Archive for September 9th, 2008

New 911 Manager in Office

| 09/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Public safety communication is as much an art form as it is a career, says 911’s new manager, Brent Finster (left), who started with the unit at the end of August – just in time to experience his first hurricane (Gustav) in the Caribbean. Finster, an emergency communications veteran of 28 years, is passionate about his work and hopes to champion the service his office delivers, a GIS release said.

“Dispatching is a very complex, but often underrated activity. Having worked as a dispatcher myself, I know what dispatchers have to go through as well as what officers and fire and medical personnel in the field need to do their job well. I hope this ‘insider’ knowledge will help me to support and develop my team,” he said.

Recruited from California, the former Communications Chief for the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District started his career as a Colorado State Patrol dispatcher in 1979. Working his way through the ranks, Finster qualified as a Class II firefighter, an emergency medical technician and a fire investigator.

In the mid-1980s he was elected Fire Chief for the Lyons Fire Protection District in Colorado while his full-time job was a communications supervisor for the Boulder Regional Communications Centre. He then served as Communications Director for the Aspen-Pitkin County Communication Centre in Colorado before moving to Contra Costa County, where he was stationed for the past eight years. Finster has authored numerous articles on emergency communications for industry publications. He has also compiled several operational policies and procedures manuals for the Association of Public-safety Communications Officials, Inc (APCO).

Concerning taking up office in Cayman, Finster said his first priority would be to get to know local emergency response stakeholders. At the same time, he will focus on maintaining the high service standard for which Cayman’s 911 is already known.

Eric Bush of the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs is enthusiastic about Finster’s appointment: “Given his background, I believe he will be able to transfer invaluable knowledge to our 911 team,” he said.

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Cayman prepares to help

| 09/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) has placed 10 officers on stand-by to fly to Turks and Caicos to assist with law enforcement and security after the country was by devastated by hurricanes Hanna and Ike. Furthermore, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts announced in Legislative Assembly on Monday, 8 September, that the Cayman Government would assist storm-devastated countries in Cayman’s vicinity.

Although an official request for assistance has not yet been received from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), an advisory to prepare police officers for deployment has been circulated to neighbouring countries, the RCIPS said. Figures reported in various news reports state that around 80-95% of the buildings on Grand Turk have been damaged, with many being totally wiped out. The RCIPS has prepared the contingent for immediate deployment should the FCO officially request assistance.

“The RCIPS has not forgotten the assistance neighbouring countries offered us following Hurricane Ivan,” said Acting Commissioner of Police David George. “And indeed we had some officers from Turks and Caicos come here to help us recover following that storm. We are more than happy to assist where we can.”

Meanwhile, the LoGB told the House that while Cayman felt some effects from Hurricane Gustav, other nations fared worse from one, or even all. Haiti, for example, is in dire straits, having taken a beating from Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike, with news reports placing the loss of life into the multiple hundreds.

He recalled how several regional friends expressed sympathy and offers to assist Cayman after Ivan. “It is our duty to do the same,” Tibbetts said. “Government will be looking to assist wherever we can, however we can. We will be considering whatever is practical to do” to assist, he said, once communication is received about the most critical areas of need.

The RCIPS extends its sympathies to all neighbouring nations that have been affected by recent weather systems and commits to offering assistance where it can now and in the future. Tibbetts also extended Cayman’s sympathies to nations that took a pounding from weather systems Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and now Ike.

“This hurricane season is one of the most active we have seen in several years,” he said, and asked all in Cayman to say prayers “for our friends during these times.”


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Volatility hedge funds on top

| 09/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(Bloomberg) : Hedge funds that profit from turbulence  in the financial markets are beating stock, bond and commodity investments for the first time in five years. Volatility hedge funds climbed 7.3 percent this year through August, according to the Newedge Volatility Trading Index. The average equity fund fell 8.38 percent, corporate fixed-income funds declined 4 percent, and energy and basic- materials stock funds dropped 6.36 percent in the same period, data compiled by Chicago-based Hedge Fund Research Inc. show. Go to article

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Climate inaction costs lives

| 09/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(BBC): Failure to take urgent action to curb climate change is effectively violating the human rights of people in the poorest nations, an aid charity warns.  A report by Oxfam International says emissions, primarily from developed countries, are exacerbating flooding, droughts and extreme weather events. Go to article.

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Governor joins turtle patrol

| 09/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): According to the Department of Environment there are a mere 30 nesting turtles in the Cayman Islands today compared to the millions cited in historical accounts. During the nesting season (May to October) the DoE conducts beach surveillance of these endangered species to identify where turtles lay their eggs. Adult turtles breed in Cayman’s waters and nest on the beaches. After the breeding and once the nesting seasonis over they migrate to forage overseas.

Governor Stuart Jack recently joined Research Officer Joni Kirkconnell and a group of DoE interns on one of their weekly surveillance trips to Cayman’s beaches in search of the nests. As the group fanned out along a Seven Mile Beach stretch with the Governor and Kirkconnell walking the stretch from Boggy Sand Road in West Bay to Heritage Club, he said that there was a need for unity in the effort to protect the globally endangered sea turtle and noted that turtles are an importantpart of Cayman’s bio-diversity.

Kirkconnell explained to the governor what that the DoE does during the beach surveillance. "When nests are found we process, mark and monitor them to protect them from poachers and prevent damage from any recreational activity on the beach,” she said. The Governor also said he was very concerned about the recent incidents where nesting turtles had been slaughtered.

It is illegal to harm turtles or their eggs and carries a maximum fine of CI $500,000 and one year imprisonment. There are however, still several incidences of poaching every year and recently turtles were being stolen from the turtle farm in Boatswain beach. The meat is valued at a premium as despite its status as an endangered species the meat is still commonly consumed in the Cayman Islands.


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All Sister Islands schools open

| 09/09/2008 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Update – West End Primary (WEPS) on Cayman Brac will be open for all students on Wednesday, 10 September, after an additional day off school when a short circuit in the main meter box caused an outage at the facility Tuesday.  All other schools on the Sister Islands finally started the new academic year today, Tuesday, 9 September.

The first three days of term were cancelled on the Sister Islands following Hurricane Gustav, and yesterday (Monday) schools were closed yet again while Hurricane Ike produced tropical storm force winds and squalls on the Brac and Little Cayman.

Just after assembly this morning at WEPS, as children began their first day back at school, there were two loud booms and sparks flew from the meter box on one of the outside walls, teachers said. The box was doused with a fire extinguisher and Public Works Department (PWD) staff member Giovanni McLean, who was there as a parent, turned off the main breaker, thus saving the school’s electrical equipment. Teachers at the school said most of the students were disappointed when they were told that they would have to go home this morning.

Sister Islands Education Services Facilities Coordinator Casey Conolly said that salt and rain from the recent storms were probably the cause. PWD staff replaced the service metre panel and cables and then Cayman Brac Power & Light staff restored power. Acting Learning Community Leader Tammy Banks-DaCosta said Tuesday evening that all schools would be back to normal Wednesday.

According to the post-Hurricane Gustav report on the Sister Islands , delivered by Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts, following the passing of category 1 hurricane, it appeared that the damage in both Cayman Brac and Little Cayman ranged from minor to moderate.

Tibbetts said the post-event assessment highlighted some things that could be improved on, such as establishing a dedicated centre of operations on each island in order to provide a higher level of communication. Therefore, his Ministry, which has responsibility for District Administration, has decided to provide a fully functional Command Centre at the Aston Rutty Centre on Cayman Brac and in the hurricane shelter on Little Cayman, he said.

“These shelters will be provided with marine VHF radios, 800 megahertz trunking radios, a satellite voice/data link, video conferencing and Internet. They will also be staffed with trained personnel during an emergency such as we experienced with Hurricane Gustav,” Tibbetts announced.

The LOGB also commented on the spirit of cooperation and community seen in the ongoing clean-up efforts on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, and commended all residents of all three islands for the support that they gave to their friends and neighbours in the days leading up to the storm.

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No resolution on derelict hotel

| 09/09/2008 | 2 Comments

(CNS): Almost four years to the day since Hurricane Ivan destroyed the former Hyatt Hotel, the Minister for Tourism, Charles Clifford, admitted that there was still no resolution in sight for the derelict property in the heart of Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach area. The Minister said last week that he has been trying, but has failed, to contact Asif Bhatia, the wealthy owner of the property, for more than a month.

Bhatia has been in a legal battle with Lloyds of London over a reported $50 million-plus claim as a result of the damage to the property following Ivan’s onslaught in September 2004. It is alleged that the insurance firm has offered considerably less than this sum and Bhatia has refused to budge, leaving the prime hotel site in ruins.

Clifford said that for more than two years he has been as concerned over the former Hyatt site and the failure to act as he is has been over the closure and failed sale of the Divi Tiara Beach Resort in Cayman Brac, and wants to see a resolution.

“We have considered a number of options and at this point in time we have decided to give the owner the opportunity to try and settle this insurance claim one final time,” saidthe Minister at last week’s press briefing. “There are other options which the government can take, of course, some of which may require regulation. It is not in our interest to simply allow that property to stay there in the condition that it is in.”

The Minister had said several months ago that the government had not ruled out the possibility of a compulsory purchase. However, Clifford now seems to favour the owner selling the property to another developer.

“I would imagine that it is attractive toa number of buyers and there seems to be some reluctance to sell the property which concerns me. If it is not going to be fixed then clearly it should be sold so someone else can redevelop it,” he said.

However, local real estate expert Kim Lund of Remax says that the problem here is not about a forced sale but a failure with the local judiciary. “The government’s focus should not be on forcing the owner of the property to sell, but rather on improving the expediency of our legal system,” he said. “That would be a much more prudent area to target, which could also have very positive repercussions for the whole country if some real improvement could be achieved.”

He cited previous experiences in Singapore where the judiciary was overhauled, and said as the country has developed an efficient judicial system, it could be used as a model for Cayman.

“We obviously have flaws in our system when a case with this importance to the country cannot be resolved expeditiously.  If I understand correctly, there was an opportunity for a Summary Judgment about 3 years ago, but it was thrown out of court.  A full court case then had to start, and this has obviously been dragging on and on, to the detriment of tourism to the Cayman Islands and property values for owners in Britannia,” he explained.

Lund said the location was a strategic site which has become an embarrassment to anyone entering Britannia or driving along the bypass.

“Because this cornerstone to Britannia and the Seven Mile Beach corridor looks so dilapidated and decrepit, it casts a very negative shadow on the residences in Britannia and the area in
general.  Real estate agents must sell nearby residences at a discount to what should be a much higher market value if the hotel was operating and providing full services, as in the past,” he added.

The best short-term solution for the hotel, he said, would be to knock down the buildings. “At least then, the vegetation could hide the vacant site and no one would have to look at decaying buildings,” he lamented.


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Ike leaves Cayman safe

| 09/09/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): UPDATE — While other places were not so lucky, Hurricane Ike passed the Cayman Islands at its closest point around 4:00 pm yesterday without incident, while the centre was located at 116 miles north of the Sister Islands. By the time it passed Cayman, Ike had decreased in intensity and was a category 1 hurricane. (Left  Turks & Caicos)

Hazard Management discontinue the warning for the Sister Islands and the watch for Grand Cayman but warned that squally weather and rains bands would continue to affect the Cayman Islands throught today.

At 8:00 am today, the centre of Ike was located 40 miles south of Havana as it rolled along the southern Cuban coast at around 13 mph. Maximum sustained winds were near 80 mph with higher gusts. Strengthening is forecast once Ike moves into the Gulf. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 35 miles and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 195 miles from the centre.

Prior to landing in Cuba, Ike caused mass destruction across the Turks and Caicos Islands where some 80% of properties are said to be destroyed. Akin to Cayman’s own experience four years ago with Hurricane Ivan, the popular tourist island destination  was closed to visitors today and expects to stay that way for some time. Nearly every building, including the airport control tower sustained some damage as Ike hit as a Category 4 hurricane.

Hurricane Ike then hit Cuba today with torrential rain and gale-force winds, demolishing houses, crushing crops and threatening Havana.  Mass evacuations of residents and tourists were carried out. More than 1.8 million people were moved away from coastal areas in eastern and central Cuba and more than 9,000 foreign tourists were evacuated from the resort of Varadero east of Havana, officials said.

The hurricane killed more people in the beleaguered nation of Haiti, where a series of vicious storms has triggered a humanitarian crisis where people have spent days in the floodwaters and mud. Most roads remain impassable, with bridges torn away by overflowing rivers and gaping holes preventing aid from moving by land. Hard-hit Gonaives, north of the capital, remains cut off by land. A Red Cross truck trying to reach Les Cayes on Haiti’s southern coast had to turn back.

Government officials said on Monday the death toll stands at 312 people in four tropical storms in less than a month – and is sure to rise. A US Navy hospital ship equipped with helicopters and amphibious boats arrived in the capital to deliver food and water to cities still marooned by flooding.

UN soldiers and other international aid groups were able, for another day, to distribute some food and high energy biscuits in a warehouse in Gonaives on Monday. Peacekeepers had to beef up security to maintain order, with the UN blue helmets guarding the entrance to the warehouse to prevent looting.

International aid groups have also warned of a secondary disaster caused by water-borne illnesses and other problems in the days and weeks ahead, and have appealed for donations to sustain a lengthy response in the storm-ravaged country.

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Vulnerable artists reach out at gallery

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(CNS): The National Gallery is currently exhibiting the work of its outreach artists. The ‘From Within VI’ official opening was delayed due to untimely arrival of Hurricane Gustav  but the National Gallery marked the exhibition with an open night last Thursday 4 September. An annual sale and exhibition ‘From Within reflects the diverse creativity of some of the most vulnerable members of our community. (Left work by students from Bonaventure Home)

Exhibitors include inmates from HMP Northward and Fairbanks, young offenders from Eagle House, rehabilitating patients from Caribbean Haven and the at risk youngsters from the Bonaventure and Francis Bodden Homes. It also shows work from other community specialist groups such as the art magnet a youth art group and art sisters a women only group among others.

The Gallery’s Outreach not for profit programmes take place in the community and encourages people from all walks of life to focus their energies into productive activities and promote artistic and creative growth in all parts of the community.  Most of the exhibitors meet once each week on one of a number of the educational projects. Throughout the year using skills taught and encouraged by their specific instructors the artists experiment with different material and mediums as they hone their skills.

The end result the gallery says is that regardless of the project the common thread is that participants eventually find their creativity and inspiration from within.  

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Controversial pageant winner makes it official

| 09/09/2008 | 1 Comment

(CNS): The winner of this year’s Miss Cayman Islands pageant, who found herself at the centre of a controversy after being booed at her crowning because she was not born in the Cayman Islands, signed her official contract last week. Nicosia Lawson was crowned Miss Cayman Islands during the 24 August pageant, but in the wake of her victory xenaphobic sentiment was stirred up.

Lawson, who reportedly gave a winning performace on the night, won the contest legally, as the rules clearly state that those with Caymanian status as well as native-born Caymanians may compete for the title. However, she had to face a barrage of criticism from callers to local talk radio shows and letters to the press suggesting that because she was born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and came to Cayman as a young child, she should not be allowed to hold the title.  

Despite the controversy, the young beauty queen joined Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford to sign the official papers setting out her duties and to begin her reign. She also received one of her prizes, a 2008 Nissan Bluebird, valued at more than CI$25,000.  The vehicle was provided courtesy of Platinum Motors and Automotive Art. Platinum Motors’ Sales Manager Clement Arthur presented Miss Lawson with her keys.

Lawson will go on to represent the Cayman Islands when she competes this December in the Miss World contest, in South Africa.


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