Archive for February 12th, 2009

Thai PM admits boat people pushed out to sea

| 12/02/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNN): Thailand’s prime minister suspects there were "some instances" in which Thai authorities pushed Myanmar’s Rohingya boat people out to sea, a frank admittance of a practice drawing worldwide condemnation. In an exclusive interview with CNN Thursday, Abhisit Vejjajiva said he could not pinpoint who in the government approved the practice, but said he was working on rectifying the problem. "It’s not exactly clear whose work it is," Vejjajiva said. "All the authorities say it’s not their policy, but I have reason to believe some instances of this happened." Go to article

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The gift of reading at Spot Bay

| 12/02/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): At the Spot Bay Primary School Book Fair on Tuesday, 3 February, every student at the school was given a book, which they selected from an assortment of age-appropriate books, thanks to the generosity of HSBC Bank and the assistance of the Rotary Club of Cayman Brac. The bank purchased the gifts to encourage the Brac children to embrace a love of reading, according to a Rotary release.

Because the book fair was such a success, more of these events have been planned for the other students of Cayman Brac. This is only one of the literacy enhancement efforts that the Rotary Club of Cayman Brac has provided as part of its service to the local community, the club says.

Shakira Gourzong, an HSBC Trust Officer, entrusted the books to the Rotary Club of Cayman Brac for distribution to the school children. Club President Alphanso Gayle kept the books secure during the long holiday break until the students returned to their classes and plans could be finalized. Rotarian Bonnie Edwards, a long-time reading program volunteer at the school, arranged the Book Fair and added fun items such as pencils,markers, brightly coloured erasers, and marbles for the youngsters. Rotarians Andrea Stevens and J.D. Mosley-Matchett assisted with the distribution effort on the day of the Fair.

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Top spellers crowd podium

| 12/02/2009 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Four primary school students managed perfect scores in this year’s Primary Spelling Bee and all took the top spot in the long-running word contest. Co-sponsor, the Royal Bank of Canada, has committed to donate three additional laptop computers for the young champions, who crowded the winning podium after they emphatically demonstrated their word talent. “I don’t think I’ve been in a spelling bee where the competition has been so keen, and the students have done so very, very well!” said Education Minister Alden McLaughlin.

He and Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler were impressed with the high standards, as well as for the hard work and preparations of the students, teachers and parents. They also thanked Royal Bank of Canada for agreeing to donate the three additional computers to the winners.

Learning Community Leader Herbert Crawford  was also enthusiastic about the results. “These are the highest standards ever!  I can’t remember another year when four children tiedwith perfect scores,” he said. “We spend so much time focusing on the negatives, but tonight is a wonderful night for our children.”

The competition took place at the Mary Miller Hall on Tuesday, 10 February, when Creek and Spot Bay Primary students Anitha Velusamy and Nayo Swan, along with John A. Cumber’s Aliyah Linwood and Grace Christian Academy’s Laura Hynd tied for the top spot. David Forbes of Savannah Primary placed second. Tying for third place were Prospect Primary’s Joshua Thompson, Cayman Academy’s Mariah Webb, and Montessori by the Sea’s Sabrina Silva.

Sponsored by the bank and the Department of Education Services, the students tackled brain twisters like mayonnaise, incognito, vespiaries, tetrahedron, and even palindromes like kayak. They sought definitions and word origins as they competed for thesauruses, trophies and of course, the laptop.

The overall results, by school, were:

Creek and Spot Bay – 88 points;

Savannah – 58 points;

Prospect – 55 points;

George Town – 55 points;

Grace Christian Academy – 50 points;

John A. Cumber – 47 points;

Cayman Academy – 40 points; and

Montessori by the Sea – 36 points. 

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Young and old unite for vote

| 12/02/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): With the electoral register now standing at over 15,000 people, it incorporates a wide cross section of the Caymanian public including a diverse age range. The Elections Office yesterday announced the oldest and youngest voters that will have the right to cast their vote in the May General Election. The oldest registered on the Sister Islands, Ellen Elizabeth Yap (pictured left on her 100th birthday), who was born 11 February 1909, was registered on the Cayman Brac and Little Cayman Register of Electors by Georgene Lazzari.

The oldest registered voter in the Cayman Islands is Julia Hydes, who was born on 25 January 1909, was registered on the West Bay Register of Electors by Darlene Owens-Elliott. Cayman’s youngest voter is registered in West Bay. Jessica Marie Ebanks, who was born on  17 May 1991, will be 18 a few days before the General Election.

Over the years, the Elections Office has traditionally recognised the oldest voter, but this year there has been a change in the law to allow young people who will be 18 on the day of the vote to register before their birthday, which has given Cayman its youngest ever voter as well.

“This year, it has been agreed to also recognise the youngest elector, particularly because the December 2008 amendment to the Constitution allows persons to register who will turn 18 by Election Day, which this year is 20 May,” the Office said.

On Friday, the registering officers and other election officials will be visiting these three women  who qualify for recognition.


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Operation Tempura case not over, says Smith

| 12/02/2009 | 4 Comments

(CNS): Despite calls from the elected government to close down the protracted investigation surrounding the allegations of an unlawful entry in to the Cayman Net News offices, which has so far failed to reveal any evidence of serious wrong doing against the RCIPS, Acting Commissioner James Smith has said that the Operation Tempura investigation would continue and that it could not be closed down.

The case which has been termed Netnewsgate, which that brought Martin Bridger and his Special Police Investigation Team to the Cayman Island in the first place and recently led to CI$1.275 million being awarded in damages to Justice Alex Henderson, is a very complex case which has not ended, said Smith.

He confirmed that John Jones had recently been interviewed but he said the Chief Superintendent still remained suspended from duty on full pay as he has for the last year. He also said that the team still wanted to interview former Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, and he confirmed that the case against Lyndon Martin was set for trial in March. He would not, however, give anymore details of the substance of the whole investigation.

“Charges have been laid in some areas of this, enquiries are ongoing in other areas and files currently sit with the Solicitor General about how they will proceed with things in court. I don’t think it is appropriate for me to comment on speculation,” Smith said, adding that there was business to be finished regarding that incident.

He said that he would not rule in or out the possibility of Jones returning to his job, and he said that it would depend on the evidence whether he would face criminal charges or a disciplinary hearing.

In recent weeks and months, most of the elected Cabinet members have voiced their very serious concerns about this element of the investigation in terms of both the length of the enquiry – more than sixteen months — and its cost, which is in excess of $4 million, without revealing any evidence of a crime. At the most recent Cabinet press briefing, the leader of government business said that the government was no longer prepared to appropriate funds for this investigation while Bridger remained the lead investigator and with no evidence that a crime actually occurred.

The governor was forced to use his reserve powers to get the funding from the Cayman treasury to pay Justice Henderson’s damages and to acquire more money for Operation Tempura. Henderson was unlawfully arrested by Bridger and SPIT as a result of suggestions that the Judge had been making inappropriate enquiries about letters written to Net News that undermined the local judiciary.

Trying to explain the reason why the whole enquiry surrounding Net News was taking so long and costing so much, Smith said that on the face of it the incident might appear straight forward, but it had tentacles and no one could have envisaged where the investigation may have gone. But he said he did not want to speculate or comment about the enquiry as it was still ongoing. He did say that operations that begin as covert investigations, as this one did, by their very nature can take much longer to come to a conclusion.

Although Smith would not be drawn on details, it is understood that the investigation surrounds whether or not Kernohan and Jones acted inappropriately regarding Martin’s entry into the offices of Net News. Martin was at the time a journalist with the paper when, allegedly, his suspicions and those of his former colleague John Evans, were raised that the newspaper proprietor Desmond Seales could be in a corrupt relationship with Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis.

As a result the two journalists reported their suspicions to the police and then attempted to find evidence of these suspicions in Seales’ office by entering their work place late at night. Since then, Bridger has declared that there is no truth to the rumour of a corrupt relationship between Seales and Ennis, something which he says was apparent early in the investigation.

Bridger then switched his attention to Jones and Kernohan and the two reporters. Since October 2007, he and SPIT have been pursing the idea that the allegations by Martin were not only false but malicious and that Kernohan and Jones have misconducted themselves in some way by assisting with the search for evidence. However, it appears that that Larry Covington, who is responsible for UK Overseas Territories police services in the Caribbean, Attorney General Sam Bulgin and Governor Stuart Jack were all aware of the situation from the very beginning when Martin and Evans made the accusations against Ennis.

In two important legal rulings in February and March 2008, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie made it clear that he could see no evidence of either officer acting unlawfully and that they had a duty to investigate what they perceived to be possibly legitimate allegations. In both rulings Smellie had refused to sign warrants for Bridger to search the homes of either Kernohan or Jones because of the lack of evidence of any unlawful intent.

The onlycharges brought so far in the sixteen-month investigation into this case are those against Martin, which have already been reduced from the original 17 counts that he faced when arrested in March of last year to the two counts he will face in court next month, both of which are concerned with making false allegations against a police officer. The primary prosecution witness against Martin is believed to be Evans, who has not been charged despite supporting Martin in his suspicions that Seales was being leaked police information, possibly through Ennis.

However, Evans who now resides in the UK, has since declared that his testimony regarding the alleged unlawful entry was taken under duress, although he has not explained the circumstances of that “duress” and says he will be resisting the summons to attend Martin’s trial as a witness for the prosecution. When asked about this, Smith said he could not speculate on the importance of Evans to the case against Martin as he had simply not been involved in the investigation long enough.

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Happy birthday Darwin

| 12/02/2009 | 0 Comments

(The Vancouver Sun): He’s polarized scientists and clergy and horrified creationists. Charles Darwin, the iconic naturalist, biologist and zoologist would have turned 200 years old on Feb. 12. And two centuries later, Darwin still manages to stir the evolutionary pot. Darwin is famous for identifying the process of natural selection which accounted for how organisms adapted to their environment and the biological diversity we see today. His seminal work, On the Origin of Species (1859), also celebrates an anniversary this year — turning 150.

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Why Darwin matters

| 12/02/2009 | 0 Comments

(The Guardian): Charles Darwin had a big idea, arguably the most powerful idea ever. And like all the best ideas it is beguilingly simple. In fact, it is so staggeringly elementary, so blindingly obvious that although others before him tinkered nearby, nobody thought to look for it in the right place. Darwin had plenty of other good ideas – for example his ingenious and largely correct theory of how coral reefs form – but it is his big idea of natural selection, published in On the Origin of Species, that gave biology its guiding principle, a governing law that helps the rest make sense. Understanding its cold, beautiful logic is a must. Go to article

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Levers denies gossip claim

| 12/02/2009 | 20 Comments

(CNS): Details of the issues that form the basis of Justice Priya Levers’ tribunal, revealed in The Caymanian Compass today (12 February), suggesting she gossiped about her colleagues have been emphatically denied by the Grand Court Judge, who says that she has never made any such public allegations about other members of the judiciary. CNS has learned that Justice Levers will be filing a full response refuting the accusations against her this Friday.

The Compass states in a front page story that it has seen a summary of the issues that the tribunal will hear accusing Justice Levers of starting rumours of sexual affairs, drug use and illegal gun possession among her judicial colleagues. Levers, however, categorically denies spreading any such public gossip or accusations. The newspaper also states that the Grand Court Judge has been accused of writing a series of controversial letters to another local newspaper, Cayman Net News, bringing the judiciary into disrepute – an accusation she also denies.

“While I do not believe in trial by press, I deny these allegations, and when my evidence is revealed on Friday it will become apparent that I have not engaged in any gossip mongering,” Justice Levers has said. The Grand Court Judge, who has considerable support among the local legal community, has also stated that she did not write any letters regarding the judiciary to Net News.

Sources close to the judge have said that, while she has never condoned undignified behaviour displayed by any members of the Cayman judiciary, she has certainly never been the source of any unsavoury gossip regarding them or how they have conducted themselves. CNS also understands that the statements on the issues that the tribunal will hear have already been amended regarding the "35 areas of complaint" against her, as stated in the Compass.

The Tribunal, which will be chaired by Sir Andrew Leggatt, is due to begin public hearings on 7 May. Justice Levers will be represented by leading UK barrister Stanley Brodie QC and Cayman attorneys Anthony Akiwumi and Wade DaCosta.

Since Justice Levers was suspended from her place on the bench speculation regarding the details of the tribunal have varied widely. Recently the focus has switched to the costs involved, particularly since the tribunal awarded the justice 75% of her costs up front, a point which Justice Levers’ legal team have said is particularly significant.

Sources have also suggested that the tribunal may expose uncomfortable revelations for some members of the judiciary, as the details of the so-called rumours, which Levers denies making, are discussed in a public forum.

One local lawyer told CNS that while Levers may not be the source of the gossip, some of the accusations that have allegedly been made have circulated among the local legal community for some time. If any them were to be proven, the local judiciary, which is already reeling from the unlawful arrest of Henderson, could face further serious disruption. 

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Belief in evolution linked to education

| 12/02/2009 | 0 Comments

(Gallup): On the eve of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, a new Gallup Poll shows that only 39% of Americans say they "believe in the theory of evolution," while a quarter say they do not believe in the theory, and another 36% don’t have an opinion either way. These attitudes are strongly related to education and, to an even greater degree, religiosity. There is a strong relationship between education and belief in Darwin’s theory, as might be expected, ranging from 21% of those with high-school educations or less to 74% of those with postgraduate degrees. Go to article

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Vatican claims Darwin’s theory of evolution is compatible with Christianity

| 12/02/2009 | 0 Comments

(The Telegraph): Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said while the Church had been hostile to Darwin’s theory in the past, the idea of evolution could be traced to St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas. Father Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti, Professor of Theology at the Pontifical Santa Croce University in Rome, added that 4th century theologian St Augustine had "never heard the term evolution, but knew that big fish eat smaller fish" and forms of life had been transformed "slowly over time". Go to article

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