Archive for March, 2013

Dionne Warwick: dizzying downfall of a bankrupt diva

March 31, 2013

Unbelievable….but true.   As Dionne Warwick, one of the most successful singers of the 20th century, declares bankruptcy, Jacqui Goddard investigates how a star once earning $100,000 a month could be down to her last $1,000 in cash.

Dionne Warwick: dizzying downfall of a bankrupt diva

After Dionne Warwick rose to fame in the 1960s she led a glamorous life Photo: Rex Features

By Jacqui Goddard in Miami

Her name is among the brightest in recording industry history, her songs providing the soundtrack for a generation and earning her a place as one of the most successful hit-makers of all time.

After more than five decades of music-making that won her five Grammy awards, more than 60 charted singles and global album sales totalling more than 100 million copies, Dionne Warwick might have been assumed to have earned herself a comfortable retirement.

Dionne Warwick seen in New Jersey after filing for bankruptcy (Splash News)

Yet her bankruptcy filing last week reveals financial tangles that belie her musical success. At the age of 72, the pop and R&B legend who once reaped seven-figure pay cheques and a glittering lifestyle is down to her last $1,000 in cash and mired in $10 million of tax debt, it claims.

The 50-page document, lodged in a New Jersey bankruptcy court, provides in humiliating detail the particulars of Warwick’s personal finances, even down to her monthly $90 bill for garbage disposal and the fact that, on March 17, she underwent a debt counselling session over the internet.

Her income exceeds her outgoings by just $10 a month, she owes $20,000 on her credit card, and debts totaling $505,737 to a former lawyer and a former business manager. Personal assets total just over $25,000.

“We had no other resort other than to file bankruptcy so that we could get this off her back finally,” her bankruptcy attorney, Daniel Stolz, told Rolling Stone, declaring his client an “innocent victim of terrible mismanagement” during the 1980s and 1990s.

Though Warwick is up to date with her taxes, her debt to the Internal Revenue Service is the result of dues accumulated on tax bills dating back to 1991.

“Before she knew it, she owed a gazillion dollars in taxes. She’s actually paid more than the face amount of the taxes, but with all of the crazy interest and penalties that they add, the number kept mushrooming,” said Mr Stolz.

A cousin of singer Whitney Houston, who died of a cocaine-related drowning last year, Warwick first performed professionally in 1961 after she was discovered by the songwriting duo of Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

She had her first hit within a year with Don’t Make Me Over and, over the ensuing decade, released 18 consecutive Top 100 singles, including Walk on By, Anyone Who Had a Heart, Alfie, Say a Little Prayer, I’ll Never Fall in Love Again, and Do You Know the Way to San Jose? Later hits included Then Came You and Heartbreaker. She has had more hits in the charts than any other female vocalist except Aretha Franklin.

With videos:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/9962594
/Dionne-Warwick-dizzying-downfall-of-a-bankrupt-diva.html

In the 1990s, she became the public face of the Psychic Friends Network, a telephone service that connected callers with clairvoyants for $3.99 a minute. It earned her $3 million a year before the corporation that owned the service went into bankruptcy.

Critics of Ms Warwick’s own bankruptcy filing have taken to web forums to joke that, given her experience with the Psychic Friends Network, she should have seen her money troubles coming. Some question the extent of her financial suffering.

“I have no pity for any celebrities who make more in a month than most Americans make in a year AND file their taxes on time, who cannot pay their debts,” stated one.

Another wrote: “Where did all the money go? Good God, she must have more than $25,000 in assets.”

Dionne Warwick and Whitney Houston Circa 1990 (Wireimage)

With two children’s books, a best-selling autobiography, a fragrance line, a new album and a current world tour to supplement her 50 years of showbusiness cheques, the question of Warwick’s disappearing fortune is indeed baffling.

It is not the first time that money woes have surfaced; in 1993, she filed for so-called “Chapter 11” protection from tax debts – a case that was resolved after she surrendered three cars including her BMW.

Mr Stolz said: “Just because someone is a well-known, prominent celebrity doesn’t mean they’re conversant in their financial affairs. They rely heavily on people and frequently wind up waking up someday saying ‘Jeez, how did I get in this mess and how do I get out of it?'”

(PA)

In Warwick’s case, the unnamed manager blamed for her financial troubles was fired years ago. Attempts have been made over the years to strike a deal with the IRS, to which she owes $7 million, and the California Franchise Tax Board, to which she owes $3 million, that would bring her debts under control, but without success.

Quite what she offered is unclear. In her bankruptcy filing, Warwick – who lives in a rented detached home in the village of South Orange, New Jersey – details monthly expenses of $20,940 and monthly income of $20,950, leaving her just $10 in float.

The monthly outgoings include $5,000 in rent, $5,000 for “housekeeping/sitting”, $4,000 for a personal assistant, $1,000 for electricity, $500 for the telephone, $500 for food and $750 for laundry and dry cleaning.

Most of her income comes from a $14,000 monthly pension, which is supplemented by $2,200 a month in Social Security benefits.

She also receives an average $6,250 a month in wages from Star Girl Productions, the company she lists as her employer. Successful artists commonly set up such entities – known as “loan out corporations” – through which to provide their services and reap legal tax benefits.

David L Neale, a Los Angeles-based bankruptcy attorney who has studied Warwick’s court filing, said: “If an entertainer’s business people show to the IRS figures stating that the person’s income is X amount and that there is Y amount available, then either the IRS buys into it or they don’t.

“The loan-out company could cover costs such as staff, travel, and pay the entertainer a salary that may be equal only to what that person requires to meet their monthly outgoings. It may be that there’s more money, in the form of royalties or other income, that’s paid to the loan-out company but which is not personal income to the entertainer.

“This is speculation, but part of the complication may be that the IRS sees her showing income equal to her expenses, but also having an interest in a company where money is coming in and going to others. That may lead the IRS to say ‘Wait a minute’.”

He added: “A bankruptcy filing is done under penalty of perjury and there’s no suggestion that Ms Warwick has been anything less than honest.”

Intriguingly for a woman who only last October told an interviewer, “My mainstay is shopping. I love going down to Givenchy and the boutiques. I don’t shop for what I need, just what I want,” Warwick lists her monthly clothing expenses as zero.

She is down to her last two fur coats and two pairs of diamond earrings, collectively worth $13,000, plus a wardrobe of “gowns and everyday clothing” valued at $5,000, her court filing reveals.

Her living room furniture, beds, dining room set and laptop computer are together valued at just $1,500. “Assorted artwork and paintings” make up the $5,000 remainder of her total $25,500 assets.

She personally owns no property, Mr Stolz said. A home she used to own in Bahia, Brazil, was sold in 2005, Warwick told an interviewer three years ago, though she has subsequently alluded publicly to living part-time in Brazil.

She tried marriage twice – both times with the same man, William Elliot, a television actor. They wed in 1966, divorced in May 1967, but then remarried three months later. “It was a case of can’t do with, can’t do without, so I married him again,” she later stated.

They had two sons, David and Damon – both of whom now also work in the music industry – but divorced for a second time in 1975. Mr Elliot revealed during divorce proceedings that his wife was, at that time, earning $100,000 a month – 200 times his own income. His demand for $2,000 in spousal support was denied.

“It’s hard when the woman is the breadwinner. All my life, the only man that ever took care of me financially was my father. I have always taken care of myself,” she stated in a 2002 interview.

She has been romantically linked since then with French singer Sacha Distel, Miami Vice actor Philip Michael Thomas and The Godfather star Gianni Russo.

Mr Stolz described her as having been reluctant to take the bankruptcy route because she is a “very proud woman .a very honourable person.”

He told a New Jersey television station: “Dionne’s a very warm, wonderful, giving person. She’s been extraordinarily philanthropic throughout her life. Not only has she not accumulated great wealth, but she is now living hounded by the IRS.”

Warwick’s work for good causes has been a major feature of her career. She was one of the first celebrities to become involved in the crusade against HIV and Aids, founding the Washington-based Warwick Foundation in the late 1980s to fund research, healthcare and public education and preaching compassion at a time when Aids was still taboo.

Stevie Wonder and Dionne Warwick performing at the ‘That’s what friends are for’ Aids concert in 1988 (Rex Features)

Her 1985 recording of That’s What Friends Are For, with Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder, raised over $3 million for Aids causes, won a Grammy and topped the Billboard charts.

She served as both a UN ambassador for health and an ambassador for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and has raised millions of dollars for causes including children’s hospitals, world hunger, disaster relief, music education and her old elementary school in East Orange – now named the Dionne Warwick Institute for Economics and Entrepreneurship.

In a poorly typed note posted to her official website, she tells fans: “i’m sure you have been made aware via the enternet that i have filed bankruptcy i am okay and don’t want any of you to worry about this as with so many things in our lifetime objects that are sometimes unavoidable will crop up just keep a positive thought going around me and as i have been told on many occasions ‘THIS TOO SHALL PASS.'”

New Archbishop of Canterbury Warns Faithful On Failures Of Man: “Don’t Expect Too Much”

March 31, 2013

New Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, used his first Easter sermon to warn against placing too much faith in political and church leaders – including himself.

Justin Welby urges 'grace' in church disagreements
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Mr Welby was enthroned earlier this month at Canterbury Cathedral Photo: Getty Images

By , Religious Affairs Editor

The Telegraph

He said that “pinning hopes on individuals” to solve problems was pointless and that the so-called “hero leaders” in fields from politics to the NHS inevitably fail to live up to expectations because of human frailty.

And he joked that those who expect him to single-handedly restore the fortunes of the Church of England must be “barking mad”.

Speaking at Canterbury Cathedral during the Easter Sunday service, the most important day of the year for the Church of England, he urged people to view the world through a lens of hope but also realism.

He also warned against living in “some golden age in the past”.

“Vain human optimism”, he said, would always disappoint because “human failure” would always get in the way.

He added that setting people up on a pedestal from which they could only fail to live up to expectations was simply “cruelty”.

The former oil executive’s appointment as Archbishop last year was hailed by David Cameron as a “breath of fresh air” and by many in the Church as a new beginning.

But Mr Welby used his first major address since his enthronement in March to attempt to play down expectations.

The “hero leader culture” is flawed he said.

“A political party gets a new leader and three months later there is comment about disappointment,” he said.

“An economy suffers the worst blow in generations with a debt crisis and economic downturn, and the fact that not everything is perfect within five years is seen as total failure.

“Complexity and humanity are ignored and we end up unreasonably disappointed with every institution, group and policy, from politicians to NHS, education to environment.”

The Archbishop referred to a poll last week which showed that most Christians in Britain accept the church has an image problem but that only around 40 per cent of them believe he will be able to improve it.

“I do hope that means the other 60 per cent thought the idea so barking mad that they did not answer the question,” he said.

He added: “As well as fear a false view of people leads to hero leaders, who always fail.

“Put not your trust in new leaders, better systems, new organisations or regulatory reorganisation – they may well be good and necessary, but will to some degree fail.

“Human sin means pinning hopes on individuals is always a mistake, and assuming that any organisation is able to have such good systems that human failure will be eliminated is naive.”

Taking St John’s account of the resurrection as his text, he said the Easter story made clear “the reality of God and of human beings”.

“Setting people or institutions up to heights where they cannot but fail is mere cruelty,” he said.

Notes from Obama’s Easter Service

March 31, 2013

St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., near the White House

President Obama and his family this morning went to Easter Sunday services at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C.

Obama attends church on Easter

The Obama family is seen walking outside the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church in this file photo.
Washington Post includes a video:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/president-obama-attends-easter-s
unday-worship-at-st-johns-church/2013/03/31/a67ee70a-9a10-11e2-
a941-a19bce7af755_story.html?wprss=rss_local

(CNN) – President Barack Obama and his family attended a church service on Easter at St. John’s Episcopal Church, which is across the street from the White House.

“Happy Easter, everybody,” he said while walking to the service with first lady Michelle Obama and the couple’s two daughters.

The sermon was delivered by The Rev. Luis Leon, whom Obama tapped in January to deliver the benediction at his second inauguration after controversy forced his first pick for that slot to step aside.

St. John’s is known informally as “the church of the presidents” and has a pew dedicated for the president.

Obama spent Saturday on the golf course at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland and later attended the NCAA basketball matchup between Syracuse and Marquette in the “Elite Eight” round of the March Madness tournament.

– CNN’s Gregory Wallace contributed to this report

*****************************************

Here are notes on the Easter service from the pool reporter, which included this part, “It drives me crazy when the captains of the religious right are always calling us back … for blacks to be back in the back of the bus … for women to be back in the kitchen … for immigrants to be back on their side of the border”:

Notes on today’s Easter service at St John’s (from the program):

The hymn “Jesus Christ is Risen” was followed by the “Song of Praise.”

This was followed by “The Collect of the Day” (Celebrant: “The Lord be with you”; Congregation: “And also with you.”)

The first reading, by Rev. Fred Walker, was from Exodus 14:10-14, 21-25, 15:20-21.

The anthem, sung by St John’s Choir was “Victimae Paschali Laudes.”

The second reading was Romans 15:4-13.

The entire congregation sang the hymn, “Come, Ye Faithful.”

The Holy Gospel reading was from John 20:1-18.

Highlights from the Rev. Dr. Luis Leon’s sermon:

Opened with a welcome and a joke about people who came to church just so they could tell their parents or people they’re having lunch with later that they did.

What God wants of every one of us is to believe as much as we can at a given moment … it’s all right to have doubts.

We often want things to go back to the way things used to be, before “work got difficult and faith got confused, and life got more confusing,” but when we dwell on the “if only” of life we forget that “God addresses us in the now.”

As Jesus told Mary not to hold on to the past, “You cannot go back.”

“It drives me crazy when the captains of the religious right are always calling us back … for blacks to be back in the back of the bus … for women to be back in the kitchen … for immigrants to be back on their side of the border.”

“The message of Easter is about the power of love over loveless power.”

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“Easter vision” will allow you to see the whole world in a different way. “There is no injustice so insidious that there can be no truth … no war so deep that there can be no peace … no enemy so bitter that they can’t become a friend.”

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“Easter vision” means recognizing reality in a new and wonderful way.

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“May God bless you with Easter vision now and forever.”

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The sermon was followed by the prayers of the faithful, led by Rev. Patrick Williams, which included prayers for “Barack, our president,” and for “leaders in Afghanistan, Haiti, and the Middle East.
Next on the program was “The Peace”(during which members of the congregation shake hands and greet each other with “The peace of the Lord be with you,” etc.)
This was followed by the Holy Communion (along with its accompanying collection, hymns, and recitation of The Lord’s Prayer).

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Pool was able to catch a glimpse of POTUS and the First Lady taking communion.
The post-communion prayer was “Hallelujah Chorus.”

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Pool was ushered out at 12:39, before the dismissal. Now outside the church waiting for the president’s exit. A correction: It was an error to assume that the Obamas were seated in the first pew. National Journal’s George Condon has pointed out that, according to the church website, it is tradition for the president to sit in pew 54.

Chinese Drone ‘Swarms’ Designed to Attack American Aircraft Carriers

March 31, 2013

Armed Predator drone.
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The Chinese military has unmanned aerial vehicles that look similar to this armed Predator drone, a new report finds.The Chinese are taking unmanned aerial vehicle development very seriously, according to a new reportBy 

U.S. News and World Report

March 14, 2013

China’s fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, could be technologically superior to those in the American arsenal and might have the ability to “swarm” in attacking an American aircraft carrier, according to a new analysis of the country’s program.

[PHOTOS: The Expansion of the Drone]

China first started publicly flying drones in October, 2009, during its National Day parade. Since then, it had stockpiled at least 280 UAVs as of 2011 that could be used for “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, precision strike missions and electronic warfare missions,” according to the report, released by the Project 2049 Institute, an Arlington, Va.-based think tank. Since then, the country has likely manufactured many more, lead author Ian Easton says.

“Chinese UAV technology is a woefully understudied topic,” he says, adding that there’s reason to believe that China has either already surpassed U.S. prowess in unmanned air technology or will soon do so. “They’re certainly far more advanced than I expected them to be. You get the impression they’re doing very advanced, cutting-edge research.”

Like in many other industries, Easton says “there’s no question” China likely caught up to the U.S. with a cyber warfare campaign to steal technological secrets —the country has UAVs “that look exactly like our Predator or the Global Hawk.”

“I would be shocked if their cyber espionage was not feeding into their UAV development,” he says. “But they also have a large research and development infrastructure on their side informing new technology developments.”

[READ: Police Kill Suspects With Snipers All the Time, Why Not Drones?]

According to Easton, who studied more than 100 Chinese-language military technology journals, official government reports and news reports out of Taiwan, the Chinese see drones as a platform to wage war at the “highest level of conflict.” Chinese documents suggest that the country’s People’s Liberation Army “envision[s] attacking U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups with swarms of multi-mission UAVs.”

While the American military has mainly used drones for reconnaissance in the Middle East and Northern Africa and precision strikes against small groups of insurgents or terrorists, Chinese reports suggest that they plan to use the drones in the event of a conventional war. While American drones are rarely lost overseas, China envisions attacks “with initial waves of decoy drones” followed by swarms of strike drones that would often be shot down during their mission.

“When the Chinese look at UAVs, they see tremendous capabilities for high-end conflict. We’ve been using them for low-intensity situations,” Easton says. “The Chinese have done an overwhelming number of studies discussing using UAVs as having the capabilities of hitting U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups. That’s what they’re planning to do.”

[POLL: Americans Still Approve of Drone Strike Program]

Easton says that in China, UAV development is studied by nearly every company that has its hands in aerospace technology. Other military tools are often built by a couple companies focused in a city or two, but the sheer scale of the Chinese drone industry might lead the country to innovate faster than the U.S. can.

“We generally don’t worry about the Chinese building a better submarine, fighter plane, or aircraft carrier than us, but with UAVs, I think it might be a little different,” he says. “They have organized their UAV programs in such a way where they could be very innovative in terms of weapon systems.”

Related:

Ecuador auctions off Amazon to Chinese oil firms

March 31, 2013

Indigenous groups claim they have not consented to oil projects, as politicians visit Beijing to publicise bidding process

in Beijing

The Guardian,

Tuesday 26 March 2013 13.16 EDT

Ecuadorean Amazon

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Indigenous groups in Ecuador say the planned oil projects would devastate the environment and threaten their traditional way of life. Photograph: Alamy

Ecuador plans to auction off more than three million hectares of pristine Amazonian rainforest to Chinese oil companies, angering indigenous groups and underlining the global environmental toll of China‘s insatiable thirst for energy.

On Monday morning a group of Ecuadorean politicians pitched bidding contracts to representatives of Chinese oil companies at a Hilton hotel in central Beijing, on the fourth leg of a roadshow to publicise the bidding process. Previous meetings in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, and in Houston and Paris were each confronted with protests by indigenous groups.

Attending the roadshow were black-suited representatives from oil companies including China Petrochemical and China National Offshore Oil. “Ecuador is willing to establish a relationship of mutual benefit – a win-win relationship,” said Ecuador’s ambassador to China in opening remarks.

According to the California-based NGO Amazon Watch, seven indigenous groups who inhabit the land claim that they have not consented to oil projects, which would devastate the area’s environment and threaten their traditional way of life.

Ecuador map“We demand that public and private oil companies across the world not participate in the bidding process that systematically violates the rights of seven indigenous nationalities by imposing oil projects in their ancestral territories,” a group of Ecuadorean organised indigenous associations wrote in an open letter last autumn.

In an interview, Ecuador’s secretary of hydrocarbons, Andrés Donoso Fabara, accused indigenous leaders of misrepresenting their communities to achieve political goals. “These guys with a political agenda, they are not thinking about development or about fighting against poverty,” he said.

Fabara said the government had decided not to open certain blocks of land to bidding because it lacked support from local communities. “We are entitled by law, if we wanted, to go in by force and do some activities even if they are against them,” he said. “But that’s not our policy.”

Amazon Watch said the deal would violate China’s own new investment guidelines, issued jointly by the ministries of commerce and environmental protection last month. The third clause of the guidelines says Chinese enterprises should “promote harmonious development of local economy, environment and community” while operating abroad.

Fabara said he was not aware of the guidelines. “We’re looking for global investors, not just investors from China,” he said. “But of course Chinese companies are really aggressive. In a bidding process, they might present the winning bids.”

Critics say national debt may be a large part of the Ecuadorean government’s calculations. Ecuador owed China more than £4.6bn ($7bn) as of last summer, more than a tenth of its GDP. China began loaning billions of dollars to Ecuador in 2009 in exchange for oil shipments. More recently China helped fund two of its biggest hydroelectric infrastructure projects. Ecuador may soon build a $12.5bn oil refinery with Chinese financing.

“My understanding is that this is more of a debt issue – it’s because the Ecuadoreans are so dependent on the Chinese to finance their development that they’re willing to compromise in other areas such as social and environmental regulations,” said Adam Zuckerman, environmental and human rights campaigner at Amazon Watch. “The message that they’re trying to send to international investors is not in line with reality.”

Last July the inter-American court on human rights ruled to prohibit oil developments in the Sarayaku, a tropical rainforest territory in southern Ecuador that is accessible only by plane and canoe, in order to preserve its rich cultural heritage and biodiversity. The court also mandated that governments obtain “free, prior and informed consent” from native groups before approving oil activities on their indigenous land.

A TV news report broadcast by the US Spanish-language network Telemundo showed members of Ecuadorean native groups – some wearing traditional facepaint and headdresses – waving protest banners and scuffling with security guards outside the Ecuadorean government’s roadshow stop in Houston.

“What the government’s been saying as they have been offering up our territory is not true; they have not consulted us, and we’re here to tell the big investors that they don’t have our permission to exploit our land,” Narcisa Mashienta, a women’s leader of Ecuador’s Shuar people, said in the report.

Cardinal Dolan: Defense of traditional marriage is not ‘an attack on gay people’

March 31, 2013

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, conceded on  ABC’s  “This  Week” on Sunday that the Catholic Church has not done enough to  make gay people  and couples feel welcome, but he said that “we  try our  darndest to make sure  we’re not an anti-anybody.”

Host George  Stephanopoulos asked Cardinal Dolan what he would say  to a gay  person  who is concerned that the church is not welcoming.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, shades his eyes as he looks at the helicopter taking Pope Benedict XVI to Castel Gandolfo, in Rome on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Angelo Carconi)

“Well, the first thing I’d say to them is: ‘I love you, too.  And  God  loves  you.  And you are made in God’s image and likeness.  And —  and we —  we want  your happiness.  But — and you’re entitled to  friendship,’”  Cardinal Dolan  said. “But we also know that God has told  us that the way  to happiness, that —  especially when it comes to sexual  love — that is  intended only for a man and  woman in marriage, where   children can come  about naturally. We got to be — we got to do better  to see  that our  defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay  people.  And I  admit, we haven’t been too good at that.  We try our  darndest to make  sure  we’re not an anti-anybody.”

“Sometimes by  nature, the church has got to be out of touch with  concerns,  because  we’re always supposed to be thinking of the beyond,  the eternal, the   changeless,” Cardinal Dolan said in response to a  separate question from  Mr.  Stephanopoulos. “Our major challenge is to  continue in a credible  way to  present the eternal concerns to people in  a timeless, attractive  way. And  sometimes there is a disconnect —  between what they’re going  through and what  Jesus and his church is  teaching. And that’s  a  challenge for us.”

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/in
side-politics/2013/mar/31/cardinal-dolan-defense-trad
itional-marriage-not-at/#ixzz2P8XNaHy2

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Ambulance Service is Britain Has 13 Deaths Due To Long Waiting

March 31, 2013

Britain’s worst performing ambulance service has launched an investigation into  the deaths of 13 patients.

Ambulance speeding along

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Britain’s worst performing ambulance service has launched an investigation into the deaths of 13 patients Photo: ALAMY
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They include three people who died after waiting at least four hours for an ambulance, and one man waiting for eight hours.

The 13 deaths are among 27 major incidents over the past year at the under-fire East of Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS).

They were revealed in a report by bosses of the service which is bottom of a national league table on response times.

Labour MP Gloria de Piero, whose constituency is covered by East Midlands Ambulance Service said: “I’m absolutely shocked and appalled and I shall be seeking urgent answers to what on earth has been going on.”

The deaths include:

• A man dying after waiting eight hours for an ambulance crew.

• A 76-year-old person who died after waiting four hours for an ambulance that never came

• A lady who fell on the floor and died form a broken neck because she was “not suitably immobilised” by a first aider sent to deal with the emergencv

• An obese patient who died after a specialist ambulance vehicle due to collect the person broke down last September.

The report also highlights the case of a four-year-old boy was left critically ill when he waited an hour for paramedics after suffering a fit at school.

Police are investigating the death of widow Margaret Allsopp, 75, who was killed when an ambulance taking her to Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital crashed in Spilsby, Lincs.

Officers from the same force are investigating a second incident when paramedics were called to a 44-year-old found dead in a bath after a heart attack.

Figures in January showed EMAS was the worst in responding to Category A life-threatening emergency calls within the national target of 19 minutes.

But the service, which covers 4.8 million people in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire, has been the victim of cuts in crews and vehicles.

Colin Todd of the GMB ambulance union said: “When you have 13 deaths there is undoubtedly a problem.” He added: “You need bodies and vehicles on the road. It’s a labour intensive service. There are no fancy short-cuts.”

The report comes in the week the chairman of a second under performing MP Gloria ambulance service resigned after it became the first ever to be failed by the Quality Care Commission.

Meanwhile staff at Yorkshire Ambulance Service will strike on Tuesday in a dispute over £46 million cost-cutting plans and union derecognition.

EMAS Chief executive Phil Milligan said: “The way we operate now is simply not delivering the performance that local people deserve and national Government expects.”

edited at Telegraph.co.uk by Daniel Fisher

Exxon cleans up Arkansas oil spill; Keystone plan assailed

March 31, 2013
Men wearing protective clothing survey cleanup efforts March 30, 2013 where an underground crude oil pipeline ruptured in the Northwood subdivision in Mayflower, Arkansas.  Exxon Mobil was working to clean up thousands of barrels of oil after the pipeline ruptured causing 22 homes to be evacuated in the area. The Pegasus pipeline, which carries Canadian crude oil from Pakota, Illinois to Nederland, Texas was shut-off Friday after the lead was discovered , the company said in a statement. Photo taken March 30, 2013.    REUTERS/Rick McFarland/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: DISASTER ENERGY ENVIRONMENT) NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO ONLINE USE. NOT FOR SALE FOR INTERNET DISPLAY. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Men wearing protective clothing survey cleanup efforts March 30, 2013 where an underground crude oil pipeline ruptured in the Northwood subdivision in Mayflower, Arkansas.  Exxon Mobil was   working to clean up thousands of barrels of oil after the pipeline ruptured causing 22 homes to be evacuated in the area. The Pegasus pipeline, which carries Canadian crude oil from Pakota, Illinois to Nederland, Texas was shut-off Friday after the lead was discovered , the company said in a statement. Photo taken March 30, 2013.    REUTERS/Rick McFarland/Arkansas Democrat

(Reuters) – Exxon Mobil on Sunday continued cleanup of a pipeline spill that loosed thousands of barrels of heavy Canadian crude in Arkansas as opponents of oil sands development latched on to the incident to attack plans to build the Keystone XL line.

Exxon’s Pegasus pipeline, which can carry more than 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude from Pakota, Illinois to Nederland, Texas, was shut after the leak was discovered late Friday afternoon in a subdivision near the town of Mayflower. The leak forced the evacuation of 22 homes.

The company did not have an estimate for the restarting of the pipeline, which was carrying Canadian Wabasca Heavy crude at the time of the leak. An oil spill of more than 1,000 barrels into a Wisconsin field from an Enbridge   (Toronto: ENB.TOnews) pipeline last summer kept that line shuttered for around 11 days.

The Arkansas spill drew fast reaction from opponents of the 800,000 bpd Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry heavy crude from Canada’s tar sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast refining centre.

Environmentalists have expressed concerns about the impact of developing the oil sands and say the crude is more corrosive to pipelines than conventional oil. On Wednesday, a train carrying Canadian crude derailed in Minnesota, spilling 15,000 gallons of oil.

“Whether it’s the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, or … (the) mess in Arkansas, Americans are realizing that transporting large amounts of this corrosive and polluting fuel is a bad deal for American taxpayers and for our environment,” said Representative Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat.

Supporters of Keystone XL and oil sands development say the vast Canadian reserves can help drive down fuel costs in the United States. A report from the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, put together by oil and gas consultancy Penspen, argued diluted bitumen is no more corrosive than other heavy crude.

CLEANUP

Exxon said that by 3 a.m. Saturday there was no additional oil spilling from the pipeline and that trucks had been brought in to assist with the cleanup. Images from local media showed crude oil snaking along a suburban street.

Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration were deployed to the scene.

“Cleanup efforts are progressing 24 hours a day,” said Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers, who added the oil had not leaked into nearby Lake Conway.

“We were very fortunate that the local responders made sure the oil did not enter the water.”

(Reporting by Matthew Robinson in New York and Timothy Gardner in Washington; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

New strain of bird flu which has never been seen in humans before kills two people in China

March 31, 2013

Deadly: A new strain of avian flu has killed two people in China. The disease spreads easily among birds and is prevalent in south east Asia but Britain was hit by an outbreak in 2007

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Deadly: A new strain of avian flu has killed two people in China. The disease  spreads easily among birds and is prevalent in south east Asia but Britain was  hit by an outbreak in 2007

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2301
885/New-strain-bird-flu-seen-humans-kills-people-C
hina.html#ixzz2P8CaeDMY

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  • Victims were  infected in Shanghai and were aged 87 and 27
  • Third  person is critically ill in hospital after contracting virus in nearby  province

By  Daily Mail Reporter

Two people in China have died from a strain  of the bird flu virus never previously passed to humans.

The victims, two men aged 87 and 27, became  sick in Shanghai, one of the country’s largest cities, in late February and died  earlier this month.

Another woman in nearby Anhui province also  contracted the virus in March and is in a critical condition.

Worry: The two victims were infected in the city of Shanghai, one of the biggest in China.
Worry: The two victims were infected in the city of  Shanghai, one of the biggest in China

The strain of the bird flu virus found in all  three people was identified as H7N9, which had not been transmitted to humans  before, according the Chinese National Health and Family Planning  Commission.

More…

BIRD FLU: THE  DISEASE THAT COULD KILL MILLIONS

The first birds were infected in 1996, while  the disease spread to a humans for the first time in Hong Kong a year  later.

It began to move throughout Asia before cases  were later found in Europe

Experts have warned the high contagious  disease is the world’s biggest pandemic threat and could kill between 5 million  and 150 million people.

The disease is expected to continue mutating  within birds but has largely  been brought under control in Asia due to  vaccination programmes.

Seventeen governments around the world are  preparing vaccines to combat a pandemic.

The victims showed symptoms of fever and  coughs that later developed into pneumonia.

It is still unclear they  were  infected.

The World Health Organization says it is  ‘closely monitoring the situation’ in China, regional agency spokesman Timothy  O’Leary said in Manila, Philippines, and said the latest strain was not  contagious.

‘There is apparently no evidence of  human-to-human transmission, and transmission of the virus appears to be  inefficient, therefore the risk to public health would appear to be low,”  O’Leary said.
While WHO is  confident the latest  strain will not easily spread –  no symptoms have  been reported in any people who had been in contact with the victims –  the  deaths will reignite  fears over the disease.

The most common strain of bird flu, H5N1,  found mainly in south east Asia,  is highly contagious among birds and can  spread to humans.

Tens of millions of birds have been culled to  stop the spread, which has  been brought under control by animal vaccination  programmes.

The World Health Organisation says there have  been 566 confirmed human cases of H5N1 since 2003 and 322 deaths.

Governments around the world are pumping  millions of pounds into developing vaccines in the scenario of a  pandemic.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2301885/
New-strain-bird-flu-seen-humans-kills-people-China.html#ixzz2P8C5sH2i

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China’s urbanization drive leaves migrant workers out in the cold

March 31, 2013

A garbage collector walks at a demolition site which is making room for a new residential area, in Wuhan, Huabei province, March 26, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

A garbage collector walks at a demolition site which is making room for a new residential area, in Wuhan, Huabei province, March 26, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

By Lucy Hornby and Jane Lee

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Twenty minutes’ drive from Shanghai’s glitzy financial district, dozens of migrant workers are preparing to abandon homes in old shipping containers, as one of the more unusual solutions to China’s housing shortage faces the wrecking ball.

Cheap but crowded neighborhoods are being cleared across China as part of a stepped-up “urbanization” campaign by China’s new leaders. The country aims to spend an estimated $6 trillion on infrastructure, including housing, as a projected 400 million people become urban residents over the next decade.

But in an ironic twist, the clearance of so-called “villages within cities” removes cheap housing stock for the very people targeted to fuel that migration, without providing sufficient replacement units. The land is sold by municipalities to developers who generally erect expensive apartment towers.

That throws into question how the government can achieve its ambitious goal.

Some even in Hong Kong live in cages and shipping containers

“On the one hand, the law doesn’t allow former farmers to expand housing for migrant workers, on the other hand local governments don’t have the money to build affordable housing either,” said Li Ping, senior attorney for Landesa Rural Development Institute in Beijing.

About 130 million Chinese migrants live in tiny, sub-divided rooms rented out by former farmers whose villages have been swallowed by sprawl, according to government surveys.

Policies to provide government-built housing while razing these shabby “villages within cities” result in a net loss of housing units, according to urban planners and academics, while choking off the private rental market that for decades has enabled China’s massive urban migration.

The dilemma poses harsh choices for those who have made lives in the cities on the slimmest of margins, such as the migrants in the converted shipping containers in Shanghai.

“They can’t just come and ask me to move. I have so many products here that I sell. So much stuff worth at least tens of thousands of yuan,” said Li Yanxin, a migrant from nearby Anhui Province who runs a small convenience store out of his container. His profits – and therefore his ability to pay for his teenager’s education – depend on the low rent he found in the container village.

Local officials put muscle behind a policy of clearing such sites, often declaring these dwellings illegal by noting non-agricultural land allocated to villagers cannot be used for commercial purposes. Land reclassified as “urban” can be sold at a huge profit.

“Not everyone can live in a high rise. Especially those of us who work in the recycling business,” Zhang Baofa, who rented out the used shipping containers in one of the more creative solutions to Shanghai’s shortage of cheap housing.

Local officials, embarrassed by photos of the container village circulating on the Internet, have vowed to remove the site within days. On Thursday, after four years of operation, they declared Li’s store to be unregistered.

“This is zoned as village land. I borrowed the land. I bought the containers. I rented it out. I would know if it were illegal,” Zhang said.

SEPARATE AND UNEQUAL

Chinese cities lack the visible slums of other developing countries, thanks in part to communities such as Xinzhuang in Beijing that collectively house about 3.4 million migrants just within the capital.

A high whitewashed wall and strip of green lawn hide Xinzhuang’s 10,000 residents from surrounding luxury apartment blocks. Three black chickens scratch along a filthy gutter of blue-grey water next to the public latrine. Rooms of about 12 square meters each house families of three, for an affordable 500 yuan ($80) a month.

“A regular apartment would be more comfortable, but it’s about 2,000 yuan a month. That’s too much for the type of people who live here. They want to save what they can. We fill the lowest niche,” said landlord Dong Gang, whose former farmhouse is now a two-story concrete structure divided into about 30 makeshift rooms.

One of the 1,000 original residents of Xinzhuang, he has been renting to migrants for 20 years. Complicated zoning laws mean that Dong can’t expand beyond the footprint of his original home, hindering investments that might improve housing quality.

“In Beijing over the last two years they’ve been ‘cleaning up’ crowded tenements – that raises rents and forces many out,” said Hu Xingdou, a specialist in migrant issues at the Beijing Institute of Technology.

Within the next two years, Beijing city is expected to allow migrants to rent but not buy city-built housing units. Even so, many migrants won’t qualify to rent, and the number of government-built units often falls short of the number of migrants displaced.

“There is going to be less of this type of housing, because almost all cities have policies now to demolish ‘villages within cities’,” according to estimates by Tom Miller, author of “China’s Urban Billion”.

URBAN VILLAGES

For two decades, Chinese local governments have been able to ignore the problem of housing migrants, thanks to the makeshift villages and other arrangements that accommodate about 40 percent of migrants. The remainder live at factory dormitories or tents and pre-fab housing set up on construction sites.

As China’s cities and export industries boomed, cheap private housing helped keep down the cost of labor, says Li Jinkui of the China Development Institute in Shenzhen. He estimates Shenzhen would have spent 25 years’ worth of annual revenues to house the people who were renting in its “villages” in 2000 – a population now estimated at 5 million people.

Of 1.35 billion Chinese, 690 million are estimated to live in cities, but only about half of those can claim urban residency status due to an archaic national registration system that ties all citizens, and public benefits, to their hometowns.

City governments often lack figures for how many people live in neighborhoods targeted for demolition, but they can document their destruction with precision. Beijing’s most recent city plan notes that 171 “villages within cities” had been “cleaned up” in the previous five years, but as of 2011, there were still 100 left.

The loss of affordable housing could accelerate, according to a Beijing plan released Thursday to catalogue “illegal” buildings on collectively owned land and then destroy them next spring. Coal briquettes burned in unheated slum villages contribute to Beijing’s choking winter pollution.

European and American cities had huge programs to replace slums with public housing, Miller said. “The question is what happens when they are demolished in China?”

(Additional reporting by Langi Chiang in BEIJING; Editing by Ken Wills)

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