Photo via Meteorological Department of St Maarten, Facebook

If you are coughingorsuffering from itchy eyes, then you are probably feeling the effects of the Saharan dust. Several Caribbean countries have warned their nationals to takehealthprecautionsas a large plume of Saharan dust has made its way across the Atlantic Ocean to the region. The Meteorological Department of St Maarten warns that higher concentrations ofthe Saharan dust plumeisexpected to pass through thecountry on February 20. It says according to Dust Prediction Models hazy skies can be expected during the next several days with varying concentrations. Personsin St Maartenwith allergies and/or respiratory illnesseshave been advised to take the necessary precautions. Meanwhile, St Vincent and the GrenadinesMeteorological Service issued a72-hourweather outlook indicating that haze intrusion is forecast to thicken acrossthe countryfromFebruary 19, with improvement likely aroundFebruary21. It notes the haze intrusionis due to the progression of a thick concentration of Saharan dust haze located in the central Atlantic. The Ministry of Wellness, Health and the Environment has advisedits populationthat particles contained within the Saharan dust haze could cause the following health effects: a dry cough sore throat itchy, watery eyes sneezing runny nose SVG’sHealthMinistrynotes that thehealth impact of the Saharan dust haze will differ due to the sensitivity of individuals and the amount of exposure. High concentrations of the Saharan dust may worsen illness in persons with respiratory diseases such as asthma and persons with pre-existing heart disease. The Ministry says the elderly and children are also vulnerableat this timeandshouldlimit their exposure to the Saharan dust by staying indoors when possible. Vulnerable groups should also have the necessary medication, including asthma inhalers with themalways. Meanwhile, the T&T Meteorological Office hasalso warned that thedust eventis expectedto last a week, but fluctuationsin concentration is expected within that time. Itstatesdata from the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) shows that the air qualityover T&Tranges frommoderate to unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Commissioner of the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda, Atlee Patrick Rodney. Photo: Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda

Acting Commissioner of the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda, Atlee Patrick Rodney, has been confirmed to the post by the Police Service Commission. Rodney has been acting as Commissioner, for almost two years. His predecessor Wendel Robinson was terminated after a series of blunders that included improper conduct allegations. Rodney’s appointment was made effective fromNovember 25, 2019. The Commissioner has 38 years of service in the police force. A statement from the police force said: “The newly appointed Commissioner used the opportunity to encourage the men and women under his command to remain committed and united in their efforts to make Antigua and Barbuda a safer nation.” Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police, Albert Wade was also confirmed as Deputy Commissioner of Police.

Bashar Jackson, stage name Pop Smoke (Source: Twitter)

American rapper Pop Smoke waspronounced dead at a hospital in Hollywood, after receiving gunshot injuries. A representative for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) confirmed the rapper’s death toRolling Stone. Rolling Stonereported that the Los Angeles police got a call around 4.20 am this morning and responded. It was reported that masked gunmen had broken into the residence where the 20-year-old was staying. [related node_id='d5b58812-8a7d-4d15-a627-6b55489ef566'] According toRolling Stone, Pop Smoke was transferred to a local hospital and pronounced dead when he arrived. He had beenrushedby ambulance to the West Hollywood Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. No suspects have been caught at current nor identified in relation to the rapper's death. Pop Smoke, born Bashar Jackson, was fromBrooklyn, New York. His transformation from a relatively unknown artist to next-up took place in the span of just a few months.His latest mixtapeMeet the Woo 2,debuted at number seven on theTop Ten of theRolling Stonealbums chart. The rapper was now making a name for himself on the music scene and rose to prominence after the release of his debut album and once one of his songs "Welcome to the Party" gained massive attention and Billboard status.

Model Kendall Jenner wears a creation by designer Burberry at the Autumn/Winter 2020 fashion week runway show in London, Monday, February 17, 2020. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

Kendall Jenner and fellow supermodels unveiled Burberry's new season designs at London Fashion Week on Monday, a collection that spanned everything from classic and ladylike to sexy, preppy and street-smart. That approach — showcasing designs tailored to diverse tastes — may now be particularly important to the luxury heritage fashion brand, which has recently reported a significant dent in its business in China, a key market, due to the virus outbreak. The signature Burberry check was ubiquitous. A three-piece women's suit consisted of a cropped waistcoat, patchwork blazer, skin tight trousers and ankle boots, all in variations of the check. Elsewhere, there were nods to punk, such as deconstructed shirts in pink, red and lilac. Design chief Riccardo Tisci also presented some sexier, sassy looks, from high-shine black vinyl to slinky dresses that hugged the body and featured strategic cut-outs. Jenner strutted in a checkered bustier, layered under a semi-sheer white skirt and white boots. The beige trench coat — an item synonymous with the brand since founder Thomas Burberry first designed it in weather-proof gabardine fabric more than a century ago — featured, of course. Some came softly draped in a timeless feminine style; others were much more flamboyant, featuring furry arms and collars. One such head-turning outfit saw a shimmering bright lime catsuit paired with a matching coat with fluffy fur trim. The catwalk show, which drew celebrities including Cate Blanchett to its front row, is one of the glitziest highlights of London Fashion Week. Burberry will be hoping it goes some ways to boost business. The brand, which gets some 40 percentof its revenue from Chinese consumers shopping globally, has had to shut 24 of 64 stores in China as a result of the virus outbreak.

Ongoing uncertainty about the effects of Brexit is pushing an increasing number of foreign companies to set up offices in the Netherlands, the Dutch government said Wednesday. Since the 2016 referendum on Britain leaving the European Union, 140 businesses have established a presence in the Netherlands, with 78 shifting operations there last year, according to the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency. The agency said in a statement that business uncertainty is increasing despite Britain's departure from the EU because of unanswered questions over the country's future trading relationship with the bloc. London and Brussels have until the end of the year to agree to a pact on their post-divorce relationship. The agency said it is in talks with around 425 companies considering moving or expanding to the Netherlands because of Brexit. The companies come from Britain but also include businesses from the Americas and Asia that are reconsidering the structure of their European operations in the aftermath of Brexit. "For these businesses, 2020 will be an important year," said Jeroen Nijland of the foreign investment agency. While some businesses are waiting to see how the new UK-EU economic relationship pans out, "more and more companies are choosing the certainty and stability our country offers in the European market," Nijland said.

In this Oct. 1, 2018 file photo, a malnourished boy sits on a hospital bed at the Aslam Health Center, Hajjah, Yemen. Houthi rebels in Yemen have blocked half of the United Nations’ aid delivery programs in the war-torn country — a strong-arm tactic to force the agency to give them greater control over the massive humanitarian campaign, along with a cut of billions of dollars in foreign assistance, according to aid officials and internal documents obtained by AP. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)

Yemen's Houthi rebels have blocked half of the United Nations' aid delivery programs in the war-torn country — a strong-arm tactic to force the agency to give them greater control over the massive humanitarian campaign, along with a cut of billions of dollars in foreign assistance, according to aid officials and internal documents obtained by The Associated Press. The rebel group has made granting access to areas under their control contingent on a flurry of conditions that aid agencies reject, in part because it would give the Houthis greater sway over who receives aid, documents and interviews show. The Houthis' obstruction has hindered several programs that feed the near-starving population and help those displaced by the nearly six-year civil war, a senior UN official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the situation. "Over 2 million beneficiaries ... are directly affected," the official said. The Houthis have been pushing back against UN efforts to tighten monitoring of some $370 million a year that its agencies already give to government institutions controlled mostly by the rebel group, documents show. That money is supposed to pay salaries and other administration costs, but more than a third of the money spent last year wasn't audited, according to an internal document leaked to the AP. The UN has largely kept quiet in public about the pressure, but behind the scenes the agency and international donors are digging in against the Houthi demands. The AP spoke to seven workers and officials from UN and independent agencies about the situation. All spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. The AP also saw dozens of documents, including emails of aid officials. In October, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, sent a letter to the Houthi-appointed prime minister complaining about a long list of demands. The "overwhelming majority" of them impede or delay delivery of aid and many violate humanitarian principles, she said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the AP. For months, the Houthis demanded a 2% cut from the entire aid budget be given to them, a condition the UN and donors rejected. In an email to the AP, a spokesperson for the US Agency for International Development said Houthi attempts "to implement a tax on humanitarian assistance are unacceptable and directly contradict international humanitarian principles." The United States donated $686 million to Yemen in 2019, according to USAID. Last week, the Houthis appeared to back off the 2% demand, but continue to press for other concessions, according to aid officials. During a meeting in Brussels last Thursday, aid agencies and international donors threatened to reduce aid if Houthis continue to impose restrictions on UN operations in Yemen. The situation "has reached a breaking point," they said in a statement. At least one agency, the World Food Program, is currently considering cutting back the monthly food aid it delivers to 12 million Yemenis every other month, a UN official said. "It's unfortunate that people will suffer but this is on the Houthis," the official said. "They can't use people as hostages for too long." The Houthis' demands have stoked long-time concerns among aid agencies over the rebels' diverting of humanitarian funds and supplies into their own or their supporters' pockets or toward their war effort. Delivering aid in a war zone has always posed a problem for UN agencies. But officials said the situation in Yemen has been especially challenging. The Houthis have withheld visas and permissions for equipment and supplies and refused to grant clearances for UN missions to move through rebel-controlled areas. Aid workers said agency leaders' past willingness to concede to some of the rebels' demands has emboldened the Houthi leaders to push for more. Nearly 300,000 pregnant and nursing mothers and children under age 5 haven't received nutrition supplements for more than six months because the Houthis "held beneficiaries hostage to the 2%" demand, another UN official said. In another example, Houthi authorities for months delayed permission to distribute 2,000 tons of food — enough to feed 160,000 people — in the district of Aslam, where the AP previously found starving villagers reduced to eating boiled leaves. When approval came in November, the food had spoiled "beyond the point of salvage," another aid official said. Houthi leaders have remained defiant in the face of UN pushback. "Yemen will survive" if agencies suspend aid, Abdul-Mohsen Tawoos, secretary-general of the Houthi agency coordinating international aid, told European donors during a January20 Skype call. Minutes of the call were obtained by the AP. He said the Houthis wanted to reach an agreement with the UN and its donors, but "won't be bullied." Tawoos accused Grande, the top UN official in Yemen, of sending false reports about this restricting the movement of UN humanitarian operations. Houthi leaders have threatened to expel her from the country. The UN's massive aid program, totalling $8.35 billion dollars since 2015, is vital to keeping many Yemenis alive. The UN calls the situation in Yemen the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Ten million people in the country are on the brink of famine and 80% of the population of 29 million in need of aid, according to the UN. More than 3 million people have been displaced, cholera epidemics have killed hundreds, and at least 2.2 million children under 5 suffer from severe malnutrition, the agency said. The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels control the capital, Sanaa, and much of the country's north, where most of the population lives and the need for aid is greatest. They are at war with a US-backed, Saudi-led coalition fighting on behalf of the internationally recognized government. With the economy in freefall, the UN aid effort is a major source of foreign currency into the country. The UN received around $3 billion in 2019 in international donations for its campaign, short of its $4.2 billion goal. The Houthi demand for 2% of that budget would funnel $60-$80 million into the coffers of their aid-coordination agency, the Supreme Council for Management and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and International Cooperation, known as SCMCHA. Qassim Hussein al-Houthi, the head of the international agencies department in the Houthi presidency, said the money was necessary for SCMCHA's operating expenses. "It carries heavy financial burden. It's in charge of facilitating, distributing, security, and organizing the work of the agencies," he said. Al-Houthi argued that it's the UN agencies that spend a much larger percentage of their budgets on administration without "real oversight." He said the UN aid delivery programs blocked by the Houthis "are not a priority for the Yemen people." Harassment, intimidation and suspected embezzling of funds by Houthis have been going on for years, aid workers said, and have gotten worse since the rebels created their aid coordination agency in early 2018. Since then, Houthi-led security agencies have arrested local workers, blocked aid missions or held up supplies, according to internal emails and documents seen by the AP. "Not even a simple project can be carried out in northern Yemen without the consent and supervision of this body," said a Yemeni chief of a local aid organization. The UN rarely pushed back, calculating that aid had to be delivered at any cost. UN agencies continued to put hundreds of millions of dollars into Houthi accounts for "capacity building," a common practice in humanitarian programs to ensure government bodies function. Some of the money went to salaries for doctors, teachers and other vital employees who have otherwise gone without pay amid the war. Millions more went to the Houthi aid agency for administrative costs and salaries. Aid workers privately expressed concerns about the funds from UN aid agencies being diverted into the coffers of Houthi leaders or their supporters. UNICEF told the AP in a statement that its funds were strictly monitored and no instances of diversions were found. The World Health Organization said all its spending was "subject to internal and external audit," as well as frequent internal reviews on multiple levels. WHO also said it found no evidence that its funds have been diverted. Still, last summer, the UN requested all agencies report how much they were giving in direct cash transfers. In 2019, the total reached $370 million, around10% of the entire international aid budget for Yemen, according to a UN spreadsheet obtained by the AP. Around $133 million was marked in the spreadsheet as "not audited." Some officials in the Houthi aid body, SCMCHA, appear to be receiving multiple salaries, the data shows. For a time, three UN agencies were each giving salaries to the body's president, his deputy and general managers. Each of the officials received a total of $10,000 a month from the agencies, the spreadsheet shows. The UN refugee agency also gave SCMCHA $1 million every three months for office rental and administrative costs, while the UN migration agency gave the office another $200,000 for furniture and fibre optics. UN officials said Grande was "genuinely shocked when she learned about the arrangements." "She had no idea about the scale of it," said one senior UN official. "Her reaction after that was, we have to fix the situation." Over the past year, UN agencies, lead by Grande, began pushing back against Houthi demands. First, the World Food Program suspended aid for a couple of months in some areas around Sanaa and demanded biometric registering of beneficiaries to ensure deliveries go to those truly in need. The Houthis initially agreed but later refused to follow through with the biometric registering. The UN then moved to prevent double-paying of salaries, and its agencies tightened auditing of the funds it provided. UNICEF, for example, said it decided in November to re-assess all 243 partners it works with, including government ones, and cut down dramatically on funds put into Houthi coffers. The agency said it would start paying suppliers and contractors directly. The moves by the UN have prompted the Houthis to launch a media campaign denouncing the humanitarian agency as corrupt and wasteful. Further escalation came after the Houthi aid body in November was put under the leadership of the Houthi president's chief of staff, making it more powerful, several aid officials said. An already difficult environment to work in "became extremely suffocating with threats (and) directives," one of the officials said. SCMCHA's new leadership imposed more than 200 new directives on humanitarian agencies, six aid officials told the AP. Some directives — such as requiring agencies to disclose the identities of aid recipients and involving Houthi authorities in assessments of need — would give the rebels even greater power to steer aid to their supporters, aid workers fear. Other demands seemed aimed at monitoring and intimidating, such as ordering local Yemeni staffers to get Houthi permission to take UN training courses abroad and then to report back the content of those workshops. Houthis officials also require the segregation of women and men in UN-run programs in some areas. The Houthis also demanded a new agreement giving them a hand in assigning UN contracts with suppliers and picking local partners to implement programs, according to a draft of their proposal seen by the AP. It also gives them the right to screen UN hires in Yemen and take over the budget of monitoring programs. Aid agencies have refused to sign the agreement. Several humanitarian workers said the Houthis are also trying to force the UN to work with NGOs they favour, particularly an organization known as Bonyan, which is filled with Houthi affiliates. The brother of Houthi leader Abdel Malekal-Houthi, Ibrahim al-Houthi, was a board member until his death last summer. Houthi leaders stopped the UN agencies from delivering food in Yemen's Hodeida province, unless they used Bonyan for the distribution. Despite the disputes between the Houthis and the UN, aid officials continue to appeal to international donors for money to address the crisis in Yemen. Over the summer, Grande pleaded to donor countries for more funds to meet the $4.2 billion goal. "When money doesn't come, people die," she said. But one international aid official said more money isn't the issue. "I don't want more funds. I want the space to spend what I have," he said.

Dimuth Karunaratne (centre) celebrates with teammates at the Cricket World Cup.

Dimuth Karunaratne has returned to the Sri Lanka One Day International (ODI) squad and will captain the side in thehome series against West Indies, while Lahiru Thirimanne has been dropped. Skipper Karunaratne was one of 10 players who opted out of the last Sri Lanka ODI group that travelled to Pakistan in September amid security concerns. He is back in the 15-man squad to take on West Indies at home, though, with Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Thisara Perera and Angelo Mathews among the other key players to return. Wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella is recalled and in contention to make his first ODI appearance for a year. Sri Lanka lost the Pakistan series 2-0 under the stewardship of Thirimanne, who is not selected this time around after contributing just 36 runs in two games. Minod Bhanuka, Oshada Fernando, Kasun Rajitha, Sadeera Samarawickrama and Angelo Perera also miss out, while Danushka Gunathilaka is injured. The first ODI match against West Indies will take place in Colombo on Saturday. ThreeODI contests will be followed by two T20 games against West Indies in March, a month in which Sri Lanka will also host a two-Test series against England. Sri Lanka ODI squad:Dimuth Karunaratne (captain), Avishka Fernando, Kusal Perera, Shehan Jayasuriya, Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Thisara Perera, Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Isuru Udana, Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara.

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar.

Neymar hit out at Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) over the management of a rib injury after making his comeback in the Champions League. After missing four matches, Neymar returned on Tuesday and scored for PSG, who lost 2-1 at Borussia Dortmund in the opening leg of the last-16 clash. Neymar hurt his rib against Montpellier on February 1 and the Brazilian star was in doubt for the trip to Dortmund before returning for Thomas Tuchel's side. However, Neymar – who equalised in the 75th minute before two-goal hero Erling Haaland restored Dortmund's lead – was not happy during post-match interview. "It is hard after four games without playing. It was not my choice not to play, the club took this decision," Neymar said amid ongoing links of a possible move back to LaLiga champions Barcelona. "The club made this decision with the medical team. I wanted to play, I felt good. "The club was afraid, and it is I who suffers from it." It has been another injury-interrupted season for Neymar, who reportedly tried to engineer a return to Barca at the start of the season, having left Camp Nou in a world-record €222million deal. Neymar has scored 13 goals in 14 Ligue 1 appearances for leaders PSG this term. The 28-year-old forward has netted 16 goals across all competitions.

The importance of science in education and the development of a nation was highlighted Tuesday, February 18, 2020, as Educational District Two hosted its annual science fair. The annual science fair is where students present their science project results in the form of a report, display board, and models, all researched and created by themselves. This year’s event featured students from the infant level through to the secondary school level. “At the infant level, students projects included looking at the recycling of wrappers to make clothing, we have a school that made a battery with materials lying around, we have a school which carried out testing on how hair dye seeps into the skin, one secondary school is looking at testing the strengthening of hair strands, so it is quite varied and very interesting,” Princess Khodra, District Two Science Coordinator told Loop News. Princess Khodra According to Khodra, the activity is important, as it contributes to the social development of students. “It is one thing to teach a child the academics, to teach them the content in the classroom; it is another thing to give them an opportunity to explore the content, and to apply what it is that they have learnt. It is also a great way to show off their creative skills, their presentations skills and oral skills as well,” said Khodra. Today’s activity is the first round of science competition, with the other districts to follow. Tuesday’s activity was held at Sir George William Mallet Serenity Park and forms part of independence activities.

StLucian educators are now better able to strategically use library books and resources in their lessons to support the development of their students’ reading and literacy skills. Last week a wide cross-section of educators successfully completed a Teachers’ Resource Guide Workshop hosted by the non-profit organization Hands Across the Sea in collaboration with the Early Learners Program. The programme was executed with support from the Sandals Foundation along with the Ministry of Education and took place at Sandals Regency La Toc Golf Resort & Spa. Participants included twenty-six classroom teachers from Saint Lucia Sports Academy, Babonneau Secondary, Patricia James Secondary, Bocage Secondary, Clendon Mason Secondary, Stanley Jon Odlum Secondary, C. A. R. E, Anse Ger Secondary, Ciceron Secondary, Grande Rivière, Piaye Secondary and Soufriere Secondary. Attendees explored a Teachers Resource Guide (TRG) to the library, which shares strategies to motivate students to read at school and at home. The publication was developed by a wide cross-section of OECS educators and affiliates to Hands across the Sea as well as other international stakeholders. Copies were distributed to the island’s primary and infant schools in 2018. Hannah Knecht, Program Director at Hands across the Sea and workshop facilitator says “the teaching tactics are aimed at building within students, a lifelong interest in reading.” She further says that “the workshop highlighted to teachers, how to integrate books into their lesson plans across the curriculum by sharing practical activities with books from their libraries that they can use with their students in hands-on, engaging, and meaningful ways.” Teachers, Knecht noted, “were also provided with evidence to show the direct correlation between pleasure reading habits and increased student achievement.” Mr Caius Mauricette, Special Education teacher at the Stanley Jon Odlum Secondary School explained, “Overall, the workshop facilitated a greater connection and a collaborative approach to the teaching of reading and other core elements of literacy. It created a network for teachers to share and build knowledge and ideas, and to impart evidenced-based literacy sessions with the students entrusted in our care. It is believed that the objectives of the workshop were achieved as many educators demonstrated how to use the kits for remedial reading, including evidence-based reading strategies. Students, especially lower secondary learners have demonstrated an improved awareness and aptitude in their ability to spell, read and express their ideas in a written manner following exposure to the integrated lessons using the “Decode” and “Develop” readers.” Sandals Foundation has supported the Hands Across the Sea project since 2013. In that time, over US$90,000 has been invested to fund upgrades and purchase new age-appropriate books for 28 libraries in the Eastern Caribbean. The Sandals Foundation, Clarke says, “Is committed to continue working alongside Hands Across the Sea to improve literacy levels for students of all ages as we believe that reading is the foundation for success in all other areas of students’ academic life setting them on the path for prosperous futures.”

The government of Grenada says it stands behindsocasensation Hollis“MrKilla”Mapp and hisdecision not to defend his title at theInternationalSocaMonarch(ISM) finals. The issue was addressed during a Post Cabinet media briefing in Grenada on February 18. Minister of YouthDevelopment Kate Lewis said: “We know he has done an outstanding job at last year’s InternationalSocaMonarch,hehas been one ofour most outstandingartistes. Webelievethatwhenever he makes a decision, hemakes itin his best interest and the best interest of our country, and wewillsupporthim and his decision taken.” MinisterLewissays Grenada hopesits other artistes Skinny Bantonas well asLuni Spark and Electrifywill bring home the crown in thecompetition'sgroovy andpowersocacategoriesrespectively. She says the Division of Culture as customary, provides support once Grenada’s artistes get into the final of the competition. CultureMinisterNorlandCox will be present at the InternationalSocaMonarch final on February21toprovide further support forGrenada’s artistes. “I wish them all the best andhope that theycan bring thecrownhome as we know they have theabilityto do so,”said Minister Lewis.

A masquerader in Haiti's Kanaval

When it comes to Caribbean Carnivals, Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival leads the way in popularity and sets the pace for the rest of the West Indian-styled Carnivals around the region and the world. However, T&T’s Carnival is not the only pre-Lenten festival happening in the Caribbean. The Caribbean has a shared history with slavery and colonial masters who introduced the concept of Carnival during that time. But while many islands have long moved their Carnivals from a pre-Lenten affair to a mid-year festival to fill the gap during the low tourist season, there are some that have held on to their traditions. Below are some Caribbean Carnivals that will be taking place before Lent. Dominica Dubbed ‘The Real Mas’, Dominica’s Carnival or Mas Dominik, stays close to its roots with traditional mas being the most prominent feature. Characters such as Sensays, Black Devils, Bwa Bwa and a Pappy Show wedding that takes place on J’ouvert morning dominate the festival. There are also numerous fetes, competitions and a pretty mas parade on Carnival Tuesday. Curacao Like other Caribbean islands, Curacao’s Carnival was born out of slavery when the Europeans introduced the concept to the region. The Dutch colonists brought their Carnival traditions to Curacao and today, the festival is a much-anticipated affair. The season opens with the launch of Carnival and the Tumba Festival during which a "Tumba King" is chosen in a fierce, four-day musical competition followed by many parties and a Grand Parade or Gran Marcha. Haiti Called Mardi Gras or Kanaval, Haiti’s annual Carnival festival comprises a parade called Kye Marn. Driven by Zouk and Kompa music, among others, the Carnival mainly takes place in the capital of Port-au-Prince under a yearly theme. This year the theme is: "Ann pote kole pou Ayiti dekole" which means let's work together for Haiti to emerge. In 2019, due to the socio-political climate, the national Carnival was canceled. Martinique Martiniquans love Carnival. They love it so much that they party well until the close of Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent when other Carnivals have long ended. The official first day of Carnival begins on Dimanche Gras which is on Fat Sunday with street parades. On Fat Monday, Mock weddings with men dressed as pregnant brides and women as bridegrooms. Mardi Gras or Carnival Tuesday sees children dressed as red devils parading through the streets. On Ash Wednesday, the party continues and ends with mourners marking the end of Carnival and the symbolic death of King Carnival, known as Vaval. Guadeloupe Carnival in Guadeloupe also begins on Dimanche Gras on Carnival Sunday with a parade of carnival groups through the streets of Pointe-à-Pitre. On Carnival Monday or Lundi Gras, there are two big night parades in the capital Basse-Terre and Saint-François while Shrove Tuesday sees a major parade in Basse-Terre that features the King and Queen of Carnival. On Ash Wednesday, the last day of Carnival, people parade in black as a sign of mourning to celebrate the funeral of Vaval, the King of Carnival who is burned at the end of the ceremony. Carriacou One-third of the tri-nation that includes Grenada and Petit Martinique, Carriacou's Carnival is one of two Carnivals the country hosts each year, the other being the Spice Mas event in August. A unique feature of the Carnival is that it encompasses a Shakespeare Mas wheremen dress in bright coloured costumes and recite verses.

The European Union is extending sanctions against Venezuela for a year due to the political and economic crisis that it blames on the government of President Nicolás Maduro. EU foreign ministers decided at a meeting on Monday to prolong an arms embargo and ban on equipment sales that could be used against demonstrators until November 14, 2020. They also extended an asset freeze and travel bans against 25 Venezuelan officials. The EU says it's targeting the Maduro regime over "persistent actions undermining democracy, the rule of law and the respect for human rights." The ministers say the sanctions "are flexible and reversible" and do not target ordinary Venezuelans. The US, EU and many other governments recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's interim president. They say Maduro wasn't legitimately re-elected last year.

Photo: Getty images

Two university students and a teacher were due to appear before an Arima Magistrate on Monday morning on allegations of marijuana possession after marijuana-infused brownies and cookies were seized. The trio was held around7.30 pm on Saturday along Farfan Street, Arima, for selling the sweet treats which werespiked with the illegal substance. According to police reports, a team of officers led by Sgt Mascall and including Cpl Gentle, PC Strachan, and WPC Caruth, all under the supervision of Sup Brandon John, received intelligence which led them to the Farfan Street, where the three were detained and searched. The officers found and seized several of the food items which had been packaged and prepared for sale/distribution. They also seized small quantities of marijuana which would be used in the preparation of the edibles. As a result, they were all detained and taken into custody. More on this as it becomes available.

In this photo taken Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, a Samburu boy walks behind his camel as a swarm of desert locusts fills the air, near the village of Sissia, in Samburu county, Kenya. (AP Photo/Patrick Ngugi)

The worst locust outbreak that parts of East Africa have seen in 70 years needs some $76 million to help control and the money is "required by, actually, now," the United Nations said Thursday. So far just $15 million has been mobilized to help stop the outbreak that threatens to worsen an already poor hunger situation for millions of people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and elsewhere, Dominique Bourgeon, emergencies director with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, told a briefing in Rome. "You can imagine that a country that has not seen such a thing in 70 years is not well prepared," he said of Kenya, East Africa's economic hub. The outbreak, blamed in part on a changing climate, now threatens to spread to South Sudan and Uganda and new rains in the weeks to come will fuel fresh vegetation and a new wave of breeding. The outbreak might not be under control until June when drier weather arrives, authorities have said. But by then the number of locusts, if left unchecked, could grow 500 times, experts have warned. "If after April the money has come, it's somehow useless," FAO chief Qu Dongyu told the briefing. "So the timing, location, is crucial." Already the locusts, moving in swarms of hundreds of millions, have stripped some crops bare. An Ethiopian representative at the briefing told the FAO that some farmers in Africa's second-most populous nation have lost 90% of their production. The locusts have been moving steadily toward Ethiopia's Rift Valley, the country's breadbasket, the UN says. Authorities have said aerial pesticide spraying is the only effective control in the outbreak, but officials in Kenya and elsewhere have said more planes and more pesticide are needed. A single swarm can contain up to 150 million locusts per square kilometre of farmland, an area the size of almost 250 football fields, regional authorities say. One especially large swarm in northeastern Kenya measured 60 kilometres long by 40 kilometres wide (37 miles long by 25 miles wide). "We depend a lot on this season and we worry that the locusts will destroy our harvest and we end up remaining hungry through the rest of the year, waiting for October for the next cropping season," one farmer in Kenya's Kitui county, Esther Kithuka, has told the FAO. Even before this outbreak, nearly 20 million people faced high levels of food insecurity across the East African region long challenged by periodic droughts and floods.

Severe winter weather has struck parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, with heavy snowfall, rains and flash floods that left at least 48 people dead, officials said Monday as authorities struggled to clear and reopen highways and evacuate people to safer places. In Pakistan, where 30 people were reported killed, much of the damage struck southwestern Baluchistan province. Imran Zarkon, chief of provincial disaster management, said 14 died there in the past 24 hours, mainly when roofs collapsed amid heavy snowfall. Heavy snowfall had forced closures of many highways and some parts in the province were under six inches of snow. Eleven people were killed in eastern Punjab province, battered by heavy rains, and five others died in the Pakistani-administered part of Kashmir, officials with the state-run emergency service said. The divided Himalayan region has witnessed heavy snow fall in recent days and power cuts have been reported. Emergency services said they were struggling to provide food and other items to snow-hit areas. In Afghanistan, at least 18 people, including women and children, died on account of the severe weather, according to provincial officials. Hasibullah Shaikhani, a press officer with the state ministry for disaster management, said most of the highways in Afghanistan were closed due to heavy snowfall and fears of avalanches. Of the Afghan casualties, eight people were killed in southern Kandahar province, said Bahir Ahamdi, spokesman for the provincial governor. In western Herat province, seven people died, including five members of the same family, said Abdul Ahad Walizada, spokesman for the provincial police chief. Three people were killed in southern Helmand province, said Omar Zwak, spokesman for the provincial governor. Residents of the Afghan capital, Kabul, where temperatures dropped to -15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit), abandoned driving and struggled to get to work on snow-covered roads.