Archive for June 29th, 2010

US bank admits financing Mexican drug gangs

| 29/06/2010 | 0 Comments

(Bloomberg): Just before sunset on April 10, 2006, a DC-9 jet landed at the international airport in the port city of Ciudad del Carmen, 500 miles east of Mexico City. As soldiers on the ground approached the plane, the crew tried to shoo them away, saying there was a dangerous oil leak. So the troops grew suspicious and searched the jet. They found 128 black suitcases, packed with 5.7 tons of cocaine, valued at $100 million. The stash was supposed to have been delivered from Caracas to drug traffickers in Toluca. The smugglers had bought the DC-9 with laundered funds they transferred through two of the biggest banks in the US: Wachovia Corp. and Bank of America Corp. 

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Mac defends CAL payout

| 29/06/2010 | 38 Comments

(CNS): McKeeva Bush hit back at public criticisms regarding Cayman Airways funding on Friday, when he said that the airline had been running at an annual $20 million loss under the previous administration. The premier said under the last government CAL was underfunded and crippled by financial challenges which it had ignored. The new board has made a commitment to turning the company around and is facing the difficulties in an open and transparent manner, he added. After so many years of funding short falls under the PPM, the new management planned to get the airline back on a sound footing and therefore needed the right level of funding Bush told the Legislative Assembly.

Because of what he said were misleading, biased and uninformed opinions, Bush made a statement to the House. He wanted the public to fully understand what the finance committee had approved for the airline the premier explained.
“I find it most disappointing that such important and positive news for our national flag carrier is being dragged through the dirt by the very naysayers who benefit one way or another from the airline’s commitment to these islands,” he told his parliamentary colleagues.
The government and the airline’s current board had inherited the financial challenges crippling the airline which he said had been ignored for too long.
“The current Board and Management have had the courage to set aside the politics that have plagued the airline for too many years,” the premier said. “For much of the latter half of 2009, the board and management worked on indentifying and addressing the various financial matters and concerns. By the start of 2010, the fundamental financial challenges were identified and a plan to address these was formulated.”
Bush said the funding approved was as a result of this action plan. While people were critical and trying tomislead the public, he said, over the last 3 financial years 2007, 2008, 2009 the airline experienced an average operating loss of approximately CI$19.6 million each year, but the previous government only provided annual funding of CI$13.7 million. During this time the premier explained that non-bank debt had continued to grow because of the underfunding and the principal loan payments could no longer be ignored.
“If the previous administration had funded the airline adequately, they would have been spending approximately CI$22.6 million annually,” he added. “Pretending a problem does not exist, does not make it go away.”
This government had made funding decisions which had been approved by Finance Committee, Bush noted, that he said more accurately matched the needs for the routes Cayman Airways is required to operate. The CI$15 million operating cash was going on interest related to debt, payments for agreed purchased strategic airlift services, including tourism routes and Sister-Islands services and to support the airline’s core airlift operations. The Extra $5.1million, the premier said, was to address the principal portion of the airline’s debt related to historical unfunded losses which amounted to about CI$51 million.
“To formally address this deficiency and the related debt, Finance Committee approved an equity injection of CI$5.1 million into Cayman Airways for fiscal year 2010/1,” Bush stated. “Over the next 10 years, this annual injection is expected to fully address the government’s negative shareholder equity in the airline.”
The premier went on to justify the $20.1million which the airline has received in this year’s ‘bare bones’ budget as he said Cayman Airways provides the Cayman Islands with unique advantages.
“Cayman Airways ensures a competitive fare structure and prevents foreign carrier monopolies while also preventing other airlines from dictating the country’s air service based on their priorities, which may not always be in the best interest of the Cayman Islands,” he said. “Cayman Airways also allows a unique nimbleness in responding to market changes and plays a key role in developing new markets for the local tourism industry with non-stop service.”
He pointed to CAL’s role as an essential air bridge, providing affordable fares between Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands. For six months of each year, it provided peace of mind to visitors and residents with guaranteed provision of pre- and post-disaster relief and the capacity for evacuations, the premier added.
Bush talked about the pride in knowing that Cayman has “this tremendous asset” and everyone should show patriotism and support by choosing CAL when the travelled.
“As Caymanians and residents alike, we all have a part to play in the airline’s success.  During these difficult economic times, it is more important than ever before for Cayman Airways to be on a solid financial base to better support our tourism industry, which we must not forget is one of only two pillars of our economy,” the premier stated
By giving the airline what he said was the correct level of output payments and addressing the debt related to historical unfunded operations Cayman Airways was now able to effectively operate as the “strategic engine for tourism and economic development, providing the country with an optimized return on its investment,” he added.

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Unauthorized scrap yard in GT

| 29/06/2010 | 27 Comments

(CNS): During a Finance Committee discussion on Tuesday 22 June, Arden McLean, the East End representative, questioned public health officers on what appears to be an unauthorized vehicle scrap yard. In addition to the illegal construction of an office along Shedden Road, McLean had concerns that the area could be a public hazard. McLean stated that the scrap yard could be overrun with rodents and other public nuisances. Another issue he brought up relating to the environmental health issues was that, not only could there be an infestation, but since the vehicles are stacked upon each other in several piles, an accident resulting in a car falling and injuring someone may occur.

“I have received reports that across from Mango Tree there are hundreds of vehicles stacked up there,” said McLean.

Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly responded to the subject by advising him to mention the situation to the police commissioner since the matter is related to derelict vehicles, which she indicated was more likely to be a police matter than public works.

The opposition party member spoke with CNS and told us that more than just the police and public health services could be involved. The planning department and immigration services could be involved because the people running the scrap yard may not have a permit or business licence. The construction behind all the junk may not have been approved by planning.

Director of the Department of Environmental Health Roydell Carter said that the problem of the derelict vehicles could be down to weaknesses in the Environmental Health Law.

CNS went out to the location of the scrap yard on Shedden Rd by the Mango Tree restaurant. We spoke with customers about buying parts and found that most clients thought it was convenient but they too raised questions about its legality and safety.

Ahleigh Hydes is a 15-year-old worklink student from John Gray High School.

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Cable firm vows no more price hikes this year

| 29/06/2010 | 15 Comments

(CNS): With utility CUC bills poised to increase by 5.5% and expectations that other goods and services will go up as a result of the fuel duty increase, the CEO of WestStar TV, Rod Hansen, has promised no more hikes for cable TV. WestStar is also reducing the rates of four of the premiere packages by 10 percent. “We understand that times are tough – everyone’s expenses have gone up, and will continue to do so with the proposed increase on fuel duty,” Hansen said. 

“Our expenses have increased dramatically as businesses are paying more fees to government,” he said. However, the WestStar boss said this would not be passed on to cable operator’s customers. “We have not raised rates for non-strata residential customers in over four years,” Hansen noted. In the last year WestStar has introduced new services such as HDTV and DVR, and added cable packages, the firm stated, to meet the needs of customers with less disposable income.
“We now have 16 HD channels and are working on acquiring more channels in both HD and SD,” he said, adding that with Digital Starter customers can get digital cable starting at just $39 per month.
Additionally, WestStar is reducing the rates of four of the premiere packages by 10 per cent. Subscribers to Family and Variety, Sports and Info, Movie Plus, or Alternative Language will see a 10 percent decrease effective 1 July. Subscribers to Movie Plus, for example, will see the monthly fee go from $20 to $18.
“We have been a part of this community for over 17 years, and have grown from a small operation offering 12 analogue channels, to fully digital service with over 100 channels – we are committed to the growth, development and success of this community,” Hansen added.

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Shake-up underway at DER

| 29/06/2010 | 53 Comments

(CNS): The minister with responsibility for labour has accused his predecessor of leaving the Department of Employment Relations (DER) in an “absolute mess”. Announcing a shake-up of the agency that deals with employment, Rolston Anglin said the previous minster had failed miserably when it came to labour matters. The minister said the DER would now be split into two departments. The new Department of Labour and Pensions will incorporate the National Pensions Office and deal directly with all disputes over employment and pension issues. The Human Capital Development Agency, which will see the DER’s job and statistics unit merge with other relevant entities, will deal with employment.

Making his announcement in the Legislative Assembly on Monday (28 June), Anglin said that the department was on the “verge of collapse” and in a “state of anarchy” when he took up office as a result of a lack of uniform management systems and major staff problems. The minister said staff had been struggling to make it through the day without a major incident and there were complaints about the use of foul language, unprofessional, unethical and immoral behaviour from inside and outside the department.
The image of the department, Anglin said, has been severely damaged and he planned to begin a public relations campaign to improve public confidence and spread the messages about the changes that have been implemented and the pending introduction of legislative, management and other changes.    
He pointed to a need to re-train staff and address the skills gap at the department, as well as expand the use of technology and build relationships between the department and immigration, the Chamber of Commerce, the Society for Human Resource Professionals and other relevant organisations.
Currently the department has over 900 registered unemployed Caymanians and is dealing with over 1,000 labour disputes. Anglin said that some staff at the DER had recently been recertified to conduct Occupational Safety and Health training. He explained this is a crucial service provided by the department, especially to the construction industry, which had fallen away because DER Staff had not kept up their certification.
He said that following the changes people would soon begin to see improvements in services from the department and “sharp rises in the long term prospects” of Caymanians. “I am confident that with the combined approach of the creation of the Department of Labour and Pensions and the Human Capital Development Agency, the installation of proper management systems … the country will see marked improvements in the delivery of labour related services,” Anglin told the Legislative Assembly.
Having emphasised the problems regarding staff, Anglin confirmed that the current director was still on “required leave” as the investigations into the complaints against him from some staff members continued. He said the investigation process had been thorough and robust and the director had been given every opportunity to take part. Anglin said the process had to be handled carefully, but he expected it to be finalised soon when he would update the Legislative Assembly.
During his statement to the Legislative Assembly, Anglin said that the former minister (Alden McLaughlin) had neglected the staff problems at the department, who reported little to no interaction from the previous minister. “The PPM administration cannot point to one single labour initiative in their four years in office,” Anglin stated. “What they can rightfully claim is the hiring of the current director and that the department plummeted to an all time low.”
Lonny Tibbetts was suspended from his post as director of the DER in February amid allegations of a paralysis between management and staff and reported complaints. Historical problems in the department’s complaints division had allegedly caused the serious personnel disputes between management and staff.

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Boundary review recommends new district

| 29/06/2010 | 17 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman Island Headline News(CNS): The growing population of George Town would give voters a powerful political advantage if the country maintains its current six districts, the 2010 electoral boundary commission has found. It has recommended the creation of a seventh electoral district for Grand Cayman on the edge of the capital called Prospect-Spotts, which could take up the new members as set out in Cayman’s new Constitution. The commission, which was tasked with examining how the size of the country’s parliament could be increased by three seats, has looked at three possible scenarios based on its research and the islands’ changing demographics.

Following more than two months of consultation and review, the three member commission fell short of making a specific recommendation on single member constituencies, although it acknowledged the public seemed to favour the idea of one member one vote. 
If government was to retain the six electoral districts, the commission said, two seats would have to go to George Town and the third new seat to Bodden Town. The new boundaries have to be established before the country’s next general election, which will take place in 2013 when, as stipulated in the Cayman Islands Constitution 2009, the electorate will return 18 members instead of the current 15.
Based on population, the size of constituencies and changing demographics, this would mean George Town would return six members, West Bay remain at four, Bodden Town would increase to four, while Cayman Brac and Little Cayman would keep their two representatives and one member would be returned from both North Side and East End.
However, the commission explained that by retaining the six districts, a George Town voter would have more power to influence the government of the day than any other voter in the country.  In short, the capital’s voters would be able to cast their ballot six times in one election compared to just one vote for East Enders. It would also mean that voters in George Town would be returning a third of the members to the country’s parliament.
“If an electoral district has one third of the elected members of the Legislative Assembly such preponderance of influence in the Assembly might create an imbalance in development in other districts,” the commission’s report said. The commissioners added that all the evidence pointed to the Prospect and Savannah area as the fastest growing and the most logical place to create a new electoral district which would create a better balance of power.
The new district recommended by the commission would include voters from the capital and from Grand Cayman’s fastest growing district of Bodden Town. By merging voters from east of George Town and West of Bodden Town, the new district would represent a sensible and fair distribution of voters that could represent all three of the new seats, redressing voting power.
The commission also pointed out that government could choose the more controversial option of one member, one vote constituencies, which would mean dividing all three islands into 18 new electoral districts. George Town and West Bay would then be divided into four separate constituencies, the new Prospect-Spotts district and Bodden Town would both be broken into three, while North Side and East End would remain as individual single-member constituencies.
Meanwhile, the Sister Islands would be separated into two districts incorporating Cayman Brac West and Little Cayman and Cayman Brac East, a move to which voters in the Sister Islands have said they are fundamentally opposed. Moreover, the commission pointed out that with two constituencies on the Brac and Little Cayman, the voting numbers per constituency would be far smaller in the Sister Islands than any on Grand Cayman.
The Boundary report was laid on the table of the Legislative Assembly by Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks last week and has now become a public document. Ebanks encouraged everyone to read the report and familiarise themselves with the research and recommendations so the public could continue to play its part in the eventual outcome of its future electoral districts and voting system.

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Store removes popular cereals over bad smell

| 29/06/2010 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Following what was described as an uncharacteristic off-flavor and smell coming from the package liner in a number of cereal products Kellogg’s Company has initiated the recall of Corn Pops, Apple Jacks Froot Loops and Honey Smacks. As a result, in its third product pull of the day, Foster’s Food Fair said it has also removed the products from the shelves at all its stores. While the potential for serious health problems is low, some consumers are sensitive to the uncharacteristic off-flavor and smell, the manufactures said. Consumers should not eat the recalled products because of possible temporary symptoms, including nausea and diarrhea.

Consumers who have purchased this product should stop using it immediately and report any adverse reactions to a physician. Foster’s said until it has further correspondence from the manufacture it will not be available and apologized for the inconvenience, pointing out that customer safety was a top priority. The store encouraged all customers who have purchased this product to return the affected product to the Foster’s Food Fair where it was purchased for a full refund.
The following products form part of the recall which has been issued in consultation with the U.S Food and Drug Administration
8.7oz. Kellogg’s Apple Jacks
12.5oz. Kellogg’s Corn Pops
17.2oz. Kellogg’s Corn Pops
9.2oz. Kellogg’s Corn Pops
12.2 oz. Kellogg’s Froot Loops
8.7 oz. Kellogg’s Froot Loops
15.3oz. Kellogg’s Honey Smacks
Please contact Kellogg Consumer Response Center at (888) 801-4163 for further news as more information is available from Kellogg’s Company and the circumstances of this recalled item.

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Thieves make off with boat engines from East End

| 29/06/2010 | 6 Comments

(CNS): Boat owners are being encouraged to be extra vigilant following the theft of two boat engines in separate incidents over the past week. Bodden Town police are appealing for information regarding an engine stolen from John McLean Drive and another from Angel Close, both in East End and warning the public not to buy stolen goods. On the 22 June police said they were informed that a black, red and silver coloured 15HP engine had been stolen from a boat parked at a residence off John McLean Drive. On the following day a 25HP Yamaha engine with a blue cover and a white propeller was stolen from a boat parked at a house in Angel Close.

 “If you are a boat owner then please help us to reduce the chances of your property being stolen,” said Chief Inspector Martin Bodden Jr. “Secure your boats, and the engines, as best you can. If you see anything suspicious, or believe that anyone is paying too much attention to your boat then please contact the police.
The Bodden Town senior officer also urged people to take a note of the serial numbers on their property, take photographs and write down a detailed description. “If your property is stolen then this information could help us in the recovery and identification,” he noted. “I’m also appealing to people in the community to be their neighbour’s keeper; if you see something suspicious in your area please report it to the police.”
He also warned that what appeared to be bargains could land people in jail.
“If someone offers you a boat engine at a price that’s just too good to be true – then stop and think. Taking advantage of that once in a lifetime bargain could result in a hefty prison sentence. Handling stolen goods is an offence contrary to the Penal Code and, if you are found guilty, you could face up to fourteen years in jail,” CI Bodden added.
Anyone with any information about the theft of the engines, or their whereabouts, should contact Bodden Town police station on 947-2220 or Crime Stoppers 800-8477 (TIPS)

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Producers pull spinach in Listeria scare

| 29/06/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): In its second recall notice of the day Foster’s Food Fair said it has pulled a pre-packed spinach product from its shelves as a result of a risk of Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Lancaster Foods, LLC, the producers, have voluntarily recalled its Krisp – Pak Hydro-Cooled Fresh also known as Cello Fresh, Spinach. The recall in consultation with the US Food and Drug Administration was initiated because of a random sample test conducted by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture Food & Drug Protection Division on fresh Spinach that was confirmed positive for Listeria.

LCC said no illnesses have been associated with this possible contamination but it has issued the recall out of an abundance of caution. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headaches, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria M. infection can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail, or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. It can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.
Consumers who have purchased this product with the best enjoyed date by 19 June through 27 June 2010 should stop using it immediately and report any adverse reactions to a doctor.
Foster’s Food Fair said until it received further correspondence from the manufacture on this product it will not be available in any of its stores. “We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause, however the safety of our customers is our top priority. We encourage all customers who have purchased this product to return the affected product to their Foster’s Food Fair IGA of purchase for a full refund,” the store said in a statement.
For further information please contact a Lancaster Representative at (800) 247-8125.

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Nasal spray pulled over shelf life trouble

| 29/06/2010 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Procter and Gamble have initiated a voluntary product recall of its Sinex Nasal Spray as a precautionary step following indications that the product did not meet the expiration dates on the package. As a result local supermarket Foster’s Food Fair IGA said it has proactively pulled the product from the shelves of all of its stores. Consumers who have purchased this product should stop using it immediately and report any adverse reactions to a physician. Procter and Gamble made the recall in consultation with the U.S Food and Drug Administration, to ensure the safety and well being of customers, not as a result of consumer complaints.

Until Foster’s Food Fair IGA has a further correspondence from the manufacture on this affected product, moving forward, it will not be available. “We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause, however the safety of our customers is our top priority,” the store said in a public statement. “We encourage all customers who have purchased this product to return the affected product to their Foster’s Food Fair IGA of purchase for a full refund.
Link to the manufacture’s release: www.fda.gpv/  

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