Archive for September 6th, 2011

New depression forms as Katia causes rip current

| 06/09/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The fourteenth tropical depression of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season formed some 1650 miles east of the Lesser Antilles on Tuesday afternoon, as Hurricane Katia continued to rumble north through the Atlantic causing a rip current along the east coast of the United States.  At 4pm local time TD14 was moving west-northwest at 18mph with sustained winds of 35mph. The National Hurricane Centres said this motion was expected to continue over the next few days as the cyclone strengthened into a tropical storm tonight or Wednesday. Although the weather system may head towards the region at present it poses no threat to land.

Meanwhile, Katia continued rolling on having once reached major category four hurricane status at 4pm local time the hurricane was a category two. However, the system was still posing a severe rip current risk on the east coast of the US, the NHC stated.

Located about 345 miles south-south-west of Bermuda Katia was still packing winds of 105 mph and was moving toward the northwest at close to 10 mph with storm forces winds stretching out over 200 miles from the centre. The NHC said the core of Katia would move between the east coast of the US and Bermuda. With little change expected today and Wednesday the forecasters said Katia would begin to weaken Thursday.

Large swells generated by Katia will continue to affect most of the east coast of the United States, Bermuda, the Greater Antilles and east-facing beaches of the Bahamas during the next few days.

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Witness saw danger for victim

| 06/09/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The key prosecution witness in the crown's case against Leonard Ebanks for the murder of Tyrone Burrell told the court on Tuesday how she had visions that the young victim was in danger before he was shot. Arlene White, who worked at the house in Birch Tree Hill where Burrell was killed one year ago, said that before she ever met him she had seen Burrell in visions. When she met him for the first time some three weeks before he was killed, she had already sensed he was in danger. Hours before 20 year old Burrell was murdered, White told him to go home from the yard in Birch Tree Hill before night fell. “Every time I see that little youth I could see death, I could see trouble for him,” she said.

The first witness to take the stand in the case against Ebanks, White told the court that she had seen the defendant seconds before the killing rushing into the yard where Burrell was shot. She described him wearing black clothes, a black hat and having a black and white handkerchief wrapped around his hand – a very different outfit from the one he was wearing when he had left the yard earlier that afternoon.

White said that she had tried to warn Burrell to leave because of the danger she sensed but he had not listened to her warning. “Normally, when I pray, God shows me things and when I saw him, I could sense he was in danger.”

In his opening statement for the prosecution, Trevor Ward told the court that although no one had seen Leonard Ebanks pull the trigger, the crown intended to prove that he did.

Twenty-year-old Tyrone Burrell was killed by a single gunshot to the back of the head at 177 Birch Tree Hill on 8 September 2010. He was the sixth person to be shot and killed in a year that was marred with gun related killings.

The prosecuting counsel said Ebanks was seen at the murder scene both seconds before and after by witnesses, he had motive and, above all, he had confessed to Arlene White, whom he had known for several months and with whom he had a close rapport, that he was the gunman.

Ward said Ebanks believed that Burrell “had shot up Devon’s grandmother’s house and that he was a spy, carrying news from the Birch Tree Hill gang to the Logswoodgang,” and told this to White. The witness had also seen Ebanks some two weeks after the shooting with a revolver in his clothes, which he told her he need for protection, Ward revealed to the court.

At a later date, Ebanks had also told a police officer that he believed that Burrell had been trying to “set up the boys from Birch Tree Hill to be killed” because he had seen him leave the area many times to then meet with “Fat Patty from the Logswood gang at Kelly’s bar,” he had said.  Ebanks told the police officer that he was “one of the elders of Birch Tree Hill” as he lived there.

Ward listed the evidence against Ebanks, saying he had been placed at the scene of the shooting, he had motive and had confessed to White. The lawyer stated that White had no reason to lie about the confession since she had been friends with Ebanks, who had spent a great deal of his time in the home where she was the helper. Even after his arrest Ebanks had still been friendly with White. “She has no motive to fabricate evidence against him,” Ward added.

The leading counsel for the crown told the judge that once all of the evidence was produced the court would find that Leonard Ebanks had murdered Tyrone Burrell.

The case, which is being tried by Justice Charles Quin alone without a jury, continues tomorrow in Grand Court.   

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Lazy people missing athletic gene says new study

| 06/09/2011 | 0 Comments

(Metro): McMaster University researchers working on mice, removed two genes in their muscles that are essential for exercise and found they could not do as much as their healthy counterparts. The genes control the AMP-activated protein kinase, an enzyme that is ‘switched on’ when you exercise. ‘The mice looked identical to their brothers or sisters but within seconds we knew which ones had the genes,’ said Gregory Steinberg of Canada’s McMaster University.  Dr Steinberg said the breakthrough may lead to treatments for people who found it hard to exercise, including the overweight and people with breathing problems.

‘When you become obese and sedentary that is what makes it so hard to get started. The message is don’t let yourself getto that stage, but if you do this is not a genetic defect, there is something you can do about it.’

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Filipinos hunt 2nd giant killer croc

| 06/09/2011 | 1 Comment

(AP): Relieved Filipino villagers threw a fiesta when they captured a one-ton crocodile, with about 100 people pulling the feared beast from a creek by rope then hoisting it by crane onto a truck. The party may have been premature. After the 20-foot (6.1-meter) saltwater crocodile was caught over the weekend, authorities said Tuesday an even bigger killer crocodile may lurk in creeks of the remote southern region. The crocodile — weighing 2,370 pounds (1,075 kilograms) and estimated to be at least 50 years old — is the biggest caught alive in the Philippines in recent years.

Wildlife officials were trying to confirm whether it was the largest such catch in the world, said Theresa Mundita Lim of the government's Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau.

It was captured alive after a three-week hunt in Bunawan township in Agusan del Sur province, where villagers have been terrified. A child was killed two years ago in the township by a crocodile that was not caught, and a croc is suspected of killing a fisherman missing since July. Villagers witnessed a crocodile killing a water buffalo last month.

Bunawan villagers celebrated after they caught the crocodile. "It was like a feast, so many villagers turned up," Mayor Edwin Cox Elorde said.

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Kerran joins list of those who may never be found

| 06/09/2011 | 20 Comments

(CNS): Although police say that the enquiry into what has become of Kerran (KerryAnn) Baker continues, with lines of enquiry still being followed, having been missing for more than five weeks, the young Jamaican nurse joins a short list of people that may never be found. Although the RCIPS receives hundreds of missing person reports every year, most people are located within hours or at least days of being reported missing. At present, over the last four years only Kerran and Anna Evans have been reported missing on island and have stayed missing, while five others are believed lost at sea.

However, over those same four years police have dealt with 543 reports of missing persons and in all but these seven cases the individuals have been found.

Most of those people reported missing are located within a short period but on rare occasions people stay missing and police have stated that they believe Kerran has been the victim of foul play. Although they do not know whathas happened to the 25-year-old, who disappeared in the evening of Saturday 30 July from her home in Bodden Town, police have been treating the investigation in the same manner as a murder enquiry from very early on because of the circumstances that suggested Kerran had not gone missing out of choice.

Police have also stated that although they do not know what has happened to Anna Evans, who disappeared in January from the George Town landfill, the dangers in the environment where she worked suggest that she could have been the victim of an accident.

Although Kerran and Anna remain on the missing list, police have dealt with another 90 reports this year so far of people going missing. 150 people were reported missing in 2010, another 164 in 2009, and in 2008 there were 131 people reported missing, but in most cases the individuals are found within the first 24 hours of their disappearance.

Five other people who remain on the missing persons list are believed to have been lost at sea in 2009. Michelle Wood, Raynel Wood, Astor Range, Joshua Gilman, Jamie Avila all departed for a fishing trip on the morning of Sunday 10 January, and although their overturned canoe was found a few days later, the missing five have never been found.

Although police conduct searches on land and sea frequently when people are reported missing, those that remain missing are only a very small percentage, police say. Speaking at a recent briefing regarding the Kerran missing person enquiry, Chief Superintendant John Jones said that barely a week goes by without a missing person report but it is still rare for missing persons to remain that way.

Anyone who has any information on any the missing persons are asked to contact the police via the crime hotline 949 7777.

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Next phase of Hurricane Hilton put to tender

| 06/09/2011 | 34 Comments

(CNS): The deputy premier’s ministry is inviting bids for the next phase of the Cayman Brac Emergency Facility on the Bluff. With an additional $1 million in the budget this year, this bid is for construction of the shell works only, with a footprint of approximately 11,374 square feet, and is scheduled to commence in November 2011, according to the tender. At the groundbreaking ceremony in December, DP Juliana O’Connor-Connolly roundly berated critics of the project, especially the media and “the bloggers”, for not understanding her vision for the future. Nevertheless, her fellow Sister Islands MLA Moses Kirkconnell has said that the money being spent on the emergency shelter would have been better invested in a new high school for the island.

According to the plans submitted to the planning department, the first storey of the main building will include the main hall, plus a sick bay, reception area, kitchen and several bathrooms. The second floor will include the command centre, office and conference room. The plans also call for four 2-storey “wings” to the building, each wing with 10 private rooms on each floor, each room with a semi-private bathroom (one for every two rooms).

Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor Connolly, who is also Minister for District Administration,Works, Lands & Agriculture,  has previously told CNS that the rooms will have individual temperature control because, she said, during Hurricane Paloma some people were too hot and some were too cold and there was no privacy for the elderly or disabled.

The main hall will accommodate up to 400 people in a storm and each wing will house an additional 100 adults, so the new building adds another 800 shelter spaces to Cayman Brac. When there is an emergency, the private rooms will be allocated on a ‘first come, first serve’ basis, though the deputy premier has said that if a major hurricane was approaching they could allocate one wing for hospital patients.

Island Builders was awarded the contract to build the foundation for the main hall of the shelter and the cistern, dubbed the Hurricane Hilton, for $285,000. Work started at the site off Major Donald Drive, just next to the playing field, shortly after the groundbreaking ceremony, at which O'Connor-Connolly said that a lot of vision and foresight had been put into the shelter for the present and future needs of the Cayman Brac. “When one studies history, one finds that great buildings were rarely appreciated until the person who had the vision had passed on and you read about it in the obituary,” she said, adding that it did not matter if there were praises in her obituary, only that she had done as much as she could for her constituents.

The government budgeted $1 million for the project in this year’s budget, $900,000 in last year’s budget and $500,000 in the 2009/2010 budget. MLA Kirkconnell has said that the site of 'Hurricane Hilton' would have the ideal location for a new high school campus as it is located right next to the Bluff football field and that the current campus in Stake Bay could have been turned into a vocational school or a hotel training school, which could have attracted students from Grand Cayman. “I believe that money could have been spent more wisely,” said Kirkconnell.

"There should have been a high school on the Bluff that could have doubled as a shelter. I believe that the young people of Cayman Brac deserve a new high school and where the shelter is being built would have been the perfect place for it because the playing field is right next to it. Given the success that the students of the Brac high school have had, it would really have been the gem of the Cayman Islands.”

This new emergency shelter will be the fourth on the island. The Aston Rutty Civic Centre on the Bluff can hold approximately 500 people, while the West End Primary School, which has been structurally upgraded since Paloma, can hold 250, and the Brac Day Care Centre, located next to the civic centre, can hold 155.

The District Administration Building, while not an official emergency centre, also shelters DA staff and their families, and the rebuilt Veteran’s and Seaman’s Centre is an unofficial shelter. In addition, many new homes are being built on the Bluff, where people remain during a storm, and two new churches on the Bluff that were built to hurricane standards have been recently completed.

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CITA frustrated over policing

| 06/09/2011 | 84 Comments

(CNS): The industry body which represents businesses working in the tourism sector has expressed its growing frustration that constant calls to address the islands’ violent crime problem with more visible policing has fallen on deaf ears. The Cayman Islands Tourism Association has asked the authorities time and time again to increase police patrols in the areas most frequented by tourists but at a recent meeting with the commissioner the president was told that there was no money for community police because of budget cuts. The government has, however, stated on numerous occasions that the police are getting the resources they need to fight crime and the 2011/12 budget allocation has remained at just over $29 milllion.

Although the RCIPS has received the same appropriation for this current financial year of just over $29 million, Chief Superintendent John Jones recently stated that the police head count had fallen from its peak of a few years ago and it was community policing that was most impacted. He said resources for neighbourhood officers were being used to support other areas in the face of the increase in violent crime and surge in robberies. “The feet on the beat,” he said, was one area that was under resourced.

However, in the wake of yet another violent robbery at a restaurant frequented by visitors last week, Trina Christian of CITA stated that the need to prevent crime impacting tourism was critical.

“Our members are becoming increasingly frustrated that, despite the endless calls, the patrols have not increased in the key areas,” she stated. “A recent meeting with our president and the commissioner has revealed that the community policing budget has been cut and this is where the ‘tourism police’ would have come from.”

For some time now CITA has campaigned to have police officers allocated to patrolling the Seven Mile Beach area, getting to know local business and offering a secure presence for visitors, but so far there has been no response from the authorities. She said CITA is not asking for mass coverage but a regular light police presence in areas frequented by visitors to make tourists feel safe and criminals think twice.

“We keep saying this over and over again because when word gets out about crime it will be devastating to the industry,” she added. “We are relying on our past reputation of being crime free, and although we are still better than many other places, the growing crime is creating more and more of a problem for the tourism product.”

Christian said that the CTIA membership knows it’s not just a police problem and that there is a much bigger picture. There are many long term issues to be addressed and the need for the community to play its part, but in order to protect the tourism sector, which so many people depend on, she said there was also a need for police visibility in key areas todeter the robbers and make visitors feel comfortable.

She said the recent news from the commissioner that the budgets had been cut was disappointing and that CITA would now have to lobby government to see if resources can be found to fund community policing in order to guarantee a presence in the Seven Mile Beach area.

“We continue to say that we need to take the crime issue seriously and we were under the impression that the police were getting the resources they needed but now we hear that there is no money to police tourism. It’s confusing,” Christian added.

She pointed out that in the face of the economic uncertainties, crime remained of critical importance to the tourism business. She said no one should underestimate what a devastating impact an armed robbery at a restaurant where tourists are there enjoying a meal can have on the entire tourism product. As far as the CITA membership is concerned, Christian said, the resources have to be found in order to protect the sector which remains one of the country’s most important economic generators.

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Armed robbers in’police’ jackets

| 06/09/2011 | 25 Comments

(CNS): Update Tuesday 11:20am — The RCIPS has said that the two men who  robbed the Texaco gas station on Eastern Avenue, George Town, around 10pm Monday night were both wearing black masks, black jackets with ‘POLICE’ in white lettering, and gloves. Both were described as 5’5’’ tall, one had a handgun, the other a machete. Police said the masked robbers entered the gas station, threatened staff and demanded cash. The two then made off with the cash register which contained a small sum of money towards the School Road area. Noone was hurt and no one was injured during the incident and police have not yet stated if the two were caught on CCTV.

Anyone who was in the area and witnessed the robbery or the suspects fleeing the scene should call GTPS on 9494222 or C/ stoppers 800 8477 (TIPS).

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$46M in budget faces scrutiny

| 06/09/2011 | 7 Comments

(CNS): According to the budget documents for this financial year, government will be spending more than $46.5 million on transfer payments on special services or non-government suppliers, which the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) will be examining over the coming months. Last year government spent close to $50 million, ten percent of core government spending, on issues as diverse as the Batabano Carnival to interest on loans for civil servants. The transfer payments are split into two separate output groups in the budget documents. The first is payments made to non-government suppliers and the second is payments transferred to government entities to spend on specific areas such as scholarships or poor relief.

Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick stated recently that he will be undertaking an audit that will examine a number of these transfer payments to see how they are made and what methods of accountability exist. In some cases government policy may be just to donate funds to what it perceives to be a good project without necessarily expecting a direct outcome or, in the case of relief for those in need for example, because it is simply a necessary support payment. In other circumstance the money is given in return for a specific outcome or result based on a set of criteria.

The premier’s controversial Nation Building Fund is only one of many transfer payments made to cover a wide range of programmes and projects, most of which are community based.

Many are education related, such as the $7.5 million for local and overseas scholarships and over $1 million spent on pre-school and other educational assistance. Other payments include more than $7 million on poor relief cash and voucher payments, as well as some $6.5 million given to veterans. Government’s internal transfer payments for the last financial year were over $27 million.

A further $22.5 million went to non-government entities for a range of services and projects. This year government has reduced the amount it pays to outside organisations and has appropriated some $17.7 million for non-government suppliers. This includes a further $8 million on tertiary care overseas as well as $1.6 million to private schools and $1.1 million for rental accommodation for people in need. Government also gives several payments to specific charities such as the NCVO, the Red Cross, the Crisis Centre and Mentoring Cayman, among others.

It also gives money to the islands’ fishing tournament, Batabano, Miss Cayman and the elite athletes programme. Services to refugees, help with school uniforms, burial assistance for the poor, and AIDS education programmes are some of the other diverse areas where government funds non-government organisations to deliver specific services on its behalf.

Although some ten percent of the overall budget is spent in this way, with no consolidated accounts over the last seven years the public has been unable to review exactly how or why that money has been allocated  and to assess whether it has been used properly.

Although statutory authorities and government companies are required to do annual reports of their own for the money they receive from government, a local sports club which is receiving a small amount of funding for running a youth sports programme does not have to report on how or account for how that money is spent in a formal annual report.

The auditor general said he will be taking a close look at government’s transfer payments to see how the system works and not just how the money is being spent and whether there is or should be accountability for the cash that comes from government. He will also look at how the cash is allocated in the first instance and what criteria is used to say who gets what and why.

See details of the appropriations to non-government supplier and transfer payments on pages 366 and 367 of the Annual plan and estimates budget document here.

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