Archive for January 29th, 2009

Eco-Weekends a success

| 29/01/2009 | 1 Comment

(CNS): The first two Rotary funded Eco-Weekends at the Little Cayman Research Centre, which took place over the last two weekends, were, according to organizers, a resounding success. Students studied a wide range of topics covering marine ecology and conservation, including coastal, lagoon, mangrove and coral reef habitats. They carried out a rocky shore lab at Lighthouse Point, setting out transects and quadrants, gathering and recording data on whelks, chitons and periwinkles.

Some forty Year 12 students from John Gray High School, accompanied by four of their teachers, have benefitted from the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) programme so far this year. CCMI’s Education Officer Sally Coppage said she was impressed by the participants. “They are exactly the kind of students that CCMI wants at the Centre and we welcome them back anytime,” she said. Three more Eco-Weekends, also funded by Rotary, are scheduled April 3-5, May 1-3 and June 5-7.

For the majority of the students, the programme offered their first trip to the Sister Islands and that experience alone made quite an impact, according to CCMI.

“On my Eco-Weekend in Little Cayman, my education expanded about my island’s ecosystem. I learned things that will encourage and motivate me to protect my islands at my greatest effort,” said one student.

Another commented, “This weekend had been an experience I will never forget. Not only did it give us an opportunity to enjoy the company of classmates but allowed us to learn about a whole new side of theworld in a way that never left us bored.”

“I learnt so many new things that I know I will remember always because of how much fun I had while learning them,” said another.

At the end of the weekend the students gave short presentations on what they had learned about mangroves and their habitats; how they support other marine ecosystems; what threatens them and what can be done to protect them. The students also performed a knowledge evaluation upon arrival and departure that quantified the success of the weekend with approximately 40% increase in knowledge overall.

“This would not have been possible without the faith that the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman has invested in making sure all these students are educated and new ambassadors for giving Cayman a greener and brighter future,” said CCMI CEO Jim O’Neill.

For more information on CCMI’s Eco-Weekends, please contact coppage@reefresearch.org

 

 

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Peanut butter products recall expands

| 29/01/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): With a salmonella outbreak that has now made morethan 500 people sick and may have killed at least eight people, the US Food and Drug Administration has expanded its recall of peanut products. Major national brands of peanut butter are not affected. However, peanut paste made at a Georgia peanut plant where the outbreak originated is found in hundreds of other food products, from ice cream, to Asian-style sauces, to dog biscuits. More information and a full list of recalled products can be found on the FDA website.

 

According to US news reports, federal inspectors reported finding roaches, mould, a leaking roof and other sanitary problems at the Peanut Corp. of America plant in Blakely, Ga, and that managers at the plant continued shipping peanut products even after they were found to contain salmonella. The recall now includes all peanut products produced at the plant since 1 January, 2007, and covers peanut butter, peanut paste, peanut meal and granulated products, as well as all peanuts – dry and oil roasted – and various pet treats produced with peanut butter.

FDA inspectors reported that salmonella had been found previously at least 12 times in products made at the plant, but production lines were never cleaned up after internal tests indicated contamination. Products that initially tested positive were retested. When the company got a negative reading, it shipped the products out.

The Department of Environmental Health (DEH) noted that, while the risk of animals contracting salmonellasis is minimal, there is risk to humans from handling affected pet products. It is especially important for people to wash their hands and make sure children wash their hands after feeding treats to pets.

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children; frail or elderly people; and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with salmonella often experience fever, diarrhoea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances the organism may get into the bloodstream, producing more severe illnesses such as infected aneurysms, endocarditis, and arthritis. The DoEH advises anyone who has eaten any peanut based products and is experiencing any of these symptoms to contact their medical provider immediately.

The DEH is continuing to investigate for the presence of all affected products in local supermarkets, shops, wholesalers, importers and distributors, both here and the Sister Islands. If any affected products are found, they are removed immediately from supermarket shelves.

Environmental Health Officers are working closely with the food businesses to ensure that affected product is not sold and over 600lb of recalled product has been removed and destroyed.

FDA and DEH recommendations for consumers include:

• Do not eat products that have been recalled and throw them away in a manner that prevents others from eating them.
• To determine if commercially-prepared or manufactured peanut butter/peanut paste-containing products (such as cookies, crackers, cereal, candy and ice cream) are subject to recall, consumers are urged first to visit FDA’s website and check the searchable database of recalled products.
• For information on products containing peanut butter from companies not reporting recalls, consumers may wish to consult the company’s website or call the toll-free number listed on most packaging. Information consumers may receive from the companies has not been verified by the FDA.
• If consumers cannot determine if their peanut butter, peanut butter/peanut paste-containing products or institutionally-served peanut butter contains PCA peanut butter/peanut paste, DEH recommends that they do not consume those products.
• Persons who think they may have become ill from eating peanut butter are advised to consult their health care providers.

For further information concerning local efforts, contact the DEH at 949-6696. For other details, visit the FDA website at www.fda.com.

 

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LoGB announces national talking shop on economy

| 29/01/2009 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Government intends to convene a national consultation on the economy, the leader of government business has said. He told members of the Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday that, while government had been meeting with stakeholders on a regular basis and had formed an advisory group, given the seriousness of the global crisis a national consultative exercise was called for.

Speaking at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual Legislative Luncheon, LoGB Kurt Tibbetts did not give details of this proposed talking shop or when it would happen but said the current situation called for action and that it would be an opportunity for stakeholders to influence the future shape of economic policy. He also defended what his government had done so far for the sector.

 “We have over the course of the past years, and in particular over the past six months, been meeting regularly with key stakeholders regarding the economy and the impact of the global situation.  We have established the economic monitoring and advisory group which has met a number of times to assess and advise government on the situation. In addition, the financial services council meets regularly to consider matters relating to the financial services sector,” he said.

 But, he added, given the seriousness of the global recession and its projected length, a much broader initiative was required. “The planned consultation will provide an opportunity for the private sector and other relevant stakeholders to sit with government policy-makers and discuss how we should use this opportunity to reform and reposition our economy to make it better and stronger for the future.”

In the face of criticisms coming from a number of quarters that government has not done enough to prepare Cayman to weather the economic storm, Tibbetts said that this consultation would provide the basis for designing a blueprint to take the economy into the future.

“It is of vital importance that we have this dialogue on the economy, in the same way that we have had a successful national dialogue on modernizing our constitution,” he added. The LoGB said that along with a modern constitution, Cayman needed a new look economy. “That is the next assignment of major importance for our country. In the same way that we have shown leadership in pushing for a new constitution, this government will show leadership in reforming and repositioning our economy for a brighter, better future.”

With calls coming from the Chamber and other leading business figures for a minister of finance that would take responsibility for promoting, safeguarding and regulating Cayman’s most important industry, Tibbetts confirmed that the new constitution had madeprovision for that role.

However, even if the constitution is agreed and passed in the planned referendum in May, the new minister would not be in post until after the 2013 election. In response to how the government was managing the interests of the sector at present, Tibbetts said that while there is no department of financial services, a core cadre of five senior staff and four support staff under the Portfolio of Finance & Economics had specific responsibilities for the industry. He said that policy, legislation, administration, advice to cabinet, promotion and public relations, were undertaken by this staff, led by the deputy financial secretary for financial services, a post that was established in 2004.  

“It may be that consequent to certain constitutional changes, if secured, a so-called ‘department of financial services’ may emerge; however, the absence of a banner with that name is not the absence of the functions and activity,” Tibbetts noted in defence of critics who have said the current administration has neglected the financial services industry.

He said government also had an effective lobbying and media relations programme in place and  could mobilize for Cayman’s defence in London, Washington, Brussels and anywhere needed through the local staff in the public relations unit along with the global partners, Fleishman Hillard.

“A small but nevertheless important example of our capacity is that we now have our financial services factsheets and backgrounders available in German and French for those media markets,” Tibbetts added. He also said that various visits were on the cards over the coming weeks to deal with some of the international issues regarding the sector.

“The Minister for International Financial Services policy (Alden McLaughlin)  meets with the UK financial services minister, Lord Myners, in early February; The DFS (financial services) goes to Brussels early February for a series of meetings and briefings; and I will be leading a delegation to DC in early March.”

He said the Financial Services Council had provided input and recommendations on how to meet challenges facing the sector in consultation with a broad cross-section of the industry and he welcomed the call for everyone, including government, to review their missions and methods to ensure that they are fit for purpose.

 

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Chamber calls for red carpet

| 29/01/2009 | 3 Comments

(CNS): The economic global recession will require the public sector rolling out the red carpet for business, Chamber President Eddie Thompson has said. Calling on government to re-evaluate its business systems and improve the processing times at customs, immigration, planning, Registrar of Companies and all boards that interact with customers, he said that during the current climate business needed to be valued.

“During these times of economic hardship, it will be essential for us to appreciate the role that business plays in our society and for the public sector to roll out a red carpet service for businesses,” he said.

Speaking at the Chamber’s annual Legislative Luncheon, Thompson gave the Chamber’s wish list to government on how the country could get through what was expected to be a long and tough recession. “Greater emphasis should be placed on attracting more real economic activity by financial firms in Cayman itself. This will build substance and counter the argument that Cayman entities are without substance. It means executives in physical offices in Cayman making substantive decisions and performing substantive tasks,” he said.

He called for the immigration regime to be understandable and not opaque, welcoming and not burdensome and a deterrent. At the same time however, he called for government to ensure Caymanian’s were given priority over work permit holders. “During these extraordinary times all efforts must be made to keep as many businesses open as possible, to keep Caymanians employed, providing job security for Caymanians over permit holders,” he said.

He also joined the growing chorus for a Ministry and Department of Finance and a new approach to managing the financial services industry. He said much greater efforts were needed to develop an International Relations Programme to promote Cayman overseas and get the message out about our regulatory regime and business environment.

“The government, Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, and the private sector, should develop a coordinated programme to host, attend, and speak at, relevant international conferences, and to write academic papers that expresses the Cayman Islands’ position to the world.”

He also said that a concerted effort was required to attract inward investment. He said the Chamber was continuing to work with the Investment Bureau to try and achieve the goal of a one stop shop for foreign investors to avoid the maze of bureaucracy and facilitate efficiency of interdepartmental systems and better communication.

“There is a need to establish a policy framework to attract foreign direct investment and put in place the systems to support this policy to attract a higher level of investors for our tourism, financial services and development sectors. A small business development strategy is also needed in order to ensure that Caymanians are benefiting from the investment that is being attracted to our shores,” he said.

Thompson suggested that government support local businesses more and review its procurement policy and reduce overseas purchases.

When it came to the business of tourism, Thompson said the country needed a Tourism Authority that would manage all facetsof the tourism industry. “The establishment of the authority is long overdue and should be acted upon as a matter of priority in 2009. A full time Director of Cruise Tourism is recommended and should be hired to facilitate the development of the industry, and more money should be earmarked for the sector,” he added.

Thompson also said the Chamber was anxiously awaiting the completion of the Environmental Impact Assessment regarding the proposed port development, and noted that it should include other economic diversification strategies for long term development, such as a marina, permanent docking facilities for luxury yachts and other agencies in the region. He also said that, should the EIA assessment allow for the development of the port, the nation needed to pause and determine whether such a development will benefit a few merchants, or our collective countrymen, in both the immediate and the long term.

“Additionally, with the port redevelopment of such an immense proportion it would seem that all forms of public private partnerships should be explored and not just one bidder to be negotiated with; the country would be remiss not to do so.”.

He also said that 2009 would be a tough year in which the choices would shape Cayman’s future. “The Chamber is committed to offering assistance and I have established several committees addressing such subjects as foreign direct investment, small business, international trade, the environment, leadership development and economic development to provide our elected leaders with information that can assist them with making key decisions.”

Thompson explained that the mission of the Chamber is to support, promote and protect business and community. “We must all work together to address the challenges. Get involved in the work of the Chamber and learn the positions that are being taken by the candidates in this year’s election. Don’t sit on the sidelines,” he said.

 

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UK unions press for tax haven details

| 29/01/2009 | 0 Comments

(Press Association): Banks which have received Government help to deal with the financial crisis should be made to reveal full details of their tax haven activities, union leaders have urged. The TUC said that Lloyds TSB, RBS, HSBC and Barclays had well over 1,000 subsidiary companies between them, incorporated in tax havens, although some could be providing banking services to the local population.The most popular location was the Cayman Islands, followed by Jersey, according to a study by the union organisation. Go to article

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Man charged in domestic assault

| 29/01/2009 | 7 Comments

(CNS): Update: Police have charged 48-year-old John Fredrick with two offences following a domestic assault in Cayman Brac. Fredrick was arrested after a 46-year-old woman was reportedly assaulted by her common-law husband on Sunday, 25 January. The victim  is now in hospital in George Town with serious injuries. He will appear in court today (Thursday, 29 January) charged with aggravated burglary with intent to commit grievous bodily harm and actual bodily harm. Following an investigation by police officers in Cayman Brac, he was arrested and transported to Grand Cayman on 28 January. 

According to an RCIPS statement, the 911 Emergency Communications Centre received a call at 11:50pm on Sunday, 25 January, requesting an ambulance for the woman who had been assaulted by her common-law husband. Police and medics responded to the scene and found the woman with a laceration to her forehead and an injury to her right arm – CNS has received several reports that the woman’s arm was broken and she was severely beaten.

Police said that  the woman was first taken to Faith Hospital where she received medical attention before being airlifted to the George Town Hospital in Grand Cayman, where she reportedly remains in a stable condition.  

The man arrested in connection with the incident was transported to Grand Cayman on Wednesday, 28 January,  to appear in court. An investigation is being conducted by police in Cayman Brac and anyone with information that may assist the police should contact Chief Inspector Malcolm Kay on 526 0759.

Anyone with information about crime taking place in the Cayman Islands should contact their local police station or Crime Stoppers on 800-8477 (TIPS). All persons calling crime stoppers remain anonymous, and are eligible for a reward of up to $1000, should their information lead to an arrest or recovery of property/drugs.

 

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