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Bermuda's History July, 2007

Noteworthy and quote-worthy news and significant events for the seventh month of this year

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By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us).

Bermuda atamps 1921

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

July 2. Thousands of people flocked to the US Consulate’s Independence Day celebration on Saturday — believed to be the biggest event of its kind outside America. Preliminary estimates indicate that between five and six thousand revelers took part in the festivities at Moresby’s Plain, Somerset, which included games, live music and fireworks. Once the full figures are known, the event could see Bermuda entered in the Guinness Book of Records for the biggest July 4 event outside the US. The day, hosted by the American Society and US Consulate, was also special in that two members of the US Congress flew in for the party — Congressman G. K. Butterfield, whose father was born in St. George’s, and Congresswoman Diane Watson, a friend of Premier Ewart Brown since his days in Los Angeles. Both spoke of their high regard for Bermuda, with Congresswoman Watson noting that the relationship between the Island and US was an important historic one for economic and security reasons. 

July 2. A documentary highlighting the potential environmental impact from the proposed Jumeriah Southlands hotel development will be shown on Bermuda Broadcasting Company’s ZBM channel 9 this evening. The 30-minute programme looks primarily at the Southlands project, but also other recent hotel development proposals. Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce (BEST) have put together the programme, which was borne from a comment made at a town-hall meeting in March when a media cameraman suggested the information being discussed by the panel that night would be worthy of TV exposure to inform a wider audience on the Island. Former Bermuda chief conservation officer Dr. David Wingate, Department of Planning veteran Rudolph Hollis and high school students Jessica O’Doherty and Caitlin Rego were speakers at the meeting. The subsequent programme, which includes excerpts from the town hall meeting and additional footage, takes a more detailed look at the issue of hotel development at Southlands and along the South Shore, airs this evening at 8.30 p.m. In March environmentalist and BEST chairman Stuart Hayward presented a 3,200-signature petition to Environment Minister Neletha Butterfield requesting her not to issue a special development order for the Southlands project. As of today no SDO has been granted. Mr. Hayward said the programme gives the wider Bermuda population a chance to hear from “two significant spokesmen” who had analyzed the situation — Mr. Hollis and Dr. Wingate.  

July 2. “The Special Development Order (SDO) for Southlands could prove to be a disaster of momentous proportions,” said Anglican Bishop Ewen Ratteray. “It would take up all of that green space if it happens. The Minister of Environment has not approved it yet and I hope she says no.” The Bishop’s comments were made during an interview following his announcement he will retire next year. With his usual straight-forward demeanor and with the conviction of his prayer and faith, he tackled many of the social and moral issues currently facing the Island — see the Monday Interview for the full coverage. The topic of overbuilding is one that truly concerns the Bishop because of the threat it poses to Bermuda’s culture and he feels that the Island might lose its identity. 

July 2. The Anglican Bishop has called for a Truth and Reconciliation committee to resolve the polarization of society on the Island. Bishop Ewen Ratteray feels the scandal that has erupted over the Bermuda Housing Corporation investigation has led to a country more divided along race lines then ever before. And in an interview with The Royal Gazette after announcing his retirement to take place next year, Bishop Ratteray said the recent legal wrangling is just prolonging the polarization and lack of reconciliation in the country.  

July 3. The Human Rights Commission has produced an on-time annual report — for the first time in five years. The document was tabled in the House of Assembly by Community and Cultural Affairs Minister Wayne Perinchief on Friday in accordance with the Human Rights Act. Annual reports for 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 were not produced until December last year — a delay which led, in part, to former HRC executive officer David Wilson being asked to resign last summer. The commission now has a new executive officer, former journalist and Government press officer Ayo Johnson, and a new chairman, lawyer Venous Memari. The 2006 annual report reveals that 21 formal complaints were made and, of those, ten were investigated. The number is a huge drop from 2003, when 86 complaints were investigated. Four of the ten cases in 2006 were successfully mediated, four were closed or dismissed (including two unsuccessful mediations) and two are ongoing. Four of the complaints were related to race, ethnicity or origin; two to sexual harassment; two to family status; one to disability and one to a criminal record. The Commission referred 379 complaints to other Government agencies and 86 to non or quasi-government agencies. Mr. Perinchief told MPs the HRC had two mandates: to educate the public on human rights protections available to them and human rights in general and to conciliate, investigate and settle allegations of unlawful discrimination. He said a voluntary mediation programme introduced in 2005 was continuing to be a successful, confidential and cost-effective method of resolving disputes.  

July 3. Minister of Public Safety and Housing David Burch has hit back at allegations that Government has treated Police officers contemptuously over stalled pay negotiations. Confirming salary talks relating to the 2005-2007 Police contract are likely to go to arbitration, Sen. Burch said: “The Ministry reiterates that it holds all of its Police Officers in the highest esteem, and their welfare is considered a priority of this Ministry. As such it will work with all parties involved to ensure that an amicable resolution is reached that will benefit all concerned.” According to Friday’s edition of the Mid-Ocean News, the Police Association held an emergency meeting last week over stalled salary negotiations and delays on a new station for Hamilton to replace the condemned building on Parliament Street. The newspaper said it understood the officers are requesting a rise of around two percent above that on offer. It reported association chairman Carl Neblett as saying the Police cannot take industrial action because of their essential role in society. 

July 3. A religious service yesterday aimed to heal rifts in the community provoked by allegations of corruption at the Bermuda Housing Corporation. Acting Premier, Minister of Social Rehabilitation Dale Butler, joined Opposition Leader Michael Dunkley and representatives of various faiths to emphasize love and unity in the face of conflict. In yesterday’s The Royal Gazette, Anglican Bishop Ewen Ratteray said he felt the recent political fall-out over the BHC scandal had led to the country becoming more divided on racial lines.  

July 3. The Bermuda Department of Civil Aviation (BDCA) plans to set up regional offices countries such as Russia and Singapore in order to enlist the necessary technical staff to oversee the industry. According to Premier Ewart Brown, the news comes after a period of "overwhelming growth and success" for the department, which administers aviation regulations. In 2005 there were 198 aircraft on the register. In 2006 we had 258 aircraft on the register, an increase of 30 percent year over year. And as of 2007, there are 291 aircraft on the register. The BDCA anticipated this growth and, five years ago, began the design and development of the Aircraft Information and Records System (AIRS) — a web database system, which went live January this year. The system is meeting its objectives of reducing paperwork, and adding efficiency to the registry and airworthiness processes. However, with the current growth of our aircraft registry, with this remarkable growth, comes an increased work load. Obtaining the necessary qualified and experienced technical staff to oversee the aircraft is becoming increasingly difficult. Aviation is a global competitive business and there is need to be as efficient and effective as possible to maintain the competitive edge. As such, steps are now underway to implement regional offices in various locations around the world. They will allow BDCA representatives to be more appropriately positioned geographically and be more responsive to clients in those regions.  

July 3. Bermuda has a new representative in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) following the recent election of Gordon Brown as British Prime Minister. Following his succession from Tony Blair, Mr. Brown undertook a widespread reshuffle that saw former Under Secretary of State with responsibility for British Overseas Territories Lord David Triesman replaced by Meg Munn. Mrs. Munn, a former Minister for Women and Equality, has been a member of the British Labour Party since she was 15 years old and is a trained social worker. In addition to the Overseas Territories, she will also hold responsibility for FCO business relating to the Caribbean and Central America and South East Asia.

July 3. The mother of murdered teenager Rebecca Middleton has welcomed moves to boost prosecutors’ rights to appeal judges’ decisions — something deemed to have helped defeat justice in her case. With today marking the 11th anniversary of her daughter’s death, Cindy Bennett told The Royal Gazette she believed legislation proposed by Shadow Minister for Justice John Barritt could help other families in future. “I believe there’s a purpose and a reason for Becky’s death, and it’s going to mark some changes for the better. Maybe the changes won’t help in our case but I do think some of the changes that come will be beneficial for Bermuda’s law,” she said last night. Mr. Barritt highlighted the Middleton case when he asked the House of Assembly on Friday to allow the Director of Public Prosecutions to launch appeals on more than simply questions of law alone as at present. He wants the Court of Appeal to be able to hear appeals based on the facts of the alleged crime, a mixture of law and fact, or any other ground it deems sufficient. The current legal restrictions were highlighted in the Middleton case when they stopped the Privy Council — the highest court of appeal for Bermuda — from overturning the controversial decision of a judge to throw out a murder case against one of the accused. Rebecca was found dying at a remote spot in Ferry Reach, St. George’s on July 3 1996, having been raped and stabbed while on vacation from her home in Canada. The fact that no-one has been brought to justice for the slaying sparked negative publicity about Bermuda’s judicial system both at home and abroad. Kirk Mundy — a Jamaican then aged 21 — and Justis Smith — a Bermudian then aged 19 — were arrested days later. Mundy was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of accessory after the fact before forensic tests were complete, and was jailed for five years. When new evidence later came in allegedly linking him to the killing, the Privy Council rejected a bid by prosecutors to have him face a fresh charge of murder. Meanwhile, the murder case against Smith was thrown out before a jury had chance to consider it by Judge Vincent Meerabux, who said there was no case to answer. The Privy Council later criticized him for this “surprising” and “perhaps astonishing” decision, saying there was strong circumstantial evidence. Nonetheless, it ruled the decision could not be overturned and a re-trial ordered because in Bermuda there is no right of appeal by the prosecution following a finding by a judge of ‘no case to answer’ on the facts. 

An appeal can only be heard on a matter of law alone. It is this issue that Mr. Barritt, a lawyer with Mello Jones and Martin, hopes to tackle through his proposed amendment to the law. “This is not about re-visiting the Rebecca Middleton case, but it is about learning an important lesson from that particular case and re-capturing some of the reputation that was lost by that particular case. It’s not about having a re-trial — but that we learned something like that there ought to have been a right of appeal,” he told the House of Assembly. Mr. Barritt told The Royal Gazette his proposed law change would see the Director of Public Prosecutions first make a decision whether to pursue an appeal. The Court of Appeal would then have to decide whether they ought to allow it. Asked whether the recommended change could see a fresh attempt by the DPP to get Smith re-tried, he said this was possible, but added: “I expect that the court might be reluctant to apply it retrospectively to cases prior to the amendment becoming law. There is a strong principle of law that when it comes to criminal matters, like for example the creation of new offences, or new criminal sanctions, they ought not to be applied retrospectively.” Giving her view on the proposal, Mrs. Bennett said: “This could open up the possibility (of an appeal) in cases from now on, and that’s a good thing.” After Junior Justice Minister Michael Scott opposed the law change on Friday night, Progressive Labour Party MPs succeeded in delaying a vote on it for six months. Mr. Barritt — who believes his proposal has some backers on the Government benches — reacted by accusing Government of attempting to “stifle” debate on the topic. Mr. Scott had said the plan made dangerous inroads into the rights of defendants not to be unfairly pursued by the prosecuting authorities, describing them as “an egregious assault” on the double jeopardy principle which bans someone from being tried twice for the same crime. As part of their campaign to get justice for Rebecca, the Middleton family argued at a Judicial Review hearing in April that although Bermuda’s laws also ban someone from being tried twice for murder, fresh charges of serious sexual assault, torture or kidnap could be considered against Mundy and Smith. The bid was rejected by Chief Justice Richard Ground, but Rebecca’s father Dave Middleton and his lawyer Kelvin Hastings-Smith indicated they plan an appeal. Neither could be reached for comment yesterday.

July 3. Farmers have attacked Government for committing “environmental suicide” by allowing soil imports for Bermuda’s flagship cricket venue. They fear foreign pests could destroy crops across the Island, while the introduction of chemicals to combat disease could upset the balance of the whole country’s ecology. About 15 farmers held an emergency meeting last night after hearing how Environment Minister Neletha Butterfield had pushed through new regulations to improve the sub-standard National Sports Centre pitch with foreign soil. They claim the move could see dangerous plant diseases and alien species introduced to the country and refer to the cedar blight of the 1940s which wiped out 95 percent of Bermuda’s national trees. “I found out on Saturday and I felt stunned and betrayed,” said farmer and environmentalist Tom Wadson. “We are on the front line and obviously we are worried about ourselves, but this is about the whole country — it’s about the entire ecology. We have a delicate horticulture here and this could affect us very badly. It’s just really foolish, really silly and really high-risk. This is just environmental suicide. I don’t know how much it is going to cost to bring this soil in. How much are we paying to shoot ourselves in the foot?”  

July 3. Tentative hopes have been expressed by Bermuda Broadcasting Company and the Bermuda Industrial Union that ongoing industrial action at the ZBM/ZFB TV and radio broadcasting station is heading towards resolution. A "work to rule" has been in place at the company since mid-June and further staffing problems have led to curtailment of some broadcasting output, including the Sunday evening TV news bulletins for the past two weekends. The departure of news anchorman Gary Moreno followed by long time sports reporter Mike Sharpe, has also reduced the pool of on-camera staff for broadcasts. Senior broadcaster Sangita Iyer has also been off air for the past week. Ms Iyer was unavailable for comment, but a source told The Royal Gazette the station's lead news presenter will be returning to work later this week. A letter from the BBC directors addressing numerous staff complaints and requests has been sent to the BIU and the union is preparing its response. The industrial unrest is rooted in alleged poor working conditions and pay levels. Staff have been refusing to work beyond their contractual obligations since the dispute escalated on June 19 with a walk-out by staff at the studios in Prospect, Devonshire. The company runs two TV channels and three radio stations.  

July 4. A unique St. John Ambulance vehicle will double up as transportation for wheelchair-bound seniors who would otherwise be confined to their homes. The new $127,000 ambulance — specially-built and said to be the only one of its kind in the world — has enough room to lock in three wheelchairs as well as all the usual St. John first aid equipment. Once enough drivers have been assigned to the project, people with mobility difficulties will be able to ring the charity and be taken to the place of their choice for a small fee. Wheelchairs can be raised to the vehicle by a lift, the driver will have access to a TV screen so he can keep an eye on passengers in the back, while they will also be able to communicate via an intercom system. “There’s an awful lot of seniors physically not able to get about, especially if they’re on four wheels,” said St. John executive director Jacqueline Browne. “We felt we might be able to work not only for emergency services but also to support our seniors who have limited physical capabilities. It’s amazing what a difference it can make to them to get out and about even if it’s just for an hour’s drive. The ambulance can also be used to take people with physical difficulties to and from the airport. “We had to replace one of our ambulances because it was dying, so this was designed with the community in mind. The manufacturers say it’s the only one of its kind in the world.” The ambulance was bought by American International Group, which said it wanted to give something back to the community in Bermuda. “We were very fortunate that AIG came forward,” said Ms Browne. Organizers have already contacted a number of groups about the scheme, including Age Concern. Governor Sir John Vereker and his wife Lady Vereker had a look at the new ambulance at an official unveiling yesterday. Two fund-raising tag days will take place on Friday and Saturday, with the first tag handed to the Governor yesterday to mark the initiative. It will be the last time Sir John performs the St. John tag role before he leaves Bermuda later this year to be replaced by Sir Richard Gozney. St. John Day will be celebrated at a service at St. John’s Church on Sunday.

July 4. Eleven years on from her brutal death, the legacy of murdered teenager Rebecca Middleton will be honored by a programme to protect other young women. The Rebecca Middleton Foundation, a charity promoting victim support and crime prevention, has bought 50 personal alarms to be distributed through the Women’s Resource Centre. Rebecca, a 17-year-old Canadian tourist, was raped and murdered in July 1996 after accepting a lift on a bike from strangers after a night out in St. George’s. The failure of the criminal justice system to secure a murder conviction has been branded a botched job by relatives of the teenager. While the Foundation has helped the family to campaign fresh legal proceedings against suspects in the case, it also works toward protecting other young women in Bermuda. Kim Smith, a volunteer with the charity, said the personal alarms feature a siren and security light and are designed for women to carry when they feel vulnerable — although they are not intended to lure them into a false sense of security. When they arrive on the Island within the next two weeks, they will be delivered to the Women’s Resource Centre in the first link-up between the two charities. Kathy Harriott from the Centre said they will go to any client who wants one. She welcomed the partnership with the Foundation, commenting that together: “We can reach more people and have more of a flow of information back and forth.” The personal safety devices have been ordered through the Lucie Blackman Trust, a British charity promoting education and safety that gave a discount price to the foundation. Ms Blackman, a 21-year-old woman from Kent in England, was working as a bar hostess in Japan when she was found murdered near Tokyo in 2001. Japanese businessman Joji Obara, 54, was cleared earlier this year of involvement in her death but jailed for life for raping nine women, one of whom died. Prosecutors are to appeal against the acquittal. Ms Smith said that the Lucie Blackman Trust has made overtures to the Rebecca Middleton Foundation in terms of a linked working relationship in future due to the similarity of the cases. Welcoming the prospect, she said plans are in the very early stages but more news should be available soon.

July 4. The world’s leading pitch expert has launched a fierce assault on the opponents of plans to import foreign soil to relay the National Sport Centre’s infamous square — labeling the dissent “a bunch of political claptrap”. International Cricket Council’s pitch consultant, Andy Atkinson, the man who famously labeled the soil contained in the pitches at the NSC as “more suitable for growing carrots”, last night poured scorn on the arguments of both the United Bermuda Party and local farmers, who maintain Government could be recklessly endangering the environment by giving the Minister discretion to grant permits to those wishing to bring in soil from overseas in exceptional circumstances. The Englishman, who was responsible for monitoring the preparation of all pitches at this year’s World Cup in the Caribbean, first visited the Island in late 2004 to advise NSC staff on what could be done to improve the dire quality of the pitches — which were giving cause for concern as far back as 2003 because of their uneven bounce and alarmingly rapid deterioration. And last year he was back in Bermuda again, collecting soil samples and conducting tests along with NSC head groundsman Trevor Madeiros — before concluding in a report that there was no local soil available which could withstand the rigorous beating endured during international matches. Bermuda have not played an official ODI on home soil since being granted the status after qualifying for the World Cup in 2005. 

July 4. An arbitration hearing on a long-running dispute over teachers’ pay began yesterday — with a decision expected from the tribunal panel early next week. The closed hearing at the Department of Labour heard evidence from Bermuda Union of Teachers (BUT) and Ministry of Education officials on failed negotiations on a pay rise for public school teachers. Teachers claim the Ministry reneged on a promise to give them a 4.5 percent rise for two years. Talks broke down when the union recently rejected a final offer from Government for 4.5 percent for the first year and 4 percent for the second. The ongoing wrangle means teachers have not had a pay rise since 2005.

July 4. Three hundred families will see their rent slashed to a quarter of their income after the Bermuda Housing Corporation moved to make their monthly bill more manageable. And the BHC will take an additional ten percent of their earnings and hold it in a special savings account. Meanwhile another public/private partnership, similar to Loughlands in Paget, is on the cards. Housing Minister, Sen. David Burch, took to the airwaves last night and gave an in-depth update on Government’s housing initiatives. In the broadcast he gave anticipated start and completion dates for many developments that have been in the works for years and unveiled ambitious new plans. He did not elaborate on how the families would be able to access their savings accounts. Geared to income housing was first introduced at the Butterfield Lane development in December 2006 when Government created eight new units on the Sandys site. Sen. Burch explained that if a family’s financial situation changed an immediate reassessment would occur. He added that families’ participation in geared to income housing will not be eligible for other financial assistance but said the move would return “dignity” to Bermudians in that they will not have to “bear their soul” to various Government agencies to gain financial assistance. Another announcement was that after the “overwhelming” response to the Loughlands development more public/private partnerships could be expected. The partnership with Gilbert Lopes began in March 2006 and will see 96 units built in Paget for purchase by first time home owners. The first 21 units will be completed by December. Over 500 people signed up for the development. Last night Sen. Burch said: “This is the first of several public/private partnerships that is progressing expeditiously and you can expect to see more in the future. Discussions with another developer have recently concluded and once we have signed a memorandum of understanding which I anticipate before months end a public announcement will be made at that time.” The Senator also outlined housing developments currently underway.

July 5. Concern about the arrest of Auditor General Larry Dennis has been raised in Britain’s House of Parliament. Shadow Trade and Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Clifton-Brown asked the UK Government what assessment had been made of the implications for law and order in Bermuda following the arrest and detention of Mr. Dennis. The question was brushed off by Government MP Meg Munn who said as Mr. Dennis had been released on Police bail in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation by Bermuda Police it was “not appropriate to comment further”. Reacting last night United Bermuda Party Leader Michael Dunkley said it was clear during his party’s visit to London last week that there were serious concerns about the allegations of widespread corruption related to the BHC scandal and their impact on Bermuda’s stability and reputation. He added: “The issue has registered with Members of Parliament in the United Kingdom and it is a matter for ongoing observation by the Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. It is encouraging that we are not alone in trying to make sure that the concerns raised by the BHC scandal are, at the end of the day, managed in a way that strengthens our system of governance — particularly in terms of checks on the conduct of public officials — and leaves intact Bermuda’s reputation for integrity.” He said his party would continue to press for a Royal Commission into the Bermuda Housing Corporation investigation to help clear the air and answer the many outstanding questions that fester in the community.

July 5. Calls for a massive clean-up at Bermuda’s former Baselands were re-ignited yesterday as an investigation continues into claims lethal defoliant Agent Orange was dumped at Kindley Air Force Base in the 1960s. A huge opportunity for development is being missed while the sites continue to be plagued by vast quantities of oil and other hazardous wastes, according to former Opposition Leader Grant Gibbons. Bills of up to $65 million were estimated to remove materials including asbestos, jet fuel, paint, batteries, chemicals and oil left behind when Kindley AFB and Southampton Naval Annex — now known as Morgan’s Point — were handed back to Bermuda by the US in 1995. The US paid an $11 million settlement a few years later, but large areas remain a no-go zone because of dangerous substances, including thousands of gallons of viscous oil and sludge at Bassett’s Cave, Morgan’s Point. Dr. Gibbons, involved at the bases as Management and Technology Minister in the 1990s, said he was “enormously frustrated” that no development had taken place at the sites. Ten years ago, a Jack Nicklaus signature golf course looked set to be built at the former Naval Annex, and Dr. Gibbons said its construction would have involved developers paying to remove waste materials. However, it was one of a string of initiatives to fail to get off the ground.  

July 5. Inflation touched a 16-year high in Bermuda, driven by higher oil and energy prices and more expensive hotel room rates overseas biting into the pockets of Island residents. The monthly inflation rate leapt 1.4 percent between April and May, putting Bermuda in the unenviable position of having a higher rate than the US, UK or Canada. Bermuda's heavy reliance on goods and services from the outside world has been identified as the main driver for the rocketing consumer price index figure. The last time Bermuda had a higher monthly inflation rate was July 1991. More expensive domestic energy and rising costs in the transport and vehicle sector were the two biggest contributors to the new high. Both can be linked to the effect of global oil price rises and that was something warned about by Finance Minister Paula Cox when she presented the Budget earlier this year. A Finance Ministry spokesperson said the Bermuda domestic economy is not being viewed as overheating at the moment and the underlying 12-month inflation rate remains close to the three percent desired track, sitting at 3.3 percent up to May. "The headline inflation rate is a reflection of price pressures in the overseas energy and vehicle supply markets. Government indicated in its Budget statement that the outlook for inflation would depend very much upon oil prices," said the spokesperson. "If the pressures in the oil markets continues it will propel the underlying inflation rate to a higher level, and this would not be a welcome development." The fuel and power sector of the economy saw prices rise 7.6 percent, with higher electricity costs resulting from the fuel adjustment clause in household bills rising by 17 percent. Belco senior vice-president and treasurer Andrew Parsons underlined the effect of the escalating cost of oil globally on the Bermuda market, pointing out that in January the "landed" price of a barrel of fuel, which includes shipping and tax, was $68, and in May it had risen to $84. The current price is higher still at $96.  

July 5.  Premier Ewart Brown made a cheeky offer to new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown — lean on us if things get difficult. That gesture was made in a congratulatory letter sent to the new British leader who took over from Tony Blair last week. Dr. Brown wrote: “Of course a Prime Minister faces seemingly unrelenting challenges on any given day. If at any time you believe the Government or people of Bermuda can help as you take on those challenges please call on us.” The Premier also praises Mr. Brown for his expert stewardship of the UK’s finances during his ten years as Chancellor of the Exchequer. While Dr. Brown has been at odds with British-appointed Governor Sir John Vereker he says in the letter that Gordon Brown’s Labour Party and the Progressive Labour Party have long enjoyed a kinship of ideals which he hopes will continue. And the Premier goes on to praise Mr. Brown’s dynamic new Cabinet. He wrote: “I make particular note of Baroness Scotland who was a trusted ally to Bermuda and all Overseas Territories during her time in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I have no doubt she will serve the United Kingdom well in her new role as Attorney General. I expect Baroness Scotland will also embrace her additional responsibility as a role model to many.”

July 5. Teachers’ union leader Mike Charles is calling on Government to issue clear statistics on the number of students graduating from the two senior public schools. The general secretary of Bermuda Union of Teachers (BUT) spoke out after figures released by the Berkeley Institute and CedarBridge Academy last week indicated an overall pass rate this year of almost 82 percent. The figure represents a huge leap from 2006 — when just 48 percent made the grade. Mr. Charles told The Royal Gazette that the Ministry of Education’s silence on the dramatic improvement did not help people to make sense of the figures. “Somebody needs to come up to the wicket and say why the figures this year are so different,” he said. “What have they done so differently. “ To make such a drastic leap, what have they done?” He questioned whether this year’s figures had been collated differently. “Is this the way they should always have been collating it?” he said. The Ministry has failed to answer questions on this year’s soaring graduation rate, with a spokeswoman simply attributing it to brighter children in the class of 2007.

July 5. Bermuda’s squad for the Pan-Am Games has been announced — and it’s been revealed a rule change in the number of team officials allowed to accompany athletes has threatened to jeopardize the Island’s chances in Brazil. Organizers have reduced the number of accredited officials each country can to take to 40 percent of their athletes travelling to Rio, which has thrown a potential spanner in the works for Bermuda. The term “officials” refers to coaches, trainers, horse grooms, vets, and physiotherapists, with the Bermuda Olympic Association having to relocate those over the percentage threshold to hotels outside the Games Village. John Hoskins, president of the BOA, has admitted the revision of the rules has given them “major difficulties” due to the number of sports in which they are competing. “Organisers have limited the officials you can take which is fine if you’re competing in a few sports, but Bermuda is in eight and therefore require trainers and coaches in each,” he said. “Thankfully they have relaxed the ruling a little allowing our three equestrian grooms to be given a reduced accreditation. But it’s caused us major difficulties and we’ve had to accommodate some officials outside the Pan-Am Village — it’s a strange situation. “It’s the first time this has happened at a Pan-Am Games, but Rio is an attractive place and the organizers felt they had to limit officials at the Village. Not having all of our officials at the Village can’t help our chances but hopefully it won’t greatly affect them either.”

July 6. Bermuda’s so-called “education crisis” could have been overstated due to misleading graduation statistics in previous years, a highly placed source claimed last night. The source — a leading education figure on the Island — said the apparent dramatic increase this year in the percentage of students achieving a Bermuda School Certificate (BSC) was likely to be down to the way figures were calculated in the past. The overall pass rate for 2006, based on 173 graduates out of 212 senior four students, is almost 82 percent — representing a leap of nearly 34 percent from the previous year. The results seem to contradict the findings of a $250,000 inquiry earlier this year which concluded that one of the two senior schools was failing and that the system overall was “on the brink of meltdown”. The source said that the Ministry of Education previously measured the graduation rate by comparing the number of passes against a starting group of students, which included some who had moved from the Island, gone to other schools or dropped out of the system. “We were so bad at calculating data before that I know the rate was deflated,” they said. “Students were counted that were no longer in the system; students that had withdrawn or gone to other schools. We were never in the deepest of crises that we were led to believe.” The source said that figures issued by the Ministry in January helped to undermine public belief in the state-run school system. “I don’t think that was ever the intention,” they added. “But this continual banging of the drum that we are in a crisis has done just that. There is great room for improvement but it’s not as bad as we thought.” Some have suggested that the huge rise in the percentage of students graduating from the Berkeley Institute and CedarBridge Academy this year is due to last year’s pass rate of 48 percent being based on the number of graduates compared to the number of students who started out in S1 in 2002.

July 6. Human rights officials last night backed calls for a Truth and Reconciliation committee for Bermuda. Retiring Anglican Bishop Ewen Ratteray, in an interview with The Royal Gazette earlier this week, said he felt Bermuda was polarized along race lines more than ever due to the prolonged legal wrangling over the Bermuda Housing Corporation (BHC) investigation. He said he thought the only way to resolve the racial divisions was a Truth and Reconciliation committee. And though Venous Memari, chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission, said she was unable to comment on the investigation into the BHC, she supported the idea of a Truth and Reconciliation committee.  

July 6. Leading Police officers from the UK are now in Bermuda carrying out a review into how Bermuda Housing Corporation documents got into the hands of the media, Police Commissioner George Jackson said yesterday. Chief Superintendent Steve Harris and David Stevens, of Kent Police force, are providing help and support to Bermuda Police Service as the probe into the BHC affair continues. At a press conference yesterday, Mr. Jackson said the British officers had been specifically briefed to report on “the integrity and independence from outside influence” of the Police inquiry. “I wish to assure the public that we are aggressively investigating this matter to ensure that the public retain their confidence in the Bermuda Police Service,” he said. Last month, The Mid-Ocean News ran a story from a leaked Police dossier centering on allegations of corruption at BHC. The documents reportedly revealed that Dr. Brown, former Premier Jennifer Smith and former Minister Renee Webb were all investigated by Police looking into the BHC allegations. Mr. Jackson and Attorney General Philip Perinchief then attempted to gag the media over reporting information from the leaked document, which they claimed had been stolen. Supreme Court and Bermuda’s Court of Appeal both turned down their request, stating that freedom of the press to report on the BHC probe outweighs concern that the documents are confidential. The matter has now been referred to the Privy Council in London, with the media temporarily gagged.

July 6. Environmental campaigners say Government needs to “wake up” over the Island’s reliance on oil imports. With inflation at a 16-year-high, Government has singled out soaring global oil costs, but environmentalists say Ministers are not doing enough to action alternative energy sources. Yesterday however, the Director of Sustainable Development said Cabinet is ready to approve up to 150 comprehensive measures in as little as three weeks. Erica Smith told The Royal Gazette: “We are now revising the final draft Sustainable Development Strategy and will place it before Cabinet later this month. Hopefully then Cabinet will feel it is good to go.” The timing is critical, as the price of an imported barrel of oil has now reached $96 — a rise of almost 50 percent since $68 in January. The cost of living increased 1.4 percent from April to May, taking inflation to 4.5 percent — higher than the UK, US and Canada. Residents and businesses are already feeling the pinch through a 17 percent rise in their electricity bills. Last year, the Government opened up public consultation on the Island’s reliance on imported oil with the Sustainable Development Strategy and Implementation Plan.

July 6. The captain of casino ship Niobe Corinthian will lose his career if he is convicted of importing gaming machines on the vessel, his lawyer claimed yesterday. Elizabeth Christopher was urging magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo to find Panamanian national Fermin Alfonso Reyes not guilty of breaching Bermuda’s anti-gambling laws. Reyes, 30, and the ship’s alleged managing director George Kezas, 72, have been on trial since last September in a court process that has been adjourned on numerous occasions. The Niobe Corinthian arrived in Bermuda on July 24 2006, and was raided by Police on August 11 when she was moored at Marginal Wharf, St. David’s. The officers seized 100 slot machines, with Reyes arrested that day and Kezas two days later. According to the charge the defendants now face, they either imported the machines or caused them to be imported with the intention of doing so, but they deny any wrongdoing. During the trial their lawyers have argued they are not guilty for reasons including that the ship was only in Bermuda in transit and it was not intended that the machines should be used on the Island or in its waters. In her closing speech to the magistrate yesterday, Ms Christopher said the word import was capable of “any number of meanings” under Bermuda law, and Mr. Tokunbo should not adopt a meaning that would penalize Reyes. Describing the captain as “a person who did what he did innocently,” she said a conviction would render him unable to work as he would not be able to secure visas. “Captain Reyes should have the benefit of any doubt caused by doubtful law,” argued Ms Christopher. Kevin Bean, representing Kezas, argued his client was not even in Bermuda on July 24 when the ship arrived. “Mr. Kezas was under the belief that the vessel’s next port having left Santa Domingo was to have been Antigua, and he was surprised to learn that it was en-route to Bermuda,” said Mr. Bean. He claimed his client could not be guilty of importation if he never intended to bring the ship to the Island.  

July 9. Bermuda’s new and stringent drug laws showed no mercy against an American drug addict who was sentenced to jail and received a $20,000 fine after admitting to one count of importing $9,150 worth of cocaine and another for possessing drug equipment. Meryl M. Kaplan, 44, of Gordiva Way, New York City, drew the attention of a drug-sniffing dog at the L.F. Wade International Airport’s Customs arrival hall on July 4, Magistrates’ Court heard. Kaplan elected for the charges to be heard in Magistrates’ Court rather than the Supreme Court after being told the offences were indictable. Vacationing with her husband, she arrived just after 2 p.m. and was subsequently subjected to an Ion scan by Customs inspectors, which detected the presence of cocaine on her hands. Then, her luggage, which consisted of five bags and a set of golf clubs, were searched and examined by suspicious Customs officials. Shortly afterwards, Kaplan pointed towards a white, plastic, square case that was inside her Louis Vuitton purse. Traceable amounts of a white, rock-like substance was found on other items, including a metal pipe. One chopstick, which she admitted using to push the cocaine around with, was also discovered along with two prescription bottles inside a black handbag that contained white, rock-like material. Both bottles had her name on it and a closer look revealed a small, black, Gucci toiletry pouch containing a glass pipe and a white, rock-like substance inside a small Advil bottle, mixed with tablets. When asked what the substance was, she told officers, “It’s not crack, it’s cocaine cooked down with baking soda.” And, a further rummage of Kaplan’s bag exposed another pipe containing burned residue, along with another chopstick covered with the same. Moving on to her black suitcase, a silver-coloured pipe and a silver-stemmed pipe with a wooden head, all with traces of similar burned deposits, were fished-out from her clothing. Astonishingly, steel wool and a white sock containing a metal drill-bit with a white, rock-like matter on it were also recovered from another pouch belonging to her. In total, four pipes were found, but only three of them tested positive, by a Government analyst, to having traces of the drug, which weighed a total of 29.41 grams. 

July 10. The Government and the Opposition welcomed plans for an inquiry into British Overseas Territories - with the latter planning to use the review to press its case for a Royal Commission into the Bermuda Housing Corporation scandal. The Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) of the UK House of Commons will begin the comprehensive inquiry into all 14 territories in November, looking at standards of governance, transparency and accountability, the role of governors and regulation of the financial sector. Anyone can submit evidence to the inquiry - and Opposition Leader Michael Dunkley said yesterday that his party looked forward to presenting “our good governance plans”. Premier Ewart Brown said he “very much welcomed” the audit, adding: “The FAC review will provide a useful and timely channel for dialogue with the UK parliament on many issues of importance to Bermuda and other Overseas Territories.” Khalid Wasi, spokesman for the All Bermuda Congress (ABC), a new political party hoping to win parliamentary seats at the next general election, said he too would make submissions, including a request for a referendum on independence. Mr. Dunkley’s party has called for a Royal Commission into an investigation of corruption at Bermuda Housing Corporation, which led to allegations against the Premier and other Progressive Labour Party politicians. The United Bermuda Party leader - who was in London for talks with Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) officials last month - said he felt the FCA inquiry was “timely and highly relevant”. “Although we understand the inquiry by the Foreign Affairs Committee includes all UK overseas territories, we think its focus on standards of governance, transparency and accountability are in keeping with Bermuda’s immediate needs and concerns,” he said. “Regardless of the committee’s work, we remain firm in our belief that a Royal Commission is the best way to clear the air and provide a process to answer the many outstanding questions stemming from the BHC investigation and its handling. That was the position we laid out in meetings at the House of Commons two weeks ago and it may well be something the committee recommends following its inquiry here in Bermuda.”

July 10. Soil samples are to be shipped overseas as Government continues its investigation into claims Agent Orange was dumped and burned at Kindley Air Force Base. Speaking at a press conference today, Works and Engineering Minister Dennis Lister said a local company would collect specimens of soil but that Bermuda does not have the technology to carry out the necessary tests. Batches will therefore be sent abroad, thought to be Canada, with results expected by September 4. It comes after US Army veteran Ronald Slater alleged the lethal defoliant - now said to cause horrific disfigurements and serious illness to those exposed to it - was disposed at Kindley in the 1960s. 

July 10. Premier Ewart Brown believes the decision to hold the PGA Grand Slam of Golf outside the US for the first time has been justified with tickets doubling from last year’s sales. The much-anticipated tournament will be hosted at Bermuda’s Mid Ocean Club from October 16 to 17, with 2007 US Open Champion winner Angel “the duck” Cabrera already confirmed. Dr Brown said the rise in ticket sales and early hotel bookings were clear indicators that holding the event in Bermuda was a positive move.  

July 11. Drivers and sailors have been warned to use caution when navigating Longbird Bridge due to construction work. A replacement bridge is being erected alongside the original, which was built by the US Army in 1953. The only link between St. George's, the Airport and the rest of the Island, the bridge is suffering from rust and problems with its electrical system. Traffic has been restricted to one-lane traffic for almost two months after it was deemed unsafe due to storm damage. The intention is for the replacement bridge to ease traffic, while a five-year programme of maintenance work is carried out by the Ministry of Works and Engineering. A press release issued by the Ministry yesterday advised the public to be careful while travelling in the area as there will be increased construction activity while the replacement is built. "Marine traffic should use caution when travelling through the channel as their passage may be temporarily restricted at various times during construction. The public is also reminded to adhere to all posted traffic lights and signs while travelling over Longbird Bridge and to yield to construction traffic as required," said the statement. Motorists have experienced lengthy tailbacks since the lane closure in May, and the press release added: "The Ministry apologizes for any inconvenience to the public and asks for the public's patience while we work to restore two-lane traffic."

July 11. Fears were raised over the increase in overseas spending and the impact it will have on Bermuda's retail market, according to chairman of the retail division of the Chamber of Commerce, Kristi Grayston. This follows the latest Retail Sales Index report released by the Government's Department of Statistics which revealed a 10.5 percent rise in purchases abroad in May 2007 compared to the same time last year. And Ms Grayston said the traders' biggest concern was the $0.6 million increase, year on year, resulting from declared overseas purchases of $6.3m for May 2007. "It is a bit of frustration really for the retail sector," she said. "There is a great deal for us to look at, but it doesn't tell us what we really want to see. Our biggest concern is the overseas spending which has seen a steady increase. And that is only what is being declared, so it is not reflective of overseas spending online and what is not declared." She went on to voice her concern about the limited amount of retail space left on the island and the knock-on effect inflation was having on rising food prices. "Two of our department stores (Trimingham's and Smith's) merged and then went under two or years ago, so there is a huge amount of retail space free and that has impacted on things," she said. But Ms Grayston expressed her satisfaction at seeing car sales making a good recovery.  

July 12. A 53-year-old tourist collapsed and died despite the frantic efforts of a doctor and police officer. Yesterday afternoon the man was seen sitting at the edge of the water at John Smith’s Bay, in Smith’s, at about 2.25 p.m., before he collapsed backwards. It was witnessed by Scott Nicholls, an ex-police officer, and his family who are in Bermuda visiting his sister-in-law, a speech therapist on the Island. When the man fell, Mr. Nicholls with the help of two other men, managed to pull him back from the water. Then Mr. Nicholls and a doctor on the beach began CPR. He said: “A doctor who is from the hospital was doing the CPR and I was working with the defibrillator. I’m an ex-cop so I have some training with these devices.” Mr. Nicholls’ wife, Jayce, said she thought the man had been swimming for about half an hour before he started feeling sick and came back onto the beach. “He was snorkeling for about half an hour and his family, I think, was sitting over by the rocks, but he came and just plopped down in front of us,” she said. “It was all very shocking and terrible.”

July 12. Bermuda's highest court of appeal has indicated it may take "a good deal" to convince them to gag the media over the leaked Bermuda Housing Corporation (BHC) dossier. The Privy Council is due to hear the matter after both the Chief Justice and Court of Appeal turned down an application from the Attorney General and Police Commissioner for an injunction against the press. Three Law Lords from the Privy Council agreed — during a hastily-convened hearing minutes after the Court of Appeal ruling on June 26 — to grant a temporary news blackout until they can hear the case in full. Their reasons for this were released yesterday, in a statement pointing out that they only heard from a Queen's Counsel representing Attorney General Phil Perinchief and Commissioner George Jackson and not from a lawyer for the media organizations named in the action. The statement said if there had been a "full inter partes argument" at that time — a legal term meaning all parties have been notified and are able to make submissions — "it might have taken a good deal to persuade them that the Chief Justice erred in the exercise of his discretion, and that the Court of Appeal was wrong to dismiss the appeal".  

July 12. An independent group charged with helping to oversee the future development of Hamilton has been reconvened, the city's Mayor announced this morning. The Mayor's Commission was originally set up by former Mayor Jay Bluck a year ago as an independent body responsible for undertaking a wide-ranging review of the management and development of the city. This morning, current Mayor Sutherland Madeiros said he wanted to bring the Commission back because its 14 members represented a wide variety of experienced business people from different sectors, which could help the City of Hamilton. As well as identifying and assessing commercial, residential and other development issues impacting the city, the Commission will be charged with reviewing the Hamilton City Plan 2001. The plan is increasingly under pressure as developers want to build office or apartment blocks above the existing height restriction.  

July 12. Bermuda's current account chalked up a surplus of $186 million in the first quarter of this year — an increase of $28m on the same period last year. The figure represents the difference between the money flowing into the Island from overseas and that flowing in the opposite direction. And even though the amount of money leaving Bermuda rose by $69m in the January through March period, that was more than offset by the extra $97m that flowed in. A key factor in the rise was the fact that the value of goods imported dropped by $19m to $282m. Exports also fell by $1m to $6m, leaving the Island's goods deficit at $276m. The money injected into the Island's economy by the growing international business sector shows up clearly in the figures released yesterday by the Department of Statistics. Employee compensation paid out by international businesses to residents totaled $263m, an impressive 30 percent of the Island's total receipts. The $16m rise on the same period last year indicates an increase in the number of companies and employees, as well as an increase in salaries. Receipts for business services totaled $260m, while $100m was spent overseas by resident companies and individuals on business services, amounting to a surplus of $161m — up $31m on the first quarter of 2006. There was a 37 percent rise in the amount paid out by residents for transportation services, in the first-quarter — $89m compared to $65m in 2006. Meanwhile transportation receipts fell by half to $8m. The government services surplus remained unchanged at $37m, as did the amount paid out overseas for government services at $6m. Investment income surplus boosted the Island's coffers by $91m, compared to $100m a year earlier. The Island's financial account saw a large swing, from a net inflow of $160m last year to a net outflow of $652m in the first quarter of 2007. While portfolio investments and direct investment both enjoyed a healthy increase in inflow compared to 2006, the category of 'other investments' registered a net outflow valued at nearly $1.3 billion, compared to an inflow of $274 million last year. All transactions associated with changes of ownership in foreign financial assets and liabilities of the economy are included in the financial account. The first-quarter rise follows a huge leap in 2006, when the year-end surplus totaled $901m — up $347m on 2005.

July 13. The redevelopment of the Hamilton and St. George’s waterfronts could get underway within the next two years. Pending Cabinet approval, the Ministries of Tourism and Transport are set to embark on a feasibility study within the next six months, looking at removing the container dock in Hamilton and proceeding with the Corporation of Hamilton’s multi-million dollar Waterfront Development plan. That’s according to Transport Ministry Consultant Larry Jacobs, who this week said discussions were already underway between the Ministry of Transport and the Corporation of Hamilton to redevelop the Hamilton Ferry Terminal. Mr. Jacobs added that the Ministry was also looking at the feasibility of building a dock at Murray’s Anchorage to cater to post-Panamax, or mega-cruise ships in two years’ time - something which has the full backing of the Corporation of St. George’s. Why the accelerated agenda? Because as of 2009 cruise ships will no longer call in Hamilton and St. George’s as the majority of small, Panamax cruise ships are being sold off to European markets and being replaced with post-Panamax ships like the Freedom of Seas — each capable of carrying more than 4,000 passengers and crew. ‘Panamax’ is a classification in shipping meaning that the vessel is within the dimensions capable of fitting through the locks of the Panama Canal. ‘Post-Panamax’ is the designation for over-sized ships which cannot presently navigate the Canal. As for next year’s tourism season, so far only 11 casual callers have signed up to drop anchor in these two ports, many for the last time. In the meantime construction on the new pier in Dockyard, which will cater to two post-Panamax ships, is earmarked for completion in 2009. However, Government’s decision to only cater to cruise ships in Dockyard has been met with skepticism from the business community across the island. They claim that the loss of cruise ships in Hamilton and St. George’s will cripple the already struggling retail industry. About 60 members of the Chamber of Commerce - from Hamilton, St. George’s and Dockyard - met with Transport Ministry Consultant Larry Jacobs earlier this week to air their concerns. One solution seems to be increasing the amount of public transport - ferries, buses, minivans and taxis - and in anticipation of the reduction of ships in the two ports, the Ministry has continued to expand the ferry system.  

July 13. After being found unanimously guilty by a Supreme Court jury, a Jamaican national was sentenced to 14 years behind bars yesterday. Leighton Horace Griffiths’ lengthy sentence for cocaine possession with intent to supply follows less than a week after another Jamaican man was sent to prison for 18 years for importing $300,000 worth of heroine and cannabis. Griffiths, 33, of King Street, Pembroke, was convicted Wednesday of having in his possession 480.52 grams — $144,500 street value. He was arrested on July 1, 2005 when he went to the LF Wade International Airport to collect an air compressor stuffed with drugs Griffiths — father of two young children — was represented by defence lawyer Mark Pettingill while Robert Welling represented the Crown. The defence contended Griffiths was merely picking up the drugs for another person.  

July 13. Bermuda is still heavily reliant on foreign workers according to the latest Government Employment Briefs report. Non-Bermudians account for 31 per cent of the labour market, most of whom work in the higher-income bracket. Over a four-year period the percentage of Bermudian workers has steadily declined from 73 percent (27,722) in 2002 to 69 percent (27,356) in 2006. In that same time the number of spouses of Bermudians has remained at five percent (from 1,799 to 1,992) and the figure for permanent residents has stayed at one percent (from 286 to 525) since 2004. But the total of other non-Bermudians has peaked at 25 percent (9,813). Bermudians are also lagging behind in terms of median gross annual income, although they saw a substantial increase from $43,559 in 2005 to $47,266 in 2006. While Bermudians still make up the biggest group of workers who qualify for an annual bonus (7,128), mortgage subsidy (1,923) and stock options (2,037), 'other non-Bermudians' also represent a high proportion of those eligible for an annual bonus (2,998), housing allowance (1,439) and stock options (916). Spouses of Bermudians similarly accounted for a fair slice of annual bonuses (593). On the whole, one in four jobs in the Bermudian job market was occupied by a contract worker in 2006. Of the 739 new jobs in Bermuda in 2006, non-Bermudians with no marital ties to a Bermudian accounted for 553 (75 percent) of these new positions. The statistics also show a high reliance on imported labour in the professional, technical and related occupations group. 

July 13. Further protection for the hundreds of shipwrecks in Bermuda’s waters will soon be in the hands of more than 20 marine inspectors. The Historic Wrecks Act 2001, classifies the sunken ships into two categories — open and restricted — as well as stipulating that inspectors be appointed to ensure the sites’ protection. On Wednesday, Dame Jennifer Smith, who is the chairwoman of the Historic Wrecks Authority, introduced the first 23 officials who would ensure the guidelines for the open and restricted sites are followed.  

July 13. The Ministry of Works and Engineering has been praised for preserving one of St. George's historic landmarks and turning it into a multimillion dollar rest home. The Bermuda National Trust (BNT) commended the Ministry and awarded it with the highest architectural honour for a corporation, the Clipper Award, for efforts in restoring two 19th Century British barrack buildings and incorporating them into the new rest home, the Sylvia Richardson Care Facility. Derek Morris, the BNT's executive director, said: "On behalf of the National Trust it means a lot to us and the people of Bermuda to hand out these awards.'" Mr. Morris commended the new $25-million facility and said: "It's absolutely gorgeous, they did a heck of a job. I think it was absolutely well done. What a first class facility we have now." He added: "A lot of care and attention to detail went into that. I can almost say I look forward to getting old and hanging out there." The award was presented to the Ministry on Wednesday outside the Sylvia Richardson Care Facility, where a cedar tree was planted in honour of the event. Guests — including Minister of Health Michael Scott and Chief Medical Officer John Cann — toured the new facility, which is currently housing 16 seniors. The facility can house up to 43 residents, including both self-sufficient seniors and those needing full care, and also has an Alzheimer's unit. In addition the building is equipped with 24-hour surveillance, has both double and single rooms, an in-house doctor's office and physio-therapy equipment, a salon, small chapel area, library and cafeteria.

July 13. Employment in Bermuda has reached an all-time high according to the latest figures released by the Government's Department of Statistics yesterday. The 2007 edition of the Employment Briefs shows the annual change in the level of employment was the highest recorded since 1999. The survey provides an extensive count of the jobs in the Bermuda labour market by demographics, industry and occupation and is used to analyze employment trends. According to the latest Employment Survey results Bermuda's employers reported an increase of 739 new jobs last year, a near two-percent rise from 38,947 the previous year to 39,686 in 2006. Following the dip in the number of filled jobs down from 37,815 in 2002 to 37,686 in 2003, that total has soared steadily up to last year. The number of jobs for males and females increased by 473 and 266 respectively from 2005, while those positions held by Bermudians and spouses of Bermudians remained stable last year. The average divide in pay equates to just over $3,000 per annum, with men earning a median of $52,349 or three percent above the overall median to women's $48,838 or four percent below the overall median. Meanwhile the quantity of non-Bermudians and permanent residents rose by 553 and 114 respectively from 2005. Professional, technical and related administrative and managerial occupations posted big increases in employment for 2006, going up by 385 and 311 jobs respectively. Production, transport and related occupations followed with an additional 183 jobs, with service occupations falling by 234 jobs since 2005 in contrast, as police officers/detectives (-78) and waiters/chefs (-58) accounting for the majority of the losses. Administrative and managerial jobs were also on the rise, shooting up by more than 300 from 5,631 in 2005 to 5,942 last year. Of particular interest in the findings were the fact that jobholders aged 16 to 24 accounted for seven percent or 2,780 of total filled jobs, while the international business, business services and the construction industry created 655 new jobs in 2006. The average annual income of employees has increased by five percent to $50,686 from 2005, representing a year on year increase in employment income exceeding the annual average inflation rate of 31 per cent last year. This can be put down to the negotiated wage settlement increases and the addition of around 300 high salary level jobs in international business. The employment trends in public administration and the international business sector have similarly made interesting reading, with international business jobs rising incrementally year on year from 2002 to 2006 from 3,587 to 4,489. The public administration positions, however, peaked in 2004 at 4,104, after starting at 3,896 two years previously, before ending at 4,069. Of all the business sectors, international business, business services and the construction sectors experienced the strongest growth in employment on the island during 2006, indicating Bermuda has a firm and robust economy. The business service sector, which provides computer, business consultancy and accountant services, increased its market share of jobs, with an additional 220 posts being filled in 2006, as the international business community saw the need for consultancy and accounting services as they continued to outsource in 2006. But in contrast to this the hotel industry suffered a seven percent slump or 219 fewer jobs in its sector last year compared with 2005. 

July 13. Cricket bosses came out firing yesterday in response to a group of disaffected affiliates who have questioned their competence — accusing the group’s leader Ellsworth Christopher of embarking on a malicious campaign of misinformation. In a strongly-worded statement, Bermuda Cricket Board secretary Marc Wetherhill said they “utterly rejected” most of the grievances contained in a list handed to them by former Board president Ed Bailey in the aftermath of a stormy meeting between the two sides on Tuesday night. Neither side have made that list available to The Royal Gazette and it is therefore unclear what specific complaints the rebel group have. Wetherhill also vehemently denied Christopher’s suggestion in today’s story that the new BCB constitution had not been properly ratified — pointing to a March 15, 2006 special general meeting held at Charities House, at which Christopher was present, where a new constitution was passed with the required two-thirds majority. He was keen to stress also that the two-thirds majority was achieved despite the entire executive committee abstaining from the vote.

July 14. Eight months after Premier Dr. Ewart Brown announced the closure of the Medical Clinic, the doors were finally closed yesterday. Here is a break down of the events that led to the closure.

July 14. The latest air carrier to arrive on the Island is not so much Zoom as ‘Gloom’ for some passengers. Complaints of delays, ticket cancellation penalties and incorrect website information are among the gripes to The Royal Gazette. The low-cost carrier is currently waiting clearance to fly the most direct route between Bermuda and London, across the Atlantic. Until air regulators in the UK give the go-ahead, its pilots must take a longer flight path up the US east coast, across Greenland, past Iceland and then down through Scotland. As a result the twice-weekly flights from Bermuda and London Gatwick have taken nine hours — two hours longer than British Airways. However, some passengers have endured additional delays of several hours. 

July 20. Bermuda's leading role in providing reinsurance cover to the USA was underlined by the latest-to-date report from the Washington DC-based Reinsurance Association of America (RAA). It reported the US ceded $54.7 billion in premiums to offshore reinsurers in 2006 and ceded recoverables of $114.2bn. The largest markets for unaffiliated premiums ceded and recoverables due were Bermuda, the United Kingdom and Ireland, Germany, Cayman Islands, Switzerland and Barbados. One concern raised by the RAA was the possibility that US companies may be at risk because of offshore reinsurance deals. "It is especially important in light of the current public policy debate regarding the reduction in collateral requirements for unlicensed, unauthorized reinsurers that are not subject to US regulatory and solvency requirements," states the RAA. "The outcome of this policy debate could have significant implications to the solvency of US companies, as reinsurance recoverable from offshore companies continue to increase." The RAA prepared a comprehensive report, entitled the Offshore Reinsurance in the US Market: 2006 Data, which tracks trends in the buying of reinsurance as it impacts the US and aims to provide policymakers and the public with data and analysis about the US reinsurance market. Figures show there has been a 11.9 percent decrease in the level of premiums ceded from the US to offshore reinsurers between 2005 and 2006, and a 7.8 percent decline in recoverables. "Offshore companies' share of US unaffiliated reinsurance premium increased to 53.1 percent from 51.8 percent, while the market share of offshore companies and US subsidiaries of offshore companies decreased to 84.5 percent of US unaffiliated reinsurance premium from 85.4 percent," said the RAA. The organisation notes that total US premiums ceded to affiliated offshore reinsurers decreased by 16.3 percent to $32.5m while net recoverables due from affiliated offshore reinsurers increased 2.8 percent to $70.8bn. The RAA warns: "Data suggests the current US regulatory environment and 100 percent collateral requirements for unauthorized reinsurers is not a significant barrier for offshore companies as they account for more than half of the US unaffiliated reinsurance market. "An offshore company can participate in the US market by becoming licensed in the states in which it does business, by establishing a US affiliate licensed in the states in which it does business or by posting collateral in the US. In 2006, offshore companies and US subsidiaries of offshore companies accounted for 84.5 percent of the US reinsurance market."

July 16. The Portuguese consulate in Bermuda, which has been closed for more than two weeks, is to re-open today. Eddie DeMello, a prominent member of the Portuguese community, said people have been frustrated in their attempts to deal with visa and passport issues while the consulate has been out of action. He has been lobbying the government in Portugal to get it reopened, and has now been informed that will happen after the weekend. Mr. DeMello said Portugal had recently closed a number of consulates across the world and there were fears among the local community that the Island's could be permanently scaled down. "We have a large Portuguese community," said Mr. DeMello. "These people have been trying to get their visas and passports, but they have been getting really fed up."

July 16. Attorney General Larry Mussenden yesterday defended a decision to award $2,840.63 in compensation to the family of a teenager brutally raped and murdered while vacationing on the island. Rebecca Middleton, a 17-year-old Canadian, was killed a decade ago. Two men were accused of the crime – Kirk Mundy, a Jamaican, pleaded guilty to being an accessory to the murder after the fact and was jailed for five years. Justis Smith, a Bermudian, was tried for murder. The Supreme Court ruled there was no case to answer based on the evidence provided. Rebecca's mother, Cynthia Bennett, applied to the Criminal Injuries (Compensation) Board for $100,000 for pain and suffering. Public outcry followed both here and in Canada, after it was revealed she had been awarded less than $3,000. According to a Government spokesperson, Senator Mussenden described the situation as tragic but said that the amount available for compensation is limited under the Criminal Injuries (Compensation) Act 1973. Senator Mussenden explained that the Act only allows the Board to compensate for the financial loss suffered and expenses incurred by the person responsible for the maintenance of the deceased victim. "With regard to the application for compensation by Mrs. Cynthia Bennet [sic] following the death of her daughter Rebecca Middleton, Senator Mussenden said Mrs. Bennet [sic] had claimed $100,000 for 'pain and suffering'. "The Board recognised that compensation for 'pain and suffering' cannot be claimed under the Criminal Injuries (Compensation) Act 1973. The Board did, however, award Mrs Bennet [sic] her full claim of $2,840.63 for expenses which she incurred as a result of her daughter's death, and used their discretionary power to award $1,000 of her $5,870 claim for legal costs."

July 16. Closure of much-liked, private, exclusive, romantic but also family-friendly Munro Beach Cottages, nestled between the world-famous Port Royal Golf Course and a lovely private beach at Whitney Bay. They were sold by the Munro family to American real estate investor Sam Byrne who hopes to develop them. The investment firm Mr Byrne founded, CrossHarbor Capital Partners, specializes in real estate investment and distressed loans. It manages $5.5 billion in assets for its own account and on behalf of pension funds, and institutions. The 5-acre premises looked out westerly on the Atlantic Ocean guaranteeing spectacular sunset views. There were various types of accommodation, all with ocean views, air conditioning fan, TV, radio and safe. The units consisted of a bedroom/living/dining room with separate kitchen and bathroom with shower and tub. The kitchens were fully equipped with refrigerator, microwave, stove, oven, coffee percolator and toaster. Barbecues and a daily maid service were also provided. Munro Beach Cottages were quite secluded, but that was one of their main selling points. It was a 1km walk to the bus stops on Middle Road, but guests received a complimentary lift to Oleander Cycles where they could hire a scooter or moped. If they did not fancy their own cooking every night inside or using the barbeque facilities provided  then one of Bermuda’s finest restaurants, the Cedar Room at Pompano Beach Club was very close by as was Greg’s Steakhouse at the Port Royal Golf Course. Munro Beach Cottages welcomed children. Families could rent out one or two or more units, as required. A unique feature of the beach was that at low tide it was possible to wade out 300 feet to the reef line. Tennis courts and water sports were not far away, at both at the Port Royal Golf Course and the Pompano Beach Club Watersports Centre.

July 16. Car clamps have arrived on the Island to be used in the Hamilton car parks — but first a decision has to be reached on who will do the clamping. In May, Hamilton Mayor Sutherland Madeiros revealed that 20 clamps were being brought to Bermuda to crackdown on illegally parked cars. Now the 20 clamps are on the Island and Attorney General Phillip Perinchief has given the legal 'green light' to use them in the car parks. The Corporation of Hamilton, however, is still looking into whether they can be used on the street. "They have arrived and now we are putting together a plan for the implementation,'" said Mayor Sutherland Madeiros. The clamps could be part of a wider plan to cut down in illegal parking as last month, Mr. Madeiros revealed the Corporation is also looking at the possibility of installing electronic gates on car parks in Hamilton. Though details are still being hammered out, Mr. Madeiros previously revealed the Corporation could hire City Rangers to clamp cars. The Rangers would be a new department within the Corporation. Mr. Madeiros says he does not relish the new measures, but added: "It is all more punitive than I would like, but parking is being abused in the city. Just recently I saw a taxi parked in a handicapped parking space on Church Street. "If we were in the United States that taxi would have been hauled away. The laws are there, we just need to enforce them." As part of a wider enforcement, the Attorney General, Senator Perinchief announced a "crackdown" on 8,000 unpaid parking fines. Those with outstanding fines had until June 30 to pay them or face a summons. On Thursday, a spokesperson for the Senator said the number of people paying their fines had increased, but that summonses were also being prepared. She said: "I can confirm that summonses are now being prepared and are being sent out to those who have not paid their fines. When persons appear in court they will be given an opportunity to plead to the offence and the law allows the Magistrate to impose a heavier penalty than the initial $50 fine."

July 16. The man who directed an acclaimed documentary on Bermuda’s Theatre Boycott passed away on Saturday. Errol Williams, the writer and director of ‘When Voices Rise’ had just begun shooting his newest project, a film on the Bermuda Industrial Union, when he became ill and was admitted to hospital two weeks ago. He died as a result of complications arising from cancer treatments. Though Mr. Williams, 56, began his career in Bermuda as a teacher at Robert Crawford in 1976, family and friends say he always loved telling stories and was driven to get to the bottom of a story. His interest in stories that focused on overcoming adversity was a long running theme in his life. In 1998 he received accolades for ‘Echoes in the Rink: The Willie O’Ree Story’, a documentary on the triumphal life story of the first black player in the National Hockey League who remained unnoticed in history books despite his achievement. But it wasn’t until the release of his Bermuda based documentary ‘When Voices Rise’ about the 1959 Theatre Boycott that his talent was fully realised on the Island. Speaking to The Royal Gazette in 2002 before the documentary debuted at the Bermuda International Film Festival, Mr. Williams said: “It deals with the many attempts to dismantle segregation in Bermuda. The most successful attempt was organized by the Progressive Group. Working in secret they organized a boycott of the cinemas in 1959. This triggered mass support from the public and resulted in unprecedented change for the Island. “I developed a passion for this story especially when I discovered that the people who helped bring about such momentous changes were still around to tell their story. It is a story of quiet determination; it is a story about people working together; and, it is a story of triumph.” Mr. Williams spent two years making the film, collecting hundreds of hours of interviews with the surviving members of The Progressive Group and other boycott leaders. His hard work resulted in the film winning the BIFF Audience Choice Award and the film went on to be shown at festivals around the world. The local response to ‘When Voices Rise’ was immediate with screenings being sold out — tickets for the final screening at the film festival went in just 40 minutes. Additional screenings were run after the festival at the Liberty Theatre.  

July 16. A judge will decide if the Ministry of Immigration was right to revoke the work permit of a Canadian construction worker who was involved in a heated row with a Government MP. Today a Supreme Court judge will hear the appeal of Curtis Macloed, who was booted off the Island after a fight with PLP MP George Scott. He is appealing Minister of Immigration Derrick Burgess’ decision to revoke his permit on the grounds that he did not get a fair hearing and the Minister was not just. In January The Royal Gazette revealed that Mr. Macleod would be leaving the Island as a result of a row with Mr. Scott in October 2006. Mr. Scott, who is also a union organizer, has said he showed up on a Global Construction building site to investigate a complaint against Mr. Macleod. An argument between the two men ensued. It is alleged words such as “racist”, “ignorant” were used and Mr. Scott’s children were called uneducated by Mr. Macleod, who denies saying anything about the children. He also denied knowing that Mr. Scott was a Bermuda Industrial Union representative or MP. Mr. Macleod, who is black, admitted “losing his cool” and shouting at the MP after asking him to leave the property three times. He says he did not know who he was speaking to and was reacting to alleged racial comments Mr. Scott made. The MP denied making any racial comments. Soon after the spat Mr. Macleod’s employers received a letter from the Ministry of Immigration informing them that he was under investigation because he “conducted himself in the workplace in a manner that is offensive” and mentioned comments made during Mr. Scott’s October visit to the Church Street site. 

July 17. A Canadian construction worker whose work permit was revoked after a row with a Government MP has won his appeal fight. Curtis Macleod is now free to return to Bermuda as his permit is valid for another seven months. His victory comes after the Ministry of Immigration admitted it made an unlawful decision when pulling the permit. This was because the Minister had taken into account incidents other than the one outlined to Mr. Macleod. Yesterday the original orders were quashed by Puisne Judge Ian Kawaley. Although Mr. Macleod’s work permit has been reinstated, Mr. Justice Kawaley said the Ministry of Immigration had the right to reconsider the matter. Mr. Justice Kawaley also praised Government lawyer Martin Johnson and the Minister of Immigration Derrick Burgess for conceding that the decision was wrong. He said: “I should add in this case Mr. Johnson has to be commended for upholding the rule of law. Having received information that he (Mr. Macleod) had not been given full disclosure he took the course of advising the Minister to concede the present application. Concessions in cases of this nature have not been common and it is mistakenly often felt that making a concession could be seen as a sign of weakness but in my opinion this is a strength. It shows that the Government will follow the letter of the law.” Mr. Macleod, and his bosses at Global Construction, have waged a five month battle to keep him on the Island, he left in February after his appeal of the Minister’s decision was rejected but can now return The saga began on October 26, 2006 when Government backbencher and Bermuda Industrial Union representative George Scott showed up at the Church Street site Mr. Macleod ran. It is alleged that Mr. Scott was there on union business but Mr. Macleod has stated that he was not aware of that and did not know who Mr. Scott was. Mr. Macleod alleges that he overheard racist comments being made during a discussion Mr. Scott was involved in with other workers and asked him to leave three times — Mr. Scott denied making any racist comments. An argument between the two men ensued during which Mr. Macleod called the MP a “racist” and “ignorant” and allegedly called Mr. Scott’s children uneducated, though Mr. Macleod denies bringing children into the argument. The MP is alleged to have replied: “You are not from here and you don’t know what it is like to be a black Bermudian. You do not know what it is like to be a black man. You are a black man with a white man’s heart.”

July 17. The Bermuda jobs market has been hit hard by the falling value of the dollar, according to one of the Island's specialist recruitment agencies. They reckon that potential employees are being lured away to places such as Canada and Dublin in Ireland because of the strength their respective currencies, the Canadian dollar and the euro, and the bigger financial rewards and packages companies in these places can offer. Yesterday sterling was trading at $2.03, the euro exchange rate was close to $1.38 and the Canadian dollar hit a 30-year high of close to 96 US cents. Chris Bailey, business development manager at Expertise Ltd., owners of Bermuda Jobs, based in Hamilton, admitted it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract new staff, particularly from the UK. He said: "Definitely trying to attract UK candidates to Bermuda is becoming more difficult because of the exchange rate (of the dollar to the pound). I would say that the UK candidates are expecting the same salary as they are earning in the UK." Mr. Bailey, whose company offers human resources outsourcing, while Bermuda Jobs looks after the recruitment side of things, claims that recruiters have trouble competing with the Canadian and Dublin markets and are being forced to look further afield for new staff as a result. "We therefore find that attracting people from the Canadian and Dublin marketplace and getting people coming in from places like the Philippines and Australia and the like is proving frustrating — employers are finding it hard to get references and screening processes done," he said. It is just about finding out how qualified these people are in terms of working out what the equivalent is to the qualifications from their own countries.  

July 17. Divers helped drag up tons of trash from the sea during a clean-up in Sandys on Saturday. Keeping Bermuda Beautiful recruited Bermuda Sub-Aqua Club to help clear the water outside Messina House camping facility on Boaz Island.  

July 17. At least one beach is without lifeguards this summer because of staffing shortages according to the Ministry of Environment, Telecommunications and E-Commerce. And The Royal Gazette understands this is due to the Ministry of Labour and Immigration failing to approve applications from children of Bermudian residents. Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Immigration Robert Horton had not replied to a request for comment at the time of going to press yesterday. At least one long-term resident — the father of a lifeguard — alleges that incompetence at the Immigration Department has forced his non-Bermudian daughter, who worked for the Department of Parks last year, to sit idle this summer.  

July 17. Motorists will gain full access across the Causeway in time for Cup Match, Government said yesterday. Minister of Works and Engineering Dennis Lister said a temporary replacement crossing for Longbird Bridge will be up and running by August 2. Up to 30 workmen have been employed on installing the steel structure over the past three weeks, working ten hour days. With just over two weeks until Cup Match the pressure is on, but engineers remain confident. Works and Engineering Permanent Secretary Dr. Derrick Binns said yesterday: “We’re doing everything we can to get two-way traffic before Cup Match — that’s the objective.” Longbird Bridge and the Causeway form the only access road between St. George’s, LF Wade International Airport and the rest of the Island. With Cup Match in the East End this year, smooth traffic flow is critical. The bridge was constructed by the US Army in 1953 but is now at the end of its life span due to age, problems with rust and storm damage. Work in 2001 on the main structure, electrical and mechanical equipment extended the life of the bridge for another six years, but this May, engineers concluded it would be unsafe to continue use. The bridge was restricted to one-lane traffic, resulting in long tailbacks — and fuming motorists. Engineers are examining designs for a new bridge, to be completed in the next four years, but will use the temporary structure as a stopgap. The structure consists of two steel platforms on a bed of reinforced concrete, with rollers to absorb and expand in the heat.  

July 17. Almost 3,000 homes in the East End were without power for at least ten hours yesterday after a high voltage cable was damaged by Belco workers. The electricity supplier said in a statement that one of four transmission cables which service the East End was damaged by a crew working near the Flatts substation yesterday morning. Belco spokeswoman Linda Smith added: “ At that point no one lost power. However, as of early this afternoon, two of the three cables remaining became overloaded and stressed resulting in further faults. “At that point the Belco Operations Centre conducted a controlled de-loading of a majority of the circuits feeding the East End in order to prevent the entire East End of the Island from losing power.” She said about 2,800 customers across the East End were without power from just after 1 p.m. Power was expected to be restored by about 11 p.m. last night. Areas affected included Tucker’s Town, Mullet Bay, Harrington Sound and Shark Hole. The town of St. George, L.F. Wade International Airport and Grotto Bay Hotel still had power. Ms Smith said: “The cause of the accident will be investigated.”

July 18. Internet users in Bermuda pay amongst the highest prices to receive some of the slowest connectivity in the developed world, according to new comparisons. If you live in Japan the cost of broadband internet per megabit per second works out at $0.22, while in Turkey it would cost $81.13. In the US the price is around $3.18 and is only marginally dearer in the UK at $3.62. And Bermuda? Somewhere around $90, although the Computer Society of Bermuda has come up with its own estimate of a staggering $184. That figure, which admittedly is said to include access provider and ISP service costing, is misleading according to one of Bermuda's Internet Service Providers (ISPs) which claim they in turn are hammered by the sky-high costs they are forced to pay for bandwidth carrying capacity from the likes of Cable & Wireless and TeleBermuda International. North Rock Communications states it is paying 35 times the price for the same carrier service it can buy on the US mainland. Bermuda's isolated location is a further reason for internet access to cost significantly more than elsewhere in the world. A consortium of Bermuda ISPs; North Rock, Transact and KeyTech, are currently seeking to break the carrier duopoly of the C&W and TBI by bidding to lay a new $25m undersea cable that will allow them to bypass the big two. An imminent re-structuring of the Bermuda's telecommunications sector should allow for a more open market with greater freedom and competition. It could be up to a year-and-a-half before a new cable is brought into play and cheaper and faster internet arrives for Bermuda. The Computer Society of Bermuda estimates the average speed of internet for the Island's market is a relatively sluggish 0.840 kilobits per second, compared to the fastest average market speed enjoyed by Japan at 61 megabits per second.  

July 18. Former United Bermuda Party campaign chairman David Sullivan believes his party is doomed to failure at the coming election. He believes his party can only pick up a maximum of 17 seats — two short of what’s needed to govern. And Mr. Sullivan, who ran the UBP’s campaign from 1998 and 2002, believes voters are becoming sick of the way both parties are bypassing the important issues. He told The Royal Gazette the most his party could achieve this time around was to become a more effective Opposition. He said: “I don’t see any more than 17 seats for the Opposition party. It will be better for Bermuda to have a stronger Opposition, which is a good thing for Bermuda.” He forecast the UBP should pick up at least one seat in St. George’s, possibly with Kim Swan unseating Dean Foggo, although it could lose St. David’s in a parochial fight while the PLP’s Dame Jennifer Smith should survive despite her wafer-thin eight-vote majority. He said the Opposition could gain one more seat in Warwick but UBP tourism spokesman David Dodwell has a tough fight retaining Southampton East Central, particularly if the All Bermuda Congress run a spoiling campaign, given the unlikelihood of it taking any seats.  

July 18. Bermuda Youth Counselling Services has begun a ten-week pilot programme aimed at reducing substance abuse and involvement among the Island’s males aged 19 to 24. The programme, which is being run in conjunction with the Probation team of Court Services, seeks to increase participants’ ability to weigh the consequences of being involved with substance abuse and its related behaviors. It’s also aimed at providing them with the wherewithal to begin the process of reducing involvement in substance abuse and will assist with the building of positive peer relationships and increased involvement in pro-social activities. Among the techniques used by the facilitators are Rational Emotive Therapy, Motivational Learning and Social Learning Approaches. Dale Butler, Minister of Social Rehabilitation, said: “The programme will provide participants with the skills needed to live more meaningful productive lives. And, free from the dangers associated with substance abuse and the illegal drug trade.” 

July 18. An environmental campaigner claims the Jumeirah Southlands resort would be “doomed to failure” due to the erosion of the Island’s coastline. Stuart Hayward, who is chairman of BEST, said yesterday: “Any beach front construction at Southlands invites disaster for the development itself as well as difficulties for nearby beach front owners.” However, developer Craig Christensen of Southlands Ltd. said the proposed resort had undergone extensive research using Hurricane Fabian as a model. “No other property has come under more scrutiny with respect to the protection of the foreshore than Southlands,” he said. In arguing against the Southlands development, Mr. Hayward referred to a recent article in The New York Times which reported that homes in Siasconset (Sconset), Nantucket, are having to be moved away from the shoreline due to erosion. The south and east coasts are eroded by an average 10 ft each year. According to the newspaper, homeowners are also investing $25 million to save their properties from the sea. Residents in the Sconset Beach Preservation Fund are seeking permission to dredge 2.6 million cubic yards of sand from offshore and pump it onto a 3.1 mile stretch of beach. Erosion of coastlines around the world is expected to worsen as sea levels rise due to global warming. Mr. Hayward said the situation in Nantucket was an example of why further coastal development on Bermuda should be stopped. He said the stretch of South Shore earmarked for Jumeirah Southlands would suffer the ravages of the ocean, and that a resort on the shoreline, almost at sea level, was “unprecedented”.  

July 18. Government appears to have granted a Special Development Order for Southlands. Last night a senior official at the Ministry of the Environment said: “Sufficient environmental information was presented for development of the SDO.” However, this was the only official response to rumors that Cabinet had approved the 37-acre South Shore resort. Environment Minister Neletha Butterfield, who has the final say, made no comment yesterday. Craig Christensen of developers Southlands Ltd. had also not had a response. “We would have known if an official decision had been made,” he said. The controversial application for the 497-bed resort has provoked strong feelings on both sides. Government says Jumeirah Southlands is needed to cater for the Island’s rising tourist numbers. It would be the first ‘luxury resort’ constructed in Bermuda for 35 years. Environmental campaigners however, say the development will destroy one of the Island’s last remaining areas of open space. More than 3,200 people have signed a petition by Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce (BEST) to ‘Save the South Shore’. Concern to protect the natural coastline was heightened last month when the Government approved an SDO for a nine-storey hotel next to Southlands, on the Golden Hind site. The 220-room Grand Atlantic Resort and Residences by Atlantic Development covers 13.1 acres. Jumeirah Southlands would offer tourist accommodation in a variety of suites and condominiums. The 300-suite cliff side resort would feature five restaurants and bars, a nightclub, spa, swimming pools, equestrian centre and conference centre. Dubai-based Jumeirah Group wants to open the resort by next summer, pending the SDO and approval of building permits. Mr. Christensen, one of three owners of Southlands Ltd., said the complex would employ 590 full-time staff, with Bermudians given priority. An “unofficial” advertisement on the company’s website has already attracted more than 40 applicants.  

July 18. The United Bermuda Party is six points ahead of the Progressive Labour Party according to the latest poll. The Research.bm survey puts the Opposition on 40 percent compared to 34 percent for the ruling party while 26 percent are still undecided. Twice as many voters in the majority black population are still to make up their minds with nearly a third saying they didn’t know. Race voting is still the largest factor in Bermuda politics with 83 percent of whites backing the UBP and just one percent backing the PLP while 16 percent are undecided. Among blacks 55 percent are backing the PLP, 13 percent are for the UBP while 32 percent are still undeclared. Men are more inclined to vote UBP — 42 percent favour them compared to 31 percent backing the PLP while the UBP has a slim 38-36 percent lead among women. But an equal amount of voters from both genders are still undecided. And the older people get, the more likely they are to vote UBP. In the 18-49 year-old age group, the PLP has a slight edge with 38 percent of the vote compared to 34 percent for the UBP but Government support had shrunk to only 25 percent of the 50-64 year-olds and 27 percent of those aged 65 and over. Married people are far more likely to vote UBP than single people according to the survey. The poll of 401 Bermuda residents, conducted between July 9 and July 16, shows UBP leader Michael Dunkley ahead in the popularity stakes with 65 percent approval rating compared to 47 percent for Premier Ewart Brown. The Premier is approved by 68 percent of blacks and 16 percent of whites while Mr. Dunkley picks up 93 percent approval ratings from whites while 48 percent of blacks are favorable. Younger people are slightly more likely to give a favorable rating for Dr. Brown than older people while the over 50s are more enthused about Mr. Dunkley than the under 50s. The poll, which has a five percent margin of error, differs from a May poll done by Research Innovations Ltd which showed the PLP leading with 38.7 percent compared to the UBP’s 28.3 percent. The chances of an August 16 election are fading. The Opposition had claimed a leaked memo had shown this date had been earmarked by PLP strategists but its understood that with around five weeks needed for an election campaign and the Premier not due back to the island until later this week that time has run out for an August 16 poll.

July 19. US companies with registered offices in Bermuda, such as world-leading consultancy firm Accenture, face being barred from all US Federal Government contracts as "punishment" for reaping tax advantages by being based offshore. In a proposed further eroding away of US firms' ability to benefit from setting up so-called "shell corporations" in offshore jurisdictions in order to avoid paying federal taxes, Democrat Senator Carl Levin is seeking to bar all such companies from being awarded federal government contracts in future. The Michigan politician has previously succeeded in outlawing off-shore registered US companies from winning contracts in four federal departments, namely; Homeland Security, Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development. His sights are now set on a government-wide ban on such contracts being awarded to US companies that have set-up offshore to escape federal taxes. The giant Accenture, which split from Arthur Anderson LLP in 2000, and established its legal address in Bermuda the following year, would be one of those impacted by such a law should it be passed. Its consulting contracts with the US government are estimated at more than $1 billion a year.

July 19. Premier Ewart Brown’s political campaigner is contracted to receive $400,000 of taxpayers’ money to set up ten faith-based tourism events in a year, according to a document received by The Royal Gazette. However, neither Andre Curtis, the Premier nor the Department of Tourism could point to any events which have either taken place or are in the pipeline for 2007-08, other than a women’s conference next February. Dr. Brown, who is also Tourism Minister, denies allegations that he set up the scheme to get cash to Mr. Curtis as a thank you gesture for running his constituency in Warwick South Central. Mr. Curtis has repeatedly refused to answer questions over the initiative. Last night, former Opposition Leader Wayne Furbert reiterated his call for Mr. Curtis or the Premier to come clean over how the cash is being spent and asked: “What are these ten events?” A draft contract forwarded to this newspaper, dated February 20 this year, states Harvest Investment Holdings — of which Mr. Curtis is chairman — is being paid $400,000 to set up ten get-togethers in a 12-month period. That figure was confirmed by the Ministry of Tourism. The document includes a breakdown of the cash payable to the company — with a quarter of it due immediately on the signing of the contract. It states that Mr. Curtis must deliver 2,200 visitors to Bermuda through a minimum of ten faith-based multi-day events between April 1 this year and March 31, 2008. At least one event, it says, should take place in April, May, July, August, September, October, February and March. It adds that information on each should be provided to the Department of Tourism six months in advance, and posted on bermudatourism.com. The only faith-based project mentioned on bermudatourism.com is a women’s conference in Hamilton, featuring speakers from Oklahoma, from February 14 to 18, 2008.  

July 19. Foreign soil will not be imported into Bermuda for the Island’s flagship cricket venue until MPs have had a chance to debate new regulations in the autumn, the Senate heard yesterday. Attorney General Philip Perinchief told Senators that Environment Minister Neletha Butterfield “will be content to entertain a debate on the substance of the regulations” when the House of Assembly reconvenes in November. “No soil will be imported into Bermuda pending the completion of the legislative process,” he said. Critics berated Ms Butterfield earlier this month after she tabled the new regulations in the House to allow the sub-standard pitch at the National Sports Centre to be improved to a level where international games can be hosted. The Opposition, environmentalists and farmers claim importing soil could run the risk of introducing alien species and dangerous plant diseases to the Island. But the poor quality of the square at the National Sports Centre means Bermuda has not played an official One Day International on home soil since qualifying for the World Cup in 2005 and could lose ODI status prematurely if it is not in a position to play home games by next summer. Ms Butterfield has said that fear over imported soil has been overblown and has insisted that everything will be done to minimize the risk of foreign pests destroying crops across the Island. Mr. Perinchief said yesterday that because the Agriculture (Control of Plant and Pest) Amendment Regulations 2007 were tabled in the House of Assembly on the last day of the parliamentary session, giving the Opposition no opportunity to ask for a debate, the Government was prepared to have that debate in November. Shadow Environment Minister Cole Simons said: “It is important to remember that the Government’s approval for the Government to import soil remains in place — a plan that is recognized as highly dangerous by experts world-wide. The only ray of light in the situation is that the Government has bowed to the serious concerns expressed by people across the island. We must remain vigilant on this issue because it represents a threat to the Island’s ecosystem and, quite frankly, I don’t trust this Government to make the right decision regardless of the arguments and information put before them. It will be up to all concerned citizens to make common sense prevail in this matter.” The Environment Ministry did not respond to a request for comment last night. No one from Bermuda Cricket Board could be contacted.

July 19. Marine traffic access between Ferry Reach and Castle Harbour will be closed starting at 8 a.m. today due the placement of a new bridge across the Causeway. Longbird bridge will also be closed to marine traffic on Saturday. Marine Police will monitor the start of the work and the area throughout the day to ensure mariners adhere to the safety warning. “The closure is to ensure the safety of marine traffic while the replacement bridges are being launched into the final position,” said a press release from the Ministry of Works and Engineering.

July 19. Government has called on the Island’s media to be more responsible in its reporting of current events and not to sensationalize them to the point of causing a “major riot in the summertime”. Government Senator Wayne Caines brought up the issue during yesterday’s motion to adjourn in the Senate. Sen. Caines said the community was becoming more polarized lately, sometimes due to a steady diet of inaccurate information that’s fed by certain media organizations, which some people then interpret as “the gospel”. And he feared the combination of high emotion during an election season — which he says “does not have to be dirty as some predict” — has the potential to fuel antisocial behavior and possible race riots. “We’ve seen a number of sensationalized headlines over the recent months and after canvassing and talking with constituents, I’ve noticed that we’ve become very polarized,” Sen. Caines explained. “Both sides need to be heard with balanced writing. When we talk about riots being in Bermuda, no one is suggesting that a race war will take place at the end of the summer. But we are seeing people ‘going into their corner’ like in a boxing match and we have to be careful that we are not creating the petrol in which this blaze will burn — whenever you go through an election period passions are at a fever-pitch. There’s a lot of disquiet on both fronts and it’s our responsibility to manage the challenges that we have as a community, have open dialogue and honest debate. As politicians we have a responsibility to ensure that we talk about the issues without sensationalizing them and that includes sending around chain emails or saying things that are blatantly untrue.”  

July 19. Teachers and other education workers threatened Government with industrial action yesterday if they continue to be left out of plans for reform in public schools. The warning shot was fired at a press conference held by Bermuda Union of Teachers, the Association of School Principals and Bermuda Public Services Union about the implementation of recommendations from the Hopkins Report, a damning review of public education released earlier this year. The three unions said they had come together as one for the first time in history to voice concerns that their members were being deliberately left out of a strategy to improve education. Armell Thomas, president of the BPSU, which represents civil servants, said members of the unions would decide whether to take industrial action. “The mood right now is that their hands are up in the air and they ready to put their sneakers on,” he said, in an apparent reference to members being willing to strike. “They are very frustrated.” The three unions, acting under the umbrella of Bermuda Trade Union Congress (BTUC), are angry at a decision to appoint Bank of Bermuda chief Philip Butterfield as chairman of an interim executive board charged with kick-starting an overhaul of the failing education system. The appointment of the board was one of ten recommendations made in the Hopkins Report, compiled by UK professor David Hopkins and a team of education experts after a review commissioned by Education Minister Randy Horton. The review cost almost $[1/4] million — with half the cash coming from the Bank of Bermuda. Yesterday, the BTUC claimed that experienced educators and others recommended by the three unions should have been appointed to the board — but instead have been left out of the process. BTUC president Anthony Wolff, described powers given to Mr. Butterfield to appoint a consultant executive officer for the Ministry of Education as a “circumventing of the established protocol”.

July 20. Who will be the third champion to book his place at this year's PGA Grand Slam of Golf? Well, Bermudians will find out on Sunday when the winner of the British Open is known following the final round at the tough layout of Carnoustie in Scotland. He will join US Open winner Angel Cabrera and Masters victor Zach Johnson for the 25th edition of the 36-hole tournament. The final spot will be taken by the winner of the PGA Championships — the fourth major of the year. The 89th PGA Championship will be staged at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma from August 9-12. This year's Grand Slam of Golf will be staged at the Mid Ocean Club from October 15-17, and televised by TNT to an audience of 89 million US homes, along with an international audience of more than 100 countries in a prime-time telecast. TNT has already sent down their film crew to shoot the course, hole-by-hole, and also the rest of Bermuda. David Ezekiel, the vice president of Mid Ocean Club, said this week: 

July 20. Ongoing moves to redevelop the long-derelict Club Med resort in St. George's were evident this week as a delegation that included a representative of Starwood Hotels, an assistant of golf legend Nick Faldo, and international developers and architects visited the site. The history of "on-off" redevelopment proposals for the former Club Med is lengthy, but the appearance on Island of such a cast of important figures adds credibility to the latest proposed scheme. Demolishing the present monumental edifice and replacing it with a low-rise hotel and guest cottages, along with residential and fractional ownership units, is the intention of developers Bazarian International. Tourism Board chairman E. Michael Jones, who accompanied the visitors, said: "The developers are well on their way to concluding with Government the signing of the legal documentation so they can go forward with planning and implementing the new hotel." It is anticipated the main building of the new hotel will be no more than two or three storeys high. The golf course that surrounds the property is to be revamped and redesigned with input from one of the most successful golfers of all time Nick Faldo. The three times winner of both the Open and US Masters Golf Championships was represented in the visiting delegation by Nick Edmonds. "They are attempting to redesign the course, which is known as a short course, and making it more challenging and adding innovations. Nick Faldo has been here previously," said Mr. Jones. If all goes to plan the new hotel is expected to be run by the prestigious St. Regis Hotel group, which also operates the famous New York St. Regis Hotel. The delegation included Virginia Cobb, from Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, parent company of St. Regis. Developer Carl Bazarian and other representatives of Bazarian International, as well as two architects, completed the group who carried out a reconnaissance of the property and visited other locations in the East End and elsewhere on the Island. "They looked at other properties to see what else is available," said Mr. Jones. "They were looking at architecture and things like how best to manage the sewage system and fresh water supplies. They also met with Belco to discuss possible requirements so they can plan for the future." The visiting group also talked with local MPs Dame Jennifer Smith, Dean Foggo, St. George's Mayor Mariea Caisey and the Corporation of St. George's Aldermen and officials. Historian Dr. Edward Harris, with extensive knowledge of the forts and artifacts around the property, also spoke with the delegation of developers. Another question that was mulled over during the past week was what will happen to the rubble from the demolition of the current hotel building, which dominates the East End skyline, and how it might be transported from the site or possibly reused at the location. There was also a meeting with the planning department. Mr. Jones, a former St. George's town mayor, said: "They would like to get started as soon as possible once the permits have been approved." He described the visit of so many of the lead people involved in the project as "fabulous" and added: "It looks like they understand and have a real handle on the project. These people are significant players in the industry. Carl Bazarian has put together a team that is second to none. Things are well under way now and everything seems extremely positive." 

July 20. The hearing of Bermuda Aviation Services Ltd.'s (BAS) legal case against the Government moved a step closer after the Attorney General filed a petition on the Government's behalf. The company and its subsidiary Aircraft Services filed a writ against Premier Ewart Brown, in his role as Minister of Transport, and Attorney General Phil Perinchief, with the company claiming a breach of its exclusive rights to provide private jet services at L.F. Wade International Airport. According to BAS, their exclusivity deal has been extended to 2014, but new competitor the Sovereign Flight Support Ltd. has been given the green light to offer a rival service. BAS chief executive Kenneth Joaquin exclusively told The Royal Gazette yesterday the wheels had been set in motion for court proceedings. He said: "We have not had a response from the Premier, but the Attorney General has filed a petition on the Government's behalf and our lawyers were in court this morning. We expect to hear back from the Attorney and see how we stand from there. I know Government submitted their petition to determine how to proceed, so we are waiting to hear back from our Attorneys." A date for the hearing could be set as early as next Monday. In the meanwhile the Sovereign Flight Support Ltd. is going ahead with the conversion of a former US Air Force building on Southside into a private jet passenger terminal, according to the company's co-founder Sheldon Steede. "We are working on it at the moment, but right now it is a little bit premature to say anything in particular," he said. The building has a 275,000 square-foot apron where private jets can be parked in addition to parking for 13 cars.

July 20. Education Minister Randy Horton yesterday admitted communication between Government and teachers could have been better over plans to reform the public education system. At a press conference, Mr. Horton responded to threats of industrial action by attempting to reassure teachers that they would be consulted in the process. The Minister of Education said: “Certainly as we move forward we will be working with the unions and keeping them informed. We can’t have success without everyone involved. We will improve our communication.” Teachers and schools staff claim they are being kept in the dark over plans to implement reforms in the wake of the Hopkins Report. The damning review of Bermuda’s public school system by British professor David Hopkins and a team of experts called for a “major restructuring” of the Ministry of Education and a temporary external executive board to oversee changes throughout the education system. The Interim Executive Board includes business leaders and meets once a week to draw up measures to meet the report’s recommendations. Teachers and school staff however have accused the Board of operating secretively and leaving them out of the process. 

July 20. Solid as a rock — that was the message last night for hundreds of Progressive Labour Party supporters at a pre-election rally. Green t-shirts, banners, balloons and placards flooded the grounds of West Pembroke School, turning it into a “sea of green”. While Government MPs took to the stage to introduce their candidates, this was a constant reference along with tributes to the “shining stars” of former Party stalwarts such as Dame Lois Browne Evans. The three hour rally saw speeches from Wayne Perinchief, Neletha Butterfield, Jamahl Simmons, Laverne Furbert (Constituency 20), as well as Dame Lois’s son Donald Evans. Premier Dr. Ewart Brown proved ‘The Main Event’, issuing a rallying cry to supporters with his closing speech. The other key moment of the night was the introduction of pollster Walton Brown as the PLP candidate for Constituency 19.  

July 20. The United Bermuda Party yesterday clarified its stance on Independence, saying it would not become a priority if it is returned to Government at the next General Election. Opposition Leader Michael Dunkley said there were more pressing issues facing Bermuda at the moment — and whether the island should or should not break ties with Britain was not of prime concern to his party. He stressed, however, that under a UBP Government, voters would make the ultimate decision on the matter. “Independence is not an issue that we will pursue if elected. There are other more important issues that the people of Bermuda want us to take up on their behalf and our plan for tackling those issues is set out in our 2007 platform. However, I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to a decision by referendum on major constitutional issues such as Independence for Bermuda and, in doing so, will implement good governance measures to enable the people of this country to have not only a voice but a vote on such matters.” The Opposition has long expressed its view that a referendum is the best means for resolving the Independence issue but an official party line has not been forthcoming. Instead, UBP officials have stated a belief that MPs should be able to take an individual stance on the matter. Said former UBP leader Grant Gibbons in 2005: “We don’t believe we should be telling our members which way to vote on Independence. A decision on Independence is irrevocable, unlike an election vote that can be changed at the next election. So, effectively a decision on Independence is a question of conscience.” That outlook lies in contrast with the Progressive Labour Party’s repeatedly stated desire to make Bermuda an independent nation. Premier Ewart Brown declared Independence his goal for the island only last month. Speaking to reporters following a meeting of the Caribbean Overseas Territories in the Cayman Islands, he said that the timing had to be perfect in order for it to become a reality. “It is a matter of timing and political sense as to when that issue is put before the electorate. It is my personal belief that all living things should seek to be independent. Those people who would like to see such a vote (for Independence) or other method lose, would like to rush into it tomorrow. Those of us who would like to see it succeed, will take our time and try to choose the correct time.” And he declared a similar objective last March when speaking to the Caribbean Media Corporation in Trinidad: “You might know that in 1995 there was a referendum in Bermuda that actually failed — people voted against Independence. “Of course, my party abstained, but when we go again we will win and we cannot risk the chance that we would lose the vote for Independence. Undoubtedly for me, Independence is inevitable. Bermuda will not be isolated in that regard. Our political development says that one day our country will be politically independent.” The most recent poll on Independence, taken by Research Innovations in May, revealed 34.7 per cent of Bermudians support of sovereignty, with 54.7 per cent against.

July 20. A comprehensive survey of the senior population will be undertaken by the Department of Statistics. The survey, which will assess the immediate and long term needs of the ageing population, will question more than 850 people over age 64 about their lifestyle and the services of which they avail. The initiative is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Department of Human Affairs, National Office for Seniors, Cabinet Office and the charity Age Concern. Known as the Seniors’ Test for Ageing Trends and Services (STATS), it will use the data collected to match seniors’ needs with specific services and identify trends that will assist with long term planning. Minister of Cultural Affairs Wayne Perinchief said: “By international standards, Bermuda is considered to be an aged population. A population is considered to be aged if the segment that is over the age of 64 comprises of more than seven percent. Bermuda’s elderly population in 2000 accounted for 11 percent of the population. This group of the population outpaced other cohorts with a surge of 25 percent over the last 10 years.” Chief Statistician Valerie Robinson-James said her department was already well underway in organizing the survey which will take place in October 2007. She said: “Seniors will be asked a broad range of questions such as their health conditions, the need for health and medical equipment, the extent of their health insurance coverage, use of home care services, living arrangements, computer access and use, transportation and mobility, and home safety and security.” She added that the survey would include seniors with a pension and those without one. Executive Director of Age Concern Claudette Fleming said the individual information gathered would be kept confidential but the data will be used to shape policy and better educate other non-profit organizations. She added: “It is anticipated that in subsequent years, the STATS initiative will lead to a full assessment of every senior citizen on the Island so that we will know what every senior needs in order to direct resources accordingly.” The parties also signed a memorandum of understanding.

July 20. Golf legend Nick Faldo and luxury hotel chain St. Regis were represented during a reconnaissance of the former Club Med resort in St. George’s by developers Bazarian International. A high-powered delegation toured the long-derelict site this week in the company of Tourism Board chairman E. Michael Jones, as behind-the-scenes negotiations continue towards sealing a re-development deal that is anticipated will bring a prestigious St. Regis hotel resort to the East End. After a number of aborted attempts to breathe fresh life into the former resort, which closed almost 20 years ago, the current scheme is being headed by Carl Bazarian, who was himself part of the group that looked around the old hotel and also familiarized themselves with other aspects of Bermuda. Also amongst the party was Nick Edmonds, representing Nick Faldo, raising the prospect of a new golf course being incorporated in the redevelopment and being endorsed by the golfing hero. St. Regis Hotels, which markets itself as being in the “top tier” of the world’s luxury hotels and has the famed 1904 New York St. Regis Hotel as its flagship, is believed to be the hotel group that will eventually operate the new hotel and resort. Virginia Cobb, from St. Regis’ parent company Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, was another of the Club Med visitors this week. The plan is to demolish the Club Med property and replace it with a low-rise hotel and a variety of guest cottages, apartments, residential and fractional units. Tourism Board chairman Mr. Jones said the developers would like to get started on the project “as soon as possible” and are awaiting permits and the signing of legal documentation.

July 20. A new law aimed at ensuring foreigners do not elbow Bermudians out of the housing market is penalizing Islanders married to expatriates, according to lawyers and realtors. The Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2007 — which became law last month — requires Bermudians and their foreign spouses to obtain a licence in order to buy a piece of the rock if the spouse benefits at all from the property or contributes towards its purchase. Lawyers are also interpreting the legislation to mean that Bermudians married to expatriates are barred from owning more than one property. It is not clear if the Act is retrospective but those who flout it face imprisonment of up to five years or a fine of up to $1 million — penalties which critics describe as draconian. Real estate agents and conveyancing attorneys say the legislation — aimed at outlawing the practice of “fronting”, whereby non-Bermudians gain land or property here using a Bermudian “front” — is badly worded and confusing and is causing major headaches.  

July 20. A 46-year-old Bermudian risked losing his dream property because of the new law. The man — married to a non-Bermudian for nine years and nine months — has been advised by his lawyer that he must get a licence to purchase a home in St. George's, even though his wife is not named on the deeds or a signatory on the mortgage. He described the news as "devastating" and said he feared the seller of the property he wants to buy won't be prepared to wait for the licence to come through or for his wife to gain Bermudian status. The man — who did not want to be identified — was initially told the licence could take four to six months but has been advised that the Department of Immigration is trying to reduce that time to three weeks. His wife will be able to get Bermudian status after they have been married for ten years — but the man said that process could take three to nine months. "I don't know how many Bermudians are married to non-Bermudians, but I think that any law that, in effect, discriminates against the Bermudian half is wrong," he said. "The new law is ill conceived and the effect will make property ownership much more difficult and expensive." He added: "If the law is retroactive, there are going to be a lot of people mad as hell. It's a mess. It's so confusing and it needs to be cleared up. There are seriously heavy fines if you don't do it properly. Sometimes the law is an ass."

July 20. Robert Horton, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Labour and Immigration, provided this explanation of the law late last night: “Where a non-Bermudian spouse provides financial assistance to the Bermudian spouse to acquire or hold land in Bermuda, that non-Bermudian spouse acquires an interest in the property. The Bermudian automatically becomes the trustee of the non-Bermudian spouse’s equitable interest in the land [a ‘constructive land trust’]. That interest is a real one and part vi of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 Act [‘the 1956 Act’] requires the Bermudian to obtain a licence as trustee, even though the non-Bermudian spouse’s name does not appear on the deed of conveyance. The rule that limits a non-Bermudian to one parcel of licensed land, restricts to a single property the amount of land in which a non-Bermudian spouse can have an interest. Bermudians are free to acquire any number of properties in Bermuda provided they use their own resources to purchase them and do not rely on the wealth of their non-Bermudian spouses. One can argue that the non-Bermudian spouse has rights to all of the Bermudian’s property because of the marriage. However, in our view, this is a right contingent upon divorce or death and is not an interest in land that we would insist was licensed. Should the non-Bermudian spouse receive a benefit from the additional unlicensed properties, such as the receipt of rents or by occupying the property, then that person would be appropriating the land and would be in breach of section 78. It should be remembered that the restrictions on the non-Bermudian spouse of a Bermudian are limited to the time when they have not yet obtained Bermudian status, for which the non-Bermudian spouse becomes eligible after ten years of marriage and an aggregate of seven years of residence in Bermuda during the marriage. The only fee that a non-Bermudian spouse of a Bermudian has to pay is the application fee, which is currently $1,271. They do not pay any land-holding charge. All non-Bermudian spouses who, before 22nd June, 2007 held an interest in land, including as beneficiary of a constructive land trust, and continue to hold such an interest in land, require a licence or need to dispose of the land. Such persons have until June 21, 2010 to comply. Where the non-Bermudian spouse has no interest in the land, no licence is required.”

July 20.  Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2007 (“the Act”). Lawyers and other professionals are still trying to come to grips with the far-reaching consequences of this new legislation. Essentially the changes were brought about to put an end to the so-called practice of “fronting”, whereby Non Bermudians (called “Restricted Persons” under the Act) gained control of Bermuda land by use of trusts or other arrangements that might have no basis in written documents. By law, Restricted Persons require a licence from the Immigration Department in order to acquire or hold land in Bermuda: that was the case before the Act and remains the case. Restricted Persons with no connection to Bermuda (e.g. not being married to a Bermudian), can only acquire certain high-end properties and condos, and then only with a licence from the Immigration Department, for which a hefty fee is payable.

July 20. MP Jamahl Simmons — famous for being in all three of Bermuda’s main political parties — switched again last night as he re-joined the PLP to the delight of cheering green-clad faithful. In a racially charged speech Mr. Simmons, who quit the United Bermuda Party after claiming bigots in his Pembroke West branch were about to dump him, said the UBP party had not changed. He said: “The leopard doesn’t change his spots. We can’t go back to the days when people’s mortgages are pulled if you stand up for the truth.” He said in the days of slavery the slave owners would attack the strongest slaves to scare the rest. “The tactics haven’t changed. The game has changed. They will try to destroy all of your leaders because they want to try and pick the type of people they want.” Mr. Simmons, who earlier this week had claimed the coming election would be “the nastiest ever”, launched a thinly-veiled broadside against United Bermuda Party chairman Shawn Crockwell, who famously stole drugs from a Supreme Court cell and did a lengthy jail term before becoming a lawyer. Mr Simmons declared that Mr. Crockwell’s opponent in Pembroke West, Walton Brown, was a hardworking honest man. “Unlike some candidates he didn’t have to get punished by the law to learn to be honest. Walton Brown will never say to you that you need to toughen up and learn to take criticism from white people.” Mr. Simmons urged PLP voters to get out and vote or else risk taking the country backwards.  

July 20. Bermuda's leading role in providing reinsurance cover to the USA has been underlined by the latest report from the Washington DC-based Reinsurance Association of America (RAA). The RAA reports the US ceded $54.7 billion in premiums to offshore reinsurers in 2006 and ceded recoverables of $114.2bn. The largest markets for unaffiliated premiums ceded and recoverables due were Bermuda, the United Kingdom and Ireland, Germany, Cayman Islands, Switzerland and Barbados. One concern raised by the RAA is the possibility that US companies may be at risk because of offshore reinsurance deals. "It is especially important in light of the current public policy debate regarding the reduction in collateral requirements for unlicensed, unauthorized reinsurers that are not subject to US regulatory and solvency requirements," states the RAA. "The outcome of this policy debate could have significant implications to the solvency of US companies, as reinsurance recoverable from offshore companies continue to increase." The RAA has prepared a comprehensive report, entitled the Offshore Reinsurance in the US Market: 2006 Data, which tracks trends in the buying of reinsurance as it impacts the US and aims to provide policymakers and the public with data and analysis about the US reinsurance market. Figures show there has been a 11.9 percent decrease in the level of premiums ceded from the US to offshore reinsurers between 2005 and 2006, and a 7.8 percent decline in recoverables.

July 21. The Panamanian captain of casino ship Niobe Corinthian has been fined $15,000 for illegally importing 100 gaming machines into Bermuda. Fermin Alfonso Reyes, 30, was found guilty along with the ship’s manager George Kezas, 72, after a trial that first began last September. Kezas, like Reyes, faces a maximum penalty of two years in jail, a $100,000 fine, or both for breaking the law banning gaming machines from Bermuda. He will be sentenced next month. Despite yesterday’s double conviction, lawyer Llewellyn Peniston, acting for the owners of the ship, said they still plan to operate it out of Bermuda in future. Mr. Peniston blasted Bermuda’s anti-gambling laws and said the owners — who he declined to name — plan to circumvent the importation ban by using gaming machines already on the Island from prior to the ban and operating them once in international waters. The Niobe Corinthian has long been at the centre of controversy. She first came to the Island in 2005, and was raided by Customs officials. However, Mr. Peniston, acting on behalf of Estrellas Management British Virgin Islands Ltd. — the company behind the ship — obtained a Supreme Court injunction to have them removed. The ship had been scheduled to be used as a floating casino once she sailed out of the jurisdiction of Bermuda and into international waters 12 miles offshore but left in early 2006 without having accomplished this.

 July 21. British prosecutor Rory Field is Bermuda’s new Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Mr. Field fought off competition from more than 50 applications before being appointed Vinette Graham-Allen’s successor by Governor Sir John Vereker. He will take up his appointment in late August, replacing Magistrate Juan Wolffe, who is currently serving as Acting DPP. Mr. Field was unanimously selected by a panel chaired by Deputy Governor Mark Capes and also including Chief Justice Richard Ground, Civil Service head Kenneth Dill, Deputy Police Commissioner Roseanda Young, Assistant Cabinet Secretary Judith Hall-Bean, and legal consultant Kulandra Ratneser. The new DPP has previously worked in a number of jurisdictions, including Belize, where he served as DPP from 1999 to 2001. He also worked as legal adviser on organized crime for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. This included a focus on reform of the criminal justice system and capacity building in the prosecution service in Serbia, where he was primary adviser to the Serbian Chief Prosecutor. Sir John said: “I am delighted to appoint such a well-qualified and experienced prosecutor as Bermuda’s Director of Public Prosecutions. I am grateful to the panel for their selection and recommendation.”

July 21. The Niobe Corinthian casino ship will still operate from Bermuda in future with the blessing of the Attorney General — despite its captain and managing director being convicted of criminal offences. That was the claim last night from lawyer Llewellyn Peniston, a vocal opponent of the Island’s anti-gambling laws, who acts for the owners of the vessel. He handed The Royal Gazette a letter from Attorney General Philip Perinchief, dated April 12 this year, in which the AG says: “I can see no problem with what you intend to do.” According to Mr. Peniston, this was a response to a request from the ship owners to operate the ship from port in Bermuda in the same way as cruise ships — operating gaming machines once in international waters 12 miles offshore. In the letter, addressed to Cheryl Albouy of Corinthian Ltd, the local company managing the ship on behalf of the owners, Mr. Perinchief warns that such gaming machines must be inoperative while within the jurisdiction of Bermuda, because they are banned from the Island. It is this ban that led the Niobe Corinthian to be raided last summer while she was moored at Marginal Wharf in St. David’s. A total of 100 slot machines were seized by Police, and remain in the custody of the Crown. The vessel’s captain, Fermin Alfonso Reyes, and managing director, George Kezas, were yesterday convicted of illegally importing the machines. Reyes was fined $15,000 with Kezas to be sentenced later.  

July 21. The Premier has promised a public holiday in honour of Dame Lois Browne Evans if Government is re-elected. Dr. Ewart Brown said the Progressive Labour Party would memorialize its former leader if it is returned to power at the polls. While he refused to name the date for the forthcoming election at Thursday’s PLP rally, Dr. Brown staked his mandate to the people, promising better health care, social benefits, education reform, affordable housing and even stronger economic performance. He also promised more hotels.  

July 23. A Long Island couple have visited the Island almost 50 times since their first trip in 1978. Al and Janice Duncan of Levittown, New York have seen Bermuda 47 times and will celebrate 50 trips next year. Their first trip, in 1978, was for their honeymoon and they never got tired of the Island's 21 square miles. For their honeymoon the couple flew in but they have cruised in on Celebrity Cruise Line ever since. "We chose Bermuda because of the beautiful beaches, nice people, the scenery and the golf," Mr. Duncan said. "We liked it better back then because it was less inhabited and less expensive. Basically, it was less crowded." Mrs. Duncan said they used to enjoy renting mopeds to travel from one end of the Island to the other but, because they are getting older, they have stopped. "The first time we came, we rented then and when we went back home, I went out and bought one," she said. Her favorite thing to do is going to the Aquarium and Zoo while Mr. Duncan enjoys golfing. "I love the way it's set up with the animals and the art on the floor," Mrs. Duncan said of BAMZ. They also love the beaches — especially Horseshoe Bay. They said they went up to Long Bay on Wednesday. Among the differences the couple has noted are the changes in the ferry system and Clock Tower Mall. "When we first came, the ferries were smaller and didn't have air conditioning," Mrs. Duncan said. "The mall was like a flea market. It had a big tent inside with little concession stands with people." The Duncans come to Bermuda on average three times a year, but sometimes make four visits. Even though they have traveled all over the Caribbean and to Mexico they still name Bermuda as their top vacation spot.

July 23. New Director of Public Prosecutions Rory Field faces a tough job, with pressing needs including reforming the justice system and addressing a history of discontent within the department. That was the reaction from members of the legal community to news that the highly-experienced British lawyer will take over from Bermudian Acting DPP Juan Wolffe next month. According to defence lawyer Larry Scott, Mr. Field’s background in the UK and overseas — including a stint as DPP in Belize between 1999 and 2001 — may not have prepared him for the task ahead. “Mr. Field has got to come and experience the Bermuda environment. If he comes from the more sophisticated environment in terms of the development of the system of justice in the UK, he’s coming to an old system. He’s going to be a little out of depth on that, and scratch his head and think ‘this must be the outback,’” speculated Mr. Scott, who claimed that “a lot of criminal law is out of date in terms of how criminal jurisprudence has evolved in the UK”. Along with overseeing prosecutions, the DPP also advises the Police and other Government departments and assists with law reform. In this context, Mr. Scott pointed out that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) is only partially implemented, despite being passed into law in December 2005. Enacted in the UK in 1984, PACE will eventually replace the antiquated Judge’s Rules that govern the way the Bermuda Police Service operates, and modernize arrest and detention procedures and the searching and questioning of suspects. “PACE is still pending and is only going in piecemeal at the moment, and he’s obviously going to be accustomed to that,” said Mr. Scott. “He’s going to come to the conclusion ‘this is really the outback and really the colonies’ and ‘I thought you should have got rid of this a long time ago’. “My advice to him is to quickly modernize the system and not be frustrated...he should work with the Attorney General with a view to modernizing the criminal jurisprudence in Bermuda for the benefit of us all.” The last DPP, Vinette Graham-Allen, was appointed in May 2004 by the Governor. A condition of her three-year contract was that she identified and trained a suitable Bermudian as a potential successor. However, Mrs. Graham-Allen, a Jamaican national, had a bumpy ride with a hard-hitting report in 2005 recommending buying her out of her contract and replacing her with a Bermudian. 

July 23. Bermuda’s gay community last night questioned the awarding of a lucrative tourism contract to a man who vociferously opposed Rosie O’Donnell’s doomed gay and lesbian cruise earlier this year. They said it was ironic that Andre Curtis — whose comments have been described as landing Bermuda a global reputation as a homophobic island — was now contracted to receive $400,000 of taxpayers’ money to set up ten faith-based tourism events in a year. The Rosie O’Donnell trip was cancelled in April after United By Faith chairman Mr. Curtis, who opposed it, warned: “We may just choose to pick them (the passengers) up by bus and bus them to our church, to different denominations, and have the pastors pray for them.” Campaigners say the comment — and Mr. Curtis’ subsequent claim that the cancellation was a “victory for God” — could lose Bermuda thousands of potential tourists among human rights supporters as well as gays. Mr. Curtis runs Premier Ewart Brown’s constituency in Warwick South Central, but Dr. Brown denies allegations that he set up faith-based tourism to get cash to him as a thank you gesture. However, neither Mr. Curtis, Dr. Brown nor the Department of Tourism have been able to point to any faith-based tourism events which have taken place or are in the pipeline for 2007-08, other than a women’s conference next February.  

July 23. Opinion is divided over the impact next year's cessation of contract cruise ships docking in Hamilton will have on business in the city. Government revealed its plans for the 2008/09 cruise ship schedule at a special meeting of the Chamber of Commerce earlier this month, which will see two contract ships (Norwegian Majesty and Norwegian Dream) dock in St. George's each week and three disembark in Dockyard (Explorer of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas and the Norwegian Dawn), with none stopping in Hamilton in 2008. In fact, Hamilton will only see 11 occasional callers all season next year. But, on the plus side, all contract ships will be overnighting for between one and three nights, which will allow visitors to spend more time on the island and to spend more money.  

July 23. A stem cell research centre is to open in Bermuda later this year after Premier Ewart Brown and his wife Wanda teamed up with American company Stemedica Cell Technologies. Dr. Brown, the president of Bermuda Healthcare Services, told a press conference today that the announcement was one of the most exciting developments in healthcare on the Island in recent times. It could ultimately lead to scores of patients a year flying to Bermuda to receive revolutionary treatment that could help cure illnesses such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and spinal cord injuries. The company stresses it will use adult stem cells technology, and will not involve the destruction of embryos which has attracted opposition from church groups across the world. The clinic, named Brown-Darrell after the Premier's parents, will be on the site of the former Winterhaven property in Smith's, which is owned by Dr. Brown and is currently undergoing refurbishment. It will initially be staffed by at least three Bermuda Healthcare physicians and two Stemedica physicians. To begin with it will focus solely on research, but eventually hopes to be able to treat one or two stem cell patients a week. Dr. Maynard Howe, CEO of California-based Stemedica, said Bermuda was chosen because of its location near to the US and its surroundings which would provide an ideal environment for patients to recover. "We are thrilled to have made the connection and are looking forward to a very successful partnership"  said Dr. Howe.

July 23. Irishman Padraig Harrington became the third player to book his place at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda this October after winning in hugely exciting fashion at the British Open yesterday. Tournament leader Sergio Garcia of Spain was one stroke ahead of Harrington on the final hole, but after missing a nasty, downhill ten-foot putt for par, the tournament went to a play-off between the two Ryder Cup team-mates. Perhaps still smarting from having squandered a lead he had held since the end of Thursday’s first round, Garcia was well below his best over the four play-off holes and Harrington, who was also chasing his first major, won handily. Harrington, undisputedly one of Europe’s best players, is the highest profile golfer so far to qualify for the Grand Slam, which is to be hosted at the Mid-Ocean Club. Little-known American Zach Johnson triumphed in the Master’s this year while Angel Cabrera of Argentina recently claimed the US Open title. The British Open was Harrington’s first major, but as a former European Order of Merit winner, there’s no doubt his presence will add some star-quality to what had looked an undeniably bland field up to yesterday. The man everybody involved with the Grand Slam is desperately hoping will win a major this year, Tiger Woods, struggled with his game in Scotland this week, finishing 15th. The world number one was seeking to become the first person to win three British Opens in a row since Australian Peter Thomson in 1956. Woods has finished runner-up in two out of the three majors so far this year and only has one more chance to qualify for the Grand Slam: at the PGA Championship in next month — a tournament Premier Ewart Brown will be attending.  

July 23. Premier Ewart Brown's political campaigner Andre Curtis today hit back at his critics by insisting he has lined up ten faith-based tourism events to justify his $400,000 payment of taxpayers' money. Mr. Curtis also launched an attack on former Opposition Leader Wayne Furbert, who has repeatedly questioned how the cash is being spent and suggested the scheme is the Premier's way of getting cash to his campaigner as a thank you gesture. At a press conference, Mr. Curtis finally broke his silence over the issue by providing brief details on ten scheduled events, between May 2007 and March 2008, to which he said a total of $200,000 had been allocated. He also produced a document stating that $200,000 was being spent on salaries for faith-based tourism during 2007-08. "Government or the Premier can't just write you a cheque for $400,000," said Mr. Curtis. "They have a list of criteria that you have to meet before anyone can just give you money." Mr. Curtis then produced a copy of his contract spelling out the conditions of the payment to his company Harvest Investment Holdings. These include signing an agreement listing details of ten events, providing copies of letters from sponsors and giving written updates and a final report summarizing the initiative. However, a breakdown of how much Harvest Investment would get paid for meeting each condition was omitted. Mr. Curtis offered to repay $2 which he claimed Mr. Furbert had contributed to a collection at a multi-faith event at the National Sports Centre last year. "Mr. Furbert said that... he felt like he was taken advantage of," he said. "In watching the DVD of the event, during the collection time I watched Wayne Furbert put a crumpled up $2 bill in the offering plate. I have here $2 and I will mail it to him because I do not wish him to feel taken advantage of as he indicated." He added that his family had been hurt by the recent allegations, stating: "I have a daughter that's in college, sitting her final exams. This has badly shaken my family and traumatized us. It's very hurtful and very painful and unwarranted."

July 23. Beware of the law of unintended consequences. That’s the lesson behind the Immigration legislation that is now putting Bermudians who are married to non-Bermudians at a disadvantage in the Bermuda economy. This is not the first time this has happened. Under the United Bermuda Party, Bermudians with non-Bermudian spouses were often prevented from returning home due to work permit restrictions. Common sense prevailed then, and the legislation was changed in the early 1990s, when spouses of Bermudians were given, in effect, equal rights with Bermudians in the workplace. Now a similar act of discrimination towards Bermudians married to non-Bermudians has arisen, largely out of Government’s justified enthusiasm to stop the practice known as fronting in which Bermudians pretended to be the owners of homes actually owned by non-Bermudians. But in doing so, the Ministry of Labour and Immigration has spread its net wide and has forced Bermudians and their non-Bermudian spouses to get a licence when they wish to buy a property. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that the dead hand of bureaucracy means getting the licence can take months, thus giving a Bermudian buyer an advantage in the market. Government says it is working to cut the length of time it takes to issue this licence down to three weeks, but skeptics will be rightly dubious that the Immigration Department, already burdened with passport applications, key employee applications and the usual wave of other immigration paperwork, can achieve this. The more serious act of discrimination concerns the limitation on Bermudians with non-Bermudian spouses from owning more than one property. This legislation is based on the limitation on non-Bermudians owning more than one home, which is generally accepted. But the effect of this policy is to discriminate against Bermudians, purely because they happen to have fallen in love with someone who was not born here. Government has been quick to note that the restriction does not apply once the couple has been married for ten years and the non-Bermudian spouse has received Bermudian status. But ten years is a long time to wait, and it is not at all clear whether the restriction on home ownership applies to, for example, a house with a built-in apartment, which is still one of the most common ways for homeowners to pay their mortgages in Bermuda’s overheated housing market. The key point to remember here is that this legislation discriminates against Bermudians, who, because they chose to marry a non-Bermudian, are now at a disadvantage compared to other Bermudians who are either single or have happened to marry another Bermudian. That makes no sense, and may well drive Bermudians out of their own country as a result. 

July 24. If you have noticed a green substance in Hamilton Harbour, don’t panic — aliens have not landed. On parts of the Island, Bermuda’s usual pristine aquamarine water has turned into a murky pea soup, but this is simply due to the presence of algae. A Government spokesman said: “We think this is a plankton bloom. The green is the chlorophyll (photosynthetic pigments) of plankton cells in the water, i.e. algae. It is normal for plankton to ‘bloom’, to multiply quickly, in spring and early summer as the water warms up and nutrients are available for them to grow and divide. Why it is so pronounced this year is unknown, but could be related to water temperatures being between 1.5 to 2 degrees Centigrade cooler than normal this year. This may have suppressed the bloom a bit so that when it did occur it was more pronounced.” Tests by the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences have concluded the algae poses “no significant health risk”, however, some children may experience an allergic reaction. The Government is therefore advising children to swim beyond bloom areas, under supervision. BIOS sea water samples collected on Friday did not show “any significant levels of sewage contamination”. The Government spokesman said: “I understand that there is some concern that it could be caused by sewage but this is unlikely as there are no known sewage outfalls that discharge directly into Hamilton Harbour. Sewage from Hamilton and the surrounding areas is either treated and pumped deep underground or discharges via a submarine outfall onto the South Shore 900m from the shoreline, at Seabright Point near Hungry Bay. Although blooms such as this are normal, it is probably wise to advise not swimming in them until the species causing the bloom is identified or at least until the bloom has ‘decayed’ or diluted down.” The green algae has also been spotted at White’s Island Beach. However, it is most common at Mills Creek, because the water is generally warmer and has the highest nutrient concentrations of the inshore bays. It also has the lowest flushing rate — the weakest flow of water in and out of a bay or harbour.

July 24. North East Hamilton is in the process of its long-awaited revitalization — backed by a strategic design plan implemented through Government’s Economic Empowerment Zone (EEZ) initiative. Updating the country on its progress at a Court Street news conference yesterday, Deputy Premier Paula Cox revealed: “The EEZ has been activated! Businesses are sprucing up their premises, with Government itself contributing paint. “Cabinet has approved the North East Hamilton EEZ and Use Strategy and Design Guidelines Plan that’s sure to ‘bring North East Hamilton to life. The aim is to empower those that live, work and visit the EEZ as well as residents, property owners and the like" Ms Cox explained. “Throughout the year I, as Minister of Finance, with responsibility for the Bermuda Small Business Development Corporation (BSBDC), have sought to keep you abreast of progress made. The BSBDC commissioned the services of the Department of Statistics to conduct thorough surveys in the Zone, of both the establishments and the households. Continuing to work at invigorating the local economy in the EEZ, while expanding the economic pie to ensure that entrepreneurs are included and empowered, the Payroll Tax Act was recently amended. This was done to allow an unprecedented benefit to new small businesses in the Zone and they are now relieved from payroll tax liability for up to five periods.”  

July 24. A campaigner angry over a new housing law that affects Islanders with foreign spouses, last night called for Bermudians to fight for their rights. New legislation means Bermudians and their foreign spouses now have to apply for permission to buy property if the spouse in any way benefits from or contributes to payments for the home - even if they are not named on the deeds or the mortgage. Lawyers and realtors say the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2007 is unfair and that the licenses can take between three and six months to obtain, meaning house sales often fall through, as reported in The Royal Gazette last week. Ronald Viera, who last night announced the creation of a lobby group to amend the law, said the changes were unfair and infringed on the rights of all Bermudians regardless of their political position. “The group is really not intended to be political,” he said. “This law affects those in the PLP as much as it does those in the UBP. This is purely a fight for our rights as Bermudians. No one knows who they are going to marry or for that matter who their children might marry. Even if you’re a Bermudian married to a Bermudian, we don’t know who our children will marry.” Anyone interested in joining the group can contact Mr. Viera at bermudian2007@hotmail.com. Adding his voice to those opposed to the law was Shadow Labour and Immigration Minister Trevor Moniz, who last night described the law as “quite severe and draconian” and said the licensing waiting time needed to be shortened. He said those trying to get on the property ladder typically had a 30-day window to close the deal - but Bermudians with spouses from overseas would be unable to made that deadline because of the lengthy processing time for licenses. “Government needs to address that,” he said, adding that pre-approval for such couples should also be brought in, rather than the licence pertaining to a specific property. The new law is aimed at outlawing fronting — the practice whereby non-Bermudians gain land or property on the Island using a Bermudian “front” — and Mr. Moniz said its intention was laudable. “We needed to do something about fronting,” he said. “I tabled questions in the House of Assembly in 1999 pointing out to then Immigration Minister Paula Cox that we had a very serious problem. Here we are eight years later with this quite severe and draconian legislation trying to deal with what has gone from a molehill to a mountain.” He said the new law put restrictions which were not necessary on Bermudians with expatriate spouses. “It needs to be fine tuned and tweaked so as not to produce injustice,” he said. “But what they (Department of Immigration) are doing is quite complicated, to be fair. Right now we are not quite sure how Government is going to enforce this. We need some form of guidance notes. The long-term effect is going to be a softening of both the condominium market and a softening of the real estate market in the next three years.” The licence for buying property costs $1,271 and the Department of Immigration is understood to be trying to reduce the processing time to less than a month.

July 24. A new law aimed at ensuring foreigners don’t elbow Bermudians out of the housing market is penalizing sellers as well as buyers, according to a local father-of-one. The 38-year-old, who works in retail, told The Royal Gazette how he and his wife had been affected by the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2007, which became law last month. The legislation means Bermudians married to expatriates now need to obtain a licence in order to buy a home, even if their spouse is not named on the deeds or the mortgage. Permission can take up to six months to obtain. “My wife and I currently live in a rented home in Paget,” said the man, who asked not to be named. “We currently own a condominium nearby. We decided earlier this year that we wanted to sell our property because we have one child and are planning to expand our family and want to own a home we can grow into. The condo would not be big enough for our family so we wanted to sell in the hopes of purchasing a larger home. We placed our condo on the market and received several offers. When we started negotiating a closing date, both parties were surprised by the new law. All our interested purchasers were Bermudians married to non-Bermudians and all were going to have to apply for a licence to purchase the property. We were hoping to close the sale within 30 days but were told we would have to wait at least three months for the purchasers to obtain the required licence.” The man said that before the law came into effect he and his wife could probably have closed the deal in a month and reinvested their money in a new property. We are now forced to wait an estimated three to six months in the hopes that our purchaser is able to obtain a licence to own property,” he said. “If they are not able to obtain the licence, then we have to start back at square one and put the condo back on the market. In the meantime, our tenant’s lease will expire, we will be paying interest on our mortgage and have lost the opportunity to purchase properties that are currently available.

July 24. Owning a second home on the Island could soon be a thing of the past for Bermudians married to expatriates — as expectant mother Monika Burrill has just discovered. The 32-year-old accountant owns a condo in Paget and recently bought a new property in Southampton with her Canadian husband Phil, 36. The couple assumed they’d be able to rent the first property out and use the income to help towards the mortgage on their new three-bedroom home. But under the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2007 — which became law last month — that may not be possible after June 2010. The new law requires Bermudians and their non-Bermudian spouses to obtain a licence for any property which the expatriate partner benefits from or contributes to financially. Lawyers are interpreting the legislation to mean that such couples will only be able to get a licence for one property. Any additional homes which are rented out are likely to be viewed as benefiting the spouse and are in breach of the law. Mrs. Burrill said she and her husband, who already have two Bermudian children, now expect to have to sell the two-bedroom Paget condo before June 21, 2010 — the deadline Government has set for couples who owned property benefiting the foreign spouse before the new law came into effect. She said: “I’m currently trying to rent my first house but these rent monies are going to come to us. Of course he (her husband) is benefiting financially, unless I was taking the rent and sticking it in a separate fund. We are not selling it until we have to, but we assume we will have to.” Mrs. Burrill said she and her husband were especially annoyed because he sold some land in Canada in order to buy the second property. “We have lost the land in Canada and now we’ll lose out again. Do they want us to invest money overseas? Why can’t I invest in my own country? I have Bermudian children. The reason we did it was to set them up. Selling a house is not cheap. And guess who will benefit from the sale? The Government — which will get stamp duty.” She added that countless couples would be affected by the change in the law. “We are not the only ones in this position so I think we are going to sit it out a little and see what happens.” Immigration Permanent Secretary Robert Horton explained last week that Bermudians with foreign spouses could own as many homes as they liked — so long as they used their own money to pay for them and did not rely on their partner’s wealth. He said foreign spouses could only have an interest in a single property — so if they lived in another property or received any of the rent for that property they would be breaking the law.

July 24. Being able to buy a ready-to-eat cheeseburger, or tuck into favorite Bermuda comfort food like macaroni and cheese or a fish sandwich, has been near impossible for the residents of Hamilton Parish — until now. Colleen Bean has been well aware of the gap in the market and that's why she has opened up her new venture, BeanZ Cafe, on The Crawl, a simple cafe that dishes up a short-order menu of tried-and-trusted Bermuda favorites. She set herself up in business by saving pay cheques from her previous employment until she had enough to bid to run the cafe concession. Little more than two weeks since opening for business, next door to the Hamilton Parish Workman's Club, off North Shore Road, trade looks good. "I've lived in Hamilton Parish all my life and I know you could never get a hamburger or find any Bermudian food. Sometimes people just want to have a fry or a cheeseburger," she explained, as she prepared take-away food for a group of mid-morning customers. Fries, burgers, peas, fish sandwiches, nuggets — these are the staples that make up the BeanZ Cafe menu board. Bacon and cheese burgers, macaroni and cheese, peas 'n' rice and the fish sandwiches are amongst the most popular orders. Ms Bean said: "The schools want nuggets for their summer camps but they can't find them anywhere in Hamilton Parish." By her own admission she is in her "duck feet" spell, finding her way as a business operator and learning what works and what doesn't. Before opening BeanZ Cafe she was a cashier with HWP. Her ultimate ambition is to open and run her own "men-only" hair salon. "This is a stepping stone. It is my first cafe and the first time I've run my own business." Her mother Jean Bean was short-order cook at the Southside Baselands and sometimes as a little girl she would help her mother by fetching items from the freezer room at the base kitchen. A picture of the late Mrs. Bean is hung on the wall of the cafe. "I always wanted to own my own business. This is for her," said Ms Bean, who while at church felt a burning drive to take the step into business and put her pay cheque savings from her day job to good use. For the moment she is ploughing income generated by the cafe back into the business to build it up. The BeanZ Cafe is open most days from 10 a.m. until late, although Ms Bean saves Sundays as her religious day off.

July 25. A pricing war could be sparked in the wake of the launch of Logic Communications Ltd.'s latest internet service deal. Logic's deal will see existing customers on the 1Mbps contract upgraded to 2Mbps, with the price being slashed by $10 down to $99.95 per month. But competitor Transact has hit back at Logic's latest offering, claiming that they are the real innovators in the Bermuda internet service marketplace. Bill Dickinson, senior vice-president of Transact, countered Logic's move to offer a faster internet service at a reduced price, pointing out that his company will remain to be competitive in the market by reducing their current two megabyte by two megabyte service to $99.95, while its 1Mbps service would come in at $89.95 and the 600kps, 300kps and 150kps would be aggressively priced for all customers regardless of whether they are CableVision, DSL or M3 Wireless users. He explained that new DSL and CableVision customers would also receive the first month free, subject to conditions. Mr. Dickinson went on to stress that Transact have been offering 2Mbps for $109 when all of the other ISPs were offering it at $189 and were responsible for lowering the price and not just following Logic. Among the other innovations introduced by Transact, according to Mr. Dickinson, his company are the first to:

July 25. Auditor General Larry Dennis is investigating how faith-based tourism boss Andre Curtis is contracted to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars.  

July 25. Premier Ewart Brown has dropped a legal action against the Island’s media - but launched another one against The Royal Gazette, its sister paper and an Opposition-supporting Internet blogger. The first writ for libel and slander was issued last month against all three of the Island’s newspapers and two broadcasting companies over revelations from a leaked Police file on the Bermuda Housing Corporation scandal. But this week a notice of discontinuance was sent to lawyers for this newspaper and the Mid-Ocean News, which are both owned by Bermuda Press Holdings Ltd. The Supreme Court notice, dated last Friday, says that Dr. Brown “wholly discontinues” the action. Former Health Minister Nelson Bascome is suing the same media organizations - Bermuda Press Holdings, the Bermuda Broadcasting Company, DeFontes Broadcasting Company and the Bermuda Sun - over the same revelations, though no papers have yet been served on The Royal Gazette. The Premier issued another writ last Friday against Bermuda Press Holdings, The Royal Gazette>and its editor Bill Zuill, Mid-Ocean editor Tim Hodgson and Christian Dunleavy, a United Bermuda Party member who runs the politics.bm website. The nature of the latest complaint is not known as no papers have been served. The Premier’s press secretary Glenn Jones said last night he had no comment on why the first matter was dropped or what the new writ was about. Mr. Bascome, who appeared in court last month charged with corruption in a position of public office, refused to comment yesterday on whether he planned to pursue his action. “You’ll have to talk to my lawyer,” he said. It was not possible to contact his attorney, Victoria Pearman. The Mid-Ocean News first ran a story from the leaked Police dossier at the beginning of June and ZBM television news broadcast extracts on May 23. The Mid-Ocean story claimed the document revealed that Dr. Brown, Mr. Bascome and other former Ministers were investigated by fraud squad officers looking into allegations of corruption at BHC.

July 25. The fate of Bermuda Aviation Services Ltd.'s (BAS) case against the Government over an alleged breach of its exclusive rights to provide private jet services at L.F. Wade International Airport could be decided as early as today. BAS CEO Kenneth Joaquin said his attorneys were in court yesterday afternoon for a hearing to discuss how to proceed with the case, whether it be to go to court or be decided by arbitration. The company and its subsidiary Aircraft Services filed a writ against Premier Ewart Brown, in his capacity as Minister of Transport, as well as Attorney General Phil Perinchief last month after it was claimed new competitor Sovereign Flight Support Ltd. was given the go ahead to offer a rival private jet service. Sovereign, meanwhile continue to convert a former US Air Force building on Southside into a private jet passenger terminal. Mr. Joaquin said: "We should know where we stand after today and hopefully after that we will be able to make a decision whether to go to court or to arbitration. Our preference is to get this matter over as fast as possible and if that means going to court then so be it."

July 25.  The Health Ministry yesterday rebuffed criticisms that it failed to provide sufficient information about the closure of the Medical Clinic, but admitted it faced difficulties because civil servants only found out about the closure days before it was announced in the Throne Speech. On October 27 last year, Dr. Ewart Brown won the leadership battle against former Premier Alex Scott. Dr. Ewart Brown was sworn in on Monday, October 30 and after much rewriting, the Governor read the speech on Friday, November 3 one week after Premier Dr. Ewart Brown took office. In his Throne Speech, the newly elected Premier said the closure of the Medical Clinic, formally known as the indigent clinic at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, was to save the patients' dignity and to end the practice of health care based on a person's financial status. Permanent Secretary of Health Warren Jones said yesterday that any confusion that persisted was only due to circumstances and the Ministry has worked diligently with a joint committee to organise the closure on July 13 as seamlessly as possible. "The Premier came into the office with initiatives that he wanted to see through," said Mr. Jones. "In a normal situation we would have been working on the change behind the scenes before the speech. But the Premier is the Premier and with a change of leader there was a change of direction. As the civil service we had to recognise this. We heard the direction of the Government and we set out delivering it." While a committee composed of 13 members of the Bermuda Hospitals Board and eight Government employees met on a weekly basis to discuss issues with the clinic and the patients, confusion persisted in the public. Jenny Brookes, who organised both a petition and a walk on Cabinet after speaking to scared patients had said information was what people wanted. Though the Government released a pamphlet in May of this year, questions remained.eople’s interest, for which Michael has more than proven his worth.”

July 25. Plans for a nine-floor hotel inched a step closer after the Corporation of Hamilton signed documents agreeing to the project. The five-star venue, earmarked for the site of the Par-la-Ville car park, will feature 160 rooms and suites plus 77 luxury apartments of one, two and three bedroom units. The Corporation has revealed it has signed a development agreement and agreement for lease with Par-la-Ville Hotel and Residences. Mayor of Hamilton Sutherland Madeiros said: “We are pleased to have reached this important milestone in bringing a five-star hotel to the city. “The development agreement is an important step but just the first of a series of events that must take place prior to any development of the site.” Environment Minister Neletha Butterfield previously approved a Special Development Order for the project. Facilities include two restaurants and bars, a spa, gym, swimming pool and roof garden. There will also be a 15,400 square foot conference hall and 20,000 square feet of retail space, with boutiques along Church Street and Par-la-Ville Road. The hotel is expected to be run by the prestigious Ritz-Carlton group and should create 330 jobs and inject $200 million into the economy. It is planned primarily as a business hotel and will have a commanding position in the heart of the city’s financial district — directly across from the Bermuda Stock Exchange. There will also be spaces for up to 500 cars on three underground parking levels. Where the hotel backs onto Par-la-Ville Park, a small amphitheatre and fountain area will add to the landscaping.

July 26. The Premier accused taxi drivers of allowing standards to slip. Yesterday Premier Ewart Brown unveiled the second quarter tourism statistics which he said indicated that the industry was thriving and new hotels were required to meet the demand for rooms. But he also pointed out that various sectors within the industry needed to improve, particularly taxis which he believes are vital to the success of tourism. He spoke after receiving complaints from three hoteliers this week, who said performance standards had slipped and taxis were routinely turning up late for jobs. Premier Ewart Brown, who is also the Tourism and Transport Minister, said: "Once again I am appealing to taxi operators to ensure that Bermudians and visitors are properly served. "If we cannot service the current visitor sector, what will happen when the number of visitors is almost double? What will service levels be like when new hotels are in place? mAnd the Premier's Press Secretary Glenn Jones said Dr. Brown viewed the "mounting complaints is indicative of an industry not fully committed to their customers or is unable to fully serve them."

July 26. Transport coordinator Larry Jacobs believes the imminent major cutback in the number of cruise ships docking in Hamilton may have a positive impact on business in the capital. Cruise visitors who arrive at Dockyard and take a ferry to Hamilton were more likely to spend time and money and have a meal than passengers whose ship was moored alongside Front Street, said Mr. Jacobs, who works for the Ministry of Tourism and Transport. Plans for the 2008/09 cruise ship schedule, which included no contract ships docking in Hamilton and a reduced number stopping in Dockyard and St. George's, were revealed by Government at a Chamber of Commerce meeting earlier this month. "Not having a high number of cruise ships available in Hamilton will impact the Corporation's revenue by reducing the amount they receive in port dues," Mr. Jacobs said. "Beyond that, we believe not having cruise ships docked directly adjacent to Front Street could have a positive impact. Our experiences have shown that when there are larger ships at Dockyard people will still visit a destination if there is a reason for them to do so. Currently, the 650-passenger Bermudian shuttles cruise visitors to and from Dockyard and Hamilton and the 350-passenger Warbaby Fox shuttles cruise visitors from Dockyard to Hamilton and St. George's. We have found that many of these cruise visitors will actually spend more time and money, including having lunch, because their ship is not as easily accessible." And Mr. Jacobs believes passengers will still visit and spend money in Hamilton regardless of where their ship disembarks. "There are 25 daily ferry trips from Dockyard to Hamilton not including the Bermudian, which makes an additional four trips. Our ferry service makes it easy and cost effective for cruise visitors to travel from Dockyard to Hamilton or St. George's." Mr. Jacobs said there were two factors why there will be fewer cruise ships stopping in Hamilton in 2008 and beyond. He pointed out that, firstly, the cruise lines are selling their older and smaller ships and moving them to new emerging markets. The Norwegian Crown and the Empress of the Seas will move to other markets next year. In addition, Mr. Jacobs said that Bermuda cruises face competition from destinations such as Alaska and Europe. With a favorable exchange rate, the strong euro has resulted in European land-based holidays being expensive for the North American market. Cruises, however, are sold in US dollars, which makes a cruise less expensive than a land-based holiday. Consequently, cruise lines have been redeploying ships to Europe in increasing numbers. Indeed, the Azamara Journey will be re-deployed there in 2008. Resulting from this, there will be no contract ships calling in Hamilton for 2008. But he added: "However, we have secured 11 occasional calls for 2008 for Hamilton. Simply, there are no smaller cruise ships that are available that can safely and reliably dock in Hamilton for 2008. The Corporation of Hamilton has known for a number of years that there will be fewer cruise ships available to dock in Hamilton." Mr. Jacobs went on to explain why contract cruise ships will be docking in St. George's as opposed to Hamilton, which can take the same size ship. The Norwegian Majesty is under contract to dock in St. George's through 2009 and next year Norwegian Cruise Line will also deploy the Norwegian Dream to St. George's for three days. St. George's relies more on cruise ships than Hamilton for their livelihood so the cruise product is important to them," said Mr Jacobs. "Also, Norwegian Cruise Line was asked if they would like to spend at least one day in Hamilton. Their preference was a three-day stay in St. George's."  

July 26. Lawyers for Bermuda's media appeared in London yesterday in an attempt to persuade the Privy Council to hear an appeal on the gag order preventing the media from reporting on the leaked Police dossier into the BHC investigation as soon as possible. The Bermuda Government took legal action last month to prevent all Bermudian media from reporting on any new information from the leaked dossier, which names several Cabinet Ministers including the Premier throughout the course of the investigation. Two Bermudian courts have already ruled against the injunction. The Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police appealed to the Privy Council against the decision, however due to a summer recess, the Privy Council will not hear the appeal until October 29. In the meantime a temporary injunction remains in place. Yesterday QC Saul Froomkin, acting for the Mid-Ocean News and , argued that with a general election "imminent", the Bermudian electorate had a right to know as much as possible of what was in the dossier. He himself did not know what it contained, he admitted. "It's unknown what material is yet to come. I don't know (what information is contained in the Police files), I haven't been told," he said, adding that his client no longer had access to the 1,000-plus pages.  "It is the belief (of the defendants) that an election is imminent," he told the Privy Council. "These are serious allegations regarding the conduct of members of the Government of Bermuda," he said. "In a matter like this, where the Government's integrity is being attacked, the public has a right to know before an election." However QC James Guthrie, acting for the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General, said there was nothing to substantiate the claim that Premier Ewart Brown was attempting to delay the hearing in order to hold a general election before the contents of the files became public knowledge. Using the election to force the Privy Council to hear the appeal during its summer vacation was "unfair", he said, adding that it had never been raised before yesterday's hearing. He also noted that none of the Bermuda Government's legal team would be available for the first three weeks of August. The Privy Council was unpersuaded by Mr. Froomkin's arguments, leaving the date for the hearing at October 29. They did however agree that the hearing need take no longer than one day. Mr. Froomkin was representing Bermuda Press Holdings, Ltd which owns and its sister paper, the Mid-Ocean News. Bermuda Broadcasting Company, Defontes Broadcasting Company Ltd., the Bermuda Sun Ltd., and Defontes Broadcasting Television Ltd. have also been named as defendants in the case"

July 26. A website all about pensions has been launched. The Pensions Commission has created pensioncommission.bm where anyone can find out all the information necessary about pensions. With links including Employer Information, Employee Information, National Pension Scheme and Act and Regulation, the site is filled with everything one would need to know about a pension, a Government statement said. Forms are available online along with a section for frequently asked questions, and public information. The commission plans to update the site regularly and specific suggestions and recommendations can be directed to the Commission at 295-8672.

July 26. Software to electronically process Government's health insurance claims should prevent backlogs that have been as long as two years, Minister of Health Michael Scott said yesterday. But he admitted that such a system should have been put in place sooner. Earlier this year, former Acting Minister of Health Sen. Phillip Perinchief hired more staff to deal with claims backlogs of as much as two years that had forced doctors to demand upfront payment from patients. Mr. Scott said: "Automation is an effort to move to support HIP claims and help manage tedious codes and claims. It should have been with us much earlier than now, but hopefully it will confidence to the doctors of the system and comfort them that claims will be coordinated." Since May the Government's Information Technology Office (ITO) has requested proposals for software to implement the claims automation for the Department of Social Insurance. The closing date was originally scheduled for July 6, however, the deadline for proposals was extended until the end of this month. Permanent Secretary of Health Warren Jones, however, said the extension would not lead to a delay in processing claims electronically which should be in place in 2008. In the request for proposals, the ITO states that of the 4,500 health insurance policies that they administer, they receive 135,000 claims a year. Manual processing of these requests has led to a lack of claims history necessary to oversee their health insurance product. Shadow Health Minister Louise Jackson yesterday criticised the failure to implement electronic processing sooner, considering at least 300 more patients from the former medical clinic may be added this year. "Of course this automation is important. ... Many, many Bermudians did not go to doctors because they can't afford the HIP payment and the up-front payment," she added. "But it was all a matter of what the Government thinks is important for the people of Bermuda."

July 26. Premier Dr. Ewart Brown unveiled the latest tourism figures yesterday, declaring there was 'No Vacancy'. Dr. Brown, Tourism and Transport Minister, said the arrival of more air carriers to the Island was resulting in demand for hotel rooms outstripping supply, and that greater investment in accommodation was needed. At a press conference yesterday, the Premier also announced that Zoom Airlines have now gained UK Civil Aviation Authority approval to fly shorter routings. The flight corridor across the Atlantic to the UK will take effect from August 10. "This will cut Zoom's flight times down from the present 8 hours 30 minutes to the standard 6 hours 45 minutes," he said. Dr. Brown summed up the second quarter tourism statistics as: "No Vacancy. "If there was one overwhelming theme for the months of April, May and June, it's the fact that there was 'no room at the inn' during some periods of our second quarter. In some instances trying to book a room was near impossible." He said hotel occupancy levels had risen to 84 percent, compared to 78 percent last year an increase of 6 percent. This is however, a drop on the buoyant 20.9 percent jump recorded in April, when Dr. Brown reported on the first quarter figures compared to January-March 2006. The Premier said more tourist accommodation was badly needed. "The lack of hotel inventory also had a trickle-down effect on our visitor arrival numbers, with our prospective visitors unable to book a Bermuda vacation," he said. "As a result, air arrivals for the second quarter were down slightly by 1.5 percent, with 99,594 visitors arriving on Island this quarter, compared to the 101,133 during the second quarter of 2006. "The fact is, Bermuda has almost 11 percent fewer hotel rooms during this quarter over the same period last year." Dr. Brown said this was partly due to the "closure of the Harmony Club and Wyndham Hotels for redevelopment". He added that the average stay had also fallen from 5.87 nights in the second quarter from 6.04 nights at the start of the year. However, hotel occupancy rates were up by 84 percent compared to 78 percent last year. Visitors were also spending more. Second quarter expenditure fell between $127.1 million and $146 million, compared to $115.1 million to $133.9 million last year. Breaking it down, this equated to $1,276-$1,466 per person, compared to last year's figures of $1,138-$1,324.

July 26. Auditor General Larry Dennis yesterday backed down from questioning the legitimacy of ten events organized by faith-based tourism boss Andre Curtis. Mr. Dennis also denied a report that he was launching an investigation into the $400,000 contract awarded to Mr. Curtis by the Department of Tourism to run the initiative. He said in the future his team would look to see if the terms of the contract were being met. On Monday, Mr. Curtis responded to questions over his role in the initiative by announcing a list of ten events he said he had lined up for 2007-08. Yesterday, Mr. Dennis was quoted as saying those events appeared to have been made up as they were not mentioned on bermudatourism.com, the website on which it is understood they are supposed to be listed. However, Mr. Dennis said in an e-mail to Cabinet Secretary Marc Telemaque, which he later sent to this newspaper: "The quote as to the legitimacy of the faith based events is not accurate." Yesterday's article also said Mr. Dennis was investigating Mr. Curtis' contract and reported that Mr. Dennis had asked the Department of Tourism if he could see the contract. His comment to the reporter was: "I'm asking for the agreement to see what it's all about." On this point, the Auditor General said in his e-mail to Mr. Telemaque: "I am not launching any probe into the Curtis contract. As such, I have not asked for the Curtis agreement, nor have I or my staff been in contact with the Acting Director of Tourism or her staff." Explaining that Mr. Curtis' contract would be audited in the course of time, Mr. Dennis' e-mail continued: "As is normal audit procedure, they will be included in our normal audit testing when we audit Government grants. At that time we would be looking to see that the request for the disbursement of public funds by a civil servant is supported by an agreement or contract, the terms of the agreement or contract are met, and proof that the grant has been used for the purpose for which it was given and has been obtained by the authorizing person or Department." The e-mail chain reveals that earlier in the day Mr. Telemaque had written to Mr. Dennis, questioning if the quotes were accurate, particularly whether he had contacted Tourism for the agreement and the quote ""if they are legitimate (the faith based events) they would already by (sic) on the Internet...". Mr. Telemaque also wrote that he had spoken to the acting director of Tourism who denied that she and/or her staff had been contacted. 

July 26. Planning officials have approved a ten-storey office block in Front Street. Seon Place will house more than 400 people in offices overlooking Hamilton Harbour. It comprises nine storeys plus a tenth floor of office space built into the roof. The building will also house a gym, cafe and two underground parking levels with room for 89 cars and 150 motorbikes. The Development Applications Board approved the office block but stipulated it must be landscaped and feature Bermuda stone on its western wall along Reid Street. A public art feature has also been recommended "in the interest of public amenity". Seon Place has been designed by architects Linberg and Simmons for property developer, former Premier Sir John Swan. It is thought to be the tallest office building ever to be constructed in Bermuda. Seon Place is located at East Broadway, at 139-143 Front Street, and lies to the west of a two-storey Listed building. However, the report states that despite original objections to its height and structure, the Corporation of Hamilton "were happy with the design". The development opposite the docks features two self-contained buildings joined by a central atrium housing the elevators. Total site coverage is 15,540 sq. ft. Visual amenities include an outside garden area, palms planted along Front Street plus public seating. A water feature is planned as the piece of 'public art'. Although planning permission has now been granted, the DAB has stated a building permit must also be approved prior to construction. The development was originally refused by the DAB in December as it violated the City of Hamilton Plan 2001. However, this was overturned on appeal, with Minister of the Environment Neletha Butterfield giving it the go-ahead earlier this year. At the time, the Minister's Permanent Secretary Wayne Carey explained: "The City Plan allows for a maximum five storey development at that site. However, where a development extends through an entire city block, the maximum height of the development is determined by the higher grade. In the case of Seon Place, this means a seven storey building (plus use of roof space) is allowed under the City Plan, since Reid Street is two storeys higher than Front Street at that location."

July 26. A Special Development Order has not yet been granted to the Southlands property but a presentation about the planning procedure will air tonight on all of the Island's TV and radio channels. The Ministry of Environment said the SDO had not been granted yesterday but did not say when the final decision would be made. Plans have been submitted to build a luxury hotel on the 37-acre site. The show, "Balancing Conservation with Development", has been produced by the Government. Minister of Environment Neletha Butterfield will host it but Premier Ewart Brown, Minister of Works and Engineering Dennis Lister and Minster of Labour and Immigration, Derrick Burgess, will appear. Ms Butterfield said: "It is important for everyone in Bermuda to watch this show so that they may gain a better understanding of the balance between conservation and development. The public will also gain a better understanding of the Special Development Order process in terms of why they are applied for and the conditions for their approval." It is believed by some that the The half hour programme will air at 8 p.m on all TV and radio channels.

July 26. A visiting American man who sent cannabis to Bermuda inside a postal package addressed to himself ahead of his visit to Bermuda escaped prison time after a judge declared him to be "too stupid." In an unusual Magistrates' Court episode yesterday, Russell Coppola, 28, of Westchester Avenue, New York, pleaded guilty to importing 1.92 grams worth of cannabis on July 16. Coppola was fined $1,500, with three months in prison by default. Crown counsel Takiyah Burgess said at around 9 a.m. that day, Police patrolling the LF Wade International Airport's arriving mail section with a drug-sniffing dog, were alerted to a small brown box. It was addressed to "Russell Coppola, 56 Church Street, Hamilton, Bermuda, in care of an employee of the Postal Service. When opened, it contained a variety of packaged brand-name candy and an amount of plant-like material was found in between. Shortly later, officers allowed the box to be delivered to the Hamilton Post Office in an apparent sting operation and showed up there to speak to the employee who the parcel was in care of. Police quizzed the postal worker about its contents and origin, who told them they had no knowledge about it. On July 20, Coppola called the Hamilton Post Office inquiring about the package and once told it had arrived, he went there to collect it. However, Police had already begun surveillance and subsequently visited the Fairmont Southampton Princess, where they located Coppola in his room and questioned him. Coppola, on the Island for a business conference, admitted to the investigators he had sent the package here while in New York and confessed the cannabis belonged to him. Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner appeared baffled when asking Coppola to explain his rationale, while conspicuously trying to keep a straight face. Coppola explained that the cannabis was only for his personal use while on the Island, saying: "I'm very sorry about it,  it was for a business trip, we are staying here for a conference at the Fairmont Southampton." His explanation prompted Mr. Warner to demand that the charges be carefully re-read, to help him in his deliberation in sentencing Coppola. "You called from abroad and told the people you were posting a package here? You are dopey, foolish and immature for 1.9 grams of cannabis?" Mr. Warner said. Coppola revealed the incident has already landed him in hot water with his boss, who is sending him back to the US for further disciplinary action. "Man, you are too stupid for me to lock you up!" concluded Mr. Warner.

July 27. Bus service will be suspended this morning at 11 a.m. in order "to facilitate the resolution of certain issues of mutual concern to the Bus Operators and Allied Workers Division and the Department of Public Transportation", Government announced yesterday. The parties will be attending a meeting at noon, a press release from the Premier and Transport Minister Ewart Brown and Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert advised. Bus service will be interrupted from 11 a.m. until the meeting's conclusion. "In apologizing to the travelling public, the two leaders agreed that this meeting would be brief and was necessary to ensure the broadest possible agreement on several matters, which once sorted would lead to a safer, more efficient bus operation," said the press release.

July 27. The construction firm hired to build Bermuda's first new luxury hotel in 35 years has had its contract terminated a year before the projected completion date for the development. Somers Construction Ltd (SCL) has been working as project manager for the $100 million Tucker's Point Hotel and Spa on the site of the former Castle Harbour Hotel for the last two years. It was expected to remain on site at the five-star facility, where rooms will cost guests between $600 and $2,000 a night, until its completion in mid-2008. But a source close to the project told The Royal Gazette that the agreement had ended prematurely. Peter Parker, executive vice president of administration at Tucker's Point Club (TPC), confirmed the partnership was over. "We have now reached the critical milestone of completion of major structural components," he said. "SCL has executed this critical portion of the work with the degree of expertise and quality they were employed to provide. As often exists on a project of this nature, there are a number of design-related issues outstanding on the project that are currently impacting the efficient execution of the work. For that reason it has been determined that TPC's direct management of the project would provide a more expedient path through to completion of the facility." Andy Gordon, general manager of Somers, said: "We agree with the statement made by Tucker's Point." He would not comment further. This newspaper understands that Tucker's Point Club invoked a clause in the contract allowing it to be terminated "at the owner's convenience" on July 16. Somers has worked on the Tuckers Town hotel since building began, overseeing the project and managing sub-contractors for a monthly fee. Those sub-contractors will now report directly to Tucker's Point Club. Some laborers laid off by Somers after the contract ended are understood to have been taken on by Tucker's Point. The five-storey Georgian-style hotel has been built around the existing steel structure of the cliff top Castle Harbour Hotel, which opened in 1931 and closed in 1999. Financed in part by an $85 million loan from the Bank of Bermuda, the largest loan ever given by the bank, its high-end rooms are costing $1 million each to create. They will feature luxury bathrooms and terraces with views of Castle Harbour and Harrington Sound and there will also be a 10,000 square foot spa, a 12,000 square foot yoga and tai chi lawn, a 5,000 square foot conference centre, two restaurants and two swimming pools. 

July 27. Bringing European visitors to the Island is the focus of a coordinated tourism initiative that also hopes to start a direct flight from mainland Europe. The Bermuda Department of Tourism (BDOT), the Bermuda Hotel Association and the Bermuda Alliance for Tourism's marketing and airline committee have agreed on a plan for significant investment in Europe, particularly in the German and Italian markets. Mike Winfield, chairman of the Bermuda Hotel Association, co-chairman of BAT and chairman of the BAT airline committee, said full details of the plan will be released at a later date, but the effort hopes to eventually lead to demand for a direct flight from mainland Europe. "We have been putting our toes in the markets for years and now we are creating a consistent programme of awareness. At one point in the year 2000 we had almost 2,000 visitors. Some of those were of a substantial group, but we think 2,000 is a reasonable target for Italy. We are working toward an objective of 5,000 visitors from Germany a year. The coordinated team has now agreed on a plan that is designed, first to significantly increase the awareness of Bermuda in the German speaking markets, thus leading to improved arrivals from those markets over the next three years, to the point where it will become clear to potential airline partners that a regular direct flight from mainland Europe to Bermuda will be sustainable." In 2006, the number of visitors from Germany rose from 1,051 in 2003 to 1,467 or 39.9 percent. The number of visitors from Italy also increased between 2005 and 2006 from 601 visitors to 969, a rise of 61.2 percent. Mr. Winfield yesterday warned that while these visitor numbers seem small, European visitors often spend double or triple the amount of time North American visitors spend in Bermuda, making it far more profitable in the long run. Expanding into the European markets will also make Bermuda less reliant on the North American visitors who tend, Mr. Winfield said, to have stopped travelling in September and October whereas Europeans generally continue. The participating properties include the Fairmont Hamilton and Southampton Princesses, Cambridge Beaches, Elbow Beach Hotel, Grotto Bay, Ariel Sands, Aunt Nea's Inn and Granaway Guest House. Investments by these properties earlier this year, meant Bermuda's new representative, Walter Langenberger of East Tourism Group, could prepare promotional material, establish relationships with tour operators and travel agencies. Bermuda also has a new representative in Italy, Ferdinando Parallo of Destination Srl, who Mr. Winfield recently met on a trip that took him to both Germany and Italy with Glenn Bean, the Director of Sales and Marketing for Tourism.

July 27. Road safety officials hope legislation implemented by the end of this year, including a point system for wayward drivers will curb the culture of impunity on Bermuda's streets. Returning to her post after a two-year hiatus, Road Safety Council Officer Roxanne Christopher voiced her dismay at the recklessness that she sees continuing on the road. Yesterday, Ms Christopher outlined some of the initiatives she hopes to bring online soon and concerns she has about the upcoming holiday weekend. "There have been nine fatalities this year on the road," she said. "Last year there were only five, so this is a significant increase. We have also had 55 collisions that involved alcohol so far this year. We know people will consume, but we must have zero tolerance for drinking and driving. Compared to this time last year, there has been a slight decrease in collisions due to speeding and other factors, but fatalities have significantly increased. So I'm not sure if the incidents have decreased or just less people are getting caught. My predecessors started a road safety campaign, but we're in the middle of starting a campaign that will be more Internet-based because the youth are all on Facebook and MySpace so we're going to push for that." In February this year, Acting Road Safety Council Officer David Minors launched, along with the Police and the Ministry of Tourism and Transport, a programme warning youth about the consequences of speeding. Survivors of road fatalities shared their concerns and memories during a meeting in March that left tears in everyone's eyes and a renewed energy to create an advocacy group to help ease the after effects of road accidents. That meeting led to the creation of a support group, Remembering our Loved Ones, which hopes to implement a day of remembrance in September or October of this year. Also coming later this year will be a points system, according to Ms Christopher, which will award drivers points for varying offences from speeding to being caught drunk driving. 

July 27. A protestor opposing a tough new housing law which penalizes Bermudians married to foreigners has received 100 responses in just over two days from people wanting to join his group. Ronnie Viera, 44, launched his campaign on Monday evening after The Royal Gazette revealed that the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2007 prevented Islanders with expatriate spouses from buying property without a licence or purchasing more than one home if their partner benefits from or contributes to the property. He said yesterday: "There have been a hundred people that have responded, so probably a hundred couples, and quite a few of them are already affected by the Act. They have either tried to buy or in one or two cases the sale has fallen through. Lots have complained about not being able to buy investment homes." Critics have denounced the Act which became law last month as draconian and unfair on locals married to non-Bermudians. The new legislation has been introduced to combat so-called "fronting" a practice involving non-Bermudians gaining property or land here using a Bermudian as a "front". But in order to ensure that foreigners can gain an interest in only one property or piece of land, it requires couples comprised of a Bermudian and a non-Bermudian to adhere to strict rules in relation to property or face imprisonment and/or a hefty fine. The couples must obtain Government permission to buy a home, even if the foreign spouse is not named on the deeds or the mortgage. That permission can take up to six months to obtain. And, if they own any other properties which they rent out and the partner benefits from that income, they will be in breach of the law after June 2010.  

July 27. Labour and Immigration Minister Derrick Burgess yesterday defended a new housing law which critics say discriminates against Bermudians married to foreigners. The Minister spoke at a press conference in reaction to complaints that the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2007 prevents Islanders with expatriate spouses from buying more than one home if their partner benefits from or contributes to the property. Mr. Burgess told the media it had been vital for Government to act as more and more land was being owned by foreigners and that he was not put off by accusations of unfairness against one section of the population. "A staggeringly high 37 percent of residential land in Bermuda is already owned legally by non-Bermudians," said Mr. Burgess. "I repeat, 37 percent of residential land in Bermuda is already owned legally by non-Bermudians. "We are not persuaded by those Bermudians who complain that they are being discriminated against because they are not permitted to purchase a second residential property with their non-Bermudian spouses. The Government is more concerned about preserving residential properties that might be purchased by Bermudians who do not already own a home in Bermuda. Home ownership by as many Bermudians as possible is a principle goal of the Government." Stressing the importance of home ownership for Bermudians, he said: "How can citizens be expected to contribute to and take care of their communities if they don't own the land and the homes in which they live?" Explaining the importance of bringing the new law, he said: "In the absence of this legislation, there is nothing to stop a Bermudian who marries a wealthy non-Bermudian from acquiring as many properties as he or she likes to the detriment of Bermudians without access to such riches, and this is simply unacceptable to this Government. Without the new legislation, with its restriction on the number of residential properties that can be owned by non-Bermudians, including non-Bermudians who are married to Bermudians, it will be possible for a Bermudian and his or her non-Bermudian spouse to own 100 or more houses in Bermuda. "You can easily imagine the dire impact that this situation would have on the ability of Bermudians to own residential properties in Bermuda."

July 27. Government is set to revitalize North East Hamilton with the goal of reawakening the entrepreneurial spirit which once thrived in the area. Yesterday, the Bermuda Small Business Development Corporation (BSBDC) unveiled detailed and ambitious plans which will see a new Economic Empowerment Zone split into 13 districts to support the implementation of strategic goals borne out of consultations with area residents and business owners. The EEZ scheme won't just be a glorious paint-over but a total revitalization, BSBDC staffers said. The area once served as the hub of black entrepreneurship within the central area of the Island until it saw its target markets scatter with the introduction of integration. But integration ultimately made it harder for those businesses to continue to operate when faced against well-funded competition that existed outside of the black community. "I'm not saying that integration wasn't good, but these effects were probably off-shoots of it that weren't necessarily anticipated," BSBDC general manager Michelle Khaldun said. Explaining plans for the EEZ with the help of artists' impressions of how the area will look once developed, Ms Khaldun said the plan is at heart a grass-roots movement. "It started more than two years ago by actually going straight to the people in the community themselves," she said. "We engaged a consultant to actually walk the streets of North Hamilton. We talked to business people, the residents, people we would call the area's influences social and church leaders and got from them in their own words, what they want from North East Hamilton. We then called in the Uptown Market Association (UMA), one of the area's entrepreneurial and social advocacy groups, to sift through our findings to see if we could get some common themes from the data. "

July 27. Cabinet has approved a Special Development Order for Southlands but Environment Minister Neletha Butterfield has not yet signed it. However, the Minister showed she was on the verge of rubber-stamping the document by singing the praises of the controversial Jumeirah hotel scheme in a television broadcast last night. Describing the 37-acre South Shore luxury resort as a "facility that we will all be truly proud of", Ms Butterfield said the show was intended to highlight its importance to the future of tourism in Bermuda. The programme also featured endorsements of the project from fellow Cabinet members Premier and Tourism Minister Ewart Brown, Works and Engineering Minister Dennis Lister and Labour and Immigration Minister Derrick Burgess. Environmental campaigners later hit out at the broadcast, saying it did not ease their anger that the scheme will destroy one of the Island's last remaining areas of open space. Filmed sitting on a bench at Southlands, Ms Butterfield opened the programme by stating: "After months of consultation and negotiation, a Special Development Order has been drafted which will provide planning permission to develop a resort and residential complex here at the Southlands property in Warwick. "The SDO was recently approved and supported by the full Cabinet but I have not yet signed the order, as I wanted to have the opportunity to address the public to explain what a Special Development Order is, and why it is required for this development to proceed." Rumors have been circulating for some time that Cabinet had approved the SDO, which would speed track construction and forgo any comprehensive environmental review, but no confirmation was offered until last night's broadcast.

July 28. Angry bus drivers stormed out of the Bermuda Industrial Union (BIU) building after a three-hour meeting failed to address concerns over the bus terminal so work to rule remained. Bus service was halted at 11 a.m. for what was supposed to be a quick meeting to end at 1 p.m. between the operators, allied workers and Department of Public Transportation. However, at 3 p.m. after members of the division, bus drivers, the Police Commissioner George Jackson, Assistant Police Commissioner Carlton Adams, PTB Director Dan Simons and his deputy Jonelle Christopher entered the BIU headquarters, the meeting was adjourned without resolution. Mr. Furbert said if the workers seemed unhappy, it was because they did not feel their concerns were taken seriously and a meeting was left until the last minute. "These issues have been going on for a while and the staff thinks their needs are not being listened too and the meeting was called at the eleventh hour," Mr. Furbert explained, "They think those at the meeting are not serious about dealing with these issues. "Some of their concerns need to be addressed by the Corporation of Hamilton, but we welcomed the Commissioner of Police coming to the table and the assistant commissioner being at the table to basically share some clarification." The bus driver and allied workers division have five concerns about the area of the central bus terminal in Hamilton City which they initially raised at a meeting on July 25 with Mr. Jackson and the Corporation of Hamilton Secretary Kelly Miller. While the workers have come to agreement on two of their demands, three remain outstanding. These include a solution to shelter for dispatchers from inclement weather, the legality of reversing from the terminal and hatching lines from City Hall up to the bus terminal to reduce congestion. Mr. Furbert said he understood that the Corporation has agreed to remove the parking bays and management is ready to have two supervisors helping with the reversing of the buses, until more employees can be hired. The other issues are unresolved which means work to rule will remain and Mr. Furbert yesterday apologized again for any inconvenience the long meeting may have caused. "The meeting was approved by the Premier and we tried to keep it within the hour that we were allotted. We apologize to the public for the inconvenience, but people needed to know what was going on," he added. 

July 28. Frustration mounted at the central bus terminal when over fifty people were left stranded for hours waiting for drivers to finish a meeting with officials. Yesterday morning, BIU President Chris Furbert and Premier Ewart Brown gave the go-ahead for bus drivers and the allied workers division to down tools. Pat Darrell who was trying to go home in St. David's said she had not heard about the stoppage until she was on the bus going to Hamilton and then it was too late to turn back. "In the last few months it feels like this happens every Friday. I am disgusted. I didn't know until I got on the bus and I need to get home because I'm on medication." Others who were stranded miles from their homes expressed similar sentiments after already sitting in the heat for two hours waiting for a bus when The Royal Gazette stopped by the terminal at 1 p.m. Buses stopped running at 11 a.m. with the meeting starting at 12 and was planned to complete at 1 p.m. Continued disagreements, however, meant the meeting lasted until 3 p.m. Drivers then returned to work. These issues, however, were no comfort yesterday for four elderly women who had also heard nothing of the work stoppage despite it being in the media. "We've been here for over an hour," one lady said, "It's very inconvenient. They should have advertised the fact that they're not running. How was I going to get back when I only found out when I was already on the bus?"

July 28. Southlands protesters are demanding an apology from the Premier after he suggested they were misleading the public over the South Shore development. Members of the Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce (BEST) say Dr. Ewart Brown made "highly derogatory" remarks during his Brown Bag lunch on Thursday. Dr. Brown implied campaigners were wrong to suggest residents would have to drive through a tunnel to cross the 37-acre development, and that the only people using it would be hotel guests. Later that day a Government television broadcast showed Works and Engineering Minister Dennis Lister describing the tunnel, contradicting what the Premier had said. The 30-minute broadcast also featured Environment Minister Neletha Butterfield explaining why Cabinet approved the Special Development Order (SDO) for Southlands.  

July 28. Government TV will be coming in September along with other initiatives for educating Bermudians on their history, according to Premier Ewart Brown. Speaking to about 30 people at an Open Mic night that started an hour late and ended a half-hour earlier then advertised, the Premier last night answered questions about tourism, the new homeownership law, gangs and education. Responding to a question about educating youth more about the struggle black Bermudians had in this country and what was to be done for the generation who are already out of school, the Premier said a reading list and Government TV would be a start. "I have been talking about it for a while. It's (education about the struggle) a void and some say it's already in the curriculum and I don't believe it is," he said, "Without that curriculum we are weak in a certain way. "Randy Horton has a $150 million budget so we can have well-informed students for free. What we're adding to the existing curriculum will be the mandatory readings in all of the schools." In response to the question of the older generation, the Premier said: "The Government Television is going to be open in September. We'll satisfy your appetite." Questioned about how he would increase the number of Bermudians who would take jobs in the hospitality business, which currently pays lower wages than that of the international business arena- he said things were in the works and to contact his party after the next election. But what seemed to cause the most confusion for both the Premier and the audience at Greg's Steak house was the clear concern expressed by the young Bermudians over their ability to buy a house if they marry a foreigner. Recent legislation has made it mandatory for any Bermudian married to a non-Bermudian to apply for a licence before purchasing the house and would make it illegal for any residency mixed couple to own more than one property, if the non-Bermudian spouse benefited from it. The Premier said he couldn't get into specifics because he did not have the law in front of him, but supported the legislation because where 37 percent of the land is owned by non-Bermudians something had to be done and challenged the questioner for a better idea. "My wife can only own the piece of one residence and she understands," he said, "I don't want to get into specifics but you can purchase one (residence) together." Finally someone asked how the PLP could have accepted Jahmal Simmons, who was present at the open mic night, back into the party, saying they and their peers were "taken aback" at the decision. "That's where he started," the Premier added, "The PLP has had a rough way to go. If he was excluded from the party that would be a story, but a person may change political choices all the time. But that is a sign of growth in Bermuda that you could raise a questions with Jahmal in the room. Who says we're too polite?"

July 30. Wellington Slip Road will be closed to traffic on game days during Cup Match. The St. George's road will be closed to all non-resident vehicles from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Thursday and until from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Friday. There will also be no parking on Mullet Bay Road, Swing Bridge to the western boundary of the Town of St. George's, Wellington Hill, Wellington Street to Suffering Lane, and Wellington Street to Wellington Back Road from 8 a.m. till 9 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. Pedestrians can use the West Gate, Main Gate or Wicket Gate near the Main Gate to access the St. George's field. And the bus service will extended to the East End and run from 9 a.m. till 9 p.m. The laybys near Mullet Bay Park on Mullet Bay Road will be clearly posted "Buses Only". Cars can be parked at Mullet Bay Park and Penno's Wharf. There will be no parking facilities inside Wellington Oval or along Wellington Slip Road.

July 30. Police have issued a warning to motorists and Washington Street Bus Terminal users about safety. The advisory comes in the wake of Friday's bus schedule shutdown and noontime meeting between drivers, the Public Transportation Board, Police and the Corporation of Hamilton in which unionized drivers expressed concerns about the layout of the year-old station and the danger posed by its use as a throughway. Over the next few weeks, officers will monitor the terminal for "any traffic related offences which may occur" particularly during peak hours.  The release continued: "Motorists should be aware that there are parking restrictions on Washington Street and that the street is primarily for the use of Government buses. "We are asking for the motoring public's cooperation so that buses can maneuver safely both into and out of the terminal. Any motorists found in contravention of the signage concerning parking or vehicles travelling along Washington Street can expect to be ticketed."

July 30. The Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) has reached a milestone in Bermuda's aviation history with news of number of aircraft listed on the Bermuda Registered Aircraft reaching 300. The DCA recorded the number on July 18 and according to Premier, Transport and Tourism Minister Dr. Ewart Brown, it translates into approximately $13 million in revenue for the Island's economy. In 2005 and 2006 there were 198 and 258 aircraft on the register, respectively, which represents roughly a 30 percent increase year over year. Additionally, this rate of growth is expected to continue and the end of 2007 should see the number of aircraft on the list to be around 325, Government has predicted.

July 31. Curtailing the number of cruise ships in Hamilton will "severely impact" the city's image, Mayor Sutherland Madeiros warned last night. Mr. Madeiros claimed that having just 11 occasional callers and no regular ships visiting the capital next year would have a dramatic effect on its ambience and international reputation. "Losing Trimingham's and Smith's took some vitality out of the city of Hamilton," he told The Royal Gazette. "Losing cruise ships in addition would severely impact the way in which the city is seen. Cruise ships create a certain amount of vitality." Hamilton currently has three contract cruise ships docking in its harbour regularly each week from May to October: Empress of the Seas, Norwegian Crown and Celebrity Journey. But cruise ship companies are now replacing such vessels with far larger versions - known as post-Panamax ships. Hamilton will not have any contract ships in 2008 or 2009, according to a schedule published by Government earlier this month.  

July 31. The owners of Southlands say protesters have little chance of buying the South Shore property from developers. At a meeting on Sunday night, campaigners were urged to club together to buy the 37-acre site in Warwick. Environmentalist David Wingate told more than 100 protestors: "Let's help to build a war chest for the purchase of open spaces." However, last night Craig Christensen of Southlands Ltd. said the land was not for sale. Commenting on the possibility of the community purchasing the land earmarked for development, he said: "I wouldn't give it much hope. It would be very doubtful." Welcoming Cabinet's approval of a Special Development Order for Jumeirah Southlands, Mr. Christensen said: "I personally think it's great that they have collectively seen the benefits of tourism and the need for upgraded units for our visitors, and that they've recognized Jumeirah as one of the leading, if not the best, hotel operator in the world." Mr. Christensen said he could not disclose how much the land was worth, but real estate agent Jeff Payne of Roderick DeCouto said: "A price of about $35 million has been bandied about as what the developers paid for it." Mr. Payne said: "There is a huge variance here in that firstly, the land is valued according to the zoning. If it was a piece of land of 37 acres and zoned Residential One, which could be divided into 150 little lots, it would be worth a fortune. However, in its present state it's got nothing like the development power of a Residential One zone. There are half a dozen properties, such as little cottages and the main house, but all around there is green space, woodland and planting land. The area across the road which is the cliff top carries its own restrictions." Cabinet announced the SDO for Southlands on Thursday, following weeks of rumors. Environment Minister Neletha Butterfield, who is responsible for rubber stamping SDOs, said last night that a final decision is "soon." Jumeirah Southlands would offer tourist accommodation in a variety of suites and condominiums. The 311-suite cliffside resort would feature five restaurants and bars, a nightclub, spa, swimming pools, equestrian centre and conference centre. Up to 135 of the suites will be for sale as fractional vacation units, with the remaining 176 as hotel accommodation. Mr. Christensen said last night that if the public could gain access to the beach without going over "private" hotel property they would be entitled to use it. "It will be like Cambridge Beaches, The Reefs and Tucker's Point, in that you can't walk across the resort property. But if you can get to the beach another way, such as by boat, then there's nothing to stop people using it," he said. Dubai-based Jumeirah Group wants to complete the first stage of the 497-bed resort by next summer, with completion in 2010. Government says the hotel is needed to cater for the Island's booming tourism. Jumeirah Southlands would be the first "luxury resort" constructed in Bermuda for 35 years and would offer 590 full-time jobs. Environmental campaigners however, say the development will destroy one of the Island's last remaining large areas of open space. They claim the resort will also wipe out natural habitats and increase traffic congestion. Concern to protect the natural coastline was heightened last month when the Government approved an SDO for a nine-storey hotel next to Southlands, on the Golden Hind site. The 220-room Grand Atlantic Resort and Residences by Atlantic Development covers 13.1 acres.

July 31. After weeks of one-way access over Longbird Bridge, replacement structures will now allow traffic to travel over the Causeway in two lanes. Longbird Bridge was restricted to one lane in recent weeks because its infrastructure was deemed unsafe following damage from storms and the environment. Motorists had complained the lane closure led to lengthy traffic jams, while the queues have also been blamed for flight delays at the nearby L. F. Wade International Airport. Yesterday a spokesman for the Ministry of Works and Engineering announced the replacement bridges at Longbird Bridge would be open for two-way traffic just in time for Cup Match. The spokesman said: "The Ministry of Works and Engineering would like to announce that the replacement bridges at Longbird Bridge are open for two-way through traffic. The public is reminded to adhere to the new posted signs and road markings and should note that the speed limit is 25 kph over the bridges." However, pedestrians are advised to continue using Longbird Bridge for access over the Causeway while the five-year programme for maintenance is carried out. There remains a limit on vehicle weight over the bridges which is 40-tones though that should be adequate to accommodate all heavy vehicles on the Island.

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