Leftist hypocrisy over Dalai Lama
Five years ago Kevin Rudd met the Dalai Lama and said Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer should do likewise, but now, as opposition leader, he is refusing to meet the Buddhist leader. "I think it's pretty weak of Foreign Minister Downer to have somehow have fabricated this excuse that he is somehow too busy to have met the Dalai," Mr Rudd told ABC radio five years ago.
Mr Rudd now says he will not meet the Dalai Lama when he visits Australia to hold several public speaking events from June 6 to 16. Mr Rudd's refusal comes after the Senate President Paul Calvert refused a request from Australian Greens leader Bob Brown to offer the exiled Tibetan leader a parliamentary reception, saying he had "to be mindful of international sensitivities on such matters".
China has long opposed the representatives of foreign nations meeting with the Dalai Lama and recognising the struggle for Tibet.
More police corruption?
Nobody in Queensland would be surprised
Police had received complaints over a period of several weeks about a nude car washing business on Brisbane's inner north despite saying publicly they had not, council heard yesterday. Hamilton ward councillor David McLachlan said a senior officer at Hendra station told him in an email that police had received numerous complaints about the Albion business, run by strip club entrepreneur Warren Armstrong. A police spokesperson told the media earlier this month that police had not had any complaints from residents.
However, Cr McLachlan said a March 7 email from Inspector David Morganti said the station had received complaints over "several weeks". Speaking for the first time on the issue, Cr McLachlan said the contradiction was troubling. "I find it disturbing that police will privately acknowledge the receipt of complaints but publicly say that no complaints have been received," he said. "I really hope this is an oversight and an innocent error."
The Bubbles 'n' Babes car wash offers topless and nude services and an x-rated show for an extra fee.
Cr McLachlan said council planning approval had originally been given for a motor vehicle repair shop to operate on the site. He said he had asked council officers how the business was allowed to operate in its current form after taking complaints from locals in the area. "To date I've not been provided with an answer to the questions I've asked," he said. "It does disturb me, as I am still the last councillor elected to (council), how long it takes to get answers to questions raised about matters that are within our areas of responsibility." Cr McLachlan said he wanted to know if a planning loophole had been exploited and what, if anything, could be done about it. "It's bewildering that we can approve ... a motor vehicle repair shop and find it weeks later offering x-rated adult entertainment," he said. "And I'd like answers to those questions I asked on behalf of the people I represent."
Your government will protect you (Some day)
AN AUTOMATIC train control system that could have prevented the Waterfall disaster and that has been operating in Perth for 15 years will be tried out in NSW this year, seven years after rail experts recommended its use. A train protection system that uses computers to monitor trains' speeds and position on the network, versions of which are being installed on several European networks, was a key recommendation of the McInerney inquiry into the Waterfall crash, which killed seven people in 2003.
But rail experts believe that the particular system Peter McInerney, QC, recommended, which is being installed on the high-speed sections of the Swiss rail network, would not be suitable for Sydney's rail network. Instead the Government has awarded contracts worth $13 million to three companies to find the train protection system that is most compatible with CityRail. It is not the first time the Government has planned a trial of an automatic protection system. One was due to begin on the Illawarra line in 2000 after the Glenbrook crash, which also killed seven people.
In the recommendations of his inquiry into that accident, Mr McInerney said no system had been developed anywhere in the world that could reliably be used on the complex Sydney rail network. "The cost of somewhere between $1 billion and $1.5 billion for technology which cannot be demonstrated to be reliable would not be justified," he wrote. "In the last decade there has been a vast amount of public money wasted on less than satisfactory communications systems (Countrynet and Metronet) and train control systems (the Queen Street project)."
The automatic systems that will be tried out from September will override cabin controls to apply the brakes if a driver does not slow down when approaching a red signal or a lower speed limit area. If the trial was successful the system would be extended across the CityRail network, a project expected to cost the Government "hundreds of millions of dollars", said the Premier, Morris Iemma. He said RailCorp had reviewed 65 automatic protection systems from around the world and decided that the European train control system was best suited to the CityRail network.
"We already have in place safety systems to bring trains that have passed red 'danger' signals to a stop," Mr Iemma said. "The CityRail network is fitted with a trackside trip mechanism that applies the brakes of a passenger train automatically if it passes a red signal. This is a significant step towards further improving the safety of CityRail services, and puts us another step closer to implementing the Government's commitments in response to [Mr] McInerney's Waterfall inquiry."
Three companies would each fit out a section of the Blue Mountains Line track and a train to see how their version of the system performs on the CityRail network, Mr Carr said. "The Blue Mountains line was the most appropriate section of track to road test [automatic train protection] due to the hills, curves and number of train movements on that line each day." The Minister for Transport, John Watkins, said the Independent Transport Safety and Reliability Regulator recently reported that 89 per cent of the recommendations that came out of the Waterfall inquiry had been acted upon or considered. Four recommendations that RailCorp said were completed were being assessed by the regulator.
Science study falling behind
SCHOOL science courses have failed to keep pace with changes in science and society over the past 50 years, leading students to consistently bypass the subject. In a paper released by the Australian Council for Educational Research today, the nation's chief scientist, Jim Peacock, and dean of science education at Deakin University Russell Tytler argue the way the subject is taught in schools is doing a disservice to science education and say a radical "reimagining" of the curriculum is required. It warns fewer students are studying science at a time when Australia and other industrialised nations most need them.
Professor Tytler says science education in Australia is in a state of crisis, as students turn away from a subject they view as irrelevant and unconnected to their lives. "This flight from science is occurring in societies that are in increasing need of science and technology-based professionals to carry the nation into a technologically driven future," he says. "It is the pipeline into this pool of expertise that seems in danger of drying up." A shortage of qualified scientists and science teachers is exacerbating the problem.
The paper argues for science education to be refocused to spark interest and excitement in the field, rather than train future generations of scientists. Dr Peacock says it is time for a paradigm shift in science education and that traditional courses are "not fruitful" in a modern world where students send instant messages around the globe.
Professor Tytler says there is a mismatch between science as taught in schools and as it exists in the "real world". Research scientists say school science does not reflect the way they work and that "the focus should be on engaging young people, not on developing future scientists". "Science education has not kept up with either the changing nature of youth and their expectations or the changing nature of science," Professor Tytler said. "It's still dealing with knowledge as a fixed and delivered thing rather than a practical way of thinking and problem solving."
Dr Peacock said the science he learned at school did not meet the needs of today's students, and scientific research was no longer an individual pursuit but a collective, collaborative effort. "Traditional science education is not fruitful in such an environment," he said.
Professor Tytler said scientific knowledge changed so quickly the focus of schools should be on teaching students to think scientifically, learning to investigate, find information and assess it based on examples from their own lives and communities. The paper argues that one of the reasons for the failure of school curriculums to change with the times was "the silent choice of teachers for the status quo; one which supports and reflects their identities as knowledgeable experts". "The knowledge explosion significantly challenges the traditional model of the teacher as expert who delivers significant and stable science concepts to dependent students," the paper says.
A sucker born every minute
How do you save someone from themselves? More than three-quarters of the Queenslanders who were told by police they were caught up in the infamous Nigerian scam continued sending money overseas. According to fraud investigators, the victims simply refused to believe that their get rich quick schemes were nothing more than a con. And we are not talking about people lacking in education or experience. Victims identified as part of Queensland Police’s Operation Echo Track, set up last year to monitor funds being transferred to Nigeria, included doctors, lawyers engineers and professors. Greed, it seems, is the great equaliser.
Operation Echo Track identified 134 victims of investment scams, the vast majority of them caught up in some variation of the Nigerian scam. Total losses were at least $18million, with an average of $500,000 continuing to be lost every month.
The Queensland fraud and corporate crime group’s Acting Superintendent Brian Hay said only 24 per cent of the people contacted by police and told they were participating in this scam believed it. “So, 76 per cent continued to send millions of dollars after we told them they were participating in a scam,” he said.
The Queensland figures were estimated to be one-fifth of the national loss to such scams. None of the victims had received any money in return. You can read in detail about how the Nigerian scam works on the Queensland police website at www.police.qld.gov.au/nigerianscams
Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes inteviewed one of the Queensland victims, businessman Graham Schoenfisch, who claims he has been financially wiped out after chasing instant riches through a Nigerian scam. At one point he received a Chase Manhattan Bank cheque for $31.5 million after paying the required “advanced fees”. It was counterfeit.
In the United States the treasurer for a county in the state of Michigan was arrested earlier this year and charged with embezzling US$1.2 million to plough into the Nigerian scam.
According to Holland’s Ultrascan Advanced Global Investigations, which monitors Nigerian scams - or “419” scams as they are known because the section of the Nigerian criminal code they breach is numbered 419 - around the world, the scams are on the increase.
The scamming networks, which employ up to 250,000 Nigerians, are now using Internet chat rooms, mobile text messages, Internet gaming sites and online dating sites as well as the more traditional spam emails, faxes and snail mail to trawl for new victims.
Ultrascan Advanced Global Investigations estimates that a total of US$28 billion has been lost around the world to Nigerian scams since the first emerged in the 1970s, with losses growing at 3 per cent a year. As showman P. T. Barnum said: “There’s a sucker born every minute”.