American’s Death Still A Greek Mystery, 65 Years Later

Source: npr

CBS correspondent George Polk and his wife, Rea, in 1948, shortly before his murder on May 8 of that year in Greece.

CBS correspondent George Polk and his wife, Rea, in 1948, shortly before his murder on May 8 of that year in Greece.


George Polk may have been born to make history. He was descended from the American president who led the conquest of Texas and much of the Southwest. But for George Polk, Texas was too small, says his brother William.

In the 1930s, “Texas was a little backwater at the time, and very few people even knew where other countries were — what the names were, what the languages were that were spoken,” William Polk says. “And he had a tremendous sense of curiosity.”

"The Greek Civil War was a kind of precursor to the American involvement in Vietnam," says William Polk, younger brother of George Polk.

“The Greek Civil War was a kind of precursor to the American involvement in Vietnam,” says William Polk, younger brother of George Polk.

Milbry Polk

So George Polk became a journalist, reporting from China, Japan and France. During World War II, he served as a fighter pilot in the Pacific and was badly wounded. After the war, he watched the trial of Nazi war criminals in Nuremberg, Germany.

“He had the remarkable experience of sitting just a few feet away from Hermann Goering and the various other leading Nazis,” William Polk says, whereas during the war, “he had been in a foxhole in Guadalcanal, where a Japanese soldier tried to kill him with a knife.”

George Polk was determined that the world not fall back into the grip of fascism, his brother says. And that’s one reason he was attracted to Greece, his base for broadcasting as the CBS radio correspondent for the Middle East.

A Gruesome Discovery

In the late 1940s, Greece was the front line of the Cold War. Communist guerrillas were fighting a right-wing government in a bloody civil war. More than 158,000 people died, and more than a million were displaced. Polk suspected Greek officials were, at the very least, stealing aid money from the United States.

“He found that what the Greek government at that time was doing, and what it was like, was not the kind of government he fought to save during World War II,” William Polk recalls.

The Greek government was so unhappy with George’s reports that they asked CBS to reassign him (CBS refused). He got death threats and was constantly followed. Undaunted, he traveled to the port of Thessaloniki in the embattled north. A few days later, a fisherman found his body floating in Salonica Bay.

He was blindfolded, hands and feet bound, with a bullet wound in the back of the head. George Polk was 34 years old and had been married to Rea Kokkonis, whom he’d met in Greece, for just seven months.

A Show Trial

The Greek government blamed his murder on the communist rebels. In a trial the following year, two were convicted in absentia. A third man, a journalist named Gregory Staktopoulos, confessed to involvement. But William Polk wasn’t buying it.

"The Greek justice system failed miserably in the Polk case," says retired prosecutor Athanasios Kafiris.

“The Greek justice system failed miserably in the Polk case,” says retired prosecutor Athanasios Kafiris.

Joanna Kakissis/NPR

“The trial was a joke,” he says. “The defense attorneys never raised any of the issues they could have raised. They never called witnesses they could have called. It was like a Soviet show trial.”

William Polk was then just 19 and had dropped out of Harvard to find out what really happened to his older brother. He wondered whether a secret organization called X may have been involved. Then he started getting death threats, too. And he received no help from Americans, who supported the Greek regime.

“The American government at that time said, OK, it’s corrupt, OK, it’s deceitful … but it’s our group,” he says. “We can’t deal with the communists.”

The U.S. government seemed content with the verdict. And the man accused of involvement in the Polk murder, Staktopoulos, went to jail for more than a decade, until he was pardoned. But until his death in 1998, he never stopped professing his innocence. Staktopoulos also wrote a memoir that alarmed writer and Princeton University professor Edmund Keeley.

“He described in detail how he’d been mistreated, how he’d been beaten, how he’d been held in police headquarters in Salonica under terrible circumstances,” Keeley says. “He was forced to make a number of confessions, and the confessions changed as [the authorities] found new evidence that did not corroborate what they’d made him confess before, so he had to confess again. It was clear he had been railroaded into confessing things that he hadn’t done.”

Searching For Exoneration

Keeley wrote the definitive book on the Polk murder and investigation, , published in 1990. Several more books on the case, in both Greek and English, have come out since then.

The latest is by a retired prosecutor named . He’d first heard about Polk when he was a sixth-grader in a rural school in the Peloponnese.

“All we knew about the story then was that communists had killed an American journalist,” says Kafiris, who now lives in Athens.

As the case faded away, ignored by a succession of Greek governments, Kafiris never questioned this narrative — until 2002, while serving as a prosecutor on the Greek Supreme Court. The widow of Staktopoulos asked Kafiris to help her exonerate her husband. It was the family’s fourth appeal.

It did not take long for Kafiris to conclude that Staktopoulos — and the other two men convicted for Polk’s murder — were scapegoats. But the Supreme Court, once again, rejected the appeal. He resigned from his post as prosecutor in protest.

Kafiris, now 75, is trying again. He’s enlisted the help of another prosecutor as well as his publisher, Angelos Sideratos, who’s trying to make a documentary about the still-unsolved Polk case.

Kafiris says Greece must right this wrong and face its past. The social turmoil in Greece today is not just a product of the deep economic depression, he says. It has its origins in a bloody civil war that pitted families and friends against each other.

“What’s happening in our country today is directly related to the civil war,” he says. “The rise of neo-Nazis like Golden Dawn, for example, that’s a result of deep hate that still exists after so many years.”

William Polk is now 84 years old and a of the Middle East. He agrees that overturning the verdicts in his brother’s murder case could be cathartic for Greece. But he doesn’t expect it will help him find out what happened to his brother.

“The documentation has now all been destroyed, illegally I should say. It was supposed to be in the national archives, but it has been ‘lost,’ ” he says.

William Polk says that would have galled his brother, who believed that “the message is the really important thing. If the public doesn’t receive the message, it cannot be responsible as a citizen. And therefore democracy and freedom simply will wither away.”

George Polk is buried in Athens. Shortly after his murder, the George Polk Awards, honoring brave journalism that lays bare the truth, were named in his honor.

It’s all Greek at Carss Bush Park Festival 2013

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    Pictures: John Veage

    Pictures: John Veage

    Pictures: John Veage

     Mary ''Effie

    Mary ”Effie” Coustas. Pictures: John Veage

    Pictures: John Veage

    Picture: John Veage

An estimated 40,000 people attended the annual Gymea Village Fair on Sunday – a record, according to organisers.

The turnout was even more impressive considering that the weekend shaped up as a  Super Sunday for fairs across St George and Sutherland Shire including the Greek festival at Carss Park, Halloween celebrations at Kyeemah, as well as the Food and Groove Festival at Bexley the previous day.

Aussies might be keen on yelling ‘‘oi’’ oi’’ ‘‘oi’’, but around this  time of year Greeks like to mark ohi day.

The ‘‘ohi’’ stands for ‘‘no’’ symbolising Greek resistance during World War II to the forces of Italy’s Mussolini.

The Greek commemorative day marked on Sunday  added a lighter side to the anniversary when an estimated crowd of about 20,000 people came to mark the occasion with the Being Greek festival at Carrs Bush Park.

The best true stories from the fake world of wrestling

Source: News

Wrestling legend Uncle Elmer had a real wedding to his bride Joyce live on WWE in 1985. Courtesy WWE.


John Cena is one of the biggest current day wrestlers. Photo: Supplied

John Cena is one of the biggest current day wrestlers. Photo: Supplied

“AN honest man can sell a fake diamond if he says it is a fake diamond, ain’t it?”

Today’s kingpin CEO of professional wrestling, WWE owner Vince McMahon, would agree with that sentiment. But he didn’t say it. The quote belongs to 1920s wrestling promoter Jack Pfefer. Even around the turn of last century, when legitimate wrestling was vying with boxing as spectator sport, promoters knew the truth: wrestling is boring. Two guys lying on a mat, entangled for minutes at a time. Who’d pay to watch that?

So they faked it. Slaps across the face that missed by inches. Melodramatic headbutts that sent 300-pound bruisers flying onto their backs. Sleeper holds, pile-drivers, the suplex body slam that hoisted complicit doomed wrestlers off their feet – and lifted fans out of their chairs in excitement.”

In his new book The Squared Circle: Life, Death and Professional Wrestling, author David Shoemaker tells the history of the fabulism – but also notes that some of the best stories are the ones that weren’t faked.

The NY Post asked Shoemaker to pick his favourite true tales from professional wrestling:

1. Doctors use Andre the Giant’s legendary booze intake to determine how much anaesthesia to give him

As with everything involving the gargantuan Frenchman, the myth is indistinguishable from the reality, but the legend of Andre the Giant’s drinking almost overshadows his wrestling triumphs.

There are numerous stories of his drinking feats: 119 beers in one sitting, 156 beers in one sitting, a case of wine on a four-hour bus ride, a $40,000 bar tab while filming “The Princess Bride,” an average of 7,000 calories of alcohol intake a day.

When Vince McMahon asked Andre to come back to the WWF as a villain in 1987 to feud with Hulk Hogan and headline WrestleMania III, Andre said that his back was too hurt for him to wrestle. McMahon was determined, though, so he paid for Andre to have surgery and let him rehab at the McMahon family home.

Legend has it that the anaesthesiologist responsible for putting Andre under had never before had a giant for a patient and had no idea how much anaesthesia to give him. He ended up asking how much booze he normally drank and used that as a guide for his dosage. “It usually takes two litres of vodka just to make me feel warm inside,” Andre quipped.


Andre the Giant died in 1993. Photo: Supplied

Andre the Giant died in 1993. Photo: Supplied

2. Captain Lou Albano gets run out of Chicago by the mob

Before he became the wacky, rubber-band-wearing manager famous as a part of the WWF’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Era (and for playing Cyndi Lauper’s dad in her “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” video), Captain Lou was a wrestler in his own right. He paired up with Tony Altomare to form The Sicilians, a tag team presenting itself as Mafia tough guys. While they were wrestling as villains in Chicago, they enraged fans with their tactics – and they also managed to infuriate the real-life Mafia.

In 1961, three members of the Chicago Outfit – supposedly including Tony Accardo – paid The Sicilians a visit and told them to lay off because their antics were giving the mob a bad name. They must have made their point – The Sicilians left town surreptitiously, hightailing it back to the Northeast.

3. Uncle Elmer gets married on WWF television – for real

Usually it’s safe to assume that what happens on wrestling TV shows is fake. But when the October 1985 wedding of Uncle Elmer, a rotund, snaggle-toothed, overalls-clad rube who was the “uncle” of Hillbilly Jim was hyped as a special attraction on Saturday Night’s Main Event, it was even more ridiculous than it sounded on its face – it was a real wedding between Elmer (real name Stan Frazier) and his fiancee, Joyce Stazko.

It’s unclear why Joyce agreed to have her nuptials performed in front of TV cameras – and with her husband-to-be playing the role of a dimwitted hog farmer – but undoubtedly Vince McMahon thought the wedding would make the show a smash hit.

Barnyard animals filled the ring, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper interrupted the proceedings with a string of insults, announcer Jesse “The Body” Ventura heckled the couple over the PA and the whole crowd laughed hysterically through – nonetheless Elmer and Joyce managed to make it through. They walked out of the arena that night as man and wife, and the marriage lasted for six years. Presumably they left the pigs at ringside.

4. Harley Race pulls a gun on Hulk Hogan

In the mid-’80s, McMahon’s WWF went national, threatening the status quo of the wrestling world. Until then, numerous promotions were set up across the country, operating independently under the banner of the NWA.

So, when McMahon started airing national WWF shows and touring his troupe into the cities normally controlled by these territorial groups, the old guard was none too happy. It wasn’t till they toured into the long-time NWA stronghold of Kansas City, though, that the enmity reached a boiling point.

Supposedly, Hulk Hogan was in the dressing room when a local wrestler named Harley Race stormed in. Race walked up to a seated Hogan and punched him, knocking him to the floor. When Hogan sheepishly said that he was surprised Harley wasn’t carrying a gun, Race reached into this jacket and pulled out a .38 Special. Nobody got shot, but Race had made his point. Hogan later claimed that Race actually tried to burn down the WWF ring, though Race denies it. Like most other regional promoters, Race lost a lot of money when the WWF took over, and to make back the money he lost, he ended up going to work for McMahon just a couple of years after the gun incident.


Hulk Hogan is now 60 years old. Photo: AP Photo/Chris Carlson

Hulk Hogan is now 60 years old. Photo: AP Photo/Chris Carlson

5. Yukon Eric loses an ear to Killer Kowalski

In October 1952, Yukon Eric – a beloved, brawny mountain man, was fighting the nefarious Wladek Kowalski in front of an electric Montreal crowd. The two rivals were deep into their match when Kowalski climbed the ropes to deliver his signature knee drop.

He landed on the side of Eric’s head, accidentally clipped one of Eric’s cauliflowered ears – the grotesquely bloated and hardened ears wrestlers are famous for – and accidentally tore it off the side of his head.

The fans went nuts, and when the papers the next day confirmed the mauling, outrage grew to a fever pitch. The promoter feared for Kowalski’s personal safety, lest some livid fan decide to exact some vigilante justice. So it was suggested to Kowalski that he visit Eric in the hospital to give the appearance of contrition. Kowalski agreed – he and Eric were friends in real life, after all.

There was a reporter from the local paper there covering the plight of Eric, and when Kowalski got into the hospital room, the sight of his “foe” in a ridiculous full-head bandage made him laugh.

“I swear, the first thing I thought of was Humpty Dumpty on the wall,” Kowalski later said. Eric laughed right along, but when the reporter heard the laughter from the hall, he only heard Kowalski’s booming voice, and the headline the next day said that Kowalski showed up only to laugh in Eric’s face.

It only confirmed the fans’ revulsion toward the villain. Suddenly Kowalski had a new nickname – “Killer” – and a new persona as a masochist. Real injures sell tickets, though, and after that, Eric and Kowalski were drawing giant crowds all over the country.

6. Randy Savage kept Miss Elizabeth under lock and key

“Macho Man” Randy Savage was one of the biggest wrestling stars of the 80s and 90s, and his on-screen character was famous for being more than a little nutty, obsessed with treachery and sedition, and overly protective of his lady friend, Miss Elizabeth. Any other wrestler who gave her undue attention – from George “The Animal” Steele to Hulk Hogan – was deemed an enemy. In real life, Savage and Liz were married and, as it turns out, the protectiveness was more than just show. Hogan himself has said that Savage would make Elizabeth keep her gaze fixed on the ground backstage so she wouldn’t make eye contact with any of the other guys, and he made sure she had her own locked dressing room to keep her separate from the fray. It’s also frequently reported that as his obsession deepened, he would lock their home – from the outside – when he left, sometimes shutting her inside for days at a time.


Randy Savage was known as the 'Macho Man,' and died in 2011. Photo: AP Photo/WWE

Randy Savage was known as the ‘Macho Man,’ and died in 2011. Photo: AP Photo/WWE

7. The Spider Lady (a k a The Fabulous Moolah) steals Wendy Richter’s title – for real

Negotiating a contract could be hell in the WWF.

On Nov. 17, 1985, female superstar Wendy Richter was in the middle of salary talks with the WWF when she was set to defend her WWF women’s title against a masked opponent named The Spider Lady. But when the masked challenger made her way to the ring, Richter – and the fans – could clearly tell it was Richter’s long-time rival, The Fabulous Moolah, under the mask.

While most people probably thought it was just another storyline doublecross, Moolah’s arrival was a legitimate shock to Richter. As The Spider Lady enters the ring, you can see she isn’t acting.

She tries to wrench off Moolah’s mask to expose her, but to no avail – Moolah muscled Richter into submission, and the complicit referee counted a quick three. After the bell, Richter yanked off the mask and exposed Moolah, attacked her, and tried for a pin of her own, but it was too late.

It’s only when the announcer climbed into the ring that Richter realised it was all over. “Ladies and gentlemen,” legendary voice of the WWF Howard Finkel said, “the winner of this bout and new World Wrestling Federation Ladies Champion: The Spider? The Fabulous Moolah?”

Richter was livid, but there was nothing to be done. Moolah had the title back, and Richter would never get her new contract. She was never seen in the WWF again.

8. Bruiser Brody gets killed by a co-worker in Puerto Rico

Bruiser Brody was one of the biggest draws before the WWF went national – a 6-foot-plus wild man with a curly, black mane and a penchant for violence. Like many stars of the era – and particularly the monstrous sort of stars – he travelled the world plying his brutal trade.

In 1988, Brody was in Puerto Rico for a big card full of American talent. Before his match, he was called into the locker room shower by Jose Gonzales – a k a Invader No. 1 – a wrestler and close confidant of the promoter (and star) of Puerto Rico, Carlos Colon.

Suddenly, the other wrestlers in the locker room heard Brody moan and looked up to see Gonzales holding a bloody knife.

Brody was a notoriously difficult person to work with, declining to lose any time he didn’t feel like it, but even taken in the extreme, this seemed like a shocking means of working out business affairs.

When paramedics got there, they couldn’t move the enormous Brody, so fellow wrestler Tony Atlas carried him to the ambulance, but it was too late: He died at the hospital.

Gonzalez was charged with murder, but the charges were reduced before trial, and neither Mantel nor Atlas nor any other American wrestler on hand that night was brought back to San Juan to testify. Gonzalez claimed to have been acting in self- defence, and after Colon, a local hero without equal, testified in his defence, Gonzalez was acquitted.


David Shoemaker’s The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling (Gotham) is out this week.

New creatures found in Cape York’s ‘lost world’

Source: News

A new species of leaf-tailed gecko sits on a tree trunk in this Cape York rainforest. Picture: Supplied

A new species of leaf-tailed gecko sits on a tree trunk in this Cape York rainforest. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

SCIENTISTS have discovered a lost world of unknown creatures in a rainforest perched on massive boulders in a remote part of Cape York in Queensland’s north.

Surveys have previously been conducted on the millions of black granite boulders piled hundreds of metres high around the base of Cape Melville, north of Cooktown.

But the rainforest has remained largely unexplored, fortressed by massive walls of boulders.

In March, James Cook University’s Dr Conrad Hoskin and National Geographic photographer and Harvard University researcher Dr Tim Laman led a research team that was choppered in to explore the area.

Within several days they found three species previously unknown to science: a leaf-tailed gecko, a golden-coloured skink, and a boulder-dwelling frog.


A new species of boulder frog found among the boulders of the Cape Melville Range. Picture: Supplied

A new species of boulder frog found among the boulders of the Cape Melville Range. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

“The top of Cape Melville is a lost world,” Dr Hoskin said. “Finding three new, obviously distinct vertebrates would be surprising enough in somewhere poorly explored like New Guinea, let alone in Australia, a country we think we’ve explored pretty well.

“They’ve been isolated there for millennia, evolving into distinct species in their unique rocky environment.”

Dr Hoskin described the findings as the discovery of a lifetime.

The highlight of the expedition was the discovery of the “primitive-looking” Cape Melville Leaf-tailed Gecko of which its new scientific name – Saltuarius eximius – means exceptional or exquisite.


Herpetologist Conrad Hoskin with a new species of leaf-tailed gecko. Picture: Supplied

Herpetologist Conrad Hoskin with a new species of leaf-tailed gecko. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

Intriguing features of the gecko are its huge eyes and long and slender body and limbs – most likely adaptations to life in the dimly lit boulder fields.

Patrick Couper, Curator of Reptiles and Frogs at the Queensland Museum, says the gecko is the strangest new species he’s seen in his 26-year career as a herpetologist.

“That this gecko was hidden away in a small patch of rainforest on top of Cape Melville is truly remarkable,” he said.

Scientists are hopeful future expeditions will reveal further secrets.


Conrad Hoskin holds a new species of Shade Skink (Saproscincus saltus). Picture: Supplied

Conrad Hoskin holds a new species of Shade Skink (Saproscincus saltus). Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

Farmers happy to be heard – Government needs to listen Joint release with Senator John Madigan

Source: NickXenophon

Following the success of yesterday’s Farming Forum in Beaufort, senators John Madigan and Nick Xenophon are looking forward to holding similar events across regional Victoria and South Australia in the future.

The day provided local farmers the opportunity to raise any issues they saw as important to the future viability of their industry, with a common theme being that both state and federal governments aren’t doing enough to assist food producers.

Key issues that need to be addressed immediately are: clearer labeling laws; a reduction of bureaucratic red tape; the supermarket duopoly of Coles and Woolworths; fair trade, not free trade; and a greater understanding of life on the land by city-centric government departments.

“Many people spoke about how their children had left the farm, never to return, because of the difficulty in making a decent dollar in a sector where successive governments have favoured multinational companies and supermarket lobbyists, rather than local food producers,” Senator Madigan said.

“I empathise with these people and can only imagine how frustrated they must be with politicians.

“Yesterday’s event will not be a one-off. Attendees were thankful that they had finally been given an opportunity to air their grievances to relevant stakeholders, and I look forward to giving more Australian farmers a voice in the coming months and years.”

Senator Xenophon told attendees that he would continue to fight for a fairer go for Australian farmers.

“Australian farmers have been thrown to the wolves of free trade – our farmers have been abandoned by successive governments and left to fend for themselves in an uneven playing field,” Senator Xenophon said.

“Unless there is urgent action, there won’t be a new generation of farmers to replace this one as they retire or walk off the land.

“We need to look at reinstituting a rural development bank – as we used to have in Australia – to provide long-term, sustainable finance for farmers.”

Speakers on the day were BeyondBlue ambassador Tony McManus, VFF vice-president David Jochinke, DEPI regional director (Grampians) Brendan Roughead, Pyreenees Shire councillor and farmer Robert Vance, and legal specialist Tom Moloney.

Senators Madigan and Xenophon are co-founders of the Australian Manufacturing and Farming Program:

A Wonderworking Icon of the Archangel Michael Weeps in Rhodes

Inhabitants of Rhodes are talking about a miracle, having seen on Saturday morning an icon of the Archangel Michael weeping in the Sacred Church of the Archangel Michael in the Old Cemetery of Ialyssos.

At 2:00 PM Metropolitan Kyrillos of Rhodes went to the place himself where the icon can be found following reports from the faithful, in order to determine if this was a miracle or some other event.

The Metropolitan, after indeed verifying there were tears on the face of the Archangel, asked for the icon to be moved from the place it was hanging.

They then examined the back side of the icon as well as the wall on which it rested to determine if there was moisture which passed on to the icon.

Having established that this was impossible, the Metropolitan of Rhodes testified that this was in fact a miracle, and he asked that the icon be brought to the Sacred Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos in Ialisou for public veneration, as well as to see if a change in environment would halt the phenomenon.

“We will move it to the big church to see how the phenomenon evolves,” Metropolitan Kyrillos told the faithful who had gathered in the small chapel.

The first to see the icon weeping were women who went on Saturday morning to open the church and who in turn informed the vicar of the church.

As the vicar, Fr. Apostolos, informed that the icon was constructed in 1896 and had recently undergone maintenance by the archaeological department.

As of today, the icon continues to weep in its new environment, sometimes stopping but then continuing again, and it is even reported that a second icon of the Archangel Michael is weeping from the original church as well. Large crowds have gathered to venerate the icon and have been anointed with the holy myrrh.

In the video below, the moment can be seen when the Metropolitan was investigating the icon as well as the testimonials of the residents.

Fire insurers doing right thing: NSW bushfire recovery co-ordinator Phil Koperberg

Source: News

NSW bushfire recovery co-ordinator Phil Koperberg has praised the response of insurance companies, saying he has heard no reports of difficulties so far.

Mr Koperberg, the former NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner, says insurers have been timely in assisting customers among the 208 victims of this month’s fires.

“They’ve been more than reasonably helpful in the main, and I’ve not heard of any exceptions,’ he told Fairfax Radio on Monday.

“… they have been very, very responsive, I know that a number of claims have already been settled.”

The real problem was with residents who were under-insured or un-insured and now needed aid to rebuild, he said.

“These people of course also need help and are entitled to help and it’s a complex issue,” he said.

Mr Koperberg said the bushfire recovery centre had information available on accommodation options and aid.

“Things are being made as relatively easy as they can be in extraordinarily difficult circumstances,” he said.

Damage from the NSW bushfires has been estimated at $138 million but the Insurance Council (ICA) of Australia on Friday said it expected the figure to increase with more inspections.

The state’s major fires, which are in the Blue Mountains and southern highlands, have all been downgraded to “advice” level warnings, under cooler, wetter weather conditions.

Calls for chemical giant Orica to release 20-year-old report exposing a kilogram of mercury leakages a day

Source: SMH

Residential outrage may spark an independent review of potential mercury contamination near Orica’s Botany site.

Chemical giant Orica has tried to keep secret a potentially damaging report into whether the dangerous metal mercury might have been leaking off site from its former chlor-alkali plant, which it operated at the Botany Industrial Park for almost 60 years.

The report, written by two University of Sydney professors 20 years ago, only recently came to light when a former Orica employee revealed its existence. It was written after revelations that about a kilogram of mercury a day was being lost from the site.

A company spokesman said the secrecy was because ‘Orica has concerns the report must be seen in the correct context’.

It is understood that the report, a copy of which is now in the possession of the Environment Protection Authority, concluded that the mercury was going down the drain which ran from the Botany site to Malabar.

The secrecy has sparked outrage among residents, who had to fight to get the EPA to agree to an independent review of potential mercury contamination around their homes, after being repeatedly told there was no reason to believe the situation needed investigation. They have called for the report to be released for public scrutiny.
Long-time resident and campaigner Len Mahoney said it was ”absolutely astounding” Orica could withhold information that could be critical to the health and safety of residents. ”What gives them the right? We have the right to know, and it makes you question what else they are holding that we don’t know about,” he said.

Labor’s leader in the upper house, Luke Foley, has threatened to use a parliamentary call for papers to order the EPA to release the document.
Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi said: ”Given Orica’s toxic waste legacy, it is imperative that they fully disclose all activities past and present likely to endanger the health of the surrounding community.”

Orica expressed concerns about giving a copy to the EPA and did so on the strict condition that the report be viewed only by the EPA and a panel set up to consult on an independent review of potential off-site mercury pollution.
The EPA told panel members the document could be viewed at its offices but its contents had to be kept confidential.

NSW EPA chief environmental regulator Mark Gifford denied it had agreed to secrecy but said: ”It is the EPA’s practice to not release third party documents without permission from the owner.”

A company spokesman said the secrecy was because ”Orica has concerns the report must be seen in the correct context” and that the latest risk assessments of the mercury contamination – which have been approved by the EPA – considered 30 more up-to-date reports.

He said the report recommended improvements for effluent treatment to ensure compliance with the then Sydney Water Board’s requirements, and the majority of those recommendations were adopted.
A spokesman for Environment Minister Robyn Parker said the report would be made public after the review was completed.

The document, titled ”Review of the mercury pollution abatement programme at ICI Operations Botany” by W.A. Davies and R.G.H. Prince, dated October 1991, was written after Orica, then known as ICI, tried to reassure the public in a 1990 newspaper ad that it was reducing the amount of mercury going down the sewer pipes.

The sewer led to Sydney Water’s Malabar treatment plant, where it was disposed either by going into the ocean at Malabar headland before 1990, or subsequently into the deep ocean outfall, or into sludge waste deposited to authorised landfill.

The consumer price index for the September quarter confirmed Australia’s annual inflation rate at 2.2 per cent

Source: BusinessSpectator

The consumer price index for the September quarter confirmed Australia’s annual inflation rate at 2.2 per cent. It is yet another low outcome, locking in another reading where inflation has been within the target band for the Reserve Bank of Australia.

While the wages data are not due for release until next month, it is all but certain that they will exceed the 2.2 per cent inflation rate (the Labour Price Index will probably rise 3 per cent or a touch more). This will lock in another year of rising real wages.

Indeed, for more than a decade, Australian workers have enjoyed rising real wages, which has seen cost of living pressures continuously ease and purchasing power rise – lifting Australian’s living standards to among the highest of any country in the world.

The 2.2 per cent inflation rate is, as always, made up of a very diverse range of price changes, both up and down, and some of these are worth digging into to see how the average consumers’ purchasing power is changing.

The items within the CPI that recorded some big price rises over the past year are probably obvious.

Tobacco prices jumped 9.2 per cent, which in large part is due to the higher government excise. Chicken prices rose 4.5 per cent while egg prices were 3.2 per cent higher, proving that the chicken came first? The price of breakfast cereals was up a healthy 4.3 per cent.

Utilities prices continued to power higher, as everyone knows. Property rates jumped 7.9 per cent, while water and sewerage costs rose 9.3 per cent, electricity was up a sizzling 6.1 per cent and gas rose 5.8 per cent. Childcare prices also surged, increasing 8.8 per cent. Medical and hospital services prices rose a solid 5.6 per cent.

Amid all of this, petrol prices rose 8.3 per cent, while urban transport fares were up 3.7 per cent. Domestic holiday travel costs rose 6.8 per cent. Education prices rose 5.6 per cent, while insurance costs were 4 per cent higher.

These price changes suggest it has been tough if you are a car driving, sick, chicken-loving smoker at university with a child who has a penchant for some fancy muesli.

But of course, no one is that narrow in their consumption spending. There were a range of items where prices fell. Indeed, there were some quite spectacular price falls within the CPI over the past year.

Lamb and goat prices dropped 10.6 per cent, vegetable prices are down 10.7 per cent while fruit prices are 5.7 per cent lower. Bring on that roast lamb with baked vegetables and buttered beans with fruit salad for desert.

Beef and veal prices were also 3.6 per cent lower, while cheese prices slid 2.8 per cent. Even coffee and tea prices were 0.5 per cent lower.

Also falling was the price of women’s clothes, down 2.2 per cent for the year, while children’s clothes fell 2.3 per cent. Furniture prices fell out of bed, dropping 3.9 per cent, while household appliance prices were 5.2 per cent lower.

The price of new cars continued to fall, dropping 3.2 per cent. At the same time, audio, visual and computer equipment prices declined 11.3 per cent. Games, toys and hobbies dropped 2.8 per cent.

If you happen to be a big-eating, hi-tech women with a strong bias to buying new clothes, fancy furniture, a new car and a love of Monopoly, Pictionary and fishing, your cost of living has actually fallen.

The point of all this is that the CPI basket of goods includes a vast array of items but in the end it is made up of the weighted average spending by the average household on that range of goods and services.

And there are always some items whose price goes up, sometimes a lot, and items whose price goes down, sometimes a lot.

The bottom line is that the Reserve Bank has, for 20 years now, ensured that on average, the annual inflation rate has been spot on 2.5 per cent, right in the middle of the target band.

This success for the Bank in having and meeting its inflation target remains an unappreciated success story of the reform agenda of the past 30 years. Not only has low inflation helped to boost living standards and wellbeing for most if not all Australians, it has allowed interest rates to remain low and relatively stable, which in itself has been a boon for business investment and consumer spending.

Long live low inflation, even if the components within the CPI record sharp divergences in price trends from time to time.

World’s tallest man Sultan Kosen gets married in Turkey

Source: News

The height difference between the pair is over two feet.

IT IS a good thing that opposites attract, otherwise Sultan Kosen might’ve had a hard time finding a woman of similar proportions to share his life with.

The world’s tallest man is 2.51 metres high, which is a good two feet and seven inches taller than his new bride, Merve Dibo.

The Turkish farmer was married in a ceremony at the weekend, after previously almost giving up hope he’d ever find love, the Daily Mail reports.

The Turkish farmer has married his lady love, Merve Dibo, from Syria.
He’s one of only 10 people in recorded history to top the eight feet mark. And he also holds the current Guinness World Record for the largest feet and hands on the planet.

Kosen’s gigantic wedding suit needed to be custom made, obviously. And his celebrity status in his home country meant the nuptials were a who’s who of Turkey.

Definitely worth Instagramming.
“Now I will have my own family and private life,” he said. “How unfortunate I could not find a suitable girl of my own size. My fiancee is over 1.75 meters tall, but I believe I’ve found the person for me.”

Kosen suffers from a rare disorder called pituitary gigantism, which causes his body to continually produce the growth hormone.

His condition is believed to have been caused by a tumour in the pituitary gland.

Doctors thought they had cured him in 2008 when they removed the tumour but he continued to grow by half an inch (1.27cm) a year.

Now medics say he has finally stopped growing.


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