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A Florida appellate court today upheld a judgment awarding over $11 million in compensation to thousands of Broward County, Florida homeowners whose healthy, uninfected citrus trees were destroyed by the Florida Department of Agriculture under the failed citrus canker eradication program.

In a unanimous opinion, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal held that “there is no merit” to any of the Department of Agriculture’s arguments. The Court held that there was substantial competent evidence that healthy, privately owned citrus trees are not harmful or destructive, even though found within 1900 feet of other trees having citrus canker, and that absent their destruction the homeowners’ trees would have continued to produce the fruit, juice, shade and pleasing aromas – “all the virtues for which their owners carefully planted and tended them.” The Court held that “[i]t is apparent from the history of this case that [the Department] destroyed these privately owned healthy trees not because they were “imminently dangerous” to anybody but instead to benefit the citrus industry in Florida.” The Court continued: “Cutting down and destroying healthy non-commercial trees of private citizens could hardly be more definitively a taking. Government has regulatory power for the very purpose of safeguarding the rights of citizens, not for destroying them. Under any possible meaning, if government cuts down and burns private property having value, then government has taken it. And if government has taken it, government must pay for it. . . . By requiring the State to abide by its constitutional obligation to compensate individual homeowners, we safeguard the property rights of all.”

World GTL Inc, in the largest lawsuit ever filed against a private or Government-owned company in Trinidad, and amid upcoming elections, said it had served, with the help of a court order there, the Government-owned Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago (Petrotrin) with a complaint in the United States Federal District court for the wrongful expropriation of its assets in a joint venture company, World GTL Trinidad Limited. The Complaint requests damages of more than US $2 billion.

World GTL Trinidad Limited was constructing a gas-to-liquid plant located within the Petrotrin refinery in Point-a Pierre, Trinidad, 51% owned by the World GTL Inc subsidiary, World GTL of St. Lucia Ltd, and 49% by Petrotrin. When expropriated, the plant was in the process of being commissioned and would have been the first commercial GTL plant in the western hemisphere.

This year, the 6th Montreal International Black Film Festival (MIBFF) will run from September 22 to October 3, 2010 in Montreal: 12 days of sharing, interculturalism and entertainment during which we will be presenting the best and the most amazing new films in the world of Black cinema.

Registration is already open for feature-length and short films (fiction, documentary and animation). The registration form, pre-selection conditions, and rules and regulations are available on the Festival’s Website at www.montrealblackfilm.com until the June 20, 2010 deadline.

The American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ) will hold its annual fundraising Peacock Ball on Saturday (May 22) at the Biltmore Hotel in Miami, proceeds of which will go towards social programmes in Jamaica including healthcare, education and humanitarian and economic development.

The Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) will be presented with the AFJ’s Humming Bird Award for International Achievement 2010 for exemplary contributions to the island in the areas of philanthropy, education and economic development.

As the AFJ aims to raise funds to assist with development needs in Jamaica, the event is expected to offer an evening of dining and entertainment as well as an auction of items including luxurious vacation packages, artwork and fine jewelry.