Daily Brief - Tuesday 21st March, 2017

NEWS

Employees not optimistic

Employees of the Tourism Development Company (TDC) say they are trying to wrap up to meet the 90-day deadline for closure of the company. “Those of us with projects are finishing up but there is a deep sense of despair and hopelessness,” they said yesterday. Workers told the T&T Guardian they are not optimistic about the planned meeting between the Communication Workers Union (CWU), Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe and Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste Primus, set for 10.30 am today. It will be the first face-to-face meeting between the Tourism Minister and the union since she announced two weeks ago that the TDC will be dissolved. Read more here

PTA protests against ‘dangerous’ primary school bully in Tabaquite

Fearing that their children may be seriously injured by a nine-year-old bully, parents of pupils attending the Santa Rita Roman Catholic Primary School staged a protest yesterday. Holding up placards, the parents claimed the male pupil had attacked pupils and teachers in recent months. Parents said the child had become uncontrollable and called on the Minister of Education to intervene. The school is located in Tabaquite, Rio Claro. A parent, Savitri Persad, said the alleged bully had attacked several pupils, the most recent being an 11-year-old pupil. She said the older pupil was choked and kicked. Read more here

 

POLITICS

Kamla defends Sat from ‘vicious attacks’

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has praised Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) secretary general Satnarayn Maharaj for his outspokenness on marriage, age and other issues affecting descendants of East Indian immigrants in T&T. In the feature address at the Indian Diaspora Council closing event at Maha Sabha headquarters, St Augustine, on Sunday night, she condemned the “vicious and untruthful attacks” against Maharaj. “His name will well be recorded in the annals of the history of Trinidad and Tobago as he who never faltered in defence of his faith, his community and his country,” she said. Read more here

Anand Backs Down

Former attorney general Anand Ramlogan has withdrawn five lawsuits which he had brought against Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and one against Works Minister, Fitzgerald Hinds. All the lawsuits had been filed while Ramlogan was attorney general and Rowley and Hinds were Opposition MPs. The five cases against Rowley were withdrawn before they came to trial. By contrast, the case against Hinds had been concluded and was awaiting the decision of the Justice Vashiest Kokaram. Contacted yesterday on why he chose to withdraw all these matters, Ramlogan stated by text message: “The matters were withdrawn by consent with each party bearing their own costs. I have no further comment on these matters.” Read more here

 

BUSINESS

Oil lower on rising US rig count, G-20

Oil prices settled at their lowest level in nearly a week, settling at the lower end of the range between US$48 and US$50 on which T&T’s 2017 budget was predicated. April West Texas Intermediate crude shed 56 cents, or 1.2 per cent, to finish at US$48.22 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, ahead of the contract’s expiration at Tuesday’s settlement. May Brent crude gave up 14 cents, or 0.3 per cent, to US$51.62 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London. April natural gas ended at $3.041 per million British thermal units, up 3.2 per cent, which is 35 per cent above the US$2.25 per mmbtu on which the 2017 budget was also pegged. WTI crude has “found itself vulnerable to heavy losses…as the rising drilling activity in the US reinforced the oversupply fears,” said Lukman Otunuga, research analyst at FXTM, in a note. Read more here

Opposition giving fake news

Finance Minister Colm Imbert has accused the Opposition of “scaremongering and hysteria” and of giving “fake news” which was “entirely unwarranted”. He was responding to the Opposition statement on the $1.71 billion drawdown from the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund (HSF). The Opposition, which said it was very worried that Government's bad financial decisions were mortgaging the country's future, also said that Government “quietly” borrowed some $1 billion from the Central Bank overdraft facility and was seeking a further US$300 million loan from the Andean Development Bank. Read more here

  

REGIONAL

'Pickpocket Budget' - Phillips Urges Jamaicans To Protest Budget, Tax Package

Today, Prime Minister Andrew Holness will make his contribution to the 2017-2018 Budget Debate amid urging from the Opposition's incoming leader, Dr Peter Phillips, for Jamaicans to decide what action they will take to show that they will not tolerate the $716-billion Budget, and especially the $17.5-billion tax package. An official in Holness' office told The Gleaner that the prime minister will give "clarity" on the actions of his administration over the past year and the way forward. He is expected to focus on the draw-down from the National Housing Trust which, while in Opposition, he had said would not be done by a Government led by him. He is also expected to address the controversial tax on group health insurance, as well as the necessity to implement several of the tax measures to fund the revised election-winning promise to raise the non-taxable portion of income to $1.5 million. Read more here

Puerto Rico governor seeks Florida's assistance in addressing healthcare crisis

The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, has alerted Governor Rick Scott of Florida in a letter, calling his attention to the "rapidly approaching drop in federal healthcare funding for Puerto Rico, known as Medicaid cliff", which will likely result in a substantial economic impact to the Florida budget. The ¨Medicaid cliff¨ is a scenario caused by funding shortfalls built in to the unique and inequitable healthcare funding mechanisms for Puerto Rico. If realized, tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans, all natural born citizens of the United States, will likely continue to relocate to Florida to qualify for Medicaid, costing Florida taxpayers $2.5 billion over the coming decade. In the letter, Nevares states, “I’m reaching out to ask for your help in activating Florida’s Congressional delegation as a voice of reason in Congress on this issue which is entirely avoidable. Moreover, Congress has a perfect opportunity to deal with this as it works to approve legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).” Read more here

 

INTERNATIONAL

Electronics banned on some US flights from Middle East

The US has announced a ban on large electronic devices from cabin baggage on passenger flights from eight Muslim majority countries. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said extremists were seeking "innovative methods" to bring down jets. Bombs could be hidden in laptops, tablets, cameras, DVD players and electronic games, it said. The measure will affect nine airlines operating out of 10 airports. Large electronic devices will only be allowed on board in checked baggage. Phones are exempt from the new rules. Read more here

Rebuffed by Comey's testimony, Trump tweet teases new theory

After the FBI director said he had no information to back up a conspiracy theory pushed by President Donald Trump on Twitter, Trump took to Twitter to tease something new. The official presidential Twitter account noted Monday that FBI Director James Comey declined to say before a House panel whether he briefed President Barack Obama on former national security adviser Mike Flynn's contacts with Russian operatives. The response amounted to Trump's first direct public response to Comey's testimony, in which he also confirmed the Department of Justice was looking into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian government. Comey also said he was unaware of any evidence supporting Trump's allegations that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the campaign. "FBI Director Comey refuses to deny he briefed President Obama on calls made by Michael Flynn to Russia," said the tweet, which was sent out shortly after 12:30 p.m. ET. Read more here

21st March 2017

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