Jamaica Observer http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/ JamaicaObserver.com, the most concise and in-depth website for news coverage on Jamaica and the Caribbean. Updated daily 7 days a week, 24 hours a day en-us copyright Jamaica Observer, 2011 Literacy project reaping success http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Literacy-project-reaping-success KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; The Enrichment Initiative, which seeks to achieve 100 per cent literacy among primary-school students, has been handed over fully to the Ministry of Education.<br /> <br /> The project was initiated in 2009 by the Education Ministry and the Digicel Foundation, which provided funding. In 2013, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) came on board with more funding.<br /> <br /> Through the initiative, Jamaica&rsquo;s literacy rate at the grade-four level reached 86.5 per cent in 2016, exceeding the ministry&rsquo;s target of 85 per cent. <br /> <br /> The programme was handed over to the ministry on Wednesday at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston. <br /> <br /> Keynote speaker at the event, State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Floyd Green, said every effort will be made to ensure the continued success of the programme, which has impacted more than 43,000 students from 104 primary schools across the island, so far, who have shown marked improvement in reading and mathematics skills since the programme&rsquo;s commencement.<br /> <br /> Green said the initiative has had a significant impact on the primary-level education sector, showing student improvement from 23 per cent to 42 per cent in some schools, after two years of programme intervention. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;We at the ministry are pleased at what has been achieved. We have established a number of enrichment centres and 61 mobile enrichment carts. (Participating) schools have been resourced with 258 computers and laptops with educational software. The project included comprehensive training for over 190 teachers in the development areas of literacy, numeracy, special needs and gender strategies,&rdquo; he informed.<br /> <br /> He added that more than 60 principals were trained in effective school management, and an enrichment management familiarisation and training manual was developed for schools. <br /> <br /> Also, a two-year summer intervention programme targeting 1,086 grade-one students who showed weak advancements in literacy was held.  <br /> <br /> Importantly, 450 information sessions were held with more than 6,000 parents and guardians to incorporate the parent/guardian as an important stakeholder in the development of underperforming children. <br /> <br /> In her remarks at the ceremony, USAID Mission Director, Maura Barry-Boyle said the collective efforts of the Ministry of Education, the USAID and the Digicel Foundation have successfully improved the early-grade reading skills of hundreds of children and enhanced the parental information necessary to secure a sound education for Jamaica&rsquo;s future generations.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;USAID, together with the ministry and the Digicel Foundation formalised an arrangement to improve literacy at the primary-school level. We did this because we recognise this as a critical means through which Jamaica&rsquo;s prosperity will be secured,&rdquo; she said.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Chairman of the Digicel Foundation, Jean Lowrie-Chin, said the four- year project has yielded great success in the improved literacy levels of the students, and thanked the various stakeholders for their unwavering and enthusiastic support of the project.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13732426/Green-F_w300.jpg Local News Friday, March 24, 2017 9:03 AM Minister Vaz commits land for Baptist Union castor oil project http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Minister-Vaz-commits-land-for-Baptist-Union-castor-oil-project KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Daryl Vaz, has given a commitment to assist the Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU) with lands for its castor bean project. <br /> <br />  &ldquo;I am the minister with responsibility for land (and) where there is land that is unutilised, I will make it available,&rdquo; he said. <br /> <br /> He was speaking at the official launch of the Grow Castor Bean Project at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St Andrew on Wednesday.<br /> <br /> Vaz commended the JBU for undertaking the initiative, which will engage residents in Baptist church communities across the island in castor bean production, noting that it will serve to widen the country&rsquo;s economic base, beginning at the community level. <br /> <br />  &ldquo;I am very pleased that the JBU is utilising its network of churches to provide employment for persons under this project, thereby alleviating poverty in the targeted communities. I also note that... you aim to build the skill sets of participants in the project through exposure to agronomy, land stewardship and business skills,&rdquo; he said. <br /> <br /> He indicated that his ministry, and by extension the Government, envision a Jamaica where the public and private sectors work together to drive investment and production and where every Jamaican is gainfully employed and empowered. <br /> <br />  &ldquo;We (also) envision a Jamaica in which economic and social development are attainable and measureable, in which the future is sustainable, so that future generations can continue to benefit from our plans and projects for decades to come,&rdquo; he said. <br /> <br /> Project Director, Dr Judith Johnston, welcomed Vaz&rsquo;s commitment of land, noting that she intends to take up the offer.<br /> <br /> She noted that, currently, a relationship exists where property under the Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ) Holdings Limited has been made available for use in the project.<br /> <br /> However, this does not exist in all parishes and will require additional lands. <br /> <br /> Designed to create wealth in roughly 337 Baptist church communities, the overall objective of the Grow Castor Bean Project is to provide a consistent supply of castor oil for markets locally and internationally. <br /> <br /> During phase one of the project, 1,000 acres of beans will be farmed and harvested over two 21/2-year cycles. In phase two, the harvested beans will be processed to produce castor oil.<br /> <br /> The product is used primarily in the pharmaceutical industry as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory; in cosmetic applications; and in the manufacture of high-grade lubricants and biodiesel fuel. <br /> <br /> On the US market, real Jamaican castor oil has the potential to earn between US$80 million and US$100 million and globally, upwards of US$200 million. <br /> <br /> The Grow Castor Bean Project is endorsed by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, and involves collaboration with several government entities, such as the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), JAMPRO, Jamaica Bureau of Standards, and the Scientific Research Council (SRC). http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13732374/Castor-5_w300.jpg Local News Friday, March 24, 2017 8:52 AM World Bank organises conference to examine Caribbean's socio-economic situation http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/World-Bank-organises-conference-to-examine-Caribbean-s-socio-economic-situation MIAMI, United States (CMC) &mdash; Two Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders are expected to participate in a World Bank conference examining the socio-economic situation in the Caribbean.<br /> <br /> The March 30 conference, titled &ldquo;The Caribbean Dilemma&rdquo; is part of the Americas Conference Series being put on in collaboration with the Miami Herald.<br /> <br /> Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell of Grenada and St Lucia&rsquo;s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet are among Caribbean delegates that will participate in the conference.<br /> <br /> Chairman of the Economic Growth Council in Jamaica, Michael Lee-Chin, the Governor of the Central Bank of Jamaica, Brian Wynter and the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), Timothy Antoine are also schedule to participate in the one-day event.<br /> <br /> The delegates will diagnose the economic situation in the Caribbean, as well as discuss new strategies to revive growth.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Small economies around the world are undoubtedly diverse. Yet their small economic size brings shared challenges and opportunities for long-term development. Latin America and the Caribbean currently includes fast growing small economies such as Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Panama, alongside slow-growing economies such as Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and economies such as the OECS with growth rates somewhere in between,&rdquo; the organisers said.<br /> <br /> They said the discussions will take a long-term view on what are the key priorities and challenges shared by small economies such as integration with the global economy, high debt and volatility.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The discussion will also focus on strategies to help boost long-term growth recognising that small economies can be more nimble and are able to reorient their economies over time.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Prior to the conference, members of the media will be briefed by Daniel Lederman, World Bank Deputy Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean and author of the new report &ldquo;Open and Nimble: Finding Stable Growth in Small Economies&rdquo; and Francisco Carneiro, World Bank Lead Economist for the Caribbean and author of the report &ldquo;Taming Volatility: Fiscal Policy and Financial Development for growth in the Eastern Caribbean&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13732367/world-bankb-300x221.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13732370/Keith_Mitchell_w300.jpg http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13732373/Allen-Chastanet_w300.jpg Local News Friday, March 24, 2017 8:33 AM Incredible Oddman cops gold at Winter Games http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Incredible-Oddman-cops-gold-at-Winter-Games GRAZ, Austria &mdash; Jamaica's speed skater Dave Oddman won gold in division 32 of the 333-metre race at Liebenau Ice Hall to cap an incredible show on Friday at the Special Olympics World Winter Games.<br /> <br /> Oddman was timed at 1:17.679 minutes, while Austria's Christoph Sagl (1:18.271) and the Netherlands' Mina Bahgat (1:26.267) finished second and third, respectively.<br /> <br /> Oddman, whose living comes from pushing a handcart to transport people's produce in the downtown Kingston market, won silver in division 23 of the 222m event.<br /> <br /> Oddman's speed skating compatriot Romaine Austin copped gold medals in division 15 of the 500m race and division 18 of the 333m race.<br /> <br /> The 16-member floor hockey team won bronze in the top division on Thursday, ensuring all of Special Olympics Jamaica's competitors walk away as medal winners at these Games.<br /> <br /> The closing ceremony is slated to be held this evening.<br /> <br /> The Jamaicans are scheduled to depart Austria on Saturday and are to arrive in the island on Sunday.<br /> <br /> Sanjay Myers http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13732303/Oddman_w300.jpg Sports Friday, March 24, 2017 8:00 AM $131.5 million in savings from Energy Efficiency and Conservation Programme http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/-131-5-million-in-savings-from-Energy-Efficiency-and-Conservation-Programme KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Dr Andrew Wheatley, says the government has realised savings of some $131.5 million through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Programme (EECP).<br /> <br />  &ldquo;This is money that can be diverted to other areas, such as social and infrastructural development,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> He noted that the programme, being undertaken in collaboration with international funding partners, has retrofitted a range of government facilities, including public health, administrative and educational buildings, and facilitated training in best practices for energy efficiency and conservation.<br /> <br /> Dr Wheatley was addressing a workshop on the &lsquo;Low Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Promoting Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in Buildings in Jamaica Project&rsquo; at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston yesterday. <br /> <br /> He noted that the figures for October 2016 show that the EECP intervention has led to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by some 3,000 tonnes.<br /> <br /> He said the ministry is conducting evaluations to further assess the success of the programme.<br /> <br /> The EECP, launched in 2012, aims to enhance Jamaica&rsquo;s energy efficiency and conservation potential through the design and execution of concrete Energy Efficiency (EE) and Energy Conservation (EC) cost-saving measures in the public sector. <br /> <br /> It seeks to strengthen the institutional capacity of the ministry for the implementation of EE and EC and support investments in these measures; and increase awareness and knowledge on EE and EC among key public and private stakeholders.<br /> <br /> Other objectives are to reduce energy consumption and costs and contribute to the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).<br /> <br /> The EECP was scheduled to conclude at the end of 2015, but was extended, with financing by the government, to facilitate the implementation of the energy-saving strategies in additional entities.<br /> <br /> Noting the value of energy to varying facets of society, including production, connectivity, and healthcare, Dr Wheatley said efficiency and conservation are key in achieving the economic growth targets of the Government.<br /> <br /> He hailed the University of the West Indies (UWI) for organising the workshop, noting that the outcome of the engagement will no doubt inform policy in countries across the Caribbean.<br /> <br /> The Promoting Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in Buildings in Jamaica Project aims to research and develop practical working solutions that will transform building policies and practices in Jamaica and the Caribbean,  and the appropriate regulatory and technical tools.<br /> <br /> The workshop discussed the draft of the National Policy and Plan for Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB) Development and Retrofitting of all Suitable Existing Buildings in Jamaica.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13732292/Energy-2_w300.jpg Local News Friday, March 24, 2017 7:52 AM Austin cruises to another gold at Austria Winter Games http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Austin-cruises-to-another-gold-at-Austria-Winter-Games GRAZ, Austria - Jamaica's speed skater Romaine Austin won his second gold medal here at the Special Olympics World Winter Games after cruising to victory in division 18 of the 333-metre race at the Liebenau Ice Hall on Friday's final day of competition.<br /> <br /> He finished in 52.838 seconds, ahead of Hanz Jacobs ((59.857) of the Netherlands and Danijel Golub (1:00.908 minutes) of Croatia.<br /> <br /> Austin also won gold in division 15 of the 500m race here on Thursday.<br /> <br /> Sanjay Myers http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13732278/Romaine-Austin_w300.jpg Sports Friday, March 24, 2017 7:23 AM Interest rates on new loans trending down, says Shaw http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Interest-rates-on-new-loans-trending-down--says-Shaw KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Audley Shaw, says lending rates by banks on new loans as at December 2016 were trending down.<br /> <br /> Closing the 2017/18 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives on March 22, the minister pointed out that interest rates on new loans for large projects are now at 10.23 per cent, compared with 13 per cent in December 2015. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Interest rates on new loans to medium-size projects have fallen to 11.16 per cent, down from 12.8 per cent in December 2015. Even for small projects, loan rates have declined to 13.55 per cent, down from nearly 14 per cent a year before,&rdquo; Shaw added. <br /> <br /> He argued that these reductions in lending rates auger well for continued economic growth, as businesses can now access well-needed capital at affordable rates. <br /> <br /> Shaw said while there are opportunities for further reductions, he is confident that the Government&rsquo;s continued focus on lowering interest rates and the continued focus on public-private partnerships will see further reductions and expansion of credit to support the economic-growth agenda.<br /> <br /> Regarding the high fees charged by the banks, the finance minister said he is encouraged by National Commercial Bank (NCB), First Global and First Caribbean&rsquo;s decision to remove fees on dormant accounts.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I expect that others will also follow. Based on further discussions with the banks, I am also pleased to learn that the shift to electronic transactions, which is, for the most part, free, is happening quickly with 95 per cent of all NCB transactions and 87 per cent of all Bank of Nova Scotia transactions now being done electronically,&rdquo; Shaw said.<br /> <br /> He added that a more comprehensive use of electronic means of conducting financial transactions is imperative, if the Government is to increase economic growth. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13732268/Audley-Shaw--1-_w300.jpg Local News Friday, March 24, 2017 7:02 AM Jay Z to make feature film and documentary about Trayvon Martin http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Jay-Z-to-make-feature-film-and-documentary-about-Trayvon-Martin LOS ANGELES, United States (AFP) &mdash; The rap mogul Jay Z is partnering with the Weinstein Company to produce a feature film and documentary series about the killing of Trayvon Martin, the teen whose death in 2012 set off nationwide protests.<br /> <br /> They will make the film and six-part docu-series after winning a bidding war for the rights to two books about the killing of the unarmed black teenager by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, the trade magazine Variety reported on Thursday.<br /> <br /> The case ignited civil unrest across the country and a debate about racial profiling. It also gave birth to the Black Lives Matter movement.<br /> <br /> Zimmerman, who claimed he shot Martin in self-defense, was acquitted of a charge of second degree murder in 2013 by a jury in Florida.<br /> <br /> The film and series projects will be based on the books "Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It" and "Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin," Variety said.<br /> <br /> "Suspicion Nation" recounts the experience of a reporter who covered the trial for NBC. "Rest in Power" is by Martin's parents.<br /> <br /> Another docu-series produced by Jay Z and Weinstein Television that touches on race relations -- "Time: The Kalief Browder Story" -- was aired last month.<br /> <br /> The six-part series follows the story of a teen arrested in 2010 while walking home for allegedly stealing a backpack. He spent three years in prison -- two of them in solitary confinement -- without a conviction.<br /> <br /> After the charges were dropped, he was released from New York's Rikers Island prison and took his own life.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13731352/Trayvon-Martin_w300.jpg Local Entertainment Thursday, March 23, 2017 9:57 PM Retrieving unclaimed bank balances http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Retrieving-unclaimed-bank-balances KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; Each year, the Government publishes information on unclaimed balances in financial institutions for people to come forward to retrieve these sums.<br /> <br /> Sums that remain unclaimed after such publication are turned over to the Government.<br /> <br /> According to the Banking Services Act, 2015, unclaimed balances refer to monies that remain dormant in the possession or control of a banking institution for a period of 15 years or more. <br /> <br /> While the law stipulates that for the purposes of publication, the money should be unclaimed for a period of 15 or more years, banking institutions determine when to classify an account as dormant.<br /> <br /> The Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, according to the Act, is responsible for making arrangements with at least one newspaper and the Jamaica Printing Services to ensure that the unclaimed balances are published at least twice yearly, fiscal or calendar.<br /> <br /> Individuals can claim these balances if a one-year period has not elapsed, by providing satisfactory proof to the banking institution of ownership of the accounts, or, failing that, to the courts.<br /> <br /> However, if the monies remain unclaimed after one year of publication in the newspaper and on the Ministry&rsquo;s website, www.mof.gov.jm, it will become part of the revenue of Jamaica and remitted to the Accountant General. <br /> <br /> At that point, persons must establish proof, satisfactory to the Accountant General, before 15 years of the funds becoming a part of the revenue of Jamaica. <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13731342/Audley-Shaw--2-_w300.jpg Local News Thursday, March 23, 2017 9:49 PM USF provides millions to boost internet access http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/USF-provides-millions-to-boost-internet-access KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash;The Universal Service Fund (USF) has provided millions of dollars in support to libraries and educational institutions as the entity continues to carry out its mandate to provide 100 per cent Internet penetration across Jamaica.<br /> <br /> Chief Executive Officer at the USF, Suzette Buchanan, said that the Jamaica Library Service (JLS) has received $13.9 million to boost Internet access for users.<br /> <br /> The JLS&rsquo;s Director General, Karen Barton, said the USF &ldquo;supports our Internet system by providing broadband access to over 40 of our libraries&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> She explained that there are some libraries in areas where the JLS is unable to get support from the Internet providers, so the USF has assisted in getting service to those areas. <br /> <br /> In addition to the JLS, educational institutions have received support for the upgrading of Wi-Fi infrastructure.<br /> <br /> These include University of the West Indies (UWI), which has received $166 million to outfit its 10 Open campuses; University of Technology (UTech), $20 million; and G.C. Foster College, $15 million.<br /> <br /> Additionally, the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) has received $87.5 million; The Mico University College, $46 million; Institute of Jamaica, $14.5 million; and the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, $17 million.<br /> <br /> Buchanan said the USF has also provided infrastructure and software valued at $22.8 million to the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), to enable online streaming of the entity&rsquo;s cultural events.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We at the USF have a responsibility to create a knowledge-based society through technology, and Jamaica is heading to that digital age, so we must prepare our people to fully utilise a digital Jamaica,&rdquo; the USF CEO said.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13731325/Suzette-Buchanan_w300.jpg Local News Thursday, March 23, 2017 9:38 PM Cops seize firearm after gunfight in Portmore http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Cops-seize-firearm-after-gunfight-in-Portmore ST CATHERINE, Jamaica &ndash; The police are reporting the seizure of a firearm during an operation along Naggo Head Road in Portmore, St Catherine today.<br /> <br /> The police say that about 1:45 pm a team of officers was on operation in the area when men were observed acting in a manner that aroused the suspicions of the lawmen.<br /> <br />  When the men were approached, they allegedly opened gunfire at the police team. The gunfire was returned and when the shooting subsided a search of the area revealed a .38 revolver and two .38 rounds of ammunition.<br /> <br /> The men escaped on foot, the police reported. <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13731258/-38-revolver_w300.jpg Local News Thursday, March 23, 2017 8:45 PM Venezuela's latest shortage: gasoline http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Venezuela-s-latest-shortage--gasoline CARACAS, Venezuela (AFP) &mdash; Battered by an economic crisis, Venezuelans are used to waiting in long lines for scarce goods, but many found themselves queuing Thursday for something the ailing oil giant was supposed to have in spades: gasoline.<br /> <br /> Drivers had to wait more than an hour to fill up at many gas stations in Caracas and several other cities after supplies were mysteriously disrupted.<br /> <br /> AFP correspondents saw some drivers pushing their vehicles to the pump after running out of fuel while waiting in line.<br /> <br /> "There's no reason an oil-producing country should have a gasoline shortage," said irate retiree Jesus Ascanio at a gas station on the capital's east side.<br /> <br /> "I've been here for almost an hour from that corner to here. But at least now I'm in the line."<br /> <br /> Shortages also hit the western states of Zulia and Tachira, where some gas stations suspended sales.<br /> <br /> State oil company PDVSA sought to calm people's nerves, saying it "guarantees the supply of fuel across the country" -- but it offered little explanation for the shortages.<br /> <br /> The vice president for sales and supply, Ysmel Serrano, said shipping delays had affected deliveries, without going into details.<br /> <br /> A fire at the country's largest refinery on Wednesday may also have played a part, though officials said operations were not affected.<br /> <br /> Lawmaker Jose Guerra, an opponent of President Nicolas Maduro, alleged international suppliers were holding back because of unpaid debts from PDVSA.<br /> <br /> "There are 15 ships (with Venezuelan-bound fuel imports) anchored in the Caribbean awaiting payment," Guerra told a press conference.<br /> <br /> - Secretly importing gas? -<br /> <br /> Guerra said the government was secretly importing 45,000 barrels of gasoline a day to hide the fact that domestic supply was insufficient to cover demand.<br /> <br /> Venezuela is home to the world's largest oil reserves. But it mainly pumps an extra-heavy grade of oil that has to be mixed with lighter crude -- imported from abroad in recent years -- in order to be refined.<br /> <br /> Maduro and his late predecessor Hugo Chavez -- who have used the country's oil wealth to fund lavish social programs -- have made cheap, abundant gasoline supplies a point of national pride.<br /> <br /> Venezuela has the world's cheapest gas: one bolivar per liter, or 14 US cents at the country's highest official exchange rate.<br /> <br /> At the black-market exchange rate, $1 buys 2,900 liters (766 gallons) of gasoline.<br /> <br /> Venezuela has skidded to the brink of economic collapse as low oil prices have laid bare its overwhelming dependence on its chief export.<br /> <br /> The country has been hit by devastating shortages of food, medicine and basic goods like deodorant and toilet paper.<br /> <br /> Maduro, who is fighting efforts to force him from power, blames the crisis on an "economic war" by US-backed business interests.<br /> <br /> His opponents blame the failure of 18 years of socialist "revolution" under Chavez and Maduro, who was elected to succeed his mentor in 2013.<br /> <br /> Maduro's popularity has plummeted amid a crushing three-year recession and soaring inflation that the International Monetary Fund forecasts will hit 1,660 percent this year.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13731244/000_MX8K5_w300.jpg Local News Thursday, March 23, 2017 8:34 PM Jamaica constantly on alert for terrorists &mdash; Montague http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Jamaica-constantly-on-alert-for-terrorists---Montague KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; National Security Minister, Robert Montague, says Jamaica is constantly on alert for terrorists at the country&rsquo;s ports of entry by using a watch list provided by the international criminal police organisation, Interpol.  <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Our immigration officers are on alert. We have the software and backup systems to check passengers before they land, and when they land we&rsquo;re cued into Interpol,&rdquo; he said. <br /> <br /> Montague gave the assurance at a Choose Life International Conference on happiness, today, where he alluded to the recent suspected case of terrorism at the British Parliament in London, England, yesterday.<br /> <br /> The conference, which refers to happiness as a state of well-being and contentment, was held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston. It was held to recognise the United Nations International Day of Happiness, on March 20.<br /> <br /> Statistics provided by Montague revealed that between last year and February this year, more than 412 travellers were denied entry into the island.  <br /> <br /> &ldquo;These are persons whose names are on the watch list. There is intelligence which suggests that they were not coming for sun and sea alone, but for other things. Some may also have been in transit to go elsewhere,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> Montague emphasised the importance of protecting the country&rsquo;s borders, which he says is being done by the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency and immigration officers, who are doing a &ldquo;phenomenal job&rdquo;. <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13731227/Robert-Montague_w300.jpg Local News Thursday, March 23, 2017 8:29 PM O-WRAP: 12-y-o found hanging... 'Bully beef' ban still on ... Emergencies only at Bustamante Hospital http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/12-y-o-found-hanging--------Bully-beef--ban-still-on-----Emergencies-only-at-Bustamante-Hospital 1.12-year-old boy found hanging from tree<br /> <br /> A 12-year-old boy, Tyrone Mitchell, was on Tuesday found hanging from a tree by a cord in Lionel Town, Clarendon. Full story here<br /> <br /> 2. No need for increase in bus, taxi fares, says Henry<br /> <br /> Transport Minister Lester &lsquo;Mike&rsquo; Henry says that if the issues &ldquo;bedevilling&rdquo; the transport sector can be addressed then there will be no need for an immediate increase in bus and taxi fares. Full story here<br /> <br /> 3.'Bully beef' ban still in effect<br /> <br /> The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries has announced that the ban on the importation of corned beef originating in Brazil will remain in place until relevant tests have been completed. Full story<br /> <br /> 4. JFJ says outlawing corporal punishment in schools will advance children welfare<br /> <br /> Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) said it welcomes the government&rsquo;s announcement to prohibit the use of corporal punishment in educational institutions. Full story <br /> <br /> 5. American pleads guilty to Jamaica-based lottery scam<br /> <br /> A South Florida man has pleaded guilty for his role in a Jamaica-based fraudulent lottery scheme. Full story here <br /> <br /> 6. Bustamante Hospital for Children accepting emergency cases only<br /> <br /> The South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA) is advising that the Bustamante Hospital for Children is only accepting emergency cases until further notice. Full story here<br /> <br /> 7. DPP explains aspects of the Cybercrimes Act<br /> <br /> Director of Public Prosecution, Paula Llewellyn has today sought to explain the concept of malicious communications in cyber space and aspects of the Cybercrimes Act. Full story here<br /> <br /> 8. Accountant General's Oceana Hotel office flooded as $478-m renovation continues<br /> <br /> A section of the former Oceana Hotel, which the government leased to facilitate the housing of the Accountant General&rsquo;s Department downtown Kingston was yesterday flooded during heavy rainfall in the Corporate Area. Full story here <br /> <br /> 9. PNPYO says Gov't budget is 'artificial prosperity'<br /> <br /> The People's National Party&rsquo;s Youth Organisation (PNPYO) today encouraged Jamaicans to stand against the &ldquo;extortionate and obviously indefensible tax package&rdquo; presented by the Government in a bid to fulfill an &ldquo;ill-thought-out&rdquo; campaign promise. Full story here<br /> <br /> 10. Jamaica wins floor hockey bronze in Austria<br /> <br /> Special Olympics Jamaica's floor hockey team came from a goal down to defeat Costa Rica 2-1 in Thursday's bronze medal match on the main court at Stadthalle Graz to win the country's third medal here at the World Winter Games. Full story here<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13731122/BUSTAMANTE-HOSPITAL_w300.jpg Local News Thursday, March 23, 2017 7:00 PM Scotiabank removes fees on dormant accounts http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Scotiabank-removes-fees-on-dormant-accounts KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; Scotiabank announced today that effective immediately, dormant fees, currently charged on inactive accounts, will be suspended.<br /> <br /> In a release this afternoon, Scotiabank said that this move forms part of the bank&rsquo;s ongoing review of fees as they seek to identify the best options to effectively manage costs, while ensuring that they continue to efficiently meet the changing needs of customers.<br /> <br /> Deputy CEO, David Noel, said that there is a cost to managing dormant accounts, however, &ldquo;we are working assiduously to identify new solutions for managing these costs as well as the overall processes surrounding the treatment of dormant accounts. We will continue to invest in technology and alternatives to enhance the banking services offered to our customers&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> Scotiabank encouraged customers to utilise any of the channels provided, including the branch network, Scotiabank ABMs, Scotia Online banking platform or the Scotia Mobile app to access their accounts and conduct transactions. <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13731113/scotiabank-03_w300.jpg Local News Thursday, March 23, 2017 7:44 PM DPP explains aspects of the Cybercrimes Act http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/DPP-explains-aspects-of-the-Cybercrimes-Act KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; Director of Public Prosecution, Paula Llewellyn has today sought to explain the concept of malicious communications in cyber space and aspects of the Cybercrimes Act.<br /> <br /> This comes on the heels of the arrest and charging of co-founder of the rights movement Tambourine Army, Latoya Nugent. Earlier this week, Nugent disclosed that she&rsquo;s contemplating a constitutional challenge of the provision of the Cybercrimes Act under which she was arrested and charged last week.<br /> <br /> Nugent was charged with three counts of using a computer for malicious communication under section 9 (1) of the Cybercrimes Act of 2015.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;As a public service I now make available a comprehensive dissertation to the public discourse in an effort to provide context and to explain aspects of the legal terms or provisions of the relevant legislation which arise in the discussion,&rdquo; Llewellyn stated.  <br /> <br /> See explanation in full below:<br /> <br /> Introduction:<br /> <br /> To deliberately utter a direct verbal threat is a criminal offence, so is the act of possessing or distributing obscene material. The internet and the use of social media did not create these offences. However, with the exponential increase of society&rsquo;s reliance on computers both have certainly changed and reoriented the way these traditional crimes are committed. Consequently the new Cybercrimes Act 2015 which addresses activities in cyber space, includes an offence titled &lsquo;the Use of a Computer for Malicious Communication&rsquo;, which addresses specifically the transmission of data via a computer which is threatening, menacing or obscene AND with the intention to harass or cause harm or the apprehension of harm, to any person or property.<br /> <br /> In Jamaica, unlike threats and obscene publications, it is NOT a crime to defame a person regardless of the medium used. What does it mean to defame? At common law, the concept of defamation included slander and libel.  Where one uses words, &ldquo;John is a gunman/ bad man/ dishonest man&rdquo;, which are false, these words may have the effect of defaming John by lowering his reputation amongst right-thinking members of society generally. If these statements are proven to be untrue, John may succeed in a civil claim against this person for defamation.  By virtue of the Defamation Act, 2013 of Jamaica this is a strictly civil matter as section 7 of the said Act indicates that criminal libel has been abolished in Jamaica.  Furthermore &ldquo;the distinction at law between slander and libel is abolished&rdquo; (by virtue of section 6 of the said Act).  It is our view that when one examines the required elements of the offence of the Use of a computer for Malicious Communication, these words by themselves which could be defamatory in the civil law when sent via a computer would not constitute the criminal offence of Malicious Communication under the Cybercrimes Act, 2015 without more.<br /> <br />  In recent days, there has been much discussion in the public space querying whether the offence of the Use of a Computer for Malicious Communication contained within section 9 of the Cybercrimes Act of Jamaica of 2015 seeks to recriminalize Defamation or as some persons have characterized it &ndash; Criminal Libel.  The simple answer in our view is NO.<br /> <br /> This discussion will focus briefly on the particular offence created in simple terms and the differences between the new offence of the Use of a Computer for Malicious Communication, and the non-criminal act of Defamation.<br /> <br />        <br /> <br /> Section 9 of The Cybercrimes Act, 2015 <br /> <br /> There are three elements that must be present in the material presented to an Investigator before a prosecution can be initiated under this section. They are:<br /> <br /> 1.      That a person used a computer to send to another person data.<br /> <br /> -       &ldquo;Send&rdquo; is not defined under any current legislation and as such arguably it may include the publishing of material by a person to a social media site.<br /> <br /> 2.      That the data sent is &ldquo;obscene, constitutes a threat or is menacing in nature.&rdquo; These terms are also not defined by the legislation.<br /> <br /> -       Material that is obscene has been defined in case law as material of a sexual nature or material that offends against society&rsquo;s morality and tends to deprave or corrupt minds open to immoral influences and into whose hands these publications would fall.<br /> <br /> -       Threatening material is material that intimates that harm/danger/punishment will befall a person and may be similar to a menace.<br /> <br /> -       Material that is menacing in nature is material that tends to threaten a person with harm or danger.<br /> <br /> 3.      AND, that the material which is either obscene or a threat or menacing in nature, or all three, or a combination of the three, was sent with the intention to harass any person or cause harm or the apprehension of harm, to any person or property.<br /> <br /> -       Intention may be proved by direct evidence such as statements of the suspect showing his/her intention or it may be inferred from all the circumstances.<br /> <br /> These three elements are to be construed conjunctively not disjunctively.  Therefore this means that all of the elements outlined above including the intention must exist for a section 9 offence to be created.<br /> <br /> It is also clear from this section that there is no requirement for the material published to be false or cause harm to a person&rsquo;s reputation and the like and as such be categorized as defamation or criminal libel.  In other words a section 9 offence may exist even where a statement is true which would then take it outside the tort of defamation.<br /> <br /> Malicious Communications: Obscene Publications<br /> <br /> In the year 1927, the Obscene Publications (Suppression) Act was passed. This Act created the offences of Possession, Distribution and Publication of obscene writings, drawings, and photographs etc. The penalty if convicted remains at the paltry sum of Jamaican $40.00. Before the passage of the 2015 Cybercrimes Act, the publication or distribution of obscene images on the internet, or otherwise would give rise to a penalty of $40.00.<br /> <br /> The newly created offence of Malicious Communication attracts a penalty of four million dollars ($4,000,000.00) or imprisonment of up to fifteen (15) years if the offence is committed a second or subsequent time, one may be imprisoned for up to twenty (20). Therefore, if a person uses a computer to send obscene material, he/she may if convicted, face a penalty of $4,000,000.00 or serve up to 5 years.<br /> <br /> Therefore, where a person uses a computer to send data (true or false) to another person which is obscene, and has the intention to cause annoyance, distress, then they may be prosecuted and fined for up to four million dollars ($4,000,000.00) or serve up to twenty (20) years in prison.<br /> <br /> Malicious Communications: Threats<br /> <br /> In Jamaica, the uttering of a direct unconditional threat to kill or to harm a person is an offence, for which a person can be charged and prosecuted.  Threats are prosecuted in the petty session courts, and carry a penalty of a fine and a usual warning to desist from carrying out the threat.<br /> <br /> The offence of Malicious Communications creates an offence where a person uses a computer to send a message which is of a threatening nature or is menacing. The penalty is greater than that which attaches to the traditional offence.  So, for example, where a person uses their cell phone, or other computer device to send a threat to another person with the intention of harassing or causing harm or the apprehension of harm, he can be charged for Malicious Communication.<br /> <br /> Defamation<br /> <br /> A defamatory statement is one that is false which may be written or spoken and harms a person&rsquo;s reputation by lowering their esteem in the minds of right-thinking members of society generally or exposes them to being shunned, hatred or ridiculed or damages their personal credit.<br /> <br /> It is a defence to a defamation claim that the statement made was true, fair comment, innocently disseminated or sub... http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13731032/Paula-Llewellyn-2_w300.jpg Local News Thursday, March 23, 2017 6:50 PM VIDEO: Accountant General's Oceana Hotel office flooded as $478-m renovation continues http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Accountant-General-s-Oceana-Hotel-office-flooded-as--478-m-renovation-continues KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; A section of the former Oceana Hotel, which the government leased to facilitate the housing of the Accountant General&rsquo;s Department downtown Kingston was yesterday flooded during heavy rainfall in the Corporate Area.<br /> <br /> A video obtained by OBSERVER ONLINE, shows the office space, which is currently being renovated, inundated with water which appeared to be coming from the roof.<br /> <br /> Men, who looked to have been painting, were forced to leave the office, one worker walking on his heels to avoid his clothes getting wet.<br /> <br /> A woman could also be seen holding up the foot of her pants to prevent it getting wet by the rising water.<br /> <br /> When contacted, Accountant General Carlene Murdock said that they are currently investigating what could have caused the water to come in and also if there was any damage to equipment.<br /> <br />  &ldquo;The water I am told came in from an opening on the roof [from] the pressure and build up from the heavy downpour yesterday. I was also told that water came in from the window sills,&rdquo; Murdock told OBSERVER ONLINE.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I know that we have computer equipment that was damaged, not extensively. It was contained in an area of the office,&rdquo; Murdock said, adding that they are still assessing the situation.<br /> <br /> The building, owned by King Church Property Holdings is being retrofitted at a cost of $478 million.<br /> <br /> The AGD is expected to pay $90 million per year in rental.<br /> <br /> Finance Minister Audley Shaw, last September, gave a November 7, 2016 timeline for full relocation of the department to the new facility, located at 2-4 King Street, but that process began only last month.<br /> <br /> At the same time, more than $40 million in additional funding has been provided in the 2017/18 Estimates of Expenditure tabled recently in the House of Representatives, to complete the build-out of the AGD.<br /> <br /> The money, which has been provided from the Consolidated Fund, is expected to be used for the payment of works that have been completed.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13731015/Carlene-Murdock_w300.jpg Local News Thursday, March 23, 2017 6:14 PM Bustamante Hospital for Children accepting emergency cases only http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Bustamante-Hospital-for-Children-accepting-emergency-cases-only KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; The South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA) is advising that the Bustamante Hospital for Children is only accepting emergency cases until further notice.<br /> <br /> According to a release from SERHA a short while ago, this move is as a result of industrial action being taken by the health records staff following an incident at the hospital.<br /> <br /> Reports are that the incident, involving a parent, resulted in a health records clerk being seriously injured.<br /> <br /> The incident occurred at approximately 11:00 pm Wednesday.<br /> <br /> SERHA said that police were summoned to the hospital and the staff member is now recovering from surgery at the Kingston Public Hospital. <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13730979/BUSTAMANTE-HOSPITAL_w300.jpg Local News Thursday, March 23, 2017 6:01 PM No need for increase in bus, taxi fares &mdash; Henry http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/No-need-for-increase-in-bus--taxi-fares--says-Henry KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; Transport Minister Lester &lsquo;Mike&rsquo; Henry says that if the issues &ldquo;bedevilling&rdquo; the transport sector can be addressed then there will be no need for an immediate increase in bus and taxi fares.<br /> <br /> Henry&rsquo;s comment came after a meeting with Transport Operators Development and Sustainable Service (TODDS) head, Edgerton Newman, today at his Maxfield Avenue office in St Andrew.<br /> <br /> The TODDS was requesting a 50 per cent increase in fares in the wake of government&rsquo;s hike in the special consumption tax on petroleum and motor vehicle licensing fees.<br /> <br /> According to Henry, he needs the help of all the public transporters to make the changes necessary to have a transport system that is &ldquo;safe, reliable, equitable and affordable&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> Henry sought to assure the operators that there will be no increase in fees from the Transport Authority for this financial year.<br /> <br /> At the same time the minister encouraged operators to buy insurance in large groups in order to obtain discounts, which will positively impact their operational costs.<br /> <br /> He also bemoaned the fact that there is no structured transport system in St Elizabeth, Manchester, and Clarendon, and a designated time-driven operation for the Jamaica Urban Transit Company.<br /> <br /> The transport minister said that he will continue to have meetings with transport operators to develop and implement a module for a route transport system, an integrated plan, and a new license plate regime<br /> <br /> He said this will give operators more stability and longevity in recognising that their investment is a business plan, and remove the hustling mentality. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13730947/MIKE-HENRY--2-_w300.jpg Local News Thursday, March 23, 2017 5:44 PM Forex: J$128.30 to one US dollar http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Forex--J-128-30-to-one-US-dollar2017-03-23T15-38-48 KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; The US dollar on Thursday, March 23, ended trading at J$128.30, down by five cents, according to the Bank of Jamaica&rsquo;s daily foreign exchange trading summary.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, the Canadian dollar ended trading at J$96.44, up from J$94.93, while the British pound sterling ended trading at J$159.78 down from J$160.28.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13730938/forex_w300.jpg Local News Thursday, March 23, 2017 5:37 PM 'Bully beef' ban still in effect http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/-Bully-beef--ban-still-in-effect KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries has announced that the ban on the importation of corned beef originating in Brazil will remain in place until relevant tests have been completed.<br /> <br /> Portfolio minister, Karl Samuda, said that no permission will be given for the sale or distribution of corned beef from Brazil until the government gets adequate assurance that the products are safe for consumption.<br /> <br /> A release from the ministry today stated that the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) is conducting chemical test profiles to ascertain the contents of corned beef, also known as &ldquo;bully beef&rdquo;, on the market.<br /> <br /> In addition, the Veterinary Services Division of the ministry is conducting microbiological and residue tests to ascertain whether contaminants are present in the products on the local market.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;When we learnt of the threat, we launched an extensive process including the import ban, the withdrawal of the products from the shelves, and testing. Jamaican officials are also to visit Brazil on a fact-finding mission to learn more. The measures will not be lifted until we have received the all clear. We have to ensure the safety of the public,&rdquo; said Samuda. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13730907/cornb_w300.jpg Local News Thursday, March 23, 2017 5:10 PM C'bean pastors call on US to halt promotion of LGBT rights abroad http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Caribbean-pastors-call-on-US-to-halt-promotion-of-LGBT-rights-abroad WASHINGTON, United States (CMC) &mdash; Several religious officials, including pastors from across the Caribbean, have called on the United States to halt the promotion of LGBT and intersex rights abroad.<br /> <br /> LGBTA report published in the Washington Blade, a LGBT publication, said 289 Ministers of Religion from The Bahamas, St Maarten, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana made the request in a letter sent to US President Donald Trump on January 31.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We write to you as concerned Christian ministers and churches from the Caribbean region (including the Bahamas) who hope and pray that the United States, under your leadership, will once again cast a light from &lsquo;The City upon a Hill&rsquo; of which your American forefathers and President Ronald Reagan so frequently spoke,&rdquo; the letter said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Sadly, during recent years, that City has too often cast shadows instead of light.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We refer specifically to the policies of the US State Department and other government agencies involved in foreign policy that have undertaken to coerce our countries into accepting a mistaken version of marriage.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> According to the Washington Blade, the letter specifically notes the appointment of Randy Berry as the special US envoy for the promotion of LGBT and intersex rights in 2015 was central to &ldquo;the promotion of same-sex marriage&rdquo; in American foreign policy.<br /> <br /> It also questions then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton&rsquo;s 2011 speech to the UN Human Rights Council in which she said &ldquo;gay rights are human rights.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We have our rights by virtue of being human beings and not by anything else &mdash; not our ethnicity, not our religion, not our race, not our tribe and certainly not our sexual orientation,&rdquo; the letter continued.<br /> <br /> The leaders also pointed out that &ldquo;several of your government agencies&rdquo; are &ldquo;using executive orders to foist transgender confusion through the bathroom issue on your public schools by threatening the loss of federal funds.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Please understand that this same kind of coercion is being used against our countries to force us to fall in line with the entire same-sex agenda.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Last year, the Obama administration advised public schools that Title IX of the US Education Amendments of 1972 requires them to allow trans students to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.<br /> <br /> Trump rescinded this guidance on February 22.<br /> <br />   http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13730903/same-sex_w300.jpg Local News Thursday, March 23, 2017 5:04 PM 12-year-old boy found hanging from tree http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/12-year-old-boy-found-hanging-from-tree CLARENDON, Jamaica &ndash; A 12-year-old boy was on Tuesday found hanging from a tree by a cord in Lionel Town, Clarendon.<br /> <br /> The boy, who has been identified as Tyrone Mitchell, was a grade six student at the Watsonton Primary School and has recently completed his GSAT examinations.<br /> <br /> Head of the Clarendon Police Division, Superintendent Vendolyn Cameron-Powell said the incident occurred about 2:00 pm and they are currently investigating. <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13730864/noose_w300.jpg Local News Thursday, March 23, 2017 4:32 PM Windies aiming to capitalise on home advantage http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Windies-aiming-to-capitalise-on-home-advantage BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) &mdash; West Indies batting coach Toby Radford said Thursday the regional side would try to make home advantage count in the upcoming Twenty20 series against Pakistan, as they attempted to make amends for their dismal showing last September.<br /> <br /> Just seven months ago, the reigning T20 World champions found themselves on the end of a humiliating series whitewash in the United Arab Emirates as Pakistan convincingly won the three-match series on &lsquo;home turf&rsquo;.<br /> <br /> However, with much more familiar conditions expected, Radford said he was anticipating a change in fortunes.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I think the big thing when we played out there is we found that the pitches were particularly slow and obviously suited their spin bowlers and they made very, very big boundaries and made us run a lot,&rdquo; the Englishman pointed out.<br /> <br /> "So hopefully the wickets will be a lot quicker here, more of what we are used to. We are used to playing on these surfaces and when you are on your home patch, everyone is really up for playing and wants a win so hopefully we&rsquo;re going to get a lot of good support as well but I&rsquo;m very much ready for a good show from everyone.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> The four-match series opens on Sunday at Kensington Oval here before heading to Trinidad and Tobago for the last three games at Queen&rsquo;s Park Oval.<br /> <br /> West Indies have been in training since they assembled on Wednesday and Radford said everyone looked in fine form.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We had a good session this morning and all the batters looked in really good touch which is encouraging,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;There&rsquo;s one big game coming up in Barbados this weekend and then it&rsquo;s off to Trinidad for three games there. It will be a really exciting series and hopefully they&rsquo;ll put in a really good performance.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> While the side will be without the likes of T20 stars Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russell, it includes other big names like batsmen Kieron Pollard and Marlon Samuels, along with leg-spinner Samuel Badree.<br /> <br /> Selectors have also opted for first-timers Jonathan Carter, Jason Mohammed and Veerasammy Permaul coming on the heels of their good form against England in the recent one-day series, and the move is one Radford endorsed.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Carter and Jason Mohammed played very well in the 50-over tournament recently against England and I think it is great their form has been recognised by the board and they&rsquo;ve been given an opportunity in this format as well,&rdquo; he pointed out.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Kesrick Williams bowled very well in the UAE against Pakistan; he bowled very straight &mdash; if they missed he hit &mdash; he mixed his pace up well.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Radford continued: &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s an exciting team, a mix of real talent that&rsquo;s been there and done it, and some youngsters who show real quality and I think putting those together, I would love to see [West Indies] put some good performances together.&rdquo; http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13730861/Marlon-Samuels--1-_w300.jpg Local News Thursday, March 23, 2017 4:22 PM Defence Act to be amended to Establish National Service Corps http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Defence-Act-to-be-amended-to-Establish-National-Service-Corps KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; The Defence Act is being amended to establish the Jamaica National Service Corps within the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).<br /> <br /> The Corps is one of seven under the Government&rsquo;s Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) initiative, targeting job and training opportunities for unattached young people aged 19 to 24.  <br /> <br /> Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, who announced HOPE&rsquo;s launch during his 2017/18 Budget Debate presentation in the House on Tuesday, said the amendment would make provisions for enlistment and the terms of this undertaking in the Jamaica National Service Corps.<br /> <br /> This engagement  will complement the JDF&rsquo;s recently launched National Service Enlistment Programme, which will target the annual recruitment of 1,000 young people, aged 18 to 23.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Normally, the enlistment under the Jamaica Defence Force would be between 200 and 300. We have expanded this, and what will happen is that they will register and train for one year. From the pool that is trained, the best will be selected to join the army,&rdquo; Holness explained.<br /> <br /> He said those not selected will have the option of joining the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) or becoming security guards, &ldquo;because they would have effectively met the training requirements and would automatically qualify&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;So, effectively, what we are doing is using the capacity of the Jamaica Defence Force to bring in our young men, especially, and give them the kind of disciplined, regimented training that they need at that stage to ensure that they become functional citizens,&rdquo; the Prime Minister explained.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Holness said that against the background of Jamaica&rsquo;s challenges with crime and violence, it is an opportune time for the introduction of a national service for young people.<br /> <br /> The newly reconstituted Human Employment and Resource Training Trust/National Training Agency (HEART Trust/NTA) will have responsibility for creating a universal system of institutional attachment for the target age cohort under the HOPE initiative.<br /> <br /> This will entail the development of a comprehensive national corps service system that will involve skills training through apprenticeship work programmes, personal development and responsibility, and citizenship and volunteerism.<br /> <br /> The seven service corps areas include document management and digitisation; environment management; geographic information systems; infrastructure and construction; registration, verification and audit; hospitality; and the national service enlistment programme.<br /> <br /> The new entity will be a merger of HEART Trust/NTA, the National Youth Service (NYS), Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL) and Apprenticeship Board.<br /> <br /> Holness said it is anticipated that work opportunities will be created for a minimum of 25,000 young persons by the end of the 2017/18 fiscal year.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13730824/AH-parliament_w300.jpg Local News Thursday, March 23, 2017 3:53 PM