Friday, 27 March 2009

Pensioner risk

Two recent cases indicate that age is no bar for criminal activity and indeed the older you are the more likely the scam will be highly skilled and contain some thinking outside the box.

First there was the group led by a 71 year old who managed to sell a property they didn't own to the Candy brothers, two of the most active property developers in London, for several million pounds.

Then the £5 million banknote forgery carried out in the front room of an 83 year old's home. The results were so good that only the ink and the paper gave them away, it was reported. They believed in doing things in some style, the only time the gang met up was in Claridges. It is not recorded whether they paid in dud notes or not.

Whilst these show commendable initiative and no desire for early retirement and may, for all I know be the tip of an iceberg of geriatric crime, there is only one thing seriously wrong with these activities, besides the obvious one that they are illegal- the criminals in question got caught and have been sentenced to spend several of their dwindling years in prison. There is something in having too much form perhaps.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Stauffenberg's heir

Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg limited the details of his assassination plot of July 20th 1944 to a very small group in order to protect those who sympathised with him in the event Hitler was not killed and in the hope that they would carry on with his mission to make peace and restore the integrity of the German Army.

On learning of the failure of the plot, one of those sympathisers, Stauffenberg's good friend and fellow staff officer, Johann Adolf Graf von Kielmansegg, rushed back to his apartment. There he and his wife had to decide very quickly whether to destroy the evidence of their knowledge of Stauffenberg's intentions or whether they should keep some documents to prove they were not Nazi sympathisers to the advancing Allies. The threat of a visit from the Gestapo concentrated their minds and they set about tearing up and flushing the documents they had down the lavatory. The repeated noise of the cistern filling and flushing drove their neighbours to hammer on the ceiling in annoyance.

They had made the right decision because the next day the Gestapo arrived , interrogated von Kilemansegg for several days and held him for 2 months whilst trying to make a case against him. Eventually he was released back, not to a staff position, but into active duty and served on the western front in a panzer division until his capture by the Americans.

In 1950, he was asked to serve as the secretary of a committee planning the framework for a new German Army, the Bundeswehr. In due course he became a general and finally in 1963 he was made NATO Commander Land Forces with 500,000 German, American and British troops under his command. He strongly supported the democratisation of the German Army and its legitimate control by the government. He retired, liked and respected in 1968 and died in 2006 aged 99. Through him and others like him Stauffenberg's hopes for the restoration of the German Army's integrity were significantly realised.

Monday, 16 March 2009

The night shift

The recent report that working a night shift may put you at greater risk of breast cancer will probably require more research before the link is firmly established, if ever. However having managed three companies which had a night shift I can say that if I could have eliminated the night shift I would have. It is the most undisciplined shift, the one when the mistakes are made and product quality suffers. The communictaion with the day shifts is often poor and adds to the confusion. The workers have domestic problems from working when their families are sleeping which adds to the difficulties they face.

If a link is proven then will all night shift workers who develop cancers be able to claim for an industrial disease, despite the fact that they are paid a higher rate for the inconvenience of working nights.? The case of Denmark where compensation for those with breast cancer has been paid could be the shape of things to come across the industrial world, with implications for workers' compensation insurance. This could be a very, very big iceberg.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

The mouse behind the curtain

Having an mid morning meeting in one of the railway hotels in London, I look behind me at the window sill and see a mouse walk out from behind the curtain, sniff around, cool as you please, almost Beatrix Potteresque in its audacity, and then disappear.

They say that the explosion of rubbish has meant an equivalent increase in the rodent population with all the risks that brings with it. Clearly ratcachers will be in demand even in a recession, but will we be cutting back on rubbish collection because of the state of government finances?