Thursday, September 11, 2014

Who was to blame for this death in custody?

Clementine Ford below doesn't really know.  She even admits that the woman may have died from something she had before she was taken into custody.  She nonetheless suggests that the woman died because she was an Aborigine. There is no doubt that the woman received poor healthcare from a government hospital but is it only Aborigines who receive poor healthcare from government hospitals? 

It is not.  Almost every day in the Daily Mail one can read cases where ordinary (white) Brits failed to receve appropriate heathcare from British government hospitals despite many hospital visits.  And they do sometimes die as a result. 

So I will tell you what Clemmie (who is a radical feminist) would never tell.  The woman died because of the insanity of having uncaring government employees running hospitals.  Most Australians know that from contact with their own government hospitals  -- which is why around 40% of Australians have private hospital insurance

Clemmie also displays typical Leftist dishonesty below.  She says, as if it proved something, that "Aboriginal people make up only 2.3% of the Australian population, yet they accounted for around 18% of deaths in custody".  She totally ignored the findings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody which found that the number of Aboriginal deaths in custody has been roughly commensurate with the fraction of prison inmates who are Aboriginal.

Clemmie is an embittered crook and all the lipstick in the world won't hide it

In terms of infrastructure, Australia is a developed nation. We have a (mostly) affordable healthcare system, access to effective medical intervention and a welfare system that, while imperfect, is still more comprehensive than many other countries. So why do we still hear stories of people who have been so grossly failed by the system that they have become casualties to it?

Last week, the compassionate among us were rocked by revelations that an asylum seeker imprisoned on Manus Island had lapsed into a coma which rendered him brain dead after a cut on his foot was left untreated and became septic. A cut. In response, vigils were held where citizens called once again on the government to apply some basic humanity to the treatment of asylum seekers.

And yet, this despicable disregard for human lives deemed less worthy as a result of Australia's institutionalised racism is not limited to those unfortunate souls who have the temerity to seek safety on our shores. Just over a month ago, a 22 year old woman in Port Hedland died while in police custody. Her crime? Ostensibly, the failure to pay a $1000 fine.

But maybe it was also just that she was Aboriginal.

In early August, the young Yamatji woman (whose name we will refer to only as `Miss Dhu' and whose photograph we will not publish in accordance with her family's wishes) was incarcerated for four days alongside her partner for failing to pay a fine. In WA, recipients of fines can elect to pay them off in custody at a rate of $250 a day, a policy which the shadow Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt believes helps to maintain the persistently high rate of incarceration of Indigenous people while failing to address the underlying issues which might lead to this.

And so it was that Miss Dhu ended up police custody. Despite complaining early on of experiencing severe pain, vomiting and even partial paralysis (which may have been as a result of a septic infection relating to a blood blister on her foot acquired prior to her arrest), Miss Dhu was twice released from the local Hedland Health Campus after being deemed fit to return to the watchhouse. Incredibly, it has been reported that these decisions were made despite Miss Dhu not being seen by a doctor in either visit. Her partner Dion Ruffin has alleged that as she grew increasingly sicker, police laughed and accused her of acting. Around midday on August 4, Miss Dhu made her final visit to the Hedland Health Campus while in a `near catatonic state'.

Shortly after, she was pronounced dead.

This is an horrific outcome, by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, shamefully, it took me almost a full month to even hear about Miss Dhu, let alone the circumstances surrounding her death. And while I don't wish to further disempower Aboriginal communities by assuming to speak for them, I do want to express my horror at the fact that something like this can happen and not cause even the vaguest ripple across mainstream Australian media. Even now, the most comprehensive reporting I can find is on the independent websites The Stringer and the Deaths In Custody Watch Committee WA, while SBS and The Australian have published a handful of pieces. When I spoke to my editor about writing this piece, she confessed she had also not heard about it.

How does such deafening silence happen without the complicity - conscious or not - of a nation all too comfortable with ignoring the systemic racism and oppression inflicted on some of our most routinely degraded citizens?

Aboriginal people make up only 2.3% of the Australian population, yet they accounted for around 18% of deaths in custody between 1980 and 2007. To put a human face on that, 379 Aboriginal people died while in police custody during this period. Between 2008 and 2012, a further 54 Aboriginal people have died while incarcerated. Despite a 1987 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, most of its 339 recommendations (made in its final report in 1991) have never been implemented - recommendations which some people say might have saved Miss Dhu's life.

Why are we so slow to respond to crises involving the treatment of Aboriginal people? Only one person on Twitter raised the issue with me, which was the first I'd heard of it. This silence may be wilful or it may be accidental - either way, it's a shameful indictment on Australia's attitudes towards Aboriginal self determination, autonomy and dignity.

Miss Dhu was a person with as meaningful and complex an identity as anybody else. And while the relative anonymity I have chosen to write about her with may seem isolating to readers used to being provided with names and faces as a point of connection, in the end this may be the most damning point of all. That for an Aboriginal woman living in the Pilbara, death in custody was a fate more likely to befall her than it is me, a middle class white woman living in inner city Melbourne.

Wider society can think of her as faceless and unimportant, just another nameless person whose death can pass us by. Or we can think of her as a symbol for all Aboriginal people disenfranchised by the system, whose oppression is aided by those of us who form part of and benefit from White Australia. She may be a single person of importance whose face can carry the weight of all those unacknowledged deaths, all that ignored pain and suffering.

A person who doesn't matter, or a matter for all persons. Which do you choose?


Climate change deniers raise the heat on the Bureau of Meteorology

By Michael Brown (Michael Brown is an astronomer at Monash University's School of Physics)

A lot of airy generalizations from Mr Brown below but no actual figures.  The work he criticizes DID give the figures.  He sniffs at the qualifications of the skeptics but are his qualifications any more relevant?  What has an expert on the stars got to do with terrestrial climate?

Australia is without a science minister for the first time in decades and some scientists now refer to the missing minister as "our invisible friend". The absent minister symbolises the current ambivalence of the Australian political right to science.

That ambivalence turns to open hostility when it comes to climate science. Five years ago Tony Abbott dismissed the science of climate change as "absolute crap" and that statement still resonates. Now, we are seeing more worrying developments.

Scientists hiding and manipulating data? Mysterious time travelling forces? Easily debunked myths being repeated as facts? Plucky amateurs and bloggers saving us from professional scientists?

Such notions are traits of pseudoscience and would be mocked if being promoted by crystal healers. Unfortunately we are hearing such nonsense being repeated by right wing media, government advisors and MPs.

Over the past few weeks there has been a concerted attack on the Bureau of Meteorology's temperature data. That data, taken with dozens of weather stations, shows temperatures increasing across Australia over the past century.

The warming trend is clear from both raw data and processed "homogenised" data. The homogenised data accounts for changes in data quality, including artificial jumps in temperature produced by relocating weather stations. For example, in rural towns many weather stations were moved from post offices to airports.

The Australian newspaper is publishing attacks on the Bureau's temperature record and the homogenisation process. These attacks are not based on published scientific studies, but instead rely heavily on the claims of former Institute of Public Affairs fellow, biologist and blogger Jennifer Marohasy.

The attacks use the pseudoscience tactic of selecting just a few towns where the homogenisation removes artificial cooling, while ignoring more towns where both the raw and homogenised data show warming. A few potential errors in the data have been highlighted, while ignoring the fact that warming across Australia is seen in both raw and homogenised data utilising millions of individual measurements.

These attacks on the Bureau of Meteorology have combined sloppiness with denigrating professional scientists. Is the Bureau really unwilling to provide 20th century data for town of Bourke? No, that data is freely available from the Bureau's website. Was the vital Stevenson Screen dumped from the Bourke weather station in 1996? No, the Bureau's catalogue has a photo of the Stevenson Screen at Bourke's current weather station. Is the Bureau hiding its methods? No, Blair Trewin details the Bureau's methods in a scientific paper.

Despite the attacks on Bureau of Meteorology having little basis in fact, they are gaining traction amongst right wing MPs and commentators. Backbench MP George Christensen tweeted "It's time for an official investigation of Bureau's handling of temperature records". Columnist Miranda Devine has claimed the Bureau's actions are "fraudulent".

Before commentators and politicians get too excited, they should remember similar claims have been made before. In New Zealand climate change deniers launched a court case making similar claims about that country's temperature record. They lost the case and have been avoiding paying the taxpayers' costs since.

The connection between pseudoscience and politics becomes even clearer when we look at the contributions of Maurice Newman, the chairman of the prime minister's Business Advisory Council.

In two recent opinion pieces, Newman warns of imminent global cooling caused by variability of the sun, rather than global warming. In some instances Newman misrepresents expert opinion when constructing his case. For example, while Newman cites Professor Mike Lockwood's research, Lockwood himself has stated that solar variability may decrease warming by "between 0.06 and 0.1 degrees Celsius, a very small fraction of the warming we're due to experience as a result of human activity".

Newman also relies on climate skeptic David Archibald for expert opinion on climate. Archibald, who isn't a scientist, has been warning of global cooling for some years now, and has previously made cooling predictions that have not eventuated.

Archibald's most recent claims invoke a new force of nature. This force hasn't been observed by anyone, but is the invention of (anthropogenic) climate change deniers desperately trying to downplay the impact of carbon dioxide. Compounding the hubris of inventing new forces without evidence, this force travels through time, with reaction following action after an 11-year delay. This could be an amusing Dr Who plot device, but has zero connection with real world physics.

The current attacks on climate science are embracing pseudoscience. They are a desperate attempt to deny a century of science that proves global warming has occurred and will continue to do so. This is a denial of a century of science, from the physics of radiative transfer to increasing ocean heat content. Unfortunately this denial is being fully embraced by sections of the Australian media and parliament.


Logan Islamic book store raided

The 31-year-old brother of Australia's first suicide bomber is among two men arrested following an Australian Federal Police raid on an Islamic book store south of Brisbane.

Omar Succarieh of Kuraby, and an as-yet unnamed 21-year-old man from Boronia Heights were taken into custody after police raided iQraa Islamic Centre at Underwood on Wednesday morning, along with eight other addresses.

Mr Succarieh's brother Ahmed was investigated over an incident in Syria in September 2013 when a truck laden with explosives was driven into a military checkpoint.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan, the national manager for counter terrorism, said 180 AFP and Queensland police officer executed nine search warrants in Logan and southern Brisbane on Wednesday following a 12-month investigation.

Mr Succarieh was charged with providing funds to Syrian terrorist organisation Jabhat al-Nusra. He was also charged over plans to enter Syria to "engage in hostile activity".

The 21-year-old was charged over "preparations for incursions into Syria, with the intentions of engaging in hostile activities".  He was also charged with recruiting people to commit the same acts.

Among the items seized during the raids was electronic data and one firearm, which Mr Gaughan said prompted Wednesday's raids due to the "public safety concerns".  "We really had no option but to proceed today," he said.

Mr Gaughan said neither man had recently been in Syria.  Both will appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Thursday morning. Mr Gaughan said police would oppose bail for both men.

There was no evidence to suggest the two men were involved in domestic terrorism attack planning, Mr Gaughan said.

Mr Gaughan said it was unclear whether holes in the wall at the iQraa Islamic Centre were caused by bullets.

"The forensic process needs to take its course and it's too early to speculate they are bullet holes," he said.

Queensland Assistant Commissioner Gayle Hogan said there was no risk posed to the upcoming G20 summit, which will be held in Brisbane in November.

Calls to the iQraa Islamic Centre went unanswered. Outside the store, iQraa Islamic Centre customer Abu Amaan came to the centre's defence.  "It's just a simple bookstore selling perfumes to Qu'arans," he said.  "There's nothing radical whatsoever. I just don't understand all the hysteria."  "Every Tom, Dick and Harry goes in there. They're very welcoming."

Mr Amaan said he believed the raid was unfounded.  "I think it's just instilling fear in the Muslim community," he said.

Carpet Court owner Eliseo Censori, whose business was next door to the iQraa Islamic Centre, said police needed a locksmith to get access to the premises.   "When we came in this morning at about 7am, there were about five police," he said.  "The place looked locked.  "Withing three quarters of an hour, there were about 30 of them."

Mr Censori described staff at the centre as "really quite friendly and pleasent".

Another business neighbour, 99 Bikes salesman Steve Wilson, said they never any issues with the centre.  "It's a bit of a shock and everyone's talking about it," he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman revealed he held an urgent meeting with Police Commissioner Ian Stewart to discuss G20 security in Brisbane after reports Australia's terrorism threat level could be increased.

Outgoing ASIO chief David Irvine told the ABC he was actively considered raising Australia's terror threat level from medium to high.

Mr Newman said he had been kept appraised of the situation as Brisbane prepared to host the G20 in November this year.  "What has been conveyed to me is that there are heightened threats to Australians but again I stress that we just won't let that roll on," he said.

"We are working very hard with the Commonwealth authorities to make sure we do protect Queenslanders and you can be assured of that.  "There has always been a very strong security response around the G20.

"We have international leaders we have been preparing for a proper security operation in this city and we have done everything we can to make sure we run a very positive and safe G20."

Mr Newman said increased security and special legislation would help protect world leaders and Queenslanders from a terrorist attack during the G20.  "We have been preparing for a proper security operation in this city," he said.  "We have done everything we can to ensure we run a very positive and safe G20 that highlights everything Queensland and Brisbane has to offer the world."


Private schools give more homework but produce no academic advantage says OECD

It appears that the nub of this report is the clause highlighted in red below.  Why should private schools worry that their existence does not lift up other schools?  They are paid to help their own students and it appears that they do that

Australian private school students spend two hours a week more on homework than their public school counterparts but do not perform better academically when socio-economic advantage is taken into account, according to a major report into educational performance around the world.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Education at a Glance 2014 report also finds Australian students spend more time in the classroom than anywhere else in the developed world even though they are increasingly being outperformed by students in other countries.

The report finds Australian private school students spend 7.4 hours a week on homework, an extra-curricular workload that is among the highest in the developed world. Australian public school students spend 5.1 hours on homework a week, just above the OECD average of 4.9 hours a week. Students in Shanghai, China, top the world by spending 13.8 hours on homework a week.

The report found a greater disparity in academic performance between Australian public and private school students than the OECD average, based on the mathematics results of 15-year old students in the 2012 PISA tests.

Australian private school students achieved an average score 37 points higher than public school students, above the OECD average of 28 points. But - in a trend seen across the world - there was no statistically significant difference between the results of private and public school students when the economic, social and cultural status of students and schools was accounted for.

Public schools outperformed private schools in 12 countries when socio-economic status was accounted for while private schools outperformed public schools in eight countries.

"Thus, private schools - and public schools with students from socio-economically advantaged backgrounds - benefit the individual students who attend them; but there is no evidence to suggest that private schools help to raise the level of performance of the school system as a whole," the report says.

There was no significant difference in average class sizes between Australian public and private schools: public schools have a mean class size of 22.4 compared to 22.8 in private schools.

Australian students spend more than 10,000 hours in compulsory primary and early secondary schooling, well above the OECD average of 7475 hours. The 2012 PISA results showed Australia had slipped to 17th out of 65 countries in mathematics.

The report finds the number of Australian children in early education still lags behind the rest of the world but is increasing. Eighteen per cent of Australian three-year-olds were enrolled in pre-primary education in 2012, up from 13 per cent the previous year but well below the OECD average of 70 per cent. Seventy-six per cent of four-year-olds were enrolled in early childhood or primary education, up from 67 per cent the year before.

Australia spends only 0.1 per cent of GDP on pre-primary education - compared to 0.8 per cent in Chile or Denmark - and only 45 per cent of spending on early childhood learning is publicly funded. This compares to an OECD average of 81 per cent public funding.

The report finds Australian men with a university degree will be $152,700 better off over a lifetime than those with only high school qualifications. This is above the OECD average but less than in the United States, where men with a university degree are $228,700 better off. Australian women with a degree are $91,300 better off than those with secondary qualifications.

Forty-one per cent of Australians aged 25 to 64 have tertiary qualifications, above the OECD average of 32 per cent. Young Australian women are now more likely to have a university degree than men: 53 per cent of women aged 25-34 have a degree compared to 42 per cent of men.

International students account for 18 per cent of tertiary enrolments in Australia, second only behind Luxembourg in the OECD.


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