Friday, May 29, 2009

Headlines Friday 29th May 2009

Nathan Rees accused of covering up Orkopoulos scandal
The NSW Premier has been shouted down and accused of covering up a child sex scandal at a forum in Newcastle.

Nathan Rees returned to the Hunter region to provide answers but faced more questions at the second in a series of community meetings.

The woman at the centre of the Milton Orkopoulos child sex scandal accused the Premier of blocking an inquiry into the incident.

Gillian Sneddon was locked out of former Aboriginal Affairs Minister's office when they learned she was helping police investigate claims made against him.

She has been unemployed ever since and says she has been punished by the government for blowing the whistle on her boss.

She said she was not paid during Orkopoulos's trial and had not received any assistance from the government to find new work.

A frustrated Ms Sneddon was cheered as she called on Mr Rees to explain her treatment.

"Of course you didn't know anything did you Nathan?" she said.

"Because you ran, you scurried like a rat, to Premier Iemma's office because you didn't want to get tainted by the allegations."

Premier Rees urged Ms Sneddon to again follow the formal process for proper hearing. - I have every reason to believe some of my grief has been connected to this issue .. indirectly. As a person who responsibly reported a child abuse allegation and saw it covered up when senior ALP got involved .. and later a cover up of Hamidur Rahman's death through legal technicalities (open finding by coroner). I feel I can shed light on this issue. Having reported this issue to all the appropriate bodies, I am free to speak about them. I don't know I have witnessed crimes. I know I have witnessed cover ups which deserve to be investigated .. not the least because Hamidur Rahman's parents deserve justice and not to be partly blamed for their child's death. - ed.
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Bellevue Hill Public School closed due to crater - major traffic diversions
Residents in Bellevue Hill are waking up to a giant crater after a burst water main triggered a landslide. Laura Tunstall is on the scene.

Third schoolgirl arrested over fight
A third schoolgirl has been arrested over a pre-arranged fight on Sydney’s northern beaches, which left a 15-year-old with facial injuries.

Aust to contribute ship, aircraft to anti-piracy fight Somalia
Australia is sending a warship and a surveillance aircraft to help fight piracy in waters off Somalia.
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Couple Ordered to Stop Holding Bible Study at Home Without Permit
Pastor David Jones and his wife Mary have been told that they cannot invite friends to their San Diego, Calif. home for a Bible study — unless they are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to San Diego County.

"On Good Friday we had an employee from San Diego County come to our house, and inform us that the Bible study that we were having was a religious assembly, and in violation of the code in the county." David Jones told FOX News.

"We told them this is not really a religious assembly — this is just a Bible study with friends. We have a meal, we pray, that was all," Jones said.
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Hotels to evict swine flu sufferers at toll hits 147
Swine flu sufferers are facing the prospect of being kicked out of their hotels, because of fears of bad publicity, as the national toll hits 147.

Dodgy $2 coins in circulation after alleged laundering scam
Police are warning people to look out for mutilated $2 coins after arresting a man for laundering the damaged currency through Sydney vending machines.

Pregnant teen 'pays man to kill foetus'
US prosecutors say a 17-year-old girl allegedly paid a man to beat her up so she would have a......

Guilty thief returns $10,000 cash
A thief who stole more than $10,000 from a butcher has returned most of the money a week later......

Fittler vows to fight for his career
Under-siege Sydney Roosters coach Brad Fittler has vowed to see out the season with the struggling NRL club despite reports claiming he was ready to throw in the towel.

US govt to own 72% of GM
The US government would own 72.5 per cent of General Motors under a proposed bankruptcy reorganisation that now has support of GM bondholders, a regulatory filing showed on Thursday.

Susan Boyle 'considered quitting show'
Scottish singing sensation Susan Boyle has considered quitting the British TV talent show that brought her worldwide fame, show judge Piers Morgan said.
=== Journalists Corner ===

=== Comments ===
IT’S OFTEN NOT THAT FUNNY
Tim Blair
Lots of viewers for the latest Chaser series, but – in comments at that link – very few positive reviews.

UPDATE. Age readers weren’t amused, either:
Oh dear - I love The Chaser but last night they were woefully unfunny.
===
NOT THE FINGER
Tim Blair
French President Nicolas Sarkozy aims to appoint a freethinker:
Claude Allègre argues that global warming is not necessarily caused by human activity. Putting him in charge of scientific research would be tantamount to “giving the finger to scientists”, said Nicolas Hulot, France’s best-known environmental activist.

Mr Sarkozy wants to bring Mr Allègre, 72, a freethinking, former socialist education minister, into the government in a reshuffle after next month’s European parliamentary elections.
Free thought can lead to unconventional conclusions:
Claude Allegre, one of France’s leading socialists and among her most celebrated scientists, was among the first to sound the alarm about the dangers of global warming.

“By burning fossil fuels, man increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which, for example, has raised the global mean temperature by half a degree in the last century,” Dr. Allegre, a renowned geochemist, wrote 20 years ago …

With a wealth of data now in, Dr. Allegre has recanted his views. To his surprise, the many climate models and studies failed dismally in establishing a man-made cause of catastrophic global warming.
But what about the funding?

UPDATE. Rare mockery of greenism in the Age:
In the 1950s some academic psychologists studied a group of religious fanatics who believed that the world would end on December 21, 1954. Prior to this dramatic event, the group foretold that angels in flying saucers from the Planet Clarion would arrive on earth to save the believers. I kid you not. Flying saucers were big in the fifties. When the date with destiny came and went with no saucers from Clarion (and no end of the world), the group’s belief in the prophecy actually increased! They had invested so much of their lives in their idiosyncratic faith that evidence repudiating the prophecy could not be digested.
Wait; it’s not about greens. It’s about property development.
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A more civilised White House now
Andrew Bolt
How many hoops would President George Bush have to jump through to explain throwing a black reporter off his plane?
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Don’t speak ill of the Rudd
Andrew Bolt
Can Kevin Rudd’s spin be any more craven?

KEVIN Rudd has chastised the Opposition for ridiculing the sending of stimulus cheques to dead people, saying the mocking tones risked offending the loved ones of the deceased.
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Teach up, not down
Andrew Bolt
EVER felt as if you’re in a deep pit, and someone’s just pulled up the ladder?

Twice I had that feeling in the out-bush schools I went to about four decades ago. Now I’d like that ladder put back.

Those my age or older may remember the Let’s Make Music lessons we learned at school, gathered around a radio tuned to the ABC.

The program’s aim was to teach us not just music, but Western culture.

It certainly wasn’t to teach us just what was immediately relevant to us, as children of farmers, police, Aboriginal laborers or immigrants, but what was the best and the ageless. To teach what linked us not only to other Australians, but to the greatest minds of our past.

So we learned scraps of the classics, including Beethoven and Mozart, and of opera, such as Brother Come and Dance With Me, from Hansel and Gretel.

We learned songs about Australia, of course, also ageless folk songs from Britain, such as the Skye Boat Song and Men of Harlech, and from other cultures, too, from the Czech Andulko the Goose Girl to Japan’s Sakura.

We learned it all together, with the imprimatur of the then venerable ABC making clear that this was a grounding not just in music, but in civilisation.

I loved it, and still remember many of the songs. I also remember when, almost overnight, that music stopped.
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Swine oil sold
Andrew Bolt
It’s precisely how global warming is exploited, too, by carpet baggers who profit from the panic they help to whip up:

The former ACT chief minister, Kate Carnell, now CEO of the Australian Food and Grocery Council, knows a thing or two about putting some distance between yourself and a dangerous situation. But a press release issued yesterday has taken the notion of opportunism to a new level. ”Ensure your cupboard isn’t bare during a quarantine,” a press release issued yesterday advises in the wake of estimates that up to 4 million Australians could contract the swine flu virus. “Australians should assess the amount of food and essential household items available in their pantries in the wake of quarantines being imposed for people diagnosed with swine flu, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) warned today”.
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An important film
Andrew Bolt
SAMSON and Delilah checks all the boxes I’ve come to associate with our terrible Australian films.

Taxpayer funded? Check.

Grim? Check. The very first scene shows an Aboriginal boy sniffing petrol.

Feted by the guilty-rich elite? Check that, too, after the Cannes Film Festival last weekend gave its prize for a first-time director to Warwick Thornton, an Aborigine from Alice Springs.

And did it get five stars from the ABC’s preachy David Stratton?

Oh, yes. Check again. Full house.

In fact, this low-budget film has extra warning lights I’d never dreamed of.

Its director seems a blame-whitey type, for instance, who insists “the Stolen Generation, that’s me”. So you can well guess what his film is like.

In fact, I went to a near deserted screening of it this week and can tell you. It’s great.
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Was Borrowman’s real sin a failure to speak “yes”?
Andrew Bolt
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith announces his pick as ambassador to Sweden:

Educated at the Australian National University, Mr Borrowman holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Asian Studies and a Graduate Diploma in International Law. He has qualifications in German, Mandarin, French and Swedish languages.

Pardon? Hugh Borrowman has qualifications in German?

But what reason did Prime Minister Kevin Rudd give for blocking the appointment of Borrowman, formerly head of his international division, as ambassador to Berlin?

The Prime Minister said Mr Borrowman was rejected for the Berlin post because his German skills were sub-standard. “When it comes to foreign diplomatic appointments, I do place priority on languages, as does the minister. And last time I looked at Germany, they speak German,” Mr Rudd told the ABC on Tuesday.

Will Rudd give us the real reason for blocking the promotion of a diplomat recommended by his Foreign Minister? Is it true that Borrowman’s real sin is that he did not fawn but gave independent, fearless advice - as is his duty as a public servant?
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Republicans and Judge Sotomayor
By Bill O'Reilly
Once again, President Obama has pulled off a shrewd political move by nominating a Latina, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, to the Supreme Court.

There are about 12 million Hispanic-Americans who voted last time around, and 67 percent of them went for Obama. By contrast, just 53 percent voted for John Kerry when he ran against President Bush. So Hispanic voters actually put Barack Obama in the White House, and the GOP needs some of them back, thus Republicans face a quandary.

This morning on ABC, conservative Ann Coulter pretty much defined the problem:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Saying that someone would decide a case differently, better in fact, because she is a Latina rather than a white male, I mean, that statement is by definition racist. I'm not saying she's a racist, but the statement sure is.

DIANE SAWYER, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA" CO-HOST: Were you moved by the Hispanic breakthrough, Ann?

COULTER: Why aren't Democrats — why aren't they choking up over Clarence Thomas or Miguel Estrada? I mean, you know, come on, why are we all supposed to weep only when it's a liberal Hispanic or a liberal black?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Ms. Coulter's point is true. Liberals gleefully attacked Clarence Thomas and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, but the media is now lurking, looking to pound any conservative who goes after Ms. Sotomayor. So the Republicans have a tough situation on their hands.

The judge is vulnerable, especially on affirmative action, and her racial tone on who has a better outlook on the law, minorities or whites. But to the Hispanic-American community, that might not matter much, especially considering the judge's background:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: The president believes that her life story is a compelling one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her great life story, amazing life story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not to mention her life story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A compelling personal story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Did someone say compelling?

Politics is all about perception. Right now, the Republican Party is perceived to be the domain of rich, white guys. Of course, that's not entirely true, but very often perception trumps reality.

America needs two, maybe three, strong political parties so the country can have healthy debate. We also need voters to be open-minded, not ideological Kool-Aid drinkers.

The Republicans can only get back in the game if they widen their appeal and appeal for common sense. For example, Dick Cheney may be winning the national security debate because he is talking facts, while President Obama talks theory. Fair-minded Americans want to be protected and facts are more compelling — sorry — than lofty rhetoric.

But if the GOP alienates Hispanic-Americans and they begin to vote in blocks like African-Americans do, then the Republican Party is doomed. So Republicans would be wise to watch the rhetoric in assessing Judge Sotomayor.
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Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid of the Obama Administration’s Scary Trial Balloon
By Phil Kerpen
In today’s Washington Post, the White House floats a really scary trial balloon—a new national Value-Added Tax (VAT) to pay for out-of-control spending and a Washington take over of health care. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad appears to be on board. So does Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of White House chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel, who has been hired by the White House budget office to help design the health care plan and whose book on health care uses a VAT to fund the new government program. Obama economic adviser Paul Volcker is also on-board the VAT-train.

What is the VAT? It’s a type of national sales tax that is collected in pieces throughout the production chain, instead of being collected all at once at the cash register like a retail sales tax. In theory, sales taxes like the VAT are pretty good taxes because they are broad-based, difficult to evade, and minimize economic distortions. In practice, they are the ATM machine for runaway government growth, because they are largely invisible to the public and they can raise huge amounts of money in very small chunks, thus minimizing the effective political opposition that generally keeps taxes in check.

A couple of years ago Dan Mitchell wrote a great summary of the VAT experience in Europe that explains how the VAT was the key policy change that moved Europe to a much higher level of taxes and spending than the U.S. Because the tax is difficult for the public to see, it’s very easy for politicians to raise, and VAT rates in Europe have steadily increased since the tax was first introduced. With the VAT tax weapon in hand, European governments have grown to more than 40 percent of GDP, a level unknown in the United States outside of world wars. Now that scary scenario could, unfortunately be in store for us if the White House pursues a VAT in the U.S.

The U.S. tax system is clearly a mess, and badly in need of meaningful tax reform. That reform, however, needs to in the direction of simplicity and lower rates. Many conservatives believe, with good reason, that we should abolish the IRS, end income taxation, and adopt a national sales tax of some kind—most would prefer a national retail sales tax, which is the heart of the Fair Tax proposal. Some, perhaps, would be happy with a VAT, which functions much like a sales tax. Such a proposal is not without its virtues, but the enormous risk associated with it is that we end up with a national sales tax on top of our existing income tax system.

Based on the European experience, accepting a VAT in exchange for reductions in taxes on income and capital would be a foolish bargain, because once politicians have all the taxes on the books they would steadily increase the rates over time, leading to a much higher overall level of taxes and spending than would otherwise have been possible. We need to draw a clear line in the sand that no new national taxes will be put in place without eliminating—not cutting, but permanently eliminating—our existing income tax.

Trillions of dollars of bailouts, stimulus, spending, unfunded entitlement obligations, and an appetite for a Washington takeover of health care have us on a collision course for a national bankruptcy unless we adopt a huge new tax (cap-and-trade is another one, by-the-way, although the VAT could be even more expensive) or finally start to get a handle on runaway spending. The current tax system simply will not bear enough revenue to pay for these trillions of dollars of obligations. If we don’t want to accept a European-style nanny state and the lower standards of living that come with it, we need to cut all this spending and forget about a Washington takeover of health care. And we need to shoot this VAT trial balloon down, quickly.
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