Friday, September 10, 2010


In his latest offerings, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG sees Australia's new government as illegitimate and mourns the death of a NSW police officer shot by a drug dealer

Young kids bashed and mutilated by cruel stepdad for over a year while Victorian child protection authorities just yawned

TWO children horribly tortured by their stepdad want him jailed for 100 years so he can't terrorise other families. The youngsters, a boy and his sister aged 8 and 6 at the time of the prolonged beatings, were forced to do 100 push-ups a day while he kicked and stamped on them.

The boy was also genitally mutilated by the man and needed surgery after he was abused with a pair of pliers.

Despite almost 14 months of bashings, six trips to hospital and numerous reports by teachers to the Department of Human Services, the children were not rescued by authorities until X-rays found multiple fractures in both.

Bone scans at Monash Medical Centre in late 2008 found 29 injuries to the boy, including three fractured left ribs and two fractured right ribs, all less than three months old, and a broken leg up to a year old. Doctors found the girl also covered in bruises and with 44 injuries, including three fractured ribs and a broken metacarpal bone.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has spent the past two years in protective custody in prison.

Yesterday, at the County Court in Melbourne, the boy, now 10, said he continued to suffer nightmares. "I think he should go to jail for 50 years because he was very mean to me and I don't want to see him again," the boy wrote in a victim impact statement read to the court. "What he did to me scares me, and if he got out of jail he would hurt me again."

His sister, now 8, wrote: "We would like him to be in jail for 100 years. We don't want him to come out because he might do it to another family."

Prosecutor Chris Beale told the court the man had been in a relationship with their mum. "The accused took over disciplining the children and became increasingly violent, repeatedly smacking, punching and kicking them," he said.

"His disciplinary regime included forcing both children to do push-ups for long periods, sometimes over an hour, and kicking them while they struggled to comply."

The man also bashed their mother and when she was heavily pregnant to him, threatened to "cut my girl out of your stomach" when she said she wanted to leave him.

He pleaded guilty to 10 charges ranging from intentionally causing serious injury to threatening to inflict serious injury. He will be sentenced next month.


NSW public hospitals failing to treat critical cases on time

BIG regional hospitals are struggling to treat on time emergency department patients who need urgent attention, according to independent statistics that highlight a continuing bottleneck in the NSW health system.

The figures reveal a big variation across the state in how quickly patients in triage category 3 - whose condition is deemed "potentially life threatening" - are able to begin receiving medication or recommended treatment.

Government benchmarks say 75 per cent of such patients should start their treatment within 30 minutes of being assessed by the triage nurse.

But at Manning Base Hospital only 50 per cent were able to do so. At Calvary Mater in Newcastle the figure was 53 per cent, while at Lismore, Tamworth and Port Macquarie Base hospitals it was 56, 60 and 61 per cent, respectively.

The results are comparable with the state's largest hospital, Westmead (52 per cent) and Nepean (54 per cent), although other Sydney hospitals performed much better. The regional hospitals' category 3 performance was the worst in the state, where the average was 72 per cent.

Category 3, which accounts for nearly one-third of all emergency patients, was the only triage level in which the average performance statewide fell short of the official benchmark, which is recommended by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine.

Even after an hour, several of the worst-affected hospitals had still not begun treatment. At Manning, Westmead and Nepean, more than a quarter of patients with potentially life-threatening conditions were still waiting for care after an hour - twice as long as the benchmark.

The statistics, which relate to the April to June quarter this year, are the first significant release by the NSW Bureau of Health Information, established as a statutory agency on the recommendation of Peter Garling, SC, whose special commission of inquiry in 2008 was scathing of the state health system.

Mr Garling said hospital performance measures should be collected regularly and fed back to senior doctors and nurses, with the data "directed to better patient safety and better care, and not just to process-driven information which does not improve the patient's lot".

The bureau needed to be independent of the Health Department, he said, to insulate it from political demands.

Emergency department performance is one of the most politically sensitive hospital measures, and the bureau's report expands by more than half the number of state hospitals on which the statistics are published, compared with NSW Health's own quarterly reporting.

Hospitals including Griffith, Bathurst, Belmont, Grafton, Kempsey, Shellharbour, Shoalhaven, Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury - all of which have about 5000 emergency patients a year - are reported on for the first time, revealing many of them are missing triage benchmarks.

In another previously unpublished statistic, the bureau has also shown how long it takes for emergency patients who are not admitted to hospital to be discharged or transferred to another centre.

In the least urgent triage category 5, nearly 80 per cent of patients were discharged or transferred within two hours. For category 3 patients with potentially life-threatening conditions, 80 per cent were discharged or transferred within six hours.

The bureau's chief executive, Diane Watson, said she had access to Health Department databases and did not have to request information. Additional information on elective surgery would be published in November.


Lazy Victoria police lose chance to prosecute drunken footballer

CHIEF Commissioner Simon Overland has been left struggling to explain Victoria Police's bungled investigations into Brendan Fevola's Brownlow antics.

The Victoria Police media department last night confirmed twice to the Herald Sun that it intended to charge Fevola over his behaviour last September.

But in an embarrassing backflip for the force, police today conceded they had left it too long to build a case. "Victoria Police have reviewed the situation regarding Brendan Fevola and the incident last September," police said in a statement. "We can confirm that Victoria Police will be taking no further action in relation to this matter."

An officer from the force’s Region One unit was meant to issue an infringement, but let it lapse. Inspector Richard Read said the delay made it unfair to penalise Fevola. Victoria Police admitted an officer would be "counselled".

"We believe that it would be unreasonable to take any further action on this matter so long after the events. We accept that the matter should have been dealt with in a much more timely manner, and the police member responsible will be counselled," a spokesman said.

"Brendan Fevola deserves to be treated in the same manner that we would treat any other member of the public, and we are clear that our decisions should not be influenced by his high profile status."

September 21 is the anniversary of the 2009 count, after which Fevola could not be charged under the statute of limitations. The likely charge was going to be being drunk in a public place.


Yearning for rites, ritual and group membership in the world of the individual

I have long argued (See particularly the subhead "Conservatives and emotion") that there is a human need for connectedness both with a group (which can be as broad as a nation) and with the past (which can be a family past or a national past). And conservatives easily satisfy that instinctive need with, for instance, concentration on the family and love of their country and its traditions.

Leftists, however, in their hatred of their own society, are largely cut off from such satisfactions -- hence their extremism and irrationality when they find something or someone whom they feel they can identify with -- from Adolf Hitler to Barack Obama, from Nazism to the many other forms of extreme Leftism (including Communism, Trotskyism etc.)

Interesting to see similar thinking below in a Westernized Australian Muslim. The examples of ritual and custom that he gives focus on Australia but similar American customs and rituals come easily to mind: Thanksgiving, 4th of July etc.

By Tanveer Ahmed

Life in our secular and material world often lacks ritual. From praying in a house of worship to participating in a family dinner, time-honoured rites have become less common. The demands of efficiency do not care for such intangible worth.

Ramadan, the holy month of fasting when Muslims abstain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset, is ending. It is believed the first verses of the Koran were revealed during this period, and its end is signalled by the sighting of the new moon.

My family is not religious, but it is a practice we like to perform. It binds us to our ancestral past and connects us to a cultural group. Almost all cultures have some tradition of fasting. Whether it is Catholics avoiding meat on Fridays, the Jewish tradition of Yom Kippur, or Native American tribes fasting to stimulate ecstatic experiences: fasting is ubiquitous.

In modern times fasting has become more associated with political protest than religion. Gandhi is perhaps its most famous proponent, but more recently in Australia, asylum seekers have become the torch bearers. Tamils protesting at the maltreatment of their brethren in Sri Lanka are the latest examples.

As a psychiatrist, myths and their associated rituals often form the backdrop to many problems I see.

A growing group of my patients fall in the category of what is called borderline personality disorder, an illness where patients cannot calibrate their emotions and often engage in damaging behaviours like self-mutilation or food deprivation. They can suffer visions and a loss of boundaries. They usually present in their adolescence.

An American study in 2008 study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found the prevalence was much higher than was previously thought, at around 6 per cent.

Many of these damaging behaviours are similar to rites of passage in more traditional cultures, suggesting the disorder may be related to the failure of Western, liberal culture to provide context and myth for meaningful phases in development. Their symptoms may actually be attempts at self healing gone astray in a culture bereft of an integrative spiritual and ritualistic context.

Individual narratives have their parallels in societies and communities. Anthropologists have long had a chicken and egg argument about the relationship between myths and ritual.

Anzac Day is an example. There have been record turnouts in recent years to dawn services in venues such as Martin Place, especially among young people. A new generation of Australians have embraced the Anzac legend as their most powerful myth of nationhood, and with it has come the ritual of attending the dawn service. It has helped fill a need in a post-religious society that no longer delivers ancient certainties to young people in search of spiritual nourishment.

Our most recent election could also be construed as a grand ritual built on a myth. Modern democracies hinge on the idea of representation, of one person standing for a much larger group of people, making the decisions "they" might expect to make had they been consulted. This mysterious link between representative and represented is established and renewed in ritual form; through elections.

An anthropologist at Sydney University, Stephen Juan, argues the yearning for ritual and group membership has never been greater, especially in a society becoming more fragmented and atomised. He points to a host of trends such as rave parties, the growth in events like outdoor concerts and the rise of radical religious movements such as Hillsong or Islamic extremism as part of the same pattern.

Juan has observed that even consumer rituals such as buying presents or shopping for oneself are examples of rituals of the least nourishing kind. "When in doubt, we go and buy. It makes us feel empowered, that we are deserving of love, albeit for an instant."

But even consumer rituals can have value when used to create social bonds and nourish interpersonal relationships, a fact marketers have long exploited, often resulting in people putting consumption ahead of the social bonds the act of shopping is meant to strengthen. And yet consuming more only increases our yearning for those bonds.


No comments: