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Man And His Invited Alligator Turned Away From Game.

An emotional support alligator recently strolled into a ballpark with his ownder and was asked to leave by stadium security, for no apparent reason.

That’s the story that’s made headlines in recent days, thanks to viral photos and videos showing Wally — a six foot long, 55 pound alligator wearing a harness and leash — and his human companion outside of Citizens Bank Park during a Phillies game on Wednesday night.


But it’s not the whole truth, owner Joie Henney told NPR.

“We were not there to go to the ballgame,” said Henney, 70. “We were there to meet the players, was what we went there for, and I was invited. I didn’t just show up.”

To understand the backstory, you need to know — as Wally’s myriad of local admirers and online fans do — just how beloved this eight-year-old alligator is already.

Wally has more than 114,000 followers on TikTok and another 27,000+ on Instagram. He’s gone viral before, including for joyfully splashing around in the fountain at Philadelphia’s famous LOVE Park last summer.

He’s posed for photos at City Hall with the mayor of York and visited seniors at a local retirement home. And he was the visual reference for Alligator Loki in the hit Disney+ show Loki.

“He’s actually world-famous,” Henney said. Which is how he scored an invite to meet the Phillies.

As Henney explained it, one of Wally’s fans — who visits him regularly from New Jersey — is also a big Phillies fan, and happens to be friendly with some of the players and their wives.

After hearing her rave reviews, the team invited Henney and Wally to Philadelphia, which is about two hours away from where they live in Harrisburg. Henney said they were there not to watch the game but to meet the players.

But by the time they got to the stadium, the players were already preparing for the game, said Henney. Since they were already there, his friend figured she’d buy them tickets to watch. But she didn’t ask about the rules for emotional support animals.

“We were standing in line waiting, they said I can’t take Wally because they only allow service animals … and I said ‘Okay, I respect what your rules are,'” Henney said. “There was no arguing, there was nothing.”

Citizens Bank Park’s policy prohibits all animals other than “guide dogs, service animals or service animals in training.” NPR has reached out to the Phillies for comment.

Henney emphasized that he wouldn’t have shown up with Wally unannounced: “I don’t go anywhere Wally is not invited.” (They do get invited to lots of other places, like restaurants and malls.)

Wally attracts attention wherever he goes. And it’s hard not to, seeing that he’s the first reptile to be legally certified as an emotional support animal, according to Henney.

It might be because he walks on a leash. It could be because of the red harness with his name on it. And it definitely has something to do with the fact that his mouth isn’t taped shut, because he doesn’t bite.

“I’ve been handling gators for 30 years, I’ve never met a gator who will not bite you [when you’re close to their mouth],” Henney said.

He told NPR he initially thought “everybody was nuts” when his doctor suggested getting Wally registered as an emotional support animal several years ago. But he decided to go through with the certification process. And he hasn’t regretted it.

“He means a lot to me,” Henney said. “Actually, he means as much to me as my children.”

Sources: NPR. Washington Post, Twitter.


US Supreme Court To Decide If Individual States Can Regulate Social Media.

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to make a ruling over whether laws made by individual states that seek to regulate Facebook, TikTok, X and other global social media platforms are allowable under the US Constitution. If not, then presumably such media will be regulated, if necessary, by the federal government in Washington.

The justices will review laws enacted by mostly Republican-dominated legislatures and signed by Republican governors in Florida and Texas. While the  actual details vary, laws on both states aim to prevent social media companies from censoring users based on their viewpoints.

Traditionally, social media platforms, as private entities, have broad leeway to make editorial decisions on what user content to allow on their websites or apps, and most apps require people to agree to detailed rules and extensive terms of service in order to continue using them.

Tech companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, represented by trade groups NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, known as CCIA, say that both laws infringe upon the free speech rights of companies under the Constitution’s First Amendment by restricting their ability to choose what content they wish to publish on their platforms.

The announcement comes just a few days after the UK  enacted its own Online Safety Bill, whose main purpose is to block access of unsuitable material to children and provide for criminal penalties for executives of companies that do no comply with the law.

A key sticking point is what the UK  legislation means for end-to-end encryption, a security technique used by services like WhatsApp that mathematically guarantees that no one, not even the service provider, can read messages sent between two users.

The new law gives regulator Ofcom the power to intercept and check this encrypted data for illegal or harmful content.

The Supreme Court’s announcement, three days before the start of its new term, comes as the justices continue to grapple with how laws written at the dawn of the digital age, or earlier, apply to the online world.

The justices had already agreed to decide whether public officials can block critics from commenting on their social media accounts, an issue that previously came up in a case involving then-President Donald Trump. The court dismissed the Trump case when his presidential term ended in January 2021.

Separately, the high court also could consider a lower-court order limiting executive branch officials’ communications with social media companies about controversial online posts.

The new case follows conflicting rulings by two appeals courts, one of which upheld the Texas law, while the other struck down Florida’s statute. By a 5-4 vote, the justices kept the Texas law on hold while litigation over it continues.

But the alignment was unusual. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett voted to grant the emergency request from two technology industry groups that challenged the law in federal court.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch would have allowed the law to remain in effect. In dissent, Alito wrote, “Social media platforms have transformed the way people communicate with each other and obtain news.”

Proponents of the Florida and Texas laws, including Republican elected officials in several states that have similar measures, have sought to portray social media companies as generally liberal in outlook and hostile to ideas outside of that viewpoint, especially from the political right.

The tech sector warned that the laws would prevent platforms from removing extremism and hate speech.

Without offering any explanation, the justices had previously put off consideration of the case even though both sides agreed the high court should step in.

Source: VOA,


Looks Like Many US Federal Government Agencies Will Shut Down At Midnight Leaving Many Federal Employees Working Unpaid.

The US government is getting ready for yet another shutdown with Congress seemingly poised to miss a Saturday midnight end-of-month deadline to fund several important federal agencies.

The fourth shutdown to occur over the past decade, the process is becoming a bit of a tradition in Washington as politicians battle down to the last minute to agree on a budget, and it could significantly affect everything from air travel to national parks and marriage licenses.

Some of the most affected persons will be government employees will be laid off without pay, and crucial nutrition programmes for pregant women and babies.

However, a federal government shutdown would not be total. Some massive programs like the military forces, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be shut down and the seaports and airports and Customs and Immigrantion would remain open even if workers are for the time being uppaid.

It follows a hard-right revolt in the US House of Representatives.

Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader, slammed Mr McCarthy for bringing up “truly radical” proposal that could not make it through both chambers.

“The Speaker needs to abandon his doomed mission of trying to please [Republican] extremists,” he said.

The White House backed Mr Schumer’s calls for the House to get behind his spending bill.

“The path forward to fund the government has been laid out by the Senate with bipartisan support – House Republicans just need to take it,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wrote in a statement on Friday.


Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said: “The failure of House Republicans to act responsibly would hurt American families and cause economic headwinds that could undermine the progress we’re making.”

Ms Yellen warned that “key government functions”, including loans to farmers and small businesses, food and workplace safety inspections, and major infrastructure improvements would all be affected.

Shutdowns take place when Congress is unable to approve the roughly 30% of the federal budget it must approve before the start of each fiscal year on 1 October.

This means that, on Monday, hundreds of thousands of federal workers except those deemed “essential” will be at home without pay. Many of these employees live paycheque to paycheque, according to the American Federation of Government Employees.

More than 1.4 million active-duty members of the military and tens of thousands of air traffic controllers will be among those working, without pay.

It is a troubling development for any federal workers holding student loan debt. Loan repayments for over 40 million people will restart on Sunday after being paused since the start of the pandemic.

The shutdown will also have an immediate impact on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which provides grocery assistance to seven million pregnant women and new mothers.

A prolonged shutdown could also affect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a grocery benefit known as “food stamps” that serves 40 million low-income Americans, and hinder the implementation of a new programme to serve free breakfast and lunch to students in high-need school districts.

Museums, national parks, research facilities and communities health centres with federal government oversight or funding are likely to suspend operations for the period of the shutdown.

Additionally, the government agency at the helm of relief and recovery from natural disasters is currently scrambling to conserve cash in the event a shutdown collides with an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season.

Budget disputes that cause this kind of disruption do not occur anywhere else in the world and has been criticised as an example of Washington’s growing dysfunction and partisan divides.

The last government shutdown, under Mr Trump in 2019, lasted a record 34 days.

It erased $11bn in economic output, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and federal workers were seen standing in line at food banks.

Source: BBC, news agencies.

Prime Minister Drew and Minister Clarke Attend the Second Caribbean SIDS High-Level Dialogue on Climate Change

Basseterre, Saint Kitts and Nevis, September 29, 2023 (Press Secretary, PMO)- Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew and Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, and Climate Action Hon. Dr. Joyelle Clarke are participating in the Second Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) High-Level Dialogue on Climate Change. This significant event is being held in Grenada from Thursday, September 28th to Friday, September 29th.

Prime Minister Drew used this platform to present a compelling vision of Sustainable Island States (SIS) and its critical connection to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Agenda and Climate Resilience, addressing the gathering of CARICOM Heads of Government.

In his address, Prime Minister Drew brought attention to the pressing water crisis experienced in Saint Kitts and Nevis, emphasizing its direct correlation with a changing climate. He stressed the importance of helping citizens comprehend the direct links between their current challenges and global climate change.

Prime Minister Drew specifically highlighted that SDG#6, Clean Water and Sanitation, is a focal point under the SIS Pillar of Water Security. He also conveyed that Saint Kitts and Nevis is at the forefront of the transformational charge, dedicated to safeguarding its people through this innovative agenda.

The two-day event encompasses various climate action themes, including:

  1. Development, Prosperity, and Resilience: Recognizing the Limits of Adaptation and Mitigation in Climate-Vulnerable Regions (Loss and Damage).
  2. Transforming International Financial Architecture: Enabling Access to Blue and Green Finance and Promoting Regional Collaboration on Carbon Pricing Mechanisms.
  3. Impacts on and Opportunities in Biological Systems: Exploring Oceans and Forests in the Caribbean.
  4. Financing the Transition to Renewable Energy in the Caribbean: Harnessing the Potential of Wind, Solar, Geothermal, and Hydroelectricity.
  5. Accelerating E-Mobility: Reducing Costs, Emissions, and Developing a Reliable Electrified Transportation System.
  6. Building Stronger National Systems for Climate Transparency: Accessing Data and Information for Progress Tracking, Enhancing International Accountability, and Attracting Support.

Prime Minister Drew and Minister Clarke’s participation in this event underscores their commitment to addressing climate challenges and advancing sustainability goals, not only in their home country but throughout the Caribbean region. Their visionary leadership sets the stage for meaningful collaboration and action on the critical issues facing Small Island Developing States.

Cricket West Indies clarifies bidding process for ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua – Cricket West Indies (CWI) issued a statement today to provide clarity on the ongoing process of venue selection for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup scheduled to take place in the Caribbean and USA in June 2024.

CWI acknowledges the enthusiasm and interest expressed by various governments, cricket boards, and stakeholders in hosting the highly anticipated tournament.

Johnny Grave, Chief Executive Officer stated: “Following a robust selection process of our seven host venues, CWI-appointed Venues Selection Committee, chaired by President Dr. Kishore Shallow, has made recommendations to the ICC on allocations of matches for ICC Men’s T20 World Cup scheduled to take place in the Caribbean and USA in June 2024.”

He also acknowledged the commendable efforts made by nations within the region; however, he emphasized that final decisions have yet to be reached.

“These recommendations are subject to venues confirming commitment to all required obligations and ICC approval. We are delighted by the enthusiasm and interest expressed by our host governments and cricket Boards and appreciate the hard work and commitment shown as we look to deliver a spectacular Men’s T20 World Cup next year. We will now work with the ICC, our hosts and ICC Members to finalise the match schedule in the coming weeks.”


Senator Dianne Feinstein Dead At 90, Wrote Report On CIA Torture.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was first elected to the U.S. Senate from California in 1992 and went on to champion abortion, gun control, and the abolition of torture died today, National Public Radio has confirmed. She was 90 years of age and had apparently been unwell for some time.

Feinstein’s rise in politics began on Nov. 27, 1978, when her city was jolted by two political assassinations at City Hall. As president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, she announced the news to a shocked press corps.

“As President of the Board of Supervisors, it is my duty to announce that both Mayor [George] Moscone and Supervisor [Harvey] Milk have been shot and killed,” Feinstein said in a firm but clearly stunned voice.

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown – a longtime political ally of hers – said Feinstein’s handling of the assassinations crisis cemented her reputation.

“It was a dramatic demonstration of how in the face of total and complete disaster, somebody could stand up to settle the ship,” Brown said in 2022.

After the city hall assassinations, Mayor Feinstein signed a local gun control ordinance, angering a fringe gun rights organization called the White Panthers.

Collaborating with groups unhappy with the mayor’s pro-growth, pro-business and other moderate policies, the White Panthers managed to collect enough signatures to place a recall of Feinstein on the ballot in 1983. The recall failed, catapulting Feinstein into easy reelection later that year.

As mayor, Feinstein governed from the center – winning support from business groups, law enforcement unions and the city’s more conservative voters. Her moderate governing style often angered San Francisco’s more liberal activists.

In 1982 she vetoed legislation that would have allowed same sex couples to form domestic partnerships entitling them to city benefits, hospital visitation rights and more. She also refused to sign “comparable worth” legislation guaranteeing women equal pay to men who work similar jobs.

In a 2001 interview with C-SPAN, Feinstein attributed her political philosophy to her upbringing.

“My mother was a Democrat. My father was a Goldwater Republican. So we had a split family,” Feinstein said.

In 1990, after leaving the mayor’s office, Feinstein ran for governor. She lost narrowly to Republican Sen. Pete Wilson. But a year later, the political climate changed with the Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

When law professor Anita Hill accused Thomas of sexual misconduct when they worked together, members of the Judiciary Committee, including Democratic Sen. Howell Heflin of Alabama, questioned Hill’s integrity and motivation.

“Are you a scorned woman? Do you have a militant attitude relative to the area of civil rights?” Sen. Heflin drawled.

Feinstein used those widely criticized hearings as a springboard to the U.S. Senate.

“Many people took a look at that all-male Judiciary Committee and frankly felt they badly botched the job,” Feinstein said campaigning in 1992. Her platform included writing a woman’s right to an abortion into federal law.

“The Congress must pass it and the president must sign it. And if he vetoes it, we must override that veto,” she said.

Feinstein won the Senate seat, making history as part of the so-called Year of the Woman.

In Washington, she advocated gun control, overcoming stiff odds to pass a federal ban on assault weapons in 1994. Later that year she almost lost reelection. But she developed a reputation as a workhorse, someone who did her homework, and wasn’t afraid to rock the boat.

In 2014, over objections from the Obama administration, she took to the Senate floor to release a comprehensive report on torture by the CIA following the Sept. 11th terrorist airplane attacks on New York City.

“Releasing this report is an important step to restore our values and show the world that we are, in fact, a just and lawful society,” Feinstein said.

The 500-page summary report by the Intelligence Committee Feinstein chaired revealed in stark detail CIA mistreatment of prisoners, including things like waterboarding and sleep deprivation.

Tom Blanton, who heads the National Security Archive at George Washington University, says the investigation Feinstein directed made the intelligence community accountable.

“I think the Senate torture report was probably the high point of Sen. Feinstein’s entire Senate career,” Blanton said.

Source: NPR.

China Declares War On Failure To Father, Will Provide “Technical Support” To Parents.

Since China, like many countries in the West, faces a demographic  baby bust dilemma with more and more elderly citizens on pensions and fewer newborns, President Xi Jinping, has given soldiers and their spouses a new order — go forth and multiply.

The move, analysts say, is aimed not only at addressing the country’s population challenges, but also at making the military a more attractive career option for educated urban professionals.

On Sept. 7, China’s communist leaders announced a new executive order on family planning and the military. Highlighting the urgency, the order went into effect Sept. 10.

Full details of the 33-item plan are yet to be publicized, but state media say the policy will “standardize adjustments in [planned] births, incentives, related services,” and form “a complete chain” from childbirth to child care, “with full technical support.”

Posts on the official accounts of China’s military forces say the measures include an annual five-day vacation for new parents and the possibility for the newly enlisted to visit their families during the first two years of service.

In one post, a young soldier serving in the Army’s 73rd Corps Grouping in Jinan surnamed Li was said to have been granted family leave under the new measures and was shown smiling in pictures with his wife and child.

The five-day annual leave is for soldiers whose children are under 3 years of age, according to a post published Monday on the official Weibo account of China’s Strategic Support Force, which is in charge of space, cyber, political and electronic warfare.

Incentives for having children

Since China ended its strict one-child policy in 2016, both central and local governments have shifted gears. They began rolling out incentives for couples to have more children when the bar was raised to two children and again in 2021 — amid the COVID-19 pandemic — when China allowed couples to have three children.

Provinces and cities across the country offer a range of incentives for families to have three children, such as a monthly stipend until children are 3 years of age and a one-time reward.

In Shaoxing, in eastern China not far from the port cities of Ningbo and Shanghai, couples with three children are offered as much as $50,000 in credit toward a home purchase.

So far, however, efforts have failed to change the direction of China’s demographics.

Last year, China’s birth rate slipped to 1.09 children per woman, one of the lowest in the world. And for the first time in 61 years, China’s population shrank in 2022 with more deaths than births.

Steven Mosher, an expert on the Communist Party’s family planning policies, told VOA that the new measures for the military are a sign that “China is growing desperate for more children.”

Mosher has been following the People’s Republic of China’s policies for decades and was the first American social scientist to be permitted to do research in the PRC in 1979-80. He now serves as president of the Population Research Institute, an organization that opposes abortion and government programs controlling childbirth.

He noted that the new measures came as part of an order on how the armed forces ought to carry out laws concerning population and planned birth, which was signed by Xi in his capacity as head of the Central Military Commission.

“[Xi]’s the chairman of the Central Military Commission and thus is the commander-in-chief of the Chinese military. Hence his ‘suggestion’ is tantamount to an order,” Mosher said.

Some soldiers skeptical

Despite that, and a flood of videos and articles online to promote the new measures and urge military couples to do their patriotic duty, many online were skeptical.

Some joked on the WeChat social media platform that only if the government were to issue a monthly stipend of 3,000 RMB, equivalent to about $450-$500, might it be worth considering. Many others balked at the costs of parenthood, despite the availability of childhood education and holiday benefits.

One user who appeared to be a military spouse from the western province of Ningxia said there was no way she was having another child.

“I am already on my own taking care of two children. There’s little my parents can do to help and my husband, who is on active duty, is rarely home. We’ve been married for 10 years and living apart for 10 years,” the post said.

Others raised the same complaint and noted that extra family leave would make little difference.

Spouses of soldiers in China rarely live with their partners on military bases. Soldiers need to be senior in rank to have the privilege of having their spouse and dependent children accompany them on their assignments.

Soldiers usually get a one-time, 40-day leave, but only after the first two years of service are complete.

‘Can they deliver?’

Chen Guangcheng, a blind rights activist from China who previously spent more than four years in prison for his advocacy of women’s rights and fighting against the one-child policy, said the response is not surprising.

“The government can promise all they want, but can they deliver? That’s what people are wondering, and rightfully so,” Chen told VOA.

Chen, who now works as a senior fellow and lecturer on contemporary China at the Catholic University of America, said that regardless of whether it’s a one-, two- or three-child policy, the Communist Party shouldn’t treat childbirth as a part of state planning.

“The arbitrariness of the government’s planned birth campaign is so utterly dehumanizing that it has led people to self-deprecate that under the Communist rule, they have become nothing but a ‘human mine,'” he told VOA.

“Human mine” or “ren-kuang” is a phrase used on the internet in China to highlight that people feel like they are being treated in the same manner as other state-owned resources.

Military seeks urban professionals

Some see the policy shift as part of a broader effort to make a career in the military more attractive.

“The government is clearly prioritizing resources for the military,” Hu Ping, a Beijing-born Chinese writer and editor who now resides in the United States, told VOA in a phone interview.

James E. Fanell, a retired U.S. Navy captain, thinks there’s a reason for that.

“The message is: if you join the PLA [People’s Liberation Army], you will be able to patriotically serve China and that you can have a family and know they will be taken care of. This is my read on this,” Fanell told VOA.

The newly released measures are designed to “make the PLA more attractive to educated, urban professionals, especially important if the reports of the economic decline are correct,” Fanell added.

Fanell served as chief of intelligence for the U.S. Pacific Fleet. He is currently a government fellow at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy in Geneva, Switzerland.

Boosting the armed forces’ family welfare is part of Xi’s “total force development” which, along with rapid modernization, aims to prepare the PLA for an invasion of Taiwan, according to Fanell.

China’s fall recruitment season was well under way when Xi’s order was issued. Recruiting wrapped up in Shanghai on Sept. 18, and, according to state media, college students and those holding college degrees made up 97.6% of the city’s recruits.

China’s military recruitment happens twice a year, usually from mid-February to the end of March, and mid-August to the end of September.

Source: VOA.

St. Kitts & Nevis Take Control Of Pay For Passport Programme.

The St. Kitts & Nevis government has taken steps to clamp down on overseas agents selling Citizenship by Investment visas and passports for unauthorized  prices.

Now all overseas visa agents will have to be registered with the St. Kitts & Nevis authorities, and will only be able to charge such fees as are authorized by the government.

The agents, whose job is to market the programme to suitable investors, will be regulated by the St. Kitts & Nevis government, and presumably will be paid sales commissions according to a scale permitted by the governing authority.

At the present time some visa agents who advertise online seen by the SKNO state that they charge a US$7500 “processing fee” for helping to prepare and submit visa documents.

The new guidelines were highlighted in this week’s edition of the SKNIS programme InFocus, which featured a discussion with Michael Martin, Head of the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU).

Mr. Martin highlighted that accurate and timely information is important to ensure brand consistency.

“We don’t want people out there advertising that we are selling passports, that you can get them for an amount that is not in the regulations. We don’t want people out there spreading false information about the programme, and so we have inserted into our regulation some new measures to deal with those kinds of eventualities,” he stated.

One such measure will allow enhanced actions to be taken to address issues by agents based overseas.

“Going forward, international marketing agents also will have to be registered in St. Kitts and Nevis. That, of course, puts them under our jurisdiction and makes it easier for us to take the necessary legal action should there be a need,” said Mr. Martin.

Due diligence regulations have also been strengthened as the government implements reforms to ensure the safety and integrity of the CBI at all levels.

Due diligence means an examination of the individuals (lack of a) criminal record, and checking that they have a reputable business background and are not engaged in money-laudering or other nefarious activities.

As part of their application, applicants must obtain various documents proving their identity, moral character, health, and source of funds. Each of these documents must either be submitted in original form or via a certified and legalised copy.

It is not clear how much due diligence checks cost or if they are part of the “processing fee”.

As of 29 July 2023, citizens of Saint Kitts and Nevis had visa-free or visa on arrival access (including eTAs) to 154 countries and territories, ranking the Saint Kitts and Nevis passport 24th in the world in terms of travel freedom according to the Henley Passport Index.

Source: SKNIS.

Cheerleader Hit By Lightning, Killed While Hunting With Father.

A teenage girl in Florida has died after being hit by lightning  while hunting with her father  in the northern part of Florida.

Baylee Holbrook, 16, and her father were both hit after lightning hit a tree on Tuesday, Putnam County officials said.

Baylee, an avid hunter and student at Palatka High School — was on her latest outing with her father, Matthew on Tuesday afternoon when lightning struck a tree they were next to in Putnam County, News4JAX reported.

The blast knocked both father and daughter unconscious. When Matthew became alert he found Baylee not breathing, according to the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office.

Matthew provided CPR on his daughter until paramedics arrived to take her to a trauma center where the teen died on Thursday morning.

Her classmates gathered at Palatka Junior-Senior High School on Wednesday to pray for her and her family.

“She cares so much about everyone else,” Willie McKinnon, a family friend and pastor, told BBC’s US news partner CBS.

“She has a heart for her friends, people she loves, people she comes in contact with and she has a heart for people in general,” he said.


Baylee was a varsity cheerleader, and her friends said the teen loved to hunt and be outdoors.

Her high school cancelled all its athletic events on Thursday in mourning, while her classmates and friends gathered at a local church for collective prayer.

“We are in prayer for the Holbrook family and reflecting as well as sharing,” said Trinity Baptist Church in a post on social media.

The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office has warned that there has been an increase in lightning strikes this week in the Palatka area, about 60 miles (96km) south of Jacksonville.

“Storms can come quickly and lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from any rainfall,” the office warned.

An average of 28 people in the US die each year from lightning strikes, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


The CDC noted that Florida, Texas, Colorado, North Carolina and Alabama have the most lightning deaths, and that 73% of deaths occur during the summer months.

Data also shows that one out of four lightning strike victims are young people aged 15 to 24, and that six out of 10 lightning deaths happen during an outdoor leisure activity.

Sources: BBC, NY Post.

Haiti Crisis: Can Kenyan Cops Really Conquer The Gangs?

Kenya has pledged to lend 1000 police officers lead a multinational security force in Haiti in response to a situation in which Haiti is largely ruled by armed gangs and there is no effective central government worth the name.

Haiti has suffered from gang violence for decades but the current wave of brutality escalated after the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

Gangs have taken control of large parts of the country, waging terror on residents and killing hundreds and there have been no elections since 2016, as the country is not stable enough.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said that a “robust use of force” is needed to disarm the gangs and restore order.

Kenya has said it would send 1,000 police officers to Haiti.


When this was originally proposed in July, Kenyan officials said the officers would guard government buildings and infrastructure, but that plan changed after Kenya sent a fact-finding mission the following month.

The country now wants to deploy an intervention force that will neutralise the armed gangs, protect civilians and bring about peace, security and order.


Foreign Minister Alfred Mutua told the BBC that his country would also like to help Haiti rebuild vital infrastructure and establish a stable democratic government.

The Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados, and Antigua and Barbuda have said they will take part in the mission and the minister added that Spain, Senegal and Chile were also likely to deploy security personnel.

No-one can be deployed until the UN Security Council gives the go-ahead, but Mr Mutua said he expected the force to be in place by the beginning of next year.

Haiti is experiencing a multi-faceted security and humanitarian crisis that Mr Guterres called “a living nightmare”.

Swathes of the mountain-cradled coastal capital Port-au-Prince – some estimates say 80% – are either controlled or regularly terrorised by heavily armed gangs.

These gangs, with names in Haitian creole such as “Kraze Barye” (Barrier-Crusher) and “Gran Grif” (Big Claw), have over the last two years been robbing, looting, extorting, kidnapping, raping and killing.

Armed with automatic weapons smuggled in mostly from the US, the gang members often out-gun the local police, sometimes burning their vehicles and stations.

They control, or regularly raid, the main routes in and out of the capital.

Similar lawlessness plagues large areas of west and central Haiti, where roving “bandits”, as locals call the gang members, invade and burn villages and towns.

The gangs have caused chaos and disrupted public services and the work of aid agencies, worsening poverty and health problems in a nation that was already the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.

Mr Mutua has in part portrayed this as an altruistic offer.

“Haiti looked around and said: ‘Kenya, please help us’. They did not ask any other countries. We have decided to do God’s will and assist our brothers and sisters,” Kenya’s foreign minister said at a press conference.

However, Mr Mutua told the BBC that the intervention in Haiti would raise Kenya’s global profile, which could benefit the country.

Some commentators have said Kenya is doing the US’s bidding and is hoping to curry favour with the global superpower.

The US has pledged to support the mission financially to the tune of $100m (£82m) – Canada has also offered funding.

On a recent visit to Kenya, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed a five-year security agreement and also said the US was “grateful to Kenya for its leadership in tackling security challenges in the region and around the world”.

Many critics have cast doubt on the ability of Kenyan police to take on Haiti’s gangs.

They will need to come face-to-face with the armed gang members in unfamiliar terrain.

Mr Mutua said the government had been preparing for the deployment. But he has not divulged more details about the planning, other than saying that the authorities are currently providing French lessons to some of the officers to ease communication in Haiti.

The language barrier has raised some concerns, as in Haiti people predominantly speak French and Haitian Creole, while in Kenya, the most commonly spoken languages are English and Swahili.

Kenya’s police officers have long been criticised for human rights abuses.Several rights organisations have expressed worries about the ability of the officers to act humanely and responsibly in Haiti.

In an open letter to the UN Security Council in August, Amnesty International said it was concerned about the plan due to the Kenyan police’s record of responding using excessive and unnecessary force.

How Kenyan police ‘hit squad’ uses Facebook to kill suspected gangsters.

The organisation said it had documented more than 30 cases of Kenyan police officers killing protesters through shootings and tear-gas suffocation during various protests this year.

Amnesty has also accused the police of beating protesters as well as unlawfully arresting and detaining them.

Kenya’s police chief Japhet Koome described the response of his officers to recent protests as “commendable”.

He denied accusations of police killings and sensationally said that opposition politicians had planted bodies hired from mortuaries at protest scenes in order to pin the deaths on his personnel.

Haiti, a former French Caribbean colony that became the world’s first black republic at the start of the 19th Century after an epoch-making 1791 slave revolt, has a history of foreign interventions.

The US invaded and occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934, sending in marines and military administrators.

Further US military interventions occurred in 1994 and 2004, to “defend democracy” and restore order.

The interventions made many Haitians wary of outside interference, especially involving the US.

Teenager Arrested For Chainsawing Historic English Tree Featured In Movie.

A 16-year-old boy has been arrested close the border between England and Scotland charged with the “deliberate” felling of a famous sycamore tree that had stood for nearly 200 years next to the famous Roman Hadrian’s Wall, a fortified stone wall that built by the Romans to keep out marauding Scots and Picts.

Thousands of visitors each year walk along Hadrian’s Wall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that guarded the Roman Empire’s northwestern frontier.

Many pause to admire and photograph the tree at Sycamore Gap, a beloved icon of the landscape made famous when it appeared in Kevin Costner’s 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves.

Steve Blair, who manages the Twice Brewed Inn in Bardon Mill, Hexham, which is just a stone’s throw away from the famous site, believed it was “the most photographed tree” in the Northern Hemisphere.

“The tree is such a big draw for tourism in the north of England and in such a beautiful countryside as well,” he said.

“It’s quite a popular place for people to propose and for wedding photographs.

“It’s so symbolic, you see people sitting on the bankside viewing the tree for hours at a time.”

Photographs from the scene on Thursday showed the tree was cut down near the base of its trunk, with the rest of it lying on its side. It appeared to have been cut down with a chainsaw.

Northumbria Police said the teen was arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage. He was in police custody and assisting officers with their inquiries.

“The tree is a world-renowned landmark and the vandalism has caused understandable shock and anger throughout the local community and beyond,” police said in a statement.

“This is an incredibly sad day,” police Superintendent Kevin Waring said. “The tree was iconic to the North East and enjoyed by so many who live in or who have visited this region.”

The Northumberland National Park authority asked the public not to visit the felled tree, which was voted English Tree of the Year in 2016.

Alison Hawkins, who was walking on the Hadrian’s Wall path, was one of the first people who saw the destruction.

“It was a proper shock. It’s basically the iconic picture that everyone wants to see,” she said. “You can forgive nature doing it – but you can’t forgive that.”

The teenager has not been named and no one knows what his motive was.

Sources: BBC, AP News.

Republic Bank’s Illustrious Return as Title Sponsor for Miss Teen St. Kitts and Nevis

The St. Kitts and Nevis National Carnival Committee (“the SKNNCC”) is delighted to announce the return of Republic Bank as Title Sponsor for the prestigious Miss Teen St. Kitts and Nevis pageant and Platinum partner of Sugar Mas 52. Republic Bank, a staunch supporter of our nation’s culture and youth development, has increased its sponsorship to an impressive $60,000, doubling their commitment to this event.


Republic Bank’s partnership remains invaluable, particularly in their mission to educate and upskill our youth. Their role in encouraging financial literacy will be pivotal, as they have committed to opening savings accounts for all participants. Additionally, Republic Bank will once again conduct personal development sessions with all ambassadors, building on the success of last year’s program. These initiatives align perfectly with the SKNNCC’s dedication to the holistic development of our Miss Teen St. Kitts and Nevis ambassadors.


The SKNNCC extends its heartfelt gratitude to Republic Bank for their unwavering support of our cultural celebrations and youth development. We are confident that this partnership will continue to inspire and empower the youth of St. Kitts and Nevis.


This year’s Miss Teen St. Kitts and Nevis ambassadors will be announced to the general public in the coming weeks, following the recent closing of registration. Last year’s event was nothing short of a triumph, with a sold-out crowd witnessing the incredible talents of our youth. This year’s Miss Teen St. Kitts and Nevis pageant promises to be an even greater spectacle. The stage is set, and the excitement is building as we prepare to light up the Warner Park Cricket Stadium on Tuesday, December 19th.


The SKNNCC invites everyone to stay tuned for updates via this media house, and to follow our official social media channels for exclusive behind-the-scenes content:


For further information, please contact the Carnival Secretariat via 869-466-0058 or


About St Kitts & Nevis Carnival Committee:

The St Kitts & Nevis Carnival Committee is dedicated to preserving and promoting the rich cultural heritage of St Kitts & Nevis through the vibrant celebration of Sugar Mas. Our mission is to unite our community in joy, unity, and artistic expression, fostering an atmosphere of togetherness that enriches the lives of all who participate.

Guyana-Venezuela: the path to peaceful resolution


Recent intimidatory and aggressive statements issued from Venezuela in the name of President Nicolas Maduro, the Government of Venezuela and the National Assembly concerning Guyana, have raised alarms in the regional, hemispheric and international community.

The Commonwealth, the Organization of American States, and CARICOM have objected to Venezuela’s behaviour toward Guyana, particularly as the Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro alleges, without any substantiation, that the Guyana Government is allowing the United States of America (US) to construct a military base on its territory “against Bolivar’s Venezuela”.

In a UN statement, the Guyana Government rejected Venezuela’s allegation, stating that “this all derives from Venezuela’s grotesque claim to two-thirds of Guyana”.

Historical Context

The background to these events is that in 1899, Venezuela agreed to an international arbitration that established the boundaries between Guyana and Venezuela as a ‘full, final, and perfect’ settlement. However, in 1962, just as Guyana was on the brink of gaining independence, Venezuela reversed its longstanding acceptance of the 1899 settlement. Without providing any evidence, the government claimed that the settlement was nothing more than a covert political agreement that infringed on its rights.

Based on this unfounded allegation, Venezuela has staked a claim to two-thirds of Guyana, specifically the Essequibo region. This claim, together with intermittent acts of belligerence by Venezuela including its naval forces, have cast a shadow over Guyana’s economic development for all 57 years of its independence, deterring investors and causing instability in the country.

In February 1966, three months before Guyana’s independence from Britain, representatives from Venezuela, Britain, and Guyana convened in Geneva. There, they signed an agreement endorsed by the governments and parliaments of all three nations, aiming to resolve ‘the controversy’. This agreement outlined several steps towards resolution, including a provision for the UN Secretary-General to select a means of resolution as specified in Article 33 of the UN Charter. This process is articulated in Article IV of the 1966 Geneva Agreement which Venezuela fully endorsed.

Therefore, after the failure of initial resolution steps, UN Secretary-General António Guterres decided on 30 January 2018 that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would be the avenue for resolution.

The path of peaceful resolution

Accordingly, in March 2018, Guyana applied to the ICJ for judicial adjudication.

In response, Venezuela refused to recognize the ICJ’s jurisdiction, abide by its decisions, or participate in its proceedings. This response was a direct infringement of Article 93 of the UN Charter, which clearly states: “All Members of the United Nations are ipso facto parties to the Statute of the International Court of Justice”.

However, the ICJ adjudged that it had jurisdiction to hear the case. Venezuela appeared twice before the Court to object. On both occasions, the Court rejected the Venezuelan objections. Therefore, the case has continued much to the disquiet of Venezuela which has clearly always been fearful of the Court’s decision.

The hostile path

In 2020, Guyana started producing and selling oil and gas offshore, boosting its economy. The IMF declared Guyana to be the fastest growing economy in the world with GDP growth of 62.3% in 2022 and 59% in the first half of 2023.

In the wake of these spectacular riches, an immediate response was sparked from the Venezuela government when, on 13 September 2023, the Guyana President, Irfaan Ali, updated the public on bids for 14 new offshore oil blocks, which had been opened for exploration and development.  Ali said that immediate bids on 8 of them had been received from oil giants such as ExxonMobil, Hess Corporation, China National Offshore Oil Corporation and Total.

On 19 September 2023, the Venezuela government described the bidding process as “illegal” and issued a “warning” to all the participating companies that it would “apply all necessary measures to prevent the illegitimate exploitation of the natural resources that belong to our nation”.

This was followed by the unsubstantiated allegation on 23 September 2023 at the UN General Assembly that the US is seeking “to establish a military base in the contested territory, with the aim of creating a spearhead in its aggression against Venezuela and consolidating the plunder of our energy resources”.

Attempt to divide CARICOM

In an open message, posted on his X page, Maduro proposed that Guyana should abandon the process at the ICJ for “a meeting promoted by CARICOM to retake the Geneva Agreement of 1966”. It is a misleading proposition because it is clear, from even a cursory reading of the Geneva Agreement, that Guyana has followed its terms to the letter.

President Maduro had previously sought, unsuccessfully, to divert CARICOM from supporting the ICJ process. He has not succeeded in this further attempt. Although many CARICOM governments are friendly with the Maduro Government and have urged the US to drop sanctions against it, on 22 September 2023, CARICOM publicly supported Guyana’s sovereignty and right to develop its resources.

Promoting Nationalist Venezuela sentiment

On 21 September 2023, Venezuela’s National Assembly, decided to arouse nationalist sentiment at the urging of the government. It decided to hold a referendum on the claim to Essequibo “so that the people strengthen the defence” and “the inalienable rights of Venezuela”. It is a referendum hardly worth holding since, in furtherance of their unsubstantiated claim, for 61 years successive Venezuelan governments have indoctrinated their people from primary school in the belief that Essequibo belongs to Venezuela.

When the Venezuelan political parties met in Mexico in August 2021 in one of the failed attempts to find a way out of the many political, economic and humanitarian challenges that the country faces, the only thing on which they could agree was the claim for the Essequibo.

International Involvement and Response

In the wake of all this, the international community has made its position clear: it favours ICJ adjudication as the appropriate and peaceful means to settle the controversy, adhering to the Charter of the UN and international law.

This resolution path not only serves justice but also underpins the stability and development prospects of both Guyana and Venezuela, fostering an environment where mutual respect and cooperation can flourish.

(The writer is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and the Organization of American States. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and Massey College in the University of Toronto. The views expressed are entirely his own. Responses and previous commentaries:


(SKCA Press Release)-As the public uproar over St. Kitts and Nevis not being a venue for the 2024 T20 World Cup continues, the St. Kitts Cricket Association (SKCA) is adding its voice to the fray—making it clear they were not consulted by the government, more specifically the Ministry of Sports over not tendering a bid to host some of the matches.

In an interview with SKCA executive members at the Conaree Cricket Center Players Sports Bar, the President Dennis Phillip, said the SKCA had attempted to have a bid submitted, even making last-ditch efforts when it appeared that a bid was not going to be made, but they did not get the backing of the Ministry of Sports. “In terms of why St. Kitts and Nevis has not been selected as a venue is actually a matter beyond the control of the St. Kitts Cricket Association. The decision…that was not made as some people indicate, is a decision by the Ministry of Sports and of course the government as a whole,” Phillip said. “We’re really sorry that something was not done or an investment was not made to be able to facilitate the upcoming 2024 World Cup.”

Mr. Phillip suggested that not hosting any of the T20 games was a missed opportunity for St. Kitts and Nevis, not just for cricket, but the economic spinoffs that would have been generated from hosting the tournament. “The World Cup is not just a sport. It is also a tourism spinoff and tourism is one of our biggest industries outside of Citizenship by Investment…sports tourism can actually play a part that can keep us going…and the economy floating when the actual (cruise) tourism is off,” he explained. The SKCA president also made the point that this opportunity comes once every 16 years, therefore our next chance may be in 2039.

Meanwhile, Vice President of the SKCA, Carlene Delaney also expressed disappointment that St. Kitts and Nevis will not be a venue for World Cup games. “Personally, for me, I was anticipating that we would be hosting after having a World Cup in 2007. I know we are prepared. We have a stadium and that shouldn’t have hindered us,” she said. Unfortunately, a bid wasn’t done to my knowledge and we’re disappointed.”

Steve Saunders, Assistant Secretary/Treasurer, argued considering the track record of St. Kitts and Nevis to host international cricket events, the venue was best placed to host matches. “I thought that we were well-placed to host the 2024 World Cup. We are very, very disappointed simply because again being a Kittitian, the economics spill-offs that this tournament brings is tremendous,” Saunders said.

Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are the Caribbean countries hosting games in the T20 World Cup, which is slated from June 4-30 tournament.  A leg of the tournament will be held in the United States for the first time. St. Kitts and Nevis is among three Caribbean countries not hosting the tournament; the others being Jamaica and Grenada.

Biden White House Getting Advice From Africans In America.

The White House says a new advisory council composed of prominent Americans of African heritage aims at “enhancing dialogue between U.S. officials and the African diaspora” — and indicates a change of direction in Biden’s Africa policy.

The initiative coincides with a steady, two-decade rise in immigration from the continent that will have a significant demographic impact in coming decades–meaning that their votes will count.

The 12 members of the volunteer council — called the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement in the United States — were chosen from more than 100 “exceptional” applications and recommendations, said Johnnie Carson, a longtime Africa diplomat who serves as Biden’s special representative to oversee the implementation of the 2022 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.

The council, whose quarterly meetings will be open to the public, is packed with business leaders but also includes artistic figures and a WNBA player.

Carson said it will advise the White House and State Department on how to “deepen the connections that exist between the U.S. and Africa in the business world, in the financial world, in the sporting world, in the creative world, and to stress and bring to the attention of American policymakers issues of concern to the diaspora community.”

Group includes clergy, artists, writers

The council members come from eight U.S. states and the capital, and have ties spanning the African continent.

Some members are U.S.-born, including council leader the Rev. Silvester Beaman, a bishop at the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and decorated artist, actress, producer and author ​Viola Davis.

Others were born on the continent, like Eritrea-born Almaz Negash, founder of the African Diaspora Network, and Congo-born Patrick Gaspard, the former U.S. ambassador to South Africa.

Gaspard, who now leads the Center for American Progress think tank, told VOA that his priorities on the council will be promoting two key programs soon up for congressional renewal: the trade-related African Growth and Opportunity Act and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Both programs, started under President George W. Bush, have been credited with boosting trade and saving lives.

Other members, he said, bring different perspectives. He anticipates they will cover “everything from cultural ties, to economic ties to what we do together to solve for the big challenges. … We have the chance to turn that into opportunities.”

One in 10 Black Americans is a recent immigrant, according to the Pew Research Center, which projects that the nation’s Black immigrant population will account for roughly a third of the U.S. Black population’s growth through 2060.

And, said Cameroon-born analyst and writer Yaya Moussa, the large size of the African diaspora in the U.S. offers a “potential powerful role in the soft power competition.”

“These connections simply do not exist in China and Russia, America’s biggest strategic rivals in Africa,” writes Moussa. “African-Americans have been instrumental in shaping U.S. foreign policy toward Africa, and the U.S. government has begun to recognize the latent strength of its diaspora communities.”

‘There may be opportunities’

Oye Owolewa is among a small group of Africa-born immigrants who has risen within the American system: in 2020, the Nigeria-born pharmacist was elected as Washington, D.C.’s shadow representative in the House of Representatives. That position does not make him a voting member of Congress.

Owolewa, who is not on the diaspora council, offered his take:

“If it isn’t just a one-off, then I believe that there may be opportunities for people outside of the White House to also have their own collective impact and continue what we’re doing,” he told VOA.

His office has taken a particular interest in an issue that he believes uplifts residents of his constituency, of whom 13% are foreign-born and 45% are Black: That is teaching women- and minority-owned businesses how to apply for often-lucrative U.S. government contracts.

VOA pointed out that there are set-asides in government contracting regulations for those very kinds of businesses.

“That’s true,” he said. “But no one teaches these businesses how to get contracts. So our office has been doing that. Because if you roll out the money, but don’t teach those that fall between the cracks how to retrieve it, it’s the same few getting more opportunities.”

And that, Gaspard said, is what the council broadly aims to do, but on a larger scale.

“There really is a need to strengthen those ties, the umbilical cord that stretches from the continent to its diaspora,” he said.

“The diaspora is growing leaps and bounds in places like Detroit, certainly my hometown of New York, and you can’t go into a public institution in Washington, D.C. without encountering the African diaspora,” he said. “It’s now more important than ever for us to kind of more broadly socialize awareness of the disparate cultures, but that leads to real opportunities for partnership.”

Source: VOA.

Barbados To Join Multinational Haiti Rescue Group.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Kerrie Symmonds, has announced that Barbados is willing to provide support and logistics for the proposed United Nations Security Council-authorised multinational security force for Haiti.

The support will come in the form of security personnel despatched in coordination with the Regional Security System.

Barbados will also provide additional in-kind support in the form of training and capacity-building to the Haitian Government on the basis of jointly-identified objectives.

During her recent statement to the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Hon. Mia Amor Mottley also called for the UN Security Council to issue a robust mandate for the multinational force and for the international community to mount a comprehensive, long-term development plan for Haiti.

Barbados therefore joins the Bahamas and Jamaica among the CARICOM nations willing to lend resources to the stabilization of Haiti.

Barbados will join the Bahamas, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda as well as Belize that have already indicated a willingness to be part of the multi-national force to be led by Kenya.

Earlier this week, Belize Prime Minister John Briceño said Caricom has a moral responsibility to do something regarding the situation in Haiti. He noted that Haiti is in “a really bad state and innocent people are being murdered, women are being raped; even children are being raped”.

And, it is just a sense of lawlessness and I believe we in Caricom have a moral responsibility to do something,” Briceño told reporters.

Most of the other members of CARICOM have yet to publicly express an opinion even though the situation in Haiti was the elephant in the room at the CARICOM meeting in Trinidad as recently as August. However it seems that gradually more members are climbing onboard.

Source: Barbados Government Press Release.

Delegation from the Ministry of Education and Information Technology on Nevis visits Estonia and Finland

NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (September 26, 2023) –A delegation from the Ministry of Education and Information Technology in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) is presently participating in a ten-day tour in Estonia and Finland aimed at exposing Education and IT professionals to practices in the European countries which allow for the effective integration of technology into the education system.  


The Ministry is represented by Ms. Zahnela Claxton, Principal Education Officer and Mr. John Williams, Education Officer responsible for STEM at the Department of Education and Mr. Jevon Claxton, Deputy Director of the Information Technology Department. The Ministry representatives are accompanied by Minister Counselor, Mrs. Elsa Wilkin-Armbrister, Alternate Permanent Representative to BIE and IMO, St. Kitts and Nevis High Commission to the United Kingdom.

A digital education system addresses several components including but not limited to data capture and management, teaching and learning and communication.


The European country of Estonia has a population of approximately 1.3 million persons and has successfully achieved a comprehensive e-governance system which also captures educational services. Estonia is number 1 in Europe in digital education. This is according to the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) which assessed the European countries’ performance of digital learning. Finland has been hailed as having a model education system which facilitates technology integration and supports student success and also ranks in the top three in digital education.


The Department of Education is entering the second year of the official rollout of the STEM initiative which allows for a system wide exposure and transition to the key components of STEM education. Included in the outputs are increased exposure to digital literacy which includes skills for students such as coding and empowerment of personnel at the department and school levels.

The delegation, which combines education and information technology professionals within the Ministry of Education, will be poised to lead the way in the digital transformation and to ensure that teachers and students are global and future ready.


The visit is being facilitated by the Nevis Island Administration with support from the NevThi Group based in Dubai.

Delegation from the Ministry of Education and Information Technology in the Nevis Island Administration during a ten-day tour in Estonia and Finland with a focus on the effective integration of technology into the education system

Portuguese Teens Sue 32 Nations–We Are Too Hot, And It Is All Your Fault.

Six young Portuguese youths have  brought a case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Wednesday, alleging that 32 nations should have done more to tackle global warming. The Portuguese six, whose ages range from 11 to 24, claim they are suffering from “having to live with a climate that is getting hotter and hotter.”

The complaint to the Strasbourg-based court was also sparked by wildfires that hit Portugal in 2017, killing more than 100 people and destroying swaths of land.

Now, the Strasbourg court will be hearing them on 27 September, in a novel, far-fetched bid to arm-twist them into taking climate action.

With the support of the British-based Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), the Portuguese applicants, aged between 11 and 24, are seeking a legally-binding decision that would force states to act.

A ruling in the case is expected in the first half of 2024. If the complaint is upheld, it could result in orders from national courts for governments to cut carbon dioxide emissions blamed for climate change faster than currently planned.

Some of the plaintiffs say they have suffered allergies and breathing problems since the fire and that the conditions are likely to persist if nothing is done. “European governments are not managing to protect us,” said 15-year-old Andre Oliveira, one of the six who brought the suit.

“We’re on the front lines of climate change in Europe: even in February’s winter it’s sometimes 30 degrees. The heat waves are getting more and more serious,” he added.

The plaintiffs said all 27 European Union member states — along with Russia, Turkey, Switzerland, Norway and Britain — have failed to sufficiently limit greenhouse gas emissions, damaging their lives and health.

They argue that the failure to act infringes on their rights to life and respect for private life under Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

National courts could be ordered to cut carbon dioxide emissions if the complaint is upheld.

“Today we will stand up at the ECHR to argue for our rights and our future,” the applicants, who are all attending the hearing in person, wrote on social media.

Six lawyers represent the applicant, while more than 80 lawyers represent the accused countries. Gerry Liston, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, has admitted that “taking on the legal teams of over 30 very well-resourced countries” would not be easy.

Portugal’s legal team has told the court that it is dedicated to fighting climate change, and also that the applicants have not provided direct evidence of the direct impact on them.

The UK argued that the plaintiffs should have gone through national courts first and that since they are not nationals of the countries they are attacking, other than Portugal, the European Court of Human Rights should not yet have jurisdiction.

The European Court usually takes about two years to reach a ruling, but the real question here is not the justice of the complaints, but the extent to which the court can use human rights legislation to issue directives to sovereign governments, if at all.

Sources: MercoPress, Euronews.

Bootleg Barbie Movie Taking Moscow Cinemas By Storm.

Due to Hollywood sanctions, Barbie the Movie  is not showing in Russia, and yet Barbie is pulling in the crowds at a multiplex in central Moscow where they are watching bootleg copies of the movie dubbed into Russian.

Warner Bros and other big Hollywood names like Disney and Netflix pulled out of the country after Putin invaded Ukraine last year.

So, since then, copies of popular films have come into the country through other Russian-speaking markets, such as Kazakhstan, to work around the sanctions.

To avoid licensing issues, some cinemas in Russia have been selling tickets to Russian-made shorts and showing the Barbie feature film as the preview.

But in June, the primary Kazakh-based distributor that had been illegally delivering Hollywood-licensed films to Russian cinemas announced it was pulling out of the business for financial reasons.

This is how pirated viewings have started becoming popular.

Nikita Zabolotskikh, 17, has spent an estimated Rbs300,000 — or more than $3,000 — bringing Barbie to the big screen in the city of Perm by acquiring a pirated copy, hiring a Russian dubbing company and rolling out an extensive marketing campaign.

He told theFinancial Times that he and a friend came up with the idea after reading news reports that the Kazakh company was ending its business — just as Barbie was about to hit cinemas worldwide.

Russia’s culture ministry is not amused. Last month it concluded that the Barbie movie was “not in line with the aims and goals laid out by our president for preserving and strengthening traditional Russian moral and spiritual values.”

Over at the cinema it’s a bit cloak and dagger. When a BBC reporter asked one visitor which movie he’s come to watch he names an obscure 15-minute Russian film and smiles.

Mind you, the cinemagoers the BBC reporter spoke to are tickled pink that Barbie’s hit the big screen here.

“People should have the right to choose what they want to watch,” Karina says. “I think it’s good that Russian cinemas are able to show these films for us.”

“It’s about being open-minded about other people’s cultures,” says Alyona. “Even if you don’t agree with other people’s standards, it’s still great if you can watch it.”

But Russian MP Maria Butina believes there’s nothing great about Barbie: the doll or the film.

“I have issues with Barbie as a female form,” she tells me. “Some girls – especially in their teens – try to be like a Barbie girl, and they exhaust their bodies.”

Ms Butina adds that the film has not been licensed to appear in Russian cinemas.


“Do not break the law. Is this a question for our movie theatres? Absolutely. I filed several requests to cinemas asking on what basis they are showing the film,” she says.

“You talk about the importance of following the law,” I say, “but Russia invaded Ukraine. The United Nations says that was a complete violation of international law.”

“Russia is saving Ukraine,” she replies, “and saving the Donbas.”

You hear this often from those in power in Russia. They paint Moscow as peacemaker, not warmonger.

They argue that it is America, Nato, the West, that are using Ukraine to wage war on Russia. It is an alternative reality designed to rally Russians around the flag.

Amid growing confrontation with Europe and America, the Russian authorities seem determined to turn Russians against the West.

From morning till night state TV here tells viewers that Western leaders are out to destroy Russia. The brand-new modern history textbook for Russian high-school students (obligatory for use) claims that the aim of the West is “to dismember Russia and take control of her natural resources.”

It asserts that “in the 1990s, in place of our traditional cultural values such as good, justice, collectivism, charity and self-sacrifice, under the influence of Western propaganda a sense of individualism was forced on Russia, along with the idea that people bear no responsibility for society.”

The text book encourages Russian 11th graders to “multiply the glory and strength of the Motherland.”

In other words, Your Motherland (not Barbie Land) needs you!

At the Moscow multiplex many people were still open to experiencing Western culture and ideas. But what’s the situation away from the Russian capital?

In the town of Shchekino, 140 miles from Moscow. There’s a concert on at the local culture centre. Up on stage four Russian soldiers in military fatigues are playing electric guitars and singing their hearts out about patriotism and Russian invincibility.

One of the songs is about Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“We will serve the Motherland and crush the enemy!” they croon.

The audience (it’s almost a full house) is a mixture of young and old, including school children, military cadets, and senior citizens. For the up-tempo numbers they’re waving Russian tricolours that have been handed to them.

As the paratrooper pop stars sing their patriotic repertoire, film is being projected onto the screen behind them. No Barbie or Ken here. There are images of Russian tanks, soldiers marching and shooting and, at one point, of President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin.

Patriotic messaging is effective. Barbie mania isn’t a thing on the streets of Shchekino.

“Right now it’s important to make patriotic Russian films to raise morale,” Andrei tells me. “And we need to cut out Western habits from our lives. How can we do that? Through film. Cinema can influence the masses.”

“In Western films they talk a lot about sexual orientation. We don’t support that,” Ekaterina tells me. “Russian cinema is about family values, love and friendship.”

But Diana is reluctant to divide cinema into Russian films and foreign movies.

“Art is for everyone. It doesn’t matter where you’re from,” Diana tells me. “And we shouldn’t restrict ourselves to art from one nation. To become a more cultured, sociable and a more interesting person, you need to watch films and read books from other countries, too.”

Sources: BBC, news agencies, Financial Times.

Haiti Gang Attacks Intensifying In Central Haiti, Many People Made Homeless.


Over ten thousand people have been forced to leave their homes in parts of Haiti’s central department, the United Nations’ migration agency said  yesterday, after a series of gang attacks which included inflicting damage on an important  regional hospital hospital.

There are no reports of any deaths/

In many gamg-controlled areas there are no supplies of electricity or water, making neighborhoods uninhabitable.

Mostly ineffective police have struggled to contain heavily armed gangs who gained territory and terrorized the population over the past year, and  in the capital Port-au-Prince neighborhood gangs have formed alliances, enabling them to control large swathers of the ramshackle city.

Fighting has expanded put of Port au Prince in recent months, now including regions such as Artibonite and the Central Department, reports Reuters News Agency.

Early on Tuesday, armed men attacked the University Hospital of Mirebalais, one of the country’s main health centers. Days earlier, suspected gang members attacked a police station in nearby Saut-d’Eau.

Haiti’s top private healthcare provider Zanmi Lasante issued a statement shared by local media condemning the “brutal attack which violates the moral treaty which considers hospitals as neutral sites, leaving patients and medical personnel deeply traumatized.”

No people were immediately reported killed or injured from the attack, but unverified videos on social media showed chaotic scenes with broken windows and hospital walls riddled with bullet holes.

Violence has spiked since last week, when the leader of the powerful G9 gang alliance Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier said he would overthrow the government by force and called a broader truce of metropolitan area gangs through a new alliance called “Living Together.”

The announcement sparked internal feuds. Late on Tuesday the leader of a G9 alliance gang was killed by other alliance members near Fontaine Hospital in the capital, according to local media reports.

Hospital director Gheriane Ulysse said the government had asked what resources the hospital had at their disposal.

“We’re anticipating the worst,” she said as the hospital braced for counter-attacks from the local gang. “We don’t know what they’re prepared to do in retaliation.”

Last week, Cherizier expressed support for a canal in Northern Haitt that draws water from the Massacre River that forms the border with the Dominican Republic. Its construction prompted Haiti’s neighbor to completely shut down its border, driving Haitian migrants back into areas of conflict and calling into question access to humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, the Kenyan government has said it will deploy a police force to Haiti by January 2024, aiming to quell the ongoing gang warfare and restore order, accroding to BBC reports.

During an interview with the BBC’s Waihiga Mwaura, Kenya’s foreign affairs minister Alfred Mutua says will send an intervention force to disarm gangs and bring relief to victims of violence.

Sources: Reuters, Star, BBC, news agencies.

Immediate Recall to Saint Kitts and Nevis for Consultations of Ambassador Nerys Dockery

Communiqué issued by Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Basseterre – September 27, 2023)

Her Excellency Nerys Dockery, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Saint Kitts and Nevis to the United Nations has been recalled to Capital for consultations with immediate effect.

The Government remains committed to promoting the interests of Saint Kitts and Nevis within the international community and to advancing its principled foreign policy.

The Government has identified an Interim Representative who is presently undergoing the accreditation process.

Further details will be provided at a later date.

Zero Waste In The Caribbean InitiativeTalking Trash To Litter Louts.

The Caribbean region faces unique challenges when it comes to waste management and environmental conservation.

As the demand for resources continues to rise, the responsible management of waste becomes increasingly vital.

To address these challenges effectively, the Zero Waste in the Caribbean initiative was launched to promote integrated and sustainable waste management in the context of a circular economy in the Caribbean.

A regional training session was held earlier this month in Kingston, Jamaica with the aim of strengthen waste information systems and enhance the capacity of participating countries to generate accurate waste management statistics.

The Minister of Local Government and Community Development of Jamaica, Desmond McKenzie, opened the workshop saying, “Public education has played a key role in the sensitisation of Jamaicans on waste disposal and the risks associated with poor waste management.

“At the same time, the provision of over 100 trucks to the national Solid Waste Management Authority is helping to keep the streets of Jamaica clean. Through both of these tools, the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development is proving that waste management is high on the country’s agenda.”

The Zero waste in the Caribbean project is funded by the European Union, in collaboration with CARIFORUM, co-financed by the German cooperation and implemented by AFD, GIZ and UNEP, in partnership with the OECS.

The European Union Ambassador, H. E. Marianne Van Steen, underlined the importance of solid waste management strategies in the Caribbean stating that “Small Island Developing States are facing particular challenges when seeking how to best handle solid waste, because of their limited size and because of their limited waste management capacities.

In order to face these challenges, waste data collection and management are key and the sharing of good practices and exchange of experiences during this workshop are essential and extremely valuable.”

The focus of the workshop is on Strengthening Waste Information Systems and Capacity to Generate Waste Statistics, and includes the following key objectives:

  • Share good practices and lessons learned in the Caribbean for the improvement of waste data and statistics and associated indicators, especially from the four case study countries of the project.
  • Strengthen waste information systems and capacity to deliver waste statistics by facilitating the integration of the Caribbean countries in the Waste and Circular economy Hub for Latin-America and the Caribbean.
  • Promote the harmonisation of waste information systems in the Caribbean, strengthening their sustainability and enhancing regional cooperation in this field.
  • Prepare draft work plans to improve the availability and reliability of data related to waste management and the circular economy.
  • Network with peers, experts, and organisations involved in waste management and environmental conservation, fostering collaboration and information exchange. 


    Source: OECS press release.

PAHO Aiming To Eliminate 30 Diseases From Caribbean By 2030, Celebrates Malaria-Free Central America.

Washington, DC, 26 September 2023 (PAHO)- The Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) Elimination Initiative, which seeks to put an end to more than 30 communicable diseases and related conditions in Latin America and the Caribbean, received new impetus today.

“As we move forward in the pandemic recovery, it is time to give the Elimination Initiative a renewed, stronger and more mature push to reach a goal on communicable diseases that started right at the establishment of the Organization, 120 years ago,” Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, Director of PAHO, said.

Following a worldwide effort, smallpox was eradicated in1980, and 14 years later, polio was eliminated from the Americas.

Since then, rubella (German measles), congenital rubella syndrome, measles and neonatal tetanus have also been eliminated, and progress has been made towards the elimination of other diseases.

By 2023, 19 countries in the region were free of malaria, eight had eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis, and onchocerciasis is now limited to one area of the Amazon basin.

Cervical cancer, Chagas disease, cholera, hepatitis B and C, HIV/AIDS, human rabies transmitted by dogs, leprosy, malaria, onchocerciasis, trachoma, and tuberculosis are some of the diseases to be ended by 2030 as part of the Elimination Initiative and the commitment made by countries of the region in 2019 at PAHO.

For Dr. Barbosa, the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as from previous elimination experiences, present countries with an opportunity to leverage the initiative and accelerate its pace.

Other opportunities include the arsenal of vaccines, diagnostics, medicines and other technologies available through PAHO, as well as the push for digital health and a deeper understanding of health inequalities and increased community engagement.

The Elimination Initiative aims to interrupt endemic disease transmission, end morbidity and mortality, and prevent disability.

To achieve this, it proposes strategies including the integration of programs and the strengthening of first level of care, as well as reinforced surveillance and health information systems.

It also calls for addressing the environmental and social determinants of health, with a focus on inequities and vulnerable populations, and for the strengthened leadership of Ministries of Health.

During the session, the Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment for Antigua and Barbuda, Sir Molwyn Joseph, presented his country’s efforts to move towards the elimination of cervical cancer.

The Director of Brazil’s National Tuberculosis Program, Fernanda Dockhorn, shared her country’s renewed efforts to end infectious diseases, with a focus on social determinants; and the Minister of Health of Uruguay, Karina Rando, shared the experience of digital registries and geolocation tools to reach the unvaccinated.

Philippe Duneton, Executive Director of UNITAID, presented health innovations that can contribute to the elimination of diseases such as HIV, TB and malaria. Magdalena Robert, Deputy Director of Program Advocacy and Communications, Polio and Vaccine Delivery, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, highlighted her organization’s support to the region to ensure that girls in low-income countries also have access to the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer.

During the closing of the session, the PAHO Director presented Belize’s Minister of Health and Welfare, Kevin Bernard, with the World Health Organization (WHO) certificate recognizing the Central American country as malaria-free, the last in the region to achieve this goal. Belize reported its last autochthonous case of malaria in 2018 and, in May 2023, was certified malaria-free.

“This is the culmination of a long, hard-fought battle spanning seven decades,” Minister Bernard maintained. “None of this would have been possible without the unwavering support of grassroots organizations and the dedication of our health workers, the cornerstone of our success,” he added.

Source: PAHO press release.

Colombian Singer Shakira Charged With Tax Evasion By Spain–Again!

Colombian pop star Shakira has been charged  by the Spanish government with tax evasion for the second time.

Prosecutors in Spain allege the singer defrauded the state of €6.7m ($7.1m, £5.8m) in 2018.

The tax fraud charges stem from the claim that Shakira spent more than half the year in Spain every year during that period, even though she listed her residence as the Bahamas during her alleged time in Spain.

Spanish tax law stipulates that anyone living in the country for more than six months is considered a resident and must pay taxes.

They say this happened when she failed to declare millions in advance payments for her El Dorado World Tour, among other payments.

Spanish prosecutors opened the second investigation in July 2023, but released the details on Tuesday.

Spanish network RTVE says the 46-year-old singer is aware of the new charges, but news agency Reuters reports that Shakira’s legal team in Miami – where she now lives – has not yet been told about them.


Instead, they were “focused on preparing for the trial for the 2012-14 fiscal years, which will begin on Nov 20,” they told Reuters in a statement.

Tax authorities argue that she instead diverted her money to “companies domiciled in countries with low taxation and high opacity” and claimed that she was living in the Bahamas, when she was actually physically present in Spain.


Shakira faces trial over six separate alleged tax crimes in Barcelona this November – charges she has denied.

In that case, she has been accused of failing to pay €14.5m ($15.3m, £12.6m) in tax between 2012 and 2014, but has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

“I am confident that I have enough proof to support my case and that justice will prevail in my favour”, she said in September, in an interview with the Spanish edition of Elle magazine.

Shakira has been linked to Spain since she started dating now-retired soccer player Gerard Pique. The couple, who have two children, lived together in Barcelona until last year, when they ended their 11-year relationship.

Over the past decade, Spanish tax authorities have cracked down on soccer stars like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for not paying their full due in taxes. Those players were found guilty of tax evasion but avoided prison time thanks to a provision that allows a judge to waive sentences under two years in length for first-time offenders.

Sources: BBC, AP, Rolling Stone,

Canadian House Speaker Quits Over Nazi Soldier Invitation Gaffe.

Anthony Rota, speaker of Canada’s House of Commons handed in his resignation onTuesday, after accepting personal responsibility for  inviting an elderly man who fought for a Nazi military unit during World War II to Parliament to hear a speech given by the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

To make matters even worse, Canadian lawmakers gave 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka a standing ovation when Speaker Anthony Rota drew attention to him. Rota introduced Hunka as a war hero who fought for the “First Ukrainian Division”.

During World War Two, Mr Hunka served in the 14th Waffen-SS Grenadier Division, a voluntary unit made up mostly of ethnic Ukrainians under Nazi command.

Division members are accused of killing Polish and Jewish civilians, although the unit has not been found guilty of any war crimes by a tribunal.

Earlier on Tuesday, Poland’s Education Minister Przemysław Czarnek said he had “taken steps” towards extraditing Mr Hunka.

Mr Hunka and his family could not be reached for comment by the BBC. They have not yet commented to Canadian media.

“No one in this House is above any of us. Therefore I must step down as your speaker,” Rota said in Parliament. “I reiterate my profound regret for my error in recognizing an individual in the House during the joint address to Parliament of President Zelenskyy.


“That public recognition has caused pain to individuals and communities, including to the Jewish community in Canada and around the world in addition to Nazi survivors in Poland among other nations. I accept full responsibility for my actions,” he added.

Rota stepped down after meeting with the House of Commons’ party leaders. All main opposition parties had called for Rota to step down, and House government leader Karina Gould said that lawmakers had lost confidence in Rota.

“This is something that has brought shame and embarrassment to all of Parliament and indeed all Canadians. The speaker did the honorable thing in resigning,” Gould said.

Gould said that Rota invited and recognized Hunka without informing the government or the delegation from Ukraine, adding that the fact that Rota didn’t inform anyone and didn’t do diligence broke trust with lawmakers.

Members of Parliament from all parties rose to applaud Hunka on Friday unaware of the details of who he was.

“Never in my life would I have imagined that the speaker of the House would have asked us to stand and applaud someone who fought with the Nazis,” Gould said.

“This is very emotional for me. My family are Jewish holocaust survivors. I would have never in a million of years stood and applauded someone who aided the Nazis.”

Gould said Rota found out about it over the weekend. “He probably should have resigned as soon as he learned about it,” she said.

Canadian Health Minister Mark Holland had called the incident “incredibly embarrassing.”

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies said in a statement that the incident “has left a stain on our country’s venerable legislature with profound implications both in Canada and globally.”

“This incident has compromised all 338 Members of Parliament and has also handed a propaganda victory to Russia, distracting from what was a momentously significant display of unity between Canada and Ukraine. It has also caused great pain to Canada’s Jewish community, Holocaust survivors, veterans and other victims of the Nazi regime.”

In an earlier apology on Sunday, Rota said he alone was responsible for inviting and recognizing Hunka, who is from the district that Rota represents. The speaker’s office said it was Hunka’s son who contacted Rota’s local office to see if it was possible if he could attend Zelenskyy’s speech.

It is not known if Hunka’s son was aware of the fact that his father having fought for a Nazi division might be a cause of contention.

The prime minister’s office said it was unaware that Hunka was invited until after the address.

The speaker’s office also confirmed it did not share its invite list with any other party or group. The vetting process for visitors to the gallery is for physical security threats, not reputational threats, the speaker’s office said.

In Moscow, a Kremlin spokesman said it was “outrageous” that Hunka received a standing ovation.

“The Canadian government must bring to justice or extradite Ukrainian Nazi SS veteran Yaroslav Hunka, who has been given a standing ovation by the Canadian parliament last week”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

Sources: AP, BBC, Sputnik.

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