Thursday, July 05, 2007

Queensland doctor made calls to UK terror suspects

A GOLD Coast doctor arrested at Brisbane Airport over alleged links to UK terror attacks told colleagues he was leaving the country to be with his wife and baby. Gold Coast Hospital colleagues of Mohamed Haneef, 27, said the junior doctor was "in a hurry to get home" and used the birth of his child as a reason to be excused from duties.

Australian Federal Police investigators last night were also questioning Haneef's former Liverpool flatmate and Gold Coast Hospital colleague Dr Mohammed Asif Ali. Dr Ali was freed this morning, and no further action was expected, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty said.

When Haneef was arrested by a joint AFP and Queensland Police Service operation on Monday night - becoming the eighth person arrested in relation to last week's British terror attacks - he had a one-way ticket to India. Six of the eight suspects are doctors of a similar age to Haneef - the perfect cover, experts said yesterday, for terrorists operating in Western nations. AFP investigators are believed to have found correspondence and evidence of telephone communication between Haneef and some of the British suspects.

Raids were yesterday carried out at Gold Coast Hospital and several southeast Queensland addresses, including Haneef's Southport unit. Police seized items but would not confirm their nature. A Brisbane magistrate last night allowed AFP investigators to detain Haneef for a further 24 hours. Police allege Haneef was ``connected to a terrorist group'', AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty said, while Ali was helping them with inquiries.

Prime Minister John Howard insisted there was no increased terrorism threat to Australia. He urged the public to keep an open mind about the pair being questioned, saying neither had been charged with any offence.

Colleagues and neighbours yesterday painted a picture of a mild-mannered junior doctor who did nothing to raise alarm. Haneef received his medical degree in India, but was working in Liverpool when he applied for a job in Queensland last year via an ad placed by the Beattie Government in the British Medical Journal. His move to Australia on a 457 Visa was sponsored by Queensland Health.

Haneef told colleagues on Monday he was going home for seven to 10 days, despite not having any scheduled holidays on his roster between June 4 and August 10. "He was in a hurry to get home," said the doctor. "He didn't mention anything to me about the leave so maybe it was a quick decision to go to India." Mohammed Asif Ali, the second Indian doctor detained, had just returned from a long holiday in India. ``When he was going to India there was no mention of getting married but when he came back he brought Indian sweets for everybody and possibly half of the hospital knew about his marriage,'' the doctor said. Ali apparently returned to Australia without his wife, but immediately applied for a visa for her.

Haneef worked in Gold Coast Hospital's oncology unit and Ali was in the emergency department. "I'm shocked, they are quite nice guys actually, very softly spoken," the doctor said. "I'm not sure if they would think about such things as terrorism. They are very friendly."

Haneef lived near the hospital in a nondescript unit. According to his unit manager Steve Bosher, he spoke "perfect English" with a British accent and was always polite. "There was no hint of anything like this terrorism stuff," he said. "The only time we saw him was when we passed him in the foyer or the stairwell, or when he wanted something fixed in his unit....

Authorities said last night the two doctors had quality medical qualifications, were specialist trainees with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and had worked at the Gold Coast hospital since late last year. In Liverpool, Halton Hospital confirmed Haneef had occasionally worked as a locum there ``as and when needed". His last shift was in 2005. The hospital was checking its records for links to other suspects.

RACP chief executive Craig Patterson said the men's qualifications has been vetted. "I have faith in their medical and educational qualifications," Mr Craig Patterson. Haneef is understood to have graduated in medicine from Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences in 2002 and Ali from Mysore University in 2001. "What's scary ... about this, if these people are found to be guilty, is they are good quality doctors," Mr Patterson said.

Any potential immigrant to Australia must undergo stringent character checks by the Department of Immigration. They will fail that test if ``they have a substantial criminal record'' or ``they have, or have had, an association with an individual, group or organisation suspected of having been, or being, involved in criminal conduct''.


Suspect watched for a day

FEDERAL police were watching terror suspect Mohamed Haneef for 24 hours before his dramatic arrest at Brisbane International Airport late on Monday. Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty said yesterday that the British tip-off came through over the weekend, believed to be late on Sunday. It is understood Haneef worked at Liverpool's Halton Hospital with one of the terror suspects, who had been using Haneef's British mobile telephone chip and internet access since he left for Australia last September.

That suspect was also an Indian-born doctor, who had to be subdued by police with a stun gun when he was arrested over the weekend. Federal Government sources last night said they believed Haneef had recently spoken by phone to several men charged over last week's botched terrorist plots in London and Glasgow - a call cited as a key reason for British police to want Haneef's arrest.

Gold Coast Hospital sources said staff had remarked yesterday about people "hanging around" throughout Monday - in hindsight, probably undercover police watching Haneef. He was arrested when he made his way to the airport for his attempted dash from the country with a one-way ticket to India via Malaysia.

Haneef was then questioned for several hours, after which Federal Police swooped on two Gold Coast addresses. At 7.30am yesterday they arrived at the nondescript block of 56 units in Southport where Haneef lived, seizing computer discs and documents from the sparsely furnished No.15 - a top-floor, two-bedroom unit. Police left behind a copy of the Koran and other religious books, according to the building's manager.

Haneef had not been on any Australian terrorist watch list before the weekend tip-off from British authorities. Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson said no explosive material had been found during the searches. The resident managers of Haneef's building, Steve and Meryl Bosher, expressed shock that the "quiet gentleman" and "perfect tenant" could be tied up with the failed car bombings in London and Glasgow....


First detention under new law

MOHAMED Haneef is the first person to be detained without charge under Australia's tough terrorism laws. Yesterday Australian Federal Police seized computer equipment and a mobile phone used by Dr Haneef. They executed search warrants on his Gold Coast home, his car, and at the Gold Coast Hospital where he worked as a registrar.

The AFP also won a court application to extend its normal four hours of questioning so it could detain Dr Haneef without charge for another 20 hours of direct contact. It was the first use of the law, which can only be used when investigating terrorism offences, since it was introduced in 2004. The AFP is able to use the legislation to detain suspects without charge to prevent an imminent terrorist act or to preserve evidence relating to a recent terrorist act. It has to convince a judicial officer there are reasonable grounds to believe the suspect will commit a terrorist act or has been involved in planning a terrorist act.

The legislation allows the AFP to also apply for "dead time", not included in the 24-hour questioning period. That dead time can include sleep for the suspect or suspension of questioning while further investigations are carried out or search warrants executed. The AFP can stretch detention of terrorist suspects without charge for several days by repeatedly applying for dead time.

It is believed the AFP resorted to using its extended detention powers for the first time because it didn't have enough evidence to charge Dr Haneef.


Scanner risks "exposed"

The article below is complete rubbish based on unexamined myths. It has been known for around a century that low doses of ionizing radiation are hormetic (beneficial). A lot of people on the outskirts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki when the A-bombs fell lived and are living to ripe old ages. And both cities are still major industrial centres

GENERAL practitioners are exposing their patients to high doses of radiation, and potentially cancer, by ordering unnecessary CT scans, a study has found. Researchers reviewed 50 requests for computed tomography scans of the chest at two private radiology practices in Cairns between August 2004 and March 2005. About two-thirds were considered inappropriate and could have been avoided or replaced by tests with lower radiation exposure, they said.

Cairns Base Hospital respiratory physician Graham Simpson, one of the study authors, said CT scans exposed patients to 400 times the radiation of an X-ray. "GPs are requesting these because they're scared of getting sued. In the current climate, everyone wants to do every hi-tech test they can so that nobody can say that they didn't do everything," Dr Simpson said. "All the GPs I've spoken to have been absolutely horrified when they've learnt what the dose of radiation involved is. "Nobody ever really thinks that that can have a consequence of causing cancer down the track but they should."

Medicare Australia statistics show that more than 235,000 CT scans of the chest were performed by private radiology practices in 2004-05. That excludes those performed in public hospitals and those billed to the Veterans Affairs Department. "Assuming that 70 per cent of requests (the average of the estimates from the two radiology practices) come from GPs and that two-thirds are inappropriate, this means that there may be an annual cost to Australian taxpayers of over $35 million for unnecessary CT examinations of the chest," the authors wrote in the latest Medical Journal of Australia.

They said the International Commission on Radiological Protection had estimated an overall risk of one fatal cancer for every 2000 to 3000 CT scans of the chest performed. That translates to about 40 fatal cancers a year in Australia. Dr Simpson said the figure did not include avoidable CT scans being ordered for other parts of the body.

In a corresponding editorial in the MJA, radiologists Richard Mendelson and Conor Murray said specialists were aware that diagnostic imaging was often inappropriately used. "Perhaps up to a third of radiological examinations are totally or partially unnecessary," they wrote. However, they said prohibiting referrals for CT scans by GPs would result in unacceptable stress on specialist services, long waiting times and, probably, increased costs. The radiologists called for more education for GPs and for specialists to take on a wider consultative role.


Another Greenie myth bites the dust

A TRUCE has been called in the nappy [diaper] war, and neither side won. For years, the environmental credentials of cloth nappies have been trumpeted, much to the despair of guilty parents using disposables. However, new research from Britain shows cloth and disposables have exactly the same impact on the environment. A four-year Environment Agency research project found the impact of burying disposable nappies in landfill sites was matched by the energy consumed and greenhouse gases generated by washing cloth nappies or transporting them to laundries.

The Australian Consumers Association agrees, saying it's a drain on water to wash cloth nappies, but disposables use more energy and create landfill. About 95 per cent of Australian parents use disposable nappies, which make up about 1 per cent of the 22 million tonnes of landfill waste each year. Non-biodegradable nappies can take up to 400 years to breakdown.

The findings of the UK study were welcomed yesterday by leading mainstream disposable manufacturer Huggies. "Parents can now make a guilt-free choice based on other important factors, such as performance, cost and convenience," a spokesman said.

But Victorian parents choosing cloth insist they're better for babies and the environment. Tania Avtarovski, owner of an online cloth nappy store, has seen business triple since last October. She now sells hundreds of nappies a week from her Taylors Lakes home. "I say I use cloth nappies and people cringe. They think it's all about terry towelling and stains, but it's really very easy. There's no soaking," she said. "Everything is breathable and so comfortable."


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