Toys R Us is headed toward shuttering its US operations, jeopardising the jobs of some 30,000 employees while spelling the end for a chain known to generations of children and parents for its sprawling stores and Geoffrey the giraffe mascot. The closing of the company's 740 USstores over the coming months will finalize the downfall of the chain that succumbed to heavy debt and relentless trends that undercut its business, from online shopping to mobile games. CEO David Brandon told employees Wednesday the company's plan is to liquidate all of its U.S. stores, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by The Associated Press. Brandon said Toys R Us will try to bundle its Canadian business, with about 200 stores, and find a buyer. The company's US online store would still be running for the next couple of weeks in case there's a buyer for it. It's likely to also liquidate its businesses in Australia, France, Poland, Portugal and Spain, according to the recording. It's already shuttering its business in the United Kingdom. That would leave it with stores in Canada, central Europe and Japan, where it could find buyers for those assets. Toys R Us had about 60,000 full-time and part-time employees worldwide last year. Brandon said on the recording that the company would be filing liquidation papers and there would be a bankruptcy court hearing Thursday. "We worked as hard and as long as we could to turn over every rock," Brandon told employees. He put much of the blame on its woes on the media, saying negative stories about the company's prospects scared customers and vendors. The Wayne, New Jersey-based company declined to comment. The chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last fall, saddled with $5 billion in debt that hurt its attempts to compete as shoppers moved to Amazon and huge chains like Walmart. It pledged then to stay open, but Brandon told employees that it had a "devastating" sales performance during the critical holiday season as nervous customers and vendors shied away. That made its lenders more skittish about investing in the company. In January, it announced plans to close about 180 stores over the next couple of months, leaving it with a little more than 700 stores. The company's troubles have affected toymakers Mattel and Hasbro, which are big suppliers to the chain. But the likely liquidation will have a bigger impact on smaller toy makers, who rely more on the chain for sales. However, many have been trying to diversify in recent months as they worried about the chain's survival. Toys R Us was also hurt by the shift to mobile devices taking up more play time. But steep sales declines over the holidays and thereafter were the deciding factor, said Jim Silver, who is editor-in-chief of toy review site The company didn't do enough to emphasise that it was reorganising but not going out of business, Silver said. That misperception led customers to its stores because they didn't think they would be able to return gifts. Now, the $11 billion in sales still happening at Toys R Us each year will disperse to other retailers like Amazon and discounters, analysts say. Other chains, seeing that Toys R Us was vulnerable, got more aggressive. J.C. Penney opened toy sections last fall in all 875 stores. Target and Walmart have been expanding their toy selections. Even Party City is building up its toy offerings. "Amazon may pick up the dollars, but won't deliver the experience needed for a toy retailer to survive and thrive in today's market," said Marc Rosenberg, a toy marketing executive. Toys R Us had dominated the toy store business in the 1980s and early 1990s, when it was one of the first of the "category killers"— a store totally devoted to one thing. Its scale gave it leverage with toy sellers and it disrupted general merchandise stores and mom-and-pop shops. Children sang along with commercials about "the biggest toy store there is." But the company lost ground to discounters like Target and Walmart, and then to Amazon, as even nostalgic parents sought deals elsewhere. GlobalData Retail estimates that nearly 14 percent of toy sales were made online in 2016, more than double the level five years ago. Toys R Us still has hundreds of stores, and analysts estimate it still sells about 20 percent of the toys bought in the United States. It wasn't able to compete with a growing Amazon: The toy seller said in bankruptcy filings that Amazon's low prices were hard to match. And it said its Babies R Us chain lost customers to the online retailer's convenient subscription service, which let parents receive diapers and baby formula at their doorstep automatically. Toys R Us blamed its "old technology" for not offering its own subscriptions. But Toys R U's biggest albatross was its massive debt load since private-equity firms Bain Capital, KKR & Co. and Vornado Realty Trust took it private in a $6.6 billion leveraged buyout in 2005. The plan had been to take the company public again, but weak sales have prevented that from happening. With such debt levels, Toys R Us did not have the financial flexibility to invest in its business. The company closed its flagship store in Manhattan's Times Square, a huge tourist destination that featured its own Ferris wheel, about two years ago. In filing for bankruptcy protection last fall, Toys R Us pledged to make its stores more interactive. It added demonstrators for the holiday season to show people how toys workand began opening Play Labs at 42 stores, areas where children can play with different items.

US stocks are edging lower Wednesday morning as Boeing and other industrial companies take losses. Banks are also falling, and utilities are rising. Department stores and other retailers are losing ground after the Commerce Department said retail sales declined in February. KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index lost 1 point, or 0.1 percent, to 2,763 as of 10:22 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 79 points, or 0.3 percent, to 24,927. The Nasdaq composite remained at 7,510. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks stayed at 1,592. ECONOMIC INDICATORS: Retail sales dipped 0.1 percent last month as car sales declined, and so did purchases at gas stations and department stores. Macy's lost 46 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $28.98 and Kohl's slid $1.27, or2 percent, to $62.84. Dollar Tree lost 95 cents, or 1 percent, to $93.47. The Commerce Department said shoppers spent more money online and at catalog retailers, and Amazon edged higher. Spending at restaurants, clothiers and building materials stores also increased. Meanwhile the Labor Department said wholesale prices rose 0.2 percent in February, a similar pace as the last few months. The agency said prices for services including transportation and warehousing increased. It's the latest sign that inflation remains in check. SIGNET TARNISHED: Signet Jewelers plunged after the jewelry retailer gave profit and sales forecasts that were weaker than analysts expected. Signet also said it intends to cut at least $200 million in spending and will sell its non-prime credit receivables. It will take a loss of about $170 million on that sale. The stocks dropped $7.80, or 16.3 percent, to $40.11. CHECK ENGINE LIGHT: Tesla declined after Bloomberg News reported that a second senior finance executive resigned. Bloomberg said Treasurer Susan Repo left to become chief financial officer at another company. A week ago the electric car maker said Chief Accounting Officer Eric Branderiz left "for personal reasons." Tesla stock slipped $6.70, or 2 percent, to $335.14. INDUSTRIAL WEAKNESS: Boeing slid $7.95, or 2.3 percent, to $330.72 and J.B. Hunt Transportation Services lost $1.28, or 1 percent, to $120.71. United Continental fell 71 cents, or 1 percent, to $71.89. ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added 12 cents to $60.83 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, advanced 2 cents to $64.66 per barrel in London. BONDS: Bond prices held steady. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note remained at 2.84 percent. CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 106.49 yen from 106.61 yen. The euro slipped to $1.2359 from $1.2397. OVERSEAS: France's CAC 40 added 0.2 percent and Germany's DAX climbed 0.2 percent. In Britain, the FTSE 100 gained 0.2 percent. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 0.9 percent while South Korea's Kospi fell 0.3 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 0.5 percent.

(L-R) Seated during the Opening Session of the Technical Advisory Committees (TACs) for  UWI are Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Minister of Education, Youth and Information of Jamaica, the Honourable Ruel Reid, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Youth and Information of Jamaica Dean-Roy Bernard and Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UWI Mona Campus, Professor Archibald McDonald

Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI), Professor Sir Hilary Beckles has said that the regional governments’ funding to the institution should be viewed as an investment, not expenditure. Addressing the Opening Session of the Technical Advisory Committees (TACs) for The UWI on March 6at the University’s Mona Campus Visitors’ Lodge, Vice-Chancellor Beckles noted that The UWI which is this year celebrating its 70thanniversary, “has ticked every box possible to ensure we created a fine university.” Vice-Chancellor Beckles, addressing officials of the Ministries of Education and Finance across the region declared, “The UWI has its sleeves rolled up and is out there in the trenches pushing to get our national and regional economies up in the air.” The number one priority for The UWI, he noted, “is to facilitate the process of economic growth, the attainment of which is frustrating our best efforts. Without at least 4% growth across CARICOM, and in Jamaica, our largest economy, sustaining social development will be a horrendous exercise.” To this end, he argued, governments must turn the corner in their policy thinking, “seeing the University as a site of investment that facilitates economic growth and not a place for oppressive expenditure. All the countries in the post-recession world that have achieved impressive rates of sustained economic growth,” the Economic Historian said, “turned this corner and aligned their academic system with industry. This is where we are at the moment. We must succeed.” Noting that good leadership in government sectors and a supportive private sector across the region along with graduates who continue to distinguish themselves regionally and overseas, have contributed to The UWI’s success, the Vice-Chancellor underscored that The UWI’s Strategic Plan 2017-2022 focuses on a “Triple A” strategy of Access, Alignment and Agility and a more accessible and aligned UWI can lead the revitalization of Caribbean development. The Meetings of the TACs in Jamaica reviewed the budgets for the biennium 2018-2020 for the four campuses, its Vice-Chancellery and the University Hospital of the West Indies, for recommendations to be made to the Grants Committees. The Grants Committees are then expected to review and approve the recommendations and advance them to the Annual Business Meeting of Council for final approval in April 2018. The TACs Meetings are rotated annually across The UWI’s 17 contributing countries.The Government of Jamaica last hosted the meeting in 2012.

Usain Bolt

Aftercalling time on his career on the track and hanging up his spikes, Usain Bolt is all set to invest in a BPO (business process outsourcing)operation on Half –Way Tree Road. Located at78 Half Way Tree Road - across the road from the Victoria Mutual offices - this new BPO centre is expected to house around 1,200 employees and Bolt will be partnering with American outsourcing company Startek on the project. Startek is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and already has a footprint in Jamaica. Bolt will be working closely with James Kavanagh, Startek’s Engagement Center Director. Loop News understands that Bolt owns the property on which the call centre will be built and that at this time all the paperwork is yet to be signed. The World record 100 metre sprint king retired after last year’s World Championship in London. According to Forbes, he pulled in US$34.2 million last year. Money Magazine estimates that Bolt has amassed over US$150 million over the course of his 10-year career. Bolt has continued to broaden his earnings beyond athletics. There’s his involvement in Usain Bolt’s Tracks and Records restaurant and sports bar franchise. There is talk of taking it beyond Jamaica, more specifically to the UK. In 2016, he launched a company called Champion Shave which sells 6-blade razors at discounted prices. Bolt also has endorsement deals with Puma, Nissan, Hublot, Visa, Virgin Media, Japan’s All Nippon Airways, Enertor and Australia’s Optus. For latest news, download our app at Android; and at IoS.

Neymar shows off a new hairstyle .         CREDIT: Instagram (Neymarjr)

Stricken Paris Saint-Germain (PSG)and Brazil forward Neymar has taken the opportunity to try out a bold new look during his time on the sidelines. The 26-year-old suffered a broken metatarsal in PSG's Ligue 1 victory over Marseille at the end of last month and opted to undergo surgery, meaning he is in a race against time to reach peak fitness for Brazil's 2018 World Cup campaign. Those stresses did not appear to be getting to the star too much when he posted on Instagram to show off a new hairstyle, complete with dreadlocks, as he continues his recuperation in his homeland. Brazil's first game at Russia 2018 is against Switzerland in Rostov on June 17. Neymar has scored 28 goals in 30 appearances across all competitions this season for PSG but his arrival for a world-record €222million fee from Barcelona has since sparked regular rumours of dressing room unrest at the Parc des Princes. Midfielder Adrien Rabiot sort to dismiss such talk on Friday by posting an Instagram photoof Brazilian defender Marquinhos sharing a joke during training with himself, Presnel Kimpembe and Germany international Julian Draxler. "A member of the 'Brazilian' clan was caught laughing with the 'French' clan!?" he wrote. "Attention @marquinhosm5 [make sure] that it does not happen again!! Love you boys." PSG travel to Nice on Sunday and sit 14 points ahead of defending champions Monaco at the Ligue 1 summit.

Russell Westbrook.

The Oklahoma City Thunder boosted their playoff hopes by overcoming the Los Angeles Clippers, while reigning NBA champions the Golden State Warriors lost. Ahead of Friday night's action, two-and-a-half games were all that separated the fourth-and 10th-placed teams in the NBA's Western Conference. Two of the teams among that group of seven met in Oklahoma City, the fourth-placed Thunder winning 121-113 over the ninth-placed Clippers. The loss was a significant one for the Clippers, sliding them back to 10th in the conference standings, behind the Denver Nuggets. While Russell Westbrook got his typical triple-double, it was a balanced outing for the Thunder. Corey Brewer led the team with 22 points and was one of five Thunder players in double figures. Paul George added 19, Steven Adams had 18, Westbrook 16 – who also grabbed 10 rebounds and 11 assists – and TerranceFerguson 12. The win was important for the Thunder not only because it strengthened their position in the west but also because their schedule ahead looks daunting.Next up is a two-game road swing that sees them face the Toronto Raptors – whose 112-115 overtime win against the DallasMavericks was their 11th straight victory – on Sunday, and to Bostonon Tuesday. Then, they return home to face the Miami Heat and the Portland Trail Blazers, also winners of 11 successive games. The Clippers' path is not any easier. They host the Blazers onSunday, before playing their next four, and six of their next seven, on the road. As for the depleted Warriors, they were beaten 98-93 at home to the Sacramento Kings. The Warriors were without All-Star trio Kevin Durant (rib), Stephen Curry (ankle) and Klay Thompson (thumb) – their three top scorers – and the Kings took advantage. WIN FOR BIRTHDAY BOY EMBIID It was a special night for Joel Embiid. Celebratinghis 24thbirthday, the All-Starled the Philadelphia Sixers with 24 points and a career-high 19 rebounds in a 120-116 win at home to the Brooklyn Nets. RUSSELL STRUGGLES ON THE FLOOR In the same game at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia,Brooklyn guard DeAngelo Russell scored just eight points on woeful three-of-14 shooting and logged a cringe-worthy plus/minus ratio of minus18 as the Nets fell to 21-48 for the season. FERGUSON AND COVINGTON DAZZLE While the Thunder clip below features a particularly pretty finish by Ferguson, we offer a pair of Friday night highlights toemphasise the concept of team basketball. FRIDAY'S RESULTS Philadelphia 76ers 120-116 Brooklyn Nets Toronto Raptors 122-115 (OT) Dallas Mavericks Sacramento Kings 98-93 Golden State Warriors Boston Celtics 92-83 Orlando Magic Oklahoma City Thunder 121-113 Los Angeles Clippers Miami Heat 92-91 Los Angeles Lakers ROCKETS AT PELICANS As the NBA battles for basketball fans' attention with the NCAA Tournament this weekend, there are some compelling, playoff-influencing matchups on the St. Patrick's Day slate.Among them, the Houston Rockets (54-14) travel to the New Orleans Pelicans (39-29),the Indiana Pacers (40-29) are at the Washington Wizards (39-30) and the Minnesota Timberwolves (40-29) are on the road to the San Antonio Spurs (39-30). Also, the Portland Trail Blazers (42-26) look to extend their winning streak to 12 games as they host the Detroit Pistons (30-38).

The Vatican on Friday removed the suspended Guam archbishop from office and ordered him not to return to the island after convicting him of some charges in a sex abuse trial. The Vatican didn't say what exactly Archbishop Anthony Apuron had been convicted of, and the sentence was far lighter than sentences handed down against high-profile elderly prelates found guilty of molesting minors. It amounts to an early retirement anywhere in the world but Guam, a remote U.S. Pacific territory. Apuron, 72, is just shy of the retirement age of 75. The Vatican spokesman declined to comment. Calls placed to the tribunal judge weren't answered. Apuron's whereabouts weren't immediately known, but he was in Rome last month. Pope Francis named a temporary administrator for Guam in 2016 after Apuron was accused by former altar boys of sexually abusing them when he was a priest. Dozens of cases involving other priests on the island have since come to light, and the archdiocese is facing more than $115 million in civil lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse at the hands of priests. Apuron strongly denied the charges and said he was a victim of a "calumny" campaign. He wasn't criminally charged. The statute of limitations had expired. A statement from the tribunal in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles sex abuse cases, said Apuron had been convicted of some of the accusations against him. It said he had been ordered removed from office and could no longer live in the archdiocese of Guam. The conviction and sentence can be appealed. If Apuron appeals, the penalties are suspended until the case is resolved. In the past, when an elderly or infirm priest has been convicted by the Vatican of sexually abusing minors, he has often been removed from ministry and sentenced to a lifetime of "penance and prayer." Younger priests convicted of abuse have been defrocked, removed from ministry or forbidden from presenting themselves as priests. Pope Francis, however, has intervened in a handful of cases to lower sentences, and there are several high-ranking prelates in the Vatican who oppose defrocking convicted molesters and have long lobbied for more lenient sentences against their brother priests. In the case of Apuron, no restrictions on his ministry as a priest were announced in the Vatican statement. An ailing, wheelchair-bound Apuron greeted Francis at the end of the pope's Feb. 7 general audience. The Catholic community on Guam has been convulsed by the Apuron scandal, with weekly protests also involving accusations of grave financial problems in the archdiocese and the purchase of a valuable property by Apuron for a diocesan seminary that he actually turned over to a controversial Catholic movement to run. A lay group that agitated for Apuron's removal, "Concerned Catholics of Guam," was decisive in pushing for an investigation into the archdiocesan seminary, which Apuron opened in 1999 and moved to an 18-acre (seven-hectare) property thanks to a $2 million anonymous donation. A Vatican-backed inquiry into the seminary found that the property's control had effectively been transferred to the Neochatechumenal Way administrators without Vatican approval. The seminary controversy came to a head when the Carmelite order of religious sisters revealed it had provided the $2 million donation, but said the money had been intended for an archdiocesan seminary to train diocesan priests, not a Neocatechumenal Way seminary to train missionaries. In a remarkable 2016 news conference to denounce the transfer, Carmelite Mother Superior Dawn Marie came out of her cloister and announced that her small community of nuns had left the island after a 50-year presence because of the "toxic environment" created by the controversy.

This is the terrifying moment that tourists were violently thrown from a ski lift at a resort in Georgia after it went out of control. In the video, filmed on Friday, skiers at the Gudauri resort can be seen being thrown several feet into the air as the lift turns. It also shows people jumping off the lift in panic. According to the filmer, it took 90 to 120 seconds to stop the lift while it was malfunctioning. According to reports, ten people were left with injuries when the out of control lift began running backward at speed.

The Fantasy crew brought their signature glamour and glitz to the Savannah stage on Carnival Tuesday, complete with bevies of beauties and lots of fun. The theme for this year, 'Isle of Olympia' showed lots of feathers, beads, gems and sparkle. Vide the footage below:

Tribe's Carnival vibe continued as revellers crossed the Socadrome stage on Carnival Tuesday. Celebrating the theme 'Once Upon a Dream, revellers stamped, wined, and bounced across the stage to their heart's content. View the video below:


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May 07, 2018

Saint Lucia Jazz 2018

A celebration of Saint Lucian, Caribbean and international jazz music, with events in all parts of the country - a mix of free and paying concerts, educational activities targeted at Saint Lucian and visiting musicians, culminating on Mothers’ Day, May 13, 2018, in a major concert at the Pigeon Island National Landmark.

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May 30, 2018

Saint Lucia Carnival 2018

Pumping rhythms, sexy costumes and the people dancing under the warm Caribbean sun; welcome to Saint Lucia Carnival! Almost on the heels of the annual Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival, Saint Lucia’s cultural landscape morphs into a flurry of chrome plated steel drums, feathers, and beads. No matter where you are or who you are, Saint Lucia Carnival is something to behold.

In the months, weeks and hours leading up to Saint Lucia Carnival, there are numerous events that are a must see, whether you’re a Carnival veteran, or Carnival newbie. Some of the staple events - the Calypso Tents, Calypso Monarch, Party Monarch, and Carnival Parade are the deep-rooted cultural aspects of Saint Lucia Carnival. But it won’t be Carnival without the ‘wining’ and jumping and non-stop partying.

Here’s a great tip for first-time Carnival revellers - ‘wining’, is a local Caribbean-wide term used to describe the rotational movement of the hips either to the left or to the right, whichever way your waistline can go really. Before you brave any Saint Lucia Carnival event, don’t be afraid to perfect your ‘wining’ motions. You can bet on someone asking pretty ladies to “take ah wine.” Either way, master the move so that you keep up with the locals and really party like a Saint Lucian.

By the time Carnival Monday rolls around, your dancing skills will help burn off all the yummy calories you’ll be consuming – let’s face it; Saint Lucia’s Carnival food scene is just as fabulous! The ultimate Carnival experience is when one joins a “band.” Competing band members flock together at predetermined locations near the staging area, for the beginning of what will be a hyperactive dance session through the city’s streets. With speakers the size of warehouse refrigerators, the vibrations and sounds begin with only the trance of soca leading you throughout the streets of Saint Lucia.

If you’re still alive at the end of Carnival Monday, many band members will go off to enjoy official band parties or you can opt to go home to revitalize yourself – don’t worry, you can comfort yourself by the fact that the next day is Carnival Tuesday…

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August 01, 2018

Chocolate Heritage Month 2018

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Spend August satisfying your sweet tooth during Saint Lucia’s Chocolate Heritage Month.

Saint Lucia’s chocolate legacy dates back to the thriving cocoa industry of the 1700’s and the island still produces some of the world’s most sought-after chocolate. Many of Saint Lucia’s top resort spas and restaurants use the island’s native cocoa in spa treatments and savory and sweet culinary creations that are both indulgent and healthful.

August is an ideal time to sample inventive “choc-tails” and specialty tasting menus, relax with beneficial chocolate-infused spa treatments and enjoy “tree to bar” cocoa plantation tours with island-wide hotel and resort offers. Click here for more information. 

For a deeper look into the island’s chocolate heritage, you can take a plantation tour that shares the history and tradition of Saint Lucian cocoa production. Choose from a variety of experiences such as Morne Coubaril Estate and La Dauphine Estate. The Fond Doux Holiday Plantation tour will lead you through the cocoa fermentation house where you can participate in the traditional “cocoa- rina” dance to polish the cocoa beans. Or, take a behind the scenes look at a bean-to-bar single estate boutique chocolate maker at Jade Mountain’s Emerald Estate Organic Chocolate and Chocolate Laboratory.