Daily Archives: July 23, 2009

Lollipop ladies, social workers and gardeners to distribute Tamiflu as ‘Swine Flu Friends’

lollipop lady hidden camera

A Lollipop Lady holds her sign with hidden camera to watch for angry drivers. Daily Mail

London Times | Jun 24, 2009

by Jill Sherman, Nicola Woolcock

Lollipop ladies, grass cutters and social workers are to double up as “flu friends” to collect Tamiflu prescriptions for vulnerable people who contract swine flu.

An emergency meeting of town hall leaders in Birmingham today will discuss new contingency guidelines for local authorities to cope with the pandemic, The Times has learnt.

Paul Bettison, the environmental chief of the Local Government Association, said that all town halls should draw up a detailed plan of how staff could help if health or social services staff were overstretched. They should also work out which priority services should be maintained and whether refuse collections would need to be reduced if high numbers of their own staff were off sick.

The association is the only nongovernment body invited to meetings of the emergency committee Cobra, which convenes twice a week over swine flu.

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Mr Bettison, who attends the meetings, told The Times that it was vital that contingency plans were made in case the number of cases increased further. Town halls had the addresses of all their residents and often knew the most vulnerable among them, he said.

“Those living on their own and thought to be vulnerable will be contacted by the council. We will let them know that we will be their ‘flu friend’ and collect a prescription if there is no one else,” he said.

Mr Bettison said social workers might be able to help out where single parents were bedridden and needed someone to care for their children.

“Our community buildings could also be used to deal with any overflow from GPs or chemists to dispense Tamiflu tablets. The tablets could be stockpiled in these buildings and our staff could help out for two weeks at the height of the pandemic. If we didn’t cut the grass for a couple of weeks I don’t think anyone would mind and it would be better to close a library than a school.”

Town halls will, however, ensure that priority and emergency services such as fire and rescue and children’s social services are fully staffed.

Next week university vice-chancellors will also gather at a conference to discuss how they would cope in a swine flu pandemic. Options could include cancelling freshers weeks, increasing the number of podcast lectures or postponing formal registration where new students often queue for hours to receive their paperwork.

“We know that there have been a number of confirmed cases on university campuses and the event will consider possible escalation and the prospect, as some experts have predicted, that the pandemic could peak in September or October as schools and universities reopen,” said a statement from Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said yesterday that all universities and colleges should operate on the assumption that they would remain open throughout the pandemic.

It added: “Students should be encouraged to consider setting up ‘flu buddy schemes’, so that those who have not been affected by the virus can support those [who] have.”

China censors block President’s son from internet search results

CHINA-NAMIBIA-MEDIA-CORRUPTION-BUSINESS

A man walks past a display of newspapers at a newstand in Beijing on July 23, 2009. China’s state-run mainstream media is more tightly controlled than the Internet by the ruling communist government, and newspapers as well as television news and the Internet have all blocked news about a graft probe in Namibia involving a firm linked to the son of President Hu Jintao. Two Namibians and a Chinese national were arrested last week in Namibia as part of a probe into bribery allegations involving Nuctech, a company headed until last year by Hu’s 38-year-old son, Hu Haifeng. Getty Images

London Times | Jul 23, 2009

Jane Macartney in Beijing

Internet users are being blocked from accessing stories about the Chinese President’s son after a company he used to run was reported to be under investigation for corruption.

The latest brick to be built into the Great Firewall of China became visible when the technology channels of leading Chinese web portals, Sina and Netease, could not be opened for several hours after they posted news about the company linked to Hu Haifeng, 38.

Articles about an investigation in Namibia into corruption allegations against Nuctech, a Beijing company that produces scanning equipment for airport security, quickly disappeared, even though they did not mention the former company president.

The China Digital Times, a US-based blog run by Xiao Qiang of the Berkeley China Internet Project at the University of California-Berkeley, posted a copy of a notice it said had been issued by the Communist Party’s powerful Propaganda Department, the country’s top censor.

The notice issued to all search engines read: “Hu Haifeng, Namibia, Namibia bribery investigation, Nuctech bribery investigation, southern Africa bribery investigation. Please show no search results for all the above keywords.”

China is always nervous about publicity surrounding the business activities of the leadership’s family members since many people suspect that they enjoy enormous privileges and advantages as a result of their unparalleled connections in a system based on personal relations. The popular view is that they gain unfair advantages in doing business in China.

Searches for information on the case and the younger Hu’s connection to it on Chinese web portals now turn up error messages such as: “The search results may contain content not in line with relevant laws, regulations and policies.”

Yesterday a Namibian court delayed until next week a bail hearing for three people charged with corruption over a deal to buy security scanners from Nuctech.

The three accused, including the Africa representative for the state-owned Chinese firm, were not present during the short court procedure. They have been behind bars since their arrest last week. Nuctech representative Yang Fan and two Namibians, Teckla Lameck and Jerobeam Mokaxwa, were arrested after the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) discovered that a $12.8 million (£7.7 million) downpayment on 13 scanners had been diverted to a firm called Teko Trading, which is owned jointly by Mr Lameck and Mr Mokaxwa. All three accused later drew large sums from the Teko account, it is alleged.

The Chinese company has a Namibian government contract to supply security scanning equipment in a $55.3 million deal, paid for with a Chinese loan granted when President Hu Jintao visited the country in 2007. His son was president of Nuctech until last year, when he was promoted to party secretary of Tsinghua Holdings, which controls Nuctech and more than 20 other companies.

Investigators have said that Mr Hu is not a suspect but that he could be a witness.

Two city mayors and several rabbis held in New Jersey organized crime investigation

London Times | Jul 23, 2009

Three city mayors, two state politicians and five rabbis were among 44 people arrested across New Jersey today when federal agents cracked an alleged Sopranos-style crime ring accused of bribery, money laundering and trafficking body parts and counterfeit handbags.

In a sweep that shocked even residents hardened to the state’s endemic corruption, officers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) raided synagogues, government offices and a Jewish school early today before busing suspects to the FBI headquarters in Newark.

Outside cars were backed up four deep as agents processed those arrested, including Peter Cammarano, the Mayor of Hoboken, Anthony Suarez, the Mayor of Ridgefield, and Daniel Van Pelt, a member of New Jersey’s lower house, the assembly.

Ralph Marra, Acting US Attorney for the District of New Jersey, said that the sweep demonstrated “the pervasive nature of public corruption in this state”.

“The politicians willingly put themselves up for sale,” he said, while “clergymen cloak their extensive criminal activity behind a façade of rectitude”.

He spoke of “a corrupt network of public officials who were all too willing to take cash in exchange for promised official action. It seemed that everyone wanted a piece of the action.” He added: “The corruption was widespread and pervasive.”

Federal agents used an informant, a member of the close-knit Syrian Jewish community from the seaside town of Deal, to infiltrate political and religious circles.

The informant, who had previously been charged with bank fraud, posed as a property developer to conduct a sting, allegedly agreeing bribes with the politicians in return for public building contracts and other favours.

Mr Marra’s office charged Mr Cammarano, who took office at the beginning of the month after working as a councillor since 2003, with taking $25,000 (£15,000) in bribes, including $10,000 as recently as a week ago.

Mr Cammarano, who at 32 is Hoboken’s youngest-ever mayor, allegedly met the FBI informer at a diner where he agreed to help the mole with building projects, telling him: “You’re gonna be treated like a friend.”

In payment he allegedly received bundles of cash that were stashed in the boot of the informant’s car.

Joseph Hayden, Mr Cammarano’s attorney, said that his client was innocent. “He intends to fight them with all his strength,” Mr Hayden said.

Muammar Gaddafi’s New York visit angers families of Lockerbie victims

LOCKERBIE

The nose section of the Pan Am Boeing 747 in a field at Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 after it was blown apart while flying from London to New York. Two hundred and seventy lives were lost

London Times | Jul 23, 2009

James Bone in New York

Families of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing have expressed shock and outrage that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, is to visit New York, the destination of the doomed Pan Am Flight 103.

The UN has disclosed that Colonel Gaddafi, who is blamed for the bombing of the aircraft in 1988 and loss of 270 lives, will address the 192-nation General Assembly in New York.

The newly released UN schedule calls for Colonel Gaddafi to speak directly after President Obama on the opening day of the annual session on September 23, raising the prospect of a second encounter between the two.

Libyan dictator shakes hands with UN Secy Gen Ban Ki Moon at the NAM conference

Libyan dictator shakes hands with UN Secy Gen Ban Ki Moon at the NAM conference

The trip will be Colonel Gaddafi’s first visit to the US after decades of conflict between Washington and Tripoli and 11 years of UN sanctions on Libya. It follows his recent rehabilitation on the international scene, which culminated in a 40-minute meeting with Gordon Brown and a handshake with Mr Obama at the G8 summit in Italy this month.

Libya holds a two-year seat on the UN Security Council and its three-time Ambassador to the UN, Ali Treki, was recently elected this session’s General Assembly president.

Colonel Gaddafi was elected this year to a one-year term as chairman of the African Union, which helped him to secure the coveted speaking slot after President Obama.

Relatives of victims of the bombing of the London-New York flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, were horrified to learn of the Libyan leader’s visit.

“As far as I’m concerned he’s still the enemy,” Joan Dater, who lost her daughter Gretchen in the attack, said. “I am not sure what he is going to say. If he gives a lot of propaganda we will be up in arms.”

Kara Weipz, who lost her brother Richard Monetti, said that the prospect of the visit “turns my stomach”.

“I know who the man is. If they are allowing him to set foot in this country I hope they are doing it with their eyes open, because he is not a different man than he was 20-and-a-half years ago when he ordered the bombing,” she said.

Frank Duggan, president of the family group Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, said: “I think it’s outrageous. I know our Government is trying to get Libya back into the family of nations. I do not think that translates into welcoming a murderer. This man murdered 270 people, including 189 Americans. I do not think the welcome mat ought to be out for him.

“He will be dressed in some silly outfit and bring a bunch of women guards and he will live in a tent somewhere. He is just very, very strange.”

Lockerbie families received $10 million in compensation from Libya for each victim as part of Colonel Gaddafi’s settlement with the West in 2003.

But many remain angry at British and US efforts to improve relations with the Libyan strongman. They are particularly outraged at Colonel Gaddafi’s recent calls for Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, the Libyan intelligence agent convicted of the bombing, to be transferred from a Scottish jail to Libya because he suffers from terminal prostate cancer.

Since his rehabilitation Colonel Gaddafi has visited Paris and Rome, staying in his Beduin tent in both cities. UN officials are joking about where he will pitch his tent in New York, noting that the UN garden is a building site because of the renovation of the organisation’s headquarters.

Libyan diplomats say that they are studying the problem but have already concluded that there are no hotels with large gardens near the UN. Colonel Gaddafi almost visited the UN’s 40th-anniversary celebrations in 1985 and was going to pitch his tent on the roof of Libya’s diplomatic mission. He cancelled at the last moment.

The Lockerbie families concede that they have little power to stop him from attending the UN session, which he is entitled to do as a world leader. Babette Hollister, who lost her daughter Katherine, said, however: “I’ll make sure I’m not in New York that week.”

Illinois deputy accused zapping 3 kids with stun gun

AP | Jul 21, 2009

By JIM SUHR

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. — A sheriff’s deputy zapped three children with a stun gun at an Illinois emergency youth shelter, threatening to sodomize one of them before choking a fourth child and throwing her in a closet, according to a federal civil-rights lawsuit.

The suit against Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy David Bowers and another deputy claims they were unprovoked in the incident at the adolescent center in southern Illinois that houses youths ages 11 to 18, often with behavioral issues.

No charges have been filed in the case. Sheriff Roger Mulch, who also is named in the lawsuit, said Monday the deputies followed protocol and did “nothing out of the ordinary.”

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Lawsuit filed against sheriff, deputies

The suit, filed July 1, called the deputies’ actions “extreme, outrageous and unjustified,” and it does not release the names or ages of the three boys shot with the stun gun. The fourth kid was a foster child who did not live at the center, according to the lawsuit.

The suit claims that Bowers and sheriff’s deputy Lonnie Lawler went to the center near Marion on July 4, 2008 in response to a report that three teenagers were acting unruly. But the young people suing the deputies were not those disruptive children, the lawsuit said.

Bowers allegedly pushed one boy toward his bed, and repeatedly shocked him with a stun gun. Bowers then held down a second boy, stunned him several times and threatened to sodomize him, ultimately causing the child to soil himself, the lawsuit claimed.

A third child complied with the deputies’ demands that he sit on a couch, but Lawler handcuffed him before Bowers zapped him repeatedly, the lawsuit said.

The fourth child, a girl, pleaded with the deputies to stop but Lawler handcuffed her. Bowers lifted her off the ground, pressed her against a wall and choked her, the lawsuit alleges.

“Do you want to live or die (expletive)?” the lawsuit, filed July 1, claims Bowers asked the girl before she was thrown into a closet, vomiting.

Bowers did not immediately return messages left at his home, and Lawler does not have a listed home telephone number. It was not known whether either had an attorney.

Gene Svebakken, president and chief executive of Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois, which runs the center, said Monday after reviewing the lawsuit that he was “really alarmed and distressed by the allegations.”

“These are young people often traumatized in their circumstances, and that they, like all children, needed to be treated with dignity and respect,” he said, noting that the shelter serves a myriad of children, ranging from runaways from placement elsewhere to youths between foster homes.

Mulch portrayed the center as a chronic hassle, this year accounting for more than 100 requests for his department’s help.

He defended his deputies, saying separate investigations by his department and Illinois State Police determined Bowers and Lawler did nothing wrong.