Archive for June 9th, 2011

EE port a risk to 20 dive sites

| 09/06/2011 | 30 Comments

(CNS):A local dive expert has revealed that at least twenty dive sites will be at risk if the proposed commercial seaport is allowed to go ahead in East End. Steve Broadbelt, the owner of Ocean Frontiers and CITA board director, has raised a number of concerns about the EIA completed on behalf of Joe Imparato's proposed project as he says the dive industry was not consulted. He warned that not only would at least two important dive sites be completely destroyed, another seven, which are the only sites accessible at certain times of year, are also under threat if the project goes ahead. Broadbelt said the risk to the sites and how that will impact the islands’ dive product has not been considered in the EIA.

He warned that twenty sites are within three miles of the proposed location and they could all be negatively affected or have thier access undermined if the port were to become a reality. Seven of the sites are located in the Half Moon Bay area within less than 800 yards of the proposed port entrance.

“If the EI consultants had consulted with local boat operators in the district, and in particular dive operators, they would have discovered that the seven sites which will be directly impacted by the dredging activities and subsequent commercial activities are the only dive sites that can be accessed at certain times of the year,” Broadbelt said following his review of the EIA.

He explained that when the wind direction is directly from the east with wind speeds in excess of 14 knots, safe diving conditions are confined to the seven sites in the lee of Half Moon Bay. These important dive sites enable local operators to offer year round dive trips.

“Without these sites, dive operators would not be able to offer divers the assurances needed to travel thousands of miles to experience what East End diving has to offer,” the dive expert warned.

Broadbelt pointed out that aside from the complete destruction of two important sites as a direct result of dredging, the other sites would be in jeopardy as currents and tidal flows may well result in silt and sediment reaching the sites during and after the work.

“The coral reefs are already under significant stress and are experiencing significant difficulty adapting,” he stated. “This has been documented by the Department of Environment by demonstrating a reduction in coral coverage due to impact from coral bleaching, coral disease and water run-off.”

The EIA states that additional new dive sites will be added east of impacted dive sites, but Broadbelt pointed out that there is no reef there, which seriously undermines the quality of the assessment which was commissioned by the East End Sea Port developer.

“If the consultants had conducted test dives in the proposed area to the East between the proposed port and the Blow Holes, they would have discovered that there is no reef formation or topography of interest to create a shallow reef dive site,” he said.

“The area east of Iron Shore Gardens (the most easterly impacted site) to the Blow Holes consists of flat 'Hard Pan' substrate which is of little interest for divers. Natural reefs cannot be created by man and take millennia to form, and the notion that the shallow reefs that are suitable for scuba divers are simply continuous and uniform along the entire coastline demonstrates how uninformed the recommendations are.”

The former Cayman Islands Tourism Association president added that the importance of East End diving to the overall tourism product was simply not properly considered in the EIA.

Broadbelt said that East End accounts for fourteen percent of the Licensed Tourism Room Stock and the district supports a significant amount of Grand Cayman’s car rental business. He noted that Cayman has traditionally attracted relatively high volumes of divers and has been particularly popular with affluent divers.

“In the 1990s, Cousteau estimated there to be 240,000 divers visiting the reefs, doing on average ten dives per person —  2.4 million dives per annum. Previous surveys also suggest that divers stay longer on island than other visitors and therefore spend slightly more than average. Diving remains an important tourism driver,” he said.

Broadbelt pointed out that government’s National Tourism Management Policy 2009-2013 had identified a range of excellent natural resources, particularly on the Sister Islands and in the Eastern Districts, which offer the opportunity to diversify the local tourism product but need to be protected.

While it spoke about some development in the Eastern Districts, any development had to be well planned, of high quality and in the context of a new environmental code. It also spoke about being of distinctive Caymanian character and sensitive to the environmental constraints of the site and its terrestrial and marine surroundings.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:30pm at the East End Civic Centre.

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Hedge funds accused of African land grab

| 09/06/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Hedge funds are behind "land grabs" in Africa to boost their profits in the food and biofuel sectors, a US think-tank says. In a report, the Oakland Institute said hedge funds and other foreign firms had acquired large swathes of African land, often without proper contracts. It said the acquisitions had displaced millions of small farmers. Foreign firms farm the land to consolidate their hold over global food markets, the report said. They also use land to "make room" for export commodities such as biofuels and cut flowers. "This is creating insecurity in the global food system that could be a much bigger threat than terrorism," the report said.

The Oakland Institute said it released its findings after studying land deals in Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Mali and Mozambique. 

It said hedge funds and other speculators had, in 2009 alone, bought or leased nearly 60m hectares of land in Africa – an area the size of France.

“The same financial firms that drove us into a global recession by inflating the real estate bubble through risky financial manoeuvres are now doing the same with the world's food supply," the report said. It added that some firms obtained land after deals with gullible traditional leadersor corrupt government officials.

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Teenage son suffers dad’s year long pranks

| 09/06/2011 | 0 Comments

(San Francisco Chronicle): Dale Price has officially been labeled the "world's most embarrassing dad." The stay-at-home father of three from American Fork, Utah, dressed up in weird and wacky get-ups to wave goodbye to his 16-year-old son's school bus every morning. For the entire school year, he wore some 170 different costumes, dressing up as everyone from King Triton to Princess Leia. Why? It was Dale's way of showing his love for his son. Rain Price was initially horrified when he looked outside the school bus window passing his house and saw his dad, Dale, donning a scarecrow costume and waving goodbye. It was the first day of his sophomore year–and terribly embarrassing.

On the second day, his dad showed up sporting a San Diego Chargers helmet and jersey. Day three came along and his dad was dressed as Anakin Skywalker.

At first the costumes were simple and modest, but they progressively became crazy…Batgirl, Chiquita Banana, Little Mermaid. Over the course of the year, he dressed up as every Wizard of Oz Character.
Luckily, Rain has a sense of humor and realized that his dad was just having fun, and friends found Rain's father hilarious.

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See all the costumes here
 

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Kids exposed to trauma have higher health risks

| 09/06/2011 | 0 Comments

(HealthNewsDigest): New research has shown that children’s risk for learning, behaviour problems and obesity rises in correlation to their level of trauma exposure, says the psychiatrist at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital who oversaw the study. The study examined children living in a violent, low-income neighbourhood and documented an unexpectedly strong link between abuse, trauma and neglect and the children’s mental and physical health. It reported that children experiencing four types oftrauma were 30 times more likely to have behaviour and learning problems than those not exposed to trauma.

“In communities where there is violence, where children are exposed to events such as shootings in their neighbourhoods, kids experience a constant environmental threat,” said senior author Victor Carrion, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Stanford. “Contrary to some people’s belief, these children don’t get used to trauma. These events remain stressful and impact children’s physiology.”

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Teen’s account of shooting ‘implausible’ says crown

| 09/06/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The director of public prosecutions has invited a judge to reject the account given by defendant Jordon Manderson (18) of the night Marcus Duran was killed and find him guilty of murder. Wrapping up her case on  Wednesday against the teen who stands accused of killing the numbers man in March last year, Cheryl Richards QC told Justice Charles Quin that Manderson's evidence was “implausible” and “plainly untruthful”. With no eye witnesses, the crown has based its case on circumstantial and forensic evidence but she said that it had demonstrated that Manderson was at the scene, that he had the opportunity, was motivated by financial gain as part of a joint enterprise to rob the victim and had lied to the police to cover up his guilt.

Manderson is accused of shooting Duran at Maliwinas Way in West Bay during what the prosecution say was a robbery gone wrong that was masterminded by Raziel Jeffers. The crown’s case is that Jeffers knew that several numbers men were frequent visitors to the apartment outside of which Duran was shot, and had planned the crime with Manderson and Craig Johnson as the getaway driver. The three men were linked by phone records and all in the area at the time of the shooting, which Richards said was not a chance event but an orchestrated and precisely timed crime.

Richards told thejudge that Manderson’s account from the witness stand of how he was shot by Andy Barnes or possibly Damion Ming does not fit the forensic evidence and was improbable. The teen defendant claimed to be on the stairs, having run into the lighted area and crouched down, when he said the two gunmen ran towards him. She said his explanations “strained credibility” and did not make sense but were attempts to cover his guilty conduct.

“No person running from a gunman runs into the light and crouches down in full view of that gunman,” the DPP argued in her closing speech. “It is an instinctive reaction to run out of the way.” The bullet which is believed to be the one that hit Manderson during the night’s events was found, not on the stairs or the ground, but up the stairs on the balcony close to the body of the victim. She dismissed the possibility of contamination of the scene, saying that it would be impossible to believe that it was the only piece of evidence that was moved.

A hat which contained both the DNA of Manderson and the deceased was also found at the top of the stairs, pointing to the teen’s presence on the balcony, where during the trial the teen said he had never been.

She pointed to the many lies that Manderson had told the police, starting with his first claim that he had been shot at Birch Tree Hill by Andy Barnes, which he later retracted when his DNA was found at the scene. Richards described this as more than a transfer of what happened at Maliwinas Wayto a different location but a complete concoction. The crown counsel also said that Manderson had insisted he had been picked up by a man in a grey van that he didn’t know but was later forced to admit it was Chris Johnson in a white car when again his blood was found in that vehicle.

She also said that phone records and witnesses all place Barnes well away from Maliwinas Way that night. By contrast, however, Manderson, Johnson and Jeffers were, according to phone records, all in the same cell site area at the time of the crime. Furthermore, Richards pointed to evidence given to the court that Jeffers had been the one to suggest blaming the "Logswood Boys", meaning Barnes and Ming, among others.

Richards said that Manderson had also told the police that he had heard Duran had been robbed of some $9,000 — a very specific figure that the police never had in evidence but which she said indicated further specific knowledge of the crime. She said the accused teen was “clearly deceptive” and guilty of the crime, which was a triangular joint enterprise with Jeffers at the top of the triangle as the one who orchestrated the plan to rob Duran.   

David Fisher QC, defence counsel for Manderson, will begin his submissions to the judge Thursday morning before Justice Quin retires to consider his verdict on the murder charge.

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Politics of learning

| 09/06/2011 | 15 Comments

The current minister of education can probably expect to earn some ‘love from the people’ for his recent moves to begin the much needed redevelopment of local primary schools. And why not? After all, who doesn’t love a minister who spends on learning? Oh hold on — of course one that spends on high school learning.

Recent comments by Rolston Anglin over his primary school project have been delivered without the slightest hint of irony, and while he is absolutely correct that primary school kids are in environments not conducive to learning, that modular classrooms are horrid and expensive, that schools are cramped, we all know where we heard similar comments before.

The minister’s goal to improve the facilities at primary schools is to be welcomed. However, what undermines this laudable goal to redevelop the primary schools is that, while the current minister’s plan is a marvellous and brilliant step towards transforming education, his predecessor’s plan to transform secondary education was – apparently –nothing but a foolish endeavour to build monuments to himself .

The kids at the John Gray High School are plagued by all of the same problems that younger children attending primary school face. Their learning environment challenges are compounded by the fact they have a building site on their school campus in a state of limbo and the kids who are now allocated to Clifton Hunter don’t even have a school to go to. These are kids that are facing their exams and at an age when anti-social behaviour is more challenging to deal with and more likely to escalate. They are at an age, too, when learning difficulties are far trickier to address and when kids are less likely to endure adversity and still excel.

The issue that everyone sees and which the minister seems to be hoping they will ignore is that this is all a lot more about politics and lot less about learning. Anglin, like all politicians, is looking for his own monuments to his time in office. After all, politicians who lose their seats or step down from the political fray, as history reveals, soon disappear from the public space unless they can tie their names to enduring  projects.

Anglin could have used the $10 million he is spending on primary schools to hurry along the secondary school projects. However, had he made that choice he would have not only faced the pressure from parents regarding the desperate need for primary school expansions but at the same time he would have helped to secure another politician’s  place in the history books, while risking his own immortalization.

A tough call no doubt.

The issue is that both projects are worthy, desperately needed and very positive ways of spending public money. Around the world politicians are vilified and criticised for over spending on countless infrastructure projects, but schools are rarely on the list. Education ministers that don’t build schools or that cut spending on anything to do with education are far more likely to suffer the wrath of the voters.

Here in Cayman, the vilification of Alden McLaughlin, not least by the current education minister, for choosing to build state-of-the-art schools and making a real effort to turn around the way in which children have been taught in the Cayman Island, which was demonstratively failing, has been nothing short of astonishing.

Now, however, the minister who time and time again said that children can learn anywhere if the teaching is good enough is suddenly the flag bearer for better learning environments. With his tongue far away from his cheek, Anglin has spoken widely in recent weeks about the need to improve learning environments and about how difficult it is for children to learn in cramped conditions. He is right.

No matter how often the myth is blogged on CNS, it is not possible for children to succeed in the modern world if they are taught under coconut trees. If that were the case, we would not have the appalling low achievement levels that we record year after year. Nor is it just new classrooms that will produce successful students.

Modern learning is not just about encouraging children to study and look at the blackboard in a new clean more spacious classroom. It is about making them yearn for and be enthusiastic about learning, about understanding science and technology, dealing with emotional intelligence, being equipped to compete on a global jobs market, and so many more complex elements that traditional methods ignore.

It is even more significant here in Cayman where achievement is particularly low and where traditional classroom teaching has failed many many students, who in more innovative environments may have excelled.

Anglin himself has noted that in the local school system even children capable of high achievement have failed. This probably is down to myriad reasons, including a cultural disconnect with education, or poor parenting and low standards of teaching, but it is also down to the physical structure of the learning environment.

The high school projects were intended to be new, modern, dynamic and exciting learning spaces that would have given local students new hope and transformed the way they were taught. How much the delays and changes to the design to revert them back to more traditional classroom spaces will undermine the hopes for a revolution in local education remains to be seen as the completion dates still seem a long way off.

What everyone must be able to see by now, however, is that the secondary schools must be finished as soon as possible and that learning should not be sacrificed on the altar of politics. Anglin is right to want to get the primary projects underway but he needs to be as equally enthusiastic about the high schools.  His war of words with his predecessor is becoming tired. The high schools will always be associated with McLaughlin, no matter what Anglin does.

What he should do, which could endear him to the wider public even if it doesn’t secure him a place in the history books, is to take the moral high ground, to forget the point scoring and openly acknowledge the pressing need to get the high schools finished. 

The problem, of course, is that the words ‘moral high ground’ and ‘politicians’ rarely seem to make comfortable bed fellows.

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Imparato to face East Enders

| 09/06/2011 | 91 Comments

(CNS): The man who has proposed excavating a 4 million sq.ft. basin and 60 foot deep channel in the picturesque High Rock area of East End, which he claims will become a commercial sea port, is entering the proverbial lion’s den tomorrow evening (Thursday 9 June) to face the people of East End in an open public forum for what is understood to be the first time. Joe Imparato will be heading into the district where the majority of the people have expressed their unequivocal opposition to the proposal. Imparato will also be accompanied by the authors of the recently published environmental impact assessment which has caused considerable concern.

This meeting comes on the heels of a recent meeting in the district held by local MLA Arden McLean, who has vowed to take civil action to stop the project, where a considerable number of local people made it very clear that they opposed the project and would support McLean in whatever endeavour he chose to ensure the development would be stopped.

Both McLean and his legislative colleague from North Side, Ezzard Miller, say that if the development, which they believe is no more than a quarry, were to go ahead, it would destroy their communities. The two district representatives have confirmed that they will be attending the meeting to hear what the developer has to say and to pose a list or questions to the developer.

McLean and Miller, along with a significant number of people in the district, are fundamentally opposed to the project for a myriad of reasons, not least the potential devastating environmental destruction the project would pose.

Many people are now also convinced that the proposed commercial port project, which has been dubbed the “big hole”, is nothing more than a smoke screen to enable the developer to extract a significant and valuable amount of rock from the land he owns in the district.  In short, the proposal, if approved by government, would allow him to circumvent the usual planning laws and spend some three to four years excavating high quality marl from the earmarked project zone with no guarantees that he would complete a port to be handed over to the Cayman people.

A significant body of opposition to the proposed plans from across the islands has emerged and many people question the developers real intent to ever develop the port and now believe his goal is merely to extract the fill. This position has been fuelled by the developer’s refusal to enter into a bond guarantee about the port element of the project.

The recent EIA has also raised far more questions than it has answered, with local tour operators and environmental experts shocked at the results and the suggested mitigating action in response to the significant damage that the project proposes.

Given the scale of the proposal and the potentially devastating consequences were the developer to be given the green light by government, both local MLAs and other activists are calling on as many people as possible to attend the meeting to show their opposition. 

Last week the premier denied that he had offered official government support for the project to commence this financial year. However, in the Throne Speech delivered in the Legislative Assembly last month, as a preamble to the delayed budget, the governor singled out the East End commercial port as the one infrastructure project that government planned to get underway during this financial year. 

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:30pm at the EastEnd Civic Centre.

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Cops offer gun amnesty

| 09/06/2011 | 61 Comments

(CNS): Police will be holding a month long amnesty on firearms this July in an effort to repeat last year’s success. Detective Superintendent Marlon Bodden said that this time the amnesty would be promoted at a local level through a series of town hall meetings where police would discuss the issue of gun crime with residents in the community. He told CNS Wednesday morning that he believed the reason why there had been no murders in the Cayman Islands so far in 2011 was because of the successful amnesty last year in which some 23 firearms and ammunition were removed from the streets and he hoped to do the same during July’s no questions asked hand-in.

Acknowledging the increase in robberies involving firearms, in particular those where weapons have been fired recently, Bodden pointed out that while this was of significant concern, last year there were eight murders in Cayman and a similar number the year before. “This year we have had zero killings,” he added and said he truly believes that amnesties assist significantly in reducing the number of weapons on the street.

Last year the police focused on the warning that firearms related offences, even where no one is hurt, attract a minimum of ten years and asked people to give up weapons before they found themselves spending the next decade in Northward. This year, Bodden said, the police would be taking a different approach but would still be encouraging people to give up the guns while they had the chance.

The police ran the 2010 amnesty in May and June, and while gun crime continued throughout the month long reprieve, police still collected an impressive array of weaponry and ammunition. Bullets, cartridges, shotguns, rifles automatic weapons, hand-guns, homemade guns as well as adapted guns and even a crossbow were collected from the streets.

Speaking to Cayman 27 on Tuesday evening, Bodden said the police were still doing everything possible to get the guns out of the hands of the wrong people.

He disagreed that the police did not have a grip of the robbery situation but he said the RCIPS could only do its job if it was assisted by information from the public about where the guns are, as he said the police cannot fabricate evidence. He said that people were criticising the approach police were taking and suggesting they should be more aggressive.

“The RCIPS is aggressive,” he said, “but what individuals don’t understand about the RCIPS is that we are intelligently aggressive.”

Although the country’s murder rap sheet is empty, so far this year there have been an unprecedented amount of robberies, many of which have involved firearms. While in some cases the guns were imitation weapons, in the last few robberies the armed assailants have chosen to demonstrate that their weapons were real during the execution of the crime by firing their guns.

The police have made headway and made a number of arrests and brought charges in several ofthe robberies at gas stations and grocery stores but the three armed bank heists remain unsolved.

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