Gov’t, Opposition Condemn Violence Against Women 

(BROOKLYN, New York): St.Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has condemned acts of domestic against women as his administration and the main opposition New Democratic Party closed ranks in speaking out against the issue.

“I want to join the program in condemning in the strongest possible terms the recent spate of violence against women,” Gonsalves said on a local radio program recently. The democratic party said that the recent violent incidents “must galvanize our community, irrespective of political and other differences, to unite in common cause and demand loudly and persistently that more be done to seek to bring an end to violence against women.”

The latest incident occurred last week when 44-year-old Arianna Taylor-Israel, a Cuban-born nurse was shot and killed despite lodging several complaints that her life was being threatened by her 57-year-old husband. The Cuba-born naturalized Vincentian was gunned down at St Martin’s Secondary School, allegedly by her husband, Mitch Israel, who has been charged with her murder and who appeared in court last week. The couple’s eldest son attends the school and was on the compound when the shooting occurred.

Gonsalves said it is important to put in place structures and systems, mentioning among them Sexual Offences and Anti-Trafficking in Persons Units and the strengthening of the laws, which he said his government has done. “Every time someone gets chopped up, I feel it in such a personal kind of a way. I could just imagine the parents of this young girl who got chopped in Greiggs, the Cuban parents and family of this nurse who got killed. She was a wonderful human being. And I knew her very well so I felt that one very, very painfully,” he said.

The democratic party said it is never acceptable or justified to use violence to resolve conflicts. “We are deeply concerned and saddened about the all-too-frequent acts of violence against women in St Vincent and the Grenadines.”

 

Risk of Coronavirus Low For CARICOM 


(BROOKLYN, New York): The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is urging Member States to continue to be vigilant and to step up surveillance at their ports of entry, although the risk of the novel Coronavirus is still low.  The advice comes on the heels of the World Health Organization declaring the outbreak in Wuhan, China, as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).     

A PHEIC is defined in the International Health Regulations (2005) as “an extraordinary event which is determined, as provided in these Regulations to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease; and to potentially require a coordinated international response”.

This definition implies a situation that: is serious, unusual or unexpected; carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border; and may require immediate international action.  

CARPHA’s Executive Director, Dr. Joy St John maintains that the risk of the virus remains low for the Caribbean region, explaining that it is deemed low because there are no direct flights from China to the Caribbean and travelers will receive multiple screenings before arrival to Member States.  Dr.St John explained that health agencies and Caribbean officials at a meeting of the Regional Coordinating Mechanism for Health Security (RCMHS) last week agreed with this risk assessment, having confirmed that there are no reported cases of the 2019-nCoV in the region. 

The International Health Regulations’ Emergency Committee is not recommending trade or travel restrictions at this time.    

“CARPHA urges regional national authorities to work with airlines, passenger ships and other transport and tourism industries to ensure that Caribbean residents and visitors alike remain free of 2019-nCoV,” the agency said in a statement, adding that it will continue to monitor these developments and provide Member States with guidance to support national response efforts, while strengthening regional health security in collaboration with regional partners.


MTA proposing on-demand transit service for some NYC areas 

(BROOKLYN, New York): CARIBBEAN TIMES NEWS has learned that night-shift workers living in places with spotty overnight bus and subway service may get a new way home under an MTA proposal. The agency this week announced plans to hire an outside company to provide a publicly subsidized on-demand car or van service for riders in places where “bus service is less frequent than subway service or is unavailable.”

 

Transit honchos intend to use the service in areas outside of Manhattan that are more than a half-mile from the nearest subway or train station, have “limited or no overnight bus service nearby.”

The proposal — which MTA officials note is required by the state law setting up congestion pricing in lower Manhattan — was offered to bidders in January. It appears to be targeted at app-based car service companies like Uber, Lyft and Via, which serve a combined 700,000 daily riders in New York City.

 

The program’s stated goal is to serve a growing number of people who work non-traditional hours, like medical professionals and service industry employees. It would give riders in the targeted areas subsidized car or van rides — and could be a boon for e-hail companies that have already cut into the Metropolitan 

MTA officials also want riders to be able to pay for the late-night rides with OMNY, the agency’s new digital payment system.

 

“We are seeking to leverage new mobility technologies to enable more New Yorkers to benefit from the public transportation network during the overnight hours, and to enhance the experience of overnight subway customers in low-cost ways,” said Mark Dowd, who in November was hired as the MTA’s chief innovation officer, a role created through a state-mandated reorganization of the agency.

The program is scheduled to launch as a temporary pilot in June.

Uber, Lyft and Via have in recent years partnered with other cities to fill their transit deserts.

 

Via in 2018 launched a program with Berlin’s public transit agency Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe to provide on-demand van rides in an effort to supplement the city’s bus, tram and train routes. Also, in 2018, Lyft cut a deal with the Detroit transit officials to offer discounted car rides between midnight and 5 a.m. for riders using one of the city’s bus routes.

 

Bringing that model to New York may prove tough.

J.P. Patafio, the head of buses at Transport Workers Union Local 100, said transit bosses did not tell him about the idea to outsource transit services. He likened the pitch to unregulated dollar vans.

 

“They (the MTA) need to invest in more bus service, and if they want a different type of service they should have put it in the (Local 100) contract the board ratified last month,” Patafio said. “We’re certainly not allowing non-union companies to do our work.”

 

Lawmakers bill will create new housing vouchers for the poor

(BROOKLYN, New York): Albany lawmakers are pushing for a new state-managed housing voucher program to assist the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless. Their proposal, laid out in a bill submitted Monday night in both the Assembly and state Senate, would cost up to $6 billion a year if fully funded, according to a key supporter.

 

Cea Weaver, the campaign coordinator for Housing Justice for All, said the key difference in this voucher proposal compared to other housing subsidies is it would be administered through housing agencies, not social services agencies. That means it would not be directly contingent on whether recipients get welfare, and would instead be directly tied to a household’s income level. It would also give undocumented immigrants the ability to receive the subsidy and better ensure housing quality.

 

“This voucher is going to be a lot better in getting people stably housed,” she said. “It’s going to be a lot more flexible for people who can’t afford their rents.” To be eligible, people would have to be either homeless or in imminent danger of losing housing and with an income level “no more than 250% of the federal poverty level,” according to the Senate version of the bill.

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The bill’s sponsor, Senator Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan), said the goal is to create a statewide voucher program modeled on federal Section 8 vouchers, which is widely regarded as effective. “I think of this program as filling a major gap,” he said. Kavanagh said he hopes to secure “hundreds of millions of dollars” for the program in the current budget cycle. “There’s an enormous need,” he added.

 

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration offered a more neutral response. One official said that rent subsidy programs often perpetuate the cycle of homelessness.

 

“The Governor proposed the largest investment in supportive housing in state history and continues to advance his unprecedented $20 billion plan to build more than 100,000 affordable homes and 6,000 new units of supportive housing,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi. “We’ll review this plan, but as the governor said it’s not just about the money, it’s how you spend the money, and we’re going to mandate local governments come up with real workable strategies before we fund them.”

 

Macy’s will close 125 stores and cut 2,000 jobs

(BROOKLYN, New York): CARIBBEAN TIMES NEWS is reporting that Macy’s will cut 2,000 jobs and close about 125 stores in the next three years, the company announced Tuesday in a press release.

The 2,000 jobs make up 9% of Macy’s workforce, according to the release.

 

Macy’s described the approximately 125 stores that will be closing as its “least productive” locations, though they were still responsible for about $1.4 billion in sales every year. Included in the 125 shuttered stores are the 30 locations that Macy’s announced in January would be closing. New York City will become the company’s sole corporate headquarters. The company will be closing its San Francisco, downtown Cincinnati and Lorain, OH offices. The company will also close its Tempe, AZ customer contact center and consolidate customer service work into its Mason, OH and Clearwater, FL facilities.

 

The company is increasing colleague populations in its Mason, OH location and its Progress Place facility in Springdale, OH.

“We are taking the organization through significant structural change to lower costs, bring teams closer together and reduce duplicative work. This will be a tough week for our team as we say goodbye to great colleagues and good friends. The changes we are making are deep and impact every area of the business, but they are necessary. I know we will come out of this transition stronger, more agile and better fit to compete in today’s retail environment,” the company’s Press release stated.

 

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