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Annual cruise shipping conference and exhibition opens in Miami

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Exhibition booths at the 30th annual Cruise Shipping Miami conference and exhibition, which opened on Monday at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Photos: Manish Shah

MIAMI, USA — The 30th annual Cruise Shipping Miami conference and exhibition opened on Monday at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The show runs through Thursday, March 13.

The annual gathering usually draws around 11,000 attendees, but UBM, owner and organizer of Cruise Shipping Miami, anticipates a jump of more than 30 percent in visitors and delegates to the three-day exhibition and four-day conference. The trade show, which is almost 10 percent larger than last year, features 140 new exhibitors for a total of nearly 900 exhibiting companies from 127 countries.

“No one could have predicted 30 years ago that from a meeting of 150 cruise executives in a hotel in New York that Cruise Shipping Miami would grow to become the industry’s premier annual event,” said Daniel Read, director of UBM’s Cruise Event Portfolio. “The conference sessions, state of the global cruise industry panels, emerging products zone and cruise trends theater all will address issues and developments that will shape the cruise industry of the future.”

Cruise Shipping Miami kicked off on Monday with the World Cruise Tourism Summit, a series of roundtable discussions led by industry experts.

The conference officially opens on Tuesday, with the “State of the Global Cruise Industry” plenary session featuring the top executives from the world’s largest cruise corporations: Carnival Corporation & plc, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises.

The session also features Katty Kay, anchor of “BBC World News America,” as the event’s first moderator from outside the cruise industry.

New for 2014 are three additional “state of the global cruise industry” panels led by cruise line chief executives addressing trends and developments in the world’s major cruise regions: the Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

The exhibition, which covers all four halls of the Miami Beach Convention Center, officially opens Tuesday morning and closes Thursday afternoon.

Represented in the trade show are the world’s largest shipbuilders, 400 destinations, cutting-edge information technology providers, ship equipment suppliers and entertainment companies. New this year is an interactive Food and Beverage Pavilion focusing on the latest in shipboard culinary trends, products and equipment. Other industry sectors include ship design and refurbishment, ship services and hotel operations.

The exhibition features trade delegations from Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mexico, South Africa, Spain and Turkey.

St Vincent consulate makes history in Northern Ireland

NEWTOWNARDS, Northern Ireland — The consulate of St Vincent and the Grenadines and the community of Ards in Northern Ireland ‘made history’ on Monday (Commonwealth Day) when it joined 500 other communities across the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man in raising the Commonwealth flag in Newtownards.

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Dr Christopher Stange (R), Hon. Consul for St Vincent and the Grenadines to Northern Ireland, and Cllr. Stephen McIlveen, Mayor of Ards with the Commonwealth flag

Mayor of Ards, Councillor Stephen McIlveen, was joined by Dr Christopher Stange of the consulate for St Vincent and the Grenadines to Northern Ireland, for the flag-raising ceremony.

The event was part of the largest, single, raising of the Commonwealth flag in the history of the Commonwealth, an initiative which aimed to demonstrate a widespread public commitment to the Commonwealth, appreciation of the values it stands for, and the opportunities offered to its citizens around the world.

McIlveen, said: “This was a simple, yet very visible demonstration of our support for the Commonwealth’s shared goals of democracy, development and respect for diversity and I was privileged to be able to raise the flag in the company of Dr Stange and at the same moment as hundreds of other communities across the UK and the 53 countries which form the Commonwealth.”

Stange commented: “It has been a privilege to be involved with Ards Borough Council to commemorate Commonwealth Day. SVG is one of the few remaining Commonwealth realms with the consulate based in Comber. History, culture, shared values of human rights, democracy and rule of law unites the 53 member states. We look forward to the Commonwealth Games this year in Glasgow, building upon the long standing relations between St Vincent and the Grenadines and the United Kingdom.”

Giant virus comes back to life after 30,000 years

LONDON, England, Monday March 10, 2014 – While it lacks the fear factor of the discovery that set the fictional Jurassic Park in motion, there’s still some cause for concern about what lies frozen deep in the Siberian permafrost.

According to a team of French scientists, an ancient virus has “come back to life” after lying dormant for at least 30,000 years.

The virus was found frozen and harmless in a deep layer of the Siberian permafrost. It nevertheless became infectious again after it had thawed.

While researchers say the contagion poses no danger to humans or animals, other more deadly pathogens could be unleashed as the ground becomes exposed.

Professor Jean-Michel Claverie, from the National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS) at the University of Aix-Marseille in France, said: “This is the first time we’ve seen a virus that’s still infectious after this length of time.”

According to the study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the ancient pathogen was discovered buried 30m (100ft) down in the frozen ground.

Called Pithovirus sibericum, it belongs to a class of giant viruses that were discovered 10 years ago and are all so large that, unlike other viruses, they can be seen under a microscope.

The latest one, measuring 1.5 micrometres in length, is the biggest that has ever been found.

Tests show that it attacks amoebas, which are single-celled organisms, but does not infect humans or other animals.

The researchers nevertheless believe that other more deadly pathogens could be locked in Siberia’s permafrost.

“We are addressing this issue by sequencing the DNA that is present in those layers,” said CNRS’ Dr Chantal Abergel. “This would be the best way to work out what is dangerous in there.”

The researchers say this region is under threat. Since the 1970s, the permafrost has retreated and reduced in thickness, and climate change projections suggest it will decrease further. It has also become more accessible, and is being eyed for its natural resources.

Professor Claverie warns that exposing the deep layers could expose new viral threats.

“It is a recipe for disaster. If you start having industrial explorations, people will start to move around the deep permafrost layers. Through mining and drilling, those old layers will be penetrated and this is where the danger is coming from,” he said.

He told BBC News that ancient strains of the smallpox virus, which was declared eradicated 30 years ago, could pose a risk.

“If it is true that these viruses survive in the same way those amoeba viruses survive, then smallpox is not eradicated from the planet – only the surface,” he said.

“By going deeper we may reactivate the possibility that smallpox could become again a disease of humans in modern times.”

However, it is not yet clear whether all viruses could become active again after being frozen for thousands or even millions of years.

“That’s the six million dollar question,” said Professor Jonathan Ball, a virologist from the University of Nottingham, who was commenting on the research.

“Finding a virus still capable of infecting its host after such a long time is still pretty astounding – but just how long other viruses could remain viable in permafrost is anyone’s guess. It will depend a lot on the actual virus. I doubt they are all as robust as this one.” (BBC)

Commonwealth ICT ministers agree on common approach for governance of cyberspace

LONDON, England — Commonwealth ICT Ministers have adopted a Commonwealth cybergovernance model to guide national policy development of their national cyberspace.

Representing over 35 Commonwealth countries, ICT ministers and their advisors met in London on 3 – 4 March 2014, at the first of what is expected to be a series of biennial ICT ministerial meetings.

The agreed model builds on the values and aspirations expressed in the Commonwealth Charter, including democracy, sustainable development, human rights, and the rule of law.

Guiding principles within the model include:

• contributing to a safe and effective cyberspace;
• supporting broader economic and social development;
• acting individually and collectively to tackle cybercrime; and
• exercising rights and meeting responsibilities in cyberspace.

These principles are intended “to guide Commonwealth members to plan and implement practical actions in policy development, regulation and legislation, cross-border collaboration, capacity building, technical measures and other operational activities,” the model says in its introduction.

Ministers noted that while the principles are important, there is an urgent need to address how these principles will be implemented.

Speaking at the closing of the event, which was held at Marlborough House in London, Tim Newman, acting director at the Commonwealth Secretariat, welcomed “the very rich discussion of some of the key issues facing Commonwealth members in the field of ICTs”.

“We look forward to working collaboratively with the CTO in order to clearly define our areas of comparative advantage and to ensure that the needs of all our member countries are responded to in the most effective way,” Newman added.

Professor Tim Unwin, secretary-general of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO), co-host of the event, welcomed the overwhelming support offered by members for the new initiative.

“The CTO is deeply honoured to have been involved in helping to shape this very important framework. It was a remarkable achievement that working together we were able to reach agreement on these very important principles. Now we all need urgently to work together collaboratively and supportively to turn these principles into real practical actions.” he said.

At the meeting, ministers also agreed to action on the Commonwealth plan for broadband inclusion, a strategy for advancing broadband across the 53-country membership, ICTs and disability and ICTs in education. They also noted that Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Perth (2011) and Colombo (2013) had endorsed the Commonwealth cybercrime initiative.

Copies of the approved model will be available for download on the CTO website (www.cto.int)

12 Years A Slave bags best picture Oscar

CALIFORNIA, United States, Wednesday March 5, 2014 – History was made, as well as depicted, by the harrowing historical drama “12 Years a Slave,”  which bagged the best picture Oscar at the 86th annual Academy Awards on Sunday.

British-Caribbean director Steve McQueen’s unflinching portrayal of 19th century American slavery marked the first time a film directed by a black filmmaker has won an Oscar for best picture.

McQueen, who based his epic movie on the trials of Solomon Northup, a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery, dedicated the honour to all those who had suffered slavery and “the 21 million who still endure slavery today.”

“Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live,” said McQueen. “This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup.”

The film also bagged the Oscar for best supporting actress for Lupita Nyong’o for her moving portrayal of Patsy, a comely slave who caught her sadistic master’s eye.

The 31-year-old breakthrough star picked up the award on her film debut, beating out experienced actresses Sally Hawkins, Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Roberts, and June Squibb in that category.

In accepting the award, the Mexican-born actress of Kenyan descent paid tribute to director McQueen.

“I’m certain that the dead are standing about you and they are watching and they are grateful, and so am I.”

Meanwhile, the 3-D space odyssey “Gravity” emerged as the night’s top award-winner in terms of numbers. Sweeping the technical categories, it earned seven Oscars including best director for Alfonso Cuaron. The Mexican filmmaker is the category’s first Latino winner.

Other major awards went to the stars of the Texas AIDS drama “Dallas Buyers Club,” Matthew McConaughey (best actor) and Jared Leto (best supporting actor), and Australia’s Cate Blanchett for her portrayal of a fallen socialite in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” (best actress, her second Oscar).

CARICOM “deeply concerned” over political tensions between Ukraine and Russia

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Wednesday March 5, 2014, CMC – The 15-member regional integration grouping, CARICOM< Wednesday said it was ‘deeply concerned” at the ongoing political developments in Ukraine and called for an end to the tensions to prevent possible bloodshed.

“The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is deeply concerned by the recent developments in Ukraine and calls on all parties involved, to act with self-restraint and responsibility in order to reduce tensions and avoid destabilisation in that region,” the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat said in a statement.

It said CARICOM “supports the people of Ukraine in their efforts to settle their differences peacefully, and calls for the respect of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“In this regard, the Community also calls for the use of international mediation and/or negotiations, to address security and human rights concerns in Ukraine, under the auspices of the United Nations.

“The Caribbean Community will continue to monitor developments within Ukraine and hopes for peace and calm as political and economic stability are restored within that country.”

The United States and Russia are expected to hold talks on easing East-West tension over Ukraine on Wednesday.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet face-to-face for the first time since the crisis escalated, after a conference in Paris attended by all five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

NATO and Russia will hold parallel talks in Brussels amid concerns that a standoff between Russian and Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea could still spark violence, or that Moscow could also intervene in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday defended Russia’s actions in Crimea, a strategic Black Sea peninsula that is part of Ukraine but used to be Russian territory, and said he would use force only as a last resort.

Haiti’s first-ever cardinal to tell pope of his country’s woes

VATICAN CITY, Rome, Monday February 24, 2014 – Haiti’s first-ever cardinal, Chibly Langlois, has vowed to “bring the reality” of his earthquake-ravaged country “into the heart of the Vatican.”

Langlois was one of 19 who were formally appointed to the Catholic Church’s College of Cardinals on Saturday at a ceremony at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

The 56-year-old was first named in an announcement by Pope Francis on January 12, the anniversary of the massive earthquake that shattered Haiti and from which the French-speaking Caribbean country is still struggling to recover.

Four years after the 2010 earthquake killed 250,000 people and devastated the country and its infrastructure, nearly 170,000 Haitians remain homeless and impoverished.

Given the special significance of the day for all Haitians, Langlois said he was moved by the pontiff’s choice of date for the announcement.

“We understand that with this nomination the pope wants to invite us to cultivate joy even in the midst of sadness. The joy, the suffering, the pain of the Haitian people are equally those of the Haitian church,” Langlois said.

The country is also embroiled in political strife, with President Michel Martelly currently in talks with the opposition and parliament to end a months-long stalemate over holding parliamentary elections, which were due to take place two years ago.

Critics from both the opposition and the church have lambasted the government for the slow pace of reconstruction after the quake.

Langlois, as the head of the beleaguered country’s Catholic Church, is involved in both issues: which he refers to as a “major economic crisis” and a “political and institutional crisis.”

He vowed to share his knowledge of the situation with Rome.

“I’m bringing the reality of the Haitian church to the heart of the College of Cardinals,” Langlois said, adding that the church’s reality “is also Haiti’s reality.”

“I am going to share with the pope the reality of Haiti: speak to him of our riches, of our weaknesses and our limits.

“We are in a society where there are many difficulties on the economic front. And the church is not from outer space; it is part of reality. What the people experience, the church experiences as well,” he noted.

US, Grenada mark 30th anniversary of military intervention

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American students at St George’s University on Grenada surround a US soldier after his arrival at the campus with peacekeeping forces during the US-Caribbean intervention there, October 25, 1983. DOD file photo

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, USA — On Friday, officials from US Southern Command and the US Embassy in Grenada were due to join leaders from Grenada and its eastern Caribbean neighbours to commemorate the 30th anniversary of a multinational intervention that rescued Grenada from chaos and restored the security and democratic institutions it enjoys today.

Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, commander of US Southern Command; Larry Palmer, US Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, and families of the 19 US service members killed and US veterans of the mission will mark what Grenadians have come to call “Thanksgiving Day.”

Hosted by Grenada Prime Minister Keith Mitchell and Gov. Gen. Cecile La Grenade, they were due to attend Thanksgiving Day services, lay a wreath at the Intervention Memorial Monument and attend a ceremony honouring the US service members who lost their lives in the operation.

Among those accompanying Kelly to the ceremonies will be Nelson Del Valle, a conference coordinator for Southcom’s Regional Engagement Branch. For Del Valle, who works regularly with officials from nations throughout its area of responsibility, including Grenada, to promote partnership and cooperation, the visit is profoundly personal.

Del Valle was a 23-year-old Marine corporal stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC, when he got the call during a late October 1983 evening ordering him to report to base with his gear. He and eight other members of the 2nd Marine Division’s interrogation unit were loaded on a helicopter and flown to Pope Air Force Base, NC, where they joined soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division based at neighbouring Fort Bragg.

“We all thought we were going to Beirut,” Del Valle recalled, assuming they were part of a response to the US Marine barracks attack in Lebanon just two days earlier that had left 241 US service personnel dead, most of them Marines.

But seated together in a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, the troops were told that they were headed to Grenada for a mission the military had code-named Operation Urgent Fury.

They learned during their onboard intelligence briefing that Grenada’s Prime Minister Maurice Bishop had been abducted and assassinated during a bloody coup, throwing the tiny island nation into escalating violence. The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, as well as the nations of Barbados and Jamaica, appealed to the United States for help.

The United States responded with its first major military operation since the Vietnam War.

A nearly 8,000-member joint force, designated Joint Task Force 120, included the Army’s Rapid Deployment Force, made up of Rangers from the 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions and 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers, the Army Special Forces, Marines, the Navy’s Independence Carrier Battle Group, and Navy SEALS and Air Force fighting and airlift wings.

Joining them were about 300 members of the Caribbean Peace Forces, fielded from Jamaica, Barbados and the eastern Caribbean.

The goal was three-fold: to protect innocent lives; prevent the chaos from escalating; and help restore government institutions and rule of law in Grenada.

The intervention began early in the morning of Oct. 25, 1983, with a parachute assault by Army Rangers at Point Salines and a Marine assault at Pearl.

Working out of a detention facility, Del Valle’s job was to gather intelligence to support the combat operations. Information about the situation in Grenada was limited, he said, but the Grenadian locals went out of their way to provide details he knew would benefit the combat soldiers and Marines.

“They did their job and protected us so we could do ours,” he said of his comrades. “It motivated us to get them the information they needed to save lives. It was definitely teamwork all around.”

Over the next nine days, US troops rescued and evacuated 599 US citizens, including medical students at a university, as well as 121 non-combatants from other nations, according to a report Dr Ronald H. Cole of the Joint Staff History Office compiled on the operation for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In addition to protecting innocent lives, they also helped the people of Grenada restore law and order and governmental institutions, Jose Ruiz, a Southcom public affairs officer, told American Forces Press Service.

“In a show of regional solidarity with the people of Grenada, more than 300 peacekeepers from Jamaica, Barbados and the eastern Caribbean joined US forces in intervening to end the violence and intimidation that threatened not only Grenada’s citizens and visitors, but also the future of an otherwise peaceful island nation,” he said.

The intervention has had a long-term impact in strengthening the United States’ partnerships with Grenada and it regional neighbors, Ruiz said.

“What has followed the success of international intervention is three decades of peace for the people of Grenada and the eastern Caribbean, during which our countries have strengthened their friendship and expanded their economic, cultural, political and security ties,” he said.

Meanwhile, lessons learned through the intervention led to major changes in the force that to this day improve its ability to conduct joint operations.

The intervention highlighted communication problems and difficulties in coordinating between the services, Coles noted in his report.

Ultimately, that led to some of the most-sweeping changes within the Defense Department since its establishment in 1947. The Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 instituted broad reforms in US military organization, doctrine and operating procedures.

Del Valle said he saw the benefits of those reforms firsthand when he deployed to another joint operation — this one, Operation Just Cause in Panama in December 1989.

Today, Del Valle said he’s excited about returning to Grenada for the first time since the intervention to see the fruits of what he and his fellow service members fought for three decades ago.

Remembering the destroyed buildings and burned cars along Grenada’s streets in 1983, he said he looks forward to seeing the country stable, secure and prosperous. Most of all, he said, he wants to be able to see the impact it’s had on the Grenadian people.

“I remember seeing the faces of the locals, and the terror and fear in most of their eyes,” he said. “Returning there is important for me, because I don’t want to remember them like that for the rest of my life.”

Reflecting on the 30th anniversary commemoration, Del Valle said he’s proud of what he and his fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines accomplished in Grenada.

“I think it’s a good thing that people know what the United States did for this little nation that needed help, and that we were able to do the right thing there,” he said.

Grenada PM calls for integrated approach in moving forward nationally and regionally

WASHINGTON, USA — Speaking at a town hall meeting at Howard University in Washington DC on Tuesday evening before fellow Grenadians, members of the Caribbean Diaspora and dignitaries, Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell said he would be taking an integrated approach in moving his country and the Caribbean forward.

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Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell

Commenting on the many problems that plague Grenada and the Caribbean, Mitchell stressed high debt, unemployment, healthcare problems and the necessity for development in education.

In highlighting the reasons for the high debt and the slow economic growth, the prime minister said that tourism is a fundamental factor for economic growth in the region and pointed to energy as the main deterrent.

“Grenada is the only country in the Caribbean with an energy problem and it’s affecting every single aspect of productivity,” he further said.

While he looked forward to partnering with Trinidad and Venezuela to solve the energy problem, he also called on the need for a platform for information and technology, freedom of movement and Caribbean unity, especially where sports was concerned, as major tools for economic growth in moving the Caribbean forward in an integrated fashion.

Grenada artists visit Venice exhibition

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Art and Soul artists visit the Venice Biennale

By Susan Mains
Art and Soul Gallery, Grenada

ST GEORGE’S, Grenada — The ultimate in art adventures, the Venice Biennale has for 155 years been the premier art exhibition in the world. Grenada’s artists have not yet had the privilege of representing their country in art at this prestigious event; nonetheless, a contingent of Grenada’s leading artists found their way to Italy to be inspired by the works on display.

Art and Soul Gallery at Spiceland Mall has been championing the cause of art for the past eleven years. As a real step of solidarity, and commitment to raising the standard of excellence in Grenada, several of the artists represented by the gallery joined in this “creative accrual” trip. Susan Mains, owner of the gallery, along with Asher Mains, Oliver Benoit, Maria McClafferty and Milton Williams, explored the halls of the Arsenal and the Country Pavilions together, with much discussion along the way.

Most notable was the exhibit of The Bahamas, the only English-speaking Caribbean country with an exhibit there. A visually stunning display from Tavares Strachan was supported by the Ministry of Tourism of The Bahamas. A graduate of the masters programme of Yale University in the United States, his combination of installations having to do with “Polar Eclipse” beg the question of what that has to do with The Bahamas. The bigger picture may be global warming, which is a very current concern of the low lying Bahamas, but then again it is completely open to interpretation, which is the intent of the artist.

The featured video in the Great Britain pavilion, a steel band in England provided the music and visuals — a recording being done at the famous Abbey Road studios of Beatles fame. Appropriation from the Caribbean is not new — it used to be cocoa and bananas, now it is our creative force. A previous presentation at the Biennale from Great Britain was a film of Steve McQueen, a Brit of Grenadian descent.

Exhibits were diverse — sculptures, installations, videos, performance and many that blurred the traditional lines. There was a great number of works that had to do with the earth’s resources and how they are impacted by people. Some exhibits just left us shaking our heads. No need to name the countries. Just smh.

The real question is when Grenada will be represented at such an esteemed event. Institutional support is a must. The invitation to participate only comes from government to government, so our Ministry of Culture, or Ministry of Tourism, or Ministry of Foreign Affairs must be involved. It is expensive. The work must be sent there, and the pavilion rented for six months. Support personnel must be there — another expense. And the printed material given to the visitors also is an expense. (Many countries also had private corporate sponsors). But the payback as far as exposure for Grenada is priceless. This is the world stage, just as much as the Olympics for sport.

On the last night in Venice we opened and shared a bar of Grenada chocolate that we had brought with us to toast the memory of Mott Green. He wanted to make confectionary chocolate in Grenada and was told that it couldn’t be done. While the “expert consultants” were telling him it couldn’t be done, he set his vision forward, overcoming many obstacles, and did it, creating one of the finest chocolates in the world.

We hope that this same spirit of “can do” will propel us so that Grenada will one day be represented at the Biennale in Venice, and other world events for art.

Just don’t tell us that it can’t be done.

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