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Organisers say all set for Sunday’s Sigma Run

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Organisers say all set for Sunday’s Sigma Run

Friday, February 14, 2020

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ORGANISERS of the Sagicor Sigma Corporate Run say all is set for the largest road race in the Caribbean, which will be held on Sunday, February 16, in New Kingston.

President and CEO of Sagicor Group Jamaica Christopher Zacca shared that with just a couple days until race day, the planning committee and hundreds of volunteers are pumped and excited.

“After months of planning and preparing for the run, the team is looking forward to having a successful execution and that our participants will have a great and memorable experience,” Zacca is quoted as saying in a press release.

He added: “This is such a busy time of year for the Sigma Run team here at Sagicor, as we are meticulous about ensuring everything is in place for our over 25,000 participants to have a safe and fun run. It is also an exciting time for the team as well, as we all love what we do and the committee and volunteers are so passionate and dedicated to the cause — it is truly a heart-warming experience.”

The organisers also encouraged participants to come out early on Sunday, park in the designated Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation parking lots in New Kingston, participate in the warm-up session at Emancipation Park, scheduled for 6:30 am, then head to the start line for the official programme that gets under way at 7:00 am.

The wheelchair participants are set to go off at 7:27 am, runners start at 7:30 am, and participants who registered to walk are set to go off at approximately 7:45 am.

At the end of the race, presentations will be made in Emancipation Park at 9:00 am.

This year’s road race is looking to raise $55 million for three beneficiaries: Savanna-la-mar Hospital, Bustamante Hospital for Children Operating Theatre and Special Care Unit, and Clifton Boys’ Home.

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Today’s Horoscope — February 25, 2020

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Today’s Horoscope — February 25, 2020

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY for Tuesday, February 25, 2020: This year you will not be able to hold back on some of your creative ideas. Understand what is happening around you and what you need to accomplish. When eyeing two seemingly incompatible goals, look at how you can make them flow. If single, you might be more in touch with your needs than before. Your needs might vary when dating different people. Accept these differences. If attached, you will flow from one idea to another. Your sweetie could prove to be a powerful sounding board. You gain through debating suggestions and ideas. ARIES cannot help but energise you.

 

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Your energy builds all day until you are so energised you find it difficult to put the brakes on. You will be more willing to take a risk than you normally are. Still, be cautious. Your sixth sense will guide you as well. Tonight: Be spontaneous.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): You have a strong sense of direction that rarely fails you; Today is an example of this sixth sense. Be aware of a tendency to sabotage yourself. You simply might feel insecure because you have a lot vested in a decision. Tonight: Play it low-key.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Others look to you to take the lead and state your vision. You do not need to work hard to convince others — or yourself — of your rightness. Sooner rather than later, you come out of a quandary soaring. Tonight: You are on the winning path.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Your antenna is tuned into possibilities, some of which seem unfathomable to many people. Do not worry, and keep your eye on the goal. Ideas that pop up in the late afternoon might need to be scanned more carefully. Tonight: Consider the possibilities.

LEO (July 23-Aug 22): Look at what is happening with a special person at a distance. Listen to what is being said; read between the lines. You will see a situation more clearly as a result. Don’t be impulsive. Tonight: Plan a weekend jaunt for the near future.

VIRGO (Aug 23-Sept 22): Defer and understand what is happening around a special person in your life. Though your needs might be significant, hold back and listen to what he or she asks for. You might be surprised by what comes up. Tonight: Speak, but also listen.

LIBRA (Sept 23-Oct 22): Defer to another person, knowing full well what you need and what you are asking for. You could be surprised at what another person suggests. Be aware of the costs of going along with this idea. It could backfire. Tonight: Be as authentic as possible.

SCORPIO (Oct 23-Nov 21): Obviously you have a lot on your plate. Clearing that plate will take time and concentration. You must do that to move ahead in a key segment of your life. Touch base with your feelings. Tonight: Call it an early night.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov 22-Dec 21): At first, you might feel boxed in by another person’s limitations. Once you slow down and consider your options, you feel renewed and are sure of your ability to regain your power. Tonight: Time for some fun.

CAPRICORN (Dec 22-Jan 19): Speak your mind and handle a personal matter more closely. Your ability to read between the lines helps you deal with an issue in the a.m. Still, slow down about any commitments that are forthcoming. You will want your space. Tonight: Order in.

AQUARIUS (Jan 20-Feb 18): Project less and listen more. Someone might have strong financial opinions, but they might not suit you. Be clear. What works for one person does not need to work for someone else. Tonight: You don’t need to go far to enjoy yourself.

PISCES (Feb 19-March 20): Use the a.m. to the max. You might feel as if there is no way your energy will last until the afternoon. Make it OK to slow down and gain a better perspective. Your perception in the afternoon has financial implications. Tonight: Pay bills, then make plans.

 

(c) 2020 by King Features Syndicate Inc.

 

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Crackdown on immigrants who use public benefits takes effect

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PHOENIX, United States (AP) — Pastor Antonio Velasquez says that before the Trump Administration announced a crackdown on immigrants using Government social services, people lined up before sunrise outside a state office in a largely Latino Phoenix neighbourhood to sign up for food stamps and Medicaid.

No more.

“You had to arrive at 3:00 in the morning, and it might take you until the end of the day,” he said, pointing behind the office in the Maryvale neighbourhood to show how long the lines got.

But no one lined up one recent weekday morning, and there were just a handful of people inside.

With new rules taking effect yesterday that disqualify more people from green cards if they use government benefits, droves of immigrants, including citizens and legal residents, have dropped social services they or their children may be entitled to out of fear they will be kicked out of the US, said Velazquez and other advocates.

“This will bring more poverty, more homeless, more illness,” said Velasquez, a well known leader among Spanish-speaking immigrants in the Phoenix area.

The guidelines that aim to determine whether immigrants seeking legal residency are likely to become a government burden are part of the Trump Administration’s broader effort to reduce immigration, particularly among poorer people.

The rules that critics say amount to a “wealth test” were supposed to take effect in October but were delayed by legal challenges that allege the move violates due process under the US Constitution. The Supreme Court last month cleared the way for the Trump Administration to move forward while the legality of the rules are litigated in the courts.

A 5-4 vote Friday by the high court sided with the Trump administration by lifting a last injunction covering just Illinois. Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a blistering dissent, criticizing the administration for quickly turning to the Supreme Court after facing losses in lower courts.

The White House over the weekend expressed gratitude for that final vote, saying it would help “safeguard welfare programmes for truly needy Americans, reduce the federal deficit, and re-establish the fundamental legal principle that newcomers to our society should be financially self-reliant and not dependent on the largess of United States taxpayers”.

Federal law already requires those seeking permanent residency or legal status to prove they will not be a burden to the US — a “public charge” in government lingo. But the new rules include a wider range of programmes that could disqualify them, including using Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers.

“Self-sufficiency is a core American value and has been part of immigration law for centuries,” Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy Homeland Security secretary, said last month. “By requiring those seeking to come or stay in the United States to rely on their own resources, families and communities, we will encourage self-sufficiency, promote immigrant success, and protect American taxpayers.”

The chilling effect spreading through immigrant communities recalls how millions of refugees dumped social services during the welfare changes of the 1990s, even though the legislation that prompted the cuts explicitly exempted them.

Nazanin Ash, Washington-based vice-president for global policy and advocacy for the non-profit International Rescue Committee, pointed to research showing some 37 per cent of refugees exempted from the Clinton-era changes in welfare benefits dropped food stamps they were entitled to.

Ash said the Trump Administration rules would likely cause similar hardships for immigrants who contribute to the American economy.

“To call them a burden on society is factually incorrect,” she said.

The non-profit Migration Policy Institute in Washington said in an August policy paper that it expects “a significant share” of the nearly 23 million non citizens and US citizens in immigrant families who use public benefits will drop them.

Julia Gelatt, a senior policy analyst with the institute, said the guidelines are so complicated that there have even been reports of parents dropping their kids’ free school lunches, which are not affected.

Gelatt noted that the rules apply only to social services used after yesterday and do not affect citizens or most green card holders. Refugees vetted by the State Department and other federal agencies before their arrival in the US, as well as people who obtain asylum, are not affected.

The guidelines don’t apply to many programmes for children and pregnant and post-natal women including Head Start early childhood education and the Supplemental Food Programme for Women, Infants and Children.

Nevertheless, Stephanie Santiago, who manages two Phoenix-area clinics for the non-profit Mountain Park Health Center, said during the last three months of 2019 she suddenly saw scores of immigrants drop those and other benefits.

“People are very scared about the rules,” Santiago said. “The sad thing is that they even drop the services their US citizen kids qualify for. A lot of these kids are going to school sick or their parents are paying out of pocket for services they should get for free.”

Cynthia Aragon, outreach coordinator for the non-profit Helping Families in Need in Phoenix, said that because of the confusion, she is steering people to private sources of aid, like food banks and church-run clinics.

“I think people will start applying for government services again after it becomes clearer how things are going to work,” Aragon said. “In the meantime, we tell immigrants to look for some of the other resources out there and don’t feel like a victim.”

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Virus outbreak chills markets, outlook for global economy

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The widening coronavirus outbreak threatens to seriously disrupt the global economy, just as it was steadying itself against headwinds from the US-China trade dispute.

Amid concerns that global output could decline for the first time since the global financial crisis a little more than a decade ago, stock markets sank yesterday. In one sign of how sentiment has been negatively hit, gold spiked 1.8 per cent to US$1,688 an ounce, its highest level in seven years, as traders sought out financial assets some consider safer in times of stress.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones was down more than 900 points during early afternoon trading, while in Europe, the pan-European Stoxx 600 slid 3.6 per cent after an eruption of cases in Italy. Cases were also reported in new countries in the Middle East.

“Compounded with the already dramatic interruptions to global supply chains in China, traders fear that a rapid spread of the disease to other major economies could be enough to temporarily tip global economic growth into contraction in the first half of the year,” said Matt Weller, global head of market research at GAIN Capital.

China, the epicentre of the outbreak, faces the most acute near-term difficulties as factories lie idle and people remain home. But the ripple effects are being felt all around the world, as China is both a major importer of goods as well as a source of parts through intricate supply chains. Growth estimates for China are already being cut.

Concerns are growing in the 19-country Eurozone, whose three biggest economies — Germany, France, and Italy — are stalling. Concerns over the knock-on effects on Germany, Europe’s export powerhouse, are particularly acute. Germany’s main DAX stock market closed a whopping 4 per cent lower yesterday.

“Given the latest developments, one has inevitably to talk about downside risks for German exporters,” said Andreas Rees, chief German economist at UniCredit.

Rees cited figures showing car sales in China fell 92 per cent in the first two weeks of February, and pointed out that of the 21 million cars sold in China last year, about one in five was made either in Germany or through German investment in China. Most Chinese auto showrooms are closed.

Meanwhile, Italy’s FTSE MIB slumped 5.4 per cent as Italian civil protection officials said at least 222 people had tested positive for the virus in the country and that six people had died.

Jack Allen-Reynolds, senior Europe economist at Capital Economics, said the virus “makes another recession in Italy more likely than not”.

Europeans had been hoping for a modest upturn this year after major economies staggered through a rough patch at the end of the year. Germany showed zero growth in the fourth quarter, while the No 2 and No 3 economies, France and Italy, shrank slightly. Two straight quarters of falling growth is one definition of a recession.

The global economy was just stabilising after wobbles caused by the trade war between the US and China and fears of a disorderly British exit from the European Union. The coronavirus hit just as a US-China preliminary deal and a Brexit withdrawal divorce agreement had boosted hopes for a modest upswing, particularly in Europe.

Now the world economy could see its first quarterly fall in seasonally adjusted output since the global financial crisis of more than a decade ago, says Ben May, director of global macro research at Oxford Economics.

Frequent business and tourism destinations for people from China are already being hit hard, confirming that this will be a key way that the pain will spread to other Asian economies, with Singapore and Hong Kong feeling the effects.

Comparisons to the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic, another deadly outbreak that originated in China, aren’t reassuring because China’s share of the global economy is much bigger than it was back then, and supply chains moving raw materials, parts, and products snake through the global economy more than ever.

Stock markets may have been slow to appreciate the risk posed by the outbreak because they hoped central banks could step in with more stimulus.

Individual companies have already reported trouble, most notably Apple, which said it will miss its sales target. But it could take until April or May before hard data on production and sales gives a clear picture of the impact on a regional or global level, Oxford Economics’s May said.

Markets are now pricing in a bigger chance for a rate cut by the European Central Bank (ECB) by July, even though the ECB has already cut rates into unprecedented negative territory. Its key benchmark deposit rate is minus 0.5 per cent.

Kristalina Georgieva, the head of the International Monetary Fund, said that the fund’s baseline scenario is that China’s economy slows but returns to normal in the second quarter.

“But we are looking at more dire scenarios where the spread of the virus continues for longer and more globally, and the growth consequences are more protracted,” she said.

Testifying to Congress on February 11, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said that it was too early to assess the scope of the impact the virus poses to the US economy. He noted that at the moment the economy “is in a very good place” with strong job creation and steady growth.

Powell indicated that he saw no need to change the Fed’s benchmark interest rate, which is in a range of 1.5 per cent to 1.75 per cent after three rate cuts in 2019.

Raphael Bostic, head of the Fed’s Atlanta regional bank, said Friday that he expected the coronavirus to “be a short-time hit; we’ll get the economy back to its usual level” after the adverse effects pass.

The US economy still looks resilient, growing at a solid 2.1 per cent annual rate the last three months of 2019. American consumers are driving the record-breaking expansion, now in its 11th year.

Business investment has been weak, partly because President Donald Trump’s trade wars have generated uncertainty about where companies should locate factories and buy supplies. Investment could get weaker if the virus continues to disrupt the supply chains American businesses rely on.

 

 

 

 

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Three-vehicle crash

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Three-vehicle crash

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

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An ambulance and fire truck at the scene of a three-vehicle accident at the entrance to the Portmore toll road in St Catherine, yesterday morning.

It was not clear how many people were injured in the crash. (Photo: Garfield Robinson).


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1 of every 3 Venezuelans facing hunger

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — One of every three people in Venezuela is struggling to put enough food on the table to meet minimum nutritional requirements as the nation’s severe economic contraction and political upheaval persists, according to a study published Sunday by the UN World Food Programme.

A nationwide survey, based on data from 8,375 questionnaires, revealed a startling picture of the large number of Venezuelans surviving off a diet consisting largely of tubers and beans as hyperinflation renders many salaries worthless.

A total of 9.3 million people — roughly one-third of the population — are moderately or severely food insecure, said the World Food Programme’s study, which was conducted at the invitation of the Venezuelan Government.

Food insecurity is defined as an individual being unable to meet basic dietary needs.

The study describes food insecurity as a nationwide concern, though certain states like Delta Amacuro, Amazonas, and Falcon had especially high levels.

Even in more prosperous regions, one in five people are estimated to be food insecure. “The reality of this report shows the gravity of the social, economic, and political crisis in our country,” said Miguel Pizarro, a Venezuelan Opposition leader.

Venezuelan President Nicols Maduro has been largely reluctant in recent years to invite international organisations to provide assessments of the nation’s humanitarian ordeal, though the World Food Programme said it was granted “full independence” and collected data throughout the country “without any impediment or obstruction”.

“WFP looks forward to a continuation of its dialogue with the Venezuelan Government and discussions that will focus on the way forward to provide assistance for those who are food insecure,” the agency said in a statement.

There was no immediate response to the findings by Maduro’s Government. The survey found that 74 per cent of families have adopted “food-related coping strategies”, such as reducing the variety and quality of food they eat.

Sixty per cent of households reported cutting portion sizes in meals, 33 per cent said they had accepted food as payment for work, and 20 per cent reported selling family assets to cover basic needs.

The issue appears to be one that is less about the availability of food and more about the difficulty in obtaining it.

Seven in 10 reported that food could always be found but said it is difficult to purchase because of high prices.

Thirty-seven per cent reported they had lost their job or business as a result of Venezuela’s severe economic contraction.

Venezuela has been in the throes of a political and humanitarian crisis that has led over 4.5 million people to flee in recent years.

Maduro has managed to keep his grip on power despite a push by Opposition Leader Juan Guaid to remove him from office and mounting US sanctions.

Maduro frequently blames the Trump Administration for his nation’s woes, and his Government has urged the International Criminal Court to open an investigation, alleging that the financial sanctions are causing suffering and even death. The nation’s struggles to feed citizens and provide adequate medical care predate US sanctions on the Venezuelan Government.

In addition to food, the survey also looked at interruptions in access to electricity and water, finding that four in 10 households experience daily power cuts. Four in 10 also reported recurrent interruptions in water service, further complicating daily life.

Noting that the survey was done in July through September, Carolina Fernndez, a Venezuelan rights advocate who works with vulnerable women, said she believes the situation has deteriorated even more.

While it was once possible for many families to survive off remittances sent by relatives living abroad, she said, that has become more difficult as much of the economy is dollarised and prices rise.

“Now it’s not enough to have one person living abroad,” she said. Fernndez said food insecurity is likely to have an enduring impact on a generation of young Venezuelans going hungry during formative years.

“We’re talking about children who are going to have longterm problems because they’re not eating adequately,” she said.

Those who are going hungry include people like Yonni Gutirrez, 56, who was standing outside a restaurant that sells roasted chickens in Caracas on Sunday.

The unemployed man approached the restaurant’s front door whenever a customer left with a bag of food, hoping they might share something.

He said he previously had been able to scrape by helping unload trucks at a market, but the business that employed him closed.

“Sometimes, with a little luck, I get something good,” he said of his restaurant stake-out.

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