Monday, 2 January 2017

While we were away.....

Some of the issues and comment which caught my attention while the blog was on annual holiday.

THE NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is investigating several trucks that were not sealed correctly before transporting waste that potentially contained asbestos.
The EPA has been closely monitoring the remediation of the former South Grafton Sewage Treatment Plant by Clarence Valley Council, in response to a number of concerns raised by the community.
Adam Gilligan, Regional Director North, said a recent inspection observed trucks leaving the site with incorrectly sealed loads. The same contractors currently under investigation are also under investigation for similar issues in the Tweed area.
"I want to make it clear that, to date, Clarence Valley Council have taken appropriate steps in managing the environmental aspects of the remediation project.”
"However, the improper transport of waste potentially containing asbestos is a serious issue that warranted swift action to prevent a recurrence.”

* Scientists in the U.S., aided by colleagues in Canada and elsewhere, are moving quickly to preserve climate data stored on government computer servers out of concern that the Trump administration might remove or dismantle the records. A “guerrilla archiving” event will be held at the University of Toronto this weekend to catalog U.S. government climate and environmental data. Other researchers from the University of California to the University of Pennsylvania are responding to calls on Twitter and the Internet to preserve data on everything from rising seas to wildfires. The actions come as President-elect Donald Trump has appointed climate change skeptics to all his top environment and energy posts. Though there has been no mention yet of removing publicly available data, “it’s not unreasonable to think that they would want to take down the very data that they dispute,” said Michael Halpern of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

* In a report sent to Planning Minister Rob Stokes, just before the latest approval, the NSW National Parks Association (NPA) estimated 29-40 million litres a day of water were entering the coal mines in and around the Illawarra Special Areas, including Dendrobium. (See map below of the Wongawilli (lower mines) and Dendrobium coal mines (upper set) sprawling between the Avon and Cordeaux Reservoirs.)

According to the NPA, the mid-range estimate is equivalent to about 10 per cent of the total daily supply taken from the Avon, Cataract, Cordeaux, and Woronora reservoirs.
"It's important to note that there is currently no reliable means of knowing how much of this water would have otherwise gone into the storage reservoirs", Peter Turner, NPA mining projects officer, said.
Those estimates, though, may be conservative because they don't include inflows that are adding to water bodies accumulating within the mines, Dr Turner said. 
"There doesn't appear to be any reporting or auditing of  water pooling in either the current or the old mines within and around the Illawarra Special Areas," he said. "It's not clear whether the Dendrobium and adjacent Wongawilli mines are staying within their water licence limits." 

@LennaLeprena @Loud_Lass @NannanBay @deniseshrivell @MGliksmanMDPhD @leftocentre Merry Xmas Boys & Girls.
* If there is one unforeseen advantage of Donald Trump's election to the seat of the US presidency, it is the fevered goodwill that has flowed into the coffers of progressive, anti-Trump, causes since.
Since the Republican nominee's election win on November 8, nonprofit organisations in the US - such as pro-choice charity Planned Parenthood - have seen a massive upsurge in donations. In the build-up to Christmas, the wave of generosity only strengthened as disappointed voters did their best to counter the President elect's dismaying policies around civil rights, including immigration and women's reproductive rights.

* The Turnbull government insists most pensioners will be better off under changes in the New Year, as Newspoll analysis shows older voters are turning against the Coalition.
The analysis of 8508 voters in surveys taken for The Australian from October to December reveals a seven-percentage-point plunge in the primary vote for the Coalition among voters over 50 since the July 2 election.
Support for the government in the largest voting demographic has fallen from 49.9 per cent to 43 per cent.
Two-thirds of the lost vote has shifted to Labor and one-third to independents and minor parties.
The dip has come as the government faces criticism over an overhaul of superannuation taxes, changes to the pension assets test and aged care reforms.

* Bill McLennan, the Australian statistician from 1995 to 2000, argues that this census is “the most significant invasion of privacy ever perpetrated” by the ABS. But it is far more than that. It is an unparalleled resource — crying out to be stolen — for our adversaries to use against us in cyber and other conflicts.
Imagine if China or Russia had a copy of this information. They would know, or easily could deduce, the names, ranks and military base of every member of our armed forces, from a general to a Digger. Indeed this would be a trivial piece of big data analytics.
Similarly, they could deduce the details of every intelligence officer, every public servant, every politician, every chief executive, every union official, every doctor, nurse and teacher, and on and on.
But it would be worse than just that because this personal data provides a highly reliable framework on which to hang other data — information that is stolen from credit card companies, telcos, retailers and so forth — to build comprehensive pictures of every individual’s strengths and weaknesses.
Such knowledge gives a strategic edge to an adversary in any conflict where information warfare plays a significant role.
It turbocharges an adversary’s information warfare capacity, particularly in the not-war-not-peace cyber conflicts that are the 21st century’s version of the Cold War.
Two obvious questions arise.
Could our adversaries steal the census? The answer to this must be yes. We know it is possible for cyber intelligence agencies to infiltrate highly protected computer systems unobserved, then locate, copy and export data, again unobserved, and then leave the system, covering their tracks as they go.
We know from US congressional public hearings that Russia and China have these capabilities.
Essentially we know that no computer system is invulnerable to determined and sophisticated attackers, despite what their owners may say. And remember that we are talking about the ABS here, with its ageing computer system, demonstrably poor cybersecurity and a clearly slack, lazy, cosy relationship with its IT vendors.
The second question is this: are our adversaries stealing the census? We have to assume that they have at least considered it.
When the idea of electronically linking names and addresses to census data was first announced a few years ago, it is easy to imagine that both Russia and China would have counted their blessings — no one else does this, only us mugs in Australia.
They immediately could have begun to reconnoitre the ABS’s computer systems while preparing to inject useful pieces of sleeper software to assist in later operations.
Beijing, as it has done in many cases in other countries, also may have considered trying to suborn or persuade ethnic Chinese employees or contractors to assist in this process.
In the cat-and-mouse game of cyber espionage and counterespionage, we have to assume that our adversaries could do these things undetected.
So it’s highly plausible that Russia and China, or both, are stealthily stealing your census — and getting away with it. I’d give it better than even money because each of these powers has the motivation, capability, opportunity and, most important, intent.

* Donald Trump's assault on trade is escalating. First the foes were China and Mexico. Now it is the world.
The Trump transition team has mooted an import tariff of 10 per cent across the board, doubling down on earlier talk of a 5 per cent tax. Such thinking is of a different character to Mr Trump's campaign rhetoric, which mostly hinted at trade sanctions to force concessions.
A catch-all tariff is a change of belief systems. It overthrows the free trade order that has been upheld and policed by Washington since the 1940s.
Congress cannot stop Mr Trump imposing his will by "executive action" under existing US law. The president may impose tariffs of up to 15 per cent for 150 days without having to demonstrate any damage. All he has to do is utter the words "macroeconomic imbalances", or invoke "national security", and he can do what he wants.
The thrust is becoming all too clear. Mr Trump's choice of leader of the White House National Trade Council is a virulent Sinophobe. Without wishing to caricature Peter Navarro, there is a relentless consistency to his work: The Coming China Wars, Death by China: Confronting the Dragon, and Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World.

23 December 2016

* A 27-year-old Sudanese refugee held on Manus Island has died following “a fall and seizure” inside the Australian-run detention centre.
It is understood the man, who had reportedly been unwell for several months, collapsed and suffered head injuries inside the detention centre on Friday. He was then evacuated to Royal Brisbane and Women’s hospital, where he died on Saturday.
The Guardian understands the man’s name was Faysal Ishak Ahmed. He was born in Khartoum in June 1989 and had been held on Manus since October 2013.
A source on Manus told Guardian Australia that Ahmed had been sick for more than six months and other detainees had alerted the organisation responsible for care on the island, International Health and Medical Services (IHMS), to his sitaution.
“Last night he collapsed in Oscar prison and injured his head seriously,” the source said. “It was not the first time that he had fainted. A few days ago the refugees wrote a complaint against IHMS about his situation.”
According to the Refugee Action Coalition, the letter was signed by more than 60 refugees on Manus last week.
They said he had suffered numerous blackouts and collapses over the past several months.
“Faysal is yet another casualty of the systematic neglect that characterises Manus Island and offshore detention,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition.
A media statement from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection confirmed the death of the 27-year-old man from “a fall and seizure” at the detention centre.
“The department is not aware of any suspicious circumstances surrounding the death and expresses its sympathies to his family and friends,” it said. “The death will be reported to the Queensland coroner. No further comment will be made at this time.”

DECEMBER 10-11: NSW Government planning minister Paul Toole knocks back a request from the Clarence Valley Council to fund work on its $13.5 million super depot in South Grafton with an internal loan. The council planned to use money from its water fund to cover a cash flow shortfall while the council sold off assets to raise money for the depot work.

DECEMBER 12: Brooms Head Caravan Park long-time visitors and residents are up in arms over proposed changes to the park. Clarence Valley Council has released a concept design report for the caravan park with an estimated $7.91m worth of changes, including improved amenities, a revised road layout, more cabins and a phasing out of traditional user camping sites.

DECEMBER 13: With the finishing line in sight for the re-vamped Harwood Slipway, owners Harwood Marine announce they have 18 jobs worth around $10 million on the books waiting to get started. Company managing director Ross Roberts says the slipway should re-open some time in January.

DECEMBER 14: A private motocross track on a property has created division among property owners and neighbours on Tallawudjah Creek Rd, near Glenreagh. It also split opinion on Clarence Valley Council, with Mayor Jim Simmons' casting vote needed to give the clearance for the track to go ahead.

DECEMBER 15: Some Ulmarra residents fear a Clarence Valley Council resolution which will almost certainly mean the village's community pool will close at the end of the swimming season, will mean children will swim in the Clarence River, where bull sharks have been caught.

DECEMBER 16: There is fury among South Grafton residents near the Grafton District Golf Club at a council decision which could allow the sub-division of two former holes on the course into 16 building lots. The residents had agreed to a development of nine one-acre lots and were angry the golf club changed this to 16. The council voted to accept 16 lots, but wants layout changes to alleviate residents' concerns.

DECEMBER 17-18: Chaos around the Clarence Valley as a car crashes into the Joy Noodle store in South Grafton, a man is arrested after allegedly threatening a family with a gun near Buccarumbi and a man is allegedly stabbed in the knee with scissors during the theft of his vehicle in Yamba.

DECEMBER 19: The Daily Examiner launches its Give Don't Grieve campaign urging people to take road safety seriously in response to the rising road toll in the State.

DECEMBER 20: Seventy-two tabs of what is believed to be LSD were seized during a weekend drug dog operation on the Lower River. It was one of three significant busts made by police, as they took the animals through a number of licensed premises, parks and public places around Yamba and Maclean.

DECEMBER 21: A single mother of three, Stevie Martin, thanks lady luck after a single pine tree in the front yard of her house in Ellandgrove between South Grafton and Coutts Crossing, saves her house from major damage.

A savage storm that ripped through the area ripped the roof off a neighbour's house and sent it hurtling toward her house until the tree blocked it.

DECEMBER 22: The international media comments on the seeming reluctance of the Australian judicial system to bring the men charged over the death of Maclean woman Lynette Daley to court.
A report in the New York Post, picked up by media across the USA, says racism in Australian society is behind it.

DECEMBER 23: Police say the body of a teenager girl discovered near Yamba is believed to be missing Grafton girl Emma Powell.
The body of the 16-year-old was found in a reserve with the family car and dog which went missing with her.
The dog, Indie, was taken into safety by rangers.

DECEMBER 24: The Mororo Rd turn off from the Pacific Highway has been turned into a death trap by the works to upgrade the highway say residents. The RMS is about to release the results of a safety audit of the contentious area.

DECEMBER 26: The NSW Environment Protection Authority is investigating several trucks that were not sealed correctly before transporting waste that potentially contained asbestos.
The authority has been closely monitoring the remediation of the former South Grafton sewage Treatment Plant by Clarence Valley Council.

DECEMBER 27: A Grafton man is pulled from the surf on Wooli Beach, but dies of cardiac arrest after trying to rescue to young family members.

DECEMBER 28: Details emerge of the death of 60-year-old Grafton man Geoffrey Blackadder, who died while trying to save two young family members on Wooli Beach on Boxing Day.

DECEMBER 29: Clarence Valley beaches are packed as holiday makers enjoy hot weather. But lifeguards warn there can be challenging conditions which swimmers need to be wary of.

DECEMBER 30: The death of a 12-year-old boy in a car crash on the Pacific Highway at Tyndale prompts a warning that more deaths will happen on the notorious blackspot before the highway upgrade is complete.

DECEMBER 31: News emerges the boy who died in the crash at Tyndale is a relation of Australian media icon Ita Buttrose.
See: The Daily Examiner, 31 December 2016, p.6

* In 2016, Bob Brown and Jessica Hoyt were arrested for peacefully protesting against logging at Lapoinya in NW Tasmania.
They were charged under Tasmania’s harsh new ‘anti-protest’ laws. With huge fines and prison sentences, these laws attack the right to peaceful protest, a cornerstone of our democracy. 
Governments across Australia are now copying these laws, to crush dissent on environmental, social, cultural and Indigenous issues.  
These laws must be stopped now to protect everyone's right to peaceful protest. 
Bob Brown has launched action in the High Court of Australia to overturn these draconian laws, so that Australians remain free to take a stand on important issues we all care about. 
Jessica Hoyt, who grew up in Lapoinya, now a neurosurgery nurse in Hobart, has joined Bob in the High Court action. 
This case is a huge undertaking, with an enormous financial cost. 
But we cannot allow these laws to take hold, strangling our democratic rights.  
Stand with Bob and Jessica, and make a pledge today to strike down these undemocratic laws, once and for all.  
With potential legal costs of $250,000 or more, we are aiming to crowd fund at least $100,000 towards the legal costs that Bob Brown and Jessica Hoyt could face.

A north coast environment group has lashed the Environment Protection Authority, which has issued NSW Forestry Corporation with not one cent in fines despite proof the corporation flouted its compliance obligations while felling trees at Cherry Tree State Forest, near Casino.
North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) co-ordinator and audit-author Dailan Pugh said that the EPA have identified 66 instances of non-compliance with logging laws, ‘though this belies the fact that a single ‘non-compliance’ can represent hundreds of actual breaches.’
‘From the EPA’s figures, some 325 ancient hollow-bearing trees were illegally logged, though the EPA only count this as one act of non-compliance,’ Mr Pugh said.
‘While this is the most comprehensive investigation of our complaints that the EPA have yet undertaken, they still failed to investigate numerous complaints, For example we identified that 26 vulnerable Onion Cedars had an illegal road constructed within their buffers, but the EPA only checked eight of them. Similarly of the 11 poorly drained and eroding tracks we reported the EPA only checked nine.
‘There were also numerous offences relating to koalas, yellow-bellied gliders and black-striped wallabies that the EPA confirmed but claim they couldn’t legally prove.
‘We have been finding similar breaches in all the audits we have been undertaking, year after year after year.
‘Yet the EPA’s only response is to issue 47 more “official cautions” and require yet more ‘action plans’. These pathetic responses have been proven to be useless. The Forestry Corporation continue to deny they do anything wrong and continue to go on illegally logging.
‘The EPA are still yet to complete their investigations into eight cases of illegal roading and logging of the Endangered Ecological Community Lowland Rainforest, and hundreds of cases of the Forestry Corporation recklessly damaging retained hollow-bearing trees.
‘They say that these serious offences are subject to an ongoing investigation. We can only hope that next time the punishment will match the crime’ Mr Pugh said.

* Debit cards have been returned to dozens of Aboriginal people in outback South Australia, after a local store owner drained almost $1 million from their bank accounts.
It follows a landmark Federal Court ruling last month, which found the trader guilty of unconscionable conduct.
Community groups hope it sends a message to others taking advantage of customers in remote areas.

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