How private eyes track your every move

When most people think of private detectives, they think of a scruffy bloke with a long camera lens trained on a bedroom window.
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This quaint notion is far removed from reality.

Anyone who thinks pulling down the bedroom blinds is enough to ensure their privacy nowadays is in for a rude shock.

Mick Featherstone, a former organised crime unit detective and now a Queensland private investigator, said modern spy technology had advanced so quickly that often PIs can know everything they need to know about someone without even leaving their office.

Cars can be tracked by satellite, computers hacked, hidden miniature cameras planted, mobile phones diverted and even deleted SMSes retrieved – all with technology that is widely available to the public.

Mr Featherstone, of Gold Coast firm Phoenix Global, said the proliferation of James Bond-like technology had led to a boom in the "infidelity" business.

Growing numbers of clients are convinced that, if their spouses are cheating, modern technology will catch them out, he said.

"Technology is really sophisticated these days and clients want me to use any gadgets and devices available to catch out whoever they suspect of infidelity," he said.

"Over the last three years there has been steady growth in what already is a massive industry."

Mr Featherstone said that, when it came to spying on spouses, the sexes were equally suspicious.

"We get an even number of males and females wanting us to carry out surveillance," he said.

Despite the impressive technology available to PIs, Mr Featherstone advises potential clients to become gumshoe detectives before contacting the professionals, who charge as much as $90 an hour.

"People often get really hung up on the James Bond technology scenario but I usually tell them that there are far cheaper and easier ways, such as checking telephone and credit card records," he said.

However, some clients demand the full service – no matter what the cost.

Mr Featherstone said an international client pays him to spy on his Australian wife and his family.

The PI said he uses computer software to copy everything the subjects do on their computers.

Each day he sends the information, including transcripts of phone calls and text messages to the client. He said he can even retrieve mobile phone and text messages deleted weeks before.

In Australia, there are laws against trespass and invasion of privacy.

It is legal to buy bugs but it is illegal to use them unless the target knows he or she is being bugged. But Mr Featherstone said someone who has been caught out will rarely take the matter to police.

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Oil-rich diet cuts back trauma of seizures

A DAILY diet of cream, fried eggs, and breakfast cereal dripping in oil would have most parents running for the fruit bowl, but for Leah Eminovski it has been a lifesaver.
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Her son Arrian, 4, was having constant seizures after developing a debilitating form of epilepsy at the age of three. He wore a bicycle helmet to protect his head and could never be left unsupervised, losing his personality, staring into space and drooling.

But within a month of being put on the high-fat, low-carbohydrate regime, known as the ketogenic diet, his seizures reduced from more than 20 a day to about three, and his family "has its boy back", a Sydney Children’s Hospital pediatric neurologist, John Lawson, said yesterday.

"Initially, I was sceptical about how a change in diet could have such a dramatic effect on an illness as traumatic as epilepsy, but this has completely transformed their lives," he said.

The ketogenic diet comes in two forms. On the classic version, children receive about 90 per cent of their calories from fatty foods, with small amounts of protein for body growth and repair, while children on the oil version, used at the Sydney Children’s Hospital, are given a diet of 80 per cent fat, with about 50 per cent of that obtained from a tasteless medium chain triglyceride oil added to all food and drinks.

The diet, which was developed in the 1920s, mimics starvation by forcing the body to burn fat for fuel, rather than carbohydrates and protein. The liver then produces ketones, which replace glucose as the brain’s main energy source, and have an anti-convulsive effect on the brain, reducing the number of seizures a child will experience each day.

"This is not an alternative to medication though," Dr Lawson said. "This is an extremely unhealthy diet that most of us couldn’t tolerate so it is a treatment we use only for people who have not responded to several drugs, which accounts for about one-third of all children with epilepsy."

A study in this month’s Lancet Neurology , which followed 145 children who were having seizures daily and had failed to respond to at least two anti-epileptic drugs, found that those on the ketogenic diet had 50 per cent less seizures and many were not having seizures at all after three months. About one-third experienced a greater than 90 per cent improvement. But the side effects, which include constipation, lack of energy, pancreatitis, kidney stones and cardiac, renal and liver complications, can be debilitating and dangerous.

"It’s not for everyone," Dr Lawson said. "But for some people, it can be life-changing."

For Arrian’s mother, the diet has meant a radical change to family life, with his meals made up of cheese, cream, margarine, nuts and the oil.

"It’s certainly been a challenge," Ms Eminovski said. "It takes a lot of commitment and organisation, but it has more positives than negatives."

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‘Sloppy’ blunder

Dubbo City Council’s technical services department has been suspected of a major blunder that could have cost the city tens of thousands of dollars.
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A councillor has revealed Dubbo came perilously close to spending double the amount necessary on a hydrogeological survey because staff were reluctant to put it out to tender.

Last year council was told the study into a proposed freight rail site on Yarrandale Road would cost about $400,000. But after closer scrutiny by councillors the project was put out to tender.

PPK Environment and Infrastructure was announced the winning tenderer this week, coming in at just $195,000 – the original firm was listed second. The incident has sparked an immediate investigation into council’s dealings with consultants during the past five years.

Cr Sam Peacocke called for the internal inquiry at Monday night’s council meeting saying the actions of staff suggested “sloppy work”. A report is expected back to the April works and services committee meeting.

Technical services director Stewart McLeod refuted suggestions his department was guilty of sloppiness but said he was hamstrung from making a comment because of the confidential tender process.

He added, however, that at no time did Cr Peacocke approach him or his department about his concerns.

Eleven firms who put their hand up for the project were assessed on price, experience, personnel and timing. Prices ranged from $195,000 to $434,500.

“This hydrogeological survey was a mess from the word go,” Cr Peacocke said.

“Staff said to us, ‘It needs to be done and these people are the only ones who can do it’.

“Then when they were told it had to go out to tender staff said they didn’t have the knowledge to work on the tender project.

“How could they tell us on one hand that only one firm could do the job and on the other say they didn’t have enough experience in this field to run the tender.”

Cr Peacocke said that in the initial instance staff approached a firm “they used a lot” to conduct the survey.

But the matter was reopened when Cr John Neville questioned the “exorbitant price” for drilling bore holes.

Cr Peacocke also expressed alarm that consultants commissioned to write the tender took advice from the original firm – an interested party in the project.

Yesterday Mayor Allan Smith congratulated Cr Neville for “saving the community a considerable amount of money”.

“It now means we can get the survey under way and take one step closer to getting Dubbo an inter-modal freight rail facility,” he said.

Despite the massive savings, the budgeted funds come from a restricted asset and won’t be poured into general community projects.

Cr Peacocke said he remained concerned about the amount of money spent on consultancies.

“We pay our senior staff a lot of money to make decisions,” he said. “Unfortunately I suspect whenever there is a politically-sensitive decision to be made they go and grab a consultant rather than make the decision themselves.

“I hope this report comes back with a clean bill of health but if this kind of sloppy work can happen once you have to ask how many other times it’s happened.

“We get all these charities asking us for help and we have to tell them there’s no money – then we find out about things like this.”

Meanwhile, council has announced it will continue to pursue the State Government for financial assistance in meeting the survey’s costs.

The hydrogeological study is aimed at allaying concerns of the Department of Land and Water Conservation and Environment Protection Authority regarding potential groundwater contamination from the site.

This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.

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Raffle gets charity ball rolling along

The new Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) hangar at Dubbo airport will be reverberating to the sound of dancing feet instead of the whirr of a plane engine later this month.
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To celebrate the completion of the hangar a black-tie ball and charity night will be held in the hangar on February 24.

RFDS appeal chairman Howard Laughton said guests could win a number of great prizes just by attending the ball.

“We’re currently selling raffle tickets for a Nissan Pulsar kindly donated by Nissan Australia which will be drawn on the night,” he said.

“We’re also holding an auction at the ball with a lot of sporting memorabilia up for grabs as well as two return business-class tickets to Los Angeles from Qantas, with accommodation provided in the States.

“So by coming along to the ball people could walk away with a car and a trip to LA.”

Special guests at the fundraiser will be deputy prime minister John Anderson and Nissan Australia’s chief executive officer Leon Daphne. Nissan’s regional manager John Datson will also be in attendance while the evening’s MC will be WIN Television’s Geoff Phillips.

Guests at the ball will enjoy free pre-dinner drinks, a three-course meal and entertainment by the Enormous Horns.

“It’s really going to be a great night and tickets are selling fast,” Mr Laughton said.

“This will definitely be one of Dubbo’s social events of 2001 so get in and get your tickets. We want to encourage as many people as possible to come along because the Flying Doctors is such a great cause.”

Raffle tickets for the car are available at Snares newsagencies, Orana Mall, Riverdale and Western Plains Automotive.

Tickets to the black-tie ball are $110 each and are available from Claire at Western Plains Automotive on 6884 4577.

This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.

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