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Management structures under Building Act operational

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ALL management structures identified in the Building Act 2019 have been fully constituted and are now operational.

These are the Building Practitioners Board, Building Appeals Tribunal, and Building Advisory Council.

Local Government and Community Development Minister Desmond McKenzie made the disclosure during his 2019/20 Sectoral Debate presentation in the House of Representatives on May 28.

He said drafting of the supporting regulations for the Act, which came into effect in January 2019, is advanced.

Meanwhile, McKenzie informed the House that the ministry is partnering with the Jamaica Social Investment Fund, World Bank, and Bureau of Standards Jamaica to develop and implement a detailed training programme on the building codes for local government practitioners.

He further told the House that local authorities and partner agencies processed 3,925 development applications, valued at $58.3 billion during the first nine months of the 2018/19 fiscal year. He said some 3,089 or 88.5 per cent of these were approved within 90 days.

“The Economic Growth Council has identified the development approvals process as one of local government’s critical contributions to the growth agenda. Through the Building Act, the local authorities are managing a modern legislative instrument that will change the face of Jamaica while generating own-source revenue,” McKenzie said.

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US accuses Venezuela of aggression in skies over Caribbean

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WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — A Venezuelan fighter jet “aggressively shadowed” an American intelligence plane over the Caribbean Sea, US defense officials said Sunday, slamming the maneuver as “unprofessional.”

US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) said the Russian-made Venezuelan SU-30 “Flanker” took off from an airfield 200 miles (320 kilometres) east of Caracas on Friday, following a US EP-3 at an “unsafe distance…jeopardising the crew and aircraft.”

“The EP-3 aircraft, flying a mission in approved international airspace, was approached in an unprofessional manner by the SU-30… The US routinely conducts multi-nationally recognised and approved detection and monitoring missions in the region to ensure the safety and security of our citizens and those of our partners,” it added.

SOUTHCOM said in a separate post on Twitter the action demonstrated Russia’s “irresponsible military support” to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s “illegitimate regime.” 

It also revealed Maduro’s “recklessness & irresponsible behavior, which undermines int’l rule of law & efforts to counter illicit trafficking,” it added.

The South American nation was plunged into political turmoil in January when National Assembly speaker Juan Guaido declared himself acting president in a direct challenge to Maduro’s authority.

The opposition leader is recognised by the United States and more than 50 other countries, but has been unable to dislodge Venezuela’s socialist leader.

The US has accused Russia of propping up Maduro as the crisis deepened by supplying military aircraft including the SU-30.

 

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Buses with audio-video technology to secure testimony from witnesses

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Ministry of Justice will be providing two buses, equipped with audio-video technology, to assist in securing testimony from witnesses in trial matters.

This was disclosed by Portfolio Minister Delroy Chuck who said the vehicles, which will be rolled out soon, will be used to travel to remote areas where witnesses may be located.

These, he said, are among the initiatives underpinning the ministry’s commitment to safeguarding witnesses against intimidation and advancing their role in the justice process.

The minister’s speech was delivered by Executive Director of the Legal Aid Council, Hugh Faulkner, during the opening of the two-day Witness Care Conference, at the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, Mona, St Andrew, on Friday.

Chuck said other initiatives include equipping 78 courtrooms with digital audio facilities, and 19 with audio-video recording apparatus, noting that “with this technology, witness intimidation will be significantly reduced.”

Additionally, the minister said legislation has been passed to allow witnesses in human trafficking cases being tried in the Circuit Court, to testify before presiding judges without a jury.

“Our goal, mission and purpose at the Ministry of Justice is to create a first class justice system that delivers timely justice to all, irrespective of their socio-economic circumstances,” Chuck emphasised.

It is against this background that the ministry is a significant partner in the Conference, “because we know that a first class justice system cannot exist without the proper care and protection of witnesses”.

He expressed hope that the forum would facilitate stakeholder dialogue on a public awareness campaign to educate the general populace that locating and procuring witnesses is a “shared responsibility”.

“Discussions will range from creating an enabling environment for witness safety and security, to psycho-social interventions and services for witnesses. There will also be a focus on vulnerable witnesses as well as discussions on designing multicare systems that involve different agencies,” the minister said.

These engagements, Chuck pointed out, are intended to provide a “wealth of information” that should be used as “critical investments” to yield “tangible results” for the care of witnesses.

This, he added, is imperative in spurring civic-minded Jamaicans into action, and sending a message to the criminal underworld that “witnesses will not cower in fear, but will be motivated to stand and be counted and play their part in creating a society that is secure, cohesive and just.”

Meanwhile, Canada’s High Commissioner to Jamaica Laurie Peters, who also spoke, underscored the relationship between the countries in engagements tailored to advance the local justice sector.

“We (Canada) have been a longstanding and steadfast partner with Jamaica, in terms of putting forth, supporting, partnering on a series of reform-focused…reform-centric programmes, all designed to advance a comprehensive and systematic approach to justice modernisation,” Peters said.

In this regard, she said the Canadian government is honoured to be a partner in  the conference’s staging.

The inaugural event is a key activity under the Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation (JUST) Project.

The project is a $19.8 million Global Affairs Canada (GAC)-funded initiative, being implemented by the Justice Ministry and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

It is supporting justice sector reforms through technical-legal assistance; institutional strengthening; and social order.

Peters said the conference forms part of the JUST Programme’s Social Order Component which seeks to facilitate equitable access to justice services for all persons, particularly the most vulnerable.

“It is commendable that Jamaica has understood and embraced the importance of focusing on witnesses at this time,” she added.

In her remarks, UNDP Resident Representative, Denise Antonio, noted that witnesses are integral to the court system, “and should be able to exercise their full participation in civil and criminal matters.”

She pointed out that a well-functioning justice sector is a precondition to spurring economic growth, adding that “equal access to justice by every citizen is tantamount to human development.” 

Against this background, Antonio said the UNDP reaffirms its commitment to partnering with the Government of Jamaica and other stakeholders, “to continue to support the country in advancing its justice priorities.”

Activities on the first day also included a public forum on the theme: ‘Comparative Perspectives on Witness Care: Challenges, Best Practices, and Lessons Learnt’.

The presenters included Director of Public Prosecutions, Paula Llewelyn; and Canadian Federal Court Judge, Justice Douglas Campbell.

The conference, which ended on Saturday, was intended to discuss and advance solutions for the protection and support of witnesses in the Jamaican judicial system.

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End in sight for US heat wave that set temperature records

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WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — The United States sweltered in dangerously hot weather on Sunday, with major cities including New York, Philadelphia and Washington broiling in temperatures that rose into triple digits.

An oppressive heat wave stretching from the Midwestern plains to the Atlantic coast had nearly 150 million people struggling to stay cool in stifling heat that set records in a handful of states.

By Sunday afternoon, the National Weather Service (NWS) said the high temperatures would soon be over, but the severe weather would continue.

“The dangerous heat wave which enveloped much of the Midwest to the East Coast this weekend should finally break by Monday as a cold front drops southward,” the agency said.

However it warned that “showers and thunderstorms… with heavy to excessive rainfall and severe weather possible” were expected across a swath of the east coast, and flash floods were a risk. 

Around 95 million people were under a heat warning or advisory for Sunday, down from Saturday’s 157 million.

Earlier in the day the NWS said “numerous stations” stretching from Massachusetts in the north to North Carolina in the south “were reporting heat index values between 100-110” degrees, with the highest values found in the southeast of the state of Virginia.

Authorities urged people on Sunday to stay hydrated, watch out for the sick and elderly, stay inside as much as possible and not leave children or animals in cars.

“We’re almost near the end of the heat emergency. Temperatures will start to go back down tonight,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, asking the city’s residents to “keep hydrated and keep cool.”

The NWS said it had recorded all-time high temperatures on Saturday in seven places in the US including Manchester, New Hampshire, Atlantic City, New Jersey and New York’s JFK airport.

US media has blamed the heat wave for at least six deaths, including a hiker who had been found unconscious on a trail outside Washington on Saturday and two people who died earlier in the week in the eastern state of Maryland. 

In Arkansas, 32-year-old former NFL player Mitch Petrus died of heatstroke Thursday after working outside his family’s shop. 

The New York City Triathlon, which had been scheduled for Sunday, was canceled for the first time since its founding in 2001.

Life Time, which produces the race, donated more than 12 tons of water and Gatorade Endurance drink meant for competitors to be distributed to New Yorkers in need, CBS reported.

Meanwhile, the two-day OZY Fest — a food, comedy and music festival set for Central Park — was also called off. 

In Washington, a popular weekly outdoor summer jazz concert at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden was canceled.

– ‘Deadly conditions’ –

“Sunday has been canceled. Stay indoors, nothing to see here. Really, we got this,” The New York City Police Department wrote on Twitter.

The city had opened 500 cooling centers for residents.

At least three public defenders said on Twitter that inmates in New York’s notorious Rikers Island jail complex were suffering with no air conditioning, and that some guards had turned off fans as punishment, resulting in “deadly conditions.” 

The Brooklyn Defender Services legal aid group said some inmates didn’t have summer clothing, only long underwear provided by the group last winter.

Top officials from the city’s Department of Corrections were at the facility monitoring the response to the heat wave to “protect health and safety of everyone in the facility,” de Blasio wrote on Twitter. 

The department said in a statement to AFP that extra staff were on hand to distribute summer clothing, and clinics were open around the clock to treat heat-related symptoms. 

Those in units without air conditioning were given access to fans, ice, water and “multiple cool showers.”

Earlier in the week, the National Weather Service office in the Midwestern city of Omaha baked a tray of biscuits — savory breakfast bread similar to scones — on the dashboard of a parked car. 

After nearly eight hours and with temperatures on the pan reaching 185 degrees, the pastries were almost fully cooked.

Climate data showed June was the hottest month on record worldwide, with a heatwave across Europe smashing national records.

 

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