Monday, September 09, 2013

British rail worker suspended.. for saving woman's life: Hero 'broke safety rules'

A railway worker who leapt on to the track to help rescue a disabled woman may face the sack for breaching health and safety rules.

Customer service assistant Alan Chittock was on the platform when he saw the elderly passenger roll 5ft down on to the line in her wheelchair.

With a commuter train due in minutes, he and three helpers jumped on to the track as other staff tried to alert signallers.
Customer service assistant Alan Chittock has been suspended for leaping onto the tracks at Southend Central railway station

Customer service assistant Alan Chittock has been suspended for leaping onto the tracks at Southend Central railway station to rescue a disabled woman who had fallen from the platform

They lifted the woman, who was in her 70s and strapped into the chair, back on to the platform before the train arrived.

It is not clear whether it could have been stopped in time if the woman had not been rescued. She was taken to hospital with her carer and treated for minor injuries.

Passengers and colleagues congratulated Mr Chittock, 50. But rather than receive a bravery award, he has been suspended by rail operator c2c while the incident is investigated – and could face disciplinary action for not following the ‘correct safety procedures’.

It is not clear whether he was on or off duty at the time of the incident at Southend Central Station.

Mr Chittock, who has worked on the railways for about 30 years, declined to comment last night and is believed to have been advised by the RMT union not to talk about the incident.

But his sister, who did not want to be named, said he had no regrets.

‘He had no choice,’ she said. ‘He did what any person in his situation would have done. The train was so close that it would have killed her had he not acted quickly. He wasn’t going to stand back.’

A rail worker, who asked not to be named, said: ‘He was suspended because staff can’t go on the tracks.

‘He saved her life, but now he might lose his job. What was he supposed to do? Let her die?’

Commuter Matt Findlay, 29, said: ‘Do the company really expect staff to leave people on the tracks? What he did was really brave. He deserves a medal not a suspension.’

Brian Cassar, 22, who works at the station cafe, said: ‘The woman just rolled off the platform edge. This guy immediately jumped down on to the track. She probably would have got hurt if he hadn’t got involved.’

c2c is reviewing the incident on the London-bound platform at 6.10pm on August 28.

Although the line, from Tilbury in Essex to Fenchurch Street, is powered by overhead cables, staff are banned from ‘accessing the track’ under health and safety rules even though there is no electrocution risk.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: ‘Clearly it is a travesty of justice that a member of staff has ended up threatened with disciplinary action for helping avoid a potential tragedy.’

‘RMT will do all that we can to ensure that he is returned to work as soon as possible with no stain on his record and a recognition that station-based rail staff play a crucial role in ensuring public safety.’

A c2c spokesman said: ‘We have strict rules regarding correct safety procedures and an employee has been suspended while our investigations into the incident continue.’


Muslim doctor ‘found tourist’s lost wallet containing £2,500 in Starbucks then tried to claim it was HIS’

A Harley Street [specialist] doctor stole a wallet full of cash that had been left on a table in Starbucks, and threatened to have police officers who arrested him on suspicion of the crime fired, a court heard.

Abdul Choudhuri, 41, claimed the wallet was his after a Singaporean tourist left it on a nearby table by accident in the Nottingham coffee shop.

Dr Choudhuri, who runs cosmetic surgery clinics on London's Harley Street and in Nottingham, then posed as a member of the Crown Prosecution Service to avoid being charged for his crime once arrested a month later.

Kenny Quek left the wallet which contained a 1,000 dollar Singapore bank note on his table in the coffee shop on South Parade, Nottinghamshire, in October 2010 by mistake.

When he returned, staff realised he was the rightful owner of the wallet and phoned police to report Dr Choudhuri who had earlier said it was his.

Dr Choudhuri returned to the shop a month later and was recognised by barrista Lisa Wright, who phoned the police after noting the cosmetic surgeon's 'shifty' behaviour.

When police arrived at the scene Dr Choudhuri reportedly hid in the toilets, before threatening to have one of the police officers fired.

Upon his arrest he told the officer: 'I know Dave Walker (a former Nottinghamshire Police Superintendent) and you are going to lose your job', the court heard.

Prosecutor Jonathan Straw told the a jury at Nottingham Crown Court: 'Mr Choudhuri is a thoroughly dishonest and highly manipulative individual who has gone to extreme lengths in order to avoid conviction.'

The doctor, whose clinics offer cosmetic treatments including liposuction and laser skin surgery, also posed as a member of the CPS to tell a witness the case had been dropped.

Following the arrest, Mr Straw said Ms Wright received phone calls from a withheld number claiming the trial had been cancelled.

Mr Straw said the person who made the call claimed to be from the Nottingham Witness Protection Scheme which is part of the CPS, but in fact was Dr Choudhuri or someone acting on his behalf.

The doctor denies one count of fraud and two counts of perverting the course of justice.

PC Richard Shaw searched a wallet found on him which contained a 1,000 dollar Singapore bank note.

When the case was adjourned to investigate the source of the calls, it emerged an alibi used given by Dr Choudhuri was also allegedly false.


TX: San Antonio Adopts Controversial Gay Rights Measure‏

 San Antonio’s leaders on Thursday approved anti-bias protections for gay and transgender residents, over the disapproval of top Texas Republicans and religious conservatives who packed a City Council hearing and occasionally shamed supporters for comparing the issue to the civil rights movement.

The 8-3 City Council vote in favor of the ordinance was a victory for gay rights advocates and for Democratic Mayor Julian Castro, a top surrogate of President Barack Obama. Castro has called the ordinance overdue in the nation’s seventh-largest city, where there is a stronger current of traditionalism and conservatism than other major Texas cities that already have similar gay rights protections.

San Antonio joins nearly 180 other U.S. cities that have nondiscrimination ordinances that prohibit bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign.  “This ordinance is about saying there are no second-class citizens in San Antonio,” Castro said.

Supporters in red shirts and opponents in blue sat on opposite sides of the ornate council chamber Thursday. Church leaders vowed petitions to recall council members, and the shouts of protesters outside City Hall often carried through the stone walls of the century-old building.

More than 700 people registered to speak Wednesday during a marathon session of citizen testimony that stretched past midnight. Just a few hours later, 100 people signed up Thursday morning to get in a final word before the vote.

Dee Villarubia, 67, said she’s a former Air Force officer whose landlord at a San Antonio apartment evicted her two years ago because she is gay.  “When I say the pledge of allegiance, I say `justice for some’ because there’s an asterisk that means not me,” Villarubia said. “Today, I would take that asterisk away and finally say `justice for all.’”

The local measure roiled conservatives nationwide and was opposed by big-name Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Abbott, a Republican who is seeking the governor’s office, predicted a lawsuit over religious freedoms, though he has not said the state will challenge the ordinance.

Attention intensified after City Councilwoman Elisa Chan was caught on tape calling homosexuality “disgusting” and arguing that gays should not be allowed to adopt. Chan has defended her comments.

“Just because I disagree with the lifestyle of the LGBT community doesn’t mean I dislike them,” Chan said before the vote.  “Similarly, just because one opposes this ordinance, does not mean one is for discrimination.”

San Antonio City Attorney Michael Bernard told the council the ordinance would apply to most city contracts and contractors. It prohibits council members from discriminating in their official capacity and forbids workers in public accommodation jobs, such as at restaurants or hotels, from refusing to serve customers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Opponents say the ordinance – which takes effect immediately – would stifle religious expression and does not have the support of most of the city’s residents.

“The problem I have is that you criminalize us if we speak our faith,” said Marc Longoria, 42, a pastor at My Father’s House Church. “We are Christians all the time. We don’t have an on and off switch.”

One side of the room would erupt in cheers or give a standing ovation depending on the remarks toward the 11-member council. Some turned around to address their opponents in the audience directly.

“My parents and my grandparents rode the back of the bus,” said Sylvia Villarreal, who urged the council to vote no. “And I say shame on them for comparing this to civil rights.”

The measure passed by the council amends protections already in place for discrimination based on race or gender.

Victories for gay rights advocates have been elusive in the Republican-controlled Texas Capitol. They’ve had more success on a local level: Houston has a lesbian mayor, and Austin offers health benefits for same-sex couples. Dallas, Houston, Austin, Fort Worth and El Paso are among the Texas cities that already have anti-bias ordinances of varying scope.

Conservative pushback in San Antonio was notable coming on the turf of Castro, a rising star who delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention last year. The opposition in his backyard was a weed in Castro’s narrative that San Antonio embraces the kind of political values that will soon spread statewide and turn Texas blue.


At the sexually corrupt BBC, when your age exceeds your bra size you're finished: SELINA SCOTT exposes the moral bankruptcy at the heart of the Beeb

When Mark Thompson left the BBC after eight years as Director-General, the great and the good of the broadcasting industry and parliament gathered in the gilded environs of the new TV centre in the heart of London.

As is the custom on these occasions, when Mark Thompson stepped before the microphone to make his adieus, it was an emotional affair in which  the serious and profound was flecked with humour.

What he then said in jest, however, demonstrated just how much Mark has changed since he was a trainee producer at the BBC, entrusted to bring me my cornflakes and tea when I anchored Breakfast Time.

‘I never thought I would be sleeping with the woman who is sleeping with the Director- General of the BBC,’ he quipped, glancing at his wife sitting in the front row. I guess he wanted to appear cool to his contemporaries but his innuendo touched on the invisible, potent atmosphere surrounding a sexual and financial culture which has long prevailed within the Corporation.

When I first met him, Thompson was a studious, caring young man, not interested in the gossip that echoed around the studio floor. I think that’s what attracted me to him. He was above all of that.

Tomorrow, however, he will be virtually put on trial when he appears before the Commons Public Accounts Committee to give his version of how vast amounts of public money were paid to BBC executives made redundant on his watch.

The BBC paid £25 million to 150 departing bosses between 2009 and 2012, some of which went well beyond any contractual entitlement. Lord Patten, Chairman of the BBC Trust, will also be grilled by MPs.

These two powerful media panjandrums are now metaphorically at each other’s throats. Thompson alleges that Patten told ‘specific untruths and inaccuracies’ in his evidence to MPs on the Public Accounts Committee in July regarding what he did and did not know about these payments.

Patten has denied the Trust knew the details of severance payments and has damagingly suggested they were misled. And who misled them? The finger is pointing at Thompson.

There can be little doubt that tomorrow both men will fight each other like rats in a sack and it seems certain one of them has at best a faulty memory and will have to resign.

But the scandal over outrageous pay-offs is a double blow to the BBC, alongside the revelations about Jimmy Savile and the alleged sexual misconduct by other key presenters.

At first sight there appears to be little to link these two crises. Those of us, however, who have worked at the Corporation over the past three decades know this once-great institution has been open to many forms of corruption – including sexual.

When I was poached by the BBC from ITN to launch Breakfast Time I was understandably excited about this innovation in British television. At ITN there was a collegiate atmosphere, untainted by any kind of favouritism, which worked completely on talent and meritocracy. This was not the case at the BBC.

It became clear to me that if you were an attractive female then you needed a senior producer to act as your patron or your career would not prosper. In short, the old Hollywood casting couch was in full swing.

Over the years I have often returned to the BBC to work on programmes and my observations of the sexist culture have always been the same. That some of the often Oxbridge- educated powerful male elite behave in a predatory way towards attractive and ambitious women seeking to move up the Corporation’s greasy pole.

Indeed, one celebrated interviewer still working for the Corporation had the nickname ‘Golden Balls’ long before it was given to David Beckham because of his predilection for the beautiful female intake.

Perhaps this is best illustrated by what my colleague Fern Britton wrote in her recently published autobiography about Breakfast Time and male anchor Frank Bough.

Fern says: ‘Frank Bough was not quite the genial uncle his public persona suggested; Frank and I sat next to each other and he was quite sweet.

Then as it got to the coffee and cigarette stage he leant over to whisper in my ear, “Well young lady, I wonder how long it will be before I am having an affair with you?”. He was ungenerous to Selina as well.’

It wasn’t long before Fern left. The young Thompson – saying nothing – observed all of this.  It would be nice to think Fern’s encounter was an isolated incident but sadly it is not.

The presenter Fiona Phillips says: ‘Television is an industry which, when you are in front of a camera, is based on people’s subjective whim ...... whether some chief executive male fancies you.’

And Christine Odone, former editor of the Catholic Times and media commentator, betrays the mindset of many senior males at the BBC when she  disclosed ‘they prefer pliable-looking fertile fillies to older females with a bit of attitude’.

After an absence of some time I renewed my acquaintance with Mark when I took up the cudgels on behalf of older women who had been disgracefully treated by the BBC and pushed out of work, when it was considered they weren’t young enough to appear on screen.

Indeed, within the Corporation the joke always was that when a woman’s age exceeded her bra size she was finished.

The meeting with Mark was arranged by Sir Michael Lyons, then Chairman of the BBC Trust. Sir Michael had invited me to address the Trust on the issue of ageism. It was a dispiriting occasion.

They appeared to me to be a spineless bunch. When I told him ageism in the BBC was like a virulent virus in the system that had been running for years, Sir Michael excused the lack of action by saying the Trust had only been in existence for four years.

He expressed no opinion about charges of ageism that were rampant in the media at the time following the sacking of Miriam O’Reilly from Countryfile in 2009. Sir Michael decided to swiftly pass the parcel and put my dossier of charges on Mark’s desk.

And so I arrived at a meeting with the most powerful executive at the Corporation. This is what took place.

When I told Mark that, whatever the result of Miriam’s forthcoming tribunal hearing against the Corporation for unfair dismissal, the BBC should be big enough to extend the hand of friendship and re-employ her, he banged his fist on his desk and said ‘under no circumstances’. Later, however, there was a massive mea culpa.

Miriam gained some employment but only after it was clear public opinion had moved against the BBC on this issue. I also put it to Mark that it was a betrayal not to employ ‘older’ women and that it was the BBC’s duty to actively reflect the society that we lived in.

Mark suggested we meet regularly to review the ageism issue but when I saw him later he told me to my amazement the Corporation was having difficulty identifying enough talented women aged 50 to 60 and a member of the BBC Trust had suggested the Corporation instead focus its energy on developing the longevity of its younger talent.

Examine what this has led to: speaking at the Oxford Literary Festival recently, the respected art critic Brian Sewell was scathing about the parachuting into programmes of women ill-tutored in the subject matter. He quoted the programme Da Vinci: The Lost Treasure presented by Fiona Bruce.

He described it as ‘the most unforgivable thing the BBC ever did ....... and it is fronted by that vacuous woman gushing’. I don’t blame Fiona for taking on work like this. She has admitted she has to dye her grey hair and has a limited shelf-life because of her age. Sewell’s attack only served to illuminate how the BBC had got it wrong again.

Present for part of my meeting with Mark was Lucy Adams, the BBC’s human resources director. She would later resign after signing off on £60 million in severance payments to BBC bureaucrats which she said took place because of the Corporation’s culture.

I found her a coolly calculating female career executive with a view of Mark that bordered on hero worship.

It may be extraordinary how powerful this largely unknown woman’s empire was but is entirely reflective of the vast estates many on the 6th floor of the BBC overlord. It is like a feudal kingdom with powerful vested interests, deploying a droit du seigneur that the new Director-General Lord Hall insists he is trying to break up. I wish Lord Hall success in his restructuring.

But the BBC has always been like a giant worm – no matter how much you cut off, it reforms in its old image.

It is my unhappy conclusion that Mark had lost control over the empire. There is much he could reveal to the Commons committee tomorrow should he choose.

He will need no reminder that the New York Times, over which he presides, carries the slogan on its front page: ‘All the news that’s fit to print’.

I hope he remains true to this declaration of disclosure and honesty.



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.



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