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Chloroform spill forces evacuation of building at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York

Monday, August 11, 2008

Buffalo, New York —The Buffalo Fire Department and Police were called to a hazmat situation at Canisius College on Main Street after security reported that a one gallon glass container containing chloroform broke, spilling about a pint onto the floor of the college’s science building.

According to communications by firefighters, who arrived at around 8:20 a.m. (eastern time), the glass container spilled on the third floor in room 318. As a precaution the building was evacuated and East Delevan road between Main Street and Jefferson Avenues was closed to all vehicle and pedestrian traffic while crews worked to clean up the spill.

At about 9:15 hazmat crews entered the room and began to clean up the chemical “using kitty litter” and fans to air out the room. They then sealed the material in a five gallon container. At 9:23 a.m. firefighters stated that they no longer detected the chemical in the air and began to pack up their gear.

Officials for the college assessed the situation and decided to keep the building closed for the day. “At 8:22am this morning the Public Safety Department and Buffalo Fire Department responded to a report of a chemical spill on the third floor of the Health Science Center. As the building is cleaned, the Health Science Building will remain closed today and reopen tomorrow morning,” a college official said to Wikinews, adding they could not confirm the firefighter reports.

Firefighters believe the container containing the chemical was knocked over while someone working with maintenance was cleaning the floors.

There are no reports of injuries, but WKBW reports that the maintenance worker was taken to Sister’s of Saint Mercy’s hospital not far from the college for observation.

Chloroform is a common solvent used in chemistry laboratories. Minimal exposure can cause dizziness, headaches and fainting while prolonged exposure can cause liver and kidney damage. It is considered a hazardous material and environmentally unsafe. Banned as a consumer product since 1976 in the U.S., it was previously used in toothpaste, cough medicines and pharmaceuticals.

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Nov
09

Australian foreign minister tells inquiry it was the UN’s job to investigate Iraq kickback claims

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Australian foreign minister tells inquiry it was the UN’s job to investigate Iraq kickback claims

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: Cole Inquiry

Alexander Downer, Australia’s foreign affairs minister, told the Cole Inquiry yesterday that it was not his department’s job to investigate claims that wheat exporter AWB was paying kickbacks to Saddam Hussein in the lead up to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Mr Downer, who entered the inquiry via a back entrance to avoid the crowd waiting outside told the inquiry numerous times that he did not read a series of diplomatic cables which raised concerns about AWB in Iraq. Mr Downer admitted that he did not have the time to read diplomatic cables and the only time he did so was when he is “stuck on a plane” and has nothing else to read.

The claims are in stark contrast to a statement made to parliament in February where Mr Downer said “Of course I would have read them”.

When asked why the department of foreign affairs and trade did nothing about the allegations first received in 2000, he told the inquiry that his department couldn’t investigate AWB and responsibility for the oil for food program laid with the UN. ” The department does not have the legal authority to go into AWB and access their files” he said.

“They (the UN) also had people on the ground in Iraq because insofar as there could be infringements of the sanctions regime, those infringements could take place within Iraq and Australia had no access to Iraq during that period.” Mr Downer told the inquiry.

Mr Downer admitted that the department of foreign affairs and trade had dealt with each cable, despite he not reading them and that were satisfied with assurances from AWB that there was no substance to the allegations.

Mr Downer was also asked about an unassessed intelligence report, sent to the National Security Committee of cabinet which raised concerns about Alia, the Jordanian trucking company used by the AWB to transport wheat around Iraq. The document alleged that Alia may have been paying kickbacks to the Iraqi regime.

Mr Downer told the inquiry that the intelligence may not have been dealt with.”There is so much intelligence. It’s a very major challenge, to deal with intelligence” he said.

When asked by Terry Forrest, counsel for AWB executives what the point of sending intelligence to his department when it was never read, Mr Downer conceded that it was “physically impossible” to read it all.

Mr Downer was also questioned about a cable delivered in June 2003 from US army captain Puckett which claimed that every contract under the UN’s oil for food program contained a kickback. Mr Downer told the inquiry he didn’t see the cable as being important because the information was provided by “a junior officer in the US army”.

Mr Downer denied claims made by former AWB executive Andrew Lindberg that he had been told about the possibility that money may have been paid to Iraq by Alia. According to Mr Downer it is common practice in his department to have two advisors at such meetings, where one of them takes notes so there is a record of what is said. According to Mr Downer, no notes were taken during the meeting despite it being “the usual practice”.

Mr Downer told the inquiry that he had no idea why notes weren’t taken during the meeting, despite the meeting being quite important. He also told the inquiry that he couldn’t recall if he noticed that nobody was taking notes as he would have been “focused a little more on the meeting than on somebody taking notes”.

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Nov
09

In Vehicle Cell Phone Use Assessing Accident Risk

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By Gary Rothstein

Mobile phone use in motor vehicles has increased at a remarkable rate over the past 15 years. Yet it is undeniable that utilizing a cell phone while driving can affect driver performance as it relates to the overall safe operation of a vehicle. There are a number of things to consider in deciding whether the trade off in convenience is worth the potential risks associated with the distraction created by a cell phone. Given the fact that the individual driver (and/or business owner) ultimately pays for the resulting consequences associated with an auto or truck accident (financial, emotional and physical lose); it is prudent to seek out relevant and reliable information in making a decision. In doing so, consider the source, as well as the possible motivation behind the information provider.

Source: US Legislation

In the United States, there are currently no federal laws prohibiting driving while using a cell phone. In an earnest attempt to find a solution, some states (New Jersey, New York, the District of Columbia, Connecticut and pending in California) have passed laws barring hand-held cell phone use while driving. Typical fines range from $50 to $100 for drivers caught using a hand-held device. While these lawmakers have the public’s best interest at heart by levying fines, not all entities weighing in on this subject are likely to have the same incentive.

Source: Manufacturer Research

As the result of an independent study (found on their web site in the form of a press release), Plantronics, a manufacturer of headsets states, “71% of drivers steer more accurately when using a headset with a mobile phone”. They point out that the study was to discover if a person using a mobile phone improves driving if he or she uses a headset. Stephen Wilcox, Ph.D., Principal of Design Science (independent research firm) states, “Driving with both hands on the wheel is the safest option for motorists who use mobile phones, and headsets are tools to enable that improvement. Considering the source, is this statement characteristic of scientific research? Is it objective and free of marketing bias? Could it confuse individuals into thinking that cell phones are safe as long as you are hands-free? Additionally, found toward the end of the press release, is a comment by a senior director of product marketing. Beth Johnson states, “It’s important to keep in mind that our study is not intended to address the issue of whether or not it is safe to talk on a mobile phone while driving, but rather what type of technology is safest for drivers to use while talking on their mobile phones”. They also state their intent is to educate drivers on options for using mobile phones comfortably and responsibly while driving”. Given that the goal is safety education, is this research responsibly comprehensive to consider it a relevant and reliable source?

Surely, as you go about your own assessment the idea of freeing up both hands to control the steering wheel is a logical consideration. If a driver focuses exclusively on driving the vehicle, then two hands on the wheel is better than one. Unfortunately, this seemingly sensible approach can lead to a false sense of driver security (possibly increasing crash risk) as noted in various reports (http://www.vcu.edu/cppweb/tstc/reports/reports.html) by the Crash Investigation Team at Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Public Safety. Their findings illustrated that the cognitive resources required to carry on a phone conversation are equivalent to those necessary to drive. This is an important concern given VCUs history of transportation safety research, as well as other studies concluding this behavior (carrying on a phone conversation while driving), reduces both driver reaction time and driver attentiveness, especially as they relate to braking.

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Unlike a computer, humans have a limited capacity to process simultaneous information. If the software on your computer seems to slow down, you might consider increasing the memory or processor speed to compensate for delays resulting from an overload in computing capacity. We as humans have a similar limitation when it comes to processing too much information, but unlike computers, our resources are somewhat fixed. Given the inherent delays in our own thought response time when faced with increased load factors, is it practical or safe to hold a cell phone conversation while driving a motor vehicle?

Source: Government Transportation Safety Research

The US government employs many of the top transportation safety experts and funds a major portion of the world’s accident prevention research. Given the effects traffic accidents and related congestion have on US productivity, accident reduction is a top priority. Considering that distracted driving accounted for at least 6.4 percent of crash fatalities in 2004 (U.S. Department of Transportation), many researchers are looking closely at the distinguishing distraction caused by cell phone use in vehicles. Furthermore, of the many potential distractions in a vehicle, cell phones are considered equally or more dangerous than the other known distractions such as eating, reading a map or grooming while operating a motor vehicle. In light of the ongoing research for, and by, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (www.nhtsa.gov) we should at least consider their policy on using cell phones while driving that states The primary responsibility of the driver is to operate a motor vehicle safely. The task of driving requires full attention and focus. Cell phone use can distract drivers from this task, risking harm to themselves and others. Therefore, the safest course of action is to refrain from using a cell phone while driving.

Source: Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA)

According to the CTIA, there are currently more than 218 million subscribed cell phone users as of August 2006 (compared to some 4.3 million in 1990). Based on the extraordinary growth of cellular phone industry and the CTIA’s advisory role, it may be of value to think about their point of view on this topic. In doing so, you might consider a document found on the CTIA’s web site, entitled “SafeDrivingTalkingPoints2” (created June 6, 2006) that states “But for some reason, legislative efforts to prevent driver distractions have been narrowly focused on wireless phone use. According to government statistics and respected research studies, this approach is well off point.” Consider that, there are more than 220 million vehicles on the road and a similar number of cell phones subscribers. Based on the amount of time customers might potentially spend using their cell phones in vehicles, we would hope to find the CTIA an objective source. Given the magnitude of the revenue at stake, is a greater degree of scrutiny in order here? Would the CTIA hold a different position if they were liable, in part, for distracted vehicle accidents?

Source: Leading Universities & Independent Researchers

While there are a number of valuable studies on this subject, the following are extensive research projects provided by highly accredited organizations:

1) Virginia Tech Transportation Institute researchers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tracked 100 cars and their drivers for a year; they discovered that talking on cell phones caused more crashes, near-crashes and other incidents than other distractions (100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study, April 2006).

2) University of Utah researchers determined that motorists on the blood-alcohol threshold of being legally drunk were able to drive better than sober cell phone using drivers. A key researcher and author in this field, Psychology Professor David Strayer notes, Just like you put yourself and other people at risk when you drive drunk, you put yourself and others at risk when you use a cell phone and drive. The level of impairment is very similar. Also, consider they found motorists to be more accident-prone and slower to react when talking on cellular telephones. It did not matter if it was hands-free either because of “inattention blindness”, a syndrome that makes a driver less able to process visual information.

3) The George Institute for International Health (University of Sydney, Australia), Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (Arlington, Virginia) and Injury Research Centre, University of Western Australia (Crawley Australia) jointly presented research entitled “Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-crossover study”. The research consisted of 456 drivers aged 17 years who owned or used mobile phones and had been involved in road crashes requiring hospital attendance between April 2002 and July 2004. They concluded that a driver who uses a mobile phone (up to 10 minutes prior to a crash) has a four times higher likelihood of crashing and an increased likelihood of a crash resulting in injury. Using a hands-free phone is not any safer.

Eliminate the Risk & Keep the Benefits

If you are the head of a household, a guardian or the parent of a less experienced driver, your decision to allow any in-vehicle cell phone use carries a major emotional and financial risk. If you are a fleet manager or you employ individuals that conduct work-related conversations while driving, the risk of liability for distracted accidents could fall on you. Strongly consider the legal ramifications for the careless operation of an employee-owned or company-supplied vehicle before deciding to ignore the inherent danger created by a major cognitive distraction such as a cell phone.

Obviously, there are no easy or certain solutions without sacrifice of convenience. Remember that the benefit of having a cell phone (emergency use and times when you are not operating a vehicle) is not lost just because it remains off while driving. If you consider the facts presented by relevant and reliable sources, it really is not a matter of a trade off after all, but an opportunity to prevent an accident or possibly a fatality. In the mean time, until it is proven otherwise, think about instigating a life saving strategy NOW for the safe use of cell phones – limit yourself, loved ones and employees to use (personal and business) only when the vehicle is in park!

About the Author: Gary S. Rothstein is the President of Mobile Awareness, a company which designs and markets vehicle safety products. He has 25 years experience in high technology electronic systems.

MobileAwareness.com

, Cleveland, Ohio, 866-653-5036, gsr@MobileAwareness.com Copyright September 2006

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isnare.com

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isnare.com/?aid=83728&ca=Computers+and+Technology

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Nov
05

New Jersey backpedals on proposed bikini waxing ban">
New Jersey backpedals on proposed bikini waxing ban

Saturday, March 21, 2009

New Jersey has reversed its plans for a state-wide ban on bikini waxing after salon owners from across the state spoke out against the proposal.

The New Jersey Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling planned to consider a ban on so-called “Brazilian waxes” in response to two women who reported being injured during a wax.

But state Consumer Affairs Director David Szuchman, who oversees the board, asked them to abandon the ban in favor of reviewing and establishing safeguards for those who provide the service.

“Many commentators have noted that the procedure could be safely performed,” Szuchman wrote in a letter to state board President Ronald Jerome Brown, according to the Asbury Park Press. “I, therefore, believe that there are alternative means to address any public health issues identified by the board.

Salon owners from across the state expressed relief with Szuchman’s decision.

“It was an unnecessary issue,” spa owner Linda Orsuto told the Associated Press. “In New Jersey especially, where the government has been picking our pockets for so long, it was like, ‘Just stay out of our pants, will you?'”

Although millions of Americans get bikini waxes, which generally cost between $50 and $60 per session, the practice comes with risks. Skin care experts say the hot wax can irritate delicate skin in the bikini area, and result in infections, ingrown hairs and rashes.

Waxing on the face, neck, abdomen, legs and arms are permitted in New Jersey. Although state statutes have always banned bikini waxing, the laws are seldom enforced because the wording is unclear.

If the measure had passed, New Jersey might have become the only US state to ban the practice outright.

Although Szuchman’s letter was crafted more as a recommendation than an order, media reports said the ban would likely never be approved without his support because his office oversees the board.

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