Friday, February 15, 2008

Global warming kills off Loch Ness monster!!

LEGENDARY Nessie hunter Robert Rines is giving up his search for the monster after 37 years. The 85-year-old American will make one last trip in a bid to find the elusive beast. After almost four decades of fruitless expeditions, he admitted: "Unfortunately, I'm running out of age." World War II veteran Robert has devoted almost half his life to scouring Loch Ness. He started in 1971. The following year, he watched a 25ft-long hump with the texture of elephant skin gliding through the water. His original trip was to help another monster hunter with sonar equipment and quickly identified large moving targets. He was smitten and returned the next year, which is when, he says: "I had the misfortune of seeing one of these things with my own eyes."

Since then, he has been obsessed with tracking down the creature with a staggering array of hi-tech equipment. It was this gear that took the famous "flipper" picture that year which created a stir around the world. Despite having hundreds of sonar contacts over the years, the trail has since gone cold and Rines believes that Nessie may be dead, a victim of global warming. He still wants to check almost 100 contacts on the floor of the loch, believing one may be the monster's remains.

Robert bought a cottage on the banks of the loch to live in during his annual summer trips. He has also set up a "Nessie" room in his Boston home crammed with information gathered over the years. As he prepared for his last hunt, Robert said: "What am I to do - forget what I saw? There are a lot of eyewitness accounts. Are they all liars? All drunks? I don't believe human nature is like that. "What disturbs me as a lawyer is that we prove cases by eyewitness testimony. The human brain is not 100 per cent accurate but it's not zero either."

In 1975, the trained physicist and inventor managed to get a photograph in the murky waters of the loch which apparently showed the body, flipper, neck and head of an animal. Since Nessie hunting began in the 1930s, a host of people have tried to find the monster.


NHS pays back millions in overcharges

The NHS is being forced to pay out at least 180 million pounds to people wrongly charged for nursing care. Patients charged for long-term nursing and social care from 1996 to 2004 have been able to have their cases reviewed. More than 12,000 cases have been examined, resulting in around 2,000 payouts at a total cost of 180m to date.

It comes after NHS chiefs were told to fund care packages where the main area of need was health-related rather than just personal care, such as aid with bathing or dressing. But the rules were interpreted differently across England, meaning some people ended up paying more than they should.

In 2003, a report by the Health Service Ombudsman said the Government's guidance on the eligibility of patients for NHS-funded care places had been "misinterpreted and misapplied" by some health authorities. The result was that some elderly and disabled patients suffered "hardship and injustice" by wrongly being asked to pay for their care needs.

Earlier, in 1999, Pam Coughlan won a test case against the closure of her NHS care home in Exeter. The judgment made clear that if the needs of the patient were primarily health needs, the health authority was responsible. Applications had to be submitted to primary care trusts by November last year for the payouts, which can take distress into account.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The NHS has paid restitution to the affected individuals or their families, totalling œ180m to date. It is not possible to estimate the level of restitution that will be paid following the review of the remaining cases."


This is what a supposedly Christian archbishop has encouraged

Gina Khan knows the horrors of polygamy. Her mother was married off at 15 and only when her father took his new bride to the other side of Pakistan did Gina's mother discover that he already had another wife and five children. Later he married a third woman, but when Gina's parents came to Britain, her mother made him divorce the third wife: "She knew that there was a law in this country that protected her. He never did it again."

Gina's mother was traumatised, though, and would burst into tears at the recollection. But the family brush with polygamy doesn't stop there. Gina's sister suffered the same fate and ended up being sectioned under the Mental Health Act. And Gina, when happily married to a Pakistani man, had to endure him being forced by his family to take a second wife: his 16-year-old cousin. With reluctance, she divorced him.

I interviewed Gina for The Times a year ago, and she was determined to highlight the plight of Muslim women living in an utterly male-dominated community. She has had to endure persecution, including a brick through her window and threatening phone calls. But she won't give up. "We are in the 21st century; we're not in the 7th century." Yet, even though polygamy is illegal here, the Government still pays extra benefits to men with more than one wife, as long as the marriage was conducted in a country where polygamy is allowed. When John Hutton was Work and Pensions Secretary, he demanded a review: the conclusion, last December, was that it should remain.

Why, when ministers claim to be trying to empower Muslim women, do they support a barbaric tradition that is against women's interests and against the law? The DWP tries to play down the number of people able to claim such benefits, but its guidance still talks about "valid polygamous marriages". How can a polygamous marriage be valid in any circumstances here? This is just one example of Muslim women being denied the same rights as other women, in the name of respecting different faiths. The exaggerated attempt to embrace "diversity", exemplified by the Archbishop of Canterbury, is disastrous not just for social cohesion, but for many members of the Muslim community too, most of them female.

It is one thing to respect Muslims' need for halal butchery or for Sharia-compliant mortgages: these are genuine religious differences that harm nobody. But polygamy, forced marriages and (dis)honour violence are practices more cultural than religious. They are rooted in the culture of South Asian communities, often deeply rural, and have no place in modern Britain. They do not deserve respect or even toleration.

Yet still there are schools that refuse to put up posters giving warning of the dangers of forced marriages, according to a recent report by the Centre for Social Cohesion. Shazia Qayum, team leader at Karma Nirvana, a refuge in Derby, claims: "We approached schools to get posters up that let children know that there was help available. This was just before the holidays, which is the most critical time, because this is when girls get taken off to Pakistan or Bangladesh to be married. Unfortunately, none of the schools would let us put them up because they said it would offend the parents."

And still there is often collusion within the Asian community to prevent women running away from forced marriages. Taxi drivers taking battered women to refuges will sometimes report their whereabouts to their abusive husbands. John Paton, manager of the Lancashire Family Mediation Service, says: "It's extremely difficult for an Asian woman to go to a community worker or an agency where she knows that there are potentially people there who will report back to her family what she has said."

There have even been complaints about local councillors intimidating Asian women's groups. As the chair of a women's project, who wants to remain anonymous for her own safety, explains: "We have a lot of pressure from the local councillors in Bradford; they are the bad ones, because they abuse their power by trying to get details on who is staying with us and what they are doing. They give us a hard time, until we have to complain to the police and they back off. They are dominant males who are trying to bully us." Unfortunately, Britain's Asian community is full of dominant males, and unless we work actively to resist them, Asian women will continue to be bullied. Giving them the "choice" of using Sharia, when such a choice is likely to be forced on them by their husbands, fathers or brothers, is no help at all.

You don't just have to be concerned about women's safety to be alarmed. According to Nazir Afzal, the Crown Prosecution Service's lead on such matters: "If you had a map of the UK showing the location of Islamist groups - or terrorist cells - and you had another map showing the incidence of honour-based violence and you overlaid them, you would find that they were a mirror; they would be almost identical. It could be that this is simply because this is where South Asians live or it could suggest there is a strong link between these two attitudes." So we should all be concerned that life in Britain can be miserable for South Asian women. They are at least three times more likely to kill themselves than white women of the same age. We should not be encouraging them to use Sharia courts run exclusively by men, even for civil matters. Nor should we be worried about offending cultural sensitivities by standing up for their rights. We should be telling their menfolk that the traditions of rural Pakistan, Bangladesh and India are unacceptable enough over there. They are completely intolerable in this free country.


A good pre-nup can now stop predatory divorce claims in Britain

Husbands one, two and three have already netted her 18 million pounds but Susan Crossley's efforts to secure a slice of her fourth husband's œ45 million fortune hit the buffers last night. On the eve of a keenly awaited court hearing, Mrs Crossley, 50, abandoned her claim on the fortune of her estranged husband, the property developer Stuart Crossley, 62. She had signed a prenuptial contract originally, saying that she would not claim a penny if the marriage, which only lasted 14 months, broke up. Hours before today's High Court hearing at which Mrs Crossley intended to pursue her claim, her lawyers announced that she had dropped it and will walk away with nothing. The decision is a boost to the status of prenuptial agreements, which lawyers had predicted would be certain to be upheld by the courts in her case.

Last night her solicitor, Mark Harper, of the London law firm Withers, said: "Mrs Crossley has abandoned her claims." Privately Mrs Crossley has accepted that she stood no chance after a Court of Appeal ruling before Christmas in which judges made clear their view that the prenuptial agreement was valid. Mrs Crossley, whose previous husbands were Kevin Nicholson, heir to the Kwik Save fortune; Peter Lilley, adopted son of Thomas Lilley, chief of Lilley and Skinner shoes; and the racing magnate Robert Sangster, had tried to argue that she was entitled to half the share of Mr Crossley's wealth because, she claimed, he had not disclosed every aspect of his assets.

She maintained that the prenuptial agreement was invalid because he failed to tell her about "tens of millions" he had in offshore accounts. But in a ground-breaking ruling in December, three Court of Appeal judges dismissed her challenge to a judge's ruling that the "prenup" should first be evaluated before looking at any further claim she might have. Mrs Crossley had argued that this denied her access to the courts.

Her lawyers had described the streamlined one-day hearing to look first at the "prenup" as a "knockout blow" because it meant that her claim for a share of her husband's wealth would probably be thrown out. Lord Justice Thorpe, who made the decision with Lords Justices Keene and Wall, said that judges had a duty to shorten the trial process where "very rich people are demanding full scale trials" and were straining the courts' overstretched capacity. At the time Mr Harper said that the ruling was "a significant step forward for prenuptial agreements" and Mr Crossley said: "This is a fair decision. I am upset that our marriage failed. Sadly, my wife is a career divorcee." Alex Carruthers, a family lawyer with the London firm Hughes Fowler Carruthers, said that in future judges would be likely to be "more forthright in upholding prenuptial contracts, if the circumstances are right".

Mr Crossley had met his future wife in the summer of 2005 and they were married in early 2006. He had four children, Mrs Crossley had three, one by each of her previous marriages. By March 2007 the Crossleys had separated and in August she filed for divorce.

Lord Justice Thorpe, giving judgment in December, said that before they married they employed "highly experienced lawyers" to write their "pre-nup", which allowed them to walk away after a divorce with what they had taken into the marriage. "This seems to me to be an entirely appropriate step for the parties to take."


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