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Crime, NIB & Cost of Living:  The PDM Speaks extensively on Big National Issues



By Deandrea Hamilton



#TurksandCaicos, February 15, 2022 – Edwin Astwood and Robert Been, of the People’s Democratic Movement party had a lot to say when they sat down with Magnetic Media about a number of nationally pressing issues including the level of violent crime, the rising cost of living and plans to raise worker taxes through the National Insurance Board.

As the Opposition party, People’s Democratic Movement  continues to get louder on matters, which are irking the general public, the messages are resonating and demonstrating that despite having just one elected seat in the House of Assembly, the PDM intends to bring brawny representation.

Edwin Astwood, the PDM’s Leader and Leader of Opposition business in parliament, said cost of living in Turks and Caicos is simply too high, and raising the minimum wage is not enough of an answer.  During the one on one session, February 3, Astwood said bringing up the lowest wage does nothing for those who are not earning minimum wage, so the change needs to come at the border with customs duties.

“Those are the two things that have to be looked at, the duties, our islanders are paying in order to reduce the cost to the suppliers; they will then have to pass that savings on to the consumer, or Government can look at the amount of money that people are making.”

Both men had a lot to say about the spate of crime and how it is being handled.  Astwood, who said he was among the panelists at the public meeting held recently by Police in Grand Turk, said he was also on the receiving end of harsh words from a frustrated public.

The party’s leader shared that he and Been have met directly with the Royal TCI Police about crime and crime fighting.

“It was a very helpful, very useful, very detailed and respectful discussion. Ideas were bounced back and forth. He listened to our ideas, what can work, what cannot work, what can be implemented, what cannot be implemented, and we have an idea on the way forward.”

During the interview, which lasted just over an hour, we were reminded about Robert Been’s campaign stance on crime.  The Deputy Party Leader of the PDM has advocated for community policing to be enhanced and he put forth an idea to do it, affordably.  He still wants to see mobile police stations, and said after their chat with the RTCIPF, the concept seems to be on the way.

“Substation units; which are mobile where you can have a station in an area one minute and the next ten to fifteen minutes it can be in another area. What this does, is it basically deters criminal activities and crime from happening. As leaders we met the assistant commissioner (of Police) on Monday (Jan 31) and we discussed a whole number of topics and again that came up, so Police are looking to invest in the substations.”

Been said communities like Wheeland and Kew Town, the former is one of the furthest flung residential districts; the latter is one of the most crime ridden in the country – would benefit from the pop up police stations.

“It could also be used as a station in the event of a crime, when it is happening.  It could be like a headquarters and the whole idea is to bring back the trust within the community.”

Robert Been said it was unconfirmed during their meeting if there would be one or two mobile police stations to start, but the duo felt confident the Police were moving toward the concept in an effort to abate crime.

“As your opposition, we will definitely be putting pressure on this current administration to bring that mobile station to fruition,’ he said.

A youth survey conducted by the Department of Youth Affairs and published in the National Youth Policy revealed that young people are afraid to live in their neighbourhoods.  They are fearful of being sexually assaulted and/or robbed.

We asked the PDM about the fear among youths and whether the opposition feels the Police is giving the country its money’s worth in the fight against crime.

Been, one of the youngest candidates to run on the ballot, still considered in the category of youth himself, shared that Police presence is vital.

“We need to get more community and neighbourhood watch programs.  It is something which has been missing from neighbourhoods, and while I cannot confirm if it is present now in any neighbourhood, I think it is a solution to help in reducing some of the criminal activities and again working to build back the confidence of the people in Police,” said Been.

Edwin Astwood disagrees with the school of thought which says that national security is the Governor’s job.

“We put the funding there, we direct how we want it to be spent, we don’t have to be involved in the technical issues, we are not asking for that.  But it is our responsibility.  We as elected officials have the main role to play and we have to start playing our role even more,” said Astwood who also offered that Police need to present its full plan for full funding.

He does not agree with a piecemeal approach to the funding of national security initiatives.

“Instead of just allocating a certain budget to deal with it (issue of fighting crime) just for this year, maybe we need to do it in a one  big purchase phase and get all the resources they might need.”

In a recent Budget Supplementary under the current government administration, Royal TCI Police is earmarked to receive over $1 million dollars including $50,000 to support a gun amnesty program.

A vexing issue for islanders is the announcement that in two months, April 2022, the government has approved for the National Insurance Board to raise contribution rates across the board.

While NIB Executives, including its project manager of the now controversial increase – Walter Gardiner, Sr – have been making the media circuit to educate the public on the need for the hike, the PDM recently held a meeting with Rhesa Cartwright, Director and Diandra Mills, Deputy Director on the coming change.

“They gave us two important dates; 2027 when the current contribution rates will not be able to pay the current obligations and 2049, if we have to tap into the reserves, we will completely wipe out the reserves… that’s only 17 years from now,” said Mr. Astwood.

The NIB is running out of time and out of options when it comes to how the public fund will be protected from running out of money.

Edwin Astwood,  seems to be learning more about the challenges at the National Insurance Board than he did when he was a minister in the last government.  He said the PDM was hesitant on activating the increase because they felt it was too much for people at the time; now, he is briefed about two to three other options not being explored to bring greater fiscal buoyancy.

Two of them are:  expand the investment portfolio and stop the fiscal leakage.

“So, you look at either investments, administration cause or the contributions. So, they decide that the best way is to increase the contributions to reach it up to their twelve percent, but we were thinking to gain one other investment. More could be done in investments. Now, there’s $40 million for local investment and I don’t think that is barely touched.”

People are also conning the NIB’s system.  Contributors are claiming injury after three years knowing that if supported, this could serve them up regular payments from NIB as still move toward qualifying for the NIB pension after ten years.

This crookery is costing the TCI big money, the PDM leaders exposed.

“Another thing that we gathered that what has been happening, is that even if you have a person who have left the country over nine years you still have some persons paying to reach the ten year. So, it’s all about putting the right policies in place.

“There are loopholes, and these came out of discussions because we were having discussions and asking questions.”
Robert Been said it does not seem likely there will be a change of heart, however.

“Its only time that’s against the whole system so I think (she said) the government didn’t ask for any delays and even if delays were to be considered I don’t think they would extend more than three to six months.”

It boils down to political will and Board approval.  The public has expressed deep concern about the 12 per cent increase, which will take on a staggered implementation beginning in April 2022.

“Let NIB invest here. It is a policy decision, it has to come from the policy makers and that is us, that is the government that is in place.”


Cleveland Clinic Performs First-In-World Full Multi-Organ Transplant to Treat Rare Appendix Cancer



#USA, August 13, 2022 – Cleveland Clinic has successfully performed a first-in-the-world full multi-organ transplant to treat a patient with a rare form of appendix cancer called pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP). Upon completion of the lifesaving transplant surgery, the patient received five digestive organs: liver, stomach, pancreas, duodenum, and small intestine.

Anil Vaidya, M.D., Cleveland Clinic’s Intestinal Transplant Program co-director, led the seven-surgeon team that completed the pioneering operation on a 32-year-old man in September 2021.

“The patient had one of the more advanced cases of PMP I have seen,” said Dr. Vaidya. “While about 80% of patients with the condition can be treated with traditional therapies, what do you do with the 20% for whom the traditional therapy isn’t successful? In some cases, the answer may be a multi-organ transplant.”

During the 17-hour operation, surgeons removed the patient’s diseased organs. He then received the following deceased donor’s organs all together and at the same time: liver, stomach, pancreas and duodenum (pancreaticoduodenal complex), spleen, small intestine, and right colon. The donor spleen was initially transplanted to boost the immune protection of the newly transplanted organs and improve blood flow to the pancreas until fully transplanted. The donor right colon was initially transplanted to help protect the new intestine from infection and improve its ability to absorb nutrients.  Both the donor spleen and donor right colon were removed prior to the completion of the transplant after they successfully served to protect the other organs during the operation.

“As far as we know, it is the first time in the world that a full multi-organ transplant, including the liver and four other digestive organs, is performed to treat PMP,” said Dr. Vaidya.

Prior to joining Cleveland Clinic in 2020, Dr. Vaidya performed in England the world’s first modified multi-organ transplant (excluding the liver) to treat a patient with PMP who had exhausted all other management strategies.

PMP is a rare cancer that typically originates as a tumor in the appendix. When the slow-growing tumor ruptures, its jelly-like content spreads to other digestive organs, with additional tumors developing that impair gastrointestinal function. Malnutrition and life-threatening complications ultimately occur.

Following the diagnosis in 2019, the patient began a long odyssey of treatments. He was one of the 20% of patients with PMP for whom the traditional treatments were ineffective. Often, this population of patients is left with few to no treatment options.

The patient was referred to Cleveland Clinic in 2021 in the end stage of his disease. He was receiving hospice care at that time. The patient had stopped working and could no longer eat solid foods. He was receiving nutrients intravenously through total parenteral nutrition (TPN).

“We needed to perform an evaluation to determine if transplantation in his case was safe, feasible and could provide long-term benefits,” said Dr. Vaidya.

Dr. Vaidya completed a thorough assessment of the patient’s case and received approval from Cleveland Clinic’s Intestinal Transplant Selection Committee to proceed. The patient was placed on the national transplant waiting list in July 2021.

“The patient – who needed a liver and four other digestive organs – had started to deteriorate quite rapidly,” said Dr. Vaidya. “It was touch-and-go that he would make it.”

In September 2021, a donor was found, and less than 24 hours later, the patient was undergoing the groundbreaking

surgery. The first three hours were preparatory, in essence removing the diseased abdominal organs. Next, the donor organs were inserted into the abdominal cavity, all the necessary vascular connections were completed and a left-sided ileostomy was created to handle bodily waste and let the body recover from the surgery.

“The operation was well planned and went like clockwork,” said Dr. Vaidya. “The team members knew exactly what they were going to do, and the timing was perfect. It went really well.”

Following the transplant, the patient remained in the hospital for 51 days.  Soon after he was discharged, he returned because he was suffering from a case of graft-versus-host disease, a common occurrence following intestinal or bone marrow transplants where the donated organs’ immune cells recognize the recipient’s tissues as foreign and attack the recipient.

The patient underwent a procedure perfected and performed by Amy Lightner, M.D., colorectal surgeon and director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Regenerative Medicine and Surgery. Dr. Lightner administered three doses of mesenchymal stromal cell (MSC)-derived exosomes, a first ever, novel treatment in solid organ transplants — another first for a patient who received a full multi-organ transplant to treat PMP.

According to Dr. Vaidya, “The patient’s recovery was absolutely amazing. His symptoms abated within two hours of the first dose.”

Nine months post-transplant, the patient, now 33, can eat and digest solid foods again and has energy to do what he loves, including walking and biking outdoors.

“There is currently no evidence of cancer recurrence,” said Dr. Vaidya.


Photo Captions: 

Header: Masato Fujiki, MD, (center) and the Cleveland Clinic surgical team, led by Anil Vaidya, MD, performing the first-in-world multi-organ transplant to treat a rare type of appendix cancer. (Photo courtesy of Cleveland Clinic)

1st insert: Anil Vaidya, M.D.

2nd insert: From left: Anil Vaidya, M.D., Shannon Jarancik, physician assistant, Amy Lightner, M.D., Andy Voge, patient, Rachel Voge, Andy’s wife, and Anita Barnoski, transplant coordinator.

Release: Cleveland Clinic / DPA media

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Bahamas News

Scores of Students Equipped with Supplies to Return to School



NASSAU, BAHAMAS, AUGUST 13, 2022 – As the new school year approaches, Sandals Foundation Ambassadors at Sandals Royal Bahamian have embarked on a back-to-school drive, donating school supplies to local schools and communities in Nassau as part of their commitment to education and community development.

Recently, a team of over 15 volunteers from the resort traveled to Gambier Primary School, where students and teachers were gathered for summer school, and distributed over 40 packages with school supplies that included notebooks, pencils, crayons, pencil cases, erasers, sharpeners, reading books, rulers and glue sticks and warm meals.

Public Relations Manager at Sandals Royal Bahamian, Renee Deleon, shared the impact that these donations will have on families and schools across the island.

“Education is pivotal to the growth of a nation and it is something that we are committed to at Sandals. We know that back to school expenses here like anywhere else in the world can be quite strenuous so we want to play our part in helping to ease the financial burden that this may present to families as schools look to reopen.”

Deleon further added, “Thanks to the support of our guests who packed for a purpose, we were able to collect these items that will allow students to be equipped with the essential tools they need to make a better transition to the classroom when they return to school.”

The gesture was met with song, dance and echoes of ‘thank you’ as the Sandals team made the presentations to the children. Principal Forbes explained how this donation will help to improve the teaching and learning process.

“I am tremendously grateful to the Sandals Foundation and their team members from Sandals Royal Bahamian for gifting my students with school supplies. This donation will go a long way toward allowing teachers to execute lessons and students to participate.”

Forbes also noted that the school has had a longstanding relationship with the Foundation.

“Over the years we’ve had a good relationship with the Sandals Foundation and I am happy that we still have them in our corner.”

In addition to this donation to Gambier Primary School, the Sandals Royal Bahamian team has distributed school supplies to the Community Touch Group. Donations were also made to children at the Nazareth Centre as well as some children from the Okra Hill community. Later this month the Sandals Foundation ambassadors will be giving back to children from the Nassau Village and Grove communities.


Photo Captions: 

Header: These Sandals Foundation Ambassadors from Sandals Royal Bahamian were captured with bag packs filled with school supplies moments before they donated the supplies to the Nazareth Centre.

 1st insert: It is always a joyous occasion when Sandals Foundation Ambassadors go out to give back.

 2nd insert: Volunteers from Sandals Royal Bahamian were a picture of joy when they stopped by Gambier Primary School to donate school supplies and issue lunches recently.

 Release: Sandals Resort

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Bahamas News

GBPA Statement from Ian Rolle, President



Re:  GBPA’s Response to fire in the International Bazaar


#TheBahamas, August 10, 2022 – The Grand Bahama Port Authority is aware of the recent fire at the International Bazaar.

The GBPA has engaged, and continues to engage, with operators of the International Bazaar, which include representatives of the Bazaar Association and several property owners, so that we can continue demolition exercises on the dilapidated structures and buildings.

The GBPA is acutely aware of the need to demolish derelict structures within the International Bazaar for the safety of all businesses and visitors. We have performed demolitions in the past at our own cost, most recently in February 2022 when we, in partnership with owners, demolished fire-damaged buildings in the Oriental Section. We have also written to numerous property owners of dilapidated structures over the years to sensitize them to the need to repair or demolish their buildings.

In addition, we have engaged the Government of the Bahamas in advance discussions to approve our requested amendments of the Building and Sanitary bylaws, which would enable GBPA to execute more demolitions in a timely manner and recoup the associated costs.

With the requested bylaw amendments in place, GBPA can continue to make consistent efforts to address the remainder of derelict buildings in the International Bazaar and other dilapidated structures within the city.

The GBPA itself has never owned any part of the International Bazaar but has historically subsidized the Bazaar for many years when owners were no longer maintaining its communal areas.

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