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Suspend intended CAL lease of Boeing aircraft, T&T Opposition urges

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Suspend intended CAL lease of Boeing aircraft, T&T Opposition urges

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The main Opposition United National Congress (UNC) yesterday urged the Trinidad and Tobago Government to “take immediate action to suspend” the intended lease of 12 of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft, which has been involved in two fatal crashes over the past six months.

The latest incident occurred on Sunday when Ethiopian Airlines’ Flight 302 crashed soon after take-off, killing all 149 passengers and the eight-member crew. The digital flight data recorder from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Nairobi, Kenya, has since been located.

In a statement, the UNC said it was calling on the Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan, who has responsibility for the civil aviation authority, “to do as other countries have done and implement a ban on airlines utilising this particular aircraft as a precautionary measure.

“While the UNC understands investigations into the latest fatal crash are still being conducted, it must be noted that several airlines and aviation authorities worldwide have either grounded their Boeing 737 Max 8 fleet or have restricted the aircraft model from entering or exiting their airspace,” the party said.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said in a statement that it was suspending operations of all Boeing 737 Max aircraft across Europe.

It said it would also ban all commercial flights by third-country operators in its airspace.

“EASA is continuously analysing the data as it becomes available. The accident investigation is currently ongoing, and it is too early to draw any conclusions as to the cause of the accident,” it said.

The State-owned Caribbean Airlines (CAL), in an updated statement since the crash on Sunday, said the accident has raised speculative concern regarding the Boeing MAX 8 aircraft.

“The airline industry is one of the most highly regulated industries in the world, and there are rigorous processes and regulatory procedures to follow before any aircraft is brought into service. Caribbean Airlines will incorporate the procedural and training elements necessary to comply with all regulations and instructions before any new aircraft is introduced to its fleet.”

CAL said that it currently “does not have the Boeing MAX 8 aircraft as part of its fleet” and that it uses the Boeing 737-800 Next Generation aircraft.

“Caribbean Airlines stands by its commitment to put the safety of its passengers, crew and operations,” it said in the statement.

Boeing, in a statement yesterday, said that while safety is its number one priority, it has “full confidence in the safety of the MAX.

“We understand that regulatory agencies and customers have made decisions that they believe are most appropriate for their home markets. We’ll continue to engage with all of them to ensure they have the information they need to have confidence in operating their fleets or returning them to service.

“It is also important to note that the Federal Aviation Administration is not mandating any further action at this time and, based on the information currently available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators,” the aircraft manufacturer added.

The UNC said that while CAL “has assured that safety checks would be made prior to putting all aircraft into service, the Government should hold on spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the Boeing 737 Max 8 until investigations are completed”.

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White House violated law in freezing Ukraine aid

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WASHINGTON, DC, United States (AP) — The White House violated federal law in withholding security assistance to Ukraine, an action at the centre of President Donald Trump’s impeachment, a federal watchdog agency said yesterday.

The Government Accountability Office said in a report that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) violated the law in holding up the aid, which Congress passed less than a year ago, saying, “The president is not vested with the power to ignore or amend any such duly enacted law.”

The aid in question was held up last summer on orders from Trump but was released in September after Congress pushed for its release and a whistleblower’s complaint about Trump’s July call with the Ukrainian leader became public.

The independent agency, which reports to Congress, said OMB violated the Impoundment Control Act in delaying the security assistance Congress authorised for Ukraine for “policy reasons”, rather than technical budgetary needs.

“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” wrote the agency’s general counsel, Thomas Armstrong, in the report.

Capitol Hill Democrats seized on the report as evidence of a lawless White House led by acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who is a key figure in the impeachment investigation of Trump. He is still officially the OMB director.

“The OMB, the White House, the Administration broke — I’m saying this — broke the law,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat-California.

“Congress makes funding decisions, and the Trump Administration’s illegal impoundment of these vital national security funds was a brazen assault on the checks and balances inherent to our democracy,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-NY. “Given that this illegal conduct threatened our security and undermined our elections, I feel even more strongly that the House has chosen the right course by impeaching President Trump. No one is above the law.”

OMB has argued the hold was appropriate and necessary.

“We disagree with GAO’s opinion. OMB uses its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the president’s priorities and with the law,” said OMB spokeswoman Rachel Semmel.

Trump was impeached last month on charges of abusing his power for pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic rivals, as he was withholding the aid, and for obstructing Congress’ ensuing probe. The Senate is set to begin its trial on Thursday.

The GAO finding concludes that the White House budget office “withheld the funds for an unauthorised reason in violation” of the Impoundment Control Act, a federal law that requires the executive branch to spend money that is appropriated by Congress.

The impoundment control law is rigorously adhered to by career officials in agency budget offices, who can face severe trouble for violating it.

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Japan supports IDB’s social projects in Caribbean

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WASHINGTON, DC, United States (CMC) – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) says it has partnered with Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) in promoting and developing “socially responsible capital markets” through investments in IDB social bonds focused on education-youth-employment (EYE) in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Washington-based financial institution on Wednesday said that its social (EYE) bonds “foster human capital development from the classroom to the workplace”.

“The funds raised through them will finance projects in Latin America and the Caribbean that promote effective teaching and learning for children and youth, giving them skills needed to enter the labour market and contribute productively to society,” the IDB said.

Claudia Bock-Valotta, IDB’s vice-president for finance and administration, said: “We are honoured to partner with GPIF to further the development of socially responsible investments.

“The collaboration between GPIF and IDB integrates social aspects into fixed income investments to support IDB in improving lives in Latin America and the Caribbean,” she added.

Hiro Mizuno, executive managing director and chief investment officer of GPIF, said he was honoured to take part in the IDB’s “life cycle” approach to solving challenges of poverty and inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean, through commitments in improving the quality of children’s education and providing greater employment opportunities.

“GPIF requires our asset managers to integrate ESG into their investment analysis and decision-making,” he said. “We regard the purchase of green, social and sustainability bonds as one of the direct methods of ESG integration in the fixed-income investment,”

“GPIF looks forward to working together on this initiative,” he added.

The IDB said it issued its inaugural social (EYE) bond in September 2014. Since then, it said it has issued a total of US$2.2 billion in various currencies.

The IDB said GPIF is the largest pension fund in the world in terms of assets under management.

“GPIF’s goal is to achieve the investment returns required for the public pension system with minimal risks, solely for the benefit of pension recipients from a long-term perspective, thereby contributing to the stability of the system,” the IDB said.

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Study finds high level of confidence in integrity of CCJ

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) – A study conducted by a German-based agency has found that there is a high level of confidence in the integrity and independence of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

The study, conducted by the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the German corporation for international co-operation, also commended the CCJ, which was established in 2001 to replace the London-based Privy Council as the region’s highest and final court, for its institutional design, organisational capacities and the competencies of the staff.

The CCJ which has both an original and appellate jurisdiction, also functions as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member regional integration system.

The Judicial Integrity Scan study was based on the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct, which aims to establish standards of judicial integrity internationally. Additionally, the scan utilised Article 11 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption as a benchmark of good governance and integrity.

GIZ is a German federal organisation that supports the German Government in achieving its objectives in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development. It has in the past supported and continues to support the Judicial Integrity Group which developed the Bangalore Principles to promote compliance with judicial integrity standards.

The study found that the CCJ had a high level of compliance with the Bangalore Principles in several respects, including having a Code of Judicial Conduct; the monitoring of its judges’ compliance with this code; and the high level of public access to the court’s hearings and judgements.

It noted that all hearings at the CCJ are live streamed and that this ensured a high level of transparency in court decision-making.

GIZ was also impressed with the manner in which judges were recruited and noted that the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission (RJLSC), the institution that appoints the CCJ judges “guarantees a free and independent selection of judges based on ability and integrity, with the best candidate being selected among applicants”.

The study did suggest, however, that to further ensure that the CCJ is compatible with other courts of a similar nature, measures could be established for unsuccessful applicants to be given the opportunity to file a competition complaint as part of the selection process to the court.

The study also considered that in order to strengthen public confidence in the CCJ, a gender balance among the judges should be sought in the future.

Overall, the GIZ applauded the CCJ for being an independent and accessible institution, creating a distinct benefit for the people of the Caribbean as it continuously exemplifies “great transparency and openness”.

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Five men charged for illegal firearm in Manchester

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FIVE Clarendon men were arrested and charged following the seizure of a firearm and ammunition in Mandeville, Manchester, yesterday.

The men were picked up during an operation on Manchester Road in the parish about 12:30 am when the vehicle in which they were travelling in was stopped, searched, and a Taurus 9mm pistol with 17 rounds of ammunition was found.

Charged with illegal possession of firearm and ammunition are 56-year-old Kirk Valentine; 35-year-old Sheldon Smith; 26-year-old Kerron Mitchell; 26-year-old David Dyer; and 22-year-old Oshane Reid, all of Clarendon.

The accused will attend court at a later date.

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Trump’s trial begins; senators vow ‘impartial justice’

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WASHINGTON, DC, United States (AP) — The US Senate opened the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump with a quiet ceremony yesterday — senators standing at their desks to swear an oath of “impartial justice” as jurors, House prosecutors formally reciting the charges and Chief Justice John Roberts presiding.

The trial, only the third such undertaking in American history, is unfolding at the start of the election year, a time of deep political division in the nation.

Four of the senators sitting in judgement on Trump are running for the Democratic Party’s nomination to challenge him in the fall.

“Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye!” intoned the Senate’s sergeant at arms, calling the proceedings to order at noon.

Senators filled the chamber, an unusual sight in itself, sitting silently under strict rules that prohibit talking or cellphones, for a trial that will test not only Trump’s presidency but also the nation’s three branches of power and its system of checks and balances.

The constitution mandates the chief justice to serve as the presiding officer, and Roberts made the short trip across the street from the Supreme Court to the Capitol. He has long insisted judges are not politicians but is expected to serve as a referee for the proceedings. Senators rose quickly when he appeared in his plain black robe.

“Will all senators now stand, and remain standing, and raise their right hand,” Roberts said.

“Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the constitution and laws, so help you God?”

The senators responded they would, and then they lined up to sign an oath book. Trump faces two charges after the House voted to impeach him last month.

One, that he abused his presidential power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, using military aid to the country as leverage.

Trump is also charged with obstructing Congress’ ensuing probe.

The president insists he did nothing wrong, and he dismissed the trial anew yesterday at the White House: “It’s totally partisan. It’s a hoax.”

Eventual acquittal is expected in the Republicancontrolled Senate. However, new revelations are mounting about Trump’s actions toward Ukraine.

The Government Accountability Office said yesterday that the White House violated federal law in withholding the security assistance to Ukraine, which shares a border with hostile Russia.

At the same time, an indicted associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas, has turned over to prosecutors new documents linking the president to the shadow foreign policy being run by Giuliani.

The developments applied fresh pressure to senators to call more witnesses for the trial, a main bone of contention that is still to be resolved. The White House has instructed officials not to comply with subpoenas from Congress requesting witnesses or other information.

“What is the president hiding? What is he afraid of?’’ asked Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. “The gravity of these charges is self-evident,” he said.

“The House of Representatives has accused the president of trying to shakedown a foreign leader for personal gain.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the new information from Parnas demands an investigation, which she doesn’t expect from Trump’s attorney general.

“This is an example of all of the president’s henchmen, and I hope that the senators do not become part of the president’s henchmen.”

Before the swearing-in, House Democrats prosecuting the case stood before the Senate and Rep Adam Schiff of the Intelligence Committee formally read the articles of impeachment.

Seven lawmakers, led by Schiff and Rep Jerrold Nadler of the Judiciary Committee, made the solemn walk across the Capitol for a second day. All eyes were on Schiff as he stood at a lectern in the well of the chamber, a space usually reserved for senators.

“House Resolution 755 Impeaching Donald John Trump, president of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors,” he began, reading the nine pages.

The other House prosecutors stood in a row to his side. Senators said later that when Roberts appeared the solemnity of the occasion took hold. Security was tight at the Capitol.

“I thought this is a historic moment, and you could have heard a pin drop,” said Republican John Cornyn of Texas.

“And so I think the gravity of what we are undertaking, I think, was sinking in for all of us.”

Republican House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took a far different view of the charges and proceedings. He opened the chamber decrying Pelosi’s decision to hand out “souvenir pens” on Wednesday after she signed the resolution to transmit the charges to the Senate.

“This final display neatly distilled the House’s entire partisan process into one perfect visual,” McConnell said.

“It was a transparently partisan process from beginning to end.” GOP Senator James Inhofe was absent, home in Oklahoma for a family medical issue, but plans to take the oath when he returns as the full trial begins next week, his office said.

The Senate will issue a formal summons to the White House to appear, with the president’s legal team expected to respond by Saturday. Opening arguments will begin on Tuesday.

The president suggested recently that he would be open to a quick vote to simply dismiss the charges, but sufficient Republican support is lacking for that.

Instead, the president’s team expects a trial lasting no more than two weeks, according to senior Administration officials.

That would be far shorter than the trial of President Bill Clinton, in 1999, or the first one, of President Andrew Johnson, in 1868. Both were acquitted. It would take a supermajority of senators, 67 of the 100, to convict the president.

Republicans control the chamber, 53-47, but it takes just 51 votes during the trial to approve rules, call witnesses or dismiss the charges.

A group of four Republican senators is working to ensure there will be votes on the possibility of witnesses, though it’s not at all certain a majority will prevail for new testimony.

Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee are among those involved.

Romney said he wants to hear from John Bolton, the former national security adviser at the White House, who others have said raised alarms about the alternative foreign policy toward Ukraine being run by Giuliani.

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Work begins soon on Port Royal Street coastal revetment project

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WORK is expected to begin soon on the Port Royal Street coastal revetment project.

This follows Cabinet’s approval for the Jamaica Social Investment Fund to grant a $950,000,000-contract to S&G Road Surfacing Materials Limited for the construction.

Speaking at Tuesday’s post-Cabinet press briefing, minister with responsibility for education, youth and information, Karl Samuda, said under the contract, S&G will construct a one-km composite seawall and revetment structure designed to resist storm waves.

Samuda said the roadway will be raised to reduce flooding risks from storm events, noting that the company will upgrade minor drains crossing Port Royal Street.

“A 4.7-km boardwalk will be constructed for recreational use and an 80-metre fishing beach will also be constructed under the contract to accommodate fishermen,” he added.

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