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Soca warriors set to take field on World Cup stage
The stage is set. In a matter of days the 32 best soccer teams will take to the field to compete in the greatest sports spectacle in the world, the World Cup. Trinidad and Tobago Soca Warriors will be taking the hopes of not just T&T but the whole Caribbean. Chances are dim. They are the lowest ranked and betting odds are 750 to 1 for them to win. In recent friendlies they have lost decisively to Slovenia and the Czech Republic. But, they have been down before. They came from virtual last place, to earn their spot in Germany. So, already it is quite an achievement in just being there. With steel band music in the background pounding out soca rhythms, and the passionate support of all West Indians, the soca warriors will pull some surprises. Good Luck, Soca Warriors!
T&T are in Group B, facing Sweden, Paraguay, and group favorite England. They face Sweden on the second day of the tournament in the 2nd match on June 10 at noon (Eastern Time). See the rest of the groups and the entire World Cup schedule here.
Montserrat volcano erupts violently again
Residents of Montserrat were warned to stay indoors as the Soufriere Hills Volcano belched ash and gas into the air, sparking fears of another major eruption. According to information from the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO), a dome collapsed sending pyroclastic flows (superheated ash and rocks) into the sea near Tar River Valley, Trants and Spanish Point. These areas are located in the eastern side of the island but they remain vacant after the evacuation of residents in 1995, following a major eruption of the volcano.
The volcanic activity, however, has left several areas in the western section of the tiny Caribbean island covered in two to three inches of ash and pebbles. Emergency officials were, up to early afternoon, making assessments about how to clear roads and assist residents in removing the debris from pathways and driveways.
The MVO also advised residents to stay indoors and to listen out for further bulletins about developments regarding the volcano. According to officials at the MVO, the activity at the volcano could increase.
Government budget crisis cripples Puerto Rico
Despite its ties to lone superpower America, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, like other Caribbean countries, is not immune from economic hardship. Maybe it is worse as a recent budget crisis brought that island to its knees. The Puerto Rican government ran out of money because of a US$740 million shortfall and the crisis began. As politicians bickered about the solution, the island began to shut down as for about two weeks:
Governor Anibal Acevedo Villa had proposed the introduction of a 7% sales tax for the island but it was rejected by lawmakers. Finally a deal was struck. The deal calls for an emergency loan to cover Puerto Rico's $740 million shortfall in the U.S. territory's budget. The deal was brokered by a special commission set up to resolve the dispute between the governor and the lower-house legislators. The deal calls for an emergency loan, backed by the islands first sales tax to cover the $740 million deficit until the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. Because of the deal, things finally went back to normal. However, the amount of the tax levy and other key issues will depend on legislative approval.
Jamaica cement crisis worsens economic woes
The critical shortage of cement affecting the construction and hardware sectors, as well as industrial disputes, has stifled growth within the goods-producing sectors of the economy for the January to March quarter. The scarcity of cement has led to a shutdown of some building sites across the country, loss of jobs for construction workers and a downturn in the production of concrete and blocks. According to the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) , while the agriculture sector showed strong signs of recovery for the quarter, with a 24.7 per cent increase, the construction and installation industry, however, declined by 6.3 per cent, mining and quarrying by 2.2 per cent and manufacturing registered a 2.1 per cent decline.
To ease the shortage due to the failure of the local producer Caribbean Cement Company to keep up with demand, the cement surtax on impoted cement was dropped. Plans are underway to import 72,000 tons by August. Since then imports are trickling in. Soon 14,800 tons are expected from Venezuela, 9,000 tons from Dominican Republic, and 14,000 tons from Cuba.
Preval sworn in as president of Haiti
Rene Preval, a 63-year-old agronomist seen as a champion of the poor, has been sworn in as president of Haiti for a 5-year term. Among the prominent foreign guests were Florida governor Jeb Bush, the younger brother of US President George W. Bush, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and Canada's governor-general Michaelle Jean, who was born in Haiti.
Thousands of Haitians celebrated Preval's inauguration outside the parliament building where the ceremony took place. Haitians decorated their homes with flowers, wore T-shirts with pictures of Preval and Aristide, as they danced and sang throughout the capital. Some even chanted: "Whether you want it or not, Aristide will come back."
A few days earlier, the first parliament since 2003 was sworn in. Twenty-seven new senators took their oath of office vowing to "protect and maintain the people's laws." Another three senate seats from the April 21 election are being contested. Earlier a power outage did not prevent the swearing in of 82 deputies. The ceremony was conducted by candlelight. There are 99 deputy seats, but some vote results are being challenged.
UN panel on torture tells US to close Guantanamo
In an 11-page report on its review of U.S. adherence to the Treaty Against Torture has urged the United States to close its prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The U.N. Committee Against Torture is composed of a panel of 10 independent experts on adherence to the U.N. Convention Against Torture.
The committee said that:
Jamaica moves to ethanol/gas mix for autos
Jamaica plans to switch to a mix of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline (E10) for all gas stations by the middle of 2007. Right now a 6-month pilot program is underway. Seventy Government vehicles will use this E10 in preparation for the widespread use. Cars do not need any modification to use this fuel. Jamaica's oil bill topped US$1 billion last year, forcing the government to look to alternative energy sources, particularly in the face of rising oil prices that have exceeded US$70 a barrel on the world market. Jamaica is expected to produce its own ethanol from sugar cane, with the construction of 60-million gallon ethanol plant with Brazilian firm Coimex in the works.
Suriname floods kill 3, leave thousands homeless
Floods caused by days of rain have killed three people and left up to 22,000 others homeless along riverbanks in Suriname's remote central lowlands. Suriname's Red Cross said at least three people died while the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that high waters forced up to 22,000 people from their homes. Suriname, which declared the flooded areas disaster zones and has appealed for international help, has started a massive distribution of supplies amid criticism that the relief effort was slow to start.
Officials said, however, that they have been hampered by damage to roads, airstrips and other parts of the South American nation's infrastructure. May is the beginning of the rainy season in Suriname, home to about 440,000 people.
Jamaican-owned alumina plant lose US$2.76 million
The jointly owned Clarendon Alumina Production Limited (CAP) is projecting a US$2.76 million loss this year. The company is in a 50/50 joint venture with the Jamaica government and Alcoa at the Jamalco plant in Clarendon. These projected losses are an improvement of US$6.72 million or 71 per cent on the 2005/06 estimated loss of US$9.48 million. Bauxite is refined into alumina at the plant. This in turn is shipped overseas to produce aluminium.
Ironically, the overall aluminium industry is awash in profits. Alcoa, the world's top aluminium producer and CAP's partner announced record profits last month, while Canadian aluminium producer Alcan Inc. said that its net profit in the first quarter of the year was more than twice the equivalent figure for 2005 and a record for the company. The Government has failed to disclose the reason for the losses. It stated that the plant continues to make significant direct contributions to the national budget in respect of levy, taxes and royalties, and to the country's development through employment, infrastructure development and critical foreign currency inflows.
There are plans for further expansion of the Jamalco refinery from an annual capacity of 1.25 million tons currently to 2.8 million tons, at a cost of US$800 million. The project will include the introduction of superior technologies to lower raw material consumption and improve efficiencies, bringing the plant in line with Alcoa's other low-cost facilities. ALCOA will bear the cost of the expansion, but their share will increase from 50% to 80%.
With continuing demand coming from developed countries and emerging markets such as India and China, there is a world aluminium shortage and it is expected to continue up to 2007.
Trinidad natural gas for Jamaica
Trinidad and Tobago is to supply approximately 158 million cubic feet a day of natural gas to Jamaica. The long-term supply of natural gas will be available to Jamaica from Trinidad and Tobago starting around 2009.
Options available for the supply of natural gas to Jamaica include compressed natural gas utilising a new technology that is now demonstrating the potential for an economic arrangement between the two countries.
The other option was for a debottlenecking of LNG Train IV, which should give additional quantities of gas.
The third option was for the proposed Train X (the next Train), which "will give us enough gas to be able to commit to a long-term supply to Jamaica from Trinidad and Tobago.
Kick ’em Jenny cause fears in T&T
Kick ‘em Jenny is kicking, but the Seismic Research Unit at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, and the country's Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) say there is no reason for Trinidadians to panic amidst rumors of its increased activity. Some of these rumors claimed that that local authorities were in the process of evacuating coastal villages in anticipation of a tsunami.
Kick 'em Jenny is a submarine volcano located 8km north of Grenada. The volcano is about 1300m high, and its summit is currently thought to be about 180m below the surface of the sea. As far as we know, Kick 'em Jenny is the only 'live' (likely to erupt again) submarine volcano in the Eastern Caribbean. It is also the most frequently active volcano in the region, erupting at least 12 times since it was discovered in 1939. The last eruption of Kick 'em Jenny occurred in December 2001. The volcano is currently at Alert Level YELLOW and there is 1.5km exclusion zone around the volcano.
Kick 'em Jenny is also a modern day demonstration of how the volcanic islands in this region were formed. With each submarine eruption deposits of volcanic material accumulate around the summit. All of the volcanic islands of the Lesser Antilles began as submarine volcanoes.
"Family Man" loses case for Bob Marley royalties
Aston "Family Man" Barrett, bass player in Bob Marley's band
The Wailers, failed recently in his court battle in London for a slice of
the late reggae legend's royalties. He had claimed that since Marley's
death in 1981, he has been owed up to US$112.8 million dollars.
The musician now faces selling his two homes in Jamaica to help meet legal costs, estimated in the vicinity of two million pounds.
Jamaican patty company to open 4 stores in Atlanta
Lookout McDonalds! Here come four new Golden Krust patty stores in Atlanta.
President and CEO of the Jamaican-owned Golden Krust, Mr. Lowell Hawthorne, in an interview said that the four Golden Krust patty shops will bring to Atlanta a concept that is a Caribbean theme with a strong Jamaican emphasis - authentic jerk chicken and nine varieties of patties. The Golden Krust CEO said that the stores are located at Peachtree Centre in the heart of downtown Atlanta, Candler Road in Decatur, Hairston Road in Stone Mountain, and the fourth store will be on Rockbridge Road in Stone Mountain, Georgia.
This is serious business as Jamaica's Ambassador to the United States, Gordon Shirley, who will make his first visit to Atlanta as Ambassador, will deliver the keynote address. He will then cut the ribbon signaling the official opening of the Peach Tree Centre store on June 2 at 2:00 p.m. On Saturday, June 3, the other two stores will also be officially opened by Jamaica's honorary consul to Atlanta, Vin Martin. The fourth store on Rockbridge Road will open in mid-June.
Golden Krust is the fastest growing Caribbean franchise in the United States with over one hundred locations in more than eight states.
Indian drug company to open in Jamaica
GLENMARK PHARMACEUTICALS Limited, an India-based pharmaceutical company headquartered in Mumbai with operations in over 77 countries worldwide, will officially launch operations in Jamaica. It is a major producer of the cheaper generic drugs.
Mr. Suresh Kumar, country manager for Jamaica and the Caribbean says, "Glenmark has been operating in Jamaica for the past six months and so far we have obtained registration for 33 pharmaceutical products with seven others in the process of registration." He says that within two years, Glenmark intends to have 50 products registered for use in Jamaica covering three therapeutic segments - dermatology, gynecology and internal medicine - including drugs for diabetes and cardiology.
Kumar says Glenmark is the leading pharmaceutical company in India for its range of branded generic products for the treatment of dermatological conditions.
Glenmark has been operating in the Caribbean for more than a decade with established markets in Trinidad and Tobago, the Eastern Caribbean, Barbados and Belize.
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