Sunday, December 02, 2012
War on Christmas comes to NT
A TERRITORY primary school has been accused of stopping its children from making Christmas cards this year in a bid to respect non-Christian students.
The order has outraged parents. One mother said: "It makes me feel sad, very sad."
The revelation came a day after the NT News reported Stuart Park Primary School had banned students from giving each other lollies for the festivities.
Several parents told the newspaper some Year 1 and 2 classes at Howard Springs Primary School were not allowed to make Christmas cards because they had students from non-Christian backgrounds.
And the Education Department failed to confirm whether certain classes had banned some Christmas activities...
Greedy politicians trying to close down essential hospital
Why? Because the land it sits on is probably the most valuable bit of real estate in Australia. But what about the health needs of the people around it? Below is the case for the people
Sydney got the quinella during Tuesday morning peak hour: multiple bus breakdowns causing gridlocked roads and a crane collapsing and bursting into flames at the University of Technology.
Which leads me to pose the question: how prepared is this city for a disaster? Terrorism is not the only threat to our nation's safety. Buildings collapse, fires break out, earthquakes, tsunamis and viral pandemics can all strike in a matter of moments. Our elite members of the state and federal police forces, ASIO, Emergency Management Australia and the NSW Fire Brigade spend a lot of time planning how they would cope with either a man-made or a natural disaster in the central business district of our city. But what would you - the commuter - do in the case of a September 11 in Sydney? More importantly, how would you fare?
In 1980, Sydney Hospital, the only hospital within easy reach for people in the city or, in a crisis the only hospital reachable at all, was a 400-bed teaching hospital. In the mid 1980s, the Wran government imposed senseless and drastic cuts to this icon of health care. Today, Sydney Hospital has just 100 beds of which 50 are dedicated to the world-renowned Sydney Eye Hospital.
And so there are just 50 beds set aside by government to look after about 500,000 citizens by day and 70,000 by night. Even worse, Sydney Hospital has been denied an intensive care unit since the early 1990s.
Then in 2005, just three months after the London terrorist bombings had occurred, NSW Health took away the general and orthopaedic surgeons from Sydney Hospital. These are the very two categories of specialists who would be most needed at any hospital having to manage the victims of a catastrophic event.
The inevitable gridlock on Sydney's roads, which follows even the most minor traffic hiccough, would make other nearby hospitals unreachable in the so-called crucial "golden hour" following any CBD catastrophe.
Although the police, fire and ambulance services know how best to interact in a disaster, the CBD public hospitals around Australia - and possibly even the defence forces - have been less involved in preparing for co-ordinated responses to emergencies.
In the face of massive casualties arising from World War II, the federal government reacted sensibly by creating Repatriation General Hospitals where injured survivors of war could be treated and where universities could foster teaching and research. Essentially, one Repat hospital was developed for each capital city. In Sydney it was at Concord.
The world has moved on according to most experts. But there is an urgent need for Australia to prepare its capital cities to handle potential disasters, with an approach that parallels the earlier Repat hospital system.
The national security rebranding of a public hospital in the CBD of each capital city would dramatically improve the capacity to deal with potential disasters.
Such a hospital does not need to be an "aircraft carrier" but it would need to be a rapidly responsive, high technology "frigate", with a specially trained crew and critical liaison with all the other essential disaster services, including the ABC (the national disaster broadcaster).
In Sydney it would be Sydney Hospital. In Melbourne it would probably be St Vincent's.
These national security hospitals would also need to coordinate with each other as potential disasters in any one city could easily necessitate the involvement of services at many interstate, even off-shore, hospitals.
Of all Australia's capital cities, Sydney is in the worst plight.
The NSW Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner, has told us the $300 million redevelopment of Blacktown and Mount Druitt hospitals was needed because of the growing population in those parts of Sydney. But central Sydney is growing, too. In the CBD, the resident population has risen from about 5000 in 1980 to about 70,000 today. These figures are additional to the half million people who populate the CBD every working day.
If the NSW government was to spend just two-thirds of the $300 million it has recently given to Blacktown and Mount Druitt, it could restore Sydney Hospital to a 200-bed hospital with 12 operating theatres and an intensive care unit. The restoration of general surgery and orthopaedics would let it easily and capably resume its proper functioning as the primary district hospital for the Sydney CBD, whilst also enabling a national security role in any disaster scenario.
The happiness that only children can bring
One very determined couple
THE most famous big family in Queensland is expanding again. Dale and Darren Chalk, already parents to 11 young children, are expecting another baby - a single child due in March.
The couple, from Strathpine, on Brisbane's northern outskirts, are overjoyed.
"We're thrilled to be pregnant again," Mrs Chalk, 34, said. "It's always exciting to find out you're pregnant. It's just something inside that you know when you are done (having children) and when you're not."
The Chalks' latest baby will expand their brood to 12, a sibling to Shelby, 9, quads Emma, Ellie, Samuel and Joseph, 8, quads Sarah, Alice and Matthew, 7 (a fourth baby Milly died at 21 weeks' gestation), Tiger Lily, 5, and twins Grace and Jackie, 3.
Mrs Chalk said they had been trying to conceive this much-wanted child since Grace and Jackie were about six months old.
"We've got to the stage where if it (a pregnancy) happened, it happened. We didn't try every month to fall pregnant, and I was fine if we never had another baby again, but if it did happen, then great," she said.
"I've been feeling really good. The kids were all very excited when we told them. They want to pick out names already."
Mrs Chalk said she is constantly mistaken for a "family daycare mum" but she couldn't be happier. "We live for our kids," she said. "We feel extremely lucky to have all these kids. It's a blessing. We have a happy family. They (the kids) get everything they need, not everything they want."
Mrs Chalk said she did seven loads of washing a day and spent up to $900 a week on groceries. The family, who have a five-bedroom home, hope to upgrade their 12-seater transit vehicle to a 30-seater bus.
Mr Chalk works as an ambulance driver and supplements the household income driving taxis.
The Chalks have been making headlines ever since Mrs Chalk gave birth to her first set of quads in 2004, making them parents to five children under the age of two.
The quads and their eldest child, Shelby, were conceived with the aid of a fertility clinic and artificial insemination of donor sperm because Mr Chalk has a rare condition in which he produces no live sperm.
But the couple's real notoriety came when Mrs Chalk, then 26, fell pregnant with a second set of quads. Her conception of consecutive sets of quads was believed to be a world first.
It also set off heated debate among medical experts who said her assisted reproductive treatment was irresponsible, given the risks of premature delivery and abnormalities in multiple births.
Her first quads were born precariously early, at 27 weeks, and remained in hospital for almost three months. The second set of quads was also premature.
But the family was undeterred and their ninth child, "singleton" Tiger Lily, born in 2007, was conceived thanks to the same donor as all her other siblings.
When the Chalks wanted more, the fertility clinic declined to help. However, the couple found a sperm donor online and using self insemination, twins Grace and Jackie were created. This latest pregnancy was conceived using the same donor.
Mrs Chalk's mother Sue Thompson, 64, who retired from her nursing job when the first quads were born, lives a few blocks away and helps out daily.
"It makes me feel really angry when I hear criticism of them," she said.
"They are great parents. They love those kids. You can see every one is wanted whether they come in multiples or singles. They are beautiful kids and they are doing really well at school. They are all at the top ends of their classes.
"I'm one of 10 so this isn't really strange to me. It's normal. I don't understand what all the fuss is to be honest."
Leftist Jew defends antisemitic cartoon
His defence is all waffle but it has to be as the cartoon is so blatantly biased. I append at the bottom of this post a toon that gets a lot closer to reality
ON NOVEMBER 21, The Age published a cartoon by Michael Leunig which commented on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The device Leunig used was a parody of the famous poem by Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller about the need to be vocal when one sees a wrong - even if not directly affected by it.
First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.
There are variations to the poem and it seems it was first used in speeches Niemoller gave in 1946. In Leunig's cartoon there are four frames to match the four stanzas of the original poem. There is an almost universal view in the leadership of the Victorian Jewish community that Leunig's cartoon is anti-Semitic. The media release from the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission quoted chairman Dr Dvir Abramovich presenting the following arguments to support that claim.
"'First they came …' introduces a celebrated statement attributed to German pastor Martin Niemoller about the apathy of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and their gradual elimination of certain groups. 'They' of course referred to the Nazis. In Leunig's cartoon, however, it is the Israelis who are the Nazis.
"And Leunig's second anti-Semitic theme? That anyone who supports the Palestinians will immediately be besieged by the all-powerful Jewish lobby, similarly jackbooted, treading on all who oppose them, closing doors in their faces, spiteful, hateful and bitter. In Leunig's black-and-white world, Palestinian/Arab/Muslim lobby groups are muzzled and The Age would never dare to publish an article (or cartoon) critical of Israel."
My reaction to the cartoon was very different. The power of a cartoon is in the many ways in which it can be interpreted. Once the cartoon is in the public domain it lives its own life - as indeed does Niemoller's poem. My comments should therefore be understood to reflect a personal view.
That Leunig comes to his cartoon with the perspective of a Palestinian supporter merely sets the scene. The baseline of the cartoon is that Palestinians are always the victims. We know this isn't a universal truth, but the cartoon isn't a balanced dissertation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - it's a cartoon. It uses exaggeration to tell us something.
The parody of Niemoller's language is playful: "First they came for the Palestinians … Then they came for more … " And in this respect Leunig can be criticised - or maybe he is being self-critical. Is he being too playful about the plight of the Palestinians in complaining overtly about silence as a form of tacit acceptance and covertly that publicly criticising Israeli treatment of Palestinians will be met with anger - from "the all-powerful Jewish lobby", to quote Dr Abramovich?
However the cartoon is also clever, because the reaction of the Jewish community as articulated in the Anti-Defamation Commission media release is in fact encapsulated within the cartoon. As Leunig said, "bitterness and spiteful condemnations would follow", duly obliged by Dr Abramovich in his comments.
And so the Jewish community has been wedged. A more thoughtful response might have been to silently reflect on the sometimes appalling and disgraceful level of the debate about the conflict - and not just from one side. However, the genuinely held perception of anti-Semitism mandated a public response.
The Jewish community is a wonderful community, but sometimes I wish it was a little less weighed down by its collective memory and a little more informed by it. Sigh.
Perhaps, in the end, we might ask whether the cartoon is really about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or in fact about the conflict between the Jewish community and Leunig. It's all a question of perception and interpretation - the power of the cartoon.