Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Offensive food fanatic and the evils of cake

I have always had a fair deal of respect for nutritionist Rosemary Stanton but realised yesterday that this is only because I haven’t been paying attention.

The Irwin children above with their mother and the cake mix, Bindy on the right

Not sure if the rest of you caught it, but Mrs Stanton has launched a pretty out-there tirade against Bindy Irwin’s new commercial deal as the public face of a particularly sinister company. Not Union Carbide or Exxon or British Aerospace but the baking products conglomerate Greens General Foods, one of the shadiest players in the evil cake trade.

We’re not speaking here of the mythical drug also known as “cake”, made famous in the British news parody Brass Eye, but package cake mix, made from flour, sugar, baking powder, and flavourings such as cocoa, vanilla and orange. Greens has been peddling the stuff for years. Pushing it onto time-poor mums, getting kids hooked on it from an early age, using its addictive sweetness and energy-giving qualities to lure them into eating it by the slice after school - even hiding it in their lunch boxes so they can take it onto school grounds and get a fix at little lunch.

Well, Mrs Stanton has now blown the whistle on this practice - and taken aim at those irresponsible Irwins as part of the deal.

The first troubling thing about Mrs Stanton’s spray is the small matter of Steve Irwin’s death. That tragedy should make the Irwin family pretty much immune on the grounds of decency from any kind of frivolous sledging. It should also be factored into the thinking of any would-be critic as perhaps being the very reason why Terri Irwin needs to form a business partnership with a reputable family company such as Greens.

Mrs Stanton managed to negotiate her way past the taste question as she had a bigger target in mind. Cake. Mrs Stanton took issue with the images of Bindi and little Bob helping their Mum bake a cake in the kitchen, and even licking the spoon. “The message that comes across to kids is “it’s OK to eat cake because Bindi Irwin does” - I think it’s very sad,” Stanton said.

“Children are very trusting, so they actually think Bindi wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t right.” “I think it’s a bit of exploitation of her as well because she wouldn’t possibly be old enough to understand the impact that this could have.” “It’s wrong to target kids in trying to sell stuff to other kids. It makes it very difficult for parents to then resist the pleas of their children.”

It’s a good thing Mrs Stanton doesn’t know our address, or the addresses of our many mates with young kids, as we’ve all adopted a totally reckless attitude to child-rearing where we regard baking the odd cake with the kids as enjoyable family time, a great way to introduce them to cooking, especially with a good packet mix because they can do it all by themselves, with the added bonus that you can eat something tasty afterwards or take it down to the park for a picnic. We’re lucky DOCS [a famously bungling government child-welfasre agency] haven’t come around.

It’s cloud cuckoo land stuff which wouldn’t matter if not for the fact that Rosemary Stanton, author of 25 books on diet and nutrition, is on the Federal Government speed-dial for advice on health and wellbeing issues, one of those superficially innocuous right-thinking people who only has all our interests at heart.

(Googling her last night I found an interesting link to a lecture of hers on “Ethical Eating” on the ABC’s Fora website, where she suggested food prices could be artificially inflated so that our farmers no longer had to export produce, which would not only make food production more sustainable, but solve the “starving pensioner” problem once and for all.)

The other thing about the cake issue - Terri Irwin has only agreed to the deal because Greens has made a sizeable contribution to Steve’s ongoing wildlife and conservation protection programs, and are using their products to increase childrens’ awareness of endangered species through school bag tags. Which if you’re Rosemary Stanton probably just proves that, like any other pusher, cake dealers will do anything to get people hooked.

Anyway here’s a link to Greens Traditional Chocolate Cake. Buy some and feed it to your kids.


NSW teachers dead-scared of their failings being exposed

Parents must not be told if their kid is going to a sink school or has dud teacher

TEACHERS in New South Wales have voted to support industrial action if school league tables are published using national assessment data. NSW Teachers Federation president Bob Lipscombe said he hoped that state ministers would scrap plans to publish league tables before teachers walked out. However, up to 70,000 federation members were prepared to strike next year if necessary.

Speaking in Sydney at the federation's annual conference, Mr Lipscombe launched a scathing attack on NSW Education Minister Verity Firth for her support of tables comparing schools' performances. He also criticised sections of the media, saying some newspapers stood to gain financially from their publication. "Verity Firth needs to have a bit of backbone. "The minister needs to stand up for the people of NSW. "She has been prepared to take a stand on other issues and she needs to take a stand on this. "Certain newspapers support league tables because they know parents will be curious about how schools are performing. "Politicians and some newspapers who stand to gain financially are the only ones who support this."

Federation executive member Michael de Wall added: "This is political karaoke - out of tune and disturbing for those of us who have to listen to it."

The conference passed a motion supporting "all appropriate measures, both political and industrial" if 2009 national assessment data was used to publish league tables. It heard from teachers from across NSW who said such tables would damage schools, children and communities and offer inaccurate assessments of educational performance.

Mr Lipscombe told reporters outside the conference he believed the NSW Government, which has not authorised school league tables for 12 years, was being "blackmailed" by the Federal Government over the issue. "The one thing that's changed is that the Federal Government is now saying that if the State Government withholds its data, it will withhold funding. It is essentially a type of blackmail." He said Premier Nathan Rees' support of league tables was "driven by money".

However, the conference voted against a motion calling for Ms Firth's resignation, after Mr Lipscombe said it would divert attention from the core issue.

NSW is pushing ahead with legislation to allow media outlets to publish comparisons of schools' performance, overturning last month's opposition amendment to the Education Act which prohibits their publication. The Education Act allows the State Government to provide detailed information about schools to the Federal Government, in return for increased federal funding.

Under the Opposition amendment, NSW media are not allowed to publish information comparing different schools.


Leftist Federal government unconcerned about flood of illegals

As the latest boatload of unlawful entrants was being dealt with by authorities last night, it emerged the Government was warned as early as last October to prepare for a flood of boat people.

On Saturday night Australia's Border Protection Command intercepted a boatload of 73 asylum seekers believed to be from Sri Lanka, many "family groups" including women and children. The boat arrived about 11am yesterday at Christmas Island where the group will undergo security, ID and health checks to establish their identity and reasons for travel.

At the same time it emerged Immigration Minister Chris Evans was briefed by his department on an expected "surge in unauthorised boat arrivals" on October 27. But it took seven months to fund new measures - and the boats still keep coming. The advice followed the Rudd Government's move to soften border protection policies. At that stage, Asian people smugglers had only just started to resume operations, sending two boats south with 31 passengers. Since then, another 23 vessels have been intercepted carrying more than 1000 asylum seekers.

Senator Evans continued to receive advice on the anticipated surge in subsequent briefings, The Daily Telegraph has learned through Freedom of Information laws. Yet Prime Minister Kevin Rudd scoffed at suggestions of a surge in unauthorised arrivals in an answer to Parliament in December. "In 2008 there have been four boats with 48 passengers. In 2007 there were five boats with 148 passengers. If this year we have had a surge, that was a deluge," he said.

The new $654 million plan includes more money for surveillance and engaging with our neighbours. [but no change in the laws that encourage them to come]



Four current articles below

Family First senator Steve Fielding queries Warmist science

FAMILY First senator Steve Fielding has urged senators to look closely at the science on climate change before committing the nation to an emissions trading scheme. In a letter to senators yesterday, Senator Fielding -- who has recently emerged as parliament's most vocal climate change sceptic -- said carbon emissions had "skyrocketed" over the past 15 years, but temperatures had remained steady.

Senator Fielding said Climate Change Minister Penny Wong and Australia's chief scientist had failed to explain why this was the case. He said it ran counter to assumptions underpinning the carbon pollution reduction scheme that carbon emissions were the leading cause of global warming. "Therefore, I ask you to think carefully before voting on the CPRS legislation, a multi-billion-dollar tax that could cripple our economy with little benefit to environment," he wrote.

The letter comes after Kevin Rudd was overhead voicing doubts to Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen about the ability of world leaders to reach an agreement at global climate change talks in Copenhagen at the end of the year.

Senator Fielding said he could not understand how any member of parliament could vote for the scheme, especially ahead of other countries. "Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong are hanging the Australian economy out to dry if the rest of the world doesn't follow suit," he said. "It's economically irresponsible for the parliament to pass the CPRS legislation before Copenhagen, when we'll have more of an idea what the US, China, India and Brazil are going to do on this front."

Senator Fielding has requested a meeting with climate campaigner Al Gore, who challenged the Rudd government at the weekend to show leadership by rolling out the CPRS before the Copenhagen summit. Senator Fielding wants to present a graph to Mr Gore, which was included in his letter to senators, which compares average temperatures over the past 15 years to carbon emissions.

A spokesman for Senator Fielding last night said he was still waiting to hear whether Mr Gore had agreed to the meeting.


Long-range weather forecasts too unreliable to be of use to farmers

But forecasts for 40 years ahead are reliable???

FARMERS have lost faith in long-term weather forecasts because they're unreliable, the South Australian Farmers Federation said. "The lack of accuracy of the current modelling methods and long-term predictions makes them a less than useful tool in agricultural farming systems in South Australia,'' the federation said in a submission to a federal inquiry into long-term meteorological forecasting.

"Agriculture has long called for the accurate long-range climate forecasting to improve decision making and risk management on-farm, but now question if we are pursuing the 'holy grail'.

"The scale of current models make them unreliable measures.

The federation said farmers preferred to use their own historical data as well as predictive modelling to determine the future weather, as they did not rely fully on one method.

"This is primarily due to farmers losing faith in previous long-range forecasting, which is crucial in this current drought,'' it said.

The House of Representatives' Industry, Science and Innovation Committee today held a public hearing in Adelaide for its inquiry into long-term meteorological forecasting in Australia.


Power cuts already looming because of proposed climate laws

ELECTRICITY generators are cutting back major maintenance work, raising the risk of California-style power brown-outs, because of uncertainty caused by the federal government's carbon pollution reduction scheme. Victorian generator Truenergy's managing director Richard McIndoe said yesterday that with $950 million of debt to be refinanced this year and banks wary of the impact of the CPRS on the industry, the company had decided it could not justify the cost of major maintenance.

Mr McIndoe said the company had cancelled work at its Yallourn coal-fired power station in Victoria's Latrobe Valley this year, saving $100m, and other generators were also cutting back. "We won't be doing any major overhaul this year," he told The Australian.

Truenergy supplies gas and electricity to 1.1million homes in Victoria, South Australia and NSW.

Mr McIndoe warned the cutting back of maintenance budgets meant there was an increased risk of under-investment in electricity generation, which led to the California power crisis of 2000-01. "You had unsound policy there that led to underinvestment. These are long lead-time events and the longer you continue in this situation, the higher the likelihood of serious supply interruption."

He said uncertainty over the final form of the CPRS -- the bill is delayed in the Senate and the start date has been postponed until 2011 -- was also increasing market volatility, which made it harder to sell long-term electricity supply contracts. One of the big four domestic banks was already refusing to lend to coal-fired generators, and international players looked on Australia as a sovereign risk.

Energy Supply Association of Australia chief executive Brad Page said there was always an increased risk of "less reliable supply" when generators cut back on routine maintenance. "It doesn't take a lot for one of these plants to have an unanticipated failure," he said. He added that because of the national electricity grid, supply interruptions in Victoria could cascade and cause outages in other states. He noted that a power failure at a NSW Hunter Valley substation last week cut power across five states.

The ESAA warns that the government is not giving the industry enough help to adapt to the CPRS and remain viable. It wants a similar deal to the 15 to 20-year commitment to support that electricity suppliers in the US and Europe have been given. The government had offered what amounted to $3.5 billion in support when the industry needed $20bn to survive the CPRS in its current form. "The whole thing is a recipe for financial stress in the coal-fired generation sector," Mr Page said. Victoria is most affected by the CPRS because 90 per cent of its supply is generated from highly polluting brown coal.

A spokesman for the Business Council of Australia said the treatment of the coal and electricity industries under the CPRS remained one of the areas where it had outstanding issues with the government. "Getting the detail right means ensuring the scheme doesn't reduce the competitiveness of Australian industry." The council wants the CPRS bills passed by the end of the year so businesses can begin planning for the scheme's introduction.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said yesterday the government should continue to move forward with action on reducing carbon emissions, despite Kevin Rudd's admission last Friday he held little hope that the UN's climate change conference in Copenhagen in December would lead to a global agreement on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Wild camels overrun resources in Outback

It's being described as a plague. More than 1 million wild camels are wreaking havoc in huge parts of Australia, eating the vegetation, destroying property, fouling and consuming water sources, desecrating indigenous sites and causing road accidents.

About 170 years after being introduced to the continent as a pack animal to open its arid interior, Australia's feral camel population is the biggest in the world. The camels double their numbers every nine years and continually expand their domain. Their hearty population gives no joy to Australians, and some have been exported to Asia and the Middle East.

A report by the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Center in Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory, estimates that feral camels roam an area of about 2 million square miles - more than a third of the continent. "We have to reduce numbers in a big way," said wildlife scientist Glenn Edwards, the report's chief author. "A lot of camels are in remote areas, and for those there is probably no option but to cull them."

The scope of the proposed cull is huge: 400,000 camels would be destroyed in the next two years and 700,000 in the next four years, offering the nightmarish vision of sharpshooters in helicopters targeting animals that have achieved almost iconic status in Australia's history.

Between 1840 and 1920, an estimated 20,000 camels were brought to Australia to explore and develop the inhospitable Outback. They transported goods and helped build the railroad and the telegraph. Along with them came thousands of drivers, many, but not all, from Afghanistan. The Ghan, Australia's legendary north-south transcontinental railroad, is named in honor of the cameleers.

With the advent of motorized vehicles and the railroad, the camel trains became less useful. Many of the cameleers did not want to destroy their animals, so they let them loose into the wild and expected them to die off.


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