Apr 14
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Israel continues settlement expansion

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Israel has announced two new housing projects in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, continuing to expand its settlements. Officials have stated that a bill to be approved by parliament this week, would set aside $25 million for the expansion of development projects in Har Homa and Maale Adumim. The bill would create 500 apartments in the Har Homa area and another 240 in Maale Adumim.

Last month, both Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert signed a statement of “joint understanding” at the 2007 Annapolis Conference in Maryland. This signalled the first peace agreement between the two parties in more than seven years.

However, many fear that settlement expansions will cause tension amid new peace agreements.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, “This is a totally destructive policy. Every day we hear a new settlement expansion plan – this cannot be tolerated.”

However, Rafi Eitan, Israeli Minister for Jerusalem Affairs offered a different stance.

“Har Homa is an integral part of Jerusalem and Israel will not stop building there. It is Israel’s duty to provide its citizens with a place to live.”

Earlier this month, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took a critical stance on the passage of another bill outlining the construction of 307 apartment units in Har Homa, saying that the expansion would “not help build confidence for peace talks.”

Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 Six-Day War.

Apr 14
English court jails policeman over insurance fraud
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English court jails policeman over insurance fraud

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A court in England, UK has jailed a policeman for ten months after he was convicted of defrauding his car insurance company.

Police Constable Simon Hood, 43, arranged for a friend who dealt in scrap metal to dispose of his Audi TT, then claimed it had been stolen.

Hood had been disappointed with the car’s value when he tried to sell it two years after its purchase in 2008. He arranged for friend Peter Marsh, 41, to drive the vehicle to his scrapyard in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. Marsh then dismantled the vehicle with the intent of disposing of it, but parts were later found wrapped in bubblewrap at Ace Tyre and Exhaust Centre.

Marsh picked up the TT from outside nearby Gorleston police station. Records show mobile phone conversations between the conspirators that day in March, both before and after the vehicle was reported stolen. The pair denied wrongdoing but were convicted of conspiring to commit insurance fraud after trial.

The fraud was uncovered after Hood told former girlfriend Suzanne Coates of the scheme. It was alleged before Norwich Crown Court that he had confessed to her in an effort to resume their relationship. Coates said that after the pseudotheft, Hood told her “he didn’t want to look for it. He said it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack, which I thought was a bit strange.”

You knew throughout your career that policemen that get involved in serious dishonesty get sent to prison

Shortly afterwards Hood suggested they should become a couple once more, she said; she challenged his version of events regarding the car: “He said he did it but I couldn’t tell anyone. He said he did it with Peter. Peter had a key and took the car away and it was going to be taken to bits and got rid of so it was never found.”

Hood was defended by Michael Clare and Marsh by Richard Potts. Both lawyers told the court that their clients had already suffered as a result of the action in mitigation before sentencing. Clare said Hood had resigned from the police after fifteen years of otherwise good service and risked losing his pension. “It is not a case where his position as a police officer was used in order to facilitate the fraud,” he pointed out. “His career is in ruins.” Hood is now pursuing a career in plumbing.

Potts defended Marsh by saying that he, too, had already suffered from his actions. His own insurers are refusing to renew their contract with him when it expires and his bank withdrew its overdraft facility. His business employs 21 people and Potts cited Marsh’s sponsorship of Great Yarmouth In Bloom as amongst evidence he supported his local community.

Judge Alasdair Darroch told Marsh that he did accept the man was attempting to help his friend. He sentenced Marsh to six months imprisonment, suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 250 hours of community service. He was more critical of Hood:

“As a police officer you know the highest possible standards are demanded by the public. You have let down the force. You knew throughout your career that policemen that get involved in serious dishonesty get sent to prison.”

Apr 12
Brisbane woman charged with Sizzler poisoning
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Brisbane woman charged with Sizzler poisoning

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Queensland, Australia police have charged a 57-year-old woman with the alleged contamination of the salad bar at two Sizzler restaurants.

Rat poison pellets were found in food at Sizzler restaurants at Toowong on January 20 and the Brisbane Myer Centre outlet last Sunday. Yesterday Sizzler closed salad bars nationwide, but they did not report the incidents to the Queensland Health Department until last Monday.

Queensland’s Health Minister Stephen Robertson criticised the restaurant chain for delaying reporting a possible incident of food contamination for 37 days. “I think this is a case that – a real life case – that we should perhaps learn some lessons from,” he said.

Queensland Police Inspector Bob Hytch said the woman is the same woman police asked to come forward after she told Sizzler staff she had found pellets in soup at the Myer Centre restaurant last Saturday.

The woman is expected to face Brisbane Magistrates’ Court tomorrow charged with two counts of contamination of goods and four counts of an act intending to cause grievous bodily harm.

Apr 9
Spelbound declared winner of Britain’s Got Talent 2010
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Spelbound declared winner of Britain’s Got Talent 2010

Monday, June 7, 2010

An acrobatic group known by the name of Spelbound has been declared as the winner of Britain’s Got Talent 2010, a televised variety talent show competition broadcast on ITV in the United Kingdom. As the winning act of the show, Spelbound have won £100,000 (US$144,580, €120,313, A$175,079) and a place at The Royal Variety Performance, an annual gala evening that is attended by senior members of the British Royal Family.

In no particular order, the top three acts were revealed to be two dancers known by their stage name of Twist and Pulse, gymnastic group Spelbound and Kieran Gaffney, whose act involves playing on the drum kit. After Kieran Gaffney was revealed to be in third place, Anthony McPartlin, who hosts Britain’s Got Talent with Declan Donnelly, said to Kieran: “Well done Kieran. Kieran, you’re a star, you came back, you got all the way to the final. I know you’ve loved this. You’ve loved this, haven’t you?” In response to this, Kieran Gaffney stated: “Thank you very much. Thank you, everyone for supporting me. Thank you.”

Shortly afterwards, on the episode that was broadcast live on ITV1 on Saturday, Anthony announced: “After tens of thousands of auditons, five semi-finals and an amazing final, this…this is it. One of you is about to walk away with £100,000 and a place at this year’s Royal Variety Performance. The winner of Britain’s Got Talent 2010 is…Spelbound!” Glen Murphy from Twist and Pulse commented about finishing in second place, stating: “Yeah, it’s amazing. I can’t even believe it. I can’t believe it at all.”

Alex Uttley, a 24-year-old member of Spelbound, commented on the gymnastic group’s victory, commenting: “Oh, my god. This is unbelieveable. We just want to say thank you to everyone out there. It just shows that all our hard work has paid off.” One of the coaches of Spelbound, named Neil Griffiths, stated about Spelbound: “Oh, they’ve worked so hard over the last few weeks. Um, since the semi-final, we…we really had to pull out the stops to try and up the game. They’ve not known they’ve worked in the gym from six in the morning till twelve…twelve o’clock of the night. I couldn’t have asked for more. Um, it’s a team of coaches. I don’t take all the credit myself. There’s, uh, two people up there that know who they are who’ve been fantastic.”

Spelbound consists of 24-year-old Alex Uttley, Nicholas Illingworth, aged 24, Adam Buckingham, aged 21, 20-year-old Adam McAssey, 19-year-old Douglas Fordyce, 18-year-old Edward Upcott, 18-year-old Leighanne Cowler, 17-year-old Katie Axten, 17-year-old Lauren Kemp, 15-year-old Jonathan Stranks, Abigail Ralph, aged 15, 13-year-old Hollianne Wood and Amy Mackenzie, aged 12. Bookmakers had previously predicted that Spelbound would be the most likely act to become the winner of the series.

The running order for the final started with Twist and Pulse. The second act to perform was Liam McNally, a 14-year-old singer. The running order subsequently continued with 40-year-old impressionist Paul Burling, singer Christopher Stone, aged 28, Tina & Chandi, a woman and dog dancing act, Connected, a five-piece singing group, Kieran Gaffney, aged 12, 22-year-old Tobias Mead, a dancer, 80-year-old singer Janey Cutler and Spelbound in that particular order.

Earlier on in the final, Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden has stated to Spelbound: “We are hosting the 2012 Olympics and I think ‘what a brilliant opening act’.” Fellow judge Piers Morgan also commented that “[t]he purpose of this show is to identify hidden great British talent. You are that act.” After Spelbound won in the final, another judge, named Simon Cowell, stated that “the right boys and girls won on the night” and that he could “only say on live TV that that was one of the most astonishing things I have ever seen. Seriously.”

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Apr 8
Strong earthquake near Solomon Islands, tsunami reported
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Strong earthquake near Solomon Islands, tsunami reported

Sunday, April 1, 2007

A magnitude 8.1 undersea earthquake triggered a tsunami that has killed at least fifteen people, including six children, in the Solomon Islands. Tsunami warnings have been issued for parts of Australia as well.

According to the US Geological Survey, the magnitude 8.0 quake struck Sunday, April 1, 2007 at 20:39:56 (UTC) about 45 km (25 mi) south-southeast of Gizo, New Georgia Islands, Solomon Islands, at a depth of 10 km.

Contents

  • 1 ‘Disaster’ declared in the Solomons
  • 2 Region on alert
  • 3 Related news
  • 4 Sources
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Apr 3
US automakers GM and Chrysler seek more government aid
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US automakers GM and Chrysler seek more government aid

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The United States auto manufacturer Chrysler, which has been badly affected by the ongoing recession, has asked the US government for an additional US$5 billion in aid on top of the four billion it has already received, saying that it plans to fire three thousand employees. At the end of last year, the auto maker had just over 54,000 employees, meaning that the layoffs will equal about six percent of its total workforce.

In addition, Chrysler will cut the Chrysler Aspen, PT Cruiser, and Durango from production.

Another automaker, General Motors (GM), announced that it seeks $16.6 billion in loans from the government, in addition to the $13.4 billion that it has already received. GM plans to lay off 47,000 employees and close five factories. GM says that it might need as much as $30 billion from the US Treasury Department, an increase over their previous estimate of $18 billion. The company has warned that it might run out of money by March if more aid was not given.

Rick Wagoner, GM’s chief executive, described the firm’s plan as “comprehensive, responsive, achievable, and flexible”. “We have a lot of work in front of us, but I am confident it will result in a profitable General Motors,” he said, adding that “today’s plan is significantly more aggressive because it has to be.” GM says that it could be profitable in two years’ time, and might be able to repay all its loans by 2017.

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A third US car manufacturer, Ford Motor Company, has said that it can make it through this year without any government aid.

The US Treasury Department will review the car makers’ survival plans for several weeks before a decision is made on whether or not to extend the loans. That decision is due by the end of next month.

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Apr 3
British man survives artificial heart transplant
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British man survives artificial heart transplant

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A 40-year-old man from the United Kingdom has survived an operation in which he was given a wholly artificial heart. It is believed that this is the first time in the UK that a patient has been able to return home with such an implant.

Matthew Green, a father of one, experienced the operation in Papworth Hospital, located in Cambridgeshire, England. His health has declined over the last few years, and he has suffered a substantial heart disorder, identified as arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD). He is waiting to have a human heart implanted. The disease would have claimed his life had the operation to implant a plastic heart not occurred. Approximately nine hundred operations of this nature have already taken place worldwide.

Having survived the transplant, Green stated that the plastic heart will “revolutionise” his life. “Before I couldn’t walk anywhere,” commented Green. He described his ability “to be with normal people again” as “fantastic”. Having the opportunity to live a relatively regular life “means the world” to Green.

Providing a nine-and-a-half litre blood flow at its peak, the plastic heart can provide roughly twice that of a resting human body. The artificial heart was implanted last June in a six-hour operation. Unlike other mechanical hearts, Green’s heart is powered by a pump that can be transported in a handheld bag.

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Apr 3
UK chancellor raises national insurance payments for self employed in new budget
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UK chancellor raises national insurance payments for self employed in new budget

Friday, March 10, 2017

UK chancellor Philip Hammond announced his 2017 budget on Wednesday, which included a £2 billion pledge to social care and a tax hike on the self-employed. It was accused of breaking Conservative Party manifesto promises.

It was announced there will be a 2% increase in national insurance contributions for the self-employed, with chancellor Philip Hammond citing worries that people were choosing to become self-employed in order to pay lower taxes and his perception of unfairness in the different rates paid by employees and self-employees. There were accusations this change in policy goes against the manifesto promises the Conservative Party ran on in 2015, which promised four times that there would be no increase in national insurance rates. Conservative MP Anna Soubry tweeted saying she believed these new measures would be unpopular as many would see them as unfair. The leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, claimed the new measures will not clamp down on people whose self-employment is just for tax benefits, instead causing problems for those legitimately self-employed, arguing that if they are to start paying similar tax rates to the employed then they should get rights such as statutory maternity pay. The think tank Resolution claimed, however, this increase is outweighed by other government policies and is, therefore, a good move.

In addition to this, the chancellor announced a £2 billion pledge to social care over the next three years, saying he was aware of the stress the ageing population is having on the NHS and social care. Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb described the amount as “wholly inadequate”, saying much more is needed to pay for an increase in care demands due to the ageing population. The lowest threshold at which shareholders pay dividend taxes is to be lowered from £5,000 to £2,000 claiming that the taxes for dividends provided “an extremely generous tax break for investors with substantial share portfolios”. Other budget announcements include an additional £325 million for the NHS, £90 million transport spending for the North of England, £20 million to support campaigning against violence against girls and women and a slight increase in funding for the devolved governments.

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Apr 1
Armed troops take control of Suva, Fiji
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Armed troops take control of Suva, Fiji

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Armed Fijian soldiers took control of the streets of Suva, Fiji just before dawn

In a show of force, the troops fired a mortar into the harbour and over Nukulau Island, where George Speight, leader of the Fiji Coup of 2000, is currently serving a term of life imprisonment for his role in the overthrow of the constitutional government. Most of the mortar rounds fell into the ocean.

Soldiers, travelling in a convoy of trucks, set up barricades on key roads that led into the central business district of Suva while others patrolled the city.

Major Neumi Leweni, a military spokesman, said that the activity is not a military coup in disguise. “The exercise is in anticipation of any foreign intervention and the [Fiji military] is taking all precautionary measures.” He pointed out to sea where an Australian black hawk helicopter had crashed and where three Australian warships were moored. Australian officials said the ships were there in case Australian citizens needed to be evacuated.

The black hawk helicopter that had crashed was attempting to land on the HMAS Kanimbla, and its passengers were Special Air Service soldiers. Referring to the crash, Major Leweni said: “[It] just confirms that there are other forces out there and that is exactly why we are doing this exercise”.

Talks in New Zealand between Laisenia Qarase, Prime Minister of Fiji, and , military commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama concluded without an agreement. Winston Peters, foreign minister for New Zealand, said the talks were “lengthy, serious and meaningful”, but ultimately unsuccessful. Mr. Qarase said the three hour talks were not long enough to get to any conclusion, “…it was a good start and there is need for further consultations on some of the issues.”

Mr Qarase arrived at Nadi via a Royal New Zealand Air Force plane and then flew on an Air Chatham Islands plan to Suva. He was met by questioning media. Mr Qarase remained quiet. Commodore Bainimarama also said nothing to the awaiting media when he arrived in Fiji on a commercial flight.

Mr Qarase has requested that all regional foreign ministers come to a meeting being held in Sydney, Australia tomorrow that is related to the coup threats.

Countries that are part of the Pacific Forum are able to help other member countries, if the government asks for help.

Ambassadors from the United States of America, Australia and Britain have all met with Fijian military officers to seek insurances that there wasn’t going to be a coup. Major Lewini responded angrily, “[It is] inappropriate for a civilian diplomat to visit a military camp and seek to speak directly to officers,” he said.

“I’m not aware anyone’s threatening foreign intervention. I can assure you New Zealand isn’t,” Helen Clark, Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand, said.

At the same time, Andrew Hughes, police commissioner for Fiji, is currently on leave in Brisbane following threats. Moses Driver will now act as the police commissioner.

The military has said they will “clean up” the government if the armed forces do not get three controversial bills passed and all investigations into senior military officers are dropped.

The military has said that they do not need police permission to conduct such exercises.

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Mar 30
US: Evidentiary documents released in Golden State Killer case
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US: Evidentiary documents released in Golden State Killer case

Friday, June 1, 2018

On Friday, the Sacramento, California County Superior Court in the United States, with Judge Michael Sweet presiding, publicly released approximately 123 heavily redacted pages from an 800 page document related to the trial of 72-year-old Joseph DeAngelo, in the Golden State Killer (GSK) case. The high-profile case prompted the defense to motion delaying the release on the grounds of jury tainting.

From 1974 to 1986, there were 12 murders, 45 rapes, and 120 burglaries ascribed to the GSK. Many of these crimes were initially attributed to separate suspects, and California investigators coined such nicknames as “East Area Rapist,” “Original Night-stalker,” “Visalli Ransacker,” and “Diamond Knot Killer.” All these identities were later determined to be the GSK. DeAngelo is currently being charged with first degree murder with special circumstances, and is being further investigated for the 1975 first degree murder of Claude Snelling.

GSK’s alleged victims include 18-year-old Janelle Lisa Cruz on May 4, 1986; 35-year-old Cheri Domingo on July 27, 1981; 27-year-old Greg Sanchez on July 27, 1981; 24-year-old Keith Harrington on August 21, 1975; 27-year-old Patti Harrington on August 21, 1975; 21-year-old Brian Maggiore on February 2, 1978; 20-year-old Katie Maggiore on February 2, 1978; 44-year-old Dr. Robert Offerman on December 30, 1979; 35-year-old Debra Manning on December 30, 1979; 35-year-old Lyman Smith on March 13, 1980; 33-year-old Charlene Smith on March 13, 1980; 45-year-old Claude Snelling on September 11, 1975; and 28-year-old Manuela Witthuhn on February 5, 1981.

Law enforcement used DNA and other evidence to link the twelve known murders attributed to the GSK to suspect DeAngelo. Any DNA from rape kits and burglaries that predates 1970 is only admissible in court for murder cases because of California’s statute of limitations. The DNA evidence allegedly implicating DeAngelo was not found through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database, which catalogs 20 sections of DNA from local, state, federal, and some international agencies making a unique profile for 16 million individuals, but CODIS did rule out other GSK suspects, like Paul “Cornfed” Schneider and Joe Alsip.

Instead, law enforcement used a nuance investigative technique, comparing GSK’s DNA profile against the open-sourced GEDmatch’s genealogical DNA database. The GEDmatch’s database flagged a GSK blood relative and, with other evidence, DeAngelo was suspected of being involved with GSK’s crimes. The genealogical website methodology is not unique to the GSK case. GEDmatch’s database was also used to identify 51-year-old William Earl Talbott II in the 1987 rape and homicide of Jay Cook (20) and Tanya Van Cuylenborg (18) in Seattle, Washington.

The newly released documents reveal DeAngelo’s DNA was not collected via a warrant but rather from the door handle of his personal vehicle as he was shopping in a local Hobby Lobby on April 18. A secondary sample was collected from a tissue found in the garbage on April 23. The door handle and tissue DNA were compared to a semen sample from a known GSK murder that had been confirmed using the CODIS’s 20 section DNA profile standard. On April 24, DeAngelo was arrested for the twelve GSK murders. A warrant for DeAngelo’s Citrus Heights, California residence disclosed dozens of wedding rings, photographs, driver’s licenses, and other objects allegedly taken from victims as trophies.

Public defender David Lynch, tasked with defending DeAngelo, motioned for the 800 documents to be sealed until trial to prevent the jury from becoming tainted. Lynch has also questioned the validity of certain search warrants for undisclosed reasons. Prosecutors from Sacramento, Ventura, Orange, and Santa Barbara counties have not determined the best way to prosecute DeAngelo considering the complexity, age, and multiple jurisdictions of the case.

DeAngelo was, until 1979, a police officer in small California towns. After allegedly stealing a hammer and dog repellent, DeAngelo was subsequently fired from the Auburn, California police force. He later became a truck mechanic near Sacramento.

[edit]

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