Monthly Archives: April 2019

Alleged Vic hospital attacker ‘unstable’

A man charged with the attempted murder of a neurosurgeon at a Melbourne hospital is in an unstable mental state, a court has heard.

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Kareem Al-Salami, 48, is accused of repeatedly stabbing the doctor in the foyer of the Western Hospital in Footscray when he arrived for work on Tuesday.

The victim, 43-year-old Michael Wong, is in a serious condition but his injuries are not considered to be life-threatening.

Al-Salami, of North Sunshine, appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday afternoon charged with attempted murder and two counts each of intentionally causing serious injury and recklessly causing serious injury.

“I have concerns about his mental state … concerns about what he might do to himself,” his lawyer Rainer Martini told Magistrate Duncan Reynolds.

Mr Martini said Al-Salami was using several medications and a nurse would need to visit him in custody.

He said his client spoke little English and while no Arabic interpreter was available, he said he was satisfied he was aware of the severity of the charges.

The court also heard police feared Al-Salami was unfit to be interviewed, but he was determined to go ahead with the interview.

Al-Salami will next face court for a committal mention in May.

Police have praised visitors and hospital staff who helped drag Dr Wong away from his attacker.

Inspector Tony Long said visitors and medical staff in the foyer acted very bravely in helping the victim.

“They have been able to drag him away and he was taken to the emergency department,” he told reporters at the scene.

Western Hospital acting CEO Russell Harrison said at this stage the alleged offender was not believed to have been a patient at the hospital.

The attack prompted the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation to call on the Victorian government to tighten security in the state’s public hospitals.

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Sleeping on a remote Ugandan island

The sky is overcast and lightly raining, and our open wooden fisherman’s boat is ominously leaking with every bumpy wave.

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We’re in the middle of nowhere on Uganda’s Lake Victoria and I’m now seriously regretting last night’s gin and tonics.

Finally, after an almost never-ending three-hour journey, we see a faint mass of green land on the increasingly clear horizon. This is our destination: a tiny and almost untouched island located right in the middle of the world’s second largest freshwater lake.

My first impression of Banda Island is of a strip of yellow sand, a whimsical white cottage, and a middle-aged man surrounded by a bunch of dogs.

The island’s caretaker, David, greets my partner and I with a warm smile, a helping hand, and a faint Australian accent.

It doesn’t take long to reach our accommodation. It’s literally five metres from the shoreline.

There are several accommodation options on the budget-friendly Banda, including basic beach cabins, dormitories and traditional camping. Our “lazy camping” selection features an already pitched two-man tent with a blow-up mattress, which turns out to be surprisingly comfortable. We quickly dump our backpacks and take a quick tour of our home for the next two nights.

Banda feels wild, remote and almost oddly quiet. There are only a few paths and the tropical forest is largely overgrown.

As dusk approaches, we head back to the beach and get chatting to the island’s other travellers around a bonfire. There are only six other tourists on Banda and they all seem well travelled, intelligent and very interested in Africa.

Just as it gets really dark, David calls out to us from the cottage to come inside for dinner and drinks. It turns out that Banda’s only resort comes with home-cooked meals that rival any restaurant in Uganda’s hectic capital, Kampala.

The night’s meal is fish freshly caught from Lake Victoria. It comes with a side of salad and animated conversation with David. After a while, conversation turns into a game of Jenga and trivia. Hanging out in the cottage feels a bit like school camp, albeit with adults and ice cold beers.

We eventually head back to our tent with David’s torch. There is no electricity or internet on Banda, and we quietly talk in the dark before falling asleep. I wake the next morning to the soft sounds of forest birds. It takes me a while to remember that I’m in a plastic two-man tent in the middle of Uganda.

My partner and I sleepily stumble to the cottage for fruit, eggs and coffee. As he serves breakfast, David tells us that all the other guests left Banda on a boat that morning. My mouth automatically grins as I realise that it’s just us, a few resort staff, and a disconnected fishing village. A few hours later, David takes us for a trek to the other side of Banda to meet these fisherman and their families.

As we walk up muddy hills and dodge cows, our talkative guide tells us about his decision to become caretaker on Banda.

“This place has got so much potential,” David says.

David hopes to turn Banda into a self-sustaining community, with help from staff and travelling volunteers.

He’s on his way to achieving this dream.

The resort features a water purification system and there are plans for a toilet compost system and solar-powered boats for taking travellers to the mainland.

When we reach the fishing village, a huge group of children come screaming out of huts and quickly demand piggy-backs. We hang out with the children by the ocean, and even play a few games of pool with some fisherman.

A few hours later, we’re back on the beach at dusk with beers, blankets, and some trashy books borrowed from the resort’s guest library.

We end our second night around the dinner table with David and two packs of playing cards. He’s an obliging host that’s patient enough to teach two novices to play a game called canasta. We take our new card skills back to Australia, along with special memories about camping on a secluded patch of Ugandan paradise.

IF YOU GO

GETTING THERE: Banda Island is a three-hour boat ride from Kasenyi in Western Uganda. Travellers should organise transport details in advance with Banda Island (bandaisland.biz.

Emirates fly from Australia to Uganda’s international airport, Entebbe.

STAYING THERE: Staying on Banda Island costs between $30 and $50 per night per person, depending on whether you camp or sleep in a beach cabin. Rates include all meals.

PLAYING THERE: Activities include volleyball, boating and swimming. If you ask nicely, David may take you to Banda Island’s fishing village or teach you how to play canasta.

* The writer travelled at her own expense.

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‘Whistleblower’ fired from US nuclear site

Whistleblower Donna Busche, who raised safety concerns at the United States’ most polluted nuclear weapons production site, has been fired from her job at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

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Busche’s complaints are part of a string of whistleblower and other claims related to the design and safety of an unfinished waste treatment plant at Hanford.

Busche, 50, said she was called into the office on Tuesday morning and told she was being fired for cause.

“I turned in my key and turned in my badge and left the building,” Busche said in a telephone interview from Richland.

Busche worked for URS Corp, which is helping build a $US12 billion ($A13.32 billion) plant to turn Hanford’s most dangerous wastes into glass.

Construction of the plant has been halted over safety concerns.

Busche has filed complaints with the federal government, alleging she has suffered retaliation since filing her original safety complaint in 2011.

Hanford was created by the federal US government in the 1940s as part of the top-secret project to build the atomic bomb, and cleanup costs today run about $US2 billion annually.

Central to the cleanup is dealing with 53 million gallons of highly radioactive waste left from decades of plutonium production for the country’s nuclear weapons arsenal.

The waste is stored in 177 aging underground tanks, many of which have leaked, threatening the groundwater and the neighbouring Columbia River.

The US Department of Energy is investigating Busche’s safety concerns, while the US Department of Labor is reviewing her complaints about retaliation and harassment.

URS Corp said in a statement it encourages employees to raise safety concerns.

“We do not agree with her assertions that she suffered retaliation or was otherwise treated unfairly,” URS said, adding Busche was fired for reasons unrelated to the safety concerns.

“Ms Busche’s allegations will not withstand scrutiny.”

A one-of-a-kind plant is being built to convert the waste into glasslike logs for permanent disposal underground, but it has faced numerous technical problems, delays and cost increases.

Busche is the second Hanford whistleblower to be fired by URS in recent months.

Walter Tamosaitis, who also raised safety concerns about the plant, was fired in October after 44 years of employment.

Busche, who worked at the plant for nearly five years, said she had been expecting to be fired for the past month.

“Right now I will take a deep breath, file for unemployment and start another lawsuit for wrongful termination,” Busche said.

She declined to reveal her salary but called herself a “highly compensated executive”.

Busche was a manager of environmental and nuclear safety at the waste treatment plant construction site, and her primary job was ensuring compliance with dangerous waste permits and safety documents.

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Ex-cop arrested over French Alps murders

French police have arrested a suspect described as a former policeman over the 2012 killings of a British-Iraqi family and a cyclist.

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Checks on the 48-year-old man’s phone “put him in the zone at the moment” of the murders of the al-Hilli family and the cyclist in the French Alps on September 5, 2012, another source says.

He says several arms were seized at a raid in the man’s home following his arrest.

Another raid was carried out on a house in the nearby village of Lathuile.

Ballistic tests will be carried out to determine if these weapons were used.

Annecy prosecutor Eric Maillaud said the man, from the Haute-Savoie region, was placed in formal custody and detained following the release in November of an identikit image of a mysterious motorcyclist seen near where the quadruple murder took place.

A source close to the case said the man, a father of three, was a former policeman from the town of Menthon-Saint-Bernard.

Menthon-Saint-Bernar Mayor Antoine de Menthon says the man had been forced to quit his quarters after the sacking. But he refused to give details of the man’s age or identity.

A source close to the investigation says police carried out a search of the man’s home in Tailoires in the presence of his girlfriend.

Maillaud said the man bore a “strong resemblance” to the man in the identikit image.

It is the first time anyone has been arrested in France in connection with the case, which has stumped investigators despite major efforts on both sides of the English Channel.

Saad al-Hilli, a 50-year-old Iraqi-born British tourist in France, was gunned down in September 2012 along with his 47-year-old wife Iqbal and her 74-year-old mother in a woodland car park close to the village of Chevaline in the hills above Lake Annecy.

Each was shot multiple times in their British-registered BMW estate car and more than two dozen spent bullet casings were found near the vehicle.

The couple’s two daughters, aged seven and four at the time, survived the gruesome attack, but the older girl was shot and badly beaten.

The younger girl survived unscathed after hiding under her mother’s skirts for hours after the killings, initially escaping the notice of police.

A 45-year-old French cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, was also killed after apparently stumbling upon the scene.

Investigators were looking at an inheritance dispute between the two brothers but Tuesday’s arrest focuses attention on the possibility of a local killer.

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Winter link to family ‘carguments’

The number of family in-vehicle rows – or “carguments” – rises during winter months.

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That’s according to a poll of 1,300 drivers by the RAC in the UK, which has found that as many as 54 per cent of motorists say they have arguments in the colder months.

A total of 15 per cent of drivers and passengers say they argue more in the car than anywhere else, with 19 per cent saying the mere act of driving left them stressed and angry, and 14 per cent feeling cooped up in a car.

The poll also showed that drivers argued most with their partners, followed by their children and parents.

One of the main causes was disagreements over the best route to take, followed by attempts to stop children squabbling.

Talking with passengers was seen as the biggest distraction, with as many as 21 per cent of drivers saying they feared a heated discussion could have caused an accident.

Almost one in five (19 per cent) think the act of driving itself causes them to get stressed and angry, while for 14 per cent it is the fact they are in a confined space and cannot escape when they get agitated.

Other common reasons for car spats include arguing over the best route (13 per cent) and trying to stop children fighting (6 per cent).

In many cases (43 per cent), “carguments” break out with partners followed then by children (10 per cent) and parents (5 per cent).

RAC spokesman Simon Williams says arguments can break out between family and friends at any time “but in the winter, where journeys can be delayed or take longer as a result of having to … take alternative routes, it can be particularly stressful.

“Many ‘carguments’ actually begin well before getting into the car and just get worse as a result of being in a confined space together,” he said.

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