Archive for February 25th, 2009

Branden’s story

| 25/02/2009 | 27 Comments

I find it incredible that I must defend the rights of an 11-year-old child. I find it absolutely offensive and sickening that I must further defend the rights of an 11-year-old child with a disability.

To add insult to injury, I am not defending him against a spiteful teacher or a malicious class bully but am forced to paint pictures of his hardships and future to our own government who feel that his life is not as significant as a “normal” kid in this society. Do I not have enough to worry about with trying to extend his life and make the hard choice to provide him with quality over quantity? Did you have to make that decision for your perfectly healthy child?

I want to walk you through the story of Branden Rivers, my pre-teen son who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). As you take this journey with me I want you to keep something in the back of your mind for me…store it like a winter nut so that by the Springtime of this story (when new birth and new hope always emerge) you can examine the “nut” and hopefully gain a little more insight into what it is that you have been storing. Here is what I’d like you to store: We are all equal in the eyes of God. It’s a very simple concept, not new to anyone. Once you have thought about it, we can begin.

I will not attempt to purge every detail of Branden’s short life here as there is much to write and I really have a point to make. Rather, I will give you the highlights (and lowlights) and let you have a glimpse of what it takes to make it through his day and what his future holds. Feel free to comment on this story – I already know that there are people out there who will find something negative to say. I really do not care as you don’t have to live with him nor do you have to deal with him. What I do care about is that ignorance makes for bad decision making. My purpose here is to enlighten you about the other side of the coin – the innocents that are affected by overzealous people who may or may not have a hidden agenda. My purpose is to tell Branden’s story and let you decide.

Branden is a fraternal twin (not identical). His brother is an ox, perfectly healthy and built to carry heavy loads. Sadly, we did not think that his heavy load would be physical and emotional…in the form of Branden. They were big boys at a full-term birth; Branden was 7lbs 5ozs and Jordan was 6lbs 8ozs. They grew and thrived in a loving home with more toys than I could find place for and matching outfits that lasted only one use (I was adamant that they were at least in different colours of the same design).

As is usually the case with twins, parents tend to compare one against the other and any apparent lack of development is always cause for alarm. So it was with us when Jordan began walking at 11 months and Branden had not even begun to crawl properly. He did what I call a “combat crawl” using his arms to pull him around on the floor with one leg bent and propelling him forward. Naturally, I took him to doctors who explained the whole lazy baby, delayed development, nothing to worry about spiel. We were told to wait until he was 15 months and if nothing happened by then, we should worry. Well, he finally walked just shy of turning 15 months. What a relief and cause for rejoicing!

Let me pause for a minute to say this: As a parent we are heartbroken from the day we find out about the new life that has been created for us. Yes, there is extreme joy but our hearts break because we know that we cannot do everything for this child, cannot fix every problem or make it all right. Anxiety builds about what kind of parent we will be and what kind of challenges they will face and how they will be treated in life. We only want the best for them and secretly cry when they fall down, or are rejected by someone at school or lose the race. That pain grows exponentially when you have a special needs child. It is not fair! Why must this happen? He is only a little boy! He did nothing to deserve this! But through it all we still protect them. We are still their parents and they still depend on us to make it all right again. It is our job – what we were tasked with. God never gives you more than you can handle.

So let’s fast forward about 3-4 years. Branden and Jordan proved to be very active little boys. But there was always something a little slower about Branden’s movements. I let people joke about it but it hurt me deeply to think that there might really be something wrong. He was called “Forrest Gump” when he started Little League because his running wasn’t really a run at all but a slow motion fast walk with a funny (not haha funny) hip roll. He was called “Two Seconds Later” because whatever Jordan did, Branden could only duplicate with a delayed response that took about 2 seconds to begin…and much longer to complete. Family referred to his “bad leg”, which I hated to hear because you never want to face an imperfection with your child. He was called lazy because he just couldn’t climb those stairs that Jordan raced up and down on. When I had to choose who to chase and remove from immediate danger (because they always went in opposite directions!) I unfailingly picked Jordan because I knew Branden would take twice as long to reach his destination.

Then there was the falling down. He always fell down. We would laugh at his grandmother’s attempt to walk behind him with a pillow so that she could lurch forward and drop it in place to cushion his bottom when he landed. You laugh at things like this without the humour because the act in itself looks funny, but the dirty little underlying meaning is too serious to want to face. During all of this, throughout his first 5+ years of life, I took him to every doctor, every visiting specialist…everyone. The range of opinions was far reaching…and wrong. He got worse.

Finally when he was 6, we made an appointment to see another visiting specialist in pediatric orthopedics – this visit would change our lives forever. We were ordered to get a blood test immediately and on Feb 9th 2003 at 9am I got the call at work with the results – Muscular Dystrophy. I died that day. My hopes and dreams for my baby boy were sucked out through the syringe that pierced his vein and withdrew his blood. Ignorance is bliss and a very comfortable place to lay your head and disregard the real world. Knowledge is power and sharply yanks the spiked chains around our necks so that we are forced to confront everything painful, everything shocking and everything unequal in the world.

I cried bitterly for 2 weeks. Every time I looked at him it refreshed the tears. I cried for my loss. I cried for what his life would amount to – the deficit of his sum of parts. I mourned his death and planned his funeral. I got angry. I got quiet. I stopped eating, I overate. I resented his brother’s health, I resented his sickness. I was mad at God, I prayed to God. All the while, my husband said and did nothing. He was unaffected – as far as I was concerned…that made me angrier. In my own profound grief I was unable to understand the way he handled it. In the two weeks that I fell apart he analyzed every piece of information as is his way. He was my pillar until I could reason again. In the third week after his diagnosis I woke up and had a revelation. I could choose to sink into the quicksand of depression until the day he died and be utterly useless to him, my other son, my husband and myself or I could snap out of it and savor every minute that we were given and make the best of a bad situation. As I sit here today I can honestly say that I chose the latter but have revisited the quicksand on so many occasions that my footprints are permanently embedded in the path. Shortly after I emerged, my husband sank and we have struggled to pull each other up and out of despair like a wrestling tag team ever since.

Now here we are. Branden is 11 and in a wheelchair. He began to have more difficulty walking last year and required someone to walk beside him so that he could hold on to keep his balance. More often than not and with increasing occurrence, Jordan would simply sling Branden onto his back and the two would be on their way. It was more comfortable for Branden to have Jordan carry him than us as it looks more natural, as if they are two normal brothers goofing around and piggy-backing. Branden possesses a great amount of pride and abhors attention. He would rather fade into the background and be invisible than have people gawk and stare. It breaks my heart when insensitive people ask what’s “wrong” with him…right in front of him. I simply smile and say nothing is “wrong” with him, he is perfectly fine. He is just built a little differently. God chose to give him a bigger brain and had to use some of his other muscles to get the job done.

My husband and I decided in the beginning that Branden would know everything we did (within reason) so that nothing would come as a shock to him. We have educated him beyond his years. When most boys his age are out playing football until sunset, Branden is stuck on the sidelines with a head full of information explaining why he can’t do the same. Yet he has NEVER asked “why me”. When his brother has complained about having to take Branden somewhere or pick him up or retrieve a toy just out of reach, Branden’s response is, “Do you think I WANT you to have to do that for me? Don’t you think if I could do it for myself I would?” I walk away and cry in private because this bright little boy is so trapped in this body that is slowly deteriorating. Because long after he is unable to lift his arms or breathe on his own, his mind will still be sharp and his wit and quick come-backs will be forever lost behind lips that will not have the strength to form the words.

He does not complain. He tries so desperately to live a normal life. He has hopes and dreams and a crush that he’s had since he was 6. He picked out the car he will drive and designed the house he will build…when he was 8.He knows what he likes and defends his tastes vehemently. He vocalizes his dislikes with the fervor of a seasoned lawyer. He is a perfectionist and so creative that it puts some well known artists to shame. He wants to space travel and paraglide and jump out of a plane, all of the natural desires that most every 11-year-old boy dreams of. He loves his 2 year old sister, Amelia, unconditionally and beams so brightly when she crawls into his lap so he can wrap his arms around her and kiss her head. But at the very pinnacle of his list are two very important items that the rest of us take for granted: he wants to walk again – this time easily and freely – and he wants to RUN. Oh, and he wants to one day be able to pick his sister up and carry her on his back as his brother has carried him.

He had surgery this month (February) to snip his Achilles tendons and reattach them to help straighten his feet that were turning inward from the retraction of his calf muscles. He was not afraid. Never cried, never asked “Why me?” I cried, I asked “Why him?”. He went into surgery and never called after me as I walked away crying. He went as a brave soldier to war. His only words were, “I’m not a baby!” No, he’s not…he’s a big, brave boy but he still needs myprotection. He came out groggy but not crying. I cried. The nurses were amazed at how quickly he found his senses and how strong his constitution was to heal. He was released within hours, two brand new casts adorning his legs. Comments like, “Boy, you’ve had a bad day!” just make him smile. They have no idea.

He has been in physical therapy for years. It’s really only to prolong his ability to walk for a little while longer…we all know where this will end up. We are not living in denial – only faith and hope. Since surgery his therapy has increased to 3 or 4 times per week and his progress is outstanding. He knows what’s at stake and is fighting so hard to win. He is determined and focused and gives it his all. It is paying off. The strength in his upper legs is building and he is able to lift them a few inches now. That is a major event for us. Normal kids must do great feats of athletics to impress their parents; my son need only raise his leg an inch or two off of the floor. I am crying.

Over the past 11 years I have fought tooth and nail to protect him from ignorance and insensitivity. I have been forced to degrade my pride to tell our most private stories to complete strangers so that he can receive what he needs and deserves. His insurance was in jeopardy when I moved jobs – even though I have taken it with me as a private client, paying the exorbitant monthly premiums to ensure he receives the quality healthcare he NEEDS to live. I was told that only the government standard could apply to his pre-existing condition even though he was a client years before he was diagnosed – has anyone really evaluated what is provided in the most basic insurance coverage this country allows? It is not sufficient for a healthy person, how could someone justify giving it to my child? In the end, I found a human who would hear my case and help me fight for my cause. While he is not receiving the same benefits that he had previously, I will have to make do with what we were given as it is better than the ‘standard’ care he is entitled to as a disabled person.

We have had the same domestic helper since the boys were 10 days old. She is amazing! We treat her like a member of the family. I have often joked that I am the surrogate mother and they are her children. She loves them and they love her. She has been with us through EVERY major life-altering event that we have experienced in the past 11+ years. We sent her to the US for 3 months with my boys after Ivan while we stayed behind and repaired our island. She cried with us at Branden’s diagnosis. She is the only other human being (besides us, his grandmother andoccasionally Jordan) that he will allow to bathe him, help him use the restroom, wipe his bottom and any other private task you can think of. Every basic act that we take for granted he must rely on someone to help him do. There are only a handful of people he lets into his naked life…she is the only non-related one. She was facing the roll-over policy last year. We applied for permanent residency. It should not have come to that. There are exceptions to every rule…everything is NOT black or white. Someone in her position earns the right to be treated differently and judged on her contributions to a Caymanian family and merits of her unending service to us. I fought to keep her. WE need her…she does not need us. Branden needs her. I took the issue as high as I could go – to the LOGB – whose humanity and kindness helped us to open doors. There is also a very special person who must remain nameless but who was instrumental in resolving this dire situation.

I am so tired. I work full time to support my family (well maybe it’s really to support CUC!). I come home to a full time job caring for my children, one of whom happens to be in a wheelchair. I am fighting new battles everyday to ensure he and my other two have all they need and are not lost in the political upheavals and resulting sidewalk cracks.

If you are still reading this, I thank you for taking the time to hear our story. The rest will be my viewpoint on the current issues facing our country as it relates to Branden. He is my son. Let me write it again…HE IS MY SON, MY BABY, MY OFFSPRING. The future of the world does not depend on him, but the future of my family does. What happens to him could set the precedent for how people like him are treated.

I am a Christian. I believe in God and the Bible, His Word. I teach my children manners and morals and send them to a Christian school. I am offended that some feel that the average Joe Public is too unintelligent to know that the issue with protecting people like my son stems from the fact that they do not want to also protect the rights of gays. What else could it be? Am I to assume that there is a faction of Nazi extremists in Cayman that are influencing our leaders to weed out unhealthy undesirables so that they can once again groom a super race? A little farfetched, right? Or is that some powerful people out there really hate kids and old people and want to eliminate them once and for all…no?

As much as they would have us believe that this is not about the gays, it is surely the only reasonable explanation and fully explains the involvement of the Ministers Association to date. Remember that nut I asked you to store in the beginning. Stop for a minute and think about it. I find it puzzling that the section which deals with the fundamental protection of ALL rights of my boy is in jeopardy because we are afraid to grant that same protection to persons with alternative lifestyles. Let me stress…I do not condone homosexuality. I am not defending or protecting it. I shield my children from it…BUT I know homosexuals personally. I am even related to them. The ones I know are great people. Beautiful, loving and caring. They are people created by the same God that created Branden and you and me. Granting them basic rights will not turn Cayman on its ear. That’s why the Constitution must be structured in such a way to set out the laws for all who dwell here to abide by. If you are concerned about gay marriage, then make it only legal for a man and a woman to wed…wait, we did that already.

In the Constitution, my son is ‘labeled’ as a ‘Minority’ because he is in a wheelchair. He is not defined by his disability! He is defined by his smile, his intelligence, his love of mustard and the beach. He is special and loved and deserving.I am his mother, his lioness and I will protect him even against the people who are paid by this country to do the same. My protection is not just from bullies and insensitivities. It is also from laws and rules that seek to exclude him. How dare you judge him as subhuman and less than! Prisoners have more rights in this constitution than he will. Rapists, murderers AND child molesters. He is a CHILD!! He has been victimized enough by the unfortunate plight that he was born into. I will not stand by silently as we enter a pivotal point in the history of our islands and let one opinion of what must be done detrimentally affect his future…as bleak as that already is.

We have waited 37 years for a renewal of this document. We have never had a Bill of Rights. If we are taking the time to do it, let’s do it right. I have no problem being the burr in the butt of this process to ensure that one citizen gets his deserved rights. The intelligence we enjoy is God-given. The air we breathe is God-given…how can man be so presumptuous to attempt to take away rights from one creation in favour of another? Who made man God? Was my son created with less right to enjoy the air that you breathe? Is he less deserving of water and food, housing and education? For that matter, is ANYONE less deserving – gay or straight, old or young?

I attended the talk at the Family Life Center on Feb 19 and spoke out against what is happening with the Constitution. I heard the jeers and heckling of people from the church against opinions and statements made by those in support of the Human Rights Committee (HRC). It was embarrassing and disturbing that the very ones who should be tolerant of the human race, whom we feel should be nurturing and loving, were unruly and obnoxious in protest of issues that they disagreed with. I was reminded of the movie ‘The Passion of the Christ’ where they mocked and spit on Jesus – the same ones that followed Him and wanted healing from him. How disgusting that our leaders would encourage such behavior. It became a competition of who could invoke the loudest applause or cheers.

It comes back down to black and white. You cannot expect it to be a clean cut and not have others affected. You cannot discriminate against the gays and protect the children, the elderly or the disabled. Why not? Because of society’s need to neatly label everything, we feel it necessary to plop people into categories to refer to them as a whole. Then when we try to write Constitutions and Bills of Rights we are faced with the sad decision to pick the better of two evils. In this case, we must protect our country from the big, bad, evil gay people and their unholy lifestyle and sacrifice the future of the children that will grow up with their own learned discriminations and issues. We are a nation founded on the Bible and its moral teachings – one of which is to love thy neighbor as thyself. Nowhere does it say that we must discriminate against anyone or take their rights away?

WWJD? What would Jesus do? I have a good idea of what He would do based on what the Bible says He did. Here was a man who dined with tax collectors and sinners, forgave prostitutes their sins and rubbed elbows with lepers and the diseased…all to the chagrin of the elected officials and holy men. He knew that they needed his attention more than the rest as He was sent here to heal the sick and set the sinner free. He did not condemn them or criticize them. He loved them into His confidences and taught them what He wanted them to know. They listened intently because He earned their trust and their love. More flies to honey than vinegar, so to speak. I am not accusing our religious leaders of being Pharisees, I am merely drawing references to bygone times where similar mistakes were made in the name of God.

I feel I must also defend my stance against recent comments passed by a certain member of government who is very close to this process. That he would have the audacity to infer that I and persons like me have been manipulated by the HRC to feel the way we do is insulting. I will describe myself as a self-proclaimed person of reasonable intelligence and as such, can make heads and tails of a variety of complicated things. It is with MUCH appreciation to the HRC that I am able to fully comprehend the nuances of Section 16 and of course the limitations. At least someone has taken the time to break it down. I have listened intently to the debates and read the articles and formed my own opinions. It’s quite simple to do really and often mitigates the danger of being misled. I find it laughable that the statements coming from government are that Sara Collins has a hidden agenda…of what? As far as I know she has perfectly healthy children, is married…to a man, doesn’t have any seriously ill, disabled or elderly people in her family and is not a homosexual. Could it be that she is a humanitarian? I do not know if she is a Christian or not but find her stance and fight to be of noble intentions and answering the call of WWJD. She is championing the underdogs…something our government is meant to do. She is taking on a fight that will not make her popular, will not pad her pockets nor will it give her rest. Why is she doing this? Because…it…is…the…RIGHT…thing…to..do! Remember that nut..?

Our government has publicly stated that it saw no need to translate everything to us little people as we are obviously too dumb to get it. Never mind that we are the targeted audience,the very ones that the document is written for and, it goes without saying, the ones to whom the election candidates primp and pose every 4 years…

My involvement in this process is purely selfish and personal. I have no need of someone’s agenda as I have more than enough to occupy my days. I appreciate that there is a flipside to the coin, there always is. For me it is very simple: my son deserves the world. I should not be put in the position to explain why Jordan has a free access pass through life and Branden must make do with crumbs. He has already suffered and it is the responsibility of our government to ensure that he is not victimized further.

So here is the Springtime of my writing. New hope, new birth, changing of the old guards. Take out that nut and plant it so it can grow. We are all equal in the eyes of God. Whether we are infirmed, old, young, funny…we all deserve to live in a better world.

As for our story, let me just say that I have hope never-ending. I have lived on the internet since 2003 reading everything I can about DMD. There is hope in so much research out there. I feel confident that the cure will come in Branden’s lifetime and only pray that he will benefit from it. The US has a new president who is all about change. Stem cells are a major part of that change. I have been storing Amelia’s umbilical stem cells waiting for the time that scientists will be able to use them to heal Branden. That reality is not far off.

Regardless of the outcome on May 20th, I will continue to be Branden’s mother and as such will continue to fight for his rights. My voice will be heard and his story will be known. The broad definition of ‘Minority’ encompasses people. People with lives. Lives that have meaning. They should not be written out of a document that means to discriminate – that is just UNCONSTITUTIONAL!
 

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Pope to say close tax havens

| 25/02/2009 | 2 Comments

(Christian Today): The Pope is to issue an encyclical in March, calling for the closure of all tax havens as part of the response to the world economic crisis. The Vatican considered releasing the encyclical last year, but decided to postpone the date of release in order to carry out thorough research on global economics and the current crisis. In a policy paper last December, the Vatican blamed the financial crisis on offshore centres.

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Couple donate AED machine to The Pines

| 25/02/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Joram and Yaell Agar have responded to Cayman Heart Fund’s drive to get the length and breadth of the Cayman Islands fitted out with life-saving automated external defibrillator (AED) by donating an AED machine to The Pines retirement home to benefit the residents there. A release from the fund says the drive is in full swing, with businesses and organisations getting on board to ensure that their employees, customers and visitors have access to this vital medical equipment.

First launching its appeal at the beginning of January, the Cayman Heart Fund has been delighted with the interest so far. Various businesses, hotels, condominiums and parent/teacher associations have expressed interest in participating in this life-saving exercise and campaign.

Co-ordinating the drive are Fund’s directors Kevin Doyle and Dr Sook Yin with sole volunteer Lynette Chand, the widow of Ken Chand who lost his life last year to sudden cardiac arrest. Doyle and Dr Yin have sent out letters and Chand has followed up with calls to a cross-section of organisations island-wide. Two such respondents were Joram and Yaell Agar, clients of Higgs Johnson Truman Bodden & Co Attorneys-at-Law, who responded to the call for vital donations in order to buy much needed cardiac equipment, while the law firm also donated funds to Cayman Heart Fund in recognition of this worthy cause.

Philip Boni, who is a Partner at the firm, added his support to this initiative: “Higgs Johnson Truman Bodden & Co is committed to supporting such important projects for the benefit of our local community. We sincerely hope that this support, in the form of new cardiac equipment, goes some way towards saving lives in our islands. We are pleased to join Mr and Mrs Agar in supporting the Cayman Heart Fund.”

Sue Nicholson, who runs The Pines says: “We are immensely grateful to Mr and Mrs Agar for agreeing to sponsor this AED to be located at The Pines and to Higgs Johnson Truman Bodden & Co for their support. We sincerely hope that other members of the public, companies and organisations will follow their lead and sponsor other AEDs so they can be conveniently located at numerous points throughout the island. All the staff of The Pines are required to be trained in CPR and maintain up to date training. The Pines recognises the importance of a rapid response and treatment in the event that someone suffers a heart attack, whether it is a resident or member of staff or a member of the public, having an AED on the premises really increases the chances of survival of such an individual.”

Dr Yin, Medical Director of CHF and chair of this AED appeal applauds the initiative that local businesses such as Higgs Johnson Truman Bodden & Co have taken in supporting and promoting this life-saving campaign. She urges other businesses to support groups that cannot fundraise for themselves and says: “Buy one for your own business and staff, donate one to a worthy group. Each of us can do more to help everyone in our community. We have a growing list of interested and committed parties but I would like to see more parties coming forward and taking part in this landmark initiative that can make a difference between life and death!”

Dr Yin is appealing to the public and businesses who already own an AED machine to email her their details as to the locations of these AEDs so the Fund can compile a registry for the island and have this made public, as well as advising the emergency services, which will be invaluable advice for them.

If anyone would like more information on our AED initiative, please contact Dr Yin at palmhouse@candw.ky or Kevin Doyle at kevindoylecayman@btopenworld.com

 

(Left: Veronica Fierro and Vicki Chatfield both of Higgs Johnson Truman Bodden & Co present Dr Sook Yin of Cayman Heart Fund with a donation for a defibrillator at the Pines Retirement Home. They are pictured here with staff and residents from the Pines.)
 

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Scientists to survey Caribbean reefs

| 25/02/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun a study coral of reefs in the Caribbean Sea today, 25 February for the next three weeks the EPA’s ocean survey vessel, the OSV BOLD, will conduct a series of scientific observations to help protect and improve the environment in the waters around the US Virgin Islands

“The coral reefs off the U.S. Virgin Islands are some of the most ecologically-significant in the world, so protecting their health is a priority for EPA,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator George Pavlou in a statement from the EPA. “The state-of-the-art OSV BOLD represents EPA’s commitment to scientific research at the highest level and allows our scientists to collect valuable data that supports the conservation efforts of our partners in the region.”

EPA scientists and divers will observe and analyze coral reefs at some 60 locations near St. Thomas and St. John to create a robust and quantified record of existing coral conditions; a similar study took place last year near St. Croix. Data from the studies will be used to develop water quality standards under the Clean Water Act and to enhance the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Natural Resources’ (DPNR) coral reef monitoring. The study contributes to EPA’s ongoing effort to understand and quantify the benefits ecosystems provide, known as ecosystem services.

EPA scientists will be joined by researchers from DPNR, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and The Nature Conservancy throughout the 19-day voyage.EPA and DPNR scientists will also document the presence of crabs, lobsters, sea urchins and conchs, and monitor water quality for potentially harmful nutrients.

The 224-foot-long, 43-foot-wide OSV BOLD is equipped with state-of-the-art diving, sampling, mapping, and analysis equipment that scientists use in a variety of ocean monitoring activities. The ship is a converted U.S. Navy T-AGOS class vessel. It can house up to 18 scientists, 19 crew members and remain at sea for weeks as they collect water quality and sediment samples, fish and other organisms. EPA divers working off the OSV BOLD monitor coral reefs, and other sensitive habitats for impacts from pollution. The OSV BOLD operates in the waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.

Coral reefs are vital to ecosystems because they provide habitat for fish and invertebrates, and support local fisheries and tourism. The physical presence of coral structure protects shorelines from erosion by waves and currents. In recent years, the majority of coral reefs around the U.S. Virgin Islands have suffered severe degradation from numerous environmental stresses, including increased sea surface temperature, contaminants from land-based sources, nutrient and sediment pollution, and vessel discharges.

Before its research in the Virgin Islands, the OSV BOLD spent nearly two weeks in the waters near Puerto Rico where EPA scientists performed a series of water quality tests and mapping exercises.

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Killa’s fight not sanctioned

| 25/02/2009 | 0 Comments

(Boxingscene.com): World Boxing Council president Don JoseSulaiman (left) insists that the WBC did not approve the planned junior middleweight fight between Charles ‘Killa’ Whittaker and champion WBC champion Vernon Forrest, which was scheduled to take place in the Cayman Islands in April as a title fight. Whittaker’s manager Raul Alvarez had claimed that the WBC had approved the title fight. The Cayman News Service quoted Alvarez as claiming the Whittaker-Forrest showdown was always a serious fight and rumours that the WBC had not sanctioned the title bout (which was posted on BoxingScene) were utterly false. Go to article

 

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Beijing’s campaign for same-sex marriages

| 25/02/2009 | 1 Comment

(The Guardian): With her bouquet of roses and fluffy white dress, Han Xincheng looked the epitome of the glamorous modern Chinese bride. But, although her parents had been pressing her to marry, the photographs were not what they might have expected: she is gazing adoringly atanother woman, surrounded by onlookers. The series of "wedding pictures" staged by lesbians and gay men in the heart of Beijing might not raise eyebrows any longer in most western countries, but they are evidence that attitudes are finally changing in a country where gay sex was illegal until 1997 and homosexuality classified as a mental illness until four years later. Go to article

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Smith faces gun question

| 25/02/2009 | 28 Comments

(CNS): Acting Police Commissioner James Smith faced the people of Bodden Town on Monday night, 23 February, and heard their concerns, which ranged from the dumping of derelict vehicles to the acting commissioner’s position on reviewing the number of firearms licences in the community. He also faced the demand for more Caymanian officers in the RCIPS and was criticised for not understanding Caymanian culture.

Along with his colleagues from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis, Superintendent Adrian Seales, District Commander Richard Barrow and other officers from the district, Smith met with a small crowd from the Bodden Town community in his second community police meeting. Although two of the political candidates for the district were present, none of the current elected members attended the meeting, leaving it up to Sandra Catron and Theresa Pitcairn to raise a number of concerns on behalf of the community’s constituents.

One local farmer also directly criticised Smith over his intended statement to review firearms. He said that Smith did not understand the Caymanian culture and that farmers had used their weapons to control agouti rabbits for many years and that they also slaughter using rifles. He queried why, since no legal weapons had been found to be used in any crimes, the acting commissioner was seeking to review all legitimate gun owners’ weapons.

“I want to conduct a review so that I can satisfy myself that the legal weapons in Cayman are being stored appropriately, used appropriately, held and licensed appropriately,” Smith replied. “As the chief of police is charged with granting the licences, I need to make sure that everyone who owns a gun is looked at and can offer legitimate reasons for doing so.”

Smith, who has in his few months here made no secret of his opposition to firearms, said that just because so far there was no record of a licensed weapon being used in a crime, this was not a reason to believe it would never happen. He cited a number of incidents around the world where people have been murdered with weapons that were supposedly legitimatelyheld.

“This is Cayman,” the farmer said to the acting commissioner. “We are not the UK or the US. We have used guns to control the agouti rabbit population for generations and we also use our guns to slaughter cows. This is our culture and we do not like people from outside trying to change our culture. The government used to pay farmers to shoot agouti to keep the population down. You say there is no legitimate reason for there being more than a 1,000 firearms on the island — we say this is a very valid reason.”

Smith, however, stated he would be reviewing the licensed weapons and was not convinced that the island needed the firearms and particularly the velocity required to kill animals. He said that rabbits could be snared, that bolts could be used to slaughter cattle and that cultures change.

People using drugs in the park near the Mission House, the situation surrounding the police helicopter, the use of mobile units and the police commitment to target child abuse, were all raised during the meeting. And for the second time, Smith was asked what he was doing to recruit more Caymanians into the service. A number of people at the meeting stated that more Caymanians were needed in the force to encourage better communication with the community as many Caymanians did not feel they could always trust non-Caymanian officers. The audience also suggested the service was becoming polarised and stratified, and while the community felt that had a lot to do with the varying nationalities in the service, the separation of the various command posts was not encouraging the necessary cohesive police service that was common in the past.

Smith admitted that the accident of history saw many of his departments stratified and it was an issue he was seeking to address, but given the financial constraints at present on all government departments, getting a new headquarters where traffic, intelligence, senior management and the main police station could find themselves all together was not likely to happen any time soon.

Smith also reiterated his point made in West Bay regarding recruitment of officers and that it was his intention to recruit the best officers for the job, and that given Cayman’s diverse community there was a need for the RCIPS to reflect that diversity.

Nor would Smith be drawn on whether or not he intended to apply for the senior position. Despite the close bell ringing yesterday and the widely known fact that he has applied for the full time post in the past, Smith refused to state whether or not he had filled in the application that he talked about in West Bay last week. So far, CNS has learned that, aside from for Detective Chief Superintendent Derek Haines, nine senior officers from various UK forces have also applied for the position.

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Choppy cuts in on West Bay election field

| 25/02/2009 | 6 Comments

(CNS): Although the West Bay political arena has been dominated in recent years by the United Democratic Party candidates, it is not stopping local businessman and community leader Reginald ‘Choppy’ Delapenha from entering the fray to stand for election in the districts on a number of issues. Not least of these is the idea that government needs to be run more like a business, managed by responsible individuals who provide owners and shareholders with the best possible return on their investment, if Cayman’s economy is to continue growing.

“The Caymanian people have continued to make the ultimate investment by placing their trust and confidence, their hopes and dreams, their livelihood, and even the country’s future, into the hands of their elected officials,” he said. “Therefore, anything less than responsible leadership and prudent management of the investment made by our people is a gross dereliction of duty on the part of those elected to this high office.”

Recognising that all governments need to raise revenue and manage spending, Delapenha says one of the first things he would want to do if elected to government would be to evaluate the main existing revenue streams to ensure they are being maximized without imposing  new, undue stress to an already troubled economy.

‘However, there are two areas where there could be considerable improvement in our base revenues,” he said, pointing to tourism and a re-zoning and development plan as ways of adding to the government’s coffers. Delapenha explained that a total re-marketing of our tourism product was required as the 1.6% we got from the more than 19 million tourists to the Caribbean last year is  certainly not a fair share for a destination like Cayman — merely one hour from the US which is considered our main market.

He explained that, given the current economic situation, any government would need to cut spending to the bear necessities and that realistically any capital wish-list projects for government departments and statutory authorities needed to be frozen. He said a re-examination of departmental budgets was also necessary as he believes there is usually a lot of fat in most governmental operations. He also raised the point that there could be the potential for damages where breeches in government contracts have occurred.

Appreciating that managing the budget is a key element of government, Delapenha also stated that there are other issues driving him to stand as a candidate, not least because of how much he cares about the cultural future of Cayman.

“Over the past 40 years, Cayman has become a ‘machine’ of constant development and consumption of our resources, but without a clear, planned development model. There seems to be little thought given to the preservation of our culture, the maintenance of our limited resources and the fast pace at which our Caymanian way of life is diminishing,” he said. “My main principle has to do with change.  Effective, beneficial change.  Not empty promises and vain rhetoric, but change which has substance and definite plans for the future. To this end, I hope to bring out the beauty of our history, cultural heritage and way of life. To enhance and revitalize that special something we once enjoyed – the collective soul of the Cayman Islands.”

After leaving the Cayman Islands High School in 1977, Delapenha began his working life with Barclays Bank.  He remained in the banking sector until 1986 before striving out with his own business interests, which over the years have included a successful fuel retail franchise, a construction and property development company, as well as, a consulting and management company. He credits his early banking career as an important element in shaping his character and believes 30 years of working and successfully managing businesses in Cayman, together with other life experiences, have helped to shape him into a very strong, steady and deep-thinking individual

“I am married and have three wonderful daughters. I hold family values in high regard, realizing that these contribute greatly to the necessary fabric of any community. To this end, I continue to serve in the support of civic organization, the church and youth groups. I am passionate about helping young people realize their full potential,” he added.

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Political hopeful offers practical help to jobseekers

| 25/02/2009 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Bodden Town candidate Sandra Catron is taking direct action to help her would-be constituents who are out of work reverse that situation. Catron’s electoral committee announced that the candidate has added a job seekers’ page to her website www.sandracatron.com where Caymanians looking for work can post their CV’s. Catron explained that the idea was a direct result of the number of requests that she receives from local people seeking employment.

“On average I have about two persons per week that approach me about assisting them in finding a job. I am now using the available technology to market these persons and the skills that they have, ”she said.

Catron feels passionately about the fact that qualified and hardworking Caymanians should have job opportunities in their own country that boosts about 30,000 work permit holders. She noted that was a substantial amount and indicates that unemployment should almost be nil. However, she said that at least her website could help some people with better exposure.

Using her existing website and extensive email database as additional tools for candidates has already proven successful for job seekers.

“The formula here is simple – we have Caymanians seeking employment and it occurred to me some time ago to setup an entire website that would be an Employment Center dedicated to bringing together employers and employees,” she added.

However, given her focus on the campaign this will serve as an initial launch with a view to expanding the site later on. Job seekers can send their resume and photo directly to Sandra for posting on the website’s jobseekers page or call  324-1612 for more information.

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Hot spot cop team tackles crime in capital

| 25/02/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Police said yesterday that officers from George Town’s ‘Hot Spot’ team have been keeping up the pressure on criminals with a number of arrests made last weekend, for offences including drugs violations, disorder and breach of bail. The team is made up of Special and regular police officers and is tasked with tackling crime and disorder in and around the capital.

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service explained that the team works with a strong focus on addressing drug related crime and offences that take place in and around licensed premises. “This team works extremely hard to put pressure on those involved in criminal activity,” said Area Commander, Chief Inspector Harlan Powery. “Crimes which are related to drugs and alcohol can have a huge impact on the community and we’re doing everything we can to prevent and detect offences.”

Arrests from the weekend includea 45-year-old man who was arrested on suspicion of possession of cocaine, consuming a controlled drug and possession of a prohibited weapon and a 25 year old man who was arrested on suspicion of possession of ganja with intent to supply, possession of ganja andbeing concerned in the possessionof ganja.

Police said two men, aged 26 and 27, were arrested on suspicion of possession of ganja, consumption of a controlled drug and being concerned in the possession of ganja while another 25-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of possession of ganja with intent to supply, possession of ganja and consumption of a controlled drug.  A 19-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly and another teenager an 18-year-old man was arrested for breach of bail.  

Anyone with information about crime taking place in George Town should contact the police on 949-4222 or Crime Stoppers on 800-8477 (TIPS). All persons calling Crime Stoppers remain anonymous, and are eligible for a reward of up to $1000, should their information lead to an arrest or recovery of property/drugs.

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