Archive for February 2nd, 2010

Officials warn of two infectious diseases

| 02/02/2010 | 8 Comments

Cayman Islands news, Grand Cayman health news(CNS): According the Public Health Department, there has been a substantial increase in the number of local gastroenteritis cases reported in the last month, which has prompted the department to issue an official statement on the situation. And according to a letter from Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler to staff in the Department of Education Services and parents of students, there has also been a confirmed case of hand, foot and mouth disease in a pre-schooler.

Talking about the increase in gastroenteritis, Medical Officer of Health Dr Kiran Kumar said that usually between 15 and 25 cases of the infection are reported to Health Services Authority facilities each week. “However, during the first three weeks in January there have been about 50-70 cases per week. Last week this number has risen to 122,” added Dr Kumar and officials are continuing to monitor the incidences

“Both children and adults are affected, and, based on the patients’ symptoms it appears to be the norovirus that is causing the current outbreak. In addition, in many cases we found that there have been vomiting alone,” Dr Kumar clarified.  Many Caribbean countries are experiencing gastroenteritis outbreaks, and the public doctor said stool samples will be sent to CAREC to identify the virus that is causing the local illnesses.

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and the small and large intestine resulting in diarrhoea and vomiting; abdominal cramps; fever; and dehydration.  It is caused by a variety of viruses or bacteria, with the most common being the norovirus and rotavirus.

“Regardless of which virus is causing gastroenteritis, it is passed in stools, usually for one week. In addition, some viruses live in the respiratory secretions of infected children, and may thus enter the atmosphere. It is therefore important to practice good hygiene, especially when a child passes stools indiscriminately,” he explained. “Also, if disposable diapers are used, take extra care when disposing it. If left in open garbage containers, flies may transfer germs from the stools to food and other articles thereby spreading the disease further.”

In her letter regarding the hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) case, Wahler explained that the condition was not the same as foot and mouth disease in animals and it is a common viral illness in infants and children which causes fever and blister-like eruptions in the mouth and/or a skin rash.  The disease usually begins with a fever, poor appetite, malaise (feeling vaguely unwell), and often with a sore throat.

One or 2 days after fever onset, painful sores usually develop in the mouth on the tongue, gums, and inside of the cheeks. A non-itchy skin rash develops over 1–2 days. HFMD is caused by viruses that belong to the enterovirus genus (group).

Infection is spread from person to person by direct contact with infectious virus. Infectious virus is found in the nose and throat secretions, saliva, blister fluid, and stool of infected persons. The virus is most often spread by persons with unwashed, virus-contaminated hands and by contact with virus-contaminated surfaces. Infected persons are most contagious during the first week of the illness.

Wahler told parents whose children might be infected to seek medical assistance and keep them from school.

To stem the outbreak of diarrhoeal disease, Kumar also advised parents to keep sick children out of schools/nurseries for at least one week after the symptoms began.

In all cases of infectious diseases the public should wash hands oftenl scrubbing for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand cleaner especially after using the toilet, control flies by ensuring sanitary premises and securing garbage.

Drinking water must be safe; use desalinated, bottled or boiled water.

Disinfect cisterns by adding 2½ ounces of bleach for each 1,000 gallons of water in the cistern.

Soiled disposable diapers should be placed in a garbage bag and securely tied. The bag should then be placed into a securely covered container for collection.

Toilets should be disinfected after use by sick persons, so that others will not contract the illness.

Do not share towels, cups, or food with sick persons.

For more information, call the Public Health Department on 244-2632 or 244-2621, or Faith Hospital on 948-2243. For assistance with cisterns, call the Department of Environmental Health on 949-6696 in Grand Cayman or 948-2321 on the Brac.  

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Woman mugged in George Town

| 02/02/2010 | 46 Comments

(CNS): Police said this afternoon that a woman was attacked and robbed by a man wielding a baton as she walked home from O’ Bar on the West Bay Road, at around 10.40 last night. As she walked towards Slate Drive a man approached her from behind with a baton and hit the victim, pushing her to the ground and grabbed her bag. The robber then fled towards Helen Drive. Police said the victim sustained slight injuries in the attack.

The suspect is described as 5 feet 11”, slim build and a dark complexion. He was wearing a dark short sleeved shirt, dark 3/4 pants dark shoes and a shirt over his head. Detective Inspector Andrew Bowden from George Town CID is appealing for witnesses to call 949 4222 with information. Police were unable to confirm any connection with other recent muggings.

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Milestone Walk/Run raises cash for causes

| 02/02/2010 | 0 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman local news, Cayman National, Cayman sports news(CNS): Cayman National raised almost $8000 from the registration fees for a 5K walk/10K run, held on 16 January. Initially, the funds raised from its inaugural Milestone Walk/Run were to be split equally between the Rotaract Blue Open Arms Programme, which supports the disabled within the community, and the Women of Grace Senior Citizen’s programme. However, in light of the recent disaster which struck Haiti, Cayman National decided to split the proceeds to include the local Red Cross in support of relief efforts for the people ofHaiti.

The event, which was the culmination of the organization’s 35th anniversary celebrations and drew over 400 participants, was a tremendous success, Cayman National said in a release. Presentations were made to the three charities each in the amount of CI$2,600.

“We are very grateful for the overwhelming support from the community which in turn has enabled us to make a difference to these worthy causes,” said Cayman National’s Corporate Communications Senior Executive, Claudia Welds. “Cayman National’s commitment to providing support to the community remains strong and we are excited to announce that we are considering making this an annual event to benefit our community,” she added.

Photo above: Milestone event planning committee makes presentations to the three local charities. (L) Seated Marzeta Bodden, Rotaract Blue’s Assistant Director of Community Service (standing in the centre) Jondo Obi, Branch Director of Cayman Islands Red Cross and (R ) seated, Francia Lloyd, Community Liaison, for the Women of Grace.

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Cayman Islands author explores race concept

| 02/02/2010 | 0 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman local news, Guy P. Harrison, Race and Reality(CNS): While accusation of racism continues to appear in a number of comments on CNS in the frequent Caymanian/ex-pat debates, a local author maintains in that the whole concept of using race as a way of categorising humans is a fallacy. In his second published book Race and Reality: What Everyone Should Know About Our Biological Diversity, Guy P. Harrison, drawing on scholarly research, interviews with scientists, and his own extensive travels, sets out to show that human unity is based not on hope and optimism, but on honesty and hard science.

“I believe in the importance of this book because people need to hear the news that biological races are not real,” Harrison said. “Anthropologists – the people who know people best – have been saying this for decades but very few people take university anthropology courses or read anthropology journals. This is a crucial message that needs to reach the public because the concept of race has been horribly destructive in the past and it continues to do great harm today. I believe the best way to confront racism is not simply to preach tolerance, but to teach the reality of our biological diversity.”

“Of course, there is diversity among humans,” Harrison explains, “but nothing justifies the common belief that large numbers of people can be placed into specific and unique categories that have profound gene-based implications for things like intelligence and health, for example.”

According to the author, Race and Reality, published by Prometheus Books (New York), addresses many topics, including: the basic illogical claims and misunderstandings that prop up racial groups; the story of prehistoric human migrations; historic conquests of Europeans over other peoples; and implications of race belief regarding love and sex, health, intelligence, sports, and violence.

Dr Robert Sussman, a leading US anthropologist and Editor Emeritus of American Anthropologist, the discipline’s leading journal, says, “In a clear, concise, and very readable manner, Harrison explains why the scientists who study this subject have come to the conclusion that biological races do not exist. He goes on to clarify the many misconceptions surrounding race and athletic ability, racialized medicine, race and IQ, and interracial love, marriage, and parenthood. This is a very important, profound, enjoyable and enlightening book. It should go a long way in helping disprove man’s most dangerous myth.”

“Harrison is a great teacher,” says Dr Cameron M. Smith, a Portland State University anthropologist. “He dismantles the ‘race’ concept, bolt by bolt. Exposing race as a social illusion and political tool, rather than a biological reality. Harrison forces the reader to consider how they think about ‘other folk’. Anthropologists have no use for the race concept, and neither should educated citizens.”

Dr David B. Grusky, professor of Sociology at Stanford University and director of the Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality, believes there is an urgent need today for Harrison’s book. “Do we need a book that reminds usthat the earth revolves around the sun? Probably not, as Copernicus still carries the day. Do we need a book that explains why an apple falls to the ground? Here again Newton seems to have set us nicely straight. But all is different when it comes to race and the false view that races are biologically fixed and naturally occurring. We desperately need a book that sets us no-nonsense straight, and Race and Reality is just that book, a tour de force that conveys the current science on racial classification in a rigorous yet readable way. A book so clearly written, so elegantly crafted, so packed with nuggets that even those who think they know it all about race and racial classification will come away changed.”

Race and Reality is Guy’s second book. His first, 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God, was published in 2008, and achieved a number-one ranking in three categories on Amazon (US), and continues to be popular in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

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CUC sends money and manpower to Haiti

| 02/02/2010 | 8 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman local news, CUC, Haiti relief efforts(CNS): Caribbean Utilities Company (CUC) is joining with Caribbean Electric Utility Services Corporation (CARILEC) to provide financial support for the rebuilding of Haiti. CUC has made the contribution of US$10,000.00 which CARILEC, the umbrella body for 33 regional utilities, has requested from each of its member companies for the Haiti Recovery Fund. CUC President and CEO Richard Hew, who is also a member of the CARILEC board of directors, explains that, while Haiti is not a member of CARILEC, in this time of need, the regional association has decided to make a meaningful contribution to the recovery of the island.

CUC’s employees have also committed $3000.00 from the CUC Children’s Fund to which employees donate monthly. This amount will be matched by the company and presented to the Cayman Islands Red Cross. A collection of supplies has also started within the company and CUC will make that donation once Haiti is ready to receive items such as clothing and toiletries.

A team from CUC may also be selected to join other CARILEC crews and travel to Haiti to assist with the restoration of electricity to the Haitian people when the island starts to rebuild its electricity system, which was significantly damaged by the recent earthquake.

“We at CUC are saddened by the catastrophic event and the ensuing human suffering which has unfolded in the neighboring island of Haiti. We are committed to providing whatever support we can to assist with the rebuilding of the country,” Hew stated.

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Public assets will be sold

| 02/02/2010 | 71 Comments

(CNS): The government will be selling off some assets before 30 June, officials have confirmed. With only five months left to go, the administration is under pressure to raise at least $75 million from selling either a government business or property in order to be compliant with the Public Management and Finance Law and satisfy the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The UK’s approval on the borrowing government needed to address the deficit and get through the 2009/10 financial year was not only dependant on government balancing the books on earnings and spending but also the generation of cash to add to the country’s scarce reserves.  

Although Premier McKeeva Bush has not yet announced any deals that may be on the table to seal any specific asset, officials say Bush is confident that government will meet that obligation and be able to generate the necessary cash. There are a number of assets which have been discussed and Bush has pointed to the sale of the new Government Office Accommodation building, the sewage system, the Water Authority, the Turtle Farm and even the dump as potential sources of cash for the Treasury’s empty coffers.  However, both the opposition and the UK have warned about the dangers of selling government’s more valuable assets.

Aside from actually privatising some government services, such as the Civil Aviation Authority, road construction, garbage collection and computer services, Bush has been pushing the potential sale of government business and property for some time, and again made the announcement at the recent CBO that he was looking for investors to buy something.

“There is vast possibility for you the private sector to come forward now and invest your money in other areas … So what are you waiting on?” he asked the audience of largely private sector representatives.

Although assets such as Boatswain Beach, which are considered by many to be more of a liability  rather than an asset, may be a hard sell, the Water Authority, which is a profitable organisation, and the new government office building would likely generate considerable interest.

However, Kurt Tibbetts, the Leader of the Opposition and the man behind the construction of that particular asset, has said that selling the GOA before it’s complete would mean making a loss on the investment and would defeat the purpose of trying to cut government’s hefty annual office costs.

“That specific project is not only badly needed but it will pay for itself in ten years,” Tibbetts said. “On completion it will be one of, if not the most, energy efficient buildings in the country.  It cannot make sense for the government to dispose of it in any form or fashion.”

According to the memorandum sent to investors purchasing the recent government bond offering, the new building has been valued at around US$126 million, but as the building will be sold before it’s finished, government anticipates that it will not achieve the full value as the price will be based on work completed to date.

In the same document, which was issued at the end of last year, it states that government hopes to generate around US$23.3 million from the sale of the sewage treatment plant and that it also will be selling two fire trucks. However, it states that, at the time of the publication of the offering document, government had not entered into any agreements to sell any of the assets.

“As of the date hereof, no agreements have been entered into for the sale of these assets, and we cannot assure you that we will be able to sell these assets at favourable prices or at all,” the offering memo states.”

Alden McLaughlin also recently warned that selling government’s most profitable enterprises, such as the Water Authority, for short term gain and a quick fix, while holding on to the investments that drain government coffers would not address the government’s long term financial difficulties.

The opposition has persisted with the idea that trying to address the deficit, which was caused not, it says, by the previous administration’s spending, but by the global downturn, was overly ambitious and unrealistic. McLaughlin has said that the UDP government should have at least tried to negotiate with the UK a plan to reduce the deficit over three years and not over one, which has put the country under such pressure to force it into a fire sale.

The UK itself has also warned the government about the dangers of selling off assets. In his letter to the premier last year confirming the UK’s approval for borrowing Chris Bryant, the FCO minister with responsibilities for overseas territories, wrote:  "I would have concerns if CIG put long term sustainability at risk through a rapid depletion of government assets, or through certain types of public private partnerships and I would want to take a close interest in any such proposals."

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UBS could collapse if bank loses license in US

| 02/02/2010 | 0 Comments

Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman business news, offshore banking, USB(CNS): Shares in the Swiss bank UBS fell sharply yesterday following remarks made on Sunday by the country’s justice minister, who had warned that the bank could collapse if talks with the US over the high-profile tax fraud investigation fail. "The actions of UBS in the United States are very problematic. Not just because they are punishable but also because they threaten all of the bank’s activities," said EvelineWidmer-Schlumpf in an interview with a European newspaper. "The Swiss economy and the job market would suffer on a major scale if UBS fails as a result of its licence being revoked in the United States," she told the told Le Matin Dimanche newspaper. (Left: The UBS office on Elgin Avenue)

Switzerland and the US have negotiated an agreement under which UBS would hand over information on some 4,500 account holders to US tax police. But a Swiss court ruling earlier this month put the deal in doubt. If Switzerland fails to give up the names by August, the US is expected to pursue criminal charges against UBS over the bank’slong-running programme to help Americans avoid tax.

A guilty verdict could cause UBS to lose its licence to operate in the US, potentially putting the bank out of business, and many in Switzerland have accused the government of failing to protect UBS.

"We have nothing to blame ourselves for. I don’t think anyone could prove that we acted badly," Widmer-Schlumpf said in the interview.   “We know … the Swiss economy and the job market would suffer on a major scale should UBS fail as a result of its licence being revoked in the United States.” Hans-Rudolf Merz, the Swiss President, has previously warned that UBS’s failure would cost the country’s economy as much as $250 billion.

Last February UBS paid $780 million to settle a civil suit brought by the US, which accused the bank of helping as many as 52,000 Americans to hide money in offshore accounts over several years.

Germany has also added to the pressure, with government officials saying that country will purchase information on accounts if it can do so legally, even if the move puts Berlin on a collision course with Switzerland.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble told a news conference on Monday evening that the government was looking for a way to acquire the information — which the government said was offered by an informant in return for €2.5 million ($3.5 million) — without breaching privacy laws or other statutes and hopes to have a resolution soon. The information includes the account details of some 1,500 Germans allegedly hiding money from German tax authorities in Swiss bank accounts, according to people who have been briefed on the matter.

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Government’s new home stays on track

| 02/02/2010 | 17 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman local news, new Cayman Islands government buildings(CNS): While the government school development projects have been plagued by controversial disputes that have caused their delay, the construction of the government’s own new ‘home’ has stayed out of the media spotlight and remained largely on track. And although the general contractor on the government’s new administration building, MacAlpine, has also had to suffer the consequences of government’s financial difficulties this summer, the  project was never derailed and is set to finish on time and on budget. The $80 million building is expected to save government over $10 million per year in rent and millions in running costs as a result of the eco-friendly design of the office building.

According to reports on News 27, on Monday evening Premier McKeeva Bush confirmed that the project, which commenced under the previous administration by the former leader of government business Kurt Tibbetts, was on target and would be finished, as expected, by January of next year. Bush said his government was doing everything to make sure the project goes ahead.  

The building will replace the current public sector office accommodation, the Glass House, which was due to be condemned and turned into green space, but it was recently given a stay of execution by the current government, which said it would look into refurbishing the old government building.

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Police confirm no arrests on latest fatal shooting

| 02/02/2010 | 10 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman local news, Crime in Cayman, Royal Cayman Islands Police Service(CNS): Investigations continued on Monday into the country’s most recent murder, but police confirmed that no arrests have made in the case. Courtney Spence from Bodden Town was gunned down in the car park of the Progressive Distributors warehouse in Sparky Drive, George Town, late Thursday night, 28 January. CNS has learned that the 32-year-old production manager was the nephew of RCIPS officer Everton Spence. Police have confirmed that they believe Spence was shot by a man who emerged from the shadows and then ran off down Sparky Drive. (Photo courtesy of News 27: Scene of crime officers at Progressive)

Officers involved in the investigation also said they are still looking for witnesses and are asking anyone who was in or around the area to contact them directly with any information they may have, no matter how insignificant, or to call Crimestoppers.

Spence was the first murder of 2010 and police say it has the appearance of a deliberate premeditated attack and are seeking a motive for the shooting.

Police also confirmed there are no further details on the discovery of human remains made on Friday afternoon in a recently cleared area of land adjacent to Bobby Thompson way in George Town. As Cayman does not have a resident forensic archaeologist, police cannot yet say how old the bones are, though they believe they are at least several years old. CNS understands that Doctor Hymer, who will be travelling to Grand Cayman this week to conduct a post-mortem on the body of Courtney Spence, may be able to assist in dating the bones. Police are also continuing their investigations into any links with missing persons and have not indicated any reason to suspect foul play.

Anyone with information can call the murder incident room at George Town police station on 949 -4222 or Crime Stoppers 800-8477 (TIPS). His wife is currently being supported by a family liaison officer from RCIPS.

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Crown sets out key evidence

| 02/02/2010 | 0 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman headline news, court news, Estella Scott-Roberts murder(CNS): Opening the crown’s case against Kirkland Henry and Larry Ricketts on Monday morning, the solicitor general told the court that the prosecution would show that both men entered into a common enterprise to rob and abduct Estella Scott-Roberts on 10 October 2008 and ultimately cause her death. Cheryll Richards QC said the crown had circumstantial evidence which included DNA and statements from the accused, as well as the property of the deceased in their possession. She said that either they both jointly caused her death or one or other was the primary assailant and the other an accessory.

Relating the narrative of the case based on the crown’s evidence, Richards said that on the night of her murder Estella Scott-Roberts had met with friends at Deckers Restaurant on the West Bay Road to celebrate her birthday. She parted from those friends at around 11pm on Friday 10 October and was never again seen by friends or family. Richards pointed to witness testimony from two people who say they saw at least one, and some say two, men of dark complexion in the car park between Deckers and Buckingham Square, where the deceased’s car was parked shortly before she parted from her friends. She related how Scott-Roberts’ damaged shoes were found by landscape workers the following morning near to where her car had been parked.

The crown’s evidence appeared to point to Scott-Roberts being abducted by her assailants from Deckers car park, from where she was then driven to Barkers Beach, where she was raped and murdered. The car, in which her remains were found after her killers had set the vehicle alight, was found around 2 miles away from where the prosecution believe she was assaulted.

Richards said that the police had tracked down Henry and Ricketts through the phone signals from the deceased’s BlackBerry phone, and eventually recovered from Henry other property which had belonged to Scott-Roberts, including a Dell lap top computer. The solicitor general went on to explain how police had then connected Ricketts to the crime through bank video footage and a phone which had belonged to the victim.

She related to the court how searches the morning after Scott-Roberts’ disappearance by friends and family had recovered crucial evidence linking Kirkland Henry through DNA evidence to the rape of Scott-Roberts, to which he has since admitted his guilt. She explained how friends, searching around the Barkers Beach area following the discovery of the deceased’s car in the nearby Shores area of Barkers, had found duct tape with hair stuck to it and birthday confetti which Scott-Roberts had in her bag from her birthday celebrations when she left the restaurant. They also found condom wrappers and a used condom hanging from a tree, which was eventually shown by forensic experts to have the DNA of both the deceased and that of defendant Henry.

Summarising the crown’s evidence against the two men, Richards told the court that Henry, who had admitted his guilt to the crimes of rape, abduction and robbery, even though he had denied the charge of murder, was connected to that murder through the DNA found in the condom, the possession of the deceased’s cell phone and her computer, which contained his finger prints. She said he was connected to the co-defendant Ricketts via cell phone communication before and after the crime, which included pornographic material, as well as statements he made to the police and his evidence which led to the arrest of Ricketts.

The evidence against Ricketts, Richards explained, included his possession of the deceased’s phone and her Cayman National debit card. Although the card had been recovered by the bank’s machines, someone had tried to obtain cash with the card on several occasions in the morning immediately following Scott-Roberts murder. Richards said that a man, who they believe was Ricketts as he was wearing clothes found in Ricketts’ house, is seen on CCTV using the card at an ATM in Elgin Avenue. Richards also told the court that Ricketts’ connection to Henry, who has admitted his involvement in the related crimes, is further evidence of Ricketts’ connection to the murder.

Following the solicitor general’s closing statements, the crown proceeded to present their witnesses and read in a number of statements which are not contested by the defence teams. The first were three statements from Scott-Roberts’ husband, Rayle Roberts, which he had given to the police in the wake of his wife’s disappearance. The crown also read a number of admissions that have been agreed by the defence counsel with the crown.

The first witness to take the stand was Rochelle Smith, a very close friend of the deceased, who had been with her on the night of her birthday celebrations at Deckers and who then joined in the search for Scott-Roberts on the Saturday.  Following the discovery of the deceased’s body in her burnt out car, Smith and others resumed their search on the Sunday in the Barkers area for anything that could tell them what had happened to her.

She revealed how the search party had come across the condoms, the condom wrappers, the duct tape and the confetti by Barkers Beach, which made them realise this could all be connected to their friend’s murder, and as a result they called the police and did not touch or move the evidence.

The crown also called two RCIPS scenes of crime officers who began submitting the various police evidence on which the prosecution’s case is built against the two defendants. Some 27 exhibits were submitted by the scenes of crime officers, who detailed their examination of the rape scene, the location where the car was found, the examination of the car itself and the subsequent searches at each of the defendants’ homes.

The first officer on the scene explained the challenges they faced as a result of the torrential rain that started just as the carwas discovered and the lack of light in the area of the crime scene as daylight faded. She also described the dense natural environment surrounding the two scenes, making it difficult to make a thorough search without cutting tools.

The trial will continue before Chief Justice Anthony Smellie with further scenes of crime evidence on Tuesday morning.

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