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No backers for NYE bus

| 30/12/2014 | 43 Comments

(CNS): The National Drug Council will not be running the Purple Ribbon Bus this year because they could not get sponsorship for the free service which is credited with helping to keep Grand Cayman’s roads safe on New Year’s Eve. With the police urging people not to drink and drive as they press ahead with Operation Dasher, the lack of a free service to take people home after the end of year celebrations will increase the likelihood of more drunks behind the wheel. The NDC has been organising the service for many years but with a limited budget the government agency depends on the private sector to help. This year, however, there was no one willing to back it.

A spokesperson for the RCIPS said that they were disappointed to hear that the service would not be running as the NDC reported that more than 1,200 people along the West Bay Road alone used it for the 2013 celebrations between 11pm and 2am.

“The Purple Ribbon bus programme historically has been an asset in the NYE celebrations,” the police spokesperson said. “In its absence this year RCIPS urges the public to car pool, use designated drivers or other means to safely travel in and around parties this season. It only takes one drunk driver to disrupt the socio economic standings of a family.”

The police said that they support the additional safety that a free bus service can bring for revellers and that the season "is here to be enjoyed – and not one for sorrow.”

Over the years the NDC has managed to raise the cash to pay a local tour operator to run a number of buses from 10pm on 31 December until around 3am on New Year’s Day between West Bay and Bodden Town as part of a campaign to reduce the number of potential alcohol-related car smashes and to keep drunk drivers off the roads. Llocal restaurants and bars usually also offer free soft drinks to designated drivers.

Despite the eleventh hour, however, there is still a chance that some local company or wealthy sponsor could help to get the free buses on the road before the party starts tomorrow night, as it could be done for as little as $4000.

Anyone who can help can contact the NDC on 949-9000 or info@ndc.ky

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Runway walk reveals debris under control

| 30/12/2014 | 22 Comments

(CNS): Officials from the Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA) said they were pleased to find very little debris on the runway at Owen Roberts International Airport recently when it conducted its annual Foreign Object Debris (F.O.D) Walk. CIAA’s senior manager, safety management systems, Andrew McLaughlin said that the lack of foreign objects demonstrates that the authority is doing a good jobgetting the message out to all the agencies at the airport about the dangers of debris. The end of year event was organized by CIAA’s Safety Management Team and it encourages all the airport partners to do their part to keep the runway clear.

As well as raising awareness about the dangers of foreign debris, clearing debris from all Airport Operating Areas the exercise also helps various airport agencies learn more about what type of foreign object debris to look out for at the airport.

“We were very pleased with the outcome since very little debris was found,” said McLaughlin. “This is a good indicator that we are doing a good job in keeping the runway free from foreign objects.”

Participating agencies included the Airport Rescue Fire Fighting Services (ARFFS), Flowers Air Dispatch Services (FADS), Cayman Dispatch Services (CDS), United Airlines, Air Agencies, Island Air, Blue Skies Airlines and CIAA. The agencies were split into teams that covered different sections of the airport to identify and remove any debris

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George Town facing busy cruise ship week

| 29/12/2014 | 6 Comments

(CNS): Merchants in and around downtown George Town will be hoping to make the most of this week’s cruise ship calls as some 55,000 visitors are expected to arrive in the capital’s harbour.  Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will see the heaviest numbers, when more than 37,000 passengers will be aboard the 17 ships expected to call over those three days. While December arrival numbers are expected to give the cruise industry a boost as the year draws to a close, police are warning drivers that the harbour front will be heavily congested. The RCIPS said that uniformed officers will be on patrol between 8am and 4pm but motorists are being asked to seek alternate routes to avoid delays.

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Police report quiet Christmas weekend

| 29/12/2014 | 16 Comments

(CNS): With local criminals seemingly taking a break for the holidays, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service reported a very quiet Christmas weekend. Encouraged by the safe and peaceful festive season so far, the police urge the public, and drivers especially, to remain safe. With Operation Dasher, which started on 10 December, still in full swing, the police continue to make numerous arrests on the road and have issued hundreds of tickets to errant motorists. Twenty-one drivers have been arrested for being drunk behind the wheel and a dozen for driving without being qualified or while disqualified. The police said 270 tickets were given out, including 54 to people using their phone while driving and 33 for speeding. 

Police say they will continue to be vigilant and urge everyone to take care over the New Year, especially with regards to drinking and driving. People are advised to use a designated driver, who will not be drinking alcohol, or use a bus or call a taxi.

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CIG renews duty cuts

| 29/12/2014 | 33 Comments

(CNS): Import duty concessions on building materials on all three islands as well as a 100% stamp duty waiver in Cayman Brac have been renewed. Government announced Monday that in an effort to continue to stimulate economic activity, certain duty concessions have been extended for another twelve months to 31 December 2015. This includes the import duty concessionary rate of 12.5 cents per gallon for the importation of motor gasoline to Cayman Brac. People importing building materials to Grand Cayman will continue to pay 15% import duty, while those importing the same materials to the Sister Islands can do so duty free under the ongoing 100% import duty waiver. The 100% stamp duty waiver on land purchases on Cayman Brac has also been renewed.

Making the announcement regarding the twelve month extension, Finance Minister Marco Archer said the extensions were consistent with government’s ongoing efforts to stimulate growth in the economy. "I encourage all developers and other stakeholders to accelerate their construction activity during this further concessionary period," he said.

The normal rate of import duty on motor gasoline is 75 cents per gallon, whilethe normal import duty rate on building material ranges from 17% to 22%.

For the purpose of these concessions, building materials have been defined as physical components and substances, whether solid or liquid, used in the construction, renovation or restoration and forming a permanent part of any building or related structure. Items such as furniture, accessories, electronics and appliances are specifically excluded.

The 100% stamp duty waiver on land purchases on Cayman Brac is for the development of homes and apartments or other physical structures from which a business can operate.

The waiver will be granted to either individuals or legal entities. However, for the concessions to apply the development must be completed within two years of the purchase of the property, otherwise the applicants will be required to either pay the stamp duty in full plus a penalty of 10% of the duty unless an extension is obtained.

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Pope calls on Catholics to take on climate change

| 29/12/2014 | 13 Comments

(CNS): Pope Francis wants to have a direct influence on the Paris climate change summit next year and has declared it his mission to take on the subject during 2015 through speeches, summit appearances and a call-to-arms to the world’s Catholics.  Next year the pontiff is expected to tell the planet’s 1.2 billion Catholics why acting on climate change is essential to the faith, using an influential church document called an encyclical. According to global media reports, this long rumoured document will be released to the world’s 5,000 bishops and 400,000 priests shortly. One of the pope’s main goals will be to influence the Paris conference next December, when the objective is to achieve a legally binding agreement on climate from every country in the world after decades of negotiations to determine the planet’s future.

He will also take his message to the UN General Assembly in a New York address next September and has plans to personally lobby political and faith leaders there, with the goal of pushing them to commit to real action ahead of the Paris meeting.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis told a massive crowd in Rome, “If we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us.” He has also called the destruction of the rainforest a “sin”, and under his leadership the Church held a five-day summit with scientists, economists, philosophers, astronomers and other experts to explore ways the Catholic church could address climate and sustainability.

During the climate talks in Lima this month, Catholic bishops from every continent called for “an end to the fossil fuel era”. This follows, they said, the need to prioritize “the immediate needs of the most vulnerable communities”. 

In an annual lecture to the British Catholic group, Cafod, last month, Argentinian Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, said that “solid scientific evidence exists that global climate is changing and that human activity based on the use of fossil materials contributes decisively to this trend”.

Sorondo has also pointed to the pope’s “unique role as a religious leader” to offer guidance to ensure the natural world is developed in a sustainable and socially inclusive way.

“The problem of climate change has become a major social and moral problem, and mentalities can only be changed on moral and religious grounds,” he said.

While many Christian groups are supportive of the need for real action to address climate change, there is still a strong majority of white evangelicals in the US who believe that worsening natural disasters are a sign of the apocalypse, not climate change, and other conservative evangelical sects will likely oppose Francis’ efforts.

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Pump prices fall to $5

| 29/12/2014 | 83 Comments

(CNS): After weeks of waiting some local pump prices finally fell to $5 this holiday but gas prices in Cayman are still slow to reflect the international fall in world oil prices. According to the petroleum inspectorate's latest price updates of all of Cayman’s gas station prices, on Christmas Eve both Walker’s Road and Mike’s Seven Mile Esso were selling regular gas for self-service customers at $5 a gallon. This represents a fall of around 60 cents over the last three months since the prices started to fall locally, more than three months behind the fall in prices in the US, from where Cayman imports most of its fuel. 

Concerns continue, however, that without the necessary regulation, somewhere along the local supply chain someone is getting rich at the local drivers' expense. A recent Viewpoint on CNS by local businessman George Ebanks, which generated considerable debate among the regular CNS commenters, called for government to intervene to establish realistic prices and profit margins for the fuel companies and retailers at the gas stations.

And despite the fall in most Grand Cayman pump prices, drivers on the Sister Islands are still paying considerably more, with the Brac stations both charging $5.75 per gallon and the one station on Little Cayman at the Village Square charging $6.49 a gallon for regular gas.

While the subject of local gas prices in general continues to generate debate due to its wider impact on the cost of living, another persistent area of complaint is the length of time that it takes for the global fall in oil prices to be reflected on the local high street.

The fuel companies have long insisted that the time delay is down to the way the fuel is purchased and then supplied here over a long period. If this is correct, then Cayman drivers should be seeing further declines in the coming weeks at all of the local pumps.

Part of the planning department, the petroleum inspectorate keeps a record of all local gas prices visit the website here.

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Officials record 15th case of local chikungunya

| 29/12/2014 | 0 Comments

CNS): Throughout 2014 over 90 people living in Cayman have contracted the mosquito-transmitted chikungunya virus, with most of them picking up the illness in regional countries. Public health officials said they received two more positive test results for the virus from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) over the period 9-20 December. While one had been to Cuba, the other had no travel history and had acquired the virus locally, bringing the total number of local transmissions to 15 cases. Dr Kiran Kumar, the medical officer of health, said that cases are declining here and around the region but urged people to still take precautions against mosquito bites and help prevent their breeding.

“In October suspected cases ranged from 20-25 per week, then fell to eight to 15 per week in November, and three to nine in December. There has also been a decrease in the number of cases reported in the region,” he explained. “Although suspected cases are on the decline and local transmission has not been aggressive, we should not be complacent. We should continue to protect ourselves from mosquito bites and to eliminate breeding sites around our properties.”

The total number of suspected cases of chikungunya reported since 25 June  is 202. Fifty-six of these patients have reported travel history to countries experiencing outbreaks.

Meanwhile, the total number of laboratory-confirmed chikungunya cases in the Cayman Islands to date is 43, with an additional possible 29 people who had recently travelled to countries experiencing outbreaks. As per CARPHA guidelines, blood samples for suspected cases with travel history to endemic areas are no longer being sent for testing but are considered possible cases. 

To date the total distribution of confirmed and possible cases has been 37 in George Town, 15 in West Bay, 12 in Bodden Town, 5 in Cayman Brac, 2 in Little Cayman and one in North Side.

More information can be obtained through www.hsa.ky. Regional updates can be accessed by visiting the CARPHA website.

In addition United States updates are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Climber suffers multiple fractures in Bluff fall

| 29/12/2014 | 4 Comments

(CNS): A 51-year-old man sustained multiple fractures on Boxing Day after he fell 60 feet while climbing on the Bluff, Cayman Brac. Police said the climber, who was visiting from the US, was taken by the emergency services to Faith Hospital, where he was stabilized but found to be in need of emergency care and surgery due to the extent of his injuries. As a result, the RCIPS Air Operations Unit were contacted to medevac the casualty as a matter of urgency. The police chopper was reconfigured into its air ambulance role and the duty crew, along with a critical care nurse, flew to the Brac to collect the injured man.

The helicopter took him to Grand Cayman but he has since been transferred to a US hospital, where he is said to be in stable condition following his treatment at the George Town hospital.

"The police helicopter is always available for the benefit of the security and safety of the residents and visitors in the Cayman Islands," a spokesperson stated. “The Air Ambulance in critical care cases is one of the roles the crew prepare and are in readiness for, and we are pleased to be of assistance."

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Premier plans to ‘just chill’

| 24/12/2014 | 77 Comments

(CNS): There was no talk of politics, ministers behaving badly, cabinet reshuffles or any reflection of the recent political turmoil and ups and downs of the past year in the premier’s message on Christmas Eve. Alden McLaughlin said he would, however, be enjoying the opportunity provided by the holiday for quiet reflection and the chance to “just chill” with his family and friends. Urging people to be charitable and not get caught up in the commercial aspects and frantic activity of the season, he asked people to take time to experience the “peace that is Christmas, seek out those who are less fortunate and help them share in some small way in the magic of this time of year”.

See premier’s full message attached.

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