Archive for July 12th, 2013

Ocean claims another diver

| 12/07/2013 | 47 Comments

(CNS): A 73-year-old American tourist has become the tenth person to die in Cayman waters this year, one of the highest number of deaths recorded in the islands during a six month period. James Klein of Erlanger, who was on holiday in Little Cayman with his wife from Kentucky USA, got into difficulty while diving Bloody Bay Wall on an organised boat dive . Police said that at 12.25pm the man lost consciousness as he was ascending. He was transported to shore on the dive boat as crew carried out CPR. A nurse met the boat at Salt Rock Dock and continued CPR while the man was taken to the local clinic in the dive company’s vehicle, but he was pronounced dead on arrival. 

A police spokesperson said that enquiries continued but there appeared to be no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.

The visitor’s death at sea comes less than one week after 80-year-old William Lemuel Lawson Jr, who was visiting from Florida, died while diving off the Double Wall dive site northwest of Cayman Brac.

The number of water-related deaths in Cayman this year has already exceeded the annual average, with only half the year gone. Eight of those deaths have involved ocean swimmers, snorkelers or divers, the youngest of which was Pablo Perez Lara (41), a swimmer with the Special Olympics team from Uruguay, who died during an 800-metre race. Mostof the other victims were visitors from the US who were over 50 years of age.

The other two water-related deaths include the drowning of a 9-year-old boy in a swimming pool and a 21-year-old man who died in a boat incident.

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Mental health patient throws rock at driver

| 12/07/2013 | 19 Comments

(CNS): Police have arrested and detained a 25-year-old man in George Town who is understood to suffer from a mental health problem after he reportedly threw a rock at a man who was driving along Sheddon Rock near Funky Tangs. The rock struck the victim in the head but police say he refused medical attention, and despite receiving a head wound, the injuries were not life threatening. The incident occurred at around 1.55 on Friday afternoon and is currently under investigation by George Town uniform officers. Anyone who may have witnessed this assault is asked to call PC Ava Parkinson at GTPS at 9494222.

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DoE recovers and releases captive stingrays

| 12/07/2013 | 27 Comments

IMG-20130712-00661.jpg(CNS): Following the passage of an amendment to the Marine Conservation Law to protect stingrays in Cayman waters, one of West Bay’s captive dolphin facilities was forced to hand over the six stingrays it was holding to government or face prosecution. On Friday morning a team of scientists and marine experts collected the five males and a single female stingray from Dolphin Discovery and took them by boat back out to the North Sound. Department of Environment Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said that in light of recent discoveries that there are considerably fewer male stingrays at the Sandbar than females, the release of these rays was an important contribution to the North Sound population. The DoE director said she was very hopeful that these stingrays would integrate well with the existing population.

However, she noted that experts were still not sure how well captive rays re-adapt when returned to their natural habitat.

The rays were certified as healthy by experts before they were transported by truck in small tanks from the tank at the dolphinarium to the quay in the Morgan’s Harbour area before being taking out to sea aboard one of the DoE’s vessels.

IMG-20130712-00666.jpgEbanks-Petrie (right) confirmed that the return of these six rays means that, as far as the DoE was aware, there are now no more of the creatures still in captivity. Pleased with the change in the legislation which enabled these Stingrays to be released, she also noted that going forward these incredible creatures, which have created a unique tourism attraction for Cayman at Stingray City, will enjoy protection no matter where they now choose to journey in the ocean.

The rays that were released today were part of a group of ten stingrays which were taken into captivity by Dolphin Discovery. A local vet who was visiting the facility saw that four of them had been tagged and reported her observation to the authorities. Having been identified as stingrays from the Sandbar, which is a wildlife interaction zone (WIZ) where the creatures were offered protection, the facility agreed to their release. But the captive dolphin business refused to give up the other six which were not tagged. As the rays come and go from the WIZ and with no previous protection for them outside the zone, there was no law to compel the facility to return the remaining rays.

With the change of legislation earlier this year, however, rays were given across-the-board protection and the holding of stingrays and other types was made unlawful, paving the way for the liberation of this last group.

Local scientists and those from overseas have continued to count the stingrays at the Sandbar, where the population is still believed to have declined by as much as 40% from the original population.

The researchers involved in the current census are using an ultrasound machine to check for pregnant rays. Petrie-Ebanks said she was hopeful that the five males that will now be returned to the wild will help to boost the population and re-balance the gender gap that the population is facing.

Ebanks-Petrie thanked everyone involved in the release of the rays, including Billy Farrington of Marine Diesel, who allowed the DoE to use his dock.

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Kremlin buys typewriters ‘to avoid leaks’

| 12/07/2013 | 0 Comments

h-armstrong-roberts-typing-pool-workstation-desk-chair-electric-typewriter-and-telephone.jpg(BBC): Russia's agency responsible for the Kremlin security is buying typewriters – a move reportedly prompted by recent leaks by WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden. A 486,540-rouble (£9,860) order for electric typewriters has been placed by the FSO agency on the state procurement website. The FSO has not commented on why it needs the old-fashioned devices. But an agency source told Russia's Izvestiya newspaper the aim was to prevent leaks from computer hardware. "After scandals with the distribution of secret documents by WikiLeaks, the exposes by Edward Snowden, reports about Dmitry Medvedev being bugged during his visit to the G20 London summit (in 2009), it has been decided to expand the practice of creating paper documents," the source said.

The source added that typewriters were already being used at Russia's defence and emergencies ministries for drafts and secret notes, and some reports had been prepared for President Vladimir Putin by typewriter.

Unlike printers, every typewriter had its own individual typing pattern which made it possible to link every document to a particular machine, Izvestiya said.

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Robbers strike at another doorstep victim

| 12/07/2013 | 26 Comments

(CNS) Updated 10:45am: Robbers have claimed another doorstep victim following a mugging outside a home in Prospect, on Mahogany Way, at around 10pm Thursday. Two suspects approached the 60-year-old victim, one armed with what appeared to be a handgun and the other with a machete. The robbers grabbed the man's gold chain from behind as he approached his front door. He fell to the ground and the two suspects ran from the scene. No other property was stolen, no shots were fired and no injuries were reported. The suspects were both men between 25 and 30 years old, with "whitish" complexions and shirts tied around their heads. One was 5'6"-5'8" in height, 145-160lbs and had what appeared to be a handgun. The other was 6'-6'2" and carried a machete. Both suspects spoke with Caymanian accents.

The robbery comes just two days after a violent attack on another man as he entered his home in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Robbers jumped the victim hit him on the head and stabbed him before fleeing with his iPhone. Then on Wednesday night, two men mugged a bus driver of his fares at the George Town bus station. They escaped with a small amount of cash and no one was hurt.

Anyone who was in the area at the relevant time and witnessed the robbery, or the suspects before or after the incident, is asked to contact George Town Police Station on 949-4222, the RCIPS Tip-Line 949-7777, or Crime Stoppers 800-8477 (TIPS).

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YNBSP scholarships will be honoured

| 12/07/2013 | 9 Comments

scholarship-logo.jpg(CNS): The government has said it will continue commitments already made to support students receiving grants via the Young Nation Builders Scholarship Programme (YNBSP). A group of scholarship holders had made public their concerns that government was pulling their funding, even though the finance minister had explicitly stated in his interim budget address that provision had been made for those scholarships. Premier Alden McLaughlin has emphasised his commitment to the provision of educational opportunities and development of young people but said that administration of the YNBSP had been transferred to the Education Ministry. "The Office of the Premier is not structured to deal with administering a scholarship programme," he said.

On 26 June in his address to the Legislative Assembly on the government motion for the 2013/14 interim budget, Finance Minister Marco Archer had stated that students who have already been awarded scholarships to study overseas under the “Promotion of Nation Building” appropriation will not lose financial support, even though government was taking a different approach to the Nation Building Fund (NBF) in general. He made it clear that provision had been made in the 13/14 interim budget to continue in these areas where the government was already committed.

Archer said this now accounts for 112 recipients with grants valued at just over CI$2 million dollars for the 13/14 financial year. The interim budget also includes a commitment to maintaining the Education Council Scholarship programme, which has a projected 13/14 budget of some CI$10.76m, for around 1,200 new and continuing local and overseas students. In addition, government funds 61 students via the Ministry of Tourism under its scholarship programme at around CI$600,000 per annum.

Government said in a release that its policy was that both the YNBSP and Education Council scholarships should be managed by the Ministry of Education. Therefore, the YNBSP has been transferred,under a new appropriation, to the Ministry of Education.

McLaughlins said, “The Office of the Premier is not structured to deal with administering a scholarship programme.  It has neither the expertise nor the personnel necessary to do so effectively.  Scholarships are properly a matter for the Ministry of Education and that is why I have decided to transfer the YNBSP to that ministry.”

Government said its immediate priority is to honour the commitments that have been made. In addition it is committed to ensuring that current scholarship recipients continue to meet the standards set out in the existing criteria under which the scholarship funding was released. 

Officials also plan to conduct a review of the entire Young Nation Builders Scholarship Programme, to ensure value for money, fairness to all applicants and transparency in the way in which the scholarship fund is structured and administered. 

A significant number of new YNBSP applications have been received between July 2012 and 15 June 2013 (the cut-off date for applications under the programme.)  The vast majority are for under-graduate and post-graduate studies, and will be considered under the existing Education Council Scholarship criteria and application process.

New recipients will no longer be able to receive scholarships from both the Education Council and the YNBSP.

Other applications, which include requests for sports-related scholarships for secondary education overseas, will be considered in line with the availability of funding and established priorities. No new applications will be considered beyond the 15 June 2013 cut-off date.

“There should be no doubt about my personal commitment and that of the government to providing educational opportunities and to the development of our young people,” the premier said, following the circulation of a press release by some of the scholarship holders who had set up an on-line survey to gauge support for the Nation Building Fund scholarships set up by the former premier, Mckeeva Bush, which had attracted controversy over the lack of transparency regarding the selection process.

Accusing the current premier of threatening to discontinue it and cut off their money, the group circulated a release Tuesday asking people to take part in a survey to show their support for what they said was a scholarship programme that gave young people a chance that had been refused scholarships through other programmes.

The controversies surrounding the YNBSP mounted during the election campaign when the former education minister, Rolston Anglin, revealed that students who had lost scholarships via the normal route from the Education Council due consistent and poor performance or attendance had been given new ones by premier at the time, McKeeva Bush, via the YNBSP.

When Anglin became education minister he made a damning statement in the Legislative Assembly, criticizing McLaughlin, his predecessor in the ministry, for what he said was the disarray regarding scholarships. Anglin claimed he had “inherited a disaster” when it came to scholarships and made it clear  that he would sort out the mess and remove scholarships from non-performing students and that the Education Council would begin to enforce the criteria.

As a result of the “clean-up” by Anglin, some students did lose access to funding but it appears several of them managed to get money via the YNBSP, which appears to have been awarded on the discretion of Bush and not based on transparent criteria.

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WB church gives money back

| 12/07/2013 | 51 Comments

church.jpg(CNS): Following the backlash from the wider community over the government donations given to churches from the controversial Nation Building Fund established by the former premier and UDP leader, McKeeva Bush, the Wesleyan Holiness Church has returned almost three quarters of a million dollars to the public purse from a grant of $1.3 million that it had received. The church has also said that once it has resolved a land purchase, it expected that the land or its full value would also be returned to government. The church decided to return the cash following the negative publicity and because it recognised that the public coffers were not in a position to afford the grant.

The church also recognised that it could not afford to build its proposed $2.6 million fellowship centre and hurricane shelter, so on Sunday, 7 July, its members voted almost unanimously to return the remaining money. The church did retain 10 percent ($80,929.43) for accounting, labour and administration costs from the balance of $809,294.25 remaining from the $1.3 million grant.

Five churches have so far returned $949,769.83 of the money that had been handed out via Bush’s controversial fund, which he appears to have administered himself. The first was Hillside Chapel on Cayman Brac.

Minister of Finance and Economic Development Marco Archer accepted a cheque for $728,364.83 from the Wesleyan Church on Wednesday, 10 July, as well as a letter outlining the church’s vote. He was also given a copy of the letter to the church from Bush, who had been a member of the congregation, granting $250,000 to clear its then-existing building loan and use the rest as a down payment for the purchase of land adjoining the church. The church also gave the minister a statement of accounts detailing the money received and spent so far by the church, including on its shelter project and to pay off loans.

“I am extremely grateful to the Wesleyan Holiness Church for their decision to return this money to government and to the people of the Cayman Islands,” said Archer, who had been critical of the distribution of the nation building grants on the campaign trail and the way it had been managed. “I’m equally grateful to Hillside Chapel, Red Bay Church of God Holiness, Webster Memorial United Church and Fellowship Baptist Church who have also returned funds to government,” he added.

A total of 28 churches in the Cayman Islands received $5,188,416.67 in grants from the Nation Building Fund between financial years 2009/10 to 20012/13, according to the FinanceMinistry.

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