The National Workers Union (NWU) has written to the Management of the Water & Sewerage Company Incorporated (WASCO) asking that they conduct a disciplinary hearing based on the results of a financi...

The Agriculture Sector is showing expanded growth and the review of the output of most subsectors shows high level of production. This formed part of a report to Parliament on Tuesday by Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Physical Planning, Natural Resources and Cooperatives, Hon. Ezechiel Joseph, who noted that notwithstanding the negative impact of climate change, Saint Lucia still recorded 5.8% growth of banana sales to the UK Market and also experienced growth of 7.6% in revenue for 2018. “The undisputed fact is banana exports in 2018 despite the negative impact of Tropical Storm Kirk is the highest in five years,” stated Minister Joseph. “This Government, understanding and appreciating the socio-economic impact of well-coordinated Agriculture programmes on our rural communities, has decided to undertake a focused approach in the implementation of our many programmes.” He referenced the Banana Production Improvement Project (BPIP) along with the financial and technical assistance from the Government of Republic of China (Taiwan) as one such programme. The Minister spoke to specific growth since 2016: From 1,117 acres to 2,669 acres of banana cultivation From 230 farmers to 643 farmers operating 764 bananas farms From 195 farmers selling fruits to the UK market to 291 farmers currently. The Minister noted that there are presently over 290 farmers wanting to be Euro gap certified. “This certification is necessary to allow these farmers to sell farm trade bananas on the UK market. Presently the system allows to certify only 10% of the total number global gap certified farmers per year. This means we can only certify thirty farmers in 2019 if we allow that policy to stand. Stakeholders are in discussion to see what can be done to assist these farmers who are on the stand by list.” The Minister added that with the positive impact of the Banana Production Improvement Programme (BPIP), the stakeholders are projecting a weekly export production of 17,000 boxes; barring any negative impact of climate change and of course the introduction of any new pest or disease. The Agriculture Minister also reported on a recent trip to the UK led by the Prime Minister and with officials from the Ministry of Agriculture. This was triggered after WINFRESH informed the National Fair Trade Organization (NFTO) that they can only guarantee 6,000 boxes weekly of fair trade fruits of which over 4,000 boxes are small fingers. “This situation, if allowed to remain is not favourable and supportive to our programme,” noted the Minister, adding that the trip was very promising. “UGBAN continues to express interest in purchasing Saint Lucian bananas and agreed to a trial shipment of 1,000 boxes for three weeks in the first instance. If these trial shipments proved successful, the company would commit to 3,000 boxes weekly. These boxes are expected to contain twenty-two clusters – six finger bagged fruits. While we were able to get the 1,000 boxes for our first trial shipment, because of the size of our fruits we were not able to get the twenty-two clusters – six finger bagged fruits in our existing box.” Discussions are continuing with the company, noted the Minister and there are possibilities at examining other options such as: less clusters in a box; getting more appropriate cartons which are more suitable to pack the twenty-two clusters or; Looking at the option of selling loose fruits. The Minister reported that the supermarkets in the UK are interested in more small fingers and Organic Fairtrade fruits. “It was generally agreed that there are still opportunities for our conventional standard fruit and there was general willingness to support a Branding Campaign for Saint Lucia Banana in the UK. We agreed to continue discussions on the approach to this campaign.” The Minister added that there will be continued discussion with UGBAN on possible options to satisfy the market in France. There will also be a training programme to be implemented for packers, inspectors and farmers to address quality issues, there is a need to review inspection operation at the IRDC’s and a meeting of stakeholders will take place to decide on the way forward to undertake the branding-initiative.

A Chinese investor reads his newspaper at a brokerage in Beijing Wednesday, June 12, 2019. Shares were mostly lower in Asia on Wednesday and Hong Kong’s Seng index tumbled 1.7% as thousands continued protests against proposed legislation that many city residents fear could further erode the territory’s legal autonomy. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Global shares retreated Wednesday and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell sharply as thousands continued protests against proposed legislation that many city residents fear could further erode the territory's legal autonomy. In midday trading in Europe, Germany's DAX lost 0.4% to 12,104 and the CAC 40 in France dropped 0.6% to 5,377. Britain's FTSE 100 also skidded 0.6% to 7,356. U.S. shares were headed for a weak open as the future contract for the Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.2% to 26,017 while that for the S&P 500 also declined 0.2% to 2,882. The Hang Seng lost 1.7% to 27,308.46 as thousands of protesters, most of them young, prevented lawmakers from entering Hong Kong's government headquarters Wednesday. The demonstrations snarled traffic and delayed a legislative debate on a bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be sent for trial in mainland China, a proposal that is sharpening fears over growing Chinese control and an erosion of civil liberties in the semiautonomous territory. The crowds overflowed onto a major downtown road as they overturned barriers and tussled with police, who used multiple rounds of tear gas and threatened to use more forceful measures if necessary. The proposed legal changes have spooked investors, Stephen Innes of SPI-Asset Management said in a commentary, as it "could have far-reaching consequences for attracting overseas talent and does question the viability of Hong Kong as a leading financial hub, which of course is spooking property investors." Japan's Nikkei 225 index lost 0.4% to 21,129.72 and the Kospi in Seoul shed 0.1% to 2,108.75. The Shanghai Composite index declined 0.6% to 2,909.38. Australia's S&P ASX 200 edged less than 0.1% lower to 6,543.70. U.S. markets had advanced for five straight days since the Federal Reserve signaled it is open to cutting interest rates, but weakened on Tuesday amid concerns that the U.S. trade spat with China could be prolonged and hurt growth in the world's two biggest economies. U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday he expects to meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Osaka at the Group of 20 summit. But he said he's prepared to expand existing tariffs if a deal with Beijing falls through. "It's me, right now, that's holding up the deal," Trump said in comments carried by CNBC and other news outlets. "And we're either going to do a great deal with China or we're not doing a deal at all." The yield on the 10-year Treasury has dropped from around 2.50% in early May to 2.12% Wednesday. ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost $1.28 cents to $51.99 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 1 cent to $53.27 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude oil, the international standard, fell $1.33 to $60.96 a barrel. CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 108.36 Japanese yen from 108.52 yen on Friday. The euro slipped to $1.1326 from $1.1330.

The Westmoreland police in Jamaica have arrested and charged a 36-year-old male educator at a prominent high school in the parish with raping a 16-year-old female student of the institution. The accused is scheduled to appear in the Westmoreland Parish Court on Tuesday, June 25. According to police reports, the offence was allegedly committed at the school on Friday, February 1, 2019. The police say further investigations are being conducted into other sexual-related offences that have reportedly been committed against other female students at the same learning institution.

Concerned persons gather around the Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands after she collapsed at the graveside on Sunday, shortly after the interment of Edward Seaga at the National Heroes Park.

Turks and Caicos Premier, Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, was whisked away to hospital after she collapsed at the graveside of former Jamaican Prime Minister, Edward Seaga, minutes after the final burial rites were performed. As mourners were leaving the area and dignitaries were being picked up by their respective drivers and security teams, Cartwright-Robinson was placed on a stretcher and put inside an ambulance by medical personnel and some Jamaica Defence Force Military Police personnel. The extent of her illness is not yet known. The Turks and Caicos Premier being placed in an ambulance. A number of persons had also collapsed or fainted during the long funeral service, and had to be assisted at a makeshift health facility at the church grounds. Officials from the Ministry of Health refused to give a figure of the number of persons who were treated for illnesses, citing 'protocol' as their reason for declining to provide the information. However, a teenage schoolgirl was seen being taken to the facility in an ambulance after she fainted while standing in the sun.

Trinidad and Tobago is set to host the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2021. T&T was selected to host on Friday, following the Commonwealth Games Federation's decision to remove Belfastas host last yeardue to the political strifein Northern Ireland. The Commonwealth Games Federation's Executive Board voted for the country to host following an outstandingpresentation led by Trinidad and Tobago Commonwealth Games Association President Brian Lewis. "This is awesome and historic," he said. "On behalf of the youth and young people of Trinidad and Tobago, thank you to the Commonwealth Games Federation. It's an honour to be entrusted with the 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games. On the announcement, CGF President Dame Louise Martin said, "We are delighted to award Trinidad and Tobago the opportunity to host the 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games. We had a very strong bid process and the Board felt at this point in time, the Caribbean offers a fantastic platform for the Commonwealth Sports Movement to build upon. "We look forward to working closely with Trinidad and Tobago in the lead up to the Games in what we are confident will be a fantastic event for the aspiring young athletes of the Commonwealth. The seventh edition of the competition will runfrom August 1 to 7, 2021. The first Commonwealth Youth Games was held in Scotland in 2000 with the event subsequently going to Australia, India, Isle of Man, Samoa and, most recently, the Bahamas in 2017.

This April 17, 2017, photo provided by Michael St. John shows search and rescue volunteer and SARTopo creator Matt Jacobs, left, and search and rescue volunteers Mike Russo, center, and Bob Gehlen, right, in Sierraville, California, as they consult a SARTopo map while making plans to search for a missing aircraft. (Michael St. John/Marin County Sheriff's SAR unit via AP)

Yesenia D'Alessandro loaded a GPS tracking app on her cellphone and trudged into a remote Hawaii forest, joining more than 100 other volunteers looking for a missing hiker. She climbed through muddy ravines, crossed streams and faced steep drop-offs in the thick tangle of trees and ferns where her college friend Amanda Eller vanished last month. "You have to search everywhere," said D'Alessandro, who flew in from Maryland. "You have to go down to that stream bed, even though you don't want to. She could be down there." D'Alessandro and others gathered GPS data of the ground they covered, and organizers put it on a specialized digital map to help better understand where to look next. The technology led volunteers to Eller, who was found next to a waterfall and survived for 17 days in the Maui forest by eating plants and drinking stream water. Her dramatic rescue shows how emerging technology helps search teams more efficiently scour the wilderness for missing people. "It kind of led us to search outside of that high-priority area to where we actually found Amanda," her father, John Eller, said. More U.S. teams are turning to the technology that combines cellphone GPS with digital maps detailing cliffs, caves, waterways and other hard-to-search terrain. It helps manage the work of large numbers of volunteers. The system showed when Hawaii searchers had covered a 2-mile (3-kilometre) radius around Eller's car. After that, searchers sent a helicopter farther into the forest, where they spotted the 35-year-old physical therapist and yoga instructor. "We never would have pushed out if we hadn't searched the reasonable area first. There's no reason to start reaching further and further out of the box if we hadn't completely searched the box," said Chris Berquist, a volunteer search leader. David Kovar, advocacy director for the nonprofit National Association for Search and Rescue, said most search and rescue teams use digital maps. That could mean anything from basic Google Maps to specialized software called SARTopo, which California search and rescue experts used to advise Maui volunteers from afar. Search organizers in Hawaii asked volunteers to download a $3.99 app called GPS Tracks, which draws lines on a map showing where a user has walked. GPS data revealed that searchers were covering the same areas repeatedly as heavy foliage or natural barriers like cliffs blocked their path, Berquist said. Organizers started dropping digital pins on volunteers' maps to give them targets, pushing volunteers to cover more ground and making the search more accurate. When searchers ran into cliffs or pools of water, Berquist had them place digital pins on their maps. Organizers then sent drone pilots or rappelling experts to the cliffs and divers to the water. Organizers fed the GPS data to the California team, which used SARTopo to overlay it on topographical maps, allowing everyone to see what areas had already been searched and what still needed to be checked. Matt Jacobs, a California software engineer and search volunteer, developed SARTopo more than eight years ago after noticing teams struggling to match details on wilderness maps drawn by different agencies. What started as a hobby project has grown in popularity in the past couple of years to become Jacobs' full-time job. Search and rescue teams from Oregon to North Carolina have started using it. Searchers used it in March as 100 volunteers fanned out in a Northern California forest, eventually finding 8-year-old Leia Carrico and her 5-year-old sister, Caroline, who got lost near their home. Last month, teams used it to help locate a 67-year-old hiker who had veered off a trail in a state park north of San Francisco. A California Highway Patrol airplane using an infrared camera spotted the man. SARTopo also is becoming available as a cellphone app, which will make it even easier to directly connect the GPS data with digital maps so searchers can view them wherever they are. Government officials are looking at adopting new technology, including in Hawaii. Most large searches are done by volunteers because many places don't do enough of them to keep official teams on staff. Maui firefighters used hand-drawn maps as they looked for Eller over the first three days of her going missing. That's because the trail system in the Makawao Forest Reserve where she got lost doesn't appear on Google Maps. County officials also overlaid aerial searches onto a satellite map. Yatsushiro said the Maui Fire Department would adopt similar technology used by volunteers — who kept the search going after the first three days — if firefighters found it helpful after studying available options. Mike St. John, volunteer leader of the search and rescue unit at the Marin County Sheriff's Office in California, said GPS tracking of where people have looked is "really critical." "It's about using GPS maps and utilizing GPS to make sure you're hitting your assignment," said St. John, who was among those in California advising the Maui team. St. John said his search and rescue experts are not set up to offer the same type of help to others that they gave to Maui but are trying to figure out how to do that in the future. Berquist, the Hawaii search leader, visited California this week to talk with St. John about how Marin County's volunteer program works. He aims to set up something similar back in Maui. After technology helped find Eller, her father is donating software and other equipment to Berquist's team, developing a search and rescue app and giving $10,000 to support Hawaii searches and rescues. "We saw a huge need. And we feel so lucky with everything everybody did for us, so we're looking to give back," John Eller said.

Birds fly by as the sun rises in Frankfurt, Germany, Monday, June 24, 2019. Germany expects hot temperatures during the next days. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

The sunset had an orange glow and so does the new heat alert level for Paris. Authorities around the French capital have issued an orange alert for intense heat — the second-highest level on its scale — as very hot temperatures are expected across continental Europe this week. France's national weather agency Meteo France said the heat wave beginning Monday is expected to last all week with temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) across the country. The peak is expected on Thursday. In Paris, charity organisations are patrolling the streets to provide water to homeless people and local authorities have organized air-conditioned places where they can seek shelter. Meteorologists say the heat wave is caused by hot winds coming from the Sahara Desert. The alert system was introduced in France following the summer of 2003, which saw an estimated 15,000 heat-related deaths, many of them older people left in city apartments and retirement homes that were not air-conditioned. French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said Monday that "everything is ready, in retirement homes, in hospitals, in transports." "Yet when people are fragile, even when everything is organized, there's always a higher mortality rate," she warned. Organizers at the Women's World Cup, which is being hosted by France, could be faced with implementing FIFA heat precautions since knockout soccer games are being played every day this week except Wednesday and Sunday. Those precautions include holding official cooling breaks or even postponing the match if the heat at the stadium is too high. Luckily, most of the women's games are being held at night. Similar heat is also expected in Belgium, Switzerland and Germany. In Germany, temperatures above 40 degrees C are possible in some places on Wednesday, topping the country's previous June record of 38.2 degrees Celsius (nearly 100.8 degrees Fahrenheit) set in Frankfurt in 1947. Rescue services have urged people to look out for young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems who are at particular risk in high temperatures. Parts of northeastern Germany are also at high risk for forest fires. Authorities in the eastern state of Brandeburg, which circles Berlin, say the risk of forest fires is at the highest level in the coming days. Scientists say measurements show heat waves in Europe are becoming more frequent. Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said, "monthly heat records all over the globe occur five times as often today as they would in a stable climate." "This increase in heat extremes is just as predicted by climate science as a consequence of global warming caused by the increasing greenhouse gases from burning coal, oil and gas," he added. Dim Coumou, a scientist at the Free University of Amsterdam, said melting Arctic sea ice is also affecting atmospheric circulation, which in turn makes extreme heat more likely. "Data analysis shows that the normally eastward travelling summer circulation of the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes has slowed down, including the Jet Stream," he said. "This favours the buildup of hot and dry conditions over the continent, sometimes turning a few sunny days into dangerous heat waves."