Thursday, October 22, 2009

These busybody ignoramuses will be ignored, fortunately

"Evidence-based", my foot! There is certain to be plenty of epidemiological speculation but I know of NO double blind studies in support of any of the crap below. It is all just the popular "wisdom" of the day, wisdom that can be and often is dangerously wrong. Look at the official backflip over peanuts, where the official advice of the past produced an epidemic of peanut allergies. And I don't suppose I should mention the joint problems (hip and knee) now being suffered by devotees of the '80s jogging craze

CHILDREN should not be forced to clear their plates at meal times under new parenting guidelines released by the Federal Government. The Get Up And Grow guides, available free to every parent and childcare centre, recommends toddlers under two be banned from watching TV or using computers altogether, The Daily Telegraph reports. And children aged between two and five should spend less than an hour a day in front of the television and computer and get at least three hours exercise a day.

The booklet advises parents about correct daily portion sizes of healthy food that should be fed to children, a serve of milk for a child aged under five is just 100ml, a serve of cheese is just 15g and a meat portion should be just 45g. "If your child refuses to eat at any meal or snack do not force them to eat," parents are advised.

The guide provides healthy eating and exercise prescriptions for babies and children aged up to five developed by experts at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne. "New parents are bombarded with information and knowing what advice to take can often be difficult and stressful," Health Minister Nicola Roxon said yesterday. "These guidelines are an evidence-based, easy to read resource parents can rely on when raising baby."

Children aged five and under need three meals and two snacks per day and should eat chocolate, fruit juice, soft drinks, flavoured milk and takeaway very rarely. Babies should be exercised and from the age of one should do at least three hours of active play a day. Restraining children for more than one hour at a time in car seats, prams or high chairs is also frowned on because it limits a child's development and learning time.

The Australian Communication and Media Authority said four-month-old babies watch an average of 44 minutes of TV daily, while under-fours spend at least three hours a day in front of the screen. But the new government guidelines state this is too much. "Screen time is not recommended for babies and children less than two years of age, because it may reduce the amount of time they have for active play, social contact with others and chances for language development."


Boat was scuttled by "asylum-seekers" to force a rescue

A BOAT carrying 78 asylum-seekers whose case was personally taken up by Kevin Rudd with the Indonesian President was rescued by the Australian navy only after those on board deliberately sabotaged it.

As Indonesian officials yesterday expressed irritation at the face-saving deal struck by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Kevin Rudd, Border Protection Command intercepted another boat in Australian waters carrying 24 people. The boat with 22 passengers and two crew was stopped 10 nautical miles north of Ashmore Reef. The interception was the 34th this year.

The debate over asylum-seekers continued to gather heat yesterday, with the Uniting Church writing to the Prime Minister urging Australia to lead on the issue. The intervention of the church into the already charged debate came as sources told The Australian those on board the vessel rescued off the coast of Sumatra on Sunday sabotaged the boat. Sources said the boat had been deliberately disabled, by punching or drilling holes into the hull, effectively forcing the navy to take the passengers on board.

The revelation gives credence to claims by the opposition's immigration spokeswoman, Sharman Stone, that asylum-seekers were manipulating Australian goodwill to ensure their passage to Australia, a suggestion angrily rejected by a succession of Rudd government ministers.

On Tuesday, SBY announced Indonesia would take the asylum-seekers after Mr Rudd personally raised their plight. It followed an hour-long meeting between the two leaders at the presidential palace on Tuesday night after Dr Yudhoyono's inauguration, and was a historic first step in a new Canberra-driven "Indonesia solution" to the boatpeople crisis. Mr Rudd confirmed Australia and Indonesia would work together to resolve the issue. "That will mean providing additional assistance to our friends in Indonesia to help with the resettlement task," he said. "There is nothing remarkable in that."

While Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal talked up the resolution as a "humanitarian" one based on the poor health of a girl on board the Customs vessel the Oceanic Viking somewhere off Sumatra, there was little urgency in Jakarta or Merak yesterday about receiving the group. "The news is still extremely unclear," a senior operations officer in the Indonesian navy's western fleet said. "If it was Australia that helped (the asylum-seekers), Australia that answered the distress call, why should they be brought to Indonesia? It's strange." The navy colonel, who asked not to be identified, pointed out that his role in any operation to transport the Sri Lankans to the port at Merak would be a major one. "But so far I have been given no information from headquarters," he said.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said he had not been privy to discussions between Mr Rudd and SBY. "I think it's just a sign of the broadening regional co-operation with Indonesia, Malaysia and other partners," Senator Evans said of the deal.

But international law experts said Indonesia was obliged to allow the asylum-seekers to land anyway. International law expert Don Rothwell of the Australian National University said once it was clear that HMAS Armidale had rescued the 78 Sri Lankans from a vessel in distress in the Sunda Strait, international law permitted them to land at the nearest port.

Senator Evans was also forced to defend Mr Rudd over his use of the term "illegal" migrants in relation to asylum seekers. "The PM is a very effective communicator," Senator Evans told the ABC. "He was very keen to send a strong message about our attitude to border security and he did that."

Senator Evans's remarks came in the wake of growing criticism of Mr Rudd's rhetoric on asylum seekers, with the Australian Workers Union, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, and Victorian Labor MP Michael Danby rebuking the Prime Minister for his language. Yesterday, the Uniting Church president Alistair Macrae added the church's voice to those concerned about Mr Rudd's toughened stance. "While we acknowledge the importance of appropriate national security policies, we do not believe these should adversely affect the fulfilment of our international obligations to people in genuine need of our protection from persecution," he said. "As a stable and wealthy country in the region, Australia has a responsibility to lead by example in providing protection to refugees."

Senator Evans also lashed out at suggestions by Dr Stone that the rescue on Sunday represented a new tactic by people-smugglers. "I think the opposition was suggesting yesterday somehow that we shouldn't respond to these crises," he said. "I think that's just reprehensible."

Yesterday, a spokesman for Mr Rudd denied the Indonesians had been offered any inducements to take the 78 asylum-seekers, who according to Senator Evans were expected to arrive in Merak today....


Immigrants 'who can't adapt should leave'

A MAN harassed by anti-war mail after his son was killed in Afghanistan says immigrants who can't adapt to Australian life and values should live elsewhere. Private Gregory Michael Sher, 30, was killed in a rocket attack in Oruzgan Province, in southern Afghanistan, in January. He was the eighth Australian Defence Force soldier to be killed in Afghanistan since 2002, but the first to die as a result of indirect fire.

Mr Sher's father Felix received a phone call and letters, allegedly from self-styled Muslim cleric Sheikh Haron, just before his son's funeral. "I feel bad that you have lost your son but I don't feel bad that a murderer of innocent civilians has lost his life," a line in one of the letters reportedly said. Other Australian families of men killed in Afghanistan have allegedly received similar letters in the past two years.

On Tuesday Sheikh Haron was charged with seven counts of "using a postal service or similar service to menace, harass, or cause offence". He was granted bail to appear in court on November 10.

Mr Sher says he's now waiting for justice to take its course. "There is no point in getting angry or upset, nothing is going to be achieved by it," he told Fairfax Radio Network today.

Asked if he had something to say to Sheikh Haron, Mr Sher called on immigrants whose values were not in line with the general community to live elsewhere. "What I would like to say (is) that when people immigrate to Australia, when they actually do so with the intention of integrating with the general community and living in peace and harmony, rather than confronting it, and causing tension and conflict, and irrespective of what one's religious beliefs are, one can still live happily with the community but not dissolve," he said. "If people don't like what's happening in Australia, live elsewhere."


Lebanese Muslim gangsters again

THE sister of nightclub owner John Ibrahim has appeared briefly in court charged over a stash of nearly $3 million found in a ceiling of a western Sydney home. Maha Sayour, 39, is also the sister of Fadi Ibrahim, who was shot five times in June as he was sitting in his car outside his home in the northern Sydney suburb of Castle Cove.

Detectives from Strike Force Bellwood, set up to investigate the shooting and related matters, found $2.86 million in the roof of a home in Pearson St, Wentworthville, in a raid on April 29.

Ms Sayour was charged with recklessly dealing with the proceeds of a crime last month. At a very brief appearance at Fairfield Local Court today, Ms Sayour's lawyer Stephen Alexander requested a brief be ordered and the matter put over to a later date.

The matter has been adjourned to Liverpool Local Court on December 9, when Ms Sayour will not be required to appear, with a brief to be served on December 2. Ms Sayour's bail conditions have been continued. She refused to say anything to waiting media as she left the court.


Nanny state helps to drown us in our own stupidity

Here's another triumph of the NSW Government: tough new legislation against pool owners. Under proposed changes to the Swimming Pools Act of 1992, council officers will have the right to invade private property and slap the state's 300,000 pool owners with fines of $5500 apiece if they do not lock up their pools more tightly.

This latest attack by the nanny state on the humble property owner is a kneejerk reaction to a spate of child drownings last summer. No matter that almost all child drownings in backyard pools are the result of inadequate adult supervision, it's the fences that are the focus of government energies. It's just too hard to tell parents the bleeding obvious, which is that if their children are near a large body of water, fence or no fence, then there is no alternative but to watch them like a hawk; and it's not a task that can be outsourced or shared. Children will always find ways of getting around fences and no barrier is a substitute for human vigilance.

But every time there is a terrible accident involving a child, there are calls for fences around dams, wharves and rivers, safety barriers at train stations or draconian new laws, no matter how impractical or futile. Whether it is a toddler falling to his death out of an open third-floor window, as happened this week in Kogarah, or a pram rolling off a train platform into the path of a train, as happened in Melbourne last week, with the six-month-old baby escaping injury, or two babies drowning in Adelaide in two separate incidents after their prams rolled down riverbanks, there are calls on authorities to "do something".

It is part of a cultural paradigm in which any tragedy that befalls us is not just the result of bad luck or carelessness or simple human error but is the fault of inadequate regulation. There is this fantasy that with enough government intervention we can create a safety utopia.

Of course, many lives have been saved and injuries prevented by good laws - the original Swimming Pool Act requiring pools be fenced was one and compulsory seatbelts and random breath tests were two more. It may have been safety standards for prams that saved a life on that Melbourne train platform last week.

But flushed with success, the nanny staters went too far, and governments became hooked on the idea that they could fix the world with the stroke of a pen and win plaudits into the bargain.

The phrase nanny state is a cliche but that is because government intrusion in our lives is so pervasive we barely protest. From the ugly, low-carbon, high-mercury light bulbs we have to use, to the time at which we are allowed to water our gardens, we are like frogs in boiling water, unaware of our predicament.

The worst thing about nanny statism is that even in the most resourceful person it induces a state of learned helplessness and complacency, in which, for instance, a mother no longer keeps alert to dangers in her child's environment because she thinks ''they'' will do it for her. The problem is that human stupidity is infinite and ''they'' aren't on the railway platform with you at the moment you turn the pram around so its wheels point towards the tracks and then you take your hands off the pram handles to hitch up your trousers.

Eventually, nanny statism removes the imperative of common sense, just as satellite navigation devices in cars give you a partial lobotomy, since you never bother registering where, in a navigational sense, you are going any more, as the machine does all the work.

Lulling people into a false sense of security potentially endangers more lives as parents and carers lose the commonsense skills needed to monitor and identify potential dangers. The result is behaviour that can only be described as stupid, even from those who probably are not.

The Melbourne pram incident, which made headlines around the world, is part of an increasingly familiar pattern of inexplicably careless behaviour. Only one day earlier, Connex, the company that runs Melbourne's trains, had begun a campaign to warn parents of the dangers of prams on platforms.

An accompanying video had a sequence eerily like the real thing, with a women letting go of her child's pram, which heads towards the edge of the platform for several seconds before she manages to haul it back. Connex said at the time that it was compelled to issue a "red alert" over an "alarming number of potentially serious incidents involving children and babies in prams travelling on our trains. In recent weeks there had been several incidents including: unrestrained babies spilling from prams falling between the train and platform, runaway prams in high winds after being left with their brakes off, pram front swivel wheels getting caught in the gap between train and platform."

There is some sort of increasing disconnect between action and real-life consequences so that, for instance, jaywalking is also on the rise. Oxford Street has become a jaywalker-killing alley in the wee hours as revellers wander across the road, seemingly oblivious to the fact the cars braking and swerving around them could cause them serious injury.

Perhaps the mass decline of common sense is the inevitable result of what Susan Greenfield, a British neuroscientist, says is the altered brain architecture of a couple of generations of people reared on technology rather than real-life experience.

If common sense is the accumulation of millions of real world experiences and the amalgamated sensory input from our environment, then no wonder people habituated to a two-dimensional virtual world without physical consequences seem increasingly to be so clueless.


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