Archive for January 4th, 2011

Prison board prepares for inspection duty

| 04/01/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The new members of the country’s Prisons Inspection Board (PIB) recently completed two days of intensive training, government officials said. The PIB comprises seven lay members of the community, who are appointed to give an independent perspective on behalf of the public regarding conditions in correctional facilities and the way in which such facilities are achieving their objectives. Six of the members are selected by Cabinet from Cayman’s electoral districts and the chairperson is appointed by the Office of the Deputy Governor. The board’s mission is to ensure that local prison facilities meet required standards for the care and detention of prisoners. Cayman’s PIB has been operational for the past 15 years in accordance with the Prisons Law.

The training enabled the new inspectors to gain an understanding of prison operations, safety and human rights in prisons, as well as of theinternational standards that govern prison inspections worldwide, a government release stated. These standards express the ideal found in Article 10 of the United International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.”

The 2010-2012 Prisons Inspection Board members are Arek Joseph, OBE (Chairman), Rachel Ebanks (West Bay), Peter Van Der Bol (George Town), Caroline Solomon (Bodden Town), Audley Scott (Sister Islands), Linda Connolly (North Side) and McFarlane Conolly (East End). 

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Pets poisoned in North Side

| 04/01/2011 | 71 Comments

(CNS): Dog owners in the district of North Side have started the New Year mourning the loss of their much loved pets after what is believed to be a deliberate poisoning. The Gage family, who live in Old Man Bay, rushed their dogs to the vets when they woke to find them seriously ill two days after Christmas. On arrival at Island Veterinary Services it became apparent that the pets had ingested poison, which both the owners and vets believe was deliberately put out for the animals. It is also understood that another two dogs from the district may have also been killed by ingesting the same food that was deliberately laced with poisons for the pets to consume.

A spokesperson for the veterinary service said she believed the dogs may well have eaten food laced with the acutely toxic weed killer Paraquat among other poisons. Although unable to confirm until the toxicology reports are returned, she said that this dangerous substance, which can only be imported by the Department of Agriculture, was likely to be the cause of the animals’ death.

The weed killer is banned in a number of countries. It was once promoted heavily by the United States for use in Mexico to destroy marijuana plants before it was found that the herbicide was dangerous to people working with the substance.

The Gage family said they believed someone is deliberately poisoning animals in the Cayman Islands. Samantha Gage said that she awoke on 27 December to a strange quiet. She found two of her pets could not move and were writhing in pain and the other animals were struggling just to stand up.

“Why would anyone want to hurt an animal, any animal,” said Gage. “It is beyond me; if someone would deliberately kill a household pet, what would they do to a person? Whoever did this is despicable and a coward.”

The Gages said they had spoken to police who are investigating a number of poisonings on the island but have no suspects and say this crime is particularly odious.

The local Humane Society warned owners to keep a keen eye on their pets and when out walking to keep their dogs on leashes so they can see what, if anything, they might eat during their walks.

“This is not the first incident; several other animals have been reportedly poisoned and we are urging police to find those responsible” said a spokesperson.

Gage has spent several thousand dollars to keep her pets alive but yesterday she and the vet, Dr Brenda Bush, decided the most compassionate option would be to put the dogs down.

If anyone has any information that may assist police they are urged to call Officer Ramsay at 947-2220 or the Humane Society at 949-1461. (Photo below: Top left to right  – Marley and Noodles, bottom left to right – Apple and Teahupoo)

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Number of road collisions real concern says senior cop

| 04/01/2011 | 19 Comments

(CNS): As the RCIPS’ annual holiday road safety campaign –Operation Rotate- came to a close officials have revealed that there were almost 300 smashes in a six week period. One senior police officer said that the number was excessive for such a small country and that action is required to improve road safety standards from all relevant agencies. During the campaign police said despite their warnings they still arrested 37 drunk drivers and 13 others for various driving related offences. They also detected more than 400 speeding offences and issued 333 other traffic tickets. (Photo Dennie WarrenJr)

Aside form the persistent drunk driving the number of road collisions and smashes in the time period has raised serious concerns.

“The number of road collisions during the period is a great concern,” said chief inspector Angelique Howard. “For a country the size of the Cayman Islands 298 collisions in six weeks is a terrible figure and clearly demonstrates the lack of care and attention paid by many people on our roads. The RCIPS intends to work closely with our partner agencies to develop a national road safety strategy – as it’s clear that much more needs to be done by all agencies involved in road safety to address this issue.”

She said overall Operation Rotate was a success especially as 37 drivers who ignored the police warnings have been taken off the roads and will now face court.

“Our high visibility approach worked and seven more drink drivers were taken off the street this year than during last year’s campaign (30 in 2009/2010),” Howard added. “Over 80 more roadblocks were conducted and many more offences were uncovered this year than last.”

Figures reveal that during this year’s campaign the police discovered 102 offences compared to just 34 in the previous years campaign.

“I think it’s clear that as a police service we were determined to make this operation a success and ultimately make the roads of the Cayman Islands safer for the majority of our road users,” the chief inspector said. “Unfortunately, we had one fatality on our roads during the campaign when Michael Edgington was knocked down on West Bay Road in December. Our condolences are with his family and friends. Mr Edgington’s death should have served as a warning to others about the dangers on our roads – however it does not appear that people took heed of those warnings.”

The Festive road safety campaign began on 22 November 2010 and concluded yesterday, Monday 3 January 2011.During the campaign there were:
51 arrests, of these, 37 arrests for DUI
403 speeding offences detected
333 traffic tickets issued for various offences
215 traffic offences reported
24 people found not to be wearing seatbelts
54 production slips issued
286 breath tests conducted
128 road blocks
63 stop and search operations undertaken
298 (two hundred and ninety-eight) road collisions
 

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Doctors want to create fear of fat with graphic ads

| 04/01/2011 | 0 Comments

(The Age): Graphic advertisements showing damaged vital organs or people drinking liquefied body fat should be used to shock people into giving up junk food and sugary soft drinks, health groups have said. The Australian Medical Association says campaigns promoting healthy eating habits and exercise have failed to curb the obesity epidemic and shock tactics are now needed. In a submission to the state government the AMA describes obesity as ” the most pressing public health issue”, and calls for a $25 million advertising blitz to help tackle the crisis. They want a campaign modelled on recent New York City health department ads, which showed a man drinking a beaker full of body fat, and shovelling down 16 sachets of sugar.

Health Minister David Davis said he would consider funding the AMA’s proposal as part of its next budget and it recognised ”the importance of tackling obesity as a significant public health issue”.

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Facebook worth $50billlion

| 04/01/2011 | 0 Comments

(FT.com): Facebook has raised $500m of an anticipated $2bn in new funding from Goldman Sachs and other investors in a deal that values the dominant social network at around $50bn. That valuation implies Facebook is now worth more than Time Warner or Yahoo and almost twice as much as Google at the time of its 2004 initial public offering. It is also almost double the amount indicated by private sales of Facebook stock on secondary markets just five months ago. Goldman has formed a special fund to raise an additional $1.5bn from outside investors, people involved in the deal said. With an estimated 24 per cent stake in the company, the founder 26-year-old Mark Zuckerberg will have a paper fortune of $12bn.

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Environmentalists stop planned GM mozzie trial

| 04/01/2011 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Although Cayman was at the centre of what has become controversial research involving the release of genetically modified mosquitoes in to the wild, a similar trial in Malaysia has now been delayed. The trial which is part of a project to combat dengue fever has been put off in the Asian country following protests from environmentalists. After the success of the trials in Grand Cayman the firm developing the GM mosquitoes was hoping to release the insects in Asia where the dengue virus is present. Some 4,000-6,000 modified male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were scheduled to be released but due to fears that the GM mosquito could fail to prevent dengue and have unintended consequences the government has call off the test.

The GM mosquitoes have been engineered so that their offspring quickly die, curbing the growth of the population in a technique researchers hope could eventually eradicate the mosquito altogether and eliminate the dangerous dengue fever. Although the Aedes species which is responsible for spreading dengue does not carry the virus in Cayman the mosquito is present here hence why the islands were selected for the first part of the trial.

During the Cayman trial millions of the “mutant mozzies” as they have been dubbed were released into the wild in the district of East End. The project was recently described as an act of colonialism by GeneWatch an international NGS. The organisation, which investigates how genetic technologies will impact food, health, agriculture, environment and society, said Oxitec, the company carrying out the trial here in Cayman, had misleadingly claimed the mosquitoes released were sterile. The activists also accused the bio-firm of not carrying out ethical oversight before using Cayman for the trials.

Despite the environmentalists concerns local mosquito boss Bill Petrie the director of the Mosquito Research and Control Unit said the release of genetically modified mosquitoes in Grand Cayman posed no threat to people. He explained that the males don’t live very long so the trans-gene that they possess doesn’t persist in the environment.

The experiment revealed that by August a few months after the first GM insects were released in May the population had fallen by 80 percent, compared with a neighbouring area where no sterile male mosquitoes were released.

With the Cayman trial revealing promising results the ‘mutant mozzie’ was due to be released where the female mosquito is carrying dengue fever in Malaysia.

Oxitec, which is a spin-out company from Oxford University, insists that its GM mosquitoes are environmentally benign and represent the only hope of rolling back the global advance of dengue-infected mosquitoes.

 

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Unskilled expats in gov jobs

| 04/01/2011 | 92 Comments

(CNS): According to information released in response to an FOI request by a member of the public, the government is currently employing more than fifty unskilled foreign workers in various public sector roles. The issue has raised some concerns, especially when hundreds of unskilled Caymanians are currently out of work. The issue was highlighted just before Christmas when hundreds of unemployed locals turned out to try and get work on the government’s short term road clean-up employment project. The independent member of the Legislative Assembly for North Side, Ezzard Miller, has said the issue demonstrates a real disconnect between government and the people that need jobs.

The documents released under the FOI law reveal that at the end of November last year there were 58 unskilled foreign workers on government contracts employed in nine different government departments. With literally hundreds of local people looking for work as a result of the economic recession, Milller says he can’t understand why at least 54 people who are still on government contracts cannot be replaced by the locals that turned up for the road-side cleaning project. (Four of the contracts expired before the end of 2010 and it is not known if they were renewed.)

"This is the reality that is difficult to comprehend, certainly from the 800 applicants for the Christmas work government could find replacements for these 54 workers,” he said. “I have sent several persons to Environment Health looking for jobs without success, yet they have 15 contracts.”

Miller said that the problem is far more than just rhetoric about foreigners taking jobs from Caymanians. He said it represents a major economic problem as well. He explained that across the private sector government is receiving millions of dollars from work permits only to spend those millions on welfare to support its own local people when those unskilled Caymanian workers should be given these kinds of jobs.

“This is why the government receives $40 million in revenue from work permits and spends some 60 million on Social Services, a large portion of which is to support the unemployed and needy. There seems to be a huge disconnect between the government’s ‘unemployability’ and ‘the national interest, the buzz words of 2010,” the veteran politician said.

Getting Caymanians into work is one of government’s stated goals. However, Miller says, unless government leads by example inthe civil service and enforces the immigration laws, Caymanians will be marginalised. He said that at present there is no need for government to be using unskilled imported labour.

The documents reveal that there are five overseas contractors working at the Department of Agriculture, 12 in family services, three in District Administration, 14 in education, 15 at environmental health, two in the Governor’s Office, two at the Mosquito Research and Control Unit, two in the Prison Service and three working in the Department of Youth and Sports.

The jobs include cooks, agricultural workers, farm labourers, bus drivers, cleaners, house keepers, maintenance staff, painters, work crew at the landfill, and solid waste drivers, among others.

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Public finance law to change

| 04/01/2011 | 10 Comments

(CNS): The way public finances are managed is to be changed during 2011, the premier has revealed, as he says it is the requirements of the Public Management and Finance Law which have cause the surge in bureaucracy for government. McKeeva Bush told CNS that many of the stumbling blocks to projects and plans to get the economy going that he has encountered since coming into office are down to the PMFL. He said the law was introduced to make government more open, and even though it was important to be transparent, the law shouldn’t hold up efforts to improve the country’s financial fortunes. The premier said it would be reviewed and changed over the coming months to preserve the principles of transparency but allow things to move ahead more quickly and remove the red tape.

Bush said the country had to encourage development in order to create jobs and stimulate the economy. “But we have areal problem with bureaucracy,” he said, speaking at a brief press conference during the recent regional conference hosted by the Jamaican Building Society at the Ritz Carlton.

Speaking about the differences he encountered coming to office in May 2009 in comparison to his previous time as the country’s head of government, he said the biggest problem was the procurement process and the impact of the PMFL.

The premier pointed to the changes under the law that had created a system that slowed things down. “The trouble was everyone said government had to be more open and we needed to change the laws for the government procurement process but it has created bureaucracy.”

He said elements of the PMFL were just not workable and too costly for a small country and the law had to be revised

“While we want good governance and we will preserve many of the tenets of the law, it has to be made workable,” Bush said, adding that the auditor general was already looking at the PMFL and the procurement process.

Bush came under fire in 2010 and was accused of breaking the law when he overrode a decision made by the Ministry of Finance’s technical team and the Central Tenders Committee for the provision of financing for government’s loan of $155million. At the time Bush said the choice made by the team and the CTC was not good value for money for government. As a result, in a controversial move he negotiated a separate deal with New York based firm, Cohn and Company, but the full details of that loan agreement have not yet been finalised.

Bush has also publicly criticised some of the boards, the overseas government authorities and processes, as well as the 21-day public review period before a law is brought to the Legislative Assembly for debate and passage. Since taking office he has railed against red tape and what he has described as the dragging of feet over government business.

In his recent general report on the state of government finances, Auditor General Alistair Swarbrick also recommended a review of the public management and finance law. His office is also currently examining the government procurement system and how central tendering works.

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Burst pipe slows up morning traffic

| 04/01/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Drivers coming into George Town from the eastern districts on their first morning returning to work after the holidays are likely to hit traffic queues. The Water Authority said it has a broken water main in the Pease Bay area of Bodden Town. Service to customers in the area of Kipling St to Midland Acres has been interrupted and will continue for approximately another 3 hours officials said. As workers try to make repairs drivers are asked to take extra care and obey all road signs.

“The Water Authority Operations crew is working diligently to identify the exact location of the leak and complete the necessary repairs,” the authority said as it it apologized for the inconvenience.
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