Daily Archives: May 17, 2011

IMF chief hauled off to notorious Riker’s Island jail


Dominique Strauss-Kahn arrest: IMF head taken to Rikers Island jail. Photo: REUTERS

IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a man accustomed to luxury hotel suites and first-class plane travel, will make his home for now at New York City’s notorious Rikers Island jail.

Telegraph | May 16, 2011

Mr Strauss-Kahn will be transferred from a detention centre attached to the Manhattan Criminal Court to Rikers Island on Monday, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Correction said.

A judge earlier on Monday denied Strauss-Kahn bail on charges that he attempted to rape a hotel maid and set his next court date for Friday.

Defense lawyers said they were considering whether to appeal the bail ruling. Should the judge uphold his ruling, Mr Strauss-Kahn could be held at Rikers throughout any trial.

Mr Strauss-Kahn will probably be held in isolation with 24-hour watch, in large part for his own protection from inmates who might seek fame by attacking someone famous, according to people familiar with the jail operations who would not speak on the record.

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Dominique Strauss-Kahn: the IMF head in court alongside ‘Texas Fried Chicken’ drug dealer

A complex of 10 jails on a 415-acre (168-hectare) island near LaGuardia airport, Rikers is well-known to watchers of television and film crime dramas as the place where criminal suspects are sent pending trial or to serve short jail sentences. The island can be reached via bridge from the borough of Queens.

Dating to the 1930s, the Rikers complex holds about 11,000 inmates on any given day.

Both Rikers and the courthouse detention centre, best known as “The Tombs,” are harsh, loud and dangerous.

“It’s crowded and the food is terrible. And one of the dangerous things is famous people are preyed upon,” said Gerald Lefcourt, a well-known defence attorney, referring to both places.

“There are really heavy duty prison bars and gates that make a lot of clanging sounds every time they are open and closed,” Mr Lefcourt said.

New inmates undergo a thorough assessment of their history and criminal associations. Guards look for tattoos or other signs of gang affiliation. Jail officials then assign a score to determine the inmate’s security risk.

Low-risk inmates tend to be housed in crowded dormitories holding dozens of people.

Mr Strauss-Kahn will very likely be able to wear his own clothes, and bring books with him to jail and read the newspaper daily. Common rooms have television.

A typical meal will include meat and vegetables with plenty of starch on the side to help prisoners feel full.

So why is Rikers so hated? The size of the place, combined with the uncertain future that inmates face, contribute to their anxiety.

“Uncertainty breeds tension,” said one source familiar with jail operations.

‘He often brushes with harassment, but nobody talks about it’

Swedish Queen investigates family’s Nazi links


The Swedish TV4 documentary details how Queen Silvia’s late father Walter Sommerlath, seen here with the Queen around the time of her wedding, grew rich producing armaments in a factory stolen from the Jews. Daily Mail

AFP | May 16, 2011

STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s German-born Queen Silvia has begun an investigation into the nature of controversial ties between her father and the Nazi regime, the palace said Sunday.

“The queen, along with the Sommerlath family, has taken the initiative to gather the facts concerning the activities of Walter Sommerlath in Brazil and Germany between 1930 and 1940,” the royal court said in a statement.

“The inquiry has already lasted several months but it has not been established when the results will be made available,” said the palace, adding that it would likely be autumn.

Revelations and accusations regarding the past of Walter Sommerlath, who died in 1990, have regularly made the headlines in Sweden recent years.

The queen, 67, has said until now that, although her father was a member of the Nazi party, he was not politically active and was forced to comply as others were to save his career.

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Sunday’s announcement follows an investigation by the commercial TV station TV4 last year which said that he took over a German factory belonging to a Jew in 1939 as part of an “Aryanisation” programme.

Sommerlath left Germany for Brazil in 1919, aged 18, where he met and married the queen’s Brazilian mother Alice.

A member of the Nazi party from 1934, he worked for a local branch of a German steel company before returning to his home country in 1938 with his wife and two children.

In 1939 he began managing a factory employed in the war effort until its destruction five years later.

It was during their time in Germany that the couple had a further two children, including Silvia. The family returned to Brazil in 1947.

Silvia Sommerlath met the future king of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustaf, at the 1972 Munich Olympics where she was working as an interpreter.

When she married in 1976, Walter Sommerlath denied having been a member of the Nazi party but it was confirmed by press reports in 2002.

Swedish Queen Silvia: Papa wasn’t a Nazi


When Silvia married Gustaf in 1976, her German father lied and denied he had ever been a member of the Nazi party. Daily Mail

UPI | May 16, 2011

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, May 16 (UPI) — Sweden’s Queen Silvia says she will cooperate in an investigation to see if her father was involved with the Nazis some 70 years ago.

The Swedish news agency TT Monday reported on allegations the queen’s father, Walther Sommerlath, who died in 1990, joined the Nazi party in 1934.

Silvia said her father was never politically active and Sommerlath continued to deny the allegations until his death.

A documentary last year alleged Sommerlath took over a factory owned by a Jew in 1939. Sommerlath denied those allegations as well.

“The difficulty is that this happened over 70 years ago, there has been a World War in between and so much is incomplete,” royal spokesman royal Bertil Ternert said. “However the queen would still like to make an effort to produce as clear picture as is possible.”

. . .

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Vatican stops short of handing over paedophile priests


The Vatican promised that the church would cooperate the police in any official inquiries  Photo: AFP

Victims of paedophile priests have reacted with dismay after new guidelines from the Vatican insisted that bishops, rather than the police, should deal with child abuse cases in the first instance.

Telegraph | May 16, 2011

By Nick Pisa in Rome

A five-page document drawn up by Cardinal William Levada, the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, concluded that the responsibility for dealing with any child abuse cases found within the Church “belongs in the first place to bishops”. In the past, there have been repeated accusations of cover-ups by the church and bishops have been found to have shielded child abusers.

The Vatican claimed the document, which will be circulated to all clergy worldwide, was “an important new step” to cleanse the Church of its recurring child abuse scandals and promised that the church would cooperate the police in any official inquiries.

“This document is simply meaningless words – they have been forced to act but it is not enough,” said Marco Lodi Rizzini, a spokesman for an Italian victim of abuse by priests group. “The Vatican has said it will cooperate with the authorities before, but only because they have been forced to.”

Mr Rizzini pointed to a case that has just emerged in the northern Italian city of Genoa where a 50-year-old priest has been arrested by police investigating a drugs and sex ring. Although Church leaders immediately suspended Father Riccardo Seppia, there were claims that the Vatican had been warned of his behaviour in the past. Piercarlo Casassa, a retired priest, said:”I told the Church authorities about him in 1994 but I was ignored. I told them he was not the right person to have around youngsters but no one listened to me”.

Maeve Lewis, of the One in Four support group in Dublin, said she welcomed the new universal guidelines but that bishops have little expertise or experience in recognising child abuse. “We have had several cases in Ireland where the Church was slow to respond hiding behind the data protection act and it is just not acceptable that reporting an allegation is at the discretion of a bishop,” she said.

Saif Gaddafi: dictator’s son who mingled with British high society


Saif al-Islam Gaddafi asked the architect Lord Foster to oversee the development of the Green Mountain area in north-eastern Libya. Photograph: Chris Helgren/Reuters

Libyan leader’s second son, named as a war crimes suspect, built a network of powerful contacts in London.

Rothschild is said to have been invited to Saif’s 37th birthday party in Montenegro, and Saif has been to the Rothschild family villa in Corfu, once meeting Mandelson there while he was in government as business secretary.

guardian.co.uk | May 16, 2011

by Robert Booth

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, named as a war crimes suspect by the chief prosecutor at The Hague on Monday, was a magnetic presence for British politicians, bankers and business people who wanted to deal with oil-rich Libya but not with the international pariah his father had become.

He built powerful establishment links from university education and politics to high finance, architecture and publishing. The billionaire hedge fund investor Nat Rothschild, the Labour peer Lord Mandelson, and the architect Lord Foster were among his contacts, while Oxford University Press was going to publish his book, Manifesto, which called for civil society and participatory democracy in Libya. In it, Saif wrote: “I believe it is the duty of the people to rebel against tyranny.” OUP cancelled publication in February “because of recent events in Libya”.

To some who knew him in London he seemed more like an international playboy than the powerful son and likely heir to one of Africa’s longest-standing dictatorships. Two years ago he moved into a £10m house complete with a suede-lined indoor cinema not far from an area of north London known as Billionaire’s Row.

He would dine at China Tang, Sir David Tang’s restaurant at the Dorchester hotel, and mix in a jet-set world of dinner at the Cipriani and drinks at Annabel’s, according to Luca del Bono, an Anglo-Italian businessman who had dealings with Saif on plans, which never bore fruit, to take Italian fashion brands to Libya.

“He used to be quite social in London,” Del Bono said. “If you went to the clubs he would be there. Last time I saw him he said he had just been to Downing Street. He was obviously connected.”

The London School of Economics accepted a £1.5m donation from the Gaddafi international charity and development foundation chaired by Saif, of which the LSE said it had received £300,000.

The LSE, where Saif studied for a PhD gained in 2008 from the university’s centre for the study of global governance, also agreed a £2.2m contract with the regime to train Libyan civil servants and professionals, of which £1.5m has been received. Lord Woolf, the former lord chief justice, is now investigating the deals, as well as the award from Gaddafi’s charity of £22,857 to cover costs for academic speakers to travel to Libya. Prof David Held, an academic adviser to Saif at the LSE, was invited to join the board of the foundation but he later stepped down over concerns about a potential conflict of interest.

Anthony Giddens, a Labour peer and former director of the LSE, twice met Muammar Gaddafi on trips in 2006 and 2007 organised by Monitor Group, a US lobbying firm.

“The political class in this country have courted him,” said Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski, chairman of the parliamentary all-party group on Libya. “Lord Mandelson and others have seen him as the main interlocutor with the Libyan regime. Saif has branded himself as the caring face of the Libyan regime and they have added to that branding.

“That was inaccurate and, as events have shown, the man was as gung ho as his father when it comes to suppressing the Libyan people. A lot of people who have supported him and interacted with him will have to explain themselves.”

Rothschild is said to have been invited to Saif’s 37th birthday party in Montenegro, and Saif has been to the Rothschild family villa in Corfu, once meeting Mandelson there while he was in government as business secretary.

“He has a close relationship with Nat Rothschild,” said a Libyan source in London familiar with Saif, who asked not to be named. “I know about a dinner in early 2010 that was organised in New York in Saif’s honour where Rothschild was one of the principal organisers.

“There must have been a dozen to 20 mainly American-Jewish business families. Saif spent the evening talking about what his father will and won’t allow in Libya, the business opportunities in Libya and how they wanted to encourage influential business people to be involved.”

A spokesman for Rothschild said there was no business relationship between the two men and said they knew each other socially.

The Libyan source said that one reason why Saif had so carefully cultivated his contacts in the UK was because he had persuaded his father to adopt a strategy for Libya that involved manufacturing the impression of a difference of opinion between them. Saif would be seen by the outside world as a reformer and his father could be seen to be taking a ceremonial role. “The truth is they were never intending to develop the country,” the source said. “They were only interested in maintaining power, and the plan was to keep people poor.”

Saif commissioned Foster to oversee the development of the Green Mountain area of Libya, in the north-east of the country. He also invited Robert Adam, one of Prince Charles’s favourite architects, to attend the launch in 2007.

“This was supposed to be their entry into Mediterranean tourism, and they were buying global PR,” Adam said. “They laid on a dinner, a tented hotel, flights in private jets, the works. I was paid for by the Libyan state. I knew this wasn’t the nicest government but I didn’t do any work for them. I turned up and looked at it rather cynically.”

Foster spoke alongside Gaddafi and talked about the area’s enormous promise. “This is one of the most beautiful and little-known landscapes on earth,” he said. “We’ve been given a unique challenge: to establish a sustainable blueprint for future development which will be sensitive to the history of the Green Mountain and to its conservation.”

Saif said: “We share a determination to build for our children a future full of opportunity and fulfilment and a dedication to the protection of their heritage.”

Foster was also asked to draw up a masterplan for part of Tripoli. A spokeswoman for Lord Foster said “We are not going to comment.”

Saif also hired British PR advisers. The firm Brown Lloyd James was retained to handle the management of Saif’s reputation.

Peter Brown, one of the company’s founding partners, is a friend of Mandelson. He was unavailable for comment.

“BLJ New York did provide some PR services to Libya but have not done so since 2009,” said Oliver Lloyd, executive vice-president of BLJ in London. “The UK office has never had a contract with the Libyans or received any payments from the Libyan government or either Muammar or Saif Gaddafi.”

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Bill Gates to health leaders: Get vaccination rates up

Vaccination rate goal is 90 percent in all countries, Gates will tell World Health Assembly

msnbc.msn.com | May 16, 2011

By JASON STRAZIUSO

NAIROBI, Kenya — Bill Gates will have the attention of most of the world’s health ministers on Tuesday, when he plans to share one main message: Get your vaccination rates up.

Gates is pushing to get countries to increase vaccination rates as an easy, low-cost way to protect their populations. He is scheduled to give the keynote address at the World Health Assembly in Geneva.

The health community wants to see the vaccination rate in every country rise to at least 90 percent, up from about 80 percent currently. A second part of that goal would have no one area in any country be below 80 percent. Gates said the goal will be difficult to meet, though new and cheaper vaccines will help countries improve their rates.

“Every percentage point you increase from where we are now to that goal you’re talking about hundreds of children who don’t die and thousands of children who don’t get sick in a way that prevents their brain from developing fully,” he said.

During Tuesday’s speech, Gates will highlight strong results from a new meningitis vaccine in the West African nation of Burkina Faso, where last year there were 66 cases in the first four months. This year the country has seen only one case. A “meningitis belt” runs through Burkina Faso, Chad, Nigeria and Niger. But the new vaccine, which is being given to infants and adults, has shown strong results so far.

“It’s a success story,” Gates said. “For people who live in the meningitis belt the kind of fear and seeing the kids who are made deaf because of it they see it as a huge breakthrough. People immediately come and get this vaccine because they have such a fear of the disease.”

Gates will also concentrate on polio, which he says could be eradicated in the next two to four years. Only four countries in the world remain polio-endemic, according to the World Health Organization, down from more than 125 in 1988. The four are Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Nigeria, where polio cases dropped 95 percent last year.

“The long fight against polio proves just how powerful vaccine technology can be, but it also demonstrates that technology is only as effective as the leaders delivering it,” Gates will say in his speech, according to prepared remarks.

“Now we’re 99 percent of the way there, because of two things: A $0.13 vaccine so easy to administer that even I have done it many times, and the biggest, farthest-reaching delivery effort global health has ever seen.”

Kenya has seen its vaccination coverage rate rise in recent decades from 46 percent to 78 percent, said Dr. Shahnaz Sharif, Kenya’s director of public health and sanitation. He said Kenya’s president has set the same goal that Gates hopes to see when it comes to vaccination coverage. But he also says it will be difficult.

“We’ve been told to get to around 95 percent,” Sharif said. “You can easily get from 40 percent to 80 percent. That’s easy. But to get from 80 to 95 percent is the most difficult part.”

Most of Gates’ vaccine work is aimed at underdeveloped countries, but measles can strike anywhere that the vaccination rates aren’t high enough, as recent outbreaks in the U.S. and Europe have shown. People in richer countries, Gates said, are faced with rumors about vaccines’ safety, despite the fact they have been tested and are safe.

“Fortunately outbreaks in rich countries aren’t large, only in the hundreds, but still that’s tragic because it comes from misinformation, where people are scared about vaccines with things like the claim that there was some autism effect even though that’s been completely discredited,” Gates said.

South-eastern Australia wakes to a deep freeze

SMH | May 16, 2011

by Steve Jacobs

The temperatures of Sydney’s western suburbs fell below freezing today as the run of extremely cold mornings continued across much of south-eastern Australia.

The past two mornings in Sydney (measured at Observatory Hill) have fallen to just 7 degrees, the coldest conditions since last winter, Alex Zadnik, meteorology team leader at weatherzone.com.au said.

The average minimum temperature so far this month in Sydney is running at 10.5 degrees, 1 degree below the May average

Campbelltown in the south-west has just experienced six consecutive mornings below 5 degrees, while Richmond in the west slipped below zero this morning for the first time this year.

Also, the coldest part of the morning is often just after sunrise, as outgoing heat from the ground is still exceeding incoming energy from the sun at this time.

Therefore those out on early morning runs and rides will often notice a real chill just as the sun climbs over the horizon. As the sun moves higher in the sky during the morning, the energy balance tips back in our favour.

The reason for the cold spell was a slow-moving high pressure system maintaining clear skies and light winds, Mr Zadnik said.

The tail end of a front passed through Bass Strait overnight, which produced an increase in wind and cloud across Tasmania and southern Victoria, saving these areas from widespread frost, he said.

It was a different story, though, across South Australia, NSW, Queensland and the ACT.

Canberra dropped below -6 degrees for the second morning in a row, falling to -6.5 at 5am. There have now been 10 sub-zero mornings this month, which is two more than average.

The NSW tablelands also felt the chill this morning. Goulburn airport hit -8 for the second time in a week, while Orange and Mudgee both slipped to about -6. For Mudgee, this was the coldest May morning in 14 years of records and 10 below average.

Frost was also experienced in South Australia, with Renmark and Loxton both dipping below zero.

Stanthorpe in Queensland fell to -2, while Rutherglen in north-east Victoria also hit -2.

Frosty conditions are again likely over the next two mornings, before a gradual warming trend late in the week, Mr Zadnik said.

Darwin returning to normal after early-season chill

Darwin residents will be peeling off the layers now that they’ve shaken off early-season record cold, Brett Dutschke, senior meteorologist at weatherzone.com.au said.

Temperatures are gradually returning to normal, rising a little each day after the coldest two consecutive mornings on record this early in the year.

It cooled to 16 degrees on Saturday morning, just a day after cooling to 15.6 degrees.

Friday and Saturday morning’s chill required the most shirts and jackets since last July with the temperature dipping more than 6 degrees below the May average.

Since then each morning has been a little warmer than the previous. Early today it was nearly back to normal with a low of 20.6 degrees.

The next few mornings should be warmer again, getting close to the May average of 22 degrees. Days will go the same way, warming a little, just like in the last few days as some warmth and moisture return to the atmosphere.

This time of the year is a cooling time as the sun moves further away and lowers in the sky, but the most recent cooling was very abrupt.

A series of fronts passed through south-eastern Australia in the past week, strong enough to send pulses of colder, drier air to the northern tropics, something that normally occurs in late May or June.