Doctors facing charges ‘already disciplined’

A number doctors possibly facing criminal charges over patient harm or death have already faced disciplinary action or have been stopped from practicing medicine in Queensland.
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Though charges against six medical practitioners referred to police are yet to be laid, a spokesman for Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said some had already been dealt with by authorities, including the Queencland Civil Administration Tribunal.

But calls for a Royal Commission into the matter were unlikely to be satisfied, the spokesman said.

“Steps have already been taken in practically each case,” he said. “These have been well discussed cases, and there have been ongoing negotiations with the [Australian Health Practitioner Agency] and QCAT in regards to the matters – the concern over criminal behaviour has taken it to the next level and it’s now a matter for the police to deal with these doctors.”

However the names of the doctors could not be revealed, nor could the specifics of their 24 alleged offences – 11 of which relate to one doctor alone – for privacy reasons, he said.

Such details were contained in a schedule compiled by criminal law specialist and former crown prosecutor Jeffrey Hunter SC whose inquiry into a whistle-blower’s complaints last year about gross malpractice resulted in the doctors’ referrals.

The schedule was attached to a letter from Mr Hunter released in redacted form by Mr Springborg’s office on Sunday along with a statement that confirmed the police investigation and foreshadowed changes to complaints legislation.

Police Commissioner Ian Stewart was unavailable for comment yesterday, but it is understood police received notice about Mr Hunter’s findings as early as March 6, when the CEO of Australian Health Practitioner Agency Martin Fletcher wrote a letter offering to assist with the investigation.

Concerns about possible criminal activity in the state’s health sector were initially raised when former medical board investigator turned whistleblower Jo Barber gave the Crime and Misconduct Commission the names of 18 doctors she says might have maimed or killed patients in May last year.

At the time, Ms Baber said many of the doctors were still practising despite being “recklessly incompetent” to the point of gross patient negligence and death.

Ms Barber said Sunday that she was surprised only six doctors were referred given the amount of information she provided, including details about a doctor who “deliberately killed many times”, others with alcohol or drug addictions, and one who repeatedly botched cosmetic surgery procedures.

“That’s only the tip of the iceberg,” Ms Barber said. “[There was evidence of] dangerous surgery which saw women’s faces and breast rot off, because untrained doctors – who wanted to make lots of money –  watched some Youtube films and decided to have a crack.”

She said only a Royal Commission could “uncover the truth, and bring about reform of our sick and corrupted health care system”.

In relation to the likelihood the matter will spur legislative change over how malpractice allegations are handled, medical negligence lawyer Sarah Atkinson said any move towards law changes would help increase patient safety.

‘‘This is also important for medical practitioners,’’ the Maurice Blackburn lawyer said.

‘‘The majority of health staff do a very good job, but it’s essential that systems to protect patients are as strong as possible to ensure that those putting patients at unnecessary risk are identified as quickly as possible.’’

As recently as November last year, QCAT handed down a decision supporting sanctions on an 88 year-old doctor operating in Northern Queensland who bungled prescriptions, failed to properly diagnose patients, and failed to document his consultations.

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Social media sledging didn’t justify Dugan’s abuse

Josh Dugan had 2 million reasons to walk away from a social media fight, but couldn’t resist getting in the ring.
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The axed Raiders star can complain as much as he wants about getting heckled by fans on social media and not having to put up with the abuse.

But what he clearly forgot is the smartest guy in the fight is the one who walks away, especially when a $2million contract is on offer.

That the Broncos aborted their chase of the 22-year-old didn’t surprise me – I was more shocked it took this long.

Dugan was always going to be a massive risk for whatever club picked up the pieces after the Raiders rightfully sent him on his way. The talented fullback didn’t just have one chance. He had countless strikes before the Raiders said enough was enough.

You would have thought he would have learnt his lesson about social media.

Used correctly, outlets such as Twitter and Instagram can provide fans with a valuable insight into their favourite players, while also increasing the players’ brand image.

Before Sunday, Dugan hadn’t posted on his Twitter account since March 12 – the day a photo emerged of him shooting the breeze on a rooftop and missing a Raiders recovery session in the process.

That photo came from Instagram, the same app which became the source of his latest downfall on Saturday night.

There was no malice in the latest photo Dugan posted, just one of him and a mate enjoying a good time.

A couple of people – at least one who is a Raiders fan – took the opportunity to get stuck into Dugan about leaving the Raiders, breaking up with his partner and the fact the Raiders were better off with Reece Robinson at fullback. They were cheap shots.

High-profile sportspeople, and celebrities from other walks of life, are easy targets for abuse. Yet that doesn’t give Dugan the right to engage in the battle, let alone to tell one of the users to ”end yourself”.

Footy players cop sledging from the bleachers on a weekly basis. The advent of social media has taken it to a whole more personal level. Trolls have become the biggest menace in the online environment.

The NRL has a strict social media policy for its players, underlined by the fact it employed Charlotte Dawson as an anti-bullying ambassador.

Dawson had a breakdown and self-admitted herself to hospital last year after she was told to kill herself on social media.

Even if the Broncos had proceeded with their pursuit of Dugan, there was no guarantee the NRL would have registered the contract given his latest indiscretion.

As part of his apology on Twitter on Sunday, Dugan spoke about there being two sides to the story and how he shouldn’t have to put up with the harassment.

Then again, he shouldn’t have reacted the way he did. If only he would respond to my numerous texts and phone calls so I can find out his side of the story.

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Port powers to big win over Demons

Jay Schulz flies for a big mark against Melbourne.New Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley has credited his team’s unrelenting pressure after Melbourne fell apart in a stunning AFL mismatch.
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The Power and Melbourne had so much to play for in round 1, but after half-time Port had the MCG to themselves and won by 79 points.

Demons fans booed their team at three-quarter time and after the final siren.

While the 19.19 (133) to 8.6 (54) drubbing was a dream start to Hinkley’s senior coaching career, it was equally a shocking day for his Melbourne counterpart Mark Neeld.

The Demons must recover fast, otherwise another long and barren season is ahead of them.

Neeld met with his players behind closed doors for half an hour post-match.

Hinkley said the Power coaching staff felt their players were applying plenty of pressure in the first half, but not quite gaining enough reward for effort.

Leading by 27 points after a competitive first half, Port tore Melbourne apart in the third term with 5.6 to a solitary behind.

“We had a big part to play in that – our intensity, even for the start of that quarter,” Hinkley said of Melbourne’s third-quarter collapse.

“Because they kept at it, in the end, clearly they got that result.

“Constant pressure builds and it keeps building and … at some stage, there’s going to be a little break somewhere.”

After Port finished 14th and Melbourne were 16th last year, the two clubs had solid pre-seasons and came into this match full of enthusiasm.

Hinkley’s arrival was part of a total overhaul at Port that included new president David Koch and new captain Travis Boak.

Melbourne also made widespread changes to their playing list.

But in the second half the Demons were awful, frequently allowing their opponents far too much room and committing basic skill errors.

“The whole club’s hurting, no one saw that coming,” said Demons coach Mark Neeld.

“We just didn’t get it done under pressure, we didn’t deal at all with Port’s speed all day, we didn’t cope.”

Hinkley made a massive understatement when he said: “We know there will be days where it won’t go as good as it went today for us.”

Adding to a great day, Port were missing several key players – Domenic Cassis, Alipate Carlile, Robbie Gray, Brett Ebert and John Butcher.

Midfielder Hamish Hartlett starred for the Power and Jay Schulz kicked four goals.

Schulz and Melbourne’s Cam Pedersen kicked goals in the second term after taking towering marks that came under video review.

Replays suggested the two players were lucky the marks were cleared.

High-profile recruits Ollie Wines (Port) and Jack Viney (Melbourne) made their AFL debuts and starred, showing poise and skill far beyond their youth.

Viney and fellow first- gamer Matt Jones stood out for Melbourne.

Demons key forward Mitch Clark hobbled off in the third term with an ankle injury, but it was not as serious as first feared.

Clark missed most of last season with a leg injury.

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Councillors a burden on Tasmania

MUNICIPALITIES throughout Tasmania must ask themselves whether their councils are bleeding them of precious rate revenue to pay too many councillors.
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The Examiner has revealed today how 14 of the state’s municipalities are serving a ratepayer population of less than 10,000.

In the case of Flinders Island, a council of seven serves a population of only 776, and King Island has nine councillors serving 1566.

In Victoria the Geelong council has 13 councillors serving a population of 220,000.

Across Victoria the ratio of councillors to population is about one per 8912, while in Tasmania it’s one for only 1822.

The 14 councils with populations under 10,000 have aldermen costs totalling more than $1.8 million, or on average $136,000 per council in councillor fees.

Quite apart from the debate about the number of councils in the state, it is plain waste and overgovernment to have so many aldermen for the small populations.

Ratepayers and taxpayers have enough of their precious net incomes compulsorily acquired by governments in rates and taxes without having to pay more than is necessary to keep an oversupply of aldermen in a job.

You wouldn’t want to merge the Flinders Island Council with any other because it is an island, but surely one councillor per 111 ratepayers is ridiculous, and tantamount to lining pockets for no net gain.

Even Break O’Day Council has nine councillors serving 6194 and George Town has nine serving a population of 6636.

The Local Government Association of Tasmania must take a lead and make some glaringly obvious savings.

Otherwise someone else will do it for them. Tasmania is a small, diverse state, but no more diverse than some other states.

We are persisting with luxuries we cannot afford, and which other states ditched long ago.

Tasmania cannot expect support from other states on issues like GST distribution when our leaders and politicians have no desire to reform the way Tasmania governs itself.

– BARRY PRISMALL, deputy editor

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Getting medical help was difficult

The statue of William Russ Pugh, by Peter Corlett, which is now a feature in Prince’s Square, Launceston.LAUNCESTON’S first hospital was a rudimentary structure reputed to have been on the corner of Cameron and George streets, a site now occupied by Holy Trinity Church.
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For soldiers and convicts in Launceston’s very early days it would have been the only place where medical help was available.

Between 1820 and 1840 His Majesty’s Colonial Hospital in Launceston was moved to various locations before finding a home in a two-storey building in Balfour Street.

By 1851 it was called the Cornwall Hospital and Infirmary and housed in a former hotel on the corner of Balfour and Wellington streets.

None of the early facilities were highly regarded by local residents according to historian L. S. Bethell in his book The Story of Port Dalrymple.

“In the early days, when one was sick, to betake oneself to H.M. Colonial Hospital at Launceston was an act of despair … the citizens preferred to die in their own beds.”

The innovative and progressive Launceston doctor William Russ Pugh lamented the situation in a letter to the editor of The Examiner on October 11, 1848.

“It was a fact too notorious to be questioned, or easily forgotten, that the free community of the northern portion of this island, in cases of sickness and distress, was altogether unprovided for.”

Dr Pugh had established his own hospital in 1845, with Dr James Grant, called St John’s Hospital and Self Supporting Dispensary in a house on the corner of Charles and Frederick streets, which today is known as Morton House.

Patients paid an annual subscription, which allowed them to consult a doctor when needed.

Dr Pugh pioneered the use of ether as an anaesthetic in Australia in an operation at his hospital on June 7, 1847, but a shortage of subscribers led to its eventual closure.

Continued public lobbying saw the construction of the first Launceston General Hospital, which opened in 1863.

•Local historians Jenny Gill, Anne Bartlett and Dr John Paull will discuss Launceston’s early medical history on the first day of the LGH Sesquicentenary Medical History and Research Seminar at the LGH on Wednesday, May 15.

Information and registration forms for the seminar are available from Ms Lou Partridge 63487035.

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Saturday, April 6

Fresh clippings: Gardening Australia’s Costa Georgiadis.FREE TO AIR
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Gardening Australia, ABC1, 6.30pm

You just can’t make some people happy. I’m talking about the letter-writers complaining about Gardening Australia host Costa Georgiadis’ beard, his crusade for making better use of nature strips than as ashtrays, or the new opening-credit sequence. For the rest of us, however, the return of the ABC’s venerable gardening show is a moment to celebrate. Tonight’s episode illustrates the welcome shift in focus since Georgiadis took on the hosting role in 2012. There’s a segment on the oasis that the show’s researcher has created in her rented, inner-city house. Sophie Thomson presents a no-nonsense guide to fragrant plants and we meet a late-bloomer whose interest in gardening sprouted in his 60s.

Inspector George Gently, ABC1, 8.30pm

Tonight, Martin Shaw’s aptly named chief inspector and his hotheaded offsider Bacchus (Lee Ingleby) investigate the death of a young folk singer (played by Australian musician Ebony Buckle) who was left for dead in a car registered to an aristocratic, family whose lives unravel when the detectives rattle their gilded cage. Set to the backdrop of the May 1968 riots in Paris, the story is supposed to illustrate the new social order, but it’s let down by heavy-handed dialogue and portentous characterisations.

Lilyhammer, SBS One, 8.35pm

As a concept, the idea of dispatching Silvio Dante, Tony Soprano’s faithful and ruthless consigliere in the legendary HBO crime drama, to Norway is on a par with letting Kath and Kim run amok with handsome men in Italy or letting Mr Bean loose with Los Angeles’ jet-set. The appeal of this lightweight comedy largely depends on how amusing one finds Silvio as an oafish enforcer who, despite a new identity as Giovanni Henriksen, engages in much the same mischievous, tough-guy malarkey as Silvio did in six seasons of The Sopranos. The promising twist of Lilyhammer is that street-smart Giovanni/Silvio isn’t entirely out of place in the snowy backwaters of Norway, whose residents all have something to learn from the wise-guy (”treat the broad with respect”, he counsels). As a comedy, this plays to a fairly limited set of lowbrow gags, while as a mobster tale it’s too flat-footed and self-aware to elicit any tension.

PAUL KALINA

Motor Racing, Seven, 11.45am

V8 Supercar racing from Symmons Plains Raceway in Tasmania 

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Friday, April 5

Rivals: Wood and McLachlan.FREE TO AIR
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Better Homes and Gardens, Seven, 7pm

The friendly folk on this Friday night family staple do what they do best in tonight’s ”rescue” special – sort out people, plants and pets with lightning speed and inspire the citizens of the nation to get to their nearest homewares and hardware stores on Saturday morning. ”Fast” Ed Halmagyi shows a sailor how to make an anniversary dinner for his wife; Graham Ross saves a 30-year-old frangipani tree; Tara Dennis helps a hoarder; Rob Palmer fixes a DIY disaster; and Dr Harry Cooper visits a destructive cat and an opera-singing dog.

The Doctor Blake Mysteries, ABC1, 8.30pm

The establishment threatens to undo crusading medical sleuth and former POW Dr Lucien Blake (Craig McLachlan) in the final episode of this compelling whodunit set in post-World War II Ballarat. In his attempt to avenge the death of a female surgeon by disproving her suicide, Blake stirs up a hornet’s nest within the hospital’s top brass, incurring the rage of his nemesis, Patrick Tyneman (Blue Heelers’ John Wood). McLachlan comes into his own as the insatiably curious Blake, while the historical Victorian town evokes the backdrop of Midsomer Murders, its faded glamour adding a dark edge to a story tinged with tragedy.

7 Days of Sex, ABC2, 9.30pm

Condensing author Charla Muller’s year-long recipe for marriage revival (365 Nights: A Memoir of Intimacy) into a week-long, television-friendly sex plan, American cable channel Lifetime has produced this embarrassingly gratuitous program about couples forcing themselves back into the bedroom. Why apparently ordinary people would willingly participate in such a degrading exercise is a mystery. Mercifully, the actual lovemaking acts are not broadcast, but infrared footage of the sad, staged mating rituals are. Tonight, bickering Galen and Marilyn spend most of their time detailing what they dislike about each other, before the God-fearing Galen reluctantly visits a lingerie shop and emerges with a surprising purchase. Meanwhile, Derek and Chantal have a bit more luck after she takes a lap-dancing class and downs some cocktails in a decidedly more romantic setting. With a lack of professional insight, this reality-style show sits uncomfortably on the ABC.

BRIDGET MCMANUS 

The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler, SBS One, 9.35pm

He was a mass murderer but was Hitler also a charming man?MOVIES

Final Analysis, (1992) M Thriller/Crime (pay TV), 10.35pm

Director Phil Joanou, who documented U2’s self-congratulatory travails with Rattle and Hum, moved into features quickly and without a genuine feel for the genres he reworked. Two years after the tough-guy posturing of State of Grace, Joanou delivered the Hitchcockian thriller Final Analysis. Kim Basinger and Uma Thurman play impossibly blonde sisters who take turns twisting psychiatrist Dr Isaac Barr (Richard Gere) around their respective fingers before he wises up. Icy blondes, questions of identity, deceit and murder in a San Francisco setting obviously equal Hitchcock’s Vertigo, but Joanou is unable to add anything but echoed resonance and a certain chutzpah to the storyline. Thurman gives the one decent performance, offering both a devious surface and a spooked undertow.

The Prince of Tides, (1991) 7Two, 11.30pm

The second – and the best – of the three features carefully directed by and starring Barbra Streisand, The Prince of Tides is a canny romantic melodrama nestled inside a psychological mystery. Strapping football coach Tom Wingo (Nick Nolte) must leave South Carolina and take his southern manners to the strange land that is Manhattan, where his sister, Savannah (Melinda Dillon), has once again attempted suicide and her psychiatrist, Dr Susan Lowenstein (Streisand), requires insight into his family’s dysfunctional past. The film, which thankfully doesn’t have the narcissistic lighting and gauzy photography of Streisand’s 1996 feature The Mirror Has Two Faces, uses Nolte’s unease about playing a romantic lead to suggest the discord in Tom’s life, and the family saga – of shrimp boats, terrible unspoken crimes and an ambitious mother – can be resolved only by the emotional sacrifice of Susan. Yet, the emotional tug is satisfying and there’s genuine care taken with the material.

CRAIG MATHIESON

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Cocos Club demands fees for housing asylum seekers

‘We didn’t even get a thank-you.’ Cocos Club manager Maxine McCartney and president John Clunies-Ross. Photo: Wolter Peeters Photo: Wolter PeetersOn a mid-week afternoon, the Cocos Club is a hive of activity.
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The club, which is the bustling community hub of West Island, home to about 120 people in the Cocos Islands cluster, is run by a small and dedicated co-operative of islanders. But this tiny island, just 14 kilometres long, has found itself thrust into the national asylum seeker debate.

The remote Cocos Islands, an Australian territory just over halfway between Sri Lanka and Australia, has not traditionally formed part of the people smugglers’ trade route, but at one point last year, locals say, about four boats were arriving from Sri Lanka each week.

With scant facilities, federal authorities commandeered the social club – which is owned by the Commonwealth and leased to the co-operative – about half a dozen times in 2011 and 2012 to house asylum seekers while preparations were made to send them to Christmas Island.

The club’s management says it should be paid for its lost revenue during these times, and for the use of the facility. Angered by a lack of response, the club has sent increasingly higher bills to the Department of Immigration. It is now asking for about $79,000.

”It’s just frustrating,” club manager Maxine McCartney said. ”We’re a forgotten little dot of fly poo in the Indian Ocean.”

The club was first, briefly, taken over in 2010 before arrangements could be made to take asylum seekers to Christmas Island. The second time, over the Easter long weekend in 2011, the club was home to 86 asylum seekers, Ms McCartney said, from Easter Thursday to Monday night.

She said locals spent their days and nights pitching in, cooking meals for the men, women and children sleeping in the club – which also doubles as the island’s cyclone shelter – and sourcing bulk supplies of T-shirts and sarongs from nearby Home Island.

”So many people gave up their time without question, without hesitation, and they won’t get any compensation,” she said. ”We didn’t even get a thank-you.”

Since then, authorities have seized the club a handful of times to use as emergency housing, culminating in a period between May and July 2012, when it was closed either housing asylum seekers, or for cleaning, for 40 days.

Club president John Clunies-Ross said he was seeking legal advice.

A Department of Immigration spokesman said: ”The department has paid all outstanding invoices for which it is liable for the use of the Cocos Club on Cocos/Keeling Island.”

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Banks join fight against super tax slug

Resistant to raising taxes on superannuation: Financial Services Council chief executive John Brogden. Photo: Rob Homer Changing tack: Trade Minister Craig Emerson. Photo: Paul Jones
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The big four banks have joined a push to stop the Gillard government raising taxes on superannuation.

A delegation will go to Canberra next week to lobby Treasurer Wayne Swan to leave the super system alone.

The Financial Services Council, headed by former NSW Liberal Party leader John Brogden, will unite the banks and super industry bodies to push back against any move in the budget to raid the retirement savings of the wealthy.

The government is considering a raid on super to help rein in the ballooning deficit but faces resistance from within as well as from respected figures such as Bill Kelty, considered one of the architects of the superannuation system.

Trade Minister Craig Emerson gave the clearest hint yet that the government will shift the goal posts, saying there should be a debate on the tax treatment of the ”fabulously wealthy”. ”We are not seeking to impose new taxes on the superannuation accounts of ordinary Australians. But there is a legitimate debate about the very top end.”

Dr Emerson’s view provoked an angry response from the industry. Duncan Fairweather, chief executive of the Self Managed Superannuation Fund Owners Alliance, said the government was likely to sell any change as a Robin Hood-type hit on the wealthy.

”It is poor policy to raid people’s super savings to patch up the budget and poor politics to try to justify it as an attack on the wealthy,” he said.

The super industry said a $1 million nest egg – thought to be in the sights of the government – provided a modest annual income of $50,000, assuming a 5 per cent return on investments.

The alliance and the Industry Super Network, which represents more than 5 million members, called on Sunday for a greater consultation period than the six weeks until the budget allows.

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Networking

“The Neighbours theme song is iconically Australian and recognised around the world”: Barry Crocker.Who will have a Barry Crocker?
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His was the first voice to sing what is arguably the best-known TV theme song in the country, so it seems only fitting Barry Crocker should join the search for a new vocalist for the Neighbours anthem. Ten is auditioning singers for the job in an ”Ashes-style competition”, with contenders from Australia and Britain taking part. Locals in the running include former The Voice contestants Ben Bennett and Chris Ninni. ”The Neighbours theme song is iconically Australian and recognised around the world,” Crocker says. ”Having sung the original theme song 28 years ago, I am delighted to be involved in finding the next voice of Neighbours.” Crocker’s version was heard from 1985 to 1992. The new incarnation will air from next month.

Just what the Doctor ordered

Calling all Doctor Who buffs. That’s you, Adam Richard and John Richards, best known for their ABC1 comedy Outland. To mark the Doctor’s 50th anniversary, they, along with comedian Ben McKenzie, actor-musician Petra Elliott and ”a fantastic UK comedian they’re not allowed to name”, are presenting a live show and podcast at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. It’s part of the year-long Splendid Chaps performance and podcast project in honour of the good Doctor, which combines analysis, enthusiasm and irreverence in a format described as part intellectual panel discussion and part nerdy Tonight Show. The performances take place in Melbourne on April 6 and 13, and the podcast will be available on iTunes from April 23. Also, look out for new episodes of the I Love Green Guide Letters podcast. Live performances take place at the comedy festival on April 6, 13 and 20.

Korean prisoner exchange

Given the Korean peninsula’s sad and bitter history of conquest, political division and neighbourly distrust, it’s easy to imagine the currency that a local version of the spy-vs-spy drama Prisoners of War might have (the Israeli drama was also the basis of the riveting Homeland). Indeed, Keshet International, the distribution arm of the acclaimed drama, whose first season recently aired on SBS, has a popular Korean actor in mind for an Asian adaptation that it is peddling at the forthcoming MIPTV market. Among the slate of formats and shows that Keshet is developing is Tyrant, about an unassuming American family drawn into the troubles of a turbulent Middle Eastern nation. The pilot will be directed by Oscar winner Ang Lee.

Csortan’s splash landing

The first week of Celebrity Splash! wasn’t even complete before the stars discovered it wasn’t all the fun and games they’d imagined. Model-turned-television presenter Laura Csortan became the first casualty of the show, which asks assorted personalities to throw themselves off (among other things) a 10-metre-high diving board. She announced on Twitter she had injured herself and resorted to ”some strong ass pain killers”. ”Day 2 training and I can’t move my neck! I literally went in head first yesterday,” she tweeted. A Channel Seven spokesperson said Csortan is seeing a physio who would decide if she could continue in the series.

The Cooper-Griffin show must go on

It’s one of the most popular seasonal treats on screen and now, it seems, the CNN New Year’s Eve combination of Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin might get a longer run. The pair filmed a pilot for a new show at CNN last week, a ”humour-filled” project shot in front of a live audience. Griffin, a two-time Emmy winner for her series My Life on the D-List, may seem an unusual partner for news icon Cooper, but the pairing has proved popular each year and the show, if it goes ahead, could be part of a move towards more entertainment-based programming for the ratings-challenged CNN.

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