Jan 29, 2010H1N1 still active in some global regionsAlthough pandemic flu has declined in most of the Northern Hemisphere, transmission remains active in some regions of North Africa, eastern and southeastern Europe, and South and East Asia, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported today. Global H1N1 deaths now total at least 14,711. Novel H1N1 remains dominant in most nations, according to a separate WHO update, but in China 49% of flu isolates are the seasonal B strain. Other countries are detecting some seasonal flu, too.http://www.who.int/csr/don/2010_01_29/en/index.htmlJan 29 WHO weekly updateUS flu activity stayed low last weekH1N1 flu activity stayed at about the same low level last week as the week before, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today. No states had widespread cases; five had regional activity. Five flu-related deaths in children were reported. The share of medical visits ascribed to flu-like illness was 1.7%, below the national baseline of 2.3%, but the fraction of deaths due to flu and pneumonia remained above the epidemic threshold. All but two tested viruses were novel H1N1.http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/?date=012910Jan 29 CDC weekly flu updateFlu down, vaccine availability up at collegesFlu activity at US colleges declined again after leveling off the previous week, the American College Health Association (ACHA) reported. The attack rate was 2.3 per 10,000 students. Though the number of vaccinated students was around 9%, the ACHA reports some encouraging signs. Some institutions are reporting vaccine uptake rates exceeding 25% to 30%. Vaccine availability has improved, with 86% of campuses reporting that they have it.http://www.acha.org/ILI_Project/ILI_Surveillance.cfm/?date=012910ACHA report for week ending Jan 22Vaccine from 1918, 1976 strains may fend off novel H1N1In an experiment to learn more about pre-existing immunity, researchers found that mice vaccinated with 1918-like and classical (from 1976) swine flu vaccines had complete protection against pandemic H1N1, according to a study in PLoS Pathogens. In contrast, vaccines based on more recent seasonal H1N1 strains afforded only partial protection. The authors say their findings underscore the importance of having people under age 35 receive the pandemic vaccine.http://www.plospathogens.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.ppat.1000745Jan 29 PLoS Pathog articleChina denies vaccine-miscarriage linkChina’s government denied a link between H1N1 vaccine and miscarriages after an official said “several” miscarriages occurred among 10,000 pregnant women who had been immunized, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today. The official added the miscarriages were coincidental and that most were seen in women in their first trimester. He emphasized that global experience so far shows the vaccine is safe and effective in pregnant women, who are at high risk for flu complications.http://www.mysinchew.com/node/34657Jan 29 AFP story
By CAROL A. CLARKLos Alamos Daily Postcaclark@ladailypost.comThe Regional Coalition of LANL Communities (RCLC) Board of Directors held its April meeting virtually Friday afternoon due to the state mandate for social distancing.Among the routine agenda items was a presentation by the RCLC’s contracted legal counsel Nancy Long. Long presented what was described as a final assessment of all audits and reports over previously uncovered financial mismanagement identified in fiscal years 2013-2018. Long went through a detailed review of available data including audits dating back to 2013 and the Adams + Crow report, commissioned by Los Alamos County. Long stated that the audits and reports demonstrated that the original financial problems had been born out of neglect and that the findings indicate no criminal activity or attempt to deceive was made by any of the parties.And while most of the questionable expenses have been properly accounted for by the RCLC, Long said that disagreements remain about how to categorize certain expenditures, which could mean up to $8,000 was improperly reimbursed. Those reimbursements in question went to former RCLC Executive Director Andrea Romero. In 2018, Romero paid back to Los Alamos County some $2,200 in reimbursed expenses deemed inappropriate at that time. Her contract with the RCLC ended in early 2018 and was not renewed. She now serves as a state representative for Santa Fe County Dist. 46.In the meeting, Los Alamos County Councilor and RCLC Treasurer David Izraelevitz asked Long for recommendations, and after board discussion, the RCLC board instructed Long to prepare a letter asking Romero to reimburse those questionable reimbursements. Responding to a request for comment from the Los Alamos Daily Post, Romero said early this morning in an email, “Until I see the letter from the RCLC, I won’t be able to comment.”During the discussion, Long also said the RCLC board has recently adopted strong financial procedures that should prevent future financial findings. Beginning in 2018, the RCLC Board has adopted the Office of State Auditor recommendations and new financial procedures, hired an independent accountant and legal counsel, conducted six years of Tier 4 procedures audits, and performed one full compliance audit.The independent auditor firm of Kubiak, Melton and Associates (KMA), reported the final results of the FY19 audit in a March 20, RCLC Board meeting. At that meeting, KMA informed the RCLC Board that KMA had submitted a “Full Financial Procedures” audit conducted for fiscal year 2019 to the New Mexico State Auditor and reported an unmodified or clean opinion. KMA said RCLC accounts are now considered accurate and in full compliance with state audit requirements.RCLC Chair Henry Roybal spoke with the Post Saturday about the final audit results.“It’s been a long road and I’m glad to see this chapter closed … it is our fiduciary responsibility and we’ve hired an attorney and independent auditors to ensure everything is in order and we are sending a letter to Ms. Romero to request that the funds be returned,” Roybal said. “I am really proud of our board and our Executive Director Eric Vasquez … they are all doing a great job and I’m honored with the confidence they have placed in me in electing me their chairman. With all this behind us we can now become the organization we were meant to be.”The next RCLC Board meeting is scheduled for May 15.
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The independent body that played an instrumental role in the acquittals of Barry George and Sion Jenkins (pictured) has warned that further cuts to its budget will cause delays in dealing with cases. In its annual report published this week, the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which reviews potential miscarriages of justice, said its budget had been cut for the last six years. The commission’s budget was £7.07m in 2010/11, down by nearly half a million on the previous year. The CCRC had to make £199,000 further savings during the year, as part of the government’s emergency plans to deal with the financial deficit. CCRC chief executive Claire Bassett said the organisation was ‘feeling the effects’ of the cuts, which had forced it to postpone the recruitment of two new commissioners, not replace one of its specialist investigations advisors, and implement a voluntary redundancy programme which will see five staff leave. Bassett said: ‘We are concerned that further cuts may lead to increased waiting times in the future.’ CCRC chair Richard Foster said he understood the pressure on public expenditure, but was ‘extremely concerned’ given that the body had experienced six years of real cuts. The CCRC currently takes an average of around seven months to deal with applications. In 2010/11 it received 933 applications and completed 947 cases, of which 22 were referred to the appeal courts. A total of 33 cases referred from the commission reached the appeal courts during the year, 20 of which resulted in convictions being quashed or sentences amended. The most common basis of referral was non-disclosure of material evidence at the original trial, but the report showed a growing trend relating to mistaken expert evidence. The CCRC has referred a number of high-profile cases to the appeal court in recent years, including Barry George, who was later acquitted of the murder of television presenter Jill Dando, and Sion Jenkins, who was acquitted of the murder of his foster daughter Billie-Jo Jenkins.
Government plans to introduce a 10% uplift on general damages have again been called into question, amid concern that they are reliant on the co-operation of insurers. The increase, recommended by Lord Justice Jackson in his review of civil litigation costs, was intended in part to compensate for abolishing recoverability of success fees. But it was not included in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, with the government instead relying on judges to implement the uplift. However, with around 90% of civil litigation cases never reaching court, the government admits it has no mechanism to force the 10% uplift to be included in out-of-court offers. An MoJ spokeswoman said: ‘The judiciary are currently looking at how to implement the 10% uplift in damages as part of conditional fee agreements. We would expect insurers to comply with the rates set by the courts when making out-of-court settlements.’ Donna Scully, chairman of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society, said: ‘The reality is claimants won’t see this 10%. Are you telling me insurers are going to voluntarily hand it over? They must be sitting back and laughing. ‘This increase won’t make any difference and it’s patronising to suggest otherwise.’ Robert Khan, head of law reform at the Law Society, warned that without legislation, insurance companies will be tempted to ignore the 10% uplift in settlement offers. He said: ‘It seems to be unworkable and unenforceable. The vast majority of cases will never come before a judge, so it’s left to the insurers to uphold. ‘It is interesting that every pro-defendant measure is in the bill but all the things that are supposed to offer balance for claimants are less certain.’
Send any juicy industry gossip to email@example.com Straight from the PR team’s mouthI’m pleased to report some good news about Bovis Homes. The firm hit the headlines earlier this year when it was forced to set aside £10m to appease some customers fed up with the bodged jobs they discovered when handed the keys to their houses. New boss Greg Fitzgerald promptly sent most of his staff on customer training programmes. The new broom seems to be sweeping clean, according to satisfied Bovis customer Helen from Cheltenham, who (I am told) had her doubts about new-builds. Such has been the fantastic customer service she got from Bovis, she has totally changed her mind about them. And who was the conveyor of this great news? The Bovis Homes press office, of course.A premier (inn) ideaThe vast majority of construction industry firms take staff health and safety very seriously. But some appear to take it more seriously than others. Take SMD, a Poole-based steel decking firm that eschews subcontractors, preferring to directly employ site workers. To look after their welfare, it books hotel accommodation for employees working away from home. This, while a pricey strategy, ensures workers are – in the words of SMD’s business development director Dan Williams – “fully alert, refreshed and 100% fit for work”. A commendable idea, although one hopes they haven’t spent the night before in the hotel bar. A style time forgot We’re playing our part in a new show at the RIBA, home of the great and the good in British architecture. The exhibition at 66 Portland Place – called Pablo Bronstein: Conservatism, or The Long Reign of Pseudo-Georgian Architecture – showcases drawings by the British-Argentinian artist and focuses on buildings from the second half of the 20th century. It includes articles and adverts taken from Building between 1975 and 2002. Apparently there was a long-running discussion in our pages during that time on the pseudo-Georgian in British construction, but I must confess it rather passed me by. I’m more of a brutalist man, myself.Architectural encore This year’s Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Burkina Faso architect Diébédo Francis Kéré, is to remain open to the public for an additional six weeks until 19 November, in response to “public demand”. It’s the first time a pavilion has had its opening time extended in the annual structure’s history. According to Aecom, which has provided technical support to the last five pavilions, Kéré’s structure “reflected the architect’s vision of community and connecting people together with nature, through the exposed canopy structure and the use of tactile traditional materials – steel, timber, concrete and polycarbonate”. Whatever else it does, I feel it beats many of its predecessors, not least Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei’s bizarre “floating lake” effort in 2012. Training to be topLast week saw the largest freight train ever to leave south Wales bound for London carrying 2,300 tonnes of limestone. Operated by DB Cargo UK, the train comprised 34 wagons and was 660m long. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? But some research made our effort in the UK look a bit second-rate. In the US, freight trains can stretch up to 3.7km long. In Canada, they are even bigger, stretching to 4.2km. But the longest freight train of all was run by mining behemoth BHP Billiton. Carrying iron ore across Australia, it consisted of 682 wagons and ran to a whopping 7.3km in length. And it ran on time. Southern Rail, please take note. Higher-order thinkingWhen I first heard about the wiggly glass “organic free-form” roof covering Westfield London’s £600m expansion of its shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush, I thought somebody had taken leave of their senses. What could be organic about this steel and glass roof, I asked. But then I was informed that the “fully organic node system” I was spluttering over actually referred to how the individual elements have been stuck together to create the wiggly roof (pictured). Of course! As it goes, the roof’s stats are impressive: 40,900ft2, or an area the size of 19.5 tennis courts, and weighing in at 197.5 tonnes, or pretty much the same as a fully grown blue whale.
NEW JERSEY Transit is to invest up to US$1·3bn in new rolling stock for its 12 rail corridors, increasing capacity by almost 50% between now and 2005. Initial proposals were presented to the NJ Transit board on March 11, although funding sources have yet to be identified.An initial order would cover 200 wheelchair-accessible single-deck EMUs and coaches, plus 22 electric and 18 diesel locos for delivery by 2002. Costing $525m, these would replace existing non-accessible and obsolete stock. The second build would add 200 double-deck coaches, 2 more electric locos and 15 diesels by 2005 for a total of $505m.Some funding for new stock is included in NJ Transit’s $867m capital budget for the financial year beginning on July 1, which will also pay for improvements at Newark’s Penn Station and Hoboken Terminal, and for the Montclair Connection linking two commuter rail routes. The budget provides $105m for construction of the Hudson-Bergen light rail line and another $48m to start work on the planned 54 km Camden – Trenton diesel LRT route. However, award of a $604m design-build contract to the Southern New Jersey Rail Group consortium of Bechtel and Adtranz was postponed in February. A risk assessment study into the sharing of the ex-Conrail tracks by light rail and freight trains is due to be completed this month.
UK: Far from showing signs of contrition over the storm and upheaval that his October 7 decision had generated, Secretary of State for Transport Stephen Byers told the House of Commons on October 15 that ‘the administration of Railtrack provides us with a golden opportunity to create a railway system which is united and not fragmented’, with ‘a railway network provider that answers to the millions of passengers and not private shareholders.’ Rounding on Railtrack, he claimed that the company was seeking ‘effectively an open-ended funding request on the government’, and stated that ‘I could not give Railtrack a blank cheque’.Byers was particularly unforthcoming on the details of what is to happen next. It had been widely expected that he would announce a restructuring of the Strategic Rail Authority, into which the Rail Regulator would have been merged, but this proposal ran into furious opposition from the Train Operating Companies. Nor did he give details of the infrastructure company to be formed out of the wreckage of Railtrack other than to say that ‘we shall be proposing to the Administrator that a private company limited by guarantee be established’, and that ‘we intend to streamline the existing structure.’ The new structure, he said, would provide ‘strong strategic leadership, a cut in the burden of day-to-day interference, an end to the self-defeating system of penalties and compensation, clearer accountability, and an end to perverse incentives.’Reaffirming that ‘the government is committing some £30bn to the network over the next 10 years’, he was confident that the new company ‘would be able to raise funds in the market. Private sector funding would operate in partnership with government to deliver the 10-year Plan objectives for rail.’Giving evidence to the Transport Select Committee of the House of Commons two days later, SRA Chairman Sir Alastair Morton described the SRA as having ‘powerless status’ and went on to warn that the government’s confidence in the private sector committing another £34bn to rail investment projects was misplaced. Railtrack’s collapse would add greater risk to private investment, and in particular ‘the government, the Treasury and the the Department of Transport working together have done a lot to put doubts in every investor’s mind.’ Sir Alastair is to resign on December 14.
“Luck was not with me today,” said Dormitorio, 21. “Being here in Asian Games is such a great honor, and I can’t express how thankful I am to everyone who made this possible.”“I know, I kept saying thank you but that’s just how I really feel! I feel happy! I also want to thank everyone who believed that I can achieve such things and I love you all for that. Hope I made my country proud,” she added.Guimaras native Lee Denise Belgira and John Derrick Farr also failed to deliver medals after settling for identical sixth place finishes in women’s and men’s mountain bike cycling’s downhill events./PN Ariana Dormitorio (pictured) was first out of the start line but eventually defeated by two Chinese contenders in the women’s cross-country cycling. ARIANA DORMITORIO / FACEBOOK MANILA – Ariana Dormitorio of the Philippines failed to live up to her top seeding after crashing in in the second lap of the five-lap race in the 18th Asian Games on Tuesday in Subang, Indonesia.Ranked first in the 12-rider field, the Iloilo City native sustained a sprained quad muscle after hurting her left thigh and bombed out of the medal race in the women’s cross-country cycling.Dormitorio, whose No. 100 ranking in the UCI made her the favorite in the race, was first out of the start line but two Chinese cyclists caught on early – eventual gold-silver medal winners Yao Bianwa (1:20.7) and Li Hongfeng (1:24.7).The Filipina did not much have time to acclimatize with the race course. Her bike arrived in Indonesia Monday afternoon due to delayed flights after a runway accident at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.