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V/Line CEO told cleaning boss COVID-19 could boost coffers, IBAC hears

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V/Line's former boss James Pinder told the government agency's cleaning contractor on a secret burner phone that the COVID-19 pandemic presented an "opportunity " to "boost your coffers", according to intercepted phone conversations played to a public inquiry.

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission intercepted a series of phone conversations between Mr Pinder and George Haritos, the head of cleaning contractor Transclean, a company that Mr Pinder granted a contract worth up to $40 million in 2018.

Former V/Line boss James Pinder.

The state's anti-corruption commission is investigating alleged serious corruption at V/Line and Metro Trains, including that public officials received financial benefits in exchange for granting cleaning contracts. It is the second corruption probe into V/Line in three years.

Mr Pinder took direct control of the Transclean contract, instead of it being managed by V/Line's board, giving him the power to extend the agreement by three years, adding more than $20 million to its value. He also authorised a $5 million widening of Transclean's remit to include carrying out deep cleaning formerly done by Bombardier, the inquiry heard.

He told the IBAC hearing he used a burner phone between 2016-2020 to talk to Metro operational fleet manager Peter Bollas and Mr Haritos about a legal gambling syndicate they were a part of. All three men, who called each other "musketeers", will face the hearings this week.

Mr Bollas, who managed Metro's cleaning, is also accused of receiving cash payments from Transclean.

In a March 10 intercepted phone conversation between Mr Pinder and Mr Haritos, played to the live-streamed hearings, Mr Pinder said: "This coronavirus … it's an opportunity, isn't it?"

Mr Pinder told Mr Haritos trains would need to be cleaned every six hours due to the pandemic. "I'm thinking it's an opportunity to throw a bit of extra you-know-what," he said.

Mr Haritos asked about the budget for the work.

"I'm going to push my lot," Mr Pinder said. "I've got to get the government to give us some cash and if I can do that, then everything's good."

Former V/Line chief executive James Pinder’s Williamstown

Counsel assisting IBAC, Paul Lawrie, proposed: "You're talking about extra cleaning work that comes with the requirements to provide a safer environment during the COVID response aren’t you?"

Mr Pinder claimed he was merely giving the contractor a "heads up" about the extra work.

"You have a whole organisational structure beneath you to look after the management of this contract," Mr Lawrie said. "There would be no conceivable reason for you to be personally involved in this in your role as CEO of V/Line, would there?"

Mr Pinder denied the conversation was unusual and said the only reason the board would disapprove of it was because he swore and was "familiar" with Mr Haritos.

"In this industry, everybody talks about everything all the time and everyone is connected and these sorts of conversations happen hundreds of times every day," he said.

Covert photos tendered also showed Mr Pinder allegedly receiving $10,000 in cash from Mr Haritos near a Williamstown coffee shop on August 19 this year, which Mr Pinder said were earnings from the gambling syndicate.

Separate footage of the first of two IBAC raids of Mr Pinder's home shows him dropping the burner phone and the envelope of $10,000 in cash behind his door, as officers arrived at his doorstep in August. He did not direct officers to the items and told them he didn't know what they were when they were discovered by IBAC investigators.

The inquiry also heard Mr Pinder wrote a series of hand-written letters intended for Mr Haritos passed via a Transclean employee after he was raided in which he proposed a set of narratives about why he had the burner phone and the $10,000 in cash.

Mr Pinder allegedly warned Mr Haritos that their conversations would be tapped by IBAC and they should use WhatsApp to communicate, the inquiry heard. He said the IBAC probe "may not end well, prepare for the worst, we need to stick together," the inquiry heard.

Mr Pinder was given a second burner phone from the Transclean associate after the first phone was seized in the August raid. The second phone was seized in another raid in October.

The hearings continue.

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NYC elections staffers accused of watching Netflix, smoking pot on the job

The agency overseeing the city’s near-calamitous voting operations is a modern-day Tammany Hall run by the mothers, wives and sons of political leaders and staffed by workers more interested in watching Netflix and getting high on the job than making it easy for voters to cast their ballots, according to former employees.

“That place is messed up,” said Betty Ann Canizio, who was pushed out of her role as the Board of Elections’ Brooklyn deputy chief in 2016 after voters were mysteriously purged from the borough rolls.

In 2015, she came across a group of BOE colleagues in charge of voting machines smoking marijuana at a Sunset Park depot where the equipment is stored — the night of an election, Canizio told The Post.

She said she reported the incident to bosses but nothing happened.

“A lot of them that work there are hardworking,” she said of BOE staff. “Then there are a lot of them that, they would come in to work drunk, they would come in to work high, there were fist fights in the office.”

Charles Stimson, who’s done trainings for the Board of Elections for nearly 20 years, echoed Canizio’s concerns in an interview with The New York Times.

“It is really hard to have co-workers who are incapable of performing what they need to do,” Stimson told the newspaper, adding that some colleagues filled their days with personal reading or their favorite Netflix binge and then left early to shop or hit the gym.

The tales of workplace malfeasance come as the BOE has made major blunders in two recent rounds of elections.

An astounding 25 percent of mail-in ballots cast in Brooklyn for June’s primary elections were declared invalid. The BOE was still mailing absentee ballots the day before the June primary, leaving little chance they could reach voters in time, according to city lawyers.

Then in September the board sent return envelopes with the incorrect names and addresses to up to 100,000 Brooklyn voters who requested absentee ballots.

Voters participating in the first three days of early voting for the upcoming general election were met with massive lines across the city.

Both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the hours-long wait times over the weekend as early voting began in New York City were indicative of the board’s unpreparedness for an election occurring during a global pandemic.

“I think the Board of Elections in New York City did a terrible job,” the governor said. “Terrible.”

They each proposed a complete overhaul of the agency, which would require an amendment to the constitution with approval of the voters in a referendum and two successive votes by the state Legislature.

But despite all their protestations, neither de Blasio nor Cuomo has made any moves to start that process rolling.

The board is rife with political patronage from the right and the left. It is made up of 10 commissioners — two from each borough — selected by bosses of the Democratic and Republican parties, and approved by the City Council.

The board’s leadership includes voter registration head Beth Fossella, who is also former Staten Island Republican congressman Vito J. Fossella’s 80-year-old mother; administrative manager Pamela Perkins, who is married to City Councilman Bill Perkins (D-Harlem); and deputy clerk Daniel Ortiz, whose dad is Democratic Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz.

Democratic state Sen. Liz Krueger, chairwoman of the chamber’s powerful budget committee, has dubbed the BOE a “failure” and called for reforms.

Her crusade is based in part on her own experience with the board 20 years ago — a ‘truth is stranger than fiction’-type incident that was later used in a “Law & Order” episode.

Krueger says she learned in the spring of 2001 that ballots from a close race a year earlier she’d lost to entrenched Republican state Sen. Roy Goodman were found in four boxes stacked up in the ceiling against the air conditioning vents.

Workers complained that the cool air was not coming out of the vents. When they checked the ceiling the four boxes of ballots were discovered.

“The Republican staffers stuffed the ballots in the ceiling so their boss could win and they could keep their jobs,” Krueger said.

Goodman, who died in 2014, was also the Manhattan Republican Party chairman who controlled GOP hires at the BOE.

Board officials have defended their agency, arguing that they’re an easy, cheap shot for elected officials and saying the bi-partisan agency was created in response to Tammany Hall corruption and one-party rule.

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Poll puts Biden up big in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania

New poll puts Joe Biden well ahead in Michigan, Wisconsin and must-win Pennsylvania – the states which handed White House to Trump in 2016

  • The poll reveals Biden’s lead in the three battlegrounds is holding steady 
  • Trump holds three rallies in Pennsylvania Monday
  • People who didn’t vote in 2016 or backed minor parties breaking Biden’s way 
  • On Tuesday Trump heads to Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska
  • Had to move desired Las Vegas event to Arizona due to distancing restrictions
  • Trump made two stops Sunday, as White House dealt with outbreak on Pence staff
  • Five advisors to Pence tested positive for COVID-10 
  • Joe Biden heads to Georgia on Tuesday hoping to snatch away a Trump state
  • Mike Pence keeping up his schedule despite being a ‘close contact’ of infected aide Marc Short, due to being an ‘essential employee’ 
  • ‘I have plenty to say about the dishonesty of the Media and Sleepy Joe. A terrible coverup is happening in our Country!!!’ 

Former Vice President Joe Biden maintains a substantial lead in three crucial midwest battlegrounds that are key to his plan for victory, according to a new poll.  

Biden’s lead hits 10 points in Michigan, eight points in Pennsylvania, and nine points in Wisconsin, according to the University of Wisconsin / YouGov polls released Monday. 

All three show a solid lead, and slightly above the consistent lead Biden has held in polling averages.

Biden’s lead, if it holds through Election Day, would have Biden reclaiming the ‘blue wall’ that fell to Trump in 2016.

The difference, according to Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin–Madison research, is that undecided voters and those backing minor party candidates are starting to break Biden’s way. 

Biden already has a big lead among people who have already voted in the states. ‘Although Trump is favored by those who are yet to vote, the margin is not large enough to compensate for Biden’s advantage in the early vote,’ according to the poll. 

Trump however was defiant as he landed in Allentown, Pennsylvania for the first of three rallies Monday. Biden’s lead over Trump in Pennsylvania was 52 to 44 in the poll.

‘I think we’ll win Pennsylvania by more than we did last time,’ Trump predicted. Asked why he is giving up on the pandemic, Trump replied: ‘I’m not.’  

Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump in the midwest battleground of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania in a new poll. He unexpectedly went to a Democratci campaign office in Chester, PA, Monday

U.S. President Donald Trump points a finger as he arrives to hold a campaign event, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 26, 2020. He attacked Joe Biden, Lesley Stahl, Savvanah Guthrie, and Rep. Adam Schiff at his Allentown event as he started a day of three rallies in must-win Pennsylvania 

Biden is running up huge leads among people who have already voted – 87 per cent in Pennsylvania and 75 per cent in Michigan.  

Trump headed back on the road Monday for his extended rally tour with three events scheduled in Pennsylvania even as he got bad polling news there – with the coronavirus interfering with other campaigns later this week.

The president has three rallies on his schedule for Pennsylvania, a state that was key to his 2016 victory – first in Allentown, then Lititz in Lancaster County then Martinsburg, just outside Altoona.

Trump was back on the road just hours after returning from trips to New Hampshire, a state Hillary Clinton barely carried in 2016, and Maine, where he is hoping to pry a single electoral vote from Joe Biden’s column.

It is impossible to separate the coronavirus from Trump’s final campaign push. He fused his claims about the virus with encouragement for Americans to vote in his Monday morning tweets.

‘The Fake News Media is riding COVID, COVID, COVID, all the way to the Election. Losers!’ he wrote. In another: ‘Cases up because we TEST, TEST, TEST. A Fake News Media Conspiracy. Many young people who heal very fast. 99.9%. Corrupt Media conspiracy at all time high. On November 4th., topic will totally change. VOTE!’

Trump also hyped his rallies and attacked his Democratic opponent. ‘Three BIG Rallies today. Heading to Pennsylvania. I have plenty to say about the dishonesty of the Media and Sleepy Joe. A terrible coverup is happening in our Country!!!’

Three rallies in one say: The importance of Pennsylvania to Trump’s re-election was underlined by his campaign schedule Monday

‘I think we’ll win Pennsylvania by more than we did last time,’ Trump predicted before he took the stage 

Vote for me: Trump told the rally that if he wins Pennsylvania, he wins the election 

Vice President Mike Pence makes a fist at the end of a rally in Kinston, North Carolina, U.S., October 25, 2020. He campaigned despite being exposed to staff members who tested positive for the coronavirus. The White House said he was an ‘essential’ employee and met an exception to health guidelines for potential exposure

His frantic push for votes will take Trump to Michigan and Wisconsin on Tuesday.  

Trump also heads to Nebraska in pursuit of a single electoral vote (Nebraska divides its electoral votes by congressional district).

Then he heads west, but his plan to hold an event in populous Las Vegas ran smack into Gov. Steve Sisolak’s social distancing guidelines.

Instead, he will rally supporters across the state line in Arizona, an hour and a half drive away, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. 

Nevada GOP chair Michael McDonald blamed the governor’s enforcement. ‘He has such a large following in Southern Nevada and also in Nevada, this could be possibly one of the largest rallies he has ever held.’

The rally push comes as Vice President Mike Pence keeps up his own travel, despite give advisors testing positive for the coronavirus.

Pence flies to Hibbing Minnesota, birthplace of singer Bob Dylan, as Republicans hope to flip a state that Clinton closely won in 2016. 

Pence is keeping up his schedule despite being a ‘close contact’ of infected aide Marc Short, due to being an ‘essential employee.’ He campaigned in North Carolina Sunday, just hours after news broke about infections among his top advisors. 

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Colleges testing students’ wastewater for COVID-19

Pooping has given college campuses a new hope during the pandemic.

Several academic institutions are collecting students’ wastewater in an effort to contain coronavirus outbreaks, according to an analysis.

The analysis by NPR says the method involves taking wastewater from sewage pipes and then transferring samples to a laboratory for testing. The results provide early detection of the virus days before a person shows respiratory symptoms and in cases where people are asymptomatic.

“I feel like if we’re really trying to slow the pandemic and help get back to normal, the biggest thing is prevention. And this is how you do that.” Abbie Modafferi, a graduate student collecting samples at Colorado State University, told NPR.

Using wastewater testing has given administrators at the schools such as the University of Arizona and the University of Virginia a heads up on which students have the virus and how to contain those cases from spreading.

Heather Pierce of the Association of American Medical Colleges says this type of testing is expensive but necessary.

“Testing is a part of virtually every plan to reopen safely and stay open,” Pierce told Inside Higher Education. “Some combination of screening and surveillance testing is absolutely essential.”

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Press sec Kayleigh McEnany once PRAISED Biden as 'man of the people' who middle class would prefer over 'tycoon' Trump

WHITE House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany attacks Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden regularly, but five years ago, she praised him as a “man of the people” with a greater appeal to middle class voters than Donald Trump. 

McEnany’s comments from August 2015 when Biden was considering running for president were resurfaced by CNN’s KFile on Monday. 

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In an interview that aired on AM970 in New York, McEnany said she thought Republicans could “run into a problem if it is Joe Biden and if it is maybe a Trump on the other side.” 

McEnany continued: ”Because Joe Biden, one of the things he is remarkable at is really kind of being a man of the people and resonating with middle class voters.”

She said Biden’s “gaffes—as much as we make fun of them—to a certain extent they make him look human,” and that “he’s likable.”

Asked if she thought Biden or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be easier for Republicans to defeat in the 2016 presidential election, McEnany went with Biden. 

“I think at the end of the day, probably Joe, although if Trump is against Joe, I think the juxtaposition of kind of the man of the people and kind of this tycoon, is a problem," she said. 

"Although Donald Trump's remarkably coming off as a man of the people despite being this wealthy business tycoon."

McEnany also called Biden “likable” to the middle class a week prior to her AM970 interview, when speaking with Fox Business Network. 

She predicted that Biden would be the Democratic presidential nominee—although Biden in the decided not to make a bid in 2016.

“When you have Joe Biden here who's funny and likable and can resonate with the middle class, he really can speak to the average, everyday American, versus Hillary Clinton who's cold and somber," McEnany said. 

"Joe Biden is a human and people will resonate with that. I predict he will be the nominee.”

Regarding her prior praise of Biden, McEnany told CNN that she has since found out about his "profound personal corruption" and that he has become "an empty vessel for the liberal elites and far left.” 

Earlier this month, she tweeted a link to a New York Post story revealing emails and photographs allegedly retrieved from Hunter Biden’s laptop and has continued to criticize the former vice president.

McEnany also uses President Trump’s rhetoric in bashing Biden, including that he is “sleepy.”

On Sunday, McEnany shared a video of Trump supporters at a Biden campaign event and claimed that the former vice president had fewer backers.

“AMAZING!! At JOE BIDEN’s ‘rally,’ President @realDonaldTrump’s supporters show up to start a counter-rally. Joe literally draws more Trump supporters than Joe supporters!!!” she tweeted.

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‘Bang, on the phones’: Lygon Street businesses firing up for COVID-normal shopping and dining

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The phone calls from loyal customers started before Premier Daniel Andrews had even left the podium on Monday afternoon.

A "flurry", said Tiamo restaurant proprietor Fab Succi, "like everyone was almost in panic mode".

"There's this sense of urgency with people trying to get back to normality and, you know what, I think they deserve it," he said.

Tiamo’s Fab Succi (left) and manager Giulio Damante setting up a table outside their restaurant for the first time in months.Credit:Justin McManus

The Lygon Street food strip in Carlton was buzzing on Tuesday morning with the news restaurants and cafes could resume taking customers from 11.59pm.

Capacity is limited to 20 people inside and a maximum of 50 outdoors, with strict social distancing protocols.

But Mr Succi has had to tell callers hankering for their first sit-down meal in months that his restaurant would not be reopening until Thursday.

"You need a couple days to cook up things fresh, you've got COVID training, you've got floor staff and pizza training, you've got to print off the menus, all these little expenses," Mr Succi said.

"It will be crazy, but that's what it should be."

A a few doors down, Salvatore Cultrera said his restaurant, Cafe Notturno, would begin serving customers from 6am on Wednesday.

"We watched [the press conference], then it was bang, on the phones: talking to managers, organising rosters, getting people ready," Mr Cultrera said.

Lygon Street shops and restaurants prepare to open after lockdown.Cafe Notturno owner Salvatore Cultrera (standing) with his uncle Bruno Cultrera are opening to dine-in customers from 6am on Wednesday.Credit:Justin McManus

"I rang most of my major suppliers. It was just scrambling on the phones."

Cafe Notturno has been open for takeaway throughout the second wave, but Mr Cultrera said getting people back into seats was "massive" for the business.

"Though, even then it's tough because we're still very limited," he said. "We'll rely on turnover [of customers] and I think people are pretty good about that. They understand."

Mr Cultrera said the biggest challenge was getting back staff at such short notice. Five workers, including himself, have been kept on JobKeeper, but some casuals, mostly students and international travellers, have been lost.

Joe and Norma Watt of Watt’s Shoe Store on Lygon Street preparing to open from Wednesday. The business has been in the family for four generations. Credit:Justin McManus

Retailers like Watt's Shoe Store, a family business for four generations, can also reopen from Wednesday.

Joe Watt and his mother Norma were in their Lygon Street store Tuesday morning, dusting off shoes and sweeping away the accumulated pollen that had crept in from beneath the doors during the store's 15-week customer hiatus.

"He's not a very good duster," Ms Watt said.

"It's a lot of work to do the window [displays]. Everything has to come out and everything has to go back. It's quite physical in some ways, but if the shoes are not in the windows people don't see them."

Mr Watt was able to keep the repair workshop open and moved whatever he could of the business to online, "but that's not enough to be able to survive," he said.

"We probably knew [reopening] was going to happen because of the numbers and now we just have to suddenly get going. It's a case of changing the mindset."

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Navy issues safety 'stand down' for non-deployed aircraft

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The U.S. Navy has directed all non-deployed aviation units to "stand down" as of Monday in response to two separate crashes, including one in which two officers were killed. 

Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, commander of Naval Air Forces, said the pause will focus on improving safety measures.

"This stand down provides an opportunity for our aviation commands to focus on how to further improve operational risk management and risk mitigation across the Naval Aviation enterprise," a Navy statement said. 

This photo provided by Greg Crippen shows the scene where a U.S. Navy training plane crashed in an Alabama residential neighborhood near Foley, Ala., last week. (Greg Crippen via AP)

The move comes after two crewmembers on a Navy T-6B Texan II aircraft were killed when it crashed Friday in Foley, Ala. The aircraft is "a tandem-seat, turboprop trainer used to train Navy and Marine Corps pilots," according to the Navy.

The plane hit a house and two cars but no civilians were injured. 

The two deceased crewmembers were identified as U.S. Navy Lt. Rhiannon Ross, 30, of Wixom, Mich., and Coast Guard Ensign Morgan Garrett, 24, of Weddington, N.C.

Navy Lt. Rhiannon Ross, pictured left, and Coast Guard Ensign Morgan Garrett were piloting a U.S. Navy T-6B Texan II trainer aircraft on a routine training flight when it crashed in Foley, Ala., on Friday. (U.S. Navy)
(U.S. Navy)

On Oct. 20, an F/A-18 Super Hornet crashed near Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California during flight training. The pilot safely ejected the plane. 

Days before the Super Hornet crash, the Naval Safety Center said the Navy and Marine Corps had gone a whole fiscal year without a single aviation-related fatality in nearly a century. 

“After 98 years of recorded aviation history, this unprecedented milestone serves as testimony to the Naval Aviation Enterprise’s tireless commitment toward fostering a safety culture of excellence,” Rear Adm. F.R. “Lucky” Luchtman, Naval Safety Center commander, said in a news release.


It was not clear how long the stand down will last. The cause of both crashes are under investigation. 

"We remain the greatest aviation force in the world and are committed to learning from these incidents in order to avoid these tragedies in the future," the Navy said. 

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Special forces 'on alert for jihadis disguised as migrants' on UK ships as oil tanker stowaways face life behind bars

SPECIAL forces are on alert for jihadis disguised as migrants and asylum seekers following the storming of the oil tanker Nave Andromeda, it's been reported.

Seven stowaways were arrested and now could face life behind bars after allegedly threatening the 22-man vessel near the Isle of Wight.

The oil tanker begged for "immediate help" and heavily-armed anti-terror troops seized the Nave Andromeda after the fugitives had allegedly threatened to kill the captain and staff.

But a former Royal Navy officer warned it “could be terrorists next” and called for tougher border security measures.

Rear Admiral Dr Chris Parry warned that the next "hijacking" could involve terrorists.

Dr Parry said: “Next time it may not be just stowaways. It could be terrorists, it could be people smugglers or anything."

Refugees are now ghosting on boats on inland waterways, which could increase the risk of terrorists travelling to the UK through people-smuggling routes, according to reports.

A security source said of the Nave Andromeda raid: “Special forces have been practising for an event like this for many years but lately their training has increased as it is thought to be only a matter of time before there is a more serious taking of a ship, possibly by terrorists.

“The Nave And­­romeda mission was textbook and a huge success but the worry was there was a chance it could have been more sinister than an attempt by illegals.

“From the moment news broke that a ship may have hostile illegals on board it was always going to become an armed counter-terror mission, just in case.

“With limited information coming from the ship at the time the Home Office realised it had to end the stalemate and deploy the SBS to retake the ship.

"It ended well but if they had been armed or carrying explosives it would have been a very ­high-risk operation.”

The seven stowaways were arrested on suspicion of seizing or exercising control of a ship by use of threats or force.

Police boats and helicopters helped provide distractions as at least 16 SBS commandos took part in the swoop on the 42,000-tonne Nave Andromeda after the mayday alert.

But four migrants were also taken off a cargo ship near Brighton on Thursday after boarding in Rouen, France, a port 80 miles inland, according to The Mirror.

The craft, called Alessandra Lehmann, sailed along the Seine river into the open sea – but the ­stowaways were only spotted when it reached Britain.

The Home Office said: “We are fixing our broken asylum system. An asylum system should provide safe haven to those fleeing persecution, oppression or tyranny.

"But ours enables ­organised criminals to elbow the most vulnerable to the side.

“Which is why the new system will be fairer and firmer.

"It will be compassionate towards those who need our help.

“And it will stop exploitation by those who come here illegally and often make unfounded or ­meritless claims to remain.”

Meanwhile, the stowaways seized in the daring operation by special forces are set to face lengthy jail terms for hijacking the oil tanker, it's been suggested.

The suspects were detained under maritime laws – which carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

They had allegedly threatened the 22-man crew and had surrounded the control room of the vessel.

Special Boat Service commandos had to storm the tanker, which was heading to Southampton from Lagos in Nigeria.

The elite soldiers quickly rounded up the suspected hijackers and ended their mission in just under 10 minutes.

The unnamed mariner said on an open radio channel: "I try to keep them calm but I need immediately, immediately agency assistance.

"The stowaways go outside, I see four person port side, midship, near to the manifold, and I have two of them starboard side on the bridge but cannot coming inside."

In other radio messages, the captain is reported to have said he feared for his life.

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Let's hope Welsh decide their foolish leader is no longer an 'essential item'

Period drama

WALES’ bonkers ban on supermarkets selling non-essential items has, predictably, ended in farce. 

Over the weekend, frustrated shoppers took to social media to point out the bizarre inconsistencies baked into the rules. Socks are permitted, but not tights. Magazines but not books. Wine, but not the glasses to go with it. 

Now, Cardiff women are up in arms because confused Tesco workers attempting to follow baffling guidance accidentally blocked their access to sanitary products. 

And they won’t be the last victims of the half-baked policy. 

The instinct of Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford is that because non- essential shops are forced to close during the “fire-break”, ALL Welsh shops must now be made poorer by the Government in the name of fairness. 

That means that the country is now engaged in a race to the bottom, in which the only winners are online retail giants — some of which pay very little tax in the UK. And the losers are ordinary Welsh shop staff battling to stay afloat during this miserable recession. 

Labour’s Mr Drakeford has embarrassed himself and his country. 

And for what? Even the most pro-lockdown scientists have said that these draconian measures will only delay the spread of the virus for a few weeks. 

Let’s hope the Welsh people soon decide that their foolish leader is no longer an “essential item”. 

Rash & grub

CONGRATULATIONS to Marcus Rashford MBE, whose brilliant campaign to alleviate child hunger over the school holidays has once again struck a chord. 

We know it will have been difficult for the Government to change its stance. 

And we accept that the issue is more complicated than some make out: in ordinary times, it’s not sustainable to expect the state to feed every child. 

But these are not ordinary times. And parents struggling to put food on the table need help wherever they can get it. 

Boris is right to look for solutions. 

Nic’s a crank

NICOLA Sturgeon’s claim that Scotland came “very close to eliminating Covid” over the summer before it was “re-seeded” by travel from other parts of the UK is simply not true. 

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that Scotland was anywhere near elimination. And Ms Sturgeon knows it. 

So the only conclusion we can draw is that she is using the pandemic to stoke hatred of the English.

We know Ms Sturgeon isn’t a stranger to bending the truth when it comes to advancing her nationalist agenda. 

But we didn’t think even she would stoop this low. 

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Woman, 25, screamed ‘I’m falling out’ as she plummeted 100ft from ‘Hangover’ ride leaving her fighting for life

A WOMAN who screamed "I'm falling out" before she plummeted 100ft from the top of a fair ground ride is fighting for her life.

The 25-year-old woman fell from 'The Hangover', a ride that flips users 360 degrees, in Cairns, Australia on Saturday.

Horrified witness Bonnie Thistle said she was 'traumatised' by what she saw and called the incident 'horrific'.

She told Daily Mail Australia: "All I could hear from a distance, even over the speakers and everything, was a lady yell, 'I'm falling out'.

"As I've looked over, she's slowly coming out of her seat. She was basically sliding out like a banana, kind of thing. Just coming out.

"I rushed over to see what was going on, to see if she was okay. The way that she landed – I was pretty traumatised. I didn't even know what to think.

"It was very horrific."

She fell at the Cairns ShowFest before becoming "entrapped" in the mechanism of the ride that swings passengers 100 ft in the air.

Acting Inspector Brett Jenkins said on Sunday that the woman was in a stable condition and was being 'closely monitored' in hosptial.


Cops investigating claim the woman was not strapped into the ride correctly.

On Saturday, Queensland Ambulance and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services freed the woman but she had already suffered "significant head and spinal injuries". 

Critical Care Paramedic Denis O’Sullivan told media it was “chaotic” when he arrived on the scene.

He said: “There were a number of concerned people … in these sorts of incidents it’s good for everyone to get back and let people get their job done.

“The lady suffered some traumatic injuries and was unconscious when the Queensland Ambulance Service arrived and was taken through to hospital unconscious.”

He said paramedics had to undergo a “difficult extrication” as the woman fell into “components of the ride’s machinery.”

Event promoter Lance Collyer said organisers were still investigating how the tragedy unfolded.

"As organisers, we are saddened by what has happened at ShowFest last night," Mr Collyer told the Cairns Post.

"We are still working with Cairns police to find out exactly what has happened."

The incident happened about 5.30pm and the patient has been taken to Cairns Hospital unconscious.

The moment the women fell was caught on camera and uploaded to Facebook but was removed out of respect to her family.

A Queensland Ambulance spokeswoman said on Saturday: "The woman was freed and treated for significant head and spinal injuries.

"She was transported in a critical condition with a critical care paramedic and flight doctor to Cairns Hospital.

"I rushed over to see what was going on, to see if she was okay. The way that she landed – I was pretty traumatised

"A nurse has informed me that she will likely remain in critical condition overnight."

The ride's Facebook page says The Hangover is a ride "for all thrill seekers, young and old" and warns users to "be prepared to soar through the air on the pendulum arms rotating a full 360 degrees".

A mum, who said her children witnessed the accident wrote on Facebook: "They said they heard her yell out 'I'm falling' then it was too late.

"My son said he's never going to a Show ever again as they were just about to hop on that ride.

"They left after it and he said he will never forget the sound, ever."

Kurt Wanless was at the fair with his two children when he saw the 25-year-old tumble from the ride.

He told DailyMail Australia: "I was getting a daggle dog and I saw her mid flight in the last few metres before she hit the ground.

"My daughter saw her land.

"There was a young bloke and a girl, about 18, who looked pretty shaken up.

"They were crying. I think they might have been her friends or family."

According to Mr Wanless, parents and children were going up to the ride after the woman fell.

He said: "People were taking their kids up to see, which is pretty disgusting. I don't want my kids to have that in their heads.

"I grabbed my kids when they put their sheet across because I thought she might have died. When we left, more police were coming in."

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