Archive for December 18th, 2008

Unwrapping Christmas stress

| 18/12/2008 | 0 Comments

Started by the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief in 1942 to help Greek civilian victims of the second world war, Oxfam has been doing its bit to fight poverty and suffering ever since.

An innovative and sometimes controversial charity, it is one with a reputation for getting things done and above all ensuring that donations reach where they are needed.

A few years ago, they began a gift programme which is not only extremely helpful for those on the receiving end in the developing world but also goes a long way to relieving Christmas stress for those of us in the west. Most people will admit to both giving and receiving unwanted, overpriced and often pointless gifts. Each year we wander aimlessly round shops agonising over choices and drawing in breath at prices.

However, after being introduced to the Oxfam unwrapped gift programme a few years ago, I have found Christmas has become considerably less stressful and more meaningful. For most of us here in the West, our needs are generally met. We are safe, we have food and shelter and our lives are filled with numerous opportunities for us to seize if we are so inclined.

Although world poverty has declined in the last ten years overall, many people still suffer unspeakable hardships and improvements have only touched on the massive economic disparities in Africa, the Indian sub-continent, many parts of Asia and Latin America, as well as parts of the Caribbean.

Across the world some 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes. Half the world’s population – that’s more than three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day. One in two children in the world live without adequate shelter, 400 million have no access to safe water, 270 million have no access to health services. More than 10 million children die each year before they reach their fifth birthday.

While it may sometimes be hard to contemplate the gross inequalities that exist in our world, the Oxfam Unwrapped programme helps each of us to play a small part in redressing the imbalance. It is with this in mind that I began buying goats, cooking stoves, teachers, toilets, even cans of worms for my friends and family, and having the people at Oxfam send them on to those who need them.

Not one family member or friend has resented the idea and I have even managed to get them to start reciprocating, so I no longer have a collection of unwanted scented candles or bubble bath to contend with during the festive period.

Personally, I have a much happier Christmas as a result and enjoy my turkey far more knowing that the money I spent that season has gone to a better place than my Uncle Albert’s sock draw.

Christmas, we are constantly reminded by those in the Christian community, is supposed to be time to think of others, but thinking is all well and good; personally I’ve always preferred action. This particular gift programme allows us to do more than consider the plight of those less fortunate – it enables us to actually do something.

Nor is the Oxfam Unwrapped programme the only one of its kind. A growing number of NGOs and charities have taken a leaf from this long standing organisation’s book and began their own, which means you can probably find a way of giving that suits your own preferred charitable inclinations.

Whichever one you chose, however, you will find it an extremely liberating choice. There’s still time so go on line and give it a go.

www.oxfamamericaunwrapped.com

 

(First posted on CNS 24 December 2007)

 

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Women better at avoiding colds

| 18/12/2008 | 0 Comments

(Telegraph): In a survey of 2,000 people, 85% of women admitted exaggerating their symptoms to gain sympathy compared to just 76% of men. Up to a third of women also admitted to feeling "more emotional" when struck down with winter illness compared to just one in 10 men. While women may complain more about flu however, ladies are better at boosting the body’s defences and taking steps to avoid getting ill, according to the research. Go to article

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What came before Big Bang?

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(ScienceDaily): The Big Bang is widely considered to have obliterated any trace of what came before. Now, astrophysicists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) think that their new theoretical interpretation of an imprint from the earliest stages of the universe may also shed light on what came before. "It’s no longer completely crazy to ask what happened before the Big Bang," comments Marc Kamionkowski, Caltech’s Robinson Professor of Theoretical Physics and Astrophysics. Go to article

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Satellite will help scientists understand hurricanes

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(NOAA): Scientists around the world now have access to valuable data from a new international satellite, the Jason-2/Ocean Surface Topography Mission. This information allows them to closely watch the rateof global sea-level rise and monitor changing ocean features around tropical cyclones. “The sea level is rising at a rate of 3.2 mm/year, nearly twice as fast as the previous 100 years,” said Laury Miller, chief of NOAA’s Laboratory for Satellite Altimetry. Go to article

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Green homes to withstand hurricanes

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(ScienceDaily): Home foundations and frames built of a lightweight composite material that may bend – but won’t break – in a hurricane and can simply float on the rising tide of a storm’s coastal surge? Sounds too Sci-Fi? Maybe like something from the distant future? Well, the technology is closer than you think. A professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is set for six months of overseas research aimed at making it a reality, now. Go to article

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Fund forum to point to opportunities

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(CNS): Given the global financial situation, organizers of this year’s International Funds Conference say that, while there will be no shortage of topics, the focus will be on solutions and opportunities as well as the challenges. The role of auditors and directors as well as issues relating to fund redemptions will be examined, but aside from the risks the conference will look at the opportunities and solutions as investors look towards the future and plan their strategies.

 

From successful investing in times of turmoil and an update on Chapter 15 to the results of Bear Stearns and the opportunities for financial services in today’s economy, the forum is expected to generate lively debate and analysis.

 “We are looking forward to an informative and lively conference, covering a wide range of very topical issues relevant to everyone that is involved in the Funds industry,” says Anthony Akiwumi, Head of Litigation at Stuarts Walker Hersant (SWH).   SWH is one of three co-sponsors of this event, the other companies being Cayman National Fund Services (CNFS) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). 

This year’s event will take place on 9 January and it is hoped it will be as successful as last year’s event which organizers said was met with great enthusiasm and support. 

 “We are encouraging those interested in attending this year to register their space soon by visiting www.caymanfundsconference.ky and completing the online registration form” said Chris Lumsden Head of Fund Services at Cayman National Financial Group.

 According to David Walker, Partner at PwC, this year’s event has a prestigious roster of speakers drawing on the very best of local and international expertise. “It is a real testament to the success of our first conference that we have been able to secure such a talented and respected roster of speakers,” he added. 

This year’s international speakers are flying in from Bracewell and Guiliani in Connecticut, Morrison Foerster in San Francisco, Financial Examinations & Evaluations in Arizona, PriceWaterhouseCoopers in New York, and from the Cato Institute in Washington, DC.  The list of local presenters and panelists is equally as impressive, featuring well known industry leaders Anthony Akiwumi of SWH, David Bree of dms Management Ltd, Gary Linford from DTMC, Chris Lumsden of CNFS, Tim Ridley, Martin Cook of the RCIPS, and Carlyle McLaughlin and Yolanda McCoy of CIMA.

 More information on the conference, including speaker bios, the agenda and the registration form are available online at www.caymanfundsconference.ky

 

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Drive to get out young voters

| 18/12/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A Caymanian fashion designer is using his skills to help encourage young voters to get registered for the 2009 General Elections. Luigi Moxam, owner of the One 345 clothing company, has designed a T-shirt with the slogan “Be proud, Be loud, register to vote”, which will be given out at Gillian’s Lounge from 5:00 pm this Saturday 20 December. The Cayman Elections Office will be there to assist. Also planned are also a series of public services announcements (PSA) running on various radio stations.

“Registering to vote is a very important issue in Cayman. Young persons especially can offer a lot with their participation in the voting process and we need to encourage them to make their voices heard. This is my way to help in that process” said Moxam.

Luigi, who is a young voter himself and who is also heavily involved in the community as a Director of Rotaract Blue, said that far too often young people are left out because they may not be aware of the process and timing to get registered.

“It is not that they don’t care about the issues. In fact, many young voters can speak at great length about the many issues that affect them and the country in general. Thepoint is that we must all encourage as many eligible persons to register as that makes the democratic process much more effective”.

Young voters are known worldwide to be an effective voting group but for a variety of reasons tend to have lower participation levels. The recent election for president of the United States was notable in its ability to encourage a record turnout of young American voters.

Moxam expressed gratitude to Bodden Town residents and businessmen Mark Scotland and Dwayne Seymour for endorsing this initiative to concentrate on the younger generation. “They knew what I was aiming to achieve and they came forward to support, and I am grateful for that. Hopefully it will inspire others within the 27 year age gap. This will enable an entire generation, to communicate the issues that affect our future as well, allowing us to take more initiative and express our voice by simply being registered to Vote”, Moxam said. “It would be great to achieve a record turn out of young voters in the 2009 General Elections and hope that I can help to make that a reality in the Cayman Islands.”
 

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Still no flights for Honduras

| 18/12/2008 | 6 Comments

(CNS): Passengers stranded as a result of Atlantic Airways’ failure to operate its scheduled flights into Honduras are still waiting to go home. Although Rollins Air was hoping to lift the passengers, problems with both Cayman Airways and the Honduran government have prevented any flights from leaving. CAL said yesterday that it is still working on obtaining authorization from the Honduran government to operate scheduled charter flights into and out of the city of La Ceiba.

"These scheduled charters were set to begin tomorrow, December 18th, 2008, but because of matters beyond our control we have removed them from our schedule until further notice," said CAL CEO Designate Olson Anderson. He added that when permission was obtained CAL would make their charter schedule known to the general public.

Around two hundred people have reportedly been stranded as a result of the problems Atlantic Air has with the government in Honduras and the loss of its operating licence. CAL also appears to be encountering various problems. Earlier this week the Rollins Air representative Romellia Welcome said CAL had reneged on promises to help fly out the stranded Atlantic Air passengers. Cayman Airways strongly denied the allegations and said Rollins Air had not provided the proper documentation in time in order for CAL to provide the aircraft.

Since then CAL has been attempting to organise a charter flights to the Central American country but issues remain regarding permission from the Honduran government and between CAL and Rollins Air which intends not only to act as CAL’s handling agent in Honduras but is also seeking permission from the Cayman Islands Civil Aviation Authority to operate a regular service to and from La Ceiba.

In an open letter to Andersen, Roy Lowey, on behalf of Rollins Air, has stated that the paperwork and documentation was all in order and the paperwork request to Cayman Airways for ground handling and to the governing authorities had been submitted in a timely manner. “Additionally, an official from Cayman Airways has inspected the Rollins Air facilities and ground support equipment in Honduras, approved them so Rollins Air can provide similar ground handling services for Cayman Airways in Honduras,” Lowery wrote. “As one professional to another I ask that you to kindly look into and review this matter on behalf of all involved, especially for those who I understand are currently stranded in Grand Cayman.” 

Many of these passengers have been stranded for more than three weeks and have turned up at the Legislative Assembly twice demanding help to return home.

 

 

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First Brac Affordable Homes near completion

| 18/12/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Cayman Brac’s Affordable Housing initiative is nearing the end of phase 1 when the first four home owners will actually move in to their new homes. The board members of the Sister Islands Affordable Housing Development Corporation (SIAHDC) and the new owners signed the transfer documents Wednesday. Once Cayman National Bank, which is partnering with the SIAHDC for the financing of the homes, has signed off on the closing documents, the owners can move in.

Andre Scott, chair of SIAHDC, a government-funded non-profit company that manages the programme, said the houses were “substantially finished” before Hurricane Paloma – they were just waiting on a few appliances and were hoping that the owners would be moved in by the end of November.

“Then Paloma came along,” said Scott. On the plus side, he said the houses sustained only minimal damage, which was a testament to their structural integrity. All the homes lost shingles and one window was broken. “After the storm, with all the repairs going on throughout the island, it was difficult to get the work done,” he noted. However, at this point, all the shingles have been replaced and most of the cosmetic repairs have been taken care of.

After the storm, the homes were used by emergency relief personnel, who stayed three to four weeks.

Each three-bedroom home is 1,075 square feet on a 100ft by 100 ft lot, and all four are on the Affordable Housing Programme’s West End site on Bonita Crescent, off Alta Vista Drive. Their  owners will own the house and land outright.

Quality Construction, which was awarded the contract for the four houses by the Central Tenders Committee, began building on 23 July 2007 and was required to complete the project by 23 May this year. However, Scott said that though there were delays with the contractor, he delivered at last. “These are not an inferior product. These are good homes,” he maintained.

The corporation was formed to develop the programme at the beginning of the current administration and the process has been a steep learning curve, said Scott. Explaining the length of time it has taken to finish the first homes, he said that apart from construction delays and Paloma, that all the board members were volunteers with limited time. In addition, all the applicants had chosen to have a home on the Bluff site. This needed a lot of work, as opposed to the Watering Place site, which was essentially prepared and already had access to the main grid and road access.

Scott also noted that the Crown Land allotted to the programme had only recently been transferred to the corporation.

In August the board had hired a manager, Todd Eldridge, to coordinate the completion of the homes and this had helped speed things up.

The homes have been sold for approximately $100,000 each, which will go towards the development of more homes. The board members are hoping to start these as soon as possible, and hopefully the process would be quicker next time, Scott said.

 

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Latin America supports Cuba

| 18/12/2008 | 0 Comments

(Bloomberg): Latin America is looking to U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to end the embargo on Cuba and show respect for the area’s growing independence, regional leaders said at a heads-of-state meeting in Brazil. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he’s hopeful Obama can restore ties frayed under President George W. Bush. Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, citing Obama’s African heritage as a sign of change, called on him to end the five- decade U.S. “blockade” of Cuba. The region-wide summit of Latin American and Caribbean leaders ends today. Go to article

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