June 27, 2017

Jagdeo lashes back at ‘incompetent’ Trotman

…says Minister lacks knowledge of matters relating to his Ministry

Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo

While Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman’s verbal outburst in the National Assembly on Thursday evening has been viewed by some as a major hype for the Government, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Monday said the minister’s “fatuous antics” were designed to cover up his incompetence and lack of knowledge on subject matters relating to his ministry, as well as economics and finance.

Jagdeo told a news conference on Monday that his presentation had angered the minister, and this had led the minister to behave in a manner “improper” for a sitting Member of Parliament (MP).

However, the Opposition Leader observed that Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland, did not attempt to reprimand the minister, but had instead allowed him to continue with his rants.

The former Head of State said he has always regarded Trotman as a mediocre lawyer, Speaker of the National Assembly and minister of government, and he was not surprised by Trotman’s action in Parliament.

“He was smarting from the exposure of his incompetence. Rather than trying to defend it, he descended into his antics,” Jagdeo observed.

Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman

Jagdeo recalled that Trotman had attempted to get the Speaker to have him barred from speaking, and when that did not work, “because he knows of his own deficiency — he cannot respond without somebody writing a brief for him to those matters that were raised in the debate,” he started to attack him.

“Being incapable of responding to technical and economic analysis, what do you do? You descend into this fatuous antic that he displayed in the Parliament. I’ve never seen somebody’s face contorted with rage as he has displayed in Parliament. He was shaking uncontrollably and largely because he felt incompetent and exposed, so he went after me,” the Opposition Leader said.

Although some persons were surprised by the minister’s behaviour in Parliament, Jagdeo said it revealed Trotman’s true nature as an individual.

“Trotman has been trying to carefully cultivate an image of efficiency, reasonableness; that he is sophisticated, suave, and he is above the fray. I believe he is slick, inefficient, and one of the most hostile people in the APNU/AFC coalition; and this behaviour is the real Trotman. What you saw there, we’ve seen it on the street corners and in many places.”

Generally speaking about the Government’s posture and general mode of response to critiques about policies and programmes that are highly questionable, Jagdeo said they (Government) have become “this very touchy when you expose their incompetence and their lack of vision for Guyana.”

In reflecting on some of the points he had made during Thursday’s debate in Parliament, Jagdeo told the local media that his presentation was based on facts that the Government was unwilling to accept; and instead of taking the statements as a piece of advice, they decided to attack him.

Jagdeo mentioned that he was basically advising the Government to paint an entire picture of the prospects and opportunities of oil and gas, as well as the risks associated with that new industry. “When we pointed out the risks, they said that’s the profit of doom, but that is a realistic assessment of what could be prospects or negatives of the industry,” the Opposition Leader asserted.

The trained economist stated that Government was focused on emphasising on the prospect that large sums of money will flow in, because “it suits their narrative of selling hope of a brighter future.” However, he strongly believes that they are doing an inept job of managing the current sectors.

“And that is why they are so hostile and angry about any narrative that tries to paint a balanced picture of the oil industry. Any right- thinking Guyanese can relate to this, because if oil prices can bring large quantities of money, if oil prices globally are very low, then these huge sums of money we are talking about may not materialize for significant periods,” he added.

The former Head of State, pointing to an example, recalled that when the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) left office in 2015, a barrel of crude was US$120. However, within a matter of six months, it had dropped steeply to US$28, before climbing back to US$50 within the last two years.

Another argument that Jagdeo thinks had angered the minister and coalition Government is the fact that he had raised concerns that there was no clear or well-thought-out assessment of the oil industry in Guyana, yet emphasis was continuously being placed only on the prospects.

Jagdeo argued that if this continues, then the Government could eventually end up destroying the rest of the economy, especially if the so-called brighter future through oil never materialises.

Touching on another important issue that is often discussed by Trotman: the setting up of a Sovereign Wealth Fund for the oil industry, Jagdeo said that although the Government has not revealed many details about how it would go about setting up this fund, he had suggested that the Norwegian model, which insulates the spending from the political process, be used.

 

Telephone giant GTT signs major sponsorship deal with Amazon Warriors

By Akeem Greene

GTT CEO Justin Nedd (third from left) and Guyana Amazon Warriors representative Ashminie Jailall (centre) pose with a signed bat after the symbolic partnership is sealed. They are flanked by Guyana
Amazon Warriors Assistant Operations Manager John Ramsingh (right front); Assistant Coach Esuan Crandon (back right) and local Warriors Shimron Hetmyer (left), Steven Jacobs (second left), along
with Keon Joseph, Veerasammy Permaul and Assad Fudadin

Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT) is now the signature sponsor of the Guyana Amazon Warriors for the fifth edition of the gala Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL).

This was disclosed by GTT’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Justin Nedd on Tuesday while speaking at a festive ceremony held at the Presidential Suit of the National Stadium, Providence.

“Our sponsorship of the Amazon Warriors is an expression of GTT’s understanding of the Guyanese heart and passion for sport especially cricket”, the CEO stated.

While there was no disclosure on a cost of the sponsorship, the agreement is expected to see the company have the main branding rights for the team as they seek to improve spectators’ experiences at the Stadium.

“GTT and the Guyana Amazon Warriors will blaze the stands and the grass mound on match days in full party mode. We want everyone to embrace what it means to be an Amazon Warrior”, Nedd added.

The CEO also disclosed their “Future Amazon Warrior” in 15 year-old Berbician Seon Glasgow. GTT will immediately provide full sponsorship for his participation in the Sir Garfield Sobers Schools Tournament in Barbados in July.

Glasgow has been selected to be part of the Electra Sports Academy that will be representing Guyana at the tournament.

“We will also pursue Seon’s training with the Guyana Amazon Warriors team here in July in preparation for the CPL Games in August,” Need disclosed.

Likewise, Amazon Warriors, Marketing and Media Officer and Assistant Operations Manager, John Ramsingh revealed that the partnership with GTT would provide more hype among other things. “Our partnership with GTT is aimed at providing more information, more hype, more opportunities to get a chance to see these matches live and even a chance to interact in person with the International, Regional and your own local players”.

Director of Sport Christopher Jones was most enthused about the proceedings since it exemplifies his contention that “government alone cannot undertake the development of sport since corporate support is needed.”

Jones congratulated GTT on the venture and assured that there is willingness to lend whatever support is needed to make the Amazon Warriors successful.

The company also unveiled, the “Amazon Warriors Song”, which is a musical collaboration between two local music stars Calvin Burnett and Drew Thoven.

The league will run from August 4 to September 9 and the Warriors will have four home games during the period of August 17 to 22. The Warriors have been one of the most consistent teams in the league reaching three of the four finals to date.

The Warriors have six newcomers in their squad with Afghanistan leg spinning sensation Rashid Khan heading the list that includes destructive Jamaican wicket-keeper/batsman Chadwick Walton who played for the Tallawahs in the last four seasons.

Big-hitting ICC Americas opener Steven Taylor will also suit up for the Warriors, along with Barbados all-rounder Roshon Primus and the Guyanese pair, batsman Gajanand Singh and fast bowler Keon Joseph, who was a replacement to Ronsford Beaton in the 2013 squad but did not play a match.

The retained players are Pakistani all-rounder Sohail Tanvir, New Zealand opener Martin Guptill, Australian middle-order batsman Chris Lynn, Trinidad and Tobago all-rounder Rayad Emrit, Trinidad and Tobago batsman Jason Mohammed, Guyanese trio Veerasammy Permaul, Assad Fudadin and Steven Jacobs and Trinidad and Tobago wicketkeeper/batsman Steven Katwaroo.

The finals of the tournament will take place at the new Brian Lara Stadium in Trinidad and Tobago from September 5 to 9.

Granger disappointed Coalition business made public

-tells WPA, ‘I don’t do business like that’

President David Granger

Responding to claims by the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) of being shafted and sidelined by the major partner in the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) coalition, President David Granger on Wednesday said such an assertion was untrue as there was a fair partnership in the five-party unit.

Granger said the People’s National Congress (PNC)-led APNU has been an equal playing field for all of its partners since its establishment in 2011.

He was responding to claims made directly by the WPA that it felt side-lined by the actions of the coalition, which now sits in the seat of Government.

“We have not sidelined any party…I was very careful in 2015 to ensure that every party in the APNU is represented in the National Assembly and have positions.”

To this end, he said, Minister within the Labour Ministry, Keith Scott represents the National Front Alliance (NFA); Junior Finance Minister Jaipaul Sharma represents the Justice For All Party (JFAP); Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Minister Sydney Allicock represents the Guyana Action Party (GAP) and former Education Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine represents the WPA.

“So there is no sidelining of anyone of the parties and I had the option of making a selection after May 15. And I made my decision based on my commitment to inclusionary democracy and to ensure that all members of the partnership are all represented.”

Meanwhile, President Granger said he was disappointed that the WPA would take the business of the coalition to the public realm. He sought to assure that he ran a coalition, had never attacked any of the partners, had not expressed any concern or shown any reaction.

“I know where we are going; I know the importance of the coalition to social cohesion, inclusionary democracy and the future of this country.”

“I do not believe that the business of the coalition could be efficiently and effectively transacted in the media, and I don’t do business like that,” Granger told journalists on Wednesday.

On Monday, WPA Executive Members Tacuma Ogunseye and Dr David Hinds said there was no doubt the party, which may not have taken a substantial amount of votes to the table, was being sidelined.

Dr Hinds said the infraction has been so significant that executives were being hammered by party members and supporters both locally and abroad to cut ties with the grouping. He said, however, that was not a consideration at this time.

The party’s top brass is scheduled to meet with other members of APNU in July. Ogunseye said that the meeting would provide them with answers to give to its members on the way forward for the party.

“There, we will have a frank discussion with our partners and use the opportunity to assess the way in which they respond to our concerns and after that exercise, we will come back and decide on a line of action. But the approach of that meeting is to try to be objective as possible and try to enter the discourse with 100 per cent goodwill,” Ogunseye said.

He said too that the meeting could have a very serious impact on the future of relations between the WPA and its partners.

Hinds had said there were a range of issues in the WPA about how the party should treat Government.

“It ranges from those who feel that we should disengage with Government immediately…we are confident that if we should hold a members meeting, that there would be a strong opinion among our members for us to disengage from the Government.”

The meeting with Government, he added, will give leaders an idea of what to tell the members.

 

Fly Jamaica promises new destinations

…opens Brooklyn office

By Bhisham Mohamed

Roxanne Reece (right) and others at the new Fly Jamaica office in Brooklyn

Guyanese-owned Fly Jamaica Airways last Thursday opened its Brooklyn office at 1397 Nostrand Avenue, with the objective of catering for the travelling population in that area.

In a small but important ceremony, the new office was blessed by members of the three main religious groups who all offered prayers of prosperity.

The new office will be one that will serve Caribbean people living in New York and surrounding areas. This is the second of such an office in New York, with another in Queens.

According to Roxanne Reece, one of the owners of the airline, the new office will give people in the Diaspora an opportunity to interact with well trained staff, rather than booking a ticket online.

“Personal contact is very important in doing business and we want people to feel comfortable that they have people to interact with and to make enquiries compared to them going on a computer and booking a ticket… we want that personal touch,” she explained.

However, she noted that the choice in setting up the office is based on the fact that there are lots of persons living in the Brooklyn area who are primarily from Jamaica and  Guyana.

Chief Executive Officer, Captain Ronald Reece at the official launch party thanked the people who have made Fly Jamaica the outstanding carrier that it is, and has been, over the past six years. He also encouraged the public for its continuing support over the years.

Consul General, Guyana Consulate, Barbara Atherly, in her comments said the initiative forges an even stronger relationship between Guyana and Jamaica while at the same time serving to promote tourism in New York and the Caribbean.

She reminisced on the time travelling to Jamaica and had to in transit in several countries but now, it is just a ticket away from Fly Jamaica Airways.

She congratulated the Board of Governors of Fly Jamaica on the opening of their new office and encouraged the continuation of the good work.

Meanwhile, Reece further stated that Fly Jamaica is currently using two airplanes but in the very near future, a third will be added to the fleet.

On this note, she revealed that Fly Jamaica will be adding at least four new destinations to cater for the travelling public. The destinations will be revealed shortly but she expressed confidence that the new destinations will be widely supported.

Fly Jamaica operates out of Guyana and Jamaica, both in transit and direct flights.

 

International artiste is inspired by her Guyanese heritage

With Shemar Moore on the hit show, Soul Train

Alisha Hamid, popularly known by her stage name ‘Sasha Melody’, is an international recording artiste who hails from a musical background. Her passion for music began since she was just three years old.

Alisha is the first in her family to be born in the U.S. She credits her parents, natives from Guyana, as her influence for pursuing music at an early age. Her father, who liked to DJ in his spare time, would play soca music from renowned artistes such as Byron Lee, Arrow and Sparrow, which is how she discovered her love for soca music.

“I come from a musical family. My grandfather is a pastor in Brooklyn, NY. At the age of three, I began singing on the church stage where my grandmother would play the organ and sing back-up vocals for me, and my uncles would play the guitar – forming a family band,” the 31-year-old recalled in an interview with Sunday Times Magazine.

In school, Alisha sang in the Monarch High School Concert Choir and began acting and vocal training at the Academy of Performing Arts School in Denver, Colorado at The Academy of Art.

In 2000 Alisha competed in the World Championships of Performing Arts where she was awarded three gold medals – one each for singing, acting and spokes modelling. These achievements landed her a role on the first nationally syndicated show in television history – Soul Train, hosted by Hollywood actor Shemar Moore. For three years Alisha remained on the show, which was filmed at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, CA.

Alisha “Sasha Melody” Hamid

At the age of 17, Alisha graduated from high school as a junior and was accepted in Five Towns College, New York. While in school, Alisha was an intern at Universal Music Group, Atlantic Records, and VP Records. Before her 21st birthday, she received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management (Music Business).

In 2006, Alisha recorded “Whinin School”, “Fyah” and “Music”, which were all produced by Jason Lee (former band member of Atlantik), also the person who gave her the name ‘Sasha Melody’.

By 2008, the singer had performed in various cities in California, Louisiana, Florida and New York. Additionally, she appeared as a dancer in the music video for T.C., featuring Capelton called ‘Bounce’.

In 2013, Sasha Melody recorded “Land of Soca” in Trinidad, which was released for the 2014 carnival season.

The award-winning artiste’s multiple hits include “Ah want ah whina”, “Get on Bad”, “Fiya”, and “Whinin Away”, featuring soca artiste Ronnie Homer.

Outlining her future plans, Alisha said she aims to “put out more music; shoot a music video; and expand the Sasha Melody brand in other countries”.

Though not born in Guyana, the talented artiste proudly identifies herself as a “Guyanese”. Notably, Alisha cherishes her Guyanese parents and heritage, which laid the foundation for her successful music career.

For more information on the artiste, visit Sasha Melody (Official Fan Page) on Facebook; @sashamelody1 on Twitter; and Sashamelody1 on Instagram.

APNU/AFC bent on dismantling sugar industry

…regardless of consequences, says Jagdeo

A section of the large gathering that assembled at Robert Square, Enmore, East Coast Demerara at a public meeting held on Wednesday to mark Enmore Martyrs Day, which will be celebrated on Friday. Speaking to the gathering were former President Bharrat Jagdeo and high-ranking officials of the People’s Progressive Party

Although Government has announced plans to close the sugar industry, former President and current General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Bharrat Jagdeo has called on all Guyanese and people living in the sugar belt to continue to fight to save the industry.

Jagdeo made this plea while addressing residents of Enmore, on the East Coast Demerara, during a public meeting held on Wednesday to mark Enmore Martyrs Day, which will be celebrated on Friday.

The former Head of State slammed the Government for the unconscionable decision, stating that it has the potential to create great difficulty for many citizens across the country.

“We’ve been growing sugar in Guyana for 300 years and in two years of this Government, not even under (Forbes) Burnham, they have decided to dismantle sugar,” he told the large gathering.

According to him, the decision to shut down the industry was made way before the coalition Government sought to have consultation with the relative stakeholders, including the Opposition.

He read a letter that he received from the Government on November 16, 2016, which outlined that authorisation was given to discuss any possible sale of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) in part or in its entirety.

“So, when they started this perfunctory, this show of consultation that they were listening to GAWU and us (opposition) and they wanted to engage us on a way forward, they had already made the decision to sell the entire industry and this exposes the duplicity of this Government,” he remarked.

The former President told the large gathering that the David Granger-led Administration cannot be trusted as they have never negotiated in good faith, explaining that in spite of the promises made to the electorate during the last election, they are determined to dismantle the sugar industry regardless of its consequences.

He said, “Today we see an expression of their callous behaviour by their refusal to say what they will do with the 10,000 workers and their families when they lose their jobs,” he added.

Jagdeo said the closure of the industry, however, has the potential to affect close to 50,000 people, which in his view is a “political, discriminatory decision on the part of the Government.

Jagdeo reiterated that the sugar industry could be sustained and can become viable if more attention is placed on fixing the current problems that exists. He recalled that between 1976 and 1996, sugar made a huge contribution to the Treasury and paid for the sugar levy.

“At one time, one fifth of total Government revenues came from the sugar industry. We carried Guyana for a long period and even after that, when the sugar levy was ended in 1996 we then got GuySuCo to continue to make a positive contribution to the industry,” he noted.

The PPP/C General Secretary also pointed out that it was only when there was a cut in the European Union (EU) prices for sugar, it led to the industry loosing G$8 billion per annum in revenue. It was at that point that Government had to start looking to begin pumping revenue in the industry.

However, the EU had given Guyana over €100 million as part of the transitional arrangement, which according to Jagdeo, was more than the cost of Skeldon Sugar factory. “And so today it is not true that sugar cannot be restored in the future. It’s not true that sugar cannot be profitable. If we work real hard and we look at the multidimensional contributions of sugar to the economy we will, through an economic analysis, see that sugar makes a bigger contribution to Guyana than the subsidy it gets in this difficult period,” he asserted.

Contrary to what is being done with the sugar industry, Jagdeo said the PPP/C Government ensured that when the bauxite industry needed help, they pumped money into that industry to keep it alive.

Jagdeo said this was mainly because the Government was compassionate and caring and did not want to affect the lives of those who were directly dependent on the industry for their livelihoods.

“We were concerned about Kwakwani, Ituni and Linden and the residents there, and about how they will keep their families going and we made sure that we worked with those communities and the industry to keep bauxite alive in those places.

However, he argued that this Government, because it views everything through a political, racial discriminatory lens, it will shoot the country’s prospects of improving lives just to satisfy a political agenda.

“I did the best I could”

– says Dr Roopnaraine on removal from Education Ministry

– confirms WPA was not consulted

Dr Rupert Roopnaraine being cornered by media operatives at Parliament on Thursday.

The Working Peoples’ Alliance (WPA); the political party that Dr Rupert Roopnaraine represents in the coalition A Partnership for National Unity, Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) Government was not consulted in his removal from heading the Government’s largest Budget Ministry to heading a Ministry within the Ministry of the Presidency (MOTP).

Dr Roopnaraine confirmed this minutes before Thursday’s sitting of the National Assembly was convened, but was evasive as reporters attempted to get clarifications.

According to the Former Minister of Education, “I didn’t request it,” the move—seen as a demotion by many—to the Ministry of the Presidency.

He told reporters, “your serve at the pleasure of the President.”

The Minister did indicate to reporters staking out the sitting of the National Assembly that “it’s a new challenge…Well I must say I am looking forward to the new Ministry.”

Recalling his tenure at the Education Ministry, Dr Roopnaraine told media operatives, “I did, I believe, the best I could in the education Ministry, we got some things achieved. “

He declined to offer a comment on speculations that the move was in relation to his declining health.

The Minister also confirmed for media operatives that the WPA—the party he represents in the APNU/AFC coalition—was never consulted and instead pointed to a meeting with the President, Head of State David Granger, at which point the request was made.

The announcement of Roopnaraine’s demotion comes on the same day of Dr Walter Rodney’s 37th death anniversary.

WPA executive, political activist and professor, Dr David Hinds has since indicated that the party will be writing to the President expressing its concerns about the shake-up and to request a meeting.

According to Dr Hinds, one of the party’s concerns relate to the lack of consultations.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland at the beginning of the sitting of the Assembly formally indicated to the members of the House, the creation of the Ministry of Public Service to be headed by Dr Roopnaraine.

Dr Scotland, read out the instrument issued under the Ministry of the Presidency designating Dr Roopnaraine as Minister of Public Service effective June 14, 2017 and shall remain a member of the Cabinet Counsel of Ministers.

Minister Nicolette Henry, has since been elevated to the Substantive post of Education Minister this past week, declined to speak with media operatives when approached.

She instead, scuttled past reporters gesturing a comment at another time.

The announcement of the Cabinet reshuffle was announced by government this past week by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon who stated that President David Granger had full confidence in the ability of his Ministers and in Roopnaraine.

At the time of the announcement, he said that Roopnaraine’s transfer followed a discussion the former Education Minister had with Granger.

 

U.S. Remittance Tax: Opposition Leader slams Govt’s ‘wait and see’ approach

While Government has acknowledged that the United States tax on remittances to the Caribbean will have an effect on Guyanese, it has adopted a wait-and-see approach to the issue.

But the fact that Guyana’s President, David Granger, is Chair of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) puts him in a position to do more advocacy for the Region’s benefit. This is according to former President Bharrat Jagdeo.

“I’m arguing for a more proactive approach,” Jagdeo said, when asked to comment on the Government’s wait-and-see stance. “The President is now the Chairman of Caricom. He has an additional responsibility outside of the national one. He should say, here are four or five issues: the trade issues, the financial sector issues, climate issues, remittances, immigrants, that we would like to engage the US on and try to move Caricom to request such an engagement,” he posited.

According to the former President, President Granger now has an opportunity to do such advocacy. Jagdeo, a Moscow-trained economist, recalled that during the time he chaired Caricom, in 2009, regional initiatives were promoted.

He expressed fear that by the time Granger’s six months as Chairman would have elapsed, there would have been little change or advancement. Granger assumed the chairmanship of Caricom in January 2017, for a six-month term.

With the newly-proposed tax measures on remittances from the US to foreign countries, including Guyana, economists have predicted that remittances would dry up.

During a recent post-Cabinet press briefing, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon said there was little the Government could do at this time. The Minister acknowledged that the measure would, however, have an effect on the country.

“As the saying goes when certain people sneeze, everyone else catches a cold. When the Americans make their laws, we have to deal with the consequences of it. What I can say is that it means it will cost you more to send money from the United States to Guyana,” Harmon had said.

“As you know, remittances have been a major plank in the sustenance of many families in this country. And I think it is going to have an impact on them,” Harmon said. “But we will have to look and see what happens. It may be that instead of getting a hundred dollars, you get ninety.” But the Minister went on to stress that “there is nothing really we as a State can do about the way another country makes its laws. All we can say is encourage those who send money to their families here to increase the amount”.

It is expected that the US Congress may make an amendment to the US Electronic Fund Transfer Act to impose a fee for remittance transfers to certain foreign countries, including Guyana.

The Bill, which is titled Border Wall Funding Act of 2017 (HR 1813), has already been introduced in the US House of Representatives by Congressman Mike Rogers, of Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District.

In introducing the Bill on March 30, 2017, Rogers claimed that remittances were normally used by illegal immigrants to move money from the US to their home countries.

In order to put a restriction on this, Rogers said, the Bill will seek to allow for a two per cent fee charged on individuals sending money to recipients in 42 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Remittances are a major part of Guyana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), at one point accounting for 25 per cent. In recent years, however, there has been a drop.

 

Vetting of social media profiles begins for U.S. visa applicants

The United Stated Government has implemented a new rule that allows officials to demand five years’ worth of social media profiles and 15 years of biographical information as part of a visa application, according to US media outlets. This recent change also applies to Caribbean nationals applying for US visas.

According to ABC News, the rule, took effect May 25 even as the president’s so-called travel ban remains tied up in the courts — part of Trump’s push for “extreme vetting.”

Consular officers processing visa applicants at embassies around the world can now ask applicants for social media profiles from the last five years, prior passport numbers, greater detail about family members, and longer personal history, including travel, employment and residence for the last 15 years, instead of the last five that applicants were previously asked for.

The rule applies to “immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities,” according to the State Department. The department estimated that this would affect 65,000 applicants a year, or 0.5 percent of all applicants — “only a fraction of 1 percent of the more than 13 million annual visa applicants worldwide,” according to a statement.

However, based on the new changes, it will be up to the individual consular officer screening the applicant to determine if he or she requires the additional questions, according to ABC News.

President Donald Trump campaigned first on a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” before pivoting to a platform of “extreme vetting” that offered few details.

Once in office, he tried to turn that rhetoric into policy with an executive order signed one week into his presidency that banned travel from seven Muslim-majority countries. When that ban was challenged in court and tied up, the administration issued a revised version, which also remains challenged, ABC News reported.

 

Governor Cuomo announces campaign to crack down on speeding in New York

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Wednesday that the New York State Police will conduct a week-long enforcement initiative to crack down on speeding and aggressive drivers across the state. The Speed Week campaign runs today (Wednesday) through June 13.

According to the Governor’s office, last year, during the June 2016 Speed Week campaign, State Police issued more than 21,000 traffic tickets. More than 10,000 of the tickets were for speeding, more than 600 were for distracted driving, and more than 200 for violations of the Move Over law.

“Speeding and reckless driving puts everyone on the road at risk and this dangerous behavior will not be tolerated in New York,” Governor Cuomo said. “This week, the State Police will be increasing enforcement to put the brakes on drivers who ignore the law, helping to increase the safety of our roads and prevent avoidable tragedy.”

During this summer’s “Speed Week”, Troopers will be using both marked State Police vehicles and Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement vehicles as part of the operation. The CITE vehicles allow Troopers to more easily identify motorists who are violating laws while driving. These vehicles blend in with every day traffic but are unmistakable as emergency vehicles once the emergency lighting is activated.

New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, “The goal of this campaign, and enforcement year round, is to reduce speed related crashes and improve safe travel for drivers and passengers on New York’s roads. Obeying the speed limit and driving defensively will reduce the number of fatal accidents and increase safety for everyone on the highway.”

New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Executive Deputy Commissioner and acting Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee Chair Terri Egan said, “DMV and GTSC commend law enforcement for their commitment to keeping our roadways as safe as possible and offer our full support for this life-saving initiative. We want everyone to enjoy a safe and happy summer season and urge all motorists to obey the speed limit, never drive impaired and avoid distractions. By being a responsible driver, you will avoid a ticket or arrest and, more importantly, prevent needless deaths and injuries. The life you save could be your own!”

Speeding is listed as a contributing factor in nearly one third of all fatal crashes in New York State. More than 42,000 people die as the result of traffic crashes each year on our nation’s highways and hundreds of thousands are seriously injured.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for people ages 3 to 33. Speeding by all vehicle types, as well as other traffic violations, will be heavily enforced throughout the week in addition to normal year-round enforcement. Troopers will also be watching for other traffic violations, including distracted or impaired drivers, vehicle occupants who are not properly buckled up, and drivers that are violating New York’s Move Over law.

Fines for speeding on 55 mph highway or posted 65 mph zones

First Conviction

10 mph or less over the limit – min $45/max $150

11- 30 mph over the limit – min $90/max $300

31 mph or more over the limit – min $180/max $600

Second Conviction

10 mph or less over the limit – min $45/max $300

11 – 30 over the limit – min $90 /max $450

31 or more over the limit – min $180/max $750

Third Conviction

10 mph or less over the limit – min $45/max $525

11 – 30 over the limit – min $90 /max $675

31 or more over the limit – min $180/max $975

Court Surcharges

Town or village courts – $93

Other Courts (city traffic courts, etc.) – $88

Violation Point Structure

1-10 mph over limit = 3 points

11-20 mph over limit = 4 points

21 – 30 mph over limit = 6 points

30 – 40 mph over limit = 8 points

More than 40 mph over limit = 11 points (triggers suspension)

Funding for the Speed Week initiative is provided through a grant from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee.