Archive for March 17th, 2011

Mac targets Constitutional commissioners

| 17/03/2011 | 44 Comments

(CNS): The premier has accused the Constitutional Commission of going beyond its remit and made it perfectly clear that he does not believe the members should be opposing government. Reacting to commentsmade by the commission in the press recently about the law to create advisory district councils, McKeeva Bush said their poor performance was embarrassing as they had “gotten so far adrift” from their “real role”. He said if they wanted “to play powerful’ they should “go get the money and get elected”. Bush said they could not run government from behind the scenes and were misusing their position and trying to influence public opinion.

He said his opposition to the commission was not against any individual member but against its “poor performance” of the mandated functions, but went onto say that he knew most of them had opposed him over the years.

In a damning speech to the Legislative Assembly on Thursday morning about the commissioners, the premier said it was absolutely outstanding that a body serving in the context of good government could be so “misguided in its understanding of its role" and said its misstatements were confusing for the public.

The governor was going to speak with the commissioners, Bush said, and he was encouraging them to speak with the attorney general to be better “schooled in their role and functions”, as it cannot be right for them to go on as they have and “frustrate my administration”.

The premier’s criticisms surround comments the commission made earlier this month about government’s failure to listen to its recommendations on the make up of the new advisory district councils. Bush said that the public needed to understand that no government is intended to base its executive decisions on the advice of a Constitutional Commission.

Pointing to opinions expressed by the commissioners that they did not support what had been established under the new law, he criticized them for saying the existing district council in North Side was more like what had been envisioned by the commission. Bush accused them of trying to re-open the debate on the subject and influence public opinion ahead of the proposed constitutional public meetings.

“The business of canvassing public opinion is a delicate undertaking for a body such as a Constitutional Commission, a body whose credibility rests on their clear and unequivocal non-partisanship," Bush told the Legislative Assembly, saying their comments had destroyed any chance of not leading public opinion.

He said the comments about the North Side district council was a blatantly partisan political view. “It’s as though the Constitutional Commission is out to revive January’s debate in the House by saying in effect that ‘we agree with the MLA for North Side and we oppose the UDP government, and we encourage people to adopt the same view’,” the premier said.

The more the constitutional commission muddied the water the more embarrassing it became, Bush said, adding that they should not be advocates of specific policies.

Despite his unequivocal criticisms, Bush went on to say that he had no power to tell the commission what to do, as he believed the elected government should. “The Constitutional Commission should be the remit of the people elected,” the premier stated, going on to say that there was no measure of accountability for the performance of the commission. He said it should have been something that the people’s elected representatives have some say in, not the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

“But some of our people don’t seem to learn that there are those who are not as impartial as we need them to be and that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will play us like pawns upon a chess table. Some of our people would rather trust someone they don’t know and not our own. And then there are those who, when they can’t have their way because the election process put people like McKeeva Bush in place, are prepared to do what they can to conjure, obstruct, deter and smear elected politicians, as a blanket group,’ he said.

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First lady warns business of price of obesity

| 17/03/2011 | 0 Comments

(NJ.com): Michelle Obama has told city and community leaders that if they do not take steps to tackle the nation’s childhood-obesity epidemic they risk hampering their communities’ economic viability. Obama has long pushed curbing childhood obesity as a critical health issue, but with her speech before the National League of Cities conference, the first lady made her case in dollars and cents. “Make no mistake about it, when we talk about childhood obesity we’re talking about the workforce you’re trying to build,” Obama told the local leaders at their annual conference. “We’re talking about the businesses you’re trying to attract.”

A recent study by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation found that businesses are reluctant to locate where the people — particularly young people — are unhealthy. The study found that business leaders and investors are wary of communities with high obesity rates because they fear the low productivity caused by absenteeism and high health care costs.

The issue has become more urgent as America’s waistline grows. Nearly one-third of children are considered obese, and the overall U.S. obesity rate has tripled over the past 30 years.

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Invasion of lion fish first of its kind, say experts

| 17/03/2011 | 0 Comments

(ENS): The rapid spread of invasive lionfish along the US eastern seaboard, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean is the first documented case of a non-native marine fish establishing a self-sustaining population in the region, a US Geological Survey marine expert said today. "Nothing like this has been seen before in these waters," said Dr Pam Schofield, a biologist with the USGS Southeast Ecological Science Center in Gainsville. More than 30 species of non-native marine fishes have been sighted off the coast of Florida alone, but until now none of these have demonstrated the ability to survive, reproduce, and spread successfully.

"We’ve observed sightings of numerous non-native species, but the extent and speed with which lionfish have spread has been unprecedented," Schofield said. "Lionfishes pretty much blanketed the Caribbean in three short years."

Indo-pacific red lionfish, Pterois volitans, originally came from the Indo-West Pacific Ocean. They were first reported off Florida’s Atlantic coast in the mid-1980s, but did not become numerous in the region until 2000.

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Youth justice facing change

| 17/03/2011 | 8 Comments

(CNS): Consultants contracted to help overhaul the local youth justice system have arrived in Cayman to begin working with government and related agencies to start addressing the country’s youth rehabilitation problems. The community services minister said this week that his ministry has been working towards a shift in practice and has turned to the award-winning Missouri Model. Mark Steward, the director and founder of the now critically acclaimed youth system, along with members of his team are here to help with the development of a young offenders’ facility and to assist with an interim programme already started to intervene with at risk youngsters in Cayman in an effort to keep them from the criminal justice system in the first place.

Speaking at the opening of the working session on Tuesday, which drew together participants from government, NGOsand support groups, Mike Adam said the country had not been providing the best possible “therapeutic interventions and facilities necessary to turn these children around” as he explained why his ministry was looking to the Missouri model.

“The issues that our youth face are as diverse and complex as you can imagine and, therefore, our response as a country cannot be a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Innovation, creativity and a little ‘thinking outside the box’ is required,” he added.

The Missouri model is a philosophy, explained the creator Mark Steward, who added that while it is not about locking kids up, it is by no means a soft approach. The model’s success by comparison to other youth justice systems is quite remarkable.

Steward revealed that 70% of the youngsters that go through the Missouri system stay out of trouble, while between 40-90% of kids in other systems go back to jail. Because of the model’s emphasis on safety, youth in other correctional facilities are 4.5 times more likely to be assaulted and staff 13 times more likely to be assaulted. Moreover, young people in the regular prison system are 200 times more likely to be locked in isolation for one reason or another that in the Missouri system.

“The Missouri facilities are safer and it’s about helping kids not hurting them,” Steward said. He said that in many cases the first reaction to the systemwas that it was coddling the youngsters who had committed serious crimes.

“There is nothing soft however about the model as the youngsters who come to the facilities are forced to face and deal with the issues that led them into crime or the behavioural problems and no one gets out until they begin to really change,” he added, stating that although some kids try and fake it the intensity of the programme soon sees through those attempts.

Steward said the fundamental philosophy behind the model is to change the behaviour of the young people and improve outcomes, no matter how terrible their family situation, the drug abuse, the neglect or the violence that the young people have suffered. The model equips them to deal with the circumstance differently.

The model was developed in Missouri over 30 years ago as a result of the terrible youth correctional system in the state. With St Lois one of the most violent cities in the US, Steward said the state was forced to examine how it was dealing with some of the country’s most serious delinquent young violent offenders. As a result it moved away from a traditional prison environment and began developing a system that looked at long term change. “Even the most serious offenders and toughest kids improve in this system, which produces tremendous results,” he added.

The model has evolved over a long time period and offers different levels of care, from a family scenario to the more secure level for youths given adult sentences. Although housed securely and safely, the young people are not locked in cells (although each facility has one cell room for emergency situations) but they are very closely supervised by staff and peer groups at all times. The centres, Steward explained, are home environments not prisons, which is a stark contrast.

Steward’s colleague, Director of Consulting Dr Pili Robinson, said the Missouri model was not a set programme. There is no book or manual but the model offered an individualized process for kids and their families that was all about self exploration and getting below the tip of the iceberg of the acting out behaviour. “It is not cookie-cutter approach,” Dr Robinson said, adding that it wasn’t about simply passing through levels of good behaviour or certain achievements; it was about change and real growth. “It’s not just a check off list, it’s not come here and be good; we want them to come here and change.”

The youngsters participatein highly structured daily activities, which the experts said was crucial. Giving young delinquents lots of free time, which is what happens in other youth correctional facilities, gives them the opportunity to get into trouble. Once in a peer group, the youngsters stay with that group and do everything together. When a kid misbehaves, Dr Robinson revealed, the situation is dealt with then and there. They are never asked to leave the room, for example, during a lesson, as would happen in usual school. He explained that everyone in the group stops what they are doing and gets involved to deal with the behaviour or problem.

The model is, after three decades, finally beginning to catch the attention of numerous other states. Steward said that it was about ten years ago that the model came to national prominence and many other places are now looking at how they can introduce the system, but he warned that it takes time because it requires a great deal of change for the administrators of the youth system.

“The work for staff is a lot more challenging than simply locking kids up in cells and keeping them confined,” and he said it’s hard for government administrations and the people employed by the state to buy into the hard work required for the model to succeed.

Mike Adam noted that it would also take time to adapt the philosophy here in the Cayman Islands and warned the shift in practice was not a “magic pill”. He said there would be challenges ahead as it was a multi-dimensional treatment approach which has evolved over many, many years of trial and error. “We must also remember that this model will have to be “’localised’ to capture our cultural nuances,” Adam said, but the working session was the first step on the journey.

See documentary on Missouri Model

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Water company still negotiating for new franchise

| 17/03/2011 | 3 Comments

(CNS): Consolidated Water Co Ltd has reported a decline in earnings by 13 percent in its 2010 results. The firm revealed that total revenues for the year end December 31 declined to around $50.7 million, compared with approximately $58 million in 2009. The private firm, which supplies water on Grand Cayman and operates in other parts of the Caribbean, said the declinewas down to rate reduction of 7 percent and a lower volume of sales due to Cayman’s soft economy. Rick McTaggart, Chief Executive Officer of Consolidated Water Co. Ltd also revealed in his comments on the results that the firm has not yet negotiated its new retail water franchise in Cayman and it was taking longer than expected.

“We continue to negotiate with the Cayman Islands government for a new retail water franchise in Grand Cayman. This process has taken longer and been more difficult than anyone anticipated,” McTaggart said but did not indicate what the problems were regarding the talks. “However, we continue to meet with the government negotiating team on a regular basis, and we are optimistic that a satisfactory conclusion to the negotiations will eventually be forthcoming," he added.

McTaggart said the firm was optimistic about the 20111 year despite a fall in profits in 2010. “We are encouraged, however, by recent signs of recovery, including a 17% increase in retail water sales in our franchise area, along with gains of approximately 6% in both air and cruise ship passenger arrivals to Grand Cayman during the month of January 2011, when compared with the prior-year period,” McTaggart said.

The financial report revealed that net income attributable to stockholders improved to $6,292,025, or $0.43 per diluted share, in the year ended 31 December 2010, compared with net income of $6,098,571, or $0.42 per diluted share, in the year ended 31 December 2009.

The services segment recorded a gross profit of approximately $0.7 million in the year ended 31 December 2010, compared with a gross profit of approximately $3.8 million in 2009. The lower gross profit for 2010 in the services segment stems primarily from the decrease in construction revenues and, to a lesser extent, from liquidated damages of $260,000 and construction cost overruns relating to the refurbishment and commissioning of the Red Gate plant.

Interest income increased 50% to $1,375,827 in the year ended 31 December 2010, versus $917,330 in the previous year, due to interest earned on the loans receivable from the Water Authority – Cayman arising from the completion and sale of the North Side Water Works and the refurbishment of the Red Gate plant.

"While looking forward is always a challenging task, we believe Consolidated Water is well-positioned to expand its role in the global water industry in coming years by moving into new geographic markets and pursuing larger project opportunities. Despite the economic and geopolitical uncertainties facing the world today, a growing number of countries are finally realizing that their existing natural fresh water resources will be inadequate for their long-term requirements. As more of these countries turn to the vast potential of our oceans as a source of potable water, the future for seawater desalination, in general, and our company, in particular, looks increasingly bright," concluded McTaggart.

Consolidated Water Co. Ltd. develops and operates seawater desalination plants and water distributionsystems in areas of the world where naturally occurring supplies of potable water are scarce or nonexistent. The company operates water production and/or distribution facilities in the Cayman Islands, Belize, the British Virgin Islands, The Commonwealth of The Bahamas and Bermuda.

Consolidated Water Co. Ltd. is headquartered in George Town, Grand Cayman. The company’s ordinary (common) stock is traded on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol "CWCO". Additional information on the company is available on its website at www.cwco.com.

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East End dock may threaten blues

| 17/03/2011 | 37 Comments

(CNS): The developers of the proposed East End Seaport are being advised that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) must pay close attention to the signs of iguana presence that have been noted in the shrubland along the southern ridge of the proposed site. A preliminary assessment of the area by government officials showed some evidence of a possible pair of the island’s indigenous and critically endangered blue iguana in the terrestrial part of the development, which the DoE says warrants further investigation. The terms of reference for the EIA, which were published by the East End Seaport developers this week, point out the possible presence of the ‘blues’ and recommend special attention be paid to the area.

Joseph Imparato proposes to site a commercial sea port in the High Rock area of East End, where there are believed to be some blue iguanas living wild. Although the islands’ indigenous iconic iguana is mostly confined to the recovery programme areas at the Botanic Park and the Salina Reserve to the north of the proposed development site, there are thought to be a few remaining wild pairs scattered throughout the East End interior.

The terms of reference, which are expected to guide the planned EIA for Joseph Imparato’s proposed port, reflect the recommendations made by the Environmental Advisory Board and point to the need to pay special attention to the possibility of the iguanas at the site, as well as the impact on other fauna and flora in the terrestrial part of the development.

The director of the Department of Environment said the advisory board was formed especially to look at this project’s potential EIA and comprised representatives from the Water Authority, the planning department, the roads authority and the DoE. “This was a truly collaborative effort following the model that has been laid out in the proposed National Conservation Law,” Gina Ebanks-Petrie said.

Although there is still no sign of the national conservation law reaching the Legislative Assembly, Petrie said the agencies involved worked in the way that the law envisioned when it comes to projects and developments of this magnitude. The director added that she hoped that the terms of reference (ToRs) were comprehensive enough and that the public would take a look at them and offer their comments.

The ToRs are now available on the East End Seaport website and will be posted on the DoE’s site on Thursday, where the public will be able to send comments about the document. At present it covers a wide range of issues and recommends that the EIA examine human and cultural resources as well as the more obvious potential risks to terrestrial and marine environments. At the very outset the ToRs spell out the need to describe the rationale for the development and its objectives and offer an explanation of why the proposed project is needed.

It asks that the assessment also look at the alternatives to the proposed project that would achieve the same objective as well as the “no action alternative” — one which many people in East End and North Side are likely to support given the wide opposition that exists to the project.

According to the TOR document, the EIA will need to look at wave height, wave period, wave direction and wave climate in the vicinity of the site, based upon records in longterm wave model databases. An analysis of the impacts of the proposed entrance channel and jetty on sediment transport under normal and extreme conditions will also be conducted, it states.

Those undertaking the EIA will be committed to conducting a survey of local corals and other benthic habitats in the project area, as well as of fish and marine organisms, the water quality and the impact the development would have on them.

The ToRs say that possible sources for any current degradation of water and sediment quality will be identified and analysed in respect to existing water borne activities and upland land uses. “Water and sediment quality conditions required to support a healthy and functional fish, wildlife, and benthic community structure will be identified along with any noted deviations from acceptable scientific standards,” the document states.

Air, noise and hazard vulnerability are all listed as areas for the EIA to examine but there are some key points in the TORs that people will be closely watching with regards to the dredging and the quarrying that will be required if the development goes ahead.

As the proposed excavation will remove subsurface material that forms an integral part of the system that maintains the water lens in the area, the ToR document says an issue of concern is that the presence of “joints and fractures, evidenced by photolineaments, may well be the most controlling factor in the properties of the lens,” but the document reveals these are “the hardest to model.” In other words, it will be hard for the EIA to predict with any certainty what may happen to the water lens during the quarrying and dredging.

There is considerable opposition to the development not just in East End but in the neighbouring district of North Side, as well as across Grand Cayman. Both of the elected representatives in the districts are against the project, as Arden McLean and Ezzard Miller say that they believe the proposed port is merely a front for the real purpose, which is to extract the valuable marl from the land at the proposed site.

The potential contamination of the water lens, the dangers of dredging, the impact on the reefs and the potential increased risk to the surrounding communities that such a deep channel would have during hurricanes in an area known to experience very high wave activity, have all been raised by many of the islands’ experienced mariners.

But the site is also home to a significant amount of the islands’ endangered flora and fauna – including the blue iguana — as well as some of its most pristine underwater environments. Once completed, the EIA is expected to offer a more comprehensive picture of exactly what such a development could mean to this location and give the people a better understanding of what may be sacrificed if the project were to go ahead.

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