October, 2018

The price of leaving the Rebels: know nothing and owe nothing

Rebels member Darren Wallace, 32, was shot dead in Picton. Photo: Facebook Rebels bikie gang members. Photo: Pamela Mirghani
Nanjing Night Net

If you owed nothing and knew little, your transition out of the club would be a lot easier.  It was when you held value that your path to “patch out” became risky.

That was the experience of a former Rebels bikie gang member who got out of the brotherhood and lived to tell the story.

Police believe his decision to leave the club is one now  also being taken by other Rebels members.

Among them is Rebels enforcer Ricky Ciano, who had his club tattoos removed and walked from the club.

Tevita Daunibau was also on the way out when he shot Rebels bikie member Darren Wallace in the chest outside a Picton petrol station on Wednesday.

As police then saturated the tiny town in the Macarthur region to hunt him down, Mr Daunibau calmly walked to a nearby creek and shot himself.

It was an unusual show of violence in a town content to co-exist with the Rebels presence.

“We know they are here but they don’t interfere,” one business owner said. “They just blend in.”

The former ADF soldier’s brazen display of violence is believed to be linked to his path out of the club.

Sources have told Fairfax Media Mr Wallace arranged to meet Mr Daunibau, potentially to talk about the terms under which Mr Daunibau would leave the Rebels.

It is believed Mr Daunibau was a member of the Macarthur chapter. The chapter’s conflict with the leadership had reached a point where it had split from the Rebels club entirely, sources said.

One former bikie who spoke to Fairfax Media on the condition of anonymity explained a member’s path out the door depended on knowledge, debts and any ill-will.

“I have seen a lot of people leave over the years but they knew nothing and owed nothing,” he said. “So there is no reason to waste your energy or your time on doing something you may get caught for. “

He said bikes given to incoming members, who were required to pay them off, were repossessed and colours handed in.

He also remembered one member being coughing up $10,000 to leave a chapter.

“He honoured the deal and was let go.”

However, hanging up the colours only to go on and wear the patch of another club would mean the former member would be targeted.

Sometimes the exits turned ugly. Last year eight Rebels – linked to the powerful Liverpool and Penrith chapters – were arrested after the alleged kidnapping and torture of a chapter leader. At the time police alleged the torture was part of a violent ritual for members who left the outlaw bikie club on bad terms.

The former Rebel said his time as a bikie – spanning years under Alex Vella’s rule – had “f–ked his life”.

Despite that, he could still remember the good aspects, including always having a fat wallet.

But the “downhill run” began when he looked at his colours hanging on his wardrobe one day and thought: “f–k, I’m not going to be here forever”.

Years later he was out.

He is not alone in believing the absence of Mr Vella’s leadership – “run a lot out of fear” – in the Rebels had crippled the club.

Police say the Rebels are now “less disciplined and less co-ordinated” as Mr Vella’s absence left a leadership vacuum.

Mr Vella was on holiday overseas last year when the federal government cancelled his Australian visa.

Not long after the Rebels long-standing sergeant-at-arms Simon Rasic died of a heart attack, adding to the club’s leadership woes.

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Strata contracts link Auburn’s mayor Le Lam to another councillor’s development

Le Lam … declined to comment. Photo: Andrew MearesThe mixed-up world of local politics and development in Auburn is even smaller than previously known.
Nanjing Night Net

The Herald has learnt that the mayor of Auburn, Le Lam, is paid to manage the strata for a development built by her current council ally and former mayor Cr Ronney Oueik​.

That’s a link she has never disclosed, despite recently voting on a development proposal that would have financially benefited Cr Oueik.

The former mayor confirmed his company had awarded the contract to Combined Real Estate, a company directed jointly by Cr Lam and her brother-in-law Minh Hua.

“My manager gave the job to Minh,” he said. “But that was six years ago [when the project finished]”.

It is not known how much money the contract is worth to Cr Lam; she said she was not involved in the company’s strata management division. But the building’s strata levy is believed to run to $1600 a year. It has 40 apartments.

But Cr Oueik denied the mayor should have declared any potential conflict of interest.

“Let me tell you about the council and how it works,” he said. “All jobs over 20 million [in value go to a state government panel for approval, not council]. All of my jobs are nothing less than 20”.

But in September, Cr Lam voted with her colleagues to approve Mr Oueik’s bid to modify plans for a 100-apartment complex.

The new plans allowed him to convert one penthouse into four extra two-storey units.

Cr Oueik denied the development was financially significant and said he intended to live in one of the apartments himself.

He paid the council about $1 million as a development contribution in exchange for approval, a not uncommon practice.

Cr Oueik is not the only councillor whose developments have awarded the mayor’s company a potentially lucrative strata contract.

Earlier this week, a court heard Cr Lam’s Combined Real Estate was the party responsible for managing a development built by her controversial colleague Salim Mehajer.

A cleaner, Anping Yan, appeared in court on Wednesday to claim he was owed up to $25,000 by Cr Mehajer for a backlog of cleaning work on two projects on John Street in Lidcombe.

Cr Mehajer’s defence highlighted just how close business relationships are on the council. He told the cleaner to re-direct his suit to a company owned by Cr Lam, who managed contractors.

Developers can use a controlling stake in a strata executive committee to appoint a building’s property manager.

Mr Yan refused to drop the suit and said Cr Mehajer had regularly handed him cheques and acted as his boss. The matter returns to court in February.

At the last council meeting the mayor voted to bestow the honorary title of “emeritus mayor” upon Cr Oueik.

The mayor’s brother-in-law and business partner, Mr Hua, has also previously been in business with Cr Mehajer. The two jointly run a company that is currently in liquidation. Cr Lam has previously said she was unaware her brother-in-law and council colleague had a business relationship.

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The danger when porn becomes sex ed

Question: Is your teenage son or daughter watching pornography online? Answer: Yes, almost certainly.
Nanjing Night Net

As new figures show 93 per cent of boys and 61 per cent of girls aged 13 to 16 are exposed to porn online, experts are raising the alarm over its impact on young people.

Young women, according to one Melbourne doctor, are being pressured into trying the sexual activities that both sexes are watching on their screens. And many young men are describing porn as “their sex ed”.

“What really worries me is I’m seeing a lot more young women having sexual pain due to unaroused sex and thinking there is something wrong with them because things like hard, aggressive sex, anal sex, do not appeal,” says Dr Anita Elias, a specialist in sexual medicine for around 20 years.

To her male patients she says: “It’s not real, it’s like a movie, like James Bond. You might like Bond movies but you wouldn’t jump out of a helicopter without a parachute”.

Researcher Maree Crabbe​, who has interviewed more than 70 teenagers as well as doctors, researchers and others in the field, says there is clear evidence of teenage boys demanding or expecting porn’s so-called signature practices including deep throating​ (pushing the penis far into the throat), anal sex and ejaculating onto faces and bodies.

With this forming the new reality for teenagers, the traditional sex education taught in schools seems archaic and irrelevant.

Alice, 17, said while she knew some boys watched porn, no one spoke openly about it. She said it should be included in sex ed but kids generally didn’t pay much attention to that.

“It’s (sex ed) pretty unrealistic and kids mainly don’t listen,” she said.

Brandon, 23, who watched online porn for the first time at about 15, says it was often the only reference point for people when they started having sex because school sex ed gave so little information about what to expect.

“I remember losing my virginity and there’s really no way to know that you’re doing the right thing. Especially for me, because sex ed only deals with straight men. It takes a while to work out that you don’t have to be aggressive, you don’t have to be a porn star.”

“But it’s not so much about porn, it’s about education. People are going to be watching porn, that’s how the internet works, and they’re going to be doing it at a younger age. But we need to educate young people about what they’re seeing.”

Jessica, now 24, clearly recalls the first time she saw online porn. The teacher had walked out of her year nine class and one of the boys opened up his laptop and started playing “some pretty harrowing stuff”.

“I was disgusted, I thought, ‘Oh my god that’s a woman’. I think most of the girls felt the same but nobody said anything. Some of the guys were laughing.”

Jessica says it is recognised in her circle that most of the men watch at least some porn online, but it’s not openly discussed. She​ has been in a relationship for some time and has never been pressured to do anything she is uncomfortable with, but she worries about this happening if she was dating again.

“It feels like (porn) would create this unrealistic idea of, ‘OK, this is sex and this is what women want from sex’.”

She was among many who spoke to Fairfax Media who said pornography should be discussed in schools.

The State Government last week announced that pornography and sexting​, including the impact of online porn on teenagers and young adults, would be included in new curriculum aimed at countering violence against women. The new subject will be introduced at a year 10 level.

Dr Megan Lim, Head of Sexual Health and Young People Research at the Burnet Institute, sounds a note of caution: young people urgently needed to know about the potential impact of pornography on them and their peers, but tackling this in sex education would be very challenging.

“We need to be educating young people about the things in porn that are fake and [to let them know] that porn is not a teaching tool.”

Lim recently interviewed 1000 young people (aged 15 to 29) about pornography and found that those who watch porn at a young age are more likely to be sexually active at a younger age. People who watch porn more often are also more likely to engage in some riskier sexual practices such as having casual sexual partners and anal sex.

The study found that the average age of first seeing porn was 13 years old for men and 16 years old for women.

Crabbe​ says with porn now “the most prominent form of sex education for many teenagers” it was wrong and naive​ to confuse the kind of porn that most teenagers are viewing online with milder examples of erotica.

“They’re learning things about bodies, about sexual health, about pleasure, about consent, or the absence of it. Porn is shaping young people’s sexual understanding.”

Crabbe says the teenage boys she has interviewed frequently talk about having initiated some of the things they have seen in porn, and many teenage girls “talked again and again about really struggling” with this pressure.

Particularly disturbing was the amount of aggression and violence in porn, with over 80 per cent including aggression directed at women. Ms Crabbe​ said this gave young men and women very confusing messages.

“In porn, almost every incident of aggression is met with a pleasured response. The message to the viewer is that girls and women like it when men gag them, choke them, slap them. It doesn’t necessarily look like aggression when you see a woman smiling when she’s being gagged and penetrated aggressively by multiple men.”

Researchers also raised concerns about young people who watched porn online becoming desensitised to what they saw and watching more and more extreme material.

In a recent study at the University of Sydney, researcher Dr Gomathi​ Sitharthan​, found that over time some people’s viewing habits escalated to involve more extreme and even illegal material.

Sitharthan’s​ work also found that for young people who watchporn excessively the consequences included skipping school, grades going down, not engaging in social and sporting activities, secretive behaviour and moodiness, and forming unrealistic expectations when interacting with the opposite sex.

“We have seen some young adults who seem to think it’s OK to approach a girl and expect she will have sex with them immediately, says Dr Sitharthan​. “This is what happens in porn movies where there is limited ‘meaningful dialogue’ and all action starts as soon as people meet for the first time.”

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Choice reveals the popular sunscreens that failed to deliver on SPF 50+ claim

Choice found only two out of six tested sunscreen lived up to their SPF claims. Photo: Choice Choice tested six SPF 50+ sunscreens and found four failed to meet their SPF claims. Photo: Choice
Nanjing Night Net

Australians are urged to protect themselves from strong and damaging UV rays.

The weather is hot, the beach is beckoning, and thoughts are turning to sun protection. But tests have found popular sunscreens are failing to live up to their SPF claims.

Consumer advocacy group Choice tested six SPF 50+ sunscreens and found four failed to deliver on their UV protection claims, with worst performer Ego Sunsense Sport 50+ only providing an SPF 29.

“Australians have one the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, making sunscreens an essential part of outdoor life. So it is deeply concerning these products are not providing their stated level of protection,” said Choice’s Tom Godfrey.

The four products that failed tests were Banana Boat Baby Finger Spray and Banana Boat Sport tube, both of which only offered SPF 42, Ombra Kids roll-on, which actually offered SPF 36, and the Ego Sunsense Sport.

The two products that matched its sun protection claims were the Cancer Council’s Classic Zinc and Nivea Sun Kids Caring roll-on.

“If these products don’t meet their stated SPF claims, you are at risk of burning quicker than you would with a true SPF 50+ product,” said Mr Godfrey.

“Given that most people don’t use enough sunscreen, applying a true SPF50+ product will better allow for some user error.”

Ego Pharmaceuticals’ scientific affairs manager Dr Kerryn Greive​ defended the company’s Sunsense Sport sunscreen, saying it had official certification to support its SPF claim and to register it with the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Sunscreens sold in Australia must be registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration. In order to be listed, manufacturers must test the product according to the Australian standard.

“Our consumers have no reason to be concerned by these abnormal results. Every SunSense product is tested for quality at our laboratories and SunSense sunscreens are subject to regular and on-going stability testing to ensure quality and consistency,” she said.

“Australia has one of the highest incidences of skin cancer in the world and it’s important that Australians aren’t discouraged from using sunscreen to protect against UV damage.”

Dr Greive said all SunSense products were made and tested according to TGA requirements.

“Our manufacturing facility in Australia is licensed by the TGA, with all of our sunscreen manufacturing methods fully validated in compliance with the requirements of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). This ensures the quality and reproducibility of our processes,” she said.

A TGA spokesman said the regulator would consider Choice’s findings before determining what appropriate action may be required.

The TGA capped the maximum rating of SPF 50+ in November, 2012.

“If a breach of the legislative requirements is identified, compliance actions can include a proposal to cancel the product from the ARTG, which would mean the product could not be sold in Australia,” he said.

“If concerns relating to the quality, efficacy or safety of a therapeutic product arise, the TGA can require that the product is removed from supply on the Australian market.”

The Cancer Council’s Craig Sinclair said both SPF30+ and SPF50+ sunscreens offered high levels of protection, with the former filtering out 96.7 per cent of UV radiation and SPF 50+ filtering out 98 per cent.

While accurate labelling was important, he said the bigger issue was Australians were not applying an adequate amount.

He also said consumers could generally be confident in SPF claims because in Australia sunscreens were treated as therapeutic goods, that is, in the same category as medicines.

“Current testing guidelines include human subjects, which can result in some variability. The standard involves testing how long it takes for human skin to burn when the sunscreen is applied,” he said.

“Different individuals can burn at different rates, resulting in different results in small sample sizes. In the future hopefully, we will have better ways of testing sunscreen that won’t involve variable human factors.”

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Guinea pig nuclear scientist reveals stone age

Nuclear scientist Vladimir Levchenko has carbon-dated kidney stones for the first time and has discovered they form much earlier than once thought. Photo: Penny Stephens Vladimir Levchenko with one of the Dutch kidney stones he carbon-dated. Photo: Penny Stephens
Nanjing Night Net

Nuclear physicist Vladimir Levchenko arrived at hospital by ambulance with debilitating back pain. He suspected the agony was caused by a volleyball injury rather than the true culprit: a peppercorn-sized kidney stone.

Ever the scientist, Dr Levchenko had more questions than time to ask as he was being wheeled into theatre. Before the anaesthetic took hold he managed to quiz the surgeon on what caused kidney stones, how they formed and how long they took to grow.

The revelation that medical science had no idea prompted him to make one last request before going under – please could his kidney stone be saved so he could study it?

“I was curious, I wanted to know if I could do it,” Dr Levchenko said. “The scientist is a scientist even on the operating table.”

Back at work at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation at Lucas Heights outside Sydney, Dr Levchenko set about carbon-dating his kidney stone.

It turned out to be the first time the experiment had been done anywhere in the world. The results were so revelatory, they attracted international attention and have set up new research projects and collaborations.

The results showed Dr Levchenko’s stone, small and slow-growing as it was, had started forming almost 18 years ago.

After failing to find Australian researchers working in the field and only a handful internationally, he contacted a Dutch research group led by urologist Dik Kok at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam.

An enthusiastic Professor Kok sent Dr Levchenko two kidney stones, each the size of a $2 coin, from Dutch patients to be carbon-dated.

Though similar in size, the results painted a different picture of how the Dutch stones came to be, shedding new light on the growth cycle and longevity of kidney stones. One stone was dated at seven years old, while the other was 24 years old.

“After I passed the results onto my Dutch colleague, he became extremely excited,” Dr Levchenko said.

The fast-growing, younger stone turned out to be about 40 per cent phosphate. Interestingly, it belonged to a patient who regularly drank soft drinks – which contain phosphoric acid.

Meanwhile, the 24-year-old stone belonged to a patient who had a suffered a lower-back injury near the kidneys – intriguingly in a skiing accident which occurred 24 years ago.

“It is the first time that there has been a connection made between injury and the formation of a kidney stone,” Dr Levchenko said. “He was very excited because before that we didn’t know what triggered a kidney stone.”

The slow-growing stone also belonged to a patient who was more active, drank less alcohol and soft drink and ate less fast food.

The findings will be published in the journal, Radiocarbon, this month.

One of the most common medical conditions, kidney stones affect about one in 10 Australian men and one in 35 women.


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