Sep 18

English jury returns mix of verdicts in policeman’s serial rape trial

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A jury in Newcastle Crown Court, northeast England has cleared a police officer of some charges in a trial over serial rapes and related offences, and convicted him of others. Northumbria Police’s Police Constable Stephen Mitchell faced five counts of rape, six of indecent assault and 15 of misconduct in public office. He is guilty of two rapes, three indecent assaults and six counts of misconduct, with most of the sex charge convictions coming yesterday.

In all the case involved 16 women aged from 17 to 48, all of whom were arrested on drugs charges or shoplifting thefts between 1999 and 2006; the prosecution said Mitchell picked his victims based on vulnerability. The prosecution claimed Mitchell used blackmail to demand sex in exchange for favours; Mitchell described a conspiracy to frame him involving “…a very small-knit community in Newcastle city centre’s criminal fraternity.” Mitchell’s defence dismissed the claims as driven by one woman motivated by “self-preservation;” he refused to explain this further in open court.

It was alleged he told one woman who wanted a female officer present when searched said “I am the law. I can do anything. I don’t need a woman here,” and later attacked her in his patrol car. The woman had been arrested for possession of drugs and was 37.

He threw me over the settee, I couldn’t move with the handcuffs on, I was petrified. He said this is what you’ve wanted for a long time and he raped me.

“Each [victim] was vulnerable, whether because of drug abuse, health problems, domestic circumstances or a combination of these factors. The defendant took advantage of their vulnerabilities, usually providing or offering favours, but then requesting, or in some cases requiring by force, sexual favours in return,” was how prosecutor Paul Sloan QC explained the circumstances early in the trial.

Testimony in October included that of one lesbian, now 32, who in June 1999 was interviewed by the officer in Newcastle’s Pilgrim Street police station, and claimed he groped her and “that was the beginning of hell for me”. She told the court from behind a screen how he undid his trousers, saying that in arranging for her to be bailed he had helped her and he expected this reciprocated. “I was gay and had never had sex with a male,” but she claimed she was grabbed by the hair and forced, with a warning her girlfriend would be contacted if she made allegations. She had been arrested for cheque fraud.

She said the next month she was arrested again and he made a similar demand. Her testimony stated that he blackmailed her for four years, receiving regular sex after driving her into the country, culminating in a 2003 handcuffed rape at her home. She told the court he gave her drug money, as well as a lighter and foil to take heroin, after discovering she was in rehab. She says she pretended to take the drug but disposed of it, leaving rehab and beginning to study in 2002 in the belief the man had been evaded.

However, “[my] world just crumbled before me” when he arrived at her door and stole her spare keys, she said. She claimed he regularly visited her Sunderland house when she was away and once left a knife embedded in her pillow. She testified her fear made her sleep beneath her bed. Her testimony stated the policeman used what he said was video evidence of her committing fraud at a Post Office and in 2003 said he was going to hand the tape over.

She said when he arrived “[h]e was furious, he said I had disrespected him by not being in touch. I was trying to calm him down but he handcuffed me and said he was arresting me for fraud at the post office. He threw me over the settee, I couldn’t move with the handcuffs on, I was petrified. He said this is what you’ve wanted for a long time and he raped me.” She moved to Durham shortly after.

Detective Constable Cath Easton of Northumbria Police’s Professional Standards Unit said she visited one woman in June last year during the investigation. Although stating she had no problems with police treatment, Easton testified the woman called the following day. “She was crying, she was hysterical,” Easton told the court.

these people will grab any opportunity they can. They are lying

“It took her a while to get her words out, but she was saying ‘how do I know I can trust you? How do I know he has not sent you to test us?’ She was frightened and she told us she was frightened. She was in a real state… She was absolutely terrified that he knew I had contacted her.”

The alleged victim was assured the investigation was genuine and later called again, claiming Mitchell forced her to perform a sex act following the former heroin addict’s arrest six years previously. Another woman told the court Mitchell raped her whilst in uniform in the woman’s flat, hands cuffed behind her, and blackmailed her for years demanding sexual favours.

One woman, 25 at the time, said while in Newcastle’s Pilgrim Street police station following her arrest for a minor offence she was grabbed and kissed by the policeman. “He put his hands on my shoulders and kissed me, it was a passionate kiss. The door was open and I was shocked, anyone could have walked past or seen him or anything.” She told the court this occurred in the fingerprint room.

“After I was photographed he told me he was finishing his shift, which I took to be a hint,” the witness, another former heroin addict who said she was drunk at the time, continued. “Then when I came out of the station PC Mitchell pulled up in a car and offered to take me home, it seemed the safest way of getting home was with a police officer.” She had no complaint about him during the journey but said she resisted another kiss upon arrival at her house.

The woman, who says she has not used drugs for nine years, stated that he arrived at her house the following day and gave her a second lift. “He said he had a wife and kids but that he would like to see me again. Obviously it was never going to happen but he was saying he wanted some kind of relationship where he was seeing me on a regular basis, I would imagine for sex or something like that. He said we would have to be discreet because he had a wife but I was not interested and eventually he accepted my ‘no’.”

What it means is: ‘Resign and this will go away’.

She said he gave her money, suggested they get a private room and was “very persuasive”. Her mother also gave evidence to say Mitchell had called her to discuss the daughter’s drug-addict boyfriend. “You want to stop her going with him, he’s trouble, he’s a bad lad,” she claimed Mitchell said, adding her daughter told her the officer “was pestering her, she said he wanted to take her out.” The boyfriend also gave evidence, saying he had known the officer during former heroin addiction and giving a description of him.

One young mother met Mitchell when released from prison in 2001 after a theft sentence. Days later, he had given her heroin and felt she “owed him” according to testimony, receiving sex in return. She failed to attend Gateshead Magistrates’ Court in December the following year and he arrested her, she told the court. She wept, claiming he raped her in his vehicle. “I could not get out of the car, the doors were locked,” she told the trial.

“He said he wanted to have sex and that it would be the last time. I was shouting for him to let me out of the car, just screaming and shouting at him to let me go. He said if I told anybody, nobody would believe me because I was just a dirty junkie and I would never get my children back,” she said, describing him telling her he would plant drugs at her home and prevent access to her children if she made claims against him.

In November a woman in her fifties, who has four children and was 48 during her alleged attack, testified Mitchell raped her in a room used for reading reports at Pilgrim Street following her July 2006 theft arrest. “No one’s going to believe a thief,” he is claimed to have told her. “I said if you just let me go I’m not going to say anything; I’m not going to tell anyone. No one will ever know this has happened. I just wanted to be away.” She says she explained she was ill and taking cancer medication although “he did not seem bothered.”

Outside the police station following the alleged attack, “…there was two young lasses coming along. I will always remember one had a red Berghaus coat on. They seemed to know PC Mitchell and he did not seem to know whether to stay with me or talk to them and I just walked straight across the road. I was in total shock. I got on the bus home and I was trying to keep from crying and I had a pain in my throat.”

She said her life had been severely affected; “I was always thinking about it and crying for no reason. I just used to burst into tears for no reason and I’m not a crying person. I’m normally bubbly and happy and I really just let myself go. I never ever went with my partner again and from that day to this I have never slept with another man.” She triggered the probe that resulted in Mitchell’s prosecution by reporting him when, she says, he began arriving at her house.

She told Sloan she had not immediately contacted police because “I thought no-one would believe me. I was a shoplifter and he was a police officer. I still would never have been here to this day if he had not kept coming back to the house. If he had not done that it would have been a secret till the day I died.”

Mitchell, who has been a policeman since leaving the military in 1991, stated in the dock this month that the women had discussed their “host of rumours” amongst themselves and they were similar for this reason. “I think it has been demonstrated that people have been talking about this on a number of occasions… I know these people are not always truthful.” “But you are?” responded prosecution QC Paul Sloan. “Yes, these people will grab any opportunity they can,” according to the officer. “They are lying,” he later added.

He said if I told anybody, nobody would believe me because I was just a dirty junkie and I would never get my children back

In an attempt to disprove this defence the prosecution produced a sex tape in which Mitchell uses similar phrases to his partner as the women alleged he had said to them. “So it just so happens the words used are exactly the words you used in the video?” Sloan inquired. PC Mitchell desribed this as coincidence and rejected claims he had used such words to any of the women. He also said supplying heroin to one addict was far too risky for him; “I know police monitor drug dealers’ homes and it would be a massive risk to take my vehicle to the address of a drug dealer. I don’t want people to be on drugs. If I could help them I would.”

Mitchell, 42, divorced in 2005, admitted meeting a woman he had met on duty for sex in 2006, having admitted the same at an internal misconduct hearing in September 2007. He told the court that if interviewing woman it was in his interests as an officer to be friendly, but insisted this was all.

Defended by Toby Hedworth QC, Mitchell said his father’s murder meant he could not possibly have committed one rape in Burdon, near Sunderland, on August 31, 2001 as he had returned to his original home city of Glasgow following his father’s murder. He was accused of raping the woman in a parked car in a field.

“Have you ever been with her in the fields in the Burdon area of Sunderland?” asked Hedworth. “No, I haven’t. My dad was attacked on July 30, 2001 by somebody and subsequently died on August 10, 2001.” Hedworth: “Had your father in fact been murdered?” Mitchell: “Yes. And from the 9th to the 16th of August I was in Glasgow,” he explained. Hedworth took him through denials of every charge, which he said there was “no truth whatsoever” in.

The defence also produced a recording secretly recorded by Mitchell with Detective Chief Inspector Chris Sharman, who headed the rape investigation. Hedworth told the court Mitchell is warned on the tape, made in March, that if he is charged he would “probably be front page of the national newspapers and they are horrible” but the team would “stop digging” if he stepped down.

Hedworth likened the offer to a Monopoly “get out of jail free card” and claimed despite a warning his client was “running the risk of going to jail and going on the sex offender register”, Mitchell chose to fight the allegations – a fact which demonstrated innocence. “What it means is: ‘Resign and this will go away’.” The prosecution denied Northumbria Police were seeking to offer their colleague an alternative to investigation, stating the allegation – made during Hedworth’s closing speech – was untrue and the recording did not indicate an offer to drop the probe.

The jury began deliberations on Wednesday. After three days, on Friday they cleared Mitchell of three rapes, two indecent assaults and two counts of misconduct in a public office. Following this, trial judge Mr Justice Wilkie said he would accept majority verdicts on the remaining charges, instead of unanimous verdicts. The jury departed for the weekend, returning on Tuesday to convict him of six misconduct charges and clear him of the same number; another indecent assault charge also produced an acquital.

Yesterday, the verdicts were delivered on the remaining charges. The remaining seven misconduct charges were acquitals, as did the other indecent assaults. Two charges of rape and three of indecent assault produced guilty verdicts.

At least one of the misconduct charges he was convicted of was unrelated to indecent assault or rape; it concerned a drug-addicted woman caught with non-prescriped diazepam (valium) when her friend was arrested for shoplifting in 2003. Her testimony was that he stroked her leg and tried to kiss her in Pilgrim Street, returned the drugs upon her release, obtained her number and met her several times to give her drugs. She says although he asked to go at night to a hotel she refused, and ultimately she began ignoring his calls while he ceased supplying drugs.

Posted in Uncategorized
Sep 18

Australian company to make solar power with space technology

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Solar Systems Pty Ltd, Hawthorn, Victoria, have announced an agreement with Boeing Australia Ltd for supply of Spectrolab solar cells. The agreement will result in the supply of 500,000 cells, capable of generating 11MW of electricity.

Spectrolab produces multi-junction solar cells, originally designed for powering satellites. The solar cells are three times more efficient than the cells used in typical domestic solar panels, and are capable of converting light energy to electrical energy with up to 34% efficiency according to NREL’s National Centre for Photovoltaics. Solar Systems utilise Spectrolab’s multi-junction solar cells to increase the output of their dish systems.

Solar Systems have already trialed the cells in one of their CS500 concentrating solar dishes installed at a solar power station in Hermannsburg, Central Australia, established to reduce the consumption of diesel in the remote community. Simply replacing the existing cells with the Spectrolab multi-junction solar cells increased output from 24kW to 34kW.

Solar Systems is planning to use the technology in a solar power station it will build in northern Victoria, with a capacity of 154MW.

Posted in Uncategorized
Sep 07

Cleveland, Ohio clinic performs US’s first face transplant

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A team of eight transplant surgeons in Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, USA, led by reconstructive surgeon Dr. Maria Siemionow, age 58, have successfully performed the first almost total face transplant in the US, and the fourth globally, on a woman so horribly disfigured due to trauma, that cost her an eye. Two weeks ago Dr. Siemionow, in a 23-hour marathon surgery, replaced 80 percent of her face, by transplanting or grafting bone, nerve, blood vessels, muscles and skin harvested from a female donor’s cadaver.

The Clinic surgeons, in Wednesday’s news conference, described the details of the transplant but upon request, the team did not publish her name, age and cause of injury nor the donor’s identity. The patient’s family desired the reason for her transplant to remain confidential. The Los Angeles Times reported that the patient “had no upper jaw, nose, cheeks or lower eyelids and was unable to eat, talk, smile, smell or breathe on her own.” The clinic’s dermatology and plastic surgery chair, Francis Papay, described the nine hours phase of the procedure: “We transferred the skin, all the facial muscles in the upper face and mid-face, the upper lip, all of the nose, most of the sinuses around the nose, the upper jaw including the teeth, the facial nerve.” Thereafter, another team spent three hours sewing the woman’s blood vessels to that of the donor’s face to restore blood circulation, making the graft a success.

The New York Times reported that “three partial face transplants have been performed since 2005, two in France and one in China, all using facial tissue from a dead donor with permission from their families.” “Only the forehead, upper eyelids, lower lip, lower teeth and jaw are hers, the rest of her face comes from a cadaver; she could not eat on her own or breathe without a hole in her windpipe. About 77 square inches of tissue were transplanted from the donor,” it further described the details of the medical marvel. The patient, however, must take lifetime immunosuppressive drugs, also called antirejection drugs, which do not guarantee success. The transplant team said that in case of failure, it would replace the part with a skin graft taken from her own body.

Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital surgeon praised the recent medical development. “There are patients who can benefit tremendously from this. It’s great that it happened,” he said.

Leading bioethicist Arthur Caplan of the University of Pennsylvania withheld judgment on the Cleveland transplant amid grave concerns on the post-operation results. “The biggest ethical problem is dealing with failure — if your face rejects. It would be a living hell. If your face is falling off and you can’t eat and you can’t breathe and you’re suffering in a terrible manner that can’t be reversed, you need to put on the table assistance in dying. There are patients who can benefit tremendously from this. It’s great that it happened,” he said.

Dr Alex Clarke, of the Royal Free Hospital had praised the Clinic for its contribution to medicine. “It is a real step forward for people who have severe disfigurement and this operation has been done by a team who have really prepared and worked towards this for a number of years. These transplants have proven that the technical difficulties can be overcome and psychologically the patients are doing well. They have all have reacted positively and have begun to do things they were not able to before. All the things people thought were barriers to this kind of operations have been overcome,” she said.

The first partial face transplant surgery on a living human was performed on Isabelle Dinoire on November 27 2005, when she was 38, by Professor Bernard Devauchelle, assisted by Professor Jean-Michel Dubernard in Amiens, France. Her Labrador dog mauled her in May 2005. A triangle of face tissue including the nose and mouth was taken from a brain-dead female donor and grafted onto the patient. Scientists elsewhere have performed scalp and ear transplants. However, the claim is the first for a mouth and nose transplant. Experts say the mouth and nose are the most difficult parts of the face to transplant.

In 2004, the same Cleveland Clinic, became the first institution to approve this surgery and test it on cadavers. In October 2006, surgeon Peter Butler at London‘s Royal Free Hospital in the UK was given permission by the NHS ethics board to carry out a full face transplant. His team will select four adult patients (children cannot be selected due to concerns over consent), with operations being carried out at six month intervals. In March 2008, the treatment of 30-year-old neurofibromatosis victim Pascal Coler of France ended after having received what his doctors call the worlds first successful full face transplant.

Ethical concerns, psychological impact, problems relating to immunosuppression and consequences of technical failure have prevented teams from performing face transplant operations in the past, even though it has been technically possible to carry out such procedures for years.

Mr Iain Hutchison, of Barts and the London Hospital, warned of several problems with face transplants, such as blood vessels in the donated tissue clotting and immunosuppressants failing or increasing the patient’s risk of cancer. He also pointed out ethical issues with the fact that the procedure requires a “beating heart donor”. The transplant is carried out while the donor is brain dead, but still alive by use of a ventilator.

According to Stephen Wigmore, chair of British Transplantation Society’s ethics committee, it is unknown to what extent facial expressions will function in the long term. He said that it is not certain whether a patient could be left worse off in the case of a face transplant failing.

Mr Michael Earley, a member of the Royal College of Surgeon‘s facial transplantation working party, commented that if successful, the transplant would be “a major breakthrough in facial reconstruction” and “a major step forward for the facially disfigured.”

In Wednesday’s conference, Siemionow said “we know that there are so many patients there in their homes where they are hiding from society because they are afraid to walk to the grocery stores, they are afraid to go the the street.” “Our patient was called names and was humiliated. We very much hope that for this very special group of patients there is a hope that someday they will be able to go comfortably from their houses and enjoy the things we take for granted,” she added.

In response to the medical breakthrough, a British medical group led by Royal Free Hospital’s lead surgeon Dr Peter Butler, said they will finish the world’s first full face transplant within a year. “We hope to make an announcement about a full-face operation in the next 12 months. This latest operation shows how facial transplantation can help a particular group of the most severely facially injured people. These are people who would otherwise live a terrible twilight life, shut away from public gaze,” he said.

Posted in Uncategorized
Sep 07

Iraqi activist forced to change t-shirt with Arabic peace slogan

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi peace activist who lives in the United States, was forced to change his T-Shirt, which bore an Arabic slogan, because it was found “offensive”.

The incident took place in JFK airport in New York. The activist Jarrar reported in his blog RaedInTheMiddle that he had checked-in his bags and was issued a boarding pass. After waiting near the gate to board his jetBlue airlines flight, and after having to gone through a secondary search, two officials approached him.

“People are feeling offended because of your t-shirt,” Raed reported that one of the men said to him. The writings on the T-Shirt said in both Arabic and English: “We will not be silent”.

Raed asked why this has offended anyone, and insisted his right to freedom of expression was violated.

According to Jarrar, one of the inspectors said, “You can’t wear a T-shirt with Arabic script and come to an airport. It is like wearing a t-shirt that reads ‘I am a robber’ and going to a bank”. The airport official, unable to read Arabic, was unyielding to protests by Jarrar that the English language version of the Arabic was accurate, and suggested he wear the shirt inside out.

“Many people called and complained about your t-shirt. Jetblue customers were calling before you reached the checkpoint, and customers called when you were waiting here in the boarding area”, Jarrar was told after he complained.

One employee from JetBlue offered to buy Jarrar a T-shirt to replace the one he was wearing, since the activist had none other after his bags were checked. Refusing at first, he agreed to wear one with “New York” written on it.

The officer on the scene commented that it need not have gone from one extreme to the other: wearing a T-Shirt with an Arabic peace slogan on it, to wearing one with ‘New York’. There is no reason to hate New York if you are an Arab speaking peace activist, according to Jarrar.

“I feel very sad that my personal freedom was taken away like this. I grew up under authoritarian governments in the Middle East, and one of the reasons I chose to move to the U.S. was that I don’t want an officer to make me change my t-shirt. I will pursue this incident today through a constitutional rights organization, and I am sure we will meet soon,” Raed said.

He was issued another boarding pass, with a different seat at the back of the plane.

JetBlue said it was investigating the incident but a spokeswoman said: “We’re not clear exactly what happened.” The spokeswoman also said the airline does not forbid Arabic T-shirts, but that it does take into account the concerns of its passengers.

The American-Arab Anti-discrimination Committee said the US Transportation Department and the Transportation Security Administration were also investigating the incident after the committee lodged complaints on behalf of Jarrar.

“We Will Not Be Silent” is a slogan adopted by opponents of the war in Iraq and other conflicts in the Middle East.

It is said to derive from the White Rose dissident group which opposed Nazi rule in Germany.

Posted in Uncategorized
Sep 05

2012 Report on Gender Equality and Development credits Icelandic parental policy with ‘hopeful’ changes

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tuesday, World Bank released the 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development. In discussing Iceland, it suggests mandatory paid parental leave for mother and father have played an important role in changing norms in the country. Parents have a government mandated nine months leave, three for the mother, three for the father and three to to distribute between the two. Leave is paid at 80% of their wages. The report describes the changes in gender relations in Iceland as “promising” in terms of impact at work and at home.

Iceland’s boys and girls mean scores for the Programme for International Student Assessment mathematics test were nearly identical with boys just edging out girls with both scores around 510. Girls outperformed boys on the literacy test with a mean score of approximately 525 to 480. Iceland’s girls mathematics performance was similar to that of girls from Estonia, Germany and Belgium. Their performance on literacy was similar to Sweden, Poland, Switzerland, Estonia and Belgium.File:MargretSverrisdottir.jpg

Mortality rates in Iceland for 1,000 people aged 15–60 sits at 56, significantly better than the United States at 107, China at 113, India at 213, Iraq at 285, Afghanistan at 479, Malawi at 481 and Zimbabwe at 772. One of the reasons the report cites for Iceland’s relatively low mortality rate is it not located in a conflict country or in an HIV/AIDS affected country.

Iceland was one of 23 countries that currently have over 30% of its Parliamentarians who are female. Other countries with over 30% representation include Rwanda, Argentina, Cuba, Finland, the Netherlands, and Sweden. In the mid-1990s, there were only 5 countries. The report cites the 1983 creation of the Women’s Alliance, an all women’s political party, as bringing additional attention to women’s issues and deliberately attempting to increase the representation of women in Icelandic politics.

Despite some of the good news highlighted in the report about Icelandic women, there exists a systematic gender difference in earning potential. Icelandic women in both the private and public sector earn approximately 22% less than their male counterparts. Icelandic men have slightly more access to the Internet than Icelandic women by about 2%. Despite this slight disadvantage for Icelandic women, it is much better than some countries where the percentage differences are much greater. These countries include Austria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Azerbaijan, Serbia, Turkey, and Macedonia.

Posted in Uncategorized
Aug 25

News briefs:January 04, 2008

Contents

  • 1 Wikinews News Brief January 04, 2008 23:35 UTC
    • 1.1 Introduction
    • 1.2 Israeli troops kill 9 in Gaza
    • 1.3 Georgian President faces election challenge
    • 1.4 US unemployment hits two-year high
    • 1.5 Israel plans crackdown on West Bank settlement outposts
    • 1.6 Transaven Airlines plane carrying 14 people crashes off Venezuelan coast
    • 1.7 Sportswriter Milt Dunnell dies at 102
    • 1.8 2007 was particularly good year for aviation safety
    • 1.9 U.S. Senator Dodd bows out of presidential race
    • 1.10 Intel ends partnership with One Laptop Per Child program
    • 1.11 British Investigators arrive in Pakistan to join Bhutto investigation
    • 1.12 Disgorge bassist Ben Marlin dies from cancer
    • 1.13 Egypt lets 2000 pilgrims through Rafah
    • 1.14 Launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis once again delayed
    • 1.15 Study suggests hospitals are not the best place for cardiac arrest treatment
    • 1.16 US dollar no longer accepted at Taj Mahal and other Indian historical sites
    • 1.17 Footer

[edit]

Posted in Uncategorized
Aug 24

England: Multi-storey carpark in Liverpool gutted by fire, 1,300 vehicles destroyed

Thursday, January 4, 2018

A fire on Sunday night in the seven-storey carpark for the Echo Arena in Liverpool, England destroyed almost all the vehicles parked inside and led to cancellation of the final evening of the Liverpool International Horse Show and evacuation of nearby blocks of flats. The blaze reportedly started with a parked Range Rover Discovery.

Investigators with the fire brigade stated that they believe the fire began with an accidental engine fire in the Range Rover at about 4.30 pm. The first call was made at 4.42 and firefighters arrived eight minutes after that. Ultimately twelve engines and 85 firefighters were involved in combatting the blaze. Aerial appliances were used and also three high-volume pumps. Fed by the fuel in vehicles parked inside, the temperature of the fire in the carpark is believed to have reached as high as 1,000°C. It was too hot to be extinguished with water from hydrants, so a high-volume pump was used to draw water from the River Mersey, and two more were brought from other fire brigades in the region.

The carpark has seven storeys and a capacity of 1,600 vehicles, and approximately 1,300 were parked in it when the fire broke out. According to Dan Stephens, chief fire officer for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, almost all of them were destroyed, with the exception of a few parked on the top level and at corners. “With these very high temperatures, you were never going to put the fire out without the whole building taking hold. The speed at which the fire spreads means you simply aren’t going to put it out,” said Stephens.

The carpark itself was severely damaged; according to Joe Anderson, the mayor of Liverpool. It is not in danger of collapsing but will have to be demolished, which will be difficult with the many burned-out cars still inside it, Anderson told the BBC.

According to Stephens, there were no serious injuries: one woman injured her hand, and two people were treated for smoke inhalation. A spokesman for the Echo Arena also stated that all animals were safe. All horses were successfully evacuated from the carpark and then removed from the stables after smoke spread to them. Six dogs were also rescued unharmed, two on a lower level in the early stages of the fire and four that had been left in a car on the top level, freed by firefighters on Monday after the fire was put out.

The final evening of the four-day Liverpool International Horse Show had been scheduled to begin at 7.30, and had to be cancelled. Many attendees were stranded in the city on New Year’s Eve night. Merseyside police directed people to the Pullman Hotel, where Red Cross assistance was available, and the Liverpool City Council set up an assistance centre at the Lifestyles Gym. A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers has said that insurance companies will “move very quickly” to reimburse owners whose vehicles were destroyed.

Nearby blocks of flats were evacuated because of the smoke. Eyewitnesses reported hearing what they at first thought were firecrackers, then “multiple explosions”, “bangs and popping”, “the bangs of car windows exploding”. People reported leaving everything in their cars, including their cellphones, and running for their lives.

Mayor Anderson tweeted that cuts to fire services over the last two years made it significantly harder to fight the fire and might have caused it not to be controllable. He also suggested that fire safety in multi-storey carparks had not been sufficiently considered and that installing sprinklers in them might help stop future fires before they become unmanageable, in a letter to Nick Hurd, a member of Parliament.

Posted in Uncategorized
Aug 23

Blown for Good author discusses life inside international headquarters of Scientology

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wikinews interviewed author Marc Headley about his new book Blown for Good, and asked him about life inside the international headquarters of Scientology known as “Gold Base“, located in Gilman Hot Springs near Hemet, California. Headley joined the organization at age seven when his mother became a member, and worked at Scientology’s international management headquarters for several years before leaving in 2005.

Posted in Uncategorized
Aug 23

Swine flu reported in more countries; WHO warns of possible pandemic risk

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

New cases of the deadly swine flu virus have been reported around the world in recent days, sparking fear of a global pandemic. The United Nations has warned that the disease can not be contained. Over ninety cases of the flu have been reported throughout the world.

The outbreak, which started in Mexico, has now spread across the globe, with confirmed cases having been reported in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, New Zealand and Israel. Mexican health officials have raised the death toll from the virus to 152, with at least 1,614 suspected cases being under observation. The United States also reporting its first death, a Mexican boy, visiting relatives in Texas. He had previously been in Mexico City and had had another undetermined illness prior to his arrival in the United States.

Spain says it has confirmed the first case of swine flu in a person who has not travelled to Mexico.

Keiji Fukuda, the chief of the UN’s World Health Organisation (WHO), has said that the outbreak could possibly turn into a pandemic, and encouraged countries to “take the opportunity to prepare” against such a possibility. Fukuda also warned that “containment is not a feasible operation”.

At the same time, the UN chief noted that it is still too early to declare a pandemic, even with the number of new cases increasing. “The evolution into a pandemic cannot be considered inevitable, but of course we are taking this possibility very seriously. Countries should really take this opportunity to prepare themselves for the possibility for a pandemic,” he said.

In response to the recent spread of the flu, the WHO recently raised its pandemic alert level from three to four, stopping two levels short of declaring a full pandemic.

A WHO emergency committee recently cancelled a meeting to decide whether to move the alert level to the fifth level. “If we have a confirmation from the United States or Canada, we could move to phase 5,” said Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the WHO. “We are still at phase four because we do not have incontrovertible evidence this is an efficient spreader.”

A portion of the cases appear to have been obtained from human-to-human transmission outside of Mexico. Such transmission is frequently an early indicator of a coming pandemic, and experts expect the WHO to raise its pandemic alert up to the fifth level if such transmissions continue to occur.

The WHO has confirmed that the disease is not transmitted from animals or meat. “There is no danger form eating pork,” Hartl said. “If you cook pork well, if you cook all meat well, it kills all virus[es],” Hartl said.

In the United States, fifty people have fallen ill from swine flu. California has confirmed at least thirteen cases, three in Texas, two in Kansas, and one case in Ohio. New York has confirmed 28 incidents. The number is expected to rise, as confirmations from testing are still ongoing.

“The human swine flu outbreak continues to grow in the United States and internationally,” said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a bulletin report. “Today, CDC reports additional cases of confirmed swine influenza and a number of hospitalizations of swine flu patients. Internationally, the situation is more serious too, with additional countries reporting confirmed cases of swine flu.”

New Zealand officials reported that eleven of the country’s residents that had recently travelled to Mexico are now showing sypmtoms of the virus. Three of the infected persons had been confirmed to have the virus, Health Minister Tony Ryall stated.

The health ministry of Israel confirmed two cases of the flu in travellers. South Korea has reported a case in a tourist visiting Mexico, while Spain has recently confirmed two more incidents.

Meanwhile, the situation in the epicentre of the outbreak, Mexico, is deterioriating. Mexican officials have told restaurants to serve only takeaway food, has closed schools until May 8, and placed Mexico City, the country’s capital, under a high alert. Many public events have been cancelled, and masks have been given out to passengers on trains. Mexico City Health Secretary Armando Ahued stated that 6,610 people with symptoms of swine flu were admitted to hospitals on Monday, but only 29 had remained hospitalised.

The WHO on Tuesday stated that it would not endorse travel bans to attempt to stop the spread of the virus. “Border controls don’t work. Screening doesn’t work,” said the WHO spokesman, Hartl, adding that infected persons may not show any symptoms of the disease when at a border crossing or airport. “Certainly, if you feel that you are ill, you should not travel, in any case, to anywhere,” Hartl said.

Among the symptoms of the swine flu include temperatures of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, diarrhea, vomiting, and heavy coughing. Many of the fatalities from the disease were forty years old or younger, not very young or old persons that are usually more susceptible to influenza.

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