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Daily Archives: December 22, 2019
President Faure holds meeting with all Seychelles Ambassadors – Office of the President of the Republic of Seychelles
Posted: December 22, 2019 at 11:46 pm
20 December 2019 | Foreign Affairs
The President of the Republic, Mr Danny Faure, chaired a meeting with all Ambassadors of Seychelles based overseas during a courtesy call by the Diplomats at State House this morning. Alongside the President was the Vice-President, Mr Vincent Meriton, who is also the Minister responsible for the Department of Foreign Affairs.
President Faure extended a warm welcome back to Seychelles to the Ambassadors and conveyed his sincere appreciation to them for the excellent work they have been doing not only in line with promoting the image of Seychelles abroad, but translating diplomatic efforts into tangible results for the benefit of the Seychellois people.
Today I would like to take the opportunity to commend you all for the excellent work that you are doing for the benefits of our people and communities. It is my hope that we continue working together for the betterment of our citizens, by remaining focused and keeping our people at the centre of all our actions and decisions, said President Faure.
During the meeting, the Ambassadors had the chance to brief the Head of State on the status and daily operations of their respective overseas postings as well as share their views and ideas to better address and improve their work both on the international front and locally.
The Ambassadors are currently in Seychelles attending the 2019 Ambassadors Retreat. This years retreat was themedConnect & Engage and was held from Monday 16 December to Friday 20 December 2019. The event reviewed and discussed the challenges that Seychelles faces as an island nation and also discussed national priorities and strategic objectives in shaping the countrys foreign policy.
Ambassadors present at State House this morning included Ambassador Sylvestre Radegonde (the Dean), Ambassador Ronny Jumeau, Ambassador Dick Esparon, Ambassador Vivianne Fock Tave, High Commissioner Selby Pillay, High Commissioner Derick Ally, High Commissioner Marie-Antoinette Rose Quatre, Ambassador David Pierre, Ambassador Jean-Claude Adrienne, Ambassador Lalatiana Accouche and Charg dAffaires, Ms Gayathri Pillay.
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Posted: at 11:45 pm
My evenings will be spent on one of the worlds smallest private islands: my bed, which is fitted with sheets that came recommended by a very good podcast I listen to on my way to work at The Atlantics riverfront offices in the historic Watergate complex. The building, as my esteemed D.C. colleagues well know, is home to a number of interesting fauna such as Mus musculus and Peromyscus leucopus.
What will you be packing?
Plenty of warm pajamas that can double as daywear if you throw an oversize H&M sweater on top. Scarves that can also serve as blanketsor as cloth napkins, for impromptu but classy couch-snackingin a pinch. One of my favorite things to do is to wear sweatpants. They are comfortable for sleeping, and also for not sleeping, if you feel like doing that for some reason.
I never travel without at least six different kinds of snacks and at least six different kinds of medicine (antianxiety, anti-nausea, antidiarrheal, anti-pain, anti-heartburn, anticold virus). And my AirPods, which I am terrified of losing and havent quite figured out how to clean properly.
What are you most looking forward to?
Relinquishing any responsibility for myself and putting my physical, spiritual, and mental well-being in the hands of the Peloton bike my very feminist husband got me for Christmas.
Only joking! Ill be relinquishing any responsibility for myself and putting my physical, spiritual, and mental well-being in the hands of the avant-garde burlesque fever dream that is Tom Hoopers Cats. It means I will start 2020 off as the best version of myself: a person who has seen Tom Hoopers Cats.
What do you hope to open on Christmas Day?
My ongoing project to convert my home into a BTS shrine, much to the chagrin of my husband, requires the addition of life-size cutouts of all of the Korean groups seven members. Haha, just kidding ... (Unless ...?)
Also welcome are weighted blankets, fluffy socks, candles, and new novels that Ive heard a lot of great things about and will definitely add to my Goodreads list ASAP. As every culture editor knows, a staggering tower of Books I Need to Read but Havent Yet Because Ive Been Staring at My Phone All Night is the best bedside-table accessory in the world.
How do you relax?
I am a year-round sufferer of severe eczema on my hands, which turn into dinosaur paws in the dry winter air. So I plan to take advantage of the downtime to really indulge in every possible treatment in my toolkit: from daily soaks in colloidal oatmeal cream, to topical corticosteroid-ointment application followed by swaddling my poor mitts in breathable white cotton gloves. Relief is scant; the itching, flaking, and cracking is plentiful. Such is life.
What are you wearing on Christmas day?
I've been dying to wear this floor-length, haute couture black gown made of human hair and a pair of one-of-a-kind earrings, which are made entirely from found objects like old baby teeth and shards of glass.
Posted: at 11:45 pm
Editors Note: Jane Howze recently flew around the world in 11 days with stops in Singapore, the Maldives and Dubai. Today, she reports on her time in Maldives.
In 2013, we visited the Maldives Islands and were so impacted by its beauty that we started planning our return visit as soon as we returned to Houston. Such a trip requires a bit of planning (and saving). The Maldives Islands, nearly 1,200 in number and extending more than 700 miles from North to South, are located halfway around the world in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
They are about four hours southeast of Dubai, one hour southwest of Sri Lanka and four hours northwest of Singapore. No American airline flies to the Maldives, and a trip there will require at least one change of planes. For Americans, the most convenient gateways are Frankfurt, Dubai, and Singapore.
There are 200 resorts in the Maldives, each on its own coral island. All of the popular and luxury chains have four- and five-star properties there. The Four Seasons offers three, and its own yacht to sail guests on a three-day journey from one to the others.
All of the resorts are expensive, partly because of their remote location, construction and maintenance costs, self-generating energy requirements, staff housing requirements, and the fact that all food and supplies must be imported. Resorts range in size from as few as 15 rooms to as many as 462. Some focus on diving while others emphasize family activities, night life or honeymoons.
It is important to realize that once you check in to your Maldives resort there is no going into town if you dont like the food or entertainment. You are there for the duration. That is why resort choice is important.
For our previous Maldives visit, we stayed at a luxury hotel chain over the Christmas holiday and loved our over-water bungalow, the attentive service, several dining choices and outstanding cuisine. But on Christmas Eve we were informed that only the main restaurant would be serving dinner, at a prixe fixe cost of $250 per person.
Although the dinner included champagne and a chocolate bar, we felt trapped. Our daily room rate excluded food, beverages and most water sports, and we felt nickeled and dimed. We resolved to make a different choice for this trip.
Finding Your Perfect Maldives Resort
Social media is a powerful vacation planning tool. Four years ago I discovered the names of luxury travel photographers and writers covering the leading Maldives resorts. A popular Instagram photographer listed his top four resorts and one caught my eye: the 15 over-water room Kudadoo Private Island, whose motto is anything, anytime, anywhere.
Kudadoo opened late last year, and the Robb Report has already named it as the Best Island Resort. Guests pay one (admittedly expensive) daily rate and everything is included. And by that, I mean everything room, food, excellent champagne, wines and liquor, water activities, spa treatments and laundry.
We figured it would be fun to test their philosophy and we wanted to enjoy our vacation without worrying about the price of a glass of wine or a massage.
Before we arrived, Kudadoo sent us a detailed lifestyle questionnaire, asking what water sports we enjoy, any dietary requirements, our pillow, mattress and fragrance preferences, and how we wanted our bar stocked. Our butler yes, every residence has a personal butler who serves as concierge wanted to know what activities interested us.
Did we want yoga in our room every morning? Meditations? Our choice of unlimited spa treatments massages, facials, manicures? Were we interested in candlelight dinners, snorkeling, jet skiing, lunch or dinner on a sand bar? We answered yes to all.
He let us know that there were no set dining hours. We could have breakfast, lunch and dinner any time we liked, 24/7 in the restaurant, in our room, on the beach, or among the trees.
Kudadoo is located on a small island about 80 miles north of Male, and is the only solar powered resort in the Maldives. You can walk the circumference of the island in about six minutes. Our private, Asian influenced residence was one of 15 built on a horseshoe shaped boardwalk over the water. It featured an outdoor seating area that included a hammock, a glass bottom floor to watch the exotic marine life, freestanding tub surrounded by orchids, our own infinity lap pool, and a ladder into the warm sea.
And of course we had views of the azure pristine water, and stunning white sand bars to enjoy in constant year round temperatures of 82 to 85 degrees.
Our five days at Kudadoo consisted of morning yoga, breakfast and various activities including a picnic on a deserted island, jet skiing, swimming with manta rays, snorkeling and soaking in the serenity of the most extraordinary beaches in the world. Our butler Ishaq scheduled daily massages before sunset and little and big surprises.
As he explained it, We realize a trip to the Maldives is a once in a lifetime experience. It is our mission to make sure it is special.
One night we arrived at dinner to find a table set up in the sunbathing shelf of the pool surrounded by glittering lights. Another night the staff surprised us with dinner on the beach. The menu changed every night, and Eduardo, the French chef, encouraged us to order anything we wanted.
Eduardo learned that I loved red velvet cake and the next night he presented me with the most delicious red velvet cake I have ever tasted. We have never felt so nurtured.
Another highlight was a five minute boat ride to Kudadoos sister resort, Hurawalhi, a larger property which is home to the worlds largest undersea restaurant, 5.8, named for its underwater depth (about 19 feet). After descending 42 stairs down a narrow circular staircase, I entered an underwater wonderland for 20 lucky (and well pocketed) diners. The abundant schools of exotic marine life seemed as attracted by us as we were by them. It was an extraordinary experience akin to dining in an aquarium.
All too soon our stay in the Maldives came to an end, and the seaplane waited offshore for our return to the real world. The kind and attentive staff, who worked so hard to ensure that our trip surpassed our expectations, gathered on the dock to bid us farewell. I was so touched that I shed tears of gratitude while planning our next visit to this special place. And with any travel there was a lesson to be learned.
Next stop: Dubai and a lesson learned.
Jane Howze is a managing director and founder of The Alexander Group, a national executive search firm headquartered in Houston.
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Posted: at 11:45 pm
The cruise industry is constantly changing, and the next decade promises to see the biggest changes ever.
How much can change in just a few years? Consider that at the beginning of 2010, nine of the ten currently largest cruise ships in the world had yet to set sail.
Ten years before that at the start of the year 2000 Galveston, Texas, had yet to be a departure port for cruises. Today it is the largest cruise port outside of Florida.
In other words, what can happen in just a few short years can dramatically change the landscape. Given that its the start of a new decade, we thought it would be fun to explore what passengers might expect as we head through the next 10 years.
This is a hint of what cruising in 2030 could look like
Theres no doubt that the trend in cruising is toward larger vessels. In this metric Royal Caribbean leads the way with the four largest cruise ships in the world, and five of the largest ten.
But other cruise lines are catching up, with lines like MSC, Norwegian, and Carnival all building their largest ships too. During the next decade we expect every line to continue to build out their fleet with ships that dwarf their older fleet. In other words, the average ship on each major line will continue to get larger.
That said, we dont think the largest cruise ships will get much larger. For now it seems that the size of the largest ships has reached a plateau. Royal Caribbeans Oasis of the Seas was built in 2009 and still ranks as the third-largest in the world. It has two sister-ships that are marginally larger (less than 1% based on tonnage).
While the average ship will continue to get larger, that doesnt mean you should say goodbye to smaller ship cruising. In fact, the bigger ships are likely to lead a surge in interest in more intimate cruise lines and ships.
Over the past decade theres been a big interest in smaller vessels that provide a much different experience than what youll find on the big lines. From simply being easier to navigate to offering itineraries with smaller ports of call, smaller ships have a lot to offer.
Combine that with the alternative being ships carrying up to 6,000 passengers and its clear that larger cruise ships on other lines can actually be a positive for lines offering small-ship cruising.
Cruise lines know that not everyone likes being just another passenger on a cruise ship with 5,000 other people. So how do you attract those looking for a special experience when you have a huge cruise ship?
You build a resort within the resort.
Norwegian is perhaps best-known for this with its Haven area that includes higher-end cabins, an exclusive restaurant, pool, and other private areas. We are seeing other lines move in this direction and expect to see more of it over the next decade. For example, Carnival offers its Havana cabins and the Family Harbor cabins on its Vista-class ships.
These different spaces are a win-win for the cruise line. They allow them to charge more money for certain spaces on the ship while also keeping passengers that might have otherwise gone to a smaller cruise line.
While cruise lines have competed with each other with larger ships, its not until recently that the battle has moved to land. More specifically, were talking about private islands.
While cruise lines have had private islands for their passengers for decades, it was the recent $250 million renovation of Royal Caribbeans CocoCay that changed the landscape. Complete with the largest pool in the Caribbean and the tallest waterslide in North America, the redesigned island is so much more than just a sleepy island with a nice beach.
Over the next decade we expect that all the other lines will completely renovate their own islands to try to meet or beat CocoCay. In fact, weve already seen Norwegian offer a new Silver Cove area (a private retreat) on its island, and heard whispers that more plans are in the works.
While many people think of cruises as offering everything all-inclusive, those days are largely gone. Today there are extra charges for many things on cruise ships. From specialty restaurants to some activities to room service, the number of things with extra charges has grown dramatically.
Today, cruise lines make about a third of their revenue with onboard spending. Meanwhile, many consumers have grown accustomed to extra charges for things that used to be complimentary in all walks of life, such as baggage fees for airports.
In other words, it wont surprise us to continue to see more fees and charges on cruise ships in the coming years (perhaps baggage fees?). This could also include free levels of service but charges for better service or priority access.
Cruise lines know that passengers dont like being nickeled-and-dimed. At the same time, the opportunity to earn more money is enticing (cruise lines are public companies after all). So whats the solution?
We think that in the next decade cruise lines will offer more all-inclusive options for a price.
Instead of paying a low fare and then having to pay for things like drinks, restaurants, Internet and more, what if passengers instead had an extra fee they could pay and get anything they wanted without another charge?
Weve seen some cruise lines asking about this sort of setup in surveys, and a few already have sales with extras included. During the next decade we expect that youll be able to pay a flat surcharge and get all the extras included in your fare.
Its no surprise that cruising is likely to become more green in the next ten years. Seemingly every industry is trying to be more environmentally-friendly. Meanwhile, the cruise lines have slowly but surely moved that way recently.
We are starting to see the arrival of ships that burn cleaner fuels and the elimination of single-use plastics on some ships and lines.
In the next decade this trend is likely to accelerate. For instance, Virgin Voyages set to launch in 2020 has already said they wont have single-use plastics on their ships starting day one.
Florida is the capital of cruising and that wont change in the next decade. However, as fleets continue to grow as does the popularity of cruising that will mean departures from more ports around the country.
We mentioned earlier how Galveston went from nothing about 20 years ago to the fourth-largest cruise port in the United States today. But there are lots of smaller ports around the country such as Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Charleston, Mobile, New Orleans, Baltimore and others.
With growing cruise line fleets, these less-serviced ports should see more and larger ships over time. Los Angeles, for instance, recently welcomed the Carnival Panorama Carnivals newest ship in its fleet.
This is a great thing for those who live within driving distance of a port outside of Florida. Without having to pay for airfare to a port, taking a cruise is considerably cheaper.
What would you like to see in the next 10 years? Let us know in the comments below
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Posted: at 11:45 pm
From high atop St. Savvas Monastery the lush agricultural Pothia Valley is like green parkland bisecting this rocky land of Kalymnos Island. Groves of olives, fruits, grapes, dairy cattle, goats and vegetables thrive. Whats available from the surrounding Aegean is legendary.
Agronomist Giannis Karamalis said 20% of the permanent population of 12,000 was involved in agriculture. The volcanic soil loose with silica is ideal for grapes. Guava and other fruit trees have been found to do well and are gaining in popularity on the island. At one time truffles were abundant but unfortunately have disappeared.
Like many Greek islands, theres not an abundance of rainfall. For the vineyards that dryness concentrates the sugar and intensifies the flavors of grapes, producing sweet wines. The best are made from sun-dried grapes producing a brandy-like after dinner wine.
Mr. George Kouzsiotisks compact winery has vines of wild flowers draped over timeless stonewalls. The grape arbor shades the terrace of the ageless farmhouse as we sip Winery Coursiotis deep sweet red. It was a 19th century postcard scene.
The vineyard seemed almost unkempt. George believes in organic natural growth agriculture. The grape vine vied with orange and mandarin trees.
Winery Coursiotis is for locals and produces the sweet wine preferred for Orthodox communion. Aging is on-site in natural caves that are wine cooler perfect providing even more 19th century atmosphere. The wine is unfiltered enhancing the intense depth of concentrated ripe muscato and foukno grapes.
Beekeeper Mr. George Kouzsiotisk
Many vineyards on the islands keep bees. Mr. Kouzsiotisks beehives lay on the edge of a wild flower and herb-speckled field.
Given a choice Greek bees prefer thyme. Kalymnos honey is 70% from thyme flowers, but Mr. Kouzsiotisks has tested at 90%. Other islands and regions, such as Crete, average 50%.
Having tasted many varieties of Greek honeys and thymes in particular, George is not boasting about the intense flavor of his honey. As bees wonder what were doing he deftly drips some on my hand fresh from the comb. I can see and taste why the gods appointed honey the official sweetener for Mt. Olympus.
Poppis Taverna, Vlichadia
Vlichadia harbor is located in southern Kalymnos five kilometers from Pothia. With the protection of its dramatic cliffs, Vlichada is a reminder that the Aegean Sea is still an economic engine for Kalymnos Island. The cliffs and caves made it popular with pirates and smugglers in the past.
Today the villages serene coastal views, beaches and many traditional taverns make it equally popular with visitors and islanders. Accommodations, the private Museum of Maritime Findings, dive shops, boat charters and commercial fishing craft all find Vlichadia charming.
Poppis Taverna on the large waterfront main square offers views and classic Greek cuisine. The table overflowed with dishes leisurely enjoyed with local wine.
Its easy to understand why Greeks spend hours dining. There are so many relaxing locations and food that begs to be savored, not devoured.
Greek society is all about family. So naturally Annas Taverna is a family affair. Anna Tsakkos is the chef; Mikes her father, who among other tasks painted the tables, and Pantelis, her brother, is the amiable front of the house. The compact restaurant at waters edge epitomizes a seamens tavern in its simplicity, and a Greek one in its colors and ambiance.
Yet Annas Taverna is in the 21st century. Chef Annas presentations are stylish, her recipes subtly sophisticated while maintaining that fresh-from-the-dock taste.
Azul Wine Bar
There is a stunning panoramic view of the Aegean from street level. A colorful staircase descends to a postcard Greek seaside house with elements of Arts and Crafts architecture. Inside warm earth colors are punctuated with a riot of color from paintings, sculpture and fabric. Some among the amiable clientele play chess, read or sit at the handcrafted bar or on the deck (top sunset location).
Azul Wine Bar does actually serve food. Its just that its owner, Ioanna Thanasiou, is an accomplished artist as well as a chef and business owner. This was her grandparents beach cottage, so why not keep its atmosphere homelike; it makes you want to stay.
Azuls menu is eclectic certainly appealing to the athletic clientel that flock to the adventure tourism Kalymnos offers. Rock climbers, divers and sports fishermen tend to crave fresh, healthy ingredients served with creativity. Ioanna makes good use of the islands traditional location within the Spice routes of the Eastern Mediterranean when creating her menu. (The fresh, healthy and creative part iswell this is Greece).
A special dinner at Myrties Boutique Apartments
Although Myrties Boutique Apartments does not normally have food service since their apartments provide well-appointed kitchens, Mrs. Maria Sarafoglou wanted me to have a dish that traces its origins to ancient days Trahana.
Some culinary historians consider trahana to be the worlds oldest convenience food the Ramen Noodles of the ancient world. Trahana is made with semolina, wheat flour, bulgur or cracked wheat. Milk, buttermilk, or yogurt is mixed in to form thick dough. The mix is then broken into chunks, dried, and broken up again into pea size pieces before being dehydrated.
It sounds simple but the process, ifdone by hand, is lengthy so it was made in large quantities, carried in pouches on caravans and as a staple in households. Trahana comes in two types: sweet and sour. Sweet is made with whole milk, typically goats milk, and sour trahana is made with yogurt or buttermilk.
Trahana in various forms is still found almost everywhere from the Balkans to the Middle East and commercially produced (Agrozimi: makers of Greek traditional products). Another proof that Eastern Mediterranean/Mid Eastern cuisine knows no boundaries.
Its a virtual instant thickener to soups and stews. Maria Sarafoglou created what she said was a simple dish with ingredients on hand but featuring the trahana as rice would be used in a risotto.
Maria Sarafoglous Trahana with mussels in ouzo
In Greek cuisine it was a formula ripe for infinite variations. For Kalymnos Island cuisine it was a classic fusion of ancient, earthy, fresh from the land and the sea. Its food meant to be savored history et al.
When you go: Kalymnos in the Dodecanese Islands is served by both air and ferry service from Athens and its port, Piraeus. Schedules are seasonal so do check. It is usually possible to reach the Island year round through Kos Island by air or ferry and then Kalymnos by a short ferry ride.
Special Thanks: for facilitating my tour Kalymnos Association of Tourist Accommodation Xenias, Maria A. Sarafoglou, Fotini Tiliakou, Kalliopi Tsangari, Maria Helle Foy, Nikolaos Pelekanos, and Giannis Karamalis
Travel with Pen and Palate every month to Greece and the world in the Hellenic News of America.
Originally posted here:
Posted: at 11:45 pm
FANS of Netflix's Stranger Things can stay in an Airbnb apartment that's just like the homes featured in the hit TV show.
The 80s-themed apartment even has a name inspired by the show - The Upside Den.
While Stranger Things is set in the fictional town of Hawkins in Indiana, this property is located in St Louis, Missouri.
It's a basement apartment, just like the one in the Wheeler residence, and can sleep up to four guests, with its own entrance, garden and bathroom.
And with an overnight stay starting from 56 a night, it works out to be just 14 per person.
Inside, everything looks like it could be from the 80s - from the stripey sofa to dated carpets.
There's even a vintage TV set with a VHS player so you can kick back and watch one of over 50 different videos.
It's ideal for family as while there's a main double bed, the other bed is a sofa bed.
Plus, there's a pillow fort that kids will love.
The listing warns that the host has a big dog, but why he might sound loud and scary, he's actually very friendly.
The property is run by Ann, a superhost on the site, meaning she's had lots of experience hosting guests.
And with a rating over 4.95 from over 150 reviews, it seems guests absolutely love it.
One person wrote: "Great location and entertaining space. Really fun vintage decorations and lots of entertainment available including board games and VHS tapes! Bed was very comfortable and warm.
"Enjoyed complimentary Eggo waffles and a cup of coffee in the morning! Couldnt get much better than that. Thank you so much! Will be back again soon."
Another added: "One of the best AirBnBs i have stayed in. The touches were icing on the already wonderful cake! Amazing hospitality, communication, and thoughtfulness.
"There is an old tube TV with a shelf of VHS tapes and secrets in the freezer 😉 Definitely something we will try to repeat."
A castle that was featured in The Crown is available on Airbnb on New Year's Eve.
The home sharing site also had a palace in India that hosted Princess Diana as one of its properties.
You can also hire private islands on Airbnb.
Posted: at 11:45 pm
In July 2018, Barents Re, a large, A-rated reinsurer moved from Panama to Cayman. In a release explaining its decision, Barents Re said it had conducted comprehensive research and analysis of a number of potential jurisdictions.
If a company has no European business and is focused on the North American or emerging markets, Cayman clearly makes sense.
We have chosen the Cayman Islands for our domiciled jurisdiction as it offers a strong legislative framework, political stability and a positive long-term credit outlook, Barents Re said.
Cayman Islands was selected as the preferred domicile to strengthen our reputation and credibility with clients, business partners, regulators and rating agencies.
Barents is not the only reinsurer to have decided to move to Cayman. This sentiment is echoed by many that have done business in or with Cayman, with Nassau Re among the other reinsurers to have recently opened an affiliated company on the Island for certain business.
Aon saw reinsurance as a way to grow an existing practice in Cayman. Adrian Lynch, managing director of Aons Cayman office and captive strategy leader for the Americas, says: Since I started running the Cayman office in 2014 I have been looking at how we can strengthen the other businesses we do here, to make them as strong as our healthcare business.
Reinsurance has been a big part of that. We also want more fixed annuity business and more long-term healthcare.
Lynch sees reinsurance as a really attractive business for Aon. The quantum is substantial, the capital requirements are reasonable and commercial, he says. The growth potential in the business is solid.
Caymans reputation has grown over the years, from being principally a healthcare domicile to being an international re/insurance centre, says Martin Cooke, director at Hyperion Risk.
We offer a large community of experienced and diverse service providers. These include an array of large and specialist independent insurance managers, leading offshore law firms and audit practicesnot forgetting a highly regarded regulatory body and legislative system, he says.
Cayman has had a presence in the reinsurance market for more than 40 years. United Insurance Company (UIC), formed in 1975, claims to be the first Cayman reinsurance company, having been established by a group of captive insurance companies.
It initially offered reinsurance support and risk pooling for casualty lines in response to the shortage of traditional reinsurance capacity at that time, says Helen Stephenson, senior vice president of underwriting at UIC.
Over the years, the company expanded to reinsure property, marine and casualty risks for those original shareholders and many other unrelated captive insurance companies.
Since late 2016 UIC has shifted away from captive insurance business towards doing more open market reinsurance, following Quasha Groups becoming its main shareholder and captives selling their interests in the company.
UIC continues to offer direct and reinsurance fronting to captives and risk pooling via Nexus, a subsidiary it formed in 1998 to provide primary casualty risk pooling for captives.
Cayman is seeing growth among category D1 reinsurers, which are fully staffed, self-managed and standalone entities that have staff on the ground in Cayman, and category B3 reinsurers, which use the services of a third party reinsurance manager which serves as the conduit with the Cayman Insurance Monetary Authority (CIMA).
Lynch says he has seen considerable growth among B3 reinsurers in particular, which he sees as an opportunity for Aon.
Clients like having the kind of architecture Aon can offer behind them, it makes risk management and compliance much easier for them, he explains.
Cooke notes a similar trend. We have seen a handful of category D reinsurers setting up in Cayman, although we expect more will be coming, he says.
But there have been numerous class B3 formations, which provide a viable alternative to the commercial market.
As the number of reinsurers on the Island grows, and in recognition of their growing influence, a group of Cayman-domiciled companies are in the process of forming an association to represent their interests, says Timothy Adair, head of UICs Cayman office, with UIC one of the founding members of the group.
The association will meet periodically to discuss issues impacting our jurisdiction and business, and will maintain an open dialogue with CIMA and the Ministry of Finance. United is one of the founding members of the group, says Adair.
Caymans growing reputation in reinsurance has invited comparisons with another island renowned for its reinsurance business some 2,000 km away.
Cooke says: In the past, reinsurance companies barely looked beyond Bermuda. Today they are giving other jurisdictions more serious consideration.
Solvency II equivalence is a factor, meaning reinsurers in Bermuda have extra compliance requirements. If a company has no European business and is focused on the North American or emerging markets, Cayman clearly makes sense.
There are other reasons for reinsurers to choose Cayman over Bermuda, including its higher rating from Moodys and healthier budget, which operates at a surplus.
Senior executives in regulated entities can obtain a 25-year work permit, and there is no restriction on home ownership or automobiles, which arguably makes it easier to recruit and retain senior people.
In addition, insurance laws in the Cayman Islands have explicit and clear policyholder protections that include the prohibition of third party creditor claims against policyholder assets.
It is similar to Bermudas segregated account legislation, but sources say Bermudas is conditional on certain criteria being met around disclosure and no commingling of assets, while Caymans is absolute.
This means that although Bermuda remains the jurisdiction most synonymous with reinsurance, Cayman is closing the gap between the two.
One source argues that these factors are seeing momentum moving towards Cayman and away from Bermuda.
Captives have helped attract reinsurers to Cayman. As the second largest captive insurance jurisdiction in the world, large re/insurance institutions that want to do business with captives feel compelled to have a presence on the Island.
Stephenson says: UIC has always enjoyed a very close relationship with captives due to its owners and reinsureds being captives.
Insurance managers, auditors, banks and other local service providers are involved with both captives and reinsurers and there is a mutually beneficial working relationship between the sectors.
Simon Owen, managing director at Hyperion Risk, notes that captives are using reinsurance services more than they have in the past.
We see a growing trend of agency captive and diversified captive formations, he says.
This in turn, creates a need for a variety of services, including the sourcing of risk premium, reinsurance capacity and fronting arrangements.
Stephenson adds: The hardening insurance market will increase demand for captives to write additional business, particularly in response to increased retentions and lower limits offered by traditional insurers.
Reinsurers will in turn have an opportunity to offer support to these new or increased captive risks.
Cayman has long been a centre for healthcare captives, and around 40 percent of the business Aon does in Cayman relates to the healthcare sector. For the Island as a whole, the figure is around 60 percent, Lynch estimates, illustrating the importance of the sector.
Restrictions on the capacity of the medical malpractice sector have created considerable pressure on hospitals in the US, forcing them to increase the amount of risk they retain. This has created more demand for captives in the healthcare sector, in which Cayman specialises, and that in turn has created more demand for reinsurance capacity in Cayman.
Reinsurers may also be benefiting from the increasing diversity of the captives community in Cayman.
Owen says: There has been a proliferation of new types of captives in Cayman. The sector has been dominated by healthcare captives historically, but Cayman captives and other re/insurance vehicles are increasingly likely to be involved in other areas, whether that be property and casualty, specialty lines or life.
Cayman is quickly emerging as a jurisdiction of choice for property and casualty and life and annuity lines, with a significant longevity swap market being established in Cayman.
He adds that there has also been a huge uptick in new reinsurance structures, many that are rated or significantly capitalised, hence creating a new market writing large treaty programs and sizeable transactions.
Many are backed by hedge funds or large private equity companies, with family offices also increasingly involved in the sector.
Increasing interest in reinsurance among hedge funds plays to Caymans strength in the hedge fund industry, with its existing relationships with the funds community encouraging new structures to choose the Island.
Owen says: Caymans strong links with hedge funds and private equity is certainly one of the key reasons for reinsurance on the Island. When hedge funds and private equity funds want to launch a reinsurer or special purpose vehicle they are more likely to do so in a jurisdiction they know well.
The capital markets are looking for diversification opportunities beyond just insurance-linked securities (ILS), and reinsurers are an interesting opportunity with good growth potential.
Smart capital is seeing the benefit of hardening insurance rates and opportunities to participate in non-financial market correlated risks.
Traditionally not associated with reinsurance, the industry has now grown to the point that in July 2018, Derek Stenson, partner at Conyers, wrote a blogpost on the firms website titled Why Cayman is Becoming A Hub For Financial Reinsurance.
In the article, Stenson ascribes this growth principally to regulatory changes. Financial reinsurance (finre) transactions tend to be underwritten with financial management rather than risk transfer as the primary driver, he explains.
Recent global regulatory changes have caused a capital strain on many international pension, life and annuity insurance companies, Stenson wrote.
Finre is now a popular way to access capital relief for these strains and this has stimulated growth in the formation of finre companies, both globally and locally in the Cayman Islands.
Solvency II: no thanks
Perhaps Caymans biggest differentiator has been its decision not to pursue Solvency II equivalence. This decision was taken in recognition of the overwhelming majority of its business coming from the US, where Solvency II does not apply. Cayman has therefore positioned itself as an alternative to a Solvency II jurisdiction.
Lynch says that around 95 to 97 percent of the business done in Cayman originates in the US market, leaving only around 2.5 percent exposed to Solvency II. For Cayman it therefore did not make sense to impose additional regulatory requirements on businesses that were not doing business with Europe.
Bermuda went the other way and took steps to secure equivalence, but this was Caymans niche, says Lynch.
That is one reason why we now have around 60 reinsurers in Cayman, especially B3 and D1 reinsurers.
Caymans reinsurers feel the islands regulatory offering is strict enough, without being Solvency II-equivalent, allowing reinsurers there to better reflect their US clients.
Solvency II is an EU economic model that works very well for EU-facing business, but may not be necessary for US business.
Some of Caymans reinsurance growth therefore includes reinsurers based elsewhere opening affiliate offices to conduct business outside the scope of Solvency II.
Cooke says: Bermuda has the more international focus, especially in being more aligned with Europe. Cayman has traditionally been about captives and funds, with a more North American focus, but even this is changing. Cayman is becoming more global.
Despite turning its back on Europe over Solvency II, Caymans business is increasingly international. In recognition of this, in 2018 the Insurance Managers Association of Cayman changed its name and tagline to Cayman International Insurance: The Better Alternative, in recognition of the insurance communitys increasingly international profile.
This is consistent with changes that have taken place throughout the whole industry.
The industry has changed beyond all recognition in the last 25 years, says Lynch. Risk management in particular is a completely different animal now, it is more sophisticated, more data-driven.
Lynch predicts that the number of reinsurers in Cayman will grow by around 50 percent over the next five years, which will make it even more significant as a global reinsurance hub. That is unequivocally good news for the Island and the reinsurance industry generally, and there is little concern this growth could lead to oversupply.
Reinsurers in Cayman are not only serving the local market, they are focused on international risk, just as those based in Bermuda are, Owen concludes.
There is plenty of room for more reinsurers with different models and strategies.
Aon, Hyperion Risk, UIC, Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, Conyers, Adrian Lynch, Simon Owen, Martin Cooke, Helen Stephenson, Timothy Adair, Derek Stenson
See the article here:
How persuasive is whistleblower’s claim the LDS church is hiding wealth from the IRS? – Religion News Service
Posted: at 11:45 pm
(RNS) Two weeks ago, I wrote a column, not coincidentally, about feeling uneasy after paying my tithing: December is the season of individual tithing settlements for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and what I find unsettling is that the church, unlike many other religious denominations and charities, never explains what it is doing with my donations. I would very much like to know not just for my own benefit, but because accountability is as important for institutions as it is for individuals.
Yet the church has not released a substantive financial statement in 60 years. "I think the church stopped making disclosures in 1959 because it was on the brink of financial disaster," I wrote in my earlier column, "as its final report indicates, it outspent its income by $8 million that year."
I voiced my suspicion that poverty is no longer behind the church's silence, alleging that "it has grown wealthy enough that exposing the extent of its holdings could cause embarrassment and prompt unwanted questions."
Yesterday, a whistleblower who used to help manage the churchs investment portfolio released a series of documents alleging that the church has mismanaged more than $100 billion of charitable donations, including by channeling a portion of that money into for-profit investments on which it has failed to pay taxes The Washington Post and Religion Unplugged have more details.
Another person, apparently the whistleblowers brother, seems to have written the report that is publicly available for download here.
That report alleges that the church receives an excess of $1 billion a year that it doesnt need for its own operating expenses and that since the 1990s that money has been funneled into a church-owned investment company called Ensign Peak Advisors, which operates as a nonprofit arm of the church. Ensign Peak Advisors, the report claims, has not used its money as a nonprofit should.
That annual tithing surplus, plus the impressive returns on the churchs investments of previous years tithing surpluses, has grown to over $100 billion, according to the report. (Thats not including the churchs holdings in land, buildings, other investments, etc.)
The report further claims that Ensign Peak Advisors has made only two disbursements in its history, and neither was for a charitable purpose; one was to prop up a failing insurance company owned by the church, and the other was to support the City Creek Mall in downtown Salt Lake City.
Here is a screenshot from the report's list of grievances:
A list of grievances in a complaint from a former LDS church employee to the IRS.
Ive gone through the 74-page report, including the attached documentation. Im actually grateful that these charges have come to light, as Ill address at the end, but to my mind this opening salvo seems far from a slam-dunk.
The main problem is that the author of the report has a clear agenda, which damages the reports overall credibility. For example, even if it seems a stretch for church officials to claim the funds are being held in reserve for the Second Coming of Christ, its not helpful (or financially relevant) to compare the churchs belief in that event to Scientologys teaching about the intergalactic alien Xenu. This seems to have been done solely for the purpose of ridiculing both religions.
Neither is it helpful to weaponize rhetorical questions to over-prove a point:
But you should know how much you gave their (Ensign Peak Advisors) slush fund since the COP (Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) created it in September 1997: at least $18.4 billion. What did they do with this tax break? Nada, said a whistleblower. What have they done with the rest of Mormon, Inc.s leftovers since 1997? Zilch. And how big are those leftovers now? $124 billion.
Its entirely possible that these numbers are correct; I have no way of knowing, which is the main problem with a church that refuses to disclose its finances. But convincing readers that the numbers are correct would have been better accomplished by simply presenting the facts without such relentlessly strident commentary.
Sometimes the report wants to have things both ways. On the one hand, it accuses church employees of lying openly about finances, and on the other, claims that very few people only the most senior apostles ever know the full extent of the institutions holdings. The whistleblower says the church didnt want any one person to have so much information that he or she would prove to be a liability, but in almost the same breath accuses Gerald Causs, who is a high-ranking leader but not an apostle, of being shifty and a master of carefully worded statements that obscure the truth.
Isnt it possible that church employees who have made public statements about the limitations of the churchs finances Causs included made those declarations in good faith because they didnt have the whole picture?
For that matter, isnt it also possible that these documents that appear to show no charitable distributions from Ensign Peak do not represent all of the EPAs outflow? I think its important that we keep an open mind here, and assume that there is another side to the story ... if the church is willing to come clean with actual documents.
Thats a big if, given that the churchs standard response to journalists estimates of its financial holdings is to trot out the phrase grossly exaggerated. If this report and its accompanying internal documents are to be believed, those journalists were actually underestimating the churchs finances. If the church is going to defend itself, simply releasing another grossly exaggerated dismissal is not going to cut it.
In other words, show us the money.
Whats weirdly karmic about this whole debacle is that it could have been avoided if the church had simply continued to exercise transparency about its income and expenditures, as it did in the early and mid-20th century. Instead, its commitment to secrecy, presumably to avoid criticism, has opened the door to further criticism.
The optimal way for the church to deal with this is to fight fire with fire, releasing all of its own internal financial documents. Other than the shocking size of its portfolio, its possible that those revelations will turn out to be a yawnfest.
Its easy for me to believe that the church is guilty of hoarding its wealth; despite its privileged status, it still actively perceives itself as a victim of religious persecution and learned early on to trust only its own. As well, its facing a future in which its First World growth has flatlined or even (in the case of Europe) entered into negative territory, while new converts are still joining in, for example, West Africa.
Perhaps its utterly excessive stockpile has less to do with the theological possibility of Jesus return than it does with the prosaic current reality that the church is only growing in areas of the global south where its members cannot self-sustain their buildings and programs.
Its harder for me to believe that a church that is as a rule so overly meticulous has been intentionally defrauding its members and the federal government. Its possible, of course, but ... really? Even these internal documents show an institution that has stuck with a conservative 60/40 investment portfolio, so it's not a question of the LDS church engaging in wild speculation with money contributed by the faithful.
Neither does it seem to be a question of top leaders becoming personally rich from the churchs wealth; what greed and hoarding propensities leaders have demonstrated seem to have enriched the church as an institution, not lined their own pockets. So the reports references to the Mormon gigachurch in conjunction with megachurches personal jets and private islands seem unwarranted.
Still, the ball is in the churchs court now. It must not only demonstrate to the IRS that it has been in compliance with the law, but reassure believers that it has adhered to the fourfold mission outlined in one of its training slides for new employees which includes caring for the poor and needy.
I just paid my Mormon tithing. Why don't I feel better about it?
Mormon growth continues to slow, church report shows
Study shows young adult Mormons are most likely generation to tithe (but there's a catch)
Posted: at 11:45 pm
We are all familiar with the platitudes about trusts: great things if used right, offering potential solutions to asset protection, probate, tax and family issues. The concept of moving the legal ownership of an asset to an unrelated party while still retaining the benefit of it is useful in many contexts.
We are seeing trusts growing increasingly popular in non-traditional regions such as Asia and Latin America, where clients may take some getting used to the idea. Discussing trusts with clients can be dauntinga trust is not a set legal entity and is endlessly bespoke.
The most common but also most misunderstood type of trust is the bare trust, aka nomineeship. These are usually very short documents, simply requiring the trustee to act on the instructions of the beneficial owner. Because they are often headed Declaration of Trust, clients and their advisers can believe they have all the benefits of a substantive trust, but they do not. Because the trustee has no substantive powers or discretions, they often do not avoid probate on the death of the beneficial owners, and are usually see-through with no asset protection. We find that even many lawyers can be unaware of these issues, so it is good to check the document if in doubt.
Substantive (non-bare) trustsif drafted and run responsiblywill however have all the advantages associated with trusts. They can be categorised in the following ways and are in most cases mix and match, so one can have a VISTA purpose trust for example.
Which governing law to use? A popular choice are the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Cayman Islands. Both British Overseas Territories, they both have thriving trusts industries with lawyers and judges from central London practice. They use mainstream common law and allow interaction with their other famous entitiesBVI companies, Cayman fundsminimising the need for two sets of lawyers on every transaction. Both allow non-resident trustees to act as trustee (subject to some constraints) although if a resident trustee is needed, both are also tax-neutral.
Should the trust be for beneficiaries or purposes or both? Most trusts are for the benefit of the settlors family and perhaps their favourite charities. However, trusts can be purely for purposes (rather than for persons). Some trust jurisdictions such as England allow only charitable purposes but others such as BVI and Cayman allow non charitable purposes, for example to hold the shares of a private trust company or orphan vehicle. A trust settled under Cayman STAR legislation allows a mix of beneficiaries and purposes which are often drafted in the form of a family business plan.
Should the trustee have discretion over distributions? Traditionally, many trusts had fixed interests, for example, The income to my wife for her lifetime. Nowadays, however, the typical new trust will allow full discretion to the trustee, meaning that, for example, no divorcing spouse can argue the beneficiary has a right to assets. A non-binding letter written by the settlor can give the client reassurance that the trustee will in usual circumstances follow their wishes.
Should the trustee have discretion over the investment of the trust fund? Traditionally, Yes, but in these days of corporate trustees maybe No, particularly where the trust holds a treasured, but unprofitable family business, or an unusual asset which a conservative trustee might otherwise feel obliged to sell. Most trust regimes allow some form of bespoke reservation of investment powers back to the settlor but only one, the BVI VISTA trust, has put it in statute. When the trustee is also given discretion over distributions, such trusts do not remove asset protection and are therefore very popular.
Should the trust take effect in lifetime or after death? It comes as a surprise to some clients that trusts can be declared in Wills (essentially a very long Will). Although these obviously require probate to be settled first, they are the ultimate solution for a settlor who wishes to maintain full control in his lifetime, but who does not want his empire split up by his children after his death.
Another element in all of this is the Protector, a bespoke role available in many offshore trust jurisdictions. They can be the clients relative or advisor. They act as a check on the trustee. Their roles range from a single ability to, say, appoint a successor trustees, to wide ranging powers or consents over distributions. Although a client will always prefer giving powers to their protector friend instead of an unknown corporate trustee, courts are wary of over-powerful protectors so one should always ask does the Protector really need this power?
Posted: at 11:44 pm
Neal Stephenson's classic cyberpunk novel Snow Crash is getting a TV series adaptation for HBO Max. Stephenson's 1992 novel covers a wide variety of topics includinghistory, linguistics, anthropology, archaeology, religion, computer science, politics, cryptography, memetics, and philosophy.
The news comes from Deadline, who stated that Michael Becall (21 Jump Street) will write the adaptation and serve as co-showrunner with Angela Robinson, while Joe Cornish (The Kid Who Would Be King) is set to direct. Frank Marshall will serve as producer for the series.
Last year, it was announced that a Snow Crash TV series was heading to Amazon, but that's no longer happening.
With a talented team of writers and directors, and a great source material, Snow Crash is definitely one of the most exciting sci-fi shows to look forward to.
Here's the book synopsis for Snow Crash:
Only once in a great while does a writer come along who defies comparisona writer so original he redefines the way we look at the world. Neal Stephenson is such a writer andSnow Crashis such a novel, weaving virtual reality, Sumerian myth, and just about everything in between with a cool, hip cybersensibility to bring us the gigathriller of the information age.
In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzos CosoNostra Pizza Inc., but in the Metaverse hes a warrior prince. Plunging headlong into the enigma of a new computer virus thats striking down hackers everywhere, he races along the neon-lit streets on a search-and-destroy mission for the shadowy virtual villain threatening to bring about infocalypse.
Snow Crash is considered to be one of the best science fiction books ever, and if you love cyberpunk and haven't read this novel yet, then you should read it before the show premieres. Stephenson's novelwas nominated for both the British Science Fiction Award in 1993, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1994.
Are you excited for a Snow Crash TV series? Who should play Hiro and Y.T.?
Related: Cyberpunk 2077 Will Have Fully Motion-Captured Sex Scenes
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