Sunday, May 31, 2009

Severe acute respiratory syndrome?

Americans find the name of the above drink hilarious

It is however a favourite drink in Queensland ("Golden Circle" is a Queensland brand) and I drink it myself. The name is an abbreviation of "Sarsaparilla", related to the American "Root Beer". Coincidentally, Australians tend to find the name "Root Beer" rather amusing. "Root" is an Australian euphemism for sexual intercourse.

The SARS epidemic of 2003 was pretty nasty, killing a majority of old people who got it.

NSW police goons again: Drunk driver's rampage ended in brutal police beating

They think they are judge and jury. Note that the man has been judged NOT guilty of resisting arrest and that police deliberately obstructed video of their unlawful actions. They should all be fired. The guy they bashed was scum who should be locked up for good for the safety of the public but that does not absolve the police from acting lawfully

POLICE officers who dragged a drunken driver from his car and bashed him with their fists, boots and batons are being investigated by the NSW Police Professional Standards Command and the NSW Ombudsman. The investigation will determine whether unjust force was used during the arrest of Mount Druitt man Sione Peaua, 43, who was beaten by as many as five police officers following a 45-minute car chase on May 25 last year.

Video footage from a police patrol vehicle and the Polair police helicopter was tendered in court on Friday during Peaua's trial for serious traffic offences, The Sunday Telegraph reports. The videos show Peaua being dragged from his four-wheel drive after it hit a power pole, then being punched, kicked and bashed with retractable batons as he struggled on the ground.

Peaua - a Tongan father of six who works as a boilermaker and a local rugby league coach - had a blood alcohol reading of 0.13 when he went on a high-speed rampage through the streets of Mount Druitt and Rooty Hill in a Toyota LandCruiser. For the early part of the chase - during which speeds of 145 km/h were reached - Peaua had his six-year-old daughter in the vehicle.

On Friday, he was sentenced to four months in jail after pleading guilty to driving with a suspended licence, mid-range drink-driving and dangerous driving.

Police prosecutor Alan Baghurst unsuccessfully argued in court that incriminating video footage should not be released to the public and described it as "not a pretty sight". He said both sets of footage were being investigated by the NSW Police internal affairs unit.

Ian Lloyd, QC, representing Peaua, told the court both sets of video were the subject of a NSW Ombudsman inquiry. Peaua would be making a statement to the inquiry, Mr Lloyd said. The court heard that Peaua did not receive any lasting injuries from the beating. Mr Lloyd, however, called it a "savage and unjustified attack" and said police "may have been frustrated at being taken for a merry ride through the western suburbs".

A statement from Commissioner Andrew Scipione's office said the investigation had been initiated by police and was being "closely oversighted by the NSW Ombudsman". "Now that a person has been convicted and sentenced, the police investigation into matters in the immediate aftermath of the arrest can now be completed," the statement said.

Both videos were tendered to the court, along with photographs of Peaua's injuries. He suffered severe bruising to his upper arms and thighs, as well as an injury to his hand and left forearm, which was bandaged and plastered. The Sunday Telegraph understands Peaua is considering launching a civil action against police in relation to the injuries.

It is also understood a female constable who was at the scene contradicted the statements of other officers involved that Peaua had resisted arrest and assaulted police before they used force to subdue him. Two charges of resisting arrest and assaulting police were dropped by the police prosecutor, and Peaua's legal defence received a $41,000 cost order as a result.

A police fact sheet tendered to the court said Peaua was also sprayed with a "burst" of capsicum spray, but does not mention Peaua being punched and kicked. The fact sheet also said Peaua grabbed one officer's left foot "with both hands" and had "continued to pull away from police, swinging his arms around forcefully".

Several critical moments of the beating were missed because the Polair crew panned the helicopter's camera away as police lashed out and used batons. Nor is it clear why, at the beginning of the beating, three police officers stand in front of the police patroller's video camera, obscuring vision of the incident. The statement from the Commissioner's office says: "Standard operating procedure for police helicopters involved in pursuits is to resume patrol once an offender is in custody."

In the sound track of the incident, a police officer can be heard saying, "Don't you f****** move" before telling Peaua to lie on his side. Peaua then screams, "Get me out of here" and is told by the officer: "You shut the f*** up, c*** and lay there."

Peaua: "You know what I'm going to do to you." The officer then tells Peaua: "Let go of my f***ing leg." Peaua can then be heard screaming, "What the f*** are you doing to me?"

Close examination of the Polair vision reveals four officers standing over a handcuffed Peaua and attempting to hold him down when one officer kicks him twice in the back of the thigh. The same officer then punches him and kicks him again in the back of the thigh before punching him in the vicinity of his arm. The vision then cuts to a wide shot where two officers can be seen punching and kicking. As the shot becomes wider, it appears one or more officers are using a retractable baton.

Police began the pursuit when Peaua refused to stop after they saw him hit the kerb while making a turn in Zoe Place, Mount Druitt. During the chase, Peaua ran seven red lights, drove on the wrong side of the road 11 times and knocked down two give-way signs before slamming into a power pole on the Great Western Highway at Rooty Hill at 8.25pm. He was stopped when police deployed two sets of spikes that blew out all four of the vehicle's tyres.

Court documents state that at one stage during the chase, while his six-year-old daughter was in the car, he had the 4WD up on two wheels and "almost rolled when he crashed into a roadworks area at 70km/h," a police fact sheet said. Of Peaua's reckless driving, Mr Baghurst said: "The potential to kill people was in the extreme."

Peaua, who was still serving a licence suspension from 2006 and had a prior drink-driving conviction, pleaded guilty to charges of driving with a suspended licence, mid-range drink-driving and dangerous driving. He was sentenced to four months' jail and suspended from driving until 2014. Peaua has lodged an appeal which will be heard in the District Court later this year. He was granted conditional bail.


More feelgood but brainless legislation from Rudd

Credit law revamp could cost jobs

MOVES by the federal Government to tighten up on bad loans could backfire with a new study forecasting that 24,000 jobs could be lost as a result. The measures could also dramatically push up the cost of loans for items like whitegoods and televisions by more than $280 over the life of the loan due to increased compliance costs, the study by Price Waterhouse Coopers says.

Retail tycoon Gerry Harvey of Harvey Norman has been quietly lobbying the Government behind the scenes to have the proposed laws changed.

The new government measures are designed to stop retail credit providers and banks pushing unwanted cards and increased limits on to customers who can't afford them. The laws, which are due to be introduced by the end of this year will see lenders who breach the new laws lose their lending licences, including banks. The key change is that the onus for proving credit worthiness will shift from the customer to the lender. So if you sign up to a credit deal which you clearly cannot afford it will be the bank, or retailer that has to repay the loan.

However, according to the PWC study, the changes will have unintended consequences for small business people, such as electricians and plumbers, who provide so-called "point of sale" credit. These small businesses have access to credit through a wholesale provider. They often sign up customers to credit deals on the spot, particularly in emergencies. But the new laws will shift the legal onus of credit provision back onto such tradesmen who are not trained in financial planning or documentation.

Similarly retail staff at chains like Harvey Norman will have to receive financial training, and engage in extra paper work, all of which will add to the cost of lending.


Regulator to probe Keddies conduct

About time these sharks were hauled in

DISCIPLINARY proceedings have been launched against three partners and a senior lawyer at Keddies, the state's largest personal injury firm, for unsatisfactory or professional misconduct.

Almost a year after the Herald first revealed allegations of overcharging at Keddies, the Legal Services Commissioner has launched disciplinary proceedings against Keddies' managing partner Russell Keddie, partners Tony Barakat and Scott Roulstone, a former member of the Law Society's Professional Conduct Committee, and senior solicitor Philip Scroope.

The matter is listed before the Administrative Decisions Tribunal on July 1.

The allegations against the four Keddies lawyers relate to accusations of gross overcharging in the case of a woman who was rendered a paraplegic in a bus crash in South Australia seven years ago. While the women's injuries were catastrophic, her legal case was relatively straightforward as there were no issues relating to liability. Her case was settled with the insurers without going to court.

However, the woman told the Herald she did not receive a bill from Keddies and it was not until she complained to the Legal Services Commissioner that she discovered Keddies had charged her $800,000 in legal fees. This represented a quarter of her total payout of $3.5 million, which was to provide medical expenses for her disability for the rest of her life.

Legal experts asked to review the case by the Herald estimated the reasonable legal charges should have been between $80,000 to $120,000. After reviewing the woman's bill, the expert said Mr Scroope, the senior solicitor who had carriage of the matter, would have had to work on that case alone full-time for more than a year to justify such high fees.

The woman was angry when she discovered her case was used in Keddies promotional material.

Last year Mr Keddie was found guilty of professional misconduct, fined $10,000 and publicly reprimanded over his firm's breaches of advertising regulations.

In a statement to the Herald yesterday, Mr Keddie said: "We are extremely disappointed this action has been commenced but look forward to the opportunity to respond before the tribunal."

He said it would be inappropriate to comment on the case in question but said that "over the past year, Keddies has been in dispute with four former employees whose employment was terminated in 2006. Those employees have generated a large number of allegations which were referred to the legal regulator. All of those complaints so far investigated by the regulator have been dismissed with no adverse findings against our firm".

Keddies did not want to comment on whether any other matters were before the regulator.

The Legal Services Commissioner would not comment on the proceedings yesterday. Its website says:

"Disciplinary proceedings must be instituted … where the commissioner is satisfied there is a reasonable likelihood that the practitioner will be found guilty by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal of unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct."


Australia's immigration limits do not indicate racism

By Barry Cohen, who was a minister in the Hawke Labor government between 1983 and 1987

In the late 1890s, Moishe Koziwoda departed Russian occupied Poland in a vegetable cart to escape 30 years' national service in the tsar's army. Being Jewish, he was guaranteed the filthiest and most dangerous jobs. Few Jews survived.

From Germany he travelled to England where he found safe haven enabling him to send for his wife Zelda. After having three children in England they sailed to South Africa where they had a further three. Restless souls, they departed South Africa for Australia. Later they tried Canada and the US before deciding Australia was the country for them. Those of his family who did not have his prescience perished in the gas chambers of Chelmno and Auschwitz.

So what's special about the Koziwoda family? Only that they were my grandparents.

Almost a century after they left the villages of Pajeczno and Dzialoszyn, I "returned"..

Thanks to the generosity of the Polish Government and the mayor of Pajeczno, who opened the village archives, we departed with a treasure trove of my family's history.

"When the Nazis arrived in Dzialoszyn in June 1940, they took all the Jews out in the fields and shot them immediately," the mayor recounted. The matter-of-fact way he said it chilled my blood. "However, in Pajeczno they kept all the Jews - numbering about 500 - in a ghetto in the Jewish quarter bordered by Kosciusko Street. They remained there for about one year until one day they rounded them up and put them in the church, where they kept them for a week. While they were there, the Polish people tried to help by smuggling food to them but eventually trucks took them all away. Most were never seen again." Pajeczno and Dzialoszyn had been made, as Hitler promised Europe, "Judenrein".

It is difficult to describe my emotions at the time. At first I was numb, trying yet again, to comprehend how people - any people, let alone the most sophisticated in Europe - could behave this way to fellow human beings. Then my numbness turned to bitterness, anger and frustration. Bitterness at what those monsters had done, anger at the Allies' failure to do more to rescue those whose lives were in peril, frustration that so many of the perpetrators had escaped without trial or punishment.

To this day I cherish a fading sepia-toned photograph of my great uncle and aunt Mendel and Mindel Koziwoda and their children: Itzik, Charna, Malka, Mania, Yidel, Moishe and Faigele. Only Itzik (Jack Cousens) survived Auschwitz to be granted refugee status in Australia where he raised a family and lived into his early70s.

No one should be surprised therefore that I have sympathy for those now seeking refuge in Australia. Had Australia and other democracies shown a similar generosity of spirit to the millions of Jews desperate to escape Nazi Germany, many more would have been saved.

At the Evian conference in France, in July 1938, 32 countries met to see what could be done to help European Jewry. Former Australian PM and then high commissioner to Great Britain, Stanley Bruce recommended that Australia accept 30,000 over three years. On December 1 the then minister for the interior, and later PM, John McEwen, announced Australia would accept 15,000.

In the parliamentary debate that followed, Albert Green disgraced the Labor Party with an anti-Semitic rant that would have been more apposite in Nuremberg. Unfortunately, neither John Curtin nor Ben Chifley, who followed Green in the debate, bothered to disown him. That was left to Labor's William Maloney and United Australia Party's Percy Spender.

Kristallnacht in November 1938 and the outbreak of World War II ensured only a fraction of the 15,000 made it to Australia. Our bureaucrats were not a great help. Only Jews with sufficient money were eligible for visas. If they had sufficient money they were branded as "criminals" in Germany and prevented from emigrating.

How many should Australia have taken: 30,000, 300,000, three million? There was always going to be a limit that would be too many for some, too little for others. Which brings us to the present debate in Australia about refugees, illegals, asylum seekers; call them what you will. It's still a matter of numbers.

Since World War II Australia has taken some 700,000 refugees and people in humanitarian need. Australia's record of taking refugees is one of the best in the world. The target this year is 13,750.

That won't satisfy those in the media and academe who seem intent on proving that Australia is a deeply racist and xenophobic nation. For them, our treatment of Aborigines and the White Australia policy is proof positive of that. The abandonment of the White Australia policy by the Holt government in 1966 and the continuing efforts of successive governments to improve the lot of the Aborigines is conveniently overlooked.

Nowhere was this more evident than in the reaction to John Howard's statement: "We will decide who comes to this country and the manner in which they come". For the chattering classes this was final proof that Howard was a racist. What they overlooked was that his words could have been used by every PM from Edmund Barton to Kevin Rudd.

When challenged to name one government since Federation with a different immigration policy, they mutter about "compassion". I'm all for compassion but tell me what that means in numbers? Howard could have chosen his words more carefully but he merely reiterated the policy of his predecessors. No Australian government, and for that matter, no government in the world has an "open-door" policy.

The immigration debate has always been about numbers but it's about time those who wail about Australia's lack of compassion look at our record in providing a welcome to the world's dispossessed and tell us precisely how many more refugees they would admit. Double, treble, quadruple? I'll go along with that, but spare us the hypocrisy of indulging in the politics of the "warm inner glow". Tell us, how many or if they would prefer an open-door policy?


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