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Shock upset in St. Lucia elections
Sir John Compton is back!
This stunning victory by the opposition defied the odds as polls conducted on November 25 and 26, more than two weeks before election day - December 11 showed the ruling party, the St. Lucia Labour Party, having a lead of 17 points, 49 per cent to 32 per cent, and leading in 14 of the 17 constituencies in the second poll.
Malaria outbreak hits Jamaica
As if Jamaica does not have enough problems….
Malaria is an infectious disease that is widespread in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It is caused from a group parasite known as plasmodia that infects the body's red blood cells. The female Anopheles mosquito transmits the parasite. Treatment is available for the disease, but there is no vaccine.
The disease infects between 300 million and 500 million yearly, and kills between one million and three million people. Most victims are children in sub-Saharan Africa, but there are also thousands of infected people in parts of the Caribbean and Latin America, particularly Venezuela, Guatemala and Guyana, where a combined total of over 90,000 people have the disease. They are the highest-ranked Latin American and Caribbean countries on the World Health Organisation (WHO) list of most infected countries, ranking 56th, 57th and 58th, respectively. The closest infected country to Jamaica is Haiti.
Symptoms of the disease are usually flu-like, the Ministry of Health says, and can arise within six to 14 days of infection. They include fever, headaches, chills, muscle aches and fatigue. Severe cases of the disease can progress rapidly and cause death within hours or days.
If the epidemic gets out of control, it would have serious implications for the economy and social lives of people. It could threaten tourism. A travel advisory could be issued against Jamaica and that the upcoming Cricket World Cup 2007 could also suffer. By the end of December, the number of confirmed malaria cases was 163.
Banana war heating up again
Columbia and Ecuador, the world's largest banana exporter, have launched yet another challenge against Brussels over the EU's single tariff of €176 (US$232.20) a ton, in force since January 2006, saying it was far too high. During 2005, while the EU's executive commission was negotiating the level of its new tariff, WTO panels slapped down two previously proposed EU duties of €230 and €187, saying they were too high and discriminated against Latin America (Latam).
The compromise was the single duty of €176. The single-duty system replaced a complex arrangement of duties and quotas. This agreement accepted by WTO ended the 1990s "banana wars" that Europe lost to Ecuador and the United States. Not a single Caribbean banana is exported to the US as the EU is the Caribbean’s only market. Now Equador is attacking that agreement so the war might resume.
The war took a huge toll on Caribbean bananas. For example:
(Windwards - St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, and Grenada)
Now it will probably get worse.
Privy Council rules against T&T Chief Justice
Britain's Privy Council has ruled that Trinidad and Tobago's Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma can be arrested and prosecuted on charges he attempted to influence the trial of a former prime minister. Acting as a supreme court for many commonwealth countries, the five-member Privy Council's non-binding ruling overturned a decision by local courts preventing Sharma from being arrested and charged. Sharma is accused of attempting to sway the decision of Chief Magistrate, Sherman McNicolls, in the trial of former prime minister Basdeo Panday (1995-2001), who at 73 was convicted of fraud earlier this year but released on bail for health reasons.
In July 2006, local courts ruled in Sharma's favor, preventing him from being arrested, and Sharma requested a judicial review, which was heard by the Privy Council in October. Sharma's lawyers argued that the charge against him was politically motivated.
Save Jamaica’s Cockpit Country
A royal battle has emerged as environmentalists oppose the introduction of mining in the Cockpit Country in Jamaica. Environmentalists have long been opposing mining in the 5,000 acre densely vegetated Cockpit. Last year, the Jamaica government granted special exclusive licenses to ALCOA and the Clarendon Alumina Production to explore areas of the Cockpit for bauxite deposits.
Cockpit Country is a rugged, inaccessible area of inland Jamaica. These very characteristics have given it special importance and it is proposed that it become a World Heritage Site. It is an island-within-an-island of specially-adapted biodiversity found nowhere else in the world and is a last refuge for some species driven from the rest of Jamaica by humans.
Despite assurances from the Jamaica Mining Institute, environmentalists warn that bauxite mining will destabilize and destroy irreparably the biodiversity in the area. Claims that the bauxite companies would protect the flora and fauna have been rejected as impossible. The incursion of roads and mining activities would alter the unique humidity and other conditions paramount to the survival of many of its 106 endemic species of plants and also indigenous fauna such as the giant swallowtail butterfly.
In addition, scientists fear pollution of the area's water system even by just simple exploration. Much of the water in the Cockpit is stored in soft limestone called aquifers and it channels underground into some major rivers, including the Martha Brae and Black River, or develops into springs. Once these rocks are dug up, whether by mining or exploration, the water can become contaminated.
The Government had assured the nation that there would be no mining in the Cockpit Country, but residents from communities there have indicated that some bauxite companies have been exploring the area for some time now and have even bought land for mining.
Aluminum smelter debate rages in T&T
T&T’s Prime Minister announced plans to build a $1.5 billion aluminum smelter in the fishing community of Cap-de-Ville. This has created a storm of protests from environmentalists and other sources citing serious health risks associated with the venture.
The PM defended his action claiming it would provide jobs enabling the country to achieve ‘full employment’. According to AP, Alcoa had signed a preliminary deal with the government to own and operate the smelter for 30 years. The plant would produce as much as 375,000 tons of aluminum a year and employ 800 workers.
However Trinidad denied an AP report which alleged that Trinidad had decided to "immediately discontinue" plans to allow New York-based Alcoa to build the $1.5 billion smelter in Cap-de-Ville after fisherman complained the smelter would poison their water supply for "generations", citing Prime Minister Patrick Manning in the Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday newspaper. Opponents of the smelter planned massive protests against it. Regarding the report that the project was cancelled, Alcoa Inc. has said that Trinidad's government approached it about building the smelter in an alternative location.
Loud no to Caribbean commercial whaling
As if it is not bad enough that certain Caribbean countries sell their vote to Japan in support of whale hunting. Now St Kitts and Nevis Fisheries Minister Cedric Liburd suggested that Caribbean nations should commercially hunt whales in order to offer the whale meat to tourists. More than 65,000 emails and faxes urging Caribbean leaders not to consider commercial whaling were sent to Ministers of Tourism there, after the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) called on supporters worldwide to encourage whale watching over commercial whaling.
CARIBwhale, an association formed with the assistance of IFAW to promote the whale watching industry in the Caribbean is working to increase the number of tourists who visit the islands for whale watching, ultimately benefiting hotels, restaurants and shops. Whale watching in the Caribbean is estimated to be worth more than US$22 million per year. Humpback, sperm, pygmy sperm, and pilot whales, as well as numerous species of dolphins, can be seen off of many of the islands of the Eastern Caribbean.
IFAW continues to call on its 2.5 million supporters worldwide to send notice to the Ministers of Tourism throughout the Caribbean, urging them to support whale watching over whale killing. Hot Calaloo urges its readers to join that protest.
Fake cops wreak havoc near Mobay area of Jamaica
Residents of villages near Montego Bay in Jamaica are now faced with the challenging dilemma of differentiating between law-abiding cops, corrupt cops and criminals posing as cops. Recently heavily armed men clad in police-style denim and marked bullet-proof vest shot and killed three men in Flankers. Two weeks earlier, four men were killed by fake cops in Rose Heights. Some residents insist that the ‘fake’ cops were real cops and the CID Assistant Police Comissioner has not ruled out that possibility.
Police have a bad reputation. Since the start of this year, police personnel have been implicated in unsavoury activities such as the infamous 'lottery scam', which has been blamed for a spate of recent murders across the parish, drug dealing, incidents of extortion and a most embarrassing incident in which a police vest, which was not reported missing, was found in the hands of criminals.
However, as the parish's criminal carnage continues to soar with the murder count for this year standing at a record 175, even some policemen are becoming frightened by the situation, especially the incidents involving the denim-clad killers.
Bulk cement shipment reaches Guyana
The first shipment of bulk cement for the newly constructed bagging plant terminal in Georgetown, Guyana has arrived from CEMEX in Venezuela. The bagging plant was constructed at a cost of approximately US$10 million. The plant will be operated by Trinidad-based Trinidad Cement Limited’s (TCL) subsidiary TCL Guyana Incorporated (TGI) and staffed by Guyanese nationals.
The first bags of cement packed at the TCL Guyana Incorporated (TGI) cement packaging terminal have reached local markets. When fully commissioned, the terminal will be receiving bulk cement shipped directly from TCL plants in Trinidad and Barbados. TCL expects it will now be able to once again meet fully the current demand for cement in Guyana and satisfy future growth of the Guyana market. The company will have the capacity to reach other markets in South America.
New oil refinery for Trinidad
Samsung Engineering Co., a South Korean construction company, has said it received a $176 million order to build a refinery for Petrotrin, the state oil company of Trinidad and Tobago. The heavy-naphtha processing plant is slated for completion by early November 2008, Seoul-based Samsung Engineering said in a regulatory filing Sunday from the South Korean capital.
New stroke therapy developed in Jamaica
Dr. Felix 'Wole' Akinladejo, originally from Nigeria is not a medical doctor. He is a lecturer in computer engineering at the University of Technology (UTech) in Jamaica. He has developed a virtual-reality game helping patients recover movement in their legs - what he believes is the first such experiment in the world targeting the 'lower extremities' of stroke patients. This, he said, is proven by the results of tests conducted on five patients who recorded increased movement in their legs.
Four stroke patients were involved in the experiment last year and one non-stroke patient this year (who suffered similar leg movement problems following a car accident). The patients received the therapy 30 minutes a day, five days a week for four weeks. The car accident patient received two weeks' therapy. All reported dramatic improvements. One patient, the car crash victim with severe walking disabilities, ironically a nurse who had treated stroke victims in London, was able to not only walk downstairs but to dance.
Tanya Edwards, a physiotherapist at Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) acknowledged the effectiveness. She also noted that the system requires less supervision by physiotherapists. The experiment could free up time at KPH where waiting lists for stroke patients are full until after the first quarter of 2007.
Dr. Akinladejo said he will begin seeking sponsors, having kept the experiment under wraps so far and only just having submitted a patent application. According to research by Dr. Akinladejo, 200 people died of strokes in Jamaica in 2002, and hypertension (high blood pressure), which is one of the major causes of strokes, is present in three out of 10 Jamaicans.
Jamaica to privatize only wind farm
Wigton Windfarm in Manchester, Jamaica, is to be privatised in the New Year as part of Government plans to increase the use of renewable energy and reduce the national oil import bill which this year passed the US$1.5 billion (J$100 billion) mark for the first time.
Wigton currently supplies the national grid with electricity generated by its 23 wind turbines at an average output of seven megawatts. It is the first commercial wind farm in the Caribbean and the second project in the Caribbean to qualify for carbon credits under the United Nations Kyoto Protocol Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Wigton will earn US$3.1 million (J$205 million) over nine years from selling carbon credits to the Dutch government.
Government's plan to increase the proportion of renewable energy for electricity generation, from five per cent to 15 per cent by 2015, will cost approximately US$200 million (about J$1.4 billion). Parties interested in buying the wind farm will have to continue with government-owned Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica's (PCJ) plans to double the generating capacity of Wigton from 20.7 to 41.4 megawatts.
In the quest for renewable energy, PCJ is currently sourcing funds to construct a 1.2 megawatt hydro power plant at Laughlands, Great River, in St. Ann. It has identified three other potential sites islandwide: Rams Horn and Constant Spring in St. Andrew, and Rio Cobre in St. Catherine.
Future hotel threatens endangered Grenada Dove
Environmentalists in Grenada, and even in Jamaica, have been up in arms since news broke that the Government of Grenada was planning to sell the Mount Hartman National Park to make space for a Four Seasons Resort. The construction of a high-end luxury resort threatens one of the last remaining refuge areas for the Grenada Dove, a critically-endangered bird with a global population of just about 180.
The sanctuary was created 10 years ago to make up for the destruction of the birds' habitat in other parts of the island. Dove Sanctuary has been identified by BirdLife International as an important bird area for the Grenada Dove and for 11 other species that occur only on Grenada or in the Caribbean region like the Antillean Crested Hummingbird and the Grenada Flycatcher.
The proposed hotel project is a 150-room hotel with 300 luxury villas as well as a golf course, marina and conference center.
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