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US relaxes Cuba travel advisory

US relaxes Cuba travel advisory

WASHINGTON, Aug.26,  , CMC – The United States Department of State has toned down its travel advisory for Cuba.

The State Department on Friday reduced its advisory to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean island from Level 3, “reconsider travel,” to Level 2, “exercise increased caution.”

According to the State Department ratings, Level 1 means “exercise normal precautions,” and Level 4 means “do not travel.”

Under the revised travel advisory, the State Department urged Americans to “exercise increased caution in Cuba due to attacks targeting US Embassy Havana employees resulting in the drawdown of embassy staff.

“Numerous US Embassy Havana employees appear to have been targeted in specific attacks,” it said, adding: “We are unable to identify the source.  Many of these employees have suffered injuries.”

The State Department said affected individuals have exhibited a range of physical symptoms, including ear complaints and hearing loss, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, cognitive issues, visual problems and difficulty sleeping.

It said attacks have occurred in US diplomatic residences, including a long-term apartment at the Atlantic, and at Hotel Nacional and Hotel Capri in Havana, the Cuban capital.

The State Department said the US Embassy in Havana is operating with reduced staffing. 

It also said family members cannot accompany US government employees who work in Cuba.

“If you decide to travel to Cuba, avoid Hotel Nacional and Hotel Capri,” the advisory said. “If you experience any acute auditory or sensory phenomena, immediately move to another area.

“Know where to seek medical care in Cuba,” it added. “Consult with a medical professional prior to traveling if you have personal health concerns or upon return if you believe you have suffered symptoms similar to those listed above.

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US Embassy to waive visa renewal interviews for Barbadians

US Embassy to waive visa renewal interviews for Barbadians

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Aug 23, CMC – The United States (US) Embassy has announced that from August 28, it will waive visa renewal interviews in Barbados for qualified applicants.

It said the move is part of the US Government’s efforts to improve customer service and streamline the visa process.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Embassy said Barbados passport holders may qualify for a visa renewal interview waiver if their previous visa expired within the past 12 months and they are applying for the same visa category as their previous visa.

“The applicant must be physically present in Barbados or within the consular district of the US Embassy in Bridgetown to avail themselves of this option. Additionally, the previous US visa must be in the applicant’s possession, and the applicant must have submitted a ten-fingerprint scan in conjunction with the previous visa application,” it said.

Students who wish to renew their visas, and who satisfy the requirements may qualify for interview waiver if they are applying to continue attendance at the same institution, or will continue the same major course of study at a different institution. Applicants seeking to renew work-related visas who are returning to work for the same employer/company as annotated on the previous visa may also qualify. Applicants under the age of 14 and over 79 will continue to qualify for interview waiver in most visa classifications.

However, third country nationals must schedule an interview.

The US Embassy stressed that eligibility for interview waiver does not automatically entitle applicants to a waiver of the interview requirement.

It added that there will be further expansion of interview waivers in US Embassy Bridgetown’s consular district in the coming weeks.

CMC/2018

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Man charged with air rage, wins appeal

Man charged with air rage, wins appeal

HAMILTON, Bermuda, Aug 21, CMC  – A 53-year-old Bermudian man who was fined US$700 for shouting obscenities at crew members and a family during a flight from London to Bermuda has had his conviction overturned on appeal.

Attorney Peter Sanderson argued that his client, Helder Viera, could not be convicted in Bermuda as there was no proof the offence happened inside the island’s jurisdiction.

Supreme Court Puisne Judge Shade Subair found that under the legislation, the offence had to happen in Bermuda or on a Bermuda-registered aircraft to secure a conviction.

Justice Subair in a written judgement Tuesday said “regrettably, the learned magistrate (Khamisi Tokunbo) was never addressed on this jurisdiction issue.

“The Crown, having brought the charges before the court, clearly did so under a misguided notion that it was well placed to do so. Further, the appellant was not represented by Mr Sanderson in the Magistrates’ Court when he entered his guilty plea.

“The Crown did not present any evidence before the court to prove that any relevant part of the appellant’s offensive conduct occurred in Bermuda and there was no evidence before the court to suggest that the aircraft concerned was registered in Bermuda. For these reasons, the conviction is unsafe,” Justice Subair said.

Viera was arrested on December 31 last year after an incident on board a British Airways flight from Gatwick.

In January, the Magistrates’ Court heard that Viera began to hurl obscenities at a young family with an infant about two hours into the flight. Viera was warned by cabin crew to calm down.

He later pleaded guilty to using threatening, abusive, insulting words and threatening behaviour under the Air Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order.

That legislation does extend to Bermuda, but Justice Subair said that offences must happen in Bermuda or over its territorial waters to be prosecuted in the island’s courts.

During Viera’s court case seven months ago Magistrate Tokunbo said the maximum US$1,000 fine for the offence was “peanuts”.

“This penalty encourages people to behave like this,” he added.

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United Airlines announces historic additional flights to St Kitts

United Airlines announces historic additional flights to St Kitts

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Aug 22, CMC – For the first time in St Kitts and Nevis’ history, United Airlines will fly a second weekly nonstop flight from its New York hub at Newark Liberty International Airport, complementing the carrier’s existing Saturday service.

Minister of Tourism, International Trade, Industry and Commerce Lindsay Grant said the addition of a mid-week flight marks yet another historic first for the twin-island federation this year.

“I could not be more pleased to welcome this additional service, which increases the available options for visitors and Diaspora to get to island during peak travel season from the New York metropolitan area, which is our primary source market for arrivals,” he said.

For the January 9 to March 6, 2019 period, United will operate a total of nine scheduled round-trip, non-stop Wednesday flights between Newark and St. Kitts.

Racquel Brown, CEO of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, said having the Wednesday flight gives travellers more flexibility in their vacation planning and provides increased capacity during the period when demand is highest.

“This is a testament to the success of our work to grow North American airlift from key gateways in order to accommodate new hotel developments and existing hotel product upgrades,” she said.

United first began serving St. Kitts in December 2015 and continues to operate non-stop Saturday flights from Newark.

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US Customs officers nab passenger with cocaine on flight from Trinidad and Tobago

US Customs officers nab passenger with cocaine on flight from Trinidad and Tobago

NEW YORK, Jul 27,   CMC –  The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency says officers have arrested a woman who was found with cocaine her luggage when she arrived at the John F. Kennedy airport on a flight from Trinidad and Tobago earlier this week.

According to the CBP, on Monday, officers stopped Diamonaire Smith, a United States citizen and during the baggage inspection officers noticed that the sides of the suitcase felt “unusually thick.”

“The CBP officers, thereafter, probed the suitcase, which revealed a white powdery substance. The white powdery substance field-tested positive for cocaine.”

Smith was arrested for the importation of a controlled substance and was turned over to the US Homeland Security Investigations for investigation. 

The total weight of cocaine seized was about five pounds, with an estimated street value of US$85,000.

Smith now faces US federal narcotics smuggling charges and will be prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office in the US Eastern District Court of New York. 

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breaking-news-1

Aircraft crash victim dies

 

The individual rescued from the aircraft that crashed in the sea at the Terrence B Lettsome International Airport on Beef Island has died.

The Royal Virgin Islands Police Force made the pronouncement minutes before 6 o’clock on Wednesday afternoon, July 18.

Police said an investigation has been launched into the fatal accident.

The name of the victim has not been released.

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A small aircraft reportedly has crash-landed in a body of water at the Terrence B Lettsome International Airport on Beef Island.

Local emergency services personnel reportedly are responding at the scene.

Police told BVI News the aircraft ‘overran the runway’ at the airport and ended in the sea.

“One person was rescued from the aircraft,” police said.

Amateur video footage sent to BVI News shows one resident performing what appears to be cardiopulmonary resuscitation – more commonly known as CPR – on a male who is believed to be the crash victim.

The full circumstances of the incident are not clear but BVI News will provide further information as it becomes available.

The BVI Airports Authority has released the following statement on the incident:

A C150 with one person on board departed the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport (TUPJ) at 20:17Z (4:17pm) destined to Pointe a Pitre International Airport (TFFR) in Guadeloupe when it crashed into the waters off the east north east end of Runway 07.

BVI Airport Authority’s Rescue and Fire Fighting Service moved swiftly into action and was able to quickly secure the pilot, the only occupant of the aircraft.

The Airport is currently closed to facilitate the rescue effort.

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Antigua shows strongest air arrivals in 15 years

Antigua shows strongest air arrivals in 15 years

ST. JOHN’S, Jul. 18,  CMC – Antigua and Barbuda tourism officials say that for the first time in over 15 years, the country has seen the strongest overall visitor arrivals by air from January to June.

The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA) said it recorded 148,139 arrivals for that period with significant increases in the key source markets – the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and the Caribbean.

ABTA said this represents an overall seven per cent increase over 2017.

It said the closest the destination previously came to these figures was in 2008.

The authority said IJune demonstrated significant increases while Canada has the greatest year-over-year increase with over 170 per cent, followed by the US , the  Caribbean   and the United Kingdom .

In addition, ABTA said the destination is seeing an average 11.57 per cent increase in sea arrivals  and an average 8.6 per cent growth in occupancy rates.

This growth is set to continue with significant increased airlift from North America in the Fall 2018, the opening of the destination’s newest 5-star resort and spa, Hodges Bay, in October 2018, as well as a full cruise schedule.

“We are excited by this positive momentum in growth of arrivals, both by cruise and air,” said Minister of Tourism, Economic Development and Investment, Charles “Max” Fernandez.

“It is incredibly encouraging for the tourism industry, and I would like to congratulate the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, the private sector, stakeholders and all our tourism partners in helping us to reach these positive results for the first six months of the year,” he added.

“We will not rest on our laurels, and are striving for better,” Fernandez continued. “We will continue to invest in infrastructure and service and raise awareness of Antigua and Barbuda to ensure we see consistent growth in arrivals.”

ABTA chief executive officer, Colin C. James, said the first half of 2018 has shown “incredible improvement, especially in our key source markets.

“We look forward to relentlessly working towards attracting new and returning visitors, improving our on-island tourism products, as well as increasing access through our award-winning airport and port,” he said.

“We are doubling our airlift out of Miami, introducing new direct service out of New York and Canada, and welcoming new cruise ships to an already busy schedule,” he added.

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Measures being implemented to fast-track full implementation of CSME

Measures being implemented to fast-track full implementation of CSME

KINGSTON, Jamaica, July 10, CMC – Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have put measures in place to fast-track the full implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Among the strategies is a special meeting of CARICOM Heads to focus solely on the CSME, to be held in Trinidad and Tobago in November.

Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness (right)

CARICOM Chairman, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness, added that the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on the CSME will now have quarterly meetings beginning in September in Barbados, which will be hosted by Prime Minister Mia Mottley “to give urgency to the implementation process”.

He further noted that Government leaders also put greater focus on advancing those areas that would help to create enabling support measures for a competitive Single Market.

These include an investment policy and investment code, an incentive regime, an integrated capital market and securities legislation.

“As leaders, we expect that these matters will be ready for full adoption at the 40th meeting of [CARICOM Heads of Government] in July 2019.These mechanisms will enable strong support measures for a successful CSME,” Holness said.

He also stressed the Heads’ recommitment to making the mechanisms within CARICOM work, by taking decisive action.

“I am resolved as the Chair to ensure that we take action. We must get things done to make a difference. We are resolved to now begin to implement the decisions we take to improve the perceptions, especially amongst our youth,” he said.

The CSME is an integrated development strategy that is intended to benefit the people of the region by providing more and better opportunities to produce and sell goods and services and to attract investments.

It is built on five core regimes – free movement of capital, free movement of goods, free movement of skills, the provision of services, and the right of establishment. In addition, the CSME facilitates hassle-free travel for all CARICOM nationals.

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Holness signs CARICOM agreements

Holness signs CARICOM agreements

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica, Jul. 7, CMC – Chairman of the Caribbean Community(CARICOM), Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness, on Friday signed three agreements pertaining to matters of the regional body.

The signing took place during the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM that ended here on Friday.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness and CARICOM
Secretary General Irwin LaRocque

One agreement relates to the CARICOM Arrest Warrant Treaty, which seeks to establish a system of arrest and surrender of requested persons within the Community for the purposes of conducting a criminal prosecution for an applicable offence; or executing a custodial sentence where the requested persons have fled from justice after being sentenced for an applicable offence.

Another pertains to the Revised Agreement for the Establishment of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).

This seeks to update the CXC’s legal structure in light of subsequent organisational practices, recent market developments and current needs, with particular emphasis on accommodating requests from additional territories and institutions to join or otherwise participate in the CXC.

The other document is the Protocol amending the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas to incorporate the Council for National Security and Law Enforcement as an organ of the community and the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security as an institution of the community.

The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing CARICOM, including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), was signed in 2001.

Among the objectives, are improved standard of living and work in member countries; accelerated, coordinated and sustained economic development; and organisation for increased production and productivity.

The Conference of Heads of Government, which consists of the Heads of Government of the Member States, is the supreme organ of the CARICOM and determines and provides its policy direction.

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Bitcoin ATM Not Authorised by Regulators in ECCU

Bitcoin ATM Not Authorised by Regulators in ECCU

An Advisor from Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) reveals that, “It has come to the attention of the ECCB and the Financial Services Regulatory Commission of St Kitts and Nevis (FSRC) that a Bitcoin ATM has been installed at a location in the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis.  It is also our understanding that there are plans for the installation of similar machines in other locations in the Federation.”

A Caution

“The public is hereby cautioned that the operation of Bitcoin ATMs or any other sort of cryptocurrency operations is not currently regulated by the ECCB, the FSRC St Kitts and Nevis or by any regulatory authority in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). In addition, bitcoin or any issuer of bitcoin has not been designated under the Payment System Act in St Kitts and Nevis. This means that there are no existing regulations to specifically protect consumers from financial losses if an organisation that exchanges or holds virtual currencies fails or goes out of business.

“In other words, persons who choose to use these services or are contemplating use of these services ought to understand that they do so completely at their own risk. The extent of this risk, at this point in time, is not fully known given the novelty of the area and the absence of regulatory oversight.

 

The ECCB issued the advisory on 5 June, 2018 recognising developments in the FinTech space and encouraging consumers to be cautious in their use.  Indeed, the consuming public was asked to consider several questions when considering involvement. Click here for more: (https://www.eccb-centralbank.org/news/view/eccb-advisory-on-fintech-operations-in-the-eccu).

The ECCB and the FSRC recognise that financial innovation is essential, however the appropriate legal and regulatory framework is necessary to protect the integrity of the financial system and investors and consumers alike.

At this stage, the ECCB, as a regional regulator, is pressing ahead with its work to advise the Governments of the ECCU on an appropriate regional framework for FinTech regulation and supervision as well as a strategy to reduce the use of cash to help boost growth and competitiveness. To this end, the ECCB will be working with other national regulators within the ECCU to adopt a common approach.

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