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We are here to help you, US ambassador tells Jamaica

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We are here to help you, US ambassador tells Jamaica

BY HORACE HINES
Observer staff reporter
hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — United States Ambassador to Jamaica Donald Tapia, who has noted that bilateral trading relationship between Jamaica and the US is largely dominated by the importation of US goods, has urged Jamaica to ramp up the exportation of products to his country.

The ambassador’s encouragement comes on the heels of a recent announcement in the House of Representatives by Prime Minister Andrew Holness that Jamaica and China will focus on increasing trade, particularly in getting more Jamaican goods into the Chinese market.

Holness said Jamaica has begun exporting live lobsters to China, and was in the process of finalising the procedures with the Chinese authorities to allow for the export of frozen lobsters.

Speaking at the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) Awards Banquet at the Montego Bay Convention Centre Saturday night, Tapia noted that “some 40 per cent of the trade in Jamaica is from America”.

“Total US goods exported to Jamaica is US$2.7 billion, but the United States imports nearly US$600 million per year from Jamaica. Ladies and gentlemen, we have got to change the balance of goods being traded back and forth. I know that’s strange coming from a US ambassador, but I have said many things that have been strange and you have probably read about them in the paper,” Tapia said.

At the same time, the US diplomat cited the need for the sale of local goods to America to be diversified, as currently agricultural products consist of 95 per cent of the sales through the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), unlike Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.

He explained that through the CBI programme the United States Government offers trade preferences that Jamaican companies, both small and large, can use to export products, duty free into the United States.

“Countries such as Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana export millions of dollars of apparel, leather goods, fuel, and oil to the States, while Jamaica primarily exports agricultural products. So we can see here tonight that is a great opportunity for your group here. How can we change this 95 per cent? How can we change the balance of trade? Its your country [and] I am here to help you. That’s what we are here for. Please use us.We are here standing ready to help you,” Tapia remarked.

“CBI is a non-reciprocal programme aimed to help Caribbean countries develop capabilities to access US markets.”

He revealed that there are Jamaican exporters who are denied up to 20 per cent refund under the CBI programme simply as a result of failing to fill out a one-page document.

“You don’t get the full five to 20 per cent tax refund for your export because of one reason. You don’t fill out a one-page document. That one-page document puts you in a different relationship in the profitability to your company. Five to 20 per cent that you could recoup by filling out one single piece of paper.

“And if, in fact, you need help we are more than happy at the embassy to show you what you need to do to get this tax break.”

Meanwhile, popular St James businessman and philanthropist Mark Kerr-Jarrett was inducted into the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry Business Leaders Wall of Fame.

First introduced in 2015, the Wall of Fame, which boasts calibre inductees such as hotel mogul Gordon “Butch” Stewart, publisher Lloyd B Smith, and Tourism Enhancement Fund Chairman Godfrey Dyer, was designed as a way to recognise individuals who have made a lasting contribution to the community for more than 20 years.

Other chamber awardees were:

• New Investment, Business Development and Expansion Award – Bioprist;

 

•Corporate Partner Award –Margaritaville;

 

•Chamber Support Award – Tropical Tours Limited;

• Hospitality Services Partner Awards – S Hotel;

 

• MSME Award – Life Call Ambulance Services;

 

• Young Entrepreneur Award

– Honey Vera;

•Outstanding Development and Expansion in BPO Teleperformance

and Lifetime Achievement Award – Lloyd’s Department Store.

 

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Trump trial opens with clash over witnesses

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WASHINGTON, DC, United States (AFP) – The historic impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump opened with fireworks yesterday as Democrats angrily accused Senate Republicans of seeking a “cover-up” without witnesses or new evidence.

With the US leader facing potential removal from office for abuse of power, his close ally Mitch McConnell laid out ground rules that would block subpoenaing key witnesses or documents while each side makes its case – potentially crippling prosecutors’ arguments.

Flexing his solid 53-47 majority, the Republican Senate leader also made clear he would summarily block any Democratic attempts to change his rules.

“The basic structure we’re proposing is just as eminently fair and even-handed,” McConnell said.

Adam Schiff, the leader of the House impeachment managers prosecuting Trump, countered that the process “makes no sense” for a trial, and was designed instead to ensure evidence is never heard and Trump is exculpated.

McConnell’s rules aim to make the case “go away as quickly as possible to cover up his misdeeds”, Schiff said in his opening presentation on the Senate floor.

“It’s completely backwards, trial before evidence,” he said. “Most Americans don’t believe there will be a fair trial.”

Trump was impeached on December 18 by the House of Representatives, and formally charged on the floor of the Senate last week with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

It is only the third time a US president has endured an impeachment trial, after Bill Clinton in 1999 and Andrew Johnson in 1868.

Like his two predecessors, Trump looks almost certain to be acquitted by the Senate Republican majority in a trial that could be as short as two weeks.

Showing some compromise, McConnell’s initial draft was modified at the last minute, allowing 24 hours of arguments by each side stretched over three days rather than the two-day, 12 hours a day schedule originally outlined.

Republicans also appeared ready to remove a block on the House managers presenting the evidence from their original investigation to the Senate at the beginning of the trial, rather than only after arguments have been made.

But there was no suggestion that McConnell would bend on Democrat demands that witness subpoenas be allowed from the outset.

Democrats want to hear from four current and former top Trump aides, including White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security advisor John Bolton, who have direct knowledge of the accusations against the president.

During the House investigation Trump claimed executive privilege and blocked their testimony, as well as the release of documents subpoenaed by the House.

The articles of impeachment state that Trump tried to pressure Ukraine into interfering in the 2020 election to help him win, and then to thwart the investigation by blocking witnesses and denying documents to the House of Representatives.

Central to the scandal is a July 25 telephone call in which Trump pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation of former Vice-President Joe Biden, his potential opponent in the November vote.

Trump is accused of withholding nearly $400 million in military aid for Ukraine’s war against Russian-backed separatists, and refusing Zelensky a White House meeting, unless he opened a probe of Biden.

On Sunday Trump’s legal team issued a 110-page defence which claimed the House has accused him of no specific “crime”, that their investigation was a “rigged process”, and that Trump was within his rights to push Ukraine to investigate Biden.

Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s lawyers, told the Senate yesterday that the two articles of impeachment have only “a vague allegation about a non-crime allegation of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress”.

The impeachment process is deeply divisive among Americans – with polls showing the country split down the middle on whether the president should be removed from office, 10 months before voters go to the polls to decide whether to re-elect him.

The president himself was in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum yesterday, where he repeated his long-standing characterisation of impeachment as a “hoax”.

In Davos, Trump said, “we’re meeting with world leaders, the most important people in the world and we’re bringing back tremendous business.”

“The other’s just a hoax,” he said. “It’s the witch hunt that’s been going on for years and frankly it’s disgraceful.”

 

 

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Coronavirus reaches US

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Coronavirus reaches US

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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SEATTLE, United States (AP) — The US yesterday reported its first case of a new and potentially deadly virus circulating in China, saying a Washington state resident who returned last week from the outbreak’s epicentre was hospitalised in good condition near Seattle.

The man, identified only as a Snohomish County resident is in his 30s, was not considered a threat to medical staff or the public, health officials said.

The virus has infected about 300 people, all of whom had been in China, and killed six. The newly discovered virus can cause coughing, fever, breathing difficulty and pneumonia.

Airports in the US and other countries have stepped up monitoring, checking passengers from China for signs of illness. The US is the fifth country to report seeing the illness, following China, Thailand, Japan, and South Korea.

Late last week, US health officials began screening passengers from Wuhan in central China, where the outbreak began, at three US airports — New York City’s Kennedy airport and the Los Angeles and San Francisco airports. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced it will add Chicago’s O’Hare airport and Atlanta’s airport to the mix later this week.

What’s more, officials will begin forcing all passengers who originate in Wuhan to go to one of those five airports if they wish to enter the US.

Officials around the world have implemented similar airport screenings in hopes of containing the virus during the busy lunar new year travel season.

The US resident had no symptoms when he arrived at the Seattle-Tacoma airport last Wednesday, but he contacted doctors on Sunday when he started feeling ill, officials said.

Last month, doctors began seeing the new virus in people who got sick after spending time at a food market in Wuhan. More than 275 cases of the newly identified coronavirus have been confirmed in China, most of them in Wuhan, according to the World Health Organization.

The count includes six deaths — all in China, most of them age 60 or older, including at least some who had a previous medical condition.

Officials have said it probably spread from animals to people, but this week Chinese officials said they’ve concluded it also can spread from person to person.

Health authorities this month identified the germ behind the outbreak as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which cause the common cold; others found in bats, camels and other animals have evolved into more severe illnesses.

SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, belongs to the coronavirus family, but Chinese state media say the illness in Wuhan is different from coronaviruses that have been identified in the past. Earlier laboratory tests ruled out SARS and MERS — Middle East respiratory syndrome — as well as influenza, bird flu, adenovirus and other common lung-infecting germs.

The new virus so far does not appear to be as deadly as SARS and MERS, but viruses can sometimes mutate to become more dangerous.

University of Washington coronavirus researcher David Veesler said the public “should not be panicking right now”.

The response has been “very efficient”, Veesler said. “In a couple of weeks China was able to identify the virus, isolate it, sequence it and share that information.”

Veesler added: “We don’t have enough data to judge how severe the disease is.”

The CDC’s Dr Nancy Messonnier said health officials expected to see more cases in the US and around the world in the coming days.

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China urged to join nuclear arms talks

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China urged to join nuclear arms talks

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — Washington called on Beijing yesterday to join its nuclear arms talks with Moscow, warning that lack of transparency around China’s growing weapons stockpile posed a “serious threat”.

The United States and Russia have held two rounds of talks aimed at reducing misunderstandings about critical security issues since the collapse of a Cold War nuclear pact last year, which triggered fears of a new arms race.

Washington has hinted previously it believes Beijing, with its growing nuclear arsenal, should join the discussions. President Donald Trump has insisted any new disarmament pact would need China to come on board.

US Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva Robert Wood said that Washington was intent on convincing China to join the discussions.

He acknowledged that Beijing had yet to provide “positive feedback”, but that Moscow had hinted during the last so-called strategic security dialogue last week that it would “use its influence with China to bring them to the table”.

“Given the fact that China’s [nuclear] stockpile is estimated to double over the next 10 years, we think it is now time to have [a] trilateral discussion,” he told reporters in Geneva.

“We cannot afford to wait,” he said.

“We have to deal with this serious threat to strategic stability, which is the lack of transparency around China’s nuclear stockpile enhancement.”

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What we know so far about the new China virus

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What we know so far about the new China virus

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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BEIJING, China (AFP) — A new SARS-like virus has killed six people in China and infected nearly 300 others.

Fears have been mounting that the virus will spread during the massive annual Lunar New Year migration. A host of Asian countries and the United States have introduced new screening checks for passengers from Wuhan, the Chinese city identified as the epicentre.

Here’s what we know about the virus:

 

It’s entirely new

The virus appears to be a never-before-seen strain of coronavirus — a large family of viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which killed 349 people in mainland China and another 299 in Hong Kong between 2002 and 2003.

Arnaud Fontanet, head of the department of epidemiology at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, told AFP the current virus strain was 80 per cent genetically identical to SARS.

China has already shared the genome sequencing of this novel coronavirus with the international scientific community.

For now, it is being dubbed “2019-nCoV”.

 

It’s being passed

The World Health Organization said Monday it believed an animal source was the “primary source” of the outbreak, and Wuhan authorities identified a seafood market as the centre of the epidemic.

But China has since confirmed that there was evidence the virus is now passing from person to person, without any contact with the market.

Doctor Nathalie MacDermott of King’s College London said it seems likely that the virus is spread through droplets in the air from sneezing or coughing.

Doctors at the University of Hong Kong published an initial paper Tuesday modelling the spread of the virus which estimated that there have been some 1,343 cases in Wuhan — similar to a projection of 1,700 last week by Imperial College, London.

Both are much higher than official figures.

 

It is milder than SARS

Compared with SARS, the symptoms appear to be less aggressive, and experts say the death toll is still relatively low.

According to authorities in Wuhan, 25 of the more than 200 people infected in the city have already been discharged.

“It’s difficult to compare this disease with SARS,” said Zhong Nanshan, a renowned scientist at China’s National Health Commission, at a press conference this week. “It’s mild. The condition of the lung is not like SARS.”

However, the milder nature of the virus can also cause alarm.

The outbreak comes as China prepares for the Lunar New Year Holiday, with hundreds of millions travelling across the country to see family.

Professor Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute of Global Health at the University of Geneva, told AFP that the fact that the virus seems milder in the majority of people is “paradoxically more worrying” as it allows people to travel further before their symptoms are detected.

“Wuhan is a major hub and with travel being a huge part of the fast approaching Chinese New Year, the concern level must remain high,” said Dr Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust.

 

International public

The WHO will hold a meeting today to determine whether the outbreak constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern” and if so, what should be done to manage it.

The agency has only used the rare label a handful of times, including during the H1N1 — or swine flu — pandemic of 2009 and the Ebola epidemic that devastated parts of West Africa from 2014 to 2016.

The Chinese Government announced Tuesday it was classifying the outbreak in the same category as the SARS outbreak, meaning compulsory isolation for those diagnosed with the disease and the potential to implement quarantine measures on travel.

But if the WHO decides to take this step, it would put the Wuhan virus in the same category as a handful of very serious epidemics.

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Latin America & C’bean region deadliest for journalists in 2019 — UNESCO

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Latin America & C’bean region deadliest for journalists in 2019 — UNESCO

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — A new report by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has described Latin America and the Caribbean as the deadliest part of the world for journalists last year.

In its Observatory of Killed Journalists database released on Monday, UNESCO said that 22 journalists were reported killed in the Latin America and Caribbean region in 2019, followed by 15 in Asia-Pacific, and 10 in Arab States.

The database shows that the Caribbean journalists killed were from Haiti. It said Nhmie Joseph and Rospide Ption were murdered on October 10 and June 10, last year and that in both cases, UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay called on the authorities to investigate the killings.

“I condemn the murder of Nhmie Joseph. I urge authorities to spare no effort in investigating this crime and ensuring that all those involved are brought to trial.

Journalists and the media bring an indispensable contribution to democracy and governments must prioritise their safety.”

The dead body of Joseph, a radio reporter and presenter for Mirebalais-based Panic FM and Port-au-Prince radio station Mga, was found in the trunk of his car after his shooting by unknown assailants.

The journalist had recently said on social media that he had received threats regarding his reporting on the authorities’ handling of the political crisis affecting the country.

In the case of Ption, the UNESCO director-general said “investigating cases of violence against journalists and bringing their perpetrators to trial is indispensable for the defence of freedom of expression and of the press”.

Ption, a journalist for Radio Sin Fin, was killed in Port-au Prince, the Haitian capital, as he was driving home from work in a company vehicle.

“UNESCO promotes the safety of journalists through global awareness-raising, capacity building and a range of actions, notably in the framework of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.”

The figures from the Observatory of Killed Journalists database show that, over the last decade, 894 journalists were murdered — an average of almost 90 per year.

It noted that journalist killings in 2019 dropped by almost half compared to 2018 — from 99 to 56 — but members of the press still face extreme risks in all regions of the world.

The UNESCO data shows that targeting local affairs, such as politics, corruption and crime, is more dangerous for journalists than covering war zones.

Last year, almost two-thirds of cases occurred in countries not experiencing armed conflict, and the vast majority involved reporters covering their local patch, UNESCO noted.

Aside from the risk of murder, journalists increasingly experience verbal and physical attacks in connection with their work.

Over recent years, there has been a marked rise in imprisonment, kidnapping and physical violence amid widespread rhetoric hostile to the media and journalists.

Women in the media are particular targets, says UNESCO, noting they are often targets of online harassment, and face threats of gender-based violence.

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Lying to get a US visa

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Lying to get a US visa

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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THESE days, more and more Jamaicans are visiting the United States. Everyone knows someone who has got a visa, and everyone has heard stories about what you need to do to get one.

To apply for a visa, you complete the written application and attend a personal interview. For both of these steps, others will offer you advice about what to write and say. But the answer is simple: Tell the truth.

Whether the person advising you is a friend or a lawyer charging money for their assistance, telling a consular officer anything other than the truth is bad advice and can have serious consequences.

At a minimum, providing false information on the application or giving false statements or documents to the consular officer will cause the officer to refuse the visa. The details will remain part of your permanent record and will be seen by other officers if you re-apply in the future. Your reputation and credibility will be damaged. Additionally, providing false information may result in a life-long ineligibility that would disqualify you from obtaining a visa in the future.

It is also important to know that helping someone else to give false statements to a consular officer can have equally serious consequences. Providing someone else with false employment documents or making false statements about them, even over the phone, is considered to be human smuggling. These smugglers will have their visas revoked and will also be permanently ineligible to obtain a visa in the future.

 

Q: What is misrepresentation? What does the penalty mean?

A: A misrepresentation is a statement or manifestation not in accordance with the facts. Misrepresentation requires an affirmative act taken by an applicant.

A misrepresentation can be made in various ways, including in an oral interview or in written applications, or by submitting evidence containing false information, such as job letters or transcripts.

 

Q: My friend told me that I should just change the information on my application to improve my chances of being approved, should I do it?

A: Misrepresenting yourself or providing false information on the application or at the interview can lead to an ineligibility for fraud or misrepresentation. It is always a better choice to provide true and consistent information. Even if you have been refused in the past using the correct information, please use the correct information again. This will only strengthen your case by showing that you are an honest applicant and that you are not trying to misrepresent yourself.

 

Q: The travel agent who filled out my application made a mistake. Will this make me ineligible for a visa?

A: The only person held accountable for any signs of misrepresentation on your application is you. It is your responsibility to review your application before a preparer submits it on your behalf. If there are any errors on your application and you do not take steps to correct them, you could be permanently ineligible for a visa. Your last chance to do so will be on the day of the interview. You should inform the consular officer that you wish to make changes to your application before the interview ends.

 

Q: I have heard about others lying to get a visa and they still get approved. Why?

A: Even after being approved for a visa, applicants that misrepresented themselves in their past application or at the interview can still have their visas revoked and become permanently ineligible for a visa. The visa can be cancelled before the applicant travels to the United States and he or she will remain permanently ineligible for a visa in the future.

 

Q: The consular officer told me I am ineligible to receive a visa under 212(a)(6)(C)(i). What does this mean? What can I do?

A: Receiving a 6(C)(i) ineligibility means that the officer believes that you have either perpetrated fraud or that you have misrepresented yourself on your application or at the interview, or at some point in the past. Some actions that can lead to this ineligibility include: Providing false information on your application or during the interview; presenting someone else’s passport at a port of entry in an attempt to gain entry into the United States; presenting a fake or improperly obtained identification document as a proof of identity; presenting altered or fake civil documents.

If you would like to apply for or renew your visa but you have had a problem with immigration or the police in the past that you think may cause an ineligibility, you should still go through the regular visa application process whether it be for a non-immigrant or an immigrant visa. The consular officer will inform you of any ineligibility during your interview. If you are ineligible, the officer will tell you if you qualify to seek a waiver from the Department of Homeland Security.

It is very important that you declare what happened with the police or immigration authorities on your online application and again with the consular officer during your interview. The consular officer may have additional questions for you, and you should answer those questions truthfully to the best of your knowledge.

 

For more information about visas, please visit our website https://jm.usembassy.gov/ and the website of our authorised service provider at www.usvisa-info.com. Keep on top of Embassy news on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/USEmbassyJamaica/ and by following @USEmbassyJA on Twitter. We also answer general visa questions on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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