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UK police forced to be polite and accountable

| 14/07/2014 | 9 Comments

(CNS): UK police officers have backed a new ethics code that could see them punished for being rude to the public. The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers across the UK services, said it fully supported the code, which also includes warnings about the use of drugs or alcohol and having sex while on duty. The move comes as controversies such as ‘Plebgate’ and alleged corruption are said to have shaken public confidence, according to reports in the UK press. The code, which is based around nine core principles, will go before Parliament next week and will apply to civilian staff as well as officers.

Police would face disciplinary action and possible dismissal for breaching the code, which also urges officers to speak out about rule-breaking colleagues of all ranks. Based on accountability, fairness and honesty, the guidelines were drafted by the College of Policing to help improve the reputation of police services. It follows a warning issued by Home Secretary Theresa May when she said the police must either change or have reform forced upon them.

In a statement, the Police Federation said, "We fully support the code of ethics that further enhances the standards of professional behaviour, and sets out clearly exactly what principles and standards that the public and colleagues are entitled to expect from all within the policing profession."

If officers breach the code a range of sanctions are available from verbal warnings to formal investigations and ultimately being kicked out of the police service

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Washington now 2nd state to legalise ganja sales

| 10/07/2014 | 68 Comments

(CNS): Washington became the second American state to begin selling ganja legally for recreational use this week, joining Colorado, where the drug is on sale without prescription.  Prospective buyers lined up outside dispensaries Tuesday to become the first Washingtonians to legally buy marijuana. Although federal officials still consider pot to be a Schedule 1 narcotic, residents in Colorado and Washington voted in November 2012 to relax the national prohibition within state borders. Nearly half of the United States currently has provisions in place allowing for medicinal marijuana to be lawfully dispensed.

However, the state is expected to be facing an immediate shortage as state bureaucracy has been accused of holding up the licensing process impacting production and harvest.

While Washington State plans to eventually provide more than 300 retail licenses, this week began with just 24 businesses permitted to sell recreational marijuana. Of those, just a few were open on Tuesday.

"Supply is going to be tight as this market launches," said Brian Smith, communications director for the Liquor Control Board, the agency charged with regulating the nascent retail marijuana market. "This is an emerging market that doesn't exist anywhere in the world. It's a lot different than Colorado. And just like Colorado did when it first opened up, it had some shortages, but Washington's supply system is very robust and in a little bit of time all those suppliers will be feeding into the retail chain and there will be a lot."

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Celebrities push for enlightened drug reform

| 26/06/2014 | 16 Comments

(CNS): Someof world's most famous actors, singers and entrepreneurs are calling on the UK government to end the pointless war on drugs and decriminalize drug consumption. In a letter to the British prime minister, over 90 celebrities such as Sting, Sir Richard Branson and Russell Brand, have condemned the criminalisation of drugs in the UK stating that the law punishing people for possession of drugs has led to the "unnecessary criminalisation" of 1.5m people in the past 15 years. Alongside the famous personalities the letter is back by organisations such as the Prison Governors Association and the National Black Police Association.

The letter which was drafted by the drug charity, Release, points out that in Portugal Australia and the Czech Republic where those suffering drug related problems are given medical treatment rather than a prison sentence the misuse of drugs falls.

In line with a switching mood around the world about the prevailing attitude towards drug use the celebrities are calling on David Cameron to introduce a more enlightened approach to drug law reform. The appeal to the UK leader is part of a wider action day against the war on drugs with protests scheduled for 100 cities across the world. In the UK, protesters made their voices heard in Parliament Square.

"The global day of action is a public show of force for drug policy reform", said Ann Fordham, who is executive director of the International Drug Policy Consortium, which focuses on issues related to drug production, trafficking and use. The tide is turning and governments need to urgently fix their drug policies and repair the damage that has been done," she added.

Back in February, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg urged the UK to end "the conspiracy of silence surrounding the failure of prohibition", telling the BBC "If you are anti-drugs you should be pro-reform."
Clegg said the war on drugs had caused "terrible conflict" in Colombia and that the Liberal Democrats would publish an alternative strategy for reform.

Over the last twenty years the price of drugs has dramatically declined and purity has increased, despite greater levels of interdiction than at any point in history, according to a report released last year by the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (ICSDP). The ICSDP cites the price declines in Europe of 51 per cent for cocaine and 74 per cent for heroin between the years 1990 and 2010, as evidence of the failure of law enforcement officials to restrict the supply of drugs.

 

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OECD: teachers love their job but feel undervalued

| 26/06/2014 | 3 Comments

(CNS): In a worldwide survey of teachers, the OECD found that in about half of the countries, one in four teachers spend at least 30% of lesson time handling classroom disruptions and administrative tasks. The survey of 100,000 teachers at secondary level in 34 countries also found that most teachers enjoy their job, despite feeling unsupported and unrecognised in schools and undervalued by society at large. Those countries where teachers feel valued tend to perform better in PISA, the OECD’s international assessment of student performance.
The Teaching and Learning International Survey found that more than nine out of ten teachers are satisfied with their jobs and nearly eight in ten would choose the teaching profession again. 

But fewer than one in three teachers believe teaching is a valued profession in society.

The average class size is 24 students. Teachers spend an average of 19 hours per week teaching,ranging from15 hours in Norway to 27 hours in Chile.

Of an average total of 38 hours of work, seven hours per week are spent preparing lessons, five hours per week marking, and two hours per week on school management, working with parents and extracurricular activities.

Most schools are well-resourced and teachers report positive relationships with their peers and school leaders. But more than a third of teachers work in schools where the principal reports significant staff shortages of qualified teachers, teachers for students with special needs, and support staff.

More than 100,000 teachers and school leaders at lower secondary level (for students aged 11-16) in 34 countries and economies took part in the OECD survey, which aims to help countries develop a high-quality teaching profession by better understanding who teachers are and how they work.

The survey shows that too many teachers still work in isolation, the OECD said in a release on the findings. Over half report rarely or never team-teaching with colleagues and only one third observe their colleagues teach. Feedback is also rare, with some 46% of teachers reporting they never receive any from their school leader, and less than a third (31%) believe that a consistently underperforming colleague would be dismissed.

But the survey shows that there is a lot teachers and school leaders can do about this: teachers who engage in collaborative learning have higher job satisfaction and confidence in their abilities. Participation in school decisions also boosts job satisfaction and makes teachers feel more valued in society.

“We need to attract the best and brightest to join the profession. Teachers are the key in today’s knowledge economy, where a good education is an essential foundation for every child’s future success,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills, launching the survey in Tokyo. “This survey provides strong evidence that teachers are open to change and keen to learn and develop throughout their careers. At the same time, they need to take more initiative to work with colleagues and school leaders, and take advantage of every opportunity for professional development.”

The survey challenges some stereotypical views of the profession. For example, job satisfaction rates are much more affected by classroom behaviour than class size. And most teachers find appraisals and feedback constructive: 62% of teachers, on average across countries, said that the feedback they receive in their school led to moderate or large improvements in their teaching practices. But between 22% and 45% of teachers in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Italy, Spain, and Sweden said that they have never received feedback in their current school, compared to an average of 13% across the 34 countries surveyed.

Go to survey results

Read more about PISA

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Costa Rica’s leader ends president worship

| 26/06/2014 | 19 Comments

(CNS): There will be no lifetime honours, accolades or buildings named after the newly elected president of Costa Rica, who has decreed that he does not want his image posted on walls, his name on plaques at public buildings or any other displays of presidential worship. Objecting to the usual glorification of national leaders, Luis Guillermo Solis, who was sworn in office last month, has said he doesn’t want his portrait hung in public offices or his name on public projects, as he said it gives the wrong impression.

“The works are from the country and not from a government or a particular official," he told international reporters after signing a decree that puts an end to the worship of the president.

Future commemorative plaques will only bear the year the project was inaugurated rather than the name of the administration, said the new leader, who, based on the election results, is nevertheless a popular choice.

Solis, from the country’s centre-left Citizen Action Party (PAC), took 31% of the vote in the first round of the presidential election in February. Solis then got so much support, his main rival decided to stop campaigning and effectively dropped out of the second round race, leaving him to take 78% of the national vote.

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Diplomacy first in slavery reparations

| 23/06/2014 | 77 Comments

(CNS): CARICOM’s programme manager for culture and community development has stated that the organization intends to use diplomacy before going to the courts over the issue of slavery reperaitons. Dr Hilary Brown said raising the consciousness of CARICOM nationals regarding issues related to Reparations for Native Genocide Slavery was itself important and the expected result from the submission for reparations was a development programme for the countries affected.  During a recent CARICOM meeting, Dr Brown said the issue was about redress and healing to address the “legacy that has left our people behind”.

She said the hope was for engagement of CARICOM people, which should result in psychological healing and further emancipation from mental slavery. She also outlined that the approach to be taken would be a diplomatic one involving engagement of the Europeans before taking the matter to the level of an international court of justice.

Caribbean leaders are scheduled to meet in Antigua early next month to examine and approve the draft document on which the claim for reparations will be made to European nations for the TransAtlantic slave trade. The draft will not be released before leaders approve it but according to regional media reports the document makes out a case for compensation “for the lasting effects of slavery on the Caribbean population”, including poor diet, inhumane working conditions, brutality and other stressful conditions that have led to chronic diseases such as high blood pressure in too many people.

A group of private and state Caribbean attorneys will be drafted in to liaise with the British firm of Leigh Day, which had successfully sued and made Britain pay for brutalizing the Mau Mau Tribe in Kenya several decades ago. The firm has already said that it is confident that the region has a strong case and, like academics and doctors in the University of the West Indies system, has linked a string of chronic diseases rampaging through the Caribbean to the horrors of slavery.

Regional leaders made the decision more than a year ago to back the fight by civil society groups to win reparations following intense lobbying.

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Margaret Ramsay-Hale gets top judge job in TCI

| 20/06/2014 | 46 Comments

(CNS): The former chief magistrate of the Cayman Islands, Margaret Ramsay-Hale, has been appointed as the chief justice of the Turks and Caicos Islands. She joined the TCI bench as a Judge of the Islands’ Supreme Court in November 2011. Recommended to the TCI’s governor by the Judicial Service Commission she will assume her new position later this year when the current Chief Justice Edwin Goldsborough retires. "I have offered this position to Justice Ramsay-Hale this week, and I am very pleased that she has accepted it,” said Peter Beckingham, the TCI governor.

“I am certain that she will bring a great deal of energy as well as professional wisdom and experience to this very important job in the Turks and Caicos Islands. I would also like to pay tribute to the work of current Chief Justice Goldsborough. He has over-seen the judicial process at a difficult and demanding time for the country, and Turks and Caicos has benefitted greatly from his contribution," the islands’ UK boss said.

Born in Jamaica-born Ramsay-Hale holds a degree in economics from the London School of Economics in addition to her law degree from the University of the West Indies. As well as a successful legal career, Ramsey Hale is also a former model and also Miss Jamaica. Before going to TCI she came to Cayamn in 1998 and rose to the top job in Cayman’s summary court and also acted as a Grand Court judge on occasion.

Ramsay-Hale is the daughter of the late Jamaican attorney Ian Ramsay, QC, widely regarded as one of the best lawyers in the history of the Caribbean and the first Jamaican lawyer to become Queen's Counsel.

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Governor’s office offers UK stop-gap passports

| 20/06/2014 | 27 Comments

(CNS): As the UK passport office struggles with a mounting backlog of applicants and renewals, the governor’s office said temporary measures for British passport applications have been put in place to deal with the highest demand for passports for 12 years. From Monday 23 June, British nationals living in the Cayman Islands can apply to the governor’s office for their passports to be extended for 12 months, giving time for the backlog to be cleared so they can then apply for the usual ten year travel document.  Details of how to get a passport extension can be found at www.gov.uk

In the face of allegations that the backlog was caused by staff cuts, officials from the UK stated that they have issued over three million passports in 2014 and it is the extra demand not staffing problems that caused the delays. Since January, the Passport Office says it has put steps in place to deal with that increase in applications.

To make an appointment contact the Governor’s Office on 244 2431 or staffoff@candw.ky

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Jamaica to decriminalize ganja use

| 13/06/2014 | 111 Comments

(CNS): The Jamaican government plans to decriminalise possession of small amounts of ganja under a more “enlightened approach” to drug laws, officials said Thursday. Mark Golding, the country’s justice minister, said cabinet had approved a policy to decriminalise possession and use of the drug for religious, medicinal and scientific purposes. Although people can still be fined via a ticketing infraction, it will no longer be a criminal offence to have up to two ounces or to smoke ganja in private. Golding said legislation would be drafted to provide a path for people to get criminal records expunged if they have been convicted under the current laws.

“Too many of our young people have ended up with criminal convictions after being caught with a 'spliff,' something that has affected their ability to do things like get jobs and get visas to travel overseas," he said in a major shift in policy.

The news from Jamaica is reflective of a growing global change in attitude to the drug, which is being increasingly acknowledged for its medicinal and almost miraculous curative properties in some case.

A local campaign in Cayman to legalize its use for medicinal purposes in Cayman has attracted considerable support from the public but so far politicians are refusing to even discuss the possibility of relaxing the local zero tolerance policies.

Meanwhile, in the United States, while federal laws have not been relaxed, several states are decriminalizing the drug for both recreational as well as medicinal purposes. Now Cayman’s closest neighbour is about to change its policies.

Possession of two ounces or less will become a non-arrestable infraction attracting a monetary penalty outside the court system and which does not give rise to a criminal record. The Jamaican government also plans to amend the law so possession of ganja for religious purposes or for therapeutic purposes under a medical prescription would also be decriminalized.

“The objective is to provide a more enlightened approach to dealing with possession of small quantities and smoking, while still meeting the ends of justice,” Golding said, adding that it would help ease the burden on Jamaica’s significantly overloaded court system and also help the country’s young men.

“A conviction for possession or use of ganja results in a criminal record, which often precludes the offender from engaging certain employment, impacts his ability to get visas to travel overseas, and generally limits his life prospects,” he said. “This is a serious human rights issue, supporting the cry for reform to our laws in this area.”

The same issue also impacts many Caymanians who struggle to find work because of past ganja convictions.

Golding said that the imposition of harsh penalties has not been an effective deterrent to smoking ganja, and its use is prevalent in Jamaica, and despite the concerns about teenagers and health risks from smoking, he said prohibition had served to enhance the mystique of the forbidden activity, encouraging adolescent use. Government will now change its approach and focus on public education to discourage ganja use by minors and vulnerable people.

The justice minister said government needed to position itself as an “important player as the world increasingly recognizes and calls for the benefits of medical marijuana and industrial hemp.”

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Passport delays in UK mount in face of cuts

| 12/06/2014 | 3 Comments

(CNS): An increased demand and cuts in resources appear to be behind the mounting delays at the UK passport office. Although Cayman has not yet fully repatriated its passport services to the UK, as that happens local passport applications here and in other overseas territories could also be impacted by issues in the UK. The UK’s Home Secretary Theresa May has insisted the government is doing all it can to deal with the backlog of more than 30,000 passport applications which have not been dealt with within the normal three-week deadline. However, the coalition government is facing allegations of not taking control of the situation.

According to the plethora of reports coming from the UK about the issue, as the country moves into the holiday season the HM Passport Office (HMPO) was increasing the number of examiners and call handlers by another 200 on top of the 900 existing staff re-assigned to deal with the highest level of applications for 12 years. New offices are also being opened in Liverpool next week to help tackle the backlog.

The Passport Agency is currently dealing with about 465,000 renewals and first-time passport requests, and 150,000 passports are being sent out each week.

The UK’s opposition Labour party has said that the problem is not just down to increases in application but a reduction of resources. But David Cameron, the British prime minister, said longer opening hours had been introduced at passport offices, which were now operating seven days a week.

"The Home Office has been on this from the very start, but it all begins with 300,000 extra people applying for passports compared with the previous time last year," he said.

Labour says the number of staff at the Identity and Passport Service has fallen by 600 since the coalition came to power in 2010.

Passport Office chief executive Paul Pugh, who will be questioned next week by MPs on the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said there had been "exceptional" summer demand but that extra staff had been brought in to handle applications.

"We are operating seven days a week and our couriers are delivering passports within 24 hours of being produced," Pugh said. "We have issued almost three million passports for UK customers in 2014, including over one million issued in the eight weeks since the start of April."

In the past, overseas applications were handled by embassy and consulate officials in seven regional processing centres around the world under the direction of the Foreign Office. But between December 2012 and March this year, responsibility for the application, handling, printing and delivery of overseas passport applications was transferred to the Passport Office in the UK.

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