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Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

Two oddly contradictory statements today. President Barack Obama says he wants to bring science to the forefront of US thinking, to make the US once again world leaders in scientific research and development.

OK. Excellent.

But how does that square with Hilary Clinton’s announcment that the US is ready to lead the fight against climate change?

There is no science whatever in anthropogenic global warming alarmism.

The simple question to ask is ‘Is there any correlation between human activity and changes in global climate?’

The simple answer is ‘No.’

You can’t have it both ways. You cannot be leaders in science, and then slavishly follow every new scare dreamed up by the media to sell papers, greedy polticians to make money, and unscrupulous researchers to get grants.

Science means looking at the evidence. Here’s an evidence-based introduction to the science of global warming.

A ten year old girl was beheaded by her grandafther in India over the weekend. The man planned to mix her blood with seeds to encourage a good crop.

India has a centuries-old tradition of human sacrifices to appease deities, gain prosperity or ward off evil.

 Oh. Well. That’s all right then. It would be wrong for us to impose our values on anyone else.

This reminds me of the story of the English colonel who stopped a party of men from putting their dead friend’s still living wife on the funeral pyre with his body.

‘You can’t stop us,’ they said ‘Suttee is demanded by our culture.’

‘Fine,’ said the colonel. ‘You carry out your cultural obligation. Then I will carry out my cultural obligation. The one about hanging men who burn women alive.’

Charles and Camilla and ten staff headed off to Europe last weekend in a private jet to tell everyone else how they need to pull their belts in and stop emitting so much gas.

According to experts from the Carbon Managers company, which carries out environmental audits, the aircraft’s four European flights over 2,200 miles will leave a carbon footprint of 52.95 tons – nearly five times the average person’s 11-ton footprint for an entire year.

Fortunately for the world, Prince Charles’ profligacy has largely been offset by the generosity of Sydney residents and businesses, who this afternoon had another Earth Hour.

OK, so it was a power outage. Whatever. It’s still good for the planet, right?

There isn’t a swine flu pandemic, but if there were, it would have dire economic consequences, and it would all be the fault of those blasted right-wingers.

Or so says Nation nitwit Nicholls, in a blog post titled GOP KNow-Nothings Fought Pandemic Preparedness.

A real pandemic would indeed have dire economic consequences. The current epidemic is already having a serious effect on tourism to Mexico, and on world share markets.

But Republicans did not fight pandemic preparedness. In 2005 the Bush adminstration allocated $3.8 billion dollars to pandemic preparation. This was part of an overall $7.1 billion disease preparation budget.

This Bush administration budget included the development of plans to deal with any major disease threat. Those plans involved every level of government, and local, state and national health services. The actions and procedures set out in those plans are being used to counter the current threat.

The reason Republicans and Democrats opposed additional spending on pandemic preparedness in Obama’s stimulus proposals was that no one seemed to have any idea of how the money allocated in the stimulus package was to be spent, or even what further needs might exist. The proposed spending was simply padding – pork.

Speaking of the final stimulus package, Democrat New York Senator Charles Schumer said ‘All those little porky things that the House put in, the money for the [National] Mall or the sexually transmitted diseases or the flu pandemic, they’re all out.’ 

So it wasn’t just GOP know-nothings who opposed disease spending just for the sake of spending. Democrat know-nothings opposed it too.

But it was the Republicans who had already put large sums of money into pandemic preparation during the Bush administration, and whose plans are being used now to minimise both human and financial impacts of the current swine flu threat.

More detail on this from Legal Insurrection.

Except that it isn’t.

Nick Xenophon has called the increased allowance a back door pay rise, but he knows very well it is not. That is just popularist grandstanding.

It is an increase of 17% in their electorate allowance. MPs cannot use that money as disposable income. It must be used to meet the cost of providing services in their electorate. A large part of what (good) MPs do is provide an information and advocacy service to people in their area.

17% may sound a lot, but this is the first increase in the allowance since 2000. If it were a pay rise for teachers or dockers, I doubt their unions would consider this an adequate increase over the same period.

“Australians have two choices,” said Coalition spokesman on matters of state, Michael Ronaldson. “MPs either set their own terms and conditions or an independent umpire does. I suspect the community would be very much in favour of the latter.”

It’s just that the timing could have been better.

No warmth, nothing to buy, no transport, no hope.

The joys and triumphs of socialism …

Documentary photographer Tomas van Houtryve visited North Korea posing as a businessman looking to open a chocolate factory. Despite 24-hour surveillance by North Korean minders, he was able to take some remarkable photos of  Pyongyang and its people. Photos can be viewed on the Foreign Policy website. Don’t look for happiness here.

Via Small Dead Animals.

Hmm…

Hilary Clinton said that the Iraqi government had “come a long, long way” and that the bombings were “a signal that the rejectionists fear Iraq is going in the right direction.”

Perhaps not such a good sign if you are one of the people who has been killed or injured.

It is just as likely that the renewed violence is because Iraqi terrorists have new confidence because they perceive the current US administration as weak and not having the will to take them on.

And why did Hilary need to reiterate to Iraqi leaders that the US would not abandon Iraq, if, as the Democrats insisted before the elction, the Iraqis couldn’t wait for US forces to leave?

The objection is not that Panayiotis Zavos claims to have cloned human beings. Others have done that. Nor is it that he claims to have made hybrid human-animal clones by putting human DNA into cow eggs. Others have done that.

As far as the medical establishment is concerned making human clones, even human animal hybrids, is fine as long as you kill them soon afterwards. They can made to be destroyed for research, or to harvest stem cells.

What Dr Zavos has done that is so disturbing is to claim to have created human clones which were implanted in otherwise infertile women with the hope that they would grow to full term.

He was wrong to do so. Although some would argue otherwise; clones occur naturally – that’s what identical twins are.

But although Zavos’ actions were wrong, creating cloned humans to be members of loving families cannot be any more wrong than creating human clones – living members of the human species – just so they can be destroyed for research.

Tests on two Queenslanders thought to have contracted Swine Flu after visits to Mexico and the US are negative.

New strains of flu emerge every year. What is worrying about this apparently new version of swine flu is not the transmission rate, which is about average, but the fact that it is so deadly – about 6 deaths for every 100 people infected in Mexico. Mortality rates seem to be lower – between 1% and 4% – in more developed countries.

The virus was originally passed from pigs to people, and is easily transmitted from person to person by coughing, sneezing, or even shaking hands with an infected person. You can’t get it from eating pork.

There is not yet an effective vaccine for the current strain.

This could turn out to be another baseless scare, like the 1976 Swine Flu panic.

But it won’t do you any harm to be cautious.

Update.

Spain has confirmed the first case of the new swine flu strain in Europe.

A 23 year old male student who returned from Mexico on Wednesday suffering from a fever, has tested positive for the virus. Another 17 possible cases are being investigated. At this stage none is thought to be life-threatening.

Eight school students in New York have also tested positive for the disease, with another possible 140 also sick, all from the same school, St. Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows. 

There is no doubt the new strain of swine flu will make its way to Australia.

But there is still no reason to panic. Reasonable precautions should minimise any risk of catching the disease.

Even if you do catch swine flu, the indications are that if you are in good health to start with, and have access to good medical care, the mortality rate is very low. Higher of course for elderly people, young children, those in poor health or with impaired immune systems. People in those groups should take extra care.

Still raining on Kangaroo Island, which is great – we have no mains water, only what we catch and store ourselves. The tanks are starting to fill. They were virtually empty five days ago, and are now at about one third of capacity, which is pretty good for one weekend.

What is not so cool is that has been so blasted cold – unseasonably cold for April.

Kangaroo Island is not the only place where it is colder than usual:

The first snow of the season fell on NSW yesterday, the first time in 13 years ski resorts had experienced snow in April. Charlotte Pass recorded more than 25 centimetres by early yesterday evening.

A spokesman for Charlotte Pass Ski Resort, Joshua Elliott, said people there were expecting bigger snowfalls before the season compared with last year, and hoping for an earlier season. “We’re definitely gearing up for a bumper season this year,” he said. “There’s some serious snow up there at the moment.”

Still a very dangerous situation, but I think this is cool – and it seems to be working.

The Phillippine government refused to negotiate with the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, and flatly told them to sod off when they demanded a multi-million dollar ransom for the return of three kidnapped Red Cross workers. ‘Give them back or we will hunt you down,’ seemed to be the government line. One of the hostages was released, another was rescued.

Last week Sulu provincial Governor Abdusakur Tan ordered troops to rescue the final hostage, Eugenio Vagni.

Troops clashed with terrorists in the days following. Then, on Thursday, in a move reminiscent of the Mel Gibson movie ‘Ransom’, National Police Chief Jesus Verzosa offered P500,000 to anyone who provided information leading to Vagni’s recovery.

Governor Tan says information has been pouring in from locals who are fed up with the terrorists anyway.

Outstanding! I hope it works, not just for Vagni, but as an example which will cause Abu Sayyaf and others like them to think again about future kidnapping plans.

At least, she never complained then. This was the year after 9/11 after all.

The three prisoners who were waterboarded were Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, Abu Zubaydah, an Al Qaeda operative also involved in 9/11, and Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, a Saudi believed to have had a leadership role in the bombing of the U.S. Navy destroyer Cole in Yemen in 2000.

Nancy Pelosi was briefed, along with a number of other Democrats, on methods of interrogation being used and proposed to be used:

Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who in 2002 was the ranking Democrat on the House committee, has said in public statements that she recalls being briefed on the methods, including waterboarding. She insists, however, that the lawmakers were told only that the C.I.A. believed the methods were legal — not that they were going to be used.

By contrast, the ranking Republican on the House committee at the time, Porter J. Goss of Florida, who later served as C.I.A. director, recalls a clear message that the methods would be used.

“We were briefed, and we certainly understood what C.I.A. was doing,” Mr. Goss said in an interview. “Not only was there no objection, there was actually concern about whether the agency was doing enough.”

Current House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) agrees Pelosi knew what was happening and raised no concerns at the time.

“All of this information was downloaded to congressional leaders of both parties with no objections being raised,” he told reporters, specifically citing Pelosi as someone who received the briefings. “Not a word was raised at the time, not one word.”

So what’s the story with her now vitriolic denunciations of what she at least tacitly approved at the time? And is she including herself when she demands that those who knew about or carried out those high-level interrogations be prosecuted?

Well, duh, no, because now she is saying she didn’t know. Not really. Sort of. Just thought it was talk, you know. Not that anyone was actually, you know, doing anything.

More from former CIA Director Porter J Goss:

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, members of the committees charged with overseeing our nation’s intelligence services had no higher priority than stopping al-Qaeda. In the fall of 2002, while I was chairman of the House intelligence committee, senior members of Congress were briefed on the CIA’s “High Value Terrorist Program,” including the development of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and what those techniques were. This was not a one-time briefing but an ongoing subject with lots of back and forth between those members and the briefers.

Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as “waterboarding” were never mentioned. It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience.

Indeed.

A B-50 Superfortress, a plane that went out of service in the late fifties, and which matches the description of a plane lost in 1948, lands in a storm near Thule Air Force Base in Greenland in 2001.

If the King Bird 50 story is true, then some very weird things are going on in our universe, and there are some very weird questions that need answering.  Former astronaut Edgar Mitchell thinks the US government already has the answers.

Edgar Mitchell is no idiot. Well, he has degrees in aeronautics and astronautics, so he shouldn’t be an idiot.

Mitchell has never made a secret of the fact he believes we are being visited by aliens. But last week he claimed the US government has also known this for many years, and that it was time they shared their knowledge and research with the world.

It would be silly to think there was no other life in our galaxy. We know that anywhere on Earth there is liquid water, there is life. We are reasonably certain there is another planet with large amounts of liquid water about 20 light years from us.

Some scientists have estimated there are at least 360, and possibly many more, civilisations in our galaxy.

I don’t believe any alien species advanced enough to visit us will be out to destroy us or raid our planet’s resources. Based on Earth’s history, any civilisation capable of extended space flight has to have high level skills in co-operation and resource management. Raiding or dictatorial civilisations simply never get to the point where they are sufficiently stable, and able to organise and work together on a large enough scale, to develop the technology and resources needed for long space expeditions.

Nor do I believe that older alien species are out there watching and waiting to see if we are sufficiently peaceful and advanced to be able to join the galactic federation, or whatever it is. That is cargo cult thinking.

We are not alone. We know the galaxy well enough to be certain of that now. But are we being visited by aliens, and is the government covering it up?

That’s a whole different question, and well above my pay grade!

Canon Barry Greaves pleaded guilty in the Brisbane District Court last Thursday to seven counts of indecent treatment of boys under 17 and two of indecent treatment of boys under 12.

I was sorry to read this. I know Barry a little, and had always liked and respected him. He seemed a straightforward, caring and intelligent person.

Barrister Mark Johnson said Greaves was deeply ashamed and sorry for what he had done to the boys. Mr Johnson said Greaves was also remorseful for the shame he brought upon himself, his family and the Anglican Church. ‘He deeply regrets what’s happened,” he said.

Any kind of sexual interaction with children is appallingly wrong. And in Barry’s case, a betrayal of the trust of the church, and of the boys and their families.

But in a way I cannot help feeling sorry for Barry and others whose sexual attraction is towards adolescents.

No one would choose to have those kind of feelings. I have visited protection prisons including Ararat in Victoria. Most of the convicted child sex offenders I spoke to there had struggled all their lives to overcome or redirect that attraction, and were deeply ashamed of the times they failed.

Most of them had naively hoped that the boys (it was usually boys) returned their affection, and enjoyed the attention. Often they did, but harm was still done.

Boys (and girls) in their early teens and younger cannot give meaningful consent to sex with an older person. Even if they seemed to consent at the time, even if they seemed eager at the time, they almost always ended up feeling used, sullied and hurt.

No matter how willing the young person seemed to be, harm was done. It was up to the adult to set the boundaries and keep to them. There is no excuse for not doing so.

Some of those who ignore those boundaries are monsters who knowingly and uncaringly hurt children and use them for their own pleasure. Such people deserve our anger and condemnation.

But not all are monsters.

Most people who are disorded in their affections, and whose only feelings of sexual attraction are towards young people, know all of the things I have written above. Many go their entire lives without any genital expression of their sexuality at all. This seems to me an almost heroic level of self-denial – one we would not expect of any other group.

It is easy to judge – and sometimes that judgement is right. But it is not so easy to know, if we were in their place, whether any of us would have the strength of will required to deny ourselves any form of physical expression of our sexuality for the whole of our lives.

I am not surprised that some fall, and while I condemn their behaviour, I cannot so easily condemn them.

From Rasmussen Reports.

President Barack Obama’s approval ratings are virtually identical to those of George W Bush at the same point in his presidency.

Changes in President Barack Obama's Approval Rating

Changes in President Barack Obama's Approval Rating

Interesting.