Asia welcomed the lunar Year of the Pig on Tuesday with visits to temples, family banquets and the world's biggest travel spree. Celebrations took place throughout the region, from Beijing and Seoul to Hanoi and Singapore. The streets of Beijing and other major Chinese cities were quiet and empty after millions of people left to visit relatives or travel abroad during the year's biggest family holiday. [image_gallery] Families gathered at home for multigenerational banquets. Companies, shops and government offices closed for official holidays that ranged from two days in South Korea to a week in China. ___ Worshippers stood in line for hours at Hong Kong's Wong Tai Sin Temple to welcome the new year by lighting incense. Lana Wong, a prominent Hong Kong actress, wore a pig costume for the event. "My first wish is for world peace," said Wong, 88. "Everyone has food to eat, employment and houses to live in. The elderly also hope the government will take better care of them." ___ In Beijing, performers in traditional Qing dynasty robes strummed zithers for a re-enactment at sunrise of a sacrificial ceremony at the Chinese capital's Temple of Earth park. An actor portraying an emperor bowed before an altar as dozens of people in ceremonial dress behind him. Acrobats and drummers also performed. Vendors sold toys branded with the British cartoon character Peppa Pig, which is enjoying a surge of popularity for the Year of the Pig. "My wishes for new year are a promotion, a raise and finding a boyfriend," said a spectator, Cui Di, a 28-year-old employee of a foreign company. ___ The holiday in mainland China is marked by the biggest annual travel boom as hundreds of millions of people visit their home towns or travel abroad. The railway ministry forecast mainland travelers would make 413 million trips during the three-week period around the holiday. ___ Chinese set off billions of fireworks to celebrate the new year. An explosion at an illegal fireworks shop in southern China killed five people early Tuesday. Investigators said it was triggered by fireworks set off by the shopkeeper outside the shop. ___ In Bangkok, people lit incense sticks and burned paper money and other symbolic offerings for deceased relatives despite government appeals to avoid contributing to smog. Some shopkeepers sold symbolic ballots to burn as offerings following official promises of an election this year, the first after four years of military rule. ___ In the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, visitors left bouquets of flowers at statues of former leaders Kim Il Sung and his son, Kim Jong Il.

A 4.0 earthquake has rocked parts of Venezuela andTrinidad and Tobago, according to the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre (UWI-SRC). The preliminary details are as follows: DATE AND TIME: 2019-06-17 2:34 pm (Local Time) 2019-06-17 18:34 (UTC) MAGNITUDE: 4.0 LOCATION: Latitude: 10.21N Longitude: 62.60W Depth: 10 km NEARBY CITIES: 81 km NE of Maturín, Venezuela 86 km SE of Carúpano, Venezuela 126 km W of San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago If you felt this earthquake, please tell us (

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (right) and President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Danka Akufo-Addo pose for a photo following a bilateral discussion at Jamaica House in Kingston. (Photo: OPM)

Jamaica and the Republic of Ghana have agreed to reciprocal visa-free travel between both countries following a bilateral discussion between Prime Minister Andrew Holness and the Ghanaian President Nana Addo Danka Akufo-Addo last Saturday. The bilateral discussions, held at Jamaica House in Kingston were aimed at strengthening trade, investment and the movement of people, goods and services between the two countries. Holness said improving air services between Jamaica and Ghana is a priority. “I am pleased to recall that Jamaica and Ghana have signed an air services agreement and we discussed today ideas of how to utilise that instrument to advance our goal of deeper engagement, as we endeavour to further deepen the relationship between peoples and nations, the President and I have mandated our Ministers of Foreign Affairs to negotiate and conclude” stated Holness. President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Addo Danka Akufo-Addo (left) and Prime Minister Andrew Holness. (Photo: Office of the Prime Minister) The prime minister was giving a media statement following a working lunch with President Akufo-Addo and his delegation, where they also discussed “The Year of Return, Ghana 2019”. “The initiative from our perspective certainly presents excellent opportunities to build on the fraternal bonds and take the relations between our two countries and our peoples to greater heights. We can use this initiative to forge increased personal connections and at the same time deepen the trade and commercial relations between our respective countries,” said Holness. The discussion between the two leaders included cooperation in other areas such as mining, sports, and culture as well as tourism education and training. In that regard, Holness added that discussions on these will advance Jamaica’s goal on driving economic growth and job creation and developing the countries overall sustainable development agenda. Holness also reflected the continued strong and bilateral relationship that exists between Jamaica and the Republic of Ghana. “Our relations are deeply rooted in our ancestral and historic connections forged over many years and only made stronger by our affirmed democratic traditions shared principles and vision for peace and prosperity and the cultural affinities which unite our peoples.”

A Chinese investor reads his newspaper at a brokerage in Beijing Wednesday, June 12, 2019. Shares were mostly lower in Asia on Wednesday and Hong Kong’s Seng index tumbled 1.7% as thousands continued protests against proposed legislation that many city residents fear could further erode the territory’s legal autonomy. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Global shares retreated Wednesday and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell sharply as thousands continued protests against proposed legislation that many city residents fear could further erode the territory's legal autonomy. In midday trading in Europe, Germany's DAX lost 0.4% to 12,104 and the CAC 40 in France dropped 0.6% to 5,377. Britain's FTSE 100 also skidded 0.6% to 7,356. U.S. shares were headed for a weak open as the future contract for the Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.2% to 26,017 while that for the S&P 500 also declined 0.2% to 2,882. The Hang Seng lost 1.7% to 27,308.46 as thousands of protesters, most of them young, prevented lawmakers from entering Hong Kong's government headquarters Wednesday. The demonstrations snarled traffic and delayed a legislative debate on a bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be sent for trial in mainland China, a proposal that is sharpening fears over growing Chinese control and an erosion of civil liberties in the semiautonomous territory. The crowds overflowed onto a major downtown road as they overturned barriers and tussled with police, who used multiple rounds of tear gas and threatened to use more forceful measures if necessary. The proposed legal changes have spooked investors, Stephen Innes of SPI-Asset Management said in a commentary, as it "could have far-reaching consequences for attracting overseas talent and does question the viability of Hong Kong as a leading financial hub, which of course is spooking property investors." Japan's Nikkei 225 index lost 0.4% to 21,129.72 and the Kospi in Seoul shed 0.1% to 2,108.75. The Shanghai Composite index declined 0.6% to 2,909.38. Australia's S&P ASX 200 edged less than 0.1% lower to 6,543.70. U.S. markets had advanced for five straight days since the Federal Reserve signaled it is open to cutting interest rates, but weakened on Tuesday amid concerns that the U.S. trade spat with China could be prolonged and hurt growth in the world's two biggest economies. U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday he expects to meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Osaka at the Group of 20 summit. But he said he's prepared to expand existing tariffs if a deal with Beijing falls through. "It's me, right now, that's holding up the deal," Trump said in comments carried by CNBC and other news outlets. "And we're either going to do a great deal with China or we're not doing a deal at all." The yield on the 10-year Treasury has dropped from around 2.50% in early May to 2.12% Wednesday. ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost $1.28 cents to $51.99 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 1 cent to $53.27 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude oil, the international standard, fell $1.33 to $60.96 a barrel. CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 108.36 Japanese yen from 108.52 yen on Friday. The euro slipped to $1.1326 from $1.1330.

As visitor arrivals from Cruise ship visits in the Caribbean grow, many islands are making big investments to ensure the industry stays on an upward trajectory. All over the region, Governments are investing in port upgrades and expanding the range of attractions for tourists looking for experiences beyond the beach. According to the Caribbean Tourism Organisational Quarterly Statistical Report, Caribbean destinations received an estimated 10.7 million cruise visits in the first quarter of 2019. This record number of cruise visits was an increase of 9.9 percent or 0.9 million more cruise arrivals when compared to the same period of 2018 which contracted by -2.0 percent. In the English-speaking Caribbean, The Bahamas with 1.5 million visitor arrivals in the first quarter of this year, an increase of 11.2 percent, dominated cruise arrivals. Joy Jibrilu, Director General of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, attributes a large part of the country’s booming cruise sector to geography. “Last year we received 6.6 million visitor arrivals. Just over 1.6 million were stopover and five million were cruise arrivals. We are number one and that’s not going to change, it’s the gift of geography, it makes it very easy to leave Florida and come over,” she told Loop at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s Caribbean Week in New York. [related node_id='71a7be95-b0d5-4c03-96e1-c73a69d708fb'] With 700 islands, The Bahamas also provides the perfect opportunity for cruise lines to do long term leases on some islands. Royal Caribbean, which has a lease on CocoCay, recently unveiled a $250 million upgrade called Perfect Day at CocoCay which includes attractions such as water slides and zip lines. Jibrilu said investments are being made on the main islands as well so cruise visitors will have a more diverse offering. “What is important and critical is that those of us in Nassau and Freeport lift our product and upgrade our offering so they don’t just have the benefit of the private island. We are making huge investments in the Port of Nassau. The Prince George dock has entered into an agreement with Global Port Holdings and they are doing a $250 million upgrade to the Port of Nassau. There should be an agreement in place by the end of the year and a 24 month build up,” she said. Antigua, too, has a 30-year agreement with Global Port Holdings to invest over US$80 million for the further development of St. John’s Harbour – which includes the cruise ship docking facilities at Heritage Quay and Redcliffe Quay. Minister of Tourism, Investment and Economic Development, Charles Fernandez, in May signed a 10-year agreement with President and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, Michael Bayley, for an increase in cruise passengers visiting Antigua and Barbuda’s ports and the development of the facilities. Minister Fernandez said that simultaneously, Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited and Global Ports Holding Plc signed an agreement establishing a partnership between the two entities. In a release, he said the agreement includes a strategy to double passenger volumes, increasing to 500,000 annually within five years. The increase will begin annually upon completion of the fifth berth, which will see Royal Caribbean schedule its Oasis class vessels to call regularly into Antigua. The Cayman Islands is also investing in port expansion to accommodate the Oasis class vessels. Minister for District Administration, Tourism and Transport, Moses Kirkconnell, told Loop that they are in the process of building four berths to facilitate the cruise line. Last year, The Cayman islands saw 1.9 million cruise visitor arrivals. Kirkconnell said the island is perfectly positioned between Jamaica and Cuba, or as he tells people, halfway between Bob Marley and Fidel Castro. “People ask, what do we want stayover or cruise? We want it all, we want both but the important thing is for us to balance it and by balance we mean the Caymanian people. We make sure we offer scholarships, we have the hospitality school and we provide them with the skill sets they need to participate in the industry and be successful,” he said, noting that the cruise industry encourages entrepreneurship. In order to enhance their visitors’ experience, Grenada is investing in community tourism. “We are working with a cruise consultancy to see what we really offer visitors when they come to Grenada. They don’t stay on the ship so when they come off the ship and they explore the island, we want them to experience pure Grenada, that has been our focus,” said Patricia Maher, the Chief Executive Officer of the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA). Brenda Hood, Chairman of the GTA,said to that end they are pushing community tourism. “We want it to be sustainable, and the monies need to trickle down. When you go throughout the length and breadth of the country you mix the food, the agriculture, the art, the craft. This is what the executives of the cruise lines are saying, they are saying they want more, they just don’t want to lie on the sand. We are excited that the product is getting better and better,” she said, revealing that a special desk is being created at the Ministry of Tourism to oversee the community aspect which includes training and lifting standards in the packaging and labeling of products. Cecil Mckie, Minister of Tourism, Sport and Culture in St Vincent, told Loop that they are also looking to improve the visitor experience. “We did a lot of homework in terms of the packages that we offer, did a lot of discussions with FCCA and otherwise including the Tourism Authority, the Ministry of Tourism, the Port Authority to better improve the services we can offer the cruisers when they come to the destination and made the necessary adjustments,” he told Loop at the Caribbean Week. He said before the end of the year St Vincent will begin construction on a new cargo port in Kingstown. “What that will do is open up the upper side of the port so we can do a little expansion to the existing cruise terminal and additional space will be made available for a vending area. That will improve arrival and docking facility but also what we have to offer as a destination,” he said.

The Sunrise Cottage in East End, the oldest of the Department of Children and Family Services’residential facilities for older persons, has closed for good. Having been in operation from the 80s, the decision for this closure was made in the best interest of the residents and staff and will allow for future options to be considered. After the closure on May 29, the six residents were relocated to the Golden Age Home, which is a more suitable facility. And theMinistry of Community Affairs’ Chief Officer, Teresa Echenique has revealed thatthe residentsarare comfortably settled in at their new location, which is also a residential facility operated by DCFS. “The benefit of this location is that it is hurricane certified, which means they don’t have to be moved to a shelter if a storm is approaching,” explainedMs Echenique. “They also have access to a large and airy daycare room with the opportunity to interact and take part in group activities daily. The move included staff they are very familiar with, which has greatly helped the transition." Factoring in the age, size and overall structural restraints of the existing Sunrise Cottage facility, both the Premier and Minister for Community Affairs, Hon. Alden McLaughlin - as well asthe Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Arden McLean -agree that a purpose-built facility will best meet the needs of our older persons in the Eastern districts. As a result, options are being explored to accommodate a future home that will not only provide residential services for older persons, but will offer a day programme and respite care when necessary.

The Health Services Authority (HSA) hasa state-of-the-art new respiratory machine that improves the diagnosis and treatment for patients with breathing and chronic lung problems - thanks toa $38,000 donation from the Cayman Islands Cystic Fibrosis Trust. The new technology is an all-in-one respiratory function test solution that guarantees highly accurate results and provides a more comfortable experience for patients. HSA Registered Respiratory Therapist and Certified Pulmonary Function Technologist, Melaine McLeod explained: “Respiratory function tests are noninvasive tests that show how well the lungs are working. They measure lung volume, capacity, rates of flow and gas exchange. “This information can help healthcare providers diagnose and decide the treatment of certain lung disorders. Identifying the severity of a breathing impairment earlier and more accurately will lead to more efficient and effective treatment and higher quality outcomes for our patients. “It is through the outstanding support of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust that we able to secure the Q-box, which has now become a necessity for any high-level laboratory of respiratory diseases and disorders. Thanks to this donation we are able to improve the quality of care we offer as well as our patient experience." HSA Chief Executive Officer, Lizzette Yearwood added: “We are grateful to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust’s years of support to the Health Services Authority and the people of the Cayman Islands who are living with chronic respiratory diseases and breathing problems. “Thanks to their partnership, we continue to improve the lives of patients and reduce the toll of disability and premature mortality related to respiratory issues.” The COSMED Q-box, is a new generation equipment for gold standard gas volume measurements in the human body. It includes a large cabin, otherwise known as a body-box, which provides comfort and ease-to-access for adults and special needs patients. The machine is able to help determine the severity and type of breathing impairment a patient is experiencing and help to confirm if medical treatment being administered is effective. The HSA’s procurement of the Q-box also benefits patients of the Faith Hospital in Cayman Brac with breathing and lung issues. The respiratory machine the Q-box replaced at the Cayman Islands Hospital in Grand Cayman is now available at Faith Hospital and can be used to perform respiratory function tests. Director of the Sister Islands Health Services, Dr Srirangan Velusamy said: “We are very pleased to offer more convenient care for patients in the Brac who previously had to travel to Grand Cayman for this service. It is also reassuring to know that an advanced respiratory equipment is available at the Cayman Islands Hospital to our patients who require more complex tests. The funds donated by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust were also used to buya chest airway clearance vest, a device that helps to loosen and thin retained secretions that if not removed could contribute to increased rates of respiratory infection, breathing difficulties and reduced lung function. “It is wonderful to bring the Trust to a close with the purchase of two fantastic pieces of equipment for the people of Cayman,” said Pamela Fowler, volunteer fundraising manager of the Trust since its inception in 2005. “The Trust decided to split the remaining funds between the HSA and research projects for a cure for cystic fibrosis overseas. This is really a gift from all the volunteers and donors who helped and supported the Trust over many years, for which we are so thankful. Special thanks are also due to our three trustees, Christina Kirkaldy, Tiffany Polloni and Jon Fowler who directed the Trust from the beginning." Started by Pamela and Jon Fowler, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust's aim was to raise money for research and a cure for cystic fibrosis, a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time.