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Progressives say Biden infrastructure bill isn’t big enough: “We can’t go back to business as usual”

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“This is not nearly enough,” Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez says
By Jon Skolnik
April 1, 2021 5:34PM (UTC)
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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Joe Biden (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden proposed a $2 trillion federal spending package on Wednesday that would revamp the country’s crumbling infrastructure, taking specific aim at pollution, job creation, housing, and corporate taxes. But many on the left who have championed the Green New Deal say the president’s plan isn’t big enough. 

“This is not nearly enough,” tweeted Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, regarding the size of the bill. “The important context here is that it’s $2.25T spread out over 10 years. For context, the COVID package was $1.9T for this year *alone,* with some provisions lasting 2 years. Needs to be way bigger.

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“I think it’s a step towards our vision of a Green New Deal,” Ellen Sciales, a spokesperson for Sunrise Movement, echoed. “But the truth is this does not meet the scale and the scope of what we need to meet the true scale and urgency of the climate crisis.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, likewise called the bill a “fine starting point.”

Under Biden’s current proposal, the federal government would, among other measures, allot $621 billion to transportation infrastructures such as bridges, ports, and roads; put $580 billion toward American manufacturing, job training, and research and development; designate $400 billion to care for elderly and disabled Americans; invest $300 billion into constructing and repairing affordable housing, as well as schools; infuse the U.S. electric vehicle industry with $174 billion, and dedicate $5 billion to repair every lead pipe and service line nationally.

“These are investments we have to make,” Biden said of the bill on Wednesday. “We can afford to make them. To put it another way — we can’t afford not to.”

However, many progressive Democrats have already proposed a spate of separate bills designed to expand the bill’s scope of influence. For instance, Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Andry Levin, D-Mich., introduced a bill that would subsidize the purchase of sustainable products made in America. 

The Progressive Congressional Caucus on Monday floated the Transform, Heal and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy (THRIVE) Act, which calls for a $10 trillion investment in green infrastructure, renewable energy, and other climate justice measures over the next decade. The bill heavily addresses racial inequality and dedicates 40% of federal investments to minority groups that have been “excluded, oppressed and harmed by racist unjust practices.”

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“We are facing a series of intersecting crises,” Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass, the bill’s co-sponsor, said. “Climate change, a public health pandemic, racial injustice and economic inequality. We can’t defeat any of these crises alone. We must develop a roadmap for recovery that addresses them all.”

An analysis conducted by the Sierra Club, an environmental nonprofit, found that the THRIVE Act would generate 15 million jobs. The bill is part of a broader push spearheaded by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who unveiled the THRIVE agenda when she was representative for New Mexico. According to Data for Progress, Haaland’s agenda drew broad support from Americans, especially swing voters.

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“We need a plan that will end the unemployment crisis, but we need this plan to also fight systemic racism, protect public health and drastically cut down on climate pollution,” Markey said. “We cannot go back to business as usual. We have a chance to truly, in this moment, to build back better and greener than ever before.” 

Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, AlterNet, and The New York Daily News. MORE FROM Jon SkolnikFOLLOW @skolnik_jon

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Climate/Weather, Energy, International, Local, News, Regional, Science/Technology, Technology, TOURISM0 Comments

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UK heading for post-Brexit BOOM after signing 62 new trade deals worth £900 billion

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BRITAIN is heading for a post-Brexit boom after securing trade deals worth a staggering £900 billion.

By Martyn Brown, Senior Political Correspondent Tue, Dec 29, 2020

Boris Johnson: Brexit deal is ‘glad tidings of great joy’

https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/1377528/brexit-news-UK-EU-trade-deal-latest-boris-johnson-trade-deal-US-canada-australia-liz-truss?utm_source=express_newsletter&utm_campaign=politics_newsletter2&utm_medium=email&jwsource=cl

The colossal figure comes as Trade Secretary Liz Truss signed off a new £18.6 billion tie-up with Turkey, meaning the UK now has new agreements in place with 62 countries around the world. And there are multi-billion free trade deals with America, Canada, and Australia in the pipeline for 2021. Together they could boost the UK economy by at least £100 billion over the coming decade, according to analysts.

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Writing in the Daily Express, former Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom, says that the UK’s ability to secure its own trading agreements, free from EU interference, means that the “sunlit uplands” are on the horizon.

She says Boris Johnson’s “phenomenal” £660 billion trade deal with Brussels is the “catalyst for the UK to redefine our place in the world”.

“Let us seize the opportunities that our new position brings,” she says. Let’s use this as a positive push for our post-COVID recovery. The Roaring Twenties can now truly begin!”

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With just three days to go until the Brexit transition period ends Boris Johnson yesterday (Mon) hailed a “new starting point” for the UK’s relationship with the EU.

 Trade Secretary Liz Truss signed off a new £18.6 billion tie-up with Turkey

Trade Secretary Liz Truss signed off a new £18.6 billion tie-up with Turkey (Image: EXPRESS)

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In a call with European Council president Charles Michel, the Prime Minister welcomed the agreement as a fresh start “between sovereign equals”.

“We looked forward to the formal ratification of the agreement and to working together on shared priorities, such as tackling climate change,” the prime minister added.

It came after ambassadors representing the 27 EU member states unanimously approved the trade deal, which was secured on Christmas Eve just days before the 31 December deadline.

The approval means the trade deal can take effect provisionally, though the European Parliament will formally vote on it in January.

READ MORE: Brexit rebellion: DUP to vote AGAINST Boris trade deal

There are multi-billion free trade deals with America, Canada and Australia in the pipeline for 2021

There are multi-billion free trade deals with America, Canada, and Australia in the pipeline for 2021 (Image: GETTY)

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MPs will be recalled to parliament to vote on the agreement tomorrow (Wed) and currently, only 10 Tories are expected to rebel.

But Tory grandee Lord Heseltine has urged MPs and peers to abstain from the vote, warning the deal would inflict “lasting damage” on the UK. Labour has also criticised what it described as a “thin” deal.

However, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said his party will support it, meaning it is expected to be approved and come into force on 1 January.

The agreement with Turkey, which will be formally signed later this week, will provide a major boost for the British car industry, manufacturing, and steel industries and lays the groundwork for an enhanced relationship in the future.

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Boris Johnson secured a trade deal with the EU on Christmas Eve

Boris Johnson secured a trade deal with the EU on Christmas Eve (Image: GETTY)

Ms. Truss and her team have now agreed to trade deals with 62 countries, alongside the new EU deal – accounting for around £885 billion of UK trade.

More deals with Albania, Cameroon, and Ghana could be agreed in the coming days.

Announcing the deal the International Trade Secretary said: “We now look forward to working with Turkey towards an ambitious tailor-made trade agreement in the near future, as we aim to open new global markets for great British businesses, drive economic growth and improve people’s lives across both countries.

“It will provide certainty for thousands of jobs across the UK in the manufacturing, automotive and steel industries.”

The deal with the EU came just before the UK's transition period ended

The deal with the EU came just before the UK’s transition period ended (Image: GETTY)

The UK is Turkey’s second-biggest export market but Ankara’s customs union with the EU meant that a free trade agreement could not be finalised until a Brexit deal was in place. That raised fears among Turkish producers of white goods, cars, and textiles that their products could face hefty import tariffs and UK border delays if Britain crashed out of the 27-member bloc.

The deal seeks to replicate the trading terms that currently exist between the UK and Turkey, with tariff-free trade on all non-agricultural goods, according to British officials.

The UK has also agreed to roll over the preferential tariffs that Turkey enjoys on some agricultural products under its customs union with the EU.

It follows hot on the heels of a bumper £17.6 billion tie-up with Singapore that will help Britain become a major tech-hub.

Another £15 billion deal was signed with Japan, paving the way thousands of new jobs

Another £15 billion deal was signed with Japan, paving the way for thousands of new jobs (Image: EXPRESS)

Another £15 billion deal was signed with Japan, paving the way for thousands of new jobs. Crucially it gives Britain a foot in the door to joining a wider 11-nation trade deal, known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Once fully operational it will account for around 14 percent of global GDP and is worth more than £112 billion.

Boris Johnson has promised Britain will “prosper mightily” outside the EU and Chancellor Rishi Sunak this week said that the new trade deal secured with the EU will usher in a “new era for global Britain”. 

Brexiteer John Redwood, who has indicated he will support the deal in tomorrow’s (Wed) vote, said the opportunities for Britain outside the EU are huge.

The EU had expressed its reluctance to back down to the UK's fishing demands

The EU had expressed its reluctance to back down to the UK’s fishing demands (Image: GETTY)

And he questioned the so-called “economic boost” of being in the bloc, suggesting there was only 1.66 percent per year since 1993.

“If we look at the 28 years 1993 to 2020 when we were in the single market and customs union, total growth was 59 percent. 

“That was an annual growth rate of just 1.66 percent.”

Richard Tice, Chairman of Reform/The Brexit Party, yesterday (Mon) questioned some elements of the UK/EU deal but described it as “a giant leap forward”. 

“We are once again a free, sovereign, independent United Kingdom,” he said.

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Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, COVID-19, Features, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional, Technology, TOURISM, Travel, UK - Brexit0 Comments

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How to Clean Your Home With Coronavirus in Mind

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HealthMarch 20, 2020 – Related Condition Centers

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Don’t forget your doorknobs.

By Patia Braithwaite

Coronavirus Cleaning and Disinfection Tips to Keep in Mind
Carol Yepes / Getty Images

If you’re one of those people who always keeps a spotless home, the influx of new coronavirus cases might have kicked you into a coronavirus cleaning frenzy. Even if you’re someone who thinks cleaning is more of a chore than a calling, the news that the new coronavirus appears to be able to survive on physical surfaces for varying lengths of time may have you looking for a few house cleaning tips.

First, a big disclaimer: Based on what we know so far, the new coronavirus is transmitted primarily through respiratory droplets, not contact with contaminated surfaces, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains. The new coronavirus can spread when people are in close contact with each other—typically within six feet—and someone with the new coronavirus disease (also known as COVID-19) coughs, sneezes, or talks. These actions produce droplets that can land on the noses and mouths of other people, thereby spreading the infection, Marc Lipsitch, D.Phil., professor of epidemiology at Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health, tells SELF. (It may also be possible to just inhale the droplets before they land on your body.)

Even though SARS-CoV-2 (the pathogen that causes the new coronavirus disease) appears to spread mainly via those droplets, experts think you can also get COVID-19 by touching a surface contaminated with the virus, then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, the CDC says. What’s more, as we referenced, emerging evidence indicates that SARS-CoV-2 can live on some surfaces for several hours or even days.

Researchers, including infectious disease experts from the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), published a recent study that suggests the new coronavirus can potentially live on copper surfaces for up to four hours, on cardboard for around 24 hours, and on plastic and stainless steel for up to three to four days. These findings haven’t yet been peer-reviewed, which means experts will need more time before they can say exactly how long the virus can actually live on surfaces under the real-world (outside of a lab) conditions. But working from this premise, you can see why it’s extra important that we’re all really on top of cleaning and disinfecting right now (in addition to things like regularly washing our hands). So, let’s get right to the cleaning Qs and As.

How often do I need to clean my home right now?

First things first: There’s a difference between cleaning, which means removing visible traces of dirt, and disinfecting, which involves killing germs with chemicals, the CDC explains.

Provided that you regularly clean and disinfect your home, you’re starting from a great place. “Regularly” is a relative word, but in general, you should aim to clean your home at least once a week, Philip Tierno, Ph.D., clinical professor in the departments of microbiology and pathology at NYU Langone Medical Center, tells SELF. Yes, even in non-pandemic times.

To increase your protection against the new coronavirus, the CDC recommends daily cleaning and disinfecting of “high-touch areas,” which, as you guessed, are the surfaces of your home that you’re always touching for one reason or another. Since your hands are great at transferring bacteria, viruses, and the like, these spots tend to be among the germiest places in your home. They include doorknobs, light switches, tables, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks, and chairs. Basically, anything you or the people you live with touch even somewhat frequently deserves a lot of your attention right now, especially if it’s a hard surface. (Viruses generally live longer on hard surfaces than on soft, more porous ones, according to the Mayo Clinic.)

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Feel free to increase how often you’re cleaning and disinfecting based on your routine. If several people live in your home, or if you go outside and come home, it’s absolutely fine to hit those areas more frequently than once a day. (And keep in mind that areas like the kitchen and bathroom tend to be germiest overall, Tierno says.)

What should I use to clean and disinfect?

It depends on if you’re talking about hard or soft surfaces.

For hard surfaces, the CDC says you can use regular soap and water for cleaning (or a special cleanser if the material calls for it), then you can use a few different options for disinfection. One is a household disinfectant like the type you buy in a store. If you’re determined to use the most effective disinfectant possible to account for the new coronavirus, take a look at this list of products that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved for combating emerging pathogens, including the new coronavirus. The list is by no means exhaustive, but you’ll find products from several well-known brands on it, including Lysol, Clorox, and Purell. In other words, many of the products on this list aren’t obscure cleaners that only pros know about.

If your local store doesn’t have many disinfectant options at the moment, you can also disinfect surfaces with alcohol solutions that contain at least 70 percent alcohol (which you might have lying around as an antiseptic), or you can make a diluted bleach solution (four teaspoons of bleach per quart of water), the CDC says. Tierno is a strong proponent of bleach and considers it “the cheapest and most effective disinfectant that money can buy,” he previously told SELF. So, if all else fails (or your favorite disinfectant wipes are temporarily out of stock), a paper towel and your household disinfectant of choice will do the trick. Just remember to wear disposable gloves if you can while you’re cleaning (so you can toss them when you’re done), the CDC says. And be sure to follow the instructions on the label of whatever you’re using.

We’ve talked a great deal about hard surfaces, but some of us have carpets, curtains, and other softer spots around the house that need to be cleaned as well. First, the CDC says to remove any visible dirt or grime, then clean those areas with products that are made for those surfaces. After you’ve done that, the CDC recommends dropping the items in the laundry (which we’ll get to next) if you can.

What about cleaning bedding, clothing, and other laundry?

SELF previously suggested that you change your sheets weekly, and the CDC doesn’t make any specific recommendations about doing it more frequently due to the new coronavirus. But Tierno does say that paying attention to bedding is important because germs can collect there. So, if it soothes you to change your sheets more frequently, go right ahead.

There isn’t much public direction for how we should clean anything we’ve worn outside in the age of the new coronavirus. Large gatherings aren’t really happening anymore, but for what it’s worth, the CDC’s previous, new coronavirus-based guidance for how to handle laundry after being at a big gathering can offer some insight for what to do with clothes you’ve worn outside at all.

For starters, try to handle any clothes you’ve worn outside without shaking the items because this will limit the possibility of spreading the virus through the air. Additionally, wash the items in the warmest possible setting (keeping the manufacturer’s instructions in mind), and dry them thoroughly, the CDC says. When you’re done handling dirty clothes, clean and disinfect any hampers or laundry baskets you used in the process, and then, the CDC says to wash your hands thoroughly, which you’re undoubtedly used to by now.

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While there aren’t currently super-specific laundry guidelines for people who have been social distancing for a while now, if it gives you peace of mind to follow these laundry rules even with clothes you’ve only worn inside, we don’t see any harm.

As for smaller items like wallets, purses, and tote bags, the CDC doesn’t have specific laundering recommendations, but cleaning and disinfecting them according to the manufacturers’ instructions can help lower their germ load. When handling an item that you can’t clean easily, the best practice is to wash your hands when you’re done or use hand sanitizer when handwashing isn’t an option.

Do I need to clean every package and item that comes into my home?

Based on what we know right now, there is evidence that the new coronavirus can hang out on cardboard surfaces, like the ones your delivered delights probably come in. There isn’t any official guidance from the CDC on whether or not you need to disinfect packages before they enter your home, but if it makes you feel better to do so, then, by all means, wipe packages down with disinfectant wipes.

Additionally, food and food packaging haven’t been known to cause any reported cases of the new coronavirus, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. To combat the overall risk of contracting any virus (including SARS-CoV-2), the FDA recommends that you clean, separate, cook, and chill your food. (You can find more information about those steps in our story about how to prevent getting a foodborne illness when you’re cooking.)

What if someone has been in my house—do I need to clean again?

This seems like a great opportunity to plug social distancing. Since the new coronavirus spreads easily from person to person, public health experts are suggesting you put distance between yourself and others outside your home to limit spreading the virus within communities.

While a cute little kickback at home sounds fun, social distancing includes limiting visitors whenever possible. (Yes, even if none of you seem to have new coronavirus symptoms—there is some evidence that people who don’t have symptoms can spread the illness, which essentially means all of us can spread the illness, tbh.) That said, if someone who doesn’t live with you does need to stop by for some reason, clean those high-touch areas that we mentioned above after they’ve left, like doorknobs and the backs of chairs, along with anything else you noticed them coming into contact with.

How do I clean if someone in my house has the new coronavirus?

If someone in your home has new coronavirus symptoms, there are a few special things you should do in terms of cleaning.

First, though, we need to talk about the fact that you’re probably scared, which is the most understandable thing in the world right now. Here are signs it’s time to seek emergency care for someone with the new coronavirus if having that knowledge might help you feel more secure. We also have some tips for dealing with new coronavirus anxiety, although, granted, caring for someone with the disease puts you in an especially stressful situation. Finally, when it comes to cleaning, know that you can still try to take steps to reduce the risk of getting the virus yourself, even if you’re caring for someone with COVID-19.

The biggest step, which can be hard physically and emotionally, is to cut back on contact with them as much as you can, the CDC says. That means, if possible, you should designate a separate room for your loved one to rest and recover without potentially spreading the illness. Ideally, there should be a bathroom only they use, as well. We know: A separate bedroom and bathroom is a luxury a lot of us don’t have. Try to carve out an area for them to spend most of their time, at least, even if you live together in a studio apartment.

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No matter what you’re cleaning in this scenario, you should wear disposable gloves if you can (and toss them after each cleaning), and remember to thoroughly wash your hands after you remove the gloves. Here are more specific tips based on the area:

Bedroom and bathroom: If you are able to have separate spaces, the CDC recommends using separate cleaning supplies for the ill person’s spaces (including tissues, paper towels, and EPA-registered disinfectants) and only cleaning their bedroom and bathroom when it’s really necessary (like if something is visibly dirty). This sounds counterintuitive, but it makes sense. Even though the urge to clean your loved one’s space after every cough may be strong, you should make it a priority to reduce your own contact with the virus.

If you’re sharing a bathroom with someone who has the new coronavirus, the CDC recommends that the person with COVID-19 clean and disinfect the facilities after each use if they can. If they aren’t up to that (which is understandable), try to wait as long as you can before going in to clean and disinfect after the person who has the illness.

Laundry: When it comes to washing a sick person’s clothes and other items, the rules are pretty similar to what the CDC was recommending after large community gatherings: wearing gloves (that you throw away after you use them), keeping clothes and bedding away from your body (doing your best not to shake them), washing items with the hottest water they can handle, and disinfecting any hampers that you’ve used to store their dirty clothes. At the risk of sounding like a glitching robot, wash your hands thoroughly when you’re done. It really can help minimize your risk.

Dishes and food: If someone in your house has the new coronavirus, it’s best not to share drinks or food using the same plates, cups, utensils, and similar objects. You should take a few more precautionary steps, too. Wear disposable gloves when handling their dishes, and wash all of their plates and utensils in hot water with dish soap, the CDC says. You should also make sure to handle any food-related items that you can’t throw out with gloves, the CDC says. And, of course, wash your hands thoroughly after you’re finished.

Trash: In addition to a separate bathroom, bedroom, and objects like dishes, the person in your house with the new coronavirus should also have their own lined trash bag, according to the CDC. When you’re changing the lining or taking out the trash, you should use gloves, and, as you can imagine, you should absolutely wash your hands when you’re done.

This might all feel a bit overwhelming, but we want you to remember to do the best you can with the information available. There is so much about this new coronavirus that experts don’t quite understand yet, and there’s even more that you can’t control. Hopefully, learning the best ways to keep your house clean can help you channel some of those concerns into useful actions that make you feel even the tiniest bit more comfortable. “Practice good, regular hygiene—home, personal, and food—and it’ll go a long way,” Tierno says.

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Patia Braithwaite is a writer and editor who joined SELF in May 2019. She was previously the wellness editor at Refinery29, and her freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post and VICE. She lives in Brooklyn, where, despite her busy schedule, she spends an unbelievable amount of time on her… Read more

SELF does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional

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BVI government to improve border security

BVI government to improve border security

by STAFF WRITER

TORTOLA, British Virgin Islands, Jun 3 CMC – Over US$6-million will be spent to improve border security across this British Overseas territory.

Immigration Minister Vincent Wheatley  says the move shows that the current administration is serious  about advancing the territory.

Vincent Wheatley

“For as long as I can recall, there have been complaints and heavy criticism levied against Labour and Immigration departments.That is why Cabinet recently approved the sum of $6.4 million for the purchase of a new state-of-the-art Immigration border management system.”

This comes several months after Governor Augustus announced that travellers arriving and departing the BVI will be subject to heightened security measures to include the implementation of an Advance Passenger Information (API) System.

Meanwhile, Wheatley said he intends to give support to the departments of Labour and Immigration by introducing policies and legislation to help reform and improve them.

Concerning plans for the online amalgamation of the Labour and Immigration departments, Wheatley, who is also Labour Minister, says this has already started.

“It’s currently undergoing testing. We are using a test group of 32 different businesses – which will soon be open to the wider public,” adding that the undertaking is scheduled to be ready for the broader public by July.

“It is only the beginning. Later on this month, we will be launching a few more initiatives within that department starting with a name change,” he said.

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A boat-filled harbour photographed from the air, west of St George

Complacency kills: Caribbean gears up for tsunamis

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-46356998

BBC News

By Philippa Fogarty
Kingston, Jamaica

8 December 2018

A boat-filled harbour photographed from the air, west of St George's, Grenada, in February 2018
Image caption – Island nations like Grenada hope to be tsunami-ready by 2020

The last time a major tsunami hit the Caribbean region was in 1946, after an 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola.

At Playa Rincón, the sea rushed 700m (2,300ft) inland, according to a man who clung to the top of an almond tree to survive. Waves were 5m high in places and 1,600 people died across the north-east coast. Small tsunami waves were also recorded in Puerto Rico, Bermuda and even New Jersey.

Since then, a handful of tsunamis have occurred – in Panama and Costa Rica in 1991 after an earthquake, and in Montserrat in 1997 after a landslide of volcanic debris. After the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, sub-sea landslides generated waves that killed three people.

Over the same period, populations have more than doubled and tourist numbers on Caribbean beaches have soared, passing 30 million in 2017. In most places, infrastructure is concentrated in coastal areas.

Experts warn that the region runs the risk of complacency over the tsunami threat.

“The potential for tsunamis is significant and has to be taken seriously,” says Christa von Hillebrandt-Andrade, who oversees the Puerto Rico-based Caribbean Tsunami Warning Program under the US National Weather Service.

“Within the Caribbean and bordering the Caribbean, there are major fault structures and also volcanoes that could generate a tsunami at any time.”

Multiple risks

Key areas are along the north-eastern and eastern boundaries of the Caribbean where the North American and South American plates interact with the Caribbean plate.

Tsunamis in the Caribbean

Presentational grey line

These boundaries include areas of subduction (where one plate is forced under another, as in the Indian Ocean in 2004) and strike-slip motion (where plates are side by side, like the San Andreas fault).

One area to watch is the subduction zone east of the Lesser Antilles, says Dr Robert Muir-Wood, chief research officer at RMS catastrophe risk modelling consultancy and the author of a 2015 report on mega-tsunamis. “We strongly suspect this area is potentially prone to these really large earthquakes, which would be associated with a major regional tsunami.”

Haitian presidential guards lower the Haitian flag on April 19, 2011 in front of the destroyed presidential palace in Port-au-Prince
Image captionHaiti has struggled to recover from the damage caused by a devastating earthquake in 2010

Another series of faults lie north of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and includes the 8,400m-deep Puerto Rico Trench. While this area is not a straightforward subduction zone and there has not been a really significant earthquake along this boundary, there is evidence of massive submarine landslides into the trench and historical reports of local tsunamis, says Dr Muir-Wood.

Big earthquakes have also occurred off the Caribbean coast of Central America and Venezuela.

“The Caribbean is clearly a place where both [regional and local] types of tsunamis can be anticipated, and the key is that simply because an event hasn’t happened in the last 300 years of history doesn’t mean it can’t happen,” says Dr Muir-Wood.

Warning time

Before 2004, Ms von Hillebrandt-Andrade says tsunami warning systems in the Caribbean were “basically non-existent”. But the Indian Ocean disaster sparked action and a regional body on tsunami risk was established under Unesco in 2005.

Significant work has been done to increase the data flow to the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC), which provides alerts to the region.

“Every single country has opened up its seismic data and that has been absolutely critical,” says Ms von Hillebrandt-Andrade.

Today there are 80 sea-level stations and 125 seismic stations sending information, up from five and 10 respectively in 2004. “That has permitted us to reduce our lead time – the time it takes to issue the initial [tsunami warning] product – from 10-15 minutes to under 5 minutes.”

Once PTWC has issued an advisory, responsibility for local alerts devolves to national governments. At this level, Ms von Hillebrandt-Andrade says, capabilities “vary greatly throughout the region”.

A car drives on a damaged road in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Humacao, Puerto Rico, on October 2, 2017
Image captionHurricane Maria resulted in thousands of deaths on Puerto Rico after it hit in 2017

Some places, like Puerto Rico, have well-established protocols. Other places are less practised.

In January, when PTWC issued its first international tsunami threat message to the region after a 7.6 earthquake off Honduras, governments in the Cayman Islands and Jamaica, for example, faced questions over their response.

Some governments “had a little bit more difficulty deciding what product they should issue, if they should issue a product, if there really was a real threat”, says Ms von Hillebrandt-Andrade. “Strengths and weaknesses were identified.”

Funding vital

One early aim of the regional body was to establish a centre like PTWC in the Caribbean, but that has been sidelined in favour of improving education. Local tsunamis can potentially reach shore before an alert, and lives can be saved if residents know to seek high ground.

Central to this educational push is the annual tsunami exercise, Caribe Wave, and the Tsunami Ready programme, now adopted by Unesco, which sets out guidelines for communities to meet. So far Puerto Rico, Anguilla, St Kitts & Nevis and the Virgin Islands are certified as Tsunami Ready, while pilot projects have taken place in Haiti and Grenada.

Hurricane Emily is shown in this computer generated NOAA satellite illustration made available July 14, 2005 over the south-eastern Caribbean Sea
Image captionHurricane Emily hit Grenada in 2005

In Grenada the area chosen was St Patrick’s Parish, 8km (5 miles) south of rumbling submarine volcano Kick ‘Em Jenny. Educational billboards, evacuation maps and signs have been posted and an awareness programme carried out.

“We had to get down on the ground and interact with all of the community groups, we worked with the churches, the schools, the fisherfolk, the farmers,” says Senator Winston Garraway, minister of state with oversight of disaster management and information. “From the senior people to the children, they have the information now and they know exactly what has to be done.”

The government wants the whole island to be Tsunami Ready by 2020, starting with a southern parish potentially vulnerable to a tsunami generated off Venezuela. Mr Garraway also wants to establish a nationwide siren system to complement alerts disseminated via radio and TV.

Aerial views of the slopes of the Soufriere Hills showing the destruction and complete loss of the capital of Monserrat, Plymouth and St Patrick's village
Image captionA tsunami hit Monserrat in 1997 after there was a landslide of volcanic debris

But resourcing is a major problem for small island nations like Grenada, which must also address twin challenges of hurricanes and the impact of climate change. “Most of what we have to do, we do not have the ready resources,” says Mr Garraway. “Grant funding is extremely important for us at this time.”

Regionally, work remains to be done. Scientists still do not have the data needed to accurately size very large earthquakes and their type of movement quickly. Tsunami protocols for cruise ships are needed. Better understanding of bathymetry (water depth and shore height) would enable better scenario modelling, but some nations do not have that information.

“Every single country and territory in the region has room for improvement,” says Ms von Hillebrandt-Andrade.

“Tsunamis don’t occur that frequently, so it’s very easy to become desensitised. But the reality is that a tsunami could kill many more people than any hurricane could.”

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RE-SAT Montserrat

Minister welcomes new renewable energy space technology initiative for Montserrat

UK-based Institute for Environmental Analytics is to partner with the Government of Montserrat to implement an innovative renewable energy analytics platform – RE-SAT – to support the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

The partnership has been made possible by investment from the UK Space Agency International Partnership Programme (IPP) and reflects Montserrat’s position at the forefront of promoting clean growth.

RE-SAT fuses satellite and in-situ weather data with advanced analytics to provide highly detailed renewable energy information to help users:  

  • Explore and define the best renewable energy mix.
  • Plan where to locate different renewable energy infrastructure.
  • Assess the potential financial viability of renewable energy investments.
  • Estimate power production and variability, taking into account seasonal weather patterns.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is being signed to mark the partnership between the Ministry of Communications, Works, Energy and Labour (MCWEL) and the IEA. They will work together and with other key stakeholders to tailor RE-SAT to their needs and build capacity to support its implementation, combining the IEA’s expertise with in-country knowledge and skills.

Minister of Communications, Works, Energy and Labour, Paul Lewis welcomed the collaboration, saying: “The Government of Montserrat’s vision to transform to 100% renewable energy on the grid and its green connected and thriving ICT theme clearly merges ICT, telecommunications and energy agenda to create an environment for economic growth. The MoU between MCWEL and the UK-based Institute for Environmental Analytics to implement an innovative, renewable energy analytics planning platform to support the transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy is welcomed.

“This tool will inform decisions pertaining to best possible energy sources and combinations, ideal energy infrastructure locations, estimated power production and variability based on seasonal weather patterns. We embrace the development and use of this tool to inform the Government and private sector renewable energy investments.

“I express our gratitude to IEA and the UK Space Agency for including Montserrat as one of the six small island developing states in their International Partnership Programme. We look forward to working together in the development of our island.”

Permanent Secretary Beverley Mendes added: “The Ministry of Communication, Works, Energy and Labour is pleased to have been afforded the opportunity to be at the forefront of this collaboration

between the Government of Montserrat and UK-based, Institute for Environmental Analytics. The development and application of a renewable energy analytical planning platform will allow for more informed decisions to be made as it pertains to the investigation, implementation and improvement of renewable energy sources on Montserrat. A number of Government entities have been enlisted in the development process to ensure the platform is equipped with the necessary data. We are looking forward to working with the IEA on such an important initiative.”

Colin McKinnon, CEO of the IEA, said: “By working closely with Montserrat we will provide the quality of data they need to develop a sound business case to switch to renewable sources to a far greater extent. Understanding minute-by-minute variability is a key question as it affects the requirement for reserve energy generation. However, long periods of historic observations are often not available from existing data sources. With our world-leading skills in data analytics we will use Earth observation data to construct a synthetic weather model for Montserrat to improve both the planning of renewable investment and also the management of reserve capacity.

“As RE-SAT is funded by the UK Space Agency International Partnership Programme, the project runs as a true partnership, using the knowledge and expertise of our Montserrat partners. It is not a one-off consultancy exercise by a third party.”

Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “We’re proud to support Montserrat in their transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, which will deliver greater self-sufficiency while reducing global carbon emissions to combat climate change.”

Montserrat is one of six small-island developing states (SIDS) to benefit from £2.9m investment from the UK Space Agency IPP in RE-SAT. The others are: St Lucia, Mauritius, Palau, Tonga and Vanuatu.

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Nevis Premier in search of cash to make geothermal project a reality

Nevis Premier in search of cash to make geothermal project a reality

CHARLESTOWN, Nevis, Nov 21, CMC –Premier Mark Brantley says an estimated EC$60 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) is needed to develop the stalled geothermal project on the island.

“I think that at this stage all of us know that what we’ve been waiting on is for production of the energy and that would require the necessary investment to drill the production wells and to build the plant and to do tie into the connectivity between the plant and NEVLEC (Nevis Electricity Company Limited) so that NEVLEC can transmit the power,” Brantley told a news conference.

(File Photo)

He said that is what has proven most difficult because Nevis Island Administration had been able to raise the resources to do the exploration and it’s just for the production.

“The developers have had difficulty raising those monies (and) they have brought in recent months Black Rock Securities which they say is going to provide some equity financing and OPIC (Overseas Private Investment Corporation) … which is an arm of the United States government which is supposed to provide some debt financing.

“If we had the money we would do it ourselves, to be honest cause then we would only have to hire experts but it would be something that we do as a project but the problem is the funding,’ Brantley said.

He told reporters that two sources for financing have been identified but that process might take several months to materialize if at all.

“The last that I’ve heard is that OPIC has okayed their side of things to do the financing for the project on the debt side but I’m not sure what the result of the Black Rock due diligence is going to be.

“Each of those entities takes between three to six months to do their due diligence and so that process has been an ongoing process. We have had visits from both OPIC and Black Rock Securities I believe they were all here towards the middle of this year and so we await final word,” Brantley said.

But he sought to assure citizens that the NIA remains committed to bringing geothermal on stream for the benefit of the people of Nevis and the rest of the twin island-federation.

Earlier this year, GeothermEX, a subsidiary of Schlumberger Company that focuses on geothermal energy testing, said its findings confirm the requisite temperature and flow necessary for a sustainable supply of geothermal energy on Nevis and the reservoir has been classified as high-grade commercial quality.

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Jamaica to host five-day international conference on water and waste resources

Jamaica to host five-day international conference on water and waste resources

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Oct 1, CMC –A five-day conference aimed at promoting climate resilience, innovation and partnership while addressing the issues of water and waste as resources in sustainable development gets underway here later this month.

The organisers said that the 27th Caribbean Water and Wastewater Conference will be attended by more than 400 delegates from the region, United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.

The October 8-12 event, dubbed “Climate Resilience, Innovation and Partnership for Sustainable Water and Waste Development,” will also be attended by at least 16 Caribbean ministers with responsibility for water and waste management, professionals, technocrats and students.

President of the National Water Commission (NWC) and co-chairman of the conference committee, Mark Barnett, said the five-day event will include meetings, plenary and technical sessions focusing on climate-resilience infrastructure; regional planning and investment and other matters relating to the development of the water and wastewater sector.

“Discussions will include issues relating to water, wastewater, waste treatment and the impact of climate change. Climate change is a result of how we treat our environment, which predominantly relates to waste that is generated by human activity.

“So, we want to bring focus to the resilience of the region and how partnerships can assist in helping us to improve our sustainability both in terms of our water and waste treatment and development within the sector,” Barnett said.

The conference will also coincide with the 14th High Level Forum of Caribbean Ministers responsible for water.

“Over the two days, the water ministers from across the region will discuss the strategies and action plan needed to improve water management; the protection of such valuable resource and how they respond to climate change issues,” Barnett said.

Among the presenters include the general manager of the Inter-American Development Bank Caribbean Country Department, Therese Turner-Jones;  the chief executive officer of National Commercial Bank (NCB) Capital Markets Limited, Steven Gooden; Professor Michael Taylor of the University of the West Indies; and Executive Director of the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, Ronald Jackson.

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Former premier set to get million dollar payout

Former premier set to get million dollar payout

HAMILTON, Bermuda, Sep 30, CMC  – Health Minister Kim Wilson has disclosed that doctor and former Bermuda premier Ewart Brown is likely to receive more than US$1.2 million in total from the public purse for financial losses suffered at his two medical clinics.

Wilson defended the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) government’s decision to pay the compensation to 72-year-old Brown in an interview with the Royal Gazette Newspaper, describing him as having suffered “economic sanctions” at the hands of the former One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) administration when it slashed the fees for diagnostic imaging scans in June 2017.

Wilson said in addition to a $600,000 payment , Brown has since been given another $220,000 in financial supplements and her ministry estimated he would receive a further $420,000.

Meanwhile, the police have confirmed that detectives are still investigating the two clinics, Bermuda Healthcare Services in Paget parish and the Brown-Darrell Clinic in Smith’s parish, over allegations they ordered medically unnecessary tests for patients to boost profits.

A police spokesman said: “The matter is still under investigation and, as such, no further comment can be made at this time.”

The allegations have been denied by Brown, who was premier between 2006 and 2010 before retiring from politics, and he has not been charged with any offence.

In 2017, Brown was named as a “non-party co-conspirator” in a lawsuit brought by the former OBA government against the Lahey Clinic in the United States

The civil complaint alleged that he and Lahey profited from excessive and medically unnecessary scans on patients at the expense of the public purse — a claim both Brown and the hospital denied.

That case was dismissed by a Massachusetts judge in March and dropped by the PLP government after it returned to power in last year’s general election.

The Ministry of Health said in January that financial supplements granted to Brown’s clinics and to the Bermuda Hospitals Board (BHB) due to the fee cuts were “in order to help ensure CT and MRI services are readily available to the public”.

But Wilson told the Gazette the decision to pay public funds to Brown’s two private clinics was not an attempt to ensure that his CT and MRI scanning units stayed open and there was no discussion with him about keeping them open. The CT scanner at Brown-Darrell closed in January and will reopen in November.

Asked if she had politically interfered on Brown’s behalf, as he requested she do in an e-mail sent last August, which was disclosed under public access to information, Wilson replied: “The government felt that we were required to take positive steps to address a decision or an action of the former government that saw drastic fee reductions in diagnostic imaging to the community providers, as well as Bermuda Hospitals Board.”

Wilson said the sharp fee cuts for scans came about because the OBA administration ignored advice from technical officers at both the Bermuda Health Council and the Ministry of Health to apply a new fairer methodology for calculating fees to the entire BHB fee structure, not just diagnostic imaging fees.

Former Health Minister Jeanne Atherden, who resigned last week as Opposition Leader after losing a vote of no confidence last week among fellow OBA MPs, said the PLP claim that she ignored technical advice was false.

“It may be that the timing of the accusation provides cover for a decision that the government felt it could not easily defend,” she added.

Atherden asked why the PLP did not raise concerns about the change in fees for diagnostic scans when a bill was passed in parliament in May of last year when the OBA was still in power.

“There was no debate or question raised regarding the funding policy for medical scans and no ‘wrong’ was identified in this regard,” she said.

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