Saturday 28 February 2009

A tale about three Aussie Test Cricketers on debut

Ben Hilfenhaus

Making their first appearances in Test cricket, Australians Phillip Hughes, Marcus North and Ben Hilfenhaus made very different contributions to the team's effort in the First Test against South Africa at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg.

Opening the innings and taking strike, Hughes lasted just four balls before throwing his wicket away with a stroke that is best forgotten.

North had a dream start to Test cricket. He scored 117 and became just the 18th Australian cricketer to post a century on debut.

Hilfenhaus, picked for his bowling and not his batting, didn't trouble the scorers and was dismissed first ball for a golden duck. However, he showed his 'goods' soon after when he took a wicket with the second ball he bowled in Test Cricket.

At the end of Day 2 Australia is well positioned.
Scores: Australia 466, South Africa 85/3

Yamba at night

Yamba at night - a pic of the roundabout near Yamba's Fountain on the Mountain
(aka the Pacific Hotel)

Pic - thanks to Joe Damage on Flickr

When did you last see a Flame Robin?

Flame Robin at Birds Australia

The NSW North Coast is in the enviable position of being at the meeting between the upper range of southern birds and the lower range of northern birds found in eastern Australia.
This sometimes disguises the fact that biodiversity in the Northern Rivers is also affected by loss of habitat, particularly the clearing of forest cover in our region and the loss of wetlands both here and across the state.

Birds Australia has released its report The State of Australia's Birds 2008 (SOAB).

Birds to watch

Birds to watch, identified by the declining population trends in this report, include: migratory waders such as the Eastern Curlew, Curlew Sandpiper and Latham’s Snipe; resident waders such as Black-winged Stilt, Red-necked Avocet, and Banded and Masked Lapwings; resident coastal species such as the Fairy Tern and Hooded Plover; woodland insectivores such as the Hooded Robin and Jacky Winter; specialised forest and heathland species such as the Western Ground Parrot,whipbirds, bristlebirds and scrub-birds; mallee species such as the Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo and Malleefowl (also the Black-eared Miner); and forest birds such as the Swift Parrot. Pelagic species of concern include the Wandering Albatross and Flesh-footed Shearwater. In addition, upland species (reported on in SOAB 2007 as disappearing from lower parts of their ranges) may be at most immediate risk from climate change; they include the Red-browed Treecreeper, Golden Bowerbird, Mountain Thornbill, Grey-headed Robin and Chowchilla. Data are lacking on other species of concern including the Australasian Bittern and several northern ground-feeders. While the numbers of some of these species are still good nationally, they are falling. For threatened endemic species, such as the heathland birds and Swift Parrot, the declining trends are cause for alarm.

Full report.

Birds Australia wildlife rescue webpage showing how you can help wildlife affected by bushfire.

Saturday's grab bag

As sometimes happens a couple of North Coast Voices authors are off in parts unknown or down and out with a lurgy.
So I'm posting a few links that might keep readers up to date on a few issues:

The Monsanto blog is currently taking exception to 10 Reasons Why We Don't Need GM Food.
The biotech monolith is also on Twitter now as MonsantoCo.

Malcolm Truffles Turnbull unsuccessfully tried a censure motion against the Federal Minister for Defence over the SAS pay bungle.
Joel Fitzgibbon answers on this issue and the Department of Defence sends out a media release.
And yesterday The Australian went with a pay slip which is now in dispute.

The whaling debate continues in the American media which reports Japan's heavy handed approach to Japanese Greenpeace members and Australian Federal Police board the Steve Irwin on its return from Antarctic waters.

The Clarence Valley sends goods and cattle fodder south to communities and farmers in Victorian bushfire areas.

Getup! gets into Rudd Government over its proposed emissions trading scheme.

The Far North Coaster reports that; "The second combined exhibition featuring works from graduating Southern Cross University and TAFE visual arts students will be on show in Lismore from March 3 until March 21."

The Daily Examiner reports on the cost of Clarence Valley localized flooding this month.

Friday 27 February 2009

Nitpicking Obama's speech

President Obama's speech to the U.S. Congress last Wednesday earned him a few positive reviews in the mainstream media.

The U.K. The Guardian thought that; He received widespread plaudits for a speech in which he discarded the soaring rhetoric of the campaign trail and adopted a more even pace, setting out details of how he would help the country out of recession, possibly as early as next year.

Certainly Obama appears to have had a small bounce in his job approval ratings recently (61 per cent on 24 February) after a steady drop since his inauguration and, I expect that lines like; "Tonight, I want every American to know this: we will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before," will go down well across America and keep his rating steady.

However, there is always someone to prick that political bubble and, as always FactCheck gives this speech the once over with sometimes amusing results:

President Obama's first speech to a joint session of Congress was stuffed with signals about the new direction his budget will take and meant-to-be reassuring words about the economy. But it was also peppered with exaggerations and factual misstatements.

  • He said "we import more oil today than ever before." That's untrue. Imports peaked in 2005 and are substantially lower today.
  • He claimed his mortgage aid plan would help "responsible" buyers but not those who borrowed beyond their means. But even prominent defenders of the program including Fed Chairman Bernanke and FDIC chief Bair concede foolish borrowers will be aided, too.
  • He said the high cost of health care "causes a bankruptcy in America every 30 seconds." That's at least double the true figure.
  • He flubbed two facts about American history. The U.S. did not invent the automobile, and the transcontinental railroad was not completed until years after the Civil War, not during it.
  • He claimed that his stimulus plan "prevented the layoffs" of 57 police officers in Minneapolis. In fact, it's far more complicated than that, and other factors are also helping to save police jobs.

The president also repeated some strained claims we've critiqued before.

Full FactCheck analysis here.

Don't forget to count the silver as he leaves.........

It's finally been announced that Sol Trujillo is quitting as Telstra's CEO in June 2009, after a less than stellar career which also saw him receive salary packages which turned many an Aussie corporate type green with envy:
Notwithstanding his substantial wealth, the Telstra board authorised payments to Trujillo of $8.7 million in 2006, $11.78 million in 2007 and $13.39 million in 2008 (Trujillo's 2009 remuneration will be revealed later this year). Remarkably, Trujillo also managed to receive between 86 and 88 percent of his short-term cash bonus in any of those three years, despite Telstra's share price underperforming rivals such as AT&T and SingTel.
Here in the Northern Rivers Telstra's mobile phone service is still patchy, Big Pond internet connections frequently don't operate at advertised speeds and retirees who included telecommunications stock as part of their nest egg are severely disappointed because Telstra share prices went down under Trujillo and stayed there.
When Sol left US West Communications he was said to have walked away with a cool US $72 million in his pocket.
We don't know how much Sol will get in his latest golden handshake, but will someone please count the family silver as he exits the country.

Thursday 26 February 2009

Monsanto According To Monsanto: no blog is too big or small, we read all of them

No blog is too big or small, we read all of them says Monsanto on its new blog Monsanto According to Monsanto.

On the first post by Kathleen our blog North Coast Voices gets not one but two links within the text.

So if all blogs are read - does someone also go out on behalf of Monsanto and take notes at any protest rally or town meeting?

Spin Watch tells us a little about corporate strategy in relation to the Internet.
Source Watch tells a similar story and Gene Watch records Monsanto's alleged attempts to deceive as well as quotes a section of the book Don't Worry, It's Safe to Eat .

Kathleen may like to think that she is the 'nice' face of a 'good' company.
Sadly for Kathleen I am too old to for fall for the froth and spin, when court transcripts and research papers (some discussed elsewhere on North Coast Voices) tell of a socially and environmentally irresponsible, destructive multinational who doesn't give a toss about the rest of the world.

Graphic is Kathleen's avatar

* This post is part of North Coast Voices' effort to keep Monsanto's blog monitor (affectionately known as Mr. Monsanto) in long-term employment.

Clarence Valley Council gets one decision right and another so very, very wrong

Maclean protestors with Nikki Holmes in the foreground.
Picture: The Daily Examiner

Reported in The Daily Examiner on Wednesday:

RESIDENTS of Maclean will wake up this morning sure of two things. The Maclean carpark is not for sale and the debate is finally over.

After months of heated debate within the community, at last night's council meeting councillors Tiley, Hughes, Dinham, Comben and Howe voted down the rescission motion that called for the carpark debate to be re-opened.

Their actions have effectively closed the door on any plans the council had to sell or lease the carpark to developers for the construction of a full sized supermarket on the site.

“I just think democracy prevailed,” Bruce Apps of Maclean said following the decision.

Another Maclean resident at the meeting, Jean Everson was also pleased with the result.

“I'm very thankful that our local councillors stuck to their word from the November meeting,” Mrs Everson said.

“We're third generation in Maclean and we don't want public land sold in this town.”

Unfortunately Clarence Valley Council also voted to continue with the urban development of natural flood storage land at West Yamba vulnerable to innundation and bushfire, when it endorsed the latest West Yamba Local Environmental Plan.

This move by councillors is not surprising given the estimated $7.3 million involvement of Billabong owner Gordon Merchant and the relentless political pressure brought to bear by local developers in the Mitchell family.

When Yamba feels the full effect of less adjoining land to absorb flood water, when more people may need to evacuate over a single narrow bridge due to adverse weather events or bushfire due to climate change, the names Merchant and Mitchell will be mud amongst residents.

Followed by the names of all those councillors and council staff who continued to push this development in the face of known risks.

Unfortunately, under the leadership of Nationals protégée Mayor Richie Williamson, this council thinks that throwing one sop to the Lower Clarence offsets the environmental and social vandalism it is advocating for West Yamba.
Even former mayor Ian Tiley appears to have lost his way in relation to the big picture.

No level of government in Australia is taking the potential impact of climate change (on the 7 kilometre-wide coastal edge of the continent) seriously.
The posturing and prevarication is bordering on a lack of care for coastal communities.

Who's to blame for all that hot air?

Every so often the teev features an advert advising us all to eat less meat in the name of combating global warming. Go Veg! it exhorts.
It appears that cows are being blamed for releasing enormous amounts of methane into the atmosphere.
Indeed one Andy Thorpe "an economist at the University of Portsmouth, found a herd of 200 cows can produce annual emissions of methane roughly equivalent in energy terms to driving a family car more than 100,000 miles (180,000km) on more than four gallons (21,400 litres) of petrol."
Fair enough, but what about the average bloke and blokette?
How many times do we all pass the wind around each day and how much nitrogen, carbon dioxide and methane does this represent?

This is what population numbers looked like on Monday:
World 6,762,457,963
16:20 GMT (EST+5) Feb 23, 2009
Multiply this total by a factor of at least 10-14 'incidents' per day per person and that's a lot of hot air rising.
And what about all those sewerage treatment plants and sanitary landfill sites - how much methane do they produce globally?
I'm betting that cows are getting a run for their money from humans in the personal greenhouse gas stakes.

So I won't be giving Bessie a kick next time I pass her grazing paddock.
As for that irritating advert - meat is a luxury for most of the world anyway and I can hardly eat less than I do already.

Wednesday 25 February 2009

A hole in Conroy's censorship net?

The Federal Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, attended a Senate estimates committee hearing last Monday 23 February 2009.

Quite rightly much has been made of his continuing refusal to rule out censoring legal but 'unwanted' content if the Rudd Government's national mandatory ISP-level Internet filtering scheme is implemented.

However, there is another little gem in Monday's transcript of the Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts: Estimates which indicates that Conroy's proposed vastly expanded blacklist may be vulnerable at the outset:

Senator MINCHINI do not mean any criticism by this, because I think it is beyond your control, but there is another issue that I want to raise with you. It has been drawn to my attention that primarily because in answering this complaint by email you obviously referred to the site in question, which is understandable, the complainant, as I understand it, made the address of that site widely available via the publication of your email. Are you concerned that that is a significant flaw in your very worthy and, I think, comprehensive endeavours to ensure that the blacklist itself is not published or made available more widely than is absolutely necessary?
Ms O'LoughlinThat is a difficult question. In general, we were disappointed that that was distributed further, but we do not have the capacity to stop a complainant from making their complaint public.
Senator MINCHINBut do you acknowledge that this is potentially a major hole in the security of the contents of the blacklist?
Ms O'LoughlinIn many respects, our main concern is the totality of the blacklist. That is something that we are distributing and we can make sure that there are appropriate security provisions in place for it. I think it is difficult for us then to take a step further and require complainants to keep their complaints to themselves. They know the consequences of the listing. We are disappointed by it, but it is difficult for us to do much more than encourage people not to distribute those things much further.
Senator ConroyJust to clarify: this is the existing blacklist under the existing law that was in place for most of the period of the former government. It is the existing blacklist and the existing law that we are having a discussion about.
Senator MINCHINYes, I accept that, Minister. I also accept that, if there is a loophole here, it has existed for some time, but perhaps it is just now being exploited. So is not an offence in any way, under any law or regulation, for anybody to publish a site, a page or whatever it is that has been blacklisted as a result of a complaint made.

It is evident that Senator Conroy will have to broaden his censorship net to make it unlawful for correspondence with the Australian Communications and Media Authority to be published, if he doesn't want any part of his precious blacklist to be leaked.
It appears likely that that he is be considering this option.

There is no end to the stupidity flowing from the Rudd-Conroy Great Firewall of Australia.

Twittering the Internet censorship protest continues

The Fake Stephen Conroy was still enjoying the banter last week.

stephenconroy Got science boffins looking into The Secret; apparently thinking about kiddie p#rn (and bicycles) can manifest kiddie p#rn (and bicycles).

Pic from and apologies to Jon for the # edit. The Administrator made me do it!

And here comes Hartsuyker trailing in the rear....

Since he was turfed from the government benches along with his Coalition mates in 2007, Nationals MP for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker has suddenly discovered the lives of ordinary Northern Rivers folk.
Surprise, surprise; this month he's noticed that single pensioners are doing it tough and has to tell the world about it.
Pity about the timing - his media release (and its beaut go at rewriting a little slice of history) lost much of its punch once Tony Abbott opened his mouth.

Luke now looks less like a self-styled local hero and more like the meat in the sandwich, as mainstream media records the difference of opinion between Truffles and the Mad Monk.
ABC Mid North Coast Radio News this week:
"The federal Member for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker, says the Nationals remain committed to raising the single aged pension.
Opposition families spokesman Tony Abbott appeared to be pulling away from supporting a payment increase after telling 2GB radio that the increase was not viable.
Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull then issued a statement calling on the Government to raise the pension.
Mr Hartsuyker says the change would bring Australia into line with key OECD countries.
"The Nationals are absolutely committed to raising the single aged pension by $30," he said.
"We have a situation where single aged pensioners are doing it particularly tough. It's important that they receive a pension that is around two-thirds of the married rate.
"In many countries around the world that is the status that exists. It is vitally important we support our single aged pensioners."

A Hartsuyker staffer also sent out a media release which was passed on to me this week by Clarencegirl.
It seems Luke is also hot under the collar over the coming redistribution of federal electorates in NSW which will see one seat go.
He's called on "North Coast residents to oppose any plan to reduce the number of Federal seats which exist in regional New South Wales".
As no North Coast electorates are affected by this redistribution, what little electoral gerrymander or two are we being asked to help create elsewhere?
He says he wants a Sydney seat to disappear - presumably one held by Labor's Murphy or Plibersek.
Or could his plea be a move to protect a couple of Lib MPs in Gilmore and Macarthur?

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Pauline Plant of Yamba - finalist for NSW Woman of the Year

Pauline Plant, the creator of the Yamba Breast Cancer Support Group and Breast awareness program, is one of 10 finalists for the NSW Woman of the Year Award.

Earlier this year Mrs Plant was announced as the 2009 Clarence Valley Citizen of the Year.

The finalists for the Woman of the Year Award were chosen from 87 nominations with the winner to be announced on
International Women's Day on March 5.

The other nominees are:

Layne Beachley - former world champion surfer

Cheryl Koenig - author

Patricia Johnson - State Emergency Service volunteer

Rozita Leoni - Eastern Sydney community worker

Wendy McCarthy - former University of Canberra chancellor

Jan Savage - Cancer Care Western NSW fundraising coordinator

Sue Ismiel - philanthropist

Rhonda French - a Wiradjuri woman, who voluntarily promotes positive health, education and cultural programs

Ana Tiwary - Vice-president of Women in Film and Television

Pic from The Daily Examiner

Dolphins at play, Iluka NSW

Photographs by Mike Litzow displayed at his blog
The adventures of Mike, Alisa and young Elias on the sailboat Pelagic.

An object lesson for Senator Conroy.........

In December last year the BBC One Watchdog program outed legal firm Davenport Lyons for sending threatening letters to individuals with home internet connections (operating open WiFi networks) demanding sums in the vicinity of £500-£600 for alleged infringement of copyright.

These letters of demand were adamant that copyright breaches had occurred, even though it later found that it was in the wrong because either the downloading was proven not to have occurred on the PC in question or the stated IP addresses were incomplete or fake.

Now Davenport Lyons went so far as to make application to the UK High Court to start this extortion-like process off and it quickly descended into the ridiculous:

15. At 8:50pm on 08 Dec 2008, ebvjb45 wrote:

I also received one of these letters accusing me of uploading and making available a po*rn film called ************. As a happily married pensioner of 64 years old I ask you!. After plowing through the documentation I spotted one or two items that are either missing or incorrect.
It would appear that although they have my full postal address they do not have my name! The letter and documentation is addressed by name to ?Provider, Royal Mail Holdings PLC? If they do not use my name or appear to know it how on earth can they carry out any threats of court actions?
For me they list that the upload was done using three different IP Addresses, but all at the same time! As I understand it, my ISP issues me with single new IP address dynamically each time I reconnect to the internet (NOT THREE). As I use an ADSL Network Router that IP Address remains allocated to me till I switch off the router or disconnect it from the telephone line. The router is left switched on for weeks at a time. This throws some doubts on their data gathering reliability.
Doing a Google search on the name Davenport Lyons brings up some interesting facts about this company. After reading the comments about them and their ways of doing things I am certainly not going to be paying them a settlement. I will wait till they try to take me to court and fight it there.
Needless to say I have not seen this video, downloaded it or uploaded it.

It would have been most useful had Watchdog named the Lawyer who is representing the 400 people who received these demand letters, as I would like to make that figure up to 401 with my name.
[Quote has been edited to avoid blocking by filters]

This law firm is apparently threatening Wikileaks for online publishing an example of the questionable letter of demand.

This is what Wikileaks has additionally published concerning how Davenport Lyons 'found' its information:

The legal threat letters themselves contain a hash value, and IP address and a time stamp that is being used as evidence – flimsy evidence according to many people who have observed the legal side of file-sharing. The reason it is seen as flimsy is that a filename can be called anything and still have the same hash value. Second of all, there is no evidence provided that verified that the file name matched what the actual work was. For all we know, it could have been a 5 minute porn clip rather than a music video. Thirdly, there's no evidence to suggest that an IP address is linked to an individual. The computer could be used by someone other than the owner of the connection. There could be a wifi connection that other users, including unauthorized ones, could be using that IP address. Finally, a time stamp doesn't contribute much into proving that a copyrighted work has been uploaded. The alleged incident in question happened over BitTorrent, but no website was given, so who really knows where the evidence was gathered in the first place?

A Davenport Lyons letter threatening the whistleblower with legal action was sent out this month.

This may be a response to the fact that it appears that Which? consumer group is now taking Davenport Lyons to court.

As the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy, pursues his plan to censor the Internet in an effort to meet the corporate aims of both the IT security and entertainment industries he should perhaps ponder what bullying monsters he might be letting loose on Australian society.
Particularly as the Federal Government's own agency ACMA is operating in almost complete secrecy in creating its blacklist.

Senator Conroy may give assurances that the government will not be pursuing Internet account holders who appear to breach the ISP-level filter (if such a scheme is implemented), but there is no assurance that the client information which would have to be held by these ISPs will not be abused in the future.

Did you know Australia has a National Continence Management Strategy?

Did you know Australia has a National Continence Management Strategy?
I didn't.
It seems we even have a strategy website -
The National Public Toilet Map.
In my younger days families often motored around the state on the basis of Golden Fleece petrol stations, but now they can follow the dunnies.
Bet you can't get those kids passports with visa stamps for each one visited though!

And for once New South Wales leads at something besides bad government.

Show toilets in:
Aust. Capital Territory (187)
New South Wales (4538)
Northern Territory (207)
Queensland (2992)
South Australia (1296)
Tasmania (718)
Victoria (3655)
Western Australia (1777)

Pic from Google Images

Monday 23 February 2009

Sack this senator! Censorship protest digital billboard

If only..................................

Walking on the wildside: GMO transgenes found in wild maize

Evidence of the irresponsible nature of the biotechnology industry in general and Monsanto in particular.

Molecular Ecology:

A possible consequence of planting genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in centres of crop origin is unintended gene flow into traditional landraces.

In 2001, a study reported the presence of the transgenic 35S promoter in maize landraces sampled in 2000 from the Sierra Juarez of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Analysis of a large sample taken from the same region in 2003 and 2004 could not confirm the existence of transgenes, thereby casting doubt on the earlier results.

These two studies were based on different sampling and analytical procedures and are thus hard to compare. Here, we present new molecular data for this region that confirm the presence of transgenes in three of 23 localities sampled in 2001.

Transgene sequences were not detected in samples taken in 2002 from nine localities, while directed samples taken in 2004 from two of the positive 2001 localities were again found to contain transgenic sequences.

These findings suggest the persistence or re-introduction of transgenes up until 2004 in this area.

We address variability in recombinant sequence detection by analyzing the consistency of current molecular assays.

We also present theoretical results on the limitations of estimating the probability of transgene detection in samples taken from landraces.

The inclusion of a limited number of female gametes and, more importantly, aggregated transgene distributions may significantly lower detection probabilities.

Our analytical and sampling considerations help explain discrepancies among different detection efforts, including the one presented here, and provide considerations for the establishment of monitoring protocols to detect the presence of transgenes among structured populations of landraces.

This is not the first time transgenes have been found in the wild as GMO seed dispersal also leads to engineered seed establishing itself amid original species and cross-pollinating, as appears to be the case in relation to certain grasses.

Thanks to Balneus for pointing me in the direction of this information.

* This post is part of North Coast Voices' effort to keep Monsanto's blog monitor (affectionately known as Mr. Monsanto) in long-term employment.

Sometimes the Internet is so.....

Here I was paddling about the pond thinking that I was looking as handsome as any other duck.
Then I entered
Wealth benchmarks International and found that my plumage ranking was in the bottom 3% of all Aussie ducks.
Now I don't know whether to be depressed at the sad state of my feathers or glad that so few people share my fate.
Perhaps I should give Joe Hockey a ring........

Sunday 22 February 2009

Australian National Day of Mourning, 22 February 2009

Marysville, Victoria, before the February 2009 bushfires razed the town

“February 7 will become etched in our national memory as a day of disaster, of death and of mourning and it is very important that the nation grieves,”
“The National Day of Mourning will allow us all an opportunity to honour those who lost their lives in the fires, support those who have suffered and recognise the work of our emergency services.
"This day will give all Australians the chance to reflect and remember this terrible tragedy, as an important step in rebuilding these communities."
[Hon. Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia]

Memorial Service details

Are anti-terrorism laws beginning to quietly unravel?

Perhaps countries like Australia, who post-9/11 rushed headlong into drafting draconian anti-terrorism legislation, will now think again about the troublesome law created and the impact this has on the health of individuals, well being of families and justice within society.

The European Commission of Human Rights issued this media release last Thursday concerning the application of 11 individuals (six of Algerian nationality; four respectively, of French, Jordanian, Moroccan and Tunisian nationality; and, one, born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan, being stateless).

Although compensation mentioned is relatively small, it represents another step in addressing the issue of bad law.

The European Court of Human Rights has today delivered at a public hearing its Grand Chamber judgment1 in the case of A. and Others v. the United Kingdom (application no. 3455/05).

The case concerned the applicants' complaints that they were detained in high security conditions under a statutory scheme which permitted the indefinite detention of non-nationals certified by the Secretary of State as suspected of involvement in terrorism.

The Court held unanimously that there had been:

· no violation of Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment) taken alone or in conjunction with Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of all the applicants, except the Moroccan applicant whose complaints under these articles were declared inadmissible;

· a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the Convention in respect of all the applicants, except the Moroccan and French applicants who had elected to leave the United Kingdom, since it could not be said that the applicants were detained with a view to deportation and since, as the House of Lords had found, the derogating measures which permitted their indefinite detention on suspicion of terrorism discriminated unjustifiably between nationals and non-nationals;

· a violation of Article 5 § 4 (right to have lawfulness of detention decided by a court) in respect of two of the Algerian applicants, the stateless and Tunisian applicants, because they had not been able effectively to challenge the allegations against them; and,

· a violation of Article 5 § 5 in respect of all the applicants, except the Moroccan and French applicants, on account of the lack of an enforceable right to compensation for the above violations.

The Court made awards under Article 41 (just satisfaction) which were substantially lower than those which it had made in past cases of unlawful detention, in view of the fact that the detention scheme was devised in the face of a public emergency and as an attempt to reconcile the need to protect the United Kingdom public against terrorism with the obligation not to send the applicants back to countries where they faced a real risk of ill-treatment. The Court therefore awarded, to the six Algerian applicants 3,400 euros (EUR), EUR 3,900, EUR 3,800, EUR 3,400, EUR 2,500 and EUR 1,700, respectively; to the stateless and Tunisian applicants EUR 3,900, each; and to the Jordanian applicant, EUR 2,800. The applicants were jointly awarded EUR 60,000 for legal costs. (The judgment is available in English and French.)

Full copy of summary here.

Fairies union flies to the rescue?

Bet Crickey had fun typing this one:

"Production on the childrens' television series Fairies, which airs on Channel Seven, has halted. The series is filmed in Adelaide, it follows the adventures of fairies Harmony, Rhapsody and their magical friends. It was meant to go back into production last week but when the producers got wind that the fairies wanted a union agreement production was halted. The fairies' union is taking legal action.

I'm clapping for Tinkerbelle - how 'bout you?

Saturday 21 February 2009

Terminology matters when you are trying to pick a fight

I have seen a number of amusing comments of late attached to posts concerning the nature of 'blogging' or the content of specific blogs. Some of these observations have been marred by confusing word use.

As Meg Pickard created a nice definition table some time back, I though I would post it here for the edification of the totally confused.

Clean up Australia Day 1st March 2009

It's Clean Up Australia Day on Sunday 1st March 2009 and up and down the NSW North Coast people are starting to organise their participation in keeping our little patch of paradise environmentally sound.

So if you are interested, go to and look for a place nearby where locals will be gathering to volunteer for a worthwhile working bee that weekend.

Another low-life email scam

In our electronic global village it won't be long before this email surfaces again in Australia.

According to Network World on Monday:
"You've been let go. Click here to register for severance pay. " With the economy in the state it is in now, people are afraid for their jobs and criminals are taking advantage of that fear, said Rubinoff. A common tactic includes sending an email to employees that looks like it is from the employer. The message appears to relay news that requires a quick response.
"It can be an email that appears to be from HR that says: 'You have been let go due to a layoff. If you wish to register for severance please register here,' and includes a malicious link."
No one wants to be the person that causes problems in this economy, so any email that appears to be from an employer will likely elicit a response, noted Rubinoff. Lares' Nickerson has also seen cons that use fake employer emails.
"It might say, 'In an effort to cut costs, we are sending W-2 forms electronically this year,'" said Nickerson"

* Eight other scams are here.

Friday 20 February 2009

Internet charges: Court hands Berlin second warning

Court hands Berlin second warning
The Daily Examiner, 20th February 2009

According to The Daily Examiner on 13 May 2009:

Poor, poor Malcolm has the leadership blues...

It has been a hard few days for the Leader of the Liberal Party and the Loyal Opposition, Malcolm Bligh Turnbull.

He now has Joe Hockey as Shadow-Treasurer and the gaffes have already begun:
"The market has made everyday Australians richer than they have ever been, even with this economic downturn,"

Cory Bernardi showed a stubborn streak and wouldn't publicly bend the knee to his leader.

Confirming his view of a fortnight ago:
Of course, pensioners do it tough. And yes, I have never had to live on the pension and would need to change my life in order to do so. Still, is simply increasing the pension necessarily the best way to go given that pensioners in their own home are much better off, in practice, that those that aren’t. There is always a host of worthy causes that taxpayers’ money might be spent on. The question is what’s best at this time. I reckon that spending that improves the economy makes more sense right now, in the bad times, than spending which improves the social infrastructure.

Peter Costello is obviously enjoying the leadership speculation at Malcolm's expense.

Then John Winston Howard gave his leadership the kiss of death by endorsing it.
It must be remembered that Howard endorsed Brendan Nelson in much the same manner just before he lost the top job to Turnbull.

Still, Malcolm can always go home and hideout with his blogging dogs.

Afghan Metrics: how's the war going then?

Afghanistan October 2001 from Google Images

Found in Wikileaks:

This important, high-level document, from 14 Jan 2009, presents 12 slides of graphs, maps, statistics and text about the war in Afghanistan. It was prepared by the Pentagon (CENTCOM), under the imprimatur of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan and written at the For Official Use Only level. The document is formally titled "Metrics Brief, 2007-2008".
The documents reveals, among other matters, that the yearly civilian death toll increased during 2008 by 40% to 46%, the number of attacks on the "Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan" (GIRoA), increased by 116%, surface to Air Fire by 67%, and that Improvised Explosive Device (IED) device casualties increased by 29%.
Download PDF here

Last week in the media:

KABUL (AFP) — US President Barack Obama has accepted Kabul's request to be part of a major review of US strategy in the "war on terror" in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai and a US envoy said Sunday.

KABUL, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Afghanistan condemned on Friday the killing of civilians in a raid by Australian soldiers in the south of the country which it says was not coordinated with Afghan forces. The Australian Defence Force said five children had been killed in a shootout between Taliban insurgents and Australian Special Forces in southern Uruzgan province on Thursday, where they were "clearing" a number of compounds. The Afghan Defence Ministry said one woman and two children were killed and eight other people wounded in the attack.


While the dead in Iraq continue to mount:

Iraq Body Count (civilian deaths)

Faces of the Fallen (US defence forces)

FOUND: an virtual office assistant for Stephen Mayne

I have been watching Stephen Mayne's progress as a shareholder activist on and off for some time now and reading his Mayne report whenever I remember.
He certainly writes a mountain of letters and emails. I stand in awe at the sheer volume over the years. What a ripper!
I've been wondering how he is managing to keep up with his multi-tasking since he also became a Manningham city councillor and I think I have the perfect solution for those times when there aren't enough hours in the day to keep up with the correspondence.
Cranky Old Man Letters - an online automated letter-writing program for emails addressed to Fortune 500 companies. This could be just the ticket.
Here is a copy of one online letter generated for emailing to Monsanto:

Varian Louisa
4022 Socialite Blvd.
Kansas, IL 61933
February 18, 2009

Hugh Grant
800 N. Lindbergh Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63167

Good Evening:

The last time I was at Monsanto I decided that I was not going to take it anymore and I urinated on the immature floor in the lobby.
In the winter of 1953 below the 36th Parallel, I was with Company P and me and my buddy Daruka (also from Kansas) were freezing our GMOs off.
Charlie was everywhere.
All we had to eat was a can of turnips and only 36 bullets between us. I made it through that ordeal, but Daruka didn't.

I fought for our freedom and I am not going to take anymore from you guys over there in St. Louis. Trollop Monsanto!

I have to stop writing this shonky letter. I just misleading peed all over my hellish slacks because I am choking on my own anger while writing this letter.
Are you happy now. All of my problems in my life are because of Hugh Grant and his group of hot c*#ks over there at Monsanto.

Our economy is falling apart and you have the f@cking nerve to charge me for this damaged service! Eat A D#ck! If you think I am going to bail your multinationals out like the government, you better get bent.

I expect a apology from Monsanto before next Monday. I want it written on your official company letterhead and signed by Hugh Grant personally.
Do not send me some garbage written by an assistant. You will be hearing from my lawyer.

With My Compliments,

Varian Louisa

Thursday 19 February 2009

Neighbours Fear Mr Billabong Could Play Eye Spy

Billabong founder Gordon Merchant has, apparently, upset his neighbours in the northern NSW surfside village of Angourie.

Merchant's new home - oops! correction, that should read 'MANSION' - at Angourie, which is estimated to be worth $12 million, has a video camera installed on a two-metre tower. Apparently, the camera will be used to check out the nearby surf but some of Merchant's neighbours are not so sure about that.

The Gold Coast Bulletin reports that Merchant's mansion covers four house blocks at the Pacific Parade property, just south of Yamba.

A letter sent to The Gold Coast Bulletin outlined residents' concerns over the camera that will sit atop the roof of the three-storey beach house.

"We residents feel our privacy infringed, as this camera peers into our living and bedrooms 24 hours a day," said the local, who wished to remain anonymous.

Residents also believe the pole is above height restrictions for the area.

Clarence Valley Council Mayor Richie Williamson confirmed the council had received complaints.

"There will be a camera on top of his house but there have been investigations into that and it wasn't above any height limits," he said.

The man who founded the international clothing and accessories company Billabong on the Gold Coast in 1973 is worth an estimated $805 million and he has had a long association with Angourie and Yamba in northern NSW.

Mr Merchant has invested heavily in real estate in the towns and his helicopter is often seen flying into Yamba.

While most locals welcome his involvement and the building of the massive mansion, which has provided a good kick-along to local tradesmen, it seems not all have been won over.

Photo credit: Brendan Radke, The Gold Coast Bulletin, 19/2/09

Monsanto related environmental and health risks lead to court case - again

According to The Madison St Clair Record last week:

A group of Illinois residents who live in or near Sauget have filed a class-action lawsuit over the release of various hazardous substances that they claim has created a severe health risk and has contaminated their properties.

Lead class plaintiffs Vernon Lee Anderson Sr., Ernestine Lawrence, Katie Burnett-Smith, Martha Emily Young, Marcella Phillips and Bernice Laverne Collins argue that three release sites - a 90-acre landfill operated by Sauget and Co., a 314-acre W.G. Krummrich Plant and property owned by Cerro Flow Products - have released PCBs and other various substances, including dioxins and furans, into the atmosphere for more than 70 years.

Residents fear they will develop a deadly disease from the PCBs, which have been shown to result in toxic effects in the brain and nervous system and in low birth rates and birth defects.

"According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, a lifetime dose of one milligram of PCBs is sufficient to cause cancer and other serious and life-threatening diseases," the suit filed Feb. 10 in St. Clair County Circuit Court states. "According to the World Health Organization, there is not safe level of exposure to PCBs."

Dioxins and furans are also known to be dangerous and to create significant health problems through inhalation, ingestion, dermal absorption and ingestion of homegrown produce.

In addition to the health risk, the residents claim the PCBs have contaminated property within a two-mile radius of the release sites, waterways and groundwater, the suit states.

The releases began after the W.G. Krummrich Plant, which is also referred to as the Monsanto Facility in the complaint, began producing, storing and disposing of PCBs at its facility, the residents claim.

In fact, "more PCBs were produced at the Monsanto Facility than at any other site in the United States, and perhaps even the free world," the suit states.

This Sauget flood plain region is well-known to the US Environmental Protection Agency and Monsanto had previously entered a negotiated settlement with the State of illinois.

Fox River Watch has a history of PCB health problems in the US here.

And with a corporate history like that Monsanto (along with the other biotech multinationals now operating here) expects Australians to take its word that the genetically modified crop types it is pushing onto often unwilling communities will do no harm?
Show us the longitudinal studies which scientifically demonstrate this, Monsanto.

* This post is part of North Coast Voices' effort to keep Monsanto's blog monitor (affectionately known as Mr. Monsanto) in long-term employment.

Six Nervous Pollies or Where will NSW lose its next federal electorate in 2009?

In December 2008 Malcolm McKerras predicted that the NSW electorates of Gilmore and Throsby would possibly merge in any 2009 redistribution.
In February 2009 Antony Green is tipping;
"Fowler and Macarthur are currently the NSW electorates with the lowest total enrolment and therefore subject to amalgamation, not Gilmore and Throsby. However, if the branch of Sydney Harbour known as Iron Cove is ignored and the boundary viewed as contigous, then any mini-redistribution on current numbers would see Lowe and Sydney amalgamated."
The Australian Electoral Commission has begun the lengthy redistribution process.
So which pollie will have to go?
And does this mean that we have avoided a politically expedient early federal election push by the government of the day or an opposition trying to scare us with the threat of one?

Wednesday 18 February 2009

Bellingen flooding pictures

NSW North Coast flooding at Bellingen over the last two days. Photographs from The Bellingen Shire Courier Sun, ABC News and Pip Wilson posting at Flickr

Meanwhile Lord Howe Island which trades with the NSW North Coast is bracing itself for winds, strong seas and some flash flooding as Category 1 Tropical Cyclone Innis downgrades to an intense low.