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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Bail for teenagers on assault charges

Two of three teenagers accused of the vicious bashing and robbery of a man in Dubbo last week have been released on bail.
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Richard Scott McDonald, 19, along with two juvenile males aged 16 and 17, was arrested in a laneway adjacent to Park Street in North Dubbo after the violent assault outside Ben Furney Flour Mills in Brisbane Street.

Police allege at about 8.30pm one of the trio asked the 35-year-old victim for a cigarette, before all three began punching the man to the head.

When the victim fell to the ground the onslaught continued with the teenagers kicking the man to the body, according to police facts tendered to Dubbo Local Court during Mr McDonald’s appearance.

The group allegedly then stole the victim’s wallet, taking $50 from it before discarding the wallet in Muller Park.

The victim sustained a swollen jaw, bloodied nose and suspected broken ribs in the attack.

The three were arrested by patrolling police shortly afterwards.

The 16-year-old youth was given bail on the night of the alleged offence while Mr McDonald and the 17 year old appeared in court charged with aggravated robbery and robbery in company.

Magistrate Elaine Jacob remanded the juvenile in custody, however despite objections from the police prosecutor Mr McDonald was granted conditional bail.

The prosecutor argued he should kept in custody due to the serious nature of the offence. The matters were adjourned until February 19.

This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.

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Police chief denies resources an issue

The Cowra-based Member for Lachlan Ian Armstrong has attacked the State Government over allocation of resources to the laboratory testing DNA samples taken from the crime scenes.
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Mr Armstrong said the investigation of a home invasion in Cobra Street in the early hours of New Year’s Day was being delayed because vital DNA clues could not be processed quickly.

Legislation passed last year allowed police to begin using DNA evidence in the investigation of crimes.

A spokesperson for Mr Armstrong, who is a friend of the victim, said the MP had contacted Western Region police commander Doug Graham after the incident during which the victim was thrown to the ground, bound and “physically and mentally abused”.

Mr Armstrong claims after his telephone call to the regional commander he was contacted by two Dubbo detectives who told him they had collected DNA evidence vital to their investigation from the scene but were unable have it processed for two months.

However, the former State National Party leader is playing politics, according to Orana police commander Superintendent Ian Lovell.

“If the DNA evidence was important in identifying the offenders we would simply pay more money and have the testing done now,” he said.

“As it is, the alleged offenders were identified on the day of the crime and there are warrants out for their arrest in relation to that incident and other crimes, so as soon as they are found they will be brought in.

“We wouldn’t need the DNA evidence processed until they went to trial and if that was to happen within two months it would be a first.”

This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.

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Nursing home flooded as rain drenches coast

A NURSING home in Nambucca Heads was flooded last night after the North Coast was hit with more than 230 millimetres of rain.
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Workers from the State Emergency Service were called to the Nambucca Valley Care nursing home, which houses 40 residents, at 10pm. At the same time, the bureau of meteorology issued a flash-flood warning, predicting heavy rain throughout the night and king tides bringing waves of four metres.

The home’s chief executive, Stephen Richards, said staff and emergency crews dealt with the flooding and there was no need to evacuate the residents.

"It was pretty heavy rain everywhere but we’ve dealt with it."

In the 24 hours to 9am yesterday a low pressure trough, which had already drenched the Gold Coast, deposited 190 millimetres of rain on Huonbrook, near Lismore. During the same period Upper Main Arm, near Mullumbimby, recorded 184 millimetres, while Bald Mountain, inland from Cape Byron, received 175 millimetres.

Hardest hit was the town of Girralong, upstream from Nambucca Heads, which had been pelted with 239 millimetres of rain by 10 o’clock last night.

An SES spokesman said volunteers responded to 30 calls last night, mainly to provide sandbagging to prevent houses from flooding. Macksville Bowling Club, 12 kilometres south of Nambucca Heads, suffered damage to its roof.

Simon Louis, of the Department of Meteorology, said the Hunter Valley was likely to receive heavy falls today.

Yesterday Sydney workers heading to work through the gloomy fog and drizzle could have been forgiven for having forgotten that last month was the city’s driest May on record.

"We have already had more than eight times the rain that fell in all of May," Mr Louis said.

More is on the way, with forecasters tipping rain or showers until at least Monday.

Sydney is likely to see more of the thick fog that blanketed the city yesterday, halting ferries.

At 8.38pm Sydney’s high tide is tipped to peak at 2.08 metres, the highest for at least 16 years.

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Report warns of dire farm future

The report also predicts that temperatures in the Dubbo region will increase, on average, by 1.9 degrees Celsius by 2050 and that inflows into the Burrendong Dam will decrease by up to 30 per cent, resulting in significant reductions of irrigation capacity.
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The report, Climate Change and Agriculture in NSW: The Challenge for Rural Communities, was released by the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, the Climate Action Network and Greenpeace.

The report looks at the impacts of climate change on agriculture in NSW and is based on CSIRO research, the groups claim.

The report says farmers will face reduced access to water, higher salinity, more droughts and floods because of climate change.

Farmers in drought-prone areas of the State can expect to face drought more often and for longer periods with the incidence of spring droughts predicted to double in all regions.

For Dubbo and areas north, the report predicts there will be a doubling of extremely wet autumns by 2050 and double the spring droughts.

It also predicts a decrease in wheat yields and the area of arable land.

The Macquarie River Basin is expected to lose 6 to 23 per cent of its agricultural economy and the greatest losses will be in sheep, beef and wool which constitutes 63 per cent of the agricultural economy.

The three groups responsible for the report warn that farmers face a dire future unless greenhouse gases are dramatically reduced.

Conservation Council executive officer Kathy Ridge said farmers should be demanding a greater commitment from governments to reduce greenhouse gases.

“Climate change will cause greater competition between NSW farmers for decreasing water supplies and productive lands,” she said in a statement.

“NSW farmers should be demanding a strong commitment from governments to fight the causes of global warming.”

Climate Action Network spokeswoman Anna Reynolds said farmers should demand a political commitment to increase funding for native revegetation of salinity-affected land and a halt to land clearing.

Greenpeace said Australia’s position on the Kyoto protocol had thwarted international efforts to halt climate change.

He called on rural politicians such as deputy prime minister John Anderson and MP for Farrer Tim Fischer to take up the challenge to reduce the impacts of climate change.

This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.

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I stood to gain from euthanasia, says partner

ALZHEIMER’S sufferer Graeme Wylie would have been unable to get and ingest the drug that killed him without the help of his partner, Shirley Justins, and friend Caren Jenning, Justins told the Supreme Court yesterday.
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Justins acknowledged she stood to gain financially and had been relieved of the obligation of "caring for a sick and difficult man for several more years" when he died.

But she rejected suggestions that she had a conflict of interest or had placed her interests above his in organising for Jenning to obtain the drug Nembutal from Mexico.

Justins was giving evidence in the trial against her and Jenning over Mr Wylie’s death.

The women are accused of plotting his murder, or assisting his suicide.

Jenning has admitted importing an illegal drug.

Under cross-examination Justins admitted telling lies to the police and doctors on the day of his death, and misleading three doctors and a solicitor before his death about his state of health and his suicide plans.

She also admitted lying to her barrister – before she changed her plea to admit she was guilty of assisting Mr Wylie’s suicide after the trial had started – and lying in court in earlier evidence.

Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi, QC: "And all of that was done to try to protect you and Caren?"

Justins: "Yes."

The court heard that Mr Wylie changed his will a week before his death, leaving almost all his $2.4-million estate to Justins.

In the earlier will his daughters would have gained half, meaning his home at Cammeray would have needed to have been sold.

Mr Tedeschi: "You thought it was unfair after 18 years together to have to sell [the home at] Cammeray?"

Justins: "Yes … I didn’t know where I would live if he passed away … I didn’t want to move from Cammeray."

Mr Tedeschi suggested Justins did not try to dissuade Mr Wylie from committing suicide when he suggested it, or getting him help for possible depression.

Mr Tedeschi: "That’s why you so readily accepted the very first statement by Graeme to commit suicide because you thought it was a great idea?"

Justins: "No."

You would inherit from him and you would get your freedom? – That’s not true.

Your plan was: 1. Change the will. 2. Graeme dies? – That’s not true.

You faced several more years of caring for a sick and difficult man? – It was Graeme’s wish to finish his life, not my wish.

You had a gross conflict of interest in your involvement in this death between what was best for him and what was best for you? – That’s not true.

His death relieved you of the obligation of potentially caring for a sick and difficult man for several more years? – Yes.

The trial continues.

Lifeline: 131 114Beyondblue: 1300 224 636

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To ignore study could prove costly

The prospect of higher temperatures, longer droughts, more floods and worse bush fires within 50 years could be the consequences of underestimating the level of greenhouse gases.
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A study released yesterday by the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, Greenpeace and the Climate Action Network warns of a dire future for farmers unless greenhouse gases are dramatically reduced.

The study uses CSIRO research to back up its findings. How much credence we should give the findings, given the political agenda of its backers, is debatable but there’s little doubt any climate change will impact more severely on the farming sector than anywhere else.

The study predicts drought and flood will occur twice as frequently throughout NSW and the central northern areas of the State will be at increased risk of salinisation.

Temperatures in and around Dubbo are predicted to increase by about 1.9 degrees Celsius by 2050 unless there are changes to greenhouse levels.

The study is designed to provoke farmers into political action. The conservation council says farmers should be demanding a greater commitment from governments to reduce greenhouse gases.

Climate change will cause greater competition between farmers for decreasing water supplies and productive lands, the council says.

Depending on what sort of season we’re experiencing just about everyone will tell you the weather is changing: the summers are getting hotter and more humid, storms are more severe and traditional rain patterns are altering.

Today we know a lot more about the influences on our weather. We can predict with a reasonable degree of accuracy what will happen during El Nino and Il Nino influences.

Looking 50 years into the future is something else. This study could and might be easily dismissed as more propaganda from the Green movement.

But what if it isn’t? Action taken now may well safeguard us from the devastating consequences of climate change.

This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.

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