Archive for July 21st, 2009

Kumar warns flu could get worse in fall season

| 21/07/2009 | 8 Comments

(CNS): Following the visit to Caribbean Haven Health Officials said today that samples have been taken from two residents which are being tested locally for any strain of influenza virus.  Dr. Kiran Kumar said that the overwhelming majority of persons in the Cayman Islands who have contracted H1N1 (Swine Flu) experience mild symptoms and make a full recovery but while health officials have not seen large numbers of severe flu cases so far, things could be very different in the fall when the flu season begins so health officials continue to take H1N1 seriously, said Dr. Kumar.

Following the death of a young male yesterday, health officials are waitingfor lab results from CAREC in Trinidad to help determine the cause which are expected on Thursday. A local post-mortem examination is also scheduled. There are currently four people hospitalized with flu-like symptoms and of them have tested positive for Influenza A and samples from them have also been sent to CAREC for confirmation.  Previously five people ahvebeen treated for the virus in the hospital and all of them have made a full recovery. Health officials said that they continue to take H1N1 seriously, said Dr. Kumar.

 “Our pandemic plan covers all phases and takes into account many possible scenarios, and we remain vigilant,” he said adding that it is part of the department of public health’s remit to monitor all infectious diseases. “Although H1N1 is in the news right now, we look for and identify all infectious viruses,” he said. Since the outbreak began, the Health Services Authority’s goal has been to stay one step ahead of this unpredictable virus, and do the planning and preparation necessary to keep residents as healthy as possible.

Health officials said everyone should continue taking common-sense, preventative action to stop the spread of germs, including frequent hand washing. Persons who are sick should stay home and avoid contact with others.  Certain groups of people are at higher risk of complications from the flu. These groups include children under the age of 5, adults over the age of 65, pregnant women, and persons with chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.  If these persons develop a fever along with a cough, sore throat, or runny nose, they should call their health care providers immediately to discuss appropriate treatment. 


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Suspect bag-snatcher arrested

| 21/07/2009 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Police said today one man has been arrested on suspicion of robbery following an incident which occurred on West Bay Road in the vicinity of Calico Jacks on Sunday evening, 19 July, when a man reportedly stole a woman’s bag. They are also investigating two other reports of muggings in George Town, one involved a woman having her handbag taken at knife point and another where a man was robbed by a suspect wielding a machete and riding a bicycle.

Police said that on Sunday night at around 5:35pm a woman reported to the 911 Emergency Communications Centre that a man had stolen her handbag and made off towards George Town in a vehicle. Detectives began an investigation and last night (July 20) a 32-year-old man was arrested at a road block in the Eastern Districts.

Enquiries are also being conducted into another alleged robbery which took place in the early hours of Monday morning. 911 received a call at approximately 4:55am from a man who reported that he had been robbed in the vicinity of Kirk Home Centre on Eastern Avenue, George Town. Police responding to the scene were told by the victim that he had been approached by a man on a bicycle who was carrying a machete and he had asked him for money.

The victim said he handed over his empty wallet and ran from the man. He said the offender chased him for a short time and that he had last seen him on Washington Boulevard. The offender is described as brown skinned with curly hair, around 5ft 9ins to 5ft 10ins tall and was wearing a grey T-shirt. The incident is under investigation by George Town CID. Anyone who was in the area at the time of the offence and may have seen the offender should contact officers on 949-4222.

In addition, police said they are also investigating a third incident which involved a woman having her handbag stolen. The incident occurred around 4:00am on Friday, 17 July. The victim has told police that she was dropping a friend in the School Road area of George Town when a man approached them carrying a knife and grabbed her handbag from her. The offender was wearing a white T-shirt which he used to cover his face. The woman was not hurt in the incident. Detectives from George Town CID are investigating.

Anyone with information about these incidents is asked to contact their local police station 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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More cars hit by rock throwers

| 21/07/2009 | 10 Comments

(CNS): The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) has received further reports of rock throwing at cars, this time along Shamrock Road in the Lower Valley area. Three incidents were reported in the early hours this morning (Tuesday 21 July) where vehicles were hit and officers are warning motorists to take extra care driving in the eastern districts and to report all incidents to the police right away.  This is extremely dangerous behaviour which could result in serious injury or death,” said Inspector Ian Yearwood.


Police said a series of reports were made relating to cars being hit by missiles and police responded to three which came in between 3.20am and 3.35am. Each victim reported that their vehicle had been hit as they drove on Shamrock Road in the vicinity of Kelly’s Apartments and Rankin’s Jerk Centre.

“We appeal to the public to be vigilant when using these roads and report any incidents to police immediately,” Yearwood said adding that parents need to make sure they know where their children are and what they are doing at all times. “If this is being done by young people, they might not fully understand the seriousness of what they are doing,” he said. “I ask all parents and guardians in the area to speak with their children to be sure they understand how dangerous this situation is.”

These reports follow the arrest of a juvenile last month in connection to previous incidents of rock throwing along the east-west arterial road and that young person is currently bailed by the police.

Anyone with information about the rock throwing is asked to contact Bodden Town police station on 947-2220 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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Baines addresses infighting, failures and low morale

| 21/07/2009 | 10 Comments

(CNS): Commenting on Monday’s conviction of William Martinez-McLaughlin in the murder of Brian Rankine-Carter, Police Commissioner David Baines noted the criticisms in handling the evidence levelled at the RCIPS but blamed organisational failings within the service rather than individual officers. “I would be a poor leader if I sought to hang operational failings on individual heads,” Baines said. Speaking at his first community meeting, held on Cayman Brac Monday night (20 July), he also addressed internal factions within the RCIPS and low morale, and said his first job was to stabilize the force and stop the hemorrhaging of officers.

“Up until two years ago, this service was viewed the best in the Caribbean – but it has lost traction, it’s lost motivational leadership, and it’s lost some of its confidence,” Baines said. One glimmer of hope was that, like places he had worked in UK and across Europe, “I find fantastic people willing to put themselves in harms way and serve their community.”

“You don’t need me to tell you that the RCIPS has not enjoyed the best of publicity over the past two years. In fact we have become the story,” Baines said, noting that the suspension of his predecessor and a role series of temporary leaders “had not been particularly helpful” in developing strategies and bringing leadership and direction and commitment to serving the community.

The low morale was not surprising given that the RCIPS has become used to internalizing its problems, Baines said. “What it has lost sight of is what we’re here for, which is to be an outward facing, public relating and accessible police service to respond to the needs of our community. Instead of that you will have read in the media or seen on the news that there’s been different factions within the force that have been falling out with one another and … yet further alienating factions within the service itself.”

He said there were currently around 40 vacancies which represents 10% of the force across all areas of policing but predominantly neighborhood policing. The commissioner said he had spoken to Cabinet and the Portfolio of Internal Affairs about a commitment to get operational police officers “not just to respond to emergencies but to become the consistent, accessible, visible face in each of our communities – and I don’t mean just flashing by in a car.” He wants officers to be out on foot or on bicycle so that they start to develop the trust that the RCIPS has lost as an organization.

Baines said he had met with police staff and reminded them of what joins them rather than what separates them — “We wear the same uniform and we took the same oath” — and to stop falling out internally. “Do we know what’s causing distress in the communities? That’s what we should be addressing,” he said, adding, “It’s almost as if policing has become secondary to internal fighting.”

He said he needed to get on the twin track of stabilizing the force and build both identifiable neighbourhood policing an specialist units that are necessary to deal with most serious of crime.

Referring to the “horrendous murder of Mr Rankine” he said a whole host of issues surrounding policing failures had surfaced during the trial, not least the critical handling of exhibits. “It’s all right to ask what we are going to do about the failure of officers in those issues, but actually, organisationally, I think we failed those officers because we put them in impossible circumstances with the demands that we ask them to do with too few.”

Using the scenes of crime officers as an example, he said there were five officers but there should be four more. “We put them in impossible situations, going from job to job to job, and so they make mistakes,” the commissioner said, noting that one single event can be critical to the reputation of the force.

Moving on to the issue of public trust, or the lack of it, he said that right or wrong, there was the belief that if you call the police people will get to hear that you are an informant. He said he had not found an example of this but that was less important than the fact that people believed it.

Internally he had made it really clear that the public deserves their information to be secure and anyone who chooses to operate otherwise had no place in the service, and if it came to his attention, that officer would be dismissed. Otherwise, they would never get anyone to come forward to give the police their trust and the best information and get the most dangerous criminals off the street, he said.

In some of worst areas in Grand Cayman, such as hwere the murder of Omar Samuels took place in McField Lane in George Town, he said that there were six gunshots fired and 200 people in the area – and no one saw anything. “There is a lot of fear in that area and traditionally people don’t talk to police,” he said, and explained that where communities were so ingrained in their sense of fear then they had to look to other options.

In areas “where crime happens but people don’t talk”, he said alternative security could be supplied by, for example, better lighting and CCTV, so that when something bad happens they don’t have to rely on eye witnesses and could use technology to fill evidence gaps. “There may be issues with money but over the last five years there have been at least a dozen incidences where people have been shot, murdered and machetied and yet we still don’t have people coming forward.”

After the meeting, Baines told CNS that Operations Tempura and Cealt had been distractions to the primary role of the RCIPS, and what was needed was a refocusing of the officers on their primary duty of serving the community and upholding the law.

In the absence of leadership divisions within the RCIPS had developed and this had sometimes played out in the media. “If there is no means to address people’s grievances internally these will manifest in the media,” he said. “If we provide a venue to deal with grievances and address these concerns, I would not expect the continued use of the media to wash our dirty linen.”

The commissioner continued, “I have explained to my staff that provided I do my part to provide professional support to address staff issues I will take a dim view of those who seek to further their self interest over the interest of the force by publishing in the local media.”

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British passports to come from the USA

| 21/07/2009 | 8 Comments

(CNS): From 3 August people applying for a new or to renew an existing full British passport will have to send their application to the United States as the Cayman Islands Passport Office will no longer accept applications. People will now have to go to the expensie of an international courier or registered post to send the application to the UK Passport Service Centre in Washington D.C at the British Embassy, which is the new passport centre for the Cayman Islands and the region. The Governor’s office said the change is part of a global initiative to streamline operations and save money.

Until now, people applying for a British Citizen passport were able to do so through the Passport Office in Liverpool via the Cayman Islands Passport Office. The change however, will not affect applications for British Overseas Territories Citizen passports and they will still be processed by the Cayman Islands Passport Office.

Applications for UK passports must now be sent to: The UK Passport Service Centre for the Americas and Caribbean, British Embassy, 19 Observatory Circle, NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA. The Governor’s office said people can use a courier company of their choice and cost to send the application and passports will be returned to their owners via UPS and a further $21 will be added to the cost of the passport.

The Governor’s office stated that the change is part of a global initiative to streamline the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s passport operation to make it more cost effective, secure and sustainable and the vast majority of applications, which have the correct supporting documentation and payment fee, will now be processed within 10 working days of receipt in Washington.

Applicants will need to allow additional time for their applications to transit between the Cayman Islands and Washington, but overall the time taken to process an application will be quicker than the current 6-10 weeks for one sent to the UK for processing.

The office said that the FCO’s Passport Rationalisation Project was set up in May 2008 and aims to deliver a more streamlined and efficient passport operation for British Nationals abroad, to achieve immediate financial benefits to the FCO and UK taxpayers and to establish a sustainable operating platform for the future. 

“In order to keep costs covered, the UK Government is committed to looking for opportunities to reduce administration, centralise excellence and deliver beneficial economies of scale,” a released from the Governor’s office stated. “This change will help achieve all these aims and help safeguard personal identity, reduce opportunities for passport fraud and protect UK borders without compromising the security of systems and processes or affecting the UK’s commitment to deliver 90% of passports within ten working days.”

The FCO said it believes these arrangements will put the UK in a stronger position to deliver further enhancements to its application process and systems, including the development of online services and a more secure emergency travel document for those who need them.

The cost of the passport itself will remain the same: Standard passport (32 pages); £124 Jumbo passport (48 pages) – £150; Child passport – £79

An additional charge (currently $21) will be made to cover the cost of returning it via UPS and this should be reflected in your payment. You will need to pay the correct fee in US Dollars when applying for your passport and the following methods of payment are accepted: Credit card (Visa or Mastercard); Money order, cashier or certified bankers cheque made payable to British Embassy Government Account. For more information, guidance and copies of application forms from or


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SEC seeks to stop Stanford receiver’s “claw backs”

| 21/07/2009 | 0 Comments

(Reuters): The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is seeking to prevent Ralph Janvey — the receiver appointed to liquidate Stanford assets — from suing investors for proceeds they got from Texan financier Allen Stanford. Janvey, appointed to oversee the search for Stanford’s assets and return them to shareholders, has said he would consider pursuing "claw back" claims from customers who redeemed funds from accounts before his appointment. In a court filing on Monday, the SEC said Janvey’s claims against "innocent investors seeking the return of principal are not supported by case law and are contrary to commission practice".


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Sharp rise in teen pregnancy rate during Bush years

| 21/07/2009 | 0 Comments

(The Guardian): Teenage pregnancies and syphilis have risen sharply among a generation of American school girls who were urged to avoid sex before marriage under George Bush’s evangelically-driven education policy, according to a new report by the US’s major public health body. In a report that will surprise few of Bush’s critics on the issue, the Centres for Disease Control says years of falling rates of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease infections under previous administrations were reversed or stalled in the Bush years. The CDC says that southern states, where there is often the greatest emphasis on abstinence and religion, tend to have the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and STDs.

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UK weighs shutting schools to limit swine flu deaths

| 21/07/2009 | 0 Comments

(The Guardian): Ministers were urged tonight to rethink their policy of keeping schools open through the swine flu pandemic after research showed that a shutdown would curb the spread of infection and limit the number of deaths. As Andy Burnham, the health secretary, announced that a flu helpline to take the pressure off GPs’ surgeries would go live this week, two infectious disease experts said school closures should be considered to reduce the number of cases and buy time until a vaccine is available. Schools across Britain have now broken up for summer holidays, and experts hope this will help to slow the spread of the virus. But there are fears that when classes resume in the autumn the number of cases will increase rapidly.

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The bubble has burst

| 21/07/2009 | 69 Comments

Our Government has borrowed $190 million to make up for this year’s shortfall in Public Revenue. It’s a useful stopgap measure, but it won’t last long – and it probably can’t be repeated. Borrowed money has to be repaid, and government is already up to its neck in debt-repayment obligations.

Public Revenue may never again be as high as it was last year – except in devalued currency, which is a topic for another day. Our bubble has burst, and the boom may be gone forever. Our new rulers have inherited a bloated government payroll, counting all the various bloated agencies, bloated corporations and bloated departments. At least a hundred million dollars are paid to employees each year in unnecessary posts created to service the politics of vanity.

For year after year, until a few months ago, Public Revenue provided far more money than was needed for essential government services. The excess was regularly frittered away on empire-building, to the point where one must question the basic capabilities of those individuals who strive for authority over this little borough. Can we afford to keep electing mere populists, time after time?

Self-indulgence has been the norm. Financial prudence was dismissed as unsuitable for the richest islands in the region. Like some crazed lottery-winner, the custodians of the Public Purse adopted the philosophy of “Spend, spend, spend”. Not any more. Will next year’s Public Revenue – and the following year’s, and the one after that’s – provide enough to service our Public Debt, after paying for all government operations? Enough to keep giving free medical care to all government workers and their families till death do them part? Enough to pay the staggeringly generous Civil Service and MLAs’ pensions for the rest of the pensioners’ lives and their spouses’?

Three options

Until the last few years, government pensioners made no contributions at all towards their own pensions. There wasn’t even a Pensions Fund. The pensions were unfunded – secured only by promises to pay them out of each year’s Public Revenue. In effect, new pensioners were (and are) paid from the contributions of the current crop of taxpayers. Such a scheme can only stay alive while an economy is expanding. Like any Ponzi scheme, it is doomed the minute the economy begins to shrink.

Now, our economy is shrinking, and so is the likelihood that the promises can be kept. Lawyers may argue that the promises are not binding; accountants know very well that they should have been included in the Public Debt figures anyway, and properly provided for. In this situation, our rulers’ choices are limited to three options, each of which is a vote-loser.

1) Cut some Civil Service pensions and medical benefits, in order to free up money for normal operating expenses.
2) Fire some employees. (About two thirds of current Public Expenditure goes on wages and benefits.)
3) Raise taxes and user-fees.

Increasing the tax burden is the worst of the three because that would shrink the economy even further as well as raise prices for all local consumers. So that should be pretty much a non-starter. A major factor is the reluctance of our politicians to grasp the other two nettles. They won’t accept that the current reach of our government has become hugely over-extended, and that some programs just can’t be maintained. They seem to believe that the boom times will be back very soon and that the trend of Public Revenues will revert to the norm of the past decades, so that there will be no need for prudence ever again.


But it’s not likely to happen. Instead, they have to cut their expenditure – no ifs, ands or buts. It’s just a matter of where it’s cut, how much is cut, and who is fired. We are faced with political triage. Some voters might want to start by eliminating some of the smaller inessential programs. The work of the Investment Bureau and Government Information Service couldbe done far cheaper by the private sector, and better. Pageants and festivals could be organized by volunteers, as they used to be.

Freedom of Information and Human Rights are wonderful dreams, but in the absence of any political commitment from either Cayman or London there is no point in spending any money on them. Some voters might prefer to tackle some of the large and inessential bureaucracies first. If the state’s payroll has to be cut by a thousand or so in order to balance the budget, there just aren’t enough small programs to make a significant difference.

There is no good reason for government to spend money on advertising Cayman’s tourism facilities. The private sector can do it better and cheaper. The Department of Tourism and its agencies are plain old boondoggles. The whole empire should come off government’s books, including Cayman Airways. The Turtle Farm and Pedro’s Castle are also parts of the DOT empire. There is no good economic reason for them to be owned by government, or for a penny of Public Revenue to be spent on salaries, pensions and medical benefits for the people who work there.

Our government can’t pay for all its present commitments unless Public Revenue miraculously recovers to its boom levels; and unless US tourists suddenly recover their confidence in their own fortunes; and unless the high-tax nations suddenly abandon their war against tax-havens.

Until that day comes, if it ever does, our rulers must cut their coat according to their cloth. This is one crisis they are not going to be able to muddle through.

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