mount a military parade modeled on the Bastille Day celebration in France. The new event has become a top priority for new Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, whom Trump tasked with the job three months ago, officials said. D.C. council member says Trump’s plans for military parade are all about his ego

[Trump’s ‘marching orders’ to the Pentagon: Plan a grand military parade]

The president has received regular briefings on the effort in the Oval Office and has gotten involved in the minutiae of the planning — even discussing whether the fireworks should be launched from a barge in the Potomac River, administration aides said. The president has shown interest in the event that he often does not exhibit for other administration priorities, the aides added.

“I think the president is excited about the idea, and we’re working hard on it, and I think it could be very, very meaningful,” Bernhardt said in an interview. “The president loves the idea, as probably all Americans do, of celebrating America on the Fourth of July, or thereabouts.”

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), who chairs the House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, said in an interview that she is concerned that Trump could polarize what is typically a unifying event for Americans.

Fireworks illuminate the Mall in celebration of Independence Day in Washington on July 4, 2018. (Calla Kessler/The Washington Post)

“It’s not about any one president. It’s about how our nation came to be, because of a hardy band of brave men and women,” McCollum said. “It’s not about any one person, it’s about ‘We, the people.’ And if the president moves to make this about him, I think he will find the American public disappointed and angered by it.”

An official in the administration of D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said federal officials have informed the city government of potential changes to the Fourth of July celebration but that the logistics and cost of the altered format had not been finalized.

 The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly discuss preparations for the event, said the city was concerned about moving the fireworks and about the logistics of the president traveling to the Mall to address the crowds, which could cut off the flow of visitors to and from nearby Metro stations.

 “We have a lot of people come to the Fourth of July. Logistically, over the years, the kinks have been worked out,” the official said. “We don’t want to throw off what already works.”

President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron during a Bastille Day parade on the Champs Elysees in Paris on July 14, 2017. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

The president’s idea for a Trump-influenced Fourth of July celebration began within hours of attending a lavish Bastille Day parade in Paris in 2017, former aides say. Before Air Force One took off to return from France, Trump came to the back of the staff cabin and laid out the particulars of a proposed military parade in Washington — down to the types of tanks that he wanted in the streets and the kind of aircraft he wanted to fly overhead.

[‘HOLD THE DATE!’ Trump announces Independence Day celebration]

The idea later shifted to become a Veterans Day-linked parade instead, before collapsing altogether last August as costs for the potential event ballooned. Trump blamed local officials in canceling the event.

Then, this past February, Trump announced on Twitter that Americans should “HOLD THE DATE!” on July 4 for a “Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!”

There have been no public announcements since then, but federal officials are working furiously to adjust plans for an event that has been largely unchanged for at least two decades.

It is unclear whether the changes to the Mall celebration will increase costs for taxpayers. Launching the fireworks last year cost roughly $250,000, a figure that does not include the cost of security, portable toiletsTrump’s focus and fencing. The D.C. official said the city would expect the federal government to pay for any new costs incurred by changes to the celebration.

In justifying Trump’s changes, Interior officials argued that moving the fireworks launching site from the north and south sides of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool — where it has been located for at least 18 years — to West Potomac Park will allow for more visitors. 

National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst said the agency typically has to close an area around the Reflecting Pool for about 10 days before the event, cutting off access to one of the Mall’s most popular sites.

Bernhardt said that, by altering the launch site, “that’s going to be a significant expansion of space that’s available to watch the fireworks from the Mall.” 

“And we might even have some more surprises in store for the public, very very soon,” the secretary added.

Trump has sometimes featured fireworks at his political events, including at a campaign rally this week in Panama City, Fla. The Trump administration is also taking steps to expand fireworks celebrations elsewhere in the United States. 

[Trump loves a military parade — it’s one reason he’s heading to Paris]

On Tuesday, Bernhardt and South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem (R) announced that they had reached an agreement allowing the Park Service to resume launching fireworks at Mount Rushmore in 2020. That practice, which began in 1998, stopped in 2009 after Park Service officials determined that a pine beetle infestation had heightened the risk of a forest fire igniting in the area.

“I am pleased to inform you that THE BIG FIREWORKS, after many years of not having any, are coming back to beautiful Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. Great work @GovKristiNoem and @SecBernhardt! #MAGA,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

Fireworks go off as President Trump finishes speaking at a rally in Panama City Beach, Fla., on Wednesday. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

Trump’s focus on Independence Day reflects a broader pattern of focusing on the details of projects important to him personally. He grew obsessed, for example, with the renovation of FBI headquarters in Washington, asking for building specs, floor plans and even furniture and carpet schemes, current and former aides said.

“He wanted to be the project manager,” said a former senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe Oval Office meetings. 

No president has participated in a Fourth of July celebration on the Mall in recent memory, usually celebrating instead at the White House. President Ronald Reagan participated in a “Star Spangled Salute to America” at the Jefferson Memorial on July 3, 1987, which showcased an economic announcement, but the regular fireworks celebration happened the next day as usual. 

Reagan’s unveiling of an “Economic Bill of Rights” took place at 10 a.m., with the vice president, secretary of state and other members of the administration in attendance. The official White House diary estimated the crowd size at 10,000, though Reagan said it was half that. He later said that he “didn’t remember ever being hotter than I was on that platform in the sun.”

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Entertainment, Featured, International, Local, Politics, Regional0 Comments

Berkshire

LIVE: 2019 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting

Yahoo! News

Sam Ro Managing EditorYahoo Finance – May 4, 2019

   LIVEWATCH LIVE: 2019 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting

Warren Buffett is speaking to Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A, BRK-B) investors as well as the rest of the world at the 2019 Annual Shareholder Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. The event is being streamed live exclusively on Yahoo Finance.

Known as the “Oracle of Omaha” for his track record of picking winning investments, Buffett is joined by his right-hand man Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire. The duo will share their unscripted views on their company, the financial markets, the economy, politics, corporate governance, and of course investing.

Their comments on the near-term have been known to move markets. Their insights on the the long-term have earned fortunes for investors.

We’re covering the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting live on this page, so hit refresh or click here for the latest updates.

Amazon, Coca-Cola and cannabis

News was breaking even before the meeting started.

On the Thursday ahead of the meeting, Buffett told CNBC’s Becky Quick that Berkshire had amassed a new position in Amazon (AMZN). He attributed the purchase to “one of the fellows in the office that manage money.” In other words, the decision was made by Todd Combs or Ted Weschler.

Over the past decade, Warren Buffett has been slowly taking a step back from his responsibilities at his company. Specifically, he hired two younger money managers, Todd Combs in 2010 and Ted Weschler in 2011, to eventually run Berkshire’s massive investment portfolio.

It’s worth noting that Buffett has acknowledged missing Amazon was a mistake.

“I always admired Jeff [Bezos, CEO of Amazon],” Buffett told Yahoo Finance’s editor-in-chief, Andy Serwer. “I met him 20 years ago or so. And I thought he was something special, but I didn’t realize you could go from books to what’s happened. He had a vision and executed it in an incredible way.”

On Friday, Buffett and Munger shared some thoughts on marijuana in response to a question from Fox Business Network’s Liz Claman.

“It would be a mistake for Coca-Cola (KO) to get into the marijuana — cannabis business,” they reportedly said to Claman. “They have a wholesome image and that would be detrimental to it.”

“Our chairman and CEO, James Quincey, has repeatedly stated we don’t have plans to get into this space,” a Coca-Cola spokesperson said to Yahoo Finance.

Coca-Cola is arguably the most successful investment Berkshire ever made.

Berkshire's portfolio has Todd Combs and Ted Weschler's finger prints all over it.
Berkshire’s portfolio has Todd Combs and Ted Weschler’s finger prints all over it.

It all began with a ‘monumentally stupid decision’

Buffett, 88, first invested in a Berkshire Hathaway, a failing textile company, back in December 1962, accumulating 7% of the company at $7.50 per share. The company was owned by a man named Seabury Stanton, who in 1964 asked Buffett for the price he’d be willing to sell his stake. Buffett said $11.50, and they had a deal.

However, Stanton later turned around and made a tender offer to shareholders for $11.275 per share. Buffett didn’t care for that behavior, so he ended up hanging on.

“That was a monumentally stupid decision,” Buffett said in his 2014 letter to shareholders. “Irritated by Stanton’s chiseling, I ignored his offer and began to aggressively buy more Berkshire shares.”

[Click here for full coverage of the 2019 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting.]

Buffett took control of the company in May of 1965. And that was followed by another two decades of tough lessons.

“During the 18 years following 1966, we struggled unremittingly with the textile business, all to no avail,” he said. “But stubbornness — stupidity? — has its limits. In 1985, I finally threw in the towel and closed the operation.”

Despite his great success and status, Buffett’s career is riddled with failures. Ultimately, his real triumph is learning from his mistakes to eventually seal his legacy as the world’s greatest investor.

Furthermore, through letters, interviews, meetings and TV appearances, Buffett has shared his lessons with the public so that they can be better investors themselves. So while many know him as a great investor, there are plenty who will also remember him as a great teacher.

2019 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting
2019 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting

Sam Ro is managing editor at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter@SamRo

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World Press Freedom Day: “Media for Democracy”

Today’s celebration of World Press Freedom Day centers on the theme of “Media for Democracy: journalism and elections in times of disinformation”.

By Vatican News

The numbers speak louder than words: 95 journalists killed in the line of duty last year alone. 700 over the past ten years. 348 imprisoned.

The figures come from the International Federation of Journalists. In its own report, issued in April this year, Reporters Without Borders denounces “unprecedented violence” against journalists, claiming most victims were “deliberately targeted” precisely because they were doing their job. Still, journalists and reporters continue to risk their lives in conflict zones, providing truthful and reliable coverage of world events, and investigating stories of crime and corruption

World Press Freedom Index

One of the aims of World Press Freedom Day is to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the field. Another is to assess the state of press freedom throughout the world. The World Press Freedom Index, compiled every year by Reporters Without Borders, does exactly that by evaluating the state of journalism in 180 countries. Only 24 percent of those countries are classified as “good”. Norway ranks top of the list in terms of press freedom, with Turkmenistan at the bottom.   

According to the 2019 Index, “The hostility towards journalists expressed by political leaders in many countries has incited increasingly serious and frequent acts of violence that have fueled an unprecedented level of fear and danger for journalists”.  

World Press Freedom Day

World Press Freedom Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993 and has been celebrated every year since then. This year’s theme of “Media for Democracy: journalism and elections in times of disinformation”, discusses the challenges faced by media during elections, along with the media’s potential in supporting peace and reconciliation processes.

In announcing the theme, UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, said: “No democracy is complete without access to transparent and reliable information. It is the cornerstone for building fair and impartial institutions, holding leaders accountable and speaking truth to power”.

Truthful reporting and peace journalism were highlighted by Pope Francis in his Message for World Communications Day last year. In the message, he calls journalists “protectors of news” and describes what they do as “not just a job”, but a “mission”.   03 May 2019, 13:32

Posted in Editorial, Education, Elections, Featured, International, Local, News, Politics1 Comment

Annie Dyer-Howe

Another icon passes

Rt. Hon. Margaret Annie Dyer-Howe OE, MBA

One of the tributes, coming from the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports, following the announcement of the death of Mrs. Margaret Annie Dyer-Howe (Rt. Hon. OE MBA) on the night of April 6, 2019 captured near accurately the woman who had just passed.

She hailed from the village of St. Patrick’s in the south of Montserrat, now devasted and completely overrun by Soufriere Hills volcano, last of Olveston.

Born on November 18, 1940 to be recognised on the way as one of Montserrat’s Icons.

She was assigned a ministerial post with responsibility for education, health, community services, women’s affairs, culture and sports, in 1983, then being reelected after 1979. She later held the post of Minister of Agriculture, Housing, Land etc.

She held many roles in her lifetime, and briefly to name a few, school teacher, entrepreneur, manufacturer, Justice of the Peace, and General Manager at the Montserrat Water Authority, a position she held for many years beginning some time after she lost a legislative seat in the southern district to Bertrand B. Osborne who predeceased her just last year.

Her first ministerial post was that in the Ministry of Education, Health, Community Affairs etc. and it is from then she was mostly remembered and no doubt prompted the Ministry to scribe at her death: “No one can reasonably deny the iconic and heroic stature of this Montserratian who has achieved so much. She was not just a great Montserratian woman and indeed a great Caribbean, woman, but a great champion of the human cause.

As can be expected, and not surprisingly there have been many tributes, some of which we will post on the website online and in the print copy of the newspaper.

Not surprisingly ‘Annie’ as folks my age and know her as well, from St. Patrick’s would remember her, will be afforded a State’s funeral. She will, following her funeral service of remembrance and thanksgiving, at the Roman Catholic Church in Lookout on Friday, May 10, be laid to rest then at the burial site.

Condolences go out to her entire family and the whole of Montserrat who she served. May she rest in peace.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Featured, International, Local, News, Obituaries, Regional0 Comments

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