Archive for June 19th, 2011

“Cui bono?” asks Miller

| 19/06/2011 | 29 Comments

(CNS): The independent member for North Side asked government who benefits from its budget when he turned to the Latin phrase ‘cui bono’ to help him theme his response to the premier’s address.  Ezzard Miller said he could not find even a glimmer of hope for Cayman or Caymanians in the budget so it was not the people who were benefitting and certainly not his constituents. Miller said government’s claim of a $12million surplus was misleading the public because once the losses for statutory authorities were included the surplus was $3.6milllion. He also warned government not to pin its “hopes of prosperity on Joe Imparato and his mega quarry” as he pointed to its failure to cut spending.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday evening he pointed out that the premier’s budget address contradicted the governor’s Throne Speech and wondered how the two could have been approved by the same government.

Miller said he had found at least 32 different entries in the budget presentation that would increase costs to government but not a single statement anywhere about cutting back on expenditure. Aside from a one line reference in the Throne Speech last month regarding the civil service review, Miller said he could find no reductions in money coming out of the public purse, despite an indication that at least $17 million had been identified in this review.

The outspoken member wondered whether government had been using both accrual and cash balance accounting methods to make this year’s budget balance.

Of the many contradictions the member said were in the Throne Speech and the budget he said the stated goal of reducing local unemployment while revealing a twenty-five percent increase in revenue from work permits was one ofthe most curious.

The former chair of the Public Accounts Committee also asked what was happening about government’s failure to finish the outstanding backlog of accounts since there was no mention of it in the budget. He noted that every CFO in government had given a commitment when PAC last met to get them up to date and Miller said this was an issue government had to address.

Turning his attention to the major developments proposed by government, he pointed to another contradiction when he said the governor had announced plans for a waste-to-energy facility only for that to be abandoned under the mega deal with Dart, which would now be providing government with an eco-waste park in the Midland Acre area of Bodden Town.

He questioned what was happening with plans for the George Town cruise facilities now government had walked away from the deal with GLF/Royal port in favour of a Chinese company. He said that CHEC was currently being investigated in Jamaica in connection with the charge of over US$9 million for the construction of a road which was less than a mile long and said government needed to look more carefully at who it was doing business with.

Miller raised his concerns about the government’s decision to enter into a major agreement with Dart Cayman as no company existed by that name.  He said he hoped government’s new alliance was not with the "vulture fund magnate Ken Dart, whom Bill Clinton had described as one of the most dangerous people in the world,” and added that the UK had passed a legislation last year prohibiting the trading of these types of funds.

TheNorth Side representative said he was eagerly awaiting government’s decision not to go ahead with the “mega quarry” as proposed by Joe Imparato and referred to in the Throne Speech.

Miller said he had collected a significant number of signatures in his district and even more in the neighbouring district of East End.  “There is substantial opposition to this proposal and I hope government will be minded to tell the developer of the project in East End that it won’t be going forward,” he said.

Miller said he had serious concerns about government entering into business deals with developers such as Imparato and Dart because of the reasons why the two men had both left their own countries. “There needs to be some due diligence,” he said as he called on the people of Cayman to ask questions about and Google the two developers.

He said he had already had constituents raise very real concerns about the unfair competition created by big businesses dominating the local economy and that the new deal with Dart would only make things worse without the safety net of a fair trade commission as he had suggested in a private members motion.

“It is very risky when we allow big business to get control of local businesses,” he said, noting that Dart already controlled the wholesale liquor business and was very close to controlling the duty free business. “We are putting for too many eggs in that basket, “ Miller added.

As he wound up his contribution to the debate, Miller said he had found this year’s financials particularly difficult to “navigate” and had found no benefits for the Caymanian people. As a result he would not be supporting government’s 2011/12 budget because, he said, there were too many inconsistencies and contradictions.

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Weather forecasting hit by funding cuts

| 19/06/2011 | 0 Comments

(NPR): Federal budget cuts are threatening to leave the US without some critical satellites, officials say, and that could mean less accurate warnings about events like tornadoes and blizzards. In particular, officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are concerned about satellites that orbit over the earth's poles rather than remaining over a fixed spot along the equator. These satellites are "the backbone" of any forecast beyond a couple of days, says Kathryn Sullivan, assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction, and NOAA's deputy administrator.

It was data from polar satellites that alerted forecasters to the risk of tornadoes in Alabama and Mississippi back in April, Sullivan says. "With the polar satellites currently in place we were able to give those communities five days' heads up," she says.

But that level of precision could diminish in the next few years, Sullivan says.

One important NOAA satellite in a polar orbit will reach the end of its expected life around 2016. And its replacement has been delayed by a continuing resolution passed by Congress that limits the agency's ability to pursue its new Joint Polar Satellite System. Sullivan says that means there could be more than a year when the nation is lacking a crucial eye in the sky.

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CITA backs PPM on rollover

| 19/06/2011 | 85 Comments

(CNS): The body representing local businesses in the tourism sector has warmly welcomed comments by the opposition leader to drop rollover and called on the premier to take up the suggestion. In the wake of the call by Alden McLaughlin in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, the Cayman Islands Tourism Association said abandoning the seven year term limit on work permits was one of the most pressing issues among its members and one that the organisation sees as a priority for turning round the fortunes of the industry. Speaking on Friday afternoon on behalf of the association, Trina Christian said the industry was about to lose a quarter of its workforce to rollover and asked government to act on the PPM leader’s call.

Often considered the party that was preventing reform for immigration, the PPM's call for the removal of the controversial policy will, CITA hopes, leave the door open for the government, which has said it backs immigration reform, to remove the term limits before critical people leave the islands.

Christian, the association’s Executive Director, explained that for tourism rollover has presented particular challenges as employers are rarely given key employee status for staff that they often perceive to be crucial to their operation because of issues of loyalty, customer service and recognition. She said the industry is people oriented and individual employee personalities are often an intrinsic part of the service for some local operators.

Despite the industry’s efforts to train and employ locals wherever possible, nine times out of ten, Christian pointed out, work-permit holders who were forced to leave were replaced by other ex-pats. She talked about the impact on individual small business and noted at least one restaurant that would be losing some 15% of its work force this month, which presents incredible challenges.

“Rollover is still seen as a really really critical issue when it come to strategies for tourism over the coming year,” Christian said. “We have polled members and immigration is still a major challenge for everyone.”

She added that CITA welcomed the opposition leader’s comments and called on government to seriously consider the proposal to drop the policy.

“We understand that it is a controversial issue but the policy is affecting the product and the service,” she said. “So at least let’s start the discussion about abandoning the rollover as this problem has to be addressed. Cayman is perceived as an expensive destination and that is fine if we exceed expectations with the service we provide but if we don’t that’s a problem and service is down to the right people.”

Christian emphasised the importance of loyalty, which is needlessly lost because of rollover as employers see their best people forced to leave when the employees don’t want to leave and employers really don’t want them to leave.

Given the nature of the industry, very few people return after twelve months as they find work elsewhere and settle down again. “More often than not, the island loses two good workers when someone is rolled over as they take their partners with them,” she said and noted that for tourism the recruitment and immigration challenges continue to be far more difficult than in any other sector.

During his response to the premier’s budget address on Wednesday McLaughlin, who said his party had supported the policy in the past, now believed that while rollover was achieving its objective it was doing so at too high a cost and a new solution needed to be found.

“The rollover policy has succeeded in its objective at considerable social and economic cost,” McLaughlin stated. He said that eight years after it was introduced there was still widespread dissatisfaction with its workings and its effect, both within the immigrant population, which is subject to it, and among Caymanian employers. 

He said it was time for the Cayman Islands to abandon the rollover policy in favour of a more business friendly, socially acceptable and equitable policy. 

“We understand that not everyone who comes here on a work permit will be able to remain here indefinitely and we are not suggesting that, but we believe there is a better way than that afforded by the present system,” the opposition leader said as he explained his party’s new position. “We propose that the present legislation which imposes a 7 year term limit on all work-permit holders except those who are key employees be repealed.  We also propose that the concept of key employees be repealed.

“In the place of these provisions there should be a general provision which provides that all persons on work permit are entitled to apply for permanent residence after they have lived in the Cayman Islands for 8 years and that they must do so by year 10 if they wish to remain in the Cayman Islands beyond that point. “

He added that applications for permanent residence would continue to be considered and determined on the basis of a points system.  “Not everyone who applies for permanent residence can expect to be granted it.  But we should not set the bar for permanent residence so high that only professional and managerial persons can ever hope to achieve it.  Nor should we set it so low that just about anyone will qualify.”

He said those who are granted permanent residence must have the capacity to be good, contributing members of the Cayman society and have the means to look after themselves.

“The premier says he constantly worries about the declining population. We call on him and his government to stop tinkering around the edges of the current immigration legislation and bring a bill to this House which will abandon the rollover policy, which he instituted 8 years ago,in favour of the more equitable, socially and economically acceptable alternative which I have just outlined on behalf of the opposition,” McLaughlin added, stating that he believed addressing immigration would help local businesses through the present dire economic times.

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Cayman’s special athletes leave for Greece

| 19/06/2011 | 6 Comments

(CNS): Cayman’s Special Olympians are on their way to Greece this weekend for the Special Olympics Summer Games in Athens with high hopes of adding to the country’s sporting trophy cabinet. Throughout the years, Cayman’s Special Olympians have built a reputation as strong competitors. Last year during the Special Olympics Latin American (SOLA) Regional Games in Puerto Rico, the national team netted thirteen medals, seven of them gold.  The 2011 team comprises nine athletes. Cindy Whittaker, Andrew Hales, Matthew Ebanks and Shanike Ebanks in track and field; Andrew Smiley, Quinton Ebanks and Kanza Bodden will represent Cayman in the pool; Elena Ow Lam and Mark Ebanks (left) will compete in bocce. (Photo courtesy Cayamn27)

The Special Olympics start next weekend and the Cayman team will be training in Crete before the games start on Saturday 25 June.

Mark Scotland the sports minister wished the athletes well and called on people to follow their progress. “The Special Olympics is arguably one of this year’s biggest international sporting events and we are proud of the delegation representing us,” he said. “Our Special Olympians have worked hard all year, preparing for the Summer Games. Moreover, they have already proven that they have what it takes. We therefore hope that each of them will reach – and exceed – their personal goals,” the Minister concluded.

For more information and to follow results go to http://www.athens2011.org/en/. The Special Olympics Summer Games will take place between 25 June and 4 July.
 

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New drivers warned of road dangers

| 19/06/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): With what police have described as a disproportionate amount of motor vehicle smashes on the Cayman Islands’ roads a government campaign to promote safe driving went into the classroom recently to deliver the message to young new license holders. Streetskill’s Levi Allen pointed out to the novice drivers that, “getting your driver’s license doesn’t mean you can drive well.” Delivering several road safety messages, Allen, who is also Public Work’s Training, Development and Safety Officer and serves on the National Road Safety Strategy team, told students about defensive driving techniques. (Photo Dennie Warren)

In the classroom session he covered areas such as risk taking, driving with peers as Passengers, being on the road late at night, and using phones while driving.

“Young drivers are particularly susceptible to traffic accidents as they generally lack the experience to respond to different situations,” Allen said. “Knowing the road code is one thing, but applying the rules to a changing road environment requires skills, knowledge, extensive practice and an understanding of how you, as young drivers, respond to pressures and distractions.”

National Roads Authority (NRA)’s Streetskill representative Marion Pandohie also told the driving students how to safely use Cayman’s roundabouts and Chief Inspector Angelique Howell of the RCIPSwho has voiced here concerns frequently about standards of driving pointed out that four people have already been killed on the roads this year. This she said has prompted police to ramp up our public education efforts.
“The rate of road accidents and deaths in Cayman is simply unacceptable, which is why we need to focus on prevention and education,” Howell added.

Streetskill is the public education campaign of the new multi-agency Cayman Islands National Road Safety Strategy which aims to reduce road fatalities and injuries. Members are Public Works, NRA, the RCIPS, Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing and the Cayman Islands Road Safety Advisory Council.

“We want everyone to take individual responsibility for road safety. Our call to action is simple: Don’t wait for disaster to happen. Talk to your family, friends and children about driving for life,” Allen said.

For more information on the campaign and to download road safety information go to www.gis.ky/streetskills
 

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Video spells out need to retain grouper ban

| 19/06/2011 | 7 Comments

(CNS): As part of the campaign to maintain the fishing ban around the Grouper Spawning grounds the REEF Grouper Moon Project has produced a short video spelling out the desperate need to keep the protection which is due to expire this December. The video involves local fishermen as well as experts from REEF and the DoE. Having been fished to the point of extinction the campaigners are pushing hard for more protection in the hope of allowing the fish to regenerate. The video offers a haunting reminder of how the fish was almost lost forever through over fishing during spawning.

Nassau grouper are an important driver of healthier coral reefs and the more of them we have the healthier the local reefs. Cayman Island spawning aggregations have been seasonally protected from fishing for the last8 years at all current and historic aggregation sites.

The status of future protections for the aggregations is still uncertain. Based on the research and findings of the Grouper Moon Project, the Cayman Islands Department of Environment has recommended a permanent seasonal closure during spawning season for Nassau grouper. 

“There has been some vocal opposition, but we are hopeful that science and common sense will prevail,” experts at REEF said.

The primary objective of the Grouper Moon Project is to evaluate the importance of Nassau grouper spawning aggregations to local fisheries and coral reef ecosystems. Little Cayman Island in the Cayman Islands is home to one of the last known, and largest, spawning aggregations of the endangered Nassau grouper.

For ten days following winter full moons, thousands of large grouper meet at known reef sites for short periods of time and release their gametes in massive spawning bursts. Since 2002, REEF has coordinated annual efforts to monitor and study the Little Cayman Nassau grouper aggregation.

The project has grown in scope to include an ambitious acoustic tagging research project, juvenile habitat and genetics studies, and oceanographic connectivity research.

See the video here

For more information on the Grouper Moon Project visit here see www.REEF.org

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UK picks out former spy as new governor for TCI

| 19/06/2011 | 21 Comments

(CNS): The British Government has chosen Damian Roderic (Ric) Todd, who once worked for MI6 as the new governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands. The fifty one year old official also worked as a finance director in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and spent five years with the UK’s Treasury department. Previous overseas postings have included South Africa, Germany, Slovakia and Poland where he is currently posted. Todd will assume his new role, directly ruling the UK Caribbean territory, in September when Gordon Wetherell's three-year contract ends.

Todd said he was delighted on the appointment and pointed out how much it differed from his previous experience. “It is not only a fascinating new job but also different from postings I have done before. I am looking forward to getting to know the people of the Islands and working with them on all the issues which we face," he said.

The UK imposed direct rule on the Turks and Caicos Islands in the summer of 2009 when an inquiry found evidence of government corruption and incompetence. Local administration was suspended for up to two years.

The UK is currently in the process of imposing a new constitution on the islands which has met with considerable internal opposition. In recent months the UK administrators have failed to improve the public finances and government offices were recently disconnected by the islands private power company for not paying the light bill.

 

 

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Cayman observes Sickle Cell Disease Day

| 19/06/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): According to Public Health statistics, there are 41 people affected by sickle cell disease in the Cayman Islands. It is a chronic disease, which is managed by treating the symptoms and helping those afflicted to cope. Screening started locally in the early 1970s for high risk families. Since the 1980s all students are tested before starting school and in 1997 routine newborn screening began. “This has greatly helped in early identification of sickle cell trait and disease – which is important so people can access theappropriate counselling and treatment available,” said the genetics coordinator, Joy Merren, Sunday, as Cayman observed World Sickle Cell Disease Day (19 June) in an effort to raise awareness about the world’s most common genetic disorder.

“It is important to test for sickle cell trait – as this information can help parents make informed reproductive choices,” Merrson explained.  “If someone has sickle cell trait, it is important to know if one’s partner is also a carrier. If both parents are sickle cell carriers, then with each pregnancy, there is a 25% risk of having a child with sickle cell disease. While sickle cell trait is mild, sickle cell disease is serious and can potentially affect every organ of the body.”

Cayman has a Sickle Cell Support Group that meets around three to four a year offering support to patients and families as they share experiences in coping with sickle cell disease. “Also included are educational presentations on awareness and management of the disease,” Merren added.

Sickle cell disease is an inherited chronic disorder that affects red blood cells. It has a worldwide distribution, and is one of the most common genetic disorders. Everyone has two genes that make haemoglobin. Normal red blood cells contain haemoglobin A, a protein that helps red blood cells carry oxygen around the body. With sickle cell there is a different form of protein, haemoglobin S. With sickle cell disease, both genes are affected, causing severe symptoms. Normal red blood cells are round, flat and very flexible. However, when the oxygen comes out of the red blood cells of sickle cell disease, the cell becomes stiff and takes on the shape of a sickle – hence, the name.

The sickle cells clump together, are not able to squeeze through the small blood vessels, and so the sickle cells get destroyed more quickly.  A normal red blood cell lives approximately 120 days but a sickle cell may only live 11 or 12 days. 

When only one gene is affected, it is called sickle cell trait, or persons are called sickle cell carriers. Having sickle cell trait means that the person stays healthy under normal circumstances, and the main significance is that it can be passed on to one’s children. However, under certain extreme circumstances, a person with the trait may experience complications as if having sickle cell disease. People who have just the trait cannot later develop the disease. A blood test can be done to determine if a person has the trait.

If a man and a woman are both sickle cell carriers, with each pregnancy, there is a 25% chance of the child having the disease, a 25% chance of the child being completely free from sickle cell and a 50% chance of the child having the sickle cell trait, i.e., being a carrier.
If only one parent is a carrier, then there is a 50% chance of the child having the trait and a 50% chance of the child being completely free of sickle and no chance of the child having the disease.

Sickle Cell causes anaemia, jaundice and gallstones due to rapid breakdown of the red blood cells as well as painful swelling of fingers and toes in babies and painful attacks of joints, back and abdomen as there may be damage to the bone marrow. Infections may develop, such as pneumonia and leg ulcers due to less oxygen to the lower legs.

The disease is managed through recommended immunizations plus pneumococcal vaccines, penicillin, starting from about 2 months of age to 5 years of age to help prevent serious infection and by using medications as needed. Folic acid also helps to make new red cells
  
The next meeting of the local sickle cell group is planned for Tuesday, 21 June 2011 at 7:30 p.m. in the Public Health Waiting Room at the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority and is open to the public. For further information, please contact Joy Merren on 244-2630 at thePublic Health Department.

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