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Bermuda's History for 2006

Significant events and social consequences for this calendar year

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Bermuda stamps 1902 set

By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) exclusively for Bermuda Online

See end of this file for all of our many History files

2006

January 1. The Supreme Court of Bermuda set up The Commercial Court as a Division of the Supreme Court of Bermuda. It was born on this date when the Rules of the Supreme Court Amendment Rules 1985 enacted by Chief Justice Richard Ground came into force. Under section 62 of the Supreme Court Act 1905 the Chief Justice was empowered to make Rules regulating the practice of the Court, and Chief Justice Ground took the necessary steps to ensure that the Commercial Court became a reality. It has since enhanced the island’s legal infrastructure and enabled Bermuda to become a leading offshore jurisdiction for the resolution of commercial disputes. Members of Bermuda’s Commercial Bar had for many years called for a specialist commercial court. Official support for such an innovation came earlier, in March 2004 from the Justice Review Committee set up by then Attorney-General Larry Mussenden and chaired by Justice Norma Wade-Miller. 

February. Belco signed an agreement with Current to Current Bermuda Limited to purchase up to 20 MW of power. The Massachusetts based corporation and Belco hope to sink the world's first underwater power generator off the south coast of the Island. The Current to Current scheme would capture ocean currents to initially provide nearly ten per cent of the Island's electricity needs.

Bermuda Stamp 60March. An ambitious scheme will de-clutter and beautify Hamilton's Front Street waterfront and create new land in the harbour. It was presented by Mayor Lawson Mapp and colleagues to the people of Bermuda at a packed public meeting. It radically does away with the cargo docks and the need for cruise ships to berth alongside Front Street blocking views of the harbour. And an underground car park for 800 cars and 800 motorcycles would both do away with unsightly parking lots spoiling the aesthetics of the scheme, while at the same time boosting the number of parking spaces in the heart of town. Luxury waterfront housing, a hotel, end of pier restaurant and marinas would transform the area, along with landscaped public parks that can be used for hosting open air events, including the potential for 1,000 people to enjoy musical events on a sloping lawn in a new "Parliament Park" opposite the Cabinet Building. The plan would entail building new land mass jutting out into the harbour on which to build a hotel, housing, offices and shops as well as marinas. Early concept artwork showing a signature public park surrounded by pavements and plazas, a new road taking traffic off Front Street half-way between Parliament Street and Burnaby Lane, and a new cruise ship pier angled out of Albuoy's Point. Among those who attended was Deputy Premier Ewart Brown, who spoke at the start of the meeting. It is estimated the plan will cost around $639 million and take between ten and 20 years to complete. Those involved in the five-month project to draw up the waterfront vision believe 80 percent of the development would be funded from the private sector with the remainder – estimated to be $122m – the responsibility of the Corporation of Hamilton. The reason for the meeting was to gauge public views and gather input. Further public consultation is planned. It is forecast that the new waterfront would create 860 permanent jobs and generate around $5.4m in property and office taxes. A new cruise ship pier would be able to cope with two small ships, as currently visit Hamilton, or one Panamax-sized cruise ship should the need arise. It is envisaged the development would be done in two phases, with the second phase replacing the cargo docks. It is also intended to break the scheme into development "parcels" allowing a number of developers the opportunity to participate. Tourism department transportation consultant Larry Jacobs indicated that Government was engaged in "generating thought and discussion" about the future of the Front Street docks. He said discussions were ongoing with the Corporation and various groups and authorities to consider the possibility of moving the docks to another location, with Morgan's Point and the area on North Shore near the incinerator amongst the possibilities. Former Premier Sir John Swan first proposed a Hamilton waterfront redevelopment a number of years ago. 

Bermuda stamp 400 yearsMarch 2. The Bermuda Government needs its own television station to speak directly to the public “in an unmediated and unedited fashion”, Premier Alex Scott claimed yesterday. But the Opposition labeled the proposed TV station – on which Government plans to spend $840,000 this year – a “wasteful propaganda exercise”. Speaking in the House of Assembly, Mr. Scott likened his job to being CEO of a large, modern day corporation in an era of sound-bites and provocative headlines. However, a Premier came under the close, daily scrutiny of the media – and could be the victim of a “media feeding frenzy” – more than any CEO, he said. This was why the Cabinet Office – of which the Department of Communication and Information (DCI) was one of five Cabinet Departments – was needed, he said. Mr. Scott said during the Budget Debate on the Cabinet Office. A total of $840,000 had been allotted for the equipment purchase and installation for the proposed station which will be built by the Ministry of Works and Engineering and Housing. The Government Television Station will be the key pillar in the Government’s intention to communicate more effectively and strategically with the people of this country. It will provide a medium for the leaders of Bermuda to detail what the Government is doing, the status of Government initiatives, and the level of progress in reaching important goals for Bermuda. The “long-overdue” station also gave Government a chance to showcase its relationship with businesses and community organizations. Other stations around the world were considered, including: the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, GOT, a local Government Access Channel in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network (C-SPAN), Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). However, Opposition Leader Wayne Furbert said he would pull the plug on a Government TV station if he was elected to power. “Don’t get equipment that will last a long period of time,” Mr. Furbert quipped. “It would only last a year. It would not last too much longer. That will be the first thing that will be going. While he said understood why Government wanted to get its message across, as it had not been successful in talking about the second senior school which had not offered promised public tours – he said a TV station was not the answer. “What you need to do is knock on doors and talk to people face to face,” he said. “When was the last time MPs from that side went to their constituents and met face to face?” Mr. Furbert asked why Government did not use existing television stations. Minister of Telecommunications and E-Commerce Michael Scott said Government TV was a necessary and excellent idea. He predicted Government TV would be a “hit”. “For the UBP to suggest that the civil service – who will be in charge of the content will somehow capture political messages is not credible,” he said. Shadow Minister of Home Affairs Maxwell Burgess said if the PLP wanted to broadcast its message it should stay away from the public purse. “This is simply not what Government funds are meant for,” he said. “Why not open your own newspaper. Or will that be next?” Mr. Burgess said he took knocks from the press too when he was Minister. 

March 16. One of the world’s most famous hotel brand names is coming to Bermuda to replace the Ariel Sands resort with a five-star vacation club. And it has the blessing of Bermuda’s own Hollywood star Michael Douglas – a member of the Dill family dynasty that has owned and operated the South Shore resort for the past 50 years. The double Oscar winner has played a part in securing a partnership with the Hilton group that could see as many as 50,000 prospective vacation club owners visit the Island during the next four years. A scheme to create “one of the premier tourism products anywhere on the planet” is now in motion having attracted the backing of the Hilton Grand Vacation Club and Florida-based developer Bruce Sonneborn. Within two years the Ariel Sands hotel and cottage colony properties will be demolished and replaced by a $170m development featuring vacation villas, a world-class spa and fitness centre and restaurant and conference centre. It will allow Bermuda to tap into an expanding community of 100,000 vacation club owners who already holiday in Hilton clubs in Scotland, Florida, Hawaii, Las Vegas and elsewhere. “We have 18,000 club members in the geographical region around New York. I can see those people would want to travel to Bermuda for short vacations, which increases the tourism flow into that location. It’s a group that likes to experience different things,” said Kris Kreiger, senior vice-president and chief club officer of Hilton Grand Vacation Company, who was in Bermuda earlier in the week to discuss the plans. Mr. Kreiger was not at the press conference to announce the project yesterday, but Deputy Premier Ewart Brown was flanked by Mr. Douglas and Mr. Sonneborn. Mr. Douglas said: “As you know the cottage colony tourism business has been pretty rough for the last 20 years. I’m proud to announce a partnership that we have created with the Hilton Grand Vacation Club. We think we have presented to Cabinet a well thought-out plan, not only for tourism, but also what is best for Bermuda. It encompasses additional rooms and beyond that training for Bermudians, employer housing and a number of issues that I think will be very positive. I appreciate very much the response from Cabinet.” The concept is presently at the design and planning stage although construction may begin before the end of 2006, according to Mr. Sonneborn, who is project director of Sunset Cove on Marco Island in Florida, another Hilton Grand Vacations Club affiliate. He was instrumental in bringing Hilton to Bermuda to consider the potential for a rebuilt Ariel Sands enticing vacation club owners to buy a fractional ownership and then, as a result, be able to not only holiday in Bermuda but also at other Hilton clubs and affiliated resorts world-wide. It is intended to de-construct Ariel Sands and build the new development in phases to ensure the resort remains open at all times. The number of holiday properties will increase from the present 48 rooms to 214, however there will be more green space and a reduction from 17 buildings to 11 on the site with a maximum height of three-storeys. Mr. Sonneborn said the resort would be at the top end of the scale, rated at a five-star level for hotel facilities, adding: “We would like a product like Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton and take it two steps above it.” For Bermuda one big bonus is the transiency of the club-owning community who like to move around the world to sample different locations. Because they have already paid for their accommodation by buying into the club they will have up to 50 percent more “vacation dollars” to spend on the Island, said Mr. Sonneborn. The club is expected to attract 9,000 new visitors to Bermuda per year with all-year round occupancy the norm. Mr. Sonneborn explained: “One of the things we are talking about featuring is elements of the Sargasso sea and its endemic seaweed – unique biological product to use in the spa to bring people to Bermuda with a Hilton product and a world class spa. He added: “We plan to make this one of the premier tourism products anywhere on the planet.” Jobs for up to 60 Bermudians will be created and it is intended to use Bermudian skills and resources wherever possibly to make the resort a 100 percent Bermudian experience. Paying tribute to Mr. Douglas, Dr. Brown said: “He has done more than a few things to help Bermuda. Obviously he is a mega star in his line of work and wherever he goes he says good things about Bermuda. This gentleman assisted us in getting JetBlue over the line. He always says positive things about Bermuda. When he called about this issue I was totally impressed.” Bermuda is also set to reap the benefit of being featured in all Hilton group literature for the foreseeable future, including the Internet website which receives 1.5 million visitors every day. Hilton Grand Vacation Company senior vice-president Mr. Kreiger, told the Royal Gazette: “Ariel Sands is a great location! The plans are very positive – it meets our criteria for high quality destination.” He said Dr. Brown had spoken of a clear vision for Bermuda and its tourism future and said he found Mr. Douglas to be an astute businessman whose personal attachment to Ariel Sands: “Will ensure the property turns out to be a top notch five star property.” Six separate condominiums within the Ariel Sands location are expected to remain as their own entity.

March 24. Employers are being urged to submit occupations they consider to be "key" and therefore eligible for exemption from the work permit limits to the Department of Immigration before a final list is determined. That was one of the statements made by Assistant Chief immigration Officer Rozy Azhar during a seminar this week on work permit limits. Work permit limits come into effect on April 1, 2007 when non-Bermudians who have been working on the Island since before April 1, 2006 will have to leave if they have not been granted extensions. Mrs. Azhar is asking employers to start the process early in applying for exemptions for their key positions or make arrangements for the replacement of staff that will not remain after the expiration of their work permit in 2007. Changes to the work permit policy announced by the Minister of Immigration in early 2005 regarding key occupations has not been written into policy as the Minister is still receiving representations from various industries, she said. When he is satisfied that all have had an opportunity to be heard he will submit the list of occupations to Cabinet for approval as the final step before publishing any policy. These are some of the other questions that were raised during the seminar: What happens in the case where one work permit holder qualifies as a key employee and is exempt from term limits but his or her working spouse does not qualify for an extension? Will the spouse without the exemption be prevented from working? While the spouse will not be asked to leave Bermuda if he or she is in a position subject to term limits, any applications for renewal of work permits will be reviewed to ensure any further approvals will not be an impediment to the career paths of Bermudians. In addition, unlike spouses of Bermudians, spouses of Permanent Resident's Certificate (PRC) holders (who arrived before August 1989) do not accrue benefits from marrying the holder of a PRC. "When reviewing any work permit application one criterion is to ensure Bermudians are not stymied from achieving their career goals," Ms Azhar said. She added that if the spouse reaches the six-year limit, the Immigration Department will assess if there are Bermudians that may want to be promoted into the position. "The bottom line is that it is case by case basis. If it appears that there are Bermudians available to serve in that position then it is likely then their work permit will not be reviewed." What is the difference between a key position and a key person? It depends on the position, most times people are asking for the position rather than the person. Both persons and positions may independently be deemed key. An actuary, chief executive or chief financial officer is likely to be deemed key regardless of which individual fills the position as only highly skilled persons meet the requirements of that position. Alternatively, a person with a specialized skill set or experience unique to that person may meet the criteria of a key person even though the position he or she fills might not normally require that level of skill and experience. "You may have people who may not be in categories that are deemed key, at a lower level. For instance it could be an electrician who may have many years of experience, have trained Bermudians and may meet the criteria of a key person." What are the requirements for an extension and does and employee have to be key? Examples occur where an employee is needed to complete a specific project or where the employer needs more time to recruit another person or prepare a Bermudian for the role. "The Institutes of Architects had made an application for architects and architectural technologist to be extended because of the heated construction industry and they wanted them to be extended because of the outstanding projects." Mrs. Azhar said the reference to the worldwide shortage in a given industry or occupation (such as nurses or actuaries) is not merely a difficulty in recruiting. If an employer wants to apply to the Minister of Immigration for the category to be added to the list of categories where there is a worldwide shortage, he or she must get an agreement with other employers in the same industry. Also an application should include documentation from publications abroad substantiating the claim to a worldwide shortage in the industry such as nurses and other medical technicians. One person commented that a lot of people feel that good corporate citizen status discriminates against small companies and is only available to the very large corporations who are endowing large charitable donations. Companies granted Good Corporate Citizen status can apply for permission in principle to hire non-Bermudian staff in categories where there is a worldwide shortage or where the position or person is key. If the company is granted permission in principle then it does not necessarily have to advertise each individual application but if an employer chooses not to advertise each application, he or she will still be required to advertise the position on a periodic basis, such as every three months. Mrs. Azhar said small companies can apply for Good Corporate Citizen status and the requirement for advertising a position depends on the industry. "Banks, for example, who have a lot of accountants, can apply every three months but some positions you can advertise every six months because you don't have a lot of those positions." Phil Barnett chairperson of the restaurant division of the Chamber of Commerce said some people in the hospitality industry have concerns that employees without PhD's or specialized degrees will be treated differently. He also said some people think they know what certain positions entail such as servers without addressing their individual contribution or attitude or the relationship they have made with customers. "The criteria does not mention PhDs, although it does talk about people having qualified expertise. "If a person has crucial business contacts, that can be applied to very good waiter who people come in for and if they weren't there, the business would suffer greatly. You wouldn't be applying for the position but you can certainly make the application for the person."

April 4-6One of Europe’s most innovative figures in the low-price aviation, travel and leisure market arrived in Bermuda as a keynote speaker at the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference at the Fairmont Southampton Hotel. The conference was presented by the Caribbean Hotel Association, Caribbean Tourism Organization and Burba Hotel Network. It looks at the future of tourism in the Caribbean and ways to stimulate investment and visitor numbers. Greek-born Stelios Haji-Ioannou was only 28 when he set up the ground-breaking EasyJet airline company, which is generally credited with bringing low price airfares across Europe through its own services and those of imitators. The appearance of the EasyGroup owner is a major draw for the conference. The businessman has branched out from the aviation business in the past ten years to offer branded low cost car hire, hotels, cruises, financial and other services linked with the travel and leisure industry. It is expected 300 “top tier executives” representing investors, tourism and a number of governments will attend the three-day event starting next Tuesday. However, it is not expected the EasyGroup entrepreneur will be revealing plans to expand his European-centric airline and cruise ship business to the region. The tourism investment conference features experts in finance, development and tourism fields giving updates on changes and trends within the industry. Amongst the topics discussed are timeshare and fractional deals, development projects, condo hotels, private residence clubs and mixed-use projects.

Bermuda stamp DiasporaApril. The Government is to appeal against a Supreme Court judge’s ruling which branded its decision to ban Bermudians from selling homes to foreigners “unlawful”. Randy Horton, Minister of Labour, Home Affairs and Public Safety, stated the Government had until Thursday to appeal in the GoldenEye case and would definitely do so. He said: “We are going to be filing an appeal. The Attorney General is reviewing the grounds. I have nothing more to say other than that the Attorney General is dealing with the legal aspect of this.” Mr. Horton brought in a controversial policy change last year which prevented Islanders from selling homes to non-Bermudians. Previously, foreigners could buy homes from Bermudians so long as they had an annual rental value (ARV) of more than $126,000. Property developers Alan and Vera Rosa Marshall took the Government to court over the change as it prevented them from selling their $45 million Tucker’s Town mansion GoldenEye, on which they had invested $37 million. They claimed no Bermudian would be able to afford the asking price for the plush home, which is on so-called Billionaires’ Row and has the highest ARV on the Island at $1,182,000. Puisne Judge Geoffrey Bell ruled on March 3 that the Marshalls had a legitimate expectation to be able to sell GoldenEye and that the Government policy change was “unlawful and “an abuse of power”. Mr. Marshall said yesterday he was not aware of the Government’s plan to appeal. “I don’t know what’s happening with that right now,” he said. He would not comment on whether he and his wife would respond to the appeal or on whether GoldenEye had been sold yet. The property, which Oprah Winfrey was once rumored to have been interested in buying, was put on the global market soon after the outcome of the case. The Marshalls’ QC in the case, Saul Froomkin, a former Attorney General, said he too was unaware of the Government’s decision to appeal. “I didn’t know they were planning that,” he said. “I have not seen any Notice of Appeal so I have no idea what Government is doing.” He added: “If they are going to appeal, they are going to appeal. I don’t get surprised about anything.” Attorney General Larry Mussenden could not be contacted for comment yesterday. Nor could Solicitor General Wilhelm Bourne, who acted for the Government in the case. Mr. Horton has defended his policy change in the past as a way of protecting the land stock for Bermudians and preventing “fronting” i.e. people using trusts to acquire homes for non-Bermudians. Mr. Bourne did not give the original court hearing the reasons for the Government’s amended policy but said the Minister should be deemed to have acted in the public interest because that was his duty. Mr. Justice Bell said he did not infer that Mr. Horton acted in the public interest and found it highly doubtful that the policy change would cause any significant drop in the number of properties owned by non-Bermudians. The judge said a more effective way of achieving that aim would have been to increase the minimum applicable ARV on homes available for sale to foreigners. The case is unlikely to be heard in the Court of Appeals until later this year.

April. A grant of £44,680 ($89,300) received by the Trust from the Overseas Territories Environmental Programme (OTEP), a joint UK Foreign and Commonwealth and Department for International Development Programme enabled the Bermuda National Trust in late 2006 and early 2007 to carry out extensive nature conservation work including removal of many invasive trees that threatened the survival of native and endemic species and establishment of a habitat restoration project.

Bermuda stamp greetingsApril 7. Opposition MPs Louise Jackson and John Barritt are launching a fresh crusade to help struggling seniors. And as part of the "Silver Revolution" the pair are calling on Government to fund a Seniors' Advocate to give practical help and legal advice to those in need. In a manifesto printed in this month's Mid-Ocean News lawyer Mr. Barritt, the United Bermuda Party whip, and Mrs. Jackson, the party's spokesman on Health and Seniors, called for "a radical rethink on how we can assist and provide for those seniors in need". Initiatives include the introduction of reverse mortgages to help seniors who are asset rich but cash poor, the building of assisted-living apartments and the introduction of a senior healthcare clinic. Yesterday Mrs. Jackson said she and her colleague were prompted into action after being "bombarded with calls" from seniors seeking help on a range of issues. She pointed out that Mr. Barritt has since devoted hundreds of hours of his spare time providing free legal advise to seniors in distress. "There's a crisis out there with our seniors and the whole thing is just so sad," she said. Mrs. Jackson also blasted one Government agency – the National Office for Seniors – for failing to take a hands-on approach to individual queries from seniors, accusing the organization of doing little more than referring clients to other Government departments. Both MPs believe the creation of a Seniors' Advocate would result in individual cases being tackled more effectively. And Mrs. Jackson also expressed concern over regulations on rest homes, claiming they failed to protect residents who were often given poor care. Rounding on her opposite number, Mrs. Jackson said the Ministry of Health needed a Minister "with know-how and heart" who would "acknowledge that we have this problem". "We don't need someone who's learning on the job," she said. And she also dismissed claims by Premier Alex Scott that Government was ushering in a new "age of empowerment". "I was stunned when the Premier gave his address earlier this week about empowerment and mentioned that seniors get a tea once a year and have been given some computers," she said. "Hello? Doesn't he realize that we've got seniors who are dying because they can't afford their medication, seniors going without food because they don't have money for electricity."

Bermuda stamp Dockyard ApprenticesApril 10. Booming car sales and a rebound in spending on building materials and hardware had cash registers ringing in February. The Retail Sales Index for the month jumped 9.1 percent after accounting for inflation, offsetting a poor January when the volume of sales slipped 0.6 percent year over year, according to the Government Department of Statistics. Before adjusting for the 2.8 percent inflation rate in February, sales rose 12.2 percent compared to February, 2005, with turnover rising from $41.1 million to $46.2 million. All sectors in the Retail Sales Index reported positive sales gains with the exception of apparel stores. The Department of Statistics said the 12.2 percent increase was the largest year over year increase for a month since June, 2005, when sales rose 16.4 percent. Much of the increase in February was driven by car sales, which soared 46 percent over February, 2005 and have been averaging year over year increases of 26.6 percent over the last 12 months. HWP chief operating officer Alan Brooks said on Friday: "We have seen a considerable rise in automotive sales in the past few months, particularly in two automotive classes, compact vehicles and SUVs. Mr. Brooks said HWP, which sells Hondas, Mazdas, Suzukis, Hyundais, Volkswagens and Nissan cars, has seen strong sales for Honda CRVs and Hyundai Tucsons "in keeping with the global trend towards sports utility vehicles". "Due to lower licensing fees for compact cars, vehicles such as the Suzuki Swift, Hyundai Getz and the Daihatsu Sirion and Caharad are also popular," he added. Gross receipts for food stores rose 9.2 percent in February 2006. Grocery stores retailers have made consistent monthly gains since September, 2002. Meanwhile, food prices registered a 0.3 percent decline for the month of February. Retailing activity in the building and hardware sector recorded double-digit gains for the second consecutive month, increasing 16.5 percent over February 2005. Higher levels of construction activity translated into higher sales for building and hardware vendors who supply construction related materials. The increase in sales marks a turnaround from the last seven months of 2005, when sales either fell or rose marginally. Residents returning to the Island from business and vacation tips declared overseas purchases of $3.4 million during the month of February 2006. This level of spending was roughly $0.4 million or 10.0 percent higher than the level of spending reached in February 2005. Combined local and overseas retail sales totaled $49.6 million in February 2006, $5.4 million more than February last year. Overseas spending represented 6.9 percent of total retail sales in February, a slight drop from the seven percent recorded last year. The apparel sector recorded a 21.6 percent year on year decline due to an inability to make up for the volume of sales previously experienced when Trimingham's-Smith's was still open, although past Retail Sales Index reports have said that individual stores have reported strong sales gains.

April 28. Jay Bluck clinched a knife-edge election victory to become the new Mayor of Hamilton. Mr. Bluck defeated Sonia Grant by just 21 votes, as former Mayor Lawson Mapp's six-year reign ended. Mr. Mapp – who had led the City since 2000 – failed to secure a controversial third term in office. He received just 22 votes as the electorate decided it was time for a change at the top. Mr. Bluck polled 115 votes, narrowly seeing off the challenge of Miss Grant on 94 votes. Mr. Bluck, 65, pledged to introduce constituency clinics and regular consultation sessions, particularly on the massive $630 million waterfront development. The Somerset resident stated that he would be "re-establishing contact" with developers interested in building a new hotel on Par-la-Ville Road. Retired merchant Mr. Bluck takes control of a $20 million budget, praised his successor Mr. Mapp and said he was sorry that he attracted such a small number of votes. "He has put in a huge amount of service for Hamilton and has given great service to the city." Mr. Mapp, who had served at City Hall since 1979, said his biggest achievement in office was the beautification of Hamilton's parks; while his biggest regret was not getting a developer to sign up for the Par-la-Ville hotel project.

Bermuda stamp Girl GuidesMay 2. Premier Alex Scott will head a Government delegation to Washington, DC for groundbreaking talks with a host of influential American politicians. Mr. Scott, who hailed this month’s two-day trip to Capitol Hill an historic first for the Island, will meet Speaker of the US House of Representatives Dennis Hastert – third in line for presidential succession. Other key White House policy-shapers on the agenda during a whirlwind of diplomatic activity include Senate leader Bill Frist and Senator John McCain, defeated for the Republican nomination for President in 2000 and expected to run again for the presidency in 2008. US Consul General Gregory Slayton organized the whistle-stop visit he said should give Bermuda lawmakers “unprecedented” access to key movers and shakers in the US establishment. Concrete details of what will be discussed on the pioneering trip to the seat of US political power were not outlined yesterday. But the delegation will use it to boost relations between the two countries – and it is understood that trade, tourism, the war on drugs and homeland security issues will be on the table when Mr. Scott’s team arrives. Another topic likely to be on the agenda will be international tax laws. And Mr. Scott will be seeking to issue assurances in the wake of comments made by Presidential hopeful John Kerry in the 2004 campaign, when the Democratic challenger said he would shut down tax loopholes that allowed “$40 billion” to go to Bermuda. Mr. Scott said he understood the tax topic had slipped off the “front burner” in the US after that election – and he said the trip to Capitol Hill would give him chance to hammer home the facts face-to-face with decision-makers, ensuring they speak from “first-hand knowledge” and not from a campaign speech. “Our tax policies have not changed in the last 100 years. We did not create a tax regime aimed at avoiding taxes,” he told the press conference, adding that monetary authorities ensured the country met international finance rules. The Premier said that Bermuda’s success in the international business arena had catapulted it into a worldwide leadership role – and given it a global reputation as a major player. “We guard jealously our reputation for fiscal prudence,” Mr. Scott told reporters, stressing the “mutually beneficial relationship” between the superpower and the Island over the centuries. “But Bermuda did not get here alone. One of our noteworthy partners, the United States of America, has been on this journey with us almost from the year of our discovery in 1609.” He added: “Bermuda has unique connections with the USA. In history, commerce, culture, education, tourism and trade. That connection has produced a business and diplomatic relationship that bodes well for our two countries. We are certainly proud to be a partner in this diplomatic effort.” The Premier said that the “historic initiative” on May 17/18 was the first official bilateral visit of Bermuda Government officials to Washington, DC. Joining him on the visit to Washington will be Finance Minister Paula Cox and Home Affairs Minister Randy Horton, due to discuss drug enforcement, the role of the US Coast Guard and the impact of new immigration terms on key executives. Consul General Mr. Slayton said: “For the first time in diplomatic memory, the US Chief of Mission in Bermuda will escort a delegation from the Government of Bermuda to Washington DC to meet with key decision-makers.” Outlining the itinerary, Mr. Slayton said House of Representatives speaker Dennis Hastert will host a diplomatic reception with other House leaders. And Senate leader Bill Frist has agreed to a private meeting with the Bermuda delegation. Elsewhere, private meetings on the Hill have been organized with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including Senators Norm Coleman, Mel Martinez and George Allen. Behind closed doors talks with Susan Collins, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Sam Brownback, a member of the Committee on Appropriations and the Joint Economics Committee and John McCain – one of America’s best-known Senators – have also been confirmed. Discussions will be held with the Congressional Black Caucus, including Congressman G.K. Butterfield, whose father emigrated to the US from St. George’s in 1905 and fought for America in the First World War. The itinerary will take in meetings at the US Department of Commerce, the US Department of the Treasury, the National Security Council and the World Bank. Mr. Slayton said the trip was an “historic opportunity” for Bermuda’s Government to build a rapport with Washington’s major players, to which the Premier’s team should have “unprecedented access”. He added: “It is an extraordinary agenda and I’m grateful that I have been able to draw on my relationship with these public figures on behalf of Bermuda. “In my experience, the value of friendship is incalculable; there is no better time to establish an alliance with friends than before one is required to call upon them. “There is no doubt that constructive and positive dialogue is the most effective tool in the diplomatic arsenal. And that is what this bilateral visit is all about.” Asked whether President George W. Bush would be meeting the Bermuda team, Mr. Slayton said the itinerary was still being finalized. “President Bush will be aware of our presence,” added Mr. Scott, who hailed the work of the Consul General in setting up the meetings and said Governor Sir John Vereker had backed the plans. Also on the agenda is a breakfast and conferences at the White House. 

Bermuda stamp seahorseMay 3. Reuben Christopher Alias, one of only four black Bermudians to serve in the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the Second World War, has died, aged 84. Mr. Alias, who was also the first black to be appointed a clerk to Magistrates Court and assistant to the secretary to the Cabinet, passed away at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital on Monday. Mr. Alias, of Hill Top Drive, Southampton, was born on the Island on December 11, 1921, and was educated at Central, West End and Northlands schools and the Berkeley Institute. He studied at the business school of the Sir George Williams College in Montreal. During the Second World War, he was conscripted into the Bermuda Militia Infantry (BMI) and later served in Canada and England in the RAF, along with three black Bermudians from the Bermuda Militia Artillery (BMA). In 1957, aged 36, he volunteered for service in the BMA as a private soldier and earned a commission as a Second Lieutenant two years later. He eventually resigned his commission, with the rank of Captain, from what had become the Bermuda Regiment. Mr. Alias joined the Bermuda civil service in 1951 as a temporary clerk in Magistrates Court, eventually being promoted to senior clerk. He served as assistant to the secretary to the Cabinet, then became the first person, black or white, to be appointed civil administrative officer of the Bermuda Defence Board. His last civil service appointment was in 1976 as chief immigration officer, a post from which he retired in 1981. Mr. Alias, a freemason, was made an MBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours List in 1972 and was presented with the Bermuda Government's Special Achievement Award in 1985. Both awards were given for his contribution to association football on the Island. He participated as a player, referee, coach and administrator for the sport and served as vice-president of the Bermuda Football League and chairman of the Bermuda Football Association. His friend Dr. Gerard Bean, chairman of the National Sports Centre, paid tribute to him last night. He said: "He was a very articulate, very intelligent and very thorough person. He had many "firsts" and he was able to move from one sphere to another with relative ease. He was also a very loyal friend. Mr. Alias leaves behind his second wife, Elvira. The couple were married in 1961 and had no children. A private funeral and cremation will take place on Friday.

May. Who the Premier and Ministers met in Washington DC:

Bermuda stamp DerbyMay 18. Americans living in Bermuda will see their tax costs rise dramatically as a result of tax legislation US president George W. Bush is expected to sign tomorrow. The election year tax measure aims to cut US taxes by $70 billion over the next decade by extending low tax rates on dividends and most capital gains until 2010 and preventing 15 million households from being hit by the alternative minimum tax. However the 4.1 million Americans – excluding military personnel and foreign service officers – living outside the United States will bear a portion of those cuts via complicated tax rules which will result in them paying $2.1 billion more in taxes over the next decade. Currently, US expatriates are exempted from paying US taxes on the first $80,000 of foreign earned income. The new legislation would increase the exemption by $2,400 to $82,400 as of tax year 2006. However, US citizens will see the tax exemption on foreign housing expenses significantly reduced. Currently, American expatriates can deduct virtually all of their housing expenses which is a benefit that has helped attract Americans to live in high priced Bermuda. The new rules however cap the housing deduction at $11,536 although Treasury has the ability to adjust the housing deduction when countries have abnormally high costs of living relative to the US. Expatriates will also be subject to higher tax brackets so a single taxpayer or married filing jointly taxpayers who maximize the foreign earned income exclusion and housing deduction – approximately $93,000 – would see additional tax costs of $20,806 and $16,811 respectively, said PricewaterhouseCoopers Bermuda tax advisor Rick Irvine. Republican Senator Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who was a key player in an unsuccessful bid to eliminate the foreign income and housing deduction for expatriates in 2003, helped move the last minute modifications to the 2006 tax legislation through Congress. In 2003, US business groups successfully lobbied against the plan to eliminate the deductions on the grounds it would make it prohibitively expensive to promote American products and ideas. This time around however the provision related to US workers abroad was added late last week with no warning and therefore little time for opposition. “This came out of nowhere, this was basically thrown in as a revenue raiser at the last minute without many people having opportunity to comment on it,” said Mr. Irvine. While passage will drive up personal tax costs making it less attractive for American expatriates to work outside of the US, Mr. Irvine said that in Bermuda it is likely that the greatest impact will be on local or exempt companies who employ Americans. Since most Americans here are employed based upon some type of equalization packages – which means the tax costs are accounted for in their salaries – all or a portion of the cost will likely be passed onto the foreign employers driving up the cost of doing business. Given the increasing cost, Mr. Irvine said the tax changes could in fact make US workers less attractive to non-US companies and encourage them to look for employees who hail from jurisdictions where taxes are not an issue. The United States is the only developed country in the world that continues to impose worldwide income tax on its citizens working overseas. “It makes the US worker less attractive to a non-US company because it is a real cost of someone from America being here,” said Mr. Irvine.

May 26. The Bermuda Post Office released this stamp to commemorate the 2006 World Philatelic Exhibition in Washington DC.

Bermuda Stamp for Washington Exhibition

Bermuda stamp moon landingMay 30. Bermuda, the world’s largest captive domicile, is also the best one to do business in, according to the findings of a new survey. The Island was voted tops for tailored regulation, accessibility, cost efficiency, and for protected cell legislation, in the survey published in the May issue of Reactions magazine. The broad vote of confidence is heartening news for the hundreds who work in the Island’s captive management sector. The plaudit affirms the Island’s leading place, as it comes under increasing competition from a growing number of rival domiciles – particularly in the US. The praise could also serve to bolster interest in the Bermuda Captive Conference, to be held for the second consecutive year this September. The conference provides a broad range of captive-specific information, including tax and regulatory issues, to risk managers and corporations that own the self-insurance vehicles. Conference coordinator Mike Hardy said the 2006 Bermuda Captive conference was expecting in the region of 400 risk managers, chief finance officers and captive owners. Last year’s inaugural conference attracted 300 people. The world’s top captive domiciles – Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Vermont, the British Virgin Islands, Guernsey, Barbados, Luxembourg, Dublin, Turks and Caicos and Isle of Man – grew by less than four percent in 2005, according to a survey by Advisen, cited in the Reactions report. And a growing number of US states catering to captive insurers, led by Vermont, is proving strong competition for offshore domiciles, now that tax advantages for offshore captives have more or less faded. Philip Barnes, president of the Bermuda Insurance Management Association, cautioned that data, taken at face value, does not tell the whole story. Bermuda lost ground in 2005, according to the Reactions survey, and numbers compiled initially by trade publication Business Insurance. Last year, the Island’s captives fell to 987 from 1,000 in 2004. The numbers take into account new captive formations, as well as ones crossed off the list of insurers holding licences. Bermuda’s 2005 numbers still put it more than 250 captives ahead of number two rival, the Cayman Islands. However, once the captives formed by various US states are added together, the total outstrips Bermuda, at 1,098 captives. Mr. Barnes, who is also managing director of Aon Insurance Managers (Bermuda) Ltd., said while the Island appears to have seen a fall in captive incorporations, the full extent of captive activity isn’t readily apparent. There are two reasons for this. The first is the increasing use of segregated, or protected, cell companies. These are in effect a mini-captive structure within a Segregated Account Company. A cell company provides insurance capacity but usually at a lower cost, and with less red tape, than a full-fledged captive. Mr. Barnes said many corporations already have established captive insurers. Rather than form a new vehicle, many will bump up the amount of insurance capacity their established entities can provide. “We are finding a lot of interest from captives to increase their limits,” said Mr. Barnes, who can track the trends in the local market based on business he sees coming through Aon. Aon Insurance Managers is the second largest captive manager in Bermuda after Marsh Management Services (Bermuda) Ltd. “The outlook is still very buoyant, we are putting on a sizeable number of captives each year." And he said interest was strong amongst both existing and new clients. He said that the Island, which has long catered to Fortune 1000 companies, is also seeing more interest from smaller corporations.

June 6. A cruise ship that left Philadelphia on Sunday is stuck on a sand bar in Bermuda. The Norwegian Cruise Line ship, the Norwegian Crown, ran aground. At the time, it was being steered by and was therefore under the command of a Bermuda port pilot, not the ship's captain. Under Bermuda law, the Bermuda Government's liability for its pilots is very limited. The ship's passengers and crew were in no immediate danger, the cruise line said. The 34,00 ton vessel has 1,104 passengers and 500 crew, and it arrived in St. George's, Bermuda on Monday. It was on the way to Hamilton, another port, when it got stuck. Tug boats failed to get the ship free this morning and they will attempt to move the ship Tuesday night, when the tides are more favorable. "All guests and crew onboard are safe and no one was hurt," the cruise line said. "Initial inspection indicates that the integrity of the ship has not been affected. A full damage assessment will be conducted by a team of divers during the day." The company said it is currently tendering passengers to shore in Bermuda as planned. It is working with local authorities to determine what caused the ship to run aground.

June 7.  Spanish Point Park was awash with binoculars and digital cameras as crowds turned up in droves and trained their sights on the dramatic Norwegian Crown rescue. Amazed bystanders unfolded beach chairs, weighed anchor and made themselves comfortable almost from the moment the news filtered through that the 34,000 ton cruise ship had run aground near Dockyard just before 8.30 a.m. By 7 p.m., she was finally free. An hour of frenetic high-tide activity involving at least three tugs and several circling speedboats ended the Norwegian nightmare. The rumor mill was in full swing, with speculation running wild. Some said the pilot made a misjudgment; or the wind was too strong; or torrential rain squalls and poor visibility sent the ship veering off course. The Norwegian Crown became the latest in a long line of ships to run aground on an Island renowned for its perilous reefs. Every Spanish Point spectator had a different story. But they all agreed that this was worth witnessing – and something Bermuda had rarely seen before.

Bermuda stamp theatre boycottJune 17. Shadow Health and Seniors Minister Louise Jackson has slammed Government for paying lip-service to the plight of seniors. And she identified four problem areas she said must be tackled if the welfare of the island's elderly is to be improved – but said Government showed no sign of facing up to the challenge. Mrs. Jackson spoke out after her opposite number, Health Minister Patrice Minors, reported on a joint "initiative". Speaking in the House of Assembly, Mrs. Minors said her Ministry was working with the National Office for Seniors and Age Concern "to collaboratively work towards addressing elder abuse in Bermuda". But the Minister gave few details about how the initiative would work, other than to say the partnership was formed "to better protect and reduce the risk of harm to seniors, increase awareness, prevention, and intervention effectors throughout the community and within responsible advocacy. The proposed measures are necessary to ensure that Bermuda's seniors are treated with respect," Mrs. Minors said. "We need our seniors more than ever to continue to serve as leaders, mentors, volunteers and active members of society. Accordingly abuse of seniors should not be tolerated by any society." Yesterday an angered Mrs. Jackson condemned Government's treatment of seniors as "window dressing". "Where are the solutions?" she demanded. "They have come forward with this but they aren't offering any solutions – they need a reality check." The four areas of concern Mrs. Jackson highlighted were: Homelessness. The need for legal advice. Poor medical care.  Poor standards of care in nursing homes.  "In the last three or four years homelessness has become an increasing problem and it does affect seniors – we have seniors out there living rough and everyone knows it," Mrs. Jackson said. "The Government knows about it and just expects the Salvation Army and Fern Wade to deal with it. We need a solution which is quite simple – to provide a temporary shelter to get these people out of the bushes." Mrs. Jackson said she receives dozens of calls from seniors looking for legal advice but cannot afford a lawyer. "They have problems such as a child trying to take their home away from them. But they can't afford a lawyer and getting legal aid is a lottery. The solution would be to have an ombudsman who can talk them through the process and Government should make sure people have a place to go for advice." Mrs. Jackson said she had been calling for a seniors medical clinic for a number of years, arguing that most ailments suffered by the elderly require specialist treatment. And she once more took aim at the island's nursing homes, saying standards of care were poor in many. "There needs to be a regulatory body that carries out inspections and makes sure certain standards in homes are maintained," she said. Referring to the Minister's statement, Mrs. Jackson said: "There's nothing in this that is going to make life better for these people – it's the most insipid and weak statement I have ever seen. People might think that seniors are well-off because they own their own homes but if you go in you find that they're having to cook with candles because they can't afford gas. So many of our seniors need basic food, clothing and shelter but all we seem to get out of this Government is the fact that they are fed up with the Salvation Army – there's absolutely nothing concrete in terms of solutions."

Bermuda Stamp 60June 20.  In 1999, 51 per cent of Bermudians stated they would take independence rather than have closer ties with the United Kingdom; today less than 30 per cent report they support statehood. While winning public support for independence seems to be a key objective of Government this year, the publication of the Bermuda Independence Commission report-along with its attendant silences and controversies-and the recent round of public forums have produced no discernible increase in public support for independence. Clearly, a great deal has transpired since 1999 to weaken Bermudian support for independence and Government would do well to understand why this shift has taken place if the quest for sovereignty is to be won. Many issues need to be understood in this respect: labour mobility, trade, investment, and security issues, for example. One salient issue which touches every Bermudian in a direct and intimate way is that of citizenship. Many Bermudians feel so strongly about citizenship not because of any symbolic value in what flag is raised or national anthem is played at key events, but rather they are concerned about the practical benefits of being a British Overseas Territories Citizen versus a British Citizen versus a Bermudian Citizen. When the British Government reinstated full British Citizenship for Bermudians and all other British Overseas Territories citizens in 2002 thousands began applying for British Passports. With this passport Bermudians are entitled to many of the rights and privileges of any other British Citizen, such as residency and employment rights within the European Union and travel benefits. Bermudians holding such a passport, however, do not have equal political rights and therefore cannot vote or stand for office in any UK election. Let’s deal with the two main issues raised here: (1) the travel benefits of a British Passport versus that of a Bermuda Passport and (2) residency and employment rights in the European Union. Because of our propensity to travel (a product of our wealth), Bermudians cherish the visa-free restrictions currently enjoyed with many countries and attribute this to being under the British umbrella. Any discussion about independence has to confront this reality in a meaningful way if we are ever to push support for statehood beyond the 50 per cent threshold. Currently, those of us who have a British Overseas Territories Citizen (BOTC) Passport are able to travel to many countries visa-free, including the US, Canada, the Schengen group of European nations (currently 15), Caribbean states and most of Latin America. Clearly this is not the same as a British Passport, for as the British Government points out on its website, BOTCs “may need a visa that is not required by British Citizens” to visit certain countries. Thus British Citizens do not require a visa to enter Thailand while BOTCs do. Holding a British Passport, however, does not guarantee visa-free access to all countries. Many African countries require visas for British, and for the matter, US citizens. The point here is that all passports have some visa restrictions imposed on them. The concern expressed by a number of Bermudians is that a Bermuda Passport issued by an independent Bermuda will be worthless and they will be unable to travel so easily. This is an unfortunate misconception. There is every reason to believe Bermudians will enjoy the same visa-free travel privileges and will more than likely gain additional ones. To begin with we enjoy a privilege currently held only by Canadians and Bermudians: visa-free access to the United States. This privilege has been granted to Bermudians, by what many consider the most difficult country in the world to enter, because the United States Government knows and understands Bermuda. We obtained this privilege not because of our British link but solely because of the nature of our relationship with our American friends. The British do not currently enjoy this privilege. Those Bermudians who hold both the British and Bermuda Passports know well to conceal their British Passport when entering the United States lest they be subjected to fingerprinting and a photographic scan. The United States Government has made it clear they see no need to alter this relationship should Bermuda become a sovereign state. This relationship puts Bermuda in very strong negotiating position on visa matters with just about every other country in the world. The key to getting visa-free arrangements in place is dependent on a number of factors: (1) the number of asylum seekers from the requesting country (2) illegal immigration (3) patterns of criminal behaviour and (4) contentious political factors. Bermuda and Bermudians have not been party to any of these factors and we can reasonably expect to maintain visa-free excess to those countries we currently enjoy with our British Overseas Territories Passport. Regarding countries which currently require visas we should simply pick those most important to Bermuda’s interest and begin bi-lateral discussions. There are alarmists who will retort that this is not guaranteed and that it is possible Bermuda will face isolation. This was unfortunately echoed by lawyer Wendell Hollis in a recent speech and later published in this newspaper. A more realistic approach is to examine what is likely. The practice globally is to impose a visa regime either for political purposes (such as the US-Cuba relationship) or because of problems with nationals from a country. It is the latter, as we all know, that resulted in the visa requirement two years ago for Jamaicans seeking to enter Bermuda. One way forward for Government is to begin discussions with countries-perhaps commencing with the Schengen group (the 15 member European group that allows free movement without having to show passports when crossing internal frontiers)-about the visa regime under an independent Bermuda in much the same way we did with the US. Whatever assurances could be obtained in this regard before any vote on independence would certainly calm fears Bermudians may have about the value of a Bermuda passport. Alongside this, it should first be noted that size does not matter when it comes to a country’s passport being accepted or not, as some Bermudians seem to believe. The status of a passport and the rights and privileges extended to those holders by different states is always a consequence of information being shared between governments. Whether or not an immigration officer in Tajikistan is familiar with Bermuda is irrelevant if her government has agreements in place with Bermuda and that information is duly passed on to the frontlines. Secondly, the confusion that sometimes arises when immigration officers examine Bermuda passports has to do with the fact that our passports do not indicate which country of which we are citizens. There is no such thing as a Bermudian citizen, so the Government of Bermuda phrase on the cover means nothing. Having one’s travel document identified as a British Passport is a problem when the inside says British Overseas Territories Citizen. These arcane British constructions – British Overseas Territories Citizen and “Bermuda Status Holder” – are not generally accepted globally and that is why we have confusion. Imagine an immigration officer in Bermuda having to confront someone carrying a passport saying Canadian Passport at the top, Government of the Great White North at the bottom and inside the words Canadian Overseas Special Citizenship? For those who don’t want independence or don’t care to be bothered, the answer is simple: get a full British Passport and pull out your Bermuda passport only to enter Bermuda and the United States. For those of us who do want to see Bermuda govern itself fully the answer is equally straightforward but requires a bit more effort: begin dialogue now to gain wide acceptance for a full Bermudian passport. Residency and Employment Rights Overseas The right to live and work in the European Union which all Bermudians now enjoy is seen by some as a tremendous prize which we should not want to throw away by becoming independent. What if we could achieve independence and still enjoy these rights? And what if we had these rights not just in the European Union but also, possibly, in wider Europe, Canada, the United States and the Caribbean? My company, Research Innovation's, recent Bermuda Poll showed that about one third of residents (33 per cent) are “very interested” in having the opportunity to live or work in Canada, the United States, the UK and Europe. Smaller numbers (22 per cent) are similarly interested in the Caribbean. Why not try to pursue opportunities for Bermudians as broadly as possible and not passively accept what has been handed to us because we are attached to Britain and Britain is part of the EU? The ability to live and work in Europe is a great opportunity, especially for young Bermudians; there are even more opportunities elsewhere and they too should be pursued. How might this be accomplished? Essentially, we should begin discussions with these countries and blocs with a view toward securing residency and work quotas for Bermudians in recognition of the thousands of jobs we are providing for Americans, Canadians, Europeans (including British) and Caribbean citizens. In the past there was an arrangement for Bermudian graduates of Canadian universities to be able to work for a period of time in Canada. If the Bermuda Government could secure 100 places for Bermudians in Canada, the United States and the EU annually, and do something similar for other countries whose citizens we hire to work here in large numbers, two remarkable things would be accomplished: opportunities for Bermudians worldwide would be expanded greatly and these arrangements would be in place whether we are independent or not. Skeptics may dismiss this idea but clearly all the countries under discussion have immigration quotas in place and have a range of criteria for deciding how to apply them to nationals of different countries. The Bermuda Government should take up this issue as a matter of priority and determine what part of those quotas and criteria can be extended to Bermudians. As the independence debate progresses there will be many issues subject to intense scrutiny and debate. Visas, opportunities abroad and the Bermudian passport will remain high in the public’s mind as they deeply affect important aspects of our connection to the outside world. By taking away the uncertainty on some of the issues Government will be better positioned as it seeks to build popular support for a democratic and independent Bermuda.

June 23. Her Royal Highness, the Princess Royal (formerly, Princess Anne) is due to arrive in Bermuda today from London's Gatwick Airport for a weekend visit to take part in celebrations surrounding the 100th anniversary of the Newport-to-Bermuda yacht race. The Queen’s only daughter, and eighth in line to the Throne, will be accompanied by Miss Amy Briggs and will be met by Governor Sir John Vereker and is expected to visit a number of locations around the Island, including going onboard the US Coast Guard tall ship Eagle while it is docked at Front Street. US Consul General Gregory Slayton said Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal is to be a special guest at a reception on the Cutter to mark the 100th anniversary of the Newport–Bermuda race, which was held this week. Princess Anne is a sailing enthusiast and is president of the Royal Yachting Association. While on the Island, the Princess is also due to visit the Windreach Recreational Village, Riding for the Disabled, Bermuda Sailors Home and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club tomorrow. On Sunday, The Princess Royal will lay a wreath at the Bermuda Royal Navy Cemetery at Dockyard and visit Matins at St. Anne’s Church in Southampton. She is also expected to enjoy some private sailing during her stay and to view yachts that have taken part in this year’s Newport to Bermuda race. The Princess Royal is the first Royal visitor to Bermuda since Prince Andrew, Duke of York, was on the Island last November to deliver the Throne Speech.

July.  Bermuda Tourism offices in Halifax and Toronto were closed

Bermuda stamp 400 yearsJuly 3. What price Becky's life? $2,840.63. Ten years ago today Cindy Bennett’s teenage daughter was raped, tortured and stabbed and left to die in agony on a beachside road. Rebecca Middleton’s brutal, lonely demise hundreds of miles from home sparked an international outcry. Two suspects were brought in within days yet Bermuda’s legal system was unable to find either guilty of murdering the Canadian teen. While the Middleton family were enveloped in an outpouring of support from a shocked Bermudian public following the tragedy, Bermudian officialdom has piled on one insult after another, from day one. An inquiry launched partly to find out who was to blame for the legal fiasco failed to find who was responsible for the plea bargain at the heart of it. Meanwhile a senior Government figure publicly said Bermuda owed the Middleton family nothing. After years of campaigning by the family the Department of Public Prosecutions finally agreed to re-examine the case this year – only to rule out reopening it under fresh charges. A scholarship set up in Becky’s memory at Bermuda College from funds raised by well-wishers was left to lie unused for years until prompting from the family finally got it going again. This summer a tree which had become a shrine to Becky’s memory was removed without warning by the Parks Department. Government has yet to apologize. And then, just a few weeks ago, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board put a figure on Becky’s life after the family put in a claim for the maximum of $100,000 for pain and suffering. That figure? Just $2,840.63. After a decade of hurt all the Bermuda Government was prepared to pay for the cost of Becky’s ticket, the cost of flying her corpse home and sundry expenses such as the flight ticket to watch the failed trial. A further $3,000 was awarded for the Middleton’s legal costs, far short of what they had spent. Had not their lawyers agreed to wave the rest, the Middletons would have been seriously out of pocket. While other families of murder victims have been awarded tens of thousands of dollars The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board argued that larger payouts can only go to dependents of victims. Cindy is saddened but not surprised. For her it was never about the money but for Becky’s memory with the cash bolstering Becky’s Bermuda College scholarship fund. For her the paltry compensation sum is the same old story. “No one wants to be responsible. No one took responsibility for screwing up the investigation. No one took responsibility for making sure the right charges were laid, no one took responsibility in following through. It’s ten years later and they want to sweep it under the carpet.” All the application did was reopen old wounds as she pressed the case for a pain and suffering award - only to be told that pain and suffering comes with a caveat. She said: “I think the Board should have been clearer on the ‘pain and suffering’ – to me they have just picked cases to suit their purpose. It was very difficult to write the letter regarding ‘pain and suffering’. I had actually started and then stopped and told my lawyer I couldn’t do it and to forget the whole matter – but a few months later I buckled down and spilled my guts.” That letter included the sharp sense of loss a mother feels when her child is taken away from her. She misses Becky’s smile, her hugs and kisses, the voice on the end of her phone, her distinctive laugh. “When I see a blonde head, I catch myself looking – hoping to see a glimpse of Becky.” Today Cindy is just left with her memories of the daughter she sent to Bermuda when she was just a few days shy of her 17th birthday. Asked how she will be marking today’s somber anniversary she said: “I will just have a quiet day, probably have some tears. Of course I would like to see justice but we don’t always see justice in our lifetime sometimes but I believe every dog has its day.” She is glad the case is being pursued by Becky’s father and others. “I think of Becky everyday – not a day goes by when I don’t think of her. Her picture is on the fridge right now, where it was before she went away, and it is never coming down. We have other family members so we have to keep Becky’s memory alive and give them the love we can’t physically give Becky and protect our family. As far as pursuing it I don’t have any faith in Bermuda at all, literally no faith in the legal system.”

Bermuda stamp DiasporaJuly 310th anniversary of death in Bermuda of Canadian tourist Rebecca Middleton, 17 years old. She was raped, sodomized, brutally stabbed and cut 35 times, beaten, tortured, and then murdered, at Ferry Reach. It was the worst, most brutal and savage murder ever committed on a woman anywhere in the world. When contacted by The Royal Gazette for his comments on the Middleton case a decade after a murder that stunned the Island, the former Commissioner stressed he did not want to get involved in Bermuda affairs. In an interview marking the tenth anniversary of Rebecca’s death, however, the UK-based former top cop briefly touched on some issues surrounding the saga – and spoke of his “terrible sadness” for the Middleton family. “Within a few days of arriving in Bermuda, Rebecca was forcibly kidnapped, terribly sexually assaulted – her underwear was cut from her body – violently raped and simonized and clearly tortured before being stabbed to death,” said Mr. Coxall. “She was stabbed nearly 40 times. “I find it outrageous that nobody has been held to account for those most serious offences.” Asked about the severity of the murder, one source told The Royal Gazette: “On a scale of one to ten this is about as bad as you can get.” Mr. Coxall said the chain of events – spanning from Rebecca’s death to the murder case collapsing against one suspect, after another got five years for an accessory role – was the biggest injustice he had witnessed in a policing career covering four decades. “I can’t recall a worse miscarriage of justice in my 40-year policing career, most of which was spent as a chief officer in London and elsewhere in the UK. “I truly believe, and I’m saddened to come to the conclusion, that this child and her parents have been poorly served by Bermuda’s Government, judicial and prosecution systems and Police service. “They have all failed this family and this child.” Mr. Coxall, said he was disappointed to hear that it appeared that Police had not reviewed the case on a regular basis – and claimed this amounted to “neglect”. “In line with British and international best practice, cases of this seriousness that are outstanding are normally re-investigated on a regular basis, in line with developments in DNA testing and other improvements in forensic science. “I’m disappointed to hear from The Royal Gazette that this appeared not to have taken place. “I believe this is a neglect.” And he added: “The way the entire judicial system of Bermuda dealt with the murder of that poor child was a travesty and Bermuda should be ashamed”. Asked if he would have done anything differently, knowing what happened in the weeks after Rebecca’s death when one suspect was charged with being an accessory before the murder case against another defendant spectacularly collapsed, he replied: “Definitely. I would have grabbed hold of the case from the start. “That’s with hindsight. I could never have guessed it went that way. “Truly, I think we did the best we could. We threw all our resources at it and the highest-ranking officers. Then it went wrong after the arrest.” At least 20 officers were assigned to the case, led by Senior Investigating Officer Vic Richmond. Head of Operations Harold Moniz oversaw resources, while Michael Mylod handled family liaisons. Asked about the quality of the original Police investigation, Mr. Coxall stated: “I believe that officers did their best in line with the level of experience and training that existed at that time. “They did their best.” Mr. Coxall said that he hoped him speaking out on some aspects of the murder would help kick-start a debate about the case – and lead to new serious sexual assault charges being laid. “I hope this will stimulate a discussion to have this case thoroughly re-examined using the very best investigative skills off the Island,” added the ex-Commissioner, now an expert on terrorism in the UK and working for a firm helping London bolster security ahead of the forthcoming Olympics. “The most modern methods of science are not there on the Island. Using them, I truly believe it (the Middleton investigation) could be rescued and new charges brought forward.” He pointed to several long-standing rape cases in the UK – just as old as the Middleton case – that had been solved with minute DNA fragments thanks to technological advances. And he said there should be “masses of DNA” from the case still in cold storage at Police HQ that could be sent overseas for review. Now a tiny flake of skin can trace a killer, and sources say Rebecca’s body would have been “littered” with the DNA of her killers. Sources contacted for the Middleton anniversary said the case started going downhill after the two suspects Justis Smith and Kirk Mundy were arrested. An accessory plea was accepted from Mundy, who claimed he had sex with Rebecca but later found Smith killing her, and the indictment was split. They said this broke the “golden rule” of charging two defendants accused of a violent offence together – so they can blame each other in front of the jury. “This was the fatal and fundamental error,” said one source. The Royal Gazette understands Mr. Coxall was not consulted on the Attorney General’s decision to accept what sources said was a “totally flawed” consensual sex alibi from the suspect later convicted of the accessory charge. This came at a stage when the investigation was far from complete, sources indicated, with results on DNA removed from Ferry Reach crime scene still to be confirmed. DNA evidence later showed only Mundy’s semen inside the victim’s body. After finding out about the accessory charge, sources said Mr. Coxall and some senior officers held a series of heated meetings with the Attorney General Elliott Mottley where the Police team strenuously argued that, based on the evidence available, both suspects should be charged with murder. A forensic expert told one of the meetings that she was prepared to go on oath and say the murder was almost certainly a double-hander. The Royal Gazette understands that the former Commissioner left Bermuda at the end of 1997 having been told by the AG that both men would be charged with murder and tried together. Both suspects were eventually charged with Rebecca’s murder, although in March, 1998 a higher court blocked attempts to prosecute Mundy and said the decision to charge him with accessory was too hasty. The case against Smith was thrown out by a judge at his trial in November, 1998. Meanwhile, Mr. Coxall said that his stance on the evidence being re-tested was backed by a recent review of the case by DPP director Vinette Graham Allen. He said her report, outlining why fresh charges would not be filed, stated that the two suspects could have been prosecuted for murder in 1996 on the state of the evidence as it stood then. She added that no new evidence had emerged, and Mr. Coxall said that this was a effectively an admission that if new evidence came forward then fresh charges may have followed. The Commissioner of Police when Rebecca Middleton was murdered, Coxall has described her death as the worst miscarriage of justice of his 40-year career. But he said he remained confident the ten-year-old case could still be cracked – if the Middleton file was re-opened and investigated again by overseas experts. Speaking in detail publicly for the first time about the Canadian teenager’s death, Mr. Coxall said he found it “outrageous” that nobody has been convicted for the savage killing. Bermuda should be “ashamed” of the way its judicial system handled the case, he stated. Responding to critics who say the case was botched from the start, he maintained that officers did the best job they could given resources available on the Island in 1996. Ground-breaking advances in forensic techniques meant the investigation could still be “rescued”, he believes. And he said he was confident there was “masses” of DNA in the case that could be probed by experts as part of a new review by senior Police from Britain or America. Mr. Coxall told The Royal Gazette: “I believe it’s still not too late. Cases of rape and serious sex assault are now regularly being solved in the UK many years later as a result of developments in DNA testing. “I believe that a sufficiently skilled investigation team of international standing – either from the FBI in the US or from British Police service – could re-investigate that case in its entirety and even now bring it to a successful conclusion.”

July 5. There are four days and two presentations left before Bermuda’s Island Games fate is decided. A delegation of eight – including “the world’s most enthusiastic Sports Minister” Dale Butler – flew out last night bound for Rhodes for the Island Games Federation AGM and a head-to-head battle with the Isle of Wight to host the 2011 Games. And Jon Beard, chairman of Bermuda’s Island Games Committee, is confident they can win the votes necessary to bring the $3 million Games to the Island. I'm feeling a lot more comfortable than I did a few months ago,” said Beard, who revealed the bid package had already cost $20,000. “I know some of the islands have already made their minds up – because they have contacted us to say they are going with us – but there are still a few left to persuade. I think it will be very close but I have been rehearsing the presentation – I must have done it ten times now – and every time I go through it, I feel more and more confident. I think we are in a position to put on a very good Games – a once in a lifetime event for the other islands.” The delegation, including Minister Butler, arrive on the Greek island of Rhodes today and will be staging a workshop/bid presentation tomorrow. Friday sees a site visit for venues for next year’s Rhodes Games before the D-Day AGM on Saturday. There will be one final presentation before the vote, scheduled for some time in the afternoon. “The executive committee recommended the Isle of Wight bid,” continued Beard. “The three main areas of concern were cost, Governmental support and how new we are to the Island Games movement. I am happy we have addressed all those concerns. We have spent a lot of time with Tourism and the hoteliers and we have been able to come up with some deals which will bring down costs. The introduction of the new airlines has also helped our cause. As for support of the Government, they are now very much behind us and the world’s most enthusiastic sports minister is part of our presentation. The newness thing is really nothing – we will be as new to the movement then as Rhodes are staging this next Games.” The decision on whether Bermuda will get the chance to host the best part of 3,000 athletes and officials in the 14 sport event will be voted for by members and the executive committee at the end of the AGM. “It’s going to be very close,” added Beard. “Very close.”

July 6. Forensics – or the lack of them – were at the heart of the botched legal bid to nail the suspects accused of the Rebecca Middleton murder. Prosecutors and Police pinned their hopes on a confession by Kirk Mundy who claimed to have had consensual sex with the 17-year-old Canadian visitor on Ferry Reach beach – only to find his friend Justis Smith murdering her when he returned from washing himself in the sea. Police were influenced by false lab results which initially indicated semen in all three of Becky’s orifices – suggesting more than one man must have been involved, particularly given the timeline which had the suspects at the scene for only a matter of minutes. Later it emerged faulty swab evidence had overstated the case and there was only semen in the vagina. By then the Crown had split the indictment as Mundy had already pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact while there were no forensics linking Smith, now solely charged with the murder, to the scene. Smith was later cleared by the Supreme Court who ruled he had no case to answer while efforts to recharge Mundy were also blocked by London’s Privy Council. Yet alarm bells were ringing in all sorts of quarters in the early stages of the investigation. David Middleton, Rebecca’s father, had arrived in Bermuda the day after his daughter’s murder. Despite the emotional need to take Becky’s body home both he and his estranged wife Cindy, who had joined him on that journey, recall explicitly offering the Police more time to examine the body. But doctors only took one day. Mr. Middleton said: “My take on it was they wanted it over and done with as quickly as possible. Yet three of the attending physicians suggested they get a further autopsy done by a pathologist from Dade County, Florida. That didn’t happen. We said ‘do it properly’.” Mr. Middleton now believes authorities in Bermuda didn’t know what properly was. “Did they do any fingernail scrapings? The answer was no they didn’t. When you have a brutal murder like that would you not think to do that? That’s 101. We just assumed that Bermuda being a hi-tech country, with all the banking facilities and tourism, that they have the same types of skills and procedures that we have here. But we came to find out they were in the dark ages. They didn’t even cordon off the scene. They had people tromping around there.” That view was backed up the Commission of Inquiry into Series Crimes report in 2000 which looked at the Middleton case. It said there was no doubt whatsoever that the crime scene was “not properly secured in the first instance and properly managed thereafter”. The report went on to say the crime scene was not scoured for clues using the latest forensic methods to pick up trace material which could have pinned the murderers to the scene of the crime. Even when subjects confess, the hunt for DNA must not stop, said the Commissioners. DNA can convict the guilty and absolve the innocent and the report said undue reliance should never be placed on confessions. However former Superintendent Vic Richmond, who supervised the inquiry in the crucial early stages, said criticism of the Police has been overstated. He said: “The crime scene was completely secured and tented with a big marquee over it.” And he said it was normal to use new recruits to do a thorough inch-by-inch search of the outer perimeter. “That’s normal procedure here and everywhere else. They won’t touch anything. They just mark it out if it is at all suspicious. Nothing of significance was found.” Mark Pettingill, Mundy’s lawyer, felt Police could have done better. “As the investigation progressed I began to think there were things that were questionable given my experience with the Police in the past. Many of the usual faces I had seen involved in a case of that level were for some reason not involved. I have no idea why. I am a big forensics buff and was pretty well versed in crime scene investigation – I certainly questioned some of the things I saw. A crime scene can tell a lot of stories about a case but it didn’t seem that was the focus.” He said questions were laid a year after Mundy had been convicted. Attorney General Elliott Mottley decided to seek the advice of US experts Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. Henry Lee on forensics. That is certainly something one would have thought would have been prudent to do at the outset.  They had opinions about what the crime scene indicated that had not been put forward before. Nowadays the first thing you will see with a crime is you have your forensics experts in there – Michael Baden, Valerie Rao, Henry Lee – to support what is becoming a very good unit in Bermuda.” He said greater professionalism in handling crime scenes was one of the positives to have emerged since the infamously mishandled case. “There hadn’t been similar investigations before, that was part of the problem. There had been other murder cases but not where the forensic evidence would have been as significant as it potentially was in this case. I think there was habit in Police forces across the world, even as little as ten years ago, to try and obtain verbal evidence, statements and eyewitness reports. Forensics was seen almost as supporting evidence. But forensic evidence doesn’t lie, witnesses do.” However Mr. Richmond believes little was done wrong by his team who worked around the clock on the case, although he does acknowledge a few “hiccups”. Asked what he would have done differently if he was doing it again he said: “The only thing I may have done differently is brought in a forensic pathologist from the very get-go rather than have the local pathologist perform the autopsy. Although the results of both Dr. Johnson and Valerie Rao were in the end the same saying that it was highly unlikely that one person alone committed these crimes, but they couldn’t say for certain.” He is still angry the failure to nab the murderer has been blamed on a botched Police inquiry. “Nothing could be further from the truth. This is not an unsolved murder case.” He said the investigation was characterized by “dogged determination to identify suspects and build a strong case”. The bungling commenced long before the tragic events of July 3, 1996, said Mr. Richmond. “Kirk Mundy should never have been free to have been in Ferry Reach, St. George’s on that fateful night,” he said. “Despite strenuous Police objections to bail at the time of Becky’s murder he was on Magistrates’ Court bail for a serious armed robbery of a Bank of Butterfield van at Mermaid Beach club.” Police were stretched to the limits at the time of Becky’s murder, added Mr. Richmond, but the force still deployed “all available resources to that inquiry” in what he said was an intensive investigation which led to the culprits being identified and arrested. Recalling the strain put on Police he said the murder took place in the early hours of Wednesday July 3. Two days later a tourist died in a parasailing accident which needed a Police probe to makes sure there was no criminal negligence. Then on Saturday Police were called to deal with the fatal shooting of James Caines. “Despite what Dr. Michael Baden said in the NBC news story on the Middleton case, within hours of the arrests of the two suspects we had recovered the murder weapon from the waters of St. George’s Harbour near to the Swing Bridge.” It was identified as belonging to a set kept at Smith’s home which had one missing – after a hiccup in which the KEMH resident pathologist said the murder weapon was a double sided stiletto blade and the knife Mundy had led Police to had too much marine growth on it. A marine biologist then said the knife could very well be the murder weapon while another experiment showed the knife left the same tear marks as those on Becky’s shirt. Police were also told there was semen only in the vagina, anus and mouth – only to discover it was only in the vagina, said Mr. Richmond. “These little hiccups influenced the direction of inquiry and the method of the interrogation of the suspects. Now when you discover there was semen in the mouth, anus and vagina you think, well how can an individual deposit semen in all three orifices. If there was only semen in the vagina, you think only one person did it.” Police and prosecutors were under massive time pressure to charge the pair within 72 hours – the standard time charges must be laid before defendants are released. Mr. Richmond recalled the crucial meeting to discuss the charges. Present were Attorney General Elliott Mottley, Solicitor General Barry Meade, prosecutor Khamisi Tokunbo, Chief Inspector Carlton Adams and Detective Inspectors Leegay Farley and Stuart Crockwell. “To me it was very unfortunate that perhaps the most experienced and able member of the AG’s staff with regard to criminal prosecution was on overseas leave – Brian Calhoun.” Discussions mulled over a successful recent murder case which nabbed the killers of Vincello Johnny Peppers Richardson in St. George’s. That prosecution, by Mr. Tokunbo, used one suspect as an accessory after the fact with his evidence helping secure the conviction against the main culprit, said Mr. Richmond. He said he had reservations and called the pathologist to ask if it was possible for one person alone to have sexually assaulted and stabbed Rebecca Middleton. The pathologist doubted it, but could not say for sure. But a consensus of having holding charges against Mundy as an accessory and Smith as the murder accused was garnered, according to Mr. Richmond. “I had reservations, but the normal thing was to charge them with something rather than release them.” Asked why the Crown was moving that way Mr. Richmond said: “We had a statement from Mundy implicating Smith. We had nothing from Smith. The feeling was we can’t release them. We have to decide on a holding charge. For some reason an event occurred and Mundy was allowed to plead to that holding charge. There was never a meeting between us to say ‘do we continue with the holding charges?’” Asked if he requested one, he said he could not recall. “If at that time I had no further evidence I would probably have gone along with the process. Bearing in mind all the evidence was linking Smith more and more to the crime rather than Mundy. I think Mark (Pettingill) was pretty shrewd. He took care of the interests of his own client and got him a good deal.” Mr. Richmond said normally a suspect who gave evidence against an accomplice would be liable for a sentence reduction. “But you have to be convicted before you can give evidence against your co-accused.” However, by the time of Smith’s trial Mundy had already been put away for 16 years for armed robbery which was added to his five years for accessory. There was little incentive to play ball although Mr. Richmond can’t recall why Mundy was not called as witness. Mr. Richmond said plea bargaining was a calculated risk prosecuting authorities took. “But it happens all the time. Generally the person will come through.” He believes if the case had gone to the jury, as the Privy Council said it should have done, the Middleton case would not still be such a running sore. “I think a jury would have come to the same conclusion as both the pathologist and myself – that they acted together.” Mr. Richmond questioned why Smith’s trial case was handled by newly-arrived Solicitor General William Pearce whose expertise was in civil litigation and not the Attorney General Elliott Mottley or top prosecutor Brian Calhoun. “I got the sense that if Brian wasn’t there from the get-go, liaising with Police, he didn’t want to be involved.” He said a timeline, corroborated by security guards in the Ferry Reach area, cell, phone and Police radio records and statements, showed from the time the motorbike with three people entered Ferry Reach and the time it left, with two people and a rag covering the number plate, was a matter of minutes. “That was never used. Bill Pearce never introduced that. Say it was 12 minutes for people to go in there and commit a heinous crime, sexual assault and multiple stab wounds was strong evidence for a jury to say they must have been acting together to do all this in that short space of time. But it was never introduced as evidence.” Becky’s mother Cindy said she felt sorry for Mr. Pearce. “He had just arrived on the island and this had already happened and he gets this thing to work on. Why would not someone who had been there and knew the system take the case? One of the others. Bill did a fantastic job. I don't fault him at all. He did the best job he could with the hand he was dealt. Sandra Bacchus, his assistant was phenomenal too.” By the time of Smith's trial the Middleton's had already had bitter experience of Bermuda's court rooms after seeing Mundy got a deal they knew nothing about. One time Dave Middleton and his son Mark flew down for an arraignment session but were cleared from the courtroom. Cindy Bennett said: “I thought – this is about our daughter. Why are they hiding - why can't they be in there? So the Smith trial was yet another ordeal for the family of the slain girl. Cindy said: “Some people were in court just because it was a high profile case. Smith's father slept in the back of the court. Smith was never called to the stand.” She said hot-shot English QC John Perry seemed to control the court with presiding judge Vincent Meerabux enthralled – when he wasn't showboating himself. “It was like he was on TV, it was like a little stage up there, the way he acted.” At the start she had every hope but towards the end of the three-week trial she felt it was slipping away. “I think if the judge had let it go to the jury they would have done the right thing. I felt sorry for the jury having to sit there and listen to everything, see everything and not given the chance to do the job they had to do.” When Mr. Justice Meerabux aborted the trial Mrs Bennett felt “sick to my stomach”. “To me he didn't let people give the evidence they wanted to. I don't think he had control of the court. I think the defence lawyer did. It was like a little show with bantering back and forth. Maybe Meerabux found it humorous. But you know it is a serious thing, somebody is dead and it happens to be my daughter. I didn't appreciate it. It was a serious thing but they would be laughing.” She never saw “hide nor hare” of the Police she'd met who had done the investigation. “You would think they might come around. But at that point I didn't know how badly things were screwed up. I think some of them were embarrassed and they had a right to be embarrassed.” She said she felt a lot better when Det. Sgt. Terry Maxwell got involved with the case but she said it was too late by then. Cindy Bennett said Attorney General Elliott Mottley, who along with Mr. Tokunbo has declined to be interviewed for this series, should take some responsibility for the fiasco. “I never met him but I think he played a part in the way the charges were laid out. The Police don't make deals. Maybe they rushed to get a conviction. Maybe they should have been more careful.” And Mr. Pettingill, despite having a professional victory in the case, said it gave him no personal satisfaction. He said: “The obvious conclusion was that the whole matter was a complete debacle and in these types of instances the buck should stop with the man in charge - the Attorney General in my view should have resigned over it.” In conclusion Cindy Bennett said: “My daughter was murdered and no one was convicted. Did she murder herself? No. I blame the Policing and blame the prosecution. I blame them all.”

July 6. Canadians have hit out at the Bermuda Government’s decision to award less then $3,000 to the family of murdered Rebecca Middleton. Ten years on from the Canadian teenager’s brutal death in St. George’s, The Royal Gazette revealed how the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board put a figure of $2,840.63 on Rebecca’s life. The family had submitted a claim for the maximum $100,000 for pain and suffering. News of the compensation award yesterday hit the headlines in major Canadian newspapers. And the amount has been criticized by listeners on one of the biggest radio stations in the country, with a handful of callers reviving talk of a Bermuda boycott. Outraged Canadians had called for a boycott of the Island in 1998 in the wake of the fallout from the collapsed Middleton murder case. Ryan Doyle, executive producer at CFRB 1010, last night said that a 30-minute news phone-in session yesterday morning on the Middleton pay-out attracted about 20 callers. “The majority of people were of the opinion that it was not enough,” he said. “Some people said that Canada is no better, but the majority were disgusted by it and said you might as well not offer any compensation at all.” The senior producer said at least three of the callers mentioned a travel boycott. “One woman said she had been to Bermuda about 20 to 25 times and she would definitely think about not going back.” News of the compensation payout also featured in the Toronto Star.

July 6. Famed forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden said hasty prosecutors and a poor decision by the trial judge were to blame for the failure to convict anyone for the murder of Rebecca Middleton. Dr. Baden and fellow US expert Henry Lee had been tracked down by Det. Sgt. Terry Maxwell after the legal case began to unravel and testified in the collapsed murder trial of Justis Smith. Dr. Baden, the Chief Forensic Pathologist for the New York State Police, recalled looking at the crime scene at Ferry Reach where Rebecca met her violent end. He saw the photos of the body in the roadway. He said: “The crime scene had been tampered with. When we came down and reviewed everything – the murder would have occurred on the beach and the body was moved up and put on the roadway with the idea, it appeared to Dr. Lee and myself, that someone coming along on that dark road would hit the body on the road and make it appear like it was a road accident. They were thinking about how to get out of it.” He said they determined from blood spatters that the body had to be brought to the scene by two people carrying it. “A very serious mistake was made when the prosecutor provided immunity while having no idea who the perpetrator was. He gave it to the one who was more serious, who left DNA. It seemed to me they were acting in concert.” He said the jury should have decided the matter. “Every time there is a sexual assault and a murder the defendant always says there was consensual sex. You have to rely on credibility. Is it possible that it happened that way? Anything is possible. Is it reasonable? No. Sure it’s possible but it’s bizarre and I don’t believe it. It’s lousy for the prosecutor to make a decision like that before you get all the evidence in. First get the facts – the autopsy, the scene, the DNA. Once you get all that in you know how better to interrogate witnesses and ask questions and get additional information. That’s where detecting comes in.” He said whenever there is a crime, information is given out first by the suspects and then Police go back and get more evidence and information and question them again to see if the story changes to accommodate the new facts. “If you give immunity before you can do that then you can never really test Mundy’s statement,” he said. Dr. Baden, who has dealt with cases all over the world, said it was premature to accept a deal without knowing whose DNA was found on the body. “It’s a very basic mistake. The Police did the job properly as I recall, the prosecutor screwed up. Pearce, the new prosecutor then tried to make up for it. That’s one of the reason he had Dr. Lee and myself come down. He tried very hard to undo the damage which had been done.” He said he felt Puisne Judge Vincent Meerabux then made a serious error by saying there was no case for Smith to answer. “I think the jury was also shocked by that.” Dr. Baden, like Rebecca’s mum Cindy Bennett, felt the judge was intimidated by Smith’s lawyer John Perry and yielded too much. He said he believed there was enough evidence to get proper convictions. “You have very good Police down in Bermuda and very well trained. Maybe it’s the politics of how you choose prosecutors and judges.” Dr. Baden has seen hundreds and hundreds of murder scenes in his time, some sadder than others. “If heroin addicts get in a fight and one gets killed, or spouses are always fighting and one gets killed – as sad as those are the victim has something to do with the murder. They are not totally innocent. It’s drugs or alcohol or they stayed in abusive relationships. But this kind of death is more outrageous and upsetting. “Not because there was so much blood at the scene but because she was totally an innocent victim. It’s very sad – a 17-year-old tourist.”

July 7Top British Policeman Bryan Bell was appointed Bermuda's new Assistant Police Commissioner. Mr. Bell arrived in Bermuda a few days earlier and will focus on crime, drugs and intelligence during his three-year stint. He will work closely with the National Drug Control ministry. With more than 30 years policing experience, Mr. Bell was the first national coordinator of Special Branch which oversees UK security matters. That post involved working with the British Government, intelligence agencies and 55 Police forces in the UK.

July 12. Bermuda’s Small Island Games delegation may have failed in their bid to host the 2011 Games, but they’ve responded in the most positive way – by shooting for 2013. Bid leader John Beard said yesterday that the “enormously positive” reception their presentation to the Small Island Games congress had received convinced them almost immediately that a follow-up bid would be successful. He even claimed that the Faroe Islands had been “so impressed” by Bermuda’s case that they had decided to abandon their original intention to bid for the 2013 Games “to give us the best shot of winning”. The Isle of Wight were awarded the 2011 Games last Saturday at a meeting on the Greek island of Rhodes, beating Bermuda by the extremely narrow of margin of 30 votes to 25. “The feedback we received leads us to feel that we are a strong contender for 2013,” Beard said. “We may have lost the last battle, but we did Bermuda’s reputation a great service, and hopefully set ourselves to host one of the largest multi-sport events in the world in 2013.” Another member of the nine-man Bermuda delegation, Bermuda’s assistant national football coach Paul Scope, was equally optimistic and lavished praise on Sports Minister Dale Butler, who he claimed changed several countries minds with a typically electric final speech to the congress. “He was absolutely sensational,” said Scope. “The passion of his speech at the end of our presentation made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and everybody was enormously impressed both by him and our bid. We were always up against it given how much cheaper the Isle of Wight’s cost estimate was, not to mention the recommendation from the Games’ executive committee to back them and not us. But in the end we secured nine extra votes and were only three votes away from over-riding the executive committee’s position – which was a pretty remarkable achievement in itself.” Scope admitted, however, that no matter what cost-cutting measures they came up with, Bermuda would always be a more expensive island than any other. But he insisted that Bermuda was capable of putting on a Games “the likes of which has never been seen before” and that other countries would quickly stop moaning about the cost. "We worked hard for our 2011 bid to get the costs down,” he said. “But even after we had negotiated some pretty decent deals with the hotels, the cost of accommodation that we can offer was almost three times more than is available on the Isle of Wight. But we were determined throughout the congress not to apologise for the cost factor, and our line was that you would get what you paid for. By 2013 as well, the Centre Core of the National Sports Centre should be complete, with the facilities on offer there unlike anything any other island can even dream of. But every person on the delegation worked extremely hard to pull it off for 2011 and though we were disappointed to miss out, it was strange because were also euphoric at the response to all our work. There’s no doubt in my mind that we are favourites for 2013, and when the time comes to start bidding again, we will be even better prepared.”

July 19. The voice for Bermuda’s insurance and reinsurance companies is preparing to lobby the US Treasury over a new US law that significantly increases the tax burden for Americans living in places such as Bermuda. President Bush signed the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 into law in May. While the law increases the amount of foreign-earned income that can be exempted from US taxes to $82,400 from $80,000, it significantly caps housing allowances – a benefit that has helped attract Americans to live in high priced Bermuda. In the past, Americans could deduct virtually all of their housing expenses. Under the new law, their housing allowances are capped at just under $12,000 in 2006. While there are plenty of other concerns about the tax changes, the Association for Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers is zeroing in on the housing allowance cap. That is because there is a provision in the new law that allows the US Treasury to change this cap in jurisdictions with a higher cost of living. ABIR plans to file a report detailing Bermuda’s high cost of living with the US Treasury. “Congressional staff are interested in making sure that Treasury follows their intent and their intent clearly stated that they would recognize a greater housing allowance,” said ABIR president Brad Kading. Last month, South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint responded to the controversial law by proposing a bill to completely eliminate the cap on foreign earned income. Mr. Kading said it is unlikely that the legislation will move in the 2006 legislative session since the sponsor of the legislation is not on the key committee and it is an election year. Even after the election, however he sees the chance of overturning the law as “very remote.” “The US budget runs a huge deficit that means they are always looking at ways to raise money so it is very hard to make a change,” he said. Ironically, US Consul General Gregory Slayton, Premier Alex Scott and his contingent were in the White House on May 17, the very day President George W. Bush signed the tax changes into law. Mr. Slayton said he had a number of sidebar conversations on the issue with close friends in the White House that day. The discussions did not include the Premier and his team. Mr. Slayton, a Republican who was the co-chairman of the Silicon Valley Bush 2000 fundraising committee, said that as a former businessman and as a former American expatriate he totally understands the concerns of American individuals and companies. “There is a lot of heartburn about this recent tax as there are about all taxes, but this one has some really pernicious affects on America’s ability to be effective overseas. I’m a Republican. Obviously I believe in small efficient government and low taxes. I believe people should keep as much as they earn as possible and so I am just philosophically opposed to big government and big taxes.” Most of the 8,000 Americans living in Bermuda are dual nationals – generally Bermudian /Americans who are not necessarily expatriates. However they too will be hit in the pocketbook if their earnings exceed the foreign earned income cap. Not surprisingly, American employees and employers have been contacting Mr. Slayton on a daily basis since the law came into effect. “Anyone that represents the US overseas, ambassadors in every developed country where the US has significant business interests are concerned and getting lobbied by Americans and that is the way the process works. The majority are concerned about the fact that the tax is retroactive to January 1 this year so not enough tax has been withheld from their pay cheques for the first five months of the year. People are also concerned about the uncertainty surrounding the housing cap, about whether their employers will absorb the increases and what this will mean for future employment opportunities abroad." ABIR is not collecting information on how individual employers are dealing with the changes internally and recruiters at two local recruitment agencies said it was too soon to tell how the changes would impact employer’s hiring practices. However employers have told Mr. Slayton that it has become virtually impossible now to hire Americans when other countries do not tax the foreign earned income of their citizens. “I know of number of employers who were on the verge of hiring Americans and who have turned to hire Canadian or English or Scots or whatever,” he said. David Ezekiel, chairman of the Association of Bermuda International Companies, has also heard from members who are now trying to address the issue. “It is one of those things where not a whole lot one can do and each company has to take a position on how they want to deal with it,” he said. He anticipates that companies will treat the increased taxation in the same way they currently approach payroll tax. While some will take on the whole burden, some will share it with their employees. “Everyone is all over the place on it. Clearly what it will do is radically change the compensation structure for some individuals and therefore each company is taking different approach depending on how they approach the whole the are of compensation but it is something that does impact a lot of the companies in our sector with US employees,” he said. As for the future of American employees in Bermuda, he doubts the tax will end up causing the majority of companies to avoid hiring Americans. “One tries to find the best people and at the end of the day one tries to craft a compensation structure that you think will attract them so it certainly might mean that it will be more expensive for companies to hire people they want. Not only that, it might be more expensive for companies to retain people they have, but I don’t see it leading to big change in hiring because a lot of the people we are talking about come with an expertise that is in short supply so at end of the day they will do what it takes to sort of make it work,” he said.

July 21. Government ministers spent more than $630,000 of the taxpayers’ money on travel in a single year, parliamentary questions revealed. Opposition Finance spokeswoman Pat Gordon-Pamplin hit out at the $77,000 racked up on daily expenses on top of meal, air ticket and hotel bills. She said: “What stands out is the apparent misuse of per diems, which total $73,355, which one would expect would be used for incidentals – but food, transport and miscellaneous costs of $36,000 have been charged to the travel account in addition to per diems. What seems painful for the public to swallow is the amount of extras that Ministers are receiving at the expense of the public purse, especially in the face of the mammoth salary increases they have just voted for themselves.” The analysis shows a further $326,000 in airfare and $198,000 in hotels bills the public has been forced to paid for, said Mrs. Gordon-Pamplin. The questions revealed Premier Alex Scott took eight trips costing the taxpayer $132,180 while Home Affairs Minister Randy Horton is king of the jet-setting Ministers, racking up costs of $137,316 for his ten trips. Included on Mr. Horton’s busy travel itinerary were three trips to the States meet Sgt. De Lacy Davis about anti-gang initiatives, visits to the UK to look at electronic tagging of inmates, a visit to Washington DC for an employment summit and to look at speed cameras and two trips to Geneva for International Labour Organisation (ILO) summits. He also attended a conference in Miami, a Bermuda regiment camp in Jamaica and talks with the US Government in Washington. However Mr. Horton’s expenses were distorted by the fact that two trips to ILO conferences fell within the timeframe under the questions – June 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006. Government picked up the tab on both occasions for a entourage of union and business leaders. The Premier was also on the Jamaica and Washington trips with Mr. Horton and attended conferences in Antigua and the Caymans. Mr. Scott attended a CARICOM meeting in Miami and St. Lucia (which was classified as one trip), the World Economic Leaders Conference in New York, and the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS) conference in Hawaii. Also adding up the air miles was Tourism and Transport Minister Ewart Brown who spent $125,118 on 21 trips – making him Government’s most frequent flyer. Unsurprisingly many of the trips were for meetings with airlines and for tourism conferences. Finance Minister Paula Cox spent $82,255 on trips. They were to the Caribbean Postal Union Conference in Trinidad and Tobago, to Switzerland to meet tax officials, to Washington to sign a tax agreement with Australia, to the RIMS conference in Hawaii and to Washington to meet senior US politicians. Environment Minister Neletha Butterfield spent $71,872 on six trips, often traveling with a large entourage. Four were for agricultural shows in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and the Cayman Islands. She also went to a slave memorial ceremony in Virginia and to the swearing in ceremony for the Jamaican Prime Minister. Community Affairs and Sports Minister Dale Butler took three trips – one to Cuba on his own in October 2005 costing $4,192, one to New York in January this year with two staff costing $8,277 and one to Australia for the Commonwealth Games with one staff member costing $33,437. The total bill for the three trips, including staff, was $45,908. Telecommunications Minister Michael Scott took three unspecified trips, two of them unaccompanied, costing the taxpayer $15,043. Education Minister Terry Lister gave a full response about his three trips which cost $12,166. Two trips were for educational conferences in the Bahamas and Trinidad while the third was to Canada for the graduation of 18 Bermudian students from CompuCollege in Halifax. Health Minister Patrice Minors took just one trip – accompanied by her Permanent Secretary and the Chief Medical Officer – to an Avian ‘flu conference at a total cost of $5,840. National Drug Control Minister Wayne Perinchief took one unspecified trip, with a staff member, costing a total of $5,616. Yet to be revealed are the trips undertaken by Government Ministers sitting in the Senate. Ms Gordon-Pamplin added: “Parliamentary questions are the only means by which Ministers are held accountable to Parliament for their spending and the responses to such questions allow the Opposition not only to scrutinize the expenditure, but also to share this information with the public.” Earlier this year it was revealed Ministers spent $155,464 using Government credit cards over a 21-month period from April 1, 2004 to December 31, 2005 while another $77,610 was paid out in per diem travel expenses.

July 21. Bermudian homeowners are getting rich off the island's expatriate community, charging exorbitant rents for relatively moderate properties, according to a British daily. London's Financial Times said locals are taking advantage of stringent regulations which prevent foreigners from buying their own homes. In response, companies are forking out huge housing allowances to keep executives happy because they are intent on maintaining a presence in "one of the world's most important centres for reinsurance." The island was described as a known "tax haven", said to attract well-paid executives whose rental homes come with a monthly price tag of $24,000. According to Heather Botelli, a real estate agent with The Property Group, foreign workers typically receive a monthly allowance in the region of $5,000 and $10,000. "For the lower sum, you can get a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo, but this would have no frills, probably no view, and the closer you get to Hamilton, the more you pay." She told the Financial Times that many foreigners come to the island with specific requirements. "They want views of the ocean, a swimming pool, an old traditional house or a modern place. And, more often than not, they want something with easy access to Hamilton, near schools for their children." A second agent, Gail Aruda of Coldwell Banker Bermuda Realty, agreed it is rare to find a place that matches every expectation. "Bermuda is sophisticated but it's small and what many people don't understand when they arrive is that means there is not a large choice and therefore they have to be flexible," she said. There is no doubt, however, that Bermudians are benefiting from the influx. The Financial Times spoke with one local who said many homeowners use their property today for additional income instead of investing in the stock market. "The pirate in Bermudians came out," the relocation specialist said. "These companies were so keen for a part of the reinsurance pie, so the locals saw they could make money by renting out their homes at pretty much whatever price they wanted. Now everyone is trying to build or buy something so they can get on this bandwagon of rentals. People used to trade in stocks. Now this is the way for Bermudians to make money." At least one expatriate appears mindful of that fact. The Financial Times spoke with Anna Smith, who moved to the island with her reinsurance executive husband and their children four years ago. "It was very hard when we first arrived," she said. "There was very little on the market and even though we knew the island, the house we went for was the only one on offer. I think the company was a little horrified that it was going to be $11,000 a month. (But) it's getting more and more difficult for the tenants. There are not enough properties and often Bermudians are taking advantage of the situation to inflate the prices. There are a lot of great things about moving here: it's a very beautiful place, you have great weather, the sea. And for the men (typically the ones working), it can be fantastic, with no commuting like in London but for the women it can be a big shock. Here they are in a strange, expensive place, on a small island and often immigration laws mean they cannot work. There is a serious lack of schooling for boys and then if they have trouble with their landlords that's an additional worry."

July 22Death in Bermuda of former Deputy Premier John Irving Pearman, aged 79. Acting Opposition Leader Michael Dunkley described the retired politician as "one of the bedrocks of the United Bermuda Party" in the 1980s and 1990s. He said: "He contributed greatly to the success of the Island. "I think he came from pretty humble beginnings and rose through the ranks. He certainly had a lot of compassion and empathy with people and that's why he got involved in politics and did a fantastic job for the people of Bermuda." Mr. Pearman, of Warwick, became a Senator in 1982 and was elected an MP the following year. He served as Deputy Premier under Sir John Swan and held the Cabinet posts of Tourism Minister, Home Affairs and Labour Minister and Youth and Sports Minister. He is survived by his wife Erminie, son John, four grandchildren and six great grandchildren. His daughter Desiréee died in 1991. His son noted his father had lung cancer and died at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. "When I saw him at the hospital there was only one thing I came up with," he said. "He was a good man. He was a very dedicated family man." Gary Phillips, who served under Mr. Pearman as Director of Tourism and taught his daughter at Berkeley Institute, said: " We had an extraordinarily close relationship and developed a very, very strong friendship. I'm just overwhelmed by this loss." He said Mr. Pearman brought a "fresh, business approach" to the Ministry of Tourism and was Acting Premier on a number of occasions. Former UBP Education Minister Gerald Simons was Mr. Pearman's running mate in the old Warwick East constituency for four consecutive General Elections. He said: "He had the amazing ability to relate to people from all walks of life. He was 20 years my senior but the friendship developed. I have known him all my life and he was a well-known person in the parish." Shadow Home Affairs Minister Maxwell Burgess said: "He was certainly a guiding force in politics." Mr. Pearman was born on April 28, 1927. He worked at the naval annex in Southampton during the time the US Navy was positioned there. In 1950, he joined car distributor and service garage Holmes, Williams and Purvey. He worked his way up from panel beater to become managing director and chairman of the company, retiring in 1996. He served as director on a number of company boards, including the Bank of Bermuda and was a member of the Chamber of Commerce and former president of the Employers' Council. He served on the Royal Pitt Commission in the late 1970s with Premier Alex Scott. 

July 23. Jason Lightbourne,18, was shot dead behind the wheel of a car in Ord Road, Paget. Despite the offer of a $50,000 reward, Police have been unable to solve the case.

July 27.  One of America’s most well-known theatre critics Henry Hewes, who married a Bermudian at the end of World War II, died aged 89. Amongst many achievements he is credited as being the man who encouraged writer Tennessee Williams to turn his short story ‘Cat On A Hot Tin Roof’ into a play, which went on to become a smash hit production and Oscar-nominated movie starring Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor. Mr. Hewes was a fellow classmate of future US President John F. Kennedy. It was going to a show that was backed by Mr. Kennedy’s father, in honour of his son’s 10th birthday, that sparked Mr. Hewes interest in theatre. The Boston-born writer served with the US military during the war and it was while stationed in Bermuda that he met his future wife Jane Fowle, of Somerset. The couple were married at St. James Church in Somerset Parish on August 21, 1945 and then moved to New York City but remained regular visitors to the Island. Mr. Hewes made a name for himself in the US where he became a long-time theatre critic for The Saturday Review magazine, serving as chief critic from 1955 to 1973, previously he had written for the Sunday arts pages of the New York Times. He also founded the American Theater Critics Association in 1974 and helped to establish the “Tony Award” for regional theatre groups. Mr. Hewes was a past president of the New York Drama Critics Circle and edited the “Best Plays” anthology from 1960 to 1964. Mr. Hewes is survived by his wife Jane, his sons Henry, Tucker and Havelock and six grandchildren.

July 29. A new fast ferry is due to reach Bermuda by the middle of August, a hill that causes a slight obstruction to pilots landing at Bermuda International Airport is being demolished and the excess material sold off, and a live exercise is being planned next week to show the benefits of the new GPS taxi equipment system. All three topics were discussed by Transport Minister Dr. Ewart Brown as he presented an update on transport matters affecting the Island. The Ministry of Transport is stepping up the number of options available to people seeking to find alternative ways to get around. That is why a new ferry will soon be in service on the Island. The vessel is expected to be launched at Bridgeport, Connecticut next Monday and will undergo final tests before its due departure in early August to sail to Bermuda. And reporting on ongoing progress at the Airport, Deputy Premier Dr. Brown said: "After Hurricane Fabian the Airport sustained massive flood damage. In order to help prevent this major amount of damage in future we have begun a three-phase project of reinforcing the foreshore of the Airport. This project began in September 2005. Phase one has been completed and phases two and three will be completed before the end of the year. It has been discovered that Long Bird Hill causes a slight obstruction in the landing visibility for aircraft. In June we began to level out the hill. This is a three-year project being carried out by Bermuda Construction Services. As they will be selling the materials from the demolition of the hill this project is being carried out at no cost to Government with Government actually receiving a percentage of the material sales." And, there is just over a week to go before it becomes the law for taxi operators to have installed and to be using new GPS equipment, said Dr. Brown. There has to date been a 75 percentage compliance rate with 440 of the Island's 600 taxis now having the equipment installed. The Transport Minister said reminder letters have been sent out to taxi owners to reinforce the fact that the use of the equipment is compulsory as from August 6. "Taxi owners have had ample time to comply. The few that do not comply are placing a greater burden to carry the load on those who are. Early next week I, along with technical officers, will conduct a specific media event on this crucial area of computerized dispatch." The Minister also announced that a night piloting simulation of Bermuda's cargo vessels undertaken at MITAGS in Baltimore earlier this month had been completed and was designed to develop electronic models for cargo ships serving Bermuda, identifying improvements and upgrades to channel entrances and maritime navigational aids and digitizing nautical charts. During the past two months the Department of Maritime Administration has added a further six commercial vessels totaling 446,700 gross tons to the Island's register.

July 29. Almost a quarter of a million visitors came to Bermuda between April and June representing the highest number of tourists for any three-month period this millennium. As a result the Island has edged closer to full hotel occupancy and set an all-time record for the number of visitors to arrive during the second quarter of any year. But residents have been warned that all the efforts to put tourism back on track could be jeopardized by crimes against tourists and damage to the Island’s reputation from violent incidents such as the gunshot murder and machete attack that occurred last weekend.," We must recognize there can be clouds to the silver lining. Complacency, violence and inattention to detail. Each of these in their own way will detract from the tireless efforts of many Bermudians to grow tourism,” said Deputy Premier Dr. Ewart Brown. “As a community we must resolve not to tolerate any of them and to combat any attempt to ruin our good name. Any violence or negative experience that is had by a visitor will make our job more difficult. Bermuda must first be safe for Bermudians and, if it is safe for us, it will be safe for everybody.” Hotel reservations for August have jumped 39 percent on last year, an increase of close to 10,000 extra room nights sold, representing further proof of a revival in the tourism sector. And more dollars are being spent by visitors that ever before, according to the latest report by the Tourism Minister with air visitors injecting an estimated $115 million to $130 million into the economy during the past three months. Dr. Brown revealed second quarter visitor numbers for 2006 have eclipsed all previous figures for the same three months. Between April and June a total of 228,781 visitors came to Bermuda, a jump of 28.4 percent on the same months in 2005. There were around 9,000 more visitors landing at Bermuda International Airport, while the number of cruise ship visitors is now well above air passenger numbers with 122,560 disembarking during the past three months, just under 40,000 more than the same period last year. Dr. Brown mentioned a new initiative to encourage cruise ship guests to become repeat visitors and opt for hotel stays. He said: “We will shortly launch a tailor-made incentive programme designed to convert our one-day cruise passengers into return hotel guests.” The concept is being worked out in partnership with the Bermuda Hotel Association, whose president John Harvey referred to it as the “Bounce Back Programme”. He explained: “It is the putting together of a package that gives an incentive to cruise passengers giving them the opportunity to return to Bermuda as a regular visitor and giving them a good rate to do so.” Mr. Harvey said he was also impressed with rising hotel occupancy rates, which for April and May rose by nine percent and 11 percent respectively and are forecast to jump 39 percent in August. Asked if this might push the Island’s hotels close to full occupancy and what impact that would have, he said: “It is always good news. There was a time when Bermuda was always sold out. It has been a struggle getting back towards that day. “We continue to have late bookers and it is those people who may soon have a problem getting a room. At the moment we get late phone calls for rooms now we might start to see earlier and earlier calls.” Increasing the number of available hotel rooms remains an objective for Dr. Brown. Questioned on the re-development of the former Club Med resort site at St. George’s, he said: “Progress is being made. The developers are on the Island today and there will be meetings while they are here to continue to make progress. “I really want to see that pink building out of existence. It is a reminder of our inability to move forward and every time a Bermudian looks there, we get depressed. I’m committed to having that site developed.” Dr. Brown announced the average amount of money spent by air visitors on the Island has increased to between $1,138 and $1,324 per person, while the average spend by all leisure visitors is now $1,169 compared to $910 last year. The decision to revamp the Bermuda Tourism website has shown impressive results with Internet visitors spending 60 percent more time browsing the site to check out the Island’s attractions and booking possibilities. Newspaper and magazine articles and TV reports on Bermuda in the past three months have included USA Today, CBS News Sunday, The Tyra Banks Show and In Style magazine and reached an estimated audience of 71 million. Dr. Brown said the record turnout for the 100th Newport-Bermuda yacht race had swelled visitor numbers, and he reported that the Uptown Culture Fest (since closed), along with 19 other on-Island summer events were giving residents and tourists more to see and do. This August there will be a Movies on the Beach event with feature films being shown at Warwick Long Bay. Cup Match attendees are to be given the opportunity to experience a “misting station” to keep them cool. “It is the first structure of its kind to be introduced on the Island and cools the air by some 30 degrees in an inflatable air-conditioned facility,” said Dr. Brown. ‘Lethal Weapon’ movie star Danny Glover is returning to the Island in September for the second Bermuda African Diaspora Heritage Trail Conference, of which he is chairman, and this will be immediately followed by the 11th annual Bermuda Music Festival with the likes of Gladys Knight, India Arie, The Trammps and host comedian Steve Harvey. At the same time as the music festival there will be the second annual Charity Golf Fest, promoting the Island’s golf courses and raising money for a US charity and the Lupus Association of Bermuda. Looking further ahead the Culinary Arts Festival has been renamed as Gourmet Getaway and will be held from October 27 – 30 with a host of star chefs taking part, including celebrity chef Bobby Flay. Dr. Brown added: “For the first time in Bermuda’s history we, in association with various churches in the community, are spearheading a major faith-based tourism initiative. “From August 10 to October 23 Bermuda will host half a dozen events including the Bermuda Super Soulfest, the Bermuda SonFest, the Bridge the Gap Convention and Taking it to the Streets.” Amongst the guests will be Rev. Bernice King, the daughter of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. There have already been 600 confirmed bookings from overseas visitors intending to travel to Bermuda for the faith-based events.

July 30. Employers and employees will pay more in the Contributory Pension Fund beginning next week. The Department of Social Insurance yesterday advised all employers that the weekly contributory rates will rise from $50.68 to $53.60 from Monday, August 7. Employers should deduct $26.80 which amounts to one half of the contribution rate from each employee's wage or salary. Employers' Social Insurance statements sent at the end of each month will show the new full weekly contribution rate. Employers will also receive the 2006/2007 Social Insurance contribution calendar to assist them in calculating the social insurance contributions they are required to pay during the 2006/2007 year. For further information, employers may contact the Contributions section of the Department by calling 295-5151, extension 1147, 1135, 1117 or 1134. The increase is in accordance with the Contributory Pensions (Amendment of Contributions and Benefits) Order 2006.

August 2. With Bermuda churning out more garbage per person than the population of Manhattan it is not surprising to discover the man in charge of overseeing the removal and disposal of the Island’s mountains of trash is “horrified” by the statistics. And with the ever-present worry that a major breakdown at the Tynes Bay incinerator could halt the entire waste disposal process Works and Engineering Minister David Burch has every reason to be concerned enough that he has a number of strategies on the go aimed at improving the situation. The ten-year-old incinerator has two input streams for carrying garbage into the furnace. It is intended to create a third stream, allowing more flexibility to shut down one of the other streams to allow for regular maintenance. Even with a more effective incineration process, it is finding ways of restricting the 67,000 tonnes of waste generated each year on the Island that is taxing Sen. Burch and his department the most. A mechanical breakdown at the North Shore plant used for cutting down and shredding larger items such as construction waste and wood pallets before they reach the Tynes Bay incinerator has resulted in a towering mountain of backlogged trash. If Sen. Burch has his way the amount of rubbish sent for cutting down will be reduced by shipping wood pallets back to the US on returning container vessels rather than have them piled up and burnt on the Island. “I am amazed at the endless stream of trucks that roll in with truckloads of wooden pallets that come off the container ships. I’m saying ‘can’t we put them back in the containers and when they open them back on the other side they have got a gift of their pallets back?’,” explained the Minister. “We have started initial talks about the pallets because it does not make sense to incinerate them when they still have some useful life. I’m bold enough to say ‘let’s try it’, stuff them back in the containers and see what they say when they get on the other side. The containers go back empty to be refilled. It is worth exploring.” Sen. Burch is also concerned with dangerous items being placed in rubbish sacks, such as sharp, pointed items and other dangerous materials. One of the difficulties we are having with what people are putting in their garbage is the complete disrespect and danger that they are placing the collectors in. Most people appreciate that if we didn’t have people doing this job we wouldn’t want to do it. In having someone remove our garbage we should have some respect.” While there are no legal sanctions that can be imposed at the moment against offending neighborhoods or houses who cause problems for the trash collectors, he is supportive of the garbage being left outside the offenders’ homes as a lesson if they “continue to abuse the situation”. W&E and the Keep Bermuda Beautiful group are discussing waste management issues. Sen. Burch expects legislation to be tabled in the next Parliamentary session making it easier to take enforcement action against those who abuse waste management rules. The promise of a third stream for the Tynes Bay incinerator was once thought likely to add 20 years of effective capacity to the facility. But Sen. Burch points out: “Well, a lot of those numbers and data are being thrown out of the window because the waste that we are generating is making a mockery of those projections. The time is going to be a lot less than that, which means that Tynes Bay’s useful life is likely to come to an end a lot sooner than was originally planned for.” The landfill dump at the Airport is moving closer and closer to Tucker’s Town. However, pilot projects to ship old computers and air conditioning units to recycling centres overseas are underway. And a new automated recycling plant should be commissioned in January. It will deal with glass, aluminum, and tin and has capacity to recycle other materials. Sen. Burch said: “We used to recycle paper and there are some silly issues as to why we don’t do so now. The complaint has been that we generate too much paper to sell it to mostly farmers for bedding. Sen. Burch concluded: “My view is that we make money from it, you are helping the environment and the fact that you may have to incinerate some the excess is a bonus because at the moment we are having to incinerate all of it. We might as well make an opportunity to use some of it and not have to put it all in the incinerator.”

August 7. Images showing how the proposed new $170 million five-star Hilton Grand Vacation Club will look when built at the Ariel Sands resort on South Shore have been released. Hollywood star Michael Douglas, part of the Dill family dynasty that has owned and operated the resort for the past 50 years, played a part in securing the interest of the world famous hotel group to come to Bermuda earlier this year. The concept images and plans show ten buildings mostly three-storeys high, which will house 60 two- and three-bedroom vacation suites and will be sprinkled around the site with large glass frontages facing out onto the breaking waves of the South Shore. There will be a central hotel and clubhouse complex that will entice guests in with cascading water features running all the way through, past the reception area to a landscaped inner courtyard lined by boutique shops. This in turn leads to a hotel lounge area and on to an outdoor infinity pool looking out on to the beach and ocean. A restaurant that includes an outdoor patio for al fresco eating is adjacent to the main complex. Within the main building is a restaurant waiting area and bar, a health and beauty spa, and a conference facility. Upstairs there will be ten hotel guestrooms. Around the outdoor infinity pool are sun decks and wooden bridges across the pool. It will also be possible to swim from the infinity pool into a heated indoor swimming pool. The plans have been submitted as part of a planning application and a decision on whether the scheme can go ahead is expected within the coming months. Tourism Minister Dr. Ewart Brown has previously spoken in support of the development, which is expected to attract 9,000 new well-heeled visitors to the Island each year as well as bring one of the world’s most prestigious hotel and resort names to Bermuda. Architecture and design company Terceira Quarterly Limited has submitted the plans for consideration. It is intended to phase the development in stages so that the resort remains open at all times. From start to finish the project is likely to take in the region of three to four years. “The unique thing for Bermuda is that this will be a complete demolition and rebuild. A lot of resorts get revamped, but here the entire hotel is being demolished,” explained Glyn Quarterly, of TQ Limited. He explained the new vacation club suites would have their own kitchens and en suite bathrooms with spa facilities. There is also a fire place for use in the cooler months. The buildings are designed to incorporate Bermudian architectural features such as stepped gables, but also to be more contemporary in style. Peter Terceira, of TQ Limited, said the layout of the buildings was also designed around the topography of the site and to afford sea views to each of the suites. He added: “Hilton Vacation Clubs are all around the world and they have members who can afford to buy time in Bermuda.” The new venture will allow Bermuda to tap into an expanding community of 100,000 vacation club owners who already holiday at Hilton clubs in Scotland, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Florida and other destinations. Members buy a fractional ownership and then can use their right to holiday in Bermuda or at other Hilton clubs and affiliated resorts around the world. Mr. Quarterly said: “It is going to bring tourists in all year round. Hilton are over the moon with the development.”

August 7The head civil servant at the Human Rights Commission (HRC) resigned weeks after the chairman of the Government board also stepped down. Mr. David Wilson’s resignation came after Rod Attride-Stirling, then chairman of the HRC, called for jobs to be lost over the Commission’s repeated failure to produce annual reports in compliance with the Human Rights Act. The last annual report for the HRC was filed in 2001 and a report for 2005, which should have been presented to the Minister for Community Affairs by June, had not been delivered.

August 16. A new private jet company will begin offering travel from Bermuda to North America and Europe from early September. Fly First Class Private Jets says it will offer significant time savings to those who opt to travel in its luxury aircraft – plus the chance to avoid the long queues associated with current heightened airport security. With a fleet of 14 aircraft ranging from the 11-passenger Gulfstream III to the eight-passenger Lear Jet 35, the company will not have an aircraft based in Bermuda permanently, but plans to have at least one of the fleet positioned on the Island on a regular basis. Prices will vary, with the typical per-hour rate to hire a large jet at around $5,500 and from $3,000 for one of the smaller aircraft. Gabrielle Griswold, executive vice president of the Fort Lauderdale-based Fly First Class said: “Private jet travel is often thought of as wildly expensive and extravagant. We disagree. Private jet travel is becoming more and more affordable and mainstream. When you consider the amount of time associated with commercial air travel, there are many savings involved when traveling by private jet.” According to Tom Murray, corporate manager of C Holdings Ltd., most passengers are expected to be business travellers and celebrities who want to save valuable time when jetting to locations such as New York City. “This is becoming more affordable. If you are traveling first class (on a commercial plane) and you share one of our planes with other people, you are not paying a lot more,” he said. C Holdings owns Contemporary Market Solutions, the company representing Fly First Class in Bermuda. Mr. Murray explained that C Travel, which also falls under the C Holdings umbrella, had previously received requests for private travel. However this meant that aircraft would first have to be brought to Bermuda to accomplish this – bumping up the cost. “Now we will have aircraft positioned here on a regular basis,” he said. Although marketing is only just beginning, Mr. Murray anticipates that the recent terror alert which has caused chaos at UK airports and strict security for those traveling to the US will have fuelled the demand for the service. “If you charter an aircraft it’s working to your schedule and you can arrive right up until five minutes before takeoff – although we would advise 15 minutes. There is a quick private security check and if you have pre-cleared US Customs in Bermuda you can get straight into the limo or car waiting for you at the other end,” he said. Longtail Aviation Ltd. is believed to be the only private jet company with a permanent presence in Bermuda, although other companies visit. As The Royal Gazette has previously reported, Fly First Class is hoping to start running luxury ‘boutique airline’ commercial flights between Bermuda, London and Wilmington, North Carolina, in future. Although it had been hoped to start in the first quarter of 2006, Mr. Murray said that the processing of the application to fly is still in the hands of the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority at present. It is now hoped that the service will begin in the third quarter of this year.

August 30. Police numbers on the Island could soon be boosted by 30 new officers from Barbados, according to overseas reports. With Bermuda’s top cop George Jackson currently in the Caribbean country on a major recruitment drive, the Prime Minister and Police chief of Barbados have both spoken out amid speculation that their country’s force is set to lose scores of officers. Barbados Police Commissioner Darwin Dottin called on PM Owen Arthur to urgently tackle the issue of salaries and working conditions for his officers. His comments came after media reports indicated that about 30 officers were planning to leave the force for Bermuda. A rookie constable in Barbados reportedly earns $1,029 a month ($2,061 Barbados dollars), compared to five-year contracts in Bermuda said to guarantee $5,400 ($11,000 Barbados dollars) per month. “Nobody expects Barbados to match these salaries,” The Nation newspaper quoted Mr. Dottin as saying. “But there is certainly a case for improved pay and conditions.” He was said to have described talks with Mr. Jackson last week as mutually beneficial. Reports suggested that some members of the Special Services Unit – which recently received specialized anti-terror training ahead of next year’s Cricket World Cup – were among the group planning to quit. Mr. Dottin indicated to The Nation that this issue was discussed when he met his Bermuda counterpart. Shortages in manpower are not unique to Barbados, Mr. Dottin was also reported as saying. “All commissioners around the region, even (George) Jackson, even though his is relatively well off, he speaks about the bad conditions too and that his officers are worse off. He tells me that his buildings are bad and things like that.” However, PM Owen Arthur, responding to his Police chief’s comments, told The Nation that the number of officers leaving the Royal Barbados Police Force was so small there was no need to panic. Officers departing to work in Bermuda are nothing new, he was reported as saying, and added: “Barbados has always been a place where people have looked to for nurses, Police and so on.” As part of the current recruitment drive, Bermuda Police Service is looking to hire 40 extra officers from Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Trinidad and the UK. Commissioner Mr. Jackson has told the Sunday Sun newspaper in Barbados that the recruitment push was not aiming to deplete resources of other forces gearing up for the Cricket World Cup. Constables with up to four years’ experience of general patrol work who show leadership were being targeted, he added. Governor Sir John Vereker has pledged to get the service up to its full strength of 469 officers by the end of October. A Bermuda Police spokesman said he had no comment yesterday when asked about the reported influx of 30 officers from Barbados. He confirmed Mr. Jackson was still in Barbados on Police business.

September 20. A senior has hit out over a four percent pension rise that reached bank accounts this month, complaining that it should have been backdated to its announcement in February. Madeline Watkins, 85, said she felt it was wrong that a recent salary hike for Parliamentarians was backdated to April when the four percent rise for seniors only kicked in seven months after it was announced in the budget. Mrs. Watkins, from Warwick, also complained that an almost eight percent rise in HIP (the Hospital Insurance Plan) from April 1 meant struggling pensioners were feeling the financial pinch. “HIP went up from April 1 but the seniors’ pension rise did not go up until September 15,” she said. “This means the seniors were paying the extra for HIP before they got their rise, which is most unfair. The politicians voted themselves a large rise retroactive to April 1. The way this Government treats the seniors is absolutely horrific. I’m going to be 86 soon, and I will keep battling for seniors. Quite a few have called the talk shows to talk about their disappointment and to ask why the rise can’t be retroactive to April.” Louise Jackson, Shadow Minister for Seniors, said she shared Mrs. Watkins’ concerns. “Surely the health insurance should not outweigh their pensions. That’s just an insult to seniors ... there are people who need every penny in order to live. It’s a nightmare for seniors who only have their pensions to live on,” she said. She pledged that her party would reform the pension plan and adjust HIP “when we become the Government.” Asked for specifics, she said: “We have to sit down and figure out what’s viable, and what the Government can afford.” The monthly HIP premium for seniors rose from $161.14 in 2005/6 to $173.84 in 2006/7 – an increase of 7.9 percent. The monthly pension rate rose by four percent this year compared to last, with the new rate for the basic contributory pension being $826.07 and the approximate maximum pension standing at $1,069. A Ministry of Finance spokesperson said: “In keeping with established practice, pension increases are always effective on September 15, to coincide with the start of the fiscal year of the fund. The most recent increase is the sixth in eight years and, at four percent, represents an absolute increase of $31.77 in basic pension benefits. The approximate absolute dollar increase for the maximum pension paid from the Contributory Pension Fund is about $42, far higher than the increase in HIP premiums which also came into effect this year.” He added: “It should also be noted that the most recent pension increase comes on the heels of a 3.5 percent increase in August, 2005, which followed a 9 percent increase in 2004 and a three percent increase in 2003. HIP premium increases are effective on April 1 of each year, to coincide with the start of the fiscal year of the HIP fund. Government decided to shelter seniors from a portion of the HIP increase and set up a specific premium for all seniors.”

September 22. H2O Cafe owner/manager Holger Eiselt is drawing in locals and Hamilton workers to Buzz, a juice bar specializing in fresh fruit smoothies and tasty wraps. The take out venue operating at the former site of Caffe Latte on the upper level of the Washington Mall opened for business on September 4. Buzz combines elements of an expresso bar, a delicatessen and a juice bar offering a wide selection of coffee, wraps, paninis, milkshakes, health food drinks and other popular items. “We started to sell smoothies in H2O and saw that there was potential of offering a bigger and more healthier variety of food because we mainly use fresh ingredients. Buzz is a two-star coffee bar with a full salad bar selling, sandwiches, paninis.” Mr. Eiselt said residents respond well to new concepts in the restaurant industry and are turning away from junk food and looking for healthier food delicacies. “I always try to do something new and by traveling to New York and going several lunch places we created the idea of Buzz.” Some of the restaurant’s more popular items include its jerk chicken wraps, turkey bacon wraps, chicken Fajita panini and barbecue chicken panini but products such as wheat grass, high in vitamin and mineral content, are also becoming popular selling items. “In my eyes everything that you either eat or drink that really tastes good will give you a ‘buzz’ but juice bars are becoming more popular everywhere due to the health benefits.” Mr. Eiselt, a native of Austria, said he is always trying to respond to customer suggestions and look for unconventional ways to develop products that customers will respond to well. “I thrive on people appreciating what we have to offer and all my staff think the same way as I do and I have been lucky to find very good, skilled staff who believe in customer service.” H2O, also based on the upper level of the Washington Mall, has been operating for two years and the restaurant continues to update its menu on a regular basis to offer a creative selection of cuisine. “H2O has the best hot food buffet and self service salad bar in town,” Mr. Eiselt said.

September 27.  Elbow Beach chef Vijayakumar Velayudhan was dubbed the ‘cod father’ in the first round of the Escoffier Cup cooking competition at International Imports in Hamilton. In the Foley Cod Fillets section of the competition, Mr. Velayudhan beat out Laurent Ajas from the Reefs, Dave Talling from the Barracuda Grill and Don Bombuwala from the new St. George’s restaurant Indulgence. This is the competition’s fourth year. There are three other rounds to come including Maple Leaf Duck, Certified Angus Beef Tri Tips and the Hormel Pork Tenderloin competition. The winners of all four rounds will go head-to-head in a final cook off to find Bermuda’s best chef at the annual Culinary Arts Festival, renamed the 2006 Bermuda Gourmet Getaway. Mr. Velayudhan won the first bout with the heavyweight recipe ‘Black Olive Crusted Cod, Truffle Honey Glazed Parsnips, Roasted Grillotes and Girolles, Fennel Scented Cream’. Veteran Bermudian chef, teacher and cookbook author Fred Ming refereed and co-judged the event along with Tredick Gorham and Anthony McMahon. He described Mr. Velayudhan’s entry as “a long drawn out recipe”. It was broken down into six different components with at least 26 different ingredients. During the Escoffier Cup, chefs have 25 minutes to prepare a meal. Most of the grunt work such as chopping and dicing is done during the competition, although some more complicated cooking procedures such as making stock can be done ahead of time. What distinguished Mr. Velayudhan’s presentation was the speed at which he moved around the kitchen at International Imports. No motion was wasted. He didn’t waste a lot of time chatting up the onlookers, he just went straight to work. To make the olive crusted cod, Mr. Velayudhan combined breadcrumbs in a small bowl, chopped black olives and capers and spread it in a tray slowly to dry and then added chopped tarragon. After frying the seasoned fish on both sides to make the skin crispy, he applied Dijon mustard to the skin, fried it a little longer and then spread the black olive crust over the fillets and roasted it for about four minutes. He finished to much clapping and cheering. During the Escoffier Cup, the chef prepares a dish for the judges to try, but each audience member also gets a sample that was made ahead of time. The chefs are scored on taste, presentation, hygiene, complexity and ingredient compatibility, among other things. A chef can earn a total of 40 points. Although the winner is determined by the judges, they take into account audience scoring. Usually the audience and the judges are in agreement. However, it is probably good that the judges take the audience’s opinions with a grain of salt. By the time Mr. Velayudhan went to bat, the packed room was well-fuelled by Goslings wine, and a particularly potent cocktail called ‘The Bermudian’. Some chefs practice making their dishes over and over again at home to make sure that everything is timed perfectly. The Escoffier Cup is rapidly become a symbol of prestige in the restaurant community. Many restaurant owners turn up at the event to watch their chefs perform. The Maple Leaf round will be held on September 28 at International Imports at 6 p.m. Certified Angus Beef Tri Tips will follow on October 5, and Hormel Pork Tenderloin on October 12. The final will be held on October 29 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Viking Village, a specially constructed kitchen at the Bermuda National Sports Centre will host several cooking events for the 2006 Gourmet Getaway from October 27 to 30. For more information telephone 295-4558.

October 3.  It was announced that French oil company Rubis SA has purchased Shell Oil’s operations in Bermuda. It continues to be marketed under the Shell brand. Terms of the purchase were not disclosed. Rubis revealed that Shell, which in Bermuda owns two major fuel depots, one liquefied natural gas terminal and 12 gas stations, has sales of $45 million per year in Bermuda and net income of $3.6 million. The agreements signed with Shell provide for a licence to use the Shell brand in the service stations as well as finished goods supply contracts. Rubis already has an extensive network of energy businesses in the Caribbean and French Guiana. The deal was announced in July 2006 at when Phil Burton, country chairman of Royal Dutch/Shell Companies Bermuda said a final decision was subject to the approval of shareholders and the Bermuda regulatory authorities. Shell has had the Bermuda operation on the market since late 2005. Rubis is one of the largest bulk storage operators in France. Through Rubis Gaz, the company distributes liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to retailers as well as propane and butane to residential and commercial customers.

October 6. A task force set up to secure better-paid jobs for Bermudians will put key recommendations to Government within the next two months. The news came as a new report revealed a growth in the earnings gap between Bermudians and non Bermudians. The Labour Market Indicators (LMI) survey also showed that the working week has got longer, the workforce has aged, and women still do not pack the same earning power as men. Overall, the report showed the median annual gross earnings – the mid-point of those surveyed before commissions and bonuses – rose from $46,772 in 2004 to $48,183 in 2005. However the contrast between Bermudians and non-Bermudians was marked. While the figure for Bermudians was $45,559 last year, the mid-range earning power of non-Bermudians stood at $58,315 – almost 22 percent more. In addition, the figures showed the gap had widened since 2004, when non-Bermudians earned just under 20 percent more than Bermudians. The report, which is based on the annual employment surveys conducted by Government between 2003 and 2004, notes: “The decision to provide indicators on the basis of Bermudian status reflects the increasing trend by employers of recruiting non-Bermudians to fill skilled and non-skilled positions.” It also compared the earning power of men and women, with a gender divide becoming apparent. Women worked an average working week of 30.1 hours – six less than men – last year and their mid-point salaries were $4,283 per year less than their male counterparts. Government launched its Workforce Development Task Force in March, in partnership with organizations such as the Ace Foundation, to provide better opportunities for Bermudians to fill jobs currently held by expatriates and address other disparities in the workplace. Four committees have been working on the areas of education, employment transition and work preparation, training, and industry and commerce. Deputy Chairman Ralph Richardson, Executive Director of the Ace Foundation, said: “Each of these groups are going to make recommendations to the Task Force and the Task Force will present them within the next month or two to Government. “It has been given a strong commitment by the previous and current Ministers of Labour that they will take this seriously.” Ed Ball Jr., General Secretary of the Bermuda Public Services Union which represents nurses, civil servants and administration and clerical staff among others, said if bonuses, commissions and relocation fees paid to foreign workers had been taken into account in the LMI report, the gap between the earning power of Bermudians and non-Bermudians would be even wider. “It may cause an issue of perception that expatriates are being treated better for whatever reason than Bermudians,” he said. “That’s something that has to be borne in mind. These are some of the matters that concern unions.” He added that such surveys sparked “that continued discussion of who’s first class and who’s a second-class citizen in the country”. Mr. Ball also questioned whether the apparent drop in unemployment shown in the survey – from three percent in 2000 to 2.1 percent in 2004 – was a true reflection of reality. He said he would like to see a system where those out of work must sign on to an unemployment register, as the figure at present may reflect those who go to the Labour Department rather than those who do not wish to work. However, he said although a gender gap is still apparent in the workplace “women have been closing in on the pay differential for a number of years’’. He added: There has been a more significant gap and it is narrowing. Women are displaying their true worth in the work place.” Shadow Minister of Race Relations and Economic Empowerment Jamahl Simmons said it was important to get already-qualified Bermudians into higher paying jobs, and train those who are not qualified. He cited examples of people with master’s degrees driving taxis and working as waitresses because they could not find jobs matching their skill levels. And he added: “If you are working in a dead-end job, no matter what you do, you don’t make enough money to progress. You can’t make it in Bermuda working for $10 an hour.”

October 8. Closure of the Wyndham Hotel in Southampton, that had earlier taken over the Sonesta Beach Hotel.

October 11. The Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 limited the amount of foreign housing exclusion that can be elected by US citizens and resident aliens living outside the United States. Under the new tax law, foreign housing costs could be excluded to the extent that they exceed 16% of the foreign earned income exclusion or $13,184 (16% x $82,400). However, the maximum housing expenses that can be taken into account are limited to 30% of the foreign earned income exclusion or $24,720 (30% x $82,400). Thus, the maximum housing cost amount that could be excluded in 2006 was $11,536 ($24,720 less $13,184). The new law held out a thread of hope for relief by indicating that the Treasury Secretary could increase the upper limits of the formula where local housing costs were deemed to be high. This week, the Treasury Department released a table prepared by the Office of Allowances of the US Department of State that identifies locations within countries with high housing costs, and provides an adjusted limitation on qualified housing expenses for determining the foreign housing exclusion. The Treasury has found that housing costs in Bermuda are high, and has raised the upper limit from $24,720 to $26,200. This will have the effect of increasing the maximum housing exclusion for Bermuda based expatriates from $11,536 to $13,016. This is an increase of $1,480. The tax effect of this increase for most individuals will be a tax savings of about $375. The Treasury has indicated that if a taxpayer believes that the table amount for Bermuda is low, comments can be sent to Notice.commentsirscounsel.treas.gov.

October 11.  For the first time ever in Bermuda, photographs were taken of rare French angelfish gliding elegantly through Bermuda's waters. The elusive but spectacular species were released in local seas more than 80 years ago. Since then there have been very occasional sightings, but nobody has caught them on camera in Bermuda – until now. The team that found them included avid diver and marine photographer Bob Steinhoff, who is also president of the Bermuda Zoological Society. He was with friends Russell Whayman and John Burville, director of Bermuda Biological Station, exploring a sunken wreck off the East End when they discovered the rare treasures. And the prized sighting meant years of patience finally paid off for Russell, who first saw the dazzling angelfish three years earlier and had been searching for them again ever since. Marine experts rate the find highly. They think these French angelfish have not yet established themselves in Bermuda's waters, despite the odd sighting of the black fish boasting vibrant yellow highlights. They are not native to Bermuda, but some were released in local waters in 1924 by the then-Aquarium curator, Louis L. Mowbray. Things went quiet on the French angelfish front until 1968 when Bailey's Bay fisherman Linwood Outerbridge brought one to the Aquarium that had been caught in a trap on the north reefs. No further sightings were reported until three years ago. Then, Russell and fellow diver Mark Bloomfield saw what they thought was a pair of the species at a wreck off the east end. They didn't have cameras, but returned to the site several times in the hope of catching another glimpse, without success. But that perseverance paid off when Russell, camera in hand and this time diving with Bob and John, spotted the pair again. Experts reckon it is impossible to tell whether these two French angelfish were relatives of those released here some eight decades ago. Patrick Talbot, acting curator at the Aquarium and Zoo, said: "It is highly unlikely that these fish are descendants of the original stock brought in by Mowbray, but (they are) probably recruits off the Gulf Stream. The latter is believed to be a major vector contributing to our fish stocks by depositing larval fish from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean onto our shores. It is encouraging to see natural recruitment still taking place; it is also encouraging that people are taking notice." Experts said that unlike the red lionfish, recently introduced by man into the Atlantic from the western Pacific, the French angelfish would be a welcome addition to Bermuda's marine biodiversity. Divers who spot French angelfish should report their discoveries to Lisa Greene, collections officer at the Aquarium, on 293-2727.

October 26.  Marcus Gibbings, 32, was found stabbed to death inside an apartment on Derwent Road, Devonshire, on October 26. Police have in the past hinted that there's more than one suspect - warning those responsible that they "should be looking over their shoulder". However, they are yet to charge anyone over the death of the popular Trinidadian, who worked in Bermuda for more than eight years.

October 27The Hon. W. Alexander Scott, JP, MP was challenged for the leadership of the Progressive Labour Party and as Premier and defeated by Dr. the Hon. Ewart Brown JP, MP. Dr Brown was Deputy Premier, Minister of Tourism and Transport until October 2006, but resigned to contest the position of Premier with then- Premier Alex Scott. He has now resumed being Minister of Tourism and Transport as well. He is 60 in 2006, married, three children with a previous wife, a physician. Born in 1946, he is the son of the late Ewart and Helen Brown of Flatts. He represented Bermuda in the 400 and 1400 meter relays at the (British) Commonwealth Games in 1966. He graduated from Howard University with a B.Sc in Chemistry and an MD. He earned an MPH from the University of California, Los Angeles. He spent many years as a medical doctor at Vermont-Century Medical Clinic in Los Angeles. He became an American by residence years ago. He was first elected to the House of Assembly in 1993. He became Transport Minister in 1998 when the PLP was first elected to power. He was elected Deputy Premier in 2003 when Mr. Scott instead of himself became Premier in a keenly fought contest, He was appointed Tourism Minister in 2004 after Renee Webb resigned.

October 27. Bermuda moved a step closer to adopting a national policy on disability yesterday when a raft of recommendations on what it should include was presented to Health Minister Patrice Minors. A committee formed in January 2005 to consider what the policy — aimed at ensuring inclusion and access for all — should encompass told Ms Minors that Bermuda was seriously behind when it comes to dealing with disability. The group discovered that the Island has insufficient data on the prevalence, impact and management of disability; that current legislation is inadequate in protecting disabled people from discrimination and giving them equal opportunity; that Bermuda is not in line with United Nations rules on equal opportunity and that disabled people are rarely consulted about most aspects of everyday life. Committee chairman Lisa M. Lister Currin, speaking after a press conference at the Cabinet Office, said that despite laws dictating that all new buildings have to provide adequate access for all, many don’t. “There are still many facilities that are designed, built, that are not modified appropriately,” she said. “More enforcement is needed.” Committee member Jennifer Fahnbulleh said deaf people should be provided with a fulltime, qualified, professional translator. “Deaf people in Bermuda do not have access to closed-caption television on local news channels or relay services to make independent phone calls.” Mrs. Minors acknowledged that a national policy was needed and said she set up the committee with that in mind. “The objective of the committee was to determine the guiding principles. Bermuda does not have a consistent approach to providing access to people with disability. I’m pleased that we now have the recommendations in hand. The next step is to put this forth to Cabinet and subsequently to be tabled in the House of Assembly.” She added: “My intention and my desire is that this group does not now disband and that they continue for the purpose of being the voice that communicates to the Ministry of Health on this issue.”

October 27. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Bermuda, and the island has a higher cancer mortality rate when compared to the United States, one of the disturbing findings of the released in 2006 but commenced in 2004 Cancer in Bermuda Study. The co-author of the study, Dr. Frederic Dellaire, said the study compared the incidence of cancer in Bermuda and in the United States. Bermuda had a 45 percent higher mortality rate for all cancer "sites" than the US and the mortality for prostrate cancer was 2.65 times higher in Bermuda despite a comparable incidence rate. Dr. Dellaire cautioned: "The differences between the two countries must be viewed with caution. Nevertheless, it seemed likely that the mortality rate for prostrate cancer, pancreas cancer, ovarian cancer and breast cancer were higher in Bermuda." Some other key findings of the report were: 25 percent of all deaths in Bermuda were attributed to cancer in 2005. Cancer rates in white women were found to be higher in Bermuda. In whites, the specific cancer types that had a higher rate in Bermuda when compared to the United States included; oral cavity cancer, melanoma, colorectal cancer (in females) and breast cancer. In blacks, the specific cancer types that had a higher rate in Bermuda when compared to the United States included: oral cavity cancer (in males), and ovarian cancer. Lung and colorectal cancers had lower rates in blacks from Bermuda when compared to blacks from the US. Recognized risk factors for oral cavity cancer are tobacco use, alcohol consumption and a diet poor in fruits and vegetables. The most common types of cancer in Bermuda include (in descending order) prostate, breast, colon and rectum, lung and bronchus, and skin. On the positive side, Bermuda's women reported good screening practices. In 2006, 84 percent of women over 35 reported having had a mammogram, and 72 percent had had it in the previous year. Similarly, 96 percent of women reported having had a Pap test, and 74 percent confirmed they had a Pap test the previous year. Men, as the trend is globally, are slightly less proactive, but the 2006 self-reports are positive, with 75 percent of men over 40 saying they'd had a PSA test (56 percent in the previous year); and 77 percent of men over 40 said they'd had a digital rectal exam (DRE), with 60 percent in the previous year.

October 27.  A mystery illness struck guests at the Fairmont Southampton Hotel. It appears to have been a strain of virus commonly known as the “winter vomiting disease” and can cause violent vomiting and be spread easily between people. The source of the illness, which may have affected more than 200 guests and staff including a number of international doctors and medical professionals attending a conference, has still to be found. Laboratory tests appeared to show the illness belongs to the norovirus family, the most well-known of those viruses is the Norwalk virus which has been known to close entire schools and quarantine hospitals in places like the UK and US, plus cruise ships, because of its contagious nature. Bermuda's Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Cann said: “We have results from a sample which leads us to believe it is a viral gastroenteritis – an irritation of the stomach – that can be spread by a number of routes. “It is a form of virus, the Norwalk-like group of virus. We would like to confirm its source. It can be passed on through hand and mouth contact, through water and food, person-to-person contact and respiratory.” What is still eluding the investigation is the initial source of the illness that affected so many guests at the hotel with a number being taken to hospital by ambulance and given intravenous medication. Further tests, including some being undertaken overseas, are yet to be concluded. It is possible the vital clue that will pinpoint the source of the illness may not be found in the samples taken. According to Dr. Cann because some hotel staff were also taken ill it is unlikely a single food source was not to blame, however that cannot be ascertained for sure until all samples of water and food have been fully tested. The Chief Medical Officer praised the hotel for work it has done to reduce the virus from spreading further. One of the difficulties in calculating how many people were hit by the virus is the variable time it takes for symptoms to show up in some people. There were reports of people becoming ill during airplane flights back to North America, including the instance of one Air Canada flight being temporarily quarantined when it landed at Toronto after a number of passengers became violently ill returning from Bermuda. Doctors and medical professionals from various parts of the US have related their experiences in the wake of attending the Ninth International Conference on Mechanisms and Treatment of Neuropathic Pain at the hotel. A number of delegates at the doctors’ conference were affected. 

October 27. Meals on Wheels has been delivering healthy meals to the elderly and the infirm since 1975. It continues to do so under the direction of administrator Tannika Rodrigues and her staff, and a host of long-serving volunteers. Doctors are contacted, asked to provide an assessment of a person’s dietary needs, before they are accepted as a client. Volunteers usually average about 200 deliveries a day. The program is subsidized, enabling clients to receive the three-course meals at a cost of only $4. Approximately one-third of the people can’t afford to pay but others who can chip in. Finding volunteers can be a problem for the charity. A drive is launched at different points throughout the year, to ensure that there are sufficient people to keep the programme running. Many have been involved for several years, their commitment led by a genuine need within the community. At 80, they are eased out of driving unless still capable and not going to go out there to make a lot of mistakes with people’s diets. Their prime mission is to help the elderly and the infirm.

October 28. Bermuda’s new Premier had no last-minute stage fright or pre-election jitters, according to the woman who knows him best. Wanda Brown said last night that her husband was no different than normal as the couple prepared for what was to become the defining moment of his political career.  

November 4. The Bermuda Union of Teachers last night urged new Education Minister Randy Horton to tackle the Island’s dismal graduation rate — and publish this year’s results for the two public senior schools. Union president Lisa Trott stated that increasing the number of graduates from CedarBridge Academy and the Berkeley Institute was critical for Bermuda’s future. In 2005, just over half of the Island’s public school students graduated with a Bermuda School Certificate (BSC). The Ministry of Education has not yet released the 2006 figure — four months after graduation ceremonies took place.  Ms Trott said: “One of the things that we really hope he does is stop and have a look at the graduation rate and the graduation numbers and look at the improvements that need to be made. That’s something that we have been talking about forever. Here we are in November and they are still telling us that they can’t tell us how many students graduated in June. Every year it goes like this and before you know it we are into the next school year and talking about the next set of graduates. The public is paying for these public schools and they have a right to know what product they are getting. Last year we asked for this information and to this day we still don’t have that information. How can you expect the public to be behind the changes that need to be made if you can’t even show them where the deficiencies are.” Freddie Evans, president of the Association of School Principals, added: “I think that we need to be very transparent in all that we do.” The criticism from teachers came as the Shadow Education Minister questioned what effect having three different Education Ministers in the space of two months — the result of recent Cabinet reshuffles — could have on public schools. Neville Darrell said: “It really concerns me. I have been Shadow Education Minister for a little over three years. During that time the Honorable Paula Cox was Education Minister, then it went to Terry Lister. Then it was Neletha Butterfield and now its Randy Horton. Public education needs someone who will see it as a full-time challenge. We need to have a substantial commitment on the part of this Government that we have some continuity.” He said the Government had the right to reshuffle the Cabinet but asked what message was being sent out by changing the leadership of the Ministry with the second largest budget so often. “It’s very, very disconcerting,” Mr. Darrell said, adding Ms Butterfield had assured him recently that this year’s graduation rates would be made public shortly. “I’m trusting that Randy Horton will see that what we are simply asking for is information so we can really understand and support the public education system.” Ms Trott said a true graduation rate would show how many students began school in Senior One and how many left with a BSC from Senior Four.  

November 4. Government is to abolish duty on materials for affordable housing development and build 100 homes in Sandys. The development in Ireland Island could start in the first quarter of next year said Housing Minister David Burch who said conceptual drawings had been done. These units will be offered first to tenants in Albert Row and Victoria Terrace which are in dire need of renovation. The remaining 76 units will be allocated to registered applicants of the Bermuda Housing Corporation. Rents for means-tested residents will be calculated at a quarter of total family income. The first project under this radical scheme to tie rents to earnings is Butterfield Lane in Somerset. The BHC is now establishing rules with four families while another eight will be dealt with soon but it will only apply to families not already on financial assistance. The programme will be expanded gradually to the 38-home Perimeter Lane project in Pembroke said Sen. Burch. To provide incentives for builders, Government is to amend the Customs Tariff Act to provide a zero rate of Duty on imported materials for all proposals approved by the Government as 'affordable housing developments'. Such materials often attract duty of 22.25 percent. The duty abolition was welcomed by Habitat for Humanity board member Sheelagh Cooper who said it would make a significant difference. And she welcomed a line in the Throne Speech which said every Bermudian should "reasonably expect to have a safe and adequate place in which to live". She said: "That's a shift from affordable and adequate housing being provided and affordable and adequate housing being a right. I will support that wholeheartedly." Government said it was racing ahead with its commitment to producing 330 units in 30 months made in last year's Throne Speech — with 286 units now under contract with more to come. The record includes:

Government said it will work with the private sector to generate progressive ways to finance new homes and encourage Bermudian landlords to get abandoned houses and empty apartments back into livable condition and on the market for sale or rent. In addition to tackling the problems of building and financing new affordable housing, Government said it would assemble the best legal and financial minds to determine how to renovate derelict homes for rent or ownership by deserving families. 

November 6. Consent to allow the leasehold sale of Government land to allow 54 affordable homes for first-time buyers to be built at Southside has been requested in Parliament. Giving his first parliamentary speech as the new Works and Engineering Minister, Dennis Lister sought a resolution for approval for the Bermuda Land Development Company to sell 2.52 acres of land at Southside for $3.8 million to Trinity Construction Limited. In turn the company will lease the new homes out for a maximum period of 120 years. Eighteen three-bedroom homes and 36 two-bedroom homes are planned and will sell for between $450,000 and $525,000. The scheme was revealed earlier this year by Housing Minister David Burch. It is anticipated the deal will enable young couples to buy their own property. And the sale of land money should assist with financing of other affordable housing projects at Southside, particularly the Harbour View development. Mr. Lister, echoing the words of Sen. Burch in July, said: "This project represents genuine economic empowerment. "Those young professionals who struggle to understand why they cannot afford a home need look no further. Making homes available to first-time buyers, at prices that are simply unavailable in the ordinary marketplace, represents the 'hand-up' that honest, hard-working young Bermudians need and expect."

November 7. Shadow Minister of Health, Louise Jackson claims the abuse of senior citizens in Bermuda is widespread and fears that plans by Government to establish an Elder Abuse Register will not go far enough. Ms Jackson was reacting to news in the Throne Speech that Government plans to create a register, which would name people who have a record of abusing seniors. The Register would be allow organizations to scrutinize potential employees to determine whether or not they have a record involving the abuse of seniors. Ms Jackson said: "The abuse of our seniors is rampant. The idea of a register is ridiculous. What we need to have is legislation." She charged that seniors are not safe in some of Bermuda's rest homes. "Elder abuse is happening right in the rest homes. We need legislation to regulate what is happening in the homes. Government needs to clean up the rest homes and needs to make the health and safety of our seniors a priority," she added. The Executive Director of the Island's largest advocacy groups for seniors welcomed news of the Elder Abuse Register. Claudette Fleming of Age Concern said Bermuda's seniors need protection. She said some seniors are financially vulnerable because of the high cost of living in Bermuda. "A lot of a senior citizens own their own homes. They are property rich but cash poor and often times they have to barter and bargain with their family members or others in order get a cash flow from their assets. What happens in the process is that they barter away their homes, which is the only asset they have. As a medical social worker I have also come across cases where seniors have been neglected and not cared for properly. They are not fed and are physically abused as well." Ms Fleming said legislation to protect senior citizens is desperately needed. "When people think of elder abuse they tend to think it is just physical abuse, but it is more than that. We need legislation to protect our seniors' assets." Ms Fleming said Government has to decide if Bermuda is a place where seniors can live with a decent quality of life. "That is a serious question. I don't know if any administration to date has taken the concerns of the elderly seriously," she said.

November 8. Instances of woman being sexually assaulted after having their drinks spiked with a “date rape” drug are increasing on the Island, concerning Police and the Sexual Assault Response Team as the Christmas party season nears. A young American tourist had a near escape in October when the suspected date rape drug Rohypnol was slipped into her drink at a Hamilton city bar. She was saved by a concerned friend who witnessed the suspicious actions of two men who ‘cornered’ the woman as she showed the effects of having been drugged. The woman was taken to hospital where doctors confirmed she was exhibiting symptoms of having taken Rohypnol. In a period of one week SART was made aware of six sexual assaults that mostly involved some form of drug being used on the victim. Against those statistics, which point to 2006 being a worse year for sexual assaults than 2005 when more than 30 cases were reported, the multi-agency SART is issuing urgent advice. And it comes as the Rebecca Middleton Conscience Trust prepares to introduce easy-to-use detection strips to the Island to help women identify if their drink has been spiked. However, the new detection materials, bearing the name of the teenager murdered in a sexual attack in Bermuda in 1996, are not expected to arrive until the new year. SART chairperson Anne Mello said: “While all drug-facilitated sexual assaults, including those involving the use of alcohol, have been a concern for some time, the rising number of incidents involving date rape drugs is particularly disturbing. We believe the public should know this is occurring and these drugs are being used to incapacitate individuals for the purposes of committing a crime, usually sexual assault. I want the public to be aware of the existence of SART and to know we are always ready to provide whatever physical and emotional care and treatment is needed by victims of sexual assault and to gather the forensic evidence needed to obtain convictions of the perpetrators of these crimes.” One of the problems faced by SART and the Police is the reluctance of victims to come forward and report assaults. Without evidence and information it is harder to track where and how date rape drugs are being used. The reluctance is normally because of a misplaced feeling of shame or embarrassment. Judith Brewster, SART programme co-ordinator said: “Victims are ashamed, because it is a small community they are embarrassed. I have had a couple say they are leaving the island and another lady say that she will not go out again. We have had an increase in sexual assaults in general. However, drug-facilitated sexual assault the individual is given a drug that renders them incapable of making consent to sexual assault. Common drugs used range from alcohol to powerful sedatives such as Rohypnol which, when mixed with alcohol, can be deadly and ten times more potent than valium. Another drug called GHV can be used in powder form. Women out at a bar or nightclub should look out for any discoloration of their drink, sediment in the bottom of the glass, a change in the drink’s texture, or if the drink is foamy even though it is not a beer drink. The woman most often targeted are within the 18 to 36-year-old age range. It is not wise to accept a drink from a stranger. One young woman was saying that the bartender told her someone was sending her drinks but she did not know who it was. I say if you leave your drink and come back then throw it away, don’t even touch it.” If alcohol is a factor it can take the drugs less than 15 minutes to react, causing the victim to feel a variety of symptoms such as being drowsy, uninhibited, lose their gait, and vomit. A crucial thing for victims to remember is the need to preserve as much evidence as possible and be tested for date rape drug. Urine and blood samples are important and victims should not brush teeth, change their clothing, or go to the toilet if they can help it until they have been tested by a doctor. Penny Dill, of the Women’s Resource Centre, said: “To get a grasp on the extent of the problem and leading up to festive season is to have these people report to the Police. We need concrete facts. We need people to go to hospital if they think they have had the drug to have themselves tested. They need to report to the Police. We need to find out if there are people targeting others and see if there is a pattern forming. We don’t want to discourage women going out and enjoying themselves, we say have someone with you, a buddy system, so that if you are not feeling well or you’re acting strange someone with you does not just assume it is the alcohol because it may be something else.” And Police Supt. Sinclair White said if anyone witnesses a drink being tampered with: “They should report it immediately to the on-duty manager, bring it to the attention of the bartender and the security staff and have them call the Police.” Anyone who believes they have been the victim of a date rape crime or been exposed to a date rape drug should call 911 immediately, this will activate a call out of a member of SART. The Women’s Resource Centre crisis hotline is 295-7273.

November 9. A joint diplomatic trip to Washington with the new Ewart Brown Government is planned for the spring, said US Consul General Gregory Slayton. But he said it was too early to tell how the major changes in the US Congress will affect Bermuda. The Democrats gained about 30 seats to take control of the House of Representatives and picked up five of the six Republican seats they need for a Senate majority. In the last US Presidential elections, Democrat John Kerry pledged to close down “tax loopholes” that allowed billions of dollars to go to Bermuda. But Mr. Kerry was defeated by incumbent George Bush. Asked about the effect of the mid-term election results, Mr. Slayton said: “It’s too early to tell. It really depends on what the leadership decides to do in the House. “If it decides to make off-shoring a big issue, Bermuda might end up in the crosshairs. But I seriously doubt it.” Mr. Slayton, who was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, said Bermuda had plenty of friends among the Democrats including GK Butterfield who has close family ties with Bermuda. Asked if there were plans to repeat May’s diplomatic trip which saw former Premier Alex Scott and other senior Government figures enjoy high level talks with senior Washington figures, Mr. Slayton said: “Absolutely!” He added: “I was speaking to the new Premier at lunch today and the plan is to go forward with another trip in the spring.” Dr. Brown’s press secretary Scott Simmons, responding to the US election results, said: “The Premier does not see the Democrats assuming control of Congress as an immediate concern. He observes that there are many friends of Bermuda in Washington on both sides of the political divide who are well placed. Long serving member of the House of Representatives Mr Charles Rangel (Democrat) of New York’s 15th District is personally known to the Premier and his wife and is expected to assume full responsibility of the powerful Ways and Means Committee as its chairman. Once the dust settles the Premier expects to have access to him.” Mr. Simmons said the Premier’s desire is to visit Washington to maintain existing relationships and create new ones and there has already been an invitation from one congressman to the Premier to visit the US capital. Dr. Brown foresees Bermuda taking full membership of CARICOM “once Bermuda becomes independent,” according to Mr. Simmons, and on the issue of the Island’s links with Cuba he said Government would follow the lead of the UK. International business chief David Ezekiel said Bermuda shouldn’t be too concerned about the American elections which saw massive changes in Congress. Although the Republicans were seen as more business friendly he said Bermuda was less exposed as relations with America were much better than in previous years. Mr. Ezekiel, who is chairman of the Association of Bermuda International Companies, said: “I think Bermuda relationship with the US is working very, very well. “There might be someone who makes a bit of noise but when push comes to shove we are well placed.” Some commentators are saying the new Democrat influx into Congress is fairly conservative which might lessen any concerns to Bermuda. Mr. Ezekiel agreed and said: “And anyway we are much better positioned given the strong dialogue that’s been created between us and the US. Gregory Slayton has done a lot to open up the channels of communication.” The next presidential election is in November 2008 and Bush is not eligible to run for re-election. 

November 9. Bermuda's graying population will be one of the greatest challenges facing it this century, with the number of seniors set to double by 2030. That was the stark warning in a Government report which lifts the lid on the pitfalls of the "baby boom" generation getting old. Shadow Minister for Seniors Louise Jackson claimed last night that little is being done to tackle the demographic time bomb, and those growing old face a potential "horror show" in later life. The authors of the Bermuda Population Projections 2000-2030 report warned: "The decline in the young population and their ability or willingness to look after their parents someday will have consequences on the structure of our society and the economy. Finding care providers for seniors will become a more pressing challenge than finding baby-sitters as the population continues to age. More retirement facilities and senior citizen day-care facilities will also be required." According to the report, compiled by the Department of Statistics, the number of over-65s will rocket from 11 percent of the population in 2000 to 22 percent over the next 24 years. Fewer babies will be born in future – with the birth rate having already halved since 1950 – at the same time as people living longer. The life expectancy will be almost 82 years in 2030 compared to just under 78 in the year 2000. The combination of less children, an older workforce and more elderly people, it said, will put care facilities, housing, the pension pot and those of working age to the test. "Prolonged life of the elderly equates to increased responsibility for the Bermudian working population in general and their children in particular. A shrinking Bermudian workforce and ageing population also means a smaller tax base for government revenue at a time when the number of pension payments will increase," it stated. Among the options raised to boost the dwindling workforce are increasing the mandatory retirement age of 65 – a plan already mooted by Government and backed by Age Concern – abolishing it altogether, or bringing in additional foreign workers. It also warned of the "far reaching consequences" that the demographic shift could have on the Contributory Pension Fund (CPF). "The financial viability of this type of pension scheme can be problematic if the number of pensioners is rising at a faster rate than the number of workers," it said, quoting past Government green papers that highlighted the prospect of the CBF actually becoming insolvent. Measures to address the graying population were outlined by Minister of Finance Paula Cox in the last budget statement, pledging to encourage work beyond the pensionable age. Expanding on this theme after last week's Throne Speech, Ms Cox said there would be changes to the public Superannuation Fund to take account of those people who wish to work beyond the normal retirement age but still require access to their pension. Employers and employees have been required to pay larger amounts to the CPF since August. The weekly contributory rates for employers went up from $50.68 to $53.60. Meanwhile, payouts increased by four percent. A new elderly care facility in St. George's will soon open, with a $12.5 million housing complex for seniors at Rockaway, Southampton, also in the pipeline. Mrs. Jackson gave credit to for these moves, but believes not enough is being done. "It will be a horror show. I don't even want to be around to see it," she said of her fears for those approaching old age. "It's hard to deal with it today. If Government is not taking care of the seniors now, just imagine the future." The 73-year-old Shadow Minister added: "The rest of the world has been preparing for the baby boomer era to burst into senior citizen territory, but Bermuda hasn't sorted out its present senior situation." She said half the senior population lives below the poverty line, with many struggling to live on the CPF. She expressed concern for the healthcare for the elderly - particularly with confusion surrounding future plans for the Island's new hospital - and repeated her long-standing concerns about widespread abuse and neglect of seniors. She agreed with the report's words about young people today being less willing to look after seniors, and expressed concern that Government would not step in to fill the void. "Parliamentarians are not looking any further down the line than where the next vote comes from," she said. Mrs. Jackson backed the idea of raising the retirement age from 65, as did Shadow Minister of Finance, Patricia Gordon Pamplin. "Historically, at 65, people have been ready to put their feet up. I'm not ready to go home and put my feet up," said the 56-year-old Mrs. Gordon Pamplin. She said with the population living longer, this would also help address the stresses and strains of their financial obligations. She added that a far greater infusion of funds would be needed in future to address the shrinking pool of those contributing to the CPF, "unless people start to have a whole lot more kids." Ms Cox, Minister of Nelson Bascome and Minister of Social Rehabilitation Dale Butler did not respond to invitations to comment by press time.

November 9. A change in UK law that could allow previous suspects in the unsolved murder case of Rebecca Middleton to be brought back before the courts is to be looked at by new Attorney General Philip Perinchief. A change in the double jeopardy rule under British law, which came into effect in 2005, allows suspects involved in serious crimes, including murder and rape, to face a second trial if there is fresh and compelling new evidence. Such a radical change may be considered by Bermuda as part of an assessment of the Island's judicial system. Canadian teenager Rebecca Middleton was brutally killed in 1996 at Ferry Reach, St. George's, but no-one has been convicted of her slaying. Justis Smith was acquitted in 1998 on the order of the judge who said there was no case to answer, while Kirk Mundy was convicted of being an accessory after the fact. A new legal move is being considered this week by Chief Justice Richard Ground that may re-open the case. In the meantime Attorney General Mr. Perinchief says the new administration of Premier Ewart Brown is pushing ahead with its own investigations into possible ways of strengthening and updating the Island's judicial legislation. He is aware of the change in the UK's double jeopardy rule that now allows suspects to be re-tried. "We will be looking at any innovations that bring justice to the country," said Mr. Perinchief, who added the current application for leave to issue judicial review proceedings against the Department of Public Prosecutions' decision last March not to review the Rebecca Middleton case, was being watched "without prejudice." Asked what he thought about how Bermuda is perceived overseas, such as in Canada, in relation to the unsolved murder case, he said: "Not withstanding the views of the world we have justice as a hallmark of the new administration. We will explore every avenue to see that justice is served." United Bermuda Party house leader John Barritt has had previous bids to consider a review of the double jeopardy rule rebuffed by Government. But is encouraged to hear the new AG hint that changes to UK law in relation to double jeopardy will be reviewed. He said Bermuda would not be "leaping into the wide blue yonder" because the new legal framework was working in the UK and added: "I'm pleased if the Attorney General says he is going to review the double jeopardy rule." And Mr. Barritt is to send Mr. Perinchief a letter detailing a proposed amendment to Bermudian law he says could be made in a very quick and straightforward manner giving prosecutors the same rights as defence lawyers to seek an appeal where a defendant has been acquitted on a matter of fact and law. Mr. Barritt's suggestion to amend the Court of Appeal Act was made to the previous AG Larry Mussenden but did not find favour. "I'm going to dust that letter down and send it to the new Attorney General. I understand from some of those on the Government benches that there might be reconsideration and support for something like this," said Mr. Barritt. "I really do think the time has come, not just with the Rebecca Middleton case but others, where we need to modernize our laws. There's so much that can be done with DNA evidence now that can lead to new prosecutions as well as acquittals."

November 10. "Let us take the lead in defusing Bermuda's looming baby boom time bomb." That was the call from Age Concern last night, as the charity responded to news that the Island's graying population will be one of the greatest challenges it faces this century. A new Government report predicted that the number of seniors in Bermuda is set to double by 2030. Claudette Fleming, executive director at Age Concern, said whatever solution was drawn up to combat the problem, her charity would "love to take the lead." She added that the vast experience her organisation had in dealing with the elderly could only help when plans were outlined to combat the predicted pitfalls of the baby boom generation growing old. The report warned that finding care providers for seniors would become a more pressing challenge, and said that more retirement bases and senior citizen day-care facilities would be needed. Warnings were also sounded about the strain more seniors would place on the pension pot, as the birth date drops and the workforce dwindles. Ms Fleming yesterday said the situation could be seen either a "crisis or an opportunity". "That all depends on how prepared we are in Bermuda to answer some of those questions (in the report). "It's not so much of a challenge if we are prepared to be pro-active about it." She said that a conversation was already underway about raising the retirement age of 65 — an idea already raised by a Government clearly concerned about the prospect of a declining tax base coupled with spiraling pension costs. Ms Fleming also said more discussion would be needed on financial planning and investment, to ensure the rising number of seniors were more secure in old age. Reversible mortgages, talked about for years, would ensure property-rich elderly Bermudians were not cash-poor, she said. Other issues included whether there would be enough care professionals to deal with a growing number of frail elderly residents She said that a little more pro-activity was needed from Government on the issue, but that the final answer lay with companies, charities and health groups — and all organizations that liaised with seniors. "How can we create an environment where older people are empowered?" she asked. "We want people to age with dignity and do not want them dependent and relying on Government services more than they have to. There are older people out there that still have something to contribute to this community. They are willing to work". Shadow Minister for Seniors, Louise Jackson, has said those growing old faced a potential "horror show" in later life and claimed not enough was being done to tackle the problem. Asked if she agreed with that assessment, Ms Fleming yesterday said she did not want to scare people about the future. Sounding a more positive note, she added: "It does not have to be a horror show. There's momentum but there has to be a driving force that brings people together and moves forward." This could include a Government task force" she stated, but discussions would be needed before anything was set in stone.

November 10. A murder, an attempted murder and Molotov cocktails thrown at Police are amongst the incidents of personal and property violence between July and September that pushed reported crime figures higher than any quarter since at least 1999. And against this backdrop of a seven-year high in violent crime is worrying evidence a tough law to persuade people not to carry bladed weapons is no longer working. People are increasingly arming themselves with machetes and knives, mostly for protection, despite facing an automatic three-year jail term for having such items in public without lawful excuse. Sobering statistics released by Bermuda Police Service show a jump in burglaries with 29 more during the three months compared with the same period in 2005. Since the beginning of the year there have been 2,079 reported crimes in the benchmark areas of violence, theft, burglary and taking vehicles without consent. That is 110 more than the same period in 2005 and 379 higher than 2004. Included in the latest quarter is the murder of Edward "Sleepy" Dill in September. "The offences that appear to contribute most are grievous bodily harm, wounding and sexual assault robbery burglary, removal off and stealing from unattended vehicles," said Carlton Adams, Assistant Commissioner of Police. "Our enforcement efforts continue to be tested by those persons who are recidivists; those career criminals who are arrested, charges, convicted, incarcerated, released and then commit similar behavior." He said there is evidence of increasing violence between people who with pre-existing relationships. These include partners, husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends and people who are just friends. Police are concerned about the higher number of assaults resulting in serious injury and increasing sexual assaults, particularly evidence that many sexual assaults are not being reported to them. However, although the figures are the highest since the reporting period began in 1999 they may also reflect a growing trend for people to report offences that might not have been recorded in past years, according to Assistant Commissioner Adams. One disappointment is the increase in people carrying bladed weapons despite the introduction of a new provision in the Criminal Code Act in July 2005 to order a mandatory three-year jail term for anyone caught in public places with such items without lawful excuse. "After an initial decline the number of incidents began to rise again reaching a total of 17 incidents for the period. The number of wounding offences is proportionate to the level of bladed/sharply-pointed articles being carried and this too has risen," said Bermuda Police Service in a statement. Police say they have made a number of high profile arrests in relation to burglaries, of which there were 317 reported in the three month period, representing a 10 percent jump. The majority of e break-ins occurred in Pembroke and many residents have been making life easier for the criminals, explained Acting Commissioner Paul Wright. "Almost one in three burglaries were in Pembroke, outside the city limits, and three-quarter of those were private residences. The majority of those offences exploited poor security, open windows, air conditioners that weren't secured and even doors that were left unlocked," he said. Sexual crimes are also on the increase. Assistant Commissioner Adams said: "Some of the increases in sexual assault would appear to be those that involve inappropriate conduct by persons who are either care-givers or have charge of younger persons. And there continues to be a heightened awareness of that kind of behavior in the community. The good thing about that is it's becoming less tolerable in the community for individuals to be taking advantage of younger persons. The other side is due to the heightened awareness amongst adults who are less and less tolerable to inappropriate behavior from individuals." The Police have outlined their ongoing initiatives to tackle the increase in the crime, such as this summer's link-up with the Parks Department, hotels and the Corporation of Hamilton to protect tourists with beach patrols and high profile uniform duties in the City, a more intelligence-led approach to tracking vehicle thefts and the targeting of street-level drug dealing and anti-social behavior by the Public Support Unit.

November 10. A derelict former United States Air Force building in Southside is set to be transformed into a new air passenger terminal for private jet users. Wealthy passengers arriving and departing the Island would use the former USAF facility once it is fitted out with a Customs and Immigration checkpoint and plush departure lounge. As they enter the terminal, on the north side of the airfield, they would walk down a central corridor fitted with a water fountain feature leading to a departure lounge that overlooks the main runway. Plans have been drawn up to turn the disused building, which is near to the Southside Cinema and Pizza House on Southside Road, into a exclusive air terminal for private plane travelers and planning officers have recommended approval. The final decision rests with the Development Applications Board which was meeting this week and will make its decision known next Wednesday. The building, known as "Carter House," is on the outer perimeter of Bermuda International Airport airfield and has its own 275,000 sq ft apron area where private jets can be parked. There will be space for 13 cars to be parked next to the new terminal and a entrance canvas canopy is envisaged above the frontage, which currently features a Moongate-surrounded mural of a longtail bird and a depiction of the Island. Technical opinion was sought from the Department of Civil Aviation, the Department of Airport Operations and the Bermuda Land Development Company and all three have expressed no objections to the current scheme for a private jet passenger terminal in the 8,747sq ft building, which is on the edge of the airfield's chain link security fence. The fence to the west of the building would be moved to allow the rear half of the terminal building direct access onto the apron area where private jets would park. The move to create a new private jet terminal comes at a time when the Fort Lauderdale-based Fly First Class company is set to introduce a luxury service using Gulfstream and Lear Jets to offer private flights from Bermuda to North America and Europe. Kenneth Burns Jr, for the developer The Sovereign Group, said greater detail and a time-scale for the work to turn the unused former USAF building into a new air passenger terminal for private jet users would be forthcoming once the plans have been given the official all-clear, and that confirmation is expected to come on November 15.

November 10. Bermuda was hit by one of the biggest crime waves in recent years this summer, according to police statistics. In the three months to September 30, a total of 749 crimes were reported to police — a rise of 55 on the same period last year. And one of the biggest increases was in violent crime, with police investigating 86 instances of violence — including one murder and one attempted murder — in the three-month period. There were also 20 reports of grievous bodily harm, 17 cases of wounding, 21 robberies and a 50 per cent increase in sexual assaults to 18. In the third quarter of last year 70 crimes of violence were reported. In 2004, 64 cases were reported while in 2003 police investigated 39 violent crimes A police spokesman said: “Of particular concern is the number of assaults involving serious injury and the number of sexual assaults. The Bermuda Police Service is concerned that not all sexual assaults are being reported to the police.” There were also 316 burglaries in the three months, a rise of almost ten per cent on last year, while 70 thefts were investigated. Vehicle crime also rose on last year, albeit by just 13 to 277 incidents and well below 2002’s peak when 395 cases were reported. The theft of cars almost doubled, however, from 12 cases in the third quarter of 2005 to 23 this year. Assistant Commissioner Carlton Adams later told a press conference that repeat offenders were responsible for a high proportion of the crimes. “Our enforcement efforts continue to be tasked by those persons who are part of the recidivist revolving door — that is those career criminals who are arrested, charged convicted, incarcerated and released only to repeat similar behavior.” Commenting on an increase in the number of people arrested for carrying a bladed weapon — 17 people were arrested for the offence in the third quarter of the year compared to seven last year — Acting Superintendent Paul Wright acknowledged that the deterrent of tough new laws introduced last year had dwindled after an initial decline in arrests. “Almost immediately we saw a significant decline in the number of assaults involving wounding or GBH simply because when an assault took place a person didn’t immediately have to hand the sharply pointed or bladed article,” he said. “But we have seen those gains eroded in the last two quarters. We are urging people not to carry these weapons around. You need to be aware that there’s a mandatory three-year prison sentence that can be imposed if you’re found guilty of this offence. The more weapons that are carried by people, particularly young people, the more the remaining young people feel they need to carry a weapon to be safe or for their own defence. But the opposite is the case. The more weapons out there on the street being carried by people, the more likely you are to become a victim of a very serious assault.” 

November 14. The unsolved murder case of Rebecca Middleton is to be revisited after Bermuda's top judge today granted permission for a judicial review into a decision not to consider fresh charges relating to the killing of the Canadian teenager in 1996. Lawyers working on behalf of Becky's father David Middleton are now preparing to argue in court for a sexual assault prosecution to be brought against two suspects in relation to the 17-year-old's brutal rape and murder. Chief Justice Richard Ground met privately with Mr. Middleton's team and announced today that he was satisfied they had the basis of a legal argument to question the Director of Public Prosecutions' decision earlier this year not to seek fresh prosecutions relating to the circumstances surrounding Becky's death. Attorney Jackie Stirling, one of the legal team working with Mr. Middleton, said it was anticipated papers would be filed with DPP director Vinette Graham Allen during the coming week with the expectation that a court hearing will take place in the early part of 2007. Mr. Middleton, who was on the Island when he heard the news, said: "I'm very pleased. We are looking at this as the first step. We have had setbacks before and when you get them you wonder if there is any way around them. Something of this nature should be a way to correct something that appears very wrong." No one has ever been convicted of Becky's murder, although Kirk Mundy was convicted of being an accessory after the fact. In 1998 another man Justis Smith was acquitted of a murder charge by a judge who ruled there was no case to answer. Lawyers at Appleby Hunter Bailhache have been working to re-open legal proceedings with a view to bringing new charges relating to the sexual assault of Becky that took place immediately before her murder at Ferry Reach, St. George's, in July 1996.

November 15. There were 17 reported burglaries over the Remembrance Day weekend holiday, with five each reported in Southampton, Devonshire and Pembroke, while more than a 100 vehicles parked illegally at the Rugby Classic Final were ticketed by Police on Saturday. On Monday morning Police were called to a business premises at Industrial Park Road in Southampton, where it is thought that sometime between Saturday evening and Monday morning an unknown person gained entry and stole a Dell desktop computer, computer speakers and a printer/fax machine. On the same road Police also investigated another break-in at a business premises believed to have taken place over the weekend in which $500 in cash was stolen. Inquiries into both burglaries are ongoing. Over the holiday weekend Police arrested two people on suspicion of impaired driving. There were 22 reported damage-only traffic collisions and four road traffic collisions resulting in injury. More than 100 parking tickets were issued to vehicles parked illegally outside the final of the Rugby Classic in Devonshire on Saturday.

November 17. Government has launched a new digital mapping website called Bermuda Maps. The site will allow people to see Bermuda from the air and to interact with map data. “People in Bermuda might not realize it, but they are most probably using GIS (also called Digital Geography) already,” said Designate Director of E-Government David Astwood in a press release on the launch. “Bermuda has one of the highest rates of IT usage in the world so, as a country, we are very switched on to technology. More of us are using computers, cell phones and electronic organizers at work and home. However, with the launch of Bermuda Maps, people can view the Island in a whole new way.” The launch of the new site was timed to coincide with GIS Day on Wednesday — an international event to promote the importance and usage of GIS around the world. GIS’ usefulness lies in its flexibility, said Senior Land Surveyor at the Ministry of Works and Engineering Peter Hopkin. “It is possible to customize your own personal map, leave out the elements you are not interested in, change the scale at will and plot your own map if you need it,” he said. Bermuda Maps can be found at www.bermudamaps.bm but Government is also encouraging the public to visit the main Government portal at www.gov.bm to see the many other ways in which GIS is being utilized. Among the current uses for the technology are mapping of incidences of mosquito breeding (Department of Environmental Health), helping to assess land tax (Department of Land Valuation), arranging and recording Planning applications (Department of Planning), collecting and recording information on Bermuda’s plants and animals (Department of Conservation Services Biodiversity Project) as well as its use for Emergency Services call outs and responses. Government schools are also this week having their computer networks connected to the same GIS technology used within Government. “The use of GIS in Bermuda addresses two key objectives of my Ministry,” said Minister of Environment, Telecommunications and E-Commerce Neletha Butterfield.

November 20. A “severe” new law aimed at helping Government recoup $27 million in unpaid taxes will make company directors and officers personally liable for outstanding sums. The Taxes Management Amendment Act 2006 – which passed its third reading in the House of Assembly on Friday – will not only affect current directors and officers but will be retroactive, meaning court proceedings will be taken against people for taxes not paid in the past 20 years. Finance Minister Paula Cox told the House that it was “unjust, unfair and unacceptable” for companies to fail to honour their tax obligations. “This Government is determined that all companies must pay their fair share of the tax burden,” she said. “This Government is committed to ensuring that those who are responsible for the governance and tidy operations of a company may not escape their obligations to pay taxes due to the public purse.” The Deputy Premier said $27 million of outstanding taxes was owed to the Government – a figure which has attracted criticism from the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee. She said other countries have moved to hold directors and officers personally liable for unpaid taxes, including Jamaica where court action has recouped about $53 million. The new law will mean “directors and officers of a company or other body corporate which owes tax will be held jointly and severally liable for taxes which became due while they were directors or officers and proceedings may be started against all or any of them for recovery of that tax”. The Minister said civil court action would be taken by the Tax Commissioner even where people were no longer directors or officers of a company owing tax. “This legislation is a bold step and some directors and officers may feel some unease. However, the legislation is not aimed at directors and officers who ensure that their companies’ tax obligations are discharged in a timely fashion. Similarly, the legislation is not aimed at directors and officers of companies that are going through a rough financial period. It is our expectation that very few directors and officers will have to face civil proceedings for recovery of taxes owed by their companies.” Shadow Finance Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin agreed that $27 million was an “inordinate amount” but added that she worried about piercing the corporate veil and making individuals liable. Opposition backbencher Grant Gibbons said his concern was the retroactivity aspect of the legislation. “There is no time limit as far as I can see,” he said. Finance Permanent Secretary Donald Scott said at the weekend that the Limitation Act 1984 would restrict the retroactivity to 20 years. Ms Cox said on Friday: “We thought that in these circumstances it required that we take a very strong line. I appreciate it’s certainly taking a very severe position. We are going to seek to be firm and fair.”

November 22. Tuition fees are to be drastically cut for Bermudians studying at colleges and universities in England. Annual fees – currently nearly $19,000 – will be reduced to about $5,700 from the next academic year. Bill Rammell, the UK Minister for Higher Education, announced the move yesterday as part of a drive to encourage people from British Overseas Territories to study in England. Mr. Rammell said students from all such territories, including Bermuda, would be charged home rate fees for further education and undergraduate degree courses in England from September 2007. Teachers in Bermuda welcomed the move and said it would mean many more of their students could now afford a chance at further education. Yesterday’s announcement came at the Overseas Territories Consultative Council meeting in London, which is being attended by Premier Ewart Brown and Governor Sir John Vereker. It comes following months of pressure on the British Government by Dr. Brown and his predecessor Alex Scott, as well as leaders of other overseas territories. Roy Napier, Head of School at Bermuda High School, said about four or five of his students fly out to study at universities and colleges in England each year.  Jon Beard, head of graduation year at Saltus Grammar School, said about five Saltus students went to the UK to continue their studies last year. He predicted the figure would rise as soon as tuition fees have dropped. Mr. Beard said: “It’s brilliant news. It opens up opportunities for students to go to UK universities to get their qualifications and make their mark in Europe. “The UK has always been a popular choice, but until now many people have not been able to go there from a financial point of view. Reducing the tuition fees will remove that barrier.” Speaking from England, Dr. Brown said: “This is a major development for current and future students who choose to study in England. Any attempt to portray this as a result that came purely as a goodwill gesture from the British Government fails to recognize the hard work and persistence of the leaders of the overseas territories.” Students from Bermuda who are already in England will also be eligible for reduced tuition fees from next September.

November 21. Bermuda is to be a host port for the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge 2009, with the Island’s participation in the international event linking Europe and North America also part of the 400th anniversary celebrations of Bermuda’s permanent settlement. At a gathering in Poland, the Island was given a standing ovation when representatives from the Bermuda Sloop Foundation gave a video-backed presentation of the work that had gone into creating the Spirit of Bermuda sloop and the youth programme that allows youngsters from the Island to learn about life on a tall ship. A delegation from Government and the Foundation attended the Sail Training International annual conference at Szczecin, Poland, alongside representatives from across the US, Canada, Europe and New Zealand to discuss international sail training for young people and plan the 2009 challenge. Bermuda has been named one of the host ports for the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge along with Vigo on Spain, Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Halifax, Canada, and Belfast in Northern Ireland. The tall ships are expected to reach Bermuda between June 12-15 in 2009. It is anticipated that young Bermudians will be given the opportunity to be placed as trainees on some of the international ships as they sail from port to port. The Spirit of Bermuda is also expected to take part in some stages of the event. Some 360 delegates listened to a presentation by the Bermuda Sloop Foundation’s education officer Leila Wadson, watch leader Melvin Martin and Captain Chris Blake. Also attending and spreading the word about Bermuda were Government Communications Assistant Director Beverley Morfitt and John Wadson, chairman of the Sail Training Association of Bermuda. “The conference has provided a terrific opportunity to work with and to learn from the best of the best in the global sailing world,” said Mr. Wadson. “As a founding member of STI, Bermuda has a seat on the international council and strategic planning committee and has established itself not only as a serious contributor and participant in international sailing, but also as a friendly destination for sail training vessels.” He added: “This event has also given us an opportunity to promote and to encourage sail training operators, in particular, the Spanish, the US, Canadian and Irish representatives to participate in the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge in 2009.”

November 24. Premier Ewart Brown has been charged with paying off political debts in hard cash following the creation of several high-profile Governmental posts. The allegation was made following the appointment of Rolfe Commissiong as Government's race relations advisor — a job which it is understood will earn Mr. Commissiong nearly $100,000 a year. Last night United Bermuda Party deputy leader Michael Dunkley slammed the appointment, saying it was just another example of "jobs for the boys". Mr. Commissiong, who took up the post on Monday, has been directed to "conduct a full review of the Young Black Male Study, undertake in-depth research on the plight of young black males in Bermuda and provide recommendations with respect to implementing programmes and initiatives to address the current predicament of this targeted group". Prior to his appointment, the Progressive Labour Party member campaigned for Dr. Brown in his bid for the party leadership. When asked yesterday if rumors that he was now picking up a $98,000 pay packet, Mr. Commissiong would only say: "I can't speak to that." He dismissed UBP criticism, claiming the Opposition was "desperate". But Mr. Dunkley described it as "the latest example of PLP cronyism and another step toward a Presidential-style executive in the Cabinet Office. The Commissiong appointment is more about the Premier paying off political debts from his leadership coup than it is about race relations," Mr. Dunkley said. "This is nothing personal — I would say the same thing if it were my own brother who had been appointed. And we have no problem with the Premier appointing the people he needs to take care of policies. But I have yet to see a clear outline of what this gentleman is going to be doing and whether he will be providing value for money. For the Premier to say that he will be studying a study is ludicrous. We have suddenly got a flood of new people in Government which increases the tax burden on everyone — and Bermudians are paying too much as it is. The appointment ignores the fact that the Government of Bermuda has highly professional civil servants and a Cabinet Minister to deal with this vital issue. It also seems to continue the 'do-nothing' approach to government that Dr. Brown says he wants to avoid rather than the 'high gear' approach he promised last Friday. According to the Premier's press secretary, Mr. Commissiong's first order of business is to study the Young Black Male Study and to "recommend implementing programs and initiatives to address the current predicament of this targeted group. The fact that the Government is appointing Mr. Commissiong to study a study on an issue they have had full knowledge of since coming to power in 1998 says much about their continuing and chronic inability to meet the needs of the people. The Premier was right during the Throne Speech debate when he said his Government was in neutral gear. We're not sure of Mr. Commissiong's qualifications for the job, but believe that programs to help young black males can be put together fairly quickly through a team approach that brings to the table Bermudians of reputation and wide experience. There are plenty of role models who could draw on their diverse experiences to come up with the programmes and initiatives to help young black males. The Minister of Community and Cultural Affairs and civil servants can handle the job of soliciting their views and putting together a programme. As Dr. Brown said when forming his Cabinet at the end of October, the design of race relations programmes 'come out of the Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs'. Mr. Commissiong is not necessary to the task. But Premier Brown appears to be more interested in turning the Cabinet Office into Bermuda's version of The West Wing, which he can use as a platform for presidential-style government that is fundamentally about him as the star of a one-man show."

November 24. The wheels have been set in motion to bring the unresolved murder case of teenager Rebecca Middleton back to the courtroom. Lawyers for the Middleton family hope they will eventually be able to bring fresh criminal charges against suspects in the ten-year-old case. Chief Justice Richard Ground listened to lawyers representing both the Department of Public Prosecutions and the family of the murdered teenager yesterday as a timeframe was drawn-up for the countdown to a full judicial review, which is now expected to take place in the early months of 2007. In March this year DPP director Vinette Graham Allen decided not to reinvestigate and consider fresh charges in the brutal rape and murder of Canadian visitor Becky, 17, at a remote spot at Ferry Reach, St. George's in July 1996. Lawyers for the Middleton family claim that decision was wrong and have been granted permission by the Island's top judge for a review of the matter. Attorney Kelvin Hastings-Smith, of Appleby Hunter Bailhache, has now served evidence to the DPP containing reasons as to why the case should be reinvestigated. At a Supreme Court hearing before Mr. Justice Ground, the Department of Public Prosecutions agreed to file its evidence as to why the director made her decision by January 19. The Chief Justice ordered that the judicial review should be set down for the earliest convenient date thereafter. "This issue needs to be resolved and I will not let it drift," said Mr. Justice Ground. He also warned against anyone speculating in public on what form of procedure the judicial review will take, specifically zeroing in on an unnamed lawyer. Mr. Justice Ground said such speculation verges on contempt of court and he considers it a serious matter.

November 24. The perception of a conflict of interests caused by the same person heading the Bermuda Hospitals Board and the watchdog Bermuda Health Council has been resolved with the appointment of a new BHB chairman. Anthony Richardson has ended his three-and-a-half years tenure with the BHB to concentrate fully on his latest post as CEO of the regulatory health council. Back in July there was concern that Mr. Richardson would not be able to function in a truly impartial way if he was in charge of two organizations which might have, at times, different and competing objectives. Assurances were given this would not be the case and Mr. Richardson would take a part-time role at the BHB and excuse himself when conflicting issues arose. Now he has stepped aside from the BHB to make way for the new chairman, retired civil servant and former deputy principal of Sandy’s secondary school Edwin Wilson. Making the announcement Health Minister Nelson Bascome said the appointment put to rest concerns for any conflict of interest between the two health bodies. Asked if it was purely the concerns raised about such a conflict of interest arising that had led to the new appointment, Mr. Bascome said: “Mr. Richardson comes with some very highly recommended positions. The media created this whole furor about him being chair of the board and CEO of the health council creating some conflict. We had some discussions about that. There was no real conflict. He has been tasked with getting the health council up and creating the structure.” The Bermuda Health Council’s stated aim is to regulate and improve health-related services on the Island, including aspects of how the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital and the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute are run. Introducing the new BHB chairman, Mr. Bascome was accompanied by the BHB’s new chief executive officer David Hill, who has arrived from England and officially takes over in the role next Monday. Explaining what tasks are coming up in the months ahead, Mr. Bascome said: “We will be reviewing the health service utilization profile for Bermuda — this means they will be looking at the health services that Bermudians and residents use in Bermuda and those that they access overseas. This will allow us to determine which of our current services should be included in the new hospital and what new services should be added.” The Minister also said work is continuing on bringing in a Charge Master project to modernize the way the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital bills for its services and how it generates its revenue. And a partnership with Kurron Shares of America has been formally made, three years after Kurron reviewed the set-up of the hospital and recommended 200 specific and detailed recommendations for improvements. Kurron is doing an audit on its earlier review to see which of the recommendations have been implemented and will work with the hospital to measure the improvements that have resulted.

November 25. Government is looking at setting up a Bermuda School of Nursing to help fill the increasing shortfall in local recruitment. Announcing the plan to Parliament Health Minister Nelson Bascome said only 100 of the 430 registered nurses were Bermudian while demand for nurses will go up to 473 in the next decade to help care for increasing numbers of seniors. Qualification requirements might also be relaxed to encourage more Bermudian nurses. Mr. Bascome said the Bermuda Hospitals Board had proposed a partnership with the Bermuda College to open a Bermuda School of Nursing to offer associate degrees in nursing to graduates. “We are looking at qualification levels needed to provide the various services offered. Thus a review is being undertaken to determine whether it is necessary to require all of our nurses to be qualified to the bachelor degree level. Current international trends are to have a mix of associate degree and bachelor degree qualified nursing staff. This does not compromise the quality of care.” He said the major difference between an associate degree and a bachelor degree in nursing are the components related to research, leadership and developments skills. “While these are useful they are not essential to good nursing care.” Mr. Bascome said only three to six Bermudian nurses get Bachelor of Science degrees in nursing each year but there was much wider interest from people who couldn’t afford to go overseas to study. “A Bermuda-based training programme for registered nurses and other healthcare professionals will enable Bermuda to provide its residents with direct access to healthcare education and become more responsible for developing its own talent.” Mr. Bascome recently returned from a site visit to Maricopa Community College in Phoenix, Arizona with a delegation including representatives from Bermuda College, the Bermuda Nursing Association, The Bermuda Nursing Council and the Bermuda Hospitals Board. Options now include setting up an associate degree nursing programme which Mr. Bascome said would entail employing five full-time lecturers and “have the uncertainty of class numbers.” Another option is to hook up with Maricopa Community College which would arrange on-line clinical nursing courses while general education courses and clinical training would be done here. “The potential benefits to Bermuda of providing nursing training locally are enormous. Bermudians would have access to a fully accredited nursing programme while living at home. The cost to families would be manageable. There the opportunity for persons who are not able to go abroad for studies to do so locally.” He said worldwide shortage of nurses meant proactive organizations needed to develop their own pools of talent rather than be liable to the fragile nature of the market for nurses. “The Ministry believes that this would aid with controlling the hospital’s operating costs. In addition should this venture be viable the BHB would have links with a training facility with the possibility of attracting non-Bermudian nurses. This could be a win-win for all.” Mr. Bascome promised to give the House further updates. 

November 25. Government has been criticized for providing scant details about a proposed $3.8 million land-for-homes deal in Southside. The Opposition expressed mystification as to why Government deemed it appropriate to sum up the deal in less than 50 words in Parliament, yet another contract proposal for diaper changing rooms and restrooms at Bermuda International Airport stretched to a comprehensive 38-pages. It is intended 2.52 acres of land will be signed over to Trinity Construction on the understanding the company builds 54 affordable homes to be sold at set prices of $450,000 for a two-bedroom unit and $525,000 for three-bedrooms. The exchange of land is subject to a 120-year lease. But taxpayers have a right to know what the multi-million dollar deal entails and whether it is the best deal that could have been struck for the parcel of land at Southside, argued United Bermuda Party MPs as they took Government to task for giving such minimal information in Parliament. “Where is the detail? Where is the contract? We have only five lines,” said former UBP leader Grant Gibbons. “We are talking about an important piece of tax-payers land. We know the difficulty this Government has got into in the past with contracts. Without seeing the contract we do not know if Government has got a good deal. We have a 38-page contract here for restrooms, diaper changing rooms and janitor room upgrades at the airport but we only get five lines on this.” He went on: “If we do not have a contract then we are in trouble and if we do have a contract and it has not been tabled then what are they trying to hide? We want to know if this is the best deal. Was it the only bid? How long will it take to build the units? Is there a guaranteed profit and Government is afraid to show us how generous it is being?” Works and Engineering Minister Dennis Lister brought the resolution to the House of Assembly to approve the consideration of the sale of leasehold interest in the land and thereby allow a small neighborhood of 54 condominium-style homes to be built next to the New Testament Church of God at Southside, St. David’s. He said it was part of Government’s 2005 pledge to create 330 housing units with 30 months, a pledge that now has 284 homes under contract, he told Parliamentarians. The Opposition benches took him to task on the number of homes that have actually been built, and when it was agreed that 24 would be occupied by the end of the year, some being at Anchorage Village in St. George’s and others at Butterfield Lane in Somerset, UBP Leader Wayne Furbert shouted out: “That’s eight percent.” Explaining the land deal, Mr. Lister said it would entail the delivery of a minimum of 54 condo homes for affordable housing that would be sold at a fixed price. “This will increase the home ownership options for Bermudians. This is part of the package for providing homes for Bermudians,” he added. And his PLP colleague Michael Scott gave support to the deal saying from his experience a deal that earns almost $4 million from a long lease of 2.52 acres in Bermuda sat well with the average price of $1m for an acre of land in Bermuda. “The price here is a good one and it is down to the ‘three Ps’ that’s Public Private Partnership. We have selected partners who can provide the muscle to deliver the housing,” he said. Earlier in the debate UBP Shadow Works and Engineering Minister Jon Brunson raised the point that the so-called poor and near-poor have annual household incomes of less than $36,000 and $45,000 a year and the average Bermudian household income was only $71,000. These figures were taken from the 2000 census, he said. “What is it going to take someone to afford a 30-year mortgage at 7.75 percent interest to pay for a $450,000 home? It would be $3,900 a month. For the average Bermudian to afford that and survive they would need to earn at least $90,000,” he said. Mr. Brunson applauded Government for pledging to build 96 units at Loughlands and the 54 at Southside but added: “That’s 150 homes that will not be available to those that need them most. They will be for sale not for rent.” PLP backbencher Michael Scott said the homes were not intended for those on poor, near-poor and average annual incomes, but the buyers would move out of their old homes and thereby free up housing for others. A suggestion by UBP St. David’s MP Suzanne Roberts-Holshouser that the homes be offered firstly to St. David’s people was rebuked by Dennis Lister who was critical of any attempt to show favoritism to one section of the community. He said: “All those people who need housing will have the opportunity to participate in the process.” Shadow Finance Minister Pat Gordon Pamplin questioned why the land for the development had been signed over to Trinity, which she estimated could make a profit of between $9 million and $11 million from the deal. She asked why Government had not contracted the firm to build the homes for a set amount per square foot - therefore allowing the profits from their sale to go toward more new homes.

November 25. He came to the Island hoping for a few days in the sun — but Richard Momiyama's holiday turned into a nightmare when he accidentally hit a taxi driver with his suitcase at Bermuda airport. Mr. Momiyama, from New York, spent virtually all his vacation in police stations and court rooms after being charged with assaulting driver Leon Smith on Wednesday at 4.15 p.m. The holiday-maker, 41, insisted he was attempting to put his luggage into the trunk of Mr. Smith's vehicle, and that he clipped the driver by mistake and scratched his arm. He was finally acquitted following a two-hour trial yesterday, when Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner said there was too little evidence to prove the incident was deliberate. It meant Mr. Momiyama was set to fly home a free man today — declaring the past few days "the worst vacation I've ever had." Mr. Momiyama had attempted to plead guilty to the charge at an earlier hearing on Thursday, in an effort to get the matter dealt with quickly so he could enjoy the rest of his trip. However, Mr. Warner insisted the matter went to trial, saying a guilty plea cannot be advanced when the accused has a defence. At yesterday's trial at Magistrates' Court, Mr. Smith, 73, said an argument and minor scuffle broke out after the tourist slammed his taxi door three times. Mr. Smith told the court: "It irritated me, so I took his luggage out of my car. I told him 'I'm not taking you anywhere'. He got out the car and he picked up a suitcase. He was aiming it at my head. He raised it above his head with both hands and appeared to be coming towards me with it. I put my arm up to block it and my arm was struck by the raised bag." Mr. Momiyama admitted he slammed the car door, but said it had been accidental. He said he overestimated how hard it needed to be shut because it was a sliding door. He said: "This must have alarmed Mr. Smith and he shouted at me in a very rude manner not to slam his door. Then he told me he was not going to permit me to ride in his car and I was to get out. He started removing the luggage from the rear. I told him he needed to do what his job was and take us to the hotel. I went to throw the bag into the car. It's got a hinge and that's what must have hit his arm." Police were called, and Mr. Momiyama, who was planning to travel to Southampton's Princess Hotel, was arrested at the airport. He was later bailed, but had to attend hearings at Magistrates' Court on Thursday and yesterday. Under cross examination from Crown counsel Nicole Smith, Mr. Momiyama denied the allegation that he lifted the suitcase above his head in order to attack Mr. Smith. Delivering a verdict of not guilty, Mr. Warner said: "It's for the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that it was not an accident. I am not satisfied that it was not an accident, therefore there's no liability on Mr. Momiyama. It was unacceptable by both people at the airport - an unfortunate misunderstanding." After the trial, Mr. Momiyama said he was glad it was all over. He said: "It's been unfortunate. I'm just relieved that justice has been done. It's been the worst vacation I've ever had. But I've been thinking about it and I think I will come back to Bermuda again anyway." Defence lawyer Larry Scott had been involved in a court room exchange with Mr. Warner when the guilty plea was rejected on Thursday. Mr. Warner had told Mr. Scott he was probably in breach of the Bar rules to advance a guilty plea "merely for convenience." Mr. Scott said after yesterday's verdict: "I am happy with the result. It's a shame that this guy came on a three-day holiday and spent most of the time in police stations or in court. So much for a holiday." Shadow Attorney General Trevor Moniz said he had no complaints the matter went to trial. Mr. Moniz said: "If his guilty plea had been accepted, it would have been alleged they were pursuing a miscarriage of justice. The magistrate did the right thing."

November 27. Government is planning to set up a ‘hustle truck’ to get the most out of those looking for casual work. Announcing the plan, Labour and Immigration Minister Derrick Burgess said he was worried about those not fully participating in the economy because of addiction problems. “We have talked about a hustle truck. Government will pick people up and take them, whether they work for a day or two, pay them so much an hour. That’s in the works. Those folks are still part of society, they should still be doing something. That will be a way to help. It won’t eradicate the problem but it will make life easier for them if they can earn some money on their own.” But he conceded addicted workers were not easy to handle. He said: “Sometimes you get these guys on a job and they want to be paid daily. “We have had guys taken on and people have tried to train them but they walk off the job. There are good employers out there trying to assist those type of guys but they can’t spend all their time trying to find them because they walked off the job. It’s not an easy task.”

November 27. Bermudian actor Earl Cameron will be honored with a retrospective of his work at the tenth Bermuda International Film Festival next March. Mr. Cameron, 89, will travel to the festival from his home in Warwickshire, England. As well as a selection of his films, the festival will also host a sit-down chat with him about his life and career. Mr. Cameron followed an unlikely path to fame. Born in Pembroke in 1917, he joined the Merchant Navy and sailed mostly between New York and South America before the outbreak of World War Two resulted in the Royal Navy diverting his ship to the UK. Unable to get back to Bermuda without a passport, he took a job. Two years later, while working in the kitchen of a restaurant, he saw a play in the West End, Chu Chin Chow. A few weeks later, a walk-on part in the play opened up - and Mr. Cameron, who had friends in the production, stepped into the role. The play ran until 1946, becoming what at the time was the longest-running musical in the West End. His breakthrough film role was as the merchant seaman Johnny in Pool of London (1950). Set in post-war London, the film involved racial prejudice, romance, and a diamond robbery. Mr. Cameron won much critical acclaim for his performance. He also starred in Simba (1955) and low-budget crime drama The Heart Within (1957). His most famous early screen roles were in two melodramas that attempted to confront the issue of racism in Britain: Sapphire (1959) and Flame in the Streets (1961). He also appeared in the 1965 James Bond film, Thunderball. A member of the Baha’i faith, Mr. Cameron stepped away from his acting career in 1979 to move to the Solomon Islands, where he assisted the Baha’i community there. He returned to the UK in 1994 and came out of silver screen retirement in 2004 to play the role of African despot Edmund Zuwanie in Sydney Pollack’s The Interpreter and can be seen in the current theatrical release, The Queen directed by Stephen Frears and starring Helen Mirren. He has also starred in numerous stage plays, television series and radio broadcasts. “We are delighted that we will be welcoming Mr. Cameron home on the occasion of the festival’s tenth anniversary,” said the festival’s deputy director, Duncan Hall. “Having a ‘son of the soil’ as one of our featured guests will be one of the highlights of festival week.” Among the accolades bestowed on Mr. Cameron during his long career include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bermuda Arts Council in 1999 and a retrospective by the prestigious National Film Theatre in London in 2002.

November 28. A political activist who intends to lobby politicians in the US to push for a tax law change that could severely impact Bermuda's booming international business sector has paid a return visit to the Island. Democrat John Lundin is seeking to have American laws changed to stop US businesses escaping domestic tax obligations by setting up in Bermuda and other offshore jurisdictions. He claims to be part of a groundswell of support at the grassroots level amongst US Democrats who want to bring a halt to the lucrative advantages offshore businesses, particularly insurance and reinsurance companies, enjoy by setting up headquarters in low tax locations such as Bermuda. The issue of tax benefits enjoyed by the offshore operations has been a contentious issue with Democrats over the years and was part of the 2004 election platform for former Presidential candidate John Kerry. The likelihood of the Democrats wielding enough political power to bring in such wide-reaching changes has been increased by the mid-term elections which saw the Democrats take overall control of both Congress and the US Senate. Mr. Lundin, who hails from Chicago, became a political activist when he moved to Florida where he was a member of the Broward County Florida Democratic Executive Committee. He then moved to Hawaii where he is on the Hawaii Democratic Party State Central Committee. Mr. Lundin sees himself as part of a grassroots movement to lobby Democrat politicians to make a change to the tax regulations to ensure billions of dollars that escape US tax regulations despite being generated by US-centric businesses is captured by the US Government. "There is a lot of debt in the US economy at the moment and there is a lot of talk about fixing this situation where billions of dollars are not going back to the US," said Mr. Lundin. He has visited Bermuda on a number of occasions and confesses to loving the place, but that has not deterred him from taking his patriotic stance. His intention is to have changes to offshore tax rules presented as a resolution at the Maui County Democrat convention in 2008 and from there to become a Hawaii Democrat Party platform and then to the national convention. "I'm just a little mouse doing this, but there are a lot of people lobbying all over the States," he said. Asked what was his motivation for pursuing such a change in tax regulations, Mr. Lundin said he had grown up in a tax-paying, blue-collar worker background and has an aversion to seeing the richer class and companies avoiding taxes. He said he was surprised to hear Congressman George K. Butterfield, whose father was Bermudian, was fighting the corner for Bermuda when he represents one of the poorest constituencies in the US and he said the people of North Carolina would be amongst the people who would benefit from more corporate taxes being secured by the US Government. And he also took issue with Finance Minister Paula Cox's assertion that Bermuda "would not presume to suggest to other countries what approach they should take to taxation and, similarly, we would not expect others to criticize our approach". Mr. Lundin said if that was the case then why was Bermuda intending to visit Washington D.C. to meet American politicians and discuss such matters?

November 28.  Sustainable development may not have appeared in Premier Ewart Brown’s first Throne Speech, but it was a mistake to think that meant it was off his Government’s agenda, Bermudian students in London heard. Speaking during an open question-and-answer forum at the fourth Annual Premier’s Dinner for Bermudian students in the UK, Dr. Brown also reiterated his Government’s reactionary policy regarding the sexual orientation amendment to the Human Rights Act. He also voiced concern about what he perceived as a “hostile media” in Bermuda, saying — to applause — that he looked forward to the day when another daily newspaper appeared on the Bermudian scene to offer some “balance”. Noting that he had had a weekend to write the Throne Speech, Dr. Brown said his Government had rid itself of some of the labels of the previous Cabinet — such as the term “Social Agenda”. “I always thought that was what a Government was for,” he said. However he said the decision to take sustainable development out of the speech did not mean Government had ceased to make it a priority. Sustainable development is an “automatic issue that any progressive government must engage in. It means developing for the future,” he said. “I see that as automatic. We have to do that.” However he criticized members of the Government-appointed Sustainable Development Round Table for going to the press with disagreements they had with the Government. Saying that had taken the Government by surprise, he emphasized that disagreement itself was not a problem. But the Government had appointed the roundtable and the expectation was if there was disagreement it would be expressed internally not played out in the press, he added. There will be new sustainable development appointments, he said — “but I don’t believe you should appoint people who don’t understand the agenda”. One student at the Friday night event, questioned Dr. Brown on a lack of debate in Parliament regarding the sexual orientation amendment to the Human Rights Act. To applause, the student said — in contradiction to Dr. Brown’s clearly stated desire to bring young people back to Bermuda — many felt uncomfortable and unwelcome on the Island due to their sexual orientation. However Dr. Brown said he had seen many people including people in Government who have achieved success regardless of their sexual orientation. “I don’t think there is a sufficiently demonstrated problem in that area,” he said. Adding that he was “strongly opposed” to discrimination of any kind, he added there are currently avenues available regarding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, though he did not specify what those avenues were. “However, like any other issue, it’s open,” he said. As for the “non-debate” referred to by students, he claimed the PLP had been ready for a debate in Parliament. But he said: “The Opposition wanted the PLP to speak and be the entertainment for the evening. We spotted that. So there was no debate.” When asked what his view of ideal Government-media relations were, Dr. Brown said Government should be accessible and responsive to the media. He said in Bermuda the Government was, for the most part, working in a “hostile media environment”. Some of Bermuda’s media was “not very concerned with objectivity, but with building an image that suits their political preference,” he stated. “We will do the best we can with the media we have. I have told Ministers to be as open as they can — but if the media becomes destructive, they will stop talking to them for a while.”

November 28. Girl Guiding Bermuda is set for a major revival, according to the organization's Island Commissioner Denise Woodhouse. She hopes to see the image, scope and direction of the Guides leap forward with the introduction of a new programme entitled “GO FOR IT” — and that this energy and direction will draw many more leaders into the organization so that it can continue to be a shaping force in the lives Island girls well into the future. Many of the Island’s most prominent women were once members of the Bermuda Girl Guide Association, Ms Woodhouse said. “Research has shown that over 40 percent of all Bermudian women have been either a Brownie, Guide, Ranger, Sea Ranger or Young Leader and, in fact, many well known women within our community have been involved. For instance Sonia Grant, Dr. Deborah Tuzo, Elizabeth Christopher, Cheryl Ann Mapp, Rachel Emery Ann Spurling-Maule and Terry Lyn Thompson are just a small sampling of the doctors, lawyers, teachers and Rhodes scholars who have shared in Guiding, with each gaining the highest award, Queen’s Guide.” Ms Woodhouse, who is better known as Woody, added: “Many are still involved in the movement, a fitting tribute to its power and influence on our impressionable youth. At its heart, the Guide movement is about developing mature, confident, capable and caring females in a supporting structure that is full of fun, friendship and adventure and underpinned by spiritual and moral values.” Ms Woodhouse, also a Queen’s Guide recipient in England, said that the skills learned in Guiding have helped her in many aspects of life. “It is fashionable in some quarters to look at the Guiding movement as passé, old fashioned, a relic of a past era. But I strongly disagree. Business, computer skills, teamwork, community spirit, adventure badges stand alongside the more traditional cook badges and camper badges. The ‘GO FOR IT’ team projects are on a variety of subjects, which will introduce the group/unit/patrol to a new skill or experience. But while there are exciting, new initiatives on the horizon, Guiding Bermuda is facing a number of pressing challenges that must be overcome. Firstly Asser Hut, the Island headquarters, is in dire need of renovation — these costs being in excess of $50,000. Instead of just appealing to the generosity of overseas companies registered in Bermuda, it was felt that we as a group needed to take up this challenge and raise all the funds dollar by dollar ourselves. Each girl, be they a Rainbow, Brownie, Guide, Ranger or Young Leader is contributing their time and effort to achieving success one cup cake or raffle ticket at a time. This fundraising movement began last month when Guiding Bermuda held the first Guide Fund Raising Fair, at St. Paul’s Church Hall, in Paget. The event was opened by Lady Vereker, its Honorary President, and was supported by Hamilton Town Crier Ed Christopher. The event allowed the public to not only support our young people, but to also receive more information and see our girls in action.  It was coupled with a car wash, which was set up by the Bermuda Boy Scouts who were raising funds to travel to the World Scouting Jamboree in England to celebrate 100 years of Scouting. Secondly, Guiding Bermuda will be undertaking a major recruitment drive to find leaders for its programmes and encourages all women over 25 to consider taking up this call. A shortage of leaders in Great Britain has led to a waiting list of 50,000 girls hoping to register with Guiding. Many parents there now register their children at birth. Bermuda too is suffering this malady with three units — St. George’s, Trinity in Hamilton Parish and Southampton — recently having to close Brownies due to retirement. There are a further three (units) in jeopardy next year. Some areas of the Island, including Somerset, St. George’s and Southampton, do not have a Guide Unit at all. So consequently those girls too old for Brownies have no choice but to leave (Guiding). Our once only thriving Ranger unit of over 30, all of whom received their Duke of Edinburgh Award through Guiding, has declined to single figures due to leadership issues. The lack of leaders is due to the fact that women are now so busy with careers and running homes — often as single parents. The perception of a ‘compensation culture’ may also put off some volunteers. But Bermudian women are trying to juggle a multitude of tasks in a minimum amount of time. I completely understand this dilemma because I too am a single mother, who has a full-time business career and I’m also involved in a variety of other organizations. At present our leaders include nurses, teachers, accountants, Police and Customs officers, retail and office staff, almost all are mothers with one Rainbow Leader having three children under six. However, it is not all gloom and doom, as a new Guide unit has opened in Hamilton and Rainbows are coming to Somerset. This coupled with our long-standing leaders with thriving units continue to offer Guiding principles Island-wide,” Ms Woodhouse said. Having taught at the CedarBridge Academy in the past, Ms Woodhouse would also love to see a Ranger or Young Leader Unit developed in both senior schools. “Experience has shown that guiding is a great resource for girls trying to find themselves at this often difficult age.  So we are now reaching out to the community for assistance and help and we hope that more women over 25 will come forward. You don’t have to have any skills, after all if you are an adult, you already have a wealth of knowledge to pass on. We ask for a positive outlook, willingness to learn and to be prepared to have fun. It is hoped that all the present promotion will see more women with a couple of hours on their hands volunteer and assist. As our community grapples with its myriad of social problems, we should remember that these girls are the future mothers, employees and hopefully leaders of our Island. One of my favorite quotes that I used at a recent Guide meeting states, ‘If the boat won’t come into the Harbour, we shall just have to swim out to it.—’ Well the tide has finally turned and we are swimming out one stroke at a time.” Girls and young women who are interested in becoming involved with Girl Guiding Bermuda, either as a participant or as a leader, should contact Carol Hall in the office on 292-0675. 

November 28. An elite group of economic experts is being formed to target issues such as affordable housing in Bermuda, Premier Ewart Brown has promised. The Council of Economic Advisers will be formed by the end of next month and will consist of people who understand Bermuda’s “artificially different economy” and its impact on the average citizen. The Premier was speaking at the fourth Annual Premier’s Dinner for Bermudian students in the UK was to convince them to return to Bermuda — preventing a brain drain of the Island’s brightest young people. However, as many students attending the dinner at London’s Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park hotel noted, much of the effort the Government made was redundant as almost every student wanted to return. But as they told the Premier — if some of the brightest people in Bermuda could not afford to buy then returning would difficult. And in response to the question of what Dr. Brown will do about affordable housing he said: “That is very much on the front burner. It has to be.” Bermuda has what he termed an “artificially different economy” — an economy where, for example, taxi drivers have traveled more than the passengers they carry. “That indicates the nature of our economy and how different it is. “Housing has become ridiculously expensive,” said Dr. Brown, adding “Most of you will find it difficult.” Dr. Brown, said the Council, which will consist of some of Bermuda’s best financial leaders, will tackle questions including “what kind of structural changes, in a bold fashion, do we have to make?”. He added: “I intend to challenge them to use their brain power to recommend to this Government the changes that must be made. It is ridiculous for you to go out (into the world) and expand yourselves, and then go home and be unable to find yourselves a place to live.”

November 30. International business leader David Ezekiel is to engage a team of top immigration lawyers to work out ways to stave off a threatened brain drain from six-year term limit policies. He will fly to London at the weekend and the mission has the blessing of Government who stressed it is keen not to discourage talent and harm international business. Under the term-limit policy, which will begin to bite in April, work permit holders who have not been granted key employee status and thus the chance of remaining for another three years or more will be turfed out.
Mr. Ezekiel said it might be possible to let work permit holders sign away any claim to permanent residency rights in return for a relaxation of the rules. He said: “That’s one of the options we are looking at. But international law might protect people from signing away their rights.” Some within the business community believe the matter is made more complicated with long-stayers likely to have a claim to citizenship if Bermuda went independent – a situation Government is keen to avoid. Bermuda Employers Council executive director Martin Law said: “The need is for Government not to be in a position where people hold residency based on time continuously spent in Bermuda. If there is a legal way around this the Minister is prepared to listen.” The matter was partly addressed by the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 2002 which granted limited residential rights to immigrants who arrived before 1989 while barring automatic rights for those who arrived after that date. But Mr. Law said: “My understanding is the Minister believes that isn’t enough.” Businesses have argued the term-limit policy is unsettling as experienced people will be lost only to be replaced, in most cases, by expatriates given the shortage of labour in Bermuda where more than 25 percent of jobs are held by foreigners. Recently Labour and Immigration Minister Derrick Burgess admitted Bermuda was always likely to need imported workers, with more than 8,000 needed on current standings – even if every Bermudian had their desired job. Mr. Ezekiel said: “I am going to London to meet with some people with no preconceptions to see what the options are. We are talking to the very top people in the field. One is hoping they have been there before in different circumstances and they might tell us something we absolutely didn’t know about. It is the absolute start of the process. We don’t think it is too late. It’s a time when I think both sides realise the ramifications of this policy,” said Mr. Ezekiel, who is the chairman of the Association of Bermuda International Business (ABIC). Junior Labour and Immigration Minister Wayne Caines said Government was keen to work with business on the issues. He said: “It is something we are committed to – the six-year term limits but it is something we are willing to discuss and investigate further.” He said Government’s relationship with ABIC was harmonious. “Their concerns have not fallen on deaf ears and are being investigated.” He said Mr. Ezekiel was going to London to get a team of barristers and the barristers would report to Government their findings and see if a solution can be found. Senator Caines added: “Government is not saying to business you have to leave after six years. “A key employee can stay up to nine years. Even then the department of Labour and Immigration will look at things on a case by case basis, especially as it pertains to international business.” He stressed Government understood the importance of international business. “We will do nothing to interfere with that relationship. We will build on the healthy dynamic that exists between the Government and international business. But the caveat is we have to establish a balance between the needs of international business and the needs of the Bermudian public housing, jobs and succession planning, traffic congestion. The six-year term limit will be in place but we are looking at a number of options to make it palatable and workable. The emphasis right now should be to training Bermudians to take their rightful place in the world.” United Bermuda Party leader Wayne Furbert said the term limit policy as put forward by Government was not in the Island’s best interest and was more for show. “We see it as counterproductive. Just to replace non-Bermudians with non-Bermudians does not make sense to us. It creates a revolving door for expatriate workers whereby we replace workers who have come to know Bermuda with those who don’t. One could argue that those who know Bermuda better are better positioned to be good productive citizens while they are here.” He said term limits were an anti-business measure creating unnecessary uncertainty in the international business sector which drove the Bermuda economy. Stressing the need for education reform to expand opportunities for Bermudians Mr. Furbert said: “We will review the term limit policy with a view to striking the right balance between the needs of the international business sector and the needs and capabilities of our people. Right now the policy is a blanket policy and arbitrary. We believe the situation is controllable enough to be handled on a case-by-case basis.”

November 30. A new flight service connecting Bermuda with North Carolina and the UK is expected to be introduced in the new year. The airline Fly First Class has been hoping to set up a link from Wilmington International Airport to London Stansted, with a stop on the Island, for about two years. It is hoped the scheme would break British Airways' monopoly of the route from England to Bermuda and lead to cheaper fares for air passengers. According to a preliminary plan, a Boeing 767 – with 90 seats in three classes – would operate twice a week, on Fridays and Sundays. The proposal has been held up for a number of reasons, but officials are now hopeful the connection can be completed in the next few months. Darrel Richardson, chief executive officer of Fly First Class, which is based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said: "We have been planning this service for a couple of years. "We have been going through different scenarios with British airlines, and we are still in the same position as this time last year. But it is still something that we want to do. It's still a great market for us because there's only one carrier (British Airways)." It is thought companies in the UK would back the link-up because of Wilmington's good reputation for pharmaceutical products. Part of the delay has been because Fly First Class needs a contract with a UK operator in order to offer the service. Bosses were in talks with UK firm Flyjet, only for Flyjet to be taken over by a separate company, Silverjet, earlier this year. Officials are now hopeful Silverjet will back the plan. Tom Murray, of Contemporary Market Solutions – which represents Fly First Class in Bermuda – said the move would benefit the Island. Mr. Murray said: "As a travel agency, we try to see competition on a route instead. That would be good for consumers. You wouldn't just have BA as the only carrier, which would lead to more competitive pricing. "There would also be more option for consumers, who would be able to travel to and from Stansted instead of just Gatwick. "With Silverjet taking over from Flyjet, we have been given a new dynamic for this plan." I don't think anything will happen until the new year, but it would be really good if something could happen in the spring."

November 30. The Premier calls it a Bermuda-US programme that has “captivated the collective imaginations of our two countries.” Premier Dr. Ewart Brown, United States Consul General Gregory Slayton, and Social Rehabilitation Minister Dale Butler raved yesterday about an exchange programme which sends Bermudian social services workers to the US to learn strategies that improve families here at home. The programme which already sent one contingent overseas has now announced it will send another, and possibly a third. The initial trip went through four cities over ten days when participants studied 15 programs focused on juvenile justice, youth development, and parenting — particularly for fathers. A non-profit organization called the National Fatherhood Initiative showed the group how to better involve dads in the lives of their children, even taking steps to include fathers who are behind bars. “This focus is on the benefit of the child,” said Granville Bennett who was on the trip. “This is not another dead beat dad programme.” Mr. Bennett runs a project for The Family Centre. He thinks the Fatherhood Initiative can work in Bermuda and also hopes to convince local companies to become more “father friendly,” allowing dads time off for child care and after school activities. Based on the lessons of the trip, the group believes a more involved father makes for a stronger family. Acting Director of Child and Family Services Kennette Robinson led Mr. Bennett and three others to the United States last month. She hopes ultimately to include a myriad of American social programmes into the Bermudian household under the umbrella of her department. So far though none of the US learned practices has been launched locally. “It’s something that’s going to take time,” said Ms. Robinson. “It’s a framework that we’re building on in collaboration with all sectors of the Government and the community. It’s nothing you’re going to just see overnight, but it’s definitely something that’s in the works.” The people who took part were Kennette Robinson, from the department Child & Family Services, Granville Bennett, from the Family Centre, Renee Brown from Cross Ministry Initiative Team, Jennifer Manders from the Ministry of Education and Gary Wilkinson from the department of Financial Assistance.

December 1. The Mayor of Hamilton has lost the support of all but one of the city’s aldermen and councillors — with the rest demanding his immediate resignation over alleged election interference. Sutherland Madeiros would not comment last night on a letter sent to him by two aldermen and four councillors on Tuesday which claimed he had “brought disrepute to the Corporation of Hamilton” during the October mayoral election. But the one councilor still backing him, businessman Jim Butterfield said the Mayor, who is responsible for the city’s $20 million annual budget, had no intention of stepping down and stood by the results of the vote. “I think Mr. Madeiros’ position is: ‘I worked hard for the election and I’m standing by my position’,” said Councilor Butterfield. “I’m standing with him. As far as I know it was a fair election.” The letter — signed by aldermen David Dunkley and William Black and councillors Carvel Van Putten, George Grundmuller, Courtland Boyle and Graeme Outerbridge — claims that election rules were changed at Mr. Madeiros’ instigation, giving him an unfair advantage over mayoral opponent Sonia Grant. It was revealed last week that Miss Grant had launched a legal bid to have the election result declared void. She said yesterday that the allegation made in the letter over election rules formed part of her petition. The row centers on whether companies, associations and partnerships should have been allowed to change the name of the person or nominee registered to vote on their behalf after the election date was announced. Miss Grant said that a person could not be registered after notice of the election was published and that if they were they could not vote. Returning officer and lawyer John Cooper told the Bermuda Sun newspaper this week that the practice was perfectly legal but Miss Grant said: “The returning officer is not the registering officer and he has no right to meddle with the election register. It is totally out of order and it brings about a lot of confusion.” According to Miss Grant, the registering officer is Corporation of Hamilton Secretary Kelly Miller. Miss Miller said last night that the Corporation’s attorneys had verified the returning officer’s opinion that the election was conducted properly. Miss Miller said she was given a copy of the aldermen and councillors’ letter. “To my knowledge the Mayor has not resigned,” she added. The letter says: “It is our belief that you interfered with the election process on October 26, 2006, for the mayoral election. On your initiative, the election rules were changed and the process was compromised since the other party was not informed in due course. This created a situation where one candidate had an undue advantage over the other and in turn compromised the integrity of the election. Your actions have brought disrepute to the Corporation of Hamilton and as a result we cannot support you any longer. We therefore ask that you resign from your position as Mayor of Hamilton effective immediately.” Mr. Butterfield said he was not asked to sign the letter. “I think Mr. Madeiros followed the protocol and I think Mr. Madeiros did his homework,” he said. “I think Mr. Madeiros took legal advice. When I saw that letter I thought of Caesar. I have not been aware of one person that said the election was anything but normal. It is most unfortunate that something like the Corporation of Hamilton has got into this difficult situation. It seems they are all saying: ‘Mayor, you resign or we are stepping down.” Mr. Butterfield said he wasn’t sure if the Mayor could carry on if the majority of aldermen and councillors stepped down. The Corporation can operate as a quorum but, according to Miss Grant, that would require the Mayor to have the support of two aldermen and two councillors. At the moment, Mr. Madeiros, whose election win led to his alderman position falling vacant, is backed only by Mr. Butterfield. Mr. Madeiros beat former Deputy Mayor Miss Grant by 161 votes to 124 on election night. A friend of Jay Bluck, who died in September after four months as Mayor, he pledged to achieve their shared vision for the city. Alderman Black would not comment last night. Alderman Dunkley and the four councillors could not be contacted.

December 1. The Mayor of St. George’s, Mariea Caisey, has thrown her support behind the idea of having mega yachts visit the East End town rather than cruise ships. Government announced the results of the Cruise Ports Study at a public meeting on Wednesday and revealed it was considering turning St. George’s into a mega yacht port, while two huge cruise ships would visit the Dockyard area at the same time. Ms. Caisey said: “This idea wasn’t something that was new to me. I agree with the concept and we are working with Government to see what other means of revenue we can get in our town.” The study showed that Bermuda would face huge financial costs and significant environmental damage if attempts were made to enlarge the navigational channels at Town Cut in St. George’s and Two Rock Passage near Hamilton to fit larger cruise ships. Ms Caisey reiterated her preference that Town Cut not be widened and said she did not believe businesses in St. George’s would suffer financially if the town lost its dedicated cruise ships. “We are still going to have our docks available and we will never get rid of the access to the docks just in case a ship does want to come here. There are small cruise ships that go to Europe and they may be able to visit St. George’s while the larger ships go to Dockyard.” She believes the mega yacht port concept could potentially generate significant revenue and said mega yachts would be inclined to visit St. George’s on a regular basis if Government relaxed the 21-day travel limit for visiting yachtsmen. “We do have mega yachts on our docks. Sometimes the owners leave the yachts in Bermuda and the crew members take care of it. So in the long-term it is revenue for our community because that is money that is being used in restaurants, grocery stores and transportation,” she said. Ireland Island North’s King’s Port would be expanded to accommodate an extra berthing sport, which would enable two huge cruise ships to visit at the same time rather than just one as is the case today. The cruise ships would berth one in front of the other at the north spar at King’s Port. The Shadow Minister for Tourism David Dodwell said he generally agreed with the idea of having two large ships berth in the West End at the same time, however he said he did not think St. George’s should be left without a dedicated ship. “I think it is a good idea, however Government should not forget about the smaller cruise ships. I think St. George’s can still be serviced by smaller ships,” he said.

December 2.  Tough new laws tabled by Government yesterday will see jail terms of up to five years and million dollar fines for foreigners or trustees who buy land without approval. The act is a bid to crack down on fronting trusts illegally buying land for non-Bermudians. Explaining the act Labour and Immigration Minister Derrick Burgess said: “Once we put the legislation in place people who have acquire land in Bermuda, via fronting, will have three years to bring it in accordance with the law. “If it’s not done and it’s found out there are consequences. It’s quite severe. Bermuda is only 21 square miles and we have 6,000 acres of zoned residential land and almost 40 percent of it is owned by non-Bermudians. “So we don’t have the luxury of land but we do have grandchildren and great grandchildren so we try to be fair to them – as any country would do this size.” But he said in the past legal loopholes had let people get away with acquiring land they shouldn’t have. Last year Government said there was financial evidence non-Bermudians were using fronts to buy property because annual revenue for licence fees for legitimate sales had fallen from $13 million in the late 1990s to just under $5 million, at a time when there was an unprecedented demand for real estate. In 2004 the Crown tried to prosecute an alleged sham trust which they claimed had helped buy a $3 million house in Paget but the case was dropped when Puisne Judge Ian Kawaley ruled the search warrants should be quashed. The Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2006 promises to thwart those trying to get around licensing requirements required for foreigners and to limit corporate land-holding.

December 6.  United Bermuda Party Leader Wayne Furbert has hit out at the lack of response to a question tabled in Parliament about the salaries of the Premier’s new senior staff. Mr. Furbert asked for job descriptions, benefits and compensation associated with the posts of press secretary, chief of staff and consultant appointed by Ewart Brown in the past few weeks. However, Dr. Brown’s response failed to reveal specific details about what any of the posts entailed, or what their salaries were. Last night, Mr. Furbert said the public had a right to know how the Government’s money was being spent. He said: “We feel total anguish about the Government not being open about this. The Government is short-changing the people of Bermuda because the people have a right to know the answers to these questions. All we want to do is be informed when it comes to spending the Government’s money. We understand the salary for the press secretary is $120,000 a year. We want to find out whether that is true or not. At least, they should tell the public. We as the opposition have the right to get a reasonable or decent answer to this. The public should not be exempt from knowing how the Government’s purse is spent.” Dr. Brown had earlier appointed Scott Simmons to a new publicly-funded press secretary post. Mr. Simmons previously served an executive role with the Progressive Labour Party. The role of press secretary to former Premier Alex Scott was held by Beverley Lottimore, who carried out the duty in addition to her role as the Government’s director of communication and information, and was not paid any extra for it. Dr. Brown also appointed Sen. Wayne Caines as his chief of staff, to manage his personal and administrative staff. Sen. Caines resigned as a prosecutor and his commission as a Captain in the Bermuda Regiment to take the post. Meanwhile Rolfe Commissiong was appointed to the role of consultant to the Premier, to investigate race relations, particularly the plight of young black males in Bermuda. Mr. Furbert’s question in Parliament on Friday stated: “Would the Honourable Premier Dr. Ewart Brown please inform this Honourable House as to the terms and conditions of the appointment of his press secretary / chief of staff / consultant, including job description and details of total compensation / benefits and use of a Government car?” Dr. Brown’s response was: “The terms and conditions of the appointment of the press secretary / chief of staff / consultant are consistent with those offered to members of the civil service and employees in the private sector and pursuant to the provisions of the Employment Act 2000.” When asked his salary, Mr. Simmons declined to answer. He said there would also be no comment on the criticisms made by Mr. Furbert. Opposition Deputy Leader Michael Dunkley echoed Mr. Furbert’s sentiments. He said the UBP had not been given the “courtesy of a reply” to their question and described Dr. Brown’s answer as “blasé”. Mr. Dunkley claimed that “when the questioning gets tough”, the Premier does not answer. UBP house leader John Barritt added: “He’s obviously ducking and weaving and deciding not to say anything.”

December 8. The Mayor of Hamilton and rebel aldermen and councilors have agreed to put their differences aside to continue with their duties — for now. Sutherland Madeiros received a letter signed by six members of the Corporation of Hamilton last week, alleging he was involved in electoral interference and urging him to resign. The letter, signed by two aldermen and four councilors, stated Mr. Madeiros compromised the Corporation’s mayoral election in October by getting the election rules changed. Mr. Madeiros, who has responsibility for the city’s $20 million budget, has since stated his intention to continue in his position. Last night, the Corporation released a statement saying they had met and come to an agreement to carry on working amicably for the time being. However, that position could change if a legal bid to have the vote declared void comes to fruition. The statement said: “The Corporation of Hamilton today announces that the Mayor, aldermen and councillors have met and agreed to continue the day to day business of the Corporation in an orderly fashion until the issues surrounding the last election are resolved. All parties remain committed to their positions as stated in previous releases.” The rebels had claimed Mr. Madeiros’ alleged interference had placed his opponent, former Deputy Mayor Sonia Grant, at a disadvantage. Last month, Miss Grant launched a petition to have the vote declared void and hold a new election. She said there was an “avalanche of irregularities” relating to the poll that saw Mr. Madeiros become Mayor. The rebels — aldermen David Dunkley and William Black, and councillors Carvel Van Putten, George Grundmuller, Courtland Boyle and Graeme Outerbridge — were supporters of Miss Grant. It is understood the accusation centers around the fact that businesses, associations and partnerships were allowed to change the name of the nominee registered to vote on their behalf after the October 26 election date was announced — a practice not normally carried out. Mr. Madeiros, who was an alderman at the time, said he did not ask for the election rules to be changed, nor had the power to get them changed.

December 8. Late night shoppers will be able to take advantage of an extended ferry service every Friday until Christmas from tonight. The service put on by the Department of Marine and Ports Services aims to give people from the West End and the East End a chance to make the most of Hamilton’s late night shopping festivities. Bosses say the Rockaway-Hamilton route and the St. David’s/St. George’s-Hamilton route will run until 10 p.m. each Friday. As an extra offer, the Marine and Ports Service will be running a free ferry service on the St. David’s/St. George’s-Hamilton route from December 11 to 15. For more information about ferry schedules and times, contact the Hamilton Ferry Service on 295-4605.

December The Bermuda Council on Aging (BCA) was formed, after four year's work, in response to a growing awareness that Bermuda's population is growing older – and this has social, health and economic implications for seniors as well as all other demographic groups on the island. A group of dedicated citizens are researching the needs of seniors in Bermuda and want to convert the results into a plan of action that looks to the future. The needs of seniors have attracted the attention of Government, employers, charities, and concerned citizens alike. A steering committee was formed under the co-chairmanship of Jonathan Brewin and Ralph Richardson and, in June 2006, Marian Sherratt, the local coordinator for the Fordham research project, was engaged as executive director. The purpose is to bring together Government, the private sector, the charitable sector, and the community at large, to identify and help develop appropriate policies and programmes; to research and report on key issues; and to build community awareness of its ageing population. According to the 2000 Census, 11 percent of Bermuda's population is already older than 65, and the Department of Statistics estimates that this will double to 22 percent by 2030. It is important that the image of older persons is projected in a positive manner so that their continuing contributions to society are recognized and fostered. For those less independent older persons, adequate care and protection becomes the responsibility of a caring and just society.

December.  The Grand Slam of Golf is heading to Bermuda. The Department of Tourism has struck a deal with the PGA of America to play the prestigious 36-hole, $1.25 million event at the Mid Ocean Club from October 16-17, 2007, instead of in Hawaii. Bermuda taxpayers will foot the entire bill, expected to be considerably more than $1.5 million.

December 11. A massive breakdown in communication led Police to evacuate the West End on Saturday without first checking if a rumored tidal wave was actually heading for the Island. Officers were deployed to Dockyard and Somerset village to urge people to head east or get to higher ground after a flurry of calls from worried members of the public about large waves breaking on the northern reef line. Bermuda Police Service was remaining tight-lipped last night about why the operation was launched without checks being made with experts at Bermuda Weather Service who could have explained that the dramatic horizon was simply the result of stormy weather last week and an exceptionally clear day. But a source within the service who asked to remain anonymous  said: "There was a major breakdown in communication and there has to be a full investigation. They messed up. They didn't follow simple procedures. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. They had to make critical decisions in what they viewed as minutes. The intentions of those individuals was pure and that was to safeguard the public." Another highly-placed source added: "The Police Service raised the alarm without first checking whether the threat was real in the belief that time was of the essence and that lives were at risk." Public Safety Minister David Burch issued a statement on Saturday promising an urgent investigation into "the circumstances surrounding the communication of this event to the general public". He told ZBM television news last night that any changes to the Police's emergency response procedures would have to be implemented by the Governor. Sen. Burch did not respond to an emailed request for comment from yesterday but a Government spokeswoman said he would not elaborate on his statement. A Police spokesman said: "At this point in time we will defer to the comments of the Minister and he has stated that there will be a full investigation into the incident and we will await the findings of that investigation." The Police source said 911 calls started to flood in about a "tidal wave or tsunami" at about 11.15 a.m. It is understood that the decision to immediately send officers to the west end to get those most at risk to safety was taken without the authority of a senior officer. Measures taken included a road blockade being set up at Barnes Corner to prevent motorists getting to the west end, buses being turned back and ferries to Dockyard being cancelled. They tried their best to warn the people that they thought were in dangerous areas," said the Police source. "When they contacted the appropriate agencies they recognized that this thing was safe but the rumor mill had done its part. Was it a comedy of errors? Yes. It's very clear where the breakdown was. All the information comes to one central point." Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre, also known as Harbour Radio, first received a call from the Police at 11.36 a.m. and another from Marine Police at 11.40 a.m. At that point a duty officer reported that there were waves breaking on the northern reef line but that it was nothing unusual for the time of year. The message that there was no cause for concern does not appear to have been relayed immediately to officers out in the field, who continued to try to clear the west end. Meanwhile, the rumor of a giant wave heading for land spread rapidly across the Island. Terrified Islanders - plus people as far away as New York and Miami - flooded the Maritime Operations Centre and Bermuda Weather Service with calls, while others were unable to use their telephones due to the system being swamped. Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre Chief Radio Officer Dennis Rowe said: "From about 12 o'clock local time until about 1.30 p.m. we had non-stop calls, about six or seven lines, with people all scared out of their wits. For about an hour and a half we were basically just speaking with members of the public and trying to calm them down. We had hundreds of calls." Lou McNally at the Weather Service claimed Police did not check with meteorologists as to whether there was a real threat. But he said the service's three phone lines did not stop ringing for 90 minutes until a message explaining that there was no emergency was put on its cable weather channels and website. He said the waves which people could see were "absolutely not out of the ordinary" and that their large appearance was caused by a number of weather conditions, including cold air acting like a lens and exaggerating their size and wind pushing the waves up over the reef.

December 15. Despite being one of six elected members who withdrew support for Mayor Sutherland Madeiros only a few weeks ago, Hamilton's new deputy mayor William Black does not foresee any problem working in partnership with the recently elected mayor. And with two years' experience serving on the Corporation as a councilor and latterly as an alderman, Mr. Black has a good idea about what projects are most urgently needed for the city. Finding solutions to traffic congestion and limited parking are key areas that need to be addressed, according to the new deputy, and keeping Hamilton an attractive place with a planned month-long clean-up drive next April is also on the agenda. The question of who would fill the city's deputy mayor role has been an issue since November's city hall election, which sparked a rebellion by two aldermen and four councilors over claims the election rules had been altered to favor the winner Mr. Madeiros. The new mayor denies he played any part in the rule changes. Following a letter signed by all but one of the city's councilors and aldermen withdrawing support for the mayor over the issue — which made front page news at the start of December — an agreement has been reached for all elected members to work together while the matter is looked into and resolved. Retired former detective sergeant Mr. Black, who as a businessman owned and operated Wide Security Services and Bermuda Central Station (now The Bermuda Security Group) for 33 years before retiring in 2002, sees no difficulty in working with the new mayor. Asked what projects are going to be high on the agenda, he said: "We have some major problems in the city. One is the huge traffic problem we have to come to terms with and deal with. There are these large cars on the Island and the parking bays are not big enough to accommodate them, so they end up using one and a half parking bays each." Mr. Black also mentioned an intended clean-up of the city in April when members of the public will be encouraged to join in and help give Hamilton a spring clean. The appointment of Mr. Black ends a second stint this year as acting deputy for David Dunkley, who also signed the letter critical of the mayor following the election. Announcing the deputy appointment, Mr. Madeiros said: "I am delighted to welcome Bill on board as deputy mayor. As a retired businessman, I know he will have the time to devote to this very busy and important position and I am looking forward to working more closely with him. At the same time I would like to thank David Dunkley who was acting deputy mayor for the city during the late Mayor Bluck's tenure and over the last six weeks since I have taken office. He made a valuable contribution to the city." Mr. Dunkley will remain as an alderman of the Corporation. 

December 15. Civil Servants have reacted favorably to their pep talk with Premier Ewart Brown on Tuesday. Around 80 top civil servants attended the dinner at the Elbow Beach along with Cabinet members. One department head stated he had been apprehensive about the meeting after Premier Brown had said some civil servants were not buying in to this Government's programme while some were actively taking steps to retard it. Dr. Brown had said last month: "We are going to convince them to find employment elsewhere. I will be asking them to make it clear to us who wants to work and who doesn't." However, Tuesday's dinner took a much more amicable tone. Health Permanent Secretary Warren Jones said: "It was a great evening." He said it was frank but non-threatening. "It was good right after the Throne Speech." He added: "I think it was about being willing to take risks and recognize we serve the public. He's looking to push us to think outside the box.. One civil servant said: "Premier Brown said, if we are eager to make changes and do things differently and better, we have to look at problems differently and explore all the possible solutions and not always do things the same way — if people are in line with that vision they are in line with working with the civil service." Asked for reaction that worker said: "I think the tone was good. I think the meeting was a good thing." Another, who attended the meeting, agreed with that summary and said he had been apprehensive after Dr. Brown's threat to those he deemed not to be supporting the Government. He said: "That was a bit of a surprise. I think he implied some people are trying to thwart their objectives. I have never come across that." He said the basic tenant of the civil service was carrying out Government policies. "I never found anyone trying to actively undermine a minister." A third civil servant said civil servants were co-operating. "But some are being asked to do things which are inappropriate." And that source questioned why the meeting was necessary. "I would think the civil service was, by now, fully supportive." The source said there had been a useful meeting a Stonington when the PLP first took over. "It's fine when you have a change of Government but I don't know what this was about." Bermuda Public Services Union general secretary Ed Ball said it was the Cabinet Secretary who is supposed to talk about matters to do with the civil service. "The whole reason we have a separation from the running of political parties is to ensure there's no intimidation in any way shape or form. That's why Government appoints the impartial Public Services Commission to make appointments and meet out discipline. There are sufficient persons within Government advising the Premier on protocol." Opposition Finance spokeswoman Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said she had no problem with the dinner if it led to Government functioning better.

December 15. The Premier is “deeply and seriously” concerned about the state of education, he admitted to students, teachers and parents at a West End school yesterday. Ewart Brown revealed to Sandys Secondary Middle School that within the next three months the Island would hear “some very significant statements” about what was planned to improve attainment levels. “I have told the Minister of Education that I’m deeply and seriously concerned with some of the trends and performances that I have seen in education,” he told them, in response to a pupil who asked him what changes he wanted to make as leader of the country. “If we keep doing what we are doing, we will keep getting what we have been getting. We have to do some serious change. Education is in a serious situation.” The frank admission by the Premier that the Island’s public school system is in trouble echoes concerns already raised repeatedly by teachers, parents and politicians, including the Government’s own Renée Webb. This year’s graduation rates for the Island’s two senior schools have still not been made public — almost six months after students graduated. Yesterday, a Government spokesman said: “We are expecting to release the graduation results in the middle of next week.” In 2005, the overall failure rate was 47 percent — meaning almost half of the pupils at CedarBridge Academy and Berkeley Institute did not achieve Bermuda School Certificates. Dr. Brown told the school in Sandys: “I can tell you that I’m not happy and my colleagues are not happy that we don’t seem to be moving forward as a collective. We don’t seem to be getting better. We don’t seem to be producing students out of our system who are guaranteed employment in Bermuda. “Our people are increasingly becoming spectators to what is going on inside our country. The education system has to be the first line of attack.” The Premier said that one of the first changes to be made would be the introduction of textbooks in the first quarter of 2007 that “reflect the kids that read them. The good news is that there won’t be a big period of explanation,” he said. “We have gone through that already. In 2006, it’s an embarrassment to me that our children can’t open textbooks and see themselves.” Dr. Brown was at the school, which has 227 students, for an assembly celebrating the youngsters with the highest grades. He presented certificates to 150 pupils; 19 had achieved an average grade between 90 and 100 percent, 82 had got between 80 and 89.9 percent and 49 had got between 75 and 79.9 percent. The Premier said a negative image of the Island’s children was often portrayed but that the positives should be celebrated. And he spoke of his own upbringing and how his aunt’s husband, a doctor, inspired him to achieve. He told the students to aim high — regardless of what others thought of their ability. Dr. Brown’s admission about public education was made during a question-and-answer session with pupils. They asked him why he was a member of the Progressive Labour Party, why he wanted to be Premier and how he was finding his new role. In answer to the last question, he replied: “It feels good. It’s such a challenge.” And, in an apparent reference to his House of Assembly outburst at Opposition MP Grant Gibbons earlier this month, he added: “I speak not only for myself but for my party and the country. Sometimes the line is very thin and sometimes I will come close to that line in trying to make a point, as happened a couple of weeks ago.” Sandys principal Melvyn Bassett later took to the stage and presented the Premier with two textbooks developed by the school containing photographs of its own pupils. He said that having books which reflected the racial makeup of the Island was “critical” so that students could relate to the content. “Otherwise, they don’t see it as being meaningful and purposeful for their own lives,” he said. Dr. Bassett echoed the Premier’s criticism of public education. He said: “We all have concerns about education. But I think this morning represents the point that he made that we often get distracted by the negative and miss the opportunity to celebrate the very large and healthy number of students that are actually doing well.”

December 19. The proposed new Ritz Carlton business hotel in Hamilton is shaping up to be the first development to break the city's seven-storey limit for buildings. A special development order (SDO) approved by Government has given first stage planning approval for the concept of a nine-storey hotel, which would set a new standard for the most storeys within the city limits. By a matter of feet the proposed hotel will comply with a strict rule that no building challenge the overall dominance of the Anglican Cathedral in the city skyline. However, the classy hotel earmarked for the Par-La-Ville car park site is one of two currently proposed developments that would top the previous seven-storey limit for buildings in Hamilton. During the summer the late Mayor Jay Bluck spoke of his belief that, in view of the lack of space and the continuing requirement for office space and residential accommodation, the city needed to reconsider its strict building height and multi-storey regulations and look to allow structures of up to ten storeys. The Ritz Carlton would be push that boundary, as would Sir John Swan's planned nine-storey office block at the eastern end of Front Street near Spurling Hill on the fringe of the city. Sir John's scheme was submitted for planning department consideration at the end of July and is awaiting a decision. Environment Minister Neletha Butterfield granted a SDO for Unified Resorts' hotel project to allow it to move forward more quickly. In its planning application developers Unified Resorts Limited expressed a wish that a planning decision be made promptly as the company's period of exclusivity to develop the site, conferred by the Corporation of Hamilton, runs out at the end of December. She also states that, even though the regular planning application process has not applied to the hotel project, members of the public have not been denied the chance to comment on it as the proposed development was advertised by the planning department before the SDO was made. And the scheme must also return for final approval by the Development Applications Board. The idea of having buildings with more than seven storeys is something that is finding increasing favour within the corridors of City Hall. Deputy Mayor William Black said the idea of the hotel being nine storeys was something being discussed in ongoing talks between the Corporation, Ritz Carlton and Unified Resorts, but he does not see that having so many storeys would automatically present a problem in view of the new regards about changing the city's development rules. Ted Adams III, who heads Unified Resorts, said: "We are doing due diligence to see what works best for the city and what is the most appropriate configuration. The SDO has laid out the concept." Confidential talks between the company, the hotel group and the Corporation of Hamilton remain active as the final designs are drawn up. If all goes to plan Mr. Adams would expect the first stage of development work to begin in the middle of 2007. One consequence of using the car park on the corner of Par-La-Ville Road and Church Street for a new business hotel is a loss of parking slots in the short-term until the hotel project's three underground levels of parking for 500 cars is constructed. Deputy Mayor Mr. Black said spaces would be found elsewhere to make the temporary shortfall. It is envisaged the new hotel will have 150 guest rooms, 60 luxury residential apartments, a 20,000 sq ft conference hall and boutique shops and will create 330 jobs as it injects $200 million into the economy.

December 22. The Grand Atlantic Resort and Residences have been proposed on a 13.1 acre plot of land south of South Road that is bordered on its eastern side by Astwood Walk and the Warwick gas station and stretches westward just beyond the bend in South Road where it junctions with Dunscombe Road. The proposed new five-star beach hotel and spa resort, if approved and built will rise nine storeys and offer guests spectacular views across the South Shore. The landmark 220-suite hotel will not stand alone but be accompanied by some five- or six-storey buildings offering luxury fractional and residential apartments and a number of seafront luxury villas. Presently, the plot of land houses a derelict former beach bar - the old Bermudiana Hotel facility of the 1960s - and a number of old buildings has been earmarked for the project which has been put forward by Atlantic Development. One of the hurdles facing the proposal is the mixture of green space and open space that would need to be used in order to allow all the new luxury villas, fractional vacation ownership apartments and what is termed as “luxury affordable one- two- and three-bedroom condominiums” to be built. Without all the elements, Atlantic Development does not feel the project would be viable. In its Planning application it has indicated that some of the 57 residential units would need to be built on parts of the site that technically fall under tourism zoning. It is hoped that this difficulty may be by-passed if a special development order is granted. “Some (of the residential units) will be on open space and green space as well as woodland and open space. These units are an essential component to the project and cannot be sited elsewhere on the site due to the site size and physical constraints,” states the developer’s Planning brief. “Some must also be sited on lands zoned ‘tourism’. Given that the planning statement may not offer the possibility of fully considering the merits of this project and the trade-off that will have to occur to bring this project to Bermuda, as well as the need of obtaining approvals in the most expedient manner, we are concurrently with this application seeking approval via a special development order.” The project includes a community swimming pool and a jogging trail, as well as new staff accommodation. In the plans the hotel will rise nine storeys with 220 rooms offering a maximum total of 706 beds, including a six-bedroom penthouse suite. There will also be two five-storey high blocks of 20 two-bedroom fractional ownership apartments, five three-bedroom villas, 20 three-bedroom units in two-storey blocks and 22 two-bedroom and ten one-bedroom units. Also foreseen is a twin two-storey retail area on an approach road to the hotel and resort. The hotel is to feature terrace and dining room restaurants, a beach bar and grill terrace, lounge bar, ballroom, swimming pool, spa, fitness centre and roof top tennis courts.

December 22. The Premier has helped to christen a cruise ship as part of a star-studded ceremony in Miami. Ewart Brown attended the official christening of the Norwegian Pearl, the Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) newest ship, on Saturday, December 16. The 93,530 ton Freestyle Cruising vessel, which has a four-lane ten-pin bowling alley and rock-climbing wall, was christened by popular talk show host and Emmy Award winner Rosie O’Donnell. Dr. Brown said he was delighted to participate in the event because Bermuda was an important destination for the cruise line. The Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Spirit, Norwegian Majesty and Norwegian Crown all sail to the Island during the summer. The ceremony at the Port of Miami, which also marked NCL’s 40th anniversary and launched the start of a year-long celebration, was attended by almost 2,500 guests. Colin Veitch, NCL’s president and chief executive officer, said the bowling alley was an industry first. “Since initiating the first Caribbean cruise 40 years ago, NCL has blazed a trail of innovation in the cruise industry. Today, we continue that tradition by introducing our latest treasure, Norwegian Pearl. The first on-board bowling alley, coupled with the rest of the ship’s irresistible amenities, make Norwegian Pearl one of the most exciting ships at sea.”

December 22. A 37-acre, wildly overgrown historic and environmentally-sensitive estate with its old limestone-cutting quarries, woodland, own beach (pictured) owned by Southlands Ltd was earmarked for a two-phase five-star hotel resort. Five internationally recognized hotel operators were contacted to ask if they wanted to get involved, all said yes. But it was Jumeirah, which already runs some of the world’s most opulent hotels including the famous “seven-star” sail-like Burj-al-Arab tower hotel in Dubai, which was chosen. This is despite objections including one from the Bermuda National Trust (BNT) on environmental grounds. The BNT states: "This application seeks to develop a large area of the woodland and open space that were protected by a Section 34 Agreement when original permission was given, in 1993, for a tourism development at this site.” The BNT also feels the application “seeks excessive foreshore development not compatible with Bermuda Planning Policy, reportedly for the purposes of eliminating coastal erosion and associated development setbacks. If permitted, we are of the opinion that the foreshore will be eliminated and the natural quality of South shore severely impacted. The consequence of such an approach is the eventual transformation of Bermuda’s South shore into a concrete promenade. This development is one of many pending large tourism/residential developments. Each of the recent cases has the potential to produce an enormous impact on the Island and the BNT believes that these projects, which could produce harms as great as the reported benefits, must be subject to the most rigorous and transparent scrutiny. As such, we feel that it is vital that independent Environmental Impact Assessments be carried out to determine their collective impact on Bermuda’s environment and also evaluations undertaken to establish their burden on the Island’s infrastructure and in doing so establish whether Bermuda can sustain their collective impact.” Southlands was once a manicured botanical garden-style environment with unusual quarried gardens dating back to the late 1800s. It was bought for $175,000,000 by the Willowbank Foundation charitable trust in 1976 and went under the control of developers Southlands Limited in December 2005. The Jumeirah group, operators of some of the world’s most opulent and spectacular hotels, is lined up to run the hotel once it is completed. Southlands Limited's four key figures are businessmen Craig Christensen, Nelson Hunt, Brian Duperreault and wife Nancy. They submitted artist’s impressions and drawings of how the new hotel resort will look. One of the most unusual aspects is a request to ‘bury’ South Road beneath a large land bridge and divert all South  Road (see below) traffic through a tunnel. Requests for two special development orders (SDOs) have been made, which would allow the scheme to proceed without fulfilling normal planning procedure considerations. The proposal seeks to build on woodland and open space protected from development and alter the coastal zone. Artist’s impressions of the scheme are public documents and can be viewed at the Planning Department on request. The Bermuda Department of Tourism is understood to be very much in favor of the new hotel development. The developers have since announced some modifications to the plan, as pictured above. 

December 27. Leading financial analysts Standard & Poor’s (S&P) have upgraded Bermuda’s outlook for 2007 from “stable” to “positive” – a major independent stamp of approval for the state of the Island’s economy. And in a double dose of good news for the economy, the latest balance of payments figure show Bermuda boasted a current account surplus of $243 million in the third quarter of this year – up $92 million on the same period last year. Finance Minister Paula Cox hailed the news as evidence of the strength of the economy, as highlighted in a positive report by financial analysts Standard & Poor’s (S&P). In broad terms, the balance of payments figures, released by the Government’s Department of Statistics, mean that Bermuda sold $243 million more goods and services to the rest of the world than it bought from overseas during July, August and September. Income generated by the ever-expanding international business sector helped the Island to rake in $92 million more in foreign exchange earnings in the third quarter than it managed in the same period last year. Ms Cox predicted that Bermuda’s calendar-year balance of payments surplus could be in the region of $835 million by the year’s end. The Ministry of Finance is very encouraged by the good news on the balance of payments. This follows close on the heels of an excellent report issued by S&P about the strength of Bermuda’s economy.  S&P remarked about the vibrancy of Bermuda’s external sector and the third-quarter balance of payments data released by the Department of Statistics demonstrates the dynamism of the sector that continues to be driven by robust advances for international business supplemented by the improving results for the tourism sector. On the strength of the first three quarters for 2006, it certainly appears that Bermuda is headed for a very strong balance of payments surplus for the full calendar year, perhaps in the region of $835 million. This showing would be consistent with the assessment of future prospects for Bermuda that underpin S&P’s upgrade of Bermuda’s outlook in 2007 from ‘stable’ to ‘positive.’ I think the hard data, such as the balance of payments statistics, tells the very bright and uplifting story about this Government’s sound and effective economic management. The Ministry of Finance plans to sustain the positive trends as we finalize the preparations for the 2007/08 national Budget.” During the third quarter, money that flowed overseas from Bermuda totaled $677 million, up $138 million on 2005, while $920 million flowed in to the Island, well up on the $690 million recorded last year. The trade deficit on goods was $251 million, reflecting the fact that most goods consumed on the Island are imported. That deficit was 9.6 greater than last year’s figure of $229 million. Meanwhile the services surplus rocketed to $208 million, $85 million greater than during the same period last year. However this figure was $11 million less than in the previous quarter, a dip put down by the Department of Statistics to a fall in the government services balance. The services surplus was largely generated by business services, which recorded a surplus of $186 million for the quarter. The figures showed evidence of a growing salary bill for the international business sector, as employee compensation payments increased by 3.2 percent for the quarter. However the investment income surplus fell to $83 million – a drop of nearly 40 percent from the previous quarter – on increased payments and decreased receipts. The Island’s financial account saw a net inflow of $1,035 million in the quarter, a $277 million increase over the second quarter.

December 28.  A luxurious five star hotel complex creating hundreds of new jobs and a land bridge over South Road could soon be built in Bermuda – with the developers of the world’s most opulent hotel lined up as its operators. Conceptual drawings show a two-phase resort on both sides of South Road at the 37-acre Southlands estate in Warwick. The first phase could be a reality before the end of 2008. Five internationally recognized hotel operators were contacted to ask if they wanted to get involved, all said yes. But it was Jumeirah, which already runs some of the world’s most opulent hotels including the famous “seven-star” sail-like Burj-al-Arab tower hotel in Dubai, which was chosen. However, concern has been expressed about yet another hotel project seeking to by-pass normal planning application rules with Special Development Order status. In the past month a neighboring hotel scheme on South Shore, put forward by Atlantic Development has also asked for an SDO, and the proposed Ritz-Carlton for Hamilton has received an SDO. Plans have been submitted for the Southlands scheme and it is likely that a Section 34 – which gives protection to large swathes of land across Bermuda – will have to be rescinded to allow the scheme to go ahead. The developer is also seeking two SDOs, one for the hotel and one for a staff block as not all the land is zoned for tourism. The draft SDOs are included in the planning application awaiting a decision by Environment Minister Neletha Butterfield. The most unusual aspect of the scheme calls for the realigning of South Road and for it to be covered over by a land bridge – effectively creating a tunnel for traffic passing beneath. Up above will be a wide, landscaped garden and pedestrian street linking the resort’s northern section with its southern section and the south shore beach. And two holes will be created in the land bridge allowing over-hanging vegetation to dangle through and for natural daylight to illuminate the road below. It is anticipated Bermudians will be trained up by Jumeirah in its luxury Dubai hotels before transferring back to staff the new five-star resort. Staff accommodation in a ten-level complex, that will be concealed in the Hunt’s Quarry site will provide room for 375 people. A total of 400 staff are expected to be needed to run the resort. And a concrete sea wall and other permanent foreshore protection features have been designed to safeguard the resort and south shore cliffs overlooking the beach from further erosion. The on-Island developer has asked that a Section 34 agreement dating back 14 years that protects aspects of the site, including woodland and environmental features, be rescinded. It is believed only one Section 34, which currently protects 119 acres of Bermuda, has been rescinded before. Currently Southlands is a mostly vacant site and has a mixture of green space, agricultural, woodland and only some tourism zoning. It is unlikely the scheme would be given planning permission through a normal application. The developers are seeking SDOs as an alternative and on October 13 received support from the Cabinet Committee on Special Hotel Developments to apply for SDOs. The few buildings on the site will be demolished, although the historical Morgan’s Tomb will remain a feature within the resort’s extensive grounds. As well as three five-storey resort buildings close to the shore on the southern side of South Road and a further five five-storey blocks to the north, the resort will boast an exotic spa, numerous smaller residential buildings dotted around the grounds to the north. There will be three ballrooms, a nightclub, conference room and business centre, various cafes, bars and restaurants, dining terraces able to handle up to 400 people and swimming pools. The resort will have 296 guest suites with a total of 371 bedrooms giving it the potential to accommodate 800 people. In addition there will be 42 residential three-bedroom units. The prospect of hotel operator Jumeirah coming to Bermuda was made public by Premier Ewart Brown at a meeting in St. George’s last month. The artists’ impressions of the scheme are now public documents, and can be viewed at the Planning Department in the Government Administration Building. In details for the scheme it is proposed to re-align South Road and widen it from its current two ten foot wide lanes to three lanes 12 feet wide, one to be used for traffic turning in and out of the resort. There will also be two concrete sidewalks for pedestrians. An analysis of the new road configuration claims motorists can look forward to a one-second improvement in their journey times as a result of the slightly more direct routing of the road. The land bridge will be a minimum of 18 feet above the road and the hotel owner will pay for all the road alterations. Plans have been put forward by Southlands Limited.

December 29.  Bermudian businessmen are behind a proposed five-star hotel at Southlands, a 37-acre property along the South Shore in Warwick. The application before the Department of Planning insists that the project will not become a reality unless permission is given to relocate a portion of South Road underground. The deal is also said to be contingent on the owners receiving a green light to "improve" the cliff face through a variety of coastal systems ranging from submerged boulder revetments to reinforced concrete armored facing. They are also seeking an included option to build permanent residences on the resort should they choose at a future date. Principals behind Southlands Resort Development, Southlands Resort Development Limited, have applied for a Special Development Order to fast-track the project. Should they succeed, the property will boast 269 guest suites and potentially, 42 three-bedroom residences. A separate application has been made to place 250 staff apartments on Quarry Lane in Warwick.  Hotel operator Jumeirah has stated it will create an overseas training programme for Bermudians at its operations in Dubai, should the bid prove successful. The Southlands Resort would sit only a stone's throw away from another luxury resort now under Planning consideration, the Grand Atlantic Resort and Residences. A five-star beach hotel and spa, its plans include fractional and residential apartments as well as a number of seafront villas. The resort is earmarked for the old Ritz-Carlton site, a 13.1 acre plot bordering Astwood Walk, the Warwick Gas Station and Dunscombe Road. The project's backers, Atlantic Development, have also applied for a Special Development Order. Plans for the Southlands Resort allow accommodation for nearly 800 guests. Anticipated are 269 suites – 187 one-bedroom suites ranging from 600 to 1,100 square feet, 62 two-bedroom suites at 1,500 square feet and 20 three-bedroom suites ranging from 2,150 to 2,950 square feet. In addition, 42 residential, three-bedroom units ranging in size from 2,150 to 2,950 square feet, have been applied for. The 37-acre Southlands property is zoned a mix of tourism, woodland, agricultural and green space. Planning permission was first given to place a hotel at Southlands in 1993. The Development Applications Board gave the Willowbank Foundation the green light to build a self-catering tourist complex of 21 housekeeping units and also 40 housing units for the elderly. The complex was never completed. Southlands was owned by James Morgan who added to the main house and established intricate gardens in the quarries that existed prior to his purchasing the property. Morgan was an influential person and his activities in Bermuda are documented. The proposed Southlands Resort includes the Morgan homestead as a club and museum to highlight features of the property and its former owner. The long-neglected quarry gardens and water features will be reinstated and integrated into the resort as unique amenities. The Morgan tomb will be restored and preserved. Southlands Resort will enhance part of Bermuda's cultural heritage and make it more accessible. The Southlands property is a very special place with history, unique quarry gardens and vegetation and an ideal topography sloping down from a ridge line along the northern boundary to a combination of beach and rugged cliffs on South Shore. At approximately 37 acres, it is a prime site for a major resort. (However) South Road bisects the property in a manner that leaves too little land on the south side to develop as a viable resort and dislocates the larger, northern portion of the site from the waterfront. Both of these impediments are addressed by the proposed South Road diversion which moves the road further north and partially covers it with landscaped canopies. From above, the site will appear as a continuous piece of waterfront property. Eliminating the disruption of the road and permitting uninterrupted pedestrian access across the site is crucial for a comprehensive, viable, high-class development. The road diversion transforms the property and makes such a development possible. Work will be completed in two phases. The first will see the diversion and relocation of South Road, the construction of 63 suites, reception and banquet areas and meeting rooms, bars, restaurants and other amenities and shoreline protection. Phase two will involve completion of the road and conclusion of the resort – a further 262 suites, the main reception for the resort, a spa, additional banquet and ballrooms, an executive conference centre and further amenities. The plans involve relocating all of South Road which falls within the limits of the Southlands Resort Development property, underground. The existing road consists of two ten-foot lanes with a total width of 20 feet. The proposed road will consist of three 12-foot lanes with a total width of 36 feet. The third lane has been introduced to enable resort access. Bus lay-bys and shelters will also be incorporated. Shoreline erosion, particularly as it relates to the cliff face, is fairly extensive and significant (typical for the South Shore) and poses a potential structural integrity threat to the cliff face. The primary agent that leads to this erosion is storm wave action. If left unchecked, there is no reason to suppose that the level of erosion will not decrease.

December 31. Coupland Trust Associates Ltd. completed their 2002 to 2006 contract with the Government of Bermuda. It included 

For the Bermuda Government Director of Marine and Ports

Bermuda Ferries Projects

Oversee the design, build and delivery of high speed passenger ferries, design specified and built to provide service for an increasing "mega" cruise ship market, tourist market and domestic commuter service

Also in 2006

Movie: A Royal Birthday - see http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0876013/ was filmed partly in Bermuda. 

To commemorate the Bermuda Shipwrecks, the Royal Mint released a special Limited Issue Triangular Constellation Ship $3 Three Dollar Gold Proof Coin struck in solid fine .999 Gold Certified Slabbed and Graded by NGC as PF69 Ultra Cameo, and a very special Limited Issue Triangular Mary Celestia Ship $3 Three Dollar Gold Proof Coin struck in solid fine.999 Gold and weighs one twentieth of an ounce of pure Gold Certified Slabbed and Graded by NGC as PF69 Ultra Cameo.

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