Archive for June 9th, 2009

Shell pays $19.5m over Saro-Wiwa case

| 09/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(ABC News): Oil company Shell has agreed to pay $19.5 million to avoid standing trial over accusations that it was complicit in human rights abuses in Nigeria in the 1990s. The families of nine people executed in 1995 accused Shell of collaborating with the country’s military regime to silence the activists for protesting against the oil company’s environmental practices in the Niger Delta. In 1990, the prominent Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and other activists formed the activist group, aimed at exposing what they said was the environmental damage Shell was causing in the Niger Delta. They were also protesting against alleged abuses against the Ogoni people who lived in the area.

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Attacked goat might have been molested

| 09/06/2009 | 23 Comments

(Cayman 27): A local man’s goat is brutally killed. A tragic tale to begin with, the death becomes less animal cruelty and more sinister and twisted — that’s if you believe the owner. Wayne Wright told Cayman 27 reporter Kenneth Bryan that two weeks ago he found his largest goat stabbed in the stomach. What he didn’t tell the Department of Agriculture’s vet, Colin Wakelin, at the time was that he believes someone had sexually molested the animal before killing her.

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Frederick’s ‘hazardous’ job

| 09/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): McCleary Frederick has been named as the new director for Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI). Currently the Deputy Director for Mitigation, Frederick, will take over from the current post-holder Dr Barbara Carby on 14 August, when her contract expires. Frederick joined the Portfolio of Internal & External Affairs in 2005 as Deputy Director (Designate) of a proposed national emergency management agency. He had previously served as the Planning Department’s Chief Building Control Officer.

He assumes his new position as a result of a development process implemented with the launch of HMCI in January 2007.

“We committed to finding an experienced emergency manager to get the agency started and to assist Frederick in his career change. We were very fortunate to attract a regionally and internationally renowned individual in Dr Barbara Carby and are indeed grateful for the contribution she has made,” said Deputy Chief Secretary and Chief Officer of Internal and External Affairs, Donovan Ebanks.

Frederick has gained extensive experience over the past few years, including an attachment with the Florida State Department of Emergency Management. Ebanks said he is confident that Frederick’s appointment is in Cayman’s best interests.

“In the past few years he has proven himself an excellent emergency manager. He performed especially well during the relief and recovery efforts in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman following Hurricane Paloma. I am delighted to be able to appoint him as the next Director,” Ebanks added.

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Recession… what recession?

| 09/06/2009 | 35 Comments

So far, so good, eh? There’s little evidence here in Cayman of the severe recession up north, though there is bound to be worse to come for us. We are only 50,000 people; there are 6000 communities of this size in the US, and all 6000 aren’t suffering equally.

There are pockets of prosperity like ours.

It’s handy for us that we can watch American TV. Not only can we follow what’s happening up there – all those job losses and foreclosures and repossessions – but we can also catch some of the advice on what to do to minimize the effect of hard times on our personal lives. That’s just as well, because nobody here is giving us any free advice.

We can buy advice, but it’s very expensive. Even just a few hours can cost a thousand dollars or so, and for individuals or small businesses that’s not affordable.

Large and medium-sized companies have full-time accountants or other financial types on their staffs. Maybe they have outside consultants as well; or at least their bankers are on hand for them. Whoever the companies go to, they can afford to pay whatever it takes. And they get good value.

But who can small companies turn to, or individuals? They have just as much need for professional help as large ones. Small companies are always the first to go to the wall, during recessions, everywhere in the world. We had better prepare ourselves for that to happen here, too.

The Chamber of Commerce used to care about this sort of thing, a while back. It is best placed to get something going now. If its Councilors would read their formal terms of reference, they would see that they are actually obliged to help out.

Free advice

They could start up a non-profit “Citizens Advice Bureau” (CAB) where individuals could go for free or low-cost advice. Almost every town in England has one of those, and they are extraordinarily useful, especially during hard economic times.

Over there, local governments often fund the offices. Our government could do that – with the money they budget for First Class junkets overseas, why not? Is it too much to hope that our new Cabinet will spend the money on useful projects, instead of indulging in ventures of vanity?

Ah well, it’s a sad fact of life that pretty much all government projects end up as either vanity projects or empire-building exercises. A private-sector CAB ought to be much more efficient and productive. Let’s hope we can get one.

The Merchants Association is defunct, but it could be revived quickly if the will existed. What value do merchants place on the solvency of small businesses, and the spending ability of customers. If the government (MLAs and Civil Servants) won’t come to the party, or the Chamber and Merchants Association, who else is there?

Well, there is one unappreciated source of talent that has great potential. Grand Cayman is home to some hundreds of individuals with financial knowledge and experience that might well be made available to those who need it. Someare Caymanians, some are Status-holders, most are expat transients on Work Permits, and some are rich retirees.

Most would probably be willing to help, if asked politely. And, on the premise that nobody truly values advice that’s free, most would want to be paid something for their time.

It would be worth paying fifty or a hundred bucks an hour to improve one’s business and money-management skills. Unfortunately, the indentured-labour system doesn’t allow expats to do it without a Caymanian “front man”. That obstacle may be all that stands between a great many native Caymanian small businesses and survival, in the coming recession.

Change the Law

Many individuals are at risk, too, who under-estimate the danger that may soon face them in the form of foreclosed mortgages, called-in car loans and credit-card debts. The key question is, would Caymanians be willing to change the indentured-labour system in any circumstances? It was suspended after Ivan, very successfully. Unfortunately the Immigration authorities of the time betrayed many of the expats who helped the rebuilding, and rolled them over as soon as the emergency ended. The stench of that betrayal still lingers in expat memories. They will insist on fair dealings, next time around.

So until the Immigration Law is changed, those in need of advice will have to limit themselves to watching relevant American TV programs and trying to pick up ideas from there. In their spare time they might like to lobby their MLAs to change the Law to allow easy access to basic financial advice from people on Work Permits. The addition of twenty words in the Law is all it would take. That could be done and dusted in a week, if the will were there.

Work Permit expats willing to help Caymanians from going broke when things get really tight, would be best not to do any favours before the Law changes. Even giving free advice is dangerous, if a Caymanian could have charged money for it. The marl road is littered with stories of the deportation of do-gooders. Be very careful.

Much depends on our new Cabinet. Will its members be smarter than the outgoing one – smart enough and bold enough to take action before disaster hits? We must hope.

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Student poster to feature at earthquake conference

| 09/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Budding artists from the New Horizons High School have won the Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI) earthquake awareness poster competition. Year 8 students Josh Caballero, Roshaine Anderson and Rayshawn Conner will share a $400 prize sponsored by Cayman Imports. HMCI’s Deputy Director of Preparedness Omar Afflick said their work was great. “It is clear they put in a lot of effort.”  HMCI now plans to display the posters at a major earthquake conference which takes place in Martinique in the latter part of June.

“Earthquakes weren’t really considered much of a threat in the Cayman Islands until December 14, 2004, when the people of the Cayman Islands were shaken by a  6.8 magnitude quake that occurred 20 miles to the South of Grand Cayman,” Afflick added.

The recent earthquake off the Island of Roatan on 28 May focused national attention once again on the threat with a tsunami warning being issued for Belize, Honduras and Guatemala.

For some time now, HMCI has been taking the earthquake awareness programme into schools and businesses across the Cayman Islands and the Agency has also been conducting earthquake drills.

“It is important to stay calm when you feel earthquake tremors. Stay away from windows and other glass objects and resist the temptation to run for the door,” Afflick explained. “Current best practice indicates you should ‘duck, cover and hold on. Basically you are trying to protect your head and body from falling objects. To do this you should try to get under a sturdy piece of furniture, such as a desk and hold on so the furniture doesn’t vibrate away from you and expose your head during the tremors. If you can’t duck under a piece of furniture, then try to get into an area such as a corner of the building or a door jam and brace yourself. These areas tend to be stronger.  If you are out in the open then try to cover your head with your arms.”

Afflick pointed out that once the tremors subside calmly leave the building and head for an open area away from buildings, utility poles and tree. “Aftershocks can occur after the main event, and although a building may still be standing it could have been significantly weakened, so it best to assemble somewhere where it is unlikely anything can fall on top of you,” he said adding that earthquakes can be associated with fires as well so if anyone detects the odour of gas they should remove themselves from the area and remember do not turn on lights or strike matches.

“Also, if you smell gas it is important to report this to parents or the authorities. If power lines are down stay clear and assume they are still live. It is recommended you wait until a structural expert has had an opportunity to check the building and declare it safe before going back inside,” Affleck said. 

Preparing for hazards in advance has been shown to significantly reduce loss of life and residents are urged to secure items like book shelves and television cabinets to the walls to minimize the risk of toppling when an earthquake occurs. “These heavy items can cause significant injury, especially to a young child and putting up brackets and securing the items makes good sense. It is quick and it is not a costly exercise,” Affleck advised.

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Gay penguin couple adopts chick in German zoo

| 09/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(Discover): When a heterosexual Humboldt penguin couple rejected their unhatched egg this spring, zookeepers at Germany’s Bremerhaven Zoo found a happy home for the abandoned egg in the nest of gay penguin pair, Z and Vielpunkt. “Another couple threw the egg out of their batch,” the zoo’s vet said in a statement. “We picked it up and put it in the nest of the gay penguins.” The couple then incubated the egg for more than a month before hatching a healthy chick that is now about four weeks old. Z and Vielpunkt have been caring for the chick just as a heterosexual penguin couple would, say animal experts.

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Passengers shaken up on two scary flights

| 09/06/2009 | 8 Comments

(CNS): Passengers on a flight from Grand Cayman to London at the end of May were shaken up on the first leg of the journey to Nassau, Bahamas, when the British Airways jet ran into an electrical storm. And just a few days later, a Cayman Airways Boeing 737-300 from Miami, FL, en route to Grand Cayman last week was forced to make a rapid descent when the primary cabin pressure controller suffered a malfunction about halfway into the flight. No one was harmed on either flight.

On Friday 29 May Flight BA252 Cayman to London (via Nassau) was, according to British Airways, diverted to Miami due to bad weather. “We apologize to customers for the disruption to their journeys. Thunderstorms can cause delays and disruption around airports since aircraft are required to fly around them,” a spokesperson said via email. “The aircraft refuelled before completing the journey to Nassau. Safety is our number one priority and we took the decision to divert as a precaution. “

However, one passenger recalled the journey as terrifying. Julie Price said that when the evening flight left Grand Cayman the sun was shining. “When we got closer to Nassau we were caught in a powerful storm; there were lightning bolts going off outside the plane and it was raining extremely heavily and the wind was very powerful. It was too strong a storm to enable the plane to fly through it,” she recalled.

 “I have never been so terrified in my life, the plane was jolting up and down and was extremely rocky, at one point it felt like the plane plummeted downwards and the force of the drop made everyone get thrown out of their seats." However, passengers were kept from falling by their seatbelts.

"Some passengers were crying and a few even screamed, personally I was absolutely terrified, I didn’t cry but had a slight panic attack (pains in my chest and finding it hard to breathe). In the end we had to make an emergency landing in Miami,” she said.

Price had no complaints about the captain, however. “Once the plane had landed the captain walked around the aircraft and was very nice – he tried to calm people down and reassure them. He said that planes are built like tanks and are extremely strong and would hold up to a lot; he also said that 99 per cent of the time a flight is smooth and our type of journey was very rare.” The captain told the passengers that pilots go through vigorous training, such as simulators, and that his training had been extremely useful in flying through the storm.

“He promised us that we would not fly back to Nassau until it had been confirmed that the weather was better. All the passengers were extremely shaken (although some of the men seemed to enjoy the experience, go figure!).” When Price told him how frightened she had been when the plane appeared to drop, he said that if this story was in the news it would say that a plane plummeted, when in reality, he said, “We only fell fifty feet or so, which isn’t a lot considering the height we are in the air.”

Price went on, “We had to wait quite a while before being told we were flying back to Nassau, when we got there it was still raining but the bad storm had gone so the ride was only a little bumpy. The rest of the flight to London was fine.” However, she said, “To top it all, when the plane landed in Nassau and the cabin crew changed over, the new airhostess merrily walked along the length of the aircraft and opened the overhead cupboards, she opened the one above me and promptly dropped a heavy bag on my head. As a result I’ve got a really sore neck and shoulders.”

Price, a former resident of Grand Cayman, who was visiting friends said, “That flight was the worst one I have ever taken in my life and not an experience I wish to repeat. Our captain assured us our flight was nothing to worry about and was completely safe. I believe him, but obviously I am not used to flight experiences like that and it has made me extremely nervous about flying every again.”

A few days later, a Cayman Airways flight was forced to descend due to pressure problem. According to local reports from passengers and a report on the Aviation Herald website, a Cayman Airways Boeing 737-300 from Miami, FL, en route to Grand Cayman last week was forced to make a rapid descent when the primary cabin pressure controller suffered a malfunction about halfway into the flight.

According to the website report the crew decided to descend to 10,000 feet and continued to Grand Cayman, where the airplane landed safely about 40 minutes later. One passenger who was on the 3 June KX 107 flight told CNS that it felt like an emergency descent as the plane went down so fast but the airline told Aviation Herald, a website which tracks incidents an aviation news around the world, that it was a normal descent as result of the anomaly. The passenger stated that the oxygen masks did not come down because the captain told them he was going to descend quickly to a level where they would be safe without them. CNS has now contacted CAL for a statement regarding what happened on the flight and is awaiting a response.

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Miller: “I can sit on board”

| 09/06/2009 | 34 Comments

(CNS): In the wake of criticisms by Pastor Al Ebanks, the current chair of the Health Services Authority Board, that Ezzard Miller cannot sit on it as it conflicts with legislation, the newly elected member for North Side has said there is no legislation to stop him and he is considerably more qualified to do so than the pastor. Miller stated that the new Health Authority Law passed by the PPM in 2009 clearly states that only public officials employed by the ministry or the HSA are barred from the board and the Constitution does not define an MLA as a public official.

Speaking on this morning’s edition of Crosstalk on Rooster, Miller said that there was nothing in the law to prevent him from sitting on the board. “There are only two categories of persons not allowed to sit on the board according to the new law,” he said, explaining that it was employees of the Health Ministry or the HSA, and the Constitution does not consider MLAs to be public officials.

Miller said that the law was based on recommendations he had made to the ministry in 2007 to bring relevant experience of management to the board. 

He also referred to the recommendations made by Sir Richard Tucker in the wake of the Charles Clifford enquiry, which the governor had reportedly adopted, that politicians should not sit on boards. However, Miller said there is nothing in any law that enshrines this.

“If it was adopted as policy in the last Cabinet that MLAs can sit on boards, it certainly has not been implemented in the law,” Miller said. “In short, there is no conflict that I can find in law that
prevents me from sitting on the board."

Miller also said he was far more qualified than Pastor Al for the role. “When it comes to knowledge of health care, Pastor Al cannot claim to have as much experience as me,” he added

The former Health Minister told Rooster listeners that Pastor Al’s accusation of ‘cross breeding’, as he had called it, was a bit much given that the board currently had numerous members who were members of the hospital staff. He said that Pastor Al also sat as chair on the board of CINICO, the HSA’s biggest client, which he said offered an opportunity for the two boards to cover each other.   

Miller, however, admitted that he had not been formally requested to sit yet and said he was not advocating that he was only person who could chair the board. But given that the new government had asked him to help with the Health Ministry because of his experience, he said the only way he could do that would be as chair of the HSA.

He said the important thing was to improve the situation at the HSA. “I know from recent experience that not everything that could be done is being done at present to address the problems in the HSA,” he added.

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Viagra conman jailed

| 09/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(Manchester Evening News): A MAN who became a millionaire by illegally selling Viagra-type drugs on the internet has been jailed for two years. Martin Simon Hickman, 49, from Ashton under Lyne, made £3.4m profit in four years through several websites, including one in Germany, by cashing in on the booming online trade in prescription drugs. It also emerged that Hickman had channelled the money through accounts in Malta, the Cayman Islands, the Isle of Man and local banks in Ashton under Lyne and Lees in Oldham.

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Name change riles pirates

| 09/06/2009 | 50 Comments

(CNS): After almost three decades of celebrating the Pirates Week Festival, the Seattle Seafair Pirates told CNS that they are very disappointed over the name change. “The whole idea of Pirates Week was to bring the tourist to Cayman in the down season, and it worked,” said Mark Jensen a spokesperson for the service club which has helped to boost Pirates week over the years. CITA also noted that its members have some concerns about how the change could affect bookings but the main sponsor Digicel has said it will continue to support the festival whatever it is called.

In the wake of the announcement by Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush that Pirates Week will now be called the ‘Cultural Festival’, there has been a considerable amount of speculation about what that will mean for tourism figures, whether the actual events will change and when it will take effect.  The Seattle Seafair Pirates have been instrumental in promoting the Pirates Week Festival overseas and attracting huge numbers of visitors to the island during what is considered the quietest part of the season.

“Changing the name will have a detrimental impact even if the events remain the same,” Jensen told CNS. “The success of Pirates Week is unquestionable and we cannot understand why it would be changed when it’s working. Over the years the numbers have increased for Pirates Week to the point where you can’t get a hotel room now during that week, which is exactly what it was meant to do. I am interested to understand what the government is trying to accomplish here. The festival was designed to attract tourists and that is what it did. Excuse the pun but the name is a hook which attracts visitors.”

Jensen, who is himself an event planner by trade, noted that taking away the name would be a serious marketing mistake. He said that the fun pirate theme, which his organisation uses, attracts positive attention not negative, and has nothing to do with the terrorists that some people now refer to as pirates operating off the coast of East Africa.

“I can understand that people are feeling uncomfortable about the issue relating to terrorists, but this has nothing to do with that,” he said, explaining that as a service club the Seafair Pirates are an organisation that raises a lot of money for good causes because they are able to attract attention. He said that was illustrated by how quickly the club was able to send $50,000 to Cayman Brac last year in the wake of Paloma.  “We can raise money and get things done because we attract attention,” added Jenson.

The Cayman Islands Tourism Association noted that its members have also communicated their concern over the loss of the “Pirates Week" name because it has gained momentum with visitors over the years and gives a real boost to business during a slow time — particularly the restaurants and bars.

Trina Christian said that CITA members would certainly be interested in engaging in the discussion that may result. She said it was important to consider that while the "promotion" of pirates has been up for discussion for many years, the concern that has now arisen with merging "pirates" into a new name change, such as Cultural Heritage Week, is that it may give further association to pirates and local heritage which is not the outcome people were looking for. “We look forward to being able to discuss this topic with the new minister so that any changes or enhancements can be coordinated to achieve successful results,” Christian stated on behalf of the members.

Digicel told CNS on Monday, 8 June, that it would continue its support of the annual festival regardless. “Digicel has been a proud sponsor of the festival for the last 3 years, as part of our efforts to promote Caymanian Heritage and culture,” said Victor Corcoran, CEO Digicel Cayman. “The title of the festival, whilst relevant to the program, remains under the management of the organizing committee.  Digicel has embraced this national celebration and will continue to do so through its support of the decision by the Cayman Islands Cultural Festival committee.”

Although the Pirates Week Committee and the Tourism Attraction Board said they did not want to comment on the announcement or how it would impact this year’s celebrations, the website for Pirates Week 2009 is already live. The 32nd festival is set to take place between 12-22 November and most of the events are already listed and scheduled under the Pirates Week Festival handle.

Despite the fact that the pirate association has long made many people in Cayman uncomfortable, historians say that there is little doubt that Cayman, like most of the islands in the West Indies, was certainly a popular spot for the sea robbers of the past. While some of the more fanciful stories of the most infamous pirates may not be historically accurate, Cayman’s maritime history certainly records the islands’ close association with pirates.

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