Archive for November 14th, 2014

Mother charged with murder

| 14/11/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The mother of six year old Bethany Butler has been charged with the child’s murder. Tamara Butler (37) appeared in summary court Friday lunchtime when the case was transmitted to the Grand Court and Butler remanded in custody to Fairbanks until 28 November. Cheryll Richards QC, told the court, presided over by the chief magistrate Nova Hall,  that there was a strong circumstantial case against Butler as she gave a brief summary and described some of the events that led up to the murder the night before at the Butler family home from evidence given by Butler's husband. Butler was said to have shaved her own head and attempted to shave her daughter’s head as well.

Butler was arrested by police in the early morning hours of Monday 27 October along the Queen’s Highway, in East End after Bethany’s body was found wrapped in a blanket in the passenger seat of her mother’s car she had sustained multiple stab wounds and her head had also been shaved.

Butler remained calm and silent throughout the short committal hearing and sat in the dock wearing a tailored black suit and a hair piece. Although remanded to the women’s prison at Fairbanks the court heard that Butler would be undergoing a psychiatric examination at the George Town Hospital this week, where she had been detained since her arrest under the mental health act.

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Job troubles at key resort

| 14/11/2014 | 131 Comments

(CNS): Reports of local job losses and allegations against the owners for circumventing labour laws at a leading resort in the eastern districts are stirring up concerns and conflict in government and with local politicians. Documentation seen by CNS shows that government has been investigating allegations that the management at Morritts Tortuga Club in East End is falling foul of immigration and labour rules and has been sacking Caymanians without cause. But while the director of the labour unit has documented serious concerns about the new management practices, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson has dismissed many of the allegations, which are all also denied by the new management team.

Morritt's had been heralded as a shining example of a resort that was not only employing a significant number of local people but one which also had a solid and experienced Caymanian management team.

However, in June of this year an application wasmade for a temporary permit for the owner’s son-in-law, Christopher Johnson, for the post of Operations Manager, a job which was already filled by local worker William Connolly.

Although Morritt's claimed Connolly was not being sacked but moved to assistant resort manager, according to correspondence between Director of Labour and Pensions Mario Ebanks and senior immigration officer Bruce Smith, when the permit was approved, Connolly was sacked.

Ebanks wrote that following a site inspection at the resort it was “the unanimous observation” of the inspection team that the problem was Johnson, who, Ebanks stated, appeared to have sacked Connolly without cause and then began terminating other local workers. Although Ebanks believed the inspection team had delayed some of the layoffs, he described Johnson as adamant about the need for more terminations.

Alongside the concerns of the labour unit that people were being removed without reason and without management following the correct processes for sacking workers, Ezzard Miller and Arden McLean, the local MLAs whose constituents were being impacted, raised concerns with the governor and deputy governor over the situation.

Miller told CNS that he had an interest because both his wife and his brother, Jerris Miller, had worked at the resort and had both since resigned as a result of the management changes and the job terminations. Nevertheless, he said that he still had an obligation to his constituents who had lost their jobs from the resort to get to the bottom of what was going on. He and McLean raised concerns with the relevant authorities, but with little response to his letters and complaints to the Business Staffing Board, he took the issue to the governor.

In what appears to have been a more than four month probe over a stack of allegations into the goings on at the popular East End resort, the deputy governor recently told Miller and McLean that there are some issues but the main trigger of the complaints, which was the permit granted to Johnson, was legal. He said that officers who granted the permit did not know at the time that a local worker was actually in the post when the application was made.

Among the many allegations made it seems that around 20 longstanding Caymanian employees have lost their jobs. But the main issue appears to be that a once strong local management team, publicly and loudly praised by the owner, David Morritt, in the wake of the opening of ‘the Londoner’ last year, has essentially been removed by, it is claimed, Johnson. Then, in what appears to be a shake-up, various other members of staff in a variety of posts have also lost their jobs.

The resort has denied the allegations that it is not adhering to labour laws and a spokesperson for Morritt’s said the company had been an “outstanding corporate citizen for the last 25 years” and still employed over a hundred local workers.

In a statement to CNS the spokesperson said, “In addition to being one of the largest financial contributors to East End, it boasts one of highest percentages of Caymanian employees of any company in Grand Cayman, with a staff comprising over 100 Caymanians out of a total staff of 125 persons.  It is unfortunate that false accusations are being circulated about Morritt’s, apparently for the personal and political gain of those parties that have been disseminating the misinformation.”

Denying any wrongdoing, the spokesperson added that the firm was fully engaging with the authorities as they investigate the resort.

“Because of the seriousness of these false accusations, Morritt’s has not only been cooperating with the government but has been proactive in seeking counsel and advice from the government at the highest levels, including within the Departments of Immigration and Labour.  Fortunately the government confirmed last week, after conducting a lengthy evidentiary review including a comprehensive review of our permit applications, personnel records and conducting interviews of our staff, our management and our stakeholders, that these allegations have no basis in fact and that Morritt’s has been and still is operating in compliance with the laws of the Cayman Islands,” the spokesperson added. 

Despite that claim, in his letter to Miller last month Manderson raised a number of issues that could still give cause for concern and indicated that there were other complainants filled and witnesses willing to speak up, leading to ongoing enquiries. But he had still concluded that there was nothing illegal in any action taken by government and that the Morritt's management actions also appeared to be in order.

Miller told CNS that he was deeply troubled by the hesitant position taken by the government authorities and that the power and influence of the resort was undermining what should have been a more thorough investigation into what has happened. But even the usually very out-spoken Miller has become reticent about whether his advocacy on behalf of his constituents is assisting. He said that another four local workers were recently terminated and it appears that the more employees complain about what is happening, the more local people are losing their jobs.

While the situation at Morritt’s remains less than transparent, the battle faced by local workers continues across Grand Cayman and each week CNS receives reports of more and more problems faced by local workers. But many believe it is not just employers attempting to circumvent the laws meant to protect Caymanians in the workplace that is the problem but that the lack of enforcement by government authorities facilities the bending of rules by employers.

In his letter to the governor Miller said, “It is unfortunate, regrettable, embarrassing and shameful that I am unable to evoke any semblance of moral or ethical 'rightness' from the statutory authorities as a legislator on behalf of those people whom I have been elected to represent. These are the matters that breed violence, crime and revolution … in democratic societies when it becomes obvious that their elected leaders are neutered and made in-effective by the same government agencies to protect and defend them.”

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Young players take to court for tennis masters

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(CITF): Cayman’s top young tennis players have been hitting plenty of practice balls in the build-up to 2014’s Junior Masters Championships this weekend (Sat 15 & Sun 16 Nov) at the Ritz- Carlton. TheMasters will be the fifth and final PwC-sponsored tournament of 2014. Only the top eight players in each of the four age divisions (18&U, 14&U, 12&U and 10&U) were initially eligible. If any of the top eight could not play, then immediately lower-ranked players were invited to join the tournament. Invitations were issued by the Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands for this leading event.The first matches start at 10.30pm on Saturday, with semi-finals at 10.30am on Sunday and finals at 3pm. 

Cayman’s top junior, Daniel Reid, who celebrated his 16th birthday in September, has confirmed his attendance. Reid is not only Cayman’s top junior player and 18&U defending national champion, he is one of the best players on the rock, with a shelf-full of trophies to prove it. This year in May, he reached both the singles and the doubles finals of the Cayman Islands Tennis Club Championships. And in July, still aged 15, he made the round of 16 in the 18&U qualifying draw of the Jamaica Junior Int’l Tournament, which draws top juniors from all over the Caribbean.

Other leading confirmed players include Oskar Bjuro, 10, and his brother Sebastian, 8. Oskar holds the No.1 ranking in the 10&U division. Jack Lomax, the 12&U No.1, has also accepted his invitation; with 9 matches won and none lost in 3 PwC tournaments this season, he looks set for success. Talented Harrison Clough, 11, who is playing up an age group, will lead the field in the 14&U division.

“It’s really hard to believe how good some of our juniors are. I would urge members of the public to come down to The Courts at the Ritz-Carlton this weekend and see for themselves the incredibly impressive standard of play,” said Eliza Harford, Tennis Federation chief. “I’ve been playing tennis for 40 years, and I wouldn’t fancy my chances on court against any of these children, not even those in the 10&U group. They’re ferocious, and they’re consistent.”

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Athletes head to Mexico to fly flag for Cayman

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(CNS): The Cayman Islands Olympic committee said a national sports team will be leaving Cayman this weekend to compete at the Veracruz 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games (CAC) in Mexico. Some 15 athletes and swimmers as well as the men’s and women’s rugby seven’s teams will be taking part in the Central American and Caribbean Sports Organisation multi-sport event. The sports delegation is headed up by the Chef de Mission Trent Christie and his deputy Janet Sairsingh. Athlete include Ashleigh Nalty, Carlos Morgan, Kemar Hyman and Ronald Forbes along with their coaches and managers while  Olney Thompson and Keith Higgins will compete in beach volley ball and Tafari Ebanks (left) will take to the boxing ring.

Alexander Frazer, Cameron Stafford, Julian Jervis, Marlene West will be hoping to get a good result in squash while Andreas McDermot, Florence Allan and Jesse Jackson will be hoping its smooth sailing. Catriona MacRae is the only swimmer heading to Mexico from Cayman but both the men’s and women’s rugby seven’s teams will be ‘trying’ for some medals.

For pictures and up to date information on the Cayman Islands delegation and weekly competitions, please visit the website http://www.caymanolympic.org.ky/ or Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CaymanIslandsOlympicCommittee

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Local football champions compete in New Zealand

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(CIFA): Reigning Champions of Cayman Club football, Bodden Town FC departed Grand Cayman, Tuesday, bound for New Zealand to participate in the inaugural Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) President’s Cup.The team began a grueling two day journey from Grand Cayman to Auckland, New Zealand upbeat about their chances against two clubs from Oceania, two from Asia and Fiji’s National U-20 team, tuning up for the FIFA U-201 World Cup. “Just being invited to this tournament is a huge achievement for Cayman football,” said Bodden Town FC President Mark Scotland.

“Bodden Town has been trying its best to put our forward its best for Cayman football in the past few years. We have measured our success not so much on the local scene but how we can compete internationally.”

Bodden Town was one of a handful of English Speaking Caribbean clubs to compete in the CFU Club Championships this year, but missed a spot in the prestigious CONCACAF Champions League, the premier club competition in the region.
However, Scotland believes the international exposure will assist the team lift their standard of play and achieve personal milestones.

“Many of our players aspire to play professionally. When we played in Puerto Rico back in March, we had a couple of calls for players there as teams expressed interest in our players. That again incentivizes them, to look at this and say if we get looked at by a couple of teams over there and get a couple calls the players would look at this as a successful trip in addition to playing well on the field.”

Bodden Town will face strong opposition in Group A, against reigning Oceania Champions League winners Auckland City FC (New Zealand) and the Singapore U-23 team.  In Group B are Amicale FC (Vanuatu) Fiji U-20 and Busaiteen FC (Bahrain).

With Cayman’s leading goal scorer Theron Wood and emerging striker Ricoh Brown in attack, Bodden Town opens the tournament against Singapore U-23 on Wednesday, 19 November.

Scotland added, “We have prepared for this since August and looking forward to making Cayman proud, Bodden Town and in this instance CONCACAF as well.”

Bodden Town FC is the current Premier League winner and holder of the Charity Shield and will represent the Cayman Islands, the Caribbean Football Union and CONCACAF in the six team OFC President’s Cup tournament which runs from November 17-23 at the Trusts Arena in Auckland.

The Oceania Football Confederation governs the sport played in the national federations of American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Tahiti and Tonga.

Tournament and Live Streaming Website: -http://www.oceaniafootball.com/ofc/
 

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Waterfront cop still on beat claims police boss

| 14/11/2014 | 44 Comments

(CNS): Although the RCIPS has issued a statement claiming that Senior Police Constable Miguel McFarlane has not been demoted or transferred from the Harbour Front, the wider public appears not to be convinced. Social media, the radio talk shows’ phone lines and the independent MLAs have all been questioning what has happened to the popular, award winning Caymanian police officer who is well-known face in George Town.   Ag. Superintendent of the RCIPS Uniform Branch Angelique Howell said McFarlane has not been demoted and has been given additional supervisory responsibilities in coordinating the patrols of other beat officers in the capital.

However, it appears that he is not on the beat as stated and calls by the general public to the George Town cop boss are going unanswered and some members of the public are demanding action.

Despite the public disquiet over McFarlane, who it has to be noted has the uncommon accolade of being widely supported by the local population for the work he does, the police say he has not been demoted, movedor side-lined in anyway.

In the RCIPS statement Howell commended McFarlane for his commitment and dedication to duty.

“He still covers the water front and like his colleagues, can be seen between the hours of 8:00am and 10:00pm. These hours are shift based commencing as mentioned from 8:00am to 4:00pm & 1:00pm to 10:00pm. The area of coverage includes parts of the Seven Mile Beach area or Southern West Bay Road,” the police boss stated.

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Florida lizards evolve before eyes of scientists

| 14/11/2014 | 54 Comments

(CNS): The process of evolution, in the lizard world at least, appears to be far quicker than biologists have previously assumed after scientists have documented the evolution of a native Florida lizard in as little as 15 years as a result of pressure from an invading species. Researchers found that after contact with the invader, Carolina anoles or green anoles, began perching higher in trees. Then, generation after generation, their feet evolved to become better at gripping the thinner, smoother branches found higher up. Scientists have always believed it takes generations and generations to adapt  a favoured trait but they have now discovered that change can occur at an astonishing pace.

Since Darwin’s time, biologists assumed that evolution takes centuries, or longer, but these findings are changing that view according to the research published in scientific journals.

Evolution is down to ecological conditions that favour certain traits over others among any species. When those with the favoured traits survive in changing conditions and reproduce the population over generations can change dramatically, or branch off into multiple new species.

However the Florida lizards changed much more quickly after moving to higher perches and over 15 years and just 20 lizard generations, their toe pads had become larger, with stickier scales on the feet.

“We did predict that we’d see a change, but the degree and quickness with which they evolved was surprising,” said Yodel Stuart, a postdoctoral researcher at The University of Texas in Austin and lead author of the study said.

“To put this shift in perspective, if human height were evolving as fast as these lizards’ toes, the height of an average American man would increase from about 5 foot 9 inches today to about 6 foot 4 inches within 20 generations—an increase that would make the average U.S. male the height of an NBA shooting guard,” said Stuart. “Although humans live longer than lizards, this rate of change would still be rapid in evolutionary terms.”

The native anoles, are common in the south-eastern US but the invasive species, Cuban anoles or brown anoles, are native to Cuba and the Bahamas. Brown anoles first appeared in South Florida in the 1950s, possibly as stowaways in agricultural shipments, and have since spread across the south-eastern US and have even jumped to Hawaii.

This latest study is one of only a few well-documented examples of what evolutionary biologists call “character displacement,” in which similar species competing with each other evolve differences to take advantage of different ecological niches. A classic example comes from the finches studied by Charles Darwin. Two species of finch in the Galapagos Islands diverged in beak shape as they adapted to different food sources.

 

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