Archive for August 25th, 2008

Rotarian takes dentist skills to Peru

| 25/08/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Dr Bert Thacker from Smile Dental Surgery in Grand Cayman has just completed his third visit to Peru to treat children and adults who live in isolated villages along the Amazon, where there are no dentists. Bert is a Sunrise Rotarian and the club helps financially with the cost of the trip and often sends other members to help with the clinics. He took a team from his surgery and all the equipment necessary to arrange 4 clinics in 9 days.

 The team saw over 350 patients.Toothbrushes and oral hygiene are unheard of and their teeth are often in terrible condition. Very often the only remedy to alleviate pain is to extract the teeth but on this trip they managed some preventative treatment as well. Most patients were children under 14 and when they were done they treated the adults, some of whom had suffered toothache for years!

Getting to places like January 20th – the name of the settlement – is a challenge in itself. The party travels by air to Miami then on to Lima and Iquitos by air then by bus to Nauta and then a 5 hour boat trip to arrive at a shanty building where they set up surgery. Youngsters line up for treatment and there is no such thing as a missed appointment – they will often shun anesthetics because they have become used to the pain and are not used to the needle and the numbness it creates.

Rotary Sunrise is made up mostly of young professionals and Lawyers and Accountants and others are soon trained to assist in the dentistry. On this trip Rotarian David Reid with his wife Kerry looked after the sterilization of all the instruments. Tania Davies, who spoke fluent Spanish and Lana Kostich wife of Dr Bob Kostich who will be leading a future trip were in the party.

Dr Bert intends to organise 2 trips a year to Peru and possibly elsewhere to treat the children. In Cayman he specialises in orthodontics at Smile, together with Dr Bob Kostich and Dr Fred Koslowsky.

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Broadcasters face sanctions for Olympic Gaffes

| 25/08/2008 | 0 Comments

(Korea Times): Broadcasting companies face sanctions for their commentators’ inappropriate or racial comments during the coverage of Olympic Games in Beijing. The Korea Communications Standards Commission said it will hold a committee this week to determine the level of penalty on major national television networks ― MBC, KBS and SBS. Go to article.

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Walkers creates SPV for India

| 25/08/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Local law firm Walkers says the impact of the credit problem has led to a change in direction for investors and that private equity has emerged as a popular financing option especially in India for capital investment and expansion programmes. Private Equity partner Caroline Williams explains that with a tightening on banking finance investors are reaching for new opportunities.

“The global credit crunch has tightened the availability of banking finance, forcing investors in India and worldwide to reach out to private equity funds as an alternative source of funding their capital investment/expansion programmes,” said Williams, who is based in the Cayman office. “Despite India’s recent weakened economic outlook and inflation at a 13-year high, the infrastructure sector continues to attract global equity funds. Additionally, India is realizing increased interest from offshore money, which will be invested into the national infrastructure programme over the next five to seven years.”

In 2007, India attracted more private equity funds than China, and also has more private enterprises. The high priority for development of infrastructure, anticipated to need US$500bn in the next five years, makes construction one of the most popular segments for investments. As an example, last month, Red Fort announced an infrastructure fund focused on ports and power station development that is estimated to raise in excess of US$600m by the end of 2008. The company has already closed seven deals in the real estate market worth US$200m in the first half of 2008 and anticipates investing another US$300m by the end 2008 to make a total of around 10-12 deals in 2008.

“The driving motivation for foreign direct investment inflows into India continues to be double tax treaties associated with offshore jurisdictions. Private equity funds establish wholly-owned subsidiaries in offshore jurisdictions to invest into the Indian target company,” said Philip Millward, a Private Equity partner in Walkers’ Hong Kong office. “Clients of Walkers’ Hong Kong office have established Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) in the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands to operate as holding companies for investments into India. These SPVs typically invest into underlying Indian investee companies via a wholly-owned subsidiary established in a country that has a double tax treaty with India, namely Mauritius, Singapore, or Cyprus. By creating an offshore holding structure, the private equity fund mayavoid transferability restrictions on an eventual exit from the underlying investment.”

Despite some concern over valuations of Indian companies, the high growth of the Indian economy has kept it attractive to private equity.  Private equity investment has risen consistently from US$2.03bn in 2005 to US$17.14bn in 2007. And the deals are getting bigger. In 2007, 48 deals of over US$100m were closed compared to 11 deals of over US$100m in 2006.

“Private equity funds are extremely keen to identify and invest in growth opportunities in the Indian pre-IPO market. This enthusiasm, coupled with a lack of viable investment opportunities in other markets, has made private equity financing an easier source of capital than financial institutions that are scaling back their lending activities in emerging markets,” said Richard Addlestone, a Private Equity partner in Walkers’ Cayman office. “However, private equity’s insistence on taking quasi-management positions within the investee companies can be perceived as an encroachment on the funded company’s ability to independently control the growth and direction of the business. This can often lead to a focus on short- to medium-term growth to facilitate an exit for the private equity fund, not longer term strategies.”

Sovereign wealth funds ("SWF"), such as Temesek, Dubai Investment Corporation and others are also investing heavily in India.  SWFs tend to be known more for providing cash rather than management expertise. However, SWFs are evolving, hiring staff with similar skills to those in private equity houses and morphing into a type of private equity firm, themselves and so leveling the playing field.

“While India does present some challenges due to the strict restrictions of the Indian Companies Act, 1956 and the material regulatory barriers if a fund investing in India is not a member of IOSCO, we anticipate continued interest in India, and more activity from India investors,” continued Millward. “By working with a sophisticated law firm that has vast experience both in private equity funds and in the Asian markets, institutional investors and global financial organizations can leverage the power of this emerging market.”

 

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On the Front Line as Faith and Science Clash

| 25/08/2008 | 0 Comments

(New York Times): David Campbell switched on the overhead projector and wrote “Evolution” in the rectangle of light on the screen. He scanned the faces of the sophomores in his Biology I class. Many of them, he knew from years of teaching high school in this Jacksonville suburb, had been raised to take the biblical creation story as fact. Go to article

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Quarry threatens rare bat

| 25/08/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): While the residents of Mahogany Estates wait to hear whether they will be given a reprieve or are to spend the foreseeable future living in a quarry, CNS has learned that on the land the developer wishes to level in the Beaach Bay area there are literally dozens of endangered species, including a critically endangered bat on the verge of extinction.

If the application by Whiterock Investments and owner Lorenzo Berry to level some 44 acres of oceanfront wooded bluff is successful, Berry will be able to completely level the area from the current 30 feet to five feet above sea level, which will destroy the natural habitat for countless endemic and native species. From the beautiful Pepper Cinnamon and the Headache Bush to wild calabash (left) and the Broadleaf Tree (below) there are many plants with Red List Status, the International Union for Conservation of Nature international classification system that highlights species at risk.

Moreover, according to research conducted by the Department of Environment, the White-shouldered Bat (Phyllops falcatus) has been recorded in this vicinity. These bats roost primarily in large fig trees on Grand Cayman but the species was thought to have become extinct in the Cayman Islands until it was rediscovered in 2001. This bat has always been rare on Grand Cayman and, according to experts, if still present has likely suffered increased pressure due to Hurricane Ivan in September 2004 and to human destruction of its preferred mature karst woodlands. The DoE said that no Phyllops were captured during surveys in 2006, suggesting numbers have been drastically reduced or the species was extirpated.

Even though this area of Beach Bay could be home to this rare and critically endangered species, at present there is no legislative provision to influence any aspect of the planning application from a nature conservation perspective. Berry is not obligated to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment, which would allow the economic benefits of to be judged against not only the “environmental impacts” but also the “social impacts” for residents in this neighbourhood.

Director of Planning Kenneth Ebanks recently represented the Cayman Islands at a conference on climate change and biodiversity loss in Reunion Island in July, and said it was a great opportunity for Cayman to discuss strategies.

“We are all susceptible to the forces of nature. However, their natural resources within SIDS are under threat due to developmental pressures from more developed countries; their cultures are under strain; they deal with environmental problems that were created primarily by the developed world, and their socio-economic costs entailed in being environmentally friendly often outweigh the direct benefits,” he said at the time, adding that Cayman hardly ranked high as being environmentally conscious, especially in terms of specific legislation and the size of designated protected areas. The vast majority of the overseas territories have more advanced legislation protecting their marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Most are striving to protect a minimum of 20-30% of their land area of different environmental qualities.”

Speaking at their recent press conference to alert the widen Cayman community to their plight and the risk to the environment, Jean Ebanks one of the residents of Mahogany Estates noted that the area which Berry wishes to level is a naturally wooded landscape.

“It is home to silver thatch, banana orchids, rare bromeliads, iron wood trees as well as Cayman Parrots, woodpeckers, agoutis, crabs and snakes,” she said. “The rest of the world is currently very concernedwith environmental issues. We need to consider that if this type of industrial development is allowed in a residential area, how would the EU look at any request for environmental funding for the Cayman Islands.”

The National Conservation Law has still not been tabled in the Legislative Assembly, even though Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford had said it would be presented in the last session, which would have required this commercial quarrying operation to conduct an EIA. Because there is no environmental protection law in place, the excavation project could easily receive permission, allowing the legal destruction of yet more of Cayman’s disappearing natural habitat, placing the islands biodiversity at risk.
 

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Brac gears up for college

| 25/08/2008 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Between 125 and 140 students are expected to enroll in the Brac campus of the University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI) and Civil Service College (CSC) for the Fall season, the first year tertiary education has been taught on the Sister Islands.

Campus Director Martin Keeley said that he is expecting between 35 to 40 full and part time students to enroll in the UCCI courses, another 40 to 50 students will join the CSC and Keeley estimates 40 to 50 students for the continuing education classes, though he believes these are conservative estimates.

“This is very promising for an island that is experiencing tertiary education for the first time,” he said. Over the summer, UCCI ran courses in English, College Algebra and IT Business, and several mature students took advantage of the opportunity to build credit towards a degree.

“Because very few people on the Brac have experience with tertiary education, there is a learning curve for the community and the challenge is to explain what is and how it works and why it’s important for the young people to use it,” said Keeley, whose job it is to oversee the operation of building, inter-campus coordination, scheduling and use of classrooms.

He will also be teaching Environmental Science as an associate degree course. Other on-campus faculty members are Kevin Roberts (IT) and Richard Juman (English), both on the teaching staff at  Cayman Brac High School, as well as retired mathematics teacher and current School Inspector Edna Platts, and Richard Moss, who retired as Spanish teacher at the high school in June.

The majority of courses will be taught via video link, which will be live and completely inter-active and will run from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm in a set classroom at the Brac campus and one at the main campus on Grand Cayman, Keeley explained. Once every five to six weeks, teachers on Grand Cayman will come to the Brac to teach here and video-link back to Grand Cayman so the Brac students get to work with the teachers.

“The Cayman Brac Power & Light Co have three high school graduates working for them and part of their contract is that they attend classes at the UCCI,” he noted. “I’d like to see more businesses and government departments and authorities follow suit as an incentive for school leavers to continue education to a higher level.”

According to Keeley, Brac students often have problems when they go straight to college abroad because they’re too immature, not just in age but also academically. He said if they take a gap year to earn money towards their education, they need to keep up their academic skills and should continue their studies part time – at night, for example.

“This not only builds up credits towards an associate degree but also gives them a feeling of what’s expected at that level,” he observed, adding that he intends to work with the Year 12 students and the high school PTA next year to develop cooperation between the facilities.

Two courses planned for the near future that have already drawn a lot of interest are a construction design course taught by Building Inspector John Elliott and an electrical design course taught by Kenny Ryan, Chairman of the Board of the Electricity Regulatory Authority, Project Manager of the CBP&L new plant on the Bluff and past District Commissioner. A wide range of continuing education classes also start in September, including popular adult swimming courses by Michael Hundt, as well as a range of courses at CSC.

All students who have applied for the associate and bachelor degrees and certificate programmes at the Brac campus must attend an orientation at the facility in Stake Bay on Thursday, 28 August, from 9:00 am to 11:00 am, when they will meet UCCI staff and teachers to discuss the coming year at the Brac Campus, and can also turn in any outstanding items on their application. Parents and guardians are also welcome to attend.

Students can still register on-line at the UCCi web site, where available courses are also detailed. Classes for the Fall Semester start on Monday, 1 September, 2008.
 

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US hospitality firm says challenges for regional hotels

| 25/08/2008 | 0 Comments

(The Jamaica Observer): In a report released Thursday, the Atlanta, Georgia-based PKF Hospitality Research, an affiliate of PKF Consulting, said the combination of a slow US economy, increased competition, rising energy costs, and threats of reduced air service could result in lower levels of occupancy and profits for the region’s hotel owners and operators. Go to article

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