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Bermuda's History July 1 to 15th, 2007

Noreworthy and quoteworthy news and significant events for the first part of the seventh month of this year

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

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. On the topic of bringing a US Coast Guard presence to the Island, she said: “I hope we can negotiate the return of a US base.” That plan was discussed during bilateral visits paid to Washington DC by US Consul Gregory Slayton along with former Premier Alex Scott last year and with Dr. Brown last month. Mr. Slayton said of the potential of a base coming: “We’ve been talking about it for quite a while and it’s still at a very preliminary stage." Congresswoman Watson also spoke of her long friendship with the Premier, saying: “I was fortunate to meet Ewart many years ago when he was a young man when he came and settled in L.A. as a doctor, when he was very involved in delivering the kind of care people they deserved. When he moved back here he gave up his US citizenship because he wanted everyone to know that he was a native of Bermuda. This was a work in progress over the decades, that one day he would become the Premier of his homeland.” Meanwhile Congressman Butterfield spoke of his family roots in Bermuda and the beauty of the Island. Dr. Brown commended US Consul General Gregory Slayton for organizing the day as well as his recent trip to Washington DC, which enabled him to meet many friends of Bermuda. Mr. Slayton said of the celebration: “It was wonderful, everybody I talked to seemed to be having a good time.” He said that it took six months, hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless man-hours to make it a success. “It’s a great example of a Government, non-profit and private sector partnership,” he added. The event was called “Celebrating Freedom: Giving Back to Bermuda”, with proceeds going to nearly 60 charities across the Island. The field was littered with things to do for all ages such as jumping castles, puppet shows, games, face painting and football clinics with the Bermuda Hogges. Surrounding the activities were tents manned by the various charities’ volunteers including a large BBQ buffet, ice cream stalls, cotton candy, snow cones and donut stalls. Ten-year-old Sarah Jones, from Warwick, said her favorite part was the fun castles: “I’ve got to do lots of fun things and played games there are big and small jumping castles so I was on them a lot. The food is yummy too, I liked the cotton candy.” While visitor Kay Sinclair, from Vermont, said she was surprised and happy to see so many people celebrating the holiday even though they weren’t in America. She said: “It’s just great. I didn’t expect so many people or such a big party. My husband and I think it’s almost better than the one we go to back at home.” Extra public transport provided by the Ministry of Transport helped ease the traffic jams to the west end of the Island.

July 2. Environment Minister Neletha Butterfield employed “disgraceful” tactics in allowing soil imports for Bermuda’s flagship cricket venue, according to Opposition critics. It is anticipated that regulatory changes made by the Minister will improve the sub-standard pitch at the National Sports Centre to a level where international games can be hosted once more. The step has long been anticipated by the Bermuda Cricket Board, with chief executive Neil Speight saying earlier this year it would be “music to the ears” of his organisation. However, the United Bermuda Party has repeatedly highlighted concerns that importing soil could run the risk of introducing alien species and dangerous plant diseases to the Island. They have cited the example of the cedar blight that wiped out Bermuda’s national tree in the 1940s through an imported scale insect. This weekend, Opposition MPs called for Ms Butterfield to resign amid allegations she pushed the new regulations through on Friday at the end of the season’s parliamentary session with no announcement or opportunity for debate. The Minister tabled the changes through a process called negative resolution, meaning information was made available to MPs, but the topic was not listed for debate. The Parliamentary process allows the Opposition 21 days to list the matter for debate if it has concerns. However, according to Grant Gibbons of the United Bermuda Party, the fact Ms Butterfield tabled the resolution on Friday — on the final evening of the final session of the House until November — means this cannot happen. Shadow Environment Minister Cole Simons branded the move “disgraceful” and “unconscionable”. Mr. Simons claimed a year ago that there was a Cabinet split over the issue, with Ms Butterfield opposing the change but then-Sports Minister Dale Butler and then-Deputy Premier Ewart Brown backing it. He said on Friday: “She has not got the attention of her Cabinet colleagues and she cannot convince them to protect our environment... I know she’s committed to the environment, she had me most of the time, but today she lost me.” Adding his voice to the criticism last night, Shadow Minister for Sport Jon Brunson accused the Minister of reversing her own position voiced a few months ago. “That she did so without explanation or public notice should concern any Bermudian who wants the Government to be upfront in its decision-making,” he said. “That the Minister did so in a manner that prevented debate in the legislature, and just minutes before it rose for the summer break showed a lack of fortitude in managing a controversial measure and disrespect to the public. Her disregard for the legislature was premeditated. We note that Ms Butterfield signed the amendments to import soil on June 21, meaning they could have been debated last Friday.” Mr. Brunson claimed the wording of the amendments is loose, and MPs should have been able to scrutinize this to ensure greater control and accountability. Describing the venture as a “very dangerous exercise,” he added: “Soil is a particularly dangerous media. Nothing else contains more bacteria per unit volume than soil. That is why we have permanent embargoes on various foreign fresh food crops because of the pests that could accompany them.” In addition, he said his party was not satisfied that local options to improve the cricket pitch have been properly investigated. Debate over the problem pitch at the National Sports Centre in Devonshire has rumbled on since July 2004, when the Island hosted the Americas Championship. Batsmen from all the competing countries complained about how quickly the pitch deteriorated as well as problems with the uneven bounce. Later in the year, the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) pitch consultant Andy Atkinson condemned it as “more suitable for growing carrots on” and advised that it must be re-laid with top-quality soil from overseas. According to Government, Bermuda Cricket Board officials, National Sports Centre Trustees chairman Gerald Bean and head groundsman Trevor Madeiros, the Island does not have local soil good enough to produce wickets of international class. In May this year, head of development at the ICC Richard Done said it was “crucial” for Bermuda’s future One Day International status that it has the necessary facility available by next year when it is slated to host several Intercontinental Cup and One Day International matches. In a statement that month, Sports Minister Randy Horton told this newspaper the regulatory amendments would be made soon after Parliament reconvened on May 4. “Certainly by next summer we hope to be in a position to host international cricket in Bermuda,” he said at the time. Of concerns that such importation could bring damaging pests to the Island, Mr. Horton said: “Once we’re in a position to proceed, the soil we purchase will be treated at both ends to ensure there are no harmful environmental repercussions.” Ms Butterfield said last night that she was not in a position to comment as she was about to board a plane. Attempts to elicit a response from her Permanent Secretary and the Department of Communications and Information had proved unsuccessful by press time.

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. He added: “The programme also has young people who deliver some interesting viewpoints. We are hoping to create greater awareness of the issues of Southlands and the issues that surround each of the hotel developments.” BEST is trying to use inventive and creative ways to assist the public to understand “highly complicated issues” surrounding hotel development and the potential strain on the Island’s environment through greater needs to cater for higher volumes of tourists staying on-Island. Donna Tiffin of BEST, said: “Producing this video gave us the opportunity to present some man-on-the-street thinking. People we talked to are not against hotel development full stop, but they aren’t convinced that building new hotels necessarily equates with building jobs for Bermudians. “While they remain open-minded about new hotels, they were specific in their objection to many features of the Southlands proposal. There is strong opposition to building on the shoreline, routing roads through tunnels and using the last remaining tracts of open space when we have old hotel sites sitting derelict that need to be revitalized.”

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. “There is a need to look at the overbuilding,” he said. “We have a finite space and we must make sure we do not fill every square inch of this place. We tend to think Bermuda is much bigger than it really is. Going up and up is not the answer. In the end, I feel strongly that Bermuda will lose and will kill off the Bermuda as we know it. The goose won’t lay the golden egg.” Earlier this year an SDO was requested to build a controversial 300-suite Jumeirah Southlands luxury resort on 37-acres of open space in Warwick. Environmentalists and residents have campaigned against the decision saying it will destroy the shore line and natural habitats. However, the decision is in the hands of the Environmental Minister Neletha Butterfield who has recently approved an SDO for the Golden Hind, a property next to the proposed site for Southlands, and has removed a historical building — ‘Queen of the East’ — from protected status. “I am willing to condemn or congratulate,” he said. “The previous premier, Alex Scott, started what I thought was a fantastic idea — sustainable development. And see here I am willing to give a good remark. But where has that gone? It had the potential to move us forward and to control the building on the Island. We have a finite space and we must make sure we do not fill every square inch of this place.”

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. “The investigation has polarized the Island more than I have ever seen it in my time and I think some people have become unthinking,” he said. “ “We tend to cut down race lines when there is a scandal. PLP MP Renee Webb talked some time ago about a Truth and Reconciliation Committee and I was very supportive of that. It appears to be dead in the water here but something of that nature needs to be done here. We can and must do this.” The investigation into the leaking of a Police report on the BHC corruption scandal began after ZBM and the Mid-Ocean News published extracts on May 23 and June 1 respectively from the dossier. The leaked dossier — said to run to thousands of pages — reportedly revealed that Dr. Brown, former Premier Jennifer Smith, former Ministers Renée Webb and construction boss Zane DeSilva were investigated by Police looking into allegations of corruption at the Government quango. Police Commissioner George Jackson and Attorney General Philip Perinchief then launched legal actions against the Island’s media asking for a ban on the so-far unpublished sections being reported. Their request was ruled out by Chief Justice Richard Ground on June 19 and upheld by the Court of Appeal on June 25, but will now go to the Privy Council in London. Following the ruling by the Chief Justice both the Premier and Mr. Bascome, the former Health Minister, filed their own writs in the Supreme Court against the media outlets though neither have brought a case yet. And Saul Froomkin QC, representing The Royal Gazette and its sister paper the Mid-Ocean News, had said the decision to send the appeal to the Privy Council could take between eight and 12 months to be heard. But this week, Bishop Ratteray said eight months to one year was too much time for the Island to sit in limbo and would only lead to further problems for Bermuda. He said: “Going to the Privy Council is only going to delay things. And what is going to happen to the writ filed by Brown and Bascome and will the gag order remain until those go to court? We need a resolution. If there is a way to resolve it needs to be done ASAP. Because we are toying with the social and economic well-being of this society, it needs to be resolved quickly. It doesn’t take much for people to get nervous and international business could go anytime and what would Bermuda do?”

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. "The Human Rights Commission is a necessary and valuable part of a civil society," he said. "The efforts of the commissioners in reviewing human rights cases and promoting and educating on protections and services go a long way towards resolving complaints and ensuring the protection of all our human rights in a participatory and meaningful way."

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. He was further quoted as saying: “We are a special group of people who are regarded as an essential service, yet it’s amazing that when it comes to pay negotiations we can be treated in this way.” On Sunday night, Opposition Leader Michael Dunkley said: “I want to express the Opposition’s growing alarm over the contemptuous way the Government has been treating these men and women. And I want to warn the PLP that if they don’t start taking their responsibilities to properly manage the Police seriously, then this country could find itself in hot water.” Dismissing these remarks yesterday, Sen. Burch said: “The Opposition is clearly not in possession of the full facts of this situation, and the Ministry of Public Safety and Housing will not be drawn into a debate on an issue that the Opposition is clearly trying to use to score political points.”

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. “The investigation has polarized the Island more than I have ever seen it in my time,” he said. “We tend to cut down race lines when there is a scandal.” Yesterday Bishop Ratteray said the interfaith service, held at the Anglican Cathedral, had a message for everyone. “It’s an important thing for the community. I guess it’s a way of expressing our diversity and our unity.” The lunchtime service ‘Coming Together in Community’ was organized by Imagine Bermuda 2009 and saw residents of all ages gather to sing and pray. Glenn Fubler, Imagine Bermuda 2009 co-chairman, said: “We just wanted to affirm and confirm our unity because we’ve been going through some conflict, with what’s been happening with the Government and the court cases. With the stress that we have in the community, this has been an important day to come together and see that in spite of our differences we are all one society.” Members of the legal profession were also present in the congregation, with Chief Justice Richard Ground joining in the readings. Mr. Justice Ground recited the Reading of Solomon from the 1st Kings, Chapter Eight, “on behalf of all the judiciary”. “If you submit Bermuda for Israel I think the message will be clear,” he said. Asked for his thoughts on the fall-out of the BHC controversy afterwards, Mr. Justice Ground told The Royal Gazette: “I cannot comment on that but it’s always good to be at an occasion where people of goodwill are coming together.” He added: “I thought it was important to support the theme of the service and I thought it was a moving occasion.” Acting Premier Dale Butler read the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi and United Bermuda Party leader Mr. Dunkley recited 1st John Chapter Four. Mr. Dunkley said: “There can be no more important thing than for all of us to come together and rally together as a community.” Shamar Morris, a student of the Bermuda School of Music, performed a violin duet with teacher Chas Arnold, while Marcelle Clemens —”Bermuda’s own diva” — sang ‘He’s Got the Whole World in his Hands’. Major Doug Lewis of the Salvation Army, Pastor Stefan Burton-Schnull of the Seventh Day Adventists, and Rev. Larry Love, pastor of Mount Zion AME Church in Southampton, also recited prayers. On reading the 1st Corinthians 13, Rev. Love said: “With all our differences teach us to love, teach us to protect each other, teach us to look out for each other, teach us to take each other’s welfare at heart, teach us that we love one another.” The congregation also sang ‘Our Country’ and at the end of the service were asked to greet each other in the spirit of unity. Speaking afterwards, Acting Premier Mr. Butler said: “It’s a wonderful cross-section of the community here today, which I feel is important. One wants to see much more closeness in the community that exists today. There has been a lot of controversy which has split the community. There has been too much rhetoric and not enough fact. The presumption of guilt has got in the way of the presumption of innocence. Some people think it was a witch hunt and some thought it was an attempt to lynch certain people. Events like this play a part in removing the hot air and pressure and get us to focus on our country and the way forward.” Among those present was Mark Anderson, aka drag queen Sybil Barrington. Mr. Anderson said: “I’m part of the community and as a gay man I had to make my presence known — that I am living in the community like everyone else. Everyone has to be respective of who you are and what you are. There has been some tension and I feel that everyone must be innocent until proven guilty. This is a time that as a community we should come together. Let the judicial system handle whatever they handle and let us hope for the best.”

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 a statement released last night he said: "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, while we are tremendously pleased 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 we need to be as efficient and effective as possible to maintain our competitive edge. As such, steps are now underway to implement regional offices in various locations around the world. We anticipate that the regional offices will allow BDCA representatives to be more appropriately positioned geographically and be more responsive to clients in those regions." Dr. Brown said that it is anticipated that the first regional office will be in Russia and would handle the growing number of western built aircraft on the Bermuda register being operated by Russian airlines. Other areas being considered for regional offices are the UK, US and Singapore. Dr. Brown also highlighted the BDCA's recent certification by the international regulatory agency, Air Safety Support International (ASSI). ASSI, a subsidiary of the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), has declared that the Bermuda Department has successfully met all the safety, readiness and proficiency standards required of an Overseas Territory civil aviation entity.

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 criticised 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?” Fellow farmer Carlos Amaral warned about the possible effects on the Island. “We are worried about disease that might be present despite whatever treatment they bring. We have no idea what effect the organisms can have on our environment here in Bermuda,” said Mr. Amaral. “In Bermuda, we are lucky because we don’t have to fumigate the soil like in the US. Bringing in foreign soil may mean we have to use more chemicals which will be less environmentally friendly.” Yesterday, Ministry of Environment Permanent Secretary Kevin Monkman conceded it was impossible to be 100 percent sure all imported soil would be disease-free. However, he pledged all supplies will face a string of vigorous tests both overseas and in Bermuda, while every available measure will be taken to kill any contaminants. He added that the legislation would not open the floodgates to unlimited amounts of soil coming into the Island. “We have tried to take every step possible to ensure anyone who wishes to import soil has to put forward strong reasons for bringing it in,” he said. Ms Butterfield has faced calls for her resignation by the Opposition United Bermuda Party after tabling the legislation despite allegedly opposing the move a year ago. The Minister was also attacked for giving the Opposition no chance to debate the matter by putting the resolution forward last Friday — the final evening of the final session of the House of Assembly until November. Mr. Monkman defended the timing of the Minister’s move, claiming action was taken “as soon as realistically possible” after the law was approved by Cabinet. He said it had been anticipated the parliamentary session would not conclude until Friday, July 6, meaning that the Opposition would have had chance to list it for debate. Bermuda Cricket Board has long been calling for the legislation, hoping it will allow Bermuda to produce a pitch good enough to host international games. The Island hosted the Americas Championship in July 2004, but batsmen from all the competing countries complained about the fast deterioration of the pitch and problems with uneven bounce. The International Cricket Council’s pitch consultant Andy Atkinson suggested it would have been more suitable for growing carrots on. A statement from the Ministry of Environment reads: “It has been determined, after an exhaustive search, that there is no soil in Bermuda which has the characteristics required to construct a wicket of the required standard. As a result, a request was made to import soil which could be used to construct the wicket. “The amendment regulations still prohibits the importation of soil, but provides the Minister with the discretion to issue a permit, under very strict conditions, for the importation of soil.” Ms Butterfield is off the Island and has been unavailable for comment since the weekend.

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. Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert said: "Progress has been made. We have had a letter from the board and we met with the staff there last Thursday. The letter from the board addresses some of the concerns of staff. We will be responding to the letter." Both Mr. Moreno and Mr. Sharpe had announced their intentions to leave the company before the present dispute blew up. Job adverts for a replacement to Mr. Sharpe on the sports desk were issued in the second half of June. BBC's TV and radio broadcasting manager Darlene Ming said: "The work to rule continues and the management continues to make every effort to bring the changes that the staff have asked for." She said the lack of a Sunday TV news bulletin for the past two weeks was more to do with a shortage of available staff members than directly a result of the work to rule. Ms Ming said she expected the Sunday news to resume as of next weekend. The lack of a sports reporter has meant using the services of IslandStats to provide sports news. Ms Ming said: "We have an arrangement with IslandStats and they are providing well-balanced and well-rounded sports news. We are quite happy with that arrangement." She added: "We are extremely hopeful of a resolution soon. We need to get back to the business of broadcast in all its facets. The management is reacting to the requests and complaints from our unionized staff."

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. Richard Donne, the ICC’s high performance manager, has already stated publicly that the Island faces the prospect of losing ODI status prematurely if not in a position to play home games by next summer. Despite knowing of the severe local resistance to the rule change, Atkinson was sticking resolutely to his guns yesterday, highlighting several examples of where soil was imported successfully in other countries and stressing that in light of the research he had conducted, there was “simply no other option”. “If you want pitches that last longer than a day and are capable of hosting international games in the future, then importing high-quality soil is the only answer and all the controversy being stirred up at the moment seems like a bunch of political claptrap to me,” he said. “The square at the Sports Centre is good enough for club cricket, but when you’re talking about One Day Internationals or longer games then I’m afraid it’s a no-go. The soil in Bermuda, no matter where you look, is just not strong enough, it’s too sandy and won’t hold together. I’ve been out there, I’ve done the research, Trevor (Madeiros) and I tested soils from all over the Island. I’ve now written two big reports on it and I met in London not so long ago with all the top-brass (of the Bermuda Cricket Board) and we kept coming back to the same solution: imported soil. There are no short cuts. Soil can be imported safely and has been in other countries. As long as you are strict about sterilizing it at it’s place of origin as well as when it arrives in Bermuda then there won’t be a problem. I cannot understand what all the fuss is about. The US, for example, are very strict about that sort of thing but during my time it has happened there with cricket pitches, soil has been taken from South Africa and imported for use on the pitches in India as well as in England without any problems and as long as all the proper precautions are taken there shouldn’t be an issue. Now I don’t know where they are intending to get the soil from, but I would suggest they get it from England because we have very few problems with pests or parasites over here. But I’ve tried everything that I know and I’ve been preparing pitches all over the world for the best part of 30 years. If you want to build a house, you’ve got to make sure it is built properly and with the right materials — otherwise it will fall down. You’ve got a lovely facility there at the Sports Centre which would be ideal for hosting international cricket — it was possible World Cup venue at one stage after all. But you need a proper square there and there’s only one way that is going to happen. I don’t mean to upset people but I can only give my honest opinion and no matter what anybody else tells you, the soil is just not good enough.”

July 4. Fears that imported soil for cricket wickets could lead to “environmental suicide” have been overblown, according to the Minster of Environment. Minister Neletha Butterfield said she had no intention of heeding the Opposition’s call for her resignation and added that the naysayers were giving her Ministry very little credit. On Friday it was announced at the House of Assembly that foreign soil could be imported for use on the National Sports Centre cricket pitch. Since then environmentalists and UBP politicians have bemoaned the decision and said it could lead to foreign pests destroying crops across the Island. They have also argued that the introduction of chemicals to combat diseases found in the soil could upset the balance of Bermuda’s ecology. But yesterday Ms Butterfield — who is currently abroad at a CARICOM conference — said there would be many checks and balances to ensure that such dire predictions did not come true. She said: “To me, this entire issue is about managing risk, something many in Bermuda should understand. We in the Ministry of the Environment, Telecommunications and E-Commerce are doing and will do everything in our power to manage the risk and keep it to an absolute minimum. Something Bermuda residents perhaps fail to understand is that the people employed in the various Departments responsible for safeguarding Bermuda’s environment are passionate about what they do. They don’t want to see the environment impacted in a negative way at all. The new regulations call for specific treatment and extensive testing at many stages in the import process, and only when any imported soil has been fully cleared will it be allowed to enter the island. Highly qualified scientists will monitor the process from beginning to end to ensure risks are managed every step of the way.” She added that there appeared to be misinformation regarding the situation and pointed out that large amounts of plants, fruits, vegetables and potting medium were already imported to the Island daily. These items also pose a risk to the environment but that the Ministry’s thorough inspections helped reduce the risk. Christmas trees are imported every year and are sometimes sent back following inspections which reveal pests. The Island’s nurseries, farmers and even private individuals import thousands of live plants and animals every year but vigorous inspections ensure that, to date, we have managed to keep foreign pests from destroying Bermuda’s fragile ecosystem.” The Minister also said it was wrong to compare this decision to the situation in the 1940s, when a foreign pest imported on Juniper trees killed local Cedars, because unlike today there were little regulations in place 60 years ago. Moreover, she believed that while many people were concentrating on the possible environmental costs they had failed to address the social costs associated with the issue. “We must look at the cost of not importing soil, for example, for use in the wicket of the cricket pitch of the Bermuda National Stadium. It is vital that the cricket pitch be certified by the International Cricket Board for use in officially sanctioned international cricket matches. This will contribute to Bermuda’s economic and social environment in many ways, including valuable experience for our national cricket team and increased tourism to watch cricket matches. Indeed, at the recent Cricket World Cup, of the 16 competing countries, Bermuda was the only one without an accredited home ground.” It is anticipated that regulatory changes will improve the sub-standard pitch at the National Sports Centre to a level where international games can be hosted once more. In today’s Sports Section International Cricket Council’s pitch consultant, Andy Atkinson, backs the Minster’s decision.

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. Lawyer Larry Scott is chairing the arbitration hearing, with Gary Phillips and Armell Thomas as arbitrators. Mr. Scott said last night he hoped the hearing would conclude this week and that if it did he expected to hand his final report to Education Minister Randy Horton early next week. He described the decision of the arbitration panel as final and binding. Mike Charles, general secretary of the BUT, told The Royal Gazette : “We have started today and we are hoping for a speedy resolution. As far as we are concerned, they reneged.” He said the union would make a proposal to the panel for a rise deemed acceptable by teachers but could not say what that would be while arbitration was ongoing. Meanwhile, Mr. Horton held talks on Monday with representatives from the BUT, the Association of School Principals and Bermuda Public Services over changes planned to the public school system. The three unions met under the auspices of the Trade Unions Congress (TUC) last week to discuss members’ concerns that they were being left out of plans for educational reform. The reform, starting in September, follows recommendations from a team of education experts who described the Island’s public schools as “on the brink of meltdown” earlier this year. An interim executive board has been set up to implement the changes. Mr. Charles, who is also general secretary of the TUC, said members of all three unions “had questions as to what’s going on, simply because everything seems to be done in secrecy”. He added: “People were worried about their jobs. Some of it was cleared up in meetings that were held with the Minister yesterday. There are still questions that need to be answered but he did promise the dialogue will get better and we will hold him to that. That’s the only thing that I think we got out of the meeting yesterday. At least there was some dialogue, which there wasn’t before.” The Ministry had no comment on the arbitration or the Minister’s meetings yesterday.

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 announced: “The staff of BHC last week began the process of converting every tenant, whose rent is current, to geared to income status. This is a major shift for the Corporation as it means direct assistance to the over 300 families who fall into this category. Bermuda lags behind most developing countries in providing housing assistance of this type to its citizens. The concept is to asses the income of families and whatever a quarter of that amount becomes their rent. This is direct and immediate assistance to families where they live. A further assessment of the families’ economic status occurs every two years. Since the introduction of this concept in April 2007 we have begun further discussions to increase the amount to 35 percent of household income to ensure families can create savings. Twenty-five percent will remain the rental amount and the addition 10 percent will be placed in a family savings account held by the Corporation.” 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. “We have wasted ten years of the use of property which could be of enormous benefit for Bermuda,” said Dr. Gibbons yesterday. “There was tremendous enthusiasm. You are looking at 250 acres of prime Bermuda property up at Morgan’s Point and 415 acres at Southside which could be used. Morgan’s Point could have been used very beneficially as a brand new tourism product. It could have brought career opportunities with the potential for small businesses there. The opportunity lost is quite extraordinary. It’s a tremendous disappointment.” Last week, US Army veteran Ronald Slater claimed around 200 barrels of toxic waste — including Agent Orange, now said to cause horrific disfigurements and illness to those exposed to it — were dumped and burned at Kindley before he was instructed to bulldoze the remains into the sea at Annie’s Bay. Since then The Royal Gazette has been contacted by a number of veterans about work carried out at the base. Phil Spurlin, of Mississippi, a Staff Sergeant in charge of Aircraft Towing Operations for the 303rd Air Refueling Squadron from 1960 to 1962, spoke yesterday about the disposal of waste oil. “They had a wash rack where they washed the tankers,” said Mr. Spurlin. “The engines on these planes must have slung quite a bit of oil on the cowling and wings which would be washed off whenever they washed the plane. Because of the high corrosion caused by the salt spray from the ocean, these planes were washed much more often than those in the States. “I’m just guessing, but all the grease, oil and hydraulic fluid washed off the plane probably went down a drain into the ocean.” Mr. Slater believes his poor health, including Type Two diabetes, is a result of exposure to Agent Orange. He is awaiting a hearing before a veterans’ board and hopes to be awarded compensation, although the US says it does not recognize that the herbicide was used anywhere other than South East Asia. Government is investigating the state of the land at Kindley amid fears that, if Agent Orange was dumped there, it could have caused permanent damage to the environment. Works and Engineering says evidence from previous tests suggests the substance is not present. Results from a new probe specifically looking for Agent Orange are expected shortly.

July 5. Inflation has 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. Mr. Parsons said factors influencing the price Belco pays per barrel are volatility of supply and consumption on the world market. The cost of overseas hotel rooms also affects Bermuda's inflation rate, accounting for 2.7 percent of the "basket of goods and services" used to measure the Island's inflation. The cost of overseas hotel accommodation used by Bermudians rose 4.2 percent. Cheryl Hayward-Chew, vice-president, corporate development and travel at Meyer-Franklin Travel, commented: "As the global community gets smaller and leisure and business travel increase, we have seen an increase in hotel rates overseas which is consistent with the travel industry predictions. "Vacations are a priority for Bermudians and people's tastes seem to be getting more expensive and this includes hotels. There are so many exciting places to travel today and Bermudians are certainly taking advantage of that. They used to go to Boston for the weekend but, for example, with lower airfares and an increase in the number of flights, we now we see people travel to Las Vegas or Hawaii." That heavy overseas influence on the inflation rate is the reason the Finance Ministry does not believe the domestic economy is overheating. A Ministry spokesperson said: "The economy is buoyant and strong but cannot be said to be overheating, solely on the basis of consumer price index readings, which are sensitive to external price markers. "Bermuda has an open economy subject to the influence of rising commodity prices that are set in external markets and imported into Bermuda. "These externally-based price trends are not a reflection of domestically-generated price markers." With that in mind, Government does not at this point see the need to take action to modify the domestic economy in order to rein in inflation. "The Ministry's heat-gauge on the economy is stable. In other words, there is a reasonable balance between the demand and supply of goods and services in Bermuda's marketplace. Therefore, the Ministry of Finance considers it would be premature and economically unwise to take any policy measures that would have the effect of shedding jobs, reducing business sales turnovers, or slowing investment outlays." A breakdown of the economy also shows higher automobile costs. Food prices declined slightly (0.6 percent) with frozen spare ribs dropping 10.4 percent, and eggs and potatoes also falling. The current inflation rate means a basket of goods and services that cost $100 a year ago now costs $104. The May inflation rate in the US was 2.7 percent, in Canada it was 2.2 percent and in the UK it was 4.3 percent.

July 5.  Premier Ewart Brown has 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. But Mr. Charles said: “I think that’s a ridiculous statement. All of a sudden they ate clever soup! It’s confusing. “We have a lot of bright kids in the system but there are things that need to be done.” He said the rise was particularly perplexing considering that changes planned for the public school system following a review earlier this year have yet to be implemented. The review team, led by Professor David Hopkins, found public schools to be “on the brink of meltdown” and claimed one of the two senior schools was failing. “Nothing has been done yet,” said Mr. Charles. “We do have things to correct.” This year’s rate — based on 173 graduates out of 212 senior four students — has been calculated by The Royal Gazette>using the same method that the Ministry of Education apparently used last year. It said in January that 148 S4 students graduated from the class of 2006 out of a possible 309, giving a 48 percent rate. Attempts to find out why there were almost 100 fewer students in S4 this year have failed. Mr. Charles said he thought measuring the rate based on how many students started S4 and how many left with a Bermuda School Certificate was the fairest method. “I can’t see how you can blame the school for kids who started four years ago unless you are tracking them and the Ministry is not tracking them,” he said.

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.” Michael Cherry, president of the Bermuda Equestrian Federation, said the rule change could pose his team problems as horses required more care than your average athlete. “We need a large support team and thankfully our grooms have been given a reduced accreditation which does at least allow them into the training areas. “It does hamper us as at the moment our vet’s accreditation doesn’t allow him access to the actual event. He is also show jumper Jill Terceira’s trainer but these things often sort themselves out and we’re very upbeat about our chances. Our best medal hope probably lies with Annabelle Collins in the dressage. This will be her biggest competition and her first at an international tournament representing her country.” Bermuda will be represented by 18 athletes, subject to wildcards, from eight sports at the 2007 Games, which start on July 13. Athletes from track and field, bowling, cycling, diving, equestrian, sailing, swimming and triathlon will be travelling to ‘The Marvelous City’ for the multi-sport event — which is held every four years. Newly-crowned national cycling champion Tyler Butterfield will be competing at the Games after qualifying via a wildcard. There had been no doubts whether the pro cyclist would be able to go to due to the complications surrounding the accreditation changes. Hoskins has his fingers crossed that Bermuda’s equestrian team can qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, with Pan-Am included as a qualifying meet. He is also predicting good performances from sailor Malcolm Smith and teenage triathlete Flora Duffy. “Our best chance of medals probably comes in the sailing with Malcolm Smith and triathlon with Flora Duffy,” he said. “We don’t know what sort of standard the equestrian will be but there’s a good chance we could do well and we’re hoping they can qualify for a place at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. There’s also the bowling team who have sprung a few surprises in the past so there’s always a medal hope there as well. It’s a very good standard of competition and represents an opportunity for Bermuda’s best athletes to test themselves at a high level. The only sport that can be bit a weak is track and field as America does not always send its best team due to other competition commitments.” The only gold medal Bermuda has won at the Games was in equestrian by Mary Jane Tumbridge in 1999 in Winnipeg, Canada. She won the medal in eventing — a discipline no Bermudian athlete had qualified for in Rio. The Pan-Am Games are a continental version of the Olympic Games and are always conducted one year before the Olympics. The Games were first held in 1951, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This year’s competition, which runs from July 13 to 29, will see 5,500 athletes from 42 countries compete in 33 different sports. 

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. But Education Minister Randy Horton said in January that the 48 percent figure was based on “the number of students who begin the final S4 year”. “The failure of half of the students who commence the S4 year is a totally unacceptable situation,” he said, adding that if the figure had been calculated based on the number starting S1 the pass rate would only be 38 percent. And yesterday the Ministry confirmed that the 2005/2006 graduation rate was based on the number of students entering S4. This year’s 82 percent pass rate was calculated by The Royal Gazette based on statistics given out by the principals of the two schools last week. CedarBridge head Kalmar Richards said that 107 out of 135 S4 students — or almost 80 percent — graduated. Michelle Simmons, principal of Berkeley, said 66 S4 students passed out of a possible 77, representing almost 86 percent. But last night Action Education Minister Dennis Lister said The Royal Gazette’s>figured could not be confirmed because the Ministry includes students who pass summer school in their calculation of graduation rates. He said: “It should be noted that the figures presented by Principals Mrs. Michelle Simmons and Mrs. Kalmar Richards are based on the achievement of students at the end of the 2006/7 school year. The figures released by the principals were not official figures. In both cases the principals were celebrating their school’s success and the Ministry applauds each and every one of their students for their achievements.” The Ministry will not release the official graduation rates for Bermuda’s two public high schools until September, after the summer school programme has concluded.

July 6. Street art is returning to two main City of Hamilton thoroughfares, thanks to a newly-formed partnership between the Bank of Bermuda and local art societies. The Bank announced yesterday that, by joining forces with the Bermuda Society of Arts, the Bermuda National Art Gallery and the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art, local artists will have an opportunity to paint and display their artwork along Front and Reid Streets, thanks to its new ‘Art in the Street’ competition. Local artists who are members of the named societies are being invited to enter the ‘Art in the Street’ competition, with successful applicants being asked to paint their submissions on hoardings around the Bank’s Harbourview construction site running between Front and Reid Streets. The ‘Art in the Street’ competition follows a similar initiative earlier this year when members of the Bermuda Society of Arts had photographs of their artwork displayed on fencing around the former Trimingham’s building site. Some 57 images were displayed by 35 artists over several months as the Bank of Bermuda progressed with its redevelopment plans. Chief Executive Officer Philip Butterfield noted that since the development of the Harbourview site began, the Bank has used the empty site to display the artwork of local artists. “As we were awaiting planning approval, we took the opportunity to promote the work of local artists and charities in the windows of 39 Front Street. As a result, over 50 pieces of local art were sold, and various community events were promoted,” he said. “Then, earlier this year we invited members of the Bermuda Society of Arts to submit photos of their art to be displayed on fencing erected around the construction site. Now with wooden hoarding surrounding the site, we are once again in a position to promote local art while at the same time making the worksite more aesthetically pleasing as construction plans progress.” A panel from the Bank of Bermuda will select 26 successful applicants to paint their submission on four foot by four foot marked out areas on the wooden hoarding on Sunday, August 26 with a rain date of Sunday, September 9. A first, second and third place winner will be selected from the participants. The deadline for entries of July 20. To sign up, please e-mail the Bermuda Society of Arts at BSoA@ibl.bm, the Bermuda National Art Gallery at director@bng.bm, or the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art at mworks2@ibl.bm

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. She said: “I think, in principle, the concept is one method by which the issues of racial differences can be addressed and resolved in a constructive manner. If it were successful in carrying out its mandate, it would assist the HRC in better resolving complaints of racial discrimination.” Ms Memari did recognize that there are currently several bodies such as CURE, CURB and the Bermuda Race Relations Initiative (BRRI) working to address race relations in Bermuda. Nonetheless she supports a truth and reconciliation committee. The challenge she believes would be in its composition and structure. In her opinion the racial differences in Bermuda are unique because of the Island’s history and therefore a truth and reconciliation committee should be comprised of Bermudians. It is not the first time a Truth and Reconciliation committee has been proposed as PLP MP Renee Webb raised the issue last year and the Bermuda Independence Commission Report from 2005 also brought it up. The difference this time, according to Bishop Ratteray is that he has received far more support and response then when he has spoken on the topic in the past. Just this week the Catholic Bishop Robert Kurtz, said he supported a Truth and Reconciliation committee, depending on the mandate and Rolfe Commissiong, consultant to the Premier for race relations, said he fully backed the concept. While UBP Leader Michael Dunkley said he would support the process as well as bring the process forward and in an effort to do just that met with the Bishop on Wednesday. Mr. Dunkley said: “We had a very good discussion. I am very serious about this process and I am committed to moving it forward. But it is something that needs to not be part of one political party or the other. “I will, however, be part of the process.”

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. In ‘Charting Our Course: Sustaining Bermuda’ it states: “Our size and relative isolation makes us uniquely vulnerable to changes in the global economy and uniquely strong in being able to adapt quickly.” However Andrew Vaucrosson, vice president of environmental campaign group Greenrock, said Ministers were not adapting quickly enough. “Bermuda really needs to wake up and realize our dependency on fossil fuels has caught up with us,” he said. “It is making the cost of living very expensive. Then there is the issue of global warming. Greenrock is a strong advocate of sustainable development. Bermuda has always been fortunate enough to not feel the economic impact of our consumption, but this inflation index is a clear indicator that things are not likely to improve. Electricity bills have increased dramatically over the last few years and that trend will continue with our dependence on fossil fuels. If the Government implements the Sustainable Development Strategy we’ll be in a good position, but at the moment it seems as if nothing is being done.” Greenrock held a ‘green’ festival last month powered by biodiesel and which offered an electric scooter as a raffle prize. On the organization's website (www.greenrock.org) it gives residents tips on how to reduce energy usage, such as through using low voltage bulbs and water heater timers. Mr. Vaucrosson said that since purchasing an escooter four months ago, his fuel costs have dropped from $13 a week to zero. “These scooters have a low voltage recharger which draws the same power as your computer, so that’s quite a low wattage,” he said. But he said more action was needed by Government to encourage consumers to use eco-friendly products. “We need to re-look at our customs and tariff rates and introduce lower duties for imported energy efficient goods,” he said. Mr. Vaucrosson said a member of the public had wanted to install solar water heating panels but found that only the panels were duty free. “If someone is looking at alternative ways of getting energy in their home, then they should be able to bring in a kit which is duty free. At the moment there don’t seem to be any clear guidelines at Customs. Importers and consumers need an incentive. We also need to look at how we can encourage greener technologies. We need to see more active pressure on Belco to look at alternatives. I don’t think the Government is being proactive enough at the moment.” He described the Sustainable Development Strategy as a “crucial document”. “Greenrock’s goal is to keep the focus on this document and keep this current Government and any future one accountable to it” he said. “The Government spent hundreds of thousands of dollars compiling it and showcasing it to the public. What is missing right now is transparency and a follow-up commentary.” Yesterday however, the Director of Sustainable Development told The Royal Gazette that the Government was about to put its words into action. “This Government is absolutely committed to the Sustainable Development Strategy,” said Mrs. Smith. “Cabinet has been committed to the proposed actions in the plan. A third of them have already been addressed or are being addressed.” She highlighted the establishment of the Economic Empowerment Zone in north Hamilton as an example, and said she was “confident” all the 150 proposed measures would gain approval. “We have also been working with Belco to address these issues, and have been talking about how we can work in partnership to develop an alternative energy for Bermuda. But this has been written as a five year strategy and so is a much longer term policy. I therefore feel the public needs to stay tuned, as there will be some very innovative things happening in the near future. It is a concern that we have a finite resource of oil and also, the impact of these fossil fuels on the environment. This is an area which does need to be highlighted in Bermuda, but I feel confident that these issues will be addressed over the next five years. The Strategy will cover everything from solar panels to building strategies but some things will be implemented faster than others. Belco is also working on its own strategies for the future. I think Bermuda is ideally placed to take advantage of alternative energy sources. The fact that we are sunny for most of the year is an option to explore and we should also reconsider Belco’s strategy on wind turbines.” Belco — the Island’s energy provider — used nearly one million barrels of oil in 2004. The company’s senior vice president Andrew Parsons was off Island last night and unavailable for comment. However, this year’s annual report discusses alternative energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines. It states: “Over time, these small-scale renewable energy sources have great potential to reduce demand on the Island’s electricity system, while also increasing self-sufficiency and sustainability.” In January, Belco began a public consultation on alternative energy with a telephone survey. Last year it also signed an agreement with Current to Current Bermuda Ltd to purchase up to 20 megawatts of power with the world’s first underwater power generator. Situated off the south coast, this would harness the ocean’s currents to provide at least ten percent of the Island’s electricity. However, Stuart Hayward, chairman of Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce (BEST), said: “One difficulty is that Bermuda’s energy policy is being decided almost entirely by Belco, which is then expected to merge its private, corporate agenda with the varied needs of the community. In those areas where the interests of Belco shareholders and those of the larger community merge, we are generally well served by the company. Where the interests diverge, it is less likely that community interests will get priority. Our Government could do much more to practice and encourage energy conservation and provide incentives for renewable energy sources.”

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. Earlier in yesterday’s proceedings, Reyes concluded evidence in his own defence by being cross-examined by Senior Crown counsel Carrington Mahoney. In answer to questions from Mr. Mahoney, he confirmed he met someone named Neil Inchcup when the ship came to Bermuda for the first time in 2005, and again after he was released from Police custody in August 2006. He agreed with Mr. Mahoney that he had on a previous occasion described Mr. Inchcup as “the guy acting as the owner” of the Niobe Corinthia and Mr. Inchcup introduced himself as such. Reyes also told the court he had telephone contact with a woman named Cheryl Albouy, with her asking how everything was on the ship and whether any provisions were needed. Asked by Mr. Mahoney whether he had intended to dock the vessel in Bermuda, he replied: “I was instructed to do so.” Asked whether he brought the vessel into port on July 24 2006 knowing gambling machines were on board, he replied that he did. Mr. Tokunbo — who revealed he has filled eight notepads with his record of the evidence during the trial — will rule on the case on July 20.

July 6. Broadband internet access has now reached Pembroke through CableVision's Broadband Link service. Customers in Hamilton and the surrounding areas can now get high-speed data service using CableVision's high-capacity, fibre-based broadband network. The service has gradually been working its way, parish by parish, from the East End and has now reached the middle of the Island. Trench work and cable laying will now continue into Paget during August as the service spreads out to the west. CableVision is promoting the service as providing greater speed and a super-reliable connection that does not require a phone line and allows customers to keep their current e-mail addresses. On-Island Internet Service Providers Transact, Logic and North Rock are offering full 2 MB service to take advantage of CableVision's Broadband Link service. Customers can choose which internet access speed they want on the package they purchase from their ISP. The service is now available in St. George's, St. David's, Hamilton Parish, Smith's, Devonshire, and Pembroke. CableVision will make the service available in Paget some time in August. Rollin Nathan, Sales Manager, Bermuda CableVision, said: "Users tell us that Broadband Link is the difference between driving down a back road and soaring down a super-highway. "In addition, we are making it easier than ever for customers to get connected, and have streamlined the process and paperwork." Customers pay for $35-per-month for CableVision Broadband Link, in addition to the internet package bought from an ISP. The company claims installation can be performed within three business days of a request for service.

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. In court, duty counsel Leo Mills said Kaplan had a “fairly substance abuse problem that was only for her personal use and not to sell, distribute or affect the community.” Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner called the offences “trafficable” and underscored its seriousness, especially following the passing of harsher amendments by Government, to the Misuse of Drugs Act. Introduced under former Attorney General Larry Mussenden, in Magistrates’ Court, the new sentences are a maximum of ten years imprisonment and a fine of up to $500,000 or a maximum of three times the street value of the drug, or whichever is greater or both. Instead, Mr. Mills asked Mr. Warner to use his discretion and pass a suspended custodial sentence or a fine instead of imprisonment, saying Kaplan, whose husband was present, will seek treatment upon her return to New York. “It would not be a slap on the wrist and you would not find Mrs. Kaplan before our courts again,” Mr. Mills pleaded. “She realizes that she has brought considerable embarrassment to herself and her family and I ask that the court not impose a custodial sentence.” In his lengthy judgment, Mr. Warner stated: “This is a case of which a substantial amount of cocaine that is clearly a trafficable amount and on the face of it, attracts an immediate jail sentence of 12 months.” He considered Kaplan’s “remorseful” demeanor and the fact she had no convictions within Bermuda’s jurisdiction and her “personal circumstances,” before sentencing her to three months imprisonment. Additionally, following her prison sentence, Mr. Warner handed down a $20,000 fine, before Kaplan started crying hysterically, shouting: “I have children!” “I have children!” She was immediately taken into custody by Prison and Police officers, before being transported to confinement. 

July 9. 2007 Games medals won by Bermuda team in Rhodes, Greece (Bermuda came 9th, compared to 5th in 2005).









July 10. A Pubwatch scheme in which bar staff and licensees will join forces to tackle drink-fuelled violence is set to be launched within the next month. About 16 venues in the City of Hamilton have now signed up to the project, according to Bermuda Police Service’s liquor licensing officer P.c. Scott Devine. P.c. Devine said the link-up — which bar managers have been discussing in a series of meetings for the past six months — had already had a positive impact on efforts to combat trouble, particularly in the Front Street area. It is expected staff will have radios so they can warn each other in advance of disorderly groups who may be heading their way. Licensees will draw up a code of acceptable behavior which can be applied across the board, with serious offenders facing being banned from all participating bars. P.c. Devine said yesterday: “We expect it to be up and running by the end of this month, or in the first week or two of August. “It’s taken longer than I thought because it’s been a little difficult moving things ahead, particularly at this time of year. But we are getting there now and I’m pleased with the way it’s going.” Venues signed up include Cafe Cairo, The Pickled Onion, Bermuda Bistro At The Beach and Docksiders pub, in Front Street; The Hog Penny, in Burnaby Hill; and the Spinning Wheel, in Court Street. Philip Barnett, president of Pickled Onion and Hog Penny, said: “The concern for many operators of bars and pubs is ensuring that they have a safe, enjoyable atmosphere for all. “There are so many trouble-makers out there, who will cause trouble in one place and then go somewhere else. This is about saying enough is enough. If you’re trouble at Pickled Onion, good luck getting in the Spinning Wheel. If you’re trouble at Robin Hood, you won’t be going to Fresco’s Wine Bar." P.c. Devine first spoke to bar owners last year about creating an action group based on the Pubwatch scheme which has been successful in his homeland Scotland and the rest of the UK. Further down the line, it has been suggested Hamilton-wide dress codes and ID-checking systems could also be implemented, while bar managers could also push collectively for official training initiatives for bouncers. 

July 10. The Government and the Opposition have 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.” It is not yet known if the review will see members of the committee - which includes Labour Party backbencher Andrew Mackinlay, who has called for the abolition of conscription in Bermuda - visit the Island. Deputy Governor Mark Capes said: “In the course of conducting such an inquiry, we would expect the FAC to visit one or more of the Overseas Territories but that is entirely a matter for the FAC to decide.” He added: “Like other select committees, the FAC is one of the key structures to ensure accountability in the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy. It plays an important role in monitoring the policies and performance of the FCO.” The main focus of the inquiry, the first such in nine years and due to start in November, will be security and good governance. The work of the Overseas Territories Consultative Council will also be considered, plus procedures for the amendment of constitutions; human rights; the application of international treaties, conventions and other agreements to the Overseas Territories; and relations between the Territories and the UK parliament. Dr. Brown said the review was in keeping with issues raised at last year’s meetings of the Overseas Territories Consultative Council (OTCC) in London. Back then, he called for Governor Sir John Vereker to take a greater public role in policing and urged, along with other Overseas Territories’ leaders, that governors be barred from future OTCC meetings. The announcement of the FAC inquiry comes less than two weeks after the Foreign and Commonwealth Office reissued a 2003 paper giving guidance on good governance in the Overseas Territories. The UK National Audit Office is also carrying out a review of the effectiveness of the FCO’s work in relation to the Territories, with a report expected in the fall. Mr. Wasi said the inquiry was excellent news. “I don’t think anyone should take this as any kind of colonial move,” he added. Mr. Capes said: “Anyone can volunteer to submit evidence to the FAC, orally or in writing. But the FAC can request - or ‘send for’ - UK government officials to attend sittings of the committee to answer questions. The FAC can also consult any individual or organisation on issues relevant to their inquiry. The committee decides what use to make of any information it receives.” For more information on submitting evidence visit www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/foreign_affairs_committee.cfm.

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. Mr. Slater said numerous barrels of the toxic substance were poured into deep pits before being set on fire, sending thick smoke over nearby St. David's homes. He said he was then instructed to bulldoze the remaining waste into the sea. Mr. Lister told the press conference: "I fully expect that the results of the current testing will be similar to the tests taken at the time of the US departure from the Baselands. As indicated, those extensive tests did not reveal any measurable levels of contaminants."

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. “Bermuda’s golf courses are stunningly beautiful and uniquely challenging,” he said. “In October the world will see what we’ve known all along — Bermuda is an unmatched golfers’ paradise.” Cabrera, who became the second first-time qualifier into The PGA Grand Slam of Golf last month, will join fellow first-time qualifier Masters Champion Zach Johnson in the elite four some. The remaining two spots will be determined at the British Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, and the 89th PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. David Charles, director of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, said: “We are pleased with the excitement and energy the PGA Grand Slam of Golf is creating in Bermuda. If ticket sales are any indication, it’s clear that there are many golf enthusiasts on the Island who are looking forward to experiencing the toughest tournament in the world to qualify for.” 

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 have been 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. "Car sales went up this time, so it looks like they are coming back up again," she said. And she is backing the Buy Bermuda campaign to improve the financial situation in general for retailers. "We are trying at the moment to relaunch it, so we will hopefully have something coming out in July." The report showed that consumers spent an estimated $97.2m on retail sales in May 2007, representing a $0.3m (0.4 percent) decrease from the $97.5m recorded the previous May. The 0.4 percent fall in retail sales came after two consecutive months of sales gains, but on the other hand the $97.2m spent on retail sales was the highest level of spending so far this year. The main contributors to this were the food stores, apparel and all other stores sectors. After adjusting for the annual retail sales rate of inflation, measured at 3.2 percent in May 2007, the volume of sales dropped 3.5 percent reflecting an overall decline in the total quantity of goods sold. On the plus side grocery sales remained strong as a result of a 5.4 per cent increase in gross receipts for food stores in May 2007 compared to the same month last year. The upward movement in sales receipts was mainly down to the 3.9 per cent rise in the price of food. Similarly liquor sales were on the up again, rising to 4.2 per cent following a 0.3 per cent decline in the previous month to make it the fourth increase so far this year. The 'all other stores' sector, which includes furniture, appliances, electronics and pharmaceuticals retailers, has now seen positive sales gains consistently since March 2007, with gross revenue flow improving a further 2 percent during the month of May. Car salesmen also had reason to be cheerful with motor vehicles sales arresting a double-digit decline from the previous month, reporting a 2.6 percent increase in May 2007 from the same month last year. Stronger sales can be directly attributed to increased consumer demand along with higher stock levels of current vehicle models. In line with that, clothing retailers registered their fifth consecutive sales gain for the year, with gross revenue flows advanced by 7.7 percent in May 2007, improving on a 3.8 percent rise in April. This sales increase represents the 10th consecutive month of positive gains dating back to August 2006. In contrast to the rest of the construction industry, building material and hardware retailers reported a 31.7 percent decline in revenues for the month of May. This marks the fourth month this year that revenues have fallen short of 2006 levels and can be attributed to failing to repeat the large contract sales of the previous year.

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.” After performing CPR and using the defibrillators for a few minutes, Mr. Nicholls said four Police cars and an ambulance arrived on the scene. A Police spokesman said the 53-year-old visitor was rushed to the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital and was pronounced dead at 3.08 p.m. by an on call physician. The Nicholls’ family praised the response by Emergency Services, but were upset by what they perceived as a lack of interest and training on behalf of the lifeguards. “That was quite a response with four Police cars and an ambulance. They came so quickly, basically when the lifeguards got there,” Mrs. Nicholls’ added. “We were waving on the lifeguards and they just gave a sign saying one minute and then had to put on their t-shirts before they came down to the beach. And then they didn’t know how to use a defibrillator.” Thoughts of the few left on the beach, however, remained on the family of the deceased saying how sorry they were for the family’s loss. “We feel very sorry for the family. Our hearts go out to them,” said Martha Hoehn, Scott Nicholl’s mother-in-law. The Police spokesman added that the next of kin had not been notified so no further information could be given at the time of going to the press. 

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". The full hearing, with arguments from both sides, could take between eight and twelve months to take place. The leaked Police file concerns an investigation into alleged corruption at the BHC. Said to run to thousands of pages, it reportedly reveals that Premier Ewart Brown, former Premier Jennifer Smith, former Minister Renee Webb, construction boss Zane DeSilva and others were investigated by Police looking into the allegations. Sen. Perinchief and Mr. Jackson first applied for an injunction against the Island's newspapers and broadcast organizations after the Mid-Ocean News published stories on June 1 containing details from the BHC file, and ZBM television news broadcast extracts on May 23. Dr. Brown launched a stinging attack on the justice system after the Court of Appeal refused to gag the media over the leaked dossier. He has accused the Opposition of engineering the leak in a pre-election bid to destabilize his Government, and initiated libel action against the media over published extracts from the dossier. According to a statement from his spokesman Glenn Jones last month, if the Privy Council bid fails to gag further publications: "Bermuda's long standing supremacist oligarchy would be vested with legal license to intensify the ongoing UBP/media tyranny." The Police investigation into the source of the leaked dossier has seen three arrests, including that of Auditor General Larry Dennis, the Government's fiscal watchdog. No one has been charged.

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. "I would like to thank the members of the Commission for agreeing to continue this very important work for the City of Hamilton. The City of Hamilton plan was approved six years ago and during that time Hamilton has evolved at a rapid pace," said Mr. Madeiros. "I am pleased that this group will be reviewing the plan and a wide variety of other matters affecting the City. I look forward to receiving their recommendations." The Commission members include J. C. (Kit) Astwood, as the Chairman, Henry Ming as the Deputy Chairman and Peter Adwick as the Secretary. Other members include Wendall Brown, Teresa Chatfield, Zane DeSilva, Alan Dunch, Barbara Finsness, James Gibbons, James Jardine, Julie Marshall, Donna Pearman, Belcario Thomas and David L. White. 

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 12. Phil Barnett, president of the Chamber of Commerce and head of the Island Restaurant Group Ltd, believes the decline of the dollar is a double-edged sword for Bermuda's economy. On the one hand it will have a big impact on the labour market and the level of worker employers are able to attract to the island, but on the other they have been able to take advantage of favorable costs when trading with the United States, according to Mr. Barnett. "The value of the dollar is impacting from a labour point of view," he said. "The fact is that employers employ 12,000 people on work permits in Bermuda and part of the reason we have been able to attract these individuals is because of the relative value of working in Bermuda compared to working in their own countries. With the dollar falling in value to two specific currencies, the euro and the Canadian dollar, its impact, from what I have heard from our members, has affected our ability to recruit because it is not nearly as beneficial to be in Bermuda as it was and the issues of housing and work permits have also had an impact." Mr. Barnett reckons the drop in value of the dollar is forcing employers to look further afield than places such as Canada, to the likes of India and China for their labour. "We have to go further abroad to get individuals that see Bermuda as a viable place to work," he said. But on the flip-side he believes the weakness of the dollar will boost Bermuda's buying power in America. We import a lot of goods from the US, so we are seeing an increase in buying power and because the prices are a lot more reasonable its gives us an opportunity to maximize that side of things," he said. From the perspective of a restaurateur, Mr. Barnett is also experiencing mixed fortunes, with the cost of European goods rising and yet being able to get more value for money from the American market. "In the restaurant trade the European wines have increased dramatically in price, but now when you look at the Californian wines they are much more reasonable in price," he said. "But it is impacting on other fronts as well. A lot of goods are coming from North America and we need to be more creative and make sure we source as much as we can from the US. Additionally we generate a lot of our power from diesel and oil, which comes from abroad and electricity bills are the highest in our business and the price of propane gas is astronomical at the moment."

July 13. Swimmer Kiera Aitken will carry the Bermuda flag tonight in the Opening Ceremony of the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro. Bermuda will not have that many athletes marching in the Opening Ceremony at the famed Maracana Stadium. Aitken is one of two swimmers representing Bermuda in Brazil — the other being Roy Allan Burch. She has competed for Bermuda in the Athens Olympics, the Commonwealth Games last year and has also competed in previous Pan American Games and World Championships. Over the past year Aitken has based herself in Barcelona, Spain training at the Club de Natacion for these Pan American Games. And she is also hoping to qualify for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing at the Games in Rio. A large number of Bermuda’s contingent will not have arrived in Brazil by the time this evening’s ceremony starts. The island’s two show jumpers, Patrick Nesbitt and Jill Terceira, will leave with their horses from Europe on Monday and Bermuda’s sailing team will leave for Rio on Sunday and Monday. Deb Gravelle from the Bermuda Sailing Association and who is the sailing official for the Games, said yesterday: “Most of the sailors will leave Bermuda on Monday although (Sunfish sailor) Malcolm Smith will leave on Sunday.” It is Smith who represents Bermuda’s best chance to win a medal. He already has won two silver medals in previous Games and is a multiple World Champion in his class. Bermuda Olympic Association president John Hoskins, who has been in Rio all week attending Pan Am Congress meetings, said: “Malcolm is a medal contender and we never know with the bowling. They won a medal in the Commonwealth Games (in Malaysia). And of course there is Flora Duffy.” Of the Games themselves, Hoskins said he has been impressed with the Brazilian hosts. “They have spent a lot of money and have made a very big effort. They are really going to town on it as their long-term plans are to host the Olympics and World Cup.” While most of the island’s athletes will be forced to wait a number of days before competing, two others will be in action this weekend — triathlete Flora Duffy and equestrian Annabelle Collins. Collins, who will be competing in the dressage, will ride her 10-year-old German stallion, Medici, on Saturday or Sunday depending on how today’s draw turns out. Duffy will have her race on Sunday. But there is one thing that all the athletes will be happy about — the new Athletes Village which Mike Collins, Annabelle’s father and the Chef d’Equipe, said “was the best he has ever seen at a major Games”. Collins and her father Mike were some of the first to arrive in Rio. And they have been very impressed with the preparations and facilities. Mike Collins said: “The Equestrian Stadium is magnificent and the stabling is brand new — in fact many of the facilities are brand new.” And Collins was also impressed with the Athletes Village — often a source of controversy at major Games. He said: “The Athletes Village is very smart. In fact it is probably one of the best I have ever seen. Normally the Athletes Village (at major Games) is used for low cost housing after the Games have finished, but this time it looks as if it will be high cost housing. All the apartments have balconies and there are swimming pools and underground parking. That is something you do not normally see. It is a really nice Village.” The Village is located in Barra da Tijuca, a fancy neighbourhood. And the Village is also located within a 10 kilometer radius of more than 60 percent of the competition locations. The apartments have one, two, three or four bedrooms, and even the beds have taken into account the athletes’ height. The restaurant can serve 4,000 people at one sitting and there are also large leisure and entertainment facilities for the athletes. Collins said that his daughter’s dressage horse arrived safe and sound. “The horse arrived pretty well and it looks alright. It is not eating as well as we would like at the moment but hopefully that will change.” But it took a long trip from Europe to get to Rio. He said: “It flew from Frankfurt (Germany) and the plane refueled in Senegal of all places. Then it flew on to San Paolo and then by road to Rio. In fact the road trip was probably the worst as the transport was not that good. The driver was not familiar with driving horses. By all accounts he thought he was racing a Formula One car!” Not surprisingly the weather in Rio can be hot. “We try and train in the mornings when it is cool,” said Collins. The vet check for the dressage horses is today as is the draw to see the order of competition. “We will not know whether we will be competing on Saturday or Sunday which is when the first tests are spread over. Normally the teams draw their order and then the individuals (like Annabelle) have to configure around the teams. But we are all settled in so now it is off to the races this weekend.” Show jumper Nesbitt said this week from Europe: “We fly to Rio on Monday. The horses will leave from Luxemburg.” Nesbitt, who spoke to the Mid-Ocean News this week while on a boat crossing the English Channel following a competition in Belgium, said: “Jill (Terceira) is flying with the horses on the same plane. But so far everything is good. I have been doing a few shows in the build-up to the Games and have had some decent results. We are getting excited — the build-up is amazing. It can be a bit anxious at the moment as we are both hoping our horses stay sound and in good condition.” Nesbitt’s horse, Antille 8, has never flown before but he was confident that it would not be a problem. “Horses generally fly quite well . . . but I suppose we will find out,” he said. Security will be at a premium for the Games in Rio which does have some very bad areas. The Brazilian army has been training hundreds of police officers from outside the city to act as armed escorts for sports teams and other guests. Authorities will place a total of 18,000 police officers and security force personnel on patrol in the city to maintain order, with a budget of almost $300 million. The plan to protect participants and spectators is a joint effort of the national and state security departments. Meanwhile, a security crackdown in the shanty towns known as the German complex near Rio’s international airport has been continuing for more than a month after two police officers were killed. Police have maintained a strong presence in the area trying to stop the movement of drugs and weapons, and occasional gun battles have occurred. 

July 13. Bermuda's Pan Am team, 20 athletes in 8 sports:



  • Tyler Butterfield





Track and field


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. “Currently we have six non-stop trips from Dockyard to St. George’s return and one non-stop commuter trip in the morning from St. George’s to Hamilton, and one in the evening peak back to St. George’s that is also non-stop,” he explained. “We also have 25 trips between Hamilton to Dockyard and also use the 650 passenger tender Bermudian when large cruise ships are in port. In September, we will be receiving another 350 passenger high-speed catamaran. This new boat will be used in 2008 and beyond to provide even more high-speed service between Hamilton-Dockyard and St. George’s. We are confident that when the new cruise pier opens in 2009 that we will have enough ferry lift to meet the demands.” Buses are also expected to operate on major routes every 15 minutes throughout the day, while the Ministry has licensed another mini-bus company to provide service, primarily in the West End. When cruise ships are located in Hamilton or St. George’s many visitors come off the ship, go back onboard for lunch or dinner and may stay on the ship after that,” he said. “But when the ship is not in close proximity, cruise visitors tend to stay longer at the place they are visiting, including eating lunch in local restaurants.” Using an example, Mr. Jacobs referred to the Explorer of the Seas which arrived at Dockyard on Tuesday and departed on Wednesday evening. He said the ferry that left Dockyard at 10 a.m. and arrived in St. George’s at 10.50 a.m. was almost full. “After exploring the Town, many of these visitors ate lunch at area restaurants, something they would not necessarily do if the ship they were on was docked in St. George’s. After lunch they either return to Dockyard on the ferry, or many of them see other attractions in the East End, such as Crystal Caves. So not having the ship docked at your front door has some advantages. The challenge is ensuring that we have sufficient transport lift to meet the demands.” Regarding tours to the East End and such other attractions as the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute and the Aquarium, Mr. Jacobs said the Ministry was coordinating with the tour agents to use the ferry to transport those cruise guests on tours to Hamilton, where they catch the bus and taxi tours, while the ferries will also be used for tours originating from St. George’s to East End attractions. As for the redevelopment of the Hamilton and St. George’s waterfronts, Mr. Jacobs pointed out that the physical presence of such a large ship(s) in Hamilton, or St. George’s would make it difficult to improve the respective waterfronts. “It is my understanding the Corporation of Hamilton would like to revisit their waterfront development plans and having cruise ships lined up along Front Street would make it difficult to accomplish this. So the withdrawal of the smaller and older cruise ships by the cruise lines provides us the opportunity to move in the direction of providing first-class waterfronts at all three ports,” he added. “Which brings me to the Hamilton Ferry Terminal. We have started discussions with the Corporation of Hamilton to enlarge the Hamilton Ferry Terminal to load more boats simultaneously. Also, we will be improving the land-side infrastructure to provide better interface between buses, ferries and taxis,” he said. “With two cruise piers at Dockyard we need more space at the Hamilton Ferry Terminal to handle the demands. Incidentally, expansion of the Hamilton Ferry Terminal can be more easily accomplished if we don’t have ships docked Number One Terminal.” Mr. Jacobs added that these improvements would hopefully be completed for the 2009 cruise ship season. Meanwhile Co-chairman of the Chamber of Commerce’s Retail Division, Somers Cooper warns that 2008 will be a rough year for retail business, not only in Hamilton, but across the island. He said St. George’s would be better off than Hamilton, at least next year, as at least two cruise ships are ensured in this port for the 2008 season, thanks to the Norwegian Cruise Lines, while Hamilton only has 11 “casual callers” for next year. Mr. Cooper said the Dockyard ships have proven to be ineffectual in the retail world as they only docked in Bermuda for a day and many of these tourists were more interested in seeing the island, or just going to the beach, than shopping. But, he said, with the Ministry rearranging the schedule in Dockyard, many of the post-Panamax ships are now scheduled to stay in Bermuda overnight. He warned that businesses will also have to change their “focus” from cruise ship passenger to hotel guest. “Businesses will have to look at that. There won’t be any cruise ships here (and) it’s speculation as to how many visitors we’ll get from Dockyard on a daily basis. So we will have to modify our buying merchandise and selection and ways we present it,” he said. Mr. Cooper said over the years the look of Front Street has changed to include high-end boutiques, while many shops are renovating to improve their appearance, including the major revamp of his own store, A.S Cooper & Sons. “I’m working with the Finance Minister to reduce duty requirements on renovating stores. Right now if a restaurant wants to renovate, they have duty concessions they can capitalize on to make it a more efficient renovations. As you know, construction and renovation is very expensive in Bermuda. If we are successful with that, it will help raise the level of our presentation and what we have to offer our visitors,” he said. However all this construction has had a negative effect on the way tourists see Hamilton: “There is a lot of construction going on .... now we have the Bank of Bermuda construction going on and in a few weeks the old Harbour Front restaurant will be going down, so there will be major construction happening on Front Street, which in the long run will benefit Front Street, but right now it has a feeling of disjointedness. Hamilton lacks that warm and fuzzy colonial feel it had before. The general feeling is that Hamilton is not a welcoming place for tourists at this point in time and international business has taken over to the extent that some people think it’s just high rises and a few stores scattered around and we need to change that,” he said, adding that redeveloping the Hamilton waterfront would help lure tourists back to Hamilton."

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. During the sentencing yesterday, Crown counsel Nicole Smith argued Griffiths should get 12 to 14 years for attempting to “shred this community of its social fibers”. Ms Smith pointed out punishment for such an offence could be life imprisonment, a fine of $1 million dollars or payment of three times the street value of the drugs. She said society needs to be protected from individuals like the defendant. Mr. Pettingill argued his client should not get more than ten years because the man for whom he was picking up the package was not charged. “It’s startling that a charge was not brought against the other person,” Mr. Pettingill said. “That individual is walking away scot-free. It’s not like we have an unknown player here who has skipped off.” How is it that in our system, the key player, the man with convictions, a known drug dealer is out there and a man with two young children and no convictions is going to jail because he went to pick up a package for that man? Why was that man not here facing justice?” In delivering the sentence, Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons told Griffiths he was clearly involved from start to finish and penalties for drug offences are severe. He was sentenced to 14 years at Westgate Correctional Facility.

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. Occupations such as qualified accountants, registered nurses and secondary education teachers were largely filled by guest workers. Two out of three (617) qualified accountants were other non-Bermudians, as were more than half of the 454 registered nurses. Contract workers were similarly employed to meet sizeable shortages in demand for Bermudian computer programmer/analysts (104), lawyers (117), physicians (71) actuaries (105), insurance underwriters (206) and accountants (273). But on the flip-side employment opportunities exist for Bermudian teachers in the local secondary schools in English, mathematics, social studies, design and technology, foreign language and learning support, according to statistics revealed by the Department of Education. In addition they is plenty of employment promise for qualified Bermudians within the administrative and managerial occupations sector. But at the top of the reinsurance and insurance fields, the incidence of non-Bermudians is still very high, with 73 percent occupying the management and directorship positions. That figure is slightly lower in the administrative and managerial categories, with non-Bermudians taking up 58 percent and 67 percent of the managers/directors and sub managers of finance positions. However Bermudians take up the lion's share of the clerical positions, with only 35 percent of guest workers filling legal secretarial placings and the nationals seeing a rise in the number of posts in the sales occupations such as brokers (68), investment officers (52) and trust officers (22). The service sector continued to rely on guest workers filling the positions, with sous chef/second chef (90 percent), waiter/chef de rang (86 percent), chef de Partie/cook (83 percent), executive chef/head cook (74 percent) and general waiter (71 percent) topping the list. Non-Bermudians also dominated the nursemaid/nanny, beautician and dish and pot washers. Finally 70 percent of all workers in agriculture and husbandry were non-Bermudians, filling posts such as farm workers, gardeners and landscape gardeners. 2006 saw an increase of 559 vacancies over the 1,338 in 2005. The industries with the highest number of vacant positions included public administration (390), financial intermediation (232), hotels (204) and international business activity (176). Public administration experienced the most significant change, as the share of vacancies increased by 11 percentage points, while the hotel industry rose to 165 vacant positions. In terms of the share of youth employment (24 years old and above), the labour force participation rate stood at 43 percent for 2006, occupying seven percent of all positions with 2,780 jobs. Interestingly, female participation was dominant, occupying 1,443 posts, 106 more positions than their male counterparts. The majority of males were employed in the production, transport and related occupation sector with 648 jobs, while the large share of women took up clerical jobs (704). Laborers (168) and longshoremen (46) also proved to be popular professions. In the young working population, the median income was high for those working in the professional, technical and related roles, reaching $46,684, with the median for the sales industry of $25,864 significantly lower than most.  

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. “The Act also stipulates that inspectors be appointed to safeguard the wrecks and I am happy today to announce the appointment of the first 23 inspectors,” she said at a press conference. “They are already active stakeholders in safeguarding our maritime heritage and are nearly all engaged in maritime activities, be they dive boat operators, fisheries wardens and coral reef scientists and the Marine Police.” Five of the new inspectors are Fisheries Wardens, four are from Conservation Services and 14 are from the Marine Police division of the Police force. Shipwreck inspectors will ensure that those given permission from the Historic Wrecks Authority to dive on the restricted sites do so without disturbing the site. They will also check to make sure anyone they see diving on a restricted wreck has the proper documentation. Maximum fine for diving without permission is $25,000 or the guilty party can expect one year in prison. Divers hoping to go on the restricted sites will have to apply for a licence from the Historic Wrecks Authority, while the open sites will be available for all recreational divers. Environment Minister Neletha Butterfield, however, stressed that the classification of shipwrecks would enable the Ministry to open further sites in the future. “It is our intention that the Historic Wrecks Act 2001 will protect this precious resource by imposing strict guidelines for the treatment and exploration of shipwrecks, but that it also encourages the development of new generations of researchers and ensures access to these unique and momentous pieces of our history,” she said. Receiving the certificates for the Fisheries Wardens was the head of Fisheries John Edmunds, Dr. Philippe Rouja for Conservation Services and Inspector Venning, the head of the Marine Police. 

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 costly initiative was criticised in the past by Shadow Health and Seniors Minister Louise Jackson who said: "I find it frightening that we have spent $25 million for 43 people." But Minister of Works and Engineering Dennis Lister said seniors needs have been one of the primary concerns of the Progressive Labour Party since1998. "Now we have set a new standard of senior health care in Bermuda," he said. Lucy Chung, a Works and Engineering architect, called the Ministry's effort a "wise move" and said: "Usually it is simpler to demolish and rebuild because one does not have to deal with existing conditions such as floors that are weak or walls that are not straight and level etc. "We like to think about all that Bermuda stone that's still in the building and not at the dump — the walls were 24 inches thick— that's a lot of material to simply throw away." She continued: "The Ministry said 'let's do the right thing. Let's work with what we have'. There was no requirement to save the building, which is what makes the decision so significant." 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. This is partly due to the closure of larger resort properties across the island for renovation. 2006 was however a good year for international reinsurance companies, with a number of new firms starting up in Bermuda in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina the previous year. As a result 276 new jobs were created with the addition of 45 qualified accountants, 32 underwriters and 15 brokers taking up posts on the island in 2006. The thriving construction industry is reflected in the sound of cranes and trucks echoing throughout the City of Hamilton as the landscape of the city undergoes a major face lift, which, in turn is adding 159 new workers to its labour force last year. The industry has benefited from the every growing need for commercial office and business space, with 112 masons, 35 carpenters and 25 electricians coming on board. One worrying trend over the four-year period from 2002 to 2006 are reverses the sales and services occupations of 274 and 176 jobs respectively, while the retail trade and repair services and manufacturing industries showed minus figures of 397 and 142 jobs respectively. Those to boost their staff base the most were the professional, technical and related, production, transport and related and administrative and managerial sectors, which took on increases of 847, 795 and 722 respectively. International business activity and construction grew by an additional 902 and 736 jobs respectively over that period.

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. “We at the Board are utterly appalled by what is going on and the unadulterated rubbish which is being bandied about by the ringleaders of this group,” said Wetherhill. “We are now in possession of their issue list, which is in some places simply misleading and in other places totally inaccurate and untrue. It is difficult for me to put into words quite how disturbed I and the rest of the executive committee are by this whole episode and the way some members of this group have conducted themselves. We will be doing everything we can to ensure that the personal agendas of a few individuals do not prevail and do not further damage and undermine the state of Bermuda cricket, both now and in the future. This whole thing has been a very unwelcome distraction from the business of running the sport on the Island, but now that we have their issue list, we are going to meet with representatives from every single club so that we can defend ourselves against the accusations and listen to any comments or concerns they might have. Once that process is complete and all the affiliates are in possession of the facts — rather than the untruths and misinformation which is being circulated — we will call a special general meeting and deal with the matter in an organized and democratic manner.” Wetherhill also moved to provide the BCB’s take on the events that led up to the meeting between the two parties on Tuesday, which reportedly descended into chaos when a row broke out between the BCB secretary and others on the opposing side. “We received a letter from this group of June 25 stating they were unhappy with the way in which the Board was conducting itself and requesting a special general meeting to discuss their grievances. We responded to the letter saying we were concerned by their apparent dissatisfaction and wanted to listen to what they had to say. We agreed to call a special general meeting, but stressed that as per our bye laws we needed them to provide us with a detailed agenda of what was to be discussed, so that we could arrive at the meeting prepared to answer their concerns. A couple more letters went back and forth between then and when the meeting eventually took place on Tuesday, but we were not any stage provided with the required agenda. We then made it clear to them both before and after the meeting that it could not be considered a Special General Meeting under the law because of their failure to provide an agenda. But the meeting was not a harmonious one by any means, and the priority now has got to be to get this sorted out as quickly as possible.”

July 14. The Rubber Duck Derby was once again a success, providing the local charity Agape House with over $150,000. This year's Derby raised $158,000, largely with the help of the Island's corporations, which raised $105,000 and bought a record-breaking 704 corporate ducks. The major supporter for the event, Garry Madeiros, president and CEO of BELCO Holdings Ltd, said: "We thank the corporate community for once again giving generously to the event through the purchase of corporate ducks, which significantly contributes to the success of Agape House annual Rubber Duck Derby." Many people came out for the event held on June 3 at Ordnance Island — marking the 11th anniversary of the fundraiser, and while kids enjoyed the fun castle and face painting, the entire family were entertained by a series of dances, including the St. George's Original Dancerettes, In Motion Dancers, Bermuda African Dance Company, Filipino Dancers, Portuguese Dancers and the Gombeys. Gertie Barker, Friends of Hospice president, explained that it was the public who helped to make the event a success each year. She said: We would also like to thank the public for their support, as the Derby has grown in its popularity not only as a major fund-raiser for Agape House, but also a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon with friends and family while being entertained and enjoying a variety of foods." Agape House is a 12-bed hospice which provides support services for the terminally ill, and operates on the principle of "caring, not curing". All of the money raised in the Rubber Duck Derby goes towards purchasing items to make their patients comfortable and providing staff with needed equipment. People are encouraged to support the Agape House by "adopting a duck" each year and when a ticket is purchased the individual is assigned a Lucky Number that coincides with a rubber duck. There are four different races, including the 'Youth Duck Race' , the 'Pamper Me Race', the 'Family Race' and the 'Corporate Ducks' — costing between $5 for a child and $150 for a corporation. There were over a 100 prizes awarded at this year's event, including a family-of-four trip to London, washer and dryer and a gas barbecue.

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. George Sutherland said his partner Fiona Robertson’s sister and two children endured a lengthy delay at L.F. Wade International Airport on July 10. The flight to Gatwick then took ten and half hours. He said: “They arrived at the airport at 5.30 p.m. to check in and were told the flight was delayed by an hour. We were then told the flight had taken off and would be landing at 7.30 p.m. I left but on returning home, received a call from my partner’s sister who was distraught. She said that the flight had not in fact left JFK as stated. It didn’t get in until 9.30 p.m. and then departed at 10 p.m.” Mr. Sutherland said Morven Garroway, 46, and Max, 14, and Lucy, 9, did not arrive at Gatwick until 12.30 p.m. the following day, due to a diversion. “The pilot had to land in Manchester because his air time had run out" He said although Zoom gave the passengers free return tickets as compensation, the family were “very tired”. “It doesn’t mitigate my original point that people are buying tickets under false advertising on the website,” he said. “It says the flight time is six hours when it is really nine hours. I welcomed the competition to British Airways but I’m very disappointed. I would have expected something better than this.” Mr. Sutherland, Deputy Head teacher of Warwick Academy Primary School, added that due to the delay, the family also missed their connecting flights to Edinburgh. They had already rebooked the domestic flights after hearing that the Gatwick arrival time would be 9 a.m., not 6 a.m. as advertised on the website, and so wasted $350. “They rebooked with BA and so lost all the money,” he said. “The website still says it lands at 6 a.m. but this is a smokescreen, because the flight doesn’t actually land until three hours later. The advertising is all wrong.” Another person to complain described the operation as “shambolic”. In a letter to The Royal Gazette, ‘IDT’ of Pembroke referred to the diversion to Manchester on July 10, saying: “One month on it appears that Zoom is unable to run a single flight without lengthy delays. Judging from the comments I hear, and my own personal heresay, they need to come clean on flight times and sort themselves out.” Mother-of-two Teresa Tse, 33, has also complained about Zoom’s cancellation policy. She said she cancelled her family’s flights to London on July 7 after being diagnosed with chicken pox. She telephoned the company’s call centre in Scotland but was told that if a flight was not cancelled within 29 days she could not get a refund. “I thought it was terrible customer service,” said Mrs. Tse. “The flight was not full yet they were inflexible about the cancellation penalty. I told them I was putting their passengers’ health ahead of myself and even offered to give them an extra $500 to fly out the following Saturday. It was like I was being penalized for doing the right thing. If the flight was fully booked I would have accepted the penalty, but it was only half full.” Mrs. Tse, of Smiths, said she paid $2,300 for flights for herself, her husband Lawrence, and daughters Aimee, four, and Layla, aged 20 months. Although she booked online she asked C Travel, Zoom’s agent on Bermuda, to help her and they negotiated a 75 percent refund. She is now flying to London this weekend on British Airways. “I felt they gave me no choice,” she said. “I could have booked another ticket but they were even discouraging me from that. I was quite offended. The children almost missed their summer holidays to see their grandparents in the UK.” However, Carl Paiva, chief executive officer of C Travel, said that most airlines would not have refunded Mrs. Tse in the circumstances. He said Zoom had been “more than generous”. “They helped her extremely well by giving her this refund, because on any other carrier a non-refundable ticket is a non-refundable ticket. So they bent all the rules. I’ve been in this business for 35 years and we’ve had death certificates and airlines have refused refunds.” He pointed out that Zoom also sells insurance on its website to protect customers from flight cancellation charges. Mr. Paiva said the airline was in the process of updating its website and that it had expected to gain route clearance across the Atlantic a lot sooner. Without ETOPS from the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK, the airline is unable to fly a route more than 60 minutes from an emergency or diversion airport. Mr. Paiva said that once regulators gave clearance, the flight time would be cut to between six and seven hours. “They haven’t changed the times on their website because they were led to believe by the UK authorities that the most direct route would be forthcoming very quickly. As this has been longer than expected they are now changing the website.” Mr. Paiva said: “There are teething problems that have unfortunately lasted longer than anticipated. Zoom are hoping to hear something within the next three weeks.” Jonathan Hinkles, managing director of Zoom Airlines, said: “In terms of flight delays, the main cause of delay has been the longer flight times. However, we have also suffered from delays at New York JFK and these have been the result of chronic congestion there, which is affecting all airlines. We’ve extended the scheduled flight time on all flights between London Gatwick and Bermuda to incorporate the longer flight times up to and including August 1. We are hoping that we will hear from the UK Civil Aviation Authority about the shorter routings fairly shortly. Where customers have contacted us arising from any problems with Zoom flights, I believe that we have addressed any issues arising to their satisfaction and have had a number of complimentary notes both about the flights themselves; and about our customer service recovery on occasions where things have gone wrong — as they periodically will with any airline.” Zoom operates flights to Gatwick on Tuesdays and Saturdays, at $249 for a one way ticket, tax included. The airline’s inaugural flight was on June 8.

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."

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