Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Leftist love of terrorists again

Muslims can do no wrong, apparently. And it was George Bush who blew up the twin towers in NYC, of course

Last week the ABC 702 radio presenter Deborah Cameron referred to the "so-called terror trial in Parramatta". On Friday, after deliberating for over a month, a jury at the Supreme Court returned guilty verdicts against five men on terrorism charges. The jurors were unaware that four other men, charged following the same police investigation, had already pleaded guilty and had been sentenced.

Clearly the jury was convinced, beyond reasonable doubt, that the five men acted in the preparation of a terrorist act. Certainly the evidence, albeit circumstantial, was overwhelming. There were numerous intercepted conversations and telephone buggings and some of the men had collected large quantities of weapons and ammunition, along with chemicals that could be used in constructing explosive devices.

What was a "so-called terror trial" to an ABC presenter in Ultimo was the real thing to the men and women of the jury in Parramatta. In her initial report of the jury's decision on The World Today on Friday, Philippa McDonald, even after the guilty findings, was still referring to what had been "alleged" against the men. She editorialised the case was "hugely circumstantial" and maintained it "had to be said that, for a lot of the Crown case, the defence came back with something else".

There is considerable evidence that members of what is best termed the civil liberties lobby - including some journalists, lawyers and academics - do not want to accept that a few men in Western societies want to engage in violent jihad. The evident cynicism is not confined to Australia but extends to Britain and the United States, where acts of violence by militant Islamists have occurred.

Writing in The Australian in 2006, Phillip Adams identified with the cynics within the left and the Muslim world concerning the reported attempt to use liquid explosives to bring down seven airliners flying from Heathrow in Britain to the US and Canada. He went so far as to hint all this might have been a distraction to divert attention from the political difficulties of the then British Labour prime minister, Tony Blair. Antony Loewenstein, a high-profile critic of Israel, supported Adams in the Crikey newsletter. Loewenstein maintained the Heathrow incident might have been a political concoction.

Once again, a jury found otherwise. Last month, three British Muslims were convicted of planning a series of suicide/homicide attacks against trans-Atlantic airlines. The case was documented in the first-class BBC Panorama documentary Terror in the Skies, shown here on Four Corners last month. The program showed the "suicide" videos recorded by the terrorists before the intended attacks were thwarted by British police and intelligence services.

The evidence suggests the threat to Australia from local citizens and residents is less than in Britain or the US. Even so, it is real enough as several recent cases - before last week's verdict - attest.

- On September 25, Justice Megan Latham sentenced Bilal Khazal to a non-parole period of nine years. Khazal had been found guilty by a jury of the offence of making a document connected with assistance in a terrorist act. The judge found the prisoner had not demonstrated any remorse or contrition.

- On September 2, in the Victorian Supreme Court, Justice Bernard Bongiorno sentenced Shane Kent, who had pleaded guilty to being a member of a terrorist organisation and making a document connected with preparation for a terrorist act, to a non-parole period of three years and nine months. The judge noted that Kent, a convert to Islam, was not contrite for his actions. Moreover, he did not accept that Kent had abandoned the cause of violent jihad.

- On February 3, Bongiorno sentenced seven men who had been found guilty in Victoria of knowingly being members of a terrorist organisation. Some of this group were also convicted of other terrorism offences. In handing down his sentences, the judge commented about the unwillingness of the prisoners to renounce violent jihad.

- Justice Anthony Whealy made a similar finding when sentencing Faheem Lodhi, in the NSW Supreme Court in 2006, to a non-parole period of 15 years for a terrorism- related offence.

It is not as if those convicted of terrorism offences in Australia in recent years have come up against an unfair system - despite complaints reported in the media by some of their family members and supporters. In all the cases cited above, judges have gone out of their way to ensure a fair trial. And juries have exercised considerable caution, including reaching some "not guilty" findings. Also, Justices Bongiorno and Whealy expressed valid concerns about the extremely harsh conditions experienced by some prisoners.

The fact is that guilty verdicts have been reached, and relatively tough sentences handed out, on account of evidence which led to convictions beyond reasonable doubt. ASIO, the Australian Federal Police and state police forces tend to receive criticism. However, the convictions in the terrorism-related cases in both NSW and Victoria demonstrate that Australia's intelligence and police services have done a first-rate job in protecting the liberties of all of us.

The same can be said for our politicians. The present terrorism legislation is the product of agreement between the Coalition and Labor in Parliament. Most - if not all - of the convictions have been assisted by the much derided terrorism help-line set up by the Howard government. Among those providing evidence against terrorism have been Australian Muslims. Clearly, they are not convinced that terrorism deserves the "so-called" label.


Hugging banned at Primary School in South Australia

YEAR six and seven students have been banned from mixed-sex consensual hugging at a primary school in South Australia for fear it would set a "bad example" to younger students, AdelaideNow reports. Following complaints from parents at Largs Bay Primary School, the school has banned hugging and other displays of affection for "boyfriends or girlfriends" in the two senior grades.

"Hugging is not banned (between friends) at Largs Bay Primary School but we do discourage displays of affection in the schoolyard among students in years 6 and 7 who have a boyfriend or girlfriend at the school," principal Julie Gail said in a statement. ". . . we want our older students to set a strong example for younger students at the school."

The SA Education Department yesterday refused to endorse the policy and could not say whether it applied at any other school in the state.

Parents from two families not happy with the policy contacted The Advertiser and said the school should act only if the display of affection was inappropriate, rather than a blanket ban for all 11 and 12-year-olds. Neither would be named because of fears their children would suffer at school, saying students had been punished for hugging. They said the school's deputy principal and counsellor had told the students of the ban at a meeting of Year 6 and 7s this week, after an outbreak of hugging when friends were reunited following the recent school holidays.

The school's governing council has not discussed the ban at its meetings but one family which has a girl at the school, and another with two students, are not happy with the policy. They said it was far more strictly applied than the school suggests. "I don't want my child to go to a school in which displays of affection lead to punishment," one mother told The Advertiser. "My daughter has boys who are friends and she is being told she will be punished if she hugs them, I think that is setting a very bad example for younger and older children."

UniSA child protection expert Elspeth McInnes said the benefits or disadvantages of the policy would depend on how it was applied and policed. "Commonsense needs to prevail and if someone has just heard of terrible news and is being hugged you would not expect the school to overreact as opposed to what may be going on at the back of the class," she said.


Teen net addicts at risk of mental health problems

Where's his proof? Epidemiology deals in correlations. It proves nothing. This is just an exercise in speculation motivated by the usual academic contempt for ordinary people

OBSESSIVE use of the internet could create a mental-health epidemic, with up to 10 per cent of adolescents at risk, a Sydney academic warns.

World studies have documented dangerous levels of "internet addiction" – computer use that interferes with daily lives – says Lawrence Lam, a behavioural epidemiologist at the University of Sydney and the Children's Hospital at Westmead.

In Greece and the US, studies found 8 per cent of adolescents could be classified as computer addicts. In China, where Dr Lam helped conducted recent research, the level of addictive computer use was 14 per cent. "I would say in Australia we would be following the same trend," he said.

Dr Lam said researchers were yet to agree on whether to label the problem as an addiction or a mental-health problem but it was expected the condition could be added to the next edition of the key reference book for mental-health professionals, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

He said people who played online role-playing games such as World of Warcraft, were especially prone to the condition, which he defined as an “uncontrollable and damaging use of the internet”.

Dr Lam said boys were 50 per cent more likely to be affected than girls. He advised parents to watch for sharp changes in how often or how long children were online.


Welcome to Minnesota, NSW

Is there no end to the corruption and incompetence of the NSW Labour government? Sir Lunchalot has got nothing on these guys

The Rees Government's $2 million economic stimulus advertising campaign will be investigated following a series of embarrassing revelations from breaching advertising regulations to using images of a US city to represent Sydney in commercials.

In what the NSW Opposition has described as a blatant taxpayer-funded political ad, it has been revealed that the Premier's office also deliberately chose disgruntled Labor voters to use in focus groups to test whether the ads would work. It has also been revealed that the Premier's office donated $1000 to a local public school for permission to use children in the ad.

Equally embarrassing was an admission it sourced images of a city in the US state of Minnesota for use in the campaign to boast about the Government's infrastructure investment - in NSW.

The six-week Government advertising blitz was launched following the June Budget as a public information advertisement promoting a $62 billion infrastructure package to create 160,000 jobs. Mr Rees was later forced to admit the jobs were Australia wide, not in NSW alone.

The Government's own advertising guidelines restrict advertising to public notices, public awareness and recruitment notices. The ads must be clearly distinguishable from party political messages. The guidelines also stipulate that the ads must be factually correct and substantiated.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information revealed the Premier's own chief of staff Graeme Wedderburn was responsible for the scripts used for the TV and print ads.

They also revealed the person vetting the scripts for the ad was the Commerce Department's director of advertising, Alun Probert, who wrote the rules on what the Government can and can't do.

In an email from the advertising agency to Mr Probert, concerns were raised about the political nature of the ad when choosing the focus group participants along the lines of how they vote. "Please note that . . . are very clear that this ad is a public announcement and should not have a political skew, however, it is easier and they feel that we will have more success when recruiting if we classify them as above," the email from George Patterson advertising executive Emma Boyle to Mr Probert on June 9 said.

Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell said it was a clear breach of political advertising regulations and has referred it to the NSW Auditor General to investigate. "This is the clearest evidence yet of Nathan Rees using taxpayers' funds to get Labor re-elected," he said.


Loss of staff puts Quentin Bryce in hot seat

It does seem that she has got her top jobs for being female rather than because of the content of her character

ONE-THIRD of the Governor-General's staff has left in the past 12 months, prompting fresh criticism of how Quentin Bryce operates, The Australian reports. The turnover of personnel at Government House in Canberra will reinforce the reputation Ms Bryce gained as Queensland governor for being difficult to please. Ms Bryce's official secretary, Stephen Brady, told a Senate estimates hearing yesterday there had been 10 "separations" from the Government House staff since May, on top of 20 departures from September last year.

This takes to 30 the number of departures out of a total of 90 staff at Yarralumla. Opposition spokesman on affairs of state Michael Ronaldson demanded to know why so many staff had left Government House. In a tetchy estimates hearing, he said it was clear from Mr Brady's refusal to provide details of conversations with Ms Bryce that staff had complained about working for her. "What were the nature and extent of complaints made by staff who were leaving?" Senator Ronaldson asked.

Mr Brady defended his boss, saying it was a privilege to work for Ms Bryce. He said life at Government House was demanding and required an ability to deal with change. "Some people deal with that, work well and enjoy it; others don't," Mr Brady said.

Government House later moved to scotch suggestion Ms Bryce was to blame for the departures. A spokeswoman for Ms Bryce said staff turnover during her first year was 5 per cent lower than in the last two years under her predecessor, Michael Jeffery. The spokeswoman said nine of those staff members had been on short-term contracts, three had retired, 13 had moved to other agencies, four moved interstate and one resigned for personal reasons. "Turnover rates for the office are generally higher than the public service average due to the contractual nature of employment, the number of secondments from other agencies and limited opportunities for career progression in a relatively small agency," she said. Some positions had not been filled because of budget and operating constraints.

Ms Bryce ruffled feathers at Yarralumla on her arrival 18 months ago by sacking former official secretary Malcolm Hazell, who had served both Michael Jeffery and his predecessor, Peter Hollingworth.

Her five years as Queensland governor were punctuated by claims of a walk-out by senior personnel, dismayed by how Ms Bryce treated the staff and by the demands she and her family placed on them. One former member of the Queensland household estimated yesterday that two-thirds of the senior staff had quit or been dismissed under Ms Bryce. The positions turned over included those of the governor's official secretary, the executive officer, the head chef, the head driver, estate manager and communications manager. "She is just a very difficult person to work for," one ex-employee at Government House in Brisbane said yesterday. "She plays favourites, and if she doesn't like you, you are history. She freezes you out."


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