December, 2017


Venezuelans protest over pork shortage, Maduro blames Portugal

CARACAS (Reuters) – Hundreds of Venezuelans took to the streets in poor parts of Caracas overnight to protest a shortage of pork for traditional Christmas meals in the latest symptom of social discontent during a brutal economic crisis.

President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government had promised to provide subsidized meat to Venezuelans at the end of a fourth year of recession in the OPEC nation – but in many parts it did not materialize and frustration has boiled over.

Local media and Twitter users posted images of hundreds of people standing on streets and burning trash in Caracas late on Wednesday complaining about the failed pork deliveries.

Some pockets of protests continued on Thursday morning, in what some social media users dubbed the “pork revolution”.

Maduro, who has been alleging a foreign-led “economic war” against his government, went on state TV to blame Portugal for failing to deliver pork imports in time for Christmas.

“What happened to the pork? They sabotaged us. I can name a country: Portugal,” Maduro said.

“We bought the pork, signed the agreements – but they pursued the bank accounts of the boats,” he added, without giving further details.

Another senior official said Washington, which has imposed sanctions on the Maduro government, had leant on Lisbon.

“The Portuguese government certainly has no power to sabotage pork (deliveries). We live in a market economy. Companies are in charge of exports,” Portugal’s Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva told Portuguese radio station TSF.

He added that he would seek information from the Portuguese embassy in Venezuela to clarify the situation.

There was no immediate response from the United States.

Maduro frequently blames the opposition, United States and other foreign powers for the country’s economic and social crisis in which millions are suffering shortages of basic products, hyperinflation and a crumbling infrastructure.

The pork protests add to the scattered demonstrations and roadblocks around Venezuela during the Christmas holiday period over the shortages, power-cuts, high prices and fuel rationing. Twenty-eight people were arrested for looting in southern Bolivar state.

Critics blame the government’s mishandling of the economy, plus rampant corruption and inefficiency, during nearly two decades of leftist rule in the nation of 30 million people.

“With or without sabotage, no one will take away the happiness of Christmas from the people,” Maduro said late on Wednesday.

Critics were scathing. “They’ll probably blame Christopher Columbus for hyper-inflation,” scoffed one exiled opposition leader Antonio Ledezma.

After Trump criticism, China denies selling oil illicitly to North Korea

BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China on Friday denied reports it has been illicitly selling oil products to North Korea after U.S. President Donald Trump said he was not happy that China had allowed oil to reach the isolated nation.

Trump said on Twitter the previous day that China had been “caught” allowing oil into North Korea and that would prevent “a friendly solution” to the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs that it conducts in defiance of heavy U.N. Security Council sanctions.

“I have been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war,” Trump said in a separate interview with The New York Times.

South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper this week quoted South Korean government sources as saying that U.S. spy satellites had detected Chinese ships transferring oil to North Korean vessels about 30 times since October.

U.S. officials have not confirmed details of this report.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters she had noted recent media reports including suggestions a Chinese vessel was suspected of transporting oil to a North Korean vessel on Oct. 19.

“The Chinese side has conducted immediate investigation. In reality, the ship in question has, since August, not docked at a Chinese port and there is no record of it entering or leaving a Chinese port,” Hua said.

She said she was not aware if the vessel had docked at the port in other countries but the relevant media reports “did not accord with facts”.

“China has always implemented U.N. Security Council resolutions pertaining to North Korea in their entirety and fulfils its international obligations. We never allow Chinese companies and citizens to violate the resolutions,” Hua said.

“If, through investigation, it’s confirmed there are violations of the U.N. Security Council resolutions, China will deal with them seriously in accordance with laws and regulations.”

In the New York Times interview, Trump explicitly tied his administration’s trade policy with China, North Korea’s lone major ally, to its perceived cooperation in resolving the North Korea standoff.

“When I campaigned, I was very tough on China in terms of trade. They made — last year, we had a trade deficit with China of $350 billion, minimum. That doesn’t include the theft of intellectual property, O.K., which is another $300 billion,” Trump said, according to a transcript of the interview.

“If they’re helping me with North Korea, I can look at trade a little bit differently, at least for a period of time. And that’s what I’ve been doing. But when oil is going in, I‘m not happy about that.”

An official with the U.S. State Department said the U.S. government was aware of vessels engaged in such activity involving refined petroleum and coal.

“We have evidence that some of the vessels engaged in these activities are owned by companies in several countries, including China,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The United States says the full cooperation of China, North Korea’s neighbor and main trading partner, is vital to the success of efforts to rein in North Korea, while warning that all options are on the table, including military ones, in dealing with it.

China has repeatedly said it is fully enforcing all resolutions against North Korea, despite suspicion in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo that loopholes still exist.


South Korea said on Friday it had seized a Hong Kong-flagged ship suspected of transferring oil to North Korea.

A senior South Korean foreign ministry official said the ship, the Lighthouse Winmore, was seized when it arrived at a South Korean port in late November.

“It’s unclear how much oil the ship had transferred to North Korea for how long and on how many occasions, but it clearly showed North Korea is engaged in evading the sanctions,” the official told Reuters.

South Korea’s customs service concluded that the Lighthouse Winmore had loaded about 14,000 tons of Japanese refined petroleum products in South Korea on Oct. 11, reportedly bound for Taiwan, the official said.

But instead, it transferred as much as 600 tons to the North Korea-flagged Sam Jong 2 on Oct. 19 in international waters between China and the Korean peninsula, on the order of its charterer, Billions Bunker Group Corp., based in Taiwan, the ministry official said.

It was not immediately possible to find contact information for the company.

A spokesman for Taiwan’s presidential office, Alex Huang, said the company was not incorporated in Taiwan.

“As a responsible member of international society, Taiwan will continue to fully comply with all U.N. sanctions against North Korea, in order to support peace and stability in the region,” he said in a statement.

The Hong Kong government said it was “liaising with the Korean parties concerned to obtain further information about the incident, and will take appropriate actions as necessary”.

Employees at the office of Lighthouse Ship Management, the ship’s registered manager, in the Chinese port city of Guangzhou, declined to comment and said they had no knowledge of the situation.

China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman said she did not have any information about the matter.

Both ships were among 10 vessels that the United States had proposed that the U.N. Security Council should blacklist for transporting banned items from North Korea, documents seen by Reuters this month showed.

China and Russia subsequently asked for more time to consider the U.S. proposal.

In world’s worst cholera outbreak, vaccine talks hang in the balance

LONDON/GENEVA (Reuters) – A cholera epidemic in Yemen, one of the worst ever recorded, is likely to surge again around March, giving global health experts a few months to get vaccines in to the war-torn country to try to limit the next wave of cases.

Some three million doses of oral cholera vaccine are currently available in a global stockpile designed for such emergencies, according to the World Health Organization.

They could be shipped to Yemen in time to be used in a preventative immunization campaign ahead of the rainy season, when the risk increases that cholera will spread further through water contaminated with faeces. A million people have been infected so far in the epidemic, according to the WHO.

But a previous plan to get vaccines to Yemen’s suffering population was aborted earlier this year, because of the country’s ongoing civil war, with both the WHO and Yemen officials citing logistical and technical obstacles.

As a result, WHO officials are not sure this next hoped-for vaccination plan will come off.

“The plans have been discussed in principle, but much depends on the situation on the ground,” said Gregory Hartl, a spokesman at the WHO’s headquarters in Geneva.

Abdulhakeem Alkohlani, a spokesperson for Yemen’s health ministry in Sanaa, said the ministry had “decided to postpone the [cholera] vaccination until next year,” but gave no further details.

Yemen’s cholera epidemic is one of the biggest and worst on record. More than 2,200 lives have been lost since April to a disease that thrives in times of conflict and disaster, using poor sanitation to hitch a ride from victim to victim.

The suspected case count has now reached one million, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on December 21. The country also has seven million people on the brink of famine and now an acute outbreak of diphtheria too.

Dominique Legros, a WHO cholera expert, told Reuters the aim would be to vaccinate in a step-wise plan, district by district, starting early in 2018.

“We should be using (cholera) vaccines in Yemen – today, and at large scale,” he said. “If we could reach a million people before the next rains, that would be significant. But of course in Yemen, as elsewhere, it is ultimately the decision of the government whether to go for it or not.”

Supply would not be an issue, Legros said. As well as the three million doses in the global stockpile, another couple of million doses a month can now be churned out of factories in India and South Korea.

Since conflict and cholera often come together, however, global health specialists say politics will ultimately determine whether the program will get underway. Earlier this year, a cholera vaccination campaign almost got off the ground, but then never happened.

In June, the WHO’s office in Yemen requested 3.4 million doses of cholera vaccine from the Geneva-based International Coordinating Group (IGC) on Vaccine Provision – the gatekeeper of the vaccine stockpile system designed to deliver vaccines to countries hit by disease epidemics.

With about two million doses immediately available at that time, the IGC decided to allocate half of that to Yemen.

Yet three weeks later, the Yemen vaccination plan came to an abrupt halt. With the first half million doses sitting at the airport in Djibouti, the WHO made the unexpected announcement, on July 10, that the decision to vaccinate had been reversed.

Legros said the decision was not the WHO‘s. “It was the (Yemen) ministry of health’s decision finally…not to use the vaccines. That’s how it was. So we had to re-ship the vaccines to another country.”

The Sanaa health ministry’s Alkohlani said the vaccine plans had been made too late, and that the decision not to go ahead with it in July was “purely technical.”

[REUTERS] Friday Morning Briefing

(Reuters) – Goldman Sachs estimates $5 billion will be wiped from its fourth-quarter earnings due to the U.S. tax overhaul, SoftBank succeeds in its tender offer for Uber shares and a Reuters special report explores Yemen’s health crisis.


A cholera epidemic in Yemen, one of the worst ever recorded, is likely to surge again around March, giving global health experts a few months to get vaccines in to the war-torn country to try to limit the next wave of cases.

After three years of warfare, cholera and hunger, Yemen faces a new battle. In the past four months, doctors across the country have recorded at least 380 cases of diphtheria, a bacterial disease that last appeared here in 1992. Read the special report.

Commentary: The Trump administration is deluding itself if it believes Iran is the sole cause of Yemen’s troubles, writes Daniel R. DePetris. “The United States may not be an active combatant in Yemen’s war, but it is not a bystander either.” If Washington is serious about promoting a peace process, says DePetris, one of its actions should be suspending all defense sales to the Saudi-led coalition that could be used in an offensive capacity in Yemen.

United States

Investigators in New York City searched for the cause of a blaze that ripped through an apartment building in the borough of the Bronx, killing 12 people including an infant, in the city’s deadliest fire in at least a quarter of a century.

An arctic blast sent most of the U.S. Northeast and Midwest into a deep freezethat set record lows in several spots on Thursday as forecasters warned the frigid temperatures could last through the New Year holiday.

California adults not content to ring in the New Year with the traditional fizz of champagne can look forward to celebrating with the buzz of marijuana, purchased for the first time from state-licensed retailers of recreational pot.

The New York Police Department is providing officers with specialized training to stop any suicide bombers at Sunday’s New Year’s Eve celebration, when up to 2 million people will flood the streets of Times Square, officials said.

BusinessMarkets were ending 2017 in a party mood after a year in which a concerted pick-up in global growth boosted corporate profits and commodity prices, while benign inflation kept central banks from snatching away the monetary punch bowl.

Mergers and acquisitions had another strong year in 2017, reaching their third highest annual level since the 2008 financial crisis, as CEOs were emboldened by buoyant markets to pursue transformative deals, even when their targets resisted.

Hong Kong bankers are eyeing a slew of blockbuster IPOs from Chinese technology firms with a total market capitalization of some $500 billion over the next two years, in a sharp contrast to 2017 – the city’s worst year for raising equity in a decade.

A consortium led by SoftBank will buy a large number of shares of Uber in a deal that values the ride-services firm at $48 billion, Uber said in a victory for new Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi.

Goldman Sachs said the tax legislation will result in a decrease of about $5 billion in its fourth-quarter earnings.

Facing lawsuits and consumer outrage after it said it slowed older iPhones with flagging batteries, Apple is slashing prices for battery replacements and will change its software to show users whether their phone battery is good.

Breakingviews: Apple and Saudi Arabia test out their comfort zones


Hackers have stolen millions, lawmakers are pushing for new taxes and regulations, and a leading financial official has called them a “Ponzi scheme”. But that hasn’t cooled a frenzy for bitcoin and other virtual currencies that is gripping young investors in South Korea.

India’s finance ministry cautioned investors about the risks of trading in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, saying digital currency investments are like “Ponzi schemes.” Cryptocurrencies are not legal tender and have no regulatory permission or protection in the country, the finance ministry said in a statement, but stopped short of announcing an outright ban or imposing any curbs.


Family members of two Reuters reporters detained in Myanmar said the pair had told them they were arrested almost immediately after being handed some documents by policemen they had gone to meet.

Gunmen killed at least nine people including three police in an attack on a Coptic Christian church south of Cairo, medical and security sources said.

China denied reports it has been illicitly selling oil products to North Korea, after U.S. President Donald Trump said he was not happy that China had allowed oil to reach the isolated nation.

Reuters TV: Perspectives

A war with Islamists in the Philippines 

Europe’s cloud of discontent to grow in 2018

A devastating hurricane season

In pictures: Reuters’ most Instagrammed

Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News Dec. 29th

By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados

Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:

The business community is painting the Freundel Stuart administration as a virtual failure with no achievements at all of which to boast this year.  Pointing to the ongoing economic struggles and the more than year-long problems with sewage on the south coast, a clearly frustrated Chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA), Charles Herbert, seemed puzzled as to why recommended measures to drag the economy from the brink had not been implemented.  “Northing was achieved.  Not one thing.  None of the recommendations have been implemented.  Nothing was achieved” Herbert told Barbados Today in a frank comment on government’s performance in 2017.

For the second time in as many days, the Freundel Stuart administration has made a key government appointment.  One day after the Prime Minister revealed that Justice Sandra Mason is to be elevated to the position of Governor General on January 8th, Minister of Finance, Chris Sinckler announced that Acting Governor of the Central Bank, Cleviston Haynes will formally be confirmed in the role on January 1.

Massy Stores is spending thousands of dollars every week to ensure the health and safety of customers and won’t be closing the supermarket at Worthing, Christ Church.  Managing Director Randall Banfield acknowledged the problems with the south coast sewage had become a national crisis, but said there were hundreds of people working every day to mitigate the effects.

Meanwhile, community activist, Adrian Donovan, is calling on the Ministry of Health to immediately order the temporary closure of fast food outlets, restaurant and guest accommodations directly affected by the worsening sewage crisis on the south coast.

Dateline Kingston, JAMAICA:

While some Jamaicans worry about their safety amidst reports of police operations being hampered by the ongoing “sick out” of a significant number  of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) members, it remains unclear whether Prime Minister Andrew Holness will yield to the Jamaica Police Federation’s call for a meeting to iron out its wage issue with the finance ministry.

Wisynco Group Ltd made history yesterday as it listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE)  with $6.17 billion in equity, the single largest amount secured from investors in Jamaica through an initial public offering (IPO).

Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:

Senior counsel Israel Khan says he suspects a plan is afoot to let Chief Justice Ivor Archie off the hook without an investigation.  In a release, Khan said the three most senior judges of both the Court of Appeal and First Instance Branch should form a delegation and seek an audience with Archie to demand he publicly refutes all the scandalous allegations against him which are in the public domain.

Dateline Basseterre, ST. KITTS:

The devastating hurricanes, Irma and Maria derailed record growth by the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU).  According to Eastern Caribbean Central Bank Governor, Timothy Antoine, before the Category 5 hurricanes hit, the ECCU was on pace to record its fastest growth in a decade.

Dateline Nassau, THE BAHAMAS:

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman and former foreign minister, Fred Mitchell, has labeled former Baha Mar developer Sarkis Izmirlian’s lawsuit against China Construction America (CCA) as “an act of revenge calculated to injure The Bahamas and its reputation and to cast aspersions on the PLP.

Dateline Washington D.C. USA:

More than $500 million has been recouped by tax authorities worldwide after the Panama Papers documents leak, first revealed in April, 2016.  Spain alone collected $122 million after investigations into the affairs of tax residents who had stockpiled money offshore.

Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines New Dec. 28th

Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados

Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:

Opposition leader Mia Mottley has congratulated Justice Sandra Mason on her pending appointment as Governor General.  In a statement, Mottley said she was confident Justice Mason will carry her impartiality into her new role.  Miss Mottley said:”This is a crowning achievement in a long and varied career in public service in Barbados, the region and internationally.”

The Executive of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) will be sending a counter proposal to the Ministry of the Civil Service as early as today on what it believes is an adequate “coping mechanism” for public servants.  This was one of the decisions made after the NUPW executive held a two-hour closed-door meeting with membership at its Dalkieth, St. Michael headquarters last nite.  The union has been agitating for a coping mechanism for public servants since they have not received a salary increase for the past nine years.

Meanwhile, the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) is sticking to its guns on the dreaded National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL).  In her review of the year 2017, BWU General Secretary, Toni Moore identified the controversial levy, which was increased on July 1 from two percent to ten percent on the customs value of local manufactured and imported items, as one of the most troubling issues to impact workers this year.  Calling it “draconian and cumbersome” Moore also served notice on the Freundel Stuart administration that her union would be stepping up the pressure to have the levy either repealed or significantly reduced in the coming year.

The Barbados Water Authority (BWA) is appealing to the public, especially businesses, for support in trying to end the “national crisis” caused by sewage flowing on to some South Coast streets.  General Manager, Keithroy Halliday said their crews at the Wastewater Division were overwhelmed with material that did not belong in the sewerage system.

Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:

The Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) Council will meet tomorrow (Friday) to consider a preliminary report on allegations involving Chief Justice Ivor Archie, who is expected back from an overseas trip this weekend.  LATT members told the Trinidad Guardian it is the preliminary salvo in their quest to investigate the issue following weeks of allegations against the embattled Chief Justice.

The violence in Trinidad and Tobago cannot be fixed by Army and police but only by a return to the heart of God’s love, newly installed Roman Catholic Archbishop, Charles Jason Gordon, said in his maiden homily yesterday.  Minutes after accepting the Crozier as a sign of his new position in the shepherd’s office, the 11th Archbishop of Port of Spain denounced what he said had become the “new gods – money, power and pleasure”.  ‘as long as these new idols have replaced God, this country and the Caribbean will continue to experience the challenges felt today” he added.

Dateline Kingston, JAMAICA:

The Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology has created history with the commissioning of its first solar powered community computer laboratory.  According to a release, the facility, which is located in Sterling Castle, St. Andrew, will enable community members to access the internet and other Information Communications Technology Services at no cost.  The Internet Café, dubbed “The Link” –Sterling Castle” was made possible through a partnership with the Universal Service Fund (USF) an agency of the ministry and the Flow Foundation.

Dateline Nassau, THE BAHAMAS:

BML Properties Limited, which was once the company responsible for the development of the Baha Mar mega resort, has sued China Construction America (CCA) the contractor of record responsible for the resort compound’s construction, for almost $3.5 Billion, claiming CCA defrauded BML “in an attempt to gain leverage over BML properties and Baha Mar Limited,” which amounted to “one of the largest construction-based frauds in the hemisphere.”
BML is owned by“  Sarkis Izmirlian.

Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News Dec. 27th

By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados

Dateline Castries, ST. LUCIA:

Six (6) former St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) government ministers  have written to the Allen Chastanet administration through their attorneys, seeking back pay, well placed sources have disclosed.  The letter was dated November 20, 2017, it has been reported.  The former ministers are said to be claiming three years back pay for the period prior to 2010 and increases from April 1, 2010 The St. Lucia Times was reliably informed that the six are requesting that the current administration implement the recommendations of the Salaries Review Commission.

Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:

The brotherly ties and vows of protection of the Masonic Lodge have been raised as a concern by attorney Israel Khan who stated yesterday that he objects to Chief Justice Ivor Archie and the two senior counsel retained to advise whether impeachment proceedings should be invoked against him (Archie) are masonic members. The Law Association, via an email to its membership on December 18, stated the services of two senior counsel were retained to advise on whether there are sufficient grounds to petition Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley to invoke impeachment proceedings following allegations of misconduct against Archie.

Dateline St. John’s, ANTIGUA:

The Prime Minister’s teenage daughter and her mother were robbed in their Mount Joy home by armed bandits.  The incident occurred on Monday, Christmas Day sometime after 2.00 a.m.  Prime Minister Gaston Browne confirmed the incident and said he plans to move the duo to another location since they are traumatized.

Dateline Roseau, DOMINICA:

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has told Dominica that a prudent management framework of its Citizenship by Investment (CBI) revenues is key, regardless of the expected duration of the windfall with priority given to capital spending, debt reduction and saving.  Dominica is among several Caribbean countries implementing a CBI through which foreign investors are granted citizenship of the country in return for making a significant investment in its socio-economic development.  In a paper, which examined the CBI before the passage of Hurricane Maria in September, the Washington-based financial institution said due to the highly volatile and unpredictable nature of CBI receipts “the policy options to allocate such revenues should be carefully examined with sufficient consideration given to potential effects on the country’s medium and long term macroeconomic fundamentals.”

Dateline St. Georges, GRENADA:

The Opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has welcomed the recent ruling by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court of Appeal dismissing the appeal of the Grenada government against an earlier Supreme Court order on February 22, 2017, temporarily preventing the government from taking further steps under the Land Acquisition Act to compulsorily acquire property leased to Grenada by Rex Resorts.  “Whilst the party welcomes the decision by the court as a signal that the autocracy demonstrated by the New National Party (NNP) administration will not be tolerated, we cannot help but be mindful and concerned at what the government’s latest foray into foolhardiness has cost the Grenadian people.”

Dateline Nassau, THE BAHAMAS:

With Bahamians being able to hold foreign currency accounts in local commercial banks up to $100,000, affective February 1, 2018, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Peter Turnquest said the $100,000 cap is a good starting point “which will help to reduce the cost of overseas investments for Bahamian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).”

The Bahamas has been re-elected to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Council.  It secured re-election during the organisation’s recent 30th Assembly.  Minister of Transport and Local Government, Frankie Campbell said it represents “a significant achievement, not only for the nation, but also regionally for the Caribbean and globally for Small island Developing States for which The Bahamas will strive to ensure equal representation during international meetings.”

Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News Dec. 22nd

By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados

Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:

Barbados was among Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries who yesterday stood up to United States President Donald Trump by voting in support of a United Nations resolution condemning his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  The resolution did not enjoy unanimous CARICOM support.  However, the Freundel Stuart administration joined with more than 100 members of the world body in backing the non-binding measure that called on Trump to review his decision on Jerusalem, even as Washington threatened action against countries that supported the resolution.

The University of the West Indies (UWI) has condemned the recent European Union (EU) blacklisting of Barbados and four other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) financial centres as tax havens.  Also included in the EU blacklist which was issued on December 5 following 10 months of investigations by EU officials, are Grenada, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.  In a strongly worded statement, Vice Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles warned the unilateral move by the EU stood to have a deleterious effect on those economies, while accusing the EU of singlehandedly “derailing and undermining” the global financial system.

Irish and UK film companies have completed filming of a spy thriller using Barbados as the major setting.  Internationally renowned Irish dancer Michael Flatley directed and starred in the movie.  The espionage thriller also starring Hollywood actor, Eric Roberts, is set for theatrical release in 2018/19.  Ninety percent of the film is currently being shot in Barbados, showcasing the suave and luxurious side of the island and promoting its extensive beauty.

Financial services giant, Sagicor, which last year moved its holding company to Bermuda after more than 170 years in Barbados, is preparing to establish a firmer footing in the British Overseas territory, located in the North Atlantic, according to a recent IMF report.  The draft report on an October 9-13 IMF mission to Barbados, at the invitation of the Financial Services Commission (FSC), states that as a next step to the relocation of the holding company, Sagicor plans to establish a reinsurer in Bermuda to be supervised by regulators in the British territory.

Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:

High Court Judge Ronnie Boodoosingh, has joined his judicial colleague, Justice Carol Gobin, in calling on Chief Justice Ivor Archie to thoroughly answer allegations of misconduct in public office.

Dateline Kingston, JAMAICA:

A shipment of 36,000 pounds of internationally-certified bananas, destined for Trinidad and Tobago, leaves the island on Monday.  The green bananas will be the first of weekly shipments to Trinidad and Tobago over the next six months.

Dateline St. Georges, GRENADA:

If the Grenada government accepts a multi-billion-dollar plan, it would become the first in the world to opt for the wholesale adoption of a Chinese development blueprint – increasing Beijing’s influence in what is frequently described as “America’s backyard”.  The Chinese foreign ministry said recently that China Development Bank, at the request of the Grenada government, is helping them to draft a national development strategy”, the South China Morning Post reported.

Dateline Nassau, THE BAHAMAS:

Rights Bahamas has called for the immediate resignation of Social Services and Urban Development Minister, Lanisha Rolle, following “shockingly insensitive comments” about the marital rape issue taking centre stage in the public discourse.  Rolle said on Tuesday that marital rape is a private issue and before the government considers legislation in relation to it, a public discussion must take place.  “As the only female member of the Minnis cabinet, and particularly in light of her official role in providing for the welfare of the vulnerable, Rolle should be ashamed of promoting a perspective that encourages assault against women” the group said in a statement.  “Clearly, she cannot continue in that role.”  “For the minister’s information, rape is never a private matter and all forms of non-consensual sexual activity should be outlawed by any society that seeks to call itself a democracy.”

Dateline Havana, CUBA:

The Cuban government has announced that it will postpone a presidential election originally planned for February, 2018, which means that Raul Castro will remain in power at least until April 19, the new date on which a new legislature and the President of the Councils of State and Ministers will be elected.

Australia police say don’t suspect terrorism after car plows into pedestrians

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – An Australian man of Afghan descent with a history of mental health issues drove a car into Christmas shoppers in the city of Melbourne on Thursday, injuring 19 people, but police said they did not believe the attack was terror-related.

In January, four people were killed and more than 20 injured when a man drove into pedestrians just a few hundred meters away from Thursday’s attack. That too was not a terror attack.

Jim Stoupas, the owner of a donut shop at the scene, told Reuters the vehicle was traveling up to 100 kph (62 mph) when it drove into the intersection packed with people, hitting one person after another.

“All you could hear was just ‘bang bang bang bang bang’ and screams,” Stoupas said in a telephone interview, adding the car came to rest by a tram stop.

Police said they detained the 32-year-old driver, an Australian of Afghan descent with a history of assault, drug use and mental health issues.

“At this time, we don’t have any evidence or intelligence to indicate a connection with terrorism,” said the acting chief commissioner of Victoria State, Shane Patton.

Four of the injured were in critical condition, including a pre-school aged boy who suffered a head injury.

Police also detained a 24-year-old man at the scene who was filming the incident and had a bag with knifes.

Patton said it was “quite probable” the 24-year-old was not involved.

The men had not been charged and their names have not been released by police.

The attack took place on Flinders Street, a major road that runs alongside the Yarra River, in the central business district of Australia’s second-biggest city.

Melbourne has installed about 140 concrete bollards in the city center to stop vehicle attacks by militants similar to recent attacks in Europe and the United States.

“We’ve seen an horrific act, an evil act, an act of cowardice perpetrated against innocent bystanders,” said the state premier, Daniel Andrews.

Sydney, Australia’s biggest city, has also installed concrete barricades in main pedestrian thoroughfares.

“Our thoughts & prayers are with the victims & the emergency & health workers who are treating them,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in a post on his official Twitter account.

Australia has been on a “high” national threat level since 2015, citing the likelihood of attacks by Australians radicalized in Iraq and Syria.

Two hostages were killed during a 17-hour siege by a “lone wolf” gunman, inspired by Islamic State militants, in a cafe in Sydney in December 2014.

For a map of Melbourne, click

Russia says Kiev’s belligerence forced its observers to quit east Ukraine

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian military observers had to pull out of a joint ceasefire control group due to Kiev’s determination to solve the crisis in the rebel-held eastern regions of the country by force, a spokesman for Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

Earlier this week, the ministry said it was recalling officers serving at the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination in Ukraine, accusing the Ukrainian side of obstructing their work and limiting access to the front line.

Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also said on Thursday that the United States encouraged the resumption of large-scale bloodshed in eastern Ukraine by Washington’s approval of lethal arms sales to Ukrainian army.