Monthly Archives: January 2010

Motorist receives £50 on the spot fine.. for blowing his nose in stationary car

dailyrecord.co.uk | Jan 28 2010

By Craig McDonald

A BUSINESSMAN has been fined by cops for blowing his nose in a car.

Dad-of-two Michael Mancini pulled out a tissue while he was stuck in stationary traffic – with his handbrake on.

But he was given a £60 fixed penalty notice for “not being in control of his vehicle”.

The cop who handed out the ticket was PC Stuart Gray – dubbed PC Shiny Buttons for his zealous approach to the job.

He was exposed last year after he issued a £50 fixed penalty to a man who accidentally dropped a £10 note in the street.

Last night, Michael, 39, who’s never been in trouble with police, said: “I was in total shock. I was stuck in traffic with the handbrake on and my nose was running.

“It’s beyond a disgrace.

“Surely it would have been more dangerous to drive with a blocked nose?”

The dad has refused to pay the fine and now faces a criminal trial later in the year.

Michael, of Prestwick, Ayrshire, was driving in nearby Ayr and suffering from a runny nose when he got stuck in the traffic jam.

He said: “I needed to blow my nose so I put my handbrake on and took the car out of gear.

“I noticed four police officers standing around near the Wallace Tower but I didn’t think anything of it. Then one of them waved me over.

“I still had the tissue in my hand and was totally stunned when he said I was getting a fixed penalty notice for not being in control of my car.”

Michael said: “I thought it was some kind of Beadle’s About moment – a wind-up. The traffic was at a complete standstill and I had my handbrake on.

“I tried to explain that to the officer but he wouldn’t listen.”

Michael, who runs a furniture restoration business with his brother Philip, has taken legal advice on the matter which he says has left him “totally baffled”.

His lawyer, Peter Lockhart, has written to the procurator fiscal saying it “beggars belief ” Michael is being prosecuted.

But prosecutors are adamant they will put Michael through a trial at Ayr District Court.

Michael said: “I’m really angry. I made sure it was safe to blow my nose. It’s doubtful I’ll get legal aid so this could potentially cost me thousands in legal fees.

“But I won’t be paying the fixed penalty.”

A police spokeswoman confirmed: “A 39-year-old man is the subject of a report to the procurator fiscal in connect ion with an alleged traffic offence on October 26.”

The incident happened just after PC Gray doled out a £50 fine for littering to unemployed Stewart Smith, who accidentally dropped a tenner out his pocket as he left a shop.

Last night, a source said: “Total nonsense like this is the very opposite of good policing. This officer is known as PC Shiny Buttons for his lack of a common sense approach to the job.

“It is supposed to be about serving and protecting the public – not embarking on some petty power trip like this appears to be.”

Push to send toxic FEMA trailers to Haiti stirs backlash

In this March 2, 2007 file photo, some of about 20,000 mobile homes and travel trailers owned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency sit at the Hope Municipal Airport near Hope, Ark. The trailer industry and lawmakers are pressing the government to send Haiti thousands of potentially formaldehyde-laced trailers left over from Hurricane Katrina, an idea denounced by some as a crass and self-serving attempt to dump inferior American products on the poor. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Associated Press | Jan 29, 2010

by Carly Everson

INDIANAPOLIS – The trailer industry and lawmakers are pressing the government to send Haiti thousands of potentially formaldehyde-laced trailers left over from Hurricane Katrina — an idea denounced by some as a crass and self-serving attempt to dump inferior American products on the poor.

“Just go ahead and sign their death certificate,” said Paul Nelson of Coden, Ala., who contends his mother died because of formaldehyde fumes in a FEMA trailer.

The 100,000 trailers became a symbol of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s bungled response to Katrina. The government had bought the trailers to house victims of the 2005 storm, but after people began falling ill, high levels of formaldehyde, a chemical that is used in building materials and can cause breathing problems and perhaps cancer, were found inside. Many of the trailers have sat idle for years, and many are damaged.

The U.S. Agency for International Development, which is coordinating American assistance in Haiti, has expressed no interest in sending the trailers to the earthquake-stricken country. FEMA spokesman Clark Stevens declined to comment on the idea and said it was not FEMA’s decision to make.

Haitian Culture and Communications Minister Marie Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue said Thursday she had not heard of the proposal but added: “I don’t think we would use them. I don’t think we would accept them.”

In a Jan. 15 letter to FEMA, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said the trailers could be used as temporary shelter or emergency clinics.

“While I continue to believe that these units should not be used for human habitation, I do believe that they could be of some benefit on a short-term, limited basis if the appropriate safeguards are provided,” he wrote.

For the recreational-vehicle and trailer industry, which lost thousands of jobs during the recession, the push to send the units to Haiti is motivated by more than charity.

Bidding is under way in an online government-run auction to sell the trailers in large lots at bargain-basement prices — something the RV industry fears will reduce demand for new products. Some of the bids received so far work out to less than $500 for a trailer that would sell for about $20,000 new.

Lobbyists for the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association — which includes some major manufacturers in Elkhart, Ind., among them Gulf Stream — have been talking with members of Congress, the government and disaster relief agencies to see if it would be possible to send the trailers to Haiti instead.

“This isn’t really the best time for the RV industry to have very low-priced trailers put out onto the market,” said the group’s spokesman, Kevin Broom.

How much formaldehyde the trailers contain — or if they still have any at all — isn’t known. The auction site warns that the trailers may not have been tested for the chemical, and FEMA said buyers must sign an agreement not to use the auctioned trailers for housing. Broom contends the majority are “perfectly safe,” and “the handful of trailers that might have a problem” can be removed.

Though the formaldehyde fumes in the trailers may have lessened with time, Haiti’s hot, humid weather would boost the amount released, said Becky Gillette, the formaldehyde campaign director for the Sierra Club.

Lindsay Huckabee, who blames a rash of illnesses on the two years she lived with her husband and five children in FEMA trailers in Kiln, Miss., said that while “some shelter is better than no shelter,” sending FEMA trailers is a bad idea without tight controls and warnings.

“I think it’s very self-serving to hand off a product that’s not good enough for Americans and say, ‘Hey, we’re doing a good thing here,'” she said.

In Haiti, Ermite Bellande said she has had no shelter since losing her three-story house. Still, she doesn’t want one of the trailers. “We have nothing,” she lamented. “But I would rather sleep outside than be in a metal box full of chemicals.”

Joseph Pacious, who was hoping to find shelter at a tent city near the Port-au-Prince airport, disagreed. “The trailers may be hot, and they may make us sick,” he said. “But look at how we are living already. How bad can it be?”

Myriam Bellevu, who is sleeping in a tent because she does not feel safe in her damaged home, said: “If the trailers are not good, the Americans must keep them for themselves. It’s true that we are poor, but if they want to help, they must help in a good way.”

Among the lawmakers backing the idea is Mississippi state Sen. Billy Hewes.

“If I had the choice between no shelter and having the opportunity of living in a shelter that might have some fumes, I know what I’d choose,” he said. “If these trailers were good enough for Mississippians, I would think they were good enough for folks down in Haiti as well.”

Gates makes $10 billion pledge for “the decade of vaccines”

Associated Press | Jan 29, 2010

By Alexander G. Higgins

DAVOS, Switzerland – The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will donate $10 billion over the next decade to research new vaccines and bring them to the world’s poorest countries, the Microsoft co-founder and his wife said Friday.

Calling upon governments and business to also contribute, they said the money will produce higher immunization rates and aims to make sure that 90 percent of children are immunized against dangerous diseases such as diarrhea and pneumonia in poorer nations.

“We must make this the decade of vaccines,” Bill Gates said in a statement. “Vaccines already save and improve millions of lives in developing countries. Innovation will make it possible to save more children than ever before.”

Gates said the commitment more than doubles the $4.5 billion the foundation has given to vaccine research over the years.

The foundation said up to 7.6 million children under 5 could be saved through 2019 as a result of the donation. It also estimates that an additional 1.1 million kids would be saved if a malaria vaccine can be introduced by 2014. A tuberculosis vaccine would prevent even more deaths.

“Vaccines are a miracle,” said Melinda Gates. “With just a few doses, they can prevent deadly diseases for a lifetime.”

Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organization, called the Gates contribution unprecedented and urged governments and private donors to add to the initiative.

“An additional two million deaths in children under five years could be prevented by 2015 through widespread use of new vaccines and a 10 percent increase in global vaccination coverage,” said Chan.

The Gates statement said the foundation would help to dramatically reduce child mortality in the next 10 years and urged others to pitch in with research funding and other financial support for poor children.

Gates noted the announcement comes on the 10th anniversary of the foundation’s partner GAVI Alliance, which he praised for its work in immunizing children against killer diseases.

“This is an amazing announcement,” GAVI CEO Julian Lob-Leyt said.

Bill and Melinda Gates did not specify how the money would be distributed, and a spokeswoman said that had yet to be decided.

A spokesman for GAVI said the alliance was involved mostly on the distribution end and therefore would receive only part of the money.

Vaccines are usually an effective way to spend money to improve public health, because they can even be delivered in poor countries lacking functioning health systems.

Bin Laden goes green, blames America for ‘global warming’

Global warming? You can blame America for that, says bin Laden

Daily Mail | Jan 29, 2010

Going green? Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, in a video still from 2007

Osama bin Laden blamed the United States and other industrialised countries for causing global warming in an extraordinary message issued yesterday.

In a departure from his usual religious rants, the Al Qaeda leader lectured on the dangers of climate change, claiming the only solution was to ‘bring the wheels of the American economy’ to a halt.

Rather than vows to inflict death and destruction on the U.S. and its allies, the man behind the September 11 atrocity in New York discussed the environmental future of the planet and monetary policy.

‘This is a message to the whole world about those who are causing climate change, whether deliberately or not, and what we should do about that,’ he declared.

He blamed Western industrialised nations for hunger, causing flooding and the destruction of fertile ground across the globe.

Related

The Bin Laden Conspiracy

And he warned solutions must be ‘drastic’ rather than ‘partial’.

Although bin Laden has briefly referred to climate change and global warming in past messages, this fresh audiotape was his first dedicated to the topic.

The speech, which included almost no religious rhetoric, has been interpreted as an attempt by the terror leader to broaden the appeal of his message beyond Islamic militants.

‘Talk about climate change is not an ideological luxury but a reality,’ he said in the tape released to the Al Jazeera television network, adding: ‘All of the industrialised countries, especially the big ones, bear responsibility.’

Bin Laden referred to the fact that while wealthy nations had agreed to the Kyoto Protocol that binds them to emissions targets, former U.S. President George Bush later rejected such limitations in deference to big business.

He called for a boycott of American products and the end of the U.S. dollar as a world currency.

‘We should stop dealings with the dollar and get rid of it as soon as possible,’ he said in the brief recording.

‘I know that this has great consequences and grave ramifications, but it is the only means to liberate humanity from slavery and dependence on America.

‘It is necessary for us to avoid doing business in the dollar, and to finish with it in the fastest possible time.’

The terrorist even used a quotation from American liberal political activist Noam Chomsky to support his cause.

He said: ‘Noam Chomsky was correct when he compared the U.S. policies to those of the Mafia.

‘They are the true terrorists and therefore we should refrain from dealing in the U.S. dollar and should try to get rid of this currency as early as possible.’

He argued that such steps would also hamper Washington’s war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Saudi-born bin Laden is still thought to be hiding in the mountainous areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The new message, the authenticity of which could not immediately be confirmed, comes after a bin Laden tape last week endorsed a failed attempt to blow up an American airliner on Christmas Day.

Big Brother town councils snooping on intimate details about children’s life at home

Council snoopers question five-year-olds on home life

Families deemed to be ‘at risk’ to be referred to social services or doctors.

Daily Mail | Jan 30, 2010

By Sophie Borland

Children as young as five are being told to fill in Big Brother-style forms which let councils snoop on intimate details about their home lives.

The questions – which have been attacked as exploitative – ask about junk food, television habits, family time and even whether the youngsters ‘like themselves’.

Results are stored on a database, allowing families deemed to be ‘at risk’ to be referred to social services or doctors.

Children are asked to colour in answers to questions such as how much fruit they eat each day compared to crisps and fizzy drinks.

Hundreds of the ‘lifestyle’ quizzes, which are backed by the Department of Health, have been handed out in an attempt to build a picture of the health and wellbeing of individual households.

But privacy campaigners last night condemned the forms. Alex Deane, of Big Brother Watch, described it as ‘an unbelievable intrusion into private life’.

He said: ‘The state doesn’t bring up children, parents do. There is an important distinction between teaching and nannying – or even bullying – and this steps way over the mark.’

The lifestyle quizzes were piloted in Erewash, Derbyshire, where children filled in the forms at ‘healthy living’ after-school clubs, to which parents are invited. Although the survey was not compulsory, pupils were strongly encouraged to fill it in.

The forms will now be sent out to 200 schools across the county and other councils are monitoring the scheme closely.

Daniella Yeo, of Erewash council, said the after-school clubs were very popular and that the questions followed guidelines set by NICE, the NHS’s regulatory body.

She added: ‘They will help us target families at risk of obesity. We can then encourage parents to attend sessions with social services or GPs.’

Other questions for five-year-olds include whether they eat breakfast, how much water they drink and how they get to school.

They are also asked ‘how much to do like yourself?’ – and told to tick a thumbs-up or thumbs- down sign that matches how they feel.

Seven-year-olds are being given an even more detailed quiz in which they say exactly how many hours they spend with their family, watching television and playing computer games.

Civil liberties campaigner Josie Appleton, of the Manifesto Club, said: ‘Councils and schools should concentrate on providing everyone with a good education.

‘But they should keep their noses out of children’s lunchboxes and away from the family dinner table.’

You’re a liar and murderer they screamed at him: Fury in public gallery as Blair says ‘I have not a regret’

On the spot: Tony Blair as he is grilled today by the Iraq inquiry

As he began his evidence, he looked uncharacteristically nervous, with his hands shaking.

Daily Mail | Jan 29, 2010

By James Chapman

An unrepentant Tony Blair was heckled and jeered by families of Britain’s war dead last night as he declared he had ‘not a regret’ about invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein.

At the end of what had been billed as his ‘Judgment Day’, the former Prime Minister made it clear he would do the same again – and warned world leaders they may soon have to take similar decisions over Iran.

Despite the deaths of up to 700,000 Iraqis and 179 British troops, Mr Blair said he felt ‘responsibility but not a regret’ as he concluded his six hours of evidence to the Chilcot inquiry.

There was uproar and shouts of ‘liar’ and ‘ murderer’ as bereaved relatives in the public gallery of the QEII conference centre in Westminster realised they were not going to receive the apology for which they had waited all day.

There was no hint of remorse.


Public anger: Demonstrators protesting outside the inquiry building in central London today

Indeed, Mr Blair even suggested the world should be grateful to him.

Saddam had been a ‘monster’ and it had been right to remove him even to prevent the ‘possibility’ that he could acquire weapons of mass destruction.

He warned that Iran’s nuclear weapons programme now poses an even greater threat.

And, in an apparent rebuke to Gordon Brown and Barack Obama, suggested that if he was still in power he would be championing military action.

On a dramatic day of evidence, Mr Blair:

  • Revealed he decided soon after 9/11 to back the U.S. in whatever action it took;
  • Said a second UN resolution was politically desirable but not legally necessary;
  • Defended his claim that evidence for Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction was ‘beyond doubt’ and insisted he had believed it;
  • Admitted the infamous claim that Saddam’s WMD could be deployed within 45 minutes should have been corrected;
  • Revealed he rejected a last-minute offer of a ‘way out’ from the U.S., which said the UK did not need to send ground troops.
  • Mr Blair, in what is likely to be his last major appearance on the international stage, arrived by the back entrance to the centre, apparently to avoid a crowd of protesters outside.

As he began his evidence, he looked uncharacteristically nervous, with his hands shaking.

But he soon got into in his stride, joking about the recent TV interview with Fern Britton in which he suggested that if he had known Saddam had no WMD, he would simply have found a different argument for toppling him.

He denied this meant he had been committed to regime change at all costs, and tried to laugh off the comments, saying that ‘with all my experience’ of interviews, he still had ‘something to learn’.

Mr Blair went on to take a defiant stance on Iraq, which has come to define his premiership and left Britain deeply divided.

He insisted he acted because of Britain’s alliance with the U.S. and his firm belief that the world had to send a ‘strong message’ in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 2001.

He insisted there had been no ‘covert’ deals with the U.S., but admitted had promised President Bush that Britain would help topple Saddam nearly a year before the war began.

That remained his position-even though every senior Government legal adviser was advising him military action would be illegal.
He made an extraordinary attempt to shift his central argument that he acted because he believed Saddam had WMD.

Mr Blair said: ‘If there was any possibility that he could develop WMD, we should stop him. That was my view then and that’s my view now.’

One rare concession was that he should have published raw intelligence rather than the Government’s notorious dossier.

He also admitted he should have corrected the way the 45-minute claim was interpreted – it referred only to short-range battlefield weapons – but claimed it had not been of great significance at the time.

Mr Blair insisted: ‘This isn’t about a lie or a conspiracy or a deceit or a deception. It’s a decision.

‘And the decision I had to take was, given Saddam’s history, given his use of chemical weapons, given the over one million people whose deaths he had caused, given ten years of breaking UN resolutions, could we take the risk of this man reconstituting his weapons programmes or is that a risk that it would be irresponsible to take?

‘The decision I took – and frankly would take again – was if there was any possibility that he could develop weapons of mass destruction we should stop him.’

He suggested people should recognise that the war had made the world safer, arguing that if Saddam had not been removed Iraq would now be competing with Iran to develop nuclear weapons and support terrorists.

But his refusal to express any contrition left some relatives of soldiers in tears.

Full Story

Relentless record low temperatures claim more lives across Europe, freeze ATM machines in Moscow

A man observes the ice crust on the river Oder near Schwedt, eastern Germany

AFP | Jan 26, 2010

BUCHAREST — A deep freeze gripping Europe claimed more lives Tuesday as record low temperatures combined with snow and ice to disrupt travel, close schools and trigger emergency measures.

Ten people died of cold in Poland, a police spokeswoman said Tuesday, after 11 on Sunday, raising the death toll since November to 212 — mainly homeless men — while around 5,000 homes in the south were without electricity

In Romania, one of the worst-hit nations, 33 people have died in six days, with 11 fatalities in the last 24 hours, the ministry of health said.

With temperatures plunging as low as minus 32 Celsius (minus 27 Fahrenheit) in the centre, authorities triggered an emergency measure that allows them to cut gas supplies to companies in favour of households in case of shortage.

In neighbouring Bulgaria, many schools remained closed for a second day and nearly 20 towns registered record low temperatures for the day.

Rescue services continued to fight their way through snow-drifted roads to villages that have been cut off, but two highways east from the capital to the Black Sea coast were finally reopened.

In Russia, schools were closed in the Orel region south of Moscow, nearly 30,000 people were without power in mountainous Chechnya and the agency Ria Novosti said some 40 automatic money dispensers froze in Moscow.

The Regnum news agency reported 13 people had died of cold in part of the Volga region since January 1.

The director of Russia’s meteorological agency Gydromedtsentr was quoted by Ria Novosti news agency as saying temperatures this month had not risen above zero anywhere in the European part of Russia.

In Russia’s Far East, the thermometer plunged to minus 59 Celsius in parts of Siberia, and minus 45 in Irkutsk.

Authorities in the Czech Republic said at least six people had died of the cold over the weekend, and several accidents caused by snow disrupted traffic on two key highways.

A German homeless charity said the death toll there of 14 was the highest for more than a decade, and more snow and freezing wind is expected.

Forecasters said more transport problems were expected because of the cold, although Monday’s disruption at Frankfurt airport, Europe’s third biggest air hub, has eased.

The cold snap has not spared western Europe either. A thin coating of snow lay over Madrid and parts of central Spain, while much of the southeast was on alert for snow and strong winds.

The two yachts that are to battle for yachting’s prestigious America’s Cup remained stranded in port for a third day, scuppering training less than two weeks before the race.