Archive for August 5th, 2011

Police follow up car sighting

| 05/08/2011 | 37 Comments

(CNS): Chief Superintendent John Jones revealed that police have now followed up on a possible sighting of Kerran Baker's car in Lower Valley on Saturday evening and areasking for more information from the public. At the daily press briefing on Friday morning regarding the disappearance of the missing 25 year old women, the senior officer said that a member of the public had called into police saying they may have seen Kerry's white Honda Civic in Midway Close around 9pm some two hours after the last confirmed sighting of her shopping in Fosters Supermarket.

Police did a thorough search of the area so far nothing of interest was found but Jones asked the public in the neighbourhood and Shamrock Road area to think about Saturday night and if they may have also seen that car moving along the road.

With no single line of enquiry revealing the whereabouts of the missing women police renewed their pleas for people to call in with any information that may help them piece together the movements of Kerran (KerryAnn) after she left Fosters at around 7pm on Saturday evening, and after returning to her home in Bodden Town, how her car came to be found around the Pedro St James area on Monday.

Following the arrival of Kerran's parents on Wednesday her sister Tonyann Anthony and her Aunt Iona Anthony Beadle have now joined them here in the Cayman islands. Both issued pleas to the community for help in trying to find their loved one who has now been missing for six days.

“Cayman we are seeking your assistance to find her we really need closure,” said her sister as she explained how difficult it was for Kerran's family especially their mother who she said was distraught. “If you know where her body is just tell us,” Tonyann pleaded adding that the family just needed to know if she was dead or alive. She also revealed that in conjunction with the police another search was being organised at 10am on Saturday morning and volunteers were welcome to join the group which was meeting close to where Kerran's car was found.

Kerran's aunt struggled to speak as she pleaded with people to help find her niece. “I just want to take her home,” she said through her tears. “Please if you know where she is just tell us…this is just tearing our hearts apart.”

Marlon Bodden said that there were no words to describe the pain of the family as he re-issued a plea for help. He said the police had continued searching the ocean all along the coast from Pedro to East End yesterday but nothing had been found.

The senior officers once again said that there were still no specific clues regarding what had happened to Kerran and that the investigators continued to keep a completely open mind about what had happened to her.

The police confirmed that the information they had from the phone company suggested that her phone had been used after the last sighting of her at Fosters Airport somewhere in her home area.. Jones said police were aware of the number she called last and those lines of enquiry were being pursued. He pointed out however, that it was not possible to be able to pinpoint exactly where the phone was when last used.

As a result of considerable assistance so far from the public Jones said that police were following up on various pieces of information cross checking it and also viewing many hours of video tape as he extended his thanks to everyone who had helped so far in particular staff at Fosters who had found Kerry on the tape.

Anyone with information is asked to call the police hotline on 949 7777 or Kerry's father Wilmot Anthony on 321 4271.

Volunteers who wish to help with the search tomorrow are asked to meet at 10am at the open lot next to the Texaco Gas Station in Savannah, across from Countryside. People will  then be taken to one of the search mentioned locations by bus. RCIPS officers will be coordinating the search teams.

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Fair Tax

| 05/08/2011 | 41 Comments

Is it fair that the unemployed construction worker or the minimum wage earner is paying the same tax on diesel fuel used by CUC as the wealthy?  On a percentage basis this is a grossly unfair way of taxing people.  Some will argue that we all pay the same duty on a loaf of bread regardless of our financial position but this is understood and is part of the cost of living in Cayman.

We accept duties on imported goods as an alternative to income tax as a means of generating revenue for government. Fuel is quite a different commodity. We, like most countries, are a fossil fuel based economy. The basic cost of living is affected more by fuel prices than any other single cause. To tax fuel does indeed result in more revenue for government but has the damaging effect of increased cost of living, reduced GDP and higher unemployment.

Unlike the loaf of bread, fuel is an unavoidable necessity, even more so than toilet tissue. If the cost of toilet tissue became too expensive due to government tax then some people would find alternatives. We have no alternatives when it comes to fuel.

I am proposing that the current fuel tax on CUC diesel be implemented in a way that is fairer to the population as a whole.

The following table of a graduated tax is an example

Monthly Usage                              Tax Per Gallon

500 KWH or less                              NO TAX
501 KWH to 1200 KWH                  25 cents
1201 KWH to 2000 KWH                50 cents
2000 KWH to 3000 KWH                1 dollar
Above 3000 KWH                            5 dollars

These figures are not absolute but merely represent the idea of the big (wealthy) users paying a greater percentage of the tax bases on their ability to pay.  It is not Robin Hood, where the rich pay for the poor. It is trying to approach a more fair basis on usage and the ability to pay.

It is important to understand that this graduated tax structure should only apply to residential customers and not to businesses or commercial properties. Business would simply pass the new cost on down to the customer, which would defeat the purpose. Businesses should have their tax reduced or removed to allow for lower cost of operation.  When the working man has to pay more tax he cannot pass the cost to anyone. It becomes his burden alone.

Such a graduated tax structure would result in considerably more revenue for government than the current flat rate system. The increase in revenue could be so great as to allow for the total suspension of the tax on gasoline used for motor vehicles.

This will result in the majority of people having more spending power, which is what creates jobs and drives the economy.

CUC has all of the figures available for calculating the break points and amounts necessary to charge in order for government to reach the desired revenue goal. It would be good for the Electricity Regulatory Board to approach CUC to do some figuring. We all will benefit.

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Turtle farm hopes for improved breeding season

| 05/08/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Eleven of the Cayman Turtle Farm’s green turtles laid some 900 eggs in one evening on the facilities beach officials have revealed which they hope is an indication that the breeding rates are about to improve. As the nesting season gets underway Dr. Walter Mustin, Chief Research Officer at the Farm and an expert in hatchery management and aquaculture nutrition has high expectations for at least one of the female turtles which has been breeding for some 19 years. However he pointed out that four of them are making their first attempt at motherhood.

“Records show that one of these turtles has laid 88 nests over the past 19 years with 32% hatch success and we have high expectations for her eggs this year,” said Dr Mustin. “In contrast, these are the first eggs that have ever been laid by four of the females.  Others in this group have nested before with none of their eggs hatching.”

One of the reasons may be that these breeders are not quiteold enough to lay viable eggs. Green sea turtles in the wild reach sexual maturity only when they are 20-30 years old.  Someof our females are laying eggs at the early age of eight years, which is a result of the ample food and protein provided them.

After Hurricane Michelle, over 300 relatively young turtles were placed in the breeder pond to replace the 75% of the breeder herd that was lost to the storm. 

“Now, these replacement breeders are 10-15 years old, young by biological standards. Eventually, I expect this younger population sector to come to maturity and produce more and more eggs that actually hatch,” Dr. Mustin explained. 

Meanwhile, research aimed at improving sea turtle hatch rates continues at the farm on multiple fronts the facility has revealed. A custom breeder diet is being formulated that more accurately reflects and mimics the nutritional composition of the green sea turtle’s wild diet which is turtle grass, liver sponge, and marine algae.

“The causes of infertility are being examined. All eggs that do not hatch are staged to determine the state of fertility and/or development.  New incubation techniques that reduce early hatching mortality are also being implemented,” Dr. Mustin added.

The ultimate goal of the Cayman Turtle Farm team is to be able to release more and more green sea turtles.

“As our hatch rates improve, so will our ability to release greater numbers to the wild,” the doctor stated. “We know from tagging studies on turtles released from the Cayman Turtle Farm that our released turtles are not only surviving and travelling throughout the Caribbean, but that turtles that we released in the 1980s are now sexually mature and returning to Cayman beaches to lay their own eggs.”

Of the 30-60 green sea turtles that the Department of Environment estimates visited our beaches last season to lay eggs, at least five of them were released as yearlings from the Cayman Turtle Farm some 25 years earlier.

Turtle Farm Managing Director Tim Adam said he was very pleased by the successful nesting, which showed how well the breeding programme was advancing.

“We are very excited with the activity we saw on this one night; and hope that it is indicative of future breeding successes,” he said.  “Our team of experts continue to develop and try new methods and conduct scientific research that will boost hatch rates as well…. The efforts of Dr. Mustin and his staff and their commitment to improving hatch rates will ensure that as our females reach breeding age they will be able to lay greater numbers of viable eggs. Their work is vital to our mission to promote conservation of the green sea turtle.”

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Three people hospitalized after bar fight

| 05/08/2011 | 14 Comments

(CNS): Police have said they are looking for witnesses to a fight at a George Town bar Friday, after three people ended up in hospital and one man was arrested. Two men and a woman were treated at George Town Hospital following the disturbance which happened at the Helium Bar on Shedden Road in the early hours of this morning. Just before 2am (5 August) officers from George Town Police Station responded to the fight.  During the incident a 37 year old male received a deep cut to his left arm while the other man (29) suffered a broken shoulder bone.  Police also said that a 31 year old woman was treated for minor cuts and later released from the hospital. 

Police are appealing to anyone who was present or have information relative to this matter to please contact the George Town Police Station at 949-4222 as enquiries in to the fight continue.
 

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Cayman cuts electricity consumption

| 05/08/2011 | 22 Comments

(CNS): Grand Cayman’s power company saw a five percent cut in profits for the second quarter of this year compared to last as a result of customers conserving energy and cutting consumption. CUC incurred the fall despite having an increase in the number of customers during the quarter because high fuel costs saw people reduce the use of air conditions the firm said. Sales were also negatively impacted by low residential rental property occupancy and cooler weather. CUC’s President and CEO Richard Hew also said the economic down turn and the high cost of fuel was making people conserve power a move that was encouraged by the firm. (Full report now linked)

“The economic downturn in the Cayman Islands has negatively impacted energy usage and electricity sales,” he said. “The impact of recent high diesel fuel prices on electricity rates has exacerbated the situation and remains of concern for CUC.  We continue to actively seek viable alternative energy sources to reduce the Island’s dependency on diesel fuel for electricity generation. In the short term we are advising customers to conserve energy and are providing assistance through energy conservation education.”

The fall in consumption was even more apparent as the number of customers at the end of June had gone up by 126 customers compared to June 2010. Despite the increases in overall customer numbers the average monthly kWh customer consumption for the residential and commercial categories combined declined from 1,744 kWh for the first half of 2010 to 1,687 kWh for the first half of 2011.

CUC announced that its net earnings for the quarter were $5.9 million – a decrease of $0.3 million. The firm also stated that it had received approval from the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) in March 2011 to hedge against further increases in the price of fuel and the Company has initiated a hedging program for 40% of its annual fuel requirements.

See full report here

 

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Churches get $4M public cash

| 05/08/2011 | 251 Comments

(CNS): The country’s premier gave a little more insight this week into how the $7 million allocated to his ministry’s Nation Building Programme in the first two financial years had been spent when he revealed that more than half had gone to 19 different churches. McKeeva Bush had been pressed during Finance Committee in June to explain how the money was being spent as legislators were asked to vote for more than $3 million for the 2011/12. At the time the premier was reluctant to spell out exactly what the money was being used for. On Wednesday Bush said $4.1 milllion had been spent on churches and the rest on various community projects and scholarships for 20 students. 

The fund had raised controversy because of the lack of clarity on where the money was going or how it was allocated and the opposition leader had pointed out in Finance Committee that funds of this kind are normally allocated through ownership agreements and properly accounted for.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly this week, the premier told his parliamentary colleagues that the bulk of the money had gone to churches to help them upgrade their buildings to be hurricane shelters or use for after school programmes and other community outreach.

He said it was good value for money in assisting churches to enhance their shelter capability from a public safety perspective but he said there were other reasons as well for helping them.

“Perhaps the fundamental justification for supporting the churches, however, may be more readily grasped if we ask ourselves this: what would our society have been like; what, in today’s pressured realities would it be like, were it not for our churches? Where else would we get the enduring ethical guidance that our churches continue to urge upon us?” he asked.

He added that the $4.1 million to about 19 churches from West Bay to Cayman Brac had allowed them to complete and extend facilities, to augment outreach work and services, such as after-school programmes, as well as build new hurricane shelters. However, the premier did not say which churches had received public cash or how much had been given to each one.

He urged his colleagues to consider beyond the “short-term gains they may make by seeking to heap calumny on our Nation-Building efforts,” and he suggested that the opposition was “seeking to tear it down through speculation and innuendo” the national building programme.

“I urge them to be mindful of where we have come from and where we might end up if we’re not careful,” he warned as he spoke about the important role he believed church played in people’s lives.

He also said the nation building programme was about helping young people who may have made mistakes in the past and had not acquired the necessary qualifications or didn’t fit the criteria to get scholarships through normal routs, as he pointed out that 20 young people were being helped on a variety of educational and training paths in subjects ranging from music to political science.

“The large majority of well-meaning people will appreciate that there is a necessity for us to have a Young Nation-Builders Programme; they will consider that the $380,000 we spent on scholarships issued under this programme, up to the end of June, is money well spent,” he said.  “I have previously indicated that the scholarships awarded under this programme require a new form of commitment from the recipients. They undertake to invest in development of their leadership abilities and skills, and to work in the community for the cause of nation-building.”

Aside from churches and students, Bush also listed a number of other projects and programmes that he said the fund had been used for which came under the moniker of 'nation building'.

He said $10,000 was given to the Under 19 Girls Football Team, $35,000 to the North Side District Council, $65,000 for hurricane shutters for 13 elderly and needy Caymanians, $75,000 for the Cayman National Cultural Foundation, $25,000 sponsorship for cat-boat building and racing, $55,000 had gone to refurbish “a well-known private museum”, which was not named, and $60,000 for a programme to nurture musical and performance talent. He also revealed that $750,000 had gone to the Pines Retirement Home.

In a different vein, the premier said he had paid the contractors who were out of pocket when Matrix defaulted on its government contract to remove scrap metal from the island to the tune of $365,000, and a long standing planning appeals tribunal case had been settled with a grant of $17,000.

The premier said he was proud to be associated with the work of the nation building programme andhe hoped that soon people will begin to see those helped by it begin to be visible in the community as an active force for good.

“There is no credible way to deny the reality that as leaders it is our duty to put in place the ways and means to nurture the values and the skills as well as to build the institutions that are needed to create a strong nation. This is how we must prove our stewardship,” Bush told the House.

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Rescued crew return home to warm welcome

| 05/08/2011 | 19 Comments

(CNS): The four local men who were almost lost at sea with two other crew members from Honduras finally returned home to their loved ones yesterday. Many friends and family members were at the airport Thursday to greet the men whose boat the Miss Janice got into difficulty in the open ocean around three weeks ago. Although the men were at first feared lost they were miraculously found to be alive and well after a tanker rescued all six of them. Chad Ebanks, Elvis Welcome, Ernest Rankine and Travis Welcome were headed to Honduras with a full boat load when the Miss Janice was sunk several hours after they left Cayman. (Photo by James Tibbetts)

When the 37 foot fishing boat capsized the men spent around a week on a raft with no food or water before they were plucked from the ocean by the CPO Sweden, headed to Texas. The tanker was diverted to New Orleans for several days before eventually docking in Houston where the men were then able to fly home.

The boat and crew were reported missing to the RCIPS on Thursday 21 July several days after the Miss Janice had left Cayman and as it turned out some five days after she had capsized. The police launched a search and rescue operation which lasted five days and covered more than 4,000 square miles and involved the RCIPS Marine and Air Operations Units as well as the Lynx helicopter from RFA Wave Ruler.

One of the crew members contacted his family on 26 July to say all six men who had been on board the vessel were safe and well and had been rescued after their ocean ordeal.

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