Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bikini party forbidden

A win for the wowsers and feminists -- an unholy alliance these days. Victoria does seem to have a lot of both

A nightclub bikini booze-up has been sunk by public [one small part of the public, to be precise] outrage. Amber Lounge management yesterday scrapped plans for a Christmas bikini party where women wearing bathers would have received unlimited free drinks at the CBD bar on Friday night. In a two-hour meeting with the director of liquor licensing, Sue Maclellan, and Victoria Police yesterday, both the management and promoter WTF Productions decided it was in their best interests to dump the party. Ms Maclellan had threatened to stop the event going ahead if she concluded that it failed to meet the legal requirement for responsible serving of alcohol. The bar will now host a Hawaiian summer party night offering two free drinks for all who attend.

Rape crisis counsellors and alcohol experts slammed the bikini party, claiming that it reduced women to sexual objects and exposed them to the risk of extreme intoxication and sexual assault.

Ms Maclellan said the result was good for all those involved. "Following a meeting between Amber Lounge management, the promoter of the Christmas bikini night, and liquor licensing and Victoria Police, the club manager and the promoter have decided to withdraw the bikini party promotion following liquor licensing concerns about whether the event met licence requirements to serve alcohol responsibly," Ms Maclellan said.

Centre Against Sexual Assault manager Helen Makregiorgos - who had condemned the proposal for reducing women to sexual objects - said the decision was fantastic. Premier Steve Bracks weighed into the controversy yesterday, saying people could dress as they chose, but clubs had to ensure they served alcohol responsibly.



Brisbane Tattersall's Club was in uproar last night after members voted to maintain its ban on women members. In doing so the members went against the wishes of seven of their 10 committee men who sought to overturn the 141-year-old ban. The vote came after a passionate debate in which president Peter Carroll and other committee men were criticised for supporting the "yes" case. The committee's motion to allow women was lost by 106 votes - 1683 to 1577.

Mr Carroll is understood to be considering quitting. "Of course I'm disappointed," he said. "It's a private club and it was a democratic vote. "If that's what they want you have to abide by that." A number of committee men can now expect to face a challenge. There were rousing cheers last night in favour of speakers proposing a "no" vote.

The membership includes 17 judges, 219 managing directors, 481 accountants, 38 stockbrokers, 149 doctors, 97 architects, 510 solicitors and 140 barristers. Tattersall's on the Queen Street Mall was founded in 1865 in an age when women could not vote. Although women cannot become members, they already enjoy club facilities as guests of their partners.

The vote was a resounding victory for vice-president Jonathon Bloxsom, who staunchly opposed the entry of women. One member, who voted against the motion, said: "Many of the members felt under siege from women and they certainly weren't going to have outsiders tell them what to do in their private club." Leading businesswoman Sarina Russo waited outside the club during the vote. She was turned away when the membership voted to exclude women.


We've got a real intellectual against us now

Both the lady concerned and the journalist writing below seem unaware that the normal label on woollen garments is "Pure new wool" and that garments made of Australian wool are almost all made in China (or the Third world generally). Wool is a global commodity. It is produced in Australia but making it into anything is little more than a boutique operation in Australia -- mainly for tourists who want a memento of their visit

American pop star Pink is leading a gruesome new global campaign against Australian wool. The outspoken singer has joined with US animal rights activists in calling for consumers worldwide to boycott products made with Australian wool. The campaign, accompanied with images of sheep having their throats cut and undergoing the controversial mulesing technique, was strategically launched in the Christmas gift-giving season. If successful, it could have a devastating impact on the Australian wool industry.

Pink called for consumers around the world to check labels on clothing before buying the item. If the label listed "merino wool" or "made in Australia", the singer asked consumers not buy it because of Australia's treatment of sheep. "I am calling on consumers to check labels on sweaters before buying them, and if they're merino wool or made in Australia, to leave them on the racks," Pink said in the video released around the world today by the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

The launch of the video was preceded by a press conference Pink held today in the fashion capital Paris. Pink, whose real name is Alecia Moore, will be repeating her boycott call during her world concert tour, which ends in Australia in April. In the graphic PETA video Pink narrates, viewers see footage of Australian farmers using the mulesing technique, which involves cutting flesh from the rear ends of sheep. The technique is to prevent maggot infestation in the animal and the potentially fatal flystrike. Pink describes mulesing as the "cheapest, cruelest and crudest way" to combat flystrike.

The 27-year-old pop star also calls on Australia and other countries to ban the live export of sheep to the Middle East. The video shows footage of sheep being beaten, having their throats slit and in one scene it is alleged a sheep has its leg cut off while alive. "If you're like most people, you already refuse to wear fur because of the obvious cruelty involved, and like me, you may even look for the stylish alternatives to leather, Pink says in the video. But what about wool? Most of us have never thought about it. "Sadly, like any other industry that uses animals, the wool trade uses methods so sadistic that it makes you consider clearing your closet of any animal products."

PETA has been waged in a public relations war with the Australian wool industry for three years over mulesing and live export.


Lab work being squeezed out of science teaching

Thus taking away most of the fun that enthuses kids for science

Science experiments are being squeezed out of school classrooms by tight budgets and health and safety laws that in some states require risk assessments for all laboratory work. Leading science educators say many schools no longer have specialised science laboratories, and teachers with insufficient class hours are often forced to drop experiments to ensure they finish the large amount of content they are required to teach.

The introduction of Occupational Health and Safety laws in some states is turning more students away from studying science. While Bunsen burners have not been outlawed yet, the laws particularly affect the use of chemicals in science experiments, the way they are handled and teachers' exposure to dangerous chemicals. Even an experiment to calculate the amount of calories by heating peanuts is no longer possible because peanuts are banned in many schools because of allergies.

Senior lecturer in science education at Edith Cowan University, Vaille Dawson, said practical experience of science was crucial to attracting students to the subject. "In some lower secondary classrooms, there's no practical work at all," she said. Dr Dawson said the crucial stage in arresting the falling numbers of science students was the end of primary and start of high school, when research showed students were turned off science. "When kids are 12 or 13 years old, that's when they decide not to continue with science and maths. And that's about making science practical."

A comparison of school science curriculums by Dr Dawson and colleague Grady Venville found only one state, NSW, specified the time students spend on practical experience -- 50 per cent in that state. But Dr Dawson said requirements specified in a curriculum did not necessarily translate into the classroom. Dr Dawson said science was the most expensive subject to run in schools after computer science. "Some schools are being designed without labs, or have multi-purpose rooms for art and science and other wet activities," she said.

The president of the Australian Science Teachers Association, Paul Carnemolla, said the pressure on teachers for students to pass external examinations and a crowded curriculum also affected the ability to conduct experiments. "There's been increasing emphasis on preparing students for external examinations and that can lead to a tendency to concentrate on theory," he said. "Students aren't discovering aspects of science through experimentation quite as readily and we all know through the research in science education that it's the most effective way for students to learn."

The Australian Academy of Science, funded by the federal Government, is developing a high school science course called Science by Doing to address some of the problems with the way science is taught. The course is in its early stages but is based on a pilot study of about three years ago, which found that a focus on students conducting their own investigations guided by their teacher was more effective than traditional teaching. The study, run by Denis Goodrum and Mark Hackling, found students gained a better understanding of scientific concepts when based on experience. Professor Goodrum, now at the University of Canberra, said teachers were forced to cover so much in lessons that practical experiments seemed an inefficient way of teaching. "The result is that learning is rather superficial and not deep and meaningful," he said.


Trans fat worries irrelevant to Australia anyhow

Some small amounts of trans fat occur naturally in red meat and dairy products, but it's the artificially concocted version that has health officials worrying most. Formed by bubbling hydrogen through polyunsaturated vegetable oil, trans fat is a more solid, stable fat than a regular oil. It has a longer shelf life, can be reused and reheated without spoiling, is ideal for deep frying and gives food a crunchy, crispy texture. Those are also the same characteristics that make trans fat particularly dangerous. The stiffer a fat is, the more likely it is to stick inside your artery walls and stay there. A review of trans fat published in the New England Journal of Medicine in April found that a 2 per cent increase in trans fat increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 23 per cent (2006;354:1601-1613).

New York's ban was the latest action in response to a wave of concern over the negative health effects over the fat. Earlier this year the US Food and Drug Administration began enforcing a requirement that food manufacturers include information about trans fat on labels there - a step other countries such as the UK are also considering.

Australia is also looking into ways to lower the amount of trans fat people are consuming - a joint effort by the National Heart Foundation of Australia, the Dietitians Association of Australia, the Australian Food and Grocery Council and Food Standards Australia New Zealand. These groups will meet early next year to discuss issues and make recommendations to the government.

Whether trans fat should be labelled is among the issues that will be discussed. Currently manufacturers only have to list trans fatty acids if they're making a health claim about the product, such as "no cholesterol'' or "low in saturated fat''. Also on the agenda of next year's meeting will be possible healthy replacements for the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils that are the main source of trans fats.

In the meantime, an increasing number of companies and food manufacturers are reformulating their products to remove trans fat in the face of mounting public concern. In November McDonald's announced it would reduce the trans fat found in the food in all 740 of its Australian franchises, by about 85 per cent, by switching to a healthier canola sunflower blend that has less than 1 per cent trans fat and is high in monounsaturated fat (a good fat).

Brands such as Nestle, Woolworth's Home Brand, Arnott's and others have made similar decisions to reformulate their products to reduce trans fat, or get rid of it completely where they can. But some people are pushing for a ban like that in New York. Last week the Greens announced they would be drafting a bill with a similar objective to put before the Senate, but it's a plan that has received little support from the groups on the collaborative, or from the Government itself.

For one thing, there's just not the same scale of problem here, says Lydia Buchtmann of Food Standards Australia New Zealand. "There's not a huge percentage of trans fat in the Australian diet. We've been carrying out a formal review with dietary modelling, and the preliminary findings have been that 0.6 per cent of our total kilojoules come from trans fat, which is well below the World Health Organisation's maximum limit of 1 per cent,'' she says. By contrast, Americans are consuming 2 to 3 per cent of their daily kilojoules from trans fat. One likely reason is that Australian manufacturers tend to use canola blends, which are more readily available here than the partially hydrogenated soy bean oil so prevalent in America, says Dave Roberts, technical director of the Australian Food and Grocery Council.

Experts say that focusing too much on trans fat could blow things out of proportion and misdirect our attention from saturated fat, which is actually the bigger culprit of heart disease in Australia because we consume so much more of it. "It's an issue if you're a fast food consumer and you're eating at one of the fast food establishments that still uses oil with trans fat in it - but there's not much of it is any more,'' says Peter Clifton, director of CSIRO's Nutrition Clinic which conducts nutritional research and trials on cholesterol, oils, fats and other topics. "Saturated fat is more of an issue. The average consumer would have 20g to 30g of saturated fat a day, compared with two to three grams of trans fat.''

It's a point echoed by the Heart Foundation, among others. "Trans fat is as harmful, if not more so, than other types of fat. However, Australians consume considerably more saturated fat,'' says the foundation's national nutrition program manager Barbara Eden. More than 13 per cent of our daily kilojoules are currently coming from saturated fat while the Heart Foundation recommends that no more than 8 per cent of our total kilojoules come from unhealthy fat - saturated and trans fat combined. "If the focus is on lowering trans fat, what could happen is companies will just swap to an oil that has no or very little trans fat - but could still be very high in saturated fat,'' Eden says.

Take KFC for example. The chain has been vocal about its use of a trans fat-free oil, but that turns out to be palm oil - which contains more than 50 per cent saturated fat. nutritionist Catherine Saxelby says there's one other problem with focusing too much on removing trans fat from food: "They occur in foods that we don't want people to eat too much of anyway,'' she says. "If people just ate basic staple foods they wouldn't have a problem.''


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