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Monthly Archives: February 2008

Police search for remains at former Jersey children’s home

Police on Jersey in the Channel Islands were yesterday searching an underground chamber of a former children's home which is the focus of allegations of systematic abuse.
Former residents of the home at Haut de la Garenne have alleged they were locked up, drugged and systematically abused in cellars under the building.
Police dug into the first cellar on Wednesday and have discovered a second bricked-up chamber which they are trying to enter. Neither of the rooms appear on site plans of the building.
The dog, which is trained to detect human remains, barked at an area next to an object attached to the floor of the first cellar, but police refused to reveal what the item was.
Police said the room had been filled with rubble and dust and would take several days to search.
The child abuse investigation at Haut de la Garenne involves more than 160 victims over a 40-year period.
Search teams found a child's skull and remains at the site on Saturday. They are being analysed in Britain.
Deputy chief police officer Lenny Harper said what had been discovered in the first chamber was in line with some of the evidence from alleged victims, although he denied that shackles were found.
He said: "The initial look at what is in there certainly corroborates some of the victims."
A builder who helped to transform the then dilapidated home into a youth hostel four years ago said workmen discovered a trapdoor leading down to a windowless room in which a single chair and shackles remained.
Harper said: "There is another room of the same size that appears to have been bricked up.
"Some of the bricking up appears suspicious but there could be an innocent explanation for it."
Police believe both cellars measure about 12 feet by 12 feet (3.7 metres by 3.7 metres).
There are now more than 200 alleged victims and witnesses in the investigation.
Police have received more than 70 calls since the human remains were discovered, with Harper saying that many only came forward after they had seen others do so because they feared the repercussions.
The investigation extends as far as Australia and Thailand, where witness statements have been taken.
The island's former health and social services minister has claimed he was sacked from Jersey's governing council because he tried to expose "systematic" abuse of children.
The case has shattered the beach-fringed British crown dependency which was once a mainly agricultural island and a holiday destination but has become an international offshore banking centre.

In blow to Clinton, civil rights icon defects to Obama

by Stephen Collinson*

Hillary Clinton's troubled White House hopes suffered another body blow as civil rights hero and Democratic elder John Lewis defected to surging rival Barack Obama.
"Something is happening in America," argued Lewis, who walked in the iconic footsteps of Martin Luther King, and said he now sensed a comparable groundswell of historic change sweeping the country.
The timing of his switch was especially galling for Clinton, just days before Texas and Ohio hold March 4 nominating contests which her campaign admits she must win to keep her White House dreams alive.
Obama, meanwhile, in a preview of a possible general election match-up, sparred over Iraq with presumptive Republican nominee John McCain.
And a nagging uncertainty of the 2008 presidential race was put to rest when billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he would not enter the fray.
Speculation had raged for months that the 65-year-old businessman turned politician would mount a muscular independent bid that could influence the outcome of the presidential race, likely by diverting Democratic votes.
Lewis, who risked his life in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, said there was a spirit in the hearts and minds of Americans he had not seen since the 1968 presidential quest of assassinated Democrat Robert Kennedy.
"I want to be on the side of the people, on the side of the spirit of history," he said.
Lewis, 68, was the latest superdelegate — Democratic party luminaries who can vote how they like at the party convention — to choose Obama, further weakening Clinton's hopes.
Obama, on a day when he welcomed the one millionth donor to his campaign, said he was honored to have the backing of an "American hero and a giant of the civil rights movement."
Speaking on a Houston television station, Clinton said Lewis had "been my friend and he will always be my friend."
But she said the ultimate outcome depended on "what our positions are, what our experience and qualifications are, and I think that's what voters are going to decide."
McCain, spoiling for a fight with Democrats as he works to finally snuff out the challenge of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, took a strongly worded shot at Obama over Iraq, playing on the title of the Democrat's latest book.
"Where is the audacity of hope when it comes to backing the success of our troops all the way to victory in Iraq?" Senator McCain said in a statement issued after Obama and Clinton traded blows at a debate late Tuesday.
"What we heard last night was the timidity of despair."
Obama, who opposed the Iraq war and says he will end it in 2009 if elected president, hit back hard at McCain while campaigning in Ohio.
"John McCain may like to say that he wants to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, but so far all he's done is follow George Bush into a misguided war in Iraq that has cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars."
Obama has won 11 straight Democratic party nominating contests, has more popular votes than Clinton, is now beating her in the money-raising stakes, and is attracting more high-profile party endorsements by the day.
Bloomberg's announcement brought a sigh of relief to Democrats, dreading a potential repeat of the 2000 presidential election when Ralph Nader helped President George W. Bush to his razor-thin victory by siphoning support from Democratic candidate Al Gore.
Speculation built in mid-2007 that Bloomberg would run for president when he officially left the Republican party, amid reports that the founder of the Bloomberg media company was prepared to sink one billion dollars into his bid.
"I listened carefully to those who encouraged me to run, but I am not — and will not be — a candidate for president," Bloomberg wrote in an op-ed piece published late Wednesday on the website of the New York Times.
Pundits had said the popular New York mayor would likely wait to see who the party nominees were before taking his decision.
"If a candidate takes an independent, nonpartisan approach — and embraces practical solutions that challenge party orthodoxy — I'll join others in helping that candidate win the White House," Bloomberg said Wednesday.