Archive for June, 2010

Cable firm vows no more price hikes this year

| 29/06/2010 | 15 Comments

(CNS): With utility CUC bills poised to increase by 5.5% and expectations that other goods and services will go up as a result of the fuel duty increase, the CEO of WestStar TV, Rod Hansen, has promised no more hikes for cable TV. WestStar is also reducing the rates of four of the premiere packages by 10 percent. “We understand that times are tough – everyone’s expenses have gone up, and will continue to do so with the proposed increase on fuel duty,” Hansen said. 

“Our expenses have increased dramatically as businesses are paying more fees to government,” he said. However, the WestStar boss said this would not be passed on to cable operator’s customers. “We have not raised rates for non-strata residential customers in over four years,” Hansen noted. In the last year WestStar has introduced new services such as HDTV and DVR, and added cable packages, the firm stated, to meet the needs of customers with less disposable income.
“We now have 16 HD channels and are working on acquiring more channels in both HD and SD,” he said, adding that with Digital Starter customers can get digital cable starting at just $39 per month.
Additionally, WestStar is reducing the rates of four of the premiere packages by 10 per cent. Subscribers to Family and Variety, Sports and Info, Movie Plus, or Alternative Language will see a 10 percent decrease effective 1 July. Subscribers to Movie Plus, for example, will see the monthly fee go from $20 to $18.
“We have been a part of this community for over 17 years, and have grown from a small operation offering 12 analogue channels, to fully digital service with over 100 channels – we are committed to the growth, development and success of this community,” Hansen added.

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Shake-up underway at DER

| 29/06/2010 | 53 Comments

(CNS): The minister with responsibility for labour has accused his predecessor of leaving the Department of Employment Relations (DER) in an “absolute mess”. Announcing a shake-up of the agency that deals with employment, Rolston Anglin said the previous minster had failed miserably when it came to labour matters. The minister said the DER would now be split into two departments. The new Department of Labour and Pensions will incorporate the National Pensions Office and deal directly with all disputes over employment and pension issues. The Human Capital Development Agency, which will see the DER’s job and statistics unit merge with other relevant entities, will deal with employment.

Making his announcement in the Legislative Assembly on Monday (28 June), Anglin said that the department was on the “verge of collapse” and in a “state of anarchy” when he took up office as a result of a lack of uniform management systems and major staff problems. The minister said staff had been struggling to make it through the day without a major incident and there were complaints about the use of foul language, unprofessional, unethical and immoral behaviour from inside and outside the department.
The image of the department, Anglin said, has been severely damaged and he planned to begin a public relations campaign to improve public confidence and spread the messages about the changes that have been implemented and the pending introduction of legislative, management and other changes.    
He pointed to a need to re-train staff and address the skills gap at the department, as well as expand the use of technology and build relationships between the department and immigration, the Chamber of Commerce, the Society for Human Resource Professionals and other relevant organisations.
Currently the department has over 900 registered unemployed Caymanians and is dealing with over 1,000 labour disputes. Anglin said that some staff at the DER had recently been recertified to conduct Occupational Safety and Health training. He explained this is a crucial service provided by the department, especially to the construction industry, which had fallen away because DER Staff had not kept up their certification.
He said that following the changes people would soon begin to see improvements in services from the department and “sharp rises in the long term prospects” of Caymanians. “I am confident that with the combined approach of the creation of the Department of Labour and Pensions and the Human Capital Development Agency, the installation of proper management systems … the country will see marked improvements in the delivery of labour related services,” Anglin told the Legislative Assembly.
Having emphasised the problems regarding staff, Anglin confirmed that the current director was still on “required leave” as the investigations into the complaints against him from some staff members continued. He said the investigation process had been thorough and robust and the director had been given every opportunity to take part. Anglin said the process had to be handled carefully, but he expected it to be finalised soon when he would update the Legislative Assembly.
During his statement to the Legislative Assembly, Anglin said that the former minister (Alden McLaughlin) had neglected the staff problems at the department, who reported little to no interaction from the previous minister. “The PPM administration cannot point to one single labour initiative in their four years in office,” Anglin stated. “What they can rightfully claim is the hiring of the current director and that the department plummeted to an all time low.”
Lonny Tibbetts was suspended from his post as director of the DER in February amid allegations of a paralysis between management and staff and reported complaints. Historical problems in the department’s complaints division had allegedly caused the serious personnel disputes between management and staff.

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Boundary review recommends new district

| 29/06/2010 | 17 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman Island Headline News(CNS): The growing population of George Town would give voters a powerful political advantage if the country maintains its current six districts, the 2010 electoral boundary commission has found. It has recommended the creation of a seventh electoral district for Grand Cayman on the edge of the capital called Prospect-Spotts, which could take up the new members as set out in Cayman’s new Constitution. The commission, which was tasked with examining how the size of the country’s parliament could be increased by three seats, has looked at three possible scenarios based on its research and the islands’ changing demographics.

Following more than two months of consultation and review, the three member commission fell short of making a specific recommendation on single member constituencies, although it acknowledged the public seemed to favour the idea of one member one vote. 
If government was to retain the six electoral districts, the commission said, two seats would have to go to George Town and the third new seat to Bodden Town. The new boundaries have to be established before the country’s next general election, which will take place in 2013 when, as stipulated in the Cayman Islands Constitution 2009, the electorate will return 18 members instead of the current 15.
Based on population, the size of constituencies and changing demographics, this would mean George Town would return six members, West Bay remain at four, Bodden Town would increase to four, while Cayman Brac and Little Cayman would keep their two representatives and one member would be returned from both North Side and East End.
However, the commission explained that by retaining the six districts, a George Town voter would have more power to influence the government of the day than any other voter in the country.  In short, the capital’s voters would be able to cast their ballot six times in one election compared to just one vote for East Enders. It would also mean that voters in George Town would be returning a third of the members to the country’s parliament.
“If an electoral district has one third of the elected members of the Legislative Assembly such preponderance of influence in the Assembly might create an imbalance in development in other districts,” the commission’s report said. The commissioners added that all the evidence pointed to the Prospect and Savannah area as the fastest growing and the most logical place to create a new electoral district which would create a better balance of power.
The new district recommended by the commission would include voters from the capital and from Grand Cayman’s fastest growing district of Bodden Town. By merging voters from east of George Town and West of Bodden Town, the new district would represent a sensible and fair distribution of voters that could represent all three of the new seats, redressing voting power.
The commission also pointed out that government could choose the more controversial option of one member, one vote constituencies, which would mean dividing all three islands into 18 new electoral districts. George Town and West Bay would then be divided into four separate constituencies, the new Prospect-Spotts district and Bodden Town would both be broken into three, while North Side and East End would remain as individual single-member constituencies.
Meanwhile, the Sister Islands would be separated into two districts incorporating Cayman Brac West and Little Cayman and Cayman Brac East, a move to which voters in the Sister Islands have said they are fundamentally opposed. Moreover, the commission pointed out that with two constituencies on the Brac and Little Cayman, the voting numbers per constituency would be far smaller in the Sister Islands than any on Grand Cayman.
The Boundary report was laid on the table of the Legislative Assembly by Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks last week and has now become a public document. Ebanks encouraged everyone to read the report and familiarise themselves with the research and recommendations so the public could continue to play its part in the eventual outcome of its future electoral districts and voting system.

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Store removes popular cereals over bad smell

| 29/06/2010 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Following what was described as an uncharacteristic off-flavor and smell coming from the package liner in a number of cereal products Kellogg’s Company has initiated the recall of Corn Pops, Apple Jacks Froot Loops and Honey Smacks. As a result, in its third product pull of the day, Foster’s Food Fair said it has also removed the products from the shelves at all its stores. While the potential for serious health problems is low, some consumers are sensitive to the uncharacteristic off-flavor and smell, the manufactures said. Consumers should not eat the recalled products because of possible temporary symptoms, including nausea and diarrhea.

 
Consumers who have purchased this product should stop using it immediately and report any adverse reactions to a physician. Foster’s said until it has further correspondence from the manufacture it will not be available and apologized for the inconvenience, pointing out that customer safety was a top priority. The store encouraged all customers who have purchased this product to return the affected product to the Foster’s Food Fair where it was purchased for a full refund.
 
The following products form part of the recall which has been issued in consultation with the U.S Food and Drug Administration
8.7oz. Kellogg’s Apple Jacks
12.5oz. Kellogg’s Corn Pops
17.2oz. Kellogg’s Corn Pops
9.2oz. Kellogg’s Corn Pops
12.2 oz. Kellogg’s Froot Loops
8.7 oz. Kellogg’s Froot Loops
15.3oz. Kellogg’s Honey Smacks
 
Please contact Kellogg Consumer Response Center at (888) 801-4163 for further news as more information is available from Kellogg’s Company and the circumstances of this recalled item.

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Thieves make off with boat engines from East End

| 29/06/2010 | 6 Comments

(CNS): Boat owners are being encouraged to be extra vigilant following the theft of two boat engines in separate incidents over the past week. Bodden Town police are appealing for information regarding an engine stolen from John McLean Drive and another from Angel Close, both in East End and warning the public not to buy stolen goods. On the 22 June police said they were informed that a black, red and silver coloured 15HP engine had been stolen from a boat parked at a residence off John McLean Drive. On the following day a 25HP Yamaha engine with a blue cover and a white propeller was stolen from a boat parked at a house in Angel Close.

 “If you are a boat owner then please help us to reduce the chances of your property being stolen,” said Chief Inspector Martin Bodden Jr. “Secure your boats, and the engines, as best you can. If you see anything suspicious, or believe that anyone is paying too much attention to your boat then please contact the police.
The Bodden Town senior officer also urged people to take a note of the serial numbers on their property, take photographs and write down a detailed description. “If your property is stolen then this information could help us in the recovery and identification,” he noted. “I’m also appealing to people in the community to be their neighbour’s keeper; if you see something suspicious in your area please report it to the police.”
He also warned that what appeared to be bargains could land people in jail.
“If someone offers you a boat engine at a price that’s just too good to be true – then stop and think. Taking advantage of that once in a lifetime bargain could result in a hefty prison sentence. Handling stolen goods is an offence contrary to the Penal Code and, if you are found guilty, you could face up to fourteen years in jail,” CI Bodden added.
Anyone with any information about the theft of the engines, or their whereabouts, should contact Bodden Town police station on 947-2220 or Crime Stoppers 800-8477 (TIPS)

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Producers pull spinach in Listeria scare

| 29/06/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): In its second recall notice of the day Foster’s Food Fair said it has pulled a pre-packed spinach product from its shelves as a result of a risk of Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Lancaster Foods, LLC, the producers, have voluntarily recalled its Krisp – Pak Hydro-Cooled Fresh also known as Cello Fresh, Spinach. The recall in consultation with the US Food and Drug Administration was initiated because of a random sample test conducted by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture Food & Drug Protection Division on fresh Spinach that was confirmed positive for Listeria.

 
LCC said no illnesses have been associated with this possible contamination but it has issued the recall out of an abundance of caution. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headaches, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria M. infection can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail, or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. It can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.
 
Consumers who have purchased this product with the best enjoyed date by 19 June through 27 June 2010 should stop using it immediately and report any adverse reactions to a doctor.
Foster’s Food Fair said until it received further correspondence from the manufacture on this product it will not be available in any of its stores. “We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause, however the safety of our customers is our top priority. We encourage all customers who have purchased this product to return the affected product to their Foster’s Food Fair IGA of purchase for a full refund,” the store said in a statement.
 
For further information please contact a Lancaster Representative at (800) 247-8125.

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Nasal spray pulled over shelf life trouble

| 29/06/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Procter and Gamble have initiated a voluntary product recall of its Sinex Nasal Spray as a precautionary step following indications that the product did not meet the expiration dates on the package. As a result local supermarket Foster’s Food Fair IGA said it has proactively pulled the product from the shelves of all of its stores. Consumers who have purchased this product should stop using it immediately and report any adverse reactions to a physician. Procter and Gamble made the recall in consultation with the U.S Food and Drug Administration, to ensure the safety and well being of customers, not as a result of consumer complaints.

 
Until Foster’s Food Fair IGA has a further correspondence from the manufacture on this affected product, moving forward, it will not be available. “We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause, however the safety of our customers is our top priority,” the store said in a public statement. “We encourage all customers who have purchased this product to return the affected product to their Foster’s Food Fair IGA of purchase for a full refund.
Link to the manufacture’s release: www.fda.gpv/medwatch.com  
 

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Teen faces serious charges

| 29/06/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Yet another local teenager is facing serious charges after police brought an 18-year-old man before the courts in connection with last week’s shooting at Kelly’s bar in West Bay on Thursday evening, 24 June. Police confirmed that the man, whom they have not named, has been charged with attempted murder and possession of an unlicensed firearm. The police have refused to confirm if the victim of the shooting was the father of a four-year-old child shot and killed in West Bay earlier this year. The victim was shot in the leg at around 8:40 in the evening. A friend took him to the Cayman Islands Hospital, where he was treated for the gunshot wound before being released from hospital. (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

The teenager was arrested later that night and is expected to appear in court later today, Tuesday 29 June. Anyone with any information about the incident is urged to contact DS Dave Morrison of West Bay CID on 949-3999 or Crime Stoppers 800-8477.

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Mac steadfast on fuel duty

| 29/06/2010 | 45 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman Island Headline News(CNS): Despite suggestions made by the North Side member and the opposition as alternatives to the 25 cent increase on gas, the country’s premier remained steadfast on Monday on his decision to raise over $10.2 million through a fuel duty increase. The Import Duty Tariff Amendment bill was passed in the Legislative Assembly by eight votes to six when all five opposition members and the independent member voted against the government’s new revenue measure. Government could not win over the opposition benches but even with one government member missing from the chamber it was able to enforce its fuel tax hike, which will come into effect on Thursday. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

Following the leader of the opposition’s contribution to the debate, McKeeva Bush wound up by saying the leader of the PPM had nothing to offer as he scoffed at suggestions of a fee on cell phone bills combined with an increase in vehicle licenses. 
“They are scaremongering at best,” the premier said about the opposition’s position that the fuel duty increase would lead to an increase in prices across the board. He denied that the increase in duty would be inflationary as the supermarkets would absorb the cost and CUC would only increase bills by 5%.
Bush pointed to a study by the previous government which had revealed that the wholesale fuel suppliers in the Cayman Islands had the biggest profit margins in the region and he said they could afford to absorb the duty.
He again described the import duty increase, which will take effect on 1 July, as better than either property or income tax, although none of the opposition benches have said they support that kind of direct taxation.
The premier said that if the wholesale suppliers will not absorb the duty and people find the pump price too high, they would have to plan their days better and stay off the roads. The premier advised those living in the outer districts not to make more than one trip per day to George Town. People could cut their electricity bills by turning things off and not "having every light burning in the house," he added.
Bush told the Legislative Assembly that he did not think businesses would increase their prices as they needed to remain competitive in the current tough economic climate.
CNS contacted two of Grand Cayman’s supermarkets following the vote and both said they were fighting to keep prices down but could not guarantee this would remain the case. Randy Merren from Hurley’s said it should be able to cope with the utilities bill but between 35-40% of the supermarkets’ goods are purchased on island and Hurley’s will have no control over those prices. Other things were putting pressure on prices as well, he said.
“As all of the other components that make up our operations cost increase, along with the projected inflation numbers this year, we will most likely start to see price increases as compared to the price deflation we experienced over the last 18 months,” Merren said, adding that he believed government could implement a flat duty on all imported food products as a significant number of high tonnage goods are still duty free.
Woody Foster said that, despite taking on a lot of new increases, the Fosters group was doing its  “absolute best to not raise prices” by reducing more expenses but did not know for how long. “We are not committing to long term at this point because we do not know what else will be coming down the line in the way of more increases,” he said.  “We have been successful so far in finding ways to reduce expenses but that cannot go on forever if fees are going to continue to go up.”
Foster added that he hoped government would figure out how this works and start to reduce some expenses of their own while not reducing essentials like policing, education and programmes to help local children.
The fuel duty increase will apply on Grand Cayman and Little Cayman but not on Cayman Brac.

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Haven clients receive interim treatment

| 29/06/2010 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Repairs at the Caribbean Haven Women’s Centre following a fire in one of the bedrooms on 2 May are expected to be completed in early August. According to Judith Seymour, director of the Department of Counselling Services, women in the community needing help with their fight against substance abuse are, in the meantime, accessing treatment services, including individual and group therapy as deemed appropriate, at The Counselling Centre until such time as the Women’s Centre can be re-opened. The contract for the repairs is expected to be awarded on 7 July, Seymour stated.

The 12-bed centre, which opened in June 2009, is located on the same property as the men’s unit in Breakers but in a separate building.

The four female clients who wereat the residence at the time of the fire were immediately moved to the Men’s Centre on the night of the fire, Seymour said. One resident left the programme the following day, and two women remained in the temporary accommodation at the Men’s Centre until 13 May, when they chose to return to the community. The fourth client remained in the Men’s Centre until she successfully completed the programme and transitioned into community housing on 11 June, the director said, noting that all four women have engaged with counsellors at The Counselling Centre, where they receive counselling on an outpatient basis according to their perceived need.

“In the immediate period following the fire, the department attempted to re-organise the clients within the Men’s Centre to facilitate having both males and females in treatment there. Unfortunately, that situation created numerous issues that became the primary focus in the treatment community rather than treatment (as was our experience prior, which had driven the development of gender specific programmes),” Seymour explained.

“As addicts and alcoholics have very poor boundaries and many of them are developmentally delayed due to their extensive substance abuse, co-habitation for the men and women was clearly counterproductive to the treatment process and it became a disservice to all our clients in residence. As such, the existing female residents were transitioned into the community and the interim provisions for their treatment are limited currently to the services offered at The Counselling Centre.”

She said the cause of the fire was still under investigation but electrical and mechanical failures have been ruled out. Most of the fire damage was confined to one bedroom and its contents, but smoke also got into the air conditioning system for the building. Remedial works were conducted immediately to mitigate against water damage and an assessment was conducted by the Public Works Department on 6 May to determine what repairs were necessary. This is now being put to tender and the contract is expected to be awarded by 7 July. Completion of repairs is expected by early August, according to Seymour.

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