Archive for October 2nd, 2014

Three new local cases of chikungunya confirmed

| 02/10/2014 | 3 Comments

(CNS): Despite weeks of managing to contain the chikungunya virus which is spreading rapidly through the Caribbean, public health officials confirmed three more local transmissions on Thursday. Since June when Cayman recorded its first case in a patient with a travel history to an endemic country there had been just one local transmission. However 11 blood samples sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency earlier this month have been confirmed as positive and three of those patients have no travel history indicating that they were infected here in Cayman. Dr Kiran Kumar, the medical officer of health urged residents to take protective action.

The public health boss said the public needed to take protective measures such as using mosquito repellents containing DEET on skin, and wearing long- sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks when outdoors during times that the Aedes aegypti mosquito  is biting, which he said was between 7.00-9.00 am and between 4.00 and 6.00pm.

Dr Bill Petrie, Director of the Mosquito Research Control Unit said eliminating breeding sites was key to combatting the disease.

“We encourage residents to clean-up their yards and remove or turn over any items that may hold water, such as buckets, and in this way eliminate potential breeding sites for this mosquito.” Dr Petrie said. He added that the MRCU has already stepped-up control operations, to include aerial spraying, which will continue in West Bay this afternoon; vehicle-mounted fogging and hand-held fogging; as well as continuing to inspect and treat yards and premises.

Health officials who learned of the 11 positive cases on Wednesday evening said that they will be Officials meeting Friday 3 October to review control measures.

“Eight had travel history to other Caribbean countries prior to becoming ill,” said Dr Kumar. “Six had travelled to Jamaica, one to St Lucia and the other to Guyana, while three had no travel history, which means those were cases of local transmission,” he added.
Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, it causes fever, severe joint pain, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. Officials urge anyone who may be experiencing these symptoms to immediately see a healthcare provider.

Osbourne Bodden, the health minister said that although officials have some concerns regarding the transmission of chikungunya, the Public Health Department, and Mosquito Research and Control Unit were actively collaborating to ensure the containment. Echoing Dr Kumar’s comments, the minister pressed the point about that people needed to protect themselves from mosquito bites and to assist MRCU by eliminating breeding sites in and around homes. He also promised that the Ministry of Health, the Public Health Department and MRCU will continue to update the public throughout this process.

Since the last update on 22 September 2014, 10 new cases were placed under investigation during the week of 23-29 September 2014. The eleven patients who tested positive (16-24) September are residents of George Town (4) West Bay (4) Bodden Town (2) and Cayman Brac (1) .

Their onset of symptoms took place between 16-22 September so they are no longer considered infectious, as it has been more than a week. The chikungunya virus is transmitted by mosquitoes biting infected persons during the first week of illness.

The first case of chikungunya in the Cayman Islands was reported at the end of June and with the latest results 56 cases of chikungunya have now been investigated and 48 results have been received. Eighteen have come back positive four of which are believed to be local transmissions, 28 were negative and two inconclusive. Results of 8 blood samples are still outstanding.

As at 29 September, 12,720 cases of chikungunya have been reported across the region. Further information can be obtained through www.hsa.ky. Regional updates can be accessed by visiting the CARPHA website on http://carpha.org/What-We-Do/Public-Health-Activities/Chikungunya. In addition United States updates are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/geo/united-states.html
See information sheets below

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Watson probe continues

| 02/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The former chair of the Health Services Authority board, Canover Watson (43), has been interviewed by police for a second time after answering his bail on Monday in connection with corruption charges. The chairman of the Anti-Corruption Committee (ACC), Police Commissioner David Baines, confirmed that the Caymanian businessman, from the Prospect area, arrested on 28 August by officers from the RCIPS Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes units, answered his bail on 29 September as scheduled but was asked to return Thursday, when a further interview was conducted. Watson has now been bailed again until 6 November.

No charges have yet been brought against the former HSA chair, who has denied the allegations made against him.

Following his arrest, Watson issued a short statement indicating his innocence and saying that when the time was right he would be setting out his position regarding the accusations, which are understood to relate to an $11 million hospital contract awarded to AIS for a card payment system.

Watson was arrested on suspicion of a number of offences under the anti-corruption law, including abuse of public office, breach of trust, conflict of Interest and money laundering.

Police refused to comment further about the case Thursday and indicated that the enquiry is continuing. The criminal probe is understood to have been triggered following an investigation by the auditor general, which was passed onto the Anti-Corruption Commission.

The case has attracted international attention as Watson was also a member of the FIFA audit and compliance committee, until his suspension by the football watchdog’s chairman last month.

See related stories on CNS:

http://centos6-httpd22-php56-mysql55.installer.magneticone.com/o_belozerov/31115drupal622/crime/2014/08/29/ac-cops-arrest-ex-hsa-chair
http://centos6-httpd22-php56-mysql55.installer.magneticone.com/o_belozerov/31115drupal622/crime/2014/09/16/fifa-suspend-watson-watchdog-committee

 

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CS on stand-by for cut directions

| 02/10/2014 | 10 Comments

(CNS): Another very short account released by the deputy governor’s office from the civil service boss’ regular monthly meeting indicates that the public sector management is now on stand-by to begin implementing the cuts agreed by Cabinet from the recent Ernst and Young report. The chief officers have agreed that each recommendation which is accepted by the elected arm of government must be viewed as a separate project requiring their leadership and support for successful and timely implementation.

According to the minutes, posted below, the deputy governor said Rodrigues will be heading up the Strategic Reforms Implementation Unit, which will oversee the changes and provide guidance and support to Chief Officers and their teams. Franz Manderson revealed that the veteran civil servant will be assisted by three to four existing civil servants who will be seconded on a full or part-time basis to the implementation unit.

GIS will also beproviding communications support and getting the word out on what could be far reaching changes and ramifications not just for the civil service but the wider community as a whole.

The minutes record that the role and functions of the unit were discussed as well as the standardized implementation framework which the public sector bosses said will be crucial to the success of the project.

One month after the government received the controversial report from EY the PPM administration has not yet given any indications about what if anything it plans to implement. The premier recently stated that following the meeting of the Legislative Assembly last month caucus has not yet had the chance to examine the document in detail or make any hard decisions about the report’s 55 recommendations.

Government has stated on numerous however, that it does not want to divest assets in the short term to raise cash only to find it has damaging long term implications. Although the premier had said there were no sacred cows it is understood that the report is not being widely embraced by the PPM members of government and there are genuine concerns that the wider party membership will also reject most of the recommended government firesale.

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Horse champions recognised at new local awards

| 02/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Dozens of local riders were celebrated at the Cayman Islands Equestrian Federation inaugural awards dinner last month as the seasons champions were revealed. According to a CIEF release Meegan Slattery was awarded the Champion’s Ribbon in the introductory category, with Leah Alberga taking the Reserve Champion spot. Two sets of ribbons were awarded in the Training Level category. For the juniors, Madeleine Aquart and Ashley van den Bol took the Champion top spots with Saskia Drake and Thea Millward taking the Reserve ribbons.Meanwhile adult riders Michelle Boucher and Tracey Surrey took Champion ribbons.

Phoebe Serpell and Anja van Genderen were the Champion and Reserve Champion, respectively, in both the junior Preliminary and Elementary categories with Jessica McTaggart-Giuzio and Tracey Surrey taking Champion and Reserve Champion, respectively, in the Preliminary adult category.At the Elementary adult level, Alexandra Bodden took the Champion spot with Polly Serpell taking Reserve and at the Medium level, Thea Millward was Champion with Alexandra Bodden the Reserve.

McTaggart-Giuzio added the Champion ribbons in the Advanced and Prix St. George categories to her haul, with Charlotte Hinds taking Reserve Champion in the Advanced category.

The Dressage Championship awards were followed with the National Jumping Series Championship awards.

In the 0.6m junior class, Chloe Fowler took Champion with Jenna Boucher as Reserve Champion. Hannah Fowler was Champion in both the 0.7m and 0.85m junior classes with Reserve Champions going to Jenna Boucher in the 0.7m class and to Phoebe Serpell in the 0.85m class. In the 0.6m adults class Juliette Forrester and Tanja Braendle were Champion and Reserve Champion, respectively. Tanja Braendle was also Reserve Champion in the 0.7m adults class with Michelle Boucher taking the Champion spot. Michelle Boucher also took the Reserve Champion spot at 0.85m adults with Alexandra Rado clinching the Champion ribbon.

In the open classes, Polly Serpell was Champion of the 0.9-1m class with Thea Millward the Reserve Champion whilst in the highest category, 1m-1.1m, Isabelle Smith was Champion with Polly Serpell as Reserve Champion.

Sharon Hinds, President of the CIEF, reviewed the federation’s show season and highlighted the growth of the membership, at the dinner as well as the accomplishments of the riders in the past year.

She said the Federation had hosted a record number of shows, and was performing impressively overseas and at home. CIEF had riders taking three of the top four spots in the Children’s American Dressage Invitational in 2013.  Cayman Teams came joint first in the Caribbean Junior Show Jumping Competition 2013, first in the FEI’s World Dressage Challenge 2014 and the Cayman Children’s Team came first in the Caribbean Equestrian Association’s Dressage Challenge 2014.

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Horse champions recognised at new local awards

| 02/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Dozens of local riders were celebrated at the Cayman Islands Equestrian Federation inaugural awards dinner last month as the seasons champions were revealed. According to a CIEF release Meegan Slattery was awarded the Champion’s Ribbon in the introductory category, with Leah Alberga taking the Reserve Champion spot. Twosets of ribbons were awarded in the Training Level category. For the juniors, Madeleine Aquart and Ashley van den Bol took the Champion top spots with Saskia Drake and Thea Millward taking the Reserve ribbons. Meanwhile adult riders Michelle Boucher and Tracey Surrey took Champion ribbons.

Phoebe Serpell and Anja van Genderen were the Champion and Reserve Champion, respectively, in both the junior Preliminary and Elementary categories with Jessica McTaggart-Giuzio and Tracey Surrey taking Champion and Reserve Champion, respectively, in the Preliminary adult category.At the Elementary adult level, Alexandra Bodden took the Champion spot with Polly Serpell taking Reserve and at the Medium level, Thea Millward was Champion with Alexandra Bodden the Reserve.

McTaggart-Giuzio added the Champion ribbons in the Advanced and Prix St. George categories to her haul, with Charlotte Hinds taking Reserve Champion in the Advanced category.

The Dressage Championship awards were followed with the National Jumping Series Championship awards.

In the 0.6m junior class, Chloe Fowler took Champion with Jenna Boucher as Reserve Champion. Hannah Fowler was Champion in both the 0.7m and 0.85m junior classes with Reserve Champions going to Jenna Boucher in the 0.7m class and to Phoebe Serpell in the 0.85m class. In the 0.6m adults class Juliette Forrester and Tanja Braendle were Champion and Reserve Champion, respectively. Tanja Braendle was also Reserve Champion in the 0.7m adults class with Michelle Boucher taking the Champion spot. Michelle Boucher also took the Reserve Champion spot at 0.85m adults with Alexandra Rado clinching the Champion ribbon.

In the open classes, Polly Serpell was Champion of the 0.9-1m class with Thea Millward the Reserve Champion whilst in the highest category, 1m-1.1m, Isabelle Smith was Champion with Polly Serpell as Reserve Champion.

Sharon Hinds, President of the CIEF, reviewed the federation’s show season and highlighted the growth of the membership, at the dinner as well as the accomplishments of the riders in the past year.

She said the Federation had hosted a record number of shows, and was performing impressively overseas and at home. CIEF had riders taking three of the top four spots in the Children’s American Dressage Invitational in 2013.  Cayman Teams came joint first in the Caribbean Junior Show Jumping Competition 2013, first in the FEI’s World Dressage Challenge 2014 and the Cayman Children’s Team came first in the Caribbean Equestrian Association’s Dressage Challenge 2014.
 

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Mac cashed $465k, lost $263k in 45 gambling days

| 02/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The crown prosecutor revealed Wednesday that the former Cayman Islands premier had taken cash advances on his own as well as his government credit cards totalling more than $465,000 over some 45 days of gambling between July 2009 and April 2010 while on overseas trips. As the crown closed its case against McKeeva Bush for abusing his office when he took cash advances on the government card to play slot machines in casinos, the attorney highlighted the quantity of cash he was taking from cards to feed into slot machines. During the time in question Bush had a net loss, according to casino records, of more than half that money, losing over $260k to the machines.

As Duncan Penny QC summed up the admissions and agreed evidence between the crown and Bush’s defence lawyers, he pointed to the substantial losses the premier incurred during his gambling sessions across the time when he is accused of misusing the government card. The period includes around 45 days, during the various trips, that Bush spent in casinos between the meetings and other government business, several odd personal days and a week’s vacation in Vegas.

Penny highlighted the speed by which Bush was losing and in some cases winning money when he directed the jury to details in the documents that have been submitted as evidence.

He indicated that Bush’s loyalty cards revealed that on one occasionat a casino in Florida in 11 minutes the premier fed in $3,175 into a slot machine and received over $4,000 back in a short winning streak. However, on another occasion in just four minutes the former premier of the Cayman Islands fed in some $2,350 but received just $1,480 back, leaving him over $700 out of pocket in less than five minutes.

Going through the documentation that recorded Bush’s time sitting at the slots as well as his ATM cash withdrawals and direct cash advances on the casino floor, the attorney pointed to the losses Bush sustained. Penny said Bush’s net loss during this time was almost $264,000, averaging more than $5,800 for each day that he gambled.

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Jamaica announces details for proposed ganja laws

| 02/10/2014 | 47 Comments

(CNS): Jamaica’s justice minister has revealed more details of the proposed new ganja laws that will pave the way for the legal cultivation, possession, import and export, transportation, manufacture, sale, and distribution of ganja for medical and scientific purposes. With the liberalization of ganja use the Jamaican government is positioning the country to take advantage of the economic gains from the plant as its lawful consumption, especially as a medicine, takes off around the world. The production and sale of the drug will require a license and Mark Golding explained, Wednesday, that the terms of those licenses will now be determined.

"We need to now flesh out the specifics of the licence and framework to go hand-in-hand once the amendments have been approved and implemented,” he said.

A licensing authority is to be established to govern the processes for what is expected to be a significant industry for Jamaica. Golding also said that some revenue generated by the licensing of the ganja industry will be used to fund public education programmes directed at discouraging ganja use by adolescents and other vulnerable persons. The cash will also be used for drug-abuse support; funding scientific research into the medical and other specific uses of ganja; as well as for providing additional support for the implementation of a new regulatory regime.

"Our objective is to lay the foundations for the establishment of regulatory regimes to govern the cultivation and use of ganja for medical and scientific purposes as well as (non-medical) industrial hemp," he said.

Under the legislative changes taking place in Jamaica regarding ganja possession of two ounces or less is now a non-arrestable, ticketable infraction that does not result in a criminal record; possession for religious use is permitted as well as therapeutic purposes as prescribed by a medical practitioner, and scientific research conducted by accredited institutions.

“The medicinal potential of extracts from both ganja and hemp is also recognized as having great economic potential,” Golding said as he outlined the emerging new legislative landscape in the country.

“Jamaica is well positioned to be a forerunner in conducting research which will address the safety and efficacy issues related to extracts of medical cannabis. This research is fundamental to the development of new medicines and therapies derived from ganja and hemp.”

Meanwhile, Cayman’s legislators have remained opposed to any changes regarding the use of ganja for medical or any other purposes. The local draconian laws, where consumption and even minuscule amounts can lead to prosecution, have led to hundreds of Caymanians being saddled with criminal records because of past ganja convictions.

 

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Ceramic Art exhibition opens at gallery

| 02/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(NGCI): The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands (NGCI) is delighted to introduce a survey of ceramic art with a display of delicate and rare pieces from around the world. The exhibition will display historically important wares from The Belvedere Collection (United Kingdom) as well as contemporary works by artists well established in Europe, South Africa and the Cayman Islands. Works featured range from the traditional thrown vessels to unexpected and surprising sculptural forms. Local artists include Joseph Betty, Alan Darvil, Al Ebanks, Davin Ebanks, Virginia Foster, Chris Mann, Lorna Reid, Cecilia Urdaneta and Avril Ward.

See full details in gallery release below

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CS jobs must be transferred

| 02/10/2014 | 79 Comments

(CNS): If government goes ahead with the privatization plan recommended by Ernst and Young hundreds of civil service posts will be lost. Unless those workers are transitioned to the private sector the country will face a surge in the already high unemployment figures and government will be footing the bill for the social fallout. In its review of the controversial report the Chamber of Commerce, a vocal supporter of reducing government, said the private sector must take on the local workers. However, MLA Ezzard Miller, who has raised concerns about the report, warned that if the private sector takes over government services it will be looking to cut headcounts and recruit cheap labour, not looking out for government workers.

A long statement released this week by the Chamber, spelling out its support for the EY report and fire sale of government assets, said that transitioning public sector workers had to be a top priority. Stating that no Caymanian should be left behind, it said the private sector must be an active participant in the transitional process.

Chamber President Johann Moxam emphasised the need for the transition of civil servants into the private sector, otherwise, he said, the rationalization would not succeed. He said that any reduction in the number of civil servants must be achieved through a transfer of jobs to the private sector, not through absolute job losses

“The Chamber is prepared to work with the elected government and public sector to help identify the skills, competencies and attributes of civil servants in departments or units under consideration for rationalization and then facilitate their recruitment into the private sector. Developing an effective transition plan can be done — we should not avoid it because it is new or difficult,” he said.

Moxam said that permits should not be given to employers involved in taking on government services if those jobs can be filled by government workers whose departments are being cut.

“The success of this type of initiative will require the immigration department to work closely with the NWDA and all related agencies to ensure that work permits are not granted forjobs that could objectively be filled by the suitably qualified transitioning civil servants who may be impacted by the rationalization project, and this must apply across the board to labourers, administrative staff and professionals,” he stated. “Transitioning those persons into the private sector is crucial to the overall success of any rationalization initiative."

However, the government has proved significantly inadequate when it comes to policing the labour laws in the private sector or enforcing immigration laws relating to the granting of government workers. Over the last few months CNS has highlighted numerous infractions relating to the manipulation of the recruitment process by employers to maintain work permit holders and the transition of civil servants into the private sector is very unlikely to be a smooth one.

The independent member for North Side, Ezzard Miller, pointed out that the private sector has been extremely vocal about the stereotypical image of the civil service and he said employers will not be rushing to embrace hundreds of civil servants caught up on the government sell-off.

“We know that the private sector seems to believe that every single civil servant is lazy or incompetent. I do not believe that they will be willing to take on more than a few civil servants. Employers will try to fill the posts with cheap labour and permit holders,” he warned, adding that government would see a painful increase in local unemployment and find its annual social service bill growing from $65 million to $165 million.

With cost-cutting the goal of the rationalization plan, Miller pointed to the idiocy of creating so much more unemployment among local workers. The North Side memebr said he believes efficiency and how government spends cash is where officials need to look to cut spending not the proposed fire sale.

(See more on CNS tomorrow.)
 

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