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Bermuda flag flying

Bermuda's 2015 January History and News

Events that made the headlines in the first month of that calendar year

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

Bermuda beach

Admiral Sir George Somers, Bermuda 1609 Artists who painted Bermuda Bermuda, Britain & Commonwealth
Bermuda & Canada Bermuda & France Bermuda & USA
Bermuda's postage stamps Historic Houses History 1500 to 1699
History 1700 to 1799 History 1800 to 1899 History 1900 to 1939 pre-war
History 1939 to 1951 History 1952 to 1999 History  2000 to 2005
History 2006 Part 1 History 2006 Part 2 History 2007 Jan and Feb
History 2007 March History 2007 April History 2007 May
History 2007 June 1-15th History 2007 June 16 to 30th History 2007 July 1-15
History 2007 July 16th to 31st History 2007 August 1 to 7 History 2007 August 8 to 14
History 2007 August 15 to 21 History 2007 August 22-31 History 2007 September 1 to 10
History 2007 September 11 to December 31 History 2008 to 2010 History 2011 through 2012
History 2013 History 2014 part 1 History 2014 part 2
History 2015 January History 2015 February History 2015 March
History 2015 April History 2015 May History 2015 June
History 2015 July History 2015 August History 2015 September
History 2015 October History 2015 November History 2015 December
History 2016 January History 2016 February History 2016 March
History 2016 April History 2016 May History 2016 June
History 2016 July History 2016 August History 2016 September
History 2016 October History 2016 November History 2016 December
History 2017 January History 2017 February History 2017 March
History 2017 April    

2015. January 1. Bermuda roared into 2015 as thousands of revelers celebrated across the Island. Nightclubs and bars throughout Hamilton were crowded with people marking the occasion with music, dancing and champagne. At the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, crowds took to the dance floor to listen to live music, while a packed house rang in the New Year with the band Graffiti Park at The Pickled Onion. Pier Six, The Beach, Flanagan's and Port O' Call were also filled with revelers enjoying the evening with paper horns and confetti. James Correia, 25, said that 2014 had been a challenge, but he's looking forward to what 2015 might hold. It's been hard finding work out there for the last few years, but with all of those big projects coming up I'm feeling pretty good about this year," he said. "Can't be a whole lot worse. I'm hoping I can get a bit more money in my bank account, and I think that's going to happen." Bethany Simmons, from Southampton, meanwhile, expressed hope that issues in the community will be addressed in the coming year, particularly the issues of violence and road safety. "I think Bermuda has made some progress, but we still have a ways to go. There are a lot of police out tonight, but you know people are still going to be getting up to some foolishness, riding home after drinking too much or starting trouble. There has to be a change. I think the entire Island needs to have a New Year's resolution to really do something about these problems because things have gone too far." Aaron Jones, 48, said he has no real expectations for the coming year, but is happy to enjoy the moment. "I love New Year's. It's a fresh start. Yesterday is over and a new year is beginning. I just like being out with my friends and my girl, having a few drinks and enjoying myself." Meanwhile, in St George's, hundreds gathered in King's Square to catch the fireworks, enjoy live music and watch the traditional dropping of the onion.

2015 Happy New Year in St. George's

Celebrating New Year 2015 in St. George's


January 1. While snow is off the agenda for a Bermuda Christmas, the Island did enjoy a visit from a snow goose this festive season.
The white-feathered bird was discovered grazing in the middle of the motocross track at Clearwater. Members of the Bermuda Audubon Society discovered the bird while doing its annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Some 7,500 birds were recorded of 98 species on the December 27 count day and three days either side of it. "This year's CBC went very well and we recorded an above average number of species," Andrew Dobson, the Bermuda Audubon Society president, said. "Observers were keen to see whether this year's two hurricanes had taken its toll on local birds. Numbers of bluebirds, white-eyed vireos and cardinals seem to have held up well, but the number of mourning doves was about half the number recorded in recent years. The most numerous species was the starling, which combined with the kiskadee and sparrow, made up over 50 per cent of the birds seen. Highlights this year included the recording of 18 species of wood warbler, 15 species of wildfowl, with record numbers of hooded mergansers and only the second ever record of a redhead duck on count day." The results are submitted to the National Audubon Society in the United States as part of a continent-wide study of birds that has been running for more than 100 years. Citizen Science provides a way for people to connect with the natural world through activities that generate vital information for the conservation of birds. The observers can learn about birds by taking part in these science-based activities and Audubon�s science staff gains invaluable information. The Audubon Society says the practice also benefits the birds because it helps the organization focus on those birds and habitats that need our help most. Count results will be available as they are entered on to the National Audubon website, www.audubon.org/bird/cbc.

January 2. Bermuda goes into 2015 with better economic growth prospects than at any time since the global financial crisis struck six years ago. After a grim period marked by job losses, wage cuts and freezes, business closures, a severe property market slump, the departure of thousands of overseas workers and a government plunging ever deeper into debt, the economy has shown signs of stabilizing over the past year. As we head into the new year, a combination of potential growth catalysts suggest that a warming of Bermuda's economic climate may be coming. Could 2015 be the year of long-awaited return to growth? New hotel and tourism projects. There have been many false dawns over the past decade or so as the Island has awaited new hotels that could add scale, modern quality and jobs to Bermuda's tourism offerings. Grand plans have been floated and have come to nothing. Finally, it seems that work is really going to get under way - on several fronts. By the end of this year, construction work should be steaming ahead all over the Island. The first phase of the new resort at Morgan's Point - an 84-room boutique hotel and more than 140 residences - is exciting for the west. The Desarrollos Hotelco Group project to build a new $120 million hotel on the site of the old Club Med - due to start in May - will provide a huge boost for the east. Add the $85 million Ariel Sands redevelopment and ongoing renovations at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess and the Pink Beach Club, and it's fair to say the Island's construction industry will be kept busy in 2015. As if that were not enough, Government is also hoping for its plans to build a new $200 million airport terminal to get under way by the end of the year. Gross domestic product breakdowns show the construction industry suffered five consecutive years of declining output by the end of 2013, but continues to provide around seven per cent of the Island's jobs. Consider that in 2013, the value of new projects started was $52.9 million, while the value of work put in place was $127.7 million. If all of the projects start on time, those numbers will be dwarfed in 2015. The construction rebound will be valuable socially, as well as economically. With an unemployment rate last officially measured at seven per cent, and young people particularly badly affected, the Island desperately needs the kind of blue-collar jobs that construction offers. Construction workers' skills will be in demand once more and developers will be anxious to complete their projects in good time for the 2017 America's Cup, boding well for overtime opportunities and likely creating a need for foreign workers to bolster the local workforce. Construction has been generating about $30 million per quarter in employment income since the start of 2013, according government statistics through June 30, 2014. That's a far cry from the first quarter of 2009, when construction workers took home $46 million. A return to those kind of numbers would benefit businesses of all kinds as much of the extra money circulated through the economy. Cheaper energy. World crude oil prices fell by almost half in 2014, a staggering capitulation that will act as an economic stimulus for Bermuda if the low prices persist. Brent crude ended 2014 trading at around $56 a barrel. The benefits have already become apparent. The price of fuel at the pumps fell to its lowest point since 2010 in December. And electricity bills are falling too. Belco has set a 12 cents per kilowatt hour fuel adjustment charge for January 2015. Consider that in 2013, Belco customers paid out nearly $96 million in fuel adjustment charges, when the average rate for the year was 17.75 cents per kilowatt hour. The January 2015 rate is about one third lower than the average 2013 rate. Cheaper Living costs. The fall in Brent crude oil prices to around $56 a barrel is all ready acting as an economic stimulus for the local economy, through lower prices at the pumps and a lowering of the Belco fuel adjustment charge to 12 cents per kilowatt hour this month, compared with an average of 17.75 cents in 2013. If the 12-cent rate were to continue throughout the year, the result could be a $30 million-plus bonus for the Bermuda economy. That's a lot more disposable income in our pockets. While energy prices will be volatile, this very rough calculation illustrates the potential size of the effective stimulus for an Island burdened by some of the world's most expensive energy prices. The America's Cup effect. The announcement in December that Bermuda had been selected as the venue for the 2017 America's Cup was greeted with euphoria, not only by the sailing community. Government has estimated a $250 million beneficial impact for the local economy - and Economic Development Minister Grant Gibbons describes that as a conservative estimate. The tangible benefits should start to accrue in 2015, as team members and their families come to Bermuda to start months of practising and a World Series regatta, one of the early stages of the America's Cup, will take place here in October. Bermuda Tourism Authority chairman David Dodwell reckons the America's Cup could add about ten per cent to air arrivals between now and the summer of 2017. There may be intangible benefits too, such as confidence, an important ingredient in the economic growth mix. The feel-good factor may help to persuade people that they can believe in Bermuda's future with more conviction, something that could tip the scales for some in favor of buying a big-ticket item such as a house or a car. The dose of global publicity the Island will receive in 2017, as the main event is beamed to the world, may convince investors in tourism-related businesses to take the plunge in the run-up to the racing, and it will not do any harm to real-estate values either. 5. US growth. The United States is Bermuda's major trading partner, the main source of international business investment and visitors alike. Its economy has made huge strides since the market meltdown of 2008. In the third quarter of 2014, its economy was growing at an impressive five per cent annualized rate. And although it's unlikely to keep up that booming pace of growth, the experts expect US GDP to grow at its fastest rate in more than a decade in 2015. Unemployment has fallen below six per cent, as the US economy delivered more than 200,000 new jobs per month in 2014. With interest rates still low and the property market continuing to improve, many Americans will be starting to feel better off than they have done in some time. US growth is good news for tourism and for international business. The US is also the Island's biggest insurance and reinsurance market and a growth in economic activity will translate into a growth of insurance exposures. However, a trend toward consolidation in the insurance industry, as has been seen with RenaissanceRe agreeing to buy Platinum and XL Group in talks to buy Catlin, could result in job losses in the industry. Leaner and fitter. Many businesses in Bermuda - and their employees - have taken a heavy dose of pain during the recession. Hundreds have lost their jobs, while many more have taken pay freezes or cuts. Companies have streamlined their operations, removed dead wood and improved efficiency. The survivors are leaner and fitter. The business landscape has changed. Even some slackly run businesses could thrive in the pre-crisis environment, but not so any more. Competition in many sectors has heated up and online entrepreneurs are flourishing. Advances in technology have lowered the barriers to entry. Added pressure has come from a decrease in the size of the market with the fall in population. A more competitive local business scene has helped to make Bermuda more competitive viz a viz the rest of the world. The Island's lack of resources and geographical remoteness and lack of economies of scale will always mean it is a relatively expensive place to do business. However, the fall in price of business basics, like commercial real estate rents and broadband internet connections, makes cost less of an issue than it used to be.

January 2. The world's largest reinsurer, Munich Re, has added another Bermuda sidecar to its roster after $75 million of participating notes from a special purpose insurer called Eden Re I was listed. The move follows a similar $290 million Eden Re II Ltd vehicle listing on the Island just before Christmas. Industry experts said the listings confirmed Munich Re's intention to make more use of alternative capital and maximize relations with capital market investors. Munich Re launched its Eden Re Ltd sidecar, a $63 million collateralised vehicle that provided it with capacity to support its property catastrophe business, a year ago. The latest sidecar was listed on the Bermuda Stock Exchange late last month. Eden Re I is being registered as a segregated accounts company, as well as a special purpose insurer, leading to the issuance of segregated account participating notes. This likely makes it more suitable for deals involving single large investors, where the Eden Re II vehicle looks more like a multi-investor vehicle as the notes it issued were not for a segregated account. According to financial website Artemis, the participating notes issued by Eden Re I are "exposed to a wide range of perils including earthquake, seismic and/or volcanic disturbance or eruption, hurricane, rainstorm, storm, tempest, tornado, tidal waves and tsunamis." Artemis said the type of deals set up by Munich allowed the firm to access third-party capital to support its underwriting and retrocede a share of business to the investors. They are similar to a catastrophe bond or private insurance linked security (ILS) deal, but allow for a full quota share of the reinsurers' portfolio to be offered to ILS insurers if it chooses.

January 2. A health worker who this week became the first person on British soil to have Ebola diagnosed also served for a number of years as a nurse in Bermuda. Ebola, which has claimed nearly 7,000 lives in West Africa, infected more than 20,000 people over the course of 2014. The present outbreak is the worst epidemic of the virus yet seen. Scottish nurse Pauline Cafferkey, a National Health Service worker, had been helping to treat the disease in Sierra Leone, where she traveled with a team from the group Save the Children. She had flown back to Glasgow last Sunday aboard a British Airways flight and subsequently developed symptoms of the disease, which typically begin with sudden fever, headache, fatigue and a sore throat. Ebola was diagnosed on Monday and Ms Cafferkey is now being treated in a secure unit in London's Royal Free Hospital. According to Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, Ms Cafferkey was doing "as well as can be expected." (On January 3, 2015 her condition slipped to "critical."). Once her photograph appeared in world media, old friends in Bermuda of Ms Cafferkey recognised her face. The Bermuda Hospitals Board has confirmed that a Pauline Cafferkey had worked as a nurse in King Edward VII Memorial Hospital's Cooper Ward from September 2005 to February 2007. A friend of Ms Cafferkey from her time on the Island said: "I first met Pauline way back in 2006 through rugby and she was one of the first friends I made in Bermuda. I remember her to be loads of fun and very happy go lucky." During her time in Bermuda, Ms Cafferkey played for Mariners. Ebola is a dangerous virus spread by direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, or by contact with a recently contaminated surface. A variety of factors have hampered international efforts to contain the epidemic, which has hit the West African nations of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea worst of all. Although no specific treatment or vaccine has been developed, BBC News reported that Ms Cafferkey is being given blood plasma from British nurse William Pooley, who has recovered from the virus and whose antibodies may help to combat the infection. A small number of infected persons have inadvertently carried the virus by traveling out of Africa. It can take up to 21 days for symptoms of the disease to show. Bermuda has adopted its own health screening policy for persons arriving from Ebola-affected countries, with officials at LF Wade International Airport screening arriving passengers and checking their travel history.

January 2. The new year should usher in a fresh commitment by Members of Parliament to raise the level of debate in the House of Assembly. The call from Premier Michael Dunkley comes after a series of unsavory confrontations and raucous verbal altercations inside and outside of the Lower Chamber. In the early part of last month, House Speaker Randy Horton issued MPs a stark warning that they could face immediate suspension from Parliament if they continued to flout orders of Parliamentary conduct. Mr Dunkley said that the wake-up call needed to be heeded. He told The Royal Gazette that more could be achieved by cooperation across the floor than by political quarrelling along party lines. "At critical times, you need to put politics aside. When we are building the economy, we all need to work together and make it work. At this very early stage, if we continue to haggle and quarrel over little things, we should not be surprised if we don't see the progress we hope for. There will be plenty of time for nitpicking in the run-up to the next election. If we really want to help the people that were picking up their Christmas dinners from Albouy's' Point, we sometimes need to put politics aside and look at how we can work together." MPs sitting in the House were repeatedly reined in by the Speaker during a heated debate at the beginning of last month and an Opposition Police complaint came in the wake of a fracas in the House foyer. "MPs do need to take stock and remember the responsibility that comes with the honour of serving the people," Mr Dunkley said. "We need to raise those standards. The wake-up call has been received by everyone. Within the Government, we have had numerous discussions in caucus and Cabinet about the standards expected of us as MPs. Going forward, our Parliamentary team has committed to a higher level of debate and discourse in the House. This is one of the greatest honours you can get; we should never lose sight of that. Wake-up calls can be good."

January 3. A British nurse who had Ebola diagnosed after returning from Sierra Leone has been described as being in a critical condition by the London hospital treating her. The Royal Free Hospital said on Sunday it was sorry to announce that the condition of Pauline Cafferkey has gradually deteriorated over the past two days. Ms Cafferkey, from South Lanarkshire, Scotland, and who worked in Bermuda as a nurse for 17 months from September 2005 to February 2007, was given an experimental antiviral drug and blood from disease survivors. Meanwhile, a patient in Swindon, England, has tested negative for Ebola. Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust confirmed it was testing an individual with a history of travel to West Africa as a precautionary measure. The Trust added that those using the hospital should not be concerned. Ms Cafferkey, a public health nurse, learnt she had Ebola last month after volunteering with Save the Children in Sierra Leone. British Prime Minister David Cameron posted yesterday on Twitter: "My thoughts and prayers are with nurse Pauline Cafferkey who is in a critical condition with Ebola." Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt also expressed his concern, adding: "I know Dr Mike Jacobs and his team at the Royal Free Hospital are working tirelessly to provide her with the best possible care." Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, tweeted: "My thoughts are with Pauline and her family at this extremely difficult time. Thanks to all who are caring for her." Ms Cafferkey had traveled home via Casablanca, Morocco, and London's Heathrow. She was screened for the disease at Heathrow, where she told officials she believed a fever might be developing. Her temperature was taken seven times, six of them within a 30-minute period, and was normal each time, so she was allowed to fly to Scotland. The government's chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, said the case had raises questions about airport screening procedures. Ms Cafferkey was later placed in an isolation unit at Glasgow's Gartnavel Hospital after becoming feverish, before being transferred by RAF Hercules plane to London and on to the Royal Free. Ms Cafferkey's is the second British case of Ebola. Another nurse, William Pooley, recovered last September after also being treated at the Royal Free Hospital. He donated blood plasma and was treated with the antiviral drug ZMapp, of which there are no stocks left. Microbiologist Professor Hugh Pennington said patients responded to Ebola treatment differently. "Some patients with Ebola get sick then they get better. Not everybody dies. For this reason, it was very difficult to tell how effective treatments would be, especially when relatively small numbers of people are being treated with these various experimental approaches". David Mabey, an expert in communicable diseases from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, also said that Ms Cafferkey's reaction to the virus would have been hard to predict. "The critical period is in the first four or five days after it is diagnosed, because if you are going to get worse then that's when it happens," he said. Bermuda has a health screening policy for persons arriving from Ebola-affected countries, with officials at LF Wade International Airport checking their travel histories.

January 3. A developer who set out to build a new hotel in Hamilton has been sued for $1 million in the US after allegedly breaching a contract. The New York-based Carlton Group claims that Par-la-Ville Hotel and Residences Ltd accepted an $18 million loan earlier this year for the hotel project, but failed to pay the company its $900,000 commission. The company is now suing Par-la-Ville Hotel and Residences Ltd, Johann Oosthuizen, Wakefield Quin Ltd, Michael MacLean and Theodore Adams III in the Southern District of New York, and are seeking a jury trial. According to legal documents filed on December 20 by Rosen Law LLC, the Carlton Group allege that they entered an exclusive debt and equity advisory agreement with the Bermuda-based developer in 2012. Under the agreement, the US company would find $18 million in financing for the hotel development. For their efforts, the Carlton Group would receive a four per cent commission, later amended to five per cent, ($900,000), payable in full upon the initial draw down of the funds. The suit claims that in April of 2014, the plaintiff arranged a binding agreement between Par-la-Ville Hotel and Residences Ltd and the Alsis Funds, also known as Mexico Infrastructure Finance, to fund a loan of $18 million. Repayment of that loan was guaranteed by the Corporation of Hamilton. In July, the Alsis Group issued $18 million in funds, which were placed with an escrow agent as per the contract. The documents allege that at some point between July 1 and the filing of the suit, the escrow agent was authorized by the defendants to release the funds to a third party or third parties. However, the defendants refused to pay the $900,000 commission. The suit claims Plaintiff Carlton Group has been damaged to an extent to be determined at trial, but anticipated to be no less than the sum of $1 million as a result of the defendant's breach of contract. The Carlton Group further alleges that Par-la-Ville Hotel and Residences Ltd has been unjustly enriched, and that the other defendants had used dishonest and/or unfair means to aid Par-la-Ville Hotel and Residences Ltd take the money out of escrow without paying the plaintiff the money owed. The suit also makes the allegation that Mr MacLean made a misrepresentation of fact to the plaintiff by claiming they would be paid the $900,000 owed in full before the money was taken out of escrow. Efforts to contact the parties for comment regarding this story were unsuccessful as of press time last night. Discussion about the potential erection of a hotel on the site of the Par-la-Ville parking lot have been ongoing for more than a decade, with a Special Development Order (SDO) issued for the property in 2006. In November of 2007, the Corporation of Hamilton announced it had signed a deal to bring a five-star Ritz Carlton Hotel to the property. In 2009, developers announced that the $350 million project would instead operate under the St Regis brand through a partnership with Starwood Hotels and Resorts. At that time, the project was said to include a 137-room hotel, 95 luxury residences and a three-story underground parking garage. While Government announced in 2013 that it would bring forward legislation to help secure full financing for the project, separate legislation aimed at reforming the Island's municipalities forced the project's lease to be sent to the House of Assembly for approval. The House approved the lease in March, resetting milestone date's of the project in the process and approved a bridge loan to help the project move forward.

January 4. Senator Diallo Rabain has said Police were following several leads into the hit-and-run incident that left him with a fractured leg on Friday evening. He was riding his motorcycle home from work along Front Street when another rider apparently tried to turn on to Court Street ahead of him and the senator was knocked to the ground. The other driver took off but a female witness told officers the bike's licence plate number. Speaking from his home after a short stretch at the hospital, Sen Rabain told The Royal Gazette: "I am now waiting on the Police. They said they had leads and would get back to me shortly." Sen Rabain is wearing a soft cast and is due to visit the fracture clinic tomorrow to see whether he will need another cast. The injury is unlikely to affect the Progressive Labour Party member's work in the Senate, which reconvenes in the middle of next month. He plans to return to his regular job at Compu-Cad on Wednesday. Police responded to the two-vehicle traffic collision at about 6.45pm on Friday. It is believed that two motorcycles were traveling along the road when they collided. Sen Rabain, 43, of Hamilton Parish, was taken to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital via ambulance while the second rider took off. He was said to be in a stable condition on a general ward and was later released. Sen Rabain said: "I'm resting but it's a bit of a forced rest, it's one of those things. It was weird because I've been reading about all of these accidents that have been happening here; I was not expecting this. I was on my regular ride home from work and the next thing you know I'm on the ground getting picked up by an ambulance. I only knew what had happened because I heard a lady talking to the Police." Asked whether he had a message for anyone driving irresponsibly on Bermuda's roads, Sen Rabain said: "My message would be: just slow down. Have some courtesy for others on the road. This could have been a lot worse than it was and for what? There was no traffic behind me, so whoever turned in front of me could have waited. I just wish people would slow down." Police are appealing for witnesses to contact the Roads Policing Unit on 295-0011.

January 5. Bermuda's seniors are receiving "deplorable" care in residential facilities and private homes across the Island yet the authorities are failing to act, it has been alleged. An investigation by The Royal Gazette has uncovered a number of cases where elderly people are distressed by the level of care provided to them or appear to have been failed by their professional caregivers or relatives. Yet the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged (NOSPC) has not properly responded to the complaints or helped the individuals find more suitable accommodation, according to those interviewed by this newspaper. Our inquiry suggests the NOSPC, which is responsible both for inspecting residential facilities and handling complaints about elder abuse and neglect, is struggling to carry out its duties, leading to some complainants never hearing back from the office and others feeling their concerns are not being taken seriously. One man told us: "I have been trying to get help for my sister from the National Office. I was there four, five, six times. I left my name and number for a case worker to call me and it seems like nobody cares. Nobody gives me a call." Although 34 complaints of elder abuse were made to the office between January and October last year, none led to prosecutions under the Senior Abuse Register Act 2008, a law introduced specifically to protect the elderly and to penalize those who mistreat them. We discovered: an 81-year-old man who developed severe bedsores in Sunny Vale Nursing Home in Paget was removed from the facility by concerned members of the public because the NOSPC did not feel a move was necessary; another man, aged 69, refused to return to Sunny Vale, after having his leg amputated in hospital, because he was so unhappy at the rest home; a third man died while a resident at Sunny Vale in 2012 and one of the causes of his death was severe malnutrition; the family of an 89-year-old woman was told that she could not move from Packwood Nursing Home in Somerset, despite repeated requests from relatives, because there was nowhere suitable to send her; and a man who tried to make a complaint of senior neglect after finding his 76-year-old sister lying in her own urine in bed at the home she shared with her son and daughter-in-law was ignored by staff at the NOSPC and never had his calls returned. Age Concern executive director Claudette Fleming said: "These are stories that must be told." The charity boss, referring to Health Minister Jeanne Atherden's recent pledge to restructure the NOSPC in 2015 and increase care home inspections, added: "Promises can be made but they are not always kept. It's important that these stories be put in the forefront of the public's mind." Derrick Burgess, the Shadow Minister for Seniors, said: "Bermuda is in desperate need of a review of its facilities for seniors. The care provided to the elderly in our rest and nursing homes needs to be scrutinized. The oversight provided by Government is ineffective when dealing with abuse, negligence and infringements of the Residential Care Homes and Nursing Homes Act 1999 and the Residential Care Homes and Nursing Homes Regulations 2001." Ms Atherden said in a statement last September: "As far as our Island's rest homes are concerned, the Ministry continues to actively monitor and ensure that rest homes meet the required standards. Accusations by the Opposition that this Government has somehow abandoned its seniors couldn't be farther from the truth." But she admitted two months later that she had concerns about the NOSPC being responsible for the licensing and inspecting of care homes, and also being the recipient of complaints for those same homes. She said the roles should be separated and that she had asked Ministry of Health staff how a separation could be accomplished. The Minister told Members of Parliament: "We have implemented a process of the monthly reporting of complaints to have an ongoing complaints register. Further, in terms of visits and inspections, changes have been made to the residential care facilities visiting process so they now occur three times per year: two scheduled and one unscheduled. This process will assist with ensuring that all homes comply with the requirements of the legislation." Elizabeth Stewart, from the charity Action on Alzheimer's and Dementia, said that was "still inadequate. You shouldn't have scheduled inspections at all. It gives ample time for somebody to prepare and make everything look fine. You should have more than one unscheduled visit a year." Mr Burgess said that change cannot come soon enough and he repeated his call for an independent body to have oversight of residential homes. The Progressive Labour Party politician claimed the NOSPC, which is being run by a civil servant seconded from another department until the end of March, was not properly looking into "numerous complaints of deplorable care of seniors and was not ensuring that those guilty of providing inadequate or neglectful care were penalized." But the Ministry of Health told this newspaper that the NOSPC was working hard to improve its services and should still be the first port of call for anyone with a complaint of elder abuse or neglect. "The intent was never to have NOSPC as the primary source for investigating claims of senior abuse but, rather, for NOSPC to utilize other resources in order to do that, in particular, the Police. For example, NOSPC does not have the ability to look into one's financial history if it is a case of financial abuse. In that instance, we forward the case to the Police (CID) for investigation. The Senior Abuse Registrar regularly undertakes actions to ensure the welfare and safety of seniors who may be the victim of senior abuse. All reports of senior abuse should be reported using a senior risk referral form, which is available at the National Office at the Continental Building, on the corner of Church Street and Cedar Avenue [in Hamilton]." This newspaper is not aware of any homes being prosecuted for breaching the Residential Care Homes and Nursing Homes Regulations. And none of the cases we uncovered have led to action being taken under the Senior Abuse Register Act. The law, which was heralded at the time of its passage through Parliament as a way to protect the Island's growing elderly population from physical, sexual and psychological abuse, financial exploitation and long-term neglect, has barely been used since it came into effect in March 2008. This newspaper has reported on only one successful prosecution, that of Lorraine Smith and Audra-Ann Bean in April 2012 for stealing almost half a million dollars from their grandmother. Their names are now on the confidential Senior Abuse Register, along with one other unidentified individual. Our inquiry highlights both how little the existing laws to protect seniors are being used and how difficult it can be for elderly people and their families to find appropriate long-term care on the Island. The owner of Sunny Vale, for example, insists she told the NOSPC that her facility could not provide the nursing care needed by the 81-year-old man who developed bedsores but got no assistance. Staff at Packwood say the NOSPC is badly understaffed and a task force for the elderly should be set up immediately to ensure that seniors' needs are understood and met, wherever they are spending their final years. Ms Atherden said in November last year: "Going forward, we at the Ministry will be focusing on improving the quality of care being provided at residential care homes. We have to be concerned about the physical environment of facilities but, at the same time, we need to ensure the quality of care is of the highest standard. Our legislation speaks mostly to staffing levels, environmental conditions and the physical environment provided at homes, but the quality of care provisions are not sufficiently strong." The NOSPC can be reached on 292-7802. Seniors' Facts: The National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged (NOSPC) was established by the Bermuda Government in 2002. It was allotted almost $1 million in the most recent Budget, with $529,000 of that for seniors. Its roles, responsibilities and organizational structure are under review and its three most senior staff positions are vacant but are being covered in an "acting capacity" until the review is complete. The NOSPC's manager is also appointed Senior Abuse Registrar under the Senior Abuse Register Act 2008. John Payne, the former manager and Registrar, retired on October 31, 2014, and administrator Keeona Belboda has been seconded to fill the role until the end of March. Social worker Katherina Gibbons is the office's co-ordinator for seniors. The Ministry of Health has said the NOSPC would be restructured in 2015 and "posts may be recruited." Under the Act, it is the duty of the Registrar to cause an investigation to be carried out if a complaint of elder abuse is made. According to the Ministry of Health, 34 complaints of elder abuse were made between January and October 2014, resulting in 22 investigations. The ministry will not share the outcomes but none are believed to have led to prosecutions under the Senior Abuse Register Act. According to the most recent Government Budget Book, there were 205 cases of elder abuse managed in the fiscal year 2012-13, resulting in six investigations, and 170 cases managed the subsequent financial year, resulting in ten investigations. Outcomes are not provided. The Senior Abuse Registrar has successfully applied for two protection orders under the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act, according to the Ministry of Health. The Department for Public Prosecutions did not respond to a request for the number of prosecutions and convictions under the Senior Abuse Register Act since it came into effect in March 2008. The Senior Abuse Register is confidential and not available for public inspection or publication. Three people are listed on it. Bermuda has at least 20 residential facilities for the elderly, ranging in cost from $1,395 (Lefroy House) to $13,800 (Continuing Care Unit) a month, according to figures provided on December 30, 2014, by the Ministry of Health. The average monthly fee is about $5,000. The NOSPC conducted 25 elder care facility inspections in both 2012-13 and 2013-14, according to the Budget Book, with the aim to increase that to 35 in the fiscal year 2014-15. Health Minister Jeanne Atherden said in November 2014 that changes had been made to the "residential care facilities visiting process" so inspections now happen three times a year: two scheduled and one unscheduled. The Residential Care Homes and Nursing Homes Regulations 2001 set out the requirements for homes and those convicted of breaching the regulations can be fined $10,000. The public can request the Chief Medical Officer make the register of residential homes available to view during normal business hours. According to the 2010 Census, Bermuda had a senior population (aged 65 and above) of 8,683. The authorities say that figure is rising rapidly.

January 5. The details of the brutal killing of a young Bermudian prisoner of war near the end of the Second World War have been compiled by an Italian scholar, with help from the dead soldier's relatives in Bermuda. James Outerbridge was just 20 when a guard killed him, even though he had surrendered, after being caught attempting to escape from a prisoner of war train in Italy. Royal Air Force documents titled "Italian War Crimes", cited in the latest study of the events that day, describe how Mr Outerbridge jumped off the prison train as it idled at a little railway station at the city of Rimini. "He was then fired at by a sentry or guard on the train when some forty yards away. He fell to the ground and put up his arms, but was shot at four or five times more by an Italian guard." The guard was variously identified as Guiseppe Papantonio and Pietro Guiseppe. The account from a British officer who successfully escaped back to the UK has the guard wounding the young Bermudian prisoner and then using his rifle to bash in Mr Outerbridge's head. The compiled story was shared with The Royal Gazette, with messages of thanks, by its author, Daniele Cielli. Mr Cielli, a historian in the city of Rimini, had contacted this newspaper earlier in 2014, seeking help with his project. After learning of Mr Outerbridge's grave in a nearby military cemetery at Ravenna, Mr Cielli set out to learn more. The Bermudian pilot was on board a train carrying Allied prisoners from the camp PG21 in Chieti to another camp, PG49 in Parma, when it stopped at Rimini on May 1, 1943. Mr Cielli speculated that Mr Outerbridge might have been trying to reach the neutral enclave of San Marino when the guard shot him. A darker account of what befell the young Rhodes Scholar, who had joined the Royal Air Force and been assigned to the 458 RAAF squadron, emerges in the collection of accounts. Witness accounts vary in exactly what befell James Outerbridge, but one thing seemed certain. "James, then, had surrendered and was killed anyway," Mr Cielli wrote. "I asked myself, why would the policeman shoot an unarmed prisoner, plus one who had surrendered? What could have led him to behave in such a manner?" He hypothesized that the policeman might have lost his family in one of the many bombing raids carried out on Rimini by the Allies. The city had been devastated by unrelenting bombardments. "I tried to imagine what might have been the reason for his behavior, not to justify it, but to try to understand the context in which occurred the reprehensible fact," Mr Cielli wrote. He suspected the motive for the killing was more likely "pure sadism." Mr Cielli was amazed to learn in November that a book had been published by British author and historian Brian Lett, entitled "An Extraordinary Italian Imprisonment, the brutal truth of Campo 21, 1942-1943." It happened that the author's father, Major Gordon Lett DSO, had been imprisoned with Mr Outerbridge, which Mr Cielli found an incredible coincidence. Mr Lett's book described a transfer of 34 prisoners. "Several toyed with thoughts of escape, but James was the most restless among them." In the account that emerges, an agitated and emotional Mr Outerbridge sought nothing more than escape. Although the other soldiers kept watch of him, at Rimini the young man impulsively seized the opportunity. He was shot from the train by a guard, and fell to the ground. According to witness Claude Weaver, the guard Guiseppe Papantonio shot the injured man, who had raised his arms in surrender. The young man was hit four or five times, after which the guard used his rifle to shatter his skull. It was a brutal end for James Outerbridge, whose portrait remains in Bermuda. Mr Cielli's collection of writings is thus far un-translated, but has nonetheless been gratefully received by relatives of the long-dead airman. "He was my father's first cousin, once we started looking into his life, he seemed amazingly accomplished at the age of 18," distant relative Bill Outerbridge told The Royal Gazette. "Until we found his grave in Italy a couple of years ago, the only thing we had here was a painting of him and a ghost story, and my aunt, Barbara Saber, who lives in Florida, grew up with Jimmy at Flatts Hill." His wife, Carol, said the family knew of Mr Outerbridge's story from a plaque commemorating him in St Mark's Church in Smith's. Family legend had her father-in-law playing the piano in the family home shortly after the young Outerbridge had been killed, and a ghost form of the dead man emerging from the portrait of him. Like Mr Cielli, whose writing is as much about tracking down details as it is about Mr Outerbridge's untimely death, the Outerbridges were able to put the internet to great use in tracking down details. Frequent visitors to the nearby Italian city of Bologna, the Outerbridges hired a car to visit the decades-old grave of a Bermudian soldier who fell far from home. "Walking around the cemetery and seeing how many of these young men made such a sacrifice, you think of how brave they were," Mrs Outerbridge recalled. "You're in awe of what these people went through, committed themselves to and then gave their lives."

January 5. A series of think tanks aimed at cutting the cost of power is to be held in the New Year, Ascendant has revealed in an end-of-year letter to shareholders. Walter Higgins, CEO of the parent company of electricity firm Belco, announced the moves and said that in the meantime his company continues to develop and refine a comprehensive integrated resource plan (IRP) that proposes a diverse portfolio of energy solutions, initiatives to bring down costs to the consumer and job creation associated with implementing the plan. A variety of approaches designed to cut costs and pollution were being looked at including replacing the current oil-burning plant in Pembroke. The plan recommends reducing costs with energy efficiency and conservation initiatives, extensive renewable energy deployment and a transition to an alternative fuel, likely to be liquefied natural gas (LNG) to achieve lower cost energy. Workshops would follow an energy summit, held in November last year, the first of its kind in Bermuda and which brought together experts from Bermuda and overseas. Mr Higgins quoted Minister of Education and Economic Development Dr Grant Gibbons' opening address, where he said that energy reform was vital to economic recovery and could even accelerate the pace. "This is a statement that is even more profound given what is required to prepare for the America's Cup. Ascendant's success is directly linked to Bermuda's growth, stability and prosperity and we will work closely with all stakeholders to achieve the best outcomes. The Cup, which will see a series of events starting in the fall and climaxing with the finals in 2017, would boost the firm and Bermuda. Ascendant Group Ltd has given its commitment to the Bermuda Government and the America's Cup organizers that we will provide the required energy and infrastructure support to help make the America's Cup a great success. There is much to be done in preparation for the America's Cup, but Bermuda has a tradition of successfully rising to challenges." And he cited the firm's response to two hurricanes, Fay and Gonzalo, which hit the Island in a space of a week last October, including drafting in extra specialists from the Caribbean, and the speed at which normality was restored as an example of the Island's resilience. The letter also told shareholders that a dividend of 7.5 cents per share would be payable at the end of last year. Mr Higgins added that work continued to review its costs and that, starting from this year, the employee health insurance plan was being revised to reduce overall costs, while maintaining benefits and sustainable coverage. "The New Year will bring with it continued challenges, but also many more opportunities. We are looking forward to working with Government, stakeholders and the whole community in doing our part to deliver on our commitments."

January 5. A major shake-up of the global reinsurance industry will get underway this year, industry experts have predicted. Falling rates, improved terms and conditions, oversupply of capital continuing to outstrip demand and several years of little loss activity will mean more changes ahead, according to a report on the year ahead by London-based Willis Re. The firm said: “Tiering of reinsurers is also gaining wider traction, putting real pressure on smaller reinsurers and mono line catastrophe writers, who have the additional burden of competing with the capital efficient and highly competitive capital market-backed funds and sidecars.” And the report added that major mergers and takeovers were likely to accelerate as companies recognise that delays could lead to further deterioration in their valuations. It said: “With only a limited supply of attractive target companies, consolidators looking for scale and diversification are moving as company valuations become more reasonable for both parties.” Willis Re chairman Peter Hearn predicted: “In the current environment, many reinsurers recognise they can no longer hope for salvation through major market losses or increasing interest rates. Their only sustainable course of action is to change their business models, portfolio mixes and to strive for scale. The new mantra is diversification. Whether this is by class or geography — preferably both — reinsurers are being actively rewarded by investors and buyers who see diversification as key to sustainability, along with size.” But the report added that some reinsurers are not accepting wider terms and conditions in addition to reduced rates, while a number of buyers had given order prices above the lowest market rates to maintain relationships with trusted partners. And it said that some firms were scaling back their portfolios and entering the new year with reduced budgets — particularly in the natural catastrophe sector — in a bid to resist aggressive pricing and terms and conditions. In addition, the rush of hedge fund-backed reinsurers appears to have slowed, although that was put down to rating agency hurdles rather than current market conditions. Willis Re CEO John Kavanagh said: “Yet again, buyers have held sway. Also adding to reinsurer woes are the predictions that the global reinsurance market is only just managing to cover its cost of capital in 2014 and may fail to do so in 2015. Arguably, the continued lack of demand and oversupply of capital can only keep driving pricing down. Unlike other financial markets, the reinsurance market lacks inherent depth, with no structured secondary trading market to help absorb the excess capacity. As a sector, we need to create depth.” The Willis report said that catastrophe bond spreads declined 15 to 20 per cent last year compared to 2013. It added that last year had also been a record-breaker for non-life catastrophe bond issues, with around $8 billion committed to the market. The report said: “Collateralised reinsurance also continues to grow, although the rate of growth may not be as pronounced in 2015, there are no signs of growth abating.”

January 6. Oracle Team USA could potentially set up shop in Bermuda in the not-too-distant future. It is expected that the America's Cup holders will relocate into their new Bermuda headquarters in Dockyard by early spring to step up preparations for the title defence in the Great Sound in 2017. "There is a South Basin up there which is where the bases will be set up for the finals," said Dr Grant Gibbons, the Economic Development Minister, who spearheaded Bermuda's successful bid to host the 35th America's Cup. "Many teams may set up there early, but we just don't have a clear indication of what the timing on that would be. But the team that will be probably be coming in the earliest, if I had to guess, would be Oracle  and they will be based up in Dockyard. I don't know exactly when, but based on what I'm understanding probably March or April because they have to dismantle stuff where they are now and sort of ship it in and people have to come in and the rest of it." Dr Gibbons said that work has already started on the designated site in Dockyard for America's Cup teams to set up their bases. "What's started already is an effort to clear the dock up at the South Basin," the minister said. "There are a number of old dilapidated structures up there, while some people have boats and other things stored up there, so there's a fair amount of preparatory work that has started already to essentially clear off the dock and start to make it available to teams that want to set up there. We know in conceptual terms where things will go, but there's a fair amount of prep work that needs to be done in terms of hook-ups for electrical and water. Some of that is going on right now but the biggest task is getting that dock cleaned up so that it's available for teams that will want to set up there. There's also some buildings that will need to be repaired and cleaned up at Dockyard because some of those will be used for the purpose of the Event Village in 2017 and before that." America's Cup officials, meanwhile, are expected to begin relocating their offices to Bermuda as early as this month. "Some of the America's Cup Event Authority, which is obviously the organizing group, are starting to move in January and February," Dr Gibbons said. "But they will be working out of offices and that sort of thing." As well as the America's Cup challenger qualifiers and finals, Bermuda will also host the America's Cup World Series in October of this year.

January 6. The brother of a 76-year-old woman who is allegedly being neglected in her own home by relatives claims that he has been repeatedly ignored when he has tried to report the matter to the authorities. Mr A told The Royal Gazette that his sibling, who is frail, incontinent and has mild dementia, was being left on her own at home for hours at a time and that he had found her on several occasions lying in a pool of her own urine in bed, dehydrated and hungry. The senior lives with her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, but they are all out of the house at work or school during the day. “The problem is they don’t have no time for Grandma,” her brother claimed. He said he visited the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged (NOSPC) in September last year because of his concerns about the lack of care being given to her during daylight hours. But he said that it was almost impossible to get anyone to log his complaint or even call him back. “She just needs some help,” the 55-year-old man said. “I’m at my wit’s end. I don’t know who to even turn to now.” Mr A, who asked for his sister not to be identified, told this newspaper that he had visited the NOSPC “four, five, six times” and had left his name and number each time, but no one called back. “It seems like nobody cares; nobody gives me a call.  One day I went there and I said, ‘Well, I’ll sit here and wait in the front’. I told them I want to see somebody. I sat there and waited. No one even acknowledged me. I waited there a whole hour. I told the receptionist ‘I have got to go’. I was ready to let off fireworks. I said, ‘No, keep your cool, clear your head and go. I sent an e-mail to the case worker — it was just to get in contact with me — and she never got back in contact with me. It’s not like they don’t know about [my sister].” Eventually, Mr A said, he managed to reach a case worker on the telephone and she asked him to summarize his concerns but refused a sit-down meeting. Six weeks later, he had heard nothing back. Mr A, who works full time and has a wife and daughter, said that he personally could not take care of his sister every day but hated to see her being neglected. “I try and help — a little lunch here and there, take her a little soup,” he said. “But she really needs somebody there three or four hours a day. She has dementia. She is a little bit weak and fragile. Sometimes she is home all day by herself and is not getting the proper three square meals a day. An eight-hour stretch by herself every day is a lot. She is in the kind of condition where if she was to fall on the floor, what would she do? I think a friend comes by and helps her with her bath every now and then, but that’s not good enough.” He said more than anything that he needed advice from those charged with ensuring that seniors on the Island are properly cared for. “It’s not like I have been at the National Office seeking financial help,” Mr A added. “I am not asking them for any money. I just need advice on what to do. I can’t take her out of the house and drop her down to the hospital to say she needs extended care. They don’t allow you to do that. I’m tired of just going back, going back. I have other things to do. Everybody is busy and working in the family. My main gripe is just trying to get the help from the National Office. Are they overloaded with work? They may have the qualifications but where is the care? They are either overworked or they don’t really understand the real practical aspects of seniors’ needs.” Another woman, in a separate case of alleged neglect, told The Royal Gazette that she had approached the NOSPC for help for her 80-year-old mother, who was spending much of her time home alone, with no one to care for her. I have been calling these people,” Ms B said. “I have left messages. They went up to see her and said ‘your mom does need this and that’. She has Alzheimer’s. But nothing happened. It’s putting me in tears because my mom is by herself.” Ms B said of the NOSPC: “Maybe we should shut it down.” She claimed John Payne, the former Senior Abuse Registrar, was rude to her and would not return her calls. A second woman, Ms C, who said she approached the NOSPC to get help for her 87-year-old father, said: “I gave John Payne all my information but I didn’t get anywhere. I had one meeting with him and never heard any more.” Ms C added: “They never called back, so I just felt it was a waste of time trying to get anywhere with them.” The Royal Gazette asked the Ministry of Health to respond to all the allegations but a spokeswoman said that she could not comment on individual cases.

January 6. Shareholders of Bermuda-domiciled CatCo Reinsurance Opportunities Fund Ltd have benefited from a handsome return thanks to a lack of reinsurance claims. The fund announced yesterday that it will pay a 5.9 cent dividend and additionally proposed a return of value of 11.5 cents, amounting to a return of around 15 per cent. Shares of the fund, which trades on the London Stock Exchange as well as the Bermuda Stock Exchange, closed yesterday at $1.163. The fund invests most of its assets in the Catco Diversified Fund, which invests in fully collateralized catastrophe reinsurance contracts written by the Bermuda reinsurer, Catco Re Ltd. Shareholders can opt to receive their return of value as either income or capital, in the form of B shares. In its statement yesterday, the fund said its target returns are Libor (the London Interbank Overnight Rate) plus 12 to 15 per cent. The one-year Libor rate was yesterday at 0.63 per cent, according to the Bankrate.com website. "To that end, the directors believe that there is an optimum level of capital required to achieve these aims beyond which they may start to become impaired," Catco's statement read. "The directors are therefore proposing to return up to approximately $35 million by way of the proposed Return of Value." The fund's net asset value has reached about $360 million, according to its website. A special general meeting will be held on January 29 at Crawford House on Cedar Avenue, Hamilton, and if the return of value proposal is not approved, the fund's directors intend to issue a special dividend of 11.5 cents. Despite reports of plunging catastrophe reinsurance rates at the key January 1 renewals, Catco appears satisfied with the contracts it has managed to write. "As at January 1, 2015, the Master Fund has deployed collateralized retrocession reinsurance capacity at rates in excess of the company's target returns," Catco's statement reads. At the launch of the Company, the Board of Directors indicated the intention to pay an annual dividend in respect of any Fiscal Year of an amount equal to LIBOR plus 5 per cent of the Net Asset Value as at the end of the relevant Fiscal Year. The Board of Directors are declaring an annual dividend of $0.05929 in respect of the Ordinary Shares for the year to 31 December 2014. The record date for this dividend will be 16 January 2015 and therefore the Ordinary Shares will go ex-dividend on 15 January 2015. It is expected that this final dividend will be paid to shareholders on 30 January 2015.

January 6. A $75 million special purpose reinsurer has been launched to back a major UK-based firm. Bermuda-based Versutus will reinsure a share of global British company Brit Insurance's property catastrophe excess of loss portfolio. It is capitalized by a number of unnamed investors to provide collateralised capacity support to Brit, a Lloyd's of London insurer. The deal is the latest sign of the industry's increasing collaboration with the capital markets. John Sullivan, the carrier's head of short-tail reinsurance, said: "At Brit, we have a well-established book of diversified worldwide excess of loss catastrophe reinsurance business which has a highly profitable 14-year track record. We are pleased to be able to develop new reinsurance relationships with capital marketing partners while providing them with access to Brit's strong underwriting capabilities, diversified distribution reach, via both our London and Bermudian platforms, as well as all the benefits the group experiences as one of the largest of the Lloyd's syndicates." CEO of Brit's Bermuda-based global specialty division Matthew Wilson added the move was "an important step for Brit as the carrier moved to expand its capabilities in the capital markets." Brit Insurance returned to the London Stock Exchange last year after a 2011 $1.34 billion buyout. It used third party capital in 2007 to launch the $118 million collateralised vehicle Norton Re, which ran for two years and focused on property retro business. It launched its Bermuda branch office in Bermuda last September, headed by former Market Re executive Joe Bonanno. Brit PLC is a market-leading global specialty insurer and reinsurer, focused on underwriting complex risks. The firm has a major presence in Lloyd's of London, the world's specialist insurance market provider, and a significant US and international reach. Brit also underwrites a broad class of commercial specialty insurance with a strong focus on property, casualty and energy business. Brit Global Specialty Bermuda complements Brit's distribution network and is regarded as a key component in developing Brit's global offering and will focus on underwriting excess workers compensation reinsurance, as well as US property catastrophe reinsurance, retrocession and industry loss warranty covers.

January 6. Five Royal Air Force aircraft landed in cloudy and rainy conditions at the L. F. Wade International Airport at approximately 3pm this afternoon with the four Typhoons and one A330-200 Voyager tanker having traveled from Lajes, Azores. The RAF website stated 1 [Fighter] Squadron from RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland, UK, were headed for Nellis Air Force Base in the western United States to participate in Red Flag, the largest and most complex air war fighting exercise in the world. Known as a ‘trail’, during the course of the 6000 mile journey each Typhoon would take on fuel in mid-air from a Voyager aircraft on 13 occasions in a carefully coordinated plan prepared by the Air-Air Refuelling Cell. The RAF site indicated "crews start planning the trail four weeks in advance and whilst they have been conducting trails for many years each one is different. When they get tasked they plan the route and determine where each air-air refuelling will take place. This then gives them the information they require to obtain diplomatic clearances and to book airspace, not only to deconflict with other air traffic but also to enable the Voyager and Typhoon formation to climb or descend in the event of poor weather. When trailing fast jets over long distances they need to remain within 90 minutes of a diversion airfield lest they have any problem with one of the aircraft. They also have to factor in the sea temperature to ensure that in the unlikely event of a pilot having to eject that they are able to survive in the water for as long as possible. This means they are unable to fly directly across the Atlantic in one go and instead stage through the Azores, Bermuda and the east coast of the USA."

RAF in Bermuda

RAF Typhoons landed in Bermuda, see story above

January 7. Bermuda will be marketed as an Atlantic destination and not a Caribbean destination, and also as a year-round place to vacation. Chief executive officer of the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA) Bill Hanbury made the announcement yesterday to Hamilton Rotary Club. He said that Bermuda would capitalise on both its British heritage as well as its island soul, calling the merger of cultures proper fun. Mr Hanbury said that visitors love our British and island influences, and added that Bermuda's historic antiquities should be better promoted. "Consumers are interested in Bermuda's British traditions: tea time, cricket, focus on service," he said. "There will be no more invented events not reflecting Bermuda's true heritage, instead the Island should invest in, and nurture Bermuda arts, culture, history and cuisine. Additionally, there will be more focus on Bermuda's marine and nautical legacy, as well as its extraordinary natural and ecological resources. Global visitors desire sports and recreational experiences," he said, and pointed to a series of BTA initiatives. New plans to promote golf include an advisory board, an on-island concierge to ensure visitors can book tee times, and selective sponsorships generating room nights; scuba diving as an important niche market; providing a place for athletic teams in the shoulder season, including rugby, football, field hockey and swimming; fishing, sailing and boating go to our product core; running, cycling and triathlons play an important role. There would be no more talk of an off season and additional marketing resources would be allocated to the industry's shoulder periods. He said: "Our winter weather is delightful compared to the US, Canada and the UK. In Syracuse, New York, the January winter temperature is 24 degrees Fahrenheit, with 34 inches of snow, compared to an average Bermuda temperature of 63 degrees Fahrenheit." He said Bermuda should not be identified as a Caribbean destination because the Island has different seasons, a more moderate climate and less severe weather, although he made an exception for hurricane-hit 2014. He also pointed to shorter flight times from all key markets and a different consumer experience. Bermuda was not a destination for everyone, stated the CEO, and added the BTA would not "boil the ocean". Instead, they will position Bermuda as a quality destination for discriminating consumers. They would not waste marketing assets selling to audiences that won't buy Bermuda, and instead focus first on the north-eastern US, Canada, then the UK and finally Europe. Mr Hanbury had opened his speech painting a gloomy picture of Bermuda's hospitality industry which included a decline in air visitor arrivals of five per cent for 2014, but said the BTA had only been in business since April, and vowed to "own the 2015 arrival figures." He pointed to declining tourism related metrics from 1990 to 2013, with air arrivals down 46 per cent, spending down 53 per cent, tax revenue down 51 per cent and employment in the sector down 58 per cent. He said  the right balance between cruise and air visitors is required for an equitable and thriving tourism industry. However, we receive the vast majority of our income from air arrivals, and pointed out that for every dollar spent by a cruise visitors, air visitors spent $11. Cruise visitors comprise 62 per cent of total travelers in 2012; however, they only spent $45 million of the $415 million that made up total visitor spending. In 2012, 53 per cent of people directly employed in tourism worked in hotels or similar establishments. "BTA submits it's necessary to increase cruise passenger expenditures and simultaneously increase air arrivals,  the organization's top priority." He said that only the civil service and the wholesale/retail trades employ more people than the tourism industry and noted that as visitor spending has declined over time so have the number of jobs. The employment decline was dramatic, with a decrease of almost 50 per cent since 1990. Jobs declined from 6,178 at 1990 levels, to 3,748 in 2013, a loss of 2,430 jobs in the sector. Its negative effects were masked by job growth within the international business sector which more than compensated for the tourism job losses.  Recent performance measures have shown a two per cent increase in hotel occupancy in 2013, and a 2.6 per cent increase in 2014, with the proviso that there is a reduced inventory which has impacted that number. However, air arrivals, which increased 1.8 per cent in 2013, declined five per cent in 2014. There was a one per cent increase in overall arrivals year-over-year, and a 4.8 per cent increase in the hotel average daily rate. Answering questions at the end of his presentation, he said that in dealing with airlines, they were either "at your throat or at your feet", depending on whether demand for seats was rising or falling. "They will do anything they need to do to make money," he said. Mr Hanbury said that tourism's contribution to the GDP was less than 10 per cent of the economy. "At one point we were at 50 per cent," he said. In the next decade, he hopes to see that number rise to 25-30 per cent. He also said that the recently passed legislation allowing for casino licences was not a deal-breaker but we think that casinos and gaming are important. He added: "It won't make the difference between success and failure of the of the BTA and the tourism economy. However; the legislation was important for hotel developers, and its another arrow in our quiver." 

January 7. A fresh focus on the heritage and history of St George's will be championed this year to boost visitor numbers. Corporation of St George's leaders, together with local MPs, will concentrate efforts on promoting cultural tourism in the East End as well as playing up its unique UNESCO status. Community leaders are in talks with the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution to hold a gunpowder re-enactment in the town in August as part of the new initiative. Mayor Garth Rothwell believes the re-enactment will complement a series of cultural events and activities designed to highlight St George's history. "The Corporation and the Tourism Authority, together with a lot of stakeholders, have already held three meetings focused on cultural tourism and the town's UNESCO status. There will also be public meetings held on January 26 and 27. We have major historical links with the UK and the US and the remnants of that still exist today in St George and St David's. We recently started a new tour of our local forts to tap in to this and that is also the thinking behind the gunpowder re-enactment. Not many people know anything about this very significant event in Bermuda's history. Many do not realize that the range and age of guns on display in our forts surpasses places like the Tower of London and the Imperial War Museum. We don't have to build anything, the British Government spent money on that some time ago. What we need to do is stop it from deteriorating and make people aware of what we have." Deputy Mayor Quinnell Francis added: "This year we will be looking to observe some of the world UNESCO days, such as poetry day on March 21. We are also looking at educating our community and going into schools to talk about what the UNESCO status means, and bring a sense of pride back into the community." The Corporation leaders unveiled their plan of attack for the coming year after one of the biggest and most successful New Year's firework displays. MP Kenneth Bascome said: "The feedback I received about the New Year's Eve celebrations was overwhelmingly positive. People said it was the best and the biggest firework display to have ever taken place in Bermuda. This year is all about following on from that and bringing St George alive. We need to make residents and visitors aware of our history and the role St George played right at the start." This year's programme of events will include the UNESCO poetry day on March 21, an April reading in the Somers Gardens and an Oldie Goldies Night in Town Square in June. The town will host the start of the Bermuda Half Marathon Derby this summer. Work has also begun to renovate the public toilet facilities in Town Square, while community leaders received a boost with the news that the passenger ferry, Millennium, will continue to operate between Dockyard and St George's during the cruise season. Mr Rothwell said he hoped additional ferry services would be given to St George's in the summer timetable. "Having the Millennium operating into St George again in 2015 is a significant boost," he added. "But we are also hoping that Government will provide for an extra trip in the morning on weekdays, from the two trips that the Millennium makes. We would also like to see an additional afternoon service on Monday, Wednesday and Friday."

January 7. An 81-year-old man suffering from “severe” bedsores was “rescued” by concerned members of the public from a rest home that could not care for him properly — after the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged (NOSPC) failed to find him a bed elsewhere. Mr X, who has dementia and has had a stroke, developed the painful ulcers while a resident at Sunny Vale Rest Home in Paget and is now at a facility that provides nursing services. A relative and other individuals who became aware of his plight claim the elderly Bermudian was neglected there, resulting in the sores on his hips and the base of his spine. An independent expert, who viewed photographs of the pressure sores at the request of The Royal Gazette, described them as “essentially as bad as it gets” — rating them a grade four, the worst type, under the European Pressure Ulcer Advisory Council scale. “There are few excuses for a pressure area developing in a care environment,” said the senior nurse, who has no connection to the case and spoke on condition of anonymity. “The sores can develop really quickly, in less than an hour. Red skin is the first stage. Positional changes [are key]. The problem would have been that once he had all three of these, where would you put him?” The owner of Sunny Vale strongly denies the allegation of neglect and insists that she informed the NOSPC that her home was unable to give Mr X the care that he needed months before he was moved. Sunny Vale is registered as a rest home, so is not required to provide nursing services, unlike a nursing home. “We done our best for him,” said Dorrie Bennett, a nursing assistant, who owns the St Michael’s Road facility. “The National Office agreed that he needs to be in a nursing home, but I felt that they could have done a little bit more to help me. Nobody helped me.” The bedridden man, whose identity cannot be revealed for legal reasons, suffered from pressure sores for at least ten months before he was removed from the home, according to two confidential “problem reports” obtained by this newspaper. The documents reveal that district nurse Dianne Gornall visited Mr X at Sunny Vale on July 5, 2013, when she observed sores on his hips that were one inch in diameter, but was “unable to obtain a nursing history from the caregivers” at the home. She and health visitor Diane Gledhill were sent by the NOSPC to visit him again at Sunny Vale on April 7, 2014 and recommended afterwards that he be moved to a nursing home “as soon as possible to receive the continuous care that he requires”. Yet Mr X remained at Sunny Vale for another month until members of the public intervened. Ms Gornall and Ms Gledhill noted in their April 7, 2014 report that he had three bedsores. The largest, on his right hip, was three inches in diameter and was described by our overseas expert as “likely infected and necrotic [containing dead or dying skin]”. The health visitor and district nurse wrote that the man’s bed was “very hard and unsuitable.” They complained that there was “poor record-keeping” in relation to the man’s wounds and recommended an immediate change of mattress. “I spoke to Ms Bennett, the proprietor, on the telephone before leaving,” Ms Gledhill wrote. “She reported that she had another mattress that may be more suitable, but it is currently in use by another resident. I expressed concern that another resident would be deprived of this mattress if it were transferred to [Mr X].” The health visitor and nurse visited Mr X again a week later, on April 14, reporting that “the mattress had been changed; however, this was ineffective as cells were broken and it wasn’t plugged in.” They wrote after that visit: “The Sunny Vale Rest Home is not equipped to deal with the level of nursing care that [the senior] requires.” Although they arranged a meeting a day later to discuss “next steps” with John Payne, the NOSPC manager and Senior Abuse Registrar who has since retired, the man was not moved. On May 5, a member of the public who had been told about Mr X met with NOSPC staff and made a complaint of alleged neglect. Ms Y, who asked not to be identified, said: “The NOSPC personnel I met with didn’t appear to react positively to my concerns about [Mr X]. Later that day, I had an appointment about another matter with the BPS [Bermuda Police Service] and because I was extremely concerned about [Mr X’s] physical condition, I reported his condition to the BPS, who contacted the NOSPC.” Ms Y said an officer later informed her that Mr Payne told police that he had been in touch with the patient’s general practitioner, who saw no reason for the senior to be moved. No further police action was taken and Mrs Bennett confirmed she was never interviewed by the police. On May 6, the pensioner was moved by ambulance to a nursing home. According to Ms Y, it was done “with the active consent of the receiving nursing home and his next of kin, who was distressed about his situation but did not know what to do about it. The bedsores were going right through to the bone on his hip. We took the decision that this man must be rescued. We provided an ambulance and we took the man. We assisted a suffering elderly person because he didn’t get any assistance from the National Office. The admitting physician [at the nursing home where he was taken] said he was ... in need of immediate nursing care. Three days later I went back to see him and walked past him because I didn’t recognize him. He looked so different. He is still there and he is getting good nursing care. They are continuing to dress his wounds but it looks as though getting them to heal will be a difficult task. He should never have been in that situation.” Derrick Burgess, the Shadow Minister for Seniors, alerted Health Minister Jeanne Atherden to the case, sharing with her photographs of the man and his wounds, and said that he was amazed that she did not order an immediate inquiry into the care at Sunny Vale and into the NOSPC’s inaction. “The National Office said everything was fine,” he said. “No type of action was taken against the particular home. They [the NOSPC] are not doing their jobs. Everybody is just passing the buck. I just think maybe people are lazy, [but] you are getting paid to do a job. It seems like because someone is elderly, certain things are not taken seriously.” Mrs Bennett said the NOSPC conducted an investigation, which she fully complied with, and the matter was concluded without any action being taken against Sunny Vale. “The care [here] is outstanding,” she insisted. “My home is running in a good way. It’s a clean home. It is kept well. I think someone is being malicious.” According to the Ministry of Health, allegations of elder abuse, including neglect, must be made to the NOSPC after which the Island’s Senior Abuse Registrar then has a duty to “cause an investigation to be carried out.” The Royal Gazette asked if Mr Payne initiated an investigation into the alleged abuse of Mr X at Sunny Vale, but a spokeswoman said: “We cannot disclose any information on individual cases to a third party due to confidentiality restrictions.”  

January 7. A residential home for seniors in Paget is at the centre of three separate alleged cases of neglect. Sunny Vale Rest Home on St Michael's Road claims that it offers outstanding care to the elderly, but one former resident told The Royal Gazette that he was deeply unhappy with the way he was treated and refused to return there after his leg was amputated in hospital, while another was removed by concerned individuals after developing severe bedsores. A third man died in hospital while a resident at the home and his death certificate, obtained by this newspaper, cites severe malnutrition as one of the causes of death. Derrick Burgess, the Shadow Minister for Seniors, has questioned why the authorities have not ordered an immediate inquiry into conditions at Sunny Vale, although he claims that it is not the only facility for seniors on the Island that is failing to provide a suitable standard of care and adequate meals. The Opposition politician, who has spoken out several times on the issue in the House of Assembly in recent weeks, said that he planned to start naming and shaming homes that were not up to scratch in Parliament. "I want to warn all the rest homes that hereon in, from this day, if I get any complaints about abuse and the food that they serve, I will reveal who they are publicly," he said. Carolman Joe Williams, 69, lived at Sunny Vale for several years until he moved to a different rest home last year after having his left leg amputated. Mr Williams, who has never married and has no children, went to Sunny Vale originally after an operation on his eyes meant that he could no longer live alone. "It's a madhouse. It's untidy. The food was bad every day; nothing hot. The food is outrageous. It was like a concentration camp, really. All they [the staff] do all day is mop floors." His leg was amputated at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital after an infection developed in his foot while at Sunny Vale. His niece, who asked not to be named, claimed inadequate care at Sunny Vale was to blame for the infection spreading. "They had to take if off because he was in a lot of pain. Oh my gosh I can see that foot now. It was in a terrible way." But Sunny Vale owner Dorrie Bennett strongly denied the allegation. Mrs Bennett said she cared for Mr Williams for nine years because no family member was willing to take him in. "Any suggestion that his foot infection was because of the homes negligence was a lie.  There is no way he was neglected in Sunny Vale. He had problems with his leg from the word go, he's a stroke victim. Eventually, poor circulation leads to amputation. It just happened; this is how life is. We tried everything. We used to massage his legs. My staff did all they could do." Mr Williams, a former bodybuilder, said that he was still in the dark about why his leg was amputated, as he had previously had no problems with his left foot. He said he shared a bedroom with the 81-year-old man who developed bedsores (see separate story) and claimed he saw his roommate being tied down to his bed. "I wouldn't let them [tie me]," he said, adding that he did not enjoy life at Sunny Vale and his new home was like paradise in comparison. Mrs Bennett said: "This gentleman was miserable. He never liked to get up when we had our functions. He never wanted to apply himself. We had to force him to go on outings." Mr Burgess said that he had little information about the third case, involving the 83-year-old man who died in hospital while a resident at the home in December 2012. But he said that it was brought to his attention by an individual concerned about conditions and care at the home. He questioned why the senior developed severe malnutrition and said the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged (NOSPC) should be thoroughly investigating the food on offer at Sunny Vale, as well as whether the home can meet the needs of its residents. Mrs Bennett said the man who died was placed at her home by the authorities and lived there for no more than a week before she had him admitted to hospital. "He was with me for a week.. He wasn't a resident of mine and I sent him back to the hospital." She insisted that her home, which has been open for 18 years and is inspected annually, offered nutritious meals to its ten residents and provided proper rest-home care, as required under the Residential Care Homes and Nursing Homes Act 1999. Registered rest homes are not required to provide nursing services. The Royal Gazette asked a Ministry of Health spokeswoman if investigations had been launched into the allegations regarding Sunny Vale, but she said that she could not comment.

January 8. Somerset Bridge (designated by the Guinness Book of Records as) the world's smallest drawbridge, has been officially designated as an Historic Monument while Southlands, located in a 27-acre parkland area in Warwick is now a Grade Two Listed Building. The move follows a public consultation that ended on December 31, which resulted in no objections, and with all submissions to the Ministry of Home Affairs supporting the proposed Listings. This brings the total number of Listed Buildings in Bermuda to 779. Along with the Tucker's Town Cemetery and eight buildings in the City of Hamilton, some 11 Listed Buildings have been added to the list of architecturally and/or historically significant buildings in Bermuda in the past two years. Somerset Bridge is officially now a Grade HM, which refers to buildings which are of a level of historic significance and structural interest that makes them of historic importance. Such buildings are considered to be integral to Bermuda's history and to its cultural tourism, and so alterations are avoided and restoration is undertaken on a like-for-like basis. Grade two refers to buildings, structures or groups of buildings that are of such special interest and architectural or historical value that alterations and additions should be limited to works that do not impinge on those parts of the building that are protected and preserved. Such works should normally be carried out in the structural and decorative style of the existing buildings. Minister of Home Affairs Sen Michael Fahy said: "Somerset Bridge is an iconic structure in Bermuda and is known internationally as the smallest drawbridge in the world. It is emblematically Bermudian and appears on the back of the new Bermudian $5 note. By listing it as a Grade HM or Historic Monument Listed Building, it ensures the protection of the structure for years to come. Likewise, I felt that the many examples of traditional Bermudian architecture seen at Southlands were worth preserving for future generations, both visitors and residents alike." The minister extended his appreciation to the Department of Parks for nominating Southlands for the designation, and the Sandys Parish Council for nominating Somerset Bridge.

Somerset Bridge

Somerset Bridge and Southlands Park, Royal Gazette photos

January 8. A former Canadian power firm chief who resigned last fall amid controversy over smart meter fires has been appointed to head Bermuda's Regulatory Authority (RA). Robert Watson, who was president and CEO of the SaskPower in Saskatchewan, resigned from the post without severance after a probe found the corporation had not done enough to ensure public safety. The inquiry by the provincial government followed eight smart meter fires among SaskPower customers over the course of last summer. After the results of the review were published last October, Mr Watson tendered his resignation. Mr Watson replaces Philip Micallef, who quit the post of chief executive last September. The RA regulates the telecommunications industry and will soon oversee the energy sector as well. Mr Watson has also led a telecoms utility. Regulatory Authority Commission chairman Carl Musson said: "It was a difficult search, but I think we found the right man for the job in Robert Watson. I welcome him to Bermuda and look forward to great things from his leadership of the Authority. He joins us at a critical time as we prepare to take over regulation of the Island's energy sector. His experience in the energy sector in Saskatchewan will help us enormously." Mr Micallef, who returned to his native Malta, was recruited from the telecoms sector. Mr Watson's telecoms leadership experience came at SaskTel, where he worked as president and CEO from 2004. Six years later, he moved to the province's electricity corporation, Saskatchewan's biggest Crown corporation with assets of $7 billion and revenue of $1.8 billion, in 2010. He is a graduate in electronic technologies from Ryerson University and attended the international executive development programme at the INSEAD Centre, an international graduate business school, in Fontainebleau, France. He also carried out the executive management programme at Ashridge Business School in the UK and holds an ICD.D designation from the Canadian Institute of Corporate Directors, which commits him to a minimum period of further education every year. Mr Watson is also a board member of Tbaytel, formerly the Thunder Bay Telephone Company, and on the advisory board of Canadian technology manufacturer StarTech.

January 8. Families are being stopped from moving their elderly relatives to different residential homes from facilities that they are unhappy with, it has been alleged. The daughter of an 89-year-old woman claims that she and her siblings have been blocked from transferring their mother, Mrs W, from Packwood Nursing Home in Somerset by the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged (NOSPC) because it considers her “adequately placed”. The family’s main issue with the home is location, as they live in the East End, but the daughter told The Royal Gazette they also feel it is not a good fit for their mother because most residents have some form of dementia and she does not. “Her body is frail but her mind is active,” said the daughter, who asked that her mother remain anonymous. “She’s sitting in this ‘room of death’ with all these dementia people. There’s very, very little activities for anyone [without dementia]. She’s just sitting there waiting for death.” Mrs W moved into Packwood, which is a registered charity, a couple of years ago, after a period of respite care at Sylvia Richardson Care Facility in St George’s, a home that is operated by the Ministry of Health. The monthly fee for both facilities is $5,000. “We searched high and low for what we thought was the best place that had availability,” the daughter said. “There was no space at Sylvia Richardson. We found Packwood and so we moved her in there. We were hoping it was going to be short-term, but it’s turning into a long-term affair.” The elderly widow has not settled at Packwood, according to her daughter, but she does receive the nursing care she needs there. Nursing services are not available at all homes, but Sylvia Richardson, where the family would like to see Mrs W return to on a permanent basis, is registered as a “skilled facility.” The daughter claimed that their request for a transfer to Sylvia Richardson was rejected by the NOSPC, which works with the Community Assessment and Referral Team (Cart) and other agencies to place seniors in residential facilities. She said the reason given was not because of a lack of beds at the state-run facility. The charity Age Concern has previously flagged up the continuing problem of “long waiting lists, limited facility options and sizeable monthly fees” for seniors in need of residential care. Mrs W’s daughter said: “I spoke to [seniors’ co-ordinator] Katherina [Gibbons] and I said, ‘How can I get my mother on the list to be considered for Sylvia Richardson?’. She said that in the eyes of the Cart team, she’s adequately housed; she’s getting basic medical care, food and a roof over her head. “The Cart team said I was being too picky. I said, ‘This is my mother’. She’s not perfect, but she’s a dear, sweet soul. She’s not getting the emotional care that she needs.” According to critics of the NOSPC, Mrs W’s case highlights the need for revised and improved procedures for placing elderly people in residential homes. Derrick Burgess, the Shadow Minister for Seniors, wrote to Health Minister Jeanne Atherden on the topic on December 9, claiming that the NOSPC’s refusal to move Mrs W to the Sylvia Richardson facility was a “clear violation of the Human Rights Act.” I would ask for that policy, whether written or unwritten, to be corrected as soon as possible.” He had not received a response by press time. Elizabeth Stewart, from the charity Action on Alzheimer’s and Dementia, said that the system seemed “all very haphazard.” She said that she was told in a meeting with the NOSPC that there was no waiting list kept. “It’s kind of luck,” Ms Stewart claimed. “Is there a waiting list or not? It’s ludicrous.” She added of the NOSPC’s two caseworkers: “[They] are doing their best but there just appears not to be enough human resources in place to cope with the demand and they are constantly trying to put out fires. We are trying to help the NOSPC with dementia-specific cases.” Another advocate for the elderly, who asked not to be named, told The Royal Gazette: “If they did nothing, you could work around it, [but] they block people trying to move relatives. They say, ‘No, you may not move her’. They don’t care if the person is happy there or not.” The Health Minister, Ms Atherden, said in a statement last September that her ministry’s objective was for seniors to “remain active and in their own homes for as long as possible” but to assist with placement in a residential facility when that wasn’t possible. “Every attempt is made to place the senior at the residential care facility which best matches their needs and budget. We continue to work with the private sector on the establishment of new rest homes in order to increase capacity and meet demand. For example, we provide private developers with advice regarding the legal requirements for establishing and managing rest homes. We continue to operate two nursing homes, which offer excellent care at highly subsidized rates.” Mrs W’s daughter acknowledged that “Packwood is probably better than most” homes on the Island, but insisted that families should have more say in where their loved ones live. “You are at the mercy of the Government,” she said. “We are just trying to draw attention to a huge problem. If you have a person in a home who is unhappy, you can’t get them even considered for a move to a better one.” Packwood administrator Karen Mitchell said that she was aware that Mrs W’s family were unhappy but insisted: “The family always have the right to move their relative. The National Office tells nursing homes that families have that right.” Registered nurse Gaylia Landry said that the issue could be finding the right level of nursing care for Mrs W because not all homes have nursing services. “If you are going to move from this type of facility, they want you to move somewhere with similar levels of services.” Both said that although most residents at the 30-bed home suffer from dementia, it offered a wide array of enrichment activities for all and took any complaints seriously. The Royal Gazette asked the Ministry of Health about Mrs W, but a spokeswoman said that she could not comment on individual cases. 

January 9. The America's Cup Event Authority has taken on a Bermudian recruiting firm to hire local workers for positions relating to the 2017 America's Cup races. Minister for Economic Development Dr Grant Gibbons responded today to questions raised by the Progressive Labour Party over the posting of job opportunities on the ACEA website. Jamahl Simmons, Acting Shadow Minister for Tourism, had called on Government to post the positions on a local jobs board, adding: "Unfortunately, these jobs were hidden away on the America's Cup website and not yet advertised in Bermuda." Six positions went online yesterday and a further six were recently posted. "From the outset I want to make it clear it has always been and continues to be this Government's commitment to ensure that Bermudians are afforded job opportunities associated with the America's Cup, and any assertion to the contrary is regrettable," said Dr Gibbons, who noted that any suggestion that jobs had been concealed from Bermudians was "absurd. To be clear, the ACEA is very keen to recruit Bermudians for specific positions. In fact, as a reminder, in an editorial contribution to The Royal Gazette on December 19, Peter Rusch, communications director for the ACEA, stated they intended to hire a dozen Bermudians and that was just to start. At that, time he referred readers to the jobs section on www.americascup.com. This was a beginning only. During December the ACEA were reviewing local recruitment companies to assist them in their recruitment efforts. They made a decision on the successful company recently and have been working with that company ever since. This will result in an advertisement appearing in The Royal Gazette early next week listing several positions that the ACEA is earnestly seeking Bermudians to fill. These jobs will also be posted on other online employment platforms and forums. The Island's bid to secure the 35th America's Cup rested strongly on the assertion that the entire community would welcome the events and misplaced, inaccurate, indeed blatantly untrue allegations made yesterday, which spurred uncertainty and concern within our community, work towards the exact opposite objective. The authority has been pleased already by the initial responses from the website." In response, however, Mr Simmons maintained that the jobs openings should be issued by Government. It is important that any and all on-island jobs related to the America's Cup be posted on the Bermuda Government Jobs Board. With the ongoing Bermudian jobs crisis and $77 million taxpayer dollars committed to this important event, the PLP will work tirelessly to ensure that every Bermudian and not just a select few, benefit from the America's Cup."

January 9. Shares of three major oil tanker companies based in Bermuda have rocketed as oil prices plummet. In the past three months Frontline has seen its share price boosted 159 per cent, while shares in Teekay Tankers are up 78 per cent, and shares in Nordic American Tankers have risen 60 per cent. The  Bermuda-incorporated companies are well placed to benefit from the opportunities presented by a market structure known as contango, which allows traders to lock in profits by buying oil now and selling it for delivery at a later date when prices are higher. The oil is stored in oil tankers that are chartered at daily rates. Tanker charter rates have been rising on the increasing demand from traders seeking to profit from the widening contango. Oil prices have dropped around 50 per cent since last June, with Brent crude oil dipping below $50 a barrel earlier this week. The contango opportunities are just one aspect of the positive knock-on effects of falling oil prices for shipping firms, said Jens Alers, group director of Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (Bermuda), which has offices in Par-la-Ville Road. Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement is a maritime services company with a managed fleet for more than 674 ships. "The 50 per cent reduction in the cost of crude oil is extremely good for shipping in general and owners and charters of oil tankers specifically," said Mr Alers. For ship owners and those who charter ships the most immediate benefit comes from the lower cost of bunker fuel, the dense oil used to power vessels. "The price of bunker fuel has come down dramatically," Mr Alers said. "When you consider the overall cost of operating a ship, a reduction of 50 per cent in bunker fuel cost is an enormous benefit to the user of the ship or the owner. That's a benefit that is felt across the board. A tonne of bunker fuel cost $650 last June, but today can be bought for $320." As reported in Wednesday's Royal Gazette, container ship companies serving Bermuda are to pass on fuel savings to customers. Bermuda Container Line, which operates the Oleander, is reducing its fuel surcharge per 20ft container from $180 to $152 on February 1. Somers Isles Shipping and Bermuda International Shipping Ltd, which operate the Somers Isles and Bermuda Islander respectively, are also altering their quarterly fuel surcharge. "On the income side, the ship owners who benefit most from the decline in oil prices are the owners of oil tankers. That's the result of two factors," said Mr Alers. "One factor is the amount of crude oil being shipped around the world, which has been growing at a steady pace. Despite the recessionary trend in Europe, demand for oil was high in other markets, such as China, India and the United States. Coupled with this is the actual number of ocean-going oil tankers available. The supply of new tonnage [tankers available for trade] has been rising slower than demand. When that happens the rates for tankers go up. The other factor was the contango. That is something that is a hot story. Oil traders are chartering tankers to store oil at these rock bottom prices. They are buying it cheap with the expectation that oil goes back up. They are taking into consideration the cost of chartering the ship and the expectation of making $20 or $30 profit per barrel of oil. The traders expect the price of oil to flex back. However, as the contango widens the daily rates for oil tankers are also rising. Last June the daily rate for a VLCC, a very large crude carrier capable of holding around two million barrels of oil, was around $15,000, today it is $60,000. It is a major benefit for the ship owners who are trying to cover their costs. There is quite a rush for ships.  It's not always such a rosy picture, though. I don't have any VLCCs to worry about because I like to sleep at night. The volatility is enormous. Rates can drop in no time. The only way to cover yourself is to try to fix your rates for a year. I'm sure that's what the tanker owners are doing." Yesterday, Frontline shares closed at $3.74 (up 11.9 per cent), Nordic American Tankers was at $11.84 (up 6.2 per cent), while Teekay Tankers closed on $6.08 (up 9.7 per cent).

January 9.  A worldwide organization for women working for hedge funds is aiming to set up a Bermuda branch. The Bermuda Business Development Association (BDA) said that the New York-based 100 Women in Hedge Funds (100WHF) chief executive officer Amanda Pullinger had visited Bermuda last month and met Premier Michael Dunkley and Island-based professional women at a special dinner to discuss creating an Island branch of the non-profit organization. BDA chairman Caroline Foulger said: "This is a very powerful global organization for senior women in leadership roles in financial services and the planned launch of a Bermuda location will provide unparalleled opportunities for women here on the Island through 100 Women in Hedge Funds will be of huge benefit to Bermuda's business sector and our broader community." The organization, founded in 2001, now has more that 13,000 members in areas like alternative investment, asset management and other sectors of the financial services industry. It has hosted nearly 500 industry education events around the world and raised $36 million for charitable causes. Ms Pullinger said: "I believe the global 100WHF network will provide some interesting opportunities and connections for professional women in Bermuda across the various industries located on the Island for peer interactions, unique educational programming and giving back to the community through our philanthropic initiatives." For more information about 100WHF in Bermuda, contact Alison Morrison on 505-5036 or at alison.morrison@oysterllc.com.

January 9. A Bermuda-based subsidiary of a Swiss bank is at the centre of a probe by the Italian tax police into alleged tax-dodging involving around $9.45 billion. Officers from the Guardia di Finanza searched the offices of Credit Suisse in Milan last month in connection with a series of investigations involving Swiss banks, including Credit Suisse, and their dealings with wealthy clients and hidden offshore accounts. A spokeswoman for Zurich-based Credit Suisse told Reuters: "We can confirm that the Guardia di Finanza has conducted searches at our premises in Milan and that we are cooperating fully with the authorities." But she declined to comment on the reasons for the searches or on Italian media reports that the searches were linked to an investigation into the tax affairs of 1,000 wealthy Italians. According to the Italian media, the checks involved a life and pensions subsidiary based in Bermuda, which offered insurance products that authorities suspect allowed wealthy clients to hide funds offshore. A spokesman for the Bermuda Police Service said no approach had been made by the Guardia di Finanza for assistance into the probe. A spokesman for the Island's financial services watchdog the Bermuda Monetary Authority declined to comment on whether it was aware of the probe or if it had been asked to assist the Italian authorities. He said: "With respect to your questions, it should be noted that for legal reasons, the Bermuda Monetary Authority does not publicly comment on whether it is investigating an issue or entity, or whether it is aware of or involved with investigations being carried out elsewhere. Comments made before or during an investigation may prejudice the outcome by implying wrongdoing. The Authority may make information public, if appropriate, on the conclusion of the process." The Italian tax police search of the Credit Suisse office came against a background of increasing pressure on Switzerland's strict banking secrecy laws. The Guardia di Finanza declined to comment on the search or its investigations. Credit Suisse last year became the largest bank in decades to plead guilty to a $3 billion criminal charge in the US, which involved helping rich Americans avoid paying taxes through the use of secret offshore accounts. The bank, the second-biggest in Switzerland, was forced to stump up $2.6 billion in the case, brought by the US Justice Department. US. Attorney General Eric Holder told a news conference after the May guilty plea that Credit Suisse engaged in an extensive and wide-ranging conspiracy to help tax cheats dodge US taxes. Switzerland's largest bank, UBS, in 2009 entered a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department in which it agreed to pay $780 million in fines and turn over the names of thousands of customers suspected of evading US taxes. And the country's oldest bank, Wegelin & Co, pleaded guilty in January 2013 to US tax charges, admitting that it helped American clients hide more than $1.2 billion from the American Internal Revenue Service.

January 10. Government's vaunted deal with the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) to build a new airport terminal remains under assessment. According to a spokesman for the Ministry of Finance, officials are "still in phase one of this exercise, which involves preliminary due diligence, project scoping and airport project concept. An update is likely to be provided, once this phase is completed." Facing Opposition criticism over the dealings with CCC, Finance Minister Bob Richards told MPs in November that a "go or no-go decision" would be made by the end of 2014. In the photo below Luc Allary, regional director Caribbean and Central America with the Canadian Commercial Corporation, and Minister of Finance Bob Richards signed late last year the agreement for the development of a new airport. (File photo by Mark Tatem).

New Airport signing Nov 2014

January 10. Bermuda is being touted as a perfect winter getaway by popular news website The Huffington Post. An article entitled "11 Reasons Bermuda Is The Easy Getaway You Need In 2015" was posted yesterday urging East Coast travelers to escape the chilly weather by coming to the Island. Writer Suzy Strutner states: "When the weather outside is frightful, there's only one thing to do: escape to an exotic isle. While you'd think prices would be painfully high for an island vacation, the truth is they are not ... if that island is Bermuda, at least. Just a hop, skip and puddle jump from the East Coast, this beautiful, 24-mile paradise in the Atlantic offers delicious food, postcard-worthy beaches and friendly locals." The eleven reasons to visit the Island include the pink beaches, the weather, fish chowder, golf, and the game of Crown and Anchor. Gosling's Black Seal Rum and Flanagan's Irish Pub, which she described as a "little slice of the UK", are also highlighted in the article. 

January 10. The number of unemployed in Bermuda rose steeply in 2014 compared with the previous year, according to the latest labour report. The 2014 Labour Force Survey suggests 3,486 people were out of work last year, which represents an increase of 35 per cent from 2,569 in 2013. But Finance Minister Bob Richards was quick to urge caution over the figures saying the survey was just an estimate by way of sampling and did not represent a statistically significant change. He also pointed towards new hotel developments, the creation of 400 jobs through a new tax initiative to reward Bermudian hires and an upswing in building permits as proof of an impending turnaround in fortunes. "I am not saying that the loss of 511 jobs is not significant to this Government. What I'm saying is that we cannot hang our hats on the accuracy of that number because of inherent sampling error." The survey suggests the number of black people in work dropped by 5 per cent on the previous year, while the number of white people employed increased by nearly 6 per cent from 2013. Meanwhile, the number of Bermudians in work remained largely the same between 2013 and 2014, according to the report. "The unemployment number here has gone up by 35 per cent but this is based on the math of small numbers,"" Mr Richards added. "The other changes to working population, males working, females working and Bermudians working are all statistically insignificant. You cannot and should not draw conclusions from them. Changes in the black working population and white population are indeed significant and are something of note. Unemployment has been greatest in construction, which factors into it as opposed to the exempt company world. Hotels, bars and restaurants are sectors that have more black people in them than white and that accounts for most of it." The survey was conducted in May and June and was based on a sample of 1,500 households where each person was asked whether or not they were working during the week of May 13 to 19. The survey found that the working population shrunk by 511 from 35,989 in 2013 to 35,478. It also suggests that the median wage in Bermuda has dropped by nearly $2,000 from $62,211 in 2013 to $60,559 last year. "This survey was conducted eight months ago and, even if the year-over-year changes in the numbers were statistically significant, one has to take into account the passage of time," Mr Richards said. "Since May and June 2014, a number of important positive developments have taken place. The latest data from the tax commissioner's office show that 400 jobs have been created since the inception of our tax holiday for new Bermudian hires. Our other initiative that targeted the real estate market has also yielded positive results, with the recent report from Coldwell Banker that the property market has stabilized after having been in free fall when OBA became the Government in December 2012. A number of other initiatives by this Government, or those encouraged by us, have been brought to bear to improve the situation, many of them since the date of this survey. For example, new Pink Beach, the next phase of Hamilton Princess refurbishment, new St Regis in St George's, South Beach or Sinky Bay project, Ariel Sands redevelopment, new Ritz Reserve at Morgan's Point, new airport terminal and last, but not least, America's Cup and the preparations for it. Mr Richards maintained that Government had not bitten off more than it could chew by promising to create 2,000 jobs when it came to power and "would get to where we want to. The evidence of the survey showed no statistically significant erosion in job markets, although other data shows employment remained weak for the first part of the year 2014. This Government places very high value on the dignity of honest work, and deep concern for those unsuccessfully seeking a job is driving us to continue to work tirelessly to improve the situation. I am encouraged that evidence shows that the Government's efforts to turn things around are working, even though many of the major projects have not yet kicked in. But when they do, there will be a major surge in job opportunities for Bermudians."

January 12. A local historian has uncovered an intriguing new twist in the life of the German U-boat captain who was held captive in Bermuda during the Second World War. Horst Augustinovic discovered that while Captain Harald Lange was incarcerated at the Naval Operating Base he befriended a Bermudian woman called Kate Perinchief who lived close to the base. Furthermore, the pair exchanged letters once Captain Lange, who was held in Bermuda for nine months between 1944 and 1945, had returned to Germany after the end of the war. Mr Augustinovic decided to delve into the story of Captain Lange after reading a recent Royal Gazette article highlighting the work of nurse, Shirley Humphreys, who cared for Captain Lange in Bermuda, as well as the 70th anniversary since the capture of the submarine. Mr Augustinovic said: “The article ‘My wife and the U-boat secret’ reminded me of an envelope in my Bermuda postal history collection that I have wanted to research for some time. Addressed to Kate Perinchief at Somerset Bridge, Bermuda, it was mailed on November 18, 1946, by Captain Harald Lange in Hamburg, Germany, and arrived at Somerset Bridge on December 21, 1946. I knew that Harald Lange was the captain of the U-505, which the US Navy had captured on June 4, 1944, and brought to Bermuda. However, I had no idea as to Kate Perinchief and how Captain Lange would have met her, being confined at the Navy Operating Base and having had a leg amputated. So off I went to the Bermuda Archives.” Mr Augustinovic’s search for Kate Perinchief proved fruitless, but he had more luck when he began to look up information under the name Catherine Perinchief. He told The Royal Gazette: “It turned out that Catherine Sophia Perinchief owned 8.5 acres of land near Somerset Bridge, which she inherited from her father in 1929. In May, 1942, the US Engineers Office requested 2.333 acres of her property “west of the railway tracks” for the building of the Navy Operating Base. The offer of £2,500 in compensation was promptly turned down by Kate Perinchief who had valued the 2.333 acres, including one house, a stable and a privy at £8,080. In stepped the Bermuda Government who gave Kate Perinchief the choice of ‘compulsory acquisition for US Base purposes’ with an offer of £2,213, or arbitration. Obviously a savvy negotiator, Kate chose arbitration, reduced her claim to £4,580 and finally agreed to a payment of £4,000.” In last month’s Royal Gazette article, Mrs Humphrey’s husband, Jim, revealed that his wife had tried to keep in touch with Captain Lange after the end of the war, but without luck. However, Mr Augustinovic’s envelope addressed to Kate Perinchief from Captain Lange shows the German submarine captain was able to keep in touch with some of the people he met in Bermuda. Mr Augustinovic believes Captain Lange and Ms Perinchief must have become friends while he was being held at the US Naval Operations Base. He said: “Harald Lange returned to Hamburg in May, 1946, and became manager of a large fruit import business. He died in 1967. In 1982, Mrs Lange, together with 11 of the original crew members, visited the U-505 for the last time. Kate Perinchief, living on her remaining property on the other side of the railway tracks at Somerset Bridge, died in 1963. Several Bermudians have told me that when, as children, they were taken to Somerset on the Bermuda Railway, they remember seeing the German sailors in their compound next to the Somerset Bridge station. That is most likely where Kate Perinchief and Harald Lange met. Unfortunately, Shirley Humphreys could not have known Kate Perinchief, as she would have known how to get in touch with Captain Lange after the war.” The U-505 was captured 150 miles off French West Africa by the Hunter-Killer Task Group 22.3 before being brought into Bermuda. On June 19, 1944, the U-505 arrived in Bermuda and was stripped of all its equipment, including two of the new T-5 acoustic homing torpedoes for which the Allies had no effective countermeasures. The 58 crew members were initially held in Bermuda and later interned at Camp Ruston, Louisiana, were they were isolated from other prisoners of war to prevent them from passing the word that the U-505 had not been sunk. Captain Lange was the only one to remain in Bermuda until the end of the war. Mr Augustinovic said: “Capturing the U-505 with its Enigma machine and codebooks presented the Allies with a problem. As the British had broken the German Enigma code years earlier, it was crucial that Germany not find out that the codes had been compromised. Had Germany changed the codes, it was estimated that it would take the Allies a year to break the new codes and it was therefore decided to bring the U-505 to Bermuda where the secret would hopefully be secure.”

German Captain Harold Lange

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January 13. Online travel company Orbitz Worldwide and the Bermuda Tourism Authority have teamed up for an online video series promoting the Island. The "Orbitz Originals: Bermuda " Proper Fun" series, viewable at Orbitz.com/Bermuda, will consist of seven videos co-hosted by award-winning travel experts Richard Bangs and Lisa Ellen Niver. Together with hotel discounts of up to 20 per cent and flight/hotel package savings, the series is hoped to inspire more visitors to travel to Bermuda. Videos in the series will provide would-be visitors with an overview of the Islands various amenities, sights, resorts and dining opportunities. Victoria Isley, chief sales and marketing officer at the Bermuda Tourism Authority, said: "Short of visiting the island, there's no better way to showcase Bermuda's brilliance than video storytelling. Orbitz Originals brings the beauty and experience of Bermuda to a new generation of travelers  and the videos are designed to inspire them to make their next trip to the island. As a trusted media partner and travel brand, Orbitz can also assist in the booking of those trips. From cliff jumping at Admiralty House Park and shopping the styles of the City of Hamilton to sipping a Rum Swizzle at the Swizzle Inn and enjoying a bite of the famous Art Mel's Spicy Dicy fish sandwich, the options for having "Proper Fun in Bermuda" are endless. The video series will be the eleventh installment of the Orbitz Originals series, which has previously highlighted Cancun, New York and Puerto Rico among other destinations. Past installments have been viewed more than 1.2 million times and, according to a statement, bookings to the destinations have seen double-digit growth over the duration of the campaigns. Josh Winkler, Orbitz Worldwide vice-president of partner marketing, said: "We want each new edition of the "Orbitz Originals" series to really capture the destination and use video to provide a unique perspective and inspire travelers to visit. In the case of Bermuda, Richard and Lisa combine their travel expertise to provide a fun look at this popular destination and give travelers a real sense of life on the island."

January 15. International telecoms firm Digicel has set up a deal to buy the Bermuda Telephone Company, just months after it was sold to Canadian-led Barrie Holdings, The Royal Gazette can reveal. A spokeswoman for Digicel confirmed: "As a complete communications and entertainment provider, we are always looking for opportunities to bring the Digicel promise of best service, best value and best network to more people and to grow and enhance our service offering. As such, Digicel and BTC have finalized an agreement whereby Digicel intends to acquire BTC. Digicel believes that BTC's fixed voice and internet services will complement Digicel's mobile offerings allowing Digicel to bring better services and value to consumers." Digicel declined to say what the terms of the deal were or how much it would pay for BTC. She added: The proposed deal is subject to regulatory approvals and as such, we must hold for those before progressing with our plans. With the good of customers and employees being our main concern, our intention is to grow our business here in Bermuda and to invest in the future. That will see us working to improve the service delivered to customers and looking to build out and enhance the products and services offered to them with an ultimate view to delivering an enhanced multimedia experience across multiple devices." BTC executive chairman Roy Graydon, who was part of the Barrie Holdings group of investors who bought BTC six months ago, said: "It was the opportunity to build Bermuda's leading telecommunications company that attracted us to BTC in the first place. But when Digicel approached us with an offer to combine the businesses, we realized that the two companies would complement each other and, working together, could substantially accelerate the pace of that build and it was clear that this would be the best and fastest way to enable us to provide the services of the future to consumers in Bermuda." The change of ownership still has to be approved by the Bermuda telecoms watchdog the Regulatory Authority of Bermuda (RAB). A RAB spokesman said it was aware of the proposed takeover. He added: "The Authority is actively seeking relevant details of the transaction from both parties to enable the formal review process under the Regulatory Authority Act 2011 to take place. Public comment on the proposed transaction will be sought as a part of our deliberations in due course." Island telecoms firm KeyTech Ltd sold the company in August last year to Barrie Holdings, which paid $30 million  "below the book price " for BTC. Mr Graydon said at the time the acquisition was the start of a new era and pledged to grow revenue and build a network to provide a range of services, including TV signals, internet access and even home monitoring systems. The Digicel spokeswoman said: "As and when we have updates, we will be sure to give them. It is worth pointing out that Digicel is built on a promise of delivering best service, best network and best value and to giving back to our communities. As such, you can expect us to take the same approach in this regard in terms of investment and innovation." The acquisition, if approved, will give the combined Digicel and BTC group their own landline network as well as maintaining its status as an internet service provider (ISP), putting them in direct competition with rival CableVision. But CableVision CEO Terry Roberson said: "We look forward to additional competition in the market, which challenges us to perform at our optimum. Bermuda residents and businesses are savvy users of technology and want to be at the cutting edge of entertainment while having access to fast internet speeds. CableVision is poised to take advantage of expanded bandwidth in 2015 and to roll out new services in the Bermuda market while adding to its cable offering, which continues to be popular and appeal to a wide variety of personal tastes."

Digicel

January 16. Bermuda-based Athene Holding Ltd has branched out into the German life insurance market by acquiring Delta Lloyd Deutschland AG (DLD). DLD is a German subsidiary of Delta Lloyd NV, an Amsterdam-based financial services provider. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Athene's business is focused on the retirement market and on issuing or reinsuring fixed and equity-indexed annuities. "We see significant net investment spread opportunities with DLD and believe our core operating principles of policyholder protection, risk management and excellence in asset management match up well with the needs of the German life insurance industry," said James Belardi, CEO of Athene Holding. "The purchase of DLD provides Athene with an excellent entry point into the German marketplace." DLD is based in Wiesbaden, Germany, and provides retirement savings products to the German market. DLD had assets of approximately 4.3 billion euros ($5.1 billion) as of September 30, 2014. The transaction is expected to close by the third quarter of 2015, subject to regulatory approvals. Athene will retain DLD's employee base and management team and utilize its existing location in Wiesbaden as the headquarters of Athene's German operations. The company also plans to add positions there to support its German business strategy. Athene will operate DLD within DLD's current business model, which has not been selling new business since 2010, and will continue to service its existing customers. DLD will operate under the Athene name after closing, subject to regulatory approvals. Athene was represented on this transaction by Linklaters LLP in Munich and Ernst & Young in Munich.

Athene Holding

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January 16. The decision to appoint Craig Cannonier to the Cabinet has sparked embers of discontent within the ranks of the One Bermuda Alliance. The former Premier was unveiled as Minister of Public Works as part of a major Cabinet reshuffle at Government House yesterday. Sources within the OBA told The Royal Gazette they were “disappointed” and “offended” with the decision to give him responsibility for a ministry given the damage caused to the party by his actions and resignation. Mr Cannonier, right, stepped down as Premier in May 2014 amid a storm of controversy surrounding his dealings with an American property tycoon, Nathan Landow, and a $350,000 donation made to the party. “The decision to bring Craig back into the Cabinet is really disappointing,” said the party insider. “It seems like a reward for bad behaviour. The OBA does not just consist of MPs, it is a representation of people across the Island. I find the decision to appoint him as a Minister offensive. The OBA came to power standing up for values of transparency and accountability. Craig Cannonier lost his integrity as Premier and was forced to step down. How can he now have the integrity required to be a Minister?” Mr Cannonier has been warming the backbenches since his resignation in May 2014 in the wake of the so-called Jetgate saga. The OBA’s Parliamentary caucus was informed of the decision to appoint Mr Cannonier to the position of Minister of Public Works a short time before the official announcement at 12.30pm yesterday. His return to the Cabinet comes just eight months after Michael Dunkley took over as Premier. The OBA source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added: “I fear that this announcement will fragment the party and I think it is a bad business decision. We have all these great initiatives and projects in the pipeline and the Public Works Ministry is obviously going to play a major role in all of them. It is a serious concern that given the manner of his departure as Premier, his reappointment could have a negative impact on all the positive work that is going on. It’s very worrying.”

January 16. Global insurance manager Kane SAC has listed a total of $125.8 million in new notes on the Bermuda Stock Exchange. The cash is spread over four segregated accounts — called Exeter, Troon, Muirfield and Hereford — worth between $16.8 million and $54.8 million each. Kane SAC made the issues as part of its limited note programme, the firm’s independent private catastrophe bond platform. Robert Eastham, managing director of Kane (Bermuda), said: “The announcement of four new issuances on the Kane SAC platform serves to demonstrate that the programme is meeting a very clear market demand for the ability to transact smaller capital market deals in an efficient and cost-effective manner. We expect to see strong growth in this area moving forward given the growing influence of the investment community in the insurance arena.” The new notes brings the total Kane has listed as part of its catastrophe bond platform to 11 since its launch in August 2013.

January 17. The Government's new work permit policy will not penalize good Bermudian entertainers, according to Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy. Mr Fahy told The Royal Gazette he was "excited" about the prospect of the new immigration regulations being rolled out at the beginning of March. He also acknowledged that the success of the new raft of policies designed to attract business and job providers to Bermuda would not be known for some time. "It will not be instantaneous, it may not work, but we have to try new things. We know we have to get more people on the ground. The biggest thing coming out of that is it helps pay for the services that Bermudians use such as education and healthcare. We believe this new policy will be successful; a lot of work has gone into it. The system has been streamlined so it is less burdensome." The new policy has been the subject of intense debate in the House of Assembly and the initial implementation of the new regime had to be delayed while issues with one type of permit were ironed out. Opposition MPs have raised concerns that provisions of the new policy that allow for foreign musicians to fly in to perform in certain situations could adversely affect Bermudian entertainers. But Mr Fahy rejected the assertion. He said: "We have looked at the entertainment industry generally, and we have looked at what is required by our hotels and bars. On a number of occasions we have come up against large wedding parties from the United States that want to bring a certain entertainer with them. If they don't get the entertainer they want, they go somewhere else. Unfortunately, we have to make a decision about what is more important; filling hotel rooms and restaurants or one entertainer. The answer is pretty straightforward. In general these entertainers still have to get a work permit, but in some circumstances the permit will not need to be advertised. We have removed the requirement whereby if you end up getting a foreign band for a bar or a club you have to give equal time to Bermudians. Where we are making it a requirement for Bermudians to entertain is large concert events. Really, we are putting out a playing field that is more equal to what is going on in the industry. Previously, permits would be granted once a fee had been paid to the Bermuda Entertainers Union. The Immigration Department was charged with ensuring this was paid. I do not believe Government should be involved in third parties collecting fees. So from March 1 if the BEU wish to collect fees, they will have to make those approaches. Immigration will no longer facilitate that connection. I believe that if you are a good entertainer, the bar or hotel will employ you. These new rules should not penalize Bermudians at all. There is still lots of opportunity."

January 17. History was made at the Royal Naval Dockyard yesterday when Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) rolled out the first foiling catamarans to reach these shores. Curious pedestrians and motorists watched in awe as an advance party from the 35th America's Cup challenger BAR, unloaded a large container housing two double handed NACRA F20 catamarans and assembled them in the boatyard at West End Yachts. Some observers snapped photos of the "flying" catamarans while they casually chatted with team members of the British syndicate as they went about their task of getting the multihull boats ready in time for a week-long training camp with surgeon-like precision. "We are the advance party, so we are here early to put the boats together for a training week," said BAR team member Jonathan Goring. "We have two of these, so we are going to have two boats sailing. We are hoping to get in as much sailing as we can and get to know the waters, and this will be one of many times." Regarded as the ultimate racing catamaran, the NACRA F20 is designed for inshore and coastal racing and is equipped with a flight-controlling system making it capable of reaching speeds approaching 30mph. "They are ideal for training because they are small, fast, foiling boats," Mr Goring said. "They are much more twitchy than the bigger boats, so they are more sensitive. In terms of balance, you learn a lot on them, basically, the whole team and the designers. The designers sail them as well, so they get the feel for what we are doing. These boats are great. They are 20-feet long and break down where you can fit two into a 40ft container." Also among BAR's advance party are team racers Andy McLean, Paul Campbell-James and Jono Macbeth, who all featured in the previous America's Cup in 2013 in San Francisco, but with different teams. McBeth was a member of defender Oracle Team USA, the holders of the coveted "Auld Mug", while McLean and Campbell-James competed with challengers Artemis Racing and Luna Rossa. More team members are due to arrive on Island tomorrow, among them team principal and skipper Sir Ben Ainslie, the most decorated sailor in Olympic history.

January 17.  David Bishop won an anti-climactic KPMG Front Street Mile Elite Men's race as the Bermuda Marathon Weekend got off to a typically soggy start last night. Bishop, of Britain, came home in a time of 4min 20.15sec just over a second ahead of Diriba Yigezu, of Ethiopia, who ran a 4:21.38, the only other man in the race. What had started out as a five-man field was whittled down to just three in the hours leading up to the race, and Henry Kipsang, of Kenya, dropped out at the last minute to leave Bishop and Yigezu to fight it out between them. It is the first time the race has been that small. Bishop has been working with James Thie, a previous Front Street Mile champion, for the past seven years and that knowledge had already given him an idea of how he wanted to run the race. Yigezu, who also finished second last year, led for much of the mile, but the work he was forced to do running back into the wind ultimately cost him as Bishop kicked past him with 30 metres to go, and finished comfortably ahead. The rain, combined with the historically small field, meant that the magical four-minute barrier was never likely to be threatened, but Bishop, who has a personal best of 3:56.96 believes that he could break it if the conditions were right. There was slightly more excitement in the Elite Women's race where Heather Kampf, of United States, completed a hat-trick of wins, joining Kenia Sinclair, of Jamaica, the only other woman to have achieved that feat. A relatively slow affair compared to recent years, the defending champion's winning time of 4:53.32 was almost 10 seconds slower than last year. Lauren Hagans, of the US, finished second in 4:56.96, with Charlotte Arter, of Britain, third in 4:58.49. The trio stuck together for the majority of the race, while Rolanda Bell, of Panama, who won the Elite Women's 10K last year, never seriously challenged the pack and came in fourth in 5:00.39, with Chloe Anderson, of Britain, fifth in 5:11.49. Kampf led from start to finish, and although she was briefly challenged by Anderson, who finished in 5:11.49, never really seemed in danger of losing and was comfortably ahead coming down the final 50 metres. The race was Kampf's first of the year and she is developing a fondness for coming to Bermuda and starting her season on a winning note. Kampf's weekend is not over either, she said that she plans to run in today's 10K and depending how she is feeling may try and complete her first Bermuda Triangle Challenge by running a half-marathon tomorrow.

January 19. The make-up of the new body tasked with preparing Bermuda for the 2017 America's Cup has been revealed by Grant Gibbons, the Minister for Economic Development. Dr Gibbons said that America's Cup Bermuda Ltd (ACBDA) would be funded by an annual government grant and would be responsible for fulfilling Bermuda's commitments to the event. Yesterday he unveiled Peter Durhager, the former chief administrative officer and executive vice-president of RenaissanceRe, as chairman of the board and Mike Winfield as its chief executive officer. The ACBDA's board of directors will also include John Collis, David Dodwell, Darren Johnston, Warren Jones, Donna Pearman, Denise Riviere, Jasmin Smith and Blythe Walker. Dr Gibbons told a press conference that ACBDA would represent Bermuda's interests with the America's Cup Event Authority (ACEA), the teams and other parties, and work with ACEA to help to raise sponsorship to offset the Island�s financial guarantee commitments. "The body will play a central role in helping Government and Bermuda fulfill its responsibilities as the host venue for the America�s Cup 2017. It is owned by Government as the sole shareholder, but will carry out its role as an independent body, with full accountability to the Government through the Ministry of Economic Development. We chose a company structure which has been successfully used before, the BLDC [Bermuda Land Development Company] being an example. With this structure, the ACBDA will have the ability to hire a small staff, engage consultants and enter into contracts in order to carry out its responsibilities. During its operation, the ACBDA will be funded by an annual grant from the Ministry of Economic Development, much like the Bermuda Business Development Agency." Mr Durhager, who recently retired from RenaissanceRe and played a key role in the success of the Bermuda bid, said that " the ACBDA would not become a large, bureaucratic organization. It will be lean and efficient. It has a big job to do in a very limited time. ACBDA will help deliver Bermuda commitments under the host venue agreement with the ACEA. It will liaise between the ACEA and Bermuda, and assist the ACEA, Oracle Team USA and challenging teams in relocating to and operating in Bermuda. It will represent Bermuda's interests across all parties, including defining a positive long-term legacy and ensure effective communication within the Bermuda community relating to the America's Cup." Dr Gibbons revealed that the ACEA had received more than 700 responses to the 12 jobs that were recently advertised. "The America's Cup Event Authority has been working closely with our team and planning their move to Bermuda, beginning in February and March. I understand that they are delighted with the volume and quality of the responses they are receiving."

January 19. Sir Ben Ainslie, principal and skipper of Great Britain's 35th America's Cup syndicate, can not wait to get harnessed into the NACRA F20 catamaran and begin foiling around the Great Sound at high speed. The greatest sailor in Olympic history and America's Cup winner has traveled to Bermuda to take part in a training camp with some of his Ben Ainslie Racing team-mates. "It's really about learning a lot about the conditions on the water to help our team both in terms of sailing and design," explained Sir Ben, who arrived from the United Kingdom yesterday. "It's a little bit chilly back home right now, so it's nice to get some warmer weather sailing and, of course, learn more about the conditions on the Great Sound. We are still two-and-a-half years away [from the America's Cup] but all that period is going to be crucial, so we are very happy to be back in Bermuda and for us it's the start of a long journey here. But we could not have wished to be competing in a nicer place. We've sailed here a lot and really enjoy the conditions and we are looking forward to getting to know everyone better in the community, which will only help us in the build-up to the Cup. We want to get to know the locals a little bit better and try and be part of the sailing community here." A handful of BAR team members arrived three days ahead of Sir Ben to unload and rig two NACRA F20 foiling catamarans that are based in Dockyard. "They are really cool boats and are pretty scary to sail because they are almost as quick as the real deal, the 62-footers," Sir Ben said. "They are a third of the size [of the AC62] and trapezing at that speed is quite scary. But at the end they are perfect boats for this kind of training for us." Sir Ben played a pivotal role in Oracle Team USA's dramatic comeback to defend the coveted "Auld Mug" at the 34th America's Cup in San Francisco in 2013. He joined the crew as the team's tactician and helped turn an 8-1 deficit into a 9-8 triumph for the defender. The year before, the 37-year-old Briton captured a fourth-consecutive gold at the 2012 London Olympics. Sir Ben has won medals at five consecutive Olympics from 1996-2012, including gold at the past four. He is also a past Laser, Laser Radial and Finn world champion and multiple King Edward VII Gold Cup winner, having won back-to-back titles here in the International One Design racing sloop in 2009 and 2010.

January 19. Late entry Benjamin Meto won the Bermuda Marathon at the first attempt yesterday to cap an impressive Bermuda Marathon Weekend debut. The Kenyan romped to victory in 2hr 28min 20sec to add to his triumph in Saturday�s Bermuda 10K and deny compatriot and training partner, Richard Kessio, a third straight victory. Kessio came second in the 26.2 mile race in 2:30.01. The two Mexico-based runners ran side by side for nearly 14 miles before Meto made the decisive break coming over Trimingham Hill for the second time to all but secure victory. "This is my first time in Bermuda and first time doing the marathon so it feels great to win," Meto said. "The course was tough and I usually run good on flat courses. But I ran a 2:28 today because of the terrain and it has been a long time since I have run that time because I usually run under 2:25. The first half was a little faster and then the second half was very slow." Meto contemplated pushing the pedal to the floor much earlier in the race. "In the first half I wanted to break away but decided not to. I hung on until I decided to break around 13 kilometres and unfortunately we didn't go together because Kessio seemed to be lacking energy." A laboring Kessio, who finished second in 2:30.02, put up as good a fight as he could before sore leg muscles ultimately took their toll. "I had problems with my thigh muscles after about 6 miles which made things difficult for me. But I am happy to see my training partner win." As for being denied a third successive win, Kessio said: "It was unfortunate. But you have to accept that, and hopefully I'll be back next year. Competition is like that; you win today and tomorrow somebody else and so on so forth. It just keeps on changing hands." Rounding off the top three finishers was Canadian Wesley Banks in 2:57.28 while Gideon Kigotho led the local men's field across the line in a personal best time of 3:07.54. "It is the second year for me and I improved on my time by a couple of seconds, so I am more than happy with that. " Kigotho, the Bermuda Football Association financial controller, said. "My goal is to do a sub three-hour marathon in Bermuda, which is still unaccomplished. But we live in hope and maybe one day I will get it and if not I will look for it elsewhere." Claiming this year's women's marathon title was two-times Olympic cyclists Lyne Bessette, of Canada, in 3:10.17. "I did this race in 2011 so this was my second time and it feels great to win," Bessette, who has also competed locally in the CD&P Grand Prix, said. "I started a little slow but I still picked it up. I wanted to do 3:10 and I did so I was really happy. If I hadn't done the 10K maybe I would have been close to my goal. This is a really hard course, but very nice for runners because you have the ocean and little hills that give you another challenge. Mentally you have to always be focused." Finishing second behind Bessette was compatriot and 2011 winner Stephanie Hodge who was ninth overall in 3:16.45. Rounding of the top three in the women's division was Laura Wright, who was also the first local female to finish, in a personal best time of 3:31.44. "This was my sixth marathon and a PB so I'm pretty pleased. The conditions were good and it's a tough run, it really is."

January 19. An ongoing protest over plans to build a major hub for Parks in the midst of the Botanical Gardens has intensified. A new action group is calling on Government to cut its losses and halt work on the maintenance yard, which opponents have likened to an industrial site in the heart of the gardens. A consortium of concerned residents has organized the Take Back Our Park group in a bid to have the development turned back into preserved open space, or remade for recreation such as a playground or picnic area. “Most people are not aware of the magnitude of this development, and the negative impact it will have on the Botanical Gardens and surrounding area,” a spokesman for the group told The Royal Gazette. “When the project is finished, it will be a daily hub for all Parks crews as well as overnight parking for all the maintenance vehicles. That means around 120 people coming to the site every day from both ends of the Island. The only centrally located parks are Admiralty Park, Botanical Gardens and the Arboretum, all of which have stationary crews. So why bring everyone else to a central location to only have them turn around again and go back out to the other parts of the Island?” The group believes the work goes against the spirit of legislation guarding protected areas, which says there will be a “minimum of commercial activity.” The area had previously housed a few small single-storey buildings, which aerial pictures show was well covered by trees. It was flattened by 2003’s Hurricane Fabian and its buildings demolished the next year. The property, which lies between the formal gardens on the west side of the Botanical Gardens and Camden on the east, was subsequently deemed a brownfield site and earmarked for a central mustering station — complete with a water tower, perimeter fencing and a throughway from Berry Hill to South Road. Critics said that while the facility’s footprint will be the same, the new amenities go far beyond what existed before, and will be clearly visible in spite of landscaping. “We really think that this operation is far more suited to the existing area at Marsh Folly, where they have operated from for the last decade and where there will be much less impact on the surrounding area,” added the spokesperson, who said the original planning application only referred to land on South Road. “The question that needs asking is ‘why Government spending money to put a large maintenance yard back in the middle of the Botanical Gardens in the first place? How many trucks will come and go during the day and how much noise pollution will there be? Will the park now be used as a throughway for trucks from Berry Hill to South Shore? What will be the effect of all the extra traffic on South Road and near the hospital? These are all legitimate questions and we have not had any answers. We know that the work is well advanced and we know that it will take considerable courage from the Government to do this, but we are asking that for the sake of the Botanical Gardens and all the people who enjoy using it, that this work be halted.” The protest is not a new one: when residents protested the build in 2013, former MP Allan Marshall was among those who called for a rethink. Mr Marshall said he wasn’t a member of Take Back Our Park, but last night stuck to his guns over the development being a waste of money. “It doesn’t make sense to me, considering what the SAGE [Spending and Government Efficiency] Commission was trying to do,” Mr Marshall said. “All these tax dollars are going to work on an infrastructure that might not be needed, particularly if we end up outsourcing. Obviously there are a lot of things on Government’s plate right now with regards to trying to rejuvenate our economy, but I feel Government need to act fast on some of those SAGE recommendations. It must not be left to gather dust. We’ve got to get moving on it.” Work on the site got going at the start of 2013, and immediately drew opposition from area residents. At the time, Government said that while Parks maintenance crews had been relocated temporarily to the old Marsh Folly premises, the site was not large enough to accommodate them — and Parks crews were working out of containers that were uncomfortably hot. Over the two years since, the project has come far, with the water tower already erected. Nonetheless, Take Back Our Park has begun a campaign via its Facebook page to pressure Government into re-examining the plans. With former Premier Craig Cannonier now Minister of Public Works, and the Gardens squarely in the middle of his constituency of Devonshire South Central, the group’s site is now suggesting Mr Cannonier might be in a position to “stop the work.”

January 20. The number of work permits granted each year dropped by more than 6,800 in just six years, according to Government statistics released yesterday. The report showed that the estimated number of work permits issued peaked at 18,131 in 2007 but had dropped to 11,330 by 2013, the latest figures available. The 2013 work permit figure was the lowest issued in a single year for more than a decade, according to the 2014 Bermuda Digest of Statistics, published yesterday. But Home Affairs Minister Sen Michael Fahy said that figures for 2014 would show an increase in the number of permits granted, reversing the long-term decline. Economist and consultant Peter Everson said keeping the numbers of people working on the Island was vital to the Island's future. "The difference is that there are fewer people working in the economy and that's a problem because the cost of governing the country has risen, the cost of healthcare has risen and the cost of pensions has risen. We have a smaller group paying for all these costs. The shrinkage in the economy had happened over all sectors, from international business to construction and hospitality. All of these have shrunk and the only ones that have grown are support services, government administration, health and social and education. It's the size of the working population which supports Government revenues and pensions, so it's important for Bermudians who have retired or approaching retirement and those who are still in school and just about to enter the workforce, it affects everybody. We need the size of the economy to be bigger to pay the bills. The grant of Permanent Resident Status (PRC) to some overseas workers in Bermuda would have affected the number of work permits issued after 2007, but not by a large amount. The Bermudian workforce had also grown smaller over the same period, although it had not varied in large numbers either. Because many Bermudians are unemployed or underemployed, there is a frustration among many Bermudians that they don't have the appropriate skills to get better-paid employment. That's a real and very understandable feeling. That had probably been the spur for Government to plough so much money into workplace development. There are still large numbers of work permits issued, what that tells us is that Bermudians can't apply for the jobs they like, so the question is how to get them retrained and skilled to get these jobs they want. That not a Bermudian-only issue, it applies pretty much across the western world." Sen Fahy said that the number of substantive work permits, those for periods of between one and ten years, stood at 11,321 for 2014, while temporary permits numbered 6,951. He added that in tandem with an increase in permits, the national training plan aimed to predict the areas where Bermudians should consider training for future posts. The 2013 work permit estimates showed that, of the 11,300 permits issued in 2013, 4,820 were for three months, while 3,930 were for periods of up to a year, with most being renewals for the full 12 months. A further 2,580 work permits were issued for between two and five years and the report pointed out that these permits were counted in the year they were granted, although they remained valid over subsequent years. In 2007, the peak year for work permits, of the 18,131 granted, 6,917 were for three months, with a further 4,820 issued for up to a year, again mostly renewals for the full year. And 6,394 permits were issued in 2007 for between two and five years.

January 20. Ground has been broken on the site in Dockyard that will form the base for 35th America's Cup defender Oracle Team USA. The multi-building complex, that will house Oracle's fleet of wing sail AC62 foiling catamarans, is situated just east of the twin cement silos. Members from Oracle are on Island on a scouting mission and to discuss team logistics, Grant Simmer, the team's manager, confirmed yesterday. "Several team members are in Bermuda this week on a scouting trip, as we prepare to move our operations here. We are planning on shipping our boats and equipment here in April with a view to getting sailing by the beginning of May. When the team is up and running here in late spring we'll have about 60 people based in Dockyard." Among Oracle's traveling entourage is Jimmy Spithill, the team skipper and 2014 ISAF Rolex Sailor of the Year, who will field questions from local media today. Spithill, whose younger brother Tom competed at last week's International Moth World Championships in Australia, is no stranger to the Island. In 2005 he became only the third Australian behind Gordon Lucas and Peter Gilmour to raise the King Edward VII Gold Cup, which is the oldest match racing trophy in the world for competition involving one-design yachts. Spithill won the regatta the year after Oracle chief executive and five-times America's Cup winner, Sir Russell Coutts, captured a record seventh Gold Cup. Spithill, 35, is a two-times winner having led Oracle to victory in 2010 and 2013 and is also the youngest skipper to win the prestigious regatta. He is the only Australian skipper to win the America's Cup on multiple occasions and is also a past match race world champion. As well as competing at inshore regattas, Spithill also has a soft spot for offshore racing. Last month he competed in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race on the super maxi yacht, Comanche, which finished second behind Wild Oats XI in the battle for line honours.

January 21. New investment has boosted the assets in Hiscox's Bermuda-based Kiskadee insurance-linked strategies funds to more than $400 million. And Hiscox said investors have committed to inject more capital by the time reinsurance renewals take place next summer. The two open-ended funds, Kiskadee Diversified Fund Ltd and Kiskadee Select Fund Ltd , are based in Bermuda. Their connection with Hiscox, the insurer said in a statement, "offers investors greater capital efficiency and market access than traditional direct collateralised ILS funds". Fellow Bermuda reinsurer Third Point Reinsurance Ltd is one of those to express interest in Kiskadee. In announcing in December 2014 that it would wind down its role in its catastrophe fund, Third Point Re said it would earmark funds to Kiskadee. "Our Kiskadee funds combine superior risk selection with diversified market access provided by the Hiscox Group," Jeremy Pinchin, chief executive officer of Hiscox Re, said in a statement. "We believe this is a truly distinctive offering and so are pleased at the enthusiastic response from new and existing investors." Kiskadee Investment Managers, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hiscox, provides tailored investment offerings as well as funds aimed at single investors. Third-party capital, in the form of insurance-linked securities such as catastrophe bonds, as well as collateralised reinsurance, has claimed a growing market share and applied downward pressure to reinsurance rates. Hiscox is one of the reinsurers to embrace the alternative capital rather than view it as a threat, by setting up its own ILS management operation.

January 22. The developer of a proposed hotel and the Corporation of Hamilton are facing legal action over an $18 million loan. According to two writs filed in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Mexico Infrastructure Finance LLC is suing Par-la-Ville Hotel and Residences Ltd (PLV) and the corporation. The action is linked to an $18 million loan from Mexico Infrastructure Finance, also known as Alsis Funds, to the hotel developer last year. The corporation had signed on as a guarantor to the loan. Correspondence between lawyers for Alsis and the Corporation of Hamilton shown to this newspaper alleges that the loan is now in default. However, lawyers for PLV denied the claim, arguing that loan proceeds were used to pay or reimburse expenses and fees. Last month, the New York-based Carlton Group sued PLV for $1 million, claiming that the developer had breached a contract in connection to the same loan. In legal documents filed in the United States, the Carlton Group alleged that it had arranged the loan between Alsis and PLV, but that the developer withdrew the $18 million from an escrow account without paying its $900,000 commission. This week, a group of councillors and aldermen called for the resignation of Graeme Outerbridge as Mayor of Hamilton over his recent dealings with the developer, alleging that he had "misrepresented the corporation and put in jeopardy a substantial amount of money and assets." Mr Outerbridge, however, said the dispute had nothing to do with the development and that he had done nothing outside the remit of what he had been given permission to do through resolution.

January 22. The Corporation of Hamilton board, led by Mayor Graeme Outerbridge, has written to the National Conference of Black Mayors executive director Vanessa Williams requesting an account of funds paid to the United States organization for the hosting of its 40th annual conference in Bermuda. Casting doubt on the viability of the conference, planned for April this year, sources close to the event, which has been dogged by controversy almost since its inception, said that the Hamilton administration was seeking to ascertain how much of its payments could be reclaimed. The same sources told The Royal Gazette that the Fairmont Southampton hotel had pulled out of a deal to accommodate the conference after finding the organizers in breach of their agreement. Asked for confirmation, a hotel spokeswoman said the company's policy was not to disclose any details about guests or potential guests. Ms Williams yesterday told The Royal Gazette that the National Conference of Black Mayors would "absolutely be meeting in Bermuda from April 12 through April 16." Asked if the Fairmont Southampton had withdrawn from hosting the conference's purported 300 guests, Ms Williams said the hotel was undergoing renovations that had caused a "hiccup in bed availability. Our attorneys are working with Fairmont. Delegates would be accommodated in three or four local hotels instead. I'm very excited, it will be a really positive breath of fresh air, with leaders, community activists and civil rights figures among guests to the Island."

January 22. Three-quarters of Bermuda's hotel chiefs believe that 2015 and 2016 will see a period of "meaningful growth in the industry" buoyed by the award of the 2017 America's Cup to Bermuda. And around two-thirds of the Island's hoteliers told KPMG they had expansion plans over the next 18 months, although respondents said that finding financial backing was "very difficult" compared to the Caribbean. The results came in the 2014 hotel benchmarking survey of hotels in Bermuda and the Caribbean, carried out by financial services firm KPMG. The survey covers hotel results in 2013 and finds that nearly a third of hotel chiefs believed 2014 occupancy figures would turn out to be better than the previous year. But optimism in Bermuda lags behind its Caribbean rivals, where nearly half of respondents said that 2014 would be a better year. The survey said: "When comparing Bermuda's results to the rest of the Caribbean region, Bermuda has a significantly lower average occupancy, but Bermuda's average rack rates were higher than the regional average. Revenue per available room is lower than the rest of the Caribbean as a result of the lower occupancy Bermuda experiences. Overall, the result give Bermuda hoteliers sufficient encouragement to believe that brighter days may be ahead, especially with recent positive news for the Island that Bermuda will host the 2017 America's Cup. While there has been healthy growth in occupancy, average daily rate and revenue per available room in the Caribbean in 2013, there was only slight growth in Bermuda occupancy, which increased from 57 per cent to 57.8 per cent. Bermuda did manage to increase rates more significantly, however, with average daily rate rising from $298 to $314, an increase of 5.4 per cent. The Caribbean increase in average daily rate, by contrast, was just two per cent." The survey found that major key performance indicators and good control of expenses had increased in Bermuda in 2013, leading to modest increase in departmental profits, despite a small decline in the number of tourist stopovers in Bermuda between 2008 and 2013. And the KPMG report said that hotel bosses were still concerned about the cost of operations, the high cost of travel to the Island and the fragile global economic recovery. But hoteliers backed the new Bermuda Tourism Authority's focus on the US as a key market as it provides just over half of Bermuda's vacation guests. Nearly 75 per cent of Caribbean competitors said they had plans to expand their businesses over the next year and a half, with more than half saying energy efficiency was a top priority. The survey said: "Although Caribbean hoteliers are more confident about the future than at any time since 2010, when we first started the initiative, Bermuda confidence is not as high. Our 2013 Caribbean survey struck a note of cautious optimism and we are gratified that this has proven to be the case. The long anticipated improvement in the Caribbean region's hotel sector appears to be moving closer and closer. While Bermuda's hotel sector appears to have made slightly less progress along the road to recovery, we await with optimism the impact of the America's Cup win on the confidence and profitability of the Island's hoteliers."

January 22. America’s Cup decision-makers in Bermuda have vowed to put environmental concerns at the top of their agenda in the build-up to the 2017 sailing spectacle. The pledge was made by Mike Winfield yesterday as a panel of experts outlined how the event would affect the Island during the inaugural Bermuda Tourism Summit. Mr Winfield, chief executive of the newly formed America’s Cup Bermuda (ACBDA), told a 300-strong audience that environmental issues would be considered during the extensive development needed to host the event. In response to a question by Stuart Hayward, chairman of the Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce (BEST), Mr Winfield said: “From the get-go, environmental concerns and the focus of legislation has been to ensure that we do not do damage to our environment just to get benefit. Environmental concerns have always been right at the top of the agenda. You can be absolutely assured that environmental concerns will be at the top of our priorities both in the Ministry [for Economic Development] and outside of the ministry.” Addressing Mr Hayward directly, he added: “You are going to be involved. We are going to reach out and talk to everyone. We hope that this will not involve BEST objecting, but BEST suggesting.” Mr Winfield’s comments came at the end of a presentation by Grant Gibbons, the Economic Development Minister, Peter Durhager, the chairman of the board for the ACBDA, Mr Winfield and Peter Rusch, the director of communications for the America’s Cup Event Authority. Mr Winfield revealed that the ACBDA had been flooded with “400 e-mails a day” with queries and suggestions about the America’s Cup since the board of directors was unveiled on Monday. Mr Durhager told the Tourism Summit audience that he hoped the America’s Cup would stimulate a change of economic fortune, but also community perspective in Bermuda. “I hope that some of the jobs and opportunities that come about as a result will awaken our senses,” he said. “There are a whole bunch of legacy things. I hope the hallmark of the America’s Cup is a shift in our attitude and mental state for the future. This event can be transformational: partly physical and visual, partly emotional and partly the perspective that we share in the community.”

January 22. Holiday rental owners have a vital role to play in the revival of Bermuda's tourism product as well as the island's economy, according to Bill Hanbury. The CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA) told The Royal Gazette he had been amazed by the collaboration that already takes place within the vacation rental market. But he acknowledged that more could still be done to help this very important sector become stronger. Mr Hanbury's comments came after the end of a packed seminar at yesterday's Tourism Summit in which around 100 guest house and rental property owners as well as BTA representatives shared ideas on how the system could be improved. Mr Hanbury said he hoped that a new registry of Bermuda rental properties would be online by the beginning of June, this year. "It was a very positive session and there was a really good attitude in the room. These people are really important to the Bermuda tourism product and the Bermuda economy. Everyone realizes there is an issue that needs to be addressed; there needs to be some level of oversight but it should not be heavy-handed. The key thing about this sector is that the profits stay in Bermuda and Bermudian families are the ones that benefit. With the America's Cup coming to Bermuda we can not afford to let our vacation rentals stay in the same place. We need to make sure that whatever we want to do is done to a very high standard and makes the world say they really have their act together. And it's not just hotels, it's across the board." The vacation rental seminar was one of a series of breakout sessions at yesterday's Tourism Summit, which was held at the Southampton Fairmont Resort. The summit, which was attended by hundreds of residents and stakeholders, focused on tourism plans and initiatives for the year ahead. The BTA's chairman, David Dodwell, pointed to the formation of the BTA and announcements of new hotel developments as signs of significant progress towards renewing confidence in the tourism industry. But he caution that many more steps need to be taken to put Bermuda back in its place as a premier global tourism destination. Mr Dodwell added: "Big future steps will include: re-establishing Bermuda as a year-round destination, increasing the number of air arrivals, building hotel occupancy, attracting smaller cruise ships for Hamilton and St George's, plus nurturing more tourism-related businesses. The biggest step we still need to accomplish is assuring the creation of more family sustaining, upwardly mobile jobs for the Bermuda citizens that needs those jobs the most, the underemployed and unemployed."

January 22. Higher visitor numbers during the America’s Cup, a certified tourism ambassador programme, and job prospects were some of the areas tackled during the Tourism Summit’s afternoon session yesterday. Chief executive officer of the Bermuda Business Development Agency Ross Webber said that Bermuda needed more flexibility in terms of pricing for flights to the Island going forward. He said; “Airlift, as far as its concerned from a business perspective, is hugely important but also certainty is important. We need to do an awful lot more now with the airlines to ensure that we have guaranteed flights and guaranteed routes to ensure our business partners know they can come back to Bermuda. It’s a very important point from a business perspective. We also need to do an awful lot more with British Airways in particular at the back of the bus to get increased airlift. The front part of the bus is fine where most of the business goes but nowadays as margins decrease you will find businesses travelers looking to use the back of the bus to fly to Bermuda. And the way the price structure is right now it is a deterrent and people are not coming to Bermuda as much as they would. From a business perspective they are going to use Skype.” During a panel discussion led by BTA’s communications chief Glenn Jones, there was much discussion about the benefits of a new airport which was announced in November of last year. Little was mentioned about the contentious decision by Government to choose Canadian Commercial Corporation for the project but much was mentioned about the overdue need for a facility. General manager of Airport Operations Aaron Adderley said: “I think it [the America’s Cup] is going to be a game changer for us. Over the past few years it’s been very difficult to have air services development type conversations with the airlines because we are dealing with results that have not been a product we need it to be. What the America’s Cup is going to do is provide a stimulus effect at the airport. We are already in discussions with the airlines about what sort of capacity we are going to have to put in place to support the event and the lead up to the event. When we go out to market to try and secure the financing we are going to have to be very influential and convincing in our discussion because we are going to show numbers that support a 20 or year 30 year decline and we are going to have to convince managers that we are going to turn things around. The America’s Cup is going to help us in that argument. The other thing that is going to work in our favour is the hotel developments that are about to take place. All those things coming together will all make our case a lot easier.” Bermuda Tourism Authority chief operating officer Karla Lacey outlined the National Service Standards Programme where participants can achieve a Certified Tourism Ambassador designation. The CTA is a recognised DMO Certification. Some 300 have already registered to become ambassadors while there is capacity for a further 200 to sign up. The purpose of the programme is to help visitors get the most out of their destination while helping to promote local business. A prerequisite to gaining the certification is the Blue Flag 101. The Blue Flag Ambassador programme has been running for more than a decade. The course, Blue Flag 101, has been condensed into 12 hours as opposed to five weeks and involves annual refresher courses. Ms Lacey said: “Turning people into tourism ambassadors is about building pride in the destination and a deep level of knowledge about what Bermuda has to offer.” As for business prospects and jobs in the run up to, and during, the America’s Cup, executive director at the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation Erica Smith said it is essential that Bermuda’s businesses position themselves adequately. “We are hearing excitement from small businesses and the opportunity for them to participate. I think it is about being able to get that contact or network or be positioned enough to be to take advantage of it. We have already started to collaborate with the organization to talk about how we can take advantage of the opportunities. We are positioning our team to being one of those connectors.” Anyone interested in getting involved in the America’s Cup through their business or individually can contact visit americascup.bm or e-mail address info@americascup.bm.

January 23. Corporation of Hamilton members remained tight-lipped last night after emergency talks to discuss the growing chaos within the administration. The meeting was called by Municipalities Minister Michael Fahy after a turbulent week for the City of Hamilton team which saw a rebel group of five aldermen and councillors call for the resignation of Mayor Graeme Outerbridge. The group, which includes Deputy Mayor Donal Smith and Alderman Carlton Simmons, claims that Mr Outerbridge misrepresented the Council as part of his dealings with the $18 million loan for the Par-la-Ville hotel development. Mr Outerbridge, however, says he has always acted within the realms of his Corporation powers and has vowed to remain in post. Yesterday, all Council members attended the two-hour meeting at City Hall. The Royal Gazette contacted Mr Smith, Mr Simmons, Larry Scott and Mr Outerbridge, but each turned down requests for comment on the meeting. Senator Fahy declined to elaborate on the topics discussed, but when asked if there had been talks of removing the “Team Hamilton” administration, he replied: “We didn’t go down that road. We are in a good position in terms of dialogue. We will be meeting again on Monday. We have good common ground to build on.” Nor could the topic of a lawsuit against both the Corporation and the developer of the proposed Par-la-Ville Hotel be commented upon, he said, as the matter has gone into litigation. Sources close to City Hall said the lawsuit dominated talks with Sen Fahy. Describing the discussion as fruitful and constructive, the Minister said afterwards: “We have been having a dialogue about where the Council is and where the Government is to find common ground and move the city forward and the country forward.” Yesterday The Royal Gazette reported that the developer of a proposed hotel and the Corporation of Hamilton are facing legal action over an $18 million loan. According to two writs filed in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Mexico Infrastructure Finance LLC is suing Par-la-Ville Hotel and Residences Ltd (PLV) and the Corporation. The action is linked to an $18 million loan from Mexico Infrastructure Finance, also known as Alsis Funds, to the hotel developer last year. The Corporation had signed on as a guarantor to the loan.

January 23. The Department of Energy has moved forward with discussion on policy development, arising out of the Energy Summit (http://www.bermudaenergysummit.bm) held in November. The workshop, the first in a series of consultations, was held at The Fairmont Southampton yesterday. It included stakeholders invited to the November Summit, together with others who have expressed an interest in participating. Of the approximately 80 people attending, Greenrock and BEST were included among the advocacy non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The list of stakeholders present also included business leaders, representatives from the renewable energy sector, �green� businesses, local financiers, and the utility, Belco. There were several topics of discussion including the affordability of renewable energy, controlling access to the grid in an organized and fair manner, and climate change. The workshop was designed to refine policy initiatives within the group of key stakeholders. The consultation group will eventually be enlarged and members of the public will be given an opportunity to comment and contribute to the policy development in due course. Grant Gibbons, the Minister for Economic Development, said, "This policy development is necessary in order for us to properly revise and reframe energy legislation so that the energy sector regulation is up to date and responsive to Bermuda's current and future needs. We are working with our consultants, Castalia Ltd, who are assisting with the workshops. An "Open Space" methodology was used for the latest workshop, encouraging a more open dialogue among participants. The approach allows key issues to be discussed in depth, to ensure a better understanding of the perspectives and positions of the stakeholders. We are also planning wider public consultation. Thus far, the Bermuda Energy Working Group and the Energy Commission have been afforded the opportunity to comment on the broad policy building blocks as developed by Castalia in November. The Open Space methodology is different from the usual approach of holding a series of town hall meetings on an issue. With this methodology we believe we can make the best use of resources, shorten time frames and efficiently address the required discussion topics."

January 23. New plans for the redevelopment of the old Clayhouse Inn have been unveiled by developers. The proposals would involve the demolition of the crumbling old structure and the construction of a brand new property on the North Shore site. Draft design images of development plans appeared on Clayhouse Renaissance's website this week. However, details of what exactly the project could involve have not been revealed. In 2010 the same firm was given permission to transform the legendary music venue into a new housing and commercial complex, but the scheme never got off the ground. The latest plans have not been submitted to the Department of Planning and no timescale has been announced by Clayhouse Renaissance. But a source close to the project told The Royal Gazette that the new plans were a scaled back version of the older ones. "We are pursuing redevelopment of the site now and we have revised the plans that we initially had in 2010," said the source. "The new plans have been scaled back from the originals, but they have not been submitted to Planning yet. Clayhouse Renaissance will still be the developer. The new plans still involve the demolition of the old building. It would cost too much to renovate the existing structure. There is still more work that needs to be done such as feasibility studies and the normal procedural stuff. But there is definitely still hope for this plot of land." In its golden era of the 1970s, the Clayhouse played host to a string of famous black entertainers like Sister Sledge, The Supremes and Gladys Knight. But it later developed a notorious reputation and the condemned building has been an unused eyesore on the North Shore for more than a decade. Today the old Clayhouse Inn structure has fallen into disrepair and is littered with rubbish and debris. Hurricanes Fay and Gonzalo caused further damage to the North Shore property, leaving windows blown out and ceilings collapsed. The site is owned by Donald Evans, son of groundbreaking politician Dame Lois Browne Evans and grandson of the Clayhouse's original owner James Browne. Clayhouse Renaissance's 2010 proposals included demolishing the existing buildings and replacing them with 12 residential units, an underground car park for 57 cars and 54 bikes and a swimming pool. They also planned to build a 100-seat restaurant and a two-storey retail unit. The scope of the latest plans and the next chapter for this historic entertainment site now remain to be seen.

January 23. LookBermuda has officially launched the first phase of a photography installation at the airport in collaboration with National Geographic photographer David Liittschwager. Images of Bermuda’s unique fauna and flora will now be the first thing visitors see when they step foot in LF Wade International Airport. The first set of photographs being displayed is the result of expeditions on Nonsuch Island by LookBermuda’s Jean Pierre Rouja and Mr Liittschwager. They worked with terrestrial conservation officer Jeremy Madeiros of the Department of Conservation as well as collector of marine specimens Chris Flook on three separate expeditions in 2014. During the trips the team produced more than 180 images of the unique flora and fauna. The imagery is the basis of The Nonsuch Island Expeditions airport installation, with sponsored images from the ongoing expeditions printed a minimum of 4ft by 4ft, and installed in busy areas throughout the airport. Mr Rouja said: “We had assisted David on another project and wanted to apply his process to our ongoing efforts to showcase Nonsuch Island. The shooting started with newly hatched cahow chicks and has been expanded to showcase the biodiversity of the Nonsuch Island Nature Reserve and its surrounding waters. We are using Nonsuch as a lens through which to document Bermuda’s biodiversity photographing — not only the endemic and endangered species, which can be found there but also more common species found around Bermuda. This package is proving to be quite popular as not only does it give a much-needed visual boost to the airport but it also gives the general public and the schools a closer look at Nonsuch Island, to which access is normally restricted.” LookBermuda’s exclusive contract with the airport extends for the next several years and will be displayed throughout the upcoming America’s Cup. As part of the ongoing airport project, LookBermuda is developing various other themes with large scale scenic panoramic images by Mr Rouja and underwater photography by Chris Burville. Their images are being earmarked for some of the larger open walls and include panoramic murals exceeding eight by 40 feet in the arrivals corridor. Sponsorship is still being sought for the project. General manager at LF Wade International Aaron Adderley said: “The airport is pleased to partner with LookBermuda on this much-anticipated project. The photography highlighting the Island’s natural beauty is spectacular and when completed will allow us to add a splash of colour and vibrancy that our visitors and residents can both enjoy.” Members of the public not using the airport will still be able to see the prints in two MobileArt exhibits — the first as a mobile pop-up show and the second as an educational exhibit that will rotate throughout the Island’s schools along with accompanying curriculum and activities. For more information or to become a sponsor for the ongoing project visit www.nonsuchisland.com

January 24. In an unprecedented mass walkout, about 15 lawyers protested against the reappointment of Rory Field as Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) by leaving a special sitting of Supreme Court. The walkout included some of the Island's most recognizable defence lawyers, such as Craig Attridge, Auralee Cassady, Elizabeth Christopher, Marc Daniels, Larry Mussenden and Charles Richardson. The group waited outside the courtroom during Mr Field's address of the ceremonial opening of Bermuda's 2015 legal year. "Many of us, as fellow Bermudian professionals, were disappointed by the non-appointment of one of our numbers who we know to be perfectly qualified to the position of DPP," Ms Christopher told The Royal Gazette. Asked if they faced possible censure for walking out on a court session presided over by Chief Justice Ian Kawaley, with Governor George Fergusson looking on, Ms Christopher replied: "We're concerned by repercussions, but we have to do what's right." Mr Field, from the UK, was officially reappointed as DPP this month by the Governor, sparking criticism from both sides of the political spectrum. Many had expected Bermudian Cindy Clarke, the long-serving Deputy DPP, to assume the role. Michael Dunkley, the Premier and National Security Minister, said that he had "strongly expressed concerns about the reappointment of a non-Bermudian," promising to take the matter to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, while Shadow Attorney-General Michael Scott described the appointment as a "slap in the face". The walkout drew no reaction from Mr Justice Kawaley in what was otherwise an ordinary session. Attorney-General Trevor Moniz had to leave during the proceedings to attend an emergency meeting of Cabinet. But Government House stood firmly behind Mr Field, with Mr Fergusson applauding his performance over the past two years and expecting more of the same in his next term. "I firmly support the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Rory Field, as he begins two further years in the role. He and his able team in the department have achieved and continue to achieve impressive results. As he set out at today's special sitting of the Court, the department's record is excellent at home, respected internationally and, not least, Bermudians throughout the department have steadily achieved increasing seniority under his leadership. I wish him and his team well." Before the afternoon descended into something quite unexpected, Mr Justice Kawaley gave a historical reminder of why they were there. "Almost exactly 200 years ago, in early January 1815, the Chief Justice, lawyers and jurors attended the spanking new Sessions House building for the opening Assize of the new calendar and legal year. But the Court had been unable to sit because the room had been co-opted for a celebration of the completion of Sessions House. The battle by the Bermudian judiciary for dedicated Court premises may symbolically be viewed as starting in 1815." The gathering heard from Mr Moniz that legal reforms were in the works to modernize the Island's justice system. Mr Moniz said the population of incarcerated persons had been lowered by the use of electronic monitoring, which the courts wished to expand. He said Government was committed to affording Police officers greater discretion for dealing with first-time offenders on possession of cannabis, among other offences, as well as bringing in fixed penalties for on-the-spot fines. "Legal aid has mushroomed", the Attorney-General added, doubling in cost to $5 million a year, which Mr Moniz called financially unsustainable. Senior Magistrate Juan Wolffe spoke of the importance of a humanistic approach in Magistrates' Court, which he likened to the emergency room or engine room of the judicial system. The gathering applauded his commendation of the drug treatment court system. Mr Wolffe added that the pilot mental health courts, although successful, needed to be given legislative teeth.  He added: "Hopefully this will take place in the early part of 2015." A fee reform committee has been tasked with examining the budget for Magistrates' Court, which is committed to engaging with the community through mentoring, inviting students to view proceedings and educating the public. The walkout occurred as Mr Field rose next to speak. Outgoing lawyers bowed to the Chief Justice as they left the room. After the DPP's remarks, Justin Williams, president of the Bermuda Bar Association, congratulated Sir Scott Baker as incoming President of the Court of Appeal; Sir Maurice Kay, Justice Patricia Dangor and Justice Desiree Bernard as new Justices of Appeal; Geoffrey Bell QC on his appointment to the Court of Appeal, and Mr Wolffe on his accession to Senior Magistrate. The Bar Council oversees 448 active members and 70 law firms, Mr Williams noted, with 22 new members admitted in 2014: 14 Bermudians, two spouses of Bermudians and the rest guest lawyers.

January 24. Regulators are seeking comment on Digicel’s planned takeover of The Bermuda Telephone Company (BTC). This evening, the Regulatory Authority of Bermuda (RAB), which oversees the telecommunications sector, said the proposed merger “fell within the meaning of a concentration” under the law and would therefore require RAB’s approval to close. Digicel and BTC announced last week that they had struck a deal, without revealing terms. “The Authority invites interested third parties to submit their possible observations on the proposed transaction to the Authority,” RAB stated. “All information of a confidential nature should be clearly identified as such. At the time the two companies announced their merger plans, Digicel said BTC’s fixed voice and internet services would complement its mobile offerings allowing Digicel to bring better services and value to consumers.” The announcement of the takeover came just five months after Barrie Holdings had bought BTC from KeyTech Ltd in a $30 million deal. BTC executive chairman Roy Graydon said that “when Digicel approached us with an offer to combine the businesses, we realized that the two companies would complement each other and, working together, could substantially accelerate the pace of that build and it was clear that this would be the best and fastest way to enable us to provide the services of the future to consumers in Bermuda.” Deregulation of the telecommunications sector in Bermuda has led to several merger deals as major players position themselves to offer a “bundle” of services to clients. Comments must reach RAB no later than 4pm on February 6, 2015, in order to be considered. Comments can be sent via e-mail to kmasters@rab.bm, by post or by hand to: Kyle Masters c/o The Regulatory Authority, Cumberland House, 3 Victoria Street, Hamilton, Bermuda.

January 24. Eight colleges from the United States are sending golf teams to the Island in March to compete in the Bermuda Collegiate Invitational tournament. The event, part of the Bermuda Tourism Authority's plan to increase sports tourism to the Island, is scheduled to take place at Port Royal and Rosewood Tucker's Point on March 23 and 24. However, with the Bermuda Open also scheduled to be played at Port Royal from March 23 to 26, it seems more likely the college event will be held elsewhere. The eight Division Three colleges who have accepted the invitation to play in the tournament are: Berry, LaGrange, Piedmont, Hampden Sydney, Roanoke, Randolph Macon, Shenandoah, and Greensboro. March is shaping up to be the Island's busiest golf month of the year. Along with the new college tournament and the Bermuda Open, the month begins with the Bermuda Match Play Championship on March 3, at Mid Ocean Club, and finishes with the Grey Goose World Par 3 National Championship at Turtle Hill Golf Club.

January 24. Disruptions are expected throughout the Island for all public services on Monday morning as unions have called an urgent meeting regarding the future of furlough days. The Island's unions converged at the Bermuda Industrial Union headquarters yesterday to discuss the matter, with the Bermuda Government having set Monday as the deadline for a decision. BIU president Chris Furbert said that the working group put together to effect budget reductions had missed previous deadlines in coming to a decision. And with the 2014-15 Budget around the corner, time has run out. "The budget reductions talks we have been having with the Bermuda Government started in November last year," Mr Furbert said. "We had seven or eight meetings. Today we received a letter from the Minister of Finance requesting a decision from us by Monday and as a result of that we felt the need to call a press conference to inform the media and to inform all public service employees about the meeting on Monday at 10am at Union Square. You will be aware that when we agreed to furlough days, each union had to go around to its individual membership and get a decision from them concerning furlough days. We do feel that the timeframe is a bit tight. The only way we can get a decision by Monday is to have an urgent meeting." Asked whether he expected much disruption to services, Mr Furbert said: "You are going to have some interruption to services on Monday; all services." Mr Furbert, who said that he could not anticipate how long the disruption to services would last, remained tight-lipped on any further details, insisting that he must speak to the union's membership first. A five-point Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Bermuda Trade Union Congress and the Bermuda Government, which allowed for the institution of mandatory unpaid leave of one day each month for all government workers, comes to an end on March 31. The MOU, which affects almost 5,000 people, was signed on July 22, 2013 and the furloughs commenced in September 2013. The government employee furlough policy was designed to curb public sector expenditure and reduce the annual budget.

January 25. Bermuda is set to be highlighted on the cover of the February issue of international travel magazine Condé Nast Traveler. The issue — known as the Romance Issue — is expected to land on North American newsstands in the next few days and could reach a print audience of 3.5 million readers internationally. The magazine’s website, meanwhile, receives 2.6 million unique visitors every month. The cover story for the magazine, “Visiting Bermuda on the Eve of Major Developments” by Lindsay Talbot, remarks on the Island’s unique fashion sense and personality while noting the looming 2017 America’s Cup. In the article, Ms Talbot details her experiences staying at the Coral Beach & Tennis Club, noting that she and her family are repeat visitors to the Island. “Yes, this 21-mile oasis on the same latitude as Shanghai and Charleston — discovered by Juan de Bermudez, a Spaniard, but under British rule since 1612 — is a time warp of English gentility that has long seemed impervious to change. Men, who could either be just off the links of the Mid Ocean Club or heading into the office, stroll through the narrow streets of Hamilton, the capital, wearing pastel shorts and knee-high socks. Along Front Street are rows of colorful little stores — from the Irish Linen Shop, with its bright-yellow wooden shutters, to the sky-blue headquarters of Gosling Brothers Ltd, the rum manufacturer that invented the Dark ’n’ Stormy. The English Sports Shop sells kaleidoscopic stacks of madras shirts, neckties, and, of course, Bermuda shorts and knee socks in shades as bright as the island itself.” However, Ms Talbot also expresses some concern that the Island could lose some of its charm with the coming hotel developments and redevelopments, saying: “There are only a few places left in this world that you can return to, again and again, and still find unchanged — Bermuda has long been one of them.” Victoria Isley, the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA) chief sales and marketing officer, said: “Earned media like this cover story in Condé Nast Traveler is a big victory in our strategy to get consumers dreaming about Bermuda. The cover of Condé Nast is literally a priceless placement — highly coveted, can’t be bought. To earn this kind of coverage documenting the next chapter in Bermuda’s tourism story from a pre-eminent publication like Condé Nast is a testament to the positive direction Bermuda is heading. That the writer has such a personal history with the island and represents the next generation of travelers to Bermuda is a real bonus.” The BTA noted that the Island has been featured in numerous other publications in recent months, including the New York Times, Travel+Leisure, BusinessWeek, Men’s Journal, USA Today and TravelChannel.com. The Authority also recently hosted Triathlete Magazine for a multi-page spread in the magazine’s annual swimsuit issue, expected to reach newsstands in July. “Ms Talbot has highlighted what our members and guests love most about Bermuda and about the property — the history, and the elegant, easy comfort,” said Nik Bhola, the general manager of Coral Beach. “We are committed to staying true to that philosophy, even as we upgrade and renovate.”

Conde Nast magazine

See above story

January 26. Flights to and from Bermuda could be disrupted as New York and New England brace themselves for a massive winter storm. Forecasts suggest New York could see 20in of snow today and tomorrow, while parts of New England could be buried under two feet of snow. High winds are also expected in the region. As of last night blizzard warnings had already been issued for the New York City area, much of New Jersey and parts of southern New England. Meanwhile, high winds battered the Island this weekend, prompting warnings from the Government. According to the Bermuda Weather Service (BWS), winds at LF Wade International Airport reached 39 knots (72 km/h) late on Saturday night due to deepening low pressure moving up the US East Coast, bringing a cold front into the area. The Ministry of National Security issued a statement on Saturday urging the public to keep abreast of weather updates from the service and take extra care while traveling on the roads as gale force winds had been forecast. While the winds died down yesterday, forecasts suggest they will pick up again this evening with rain showers and possible thunder. The BWS last night issued a Gale Warning, and a Small Craft Warning which will remain in effect until this evening. Passing rain showers are also expected, with wet weather being forecast to continue into tomorrow and Wednesday with occasional showers.

January 26.  The Bermuda Festival’s fortieth anniversary year appropriately began with a concert by the English Chamber Orchestra (co-founded by a female cellist once a WW2 Jewish prisoner at Auschwitz who escaped the gas chamber because of her musicality), who returned to Bermuda and the Earl Cameron Theatre on Friday evening. They have performed more than any other performer or group of performers since the inception of this major Bermuda arts event. While the focus was on the familiar as the first notes sounded, they were the first notes of a little known piece by a modern composer who promoted folk tunes, some well known and others not, to new and exquisite heights. The rough and ready Percy Grainger, who was born in Australia 1882, and died in 1961, spent his life collecting and arranging folk songs mostly from the British Isles and Europe. For this Royal Gazette attendee of the concert, Grainger is a wonderful discovery. Handel in the Strand (Clog Dance) was a quintessentially English and charming little piece, lively and lighthearted, which immediately introduced the audience to this orchestra’s style; it is one with a strong sense of the beat and a reveling in textural and dynamic complexities. The second piece is well known as The Londonerry Air, or O Danny Boy. The wistful Irish Tune from County Derry was undertaken delicately, and yet with a strong sense of the rhythm and interwoven textures. The final of this trio was the quick and lively composition Molly on the Shore, another delightful short piece recreated from Irish reels. This concert’s programme incorporated a number of pieces with connections with the water, and appropriately, for this major anniversary, included majestic and celebratory works as well. Apres un reve for cello and string orchestra by Gabriel Faure, however, was not one of those. The composer set the poem Apres un reve — or After a dream — to music, and it was immediately stunning, evocative and rich, and gorgeously phrased. Cellist Caroline Dale emphatically recites the poem — “After a Dream In a sleep charmed by your image I dreamed of happiness, a passionate illusion ... Alas, sad awakening from dreams! I call to you, O night, give me back your delusions ... Return, O mysterious night!” — which weighed with the subtle but beautifully balanced orchestral accompaniment, creating in a sense of wistfulness and great sadness. Schubert’s Adagio and Rondo in A for violin and string orchestra is one of Franz Schubert’s rare ‘concerted’ works. This turn of the 19th century piece opens with an expansive section for the orchestra before the violin bursts through, like the sun through the clouds, with a sparkling ‘rising flourish’ as the programme notes say. The various landscapes of this work provided a wonderful opportunity for violin soloist Stephanie Gonley together with the solo cellist Ms Dale to show the audience how technically superb and what stylish musicians they are. Both musicians gave beautifully colored renderings, meticulous and crisp, and with magnificent dynamics. Henry Purcell brought to the stage Bermuda’s own Matthew Ross, a young musician whose instrument is the trumpet. The programme notes explain that the fact Purcell had a “profound understanding of the capabilities of the natural (valveless) trumpet of his day is evident in the fanfare figures and ‘calls to arms’ of the outer movements ...” Here was the first of the celebratory, regal pieces that marked the programme on Friday evening. This piece — Trumpet Sonata in D — is classic Purcell, clearly directed and at the same time, with its intricacies. The trumpeter produced an enchanting and clear tone, and gave both movements a broad dynamic range, breathing heart into the piece. He performed the two Allegro movements; the central Adagio, not performed, was for strings only. Antonio Vivaldi’s works are typically as lyrical as they are filled with life. Was he inspired by Venice, the city on water? It is hard to imagine that he was not, and the fluidity of his style seem to attest to that. This Concerto for violin and cello in B flat is emphatically Vivaldi's, and it is gorgeous. In the hands of the English Chamber Orchestra this piece is scintillating and sparkles like light bounding off the water. The musicians imbued the first movement, the complex allegro, with a crystalline quality before moving into the lyrical sections. Slow and smooth, the undulating Andante was enlivened with vibrato and subtle dynamics. The violin solo aspects in the Allegro molto in the hands of Ms Gonley shone as she juxtaposed the orchestra’s steady and rhythmic framework with her brightly colored, fast-paced rendering of Vivaldi’s dancing rhythms. The Suite from The Water Music is considered one of George Frederic Handel’s best pieces of music. The programme notes explain it was composed for King George I and was performed on a barge as the King and many of his most important subjects floated in their own barges down the River Thames. This majestic performance by the orchestra was completely right for a royal progress. Steady and evenly paced, it evokes the splendor of the occasion. The fun of this piece is how it regularly changes mood, but never loses any of its dignity — in part by returning to the processional pace, all beautifully captured by The English Chamber Orchestra. Formality with a light spirit was the lasting impression of this evening of wonderful music — hitting exactly the right note for the beginning of this year’s 40th Bermuda Festival.

English Chamber Orchestra

See above story

January 26. Bermuda’s oldest electrical contractor has been bought out. Bermuda Air Conditioning (BAC) Group has stuck a deal to take over Universal Electric Ltd (UEL). The joint firm will now be known as BAC Universal Electric Ltd. BAC Group managing director Chris Schuler said a combination of the expertise of the two firms would create an industry leader. He added the merger would provide “the most innovative delivery of construction, products and services and a superior experience and value for our customers.” BAC, founded in the 1950s and based in Mill Creek Road, Pembroke, employs almost 170 people and its products include air conditioning, energy management, fire protection, insulation, renewable energy, plumbing and refrigeration services. UEL, founded in 1965 and based in nearby Serpentine Road, Pembroke, specializes in electrical work, including contracting, service and maintenance and systems integration and also operates the largest electrical retail outlet on the Island. Mr Schuler said: “We are in the process of updating our clients regarding this exciting development and look forward to welcoming new customers to our family.” UEL president Patrick Jones said he will become vice-president and director of the new company. “We have always had a great working relationship with BAC, which remains the undisputed leader in its field. The combination of the two leading specialty firms creates and exciting pool of resources and opportunities for our businesses, customers, shareholders and employees.”

January 26. Axis Capital Holdings Ltd and PartnerRe Ltd have agreed to merge, the companies announced last night. The deal between two of the five biggest companies in the Bermuda insurance and reinsurance marketplace will create a group with a market capitalization of nearly $11 billion and the worlds fifth-largest property and casualty reinsurer. The combined entity will boast $10.7 billion in annual gross premiums, an investment portfolio of $33 billion and total capitalization of some $14 billion. Axis chief executive officer Albert Benchimol will lead the enlarged company, while PartnerRe chairman Jean-Paul Montupet will serve as its non-executive chairman. The combination has been described as a merger of equals and the deal is expected to close in the second half of the year. Costas Miranthis stepped down yesterday as CEO of PartnerRe and as a member of the reinsurers board, in connection with the deal. PartnerRe director David Zwiener will assume the position of interim CEO of PartnerRe until the completion of the transaction. The companies said they expect to make annual savings of at least $200 million, suggesting that jobs are likely to go. The companies headquarters are in neighboring buildings on Pitts Bay Road and the statement confirms that the combined company will be based on the Island. Both also have offices in London, New York, Zurich and Ireland. PartnerRe shareholders will own about 51.6 per cent of the combined company, while Axis investors will hold 48.4 per cent, the companies said. PartnerRe shareholders will receive 2.18 shares of the combined companies common shares for each share of PartnerRe they own, while Axis shareholders will receive one share of the enlarged entity for each of their Axis shares. PartnerRe writes only reinsurance, while Axis writes primary insurance too. The new company will derive around two-thirds of its premiums from reinsurance. This transformational combination will leverage the complementary strengths of both companies and create an organization with the size and breadth to enhance product and service offerings, maximize growth opportunities, optimize portfolios, and deliver both economies of scale and capital efficiencies, Mr Benchimol said in a joint statement from the two companies last night. The combined company will have three strongly positioned businesses a top-five global reinsurer, a $2.5 billion specialty insurance underwriting business, and a highly successful and growing life, accident and health franchise all with increased strategic flexibility. As a top five global reinsurer with leading positions in a number of specialty lines, we will be strongly positioned to turn the challenges presented by the structural changes in the reinsurance market into opportunities. The deal is the latest in a string of huge merger deals in the industry, following Renaissance Re's agreement to buy Platinum Underwriters and then XL Group's $4.2 billion takeover of Catlin. The mergers have come about in challenging market conditions. Reinsurance rates have fallen because of lower-than-normal catastrophe losses and an influx of competing third-party capital. Meanwhile, investment returns have also been squeezed by low interest rates. PartnerRe was formed in 1993, after a spike in reinsurance rates prompted by the 1992 Hurricane Andrew. Axis was formed in late 2001 after the September 11 terrorist attacks of that year also caused insurance rates to rise. Mr Benchimol has worked in senior roles for both companies. Before he joined Axis in January 2011, he had served as chief financial officer at PartnerRe for ten years. Last night's joint statement adds: "Given the similar disciplined underwriting cultures of both organizations, the combined entity will draw on the talented group of leaders from both companies." Some of the top positions have already been decided. Emmanuel Clarke will be CEO, Reinsurance, while Peter Wilson will be CEO, Insurance. Chris DiSipio will be CEO, Life, Accident and Health; and John Jay Nichols will be responsible for strategic business development and capital solutions. Joseph Henry will be chief financial officer and Bill Babcock will be deputy CFO and lead integration officer. Mr Babcock will assume the role of CFO on Mr Henry's retirement in July 2016. PartnerRe chairman Mr Montupet paid tribute to the companies exiting CEO. "On behalf of the entire board of directors, I want to express my appreciation to Costas Miranthis for successfully leading PartnerRe for the past four years and positioning the company to be able to move into this exciting new phase. PartnerRe has benefited greatly from his leadership and guidance and we wish him well in his next endeavor. This is an exciting opportunity that offers tremendous potential with many benefits for PartnerRe, our clients, brokers and shareholders." Axis chairman Michael Butt, who will continue to serve on the board of the combined company as chairman emeritus, said: "I have for a long time, since 1993, been an admirer of PartnerRe and what it has achieved. I am delighted therefore that we can now combine our businesses and people to create an even more exciting future." Shortly before the merger statement came out last night, both companies gave preliminary estimates of fourth-quarter results. Axis, which is due to announce earnings on February 3, said it made operating income of between $117 million and $123 million, or between $1.15 and $1.21 per share, compared to the consensus estimate of $1.21 per share of analysts tracked by Yahoo Finance. PartnerRe, which will report on February 4, said its operating earnings were between $210 million and $230 million, or between $4.20 and $4.60 per share, easily beating the Wall Street expectation of $3.04 per share.

January 27. Mayor Graeme Outerbridge and his council have been stripped of their powers after the governance of the Corporation descended into “complete disarray.” Senator Michael Fahy, the Minister for Home Affairs, announced yesterday that he had taken temporary stewardship of the Corporation of Hamilton with Cabinet’s approval. The decision follows a series of council controversies that culminated last week with five members calling on Mayor Graeme Outerbridge to resign over what they described as his “illegal and unauthorized” handling of the $18 million loan for the Par-la-Ville hotel development. Mr Outerbridge has denied any wrongdoing and maintained he always acted with the appropriate authority. Last night Alderman Carlton Simmons said many council members were stunned by the Minister’s reasons for assuming stewardship. He said: “We were not stunned because the Minister took stewardship but because of the reasons he gave for doing it. We called for a meeting with the Minister to inform him of illegal activities we say were committed by the Mayor with the $18 million and without the consent of the council. We wanted to inform him of the dire financial consequences this will have on the Corporation and that is why we asked the Mayor to resign. But instead of listening to us the Minister has simply pursued Government’s agenda and taken stewardship of the Corporation. As an elected official that is very disheartening. From here I intend to take every step to preserve the Corporation of Hamilton so that free and open elections take place later this year. Any person running for city office should have a clear and proven track record of community service and be vested in the city.” Responding to the claims Sen Fahy said: “The concerns raised about Par-la-Ville were one of a number of other items that were alleged during the meeting. All of these things will be looked at carefully to get a better understanding of what has and has not been done properly at the Corporation of Hamilton. There has never been an agenda to take over the Corporation of Hamilton. This decision was not made lightly. It is regrettable and unfortunate. Such allegations are deliberately inflammatory and have no foundation in reality.” He told yesterday’s press conference that Mr Outerbridge had been “supportive” of Government’s decision. Mr Outerbridge told The Royal Gazette: “The council was at an impasse. I am not going to get into the details of the Par-la-Ville loan except to say I always acted legally and with the appropriate authority. That is just a side show. There has been a long running internal battle over governance issues and it has been a very challenging administration. I hope there is a way through this stewardship and members reflect on some of the issues that have caused this impasse.” In the meantime chief operating officer, Edward Benevides, will continue to run the day-to-day operations of the corporation. Major financial or operational decisions will be overseen by the ministry. Sen Fahy said: “The current council will have no authority to make decisions, pass any resolutions or interfere with the day-to-day operations of the corporation, although I will continue to consult with the mayor and the council during the period of temporary stewardship.” This is the second time that Sen Fahy has taken stewardship of the Corporation of Hamilton. Between December 2013 and March 2014 Government prepared a Code of Ethics and Conduct, a Municipal Council Meeting Guide, and provided financial instructions to help the corporation manage its finances. Sen Fahy added: “There has been no improvement in the overall management and administration of the corporation’s affairs, and this has caused me to have continuing grave concerns over the corporation’s ability to function properly. The governance of the corporation is seemingly in complete disarray, with relations between the council itself, as well as certain members of the council and the mayor deteriorating to the point of them making open threats and allegations of racism and mal-administration, as well as engaging in acts of intimidation.” The next Corporation of Hamilton elections are due to take place in mid-May. Mr Fahy did not rule out the possibility that the stewardship could continue until then.

January 27. A unique Bermuda-based insurance pool is set to pay out $25 million to three drought-hit countries in Africa. The cash will come from the Africa Risk Capacity Insurance Company (ARC), set up last year to issue insurance polices against drought in five African nations. The policies were triggered after drought hit growing seasons in three Saharan countries, Niger, Mauritania and Senegal. Economic Development Minister Grant Gibbons said: “We should all be proud that Bermuda and our on-Island expertise have played such a key role in this important international initiative.” The fund was capitalized by the UK’s Department for International Development and the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and based in Bermuda over competitors Switzerland. The fund was set up after intensive talks with Dr Gibbons, the Bermuda Monetary Authority and experts from the private sector. Global insurance and reinsurance broker Willis, which has a Bermuda office, was last December awarded an insurance industry transaction of the year award for its work in setting up ARC on the Island and earlier won a reinsurance transaction of the year plaudit for the same fund. Dr Gibbons said the catastrophe fund could pave the way for more business from the fast-growing economies of African countries. “In addition to the reputational benefit for Bermuda as the host jurisdiction, we believe there may be future opportunities for commercial business and jobs. Africa represents one of the fastest-growing economies and there is clearly a potential for other insurance business being located in Bermuda.” The insurance pool, the first of its kind, was designed to allow drought-affected African countries to respond quickly, rather than waiting on uncertain overseas aid to arrive. Dr Gibbons said: “Bermuda’s participation in this co-operative approach to assisting African countries is a strong vote of confidence for our country. Not only will ARC Insurance be domiciled here, but out involvement in the development of mutual insurance to assist African countries will provide targeted responses in a more timely, cost-effective and transparent manner. We are at the forefront in the formation of a fund that facilitates financial stability in instances where other insurance options are not available.” The insurance policies issued by ARC provide around $135 million in drought insurance to the three claimants, as well as Kenya and Mozambique. The catastrophe pool will speed up assistance to struggling areas and reduce the need for foreign intervention. International aid is secured through an appeals system once a disaster strikes and African governments affected by catastrophes can be made to reallocate funds from essential development programmes as a condition of international support. Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, chairman of the ARC agency board, said: “It is an unprecedented way of organizing ourselves with our partners with Africa taking the lead — taking our collective destiny into our own hands, rather than relying on the international community for handouts. The creation of the first ever African catastrophe insurance pool is a transformative moment in our efforts to take ownership and use aid more effectively.”

January 27. A total of three buildings at historic Dockyard are being restored to their former glory as part of the drive to be ready for the 2017 America’s Cup. And Dockyard owners Wedco are pushing ahead to revamp three more buildings which were part of the former HMS Malabar shore station. Wedco general manager Andrew Dias said: “We are bringing it all back to life. The America’s Cup provides us with the opportunity to not only build new structures, but to repurpose existing structures at an accelerated pace.” Mr Dias said that many of the plans predate the America’s Cup and the successful bid has allowed Wedco to focus on several additional projects. Instead of restoring one building behind the Clocktower Mall, Wedco is now working on three. All three buildings have been gutted, and are being made wind and water tight. In addition to work on three buildings behind the Clocktower Mall, Wedco has also submitted planning applications to renovate a further three buildings on the HMS Malabar property, near the entrance to Moresby House. Dockyard’s Building Four, where the wooden schooner Chicane was restored, will be turned over to the Government-controlled ACBDA company for the America’s Cup. Building six, which has already had all the asbestos removed and is due to be completed by the end of February, will house the tenants from the warehouses in the South Basin. The warehouses will be the base for Team Oracle. Building Nine, which was used for storage and by the Wedco maintenance team, will also be re-purposed for the America’s Cup, after which it will be used to expand the commercial market in Dockyard. Mr Dias said that any significant historical features, such as the crane lift in Building Nine, will be upgraded and maintained as architectural features, and most of the metal work has already been completed. “One of the things we have been very cognizant on is doing the restoration so we reduce our future maintenance costs." He added that the new roofs will be built with a membrane that is welded together to make it watertight and has a lifetime guarantee of 30 years. The roofs will not need painting, but can still collect water. New windows being installed in Building 9 will not need painting either, which can cost anywhere between $500 to $800 per window, as the wood will age to a natural grey color. Wedco is also seeking planning permission to restore Moresby House, a Grade II listed building that used to be a Cold War listening station on the Royal Navy supply base HMS Malabar. Malabar, which has stood empty since 1995, will be redesigned to include a kitchen, meeting rooms, office space, and residential rooms, but the exterior physical features will remain. It too will be offered up for use during the America’s Cup, with a view to creating short term rentals after the event. The Royal Navy Fleet Club building and a bungalow cottage on the Malabar site will also be restored to avoid further deterioration. Wedco chairman Raymond Charlton said: “To see Malabar renovated will be amazing. I never had any confidence that we would be able to save this building. I’m just happy to see that persistence has paid off.” Mr Dias said that the four clock faces on the western tower of the Clocktower Mall will also be restored. The clock, which was made by John Moore of London and installed in the late 1850s, was known as the “four-faced liar”, because high winds often altered the hands. Wedco is asking local companies to provide their credentials and contact information, so that they can send out a national bid for companies to assist with the tendering process for the America’s Cup. “We have a vendor list already, but we would like to provide everyone with the opportunity and update that list,” Mr Dias said. With two years to go before the America’s Cup gets into full swing, Mr Charlton said that timelines will be extremely tight, but a lot of progress has been made already. “As chairman of Wedco I have full confidence in the team. Dockyard will be dressed to the nines,” he said. “This isn’t just the event; this is putting Bermuda on the world stage, and I would like to acknowledge Andrew Dias and the team for selling the vision of how the Dockyard can be transformed to host the America’s Cup.”

January 27. NFL players past and present will descend on Bermuda in April for a new charity golf tournament. Lawrence Taylor, who won the Super Bowl twice with the New York Giants and is considered the game’s greatest ever defensive player, is among a host of big names to be invited to play in the Bermuda Golf Classic at Port Royal Golf Course. Other notable invitees for the event, which runs from April 8 to 12, include Jeff Saturday, the former Indianapolis Colts centre and Super Bowl winner, and Alex Smith, the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback. There are 13 foursomes available to the public for the Classic at a cost of $5,000 per team, which also comes with an invite to the Friday evening dinner, and a private 19th cocktail reception, which is being hosted by Bella Vista Bar & Grill, after Saturday’s round. Teams will also have the option of drafting one of the players to join their foursome during the dinner, which also includes a silent auction of memorabilia and donated prizes, with proceeds going to local charities. Before the Classic, which will be played on Saturday, April 11, the players will compete in the NFL Players Golf Challenge on the Friday morning, an 18 hole stroke-play competition, with an optional practice round at Port Royal to be played on the Thursday. The public will be able to watch the action on the Friday and Saturday, while there will be tickets available so spectators can mix with the players for photographs at Port Royal on Friday. Organizers have invited 24 players so far, and plan on adding more from the world of American Football, with players who are projected to be first-round draft picks this year also being considered. The National Football League and the National Football League Players Association are understood to be supporting the tournament, as are the Bermuda Tourism Authority. Cambridge Beaches Resort, will host the players, and has already contributed $75,000 towards the cost of the event to secure its spot as the presenting sponsor. The West End hotel is also part of the AhhBermuda group, a consortium of West End businesses, that have paid $20,000 to sponsor Port Royal’s signature 16 hole. According to the tournament’s website, bermudagolfclassic.com, there are still several sponsorship packages available, including one for a title sponsor, at $50,000, all the way down to tee boxes, which can be sponsored for $1,000 per hole, of which there are 12 remaining. Also, St David’s Cricket Club are organizing a fundraising golf tournament next month in memory of former player Landro Minors. Minors, who captained the club’s football team, died aged 27 in a bike accident in 2011. The Landro Minors Memorial Golf Tournament will take place on February 28 at Ocean View Golf Club, with part of the proceeds going towards helping another former player, Glenn Pitcher, with ongoing medical expenses. Anyone interested in entering a team for the event should contact Sammy Robinson via email at cricketa@gmail.com.

January 28. Chief Justice Ian Kawaley has met with representatives of the Defence Bar after a walkout over the recent reappointment of Rory Field. A statement released this afternoon said: “Representatives of the Criminal Defence Bar met on Monday with Chief Justice for discussions relating to the stance taken by the Criminal Defence Bar following the Governor’s decision to reappoint Mr Field as the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for a further two years — following repeated, and well-publicised, statements from Government House, over the last five or more years, indicating that a suitably qualified Bermudian would be selected to fill the post. In a constructive dialogue with the Chief Justice, both parties reaffirmed their shared commitment to promoting the efficient and collaborative operation of Bermuda’s Criminal Justice System in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding. In particular, representatives of the Criminal Defence Bar clearly stated that their actions were not intended to disrupt the Special Sitting and that their number remained at all times respectful to the members of the Judiciary present in Court for the Special Sitting. To the extent that any disruption did occur or was perceived to have occurred, this was regrettable. The Chief Justice was satisfied with this explanation.” The statement noted that last Friday’s walkout was not the first attempt by the Criminal Defence Bar to address the issue, stating that in December 2013 a delegation requested a meeting with the Governor, who in turn directed the delegation to meet with the Deputy Governor. Mr Field was first appointed to the position of DPP in 2007, having previously held the same post in Belize. He was reappointed in 2010 with the intention of being replaced by a Bermudian, but he was reappointed again in 2013. It was reported that Deputy DPP Cindy Clarke had applied for the post and been approved by a panel, but Governor George Fergusson said her appointment had become “untenable” after “certain developments.” Premier Craig Cannonier expressed concern about the reappointment. The latest reappointment sparked further concerns, with Shadow Attorney-General Michael Scott calling it a “slap in the face” and Premier Michael Dunkley promising to discuss the matter with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

January 28. A Costa Rican man caught trying to leave the Island with more than $140,000 in cash has been jailed. Carlos Jiménez, 27, pleaded guilty this morning to a charge of possessing the proceeds of criminal activity on a date between December 24 and December 28, 2014. However, his fiancée, 29-year-old Denia Rojas, had charges against her dismissed. The court heard that on December 28, the couple were stopped by United States Customs at LF Wade International Airport after they admitted having more than $100,000 in cash in their bags. A search of their bags revealed $142,287.03 in vacuum-sealed plastic hidden beneath wet clothing. The majority of the money found was said to be Bermuda bills in large denomination. The couple were arrested and they were both charged in Magistrates’ Court on December 31 with possessing the proceeds of crime. Neither was required to enter pleas at that time, as the matters were to be sent to the Supreme Court. However, this morning the Crown asked the court for leave to remove the fiat, allowing the matter to be heard in Magistrates’ Court. The charges were re-read and Jiménez pleaded guilty. While prosecutor Cindy Clarke called for a sentence of between a year and 18 months, defence lawyer Elizabeth Christopher argued that a sentence closer to the lower end of the spectrum would be appropriate, noting her client’s early guilty plea. She also claimed that while in prison in Bermuda, Jiménez’s family would be unable to visit him. Jiménez addressed the court in Spanish, with Ms Christopher saying that he had accepted full responsibility for his actions and that during their time on the Island, Ms Rojas had suffered a miscarriage. Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo said the offence was a serious one that directly affects the Island’s economic and financial credibility, noting that the amount of money seized was “substantial”. He said that while Jiménez’s family will not be able to visit him, it is a penalty that he had brought upon himself and must deal with, adding: “He gambled and lost.” Mr Tokunbo sentenced Jiménez to 18 months in prison, with time already served taken into account, and ordered that the money seized be forfeited.

January 28. RG Editorial. The One Bermuda Alliance was elected to office based in part on promises to restore order and a sense of fiscal responsibility to our public spending. But almost two years on, the Islands debt remains the gargantuan white elephant stampeding around the room. The debt now stands at more than $2.1 billion and is rising every day. The proliferation of Government services, programmes and jobs in recent decades is now as costly to maintain as it is manifestly unsustainable given our straitened economic conditions. With approximately 20 per cent of Bermudas labour force employed in the public sector, even meeting the Government payroll is becoming an increasing challenge. Anemic economic growth limits Governments revenue-raising options and the ability to fund public sector spending. It's true that new infrastructure investment in the hospitality sector is imminent as a result of Bermuda securing hosting rights to the 2017 Americas Cup. This will result in an almost immediate knock-on effect in construction and its satellite industries. And, ultimately, tourism-related businesses ranging from retail to restaurants to taxis will also benefit. But any meaningful recovery in these key domestic sectors of the economy is likely at least a year away. Nor can Government count on the kind of runaway growth the offshore sector and its satellite industries experienced in the 1980s, 90s and early 21st century to fund spending, let alone to restore the Islands fortunes. Consolidation rather than expansion is the order of the day in the re/insurance industry, the chief driver of the international sector, and the ongoing wave of mergers and acquisitions is going to result in job losses and lost spillover economic activity in the short term. As a result of the Islands ongoing economic stagnation, Government is also finding it more and more difficult to persuade international credit-rating agencies that Bermuda has a credible plan in place to balance the books. So borrowing has become increasingly difficult and costly. Every penny we borrow has to be paid back, with interest, and Bermuda no longer looks like the sure bet it once was to international lending agencies. Government has so far avoided the kind of harsh austerity measures which have become increasingly commonplace in other jurisdictions. While it is fast becoming accepted that the old jobs-for-life civil service culture is becoming a thing of the past in Bermuda (even among public sector employees), there have been no wholesale reductions in staffing levels. Pay freezes have been substituted for pay cuts, furlough days for layoffs. This weeks stand-offs between Government and public sector employees about the enforced monthly leaves of absence are impressive exercises in street theatre but not perhaps the most constructive method of pursuing collective bargaining negotiations. Nor to win public support for their cause. The latest disruptions to public services, including schools, ferries and buses, has inconvenienced and angered thousands of residents. Patience is wearing extremely thin with Government employees whose livelihoods escaped the worst ravages of the destabilizing economic contraction which resulted from a worldwide downturn combined with domestic fiscal and immigration policies bordering on the criminally negligent. Those whose tax dollars underwrite public sector pay cheques are also growing impatient with a Government which still spends too much, borrows too much, taxes too much and economizes far, far too little. It should be borne in mind that everyone who works in the public sector is also a taxpayer as well as a consumer of public services. Many of them also believe that public funds are being badly spent; after all, they are eyewitnesses to inefficiency every day. Government would do well not to confuse the self-serving declarations of public sector unions with the feelings of the actual workforce. But, of course, both of Bermudas political parties are so deathly afraid of alarming public sector employees all of them potential voters who might feel threatened by talk of genuine and necessary structural reforms to the civil service that they opt to continue talking around the subject. Which is why the findings of the blue-ribbon Spending and Government Efficiency Commission have gone entirely ignored (including, of course, a recommendation to reduce the size of Bermudas top-heavy Parliament, a case study in wastefulness and excess). Created with a specific mandate to recommend ways we could streamline Government processes, including quangos, improve delivery of services and make Government more efficient, more cost-effective, more transparent and more user-friendly, the OBA appears to have filed and completely forgotten SAGE'S final report. Instead Government is continuing to indulge the white elephant in the room. And, frankly, we can no longer afford the peanuts.

January 29. The consolidation of schools and the suspension of the Agricultural Exhibition for a year are among a series of cost-cutting measures that have been agreed by the Bermuda Government and the Bermuda Trade Union Congress. This according to Finance Minister Bob Richards, as Government responded to last night’s BTUC press conference claim that the Budget Reduction Working Group had reached an agreement and that the unions had hit their reduction target of an extra $22 million, enabling furlough days to be taken off the table. Premier Michael Dunkley told a press conference this afternoon that the unions had not reached their spending targets and that Government would continue to look at “all options” as it puts together the next Budget. Mr Dunkley also rejected Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert’s assertion last night that he had been invited to attend the 11pm press conference that was held by the BTUC at the Bermuda Public Services Union. “The public should know that I never received an invitation to attend the press briefing, which in Government’s view was entirely premature,” he said. “It is very, very important to stress that the required reductions in expenditure just have not been fully reached, contrary to the BTUC’s declaration last night. “The Ministry of Finance and Cabinet Office are verifying the numbers as we speak, but early indications are that the spending targets of Government have not been fully achieved at this point.  Thus, we maintain that we must consider all options.  If the unions cannot agree to a furlough — and to be clear a furlough cannot be implemented without their agreement — then the Government would need to consider reductions in service levels and programmes. That said, it is Government’s intent to move forward with producing a National Budget for 2015-16." Last night’s BTUC press conference came after three days of industrial action and disruption to public services that was prompted by disagreement over the continued imposition of furlough days on public sector workers. This afternoon Mr Richards revealed the areas where the unions and Government had reached agreement. “The unions have agreed to placing a cap on Financial Assistance to reduce the allocation by $5 million,” he said. “They have agreed to achieve savings of approximately $1 million by consolidating schools and reducing the travel budget by $1 million. The reductions agreed to also include raising the GEHI contribution that employees pay for uninsured spouses from 50 per cent to 75 per cent, saving $1.6 million and to suspend the Agricultural Exhibition for one year for a savings of $400,000. Some of our proposals which were not agreed to by the BTUC included a cost sharing of employee pensions, increasing the rate paid by employees and decreasing that paid by the Government by 1 per cent, realizing savings of $3.5 million. Another proposal not agreed to was a payment of all overtime at straight time. Instead, the unions agreed to accept overtime that is normally paid at double time, at time and a half. They did not agree to any changes to overtime that is currently paid at time and a half. The Bermuda Police Service and Corrections Officers were not in agreement in paying 50 per cent of their health benefits, as is the case with all other negotiating bodies. This option is still being discussed with the Bermuda Police Association, as it is just and equitable.” 

January 29. RG Editorial. The arithmetic is simple but compelling. In Bermuda, 43 per cent of Government spending goes toward public sector salaries and benefits. So very close to half the Government Budget is already earmarked for payroll and associated expenses before a single penny can be spent on actual services and programmes. Think about it. Almost half the money is spoken for before we can purchase a single new piece of equipment for our hospital, pave and maintain our roads, upgrade our schools, protect our environment or ensure Police and other emergency response agencies are appropriately enough maintained to safeguard our community, our property and our lives. The general rule of thumb in any reasonably managed small business is that only about a third of expenditure should go to meet payroll and other expenses. When the figure begins to creep north of that amount, the long-term sustainability of an enterprise is thrown into question. A company simply won’t make sufficient profits to keep it viable: the money won’t be there for the infrastructure and staff investments necessary to support the business and keep it competitive. There are obviously many differences between public and private sector financing. But the bottom line for both is that when you cannot grow revenues sufficiently, you ultimately have to reduce costs. Deficit spending cannot be maintained indefinitely. In the private sector, lines of credit are cut off by the banks. Much the same thing applies in the public sector: lending agencies balk at throwing good money after bad when it comes to jurisdictions permanently awash in red ink. Bermuda’s public debt now tops $2.1 billion. Without Government efficiencies taking place in tandem with policies aimed at stimulating and maintaining an economic upturn, that figure could easily double in just four years. Public spending now stands at $1.112 billion annually. Revenues are just $956 million, with part of that sum obviously required to service the debt we have already incurred. So maintaining spending levels even in optimum circumstances — meaning robust and sustained economic growth between now and 2019 — would still see us running a deficit of approximately $300 million annually. Some have proposed targeting the super-rich with what would amount to new forms of super taxation. Quite aside from the dubious logic of radically increasing taxes on the investing and job-creating classes at the very time the economy needs their enthusiastic participation (and money) more than ever, whatever increased revenues were realized by doing so would not even begin to make up the shortfalls we face. Ultimately, deep Government spending cuts are as unavoidable as they are unpalatable to Bermuda’s public sector unions. For without belt-tightening by Government along with the concurrent success — by no means guaranteed — of a raft of measures intended to create new jobs for Bermudians through increased investment in the private sector, fiscal disaster is assured. The Island will soon be so far down the economic hole that the climb back up would be like attempting to scale Everest without oxygen and crampons. As the Finance Minister has said, the simple reality for Bermuda is this: the status quo is the enemy. Changing that status quo will, by necessity, involve challenging the once sacrosanct status of the Island’s blue and white-collar public sector workers. Controlling Government spending will require greater accountability, efficiency and fiscal responsibility from the civil service, a sector which comprises approximately one-fifth of Bermuda’s workforce. It will also requires civil servants to recognize that the top-heavy, ponderous and overly regulated Bermuda bureaucracy as currently constituted not only squanders time, money and other resources, but in some instances actually works against the possibility of coming up with genuinely productive, creative and innovative solutions to some of our problems. Indeed, more and more Bermuda residents find themselves believing the public sector’s preferred method of problem-solving is to strangle those who have the problems with endless red-tape. So privatizing or partially outsourcing some of the services now provided by Government to improve efficiency and save money not only makes good economic sense it just makes sense, period. Marching, sloganeering and chanting, as public sector workers have been doing all week over a proposed extension of their furlough days, may serve to temporarily vent the anxiety they understandably feel at this juncture. But at best such protests will only postpone the inevitable, not alter it. They can either work with the Government of the day to identify and implement cuts that will ensure the maximum savings while inflicting the minimum amount disruption on their memberships. Or they can find themselves in the same unhappy position as Barbados’ public sector workers. After steadfastly ignoring all warnings about the grave economic crisis that island nation was facing and turning a deaf ear to appeals for cooperation when it came to restructuring and reducing civil service costs, it was announced in December that 3,000 Barbadian public sector workers would be pink-slipped in 2015. As is the case in Bermuda, the arithmetic in that country was simple, compelling and, in the end, entirely unavoidable.

January 29.  Bermuda-based Enstar Group Ltd has completed the acquisition of Companion Property and Casualty Insurance Company from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina. Enstar, a specialist in acquiring and managing insurers that have stopped writing new business, said the deal was worth $218 million. The Queen Street-based company said the deal was financed 50 per cent through borrowings under a bank loan facility provided by National Australia Bank Ltd and Barclays Bank plc and 50 per cent from cash on hand. The company stated: “Enstar will operate the business largely as part of its property and casualty legacy business, while working to ensure that Companion’s policyholders continue to receive excellent service. Certain business of Companion will be renewed into Enstar’s subsidiary, Torus National Insurance Company.” Companion’s statutory financial statements as of September 30, 2014 reported its total assets as $1.12 billion and total liabilities of $877.2 million. Companion is a South Carolina-based insurance group writing property, casualty, specialty and workers’ compensation business, and has also provided fronting and third party administrative services.

January 29. The Bermuda Post Office has issued an advisory that the due date for payment of postbox rental fees has been extended to February 15. A spokesman said the extension has been given in part because of the recent staffing disruptions. “The advantages of renting a post box include 24 hour-a-day availability, low annual rental fees, faster delivery of mail, and protection from theft,” he said. The annual post box rental fees are $85, $120 and $300 for small, medium and large-sized boxes respectively. Payments can be made in cash, by cheque or by debit and credit card at any post office around the Island, as well as online at www.shop.bpo.bm . Any payments made from February 16 will be subject to the late penalty fee of $25, in addition to the postbox rental fee. For more postbox information, call 297-7955.

January 30. Bermuda financial technology start-up Trunomi last night received a prestigious international accolade at a ceremony in London. The company, headed by founder and chief executive officer Stuart Lacey, was selected from around 800 applicants as one of the FinTech50 2015 — described by organizers as “the 50 game-changers transforming the future of finance.” Trunomi has developed an online personal identity protection tool for use in the financial services industry. “It’s all good,” Mr Lacey told The Royal Gazette last night. “It’s wonderful to be recognised by industry peers for our innovations and really rewarding personally to share this win with my amazing team.” Last night’s invitation-only awards ceremony in the City financial district was attended by senior bank executives, venture capitalists and technology leaders. The judging panel comprised a group of 25 established financial technology specialists. There are no awards and no outright winner. The 50 companies the panel selects are the ones they believe will be “the ones to watch in 2015.” “Fintech”, or financial technology, is a sector undergoing strong growth. According to CB Insights, fintech deals totaled more than $12 billion in 2014. One aspect of Trunomi’s patent-protected technology is that it allows people to store digital sets of personal identification documents, such as passports and utility bills, in a way that allows it to be easily shared with financial institutions when necessary.

January 30.  A Bermuda legal firm has been named in documents that contain allegations Russian oil tycoons are funding anti-fracking campaigns in the US. Wakefield Quin, based in Hamilton's Victoria Street, is the home of Bermuda-based Klein Ltd which paid millions of dollars to charity Sea Change Foundation, which supports prominent US environmentalist groups like the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club which received $8.5 million from the foundation in 2010-11 launched a campaign called Beyond Natural Gas in 2012 to fight fracking the use of high pressure water mixed with sand and chemicals to break open rock and release gas and petroleum and natural gas extraction. Widespread use of the technique in the US has reduced the need for imports further damaging the struggling Russian economy. The funding of charities is not illegal and there is no suggestion anyone involved has broken the law but questions have been raised about Klein's activities by the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last year. The Committees report on Klein which includes a reference to Wakefield Quin's managing director Nicholas Hoskins as being a director said: "None of this foreign corporation's funding is disclosed in any way. This is clearly a deceitful way to hide the source of millions of dollars that are active in our system, attempting to effect political change." The links between Wakefield Quin, Russian big business and Klein were reported on this week in the Washington Free Beacon. Mr Hoskins, in an e-mailed statement to The Royal Gazette, said: "We have reviewed the article which appeared in the Washington Free Beacon on January 27, 2015. The article is full of unfounded speculation, innuendo and is simply not accurate. For reasons concerning client confidentiality, we are not able to comment on the business of our clients suffice to say Wakefield Quin Limited denies in the strongest terms any wrongdoing. We note that the Washington Free Beacon and its sources have been attacked by reputable media critics and watchdog groups in the past and we question their motivation in publishing this unfounded article." Klein Ltd is run by California-based hedge fund millionaire Nathaniel Simons. Several Wakefield Quin lawyers are listed as directors of companies he manages and in which the Sea Change Foundation had assets while it was being funded by Klein Ltd. Wakefield Quin lawyer Roderick Forrest is listed as a director of San Francisco-based Meritage Holdings, while Mr Simons is a non-executive director. Mr Forrest is also a director of Medallion International Ltd, a hedge fund management firm with close links to Mr Simons father Jim Simons. Both companies have listed the Bermuda offices of Wakefield Quin on filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Klein Ltd was incorporated in Bermuda in 2011 exclusively for philanthropic purposes and a statement to the Registrar of Companies said that none of the earnings would go to private shareholders or individuals and that it did not propose to carry out business on the Island. Wakefield Quin and its lawyers have Russian oil and gas companies as clients including the massive Rosneft, which is majority owned by the Russian government. Mr Hoskins has also been listed as a director of firms associated with Russian oil and gas interests. Mr Hoskins has served as vice-president of London-based Marcuard Services Ltd whose president, also chairman of Bermuda-based parent Marcuard Holding Ltd, is Hans-Joerg Rudloff, deputy chairman of Rosneft until 2013. In 2012, Mr Hoskins and Mr Forrest were listed as directors of Spectrum Partners, a fund with offices in Bermuda, Moscow and Cyprus and substantial holdings in the oil and gas industries. The former Secretary General of the western military alliance NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said last year: "I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organizations environmental organizations working against shale gas to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas." Wakefield Quin was embroiled in a long-running investigation into Bermuda-based IPOC International Growth Fund Ltd, incorporated in Bermuda in 2000. IPOC, which had a string of subsidiaries in the British Virgin Islands, was eight years later fined $45 million in a BVI court after pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice and furnishing false information. Three BVI IPOC subsidiaries were ordered to stump up a total of $2.5 million. Earlier, in 2006, the Bermuda Monetary Authority declassified the fund as Bermuda-registered and a month later the Registrar of Companies asked The Supreme Court to wind up IPOC and eight related firm on the grounds of regulatory breaches. Wakefield Quin and the Bermuda Commercial Bank were among local firms which provided services to IPOC, which was found to be owned by former Russian Telecommunications Minister Leonid Reiman. Wakefield Quin's Mr Forrest had served as a director of five IPOC firms and as vice-president of IPOC International Growth Fund. Then-Finance Minister Paula Cox said that an investigation had found that IPOC had not broken any laws in Bermuda and that local service providers were blameless.

January 30. A dispute over the legal representation of the Corporation of Hamilton has erupted in the aftermath of Government claiming stewardship. During a hearing in Chambers yesterday afternoon, lawyers Alan Dunch and Eugene Johnson both claimed they represented the Corporation in an action concerning the constitutionality of the Bermuda Government seizing control of the municipality. While Mr Dunch had applied to come officially on record for the Corporation and end the legal challenge, Mr Johnson said he still represented the Corporation and sought to continue the proceedings. Mr Dunch argued that when Sen Michael Fahy, the Home Affairs Minister, took over stewardship of the Corporation last Friday, it included control over legal counsel. “Notice has been served and on the instruction of the Minister, as steward, he has instructed me to bring this matter to an end. It’s in his opinion a complete waste of taxpayers’ funds and something that is a distraction to the Corporation of Hamilton getting on with its business.” The lawyer also told the court that Mayor of Hamilton Graeme Outerbridge had instructed Mr Johnson not to proceed with the legal filings, but that the lawyer had done so despite those instructions. He noted that according to the Municipalities Act, resolutions cannot be passed without the mayor’s consent. Mr Johnson, however, responded that he had informed the Mayor that the legal action had been agreed on by a resolution, and that if Mr Outerbridge wished to undo it, he would need to pass a positive resolution first. He alleged that because Mr Outerbridge was unable to get a resolution, the minister had claimed stewardship in a “bold attempt” to end the proceedings, stating that he had filed an application to amend the originating summons and supporting affidavits from Deputy Mayor Donal Smith and others. Mr Johnson also argued that Sen Fahy does not have the power to rescind a Corporation resolution or discontinue a legal action against himself or the Government, calling the attempt to stop the action “a farce.” Both lawyers accused each other of conflicts of interest during the proceedings. Mr Johnson pointed out that Mr Dunch already represents Sen Fahy, while Mr Dunch alleged that Mr Johnson had written a “letter before action” alleging defamation against both the Mayor and the Corporation secretary (Edward Benevides) arising from complaints that they had made against him to the Bar Council. Chief Justice Ian Kawaley said that the arguments raised immediate questions to be considered: whether the stewardship power gave the Home Affairs Minister the right to issue or discontinue proceedings on behalf of the Corporation, who had the ability to order the issuance of the proceedings and if the requisite instructions to issue the proceedings had been given. Mr Justice Kawaley ordered both parties to file evidence by February 6, stating that he would like to have the matter before the courts again next month. He also agreed to strike out claims against the Ombudsman, who had also been listed in the filings, stating that there was no substantial complaint against her.

January 30. The impending opening of the largest resort in the Caribbean is not likely to be a threat to the Island’s tourism product, according to the Bermuda Tourism Authority. The new mega resort, the Baha Mar, on Nassau, Bahamas, will boast art galleries, a nature reserve and more than 50 restaurants. It cost billions to build and has its own golf course along with more than 2,000 rooms. Marketed as “the new Riviera”, there are four luxury hotels in the development, which includes the 1,000-room Baha Mar Casino and Hotel, the 700-room Grand Hyatt, the 300-room SLS LUX, and 200-room Rosewood hotel. The website states: “Baha Mar is the largest single-phase luxury resort project in the history of the Caribbean and the most substantial in development in the Western Hemisphere. The $3.5 billion development is slated to begin previews March 2015, culminating with its grand opening on March 27, 2015.” Gambling is a key piece of the business plan. The website adds: “Baha Mar Casino & Hotel will be home to over 100,000 square feet of gaming excitement. Featuring 1,500 slots and 150 table games, the casino floor will rival the best around the world.” The Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA) said while the organization does see some Caribbean destinations as competitors, it does not view mega-build resorts in the Caribbean as competition. In fact, Bermuda could be seen as being “one big open-air resort.” Glenn Jones, the director of public and stakeholder relations for the BTA, said: “We aren’t really competing with them. Bermuda has a very different product and we need to focus on differentiating ourselves from these huge new developments. For example, many resorts to our south have moved to mega-build, fully integrated resorts which limit the visitor’s fuller island and cultural experience. In Bermuda, we’re one big open-air resort. Guests are welcome everywhere. When they leave Bermuda they talk excitedly about meeting friendly Bermudians on a bus ride or grabbing a sandwich at Art Mel’s. “This is part of the reason the Authority identifies Bermuda as a unique destination in the North Atlantic and not in the Caribbean. Our geography is a significant competitive advantage, especially when it’s added to our intertwined culture of Island soul and British charm. That’s not to say we don’t need new hotel product. We do. The BTA investment division is focused on that in tandem with the Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport. We’re encouraged. We believe there are enough positive indicators in the market at the moment to get projects in the pipeline off the ground. Those projects are of the right scope and style for Bermuda.”

January 30. The Bermuda Government will look to consolidate schools, cap financial assistance and suspend the Agricultural Exhibition for a year to cut public sector spending by $6.4 million. The cost-cutting measures were backed by the Bermuda Trade Union Congress (BTUC) after the two sides got back around the negotiating table in the wake of three days of industrial action. Premier Michael Dunkley told The Royal Gazette that the potential $1 million savings from consolidating schools would not hinder improvements to the quality of education and that a general review of financial assistance would look into the existing annual cell phone allowance of $324,000. He admitted that the decision to cancel this year’s “Ag Show” was painful, but would result in savings of $400,000. “Capping financial assistance at $45 million is a workable option and would save $5 million,” Mr Dunkley said. “Government will continue to help people in need, but going forward we believe the economy will continue to improve, which will be able to take some of the pressure off financial assistance. We can get more people off financial assistance as more jobs become available. One area we will look for potential savings is cell phone allowances. At present, the cell phone allowance for the year is $324,000. There is a feeling that this is inappropriate and we will review it for the Budget. We have conservatively estimated that school consolidation will result in $1 million of savings, but there will have to be discussions on what schools will be affected and how we will do it. We are in the middle of the school year, so this is something that cannot be done until September. A number of schools have dwindling numbers and the birth rate has dropped, so we believe there is the ability to consolidate them without impairing the quality of education.” Referring to the decision to cancel this year’s Agricultural Exhibition, he added: “It’s a painful decision and, personally, I am very supportive of the Ag Show. But it involves a lot of overtime and we need to look at ways of saving. We looked at whether we could do it over one or two days, but in the end decided that we would suspend it for this year with a view to bringing it back next year.” Yesterday Mr Dunkley, together with Finance Minister Bob Richards, outlined a series of cost-cutting measures that had been agreed to during Wednesday night’s negotiations with the BTUC. The meeting ended with unions claiming the Budget Reduction Working Group had reached agreement and the BTUC had hit its savings target of an extra $22 million, enabling furlough days to be taken off the table. But Mr Dunkley said that reduction targets had not been fully reached and that the Government would continue to look at “all options” as it puts together the next Budget. He also rejected the assertion of Chris Furbert, the Bermuda Industrial Union president, that he had been invited to attend Wednesday’s 11pm BTUC press conference at the Bermuda Public Services Union. “The public should know that I never received an invitation to attend the press briefing, which in Government’s view was entirely premature,” he said. “It is very important to stress that the required reductions in expenditure just have not been fully reached, contrary to the BTUC’s declaration. We maintain that we must consider all options. If the unions cannot agree to a furlough, and to be clear a furlough cannot be implemented without their agreement, then Government would need to consider reductions in service levels and programmes.” Mr Dunkley explained that the Government would now move forward with producing a National Budget for 2015-16, while Mr Richards outlined a raft of other cost-cutting proposals that had been discussed with the unions. He said the BTUC had agreed to reduce the travel budget by $1 million as well as to raise the GEHI contribution that employees pay for uninsured spouses from 50 per cent to 75 per cent, saving $1.6 million. Mr Richards added: “Some of our proposals which were not agreed to by the BTUC included a cost sharing of employee pensions, increasing the rate paid by employees and decreasing that paid by the Government by 1 per cent, realizing savings of $3.5 million. Another proposal not agreed to was a payment of all overtime at straight time. Instead, the unions agreed to accept overtime that is normally paid at double time, at time-and-a-half. They did not agree to any changes to overtime that is currently paid at time-and-a-half.”

January 31. Royal Gazette editorial. "Think of them as gold-plated, bulletproof and tamper-proof pension plans. The retirement benefits enjoyed by the Island’s public sector employees are generous, enviable and, given a stubbornly sluggish economy and diminished tax base, wholly unsustainable. Simply put, the unfunded shortfall for Bermuda’s various public sector pension plans now stands somewhere in the region of $1 billion (the Spending & Government Efficiency Commission estimates it could be as much as $3 billion in a few years). Government, as ultimate guarantor of the benefits paid under them, has to make up these losses. At the time of the last independent review of the relevant figures in 2010, the funded ratio of these pensions stood at 33 per cent. Meaning there was just $33 in the Bermuda Superannuation Fund for every $100 owed to retirees. The remaining $66 came out of taxpayers’ pockets. The situation will only have grown worse since then. For one thing, Government effectively “borrowed” $65 million from the pension fund to plug a hole in the 2012/13 budget, a move which in and of itself reduced the funded ratio to somewhere in the region of 30 per cent. For another, returns on investments have remained largely stagnant in the intervening years while ever greater numbers of people have retired — and are living longer. So the pool of beneficiaries will have increased significantly while the affordability of maintaining their benefits over the long-term has been placed increasingly out of reach. But despite the staggering size of these liabilities, the burdens they impose on the Bermuda taxpayer rarely make headlines. They go even more rarely remarked on by public sector unions during standoffs such as the past week’s confrontation with Government over proposed cuts intended to restore some measure of equilibrium (and sanity) to Bermuda’s finances. The unions regard pension benefits as inviolable and non-negotiable. But the existing model is already unviable and will only become increasingly more expensive to maintain with the passage of time. As more and more public sector employees continue to retire, millions of additional dollars will have to be found each year to pay for their benefits. Bermuda’s declining birth rate combined with a contracting economic base means these costs will continue to fall upon the shoulders of a decreasing number of residents in the workforce. The vast majority of those expected to foot the bill for the public service pension liability will, of course, be private sector employees, many of whom lack any but the most rudimentary retirement plans of their own. The fact Bermuda’s civil servants enjoy vastly more attractive retirement benefits than the bulk of the taxpayers who pay for them has already created resentment. That annoyance will only become more pronounced as the shortfalls grow — along with the demands placed on taxpayers’ wallets. The extravagant pension provisions enjoyed by Bermuda’s blue and white-collar public sector employees are a legacy of the economic boom years which began in the 1980s and only came to an abrupt end in 2008. But even as the Island luxuriated in that long period of historically unprecedented prosperity, the long-term sustainability of the public sector pension system was routinely questioned by some of the wiser, more economically literate heads among us. Their warnings went ignored by successive, cash-flush Governments which never put off until tomorrow what they believed could be put off until the day after tomorrow. So the demands made by public sector unions during collective bargaining negotiations, no matter how costly they were likely to be over time, were repeatedly indulged. Of course, during that time of plenty, long-range planning was never a strong suit of strike-averse United Bermuda Party and Progressive Labour administrations which tended to be entirely more fixated on whatever short-term disruptions public sector work stoppages would cause. Now, of course, we have reached a point where fanciful union demands can no longer be routinely rubber-stamped by Government. Nor can tough decisions be avoided any longer. So far, even proposals for changes to pension benefits affecting only future employees have been fiercely resisted by public sector unions. But maintaining the status quo is no longer an option and the unions need to demonstrate some much-needed flexibility on this point. Otherwise Government should be prepared to defy union resistance to sensible suggestions for pension plan reforms, reforms which must by necessity reflect the Island’s current fiscal realities. The gold plating is a luxury we can simply no longer afford."

January 31. The war of words between Government and the unions rumbled on last night with the Bermuda Trade Union Congress (BTUC) firing another salvo across the bows of the One Bermuda Alliance leadership.  In a detailed seven-page statement, the BTUC said it was “utterly disappointed” by the “slander and accusations” made on Thursday by Premier Michael Dunkley and Finance Minister Bob Richards. Mr Dunkley had said that reduction targets had not been fully reached and Government would continue to look at “all options” as it puts together the next Budget. But the BTUC claimed that the leader of Government’s team, Gary Phillips, approved the cost savings discussed during the meeting, and indicated that they were successful in reaching their goal. No further proposals were discussed as the Government group was satisfied that the cost-saving goals had been achieved. Acknowledging that the press corps was waiting outside, the Government team was invited to make a joint statement. The Government team indicated that they would prefer to make a statement at 2pm on Thursday. However, the BTUC felt that they were obligated to report the outcome to their membership immediately. It was at that point the BTUC first vice president Chris Furbert extended an invitation to the Premier to attend this joint press conference through the Government team. “The Government team left the room and it was indicated to us that persons would call the Premier. We waited and then received confirmation from the Secretary to the Cabinet, Derrick Binns, that the Premier was not coming. As a result, we proceeded with the press conference.” Mr Dunkley had stated categorically that he had not been invited to attend the BTUC press conference that was held at about 11pm on Wednesday after talks had ended. Crunch talks between Government and the BTUC had been trying to come up with cost savings that would remove the need to continue with unpaid furlough days for staff — a dispute that saw employees stop work. The union statement said the meeting of the working group discussed savings including a 12-month hiring freeze and a reduction of overtime, while the “caps” on financial assistance, consolidation of schools, travel and the canceling of the Agricultural Exhibition were all said to be pre-approved items from Cabinet. “The BTUC, after some discussion, agreed that if these cuts are to be made, it was the Government who must justify its position on these contentious items to the public,” the statement said. "The BTUC wondered why the Government needed permission from the BTUC for such cuts. The BTUC realized it was a sad way for the Government to place accountability on the BTUC for their political decisions. We once again have come to the table with clean hands, a pure heart and in good faith representing our members and urge the Government to begin to display a level of respect. The foregoing has demonstrated that the BTUC met the required cost reductions. Therefore the BTUC reaffirms to its members that furlough days are off the table indefinitely.

January 31. All drink-driving offenders could find themselves being put through a mandatory alcohol education programme — a Throne Speech promise made back in 2011. The DUI (Driving Under the Influence) Education School is optional for those found to be impaired on the roads, but completing the course can reduce a driving ban by three months. The 12-hour programme includes a personal risk assessment, information about the medical effects of alcohol, educational videos, and a mandatory session at Alcoholics Anonymous. Several studies indicate that such courses help to reduce re-offending rates. Addiction councilor Fiona Elkinson, who runs the DUI programme, contacted Government after the latest string of road deaths and accidents to highlight that the former government promised to make it compulsory. “Punishment is only one way to deal with the problem, but a multi-pronged approach is needed and education should be a part of that. The course helps people to change their point of view with regards to drink-driving. It helps you to be reflective and consider the safety not only of yourself but everyone else on the road. There is a culture of drink-driving in Bermuda — I have had people come through the course who said they would never have considered drink-driving before they moved to the Island.” Permanent Secretary for Tourism Development and Transport, Francis Richardson, told The Royal Gazette: “The DUI Education School is fully supported by the Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport and we will continue to work with its director and personnel to build on and improve the existing programme. “The programme is not mandatory but there is a provision in the Road Traffic Act 1947 where the court may make an order to reduce the disqualification period if an offender completes an educational programme. The DUI Education School has made a recommendation to our Ministry to make it mandatory for offenders to complete an educational programme and this recommendation is under consideration. However, we are mindful that the law provides magistrates discretion, therefore further in-depth consultation with the courts is required.” When the promise was made in the Throne Speech to make the programme mandatory, the DUI Education School’s founder and director, Ms Cecile Harris, said: “The purpose of the DUI School is to increase participants’ awareness of the effects of substance abuse on themselves and on society. This includes the effects on their families, friends and the broader social network to which they belong. Our mission is to decrease the numerous accidents, injuries and deaths resulting from drinking and driving on the roads of Bermuda.” The course costs $450. It is not yet known whether the fee would remain the same if the programme became mandatory.

January 31. Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell's travel expenses for a three-day trip to the UK to meet aviation experts cost nearly $6,000, it has been revealed. Mr Crockwell and a team of experts flew to London late last year to make a presentation to five officials from the UKs Department of Transport on Bermuda's Approach Control and Airspace Modernization Feasibility Study. The study was conducted as part of LF Wade International's plans to adjust and update its runway to abide by new international civil aviation landing regulations. The project has since been completed. The trip took place between December 14 and 16, and Mr Crockwell's total expenses were $5,956. His air travel cost a little more than $4,400, while his accommodation in London was $1,142. Governments website outlining Ministerial travel expenses states: "The Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport made a presentation to five officials from the Department for Transport on the summary findings of Bermuda's Approach Control and Airspace Modernization Feasibility Study. Minister Crockwell was accompanied by Thomas Dunstan, director of the Department of Civil Aviation; Bob Withers, manager of air operations; Mike Paone, project manager from Boeing-Jeppessen; and Aaron Adderley, general manager of LF Wade International Airport, who were in the UK attending other prearranged meetings. The UK officials included Dr Adam Simmons, deputy director of International Aviation, Safety and Environment Division; Duncan Nicholls, International Aviation, Safety and Environment Division; Karen Neal, desk office for Bermuda at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Mike Alcock, International Aviation Safety and Environment Division; and Maria Boyce, CEO of Airspace Safety Support International." Following the presentation, the UK Department for Transport offered its full support of the Bermuda Airspace initiative, acknowledging that the UK anticipated Bermuda would look to assume management of its own Terminal Airspace from the FAA, when Bermuda was willing and able to do so. Minister Crockwell's expenses also included $161 on ground transportation, $217 on meals and $25 on miscellaneous expenses.

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