Archive for October 30th, 2014

CUC cut-off policy catches out injured customer

| 30/10/2014 | 120 Comments

(CNS): As Grand Cayman’s power provider attempts to clamp down on delinquent bill payers, CUC appears to be giving increasingly less time for late payers to catch-up and not giving much notice when it comes to cutting off their power. A George Town CNS reader, behind on her payments by just two months, was left in the dark last night with a broken leg. Her pleas to CUC, given her inability to get to the office to pay and difficulty stumbling around on crutches in the dark, fell on deaf ears. CUC confirmed that it considers all bills delinquent after three weeks and 30 days after a bill date and customers can be plunged into darkness without warning.

“Customer accounts are due for payment twenty-one days after the bill date and are considered delinquent thereafter,” a spokesperson from CUC told CNS Thursday. “Thirty days after the bill date, if the outstanding balance is greater than $35, the account is subject to disconnection for non-payment.”

The spokesperson said that at present customers receive a disconnection notice on their bills if the previously issued bill remains unpaid, but the power firm is looking at developing an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) call out system, which will dial customers to advise them of a pending disconnection action. This is expected to be in place within the next couple of weeks.

But CUC said that could only work if customers keep their contact information with CUC up to date.

The Electricity Regulatory Authority keeps no figures on the number of people disconnected so there are no publicly available independent statistics that can say how frequently people are losing their power supply or how many families are living without power.

However, anecdotal evidence suggests that the numbers are increasing. With rising fuel costs, the loss of the rebate, the extra duty and the increase in the firm’s base rate, customers are facing ever-growing electricity bills. Although government has made a small duty cut on CUC’s diesel, it does not come into effect until January and is expected to result in just a 4% cut to residential bills.

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Lifestyle disease focus of local health conference

| 30/10/2014 | 4 Comments

(CNS): As the world’s health concern’s focus on West Africa and the most devastating outbreak of the deadly, Ebola virus in history, and as the Caribbean battles with outbreaks of denge and chikungunya virus, the diseases that actually plague Caymanians will be the subject of the fifth annual Cayman Islands Healthcare Conference. Diabetes, cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, mental health and other non-communicable diseases will be the topics of discussions and presentations at the event. Local health officials said the free conference would include a line-up of experts from the front line in the war on these diseases.

The conference is set for 20 to 22 November at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman and presenters include overseas and local specialists who will discuss some of the biggest challenges to the health of Cayman.

Dr James Hospedales is the Executive Director of Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and he will be opening the conference with an overview of whether the war is being won on CNCDs globally and in the Caribbean. Dr Hospedales, a citizen of Trinidad & Tobago, has been the Executive Director of CARPHA since February 2013 and has a wide breadth of knowledge of CNCDs in the region, officials said.

The Chief Interventional Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist at Health City Cayman Islands, Dr Ravi Kishore Amancharla, will discuss conquering the cardiovascular Leviathan. Since 1997, Dr Ravi has been working with Dr Devi Shetty and has been instrumental in establishing state of the art electrophysiology services across the group hospitals.

Dr Edward Anim-Addo, Internal Medicine, Chief Medical Officer with Tenet Florida Physician Services will address global trends in type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity and correlates. Dr Robert Cywes, also from Tenet, a specialist in neonatal, paediatric surgery and adolescent surgery with will tackle the facts versus beliefs as they relate to obesity.

Dr Lawrence Friedman, Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at the University of California, San Diego will discuss using new technology to improve diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the role of electronic medical records and mobile monitoring. Presenting on food security, nutrition and NCD control in the Caribbean, will be Dr. Fitzroy Henry, a Professor of Public Health Nutrition at University of Technology, Jamaica.

As a Hematologist-Oncologist & Medical Oncologist with Cancer Treatment Centers of Americas, Dr Shayma Kazmi’s focus will be on genetics and DNA sequencing applications in cancer treatment.

Medical Director at The Heart Health Centre, Grand Cayman, Dr Mikhail Kosiborod will talk about the rising “tsunami” of diabetes and its complications.

Dr George Peoples is the founder of the Cancer Vaccine Development Program (CVDP); founder and CEO of Cancer Insight, LLC and Professor of Surgery at the Uniformed Services University of the HealthSciences. He will speak on the new frontier for cancer treatment: personalised cancer immunotherapy. 

Shannon Seymour, the Director of the Wellness Centre in Cayman will present on community first response to mental health.

“The calibre of speakers at this year’s conference is profound and we intend to highlight a range of topics that will be beneficial to the medical community and the general public alike,” said Osbourne Bodden who will also open the conference.  “We continue to offer this conference and knowledge to the community free of charge, so I encourage people to register soon, as space is limited.”

Committed sponsors this year include: Tenet Healthcare, Tower, Cayman Islands Health Services Authority, Dart, Health City Cayman Islands, CONCACAF, UnitedHealthcare International, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Cleveland Clinic, Baptist Health International, Marsh, Cerner, BritCay, University of California-San Diego, Aitheras Aviation Group, Aon Risk Solutions, Broward Health, The Wellness Centre, Fidelity, Heart Health Centre, Saint Luke’s Mid-America Institute, Generali, Cayman Airways and many other exhibitors and not-for-profit organisations.

Read more and register here

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Cops urge vigilance as kids ‘trick or treat’

| 30/10/2014 | 8 Comments

(CNS):The police will be taking to the streets on Friday for some high visibility patrolling, not to keep the ghost, ghouls, duppies and other spooks away but to ensure families are safe from the regular criminal contingent and to assist with road safety. But hot on the heels of warnings from the Department of Environmental Health about the dangers of cakes and candies to kids, the police are urging parents and guardians to ensure their kids are trick or treating safely. Children should not enter a stranger’s home unless they are with a parent or trusted adult, police said, and also pointed to road safety tips.

If a child’s costume does not have reflective strips, police are advising parents to attach glow sticks to it or have the child carry a flashlight. Kids should not wear masks that restrict their sight and everyone out and about should walk towards oncoming traffic. The public is asked not to place candles or open flames in walkways or areas where they may come in contact with costumes and motorists are being asked to drive slowly and be on the lookout for anyone crossing the street.
 

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$3k reward offered after phone top-up thefts

| 30/10/2014 | 2 Comments

(CNS): Following half a dozen incidents at the beginning of this year in connection with damage to and theft of mobile phone top-up machines from various locations across the islands, the local branch of Crime Stoppers is upping the usual $1,000 reward to $3,000 for information that leads to a conviction. Cayman Crime Stoppers said it is urging people to call with information concerning top-up machines stolen or damaged over the first three months of the year at 1203 North Side Road, Pirates Cove Bar Seaview Road, and Lorna’s Texaco at 140 Bodden Town Road, Welly’s Cool Spot and Reflections on Sound Way, as well as George Town.

Cayman Crime Stoppers Chairman, Malcolm Ellis, urged members of the public to call the tip line, adding that the NGO which funds the anonymous tip line is able to offer an increased reward for a break that leads to catching the culprits in this case.

Anyone who calls with information is given a unique code which they can use to make a claim and do not have to disclose their identity. The Cayman Crime Stoppers tips line is 800-TIPS (that is, 800 8477) and is a free, local call. Tips may also be submitted anonymously through the Crime Stoppers website at www.crimestoppers.ky

Cayman Crime Stoppers is a non-profit civilian run organization formed 21 years ago by the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce. Working in partnership with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS), the community and the media, it has become one of the most effective crime solving tools available to local law enforcement agencies. Cayman Crime Stoppers provides a safe and secure means for anybody with information about a crime to share it freely whilst protecting their identity. It could also earn them a reward of up to $1,000. Calls to the Cayman Crime Stoppers anonymous call-centre are handled in Miami, Florida.

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Brac women face indirect discrimination

| 30/10/2014 | 48 Comments

(CNS): As government awaits a decision from the UK regarding the extension of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women to the Cayman Islands, a report from the Sister Islands highlights lingering inequalities. Based on a meeting held in the Brac in June, the report found many common problems in the Sister Islands as those on Grand Cayman, indicating indirect, but worrying, discrimination against women. The report also revealed some specific issues on the smaller island that could fall foul of Article 6 of CEDAW concerning the trafficking of women.

The supplementary report to the National Conference on Women Report, organised bythe gender affairs ministry and published in May, was released this week and contains a snapshot of the issues faced by many woman on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.

In particular, in reference to article six, which requires the suppression of female trafficking and exploitation of sex workers, a troubling trend was identified on the Brac of bar managers which could be interpreted as trafficking.

The meeting documented reports that bar owners were employing women on temporary work permits and intentionally having large turnover rates to prevent these young woman from getting into steady relationships and undermine their ability to attract and entice male customers. They were said to be manipulating the system and using women as sexual bait to lure male customers.

The high turnover of single, pretty female staff, who in bar promotions are scantily clad, reinforced the idea that women were being brought to the Brac in significant numbers to attract men to the bar with the suggestion that the women were ‘available’.

The law facilitates the acquisition of temporary permits and short employment periods. Managers don’t have to pay these female workers pensions, as the law says a worker can be employed for nine months before the emplyer needs to pay pension, and because the women are employed for short stints, most don’t take out health cover either, as the women are usually gone before the employers are caught.

Not only were these alleged practices seen as exploitation, the women are economic migrants and come to Cayman to work for money and fear reporting their employer and losing earning opportunities completely.

Violence against women was also a real concern and the police attitudes towards domestic violence were criticised, as well as the cultural acceptability among men that they have a right to hit women and still, in many cases, see the females in their lives as their property.

The report summarised some of the community-wide problems woman face. The need for much more public education and a heightened awareness of women’s rights was recognised and the need to empower women to stand up for those rights they now have in law.

But the meeting found that gender issues intersect with inequalities regarding race, class, age and national origin. The report said, “Gender issues cannot be viewed in isolation and mainstreaming a gender perspective throughout society will ensure these issues remain visible.”

Participants felt that as a society discrimination has been allowed to continue, holding back productivity, preventing social benefits and increased human development, as well as burdening government.

“Full participation of women on an equal basis with men in all areas of society will bring about positive change for the benefit of girls and women and also their families, employers, communities and society as a whole,” the report concluded.

See the report below.

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Registarion still open for annual radio fun-run

| 30/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS):The 8th Annual Breeze Fusion Walk/Run takes place this Saturday, 1 November and there is still time to sign up for what is becoming a mixed competitive and fun run over 5ks (3.1miles). Walkers will start off from Smith’s Cove at 6:30am, with runners setting out at 6:45am and for the first time there is also a separate children’s race. Registration is $15.00 for adults, $10.00 for students under sixteen. Competitors can sign up at radiocayman.gov.ky and caymanactive.com/breeze, and on Friday at Grand Old House 5pm until 8:00pm. The final chance to register is at 6:00am at the event.

 All participants receive an event t-shirt & goodie bag.  Trophies go to the overall male & female finishers in the run, along with medals & prizes to the top competitors in each age category for both the run & walk.  Random prizes will also be up for grabs. 
Radio Cayman’s Deputy Director Paulette Conolly-Bailey said the stations’ signature event, said part of the proceeds go to the National Council for Voluntary Organizations (NCVO) and John Gray High School’s “Helping Hands Program”.

“Just like Radio Cayman, the Breeze Fusion Walk/Run has a special place in my heart because of what it represents to our community and the lives it touches from the funds raised,” she said. “I’m delighted that the event is growing every year and we have reached our 8 year milestone.  Rain or shine it’s going to be another superb family event for our charitable causes.”

Principal of John Gray High School, Lyneth Monteith said the school was grateful to the station for selecting its programme as a recipient. “Our students face many challenges and to be able to support them in overcoming these challenges, will lead to them being able to achieve success at school, as they work to be the best that they can be,” she said.

Major sponsors include Cayman National, ROMA United Sports Club, Maedac Supply Company/WATA and Grand Old House, with numerous Associate Sponsors providing cash as well as gift certificates. Breeze Fusion is organized by Radio Cayman/Breeze FM and the Phoenix Athletic Club, assisted by Coach Jerry Harper and service club volunteers.

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Dart battle continues

| 30/10/2014 | 98 Comments

(CNS): Despite recent indications by Premier Alden McLaughlin that the Dart negotiations over the provisions and concessions the developer was given under the controversial NRA Agreement were heading in the right direction, he made it clear Wednesday it was a tough and on-going battle. During a debate on amendments to the planning law, which stirred up trouble between the premier and his former colleague, Arden McLean, in the Legislative Assembly, the country’s leader said the legislative changes had nothing to do with more favours for that developer. Government was continuing to renegotiate the “difficult and troublesome elements” of the deal, he said.

The agreement withDart, the islands’ dominant investor, landowner and developer, which was signed by former premier McKeeva Bush in December 2011, has stirred up controversy since it was first announced, from the closure of the West Bay Road to the 50% concessions on all room tax from hotels that Dart will build now and in the future.

In the LA yesterday a further row erupted during the debate over the planning law amendment bill.

The member for East End accused government of making changes to facilitate big developers and continue what the UDP had started with the Dart deal, which he said was a sell-out for the country. McLean had suggested it was no coincidence that, as Dart confirmed plans to build yet another hotel on Seven Mile Beach, the planning law changes were being made that would facilitate him and other big developers but would penalise the small local landowner.

McLaughlin, however, hit back at McLean and accused him of falsely impugning his former colleagues with whom he once “broke bread” and questioning their integrity. The premier said the comments were “scandalous” and he should have tempered his contribution so as to be “more befitting of a veteran member and a friend and colleague” of the members who sit on the government bench.

The premier said it was no secret that they had been dissatisfied with certain elements of the NRA agreement and noted that the government was still trying to re-negotiate the amendments to that. The proposed planning law changes had nothing to do with the Dart agreements, he stated.

McLaughlin insisted that the legislative amendments were put forward by the technical team at the planning department and were described as necessary improvements to the process to make the law more viable and better able to attract positive development.

He said that all governments give concessions to developers in order to encourage them to build and construction was particularly important to Caymanians because that was where the jobs for local people were created. 

“I can assure the public that the only motivation of the bill is to improve the development and planning process, to get good solid development started and provide jobs,” the premier stated as he defended his Cabinet colleague, Kurt Tibbetts, who brought the amendments yesterday. “It is not about the big developer versus the little person; it is to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to get a job and get ahead and get Cayman back to where we were before the bottom fell out of the financial market.”

Negotiations over the deal, which many believed was weighed heavily in favour of the developer, were underway almost from the beginning. An independent report raised questions about the value for money and amendments to the deal were agreed. But talks broke down about the details of the amendments and as the former interim government attempted to claw back some benefits for the Caymanian people ahead of the general elections in 2013.

Dart then pulled all the previously agreed amendments and reverted back to the original deal.

However, only half of the West Bay Road that Dart wanted to adapt to turn his land into beach front property has been closed and handed over to the developer. At this point government continues to talk with Dart, who is pressing ahead with a new hotel and condo development on the site of the former Courtyard Marriott. Despite indications that things were improving, there is no new deal yet and at present Dart will, among many other concessions, receive a fifty per cent rebate on the accommodation tax for all of his new hotels, and condos. 

Check back to CNS for more on the planning law changes later.

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Panton signs latest global information exchange deal

| 30/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNSBusiness): The Cayman Islands government joined more than 50 countries Wednesday, when it signed the latest agreement to tackle global tax evasion. Wayne Panton, the financial services minister, signed on the dotted line of the OECD’s Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement (MCAA) in Berlin, the latest worldwide standard for automatic exchange of information (AEOI) among tax authorities. “For Cayman to sign the MCAA is a logical progression in our longstanding international cooperation efforts, and we are pleased that so many countries and jurisdictions are now part of this worldwide effort to fight tax evasion via a global standard, across borders,” Panton said. Read more on CNS Business

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Mac hits out at auditor

| 30/10/2014 | 100 Comments

CNS): The opposition leader has attacked the auditor general, following the damning reports released earlier this month that pointed to a catalogue of problems with the public finances at McKeeva Bush’s former ministry. Bush said Alastair Swarbrick had deliberately “smeared” the civil servants working in the tourism and finance ministry, accusing them of incompetence when it was staff shortages that had led to the financial failures. Demanding an emergency Public Accounts Committee meeting, Bush railed against his auditing nemesis and accused him of trying to undermine the public sector workers by releasing reports to the public without giving people a chance to defend themselves.

Bush went on the attack in the Legislative Assembly Wednesday morning, as he dismissed the accuracy of the audits. This is not the first time that Bush, who is deputy chair of the Public Accounts Committee, has attacked the auditor general.

His disparaging comments about the independent public finance watchdog had led to the chair of PAC asking for Bush to step down. Earlier this year Roy McTaggart write to Bush pointing out that the comments he was making about Swarbrick and his team made it impossible for them to work together. Despite the request, Bush said he would not resign.

McTaggart was travelling overseas and was not present when Bush made his damning statement but the PAC chair told CNS via email that he would address the situation on his return, though it is not clear if he would be calling on his legislative colleagues to reconfigure PAC.

During his statement Bush blamed staffing problems, given the size of the ministry (which he created, having taken on a number of portfolios on top of his premiership), as well as the IRIS accounts system used by government. He said his ministry’s accounts, like everyone else’s, had been transferred into the system without being audited, so the historical failures and mistakes were carried over year on year. .

He also said a costly task force, formed in 2009 to assist, wasn’t much help as the budget was exhausted before it got to his ministry. This issue of staffing problems was also highlighted during the opposition leader’s trial last month, when witnesses stated that they were unable to keep track of Bush’s credit card use because they were so short staffed and under pressure to complete the accounts.

In a bizarre twist, given the failure of most ministries to supply information for audit, Bush turned on the Office of the Auditor General (OAG), saying that senior management only became aware of financial problems after a full audit. So because the financial years in question were not completed until 2013, it was too late for public sector bosses to make improvements.

However, the problems of financial accounting have been highlighted by the OAG for more than six years and were first brought to light, and ignored, by the previous auditor, Dan Duguay.

Nevertheless, despite the long history and concerns raised by the audit office for many years, Bush accused Swarbrick of sensationalized statements about the accounts and no regard to impact on staff. He was “hell bent” on making civil servants and politicians look bad, Bush said, as he called on McTaggart to organize a PAC meeting quickly so they could defend themselves.

Whenasked for comment on Bush’s latest attack, the OAG said it did not wish to comment at this time on Bush’s accusations.

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Tough on drugs is weak on results

| 30/10/2014 | 34 Comments

(CNS): Punitive drug law enforcement is failing and there is no evidence that harsh sentencing curbs illegal use of drugs, according to a new UK government study. The first evidence-based study ends 40 years of political rhetoric that only harsher penalties can tackle the problems caused by heroin, cannabis and cocaine and also points to the success of Portugal’s decriminalization. Examining international drug laws, the groundbreaking research undertaken by the Home Office documents the success of a health-led approach in Portugal, combining decriminalisation with other policies, and shows reductions in all types of drug use.

The report is signed off by the home secretary, Theresa May, and the Liberal Democrat minister Norman Baker, who accused the Conservatives of "suppressing" the findings for months according to the BBC. He told the Guardian newspaper in the UK that “banging people up and increasing sentences does not stop drug use”.

Baker said the last 40 years had seen a drugs debate in Britain based on the “lazy assumption in the rightwing press that if you have harsher penalties it will reduce drug use, but there is no evidence for that at all”. He added: “If anything the evidence is to the contrary.”

Baker stated that treating drug use as a health matter would be more effective, "rather than presuming locking people up is the answer".

Factors such as a more risk-averse generation of young people, who suffered fewer alcohol problems and were healthier, contributed to the general downward trend in drug use.

The Home Office international research paper on the use of illegal drugs, which redeems a Liberal Democrat 2010 election pledge for a royal commission to examine the alternatives to the current drug laws, also leaves the door open on the legalisation experiments in the American states of Washington and Colorado, and in Uruguay

Danny Kushlik, from Transform drugs charity, which campaigns for drug legalisation, said the report represented a landmark in British drugs policy since the introduction of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act.

“This is a historic moment in the development of UK drug policy. For the first time in over 40 years the Home Office has admitted that enforcing tough drug laws doesn’t necessarily reduce levels of drug use,” Kushlik told the Guardian. “It has also acknowledged that decriminalising the possession of drugs doesn’t increase levels of use. Even more, the department in charge of drugs prohibition says it will take account of the experiments in the legal regulation of cannabis in Washington, Colorado and Uruguay.

Despite the findings, a Home Office spokesperson said: “This government has absolutely no intention of decriminalising drugs. Our drugs strategy is working and there is a long-term downward trend in drug misuse in the UK. It is right that we look at drugs policies in other countries and today’s report summarises a number of these international approaches.”

Earlier this year the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, pledged to abolish prison sentences for the possession of drugs for personal use – including class-A substances such as heroin and cocaine. He urged David Cameron to look at issues such as decriminalisation or legalisation of drugs.

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