Colors: Blue Color

With no morning prayers at the mosque, no chance of meeting family and friends to celebrate Islam's most important festival, it was never going to be the same this year as people around the world have been celebrating Eid al-Fitr, one of Islam's two major holidays.

Traditionally the festival at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan is marked with communal prayers in mosques, visits to friends and family.

But this year the Muslim Council of Britain encouraged people to celebrate the "festival of the breaking of the fast" begins when the moon rises on the final day of Ramadan, a holy month of fasting virtually due to social-distancing measures brought in during the coronavirus pandemic.

The special Eid al-Fitr prayers are typically among the best attended of the year, and people also mark the occasion by holding parties.

The timing varies from country to country, with some following the moonrise in Mecca and others using local sightings.

After a sighting of the first crescent of the new moon, a three-day festival is held in celebration.

 

Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have completed their dress rehearsal for Wednesday's flight to the International Space Station.

The mission, the first crewed outing from American soil in nine years, will see the pair ride to orbit in a SpaceX Falcon rocket and Crew Dragon capsule.

It's a demonstration of the new "taxi" service the US space agency will be buying from the Californian firm.

Lift-off on Wednesday is timed for 16:33 EDT (20:33 GMT / 21:33 BST).

The weather around the Kennedy Space Center in Florida may have other ideas, however.

A forecast released on Saturday by the US Air Force 45th Weather Squadron predicted just a 40% chance of favourable conditions come launch time.

There is a strong possibility the Kennedy complex could see thick cloud, rain and even thunder.

If controllers are forced to scrub, everyone will come back on Saturday for a second try.

Hurley and Behnken are now all but done with their preparations.

The weekend "Dry Dress" rehearsal saw the pair don their made-to-measure spacesuits, walk out to a Tesla, and then make a 6km drive down to Kennedy's famous Launch Complex 39A.

Their SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket has been sitting erect on the pad since Thursday.

The men then got in the service tower lift to go up to the access arm gantry and climb into the capsule.

The run-through gave all launch personnel - not just Hurley and Behnken - the opportunity to remind themselves of what's to come.

There is huge focus on this mission. Not since the space shuttles were retired in 2011 has America been able to launch its own astronauts. Getting crews to the ISS these past nine years has been a task entrusted solely to Russia and its Soyuz rocket and capsule system.
Nasa has contracted both SpaceX and aerospace giant Boeing to pick up where the shuttles left off.

The difference this time is that the agency will not own and operate the vehicles. It will merely be buying "tickets to ride".

SpaceX and Boeing will be free to sell their services to other space agencies, other companies and even individuals.

Hurley and Behnken have named their Dragon in the tradition of all previous American crew-ships. They'll reveal that name on Wednesday.

 

 The Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport in Jamaica, Olivia Grange has said that donations will be accepted during a repeat presentation of Telethon Jamaica.

Grange said highlights of Jamaica's first telethon would be aired instead of the traditional Labour Day concert with the highlights package to be broadcast on national television and online.

Telethon Jamaica has raised more than $60 million towards providing much needed additional resources to Jamaica's health services in the wake of COVID-19.

In a statement Grange said; “I can announce that we have received the majority of the sums that have been pledged so far to Telethon Jamaica. I say 'so far' because we continue to get calls from people who want to contribute to this effort. During the broadcast on Labour Day, we will have a team on hand to take calls and guide people who want to contribute to this very important effort. But people don't have to wait until Monday; they can contribute right now on the website — www.jatogetherwestand.com — and it will go straight into the account.”

The Telethon Jamaica highlights show will be broadcast on Monday between 5 pm and 7 pm on TVJ and PBCJ and several social media platforms, including VP Records YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/VPRecords).

“Although it's a highlights show, it will include new performances from leading and upcoming Jamaican artistes who we were unable to include in the original telethon — such as Buju Banton; J-Summa; Tessellated and Miss World, Toni-Ann Singh — who have given so generously of their time and talent in this national effort. The broadcast will be anchored by Naomi Cowan,” the minister said.

The programme will also feature performances by Skip Marley, Ziggy Marley, Gloria Estefan, Shaggy, Richie Spice whose song 'Together We Stand' was chosen as the theme music for the telethon.

To make a donation online, visit www.jatogetherwestand.com or www.mypaymaster.com.
To donate by telephone, call 876-960-9632-4, 1-866-228-8393 (toll free from Jamaica, the United States or Canada) or +44 0808 189 6147 (toll free from UK and Europe).

Cash/cheque donations are accepted at any Paymaster location in Jamaica.

After the government of Jamaica failed to acknowledge a request by 43 shipworkers to be allowed into their own country in early April, 18º North has learned that, only a week before, the U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica and his personal assistant were among those given special exemptions to enter as borders were closed to incoming passengers to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith confirmed the finding at a press conference.

The ban on incoming passengers was implemented March 25, and U.S. Ambassador Donald Tapia entered the country on March 27. According to the Jamaican government’s order at the time, persons were exempt only if “authorised by the Minister responsible for immigration, subject to the approval of the Cabinet.”

In a phone interview with 18º North, the Ambassador said he left Jamaica for his home state of Arizona on March 18, which was the day before the U.S. State Department announced its highest-level alert urging all Americans “do not travel” because of the pandemic. It was also seven days after Jamaica’s second positive case was announced, which happened to be a Jamaican staffer at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston.

Ambassador Tapia said his reason for going to the States was “for a 60th birthday party”, and he was scheduled to return March 23. However, he said his flight was cancelled, so he returned four days later in order to be able to work securely.

A church in Berlin, in Germany, has opened its doors to allow Muslim worshipers, who are unable to fit into their mosque, under new social distancing rules.

Germany has allowed religious service to resume on May 4, but worshipers must maintain a distance of 1.5 metres (5ft).

As a result, the Dair Assalam mosque in the city’s Neukölln district could only hold a fraction of its congregation.

But the Martha Lutheran church in Kreuzberg offered to help by hosting Friday prayers at the end of Ramadan.

Throughout the month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex from dawn to dusk. Normally families and friends would gather to break their fast and attend communal prayers, but in Berlin - as in countries across the world - this year's celebrations have been affected.

The mosque's imam said: "It is a great sign and it brings joy in Ramadan and joy amid this crisis. This pandemic has made us a community.

“Crises bring people get together”.

Noting the contrast to Islamic worship, congregation member Samer Hamdoun said: "It was a strange feeling because of the musical instruments, the pictures.

"But when you look, when you forget the small details, in the end this is the house of God."

Costa Rica has recently submitted a pioneering proposal to reduce deforestation through the use of technology and space information generated by satellite imagery from the GEO-Google Earth Engine License Programme.  
 
The initiative, called ‘Tackling deforestation and forest degradation in Costa Rica using Google Earth Engine’, was submitted to the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) as part of a programme in partnership with Google. The two organisations will offer 25 licenses for the sustained use of Google Earth Engine (GEE) for projects using Earth observation data to address global challenges related to climate change, sustainable development and disaster risk reduction, among others.
 
The 2-year, full-access licenses aim to empower public sector and commercial recipients to tackle significant societal challenges and improve understanding of our planet.
 
Costa Rica’s Environment and Energy Minister, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, said that the proposal is aimed at improving the ability of the country’s institutions to estimate deforestation and forest degradation by using satellite information and imagery offered by Google Earth Engine. The proposal also focuses on combating deforestation by developing an early warning system as well as improving the estimates of forest restoration and carbon emissions linked to these activities.
 
Rafael Monge, Director of Costa Rica’s National Centre of Geo-environmental Information (CENIGA), added that the development of an early warning system will generate useful information that will be used to take quicker decisions that help stop and anticipate illegal activities linked to deforestation.
 
The proposal is supported by a great number of organisations, including the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations; Costa Rica’s National Forestry Financing Fund (Fonafifo); Costa Rica’s National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) and the National Meteorological Agency (IMN) of Costa Rica, amongst others.
 
Costa Rica offers visitors an abundance of unique wildlife, landscapes and climates. The country shelters approximately 6.5% of the world’s biodiversity and currently holds the United Nation’s ‘Champions of the Earth’ award for its commitment to ambitious policies to combat climate change.
 

A High Court Judge has ruled that a 14-year-old boy is better off living in Sierra Leone than in the UK.

The teenager was taken to the West African country’s capital, Freetown, as his mother was growing increasingly worried about his involvement in ‘county lines’ gangs in London after he was excluded from school.

A civil case was brought at the High Court by the boy’s father who took the legal action in London in a bid to force his return from Africa after he said that his son was living in a volatile country.

The mother said that the teenager should stay in Sierra Leone until the summer of 2022 and when he finishes his GCSEs.

Mr Justice Mostyn ruled against the father when he also said that the boy should stay in Freetown until the end of his GCSEs in 2022.

He said that the boy was “going off the rails” by early 2019 whilst he was living with his mother in south London.

Last year he (the boy) was permanently excluded from school.

Mr Justice Mostyn did say that the woman had decided to take her son to Sierra Leone, where her mother – the boy’s grandmother – is a police officer, so that he could continue his education.

The organising committee of the World Blindness Summit Madrid 2020 has taken the decision to postpone its date, scheduled for June, after analysing the situation generated by the coronavirus worldwide and following the indications set by the state of alarm declared by the authorities.

Driven by the World Blind Union (WBU), ICEV (an organisation that brings together the world’s leading experts on the education of blind people) and organised in Spain by the ONCE Society Group, this historic summit will still be held in Madrid on May 21 to 26, 2021, to discuss and chart the best way forward for the more than 280 million blind people in the world.

As the largest assembly of on visual disability in the world, over 1,500 blind people from 190 countries and more than 200 organisations related to disability sharing spaces, workshops, lectures, knowledge and experiences in favour of the debate towards a better future and on which to work together, globally.

The new Chief of Staff (CoS) has been sworn in before the commencement of the Federal Executive Council meeting at the Aso presidential Villa, in Abuja.

The man whom many described as the medal on the block is a Nigerian academician, diplomat and had held positions in the diplomatic circle in the course of the trajectory of his career and public life.

Professor Gambari whom many also refer to as another ‘global citizen’ hails from a royal family in the Kwara State Capital.

The National Chair, diplomat, friend and private sector’s leading icon, who is the most recent of former president of the ABR (African Business Roundtable), HE Ambassador Dr Bamanga Tukur described Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari as a to[ professional diplomat, seasoned mediator an one who believes in meritocracy.

Dr Tukur added that the new Chief of Staff will bring new ways of doing business and strengthening the Nigerian brand globally.

According to him, “Post coronavirus, Nigeria will need to focus on the economy, not politics, which should be a driving force for Africa’s development.

“It is time for the sleeping giant to wake up and take its rightful position”.

He continued: “To lead the private sector in the economic revival and development should be through one strong trade path, the necessary foundation.

“Organisations such as AfDB, ABR, African Free Trade Zone must be brought together.

“If Nigerians are given the chance to head such, it will take the continent higher and ABR can co-ordinate and put the necessary structures under a new trade platform to flourish. Having partners in North, South, East and West Africa with an overseeing committee, I have no doubt that the Ambassador will succeed on this major call and an assignment to the nation”.

Also, former Chair and an Executive of Nigerians in the Diaspora Organisation NIDO and Commandant of Nigerians in Diaspora Mentoring Corp, Alistair Soyode, in his message did say: “It’s with a good sense of responsibility and expectation, especially from the Diaspora community who are their millions that we send our best wishes believing as a meritous diplomat.

Professor Gambari will deploy his skills to bring in the best of the Diaspora to participate in the nation’s building”.

MC Alistair also used the medium to call non Nigerians all over the world to support the new CoS to deliver on good and sustainable governance – especially during the post Covid-19 era”.

More than two-thirds of people surveyed in as much as 20 countries in Africa said that it would be likely that they would run out of food and water if they had to stay at home under lockdown.

Just over half of the people who responded said that they would run out of money.

The research carried out by The African Centre for Disease and Prevention was conducted to help governments to map out further policies on how to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

It warns that if no measures are adapted to local needs, there is a high risk of unrest, rebellion and violence.

The research was conducted in 28 cities in 20 countries to assess the impact of the life-some areas.

Several African countries which had responded swiftly to the coronavirus threat are now easing restrictions.

The report said; ‘The proliferation of peaceful protests demanding government relief is evidence of the strain that some people are already under and highlights gaps in current responses.’

It did, however, find that there was currently general support for restrictions that had been put in place.

Opposition was highest to measures such as closing workplaces and shutting down markets.

Matshidiso Moeti, Africa director of WHO (World Health Organisation), said: “What we’ve learned from Ebola and other outbreaks is that countries need decentralise the response to the community level and increase their capacity to identify and diagnose cases”.

Governments in Africa have been facing a dilemma when deciding how best to respond to the pandemic.

Millions need to leave their homes every day to go and work to feed their families.

‘Countries must now find a balance between reducing transmission while preventing social and economic disruption’, the report said.

To date, Africa has recorded nearly 50,000 cases of coronavirus, with under 2,000 fatalities.

 

 

As Africa remains rigid in its position as the richest continent in the world, one of its most recognised and decorated ‘sons’ remains unflinching in his drive to see his beloved homeland ‘sit at the top table when the world’s more financially astute countries make the kind of decisions that others have to ‘sing’ to.

Called the ‘Voice of Africa’, Professor Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba PhD, LL.B, LL.M is passion about discussing the fate of Africa and he’s not afraid to apportion blame for Africa’s fate.

A former Director of Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, a lecturer in Law at the Faculty of Law at University of Nairobi, and Trustee and Executive Director of the African Institute of Leaders and Leadership, again, in Nairobi, he is now the Director of The Kenya School of Law and often makes powerful speeches about African solutions to African problems.

A compendium of all things Africa, he has written several books, and been the co-author of the prestigious ‘The Constitution of Kenya’.

A staunch Pan-African, he wrote 27 other books – one of which being ‘Stolen Kenya’ as he always said that: “Africans must take a historical journey. The rise and fall of Africa is on account of African politicians.

“Africa started to produce leaders that they didn’t recognise”.

Having served in the National Committee on Implementation of International Humanitarian Law, followed by being the Secretary to the constitution Kenya Review Commission, Professor PLO Lumumba often call for ‘hygiene’ in Africa, as it had been “disappearing from African politics – ably assisted by Europeans.

“After slavery ‘lost its sheen’ Europeans abolished it and created a new enterprise – ‘colonisation’

“In 1884 they (Europeans) then looked at the map of Africa and shared it out - they thought that they were ‘demi-gods’; calling it the ‘Messiah Complex’.

“But, we – our ancestors - built Europe and the USA. Now we have to reclaim what has always been ours.

“The Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, is the richest country on Earth – but one of the poorest on Earth.

“The question there is; ‘Where is the ‘democracy’?

“African leaders”, he says, “feel that they have the divine right to rule.

“It’s time, now, for African’s voices to be heard – as one”.

PLO Lumumba is one of THE voices that will forever be heard..

 

Pakistan is set to ease the country-wide lockdown this weekend – despite the fact that increased testing highlighted that new coronavirus cases rose.

Prime Minister Imran Khan cited the state of the country’s economy as being in “havoc” when he declared the intended measures.

Prime Minister Khan called on Pakistanis to continue to follow social distancing measures as businesses began phased re-opening.

He did, however, say that a lockdown would be re-deployed is another lockdown was to be declared.

In a televised address declaring the easing of the lockdown, PM Khan said: “We have to discipline ourselves. We can’t send the police to make raids. That just doesn’t happen in an independent society.

Schools in the country will remain closed until mid-July. There are no plans yet to restart public transport, or domestic flights.

Authorities recently had to relent under overwhelming pressure from religious groups ahead of the holy month of Ramadan and allowed mosques to hold daily prayers and evening gatherings, with clerics promising to instruct religious leaders to keep the facilities clean and tidy.

The level of infections had been rising as testing increased.

In a population of 220,223,844, the amount of fatalities due to coronavirus, according to government figures, was 564.

Some businesses in Nigeria have started to slowly re-open after the country started to ease a lockdown which was imposed in key urban areas in a bid to start Africa’s largest economy.

But the main doctor’s association described the move as “very premature”.

In the country’s leading commercial hub of Lagos, traffic jams were absent, which indicates that many people there were remaining indoors.

Last week, President Muhammad Buhari said that the measures had imposed “a very heavy economic cost.

“I have approved of a phased and gradual easing of lockdown measures”, he said in a television broadcast.

He unveiled new measures including nationwide night-time curfews, the mandatory wearing of facemasks and a ban on “non-essential” travel between different regions.

He also announced an immediate lock-down in northern Nigeria’s largest city of Kano after officials said that they were probing a spate of “mysterious deaths”

The government is facing a difficult balancing act trying to curb the spread of the virus and contain the growing desperation of a vast number who are living hand-to-mouth in Africa’s most populated country.

More than 25 million residents in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states has been under federal lockdown since March 30, with other states introducing their own lockdown.

It has been confirmed that China Merchants Port Holdings have taken full control of Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited (KFTL), the entity that manages the Port of Kingston under a 30-yearconcession agreement with the Jamaican government.

This was made possible by the international French-led shipping and port management company – CMA CGM selling its interest in KFTL to a subsidiary company, Terminal Link, which was up to that point a joint venture of CMA CGM (51%) and China Merchants (49%).

The effect of the change is that CMA CGM has sold its shares in the 30-year concession agreement for KFTL, meaning that China Merchants now has full control of the entity.

Kingston Freeport was the company used by the Terminal Link-CMG CGM consortium to operate, Kingston Container Terminal under the 30-year deal signed with The Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ in April 2015 to finance, expand, operate and maintain the Port of Kingston.

The overall deal involved more than just the Kingston Freeport, as China Merchant Port Holdings announced recently that the company had completed the initial closing of the proposed acquisition with respect to eight target terminals, including Kingston Freeport, worth US$814.78 million.

On the move, Jamaica’s opposition PNP (People’s National Party) spokesperson on national security, Peter Bunting, said: “The move is a form of economic colonialism by Chinese businesses in Jamaica.

“The Jamaican people are well aware of the long history of fraternal between our two peoples. However, we believe that the concerns that arise from the existing situation could be problematic if they remain unaddressed”.

It follows his appearance in a video, called ‘Chinese Take Over?’, where he made several anti-China statements.

In response, the Chinese Embassy said that it was offended by the “unsubstantiated claim” by Bunting.

The company said that the eight terminals assets include 50 per cent of Odessa Terminal Holding Ltd (Ukraine), 49 per cent of CMA CGM-PSA Lion Terminal Pta Singapore), 100 per cent of Kingston Freeport Terminal Ltd. (Jamaica), 30 per cent of Rotterdam World Gateway (Netherlands), 24 per cent of Qingdao Qianwan United Advance Container Terminal (China), 47.25 per cent of First Logistics Development Company (Vietnam), 14.5 per cent of Laem Chabang International Terminal Co. Ltd. (Thailand) and 100 per cent of CMA CGM Terminal Iraq SAS.

Regarding the change of ownership, of KFTL, authorities there reported that “CMA CGM notified the Jamaican government about the intended transfer before action took place”.

According to the PAJ, the potential transaction was complete and approved, with several similar agreements highlighted as proven successes – with PAJ, KFTL investing over US$250m to dredge the access channel to the harbour, as well as upgrading facilities and equipment.

The investments is set to allow larger vessels carrying up to 14,000 20-foot container units (TEUs) which now transit the expanded Panama Canal, to enter Kingston Harbour and to be processed efficiently at the container terminal.

Previously vessels that were processed at the terminal averaged 3,500 TUEs.

The United States Department of Defence has released three declassified videos of “unexplained aerial phenomena”.

The Pentagon said that it was to “clear up any misconception by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulated was real”.

The video had already been leaked in 2007 and 2017.

Two were published by the New York Times, while the third was leaked by an organisation c0-founded by former Blink-182 singer, Tom DeLonge.

In a statement, the Pentagon said: “After thorough review, the department has determined that the authorised release of the unclassified video does not reveal sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigation of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena.

“The Department of Defence is releasing videos in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is far more to the video.

“The aerial phenomena observed in the video remain characterised as ‘unidentified’.”

 

The Premier of Nevis, Mark Brantley, has announced that he will forgo his whole monthly salary, for the foreseeable future, as a personal stance of solidarity with people of the Caribbean island whose own loss of earnings caused by the severity of coronavirus has impacted on them dramatically, due to the economic fallout.

Premier Brantley recently informed Nevisians of his decision when he said: “I have foregone my monthly salary and benefits in full, and I will continue to do so until this major crisis is over”.

This follows the announcement of the leaders of other island states in the region – and international arena – who are said to have taken anywhere between 30 and 70 per cent pay cuts as the revenues of their individual governments decreases.

As leader of the Nevis administration, Premier Brantley informed that Ministers would also be making their own personal financial sacrifices to aid the financial recovery of the islanders.

“We fully recognise the pain and anxiety of the Nevisians”, he said, “who have lost their jobs - and some, their homes – and the general loss of income has made it difficult for some of us to even ensure that we have food to eat”.