Tuesday, July 07, 2009


Two more charming episodes reported below

Another rogue cop -- mentally still in the Middle Ages

A POLICEMAN has been stood down after being charged with trying to perform an exorcism on a teenager at a church youth camp in South Australia. Senior Constable Roger Sketchley, 28, has been charged with two other adults over an alleged incident at a camp run by the Lutheran Church in the Barossa Valley in April.

Sen-Const Sketchley and other adults allegedly restrained a boy, 15, after he complained of stomach pains in an incident that allegedly went for about 12 hours. Sen-Const Sketchley was charged with false imprisonment and aggravated assault.

An SA police spokesman yesterday confirmed Sen-Const Sketchley, who was off duty at the time, had been suspended pending the outcome of the charges. All three accused have been released on bail to appear in Adelaide Magistrates' Court on a date to be set.

The president of the Lutheran Church in SA and the Northern Territory, the Reverend Robert Voigt, yesterday distanced the church from such practices. "The Lutheran Church does not endorse or encourage any actions which are abusive or which results in the limitations or freedoms of any individual," he said.

Cases involving exorcism have rarely been brought before Australian courts, with one notable exception. In the early 1990s, three people were convicted of manslaughter in the Victorian Supreme Court for killing the wife of a pig farmer in a botched exorcism. Joan Vollmer, 49, died of a heart attack in January 1993 after her husband Ralph Vollmer and three other members of a breakaway Lutheran sect performed an exorcism at the couple's home at Antwerp, near Horsham.


Qld. cops arrest and charge woman for being in her own car

They had the facility to go online and check that the car was in her name but they didn't bother. They were good at telling lies afterwards, though. If they had any scrap of decency, they would have acknowledged their mistake, apologized, and not taken the matter to court. She was doing no wrong so her angry response was justified, if not wise. Even the court thought the goons handled the matter badly and gave the woman no punishment

A Brisbane woman seriously assaulted a police officer after he tried to arrest her for breaking into her own car, a court has heard. Jennifer Elizabeth Somers, 30, pleaded guilty to one count of serious assault, two counts of obstructing police and one count of public nuisance in the Brisbane District Court yesterday.

The court heard that in the early hours of a Sunday morning in November 2007, a heavily intoxicated Ms Somers was looking through her unlocked car for cigarettes. The court heard two police constables, Peter Lashford and Wendy Poon, responded to a call that a woman had broken into a car in the area. After some initial uncooperative behaviour and swearing, the court heard, Ms Somers gave the officers her full name, claiming she was the owner of the car, but could not produce identification.

The court heard a verbal disagreement between Constable Poon and Ms Somers broke out, before Const Poon tried to arrest Ms Somers as she did not believe she was the car's owner. Ms Somers resisted arrest and when placed in a headlock by Constable Lashford, she bit him on the biceps, the court heard.

Defence lawyer Harry Fong said Const Lashford then shouted out "I've been bitten, the b---- has bitten me". Const Lashford wrote in his victim impact statement to the court that the bite had drawn blood, although a Mater Hospital medical report said the skin had not been broken.

Mr Fong said his client was a charity worker and a single mother of two children, one of which was in need of constant attention. In his sentencing, Judge Terry Martin said that while the police officers involved could have handled the situation better, they had a tough job and deserved the support of the courts. Judge Martin also highlighted Ms Somers' criminal history, which contained several police obstruction and assault offences in 2002 and 2004. He sentenced Ms Somers to four months' imprisonment, but released her on parole immediately.


Keep baby hope alive with IVF

As the father of an IVF son, I wholeheartedy endorse the views below. I took no notice of the money cost of my heroic wife going through 10 IVF treatment cycles in a private clinic and have no clue what that cost was, but not everyone can afford to take that attitude

WHY are we paying the $5000 baby bonus to anyone who can get themselves knocked up, but taking money away from those who really want a baby, but can't conceive naturally? That's right. The Federal Government is planning to restrict Medicare funding for IVF, which could put the fertility treatment out of the reach of ordinary Aussies.

Most IVF users are devoted couples who deserve what the rest of us take for granted - a baby. I have watched many of my friends struggle - sometimes for years - to become parents. I have shared with them the highs, the lows, the pain, and the joy of IVF and other fertility treatments. Most have got there eventually - sometimes naturally after years of invasive medical treatments.

Others have had cycle after cycle of IVF and conceived only when they were on the verge of giving up - a miracle of medicine that has turned a couple into a family, and made them feel whole. Just one kid is enough to allow them to enter the magical world of parenthood - the trips to the park, the school days, the Friday night family dinners, cheering at sports matches, the school soccials, the children and the grandchildren.

It's a reminder that although my kids get me down at times, I know I am very lucky to have them. With three kids in 5 1/2 years, our fertility is a family joke. But our kids are a blessing for which I am grateful every day, and I want others to have the same chance. Surely having a baby is a basic right worth fighting for?

Why, then, would we ever think of restricting access to IVF just to those who can afford it? I hope this message gets across loud and clear in this week's Senate hearings on the issue. Let's not forget what the Federal Government change is estimated to do - triple the price of IVF, and thus put it out of reach of most middle-income Aussies. According to IVF rights campaigner Sandra Dill, from Access Australia, out-of-pocket expenses per cycle could be $3000 - up from $1000 at the moment. When you consider most people need two or three cycles to become pregnant, it's just not affordable.

I don't think fertility treatment is something that should just be the preserve of the rich, and not the rest. We'd end up like the US where the rich pay hundreds of thousands to buy a baby, rent a womb or choose the sex of their offspring, and the rest can barely afford to see a GP, let alone a fertility expert.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon - herself a mother - says the Government is trying to crack down on doctors overcharging patients. But why not focus on the doctors rather than penalise the patients? We mustn't forget that IVF isn't just another medical procedure curing ingrown toenails or broken arms. And so we must fight for the right of 11,000 babies to be born every year to parents who desperately want to have kids, but can't for medical reasons.

After all, IVF is now mainstream - 3 per cent of all births are by assisted reproduction these days. Forget the Wacko Jackos and rent-a-womb Hollywood superstars. The "right to IVF" debate should instead be about the couple next door, and their right to have the baby they've always wanted.


Employers face new industrial relations laws on workplace bias in a travesty of justice

Guilty until proven innocent! It's designed to eliminate non-union workplaces but much more could come of it

THE Fair Work Ombudsman will use new powers to investigate companies for discriminating against workers, prompting employers to claim they risk being treated as "guilty until proven innocent". Employers said the inclusion of anti-discrimination provisions in the Fair Work Act was the "great unknown" in the legislation. The new laws carry a reverse onus of proof so an employer must show the alleged discrimination did not occur.

In his first interview since being appointed Fair Work Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson confirmed he would be able to investigate allegations of discrimination in the workplace, and initiate legal proceedings on behalf of an employee. "It is a new part of the legislation, it's an Australian first," Mr Wilson told The Australian yesterday. "We see it as something which is an area we need to be cautious about," he said. "It's an adjunct to powers we have at the moment, but we're obviously very much aware of the kind of sensitivities that might be around the provisions. "For that reason, we'll tread carefully, but I think the point that should be made is we'll tread nonetheless in accordance with the obligations in the act."

The trade unions, which can initiate prosecutions, have indicated they see the new provisions as an opportunity to recruit new members. The ACTU is conducting courses for union organisers that offer to show them how to use the provisions of the law and "act on matters that have not been included in industrial legislation before". "Learn how to use discrimination and harassment in the workplace as an organising opportunity," the ACTU website advertisement says.

Unions said employers faced greater risk of action if they did discriminate against workers because the compliance regime was quicker than under the states' anti-discrimination laws, the ombudsman or the unions could initiate actions, and breaches would expose the employer to fines as well as compensation claims.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the anti-discrimination provisions were "probably the great unknown in the legislation". The chamber's workplace policy director, David Gregory, said it was "the first time that we have seen these type of anti-discrimination provisions included within industrial relations legislation, it's generally been confined to equal opportunity legislation". Mr Gregory said the reverse onus of proof provisions meant "an employer is guilty until proven innocent". "No one has really got any idea about the extent to which it's going to be utilised by union and employees," he said. "It certainly is a significant new area and one that is creating a fair degree of uncertainty."

Mr Wilson said he had established a small taskforce which had trained 18 staff on the discrimination provisions. He said he could understand employers being concerned and investigators would be quite cautious about proceeding with any investigation. Over recent years, there had been cases where women returned from maternity leave to find their job eliminated, or reduced in size or responsibility. Workplace inspectors had only been able to recommend the employee take action in a state anti-discrimination tribunal, or pursue an unlawful termination claim.

"That doesn't mean though that we are going to be heavy handed or adventurous about the matter, but it does mean when the complaint is brought to us we will inquire into it as best we can and where we're satisfied a wrongdoing has been done, there will be consequences for the parties involved," Mr Wilson said.

The ACTU said the provisions reinforced existing obligations under state and federal equal opportunity laws prohibiting discrimination against employees and prospective employees.


Tropics are on the move (?)

Below is an article summarizing a non-peer-reviewed and unpublished paper which was primarily written by a woman employed by an Australian university Department devoted to climate change (full details of that below). Despite its undistinguished origins, however, it has made the news so I think a few comments are in order.

For a start, she could well be right that the tropical climate zone expanded in recent years. That it might shrink again is her unexamined assumption, however. There WAS global warming in the '80s and '90s and that has more or less plateaued since then, though in the last two years we have seen what seem to be the first signs of a corrective downswing in temperature.

That really is all one needs to say but a couple of minor points just for fun: She characterizes the sub-tropical zone as dry. I live in that zone in Australia, so I wonder if she would like to explain the rain falling outside my window at the moment in what is normally the driest time of the year here (winter)? She seems not to consider that global warming might increase precipitation in ALL areas of the globe -- as it should in theory do (more warmth means more evaporation off the sea and hence more rainfall).

She also concedes that a tropical climate is best for biodiversity -- but seems to imply that that is a bad thing -- an unusual stance for a Greenie!

She also says that disease patterns of the tropics will spead more widely -- completely ignoring that cold weather is a lot more fatal than warm weather and that an expansion of the warm zone should therefore SAVE lives.

She also says that warming will cause more extreme rainfall events in the tropics, with the implication that that is a bad thing. I have news for her. I was born and bred in the middle of an area that CONSTANTLY had extreme rainfall events (Tully to Babinda) and we did quite well there. With around 7 yards of rain a year the crops certainly grew like mad.

I could go on but what is the point in arguing with a religion?

A review of scientific literature released today by James Cook University shows that the Earth’s tropical zone is expanding and with it the subtropical dry zone is extending into what have been humid temperate climate zones. The authors of the review concluded that the effects of a poleward expansion of the tropical and subtropical zones were immense, resulting in a variety of social, political, economic and environmental implications.

Conducted by Dr Joanne Isaac, Post-Doctoral Fellow at JCU’s Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, with Professor Steve Turton, from JCU’s School of Earth and Environment Sciences, the review looked at scientific findings from long-term satellite measurements, weather balloon data, climate models and sea surface temperature studies.

Professor Turton said that the review - Expansion of the Tropics: Evidence and Implications - encompassed about 70 peer-reviewed scientific papers and reports from scientists and institutions right around the world. The review found that of particular concern were regions which border the subtropics and currently experience a temperate Mediterranean climate. “Such areas include heavily populated regions of southern Australia, southern Africa, the southern Europe-Mediterranean-Middle East region, the south-western United States, northern Mexico, and southern South America – all of which are predicted to experience severe drying.

“If the dry subtropics expand into these regions, the consequences could be devastating for water resources, natural ecosystems and agriculture, with potentially cascading environmental, social and health implications.”

The survey reveals that scientific data suggests while these areas could experience an increased frequency of droughts, the expansion of the tropical zone could result in extreme rainfall events and floods to regions which have not previously been exposed to such conditions, and a poleward shift in the paths of extra-tropical and possibly tropical cyclones in the next 100 years.

“A further implication of the expansion of the tropical zone is the possible expansion of tropical associated diseases and pests.” The review looked at scientific findings in relation to dengue among other tropical diseases and reports that some models predict the greatest increase in the annual epidemic potential of dengue will be into the subtropical regions, including the southern United States, China and northern Africa in the northern hemisphere, and south America, southern Africa, and most of Australia in the southern hemisphere.

The tropical zone is commonly defined geometrically as the portion of the Earth’s surface that lies between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn at 23.5 degrees latitude north and south respectively.

Evidence accumulating: “In general, atmospheric scientists estimate the climatic boundaries of the tropics extend further from the equator to around 30 degrees latitude north and south,” the review reports. “In recent years a variety of independent studies, employing different methodologies have found evidence for the widening of the topical region, as defined by climate scientists.

“However, while evidence is accumulating for the widening of the tropical belt and shifts in other climatic events, there is still much uncertainty regarding the degree of the expansion and the mechanisms which are driving it. “For example, across the studies reviewed the estimates of the increase in the tropics vary from 2.0 to more than 5 degrees of latitude approximately every 25 years. That makes the minimum agreed expansion of the Topics zone equivalent to around 300 kilometres. “This variation of estimates makes predicting future shifts difficult. Estimates for the expansion of the tropical zone in next 25 years (assuming the rate of movement is the same as the past 25 years) range from approximately 222 kilometres to more than 533 kilometres depending on which estimate is used.”

The tropics currently occupy approximately 40 per cent of the Earth’s land surface and are home to almost half of the world’s human population and account for more than 80 per cent of the Earth’s biodiversity. The majority of the world’s endemic animals and plants, which are found nowhere else on earth, are found in the tropics and are adapted to the specific climatic conditions found there.

“Thus, the implications of a poleward expansion of the tropical and subtropical zones are immense and the effects could result in a variety of social, political, economic and environmental implications,” the review said.



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Jasmin said...

IVF is something that gives hope and happiness to many couples. I agree that increasing its cost will only deprive others from having the treatment and enjoy having a family. Also, it would even drive more couples to travel to other countries for a cheaper cost. IVF in India, for example, is very popular and many couples are going there for the treatment. It has high quality treatment and the cost is really cheap.