Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Weather forecasters ignored -- rightly -- because the warning was wrong. Nothing adverse happened

I wonder why people have no confidence in them? But they can predict global warming, of course -- even though predicting the pathway of a tsunami should have been a cinch compared to the complexity of predicting the climate 50 years hence

LIFESAVERS have blasted hundreds of surfers who defied tsunami warnings and hit the waves on Gold and Sunshine coast beaches yesterday. Crowds of onlookers along the coast also were criticised for ignoring tsunami warnings issued by the weather bureau to avoid coastal areas. Many ventured to vantage points with their children, despite the unknown risk.

Although all beaches and both coasts were closed, recreational board riders ignored the alert en masse. Many swimmers also flouted the warning while thousands of spectators risked a tidal surge by lining the beaches. "It's disappointing," Surf Life Saving Queensland duty officer Kevin Dunn said. "Most people did the right thing but the board riders seem to do what they want. They don't understand the repercussions and how serious it could have been."

The Quiksilver Pro world surfing championship tournament at Snapper Rocks was postponed until later in the day, leaving superstars including Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning high and dry. Despite excellent surf, Quiksilver Pro tournament director Rod Brooks said organisers were taking no chances after spectators were injured by a freak wave during a recent surfing contest in California.

Recreational surfer Geoff Martin, 48, shrugged off the tsunami warning and a plea from his mum not to venture into the ocean. He said the clean 1.5m waves rolling through Currumbin were too good to miss. "My mum rang me about seven o'clock this morning and said: 'I hope you're not going surfing'," he said. "Of course, I was straight down the beach."

The Gold Coast City Council activated its Disaster Management Centre and set up an evacuation centre for residents of low-lying areas, but the lack of any serious wave action meant the initiatives became a training drill.

Across the Sunshine Coast every major beach was officially closed though scores of swimmers took to the water from Caloundra to Noosa. At Maroochydore, surfboard riders barely missed a beat, gathering off main beach to chase waves throughout the day. Just before midday neighbouring Coolum Beach patrol captain Peter Gardiner said he could count at least four swimmers who had ventured into the water despite lifesaver warnings that the danger remained.

Mr Gardiner kept Coolum beach shut down though to mid-afternoon after reports of slight disturbances in southern waters came in just before midday.


Strange commentary on people of middling weight

Since it has repeatedly been shown that people of middling weight live the longest, how come they are "unhealthy"? One has to suspect bad sampling or heroic assumptions behind the report below -- probably both

JUST a quarter of Australians are at a healthy weight, says a study that puts the total cost of caring for the overweight and obese at over $56 billion a year. Direct health care and other related costs totalled $21 billion, according to a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia, while government subsidies cost another $35.6 billion a year.

Stephen Colagiuri, Professor of Metabolic Health at the University of Sydney, and his co-authors analysed data from the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle study, collected in 1999-2000 and 2004-2005. He said the research took account of all costs – borne by individuals and the tax-paying public – which flow from the problem of being overweight or obese. "Traditionally, studies report only costs associated with obesity and rarely take overweight into account," Prof Colagiuri said in a statement.

"We found that the direct cost of overweight and obesity in Australia is significantly higher than previous estimates. "As the number of overweight and obese adult Australians continues to increase, the direct cost of overweight and obesity will also continue to rise," he said.

The study took in body weight data from 6140 typically middle-aged people, just over half (54.1 per cent) of whom were women. Just 24.7 per cent of those in the study were deemed to be of normal healthy weight, with 32.4 per cent considered overweight and 42.9 per cent rated as obese, according to their body mass index score or waist circumference. Prof Colagiuri said it was important to account for both overweight as well as obesity as both were associated with an increased risk of health problems and cost.

Healthcare costs flowing from the nation's overweight and obese include ambulance services, hospital visits, prescription medication and items such as blood glucose self-monitoring meters and strips. The research also took account of the cost of transport to hospital, supported accommodation and special food, while government subsidies included aged, disability and veteran pensions, mobility and sickness allowances and unemployment benefits.


A rather odd finding about mothers

Neither women who work full-time nor women who stay at home full time have the healthiest children. It is women who work part time who have the healthiest children. The reason why can only be speculative, however. It could be a random result

Mothers who work part-time raise the healthiest children, while stay-at-home mums are more likely to have kids who are chubby couch potatoes, research reveals. A new study of more than 4500 Australian preschoolers found children of part-time mums ate less junk food, watched less TV and were less likely to be overweight.

The results have sparked renewed calls for family-friendly work policies to promote healthy lifestyles for kids.

Researchers from the University of New England in NSW believe the unexpected finding may be driven by part-time mums being more conscientious on the days they are at home to care for their children.

This could explain why they restrict TV viewing and unhealthy snacks more than other mums, while ensuring their kids are physically active. "It wasn't what we expected at all," said co-author Jan Nicholson, principal research fellow at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Melbourne. "When mothers work part-time, there's obviously something about the way the house is run and the way parents are looking after their children that is protective," Professor Nicholson said.

The study, to be published in the international journal Social Sciences & Medicine next month, also shows full-time working mums tend to have less healthy children.

Overall, part-time mums let their children watch about an hour less TV per week than other mums. The children also ate fewer snack foods, had more time to exercise and were exposed to less junk food advertising.



Four current stories below

Brainwashing of children by Chairman Rudd and his helpers

White guilt and climate hoax to be taught as fact in all Australian schools

SCHOOL children will learn about climate change and Sorry Day under the Federal Government's draft national curriculum. The new document, launched by Prime Minsiter Kevin Rudd and Education Minister Julia Gillard at the Amaroo School in Canberra, outlines the education plans for kindergarten to Year 10 English, maths, science and history students to replace state and territory standards next year.

Mr Rudd described it as a back-to-basics approach to teaching and learning, with grammar and arithmetic a focus. "What we are on about is making sure the absolute basics of knowledge, the absolute basics of education are taught right across the country," he said.

However, the draft also suggests five-year-olds discuss community commemorations such as Sorry Day and 15-year-olds explore the link between carbon dioxide and global warming.

Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne has slammed the 242-page document as a disaster waiting to happen. "We have a seemingly over-emphasis on indigenous culture and history and almost an entire blotting out of our British traditions and ... heritage," he told said. "I am deeply concerned that Australian students will be taught a particular black armband view of our history without any counterbalancing."

Professor Stuart MacIntyre, who oversaw the history stream of the draft curriculum, dismissed Mr Pyne's complaint. "I think anybody who looks at the curriculum online will have great difficulty in finding any armbands," he said. "One of the ways we (avoid this), of course, is to set the peopling of Australia, both by the original inhabitants and then by European settlers, in a comparative perspective."

Head science adviser to the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, Dennis Goodrum, said one theory that wouldn't feature in the document was creationism. "The evolution theory is a cornerstone of science based on evidence and observation," he said. "Intelligent design is not ... in this particular curriculum because it is not science." But Professor Goodrum said global warming would be raised and investigated.

Ms Gillard acknowledged some teachers would need retraining to deliver the new curriculum successfully. "All schools ... invest in professional development to teach teachers about the curriculum," she said. "Obviously, that effort will be moved from teaching about state-based curriculums to teaching about the Australian curriculum."

Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos criticised Labor for rushing the process and not announcing how much the rollout would cost. "With implementation of the national curriculum due to commence next year, we are most concerned that there is still not any plan with an associated budget," he said.

Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young called on the government to reveal how much money would be allocated to the curriculum in May's federal budget.

Family First senator Steve Fielding said it must not cost taxpayers an exorbitant amount to administer.

The draft national curriculum, available online for public consultation until May 23, will also be trialled by 150 schools during the same period.


Give Britain its due or we'll can it: opposition

THE federal Coalition has threatened to scrap the new national curriculum, saying it places too much emphasis on indigenous and Asian perspectives at the expense of British and European culture. Its education spokesman, Christopher Pyne, said the curriculum was "unbalanced".

"While there are 118 references in the document to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people and culture, there is one reference to Parliament, none to 'Westminster' and none to the Magna Carta," he said. "Grade nines will consider the personal stories of Aboriginal people and examine massacres and 'indigenous displacement', without any reference to the benefit to our country of our European heritage and the sacrifice of our forebears to build a nation. The early signs are that the black armband view of history is back."

Mr Pyne said a Coalition government would review the curriculum. "If we find the review confirms our very serious doubts then we'll scrap the national curriculum and we'll start again because it would be better for students to have the curriculum that they have now under the states than for them to have an unbalanced curriculum that will do them more harm than good," he said.

In an interview with the Herald, the federal Education Minister, Julia Gillard, said she was worried by the threat. "When you've seen the opposition fight up hill and down dale to wreck [the] national curriculum and to wreck MySchool, then it does send a shiver up your spine about what they may do in the future." ....

Helen Walton, of the Federation of Parents and Citizens' Associations of NSW, said her organisation was happy with the increased focus on family, community and Aboriginal history.


Political correctness invades the science curriculum

As The Australian reported on Saturday, it’s not until Year 10 that science students will have any exposure to the periodic table of elements – potassium, hydrogen, all that stuff you used to learn rote-form back in the good old days. But there’s some waffly nonsense about non-western views of science, including Chinese medicine, and Aboriginal ideas of farming and land management.

Worst of all is the proposal to teach Aboriginal Dreamtime stories as part of the science stream. With due deference to the Rainbow Serpent, this is spiritualism not science, and every bit as wrong as the calls from Christian hardliners for the utter rubbish that is “creation science” and “intelligent design” to be taught alongside evolution and natural selection.

The greatest test of the curriculum will be the extent to which it can restore some basic old-fashioned principles of literacy, grammar, spelling – all the stuff that went out of fashion in the 1970s when everyone was simply encouraged to set their minds free and use their imagination, even if you could barely understand a word they had written.

The approach being taken with everyone’s favourite dysfunctional state government here in NSW stands as a warning against the mediocrity which has infected teaching in recent times.

While not everyone can, or should, attend university, there’s something desperately unambitious about the NSW Board of Studies decision to modify the second-tier NSW English Studies course to remove Shakespeare, but allow the “study” of rubbish movies such as The Matrix and the irritatingly twee television show Seachange.

If we are going to dumb down what is already a basic English course then maybe we should introduce a new subject called an Introduction to Remedial English – like a Dummy’s Guide to Dummy’s Guides.

At least we are not seeing this approach from Julia Gillard, who will have won plaudits from many parents yesterday – and probably upset the teachers unions – by arguing yesterday that too many Australian kids no longer have a basic grasp of reading and writing.

To judge the draft curriculum for yourself, go to the ACARA website - www.acara.edu.au – and follow the links.


Hatred, violence in Australian schools' classrooms

STUDENTS injured almost 3000 public school teachers in the past two years, an Education Department report obtained by The Advertiser shows. The Occupational Health and Safety Incident/Accident Report shows students were "deliberately" responsible for 98 per cent of the 2957 injuries reported by teachers from January 1, 2008, to December 31, 2009. Bruising and superficial injuries made up more than half the reported incidents with 3 per cent of incidents resulting in workers' compensation claims.

The figures raise further concerns for the safety of teachers, following a violent attack this week on a teacher at a northern suburbs primary school. According to police, the teacher was on yard duty at Swallowcliffe Primary School at Davoren Park, when a brick was thrown at her, hitting her in the back of the head. As she lay on the ground suffering from shock, the attackers then stole her office keys and, later, some cash.

Concerned parents said the school went into "lockdown" over the incident, with students finally allowed to go outside during recess and lunch yesterday. Students were also offered counselling after the attack.

South Australian Education Union president Correna Haythorpe said the "startling" report showed that teachers were increasingly being put in dangerous situations. "The figures paint a picture of rising levels of violent incidents that teachers are facing," she said. "Teachers expect to go to work to teach, not to be assaulted or injured."

The attack is the latest in a spate of violent incidents in schools this month. Last week, an Underdale High School pupil was punched in class by two youths posing as students.

In Brisbane earlier this month, Elliot Fletcher, 12, was fatally stabbed in the chest by a fellow student in the school toilets of St Patrick's College. But the Education Department played down any suggestions of a rise in violence in schools, describing this week's attack as very serious but a "one-off incident".

Education Department deputy chief executive Jan Andrews said police investigations were continuing and she expected the attackers, when found, to be charged. She added that they were currently checking the "accuracy" of the leaked report and that the majority of incidents were "minor". "We encourage teachers to report all incidents," she said. "The incident reporting rate has increased and that is something we are happy about," she said.

Swallowcliffe Primary School principal Assunta Alfano was yesterday unavailable for comment. But a parent of a Year 5 student, who wished to remain anonymous, said the school had been plagued by safety concerns.


No comments: