Authorities in Gibraltar said they intercepted Thursday a super tanker believed to be breaching European Union sanctions by carrying a shipment of Iranian crude oil to war-ravaged Syria, while a senior Spanish official said the operation was requested by the United States. Gibraltar port and law enforcement agencies, assisted by Britain's Royal Marines, boarded the Grace 1 early Thursday, authorities on the British overseas territory at the tip of Spain said in a statement. It added that the vessel was believed to be headed to the Baniyas Refinery in Syria, which is a government-owned facility under the control of Syrian President Bashar Assad and subject to the EU's Syrian Sanctions Regime. The EU, and others, has imposed sanctions on Assad's government over its continued crackdown against civilians. They currently target 270 people and 70 entities. Spain's caretaker foreign minister said the tanker was stopped by British authorities after a request from the United States. Josep Borrell told reporters in Madrid that Spain is assessing the implications of the operation because the detention took place in waters it considers its own. Britain insists Gibraltar is part of the United Kingdom but Spain argues that it is not, and the tanker operation risks offending the Spanish. "We're looking into how this (operation) affects our sovereignty," said Borrell, who was nominated earlier this week to become the EU's foreign policy chief. The Spanish claim that the U.S. requested the operation switched attention to whether the tanker was carrying Iranian crude. The Gibraltar authorities didn't confirm the origin of the ship's cargo but Lloyd's List, a publication specialized in maritime affairs, reported this week that the Panama-flagged large carrier was laden with Iranian oil. Experts were said to have concluded that it carried oil from Iran because the tanker wasn't sending geographic information while in Iranian waters. According to a U.N. list, the ship is owned by the Singapore-based Grace Tankers Ltd. According to the data firm Refinitv, the vessel likely carried just over 2 million barrels of Iranian crude oil. Tracking data showed that the tanker made a slow trip around the southern tip of Africa before reaching the Mediterranean. The tanker's detention comes at a particularly sensitive time as tensions between the U.S. and Iran grow over the unraveling of a 2015 nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump withdrew from last year. Trump has also slapped sanctions onto Iran and recently approved the passage of a carrier group, bombers and fighter jets to the Persian Gulf. In recent days, Iran has broken through the limit the deal put on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium and plans on Sunday to boost its enrichment. Meanwhile, oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz have been targeted in mysterious attacks as Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen launch bomb-laden drones into Saudi Arabia. The U.S. has rushed thousands of additional troops, an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and F-22 fighters to the region, raising fears of a miscalculation sparking a wider conflict. Last month Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone, further stoking those fears. Iran's intelligence minister said Thursday that any negotiations with the U.S. would have to be approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and would require the lifting of U.S. sanctions. Khamenei has until now ruled out talks with the U.S., saying that Washington cannot be trusted. On Thursday, the official IRNA news agency quoted Information Minister Mahmoud Alavi as saying "if the supreme leader permits, negotiations between Iran and the United States will be held." He added, however, that Tehran would not negotiate under pressure. There was no immediate reaction to the tanker's detention from Syria, which has suffered severe fuel shortages as a result of the civil war and Western sanctions that have crippled the country's oil industry, once the source of 20 percent of government revenues. Iran, which has provided vital military support to Assad, extended a $3 billion credit line for oil supplies beginning in 2013 but the Iranian aid dwindled as Washington restored tough sanctions. In November, the U.S. Treasury Department added a network of Russian and Iranian companies to its blacklist for shipping oil to Syria and warned of "significant risks" for those violating the sanctions. Fabian Picardo, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, which has in the past been a transit port for energy shipments without known buyers, said he has informed the EU about developments. In a statement, the British government welcomed the "firm action" by authorities in Gibraltar.

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.

One man is being called the local Steve Irwin after he was caught on video casually restraining a caiman which wandered into a Westmoorings home. The video showed as Sepentarium member Joel Lennard effortlessly restrained the caiman, safely securing him for relocation. Speaking to LoopTT, President of the Reptile Conservation Centre of Trinidad and Tobago (RCTT), Saiyaad Ali, said that Lennard has been with the organisation for over 10 years and is very experienced with the process. Ali said that with the onset of the rainy season, they’ve been getting an average of two calls per week for caimans which have strayed from their usual watercourses into homes, however this was the first call for the season they got for the Westmoorings area. “The flooding tends to affect them…when the water levels rise they may get dispersed from their natural water catchments and get caught in residential areas,” he said. He said most times the caimans are simply chased back into the river but in this case there was a concern for any small children in the area, so they were called in to safely relocate the animal. Ali said the group has been involved in conservation efforts for many years and is urging anyone who spots caimans in their residence to call the group to safely relocate them. Citizens were impressed with Lennard’s capable skills in safely restraining the animal, even comparing him to the movie character Crocodile Dundee. Ronald Ramrattan: “The man is a boss.” Andrew K. Mohepath: “Man raff that caiman like 2 bara and wrap it up to go with slight pepper oui.” Rachel Abrahim: “That man real good yes, he handled it like ah boss.” Island-Girl Kiesha: “Local Steve Irwin.” Akshay Naraine: “What a beautiful Caiman!” If you spot a caiman in your premises, please contact any of these NGOs to have them safely relocated: Emperor Valley Zoo: 800-4ZOO (4966) WEPTT:341-9983 El Socorro Centre for Wildlife Conservation:673-5753 The Serpentarium:766-8951

Legislation to raise the mandatory retirement age for Public Service workers in Bermuda by three years was passed with unanimous support in the House of Assembly on Friday. Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, said the Public Service Superannuation Amendment Act would increase the mandatory retirement age from 65 to 68. Police officers, firefighters and Bermuda Regiment soldiers will not be affected by the change. He added that the island’s ageing population and a predicted reduction in the number of working-age people meant action had to be taken. However, this initiative will not impact persons continuing to collect their social insurance cheque at age 65.

How much is too much for streaming video? A dramatic slowdown in worldwide growth at Netflix — including the first quarterly drop in its U.S. subscribers since 2011 — is raising questions about just how much are people willing to pay for streaming services. Especially with a host of new ones from Disney, Apple and others on their way. A recent price increaseseems to have spookedNetflix subscribers. The company lost 126,000 subscribers in the U.S., less than 1% of its 60.1 million paid U.S. subscriptions, during the April-June period. Its most popular plan rose from $11 to $13 in a U.S. price hikeannounced in Januaryand rolled out for many subscribers during the second quarter. Worldwide, the service picked up 2.7 million worldwide subscribers, far below Netflix's forecast of 5 million. "Netflix raising prices prompted people to think about whether they were getting value for money," Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter said. While people are willing to shell out for several services to meet their streaming needs, he said, they're also willing to cancel if they're not using it enough, just as they would with a gym membership or a subscription to the New Yorker magazine. Streaming services preparing to compete with Netflix appear to be taking note. Disney Plus, set to debut in November, will already be cheaper than Netflix at $8 a month, though Disney Plus will also have a smaller video library. Hulu has cut prices to $6 from $8 for its main, ad-supported service. Services from Apple, due out this year, and WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal, out in 2020, don't have announced prices yet, although the NBCUniversal service will be free and ad-supported for traditional cable TV subscribers. Of course, even if these individual services are cheaper than Netflix, it's not clear how many consumers will be willing to pay for. One way to make a service appealing is not through better prices but through exclusive shows and deep libraries, including shows that Netflix will be losing. Netflix's two most popular shows, "Friends" and "The Office," will be departing in the coming months for rival services. Group M analyst Brian Weiser said that for now, other services shouldn't be overly concerned by a weak quarter or two at Netflix. He said streaming content consumption is still growing rapidly, so the overall market has plenty of room for competitors. And the streaming arena is a growth area in the much bigger and more mature entertainment industry. "I don't think it follows that if Netflix has an underperforming quarter that tells you about others," he said. Some analysts also believe Netflix's trouble is temporary. Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Graham said the subscriber numbers will likely hit the stock in the short term — the stock was down 11% in midday trading Thursday — but overall the company's growth remains on track, particularly overseas. "We still see a strong content strategy and room to add large numbers of international subscriptions as key strengths going forward," he wrote in a note to investors. Similarly, Pivotal Research Group analyst Jeffrey Wlodarczak said investors shouldn't make a "mountain out of a molehill," with the most recent quarterly figures. The spring quarter is typically sluggish for the streaming service, and Netflix acknowledged a weak content slate could have been partly responsible for the drop. It expects to regain some momentum this summer, projecting that it will add 7 million subscribers from July through September. The optimism stems in part from the immense popularity of "Stranger Things," whose third season attracted record viewership after its July 4 release. Netflix has said it welcomes the competition. It ended June with 151.6 million worldwide subscribers, far more than a current crop of video streaming rivals that includes Amazon and Hulu.

Netflix's video streaming service suffered a dramatic slowdown in growth during its traditionally sluggish spring season, a drop-off coming as the company boosts its prices and girds for even stiffer competition. The service picked up 2.7 million worldwide subscribers for the April-June period. That's far below Netflix's forecast of 5 million subscribers. The second-quarter letdown announced Wednesday comes after Netflix attractednearly 10 million subscribers during the first three months of the year, more than any other quarter since the debut of its video streaming service 12 years ago. The slowdown rattled investors already wondering how Netflix might fare against a new wave of competition coming this fall when both Walt Disney Co. and Apple plan to launch their own video streaming services. After the second-quarter numbers came out, Netflix's stock plunged 12% in extending trading. If that sell-off is replicated in Thursday's regular trading session, it will be the largest decline in Netflix's stock price in three years and wipe out $18 billion in shareholder wealth. Netflix ended June with 151.6 million worldwide subscribers, far more than a current crop of video streaming rivals that includes as Amazon and Hulu. Signalling it expects to regain some momentum this summer, the company projected it will add 7 million subscribers from July through September. The optimism stems in part from the immense popularity of "Stranger Things,"whose third season attracted record viewershipafter its July 4 release. But the battle for viewers' attention and dollars is about to get much tougher. Besides the Disney and Apple, AT&T will also join the fray next year with HBO Max and NBC is expanding into video streaming, too. "I think our position is excellent," Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said during a Wednesday webcast. "We're building amazing capacity for content. Our product has never been in better shape." Netflix traced the second-quarter's slow subscriber growth primarily to a recent round of prices increase, including hikes of 13% to 18% in its biggest market, in the U.S. That pushed the price of its most popular U.S. plan to $13 per month, testing the bounds of how much some consumers are willing to pay for a service that started out at $8 per month for the same level of service. Disney is already planning to undercut Netflixby charging just $7 per month for its new service. Some U.S. households decided Netflix is no longer worth it at the higher price, causing the company to end June with 120,000 fewer subscribers in the country than it had at the end of March. Hastings brushed off the disappointing second quarter as an aberration and predicted Netflix's subscriber growth this year will surpass the 28.6 million customers who were added last year. But the increasingly crowded video streaming field has led to questions whether Netflix will be able to maintain the rapid rate of subscriber growth that has made its stock as one of Wall Street's premier performers during the past decade. A $10,000 investment in Netflix at the end of 2009 would have been worth $460,000 at the end of Wednesday's regular trading session. Netflix also needs more customers to help cover the costs of all the exclusive TV series and movies that it keeps adding to its line-up to stand out for the rest of the crowd. The Los Gatos, California, company so far has been borrowing heavily to finance a highly acclaimed slate of programming that garnered 117 Emmy nominations,second only to HBO's 137 nominationsamong all networks. Selling ads would help Netflix bring in more revenue, but the company's management on Wednesday reiterated the service will continue to remain commercial-free. For now, Netflix is still burning through more cash than it is bringing in. In the second quarter, it registered a negative cash flow of $594 million and expects to accumulate a negative cash flow of $3.5 billion for the entire year. Part of that outgoing money will go toward the development of more original shows to replace some of the programmings that it has been licensing from Disney, AT&T and NBC, all of which are reclaiming the rights for their own streaming services. The lossesinclude "Friends" and "The Office,"long-defunct series that still remain among the most-watched shows on Netflix. But Netflix still posts profits due to the way entertainment companies are allowed to account for their programming costs. In the most recent quarter, Netflix earned nearly $271 million, a 30% drop from the same time last year. Revenue climbed 26% from last year to $4.9 billion.

NiCE workers Nella Stone and Author “Ranford” McLean talk to Minister Hew during his tour of NiCE beautification sites.

Minister for Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure, Hon. Joey Hew visited National Community Enhancement (NiCE) workers at locations across Grand Cayman last week. The two-hour bus tour on July 17 took in ongoing and recently completed beautification work that had been earmarked ahead of the two-week initiative which ended last Friday, July 19. Minister Hew welcomed the chance to meet project workers in person and healso used the field trip to speak with supervisory staff from the National Roads Authority and the Departments of Environmental Health and Public Works about the initiative. Starting off at South Sound dock to see how the sea and wind state affected the amount of sargassum reaching the shore, he travelled eastward to other sites. Minister Hew’s tour included meeting crews undertaking roadside verge clearing in Midland Acres, and another team collecting litter and cleaning the beach near the Old Man Bay dock. He was particularly impressed with the results of the sargassum clean-up efforts at Frank Sound Junction Launch Ramp. [related node_id='ea99bc8f-94f7-4ed7-837d-12c78b1a5915'] Having seen the impact of NiCE remediation work accompanied by Project Manager Lois Kellyman and his Ministry team, the Minister was impressed by the attitudes of the participants. “The tour was a good opportunity for me to talk directly with NiCE workers and find out their day-to-day experiences of working on the project,” he said. “The NiCE crews have been a common sight recently, particularly on our beaches, roadsides and parks. It was important for me to take the time to meet and thank them on behalf of the government and my ministry for their efforts. “This trip clearly showed the pride many participants take in beautifying the community and further confirmed my opinion that sargassum is a long-term issue that requires a concerted long-term and cross-agency solution. The NiCE Winter Project 2019 is scheduled to run for three weeks from Monday, 25 November to Friday,December 13.

Josh Burke at Huntington Pier in California.

Barbados' JoshBurke is returning to great health and making big waves to demonstrate that he continues to bea force to reckon with on the global scale. In a historic take of events, Josh has qualified for the VansUS Openof Surfing. [related node_id='129e095b-721c-4aa8-a2f7-b03b5a8079c1'] According to a press release from his Manager and dad, Alan Burke, this event is one of the most prestigious andIconic events on the World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) tour. It is held every summer at the famous Huntington Beach Pier in California. This year, 2019, for the first time, at this US Open of Surfing, there will be a Barbadian surfer competing in the 10000 Mens QS event. The 22-year-old surfing sensation"has qualified into the main round of the largest action sports event in America andthe biggest spectatorship event on the WSL tour, an estimated one million fans flock to the Surf City of the USA during the event." The Vans US Open of Surfing runs from July 27 toAugust 4, 2019. In a comment, speaking of this latest achievement in his surfing career, Josh said: “The past couple years I have been blessed with an invite into the trials, which is an honour in itself,however the goal has always been to qualify, so to check one more goal off my list feels great!” Josh is fresh off an injury - a Grade 1 peroneal tendon tear, that occurred while training on April 6,resulting in four months of rehab. During that time, hemissedsix events and droppedfrom 39th to current 134th on the WSL International rankings. Working through the pain and therapy towards recovery, he admitted, “Yes during the rehabilitation period it was extremely tough not only physically but mentally, besides the fall in the rankings, just not being able to surf was painful." He is currently in California training and assures he's "feeling very good.I am pleased to say I am back!” Knowing that each step of the journey takes a team, he also took the opportunity to thank hissponsors BILLABONG, REEF Footwear, SEVEN SEAS Multivitamins, DAKINE, FUTURES FINS, SHARP EYE SURFBOARDS andNIXON Watches.