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 Teacher&rsquo;s death shocks Charlemont High School http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Teacher-s-death-shocks-Charlemont-High-School-_90098 STUDENTS and staff at Charlemont High School in St Catherine have been left searching for answers after the body of a male teacher was discovered Saturday morning in bushes in Barrett Hall, St Ann.<br /> <br /> He is 35-year-old Tanijah Howell of Linstead, St Catherine.<br /> <br /> Howell, who taught mathematics at the Linstead-based institution for over 10 years, was last seen on Friday when he turned up for work.<br /> <br /> The school&rsquo;s Principal Garth Gayle could not be reached for a comment yesterday as he was off the island, but Vice-Principal Jennifer Gidden told the Jamaica Observer that staff members are in a state of disbelief.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The student body has not been officially informed yet because the next working day would have been tomorrow (today). Staff members are still in shock. We have a WhatsApp group and most of the teachers are in that group and we have been communicating,&rdquo; Gidden said during a telephone interview. <br /> <br /> The vice-principal said that staff learnt Howell was missing shortly after seven Saturday morning when she informed them after receiving a phone call from a friend. She said that the group immediately began to pray for his safe return. However, she said those prayers never came to fruition because she received a call at approximately 10:30 am informing her that Howell&rsquo;s body was discovered by the police in the neighbouring parish. <br /> <br /> The police did not give details about Howell&rsquo;s death but the Observer has learnt that the teacher was killed while on a chartered transportation job in the parish, something he did in his spare time. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;We are all in shock; he is a Christian, he does not interfere with people. He&rsquo;s a nice person, he&rsquo;s a wonderful maths teacher. It is hard for us; it won&rsquo;t be easy for us tomorrow (today) to talk to the children about it,&rdquo; Gidden shared. <br /> <br /> She said the school has been in dialogue with a team from the Education Ministry which will be assisting with grief counselling for students.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We plan to have a general devotion and then we will move from there as the need arises with the different grief counselors that we have, with regards to his form class and his students,&rdquo; she said. <br /> <br /> Past student of Howell, David Harris, described him as a passionate teacher who went above and beyond what was professionally required of him to ensure that his students grasped what was being taught. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Irrespective of who the student was and how they behaved, he always had this genuine attitude toward them. While other teachers would leave when their session was over, Mr Howell would linger around with students going over difficult formulas. He was genuine about what he did. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Instead of operating with an iron fist he was always caring. We used to call him the math master because a lot of times when other teachers wouldn&rsquo;t sign students to do CXC [Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate] maths, they would go to Mr Howell and he would keep extra classes to get [them] ready. So he was loved by all who he came across,&rdquo; Harris said.<br /> <br /> Yesterday, posts on his Facebook page reflected sorrow and anger.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Jah know Mr Howell....God not sleeping...you never deserve this sir...,&rdquo; one person said.<br /> <br /> Another post read: &ldquo;Blasted wicked people on this earth. RIP [Rest in peace].&rdquo;<br /> <br /> &mdash; Kimone Francis http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13656236/259526_86178_repro_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 12:00 AM 1 http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13656235/teach-ld.jpg Government starts new programme to assist deportees http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Government-starts-new-programme-to-assist-deportees_90100 While the country grapples with its crime issues, over 100 Jamaicans are being deported home every month from developed nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, for various reasons.<br /> <br /> The situation has been aggravated by reports of mass deportations of Jamaicans who have been living in the United States permanently without the necessary legal instruments, under the Donald Trump Administration.<br /> <br /> These &ldquo;deportees&rdquo; are not usually greeted with open arms when they return, as there is fear within the country that they could contribute to the crime problems.<br /> <br /> So, in order to strengthen the policy, legislative, and institutional framework guiding the management and treatment of involuntary returned migrants to Jamaica, the Ministry of National Security has teamed with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in funding a project called the Reintegration and Rehabilitation of Involuntary Returned Migrants in Jamaica.<br /> <br /> The programme, the new project which starts in April and is expected to continue through to March 2019, has received $13.3 million from the UNDP, and an additional approximately $19 million from the ministry, to finance the first phase.<br /> <br /> The Estimates of Expenditures, tabled by Finance and Public Service Minister Audley Shaw in Gordon House on February ninth, states that $13.8 million will be spent during the 2017/18 financial year to deal with the treatment of these deportees.<br /> <br /> The targets initially envisaged in the programme are: a baseline study and spatial mapping on deported persons; development of minimum standard operating procedures for managing the reintegration of deported migrants; revision of the national deportation policy; development of and submission to Cabinet of a reintegration and rehabilitation strategy; increasing the capacity of NGOs to provide more efficient and effective services to returned migrants.<br /> <br /> Other targets are to: prepare a framework and protocol for tracking the reintegration of returned migrants; develop public education material for distribution at help desks in local authorities; and prepare a strategy for including reintegration of returned migrants in the local sustainable development planning process.<br /> <br /> The Government says that the $13.8 million to be spent during the next financial year will address: conducting baseline study and spatial mapping; developing minimum standards; commencing consultations with stakeholders in an attempt to revise the national deportation policy; and commencing capacity development activities for the local authorities.<br /> <br /> The Prevention and Rehabilitation Programme is a sub-programme of the current Deported Persons Programme.<br /> <br /> &mdash; Balford Henry http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13271624/227221__w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 12:00 AM 2 Number of abandoned children on the increase http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Number-of-abandoned-children-on-the-increase_90051 THE number of abandoned children at the Missionaries of the Poor (MOP) apostolates in Kingston has seen a significant increase since its inception in 2004.<br /> <br /> Father Hayden Augustine of the Bethlehem Home for Abandoned Children, which is operated by MOP, told the<br /> <br /> Jamaica Observer that the home, which started in 2004 with 20 children, now houses 65, who were either left at the doorsteps by their parents, abandoned on the street, or given to them by state agencies.<br /> <br /> On top of that, Father Augustine said some other MOP homes house over 120 children, which means there has been a sixfold increase in 10 years.<br /> <br /> And, as the numbers rise, so does the needs of the home leaving the missionaries to double their efforts to make ends meet.<br /> <br /> On visiting the home, one will see the missionaries washing clothes with their hands and cooking on a coal stove. This is as a result of their inability to afford basic amenities such as electricity and cooking gas, and has led to MOP formulating a wish list of things that would allow for ease of operations.<br /> <br /> Some of the items include a washing machine, solar-powered system to cut electricity bills, wheelchairs and linen. <br /> <br /> This year, the Sagicor Sigma Run will focus on raising funds to buy well-needed equipment for Bethlehem Home, the Spanish Town Hospital Special Care Unit, and the Mandeville Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.<br /> <br /> But vice-president of group marketing at Sagicor, Ingrid Card, said individuals should take a trip to the home and see what other ways they can assist.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I always thought they had funding because they are in the public eye, but when you go there you see the infrastructure, the cribs, you see the need. Most of these kids can&rsquo;t move, it&rsquo;s just the eyes following you everywhere, it&rsquo;s very hard not to feel bad,&rdquo; she said.<br /> <br /> These sentiments were echoed by Alfred &lsquo;Frano&rsquo; Francis, managing director of Running Events Jamaica, who said once you visit there (Bethlehem Home) you have a different outlook on life. <br /> <br /> He added that even if individuals can&rsquo;t make it to the Sigma Run they can contact the home and see where they can donate.<br /> <br /> Father Augustine, however, said that the community has been of great help as they often volunteer their services to MOP. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;We are seeing more children coming, more are in need, but the people from the area have become more humane. There are lots of volunteers who come in and help. Their hearts have been softened and there is more humanitarianism taking place,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> He added: &ldquo;When you see the brokenness of the children, you see their need, they&rsquo;re human beings, not creatures, they speak to us and all of us have that emotional part to us where we reach out to care. Their lives are vulnerable and when the eyes look at you you see something more than the disability. You see their future.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Donations can be made through generosity.com by searching for SIGMA RUN 2017. Wire transfers to the Sagicor Jamaica Foundation can be made at the Bank of America, field 56 intermediary swift address &mdash; BOFAUS3N; Sagicor Bank Jamaica Limited, field 57 beneficiary bank swift address &ndash; SAJAJMKN; savings account number 5502326386; or through a Paypal account by visiting sagicorjamaica.com, select Sigma Run and click donate to Sigma Corporate Run. Additionally, credit card donations can be made by calling 876-936-7460 or 876-936-7587. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13656145/259428_86172_repro_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 12:00 AM 3 More people homeless http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/More-people-homeless-_90050 The Board of Supervision, commonly known as the poor relief department, says its December 2016 survey on homelessness indicates that more people are now living on the nation&rsquo;s streets than the approximately 1,500 since its 2014 survey.<br /> <br /> However, head of the department, Barrington Parsons, told the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament on Wednesday that the figures have not yet been collated.<br /> <br /> At the same time, the department is planning to add two more drop-in centres to the eight that already exist across the island, to provide additional housing for the homeless.<br /> <br /> But the two centres for Hanover and St Ann, which were budgeted at $24 million, will not be realised in the current fiscal year as planned, local government authorities acknowledged under questioning from committee members. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;We were far advanced with the process, and then we had some challenges with the source that we were going to utilise for the construction of the two drop-in centres. It has now fallen back on us, in terms of working through the municipal corporation to get those done,&rdquo; permanent secretary in the ministry, Denzil Thorpe, explained at Wednesday&rsquo;s meeting of the PAAC at Gordon House. At the same time, Parsons noted that drop-in centres are slated for the parishes of St Mary and St Elizabeth next year.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, the poor relief department also indicated that it will be moving to assist people who are now living at several of the island&rsquo;s public hospitals because they have either been abandoned or have nowhere else to go. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;We are going to, where possible, provide spaces, possibly additional buildings, wards, in infirmaries that can accommodate those persons and move them out,&rdquo; Thorpe explained. Parsons said there are 168 such people housed in hospitals. That initiative is to be financed by the National Health Fund.<br /> <br /> The poor relief department received a budget of $666 milion this year for the operation of infirmaries. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13333351/232529_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 12:00 AM 3 Sigma Run reaches $50.5m http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Sigma-Run-reaches--50-5m_90087 The 19th staging of the Sagicor Sigma 5K run yesterday garnered a whopping $50.5 million in funds for charity.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We are taking donations right through to March. So I&rsquo;m still appealing to persons to donate by going to sagicorjamaica.com clicking on how to donate and follow the steps through or visiting the Sagicor Bank, Vice-President of Sagicor Group Marketing, Ingrid Card said, adding that there is still time to hit this year&rsquo;s $60 million target.<br /> <br /> Card added: &ldquo;Charm bracelets are still available. We sold almost $4 million in bracelets and would love to sell some more. These are available at the Sagicor Bank.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> The funds raised will assist abandoned children and babies in the Bethlehem Home, operated by Missionaries of the Poor, the Spanish Town Hospital Paediatric Unit and the Mandeville Hospital Paediatric Unit.<br /> <br /> The Sigma Run has now raised approximately $250 million for child and health care facilities in Jamaica over the last 19 years.<br /> <br /> Yesterday&rsquo;s road race saw 25,329 people registering and almost 25,000 participants, a record turnout for the fund-raising event.<br /> <br /> Oshane Archibald crossed the finishing line first with a time of 16.50 seconds,with Garfield Gordon on his heels in a time of 16:51.<br /> <br /> In a release issued yesterday, Card added that the record funds raised was due to the help of Jamaicans locally and abroad, participants, sponsors, volunteers and donors who all contributed to cause. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Sagicor is grateful for the support we received for these beneficiaries. It is amazing that each year we set new targets and Jamaicans locally and internationally see it fit to rally around the cause so that we can provide critical funding toward the operations and equipment attainment of our beneficiaries. Several lives will be impacted and saved thanks to funds we have raised here today, and that is the ultimate target of the Sagicor Sigma Corporate Run,&rdquo; said Card. Following are picture highlights of yesterday&rsquo;s Sigma Run:<br /> <br /> &mdash; Kimberley Hibbert http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13656183/259512_86162_repro_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 12:00 AM Y http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13656178/259512_SLD.jpg 02 4 Gov't funds LAMP land titling project through 2017/18 http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gov-t-funds-LAMP-land-titling-project-through-2017-18_90101 Concerns raised by Opposition Senator Sophia Fraser Binns about the possible &ldquo;disbanding&rdquo; of the government's Land Administration and Management Programme(LAMP), have been dispelled in the 2017/18 Estimates of Expenditure.<br /> <br /> According to the estimates, tabled in Parliament on February 9, the government has budgeted $216 million to meet the administrative expenses of LAMP in 2017/18.<br /> <br /> LAMP is a government initiative, which assists landowners in obtaining certificates of title, by providing critical information to help the National Land Agency (NLA) in developing a cadastral map.<br /> <br /> Senator Frazer Binns told the Senate during the State of the Nation debate in January that she was sad about certain developments at LAMP.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It is my information that there are plans to disband LAMP. That is a mistake. Whereas LAMP may not have achieved all its objectives, it has over the years served to help the most needy Jamaicans obtain the title for their property,&rdquo; the Opposition Senator said then.<br /> <br /> She also called for Parliament to appoint a joint select committee to review all the laws relating to land ownership in Jamaica, including titling, ownership, squatting and informal settlements.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It is only then that we can show the Jamaican people that we are serious about their plight, that we are serious about creating an ownership society, that land is not just for the privileged but land is for every Jamaican who deserve to own a piece of the rock,&rdquo; she added.<br /> <br /> However, she was reminded by Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Aubyn Hill, that LAMP was actually created by a previous Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration, to assist poor landowners in regularizing their ownership.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;When people get their property and they can use it to get loans, it adds up prosperity, and we are going to fix LAMP,&rdquo; Senator Hill said.<br /> <br /> The $216.7 million allocated to LAMP this year is approximately $10.5 million over last year's allocation, which will protect it from inflation and cover its administrative bill. The funding also includes $55 million from the LAMP Land Tenure Fund, which was reflected in the estimates as Appropriations-in-Aid.<br /> <br /> LAMP provides a central &ldquo;one stop shop&rdquo; in obtaining land titles at a fraction of the normal cost. All land surveys and legal matters are dealt with in one place. Certain government taxes and fees, such as Transfer Tax, Stamp Duty and Registration fees are waived to reduce the cost of the process. <br /> <br /> In August last year, over 200 Jamaicans collected their titles, through LAMP, at a land titling ceremony at Jamaica House.<br /> <br /> Prime Minister Andrew Holness, keynote speaker at the event, described it as an important initiative, aimed at empowering Jamaicans with a renewed sense of ownership and pride in Jamaica.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We want every Jamaican to have a vested interest in building Jamaica. In order to build a strong economy and improve quality of lives, we must give our citizens security of ownership wherever possible,&rdquo; the Prime Minister said.<br /> <br /> LAMP is supported by grant funding from the Development Bank of Jamaica Limited (DBJ) and is aiming to deliver 1,200 titles for the 2016/2017 financial year.<br /> <br /> - Balfotd Henry http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13239816/224272_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 12:00 AM 4 They are a menace! http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/They-are-a-menace_90082 SENIOR Medical Officer (SMO) at the Savanna-La-Mar Public General Hospital in Westmoreland, Dr Alfred Dawes, is calling for a crackdown on illegal bike riders who he says are putting serious pressure on the health care system in western Jamaica.<br /> <br /> According to Dr Dawes, the frequency of motorbike crashes, and the extent of the injuries suffered by the victims without proper headgear result in clogging the system.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;They are a menace!&rdquo; Dr Dawes remarked yesterday.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;With these head injuries you usually end up with a lot of fractures, and you have to get their surgery done within a certain time,&rdquo; he explained.<br /> <br /> Dr Dawes urged the authorities to increase vigilance on motorcyclists disobeying the road code, especially in western Jamaica, as the current measures are not getting the desired effect. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;When they seize the bikes these men just go and buy a new one as they are cheap and maintenance is cheap.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Get tough on regulating bikes. Stop every biker person on the road, check their papers to ensure they are legal; increase the fines because what exists is not a deterrent,&rdquo; Dr Dawes declared.<br /> <br /> The SMO added that Westmoreland has the highest rate of bike crashes in the island, and called on the traffic authorities to set up a unit in the parish to target bike riders and ensure they are playing their part in road safety.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Most of the accidents on this side of the island are caused by them, many of them are not licensed, they wear no helmets, they are carefree and the hospitals feel the burden,&rdquo; he charged.<br /> <br /> Dr Dawes told the Jamaica Observer that each week there is an increase in the number of patients Savanna-la-mar Hospital sees as a result of motorbike crashes, causing the emergency department at the hospital to be overcrowded and often leads to a lack of space on the male surgical wards.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Sometimes we have three coming in per day, that&rsquo;s 21 people, mostly males, per week with serious head injuries. There&rsquo;s a general shortage of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) space for elective cases, much less these accidents,&rdquo; said Dr Dawes.<br /> <br /> He said that because of the situation with mysterious fumes at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, a lot of cases are also sent to Savanna-La-Mar, and &ldquo;the end result for other patients is them boarding in the emergency department until a bed can be found&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> Added Dr Dawes: &ldquo;You know what&rsquo;s worse, nurses have to sit with the ambu-bag beside these patients and blow oxygen through a tube to them because we don&rsquo;t have enough ventilators as a result of the overall shortage of ICU space islandwide. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;It is added stress for you to sit beside someone and be breathing for them for hours on end and it exacerbates a situation where now you don&rsquo;t have enough nurses to cater to patients and the burden becomes worse when nurses are tied up doing that and fewer nurses are on the wards.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Moreover, the SMO stated that the issue of inadequate bed space is never usually resolved in a short time, because such patients end up staying in the hospital for months and often become what he described as social cases.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;They tie up the bed space. If they don&rsquo;t fully recover, or are in a coma or unable to care for themselves, it becomes a problem for relatives to care for them and they leave them in the hospital indefinitely,&rdquo; Dr Dawes said. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;If you were to go by a private hospital rate, that could be about $7,000 to $10,000 per day. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Many of these patients spend sometimes up to six months in hospital and other people can&rsquo;t get the care they should,&rdquo; Dr Dawes argued.<br /> <br /> The former president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association also mentioned that he is informed of reckless activities involving motorbike riders as part of the initiation for some gangs.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Patients tell me some bikers will ride out across a road in front of oncoming traffic to prove themselves as a rite of passage for gangs in Savanna-la-mar and Little London. That&rsquo;s how far it has gone,&rdquo; Dr Dawes disclosed.<br /> <br /> He maintained that the biking issue in Westmoreland is &ldquo;an epidemic that needs to be stopped before the problem reaches other parishes&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;With that you will have serious implications to the productivity of the country&rsquo;s health services. The level of recklessness and carnage on the roads will multiply significantly without a change in behaviour of motorcyclists on the roads,&rdquo; he said. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13656119/259484_86136_repro_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 12:00 AM Y http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13656118/259484_SLD.jpg 01 4 Brown&rsquo;s Town High wins police debate competition http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Brown-s-Town-High-wins-police-debate-competition_90038 IT was a proud moment for students and staff of the St Ann-based Brown&rsquo;s Town High School last Wednesday when the debate team defeated St Mary High in the finals of the Area Two Police debate competition.<br /> <br /> Brown&rsquo;s Town High, St Mary High and Titchfield High battled at the regional level after topping their respective zones at the parish level. At the end of the competition, Brown&rsquo;s Town High emerged champions after successfully proposing that &lsquo;capital punishment should be reintroduced to help curtail the high murder rate in Jamaica&rsquo;.<br /> <br /> Twenty-two schools from St Ann, St Mary and Portland entered the competition.<br /> <br /> Principal of the winning school, Albert Thomas, who spoke at the finals which was held at the Sandals Ochi Beach Resort, said having defeated schools such as St Mary, Titchfield and Ocho Rios High, the spirits of students have been boosted.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We are indeed grateful for the exposure that it has given to our students and, by extension, our institutions,&rdquo; Thomas said, adding that the competition was very beneficial to the students who participated.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The three students from Brown&rsquo;s Town High who I see now, they are not the same students I saw last October. They are more confident, bolder,&rdquo; he continued.<br /> <br /> Brown&rsquo;s Town High advanced to the semi-finals at the parish level after one of the schools which had advanced could not continue in the competition. The team of Christina Maxwell, Nicole Brown and Alex Tomlinson were ecstatic about their victory.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Honestly, I feel really good. We have been coming from far in this competition and I am elated to know [that] we emerged winners,&rdquo; Maxwell, the team&rsquo;s first speaker, told the Jamaica Observer North East.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;This debate, wow! It has helped me so much, not only with vocabulary, but self-esteem and being able to represent my school proudly,&rdquo; Brown, the second speaker, said.<br /> <br /> Tomlinson, who was awarded the most outstanding male speaker for the competition and the best speaker for the final match, was also happy for the victory.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It is truly a wonderful experience; I am blessed to be a part of this competition. I am a proud young man and I am truly honoured to make my school proud,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> Third place Titchfield High, in addition to trophies, received a cash prize of $20,000 from Assistant Commissioner of Police Fitz Bailey and passes to Dolphin Cove.<br /> <br /> Second place St Mary High was awarded trophies along with $30,000 from National Security Employees Cooperative Credit Union. They also received passes to Mystic Mountain.<br /> <br /> Brown&rsquo;s Town High walked away with trophies including the championship trophy and part scholarships to the Moneague College. They also received a cash prize of $50,000 from the Rebel Salute Foundation. The team also received full-packaged passes to Mystic Mountain.<br /> <br />   http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13655995/259376_86044_repro_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 12:00 AM 4 Science meets dancehall http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Science-meets-dancehall_90030 The JN Foundation is collaborating with Professor Christopher Emdin to launch Science Genius Jamaica, a new education project that will fuse dancehall music with science. <br /> <br /> The project, which mirrors Professor Emdin&rsquo;s Science Genius programme that blends hip hop music with science, is part of a movement to connect youth culture and education &mdash; commonly known in the United States of America as #HipHopEd. <br /> <br /> The Science Genius Jamaica programme will seek to excite Jamaican students and generate interest in science and maths through a series of competitive dancehall clashes being aptly coined #DancehallEd, JN Foundation &mdash; the philanthropic arm of Jamaica National Group &mdash; explained in a news release on the weekend.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;There is declining academic interest and performance in science and maths, and this is something that we need to address as a matter of urgency, even as we speak about improving our economic outcomes,&rdquo; the release quotes educator and JN Group&rsquo;s senior manager, learning, development and culture, Dr Renee Rattray, who is leading the Science Genius Jamaica project.<br /> <br /> She noted that investment in science and maths is vital to economic development in the current global landscape, and Jamaican students are not performing as well as they should in these disciplines. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;The Planning Institute of Jamaica also indicates that although performance in mathematics in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examination improved by seven percentage points in 2015 when compared to 2014, performance in the sciences and additional mathematics declined an average of 11 percentage points, with human and social biology registering the sharpest dip of 17.6 percentage points,&rdquo; the JN Foundation news release stated. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Science Genius Jamaica will introduce novel ways in which we can enthuse our students about pursuing the sciences and relate it in ways that make it familiar and relevant to them,&rdquo; explained Dr Rattray, who is also director, education programmes at JN Foundation. <br /> <br /> The project, to be launched on Wednesday this week, will involve grade nine students from 20 high schools across the country competing in clashes under the guidance and mentorship of four dancehall artistes, who will be introduced at the launch. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;When you can influence young people on the corner to create music, to create art, then they become really engaged,&rdquo; explained Emdin, mathematics and science professor at New York&rsquo;s prestigious Columbia University, and Science Genius conceptualiser. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;It&rsquo;s about taking it from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM),&rdquo; he quipped, underscoring the need for mutuality between the arts and sciences. <br /> <br /> Science Genius challenges students to produce strong, lyrical raps using very rigorous academic content. <br /> <br /> The project, which had its genesis in New York, has incorporated the likes of rapper GZA of the well-known American rap group Wu Tang Clan, and the larger #HipHopEd movement has worked with artistes such as Master P and Kendrick Lamar. The initiative has reaped success for underperforming students by creating a space in schools where they can relate learning to popular culture. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Hip hop has been such a powerful culture, but a lot of people don&rsquo;t know that hip hop had its roots in reggae and dancehall music,&rdquo; the professor pointed out, explaining that Jamaican immigrants brought the concept of DJ and sound clashes to the Bronx, New York, in the 1970s, leading to the creation of what the world knows today as hip hop. <br /> <br /> Science Genius provides a space for camaraderie, Professor Emdin expounded, as the students compete against each other in a series of music competitions, smartly termed BATTLES (Bringing Attention to Transforming Teaching, Learning and Engagement in Science), where their content and lyricism are judged by scientists, artistes and other leading figures in the arts. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Our Science Genius Jamaica competitions will mirror the clashes we are already familiar with in the Jamaican dancehall, as individual students and teams participate in an opening round. The top five students and teams from that round will move to the final round,&rdquo; Dr Rattray said. <br /> <br /> The students and their science and music teachers will be competing for cash prizes and other rewards, which will be unveiled at Wednesday&rsquo;s launch. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;A revolution is what we want to spark in science education, and we need to identify creative ways to engage our students. We have to be different,&rdquo; Dr Rattray said. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13655981/259364_86029_repro_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 12:00 AM 4 The Blue Lagoon: world-famous attraction http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/The-Blue-Lagoon--world-famous-attraction_90078 ONE of the most exquisite attractions in Jamaica, the Blue Lagoon in Portland has established itself as a haven for visitors seeking a relaxed day with nature.<br /> <br /> The source of the 213feet- deep pool is said to begin in the Blue Mountains and continues beneath the earth to the point where it expels into the sea.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a very good place for tourists to come. The whole scenery here is great; the water is nice and clear, and there&rsquo;s not much interference with the lagoon&rsquo;s natural state,&rdquo; fisherman Benton King, a member of the Blue Lagoon Alliance, said. The alliance is made up of rafters, craft vendors and fishermen.<br /> <br /> King told the Jamaica Observer North East that tourists travel from as far as Montego Bay in St James to the attraction, where they go rafting, snorkeling, fishing or just for a swim.<br /> <br /> President of the alliance, Collin Beckford, noted that on a &ldquo;good day&rdquo; the attraction sees between 80 and 100 visitors. A day like this, he explained, depends on the season, noting that there is a surge in visits during winter.<br /> <br /> However, he said that between May and June, which he called the &ldquo;tamarind season&rdquo;, the attraction sees fewer visitors.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;During tamarind season we see like 10 to 20 people per day. But people really do enjoy it because most of the workers here have their families and this is where they earn an income. So that tells you that people are coming and that they are having a good time,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> Leroy Williams, a rafter at the attraction, said business is good as tourists enjoy this particular activity.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;They say how the raft goes slow and they get to see the true beauty of the place and enjoy the sun. Sometimes dem jump off and swim and all of that,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> He added that people visit because &ldquo;it has a famous name&rdquo; and because &ldquo;quite a few movies have been made around here&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> The attraction, which is maintained by the alliance, is free to the public. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13655963/259455_86099_repro_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 12:00 AM 4 Jamaica to host biggest conference in region come November http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaica-to-host-biggest-conference-in-region-come-November MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, says the United Nations World Tourism Conference (UNWTO), to be held in Jamaica in November, will be the biggest the country and the region have ever seen.<br /> <br /> He said heads of the two largest cruise companies &ndash; Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line &ndash; have now expressed an interest in participating, giving the conference more clout in terms of international reach.<br /> <br />  &ldquo;The cruise sector has never really been a part of the UNWTO, which makes their participation an even bigger deal. These are the two biggest cruise lines, and their influence across the world is legendary, so that the spotlight will be on Jamaica,&rdquo; the Minister said.<br /> <br /> He was addressing the UNWTO planning committee at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall, St James, on February 17.<br /> <br /> Bartlett noted that when the choice of venue was first announced at a UNWTO meeting in Armenia last year, the selection of Jamaica was unanimously applauded by member countries.<br /> <br /> The UNWTO conference will be held from November 27-29 at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James. More than 800 international and local participants will be engaged in plenary sessions and workshops on a range of subject matters pertinent to tourism, including development assistance and investment partnership opportunities.<br /> <br />  &ldquo;We are expecting to have 157 countries converge on our shores for the purpose of this conference. We are expecting the agencies of the United Nations and, with some push, the Secretary General himself. We are also expecting the multilaterals that have financial and other relationships with the development of the tourism product across the globe,&rdquo; the Minister said.<br /> <br /> He  pointed out that all ministries affiliated with the Ministry of Tourism will be represented, including the ministries of foreign affairs; agriculture; local government; entertainment and culture; national security; health; education, youth and information;  and transportation, and the Office of the Prime Minister.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I want to single out the Mayor of Montego Bay and to have him know that the spotlight will also be on the city,&rdquo; Bartlett said.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13657711/Planning-Meeting-99_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 2:55 PM 5 $46 Million Allocated to Help Transform Mobay Hip Strip http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-46-Million-Allocated-to-Help-Transform-Mobay-Hip-Strip MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica &mdash; Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett has revealed that the Ministry of Tourism has allocated some $46 million to aid in transforming Montego Bay&rsquo;s Hip Strip, in the centre of the historical tourist city.<br /> <br /> A news release from the ministry disclosed that the need for a transformation was highlighted by Bartlett and Prime Minister, Andrew Holness at the official opening of the 146 room Royal Decameron Cornwall Beach Resort in Montego Bay recently.<br /> <br /> Discussions will be had with stakeholders about building out the new Hip Strip, said Bartlett whose dream for the popular Montego Bay location &ldquo;is for the Strip to be extended from &lsquo;Dump Up Beach&rsquo; all the way to Dead End with a series of experiences of entertainment, and food and shopping that will remind us of City Walk in Orlando.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Bartlett said through its expansion Decameron is helping to enhance the Hip Strip experience. He stressed that &ldquo;part of that experience will see another 350 rooms coming on stream when Spanish Court Montego Bay is completed next to Decameron, Sea Gardens with another 80 rooms, the introduction of Deja Resort and on the entertainment side, Tracks and Records and the redevelopment and repositioning of Coral Cliff.&rdquo;<br /> <br />  &ldquo;On the physical development side, we are looking at how we can reconfigure the area and among the first low-hanging fruits that we&rsquo;re dealing with is to change the cable arrangement that will remove all the overhanging utility wires and put them underground so that we begin with a physical look that is different,&rdquo; Bartlett disclosed.<br /> <br /> He added that $11 million had already been allocated for preliminary work to be done on that project before the completion of the current fiscal year. &ldquo;We are going to do some street-scaping and starting from the corner of Summit Police Station heading back to Dead End we have allocated some $35 million to give us a nice good finish and a good look as we go along that corridor,&rdquo; the minister announced.<br /> <br /> Holness also spoke to the need to prepare Montego Bay for the next 50 years. &ldquo;The product is growing, it is expanding; the challenge with that is that the supporting infrastructure, much of this was laid 50 years ago (and) cannot sustain the next growth spurt of 50 years to come,&rdquo; he noted.<br /> <br /> He said the area had the potential to be better than all the other Hip Strips to be found in places like Miami and Copacabana &ldquo;but it will require the stakeholders, including the minister, the Members of Parliament, the Local Government, the owners and developers, including the owners of properties who may not see the necessity of using those properties in a strategic development thrust, to come together as team Jamaica to build a tourism product that will last for the next 50 years and place Jamaica as the lead island for tourism in the Caribbean region.&rdquo;   <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13657697/PM--HM-Decameron_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 2:49 PM 5 Opposition concerned about issues in the agricultural sector http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Opposition-concerned-about-issues-in-the-agricultural-sector KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; The Opposition People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP) has expressed concern about reports of unrest in the agriculture sector, as farmers are said to be upset that the continued granting of import licences for agricultural produce is flooding the local market leading to glut and forcing many farmers out of business.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It is understood that there is an exodus of pig farmers leaving the industry as local pork is displaced by cheap imports including major shipments of ham in the run-up to Christmas last year,&rdquo; a news release from the party disclosed.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Local processors of ham are said to still have large stockpiles of the product as increased production done in anticipation of a huge Christmas demand remain unsold in cold storage. As a result, the processors have reduced their purchase of pork from pig farmers, who are facing severe financial hardships as a result,&rdquo; Opposition Spokesman on Agriculture Dayton Campbell said in a release.<br /> <br /> The Opposition is also questioning the motive and rationale for the sudden firing of the entire board of the Agricultural Credit Board (ACB) by the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Karl Samuda earlier this month. <br /> <br /> It said that the ACB, which facilitates and regulates credit to the agriculture sector, is spearheading the strengthening of the People&rsquo;s Cooperative Bank after irregularities were uncovered there two years ago. <br /> <br /> The party said the ACB installed retired banker Rex James to oversee the restructuring of the PCB bank.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It is strange that the Minister has claimed that the board was dismissed effective immediately because it is to be merged with the Department of Cooperatives and Friendly Societies when the Agricultural Credit Board Act has not been repealed and no formal proposals for the proposed merger have been presented,&rdquo; the Opposition spokesperson noted.<br /> <br /> Campbell is also calling on Samuda to state whether JC Hutchinson, minister without portfolio in the ministry, or the Cabinet was made aware of his intention and reasons for dissolving the Board. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13657663/Dayton-Campbell_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 2:36 PM 5 Reid condemns murder of Charlemont High School teacher http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Reid-condemns-murder-of-Charlemont-High-School-teacher KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator Ruel Reid has expressed &ldquo;outrage&rdquo; over the brutal killing of 35-year-old Tanijah Howell, a teacher at Charlemont High School in Linstead, St Catherine.<br /> <br /> Howell&rsquo;s body was found Saturday morning in bushes in Barrett Hall, St Ann.<br /> <br /> Reid said the ministry has offered condolences to the family of Howell as well as his school family.<br /> <br /> He urged &ldquo;well thinking Jamaicans who have any knowledge of this brutal killing to report to the authorities as soon as possible&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> The education minister stressed that that &ldquo;we have to work together to ensure that the scourge of crime and violence is removed from our country by saying what we know in order to make Jamaica a safer place&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> The teacher was allegedly killed while on a chartered transportation job in St Catherine, something he did in his spare time. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13657650/Tanijah_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 2:20 PM 5 Malnutrition killing inmates in Haiti jails http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Malnutrition-killing-inmates-in-Haiti-jails PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) &mdash; Dozens of emaciated men with sunken cheeks and protruding ribs lie silently in an infirmary at Haiti's largest prison, most too weak to stand. The corpse of an inmate who died miserably of malnutrition is shrouded beneath a plastic tarp.<br /> <br /> Elsewhere, prisoners are crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in cellblocks so overcrowded they have to sleep in makeshift hammocks suspended from the ceiling or squeeze four to a bunk. New arrivals at Haiti's National Penitentiary jostle for space on filthy floors where inmates on lockdown 22 hours a day are forced to defecate into plastic bags in the absence of latrines.<br /> <br /> "Straight up: This is hell. Getting locked up in Haiti will drive you crazy if it doesn't kill you first," said Vangeliste Bazile, a homicide suspect who is among the about 80 per cent of those incarcerated who have not been convicted of a crime but are held in prolonged pre-trial detention waiting for their chance to see a judge.<br /> <br /> Overcrowding, malnutrition and infectious diseases that flourish in jammed quarters have led to an upsurge of inmate deaths, including 21 at the Port-au-Prince penitentiary just last month. Those who monitor the country's lockups are sounding an alarm about collapsing conditions.<br /> <br /> "This is the worst rate of preventable deaths that I have encountered anywhere in the world," said Dr John May, a Florida physician who co-founded the non-profit group Health Through Walls to improve health conditions in the Caribbean and several African nations.<br /> <br /> Prisoners at the crumbling Port-au-Prince penitentiary flocked around a team of Associated Press journalists on a recent morning, eager to discuss their cases and complain of being all but forgotten at the foul-smelling furnace. Some 40 percent of the country's 11,000 inmates are housed there in appalling squalor, a block away from government headquarters, and many are tormented by the prospect of indefinite detention.<br /> <br /> "I'm really scared I won't get to see a judge until I'm an old man," said Paul Stenlove, a 21-year-old murder suspect who was put in the prison 11 months ago.<br /> <br /> Prisons are crowded, dismal places in any number of countries. But Haiti's penal system is by far the globe's most congested, with a staggering 454 per cent occupancy level, according to the most recent ranking by the University of London's Institute for Criminal Policy Research. The Philippines comes second with 316 per cent occupancy.<br /> <br /> Inmates, some waiting up to eight years to see a judge, try to keep their sanity by maintaining a daily routine of push-ups and lifting jugs filled with dirty water. Others play checkers or dominoes. Sentenced convicts and the far greater numbers of untried suspects pool together what little money they can scare up to buy small TVs and radios for their shared cells.<br /> <br /> But with widespread malnutrition and rats scampering through cells made for 20 men but now crammed with 80 to 100 it's hard to focus on anything but basic survival.<br /> <br /> "Only the strong can make it in here," said Ronel Michel, a prisoner in one of the crumbling cellblocks where exterior walls are stained with dried faeces because the men have to drop their excrement out of barred windows.<br /> <br /> Not all the inmates are weakened by hunger. Some are provided meals by visiting relatives and others are permitted by guards to meet with contacts to bring in food, cigarettes and other things. AP reporters saw one inmate with a wad of cash standing near the main gate ordering spaghetti and fried plantains from a vendor outside.<br /> <br /> But the large majority of prisoners are dependent on authorities to feed them twice a day and get little more than rationed supplies of rice, oats or cornmeal. Even clean drinking water is often in short supply.<br /> <br /> Prison authorities say they try their best to meet inmates' needs, but repeatedly receive insufficient funds from the state to buy food and cooking fuel, leading to deadly cases of malnutrition-related ailments such as beriberi and anaemia.<br /> <br /> "Whenever the money is late it's the prisoners who pay," said National Penitentiary Director Ysarac Synal.<br /> <br /> Haiti's penal system is so overcrowded that suspects are held indefinitely in other fetid, cramped pens, including cells at four police stations, where malnutrition is common. Three inmates recently died of malnutrition ailments at a prison in the southern city of Les Cayes.<br /> <br /> Life was supposed to be getting a little better for prisoners here. In 2008, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered Haiti to bring its "inhuman" prisons in line with minimum international standards. After a devastating earthquake in 2010, donor nations and humanitarian organizations launched projects aimed at building new infrastructure and improving deplorable conditions.<br /> <br /> One of these improvements was the "Titanic" cellblock at the National Penitentiary, built with US$260,000 from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Its cement tower was intended to ease overcrowding. But a few years after opening, it is possibly the most crowded block in the prison.<br /> <br /> "It's a permanent struggle just to keep them (Haitian prisoners) alive," said Thomas Ess, chief of delegation for Haiti's Red Cross office.<br /> <br /> Severe overcrowding is partly due to rampant corruption, as judges, prosecutors and lawyers join in creating a market for bribes, said Brian Concannon, director of the non-profit Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.<br /> <br /> "If nine in 10 prisoners is in pre-trial detention, and a person has no prospect of getting a fair trial for years, his family will find some way of raising the funds to bribe him out, regardless of guilt," Concannon said.<br /> <br /> Some foreign officials who have seen the system up close are exasperated by a lack of political will to solve problems of corruption, sluggish justice and prison conditions.<br /> <br /> "It is unconscionable that despite hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid the situation is even worse today, with inmates suffering from severe malnutrition and dying of preventable diseases," US  Senator Patrick Leahy, who toured the National Penitentiary in 2012, said in an email.<br /> <br /> As men continue to die unnecessarily at the National Penitentiary, Port-au-Prince chief prosecutor Danton Leger has been holding mass burials for prisoners, purchasing caskets and floral arrangements. Dead inmates, regardless of whether they were convicted or not, were previously dumped in a potter's field.<br /> <br /> "The men in there are forced to live like animals. They can at least be buried like people," Leger told AP.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13657608/Haiti-jail_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 1:51 PM 5 C'bean countries warned of the impact of lingering drought situations http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/C-bean-countries-warned-of-the-impact-of-lingering-drought-situations BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) &mdash; Many Caribbean countries experienced a relatively dry January this year but there is some likelihood for incipient drought concerns in some places by the end of February if it becomes as dry as January, the Caribbean Drought and Precipitation Monitoring Network (CDPMN) has warned.<br /> <br /> In its Caribbean drought bulletin released in Barbados on Monday, the CDPMN said there is however, little concern over drought in the Eastern Caribbean apart from in the south, particularly over Tobago, where there could eventually be impacts by the end of the dry season in May.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;There is some likelihood for incipient drought concerns in some places by the end of February if it becomes as dry as January. There is much greater concern for western countries over both short and long term drought. This is particularly so over the Cayman Islands and Cuba.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Other countries like Jamaica, Belize, The Bahamas, Puerto Rico and French Guiana should monitor conditions closely as the region goes through its dry season,&rdquo; the CDPMN noted.<br /> <br /> It said that rainfall quantities were varied across the islands of the Eastern Caribbean during January. Conditions in Trinidad ranged from slightly dry in the northwest to moderately wet in the southeast; Tobago slightly wet; Grenada, St Lucia, Dominica and Antigua, and Anguilla normal; Barbados from normal in the north to severely dry the southeast.<br /> <br /> CDPMN said that St Vincent and St Thomas experienced slightly dry weather in January, while the weather pattern in Martinique ranged from normal in the south to severely dry in the north; St Maarten and St Croix moderately dry.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Conditions in the Guianas ranged from normal in the north of Guyana and the central Suriname and French Guiana border to very wet in the south of Guyana and south west Suriname.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> The CDPMN, which was launched in 2009 under the Caribbean Water Initiative (CARIWIN), said Grand Cayman has experienced its driest year on record with an observed wet season rainfall sum of only 50 per cent of average.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;As a result, the island is in both short- and long-term drought. Belize, central Cuba and Tobago are also in long-term drought,&rsquo; it said, adding that &ldquo;we expect a shorter-term drought situation to continue in Cayman, Cuba and south French Guiana and, to possibly develop in Bahamas, Jamaica and north Haiti&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> It said that long term drought situation, until May 2017, is likely to persist in Cayman and potentially become more impactful as the dry tourism season progresses.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It is evolving in central Cuba and Tobago, and is possible in portions of Belize, east Cuba, Grenada, French Guiana, Jamaica, north west and south east Puerto Rico and Trinidad,&rdquo; CDPMN said, noting that though that dry season impacts may be quite similar to the usual, longer-term drought will not likely be a major concern by the end of the dry season in other areas.<br /> <br /> During the three-month period, November last year to January 2017, the CDPMN said predominantly normal to above normal rainfall was experienced in the islands of the eastern Caribbean.<br /> <br /> Trinidad was normal to moderately wet; Tobago slight to moderately wet; Barbados moderately wet in the north to extremely wet in the south; St Vincent exceptionally wet; St Lucia moderate to exceptionally wet from north to south. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13657598/drouught_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 1:35 PM 5 CCJ blocks lawsuit against Dominica in Tommy Lee detention case http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/CCJ-blocks-lawsuit-against-Dominica-in-Tommy-Lee-detention-case KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has blocked an application by show promoter Cabral Douglas against the island of Dominica for refusing entry to Jamaican dancehall artiste Tommy Lee Sparta who was contracted to perform in the eastern Caribbean country.<br /> <br /> The artiste was supposed to headline a show to mark the beginning of the annual carnival in Portsmouth, Dominica, in February 2014, but did not make it to the venue. <br /> <br /> Tommy Lee (real name Leroy Russell) landed at the Douglas Charles International Airport in Dominica on February 14, 2014 along with his manager, disc jockey and personal assistant; however, they were denied entry to the country by immigration officials, arrested, detained and deported them following day. <br /> <br /> Two and half years later, on August 24, 2016, an application was filed in court by Douglas, the organiser of the ill-fated event, against the Government of Dominica saying the decision to deny entry to the artiste caused him consequential financial, reputational and other losses.<br /> <br /> According to a release today, Douglas has voiced disappointed in the state of jurisprudence in the Caribbean adding that there is a reason only four out of 15 countries have agreed to embrace the jurisdiction of the court as its final court of appeal.<br /> <br /> He is quoted as saying that he believes the court has &ldquo;squandered a tremendous opportunity to build its credibility as an international court and that in order to achieve credibility amongst the Caribbean people, at some point, politics, corruption and personal relationships need to be removed from judicial decision making&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;One does not require a PhD in International Law to see that this is an appalling decision, motivated by something other than sound legal reasoning. Moreover, the implications of this decision are a huge step backwards for the implementation of the CSME, because the decision is not only binding on Cabral Douglas or the entertainment industry, but on all service contracts in approved sectors across the entire Caribbean Community as agreed by the heads of government,&rdquo; Douglas said. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13657566/tommy-lee_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 12:30 PM 5 St Thomas minibus operators protest against 'robot' taxis http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/St-Thomas-minibus-operators-protest-against--robot--taxis ST THOMAS, Jamaica &mdash; President of the Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators (JATOO), Louis Barton, says that bus operators on the route between Morant Bay and Kingston this morning withdrew their services in a bid to get the Ministry of Transport to address problems they are facing regarding robot taxis.<br /> <br /> Barton told OBSERVER ONLINE that the bus operators are willing to withdraw their services for as long as it takes.<br /> <br /> A release from JATOO late Sunday night said that the group had sent a notice to the Transport Authority regarding the &ldquo;robot problem&rdquo; in St Thomas. They said that this notice was ignored, forcing the operators to take this action.<br /> <br /> Some of the problems JATOO said needs to be addressed are the severe robot invasion on the route, which is preventing legal operators from having their fair share of passenger business that their licenses promised.<br /> <br /> It also explained that the badge that is required by operators to wear while operating a vehicle is not readily available to operators, adding that they face a situation where badges are being denied to operators who have outstanding traffic tickets. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Most operators only know of the outstanding tickets when they are denied the badge. This person then cannot work legally and so is denied the opportunity to work to pay the tickets or the badge,&rdquo; JATOO said.<br /> <br /> Barton suggested that operators, who cannot get a badge because of outstanding tickets, be granted a temporary badge for at least six months to clear up outstanding tickets.<br /> <br /> The bus operators are also protesting bad road conditions along the route, saying that it is destroying their businesses. <br /> <br /> JATOO said that it is not uncommon to spend over $100,000 within three months on front-end repairs.<br /> <br /> The association also lamented that the Island Traffic Authority have been focusing on legal buses for frequent checks and this has interrupted the business operation because passengers resent this and are instead taking the robots which are not checked. <br /> <br /> It said that it is rumoured that a great many of these unchecked robots are owned by members of the security forces and other &ldquo;untouchables&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> JATOO added that while the legal operators have to endure the hot sun due to the removal of tints, the illegal vehicles which are heavily tinted, provide the best of comfort to their passengers, &ldquo;while not even attempting to hide from the police&rdquo;. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13657523/Stranded_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 11:58 AM 5 Govt to update water resources development master plan http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Govt-to-update-water-resources-development-master-plan KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; A sum of $5 million has been allocated by the Government to provide assistance to the Water Resources Authority to update the country&rsquo;s Water Resources Development Master Plan (WRDMP). <br /> <br /> Funding for the project is being provided by the Government of Jamaica and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). <br /> <br /> The money is included in the 2017/2018 Estimates of Expenditure now before the House of Representatives.<br /> <br /> Implemented by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, the project is expected to update the water resources and water demand inventories, and revise the Water Allocation Policy Strategy. <br /> <br /> The initiative, which was scheduled to end last year April, has been extended further to December 2017. <br /> <br /> As of January, the WRDMP has completed an evaluation for tender for the selection of a consultant to update the WRDMP. <br /> <br /> It is expected that the WRDMP will be completed for submission to the Economic Growth and Job Creation Ministry and the final report printed and disseminated to the main stakeholders. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13657499/nwc--1---1-_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 11:38 AM 5 Prisoner escapes from May Pen Hospital http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Prisoner-escapes-from-May-Pen-Hospital CLARENDON, Jamaica &mdash; The Clarendon police have launched a manhunt for a prisoner who escaped from the May Pen Hospital this morning while undergoing treatment for dengue fever.<br /> <br /> The escapee has been identified as 21-year-old Tevin Robinson, who police say has been charged with murder.<br /> <br /> Police say Robinson was discovered missing sometime after midnight. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13657431/May-Pen-Hospital--1-_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 11:12 AM 5 Pence disappointed Flynn gave him inaccurate information http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Pence-disappointed-Flynn-gave-him-inaccurate-information BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) &mdash; Vice President Mike Pence says he was "disappointed" to learn that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had withheld information from him and supports President Donald Trump's decision to dismiss him.<br /> <br /> Trump asked Flynn to resign last week because the retired general misled Pence about his contacts with Russia. Pence was asked about Flynn at a news conference Monday at NATO headquarters in Brussels.<br /> <br /> Flynn's resignation came after reports that he had discussed sanctions with Russia's ambassador to the US before Trump's inauguration, despite previously denying those conversations to Pence and other top officials. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13657424/Pence_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 10:58 AM 5 After Trump remarks Saudi Arabia repeats Palestinian state support http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/After-Trump-remarks-Saudi-Arabia-repeats-Palestinian-state-support ROME, Italy (AP) &mdash; Saudia Arabia is reasserting support for a Palestinian state after US President Donald Trump said Mideast peace doesn't depend on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.<br /> <br /> Speaking on Monday after talks with his Italian counterpart, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said: "You have a peace deal which essentially calls for a settlement based on two states living side by side in peace and security." <br /> <br /> He added: "Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the just settlement of refugees and just sharing water resources. This is the settlement that we believe is a fair and just settlement."<br /> <br /> Trump said last week that he could accept a two-state solution or a single-state arrangement if it is agreed upon by all sides. Administration officials later said the US absolutely supports a two-state solution.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13657400/Adel_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 10:45 AM 5 March Pen residents protest police killing http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/March-Pen-residents-protest-police-killing KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; There is currently a strong police presence in the March Pen community along the Spanish Town Bypass, as residents mount a protest this morning in response to the alleged police killing of a higgler from the community last night.<br /> <br /> The deceased has been identified as 18-year-old Andrad McDonald.<br /> <br /> Residents, this morning, blocked the Spanish Town Bypass, however, it has been cleared by the police and other protests have since been mounted in the community by burning tyres, boards and garbage. <br /> <br /> Residents are accusing the police of lying that they took a homemade gun from the young man. <br /> <br /> Tanesha Mundle<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13657306/Protest--March-Pen-_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 10:29 AM 5 Honey Bun passes $1b sales; thanks Jamaica for decades of support http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Honey-Bun-passes--1b-sales--thanks-Jamaica-for-decades-of-support KINGSTON, Jamaica &mdash; Pastry manufacturer&rsquo;s Honey Bun thanked Jamaicans for over three decades of support, as it presented record sales of $1.2billion with a 114 per cent increase in profits over the prior year to its shareholders.  <br /> <br /> In remarks made at the company&rsquo;s Annual General Meeting on February 8 at the Knutsford Court Hotel, Executive Chairman and co-founder Herbert Chong reported on the year ending September 2016, and noted that seeing the company&rsquo;s first billion was a significant milestone. <br /> <br /> During the financial year Honey Bun also became Jamaica&rsquo;s first Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point or &lsquo;HACCP&rsquo; certified bakery, a release from the company disclosed. <br /> <br /> It said the certification places Honey Bun&rsquo;s facilities at international food-safety standards.<br /> <br /> The bakery&rsquo;s stellar achievements were acknowledged in December 2016, when it received five out of six Junior Market Jamaica Stock Exchange awards, bringing home the Governor General Award for Overall Best Junior Market Company.<br /> <br />  Reflecting on the progress the company, Chong noted that the support of the Jamaican community has played a significant role in Honey Bun&rsquo;s success.  <br /> <br /> &ldquo;In 1984 my wife Michelle and I purchased Honey Bun as a small storefront bakery in Spanish Court; now the Spanish Court Hotel.  Twenty-seven years later in 2011, we became publicly traded. Now in our 32nd year, we remain honoured to have reached that milestone as a Jamaican business, because Jamaica has supported us and we are passionate about supporting Jamaica in return.&rdquo; <br /> <br /> The chairman noted 2017 plans for Honey Bun will include a strong focus on our &ldquo;corporate social responsibility. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;You will see developments in our community programme, because we believe in Jamaica, and Brand Jamaica has much more to accomplish globally&rdquo; said Chong, who also noted that the recent introduction of solar power to the company&rsquo;s operations showed a commitment to protecting the environment.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13657226/Chong_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 10:07 AM 5 NY senator declares his Brooklyn area a Sanctuary Senate District http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/NY-senator-declares-his-Brooklyn-area-a-Sanctuary-Senate-District NEW YORK, United States (CMC) &mdash; A New York State legislator has declared his Brooklyn district a Sanctuary Senate District (SSD) following the executive order of President Donald Trump that critics claim puts in jeopardy the rights of Caribbean and other immigrant populations.<br /> <br /> On January 25, Trump signed the executive order that would stop funding to cities that do not cooperate with US federal immigration officials.<br /> <br /> Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said his city is among big cities in the country that will not comply with Trump&rsquo;s executive order.<br /> <br /> Over the weekend, Senator Jesse Hamilton, who represents the primarily Caribbean 20th Senatorial District in Brooklyn, said his office will provide services related to and protecting the rights of Caribbean and other immigrants, as they face legal challenges to their immigration status, as well as delays in citizenship applications and potential deportation orders based on &ldquo;the misapplication of President Trump&rsquo;s executive order and the US Constitution.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;This Sanctuary Senate District Initiative, the Immigrant Defense Coalition, and our continued outreach will assist our immigrant communities through these anxious times. We have a Trump administration imposing draconian, unjust restrictions and promising more,&rdquo; Hamilton said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;As leaders in a city that has welcomed immigrant communities for hundreds of years, we need to fight back, and reassure our immigrant friends and neighbours that we stand together in protecting them,&rdquo; he added.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Through delivering services in the neighbourhood and through advancing immigrant protections in Albany, we reaffirm New York&rsquo;s longstanding commitment to our immigrant communities.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Bertha Lewis, founder and president of the New York-based Black Institute, said &ldquo;no vulnerable New York community should live in fear.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> &ldquo;New York&rsquo;s immigrant communities have already suffered under the attacks of a Trump administration determined to denigrate, defame and deport them,&rdquo; she said.<br /> <br />  &ldquo;Thanks to Senator Hamilton and all the Immigrant Defense Coalition partners for expanding services to a community that has been subject to these Trump attacks.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Hamilton said his office will have on-site specialists on certain days of the month to provide direct support to Caribbean and other immigrants, adding that over 20community-based organizations will serve as partners for the &ldquo;Sanctuary Senate District.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Last Friday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a list detailing the offenses of the 680 immigrants, including an undisclosed number from Jamaica and Guyana, among other places, who were recently detained and slated for deportation, adding that 75 per cent had criminal convictions. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13657198/Jesse-Hamilton_w300.jpg Local News Monday, February 20, 2017 9:58 AM 5