Sunday, October 14, 2012
Vicious British bureaucrats determined to "get" Branson -- even if they had to make up and misapply the numbers in rail bid
Branson is Britain's most prominent businessman -- and far too successful for socialist bureaucrats. But their nasty little fraud fell apart when threatened with exposure in court
THE Government lost or failed to save key calculations underpinning its decision to award the West Coast rail franchise to FirstGroup, a report commissioned by the Department for Transport shows.
The study from accountants PriceWaterhouseCoopers highlights crucial flaws in the handling of the bid that led to last week's decision by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to pull the contract.
They include the absence or loss of vital computations showing how civil servants arrived at their decision and the failure to examine the risks around GDP forecasts for the final three years of the contract.
The DfT appointed PwC in late September to re-run the numbers on the rival West Coast bids after Virgin Rail, the losing incumbent operator, applied for a judicial review of the process.
Heavily redacted copies of PwC’s report were handed to the bidders earlier this week as the Government provided initial feedback on a decision that has left the taxpayer with a bill of at least £40m to reimburse bid fees and seen the suspension of three civil servants.
One insider said: “It looks like they ran the numbers and didn’t save the results. PwC tried to repeat the outputs and it couldn’t.”
It is unclear whether officials failed to save results, lost key calculations or deleted some of the workings behind their decision.
The report also shows the “GDP resilience model” was not properly applied for the last three years of the contract, while the DfT made errors confusing real and nominal inflation.
It is in the final three years to the end of 2028 when there is a ramp-up in payments to the taxpayer from FirstGroup’s £13.3bn bid.
Last week Mr McLoughlin admitted “mistakes were made in the way in which inflation and passenger numbers were taken into account, and how much money bidders were then asked to guarantee as a result”.
The PwC report shows revenue forecasts were not correlated with how many passengers could actually fit on the trains.
A DfT spokesman said: “We are not going to give a running commentary on what went wrong.”
A FirstGroup spokesman said: “The DfT has provided us with information and we are working through it.” Both PwC and Virgin declined to comment.
Disabled boy, 18, allowed to fall to his death because health and safety fears meant carers could not restrain him
"Health and safety" is a standard excuse for employee laziness in Britain, even when it leads to death
A disabled boy fell to his death because care home workers were too afraid to restrain him over 'health and safety' fears.
James Dean Brotherhood, 18, had brain damage and was susceptible to blood clots following treatment for a brain tumour, which was removed when he was eight.
But despite his medical history and the evident danger, carers at a specialist unit stood by and watched as James pulled himself up onto a windowsill with his wheelchair still strapped to his back.
The teenager fell and hit his head - and within hours was dead. His family have now received a four-figure payout.
When asked by a coroner why he did not intervene in the moments before the tragedy, one of his carers wrongly stated the home had a 'no restraint policy' due to health and safety rules.
Following the out of court settlement, James’s mother Suzanne said: 'If a toddler ran out into the road, would they have stood by and let them get run over by a car?
'His carers said they didn’t want to move him or stop him because they were scared they might get hurt, but one of them was a 6ft bouncer - it was simply ridiculous.
'After the accident, I was told that he had suffered a slight knock but in the inquest I discovered he had received a severe blow to the head.
'There were three carers in the room at the time and they just stood next to him and watched him for several minutes before he fell.
'They should have just grabbed him and stopped him from doing it, then my little boy would still be here.'
Mrs Brotherhood added: 'If he had died from the cancer I might have been able to live with that, but knowing his death was preventable has made it impossible for me to move on.'
After his death, bosses at the Aarons Specialist Unit, in Loughborough, sent his family a £12 cheque for James’s funeral flowers after the inquest in May.
Now, the home’s owners Rushcliffe Care have agreed to pay Mrs Brotherhood and her ex-husband Dean, 46, an undisclosed sum, although they continue to deny any responsibility for James’s untimely death.
An inquest in May this year heard how three members of staff were with James when he pulled himself up on a window frame to try to see a motorbike outside.
He was still strapped into his wheelchair and the hearing at Loughborough Coroner’s Court heard his carers tried to persuade James to climb down but at no point did they physically intervene.
In evidence, they said there was a 'no restraint' policy and that health and safety regulations prevented them from stepping in.
Senior care assistant Dale Watret told the inquest that he was in the room with James when he climbed on the windowsill, but he could not physically step in to get him down because of a health and safety policy.
Mr Watret said carers were told to talk to patients and distract them from behaving in ways that might cause them to harm themselves.
Mr Watret, who is no longer employed by Rushcliffe Care, said he shouted for help.
Coroner Robert Chapman asked Mr Watret: 'Why didn’t you grab him?'
Mr Watret replied: 'Health and safety policy states you don’t catch anyone to break their fall.'
Mr Chapman asked if that was the firm’s policy. Mr Watret replied: 'It’s health and safety policy all over the country, I am led to believe.'
He told the inquest he was concerned about being injured himself.
Mr Watret said: 'I was asking him to come down. The back of his head hit the floor. It happened so fast. Everything after that is a bit of a blur.'
Coroner Robert Chapman recorded a verdict of accidental death caused by bleeding on the brain.
At the time, he said: 'The issue I find the most difficult to deal with is that for one or two minutes James was holding on to the window frame with his wheelchair strapped to his back.
'The staff realised it was dangerous. No attempt seems to have been made to take simple action to intervene.'
Darren Carnwell, a senior manager with Rushcliffe Care, which owns the unit, said staff should have been trained to physically intervene 'as a last resort'.
Mr Chapman also said James’s care plan meant he should only have been in his wheelchair when being moved around the home, but staff members with him when he fell did not know that.
He said he was further concerned James was not always made to wear a protective helmet, as his care plan suggested.
Following the payout, Neil Clayton, a specialist in medical negligence and care home neglect with Harvey Ingram Shakespeares solicitors said: 'This was a tragic accident that would have been avoided if Rushcliffe Care’s staff had used basic common sense.
'There were several opportunities that were missed to prevent James climbing on the window and to get him down safely once he had done so. I hope that lessons have been learned and that an awful event like this will never happen again.'
When Mail Online contacted Rushcliffe Care a man, who refused to give his name or his position in the company, said they would not be giving any comment on the case and hung up.
Houston Man Receives Visit from FBI after Photographing Clouds
The war on photography never stops. The guy only got off because he had an "official" reason to take his photos
A man who snapped photos of a brewing storm last month received a visit Friday from an FBI Agent, inquiring why he would want to take such photos.
Michael Galindo explained that he was simply volunteering for the National Weather Service.
And FBI Agent David Pileggi seemed to be satisfied with that response.
But Galindo was left wondering whether he now has a permanent FBI file.
“He told me, ‘you’re not a threat and you are doing a public service but just be careful next time,’” Galindo said in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime.
The problem arose because Galindo happened to be taking photos near the Lyondell Refinery outside of Houston on September 13, even though he was never standing on the refinery’s property.
Someone from the refinery spotted him and called police, whom apparently arrived after he had left.
Police then contacted the local FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, which bills itself as “nation’s front line on terrorism.”
“I was pretty freaked out when he came but I had no idea what it was about,” said the 26-year-old man. “The worst thing I’ve done is get speeding tickets, but I haven’t gotten one in three years.
“He said I was spotted near the refinery but I couldn’t even remember doing that. I thought it had to be somebody else.
“It wasn’t until he mentioned my camera that I made the connection.”
Galindo told the agent that he volunteers for a NWS program called Skywarn that trains citizens to monitor the weather in the name of “protecting lives and property.”
He said when he pulled off to the side of the road and began taking photos of a brewing storm and potential tornados, he didn’t even notice the refinery, but made sure there weren’t any “no parking” signs around.
“I told him I had been looking for a clear line of site and I had found it,” he said.
Although Pileggi seemed a little surprised by that response, he pulled out a three-page document and began asking questions off it, inquiring whether Galindo had ever been in the military or had ever traveled overseas and about what schools he had attended in the past.
“I wasn’t sure what that had to do with anything,” Galindo said.
The 20-minute visit took place less than a week after a scathing report was released on the inefficiency and ineptitude on urban fusion centers, such as the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Homeland Security Bureau, which was monitoring my Facebook page because of my blog, as well as the Houston fusion center, which produced a video depicting photographers as terrorists.
Joint Terrorism Task Forces are a little different than fusion centers but they both operate under the Department of Homeland Security and are under the assumption photographers are terrorists.
Australia: Uproar as students dress as 'traditional' Aboriginal people
The publication of a photograph of university students at an official college function dressed up to look like "traditional" Aboriginal people, with their faces and limbs painted brown, has forced an internal investigation and rapid re-education program.
The eight female students from the co-educational Cromwell College within the University of Queensland were depicted in the photo - taken last Tuesday - with wild hair, holding sticks and wearing material fashioned into makeshift loin cloths.
The photo made its way on to online social networking sites and quickly raised the ire of a number of indigenous Australians from around the country.
At least one contacted the college and the university directly, sparking the investigation.
"Think #racism and #blackface are unacceptable in Australia? ... Let UQ and Cromwell College know," one Twitter user wrote yesterday. Another posted the photo again with the words included: "University of Queensland Cromwell College for aspiring racists everywhere."
But the residential college, which is associated with the Uniting Church and was founded in the 1950s, said the students acted out of ignorance, not malice.
The Cromwell College principal, Ross Switzer, said he had called a meeting of the entire college body last night and spoken to the young women involved in the photo. He described their behaviour as "a young person's uneducated approximation of Aboriginal life".
"They were not aware of the blackface mocking or demeaning indigenous people," he said. "They were trying to give a tribute to indigenous Australians, not mock or demean them.
"I know that ignorance is no excuse for that behaviour [but] it was ignorance rather than an attempt to laugh at indigenous Australians."
Mr Switzer said the photo was taken shortly before an annual college dinner celebrating diversity across the world and that he had, since last night, organised cultural awareness training for his 250 residents.
The dinner was centred on Thanksgiving in honour of the college's exchange students from the US, he said. However, the group of young women dressed to depict Aboriginal Australians went to the most trouble with their outfits, he said.
The Diversity Council Australia said the incident showed a deep ignorance of Aboriginal culture and religion in Australian society.
"I think is a societal thing," chief executive Nareen Young said. "Because Australia denied Aboriginality for so long, the understanding of the religious and cultural significance of ceremony isn’t in the community."
Ms Young, who has an indigenous background herself, said Cromwell College responded appropriately yesterday by promising to bring in cultural awareness training. It also needed a reconciliation action plan, she said.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.