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Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

The fire broke out in a tyre depot next to the daycare centre in Hermosillo in northern Mexico.

Of about 180 children at the centre at the time, 29 are reported dead from asphyxiation.

May God grant them a place in His heavenly Kingdom, and give comfort to their families.

And perhaps someone could investigate why a childcare centre was built right next to a business storing large quantities of highly flammable materials.

Global temperature has (possibly, no one is really sure) risen by about half of one degree over the last hundred years.

Given that seals have survived the last several million years of climate changes, varying from ice ages to periods considerably warmer than now, their ability to survive this miniscule change is hardly surprising.

Unless you are a raving climate catastrophist who looks for horror stories around every corner. In which case you would have been pleasantly suprised by growing numbers of protected Russian seals. Or horribly disappointed.

In further news, disobedient sea otters and polar bears also continue to increase in number.

Sad, really, because the Defence Department is  notoriously difficult, and department staff and military personnel both seem to have respected Joel Fitzgibbon’s abilities.

The trigger for his resignation was a lack of clarity about contact between Mr Fitzgibbon and his staff, and his brother Mark, head of Australian health insurer NIB, and US health insurance giant Humana. In particular, Mr Fitzgibbon failed to declare accommodation paid for by NIB.

This was the last in a long series of failures to declare gifts including accommodation and travel.

Defence Department staff again affirmed they had no knowledge of any departmental investigation of links between Fitzgibbon and possible Chinese spies. This was reported in the Australian as PURE FICTION: Media reports of spy affair inaccurate, which is hardly the same thing.

As I have said before, Fitzgibbon is either totally brainless (and he’s not) or he lied repeatedly about his relationship with Chinese/Australian business woman Helen Liu. People who think they need to lie usually have something to lie about. Fitzgibbon had to go.

I wrote about the taxpayer funded Australian film Samson and Delilah a couple of weeks ago.

Gary Johns has written a review of the film. The review appears in today’s Australian.

Here’s a bit to get you started:

The film opens with a typical day in Samson’s life. He wakes to reggae music from his brother’s band playing on the porch of the archetypal concrete box house. He sniffs a can of petrol. There’s nothing to do, no work, no school. Instead, Samson follows young Delilah around as she cares for her grandmother. He is clearly taken with her, but cannotor will not say so. Instead, Samson throws stones at Delilah to catch her attention.

The next day, Samson whacks a band member over the head with a lump of wood, and in retaliation his brother beats him senseless. Samson takes his filthy rubber mat and blanket across the road and camps outside Delilah’s concrete box. Delilah’s grandmother dies, Delilah is beaten by other women in punishment for the death; the two steal a four-wheel-drive and head for town. In town Delilah is kidnapped by youths, possibly raped and certainly beaten. Nevertheless, the next day she returns to Samson who has taken shelter under the bridge on a dry river bed. He did not think to look for her. Next day, they wander out into traffic and she is run down. He did not think to look for her. The ambulance people return her, patched up.

One critic said it was “one of the bravest Australian films I’ve ever seen”. And so it was, as a documentary. Except in one respect: Delilah enters a church (suspiciously like the John Flynn church in Alice Springs) and then wanders out under the stern eye of a clergyman, who offers no help. If this is meant to convey a message about the missions, it fails. The missions saved more than souls in outback Australia, they saved lives.

Thornton says: “As far as telling a story that’s realistic, I needed to go all the way and not hold back on how grim things are. Most 14-year-olds in Alice are walking around with the knowledge of a 90-year-old, from what they’ve experienced. They’re bulletproof.”

No they are not, they are traumatised and despondent.

Any answers, Warwick? How did you escape? What is your optimistic story? How did you learn to read and write? Do you live on country, totally dependent on the white man’s petrol and canned food?

Like many films and documentaries before it, Samson and Delilah succeeds in showing the hopelessness and violence of life in remote aboriginal communites. Like those others, it offers no solutions.

Despite the rantings of deranged critics, writing from the comfort of their Melbourne apartments, this film offers neither joy nor hope.

Film makers can be agents of change. They can and must do better than simply preaching or pointing accusing fingers.

The ABC’s Chaser’s War On Everything guys have come up with some funny stuff, although they have always picked soft targets.

But the occasional funny bits have been offset by the far more frequent not in the slightest funny bits which are juvenile and offensive.

Now making jokes at the expense of dying children?

This vastly worse than anything that has ever appeared on the Footy Show.

The Chaser has well and truly run its time. Can it, please, Aunty.

From the Pakistan Daily Times, this story about the methods the Taliban use to produce their desired educational outcomes:

The Taliban blew up another girls’ school in Mohmand Agency on Monday. According to sources, Taliban had wired the government-run girls’ school with an improvised explosive device in the Shewafarash area of Lakro tehsil, which they detonated early on Monday morning. No casualties were reported. Security has been tightened in the region after the Taliban destroyed two health units and the same number of girls’ schools in the past week.

via Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch

That won’t win them friends amongst local people.

It is a popular pastime to portray large pharamceutical companies as monstrous villains because they refuse to give away their products for free.

Research to develop new drugs is expensive and uncertain. It takes on average ten years and $1 billion to get a new drug approved for sale in the US.

Profits from existing drugs make that research and development possible.

Obvious, then, that if we want new development in medicine, we need to help pharmaceutical companies to make a profit.

Instead, review and approval processes, and endless litigation, drain so much money that it is made almost impossible for drug companies to fund ongoing high levels of research.

Demands for affordable health care, and even worse, free health care, (both of which mean ‘If I get sick someone else should pay for it’) may force the end of our recent history of medical miracles, and cause reduced care for most, and no care at all for many of those most in need.

New internet search engines come and go so often that I don’t usually even bother to look at them.

Usually they fail because they do not return relevant usable results. Returning sites clearly related to the search terms entered has been Google’s greatest strength.

Yahoo was for too long compromised by the fact that you had to pay to be listed. That was fine for Yahoo, but meant that many sites useful to searchers could not be found.

That changed, but by the time it did, Google had already established a lead that was too hard to make up.

Another thing Google did well was to make a clear distinction between organic search results and paid search results. Again, this helped users/searchers, so they kept coming back.

But there have been two new entries over the last month which are worth considering.

The first is Wolfram Alpha.

This is not a general search engine. It returns information, not links. But what it does, it does very well. It’s never heard of me, but generally, if you need factual information, or information which can be calculated, Wolfram Alpha is a good place to start. It also has a sense of humour.

The other major newcomer is Microsoft’s Bing.

Microsoft Live Search was always hopeless. I don’t know why, but it just never seemed to return results which were useful.

Bing does a much better job. It is quick to load, pleasant to look at, and clean – that is, the screen is not jumbled up with a whole lot of  useless junk about the latest nude pics of Britney Spears, or why the world is falling apart because of misbehaviour by Australian footballers.

Most importantly, Bing returns relevant and useful results.

My impression is that Google gives more weight to blogs (John Ray agrees), or certainly that Google visits frequently updated sites more often. Perhaps this is because there doesn’t (yet) seem to be any way to send a blog ping to bing. There is a form you can use to submit your site to Bing if it does not appear in their results, and this form might also work as a ping, though I am just guessing about that.

From my brief experiments, it also seems to me that Google gives more weight to incoming links than Bing, while Bing gives more weight to page content. Both methods are reasonable. Google’s will return longer standing, popular results. Bing’s will return sites where the content matches the search terms more closely.

I like Bing. It seems to return more results that relate closely to what I was looking for.

However, for now, Google will stay as my home page.

I couldn’t get maps on Bing to work. But my major reason for staying with Google is that I search for news more than anything else. When you hit the ‘news’ button on Google without entering any search terms, it returns a wide variety of news stories from a wide variety of sources, in a well organised way. Bing returns nothing. This is a major shortcoming, one I hope will be fixed soon.

Results for search term ‘leading conservative blog’ (without quote marks).

Google:  Qohel is first page, third place.

Yahoo:  Qohel is first page, first place.

Bing:   Qohel is first page, first place.

In Sydney. No one else seems to have heard of it.

Sex worker Ivy McIntosh said people in her profession were being overcharged when they placed ads in local papers. “I’m paying too much for a measly two inches,” she said in a statement.

OK.

Meanwhile the Salvation Army has apologised for a newspaper advertisement for Red Shield Day. The ad featured a drug addicted prostitute who had been rescued by the Salvos and taken to rehab.

The assorted whores (their word) found the suggestion that someone might be forced into prostitution to feed a drug habit offensive.

In fact there are close links between drug abuse and prostitution.  Annoying as this may be to ‘respectable’ sex workers, pretending otherwise does not help anyone.

The Salvation Army should not have apologised.

Two soldiers have been shot, one killed, at a military recruiting centre in Arkansas.

The suspect, Abdulhakim Muhammad, a person of no particular appearance or religious views, has been arrested.

Police found a small arsenal of weapons in Mr Muhammed’s car, including an assault rifle, a .22 calibre rifle, a .380 calibre automatic pistol and ammunition.

Leaders of the pro-life movement have always called for peaceful protest against the horror of abortion, and have consistently denounced the use of violence in any form. They also consistently condemmed the murder of George Tiller.

Some on the left have openly called for violence against members of the military, and especially military recruiters.

So where are the voices from the left, raised in condemnation of the murder of a young man whose job was to welcome new enlistees back to their home towns?

And tying penises to women, doesn’t make a man a woman, nor a woman a man.

Andrew Bolt has made some rightly alarmed comments about an Australian court that pretends to help a confused 17 year old girl by ruling she is entitled to have her breasts cut off.

This article from the Sydney Morning Herald tells the story of two people who, confused about their gender as teens, demanded gender re-assignment surgery. Both regretted that decision deeply, and came to feel lasting anger towards the people who allowed their mutilation to proceed.

Teenagers have not yet fully developed their identity, their sense of responsibility, their ability to assess risk and long term consequences. That is why we have laws prohibiting them from drinking, from having sex, from gambling. These laws protect them from abuse, from outcomes and harm which they may not have the ability to foresee.

Yet a court can say that those same teenagers have the right to decide about irreversible mutilating surgery which leaves them neither male nor female.

The Desire for a Sex Change, an article by Dr Richard Fitzgibbons, draws on medical and psychiatric research and catholic theology to explain why gender re-assignment surgery has not been and cannot be a satisfactory solution to what is a psychological problem.

Well why not?

If it is true that there has been no investigation of Joel Fitzgibbon’s relationship with Helen Liu, then senior defense department staff should be sacked. 

Joel Fitzgibbon is Australia’s Minister of Defense. He is the member of the executive branch of government who is charged with responsibility for funding and policy decisions in relation to Australia’s armed forces.

I would have thought some background checking, and checking of contacts, was the standard for government ministers. Not so they could be removed from office, except in extreme circumstances, but so that appropriate advice could be given and care taken.

Even if that minimal level of checking is not done routinely, there is a responsibility to investigate when serious allegations are made about a government minister’s involvement with a person with close ties to the military or intelligence services of a foreign power.

Helen Liu has paid for multiple trips to China, has made substantial campaign donations, has invited Fitzgibbon to functions at which senior Chinese military personnel were present.

There may have been nothing wrong with any of that, though you might wonder why Liu was going to so much trouble.

The problem, or at least the beginning of the awareness there might be a problem, came when Fitzgibbon lied about the extent of his relationship with Liu, and her gifts to him. People who lie usually do so because they think have something to hide. If they think they have something to hide, they probably do.

There should have been some checking before Mr Fitzgibbon was appointed. Maybe that’s just not the Australian way. But once it was clear he had lied about his relationship with Liu, a full investigation became imperative.

Instead, the Defense Department conducted an investigation into whether there had been an investigation.

Questions which should have been asked about Liu’s loyalties and contacts, and about her generosity to Fitzgibbon, and his indebtedness to her, have still not been asked. Not by the people who should be asking them, anyway.

Now business associates of Helen Liu have revealed that Chinese intelligence agents asked them to do just what Helen Liu has done – form a close relationship with Fitzgibbon, including expensive gifts and trips to China.

Why would Chinese intelligence be interested in having someone form a close relationship with Australia’s defense minister?

Maybe they were just being friendly. As a citizen of Australia, I’d like to know.

You’d think that those responsible for Australia’s security and defense planning would also like to know.

Late term abortionist George Tiller has been murdered outside his church in Wichita, Kansas.

The suspect may be a member of the right to life movement.

Left wing blogs have already begun to claim that Christians are delighted, and that this is just the latest in a long series of violent attacks on abortionists.

In fact the reverse is true. Pro life bloggers and leaders of the pro-life movement have been united in condemming the murder of Tiller, as they have been united in condemming any violent attacks on abortionists or their clinics.

I deplore the murder of George Tiller, and any violence against abortionists or their clinics.

I also deplore the far greater number of violent attacks on pro-life people and organisations (despite the fact that the media has a massive blind spot when comes to reporting violent attacks by abortionists and their supporters).

The murder of George Tiller is a tragedy. His family and his community will miss him. The attack on him was wrong, no matter who did it, or why.

That does not mean we should pretend that what he did for a living was OK. What he did for a living was monstrous.

Late term partial-birth abortion means partially delivering a living human baby, inserting a pair of scissors or other implement into its head, then crushing its skull before completing the delivery.

George Tiller’s death was murder, and must be condemmed. What he did for a living was also murder.

Partial Birth Abortion

Partial Birth Abortion

One system of climate modelling has a proven history of correct prediction of weather events.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac is going further out on a limb than usual this year, not only forecasting a cooler winter, but looking ahead decades to suggest we are in for global cooling, not warming.

Based on the same time-honored, complex calculations it uses to predict weather, the Almanac hits the newsstands on Tuesday saying a study of solar activity and corresponding records on ocean temperatures and climate point to a cooler, not warmer, climate, for perhaps the next half century.

From a USA Today article of September last year.

The Almanac certainly got the part about a colder Winter right.

According to the Global Humanitarian Forum.

But actually no.

Dr Roger Pielke calls the report a ‘methodological embarrassment,’ and notes that the report itself says ‘there is not yet any widely accepted global estimate of the share of weather related disasters that are attributable to climate change.’

If no one knows how many weather disasters are due to global warming, what basis exists for making an estimate of deaths due to warming? Well, none.

And since the world isn’t getting any warmer, probably the best estimate of climate change disaster related deaths is zero.

Deaths amongst the world’s poor are more likely to be caused by pointless attempts to mitigate climate change, such as the conversion of food crops into bio-fuel.

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