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Darcy Boyce

COTED meeting agrees on CCREE full operationalisation

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Apr 20, CMC – The Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Energy has ended here with an agreement that work has advanced towards the full operationalisation of the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE) by the middle of this year.

Minister of State in the Office of the Barbados Prime Minister, Darcy Boyce, who chaired the one-day meeting on Thursday, said “we can then move forward with appointment of the executive board and staffing of the Centre”.

Darcy Boyce
Darcy Boyce

Montserrat became the latest Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country to have deposited its instruments of ratification of the agreement establishing the CCREEE.

Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica and Belize are the other CARICOM countries that have deposited their instruments of ratification.

The Centre is intended to function as the implementation hub for the CARICOM Energy Policy, as well as the Caribbean Sustainable Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS). I

n 2015, CARICOM leaders approved the establishment of the CCREEE and identified Barbados as the host country for its Secretariat. The COTED agreed to interim operations of the Centre in January, 2016 and on Thursday, the meeting agreed on decisions related to the transition from that interim stage to the first operational phase.

When fully operational, the Centre is expected to improve the quantity and quality of programmes and projects in sustainable energy within the region.

“We had a very useful meeting, and I expect that we would have put ourselves in a position to achieve a lot more in the energy sector, in renewable energy and energy efficiency over the next few years,’ Boyce said, adding that “good progress” had also been made on the matter of labelling of energy efficient equipment within the region.

He said this step would ensure that people knew “exactly what they were getting” when they bought equipment and sought to encourage them to acquire more efficient equipment and appliances for their properties.

The meeting also approved a pilot programme which will get underway shortly to promote energy efficiency in commercial and residential buildings. Substantial discussions were held on integrating climate resilience into the C-CERMS against the background of the region’s vulnerability to intense climate-related events.

The one-day meeting also discussed insurance and electricity disruption.

“We felt that we needed to discuss ways in which we could get the work done to guide us… to become more resistant to those situations, and to help us to recover faster” when there are natural disasters,” Boyce said.

He said the ministers also took stock of the availability of technical assistance under the CARIFORUM Regional Programme for Energy under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) to get the resources that were necessary for studies and to implement projects to grow the energy sector.

The ministers also had “robust” discussions on oil and gas in the Region. A working group is to be established to consider how there could be deeper cooperation and more advice available on the technical matters on that sector.

Boyce had at the start of the meeting made reference to the region’s oil and gas sector, and its potential to benefit the populace.

“While we are all determined to make sure that we benefit as best as we can from renewable energy and energy efficiency, we all also have to bear in mind that if we are the owners of resources, we ought not to let those resources stand there idly, but we should use them for the benefit of our countries and for the Region.

“So I am very glad that we are not shying away from the matter of oil and gas. It is a matter of balancing … oil and gas, with the natural resource of sunlight, and wind, and water. And this is what it is all about: optimising, getting the best mix of those resources to give our people and our economies what they need”, he said.

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Ambassador Perry Holloway

US diplomat urges Guyanese to neglect advice from “so-called experts”

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Mar 30, CMS – A  United States diplomat is urging Guyana to be cautious against what he termed the “so-called experts” who have been making negative comments about the country’s new found oil and gas wealth.

US Ambassador to Guyana, Perry Holloway, speaking on a radio programme here, said that he is impressed that the people of Guyana are getting “oil smart” but encouraged them to seek out the truth for themselves regarding the development of the oil and gas industry.

Ambassador Perry Holloway
Ambassador Perry Holloway

“I encourage everyone, experts and not, to continue to learn. A lot of stuff is available online including the contract, so I encourage people not just to take anyone, myself included, at their word to go out and investigate it and find out the truth,” Holloway said, in an apparent reference to the controversy that has erupted here following the production sharing contract between Guyana and the US-based oil giant ExxonMobil.

The diplomat had first called out these “‘so-called experts” during a business forum at the inaugural Innov8 Conference hosted by the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company.

But he told radio listeners that there is more than just gloom and doom stories from oil.

“When I see articles like that, I think, you could have also picked another 20 other countries that have been giant successes,’ he said, reiterating the need for the population to find out the facts for themselves.

“Cherry picking of data, whether it’s to sell newspapers or for political means, while that’s what you do …  I will just encourage everyone to go out and get the whole story,” he said, reminding all that it is the government and its people who determine how the oil revenues are spent.

“What a country does with their oil money is entirely up to the government and the people. So, if the government is corrupt well then you could imagine the results you would get. So, while everyone should hold ExxonMobil’s feet to the fire everyone is going to have to, in the future, hold whatever government is in power’s feet to the fire.”

He said oil revenue can provide “fantastic” education opportunities, security, food security and infrastructure which is the single biggest thing that most Guyanese need”.

The government has received support from the United States in the development of the oil and gas industry. The US had supported Guyana’s Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) bid and Guyana has since become a member of EITI.

Washington has also provided advice to Guyana in the revision of its regulations as it prepares for oil. The country is also working with the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) on how to audit large companies.

Guyana is set to begin oil production by 2020 after years of drilling for the commodity in its waters.

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Gonslaves for CMC

PM Gonsalves says he’s subject of SCL’s ‘nasty’ campaign

By Kenton X. Chance

Gonsalves: …entities associated with the SCL, such as the “bandits” who want to sell St. Vincent and the Grenadines citizenship and passports have paid the SCL to work on behalf of the NDP.

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Mar 28, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says he has been the  subject of a two-decade campaign by the Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL), the parent company of the British-based Cambridge Analytica, which has been accused of mining data to influence election outcomes around the world.

Gonslaves for CMC
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves

Gonsalves, whose Unity Labour Party (ULP) is celebrating 17th anniversary in government this year, condemned what he termed the way in which “backward political forces” in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and “elements overseas” wanted to undermine progress in the country for their own selfish purposes.

“And in this regard, I speak about an organisation like Strategic Communication Laboratories, which has been here since 1998 seeking to undermine the ULP and from 2001 and onwards. They have been very nasty towards the ULP on behalf of the NDP (New Democratic Party) and they have been particularly so to the leadership of the ULP, including comrade Ralph,” said Gonsalves, speaking on the party’s own radio station.

He said other entities associated with the SCL, such as the “bandits” who want to sell St. Vincent and the Grenadines citizenship and passports have paid the SCL to work on behalf of the NDP.

Gonsalves has repeatedly referred to citizenship by investment as selling of passports and the island remains the only independent Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) without such a programme, through which citizenship if granted to foreign investors in exchange for making a substantial financial contribution to the socio-economic development of the island.

The NDP says that citizenship by investment can help to improve the economic fortunes of the island, while not imposing any further tax burden on citizens.

In his radio interview, Gonsalves said that Cambridge Analytica had undertaken “a lot of nasty work — you notice I am repeating this word nasty, nasty work for Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton in the election [in the 2016 US presidential election]…”

He said special prosecutor in the United States, Robert Mueller, the US senate and Congress, and the British parliament are investigating Cambridge Analytica.

“The evidence has emerged of SCL doing the nasty work to undermine democracy in several Caribbean countries,” he said, adding this was done in Antigua and Barbuda, St. Lucia, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“And I will be talking about their nefarious role,” Gonsalves said, adding that from the time they were formed in 1993, SCL proudly stated on their website and promoted themselves as “mind benders — bending minds of unsuspecting people, they trafficked in lies, distortions.

“They said that they can use behavioural analysis to twist people for them to vote particular ways if they didn’t want to vote that way,” Gonsalves said, adding that SCL once boasted on their website that they have learnt from and apply tactics used by Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda.

“That is the organisation which the New Democratic Party had working against the ULP from 1998,” he said, noting that in 2001, there was an offshore bank here called Grenadines Bank, whose owner, Douglas Lees, also owned an offshore bank in Barbados and an offshore financial institution in Bermuda.

Gonsalves said that when he arrived in office, Lees’ company from Bermuda was being used by the NDP to do due diligence on persons interested in investing here.

“Making a lot of money and doing very little work because can you imagine getting a company that is associated with an offshore bank doing due diligence for investors?” Gonsalves said.

He said that in 2001, Lees had hired SCL as his multi-million contributions to the NDP that year’s election campaign — in which the NDP was voted out of office, after 17 years.

Gonsalves said that in 2001, a young lady who was a supporter of the ULP and front desk worker at Mariners Hotel, had copied and given to Michael Hamlett — the ULP’s candidate for East Kingstown — a fax that SCL had given her to send on their behalf. The ULP used the fax as part of its campaign against the NDP.

In 2001, the SCL attempted to use race against him in the election campaign, said Gonsalves, who is of Portuguese descent.

By the 2005 election campaign, the SCL came only as advisors because then leader of the NDP, Arnhim Eustace, wanted to distance himself from prime minister and NDP founder, Sir James Mitchell Gonsalves said, adding that during the constitution referendum campaign of 2009, an entity associated with selling passports in other countries hired the SCL to work for the NDP.

 

“And they used every species of nastiness in that referendum,” he said.

The NDP was able to convince the electorate to reject proposed changes to the constitution. However, the ULP retained office one year later, winning the December 2010 general elections by an 8-7 margin.

Gonsalves said that the SCL was also present here in the 2015 election, which saw the ULP returned to office by the same 8-7 margin as in 2010.

“So when you see the NDP, I want the people of St. Vincent to see these nasty people from England, SCL — Strategic Communication Laboratories, who are bent on undermining democracy, bending people’s minds, having contempt for black people, having contempt for the people of the Caribbean, the leaders of the Caribbean, but they want money for themselves and their clients want to sell our passports and our citizenship,” Gonsalves said.

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Partner Series

March Full Moons 2018: When to See the ‘Worm Moon’ and a (Blue) ‘Sap Moon’

 
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The month of March opens and closes with a full moon this year, making this the second “Blue Moon” month in 2018.The moon becomes full on Thursday, March 1, at 7:51 p.m. EST (0051 GMT) and again on Saturday, March 31, at 8:37 a.m. EDT (1237 GMT). The first Blue Moon of 2018 was the spectacular Super Blue Blood Moon of Jan. 31.

For observers in New York City, the moon rises at 5:33 p.m. local time on March 1, so the moon will be well above the horizon when the satellite reaches its fullest phase. It will set the following morning (March 2) at 7 a.m. local time. On March 31, the almost-full Blue Moon will set at 7:03 a.m. local time, or about 1.5 hours before it is full. It will rise again at 7:37 p.m., and while the moon will be past full, the difference from a full moon will not be visible to the naked eye. [The Moon: 10 Surprising Lunar Facts]

The Super Blue Blood Moon rises behind a perched bird in this photo taken on Jan. 31, 2018 in Konya, Turkey. The second Blue Moon of 2018, the Full Sap Moon, will rise on March 31, following the Full Worm Moon on March 1.
The Super Blue Blood Moon rises behind a perched bird in this photo taken on Jan. 31, 2018 in Konya, Turkey. The second Blue Moon of 2018, the Full Sap Moon, will rise on March 31, following the Full Worm Moon on March 1.

Credit: Abdullah Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty

Not every month gets two full moons. The time between full moons (known as a synodic month) averages 29.53 days, so we usually see one full moon per month. About every two to three years on average, we see a “Blue Moon” — a second full moon in one month.

Two Blue Moons in a year is relatively uncommon. According to EarthSky.org, the next year when two calendar months will each have two full moons will be 2037, when January and March will have Blue Moons. The last time it happened was in 1999.

One effect of having a full moon on Jan. 31 and March 1 is that February has no full moon at all. February is the only month in which this can happen, because the month has only 28 days (while the phenomenon can happen in a leap year, it is rare). The next time a full moon will skip February will be in 2037, according to TheSkyscrapers.org, a site run by amateur astronomers, and the phenomenon is sometimes referred to as a “Black Moon.” 

Moons of many names

Moons in various months have sometimes-evocative names. The March full moon, for instance, was dubbed the Full Worm Moon by some Native American tribes, because it happens when temperatures rise and the earthworms emerge, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Other tribes have called the full moon of March the Sap Moon “as it marks the time when maple sap begins to flow and the annual tapping of maple trees begins,” the Old Farmer’s Almanac states.  [Full Moon Names 2018: From Wolf Moons to Cold Moons

A full moon is defined as the moment when the side of the moon that faces the Earth is fully illuminated. How much of the moon’s face appears to be illuminated from our perspective on Earth depends on where the moon is in its orbit.

For about half of the world, the moon won’t be visible at the exact moment when it is officially full. That’s why the full moon is sometimes listed as happening during the day, when the moon is below the horizon, as it will be for observers in New York City on March 31. On the other hand, skywatchers in Los Angeles, where the moon reaches its fullest phase at 5:37 a.m. local time on March 31, can see it happen about an hour and a half before the moon sets at 7:04 a.m.

See the moon phases, and the difference between a waxing and waning crescent or gibbous moon, in this Space.com infographic about the lunar cycle each month. <a href="http://www.space.com/62-earths-moon-phases-monthly-lunar-cycles-infographic.html"/>See the full infographic. ” data-src=”https://img.purch.com/w/640/aHR0cDovL3d3dy5zcGFjZS5jb20vaW1hZ2VzL2kvMDAwLzAwMC8zOTgvaTAyL21vb24tcGhhc2VzLTEwMTExMS0wMi5qcGc/MTI4OTg1MDkxMQ==” data-options-closecontrol=”true” data-options-fullsize=”true”></div><figcaption id=
See the moon phases, and the difference between a waxing and waning crescent or gibbous moon, in this Space.com infographic about the lunar cycle each month. See the full infographic.

Credit: Karl Tate, SPACE.com

The moon has phases because as it revolves around the Earth, we see it from different perspectives. Like planets, the moon appears to move against the background stars. Unlike the planets, however, it does so fast enough that one can see it happen over the course of a night. The moon moves approximately one lunar diameter (about half a degree) each hour, eastward relative to the stars even as it rises in the east and sets in the west. So, the moon can move some 6 degrees to the east of its position at moonrise over the course of a 12-hour night.

This is illustrated by where the March full moons will be in the sky: On March 1, the moon will be in the constellation Leo, the lion, and about 13 degrees above the eastern horizon when it is at maximum illumination. On March 31, the moon will be in Virgo when it hits full phase (and below the horizon in the eastern U.S.). It will still be in Virgo when it rises for New York City observers that evening, but as the moon sets the next morning at 7:34 a.m. local time, it will have moved several degrees east. By the next day, it will be in Libra. 

Moon Master: An Easy Quiz for Lunatics
For most of human history, the moon was largely a mystery. It spawned awe and fear and to this day is the source of myth and legend. But today we know a lot about our favorite natural satellite. Do you?
 
Full Moon over Long Beach, CA
 
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The full moon tends to wash out a lot of fainter objects in the sky, but one can still see some brighter planets when the moon is full. On March 1, for example, Jupiter will rise at 11:42 p.m. local time in New York and will be about 23 degrees above the southwestern horizon at moonset on the morning of March 2. You can find the giant planet in Libra — no telescopes or binoculars necessary. From city locations, in fact, Jupiter may be the only “star” visible in that portion of the sky, as most stars in Libra are not very bright.

Saturn will rise at about 3 a.m. local time (the wee hours of March 2) and by moonset will be about 26 degrees above the horizon in Sagittarius. Mars, which rises at 2 a.m., will be in Ophiuchus and appear nearly due south. Both planets should also be easily visible without telescopes or binoculars.

Venus and Mercury are both “evening stars” — on March 1, they will both set shortly after 6:30 p.m. local time in New York City. These two planets will be no more than 5 degrees above the horizon by the time the sky gets dark enough to make them visible, so they will be very difficult to see, especially from a city location.

By March 31, the situation for observing Venus will be markedly better. Venus will be a full 12 degrees above the western horizon at the end of civil twilight (which is at 7:47 p.m. in New York) and bright enough that it should be just visible. Mercury will have set by that time, but because it is only 3 degrees away from the sun, that planet will be difficult to observe under any circumstances (and dangerous to view, without proper protective equipment to block the light of the sun).

Other planets will join the Blue Moon in the sky later that evening. Jupiter will rise at 10:40 p.m. on March 31, followed by Mars at 2:21 a.m. on April 1. Saturn will rise just 3 minutes earlier and will appear quite close to Mars in the sky. The two planets will be only about 4 degrees apart in Sagittarius.

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SpaceX

Success! SpaceX Launches Falcon Heavy Rocket on Historic Maiden Voyage

 
 CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The first Falcon Heavy rocket built by the private spaceflight company SpaceX soared on its maiden voyage today (Feb. 6) — a historic test flight that also sent a car toward Mars and included two confirmed booster landings.

“I’m really excited about today,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told reporters after the launch. “I’m really proud of the SpaceX team. They’ve done an incredible job of creating the most advanced rocket in the world, and the biggest rocket in the world.”

Standing 23 stories tall, the Falcon Heavy rocket is SpaceX’s largest rocket yet. Its first stage is powered by three core boosters based on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets, with 27 engines (nine per booster) firing in unison to produce about 5 million lbs. of thrust (22,819 kilonewtons) at liftoff. While SpaceX hoped all three boosters would return to Earth and land, the center core missed its mark – a minor hiccup in an otherwise successful launch, Musk said. [SpaceX’s 1st Falcon Heavy Rocket Test Flight in Pictures]

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket takes off from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on Feb. 6, 2018.

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket takes off from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on Feb. 6, 2018.

Credit: SpaceX

The rocket will eventually launch payloads of up to 141,000 lbs. (64,000 kilograms) into orbit. That’s about twice the payload capacity of its nearest competitor, the Delta IV Heavy, built by United Launch Alliance.

“This is a test flight,”  Musk said yesterday (Feb. 5). “If the test flight works, I think we’d be ready to put satellites on the next mission.” That mission, Musk added, could occur within the next three to six months.

The Falcon Heavy rocket taking off from Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 6, 2018.

The Falcon Heavy rocket taking off from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 6, 2018.

Credit: SpaceX

 SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy test flight was arguably one of the most anticipated rocket launches in years, with an estimated 100,000 spectators expected to visit Florida’s Space Coast to witness the event. Among those in attendance was famed Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who watched as the Falcon Heavy launched from the same pad he used to fly to the moon in 1969.

 

 

Part of that allure is the mission’s novelty: This Falcon Heavy is the first of its kind, a new breed of reusable monster rocket.

The two side boosters of the first stage have flown before. One launched the Thaicom 8 communications satellite in May 2016, and the other lofted a Dragon cargo ship for NASA in July 2016, according to SpaceX. The center core stage was completely new for the Falcon Heavy. [SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Rocket Explained (Infographic)]

The Falcon Heavy's two side boosters returned to Cape Canaveral to stick a historic double landing after SpaceX's new megarocket successfully launched on its first test flight on Feb. 6, 2018.

The Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters returned to Cape Canaveral to stick a historic double landing after SpaceX’s new megarocket successfully launched on its first test flight on Feb. 6, 2018.

Credit: SpaceX

In a sort of cosmic dance, the three first-stage core boosters returned to Earth much like SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets have in the past. Two boosters touched down at SpaceX landing sites at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station near KSC. The third was scheduled to land on SpaceX’s drone-ship landing pad “Of Course I Still Love You,” stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

Musk said the core stage hit the Atlantic Ocean at about 200 mph after two of three engines did not fire during the descent. The crash damaged the nearby drone ship, he added.

SpaceX has now successfully landed Falcon-family rockets 24 times — three on this mission alone. (The rocket family is named after another famously reusable spaceship, the fictional Millennium Falcon from “Star Wars,” Musk has said.)

But perhaps the biggest draw of today’s launch was the Falcon Heavy’s unique payload: a Tesla Roadster riding atop the rocket’s second stage.

A dummy passenger in a Tesla Roadster rode aboard the maiden flight of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy on Feb. 6.

A dummy passenger in a Tesla Roadster rode aboard the maiden flight of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy on Feb. 6.

Credit: SpaceX

Musk announced in December that the “midnight cherry red” convertible, which he owns, would be the first Falcon Heavy payload. Then, on Monday, he revealed another surprise: a spacesuit-clad mannequin called “Starman”(a reference to David Bowie’s song “Starman”) in the driver’s seat, with its right hand on the wheel and left arm resting on the door.

About 28 minutes into today’s test flight, the second stage carrying the Roadster shut down its engine, ending the main phase of the Falcon Heavy test flight. If all goes well, the second stage will coast for 6 hours through Earth’s Van Allen belts, regions of extremely high radiation, and then restart its engine to send the Roadster and Starman toward Mars.

That maneuver will send the Roadster into orbit around the sun and, in turn, eventually carry the car and Starman about 248 million miles (400 million kilometers) from Earth.

“It will essentially be an Earth-Mars cycler,” Musk said, adding that the orbit should bring the Roadster near Mars. There is an “extremely tiny” chance the car could hit the Red Planet, he added.

There are three cameras on the Roadster, Musk said, adding that they should capture “epic views” during the mission.

“I’m not worried about the car,” Musk said. “It’ll be fine.”

The Falcon Heavy outside SpaceX's facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Falcon Heavy outside SpaceX’s facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Credit: Robert Pearlman/collectspace.com

When Musk first announced the Falcon Heavy in April 2011, he predicted that its first flight could occur by 2013. But that year came and went, followed by more, as SpaceX tackled the nuances of building a reusable heavy-lift rocket. Musk estimates SpaceX invested about $500 million of its own funds to develop the new rocket.

Now, with the first test flight in the books, SpaceX is ready to forge ahead with commercial satellite launches. Two missions are scheduled for 2018: the launch of the Arabsat 6A communications satellite, and the Space Test Program 2 mission for the U.S. Air Force, which also includes a solar-sail mission for The Planetary Society.

The Falcon Heavy’s raw power, combined with its reusable design, represents a giant leap forward for SpaceX.

“This would be a major milestone in heavy lift,” Scott Hubbard, editor of the peer-reviewed journal New Space and an adjunct professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford University, told Space.com before the launch. “A successful test would really advance, in my view, the potential for planning commercially acquired launch services for deep space.”

SpaceX aims to sell Falcon Heavy launches for about $90 million per flight. (The single-core Falcon 9 launches sell for $62 million per flight.) By reusing the Falcon Heavy boosters, the company hopes to drastically reduce the cost of heavy-lift space missions to near that of its Falcon 9 missions.

“If we are successful in this, it is game over for all other heavy-lift rockets,” Musk said.

The Falcon Heavy is part of a growing list of SpaceX launch services and ongoing projects. The company already provides satellite launch services and Dragon cargo delivery missions for NASA using its Falcon 9 rockets.

SpaceX is also building a crewed version of the Dragon space capsule to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA, with the first flights scheduled for later this year.

Meanwhile, SpaceX is developing a launch system even larger than the Falcon Heavy, called the BFR (or Big Falcon Rocket). That booster, Musk has said, is designed to launch hundreds of people into space at one time and could be used to transport passengers around the world quickly for point-to-point travel.

Musk said he was thinking of the BFR on Monday while visiting the Falcon Heavy at the launchpad ahead of today’s launch.

“I’m looking at Falcon Heavy, and I’m thinking, ‘It’s a bit small,'” he said.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 8 p.m. EST to include details about the Falcon Heavy core stage, which did not survive its landing attempt.

Space.com senior writer Michael Wall contributed to this report from San Francisco. Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

 

 

 

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David Jessop

Consultant says new US security policy raises difficult questions for the Caribbean

LONDON, Dec.24, CMC – A consultant with the London-based Caribbean Council says the Trump administration’s new United States security policy raises difficult questions for the Caribbean.

Writing under the syndicated column, “The View from Europe”, David Jessop says that, by law, every US President must publish a national security strategy.

David Jessop

The objective, he says, is to provide the highest-level guidance on the responses required by the country’s military, diplomatic, and executive branches to real or perceived threats.

Last Tuesday, following a speech by Trump outlining his approach to national security, Jessop noted that the White House released a 53-three-page document setting out how his administration intends putting “America First” in the world.

Jessop says the strategy paper paints a bleak picture, seeing all states as being in a” relentless competition for power and influence.”

The US, the strategy argues, according to Jessop, has been “weak and must now become engaged in a determined struggle to restore the unipolarity it achieved when it won the Cold War.”

The strategy “all but rejects interdependence and multilateralism, suggesting that what happens in the world today is a zero-sum game in which only by advancing US principles will prosperity spread around the globe,” according to Jessop.

He noted that the document has some broad themes: “’America First’ will be the ‘foundation of US leadership in the world through outcomes, not ideology’, a policy described as ‘principled realism’; China and Russia want to ‘shape a world antithetical to our interests and values’, and are perceived to be challenging US power, influence and interests; unless they and others adapt their thinking, the US ‘will compete with all tools of national power’ to ensure ‘that the regions of the world are not dominated by one power’”.

Whether one accepts the underlying philosophy or the interpretation of history or not, Jessop says that the document has “potentially profound implications for any nation or government that sees the world differently.

“Although it contains some positive language, for instance on organized crime, corrupt officials, terrorism, and engaging the private sector in development, it suggests that a divide is likely to emerge between the US and the Caribbean if Washington decides to deploy its world view in a regional context,” he writes.

“Any reading of the whole document suggests numerous points of divergence,” he adds. “The most obvious relates to China, which over the last decade has become for almost all nations in the region an important investor, trade partner, and advocate of issues of vital importance, most notably climate change.”

Jessop says the section of the new US strategy paper on the Western Hemisphere “could not be clearer.”

That section says “competitors have found operating space in the hemisphere.  China seeks to pull the region into its orbit through state-led investments and loans.”

The document criticizes both Cuba and Venezuela, and Russia and China’s relationship with both, noting that the US “will isolate governments that refuse to act as responsible partners in advancing hemispheric peace and prosperity”.

The section, according to Jessop, indicates that, together with Canada, the US will deliver in the Western hemisphere a policy that “limits the malign influence of non-hemispheric forces,” while, as in the past, working to increase economic opportunities for all, improving governance, and reducing the power of criminal organizations.

“Whether Canada sees the region in this way – what this means for example for Grenada’s reported request to China’s Development Bank to help draft a national development strategy; how US policy will in future relate to the Caribbean’s special relationship with Cuba, enshrined in the recent declaration at a CARICOM-Cuba summit in Antigua; or how it might relate to the possible rescue of Venezuela’s mismanaged oil sector by Russia Rosneft – are just some examples of the practical issues the region is going to have to reconcile in its dialogue with Washington,” Jessop writes.

“More importantly still, the region is going to have to take a position on what the document totally fails to mention: the existential issue of climate change,” he adds. “Not only does the strategy paper fail to recognize global warming, vulnerability, or smallness, it suggests that US interests in future, in relation to natural disasters, will solely relate to building resilience at a domestic level while for others placing emphasis on the export of fossil fuels and renewable technology.”

Elsewhere, Jessop says the document introduces new conditionalities.

“When it comes to future US development assistance this ‘must support America’s national interests’, contains potentially contentious language in its qualified support for multilateral institutions, and more generally suggests that the US will respond negatively to those nations that do not support its foreign policy,” he says.

For the Caribbean, this will likely pose a conundrum, Jessop says.

“Smallness, the importance of the US and a trade and investment partner, its physical location, its good relations with neighbors and others that the US now sees as an unwelcome influence, and CARICOM’s renewed drive for a rapid multilateral response to climate change, all suggest that future relations with Washington may become difficult.What now seems to be on offer is far from the approach taken by the Obama administration foreign policy, which had healed many hemispheric rifts,” he adds. “If followed through on, the Trump doctrine will be divisive and significantly less in the interests of the region and its desire for a joined up global approach to its future development.”

The Caribbean Council is a long-established trade and investment consultancy and membership organization, specialized in providing advisory services to companies, trade associations, governments, public sector organizations, and regional organizations.

Through its activities, the Caribbean Council said it supports responsible private-sector led investment and development in the Caribbean, Cuba and Central America.

The former managing director of the Caribbean Council, Jessop says he has worked on Caribbean issues for over 40 years and continues to speak and write on Caribbean issues.

He is the editor of our “Caribbean Insight” and “Cuba Briefing” publications.

Jessop is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Caribbean Central American Action (CCAA) in Washington, D.C. and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA).

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CDB approves US$76 million to boost development results in St. Kitts and Nevis

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados,  CMC – The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has announced a programme of assistance of US$76.2 million for St. Kitts and Nevis over the period 2017 to 2021.

On Thursday, the Bank’s Board of Directors approved the new strategy, which will support economic and social development, environmental protection and infrastructure enhancement.

cdb“This programme will support the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis in maximising its development potential. It is designed to help the country diversify its economy and increase its exports, while addressing challenges related to skills and productivity, competitiveness, social issues, gender and climate change,” said Dr. Justin Ram, the CDB’s Director of Economics.

“The Strategy outlines how CDB will engage with St. Kitts and Nevis over the four-year period, and focuses on delivering sustainable development results for the country and its people,” he added.

The proposed programme of assistance is built on three pillars  – economic development and enhanced livelihoods; inclusive social development and environmental protection and infrastructure enhancement.

The Country Strategy is a joint collaboration between the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis and CDB.

The Bank consulted with stakeholders, including Government officials and development partners, emphasising country ownership of the proposed programme of assistance.

Salient issues that emerged during these discussions, including urgent sector priorities and ongoing interventions supported by other development partners, have been taken into account.

The approved Country Strategy for the federation draws on lessons learnt and experiences from the implementation of the previous Strategy (2013 to 2016).

It includes a mix of finance for capital projects and technical assistance. Individual projects will be appraised by CDB and, if deemed to be viable, will then be presented to the Board of Directors for approval, following which disbursements will commence.

CDB providing funds for infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Irma in Antigua and Barbuda

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Dec 15, CMC – The Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) says it has approved US$29 million in funding to the Antigua and Barbuda government to assist with recovery efforts after the passage of Hurricane Irma in September.

The bank said the funds will be used to rehabilitate and reconstruct critical infrastructure in the transportation, education, water and sanitation, and agriculture sectors.

Barbuda hurHurricane Irma impacted the twin-island nation on September 6, 2017, making landfall in Barbuda as a Category 5 hurricane, destroying housing, crops, livestock and fishing vessels, and also severely impacted the island’s water supply.

“The destruction caused by Hurricane Irma adversely impacted the lives of many citizens of Antigua and Barbuda. At CDB, we worked very closely with our in-country counterparts to develop the interventions captured in this project, which will support the Government’s efforts towards a comprehensive and sustainable approach to the redevelopment process, as it aims to ‘build back better.

“We expect the project to significantly contribute to the restoration of livelihoods that were adversely impacted by the passage of the hurricane. The outcome for Antigua and Barbuda will not only be more resilient infrastructure but also more resilient institutions and people,” said Director of Projects at CDB, Daniel Best.

The bank said the project has several components including reconstruction of 11km of road as well as the reconstruction and rehabilitation of education institutions in both Antigua and Barbuda and construction of teacher accommodation in Barbuda.

CDB said it had previously provided a US$200,000 Emergency Relief Grant and an Immediate Response Loan in the amount of US$750,000 in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

In addition, the bank has approved a loan of US$11.8 million to assist the government in meeting its financial obligations to external partners.

CDB announces US$100 million country strategy for Haiti 

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Dec. 14, CMC – The Barbados based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), is supporting the Government of Haiti in reducing poverty, building resilience, and achieving sustained economic growth for all.

HaitiflagA new Country Strategy, approved by CDB’s Board of Directors on Thursday, proposes a programme of assistance of US$100 million for the period 2017 to 2021 to help Haiti meet its development priorities.

This total includes US$45 million in grant resources.

“The Government of Haiti has set an ambitious development agenda to unlock the country’s growth potential and build a dynamic, resilient and competitive economy. This Country Strategy, jointly developed with the Government, is designed to deliver strong development impact, particularly in agriculture, education and training, and sustainable energy,” said Dr. Justin Ram, Director of Economics, CDB.

The five-year Strategy focuses on three main themes – Agriculture and community development;Sustainable energy development and education and training.

Gender equality, regional cooperation and integration, and environmental sustainability considerations will also be mainstreamed across all CDB interventions delivered under the programme of assistance.

CDB consulted with Government officials and stakeholders to ensure the design of the Country Strategy aligns with the strategic development priorities of Haiti, promotes coordination among development partners and donors, and identifies opportunities for collaboration among them.

The Country Strategy is aligned with CDB’s strategic objectives of supporting inclusive and sustainable growth and development, and promoting good governance. The Strategy was crafted within a results management framework that will be the principal tool used to monitor implementation and the achievement of results.

CDB’s previous Country Strategy for Haiti was for the period 2013 to 2016.

The resource envelope of US$42 million in grants supported the Education for All Phase II Project; the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Project II; interventions in agriculture and rural development; the payment of Haiti’s premiums for coverage under CCRIF SPC; environmental projects; and technical assistance for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) development.

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Bevil Wooding, executive director of APEX demonstrates one of the programmes

Caribbean courts embrace technology for improved justice

Bevil Wooding, Executive Director of APEX demonstrates one of the programmes

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has created its own agency to provide technology to reduce caseload backlogs throughout the Caribbean.

APEX’s mandate is to deliver technology-based solutions for Caribbean courts, law offices and justice sector bodies. Since its establishment in 2016, the agency has developed a suite of software tools to address some of the most critical needs of the region’s justice sector.

The solutions developed, known as the Curia suite, were designed by Caribbean jurists and technology experts and developed by Caribbean software engineers. Further, the agency’s governance model includes heads of judiciary, public and private bars, attorneys and leading jurists drawn from across the Caribbean.

Bevil Wooding, Executive Director of APEX with CCJ president Sir Dennis Byron

 “At the Caribbean Court of Justice, our mandate goes beyond simply resolving disputes that come before us. We also have a profound obligation to improve the systems of justice delivery throughout the region, for the greater good of citizens, our beneficiaries, across the entire Caribbean,” said Sir Dennis Byron, president of the CCJ.

Byron pointed out that APEX’s technology solutions can replace slow, unreliable, manual processes with faster, more accurate, automated systems. He cited examples of inefficient, error-prone and time-consuming manual case management and note-taking of court proceedings, which could greatly benefit from modern technology.

“In many of our courts, the judge or the magistrate takes a manual record of proceedings. This slows down proceedings to the speed at which the judge is recording. It does not produce a complete or completely accurate record. Judges’ time and energy is taken up by trying to take those notes,” he said.

“There is no precedence for this level of regional collaboration in the development of justice solutions. APEX, while established by the CCJ, is owned and takes its direction from justice sector stakeholders across the Caribbean,” said Bevil Wooding, executive director of APEX.

“What this means in practical terms is that all of APEX’s technologies, programs and services are determined by the considered priorities and needs of our Caribbean community. In the purest sense, APEX is delivering Caribbean solutions to challenges of Caribbean justice delivery.”

Attendees at the APEX conference in the Bahamas

The APEX non-profit agency is offering its tools, and the support to implement it, to courts and law offices across the region.

“Unlike commercial software solutions, APEX’s technology is designed to become a source of revenue for the justice system in the region, rather than constituting a recurring expense,” stated Wooding.

“APEX revenues are being used to directly improve the functioning our courts and to strengthen human resource capacity in the justice system. Importantly, the decision on the investments in capacity development and institutional strengthening will be directed by APEX institutional members. With APEX, the region has, for the first time, a direct say in how, where and when its resources are applied to the development of justice solutions.”

To bring region wide-awareness to its services, APEX recently staged its first stakeholders’ convention in The Bahamas. More than 50 delegates from 15 Caribbean countries gathered at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in The Bahamas, with another 35 joining the forum online. Among the audience were chief justices, attorneys general, judicial officers, directors of public prosecution, legal professionals, court administrators and leaders of bar associations.

It was the first time that such a diverse group of stakeholders of Caribbean justice fraternity gathered for such a meeting. Wooding described it as “a milestone event” for the Caribbean justice community.

Barbados, Belize, Guyana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago are among the places where courts and law offices have already adopted technology developed by APEX for electronic case filing, case management and court performance measurement.

 “The dream of having Caribbean courts benefit from Caribbean solutions for the vexing and persistent challenges in the administration and dispensation of justice, is now a reality, said Wooding.

“The next step will be for leaders in the justice sector throughout the region to take full advantage of the technology that is available right now – already tailored to the needs and practices of the region –  to enable Caribbean court and justice sector excellence.”

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

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

Livescience.com
 Credit: baranq/Shutterstock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published on Live Science.

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SpaceX to Launch Korean Communications Satellite Today: Watch It Live

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SpaceX to Launch Korean Communications Satellite Today: Watch It Live
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B space plane into orbit on Sept. 7, 2017.

Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX aims to pull off another launch-and-landing double play today (Oct. 30), and you can watch all the spaceflight action live.

A SpaceX two-stage Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch the KoreaSat 5A communications satellite at 3:34 p.m. EDT (1934 GMT) today from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. You can watch the launch live here at Space.com courtesy of SpaceX, or directly via the company at http://www.spacex.com/webcast.

If all goes according to plan, the booster’s first stage will return to Earth for a soft landing less than 10 minutes after liftoff, settling vertically onto a SpaceX “drone ship” stationed off the Florida coast. [Relive a SpaceX Rocket Launch and Landing in Pictures]

 

Such landings are part of SpaceX’s plan to develop fully and rapidly reusable rockets and space vehicles, a key priority for the company and its billionaire founder and CEO, Elon Musk. To date, SpaceX has aced 18 Falcon 9 touchdowns and re-launched landed boosters on three different occasions.

SpaceX has also re-flown a Dragon cargo capsule once and aims to do so again on its next resupply run to the International Space Station for NASA, which will launch no earlier than December.

KoreaSat 5A is owned by the South Korean company KTSat. The satellite will provide TV and other communications services to people in South Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia, according to the company’s website. The satellite will also aid maritime communications from East Africa to East Asia.

KoreaSat 5A will replace KoreaSat 5, which launched in 2006.

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