The Federal Emergency Management Agency has so far obligated more than $133 million to repair eligible storm-impacted roads, bridges, culverts and other elements of Vermont’s infrastructure; the Public Assistance process continues. In their ongoing partnership, FEMA and the State of Vermont announce a series of meetings to update individual applicants from local governments and some private non-profit organizations. The meetings, the first of which is scheduled to be held on Monday, August 6, are intended to update Public Assistance applicants in Addison, Bennington, Chittenden, Essex, Franklin, Lemoille, Orange, Rutland, Washington, Windham and Windsor counties. “These meetings will serve to underscore FEMA’s commitment to working with the State of Vermont to ensure that all applicants for Public Assistance receive the maximum amount of funding for which they are eligible,” said FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Nick Russo. The meetings are intended to provide a common understanding as to the way ahead, including changes of scope, time extensions and appeals. Applicants will be briefed on the close out process, relevant terminology and other topics related to exit interviews. “It is the intent of the state to support FEMA’s effort to ensure Public Assistance applicants are aware of the status of project worksheets and have a common understanding as to the road ahead,” said State Coordinating Officer Ross Nagy. FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.Follow FEMA online at twitter.com/fema, www.facebook.com/fema(link is external), and www.youtube.com/fema(link is external).
The World Health Organization (WHO) has started posting weekly situation updates on outbreaks of Zika virus and possible complications from the disease, and it also has issued an interim case definition for the illness.Both reports were posted Feb 12, capping a busy week of new developments with the virus, including studies that strengthened the association between maternal Zika virus infection and microcephaly in babies. In other developments, Brazil updated its microcephaly investigation totals and refuted an environmental group’s claim that a larvicide used in drinking water may be causing the birth defect.WHO sets 6-month tasks, prioritiesThe WHO said in its situation update that it and partners have established a strategic response framework that sets tasks and priorities for the next 6 months, covering surveillance, community development, vector control, child and maternal health, and research and development. It added that it is finalizing an overview of urgent needs for the Zika virus response.At WHO headquarters and at its Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), incident management systems have been activated, with the two groups coordinating responses with national governments, United Nations agencies, and nongovernmental organizations.The report provides a big-picture view Zika virus activity, which according to estimates has sickened 1.5 million so far in Brazil, followed by 25,000 suspected cases in Colombia, the next worst hit country. Columbia has confirmed 1,331 cases since October. The WHO added that Cape Verde has reported more than 7,000 suspected Zika virus cases.So far, Brazil and French Polynesia are the only affected countries reporting congenital abnormality levels that are well above average, though isolated microcephaly cases—one in Hawaii and one in Slovenia—have been reported in women who visited or recently lived in Zika-hit countries. Colombia hasn’t reported any microcephaly cases, but health officials there are closely watching for any unusual increases.Five countries have reported rises in Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS): Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Suriname, and Venezuela. However, the possible association with Zika seems less clear cut. The WHO said none of the GBS cases in Colombia or El Salvador involved lab-confirmed Zika infection, and it added that the cause is unknown, especially since dengue, chikungunya, and Zika virus have all been circulating at the same time in the Americas. “Investigations to determine the cause of infection are ongoing in countries with increased incidence of GBS,” the agency said.In Brazil, the outbreak’s epicenter, public health officials have visited 20 million households to look for mosquito breeding grounds, and 500,000 people are working on vector control and public health messaging activities, according to the WHO report. Brazil has no plans to cancel its hosting of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. The August timing of the event comes during winter, when mosquitoes are least active.Interim case definition to help with surveillanceThe WHO also on Feb 12 issued an interim case definition of Zika virus infection to help standardize classification and reporting.A suspected case is defined as person with a rash and/or fever with at least one of the following: arthralgia, arthritis, or conjunctivitis. The WHO defines a probable case as a suspected case with IgM antibody against Zika virus and an epidemiologic link, such as contact with a confirmed case or residence in or travel to an area with local Zika transmission.A confirmed case is defined as a person with a recent Zika infection as confirmed by detection of viral RNA or antigen in serum or other samples or detection of IgM antibody against Zika and a 90% plaque-reduction neutralization test at certain cutoffs compared with other flaviviruses, with exclusion of such viruses.Brazil updates microcephaly count, rejects larvicide suspicionMeanwhile, Brazil’s health ministry said Feb 12 that it had received reports of 296 more suspected cases of microcephaly. However, it ruled out 765 earlier suspected ones, according to an official statement translated and posted by Avian Flu Diary, an infectious disease news blog.Brazilian authorities are still investigating 3,862 suspected microcephaly cases, with 462 of them now confirmed and 765 ruled out as of Feb 2. The cumulative number of suspected cases is now at 5,079.Brazil’s 462 confirmed microcephaly cases span 175 cities in 13 states, an increase from 156 cities in 9 states reported in the ministry’s report the week before.The health ministry said that despite the possible relationship with Zika virus, microcephaly can be caused by other conditions such as syphilis, toxoplasmosis, rubella, cytomegalovirus, and herpes virus.In other developments, the health ministry on Feb 13 issued a statement countering an Argentine environmental group’s charge that the larvicide pyriproxifen, used in some drinking water supplies, is a more likely microcephaly culprit than Zika virus, according to statements translated and posted by Avian Flu Diary.The charges led one of Brazil’s southern states, Rio Grande Do Sul, to temporarily suspend use of the larvicide in drinking water. However, Brazil’s health ministry quickly posted a clarification on the use of pyriproxifen, noting that the product had been cleared by the WHO’s pesticide evaluation process and had also been certified by Brazilian safety officials.It added that there is no scientific basis for a link between the use of pyriproxifen and microcephaly and that some cities that haven’t used it have also reported microcephaly cases.NAS workshop to air Zika priorities tomorrowThe National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are hosting a public workshop tomorrow to discuss research priorities, given the emergence of Zika virus in the United States. The meeting was requested by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR).According to the meeting announcement, stakeholders will discuss steps to reduce the likelihood of local Zika virus transmission in the United States, identify knowledge gaps, pin down the most important research questions, such as the link between Zika virus and microcephaly, and assess communication needs regarding the risks and mitigation strategies.The meeting will take place at the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington, DC, starting at 8:30 am Eastern time, but it will also be Web-streamed live.A document summing up the presentations will be prepared at the end of the session, but no consensus findings or recommendations.See also:Feb 12 WHO Zika virus situation reportFeb 12 WHO Zika infection interim case definitionsFeb 12 Avian Flu Diary postFeb 13 Avian Flu Diary post on larvicide controversyNAS Zika workshop meeting background
U.S. Senator John McCain has filed an amendment to repeal the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as The Jones Act.The Jones Act requires that all goods shipped between waterborne ports of the United States be carried by vessels built in the United States and owned and operated by Americans.”I have long advocated for a full repeal of The Jones Act, an antiquated law that has for too long hindered free trade, made U.S. industry less competitive and raised prices for American consumers,” said Senator McCain. McCain cited the Congressional Research Service which found that the price of moving crude from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast United States on a Jones Tanker is three times higher than if a foreign-flagged tanker is used.Senator McCain’s latest stab at The Jones Act was strongly opposed by the American Maritime Partnership (AMP), saying that McCain’s amendment would eliminate the U.S. shipbuilding and outsource jobs.”The McCain amendment would gut the nation’s shipbuilding capacity, outsource our U.S. Naval shipbuilding to foreign builders, and cost hundreds of thousands of family-wage jobs across this country,” said AMP Chairman Tom Allegretti. ‘‘The shipbuilding requirement, which Senator McCain seeks to eliminate, is in place to ensure that the United States maintains the industrial capacity to build its own ships, so as to protect and defend the American homeland.”
As part of the project, Tradelossa transported a 275-tonne boiler which had the dimensions 17 m x 8.5 m x 10 m.Watch a video of this transport here (password: boiler2013). www.tradelossa.com
No one likely escaped the flames that tore through a boat packed with scuba divers, with all 34 people sleeping below deck presumed dead during a Labor Day weekend expedition off the Southern California coast, authorities said Tuesday as they called off the search for survivors.Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said no one has been found alive after the fire engulfed the dive boat early Monday. Flames blocked an escape hatch and a stairwell leading to the sleeping area crowded with passengers on a recreational scuba diving trip.Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig told reporters that the victims’ relatives “will rely on us to do everything in our power to find out happened aboard that vessel in the last moments of these family members’ lives. That’s our commitment.”Only five crew members sleeping on the top deck were able to escape by jumping off and taking a small boat to safety.The fire that engulfed the Conception killed all 33 passengers and one crew member who was below deck, the sheriff said. Investigators have not yet determined how the fire erupted.The bodies of 20 victims have been recovered, and divers have seen between four and six others in the sunken wreckage, the sheriff said. Authorities are trying to stabilize the boat that sank in about 60 feet (18 meters) of water so divers can recover those remains.Most need to be identified by DNA analysis and officials are collecting samples from family members, Brown said.One passenger, marine biologist and veteran diver Kristy Finstad, 41, was identified in a Facebook post by her brother, Brett Harmeling of Houston.“Please pray for my sister Kristy!! She was leading a dive trip on this boat,” Harmeling wrote.The sheriff says the majority of the victims appear to have been from Northern California, including Santa Cruz, San Jose and the San Francisco Bay Area.The boat had departed Santa Barbara Harbor on Saturday and the fire broke out about 3 a.m. Monday while it was anchored off Santa Cruz Island, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) west of Los Angeles. The crew appeared to quickly call for help.“The call was garbled, it was not that clear, but we were able to get some information out of it to send vessels,” Coast Guard Petty Officer Mark Barney said.Capt. Paul Amaral of the vessel assistance company TowBoatUS also launched a fast boat from Ventura Harbor, but it was some 30 miles (48 kilometers) away. By the time it got there around 5 a.m., a Coast Guard helicopter and a fireboat were on scene.Amaral said he first searched the water and shoreline, then turned back to the Conception, which was adrift. He attached a line and pulled it into deeper water so the fireboats could reach it.“We launched that boat knowing that the vessel was on fire, lots of people aboard,” he told The Associated Press.The five crew members, meanwhile, went on a dinghy to a private fishing boat, The Grape Escape, that was anchored near the north shore of Santa Cruz Island. Two had minor injuries.That boat’s owners, Bob and Shirley Hansen, told The New York Times they were asleep when they heard pounding on the side of their 60-foot (18-meter) vessel about 3:30 a.m. and discovered the frightened crew members.“When we looked out, the other boat was totally engulfed in flames, from stem to stern,” Hansen said. “I could see the fire coming through holes on the side of the boat. There were these explosions every few beats. You can’t prepare yourself for that. It was horrendous.”Hansen said two of the crew members went back toward the Conception looking for survivors but found no one.The 75-foot (23-meter) Conception was on a three-day excursion to the chain of rugged, wind-swept isles that form Channel Islands National Park in the Pacific Ocean west of Los Angeles. The fire broke out as the boat sat anchored in Platt’s Harbor off Santa Cruz Island.The Conception, based in Santa Barbara Harbor on the mainland, was owned by Santa Barbara-based Truth Aquatics, founded in 1974. A memorial outside Truth Aquatics in the Santa Barbara Harbor grew Monday night as mourners came to pay their respects.Dave Reid, who runs an underwater camera manufacturing business with his wife, Terry Schuller, and has traveled on the Conception and two other boats in Truth Aquatics’ fleet, said he considered all three among the best and safest.“When you see the boats they are always immaculate,” he said. “I wouldn’t hesitate at all to go on one again. Of all the boat companies, that would be one of the ones I wouldn’t think this would happen to.”His wife said Truth Aquatics crews have always been meticulous in going over safety instructions at the beginning of every trip she’s been on.“They tell you where the life jackets are, how to put them on … the exits, where the fire extinguishers are, on every single trip,” said Schuller. “They are the best, the absolute best.”Both said the sleeping area is comfortable but tight, however, with bunk beds stacked next to one another on the lowest deck. Coming up to the top deck to get off requires navigating a narrow stairway with only one exit.If the fire was fast-moving, Reid said, it’s very likely divers couldn’t escape and the crew couldn’t get to them.Coast Guard records show all safety violations from the last five years were quickly addressed by the boat’s owners. Some violations were related to fire safety. A 2016 inspection resulted in owners replacing the heat detector in the galley and one in 2014 cited a leaky fire hose.The Conception was chartered by Worldwide Diving Adventures, which says on its website that it has been taking divers on such expeditions since the 1970s.Andy Taylor, owner of Blue Water Hunter Dive Shop in Santa Barbara, said he discussed dive conditions with several people Friday as they were buying some last-minute things before boarding the Conception. Taylor said he often sends divers to Truth Aquatics for trips and he has friends who have crewed on the Conception.He said he was on the phone all day Monday as friends checked to make sure he had not been on the boat.“Right now it’s a big question of who was on there and who wasn’t,” he said. “I’m scared to see the list of names, honestly.”___Associated Press writers John Antczak, John Rogers, Frank Baker and Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles, Stephanie Mullen in San Francisco, Michael R. Blood in Oxnard, California, and Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed to this story. Recommended Do you see a typo or an error? Let us know. 2 Florida firefighters help fight fires out west, say more help needed SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) Officials: 34 presumed dead after fire on Calif. scuba diving boat Author: STEFANIE DAZIO/APWriter:WINK News SHARE Seeping under doors, bad air from West’s fires won’t ease up Published: September 3, 2019 4:22 PM EDT Updated: September 3, 2019 4:23 PM EDT
Businesses that knowingly perpetrate fraud should face penalties based on the organisation’s turnover rather than the amount of harm caused, the House of Commons Justice Committee has said.In its comments to the Sentencing Council on the draft fraud, bribery and money laundering offences guidelines, the committee argues that fines imposed to punish corporate offenders for financial crimes should be calculated primarily on a percentage of turnover, rather than on an evaluation of the amount of financial harm caused by the crimes.The committee welcomed the greater emphasis across the guidelines for individual offenders on the impact the crime has had on the victim, rather than focusing exclusively on financial loss.It highlighted concerns that the proposed approach to sentencing corporate offenders, which involves evaluating the amount of financial harm caused, would be difficult to achieve and likely to result in ‘overly lenient’ sentences.Instead it suggested sentences be based primarily on a percentage of turnover, or some other indication of the corporation’s financial value.To optimise the chances of securing compensation for victims of financial crime, the committee recommended that the guideline should be slightly redrafted to incentivise offenders to make voluntary reparation at an early stage.It also recommended that the benefit fraud guideline gives greater clarity to sentencers about the circumstances in which they should take financial hardship into account as a mitigating factor.In other respects the committee broadly supported the Sentencing Council’s draft guidelines. Committee chair Sir Alan Beith MP said: ‘We would like the Sentencing Council to revisit their proposed approach to calculating sentences for corporate offenders, to ensure they pay a more meaningful penalty.‘At the same time, we welcome many aspects of the new Guideline for sentencing offenders convicted of fraud and related offences, in particular the greater weight given to the harm caused to victims.’The committee’s report is available here.
Regulators have rebuked three law firm directors who failed to report the practice was in financial trouble. Martin Pearse, Christopher Lingard and Fiona Higgins were all sanctioned by the SRA following the intervention last year into south-west firm Follett Stock.The regulator closed the practice last year after it was declared insolvent, with 30 people losing their jobs.In a statement on its website, the SRA said Pearse, Lingard and Higgins had all failed to comply with regulatory obligations and deal with the regulator in an ‘open, timely and co-operative manner’.They also delayed informing the SRA of serious financial difficulty at Follett Stock and its subsidiary FSHL Limited. The firm was based in Truro, Cornwall (pictured) and at one time had offices in London, Bristol and Exeter.The rebuke means the trio will not face any further action at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.Last week the SRA emphasised that risks of financial instability and firms collapsing in a disorderly way are still a concern to the regulator. Executive director Crispin Passmore said research has found that, for small and medium firms, the risk of misusing client money is more common if a firm is in financial difficulty and needs propping up.
Please see the Gazette’s dedicated coronavirus page here >> *The Law Society is keeping the coronavirus situation under review and monitoring the advice it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England. Dozens of lawyers have sought specialist help with their mental health since the lockdown began eight weeks ago, new figures have revealed.Legal Mental health charity LawCare said today that 48 legal professional have contacted it since 10 March, making up 37% of all contacts to the support service in that time.The most common issues people have reported relating to coronavirus have been not being allowed to work from home, financial issues due to furloughing or pay cuts, and worsening of existing mental health conditions. People calling the support service have also reported relationship strain, childcare issues and being asked to work whilst on furlough.The figures were released to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, which begins today, and LawCare believes many more people could be in need of help and support.Chief Executive Elizabeth Rimmer said: ‘We feel this is very much the tip of the iceberg and anticipate in the coming weeks more and more legal professionals will contact us as the emotional and financial impact of the pandemic begins to really hit home.’We would like to remind all legal professionals, including support staff, they can contact us for free, in confidence, to discuss anything that is bothering them. Talking through your problems with one of our trained staff and volunteers, who have all worked in the law themselves, can really help.’The charity has developed a Covid-19 hub with specific information and resources at its website, while there is also help through email, webchat and a peer support service. This week, LawCare is asking legal professionals to share moments in their legal career when someone has shown them kindness, with people encouraged to use the hashtag #momentofkindness and tag @LawCare on Twitter, or LawCare on Facebook and LinkedIn.Meanwhile, a survey of 1,000 people at the start of this month, from professional recruitment firm Walters People, suggests that lawyers who rent shared accommodation are suffering the greatest strain during this period of lockdown.Researchers found less than a fifth (18%) of people in shared housing were satisfied with home working arrangements, and just 6% said productivity had increased. A third in shared accommodation said remote working had negatively impacted their mental health, with a quarter of professionals reporting space to be so limited that they had to work from their beds. Find advice and updates here.
Météor: Le Métro du FuturThis colourful booklet in French with English translations provides a potted history of the development of Paris metro Line 14. It traces the background to the line, and explains in more detail the modular train control systems, which have since been adopted as the basis for the future controls on the New York subway.Matra Transport International, 48-56 rue Barbès, BP 531, F-92542 Montrouge, Cedex, France.Fax: +33 1 49 65 70 93Railway Directory 2000edited by Chris BushellThe 105 edition of the ’red book’ has been fully updated, reflecting changes in the rail industry. The manufacturers’ section has been redesigned, with a new Buyer’s Guide and standardised product codes keyed to more comprehensive company entries grouped into six major categories: Rolling Stock, Components, Traction & Control, Infrastructure, Data & Information, and Services. There are also several new colour maps. Railway Directory 2000 includes information, statistics and personnel details for over 1400 railways in more than 140 countries, plus around 400 city rail operators, and 1800 suppliers. With government authorities, industry associations and rail-related bodies, there are listings for over 15000 people. Also available on CD-ROM.ISBN 0-617-01277-6Book: £170 Europe, $300 USA or £200 Rest of World; CD-Rom £370 Europe, $650 USA, £400 Rest of World. Available from Esco Business Services, PO Box 935, Finchingfield, Essex, CM7 4LN, Great BritainFax: +44 1371 811065
GIF HAS AWARDED three contacts worth a total of €5m to undertake studies for a proposed 450 km high speed line along the northern coast of Spain between Ferrol and Bilbao (RG 4.03 p180). The section from Ferrol to the boundary between the Galicia and Asturias regions has been awarded to Ayesa for €1·35m, while AEPO has a €2·19m contract covering Asturias. Proser will cover the section across Cantabria and on to Bilbao for €1·5m; all three contracts are for a period of 24 months.The Ministry of Development has begun public consultation on a 126·3 km high speed line between Alar del Rey and Santander, expected to cost €1·1bn to build as part of a new route between Madrid and the Cantabrian coast. This would largely follow the existing railway, and routing options include dual-gauging the 39 km Los Corrales de Buelna – Torrelavega – Santander section. Between Torrelavega and Santander the proposed Ferrol – Bilbao route would have to be taken into account.