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Rebranded American Center to boost creative industries

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THE development of the creative industries, entrepreneurship and social enterprises in the island, or at least in Kingston, are expected to get a boost from the rebranded Robeson American Center, which opened its doors in the capital on Tuesday.

After upgrading work over several months, the centre — formerly Paul Robeson Information Resource Center — now has a technology focus and features robotics kits, a 3-D printer, python coding software, and multimedia video conferencing equipment. They, together with new modular furniture and layout, are designed to facilitate innovation clubs with a focus on science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) and entrepreneurship, as well as robotics and python coding workshops.

State minister in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green sees potential in the new offerings, particularly for schools and communities in proximity to the centre, which is housed at the US embassy in Kingston.

“I do want to suggest that we spend some time to help facilitate our young people who are interested in the creative arts. It is an area of industry that we often downplay and it’s an area that we have a natural advantage in, as a people, and [with] this wonderful space, [let us see] how we can infuse the technology into our creative arts industry to ensure that all the people in and around the communities that surround the embassy and further afield can bring life to their creative ideas. I would love to see that happen right here,” he said at the relaunch.

Green, who was state minister in the education ministry a week ago, applauded the embassy for the focus on STEM and innovation, reiterating previously made arguments that Jamaicans ought to be creators of technology and not merely consumers.

“We want our people to lead in areas such as robotics, and the talent is here,” he added, making reference to a robotics team from Jamaica College which won the highest award — the Inspire Award — in the FIRST Tech Challenge Relic Recovery Challenge in New York City in 2018.

The school has been fielding teams in the competition since 2009, and has won awards at different levels.

“Imagine when we ensure that Papine High, Mona High, and the primary schools, get that introduction into robotics!” Green continued, urging the Robeson American Center to invite primary schools that would not normally have access to such technologies to participate in its programmes.

Green also argued that the Robeson American Center had the potential to advance small- and medium-sized businesses across the country, and suggested that it could facilitate engagement between young entrepreneurs from both countries.

“There are so many entrepreneurs across Jamaica. Every corner you go somebody is speaking about a business plan. Sometimes, the plan is directed in the wrong direction, but don’t get it wrong, they are business ideas, and when we give them the opportunity for those ideas to come to life in a legal way, we will all be better off,” said Green.

The state minister also expressed hope that the Robeson American Center could train members of youth clubs in social enterprise management “so they can transform that club into a business that can sustain itself and sustain the members”.

In addition to the technological thrust, the centre will continue to provide Education USA advising, US programme alumni engagement, film screenings, public lectures, and access to a diverse collection of books and other literature.

Counsellor for public affairs at the embassy Jeremiah Knight indicated Tuesday that the rebranding of the centre was in line with the worldwide move in respect to American spaces, and added that the Jamaican public also played a role.

“Before we decided on what we were going to do, we decided on sending out a survey not just in Kingston, but across Jamaica, getting their opinions on what they would like to see as offerings for a resource centre. Based on their opinions, we decided to create clubs and engagement packages around what they told us they would like to see. And to make it more enticing, we decided to make it more modern to speak to the innovation that we are trying to push for,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

It was important, the embassy said, to involve the public in the decisions because, as acting charg d’affaires Mark Seibel articulated, community is the cornerstone of American Centers, which number some 650 around the world.

“Community building, sharing information, sharing spaces for innovative approaches to modern-day challenges all play a role in developing the US Government’s public diplomacy objectives and carrying them out in Jamaica.

“The Robeson American Center serves to build bridges between the people of the United States and the people of Jamaica, by increasing mutual understanding, collaboration and partnership through community-focused programmes and activities… [and it] promotes the values of openness and accessibility,” Seibel said.

Tuesday’s relaunch was followed yesterday by robotics and python demos. The former was led by electrical engineering lecturer at Mico University College Wayne Thompson, while head of information technology at the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean Natalie Rose led the latter.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive

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Twitter details political ad ban, admits it’s imperfect

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Twitter details political ad ban, admits it’s imperfect

Saturday, November 16, 2019

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TEXAS, USA (AP) – Twitter’s new ban on political ads will cover appeals for votes, solicitations for campaign contributions and any political content. But the company quickly acknowledged Friday that it expects to make mistakes as individuals and groups look for loopholes.

Twitter is defining political content to include any ad that references a candidate, political party, government official, ballot measure, or legislative or judicial outcome. The ban also applies to all ads — even non-political ones — from candidates, political parties and elected or appointed government officials.

However, Twitter is allowing ads related to social causes such as climate change, gun control and abortion. People and groups running such ads won’t be able to target those ads down to a user’s ZIP code or use political categories such as “conservative” or “liberal.” Rather, targeting must be kept broad, based on a user’s state or province, for instance.

News organisations will be exempt so they can promote stories that cover political issues. While Twitter has issued guidelines for what counts as a news organisation — single-issue advocacy outlets don’t qualify, for instance — it’s unclear if this will be enough to prevent partisan websites from promoting political content.

Twitter announced its worldwide ban on political advertisements on October 30, but didn’t release details until yesterday. The policy, which goes into effect next Friday, is in stark contrast to Facebook’s approach of allowing political ads, even if they contain false information. Facebook has said it wants to provide politicians with a “level playing field” for communication and not intervene when they speak, regardless of what they’re saying.

Response to Twitter’s ban has been strong and mixed, with critics questioning the company’s ability to enforce the new policy given its poor history of banning hate speech and abuse from its service. The company acknowledges it will make mistakes but says it’s better to start addressing the issue now rather than wait until all the kinks are worked out.

Aside from ongoing concerns about foreign elections interference, the political advertising issue rose to the forefront in recent months as Twitter, along with Facebook and Google, refused to remove a misleading video ad from President Donald Trump’s campaign that targeted Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

In response, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, another presidential hopeful, ran her own ad on Facebook taking aim at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The ad claimed — admittedly falsely to make its point — that Zuckerberg endorsed Trump for re-election.

Over the past several weeks, Facebook has been pressed to change its policy. But it was Twitter instead that jumped in with its bombshell ban.

Drew Margolin, a Cornell University communications professor who studies social networks, said Twitter’s broad ban is a reflection that “vetting is not realistic and is potentially unfair”.

He said a TV network might be in a position to vet all political ads, but Twitter and Facebook cannot easily do so. While their reliance on automated systems makes online ads easier and cheaper to run, Margolin said it also makes them an “attractive target” for spreading misinformation.

Political advertising makes up a small sliver of Twitter’s overall revenue. The company does not break out specific figures each quarter, but said political ad spending for the 2018 midterm election was less than $3 million. It reported $824 million in third-quarter revenue.

Because of this, the ban is unlikely to have a big effect on overall political advertising, where television still accounts for the majority of the money spent. In digital ads, Google and Facebook dominate.

Unlike Facebook, which has weathered most of the criticism, Google has been relatively quiet on its political ads policy. It has taken a similar stance to Facebook and does not review whether political ads tell the truth.

Twitter, Facebook and Google have already taken steps to prevent political manipulation by verifying the identities of some political advertisers — measures prompted by the furor over Moscow’s interference. But the verifying systems, which rely on both humans and automated systems, have not been perfect.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive

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Bolivia’s new leaders break ties with Venezuela

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Bolivia’s new leaders break ties with Venezuela

Saturday, November 16, 2019

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LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Bolivia’s interim leadership says it has broken diplomatic ties with the Government of Venezuelan President Nicols Maduro and ordered Cuban medical teams to leave Bolivia.

The announcement yesterday represents a turnaround in Bolivia’s foreign policy following the resignation of Evo Morales, a socialist who quit after a disputed election that sparked massive protests.

Karen Longaric, the foreign minister of Bolivia’s interim Government, also said the country is leaving the Union of South American Nations, known by its Spanish acronym UNASUR. The group was set up in 2008 by Venezuela’s Hugo Chvez and other leftists to support regional integration efforts and counter US influence in South America.

Longaric also says Bolivia is no longer a part of ALBA, a regional group that espouses socialist ideology.

In the meantime, Bolivia’s interim leader says Evo Morales will have to “answer to justice for electoral fraud” if he returns home.

Jeanine ez made the comment during a news conference yesterday, a day after Morales insisted from asylum in Mexico that he remains the country’s legitimate president because his resignation was forced by the military and wasn’t formally accepted by Congress.

Aez was the top-ranking Senate opposition official when Morales resigned Sunday and says that the resignation of everyone else in the chain of succession left her with the presidency.

Morales left following massive demonstrations across the country alleging fraud in the October 20 presidential election — irregularities certified by a team of auditors from the Organization of American States. Morales had claimed victory in his bid for a fourth term in office.

ez said Morales “left on his own. Nobody threw him out.”

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive

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Cuba medical programme becomes source of controversy

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Cuba medical programme becomes source of controversy

Saturday, November 16, 2019

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HAVANA, Cuba (AP) — A much-lauded overseas medical programme has become the focus of accusations that it serves as cover for fomenting protests against governments opposed by Cuba.

Cuba said yesterday that it’s pulling 700 members of its medical mission to Bolivia after the arrest of four members of the programme, which began under now-exiled President Evo Morales. The four were accused of fomenting protests against the Government that took over from Morales, a Cuban ally.

The end of Cuba’s 400-person medical mission to Ecuador was also announced this week, along with the accusation by Ecuador’s interior minister that Cuba misused official passports to bring in 250 Cubans during protests against President Lenin Moreno, whom Cuba also opposes.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro ended his county’s Cuban medical programme after taking office last year.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive

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