Archive for January 6th, 2014

Opportunist thief jailed despite mental health issues

| 06/01/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A George Town man with serious mental health problems was remanded in custody on Monday in connection with the theft of two pieces of jewellery in the wake of a New Year’s Day hold-up until his case can be heard in the mental health court. Don Nixon, who also has a number of medical problems, has been waiting for over a year for a report to state whether or not he is fit to plead in connection with another case. He will be held at HMP Northward until the courts can decide what to do with him. Nixon is accused of stealing a watch and a gold chain from Diamonds International in the confusion which followed a daylight robbery Wednesday.

Nixon was arrested and the jewels recovered immediately, having been caught on CCTV. He had made no attempt to disguise himself or hide while he allegedly helped himself to two items from smashed cabinets, which he took home and handed to a neighbour. He later admitted taking the jewellery during a police interview. The crown objected to a bail application by Prathna Bodden, Nixon’s defence attorney, before hearing about the defendant’s health problems.

Bodden argued that there was nothing sophisticated about the crime her client was accused of and pointed out that he took the items in full view of the security cameras, in front of the police commissioner and had nothing to do with the actual robbery.

Bodden said her client was in need of medical and professional assistance and indicted that he would not receive any of the support he needed in jail. However, the magistrate raised some concerns about giving Nixon bail and said the case needed to be dealt with in the mental health court where, if Nixon was granted bail, it could be under the supervision of professionals.

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MLAs silent on ganja debate

| 06/01/2014 | 96 Comments

(CNS): As the debate on medicinal cannabis gathers momentum in the US and elsewhere, local politicians are remaining tight lipped on the issue. Cayman’s elected representatives have ignored questions from CNS regarding the topical, if controversial, subject as well as approaches made to them by Burns Conolly, the man behind the local campaign "Cannabis Cayman" promoting the medical benefits of the drug. All members of the Legislative Assembly were canvassed by CNS over a month ago for their opinions on medical marijuana but not one MLA responded, while Conolly had only one response to the email he sent to the people’s representatives. But as public opinion shifts massively on the drug locally as well as in the US the silence of Cayman’s politicians is making them look out of touch with developments.

Burns Conolly launched the Facebook page "Cannabis Cayman" in October with the goal of educating the public and promoting the growing body of information about the now proven medicinal properties of ganja. His main aim is to trigger debate and he wants to see local politicians take up this issue and at least discuss it, whether they are for it or against it.

“Cannabis Cayman has now approached all 18 MLAs via email and has received only one response so far,” he said. “A second member spoke to me and said he was not familiar enough with the plant to comment yet. I hope that the lack of response is because they were busy during the Christmas season and not that they do not want to comment. I even indicated that they could even respond confidentially if they wished.”

Conolly explained that he wants to get the debate started with the goal of having politicians consider making the drug available to Caymanians who have serious medical issues but, he said, "are having to poison their bodies daily with Chemo, radiation and a host of other prescription drugs".

While the politicians are being tight lipped, the public seem considerably more engaged on the topic, with stories about legalisation generating hundreds of comments from CNS readers over the past few months. 94% of people who voted in a recent CNS poll said that the drug should be legalized either for medicinal or both medicinal and recreational use. Conolly’s Facebook page now has around 500 people following it and many people are expressing support.

Conolly, who is advocating only for the medicinal use of ganja, was motivated to launch the campaign after seeing a CNN documentary on the issue in which the drug’s incredible and proven medicinal qualities were revealed. He said it is now time for Cayman to start looking at the issue properly.

"Given the tsunami of interest and change of medicinal marijuana in the United States, I believe it is time for the Cayman Islands to at least start a discussion of making medicinal marijuana available and legal here. It has clearly been proven that this plant has tremendous medicinal properties. The active ingredients in the plant have been shown to positively impact and cure Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Crohn's, Leukaemia, Lymphoma, Diabetes, Epilepsy, seizures, strokes, chronic pain, many others as well as the big 'C' — Cancer.

"It is incredibly effective with inoperable brain cancer tumours. Much of the scientific research needed to completely identify all the properties of this plant has been restricted due to the lack of funding based on it being characterized as an evil drug,” said Conolly, who is still surprised that he has found himself the face of this campaign.

Conolly says his campaign is not interested in recreational legalization but focused entirely on persuading Cayman to look at the drug’s medicinal benefits. 

“Cannabis Cayman is not supporting recreational use locally,” said Conolly, who does not use the drug but hopes that if he ever needed to, it would be available for him to use legally. He believes there are indications that young developing minds can be impaired by smoking marijuana but Cannabis Cayman is concerned with getting the discussion about what is also a life-saving drug to those who need it when they are sick.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of Caymanians that need it now,” he said. “It has never been shown to kill anyone, unlike prescription drugs which kill in excess of 20,000 each year in the USA. It is now clear that this helpful plant will be legal across the United States within a few years. It has been unfortunately been made out to be an evil drug by the media and government over the years, which it clearly isn't.”

With the tide of public opinion changing, especially in America, where many people are beginning to see that they have not been told the truth about ganja, experts and pundits alike are all saying that 2014 will be the year when the issue takes centre stage. Predicted as a future potential wonder drug by some, Cannabis was legal and used successfully in dozens of medicines for hundreds of years before it was prohibited for political reasons in the 1930s.

On 1 January people queued in the freezing cold around the block when the drug went on sale legally in the state of Colorado and the state's historic legalization policy is now being touted as a springboard for other US states to follow suit. In 2012 Colorado voters approved the sale of recreational marijuana, as did voters in Washington State. Colorado is the first to have ‘pot shops’ up and running under regulations established by state government.

In November, Portland, Maine, followed Washington and Colorado's lead and legalized recreational use of the drug, while the Michigan cities of Lansing, Jackson and Ferndale resoundingly voted to let people older than 21 possess an ounce of marijuana on private property. Alaska is also considering the drug’s use and could become the third state to legalize recreational as well as medicinal use. According to a recent Gallup Poll in the United States, there has been an unprecedented spike in approval ratings in the last year, reaching 58%.

Many other countries around the world are pondering their failed and costly prohibition policies over the drug but it was Uruguay that became the first nation in the world at the end of last year to fully legalize the use of cannabis.

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49 arrested in road campaign

| 06/01/2014 | 13 Comments

(CNS): Police arrested 32 people over the holidays for DUI and another 17 for driving when they were disqualified or not qualified, as part of the annual RCIPS road safety campaign 'StayAlive'. According to the RCIPS statistics, by the end of the campaign on Sunday, officers had dealt with 160 road smashes, an average of more eight collisions per week over the five weeks since it began on 29 November. 82 drivers were fined for using their phones behind the wheel and another 67 were ticketed for speeding. Police pulled 26 people over for not wearing seatbelts and dealt with 212 traffic offences of one kind or another.

During the campaign police detailed the numbers each week hoping to deliver amessage to drivers who were drinking before getting into their cars, using their phones behind the wheel or committing other road and vehicle related offences that they would be caught. But the 49 arrests and almost four hundred tickets demonstrates that many local drivers did not take heed. The worrying level of road smashes also illustrates a serious problem on the local roads, where on average more than one collision is happening every day.

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$500k of jewellery robbed

| 06/01/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Christopher Myles (left) and James McLean, who have been charged with the New Year’s Day jewellery store robbery in George Town, were remanded in custody Monday when the men’s defence attorneys made no applications for bail. The accused men’s appearance was short, as the case was immediately transmitted to the Grand Court, where the two suspects are now due to appear on 17 January. Neither Myles nor McLean, who appeared in the dock with what seemed to be a black eye, spoke as the charges against them were read out. Represented by defence attorneys John Furniss and Fiona Robertson, the men are accused of stealing around half a million dollars worth of jewellery.

Police have charge both men with robbery and possession of an imitation firearm with intent but that later charge could change once professional verification about the gun’s capability of firing has been received by the officers in the case. Although early reports suggest that the weapon was fired, this has not yet been confirmed.

Myles and McLean are accused of entering Diamonds International, masked and armed with handguns and a hammer, at around 8:20am on Wednesday 1 January shortly after the store opened with one other man, who is still in police custody. The men reportedly told customers and staff in the downtown jewellery store to get on the ground as they smashed several display cases and helped themselves to the expensive booty.

The men then fled but they were foiled in their escape because, in a significant coincidence, Police Commissioner David Baines, who was off duty, happened to be sitting in his own car at nearby traffic lights when he saw the masked men in the store and their attempt to flee in a getaway vehicle. Baines reportedly drove after them running them down and injuring the third suspect, who has not yet been charged.

Members of the public who witnessed the daylight hold-up at the store opposite the Royal Watler cruise terminal also assisted in the apprehension of the suspects. At the time at least two cruise ships had already docked in the harbour and hundreds of passengers had disembarked into the area.

Baines told the UK’s Daily Mail that he was in the area, having arranged to meet a friend and former UK police colleague outside the same jewellery store, which is why, he said, he was “in the right place at the right time”.

He explained to the UK newspaper that as he arrived he saw a security guy running out of Diamonds International.

“As I looked into the shop I could see at least two masked men,” he said, adding that he spun his Chevrolet Trailblazer around and then saw three men running from the store and getting into a getaway vehicle.

"I rammed the car to try and block them. I was partially successful,” Baines told the Daily Mail. “They climbed out of the car and started running so I went after them and hit two of the guys up against a fence. One slipped beneath the car,” he admitted. It was then that members of the public grappled with the two suspects that Baines pinned against the fence.

See Daily Mail article here.

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Football website picks Webb as one to watch

| 06/01/2014 | 1 Comment

(CNS): As an ambassador for the Cayman Islands, Jeffery Webb is doing an impressive job and fast become one of the most well-known Caymanians on the world stage. The president of CONCACAF and Vice President of FIFA has been picked out by a global football website as one of the game’s names to watch during 2014. Mark Bisson, the editor of World Football Insider, described Webb as “one of the new breed of younger football administrators beginning to make a name for themselves on the world stage” in an article for the website, which focuses on the business end of the sport.

Listing Webb’s achievements so far, including developing football initiatives in the region and cleaning up the image after the previous scandals, Bisson writes that the creation of a director of sports integrity to implement systems to detect and investigate match-fixing issues within the region is one sign of Webb’s forward-thinking leadership.

Meanwhile, Cayman is gearing up for the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship, which starts on Thursday (9 January) and will see the top three teams qualify for the women’s World Cup in Canada this year January 9-19.


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Local stresses must be managed to protect reefs

| 06/01/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Scientists undertaking marine research in Little Cayman have emphasized the importance of managing local impacts on coral reefs in the struggle to conserve these critically important marine habitats. Researchers said that reefs around the Sister Island were able to bounce back after bleaching and infectious disease between 1999 and 2004 reduced the living coral by nearly 40% because of their isolation and limited human impact. Chuck Jacoby, from the University of Florida, said the Little Cayman study demonstrated the need to protect reefs from local fishing and development if they are to survive. “Local stresses are much more manageable than the global ones, and if you get rid of the local ones, the reefs can cope,” he said.

Reefs the world over are fighting to survive. While they occupy less than 0.01 percent of the marine environment, they produce about 25 percent of fish caught in developing countries and account for about 30 percent of export earnings in reef-related tourism.

This research shows that limiting local stresses can allow reefs to thrive on their own and recover from even quite serious damage, but add local stresses to global impacts and the reefs will disappear.

With the National Conservation Law passed in the Cayman Islands last month and due to be implemented this month, the Marine Parks Law will be repealed and become part of the NCL. The next fight for marine conservation is a revision of those parks in an attempt to cut local pressure on more of Cayman’s reefs. However, the Department of Environment is likely to face another battle to persuade people that the parks must be extended.

While some scientists still believe coral reefs are headed for certain doom no matter what, the study by University of Florida and researchers from the Central Caribbean Marine Institute implies otherwise and backs the call for enhancement of the local parks.

Much of the reef surrounding Little Cayman is already protected and damage from fishing, anchoring and other human activities has been minimized. So, despite the impact of climate change with the major bleaching event, the reefs have bounced back.

“Little Cayman is an example of what can happen because it is essentially free from local stresses due to its isolation, small human population and generally healthy ecology,” said Jacoby.

Overfishing, nutrient runoff, coral mining, tourism and coastal development have long threatened coral reefs and now global warming is accelerating the destruction. But the study’s results offer hope for coral reefs ─ if humans pay more attention to protecting them.

Tom Frazer, a UF professor of aquatic ecology,  said that the study shows that reefs are not a lost cause. “We believe there’s value in making sure coral reefs don’t die.

“In addition to saving the living organisms that make coral reefs their homes, safeguarding the habitats could ensure millions of dollars for the fishing and tourism industries, not to mention maintaining barriers that protect coastal areas and their human inhabitants from tropical storms,” Frazer added.

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