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Of propaganda and hategroups

Columnists - Wed, 08/15/2018 - 02:10

Among the more important imperatives of modern day journalism is exposing the people and agendas devoted to undermining trust in what now operates under the moniker of the “mainstream media.”

The difficulty with this, though, is that systems to unearth untruth and malpractice in the media are, at the same time, absolutely necessary in modern society to ensure that vested political and commercial interests do not prevail at the expense of the public interest.

This is why people are so attracted to the so-called “fake news” phenomenon as worthy of consistent vigilance and as a default when confronted with news and information that does not ring right with the status quo or does not conform with their belief systems.

It is also, at the same time, understandable that people in all their social and political spaces and environments should be concerned that lies and propaganda do not gratuitously enter the sphere of mainstream public communication.

Though all of this is not new, what is different are the newer, infinitely more ubiquitous platforms, the growing sophistication of propaganda campaigns, and a catchy oxymoronic tag.

I have used this space before to help people identify the symptoms of this contrived malady and how we can easily identify its purveyors. In many instances, for instance, the undermining of trust becomes a concerted focus of the most untrustworthy. The signs are relatively easy to pick up and essentially comprise a lack of accountability and transparency alongside clearly identifiable partisan agendas. Think of the last time you saw someone pronounce “fake news” on something and who is offering the assertion.

There is another, equally evident, feature of this: the propagation of expression designed to both defame and to promote hate. In social environments elsewhere, science and measurement are being applied to determine the connection between political and sectional survival and the employment of hate speech. No such compulsion here.

I spent two days in Jamaica last week examining this discrete component of the disinformation agenda. For it will help advance the cause of those concerned about the use of lies and propaganda to understand how promoting hate against individuals and groups feeds into the process of gaining sectional advantage.

It was generally agreed that the entire media industry, in all its facets, focus on actions to ensure that the promotion of hate—expressed as racism, sexism, xenophobia and discrimination against identifiable, vulnerable groups—does not gain traction within the body of mainstream media content, as indeed it sometimes does. It is a sad admission to make as a journalist, I must tell you. But it is the exception rather than the rule.

It is important, we who attended the Public Media Alliance workshop in Kingston last week concluded, that journalists and others operating in the sphere of public communication know how to identify what constitutes hateful content.

This becomes easier if there is, at first, a commitment to treat all groups and individuals with dignity and respect. Now, examine those recent social media posts about the demands of the LGBTQI community to be embraced by the universality of the human rights from which we claim to benefit. Think about the ignorant stereotyping of immigrants and why the disabled are yet to achieve social and economic equity.

There was also acknowledgement of the special status of children. I was quick to add this comes with astute disregard for how children look or behave. In the midst of the violence and mayhem, it has become far too easy to forget that our children require a special level of protection and are, in fact, protected by global convention and national law.

There has also been a tendency to assert cultural specificity on the question of human rights. Yes, we sometimes hear, “there are human rights, BUT what about our small size? What about cultural antecedents?” These are, of course, all entirely false and mistaken assertions. It is amazing that I once had to fight this point with a senior state official in the communication sector.

So, along with “false news” declarations and the hate, comes a declared disregard for human rights. These are all symptoms of a disease that has increasingly become endemic in the body politic. We so frequently point to more developed jurisdictions so afflicted but appear blissfully oblivious to its manifestations among us all.

Categories: News

Tobacco shares increase by $0.50

Business - Wed, 08/15/2018 - 01:55

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 19 securities of which five advanced, six declined and eight traded firm.

Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 131,059 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $3,427,455.99. National Flour Mills Limited was the volume leader with 38,134 shares changing hands for a value of $65,719.75, followed by T&T NGL Limited with a volume of 18,085 shares being traded for $544,539.35. The West Indian Tobacco Company Limited contributed 15,632 shares with a value of $1,383,327.92, while JMMB Group Limited added 13,766 shares valued at $24,752.25.

The West Indian Tobacco Company Limited registered the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.50 to end the day at $88.49. Conversely, Sagicor Financial Corporation Limited registered the day’s largest decline, falling $0.07 to close at $7.50.

Clico Investment Fund was the only active security on the Mutual Fund Market, posting a volume of 31,180 shares valued at $621,718.12. It remained at $19.94.

In Tuesday’s trading session the following reflect the movement of the TTSE Indices:

•The Composite Index advanced by 0.72 points (0.06 per cent) to close at 1,232.73.

•The All T&T Index advanced by 1.11 points (0.06 per cent) to close at 1,713.07.

•The Cross Listed Index advanced by 0.04 points (0.04 per cent) to close at 101.14.

Categories: News

ANSA McAL earns $454m second quarter profit

Business - Wed, 08/15/2018 - 01:53

Noting the recent improvement in the T&T economy, ANSA McAL Group Chairman Norman Sabga said this has bolstered the conglomerate’s strategy of innovation with its new products.

“That strategy is working well. The fact that we are up three per cent locally would indicate to us that things are improving, or that we are getting a larger piece,” he said yesterday as the Group announced its unaudited results for the six months ended June 30, at Tatil Building, Port-of-Spain.

Sabga took the opportunity to announce a series of acquisitions the Group is working on.

“Right now we are doing due diligence for four acquisitions. One in Costa Rica, one in Barbados, two in Trinidad and Tobago, so our pipeline in acquisitions is very rich,” he said.

“Two of the acquisitions will be add-ons to the existing businesses that we have, so we are in a particular business and that acquisition, when it is consummated, will just be added on to this, so it will be the same administration. They are really very tactical acquisitions. Trinidad Aggregate Products (TAP) is one.”

Giving an insight into ANSA McAL’s T&T operations in relation to its overseas businesses, he said: “Overall, the Trinidad and Tobago market is by far our largest market. That is part and parcel of our strategy to invest in other economies going forward.”

The Group’s financial results show that profit before tax increased to $454 million from $432 million and revenues are up five per cent to $3,057 million from $2,899 million.

The earnings of $1.61 per share is an improvement of seven per cent.

In a statement to shareholders which accompanied the second quarter results, Sabga said: “Our strategies of growth, while containing expenses, have proven to be the right approach across the region and at home.”

The ANSA McAL board approved an interim dividend of $0.30 per share which will be paid on November 8.

Categories: News

New $1.2b Point Fortin hospital ready by 2019

News - Wed, 08/15/2018 - 01:42

Although construction of the Point Fortin General Hospital began in 2015, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh says the loan to finance the project was only received from the Bank of Austria two months ago.

Deyalsingh together with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley toured the new hospital which is expected to be completed by May 2019 and operational by September 2019.

Under the Government-to-Government arrangement with the Government of Austria, Deyalsingh said the last administration was supposed annex specific projects.

However, he said the Point Fortin hospital was not listed as a project by the last administration. As a consequence, Deyalsingh said, when the Government came into office in 2015 there was no financing for the project.

He said it took them a year and a half via diplomatic notes before they received the loan from the Bank of Austria.

“It was left to us to regularise that issue and put it on a legal footing in June 2018. I mean these things are lost on the population but they impact on the relationships we have with our overseers partners like the Bank of Austria. It was an unforgivable omission, Deyalsingh said during an interview after the tour.

The minister said the project was initially carded for $1.5 billion, but the Government reduced it to $1.2 billion by cutting Udecott’s consultancy fees.

This was done without touching a square foot of the hospital or taking out one bed, said Deyalsingh, who added: “The project is expected to come in at around TT $940 million so we are well within budget and hopefully all things being equal on time by May 2019.”

He said the project would generate some 800 to 1000 jobs in all disciplines needed run a hospital,including security, administration, bio medical, nurses, interns, house officers, cleaners and consultants.

He expects the hospital to be staffed by a mixture of local and foreign doctors and nurses.

Rowley did not speak with the media, but Deyalsingh said he was pleased with the project’s progress.

Regarding concerns about snakes at the existing Point Fortin health facility, Deyalsingh said it was a serious issue.

South West Regional Health Authority CEO Keith McDonald, who was also on the tour, said Point Fortin mayor Abdon Mason and staff of the hospital sprayed the facility and it would be sprayed again. “

On Saturday I visited the hospital and there was one incident of a snake being there which was outside on the fence, it was captured and brought into (the compound),” he said.

McDonald assured that the situation was under control.

The new hospital at Techier Village is expected to comprise three storeys, 100 beds for inpatients and 16 additional beds for day care and four operating theatres.

Categories: News

Roget challenges PM over meeting request

News - Wed, 08/15/2018 - 01:36

Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) leader Ancel Roget yesterday said the trade union movement was not afraid of the Prime Minister and will not back down from a fight.

Responding to Rowley’s remarks during the PNM’s sports and family day in Chaguanas last Sunday, Roget challenged the PM’s version of events.

Rowley had said Roget refused to meet with him and inferred that Roget earned a $100,000 salary.

“What the country witnessed on Sunday was the ranting of a desperate man,” said Roget.

He said Rowley was trying to change the conversation but the union would remain focused on the problems and issues facing the country.

Roget challenged the Prime Minister to provide evidence about a conversation relating to a request to meet with him.

The Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) leader said the country’s three labour federations had dispatched a letter dated October 11, 2017, to the Prime Minister outlining a number of problems and issues but to date, there had been neither received an acknowledgement or a response to that letter.

He accused the Prime Minister of disrespecting the trade union movement. Although he was an employee of Trinmar, Roget said, as president general of the OWTU he was paid by the OWTU and received much less than $100,000.

He said Rowley’s response was similar to that of Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet when he claimed workers were receiving a salary of $45,000 which was also inaccurate.

He said the trade union movement remained unfazed and its members would be heading to the Prime Minister’s official residence in St Ann’s on August 26 where they would kneel and pray to God to save the country from poor governance.

“We are not afraid of a fight at all,” said Roget.

Roget was speaking at the OWTU’s San Fernando head office before heading to Mayaro to continue the mobilisation drive for their September 7, day of rest and reflection.

Standing in solidarity with Roget were several unions representatives, including those from Communications Workers Union, Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union and Sheep and Goat Farmers Association.

Categories: News

PM: Don’t turn HDC project into a ghetto

News - Wed, 08/15/2018 - 01:30

Seventy-six new homeowners of housing development River Run Through were yesterday advised by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to refrain from using one word in their vocabulary “ghetto.”

Rowley pleaded with the homeowners from uttering such a word, as it would bring no upliftment to their community.

Delivering the features address to the homeowners at a Housing Development Corporation (HDC) keys distribution ceremony in Arima which was attended by Housing Minister Edmund Dillon, Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, Education Minister Anthony Garcia and Government MPs, Rowley said while they were fortunate to be recipients of such beautiful homes, they must adhered to some rules. Rowley turned the sod for the project in July 2016.

Of the 86 two and three-bedroom units, townhouses and duplexes completed by the HDC, 76 homeowners received keys.

The prices of the houses range from $450,000 to $675,000. The houses were built by six small contractors.

In laying out the housing rules and guidelines, Rowley said “no hanging out of the old sneakers, no drying of clothes by your window, no cussing your neighbour, no overall lawlessness and no use of the word ghetto.”

Rowley’s statements prompted loud applause from the homeowners.

He urged parents to discourage their children from using the “ghetto” word as it creates a kind of mindset among young people.

He said it would be a miraculous achievement on their family and community’s part if they convert this development “into anything resembling a ghetto. This is a place where homes are made and families are nurtured and where a country is built.”

The PM said the vast majority of people are looking towards the HDC and private sector to own a home.

“Unfortunately, some of them think they will get a home and get it for free because the Government is giving out houses. Most of them don’t understand it is something that you have to pay for either by mortgage or rent. Some of them believe as long as you vote for the Government, you are entitled to a home because you voted for the PNM. That is a good thing to do, but it is a bad idea,” stating that the Government would not be in a position to provide a house to everyone.

Rowley also suggested that the name of the housing project be changed to Mountain View or River Park “because there is so much more to this place than just a river running through it” and easier to remember.

HDC managing director Brent Lyons said they would strongly consider the PM’s suggestion.

Categories: News

ODPM: Close to 80 areas affected

News - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 22:28

CEO of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) Neville Wint has listed between “70 to 80 areas” in Trinidad affected by Monday’s heavy showers.

He said of the 14 corporations eight were affected.

“Today they are doing mop-up operations, doing damage assessment and providing whatever relief. The corporations sent out their teams to the areas impacted. They have been going from house-to-house and street-to-street,” Wint said yesterday, as he gave an update of the damages done by the rainfall.

He identified Port-of-Spain, Tunapuna/Piarco, San Juan/Laventille, Diego Martin, Couva /Tabaquite/ Talparo, Penal Debe, Chaguanas and Princes Town as the corporations affected.

As the rain persisted yesterday, Wint said the Met office had not lifted the severe weather bulletin. Several areas along the East/West corridor were again affected by rising floods. And there were reports of landslides and fallen trees along the Lady Young Road. The Diego Martin River also overflowed its banks yesterday.

While it was predicted that T&T would be affected by bad weather, Wint said the severity of the impact they could not tell.

In some corporations, he said flood waters ran off quickly.

“The homes that were flooded were provided with relief items such as blankets and hampers.”

Wint admitted that the ODPM and corporations have received a number of calls from flood victims which they responded to. Having tracked the calls, Wint said between 70 to 80 areas in the country had been affected.

The majority of the calls, he said, came out of the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Corporation.

“If we tally the areas that have been reported Couva has the most reports as of this time. But as we complete the response and recovery we would then be able to say which corporation has been severely impacted.”

Wint said there was one home in Belmont that was flooded to the point “that a Port-of-Spain shelter had to be opened last night for three people.”

Wint said clean-up operations were impeded as WASA had to discontinue its supply in some areas.

“But the corporations were using truck-borne water to assist burgesses.”

He said families who lost appliances and furniture would be assessed by the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services.

Categories: News

No bail for man charged with stealing SUV outside stati

News - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 22:27

One man was granted bail and the other remanded into custody after they appeared in court on charges related to the armed robbery of CNC3 television anchor Khamal Georges last week.

Gamal Waldron, of Layan Hill, Belmont, and Thion Clurvis, of St James, appeared before Magistrate Nizam Khan in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates Court yesterday on separate criminal charges.

Waldron was charged with stealing Georges’ vehicle from outside the Besson Street Police Station after it was recovered following an armed robbery last week, while Clurvis was charged with being in possession of Georges’ stolen cellphone. Neither was charged for the armed robbery.

Khan was initially considering granting bail to Waldron, a sanitation worker at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital, but changed his mind after he inspected the prisoner’s criminal record.

The records showed that Waldron had served three prison sentences for breaching a bond to keep the peace, larceny and house-breaking.

Waldron’s lawyer Shane Pantin asked Khan to ignore the convictions as the most recent was over 10 years ago. He also said that his client, a father of two, competes and performs with the BP Renegades Steel Orchestra.

However, Khan said he still needed to consider the convictions as they still formed part of his criminal record and are similar to the offence for which he is now charged.

“The purpose of bail is not to punish the defendant but is a conditional release. Bail also deals with re-offending and I have to consider what is going on in the country,” Khan said.

He advised Pantin that he may apply to a judge in chambers to vary his bail order.

During the hearing, Khan did not ask Waldron to plead to the charge as police prosecutors were unable to say whether the case should be prosecuted indictably (before a High Court judge and jury) or summarily before him (Khan).

Prosecutors are expected to give the indication when Waldron re-appears on September 11.

Clurvis’ court appearance took place hours before Waldron’s. Clurvis pleaded not guilty to the charge during his brief hearing as prosecutors elected to have it determined summarily.

He was released on $40,000 bail and was ordered to reappear in court on September 27.

Georges’ Kia Sportage was first stolen as he was ambushed by two gunmen when he returned to his home after attending the opening Caribbean Premier League game last Wednesday. After robbing him of his cellphone, wallet and car, Georges reportedly asked the bandits for his identification cards and apartment key which was in the car.

The men threatened by pointing a gun at Georges before driving away.

The vehicle was eventually recovered by police at the Bath Street Plannings in Port-of-Spain the following morning. The vehicle was impounded at the Besson Street Police Station and officers requested that Georges supply the certified copy of the vehicle before releasing it.

Several hours later, police officers at the station noticed that the vehicle was missing.

It was eventually recovered at Roget Place, St Barb’s Road, Belmont, the following morning. It has since been returned to Georges.

The incident prompted acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams to apologise to Georges for the incident.

An internal investigation has also been launched into the theft at the station, which is also located a stone’s throw away from specialist police units housed at Riverside Plaza.

Waldron was arrested and charged by officers of the Port-of-Spain CID led by Senior Supt Ajith Persad and ASP Anderson Pariman.

Clurvis was arrested and charged by detectives of the Western Division.

Categories: News

Beetham flood bath for Hinds, councillor

News - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 22:20

Acting Attorney General and Member of Parliament for Laventille West Fitzgerald Hinds was given an unceremonious bath with flood water yesterday by constituents in Beetham Gardens and chased from the area.

But in an almost immediate response, at least one MP and other social media users who viewed footage on a CNC3 news report and other photos on social media condemned the attack and expressed outrage by the disrespect shown to the government minister.

MP for Moruga/Tableland Lovell Francis stated: “So your MP comes to visit you in a time of crisis and a UNC activists encourages you to disrespect him in the most vile of ways. And all of your problems are solved. Mission accomplished.”

Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Avinash Singh described the attack as “very unfortunate.”

The PNM’s D’Abadie/Omeara group commenting on the incident said: “Our Members of Parliament work day and night to ensure representation of the highest order for constituents.

We’ve seen the tireless work by our Member of Parliament here in D’abadie/O’Meara.

As such we wish to condemn the disrespectful behaviour of some residents of Beetham Gardens to their MP Fitzgerald Hinds of Laventille West. We take great observation of such behaviour of those wearing yellow t-shirts who choose to accept this behaviour. We must be ever mindful of those we allow to influence our actions as a people.

One of the attackers, had a what appeared to be bottle of beer, in his hands as they taunted and splashed flood water on Hinds.

Hinds and local government councillor for the area, Akil Audian, had gone to the area to see the effect of the steady rain and flooding when residents became irate and complained about the lack of representation by the two representatives.

Over 40 homes in the area where affected, residents said.

Residents say this is the third time for the year they were affected by floods and blamed a recently constructed cylinder on the nearby Beetham highway for causing their woes.

During an interview with Guardian Media, Hinds and the councillor were drenched with a bucket of flood water.

Hinds told the residents that there will be consequences for their actions.

“I am not allowing this to happen.

I came to the community to help those affected,” he said.

His words did not deter the residents, who threw buckets of water at him. Hinds and Audian ran to safety.

Speaking afterwards, Beetham resident Anderson Wilson said the residents were unhappy with the type of representation by the Government.

“We are upset over the way things are happening, this is the third time for the year, we are faced with floods,” he said.

Wilson justified the actions by the residents saying it was their way of expressing how they feel.

In a telephone interview, Audian said after the incident people who were affected by the floods were not the culprits.

He said it was sad to see that level of behaviour by the residents.

Categories: News

President receives nation’s highest award

News - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 22:15

President Paula-Mae Weekes was yesterday conferred with the nation’s highest award —the Order of the Republic of T&T (ORTT).

Weekes received the award from Chief Justice Ivor Archie during a ceremony at President’s House in St Ann’s.

Weekes spoke briefly at the event to thank media personnel who attended.

The invitation for the event was only sent by Weekes’ office yesterday morning and only journalists from the country’s three daily newspapers were invited.

Archie, who chairs the National Awards Committee, said the award is given to all sitting presidents as they serve as Chancellor of the Order of Trinity.

National awards have been awarded since 1969, with the Trinity Cross being the highest award. The award was the subject of criticism from religious leaders, who questioned why a “Christian award” was being given in a secular state in which freedom of religious beliefs is protected under the Constitution.

In 1995, then head of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) Pundit Krishna Maharaj refused to accept the award because he felt the award did not reflect T&T’s multi-religious society.

Almost a decade later, SDMS secretary general Satnarayn Maharaj and Islamic Relief Centre head Inshan Ishmael challenged the constitutionality of the award.

High Court Judge Peter Jamadar, who has since been elevated to the Court of Appeal, ruled that the award was discriminatory but refused to strike it down as he said such a decision lies with Parliament.

The judgment led then prime minister Patrick Manning to appoint a committee to review the award. In 2008, the award was replaced with the ORTT. The award can only be given to a maximum of five people annually.

Since being launched, the award has been handed out 21 times.

Previous awardees are Professor Brian Copeland, Bertram “Bertie” Marshall, Anthony Williams, Jizelle Salandy (posthumous), Karl Hudson-Phillip, QC, Krishna Maharaj (posthumous), Dr Wahid Ali (posthumous), Kamaluddin Mohammed (posthumous), Ulric Cross, Zalayhar Hassanali, Helen Bhagwansingh, Anthony Norman Sabga, Keshorn Walcott, George Chambers, Adrian Cola Rienzi, Anthony Carmona, Makanda Daaga, Chief Justice Ivor Archie, Professor Ramesh Deosaran, Winston Dookeran and Errol McLeod.

The award was not given in 2016 and last year. This year’s recipients, if any, will be announced shortly before the award ceremony on Republic Day (September 24).

Last year was the first year that the ceremony was shifted from its traditional home on Independence Day.

Categories: News

PM: People like Harry, the worst T&T has to offer

News - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 22:12

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday fired back at suspended People’s National Movement (PNM) member Harry Ragoonanan describing him as the worst this country has to offer.

Rowley’s comments came one day after Ragoonanan, who has been called upon by the party’s disciplinary committee to answer charges tomorrow involving alleged corrupt practices and behaviour with respect to procurement of buses at Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC), stated that the PNM was on a witch hunt to bring down his good name.

On Monday, acting Attorney General Fitzgerald Hinds, at a press conference, said the PNM had received information and a complaint from a citizen “about the most untoward conversation that was electronically recorded between Ragoonanan and a PTSC bus supplier.”

Hinds said they found the contents of the July 1, 2016, recorded conversation to be “sufficiently troubling” and if the matter “yields information that should gain the attention of other agencies in T&T, it most certainly will.”

Speaking at a Housing Development Corporation key distribution ceremony in Arima yesterday, Rowley said people like Ragoonanan, UNC activist Devant Maharaj and attorney Nyree Alfonso—who on Sunday held a joint press conference to discuss the procurement of two new Coast Guard vessel from Austal—were “boldfaced” and like birds of a feather who flock together.

“We in the PNM take great umbrage at Harry Ragoonanan getting himself into that situation, representing the worst of what this country has to offer and then will go and sit down with Devant Maharaj, who has made a name for himself already, and Nyree Alfonso, who has found herself in the embarrassing position of being cross-examined before a committee (JSC) of Parliament.”

The PM said Ragoonanan had not been brought before the party’s disciplinary committee on Port Authority of T&T matters.

He said this Government was bent on bringing the change required “and those persons like Harry Ragoonanan must not be allowed to mislead the public.”

He said the PNM is a well-run organisation managed by a Constitution and if a member disgraces the party they will face an investigation committee, as this applies to him as well.

Rowley said Ragoonanan was investigated and his matter was found to have substance.

In response, Ragoonanan, in a telephone interview, said he was not surprised by Rowley’s attack.

“I expected this from the Prime Minister. I would not go down in the gutter with him. I remain a PNM.”

Ragoonanan said he has been verbally invited to appear before the committee and if he does not get a written invitation before Thursday he would not attend.

He claimed that the PNM was trying to bring his name into disrepute because of what he has been revealing about the seabridge fiasco.

Categories: News

Nothing offensive about it —Hinds

News - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 22:11

Laventille West MP Fitzgerald Hinds says there is nothing offensive about a presentation at last Sunday’s PNM’s Sports and Family Day which portrayed a woman wearing yellow sari being stripped of the East Indian wear.

Hinds was unapologetic to the members of the Hindu community who felt offended by the portrayal, saying that it simply depicted the woman “turning PNM.”

Speaking by telephone on CNC3’s The Morning Brew yesterday, Hinds accused some of those who have voiced their discontent of the presentation, including a pundit, of trying to politicise the skit put on by one constituency.

“We consider what was done here to be absolutely non-offensive. As far as I see, the lady was dressed in yellow and that yellow was taken off and she turned red. In other words, she turned PNM and that how I saw it, so I am quite shocked.”

He continued, “We find nothing absolutely offensive about it and this political spin, trying to create disharmony in the country and turn the balance that is so well maintained for the years of our independence, we need to tell a pundit like that, stop creating problems where none exist, conduct your affairs in a dignified manner. If you want to do anything, he should spend more time teaching us about the Mahabharat.”

Hinds said that he was quite surprised at the reaction to the presentation, saying that it was a wonderful example of “exaggeration and hyperbole.” He likened the presentation to street theatre that occurred during Carnival. Supporting his claim that the presentation was not aimed at offending the Hindu community, he said the general secretary of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Satnaryan Maharaj did not see it as offensive.

Categories: News

Rowley: People trying to stir up racial hatred

News - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 22:09

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday accused certain individuals of trying to stir up racial hatred in the country over a People’s National Movement (PNM) skit.

His comments came hours after several groups and individuals condemned the skit and demanded that Rowley apologise.

The UNC Women’s Arm said the skit depicted the sexual assault against a woman dressed in a yellow sari by two individuals dressed as red gorillas at the PNM’s family day on Sunday.

The Hindu Students’ Council of T&T also expressed displeasure and disappointment at the skit, while UNC activist Devant Maharaj wrote the Equal Opportunities Commission to investigate the matter, stating that such expressions of hate and ridicule should not be accepted.

At a key distribution ceremony in Arima yesterday, Rowley when told by the media that the skit had offended some religious groups which were calling on him to apologise, the PM said “there are people in this country who would not pass up any opportunity to try and see if they could create racial or religious strife because that serves their political purpose.”

Rowley said the People’s National Movement would “disregard such foolishness and we would not take any responsibility for persons who are trying to create discord.”

Rowley said there was a skit in the PNM’s march past, stating that “if persons who would go into the depths of the Ramayan to try to link that to something. I want to say to all those persons when they speak about the PNM and the PNM’s action which is insulting to Indians, just remember half of the PNM Government is Indian.”

He said if those Indians are insulting the Indian population, “please have a conversation with them.”

Rowley said the PNM was a national political party that represents every creed and race.

“That story is the best they can do because they were shocked at the PNM’s family day which was a resounding success and the best they could do is to find that foolishness to come and try and stir up racial hatred in the country because that is what they live by,” Rowley said.

Oposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, in a statement, said the “‘skit’ depicted an unwarranted and dangerous propagation of the negative, vile and offensive stereotyping that Afro-Trinidadian males have had to endure since the days of slavery and colonialism against their appearance.

She said the “wanton attack on the religion of a significant portion of the population; the propagation of negative stereotypes essentially against Afro-Trinidadian males and the depiction and endorsement of the criminal act of assault against women constitute a deliberate abuse and misuse of the constitutional guarantee of equality, fairness and justice afforded to all citizens all at the hands of the Prime Minister of this country.

“This is a frightening state of affairs, moreso in a country overridden with crime and criminality; it essentially amounts to an abdication of duty of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago that Rowley swore to uphold. He has effectively sown the seeds of division and tension in a country already battered by his incompetent, punitive regime and his complete lack of any plan and proper policy to govern any aspect of this country,” the statement said.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Pundit Satyanand Maharaj, the spiritual head of the Satya Anand Ashram, called on women dressed in yellow saris to show up at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair tomorrow to demand an apology from Rowley and his Government.

The Hindu Women’s Organisation says the skit discredited the work done by various groups to enhance the treatment of women in T&T.

In a media release yesterday, the organisation condemned the enactment of the skit that they said portrayed the forceful undressing of a woman in a yellow sari by two men in red-toned gorilla suits.

According to secretary Keir Roopnarine, the yellow symbolised the colour of the UNC while the red represented the PNM.

Categories: News

South, Central Trinidad hit by floods

News - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 18:33

Disaster management teams plodded through flood-stricken areas Tuesday distributing tarpaulins and foodstuff for dozens of families hard hit by floods in South and Central Trinidad. 

While the waters receded in some parts of Claxton Bay, Gasparillo and Gran Couva, high tides coupled with heavy rainfall caused rising flood waters in the low-lying areas of the Oropouche Lagoon.

Along the M2 Ring Road in Debe, motorists had to park on higher ground while floods rose near the Namdevco market. 

The Debe High School was flooded out and electronic items and books from the administrative office and the Information Technology room were washed away.

Paragon Recreation ground was flooded. 

At Chester Street, Debe, residents complained that backfilling works by a resident had caused extensive flooding inside their homes. MP for Oropouche East Dr Roodal Moonilal who toured the flooded areas said it could have been avoided if the Ministry of Works had completed dredging works at the seven watercourses which drain the Oropoucvhe Lagoon.

"This flooding occurred because they failed to clean and clear the water courses around the Roundabout. Slush has built up over the years. We have not had work done for three years and the school lost valuable equipment, books, electronic equipment and furniture all washed away. If basic work had been done here this would not happen," Moonilal said.

A team led by Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein toured parts of Central Trinidad yesterday after reports of landslides and a collapsed house was reported by the media.

Hosein said, "I have been liaising with the chairman of the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation Henry Awong and based on reports there have been extensive damages."

Saying the flood damage was comparable to what was experienced last year, Hosein said many residents have been reporting that clogged watercourses had contributed to the problem.

"I know the Ministry of Works has done a lot of work but there is heavy rainfall and no matter how much you clean the rivers, there will be floods," Hosein said. He added that the Regional Corporations have been clearing minor watercourses.

Meanwhile, Minister of Works Rohan Sinanan and his team went to the Gran Couva Main Road where heavy rains had caused part of the road to cave. Delivery trucks were unable to enter several communities.

Chairman of the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation Henry Awong says vehicles heavier than three tonnes were banned from entering the area. "Teams from the Ministry of Works are on the site assessing the damages. The road has caved in so badly that the WASA line is exposed so if heavy vehicles continue to traverse there, the main water line will break," Awong said. 

He noted that flooded communities in Mamoral and Caparo are continuing cleanup exercises but even as this was continuing, rains continued well after midday on Tuesday.

"We were fortunate that the tides were low and the water was able to run off in some areas on Monday but we are now bracing for more floods," Awong said.

Councillor for Caparo / Mamoral John Lezama said at Sharp Street and Carr Street in Caparo, dozens of residents were marooned in their homes. 

Others who were stranded in the floods were unable to get back into their houses until 2 am on Tuesday. There were also reports of flooding at Union Hall, San Fernando, Tarouba, Golconda, Farm Road, Valencia and parts of  Morvant.

There were also minor landslides along Lady Young Road.

Categories: News

Gran Couva Main Road caves in

News - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 16:13

Heavy overnight rains have caused the Gran Couva Main Road to cave preventing delivery trucks from entering several communities.

Chairman of the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation Henry Awong says vehicles heavier than three tonnes are now banned from entering the area. Teams from the Ministry of Works are on the site assessing the damages.

"The road has caved in so badly that the WASA line is exposed so if heavy vehicles continue to traverse there, the main water line will break," Awong said. He noted that flooded communities in Mamoral and

Caparo are continuing cleanup exercises but even as this was continuing, rains continued well after midday on Tuesday.

"We were fortunate that the tides were low and the water was able to run off in some areas on Monday but we are now bracing for more floods," Awong said.

Councillor for Caparo / Mamoral John Lezama said at Sharp Street and Carr Street in Caparo residents were marooned in their homes following floods on Monday.

Others who were stranded in the floods were unable to get back into their houses until 2 am on Tuesday.

Reports coming into the Guardian also revealed that heavy rains had caused damages to some homes in Caparo.

​​​​​​​There were also reports of flooding at Union Hall, San Fernando, Tarouba, and Golconda. More information will be revealed as the story develops.

Categories: News

Sir Vidia—who he was, who he became

Columnists - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 07:18

In a letter to his father, a 19-year-old “Vido” Naipaul, as a lowly student at Oxford University, (in)famously wrote: “I want to come top of my group. I have to show these people that I can beat them at their own language.”

It’s a familiar quote; the ambition he articulated carried with it an undeniable arrogance, a trait that would come to define the man and his reputation throughout his literary career. There’s another quote about Sir Vidia from the Jamaican reggae poet Linton Kwesi Johnson contained in The World Is What It Is: The Authorised Biography of VS Naipaul by Patrick French, who describes him as “…a living example of how art transcends the artist ‘cos he talks a load of s*** but still writes excellent books.”

VS Naipaul passed away last Saturday at the age of 85, less than a week before his birthday. He leaves behind a body of work that is regarded the world over as masterful, both in its narrative style as well as in its insight on the post-colonial struggle for identity. But apart from being a creative genius, he was—to appropriate the title of one of his books—an enigma. Those who knew him, be it on a social or professional level, commented that it was difficult to discern where the artist ended and the man began…and vice versa. In the sporadic interviews he gave, there was a caustic undertone that permeated his carefully chosen and enunciated words. Perhaps it was how Naipaul hardly seemed to care if he offended anyone or how he refused to play the archetypical role as the proud, patriotic son of the soil.

Regarding his relationship with Trinidad, the land of his birth, it was clear that he not only physically left here all those decades ago, but, in emigrating, underwent a mental and emotional separation as well. On learning that he was selected to be a Nobel Laureate, he put out a statement that nonchalantly praised “…both England, my home, and India, the home of my ancestors.” Hard luck there Trinidad. The country probably responded with a unanimous and synchronised sucking of teeth.

Displeasures aside, the enigma of (his) departure remains, with some Trinbagonians continuing to ponder whether his contempt was real or that he was simply misunderstood. In an interview with UWI vice chancellor Bhoe Tewarie, during a somewhat hostile visit in 2007, Naipaul bemoaned that “…there hasn’t been any recognition or awareness” of him. Is he right? He did receive the Trinity Cross in 1989. But maybe what he was referring to a genuine appreciation for him beyond the whimsical ownership we adopt when one of our own excels on an international scale.

However, it was that ambition to excel in writing that took Naipaul to England. When speaking at the 1990 Wriston Lecture for the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, he stated that “ …as someone with a writing vocation there was nowhere else for me to go…and [England] also gave the means to fulfil that prompting.” The irony is that his much-lauded works are not about his adopted home, but are inspired by the one he left behind. Miguel Street, The Mystic Masseur, Guerrillas, and A House for Mr Biswas—these critically acclaimed are about his life in and the history of Trinidad. It would be irreverent to make any pronouncements on Naipaul’s psychology. But maybe, just maybe, is writings, satirical as they are, were a form of catharsis. Always feeling like an outsider, it was his way of coming to terms with the experiences of growing up in an overbearing family, of living on a complicated island, and the feelings of alienation when he first moved abroad. His writings were a journey of self-discovery, and he decided to take us along for the trip.

At his speech at the 2001 Nobel Awards Banquet, a weathered but still vibrant VS Naipaul spoke of his watch, informing the audience that the strap had broken while traveling to Stockholm. Until that night he could find “…no words to make the bad symbolism good.” He said that time for him has to stop. And indeed it did last Saturday. The opportunity for a reconciliation between him and the land of his birth never materialised. If we are to honour him, we have to remember that behind the genius was a man—a man who said questionable things but was nonetheless a maestro of the written word. He may not have overtly accepted who he was, but we can accept who he became—Sir Vidia Naipaul, Trinidadian-born British writer and novelist, Nobel Laureate.

Ryan Hadeed

Categories: News

Old age health

Columnists - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 07:16

I’ve been talking to an acquaintance I met through these columns, someone a bit older than myself (I do that a lot these days) about the benefits of healthy living.

We both agreed that exercise may be the best protection that we have against aging and premature death. As he said, “three or four days a week of some hill work, from the flat up the hill with a moderate incline, about a total of one hour, is better than anything else.” It is also less stress. A day or so to rest afterwards and repeat.

Cutting out the heavy carbs and sugars and eating a moderate 1500 calories each day with huge veggies also helps.

Exercise and diet. Well there’s nothing very original about that, is there? Could there be other factors? Has anyone looked at this scientifically? Turns out that someone has, and just in April published their findings.

The people at the Harvard School of Public Health looked at data from 78,865 women who they had followed up for 34 years, and 27 years of data from 44,354 men who had been participating in two long-term projects. Imagine following up over 100,000 people for 30 years! A monster of a study.

They examined how five simple lifestyle factors impacted on the health of these women and men: regular exercise, defined as at least 30 minutes or more per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity; a healthy diet; not smoking; normal body weight and very importantly for us, moderate alcohol intake, defined as up to five ounces (a glass) of wine or beer per day for women, or up to two glasses for men.

The results were both expected and unexpected. Simply put, maintaining these five healthy habits during adulthood would add more than ten years to a person’s life. Well they did expect an increase in life span but so much?

It’s also interesting, because most of the increase in human life span has been due to the massive improvements in children’s health that took place in the last 50 years. Now it appears there is something that adults can do to help themselves.

Interestingly, these same five habits help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s.

For study participants who didn’t adopt any of the five lowrisk lifestyle factors, life expectancy at age 50 was 29 years more for women and 25 years for men. For those who adopted all five low-risk factors, life expectancy at age 50 was projected to be 43 years more for women and 37 years for men. Women who maintained all five healthy habits gained, on average, 14 years of life, and men who did so, gained 12 years.

My uncle Carl and I used to joke that every Sunday we spent at Maracas surfing (this was in the days before the Ministry of Tourism decided that concrete at a beach was more important than coconut trees and destroyed the beach), was worth an extra five minutes of life so perhaps there was some truth in that. Problem would have been the alcohol. Two glasses of wine is not much but then again that’s drinking every day.

The decrease in mortality and therefore longevity was mainly due to the effect on heart disease and cancer. Women and men who maintained the healthiest lifestyles were 82 per cent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65 per cent less likely to die from cancer. Furthermore there was a dose-response relationship between each individual healthy lifestyle behaviour and a reduced risk of early death, ie, the more you practiced each lifestyle, the longer you lived. The combination of all five healthy behaviours was linked with the most additional years of life.

The study raises a couple of concerns. It does not assess quality of life. Why live longer if you live miserably? Two, most of the people studied were white professionals, nurses, businessmen and the like. Is it applicable for us?

Categories: News

Reifer, Hope sink Amazon Warriors

Sports - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 06:58

GEORGETOWN, Guyana—Man-of-the-Match Raymon Reifer produced the third best figures in Caribbean Premier League history as Barbados Tridents opened their campaign on an emphatic note with a 30-run victory over Guyana Amazon Warriors here Sunday night.

The West Indies left-arm seamer picked up five for 20 from four overs as the hosts, asked to chase a venue record 186 at the Guyana National Stadium never came to grips with the tall order and subsided to 155 for eight from their allotted 20 overs.

Sherfane Rutherford resisted with 48 and captain Shoaib Malik got 38 to get Amazon Warriors up to 124 for three in the 16th over but they lost five wickets for 30 runs, courtesy of Reifer’s magic.

Test star Shai Hope had earlier sizzled with a breathtaking 88 off 45 deliveries as Tridents, sent in, raced to a record 185 for four off their 20 overs.

T&T left-hander Nicholas Pooran came late to smash an unbeaten 45 from 27 balls while Australian superstar Steve Smith chipped in with 41.

There was no sign of what was to come when Tridents lost two early wickets to slip to 11 for two in the second over.

New Zealander Martin Guptill fell to Rayad Emrit’s one-handed stunner at mid-off without scoring off the third ball of the match from left-arm pacer Sohail Tanvir, and Dwayne Smith drilled off-spinner Chris Green into extra cover’s lap in the following over for six.

But Hope and Steve Smith combined in a classy exhibition of stroke-play to add 105 for the third wicket and lay the platform for the assault to come.

The right-handed Hope, known more for his exploits in the Test and one-day formats, struck half-dozen fours and sixes in only 10th Twenty20 while Steve Smith faced 37 balls and gathered six fours.

Hope raced into the 40s with back-to-back sixes off leg-spinner Imran Tahir in the 11th over before reaching his half-century in the following over off 30 balls.

He plundered 20 from Sohail Tanvir’s third over – the 13th of the innings – and though he lost Steve Smith in the next over, lbw to Tahir, he continued to take apart the hosts bowling until he picked out Hetmyer in the deep off seamer Keemo Paul in the 18th over with three figures beckoning.

His dismissal saw no ease of worry for Amazon Warriors as Pooran blasted two fours and three sixes to get Tridents up to their eventual total.

Captain Jason Holder then got the early breakthrough when he brought one back to trap Chadwick Walton lbw for six in the second over with the score on 10.

The left-handed Hetmyer, who struck a couple of fours and sixes in a nine-ball cameo, counter-attacked in a 30-run second wicket partnership with opener Luke Ronchi (10).

However, Reifer intervened, removing both in successive deliveries in the fifth over. Ronchi holed out to mid-wicket and Hetmyer ill-advisedly tried to clear the ropes at long on and picked out Guptill in the deep.

Tridents had their momentum stalled as Rutherford and Shoaib put on 84 for the fourth wicket, a stand which kept Amazon Warriors still just in the contest.

Rutherford faced 46 balls and counted four fours and two sixes while Shoaib was good for a brace of fours and sixes in his 30-ball knock.

Off-spinner Ashley Nurse made the key strike, forcing Shoaib to play on in the 16th over and with the required run rate having climbed to over 14 per over, Amazon Warriors buckled under the pressure. (CMC)


TRIDENTS 185 for four off 20 overs (Shai Hope 88, Nicholas Pooran 45 not out, Steve Smith 41)

AMAZON WARRIORS 155 for eight off 20 overs (Sherfane Rutherford 48, Shoaib Malik 38, Shimron Hetmyer 22; Raymon Reifer 5-20)

Categories: News

Use sport as a tool for social change

Sports - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 06:56

The T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) and Commonwealth Games Association of T&T (CGATT) on the occasion of International Youth Day (IYD) called on the T&T Olympic and Commonwealth sport movement to take urgent measures and actions to ensure that sport with in the twin-island Republic is a safe space for children, youth and young people at all levels.

Celebrated on August 12 annually, IYD seems to fly under the radar. Yet everyone is quick to make utterances about the importance of youth and young people to the future of the world and in our case T&T.

But like everything else, some things get appropriate attention while others don’t.

IYD was designated by the United Nations in 1999 with the adoption of Resolution 54/120 and is aimed at drawing attention to youth issues worldwide.

The theme for this year’s IYD is “Safe Spaces For Youth”.

Generally, sport has a unique power in promoting cultural awareness and harmony between people of a different upbringing. On the occasion of IYD, the TTOC is encouraging everyone to think about how sport could positively address the societal challenges and turmoil engulfing T&T.

Sports could become a very important and powerful tool for enabling and preparing children, youth and young adults in becoming successful leaders in the vanguard of the future development of this country.

“Sport speaks to youth in a language they understand. It is more powerful than Governments in breaking down racial barriers.”- Nelson Mandela.

Sport can break down barriers but in many cases, the perception is that sport builds barriers rather than break them down. The reason this is so if you do a formal or informal survey, the fingers will point to sports administrators.

Trying to defend sports administrators these days certainly will not win you any friends.

Sports organisations can and must do a much better job, changing the perception that we are a bunch of out of our depth/out of touch bumbling idiots, is not going to be an easy task if we continue making front-page headlines for all the wrong reasons under the sun.

Sport is one of T&T’s prized assets. It’s a crying shame that the good work of many is undone by a few. If we are to create sport as safe spaces for the youth of the nation, sports organisations and sports administrators can’t continue to be the turmoil.

• Editor’s note: Brian Lewis is the President of the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) and the views expressed by him are not necessarily those of the organisation.

Categories: News

W Connection, Club Sando join leaders

Sports - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 06:43

W Connection and Club Sando joined Central FC and Defence Force in a four-way tie at the top of the 2018 T&T Pro League table at the end of round one after contrasting wins at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on Sunday evening.

In the opening match of the double-header, national midfielder Jomal Williams marked his return to W Connection with a goal in his team’s 3-0 victory over new-look St Ann’s Rangers.

The ‘Savonetta Boys’ opened the scoring in the 18th minute when Marcus Joseph brilliantly controlled a pass on his chest a from Adan Noel and with defender Fedric Commissiong in close proximity lifted a shot into the roof of the net beating 17-year-old goalkeeper Josiah Perez for placement and to separate the teams at the half-time break.

Despite their dominance over the youthful Rangers line-up which featured eight Pro League debutants, W connection’s display was marred by a basket of missed chances, highlighted by no less than a dozen stops from Perez, inclusive of a double-save in the second-half to deny Joseph and a rebound effort from Daniel Diaz.

Against the run of play, Rangers then had a chance to grab an equalizer in the 78th minute through Miguel Williams after being put through by Taje Commissiong on a break, however, he skied his attempt from inside the box, over the bar.
It was not until late that substitutes Kennedy Hinkson and Williams added two quick-fire goals to earn W Connection a respectable 3-0 score.
The speedy Hinkson smashed a Kurt Frederick cross off the underside of the bar to double W Connection’s lead to 2-0 in the 90th minute before Williams completed a move involving Kierron Mason and Kadeem Corbin with a curling strike past a hapless Perez in stoppage time.

Speaking after the match, Williams said, “It’s great to be back after such a long time and hitting the back of the net on my return,”

Williams, 24, who says there is the possibility of returning to South America by year’s end, said his playing experiences in Mexico (Murcielagos) and Azerbaijan (Zira PFK) was “very good” and that “the level of play was very high in both leagues”.

Club Sando also joined winners’ row by completing Match Day One with a 2-1 win over Police FC in the second match of the double-header.

The Lawmen were denied twice in the first-half by brilliant stops from Club Sando goalkeeper Kelvin Henry, possibly spurred on by Perez’s performance in the earlier contest.

Police were then lucky not to concede in the 44th minute when a Keron Cornwall free-kick cannoned off the upright.

However, Tyrone Charles then fired Club Sando ahead in stoppage-time of the first-half by turning debutant Shackiel Henry’s cross past goalkeeper Adrian Foncette before a Kevon Piper effort ricocheted off Kurdell Brathwaite to cushion Angus Eve’s men on the hour mark, with referee Rashby Mc Phie awarding the own goal to the Police defender.

Kareem Freitas pulled back a goal for Police with a thump nine minutes from time, but it wasn’t enough to stage a late comeback.

W Connection returns to action on Wednesday against Police from 8 pm at Couva, while Rangers face another tough challenge against Defence Force from 7 pm on the same day at Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo.


On Sunday
W Connection 3 (Marcus Joseph 18th, Kennedy Hinkson 90th, Jomal Williams 90’+2) vs St Ann’s Rangers 0
Club Sando 2 (Tyrone Charles 45’+2, Kurdell Brathwaite Own Goal 59th) vs Police FC 1 (Kareem Freitas 81st)
On Saturday
Central FC 2 (Akim Armstrong 2’, 35’) vs North East Stars 0
On Friday
San Juan Jabloteh 0 vs Point Fortin Civic 0
Defence Force FC 4 (Devorn Jorsling 38’, Jomokie Cassimy Own Goal 58’, Brent Sam 66’, Hashim Arcia 73’) vs Morvant Caledonia United 3 (Quincy Ballah 31’, Renaldo Francois 40’, Sheldon Holder 70’)


North East Stars vs San Juan Jabloteh, Larry Gomes Stadium, Malabar, Arima 4 pm
Pt Fortin Civic vs Morvant Caledonia United, Mahaica Oval, Pt Fortin, 7 pm
Club Sando vs Central FC, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, 6 pm
W Connection vs Police FC, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, 8 pm;
Defence Force FC vs St Ann’s Rangers, Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, 8 pm

Categories: News


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