baldwin_spencer.jpgANTIGUA & BARBUDA

Copyright Haven
LONDON – Antigua & Barbuda President Baldwin Spencer is threatening to strip intellectual property protections from American goods as part of a long-running trade dispute over the U.S. embargo on the tiny Caribbean nation’s online gambling industry.

U.S. officials say the proposed copyright haven,  whose broad outlines were approved recently at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, amounts to “government-authorized piracy.” But Antiguans, who’ve won a series of legal victories against the U.S. at the international trade body, reject any suggestion that they’re pirates.

“We have followed the rules and procedures of the WTO to the letter,” Antigua’s high commissioner to London, Carl Roberts, said in a statement. “Our little country is doing precisely what it has earned the right to do under international agreements.” Even if such the copyright haven is set up, international fans of free downloads may want to exercise caution. Antiguans may be allowed to download legally but for those outside the country the legal regime remains murky.


Gambling Rejected
NASSAU – Voters rejected a referendum to legalize gambling for citizens in this nation where locals were already barred from betting in casinos at the islands’ tourist resorts. Underground gambling operations called “web shops,” where Bahamians bet on numbers in televised U.S. lotteries have become commonplace. The shops operate in violation of Bahamian law but police and political leaders have largely turned a blind eye to them for years.

In a two-part referendum, voters were asked whether the islands’ gambling shops should be legalized, regulated and taxed, and if the government should create its own national lottery.  Election officials said a majority voted no on both questions, forcing the government to start the arduous task of shutting down dozens of the underground operations.


Poetry Honor
LONDON – John Agard, a longtime resident who is very active in United Kingdom literary circles, was recently announced as the 2012 winner of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. Agard, a native of Guyana, was recognized for his poetry in recent years, including his 2009 volume Alternative Anthem: Selected Poems and Goldilocks on CCTV, his book of children’s poems released in 2011. “I couldn’t believe my ears and it took a little time to sink in,” he said when told of the honor.”  The award, introduced by King George V in 1933, goes to a British or British Commonwealth resident who showcases an outstanding published poetry collection or body of work. Queen Elizabeth will present it to Agard.


Plea to Stop Evictions
PORT-AU-PRINCE – Amnesty International is calling for an end to the eviction of people still living in the impromptu settlements that surfaced after the 2010 earthquake. The advocacy group also called for the authorities to take “meaningful steps” to provide appropriate housing. The statement on Friday came after a “new wave” of evictions that affected hundreds of families in the capital. Amnesty said police violently evicted 84 families on Jan. 22 from a camp in Port-au-Prince. The families were abruptly ordered to leave by police officers who came with men who carried machetes and hammers.

Meanwhile, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has called for better asylum screening practices for Haitian migrants picked up at sea. The agency said more than 180 Haitians were intercepted by maritime officials in the Caribbean sea in January and 178 were picked up off the coast of Florida and sent back home.
The U.N. agency said it wasn’t aware of any of the refugess being intercepted in the Caribbean sea who was given access to an asylum screening.


Rare-earth Project
KINGSTON – A project has been launched to evaluate whether rare-earth elements can be profitably extracted from red mud, a bauxite residue. Jamaican and Japanese officials held a groundbreaking ceremony on Monday at the island’s bauxite institute.

During a pilot program with Japan’s Nippon Light Metal Company Ltd., researchers will treat tons of red mud with acid to possibly extract some of the 17 rare-earth elements that are key to making smartphones and numerous other high-tech products. Hopes are high here that the pilot project will be successful and lead to a commercial plant to extract rare-earth