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.

Haitians on Friday vowed to keep protesting until President Jovenel Moise resigns despite his announcement of upcoming economic measures designed to quell more than a week of violent demonstrations across the country. Moise said during a televised address late Thursday that he would not surrender the country to armed gangs and drug dealers and accused people of freeing prisoners to kill him. It was the first time Moise had spoken since the demonstrations began, and he made another call for dialogue with the opposition. "I heard the voice of the people. I know the problems that torment them. That's why the government has taken a lot of measures," he said. "I asked the Prime Minister to come and explain them and implement them without delay in order to relieve misery." He said Prime Minister Jean-Henry Ceant will share details of the new economic measures Friday. The announcement comes as protesters remain angry about skyrocketing inflation and the government's failure to prosecute embezzlement from a multi-billion dollar Venezuelan program that sent discounted oil to Haiti. Few believe the government will take any steps to alleviate the crisis. "The president has been lying to the nation," said Marco Jean-Baptiste, a 41-year-old mechanic who has been unable to work since the demonstrations began and worries about his three children. Protesters continued to block roads across Haiti as food, water and gas became scarce. Schools, businesses and government offices remain closed. Widler Saintil, a 35-year-old shop owner, said he has been forced to reduce the amount of food he eats because he can't afford to buy as much milk, bread, sugar, rice or beans as before. He also has been unable to work or send his two children to school. "The situation has gotten worse," he said, adding that he will continue to join the demonstrations until Moise resigns.

Dr Ashley Deans (right) interacts with (from left) Karen Ayee of the Jamaica Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and Deanna Ashley, Executive Director of the Violence Prevention Alliance.

United States-based professor, Dr Ashley Deans, is recommending that Jamaica adopt a transcendental meditation (TM) technique to assist in addressing the country’s crime problem. Deans made the recommendation while delivering a presentation at the Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA) Steering Committee on February 12, at the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona. Transcendental meditation technique is a form of silent meditation. It has reportedly been proven to cut crime in some of the world’s toughest crime-plague cities in Columbia, South Africa, Argentina, Ecuador and the United States. “Let’s say if we had 300 people doing transcendental meditation in the advance programme together, twice a day, (this) would certainly reduce the level of crime in Jamaica, and that is just the minimum, but you could always have more,” he said. Making reference to the successes of the programme in the United Kingdom, Deans said the technique was applied at a school in Liverpool in the UK. “Crime was going up in Liverpool year after year during the 1980s… and (after TM intervention) there was a completely different trend in the crimes; highly statistical significance,” he indicated. He said transcendental meditation has proven to curb youth violence and disruption, pointing to the initiative’s success at Holy Trinity High School in Kingston. Margaret Brissett-Bolt, former principal at the school, said before TM or Quiet Time was introduced, the school had a high number of disciplinary problems, but after the introduction of TM, anti-social behaviours decreased by 50 to 70 per cent. The areas that saw dramatic reduction in numbers included gang activities, fights and suspensions. “We put all of the lowest performing students into a special class and I gave them a teacher who was a meditator. That class, which was the lowest performing class in September 2015, is now above the highest performing class that we had,” she said via a video presentation that was shared by Deans during his presentation. Deans said TM or Quiet Time should be introduced in all schools. He also said it has proven to combat recidivism through holistics rehabilitation. The programme has been taught to inmates and guards in some of America’s toughest prisons, reportedly with key results, such as 30 per reduction in recidivism rates; fewer rule infractions in prison, and less criminal thinking, psychological distress and trauma symptoms. Dr Deanna Ashley, executive director of the VPA, said her organisation was happy to have collaborated with the Jamaica Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education to bring Deans to Jamaica to convey the findings of TM.

Attorney GeneralSamuel Bulgin, QC, will host this year’s Overseas Territories (OTs) Attorneys General two-day conference, starting February 19, 2019. Attendees will include all UK OTs Attorneys General as well as representatives from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Departments of Justice of Canada and the USA and the host Cayman Islands. Attorney General Bulgin said the conference would provide “an invaluable forum for exchange of information and experience for OTs Attorneys General”. He added, “It will help in the implementation and formulation of actions plans of legal importance to the territories.” Additionally, the forum provides an annual opportunity for the attendees to discuss matters of common interest and exchange views for their territories’ benefit. Topics for discussion include disaster preparedness, anti-corruption and –bribery, Financial Action Task Force reviews, extension of human rights and international conventions and child safeguarding issues within each territory. Human rights topics include LGBTQ rights. The attendees will also discuss law revision and law reform, among other subjects.

The Ministry of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure is boosting its support for small businesses through the Cayman Islands Small Business Association (CISBA). On Monday, Joseph Hew, Minister for Commerce and CISBA President Dawn McLean-Brady signed a memorandum of understanding, which sets the programmes CISBA will deliver in 2019 to aid small business owners, with financial support of government.\“Government is steadfast in its commitment to support small businesses,” comments Minister Hew. “Small businesses are a huge driver of our economy so ensuring their continued growth and development is key. The Small Business Association has been a champion for small business owners and I am proud to support the association in its efforts to assist small businesses.” Services set to be provided include workshops, mentoring sessions, grants and individual assistance. The agreement outlines the requirements for the quantity, quality and timeliness of those services. “We are honoured to once again partner with the Cayman Islands Government to support small businesses,” says Dawn McLean-Brady. “With government’s backing we are poised to achieve our goal of advocating for the growth of small businesses and promoting an entrepreneurial spirit.”

The annual Storyboard Competition is now open, and organisers are looking forward to seeing the creativity of Cayman’s younger readers on display, and inviting the public to come out and support the students. An initiative spearheaded by the Cayman Islands Information Professionals (CIIP) and sponsored by the Cayman Islands Public Library Service and Rotary Sunrise, the competition gives students the opportunity to share their favourite books through a storyboard display. All storyboards must be registered and delivered to George Town Public Library by 2pm on Monday, 18 February 2019, and the exhibition, judging and prize-giving ceremony will take place at George Town Public Library on Saturday, 23 February 2019 starting at 10am. The storyboards will be judged on guidelines that include plot summary, issues of conflict, the author's purpose, tone and mood and how that information is expressed in terms of clarity, creativity, thoroughness, interest invoked and quality. Winners will be chosen in six age divisions ranging from five to 18-years old and awarded various prizes. “Every year we continue to be impressed by the quality of work submitted and the creativity of our exhibitors. It is obvious that the books that they choose to do their storybooks about have impacted them on a deep level, and they are excited about sharing these works with others,” said Paul Robinson, CIIP Chairman and Acting Director of the Public Library Service. “I want to encourage members of the public to come out and see these storyboard displays. They will not be disappointed and perhaps they will rediscover some literary classics or be inspired to read some of the books that are being promoted by the students.” Last year there were 49 storyboards from 65 competitors.

The Cayman Islands Government’s Gender Affairs Unit joins with the United Nations in observance of The International Day of Women and Girls in Science. In a resolution adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 2015 this annual date was proclaimed to be observed, the purpose being to: ● Promote the full and equal participation of women and girls in education, training, employment and decision-making processes in the sciences, ● Eliminate all discrimination against women, including in the field of education and employment, ● Overcome legal, economic, social and cultural barriers thereto by, among other things, encouraging the development of science education policies and programming, including school curricula, as appropriate, to encourage greater participation of women and girls, ● Promote career development for women in science, and ● Recognise the achievements of women in science. Cayman’s efforts are underway to support these aims, and such concepts are underpinned by the Gender Equality Law, 2011. STEM is a term used to refer to the academic disciplines including Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. These subjects are the focus of the National Science Education Strategy 2018-2023 introduced by the Ministry of Education. Globally, it is recognised that Science-related jobs are increasing; therefore persons must be prepared to compete for such positions.The employment outlook in the sector is positive. Locally, according to the Economics and Statistics Office (ESO) Compendium of Statistics 2017 data , there has been an increase in employment over the 2016 numbers in certain industries for example: Information & Communication - an 8.7% increase (from 835 to 908 ); and in Professional, Scientific and Technological Activities - an 41% increase (from 3087 to 4352). With regards to Overseas Scholarships, the Secretariat’s data shows that 37 % of students are pursuing STEM related majors, while 67% are pursuing other non –STEM majors. The number of female students (57%) pursuing STEM majors surpass male students (43%) by 14 %. STEM graduates can work in a wide variety of fields including: ·Life Sciences ·Accounting ·Civil Engineering ·Psychology ·Statistics ·Electrical Engineering, and ·Computer Programming These jobs provide an opportunity to participate in leading innovation and invention, as well as an ample income, and in doing so facilitate economic empowerment for women. Within the Civil Service, women occupy several STEM related posts across the subject areas. Posts currently includeSpeech & Language Pathologist, Educational Psychologist, Director of Economics & Statistics; Senior Internal Auditor; Research Officer (Microbiology); Environmental Health Engineer Officer, Director of Environment, Veterinary Officer and Scenes of Crime Officer. The Gender Affairs Unit recognises theimportant contribution of the science and technology community to sustainable development and in promoting the empowerment, participation and contribution of women and girls in science, technology and innovation.With the development of Cayman Enterprise City (CEC) in the Special Economic Zone, opportunities exist for new technology driven companies, and training opportunities for young persons through the Summer in the City Internship Programme. Registration is currently open, and the application deadline is17 March 2019.