IMF head remains in New York prison; charged over alleged hotel sex attack

Sunday, May 15, 2011

This sordid episode—no matter how it ultimately plays out—will spell the end of Strauss-Kahn as an effective leader of the IMF even if he retains his position, which is highly unlikely.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, remained in jail last night after being charged with sexually attacking a chambermaid at a New York City hotel. Strauss-Kahn has agreed to undergo forensic screening before he appears in court, and has vowed to “vigorously” defend himself against the charges, which are likely to create a leadership void at the IMF, disrupt emergency talks over the European debt crisis, and spell the end of his political career.

Strauss-Khan was the favourite candidate for the French presidency, and was expected to announce he would stand against Nicolas Sarkozy this month. But the allegations are expected to destroy the hopes of his supporters, increase infighting among the French left, and leave his political career in tatters. His arrest comes at a critical moment for the IMF, and will likely plunge efforts to stabilise the financial states of struggling eurozone countries into chaos. He was meant to discuss the bailouts of Greece and Portugal with European Union financial officials at a meeting in Brussels this week.

Eswar Shanker Prasad, a professor of international economics at Cornell University, said: “This sordid episode – no matter how it ultimately plays out – will spell the end of Strauss-Kahn as an effective leader of the IMF even if he retains his position, which is highly unlikely.” The IMF, however, insisted it remained “fully functioning and operational.”

Strauss-Kahn was to appear in court in Manhattan yesterday charged with three crimes, including attempted rape, but the hearing has been delayed so he can undergo forensic tests. He was taken into custody by officials while on an Air France passenger plane which was about to take off from John F. Kennedy International Airport for Paris; when detectives approached him in the first class cabin in the aircraft he reportedly asked: “What is this about?” Strauss-Kahn reportedly fled the hotel “in a hurry” after the attack, leaving a number of personal effects behind. “If our officers had been ten minutes later he would have been in the air and on their [sic] way to France,” a spokesperson for the New York Police Department said.

The chambermaid reported that she had been sexually assaulted by a man staying in a “luxury suite” at the Sofitel hotel near Times Square. “The maid described being forcibly attacked, locked in the room and sexually assaulted,” the police spokesperson said. Strauss-Kahn came out of the shower naked while the chambermaid was working in the room, tried to pull the woman onto the bed and locked the door, The New York Times reported, quoting police sources. She allegedly fought him off, but he sexually assaulted her again after dragging her to the bathroom, before he locked her in the room; she was reportedly hospitalized afterwards with trauma.

In 2008, a year after becoming the leader of the IMF, Strauss-Kahn was reprimanded by the organization’s board after being involved in an extramarital affair with another senior executive at the bank. More recently, he was pictured driving a luxury car in Paris, causing a media furore over whether his lifestyle fitted with the socialist attitude he claims to represent. But his wife, former television star Anne Sinclair, has dismissed the accusations. She said: “I do not believe for one second the accusations brought against my husband. I have no doubt his innocence will be established.”

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AT&T to buy BellSouth for $67 billion

Monday, March 6, 2006

AT&T Inc. and BellSouth announced a US$67 billion merger deal Sunday. If approved by shareholders and regulators, the merger would create the largest telecommunications company in the United States, with control of over half of the telephone lines in the country and the largest cellular service provider, Cingular Wireless.

“This transaction combines two solid, very well-run companies,” AT&T Chairman and CEO Edward E. Whitacre said in a press statement. “BellSouth operates in an attractive region with a growing economy. It has great employees and an outstanding network, with fiber optics deeply deployed in its service area. It has a strong record in terms of customer service and a sound, conservative balance sheet. These strengths, added to those of AT&T, will improve our ability to provide innovative services to more customers while returning substantial value to our owners and improving our growth profile.”

AT&T and BellSouth had shared ownership and operations of Cingular Wireless, which will be absorbed by AT&T as part of the merger. If the deal passes shareholders, BellSouth stock holders will receive 1.325 shares of AT&T common stock for each single share held of BellSouth stock. at a rate of 1.325 shares of AT&T stock per BellSouth share. Though subject to approval by government regulators and shareholders of both companies, the merger is expected to be completed within the next year.

BellSouth and AT&T employ nearly 316,000 people in the United States. The merger, if approved, would give AT&T 70 million telephone users, almost 10 million broadband subscribers, and AT&T will provide services to more than half the companies on the Fortune 100 in 22 states.

Whitacre will remain as chairman, CEO and a member of the board of directors of the combined company. Duane Ackerman, currently chairman and CEO of BellSouth, will remain in his position for a transition period following the merger. Additionally, three members of BellSouth’s board of directors will join the AT&T board.

The announced purchase recalls the planned US$115 billion dollar merger of MCI WorldCom and Sprint in 1999 that was prohibited by the federal government. Despite this, analysts think the federal actions will be smaller, since these actions came under protest three months ago due to the actions of their European rivals.

With the price of AT&T closing at US$27.99 per share, and the price of BellSouth closing at US$37.09 per share, AT&T will pay an additional 17.9% for each stock of BellSouth. This operation ultimately leads to a capitalization of US$165 billion, and officials with the companies predict a force reduction of at least 10,000 employees, lower costs of operation in networks, and an overall savings of $2 billion after the second year, with altogether savings reaching US$18 billion.

AT&T also announced that it will try to acquire the US$10 billion worth of stocks that were yielded during the company’s bankruptcy in 1984.

The corporate headquarters for the combined company are expected to remain in San Antonio, Texas, though Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue and Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin said Monday that they will work to persuade AT&T executives to move their headquarters to the BellSouth HQ in Atlanta. Cingular’s headquarters will remain in Atlanta, as will the combined company’s Southeast regional telephone company headquarters.

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Scottish prosecutors keeping quiet about Lanarkshire surgical deaths

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Crown Office are staying quiet about possible prosecutions after an inquiry found medical failures caused three deaths at NHS Lanarkshire.

In response to a specific question as to the possibility of prosecutions, a Crown Office spokesperson told Wikinews today that “The three deaths were fully investigated by the Procurator Fiscal and reported to Crown Counsel [laywers] to consider. Crown Counsel concluded that, given the facts and circumstances of the deaths, a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) was the appropriate forum to consider the circumstances of the deaths.” It was further noted that “[a] FAI cannot make any findings of fault/blame against individuals.”

However, Crown Office did not specifically rule out prosecutions for offences such as cuplable homicide despite the spokesperson noting this was a direct response to such a question. They also declined to comment on National Health Service care as “it would not be appropriate to comment on the provision of NHS services” and entirely ignored questions about Crown Office satisfaction in the inquiry’s outcome and the length of time it took to reach a conclusion. The inquiry wrapped up last week but the deaths were in 2006.

Agnes Nicol, George Johnstone, and Andrew Ritchie died within a three-month period following keyhole surgery to remove their gall bladders.

Later expanded to look at all three deaths, the inquiry initially established to look into the case of Nicol, 50, who received surgery in late 2005. A surgeon at Wishaw General Hospital mistakenly cut her bile duct and her right hepatic artery. Whilst suturing her portal vein, her liver was left with 20% of its normal blood supply; the errors were not discovered until her transfer to liver specialists at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary.

By then, her liver was seriously damaged. She developed septicaemia, dying from multiple organ failure in March 2006.

Johnstone, 54, underwent the same procedure at Monklands District General Hospital on May 9, 2006. A consultant surgeon accidentally damaged, possibly severing, his bile duct. He died two days later in intensive care from the combined effects of multiple organ failure and a heart ailment.

Ritchie, 62, died in intensive care a week after an operation in June 2006. He died from intra abdominal haemorrhage caused by errors during the surgery.

Different surgeons were involved each time and the inquiry, under Sheriff Robert Dickson, found no evidence of poor training or inadequate experience. Dickson noted that in each case there was lack of action on a “growing body of evidence that there was something fundamentally wrong with the patient” and surgeons failed to contemplate their own actions as potentially responsible. He agreed with two professors that it may have been possible to save their lives “had the post-operative care been to the standard which they expected, and had there been a proper management plan which staff could have worked to” and noted that all the patients suffered from a lack of adequate medical notes being available after their surgery. He described the care as having “clear faults”.

NHS Lanarkshire apologised and said improvements had been made regarding “these types of cases” as well as with document management. Wikinews got in touch seeking details of the changes made but the health trust failed to respond.

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New Jersey officials: Stimulus bill hurting Atlantic City casinos

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A New Jersey congressman says restrictions on federal stimulus money are hurting gaming destinations like Atlantic City, and he is seeking to repeal a provision banning the use of funds for casinos or other gaming establishments.

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“The demonization of gaming destinations such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City for business travel is wrong, wrong, wrong,” U.S. Rep Frank LoBiondo said Friday during a press conference in front of Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

The $787 billion federal stimulus bill passed in February specifically prohibits casinos from applying for funds for infrastructure improvements and other similar projects. LoBiondo said Atlantic City is losing millions of dollars in business as a result of that provision.

Casinos’ revenues dropped 19.2 percent in February 2009 month compared to February 2008, according to the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. LoBiondo said $160 million worth of business and 120,000 visitors have chosen other cities for their tourism plans due to the stimulus bill, according to Atlantic City Convention Center figures.

The administration also recently determined other groups like nonprofit organizations and local governments may not spend their stimulus money at casino properties. State officials said the rules are damaging a major pillar of the New Jersey economy.

“Are those jobs somehow less important or less meaningful than those in the manufacturing, retail or financial industries?” said Ken Calemmo, chairman-elect of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber.

Anti-gambling officials said the stimulus law does not prohibit casinos from taking advantage of tax breaks, and Atlantic City officials should not complain about the stimulus bill because the city is too reliant on an unreliable revenue stream.

“There isn’t a state, including New Jersey or Nevada, that could gamble themselves rich, any more than an individual could gamble themselves rich,” said Tom Grey, field director for StopPredatoryGambling.org. “They should’ve diversified (the economy) instead of chasing their loss.”

But Joe Kelly, chamber president, said 35,000 people work at New Jersey casinos, and thousands more around the state work for outside vendors that depend on casinos for their business.

“It is not just an Atlantic County issue. It is not just a Cape May issue,” Kelly said. “There’s purchasing done by every county.”

LoBiondo is working to repeal the provision with U.S. Rep Shelly Berkley, co-chair of the Congressional Gaming Cascus, and has reached out to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has a history of representing the interests of the gaming industry.

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Haitian earthquake: in pictures

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti was hit by a heavy earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 on Tuesday, killing an unknown number of people, and destroying up to ten percent of buildings in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

No official death toll has been released as of yet, although the United Nations says that up to fifty thousand people may potentially have been killed. An estimated 300,000 more were left without homes.

In a special photo report, Wikinews looks at the extensive damage caused by the disaster.


To find more information about a certain image or to enlarge it, click it. For an in-depth textual report on the same subject, please see Haiti relief efforts: in depth.

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Distributed malware attacks Dyn DNS, takes down websites in US

Monday, October 24, 2016

On Friday, a network of diverse Internet-connected devices targeted the Dyn domain registration service provider. It took down Dyn clients, including several popular websites such as Twitter, Netflix, Spotify, Reddit, New York Times, and Wired.

The attack involved targeting Dyn’s domain name system servers with a large volume of requests, rendering it incapable of serving replies to legitimate requests — a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack. Users’ browsers and other clients sent requests to Dyn to resolve the respective web sites’ domain names to an IP, but did not get a reply within the time required.

The first attack started at about 7am local time (UTC-4) and was resolved in two hours. A second attack started at mid-day, and a third attack started at about 4pm local time. Tens of millions of malicious request sources were observed, interfering with legitimate Dyn traffic.

The reports noted the malicious devices included internet-connected devices — not only servers and desktops, but also webcams, digital video recorders, routers — referred to as the Internet of Things.

On Friday evening Dyn said a security company Flashpoint and a cloud services provider Akamai identified symptoms of malware Mirai participating in the attacks. The malware infects the devices by brute forcing their passwords. This strategy may work as a consequence of users’ negligence towards password security of stationary devices, which the users do not directly interact with in their everyday life while leaving them exposed to the Internet.

Matthew Prince, the CEO of an Internet infrastructure company Cloudflare said it’s a known issue, “There’s nothing really new about [this type of DDoS attack]. We’ve seen them for at least the last three years, they tend to be difficult to stop”.

Public release of Mirai source code was announced at Hackforums on September 30.

Dyn’s corporate headquarters are in New Hampshire.

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Four British energy suppliers face investigation into claims of misselling

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem), the regulator of the electricity and gas markets in Great Britain, has launched an investigation into four of the largest British energy suppliers over suspicions that they not be complying with face-to-face and telephone sales regulations. The four organisations facing scrutiny could be fined up to 10% of their annual turnover if it is found that they are breaking sales regulations. Scottish Power, npower, Scottish and Southern Energy and EDF Energy are all to face questioning by the organisation.

Ofgem has urged customers of the four companies to alert the energy regulator, “if they are concerned about the sales approach any domestic suppliers have taken when selling energy contracts, either face-to-face or by telephone,” according to a statement. “As part of the investigation process Ofgem will examine any evidence of non-compliance and consider whether there are grounds for exercising enforcement powers.”

New regulations on sales tactics by energy suppliers were recently introduced, and, Ofgem has said, energy suppliers must be “proactive in preventing misselling to customers both face to face and over the phone. Also, if suppliers are selling contracts face to face they must provide customers with an estimate before any sales are concluded. In most circumstances customers should also receive a comparison of the supplier’s offer with their current deal.” Only one in five consumers consider energy suppliers to be trustworthy, and 61% of people feel intimidated by doorstep sales people from energy companies. According to the organisation Consumer Focus, “complaints have declined since new rules came into effect this year, but suppliers still seem to be flouting the rules. Some customers are still being given misleading quotes and information, which leave them worse off when they switch provider.”

The newspaper The Guardian has reported that “householders are reporting that sales agents working for the energy suppliers are giving them misleading information and quotes which leave them worse off when they switch supplier.” Consumer Focus has said that if energy companies continue to break the rules, they could be banned from doorstep-selling completely. The report goes on to say that “new figures from helpline Consumer Direct show that while the number of complaints has fallen since last year, about 200 cases of mis-selling are being reported each month.” However, Scottish Power said it insists on “the highest standards possible for all of our sales agents”, and npower told the Financial Times that it was “confident that the processes we have in place mean that we comply with our regulatory obligations”. EDF added that it was “fully compliant with all obligations regarding sales of energy contracts”.

According to the regulator, the obligations are serious and must be followed by energy supplies, or they will face “tougher sanctions than those available under more general consumer protection law.” Ofgem has published a guide advising consumers what they should do should an energy salesperson contact them in person of by telephone. Improper sales tactics are still common in the industry—in 2008 an Ofgem investigation found that 48% of gas customers and 42% of electricity customers were worse off after switching supplier on the doorstep. Npower was fined £1.8 million in 2008 by the organisation, and Ofgem insists that they are “committed to taking action” over improper sales activities by energy companies. “Suppliers have existing obligations to detect and prevent misselling and new licence conditions were brought in following our probe to further increase protection for customers,” said Andrew Wright, a Senior Partner of the regulator. “We expect all suppliers to comply with these tougher obligations but if our investigations find otherwise we will take strong action.”

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What are your experiences with doorstep salespeople? If they persuaded you to change energy providers, were you worse off as a result?
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Head of energy at Consumer Focus, Audrey Gallacher, called the investigation “a welcome step … to address years of customers getting a bad deal on energy prices on their doorstep. While many doorstep sales people will do a good job, the pay and rewards system continues to encourage mis-selling, despite years of regulation and voluntary initiatives. If better advice for customers and enforcement of the tougher rules doesn’t end the flagrant abuse of this form of selling the big question will be whether it should be completely banned.” Christine McGourty, director of Energy UK, which represents the leading gas and electricity companies, said that “the companies involved will collaborate with the Ofgem investigation and are awaiting further details from the regulator. Any sales agent in breach of the code will be struck off the approved energy sales register.” Which? chief executive, Peter Vicary-Smith, has said he considers the situation “shocking”, saying that the investigation “will do nothing to improve consumer trust in energy suppliers. We’re pleased that Ofgem has promised tough measures against any firms guilty of mis-selling. We hope it uses this opportunity to tighten rules around telesales so they are in line with those for face to face sales.”

SNP Westminster Energy spokesperson Mike Weir MP, however, said that the investigation “does nothing to tackle the real problem of fuel prices which leave many Scots facing great difficulty in heating their homes … Rather than tinkering around the edges Ofgem should be looking at how to reduce prices for vulnerable households.” Gareth Kloet, Head of Utilities at Confused.com, one of the UK’s biggest and most popular price comparison services, also welcomed the inquiry. “It is unacceptable for energy companies to mislead customers like this,” he said, adding that Confused.com has previously “urged energy providers to either stop the practice of doorstep selling or make it very clear to households that better deals are available online. There is no reason why door-to-door salesmen can’t show people online deals and even help households switch to them.”

“Our research reveals customers could end up paying £167 more than they need to as door-to-door salesmen are unable to offer the discounts that are applied online. The changes that have been made to date are a welcome addition to safeguard customers; however this review has been much needed for a long time. Hopefully it will mark the end of customers being overcharged and missold,” Kloet continued. “Our message to energy consumers remains the same: they should shop around online to make sure they’re getting the best deal possible and turn these salesmen away.”

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