Archive for May 28th, 2012

Local star gazers stage viewing of rare planetary event

Local star gazers stage viewing of rare planetary event

| 28/05/2012 | 8 Comments

(ii) Venus produces the famous tear drop effect.jpg(CNS): On Tuesday 5 June the planet Venus will transit across the face of the Sun in the late afternoon, an event that happens only once in a lifetime. The second planet from the Sun and Earth’s neighbour won’t make this journey for another 105 years, presenting a unique opportunity to observe a key solar event. In honour of the 21st  anniversary of the Cayman Islands Astronomical Society (CIAS), the public is invited to a special viewing of the event, where there will telescopes fitted with specialist solar filters and solar viewing glasses so people can observe the rare sight without damage to their eyes.

The event will take place on the rooftop of 62 Forum Lane, Camana Bay, from 5 to 7pm where there will also be a small astronomy exhibition. It will take Venus over 6 hours to make its transit across the Sun and it will appear as a ‘dot’ that will cross its surface.

CIAS members intend to take part in a worldwide experiment to time the two points when Venus starts and finishes its journey across the Sun. These two moments in time are not easy to measure experts say; the second moment produces a famous ‘tear drop’ effect, when Venus is at the edge of the Sun’s disk.

Transits of Venus across the Sun were once considered to be of the greatest importance to science and huge efforts were expended trying to record them. After a first attempt to predict the event by Johannes Kepler in 1631, it was first observed eight years later by Jeremiah Horrocks.

For the first time this enabled accurate measurements in astronomical distances to be made, and in particular the distance from the Earth to the Sun. This important ‘yard stick’ is still called the ‘Astronomical Unit’.

Each successive transit attracted world-wide expeditions, including the famous expedition of British explorer James Cook, who was dispatched to Tahiti in 1769 to record the times of this phenomenon. The primary purpose of the expedition was to obtain measurements that could be used to calculate more accurately the distance of Venus from the Sun. If this could be achieved, then the distances of the other planets could be worked out, based on their orbits.

Today, transits are still considered to be important, and recent new techniques will be tested to search for planets in other solar systems.

For residents thinking of observing the Sun from elsewhere, CIAS recommends waiting until close to sunset, when the sun is low on the horizon and safer to observe. Please note: observing the Sun directly (even through a telescope or camera lens) can seriously damage your eyesight – and your camera lens.

Transits of Venus occur in pairs separated by eight years. Each pair is in turn separated by an alternating interval of 105.5 and 121.5 years, making a cycle of 243 years. The last transit of Venus was in June 2004, where modern instruments gave the best views ever and the next transit of Venus will not be seen from Earth until 2117.

For more information, contact or visit Cayman Islands
Astronomical Society.

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Welsh rugby legend headed to Cayman

Welsh rugby legend headed to Cayman

| 28/05/2012 | 3 Comments

Swilliams (259x300).jpg(CRFU): The Cayman Rugby Football Union has confirmed that Shane Williams will be the guest speaker at the Union’s annual Players Dinner to be held at Ristorante Papagallo on 29 June. Williams, who signed off his professional rugby career in style on 27 May 2012 with a late try to steal the Pro12 title from European champions Leinster is rated as one of the best wingers that the world of rugby has ever seen. He featuredin three World Cups for Wales, in 2003, 2007 and 2011. He made his debut for the national side against France at Millennium Stadium, on February 5, 2000, and played his last international match a decade later against Australia, at the Millennium Stadium, on December 3, 2011 where he also scored the final try of the match!

During his career he was named IRB international player in 2008 beating notables such as New Zealand star Dan Carter to the accolade and is the 3rd highest international rugby test try scorer of all time.

Following on from last year’s speaker (another recent retiree), Harry Ellis who was a last minute replacement for former England Captain Phil Vickery, The Cayman Union is excited to host such a notable from the modern Rugby era!

Tables of 10 at the dinner can be reserved by emailing and individual tickets can be purchased over the Cayman Rugby Club bar at a cost of CI$100.00 per head or CI$125.00 for non union members. The dinner features a cocktail reception, 4 course seated dinner and a bottle of wine per person.

Photo: Shane Williams in action for Wales

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Accused teen killer a ‘friend’

Accused teen killer a ‘friend’

| 28/05/2012 | 0 Comments

Asher Mcgraw.jpg(CNS): The East End teenager accused of killing 21-year-old Asher McGraw (left) was his friend, the crown’s key witness told the court Monday during the trial of 18-year-old Chakane Jamelle "CJ" Scott,  who is accused of gunning down McGaw on John McLean drive in September last year. However, the crown has offered no motive on why the teen turned on his friend and its case depends heavily on the eye witness account of Antascio Rankine. Giving evidence from the stand, the 18-year-old eye witness said he did not know and could not understand why Scott shot his closest friend as he told the court that he had run away when CJ began shooting.

Rankine told the court that in the early hours of 22 September last year the three friends had gone to the East End Health Clinic with a flare gun because McGaw wanted to let off one of the flare shots. He said that as McGaw let off the flare, right away he heard a real gunshot and turned to run. Then as he heard a second shot, he looked back and saw Scott chasing McGaw with a gun. He said he carried on running towards his yard but turned again to see McGaw fall to the ground and Scott stand over him and fire another shot.

The teen witness said he was shocked and confused and did not know why Scott was shooting. When he arrived at his own home, which was nearby, he ran to his room and took off his shirt and pants and got into his bed, he said, but could not sleep because he could not make any sense of what had happened.

He revealed how later that morning he had seen Scott again when he visited another home in East End to pick up some weed. The two men left the house together and Rankine said Scott warned him not to say anything about the shooting. “Don’t make anybody know about this,” Rankine said Scott had told him, which the teen witness said he took to be a serious threat.

Four days later Rankine was interviewed by the police but in his first statement he said nothing about seeing the shooting and denied knowing anything about what had happened. However, pressed by police Rankine eventually gave a second statement that same day in which he said he had seen Scott kill McGaw. He said, however, that he did not know why Scott would kill him.

Having to take several breaks and visibly struggling to give his evidence, Rankine said he had been afraid to tell the truth at first as he believed Scott might shoot him if he knew that he had talked to the police. Even if Scott was locked up, the witness said he believed he could find a way to get him.

Talking about the night of the shooting, he admitted that he had not gone to help McGaw because he felt Scott could just as easily shoot him. He told the court that he was completely confused about the incident and was not thinking straight so he did not call 911.

Under cross examination Rankine said that he and McGaw were very close and hung out together a lot. He said they had no secrets but he was unaware that McGaw had given a statement to the police in connection with a robbery that had occurred at Barefoot Beach in East End in February last year.

McGaw was shot before he gave evidence in the case, in which three men were accused of robbing two American tourists on the beach armed with a bat and a knuckle duster. The crown’s case against two of the men collapsed when McGaw was killed but a third man who had pleaded guilty to the robbery was jailed for 16 months.

McGaw’s body was found lying in the road by a police patrol car on Thursday 22 September. He had been shot multiple times in the head and body. He was the fifth victim of a spate of fatal shootings which had occurred over an eight day period that the police believed were gang motivated.

The Grand Court trial is being heard by Justice Alex Henderson, who is sitting alone without a jury. The trial is expect to conclude sometime next week and continues tomorrow in Court One.

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Cayman Development Bank may fund solar power

Cayman Development Bank may fund solar power

| 28/05/2012 | 0 Comments

solar-panel.jpg(CNS Business): Following last month’s announcement by the premier of a solar energy programme for Cayman’s elderly and indigent, McKeeva Bush says he is also planning to use the Cayman Islands Development Bank to provide loans for people interested in acquiring solar power. Speaking to CNS Business at the close of the Caribbean Development Bank’s meeting of governors this week, Bush said the Cayman Islands had a long-standing and strong relationship with the CDB and he had already had discussions with the Cayman Islands Development Bank, which is Cayman’s link to the CDB, to see about the provision of loans for those in Cayman seeking solar power infrastructure. Read more on CNS Business

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Police tackle oil spill in downtown George Town

Police tackle oil spill in downtown George Town

| 28/05/2012 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Officers from the RCIPS are currently dealing with an oil spill on the road near to Harbour Drive and Sheddon Road to Eastern Avenue and North Church Street in down town George Town. Police are asking motorists to avoid using these roads until further notice as emergency services deal with the situation. Check back to CNS for more details later.

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Bush calls for fiscal prudence at bank meeting

Bush calls for fiscal prudence at bank meeting

| 28/05/2012 | 29 Comments

mac new_4.jpg(CNS): The Cayman Islands premier talked about the need for fiscal responsibility in his closing remarks at the Caribbean Development Bank meeting last week. McKeeva Bush said that member countries had to be responsible for developing, enacting and updating sound fiscal policies. He said that Cayman has received some press coverage about its fiscal policies but questioned whether it was “good criticism” or “news of what people in authority can represent, or misrepresent”. Bush asked, “Should we, or any other government, cry foul to criticism?” He also said that people across the region must be responsible for their own well-being, for the decisions they make that affect their communities and for the wise upbringing of their children.

The CDB must be responsible in its development practices and exercise prudent compassion for the collective good of the people of the region, the premier said. Speaking about the work of the meeting he said, “We will be judged for the critical thinking we applied to the challenges and opportunities set upon us by the global economy and supranational bodies, and by our own internal processes and norms.”

Bush described the Caribbean as a global asset. “Anywhere in the world we go, we find our Caribbean people – we have lent our talent to the world, in every sphere of life," he said.

“Through respectful and clear-minded support of each other, we will more firmly take our place in global economics. We cannot ever fail to fully engage with the world; indeed, if we do not engage the world, we cannot hope to thrive.”

See Bush’s full speech below.

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Television station releases armed robbery footage

Television station releases armed robbery footage

| 28/05/2012 | 15 Comments

robber.JPG(CNS): It took the three masked men who held up the television centre last Thursday just a few seconds to clear out the cash drawer in the WestStar customer service department on Thursday during an armed heist. The CCTV footage released by Cayman 27 shows the men coming into the office and a customer getting down on the ground as one of the robbers pointed a gun at him. A second customer is pushed out of the way. Two of the men are brandishing weapons, while a third man, wearing blue surgical type gloves and dressed in a camouflage jacket, pushes cash into a yellow bag. The robbers left in a waiting getaway car parked outside the station.

Although police made several arrests following the robbery, all of those suspects were eliminated from the enquiry. The heist, conducted in broad daylight, came just three weeks after masked armed men held up the George Town branch of Scotia Bank on Thursday 3 May.

Police statistics reported a significant decline in the first quarter of 2012 in robberies when compared to 2011. So far this year there have been ten armed robberies in the Cayman Islands.

See video footage here.

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Miller calls for consequences

Miller calls for consequences

| 28/05/2012 | 56 Comments

ezz and alden.jpg(CNS): The revelations in two reports published by the auditor general of mismanagement and abuse of funds must result in some sanctions, the member for North Side has said. Ezzard Miller told CNS that he did not believe the revelations about paving of private parking lots in Cayman Brac and massive mismanagement can be constantly written off as mere incompetence. He said that the public interest report into the Brac paving revealed clear abuse of public funds and there must be consequences which should be faced by the minister, the chief officer and possibly even the National Roads Authority (NRA) director. He also said that there had to be accountability on the CINICO report as well.

“Just saying this is incompetence is not enough. These people are supposed to be employed and paid because of their competence,” Miller said.

The independent member also said he believed the auditor general should have passed the report on the Brac paving fiasco to the police or even straight to the director of public prosecutions or at the very least the Anti-corruption Commission because he believed a crime had been committed as it was a misappropriation of public funds.

“We simply cannot have this. The money was voted to the NRA to be spent on public roads. How can this be allowed to happen?” the MLA asked. “In my view this amounts to corruption.”

He said it was curious that the ministry had implied the funds for paving the Brac had come from its budget and that also needed to be explained

Miller said that several home-owners in his constituency of North Side and in other parts of Grand Cayman are without access roads to their property because government has failed to properly gazette roads. As a result requests to pave those roads, despite the fact that they should be public highways, have constantly been denied by the ministry and the  NRA because, Miller revealed, the authority is defining them as private roads.

“We have even suggested that government recoup the cost of paving these roads through a surcharge but they have not even answered me," he said. “Yet half a million dollars has been spent paving private parking lots and driveways in the Brac.”

Miller also noted that in the face of this expenditure in the Sister Islands on private lots government has failed to find the money to pave the road to Rum Point even though it is a major tourist road.

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Ryan signs deal in Vietnam

Ryan signs deal in Vietnam

| 28/05/2012 | 35 Comments

imgres_0.jpg(CNS): Speculation that the developer of the Ritz Carlton – Cayman may have turned his attention from the Cayman Islands since losing control of the hotel and a number of related companies was fuelled after Michael Ryan signed an MOU with the Vietnamese government. According to media reports in that country, Ryan, who denies now having responsibility for $6.5 million owed to the Cayman government regarding duty waivers, has signed a deal to develop a hotel similar to the Ritz Carlton in Ninh Thuan in the country’s south-central coast. Describing the developer as "a billionaire", the local press reported that the agreement would lead to the development of tourism in the area.

Ryan was cited as still being the owner of the five star Ritz hotel in Cayman, although legal action by Ryan’s creditors earlier this year saw the developer lose control of the hotel and several companies that were formed in order to develop it.

Ryan received a duty waiver for the five star hotel in excess of $10 million until the hotel opened. In 2006 Ryan began paying back the debt to the public purse but following the election of the current government the quarterly payments stopped, with over $6.5 million still owing.

Recently, in the face of the mounting legal action against him, Ryan denied having responsibility for that debt.

The owner of land behind the Ritz Carlton at Safe Haven, Ryan had plans for a mixed-used tourism development called Dragon Bay but had indicated that, given the legal difficulties he now faced, that development was in jeopardy. However, Ryan recently met with local boat operators and asked them to move their boats from the marina on the property, indicating that the developer had plans to begin dredging there, though it isnot clear whether this was to gain access to fill, to sell or for use on the planned Dragon Bay development.

CNS contacted Ryan earlier this month to find out what plans he had for the replenishment of the mangroves on the planned Dragon Bay site, since the developer had removed some 378,000sq ft of protective buffer to prepare for the proposed resort, however , the developer has not returned calls or answered emails.

According to the Vietnamese press, the government there is depending on Ryan and other foreign investors to kick-start tourism there, officials said.

“This is the first time such big American investors have come to Ninh Thuan to sound out tourism potentials and sign MOUs with the local government,” Ho Si Son, vice director of the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said.

“Given the small number of tourism investors and the inactiveness of a number of registered schemes, we are trying to appeal to large investors who are strong enough to realize the projects,” Son added.

See related stories

Ryan loses control of Ritz

Ryan accused of funds misuse

Ryan silent over mangroves

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Leadership reboot needed

Leadership reboot needed

| 28/05/2012 | 54 Comments

There are 15 elected representatives in the Legislative Assembly in the Cayman Islands, earning total salaries of approximately CI$1.9 million per year. They were elected on the basis that they would use their incredible power and influence over the country's laws, policies and the indirect influence over the civil service to improve the standard of living of all residents in this country. They are also especially accountable politically to Caymanians.

These men and lady are presented to us as representing two political parties with the exception of the independent member from North Side.

From a policy/philosophical perspective it is near impossible to find any useful distinction between these two groups. At this stage all we know or candeduce as amateurs on the outside is the following: one uses the colours green and blue, seems to be slightly more into doing things to get the economy moving, seems susceptible to attracting allegations of corrupt practices (particularly at the very top), and has a chaotic/autocratic leadership style fused with lack of statesmanship most of the time.

The other group uses the colours red and blue, is responsible for one of the worse displays of financial mismanagement in the country's history in their last term in office, has a reputation for leading too passively, is notorious for its anti foreigner rhetoric, has respect for good governance, is not susceptible to allegations of corrupt practices and generally seems to conduct itself in a more respectable and statesmanlike manner.

The problem is that not much in the above (aside from the corruption susceptibility and statesmanship issue) gives us any compelling reason to choose one group over the other. Unfortunately it gets worse; there is certainly nothing in the differences mentioned above that indicates which group is capable of improving the current local economic situation in which the country finds itself.

The brief history goes something like this: the Red Team were swept into power largely on the basis that the Green Team were alleged to be corrupt based on media reports and the fact that the Green Team granted Cayman status to approximately 3,000 persons. All this played perfectly well into the hands of the Red Team, who are of course overly protectionist and certainly seem to be much better at good governance and diplomacy.

Unfortunately when given the opportunity, the Red Team also did nothing for the economy, spewing out lots of anti foreigner sentiments along the way, essentially screwed up public finances, and did not produce a single set of financial statements during their four years in office.

In 2009 the Green Team were swept back into office, rightly pointing out the Red Team's deficiencies during their campaign, and promising to set things right.

It's been 3 years. And we are all still waiting for the fix to occur. Aside from the initial flurry in its first 9 or 10 months in office where, to its credit, the current government stabilized the financial fallout, it has done next to nothing to address the many issues that this country is facing. And worse, along the way it has managed to put itself (yes, you guessed it) right back into that "alleged corruption" space that it always seems to gravitate towards.

So where does that leave us?

While the so-called parties have not presented us with any meaningful ways to choose between them, we at least now know a bit more about their capabilities as a group from recent years. We do know that the Cayman Islands has not improved much over the past 11 years. We know that neither group wishes to truly look into the causes of our many social and economic problems. And it is also clear that neither group can avoid the temptation of distracting themselves (and us) with silly politics aimed only at maintaining their jobs at the next election and subjecting us to that CI$1.9 million salary bill that none of us can afford but are forced to pay nonetheless.

So we may not be any better off but at least we have got a bit wiser along the way. The upcoming 2013 election campaign will be swamped with red and green shirts, fridges, stoves, a little cash here and there (on the QT) and lots of promises. But what this country needs are individuals who genuinely can demonstrate that they understand the issues this country is facing and in no uncertain terms that they have solutions to address those issues. Anything less and the potential candidates are seeking only to steal upwards of CI$2.2 million dollars in wages from the people of this country (taking into account the three additional seats to come in 2013).

That is the standard by which we must hold them. We must ask them what they are going to do, why and how. If they don't wish to engage us with this brand of politics, accountability and style of discourse, we must continue to look for anyone, political party or not, who fits the bill. And if we don't like the answers they give we should move on to the next candidate.

The situation in this country at this stage is far too serious to entertain this red and green team game. We must forget not only the colour shirts borne by each party, but we must also avoid sticking our friends and family into these "party groupings", which is a practice that is slowly destroying our small community.

In the end, if we are not careful, the soon to be 18 representatives will gain a nice fat salary check and our lives will only continue to get worse. Of course, we can all turn to the blogs and each other to vent when that happens, but that won't address any of our issues.

It's time for a leadership change. A change that gets us at least closer to a group of leaders that want to do things properly, crafting solutions based on the best information and analysis, taking the tough decisions when they are the right ones for the country, conducting themselves like leaders of a country that is seen to be sophisticated (and not like a banana republic), and taking us into a new era to rebuild this country. Let's make this group of individuals the best we can, irrespective of their party affiliations. We control the ballot so this is definitely our choice, not theirs.

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