Archive for March 31st, 2011

Mass tests identify new unknown local diabetics

| 31/03/2011 | 11 Comments

(CNS): During free nationwide diabetes screening last weekend many people were newly diagnosed as diabetics with critically high blood sugar levels. These people were immediately identified and referred to the Cayman Island’s Emergency Room for further treatment and others visited the screening location’s doctor in HSA’s ER the following day for further treatment. The Rotarians who organised the public nationwide screening said it was gratifying to know that the first health event of its kind had informed people who did not know of their diabetic status and get them help.

Hundreds of children and adults attended the event held at seven locations: Kirk Supermarket; Cost U Less, Hurley’s Supermarket, Foster’s Republix, Foster’s Strand, Foster’s Airport and Foster’s Countryside. Some of the multiple free services that were offered included; blood sugar checks, HbA1C – which gives a 3 month range of one’s blood sugar – height, weight, body mass index (BMI); on site consultations with general practitioners, paediatricians, nutritionists and pharmacists.

This island-wide diabetes screening event was conceived, proposed, intricately planned and implemented by Nurse and Rotarian, Zelta Gayle who is Chair, of Rotary Central’s Diabetes Initiative.

Prior to this, in 2000, she was one of the lead team members who launched the Faith Hospital Diabetes Clinic, for which she wrote the Clinics’ guidelines, created and maintained an electronic database of Cayman Brac’s Diabetics.She had also functioned as Diabetic Clinic Coordinator & Educator until she relocated to Grand Cayman.

In show of his full support of the Rotary Central’s diabetes initiative’s goals which are the early identification of undiagnosed diabetics and also the identification of many uncontrolled diabetics, Mark Scotland the health minister visited one of the seven screening locations, registered had his blood sugar test done and was automatically entered in the free raffle for a chance to win a blood sugar monitor system. Scotland’s Ministry donated CI $1,000, to cover the costs associated with purchasing the HbA1C machines’ cartridges which were used during the community screening. 

Gayle also said another important goal of the event was to sensitize the public about the prevalence of the disease within the Cayman community and what part each person can play in minimizing its occurrence.

Jennifer Ahearn, the Chief Officer in the ministry said diabetes is a very important disease and many people may be unaware that they are borderline or already diabetic. “Screening events like (this) can play an important role in helping people learn their status and hopefully take preventative steps to maintain their health,” she said.


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Wyly brothers lose bid to dismiss SEC fraud suit

| 31/03/2011 | 0 Comments

(Reuters): The billionaire brothers Samuel and Charles Wyly have lost their bid to dismiss a US Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit accusing them of orchestrating a $550 million securities fraud and committing insider trading. US District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan denied motions to dismiss the complaint in its entirety, on Thursday. She said the SEC adequately alleged the Wylys’ liability for fraud, and stated a claim for insider trading against the brothers. Following a six-year probe, the SEC last July accused the Dallas-based brothers of creating a sham web of offshore trusts in the Isle of Man and Cayman Islands to conceal 13 years of stock sales in four companies they founded or where they served as directors.

Scheindlin agreed the SEC adequately pled the concealment of sales in Sterling Software, Michaels Stores Inc, Sterling Commerce Inc and Scottish Annuity & Life Holdings Ltd. The judge also said the SEC may pursue a claim that the Wylys reaped $31.7 million from insider trading on Sterling Software after deciding in late 1999 to sell the company.

"A reasonable investor would almost certainly want to know information related to the Wylys’ planned sale," she wrote.

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UK clamps down on talk-radio hosts in TCI

| 31/03/2011 | 32 Comments

(CNS): According to reports from the Turks and Caicos Islands, Huw Shepheard, the islands’ attorney general, has banned two talk-radio hosts from the government press conferences and has warned other journalists who “behave unprofessionally or associate themselves too closely with illegal activity” that they will also be banned from the official briefings. Robert Halll, who hosts the “Expressions” talk show on the government-run Radio Turks and Caicos (RTC), and Devon Williams, CEO of privately owned Blaze 97.5 FM, were both banned because of their participation in a protest that included a blockade of Airport Road on Providenciales.

Williams, who is also spokesman for Turks and Caicos Islanders United for Justice and Equality (TCIUJE) which planned the blockade, was one of the leaders of the protest and was arrested with several others for obstruction.

Hall covered the event as an RTC journalist, but he also took the microphone during the protest and spoke in support of protesters’ demand for the interim government to set a date for elections. However, he allegedly urged them not to block the main road to the airport but to conduct peaceful demonstrations, according to a blog posted on the Overseas Territories Review.

At a press conference last week the governor, Gordon Wetherell, supported the attorney general’s actions, saying that an ordinance in the case of public broadcasting had been infringed in this case.

Hall hosted a special edition of his show with protest leaders and the program caught the attention of the attorney general, who wrote to the station manager expressing “concern that Mr. Hall had departed from the requirements in the broadcasting ordinance that impartiality is preserved as respects issues of political controversy or current public policy.” He wrote, “I have heard further that the overall coverage of the protest may also have fallen short of the statutory requirement of impartiality.”

The AG said government recognized that TCI’s media have a key role to play in reporting and critically assessing government policies on behalf of the TCI public, and “the government welcomes the full engagement of TCI’s many journalists and their robust questions,” but added that journalists who behave unprofessionally or associate themselves too closely with illegal activity will not be invited to government press conferences.

Hall, whose programme is still on air, said he thought the interim government “would have at least said or wrote to me citing what infractions I may have committed, if indeed I did commit any infraction, and give me an opportunity to respond to them. I’m still waiting. But nevertheless, they have made their decisions. I’m not angry about it.”

The talk show host denied associating with those who illegally blocked the road, pointing out that he encouraged protesters to remove the blockade because of the inconvenience to tourists and the chance of slowing medical emergency responses.

Williams reportedly received a letter directly from Shepheard telling him he was also banned from government press conferences. “The government has decided that, while it is perfectly content to receive other journalists at its press briefings, you will no longer be permitted to attend,” Shepheard told Williams.

Williams said in the wake of the ban that he was profoundly offended by the tone and content of the AG’s letter but his real concern was the danger it signifies and the “rather serious implications which it has for the wider Turks and Caicos Islands in general and this country’s media in particular."

A Commission of Inquiry in early 2009 revealed allegations of corruption in the Turks and Caicos among the then Progressive National Party’s (PNP) government, which plunged the country deep into debt. The elected government and parts of the constitution were suspended, and the governor took over for what was expected to be a short period of direct rule to right the country’s finances and weed out corruption.

But when the government’s financial troubles were found to be worse than expected and criminal and civil investigations into corruption were not complete, the UK cancelled the elections, which would have been held this year, and extended its control indefinitely.

The governor has said the UK hopes to restore local government with elections sometime in 2012. But the Foreign and Commonwealth Office insists that elections won’t happen until the TCI revises and strengthens its constitution, addresses past government mismanagement and gets its finances in order.

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Mac ‘double-dips’ in pension

| 31/03/2011 | 125 Comments

(CNS): Information revealed by the Public Service Pension Board shows that the premier is doubling-dipping by taking his pension entitlement on top of his monthly salary as the country’s leader. McKeeva Bush has served more than 20 years as an elected official and is entitled to a pension based on two thirds of his pay  at the time he opted to draw down on that pension. Bush began taking his in January 2010 when he turned 55 but before his self imposed 10% reduction in his own premier’s pay packet. At the time he was earning over $14,800pcm meaning that Bush could be receiving almost $10,000 in pension payments as well as his regular pay cheque. However, the premier could have opted to take a lump sum as he is entitled to do under the terms of the MLAs’ pension.

According to the formula and rules that govern politicians’ pension entitlements,, those who have a fully vested pension can opt to take an up-front lump sum of up to 20% of the monthly entitlement multiplied by 20 years when they begin taking their pensions. In other words, the premier could have reduced his monthly payments by 20% in exchange for a cash sum of around a half million dollars.

The document released by the PSPB following an FOI request made by CNS last year did not reveal if the premier had taken the lump sum, reducing his monthly payments to under $8,000, but just the date he began drawing down and the years he has served in the country’s parliament.

All former and serving MLAs can take their pensions when they reach the age of 55 provided they have completed one full term in office. The longer the member has served, the more money they can receive — up to a full amount of two thirds of their salaries at the time of opting to take the pension.

A member who has completed one term can take one fifth of the two thirds, two terms two fifths and so on up to a member who has served twenty years, as is the case with the premier, who can then access a fully vested pension.

The request, which asked the PSPB to list the current and former MLAs who were drawing on their pensions and how long they had served in the Legislative Assembly, also shows that Kurt Tibbetts and Anthony Eden, as already publicly acknowledged, are also double-dipping on their pension entitlements, despite not being fully vested.

However, Captain Eugene Ebanks, who passed his 55th birthday and is also entitled to draw on his pension, has not yet opted to do so. Nor has Ezzard Miller, the independent MLA for North Side, who was the first MLA to raise the question on the floor of the Legislative Assembly. Miller said he thought it was “immoral” for serving members to draw a pay check and a pension and termed it “double dipping”, before announcing he intended to bring a motion to stop members from doing it in future.

Tibbetts and Eden, who were both elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1992, began taking their pensions in 2009 after serving four terms and are therefore entitled to four fifths of the two third rate of their respective salaries at the time. This means that Tibbetts will be receiving around $7,600 per month and his PPM colleague Eden about $6,900 on top of their current MLA salaries of approximately $9,000pcm.

The details of the pension payments to politicians past and present was finally released on Wednesday afternoon at around 4pm, five weeks after the information commissioner had ruled that the information was not exempt, as the board had claimed.

Despite not applying for judicial review following the commissioner’s decision, the PSPB held onto the information, as reported by CNS on Tuesday. However, the story appears to have prompted the board to finally release the list, which is posted below. 

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US lawmakers clamp down on double-dipping

| 31/03/2011 | 0 Comments

(Bloomberg): With US unemployment averaging 8.9 percent, so-called double-dipping by tens of thousands of government workers nationwide is drawing increasing scrutiny. Lawmakers from coast to coast are taking steps to curb the practice as states face combined deficits projected at $112 billion and unfunded pension liabilities of as much as $3 trillion. Arkansas banned double-dipping by state workers last month, while bills to curb it are pending before lawmakers in Olympia, Washington, and Trenton, New Jersey. “It just drives people absolutely crazy that some public employees can draw a six-figure salary and still collect a very generous pension,” said Adam Braun, a spokesman for New Jersey Senator Jennifer Beck, a Red Bank Republican.

Beck has backed a bill to limit double dipping in the state, which has almost $54 billion in projected unfunded pension liabilities.

“If we had sensible rules that government employees couldn’t collect a pension until age 65 or receive pension payments of more than $100,000 per year, we’d go a long way toward solving our state fiscal crises,” said economist Dianna Furchtgott-Roth, a Hudson Institute senior fellow in Washington. The nonprofit research group focuses on promoting “global security, prosperity and freedom,” according to its website.


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Deepest undersea smokers found in Cayman trench

| 31/03/2011 | 16 Comments

(Hydro International): Ascientific expedition has discovered the world’s deepest undersea volcanic vents, known as ‘black smokers’, 3.1 miles down in the Cayman Trench. Using a deep -diving vehicle controlled from the Royal Research Ship James Cook, the scientists found slender spires made of copper and iron ores on the seafloor, nearly half a mile deeper than anyone has seen before and erupting water hot enough to melt lead. The expedition to the trough is being run by Drs Doug Connelly, Jon Copley, Bramley Murton, Kate Stansfield and Prof Paul Tyler.Scientists are fascinated by deepsea vents because the scalding water that gushes from them nourishes lush colonies of deep-sea creatures, which has forced scientists to rewrite the rules of biology.

Studying the life-forms that thrive in such unlikely havens is providing insights into patterns of marine life around the world, the possibility of life on other planets, and even how life on Earth began.

"Seeing the world’s deepest black-smoker vents looming out of the darkness was awe-inspiring," says Copley, a marine biologist at the University of Southampton’s School of Ocean and Earth Science (SOES) based at the NOC and leader of the overall research programme.

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George Town bank robbed

| 31/03/2011 | 147 Comments

(CNS): Updated 4:45pm – Police have now confirmed reports of a bank robbery in George Town at the First Caribbean Bank in Plaza Venezia, off North Sound Road, today. Two masked robbers entered the bank armed with handguns at around 11:35 this morning, Thursday 31 March. Officers are now on the hunt for the two men, who threatened staff and customers as they demanded money. The suspects made off from the premises with a sum of cash taken from two customers. Police said no one was injured and no shots were fired in the incident. The suspects left the location on foot headed towards the direction of Jacques Scott. The bank said that  the branch is expected to re-open for business tomorrow. (Photo Dennie WarrenJr)

Police uniformed and armed officers attended the scene in the immediate wake of the report and secured the area. The RCIPS helicopter was deployed to assist in the search for the suspects.

Both suspects were described as dark-skinned males; both were wearing dark-coloured clothing, long pants and long sleeved shirts. One of the suspects was wearing a black knitted mask while the other was wearing a white-t-shirt over his face. One of the suspects is described at 5’11 to 6 feet tall and slim-built, and the other is approximately 5’5 and medium built.

It is also understood that the robbers held a firearm to a security officer’s head as they made their way inside the bank.

Managing Director Retail, Wealth and Small Business for FirstCaribbean, Tom Crawford confirmed that no members of staff were physically injured during the robbery. However, counselling services were called to the branch to assist members of staff who were shaken by the ordeal.

"Naturally, our first consideration is for the safety of our staff and we are thankful that they are all safe and unharmed. We have called in professional counsellors to assist these staff members and we are doing all we can to assist the police with their investigations,” he said, adding his apologies for the need to close the branch on Thursday.

This is the fourth bank to be hit in the last year, and so far none of the bank heists have been solved.

Anyone with information into this incident is asked to contact Detective Sergeant Joseph Wright
or any officer of the George Town CID at 949-4222. The detective is keen to hear from anyone
who was in the area at the relevant time this morning and may have seen the incident or the
suspects fleeing the scene. Anyone with information call the confidential Crime Stoppers number 800-8477 (TIPS).

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Canadians take Cayman volleyball gold

| 31/03/2011 | 0 Comments

(FIVB): Canada’s Richard van Huizen and Josh Binstock defeated Puerto Rican pair Roberto Rodriguez and Christopher Underwood 21-19, 21-14 to take home the men’s gold medal at the Cayman Islands Beach Volleyball Tournament on Sunday. It was a gutsy performance by Van Huizen who battled with cramps in both legs all day and had to play two three-setters before the final. "I struggled in the first set but then I felt 100 per cent in the second," he said. "I controlled what I could control and managed myself physically. "I have had to deal with these issues before and as soon as I arrived today I knew it was going to be a tough day for me with the hot weather," Van Huizen added.

In the women’s field, Brooke Hanson and Lauren Fendrick of USA-1 claimed the title following a straight-set victory (21-13, 21-14) over Martha Revuelta and Xitlali Herrera of Mexico-1.

In the men’s bronze-medal match, Mexico’s Ulises and Lombardo Ontiveros battled hard to overcome Canada’s Martin Reader and Chaim Schalk in three sets (21-16, 15-21, 15-12).The women’s bronze medal went to Canadian duo Heather Bansley and Elizabeth Maloney who beat Puerto Rico’s Yarleen Santiago and Dariam Acevedo 21-18, 21-14.

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Officials to measure Cayman’s chronic disease risk

| 31/03/2011 | 3 Comments

(CNS): A new committee has been formed to spearhead a national risk factor survey which government says will allow health officials to tackle chronic risks. As part of what it said were ongoing efforts to curb chronic disease, the Ministry of Health said the survey will allow health professionals to identify and measure the specific issues that are contributing to the rapid local rise in chronic disease, such as physical inactivity, smoking, poor nutrition and alcohol abuse. The health minister pointed out that in order to address the these diseases which he warned will have a serious long term impact on the economy health officials needed more accurate statistics and information.

"It is predicted that by 2020 – a mere decade from now – heart disease, cancers and diabetes will account for sixty percent of illnesses. Already some six percent of our population has diabetes and twelve percent of residents have been diagnosed with high blood pressure,” said Mark Scotland. “Further, with more than 37 percent of our teenagers classified as being overweight or obese, as a country we undoubtedly face serious health threats. If we fail to reverse such trends, our national health systems will be severely stressed and there will be significant negative economic and social consequences."

He said that one of the first steps in the fight is accessing reliable statistics instead of relying on anecdotal evidence. “With the information gained from sound baseline studies, our health partners can use their limited resources for targeted interventions,” Scotland explained.

The Non-communicable Disease Risk Survey Committee was formed from a cross-section of agencies and includes experts on public health, epidemiology, survey and statistics and clinical issues. The committee will follow the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO)’s Stepwise Approach to Chronic Non-communicable Disease Risk-Factor Surveillance (STEPS) to establish a framework for Cayman’s own survey model.

“Up-to-date information is vital when it comes to preventing and treating disease. As such, the committee’s main objective is to oversee practical and logistical issues relating to the implementation of a local STEPS protocol,” explained Committee Chairperson and Health Services Authority General Practice Coordinator Dr. Anna Matthews.

Other core roles include acting as an advocacy body for chronic disease surveillance, establishing cross-agency partnerships to increase capacity for ongoing chronic disease risk factors surveillance, and assisting in translating the data into policy and programmes.


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Parliamentary speakers to talk shop in Cayman

| 31/03/2011 | 5 Comments

(CNS): Speakers and presiding officers from members of commonwealth countries in the region will be visiting Cayman next week for the 15th Biennial Speakers/Presiding Officers and Clerks Conference. The Conference is a ‘talking shop’ for speakers and other parliamentary officials giving them chance to discuss the issues that affect their individual parliaments and to share solutions and general information. This year’s event is being hosted by the Cayman Islands Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The public is invited to the opening ceremony at the Legislative Assembly Building on Monday.

Mary J Lawrence president of the executive committee of the Cayman Islands branch of the CPA and the country’s own speaker said it was a “distinct honour” to host the conference and said the discussions would be on a wide range of topics related to the continued development of the important roles of speakers/presiding officers and clerks within the regional parliaments.

The ceremony starts at 9am and the conference lasts two days.

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