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JAMAICA NEWSWEEKLY For the week ending August 4th, 2006

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Nurses made the decision last night to return to work following a meeting with executive members of the Nurses’ Association of Jamaica and senior officials of the ministries of Labor and Social Security and Health. A four-point agreement was reached at the meeting and the association was in agreement with them. Negotiations will resume on Monday. Hospitals were forced to cancel elective surgeries, discharge stable patients and offer only emergency services to the critically ill. Working conditions were described as chaotic. Administrative and senior nurses are working double shifts in order to provide minimal care. The nurses association and the government have been at odds over wages for several months. The organization had given the government until June 30 to complete a wage and fringe benefits settlement.

Opposition parliamentarians say they will refuse to accept their salary increase until the government resolves ongoing salary disputes with policemen and nurses. Opposition leader Bruce Golding urged Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to resolve the issue to prevent a national crisis. Golding spoke at a meeting on Friday night, saying that in times of crisis, it is the Prime Minister who should deal with the matter personally. He further declared that the government had betrayed the people’s trust and allowed a number of unacceptable conditions to persist. Citing the low pay of nurses and policemen, Golding said the workers often clocked 60 hours per week and could not leave work until someone relieves them. The speech took place at the end of the third day of the JLP’s island wide campaign tour that started in Montego Bay.

Two teenagers were killed by gunfire in Bickersteth, St. James on Saturday night. Eighteen-year-old Gregory Grant, a Kenilworth Academy student, and Edward Cunningham, 19 years old and a laborer, were both dead of gunshot wounds. Reports are that at 8:30 p.m., residents alerted police after hearing several explosions. Grant was studying to be a computer technician and had two days of exams to complete. The other victim was out of jail on bail on gun-related charges that stemmed from an incident in which he allegedly gun-butted a man in the Cambridge area. The police suspect Grant was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Jamaicans can expect an increase in their water bills in the coming months, due to a tariff adjustment to be submitted by the National Water Commission by mid-month. The commission plans to make presentations to the Office of Utilities Regulation proposing a gradual increase in its rate structure. While the increase is not guaranteed, it is likely. The NWC requested an increase in 2003 but was granted a much lower hike in 2004. According to the OUR, the increase will be studied through the end of September, but any hike would not take place until January of 2007. The billing system itself also will cause an increase, since it is being replaced. The new system could take 20-24 months to implement.

The Jeffrey Town Farmers Association from St. Mary won the esteemed Michael Manley Award for Community Self-Reliance. The group won the award for its initiative in implementing strategies to uplift the small community. The association was distinguished from the other entrants in part because the group was dedicated to finding sustainable ways to better the community. The group conceptualized and organized the first breadfruit festival, which was extremely useful. The association also constructed a building that will be used as a multimedia center as well as a base for a soon to be launched community radio station. The association received a cash prize of $200,000 as part of the award.

Tropical Storm Chris gained strength yesterday as it approached the eastern edge of the Caribbean, causing islanders to stock up on groceries and gas as they prepared for the third named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. The storm showed top winds of nearly 45 mph as it passed over the Leeward Islands and was expected to gain strength as it approached the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm could become a minimal hurricane in 72 hours. A tropical storm warning was posted for the Leeward Islands, including the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico will begin to experience gusts of heavy wind and rain later today.

At least 16 people were rushed to the hospital yesterday following the collapse of a section of the Bahia Principe Hotel under construction at Pear Tree Bottom in Runaway Bay, St. Ann. According to police a section of the lobby area of the hotel collapsed at approximately 5:00 pm as workmen were pouring concrete. Three of the sixteen workers injured are in critical condition, including one with a very serious prognosis. This is the second time in three months a section of the hotel has collapsed. In the first incident in May of this year, three other workers were injured when the foundation of a section of the hotel gave way while concrete was being poured. Following yesterday’s collapse there was a work stoppage as hundreds of workers rushed to the scene, while fire personnel searched through rubble and removed debris in search of other workers.

The Jamaica Medical Doctors Association is threatening to disrupt the health sector if the government fails to offer an improved compensation package on the table when they meet next Wednesday. The doctors say they will continue to work to ensure patients are cared for, but at a reduced level. The doctors assert they are currently providing a great deal of free care. The government had offered doctors a 12 percent increase in year one and eight percent in year two, but the members rejected that offer last month. The association is asking for 51 percent in year one and 25 percent in year two. The association reports they are paid less for overtime work than for work performed during regular work hours, and are restrained from subsidizing their income. Public health facilities continue to be understaffed at all levels and there is a general lack of necessary equipment to allow doctors to deliver a high standard of care.

Sprint stars Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson led a triple triumph for Jamaica at the Norwich Union London Grand Prix track and field meeting yesterday. Powell took the 100-meter in 9.91 seconds, while Simpson produced another win in the women’s 100 meter in 11 seconds. Trecia Smith, the Jamaica World Championship triple jump gold medalist switched to the long jump for victory at 6.63 meters. Powell stretched is run for the season to 12 wins with his victory over Americans Leonard Scott and Shawn Crawford. It was Powell’s 18th consecutive win in the 100 meters. Simpson clocked a good time as she bested ex-Olympic champion Marion Jones who scored a 11.05 time.

The Jeff Rodgers Basketball Camp will close tonight with a National Basketball League versus former NBA All-Stars exhibition game at the National Indoor Sports Centre today. The camp promotes a message of achievement through discipline, hard work and self-belief. The exhibition game will feature the likes of Felton Spencer, formerly of the Golden State Warriors, Scott Burrell of the Charlotte Hornets, Travis Knight of the L.A. Lakers, and Gregg Anthony of the New York Knicks and now with ESPN. During the camp, inner-city children got to learn the game as well as valuable life lessons. The camp began in Arnett Gardens, then moved to Tivoli, Waterhouse and G.C. Foster College.

Asafa Powell and Olympic 200m champion Veronica Campbell have been elevated to the top of the world’s 100m sprint events ranking. According to the governing body of track and field, the International Amateur Athletics Federation, Powell has risen to the top of the men’s 100m Event Ranking after posting times of 9.86 and 9.91 by winning in Stockholm and then London three days later. Powell took over the top position after Justin Gatlin dropped to second. He has not raced in weeks and announced last Saturday that he tested positive for testosterone. Powell’s performances in Stockholm and London also helped move him to third place in the Men’s Overall Ranking. Campbell moved ahead of France’s Christine Arron to take the top spot among female 100m sprinters. Sherone Simpson moved up one place to fifth.

Jamaica had a great showing in the first day of the 50th Caribbean Amateur Golf Championships, with a lead in two of the five sections of the tournament. Jamaica shared the lead with Puerto Rico for the prestigious men’s Hoerman Cup competition, and led outright in the women’s George Teale Trophy chase. The team had set a goal of not shooting above 300 on any day of the tournament, and is intent on lowering that number tomorrow. Jamaica sent their experienced players early to beat afternoon winds and post low scores. The women carded a seven point lead going into day two ahead of the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago and Puerto Rico, all within range of the lead.

The weekly news is compilation of new articles from top Caribbean and Jamaican news sources.

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Written by Staff Writer